Your Complete Winter Cleaning Checklist

Tuesday Nov 09th, 2021

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The winter weather is on its way—sorry for the reminder—which means now is a great time to do some cleaning around your house to make it as comfortable as possible for when you’re nestled up inside. Spring cleaning is something most people do, but a lot of us tend to forget winter cleaning is just as important! You’ll be spending so much time at home when the weather shifts to, let’s face it, unpleasant temperatures, it’s worth putting in the time to give it a deep clean

Temina McCormack, owner of the Ottawa cleaning company Temina and the Cleanas, shared some tips on giving your home a winter washdown, including why this type of intensive clean is important. 

“Being stuck inside often makes for a crummy time if your home is dusty, full of clutter, and generally dirty,” she explained. “It’s not sensible to open windows to air the place out, so it’s best to get your home as fresh and dust-free as possible. Plus, you’ll have a more comfortable winter knowing your spring cleaning won’t be nearly as time consuming!”

Here are McCormack’s suggestions on what you should add to your winter cleaning checklist.

1. Air vents

You’re probably familiar with the burning smell when you turn your heat on for the first time in a year. Over the summer, dust and dirt can accumulate in the floor and ceiling vents of your home, which can ultimately lead to dusty air. 

“You may barely ever look, but if you check out your floor or ceiling vents, you may notice they’re crusted with dust and dirt,” McCormack shared. “Vacuum them out, at least the covers. Most covers pull out easily and you can vacuum there too—lots of crumbs find their way inside! Your air will flow better, and it won’t smell so dusty when the heater turns on. Wipe the vent covers down or better yet, take them all out and wash them in hot water and dish soap in your sink. You’ll likely notice the effects of this dirt more so during the winter when you have hot air blowing past it all. To keep your lungs happy and your nose less stuffy from dust, clean these out before the snow comes.”

Consider booking duct cleaning with a professional before the winter hits, and don’t forget to change your furnace air filter to keep the air coming through your home clean!

2. Carpets and rugs

Carpet keeps toes warm in the winter, but when you stop and think about all the dust and dirt settled into the fibres, it can make you shiver. McCormack suggests getting your carpets cleaned professionally for some peace of mind and improved air quality. 

“Getting your carpets cleaned before winter can improve air quality and give your home a fresher smell,” she explained. “These things are constantly walked on and probably only get vacuumed often, not deep cleaned.”

Rugs can be cleaned without professional help, but it’ll require a bit of effort, she said.

“Vacuum them well and let them air dry outside for a few days, then give them the old-fashioned beating with a stick,” McCormack shared. “Heavy-duty doorway mats with rubber backings can be sprayed down with a hose, scrubbed with dish soap and hot water using a brush, and then air dried. Some newer rugs are impressive and can be thrown in the washing machine. Just use gentle cycles and check the tags to make sure your rug can be put in the washer. You can also try to steam clean your rugs with smaller handheld steam cleaners, or you can get down on your hands and knees and scrub them with a brush by hand. Spraying rugs with vinegar and water will also help neutralize smells. It dries fairly quickly and the vinegar smell dissipates in about an hour.”

3. Baseboards

Admittedly, cleaning your baseboards doesn’t have a whole lot to do with winter, but if you’re going to be doing a deep clean anyway you may as well tackle these, too. They often get forgotten in a typical weekly cleaning routine, but baseboards collect a lot of dirt and dust. 

“Baseboards can be either vacuumed or dusted, then get a bucket of hot, soapy water and a rag and get down on the ground to wash them by hand,” McCormack said. “You don’t need to do this often, but doing it before you’re inside more frequently is great because you’ll notice these details. Clean baseboards make a huge difference in how fresh your home looks and feels.”

4. Ceiling fans

There are two types of people: those who sleep with the ceiling fan on, and those who are wrong (kidding…sort of). Ceiling fans can help move warm air throughout your home in the winter months, but what else are they moving through the air?

“By the time we see them, it’s likely there will be a thick layer of dust and it’ll probably be sticky,” McCormack revealed. “It’ll be a much more pleasant winter if you aren’t breathing all that in while it spreads around your home. Start by dusting the blades off. Be sure to clear the surrounding area because there may be dust bunnies floating around the room for a while. It’s necessary though, or your cleaning water bucket is going to get so dirty so quickly. Then it’s the same hot soapy water in a bucket, get a step ladder, and get up there to wash the tops, bottoms, and middle fixture. You’ll have to dry the fixture well, but the fan blades will dry on their own just fine.” 

