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cleaning tips

Our experts have lots of tips for everything from the general process of cleaning to keeping odors out
of your refrigerator. Here are a few of our favorite to easily keep your home fresh and clean.

Ceramic Tile floors
No need to wax. Just sweep and mop on a regular basis and they stay clean and shiny. Mop floors with clear water or just a dash of liquid dish soap. Be sure to change the water when it gets cloudy. Too much soap or dirty water will make floors dull or sticky. Don't use scrub pads on ceramic tile floors or you might scratch them. Our professional cleaners wash most floors by hand, cleaning and drying a small area at a time.

Grout
Old grout may need cleaning with a wax stripper or heavy-duty cleaner plus a grout brush. Use a bleaching cleanser on tough spots. Once the grout is as clean as you can get it, rinse it well. When it's thoroughly dry, apply a coat of masonry sealer so that it doesn't absorb dirt in the future.

For mildewed grout in tubs or showers, use a grout brush with a 1:5 solution of chlorine bleach and water. Never use bleach in combination with any ammonia-based product and be sure the area is well-ventilated. When you've finished cleaning, rinse the area well to remove all traces of bleach.

Clean colored grout with a heavy-duty cleaner and a grout brush, but don't use bleach because this may remove the color from the grout. Be sure never to use a bleaching solution on colored grout. A masonry sealer can be applied to clean, colored grout to ward off future stains.


Hard water spots
Hard-water deposits are alkaline, so an acid-based cleaner is the best way to clean them. Phosphoric acid works well and is safe for most surfaces. Grocery store cleansers with phosphoric acid contain 4 percent to 6 percent acid. You can purchase lime scale removers at janitorial supply stores that contain 8 percent to 12 percent acid to get the job done faster. A higher concentration of acid is safe on most household surfaces as long as you rinse the surface to remove all traces of the acid after the cleaning is complete. Let the acid sit for a few minutes after you apply it to let it work. Tough hard-water deposits may take more than one application. Scrub the applied areas with a white, nylon-backed scrub sponge. Make sure you read any manufacturer's warnings before applying phosphoric acid solutions to surfaces in your home.

Mini blinds
Wipe down mini-blinds with a damp fabric softener sheet. This eliminates the static that causes dust to stick. The same trick works for TV and monitor screens.

No wax - linoleum floors

Regular vacuuming or sweeping is the best way to maintain the finish. Then damp mop with plain water or add just a drop of liquid dish soap. If the floor has some tough spots to clean, use a white, nylon-backed scrub sponge. This will keep soil from wearing away the surface. However, if time and traffic eventually dull the glossy top layer, you may want to add a floor finish or wax to restore the shine. Choose any good commercial floor polish or try a self-polishing, metal-interlock floor finish available from a janitorial supply. Traffic areas may need finish applied more often than the rest of the floor. It's a good idea to keep doormats at all the entrances to your home, as they will catch much of the dirt that could eventually damage your floors.

Pet hair removal from upholstery and carpets

To remove pet hair from fabric or upholstery, try a pet rake (a brush with crimped nylon bristles), velour brush, tape roller or even tape wrapped around your hand. Use light, even strokes to remove the hair. Another option is to try the rubber bottom on a clean tennis shoe or a slightly dampened sponge (as long as the dampness won't harm the upholstery).

To remove pet hair from carpet, use a vacuum with a good beater brush or brush roll. Plain vacuums don't generate enough lift to remove all the pet hair from the floor.

Another option for both upholstery and carpets - especially at the edges where pet hair tends to collect and vacuums have a hard time reaching - is a "pet sponge." These sponges, which are used dry, are available at pet supply stores.


Soap scum in tubs and showers
Since preventing soap scum build-up is a lot easier than cleaning it, squeegee water off shower walls and doors after every use or wipe them down with a towel. For tile walls or frosted shower doors, apply a light coating of lemon oil periodically to help prevent build-up. For a porcelain tub, apply a light coat of boat or car wax to the sides (never the bottom) of the tub.

