Nov 182014
 
My son, proving Phyllis Diller's famous quote true: "“Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.”  He sabotaged my efforts first with baking soda and then maple syrup!

My son, proving Phyllis Diller’s famous quote true: ““Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.” He sabotaged my efforts first with baking soda and then maple syrup!

As the holiday season approaches, one of the most dreaded tasks is cleaning your house for hosting guests. There is enough to do with all the cooking and decorating but the cleaning obligations can take over your life!

I have been immersed in a fall deep clean of the house lately to get ready for entertaining. Our home always needs a twice yearly scrub-down, including shampooing carpets, cleaning upholstery, dusting, etc. It could probably use it more often but I can only summon the energy twice a year!

There is no secret to making all this scrubbing for company a bit easier. The current popular aesthetic is not only for things to look clean but also to look brand new. If you have an older house, that is tougher to pull off and requires more scrubbing effort. It is hard, back-breaking work but it does look great when it is done and guests love it.

Through a long process of trial and error cleaning my own home, I have come up with a few cleaning tips that are making a big difference in my house.

A Salad Dressing for Leather Furniture

Olive oil and vinegar for cleaning leather.  Who would have thought?

Olive oil and vinegar for cleaning leather. Who would have thought?

My leather dining chairs were crying out for a good clean. After getting rid of all the crumbs and trinkets that our children have managed to stuff into the crevices in the seats, I needed a nice, moisturizing cleaner to reinvigorate the leather. We didn’t have any leather cleaners in the house so I looked online for a homemade solution. I found this one and tried it out. It smells like salad dressing but the vinegar smell does fade within a few hours. The olive oil absorbs into the leather within about a day or so. My husband even noticed how much better the chairs looked after this treatment!

Sandpaper for Deep Cleaning

Sanding sponges, an essential part of my cleaning arsenal now.

Sanding sponges, an essential part of my cleaning arsenal now.

After I discovered that sandpaper does an amazing job reinvigorating toilet bowls, I wondered if sanding sponges could work in other tough situations. I bought a box of them at Home Depot and keep them in the cleaning supplies cabinet. They are terrific for scrubbing crusted on stains off of laminate counters and (when used with very gentle pressure) on hardwood floors. They removed baked on grit from a glass baking dish. They scrub tubs and countertops in the bathroom beautifully too. This is also the miracle cleaner for my oven. It gets rid of grease and burnt food with just water and some scrubbing. No harsh chemicals needed.

One caution with this method, however. You need to test each surface first as the sandpaper can scratch and ruin certain things. Don’t use it on chrome bathroom fixtures as it will scratch.

My "sanded," sparkling oven.

My “sanded,” sparkling oven.

My Miracle Carpet Cleaning Formula

My new favorite "recipe" for carpet cleaning.

My new favorite “recipe” for carpet cleaning.

When you have older rugs and carpets to clean, it can be tricky. Sometimes when the carpet gets wet from the cleaning it can release smells from all the old stains that have ever penetrated the carpeting. The smells don’t go away until the carpet has dried for several days. I have tried all kinds of carpet soaps, laundry detergents and even bleach and had this same problem.

This year, I really wanted to avoid the smells so I tried a new concoction and it worked beautifully! First, I thoroughly vacuumed the carpeting. If there were any stains on the carpeting, I sprayed some Tuff Stuff cleaner on them. I then put some diluted Lysol cleaner in a spray bottle and sprayed the entire carpet. I then sprayed the carpet with a light coat of Febreeze. In the carpet cleaning machine, I put more diluted Lysol in the soap dispenser and no other soaps or detergents. I tried to rinse each area of the carpet twice with clear water as I went. The carpets came out beautifully clean and didn’t really smell of anything. They dried nicely and quickly as well. I used this on both colored and light colored carpeting and didn’t have any discoloration but, of course, if you are going to try this yourself, test a small patch first.

Hope these tips might help anyone else out there scrubbing away! My sympathies!

