It used to be that I couldn't get too excited about spring cleaning. After being cooped up all winter, come springtime I wanted to take my bicycle or bass rod for a spin — not the vacuum cleaner. But when I realized that spring cleaning could save me money, and in some cases even make me money, all that changed. Check out these tips and see if your attitude toward spring cleaning doesn't change, too.
Vacuum your refrigerator's coils: When was the last time you did that? Keeping the coils clean increases energy efficiency, saving you about 6 percent of your fridge's electric bill, according to a study by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. That's a savings of only about $2 a month, but every bit helps. To get started, unplug the refrigerator or turn off the power. Access to the coils varies by model; some can be reached from the front and others from the back — and you may need to remove a plate or grill first.
If you've never cleaned your coils, prepare to be awed by the dust bunnies in residence there. Use an appropriate vacuum attachment or a brush to vanquish the dust, and wipe the coils off with soapy water if they're gummy. Replace any plates/grills, restore power and presto: You'll get a sense of satisfaction each time you walk into the kitchen.
Clean or replace the AC filter: According to the Energy Department, an air conditioner with a dirty filter can suck up 5 percent to 15 percent more electricity than with a clean one. That could easily add up to a savings of $20 per month for a medium-sized window unit. And filters on most models are easy to swap out. Simply slide out the old one and insert the new one. It's worth the savings to replace filters a couple of times during the cooling season. Sponge-type filters (as opposed to the ridged type) can often be reused a time or two by soaking them in soapy water, rinsing and allowing them to dry.
Clean your vacuum cleaner: Even your household's most valuable cleaning appliance — your vacuum — occasionally needs some TLC ("tender loving cleaning"). I've been able to prolong the life of our inexpensive upright vac to 10 years (that's age 122 in vacuum cleaner years) and counting, just by keeping it clean and in good shape. Once a year, wipe down the canister inside and out with a damp rag; use an old brush or comb to remove string and other debris stuck in the rollers and check the belts for wear and tear (replace them as needed). Be sure to inspect the suction tubes and cleaning attachments to dislodge any clogged material and check for holes — easily fixed with duct tape.