In the 1960s, the cartoon "The Jetsons" promised a life of ease in the 21st century, made possible by all sorts of futuristic gadgets and robots. Housewives of the day were particularly taken with Rosey the Robot, the Jetson family maid who, with just a touch of a button, could make the Jetson's glass space-house spic and span.
Unfortunately, flying cars and housecleaning robots haven't yet made it into our day-to-day lives, and getting your house clean still takes some good, old-fashioned elbow grease. Everyone knows that once winter's over, it's time to spring clean. But what about the other seasons? All four seasons -- spring, summer, winter and autumn -- ring in different weather and different reasons to keep your domicile clean. The changing of the seasons offers you an opportunity to get things done around the house -- organizing clothes, fighting allergens, reducing clutter, ensuring your family's safety and even saving money.
Before we jump into heavy-duty seasonal cleaning, let's talk a little about what you need to keep your house sparkling on a daily basis. Here's a list of supplies you should always have on hand:
[source: Real Simple]
Having these supplies handy will help you keep the dirt and grime under control. Of course, they only work if you use them! Experts advise taking a few minutes -- under a half an hour -- each day to take care of basic cleaning tasks. This includes wiping down countertops and sinks, cleaning any spills on the floor, wiping mirrors, wiping down the toilet, making your bed, tidying up the sofa and clearing major clutter. Taking care of stuff like this on a daily basis will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed with big cleaning projects.
You should also do the following at least twice a year:
Now, get your mop and feather duster ready because we're going to give you the low-down on cleaning your house for every season. Let's get started.
Spring Cleaning Your House
Spring is a rebirth. When the plants start pushing out of the cold ground and the buds appear on the trees, it's time to air out the house and do some spring cleaning. But where do you start?
After a winter of using your furnace and fireplace (if you have one), the first thing you'll want to do is clear the air. Clean the ashes out of your fireplace. The longer those ashes sit there, the more they'll float through your home, settling on furniture as dust. Don't forget to vacuum after you carefully scoop the ashes into a trash bag.
Then, change the air filter on your furnace. You should do this each season. Upgrading to a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter will also improve the air quality in your home. Depending on your heating system, you may also want to deactivate your heat system humidifiers and drain any sediment from your water heater. While you're in there, ensure your air conditioning unit is working correctly. You don't want to wait until it's 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 degrees Celsius) to find out your A/C is busted.
Wash the windows, inside and outside. Vacuum the dust out of your drapes and soak your mini-blinds in the tub to loosen and remove any caked-on grime.
Bring your warm-weather clothing out of storage, or move them to the front of your closet. While you do this, sort through your winter clothing for anything you don't wear anymore, that needs repair or doesn't fit. Donate the extra clothes to your favorite charity. Most towns have clothing drop-off boxes all over the place.
Pull out the vacuum and really give the house a good cleaning. This means pulling out all the furniture (including the refrigerator) and vacuuming beneath. Who knows what you might find under there? Another place dust and dirt tend to collect is your walls. Dusting them with a Swiffer-type mop will remove loose dust -- if they're very dirty, you'll need to wipe them down with a moist sponge. Don't forget to dust the rest of the house, especially knick-knacks and bookshelves.
Now it's time to move outside the house. If you have a garage, take a hard look at it to see how you can reorganize and remove clutter. Consider a family yard sale. Move your spring and summer equipment -- sports equipment, bikes, garden tools, camping equipment -- to an area that's easy to access. If you're putting screens in the windows, be sure to patch any holes in the screens now -- before the bugs come out.
Pull out your outdoor furniture, clean it and make any necessary repairs. Speaking of repairs, walk around your property and check to see if anything needs maintenance -- for example, loose drainpipes or broken shingles on the roof. Begin prepping your garden beds by removing loose foliage and anything else that may have settled there during the winter.
Next up is summer cleaning.
Summer Cleaning Your House
Summer implies vacations, lazy days at the beach, bumper crops of veggies from the garden -- cleaning the house is probably the last thing on your mind. However, your home still needs some tender loving care.
Indoors, start with your medicine cabinet. Toss out any expired medicines or cosmetics. Check your local health regulations for instructions on disposing of medication -- don't just flush them or toss them -- they'll seep into the groundwater. After the cabinet is clean, make sure you're stocked up on summertime remedies -- calamine lotion, insect repellent, allergy pills and the like.