 Posted by on November 18, 2014 General Tagged with: , , ,
May 292013
 
North versus South at the 150th anniversary of the Chancellorsville battlefield earlier this month.

North versus South at the 150th anniversary of the Chancellorsville battlefield earlier this month.

Everyone loves Memorial Day weekend. It’s the first long weekend before the start of summer and the transition point for many people from the day-to-day grind of regular work and school schedules to the excitement of summer activities and vacations.

We spent the weekend at home continuing the war on dirt in our home. Two of these involved scrubbing out some of the toughest areas to clean in our home. When you have older surfaces in your home, you have to work a little harder to keep them looking good. While they may not attract dirt any faster than newer items, even a little dirt just looks worse on older surfaces.

The first problem area was the carpeting—particularly on our stairs. It is time to replace this carpeting. It was time to replace this carpeting when we first moved into our home, actually, but there were other areas where we needed to spend the money first. In hindsight, with three small children in our home, it was a good choice to wait on replacing the carpeting! They have been very hard on it and the fact that it is old and worn out reduces our stress level when they inevitably spill something on it.

To keep the carpeting in minimally passable condition, we do need to steam clean it at least once per year. This is a major pain. Over the years we have experimented with various carpet cleaning solutions. While I have yet to find a “magic” solution that seems to remove all stains with ease, I have found that laundry products tend to do the best job for me on the carpet and don’t smell as bad as most carpet cleaning products.

For tough carpet stains, we spray with a spot remover like Shout or Tough Stuff and let it soak in for a bit. We then put a small amount of laundry detergent in the soap compartment of the carpet cleaning machine, wash the carpet and rinse well. This time around, I heard good things about using Oxy Clean for carpet spot removal so I gave that a try on my stairs.

This is a great project to get some help with from your children.  They love to spray!

This is a great project to get some help with from your children. They love to spray!

After the Oxy Clean solution had sat for a while, for the heavily soiled areas, I used a brush to give it a little extra scrub.

After the Oxy Clean solution had sat for a while, for the heavily soiled areas, I used a brush to give it a little extra scrub.

I found some remnants of our bathroom remodeling.  Paint rarely comes out of carpet after it has dried.  The only option is to carefully snip it out.

I found some remnants of our bathroom remodeling. Paint rarely comes out of carpet after it has dried. The only option is to carefully snip it out.

Carpet cleaning the stairs works best as a two-person operation. The carpet cleaning machine is so heavy to lug upstairs as you clean. With my husband lugging the machine while I cleaned, it went far more quickly and we weren’t totally exhausted by the end.

Carpet cleaning is one of those thankless tasks. It doesn’t always make a huge visual difference and it always takes a ton of work. Freshly cleaned carpet feels good beneath your toes, though!

Before and after carpet shampooing.

Before and after carpet shampooing.

A clean entry.

A clean entry.

I also used the Oxy Clean to bleach out the grout in our hall bathroom tiles. This was a lot of work. We had to spray then wait then scrub then rinse.

You can mix the Oxy Clean in different concentrations.  If you put a lot in, this is what happens!  Kind of a cool chemistry experiment, though.

You can mix the Oxy Clean in different concentrations. If you put a lot in, this is what happens! Kind of a cool chemistry experiment, though.

At first, it didn’t look like it did much but after the grout dried overnight it was sparkling the next morning.

Before and after Oxy Clean bleaching of the grout lines.  Apologies for the bad lighting in the first shot.  You only get one chance to take the "before" picture.

Before and after Oxy Clean bleaching of the grout lines. Apologies for the bad lighting in the first shot. You only get one chance to take the “before” picture.

The only downside of the Oxy Clean was that it leaves a lot of residue. I had to rinse the floor again in the morning when I noticed my children had white powder all over their feet from the bathroom tiles.

While we were busy scrubbing, we forgot about the best tourist event of the year here in Fredericksburg — the nighttime luminaria at the Fredericksburg battlefield. I forgot that it is usually held the Saturday evening before Memorial Day. I am penciling it in my calendar for next year.

