Invisible Things to Clean Before Houseguests Arrive

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Holiday season = houseguest season. Here’s a zone-by-zone checklist of all the invisible things you’ll want to clean so you can feel perfectly comfortable telling your guests to: “Make yourself at home!”

BATHROOMS

There’s one level of clean that’s good enough for your family. But, with guests coming, you need to go deeper than usual: attacking soap-scum buildup, neglected toilet tanks, partially clogged drains, and any signs of mold or mildew growth—all of which contribute to odors your guests are much more likely to notice than you are.

KITCHEN

Deep clean, defrost, and organize your fridge, making extra space for all the leftovers your entertaining will yield. Assuming at least one or two guests will offer to help with the washing up after meals, make sure your dishwasher is sparkling and that the insides of drawers and cupboards are spacious, well organized, and free of crumbs and other debris. Inspect ovens for burnt-on bits that could set off your smoke alarm at the worst possible times. And wow your overnight guests with great morning brews by deep cleaning and decalcifying your coffee maker.

BEDROOMS

Offering clean sheets to houseguests is a no-brainer, but, consider also cleaning heavy linens and even rugs, which may be harboring odors you don’t notice simply because you’re so used to them. Another nice touch is to declutter and clear closet and drawer space for guests to stow their possessions, thereby avoiding that unanticipated yard-sale effect that can wreck your perfect holiday décor.

LAUNDRY AREA

If you’ve got guests staying for more than a day or two, you’ll want to offer access to your laundry facilities. Sanitize your washer—newer machines have built-in cycles for this or just run an empty load with bleach followed by another water-only load to rinse thoroughly—and clean lint vents to ensure your dryer operates at max efficiency.

ALL OVER

Inviting people into your home creates many opportunities for germ transfer. Before and after entertaining guests, do everyone a favor and sanitize or disinfect all the things people touch frequently, including doorknobs, appliance handles, drawer and cabinet hardware, light switches and plates, TV clickers, and all kitchen and bathroom fixtures.

If you don’t think you’ll have time for all that cleaning, MaidPro’s got you covered! Our standard 49-Point Checklist tackles nearly everything above except for the decluttering, drain- and appliance deep-cleaning.

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!

Five Simple Projects to Minimize Back-to-School Stress

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Last year around this time, we offered six tips to Get Organized for Back to School. This year, we’re highlighting five simple home projects that are guaranteed to make your family’s school-day routines flow better, faster, and with much less parental stress.

Make space. Clear out and donate old clothes, sporting equipment, outerwear, and so forth. When you do thisbefore school and fall sports really get rolling, it helps your kids to more easily and independently assess their wardrobe options, decide what to wear, and find what they need under the duress of morning rush. Dirty clothes are also more likely to end up in the laundry, and having sufficient space for clothes smooths laundry workflow overall—yes, things can actually be routinely cleaned, folded, and put away!

Purge and deep-clean the kitchen. When you’re done with closets and drawers move on to your kitchen, inspecting and tossing expired foods and deep-cleaning your fridge, freezer, and cabinets. This will give you space to stock up on nutritious, energizing snacks and fast, easy-to-prepare weeknight meals.

Make several weekday menu plans. Waiting until ‘day of’ to decide what’s for dinner is a recipe for overspending on food, increasing food spoilage and waste, adding to daily mental stress, and falling into food and nutrition ruts. Plan out a few weeks’ worth of rotating weeknight menus and shopping lists to keep things interesting, nutritious, and cost and time efficient.

Take inventory. As you are freeing up space in your home—and before hitting those big back-to-school sales—make an inventory of what you already have and exactly what you need in terms of clothing, athletic gear, school supplies, snack foods, and so forth. This enables you to shop with precision, saving time and avoiding impulse buys.

Make an easy checklist system for kids to manage on their own. A story went viral recently about a school principal in Arkansas who is turning away parents seeking to drop off forgotten items such as lunches and lunch money, gym clothes, and homework. The principal’s goal is to encourage kids to problem-solve on their own. But, some kids are just naturally disorganized. Even if you don’t have a chronic forgetter on your hands, try hanging a dry erase or similar board by your exit door. Encourage your kids to create their own daily checklists and take responsibility for collecting what they need before leaving the house. This has a triple benefit of relieving your personal mental workload, avoiding SOS calls and trips to school to deliver forgotten items, and teaching your kids skills that serve for a lifetime.

