Bacteria, mold, mildew, and bugs can populate in surprising places, especially if you don’t clean their hiding places frequently or thoroughly enough. Grime can also prevent your appliances from doing their job well—and, not to mention, potentially make you sick.
Here’s how often you should be cleaning the stuff in your house, and how to do it effectively.
Make sure you wash the lid components—some hinge-topped models have a removable inner lid that can hide starch from the rice-cooking process.
Run plastic boards through the dishwasher to disinfect. If you don’t have a machine, scrub hard with soap under fast-flowing water. If you have a wooden board, spray your board with a 25 percent vinegar-75 percent water solution. For a more thorough cleaning, you can also make a thick paste of kosher salt and water, rub it on the board, let it sit overnight, and scrape it off in the morning.
For cool-mist humidifiers, clean the reservoir with water every third day and, if you have mineral deposits, some plain distilled white vinegar. Don’t use soap or other cleaners. To clean the wick, soak in cold water for 20 minutes, then let dry completely before reusing. Replace wick every six months at least.
Food particles can cause overheating and damage. Nuke a bowl of water for five minutes on high: The steam will loosen most gunk, and you can wipe it out with a plain, dry paper towel.
Vacuum your sofa every two weeks, and flip the cushions at the same time. Spot clean stains immediately. Hire an upholstery cleaner for deep cleaning once a year.
As detailed in Jolie Kerr’s My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag…and Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha: Spray the brush, bristles and handle, and as much of the holder as you can reach, with a disinfecting spray of your choice. Let it all sit about five minutes, then turn your tub tap as hot as it will go. Rinse the brush and holder under the hot water. Let it dry out, and then, yes, give the tub a good cleaning, too.
If you’re not cleaning your coffee maker regularly, you’re probably drinking a lot of bacteria with your morning cup. Clean the reservoir and the coffee filter basket or capsule holder with 1:1 vinegar-water to prevent bacteria and mold growth.
If you’re concerned about dust mites, wash encasements in hot water (over over 130 degrees Fahrenheit) a couple of times a year. If you’re putting on encasements after a bedbug infestation you should keep them on for at least a year. For the most part you can just vacuum the encasement’s surface when you’re stripping the bed to wash your other bedding, but when you do launder encasements, do so according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
How frequently you should change your air purifier’s filter varies by model. For our main pick, clean the fiberglass pre-filter (PDF) with a vacuum or with water once every two to four weeks, letting it dry completely before replacing it. Replace the prefilter every six months. Replace the HEPA filter every year.
If your vacuum has a washable filter (check your manual first), wash it with warm water and let dry for at least 24 hours before putting it back in the vacuum.
Run the drainage tray through the dishwasher, or, if you don’t have a dishwasher, scrub the tray with 1:1 mixture of vinegar and water and a toothbrush and let it dry completely.
Between uses, make sure your washer can dry out. Leaving the lid or door open is the best way to let moisture evaporate. With front loaders, wipe behind the big rubber door seal whenever you think of it. That’s the darkest, moistest, hardest-to-reach place in your washer. Combine that with the biofilm left behind by detergent and fabric softener residue, and you’ve got a full-on petri dish for mold and mildew growth. Regular wipe-downs can keep the growth in check. And once a month or so, run a cleaning cycle—no clothes, hottest water possible, with chlorine bleach or a speciality cleaning product like Affresh.
Clean the gasket with warm, soapy water. Run the dishwasher with Affresh or sugar-free Crystal Light to get rid of deposits, more often if you have hard water. Inspect the sump area every year for debris.
Remove the filter from the front of your unit and give it a gentle brush scrubbing in the sink with warm soapy water to keep air flowing properly. At the end of the summer, drain condensed water from the AC before you store it away, to prevent mildew.
Machine wash your pillow and be sure to dry it thoroughly before putting it on the bed again. Use encasements to protect pillows from dust mites and drool.
Machine wash in a commercial washing machine and dry on low heat with tennis balls. (Do this once a year if you don’t use a duvet cover.)
The simplest way to get the cleanest drinking water at home is with the Pur Pitcher Replacement Filter with Lead Reduction or basic Pur Pitcher Filter and the Pur Classic 11-Cup Pitcher. In five years of researching water filter standards and certifications, and testing several models in a lab and in daily life, this is...