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15 Things to Do Around the House Before the Holidays

Before the horde of aunts, uncles, friends, and cousins descends upon your humble abode, take a few minutes to make sure you’re ready for the madness.

Clean the Microwave

All of your appliances take a beating during this holiday, so make sure they start out on the right foot. Take out the microwave’s rotating tray and scrub it or pop it into the dishwasher. Wipe down the microwave’s interior with a soft cloth and a little soapy water. Make sure its air vents are clear of dust and grease.

If the microwave is an over-the-range model and provides general kitchen ventilation, be especially thorough cleaning its vent surfaces of greasy dust. If you don’t have spray degreaser on hand, use a soft cloth moistened with ammoniated glass cleaner.

But Don’t Clean the Oven

The self-clean cycle is hard on your oven—and the last thing you want is for it to fail right before the big day. Give a quick cleaning around the top burner elements and leave the rest be. Save the big cleanup until leftovers are safety nestled in the fridge. It’ll need it by then.

Make Sure the Refrigerator Is Ready

Once big holiday meals are coming together, you’ll be opening and closing the fridge more times in a day than you usually do in a week. Here’s what you can do right now to make sure the appliance survives the holidays:

  • Tighten screws on any loose door handles.
  • Fix loose or misaligned door gaskets. Take a nut driver or socket and wrench, loosen all hex head gasket screws, reposition the gasket using a putty knife to shove it into position, and retighten. Consider installing a new gasket after the holidays.
  • Clear blocked freezer vents. Reposition food in the freezer compartment to clear the area around vents.
  • Clear cold air vents. Reposition food in the fresh food compartment to allow cold air from the freezer to move more freely. Gain critically needed space by putting all drinks on ice in a cooler.
  • Replace burned-out lights with an appliance bulb, typically a clear 40-watt bulb sized for appliance use. If the fresh food compartment is still dark after its replacement, that usually indicates a failed door switch.

Prepare the Vacuum Cleaners

Empty canisters or replace bags on these appliances and position them in a hall closet or other location for rapid deployment.

Clean Your Drip Coffeemakers

If you haven’t recently checked the drip opening (and the area around it), you may be unpleasantly surprised. Unplug the coffeemaker and turn it upside down. If the drip opening looks like it’s covered in asphalt, clean it with a soft cloth and a solution of warm water and dish detergent. It may take several tries to get the crud off.

Inspect the Dishwasher

Check the strainer/drain area in the bottom of the wash tub (it’s located under the spray arm). Remove food debris and wipe off detergent residue. Remove utensils and any bits of plastic or glass that you find in the bottom of the dishwasher tub. Wipe detergent residue, mold, and slime off the door gasket and around the rim of the door, as well as the latch arm that locks the door.

Check the Oven Temperature

If you don’t have an oven thermometer to check the appliance’s temperature, this is the perfect excuse to treat yourself to a more versatile test instrument: a battery-powered infrared thermometer. If need be, adjust the range’s oven temperature using the instructions in the owner’s manual or using a repair manual for the appliance. Sometime’s it’s nothing more complicated than adjusting the temperature dial so it points correctly.

Sharpen Those Knives

Tuning up kitchen knives is easy, so don’t settle for hacking the bird when you can carve it like a pro.

Tune Up Cabinets

A few minutes with a screwdriver is all it takes to whip loose parts into shape. Tighten loose cabinet hinges. Tighten the screws that mount to the door and to the cabinet wall. While you’re at it, tighten loose drawer and door pulls and drawer slides. If kitchen drawers are over-stuffed and liable to jam in the middle of the cooking frenzy, now’s the time to take out some of the clutter.

Take Care of the Toilet

Now’s the time to take care of poor flushing action or a toilet that flushes by itself by replacing the flapper valve or the entire flush mechanism. If the toilet rocks slightly, try tightening its mounting bolts. If you lift the bolt caps and find severely corroded fasteners (don’t be surprised), leave well enough alone and let it go until after the holidays.

Replace Burned-Out Lightbulbs

Pay close attention to lights that serve the front entrance and walkway that leads to the front door or other busy entrances.

Make Your Home Slip-Proof

Fix loose treads on exterior steps, loose deck boards, or loose pavers on front walkways. Take care of all other tripping/falling hazards while you’re at it, like using double-sided tape to stick down slippery rugs. Tighten the mounting screws on loose handrails. Buy deicer to clear walkways and the driveway.

Bring in Firewood

Stack it and let it dry for a few days before lighting that cheerful holiday blaze. Test-run gas fireplaces before the big day, especially if they haven’t been used since last winter.


Make all child-safety preparations in advance, such as covering electrical outlets, moving lamps and vases away from table edges, and making provisions to block stairways to prevent hazardous falls.

A Final Safety Checklist

  • Change smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector batteries.
  • Keep jumper cables on hand, especially if you’re expecting a big crowd. Always seems somebody’s got a bad battery, and it’s usually the car that will block everybody in the driveway.
  • Double-check your first aid kit. At the least you should have burn cream, ice packs, and bandages to deal with kitchen-related cuts.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy in the kitchen.



Berendsohn, Roy. “15 Things You Must Do Around the House Before the Family Comes Over for the Holidays.” Popular Mechanics, 18 Oct. 2019,

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