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Household Cleaning Tips

There are some big cleaning projects that can take most of a day if you don’t know the tips and tricks. Here’s a guide to make them quicker, easier and cleaner so you can get on with the more important things in life.
 
Water Stains on Wood Floors
There are two types of stains on wood floors; stains to the protective surface coating and deeper stains to the underlying wood. Light, white or hazy spots are damage to the surface coating while darker spots are in the wood. To clear light spots you just need to buff the surface with a soft cloth and a mild abrasive such as non-gel toothpaste or car polish. Rub the abrasive onto the spot until it comes clear. Deeper stains require removal of the surface coating so you can directly work on the wood. To do this, use steel wool or fine grit sandpaper to remove the top coating. Once the protective layer is removed, you can use oxalic acid to remove the stain and bring back the original color of the wood. Oxalic acid comes in a powder form and is mixed with hot water. It is less harsh than many bleaching agents and does a better job of retaining the original character of the wood. Once you’ve bleached the wood to the original color, you’ll need to apply a new finish coat to the area. It takes extra work to remove these deeper stains, however, once complete you’ll never know you had a stain.
 
 Hardwood Floor
 
 
Hard Water Stains
Hard water leaves a chalky white mineral deposit called alkaline. Water heavy in calcium and magnesium leaves alkaline deposits on bath and kitchen surfaces and can also mix with soap to form an extra tough soap scum. It can cause surfaces to corrode. The trick to removing these deposits is to use a mild acidic solution that reacts with the minerals and helps wash them away. For cleaning glass, try a little white vinegar (a weak acid) mixed with water. Lemon juice also works. For surfaces that can handle stronger acids you might try cleaners containing phosphoric acid, hydrochloric and sulfuric acids. Just be sure to read the label directions carefully as these stronger acids are dangerous and can cause injury. The big time saving solution in the long term is to install a water softener, preventing the nasty buildups in the first place. Although it may seem expensive to install a water softener, hard water can damage pipes, hot water heaters, clothing, coffee makers, ice makers and more, making the cost of a softener look inexpensive.
 
Greasy Range Hoods
Nothing kills an appetite faster than looking at a greasy range hood. Although there isn’t a magic bullet solution for cleaning range hoods, generally you’ll find it goes much faster if you do it more frequently before the grease gets too built up. For cleaning, a solution of water and white vinegar cuts the grease very well. Alternatively, water with baking soda also works well. Neither of these will scratch your surfaces. Use hot water and wipe with a hot paper towel or rag soaked in the solution.
 
Dust Mites in Mattresses
Dust mites feed off the dead skin cells we all leave in our bedding and can cause an allergic reaction for some people. Keeping the dust mite population down is mostly a matter of routine mattress maintenance. Reducing the dust and dirt in your mattress reduces the mites so strip your bed down and wash your linens regularly. When you have the mattress bare, using the upholstery attachment on your hepa vacuum, vacuum the whole mattress surface. Once every six months flip the mattress over so you are sleeping on a fresh side. You can also use a mattress cover designed to seal the mattress from your linens and this will reduce the need to vacuum the mattress. Look for mattress covers that are washable and specifically designed to reduce dust mite allergies. With a little regular maintenance, your dust mites will be kept in check.
 
Candle Soot
Removing candle soot from ceilings and walls is pretty straight-forward. Mix a little liquid soap in a quart of warm water, then soak a clean rag or sponge in the mix, squeeze out excess soapy water, rub the grime off the wall. Avoid soaking the paint or wall paper too thoroughly or you may cause more significant damage.
 
Dirty Chandeliers
Today’s chandeliers, with multiple lights, are very stylish … and add to your cleaning chores. For this guide we’ll presume you dust regularly with a feather duster. Regular dusting will greatly reduce the number of times you need to wet clean your chandelier. Before starting, be sure the power is turned off, preferably at the breaker box, and clear away tables and chairs under the chandelier. Set out a plastic tarp to catch either dust or cleaning fluid and set up a good steady ladder to reach the chandelier. For a wet clean, the chandelier’s finish will determine what sort of cleaning fluid you will be using. Before applying any cleaning fluid, be sure the bulbs are nice and cool, then cover them with baggies and rubber bands to keep them and their sockets dry. Do this part carefully and do it right. If it is a crystal chandelier, a light mixture of ammonia and distilled water (to avoid water drops) in a hand sprayer is all you need. Spray the crystals, letting cleaning fluid and grim drip off the crystals and onto the plastic tarp on the floor. Allow the chandelier to air dry thoroughly before turning the power back on.
 
Stains on Pots and Pans
When it comes to removing stains from pots and pans white vinegar is your friend. Acidic foods stain aluminum pans. Boil a mix of 1 teaspoon white vinegar with a cup of water in the pan, or more if needed to cover the stain. A couple of minutes boiling should do the trick. For stains on your stainless soak them in white vinegar for about 30 minutes and then wash in hot soapy water. For glassware, low boil them in one part white vinegar to about 4 parts water for about 5 minutes and then scrub clean once it cools. They should come clean with a modest amount of scrubbing. Hard water can stain even non-stick pans. To clean off the mineral deposits from non-stick surfaces run it with a cloth soaked in undiluted distilled vinegar. For tougher stains rub in a little baking soda along with some water and the distilled vinegar. For a blackened broiler pan soak it in a mixture of 1 cup apple vinegar and 2 tablespoons sugar for an hour in a slightly warm oven. A little scrubbing will then take the black tar right off.
 
Polishing Furniture
We are fans of not only reducing our carbon footprint, but also reducing the number of chemicals in our home. A simple mixture for polishing furniture is 1 cup olive oil and ½ cup lemon juice. Put a few drops on a clean cloth and wipe your furniture, then polish and dry it with a separate clean dry cloth. Heck, this one is so eco friendly you can even eat it!
 
 Lemon Juice
 
Soap Scum on Plastic Shower Curtains
Your plastic shower curtain will build up soap scum and maybe mildew over time, but cleaning it is surprisingly easy. Take the curtain down, removing any hanging rings and put it your washing machine using a high water level, warm water, and a small amount of detergent with a cup of vinegar. We don’t recommend running it in the dryer since it could melt and cause a fire.
 
Disclaimer: We’ve researched and successfully used the methods on this page but that doesn’t mean they will work well for everyone. We assume no liability. If you have any special concerns consult your manufacturer.
 
Photos courtesy: Derrick Tyson and Andrew Comings
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