5 easy steps to clean an attic

Neglect your attic, and you could have a dust and mould factory hanging over your head. Give it a good cleaning once a year and you'll not only remove a source of these irritants from your home, but you'll also have a valuable storage space.

5 easy steps to clean an attic

1. Before you start

  • Gear up to protect yourself. A disposable respirator is inexpensive and will protect your lungs from dust, spores, allergens and other nuisances.
  • You may need an apron to protect your clothes, goggles to protect your eyes, and rubber gloves for your hands (latex gloves or something more heavy-duty, depending on the extent of the job).

2. If your attic is already used for storage

  • Make sure everything's organized before you jump in and start cleaning.
  • This means storing small items in labelled boxes, grouping together boxes that contain like items and opening up walkways so that you can get to any box in any part of the room.
  • Think about storage solutions for keeping all those small, easy-to-lose bits and pieces together. Recycling plastic or glass jars is a common solution that works for many people.

3. To actually clean the attic

  • Fire up the vacuum cleaner and start sucking up dust from the top down — ceiling, beams, walls and floor. (Wearing the disposable respirator is a good idea in any event, but if you're going the dustpan-and-broom route, it's essential.)
  • If your attic already has things stored in it, don't just clean around the boxes — clean under them, too.
  • Once the major grime has been sorted out, you're ready to give the area a light once-over with a damp cleaning cloth dipped in a solution of water and mild dishwashing liquid.

4. Conquering attic mould

  • Mould in the attic is a sign that you have a moisture problem — maybe a leaky roof, maybe poor ventilation.
  • To get rid of the mould, first cut off the source of moisture that's keeping it so happy. Get the leak fixed, or improve the airflow so that the attic stays dry.
  • There should be soffit holes where the roof meets the floor and overhangs the walls of the house.
  • Having a ridge vent system — a continuous vent along the peak of the roof — installed would make the airflow even better. This is something to consider when you re-roof, but the less expensive option of installing rotating roof vents can also be very effective.
  • When the leak or airflow problem has been fixed, it's time to clean up the mould. First, vacuum up what you can from the affected areas.
  • Then, wearing a respirator (to avoid breathing in mould spores), use a stiff brush to loosen any mould that remains, then vacuum again.
  • Finally, paint over the affected areas with a mould-inhibiting paint.

5. Caution

  • If you live in an old house in a city, and your attic is not sealed and floored, the chances are very high that the dirt in your roof space — perhaps the dirt of a century or so — is contaminated with lead.
  • This is not something you should attempt to clean yourself.
  • The dirt itself is nasty enough, but lead-laden dirt can be downright dangerous for you and your family.
  • Seek professional help — your roof space can be industrially vacuumed before you use it as a storage area.
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