Category Archives: Cleaning Tips

CHOOSE THE RIGHT CLEANING CLOTH

Duster with glovr 250w.jpgIt seems like a small detail, but the right cloth for the right job will yield better results every time. I found some tips from the pros:

  1. Lint-free rags are best, especially if you are cleaning fabric with fabric.
  2. Also for fabric cleaning, it’s best to avoid colored rags unless they have been washed many times. Otherwise you take the chance that dye will rub off onto the very fabric you are trying to clean.
  3. All-cotton rags make excellent cleaning cloths because they absorb water easily, dry fast, and do not leave lint. Cloth diapers and men’s undershirts are two excellent examples.
  4. Microfiber cloths and dusters are great for household and office use because they trap dust instead of letting it fly around the room.
  5. Old shirts and towels made of synthetic fabrics generally do not make good cleaning cloths because they do not absorb or dry well. They can be handy, however, for really dirty jobs, like cleaning grills, engines or outdoor furniture. Toss them into the trash once they’ve been used.
  6. Pop-up wet wipes are handy for kitchen and bathroom use, but avoid using them on wood cupboards or other porous materials. Also: don’t confuse them for hand wipes or diaper wipes! They are much too hard on delicate skin.
  7. Balled-up newspapers make excellent wipes for window and mirror cleaning. Though they aren’t officially cleaning cloths, they are made of paper pulp, which is highly absorbent.
  8. Lint-free flannel is a good buffing cloth.

CLEANING ITSY-BITSY THINGS

Brass statue of the jockey on a horse

Tiny objects and tight spaces require special treatment when it comes to cleaning. While routine cleaning is the norm, sometimes it’s necessary to zoom in and clean the corners, crevices and creases of our home furnishings. Here are some tips to help.

Your first line of defense: frequent dust removal. This will prevent build-up that makes cleaning more difficult. Microfiber dusters can work well if you use a gentle and thorough approach. Even better: you can buy a great vacuum attachment kit for exactly this kind of cleaning, complete with an array of tools so diminutive they’re cute. Attach the tool and the adapter included to any vacuum hose and whisk away dust from keyboards, sound systems, sewing machines and more.

Decorative knickknacks and figurines: If dust has slowly turned to fine grime in the tiny angles of decorative objects, you have a few options. If objects are nonporous and submersible in water, it may be easiest to soak them in a solution of mild dish soap and warm water. Carefully clean objects with an old soft-bristle toothbrush, then rinse with a vinegar and clear water solution. Towel-dry with a clean cotton cloth. If water immersion isn’t an option, you’ll have to go with a more tedious technique. A tiny, good quality artist’s brush with very stiff bristles can be used to work out the dirt. You may be able to dip the brush slightly in a mild cleaning solution of white vinegar and dab at the corners. Avoid liquid soaps, which will leave a dull residue.

Window frames, baseboards, cupboards, fine cabinetry, picture frames, leather furniture. Gently vacuum what you can with a soft bristle attachment, or the artist’s brush may be useful if you are working around a delicate photo or painting. Another technique: wrap a credit card in thin flannel and run it carefully along straight edges or seams. Repeat with a fresh section of flannel until clean. If area to be cleaned is not sensitive to moisture, you can dampen the cloth slightly in a mild vinegar and water solution.

Keyboards, motherboards, electronics. These objects can’t be cleaned with anything wet or even moist without risking damage. Use the tiny tools vacuum attachment mentioned above or a can of special air propellant designed for this task.

Other tiny tasks: Old toothbrushes are time-honored scrubbers, of course. A clean cotton swab is another handy cleaning tool for corners or hard-to-reach small places. If the surface is impervious to moisture, dampen the swab with mild cleaning solution first. If you tend to the obsessive side, try wrapping a layer of thin flannel around a chrome needle used to inflate basketballs. How’s that for an itsy-bitsy cleaning tool?

TIPS FOR HEALTHIER DORM ROOMS

student girl portrait at university campus

Heading off to college is one of life’s most exhilarating experiences, and possibly also one of its most stressful. Incoming students are exposed to a host of new germs from all around the country and world, which can tax their immune systems. Add into that equation the adjustment to roommates, demands of coursework, new freedoms and frequent sleep deprivation, and overall health can suffer. Encourage these habits in your young adult children to help keep them healthier and happier for campus life.

