PhotoWhy is it that we only get serious about housecleaning in the spring? It probably goes back to harsh winters where people had to stay indoors most of the time and tracked in mud and dirt when they did venture out.

In any event, whether it's springtime or another season, your home needs intensive cleaning and maintenance on at least an annual basis. No less an authority than Martha Stewart recommends getting organized and giving yourself plenty of time.

"Create a realistic schedule, keeping in mind that a single weekend won't suffice, as you'll need several days for more involved projects, such as shampooing carpets and organizing closets," she writes on her website. "Whether you prefer to proceed from the attic to the basement or start outdoors and wind your way inside, focus on one task at a time."

But maybe you don't have as much time to devote to cleaning as Martha would like. Let us, then, offer 10 chores that your home really needs.

1. Trimming and pruning

Let's start with your home's exterior. What happens outside can impact the health of your home's structure. Specifically, inspect trees and shrubs growing near the house. Prune tree branches that are growing too near the house or outbuildings. Look for branches that are now extending over, or coming in contact with the roof. Vegetation that touches the building can trap moisture and cause all sorts of problems.

For that same reason, cut back bushes and shrubs that are growing near the house. Not only are out-of-control bushes unsightly, they can damage decks and siding.

2. Inspect and clean gutters

You may need help on this one if you aren't able to climb a ladder. However, after the winter your gutters are probably going to need a thorough cleaning so that they efficiently channel rain water away from your home. Inspect them to make sure they haven't been damaged by ice over the course of the winter.

3. Power wash and reseal deck

PhotoIf you have a deck made of pressure-treated lumber, it should be pressure washed and sealed when it no longer repels water. A water test is the easiest way to ensure that the wood can absorb sealer or finish.

Pour a small amount of water on the deck. If it soaks in immediately, the deck should be sealed. If the water beads up or stands on the deck, your deck may not need sealing yet. Before sealing, clean the area with a pressure water to restore the wood's appearance and remove dirt and grime. Now, we can move indoors.

4. Replace furnace filter

Replacing the filter to the air intake to your home's heating and air conditioning system should actually be done several times a year, but a spring cleaning should be one of those times. The filter traps dirt, dust and pet hair to prevent it from being sucked into the air handler. A dirty and clogged filter will reduce HVAC efficiency.

5. Clean and dust electronics

All that dirt and dust circulating in the air all winter is hard on the sensitive electronics in your home, and these days there's a lot more electronic devices in homes than in years past. In some cases these devices act as a magnet, attracting dust.

Using a soft cloth, or a wipe made specifically for screens, wipe down the front and back of your TV sets. Using the same type of cloth, clean computer screens and desktop towers. You may find that the vents on these machines are clogged with hair and debris. After powering down the computer, use a vacuum cleaner to remove as much of the dirt as possible.

6. Remove dust from light fixtures

Dust circulating in your home all winter long will attach itself to light fixtures on the ceiling. When you dust furniture and woodwork, don't forget to look up. Dust on light fixtures can become quite heavy and fall, continuing the dusting cycle.

If your home has ceiling fans, this can be a special problem. The fan blades tend to attract a thick coating of dust during the winter, creating unhealthy conditions.

7. Clean kitchen appliances

PhotoMajor appliances need routine cleaning and the spring is a good time to do it. Dean, of Livermore, Calif., had written to ConsumerAffairs complaining about problems with his Samsung French door refrigerator. The freezer wasn't keeping food frozen. He wrote us back after someone suggested removing the unit's back cover.

"I did this and found that the coils were covered in lint and dog hair, we have dogs," Dean wrote. "The fan blade to cool the coils was also dirty and the water sump was full. I vacuumed as much of the build up I could out of there, then unplugged the unit and used a small air compressor to blow out as much dust from the coils as I could. I then carefully cleaned off the fan blades with hot water and dish soap, with a sponge. It will make a mess to clean up, but it should probably be done yearly."

You should also clean the oven. Clean the stove top, remove elements and drip bowls and clean thoroughly. Clean the inside of your microwave oven, removing any food splatters that have baked onto the sides of the oven.

8. Clean kitchen and bathroom grout

The grout between ceramic tile in the kitchen and bath needs to be cleaned on an annual basis to prevent a build-up of dirt and grease. Consumers can purchase commercially-available grout cleaner or make their own. Powdered oxygen bleach is nontoxic, doesn't produce harsh fumes, and don't alter colors. It gets rid of stains with no or minimal scrubbing. The oxygen ions attack the stain molecules, breaking them into pieces that rinse away.

9. Clean flooring

If you have carpets throughout your home, spring is a great time to have them cleaned. You can rent a carpet shampooer and do it yourself or hire a carpet-cleaning company to do it for you. If you have hardwood floors, clean them in accordance with manufacturer's guidelines. There are a number of commercially-available products that will restore a shine.

10. Change batteries in smoke detectors

Finally, purchase new batteries and put them in all of your home's smoke detectors. Ideally this should be done twice a year, but doing it on your spring cleaning day may help make it a chore you'll remember to do. An early warning if a fire breaks out will not only save your home, it could also save your life.

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