25 things homeowners forget to clean.


By Nichole Talbot

Sure, it’s hard enough to keep up with dishes and laundry, and it’s easy to neglect less visible parts of the home when it comes to regular cleaning. But if you overlook these areas for long periods of time, they can become unhealthy and cost money to repair and replace. Some can even be unhealthy and harmful. 

That’s why we've identified those oft-forgotten spaces and created this convenient cheat sheet. Many of these cleaning tasks are easy to tackle yourself. But if you’re short on time, we’ll help you find local pros to do the dirty work for you. 

1. Air ducts. 

air duct cleaningWho wants to breathe dirty air in the safety of their own home? Allergens, dust and debris can collect in air ducts over time, affecting your home’s air quality. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, consider cleaning your ducts if: 

  • You spot an excessive amount of dust and debris clogging them.
  • Your ducts or HVAC system components have mold growth.
  • Rodents or insects have invaded your duct system.

While you can technically take on the job yourself, most households lack the extra-long hoses needed to get air ducts fully clean. This one’s probably best left to the pros.

Related: How much does air duct cleaning cost?

2. Air filter grates.

cleaning air filter gratesThat brown and gray film on your air filter grates? That’s a layer of dust that your heater or air conditioner is collecting all day long. The dirt ends up getting blown around your room — or clogging up your grates and affecting your energy efficiency.

Using a vacuum brush tool, start clearing these vents as part of your regular cleaning regimen. When you replace your air filters (every three months is recommended), remove the grates and wash them with soap and water. 

Related: How much does AC service cost?

3. Baseboards.

baseboard cleaningYour home’s baseboards probably don’t get a lot of regular attention — and they could definitely use it, especially if you have kids or pets. “These tend to collect a lot of dust and dirt,” says Jessica Samson, cleaning expert at Maids.com

Your vacuum attachments are perfect for baseboard cleaning. Use the accessory brush to suck up the dust, debris and pet hair that accumulate along the surface. “Then, take a sponge and soapy water to clean the baseboards and remove any streaks or residue,” says Samson. 

Related: How much does it cost to hire a house cleaner?

4. Behind the washer and dryer.

cleaning behind washer and dryerIf it’s been awhile (or more like an eternity) since you’ve cleaned behind your washer and dryer, you’re probably going to face a few layers of dust and lint when you finally pull those appliances out from the wall.

The good news? It will feel oh-so-satisfying to tackle that debris — and we’re willing to bet you’ll find a lost sock or two.

The job requires some vigor, as you’ll need to pull both units forward to accomplish the task. That means turning off the cold and hot water valves that feed into the washer. Vacuum the area first. Then use a mop or soapy cloth to clean the floor and the backs and sides of each unit.

Pro tip: Be forewarned that most units need to be leveled when they get pushed back into place — and this can take a lot of effort, especially in tight spaces. Contact a pro if needed.

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5. Carpets and rugs.

rug cleaningWith daily foot traffic and spills from kids and pets, your regular vacuuming routine to remove surface dirt is great — but it’s not sufficient for cleaning carpet and rug fibers. To get to these harder-to-access areas, a deep clean is in order. 

For carpets, use a steamer for best results. For rugs, a mild rug shampoo and soft-bristle brush should do the trick, followed by a line-dry. If you prefer to leave this one for the pros, find carpet and rug cleaners near you for a quote. 

Related: How much does carpet cleaning cost?

6. Ceiling fans.

ceiling fan dustingIt’s one thing to focus on cleaning the items right in front of you — but you’ll have to look up to notice one of the most neglected features in your home. “Perhaps one of the most overlooked areas our professional house cleaners find daily are ceiling fans,” says Scott Schrader, chief marketing officer of Cottage Care home cleaning services. 

When fans are not in use, dust accumulates on the blades and then circulates in the air when turned on. Most big-box stores carry ceiling fan dusters that can access this hard-to-reach area, but if you do break out the ladder and soapy sponge, be sure to use the utmost caution. 

7. Cleaning tools and supplies.

cleaning suppliesOdd as it might sound, dirty cleaning supplies can cause a big house-cleaning issue, according to Alicia Johnson, owner of Cleaning Green LLC. “If all the cleaning tools are dirty to begin with, what kind of cleaning can you achieve with them?” 

Take inventory of your cleaning tools — toilet scrubbers, brushes, brooms, buckets and mops — to see which ones need to be disinfected or replaced. Then, fill up a (clean) bucket of water and some all-purpose cleaner, soak your tools for a couple of hours, rinse and dry. 

