The Fall Clean Up Guide You Didn’t Know You Needed
Rachel BurrisOctober 31, 2019
Spring cleaning gets the spotlight every year, but fall cleaning may be even more critical, considering autumn marks the beginning of the holiday season. After Halloween hits, there isn’t much time to prepare for Thanksgiving turkeys and holiday decorations. Instead of scrambling to fix up your home days before big family celebrations, put in the work now to save yourself the anxiety.
Fall cleaning should begin as the first leaves fall, so when the weather turns frosty, you have an immaculate home to cozy up in. Fall cleanup is a way to prepare your home inside and out for you and your guests.
With schools having recently started and holidays nearing, a good fall cleanup can make your life far easier. So we’ve gathered a list of the most essential autumnal chores and handy hacks that will ensure your home is not just spick-and-span but also sparkling.
Indoor Fall Cleaning Checklist
If your parents or in-laws will be floating around your home during holiday celebrations, you’ll want to ensure that you’ve cleaned your house well enough to avoid glaring looks and snide remarks. A thorough fall cleaning is the only way to guarantee your home passes guests’ inspections.
So it’s time to get deep cleaning. While every room should be swept and scrubbed, make sure you put even more muscle into the common areas where your guests will be spending their time. You don’t want a little dirt to get in the way of your holiday cheer.
Deep Cleaning Your Kitchen
Before you begin preparing your holiday feasts, you must give your kitchen a thorough once-over to eliminate any dirt or crumbs that may be lingering in the room’s crevices. While wiping down the counters, appliances and floors may suffice normally, you’ll be going much deeper this time.
Inspect Your Pantry
Start by inspecting your pantry. Remove all of the contents and put them off to the side. Wipe down the shelves to clear out all of the crumbs left behind. Before returning food items to their shelves, examine all the expiration dates and toss anything that’s already gone bad.
Organize Your Drawers And Cabinets
While you’re at it, go through all cabinets and drawers. Take out everything inside them and throw out what you don’t need or use. Wipe down the shelves and insides of the drawers. As you return the remaining contents, organize them, making sure everything has a proper home.
Steam-Clean Your Microwave
Your microwave is an appliance that tends to take quite a beating. Trying to remove splattered food residue can take a lot of elbow grease. Leanne Stapf, chief operating officer at The Cleaning Authority, suggests giving yourself a break by steam-cleaning your microwave first. “Instead of scrubbing it down, try putting a bowl with lemon juice in the microwave for five minutes,” she says. “The steam will loosen any food remnants and will steam away odors, too.”
Clean Your Oven And Stovetop
As you’re waiting for your microwave to steam clean, remove everything from your oven. Place your oven racks in soapy water and let them soak. Use oven cleaner or dissolve baking soda in water and use it to scrub the inside of your oven.
Add some soap to hot water and use it to remove the grease from your stovetop and hood. By the time you’re done, the food remnants on both your wire racks and your microwave should be loosened and ready for a painless scrub.
Sort Through Your Refrigerator
Remove the food from your refrigerator and toss anything that has expired. Remember, come Thanksgiving you’re going to need the extra space in your fridge. If your refrigerator shelves look like they need some love, Stapf recommends putting them in the dishwasher to give them a deeper clean.
Deep Cleaning Your Living And Dining Room
During holiday gatherings, families tend to congregate primarily in the living room and dining room. Therefore, these rooms will be on full display. So as you clean, consider where you’ll want to put all those decorations you’ve been saving in your basement.
Vacuum Your Upholstery
During holiday gatherings, the last thing you want is for your guests to sit on your couch only to be greeted by a cloud of dust particles. So after you sweep and mop the floors of your living room and dining room, get out your vacuum’s attachments – it’s time to remove the dust from your upholstered furniture. Use the vacuum on your couch and chair cushions, and don’t forget to get in underneath them.
Rid Your Furniture Of Pet Hair
If you have a pet, you may find that your vacuum just isn’t up to the task. Stapf suggests using rubber gloves to get at those pesky stray hairs. “Just slide them on and rub down any areas that need extra cleaning,” she says. “When rubber is pushed against fabric, it can generate elasticity to gather remaining pet hair. Rinse the gloves under running water when you’re done, and the hair will unstick.”
