Month: March 2013

Exposing your home’s dirty little secrets

No worries, we all have them. In every house, there are those little spaces we neglect because they’re out of sight, out of mind. If you’re like me, I put them off while cleaning because I absolutely dread spending time on them. Perhaps, we can encourage each other and tackle them together. 

Deep breath …

1. Cruddy undersides of rugs

Look under your area rugs for a nasty surprise — a sea of grit and dust — despite regular vacuuming. Here’s how to fix that mess: Move furniture, fold over the rug, and vacuum dirt and dust from its underside. Sweep and mop the floor, too.

While you’re under the hood, check the rug’s condition. If there’s no staining or discoloration, a good floor cleaning and vacuuming of the rug’s underside is enough.
If pets, kids, or wine have left their mark, invest in a professional cleaning. A pro will run between $1.50 and $3 per square foot of rug, depending on the type of rug. Delicate natural fibers are usually more costly to clean than synthetics.

2. Greasy kitchen vent hood

Your range vent hood works hard to absorb smoke, steam, and grease. Just like you change air filters to extend the life of your HVAC, you should clean the vent filter. Not only will this make the vent more efficient, it’s a safety measure. Should you have a grease fire, a greasy hood and filter can spread the fire into your home’s duct work.

Remove the hood filter according to directions for your vent hood model. If you don’t have the paper manual anymore, search online for a copy. 
Soak the filter in a kitchen-grade degreaser.
Once most of the grease has dissolved, rinse the filter with soapy water. 

3. Crumby kitchen crevices

No matter how spotless your kitchen surfaces are, crumbs, morsels, and drips of stuff have fallen into the crannies between appliances and countertops, tempting bugs and vermin. What to do:

For appliances with a bit of ground clearance, like a refrigerator, use the vacuum crevice attachment to suck out the yuck.
For appliances with less room to maneuver, attach microfiber cloths to a yardstick with rubber bands. Slide and grab under and between appliances.
Sneak an old-school feather duster between counter cracks or under appliances. Get one with an extra-long handle ($15-$25) or use a flexible duster specifically designed to slide under appliances.

4. Grimy fans and ceilings

Dispatching the out-of-sight, out-of-mind dust (sloughed-off skin cells, dust mites, and outdoor allergans) that lives on ceiling fans and light fixtures means better indoor air quality and fewer allergy problems. What to do:

Dampen the inside of a pillowcase and slide it over each ceiling fan blade. As you slide it off, run your hands along the sides of the blade to wipe up dirt and dust so the dreck doesn’t rain down on you. Get a spotter if you’re balancing on a ladder or chair.
For less-dusty ceiling fans, use a microfiber duster that’ll grab the blades. ($7-$20)
For oily or grimy buildup on ceilings, especially in the kitchen or bathroom, run a flat mop tool with a microfiber or soap-cloth attachment along the ceiling. Dish soap will do nicely.
Remove light shades or covers from ceiling fixtures to wipe out dust and bugs. But turn the light off first.

5. Grungy toilets

You’re not getting down-and-dirty with your toilet until you scrub where the commode meets the bathroom floor. What to do:

Check that the caulk at the base of the toilet is sealing the area. If it’s worn, remove the remaining caulk with a utility knife. Then re-seal it. For extra germ-fighting, choose a caulk with Microban.
Slide a feather duster behind the tank to brush off any dirt or dust, and use a sponge or damp microfiber cloth to scrub all the way around the porcelain base.

6. Debris-filled crawlspace

No one wants to crawl around under the house — except bugs and rodents. If you suspect critters are playing house, skip the DIY and consult a pro. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to check your crawlspace annually to check for water penetration and clean out debris. What to do:

Wear personal protective equipment, such as coveralls, a dust-mask, goggles, and gloves.
If you see mold, don’t disturb it. Call a professional mold remediation company.
If you don’t see mold, check your vapor barrier for holes, deterioration, or uncovered areas. If you’re handy and comfortable with working in cramped crawlspace conditions, you can fix it yourself with supplies from your local hardware or home store. Otherwise, call a handyman. If the problem seems more extensive (major holes or large uncovered areas), call a foundation specialist.
Make sure there’s no standing water on top of the vapor barrier. That could mean water is coming from leaking pipes or gutters. It’s a recipe for mold and rot. Call a pro who specializes in foundation or crawlspace work pronto.
Push out trash through the nearest vent or access door. When you go outside to collect the debris, secure vents and doors so nothing else will blow, crawl, or slither in.

7. Linty dryer vents

This is one of the most important dirty jobs, because cleaning your clothes dryer’s lint trap and vents will extend its life, improve its efficiency, and save your life. Clothes dryers cause more than 15,000 structural fires, injuring 400 and killing 15 people on average each year. “Failure to clean” is the leading contributing factor to these fires.


What to do:

Use a dryer vent cleaner (about $15), a long, flexible, thick metal cord that snakes through the dryer vent’s dark corridors, to sweep out lint and dust.
Use your vacuum’s crevice tool to suck out hangers on in the lint trap.
Vacuum underneath and around the back of the dryer to clear out any remaining lint colonies.

Article is courtesy of

Quick Tips to Make Your Bathroom Sparkle!

Remember your light switches, people!

Bathroom driving you crazy? 

If you’re like me, the bathroom is the one room you clean most often, yet seems to hide areas that rarely see a scrub brush.Here are some tips to tackle these 5 nasty spots you probably forgot.

1. Shower heads:  A warm white vinegar bath will get rid of mineral deposits, making your low-flow shower head flow even lower. Let the shower head soak for about 20 minutes, then poke a paperclip into shower head holes still clogged. Scrub with an old toothbrush, then rinse and repeat if necessary.

2. Toilet bases: Mildew can grow on the caulking around the base of your toilet. Spray with white vinegar or disinfecting household cleaner, then scrub with a hard-bristled brush. Dry thoroughly.

3. Shower curtains: Clean soap scum and mildew from plastic shower curtains by tossing them into your washer on the gentle and cold (never hot!) water cycle, with detergent and ½ cup vinegar. If mildew is present, add ½ cup of bleach instead of vinegar. Toss a couple of large towels into the machine to act as scrubbers. Hang curtains back on your shower curtain rod, spread them out, and let them drip-dry. If you turn on the bathroom fan, they’ll dry faster.

4. Drains: We don’t usually pay much attention to drains until they’re clogged. But all year your hair, toothpaste, shampoo, and conditioner are building up in sink and tub drains. Remove the stopper — unscrew the shower drain — and clear away obvious gunk, like hair and soap. Soak the drain in vinegar to clear away mineral deposits. Then, pour boiling water, or a mixture of ½ cup white vinegar and ½ cup baking soda, down the drain, which will bubble away crud sticking to pipes.

5. Medicine cabinet: Throw out prescription and over-the-counter drugs you no longer need or want. But don’t dump them down the drain, where they become part of the watershed, or into the trash, where anyone can fetch them out. Instead, take them to a local collection site, often at police or fire stations. Or check U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Take Back Initiative’s website for dates and sites for their next collection.

Bonus tip: Just for the fun of it (stop laughing), launder those powder room towels you won’t let anyone use. And be sure to clean out your dryer’s lint filter when you’re finished.