Preparing Your Condo for Spring: A Quick Guide – Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

It’s closer than we think: butterflies, patios, open jackets, and fresh air.  And spring means, inevitably, spring cleaning.

Spring cleaning isn’t just an old-timey ritual.  Changes in the weather mean changes in our living space as the temperature rises, and that gap between winter and solidly warm weather is our chance to get on top of those changes, stop seasonal issues before they start, and prep our home for maximum enjoyment through the summer.

So with that in mind, here are five tips to get your condo ready for spring.

Clean everything

Yes, everything: the corners of your closets, the gaps between your air vent slats, your furniture, your door knobs and light switches, your walls (with a lightly damp cloth), your washer and dryer, the backs of your appliances, your carpets, your pillows.  Everything.

Winter—and the way it crams everyone indoors—means germs have a happy fun time in your house and dust bunnies frolic in your vents.  Wiping down everything means making sure that you’re not still bringing last month’s TTC into your condo every time you touch the light switches.

Tidy up—so your building can do the work

The great thing about living in a condo is that a lot of the year-to-year maintenance that most homeowners do themselves is done for you: duct cleaning, filter changing, carbon monoxide alarm testing, common area painting, and more.  Since you’re free of those particular burdens, making sure your panels, vents, and alarms are accessible—and your space uncluttered—is just the considerate thing to do.

Spring and fall are when most buildings will send their maintenance staff around for a check on the essentials.  Do your proverbial spring cleaning—and move any obstacles to your vents and panels—before you get the notice of entry, and you’ll make maintenance day that much easier for both you and your condo’s staff.

Keep that gorgeous view clean

Is it a bird?  A plane?  Or just that dead bug from last winter?  With so many Toronto condos boasting big, floor-to-ceiling windows, the dirt buildup that winter leaves behind on outdoor glass is pretty noticeable once spring hits, subtly but substantially getting in the way of all that natural light.

Most condo buildings will take care of inaccessible external windows, but the ones on the balcony are all yours.  Invest in or borrow an extendable cleaner—if it’s tough enough, your Swiffer will probably do—and give your outside windows a good scrubbing.

Air quality in the City of Toronto has improved massively in the last two decades—we hit our first smog-free summer in 2014—but you’ll still want to come prepared for a fight.  Invest in some heavy-duty paper towel or a handful of sturdy cleaning rags to wipe your windows down after a cleaning solution or vinegar-and-water mop.

Get at the grout

We all sweep, and we all mop, but frequently, we don’t get out a brush and scrub down every inch of bathroom grout.  And there’s a reason: It’s time-consuming, it’s meticulous, and it’s a pain in the knees as well as the more proverbial places.

Bathroom and kitchen grout, though, is one of the more porous surfaces in rooms that see a lot of heat and dampness—which means it’s a great place for germs and mold to get started.  And once the weather warms up and the ambient temperature of your condo goes from drier and colder to warm and damp, mold, mildew, and bacteria can expand out from there to create bigger problems.

A hydrogen peroxide and water solution or baking soda and vinegar are your winners when cleaning grout: they’re effective without containing chemicals harsh enough to damage your tiles.  Turn up the radio, promise yourself a great dinner reward, and hit your bathroom and kitchen grout with a fine, stiff brush before the weather turns.  It will suck.  You will be glad you did it.

Seal, caulk, and repair

Even with a relatively mild winter behind us, temperature takes its toll on the things our homes are made of: glass, plastic, steel, brick, concrete, wood.  Cold and dry weather causes materials to shrink, and if you’ve had any incipient cracks around your windows, at your baseboards, or anywhere else, it’s possible they’ve widened during the winter.

Spring is a great time to do a careful inspection of your condo for gaps, cracks, and wear, and ask your landlord to reseal windows or caulk around any gaps.  It means a day or two of disruption and a bit of smell—keep the windows open—but those cracks and gaps create points of entry for bugs, as well as making your heat or air conditioning work harder by letting outside air in.  Put in two days of sealing and upkeep now, and you’ll spend less time this summer fiddling with the thermostat or clearing out fruit flies.

Kitchen Appliance Cleaning Tips: A Quick Guide

Keeping your rental condo in great shape is part of your job as a tenant: floors, walls, bathrooms, and, yes, the appliances in your kitchen.  If you’re moving from your parents’ house or university residence to the first place that’s your own, it’s entirely probable you’ve never hit the finer points of keeping a dishwasher in good shape—and it’s worthwhile to keep that dishwasher in good shape.

So here are some Appliance Cleaning Tips to keeping your major kitchen appliances clean and working—and make sure both you and your landlord stay happy.

The fridge

It’s one of the places that can get the dirtiest—after all, most of the food you have passes through there sooner or later.  What’s more, a clean fridge works better at keeping your food fresh, so half an hour every month will do wonders for your grocery bill.

First off, empty it out—and take the opportunity to ditch anything that’s unfortunate, sentient, or just past its expiry date.  Wipe down what’s left with a damp cloth right off the bat: There’s no point in taking all your jars, Tupperware, and containers out if they’re dripping and will just move mess back in.

