Fall is definitely approaching, especially where I live. I spent the entire weekend feeling freezing cold. Want to know just how cold? On Saturday, people were lining the streets for a local parade wearing winter coats and sporting blankets on their laps. I LOVED it! Couple that with the background “music” of my husband’s football games, and I start getting the itch to clean and bake something cinnamon-y.
Organizing, clearing clutter and detailed cleaning make me happy. (I know I’m strange and probably the minority, but it really does.) And this weather is fabulous for it! So invigorating, isn’t it? Enough about the weather… let’s get down to the “business” of fall cleaning.
Now that you have decided which chores you can do on your own from the last post (remember to schedule these during your cleaning sessions) and have set appointments for the rest, you can get started on cleaning! There are lots of ways to deep clean. Some people like to do one thing (such as light fixtures or baseboards) in every room of the house, while others like to tackle one whole room at a time. I generally prefer the cleaning the room-by-room method because I like to see the results right away. It’s rewarding to see the big picture (i.e. an entire room finished), and the sense of accomplishment helps motivate me to do even more.
Let’s start with the kitchen, which seems to be the most trafficked gathering place during the holidays:
Dusting and Wiping
Working from ceiling to floor and left to right, dust everything in your kitchen. Usually, this means starting with light fixtures. Get a step stool (or small ladder) and wipe down all light fixtures with a damp wash rag. If you can detach light-diffusing bowls, carefully take those down and let them soak for a while. (Make sure to wipe them dry before replacing them.)
Once you have that done, use the hose attachment of your vacuum to clean the cobwebs and dust from the corners of the room (top and bottom) and tops of the cabinets. If you don’t have a hose attachment or it’s too short to reach, you can always use a broom.
Make sure to clean the hanging pot rack, if you have one. Take down your pots and make them shiny by washing and drying them thoroughly.
Use a damp cloth to spot clean walls (especially near the stove). Then scrub and/or wipe down door frames (and hardware), baseboards and light switch plates.
Remove the grates from the vents and soak them in the sink while you clean the rest of the kitchen. While the grates are off, use a damp cloth to wipe down the parts of the vent you can reach. In my kitchen we have a vent on the floor, and with little ones, it’s amazing what I find in these vents – crumbs, dried bits of play doh, and sometimes small toys!
Wipe down chairs, stools and tables that make their “home” in the kitchen area.
Take down everything from your cupboards and pantry. If you have children, this is a great task for them. They will probably love emptying out all the cabinets of its contents! Wipe down all the cabinets (doors and hardware included). This is the time to use a homemade cleaning solution with peppermint essential oil, as it deters pests such as mice (I have some essential oils in a giveaway right now!). Replace shelf liners (of you use them), but don’t put back everything just yet.
Do the same with the kitchen drawers. If you’re anything like me, you have at least one catch-all drawer that needs constant reorganizing. Take out the entire drawer, turn it upside down, and wipe them inside and out.
Now that you have emptied drawers and cupboards, it’s time to de-clutter and reorganize. Store away summer appliances and other items that you won’t use (like ice cream makers and popsicle forms). Make sure that your baking supplies and bakeware are clean and readily accessible, as you you most likely get the most usage from them during the fall and winter holidays.
If you will be hosting family or other guests, clean and store china, holiday dishes, and the “nice” silverware in a handy location. This is also the best time to polish any tarnished silver flatware and serving sets. (Children can be great polishers, hint hint.)
Inspect and sort through all of your pantry items and spice rack. Throw away expired items and box up any nonperishable food items that you won’t be using or needing. This box can be donated to holiday food drives. Make inventory of what you have and will need to restock, then put everything back in an organized manner that will make it easy for you and guests to quickly find.
Throw away any leftover candy you saved from last year (Halloween, Christmas, Valentines, Easter and so forth). And get ready to restock your pantry with a fresher batch for Halloween this year.
Vacuum the valance and frame. Take down the curtains and launder them according to their label. If you have blinds and can easily remove those, soak them in a soapy solution (remove any metal first, so it doesn’t rust). If removing your blinds is not feasible, you can take the time to wipe it down with a damp cloth (not my favorite chore).
While the blinds and curtains are removed, clean the windows and hardware. Don’t worry about the outsides – you can wash those when you do the outdoor cleaning. Check the weatherstripping and seals – you wouldn’t want to let heat escape or you’ll end up spend more precious dollars on your heating bill this winter.
Sinks, Counters and Backsplash
A clean and clear countertop means a bigger working space for holiday cooking. Again, store away any unneeded items. Rule of thumb, if you haven’t used it within the last week, it doesn’t need to be out on the counter.
Do a quick wiping of the backsplash. For any particularly dirty spots in the grout lines, use a cotton swab.
Clean sink and fixtures.
To deodorize and clean the drain, pour a half cup of baking soda down the drain. Follow it with a half cup of white distilled vinegar. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes, then flush it down with a pot of boiling water.
Oven and Range
Since it will most likely be heavily used during the holidays, make sure you clean your oven (either manually or using the self-cleaning feature). I have found that if you do it manually, it is much easier if you leave a thick, pasty solution of vinegar and baking soda on tough spots overnight. Then rinse it clean the next morning. If you decide to use the self-cleaning mode of your oven (and assuming you have one), pick a day that’s cooler to do so. The temperature needed to clean the oven is extremely high, so the heat generated in your kitchen can permeate throughout various parts of your house. And the smell is not always pleasant. Leaving windows open may do the trick, but you may also want to be outdoors that day and avoid the kitchen altogether.
Take off range and oven dials and grates. Let them soak in hot, soapy water for at least 15 minutes before giving them a good scrubbing.
Do a quick wiping of the rest.
Inspect and wipe (with a dry cloth) all the cords and hoses.
Refrigerator and Freezer
Just like you did with the cupboards, remove the contents of the fridge. You will want to do this shelf by shelf (starting from the top), and replace items back into the fridge as you finish each shelf. If your shelves can be removed, do so. Wash them in soapy water, then wipe dry. If they can’t be removed, then wipe them down with a damp wash cloth. Do the same with the drawers.
Throw out any expired items and suspect leftovers. Reorganize the rest.
Empty out the freezer, placing all of its contents in one side of your sink. Wipe down the inside (leave the defrosting for spring cleaning). Remove ice cube trays or holding bucket. Throw away all the ice, and wash the trays or bucket with soapy water. Dry them well and make new ice. Replace frozen food items, paying close attention to those items that need to be thrown out.
Wipe down the outside of the fridge, including the top, sides, front, and the grate underneath the door.
Vacuum behind your refrigerator using the hose attachment. Inspect all cords and gently vacuum the condenser coils.
Make sure to wipe down the dishwasher and run it on empty with vinegar (instead of detergent) in the soap cups.
Wipe down the microwave (inside and outside).
Repeat the process with other appliances, as necessary.
Clean the coffee machine by running vinegar through it (rather than water).
Floors and Rugs
Vacuum or wash all rugs and doormats, replacing the seasonal ones.
Sweep or vacuum, mop, and polish/wax floors.
Wash all towels, rags and pot holders.
Change out smoke detector batteries and test to see if they are in working order. (Make sure no one is sleeping and that pets and small children are outdoors when this is done, as it can be loud and startling.)
Wash out all kitchen trash cans either outdoors with the garden hose or in the bathtub.
Check to see if your knives need sharpening especially your turkey carving knife. If they do, this is a great time to do so.
Congratulations! You’re done with the most difficult and time-consuming room of the house, in my opinion. This should make the rest of the house a piece of cake, right? Now, go celebrate by going out to dinner. You wouldn’t want to dirty up a clean kitchen on the first day!