After another long, cold, wet winter, spring is finally returning to most of the northern hemisphere. The sun is shining, birds are singing, and insects are once again plotting how best to spend the summer (for most, it’s all about biting and stinging). For humans, the spring means a welcome resumption of favorite outdoor activities like hiking, baseball, gardening, and what not.
Along with all the pleasurable pastimes, warm weather encourages a certain sacred responsibility. In German, it’s known as frühjahrsputz. In the Spanish, it’s limpieza de primavera. The Chinese call it 春季大扫除. In English, we simply know the rite as spring cleaning.
When some people think of spring cleaning, they picture a deep clean of the bathrooms and kitchen, a reduction of closet clutter, and an all-out dash to dust the entire house. And cleaning your home thoroughly is important, but that’s not what we’re focusing on today, and for two reasons:1) you should really clean your home, bathrooms, and kitchen more than once a year, and 2) the outdoor spaces of your home really deserve seasonal attention. So while steaming the grout and scrubbing the underside of the pantry shelves is all good stuff, you’ll have to look elsewhere for insider tips.
Now, grab your oversized broom, some soon-to-be-ruined sponges, paper towels, glass cleaner, one of those three-pronged, claw-like hand tool things (yeah, yeah, it’s a cultivator, technically), a bucket of soapy water, and so on — it’s time to get started.
Clean the Damn Gutters
Yes, cleaning out gutters is annoying, often gross work. After all, almost everything that comes rolling or oozing down the roof ends up there. After many months without a cleaning, your gutters will be home to rotted leaves, dirt, dead bugs, twigs, acorns, and all sorts of other unspeakable whatnot. The longer you go without removing that detritus, the more clogged the gutters will become, and eventually that mess will start to send dirty water and mud spilling over the sides of the gutters and down onto your walls, windows, patio, and yard.
There’s no magical way to clean a gutter; you just have to get everything out of it. Use your claw cultivator thing to move the messy mulch into piles and scoop it out with a trowel or a gloved hand. Then pour a bucket of water from the far end of the gutter and see wherever it pools — that’s where you still have a mess to remove. Once you have the horizontal sections cleaned, make sure the downspout is clear by pouring water directly into it and checking the flow volume down below. If you need to clear out the downspout, you can use a broom handle, a high-pressure hose, or even a plumbing snake. Just make sure not to force debris into an even worse clog in the process.
Once the gutters are clean, seriously consider investing in mesh that covers them and keeps most solid material from collecting in the first place. If time is money, gutter screens are worth it. Also consider putting mesh over the top of the downspout, because it will prevent most clogs and costs a fraction as much (though you will still need to clean the rest of the gutters at least once a year_.
Clean the Patio
First, just sweep or blow all the loose leaves and dust away; the more junk you can get off your patio when everything is dry, the better. When deep cleaning your patio, using a high-pressure hose is tempting, but ill-advised. The jet of water can blast the sand filling the crevices right out of the cracks, leaving the stones loose and unstable. It’s much better to use a stiff bristled broom and a solution of water mixed with a bit of dish detergent. This combo works for cement or other artificial materials commonly used for modern decks.
If you have a patio formed out of pavers, slate, bricks, or any other material through which weeds can grow, the time to battle those weeds is the spring — the longer they’re allowed to grow, the deeper their roots will become and the more they will propagate and spread. You can always use a weed killer like RoundUp to murder, er, kill the weeds, but many can simply be plucked by hand. Also try using boiling water poured right over a weed. That usually does the trick, no chemicals involved.
Clean those Windows and Screens
Clean windows allow more light into your home and afford you a better view of the outside world. Like … in case you didn’t know that. Clean windows also mean a cleaner interior of your home, so long as you take the time to get the dust and gunk off the actual panes of glass and to wipe down the sills, sashes, grates, and more. The most critical aspect of window cleaning, from a health and wellness standpoint, however, is the screens.
Think about it: When you open a window, all of the air that passes into your home from outside goes past those screens. So if they are covered in dust, pollen, and cobwebs, the breeze passing through is bringing a bit of that stuff in at all times. Remove the screens and lay them flat on a clean surface, such as a recently scrubbed patio. (Hey, hey!) Soak the screen with a hose, then stand it up and gently rub at each side with a rag or soft brush saturated with soapy water. Rinse them off again with the hose, then let the screens fully dry before you re-install them. And don’t forget about screen doors, either.
Clean that Grill
Springtime means a few hours of hard work cleaning up your property, sure, but also means the return of grilling season. The best way to clean a grill is to give it a good scouring and wipe-down while it’s dry and cool, removing as much dust, leftover grill gunk, and of course (if applicable) charcoal dust. (Don’t forget the many components housed beneath the grates if you’re cleaning a gas grill — those need to be wiped clean too.) Then fill that baby up with hot coals or fire up the gas burner and let it get super heated. Once the grill is hot, scrub away at the grates with a metal bristle brush, spraying some water over the grate now and then. Scrub until there’s no visible debris left on the grate, and scrape off the inside of the lid for good measure. You only need to do this thoroughly once a season. As the grill cools, wipe down all surfaces with a damp sponge or with wet paper towels, then wipe it all dry or let the sun and air take care of that for you.