Spring Cleaning – The Kitchen

Walls and Appliances: When grease splatters or cake batter flies, you probably wipe it off in the moment, but you might not catch all of the grime that ends up covering your walls and appliances. Spring cleaning is the time to get rid of that caked-on dirt and grease. Spray all of your walls and appliances with an all-purpose cleaner and/or de-greaser and scrub them clean with a towel or sponge. Afterwards, rinse thoroughly to avoid leaving any sticky soap residue on the walls that could attract even more dirt and dust.

Kitchen Wall Hangings: This includes your kitchen clock and could extend to a hanging pot rack or even a spice rack or even a phone if you’ve got one mounted. Basically, anything that’s hanging on your walls or ceiling needs to come down for a thorough cleaning because nothing is safe from grease and dirt in the kitchen.

Oven: If you have a self-cleaning oven, run it now and wipe it down thoroughly when through (waiting several hours for the oven to cool down). One tip for self-cleaning ovens is to remove the temperature knobs because they tend to heat up and could melt. For regular ovens, follow your manufacturer’s instructions and/or the instructions on the oven cleaner you purchase. Always open any available windows and turn on vents when cleaning your oven to avoid fume contamination.

Refrigerator – Inside and Out: Throw out any expired food, empty jars, and other half-used products that are taking up space. Take out the refrigerator shelves and drawers. Wash them down, being careful with glass shelves. Wipe down the entire inside of the refrigerator and freezer before replacing shelves and food. Vacuum the coils of your unplugged refrigerator and wipe the outside completely, not forgetting the door handle (usually the filthiest part of the fridge!). If you can, ask someone to help you move the refrigerator to sweep and mop underneath it.

Stovetop:
Remove the knobs, burners, burner covers and spill catchers off the stovetop and either wash by hand or put into the dishwasher to clean and sanitize. Use a gentle abrasive and/or hot soapy water to thoroughly scrub the top of your stove. Use a crevice tool from your vacuum cleaner to remove crumbs or dirt from the cracks between your oven and the wall or counters.

Microwave: Wipe down and clean the microwave, washing the turntable by hand or putting it into the dishwasher. If the spills in the microwave are old or burnt in, boil a glass of water in the microwave. The steam should help loosen the crud. If the microwave smells, boil lemon juice to help freshen it up. Use glass cleaner on the outside surfaces and soapy water or all-purpose cleaner on the inside.

Kitchen Cabinets:Remove everything and wash the shelves, relining if necessary. Remove mismatched lids and bowls. Take out anything that isn’t being used on a regular basis. Reorganize and outsides of cabinets last.

Dishwasher:Try adding vinegar or baking soda to the empty dishwasher before running it. If your dishwasher has a food trap in the bottom, clean it out. Wash down the outside of the dishwasher.

Countertops: Don’t forget backsplashes.

Drawers: Remove everything and wipe the insides. This is a great time to tackle your “junk” drawer. If it’s really junk, throw it out. Remove utensils or cutlery that you don’t use and take the opportunity to re-organize and prioritize your kitchen items if you don’t feel they’re arranged in the most efficient manner possible.

Sink and Garbage Disposal: If you have a garbage disposal, now is the time to pour baking soda with warm water and/or a lemon peel down the disposal to freshen the drain. Put ice cubes through the disposal to sharpen the blades.

Going Green – Reinsulation

Homeowners seeking to pad their homes and wallets should consider re-insulation projects that maximize energy efficiency year-round. Simple, energy-saving practices will not only reduce heating and cooling bills every month, but also will result in a higher tax return next year.

The federal government expanded the scope of a tax credit program that rewards homeowners for energy-efficiency improvements, giving homeowners a prime opportunity to increase their homes’ efficiency. Homeowners are eligible to receive a 30 percent federal tax credit up to $1,500 for weatherization improvements in their homes through Dec. 31, 2010. And as far as energy-efficient improvements are concerned, re-insulation is a smart solution for the near and short term.

“Most of the steps you can take to improve your home’s energy efficiency in the cooler winter months are equally as effective in the warmer summer months, when the thermal flows are simply reversed,” said Bohdan Boyko, building science manager with GreenFiber, a natural-fiber insulation company. In most areas of the country, he notes, winter has the greatest temperature differences between inside and outside temperatures, but in either situation — summer or winter — a properly insulated home is one that will help cut energy bills, lower the home’s carbon footprint and help keep a family comfortable.

Homeowners can find information on the benefits of re-insulation, including R-Value education, how to’s and tax credit information from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, at http://www.greenfiber.com.

Older homes or homes where current insulation is inadequate can benefit from attic air sealing, duct sealing, attic insulating and side wall insulating. Because the insulation is literally “blown in” through a tube, it can reach high crevices and deep places in walls.

Whatever insulation you choose, re-insulation is one of the best ways to reduce your home’s energy use.