Cleaning Secrets from a Top Real Estate Broker

Look Down…and Then Slightly Up

It happens all the time: Jill Sloane, executive vice president of Halstead Property’s Westside Office in Manhattan, walks into a home that is beautifully decorated and looks magnificent at eye level—and the floors, she’s delighted to see, have clearly been Swiffered—but the baseboards are covered in dust. Sloane says it’s not just people who are shopping for homes who register this, but anyone who comes to your house: Little things can go a very long way toward making a buyer, a visitor or even yourself fall in love with a home. She uses a damp cloth on her own baseboards; you could also try a microfiber rag dipped in warm, soapy water and wrung almost dry. (And if they’re scuffed, keep a touch-up kit handy so you can touch up scrapes as you clean.)

Keep Flowers Looking (and Smelling) Like Flowers

Everyone loves fresh flowers, but droopy blooms or a something’s-not-right bouquet? Not so much. Sloane has a secret for getting arrangements to stay fresh: Start with a really clean, clear glass vase. The one you grabbed out of the cabinet and quickly rinsed out before filling with water might look fine in the morning, but once afternoon sunlight is streaming in, you may notice it’s not sparkling—and that cloudiness (which often is a sign of bacteria) can accelerate the flowers’ decay. So wash the container with a few drops of bleach and hot water first. Sloane’s picks for longest-lasting blossoms are sunflowers in warm weather and mums in cooler seasons.

Upgrade Your Bathroom for Less Than $65

Aside from keeping the bathroom clean, there’s another foolproof way to make this space look fresh and inviting, Sloane says:white towels

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,a white shower curtainanda white bathmat. The only caveat: nothing looks worse than those accessories appearing dirty or stained. So every season, machine wash them with detergent and hot water. If they aren’t pristine, replace them.

Beware the Sheet Avalanche

We’ve all shoved things in the hall closet when guests are coming over, just wanting to get the clutter out of sight…and who’s going to look in there, anyway? Actually, Sloane says, people searching for powder rooms do open doors—and linen closets are a typical target. The last thing Sloane wants them to see is an avalanche of towels and sheets, so she advises homeowners to keep everything in neat stacks. (An added benefit is that you won’t later be the victim of a linen shower.) The right distance between shelves can make a big difference: Towel shelves should be about 14 inches high; for sheets, about 10 inches should be sufficient (this video shows you how to fold fitted sheets neatly). Sloane likes to leave a bar of her favorite soap in the closet to lightly perfume linens; you can also use a sachet.

Don’t Just Wipe the Front of the Fridge

Just as people like to peek inside closets, they also open refrigerators—and Sloane is amazed at how many clean homes have dirty fridges. Spills that have become thick and sticky, funky smells, and food piled every which way are the biggest problems she sees. Before you put ketchup, mustard or jelly away, wipe off the rim and bottom. Every few days, do a sweep for food that’s past its prime. And give the fridge itself a good scrub regularly: Empty the contents, store them in a cooler, turn off the power, andlet the shelves and drawers come to room temperature before you wash them, since glass and ceramic parts could crack if they come into contact with hot water when they are cold.

Next: There’s a wrong way to dust?

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