Archive for the ‘Cleaning’ Category

Leather care tips!

March 2nd, 2015

A leather or suede garment is usually a major investment, and it is important to choose it carefully and care for it wisely. In selecting a leather garment. Buy from a reputable store. Look for careful matching of colors and textures. Avoid a snug fit. Hides are stretched during tanning and some relaxation shrinkage can be expected in use and cleaning. Read and save any accompanying care information. Light colors are less likely to fade in cleaning than are deep colors.  Heavy buckles or trim could cause tears in the leather in wear or cleaning.  Suede and leather are natural materials.  They will never be completely uniform, but that is part of their desirability.

There are several things to consider when cleaning leather garments. Remember, suede is the underside of the leather, buffed to a uniform nap and used as the outside of the garment. Frequent brushing with a soft brush will help to remove surface soils. In smooth leather, the outside of the skin is the outside of the garment. Wipe smooth leather with a damp cloth to remove surface soils.

Remember these care tips to keep your garment in top condition. The tips apply to both suede and smooth leathers.

  • Wear a scarf to protect the collar area from perspiration and body oils.
  • If the garment gets wet, let it air dry away from heat.
  • Store leather garments in a cool, ventilated area. Leather is subject to drying out if exposed to dry heat and to mildew if stored in a hot, humid environment.
  • Do not store leather in a plastic bag.
  • If staining occurs, take the garment to a professional suede and leather cleaner as soon as possible.  DO NOT TRY TO REMOVE SPOTS AT HOME.


When it is time to take leather clothing to the cleaners, remember:

  • Have all matching pieces cleaned at the same time.
  • Give your cleaner any care information that came with the garment.
  • Point out any stains. Old, set stains cannot always be removed safely.
  • Don’t be surprised if your cleaner asks you to sign a consent form before cleaning. This will occur only if there is some question about clean-ability.
  • Many cleaners send leathers to a specialty leather cleaner.  After you get your clothing back from the cleaners, realize that leather garments are made up of skins taken from various portions of the animal and usually from several different animals. The manufacturer tries to match the skins so that your garment is as uniform as possible, but even with the best matching, there will be some variance in texture, weight, and color uniformity. These variations may be accentuated after cleaning.  Be prepared to see a slight variance in the depth of color after cleaning. In manufacture, the tanner immersed the skin in a dye bath to obtain a uniform color, but skins from various parts of the animal may vary in colorfastness. The cleaner can correct some color variance, but must rely on spray dyeing, which will not dye the suede or leather to the same degree as the original immersion process.
  • During tanning, leathers are impregnated with oils to keep them supple. Some of these oils used in the tanning process are lost in cleaning. Even though the professional leather cleaner has special additives to restore suppleness, there could be some change in the feel or hand of the garment.

Some imperfections may become more apparent after cleaning:

SCAR TISSUE: The animal’s skin may have been injured while it was alive by briars, barbed wire, diseases, or in fights with other animals. The resulting scar tissue does not dye evenly, so it is covered with fillers before dyeing. These fillers are removed in cleaning, and the original scar tissue will become more apparent, usually as a light area.

VEIN MARKS: Some thick skins are split, revealing the veins in the skin as irregular, wavy lines. These are also masked with fillers and reappear after cleaning.

WRINKLES: Skins taken from the loose neck or belly portion of an animal are normally wrinkled. The skins are stretched out to some degree when the garment is made up and the wrinkles are hardly visible. As the skins relax with age, the wrinkles reappear. The agitation that occurs in cleaning can cause greater relaxation of the leather, accentuating the wrinkles.

TEXTURE CHANGE: The manufacturer tries to select skins of uniform texture for a garment, but sometimes smoother skin is combined with a skin or portion of skin with a coarser texture. Cleaning may make this variance more apparent.

SHRINKAGE: Some shrinkage will likely occur in your garment over time as the skins relax. This may be accentuated in cleaning. As you wear a leather garment it tends to conform comfortably to your body. After cleaning, the leather is pressed, so it may feel a little uncomfortable or snug when you first put it on. As you wear it this feeling will dissipate. Sometimes skins are overstretched in manufacture and relax permanently. This problem cannot be anticipated by the cleaner.

