When a cool breeze starts to blow through Houston and everyone seems to be drinking pumpkin spice lattes, it can only mean one thing: fall has arrived.
Though it may feel like you just finished spring cleaning, your home needs to get into winter mode before the cold weather hits. At Natran, we call this fall cleaning.
But isn’t one big cleanout in the spring enough? If you really want to keep your home in good condition and safe from pests, then we strongly recommend a fall cleaning — but don’t worry, we’re here to help! Here are our best fall cleaning tips to get your home prepared for cold weather.
Why fall cleaning matters just as much as spring cleaning
Spring cleaning is all about emptying closets and cleaning and repairing the home after a long winter. Fall cleaning works in the same way.
Both winter and summer seasons can be brutal in Houston. The hot temperatures and dampness can cause problems around your home, such as mold growth, wood rot and even insect infestations. If you don’t take care of them now, those problems will be even worse in the spring.
In the spring, you put away heavy sweaters and boots to make way for cooler clothes, and you get rid of what you no longer use. Fall cleaning works in the same way, and if you do both cleanings regularly, you’ll find you have a lot less clutter around your home. Now you’ll be moving your summer clothes into storage and your winter clothes back into your closet. If you had clothes you convinced yourself you’d wear — but didn’t — now you have the proof and the peace of mind to donate what you truly do not use any more.
Think of fall cleaning as a precursor to the holidays. Whether you plan to host a big bash for Thanksgiving or will be traveling to visit relatives elsewhere, you still need to tidy up your home. If you’re hosting guests, then doing a fall clean out and clean up will mean less work for you to do to prepare for your guests. The decluttering and weather-proofing will be done. You’ll just need to do your regular vacuuming and dusting as usual.
Even if you’re not hosting and plan to travel for the holidays, doing a fall cleanup will leave your home in the best condition possible as you head out for a few days. You’ll feel less stressed about potential pest infestations and other home-related problems if you do the work ahead of time.
Ready to start cleaning out your home? Here are our best fall cleaning tips to get you started and motivated.
The easiest way to start your fall cleaning is work from the inside out. Work through these fall cleaning tips inside and then head outside.
Closets and cabinets
As with spring cleaning, fall cleaning should also have a closet and cabinet cleanout. Go through your summer clothes and determine what you didn’t wear. Take out those clothes and donate them if you can.
Helpful hint: If you’re one of those people who puts bags of clothes in the car and then forgets to donate them, try a clean-out bag from threadUp. The online thrift shop, which sells second-hand clothes and accessories, will send you a clean-out bag free of charge. Fill it then send it back — also for free. When they receive, you’ll get a receipt via email that can be used for tax deductions. You can choose which of the three charities your clothing will go to, and threadUp will recycle anything that can’t be donated. It’s a win-win all around.
Service the furnace and chimney
Before you know it, you’ll be turning the furnace back on to heat the home. You don’t want to wait until the first cold day to make sure your furnace is still working well.
Head down to your furnace and give it a once-over. Replace the furnace filters if you haven’t done so in the last three months. On a cool day or night, turn it on for a bit and make sure everything is working.
Don’t forget about your chimney — especially if you enjoy chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Make sure the flue has been cleaned and professionally inspected, if needed.
Wash windows, paneling and fixtures
You probably had the windows open and the breeze blowing during the summer. That breeze probably blew in some dust and dirt that settled on your windows and the blades of your fans.
Grab a window cleaner and bucket of warm, soapy water and start washing down these surfaces:
- Windows and window sills
- Wooden baseboards and hardwood floors (use a wood floor cleaner)
- Walls, specially in the kitchen where food tends to splatter
- Tile floors
You should also clean your window treatments, carpets, rugs and upholstered furniture. Evaluate each one and see what it needs.
Fall crawl preparation
One of the best fall cleaning tips we can give is to prepare for what we in the green pest control business call the fall crawl. It’s that time of the year when insects, rodents and other pests start looking for a place to stay throughout the cold winter months — and the first place they look is your warm home.
With these fall cleaning tips, you’ll stop pests from making the fall crawl into your home.
- Seal cracks around your windows, doors and baseboards: No crack is too small for a determined pest. Seal them up with caulk and pay extra attention to the ledges and edges around windows and doors. These are favorite entry points for pests.
- Check for leaks: Leaks cause dampness, which can attract termites and other pest. Repair any leaks immediately.