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Summer Cleanout: Collecting Clothes for Charity

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Late August is the perfect time to clear out and donate old clothes, free up space, and reorganize closets and drawers. If there’s a rainy day on your horizon, here are 5 tips for getting it all done quickly and effectively:

Select a charity that picks up. To motivate yourself, go ahead and schedule a pickup date, being sure to allow time for laundering and dry cleaning of donations as needed. Plan to sort and pack by size, age, gender, and season so donations can be easily prepared for resale.

Gear up and pile up. Collect sufficient quantities of bags, boxes, and bins for packing up your donations. Then, pull every single thing out of closets, dressers, and storage bins and pile them all in the middle of a room. Be sure to include accessories: scarves, bags, belts, jewelry, and footwear, too.

Set rules. For example, resolve to donate anything that is in relatively good condition, BUT: doesn’t fit, is out of style, has not been worn recently (or often), still has the tags on six months after purchase, or fails to flatter. Toss any garments that are: torn, stained, smelly, shabby, have been used for sleeping, swimming, or as undergarments.

Purge ruthlessly (or recruit a friend to help). Instead of saving something for when you lose a few pounds, resolve to reward yourself with something new instead. If it’s too shabby to wear in public, it’s probably too shabby for working out in too. Heck, if you are going to be exercising and sweating, you deserve to look good doing it! Resist the urge to burden others with unsolicited hand-me-downs. If you know your frugal sister-in-law loves receiving your kids’ old clothes, go ahead and hand down. But never foist hand-me-downs on anyone who might be simply too polite to refuse.

Re-store your keepers mindfully. Some ideas for organizing the clothes you keep are by: color, type of garment, season, frequency of wear, or whole coordinated outfits. Before putting everything away, check out different folding techniques and other tips we have for turning over closets that not only save space but make it easy to find things and make full use of your wardrobe.

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!

Summer Home Prep: Indoor Comfort

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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!

Cleaning Myths Debunked: Cleaning for Cold & Flu Season

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With cold and flu season in full swing, you might be taking a few extra cleaning precautions such as disinfecting doorknobs, kitchen and bath fixtures, handheld digital devices, TV clickers, and so forth where germ transfers are most likely to happen. Due to clever marketing tactics and media hype, however, many people don’t understand how disinfectants really work, so they end up spending time and money without gaining any additional protection from illness. Here are five common myths debunked when it comes to disinfecting for cold and flu season:

Myth #1 Cleaning surfaces and avoiding physical contact with sick people prevents illness.

Truth Most cold and flu viruses are contracted via the eyes and nose, and new victims typically inhale viruses from coughs, sneezes, or just the exhaled air of infected hosts up to six feet away. An estimated 30% of people infected with flu exhibit no symptoms, making them impossible to avoid. While cleaning surfaces can help, frequent, thorough hand washing and not touching your eyes and face are still some of the best defenses against contracting colds and flu. When water and soap are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a smart second choice, as they have been proven to kill a wide range of bacteria and viruses when used properly (at least a dime-sized amount of product rubbed in for a full 30 seconds over all surfaces of the hands).

Myth #2 Sanitizers and disinfectants kill germs on contact.

Truth The solutions all require different lengths of time to kill different types of germs, but almost none work instantly. Most sanitizers and disinfections require 5 to 10 minutes to kill all germs. Those that claim for marketing purposes that they “Kill in 30 Seconds” might kill only one organism that fast, but take 5 to 10 minutes for all the remaining important germs! Spraying and immediately wiping dry with disinfecting or sanitizing cleaners kills no more germs than regular soap.

Myth #3 Sanitizing, disinfecting, and antibacterial mean the same thing.

Truth Each means extremely different levels of germ kill. Sanitizing kills 99.9% of bacteria only, while disinfectants kill 99.999% of viruses, fungi, and bacteria. It sounds like a small difference, but that 0.099% reduces exposure to germs by 100 fold! Buyer beware: so-called antibacterial soaps are only required to contain antimicrobial agents and don’t actually need to prove they kill more than their non-antibacterial counterparts.