  • Wear flip flops in the shower to avoid athlete’s foot, which thrives in moist areas and is easily spread.
  • Get a flu shot each season, and a meningitis vaccine before heading off to college. Avoid sharing beverages from the same container. Wash hands frequently, especially before eating.
  • While grungy sheets never killed anybody, at least pack some extra pillow cases. Changing the pillow case will keep the bed fresher. Sometimes bed bugs will show up in dorms for no apparent reason (they are not brought on by dirt or bad housekeeping). In that event, launder all bedding in hot water to eliminate the critters.
  • Keep things dry to avoid mold and mildew problems, which can aggravate the respiratory system and can be harmful to asthma sufferers. Don’t let wet clothes or towels lie around. Dry off bathroom surfaces. Use ventilation such as a portable fan.
  • Get enough sleep. College students often think they are invulnerable when it comes to sleep, but fatigue taxes the immune system heavily. Avoid all-night study sessions whenever possible by creating disciplined study habits. Try not to take long naps in the afternoon or drink caffeine after supper, which will make it difficult to sleep at night.
  • Don’t binge drink, which is not only dangerous, but has been proven to proportionately decrease grade point averages.
  • Keep healthy snacks around the dorm to help avoid temptations for late-night fast food. Bad eating habits in college have been shown to increase the possibility of creating long-term health problems, not to mention adding excess weight.
  • Call home. They miss you, too. A phone call to your folks may not keep you from catching the flu, but it can help stave off the common freshman-year virus known as homesickness.

NATURAL REMEDIES FOR ALLERGY SUFFERERS

187419911fall allergiesWhether you suffer from seasonal allergies or develop symptoms from exposure to dust or pet dander, finding relief can be a frustrating search. Moderate or severe allergies require the treatment of a qualified doctor, especially if over-the-counter products offer little results. If you have mild symptoms and prefer not to take medication for them, several natural remedies might be worth a try. Always consult with your physician before taking any natural remedy, especially if you have a chronic health condition, are pregnant or already take medication for other reasons.

I go with a common sense approach. Avoid the substance that triggers your symptoms whenever possible, even if it means staying indoors when climactic factors are at their worst. Get plenty of sleep, and don’t tax your immune system with smoking, a high consumption of alcohol, or by eating foods that cause even a mild stomach upset. Vitamin C supplements can also support a healthy immune system. This allows your body to use all of its natural resources fighting the adverse effects of allergies.

Some promising studies and clinical trials on the European herb butterbur (Petastites hybridus) are creating a stir in some circles of allergists and immunologists. Taken in tablets, it shows possibilities as an effective anti-histamine for controlling hay fever symptoms. Watch for more developing news on this substance as it is further researched.

Nettle, goldenseal, grape seed extract and quercetin are other natural remedies that can be effective, sometimes in combination with a saline solution. Consult a qualified naturopath for complete information and correct administration of any natural remedy.

Other practical steps I have listed below can be taken within your home environment to alleviate symptoms of allergies:

  • Wear a good dust mask while cleaning, and use damp dusting cloths to prevent particles from flying through the air and into your respiratory system.
  • Install blinds instead of curtains or drapes. Use washable throw rugs and tile, ceramic, wood or laminate flooring in place of wall-to-wall carpet. Wash bedding and rugs in hot water whenever possible to kill dust mites.
  • Keep pets out of bedrooms.
  • Keep windows closed during peak allergy hours and seasons. Use air conditioning if possible. If you must work outside, remove your shoes before coming into the house, and remove your clothing to the laundry room immediately.
  • One of the most effective methods of reducing allergy symptoms is investing in a central vacuum system. Unlike traditional vacuum systems, even those equipped with HEPA filters, a central vacuum hose suctions virtually all dust, allergens and particulate matter from your home, then transports it through a series of tubes between your walls to a sealed container away from your main living spaces, such as a basement, closet, garage or attic. A central vacuum system can be easily installed and retro-fitted to an existing home in as little as one day. It has the added advantage of being easy on the back. There is no lugging around of a vacuum cleaner, just a portable hose that connects to specially installed outlets throughout your home. Some models even allow for the hose to be stored in the wall, so all you do is pull it out, vacuum, and then let it retract back into the wall.

BEST WAY TO CLEAN STUBBORN PANS

preparing cookingAfter everyone has happily stuffed themselves on turkey with all trimmings, there is the dreaded cleanup. Make the process easier on yourself with these tips:

  1. Don’t scrub yourself silly. To remove stubborn crusts from roasting pans, wipe out as much of the residue with a paper towel first. Then fill the pan to a manageable level with soapy water, and place in a 300-degree oven for about 10 minutes. Remove pan carefully, allow it to cool, then scrape up loosened food with a rubber spatula. Dump out the pan and wash it with a sponge. You’ll get a squeaky clean pan without risking damage to the surface with harmful abrasives, and give yourself more time to nap on the couch.
  2. Don’t overlook disposables. With many communities now embracing recycling, aluminum pans are an easy choice for big dinners, especially if you’re traveling by car, and they don’t have to end up in landfills. Bonus for the family pet: You can let the pup lick the pan, then simply rinse and recycle. Make sure you choose a pan heavy enough for its contents, though, or you could end up with the biggest mess of all, and risk burning yourself if it collapses. Look for aluminum turkey roasters that include a sturdy wire support frame, and use a new roasting pan every year as a precaution against leaks. Nothing will dampen appetites more than the smell of charred drippings smoking on oven coils.