We did watch the movie “Lincoln,” over the weekend though. I know we are behind the times but it was a fascinating interpretation of President Lincoln. I had no idea he had such a folksy, disarming temperament. From the grand Lincoln Memorial and the bold nature of his famous speeches, I had the impression that he would be more of a loud and serious person. Clearly, his heartfelt nature served him well.

We have been learning to view the Civil War with new eyes in light of the 150th anniversary events that we have attended. In December, it was the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg. A huge number of reenactors brought the terror, excitement and sadness of conflict to life.

A scene from the reenactment of the Battle of Fredericksburg, December 2012.

A scene from the reenactment of the Battle of Fredericksburg, December 2012.

Flags, fire and smoke at the Battle of Fredericksburg reenactment.

Flags, fire and smoke at the Battle of Fredericksburg reenactment.

If you have the chance to attend any of these events, you should. They are not all that well publicized so you have to seek them out. There is a listing by state here.

Finally, this Memorial Day, I found myself often thinking of the brave and strong women who have forged careers in the armed services despite what we now know to be a high risk of rape. The documentary “The Invisible War” was positively shocking to me. I am glad to see policy makers and particularly the President paying attention to this issue.

For us, it was a weekend full of hard work and reflection. We send our thanks to all who serve and have served this country in the armed forces.

Any weekend news to share?

*I have no affiliation with Oxy Clean or any other product mentioned here.

 Posted by on May 29, 2013 General Tagged with: , ,
May 102013
 
"Faucets."  Photo by Phil Roeder.  From the Flickr Creative Commons.

“Faucets.” Photo by Phil Roeder. From the Flickr Creative Commons.

You may sense a bathroom theme in my cleaning posts. Some of my most difficult cleaning challenges are in my bathrooms. Hard water creates a lot of problems for us. Also, we have higher expectations for the cleanliness of the bathrooms–as the rooms in the house where we go to clean and groom ourselves.

So, now that I have gleaming toilet bowls and sparkling glass shower doors, there is one more problem to address – water-spotted chrome.

Too much hard water had water-spotted our new chrome surfaces.

Too much hard water had water-spotted our new chrome surfaces.

Chrome is supposed to be shiny and reflective and bright. That’s why designers use it as opposed to other, duller finish choices. So, it’s a big bummer when your chrome is not mirror-like.

A quick wipe with bathroom cleaner was doing nothing for my chrome. So it was time to dig deeper on a cleaning solution.

This site suggested a paste of baking soda and vinegar. You often read that you can clean just about any surface in your home with just the right combinations of baking soda and vinegar. I like the concept of this approach.

I mixed the baking soda and vinegar together

The bubbly mix of baking soda and white vinegar.

The bubbly mix of baking soda and white vinegar.

and applied it to my chrome surfaces with an old toothbrush.

Brushing on the baking soda and vinegar paste.  Not the most convenient application.

Brushing on the baking soda and vinegar paste. Not the most convenient application.

Results? Disappointing. This helped a bit in restoring some shine but did not get rid of most of the water spots.

After the baking soda and vinegar treatment the chrome shined a bit more but you can still see most of the water spots.

After the baking soda and vinegar treatment the chrome shined a bit more but you can still see most of the water spots.

Apparently you can vary your application of the baking soda and vinegar perhaps soaking cloths in vinegar and wrapping them around your chrome to soak for hours. This was just too much work for me. I did not want to spend that much time on this project so I went looking for a quick fix.

Since the auto glass water spot remover had been such a quick and reliable product for the shower door glass, I looked for something similar for the chrome. In some auto forums, I found that many automobile enthusiasts swear by a creatively spelled product called Nevr-Dull.

2013-05-10-nevrdull

When I opened the can, I was surprised to see this

Inside the can is a bunch of lightweight material with chemicals on it.

Inside the can is a bunch of lightweight material with chemicals on it.

