While spring cleaning gets the most press, I always found fall cleaning to be a little more rigorous and a lot more necessary. In many homes, children have been in and out all summer dragging in dirt and so, of course, have the grown-ups. Windows are left open inviting in more dirt, debris and allergens or, if shades are drawn and air conditioners have been running non-stop, there has been very little fresh air and sunlight to battle molds and mildew. A good cleaning twice per year is a must, but spring cleaning for me, has always been more about sloughing dead weight like clutter and items we have not used in years and organizing the rest. Fall cleaning, on the other hand, is more about really deep cleaning in preparation for the winter holiday season. The months of October, November and December are no time to be getting down and un-dirty with things like upholstery, windows, kitchen cabinets, laundry rooms and such – there are simply too many other things to do.
A great fall cleaning project is steam cleaning your carpets, upholstery and tile. If you do not wish to do it yourself, you can hire professional cleaners whose services are much more natural, affordable and convenient than they were in past years. Treating carpets, tile and upholstery with stain resisters depends entirely on how much traffic you anticipate having over the holidays and just how precious your furniture is to you. One thing to consider is the chemical residue that can be left behind, but companies like 3M of Scotchgard™ fame are always looking for less hazardous alternatives. Truth is, these days most fabrics and carpets are designed to resist stains and there is a wealth of products that get out just about anything.
Sealing tiled and grouted surfaces is not a bad idea either because dirt manages to find its way permanently into untreated tile floors – especially the grout. If you are having your tile floors professionally cleaned, they can apply a sealant for a few extra dollars. If you are tackling the job yourself, steam cleaning is the preferred method for all types of tile and you can pick up a sealant at your local hardware or home improvement store. Be sure to read and follow the instructions carefully – especially if you have pets or small children – and error on the side of caution when it comes to drying time. Sealing tile floors makes for much easier subsequent cleanings and preserves the beauty of your floors for many years to come.
Another worthwhile fall project is a thorough cleaning of your doors. Germ-catching knobs are notoriously overlooked and doors themselves are often neglected altogether. Mud, rain and other random blemishes can be removed easily with your regular cleaning solution, but a wonderful product for scuff marks is the line of "Magic Erasers."
Cleaning kitchen cabinets and refrigerators is another excellent fall project because it allow you to take inventory of your pantry stores, condiment collection and cook/bake ware. Even if you are not the one designated as the holiday chef, you will inevitably have company and should be ready with ingredients that can be easily thrown together should the need arise. It’s also a good time to toss expired spices, sauces and dressings and other less than fresh canned and boxed items that are taking up valuable pantry space.
Windows should ideally be tackled at the very last minute in late October or early November. Fall and early winter precipitation can be just as heavy as in the spring, and if you want them to look their best through the holidays, it’s best to wait. It is such a big job anyway, so leaving it for last and on its own is not a bad way to go. When it comes to cleaning windows, I am always an advocate of using pure vinegar, but this can be tough when doing all of your home’s windows inside and out, as vinegar can take a bit more elbow grease. If you plan to do them yourself, take a clue from the pros: a generous swath of gentle, soapy water and a handheld squeegee. For upper-story windows, a wise investment is a pressure washer with extensions. Worth noting, a company in the U.K. has developed an interesting "magnetic" window washer that can do both sides of the window at the same time. It is being met with favorable reviews and may be a great addition to the do-it-yourselfer’s arsenal of tools.
Kicking off the fall and season with a sparkling foundation will make it faster and easier to clean throughout the season and greatly reduce your stress during the holidays.