Readers Digest | Mar. 14, 2023
Wish you had more free time to do the things you wanted? You’re about to get it! This expert-approved home advice will change your life.
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When it comes to home maintenance projects and rigorous home cleaning, we tend to worry that we’re doing too little…but there’s actually a good chance we’re doing too much. Yes, you read that right. You might actually be doing tasks that either aren’t necessary or are damaging your home in some way.
Ben Shrauner, a real estate investor and the owner of, says that you can determine which projects to skip and which to prioritize tasks by asking yourself two questions: Are there permanent effects of not cleaning or maintaining an item, and how expensive will it eventually be to replace this item/part of your home? The answers may surprise you—and make you wildly happy!
Getting carpets professionally cleaned
Think you need to enlist a professional carpet cleaner once or even twice a year? Think again. Unless your carpet suffers from a multitude of food or wine spills and heavy pet usage, you don’t need to do a deep cleaning more than once every 18 months, according to the Carpet and Rug Institute. In between, simply focus on deodorizing and spot treatments. “Carpets can be deodorized with baking soda every other month, and rubbing in a little bit of powdered Tide or Dawn dish soap with warm water is an inexpensive, easy way to treat spills and spots,” says Ty Rosa, owner of the Sparkling Clean Home. If you want to go the DIY route, try one of these 17 homemade carpet cleaners you probably already have in your house.
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What else can you skip this year? The expensive and exhausting process of repainting your walls. You might be tempted to do this to make them look new again, but all you really need to do is clean them properly. Believe it or not, that means vacuuming and washing them, says Rosa. Since they hold a lot of dust, she advises vacuuming them every three months, then following up with a little high-quality, all-natural dish soap, warm water, and a microfiber cloth. This will bring your walls back to life and keep them in tip-top shape.
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Some people religiously wash their curtains every month, but this is another time-consuming home project that isn’t necessary, according to home cleaning expert Natalie Barrett of Nifty Cleaning Services. But this doesn’t mean you can ignore your curtains altogether. After all, curtains do accumulate a lot of dust and grime. “Take a less demanding approach to keeping them tidy by dusting the curtains and regularly deodorizing them for a fresh and clean scent,” she recommends. Incorporate these mini cleaning tasks in your regular chores, and then opt for professional curtain cleaning every six months or so to ensure that all dirt beneath the surface is eliminated.
You’ll want to hug Barrett for this tip: Skip the window cleaning…at least in the summertime. Why? On hot days, before you’re able to wipe away the cleaning detergent and all the dust and dirt, the heat will dry up the mixture. This will result in Sisyphean work for you: more effort and only more dirt to get rid of! Instead, spot-treat kiddie fingerprints and dog-nose smudges in the summer, and leave the intense, full window cleaning for the fall. While you can skip this chore without an issue, make sure you’re doing these 9 tasks every week.
Polishing wood floors
Carpenter Trond Nyland, founder and CEO of the Cordless Drill Guide, urges you to stop polishing your wood floors on a regular basis. If you do this too frequently, you’ll actually damage the wood. Instead, use cleaning chemicals a lot more sparingly. Furniture should be polished only every six weeks or so to help keep the veneer, and when it comes to hardwood floors, Nyland advises running a vacuum over them about once a week and giving them a wax and polish every three years. FYI, you should never use these cleaning products on your wood floors.
A lot of work goes into maintaining the outside of your house, but this is one thing you can eliminate from this year’s to-do list. While mulching flower beds in the front yard can certainly make them look nice, the effect may not be worth the effort. That’s the assessment of Joe from the blog Mini Riches, who’s worked in the construction business for a decade. The process can take up days of your precious time or cost you thousands of dollars if you hire a professional. Skipping this for one season won’t dramatically impact the curb appeal of your house, but it will spare your back and knees and keep a lot more money in your bank account. Instead, tidy up the beds with a rake, and pull out weeds as you see them rearing their ugly heads. Read up on the other surprisingly easy ways to kill garden weeds.
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Cleaning dryer vents
Step away from the dryer vent. This is not a project that you want to DIY, says Jason Kapica, president of Dryer Vent Wizard. Instead, pay attention to the warning signs that you might have a problem, such as your dryer being hot to the touch or needing additional cycles to run, and then call in a professional for the actual vent cleaning. It’s not that cleaning a dryer vent is a waste of time—it’s a waste of time for you to do it because you’re not a professional. Tinkering with it yourself can damage your dryer, and if you attempt to clean or repair it yourself, you might miss important fire-hazard signs.
While many homeowners love the way power washers deep-clean, in most cases, this kind of treatment should be limited. “One downside of excessive power washing is the abrasiveness of the water pressure itself, which can remove paint and wood fibers if used to excess,” says Richard Reina, product training director at garden hose with standard water pressure to minimize damage to siding and fences. Of course, a power washer will come in handy sometimes, as will these products that will clean your house in less than an hour.. “Just because a wood fence is a little dirty, it shouldn’t require the power washer every time.” Instead, use a
Sharpening lawn mower blades
“Whether you have a push mower or a ride-on mower, you have heard that the mower blade needs to be kept sharp,” says Reina. But the truth is, you don’t need to do this task as often as professionals recommend. “If you’re sharpening that blade every few weeks, you’re wasting your time because a well-sharpened blade should last most of the mowing season (depending on the size of your lawn, of course).” Not only are you losing time that could be spent on hobbies or relaxing, but the frequent sharpening will also ultimately cost you money. Think of it this way: Each time you sharpen that blade, you remove a fine layer of material, so if you’re doing it too frequently, the blade will need to be replaced sooner.