They call it “wadding.” The cleaning chemical is saturated in the wadding. You just pull off a piece and use it on your chrome.

2013-05-10-wadding-progress

And the results are amazing!

My Nevr-Dull shining chrome.  Wow!

My Nevr-Dull shining chrome. Wow!

Before polishing with Nevr-Dull and the brilliant after.

Before polishing with Nevr-Dull and the brilliant after.

So easy and so quick. It is addictive. I started shining up all the metals in the bathroom.

The top knob has been shined with Nevr-Dull.

The top knob has been shined with Nevr-Dull.

This is definitely a cleaner worth adding to your arsenal.

Do you have a tip for removing water spots from chrome? Please share in the comments.

*I am not affiliated with Nevr-Dull.

 Posted by on May 10, 2013 General Tagged with: , ,
May 092013
 
"Master bathroom."  Photo by snikrap.  From the Flickr Creative Commons.

“Master bathroom.” Photo by snikrap. From the Flickr Creative Commons.

Clear glass bathroom shower doors are the latest trend. They look clean, classic and add light to any bathroom space. There is hardly anything negative to say about them . . . . except when you go to clean them!

When we upgraded to a glass shower door in our new master bath remodel, we actually thought that it would be less work to maintain. We paid a little extra when the glass was made to have it coated with something that would make it easier to clean. In our minds, we thought a quick spritz of Windex and it would be fine.

What we didn’t realize was that glass that is dirty cleans up relatively easily but glass that is constantly exposed to water suffers from more troublesome stains. In our case, hard water stains. However, children that like to “paint” on the glass with body wash and shampoo probably don’t help things either.

Our brand new shower door began to look very aged after just a few months. It was becoming almost opaque. Granted, we could be more diligent in our housekeeping efforts but still, this seemed a little ridiculous.

After Windex and Comet, this was the scene we faced in the shower each morning.

After Windex and Comet, this was the scene we faced in the shower each morning.

I scrubbed the glass with Comet cleanser and got more of the water stains out but it still looked pretty terrible. I noticed that if I scratched at a spot with my fingernails, however, that it would come off. So, I knew there had to be some cleaning solution that would work.

A little searching found this site with numerous options for glass door cleaning. The first tip was to try Bounce fabric softener sheets. Since we had a ton of these lying around, I wanted to test this out.

Interestingly, there must be some sort of soap-like substance in these sheets. Just wet the dryer sheet, wipe and rinse.

The "soap" generated by a Bounce dryer sheet.

The “soap” generated by a Bounce dryer sheet.

This solution did make a noticeable difference and was cheap!

After cleaning with a wet Bounce dryer sheet.  Much improved but still many visible spots.

After cleaning with a wet Bounce dryer sheet. Much improved but still many visible spots.

But it wasn’t quite enough. If your doors aren’t too dirty or you clean regularly, this might be enough for you.

Bounce dryer sheet - before and after.

Bounce dryer sheet – before and after.

The next tip I tried was cornstarch. I made a paste of cornstarch and water and used it to scrub the door. This was difficult to apply and honestly didn’t make any difference. If Comet hasn’t worked for you, the chance that cornstarch will, seems pretty low as well.

2013-05-09-cornstarch

But cornstarch is a mild abrasive and a “green” cleaner so it was worth a shot.

I was getting tired of cleaning the shower door at this point and needed something that would for sure work. The next tip I tried was to look for a water-spot cleaning product at an auto supply store. I have had great luck with auto detailing products for our cars so I had a lot of confidence in this solution.

Trying a glass cleaner from the auto supply store!

Trying a glass cleaner from the auto supply store!

It goes on like car wax or silver polish and you have to rub a bit. There are thankfully no harsh fumes.

The magic green liquid of the water spot cleaner.

The magic green liquid of the water spot cleaner.

And it worked! It took out 90% of all the spots. The ones that remained were so light they could not be captured by my camera!

There are some tiny spots still left but they are so small they cannot be captured by my camera.  I end up focusing on spots on the window outside instead!

