Home Cleaning Resolutions for 2015

new-years-2014

Do you ever wonder why some people’s homes seem constantly – and effortlessly – spotless? It doesn’t necessarily mean they clean all the time. More likely, it means they hold to a set of attitudes and simple behaviors that, with a little resolve, you too can acquire. Here are 12 easy New Year’s Cleaning Resolutions that can make your home more consistently clean in 2015:

  • I will treat every possession – including my home – as an investment, which means committing to a level of maintenance that either increases or preserves its value.
  • I will always think twice before bringing new things into my home. Owning fewer possessions means less total cleaning and less likelihood of clutter. Plus, think of the money you will save when you think twice about acquiring new things. (Probably enough to afford a regular cleaning service!)
  • For every new permanent item I bring into my home, I will remove something I no longer want or use. Do this all year long and you will never be faced with the onerous tasks of collecting boxes, packing up junk and hauling it away.
  • I will prevent cleaning tasks from getting bigger than they need to be. You have a choice: clean more frequently with less effort or less frequently with more effort. Doing the former prevents you from ever becoming overwhelmed to a point of inactivity.
  • I won’t waste time cleaning ineffectively. Having the right knowledge and tools on hand always makes cleaning faster and easier. Commit to learning more about what works best for different cleaning jobs and follow product instructions carefully.
  • I will expect as much from others in my household as I expect from myself. No one is going to look back on your life and say: “What a heroine! She did every bit of cleaning herself.” Relinquish the martyr’s role and be amazed at what others around you are capable of contributing. Remember to give gratitude – even for behaviors that are expected – is absolutely the best way to guarantee those behaviors get repeated for a long time into the future.
  • I will do one extra – very small – organizing or cleaning task per day. Today, maybe it’s 10 minutes purging the junk drawer in your kitchen. Tomorrow maybe it’s 2 minutes organizing the cabinet where you keep your food storage containers. The next day, perhaps it’s 5 minutes tackling your unmatched socks bin. Imagine the cumulative impact of 365 similar tiny tasks on your home’s overall feeling of cleanliness.
  • I will adhere to the one-year rule. That is, if it hasn’t been worn or touched it in a year – and holds no sentimental or investment value – out it goes!
  • Everything we bring into our home will be assigned a place where it belongs. Cleaning goes much faster when you don’t have make decisions about where to put things. To decide where an item’s place should be, apply this simple formula: the more it gets used, the closer it belongs to the primary living areas in your home.
  • I will enjoy the aesthetics of my clean home. Take time to notice the smells, the shiny surfaces and, most important, the feeling of ease – and absence of stress – you feel when everything is just as it should be in your home.
  • Hire a cleaning service. Having professionals provide a detailed and thorough cleaning of your home on a regular basis allows you to stay on top of your home cleaning and keeps the sometimes neglected parts of your home (i.e. baseboards, switchplates, etc) sanitized, clean and germ-free! maidpro.com

Pros’ Favorite Cleaning Solutions and Why

Part 2 of MaidPro’s ‘Clean Like a Pro’ series looks at choosing the best solutions and tools and matching them to the right tasks

Any manufacturer can make strong cleaning chemicals usually at the expense of their workers, the people who use the chemicals and the environment. A disturbing proportion of the professional cleaning chemical industry comprises poorly designed chemicals that can burn people using them, emit dangerous vapors and damage the surfaces they are intended to clean. Here are some key considerations for choosing the right cleaning solutions:

Power to REMOVE dirt. The surfactants in well-designed cleaners will bond with and suspend large quantities of dirt and oils in relatively small quantities of water. This ensures that grime gets picked up and removed from surfaces whereas cheap, poorly designed solutions can leave you essentially smearing dirt around with water.

Power to DISINFECT. Many nonprofessional cleaners (and even a few professional outfits) use only glass cleaner and furniture polish, which do not disinfect. Surfaces may appear clean, but they can still spread illness from one family member to the next. Wherever touching happens (counters, tables, light switches, phones, remote controls, door handles and so forth), it’s a good idea to disinfect every so often to prevent spread of illness.

