There's a whole host of everyday objects and high-use home appliances that may often go overlooked during cleaning jags. And failure to be a completist when it comes to cleaning may not have that many obvious repercussions, but it can cost you in terms of appliance and electronic performance, allergy attacks and general hygiene. So go ahead. Grab a bucket, a can of compressed air and a little extra bleach. Get ready to expand that household chore list by a couple of items this weekend.
Toilet brushes: You religiously clean your toilet. But do you make sure to clean the mechanism that cleans the toilet? "Your toilet brush should be cleaned every time you use it," cautions Shana Cowart, area district customer service trainer with Bed Bath & Beyond. Not doing so could mean growing a little petri dish of germs in the corner of your bathroom. Cowart doesn't recommend doing anything extreme. "Just rinse it after every use. If you feel like it's still not clean, pour some bleach on it." If the brush has replacement heads, all the better. Replace periodically when it's showing a bit of wear and tear, she said.
Ceiling fans: Ceiling fans are rather simple, though you may need a long duster or stepladder to really get the job done. Hit the ceiling fan blades with disposable dusting pads every couple of weeks, and you should be fine. Naturally, if you wait significant stretches between cleanings, expect a lot of dust falloff when you finally do get around to it.
Home audio speakers: Fans aren't the only household staple where dust may affect performance. Consider your home theater and stereo speakers. Jennifer Braniff-Harmon, an agent with Best Buy's Geek Squad, says that if noticeable dust is building up on the exterior of your speakers, it's time to clean them. It's not just for aesthetics. "Keeping your speakers clean will help keep the sound quality in tip-top shape," she says. "Remember not to spray the speaker case or grill directly and especially avoid using harsh chemicals," she cautions. "A dry or water-damp cloth is the ideal cleaning method." If you actually have to go under the grill to get at dust buildup, do not use anything abrasive. Braniff-Harmon recommends a feather duster.
Earbuds: Just because your headphones aren't typically subject to public scrutiny doesn't mean they don't need the occasional once-over. "Earwax can interfere with the sound quality of your earbuds, so I recommend cleaning them whenever you see the buildup," said Braniff-Harmon. "If you are able to remove the plastic bud, you can get a more complete clean inside the 'canal' with a cotton swab where the buildup can really affect sound quality." If the gunk is particularly resistant to cleaning efforts, the detached buds — not the actual speakers — can be given a soak in a light mix of water and dish soap, she added.
Keyboard and mouse: "You don't have to overspend on cleaning products, as most devices can be cleaned with common household ingredients. Eyeglass cleaning wipes are cheap and contain rubbing alcohol for sanitizing, making them my favorite for cellphone, keyboard, headphone and monitor cleaning," says Braniff-Harmon. She recommends sanitizing after any illness or at least every three months. If you eat near your keyboard, take care of it sooner. Before attempting any cleaning, turn the computer off. "Then you can take one of the eyeglass cleaning wipes that are great for cleaning gadgets to wipe down the keyboard," she said. Those eyeglass cleaning wipes are also a good solution for your computer mouse. What about the computer itself? It's important to keep it relatively free of dust. Feel free to dust off the exterior, but exercise caution inside the tower. "Do not vacuum inside your computer," Braniff-Harmon said. "Static electricity caused by vacuuming does not like your computer parts and can cause serious damage." Go with compressed air instead.
Refrigerator icemaker: "If you look at your ice, and it's getting discolored, that's a sign that it's a good idea to clean your icemaker," said Bryan Dunning, assistant store manager of the Lowe's in Gladstone, Mo. First, check your owner's manual for step-by-step guides. Typically, Dunning said, it will involve turning off the icemaker and shutting off the water to the water line. You'll probably have to let the water run through, then use a mild detergent to clean the line. A mild detergent solution can also be used on the various parts of the icemaker.