Remove The Dust From Your Window Treatments
Use the upholstery attachment for your vacuum cleaner to eliminate the dust that’s collected on your window treatments. In order to remove every particle, start vacuuming at the top of the valance and work your way down to the bottom of your curtains. If your curtains still look a bit worse for the wear, you may need to throw them in the washing machine or have them dry cleaned – be sure to check the label to see the proper means of care.
Make Sure Your Electronics Are Dust-Free
Don’t forget to dust off your electronics. “Coffee filters are useful items to keep around your living room and office, not only in your kitchen,” says Stapf. “They are perfect for clearing dust from TV screens, computer monitors and any other screens around the home, without leaving any fibers like towels do.”
Deep Cleaning Your Bedrooms
While you may prefer your bedrooms to be off-limits, nosy guests always seem to make their way into them. So you should attack all bedrooms next, and give extra attention to any guest rooms family members will be staying in.
Clean Your Blinds
After you’ve washed the windows, you’ll want to clean your blinds. “Blinds often have multiple sides and shapes, so they can sometimes be a hassle to clean. With this simple and kid-friendly hack, it doesn’t have to be,” says Stapf. “Take a 50/50 vinegar and water mixture with an old (clean) sock, swipe the sock over each section, and the embedded dust and dirt will come right off your blinds.”
Eliminate Ceiling Fan Dust
If you have a ceiling fan in any of the bedrooms, Stapf has another nifty trick for removing dust from its blades. “Instead of using a rag to clean your ceiling fan, which usually results in dust falling onto your furniture and floors, try using your pillowcase,” she says. “Slip it in between the fan blades and swipe one at a time. You can then just throw your pillowcase into the washing machine.”
Flip Or Rotate Your Mattress
Flipping your mattress is another task that you should cross off the list during fall cleaning. However, not every mattress needs to be flipped these days thanks to new designs that are constructed with comforting layers on top of mattress coils. If you’re unsure whether your mattress needs flipping, you can check with the manufacturer.
“Flipping it helps you spread out the wear and tear on the mattress and prolongs its life,” says Katie Golde, editor and head of sleep research for Mattress Clarity. “Many mattresses benefit from being rotated every three months. If your mattress can’t be flipped, you may want to consider rotating it to help distribute the wear and allow it to properly support you for as long as possible.”
Cleanse Your Carpet
Even if the rest of the room is spotless, a stained carpet can make any bedroom appear dirty. So after you vacuum the floor, be sure to check for any stains. While there are cleaning services that will shampoo your entire carpet, sometimes all you need is a good spot clean. If you find any spots on the carpet, take a white towel that won’t bleed and use carpet cleaner or diluted vinegar to remove stains.
Swap Out Seasonal Clothes
For a proper fall cleaning, you should head to your closets before starting to clean your bathrooms. Winter clothes can be awfully bulky. Instead of trying to jam more garments into an already crowded closet, consider boxing up or hanging warm weather clothes on a temporary storage rack. Not only will your wardrobe look more organized, but you’ll also have an easier time finding your clothes each morning.
Deep Cleaning Your Bathrooms
When it comes to cleaning your bathroom, vinegar is your best friend. Vinegar is very acidic, so it’s great for eliminating those vexing spots and disinfecting bacteria-ridden surfaces. Plus, vinegar is eco-friendly!
Wash Your Shower Curtain Or Wipe Down Your Shower Doors
If you have a shower curtain, throw it in the washing machine, wring it out and let it hang to dry. But if you have glass doors, get ready to pull out that vinegar. “Wipe your shower doors with distilled white vinegar to prevent soap scum and build-up,” says Stapf.
Unclog Your Showerhead And Drains
When showerheads get clogged, water tends to trickle out of them. If you like your water pressure strong, you should definitely add unclogging your showerhead to your fall cleaning list.
“For a clogged showerhead, pour some vinegar into a plastic bag and use a tie to secure it to your showerhead. Leave the bag overnight and remove before showering,” says Stapf.