THIN SKINS: Some skins are extremely thin and really too fragile for use in apparel. These skins tend to wear through exceptionally fast even with normal usage. The agitation of cleaning may cause separation of very thin skins.

STAINS: Leather is very absorbent. Stains sink right into the texture of the skin. Because leather is an animal skin, the structure can be damaged by stain removal techniques that would be safe for textiles. Another limitation is the dyes used on leather. Stain removal can also mean dye removal. Particularly on garments worn next to the skin, perspiration can cause color loss. This may be masked by body oils until after cleaning. Leathers are also susceptible to rings caused by the migration of dye if a liquid is spilled on them. This is difficult or impossible to remedy. Given all the potential problems, prompt attention to stains is the best hope for their removal.

OXIDATION: Dyes can oxidize from exposure to light and to gases in the atmosphere. This is a slow, progressive condition that develops as the item is worn. It may become more noticeable after cleaning, but protected areas, such as under the color, will retain more of the original color. Once this type of fading has occurred, it cannot be corrected.

COLOR SHADING FROM ADHESIVES: Adhesives are sometimes used to glue seams, hems, and other areas during construction. These glues or adhesives may not be solvent resistant. The adhesive may be removed during cleaning, causing hems to open and necessitating regluing by the cleaner. Sometimes the glues don’t dissolve completely, but leach through the leather and cause shaded areas. This cannot always be corrected by additional cleaning.

SHADED LEATHER: The texture of skins varies, and some skins tend to absorb more of the fat liquors and cleaning additives in cleaning and come out a little darker in some areas than others. Sometimes this shading can be seen on the garment before cleaning, but cleaning will accentuate it. Many people consider such shading a desirable characteristics. In any case, it is a natural phenomenon that is beyond the control of the dry-cleaner.

It is very important to check the care label on an imitation leather or suede. Some of these fabrics are quite fragile and will not withstand dry cleaning. The most common problem is failure of a film coating or of an adhesive. This results in self-sticking of the fabric or in blistering or puckering of the coating. On flocked items, the flocked coating may be lost in wear areas such as collars and cuffs. Cleaning may aggravate this condition. Nonwoven structures usually withstand dry cleaning very well.

You have made an investment in quality. Therefore, take good care of your leather garment to add to its life and appearance.


Cleaning, Textiles

Cleaning Your Humidifier

February 16th, 2015

imageIn the winter our houses tend to dry out causing static electricity, dry nose, throat and skin problems.  One way to add moisture to our homes is to use a humidifying device.  These machines can be cool mist, steam or evaporative (a fan blows air through a moistened absorbent material like a belt or filter).  These will add moisture back into the home if it is dry but care must be taken to avoid excessive moisture which can lead to bacterial growth if the machines are not maintained and cleaned regularly.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if you are using a humidifier in your home:

  • Use distilled or demineralized water in your machines to reduce hard water deposits. Tap water often contains more minerals which can be released in the mist. If the particles are fine enough they can be breathed in which could cause health problems depending on what the type and amount of minerals are.
  • Try to change the water in your humidifier daily. By emptying the tank and wiping it dry it will keep any film and scum from developing in your machine and will reduce the growth of microorganisms. If the tank is not removable use the manufacturer’s instruction to keep the machine clean.
  • If you are using a steam vaporizer keep it out of the reach of children. The steam can cause burns if anyone comes in direct contact with it.
  • Make sure that the humidity in your house doesn’t go beyond 50 percent. If so moisture can build up on windows and walls and can cause mold growth. A tool called a hygrometer can measure the humidity level in your house. They are usually found at your local hardware store.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s directions on what cleaning products to use. If bleach or other products are used, the tanks will need to be rinsed well before using so that those strong chemicals smells are not released into the air in your house.
  • At the end of the season make sure that all of the parts are cleaned and dry before putting it away. Also clean it thoroughly before bringing it out to use again the next winter.

