Taking Care of Your Home: The Big List of Interior and Exterior Home Maintenance Tasks
Maintaining a home takes many hours per week. In the middle of the regular cleaning that homeowners perform as part of their daily tasks, other jobs need to be done to maintain the home’s condition or preserve the use of various systems. Paying attention to upkeep is an excellent way to uphold the home’s value or help increase it over time. If people spread out these tasks over weeks or months, they can ensure that each one is done correctly. With this checklist, homeowners will know how to perform essential maintenance for most aspects of their homes.
Table of Contents
- Regular Quarterly Maintenance Tips
- Other Great Home Maintenance Resources
Tasks required to maintain a home interior range from daily requirements to once or twice a year. It depends on the frequency of use and the location. By reviewing these tasks systematically, homeowners can ensure they do not leave any area without care.
Floors & Baseboards
The best way to clean the floor depends on the material. Carpet needs regular vacuuming and occasional steam cleaning, mainly if it is a plush or thick carpet. Tile should be swept regularly and mopped as needed, wiping away excess water to minimize slipping. Hardwood requires extra care. To clean hardwood, engineered hardwood, or laminate floor, people should go over it first with a dust mop. Spills and stains may require light treatment with a small amount of water and a hardwood-appropriate floor cleaner. Baseboards may only need to be wiped once a month or once every few months, depending on dust and dirt accumulation. It is easiest to start with a dry microfiber cloth and follow up with a damp washcloth as needed.
To clean a wall, homeowners should know the best care to provide based on the type of paint or wall covering. Paint with a semi-gloss finish may tolerate a light amount of wiping with a damp washcloth. A small amount of dish soap can help to wipe away stains. Most types of wallpaper are similar. Paint with a flat finish typically will not tolerate any moisture and will show a stain afterward. In this case, people should plan to dust the walls at least once a month and prepare for the possibility that they may need to repaint after cleaning spills.
Ceilings & Ceiling Fans
Ceilings and ceiling fans can be sources of dust and other allergens because people are less likely to clean them regularly. The frequency at which people should wash their ceilings depends on a few factors, including:
- Dust in the home
- Other environmental pollutants
For example, someone who has serious environmental allergies or who smokes regularly may need to clean their ceilings and ceiling fans at least once a month. Like walls, ceilings need dusting and occasional wiping to eliminate stains. To clean the blades of a ceiling fan, people should turn it off and use a microfiber cloth to wipe the blade. If it is very dusty or dirty, they may want to wear a mask and protective eyewear.
Windows & Blinds
Windows and blinds typically need cleaning at least once a month or more frequently. To start, people should get a clean microfiber cloth or paper towels. Wiping the window and the blinds with something dry helps clear them of debris and makes cleaning easier. After this step, people can spray a commercial cleaning solution or a vinegar and water solution directly onto the window. Allowing it to sit for a minute or two will help to loosen up any dirt. After, people usually only have to wipe it with a clean cloth. Blinds usually only need dusting. If they are particularly dusty or stained, homeowners may want to consider removing them from the window and soaking them in a gentle solution of dish soap and warm water.
Cleaning wood doors is relatively simple and not unlike cleaning floors or walls. Homeowners can begin by dusting all around the door at least once a month, if not more frequently. A mild solution of water and dish soap can help remove spots and stains. Solid wood doors may also benefit from a light coating of furniture polish. The last step is to wipe the door handles and apply lubricant to the hinges as needed.
Cleaning a sliding glass door is similar to cleaning a window, except people must also take care of the track. To clean the track, homeowners can vacuum across it using a hose attachment. After it is free of debris, they can use vinegar and water and a washcloth to wipe the track.
Cleaning a fireplace is something that homeowners should plan to do once a week during the heating season. The simplest tasks include dusting the fireplace and wiping the glass doors with a cleaning solution and a dry cloth. Homeowners should ensure that the system is turned off. To do this, they should shut off a gas or an electric fireplace, allowing plenty of time for all components to cool. Items can be removed or dusted inside the fireplace, although people may want to take a picture of it for easy reassembly. Wood-burning fireplaces need ashes scooped out and the area vacuumed at least once a week. For safety, experts recommend that homeowners schedule routine maintenance for a fireplace once a year in the fall.
Sinks & Toilets
Most sinks can tolerate a light scrubbing with a soft sponge and a small amount of dish soap. Like copper or porcelain, certain surfaces will scratch if people use a stiff brush or a scouring pad. Similarly, abrasives like baking soda or vinegar can etch a delicate texture. People may want to test a cleaning solution on a less visible part of the sink before performing a thorough cleaning.
Toilets tend to be hardier, but they also take longer to clean. People can select a toilet cleaning solution, whether it is powdered, liquid, or spray. They should start by cleaning from top to bottom, starting with the seat and lid and finishing with the bowl's exterior to the floor.
Tubs & Showers
Tubs and showers call for cleaning about once a week. Homeowners who have glass shower doors may want to wipe them after each use. Otherwise, people can use a sponge and a small amount of dish soap to scrub the walls. The walls may occasionally need additional cleaning with a solution that removes limescale. Once a week, people should take the bath mat and wash it in hot water. Shower curtains that can tolerate the washing machine should be washed once a month or otherwise sprayed and wiped clean as needed.
