As the days get shorter and winter in Seattle starts to come in, you will be finding yourself at home even more, which makes a fall/winter cleaning ever more critical. After all, with all the dust and dirt your home has collected during the open-window days of summer, who wants to inhale that? Especially during this time of Covid-19.
The EPA even estimates that indoor air quality can be five times more polluted than outdoor air. So here’s a checklist to help you breathe easy all winter long in your home. You can tackle this checklist of winter cleaning tips yourself or hire some local help, like Rain City Maids. They can help tackle as many or few of the items as you would like.
1. Wash and Disinfect Garbage Cans and Wastebaskets
You’re going to be shut in all winter with these germ catchers, so now’s a good time to clean them thoroughly. Take them outside where you can blast the insides with a garden hose, then add disinfectant.
An environmentally safe way to sterilize these nasty grime collectors is to use undiluted hydrogen peroxide or vinegar mixed 50/50 with water. Caution! Don’t mix hydrogen peroxide with vinegar — the result is toxic fumes. Regular bleach is an effective disinfectant (one part bleach to six parts water), but we prefer environmentally safe. Let the garbage cans sit for an hour, then pour out the contents and scrub the insides with a stiff bristle brush to remove any residue. Rinse and, if possible, let the wastebasket dry in direct sunlight, which helps eliminate bacteria.
2. Wash and Disinfect Toilet Brush Holders
Yes, this sounds disgusting, but of all the places in your home, this has to be the dirtiest, so it is a great idea to give it a thorough clean. Take the holder and the brush outside, and spray wash thoroughly with a garden hose. Immerse the holder and brush in a bucket of hot water mixed with one of these solutions:
- 1 part bleach to 6 parts water
- 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water
- Let everything sit in the solution for a couple of hours, then rinse the holder and brush with a hose and place in direct sunlight to dry.
3. Turn Over Furniture and Vacuum the Bottoms
You might shift furniture around every once in a while so that you can vacuum the floor, but there’s another side to the story — the furniture underside. Tilt upholstered chairs and couches back (much more comfortable with two people) to expose the bottoms. The dust covers tucked underneath furniture can catch dust bunnies, so vacuum them off and be careful not to press too hard on the fabric to cause damage.
4. Clean the Tops of Doors, Trim, and Artwork
Tables and countertops aren’t the only household items with horizontal surfaces. Just about everything in your house except Rover’s tennis ball has some kind of flat surface where dust and dirt will nestle, often unnoticed. You’ll want to clean the flat top edges of interior doors, trim, including baseboards and chair rails, artwork, and mirrors. Don’t forget electrical wall plates, wall-mounted smoke detectors, CO detectors and thermostats, upper kitchen cabinets, light bulbs and light fixtures, computer monitors, and last but not least, your books on the shelves.
5. Vacuum Behind the Fridge
Your fridge coils should be cleaned periodically so that it operates at peak efficiency. Ignore this chore and face another $5 to $10 per month in utility costs. Worst case: a visit from an appliance repair pro who’ll charge $75 to $150 per hour! The object is to clean the condenser coils. Here’s how: If the condenser coils are on the back of the refrigerator, then pull the unit out completely and unplug it while you work on it. Brush or vacuum the coils to clean them, and clean up any dirt and dust on the floor. Also, check to make sure your freezer vents are clear. Freezers circulate air to reduce frost, but piling up too much stuff in front of the little gill-like vents inside your freezer blocks their business. If the condenser coils are on the fridge’s bottom, you’ll need to clean them from the unit’s front.
Take off the bottom faceplate to expose the coils. Clean dust using a condenser-cleaning brush (around $8) or a long, thin vacuum attachment made for cleaning under refrigerators. You should still pull your refrigerator out and vacuum up dirt and dust accumulating in the unit’s back. Unplug it while you work on it. Remember to put down a cardboard piece before moving the fridge so that grit under the wheels doesn’t scratch your kitchen floors.
6. Winterize Your Entryway
Keep winter’s slush, dirt, and germs at bay by making your entryway a dirt guardian. Get a boot scraper (around $19 to $35). Add a chair or bench for taking off boots, and have a boot rack for wet footwear. Put down a tough coir outdoor doormat (range around $30 to $190) for cleaning footwear.
7. Clean Windows
By some estimates, dirty window glass cuts daylight by 20%. That’s a lot less light coming in at a time of year when you need it to help chase away winter blues. Clean windows inside and out with a homemade non-toxic solution of 1/4 cup white vinegar to 2 cups of water, then wipe clean and polish using microfiber cloths.
8. Clean Ceiling Fan Blades
Those big blades on your ceiling fan are great at moving air, but when they’re idle, they’re giant dust magnets — dust settles on the top surfaces where you can’t see it. Out of sight, maybe, but not out of mind. Here’s an easy way to clean them: Take an old pillowcase and gently cover a blade. Pull it back slowly to remove the dust. The dust stays inside the pillowcase, instead of all over the floor, the furniture, your hair (ugh!).
9. Change Furnace Filters
Yeah, this is a no-brainer, which is why it’s last on this list. But everything else you do could be moot if you’re not changing your filters at least once every 60 days (more if you’re sensitive to allergies).
Air filters are rated by their level of efficiency. The higher the rating, the better the filter is at removing dirt, mold spores, and pet dander. Note that some filters with too high of ratings may restrict airflow, making your HVAC work so hard that the system heats and cools inefficiently. Minimum efficiency rating values (MERV) for filters range from 1 to 16, but 7 to 13 is typical for households (Higher MERV ratings are standardly used in hospitals). Cheap filters cost about $2 but won’t do you much good. You’re better off paying $12 to $17 for a pleated filter with a higher MERV rating.
Happy cleaning! From your Rain City Maids family.