If it's too late for prevention, use a degreasing agent and lots of elbow grease. Get a good alkaline soap scum remover at a janitorial supply store or dissolve a handful of automatic dishwasher detergent in a bucket of warm water. Cover the affected area completely and let your cleaning solution soak for at least 15 minutes. Do it right after a shower when the walls will be wet. After soaking, use a stiff scrub brush or a white, nylon-backed scrub sponge to clean the walls. You may need to soak and scrub a couple of times to get rid of all the build-up. Then rinse well with clear water.


Toilet bowl ring remover
The earlier you attack this problem, the easier it will be to remove the ring. A thorough cleaning with a commercial acid-based bowl cleaner may do the trick. If the bowl cleaner doesn't work, try using a green, nylon-backed scrub sponge along with the acid. For an old ring, use a pumice stone. Wet the stone with the water in the bowl and rub it on the ring. Keep the stone wet the entire time you're scrubbing. Pumice stones should only be used on vitreous china toilets - never on colored, enamel or plastic fixtures. Once you've gotten rid of a ring, weekly cleanings should keep it from coming back.

Wood floors
Vacuum and dust mop regularly to prevent dirt from building up and damaging the surface. Any wood floor can be cleaned with a quarter-cup of apple cider vinegar mixed with a gallon of warm water. Wood floors are best cleaned on your hands and knees because you should only clean a small area at a time and then dry it and move on. Never get wood floors too wet or allow them to dry naturally. Finished wood floors often can be cleaned just with water. However, the finish will eventually wear off, and you'll either have to re-finish the floors or start waxing them.

Marble and Granite floors
If polished marble or granite is protected with floor finish, the finish must be buffed or burnished and periodically replaced to keep the surface protected and looking good.

Because marble and granite are sensitive and porous, they need to be cleaned with a neutral cleaner solution and then polished dry. Scratched and dull surfaces can be revived with a marble restorer (available from janitorial supply stores).

Cultured marble and certain types of granite are stronger than real marble and stone, but they do lose their luster after being cleaned for years. Clean with a spray bottle filled with all-purpose or disinfectant cleaner and a soft cloth. Always keep the area wet while working. Never use powdered cleansers, steel wool, metal scrapers or colored scrub pads on cultured marble or granite. If the surface is worn and looks dull even after cleaning, polishing compound may bring back the glow. A little appliance wax, car wax or silicone sealer will also help fill fine scratches and restore the shine.

Kitchen Cabinets
Clean cabinets with heavy-duty cleaner and sponge with warm water. Mix according to directions and apply the solution with a sponge. Let it sit a minute or two, then take a white, nylon-backed sponge and scrub wherever necessary. Remove the grimy suds from the sponge by squeezing it into the sink or a slop bucket, never back into your cleaning solution. Then rinse with a damp cloth and wipe dry with a terry cleaning cloth to remove any last traces of scum and leave the cupboards clean and glowing.


Odor removal
For all odors, the first thing you should do is to remove the cause of the odor.

To remove smoke film from washable surfaces, use a solution of heavy-duty cleaner or degreaser. A dash of water-soluble deodorizer from a janitorial supply store added to the solution will help neutralize the odor. For smoky windows, add one part isopropyl alcohol to five parts window cleaner to help cut the oily film.

Smoke on porous surfaces is a tougher proposition. Light smoke film on acoustic ceiling tile can be removed by professional ceiling cleaners, but heavy buildup usually requires painting or replacement of the tile. Upholstered furniture, draperies and carpeting can be wet- or dry-cleaned, as appropriate, after a thorough vacuuming, with water-soluble deodorizer added to the cleaning solution to control residual smoke odor.

Also, make sure you let the sun in to help dissipate smoke and other odors as you try to eliminate the cause. Try to increase air flow by opening windows, turning on fans or even putting particularly smelly items outside for awhile. You can fill small dishes with vanilla, vinegar or activated charcoal for an easy, inexpensive smoke eater. Or, you can purchase odor neutralizer from a janitorial supply house which will work more effectively.


Cleaning tips - Top