Our family has a longstanding tradition of going out to the cemeteries and decorating the graves of family members who have died before us. We typically visit six different cemeteries and clean and decorate the graves with artificial flowers. This is the one time of the year that we pack all the tools and water we will need to clean those gravestones that are dirty or show a bit of mildew. Our grandchildren really enjoy using the brush and water to clean the stones. I was thinking about this upcoming trip and wondered if there were any better options for cleaning headstones than just water and a soft brush.
I’ve learned through my searches that if the grave stone has any flakes or cracks in it, you should be extremely careful so that you don’t do any additional damage while cleaning it. It was interesting to learn that most of the cleaners I would be tempted to use may do some damage to the stone. Avoid house hold cleaners like, borax, Spic and Span, Fantastik, Formula 409, muriatic acid, or phosphoric acid. These strong acids or bases (depending on the cleaner) are corrosive and could damage the headstone. It is important to remember to clean the stone from the bottom up to avoid streaking.
Lighter colored stones that show some moss, mildew, or algae growth can be cleaned using a cup of household ammonia mixed into a gallon of water. Be sure to rinse with clear water after cleaning. If there is lichen growing on the headstone you can clean it with one part of ammonia in four parts of water. Again, remember to rinse with clear water.
Use a very soft brush for scrubbing; a brush that would not damage the finish on your car would be suitable. Pre-wetting the stone will prevent the cleaning solution from being adsorbed into the headstone. Once you have cleaned a headstone this thoroughly, you will not need to clean it again for about ten years. Cleaning more frequently can cause deterioration of the stone. I plan to make up both ammonia solutions and pack some extra gallons of clear water for my trip next week. I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with the grandchildren soon.
As part of Spring cleaning it is a good idea to check expiration dates on items you have held over from previous years. Sunscreen is one of those products that can lose it’s effectiveness over time. Sunscreens are designed to remain at original strength for up to 3 years. If yours has an expiration date on it and it is past the date, you should discard it. If the sunscreen has no expiration date on it, you should date it when you purchase it and discard after 3 years. If you notice any changes in color or consistency you should discard the product regardless of the expiration date.
If you are using sunscreen correctly it should not last too long. The recommendation is to apply generously and frequently using 1 ounce to cover exposed body parts and reapplying every 2 hours. If you are swimming or perspiring a lot you should apply more frequently. If you buy a 3 or 4 ounce container of sunscreen you would use it up pretty quickly.
To maximize protection it is best to use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 up to 50. There is little evidence to suggest SPF 50+ offers better protection. Sunscreen should be applied even on slightly cloudy or cool days.
Sunscreens work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. They contain chemicals that interact with the skin to protect it from UV rays. All sunscreen products do not have the same ingredients so if your skin reacts badly to one, try another.
Sunscreens can break down in the heat so be sure to store them in a cool place. The glove box or trunk of your car would not be good storage spots.
Enjoy the feeling you get after a good day of Spring cleaning!
AnswerLine calls are a great resource for blog topics. Today’s blog comes from an AnswerLine caller who wanted to know how to clean cooking grease from a painted kitchen wall.
Grease stains on any surface can be an intimidating problem. They are both unsightly and difficult to remove. Due to meal preparations involving cooking, sauteing and frying, the kitchen is the most common area in the home where grease stains occur; not only are the spatters of concern, but also the fine mist that gradually collects on walls and other surfaces. The longer grease, and especially cooking grease, is left on any surface, the more difficult it is to remove; over time it tends to gel and bond to the host surface. Further, the more porous the surface is, the more difficult the grease is to remove. Even after the stickiness is gone, there is often some discoloration to the surface, especially a painted wall, which will likely require repainting. Since one can never be totally sure that all the grease has been removed, it is a good idea to prime the wall with a KILZ paint to make sure that the stain will not eventually show through the new paint.
Here’s some common household items that will help remove grease stains from painted walls:
- White vinegar. Mix one part white vinegar with one part hot water. Use a spray bottle to apply the solution to the grease. Allow it to set for several minutes and then wipe with a clean rag. Work in small areas and repeat as many times as necessary to get the wall clean. If the area is large, use several rags to collect the grease.
- Baking soda. Make a paste of three tablespoons of baking soda with one cup of warm water. Work the paste into the grease stain. Gently rub the area with a nylon scrubber until the stain disappears. Wipe clean with a clean damp rag.
- Ammonia. Mix two cups of household ammonia with one gallon of hot water. Use a spray bottle to apply the solution and scrub with a nylon sponge or brush to remove the stains. Gloves and ventilation are a must when using ammonia.
