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17 Spots to Never Skip When Fall Cleaning

If you miss these magnets for dirt and germs, you’re missing out on having a truly clean home.

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There’s no room for germs herePeopleImages/Getty Images

Whoops—you missed a few spots!

Fall cleaning is the new spring cleaning. As the weather starts to turn cooler, it’s the perfect time to deep clean all the things you likely neglected over the summer. Dirt, germs, and bacteria can hide in some surprising places, and in our post-COVID world, it’s more important than ever to disinfect and sanitize regularly. Aside from the basic dusting, vacuuming, and mopping that’s on your everyday to-do list, make sure to pay attention to these often-overlooked spots in your home. Not sure what to clean when? This is the definitive guide on how often you should clean everything.

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The mailbox

Not only is your mailbox a high-touch surface that’s exposed to the elements all year round, but it’s also constantly filled and refilled with envelopes and packages that multiple people have touched. When you think of it that way, it’s clear that it needs a thorough cleaning, inside and out, every now and then. The best way to do that is with a microfiber cloth dipped in lukewarm soapy water. Pass the towel around any intricate designs on the box, and pay special attention to spots where you need to remove bird droppings or mildew. Should you be disinfecting your mail? We investigated.

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Window screens

Cleaning windows is on most seasonal cleaning checklists, but what about the window screens? They’re easy to forget about, but when you look closely, you’ll probably notice a lot of built-up grime. But don’t grab the nearest paper towel and get to work on this fall cleaning task; wiping screens with a wet paper towel just shreds the towel and makes a bigger mess. Instead, without removing the screen, gently clean it using premoistened screen-cleaning wipes. Specifically designed for this purpose, they won’t disintegrate or leave lint behind. Here are another 8 clever solutions for the most annoying window cleaning problems.

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Pet toys

Since dogs and cats mostly use their mouths to play with their toys, it’s important that those toys are cleaned and disinfected. After all, not only are they coated with drool but also dirt, lint, and more, especially if your pet has taken them outside. Instead of washing each toy individually, throw them all in the washing machine—but first place them in a cotton washing bag designed to keep plush toys safe and snag-free during the laundering process. The toys are just one wash cycle away from being sanitized and smelling brand new. Looking to fill out your pup’s collection? Try these indestructible dog toys even the toughest Fido can’t break.

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The couch

Before you curl up on your comfy couch in the cooler weather and start binge-watching your favorite shows, deep-clean the cushions. Yep, it’s necessary. While vacuuming keeps the crumbs away, you need deeper sanitation to really get at what’s hiding in there. Use a handheld upholstery cleaner to remove food stains, dirty pet paw prints, and germs left behind from sitting on the couch while wearing your outside clothes. This Bissell Little Green model gets the job done quickly and easily. Whether you’re doing some serious fall cleaning or just your everyday cleaning tasks, make sure you’re not over-cleaning your house.

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Your yoga mat

After yoga class, you probably roll up your mat, tuck it away, and forget about it until the next time you need it. But you’re forgetting a crucial step: cleaning it! After all, it’s a surface that’s close to your face and touches your body while you’re sweating; plus, it rests on a floor (that may not be your own). So, take the time to give that yoga mat a good wipe-down with a cleaner designed for mats to ensure you don’t end up with a slippery residue. Here are another 30 things you should clean in the next 30 days.

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Carpets

Of course, we vacuum all the time. But most people don’t deep-clean their carpets because it feels like such a big job—or because they don’t even realize they’re necessary. When you think about all the germs that have been tracked onto and embedded within those carpets, though, you’ll realize why it’s so important. Make this chore exponentially easier by using a lightweight carpet cleaner, like the Hoover PowerDash, to sanitize both carpets and throw rugs. Pro tip: The fall is the best time for this type of deep cleaning since the humidity is typically lower and the carpet will dry faster. If you have a pet, you might also want to buy one of these 15 best vacuums for dog and cat hair.

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Patio furniture

Before stowing away outdoor furniture for the season, give it a good wash. After all, removing stubborn dirt now will be a lot easier than after it sits for a few months. The good news is that you don’t need an expensive pressure washer—and you don’t need to spend a lot of time scrubbing. Simply attach a high-pressure spray nozzle with a soap dispenser, like this super affordable model by Evilto, to your regular garden hose. Pour a little mild dish soap into the dispenser and spray away the built-up dirt. Now that your outdoor furniture is clean, find out how to make the rest of your summer essentials last longer.

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Seasonal decorations

Since you only take them out once a year, you might not think they need extra (or any) cleaning. Spoiler alert: They do, and so do the bins you’re storing them in! Dust and debris can settle on the containers while they’re in storage, so you need to put this task on your fall cleaning checklist. Wipe down the outside, then open them up and take a close look at what’s stashed inside, identifying and removing any broken or crumbling decorations. And if you find your storage situation lacking, reorganize and use color-coded bins to sort and store seasonal items; for example, pumpkin-orange tubs would be a telltale sign that they contain autumnal pieces. Check out these 8 brilliant Halloween storage ideas you never thought of.

