The thought of cleaning the blinds might make you fervently wish for curtains. The slats just seem to multiply as you look at them and you suddenly realize your home has too many windows -- and the kitchen blinds are probably coated with an invisible film of grease. But a couple of handy elixirs can help you make relatively short work of shining up even the most neglected window blinds. The scented blue Dawn dishwashing liquid, white vinegar and water are dependable grime busters.
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A Magical Mix
When the blinds need way more than a quick dusting, remove them from the window and place them in the tub with enough warm water to cover them. Before submerging the blinds, add a gallon of white vinegar and a capful of the scented blue Dawn dishwashing detergent. Swish the blinds around to loosen built-up grime and dust -- the detergent takes care of the dirt, while the vinegar cuts grease and restores the shine. Once they're clean, drain the tub; rinse the blinds with a handheld shower head. Allow them to drain, and rehang the blinds in the window. Wipe them down with a dry absorbent cloth to remove any remaining water.
Socks and Vinegar
White vinegar is an eco-friendly all-purpose cleaner that's safe to use on most plastic, metal and wood blinds, and it's economical, nontoxic and nonabrasive. Grab a couple of clean old socks and a bowl filled with half vinegar, half water. Leave the blinds hanging in the window and slip a sock over your hand. Dip the sock into the vinegar-water mix and wipe each slat individually from end to end. (If you don't mind the wetness, slip your hand into the sock and use to wipe the slats -- it makes the task a bit easier.) Every few slats, rinse the sock in the bowl to swish off accumulated dirt before continuing. When you've finished one side, put a dry sock on your hand and wipe every slat. Then start on the other side of the blinds.
Use Dawn Alone
The original scented blue Dawn dishwashing detergent is legendary among wildlife rescuers for its ability to remove oil coating birds' wings without harming the birds. The detergent cuts through oil and grease but is formulated to go easy on dishwashers' hands. This gentle treatment works so effectively for injured wildlife that the International Bird Rescue organization, the nonprofit that works to save oil-slicked birds after a spill, gets all its cleanser -- cases of the blue Dawn -- donated by Procter and Gamble. The biodegradable grease-plus-grime cleaning formula that works on birds is a cinch to shine your mini-blinds. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons to about 2 gallons of warm water to wash or wipe down metal, vinyl or veneer blinds and mini-blinds. Tackle kitchen blinds to remove the greasy film of oil that builds up over time, but avoid soaking wider wood-slat blinds to prevent warping or cracking.
Vertical blinds, commonly used to cover sliding glass doors and other tall windows, are best cleaned in place. Designer vertical blinds are frequently fabric-covered, posing an extra challenge when it's time to clean them. Check the manufacturer's instructions for care and, if the blinds don't require dry-cleaning, use a double-grip, vertical blind-cleaning tool with a sponge on each side that clasps each slat. Prepare a bucket of just-warm water with a capful or less of Dawn detergent, a bucket of cool rinse water, absorbent old towels to catch drips, a clean rag and extra towels for drying. Soak the sponge tool in detergent water; grab the slat at the top with the tool and pull it to the bottom of the slat. Rinse in the clean water, and resoak in soapy water, repeating until the slat is clean. Dip a rag in full-strength detergent and gently work out any stubborn spots. Blot the blinds and let them air dry.