When your lovely pine cupboard has become darker over the years…

All timber will darken with age, though you notice it more on lighter woods.

This is caused by the sun reacting with the resins in the wood (like a newspaper yellows), and this happens even out of direct sunlight.

There’s no easy way around this: you need to remove the finish, sand down to the natural wood and start again.

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Keep your car tidy

When you set out on a long car journey, with lots of snacks on board, make sure that you include a waste bag for all your wrappings and banana skins!

Simple, but also easy to forget…

Get your Velco sticking again

You know the grot that gets trapped in Velcro and stops it from working (particularly annoying on kids’ shoes)?

Use a nit comb (you know you have one lurking in the medicine cabinet!) to tease out all the fluff and bits of thread – simple and very effective.

Hate the smell of brass cleaner?

Lemon juice and salt work very well on brass.

Either mix to a paste (one part juice to three parts salt) and apply with a clean cotton cloth, or rub the surfaces with half a lemon dipped in salt (wear rubber gloves if you have any cuts on your fingers!).

The brass will shine instantly; rinse off and buff dry with a soft cloth.

Does anyone actually spring clean any more?

Spring cleaning comes from the days when coal fires were the norm and by the end of the winter every surface in the house was covered with a layer of coal dust.

Nowadays it’s more about a deep clean and general freshen-up as the sun starts shining.

1. If it all seems too daunting, start in a small room such as the bathroom or boxroom. When you’ve mastered that, you’ll feel spurred on to tackle the rest of the house.

2. Declutter! Throw away as much as you can. Start in the bedroom and get rid of all the clothes you’ve not worn since this time last year.

If in doubt, chuck it out is my motto.

Take anything in good nick to a charity shop or offer to a friend. Otherwise stick in the recycling bin.

3. Get those curtains down and take to the dry cleaners – the place will feel so much fresher. If this is beyond your budget, at least go over them with the upholstery tool of the vacuum cleaner.

4. Clean the windows and let the sun shine in. Invest in a couple of microfibre cloths specially for glass. Wash the dirt off with warm water plus a drop of washing up liquid using a cotton cloth then dry with the cloth. Your windows will be streak-free.

5. Now the glass is see-through, the dreck inside will be that more visible. Get the ladders out, climb to the places you don’t normally reach and prepare to be horrified. For general dustiness, use warm soapy water wrung out in a clean terry cloth – old towels ripped up are ideal. Damp dusting is far more effective than dry – the dust sticks to the cloth rather than flies around the room to land on a different surface.

6. While you’re up there, take down the lampshades for cleaning.

You’ll need to change your water and cloths often (you can’t clean with a dirty cloth). Wipe down doors, walls, skirting boards, dado rails, banisters.

7. In the kitchen the dust at high level will be welded on with a layer of grease; the best thing to cut through it easily is a solution of warm water and washing soda – depending on how thick the grease, up to a cup per 500ml warm water. It’s cheap and works like magic.

8. Clean the carpets, either professionally (far better result) or with a hired or bought machine. For upholstery, sprinkle with bicarbonate of soda, leave overnight and vacuum off the next day.

9. Gather up any ornaments, wash in warm soapy water then rinse. Line the bowl or sink with a tea towel to protect anything fragile.

10. Duvets and pillows are easy to ignore but if I tell you that we each lose about a pint of sweat a night, you get my drift. Follow wash instructions on the label (double duvets you’ll need to take to the launderette).  

11. Pull out the fridge! While you’re at it vacuum the cooling elements with the upholstery attachment, then wipe with a soft cloth wrung out in warm soapy water. This’ll help it run more efficiently and cheaply.

12. Blitz kitchen storecupboards and throw any out-of-date flour or nuts (they’ll be rancid). Food moths always seem to find their way into old dry ingredients and once you’re infested, it’s hard to get rid. Wipe shelves with a clean cloth wrung out in warm soapy water, getting right into the corners, and buff dry.

13. Limescale on the shower glass? No need for harsh products. Remove the worst on glass shower enclosures with a DIY scraper for paint splatters then ‘wallpaper’ the glass with sheets of vinegar-drenched kitchen roll. Leave a few hours then remove paper and rinse down. Buff dry with a microfibre glass cloth. For chrome taps, envelop with vinegary kitchen paper, cover with a plastic bag and secure with a rubber band. Leave overnight and in the morning the scale will flake off. In the sink/enamel bath: take a dampened pumice stone and rub, rub, rub (it won’t scratch the surface).

14. Undo the bathroom seat to reveal the horror beneath and go for it – with a wipe or disposable cloth this time!

15. Don’t waste your time on mucky teenagers’ rooms. Guess what, they might even notice the improvements in the rest of the house and have a think, even if they take no action.