If you’re into keeping things non-toxic—and that’s a good idea when talking about your fridge—a solution of vinegar and water can be enough to wipe any germs or messes out of there.  Dish soap and water is also a good bet, especially if your shelves or drawers are removable and can just be popped in the sink for a scrub.  But either way, a simple solution and a cloth are all you need to get the bulk of your fridge clean.  Wipe down every surface—walls, seals, and ceiling—and take care of the outside while any nasty spots soak.  That includes running a Swiffer or broom underneath the bottom to catch any dust or crumbs that have snuck their way down there.

Make sure your shelves and drawers are dry before popping them back in, and fill ‘er right back up.

If you’ve got a smell in your fridge that you’d rather not keep, a bit of baking soda on a tray will soak that up handily.  In the absence of baking soda, fresh coffee grounds also do the trick, and the coffee smell doesn’t last.

  • Get into the habit of wiping up spills as they happen. Without a chance to dry or harden, cleaning your fridge is light work.
  • Stainless steel or brushed chrome fridges might need a special cleaner for the outside surfaces. Check into it; you don’t want to ruin the finish.
  • A box of baking soda in the fridge door keeps smells from starting. Replace it every three months, though, or it’ll stop working when you need it most.

The stove

Your cooktop is pretty easy to keep tidy: It’s all about prevention.  The more you do, bit by bit, every day or week, the less work it’ll be when you take that sucker apart and attack it with sponges.

First off, check out what kind of stove you have.  If you’ve got the more traditional coil-element stove, you’ll need to score some burner liners from your local grocery or dollar store to keep food bits and debris from falling through into your stove’s insides.  When it comes time for Cleaning Day, take out your elements, wipe them down lightly with a vinegar and water solution—which won’t smoke if there’s still a spot left on your element later—and recycle your aluminum liners.  The metal drip pans underneath can be cleaned by soaking them in a dish soap solution in your sink.  Reassemble your drip pans, new liners, and elements, making sure everything’s entirely dry.

If you have a electric glass stovetop, you’re in luck: They’re amazingly easy to maintain.  Just wipe it down with warm, soapy water and a soft cloth every week or so, and put a little elbow grease in to get rid of the regular grease.

Overall, though, the day-to-day maintenance is everything.  Wipe down any spills or smudges on your stovetop after cooking every meal, especially if your stove is a glass-top.  What doesn’t stay on your stove doesn’t get a chance to build up.

The oven

Lots of ovens, especially the modern models you’ll find in rental condos, have a self-cleaning mode, but because they functionally scorch the dirt off your oven with high heat for you to wipe up later, it’s important to run the vent—and keep an eye on your smoke detector—while using them.

If you’re an avid baker or cook, though, the best cure is still elbow grease—and a little bit of regular attention.

Most oven cleaners are seriously caustic.  It’s important to read the directions on your oven cleaner carefully, wear gloves while using it, and make sure you keep any cleaner off the pilot light or electrical connections of your oven.  There are no shortcuts when handling oven-cleaning chemicals: take them seriously and you won’t damage your oven, breathe things you don’t want to breathe, or end up burning your fingers on chemical cleaners.

You can also clean your oven with the magic combo that is baking soda and vinegar.  First, take off the racks and coat your oven walls—but not the heating elements—thickly with a paste made out of baking soda and water.  Leave that on overnight; in the meantime, you can clean your oven racks in the bathtub with this handy tutorial.

In the morning, wipe the dried baking soda off with a damp dishtowel and a spatula, if you need it, and finish the job with a few light spray-and-wipes of white vinegar.  You’ll know you’re done when the vinegar spray stops producing happy baking soda foam.

The dishwasher

Yes, your dishwasher is an appliance for washing, but your dishwasher can still get dirty: Down in the bottom there’s a filter that keeps food bits and other random debris from getting in your drain pipes, and if you don’t clean it regularly, all that stuff and soap gunk is still there.  Lurking.  Waiting.

Cleaning your dishwasher grate is pretty easy.  Find the grate where all that gunk has collected, get all those bits of food out of there, and wipe it down with warm, soapy water.  Next, find out if your dishwasher model has a filter—you don’t want to take anything apart without some solid Googling—and if so, how to remove it.  Pop that out, scrub it down with a soft toothbrush and some hot water, and then put it back together once it’s clean.

If you’ve got hard water—and lots of places in the west end do—finish off by running an empty dishwasher cycle with two cups of vinegar in the bottom.  It’ll get the scaling and stains off, and leave your dishwasher good as new.

Best of luck!

How to reset your breaker panel!

If you’ve lost power in your condo, or you have appliances or lamps that aren’t working, the problem could be a tripped breaker. Please follow steps in this video to reset your breaker panel!

This Maintenance Minute video from Tridel explains  what to do.

Maintenance Minutes is a weekly video series that answers the everyday questions Tridel gets from condo owners.