The Dust Overlooked

dust

Household dust is a mix of many things: plant pollen, pet dander, insect waste, carpet and clothing fibers, dirt, bacteria, fungi, and, yes, even a few dead human skin cells (though not as many as some might have you believe!). An abundance of the stuff not only makes your home look drab, but also traps odors, and can pose grave health risks for people with allergies, asthma, or other respiratory illnesses.

MaidPro’s 49-Point Checklist™—which all our cleaning PROs use to guide their work—takes a thorough approach to busting household dust. On each clean, we task our PROs with addressing:

  • Baseboards
  • Windowsills
  • Floors
  • Lamps/lampshades
  • Picture frames
  • Ceiling fans
  • Upholstery
  • Furniture—tops, fronts, AND underneath!

What’s more, we train our PROs to clean in very specific ways to ensure that dust actually leaves a home with them rather than simply sending it flying all around only to resettle on surfaces after they leave.

But even if you regularly use PRO techniques and checklists for busting household dust, there are plenty of easily overlooked places that tend to trap and accumulate dust over time, demanding at least occasional attention for a truly fresh and clean home. Here’s an expanded dusting checklist for those big deep-cleaning days:

  • Blinds, window treatments, curtain rods, and brackets
  • Doorways
  • Decorative trims, lintels, mantels
  • Overhead and hanging light fixtures, sconces
  • Large and small appliances, TVs, computers, stereo equipment (especially underneath and behind)
  • Keyboards, clickers, phone keypads (dust with compressed gas, which can be purchased at most office supply stores)
  • Plants
  • Window screens/spaces between screens and glass
  • Wine racks/bottles
  • Bookshelves/books/magazines/CDs and other media
  • Candles
  • Baskets and other decorative receptacles
  • Insides of drawers and cabinets, plus food cans and jars
  • Behind toilet tanks
  • Smoke/carbon monoxide detectors and alarm sensors (which may stop functioning or even be set off accidentally by too much dust!)

If all that sounds just too daunting, ask your local MaidPro about what PRO deep-cleaning services they offer!

 

Get Ready for Spring: A Room-by-Room Purge Guide

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Spring is a time of rebirth! In preparation for your big spring cleaning ritual, now is the time to start sorting and discarding all the items that have collected in the last year. And there’s much more to it than just clothes closets and drawers. Here’s a handy room-by-room checklist of other things to focus on what to purge for spring:

Kitchen. From cabinets, pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, inspect and toss all foods that are past their sell- or use-by dates. If canned food is un-dated, decide based on: Is the packaging damaged or deteriorated in any way? Does the food appear discolored? Can you remember buying it? And, are you likely to ever consume it? For frozen foods, check this handy guide. When in doubt, throw it out!
Other things to purge in the kitchen include unmatched food storage containers and lids, chipped and cracked crockery, recipes and cookbooks you no longer use. Don’t forget to clean out the junk drawer too. Early spring is also a great time to replace water filters and to have cooking and carving knives professionally sharpened.

Bathroom. In addition to disposing (safely and securely) of expired over-the-counter and prescription medications, be sure to inspect and replace all aging cosmetics, toothbrushes, flossers, and so forth.

Family living areas. Look to purge broken toys and games and puzzles that are missing pieces. With spring-fair and yard-sale season coming, it’s also a great time to sort through and donate bulky media, such as books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, and video games. If you didn’t already do so with the change to daylight saving time, be sure to test and replace batteries in all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Laundry. Say goodbye to all those perpetually unmatched socks and dingy whites. Discard or fix garments with holes, missing buttons, broken zippers. While you’re at it, clear out accumulated lint in the vent that extends from your dryer to the outside (which is a big fire hazard). Cash in the coin hoard, and buy yourself a well-deserved treat.

