Let’s be honest: Most of us like to do work that shows immediate results. Mowing the lawn, painting a room… cleaning your garage. It can be a daunting task to consider and often you don’t know where to start, so we thought we’d offer a few pointers on how to go about it in an organized fashion that ends up with your garage as useful as it can possibly be. And now is the perfect time to undertake this project: the fall season. There will be enough mess in your garage if you live in a climate where snow is common. Between all of the yuck that gets put on roadways to keep them from icing, not to mention the moisture your vehicle will track in on tires and undercarriage, having your garage start out clean and organized actually helps minimize the mess when you have to clean up what’s fallen off your vehicle. In fact, if you clean and organize your garage correctly, you can more easily find the tools and materials you need to clean your vehicle and the flooring.
Step one: Clean it out. We mean EMPTY it. Take everything out of your garage that you can. Pantry cabinet? Unless you plan to move it, leave it in place. Extra refrigerator? Chest freezer? Unless you plan on relocating them, leave them in place… mostly. Move or roll them out to clean behind and around them and then put them back in place. More than likely what you really need to focus on is cleaning them off. We tend to stack on immobile items. When you empty your garage, clean everything off any appliances and cabinets as well.
Step two: CLEAN. This means sweeping, dusting (cobwebs, etc) and vacuuming. It also means identifying any slick or stained spots caused by oil or coolant leaks and getting them cleaned up. Prior to starting your garage cleaning project it’s good to make sure you have all potential products handy. Visit your local hardware or home improvement retailer and pick up degreaser, absorbent, goo-gone and the like. Get a couple rolls of garage towels and a new broom. (Yes, a new broom… with a dust pan. No matter what you think we either wear out or break a broom every year. Get a new one.)
Dust your entire garage and knock down any cobwebs from rafters, fixtures, etc. As we said, move or roll out any appliances and clean around / behind them. Dust, sweep. Pantry type or other cabinet that sits on the floor? Wiggle it out and clean around it as well. If you store ANY chemicals in it, take them out before moving. Take a look at them. Are they expired? Are they leaking? Do you still need them? If you don’t use them, don’t need them, or if they are expired, dispose of them properly. Most communities and counties have hazardous waste disposal days at the local landfill. DO NOT dump any chemicals into run-off or waterways and DO NOT just put them in your trash can or bags. You never know what chemicals will do when mixed and you don’t need an explosive combination in your waste receptacles. Dispose of all waste chemicals properly.
After dusting, sweep and vacuum. The idea is to get up any loose debris, no matter how large or small. Sweep and vacuum. Sweep again. Vacuum in the corners – high and low. Now take a look at your floor. Is it bare concrete? Are there stains? Were their wet spots? Clean up any grease or coolant puddles. Make sure you identify the source of those puddles and maintain your vehicle as necessary to prevent such in the future.
Now – what are you going to do to protect the floor (if anything)? Are you going to put down mats? Paint? Whatever it is, now’s your chance. The garage floor is as empty as you’re going to get it. Weather permitting, now is your chance to paint or put down mats to protect the concrete. Keep this in mind if you paint: after the paint has dried, depending on the type of paint you use and how smooth the concrete is underneath it, it can be very slick when wet. Add in a grit element or be mindful when you walk if it gets wet. Keep a squeegee handy to remove extra moisture.
Step three: Organize. Figure out what you want to put back into your garage and how. Identify the items you use frequently versus the items you use rarely and place them accordingly. What space do you have to use for storage and organization? Cabinets? Wall hangers? Rafters? Look around… left, right… UP and down. What floor space do you need to leave open for vehicles and where do you have room to store anything under unused spaces. PLAN where you want things to go and then set about organizing your space to support your plan. This may mean a trip to your local home improvement retailer for hangers, cabinets, lumber or other materials to create the organization space you need. Once you have your storage laid out and planned, ready to hold your tools and other items, put them in. All that stuff that you took out of the garage that has been in your driveway while you worked? Put it all back… or at least the stuff you WANT back in. If you have tools you never (or seldom) use, perhaps they should go to the local Goodwill or into your shed?
Step four: Park your vehicle. Make sure you have allowed for adequate space on both sides to open doors. Make sure you have adequate room front and rear to access under your hood or in your trunk / rear cargo area. Does this mean your vehicle has to be parked in a precise spot? Park it there and then hang a tennis ball so that it touches the center of your windshield. It gives you a target and tells you exactly when to stop your vehicle as you pull in. Centered in your windshield it also allows you to place your vehicle in the same area, left to right, in your garage space when you park. You need to do this for each bay of your garage to insure proper spacing.
Step five: relax and enjoy. The immediate reward is the appearance and usefulness of your newly cleaned out, freshly organized, awesome looking garage.