During the summer, many home maintenance companies experience slow business, so you may want to take advantage of discounted prices on home improvements or carpet cleaning. Have your furnace inspected and maintained now, before you need it.
Check out all the doors and windows in your house. Because summer means open windows and doors, you should make sure everything is working smoothly. Clean the tracks on sliding patio doors and spray them with WD-40 to get out all the accumulated gunk. You can scrape out the yucky stuff with a screwdriver.
If you or someone in your family suffers from allergies, keep the windows closed and the air conditioning on. A cool house keeps humidity low, which in turn slows down the growth of mold and mildew. Another way to cut down on airborne allergens is to vacuum and wipe out vents and registers around the house.
If you're going away for vacation during the summer, make an emergency list to put by the phone for house sitters or babysitters. List numbers for the fire department, police, ambulance, poison control and veterinarian. Also include emergency contact numbers, both at home and where you'll be on vacation.
Summer means being outside. So don't forget these chores, either: Scrub the deck and driveway. Clean the grill and make sure you have enough propane or charcoal for impromptu barbeques. Wipe down your patio furniture regularly to keep pollen at a minimum. Disinfect and hose out your garbage cans. If you have kids, hose down their outdoor play sets -- inspecting and adjusting them for safety, too.
Take a walk around the house and garden, keeping an eye out for any bug infestations, bee and wasp nests or -- yikes -- termites and carpenter ants. Catching a problem early will save you money and headaches. Check the gutters, too, for any debris.
As summer comes to a close, give your lawnmower a thorough cleaning. Prop it on its side and drain any remaining gas and oil into an approved receptacle. Hose down the undercarriage to remove stuck-on clippings. Let the mower dry completely before putting it away for storage.
Next up is autumn cleaning.
Fall Cleaning Your House
It's getting cooler outside. School is starting up again and vacation is over. Before you know it, the holidays will be here, and you'll need to have a clean house.
For fall cleaning, first, swap out your spring/summer wardrobe with your fall/winter clothes. Again, do a clothing check to see what you can donate or discard.
Because the weather is cool and comfortable, autumn is a good time to do another heavy "spring clean" of your house. During the holidays, you'll probably entertain more, so focus on those rooms where you'll have the most guests -- living room, powder room, dining room. If you have good silver, haul it out and polish it. Now's the time to get your carpets cleaned, too.
Pay special attention to your kitchen. Fall weather inspires holiday cooking, so organize your cabinets and your bakeware and cookware. Clean your oven -- you can do it manually or on the self-clean mode. Clean out your fridge and freezer, as well. Put away any appliances you use less than once a week. Your counters will look cleaner and you'll have more room to cook.
Vacuum or professionally clean your upholstered furniture. Clean baseboards and windowsills with a vacuum attachment or wipe them down with a moist rag. Check your drapes for cleanliness, too. Pull out your fall/winter bedding and launder all the summer bedding to prepare it for storage.
Wipe down your lighting fixtures -- if you have lamps with "bowls," you'll likely find a lot of dead bugs from summer. Yuck.
It's also a good time to clean your vacuum. It may seem silly to clean your cleaning appliance, but it's necessary. Make sure the container is clean, and put in a new filter if you use that sort of vacuum. Check the roller brush for any long threads and other debris. Keeping your vacuum clean and in working order will extend its life, saving you money in the long run.
If you use standalone air filters or humidifiers in colder weather, get them out from storage. Wash the elements according to manufacturer directions. Check your dryer's exhaust tube for built-up lint. Have it professionally cleaned if needed. A dirty exhaust tube can easily start a dangerous fire. Also, if you have a fireplace, get the chimney inspected for safety.
Complete these outdoor tasks while the weather is still nice. Clean your patio furniture and any summer toys before putting them into storage. Wash the exterior windows. Drain your garden hoses and disconnect them for storage. Once your garden winds down for the season, prep it for winter according to your region.
Take another walking tour around your property. Are the gutters free of debris? Do you need to do any touch-up painting on your decks and railings? Look around the windows and doors for any deteriorating caulk. Re-caulk if you need to -- you want your home efficiently insulated against the winter chill. Same goes for checking the weather-stripping on the garage door and doors leading outside. Protect your outdoor air conditioning unit with an insulating cover.
