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Deck the Halls without the Grime

Tips and tricks to clean and restore your holiday decorations after a year in storage

Taking down the holiday decorations is a task we all seem to want to complete as quickly as possible. The upside is that it gets done now. The downside is that, once that the holidays roll around again, we’re faced with unpacking dirty, dusty decorations.

Nancy Bock, Vice President of Consumer Education at the American Cleaning Institute®, has some tips for refreshing those decorations that have been hibernating for many months.

Artificial trees, wreaths and garlands

At a minimum, these items will need some "fluffing" after long months of storage. But they may also be repositories for an accumulation of dust and dirt, which leaves them looking dull and dingy. Many people use artificial trees to avoid the allergens of a real tree. It’s a healthy idea but, if you fail to keep these decorations clean, you’re simply exchanging one allergy/asthma trigger (mold spores) for another (dust).

To clean an artificial tree:

  • Wrap a large sheet around the base, spreading it out so it extends under the branches.
  • Always follow the tree manufacturer’s instructions. If safe, gently vacuum the branches. Depending on how much suction your tree can handle, use a regular vacuum with the fabric upholstery/bristle brush attachment or a small hand-held vacuum. Hold the vacuum an inch or so away from the branches, being careful not to suck any of the "needles" into the vacuum.
  • Another option is to take the tree to a sheltered outdoor area and brush it gently with a whisk broom so the dust disperses into the air.
  • As you clean, start from the top of the tree and work your way down to the lower branches.
  • If the tree still looks dingy, you may be able to damp-wipe it down. Fill a bucket with warm water and a squirt of liquid hand dishwashing detergent. Dip a dishtowel or an old T-shirt into the water and wring it out very well. Then very gently wipe down the tree branches, removing any dirt that vacuuming left behind.

Be aware that many artificial trees aren’t designed to withstand much cleaning. You may have to decide between a dust-and-dirt free tree and one that lasts for several more years.

To clean artificial garlands:

The best way to clean a dusty garland is to take it outside and shake it vigorously. If necessary, shake it in sections. If it is very dusty and you are sensitive to allergens, you may want to consider wearing a dust mask.

To clean artificial wreaths:

Artificial wreaths are generally more fragile than trees or garlands. Use a soft feather duster, canned air or a hairdryer set on "cool" to gently remove any dust.

Glass Ornaments

If your glass ornaments have any type of surface decoration, it is generally applied on the exterior and is often done with water-soluble paint. Because of this, you should avoid using water, spray cleaner, soap, detergent or any other chemical solution to clean them. A soft feather duster is the best cleaning choice.

Make a Storage Plan

So you don’t find yourself in the same boat next year, develop a storage system. As you take your decorations down, clean them and store them in closed bins, boxes or plastic bags that are clearly marked. While specialized storage containers may seem like an extravagance, they are designed to keep treasured decorations safe from dust, mold and breakage.

If possible, group the decorations in categories like "dining room," "mantel," "front door," etc. That way, you can avoid the decorating frenzy by tackling your home one area at a time. If you particularly like the way you’ve decorated the door, the mantel, the staircase, etc., this year, take a picture and pack the photo away with the appropriate decorations.


Holiday Cleaning Round Up