It may be the shortest month of the year, but that doesn’t mean you should shortchange your home maintenance in February.
Just like your relationships, your house could use a little care, attention, and pampering now and then, so we’ve put together a dozen quick and easy projects to show some of the overlooked areas of your home the love it deserves. And the best part? Most of them take 30 minutes or less.
Knock some—or all—of them off your to-do list this month. It’ll make your house more comfortable and more efficient—and will help to make it a place you love to call home.
1. Inspect the washing machine hose: Over time, the hose that feeds water into your washing machine can wear out—and when it fails, it can leak or spew water all over your laundry area. Take a few minutes to inspect the hose for cracks, bulges, or signs of wear. If you notice any issues, it’s time to replace it.
2. Clean the dryer vent: A clogged dryer vent doesn’t just make your dryer take longer to dry your clothes. It’s also a leading cause of house fires. Cleaning the lint trap and vent will improve your dryer’s performance and safety—find step-by-step directions here.
3. Check your fire extinguisher: A fire extinguisher can protect your family, but only if it’s in good working order. Check the expiration date and pressure gauge on your fire extinguisher. If it’s expired or the pressure is low, replace it as soon as possible.
4. Inspect doors: Well-sealed doors make your home more efficient. Do a quick visual inspection of the weatherstripping on all exterior doors to see if it’s cracked, torn, or damaged, and replace it if needed. Watch this video to learn how:
Next, check out the hinges; if they’re squeaky or the door isn’t swinging smoothly, grease them with a little lithium grease or silicone spray.
5. Seal windows: Once you’ve blocked any door drafts, move on to the windows. Check windows for any gaps and add weatherstripping wherever needed. If windows are really drafty, window kits can add an extra layer of insulation and make your home feel more cozy.
6. Insulate light switches and outlets: Gaps around light switches and outlets on exterior walls can be a source of heat loss and drafts. Slip foam outlet and switch sealers behind the face plates to block cold air’s path into your home.
7. Clean showerheads: Over time, mineral deposits can build up in your showerhead and block the flow of water. To clean it, remove the showerhead and soak it for a few hours in distilled white vinegar, then rinse it with hot water and reinstall; if you don’t want to remove the showerhead, you can fill a plastic bag with vinegar and secure the bag to the showerhead, making sure all the jets are fully submerged. After a few hours, remove the bag and run hot water to rinse away any vinegar. If any nozzles look like they’re still clogged, use a toothpick to clear them out. (Note: if you’ve got a brass or nickel showerhead, vinegar can damage the finish so don’t let it soak for any more than 30 minutes.)
8. Clean refrigerator coils: If you have an older refrigerator, dust and lint can build up on the condenser coils that cool the unit. Unplug the fridge and use a vacuum with a soft brush attachment to vacuum up any dust that you see to keep it running efficiently.
9. Maintain the water heater: Extend the life of your hot water heater by flushing out sediment build up in the bottom of the tank. If you have an older water heater, add a water heater insulation blanket to improve its efficiency.
10. Clean bathroom exhaust fans: Prevent mold and mildew and improve air circulation in your bathrooms by cleaning exhaust fan grilles and blades. For safety, turn off power at the breaker before removing the cover. Unplug the fan, then use a microfiber cloth or a vacuum with a soft brush attachment to gently remove built-up dust and grime from the blade fans and the housing. Rinse the cover before reassembling the fan.
11. Clean or replace faucet aerators: Faucet aerators are little screens on the end of sink faucets that do a big job: they reduce the amount of water flowing out of the faucet, help to maintain or improve water pressure, reduce splashing in the basin, and catch debris. Over time, gunk can get trapped and build up in the filters, slowing the flow of water. To get the water flowing again, remove the aerator and soak it in distilled white vinegar for an hour, then rinse and replace. Note that on modern faucets, there are two kinds of aerators: one type screws onto the outside of the faucet and the other type are hidden or recessed aerators that are integrated into the design of the faucet and can be removed with an aerator key or small screwdriver. For older faucets, you can add an external aerator, which can be found at home improvement stores—this little fix can save up to 700 gallons of water a year.
12. Check for Pests: Regularly inspect your home for signs of bugs, vermin, and other critters that can cause damage, paying special attention to the kitchen, basement, attic, crawl space, and garage. Look for telltale signs like droppings, scratch and gnaw marks, nests, and unusual smells or damage. Seal any gaps with caulk or expanding foam insulation and add a door sweep to the bottom of all exterior doors to block entry points. Watch this video for door sweep installation tips and tricks: