Home Maintenance For Dummies
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Home maintenance is all about being prepared. If you spend a little time now buying ingredients for cleaners, putting together a toolkit, and staying on top of monthly maintenance tasks, you’ll not only prevent small problems from getting bigger, but you’ll also be ready to act quickly in the future if a big problem does crop up.

The make-your-own-cleanser guide to help maintain your home

One of the more basic forms of home maintenance is also simple: cleaning. Nobody loves to clean, but the following homemade formulas make cleaning a breeze. Plus, you always know what’s in the cleansers you’re using.

  • All-Purpose, Handy-Dandy Cleaner: This solution works well to clean and freshen just about any surface. When cleaning surfaces in your home, regularly inspect each for any damage or deterioration and fix each promptly; doing so can help stave off costly repairs in the future. Simply mix together 1 teaspoon borax, 1/2 teaspoon washing soda, 2 teaspoons white vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon dishwashing liquid, and 2 cups hot water.

  • Mildew Cleaning Formula: Left to its own devices, mildew can get so bad that the only solution is to re-grout your tub. You can stave off this home maintenance task by staying on top of the cleaning with this handy solution.

    This solution works well for removing mildew on painted or washable surfaces, inside and out, including walls, showers, tile, grout, flooring, siding, roofing, and concrete. Add 1 quart chlorine bleach to 3 quarts warm water. To this, add 1/3 cup powdered laundry detergent. Apply the solution using a spray bottle or sponge, and allow it to sit for about ten minutes, but don’t let it dry out. Rinse with fresh water and towel-dry. A light brushing with a nylon scrub brush and more than one application may be required.

    Even though the solution is mild, wear rubber gloves and safety goggles, and have plenty of ventilation.

    Note: Our Mildew Cleaning Formula works great, but if you’re looking for a green alternative, try spraying lemon juice or vinegar on mildew stains, letting it sit for 3 minutes, and then scrubbing.

  • Drain Cleaner and Freshener: Clogged drains are a common home maintenance repair. You can prevent this problem by keeping your drains clean and fresh with this formula. Boil 2 quarts of water. Pour 1 cup of salt, 1 cup of baking soda, and 1 cup of vinegar into the drain. Allow the solution to fizz for about 30 seconds, and then pour in the boiling water. For maximum results, do this once a month at bedtime when the sink won’t be used for several hours.

Your home maintenance toolkit

Whenever you’re about to start a maintenance project, run through these lists to ensure that you have all the tools you need:

Basic Equipment Other Handy Equipment
Bucket, 5-gallon Brass brush, toothbrush-size
Caulking gun Chisels, cold and wood
Circular saw Construction screws, assorted
Clamps Cutting oil
Claw hammer Duct tape
Combination square or speed square Nails, assorted
Drill, cordless, 3/8-inch variable-speed reversible Nylon scrub brush
Drill bit set Paintbrush
Flashlight Plunger
Flat scraper or putty knife Rags and towels
Glue, wood and all-materials (not Super Glue) Shims
Hand saw, small, multipurpose Silicone lubricant, waterless and oil-free
Ladder, 6-foot fiberglass Shop vacuum cleaner
Level, 36- or 48-inch aluminum Small sledgehammer
Pliers, standard (slip-joint), long-nose, Channellock, and
wire-cutter (diagonal)
Gloves, rubber gloves and leather Toothbrushes
Safety goggles Wood screws, assorted
Sandpaper and sanding block
Screwdrivers, several sizes of both flathead and Phillips
Tape measure, 25-foot
Utility knife and extra blades
Wrenches, basic set of open-ended crescent wrenches, set of
ratcheting socket wrenches, and set Allen wrenches

Your monthly home maintenance checklist

Maintenance performed regularly and on schedule provides optimum longevity and helps prevent potential breakdowns or malfunctions. Beyond maintenance procedures for operational sake, the primary (and most important) reason for checking, inspecting, and constantly tuning up your home is to ensure maximum safety for you and your family.

Make these tasks part of your monthly home maintenance schedule:

  • Check water-purification and water-softener filters.

  • Test the water-heater pressure and temperature-relief valve for proper operation.

  • Clean and freshen your drains.

  • Degrease and freshen your disposal using vinegar ice cubes. Pour 1 cup of vinegar into an empty ice-cube tray, fill the balance of the tray with water, and freeze until solid.

  • Clean and replace furnace and air-conditioner filters.

  • Check the steam system safety valve and steam gauge.

  • Check the water level of your steam system.

  • Clean the filter on the interior of wall-mounted heat pumps.

  • Check air intakes for insect blockages and debris.

  • Clean the range-hood filter.

  • Clean your appliances.

  • Remove and clean range burners.

  • Wash and rinse the clothes-dryer lint screen.

  • Inspect, clean, and lubricate at least one major appliance per the manufacturer’s instructions.

  • Deep-clean laminate surfaces.

  • Clean and brighten tile and grout.

  • Deep-clean all types of flooring.

  • Test fire-extinguisher pressure gauges.

  • Test smoke-detector sensors and alarms.

  • Test carbon-monoxide detectors.

  • Test the auto-reverse safety feature on garage-door openers.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

James Carey and Morris Carey Jr. share their 55+ years of experience as award-winning, licensed contractors with millions of people nationwide through a weekly radio program and syndicated newspaper column, both titled On The House. They also appear regularly on CBS News Saturday Morning.

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