Spring is in the air, and for many it smells like all-purpose cleaner.
Spring cleaning: that time of year to finally empty out that junk drawer and to pull out the oven and see what little crumbs from Christmas dinner might have slid down between the counter and stove.
It can seem like a daunting task, which is why it can help to hire a professional — or at least get a few tips from some local experts
Cary Zwijacz of Delafield’s Simply Natural Cleaning & Organizing loves to clean.
“Believe it or not, it’s probably a stress reliever,” she said. “We just enjoy cleaning.”
The “we” is Zwijacz’s daughter Gracie Mannie, along with other family and friends.
“It’s extremely satisfying to see something dirty go to clean looking,” Mannie said. “It’s just really nice spending the day cleaning together.”
Zwijacz said the company covers a large area across Waukesha County. Both mother and daughter said they like taking the stress of cleaning off the plate of those who are already busy.
South Milwaukee’s Samantha Mullens started Moms Spotless Cleaning seven years ago with a similar mindset.
“I had a small child, and my mom would often come over to my home and surprise me with a clean home,” she said. “The feeling of coming home to a clean home was something special and such a weight lifted off my shoulders that ultimately I wanted to give that same feeling to other families.”
Tips and how to make your own cleaning products
With a focus on natural cleaning products, Zwijacz suggested utilizing products you might already have on hand.
“A lot of what we do is with baking soda, vinegar, lemons and essential oils,” she said, adding that the goal is to create cleaners without toxins. “We try to do everything environmentally safe.”
For cleaning stainless steel, Zwijacz suggests a mix of water and vinegar for the initial wipe down. Sometimes she’ll add essential oils to the mix for a more pleasing smell. She then uses olive oil to polish.
“The only downfall is dogs like to lick it,” she said, laughing.
Zwijacz said another good concoction is baking soda, vinegar and lemon, which makes a paste that can be used to clean stovetops and get hard water stains off glass shower doors and more.
In conjunction with these cleaners, Zwijacz recommends the smiling “Scrub Daddy” sponge, which is soft when used with warm water and firmer when used with cold water.
Pumice stones are best for cleaning toilets, she said.
Mullens’ favorite tip is using a wet cloth or paper towel in the microwave to clean the inside — without any need to scrub.
“No chemicals needed; it’s amazing,” she said. “You heat the wet cloth, and let it steam. All the mess comes right off. Best trick I’ve found yet.”
Another of her tricks is to clean your vacuum cleaner and replace or wash the filter because they get full of dirt.
“I have been known to pull apart clients’ vacuums and wash them for the clients,” she said. “If it’s dirty, it isn’t going to clean right.”
Another often forgotten filter is on the furnace, according to Zwijacz. Make sure to change it regularly.
She also said people rarely properly dust everything.
“Usually, it’s the dusting that people just forget to do,” she said, adding that people should “start high and work low.”
Mullens said people often forget to dust fans and vents. She suggests microfiber cloths or a Swiffer to trap dust instead of pushing it around.
“They collect tons of dust,” she said. “A quick Swiffer dust weekly will cut down on the accumulated dust.”
Keeping busy in spring — and always
Mullens focuses on the Greater Milwaukee area and said her busiest times are spring and December.
“We have tons of spring cleanings, and we also help homeowners prep homes for sale,” she said. “December is crazy as we prep homes for the holiday parties.”
She said floors take a beating in winter because of salt and wet conditions. She recommends a mop that has a removable head.
“Oftentimes people don’t wash the mop heads, or use the same mop for a year,” Mullens said. “Mops hold tons of dirt and debris. The goal of mopping is to get the dirt up and out, and having clean floors requires a clean mop.”
Zwijacz started her company in September 2019, just a few months before the coronavirus pandemic hit locally. She was worried initially as a startup small business but “it’s busy all the time, mostly because of COVID.”
She recently opened an office in downtown Delafield but covers a wide area, including Lake Country, as well as Brookfield, Waukesha, Menomonee Falls and more.
“All of our business is word of mouth, and we’ve been phenomenally busy,” she said. “The downfall is you can’t find the staffing.”
While originally intending to also offer organizing services, the busy cleaning side of the business caused her to scrub those plans for now.
Help for those in more extreme spring cleaning situations
If you have a more extreme need for a spring cleaning, John Schaff of Hoarder Friendly Clean Out in Germantown offered more than just cleaning tips; he also had words of comfort.
