Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cleaning on a Budget


These are tough times for a lot of us. Finding clever ways to save money cleaning can make a difference in your monthly budget. After years of Clean Team rules designed to help you save time, we have come up with a few economically friendly cleaning ideas to help save you money.

Buy in concentrate: If you purchase cleaning solutions, detergents and even juices in concentrate you’ll save cash with each purchase. Manufacturers spend less money on packaging and shipping waterless concentrate formulas and pass the savings onto you!

Use more “All-Purpose” cleaners: Instead of using a variety of cleaners for specific job, use an all-purpose cleaner for most of your cleaning jobs, and keep only a few specialty cleaners on hand for specific problems like mineral deposits or heavy soap scum.

Make your own cleaners: You can use vinegar and water for glass and mirrors, sprinkle baking soda on carpets to freshen them, use rubbing alcohol as a gunk remover and bleach and water as a inexpensive disinfectant.

Use cloths instead of paper towels: Reusable is both budget and environmentally friendly. Save paper towels for quick pick ups and use cleaning cloths for your heavy duty cleaning.

Save on Energy Costs: Sweep instead of vacuuming. You may not be able to sweep everytime, but if you rate sweeping with vacuuming, you’ll save money on electricity. Plus, if your vacuum takes bags – you’ll be putting money in your pocket by having to replace them less often.

Use Pump Sprays instead of Aerosols: Not only are many aerosol sprays terrible for the environment, they are also bad for your budget. Aerosols work by suspending liquid in air, creating a fine mist as you spray. This means that half the can is filled with air. Also, if you have ever been so unlucky to discover that if you expel the air from the can faster than the liquid inside, the can becomes unusable, creating a waste of product. Stick with pump-style sprayers. At least if the pump sprayer breaks, you can still open the top and use its contents!

Refer to rule 8 of Speed Cleaning: Keep your tools in impeccable shape – the better care you take of them the longer they’ll last.

Cheap doesn’t always mean inexpensive: Cleaning cloths start out more expensive than paper towels, but are money savers in the long haul. Chicken feathers just spread the dust around while ostrich down feathers actually attract dust and help you get the cleaning over with faster.

Get the most out of your Dishwasher per load: Fill it to the brim! If you rinse your dishes before loading them, you’ll need less detergent per load. Save by rinsing your dishes in a quarter full sink of hot soapy water instead of using gallons of running water. Adding a dish brush to the mix will only lessen your workload – and they last longer than sponges!

Clean your Refrigerator Coils and Dryer Vents: Once or twice a year is all it takes to help make these appliances run more efficiently on less electricity.

We hope this ideas help save you money! Tell us how you save money, please share us your Cheap Cleaning tips!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Going Green

It is great to be living in a time when environmental awareness is becoming less of a trend and more a part of the larger social conscious. This movement is good for the environment but it places an additional responsibility on us, the consumer to be more educated and informed about the products we are using. The term green is a bit over-used these days and has a broad meaning. Going “green” can be as simple as using products that are non-toxic and biodegradable but can stretch all the way to having a complete existence that is benign to the environment. Living green, though, is much more than just buying products that promise to be environmentally safe. It is about becoming consciously aware that everything we do– from the cleaning products we use, the cars we drive and even the food we eat all have a substantial impact on this world and future generations to come. There are several efforts you can make that cost little or no money and require little effort to make your life a little greener. The first thing you can do is to use green products.

So, what makes a product green? This is the million-dollar question that seems to have no one right answer. Start with the basic understanding that you want to use products that are Biodegradable. What makes something biodegradable? Biodegradable defines something, typically originating from plant or animal sources, which may be broken down by other living organisms and returned to the earth by decomposition. Importance should not just be placed on the fact that that product is biodegradable, but you must also ask how long does the biodegrading process take? Paper products only take 10-20 years to decompose, whereas aluminum and plastic bottles take hundreds of years. So, it wouldn’t make sense to place a plastic bottle in a landfill and wait several hundred years for the biodegrading process to be complete. Instead, you would want to recycle that plastic bottle and reuse it as many times as possible before throwing it away. This brings us to the next step in greening your life – Recycling.

