Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring Cleaning Essentials

The flowers are in bloom, the bees and birds are abound and it’s time once again for Spring Cleaning. Look around your home and assess the situation. A year’s worth of build-up is hiding in the corners and cracks waiting to be scrubbed clean.

In today’s blog we are going to talk about Spring Cleaning’s essential duties and the tools you’ll need to get these jobs done quick and efficiently. Spring Cleaning duties are often more strenuous than your every day housecleaning so thankfully, you only have to tackle them once a year or so. We are going to focus on four Spring Cleaning tasks: washing windows, cleaning miniblinds and ceiling fans and washing walls.

Window Washing. First things first - we are going to let you in on the secret to easy window washing – a squeegee and scrubber! The ideal squeegee has a firm, flexible blade and pivots from side to side, allowing access to hard to reach spots. The scrubber should have a soft, machine washable lambs wool cover. You will also need a double bucket. Double buckets are the ultimate choice for window washing as the divided sections allow you to separate the cleaning solution from the squeegee and scrubber. The bucket doesn’t need to be large enough for you to submerge your scrubber. Submerging the entire scrubber will only make a wet mess of things (mainly your arms). You only need to dip each end of the scrubber, and then squeeze off the excess water. Pro Tip: A major squeegee secret is that the squeegee blade must be dry and must be started on a dry surface each and every stroke.

Cascade makes a dandy window cleaner. Dishwashing detergent has “sheeting action” that allows the water to rinse of clean with out streaking and spotting. It also evaporates from the windows surface a bit slower than ammonia-based cleaning solutions, so you have more time to work. Start with 1 tablespoon (liquid or powder) per bucket of water or, if you are using a double bucket, reduce it down to ½ a tablespoon per one side of water. Pro Tip: Wash windows on a cooler, rather than warmer day. Also, don’t wash windows in direct sunlight. The sun evaporates your cleaner much too quickly.

Cleaning Miniblinds. There is much more surface area on these blinds than one imagines when innocently contemplating the cleaning thereof. Every square inch on every slat must be carefully washed to remove dirt and often, just as carefully, dried to avoid streaks. There are two methods for hand-cleaning miniblinds: Cleaning them in place or removing them to clean them.

In-Place Cleaning Method: If you have only one or two miniblinds, consider yourself lucky. You can clean them in place. Cover the windowsill with Cleaning Cloths or towels to catch drips and spray. Or, you can ignore the over-spray and wash the window and frame when you're done with the miniblinds. Starting from the top, spray the miniblinds dripping wet with a Clear Ammonia solution (up to one part ammonia to three parts water) or Chandelier Cleaner (available from our online catalog). Then turn the slats to expose their other side and spray again so both sides are dripping wet. Unless you have very soft water, or unless you use chandelier cleaner, you must wipe each slat dry to avoid streaks and/or water spots. Use cleaning cloths or paper towels to dry them, also working from the top down. When finished, if you’re not worn out yet, this is a good time to clean the frame and then the window behind the blinds.

Remove and Clean Method: If you have a number of blinds, it's easier to remove them and make a single big mess elsewhere. The best place if the weather is accommodating, is outside, mounted against something. It's even better if there is concrete or grass below so you can use the hose without creating a swamp. The perfect spot is to hang them in front of the door or wall of a garage. Use wire or rope to hang them fully extended. Better yet, use our Mini-Blinds Brackets (available from our online catalog). They will make the job much easier.

In this case, it's easier to put the ammonia solution in a bucket and use a soft-bristle brush to scrub the blinds instead of spraying the blinds with the cleaning solution. First turn the slats to the down position and gently scrub. Then turn the blinds around and repeat the process to clean the backside. Now use a hose to rinse if you can do so without making a muddy mess underfoot. If the water is hard in your area, let the blinds drip for a few minutes and then wipe each slat dry to avoid spots and streaks. Another choice is to rinse with distilled water. This will allow you to air-dry the blinds with only minimal spotting.
If you don't have such a site available, hang the blinds inside the shower and clean as described above. Using a Speed Rinser (available from our online catalog) makes cleaning in the shower much easier.

Ceiling Fans: If the fan hasn't been cleaned in some time and the blades are as dusty as we suspect, it's best to rise to their level. Trying to clean very dirty ceiling fans from the floor is exasperating and ineffective. Obviously, a ladder is needed in most cases, but once there, the cleaning itself is easy enough. Position the ladder once, and then turn the fan blades to clean each one in turn. Use Cleaning Cloths and Red Juice, or other heavy-duty cleaner. Spray the cloth or the blade (it's easier and safer to spray the cloth) and wipe. Use one cloth to make the first wipe. This cloth will soon be a mess, but it will remove most of the dirt. Use a second Red-Juice-dampened cloth for a second and final wipe.

Once you get the fan blades clean, keep them that way with regular maintenance cleaning. This can be done from the relative safety of terra firma. Use a flexible duster on an Extension Pole. The one we use is called a Rabbit-Ear Duster (available from our online catalog). It has a bendable, double-loop wire frame head that looks like it has ears, hence the name. The "ears" are covered with a thick 100% cotton yarn head and are mounted on an extension pole. The tool allows you to clean out-of-reach fans, and you can bend and shape the "ears" to match the contours of the fan. Use the Rabbit-Ear Duster dry.

Washing Walls. Never before has the task of wall washing become easier. Make no mistake; washing walls is a big undertaking. Have you ever just started out just spot cleaning a smudge on a wall only to discover that the new clean spot on the wall is more obvious than the smudge ever was? You are left with a big obvious clean spot on an otherwise dingy surface. Most people re-paint their walls before they get around to washing them. But with a Sh-Mop and Red Juice and your walls and even your ceiling can look as good as new!

Thankfully the only walls you normally need to wash are in the kitchen and bathroom. These rooms are usually covered with gloss or semi-gloss paint that should respond well to cleaning. Often there are just a few streaks over a kitchen countertop, or a few lines on bathroom walls caused by condensation. Just wipe these areas with Red Juice and a Cleaning Cloth when you're doing your weekly normal cleaning. That's usually all that's needed to keep them relatively spotless. The idea is to spot clean when you can get away with it. If the wall is beyond spot cleaning, proceed with full washing.

Washing your walls with a Sh-Mop is faster than with a sponge because the Sh-Mop base is 8" by 15". It can cover a lot of territory very quickly, unlike even a large sponge! Just dip the Sh-wipe in your cleaning solution, wring it out to almost dripping wet, replace on the Sh-Mop and you are ready to go. You should keep your Red Juice on hand so you can spray those extra dingy spots as needed. The Sh-Mop base swivels 360° and allows you to reach the top of the walls and even most ceilings without a ladder.

Happily, Spring Cleaning comes only once a year, and it is a great way to take advantage of winter moving on and to clean up all the accumulated dust and dirt that came with it. A thrifty way to give your house a face-lift is by cleaning the areas we have mentioned here. You will be amazed at how just washing your windows or walls gives new life to a drab room.

** All products mentioned in the post can be found at online catalog. For further reading, check out Spring Cleaning by Jeff Campbell **

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