Category Archives: Cleaning Tips

SAFELY CLEAN UP BROKEN GLASS

glasFirst, remove children and pets from the area. Gather up the broken glass with a broom. Then remove large pieces while wearing gloves. Glass can shatter far and wide, so check the space thoroughly.

Place the pieces in at least one plastic bag before placing in trash. Vacuum thoroughly. To effectively and safely clean up any tiny remaining shards, use this tip from yesteryear: Fold a piece of white bread in half and wipe the area with the bread. Then carefully wipe up residue with layers of damp paper toweling.

“UNDER” CLEANING: HIDDEN DUST

It’s the hidden dust that can confound even the most regular cleaning routine—those hard-to-reach places like:

  • under and behind the refrigerator, stove and other large appliances
  • under beds
  • tops of cabinets
  • high woodwork
  • corners and tight spots
  • fan blades
  • computers and small electronics
  • mini-blinds

Traditional dusting methods tend to simply move the dust around these areas, if it can be reached at all. Vacuuming can be effective, but only if you have the right vacuum system and accessories. As far as versatility and cleaning power, your best bet is a central vacuum system. Check out these handy accessories that will help you conquer even the trickiest dust-collecting spots in your home:

  • The Spider Fighter is not only great for capturing those pesky insects further than an arm length away, but it also great to tackle ceilings, crown molding, baseboards, between appliance and much more.
  • You’ll appreciate the Mini-Tools Set for cleaning keyboards, computers, stereos, sewing machines and more. Each attachment connects to any central vacuum hose and includes hose connector and adapter, extension wand, curved extension wand, oval brush, round brush and crevice tool.
  • The Dust Mop Tool captures and removes dust and dirt from all hard-surface floors, especially in those hard-to-reach places. Dirt and dust trapped deep in crevices is easily lifted away by vacuuming power as the fluffy mop head gently dusts and polishes your flooring to a clean, shiny finish.
  • Nineteen height positions make the one-piece Deluxe Adjustable Wand the perfect companion for all Vacuflo central vacuum accessories. Fully extended, the wand reaches 40-1/2″ and features the Button-down Clip to easily release the wand from the hose. Makes cleaning high-up woodwork and ceiling corners a breeze. Also handy for extending your vacuuming reach into odd corners and small spaces, as well as drapery cleaning attachments.

A HOUSE CLEANING SCHEDULE FREES UP TIME AND ENERGY

As if your life isn’t already schedule to the hilt, here’s an article that proposes you create a schedule for cleaning your house.

Plan conceptBefore you run for the hills, know that the word “schedule” can be applied as tightly or loosely as you wish, and still free up time and energy while resulting in a house that looks good and feels even better to come home to.

You just need to know yourself. Do you like to finish big chunks of cleaning in one swoop? Or divide up the labor in smaller, concentrated efforts? Do you find a predictable routine easier to stick to, or the freedom to change things up depending on your mood and other life demands? Finally, how clean is clean? Everyone has different requirements for a home that feels livable and pleasant, weighed against available time and energy.

First make a list of all your routine household tasks, such as vacuuming, scrubbing toilets, weeding the garden, laundry, putting toys or hobbies away.

Second, decide how much time you can spend on the housework each day. You might want to leave a few days totally housework-free, and distribute some chores more heavily on a few days.

Third, choose how to distribute the labor throughout the week. You might approach this on a room by room basis, such as bathroom cleaning on Mondays, kitchen cleaning on Tuesdays, TV room on Wednesdays, etc. Or you could organize your time by task: you’ll vacuum on certain days, dust on a certain day, de-clutter on a certain day, change bedding on a certain day. Try to divvy up big tasks with a few smaller tasks for maximum visible results for time spent.

If you like more flexibility, create a job jar with slips of colored paper listing one job per slip. Color code the chores by difficulty and length of time required. Create an additional category for tasks that aren’t routine but need done occasionally, like weeding through old magazines, sorting through clothes for outgrown or worn items, or cleaning a file cabinet. Then on any given day, choose at random from the jar one labor intensive chore and one easy chore. Once a week, also choose at random an “occasional” task to tackle, even if you’re only willing to spend 15 minutes on it.