Recycling has been a common practice throughout human history, as it gives new life to what would otherwise be waste. Taking a product or material at the end of its useful life and turning it into a usable raw material to make another product is a great way to both reduce landfill space and eliminate waste. Community curbside recycling programs serve over half the US and offer basic collection of aluminum, glass, paper, plastic and tin. E-waste, or electronic waste, is the latest of consumer waste to clog up landfill space. These items often contain hazardous ingredients like lead and mercury, so awareness of the correct disposal method for these items is necessary. Taking part in donation programs for old cell phones, computers and televisions is a great way to be “e-green”.

The next step in creating a greener existence for yourself and your family would be to reduce the amount of things you use. Reduction in consumption is a key ingredient in going green. Being a responsible consumer is not only about what you use, but how much you use. Did you know the average US consumer produces 4.39 pounds of trash per day? That means each one of us produces an astonishing 1600 pounds of trash per year. Times that by the 300 million or so of us living in the US, this makes for a lot of waste. If we reduce our waste by half, it would have a very positive effect on future generation– perhaps they wouldn’t be living on a giant landfill! Simple changes in your daily life– like using cotton cloths instead of paper towels, reducing the amount of cleaning solution you use or replacing disposable diapers with cloth ones can make all the difference in the amount of waste being produced by each one of us.

Realistically, no one product can be “green” by itself. Being green is ultimately not just the responsibility of a product, but also the person who purchases it. We agree that the term “green” then should define a collaborative effort of consumers, products, and manufacturers. A good example would be for a manufacturer to produce a product that is biodegradable and packaged in recyclable materials. If the consumers also take part in a community recycling program, reduce the amount of product they use and reuse whatever they can of the product, then the impact of the green product would be greener.

Simple changes in your daily life can make a huge impact on waste production, energy consumption and your bank account. Here are 10 simple ways you can reduce your carbon footprint and even save money:

1. Save energy – Turn off everything! Instead of only switching ordinary light bulbs to CFL’s– also turn them off! Turn off your computers at night instead of putting them in sleep mode – both of these combined can save you up to an average of ¢8 a day – that’s $29.20 per year!

2. Don't Rinse Plates - Skip rinsing your plates under running water before putting them into the dishwasher. Try plugging the sink with a small amount of water and brushing off excess food with a good dish brush (such as our Dish Demon Brush) By doing this, on average you will save 15 gallons of water per load, saving you money. Plus, you will save time – which is what we’re all about (besides being green of course!)

3. Hang Washables Outside to Dry - Get a cloths line or rack to dry your clothes, cleaning cloths and Sh-Wipes. Your things will last longer and you will save average ¢10 per load

4. Don't buy bottled water - You can purchase a filter to make your home tap taste more like bottled water. To use a home filtration system, including the cost of replacement filters will cost around $50 per year, whereas bottled water, drinking an average of 2 per day at about ¢25 per bottle run over twice the cost at $182.50 per year – plus a whole lot of wasted bottles.

5. Claim your unclaimed cash – recycling bottles and cans is not only great for the environment, but if you take them to a local center you will get your deposit back. In California, the redemption value is ¢5 per 24 ounces and ¢10 over 24 ounces on soda cans and water bottles. Check your state’s recycling program for more details.

6. Use Concentrates – Using concentrate cleaners, such as Red Juice and Blue Juice save money and packaging. Each bottle is the equivalent to 20 bottles of cleaner. By reusing the same spray bottles you are creating less waste.

7. Use Cleaning Cloths instead of Paper Towels. Paper towels create over 3,000 tons of landfill space a day and they aren’t budget friendly. Cotton cleaning cloths are made from natural material and last much longer.

8. Unplug appliances when you're not using them. Or, use a "smart" power strip that senses when appliances are off and cuts "phantom" or "vampire" energy use.