Family closets and storage areas. Especially if you’ve got kids, there’s a good chance you have lots of outgrown (or unmatched) shoes, jackets, mittens, gloves, and other gear you can move along to free up space. It’s also a great time to take stock of all the spring and summer stuff you saved from last year—such as sporting equipment, flip flops, sunscreens, bug sprays, and so forth—to see what might need replacing.

Office/homework area. Once your tax returns are filed, many of the paper records you’ve been hanging onto can be safely shredded and recycled. Pick a rainy spring day to focus on cleaning up electronic devices—purging old emails, archiving files, downloading and organizing photos, and deleting those never-used apps.

Be Smart When Ramping Up Your Workout Routine

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Are you bored or hitting plateaus in your current workout routine? Maybe you just want to accelerate your fitness efforts but keep injury and body stress out of the equation. Here are three ways to smartly ramp up your workouts while minimizing risk of injury:

Active rest. During workout rest periods, do simple but effective movements on body parts that need them most. For example, if your hamstrings are tight, try a few easy toe touches or inchworms. If your quads are tight, try some butt kicks or easy lunges. Active rest keeps your heart rate in a targeted zone, improves underdeveloped body systems and parts, and helps you to get more out of each workout session.

Try a new skill. Trying new skills keeps you mentally sharp—sometimes just what your body needs. Boxing/kickboxing fitness is easily integrated into any existing workout regimen. Yoga, in- or outdoor rock climbing, and swimming are all other great examples of how you can break out of a workout comfort zone. However, be sure to stay safe and maximize workout benefits by always seeking certified instructors to monitor and help you learn new skills correctly.

Hire a pro. As with most professional services (such as MaidPro home cleaning), professional trainers possess an enormous amount of specialized knowledge. They help you to focus on using correct, high-impact techniques and can show you different moves and how to perform them safely and most effectively. They can also provide the nutritional advice you need to keep your body properly fueled to gain that extra edge. Even if your budget does not allow for regular professional training, investing in a single session can provide invaluable insights into the world of professional fitness.

Workouts don’t always have to be knock-down drag out events. Sometimes a brisk walk, swim, jog, or light stretching is all you need. Kenneth H. Cooper was spot on when he said: “Fitness is a journey, not a destination.” My best advice to clients is to approach exercise with a primary goal of being healthy and keeping your body as functional as possible for the rest of your life. Shake it, don’t break it!

Wellness Strategies for Navigating the Holidays

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The holidays are all about Peace and Joy…until they’re not. If you find your anxiety levels rising as the holidays approach, check out these 25 Ways to Fight Holiday Stress from Health.com. Here, we add a few of our own ideas for coping with four common holiday-stress triggers:

Scenario 1: Gift-Shoppers’ Nightmare. You’re on your fifth loop of a way-overheated department store, searching for that perfect something to give a person you either don’t know very well or who doesn’t need another material possession in their life. Think outside the gift box! Is there an experience you can create? A service you might provide? Some personal talent you can share? Maybe there’s a charity or cause to which you can donate in their name.

Scenario 2: Dinner Disaster. You have a glossy-food-magazine vision of perfection for your holiday feast. Now you’re thirty minutes out from mealtime and things are spinning out of control in the kitchen. Ask. For. Help. Most people would rather contribute and feel useful than stand around sipping cocktails while you struggle. Graciously accepting help creates a wonderful opportunity to connect authentically with your guests and will be far more memorable than your picture-perfect meal.

Scenario 3: Dieters’ Paradox. You’re walking into a lavish party. You’ve read all the articles and tips about how to ‘stick to your diet’ and ‘beat the holiday weight gain.’ But, oh, so much temptation! In floods the guilt, so even if  you do blow it (as you very possibly will), you don’t enjoy it at all. Accept that, no matter how disciplined you are throughout the year, there’s a very good chance you’ll indulge at least once or twice during the holiday season. Give yourself permission to truly enjoy and find solace in NEDA’s Declaration of Independence from a Weight-Obsessed World.