Remember breathing dirty air can cause problems ranging from flu-like symptoms to infections.  If you suffer from allergies or asthma the problem can be even worse.  By keeping your humidifiers clean and using them correctly you can make your house comfortable and safe.

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Cleaning, Home Environment, Household Equipment, Housing

Tips for disposing of old and outdated medications

February 5th, 2015

medicine1Now that we are nearly done with January, it is time to continue working on my resolution to reduce clutter at my house. Somehow, we seem to find more outdated or unfinished medicine bottles in the medicine cabinet every year.

Our community does not have a drug disposal day scheduled for anytime soon, so if I want to finish cleaning the medicine cabinet, I’ll have to dispose of them some other way.

According to the FDA, here are some tips for disposing of medicine, either over the counter or prescription:

    • Follow directions for disposal listed on the label
      • Do NOT flush
    • Put the drugs in the trash
      • Mix the medication with used coffee grounds or kitty litter
      • This step prevents the temptation for others to try these drugs
      • Place in a container that will not allow leakage
      • Put container into garbage
    • Remove any identifying information on the label—name or address
    • DON’T share the drugs with friends
    • If you have further questions, consult your pharmacist.

We want to be careful disposing of drugs because we want to be sure that others will not be sickened by trying these medications. The side effects of unknown drugs can be dangerous for uninformed consumers or children. Flushing drugs down the toilet—which had been advised in the past—is not considered safe as the drug residue can make its way into ground water and streams or lakes.

Following the steps outlined above will help keep our family, neighbors and neighborhoods safe. Happy cleaning.





Cleaning, Consumer Management, Home Environment

Preventing Falls at Home

January 15th, 2015

This time of year when you hear of people falling most likely you are thinking it is from icy sidewalks.  Each year though thousands of older Americans fall inside the home.  According to the National Council on Aging one in three older Americans falls every year.   Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for people aged 65+.  The elderly are not the only ones at risk for falling.  All of us including small children can be injured.

There are several things that can be done to help prevent falls.

  • Establish an exercise routine. Regular exercise helps improve strength and balance.
  • Make sure that you have your vision checked yearly. If your vision is not clear it can cause an increase in falls.
  • Wear shoes both inside and outside. Slippers and socks can sometimes have slippery soles.
  • Get up slowly after you have been sitting or lying down.
  • Go over all medication that you are taking with your doctor or pharmacist. Some can make you dizzy or sleepy without you realizing it.
  • Make sure that the lighting in the room is adequate. If there are dark areas it may lead to tripping over something that has been left on the floor.
  • Make sure if there are throw rugs that they have a non-slip backing so they don’t move when they are stepped on.
  • Keep unnecessary items off of the floor. Magazines, books, blankets as well as other items should always be picked up.
  • Make sure items are stored where they can be easily reached. If you must use a step stool make sure that it is steady and that a chair is never used.
  • Be sure that there are grab bars in a bathroom when needed by the shower, tub or toilet. If a shower or tub is slippery use a non-slip bath mat.
  • Use a night light so that you can see where you are walking at night when it is dark. Many now automatically come on by themselves when it gets dark.

With a few simple changes in a home falls can be prevented for not only older relatives but young ones as well.

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Cleaning, Consumer Management, Home Environment, Household Equipment, Housing

Suede Shoe Care

January 5th, 2015



It seems that every winter, I get those nasty salt lines on my suede leather shoes and boots from the salt used to combat ice on sidewalks and streets. Prevention is the best method, but there are ways to clean these unsightly stains to have your shoes back in top shape and looking great again.

Here are a few tips on caring for your leather footwear from the Shoe Service Institute of America:


Water Proofing: The key to keeping suede and nubuck in top condition is preventative maintenance.  Before you wear them in sloppy weather, spray the footwear with a water-repellant coating, (found at shoe or department stores), to prevent stains from occurring.  Check the label to be sure the spray is designed for suede and nubuck and be sure to allow time for the spray to dry before you wear the shoes.  You may have to retreat the shoes with the spray over time if you notice that water is no longer beading up on the surface.