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Computer accessories

Your computer screen generally gets the most attention because it gets dusty and smudgy and you just can’t ignore it. But it’s easy to overlook high-touch accessories like the mouse and keyboard. When is the last time you not only cleaned them but also properly sanitized them? They’re among the things you should be cleaning every day during the pandemic. Using an antibacterial foam with a soft cleaning cloth is the best way to disinfect these sensitive surfaces, and this CleanFreek set from KontrolFreek comes with both.

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Lampshades

Dusting only the base of the table lamp misses the spot where most of the allergens and dust build up—the fabric lampshade. But how on earth do you clean that properly? You risk damaging the shade if you try to vacuum it and dusting it just makes the dust fly around. The solution: Use a lampshade sponge to get the job done, save time, and eliminate stress. The Sparkle Plenty lampshade sponge is designed specifically for collecting and removing loose hair, dust, and lint. While you’re on a fall cleaning kick, check out these 18 products that’ll clean your house in less than an hour.

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The picnic cooler

You couldn’t imagine days at the beach and backyard barbecues without it, but it’s pretty much forgotten about the second the party’s over, the ice is dumped, and it’s relegated to its proper corner in the garage. But if you leave spills and splatters on your picnic cooler, they will become almost impossible to remove next summer. Instead, take action now with a cleaning spray that’s made specifically for a cooler’s insulated surface, like this commercial-strength, non-toxic option from Rugged Point. Spray on to remove sticky barbecue condiments, which can also stain, as well as grease splatters and anything else that dripped or dropped in or on the cooler.

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Liquid soap dispensers

Hold on—why would you need to clean a dispenser that’s filled with soap? Because while its contents get your hands squeaky-clean, the outside of it can get grimy and coated with germs. Use a tiny cleaning brush to get to all the areas; just soap up the bristles of these Crown Choice grout cleaner brushes to easily reach up and around the pump mechanism. Reminder: Wash your hands immediately after touching these 10 things.

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Handheld electronics

Just how filthy is your cellphone? Let’s just say it’s even worse than you think, and it’s not the only handheld device that we constantly have in our hands and near our face—after putting it on all sorts of surfaces inside and outside our home. Suffice, to say, these items need to be cleaned a lot more than you’re likely cleaning them (and not just during a big fall cleaning session). But unlike washing your hands, you can’t just lather up your electronics, then rinse them off. That’s where PhoneSoap comes in. It’s a tabletop UV sanitizer that disinfects your cell phone and kills 99.9 percent of bacteria and germs. It can also handle other electronics like earbuds, television remotes, and a smartwatch.

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Your emergency kit

An emergency kit is only good if it’s got everything you need when you actually need it. Before the colder weather hits—and with it, the potential for storms and power outages—clean out your emergency kit. First, look over the expiration dates on the food, water, and medicine. Then, replenish batteries, make sure the flashlights are working, restock Band-Aids and the like, and ensure you have everything else you need in there. If you don’t have an emergency kit or yours needs a serious update, consider buying one that’s fully stocked. A particularly good choice is a backpack version, like this Complete Earthquake Bag from Redfora (which, of course, is great for more than just earthquakes); all your supplies are in a grab-and-go bag in the event you need to leave in a hurry. These are the 13 foods to stock up on before a hurricane hits.

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Your mattress

Sure, you regularly dust the various items in your bedroom and wash your sheets. But chances are, you’re overlooking your mattress. Vacuuming your mattress with a UV sanitizing attachment can remove up to 99.9 percent of dust-mite matter, bacteria, viruses, and pollen, according to Raycop, which offers this UV-sanitizing HEPA allergen vacuum. If you’ve had your mattress forever, it might be time to go shopping: Here’s why you need to replace your mattress sooner than every seven years.

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Gardening tools

Your gardening tools probably could use a good cleaning this fall. How do we know? Because most people rarely clean them. Some tools might benefit from a spritz of rust remover spray, which is the easiest way to remove rust from trowels and shovels. Simply spray on and wipe off, and you’re all set for next spring.

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Toothbrushes

When is the last time you sanitized your toothbrush? If the answer is you don’t know or, worse yet, never, then today is the day! Using a UV toothbrush holder is easier than trying to remember to disinfect your brush on a regular basis since it will do the work for you automatically. Next, find out how to clean your bathroom in 5 minutes or less.

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Jamie Novak
Jamie Novak is a globally recognized professional organizer who regularly contributes to RD.com. She has more than 20 years of experience covering the home-organizing industry. Novak wrote Keep This Toss That: the practical guide to tidying up, a top selling book for Reader's Digest. She’s been seen on HGTV, QVC, and national morning talk shows. Her work has appeared in magazines from Better Homes and Gardens to Real Simple. Connect with Novak at JamieNovak.com, @JamieNovak, or using the hashtag #KeepThisTossThat