Scenario 4: Cranky Relative Syndrome. You’re staring down 4–6 hours in which you’ll be captive audience to Uncle Frank’s inebriated political rants. Or maybe you’re just the one person in your family with a radically differing lifestyle or viewpoint, and, for one reason or another, you don’t have an option of simply refusing to attend. First, take a moment to appreciate that you have people with whom to celebrate the holidays (many don’t). Then, arrive well prepared with a list of noncontroversial subjects and talking points to which you can redirect conversation. Or bring and encourage plenty of distracting activities such as card, board, and parlor games; a nostalgic singalong; a look through old family photo albums and yearbooks; or maybe just a long walk in nature after the meal.

Before and after the holidays, set aside at least a few hours to indulge in real self-care. That might involve exercise, physical pampering, hiring a professional team to clean your house, or maybe just a perfectly solitary afternoon with a cup of tea and a great book. Happy holidays!

Take a Stand in Your Own Personal Work Style

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You’ve probably heard by now that ‘sitting is the new smoking’—at least according to scores of media stories referencing the catch phrase widely attributed to treadmill-desk inventor Dr. Jack Levine. Even worse news is that regular exercise might not be enough to offset the ill effects of copious sitting. If you work long hours at a desk job, you might greet this news with fear and trepidation—but there is actually quite a lot within your power to change. Standing doubles your metabolic rate, keeps core muscles strong, and is essential to both basic and dynamic anatomy and physiology. Here is a 7-step plan for transitioning to a lifestyle of less sitting at work:

  1. Go gradually. Acknowledge that your body needs time to re-learn how to stand comfortably for long periods. Start with a small daily goal and build from there.
  2. Check your posture. To avoid muscle and joint pain, cultivate a correct standing work posture, which is probably very different from how you’ve been sitting. If you struggle with this, seek the advice of an orthopedic specialist, chiropractor, physical trainer, or certified yoga instructor.
  3. Invest in equipment that enables you to stand and work comfortably. Purchase or request an adjustable/standing desk and a balancing type of chair. Less stable than regular chairs, balancing chairs force you to keep core muscles engaged, both strengthening your core and burning off calories and blood sugar to boot. If not in control of the office budget, ask for the right equipment anyway! The worst that can happen is your request will be denied.
  4. Look for any opportunities to stand and move more throughout your day. Walk around when taking calls. Drink lots of water and use the least conveniently located restroom. Park far away from your office or cubicle. Choose stairs over elevators. Get your computer reassigned to a printer at the far end of the building. Walk for at least half of every lunch hour and on breaks.
  5. Evaluate all the tasks you do each day; reserve sitting for only ones requiring the greatest concentration. You will be amazed at how many medium and low-concentration tasks you can complete more effectively and energetically while standing and moving.
  6. Preach! Think about it. If you can get enough coworkers onboard, entire meetings might be conducted either standing or walking, which is certain to make them shorter and more productive. Be prepared with examples and evidence to support what you’re doing and willing to evangelize a bit to bring others around to your way of thinking.
  7. Be patient with yourself. Keep reminding yourself that, even when you don’t feel 100% in control of your work situation, there are always opportunities to make choices and to take micro-actions that support your own good health and well-being!

Cleaning Myths Debunked: Carpets

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There’s nothing quite like the comfy feeling of plush carpeting under your toes in the morning. But, without regular surface and deep-cleaning, carpets can easily turn into incubators for all sorts of unwanted guests in your home. Before you get too worried, take heart that humans have been decorating their homes with carpets for multiple millennia and still the species flourishes. Be grateful for your hearty immune system and read on to learn why regular carpet cleaning is so important!

Myth #1 Your carpet is dirtier than a toilet seat!
TRUE Typical carpet contains roughly 200,000 bacteria per square inch on average, making it technically 4,000 times germ-ier than a toilet seat. Most toilet seats are smooth, sealed surfaces that get cleaned and disinfected regularly, whereas many consumers wait years between professional carpet cleanings.