9. Increase the efficiency of your electric appliances. If you must use a dryer, consider adding dryer balls to cut drying time and use a dryer vent brush to keep the exhaust clear which will save electricity. You can also use a refrigerator coil brush to keep your refrigerator coils clean, which will keep your refrigerator from constantly running.

10. Walk or Bike whenever possible. Besides being a very healthy alternative, you’ll save lots of money on fuel costs. When you have to drive, you should carpool if possible


Please share with us your going green tips! We’d love to hear your ideas on what it means to be green!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Economy Cleaning

With soaring gas prices and the cost of living at an all time high, budgeting time and money is one way to fight back. Speed Cleaning helps you save time; and more efficient cleaning uses smaller amounts of cleaning supplies. Our goal is to be able to provide you with higher quality, safer products than store-bought brands at about the same cost. Even after the cost of shipping, a budget-friendly 16oz. spray bottle of Red Juice is still only 99¢ when you mix it from our convenient 32oz. concentrate formula.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Clutter Control: Getting organized

Once you have eliminated your clutter, you will need to keep your things organized to maintain a harmonious living space. Here are some helpful Clean Team tips you can use to better organize your space. Be cautious not to let your new found organization as a cheap or lazy excuse to accumulate ever more stuff!

Cupboards

To help you arrange cupboards so you can see the items stored in the back of the shelves, install tiered shelves, like the one pictured. To make finding a particular spice easier, install shelves the height and depth of one spice container so each spice is visible. Arrange the spices alphabetically. The best place to mount this special spice shelf is on the inside of a cupboard door at eye level, if possible. Another alternative is a lazy Susan or double turntable shelf made specifically for this type of storage.


Drawers

Use drawer organizers to divide sections in drawers to keep things and organized and separated. Drawer organizers can be found in many shapes and sizes.



Showers

A simple shower caddy will hold soaps, several bottles of shampoo and conditioner and a washcloth. Shower caddies come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are made to accommodate just about any shower. Whichever one you choose, make sure it provides a spot to hang your Clean Team Shower Wiper so you can wipe down the shower walls once a day to prevent soap scum and hard-water build up.



Closets

Closets can be organized with relative ease and just a few minor adjustments. You can add a second pole beneath the existing one to hang a second level of shirt-or jacket-length clothing. It does require a bit of measuring and hardware store shopping but is worth the effort. You can also use stackable plastic storages boxes or open basket drawers instead of a second pole, or in addition to it. This will add even more space for folded clothes, shoes and socks. Put up hooks or purchase accessory hangers for belts, scarves and hats. Add additional shelves if you have wasted storage above existing shelves. One extra high shelf is great for storing Christmas decorations and seasonal clothing.



General Household Storage

Fabric tote boxes are great for kid’s toys, art supplies, sewing supplies or other small items. For less than $30, they last indefinitely and come in a variety of styles and sizes, making them easy to incorporate with your d├ęcor.



Countertops

The kitchen counter has to be the most often abused space for clutter. Mail is often the number one offender. Stand over the garbage or recycling bin to sort and eliminate most of your junk mail immediately. A nice decorative basket is always good for storing the mail items and coupons you want to save. A great alternative to a basket is a hanging mail and key rack, which will help to further eliminate countertop clutter.


Old Cards

Tossing old cards can be hard to do when they remind you of special occasions or are sentimental. A good way to enjoy such cards for a period of time before tossing them out is a Card Tree. Use it to hang cards for a period of time, before retiring them to the garbage. If the cards are particularly sentimental, you can always purchase a greeting card organizer, which allows you to file and neatly store them for a lifetime.