Power to AVOID leaving residues. Another factor to consider when it comes to cleaning formulations is the potential for chemicals to ‘fall out’ of solution and be left behind on surfaces. Again, thoroughly researched and designed cleaners hold their chemicals in solution, while poorly made cleaners can leave dangerous chemicals lurking on surfaces.

PH and other chemical properties. Depending on the kind of dirt or stain you are attacking, a cleaning solution’s acidity or basicity makes a huge difference. The fact of the matter is that getting something truly clean relies on a combination of time, temperature, effort and chemicals. Use the right chemicals and you can significantly decrease the time and effort factors.

With these and many other factors in mind, MaidPro extensively and continuously tests different lines of cleaning solutions. We continue to favor the Proctor & Gamble Professional line. (And no, P&G is not paying us to say that!). While P&G’s line is among the most expensive, we believe it is an excellent investment because P&G invests heavily in scientific research. The company has more PhDs working in its research department than its three closest competitors combined. They make carefully balanced and formulated cleaners that thoroughly disinfect without posing health risks to our service providers, customers and their pets. Here is a quick rundown on the specific P&G solutions we use for different tasks:

Spic & Span Disinfecting All Purpose Spray and Glass Cleaner. We use this for the majority of home surfaces. It is an incredible cleaner that tackles almost any task and contains a hospital-grade disinfectant, meaning we can disinfect surfaces and help to stop family illness cycles by ensuring the germs on wood, stainless steel and glass surfaces (not just your toilet) are killed and removed.

Mr. Clean Finished Floor Cleaner. This cleaner is safe to use on wood and all nonporous surfaces, including walls and baseboards. It can also be sprayed on a rag and used for dusting and leaves a nice shine after scrubbing a tub or sink.

Comet Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner. For soap scum (which requires a specific chemistry to treat) and other bathroom needs, this cleaner has a mild abrasive that won’t scratch. It also contains no bleach, so poses no danger to fabrics. We use this cleaner on all porcelain, ceramic, tile, fiberglass, acrylic bathroom surfaces. When cleaning high-germ areas, we spray on and leave cleaner wet for the specified amount of time required for proper germ-kill (a step that many non-professional neglect to do).

Febreze. We use this for removing odors – smoke, mildew, mold – from fabrics. A light spray leaves fabrics smelling fresh and clean. It is safe to use around pets and has been approved by the ASPCA.

How Pros clean faster AND better

n Part 1 of MaidPro’s ‘Clean Like a Pro’ series, we explain why professional cleaners typically get better results in less time

Depending on service frequency, MaidPro’s professional service providers spend anywhere from 35-45* minutes each cleaning typical kitchens and master bathrooms. Full baths: 20-30* minutes. Remaining rooms: anywhere from 10-25* minutes each. Non-pros cleaning the same rooms can spend up to 33% longer and still fail to achieve the same levels of lasting clean!

Big reasons for the time and effectiveness gaps between cleaning pros and non-pros:

• Professionals don’t get distracted. They don’t stop to answer the phone, catch a weather report on TV, or put something away in another room. Losing track of where you leave off adds time and often causes cleaning to be less thorough.

• Professionals use the right solutions and tools. Cleaning solutions vary dramatically in terms of things like disinfecting/sanitizing power, surfactancy (ability to suspend soils in water) and PH. The wrong solutions can be at the least ineffective and, at the worst, damaging if you don’t know your stuff (more details on why pros pick certain cleaning solutions and tools will come in Parts 2 and 3 of our series).

• Professionals clean systematically. Specific sequencing of cleaning activities – within both houses and rooms – ensures thorough, efficient work with no cross contamination. Proper sequencing ensures a safer, healthier and longer-lasting clean (more pro sequencing details to come in Part 4 of our series)..

• Pros benefit from cleaning consistency. When rooms get cleaned the same way on a weekly or biweekly basis – including the parts that don’t yet look dirty – they take significantly less time and effort to clean than rooms or room areas that get neglected. More details to come in Part 5 of our series on what to clean – or have cleaned – frequently if you want your home to look and smell fresh for a week or longer rather than just the first day or two after a clean.

