With 40-plus years of testing and reviewing cleaning products under my belt, I'm always happy to dish out advice on all things home care, especially when it comes to helping someone refresh a space or solve a cleaning challenge. Now, at the turn of the season, it's the perfect time to say "clean out the old" and tidy up with the new. I understand that tackling a major cleaning can be a tad overwhelming when getting started, but with the right tips and tricks, spring cleaning can be a total breeze.

To get you started, here are the most commonly asked questions I get, with an inside look at all my cleaning secrets and favorite cleaning supplies and techniques for achieving a successful spring cleaning experience.


How do I pick the best vacuum?

Whether you have hardwood floors or dense carpets, there's a vacuum cleaner out there that's suitable for all your cleaning needs. Here are your main options:

Upright Vacuum

  • Great if: Your home is mostly wall-to-wall carpeting, uprights do the best job of removing ground-in, embedded dirt from carpeting.
  • Features: All have rotating brush rolls and most have on-board hoses, wands and tools for vacuuming crevices and upholstery and cleaning above-the-floor spaces like door frames and crown moldings.
  • Why we love it: Though they can be heavier than other styles to push and carry, the weight of the nozzle helps reach deep into the carpet for better cleaning.

    Canister Vacuum

    • Great if: Your home has lots of stairs and mostly bare floors and only a few carpets or low pile rugs, canister vacuums with a power nozzle attachment have a rotating brush that's great for deep pile carpets. Otherwise, you’ll see a long flat attachment or brush that can be used on bare floors, low pile carpets and flat rugs.
    • Features: Hoses, wands and attachments for dusting, upholstery and crevices.
    • Why we love it: It's easier than uprights to push, carry and maneuver into tight spaces and on the stairs.

      Stick Vacuum

      • Great if: You're looking for a lightweight, quick picker-upper for bare floors, low pile rugs and above-the floor-cleaning needs, the cleaning performance of stick vacuums is getting better and better, and it's super easy to use.
      • Features: Rotating brushes and attachments (like dusting brushes), pet hair removers and crevice tools and charging stands for storage or mounting brackets that also hold the tools for neater storage.
      • Why we love it: It's slim enough to stash in a corner or closet for easy access. Plus, many have a hand vacuum and are rechargeable.

        HEPA Vacuum

        • Great if: You're an allergy sufferer. These vacuums that are often sealed to eliminate air-escaping cracks and designed specifically with a HEPA filter on the exhaust to trap microscopic particles.
        • Why we love it: This is the best vacuum for pet owners as it seals in allergens.

          Robot Vacuum

          • Great if: You want to get your cleaning done while you’re out of the house, robot vacuums and robot mops fit easily under most beds and furniture to clean the spots you likely skip.
          • Features: They use cameras and lasers to map their way around your rooms, so they don’t miss a spot.
          • Why we love it: These are great maintenance cleaners: Send them out often enough, and you may never have to pull out your full-size vacuum.

            Handheld Vacuum

            • Great if: You need a compact tool to quickly clean up dry spills on bare floors and surfaces, handheld vacuums also nab lint and other debris on fabrics or carpeting in a pinch.
            • Features: Many have crevice, dusting and brush-roll attachments; some have hoses and can pick up wet spills, too.
            • Why we love it: These are perfect for quickly picking up dry spills and cleaning crumbs from small areas (like the couch or the car) and removing pet hair from upholstery.


              Help! How do I remove old stains from carpet?

              Reappearing stains happen when you've erased the stain from the surface of a carpet but failed to deal with the portion of the stain that's trapped or hidden down below. So before you toss the evidence of that red wine-stained rug or cover up that coffee-stained corner, try these simple steps:

              1. Spritz a cloth with carpet cleaner, then work the carpet cleaner into the base of fibers — with your fingers if you need to — rinse well and blot.
              2. Fold a sheet of paper towel into quarters and place it on top of the area.
              3. Weigh it down with a heavy pot or vase and leave it overnight. Any leftover stain will be absorbed by the paper towel.
              4. When it's dry, toss the dirty towel and fluff the tufts.

                What's the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting?

                Before you get cleaning, remember to check the labels on your cleaning products. Sanitizing significantly reduces the number of germs on a surface and takes less time to complete than disinfecting. By contrast, disinfecting kills more germs than sanitizing does, but can take up to 10 minutes depending on a product's ingredients. Not all cleaning products that claim to disinfect are equally effective on all types of germs. Read the labels to be sure the products you are using reduce or kill the germs you want.


                What's the best way to clean my electronics?

                Bad news: Your cell phone probably harbors more germs than your toilet seat, which is why it's crucial to clean your devices regularly. Coupled with a screen cleaner that busts dust, greasy fingerprints and grime, here are the techniques you can follow to keep your electronics in tip-top shape:

                • Phone screens need a quick wipe down with a microfiber cloth on a daily basis to remove grease and smears. To disinfect the screen, use a Lysol disinfecting wipe, an easy and safe alternative to traditional spray cleaners.
                • TV screens benefit from a weekly dusting with a microfiber cloth or duster to remove dust, film and fingerprints, which may be harder to remove down the line.
                • Laptop screens and keyboards, like a TV remote and a computer mouse, should be cleaned regularly by using a microfiber cloth and a Lysol wipe to lift dirt and grime and zap germs.

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                  What is the best way to clean a fabric sofa?

                  Wet cleaners and vacuums go hand in hand here. Vacuuming your fabric couch may get rid of light soil, debris and a few stray pet hairs, but in order to get rid of set-in stains, spills and pet smells you’ll need a deeper clean with a method that's safe for your furniture's fabric. Most hand vacs are made for dry messes, like pet hair and crumbs on upholstery, while portable carpet cleaners and upholstery cleaners are designed for drawing up wet spills like coffee, wine or pet messes, and they're great for tackling mishaps promptly without the need to pull out a full-size machine or clean it by hand.


                  How often should I clean my windows?

                  Of all the chores on your list, windows are likely near the bottom, but with occasional dusting and spot cleaning, they can stay looking their best. Windows get splattered with dust, dirt and rain and need a yearly cleaning. Clean windows are one of the best, most satisfying ways to welcome spring and whether you tackle them all at once, room-by-room or call in a professional to do the work for you, you’ll feel an amazing sense of accomplishment when the sun shines in!


                  What's the best way to clean hardwood floors?

                  Not every hardwood floor is created equal: It all depends on how much traffic your floors get and the condition of the finish. Establish a cleaning schedule that makes the most sense for you. As a general rule of thumb, hardwood floors should be vacuumed at least weekly and wet cleaned every few months (more or less frequently, depending on traffic). When it comes time to clean, follow the steps below:

                  1. For surface-treated floors, wet-clean with a hardwood floor cleaner. Spray a small 3-foot by 3-foot area with the cleaner and pick up any dissolved dirt with a microfiber mop.
                  2. Work your way around the entire floor, cleaning one small area at a time. Avoid over wetting the wood and buff any areas that don’t dry promptly with a cloth.
                  3. For quick touch-ups, remove spots with a water-dampened paper towel and wipe dry. Erase scuffs with a dry cloth, your sock or a baking soda paste and buff.