Setting up a filing system

Old documents, paid and unpaid bills and other loose papers can overrun your home office space in no time at all. The key to maintaining an organized home office area is a good filing system. Portable plastic filing bins are a great place to file your important documents and revolving accounts, but are too small for many of us. In that case, a two-or three-drawer filing cabinet is a good investment. Each drawer should be alphabetized or prioritized. To file in order or frequency of use and importance is often the most convenient choice for home filing systems . Subcategorize sections into specific accounts and names. Under Banking, for example you might have sub categories like Checking, Savings, Credit Cards and Retirement Funds. These would then be further categorized into the specific accounts where you would file all the related documents for that account. Setting up a filing system is easy enough, but the key is maintaining it. Don’t fall victim to procrastination, which leads to disorganization. Try implementing the “touch it once” rule. When bills or paperwork arrive, follow through right then. File it in its proper place. Also, don’t pay a bill and let it sit around to be filed later. This is how the vicious cycle of clutter starts.


Electronic Organization

This is the computer age and many of us live paperless – or at least attempt to do so. Photos, music, bills and many other aspects to our life are stored on our computers. Before long, an unorganized computer will perform slower and make it more difficult for you to find the information you need. So, how long should you keep old files on your hard drive? It's kind of like cleaning out a closet—if you haven't used a particular file (or sweater) in a year, you're pretty safe storing it somewhere else. How can you tell how old a file is? Rest your mouse cursor over the file name, right-click, and choose Properties. You can see when the file was created, last modified it, and most recently accessed. If a file is old, not important, and hasn't been accessed in more than 6 months, it might be time to clear it out. You should also have a system for weeding out and organizing your old e-mail messages. When answering e-mails, rename any messages you save so that subject lines clearly convey the contents (no more “Re: Re: Fwd: Fwd:”).


Digital Photos

The best thing about a digital camera is that it's easy to take thousands of pictures. That's also the worst thing about digital cameras. Digital cameras have eliminated the need for negatives and so the storage of digital pictures can be quite easy, you just have to keep up on it. Creating specific folders on your computer is the best way to organize groups of pictures, and the ‘My Pictures’ folder is a great place to start. In your My Pictures folder, create a subfolder for each year: 2006, 2007, 2008, and so on. You can subcategorize those folders into specific event names or dates. Arranging pictures by year is also helpful if you're scanning older photos stored in shoeboxes or albums that you took before owning a digital camera. Scanning old photos is a great way to eliminate extra boxes of cluttered photographs. You should back up your photos on disks or other storage device. Printed photos can be stored in neatly in photo books or boxes.



DVD and CD’s

CD’s and DVD’s can be neatly organized by purchasing a shelf or rack made specifically for their storage. These racks are easy to dust and allow for the easy organization and alphabetizing of your music and movies. For a house that has limited space or for the frequent downloader, a great alternative is storing your movie and music discs in albums. These are great space savers and one album can hold up to 320 discs.

Do you have an organization or cleaning tip you want to share? If so you could win a free autographed copy of Clutter Control by Jeff Campbell! Email your tips to sarah@thecleanteam.com to enter your chance to win!


** Many of the items mentioned and pictured in this article can be found at The Container Store http://www.containerstore.com/

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Psychology of Clutter

We are all guilty of some form of hoarding. How many things do you see that you haven’t used in a year or more? How many hours a day do you waste searching for things lost in a pile of rubble? Are you continually hindered just trying to complete your everyday day tasks? Some tasks, such as cleaning the house, can be too overwhelming to deal with when there is clutter in every corner. Uninvited guests might make you want to close the shades and hide out in embarrassment due to the state of disorder in your home. Clutter can be a reminder of how out of control your life seems and your failure to maintain a clean, organized home. Clutter is a monster that, when let loose in your home, can start a vicious cycle that is hard to break.

True hoarders may have extreme habits, but we all know someone who holds onto items of little to no function. Look around your house. How many things do you see that serve no useful purpose? Are your closets filled with outfits that you keep only in the vain hope of fitting into them again? Do you have piles of magazines and books that have never read? While these things may add ambience and security to your home, they may be costing you more time and space then they are worth. Think of all the time and effort it takes to dust small knick-knacks and all the space you could save yourself by thinning your wardrobe of outdated clothes that no longer fit. This sounds easy enough, but for some, the thought of letting go of their belongings is terrifying.

