5 Scariest Cleaning Tasks You’ve Been Putting Off

Witches, bats, ghosts, vampires  – there are lots of scary things to be found around Halloween, but perhaps none quite as frightening as these 5 scary cleaning chores that we all like to avoid. Get a handle on tackling these terrifying tasks with these simple “green cleaning” tips. Don’t let these neglected chores haunt your house any longer!

Cleaning the oven

One of the universal least-favorite chores – it’s much more fun to cook in the oven than it is to clean it!   No matter how careful a cook you are, your oven will eventually accumulate ghosts of meals past – those baked on spills and food debris that smoke when the oven’s on and seem almost impossible to remove.

Most modern ovens have an “auto clean” cycle. Auto clean works by turning up the heat until all the residue burns to a crisp, then you wipe it away. Meanwhile, it smells bad, sets off smoke detectors, and frequently it makes things worse.

Or, there are the harsh chemical oven cleaners. These eat away at the debris and are pretty effective, but even with adequate ventilation (which is a must), the fumes can make you sick.

What if I told you that you could effectively clean your oven with just vinegar and baking soda?  Go get a good pair of latex gloves and a cheap dollar-store plastic spatula and follow the directions here.

Cleaning the dishwasher

Your dishwasher saves you a lot of time and trouble, but each cycle adds to the  buildup of grease, soap scum and food particle “zombies” until things get pretty funky in there. A dirty dishwasher is also a breeding ground for germs and bacteria – ugh!

But cleaning it isn’t as bad as you might think! Once again, vinegar and baking soda to the rescue.

  1. Grab a pair of gloves. Remove the bottom dish rack and check the drain. Remove any nasty stuff stuck in there.
  2. Pour 1 cup of white vinegar into a dishwasher-safe container. Put it (by itself, remove all other dishes) on the top rack of the machine and run it through the hot water cycle.
  3. Sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher and run it through the hot water cycle again.

And you’re done!

How to clean the cat litter box

Although superstitions give them a bad rap, kitties can be amazing companions! But cleaning their bathroom can be scarier than having a dozen black cats cross your path!  Modern litters allow you to go for a long time just scooping and re-adding litter, and litter liners make changing the sand a snap. But over time, litter and “other things” are going to stick to the box itself, making it pretty stinky even with fresh litter.  Giving it a good scrubbing when you change the litter will make it much easier to live with, and your cat will thank you too!

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’re pregnant you are automatically excused from this and any other chore having to do with kitty litter. Cat feces can carry a parasite called toxoplasma gondii that can harm your baby. Please delegate this task to someone else – tell them we said so.

The best place to scrub out the box is outdoors. If that’s not an option, a laundry sink will do.

  1. Get some rubber gloves and optionally a dust mask. You will also need mild dish detergent, a scrub brush, and a litter scoop or cheap spatula.
  2. Empty all the old litter out of the box as if you were changing the litter. Use the scoop or spatula to scrape off anything stuck to the sides as best you can.
  3. Put some mild detergent in the box and fill partially with water. Let it sit a few minutes
  4. Now that it’s been softened by the water and detergent, use the scoop / spatula to remove any litter that had previously plastered itself to the box
  5. Use the scrub brush to scrub down the edges, sides and bottom of the box. If you are using a covered litter pan, clean the cover too.
  6. Dump the water and let the box air-dry. Refill with about 3” of litter and put back in its usual place.

Cleaning your vacuum cleaner

This is a pretty easy one, but still something most of us would rather avoid. Bagless vacuums are great for the environment but pretty scary when you have to clean them!  You’re likely to find your vacuum “haunted” by dust, hair and fibers from every place it’s been

  1. Unplug the vacuum. Remove the filters, shake all the debris out of the canister. Wipe down the inside of the canister with a slightly-damp paper towel and leave it open to dry.
  2. Follow your vacuum’s instructions for cleaning or changing the filters. Assuming your vacuum has washable filters, you probably just have to rinse the filters under running water until the water runs clean. Leave them out to dry.
  3. The beater bar and brushes are the most time consuming to clean. Get a pair of nail scissors or a seam ripper and a pick or wide toothed comb. Remove the brush nozzle from the rest from the vacuum.  If you can, remove the brushes from the assembly but this isn’t necessary. Use the scissors or seam ripper to cut any hair and fibers that are wrapped around the brush bristles. Use the comb / pick to remove it. Wipe down the bar with a damp paper towel. You can also disinfect the bottom of the vacuum by wiping it with some rubbing alcohol on a soft cloth.
  4. Once everything is dry, reassemble.

Cleaning your “creepy” clogged drains

Now we get to the scariest task of all – unclogging a drain. If it’s really bad, you may need a plumber but more often than not you can do it yourself.

First, just say “no” to those old-fashioned liquid drain cleaners. They contain highly corrosive chemicals with fumes that you probably don’t want around yourself, your kids or your pets, and don’t they always work. If they fail to clear the clog you will then be left with a toxic landfill in your sink or bathtub in addition to the clog.

For clogs that aren’t too bad, a little vinegar, baking soda and a drain snake may be all you need. Here are two guides from the folks at ApartmentTherapy with the dirty details on the basic technique of cleaning a sink drain, and using a drain snake on the bathtub drain.

If vinegar and baking soda won’t remove the clog and you’re not quite ready to throw in the towel and call a plumber, I’ve had good luck with the powdered enzymatic drain cleaners on slow (but not completely stopped) drains. Mix with water per the instructions, pour it down the problem drain, and let the enzymes do their thing on the drain gunk overnight. The next morning, follow up with hot water. You may need a few rounds with a plunger to force the water through. A little bit of a nuisance, but much cheaper than a plumber visit!

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