- TSP (Trisodium Phosphate). TSP is a strong cleaner. It can cause irritation and even burn if it is used incorrectly. Wear rubber gloves, safety goggles, and long sleeves to protect your skin and eyes. Surfaces outside of the affected area should be protected from TSP splashes as it can discolor or de-gloss paint, wood, and metal. A solution of ¼ cup TSP per gallon of very warm water is a good place to start. For heavy grease build up, increase the ratio to ½ cup TSP per gallon of water. Use a sponge to apply the solution, wringing out the sponge to avoid dripping. Working from the bottom up reduces streaking. Allow the solution to sit on the wall for two minutes to soften the grease before scrubbing with a nylon scrub pad. Rinse the affected area thoroughly as any residue left on the wall could prevent paint from adhering.
The wind is a blowin’ and the leaves are a fallin’. It’s that time of the year to rake those leaves OR not? Most people rake their leaves because their neighbors do and they want to avoid the condescending glares for not doing it OR they were taught that leaves can suffocate a lawn. For years, we have been raking and bagging leaves because when leaves pile up with wet, heavy snow, it can mean problems for the grass below due to suffocating or snow mold (a fungal disease that attacks turf). So how should fall leaves be managed?
To begin, it is no longer acceptable to send leaves off to the landfill where they take up space and generate harmful gases. So if your town or county doesn’t offer leaf composting as part of its leaf removal program, other options need to be considered to keep the leaves out of the waste stream, appease your neighbors, and better your lawn or garden. K-State Research and Extension offers some great solutions for getting rid of fall’s abundant leaves that include mulching, composting, stockpiling, and incorporating.
If you’d rather not rake and bag, mow mulching may work for you. The leaves are mowed and left on the turf to degrade and returned to the soil. Research at Michigan State (MSU) has shown leaf mulching to be efficient and benefit the lawn when properly done. Besides cutting down on the need for fertilizers and other chemicals, the decomposing pieces of leaves cover bare spots between turf plants where weed seeds germinate. MSU research has shown a reduction in dandelions and crabgrass after adopting this practice for just three years.
Composting may require raking or mowing with a catcher. The horticulturalists at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offer some great suggestions on constructing and managing compost piles. While this option will take some time, the leaves will be reduced to wonderful organic matter usable in the garden.
Shredding and stockpiling leaves in bags or containers allow the leaves to be used as garden mulch the following spring and then tilled into the soil at the end of the season for added organic matter.
Leaves can be incorporated into the garden in the fall; Mother Nature will compost them over the winter. To do so spread a couple inches over the garden and work into the soil.
Not all of these solutions will work for everyone, but with a little thought, we can all do our part to keep the leaves out of the waste stream, be a good neighbor, and benefit our own lawn and gardens.
Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are all things that we want to avoid when spending time hiking, camping or even golfing (can you tell I have looked for a few golf balls in the woods). The first and most important part of prevention is learning to identify the plants. The attached links show what these plants look like to help you to know which ones to avoid when you are out having fun!
Here are some things to remember if you come in contact with any of these plants.
- It is important to wash the oil off as quickly as possible with soap and water. The oil enters the skin quickly and can leave skin with an itchy red rash with bumps or blisters. Make sure that you pay attention to your fingernails as well.
- The rash does not spread by the fluid from the blisters. Once the urushiol oil has been washed off the skin it will not spread from person to person.
- Most people don’t react to the urushiol immediately. It can vary from 6-8 hours or it may even be days before you see the rash develop.
- All items that have come in contact with the plant oil need to be cleaned well. The oil remains on tools, clothing, shoes and pets for a very long time. If you come in contact with those items in the future it can cause the rash to return if it was not cleaned off.
- Keep your pets from coming in contact with these plants so the urushiol doesn’t stick to their fur which can spread to you. If you think your pet has been exposed give your pet a bath and use long rubber gloves to keep from spreading it to your arms.
- Wash all of your clothes immediately in your washing machine. Be careful to not have the clothes touch the outside part of your washing machine or the floor. If you feel those areas may have been exposed wash with soap and water. Remember to wash sleeping bags, jewelry, gloves or anything that may have come in contact with the oil.
- Wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when you are walking in areas that may have these plants.
- Do NOT burn poison ivy, oak or sumac to get rid of it. The resins can be spread in the smoke and anyone breathing it could have severe reactions. See a medical professional immediately if you are having trouble breathing and you think you may have been exposed to smoke from the burning of these plants.
Being out in the woods is a fun summer activity but being aware of your surroundings and able to identify these plants is important. Teach yourselves and your kids what to look for and what to do if you are exposed.
Quilting is my favorite hobby, and the one that consumes most of my time. Since quilting has been popular for quite a few years now (I got started in 1980) it seems possible that you may have a quilt in your home that you need to clean.
If you have been using the quilt on a bed, it is possible that the quilt has stains from food or body oils. A quilt that has only used for display will probably have more dust and dirt from the air than stains. Quilts can best be cleaned using one of two methods.
