11 Things You're Forgetting to Clean (or Replace!) Around Your Home
From your air conditioning unit's filter to your coffee machine, these sneaky spots are going unnoticed.
Most of us can truthfully say that we try to keep our homes spic and span. In our attempt, we might enlist the help of a professional cleaning service, divide responsibilities up between family members, or tackle the dirty work ourselves. However we work to get the job done, most of us are missing the mark when it comes to certain areas of the home—the parts that are less obvious. For example, you know to wipe down your kitchen counters, organize your living room, and disinfect your bathroom, but there are many nooks and crannies in your house that aren't as visible yet still require the same level of attention.
To help point you in the right direction, we asked top cleaning professionals to pinpoint the areas in our homes that we're forgetting to clean—or the items that we need to replace entirely after a specific period of time. As for the culprits that fall into the former category? Think that hard-to-reach filter in your air conditioning system or washing unit—and your oven (we should all be switching on that self-cleaning mode much more frequently than we do). As for the items that fit into the latter? It's important to replace home safety mainstays, like smoke detector batteries, and even your refrigerator's front-facing water filter entirely.
Ahead, you'll discover the unexpected pieces that fall into each category. Stick to these guidelines and your space will be that much cleaner—especially in the places where no one is looking.
Air Conditioning Filter
Regardless of whether you use your air conditioning unit year round or for just one season, you probably aren't cleaning it correctly. We're not just talking about the outside—its insides, where the filter is located, really need your attention. Its job is to prevent dust and dirt from getting into the air conditioner itself, and if it doesn't get polished regularly, inefficient cooling, heating, air filtering, and potentially dirt in the unit is expected, says Sean Parry, founder of Neat Services. "This will lead to wear and tear and an eventual breakdown, which can be both costly and inconvenient," he says. "Cleaning the filter is generally very simple, particularly with the newer units—and usually involves simply using a vacuum to suck up the dust and dirt, and then soaking it in warm soapy water before drying and replacing."
Simply vacuuming your carpets and spot-treating stains won't remove the large amount of debris, dander, and dirt that becomes embedded inside. That's why George Hernandez, the Vice President of Operations at PuroClean, recommends having them professionally cleaned once a year—and even more frequently if you own pets—by a certified technician who uses a hot water extraction method. Doing so will also "help improve the air quality within your home," he says.
Hernandez recommends that dryer exhaust vents be inspected and cleaned at least once a year, depending on how much you use it. This will improve cleanliness and help you avoid fires caused by clogged dry vents. "Signs of a clogged dryer vent include clothing taking longer than normal to dry, a dryer vent hood flap that does not open properly, debris that appears around the outside of the dryer vent, and excessive heat in the room where the dryer is located," he says.
How often you use your oven will determine how frequently it should be cleaned. On average, you should be giving it an interior wipe down after every two or three uses, according to Hernandez. "Most modern ovens have a self-cleaning feature which uses high heat to burn off soils and residues without the use of cleaning agents," he says.
If you choose to use this feature, expect it to last somewhere between two to five hours, during which you should leave and air out your home. "The self-cleaning cycle releases fumes and some light smoke, so it is recommended to have good ventilation during the process," Hernandez says. "For those not comfortable with the self-cleaning feature, most ovens can be cleaned using a soapy water solution and cloth, sponge, or soft brush."
Smoke Detector Batteries
Although many smoke detectors in modern homes are hard-wired, they still require a battery as a backup, explains Hernandez. He recommends replacing them twice a year (he suggests doing this during daylight savings time changes). "Ensuring that smoke detectors are working properly is imperative because they are used to save lives and property," he adds.
Toilet Brush and Cup
This is certainly one of the last household items we'd like to touch, let alone clean, but it's a must, says Jennifer Rodriguez, the Chief Hygiene Officer at Pro Housekeepers. In fact, she recommends cleaning both the toilet brushes and their corresponding cups after every use. "The easiest way to do this is to place it between the toilet and toilet seat, then spray it with a strong disinfectant such as white vinegar or rubbing alcohol," she says. "Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse it using very hot water."
Water and Fridge Filters
Your fridge might come with its own water filter, but that needs to be changed out just as often as the one in a stand-alone filtration pitcher—twice per year or every six months, depending on how often you use them, notes Rodriguez. "Some filters can last up to a year, but even those are likely not replaced for many years after," she says. "Even if you don't drink water from the fridge, you don't want your children or a guest unknowingly drinking contaminated water!"
This workhorse appliance deserves a regular cleaning. The best way to do so if you can't commit to a daily wipe down with soap and water? Use the vinegar cycle trick once per week. "The first step is to fill your water reservoir with one part white distilled vinegar, two parts water and run two cycles," says Rodriguez. "Once the second cycle is done, the next step is to fill the reservoir with just regular water and run another two cycles or until any vinegar taste is gone."
You probably wipe your windows down fairly frequently, but are you neglecting the curtains that line them? This is important, especially during allergy season, as dust can get trapped in this area, warns Debra Johnson, home cleaning expert at Merry Maids. To remove dust from your curtains, she suggests using the small attachment that comes with your vacuum. "Follow the manufacturer's recommendations on your curtains for laundering, as not all curtains can be cleaned in the same way," she adds.
The Top Half of Any Room
Anything above eye level (think crown molding, the tops of cabinets, and ceiling fans) is often overlooked and likely needs a good dusting, warns Johnson. "First, shut off any ceiling fans, as to not spread more dust," she says. "Use a microfiber cloth to wipe down your ceiling fan and the tops of cabinets and use a flat mop with a dry microfiber head to clean along the corners of your ceiling."
You know to remove the dust on top of your microwave and on its screen, but cleaning the inside is just as—if not more—important. Plus, it's surprisingly easy to do. Johnson recommends placing a bowl of water with a teaspoon of lemon juice in the microwave on low for two minutes. "Let the bowl cool before removing and then wipe down the inside of the microwave with a microfiber cloth," she says. "The evaporated water should help clean residue and the lemon juice adds a nice scent."