For even greater flexibility, simply decide that each day you will commit to so much time to cleaning the house—let’s say a half hour as an example—and choose the task of your choice to do in that half hour. If possible, put aside the same half hour every day. Set a timer, put on some good dancing music, and go to it. You’ll be amazed how good your house looks, with just this amount of investment a day.

No matter what your personal style or cleaning requirements, there’s an approach that suits you well. Set yourself up for success by allowing yourself to structure housework in a framework that you can live with, and enjoy the results!

THE FINE ART OF FLOOR CLEANING

Installing laminate flooringWood, laminate, vinyl, slate, tile, or carpet—the choices available in flooring style are dizzying. Each contributes its own brand of beauty and function to the home, but they all share something in common when it comes to keeping them looking new: frequent vacuuming with a quality system.

Did you know that one of the most important things you can do to maintain the life of your floor, no matter what it’s made of, is frequent vacuuming? It’s true. Dirt, grit, even dust break down fibers of carpets and create wear and tear on floor finishes, too. Even if you can’t see the dirt, if your vacuum cleaner has left behind a deposit of fine grit, or you don’t vacuum frequently, carpets and floor surfaces will age much faster, resulting in earlier replacement, not to mention floors that look worn or dingy. A central vacuum system picks up virtually all of the dirt on your floors and deposits it into a sealed container away from your living spaces; it’s the best choice for most effective cleaning.

Always vacuum thoroughly before cleaning any hard surface floor. This will not only allow for a cleaner floor but prevent scratching from scrubbing or buffing if dirt particles are left behind.

Consult your manufacturer for specific products and techniques when cleaning different types of hard surface floors. Use as little water as possible, and dry quickly and thoroughly, especially laminate floors. A fan is effective if hand drying with towels is difficult or impractical.

Vinyl floors are the easiest to clean and maintain—just vacuum and damp mop for routine cleaning, and use a damp sponge with dish soap for spills and messes. A nylon scouring pad will lift heel marks and scuffs. For more thorough cleaning, all-purpose cleaner applied with a sponge mop is fine for no-wax floors. If the floor looks like it has a filmy residue after cleaning, just mop with white vinegar and wipe down with clean water on a sponge to restore shine.

At the other end of the spectrum, wood floors require the most care, but some homeowners swear by their superior beauty and durability. Water should never be used on wood floors, except those treated with polyurethane. Pros say the best way to clean a wood floor is also the most time consuming. After first vacuuming, apply a small amount of liquid wood floor cleaner with a soft cloth, rubbing it into a small portion of the wood floor. Wipe away the excess, then move onto the next section. When the floor is dry, buff with a floor polisher. Use care with wood floor cleaners, and use only in well-ventilated areas, because they are combustible.

CLEAN-AS-YOU-GO COOKING TIPS

Ugh. Who wants to face a massive cleanup after a delicious meal? Even if you’re lucky enough to have someone on dish duty when you do the cooking, you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor more and make life easier for everyone by following these clean-as-you-go tips: man cooking at home preparing salad in kitchen

  1. Assemble all of your ingredients, bowls, utensils and measuring devices before you begin your food prep and keep things grouped roughly by category. That is, spices and herbs in one grouping, refrigerated items together, staples side by side, etc. Your food prep will be much smoother if you don’t have to constantly stop what you are doing to find the next item on your list.
  2. As soon as you are finished with a group of ingredients, PUT THEM AWAY.
  3. Fill up one side of your sink with warm soapy water. As you dirty dishes and utensils, rinse them and drop them to soak in the water. If you can’t afford the sink space during food prep, use a big bowl or pan. This way, food won’t dry and crust, which makes for tougher cleanup. It also keeps most of the mess consolidated into one space.
  4. Keep a sheet of waxed paper, a colander or some other receptacle for peelings, stems, and other discards on your counter or in your sink. If you compost, keep meat trimmings, packaging and other waste separate, and throw it away at intervals as you cook. You can also rest spoons, knives and measuring cups on this area to keep surfaces cleaner.
  5. Use down time to keep up with the mess. While the pasta is cooking, you might wash the pan you used to sauté the onions, for example. Also, good knives are best washed, dried and put away immediately after use.
  6. Wipe up spills on countertops and stove surfaces when they happen so they don’t harden. Ditto for floors.

