There are some things that just shout the word “CLEAN”. The smell of lemons in the background is one way to assure visitors – or in the case of a home listed for sale, prospective buyers – that everything is sparkling clean. Chrome that bears no fingerprint or streak is another way to make others feel at ease with the cleanliness of your house. There are other things that cast doubts about whether or not your home is really clean. Certainly stained or mould-ridden grout around the tub and shower is one of those red flags. Shower doors that have caked-on mineral deposits and hard flooring that looks or feels sticky is a sure way, according to house stylists, to cause buyers to put on the brakes. After all, nobody really wants to buy somebody else’s dirt.

Whatever the buyer sees as haphazard cleaning gives prospective buyers the sense that other things like regular maintenance tasks have been neglected. To the buyer, this spells surprise bills and expenses down the road. We’ve collected a few tips to help you evict red flags from the top to the bottom of your home before you list it for sale.

Light Fixtures: Remove the globes from all lighting fixtures and be sure all light bulbs are working and are not burdened with dust. Clean the glass globes in hot water and dish soap to remove smoke stains and dust that might have gathered there. Wipe down the blades of ceiling fans and be sure the housing of the light fixture shines if it’s supposed to. House stylists tell us that shiny things like chrome and brass need to shine, so once you’ve cleaned them, dry them with a soft cloth to be sure they are streak-free.

Switch Plates and Outlet Covers: The best time to deal with these little guys is during the painting process. Remove every last one and give them a soak and a scrub in hot water and liquid dish soap. Use your vegetable brush to make sure there is no dust or stains in little decorative grooves or the openings. (Using the same cleaning solution, wipe down outlets themselves and the actual switch that turns the lights on and off. Just in case, we recommend that you turn the power off at the switchbox in order to avoid electrocution risk.)

Skirting Boards and Trim Throughout: Panels on doors, window sashes and other decorative woodwork will probably have been cleaned and painted already. Nevertheless, double-check to be sure that no dust has accumulated there and that nothing slipped between the proverbial cracks.

Corners: The corners in any room of your house are wickedly retaining all manner of things that you don’t want a prospective buyer to see. From cobwebs and spiders to dust-bunnies, every corner needs special attention before you walk out of the house for the last time.
Kitchen corners are the worst – especially around the stove and under the refrigerator. Use an old toothbrush to scour the corners of splashbacks, under control knobs, and behind any other place that grease and dust have combined to make sludge. Not only does such ‘kitchen tar’ look bad, it smells as well. Banish it thoroughly.

Bathrooms: Bathrooms require special attention, just like the kitchen. First, yank that old grout out and replace it. (We will talk more about that process in the near future.) Get on your hands and knees and use your scrubbing brush to attack any substance that may cling to the base of your toilet or vanity.

Home stylists warn us not to imagine that buyers will fail to take a very close look at water service pipes behind the toilet and under the sink. Those will need cleaning as well – and if they are chrome, they will need to be more than clean; they will need to shine as well. (Usually a spritz with window cleaner followed by a wipe and dry does the trick.)
Soon, we will offer some tips on how to make your hard floors shine, and your nasty grout lines look new again. In the meantime, understand that the cleaning of your home ahead of listing it for sale should be just as thorough as if you were expecting a visit from the Royal Family. According to house stylists, the key is to eliminate every last speck of dust and streak that mars the shine of things that were meant to, well, shine. Put on your rubber gloves and get started.

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