8. Coffee maker.

coffee makerIf you’re a coffee drinker, you rely on your beloved brewer for your daily cup of joe. Over time, all that water moving through the machine’s tubing creates mineral build-up. If left untreated, it will eventually corrode and break your machine. Yeast and mold can also appear in your water reservoir (and nobody wants a cup of that). 

At least once a month, descale your coffee maker with a solution of one part white vinegar and two parts water. Brew two pots of water to rinse out the solution. Refer to your coffee maker’s manual for cleaning and descaling instructions.

9. Dishwasher filter.

clean dishwasher filterYour dishwasher filter catches bits of food left on your dishes during the cleaning cycle. If the filter is clogged, it will cause leftover food to swirl around inside the dishwasher and on your dishes. This can also turn your trusty dishwasher into a breeding ground for bacteria and mold.

Katie Barton, professional organizer and founder of cleaning blog Cabin Lane, says this is one of her clients’ most overlooked items. “If you notice a bad smell every time you open the dishwasher, your dishes are left with a residue after cleaning, or you can visibly see the build-up, it’s time to clean the filter,” she says. 

Most filters are located on the bottom of dishwashers. You’ll need to pop it out and gently scrub it with a brush in warm, soapy water. Rinse thoroughly. 

10. Doorknobs and handles.

cleaning doorknobWe touch doorknobs constantly throughout the day, so they accumulate all kinds of dirt, grime and germs on their surfaces and in nooks and crannies. This can turn doorknobs into the ultimate virus spreader, so give them a good cleaning with a microfiber cloth and antibacterial cleaner. 

While you’re working on the doorknobs, take that cleaning rag up to the tops of the doors and the moldings around them. You may be surprised how much dust settles there. 

Don’t just stop at interior doors. Front and back doors that the kids latch onto — as well as doorknobs leading to the garage — see the bulk of grit and grime. Also be sure to wipe down handles and knobs on your cabinets, drawers and appliances.

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11. Electronics.

wiping remote controlThe electronic devices in our homes are repositories of all sorts of ickiness. Remotes, gaming controllers and phones are touched constantly. If they’re not cleaned regularly, they can spread germs and dust. 

Computers could also use regular cleaning maintenance from time to time. Central processing units can accumulate dust inside, causing them to retain heat that could impact performance. Carefully open the CPU case, and use a can of compressed air to remove dust and debris. 

12. Fireplace.

fireplace cleaningWhen you first start to use your fireplace each fall, do you notice an unpleasant smell? That could be dust, dirt and even dead insects burning. A good cleaning once or twice a year can prevent any unwanted odors — and will keep your fireplace in top shape. 

You’ll have to turn off the pilot light and remove the glass front to access the fire box and logs. If safety is a concern, contact a professional fireplace and chimney cleaner in your area for help.

Related: How much does a chimney sweep cost?

13. Garage floor. 

garage floorFall and winter weather have probably blown all types of leaves and debris into the garage — which you, your family and your furry friends can easily track into the house, even if you have floor mats.

Give your garage floors a good sweep once every couple of months. And every six months or so, an industrial-style vacuum will work wonders to clean the detritus away. Remember, spiders and insects like dark places to hide, so keep watch and be ready to set traps as necessary.

Related: How to clean and maintain your floors.

14. Grout.

grout cleaningKeep the tile in your kitchen and bathrooms beautiful for years with regular grout cleaning. “I think many people miss cleaning this area as their grout slowly fades or gets discolored over time,” says Mike Katona, DIY blogger at Shabby Chic House

Purchase a grout-cleaning solution, or make your own with ¾ cup of baking soda, ¼ cup of hydrogen peroxide and a tablespoon of dish soap. If you have colored grout, opt for oxygen bleach over chlorine bleach to prevent color loss. 

Related: How much does grout cleaning cost?

15. Kitchen shelves.

kitchen shelf cleaningYour kitchen counters are probably squeaky clean, but when was the last time you gave your shelves a good once-over?

Cabinet and pantry shelves get their fair share of dust too — along with crumbs, spills, and buildup. While you’re in the pantry, you might as well consolidate and toss expired foods for some organizational bonus points. 

16. Light fixtures.

clean light fixturesLike ceiling fans, light fixtures are easy to miss during a weekly cleaning. Be sure to turn off lights before cleaning, and use a ladder for safety.

A damp cloth will work with most fixtures, though different materials may require alternative methods. For example, you need a polish to remove tarnish from metal fixtures. 

