Design & DIY

Cleaning up the Cottage Checklist

It’s almost time to open the cottage, making May Two-Four one of the most chore-filled weekends of the year for cottagers. But there’s no reason it has to be all scrubbing and no hot-tubbing.

To make sure you accomplish your essential cottage clean-up tasks with plenty of time left to enjoy the sun, we’ve prepared a handy checklist to follow.


Creating a clean, well-maintained outdoor space is central to enjoying your long weekends at the lake. Dingy deck boards; dirty patio furniture, and dreary cottage walls won’t just make you hesitant to head outside; they’ll end up costing you money in the long run. Here’s how to make cleanup a cinch.

Inspect your deck boards
Bare feet on a splintered deck are no fun—especially if you’ve got kids running or playing on your deck. Look for worn or splintered boards, and if you’re planning to reseal your wood, be sure to replace the splintered boards first.

Clean your deck or patio
Mix all of the eating, drinking and cooking that happens on a cottage deck with constant exposure to the elements, and you’ve got a recipe for moss, mold, mildew, and dirt build-up. Clean it with a ready-to-spray bleach-free cleaner like Scotts Plus OxiClean Outdoor Cleaner, which is biodegradable and phosphate-free, so it won’t harm your cottage flora. The same goes for dirty or stained patio stones.

Clean your outdoor furniture
No one wants to sit on filthy, moldy outdoor furniture. Whether you have a classic pair of locally crafted Muskoka chairs on your dock or a gaggle of plastic deck chairs from the garden section at Home Depot, give them a good wash with an environmentally safe cleaner like Scotts Plus OxiClean Outdoor Cleaner.

Clean your cottage exterior
From cobwebs to bird droppings, your cottage walls face a lot of challenges when it comes to staying clean. To remove built-up dirt and stains from mildew, and mold, pair your garden hose with a ready-to-spray outdoor cleaner, and spray from top to bottom to make sure runoff doesn’t resoil areas you’ve already cleaned.

Clean your cottage windows
Have you ever seen a professional window cleaner use the blue stuff and a wadded handful of paper towels? Probably not, because that too-common technique just pushes dirt to the edges of your windows, where it can build up and hasten rotting. To clean like a pro, use warm water, a bit of dishwashing detergent, a rag, and a window scrubber. Use the rag to wipe down window frames, and then use the scrubber to clean the panes, finishing with a rubber squeegee. Be sure to wipe off the squeegee after every pass, and give the window a final wipe with a microfibre cloth when you’re finished.

Inspect gutters
Remove any debris that may have collected in your gutters over the winter (especially if you didn’t wait till the last leaf had fallen before your autumn cleanup), and ensure that your [downspouts] aren’t clogged.

Inspect your roof
Lakefront cottages in Canada’s climate are especially susceptible to the elements, and your roof receives the lion’s share of nature’s abuse. High winds and ice buildup can damage your shingles, so be sure to inspect them during your spring gutter cleaning. Look for damaged flashings (the metal pieces that protect areas where different angles meet), asphalt grains in your gutters, and other signs of warping or rotting.

It’ll be tough to enjoy your newly cleaned outdoor space if the view from your deck is an unkempt garden and a property strewn with the remnants of winter storms. Here are the steps to getting your vacation property in tip-top shape so you can sit back with a beverage while the sun’s still high.

Clear and burn fallen branches
Heavy snow takes a toll on trees, and for your first weekend back at the cottage, you can expect to find fallen branches everywhere. The good news is that you’ve got plenty of firewood for your first batch of s’mores!

Weed your gardens
The key to a healthy garden is constant vigilance. If you’re planning to plant, be sure to remove any weeds that may already be starting to sprout.

Nourish the soil
Sprinkle your weeded garden with mulch to nourish it and give it a filled-in appearance until spring shoots arrive.

Remove covers from shrubs and trees
Once you’re sure that Jack Frost is gone for good (or at least until next October), you’re free to remove any protective coverings you may have wrapped around smaller shrubs and trees you planted.

Clean your fire pit
If your fire pit is lined with sand, you won’t need to replace it, but you should sift through the sand to remove any large debris. You should also scoop out and dispose of excess ash (before use, of course). You’re then ready to clean your fire pit bowl with a hose, some soapy water, and elbow grease.

That’s it! Grab a drink, fire up your barbecue, and enjoy your outdoor space. You’ve earned it.

Download your cottage clean-up checklist and get cleaning!