DON’T RUIN THAT GOOD COOKWARE

preparing cookingI have found one of the best investments you can make as a home cook is in quality cookware. The available options are as varied as your taste in food. Once you get it home, treat your cookware well and it will last for decades. A few tips:

  1. Don’t spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray. It can ruin the nonstick surface, and the whole point of nonstick cookware is being able to cook without oil of any kind.
  2. Use only nonstick utensils with nonstick pans to preserve the cooking surface.
  3. A cast iron pan can last a lifetime – and even be handed down – with proper treatment. The secret is to clean it by soaking it in warm water. Then scrub it without soap with a scratchy pad. Wipe dry with a paper towel. This technique prevents rust and seasons the pan, creating a surface that heats evenly.
  4. Don’t put your cookware in the dishwasher. The harsh chemicals of automatic dishwashing detergent can pit the surface.
  5. Avoid harsh abrasive cleaners when washing cookware. For stubborn residue, fill the pan with an inch of water and boil it on the stovetop, using a spatula to scrape away the food as it loosens. Let cool, then hand wash the pan in the sink.

TIRED OF MULTI-TASKING? TRY SINGLE-TASKING.

happy young woman relax at home on sofa

Wouldn’t you love to know who managed to convince an entire population that doing many things at once was a good idea?

Maybe you’ve learned the hard way that eating/texting/talking/typing/balancing your checkbook/scheduling a dog sitter/listening to self-improvement books on tape/lifting weights — all at the same time — is unproductive, most likely dangerous and just plain exhausting.

Here’s a radical concept: Single-Tasking. Doing one thing – just one – at one time. You can apply this strategy to work tasks, conversations with people you care about, and even cleaning the house.

Is your living space in disorder? Tackle one room. Vacuum, dust, put away, wash the throw rugs and linens, toss the junk, tidy the shelves. Plump the pillows. Open a window for a few minutes, even if it’s cold outside. Close the window and clean it. Replace the burned-out light bulb. Add a vase of fresh flowers. Spray something natural that smells good, or light a good quality candle.

Then . . . sit. Close the door first, if you can. Look around. Enjoy that one perfectly clean room.  (No, it won’t stay that way for long. Does it matter?)

The pleasure of one perfectly ordered space just might inspire you to clean some more.

But only one room at a time.

CLEANING FIREPLACE SOOT FROM MANTELS, HEARTHS AND CARPETING

fireplace_fJjeuvtONothing spoils the appearance of a fireplace, often a room’s major focal point, like soot. You can often help prevent soot from forming in the first place by always remembering to open your flue before starting a fire, and by keeping the size of your fire manageable—don’t over-stack the wood. If soot has already formed, you can remove it with a little effort and these techniques:

PAINTED MANTELS: Often, much of the soot on painted mantels can be removed by using a dry cleaning sponge, such as Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Just rub in small circles until soot disappears. For stubborn soot, mix a solution of warm water and ammonia in a bucket—about 1 cup ammonia to ½ gallon water is the right proportion. Soak a clean rag in the solution, wring out excess, and wipe mantel. Let dry, then repeat if necessary.

UNPAINTED BRICK: First, lay down a drop cloth, plastic sheeting or old towels on the surrounding area. Fill two buckets with warm water. You’ll also need rubber gloves, two sponges, and a can of foaming bathroom spray cleaner. Starting from the top of the bricks, apply water liberally to the bricks with a wet sponge that has been dipped in one of the buckets. Spray bathroom cleaner over the wet bricks and allow it to foam and soak in for about 1 minute. Then, using your scrub brush, scrub the cleaner into the brick using a small circular motion, again from the top down. The foam will turn the color of the soot. Using the second sponge and the second bucket of water, wipe the sooty foam off the brick. Work your way down the brick and then start the process over again, using the clean sponge and bucket of water to re-wet the brick and the other bucket of water to wash away the foam. Repeat until all soot is removed.

