Sanitize It: Garage Edition

Get The Grime Out Of Your Garage

Garages can be pretty grimy and gross. Simple solution: click the remote switch and watch that mess roll away with the automatic door, am I right?!? 

While you might not be spending quality family time in there, it still wouldn’t hurt to give the garage just a little love by cleaning it every so often! After all, there are still occasions that we all have to venture in there, not the least of which being that you might actually use it to house your car. Secondly, your garage is a viable storage space that – if used to your advantage – can be an asset to you in terms of household organization. So roll up that door (and maybe your sleeves too) as we explore the process and best practices for your big garage clean-up day! 

Set Yourself Up For Success

It’s best if you can pull everything out of your garage and onto the lawn or driveway, so wait for a decent weather day. You could take it section by section, but then again, getting it all out literally clears your space (and maybe your metaphysical space too). Laying it all out also forces you to really evaluate what items you need and what you can get rid of. Then it’s incumbent on you to follow through and find a better way to organize the keepers.

Have an arsenal of tools and cleaning supplies on hand:
– Broom
Cleaning rags
Bleach/water solution
Disinfectant/cleaning products
Baking soda
White Vinegar or Lemon Juice
– Dish Detergent (like Dawn)
Bucket & mop
Storage bins
Trash bags

Dust It, Wipe It, Hose It

Use an extension duster to clear away any cobwebs hiding in corners and along the walls. Wipe/hose down or dust any shelving, storage areas, countertops and other surfaces around your empty garage. 

Sort & Stash Or Scrap

Head out to the lawn and driveway to begin the big job of sorting out all your garage goods. As with other areas of your home, you’re going to create a pile for each: donate/sell, discard, or save.  Once everything is out of the garage, it’s time to start sorting everything into piles: keep, donate/sell, and eliminate. 

Check Labels

Old cleaning solutions, expired car fluids, partials of paint – these and more might be needlessly cluttering up your garage and potentially creating a fire or health hazard. Check these types of items’ expiration dates and discard safely in compliance with town/city ordinances. 

Trash Can Bath

While giving the garage its due, also give your garbage receptacles a little bath with the garden hose. You can sprinkle baking soda inside to keep odors at bay. Be sure to keep trash bags and lids on your trash units tight and secure to deter rodents from squatting in your garage (more below on dealing with infestations).

The Car

May as well address the car while cleaning its home base. And don’t forget the little details like the keys and garage door remote. You can use  disinfecting wipes to clean keys, steering wheel, console, interior door handles and arm rests and the garage remote. Toss any trash cluttering up your car, vacuum the interior and wipe mirrors with a glass cleaner. 

Finish With The Floor

Garages generate all kinds of opportunities for stains and grime to build up on the floor. Whether from motor oil or other fluids from your car or lawn mower, paint, rust or any other miscellaneous mess – your garage floor is going to get dirty. After sweeping the floor, take inventory of what kind of grime and buildup you’re looking at and consider how to best go about cleaning it. While it’s always better to clean up spills right away, the stains scarring many a garage floor are telling; what happens in the garage sometimes stays in the garage…indefinitely. Here are ways to address various scenarios. 

All Purpose Floor Stain Removal: Pour dry dish soap or laundry detergent directly onto stains and allow to sit for 45 minutes. Pour water over the area and scrub with a nylon-bristle brush. This type of brush purportedly will not scratch the concrete.  Let it sit for 10-15 minutes and repeat. After the second scrubbing, rinse with your garden hose on the jet setting out of the garage. Older stains are more difficult to remove. You may need to repeat this process or look for a stronger product designed for this purpose at your local home store. 

Rust Stains: A trip to your kitchen is all it takes to tackle difficult to remove rust stains. Grab yourself a lemon to squeeze over the stain or you can also use white vinegar. Allow your pantry staples to work their magic for about 10 minutes and then repeat the process above, rinsing and scrubbing with your nylon bristle brush. Repeat as needed. An alternative for rust stains is to make a paste with water and dry laundry detergent that contains baking soda. You’ll have to keep wetting the paste as you let it sit for an hour. If it dries out, it won’t work. Scrub, rinse and repeat if needed. 

Maintenance Floor Cleaning: For regular old maintenance cleaning, a solution of baking soda and water works is simple and works! Just mix half  a cup of baking soda into a gallon of warm water and you’ve got an easy and effective all-purpose cleaner. And if all else fails, just go ahead and use regular soap and warm water!

Plan For Re-Entry

You’ve cleared, culled, sorted and scrubbed. Now it’s time to manage re-entry. Find organized and functional places to store the items in your keepers pile. This is your chance to make your garage work for you. Add any additional storage bins to their rightful resting place, install a pegboard if needed to hang tools and other in-demand items. Position outdoor toys, bikes, grilling equipment and the like in a manner that is conducive and inviting to use. Appropriately label and store any seasonal decor or furniture and have what’s current on cue. Finally, put your freshly cleaned vehicle to bed in its sparkly clean – and sanitary – home. 

The Scampering Nemeses of Garages, Attics And Basements Everywhere: A Word On Infestations

Even if your garage is a less-than-inviting space, aesthetically speaking, that’s no biggie. But if yours happens to be harboring any furry fugitives of the rodent variety, you’ll be needing to address that issue immediately! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends first setting up traps and sealing any entryways to ensure that no more rodents can get in…or out.  

After trapping for a week, properly dispose of the bodies (see below). If you find no additional rodents are captured, it is safe to assume the active infestation period has ended. According to the CDC, any infectious virus in the rodent’s urine/droppings or nesting material would also no longer be infectious. Clear out the garage as much as possible and ventilate the space by opening the doors and windows for at least 30 minutes. You should leave the area during the airing-out period.

Waste Removal And Cleaning: Dos And Don’ts

DON’T: Please resist the urge to quickly sweep away or grab the shop vac to suck up rodent droppings, urine or nesting materials. Rodent waste needs to be treated first and discarded appropriately to prevent the spread of disease. 

DO: Wear gloves when cleaning urine, droppings, nests or any dead rodents you may come to find.

DON’T: Do not discard dead rodents in an open trash area or outside. You need to spray the bodies with bleach solution or disinfectant spray and let them sit for at least five minutes. Use gloves to bag the dead rodent and tie tightly. Then place this bag inside of another bag, seal and discard in a safe trash receptacle that is frequently emptied. 

DO: Spray the urine and droppings with a disinfectant or a solution of bleach and water (one part bleach to 10 parts water) and allow to soak for five minutes. If using a commercial disinfectant product, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the label.

DO: Pick up droppings, urine and waste using a paper towel and promptly dispose of it.

DO: You will need to disinfect any items that may have been contaminated by the rodents or their waste, as well as all surfaces in the area. After the rodent droppings and urine have been removed, disinfect items that might have been contaminated by rodents or their urine and droppings.

Next, Clean And Disinfect The Whole Area

Mop floors and clean any countertops with disinfectant or bleach solution.

Wash clothing or fabric items that were exposed to rodent waste or used in the clean-up with laundry detergent in hot water.

Remove gloves and thoroughly wash hands with soap and water or sanitizer if soap and water is not immediately available (wash your hands later, of course!).