How many times have we wiped some fingerprints off the wall at waist-level but haven’t bent down to wipe the boards near the floor? This is a spot that attracts a lot of dust (and oils if pets lay against them), but rarely gets cleaned. Going over them at least once a month with the furniture attachment on a vacuum is an easy way to keep up with them, or wiping them with a duster is a good option also. For pet stains, a light cleaning solution will remove discoloration from your pet’s favorite spot. Some places recommend a dryer sheet will clean baseboards while leaving a layer that resists dust. I have tried this method and it does seem to work, although dust still collects quickly.
- Exhaust Fans
A bathroom exhaust fan’s ability to remove moisture and adverse odors is great, but an exhaust fan is rarely thought about if it is not having problems. This is the number one item from this list I was offending until pointed out by a family member. When the fans run, debris gathers on exhaust fan grates (and blades) over time. The reason for the dust gathering for both is the same: as air moves across the surface of grate or blade, the frictional force causes a net charge on the item air is moving across, and the charged debris is attracted to and sticks to the item. A long attachment for the vacuum will quickly take care of the dust. This only needs to be done once a month or less depending on usage.
- HVAC Fan and Indoor Coil
Having an air filter in the HVAC unit doesn’t guarantee the air passing through the unit is completely clean. A lot of debris is collected by the filter, but the filter is not catching everything. There are multiple reasons for this: some particles are smaller than the filter can catch, there could be small crevices pulling in particles in the return duct after the filter, or air could be pulling in from around the air filter and not going through the filter media (air always takes the path of least resistance).
With some debris being able to get past the filters, it gathers on the fan blade inside the HVAC air handler and also on the air conditioning indoor coil that is on the leaving side of the air handler. Any debris not stuck to the fan blade gets caught in the fins of the coil.
The indoor coil box should be cleaned once a year in the spring. Using an improper cleaning solution has the risk of permanently damaging the coil fins, so it is recommended to have an HVAC professional perform the maintenance.
The HVAC fan blades accumulate debris just like a bathroom exhaust fan, and every 1/16” of build-up on the fan blades roughly equals a 20 percent reduction in efficiency. This is something that can be checked with the coil cleaning maintenance and not frequently needed. Due to the dangers involved with removing the fan to clean the blades, it is recommended to leave the maintenance to a professional.
- HVAC ducts
Just like number three above, debris still gets attached to the inside of HVAC ducts. This is especially true if the air filter is at the air handler instead of in the return grate in a ceiling or wall. It takes time for debris to accumulate but should be evaluated for buildup every couple of years. This is maintenance that involves specialized equipment and is cheaper to hire a company to do the maintenance than for the homeowner to buy and store the equipment.
- Behind Fridge and fridge coils
The fridge has a miniature HVAC unit built-in (how it keeps things cold). As part of that, most newer fridges have a fan near the bottom rear that sucks air from the bottom front across the condenser coils and exits to the rear of the fridge. There are no air filters for this, so all the dust in the home gets sucked across the coils and blown behind the fridge on a regular basis.
Without getting too technical, ignoring this will shorten the life of the fridge. Usually, though, this gets ignored until the fridge is not cooling well anymore. Future fridge problems and gross dust blankets can be prevented by taking a crevice tool on a vacuum and vacuuming the coils. The same tool can be used to get the dust on the floor and wall behind the fridge, and if that can’t be done, pulling the fridge a little away from the wall will allow access for cleaning.
- Behind entertainment center
I was in an unnamed family member’s house a few years ago and was behind the entertainment center fixing the cable. Besides it being extremely dusty, I spotted a small vine that made its way in from the outside and was coming out an inch and a half from the baseboard. This is a sure sign that no one is looking back there often. Using a duster or furniture attachment on a vacuum will keep the area clean. (but unfortunately, do nothing for vines)
- Throw pillows
Throw pillows are usually set on couches and forgotten about until it’s time for new ones. These pillows accumulate just as much debris as a windowsill or coffee table. Occasionally removing the covers and washing them will keep them clean and smelling fresh.
- Remote Controls
A familiar scenario: eating popcorn while watching a movie, and the volume needs to be changed. Hands get wiped and volume gets changed. One small problem: that grease still gets on the controller because hands weren’t washed. Using a cleaning wipe on remotes at least once a month will keep build-up and bacteria to a minimum.
- Computer attachments and tablets
There are many computer items that get dirty: keyboard, mouse, wristpad, screen, tablet, phone, earbuds, headphones, laptop case. It is very easy to forget about cleaning any of these until you choke on some coffee and cough it all over the screen (ask me how I know). These should be cleaned at least once a month, and more often if there are multiple people using the equipment. I recommend using a computer-safe cleaner for all equipment and wiping the screen with only a micro-fiber cloth (if there’s just dust and no coffee you need to clean off). On my keyboard, mouse, and laptop case, I use Costco disinfectant wipes without issue- however, I recommend you use a product labeled as computer safe.
- Bottom of toaster
Toasters build up a large amount of crumbs in a short period of time. If this build-up is left unchecked, it could lead to a toaster fire. Modern toasters have a tray on the bottom that allows crumbs to be removed. A less costly toaster usually has a metal tab on one side and hinges on the other that allows the toaster floor to drop open, releasing the crumbs. The more costly ones have one or more trays that slide out for crumb removal. Even if you just turn your toaster upside down to remove crumbs (which I don’t recommend), regularly cleaning out the crumbs is a good idea.