As the famous line from “Game of Thrones” goes, “Winter is coming.”. And there’s no more important reason to do fall cleaning now.
Winter means the doors and windows are tightly shut, keeping the heat (and possibly germs) from escaping.
Sometimes, if we’ve had a round of sickness in our home – even in the dead of winter – I’ll open up a few windows for a while just for the fresh air.
In my mind, Halloween sort of kicks off the holiday season. It’s the 4th of July for the fall.
You know how, after the 4th of July, summer just seems to be over in a hot minute?
Halloween is sort of the same.
Once it’s over, we’re sliding right into Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year.
And after that, the 47 months until spring comes.
Now is a good time for fall cleaning before the madness hits.
I know that in the past, the season was full of family and friends.
That might not be the case this year, but there are still good reasons to put fall cleaning on your to-do list.
Why Fall Cleaning?
Spring cleaning has always been a way to sort of welcome the warmer weather into our homes.
We fling open the doors and windows, let in some fresh air, and let go of all the stale air from the long winter.
We sweep out the dust and cobwebs, give the fireplace and the windows a good cleaning and generally just freshen everything up.
I think that fall cleaning is just as important, if not more so.
Let’s let in the last bit of fresh air before we take out the screens and shut the windows tight for winter.
Sweep out the sand and dirt from summer BBQ’s and nights on the deck.
And let’s make sure that all of our hard surfaces like floors, furniture, and countertops are as clean and sanitary as they can be.
Not only are we closing up the house in anticipation of cold weather ahead, but we’re also making our homes as clean as they can be now before cold and flu season begins. And of course, COVID-19 is still very much a concern.
Note that this is not about winterizing your home, although that should be done as well.
Where to Begin
I think a plan is always a good idea before beginning any project. That way, nothing important is missed and time isn’t wasted on unnecessary things.
If you keep a planner (and I think you should – either a personal one, a household one, or both) you might want to start your fall cleaning with a couple of lists.
I suggest a list of what needs to be done, in order of importance, and a list of supplies that you may want to have on hand.
Supplies might include:
- extra furnace filters
- firewood – if you have a fireplace
- a flashlight or two, with batteries
- some candles and a lighter, in case of a power outage
- some extra food in the pantry
- a back-up of any regularly used cleaning supplies
- an adequate amount of any cold or flu medication you use
- additional boxes of tissue – keep one in each room
I am not encouraging hoarding by any means. Winter weather can be unpredictable; having a second bottle of cleaner on hand if you run out of the first is a good idea. There is no need for more than that.
Of course, you can tailor this list to your own needs.
Cleaning and Readying the House
While the weather is still somewhat mild in the fall, you can begin to get your home clean for the winter months.
I would begin by airing out the house as much as you can. Of course, you can’t “save” fresh air, but I think it helps to get as much fresh air as you can, just the same.
Working top to bottom is the preferred method of cleaning so you’re not adding dirt to something you’ve already cleaned. So dusting and cobweb removal might be at the top of the list just for that reason.
I don’t consider them vital in terms of fall cleaning because I’m focusing more on the health aspects of a clean home rather than aesthetics.
My bigger concern are the bedrooms, kitchen, and bathrooms.
As much as you are able, strip the beds, vacuum the mattress and box springs (and the floor under the bed as well as the room), and then wash the bedding in hot water.
If you can’t vacuum the beds for whatever reason (or even if you do), try using a disinfectant spray on the mattress. I used to have great success with Febreeze Allergen, but they no longer make it.
If you have carpeting, pay particular attention to the baseboards under the bed. Wash any throw rugs.
You may also want to clean the overhead fan, if there is one, and wash the curtains.
If you use a humidifier in the room (which I think works wonders, especially if you have respiratory issues), be sure to give it a thorough cleaning and disinfecting before use. A weekly cleaning is a good idea too.
We seem to use our bathrooms a lot more in the colder months.
Or maybe I just think that because I associate winter with colds and flu.
Bathrooms should be clean all of the time, the whole year through. Of course, “all of the time” isn’t realistic, but keeping them wiped down and reasonably clean is doable.
If you can wipe them down with disinfectant wipes or cleaner, that would be ideal. And this time of year, I definitely think paper towels win over a microfiber cloth for cleaning since you can dispose of them.
I would also consider emptying the bathroom trash more often. Generally, I can get away with once a week at our house, but in the winter, two or three times might be better. And if someone is sick, daily.
And of course, once a week, do a deeper cleaning, including the floors and rugs. It shouldn’t be too bad if you’ve kept up with it all week.
The bathrooms and bedrooms are important but I think the kitchen might be the most important room of all to keep clean.
Your kitchen sink is potentially one of the germiest places in the house, and of course, when preparing food for your family, you want a clean environment to do it in.
Cleaning and disinfecting the sink and countertops should be a regular habit.
Cleaning out the fridge is a good habit to get into. I hate to do it, but I try to do a quick clean out weekly before I go grocery shopping. Sometimes, though, it needs a good scrubbing.
This is also a good time to check the expiration dates on condiments and anything else in there.
While you’re cleaning, don’t forget the air filter at the bottom, and if you’re especially ambitious, the back and underneath.
If you’ve got some free time (like a lot) one cold fall day, you might want to tackle the stove, especially the oven.
The stovetop should be wiped down every time you use it. And your vent hood should be cleaned every few weeks. Most of them can just go in the dishwasher.
If you have a self-cleaning oven, the process is not hard, just time consuming. Try to get any loose bits out first.
And do yourself a favor: take a quick look after you use it each time and see if there’s anything that can be wiped up quickly before it gets baked on.
Cleaning the oven is more in preparation for the extra cooking you’ll be doing, plus I think we all use our ovens more in the colder months.
Also be sure to keep the floors clean, as well as any rugs.
The Public and Family Rooms
With COVID-19 still very much a presence, you may not find yourself with much company this year.
Still, it’s a good idea to keep the public rooms, like the living room, and the family ones, like the family room, clean.
As I mentioned earlier, I would keep boxes of tissue in every room, so there is always one at hand.
I would also keep a bottle of hand sanitizer near the front door. You can use it after taking delivery of a package or getting the mail, and it will be there if you have guests and they want to use it.
And not to be rude, but if you do happen to have guests in your home for a few hours, I would spray the furniture with an appropriate disinfectant spray after they left.
If you keep throws and throw pillows around for coziness and warmth, I would encourage you to wash them more often.
The throws could probably be washed every week or so; the pillows – assuming you have covers and inserts – could be washed once or twice a month and the inserts sprayed with a disinfectant spray.
And don’t forget your pets! While they’re not going to catch our cold (if we get one), they deserve clean bedding too. A good wash in the fall should get them through the cold months just fine.
A Few Reminders
Don’t forget the power of washing your hands! This time of year, there are lots of wonderfully scented liquid soaps available. Be sure to have some in the kitchen as well as the bathrooms.
You can also purchase small bottles of hand sanitizer, some of which also smell quite nice. I keep one in my purse, a bigger one in the car, and a few in the house. As I said earlier, near the front door is a good idea.
Vitamin C is always popular during the cold months; now there are indications that Vitamin D can be helpful as well. Since most of us in the Northern Hemisphere are deficient, it wouldn’t hurt.
Try taking just 15 minutes a day to do something towards making your home healthier this season. And join me in making people aware that fall cleaning is a good thing!