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8 home maintenance tasks homeowners can do in minutes

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | January 4, 2016

How to tackle home maintenanceThere seems to be no end to keeping on top of home maintenance tasks. Checklists include chores for every season, not to mention those you "should do" monthly or bimonthly. How many of them do you actually keep up with? And are you exhausted just thinking about it?

Well, good news: these eight indoor home maintenance tasks won't challenge you too much and can be done any time of the year. Disclaimer: You may need to leave your chair for at least a few minutes, possibly get out a screwdriver or hammer -- at worst, maybe order some supplies online. For most of these tasks you can use common household items you have on hand.

  1. Door locks. Prevent your door locks from sticking. Use an evaporating lock lubricant spray with a graphite or Teflon base -- not WD-40. The residue left by non-evaporating lubricants attracts dirt and clogs the locks. Lubricate the bolts by opening the door and turning them to the "locked" position with the key. Spray them with the lubricant and wipe them down.
  2. Door hinges. Do they squeak? Knock the pins out with a hammer. Grease them with any of the following: olive oil; a bar of non glycerin-based soap (glycerin attracts moisture and can rust the hinge after a while); hot candle wax; or petroleum jelly. WD-40 is a no-no for the same reason you don't use it for door locks, and so is graphite, which also makes an awful mess on light-colored carpet, walls, and door frames.
  3. Smoke alarms. Your hinges may not squeak, but if your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors go "cheep, cheep," change the batteries immediately. Otherwise, change them once a year and check the alarms periodically by pressing the "test" button until it emits an ear-piercing shriek. A weak shriek means the battery needs changing.
  4. Refrigerator coils. You really don't want to pay the repairman to do this one or to tell you that the refrigerator is broken because you didn't do it. Vacuum or wipe the dust off the condenser coils at least once every three to six months; more if you have shedding pets. You can find the coils either at the back of the fridge or underneath behind the front grill.
  5. Sink disposal. Sharpen the blades by pouring a few ice cubes and some rock salt down the disposal and grinding them up. Yes, you can also recycle the cubes from your cocktail shaker by dumping them down the disposal. If you like your martini with a twist, half a lemon down the disposal also helps clean and refresh it. Baking soda, followed by vinegar and a hot water chaser -- for the disposal, not your cocktail! -- works wonders to keep the drain naturally sanitized.
  6. Shower grout. You can multitask this one while taking your shower. Bring with you the rest of that baking soda, an old toothbrush -- one you don't plan on using again for your teeth -- and distilled vinegar in a spray bottle. Once the tiles and grout are wet from the spray, sprinkle some baking soda on the grout and spray it with vinegar. Watch it bubble up, give it a good scrub with the toothbrush, and rinse. Repeat as necessary.
  7. Range hood filters. It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. If you don't let them get too dirty to begin with, you can put them in the dishwasher. But if you haven't cleaned your range hood filters recently, boil water in an old pot -- a stockpot is perfect. Add a little distilled white vinegar and let it boil while adding a half teaspoon of baking soda slowly (it will fizz up). Plunge the filthy filters into the pot of boiling water for about five or six minutes as far as they will fit. Remove with tongs or pot holder, run under water in the sink and use the toothbrush to scrub the area of the filter just boiled. Rinse and put the other end of the filters back into the boiling water, vinegar and baking soda to clean the other ends in the same way.
  8. HVAC filters. Get in the habit of keeping a stash of these filters around. Change them at the very least every three months; monthly is recommended. Your forced-air heating and central air-conditioning system won't have to work as hard to do it's job, meaning less chance of the furnace or A/C breaking down and the lower the cost for heating and cooling.

For the more ambitious, this is just a sampling to get you started. All others can take a break now and rest up for another grueling round of home maintenance tasks at a later date.

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.