By REBECCA SLOAN
HE SUN IS SHINING, THE BIRDS ARE singing and the air is filled with a fresh, new fragrance.
Spring has sprung at last, and homeowners everywhere are springing for their cleaning supplies, trying to get the inside of their homes to smell and look as clean and sparkling as the great outdoors.
This season, before you attempt this monumental task, take a few tips from the experts.
Sue Batovsky, owner of The Mission Impossible Cleaning Team in Niles, said one simple trick to getting your home spick-and-span for spring is not biting off more than you can chew.
"Spring cleaning an entire house is a huge job, and if you try to do too much at once, you will wear yourself out and end up discouraged and soaking in the bathtub with sore muscles," Batovsky said.
Instead of tackling an entire project in one day, Batovsky recommends dividing tasks over several weeks.
"Tackle one room per week," she said. "Choose a day when the weather is warm and the sun is shining so your spirits will be lifted and so you can wash windows and easily see the dirt."
Spread it out: To help divvy the job into manageable pieces, Batovsky suggests writing a checklist of chores that need to be completed in each room.
"A checklist will help give you a sense of organization, and you won't get lost in the task at hand," she said.
Batovsky also suggests unplugging the telephone, putting pets in their cages and getting a baby sitter for the kids when you are ready to roll up your sleeves and start cleaning.
"If you don't, the constant interruptions will give you an excuse to not finish the job," she said.
Judy DeCamp, part owner of Molly Maid, with offices in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, suggests asking a friend for help if you don't like working alone.
"Having somebody there with you will make the job more fun and less of a chore, and you can then turn around and help your friend with their spring cleaning," she said.
Working with someone else is also a good idea for safety reasons.
"Having someone there with you is smart since you shouldn't climb a ladder if there is no one around to hold the ladder for you, or to help you in case you fall," DeCamp said.
DeCamp suggested buying a wall washer to cut down on ladder-climbing.
Batovsky said there are other safety issues associated with cleaning.
"Always wear rubber gloves when cleaning the bathroom or when using harsh chemical agents," she said.
Warning: Both DeCamp and Batovsky cautioned against mixing cleaning solutions.
"Never, ever mix cleaning solutions together, especially ammonia and chlorine," DeCamp said.
"If mixed, ammonia and chlorine will create a poisonous gas that will burn your lungs if inhaled," Batovsky explained.
Comet and Clorox are two examples of products containing ammonia and chlorine.
Spraying a TV screen with a liquid glass cleaner while the set is playing is also a cleaning safety no-no.
"It's common sense -- electricity and liquids don't mix -- but lots of people do this," Batovsky said.
Batovsky identified a few cleaners she thinks are superior.
"Murphy's Oil Soap is the best thing for wood," she said. "It is a cleaner that has been around for a long time, and there's nothing like it for replenishing furniture and woodwork."
Spray rag first: DeCamp also likes Murphy's Oil Soap as well as Liquid Gold, and Pledge also gets the thumbs up from Batovsky, but she cautions against spraying it directly onto furniture.
"Spray it on a rag and then wipe the furniture," she said. "This will minimize build up."
Batovsky also recommends spraying the cleaner onto the cloth when cleaning glass picture frames.
"If you spray a picture with a liquid glass cleaner, the cleaner will run down the front of the glass, get behind the frame and ruin the picture," she said.
If you have a brand-new tile floor, forgo the fancy cleaners and mix a little white distilled vinegar and hot water, Batovsky said.
"Vinegar is a disinfectant, so it will kill germs, and it won't discolor the grout between the tiles the way other cleaners will," she said.
Soft Scrub cleanser is the best thing for ceramic countertops, Batovsky said, although she added that Comet cleanser is the only thing that will "truly clean up the porous surface of an old-fashioned bathtub."
More tips: Another tip from Batovsky, who has been cleaning homes since 1985: "When cleaning cloth lamp shades, use a very soft brush from a vacuum cleaner. Never use a rag. It will smear the dust around and ruin the shade."
Removing dust from bookshelves can be a time-consuming, tricky task, but Batovsky said there's a fast, easy way to do it.
"Remove three or four books from the end of the shelf, and dust the space that is left there. Don't put the books back, but continue to dust that open space as you move the remaining books along. This way, you won't have to remove all of the books from the shelf. It's also easier on the books, especially if the books are older and more fragile," she said.
Finally, if you want to hire someone to do your spring cleaning, Batovsky recommends seeking a cleaning service that carries workers' compensation and liability insurance.
"This safeguards them as well as you," she said.