Appliances that homeowners use to clean need regular upkeep so they do not become a breeding ground for bacteria or other problems. These include:
- Washer and dryer
- Garbage disposal
- Water heater
To clean the dishwasher, people should wipe around the door and clear the basin of debris. Cleaning out the filter will prevent odors. Running the dishwasher while empty at least once a month will help to flush out anything remaining from a previous wash cycle. The clothes washer needs similar treatment, with occasional washing with vinegar to disinfect and deodorize. Wiping a dryer with a cloth lightly sprayed with vinegar will help to keep it clean.
Cleaning a disposal starts with ensuring it is turned off. People can use mild dish soap to cut through grease and rinse with hot water. Drain cleaning products can corrode the pipes.
To maintain a water heater, homeowners should ensure there are no leaks around the outside and look at the tank for signs of corrosion. If the tank is full of mineral buildup, people can turn it off, drain the tank, and flush it out. Interior maintenance should be done once a year by a professional.
Attics tend to have minimal conditioning, which means people should plan to go up there when the weather is mild. People may want to look for:
- Signs of a rodent or insect infestation
- Evidence of mold or mildew
- Condition of the insulation
- Drafts, which indicate air gaps that need to be sealed
Periodically, the attic may need dusting or sweeping. Homeowners who use the attic for extra storage might want to go through it at least once a year to look for signs of rodents or declutter.
The garage and the basement are other catch-all rooms that homeowners tend to use for additional storage. Keeping these spaces in good condition requires attention at least once a month. Regular upkeep involves inspecting each room for signs of pests, water damage, or other problems. At least once a year, people may want to:
- Move all boxes and storage
- Sort items to donate, keep, sell, or toss
- Sweep and mop flooring
- Look for cracking or other damage in the concrete
If these spaces become very cluttered, it can be difficult for homeowners to see problems until they have become active hazards. Regular cleanup can minimize clutter, making it easier to keep the rooms in better condition.
Although much of a home’s plumbing is located out of sight, there are many places homeowners can look to inspect the pipes. People may want to start at a faucet and work their way down:
- Clean faucets and replace aeration cartridges
- Check cabinets under sinks for signs of leaky pipes
- Confirm that pipe couplings are screwed on tightly
- Inspect floor surrounding toilets for leaks
People who are comfortable with the task may want to clear out the P-trap under the sink. Otherwise, they may need to call a plumber to resolve drain clogs.
Sheets and pillowcases should be washed once a week with warm water. Pillows may need to be cleaned once a month or once every few months. Homeowners often prefer to purchase duvet covers because they are easy to remove and clean. People might want to clean a comforter once a year, but they should make sure that it dries thoroughly.
The best way to protect a mattress is to buy a quality mattress cover and wash it once a month. The mattress may require rotating to even out the wear. Once the mattress becomes uncomfortable to sleep on, usually after seven to 10 years, people should consider replacing it.
Maintaining the exterior of a home usually involves more complicated work at a lesser frequency. Homeowners may want to set aside a couple of hours on the weekend each month to complete these tasks. Doing this work during milder seasons can prevent problems during winter.
Cleaning concrete walls often requires more than water and a scrub brush. Homeowners may want to start by using a hose to spray dust and debris off the wall. A small amount of washing soda and water will help loosen caked-on dirt and stains for removal. Pressure washing may be an option, but homeowners should confirm that they know how to use the equipment safely before operating it.
While cleaning the walls, people may want to inspect the paint as well. A coat of exterior paint lasts about five years, and homeowners should repaint it if it becomes chipped or cracked. Professionals often use pressure washing to loosen up the chips first so the paint job will last longer.
The driveway is an essential part of a home’s curb appeal and needs prompt attention. Spills from a leaking vehicle can create unsightly stains, and they are harder to remove the longer they sit. Homeowners may want to use a cloth or sawdust to soak up spills as they happen. For set-in stains, a small amount of dish soap, water, and a scrub brush will help release the oils. At this time, people should also inspect the concrete or asphalt for cracks. Sealing these cracks can improve the driveway’s condition and extend its lifespan another few years.
Cleaning the roof requires additional care. Homeowners should use protective equipment, choose a clear weather day with good visibility for the task, and make sure that a second person is available to help them get up and down. Roof shingles can be a breeding ground for algae, which can look like mold. The best way to remove it is to use a cleaning product appropriate for roofing shingles and a garden hose to remove debris. While people are on the roof, they may want to inspect the surface to look for signs that shingles are missing or wearing out.
Cleaning gutters is a task that homeowners should plan to do at least twice a year. If the gutters are difficult to access, people may want to hire a professional. This job requires many tools and supplies, including:
- A sturdy ladder
- Protective eyewear
- Tarp to cover landscaping below
- Scoop or small shovel
- Garden hose
- A second person for assistance
For safety, people should wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants. Once the debris has been removed, it is relatively simple to spray out the gutter with a hose and check for leaks.