The urge to collect comes from the need to store supplies such as food and other necessities—a drive so primal it begins in the subcortical portion of the brain. But it doesn't end there. We use our prefrontal cortex, the portion of the brain involved in decision-making, information processing and behavioral organization, to determine just what things are worth hoarding. The theories surrounding this “biological” urge to accumulate clutter borrow themselves from evolutionary history. Today abundance surrounds us. However, our ancestors were hunters and gatherers who lived a much harsher existence. Food and supplies weren’t nearly as accessible 10,000 years ago like they are today. Our brains have been genetically pre-programmed to save anything that could be materially useful. This biological predisposition transformed itself around the time of the industrial revolution from a biological urge to save for survival sake to the desire to acquire and collect things. This is the thought evolution of ‘need’ into ‘want’. What was once food and supplies has become ornaments and trinkets of every variety. Thus the clutter phenomenon was born.

Americans love for consumption could be one more reason for the problem. The clutter often seen in American homes reflects how many Americans feel these days: overwhelmed, disorganized and compulsive. With nearly continual media doing it’s best to convince us we need this or that, it’s no wonder that many of us fall prey acquiring more than we need. This blend of consumer fear and consumption in large part is reason for our overstuffed homes. So much in America is large and overstocked. 40 years ago an average corner market was only a few thousand square feet and stocked with less that 1,000 items. Today, your local Wal-Mart Super Center covers a little under a quarter million square feet and stocks over 130,000 products. The American clutter epidemic is fueled by multiple opportunities to buy unneeded stuff at what we are convinced are rock bottom prices.

To help with your clutter Jeff Campbell and The Clean Team have created useful rules for uncluttering your home and life. Here are a few of these rules in abbreviated versions:

Rule 1: When in doubt, throw it out! No other advice we can give will have such a liberating effect on your life. Keeping things in your home costs money and time. Don’t use the old excuse “It’s too nice to throw away”. If it is so nice, then give it to someone who will use and appreciate the item. If no one wants it then you must come to terms with the items real value and part ways with it. If it’s broken, fix it now or toss it. If it is ripped have it mended or discard it.

Rule 2: Use it or lose it. This rule is particularly helpful when you are attempting to implement Rule 1 and are getting ready to get rid of some of your stuff. How do you decide what to keep and what to toss? Sensible advice for this rule is if you’re not using something, then get rid of it. Keep in mind future time does not apply to this rule. Use it refers to here and now. It doesn’t mean sometime in the future.

Rule 3: Efficiency counts, so store things accordingly. Efficient storage reduces clutter by making it easier to find things and to replace things after each use. If it’s easier it’s more likely to happen. Efficient storage also means that things you use most are stored in most easily accessible places.

Rule 4: Handle some things once. This rule is necessary because of those famous last words “I’ll put this here for now”. This phrase should be forbidden to a known clutterer. Once you say “for now” you are admitting that you are going to have to handle whatever it is more than once. That decision doubles your workload and increases clutter. What you are really doing is putting off making a decision about it right then and there. Don’t be lazy. From now on, when the mail arrives, instead of piling it on the counter “for now”, tackle it head on, toss the junk pieces and file the bills to be paid in their designated area.

Rule 5: Recycle it. Help yourself declutter and help the environment at the same time. We’re not just talking about aluminum, glass and plastic. Recycle clothes and other household items to those who need them. Can’t think of anyone who needs those old books? Consider your local library - which is most likely under funded and short of books - or a retirement home. Used cell phones can be donated to multiple charities, as well as computers and almost any other e-waste item. You will be making a difference in your life as well as someone else’s.


** Our next blog will address the how to of cleaning and managing your clutter! For further reading, check out Clutter Control by Jeff Campbell and The Clean Team!




Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Avoid the Pitfalls of Cleaning

If you put off your housecleaning until the last moment, you’re not alone. The world is full of procrastinating cleaners. We all have different reasons for putting off our housecleaning. We are busy with work, kids and life in general. Some of us enjoy a clean house but don’t enjoy the amount of work that goes along with it. If we don’t have the proper tools as well, housework can be a complicated task. Those of us who have tried to sweep rugs instead of vacuum them due to a broken vacuum understand just how important having the right tool is! So what is your procrastination excuse?

Excuse #1 - I don’t have time! Yes, you do! Make time by cutting corners where you can and apply Speed Cleaning Rules to your entire life. Remember, Speed Cleaning isn’t about rushing through it, but rather about managing your time and motions in a way that maximizes results in as little time as possible. Do you wander aimlessly up and down the grocery store isles instead of making a list? Is a lack of household organization holding you back? Small changes in your life can lead to dramatic results in time management ability. Applying Speed Cleaning principles to your life as well as your cleaning virtually guarantees you to have enough time to clean with time left over to enjoy yourself.

Excuse #2 I don’t always have the right tools. This is the perfect excuse, right? If you don’t have laundry soap, you can forgo the wash. Vacuum broke? Just ignore the crumbs on the carpets. Only, when you are down to your last clean outfit and the dust bunny colony has taken over your floors you begin realize this may not have been the best excuse. Give your vacuum needed maintenance and repairs – you’ll thank yourself in the long run. No need to stock up on every cleaner in the store to be well prepared. Figure out which tools and cleaners work for you and make sure you have them on hand. Don’t be afraid to improvise if needed – but you’re better apt to be prepared than to let this excuse drive your house into cleaning’s worst nightmare.

Excuse #3I just don’t like to clean! Whether you love it or hate it - it has got to get done! Cleaning is a state of mind. The more you dread it, put it off and harbor ill feelings toward it, the more of a challenge it is going to be. Here are a few simple things you can do to help motivate you when it comes to cleaning:

Visualization: Your house is a mess. Dishes are piled up, stuff is scattered everywhere. It is hard to find motivation with such a mess in front of you. At this point, as you find your will to clean about to give up, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Imagine your house, sparkling clean and how good it makes you feel. Tell yourself how easy it was to get there and how fast you accomplished it. Positive thinking is always the best route when facing a challenge.

Talk to Yourself: As you clean, tell yourself what you are going to do. Affirming actions in an upbeat manner can get you revved up for action. Tell yourself, “I am going to tackle these dishes” with gusto and you’ll find yourself geared up for success!

Challenge Yourself: Follow Speed Cleaning Rule 11: ‘Keep track of your time’. Give yourself little rewards for beating your fastest time. Trying to beat your best time creates energy and motivation.

Turn On Some Music: Dust off your CD player and put on some motivating music. Upbeat, happy and fun music can lift your mood while you clean. You can gear yourself up by creating a cleaning play list on your MP3 or ipod player. Burn a CD of songs you know get your motor running and ready for cleaning.

Exercise: With sedate day jobs and a hectic life little is left in our schedule for exercise. Instead of wasting gas money and membership fees on the gym, make your cleaning routine your exercise routine. Cleaning up burns calories and upping the pace of your cleaning can serve as a great cardio workout. Instead of spending aimless time walking on a treadmill, burn the same amount of calories straightening up your space!

Make it a group effort: Cleaning as a family is a healthy way to come together as a team. You’ll reap the benefits of teaching your children that messes may be easy to make but not as easy to clean up, serving as encouragement to be tidier.

Need more motivation? Call us at 800-717-2532 and we'll help you solve all your cleaning dilemmas!






Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mold: A "Growing" Problem




Mold and mildew are terms generally used to describe a distinct group of living organisms that appear as black, gray, green and even red growth. Mold thrives in areas of high humidity. It grows on organic materials such as paper, textiles, grease, dirt and soap scum. Mold spores float throughout the house, forming new colonies where they land. Mold and mildew are actually different members of the fungus family but can be used interchangeably for our purposes.

