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Prevent Box Elder Bugs

July 27th, 2015

boxelder bugsIt seems really early in the year to be thinking about Box Elder Bugs but this is the time of year to work at preventing an infestation next fall.  Use a tube of calking to seal up sites where the bugs can enter the house.  Check cracks in the foundation or house siding and gaps around the windows or doors.  It may seem like a big job, but with the arrival of nice weather you can break the job down into smaller parts.  Perhaps do one side of the house every week this month.

Later in the year, you can spray massing box elder bugs with Sevin, Diazinon, or Orthene.  You can also make a spray of soapy water using 5 tablespoons of liquid detergent per gallon of water.  This is a very effective spray but does not have any residual effect.

Take a little time this summer to slow or eliminate the entry of Box Elder Bugs into your home.

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Cleaning, Entomology, Housing

Stuck Again!

July 13th, 2015

PirateI can’t believe that it happened to me again.  I got my finger stuck with Super Glue.  I’m glad I’m not the only one who has a problem with Super glue: this is a problem that callers often ask about.

This morning I was trying to glue one of my grandsons’ toys back together.  The foot on one of the pirates from Peter Pan’s pirate ship was almost broken off and I thought I should glue it before the grandkids come for another visit.  I was extra careful with the super glue because years ago I managed to glue my thumbs and index fingers together and had to have the neighbor come over to rescue me.  I was being very careful this time.  The first bottle of glue I found in the junk drawer was old and dried up.  Squeezing as hard as I could did not help get any glue out of the container.  I rummaged around and found another tube and gave it a healthy squeeze.  This tube was not dry and I had a large drop come out of the tube.  I used the back of my thumb nail to press the pirate’s foot up.  I thought that this would prevent any glued fingers.  Unfortunately, glue ran over the foot and down my thumb.  Now the nail was glued to the skin underneath the nail.  Fortunately for me, I did have a large bottle of finger nail polish remover that contained acetone.  This is one of the products recommended for removal of super glue.  Super glue can be removed with fingernail polish remover, acetone, super glue remover, or goof off.

You may need to soak your finger directly in one of these products—as I did this morning.  For removal of lighter glue stains, a cotton ball or Q tip soaked in remover will work.

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Cleaning

Mold Cleanup in the Home

July 6th, 2015

IMG_2951Last time we discussed detection and prevention of mold growth in the home environment. What if you have detected mold and need to get rid of it?  Here are some steps you can take to clean, disinfect, and remove mold:

  • Dry all surfaces quickly; mold will grow within about two days.
  • Anyone spending more than a brief time cleaning mold should use a HEPA filter mask and gloves.
  • Porous materials should be discarded or completely decontaminated if they are moldy. Materials such as hard plastic, glass and metal can be cleaned and disinfected.
  • Remove the mold using a non-ammonia soap or detergent and scrubbing with a wet sponge or cloth. Never mix bleach and ammonia. Surfaces should be rinsed and allowed to dry after cleaning, as quickly as possible. Surfaces from which the mold cannot be completely removed should be treated with enough chlorine bleach to keep the surface moist for at least 15 minutes, rinsed and then rapidly dried.
  • Disinfect to kill mold spores after surfaces have dried by applying a solution of ¼ cup chlorine bleach per gallon of water or one tablespoon of bleach to a quart of water if you prefer to use a spray bottle or you have a small area to treat. Thoroughly wet the surface to be treated with the bleach solution and leave the solution to dry. There is no need to rinse the bleach solution as it will kill the mold spores within 10-15 minutes and the bleach will dissipate after drying.
  • *Important note: Bleach has a shelf life of six months, so be sure to use fresh bleach in your solution.
  • Other products that kill mold are biocides. These biocides have Environmental Protection Agency registration numbers on the bottle and instructions for the intended application.

Make sure that you have located the source of the moisture responsible for the mold growth and have taken steps to remedy the problem.  If the water source is not stopped the mold will regrow even after disinfection.

For information on mold removal from specific products and surfaces see the publication by North Dakota State University Extension Service, Molds in Your Home. https://www.sdstate.edu/sdces/districts/north/1/browncounty/upload/homemolds.pdf

 

Cleaning, Home Environment

Prevention and Detection of Molds in Your Home

July 2nd, 2015

moldHere at AnswerLine we receive many calls about mold in the home. It’s very common especially in the humid midwest summer months. Mold exposure may cause health problems; it’s not safe to live in a house with high mold levels.

Molds can usually be detected by a musty odor, and discoloration of surfaces is common with mold growth. Colors can include white, green, brown, black or orange. If you see or smell mold, you have a problem. Reliable sampling for mold can be expensive since it requires special equipment and training. Testing is not generally recommended as a first step, but instead finding the source of the moisture and controlling it and cleaning existing mold to remedy the problem.

Molds need moisture to grow.  Water leaks, flooding, high relative humidity and condensation are all situations that increase the growth of mold, and it can develop almost anywhere in a home.  There are measures you can take to prevent mold growth in your home. Most of these steps involve moisture reduction.

