For some, fall is the best time of year. It’s a time for pumpkin spice lattes, cozy sweaters, refreshing walks through the leaves, and gorgeous trees as the leaves change color. Between enjoying all that pumpkin spice and colorful foliage it’s also a great time to check off some cleaning to-do’s. I like to call this the Everything you ever wanted to know about fall cleaning guide. Cleaning and caring for both the inside and outside of your home can save you both time and money in the long run. Let’s get to it!
Air Conditioner Hibernation
Once the A/C is no longer needed you should perform some simple maintenance to get it ready for the winter. Pull any leaves stuck in the grate, pick up any other twigs or debris in the area as well. Use a hose to wash off any dirt and allow it dry fully. Check for any cracks or loose seals—if the cold gets in here it can do some permanent damage if snow and/or ice gets at them. If you find anything like this contact a professional before winter arrives!
Oh, and most obviously (but most importantly!) make sure the unit is completely off. Some manufacturers even recommend pulling the power so it doesn’t accidentally turn on during an unseasonably warm day. Finally, you want to cover the unit to protect it from the elements, if snow/water gets in there it can freeze and damage the condensing unit.
Don’t Stop Mowing!
After using your lawnmower all summer, you’re probably (understandably!) ready for a break. However, you really need to keep mowing the lawn into the fall, until you notice that the grass has stopped growing for a few weeks. When the grass does stop growing it’s time to put your lawnmower away for the season. A quick caveat—we always recommend disconnecting the mower’s spark plug before you start working on it, as you (clearly) don’t want it to accidentally start-up. To disconnect it, simply pull off the spark plug wire. It may take some wiggling but it should come off easily enough.
Step One: Goodbye, Gas!
Drain the mower’s fuel tank into a container with a tight-fitting lid, one large enough and for this purpose only, then turn on the mower and let it run until it stops on its own. Gas can go stale in as little as 30 days which in turn can cause problems in the future.
Step Two: Check the Air Filter
If you ever have trouble starting the lawnmower, odds are it is because your air filter is clogged. Now is the perfect time to clean or replace it so the mower will be ready to go in the spring. Just like you replace the filter in your furnace regularly, it’s important to do the same for your lawnmower. No two mowers are the same, so consult your manual or the manufacturer’s website to find out how to access and replace the air filter.
Step Three: Batteries
If your mower runs on a battery, take it out, charge it fully, make sure it is not dirty (use damp paper towels to clean it if it is, and then dry it), and then store it. You can store it for the winter in a large plastic container with a tight-fitting airtight lid. You can store it indoors or in the garage, the idea being you want to avoid moisture, so keep that in mind when picking a spot for it.
Step Four: Clean the Rest
Remove dirt and debris from the outside of the mower, especially if it’s near any mechanical parts. Since you have already disconnected the spark plug and don’t have to worry about it turning on, you can use just your (gloved) hands for this. Consider using an iron-handled brush and some basic soap and water to scrub off any significant caked-on debris.
Leaves, Leaves Everywhere
Have you ever wondered, as you (or your resident raker) rakes up all of those fall leaves for the hundredth time—why do we have to do this!? Well, wonder no more! As leaves fall off trees they pile up pretty fast onto the grass. If there’s a really thick layer of leaves that keep the sun from reaching the grass (one of the things grass needs to survive and grow—even in the winter!) your lawn could be in trouble next spring. So, yes, if there are leaves all over the place, you should really rake them up. Or skip the tediousness and use a leaf blower (they’re surprisingly affordable)!
It is really important to water evergreen plants (these are the ones that keep their leaves all year round and they’re always green – hence the name – evergreen!) Sprinkle them with love before the first snowfall, because they lose moisture really easily otherwise. A burlap shield wrapped around trees and shrubs will do wonders as far as shielding them from the cold. I suggest this especially if you live somewhere that gets lots of sun in the winter and has a northwest wind (brrr).
This is the time of year when those weeds we all love so much (sarcasm alert!) are desperate to drink in pretty much whatever they can. Lucky for us, this also includes weed killers! Deal with them now instead of when it starts to warm up and you’ll be so glad you did instead of putting it off until the spring. A great, non-toxic, way to handle weeds is by pouring or spraying undiluted vinegar on them.
Clean and Store Patio Furniture
I’m a sucker for a gorgeous patio or a pair of Adirondack chairs by the water. Nothing beats sitting outside on a warm summer’s day or evening, sipping a drink, and hanging out with friends. Keep those good times happening by prepping your outdoor furniture for the cold months to come.
Plastic, wrought iron, wicker, and mesh furniture can be cleaned with ¼ cup of dish soap in a gallon of warm water and wiped down with a soft sponge. If your furniture is made of wood, mix as much as two spoons of oxygen bleach in a gallon of warm water. Wipe the pieces down with a sponge and follow up with a rinse of just water.
Clean your patio cushions too before you put them away. Follow care instructions on the tag.
Garden Hose Drain
Drain your garden hose entirely of water and bring it inside until you need it again. Coil it up, tie it with rope or velcro and store it on a shelf or hang it on a hanger in your garage or basement to give it good air circulation. That way, fungus won’t be able to grow inside the hose.
On cold nights it is so lovely to curl up in front of a roaring fire. Like anything, they require a fair bit of maintenance. Whether your fireplace is gas, electric, or wood-burning, they need to be cared for, usually once a year. Consider having them looked over by a professional once every few years so they can make sure everything is working as it should. I can tell you from personal experience not taking care of your fireplace can result in expensive (!!) repairs, and in our case, rebuilds.
Doors and Windows
These are two of the BIGGEST culprits for letting in drafty outside air. If they’re not sealed well you will be able to feel, or even hear, the wind coming in through them, and your heating bills will go through the roof. An even easier way to tell if drafts are getting into your house is to light a candle. Move it around all the windows and doors and wherever it flickers, there’s a draft that needs to be taken care of.
Seal the gaps with caulking or a foam sealant (read and follow the directions on the tube) and watch those savings roll in! For gaps around doors, a good weatherstrip is the way to go.
Now is the time to evaluate your door mat situation and swap or add as appropriate. For us this looks like adding a heavy duty outdoor mat at the front door for boot wiping purposes, and then adding a boot tray inside the house for resting those wet boots on. We’ll also swap a lighter use mat in our mudroom for a heavier one as we do tend to use the garage entrance frequently during the winter.
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Hi Melissa, I’m a big fan. I recently moved to live on my own for the first time (Manhattan, NYC), and I’ve been learning ALL my cleaning from you. — Could you please do a YouTube video showing us how to deep clean a window AC? Thank you so much in advance. You’re doing SO great. Be well!
After vacuuming the floor of a stained deck and the steps leading up to the back porch. what is the best cleaning mixture to use to remove the dust that remains. Can’t use the hose because of a walkout underneath the porch
These tips are for the north. They don’t work for us Southern folks LOL.
Great reminders though.
Great info as always Mellisa.. thanks for sharing.