From ovens and rugs to bed sheets: How often should you clean these household items?

If you're in the mood for a spring clean while staying home, here are some tips to help you best organise your plan of attack

Young housekeeper cleaning floor mobbing holding mop and plastic bucket with brushes, gloves and detergents in the leaving room house floor helping his wife
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Are anyone else's kitchen cupboards cleaner than they have been in some time? Ours too.

With many of us working from home and staying inside as much as possible during the coronavirus pandemic, keeping on top of the household chores has provided a welcome distraction from the TV.

And while we're all likely doing a bit more vacuuming and dusting day-to-day, many of us might now have more time to tackle some real deep-cleaning activities. After all, when was the last time you wiped down those air-conditioning vents or emptied out that fridge for a proper refresh?

But, before you start pulling out cupboards and dusting off all your vacuum attachments, it's worth noting that not every household object needs to be cleaned on the same schedule.

So, we asked the experts exactly how often some of the most common household items need to be cleaned, as well as the best methods for doing so at home.

Read on for tips that will help you organise your plan of attack for that spring clean.

How often should you change your bed sheets?

If we're getting the recommended amount of sleep each night, between seven and nine hours for a healthy adult, we're wrapped up in these for up to 63 hours a week.

So, understandably, you don't want to be languishing in the same bed linen for a month.

After battling illness, change and wash your bedding as soon as you're feeling better

"As a rule of thumb, you should wash your bed sheets at least once a week, but ideally every three or four days," says Damodaran Sivakumar, head of production at dry cleaning and laundry company 5asec. "Humans shed skin cells every day and these dead skin cells invite dust mites that feed from them. Dust mites cause skin irritation and allergies that can be severe.

"In addition, bed sheets are exposed to bodily fluids and other excrescences that can be bad for your skin and your overall health."

Those with allergies or pets should wash their sheets at least once a week, agree Justmop founders Ali Cagatay Ozcan and Kerem Kuyucu, although they add that people pressed for time could allow up to once a fortnight.

"After battling a contagious illness, change and wash your bedding as soon as you’re feeling better to prevent the risk of reinfection," they advise.

Wash bed linen every one to two weeks. Unsplash
Wash bed linen every one to two weeks. Unsplash

How should you clean your sheets?

Always read the care label in your linen for instructions, but, as a general consensus, wash your sheets in the hottest water the material can stand to make sure you're getting rid of allergens.

Aim for a minimum of 60°C for white and light-coloured bed sheets, with a little splash of bleach added, and 40°C for coloured bed linen, with the addition of colour-safe bleach, says Sivakumar.

"Avoid putting too many sheets in one load so they get cleaned properly, pre-treat any stains with colour-safe bleach and use a mild detergent to preserve the condition of the fabric," say Ozcan and Kuyucu.

"When tossing the washed sheets into the dryer, keep in mind that high drying temperatures or over-drying causes shrinkage, which weakens fibres, so use a low heat setting to minimise damage."

What if you don't have access to a washing machine?

Hang sheets to dry in the sun. Unsplash
Hang sheets to dry in the sun. Unsplash

Lay the sheets in a large bucket or bathtub, fill with lukewarm water and a mild detergent, and allow them to soak for 20 minutes (or up to an hour if they are very dirty), say Ozcan and Kuyucu.

Rub and press the sheets gently with your hands to get any grime out, rinse in fresh, cool water at least twice, and then wring out and hang to dry.

"Sunlight is a natural antimicrobial agent, so hang your sheets in the sun," say the Just Mop founders. "Another germ-killing trick is to iron your bed sheets to help sanitise them."

How often should you clean your mattress?

It's not just the sheets that you sleep on, after all – pillows and mattresses also absorb dirt and fluids.

Mattresses should be cleaned between every three to six months, a spokesperson from Champion Cleaners advises, and pillows every month.

"One should bear in mind that routine cleaning of bed sheets and pillow cases may not always be enough, and the mattresses, pillows and duvet need to be cleaned thoroughly as well."

Have bed mattresses professionally cleaned one to two times a year

How should you clean a mattress and pillows? 

You can freshen them up with a little baking soda at home; sprinkle the entire surface with it and then rub it in with a dry brush. Let it sit for an hour or two, then vacuum up the remaining baking soda (as well as dust or dirt) left on the mattress or pillow.

However, for a really thorough clean – and to avoid damaging that down blanket you spent a small fortune on – Champion Cleaners recommends sending out pillows and duvets to specialist cleaners.

"Have bed mattresses professionally cleaned one to two times a year or three to four times if you have pets and children," say Ozcan and Kuyucu.

How often should you clean your upholstery?