Mold Prevention:

  • Cleaning, disinfecting and drying surfaces prevent mold growth. Mold will grow on damp surfaces within a couple days at normal temperatures.
  • Reduce moisture levels in the bathroom by running an exhaust fan during and after showers.
  • Fix plumbing leaks and seepage to prevent the buildup of moisture and prevent the growth of molds.
  • Store clothing dry and clean to prevent the growth of mold on clothes.
  • Reduce humidity levels with the use of dehumidifiers and air conditioning when humidity levels are high.
  • Increase the flow of air within your home. Moving furniture away from walls and opening closet doors to permit air circulation limits the growth of molds.
  • Prevent condensation. Insulating walls and installing storm or thermal pane windows keeps walls warm and limits condensation.

For more detailed information on mold prevention in the home check out NDSU Extension Service’s Keep Your Home Healthy website.

Stay tuned next time – we’ll discuss mold CLEANUP in the home.

jill sig

Cleaning, Home Environment

Spring Cleaning Your Grill

April 27th, 2015

Once the weather gets warmer we use our grill about every day.  Cleaning it before you start to heavily use it is always a good idea.  Here are some cleaning tips that will keep your grill working well for years to come.

  • Start off by washing the outside with warm soapy water. Rinse well after washing.
  • If you have a stainless steel burner on the side of your grill you can use a mild stainless steel cleaner. Use a non- lint cloth to clean and polish.
  • Next move to the inside. If on the lid of your grill you have deposits that look like peeling paint it is carbonized grease. Use a stainless steel grill brush to remove them then wash with warm soapy water and rinse.
  • Brush the grates with a stainless steel brush and then wipe them clean with a rag and soapy water, then rinse.
  • To clean the burners and tubes use a stainless steel grill brush. Brush them sideways not lengthways to avoid moving debris from one hole to the next.
  • Be sure and clean the bottom of the grill. If the grease is excessive use a spatula or putty knife to scrape it off into the bottom tray. Clean the tray and the drip tray.

Just like cleaning your oven, maintaining your grill will keep it working for a long time.  Your food will cook more evenly and you will enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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Cleaning, Household Equipment

Cleaning Your House Siding

April 20th, 2015

photo (1)Mold is present everywhere including both indoors and outside.  Most times molds that grow on the outside of your house don’t pose health problems but it can definitely be an eye sore!  Mold can appear as discoloration or darkening on siding, decks and roofs.

Molds grow on surfaces usually where it is dark or shady, when temperatures are warm (although it can happen anywhere above freezing to nearly 100 degrees) and where there is a moisture source including humidity in the air.  Proper ventilation around the house is important.  If you have trees and plants that are growing close to the house it can provide an environment for mold to grow especially if it is on the north side of the house where there isn’t much sunlight.  Trimming the plants and keeping the surfaces of your house clean will keep the outside of your house mold and mildew free.

It is a good idea to wash your siding every year.  If you have a soft brush that attaches to the hose it will work well. If you need more than water and a brush you can use 1/3 cup mild household cleaner like TSP (trisodium phosphate) in a gallon of water.  If you need something stronger you can increase the cleaner to 2/3 cup and add 1/3 cup laundry detergent.  Always remember to rinse the siding after washing it.

If you have mold or mildew growing on the siding you can add 1 quart of bleach to the cleaning solution listed above.  Anytime you are adding bleach to clean you need to make sure that the cleaner you are using doesn’t contain ammonia.  Again rinse well after using this cleaner.

If there are plants located near where you are cleaning you need to protect them by covering them with plastic.  Be sure and rinse off any bleach solution right away if it comes in contact with your plants.

By providing regular cleaning and removing mold when it starts to grow you can prolong the life of your siding and keep your house looking nice.

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Cleaning, Consumer Management, Housing

Leather care tips!

March 23rd, 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.

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Cleaning, Textiles

The Many Uses of Baking Soda

March 19th, 2015

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Baking soda is something that everyone has in their cupboards to use in baking but it has so many other uses as well.  Did you know that more than 100 tons of baking soda was used to clean the Statue of Liberty’s inner copper walls during its 1986 restoration?  If it is good enough for the Statue of Liberty just think of the ways that it can be used in your home!

  • Use it to clean off sticky grease on pans or kitchen equipment (ex. waffle maker). The baking soda acts like an eraser to clean off the grease.
  • To clean a drain, pour ½ cup of baking soda and ½ cup of salt down the drain. Follow with ½ cup of vinegar. Cover the drain and let it work for at least 15 minutes. Finish by pouring a tea kettle of boiling water down the drain.
  • Make a paste of baking soda and water in a small container. Apply the paste to your tooth brush to make your own toothpaste.
  • Sprinkle baking soda liberally over dry carpet to remove odors. Leave it on overnight and then vacuum in the morning.
  • If your plastic food containers have picked up a strong odor wash them in hot water and baking soda. Next sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda inside the container. Cover and let it stand for at least one hour or overnight. Wash as usual and the odor should be gone.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge to erase crayon, pencil, ink and furniture scuffs from painted surfaces. Rinse when the mark is removed.
  • Are you getting black marks on your floor from your shoes? Rub the area with a paste of baking soda and water. Rinse and wipe dry.
  • If you have a small grease fire in your kitchen pour baking soda on it to help put it out.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on baked on pans. Then add a little hot water and dish soap. Let it sit and absorb for several minutes then use a kitchen dish scrubber to remove the baked on food.
  • Do you have an oil spot in your garage? Sprinkle a mixture of baking soda and salt over it, let it soak to absorb and then sweep to remove.
  • Adding ½ cup baking soda to top loading machines or ¼ cup to front load washers help you to reduce the amount of bleach you need by half in your laundry.

