7 Smart Spring Cleaning Tips You Should Steal from These Grandparents

published Mar 9, 2022
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Front view of senior woman indoors at home, cleaning kitchen.
Credit: Getty Images/Halfpoint Images

Fun fact: Cultures all over the world have been practicing some form of spring cleaning for centuries, perhaps even longer. (While there are often deep cultural and religious roots, it also ties back to the history of keeping houses warm and lit with fires and kerosene in the winter. Houses would get covered in soot, and when the warm weather arrived, it would be time to air out the house and clean up.) Which means your grandma likely took part in spring cleaning. And her grandma before her. And, well, you get the point.

Of course, many of those very old cleaning tricks might not hold up anymore (thanks for reinventing how we clean our floors, Swiffer!), but we figured our grandmas might have some advice that’s still timely. So we asked around. And they delivered! Here are a few smart tips, passed along from grandmas — and a grandpa! — that might help you this spring.

1. Spiff up porcelain sinks with AJAX.

Brooke Brimm, a plant-based chef and cookbook author, learned a lot about cleaning from her grandmothers. “Like many Black women, they worked as domestic workers in the houses of white women. They had to learn quick cleaning tricks for their own homes,” she says. Her grandmother, known affectionately as Nanny, swore by the magic of AJAX cleansing powder with a little bleach to make her porcelain sink shine. 

2. Load up on heavy-duty scrubbers. 

Brimm also learned about a few key supplies from her own mother — who is also a grandma. Number one on her list is a good stainless steel scrubber, which makes tackling pots, pans, and other seriously dirty kitchen items so much faster. Less elbow grease is a win!

3. Clean a ceiling fan the easy way.

Ceiling fans are notoriously challenging to clean … or are they? Barbara “Babs” Costello, the grandma behind the popular social media account @brunchwithbabs, and the author of a new cookbook due out next month, has a seriously brilliant hack for this chore. “Simply slide a clean pillowcase (without the pillow, of course), on and off each fan’s blade to remove dust. This will leave your fan nice and clean, and eliminate flyaway dust,” says the grandma of eight.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

4. Make your own custom window track cleaner.

The track in your window sill may be one of the grubbiest spots in your house. Costello uses a trick that’s so clever, it’s actually fun to do. She says, “Place a kitchen sponge along the track, and use a permanent marker to draw a line on the side of the sponge that points to where the track rises. Then use a utility knife to cut along those lines, slicing all the way through to the rough portion of the sponge. This allows the sponge to slide along the track, cleaning all of the grooves and picking up dirt and dust. Voilà!”

5. Rely on tried-and-true basics.

“My pawpaw used ammonia or Pine-Sol for everything,” says Michael Moore, who lives in Alabama. Hey, if ammonia is powerful enough to clean greasy kitchen walls, it’s definitely good enough to handle all of the other spring cleaning tasks in your house too. “Ammonia and a bit of detergent cleans very well and is cheap,” says Moore, who notes that a Depression-era mentality shaped many households of his grandparents’ generation.

6. Dust with water and a cloth.

Gail Bilow, a western New York grandmother (and my aunt!), admits: “If I’m dusting, I’ll just use water and a cloth.” I personally love this tip, and often use a trusty dusting tool to get the job done.

7. De-stink drains without a plumber.

Naomi DeMuth, an Upstate New York grandma, swears by a cheap and easy trick to get the funk out of weird-smelling drains. A hearty spoonful of baking soda, followed by a glug of vinegar. You can also follow the mix with a kettle full of boiling water to seal the deal. Take care with this task — the baking soda and vinegar will bubble and fizz, and the hot water may splash back as it works to clear blockages.

How do you handle spring cleaning? Tell us your cleaning shortcuts in the comments below.