DEALING WITH ANIMAL DANDER

family with dog 500x300Dander is made up of the minute scales from fur, hair, feathers or skin of animals. Every animal’s dander is different, which is why some people can tolerate dogs but not cats and vice versa. Most people with allergic reactions to animal dander are responding to dog or cat dander, but dander from birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, horses and many other animals can also cause problems, depending on the individual’s sensitivity. Sneezing, itchy and/or watery eyes, sinus congestion and even difficulty breathing can be caused by dander allergy. Dander is sticky and can survive for months in an environment. It attaches itself to dust.

There is no such thing as a true hypoallergenic animal, but some breeds of dogs do seem to cause fewer allergic problems than others. People with dander allergies can safely keep pets without fur or feathers, such as turtles, snakes or fish. But if you have someone in the home with a dander allergy who simply cannot give up their beloved creature, there are strategies you can follow to keep symptoms at a minimum.

  • Keep animals out of the bedroom at all times, and create other pet-free zones in the home.
  • Change the filters in your furnace and air conditioning frequently.
  • Consider removing carpets and replacing them with tile, wood, or vinyl flooring. Wash throw rugs in hot water frequently.
  • Use blinds instead of drapes, especially in bedrooms.
  • Wash hands after handling animals, and never hold the animal close to the face.
  • Launder bedding in hot water to remove dander that may travel into the bedroom on clothes or shoes.
  • Use portable air purifiers in the home.
  • Feed pets high quality pet food and consider a coat supplement. Both efforts will reduce shedding and increased flaking of dander from the pet.
  • Vacuum frequently with a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter. For best results, invest in a central vacuum system. Unlike traditional vacuum cleaners, which re-circulate some of the dander and irritants back into the home environment, a central vacuum system will remove virtually all contaminants through the hose and into behind-the-wall tubes which lead to a sealed container away from living space, such as the basement, garage, or even a closet. This unit can then be easily emptied by a non-allergic member of the household.

GROUT CLEANING

480742343 shower doorI find getting soiled grout to look good again is a chore that confounds many homeowners, especially if stains have been left untreated for a long time. But with the right product, grout can be cleaned well enough to sparkle like new.

Start with the mildest solution and then work your way up to stronger stuff if stains are stubborn. For example, some people swear by plain old vinegar or baking soda to clean grout. If using vinegar, dilute with an equal part of water. Baking soda can be mixed with a small amount of water to make a paste. Then spray or dab on a short length of grout and scrub with a stiff brush. Avoid metal brushes, as they can erode grout. An old toothbrush is generally not stiff enough. Use a small circular motion for best results. Rinse well with water and mop or sponge dry.

If after testing a small section, the grime remains, consider the following options, always remembering to use good ventilation and keep all cleaning products well labeled and out of the reach of children. Never mix cleaning products, as the combined chemicals can give off harmful gases.

  • Everyday household cleaners like Mr. Clean, Lysol or Spic ‘n’ Span can work well on grout, using the above technique.
  • Powdered oxygen bleach is nontoxic, doesn’t give off harmful fumes, and is safe on colored fabrics and grout alike. Stain molecules are literally broken into pieces by the oxygen ions, which makes them easy to rinse away. Mix oxygen bleach with water as directed and apply to dry grout so it soaks in deeply. Let sit for at 15-30 minutes, then scrub with a stiff brush, applying more solution to each section as you scrub. Wipe clean with fresh water. To keep grout looking good after the initial deep cleaning, use oxygen bleach in the cleaning water each time you wipe or mop the tile, and let sit for 30 minutes without rinsing. Then rinse with fresh water.
  • Hydrogen peroxide sprayed, mopped or sponged on grout can be an effective stain remover. For stubborn stains make a paste of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda and rub with a sponge or brush. Wear gloves and avoid getting on clothes.
  • A solution of half bleach and half water can be sprayed on shower grout at night after everyone is in bed and all items have been removed from the shower. Rinse off in the morning. Again, use adequate ventilation when applying bleach, and never mix bleach with other cleaners.
  • Some homeowners get great results on grout by using scrubbers that are powered by rechargeable batteries and come with different attachments. Available for around $30 retail, they can be a small but worthwhile investment.
  • Steam cleaners can also be effective on grout.