We’ve all heard of spring cleaning – the big top-to-bottom scrub-up that everyone gave their house once the need for daily coal fires (with all that soot going everywhere) was past and the longer sunshine hours showed up all the dirt in dark corners that had got overlooked. But what about autumn cleaning?
As the seasons change from warmer to colder, some things will need to be prepared for the winter. These days, thankfully, we don’t have to spend hours and hours preserving, pickling, drying and otherwise storing produce for winter – although those with vegetable gardens or fruit trees and a decent sized refrigerator or deep freeze will probably want to – but we do have to Be Prepared, as the Boy Scouts say.
A sample autumn cleaning checklist:
If you have a wood fire (or a coal fire, but this isn’t a popular option in these carbon emission reducing days), then remember to call in the chimney sweep. Not all the carbon stored in the wood is reduced into the atmosphere, and an awful lot gets caught in the chimney in the form of soot. And being carbon, soot can burn, and this is a fire hazard. While it is possible to clean your own chimneys if you live in an old-fashioned cottage with a straight, wide chimney, this is not recommended, as it makes a huge mess. Better to call in the pro – and don’t forget to shake his/her hand for good luck, just to keep the old tradition alive!
Owners of wood fires should also make sure that they have a good supply of wood ready to go. They should also spend a little time sharpening any tools used for cutting wood and kindling, such as loppers, axes and hatchets. Rusty tools are a hazard and are less efficient to use.
If you have an electric heater, you will probably need to give it a good cleaning. Dust caught behind the grille is a fire hazard, and dull metal behind the element will make the heater less efficient. Take off the grille and give the whole heater a good go-over. Don’t use masses of water – a damp cloth should be the wettest this electrical appliance should get. A paste of salt and vinegar makes a good home-made metal polish, which you clean off with a damp cloth after letting the paste sit for about five minutes.
Give a quick safety check to all heaters to make sure that they are in good order. Get rid of anything broken, cracked or with a frayed cord.
If you use an electric blanket, get it safety tested before putting it on any beds.
Change the batteries in the smoke alarms. You do have smoke alarms, don’t you?
Clean out the gutters around your house regularly. All those dead leaves will clog it up so when wetter, colder weather comes, your drains will overflow and be a nuisance. Don’t wait until the first storm of autumn/winter comes.
If you have outdoor furniture, you may want to pack it away. Give it a good cleaning first.
Air out your winter woollies – blankets, jerseys, eiderdowns, coats. This is particularly necessary if you have stored them away using artificial mothballs (horrible chemical). If you have used more natural moth repellents such as lavender or cedar wood, then this step is not as necessary. But no matter what you use, air them before you wear them, and check everything over for any signs of damage.
If you’ve been putting it off, make any necessary changes to keep the cold out, such as putting up thicker curtains or improving your insulation. And if you don’t have a door sausage to stop draughts getting under doors, buy one – or make one from old clothes.
Don’t forget yourself. Winter is the time for coughs and other ailments, so give yourself an immune boost and stock up on herbal remedies such as garlic. Some people may choose to get a flu vaccine or take some other form of medication to increase their immunity to winter ailments.