*Time guides based on typical home size of 1K-2K sq ft, assume no pets, moderate quantities of knickknacks and typical flooring.

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Cleanse Your Home and Adopt Cleaner Habits

Keeping your home tidy is one thing, maintaining it to a consistently high level of clean is something else altogether. Start the New Year off right with this five-part plan:

Wrap your brain around the WHY of clean. Plain and simple: clean looks, smells and feels good. It’s healthy. And it’s also a sound long-term financial decision; clean better and more often to preserve – even increase – the value of your home and possessions.

Get introspective. Take a brutally honest look at where your home typically falls on the clean-o-meter – and why. Love cleaning? Hate it? Don’t mind it, but have too little time? Once you’re committed to cleaner habits, your strategy needs a strong dose of personality reality.

Get up to code! If – despite plenty of time and effort cleaning – your home never really feels, smells or stays clean for very long – you may be overdue for some deep cleaning. Think walls, floors, ceilings, carpets, furniture, fixtures and places you can’t see such as inside vents, cabinets and appliances. If you’re WAY overdue for this kind of work, consider gifting yourself the services of a professional cleaning crew that can bring your home rapidly to a better starting point for weekly and daily cleaning chores.

Educate yourself. Using ineffective – or just the wrong – cleaning tools and solutions can be another reason your home is falling a little shy on the clean-o-meter. Coupons can be a big culprit here, so do some research to understand what works best, where and why so you can make great buying decisions around cleaning supplies.

Build a budget. There is just no getting around the fact that proper cleaning takes time. Figure out what it takes each week clean your home well, and make sure you budget either the time to do it yourself, or the funds to have someone do it for you.

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Cleaning For Baby

If you are expecting a baby within the next few months, you are probably focused on getting all of your gear and decorating the nursery. Something else you need – but probably aren’t thinking much about – is a good cleaning plan. The presence of a newborn in your home means two things: more cleaning work and different cleaning methods. Here’s how to get ready for the big arrival:

Before Baby Comes

Assume you are facing at least a six- to twelve-month window in which you will:

  • Have little time or energy for large cleaning jobs.
  • Want to avoid using harsh cleaning chemicals that generate fumes and leave residues.

Make a list and plan with your significant other to tackle large jobs or consider having them done professionally not long before baby arrives. Focus especially on tasks that will improve air quality by removing dust, dander and other potential allergens from carpets, mattresses, upholstery, textiles and so forth. The overriding objective: bring your whole home up to a standard of clean that will be very easy to maintain after baby arrives.

In Baby’s first Weeks And months

Dr. Sinner’s famous cleaning formula says that four variables, chemicals, temperature, time and action – working together – equal clean. Shrink one variable and the others need to get larger to deliver the same result. Where newborns are concerned, chemicals are the variable you want to shrink, so time, temperature and action (elbow grease) need to increase.

Deep-cleaning your home before baby arrives is a good start. Another good strategy is to avoid dirt and allergens in the first place, for example, by asking people to remove their shoes before coming into your home to visit baby. After the big arrival:

  • Baby’s nursery should be dusted, vacuumed and – weather permitting – aired out at least weekly or even more frequently.
  • Specific areas of baby’s room: sheets, changing table, waterproof mattress cover and diaper pail should be disinfected often with a nontoxic disinfecting solution.
  • And, because diaper leaks and blowouts are common occurrences, plan on sanitizing your washing machine at least weekly or more frequently as well.

Where you do need to use cleaning chemicals, be sure to select high-quality cleaners that are effective in small amounts and designed to avoid leaving residues (many inexpensive and so-called ‘nontoxic’ or ‘green’ cleaning chemicals don’t meet this criteria). Also, be sure to read and follow directions closely to ensure you are realizing cleaners’ disinfecting and sanitizing benefits.

When Baby Starts To Move

While always bearing in mind that babies are born with wonderfully effective immune systems that need some exposure to germs to work properly, plan to increase the frequency with which you dust, vaccum, mop and scrub the floors throughout your home once baby starts rolling, dragging him or herself around and crawling (typically between five and nine months). Since babies love knobs and buttons, plan also to pay more attention to disinfecting things like remote controls, drawer pulls and cabinet knobs that are typically within baby’s reach.