Brushing: Use a plastic or rubber-tipped brush regularly to restore the nap and remove surface dirt before it sets in. Be gentle brushing nubuck.  It is softer than suede and is easily damaged.  With oiled nubuck, use a nubuck conditioner to replace some of those oils on a regular basis.

Stain Removal: If you get a stain on suede or nubuck, try to remove it immediately with a solvent-based cleaner made specifically for the material.  Oil absorbing blocks are also available. These blocks abrade the leather to bring back the nap and remove stains.  Use a less aggressive block with nubuck because of its more delicate nature.  You can also rub off overall dirt with a very soft eraser, or just lightly sand away stains with an emery board.  With more serious stains, you might be better off taking the shoe to a shoe repair professional.

With suede you can’t use oil based cleaners as they will stain the suede more than the salt. To clean pesky salt lines from suede shoes, try a mild blend of 1 teaspoon each of dish washing detergent and fabric softener in two cups of warm water. First brush the suede with a shoe brush to loosen and remove any salt and dirt that may be removed. Spray some of the solution on evenly over the suede and lightly brush it in. Wide off with a cloth dampened with clean water.





Stuff the shoes with crumpled newspaper to help retain their shape. Allow to dry then rub the suede with light sand paper to recover the texture.



With a little care and maintenance, your suede shoes will retain their beauty for a long time.

jill sig



Cleaning, Home Environment, Textiles, Winter

A Mouse in the House?

October 27th, 2014

mouse white background2Cooler weather makes us think about winter and all the things we have left to do before winter strikes. Mice are not unlike people in this aspect; as the weather cools they begin to look for a way to spend the winter inside your home.

The two most effective methods of ridding your home from mice are exclusion and trapping. You can exclude mice by plugging cracks and holes in the siding or foundation of your home that are ¼ of an inch or larger. Mice need a hole or crack only as large as their head to enter your home.  Since mice are excellent climbers, pay attention to loose windows and holes that contain pipes or cables.  Stuff steel wool into cracks and holes to prevent mice from entering.  Remember that you will not only prevent mice from entering but you may also be lowering your heating bill by tightening up the outside of your home.

Trapping mice is the only way to eliminate the species of mice that spends all it’s time inside your home. Traps set in the center of a room will not be very effective.  Set traps along walls or in the small spaces that mice use to travel inside the home.  If you notice mice droppings, or have seen a mouse moving in a space then you will want to place a trap there. You have a choice between live traps and kill traps.  The simple, cheap snap traps are an effective way to kill mice.  If you want to be more humane, choose a live trap. You may want to set multiple traps to increase the odds of catching a mouse. Peanut butter, moist oatmeal, or chocolate are three of the foods that seem to attract mice.

No matter which style of trap you choose, remember to check them daily. If a snap trap is used, you may need to re-bait or empty the trap.  Live traps should be checked daily; this ensures that you mice will be handled in a humane fashion.  Remember that mice can travel quite a distance and you should release them a good, long distance from your home.





Cleaning, Housing

Clean your drain easily

June 23rd, 2014


We often associate spring with deep cleaning in our home.  Dirty drains can add a funky odor to the kitchen.  We have two different recipes to either clean or freshen the kitchen sink drain.

Drains can be cleaned by mixing ¼ cup of baking soda, ¼ cup of salt and 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar. Pour this mixture in the drain and add ½ cup of white vinegar.  Allow it to stand for 30 minutes, and then flush with cold water.

If your drain just needs a bit of freshening, mix 2 tablespoons of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of salt, and one teaspoon of cream of tartar.  Pour this into the drain and flush slowly with water.

In no time at all, you have a clean (or fresher) kitchen drain.






















Cleaning, Consumer Management, Home Environment

Tips for Laundry Stain Removal

June 19th, 2014

One of the more frustrating things about doing laundry can be set in stains.  Follow these tips for best results.