Myth #4 Sanitizers and disinfectants kill every type of bacteria and virus.

Truth To legally state “kills 99.9% of germs,” sanitizers and disinfectants must only prove they can kill a few specific types of pathogens and may not work on the ones you really care about, such as cold and flu viruses. As a rule, if the package doesn’t list it, the solution doesn’t kill it. To find out which germs your product works on and how long it takes to kill them, you’ll need to read the fine print.

Myth #5 Sanitizers and disinfectants kills germs on any dirty surface.

Truth Sanitizers and disinfectants only need to prove they work on flat, non-porous, and already clean surfaces! Neither can penetrate dirt or into porous surfaces where germs often hide. To kill ALL germs, you first need to clean and rinse away dirt and loose germs, then apply a disinfectant to kill any germs still clinging to the surface. Sloppy cleaning with disinfecting cleaners not only leaves germs behind, it leaves food for germs to feed on and multiply, and enables them to build resistance, leading to superbugs. Long story short, clean well!

The MaidPro House Cleaning Difference Newark, DE

New Castle County’s premier home cleaners.

At MaidPro Newark, creating clean houses is our priority. We are located in Newark, and deliver personalized, precise services to Bear, Christiana, Claymont, Edgemoor, Elsmere, Greenville, Hockessin, Manor, Marshallton, New Castle, Newark, Newport, Pike Creek, Port Penn, Stanton, Talleyville, Wilmington and Yorklyn. Whether you want shiny floors in Claymont or sparkling bathrooms in Yorklyn, just call us for all your Wilmington area residential cleaning needs.

Professional maid service, with a personal touch.

We know and trust our MaidPro employees on a personal and professional level. Our cleaning PROs undergo thorough background checks prior to employment and are bonded and insured. They also receive extensive maid service training to instill the skills needed to clean to the highest standards—yours! And while we strive to help our employees work to their greatest ability, we also make sure to have fun. Because when you love what you do, it shows in your work.

Good Habits to Start the New Year

How often have you made a big New Year’s resolution (“I will lose 40 lbs; go to the gym every day; quit [bad habit].”) only to fail by January third or fourth? This year, instead of setting one giant goal, try establishing a few easy, good habits to crowd out the bad ones. Just a couple new good habits can accumulate to all the things you really want such as improved health, less stress, and more happiness. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Sleep more, sleep better. Go to bed earlier. Leave electronic devices—phones, tablets—elsewhere. Set your alarm for the time you really intend to rise and stop hitting snooze, which only trades deep sleep for a less restful variety. Also, tune into natural circadian rhythms by exposing yourself to sunlight during the day and keeping your environment dark-ish at night.

Make your bed every morning. Studies show this actually leads to more restful sleep. It also makes your bed healthier by keeping out dust and allergens, and sets a tone of productivity and accomplishment for the rest of the day.

Prep for your morning the night before. Figure out what you are going to wear. Wash, iron, and lay out clothes. Pack lunch. Anything that makes your mornings less harried and rushed will minimize the time you spend in high-adrenaline, stress mode during each day.

Do now. When you see something that needs doing—a light bulb or battery that needs changing, a picture that needs hanging—do it right then instead of adding to a list that hangs over your head like a black cloud.

Eat the rainbow. Phytonutrients give fruits and veggies their brilliant colors. Eating the rainbow—red, yellow, orange, green, purple, blue—is an easy way to ensure you get a full range of vital nutrients into your body every day.

Move a little each hour. Walk. Stretch. Squat. Shake. Jiggle. Dance. Jump rope. Exercise with hand weights. Do anything that gets your circulatory and lymphatic systems moving.

Find one tiny way to save each day. Clip coupons, skip fancy coffees, borrow vs. buying books, and so forth. Take the money you save and actually put it into an account or take advantage of programs that automatically transfer ‘loose change’ on transactions into savings or investment accounts. At year-end, you can spend it all on a luxury you really want.

Contrary to what you might have read, it often takes much longer than 21 days to establish a new habit. Research shows, however, that—even if you mess up periodically—perseverance will get you there in the end. You just need to start somewhere and keep going!

Happy New Year!