You can choose to vacuum a quilt or wash it with water. Vacuuming the quilt puts the least stress on the quilt. You will want to use a small screen and a small vacuum. The screen will be placed between the vacuum and the quilt. The screen prevents damage to the quilt from the suction of vacuum on the quilt as you clean it. You should vacuum both the front and the back of the quilt. Pay special attention to the creases in the quilt and try to remove all dust from those areas. Resist the urge to give the quilt a good shake outdoors. The shaking can stress both the quilting stitches and the piecing stitching. Additionally, if the fabric in the quilt is old and delicate, shaking can damage it, too.
If you must wash the quilt, you will want to check to be sure that all the fabrics in the quilt are color fast. If the dyes run while washing, you will have more stains to clean than just oils and dirt. Use the largest place possible to wash the quilt. This may mean washing it in the bath tub. Avoid over agitating the quilt and wringing it out. Be sure to use a very mild soap, preferably use one designed for washing quilts. Rinse the quilt well and allow it to drain as much water as possible before moving it to dry. You can dry the quilt outside, in the shade on a sheet. If you want to use the clothes line to dry it, make a hammock out of a large sheet and lay the quilt on it. You may want to lay it over several different clothes lines to spread the weight of the quilt out over a larger area. If the wet quilt hangs by itself, you may cause irreparable damage to the stitching in the quilt.
If you have more questions about cleaning your quilts, please call or email us at AnswerLine. We would love to help you.
One of my children is interested in purchasing cast iron cookware and is wondering how to treat it.
Season new cast iron by rubbing lightly with vegetable shortening. You will want to coat the interior where the food will touch. The vegetable oil will leave it sticky.
After coating, heat the pan in a 250 degree F oven for 2 hours. It may be necessary to add extra shortening to the pan. Do not let it dry out.
Let the cast iron get stone cold and wipe out with a paper towel.
Remember when you need to wash the cast iron, don’t let it soak in the water for an extended period of time or you will need to re-season.
If you find some older cast iron pieces at a garage sale that you would like to use, simply scour and scrub them with steel wool. Then season and enjoy.
Part Two of oven cleaning addresses how to clean oven racks and the oven window. Again, always remember to remove the oven racks before cleaning your oven. Failing to remove the racks can cause permanent damage to them.
You are going to want to cover the oven racks with hot water. Many people put them in the bath tub to do this. Once the racks are covered with very hot water, add ½ cup powdered or liquid dishwasher detergent to the water. Swish around until the detergent is dissolved. Let soak 4 hours or overnight. Rinse, dry, and replace in your clean oven!
Enjoy clean oven racks without all the hard work.
Of course, no oven is clean without a little attention to the window. Harsh cleaners or scrubbing pads can damage the surface of the window. You may want to try warm sudsy water or a solution of vinegar and water to clean the oven window.
It won’t take long and your oven will be sparkling like new.
Tis the season for Spring cleaning! For many of us that includes the oven. It is suggested to clean your oven monthly and wipe down the oven door weekly. Dirty ovens are less efficient at reaching temperatures and crusty buildup can impact the taste of food.
AnswerLine’s recommended way to clean an electric oven is to preheat the oven for 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and place a bowl of boiling water on the bottom shelf and a bowl of ammonia (about ½ cup ) on the top shelf. Close the oven door and let set overnight. Wipe down and scrub with a nonabrasive scrubber if necessary the next day. This procedure is not recommended for gas ovens with pilot lights for safety reasons. For gas ovens place a bowl of water in the oven and turn the oven on high for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow the steam to loosen dried on food and grease overnight.
If spills do happen, sprinkle salt on the spills when warm and scrub with 3 tablespoons washing soda (which can be purchased at the grocery store) mixed into 1 quart warm water.
The next blog will address the recommended way to clean oven racks.
If you are “thinking spring” and cleaning in your kitchen, here are some tips for cleaning glass items.
If the sparkle is gone, warm up two cups of white vinegar in the microwave for about two minutes. Pour into a bowl large enough to place at least two of your cloudy glasses. Soak for about three minutes. Rotate the glasses to ensure all areas have been cleaned. Rinse and dry.
If spots remain, scrub with a damp cloth dipped in baking soda. This will not scratch the glasses but may remove stubborn spots. White paste toothpaste will also work to scour the glasses, scratch free.
Vases or narrow bottles can be difficult to clean. Follow these directions for cleaning your vase. Fill the vase half full with really warm water. Add a squirt of dish soap and two tablespoons of ammonia. Next, add ½ cup of uncooked rice. Swirl the vase to allow the rice to scrub the area you cannot reach. Let the vase rest for a few minutes and swirl again. When you have removed the stains, rinse well with warm water. Set the vase upside down to dry.
If you find you have wax covered candle holders, soak them in a sink of hot water. Next peel or gently scrape off the softened wax. You can scrub with a terry cloth dish cloth to remove the remaining wax. Then wash in hot, sudsy dish water and dry.
I hope that these tips will help refresh some special glassware that you need to clean.