Mold grows on surfaces in masses of branching threads that resemble dense cobwebs, and individually these threads can produce hundreds of thousands of spores in four to nine days. These spores then move about in air currents or by adhering to insects or animals or water. Although omnipresent and able to form new colonies wherever they land, spores of different mold species seem actually to be quite fussy about where they will and will not grow. The green mold that grows on an orange peel, for instance, will not grow on an apple or a damp carpet or in a human lung. Active mold can be any color, depending on its species and the substance on which it is growing.

The quantity of mold fragments and spores needed to cause health problems varies from person to person. Besides inhalation, people can become exposed to mold through skin contact and eating moldy food. Toxic molds can produce several toxic chemicals called mycotoxins that can damage your health. About 15 million Americans are allergic to mold. The most common reactions are flu-like symptoms and asthma. In high concentrations, mold fragments, spores, and mycotoxins can trigger symptoms even in individuals who have no allergies. Those with chronic lung or immune problems are at risk for more serious reactions like fever, lung infections and a pneumonia-like illness. When mold grows indoors in moist organic materials, building occupants may begin to notice odors and suffer a variety of health problems associated with mold exposure.

The U.S. Government's Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not recommend routine sampling for molds. Since the susceptibility of individuals can vary greatly either because of the amount or type of mold, sampling and culturing are not reliable in determining your health risk. Furthermore, reliable sampling for mold can be expensive, and government standards for judging what is and what is not an acceptable or tolerable quantity of mold have not been established.

Molds aren’t just a nuisance or a health hazard; they actually serve an important role in nature by helping to break down organic matter. Mold and mildew can grow anywhere–indoors or outdoors–wherever there is enough moisture and oxygen to keep them alive. Since you can’t eliminate oxygen, the best way to control indoor mold or mildew is to reduce indoor moisture.

Homes, apartment buildings, schools and commercial buildings are all much more energy-efficient than they were 20 years ago because they are better sealed against outside elements. Just as they seal the weather out, they seal in whatever moisture is generated inside, whether it's from water leaks, condensation from air conditioning or steam from the shower and stovetop.

Mold requires 3 basic elements to grow- moisture, warm air, and a food source. Depriving mold of any of these three items will limit, and in some cases prevent it from growing entirely. Places with excess air moisture like laundry rooms; bathrooms and basements are served well by keeping them ventilated or using a dehumidifier. The best way to control mold growth is to reduce moisture levels throught the house by repairing any plumbing, roof or window leaks or drips. When water leaks or spills occur indoors, act quickly. If wet or damp materials or areas are dried 24-48 hours after a leak or spill happens, in most cases mold will not grow. Keep air conditioning and refrigerator drip pans clean and the drain lines unobstructed and flowing properly. Cobwebs and dust act like spore traps. Airborne mold spores get caught in them and can begin to grow. Vacuum and clean regularly to remove possible sources of mold growth, especially behind refrigerator and other appliances that are not always included in routine vacuuming. Do not store materials such as paper, books, clothes, or other possible sources of food for mold in humid parts of your home.

If mold is on hard, non-porous materials like tile or floors, the surface can be washed with a household detergent or disinfectant, then treated with bleach to kill any remaining mold or mildew, rinsed and dried thoroughly. A mixture of 1 part of chlorine bleach to 4 parts water can be used. Bleach should only be used in well-ventilated areas. Greener cleaners for removing mold include a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water. Once the surface has been removed of mold, you can keep the surface clean with Red Juice. Regular cleaning of a surface with Red Juice helps prevent the growth of mold spores, even on your fruits and vegetables. Mold on porous surfaces such as wallboard, drywall and particleboard are difficult to clean. These moldy materials are good hosts for mold. Particle board contains bonding agents with sugars in them--a preferred meal for mold; and the paper on dry wall will quickly fuel mold growth with the slightest moisture. These materials usually need to be discarded rather than cleaned.

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