Distilled white vinegar is also great for unclogging drains. Stapf recommends pouring one cup of it in your drain and letting it sit for 30 minutes before flushing it out with cold water. It can be helpful to treat your drains with vinegar once every two weeks, especially if you find that your drains get particularly clogged with hair.
Scrub Your Surfaces, Floor And Everything In Between
If you have tiles in your bathroom, you can use baking soda to scrub the grout. Doing so with a toothbrush will ensure every inch of grout stays clean and white. “Mix ½ cup of white distilled vinegar with half a gallon of warm water to clean all tile surfaces,” says Stapf. “You can scrub any countertop or use this solution to mop your floors.”
Outdoor Fall Cleaning Checklist
As important as it is to deep clean the interior of your home, outdoor chores are essential for preventing damage to your house and harm to your family. So even though you may feel a bit exhausted after dealing with the rooms of your home, it’s time to turn your attention to the outside.
While there are many fall cleanup services that can help you with the seasonal maintenance for your home, most of these tasks can be done by yourself. Just make sure you get up the energy to do them before it gets too cold outside because crossing these outdoor tasks off your fall cleaning checklist is a must.
Fall Yard Cleanup
Cleaning up your yard is a necessary step for preparing it for the winter. When lawns are left littered with leaves, they become starved of water and sunlight, which can discolor the grass and cause it to die. Instead of taking your chances, begin your fall yard cleanup by raking your lawn and removing the dense layers of leaves.
Beneath your healthy, green grass, thatch – a yellow-brown, dead grass – lies, usurping the nutrients and water that keep your grass alive. To ensure that your grass thrives next spring, you’ll need to remove the thatch build-up from your yard. De-thatching just involves forcefully raking out the thatch to provide the roots of your grass with access to sun, oxygen and water.
Fertilize And Weed
To encourage your roots to grow, you should fertilize your lawn now. Fertilization is more useful in the fall than the spring because lawns take a beating every summer due to the heat. By fertilizing your lawn in the fall, you’ll help your grass replenish the nutrients it has lost over the hot months.
But don’t forget to remove the weeds from your lawn. Weeds are hardy and will be able to survive the winter weather. So get rid of them now before they overtake your yard.
“This is the perfect time to till and turn over the soil while it’s still easy to work,” says Rhianna Miller, the home and yard design and improvement expert with Rubber Mulch. “You’ll be saving yourself the extra labor in the spring when the soil is hard and cold from winter. Finish by covering the beds with a layer of organic fertilizer such as chicken or cow manure.”
Over-Seed And Mulch
Over-seeding your lawn will help it grow to its full potential in the spring. Before showering your lawn with seeds, make sure to cut your grass shorter. Check the seed bag you purchase for more specific instructions.
Mulching is another vital autumn chore as it protects your plants long after the soil freezes. “Plants need extra warmth during winter, and mulching will act as a protective blanket for them,” says Miller. “New plants that have not taken root yet especially need mulching. It will keep moisture where it needs to be and prevent weeds from taking hold while keeping soil temperature even for tender plants.”
Declutter Your Rain Gutter
The beginning of fall is also the time to clean out the leaves and debris that have collected in your rain gutters since the spring. Rain gutters are essential for protecting your house as they control the flow of water, moving it away from your home and into the drain pipe.
“Clogged gutters are one of the most common causes of roof and foundation damages for homes,” says Miller. “If the gutters are full, you will have standing water, and possible issues wherever it may begin to drip.”
Although it may take a couple of hours to complete, cleaning out your gutters can save you thousands of dollars that you otherwise may have to spend repairing the structure of your house.
To clean out your gutters, you’ll want to start with the downspout and work your way around. Take a ladder, place it on solid ground and hook a bucket onto the top of it, so you have an easy way to dispose of the debris.
Put on latex gloves, so you can pull out large leaves and twigs by hand before using a scoop or trowel to remove the soggier debris. As you remove it, toss the debris into the bucket.
Once you have cleared out the debris, put a spray nozzle on your garden hose and flush out the gutters. When washing the gutters out, you should begin on the end that is opposite the downspout.
