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Even if you enjoy the feeling afterwards, it’s fair to say that most people don’t particularly enjoy the act of cleaning. This goes double for shelves.

Shelves, by their nature, are a little harder to clean because they’re often hanging up on walls, covered in stuff, or any number of other complications.

It doesn’t have to be as hard as you’re expecting, though! Each shelf just requires its own little tricks to get clean and shiny again, no matter what kind of shelf it is. Here’s five of the most common types of shelves in the home, and what you can do to clean them off:


Wire shelving: Wire shelves, whether they’re bare metal or epoxy coated wire shelves, just need a little elbow grease. After taking everything off the shelves (of course), get a good strong rag and spray the shelves down with a good all-purpose cleaner with the scent of your choice. Scrub it with the rag and take a toothbrush to the crevices and corners you can’t get to easily otherwise. After that all you need to do is let it dry, and keep an eye out for built-up moisture to prevent issues down the road. (If possible, try to take bigger wire shelving racks outside to help the drying process.)


Wooden shelves: Wood shelves need a bit more delicate touch, even if they’ve been treated properly, in order to help the wood last longer. Before applying the cleaning solution, dust the shelves off with a microfiber cloth, feather duster (they still make those!), or compressed air can to avoid scratches. After that, use a soft wood-specific soap (usually with an oil base) to gently wipe it down and remove any of the bigger junk. Follow the instructions on your chosen soap to make sure you don’t need to let it dry beforehand, and gently wipe it all down one more time with warm water.


Glass wall shelves: Glass, even the thicker glass used on shelves, needs special care to prevent streaks and scratches. Instead of using costly cleaning supplies, a common household cleaner is to mix equal parts water and vinegar. Spray the shelf down and then find the softest cloth you can (or if you’re feeling really vintage, grab some newspaper) to wipe it all down with.


Metal shelves: For the most part, metal shelves can be cleaned using the same supplies you would with wire shelves. That said, some older metal shelves may be plagued by rust, but it’s an easy solution! Take some sandpaper to grind off the loose bits of rust, sprinkle some coarse grain salt over the rusted area, and then pour a mixture of equal parts lemon juice and white vinegar over the salted parts. Let this sit for five-seven minutes and then wipe it away with a dry towel.


Bookshelves: Bookshelves need some special care to make sure they don’t harm the books down the road, as many cleaning chemicals may not dry correctly and could harm the material the books are made with when they get put back. Instead of using chemicals, use a blow-dryer or compressed air cans to blow the dust off the shelves (in many cases not even moving the books that far) and then put some silica gel pads (you know, the stuff in the DO NOT EAT packet you get in coats or shoes) on the ends of every shelf to help absorb moisture and prevent the books from getting funky.


Do you have any other shelves you’ve cleaned lately and want to share your tips? Drop a comment below!

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