The living room generally needs tidying more than deep cleaning, except of course for a solid spring cleaning. More often than not, the living room simply collects things that don’t live there, such as dishes, shoes, and backpacks. Keeping this room picked up will help it look clean visually, and then quick dust, vacuum, and couch fluff complete the basics. Here are plenty of ways to keep the living room in tip-top shape for family fun and relaxation, hallmarks of a modern organic home.
The Process: Purge, Clean, Organize
The size of your family, how frequently you use the living room, and what you use it for will determine just how much purging you may need to do. If the bookshelves are overflowing with books and ephemera, they could probably use some weeding to make breathing room for the books you do want to keep as part of your atmosphere. Drawers in entertainment centers, side tables, and coffee tables are prone to becoming junk drawers, so be sure to fully empty these out. Go through the stack of magazines and catalogs and recycle any that are outdated or that you aren’t likely to get through. Some thrift stores, usually smaller ones, and school art departments accept donations of recent magazines, so you might consider donating them as well. Purge anything the kids have left behind by making a box for each of them and putting anything that belongs in their rooms in that box. Then it’s theirs to decide if it stays or goes, but it doesn’t stay in the living room.
The living room is a prime place to pack in extra storage, so use every bit of it to your organizational advantage. Look for stools and benches that open up to allow for storage. Don’t waste space with the open-air side and coffee tables … look for ones with drawers and cubbies to slide baskets or books in. Get some slim bamboo organizers made for kitchen drawers to corral things such as extra batteries, remotes, pens, and pencils, etc. in short drawers. Instead of a low entertainment center that only allows you to store a few DVDs, go for a higher one that has several rows of drawers and fills out the room with its height, too. Add photo boxes, hat boxes, and metal tins to add interest to bookshelves. Kid-oriented items, such as games, toys, and electronics that do remain in the living room should have homes. Canvas bins or baskets, or wooden crates are great for this and can easily be tucked under tables and on bookshelves to keep the mess hidden when items are not in use.
RESTORING WOOD SCRATCHES AND LUSTER
Wood is abundant in the living room, from legs of couches and chairs to fireplace mantles, side tables, coffee tables, entertainment centers, bookshelves, and built-ins. And when there is living happening, as there is in any modern organic home, and family and children and pets and friends (and cold drinks that never seem to find coasters), there’s bound to be scratches, nicks, and rings on the wood. No need to buy an overly-lemon scented can of toxic fumes to keep your wood looking lovely. Keep in mind this is for hardwood furniture or laminates. Anything less sturdy will begin to peel and crack at the slightest hint of moisture, so be sure to use these solutions carefully, dry them thoroughly, and wipe up any spills immediately.
Sometimes wood just gets coated with … well, who knows what. In the living room, it could be anything from spaghetti sauce to candle wax and glitter glue. It’s best to clean wood regularly so nothing has time to really eat away at the finish. This cleaning solution is quick to put together and does a great job cleaning.
• ½ cup distilled or boiled and cooled water
• ¼ cup white vinegar
• 5 drops pine essential oil
Mix well and shake before use. Spray on and wipe with the grain of the wood in circular motions using a soft cloth.
This will get all of your hardwood furniture gleaming again, and it will still leave a clean lemon scent.
• ¼ cup walnut oil
• 2–4 drops lemon essential oil
A tiny bit of this mixture on a soft rag restores luster to most wood surfaces and fills in any light scratches.
Extra Tip: For small scratches and water rings, reach for the nut bowl. Rub a raw walnut into the blemish. The nut will release a tiny amount of natural walnut oil, which restores the finish quickly.
WIPE DOWN THE WALLS: CLEANING WALLS (YES, THEY NEED TO BE CLEANED!)
You probably don’t think of your walls as dirty until you run a hand across one and find it filled with dust and dirt. Oops! Walls are surfaces and need occasional cleaning just like any other surface, especially if you have a fireplace that you run regularly that can potentially deposit soot on the walls. But the good news is, you don’t need anything special to clean walls, except perhaps a long-handled brush and a step stool.
- 8 ounces hot water
- 2 tablespoons castile soap
- 20 drops peppermint essential oil
Mix ingredients in an 8-ounce spray bottle by stirring, not shaking, to prevent foaming.
To Use: Spray on the walls and wipe with a soft cloth. Get a step stool if necessary and start at the top, working your way down, section by section. Be prepared to vacuum after this, too, as it’s likely to kick up some dust that your rag doesn’t catch.
KEEPING UP WITH UPHOLSTERED FURNITURE
Upholstered furniture is comfortable and cozy, but it is a bit harder to clean than hardwood furniture. Have no fear; a few simple tips can keep your upholstered furniture in tip-top shape.
