Many of us do an annual deep home cleaning in the springtime, when we throw open the windows and welcome the warm weather. But some things on that cleaning list actually make sense to handle before the cold weather descends each year.
Splitting that heavy load of indoor cleaning and maintenance between spring and fall helps keep your house in order all year round. Plus, it lightens the load — or, perhaps the dread — of making it such a huge project just once a year.
But before the cleaning even starts, let's talk maintenance. Specifically, your home's furnace.
Maintain Your Furnace
Keeping you warm during the winter isn't the only reason to have your furnace system inspected, cleaned and serviced at this time of year. Having a professional inspect any oil- or gas-fueled appliances before heating season begins also reduces the chances of exposing your family to carbon monoxide: an odorless, colorless gas that can be deadly at high levels. This is especially true if your system isn't new.
In addition to having this annual inspection, it's just good practice to replace your furnace filter at least every three months. This helps keep your furnace running efficiently and dust from circulating through your house, so if you can't remember the last time you changed it, add it to the list of fall-cleaning to-dos.
Consider Your Carpets
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, seasonal allergies impact the lives of more than 35 million people in the U.S., and many also suffer from perennial allergies (allergy symptoms all year round). During cold months we spend about an average of 90 percent of our time inside, where the EPA reports the air is quality worse than outdoors, about two to five times more polluted in fact.
So how do we help reduce our exposure to allergens during the cold season? Well, we recommend going a step beyond vacuuming and having your carpets deep cleaned to remove soil, mold, dust mites and any other particles hidden deep in the pile. You can rent your own steam cleaning machine or hire a professional service.
An added perk to doing this: Regular deep cleaning helps extend a carpet's life.
De-clutter & Organize
Fall and spring are both excellent times to organize your clothes. During spring cleaning you'll want to evaluate your winter wardrobe: Did you wear that sweater even once this year? If not, time to donate it. Of course, the same applies to your summer clothes.
But doing this purge of the unnecessaries can be easier if done twice annually — and more than just with your wardrobe. And it doesn't need to be an overwhelming project.
Just walk through your house with a list in hand with three questions:
- Have I used it in the past year?
- Could it be better used by someone who needs it?
- Can I sell it at a tag sale or put it on craigslist.org?
Feeling like Wonder De-clutterer? Spend another weekend tackling the garage or the attic before the cold weather comes knocking.
Before settling in for a long winter's nap, schedule some time with your washing machine.
Launder all your bedding — everything from your pillows, sheets and mattress pads to the blankets and comforters you've had stored away all summer long. And while it's bare, take the opportunity to flip your mattress(es) — turn the mattress from head to foot and flip it over. If you have a new no-flip mattress model, you're ahead of the rest of us.
While you're having a date with your washing machine, take the time to check your window treatments. Some are made of machine washable fabrics, while others should be professionally cleaned — check the label and wash accordingly.
Did You Know?
Your clothes dryer uses about three times the energy your washer does. Consider a temporary clothesline during your fall cleaning. You'll save money and be a little bit greener.
Take Stock of Your Medicine Chest
If you're like many of us, you may not remember the last time you restocked your medicine chest. Think about it — what's in there, back behind the adhesive bandages and nail polish?
Here are some good practices to get into each season to keep your family safe and your medicine cabinet clean:
- First, take an inventory of all you have.
- Restock any expired medications, from aspirin and cough medicine to prescriptions.
- Check to see if your thermometer is working and that you have a good pair of tweezers.
- Humidity can ruin things like pills and medical tape, so check the condition of these items.
- Toss out all bottles missing a label.
- Finally, make a list of everything that's missing and replace - especially emergency supplies like bandages and antiseptics.
Don't Store Medicine in the Bathroom
The heat and humidity of the bathroom speeds up the deterioration of your pills. Keep these 10 medicines — along with your prescriptions — in a cool, dry place: pain killers, antibiotic ointment, antihistamines, aspirin, birth control, burn relief cream, fever reducers, hydrocortisone, upset stomach and anti-diarrheal remedies and vitamins.