Tag Archives: cleaning tips

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.

FRESHEN UP THE HOUSE FOR FALL

falling leavesAs cold weather approaches and living spaces are sealed tight against the elements, it’s even more important to reduce levels of indoor air pollution for the sake of your health and comfort. Here are some simple ways to freshen up your home for fall.

  • Fluff up curtains and draperies in your dryer on a low setting.If you have a steam setting, even better. You’ll be amazed at the dust that accumulates in the lint trap when you remove them. Add a dryer sheet as they tumble around to lend the drapes a subtle fragrance after you rehang them.
  • Wash, dry clean, fluff or replace decorative pillows, throws, table runners and tablecloths.These items tend to attract unseen dust and dust mites over time, which can aggravate allergies or asthma in sensitive people who eat or nap near them. A new season offers an opportunity to spruce up your home décor inexpensively with the fresh colors and textures of decorative fabrics, so consider replacing them altogether.
  • Vacuum upholstered furniture, even on the undersides, if possible.This will help keep dust and mites at bay, especially if you own a central vacuum system. Don’t forget the nooks and crannies; use a wand tool to vacuum between cushions.
  • Clean out clothes closets.Coats and other clothing that hang unworn for long periods of time are simply gathering dust. Purge unwanted items for donation, then vacuum the floors of your closet and dust any shelves inside. Hang sachets of herbs, such as lavender or sage, for a pleasant fragrance that will help repel moths.

MICROWAVE CLEANING THE EASY WAY

Microwave ovens have become a kitchen essential for many, if not most, households. Problem is, once we shut the microwave door, it’s easy to forget about the spilled or splattered food accumulating on its interior….until the next time we go to use it. By that time, it’s hardened into a stubborn residue.

Good news: there’s no need for scrubbing or harsh chemicals to get your microwave sparkling clean and smelling fresh. Try one of these three simple, low-cost techniques, depending on what you have on hand:

Close-up of lemons in a wicker basket on white1. Squeeze the juice of a whole lemon into a cup of water in a microwave safe bowl. Heat the mixture in the microwave for three minutes. Careful—it will be hot! Remove the bowl with mitts and set aside. Wipe down the steamed residue from the interior of the oven with damp paper towels.

2. Follow the same directions above, using vinegar in place of lemon juice. After the vinegar solution cools, you can dip a sponge into it and wipe down the microwave interior again, which will neutralize odors. (For added value, after you clean your microwave, shake a dollop of baking soda into your kitchen sink, followed by the vinegar solution. Wipe down and rinse. Your sink will sparkle from the mild scrubbing and foaming action, and the solution will deodorize the drain).

3. Dissolve a half cup of baking soda in two cups of water in a microwave safe bowl. Heat for two minutes until solution boils, then let cool enough to remove. Dip sponge in baking soda solution (wear gloves as it will be hot) and wipe down interior of microwave.

Stubborn burnt popcorn smell bugging you? After cleaning the oven with one of the above methods, try one of these techniques, depending on your preference for fragrances. Mix a few teaspoons of ground coffee in a ceramic cup of water and place the cup in a bowl. Heat for two minutes. Remove bowl and cup with mitts. Wipe down interior of microwave with damp paper towels. As an alternative, put four teaspoons of vanilla extract in a bowl of water and heat for two minutes. Remove bowl with mitts, and wipe down interior of microwave with damp paper towels.

CLEANING SKINNY VASES

rose-in-vase_zky_Ow_uThat pretty crystal bud vase sporting one long-stemmed rose looks spectacular on your desk or window sill – until you notice it’s collected cloudy mineral residue on the inside surface. It’s probably too delicate to scrub with a bottlebrush, as you might scratch the glass.

TIP: Fill the vase almost full with water, and drop a denture cleaning tablet in it. Let it sit overnight, then wrap a clean cloth around a butter knife of bottlebrush and swap the interior of the vase. It should sparkle like new. If that doesn’t work, try undiluted white vinegar in place of the denture tablet. Use vinegar in the rinse water for extra shine.