- Caulk any cracks near kitchen and bath fixtures: Pests need water to survive, so the kitchen and bathrooms should be heavily protected.
There are also a few bad habits that you can break to better fortify your home against pests. These go beyond just fall cleaning tips, but they will lessen your chances of an infestation.
First, get into the habit of sweeping and vacuuming regularly, especially in the kitchen where crumbs can attract cockroaches. Keep food in sealed containers and packed away in cabinets. This will cut off a food source for pests.
Next, rethink your firewood strategy. It’s lovely to have a fire going in the wintertime, but if you’re keeping firewood near your home or even in it without burning it for a while, then you’re giving pests an easy in to your home. All firewood should be kept at least three feet from your home — and maybe a bit farther if you can. Firewood attracts termites, and termites can do terrible damage to your home. It’s best not to risk them.
When you do bring in firewood, bring in only what you intend to burn and then make sure you do burn it quickly.
Move next to your garage. Do you have a recycling bin stored near your garage door or somewhere inside? It’s great that you’re recycling, but if you’re a soda drinker, the leftover drops of sugary-sweet soda may be attracting ants to your garage. Now if you see one or two ants around, you might not think that’s a big deal — and sometimes it’s not. But ants leave scent trails so their buddies can find the food, and that’s the start of an infestation. Move your recycling bin outside where ants are free to inspect it without trying to move in.
Finally, do you have old papers, newspapers, clothing or fabrics sitting in a corner of your home — even in a regularly used room? Fabrics and papers lying around can provide both food and shelter for pests. Rats and other rodents like to build nests in warm clothing, and termites and other pests will eat the paper. More than anything, these piles can provide cover for pests and make them harder to detect — until it’s too late. Clean up these piles right away.
Now that the inside is clean, it’s time to move outdoors. Here are your top fall cleaning tips for your yard.
Clean gutters affect your home more than you know. If your gutters are clogged, you may be creating a haven for mosquitoes to lay eggs in the standing water. That same standing water can also spill onto the wood framing of your home, which will rot it and create holes for pests to get into your home.
Cleaning the gutters is not a fun task, and it can be time consuming and difficult if you don’t have a good ladder to reach all parts of your gutter system. We recommend hiring a professional gutter cleaning service to do the work for you.
Rake and dispose of leaves
The changing leaves look beautiful on trees, but when they fall, you shouldn’t just leave them in your yard. Having piles of leaves can kill your grass and create havens for insects that may find their way to your home. Remember how you cleared away those piles of fabric and paper in your home? Leaf piles should be cleared away from the same reason: They can become warm havens for pests who then want to move into your home.
Spend an afternoon or two raking up your leaves and make sure you put them in bags to be taken on trash day.The city of Houston requires residents to put leaves, grass clippings and small branches in compostable bags, which can be purchased at hardware or grocery stores. Look for the city-approved label to make sure you’re getting the right ones.
Over the years, roof rats have become more common in Houston, but it baffles some how rats even make it into the attic at all. Bats in the attic? Sure, they can fly in, but rats? How would they get all the way up there?
The answer is your trees. When you have branches hanging low over your roof, rats climb up trees and then follow the branches along to reach your roof. If they find a way into your attic, they’ll start building a nest and making themselves at home.
Tree trimming is one of the overlooked fall cleaning tips, but it’s an important one. By doing a little pruning before the winter months, you’ll keep your trees healthy, and you’ll take away an easy point of entry for most pests.
Repair any broken screens or weather strippings
Broken window screens and worn-out weather strippings won’t do you much good once the cold weather comes. These are your first line of defense against both cold weather and pests, so if they aren’t repaired, make sure you replace any broken screens and weather strppings that have seen better days.
Want to know the best of all the fall cleaning tips? Schedule a green pest control inspection. The professionals at Natran know just how insects and rodents get into your home, and we’ve seen just about everything there is to see. When you hire one of our professionals, we’ll send a green pest control expert to go through your home and look for any signs of an infestation as well as areas that could use some work in your home.
Our expert will also provide you with other fall cleaning tips to help protect your home against an infestation. He or she will point out areas where pests can get in and what to look for if you think an infestation may happen. If you have questions about your home and what you could be doing better to prevent infestations, just ask! That’s what we’re here for, and it’s our job to keep your home safe and pest-free all winter long.
So tell us: Which of these fall cleaning tips has got you motivated to clean out your home and prepare for the fall crawl? Let us know in the comments and tell us how our green pest control services can better serve you.