Porches require even more regular maintenance than indoor spaces. Neglect them, and dirt and debris can quickly build up.

Updated February 25, 2021
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No other part of a house stirs the romantic—or nostalgic—in us so much as a porch. A space with so much potential and brimming with ideas to make it special, porches are drenched in history. Its prime was the late nineteenth century when the advances brought about the Industrial Revolution allowed Americans more leisure time to enjoy the outdoors. It's been estimated that more than 90 percent of houses built in the United States before the 1930s had porches. But by the 1950s, with the advent of air conditioning, demand for porches diminished, though they did not disappear entirely.

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Over the years, porches became more commodious, adapting to different functions and blossoming from all parts of the house: screened-in sun parlors off the living room; back service porches off kitchens; porte cocheres, roofed structures extending from the entrance of a building, under which carriages (and cars) could unload; sleeping porches off bedrooms. But the front porch has always been the grandest of them all. It's an outdoor living room, a place to socialize, drink a glass of iced tea, and enjoy a swing on a hot summer day. Here is our best porch advice from Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook ($25.40, amazon.com).

Routine Care

Frequent cleaning of your porch makes the area all the more appealing. Every week, sweep the floors with an outdoor push broom; dust the windowsills, door frames, and ceiling-fan blades using a counter brush. Every month, wash light fixture covers. Because insects tend to collect in them, always remove covers to clean them. Rinse and dry thoroughly before replacing them.

Don't Forget the Walls

Maintaining the area is important, too. Sweep away cobwebs and debris from walls and ceilings with a corn broom, and wash down the walls with a solution of all-purpose cleaner and water using a large polyester sponge.

Remove Grime

After thoroughly sweeping the floor with an outdoor push broom, scrub away grime with a long-handled deck brush and a solution of all-purpose cleaner and hot water.

Fight Mildew

If you notice an accumulation of mildew on the floor, scrub with a solution of one part oxygen bleach to three parts water using a deck brush. Be sure to wear protective gloves and goggles when handling cleaning agents that use bleach.

Clean Screens

Clean porch screens with warm water and a non-ammoniated all-purpose cleaner using a scrub or utility brush, washing the mesh as well as the frame. Rinse the screens thoroughly with a garden hose, and allow them to air dry. Between deep cleanings, whisk away dust and dirt with a hand-held vacuum or a soft counter brush.

Add Some Paint

Wooden porch floors and steps look best and last longer if they are painted. Paints formulated specifically for porches and floors are latex or oil-based, self-priming, and are durable enough to withstand the elements. Painting a porch floor is no different from painting any other surface; you must clean and sand first. Because porch floors are usually made from inexpensive wood, however, it is generally not worth investing too much time in meticulous preparation; priming, for example, is not necessary. Sand to roughen existing paint. Sweep away any debris, clean the floor and steps well with water and an all-purpose cleaner, rinse, and wait until surfaces are thoroughly dry before applying paint.

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