When the gutters appear clean, you’ll want to check that there isn’t any junk wedged in the downspout. To check, simply turn up the hose and watch as the water flows out of the downspout, making sure that all the water going in is coming out.
Winterize Your Windows
When the autumn winds become brisk and chilly, you’re going to want your home to be draft-free. Drafty homes don’t just lead to cold residents; they also make for higher heating bills. So save yourself and your bank account by winterizing your windows.
Make sure that there aren’t any cracks around your windows. To check for cracks or holes, walk up to your windows and see if you can feel air coming in. If you do, it’s time to seal those openings with caulk.
While you can caulk your windows inside and outside your house, it’s very effective to caulk the outside and use weather stripping to seal the inside.
If you have caulked your windows previously, you should begin by removing the old, deteriorating caulk with a putty knife. Then, clean the area with soap and water. Be sure to dry the surface thoroughly before applying an exterior-grade caulk evenly around the outside of your window frame.
Once you have blocked the wind on the outside of your home, move back inside. Apply weather stripping around the window sashes. Sashes are the parts of the window that keep the glass in place and move when you open or close the window. Be sure to choose a weather stripping material based on your budget and level of expertise.
“The better sealed your windows are, the more efficient your energy consumption will be,” says Matthias Alleckna, an energy expert at EnergyRates.ca, an energy rate comparison website. “One of the cheapest and most energy-saving tips is to invest in window and door insulation kits. These products come with films, tapes and stickers to help you insulate your windows properly without spending too much. This can have a huge impact on your winter heating bills.”
If you’re on a tight budget, buying a window insulation kit will allow you to seal the entire area in plastic – think Saran wrap for your window.
Change Your HVAC Filter
On cold, winter nights, you’re going to want your home to be toasty. But to ensure that your HVAC system is ready to blast the heat when the temperature drops, you should replace your filter now.
“Replacing your filter before winter is an important preventative measure that eases the strain on your blower and motor and reduces the chance of a problem during the coldest nights. It also provides an immediate money-saving boost, maximizing your heater’s efficiency and lowering your energy costs,” says Mark Dawson, chief operating officer for One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning.
To change your filter, check out your HVAC manual to see which kind you need. After you’ve purchased one, shut off your HVAC unit and locate your filter. Filters are often located near the bottom of the unit, behind small panels that have easily accessible handles.
Take off the access panel. Pull the old filter out. Ensure that your new filter is the same size as the one you’re replacing. If it’s the wrong size, debris can sneak through the side of the filter and destroy your HVAC system.
Slide the new filter in, making sure the arrow on the side of the filter is pointing out towards the airflow. Put the panel back in place. And your HVAC is ready for winter.
Clean Your Chimney
There’s nothing cozier than sitting around the fireplace on the first cold night of the season. But before you kindle the fire, be sure that you’ve cleaned the chimney. A dirty chimney cannot only cause a chimney to deteriorate but also put your family’s health in danger. If they’re not cleaned, they can cause chimney fires and unleash smoke and toxic fumes into your house.
While you may think that your chimney is just fine, don’t be too sure. “There are 25,000 chimney fires in the U.S. each year, resulting in $125,000,000 in property damage,” says Derek Hales, editor-in-chief of Modern Castle. “Don’t be part of the statistics.”
Since sweeping a chimney is far more intensive than simply removing excess creosote and soot, it is highly recommended that you hire a professional. In addition to removing the build-up in your chimney, a professional can inspect the chimney and flue to ensure there aren’t signs of damages.
Although many companies will charge separately for these services, some will throw the inspection in with the cost of the cleaning. Typically, cleanings cost $100-$300, while inspections cost $100-$200. So it’s certainly worth asking whether the company will waive the inspection fee.
Getting your home holiday-ready should be fun, not excruciating. Dedicate some time for fall cleaning now, and it won’t be an ordeal later. Instead of trying to tackle every chore in one day, space the tasks out to make the job more manageable. And after you’ve met your cleaning goal for the day, reward yourself with a hot cup of apple cider or a pumpkin latte. In no time, you’ll have a clean home, which will make every autumnal activity all the more enjoyable.
If you have any other tips for easing the fall cleaning process, share them in the comments!