Home Topics Cleaning
Family HandymanUpdated: Mar. 29, 2023
Yuck! There are several places in your home that are really gross—and you've probably never cleaned them.
Spend 30 minutes on these simple maintenance steps to keep your fridge running in tip top shape. It's hard to believe, but six simple maintenance steps will prevent almost 100 percent of refrigerator breakdowns and eliminate those service calls. Take these steps and you can forget about spoiled food, lost time waiting for repair people and shelling out $70 an hour plus parts for the repair itself. In this story, we'll show you how to keep your fridge humming and trouble-free. And we'll also tell you what to check if a problem does occur.
Inside Dryer and Dryer Vent
Built-up lint inside dryer cabinets causes more than 15,000 fires every year. Lint escapes through tiny gaps around the edges of the dryer drum and falls into the cabinet, especially when the exhaust vent or vent cap is clogged and airflow is restricted. The lint can get ignited by electric heating elements, gas burners or even a spark from the motor, and the flames then travel through the lint-lined exhaust vent. To make sure this doesn't happen in your house, check the exhaust vent and the inside of the cabinet frequently.
Built-up spills and remnants of old food and liquids inside ovens can cause smoke and smell issues. It's important to clean up big spills as they happen, and make it a habit to put your oven through its cleaning cycle regularly. But when you're really trying to make your oven shine, you might need to go further. Learn how to clean between the glass panels of your oven door here.
You'd think your dishwasher, post dishwashing, would already be clean. But you'd be wrong! Food bits find their way into all the nooks and crannies of your dishwasher, leading to bad smells and eventually, your dishes not getting clean. Learn how to thoroughly clean your dishwasher here.
Does your kitchen sink smell bad? Is it coming from your garbage disposal? Here's how to clean a garbage disposal and get rid of those disgusting odors. The key? Cleaning UNDER the splash guard.
Blow out debris from your soffit vents to maintain good attic ventilation. It'll save on air conditioning costs in summer and protect your roof from condensation in winter. Learn the best way to clean soffit vents here.
Clean Window Weep Holes or Invite Rainwater Into Your House
Many sliding windows and vinyl replacement windows have weep holes on the exterior bottom of the frame. These holes are designed to drain away rainwater that can collect in the frame's bottom channel. Weep holes can get plugged with bugs and debris, and if that happens, water could fill up the channel and spill over into your house.
To see if your weep system is working, simply pour a glass of water into the track or spray the outside of the window with a garden hose. If you don't see a steady stream of clean water exiting the weep hole, poke a wire hanger into the hole, or spray it out with compressed air, and wet it down again. If the little flapper (designed to keep out driving wind) is stuck shut, it can be removed with a putty knife and replaced.
Bath Fan Grill
Household dust, moisture and humidity combine to cake bathroom exhaust fans with debris. Often located on the ceiling, you may not notice it's even dirty. Luckily, bath fan grills are easy to clean. Grab the edge of the cover and pull down. Squeeze the springs to release them from the slots and remove the cover. Learn more about installing and replacing bath exhaust fans here.Check out our thorough guide for cleaning a bathroom exhaust fan here.
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The Trash Can
Sure, you put a garbage bag in there but that doesn’t mean your trash can is free from germs. Just think of those times the trash leaked and who knows what lingers in the bottom of that bin. And each time you take out the trash, just spray the inside of the trash can with a disinfectant. Once a month, wash it out with bleach and cleaning with hot water.
The Computer Keyboard
In addition to the germs on your hands, your keyboard collects food crumbs, hair and dead skin cells. Every two months, use compressed air to get all the crumbs out. And then use a cotton swab dabbed in a little rubbing alcohol to wipe between the keys. Cleaning the keyboard regularly is a good way to stop germs in their tracks.
When was the last time you cleaned behind the refrigerator, including the coils? Periodically cleaning the coils takes just 15 minutes and can help reduce electricity bills while also extending the life of your refrigerator. So try cleaning the coils every six months.
Just because you’re washing clothes regularly, it doesn’t mean your washer don’t need cleaning. Once a month, run an empty load with just hot water and bleach. Front load washers are especially prone to unpleasant smells and liable to mold if not cleaned on a regular basis. Here’s how to clean a front load washer.
Your toothbrush isn’t keeping its germs to itself. A study from public health organization NSF International found that 64 percent of toothbrush holders contained mold and yeast, compared to 27 percent of toilet seats. They’re also far more likely to contain coliforms or staph, according to the study. “You put in your brush, which is damp or wet, and that residual water drips down and collects in the bottom of the cup,” says microbiologist Lisa Yakas, senior project manager for NSF. “Germs tend to like warm and moist environments.” Most holders can go in the dishwasher, which will get rid of any icky residue and the germs feeding on it, so toss yours in weekly or monthly, she recommends.
You probably clean the coffee pot, but you’ll want to give the whole machine a deep clean every once in a while—NSF data show that coffee reservoirs where you pour water are even dirtier than toilet seats and toilet handles.