Myth #2 Carpet can hide 1-lb of dirt per yard and still appear clean.
TRUE This is where it get’s scary: those 200,000 bacteria per square inch feed on the millions of dead skin cells shed every hour by each person living in your home. Add in the daily tracks of living (pet dander, food crumbs, pollen, and soil off of the bottom of your shoes), and your carpet becomes a veritable Vegas Buffet for germs and bugs.

Myth #3 2,000 dust mites can survive on a single ounce of carpet dust.
TRUE While dust mites will gladly set up shop in mattresses and furniture, they are particularly fond of carpets due to their buffet of foods and the reasonably protected environment (you wash sheets regularly…carpets, not so much). If anyone in your home has a dust mite allergy, stick to hard-surface floors and washable area rugs as much as possible, especially in bedrooms where human dander is most prevalent.

Myth #4 Norovirus can live for up to two weeks in carpet.
TRUE This should be a death knell for the 5 Second Rule where food and carpets are concerned! Studies prove that norovirus can live for over 12 days in even regularly vacuumed carpeting. If your family seems particularly prone to stomach bugs, get carpets steam cleaned at a temperature of at least 158° F for five minutes or 212° F for one minute to completely kill off norovirus.

Myth #5 Carpets filter air by trapping dirt, dust, and germs in their fibers.
TRUE Carpeting is actually one of the most powerful natural air filters in your home, trapping dirt and germs from the air. Due to temperature differentials from inside to outside, homes actually breathe through the walls and roof. Carpeting acts as a huge, fluffy pre-filter, which is why the edges of carpets get dirty so fast even when you vacuum regularly.

Myth #6 Vacuuming regularly is a sufficient way to cope with germs trapped in carpets.
FALSE Even the most powerful vacuums struggle to extract dirt and germs from the base of carpet fibers.

Moral of the story Make a habit of removing shoes when entering your home—or at least put down washable entry mats and runners and wash regularly. Invest in having carpets cleaned and extracted professionally at least once a year. In between professional cleaning and extraction, vacuum thoroughly at least once a week, using a high-quality machine with a motorized brush. You might also consider investing in a HEPA filtration type of vacuum—such as the ones used by our cleaning PROs. If you don’t want to be the one to do all that weekly vacuuming, remember MaidPro is always here to help!

 

Smell Great and Keep the Bugs Away All Summer Long

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There are plenty of good reasons to start making your own (DIY) natural insect repellents (DEET-free and smelling good are two examples). Hundreds of DIY bug spray, candle, and balm recipes are just a quick Google or Pinterest search away. With the right ingredients on hand, you can whip up a fresh batch in just a few minutes and save money doing it. Before buying any ingredients, making, or using DIY bug repellent, though, consider these four important caveats:

  1. It’s a wild west out there. A surprising number of DIY beauty and skincare recipes contain potentially harmful ingredients (or concentrations thereof)—even when those ingredients seem perfectly innocuous. With DIY insect repellents, watch out for their use of essential oils. Not all essential oils are recommended for direct use on skin, especially with children or in high concentrations. Make sure to research usage recommendations and cautions for every ingredient on the list.
  2. Ingredient quality matters. If using essential oils for the first time, there is also a great deal you need to learn about oil quality and purity. Where DIY insectifuge is concerned, there seems to be a consensus that greater oil purity equates to greater efficacy at repelling bugs, but there are still many conflicting opinions and plenty of misleading marketing language. That said, you’ll need to make your own judgement call about what brand to trust.
  3. If at first you don’t succeed, try other recipes! A DIY bug spray that works well for you might be 0% effective for a different person. Plenty of rigorous scientific studies prove that bugs are simply more attracted to some people over others. You might need to try an array of different DIY bug spray concoctions before hitting on a formula that works well for you and other members of your family.
  4. Some risks need to trump others. No bug spray—commercial or DIY—can be 100% effective at protecting against mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses. Physicians overwhelmingly recommend DEET-based varieties when knowingly going into areas where such diseases are most common.If you’re just one of those people for whom nothing—not even the DEET bug spray varieties—seems to work, you might resort toother natural methods of repelling bugs, sitting in a screened area, or simply heading inside when the bugs come out to feed at night!

