Fall Cleaning 101
Back-to-school is a season for fresh starts -- and that includes your home. At the first signs of spring, most of us open the windows and pull out the cleaning bucket for a full-on assault on dirt, dust and clutter. We should do the same at the start of fall, says cleaning expert Donna Smallin, author of Cleaning Plain and Simple and the One-Minute Cleaner. “Fall is when you’re going to be closing the windows and preparing to be cooped up for a few months -- and you want to be cooped in a clean house.”
Here are Smallin’s essential fall cleaning tips:
Detox the Bathroom
Now’s the time to bring out the heavy-duty cleaning products that remove layers of soap scum and mildew in the shower and tub. With the bathroom window open, spray the cleaners inside the shower door, on the walls, and on the tile ceiling. Then walk away for a few minutes.
While your shower virtually cleans itself, take stock of what’s in your medicine cabinet. Toss out any old or expired medicines, lotions and makeup. Medications and sunscreens have expiration dates on the bottom -- they usually have a shelf life of one or two years. Lotions last only a year. And to avoid contamination, you should replace eye makeup every six months.
Once you’re done, go back to the shower and tub and rinse with a hand-held shower nozzle. Or turn on the overhead showerhead and use a long-handled scrubbing wand to mop up the cleanser. Help keep things clean and fresh by using daily shower sprays.
Prep the Kitchen for Holiday Hosting
Two areas need special attention before the start of the holiday cooking and baking marathon: The outside of the cabinets and the inside of the fridge. Using paper towels or a clean dishcloth, rub wood cabinets with oil soap, and wipe knobs and pulls with straight vinegar. Completely empty the fridge and do a thorough cleaning with soapy dishwater or all-purpose spray cleaner. Take out the bins and wash in the sink with soapy water … but watch the temperature. Hot water can crack the plastic. Dry and line them with a paper towel before putting them back in.
Turn on the oven self-cleaner, and while it goes to work, drag the step stool over to the fridge. Armed with all-purpose cleaner and paper towels, scrub the top to get rid of built-up grime. Go through your pantry and gather up all the unopened food you know you won’t use to give to your local food pantry. (Anything you donate before the end of the year is a tax write-off, says Smallin.) While you’re at it, toss out any spices that have overstayed their welcome; check online for how long specific spices keep their potency.
Detail the Family Room
It’s time to face whatever’s lurking behind all your heavy furniture. Move everything away from the wall and wash the baseboards with oil soap. (The room will smell great!) Use a magic sponge to remove scuffmarks from the walls. Vacuum behind the curtains and between the cushions. And have your carpets professionally cleaned (or do it yourself) if it’s been a year or more.
Weather-proof Your Bedroom
Change out summer bedding and curtains for colder-weather ones. Wash everything before you store it for the season; dirty clothes can attract insects, according to Smallin. Bring out your fall and winter clothes, but before you put away your summer stuff, go through it carefully. Store only the things you loved wearing this past season, and donate the rest. And if you haven’t done it in the past year, clean the carpet -- including inside the closets.
De-bug the Fixtures
Last but not least: Take down your lighting fixtures and ceiling fans, and see what’s been living inside them all summer. Bugs and spiders love it up there (guaranteed you’ll find a web or two), so give your fixtures a good wiping and cleaning.