Why? We’re about to shut ourselves inside for months with all the dirt and  grime our houses have gathered during those hot, dusty, open-window days of  summer and fall. We’ll be living with indoor air quality that the EPA estimates  could be five times more polluted than outdoor air.
But you can breathe  easy — we’ve made up a checklist of must-do cleaning jobs that’ll get the dust  out, spruce up your interiors for the coming holidays, and make those wintry  days healthier — and safer — for you and your family.
Vacuum  Dryer Vent
This little chore should definitely be on your list.  It prevents lint build-up that can create a fire hazard.
Pull out the  dryer as far as the vent pipe allows. Disconnect the vent pipe from the dryer,  and clean the outlet hole in the back of the dryer with a shop vac or regular  vacuum.
Clean the vent pipe with a dryer snake cleaning tool ($15 to  $20). This is a rotary brush attached to a long cable. One end is fitted to the  chuck of an electric drill that is used to rotate the cable and the  brush.
1. Unscrew the exterior dryer vent cover
2. Feed the rotary  brush into the vent opening, turning it on low speed
3. Feed the cable  into the vent as far as it will go, then pull it back — don’t stop rotating the  cable and brush
4. Repeat from the inside
5. Reconnect the vent,  and turn on the dryer to flush the system of loose lint
6. Replace the  exterior vent cover
Don’t use this tool on the flexible vent pipe  sometimes used to connect the dryer to the vent wall outlet. Instead, remove the  flexible pipe completely and use a vacuum with a narrow nozzle to clean out the  pipe.
Related: How  to Care for Your Washer and Dryer
Wash and Disinfect Garbage  Cans and WastebasketsTrash cans ready to be cleanedImage:  A  Little Wife’s Happy Life
You’re going to be shut in all winter  with these little germ havens, so now’s a good time to clean them thoroughly.  Take them outside where you can blast the insides with a garden hose, then add  disinfectant.
Regular bleach is an effective disinfectant (1 cup per  gallon of water) but we much prefer environmentally safe undiluted hydrogen  peroxide or vinegar mixed 50/50 with water. Caution! Don’t mix hydrogen  peroxide with vinegar — the result is harmful peracetic acid.
Let the  garbage cans sit for an hour, then pour out the contents and scrub the insides  with a stiff bristle brush to remove any residue. Rinse and, if possible, let  the wastebasket dry in direct sunlight, which helps eliminate  bacteria.
Wash and Disinfect Toilet Brush  Holders
Take the holder and the brush outside, and spray wash  thoroughly with a garden hose. Immerse the holder and brush in a bucket of hot  water mixed with one of these solutions:

  • 2 cups of bleach per 1 gallon of water
  • 2 to 3 cups of environmentally friendly washing soda crystals
  • A 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water

Let everything sit in the solution for a couple of hours, then rinse the  holder and brush with a hose and place in direct sunlight to  dry.
Turn Over Furniture and Vacuum the Bottoms

Upside down armchairImage:  Jess  McGurn
You might shift furniture around so you can vacuum the  floor, but there’s another side to the story — the underside.
Tilt  upholstered chairs and couches all the way back (much easier with two people) to  expose the bottoms. The dust covers tacked underneath furniture can catch dreck  and dust bunnies, so vacuum them off, being careful not to press too hard on the  fabric.
Change Furnace Filters

One dirty pleated furnace filter with a clean filterImage:  Liz Foreman for HouseLogic
You’ve heard it before, but change your  HVAC filters! These  dust-catching wonders keep particulates out of your air, making it easier on  your floors, furniture, HVAC system, and lungs. Change at least every 60  days.
Air filters for furnaces are rated by level of efficiency. The  higher the rating, the better the filter is at removing dirt, mold spores, and  pet dander.
Filters are rated one of two ways (you’ll see the ratings on  the packaging); higher numbers mean better efficiency, but there’s a point of  diminishing returns — some filters with extremely high ratings also restrict air  flow, making your HVAC work so hard that the system heats and cools  inefficiently.

  • Minimum efficiency rating values (MERV) for filters range from 1 to 16, but  7 to 13 is typical for households (14 and up are used in hospitals)
  • Microparticle performance rating (MPR) range from 300 to 2400

Cheap filters cost about $2, but you’re better off paying $12 to $17 for a  pleated filter with a 1250 MPR, or $20 to $25 for a filter rated  2400.
Clean the Tops of Doors, Trim, and Artwork

Human stepladder to clean the top of a doorframeImage:  Daniela Mellen
Tables and countertops aren’t the  only household items with horizontal surfaces. In fact, just about everything in  your house except Rover’s tennis ball has some kind of horizontal surface where  dust and dirt will nestle, often unnoticed. You’ll want to clean the top  horizontal edges of:

  • Interior doors
  • Trim, including baseboards and chair rails
  • Artwork and mirrors
  • Electrical wall plates
  • Wall-mounted smoke detectors, CO detectors, and thermostats
  • Upper kitchen cabinets
  • Computer monitors
  • Books on shelves

Vacuum Behind the Fridge
If we’ve told you once… 
OK, you get it. Your fridge needs to be cleaned periodically so that it  operates at peak efficiency. Ignore this chore and face another $5 to $10 per  month in utility costs. Worst case: a visit from an appliance repair pro who’ll  charge $75 to $150 per hour!
The object is to clean the condenser coils.  Here’s how:

If the condenser coils are on the bottom of the fridge, then  you’ll need to clean them from the front of the unit.

  • Take off the bottom faceplate to expose the coils.
  • Clean dust using a condenser-cleaning brush ($8) or a long, thin vacuum  attachment made for cleaning under refrigerators ($14).

You still should pull your refrigerator all the way out and vacuum up dirt  and dust that accumulates in back of the unit. Unplug it while you work on  it.
Put down a piece of cardboard so that grit under the wheels doesn’t  scratch your flooring.
If the condenser coils are on the back of  the refrigerator, then pull the unit out completely, and unplug it  while you work on it.

  • Brush or vacuum the coils to clean them, and clean up any dirt and dust on  the floor.

While you’re at it, check to make sure your freezer vents are clear. Freezers  circulate air to reduce frost, but piling up too much stuff in front of the  little grill-like vents inside your freezer blocks their  business.
Related: How  to Care for Your Fridge
Winterize Your Entry

Dachshund shaped boot scraperImage:  Audrey Fish Pfeifer Keep  winter’s slush and gunk at bay by making your entryway a dirt guardian.

  • Get a boot scraper ($19 to $35)
  • Add a chair or bench for taking off boots, and have a boot rack for wet  footwear
  • Put down a tough coir outdoor doormat ($30 to $190) for cleaning  footwear

Related: Cheery Ideas to Organize Your  Mudroom or Entryway
Clean Windows
By some  estimates, dirty window glass cuts daylight by 20%. That’s a lot less light  coming in at a time of year when you really need it to help chase  away winter blues.
Clean  windows inside and out with a homemade non-toxic solution:

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon eco-friendly dish detergent
  • 2 cups water

Wipe clean and polish using microfiber cloths.
Clean Ceiling  Fan Blades
Those big blades on your ceiling fan are great at  moving air, but when they’re idle they’re big dust magnets — dust settles on the  top surfaces where you can’t see it.
Out of sight maybe, but not out of  mind. Here’s an easy way to clean them: Take an old pillowcase and gently cover  a blade. Pull it back slowly to remove the