Clean your upholstered furniture weekly to prevent dust bunnies and crumbs from getting ground into corners and creases. Remove any removable pieces, such as armrest covers, pillows, and cushions. Check for and remove any items (coins, pens, paper clips, toys, hair accessories) that have fallen into the crevices. Pull up the upholstery if you can around the seams and in corners. Vacuum into all of the creases and seams. Take a damp rag and wipe the creases and seams to collect any additional crumbs and dust. Leave the cushions off until fully dry.
Spot Clean for Spills: If the area where you’ve spilled is able to be removed (ie. a couch cushion cover), remove it so you can work more easily on the stain and not get the cushion itself wet. If not, no worries. Often, a little dish soap and sparkling water gently blotted into the spot immediately will take it right up. If you have a particularly troublesome spill, try these ideas:
Ink: Soak the spot with rubbing alcohol. Blot gently. Let dry on its own.
Oil (including food oils such as butter, cheese, dressing): Immediately put baking soda on the stain. Let that sit for a minute or two. Then saturate the stain with water. Add a dab of shampoo. Gently blot the shampoo into the stain. Keep blotting with clean water to get the shampoo and the oil out.
Coffee/Tea: Saturate and wring out a towel with warm water and press it deeply into the spot to soak up the liquid. Then saturate another towel with white vinegar and press that into the spot.
Blood: Use sparkling water to gently blot the spot, focusing on the edges of the stain.
Permanent Marker/Marker/Highlighter: Soak the spot with rubbing alcohol, gently blotting.
Red Wine: If possible, pour white wine on the spot immediately. If you don’t have white wine, use seltzer water. Sprinkle the stain with baking soda and blot with white vinegar. Vacuum up the baking soda if necessary.
LATHER UP YOUR LEATHER COUCH: CLEANING LEATHER FURNITURE
Your expensive leather furniture should last you for years; decades, even, if properly cared for. But leather is finicky and doesn’t like a lot of cleaners that will soak into the leather and damage it slowly. So stay away from acids like vinegar and food products like coconut oil that will eventually turn rancid (and likely change the color of your leather).
Clean: Regular cleanings of your leather furniture is the best way to keep on top of its care and prevent deeper issues like peeling, cracking, and pitting. First, thoroughly vacuum the couch, paying special attention to seams, cracks, and pockets. Then, mix 2 cups of warm water with 2 tablespoons of castile soap. Use a soft rag that is barely moistened with the mixture (do not use too much water on leather) and rub the leather with the grain. Use a dry rag to ensure the sofa and its cushions are completely dry before putting them back together again.
Condition: It is important to use a commercial leather cleaning product here, one that is labeled for upholstery leather (not a car or shoe/bag leather) as the natural pH level of leather is hard to match when creating a product yourself. Most homemade recipes use a food-based oil and/or vinegar, both of which should be avoided. Use a soft rag and work the product into the leather with the grain.
Stain Removal: Gentle, organic baby wipes can help remove some stains. If there is a grease stain, sprinkle cornstarch or baking soda on the spot immediately to soak up the grease. For ink stains, spray the area with hairspray or dab with a bit of rubbing alcohol. Plain white toothpaste can also work by rubbing it gently into darker spots, then blotting it clean with a damp cloth.
CLEANING A MICROFIBER COUCH OR CHAIR
Microfiber couches are incredibly soft and snuggly and give the appearance of suede without the expense. Microfiber is much easier to clean than suede is. A little spritz of this, a little rub with that, and voila, it looks like it just rolled off the factory line! Be sure to test this in an inconspicuous spot, but it should work for all colors. Use a white or light-colored sponge and brush for light-colored upholstery so the color from dying the bristles doesn’t transfer to your couch. Use a toothbrush to clean seams and pockets.
- 8 ounces rubbing alcohol
- 4–6 drops tea tree essential oil
Mix in an 8-ounce spray bottle. Shake well before use.
To Use: Spray liberally onto small sections of the couch at a time. Ensure the fabric is wet, but not soaked. Then use your sponge to scrub the fabric in an up and down motion with the grain of the fabric. Rinse your sponge in water frequently to prevent transferring dirt from one area to another. Wring it out well before continuing (to prevent adding water to the couch’s fibers). It’s important to fully work the rubbing alcohol in each section and not just let it sit, or you’ll be left with water spots where it soaked in too much and dried too quickly. You can fix those by repeating this process. Repeat this process over the entire couch or chair, using a clean toothbrush to scrub tighter spots. Let air dry. Then use a soft-bristled brush (such as a dish brush) to fluff and restore the fibers, again, going with the grain, over the entire surface.