Clean it:Leaving the reservoir open when you’re done making coffee will help clear out the moisture germs love. Every now and then, clean the reservoir by fillingit with equal parts water and vinegar. Turn on the machine so the vinegar cleans the carafe, plus eliminates mineral buildup in the machine’s pipes. Once the pot is done, “brew” a pot of plain water to eliminate any traces of vinegar.
Here’s how to make other awesome cleaners with simple household goods.
Hanging shower caddies are a convenient spot to stash your shower stuff. Things like soap are visible and easily accessible when stored in one. But what you may not see is the soap residue and the stuck-on glob of shampoo that needs to be addressed. You may be able to simply rinse down the caddy during your shower. But, for more stubborn soap scum or mold, let the caddy soak in hot water with a little cleanser. Once it’s clean, hang it up to dry thoroughly before returning your products to the caddy.
Kitchen Range Hood Filter
The standard way to clean the filter from a kitchen exhaust fan is to stick it in the dishwasher. If that doesn’t get your filter clean, try an auto mechanic’s approach: Buy water-based degreaser at an auto parts store, fill your laundry tub with hot water and degreaser, and let the kitchen filter soak for a few minutes. After that, all it takes is a rinse to clean a kitchen filter. Plus: We’ll show you how to run a new kitchen vent through your roof here.
Shutterstock / Davydele
Rinsing Off Hairbrushes
Even if you pull the hair out of your hairbrushes and combs, they should still get a little rinse off every so often to get rid of any lingering debris and residue left behind from your hair products. Give them an overnight soak in warm water and baking soda(seriously, whatcan’t baking soda do?) to have them feeling brand new. Here’s a list of things you should clean in your house.
Shutterstock / Koldunov Alexey
Wiping Down Shower Curtains
Your shower curtain attracts all kinds of yucky mildew and more from being in a moist environment like a steamy shower, so it’s best to give it a good wipe down with baking soda or a turn in the washer every once in a while. Learn how to make your own cleaning solution with simple ingredients.
Clearing Out the Dryer Vent
A plugged dryer vent will cause your dryer to run inefficiently, and that’s bad. A plugged dryer vent could also cause a house fire, and that could be deadly! Dryers that are centrally located in houses are most prone to plugging because of the longer ducts. Excess lint is only one reason ducts get clogged; nesting pests and stuck exhaust hood flappers can also cause backups. Stronger odors and longer dry times are two signs your vent is plugged.
You’ll have to remove the vent from the back of the dryer to clean it. Suck debris from the ducts with a wet/dry vac, or ream them out with a cleaning kit that includes a brush on a long flexible rod that attaches to a power drill. The kits are available at home centers. If your ducts need replacing, get smooth metal ducts, which will stay cleaner longer than the rough corrugated surface of flexible ducts. Avoid plastic ducting altogether; it can be a fire hazard. Plus: Slash Heating Bills
Keeping an Always-Fresh Toilet Brush
Toilet brushes are relegated to a filthy task, and the thought of what’s leftover on that brush can leave people a little queasy. So put a splash of Pine-Sol in the bottom of the brush container. Not only does this help to deodorize a bathroom, but it also disinfects the toilet brush.
Cleaning Under Your Fridge
The space between your fridge and the floor is a magnet for pet hair, dust, food crumbs and other small trinkets. And if gone too long without cleaning, it can attract ants and other pests. To make this cleaning task less difficult, use a hair trap cleaner (also called a drain cleaning zip tool),which sells at home improvement stores for under $5. This hair trap won’t leave scratches on the floor and can reach further than a vacuum cleaner attachment.
This tool will also help you when your bathroom sinks inevitably clog with hair. Here’s how to unclog a sink.
Clean Your Bagless Vacuum Filter
'Bagless vacuums are good for business,' according to one vacuum repairman. The problem isn't design or manufacturing but user negligence. Vacuum owners empty the dirt canister but often don't clean the filters. Plugged filters lead to an overworked motor. And sooner or later, the motor burns out. Motor replacement costs at least $100.People avoid cleaning filters because it's a messy job. The typical method is to tap the filter against the inside of a trash can until most of the dust falls off. But this raises a thick cloud of dust and doesn't get the filter completely clean. Here's a faster, neater, more thorough approach: Take the vacuum out to the garage and clean the pleated filter with a shop vacuum. Some pleated filters have a special coating that you can damage, so be gentle with the shop vacuum nozzle. Clean prefilter screens and post-filters the same way.Learn what the experts say on how often to change filters on bagless vacuums.
Aerators are found on almost every kitchen and bath faucet, and if water flow slows or becomes uneven, clogs inside the aerator are usually the cause. Fortunately it's an easy problem to fix. If you spot rust on your chrome faucet, check out how to clean rust from chrome bathroom fittings.
Originally Published: June 30, 2021