9 Micro Actions That Make Your Home Greener AND Save You Money

MaidPro NJ

There are plenty of big, expensive projects you can undertake to make your home greener, such as insulating, adding water filtration, and retrofitting with energy-efficient heating/cooling systems and appliances. Here are 9 much less daunting things you can start any time—most of which will help you to save up for those bigger green home improvement projects.

  1. Don’t just turn off lights, appliances, and electronics, unplug them when not in use. That goes for all chargers, too, which continue to draw power any time they are plugged in. The drain from a single device or appliance might not seem too great, but when you multiply it across all the plug-in-able items in your home, you might be looking at hundreds of dollars in savings.
  2. Say “No!” to over-packaged and disposable consumer goods. Five easy swaps guaranteed to save you money are: concentrated for un-concentrated detergents; bar soap for body washes; refillable for disposable razors; cotton dish towels for paper towels; and linen for disposable napkins. The latter three have an added benefit of making your home more luxurious too.
  3. Keep oven and refrigerator doors closed when operating. Estimates vary but at least one says you can lose up to 150-degrees in just 30 seconds. Not only does it waste energy, it extends cooking time and contributes to poor results, such as dried-out meat or underdeveloped flavors.
  4. Check out your local farmers’ market. Okay, this one might be a little more expensive, but locally raised produce and meats have far lower environmental impacts and are generally more nutritious than those shipped from distant lands and stored for extended periods.
  5. Cut food waste by: shopping more frequently, checking to see what you have in stock before shopping, searching for recipes that use what you already have, and composting food scraps. By at least one estimate, a family of four can save more than $2K in a year.
  6. Get educated on how to minimize VOC air concentrations. A big part of living green is focusing on creating a healthy home environment for your family. Since it’s virtually impossible to avoid or remove all VOCs from the air, try cultivating some air-cleaning houseplants.
  7. Plant your yard and garden with native plants that thrive in local climate conditions. The reason: Native plants are already well adapted to the characteristics and typical variations in your climate (including, dry spells and heat waves, for example). This means they don’t need as much extra watering, feeding, and fertilizing as non-native plants do. They also support native ecosystems of birds, bees, insects, and other wildlife.
  8. Fix leaky faucets and toilets, which might be literally pouring money down the drain. According toisustainableearch.com, a leaky toilet can run you nearly $1K per year and can be very difficult to detect. If your water bill is high compared to your neighbors, check with your local DPW to see if they can help or provide a dye kit to help diagnose.
  9. Lower your thermostat by a few degrees (in winter). Turns out that, in addition to conserving energy and saving money, keeping even a slightly colder house can have plenty of other benefits, includingprolonging plants’ lives, boosting metabolism for weight loss, and sleeping better.

Summer Home Prep: Outdoor Fun

MaidPro Summer Fun

We’ve already focused on getting the inside of your home ready for a cool, carefree season, but summer is about enjoying the sun and those warm, breezy nights! Here is a checklist of ideas for creating memorable outdoor living and entertaining experiences all summer long:

Start with repair work. Inspect for and fix any winter wear and tear that could pose hazards of physical injury, such as splintering or rotting wood, loose or raised nails, cracks in cement, broken flagstones, and so forth. While you’re at it, inspect for—and be sure to clean out and seal—any places that might make ideal nesting spots for wasps, hornets, or other stinging pests.

Get out the hose. Take advantage of lingering cooler days or early evenings for the more physically demanding work of sweeping, pulling weeds, and hosing down, scrubbing, or power-washing patios, decks, balconies, and outdoor furniture. If power-washing, be super careful to read and heed all safety instructions.