MAKE YOUR MATTRESS A HEALTHIER PLACE TO SLEEP

bedroom_MJCDKIYdMore and more research is showing us the critical importance of a good night’s sleep. Since quality sleep contributes significantly to our ability to strengthen our immune systems, ward off the harmful effects of stress and process nutrients efficiently, anything we can do to enhance the health of our sleep environment is worth the effort. A good mattress is a solid start. But I have always wanted to know how do we keep it clean and free of unwanted particulate matter that we breathe in during the night?

Your vacuum system is your first and best tool of choice for maintaining a clean mattress. A central vacuum system is the best choice for cleaning mattresses because its high efficiency suction and hose will remove virtually all particulate matter and transport it to an air-tight container away from living spaces.

Using an upholstery attachment, vacuum your mattress regularly to remove the significant amount of dust and dead skin cells that accumulate from sleeping bodies—up to several pounds a year! This will also reduce the number of dust mites that live in your mattress, which contribute greatly to allergy symptoms.

If you have allergies, consider also using a washable mattress cover that you can remove and launder in hot water. This will prevent a great deal of dirt and dust from penetrating your mattress and also kill dust mites living in the mattress cover.

If your mattress becomes soiled or stained, use an upholstery shampoo, following the directions exactly. Or mix mild detergent with water until suds form, and then apply only the suds to the mattress with a sponge. Be careful not to over-wet the mattress. Wipe the area with a fresh sponge that has been wrung out with warm water. Allow to dry thoroughly. Aiming a fan at the damp areas will speed drying and prevent further water stains.

SEE YOUR WAY CLEAR TO CLEANER WINDOWS

177821116No one wants to look at beautiful sunshine streaming through grime-streaked windows. I found some tips that will make your windows sparkle as if they aren’t there at all.

  • A microfiber cloth or cotton rag, such as an old cloth diaper, dampened in cleaning solution, will yield effective results. Follow with a squeegee, then use a dry, lint-free rag for touch-up if necessary. Some people swear by wadded up newspaper to clean and dry their windows, which absorbs water without streaking or leaving residue.
  • While many store-bought window cleaning solutions are effective, a homemade solution of vinegar and water with a few drops of liquid soap is an inexpensive alternative that works well and prevents streaking.
  • For best results, hold the squeegee at an angle so the water runs down the window, and wipe the squeegee with a dry, lint-free cloth after every swipe.
  • To help avoid messy drips that require time-consuming touchup work, apply cleaning solution with your wet rag just short of the window frames.
  • Squeegee horizontally whenever possible. Left-handed people will need to apply an extra vertical swipe with the squeegee.
  • Don’t forget to wipe the window sills.
  • On hot days, you may need to clean and wipe dry at the same time to avoid streaking. Use both hands, unless you are on a ladder. Avoid cleaning windows in direct sun if possible.
  • On windy days, work in the direction of the wind, so spray does not blow onto clean windows.
  • Carry a razor blade along for scraping bird droppings, tape residue, old paint splatters or other tough spots. Moisten the area first, then scrape gently with small motions at an angle to prevent scratching the glass.

When working indoors, messes can be avoided by carrying a spray bottle instead of a bucket. Spray the rag or wadded newspaper, then apply to the window, rather than spraying the window directly.

GET SAVVY WITH CLEANING SUPPLIES

The little things will do the trick. 111779891

Walk down the cleaning supplies aisle in any grocery store and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the dizzying array of products available for purchase. There are concoctions that disinfect, scrub, polish, cut grease, de-rust, un-streak, and promise gleam and shine.

How to choose the right products without spending a fortune and cramming the cupboards with stuff you don’t need?

I thought I would share a primer for getting savvy with cleaning supplies.

