Wipe down the outside of your windows.
Wash your curtains and drapes.
Deep clean your dryer.
Vacuum out your fireplace.
Deep clean upholstered furniture.
Purge your garage and basement.
Vacuum around your vents.
Wipe down outdoor furniture.
Deep clean your carpet.
Empty your gutters.
This chore is basically the same as when you do it on the inside — just sometimes higher. So if you can't reach 'em (or don't want to!), Carolyn Forte, the director of the Cleaning Lab in the Good Housekeeping Institute, says you can call in a pro for help. Otherwise, use a brush (or a handheld vacuum if it's super grimy) to sweep dirty off around the frame, then use a spray cleaner and lint-free cloth to wipe horizontally until dry.
During the year, this fabric collects dust. To wash them, you can load your laundry machine or take them to your local dry cleaner for assistance. But Forte says there's one exception: "Valences mounted to boards can usually only be vacuumed." To do this, use a step stool and handheld vacuum and work your way down from the top to suck up dust.
To make sure this appliance performs at it's best, Forte says you should first pull it out and disconnect the duct. "Vacuum in, around and under the dryer as much as you can and vacuum as far into each end of the duct from inside and outside the house," she says. There are also long brushes and snakes you can buy to make this easier.
Once the cold winter has come to a close, use a shop vacuum to suck up the ashes, then use damp paper towels to wipe away the rest. As for the chimney, Forte says you'll need assistance: "While you can vacuum out the firebox and clean the hearth and surrounding areas, the chimney needs to be cleaned and inspected yearly by a professional."
It's always a good idea to spot treat your couch and other pieces during the year, but Forte doesn't recommend tackling the annual cleaning solo: "It's best to call in a professional for this, since it isn't something that's easy for a homeowner to do on their own," she says.
If you're like us, these spaces are where unclaimed items get stashed when there's no where else to put 'em, which is why Forte recommends taking time annually to reevaluate what you've collected and what you don't need anymore.
Heating ducts and air conditioning vents, that is. Forte advises using the soft brush (the one with the bristles) on your vacuum cleaner and says to run it over the slats to prevent dust from blowing through your home all year long.
Our expert says the best time to tackle this is during the spring, when you're busting out your patio set for the warm months ahead. To do this, add a squirt of dish detergent to a bowl of warm water, then wipe down tables and chairs. Finish it all off with a spray of water from the garden hose.
This isn't your average vacuum session, according to Forte: "The homeowner can do this with a rental or purchased carpet deep cleaner, but it's a good idea to have a professional do it every 12 to 18 months with a truck mounted unit," she says, which tends to be more effective.
If your gutters are clogged with leaves, they won't be able to drain off the water as they're designed to do. Feeling adventurous? "My husband gets on our roof to clean out our gutters," Forte says. But she admits most homeowners she knows hire a service to tackle this vertically challenging task.