Sunshine does more than just help plants grow; it is very good at killing bacteria, dust mites and other microscopic critters we don’t like in our home, as well as removing stubborn odors. Just 30-60 minutes is usually long enough for the sun to clean an item, but be sure to rotate the item if needed to get all sides and angles clean. Don’t leave things out for too long though or any dyes on them may begin to fade.
Using the sun is a great way to freshen all kinds of pillows. It can help to kill any dust mites on them, as well as deodorize any smells from sweat or body odors. Doing this on a windy day helps to fluff them as well. Pillows can be layed out on a plastic trash bag or hung on a clothesline if your clothespins are strong enough. Don’t lay them directly on the ground or you may end of with dirt stains, and be sure to remove them from their pillowcases or coverings first if possible.
These big fluffy bed linens can be troublesome to launder. An easy way to keep them fresh and clean is to hang them out on a clothesline on a sunny day. Be sure to flip the blanket after an hour to get the other side in the sun as well. This only needs to be done a few times a year to keep your comforter fresh.
Sunlight is a great way to get rid of all the dust mites and sweat odors that make mattresses dirty. The challenge is in getting the mattress outside without dragging it to avoid picking up more dirt along the way, but if you have a friend or family member that can help, that’s less of a problem; just offer to help carry their mattress outside as well. To keep the mattress extra clean while outside, lay it out on a tarp or sheet. Don’t forget to flip it to get it clean all over. This method also includes futon mattresses.
If your child has a favorite stuffed animal that they don’t like parting with even for the laundry, just send them both outside to play. If you can, ensure the toy gets 30 minutes of sun on each side. This is also a great way to avoid the possibility of any sewn-on eyes or other decorations getting damaged in the wash. Be sure that your child doesn’t touch the toy while they are greasy from sunscreen though or washing will become unavoidable.
Upholstered couches and chairs can also be difficult to clean thoroughly, unless you put in them in the sun for an hour or two of course. Be sure to rotate the piece so that both the front and back receives some sun. This method works well for fabric and suede, but isn’t necessary for leather. Leather can be damaged by too much sun, so stick wiping it down with your usual leather cleaner instead.
After being stored away in closets or under beds for long periods of time, most suitcases could use a good freshening up. Lay it out open around noon so that the sun is high enough to get deep into all the corners inside the suitcase. Don’t forget to flip it over to clean the outside as well, unless it’s exterior is leather, in which case just wipe it off with your usual leather cleaner rather than putting it in the sun.
Over time, plastic storage containers can develop stains from the foods they hold. Any easy way to fix them is to put the in the sun for a few hours. This can work to remove both tomato stains and food dyes; two of the toughest stains to remove from Tupperwares.
If your white clothing or even your white canvas shoes are looking a little less than white these days, hang them out in the sun for a couple hours. The sunlight will brighten them right up. This can be done as often as needed. Don’t forget to turn them inside out to brighten the inside as well so that the fibers are as radiant as can be all the way through.
Any hard surface items that have mold on them can (and should) be put out in the sun. Sunlight is a natural antifungal, so if you’ve had moldy oranges in a refrigerator drawer or found some growing on the back of your planter, put those items outside for a few hours. Wash off as much mold as possible first, then let the sun kill off any remaining spores. Unfortunately, this only works well with hard surface items; fabric items can have the spores deep inside where the sunlight can’t reach.
You may think that outdoor items already are clean from being near the sun, but if they are actually in the shade rather than direct sunlight, that’s not the case. Hammock or patio chairs that are usually under an overhang can easily be pulled into the sun for freshening up. Flipping an open patio umbrella upside-down can freshen the inside of it as well, just be sure it can’t blow away in the wind. If there is any dirt, algae, or body oils on them, wash them first, then let them dry in the sun. Otherwise, just the sun is enough to get them clean. Be sure to flip or rotate them to get some sun on every side.
- Although cloth diapers can be cleaned in the sun as a way to help kill any remaining germs, they will not come out as soft as if they are dried in the drier. Since the heat of the dryer also can kill germs, this is one item you may not want to line dry.
- If you are using the sun to bleach away stains, it can help to spray the surface with some lemon juice first. This works well for stains from rust, food, juice and ink or dye.
- If there is an area of your home that you wish you could clean with sun, just get a UV light. For more information about this, see the guide How to Clean with UV Light.
- Cleaning Plain & Simple by Donna Smallin
- Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson
- Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook by Martha Stewart
- How to Clean Practically Anything by Consumer Reports
- The Queen of Clean’s Complete Cleaning Guide by Linda Cobb
- Joey Green’s Cleaning Magic by Joey Green
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