  • Buy a small plastic bin with a handle for each floor of your home. You will fill it with all the supplies you need for cleaning your house, with the exception of your vacuum, and carry it from room to room as you clean. No more wasted steps back and forth as you retrieve the cleaning supplies you need for each room and each chore. Keep the bin in a linen closet or under the master bathroom sink.
  • Search out the circulars for sales and coupons. When you see a product you need, buy two. You can have one for each floor of the house or save one for later.
  • Each of your plastic bins should contain:
    • A plastic spray bottle of all-purpose cleaner for general surface cleaning. This need not be anti-bacterial. In fact, ample evidence points to overuse of antibacterial cleaners as one contributing factor to increasing the strength and number of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. A solution of vinegar and water in a clean spray bottle is inexpensive and when applied with a lint-free cloth will leave mirrors and glass streak-free. Unless a family member is ill with a contagious disease, save antibacterial products for food prep areas and cleaning the toilet.
    • Anti-bacterial wipes or spray cleaner for toilets and food preparation areas only.
    • Gentle non-abrasive cleaner for scrubbing showers and sinks
    • Anti-static dusting cloth and furniture polish. Furniture polish need not be applied with every cleaning. And if you have a central vacuum system, you can use the long hose and variety of attachments to save time with dusting chores, such as baseboards, window sills, blinds, and draperies. Dust suctioned away with a central vacuuming system doesn’t re-circulate back into the air and resettle, as it does with traditional vacuum cleaners, but is pulled into a central collection unit which can then be emptied periodically.
    • Sponge
    • Nylon scrubbing pad for scrubbing jobs
    • Lint-free rags for wiping and dusting. Old cloth diapers are ideal, as are worn cotton tee shirts. A roll of paper towels comes in handy, but go easy on the environment by using paper towels sparingly, and only for the dirtiest jobs.
    • Handful of small plastic garbage bags (small grocery bags are perfect) for collecting small bits of trash and used wipes or paper towels as you go along.

Replenish supplies as needed, and store the bins in the same place all the time when not in use. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much time, energy and frustration you’ll save on routine cleaning with this simple “Cleaning Carry-All” strategy.

UPHOLSTERY CLEANING TIPS: DIY OR GO PRO?

78459206Spills, stains and normal wear and tear can leave your upholstered furniture looking less than fresh. Should you clean it yourself or leave the job to the pros? That depends.

While manufacturers often recommend professional cleaning, many spots and stains can be treated at home without risk to the furniture. To help you decide, consider three main factors:

  1. Fabric type
  2. Size and location of stain
  3. Type of stain

First, I always look at the manufacturer’s label to identify the fabric content. (If necessary, ask your retailer or check with the manufacturer). If the fabric is synthetic, you can usually safely clean it at home, since synthetic fabrics were designed for ease of care. If the fabric is a natural/synthetic blend, however, use caution and test a small, hidden patch first. If the upholstery is more than 50% cotton, professional cleaning may be your best bet if the stain is large, dark or in a very noticeable area.

The easiest upholstery stains to clean are those that are treated while they are still fresh. The hardest to clean are grease and oil. Any very large stain may be best left to a professional. Some tips on increasing your chance of successful results:

  1. Moisture is not your friend. Use as little water as possible to clean upholstery. Try a spot remover first, but if you must use a water-based approach, use it sparingly for best results.
  2. Upholstery sprays are inexpensive and often work well on organic stains, but they are ineffective on grease or oil.
  3. Baby wipes are surprisingly effective for cleaning upholstery because they deliver the right amount of soap and water, are quite gentle, and evaporate quickly.
  4. Coffee Stains: Combine a small amount of dish detergent, water and vinegar and dab sparingly until coffee disappears.
  5. Mold or mildew: Mix a quarter cup of hydrogen peroxide and a quarter teaspoon of color safe bleach. Lightly rub the stain with a clean cloth dipped in the solution. Rub area with fresh water applied sparingly and let dry.
  6. Stubborn Stains:

CRAYON: Try using non-gel toothpaste to remove crayon marks from water-safe upholstery. Rub it gently on the surface, a small section at a time, then wipe off with a damp cloth.

GREASE OR OIL: Sprinkle salt, cornstarch or talcum powder on the spot as soon as you discover it. Rub in carefully, allow grease to lift off upholstery and absorb into spot remover. Brush off grease and powder and wipe with a damp cloth.

Did you know you can reduce overall grime and soiling of your upholstered furniture by vacuuming it regularly? Special upholstery attachments for your vacuum system can make it easy to reach small corners and creases, and are safe for use on fabrics. Vacuum furniture at least every two months, or weekly if you have pets or allergies.