With so many uses for both cooking and cleaning I keep a several containers of baking soda handy!

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Cleaning, Home Environment, Household Equipment, Laundry

Tips for cleaning tile

March 12th, 2015

imageAt our house, cabin fever generally sets in about mid-March. I get really tired of looking at snow and driving in snow and staying inside to stay warm. One of the ways that I have found to distract myself is cleaning. I like to take a project that I’ve been putting off and tackle it over a weekend. This weekend I’m going to do some deep cleaning of the tile in my bathrooms.

Glazed tile is easy to clean. Just wash with a damp sponge and an all-purpose cleaner that has some ammonia as one of the ingredients. If you have a spot that requires heavy-duty cleaning use a non-abrasive scouring agent like liquid Ajax, Comet, or Soft Scrub. You can also use a paste made of baking soda on a nylon scouring pad. Remember to rinse with clear water.

Unglazed tiles can be cleaned the same way as glazed tiles. Often unglazed tile s require more aggressive cleaning techniques if the surface is rough or porous. Mold and mildew are not nearly as much of a problem in a kitchen as they are in a damp bathroom. The rough surface will still collect dirt and stains, however. If the above methods don’t work for cleaning the tile, try spreading a paste of scouring powder and water over the tile and allow it to stand for about five minutes. Then scrub the surface with a stiff bristle brush, rinse with clear water and dry. If the tiles still don’t come clean, a poultice-cleaning method can be used. The Ceramic Tile Institute recommends the following procedure: Coat the tile with an undiluted neutral soap (Fels Naptha). Allow to stand and dry and dry for several hours.  Then mix some more with warm water and wet down the tile rub. Rub the tile with a sponge and copious amount of water to remove all the soap; then towel dry.

If the grout looks dirty, clean it with a brush and an all-purpose cleaner or tub, tile and sink cleaner. For badly stained or mildewed grout, use a mildew stain remover or a solution of 3/4 cup of chlorine bleach in one gallon of water. Carefully apply the bleach solution, using a brush. Rinse thoroughly

If I get busy this weekend, I’ll have a nice clean bathroom to enjoy for the rest of the winter. Happy cleaning.

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Cleaning, Housing

Time To Get Rid of Your Wallpaper?

March 5th, 2015

After living in our house for 19 years I decided that it was time for a change and undertook the removal of the wallpaper that we had in our kitchen.  I was lucky.  My dad was our wallpaper installer and he used sizing so it came off easily.

That wasn’t what happened in our first house that we purchased when we got married.  There were many layers of wallpaper and it was a much bigger task!

If you have wallpaper and are ready for a change here are the steps to remove it from your walls.

  • Remove all of the electrical face plates, light switches and any nails used to hang pictures. Cover anything electrical with masking or duct tape to protect them from water. It is a good idea to cut the power to the room to avoid water and electricity problems.
  • Place a drop cloth on the floor that is water resistant to keep water off of the carpet, hardwood or tile floor.
  • Test a corner of the wallpaper to see if it easily comes off without taking off the drywall. If it doesn’t come off easily you can use a solvent to help with the removal or you may need to rent a steamer.
  • A solvent can be made at home by mixing hot water with a few tablespoons of white vinegar or hot water and fabric softener in a spray bottle. The important thing to remember is that hot water is needed to work with the vinegar or fabric softener to dissolve the glue. Spray on the wallpaper in a section that you can strip in a 15 minute period.
  • The paper will begin to sag or pull away from the wall if this method is working. If it doesn’t you may need to rent a commercial wallpaper steamer. This tool has a pad where steam is released. The steamer is held in place to allow the steam to penetrate the paper and soften the glue. Use a scraper to remove the wallpaper once it has loosened. If it is not coming off you might need to use the steamer for a longer period of time but also make sure that you are not damaging the wall by using too much steam. Make sure you wear gloves since the wallpaper and glue will be hot. If your wallpaper is very old or you have many layers to take off, this method will save you the most time.
  • Once the wallpaper is removed the last remaining glue should be washed off using a sponge and very hot water with a small amount of soap. When the remaining adhesive is removed, rinse the wall with clean water and use a towel to dry it. If the wall was damaged use spackling to repair it.

Removing wallpaper will give your house a whole new look.  It is a labor of love that gives you a sense of accomplishment when the project is finished!

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Cleaning, Household Equipment