For a mild buildup of soot in a wood-burning fireplace, chimney maintenance may be a reasonable DIY task. Homeowners who have not cleaned the chimney for more than a year or who cannot access the chimney may want to consider hiring a professional chimney sweep to clean and inspect. People can tell that the chimney needs cleaning once they notice a small accumulation of soot at the back of the fireplace. They can clean it by laying down a drop-cloth and using a stiff, long-handled brush to wipe off the soot. Before doing so, they should wear protective eyewear and gloves and use an appropriate dust mask.
Cleaning the exterior of windows should be done during summer and before winter. Homeowners have a variety of options they can use:
- Scrubbing with a mop and spraying clean with a hose
- Magnetic devices that will wipe the exterior while moved inside
- Opening the window and using angled brushes to access the exterior
While performing this task, people should inspect the screen for damage and clean it as well. They can use a vacuum to remove dust and debris and spray lightly with a vinegar solution to wipe clean. If the screen is easy to remove, they can clean it more thoroughly in the shower or bathtub.
Although homeowners perform much of their landscaping maintenance throughout the summer, responsibilities may spread into the fall as well. The best time to plant a new tree is in the fall, to give it a longer growing season next year. During the growing season, people should look for signs that their trees are not doing well, such as:
- Slow growth
- Withering branches
- Pest infestations, particularly termites
- Falling or drooping leaves
Before planting new trees, people should consider the type of sun and maintenance level they are willing to provide and choose species accordingly. Drip irrigation may be ideal for watering. At the end of the season, people can empty their sprinkler systems and cover soil with a layer of mulch to protect it.
Grills and Fire Pits
Grills may need light cleaning between each use and a thorough cleaning once or twice a season. To clean a gas grill, people can turn on the heat to burn up food debris on the grates or remove and soak them in a degreasing solution. They can wipe the grill's exterior with a soft cloth and a small amount of dish soap or stainless steel cleaner. The best way to keep a grill clean is to purchase an appropriate cover.
To clean a fire pit, people should wear protective eyewear, a dust mask, and gloves before they begin. Metal fire pits will come clean with a combination of washing soda and water, while stone fire pits may need a light application of dish soap.
The right way to clean a deck depends on the material. For example, composite decking is easy to sweep clean and spray for dirt. By comparison, someone who has a deck made out of exotic hardwood may need to use minimal water and treat for stains delicately. Solid wood decks often need sealing once every year or two to minimize water damage or rot. Sealing the deck is best done in spring, while a thorough cleaning may be necessary in the middle of summer and fall. At least once or twice a year, people should sweep a paver patio and consider using a light cleanser appropriate for plants. They should avoid using a sprayer or power washer, as this can disrupt the sand and shift the pavers.
Many homeowners choose to hire a professional to tend to a swimming pool every few weeks. The best way to keep the pool in good condition is to prevent the accumulation of debris and other contaminants. People can do this by:
- Skimming the pool daily for debris floating on the water
- Maintaining the proper water balance to prevent bacteria and algae growth
- Running the pump at least half of the day to cycle the water
- Inspecting the filter weekly for clogs
Otherwise, people should inspect the interior of the pool and repair cracks immediately. Using a pool vacuum to remove underwater debris is an excellent opportunity to look for damage.
Exterior doors are relatively easy to clean and may need to be done once every couple of months. People can use a vacuum with a hose and brush attachment to remove dust and debris, and then use an appropriate cleaner based on the material:
- Steel: Mild soap and water
- Wood: Furniture polish
- Glass: Glass cleaner and water
- Other materials: Vinegar and water spray
This is a good time to inspect the door for cracking or warping and make arrangements for repairs as needed. Homeowners should avoid power washing exterior doors, as water can leak around the casing and spread inside.
Regular Quarterly Maintenance Tips
Many aspects of home maintenance are seasonal, which means homeowners only need to do them at specific times of the year. Others require regular attention, but not on a weekly or monthly basis. Quarterly home maintenance tasks include:
- Checking smoke alarm for function and battery life
- Testing carbon monoxide detectors
- Inspecting fire extinguishers and replacing them past their expiration date
- Changing furnace air filters
- Inspecting water heater pressure by looking at the temperature-pressure relief valve
- Testing the garage door for safe functioning
- Replacing salt solution in a water softener
Most of these responsibilities relate to the home's safety, but some affect its function or efficiency. People who do not have carbon monoxide detectors or fire extinguishers should consider installing several throughout their house, particularly in the kitchen or mechanical room. These tasks are often easy to forget because they may not show signs of damage or malfunction until a crisis occurs, and they do not work as intended. Homeowners should set a schedule for these jobs at a time when they can focus and are not distracted by other work.
Maintaining a home takes work. There are plenty of tasks that homeowners may not think of while they focus on the regular function of the home and other aspects of their lives. However, spending time on the upkeep of a house is part of homeownership. Without it, people may notice the home does not work like it should and can even break down over time. By completing this checklist regularly, at least once a year, homeowners will get the most from their investment and minimize problems.
Other Great Home Maintenance Resources