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Removing wallpaper before painting
Before getting into online marketing, Daniel Morris was a self-employed painter. According to him, you shouldn’t bother scraping and peeling off old wallpaper if you want to paint your walls. It takes a ton of time and energy, and there’s a much easier solution. “If your old wallpaper does not come away easily—and it probably won’t—it is best to paint over the wallpaper after gluing back any raised areas for a temporary improvement,” Morris says. It may sound crazy, but it works, and it’s a lot more common than you think.
Here’s how to do it: First, apply a diluted TSP (trisodium phosphate) mixture to the paper to get it ready to accept and hold the paint. Then prime the area, and once dry, apply coats of oil-based paint. Easy-peasy! The bigger question may be what color you should use. We can make that easier for you, too: Here’s the perfect paint color for you, based on your zodiac sign.
Cleaning your entire house
This might be controversial for neat-freaks, but you don’t need to clean your entire home before entertaining guests. If you’re short on time, says Richard Kennedy of the Vacuum Experts, “just vacuum the places that people actually go.” For example, you might just want to quickly vacuum from the front door to the stairs and in the sitting area. The well-rated Dyson Cyclone V10 Cordless Stick Vacuum get the job done quickly and efficiently. You’ll also want to scoop up any clutter and temporarily stash that in a locked bedroom, fold throw blankets nicely, and put away stray shoes. This work takes minutes instead of hours, but to guests, the house looks spotless. Of course, you should give the guest bathroom a once-over, too—here’s how to do that in five minutes or less.
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“Unless grout is crumbling and falling out, regrouting is often a waste of time,” says James Upton, the DIY Tile Guy. “If your grout is old and dingy-looking even after you’ve cleaned it, I recommend looking into grout colorants before you take on the much larger project of removing and regrouting.” Both colorants and grout pens will color and seal grout joints, making them look fresh and new.
Installing a new roof
Obviously, sometimes you need a new roof. But most times, you can get away with simply replacing the pieces of the roof that are slightly damaged and problematic from an aesthetic perspective. That will save you time, money, and energy, says Rostislav Shetman, founder of 9Kilo Moving. “A more aesthetic-looking roof [won’t] increase the value of your property manyfold,” he explains. In fact, most times, you will recoup only a little over half of what you spent.
So, how long will your roof last? According to the National Association of Home Builders, “slate, copper, and tile roofs can last more than 50 years, while homeowners with wood shake roofs should expect them to last about 30 years, fiber cement shingles 25 years, and asphalt shingle/composition roofs about 20 years.” Here are another 32 home upgrades that are a huge waste of money.
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If the fall is famous for anything other than pumpkin-spiced everything, it’s probably the piles of leaves covering our gardens and lawns. Jordan Collins, a home maintenance expert at Two Lions 11 Ltd, thinks that too many people spend time raking leaves only to realize that the next day they have to do this all over again. “On top of this, throwing away the leaves isn’t optimal for any gardener because foliage is rich in nutrients. When you allow the leaves to decompose, you actually enrich the soil for the next season.” For those reasons, Collins recommends leaving the leaves right where they are!
Homeowners spend far too much time weeding their lawns. Dan Bailey, president of WikiLawn Los Angeles Lawn Care, sees some of his neighbors out there every weekend, on their knees and hunched over as they deal with pesky weeds. Stop right there! “If you’re prioritizing the right things, you should only need to weed in spring,” Bailey explains, “and if you’re in a tropical area, maybe once a month during the summer.” Instead, he says, invest in good fertilizer and establish the right watering habit. If you buy top-grade fertilizer, you’ll have far fewer weed problems as long as you’re properly aerating the soil. While you’re at it, you can also water your lawn less, too, since that contributes to weed growth. “In the summer, most lawns only need watering one to two times a week, depending on the climate,” he notes. Next, check out the home improvement projects that practically pay for themselves.
- Ben Shrauner, a real estate investor and the owner of SellYourKCHouse.com
- Ty Rosa, owner of The Sparkling Clean Home
- Natalie Barrett of Nifty Cleaning Services
- Trond Nyland, a carpenter and the founder/CEO of the Cordless Drill Guide
- Joe, founder of Mini Riches
- Jason Kapica, president of Dryer Vent Wizard
- Richard Reina, product training director at TOOLSiD.com
- Daniel Morris, former painter
- BobVila.com: “How to: Paint Over Wallpaper”
- Richard Kennedy of the Vacuum Experts
- James Upton, the DIY Tile Guy
- Rostislav Shetman, founder of 9Kilo Moving
- Jordan Collins, a home maintenance expert at Two Lions 11 Ltd
- Dan Bailey, president of WikiLawn Los Angeles Lawn Care