In fall and winter, we use our homes more and close them up tight to shut out the cold. While we're protecting ourselves inside, we're trapping dust, dander and mold that can make us sick. Before you batten down the hatches for winter weather, make sure that you get your home as clean as you can:
- Bedding -- Wash all bedding in preparation for cooler temperatures and use very hot water, 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4 Celsius) or higher to kill dust mites and bacteria. Over the winter season, be sure to wash bedding weekly [source: Minkin].
- Carpets -- Shampoo all of your carpets and change your vacuum cleaner bag. When you vacuum, go over each area multiple times to get up as much dust as possible.
- Drapes and Blinds -- Launder drapes and vacuum window blinds. If it's been a year or more since you tackled cleaning non-wood blinds, remove them and wash them out of doors with a mild soap. Use the hose to rinse off the soap and let them dry completely. Clean wood blinds with a mild wood cleaning solution.
- Heater/Air Conditioner -- Change or clean your HVAC filter, and repeat the process every month through the winter.
- Pets -- We love them, but they can be a handful, particularly if someone in the family has allergies. Whenever possible, bathe cats and dogs regularly to keep dander to a minimum. A weekly bath may seem unrealistic, but even a monthly wet or dry bath is better than nothing. If you teach them young, you may be able to train pets to tolerate the vacuum cleaner for a weekly vacuuming.
- Moist Surfaces -- Clean surfaces that tend to stay moist a while, like shower enclosures, sinks and floor drains, with mold-busting cleansers or a homemade preparation made with a weak solution of bleach and dishwashing liquid.
Your warm, cozy house may look inviting to more than just your family and friends this winter. If you have or develop problems with fleas, bedbugs, mice, cockroaches or other vermin or pests, call a professional or deal with them sooner rather than later. Your family and pets will thank you.