It’s cold. It’s dark. Your house is a mess. You know what that means? It’s winter. While there’s not much you can do about the temperature or the sun’s schedule, you can take on the inevitable messes — and germs — that occur when everyone’s stuck inside by adding in a little winter-specific cleaning.
“During the winter, when everything moves indoors due to the weather, it’s important to pay special attention to high-traffic areas of the home,” notes Vera Peterson, President of Molly Maid. “Bathrooms, kitchens, children’s play spaces — these are the areas you want to focus on most.”
Looking to freshen up your home and keep germs at bay during the colder months? Read on for winter cleaning tips from the pros.
Is winter cleaning a thing?
Spring cleaning may get all the glory, but winter cleaning is just as — if not more — important, as viruses are more prevalent during the colder months. Here’s the thing, though: Unlike spring cleaning, which mostly focuses on dusting out cobwebs and freshening things up, the goal of winter cleaning for many is combating germs — which, technically speaking, is more than just cleaning.
“There’s a big difference between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing,” notes Peterson. Here’s a breakdown of each:
- Cleaning. “Cleaning removes germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces or objects,” Peterson says. “Cleaning works by using soap and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process doesn’t necessarily kill germs, but helps remove them, which lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.”
- Sanitizing. “Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces to a level considered safe by public health standards,” she explains. “This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection.”
- Disinfecting. “Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. It works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects,” she adds. “By killing germs on a surface after cleaning, the risk of spreading infection is lower.”
Another popular aspect of winter cleaning? Decluttering. “Every January, unplanned, I go on a decluttering spree,” says mom of two Julie Katz, who rents an apartment in Brooklyn, New York. “Between the extra things that have been added to our home during the holidays and the fact that everyone is inside more, the walls start to feel like they’re closing in, so I need to purge.”
What should you clean in the winter?
When everyone is stuck inside, everything probably feels more dirty in your home. But these are the areas that consistently need extra love during the winter, according to Peterson and Bailey Carson, cleaning and home expert at Angi:
- HVAC filters.
- High-touch surfaces and high-traffic areas.
- Cleaning supplies, like sponges and mops.
Another area bound to catch the brunt of winter messes, like snow, sleet and mud? Your entryway or mudroom. “Our entryway is always a mess from November to March,” says Maureen Ward, a homeowner and parent of two in Wheaton, Illinois. “In addition to the extra dirt that’s regularly tracked in, it’s overflowing with jackets, hats and random gloves.”
Winter house cleaning checklist
Ready to take on a little winter deep cleaning? Here’s how to make sure your house stays fresh all winter:
“Especially if people wear shoes in the house, floors are likely to be dirtier in the winter,” notes Carson. “The type of floor you have will impact the best way to keep your floors clean. Hardwood floors can warp with too much water, so if you need to clean more deeply than just a sweep, use as little liquid as possible. A mild cleaner can help sanitize and a clean water rinse will prevent product buildup. Then wipe the floors clean with a dry towel.”
“When it comes to carpets, your best bet is to rent or buy a carpet cleaner or hire someone for a deep clean,” adds Carson. “If you want to start with a DIY option, sprinkle baking soda over the carpet and let it sit for a few hours to remove odors. Then vacuum it up. Follow by lightly spraying your carpet with a mixture of warm water and a few drops of carpet shampoo. Go over it with a carpet brush and blot with a towel to remove extra liquid. Spray again with clean water and blot with a towel. Then let it dry before replacing furniture or using the room.”
Each week, Ward tries to regularly clean — or at least tidy up — her entryway. “I try to match up gloves and shoes, hang coats and sweep up the floor a bit, so it looks a little neater,” she says. “I can’t imagine what it would look like if I didn’t do that.”
“You should regularly clean your bathrooms during the winter, especially if someone in the house catches a cold,” Carson says. “Be sure to disinfect the toilet — and the area around it — as well as the sink and countertop, shower, bath and floor. And don’t forget the light switches, towel racks and any other handles or knobs!”
5. HVAC system
“HVAC filters collect more dust and germs over the winter since you’re likely relying on the system more heavily to keep your home warm,” Carson explains. “If you can’t remember the last time you changed your air filters, then it’s been too long.” Carson also advises changing them out at the end of every season to prevent allergies.
6. High-touch surfaces and high-traffic areas
“It’s important to address the areas of your home that are high traffic and regularly touched by our hands,” Peterson says. “This includes every door handle, faucet, window sill, appliance door handle, phones, toothbrushes, toilets, computers and furniture you sit on.”
According to Peterson, a “good preventative measure” is to clean and disinfect these areas “two to three times per week with a disinfectant wipe.” Also, consider enlisting the help of your dishwasher. “Think about what items, besides dishes, can go in the dishwasher, such as some children’s toys, your toothbrush and kitchen sponge,” she says. “The high heat setting on your dishwasher should help to kill and remove all germs from these items.”
7. Couch cushions
If you’re able to remove couch cushion covers, Peterson suggests laundering them weekly. “Throw them in with your bedding, especially if there is a sick person in the home sitting on the furniture.”
8. Cleaning supplies
According to Carson, “cleaning supplies, like sponges, rags and mops are breeding grounds for dirt and germs. “A wet mop that doesn’t completely dry can create mold or mildew, and sponges that haven’t been disinfected regularly can spread dirt and germs to everything that touches your kitchen sink.”
To clean your cleaning supplies, Carson advises disinfecting sponges and mops by soaking them in household bleach for five minutes each week. “Pour the dirty water out in your tub or toilet, rather than your kitchen sink, to keep contamination to a minimum,” she says. “Then, microwave wet sponges on high for one minute to help with disinfecting and leave your mops out to dry before putting them away. Wash rags on a high heat cycle in the washing machine.”
Want to give your professional cleaner a list? Check out our house cleaner checklist.
Winter cleaning products
If you’re looking to take on virus-causing germs, Peterson recommends looking for products that do just that. “If you’re shopping for supplies that specifically kill germs and viruses, only purchase products that are labeled to do so,” she says. “Anything labeled ‘all-purpose’ that does not indicate that it’s intended to disinfect a surface cannot be used for the purpose of killing cold and flu viruses.”
Additionally, Peterson recommends using microfiber towels and mop heads in conjunction with disinfectants to “maximize the removal of germs and viruses.” “Microfiber products are superior to paper products or other non-microfiber rags because they’re designed to attract and accumulate dust, debris, germs and more.”
Tips for making winter cleaning more efficient
In order to get the most out of your winter cleaning, Carson recommends the following:
“Set aside some time for you and your family to clean your home on a regular basis,” she says. “Divide and conquer by room and consider turning it into a game, making a checklist and offering rewards for completing certain tasks.”
“Decluttering is another way to make cleaning easier — and to give dust fewer places to settle,” Carson notes. “Rather than waiting for a spring cleaning, take time on a gray or cold day to start working your way through each room and making donate, discard, store and keep piles.”
Hire a professional
“Ultimately, the easiest way to keep a truly clean home is to hire a professional cleaner for standard cleans and to do at least one deep clean this winter. Deep cleaning is a much more thorough way to get all the dust, germs and cobwebs out of your home.”