One final piece of cleaning advice: when babies spit and/or throw up, it’s generally going to hit your clothing, carpet, furniture upholstery, bed spread or some other absorbent textile in your home. Depending on baby’s age and food stage, permanent stains will result if these textiles are not treated immediately and thoroughly to remove the agents that can interact chemically with your textile’s fibers.

14 seldom-cleaned areas that need your attention this fall!

Chances are you stick to a set list of weekly cleaning chores in your home. Here is a checklist for 14 not-so-routine cleaning tasks that should get your attention anywhere from 2-4 times a year with fall being one of them.

  • Undersides of counter overhangs, tables, chairs and other surfaces. People tend to grip the edges of things especially when leaning. The resulting accumulation of grime and gunk may not be visible but can harbor germs and trap odors.
  • Insides of drawers and cabinets. Emptying and cleaning cabinets, drawers and organizing solutions creates a great opportunity to sort and reorganize their contents and to toss expired items.
  • Drawer housings and tops of cabinets. Pull drawers all the way out if you can. Depending on what a drawer gets used for, you may find crumbs, scraps of paper and even a few long-lost items that got pushed up and out the back of overfilled drawers.
  • Inside your dishwasher. Especially if you live in an area with high mineral content (hard) water, you may notice deposits or odors building up inside your dishwasher. The good news: very little scrubbing is required. Use an appropriate solution in an empty dishwasher on a high-heat cycle; the only thing that may require a good scrubbing is the edges around the dishwasher door.
  • Inside your washing machine. Newer washers may offer a sanitization cycle; be sure to use to remove germs from the washer drum and agitating elements. This cleaning can also be managed manually with careful application of a 1:10 bleach solution.
  • Light fixtures and bulbs. Cleaning dirty light fixtures and dusting bulbs improves the illumination of your home just as the days start growing shorter and nights longer.
  • Toys. Dirty toys can harbor germs and contribute to an overall impression of dinginess in your home. Colorfast plastic toys can be soaked briefly in a solution of bleach and water then rinsed thoroughly and dried. Smaller toys can be cleaned in your dishwasher.
  • Small appliances. Think coffee makers, toasters, mixers, blenders, portable fans, built-in bathroom fans and so forth. While many small appliances only need a little extra attention to scrubbing out the crevices, your coffee maker may need decalcification to improve taste while portable fans should be dismantled and cleaned thoroughly either before placing into storage for winter or removing from storage during the warmer months.
  • Closet floors. This is a quick hit. Next time you are vacuuming, dusting or mopping your floors, remember to pull everything off your closet floors and go over them as well.
  • Dryer vent system. Lint accumulation inside your dryer housing and venting tubes poses a fire hazard. A quick vacuum four times a year is all it takes to minimize the risk.
  • Refrigerator vents and coils. Dust accumulation here contributes to inefficient cooling and greater electricity use. If you have water filtration or automatic ice making system, you may need professional help to pull out the appliance and accomplish this maintenance (if you have a plumber in for any other job, it’s a great time to ask for this help). While you’re at it, replace your water filters too.
  • Window screens and housings. While washing windows is a 2X/year task, screens and screen housings should be vacuumed and/or cleaned at least once every season to improve views and prevent more pollen and dust from making its way into your home.
  • Chimneys and flues. This is important home safety maintenance that should be conducted by a professional at least once a year. If you didn’t do it in the spring, now is the time before winter sets in.
  • Computer keyboards. You may be in the habit of dusting keyboard surfaces, but they occasionally need a little inside cleaning too. Compressed gas for doing so can be purchased at local office supplies stores.

Homemade healthy cleaners and snacks

By Donna Freedman

Frugal bloggers often write about making certain household essentials themselves, to cut grocery costs. The decision may be about health and/or the environment as well as dollars.

For example, vinegar is a healthful alternative to commercial cleaning sprays, especially if someone in your house is chemically sensitive. Homemade yogurt is much cheaper than the commercial kind — and it sends fewer small containers to garbage dumps. (It’s also delicious. I haven’t bought ice cream since I started making yogurt at home.)