Got pets? Make sure to regularly vacuum your sofa, if they sit on it. Unsplash
Got pets? Make sure to regularly vacuum your sofa, if they sit on it. Unsplash

When it comes to your sofas or bed frames, it's the fabric kind you need to be a little more thorough with. While you can swiftly wipe down real or synthetic leather, textile upholstery needs a little more care and attention.

"Upholsteries collect suspended dirt particles and germs in a very gradual manner, and may not be visible," say Champion Cleaners, advising that specialist cleaning is needed every six months to one year.

"Professional dry cleaning is required as the washing machine may damage the upholstery fibres and other materials, which are typically very delicate," adds 5asec's Sivakumar.

For a quick freshen-up between professional cleans, "vacuum regularly and clean in between seams where crumbs and other particles get stuck", say Ozcan and Kuyucu.

How can you keep upholstery fresh at home?

To keep fabric furniture odour-free, mix one cup of white vinegar with a few drops of your favourite essential oil, and either wipe on to the surface or mist with a spray bottle.

"If your upholstery can’t get wet then sprinkle on baking soda, leave for 20 minutes and vacuum as usual," add the Just Mop founders.

How often should you clean your washing machine?

No, just because they wash your clothes it doesn't mean they're washing themselves in the process.

Run an empty cycle once a week, advises James Smith, general manager of home maintenance company Mplus.

"You can find a variety of products [designed to clean washing machines] in supermarkets, but you can also use a cup of white vinegar," he says. "Add it to the detergent drawer and run an empty hot cycle."

How often should you clean your windows?

Wipe down dirt and dust before spraying on window cleaner. Unsplash
Wipe down dirt and dust before spraying on window cleaner. Unsplash

Once a month, according to home maintenance and cleaning company Hitches & Glitches.

"Remove dirt and dust first," their experts advise, "before generously spritzing on cleaner."

Just Mop's founders, however, say you should clean the inside and outside of your windows every three to six months.

"Put a few drops of dishwashing liquid into a bucket and fill it halfway with warm water," say Ozcan and Kuyucu. "Use a scrubbing pad to apply the soap to the glass in an 'S' pattern and then follow with a squeegee to wipe clean from side to side. Finally, use a microfibre cloth to wipe the frames and corners clean from any moisture."

Don't forget to clean those blinds once a month either, adds Smith.

How often should you clean your carpets and rugs?

Vacuum these at least once a week to pick up dust, dirt and hair – or more if you have pets, says Sivakumar.

For heavy-traffic areas or for households with children, pets or smokers, it is recommended to vacuum your carpet anywhere between three and seven times a week, adds Roxanna Pelka, global cleaning expert for Helpling.

When it comes to getting rid of more deeply entrenched dirt, aim to have them professionally cleaned every three to six months.

"Steam cleaning is usually the best method for carpet cleaning to remove 90 per cent of dirt and bacteria," say Ozcan and Kuyucu.

What about getting rid of stains?

If you accidentally drop that plate of spaghetti on your favourite rug, don't worry.

"To clean sudden carpet stains by hand, blot with white vinegar using a white rag," advise the Just Mop team. "Vinegar dissolves many types of food stains, pet stains and other debris. Then give it a thorough rinse with another wet rag to remove all traces of stains."

You can also try lukewarm water mixed with light hand soap for less tough stains, caution Champion Cleaners, applied with a "soft towel and gentle approach".

How often should you clean your tiled or wooden floors?

Aim to mop floors once a week. Unsplash
Aim to mop floors once a week. Unsplash

To keep these floors free of debris, a quick sweep every few days is a must. To blitz built-up dirt, oil and grime, professional deep-cleaning is an option on an annual basis, but you can also keep them at bay with a once-a-week wet clean.

"For everyday cleaning in between professional visits, the best method is to use an all-purpose cleaner, rinse with a fresh mop and then dry thoroughly to avoid trapping more dirt on the floor," say Ozcan and Kuyucu.

For wooden floors, you can also use one cup of vinegar mixed with one gallon of water as a cleaning solution, according to Hitches & Glitches.

To create your own all-purpose cleaner, Mplus's Smith recommends mixing two cups of lukewarm water, half a cup of white vinegar, a quarter of a cup of rubbing alcohol, three drops of dishwashing detergent and five to 10 drops of an essential oil.

How often should you clean your fridge and freezer?

"A good rule of thumb is to take a few minutes every day to check for food that needs to be tossed to prevent cross-contamination and growth of mould and mildew that spreads quickly, as well as mop up spills," says Pelka.

While you could give fridges and freezers a deep clean on a monthly basis, a quarterly clear-out should keep things ticking over nicely.

A good rule of thumb is to take a few minutes every day to check for food that needs to be tossed

"Start by taking everything out – yes, everything," advises a Hitches & Glitches spokesperson. "You will be tempted to leave some things behind in the name of timesaving, but removing everything from the icebox all at once will be far less time-consuming than trying to clean around anything."

