Spring is here! Well, almost. But the cold weather is making way for a warm up, the massive snowbanks at the foot of my driveway are melting off, and I’m ready to dust off my grill and have a barbeque. After a long, hard winter, there are a few things – actually, a lot of things – you should do to make sure you’re ready for spring and summer. I’ve created a list of what I do every spring, and I’m sharing my spring cleaning checklist with you.
The cold, the wind, and the snow and ice can do damage to your home, and you probably weren’t outside enough to check up on these things. Now that it’s warmed up, it’s time for a checkup. Let’s make sure your house and your yard are in good shape.
- Check the roof
Get your ladder out – you’re going to need it. Take a look at the roof and see if there are any missing shingles, shingles that are loose, torn, or broken, or uneven waves across the roof. This could mean that there are problems that need to be addressed. If you’re not an expert at this kind of thing, call someone to come take a closer look and get it fixed. A small patch job is a lot less expensive than the cost of a leaky roof.
- Clean gutters and eaves
Don’t put the ladder away. While you’re up there, check the gutters and eaves. Make sure that your gutters and downspouts are clear and there are no obstructions. Also, check the eaves. Make sure you don’t have any holes that could give room to nesting critters. If you do, be safe and contact an exterminator to take care of them. Wild animals can have all kinds of diseases, including rabies.
- Check the chimney
I don’t have a fireplace or chimney in my house, but if you do, check to make sure there aren’t any loose bricks and make sure your chimney cap is still secure. If you don’t have a chimney cap, you should have someone come install that for you. Depending on how much you use your fireplace, it’s not a bad idea to make sure that there’s nothing built up inside the chimney. Call a chimneysweep and get it cleaned out.
- Check your vents
Any vents from inside your house blowing outside can be a way for birds or rodents to get into your home. Check to make sure that all the vents, like your dryer vent or your range hood vent, aren’t blocked, have appropriate covers on them, and can blow freely outside.
- Repair damaged siding
Again, it’s the little things. I noticed the other day that a piece of siding had come loose in one of the winter storms. I was able to reattach it before it blew away, so I didn’t have my siding exposed or an expensive repair coming my way. Walk around your house and make sure that any siding that’s loose is reattached and repaired, saving you from having to have siding replaced.
- Clean around your HVAC unit
Snow, grass, weeds, and leaves can build up around your HVAC unit outside. Make sure the unit is free from anything that could prevent easy air flow. Leaves, grass, or weeds built up around your unit will restrict the air flow and make the unit work harder to heat or cool your home, use more energy and overhead, possibly leading to expensive damage or replacement.
- Replace outdoor light bulbs
Look for burnt out bulbs and replace them. While you’re at it, take the time to clean the outdoor light fixtures and remove any dead bugs, spider webs, and dirt that may have built up on the lights. You’ll be surprised by how much brighter your lights are after a thorough cleaning.
- Trim bushes, shrubs, and trees
Before the growing season starts, cut back and shape shrubs and bushes in your landscaping. Cut back just a little further than you think, and you’ll help the plants grow stronger this year. With trees in your yard, particularly large trees with heavy branches, make sure that none of the limbs are within five feet of any structures on your property. Strong winds and spring storms can bring down these limbs. If you cut them back, you’ll help prevent an unfortunate new skylight.
- Fertilize your lawn
Now is the time to fertilize and seed your lawn for spring. Give your grass the early jump it needs with seed to fill in any bare patches and fertilizer to bring the grass out of the winter sleep. You’ll have the thickest, greenest lawn on your block.
- Plant new flowers and shrubbery
If you’re going to have any flowers or planters, now is the time to put them in. The weather is still mild, so they’ll have time to develop their roots before the heat comes. Find a local nursery to figure out which plants will do well depending on where you’re planting them, and enjoy beautiful new plants this summer.
- Clean up cobwebs and any pest nests
Last year, my son moved into a new house that had a small infestation of wasps. Now is the time to go into those nests and destroy them before they can move back in. Look for wasp or hornet nests, spider webs, and birds’ nests and get rid of them before anything can move in for the summer.