Keep reading to find out how to winterize your home.
Winter Cleaning Your House
Cozy nights by the fire, holiday entertaining, snow and rock salt all over the house -- winter brings its own set of specific housecleaning challenges. This season is actually more about organization and preparedness than cleaning. Maintain your regular cleaning schedule but keep the following in mind.
Inside, you should change your furnace filters a bit more regularly in the winter. The furnace runs more often, so -- especially if you have a fireplace -- there's more debris in the air.
Winter is also a good time to clean your computer, since you have more downtime. Power the computer down and unplug it. Take off the back panel -- it's easy and usually just a couple of small screws. You don't need to touch anything. Just use some canned compressed air to blow out dust and pet hair from the components. Turn your keyboard upside down into a trash bin -- you'll be surprised at how many crumbs and things lodge underneath the keys. Wipe down the keys and board with a damp cloth. You can also use compressed air to get between the keys.
If you enjoy decorating for the holidays, make sure the house is clean when you start. And at the end of the holiday season, take the extra time to dust and wipe down all your ornaments and decor as you put them away. That way, next winter, you'll start with a clean slate. Do you have an artificial Christmas tree that's getting a bit dingy? Put it in the tub and spray it gently with the shower! Let it completely dry and it will be just like new. Of course, please refrain from doing this if you have a pre-lit tree.
If you live in an area where you often get snowed in, you might want to put together a little "survival kit." Include a few days' worth of energy bars, flashlights and batteries, blankets, non-perishable food that doesn't require cooking or refrigeration, and powdered milk. Don't forget a can opener, utensils and a gallon of water per person, per day. Don't forget food for your pets.
Pull your cold-weather gear out of storage -- sleds, skis, snow shovels and scrapers. Make sure everything is in working order and ready to go. Make your coats, hats, mittens and scarves handy.
Outside, there's less cleaning to do; instead prepare for the weather. Put your snow shovels in an easy-to-reach spot. Buy salt or other de-icers so you're not caught unprepared. Look for non-toxic compounds for the safety of your and your neighbors' pets. Make sure all your vehicles have ice scrapers and brushes to remove snow. Check your wiper fluid and antifreeze levels, and always keep your gas tank close to full to avoid freezing.
Put down waterproof floor mats near every door leading outside to catch melting snow and salt. Pick up some large baking sheets -- the kind with a raised edge -- and use them for boot and shoe storage. It will keep dirt and snow from spreading and melting in the house. Try to find the baking sheets at garage sales or flea markets for real savings.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
More Great Links
- "Daily Quick Cleaning Checklist." Real Simple. 2009. http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/cleaning/daily-cleaning-checklist-00000000000953/
- Ewer, Cynthia. "Fall Cleaning Chore Checklist." OrganizedHome.com. 2009. http://organizedhome.com/seasonal-spin/fall-cleaning-chore-checklist
- Ewer, Cynthia. "Spring Cleaning Chore Checklist." OrganizedHome.com. 2009. http://organizedhome.com/seasonal-spin/spring-cleaning-chore-checklist
- Ewer, Cynthia. "Summer Cleaning Chore Checklist." OrganizedHome.com. 2009. http://organizedhome.com/seasonal-spin/summer-cleaning-chore-checklist
- Ewer, Cynthia. "Winter Cleaning Chore Checklist." OrganizedHome.com. 2009. http://organizedhome.com/seasonal-spin/winter-preparedness-checklist
- "House-Cleaning Kit Checklist." Real Simple. 2009. http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/cleaning/bathroom/home-cleaning-supplies-checklist-00000000000205/index.html
- "Improving Indoor Air Quality." Martha Stewart Living. Nov. 2001. http://www.marthastewart.com/article/improving-indoor-air-quality
- Macarthur, Kelsey. "10 Green Cleaning Tips." Parents.com. Sep. 2007. http://www.parents.com/family-life/home-garden/cleaning/10-green-cleaning-tips/
- "Summer Housecleaning Checklist." Mrs. Clean House Cleaning Specialists. Mar. 10, 2009. http://www.mrscleannw.com/tips/summer-chores.html
- "Winter Housecleaning Checklist." Mrs. Clean House Cleaning Specialists. Mar. 10, 2009. http://www.mrscleannw.com/tips/winter-cleaning-checklist.html