Freshen the furniture. Especially if patio furniture winters outside, inspect carefully for signs of rust, rot, structural weakness, loose nails and screws, and address accordingly. Consider re-painting, re-staining, and/or treating for future resistance to rust. Check and treat all cushions, pillows, umbrellas, and other textiles for mold and mildew.

Gear up your grilling game. If you have a gas grill, now is the time to fill propane tanks, clean, and inspect all gas lines and connections, and clean or replace lava stones. There two basic schools of thought on how to best clean grill grates, which we covered in this post a few years back.

Decorate! The most enjoyable outdoor summer spaces borrow ideas from home decorating. For example, there is a whole world of amazing ideas just for decorating fences and outer walls. For inspiration with plants and flower pots, check out Southern Living’s 121 container gardening ideas. Consider also using containers to grow fresh veggies and herbs that you can harvest literally when our cooking on your grill. Talk about fresh!

When it comes to placing flowering plants in or around patios, decks, and balconies, do some research first into what blooms and scents are most attractive to biting bugs and stinging creatures such as bees as well as to more welcome visitors such as butterflies and humming birds.

Bear in mind as you decorate that mosquitoes breed rapidly in standing water, so, at all costs, avoid placing open containers that will collect rainwater. Other fun and practical elements to consider when decorating outdoor spaces for summer include: strings of white or colorful twinkling lights; paper lanterns; kerosene or solar-powered torches; a heating element such as a fire pit, propane heater, or chiminea for chilly nights; and lots of colorful pillows, cushions and even a blanket throw or two for max lounging comfort.

Summer Home Prep: Indoor Comfort

MaidPro NJ

The unofficial start to summer is here! With it can come lots of hot, humid weather. To keep your body as cool as possible—and conserve energy while you’re at it—brush up on these tips for beating summer’s heat. Meanwhile, here’s a checklist of cleaning tasks to prepare your home for a most comfortable and pleasant summer:

Clean and/or replace home ventilation and air conditioning filters. If you’ve not done so at least once in the past year or two, it’s also a great time to bring in a pro service to inspect and clean all central HVAC equipment, ducts, vents, and air filters.

Inspect for and address any signs of mold and mildew growth, which summer’s humidity will be sure to feed.

Clean ceiling and portable fans. Note that most portable fans can be easily disassembled, enabling accumulated dust and grim to be washed from blades and grills. If you don’t have the proper tools—such as an extender pole – for cleaning ceiling fans safely, recruit at least one person to spot you on a ladder. Since you’ll have the ladder out anyway, remove and clean lighting fixture covers, recessed fixtures, and bulbs too to brighten up your space.

Wash windows and clear away dead bugs and other debris that might have collected inside window casings over the winter and spring.

Clean and inspect screens; patch holes. If you have an outdoor water source, window screens can be cleaned quickly and thoroughly with just a hose and sturdy rag to wipe away accumulated dirt and grime. Dry in the sun before installing.

Clean blinds, curtains, window shades, and valances. Keeping blinds and curtains closed is a great way to keep your home cool and save on energy costs if you air condition. Since you’ll be seeing much more of them soon, it’s a great time to clean all window treatments and consider lightening up on fabrics and colors.

Lighten the bedding. Think cotton in airy colors such as pure whites and pastels. While you’re at it, flip, rotate, and vacuum mattresses (which should be done at least twice a year) and dust thoroughly in and around beds to remove accumulated pollen and other spring detritus.

Deep clean your fridge and defrost the freezer to maximize space for lots of fresh, light foods; stock your pantry with essentials for making salads, grilled specialties, and other cooling summer fare.

Finally, if you expect to keep your windows mostly closed for A/C, consider freshening indoor air with a few new air-cleaning plants.

In our next post, we’ll look at summer prep for patios, balconies, and other outdoor living spaces, so stay tuned!