A Winter Guide to Spring Cleaning
The holidays are here! Are you excited about seeing family and friends? Whether you are traveling, or guests will come to you, you want to be prepared. You want your home to be clean and inviting. Have you remembered those things that should be cleaned or maintained regularly? What should you be cleaning? What household chores are only done periodically, and tend to be forgotten? Here is our list of all things dirty, and how to clean them!
We have also included tips for those who will be traveling. Especially if you have allergies or special health needs, how to keep healthy while traveling is important! It is also important to respect your host and not ask exceptional demands of them. Our tips can help you travel well and have a great time!
Keeping it Clean
Change Air Filters – Every 3 months be sure to change the air filter in your HVAC system. If the filter has mold growing on it, it may be time to have the system cleaned. Mold can adversely affect your health even if you are not allergic. Using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter on your system helps remove more allergens and keep the air clean.
Dust – Dust builds up everywhere, but especially long uncleaned places such as the tops of cabinets, refrigerators, ceiling fans, window frames, walls, air conditioner grills and vents, light fixtures, and ceilings, especially popcorn ceilings. A long pole duster helps reach high places, but a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter is best when dusting. The filter keeps the dust particles from returning to the air.
Rarely moved furniture and appliances – At least once a year, pull out your refrigerator, so that you can vacuum and mop under it. Be sure to vacuum the coils as well. The same for furniture and washers and dryers. You wouldn’t believe all the dust, dirt, and mold that can hide behind and under them!
Carpets and Rugs – Carpets and rugs are a haven for dust and dirt. Vacuuming often is important, especially for those with allergies, but at least once a year, steam or deep clean carpets. This can be a DIY project. You can rent steam or buy cleaners, and make your own cleaning solutions.
Beds and Bedrooms – Wash mattress pads and pillows in hot water (if possible) to remove dust and dust mites. If your washing machine has an ‘allergen’ cycle, use it! Be sure to follow manufacturer’s washing instructions. Wash curtains and vacuum drapes and blinds. Vacuum floors, furniture, and behind beds.
Kitchen – Clean out the pantry and fridge and toss any old food or expired items. Clean appliances such as the dishwasher, refrigerator, coffee pot, toaster, microwave, etc. Clean the microwave by adding a damp to wet rag to the microwave and heating it for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Let the steam loosen all the stuck on food for a few minutes. Then, wearing gloves, wipe down the microwave with the hot, damp rag. Wash the turntable plate with soap and hot water. Empty the refrigerator if possible, spray and wipe surfaces with vinegar. Place a fresh box of baking soda in the fridge to keep it smelling fresh.
Oven Cleaning – This particular appliance gets its own section because of the dangerous chemicals that are sold as oven cleaners. Most commercial oven cleaners contain toxic chemicals that can potentially cause cancer, reproductive harm, skin allergies and irritation, along with allergy and asthma symptoms. The self cleaning feature many ovens have today is not much safer. The oven temperature is raised to 600F, and any food or grease are supposed to turn into ash. However, this can cause the oven to smoke and release a terrible smell.
To safely clean your oven, you only need two simple ingredients – baking soda and vinegar. Make a paste of baking soda and water and add it to the oven walls, door, and floor. Allow it to sit for at least 20 minutes or up to 12 hours. Wipe down the oven with a damp cloth, removing as much baking soda as you can. When finished, spray down the interior of the oven with vinegar.
Smoke Detectors, Fire Extinguishers, and First Aid – This is a good time to test those batteries! Smoke detectors can save your life, but only if they work. Fire extinguishers should be checked for their expiration date, and be conveniently located near or in the kitchen. First aid kits should be checked for expiration dates and missing items replaced. Here is some more information about what should be in your first aid kit.
Electronics – Dust (vacuum) electronics, and be sure all wires are connected properly and safely. No wires should be where people could trip and/or pull them out. Clean your computer keyboard and mouse using compressed air to remove crumbs, dust, and other particles. Use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe the keys and mouse down. Use a dry microfiber cloth to dry. Cell phones are havens for germs! Following the manufacturer’s instructions, remove the case for your phone, and clean it at least once a month.
Bathrooms – Clean showers, tubs, sinks, and floors. Wash mats, and dust or replace decorative items. Be sure to ventilate the room routinely to prevent mold growth. Follow this guide to cleaning moldy surfaces.
Personal Care Products – Makeup, lotion, and other personal care products do expire and should be replaced. Check the dates on these products every 6 months to a year. Clean all makeup brushes, and replace them if needed.
Window Washing – We look out our windows all the time, but do we really look at them? Take a glance at (rather than through) your windows, and you may find they need a good cleaning! First vacuum sills and window treatments. You can make your own window cleaner with vinegar and/or add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Use a very dry rag each time you wipe the surface to prevent streaking.
Closets – This is a good time of year to go through clothing and decide what to keep and what to donate. There are several great local organizations that help your donations get to people who need them, including: ACTS (Area Churches Together Serving) and Habitat for Humanity. Remember to dust and vacuum in the closet as well!
Basements and Crawl Spaces – These perhaps little used areas of your home are important to clean and inspect periodically. If your basement or crawl space has a musty smell or you can visibly see mold growing, it is definitely time for cleaning, and perhaps time for a mold inspection. You may be able to clean surface mold on the walls, ceilings or floors of your home that are less than ten square feet by using gentle detergents and water. If you see areas larger than ten square feet, or there is a musty smell you can’t identify, it may be time to call Branch Environmental. We’re experts not only at mold removal, but at determining and remediating the underlying causes. From hidden mold sources to major contaminants. We can identify exactly what is going on in your home and rid it of environmental toxins, often for good.
If you are traveling this holiday season, especially if you have allergies or asthma, be sure to take action to prevent attacks. Contact your host before you arrive, and ask about pets and other allergens including food allergens like nuts or eggs, or airborne allergens (pet dander, flowering houseplants). Especially if you have food allergies, offer to bring food to share, or bring food that is okay for you to eat. It is more polite to bring your own than to expect the host to prepare food just for you. You can also ask your host to label foods according to the ingredients. A simple index card with the name of the dish, and possible allergens listed is invaluable as a guest! As a host, be assured guests will enjoy learning more about what is being served, and your thoughtfulness may even spark conversation.
If pet allergies are severe, ask your host, ‘Will pets be present in the home? Can they be removed from the rooms I will be entering?’ Especially if you will be spending the night, talk to the host about sleeping arrangements. Speaking to your host long before arriving gives them more time to accommodate your needs and shows courtesy. Remember that you are a guest in their home, and your host wants you to have an enjoyable stay. For more information on being a good guest go to: https://emilypost.com/advice/the-golden-rules-for-houseguests/ and https://emilypost.com/advice/holiday-houseguest-manners/
For more information about traveling with allergies and asthma go to: https://www.aafa.org/traveling-with-asthma-allergies/
We hope we have given you some great information on keeping your home truly clean and inviting, and on enjoying your visit with friends and family.
From our family to yours, Happy Holidays!
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