Schaff said, statistically, there is one hoarder per block.
“People are coming out and admitting they have a personal problem; it’s kind of like an addiction,” he said, adding that he works to “soften” the situation before he comes in with a crew.
Schaff recalls sitting down with a woman in Grafton for over an hour discussing what his company could do to help her. The biggest thing most people want is to be included in every step of the process.
“They want to be with you; they don’t want to feel you’re discarding something they don’t want you to throw (out) at the time,” he said.
People often start hoarding after losing a loved one or because of an attachment of some sort, Schaff said. Sometimes it can stem from childhood neglect or a desire for something they always wanted but never received.
“We just tackle any problem, whether it takes a few weeks or months,” he said. “This process takes a lengthy period of time, and if they can be patient with us, we can work with them.”
Some items that are removed can even lower the price. Schaff works to appraise items as he goes, setting them aside and offsetting the price of the cleanout.
“Most companies just take into consideration it isn’t all junk (with their pricing),” he said.
Some of the more interesting finds he’s had in his 30 years in the business are a tri-bike, old comics and vintage pictures and paintings.
There really isn’t a one-tip-fits-all with the kind of cleaning Schaff does, he said, because it’s all situationally dependent.
He did say he uses a lot of bleach because mold is often found when there has been a hoarding issue.
When it comes to organizing, Schaff said the most important thing is to “classify or label everything.”
A few months after a cleanout, Schaff said his company does a follow-up to make sure the person is still doing well. He also offers a follow-up cleaning service.
Schaff got into the industry after being in the funeral business for many years. He said families often asked him about making arrangements to clear out a home, so he thought he could offer this service to help out — which is now all he does.
Since many people sell their homes during the warmer months, spring until the end of summer is the busy season for Schaff and his crew.
Hoarder Friendly Clean Out serves Milwaukee Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee counties.
Organizing your closet after cleaning it out
Now that the home has been cleaned, keeping it looking good is the next battle.One company that specializes in keeping areas organized is Closets by Design in Mequon, which offers custom storage for closets, garages, office spaces and entertainment areas.
Owner Doug Gauert said this local franchise has been open for three years and is the first location in Wisconsin for the California-based company.
Closets are the main offering, because “an organized closet will make your day less stressful,” Gauert said.
“It’s the first thing you see in the morning and the last at night,” he said. “It’s going to start your day off with a positive tone.”
Whether you have one of the company’s custom creations or the default offering in your home or apartment, Gauert shared a few tips to keep things neat.
First, organize by style. He said keeping pants in one section, short-sleeve shirts in another, long sleeves together and sorting by color makes it easier to find what you want.
It also makes it easier to see how many of each you have. “Do you really need all those black shorts?” he asked.
He offered a solution to find out.
Place all hangers facing one direction. When you wear something, turn the hangar the opposite direction. After half a year, check to see which hangers haven’t flipped. Evaluate and possibly donate those articles of clothing.
Gauert said the first and second quarters of the year are popular times to get organized. Some of the most popular products are slanted shoe shelves, hampers, pull-out ironing boards and adjustable shelving.
Zwijacz echoed Gauert’s suggestions for getting rid of unused items.
“If you haven’t used it in a year, you’re most likely not going to use it,” she said, suggesting items be given a second life at places like Goodwill, Purple Heart and others.
Mullens said bins can help you to stay organized. She also suggests a “quarterly or bi-yearly purge” to avoid things accumulating.
“If you don’t need it or don’t use it, why keep it?” she said.
Home offices are more popular, and garages are still full of gear
When the pandemic hit, working from home became the norm instead of the exception for many, and people started looking for ways to create space for a home office.
“It really started with COVID,” Gauert said. “Homeowners working from home got tired of working from the kitchen table or dining room.”
While many requested a simple desk at first, Gauert said Closets by Design now is getting more requests for full home-office spaces with shelving, areas for files, even a co-working space that will allow a husband and wife to each have a desk.
When it comes to garage space, Gauert said Closets by Design offers cabinets up to 96 inches tall, which can house up to 800 pounds of that clutter currently shoved in the corner. A general tip is using baskets or bins to house various sports balls and to put fertilizers and sprays on a shelf.
“Make it a point to get organized, make it a top priority,” he said. “Sit there and lay out exactly what you want to do and how to get it done. If you don’t put it on your to-do list, it will never get done.”