Tips to Remember for Stain Removal:

• Take care of stains promptly. Fresh stains are much easier to remove than those over 24 hours old.

• Blot up any excess liquid with a clean white cloth or paper towel. Remove excess solids by gentle scraping or chipping with a dull knife or metal spatula. With some solids, such as heavy amounts of surface mud, removal may be easier after the stain has dried. Brush off the excess before the clothing is submerged for washing.

• Avoid rubbing the stained area with a linty terry towel or a dark-colored cloth. You may complicate the problem.

• Never rub a fresh stain with bar soap. Soap sets many stains.

• Check laundry for stains before washing. Many stains need pretreatment.

• Inspect wet laundry before drying to be sure a stain has been removed. If a stain is still evident, do not dryer dry. The heat of drying makes the stain more permanent.

• Before starting on the stain, test on a seam or hidden area of the garment to be sure stain removal products do not affect the color or finish of the fabric.

• Avoid excessive rubbing unless the fabric is tough and durable. Rubbing can spread the stain and damage the fiber, finish, or color of the fabric. However, gentle to vigorous rubbing and agitation under running water helps remove dried food, protein, or oil stains from shirts or jean-weight fabrics made of cotton or cotton/polyester blends.

• Do not iron or press stained fabrics until the stain is completely removed. Heat sets most stains.

• Wash heavily stained items separately. Soil and stains can be re-deposited on cleaner clothing during laundering if a) too little detergent is used; b) water temperature is too low; c) washing time is too long; or d) the washer is loaded with too many clothes.

• Avoid using hot water on stains of unknown origin. Hot water can set protein stains like milk, egg, or blood.

• Use the water temperature recommended by product manufacturer. Hot water should be between 120 and 140 degrees F, warm water between 85 and 105 degrees F, and cold water between 65 and 75 degrees F. Water below 60 degrees F is too cold for detergents to be helpful.



Cleaning, Consumer Management, Laundry, Textiles

Caring for a Hardwood Floor in your home

June 16th, 2014


I love the beauty and durability of my oak hardwood floors in my home.  I also appreciate the fact that they don’t trap dust particles that contribute to allergies and other health issues.  But I’ve often wondered what the best methods are to clean and maintain them? Well there’s good news!  I’ve done some research and I’ve discovered that caring for them is actually quite simple!wood floor pic

If your floor has a surface finish, such as polyurethane, the general maintenance steps are:

  1. SWEEP with a soft bristled broom.
  2. VACUUM with special bare floor attachments to get rid of dirt and dust.  Or use a good dust mop with a 12”-18” cotton head
  3. You can also CLEAN your floors periodically with a professional wood floor cleaning product recommended by a wood flooring professional. The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) can help you find a pro in your area.  Make sure your mop is well wrung out so that it is just damp. Standing water can dull the finish, damage the wood and leave a discoloring residue.

When cleaning no longer restores shine, recoat the floor with a surface finish.  How often you do this depends on the amount of traffic. If you have kids or pets, your floors may get lots of mud, water, sand, or dirt tracked on them regularly; they may need to be recoated more often.

***Never wax a surface-finished floor, and never use vinyl or tile floor care products on any wood floor.


Do you have a wax or penetrating-stain finish on your wood floor?  Here are steps to follow to maintain the finish:

  1. DUSTMOP or VACUUM regularly.
  2. Use a BUFFER to maintain the shine.  Follow manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations if known.

If buffing no longer restores shine, you may need to rewax.  Apply a cleaner and liquid wax specifically for wood floors.  Apply the wax evenly, allow the floor to dry, and buff to the desired luster. Most wood floors need to be rewaxed once or twice a year. Try not to overwax a wood floor.  If the floor dulls, try buffing instead. Avoid wax buildup under furniture and other low-traffic areas by applying wax half as often as in higher-traffic areas.

