The Best Spring Cleaning Hack I Should Have Known All Along

Lately, my house has been in total disarray. Toys are strewn about all over the place, the refrigerator has been sorely neglected of wipe downs, and the sliding glass door to the backyard is so covered in dog drool you can barely see outside. After back to back winter illnesses and lots of chores falling by the wayside, it is hard to get back on track. Even though we’ve only lived in this new (to us) house for less than six months, it is in serious need of some spring cleaning.

While I have always liked the idea of spring cleaning, the truth is, I’ve never been very good at it. I get a bit too swept up in the big picture — like rehauling a closet with an organizational spree or wanting to focus too much energy on deep cleaning mattresses. When it comes to simply getting down to business and doing the jobs that actually need to be done, well, I procrastinate.

Instead of getting out the grout cleaner that is under the sink and scrubbing down the shower walls, I turn instead to Pinterest, where I feel convinced I will find the secret to keeping an immaculate home. I type in “spring cleaning” or “best cleaning hacks” and watch the sparkling tiles of tidy, white spaces populate my computer screen. I click from advice piece to advice piece, choosing which to trust by the brightness of their photographs.

Mostly this practice is for procrastination and inspiration, but every so often, I decide enough is enough and I actually whip up one of these Pinterest concoctions for crystal clear windows and mirrors, shower soap scum destroyers, or “foolproof” natural oven cleaners. After fiddling around beneath my kitchen sink, stirring together multiple cleaning products with vinegar and/or lemons like a mad scientist, my kitchen is usually much dirtier than when I began “BUT,” I tell myself, “at least the cleaning has now begun.”

Oh, how I wish that were actually true. Much like doing crafts I find on Pinterest, my cleaning endeavors never turn out the way I envision. They do not end up being the picture perfect success I hope for. In fact, they turn out much the opposite.

Like the time I decided to clean my forlorn oven, which had not seen an ounce of scrubbing, wiping, or Easy-Off in oh, I don’t know, probably 3 years at the very least. I decided what it needed, far more than a deep-clean chemical pounding, was some Pinterest cleaning paste made of vinegar, Dawn dish soap, and baking soda. Oh so au natural.

Not only did it take nearly 45 minutes to apply said paste to the inside of my grunge-ridden oven interior, plus an hour of “setting” time, it also did not work. Not even a little bit. Perhaps, if I had just had a spill in a brand-new oven mere days before trying this method, I would have experienced a different outcome.

However, the years of oven buildup I was trying to attack was no match for this ill-advised DIY attempt. In fact, mere minutes after scrubbing the oven window with first a cloth, then a scrubbing sponge, then my husband’s metal-toothed bicycle cleaning brush — my infant decided to wake up from his nap as I was elbow deep into my oven — clothes covered in murky grime. I used all the curse words in my arsenal, repeatedly, as I heard his door creak open and his small footsteps make their way down the hall. I tried desperately to clean myself in the sink, throwing my detestably dirty clothes off as quickly as possible. He ambled into the room while I kicked the oven closed with one foot, half-naked. It was still covered in paste. Unless the new owners of our home have done some deep cleaning — it still is.

I wish I could say that was the last time I attempted a “quick” Pinterest “fix,” but I’d be lying. I streaked my windows with newspaper and vinegar. I clogged my disposal with various citrus peels. I made a very similar paste in attempt to make my baking sheets glimmer like new (they did not). But this year, in this house, no more.

Because I now know the best cleaning “hack” there is: use stuff that works. Clean your windows with Windex. Clean your oven with Easy-Off. Use the things you buy in a grocery store and save yourself the disgrace of smoking, baking-soda covered oven that flavors your food with the faint taste of failure for months to come. If you have a DIY method that work for you, awesome. Don’t send it to me. Because from now on I’ll be content buying my cleaning products, and spring cleaning the not-so-old-fashioned way — because I know it actually works.