CARPET: Soot can end up on carpet around the fireplace hearth, or sometimes be tracked in from outside sources. To remove it safely, first sprinkle a generous amount of cornstarch on the entire soot stain. Let stand for an hour. Vacuum thoroughly. Then apply a liberal amount of carpet cleaning solution to the stain, but don’t soak the carpet. Blot the stain with a clean white cloth until solution and soot is absorbed. Repeat spraying and blotting as necessary until soot is gone.

CLEANING WOOD

Nothing quite matches the warmth and glow of real wood floors and furniture. Keeping wood surfaces clean with the right techniques will pay off in years of beauty and function. Follow these tips:

Wood Floors: wood-floor-parque_GJRGkdO_
One of the most important things you can do for wood floors is to vacuum them frequently. Fine grains of grit, dust and dirt that get tracked into your home may be invisible to the eye but will wreak havoc on the finish of a wood floor. If the floor is particularly dirty, vacuum first, then sweep briskly with a stiff broom to loosen particles that may have settled in between cracks, and vacuum again. Place good mats at entrances for foot traffic, and have family members remove their shoes when they come in the door, which will reduce tracked-in, ground-in dirt.

For cleaning stains on wood floors, it is very important to know the finish of the floor before using a product to clean it. Sealed floors, such as those with a permanent polyurethane finish, require different products than waxed floors, for example. Consult the manufacturer or a reliable retailer before choosing a product.

Simple stains can be removed from wood with common household products. A soft cloth dampened in white vinegar and warm water, for example, is safe and often effective. Just be careful not to use too much water; you don’t want it soaking into the wood, just the finish on top of the wood. For grease or melted candle wax spots, the earlier you catch it the better. Apply an ice cube briefly, or a rag wrung out in cold water, to harden the grease. Remove hardened grease or wax with a plastic spatula or side of a dull knife. Then place a cloth diaper, terry towel, or several layers of paper toweling over the spot and iron it on a low setting, allowing the remaining grease to absorb into the towel. Replace towel and repeat until no more stain absorbs.

Wood Furniture: 
Wood furniture is easy to care for and requires less fuss than many people expect. Experts say you need only wax your furniture once or twice a year with a quality furniture wax such as Butcher’s Wax or Renaissance Wax, applying with a 0000 grade steel wool or soft cloth. If you see ripples in the surface of the furniture, you are using too much. Simply buff to a deep gloss using a small circular motion, with the final buffing going with the grain of the wood. Then dust weekly using a soft cloth or microfiber duster. Furniture sprays and polishes sold in grocery stores are typically not recommended because they often contain silicone, which over time will break down the finish of your furniture.

Prevention is key, too: keep coasters handy, wipe spills up quickly, and never leave a candle burning

unattended (not only to prevent wax stains but also house fires!).

If you do end up with a water stain on your wood furniture, try this: Rub a small amount of toothpaste into the stain, followed by wiping it with a soft cloth just moistened with plain water. Then reapply a good furniture wax to that section. Always test an inconspicuous spot of the furniture first, and consult your manufacturer or a furniture expert before attempting to clean furniture that is irreplaceable or extremely high in value.
To remove a wax stain, see directions for removing wax stains from wood floors, above.

HOW TO LAUNDER REALLY DIRTY SPORTS UNIFORMS

sportsYour young players may feel that the mud and blood on their sports uniforms are badges of honor, but chances are you’ve got the responsibility to get them clean before the next match. While a hefty splash of chlorine bleach may seem like the only match for tough sports stains, step away from that bottle and read on. Otherwise, you may send your young athlete into the fray wearing faded jerseys or pink-washed gear due to laundry tactics gone terribly wrong.

It’s not wise to use chlorine bleach even on all-white uniforms. Invariably the letters and numbers will fade and bleed a sickly version of the team’s colors into the fabric. In addition, chlorine bleach weakens textile fibers, so the uniforms will tear and lose their shape easily when washed in it.

Your best laundry bet is to follow this routine. First, shake off excess dust and dirt outside, then rinse uniforms under cold water to get out surface dirt. Presoak the uniforms alone in oxygen bleach or color-safe bleach for at least an hour, and overnight if possible. Launder as usual in cold water. Some people swear by adding a cup of baking soda to the wash water.

Unless you are really pressed for time, do not put uniforms in the dryer. The heat will set tough residual stains permanently. Hang to dry.