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Spring cleaning tips from the pros

  • Eagle news services
  • Published Saturday, April 19, 2014, at 7:22 a.m.

Photos

Natural dryer-sheet alternative

Blogger Sherri Griffin recommends simple-to-make wool dryer balls for laundry. They decrease drying time, eliminate static cling and decrease wrinkles, she says. Essential oils can be added to them every few loads to softly scent clothes.

Supplies:

100 percent wool yarn

Pantyhose

Essential oil (optional)

Directions:

1. Wrap wool yarn around two or three fingers at least a dozen times, then make a bow by wrapping yarn tightly around middle of wrapped yarn. Bring the two sides together and continue wrapping tightly in different directions to make a small ball the size of a lemon. Repeat to make several balls.

2. Push the wool balls into one pantyhose leg, knotting the pantyhose between each ball so they don’t touch. Run through the washer with a load of towels on hot cycle, then toss into dryer on hot. Once dry, remove from pantyhose. Each ball should appear “felted” – the wool fibers tightly adhered. Snip any loose strands.

To use:

1. Scent balls with essential oil, if desired (it’ll last a few loads).

2. Toss at least two balls into dryer with wet laundry.

– Associated Press

How do your cleaning skills compare to those of pros who’ve earned homeowners’ shining reviews?

As spring calls out for a clean start, here are some tips, tricks and tools of the maid trade, supplied by highly rated cleaners that the Angie’s List research team recently interviewed.

Vacuum right

Weekly vacuuming is key to a clean carpet. Do it more often if you have pets or kids. And consider this three-step approach to power-sweeping a room:

1. Clean the perimeter with the edging tool.

2. Begin at the far corner and move backward so you don’t leave footprints.

3. Vacuum slowly and steadily; this works better than numerous quick passes.

Cleaners prefer lightweight machines that feature HEPA filters to remove allergens and that come equipped with easily released attachments and long hoses that fit under furniture and reach ceiling corners.

Raid the pantry

Kitchen staples get rave reviews from maids, who share these ideas:

• Put bowls of white vinegar or coffee beans in a room to absorb odors.

• Freshen carpets, sofas and mattresses by shaking or spraying a mix of one part vinegar, one part water and five to 10 drops of eucalyptus, lavender or tea tree essential oil.

• Sprinkle baking soda in showers and sinks as a deodorizing cleanser.

• Freshen drains and help clear clogs by pouring baking soda over the drain, then pouring vinegar. Use boiling water to rinse the bubbling mixture down the drain.

More expert cleaning tips:

• Remove rust stains from a shower by making a paste of hot water and powdered oxygen cleaner. Apply to walls and glass doors and let sit for 30 minutes. Scrub with a nylon scrubber, rinse with hot water and buff dry.

• To clear smudges from dark granite countertops, wipe down with soapy water and buff dry with a clean, dry microfiber cloth

• Remove dirt and debris from tiny crevices with a toothpick.

10 minutes or less

Jennifer Chung of Kinsights, an online advice-sharing community for parents, has these time-saving tips:

• Keep cleaning supplies on each level of the house. You will avoid having to run to the bathroom for dish soap or to the kitchen cupboard for the shower cleaner.

• Don’t procrastinate. Get in the habit of cleaning immediately. For instance, don’t let dishes sit in the sink (rinse and get them in the dishwasher right after eating); make the bed the moment you get up.

• Make it bright and cheery. The lighter the room, the cleaner and more open it feels. Add a dash of bright color to take visitors’ eyes off the stacks of clutter.

• Baskets, baskets and more baskets. Baskets make great storage units, are easy to throw stuff in and can be tucked in a closet or under a table at a moment’s notice.

• Do one deep-cleaning project a day. These include vacuuming, mopping, window cleaning, laundry and other time-consuming tasks.

• Dryer sheet tricks. Use them to clean the inside of glass shower doors and tiles to prevent soap scum buildup. They are also great for loosening caked-on food from baking. Simply fill with warm water, place the dryer sheet inside, let stand overnight, and it will be easy cleaning the next morning.

• Microwave magic. Steam a bowl of hot water inside a dirty microwave for 10 minutes. Baked-on foods will soften and wipe off with a damp cloth.

• Bathroom and kitchen have priority. If those two areas are clean, the whole house will feel it, so wipe down countertops and sinks after each use.

• Don’t be afraid to purge. Once a month, go through one room or one closet and get rid of stuff that doesn’t fit or no one plays with. Nervous about having regrets? Put it in a to-donate box. If in two weeks you haven’t thought about it, say goodbye.

• Make cleaning enjoyable. Grab your headphones, press play and dance. Music will motivate and speed you through the task.

Before you hire a cleaner

If you’d rather outsource all or some of your cleaning, line up possible candidates by checking reviews on a trusted online site. Then ask these questions:

• How long have you been in business? Can you provide references?

• Are you bonded? Insured against liability? Are employees also insured or are they considered subcontractors?

• Do you conduct background checks?

• Will the same crew clean my house each time?

• Do you provide equipment and supplies or do I?

Most cleaning companies offer free estimates. An initial “deep” cleaning can average from $300 to $400, with $100 to $150 for biweekly cleanings, though other schedule options are available. Specific prices depend on your home’s size, whether you have kids or pets, if you smoke, your flooring types and how many items require dusting and care.

Contributing: Angie Hicks, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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