FORGET spring-cleaning - according to an environmental health expert, autumn is the best time to give our homes a deep scrub and polish. Sam Wylie Harris rolls up her sleeves
Early spring might be the time we most associate with giving our homes a good, thorough clean, but according to health experts, it’s a job we should really be doing twice a year, and there could be greater benefits in shifting our focus to fall.
“Our focus should be on autumn cleaning, not spring cleaning,” says Dr Lisa Ackerley, health expert and visiting professor of environmental health at the University of Salford.
“A perfect indoor storm of falling night-time temperatures, central heating being turned up and windows closed with inadequate vacuuming, make autumn the perfect time for carpets to become a microcosm of potentially harmful microbes and dust-mite allergens,” warns Ackerley.
As temperatures outdoors drop, for many of us, the natural thing is to crank up the central heating and shut the windows. However, reducing ventilation and creating an increasingly moist environment - the domestic equivalent of bonsai tropical rainforests - doesn’t just mean warm and cosy rooms for us, it also creates ideal conditions for bacteria and dust mites to flourish.
“Skin flakes, dust, dirt, food crumbs and anything that has come in the house from pets and shoes gets trapped in the carpet and other soft furnishings. With that in mind, thorough vacuuming is essential to minimise health risks,” advises Ackerley.
“It’s essential that we use well-maintained vacuum cleaners and models with strong suction that can remove debris from the ‘forest floor’. Moreover, cleaning under sofas and tables is really important.
“In my view, doing this at this time of the year is far more important that the traditional spring clean, which has far less importance from a health perspective,” adds Ackerley.
AUTUMN CLEANING ESSENTIALS
• Wash the windows - with shorter days, it’s important to make the most of the light flooding in, and windows can harbour grime. Brush away dust and cobwebs before using a sponge with a solution of vinegar and water (for best results) and wipe dry with a clean, dry cloth.
• Dust and polish. Get rid of the summer build-up of dust and pollen and use a quality furniture polish and cloth. Dust down book shelves and make sure your mirrors and silver are gleaming.
• Move and rearrange the furniture before vacuuming, to help ensure you clean in all those nooks and crannies. Just because you can’t see behind the sofa, or that dusty corner behind the sideboard, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be kept clean.
• Put away your summer clothes and linens and replace them with cool-season items, woollies and coats. To keep moths at bay, use moth balls or lavender moth-repelling scents in the wardrobe, to reduce the chances of the pesky critters ruining clothes.
• Bring winter warmers and bedroom throws out of storage. Making the bed warm and inviting and replacing your summer duvet with a heavier winter weight will create a cosy feeling.
• De-clutter your kitchen cupboard and clear out any foods that are out of date, spices that are more than six months old or have lost their scent. Clear out the fridge, defrost the freezer and throw out old food.