An hour or two a week can save you some decent cash. For example, it’s cost me as little as 50 cents to make a quart and a half of yogurt. (Hint: Watch for close-dated milk.) A loaf of bread that costs 40 to 70 cents to bake can turn leftover soup into a satisfying meal.

Here are a few ideas to get you going.

Edibles: Yogurt, granola, bread
As noted, making yogurt cured my ice-cream habit. It really is that good, mixed with fruit or a little homemade jam. You don’t need a special yogurt maker, incidentally. A site called MakeYourOwnYogurt.com gives step-by-step instructions.

Mix some of that yogurt with a simple, frugal granola recipe from DIYNatural.com. Or try one from Frugal Families; it contains chunky peanut butter, wheat germ and flax meal.

Ever made your own bread? The Frugal Girl discusses process as well as cost in “Is homemade bread cheaper than store-bought?” A loaf of basic white costs half the commercial kind, she says, and doesn’t take nearly as much work as you might think.

Bonus: It makes your home smell marvelous, and a loaf of fresh bread turns leftover beef stew into an occasion.

Pressed for time? Try the “no knead” loaf, which according to the Steamy Kitchen blog is so easy that even a 4-year-old can make it.

More edibles: Cooking fat, soup stock

Home-rendered chicken fat beats vegetable oil for cooking, according to Penny at Penniless Parenting. She gets free chicken scraps and skin from a butcher, then renders them slowly in a pan or simmers them in a pot of water, which produces soup stock as well as cooking fat.

A reader who commented on Penny’s post cooks ground beef in water, which she drains and chills. After the fat is removed she has “Burger broth,” a good base for soup or chili.

I keep two containers in the freezer: one for chicken bones and pan juices and the other for vegetable cooking water and vegetable scraps. When the containers are full they go into the slow cooker to simmer slowly for hours.

Or go the veggie route. Scrappy Vegetable Stock, a recipe found on Poor Girl Eats Well, is just what it sounds like: broth made of potato peelings, green-bean ends, onion skins, etc.

Meaty or meatless, you wind up with free soup makings.

Home front: Laundry soap, all-purpose cleaner, cat litter
Most laundry soap recipes require grating and cooking a bar of Fels-Naptha soap. Here’s the how-to, courtesy of The Hillbilly Housewife.

Not gonna happen? One Good Thing By Jillee has a recipe called “No-grate homemade laundry soap.” It uses borax, washing soda and Dawn dish detergent.

Tired of paying for cat litter and of carrying it home? The Greenists published a homemade cat litter that calls for shredded newspaper, baking soda and biodegradable dish soap. The author reports it takes 30 to 45 minutes to make enough faux litter for two to three weeks, and that “it’s kind of fun, in an elementary school art project way.”

Vinegar makes a good all-purpose cleaner, either straight or cut with water. The smell does go away. Or avoid the odor altogether with a recipe from “5 easy green cleaning tips that use vinegar” on Organic Authority. The “Green Goodness” formula incorporates essential oils to leave your job site smelling sweet.

Readers: What household essentials do you make from scratch? Do you do this for economic or environmental reasons?

‘Green’ Cleaning Myths Debunked

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established little by way of guidelines for what constitutes green cleaning solutions or practices. So – into the void – has flown a steady stream of misinformation and bogus so-called ‘green’ cleaning solutions. Here are four common green-cleaning myths and explanations for why they don’t hold water:

Myth No. 1: Cleaning with water alone is a safe and effective way to clean and protect surfaces. Dirt is complicated – a mix of particles, dead bugs, skin cells, germs, and oils, to name just a few. Since water and oil don’t mix, oily solids get left behind, darkening and scratching surfaces and making them appear dull. The water itself can also leave mineral deposits, increasing complexity of the dirt and making it even tougher to clean over time.

Myth No. 2: You need a mop and large bucket of soapy water to get a floor really clean. Well designed cleaners use solvents (to loosen and dissolve oily soils), builders (to bond with minerals in the water) and surfactants (to bond with oily soils and suspend them in the water). While a high-quality cleaner can suspend massive amounts of dirt in just millimeters of water, poorly designed cleaners do not keep dirt suspended, so it falls back onto the floor where the mop just pushes it around. Your mop is crucial too. If you want a floor to be truly clean, you need a highly absorbent mop to remove dirty water.