You can also reverse the direction of your ceiling fan blades to spin clockwise, creating an updraft to help distribute the warm air in your home.

5. Curtains and blinds

Heat can be lost through the windows during cold weather, so you’ll want to cover them up as much as possible to keep all that warmth inside your home. But, when you go to close the curtains after having them open all summer for the nice breezes, it may be a bit shocking to see how much dust has collected. Washing curtains and blinds in preparation for winter can make it more palatable to have them closed for months at a time. 

“Wash curtains in the washing machine if you can (check the labels) to get rid of the yearly dust build up that’s for sure happening there,” McCormack explained. “Blinds are a bit more delicate and tricky. You can use disposable-type dusters to get the majority of dirt out but you will need to take each piece and carefully wash by hand with soap and water. It takes a painstakingly long time, but the musky smells of unwashed curtains and blinds will be much more noticeable with the windows sealed and the heat up!”

6. Light fixtures

Unfortunately, natural light is hard to come by in the winter, so your lights and lamps will be getting more use from about November to March. Cleaning light fixtures isn’t always top of mind, but they should definitely move closer to the top of your list. 

“If you have higher ceilings and can’t easily give your light fixtures a dust—like you can in bathrooms, for example—you may notice, to your horror, those things are dirty,” McCormack admitted. “There are probably some dead bugs in there, cobwebs, caked on grease, dust, all the good stuff. The traditional circular light covers many bedrooms have are usually easy to remove for cleaning. Carefully remove the glass cover and dump the bugs in the trash, then wash the cover like dishes using hot water and dish soap. Dry it very well and secure it back into place. For newer light fixtures there will be a million different designs. Typically, they can be dusted with a duster and then wiped down using a damp cloth with warm, soapy water. Squeeze out all excess water before wiping the fixture down, and do this with the lights turned off so you don’t burn yourself!”

7. Inside your oven

Time spent in the kitchen during winter months seems to increase. Whereas in the summer months turning your oven on is the last thing you want to do, in the winter it seems we’re all itching to prepare a stew, casserole, or other hearty meal to warm our souls. This means your oven will need to be in tip-top shape to keep up with the demand. 

“Vacuum or sweep out all the giant chunks of food at the bottom if there are any, then get the spray-on oven cleaner and cover the bottom, sides, back, and inside of the door,” McCormack shared. “You can pull out the racks or leave them in, it’s going to work out fine either way. You’re going to want to let this sit for a long time—overnight if possible, but a couple hours will do. Get some gloves and a bunch of paper towels or a clean rag. Wet the rag or paper towel and start wiping everything out until all the cleaner has been washed out. Dry the inside with a clean rag and look for missed spots. Those will need to be scrubbed out with some SOS pads. Wash the residue from those afterwards too. You may want to invest in a scraper with stainless steel blades to help lift any really thick or stubborn areas. It’s a long process sometimes, but the more you do it, the cleaner it stays!”

8. Mattresses and pillows

Cold weather is the perfect time to hibernate and cocoon in bed, so make sure it’s as clean as possible! Pillows and mattresses don’t get cleaned as often as they should, making it the perfect opportunity to prep them for prime napping. While they kind of go hand-in-hand, pillows and mattresses require different cleaning techniques. 

“Pillows are fairly easy,” McCormack said. “You can throw most standard pillows right in the washer and dryer. Just make sure to use lots of wool dryer balls or tennis balls to fluff them back up as they tumble through the dryer cycle. Specialized pillows will come with their own specific instructions, and some pillows you’ll have to settle for an air-out on the clothesline if yours is strong enough. Beat the pillow against a wall or with a stick to get some air through there if you want. There are some nice freshening pillow sprays made with essential oils that will bring a bit of freshness into pillows you can’t throw through the wash as well.”

Mattresses will require a bit more effort just based on their size and your ability to move them.

“You can’t really beat them against the side of the house or chuck them in a washer,” McCormack explained. “So…vacuum them! Use furniture attachments if you have them and spend some time going slowly over every area on the top and sides. Spray the mattress with a half-and-half mix or stronger of vinegar and water to kill bacteria and neutralize smells. Let it air out all day before covering it again.”

Cleaning has been found to have positive impacts on your physical and mental health, which is even more important to focus on during winter months. Set yourself up for success by completing this winter checklist, and save yourself some time come spring!

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