Spring Cleaning Indoors And Out

By Rosalie E. Leposky

Harbingers of spring include migrating warblers and announcements for new indoor and outdoor cleaning and maintenance tools.

The warblers are a reminder that the time has come to schedule the annual spring maintenance of your home’s heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems; to take down, clean, and store winter storm windows and put up screens; and to acquire any new house and yard maintenance tools and supplies you may need.

As you inspect household cleaning agents to make sure you have what you will need for cleaning, throw away any old cleaning agents and their containers according to local rules and regulations and product instructions. Often improperly handled, they contribute to pollution of our waterways and underground aquifers.

Antibacterial Concerns

A few years ago parents were warned that overuse of antibacterial cleaning agents may reduce their children’s normal resistance to infections.

With these concerns in mind, consider whether you really need antibacterial cleaning agents, and whether alternatives without antibacterial ingredients will do the job as well. Don’t be swayed by advertising designed to create guilt if you don’t eradicate every germ in your home.

The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA), a trade association based in Washington, D.C., doesn’t keep records on the percentages of antibacterial, color-free, and perfume-free products its members produce.

Allergies and Asthma

For several years, the SDA has dedicated part of its Web site to allergy and asthma education. The SDA’s solutions include the use of disinfectant or antibacterial cleaners, but many of these contain perfumes or strong odors. In some instances, the “cure” may be worse than the disease

Other solutions include practical control information that we all know, but a reminder is helpful:

· Advice on washing sheets weekly, blankets monthly, and pillows quarterly to control bedroom dust mites.

· What should be cleaned and how to clean should be clean in bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, and other living areas.

· Tips for using vacuum cleaners, including use of a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum cleaner with special filters and bags to hold allergen particles.

· Advice on cleaning for people who suffer from allergies or asthma. Don’t try to clean the whole house in one day. Break the effort down by chores, by rooms, and by parts of rooms.

· Open doors and windows while you clean at home, at work, or in community spaces. Most cleaning agents have strong smells. Even when used properly, they need good ventilation. People can become ill if they are forced to work or stay in recently cleaned spaces with poor ventilation.

· Read product instructions carefully. If you have questions about a cleaning product, you may find the answer on a link from the SDA Web site to various industry, U.S. government, and U.S. and international trade organizations and publications.

Cleaning-Agent Selection and Care

Properly store and discard older cleaning agents, and select with care the new ones you want to use. Many cleaning products are hazardous and require respect. Always store cleaning-agent containers in their original packaging with the manufacturer’s labels, in locked cabinets or otherwise secure beyond the reach of small children. Never store them under the kitchen sink or in an open cabinet. My husband and I found that tight screen-door latches discouraged our children.

Purchase special measuring cups for cleaning agents. Label them “For Cleaning Only” and store them with the cleaning products. Rinse them after use and promptly put them away where they belong.

Clean your cleaning buckets after use and store them with the cleaning agents. Never use them for other purposes.

Helpful Cleaning Advice

The DeAmicis Schools of Feng Shui and Natural Healing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, advise people always to clean rooms in a clockwise direction to maintain the energy to finish cleaning a room. They even try to explain away clutter: High-energy rooms don’t collect clutter.

Schar Ward’s Coming Clean (Book Peddlers, 2002) is a gag housewarming gift for a friend with a first apartment, or a child going off to college, even though some of her suggestions no longer are timely.

Ward advises on how to clean just about everything, including instructions for fall and spring cleaning. She mentions the Web site of Heloise, the gold-standard housecleaning maven:

Here are some wise words based on Ward’s Periodic Cleanings list and personal experience.

· Defrost your refrigerator and freezer (if you have an old one that needs defrosting; otherwise clean both the refrigerator and freezer sections). If your refrigerator is large enough for you to dedicate separate drawers for meats and for fruits and vegetables, try Green’s Extra Life. Its manufacturer claims the product will double the storage life of fruits and vegetables. Actually, Green’s product literature advises dedicating one drawer to fruits and another to vegetables, but if you don’t have enough drawers for that, try it in a combined fruit-and-vegetable drawer.

· Clean your range and stove, burners, and drip pans following manufacturer’s instructions.

· Clean your family barbecue pit.

· Clean your window coverings following the manufacturer’s recommendations. Never just throw them in the washing machine. You’re in for a really bad surprise if your curtain linings aren’t washable.

· Dust all light fixtures – but first turn off all lamps and ceiling fixtures, and let the bulbs cool before you try to dust them. For obvious reasons, this ideally is a daytime chore. If you must do it at night, divide the project in half. Keep track of what you dusted in the first round and what remains to be done in the second round.

· Clean rugs, blankets, spreads, pillows, and slipcovers following the recommendations of their manufacturers.

· Organize and clean kitchen cabinets and closets. Start and finish one room at a time.

· Turn your mattresses.

· Vacuum floors and take out spider webs. Spider webs are most visible at night. If you need a new vacuum cleaner, choose one in your price range that will clean your floors and behind and under things to your satisfaction.

· Wash screen and storm windows when you take them down for storage and before putting them up again. In the Sun Belt, take down screens, wash them, and put them up again. Avoid bending the modern lightweight aluminum ones. If you have trouble taking them down, they may be equally hard to put up again. Sliding screen doors can be especially difficult to take out and put in again.

· Wash shower curtains, and clean bathtubs, sinks, and sliding glass doors. Black & Decker’s rechargeable battery-operated Scum Buster is worth the expense. It’s a lot easier and quicker to use than elbow grease and cleaners that never quite seem to get the job done.

New Yard Tools

My home has very little grass, and most yard people aren’t interested in cutting hedges for a reasonable price. We’re tired of clipping all of our hedges with hand clippers, but I have always been hesitant to use our electric-powered clippers and blowers. We recently found new battery-operated trimmers and blowers so we no longer have to worry about cutting yard equipment power cords.

When shopping for such tools, involve all family members who may use it. They should hold the device in their arms at the angle at which they might operate the equipment, and be sure they are comfortable with it.

One of the most common brands of such equipment is Black & Decker. Its new 18 Volt rechargeable lightweight NiCad batteries powered products including a 12" Trimmer/Edger, 22" Hedge Trimmer and Broom/hard surface sweeper are easier to carry and use than the heavy gas-powered equipment that yard men prefer.

Yes, you need to be careful with power cords. Never use them during a rain, after watering, or when small children are around. Always keep track of where your cord is and where your hands are. Electric hedge clippers can do real damage. Don’t use these tools when you are tired, or in low light.

You also must be concerned about the kind and length of electrical cords you use with these devices. Just any cord won’t do. Select one that will stay attached, and is rated for outdoor use and for the equipment you plan to use. Ask your hardware store’s sales staff what to buy. My local Sears store keeps appropriate outdoor cords on the same shelf display with the power tools, but other stores don’t.

Rosalie E. Leposky is managing partner of Ampersand Communications, a news-features syndicate based in Miami, Florida.

For More Information

Green’s Extra Life - http://www.dennisgreenltd.com
Hints from Heloise - http://www.heloise.com
SDA - Allergies - Clean and Safe - http://www.cleaning101.com/health/allergies/
SDA Links - http://www.cleaning101.com/about/links.html

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