That includes removable shelves, drawers or door inserts. Make sure to wash these in warm soapy water before popping back in the fridge or freezer, as well as wipe down all surfaces inside any white goods.

"Unplug the unit yearly to clean refrigerator coils from built-up dirt, dust and grease," add Ozcan and Kuyucu.

How often should you clean your toilet?

According to the professionals, that once-weekly wipe isn't quite cutting it.

Both Hitches & Glitches and Just Mop recommend a daily clean of the toilet bowl, seat and handle to keep things spick and span.

"While your bathroom and toilet bowl can be cleaned once a week, we recommend wiping around the bowl, handle and seat daily," say Ozcan and Kuyucu. "First flush the toilet and pour cleaner around the bowl. While the cleansing solution soaks, spray and wipe down the exterior. Wipe the lid, seat and hinges at the back of the toilet seat. Then clean the inside of the bowl by scrubbing from top down and, finally, flush with the lid down."

Your toilet brush should also be cleaned with bleach once a month, and replaced every six months.

How often should you clean your shower and bath?

Clean grout with a toothbrush dipped in bleach. Unsplash
Clean grout with a toothbrush dipped in bleach. Unsplash

A regular wipe-down and disinfection once a week, and a deep clean every month should do, say the Just Mop founders.

"Spray the wall tiles and shower screen with bathroom cleaner, and leave it to sit for a few minutes," advise Ozcan and Kuyucu.

Then, gently scrub all surfaces with a sponge scourer before rinsing with water. Finish by wiping dry any metal fixtures, such as the drain and taps, with a clean, dry microfibre cloth.

To keep grout clean, scrub it with an old toothbrush dipped in bleach once a week, Smith recommends.

Don't forget about sinks, either

"As many of us are washing our hands much more frequently, you should disinfect your sink at least once a day," adds Smith. "Use disposable disinfectant wipes or a disinfectant spray with a minimum of 70 per cent alcohol to make sure the area stays clean and sanitised."

How often should you dust down your furniture?

While you can have a quick wipe down of dusty surfaces with a cloth as and when you fancy – aim for once a week – be wary of over-polishing furniture, the experts warn.

"With modern furniture, we recommend using furniture polish sparingly on finishes every four to six weeks," says Ozcan and Kuyucu. "Spray the polish on a soft cloth, not directly on to the surface, and apply in a buffing motion."

Apply a small amount of mayonnaise to water rings

For antique pieces, you only need to polish with a smidgen of wax every two to three years, the Just Mop team add. "Give it 15 to 20 minutes to absorb and then wipe off the excess with a clean, dry cloth."

When it comes to getting rid of water rings or stubborn stains, Hitches & Glitches recommend reaching into the pantry for a rather surprising ingredient.

"Apply a small amount of mayonnaise to the blemish and let it sit for 15 minutes to an hour or two, depending on how tough the spot is," the company says. "Then, use a cloth to wipe it away and reveal a restored surface."

How often should you clean your air-conditioning vents?

Properly cleaning the ducts is a matter best left to the professionals every two or three years.

"As per the US Environmental Protection Agency’s advice, if you see a ‘poof’ of dust coming from your vents when you start your air system, then it is time for the ducts to be cleaned," says Helpling's Pelka.

But, to prevent a build-up of dust around the vents, turn your AC off and unscrew the grilles around once a month, according to Hitches & Glitches. You can then wipe them down thoroughly to remove dust before popping them back on.

How often should you clean your oven?

You should wipe down your oven quickly after every use. Unsplash
You should wipe down your oven quickly after every use. Unsplash

"The longer you wait to clean ovens and microwaves, the harder it will be," says Smith, advising to wipe them both down after each use.

If you rarely cook or bake, twice a year should be adequate for a deep clean, otherwise clean them on a one- to three-month basis.

For really tough, baked-on dirt, there are a variety of oven cleaners available in supermarkets or you can use baking soda," says Smith.

Add three tablespoons of the powder to an empty spray bottle and fill with water, then mix until dissolved. Spray across oven surfaces when cool, including wire racks, and leave for a minimum of four hours or overnight, before wiping away with a damp cloth.

"A trick to making the oven cleaning process easier is putting a bowl of water in the oven and turning it up high for 20 minutes," adds Pelka. "This will help loosen some of the dried-on dirt and grease."

How often should you clean your cleaning supplies?

No, that's not a typo – old sponges, cloths and mops also need to be maintained.

"These items can be teeming with bacteria if not cleaned frequently and replaced often," says Smith. "Soak sponges and clothes in bleach and water at least once a week and replace them at least every month. Thoroughly clean your mop after every use, washing away all dirt and residue. Mop heads should be replaced every two months."