Is your wax finish soiled or discolored?  Use a combination liquid cleaner/wax made specifically for wood flooring.  Make sure it is solvent rather than water-based.  Spread the liquid cleaner/wax with a cloth or fine steel wool and rub gently to remove grime and old wax.  Wipe the floor clean, let it dry for about 20 minutes, then buff.

Never damp-mop a waxed floor.


  • Place mats and throw rugs at doorways to help protect wood floors from grit, dirt, and sand.
  • Place felt pads under furniture legs.
  • Vacuum or dust your wood floor regularly.
  • Avoid walking on floors with cleats, sports shoes, or high heels. Interestingly, a 125-pound woman walking in high heels has an impact of 2,000 pounds per square inch. An exposed heel nail can exert up to 8000 pounds per square inch!  Can you say “DENTS”?
  •  When moving furniture, do not slide it on the wood flooring. It’s best to pick it up to move it.
  • Use a humidifier during the winter months to minimize gaps or cracks.

Follow these steps to enjoy the beauty of your wood floors for years to come.

jill sig

Cleaning, Housing


June 5th, 2014


With Father’s Day fast approaching, I’ve been reminiscing about grilling in the backyard with my dad. He had an award-winning recipe for Grilled Stuffed Pork Chops and my mouth waters to this day just remembering biting into them. He was a livestock producer so we always had an abundance of fresh meat cuts to barbecue on the old Weber charcoal grill, along with fresh-picked Iowa sweet corn and my mom’s fresh garden vegetables. Such good memories!

Cleaning the grill was not such a fun memory, however. Like most people, I still don’t enjoy cleaning the grill; but a dirty grill can mean off flavors and/or excess smoke the next time you barbecue.  The following are  steps we can take to make this “dirty job” easier:


BEFORE lighting the grill, apply non-stick spray on the grates. This cuts down cleanup time later. The grates need to be cleaned completely after every use. Use a stiff wire brush (or if you don’t have one, crumpled up aluminum foil works for this). Most people don’t know that it’s actually better to do this AFTER you cook while the grill is still warm as cooling hardens the food on the grate.

CHARCOAL GRILLS:stock-photo-grill-138335288[1]

Many charcoal grills come with a handy ash catcher attached to the bottom. These grills still need to be cleaned after every use to help cut down on excess smoke and bad flavors. Simply brush out the ashes and cooked foods that have dropped to the bottom of the grill. Occasionally get in there and really scrape out that stuff that seems to develop on the bottom.. At least once a year, get out a bucket of soapy water and give it a really good clean and rinse.




timthumb[2]GAS GRILLS:

Your gas grill may have a “clean” setting on the knobs. I’m sorry to report that this is not how you clean your grill. It will burn up stuff that has fallen down into the grill, but it doesn’t really clean it. Like a charcoal grill, you need to clean your gas grill after each use by cleaning the grates and brushing off the sides and lid. Regularly lift out the cooking grate and clean off the barrier above the burners. This might be lava rock, briquettes, or some variation of metal plates, and cooked on grease and food particles should be cleaned periodically.

Once a year, do a more thorough cleaning on your gas grill. To do this, start by disconnecting the gas and then lift out the grill parts layer by layer. Once you get down to the burners, inspect them thoroughly. Make sure nothing is blocking the flow of gas. If a burner is clogged, it will give you uneven heat and make for poor grilling. If you can clean it, do so, otherwise, replace it. If your grill uses lava rocks or ceramic briquettes you need to make sure that these are not too heavily encrusted with cooked on foods. If they are, replace them to avoid bad tasting smoke that dirty rocks can produce.

Take everything out of the gas grill and clean it completely with soapy water. Heat up the grill completely before you cook again to make sure that any leftover soap residue burns off.

One more handy tip: I use rubber or plastic gloves to clean my grill – it saves fingernails and keeps soot and grime off the hands.

Taking these steps to clean your grill regularly will help ensure delicious barbecued meals time after time.  Make memories in the backyard with your friends and family and enjoy the summer grilling season – it flies by quickly!

jill sig

Cleaning, Food Preparation, Home Environment, Household Equipment