WHITTLE DOWN YOUR HOUSEWORK

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Everybody likes a clean home, but who wants to spend their weekends scouring, sweeping and scrubbing? Not me!  Make the most of your cleaning time by staying ahead of the game with small, focused efforts, and break daunting chores into shorter, more manageable tasks that won’t gobble up your leisure hours. Saving housecleaning effort is much like saving money: small actions are an investment. They add up over time and pay off big in the long term.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Bathroom

Keep toiletries tucked away in drawers or closets to eliminate unnecessary dusting.

Consider a vacuum solution like Vroom to clean makeup, hairs, and powders from vanity counters after your bathroom routine.

Scum-fighting shower spray in the shower every day will go to work on its own to prevent buildup.

Spot clean the toilet and surrounding floor with a disinfectant wipe each day.

Straighten towels after use or use hooks for a no-fuss look.

Kitchen

Clean as you go when you cook to keep surfaces and pans easy to wipe up before food hardens. Wipe counters and stove surface after each meal you prepare to prevent tough, built-up grime.

Take a few minutes to vacuum the kitchen every night. Consider a built-in product like the Vroom.

Every few days while you’re talking on the phone or waiting for the soup to heat, clear the fridge of leftovers that won’t get eaten, then spot-wipe the glass shelves with a damp cloth.

Every few weeks while the pasta is boiling or the chicken is on the grill, use a microfiber duster to dust cupboards and walls.

Living Room/Family Room

Walk around most-used living spaces each night with a laundry basket and pick up items that don’t belong there. Take a few minutes to put those items in the places they belong, or delegate that chore to a family member.

During television commercials, grab a microfiber duster and do a quick once-around the room on surfaces, window sills and baseboards.

Put each day’s newspapers in a designated spot before going to bed.

If you have small children and lots of toys that get used in common living areas, don’t bother picking them up all day long. They’re just going to get pulled out again, so stop wasting time and energy. Shoot for two or three five-minute sessions of cleanup each day, and engage your child in the process as much as possible. A tidied family room gives some peace of mind at the end of day for grownup hours when children are in bed, and offers children a sense of accomplishment.

Bedrooms

A made bed contributes more to the overall impression of a clean bedroom than any other effort you make there. Try to make your bed each morning and you’ll retire with a more serene feeling each night.

Use handsome jewelry boxes or valet boxes to avoid clutter—and unnecessary dusting—on the dresser.

If clothes on the floor are a problem, get a coat stand with hooks, or fasten pretty hooks on the walls. At least clothes will be off the floor until you get the chance to launder them or hang them up.

Changing sheets and bed linens can be done in less than half the time with two people. Enlist a house mate’s help.

Close closet doors after use for a sleeker appearance in the room.

If you live in a house of avid readers, choose nightstands that have cabinet bottoms with doors, so the bedside book stack can be stowed away instead of adding to clutter and trapping dust.

CAR CARE SIMPLIFIED

In the summer, there are so many extra seasonal chores that are screaming my name, the last thing I have time for is spending an entire day cleaning my car!

146776393Even if your odometer is racking up the miles, I found some easy, inexpensive tips for keeping that “new car” look and smell.

  1. Use baby wipes to clean dashboards. They clean gently but thoroughly and leave an anti-static layer.
  2. A small, soft paintbrush is ideal for detail cleaning on the dashboard.
  3. Windshield blurring up when you run your wipers? Dip a clean cloth in full strength white vinegar and run it along the length of each wiper blade.
  4. If your license plates are beginning to rust, wipe them down with WD-40. This will remove light surface rust and help prevent more rust from forming.
  5. An old soft sock makes a perfect (and cost-free) buffer for waxing.
  6. If battery acid is building up on your battery, sprinkle baking soda onto the terminals. Spritz with water to dampen, and let set for about an hour. Sponge off with water and air dry.
  7. To keep the interior of your car in ship shape, remove any accumulated litter, food wrappers, apparel, books or papers each time you leave your vehicle. It only takes seconds and you’ll enjoy driving your car more if it is uncluttered.
  8. Stale odors can be removed by spraying odor eliminator into the ventilation intake ducts, usually located at the base of windshield. After spraying, run the AC full blast for several minutes.