- Clean windows and blinds
Make your own green window cleaner with vinegar, water, and a little liquid soap to remove the dirt and grime that are built up during a long winter indoors. Wipe down any built-up dust and dirt from your blinds and let the sun shine into your home.
- Clean your appliances
No matter how thorough you are at mopping, vacuuming, and dusting around your house, dust builds up inside, underneath, and around your big appliances. Taking the time to thoroughly clean your refrigerator, dishwasher, oven, washing machine, dryer, and hot water heater will help improve the efficiency of your appliances, lower energy use, and extend the life of these major investments.Pull your refrigerator away from the wall and clean the coils on the back. This creates a more efficient heat exchange and keeps the fridge from working too hard. Replace the refrigerator water filter and the air filter in the fridge, if there is one. Defrost the freezer, and take stock of the food in the fridge and freezer. Wipe down all the shelves and start fresh.For your dishwasher, clean the utensil holder, the racks, and the rest of the moving parts with vinegar and water. Replace everything, and then run an empty dishwasher with 2 cups of white vinegar on the bottom rack and run about halfway through on Energy or Low Wash. Let it sit for 20 minutes, then let the cycle finish. Wipe out the inside of your dishwasher with dry paper towels when it has finished.
If you don’t want to use the self-cleaning feature on your oven, there’s a terrific green way to remove remnants of meals past that are baked onto the bottom of your oven. Use a pan scraper to remove any dried food and wipe it up. Sprinkle baking soda across the bottom of the oven, focusing especially on the really dirty areas. Spray vinegar on the baking soda and let it do the fizzy volcano thing, and then wipe it clean. If your oven is really dirty, or hasn’t been cleaned for awhile, repeat the process.
To clean your washing machine, use vinegar and baking soda on a hot cycle to disinfect and remove any build up inside the machine. Check the connections on the back and wipe down the outside of the washer with warm water, soap, and vinegar.
Your dryer can have built-up lint and fabric softener residue that reduces its efficiency and can lead to expensive repairs. Unplug the dryer and pull it away from the wall, making sure to clean up anything trapped underneath. Wipe down the outside of the unit with warm water, soap, and vinegar. Check the exhaust hose to make sure it isn’t damaged, bent, kinked, or clogged. Pull out your lint filter and remove any lint. Run water over the filter and see if the water flows through. If it doesn’t, or if the water beads up, there is a build-up of fabric softener. Use soap, water, and a scrub brush to clean off the residue, and let the filter dry before replacing it.
Finally, clean your hot water heater. About once a year, you should drain your hot water heater completely to help remove any build-up of minerals or other deposits at the bottom of the tank. The water coming out of your hot water heater is, naturally, extremely hot, so use caution, or contact a professional if you’re not comfortable with this. But making sure that you clean your hot water heater keeps your water fresh and reduces wear on your appliance.
- Replace your filters and clean your vents
After a long winter indoors, dust and dirt have probably built up on your furnace filter and along the air vents in your house. That doesn’t include the germs, dander, and the other little nasty particulates you can’t see that are captured in your filter. Vacuum and then wipe down all the vents with a damp rag, and replace your furnace filter. If you or anyone in your family suffers from allergies or asthma, make sure you get a filter that will help protect you as we head into spring allergy season.
- Clean lighting fixtures and ceiling fans
Just like you did outside, replace any burnt out lightbulbs indoors and clean all the light fixtures to remove dust or cobwebs that have built up over the winter. You’ll be surprised how much brighter your lights are when they’re clean. Now is also a good time to clean the blades of any ceiling fans in the house to make sure you aren’t circulating more dust around the house.
- Clean baseboards and touch-up paint
Wipe down your baseboards with a little vinegar and soap with warm water, and see if there are any spots that need some touch-up paint. If you have kids or pets, we recommend at least a semi-gloss paint, which is a bit more durable and easier to clean up.
- Clean cabinets
Remove everything from your cabinets, drawers, pantry, or any other storage area, and wipe down the shelves with vinegar, soap, and hot water. You’ll be surprised – and maybe a little grossed out – to see how much dust and grime can build up over the year. Wipe down the outside of your cabinets in your kitchen to remove any built-up grease reside.