There are some tiny spots still left but they are so small they cannot be captured by my camera. I end up focusing on spots on the window outside instead!

There were still a few spots that would not come out even with this product, near the door handle though, but they don’t distract from the overall gleaming look! Overall, I was very impressed!

A few stubborn spots still won't come out but we'll just live with these.

A few stubborn spots still won’t come out but we’ll just live with these.

If you are considering a glass door upgrade for your bathroom, just keep this cleaning obligation in mind. A few times a year you might have to “polish” the door and perhaps use a dryer sheet once a month. To me, this is a small price to pay for the light and appearance the glass door gives to the shower area.

Have you struggled with cleaning glass in the bathroom? Did you find a solution that works for you? Please share in the comments.

*I have no affiliation with Mother’s Polish or any other product mentioned here.

 Posted by on May 9, 2013 General Tagged with: , ,
May 072013
 
Armed and dangerous . . . to toilet bowls!

Armed and dangerous . . . to toilet bowls!

This month I am focusing on spring cleaning around my home and garden. I am slowly making progress forward. Part of what holds me back is a perfectionist tendency that when I am done cleaning something I want it to really look clean! It doesn’t seem like such an unrealistic expectation but when your home is 24 years old and you have a lot of degraded surfaces, it can be more challenging than you would expect.

This week, I am going to share three discoveries that made me smile and love my home more. I hope they might help you do the same.

When we first moved into our home, we inherited toilet bowls with rings in them from the prior owners. We have tried every type of cleaner imaginable on these toilets from toilet bowl cleaners to calcium, lime and rust remover, to porcelain restorers to Comet cleanser to baking powder and vinegar to scrub sponges and lots and lots of elbow grease.

Nothing touched these stains.

So, we cleaned the rest of the toilet the best we could, forgot about the rings and looked forward to the day when we could rip out the toilets and put new ones in.

Before: even the most powerful cleaners didn't touch these toilet rings.

Before: even the most powerful cleaners didn’t touch these toilet rings.

This spring, for some reason, I had a Dave Ramsey, “I’ve had it!” moment with these toilet stains. I just hated them and wanted them gone. So, I went online and researched how to get rid of them. There had to be a way!

The first site I stumbled across suggested a simple material that we have tons of . . . .

sandpaper!

First, flush the toilet and then turn off the water supply line when the toilet tries to refill so you keep the water level down.

Step One: Flush the toilet and turn off the water supply valve as the toilet tries to refill.

Step One: Flush the toilet and turn off the water supply valve as the toilet tries to refill.

Put on some sturdy, waterproof gloves and grab your sandpaper. I started with 220 grit (fine) sandpaper and scrubbed carefully just in case it scratched up the bowl. I didn’t want to make it worse!

2013-05-07-220grit-gentle

To my amazement, I was seeing some progress but I needed a little more firepower. So I upgraded to 150 grit (medium) sandpaper, scrubbing lightly at first then gently increasing the pressure.

2013-05-07-grit150

Wow! Wow! Wow! I about fell over from the shock! A gleaming, bright white toilet bowl, finally!

After: The bowl is so bright I gotta wear shades!

After: The bowl is so bright I gotta wear shades!

2013-05-07-beforeafter1

I had to spruce up all the toilet bowls in my house.

My new spring cleaning ritual, sanding the toilet!

My new spring cleaning ritual, sanding the toilet!

The best type of sandpaper for this task is a sanding sponge because it can get wet without disintegrating.

A sanding sponge is the best for this water-logged scrubbing task.

A sanding sponge is the best for this water-logged scrubbing task.

Due to our hard water, we will keep a sanding sponge with our toilet cleaning supplies for a quick scrub during our bathroom cleaning routines.

Have you sanded your toilet yet? It’s cheap, green, relatively easy, not that yucky and will make you feel like the most powerful person in the universe!

Have a cleaning challenge or cleaning tip? Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on May 7, 2013 General Tagged with: , ,