When the smell of spring fills the air, it’s great to pull up the blinds and open the windows to let in the sunshine and fresh—if somewhat cool—air. If the sunshine spotlights dust and cobwebs that have accumulated over the winter, then a thorough home cleaning is in order.
To clean your home from top to bottom, begin by opening windows to increase air circulation. Replace the bag and change the filter on your vacuum—ideally, one with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter or a central vacuum that exhausts to the outside.
Every nook and cranny
Now vacuum every area of your home, even those that don’t appear dusty or dirty. Remove all cushions from upholstered furniture, and vacuum every nook and cranny.
Next, dust all surfaces with a microfibre cloth, which works best for picking up dust and can be reused many times.
Then wash all bedding and draperies, and clean any blinds and all windows. Stick to natural cleaning products free of harsh chemicals. (See page 80 for more about cleaning products.)
Wipe kitchen cupboard shelves and appliances using natural all-purpose cleaner and a scrubber sponge.
Even the computer
To clean your home computer, shut down and unplug it. Turn over the keyboard and gently shake it; clean between the keys with a brush attachment from your vacuum or with a few blasts of compressed air; then wipe with a microfibre cloth moistened with natural all-purpose cleanser. Wipe down the computer exterior, and finish by wiping the monitor with a cloth moistened with plain water.
Now look for mold, which appears as discolourations on floors, walls, windowpanes, fabrics, carpets, and other indoor surfaces, and has a musty, earthy odour. Mold grows in damp areas such as bathrooms and basements and is also known to grow above ceiling tiles or inside walls, so check these areas well, especially where water damage has occurred.
Mold can cause or aggravate allergies and respiratory infections, especially in people with weakened immune systems, such as children and the elderly.
If you spot a mold buildup, clean it immediately with a solution of water and dish detergent. Wear gloves and a mask to prevent inhaling the mold. For larger areas of mold, use a product designed specifically to kill it. Thankfully, natural mold killers exist and contain ingredients such as alcohol or vinegar. You can also make your own using 1 to 2 tsp (5 to 10 mL) tea tree oil to 2 cups (500 mL) water. Combine in a spray bottle; shake, spray on moldy areas, and leave to dry.
As a final step in spring cleaning, change or clean all filters on air conditioners, air purifiers, dehumidifiers or vents, and furnaces so that the incoming air in your home is clean, fresh, and breathable. If your current filters are inefficient, old, or dirty, the air you breathe is probably thick with particles.
Filters need to be changed every three months, or every month if you’ve been doing renovations, are a smoker, have pets, or like to burn candles. As a bonus, a clean filter maximizes your furnace’s efficiency and longevity, minimizing your energy bill.
Spring cleaning not only makes our living areas pleasing to the eye but also keeps our health in check. A clean home is a healthy home.
It’s estimated that Canadians spend 90 percent of their time indoors. According to research published by the Healthy Indoor Partnership in 2005, 73 percent of Canadian households reported signs of potential health risk from indoor air pollutants such as mold, bacteria, dust mites, tobacco smoke, and household and personal care products.
With the focus on energy efficiency in homes in recent years, a lack of ventilation in airtight buildings is a key factor that affects the quality of indoor air. While opening a window lets fresh air in, changing air filters—in the spring and year-round—significantly improves the quality of air in our homes.
Other things that can be done to improve indoor air quality include storing paints, varnishes, and solvents outside of the home and, ideally, using these products only outside or in a well-ventilated area. Ensure all fuel-burning appliances, such as furnaces, fireplaces, gas stoves, and water heaters, are well-maintained and inspected by a professional yearly. If you smoke, do so outside.
While poor indoor air quality is a cause for concern, thankfully, there are many ways in which we can improve the air in our homes. Many of these are inexpensive and take up little time but offer the reward of health. As a result, you and your family can breathe a little easier.