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17. Light switches.

cleaning light switchLike doorknobs, light switches get a lot of use. Think about how many times you and the members of your household touch them — often with dirty hands and fingers. Without regular cleaning, light switches can spread germs and viruses throughout the household, says Tanya Plattner, cleaning expert of Tidy Wife Happy Life

Remove prints, smudges and dirt with a good once-over. “Start at one end of your house with a soapy rag and wipe down the switches and door handles,” says Plattner. “Make a second pass with a disinfectant wipe for extra protection.” 

18. Microwave.

microwave cleaningIt’s easy to forget to clean this beloved workhorse appliance. Open the door and take a good look around. You might be unpleasantly surprised by the caked-on food particles and grease. These leftovers can promote bacteria growth and even lead to food poisoning. 

Remove the glass plate and wash with dish soap or in the dishwasher. Wipe down the interior with soapy water, antibacterial wipe or a vinegar-water solution. 

19. Oven.

oven cleaningAs one of the most used appliances in the house, your oven is probably in need of some TLC. Most ovens these days come with a self-cleaning setting. Remove any racks, pots and pans, and be sure you’ll be home for a few hours to safely air out the kitchen during the cleaning cycle. 

Once the oven cools completely, wipe down the inside with a damp cloth. If you don’t have a self-cleaning oven, it’s easy to do this yourself. Make a paste of baking soda and water, and apply it inside the oven. Wait a few hours, then wipe it down with a damp cloth. 

20. Outdoor furniture.

outdoor furnitureThe cold winter months can be hard on outdoor furniture. Even if you cover them up, outdoor chairs, couches and cushions are still susceptible to the effects of dirt, moisture and unpleasant smells that build up over time.

Use a warm, gentle soap solution to clean metal, wicker and plastic furnishings. Rust can also be an issue outdoors. Use steel wool to remove small areas that are affected. If rust has spread along most of the surface, consider repainting to preserve longevity.

21. Range hood. 

range hoodMany of us are spending more time at home cooking and putting our kitchen appliances to good use. Range hoods help keep interior air quality fresh and odor-free by drawing steam and smoke up and out of the home. But over time, grease builds up in the range hood and filter — and can affect performance if neglected.

Refer to your user manual for cleaning instructions. Warm water with a small amount of dish soap will usually take care of the issue. For tougher grease build-up, you may need a vinegar solution or degreaser. To clean the filter, remove it, soak it in soapy water and let it dry. 

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22. Soft surfaces and fabrics.

curtainsWhen thinking about areas of the home that are often neglected, Kimberly Button, founder of GetGreenBeWell shares that it’s often the things we can’t see that can do the most damage. “Your drapes and curtains, throw pillows and dust ruffles around your bed can be covered with nasty dust and allergens you don’t see,” she says. 

When you throw open your windows those first days of spring, all that dust will move through the air. This is another job for your vacuum attachments — use the upholstery tool and extension wand to clean window treatments and textured furnishings. 

23. Trash cans.

trash cansThe next time you take out the trash, open the can, take a whiff and look around inside. If it’s smelly and slimy in there, it’s time to give it a clean. 

Pour a few drops of dish soap inside, and put your garden hose nozzle on its jet setting for a strong stream of water to clean and rinse. After everything is properly hosed down, set your cans on their sides and leave them open to dry. Warning: this chore is messy, so be prepared for some unsavory splashing to come your way.

24. Top of refrigerator.

fridgeYou may do a good job of wiping up spills on your refrigerator’s shelves, but have you peeked at the top of your fridge lately? 

This large, flat surface is the perfect place for dust to collect — and just because it’s out of sight doesn’t mean it should be out of mind. Plus, all the opening and closing of refrigerator doors could cause the dust to fall inside and on your food.

Make it a point to give this neglected area a good wipe down once a month or so. 

25. Window and door tracks.

window track cleaningWindow cleaning often tops spring cleaning lists, but what about the tracks? Dirt collects, gets wet from condensation — and turns into sticky grime. Insect carcasses tend to collect there too, amping up the ick factor. 

Get your windows and doors spring and summer-ready. Wipe tracks down with soap and warm water, then vacuum them out once a month for maintenance. 

Related: How much does it cost to get your windows professionally cleaned?

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Of course, it’s not necessary to clean these items all at once. Start incorporating them into your weekly and monthly cleaning routine, and stagger them according to how frequently they need to be done to keep the work manageable.

For some of the tougher tasks — or if you’re just short on time and could use some help — we’ve got you covered. Find professional house cleaners in your area for regular service, or a one-time cleaning to give you a blank slate for your own maintenance.

Up next: The only spring cleaning checklist you’ll ever need.

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