Myth No. 3: Cleaning with water and vinegar is an effective and environmentally friendly cleaner. Vinegar is just a mild acid. There are no surfactants, solvents, builders or oxidizing agents needed to remove complex soils. The result is not that much different from cleaning with water alone and it can make your surface a breeding ground for germs, which is definitely not green and potentially dangerous for your family.
Myth No. 4: Green cleaners are less likely than household or commercial cleaners to leave harmful residues on surfaces. A poorly formulated cleaner purported to be ‘green’ may not have the correct surfactancy or cleaning chemistry, which means both its chemicals and germ-containing soils can fall out of solution and onto the surfaces you are cleaning. A well-formulated cleaner will keep its chemicals in solution and soils in suspension, leaving less residue and unhealthy soils on the surfaces of your home.
The EPA defines green cleaners as those made with environmentally-friendly ingredients to preserve human health and environmental quality. There is also Design for the Environment (DfE), an EPA partner program that screens product ingredients and awards them a DfE logo if they pose “the least concern among chemicals in their class.” If you care about green cleaning, your best courses of action are to: Look for products with the DfE logo that are also effective – meaning you can use less to get better results. Also, look for manufacturers that: ship in concentrates to reduce fuel use, reduce packaging, cut water use and pollution, and select renewable/sustainable ingredient sources whenever possible.
Finally, you can use cleaning companies (such as MaidPro) that do the following: group clients geographically to cut fuel use; use reusable bottles, buckets and bags; use phone/email versus paper; use efficient washing machines and washable, reusable microfiber rags that capture dirt, dust and allergens; use CRI Green label vacuums to protect indoor air quality; buy supplies in concentrated forms; pick environmentally friendly suppliers; train employees to use the correct amounts of cleaning chemicals and make responsible use of disinfectants on critical surfaces to protect client health.
Remember, if it’s not clean, it’s not green!

National Spring Cleaning Week

National Spring Cleaning Week, observed annually the last week of March, serves as a great reminder for you to organize, clean and prep your home for the changing of the seasons. Although MaidPro’s service follows a comprehensive 49-Point Checklist™ it is still important to ensure you tackle larger projects on an annual basis. To help guide your efforts, use the spring cleaning checklist found below:

Spring Cleaning Checklist:

General:

  • Seasonal exterior maintenance. Survey the grounds and create a list of items needing maintenance. Sort your list by priority and cost of the project.
  • Garage. Remove items that haven’t been used in over a year. Host a yard sale or sell items online.
  • Cooling and heating systems. Inspect systems, deactivate heat system humidifiers and drain sediment from hot water heaters.
  • Glass. Wash windows, glass doors, window treatments and window sills (inside & out).
  • Walls and doors. Remove marks, apply touch up paint and clean handles.
  • Furniture. Steam clean upholstery and vacuum the spaces underneath.
  • Carpets. Wash or steam.
  • Safety. Change batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Large appliances. Wipe down and clean underneath.

Kitchen:

  • MaidPro Refrigerator Clean
  • MaidPro Oven Clean
  • Clean and organize pantry

Bedrooms:

  • Declutter. Organize and purge surfaces, drawers and space beneath beds.
  • Closets. Bring out spring/summer clothing and pack up winter garments. Sort clothing to keep, discard or donate.
  • Bed spreads. Dry clean.

Bathroom:

  • Shower curtain. Wash or replace.
  • Bathmat. Wash or replace.
  • Drawers. Organize, purge and wipe down surfaces.

Outdoor:

  • Landscape. Clear dead foliage and weeds from beds and lawns. Plant shrubs and trees.
  • Outdoor furniture. Clean and repair your spring/summer furniture.
  • Roof. Inspect the roof for broken/missing shingles or tiles.
  • Storage shed. Organize and purge. (Important to ensure animals don’t make a home)
  • Patio. Hose down.
  • BBQ. Remove ash and clean grates.