Originally created 04/16/04

Time to take care of those gathering dust bunnies



Bunnies are a welcome sight around Easter, but not dust bunnies.

The siren call of spring cleaning is growing, and experts have lots of advice on ways to get your house gleaming.

Terri Woodward, owner of The Housekeepers cleaning service in Martinez, said it can be daunting to tackle a whole house if it hasn't been cleaned regularly, but once it's done, the job gets easier.

"Get everything cleaned to begin with, then start rotating things out to make it easier," she said. "The first time maybe do all the cabinets, then maybe all the baseboards; then the blinds. Just work in something that you might not normally clean."

Ms. Woodward said some cleaning tips apply no matter what the filth factor. Bathrooms and kitchens, for instance, will always the grubbiest spot in an abode.

"You start at the top of the floor and move down; remove the cob webs, then hit the door frames; then dust the furniture, then vacuum the floors," she said. "We even do that with bathrooms; we start with baths and work our way out of the bathroom."

Vicky Matson, the owner of Evans' Partners in Grime, agrees.

"Bathrooms and kitchens are always the hardest," she said. "There's grease in the kitchen and soap scum in the shower, and there's the buildup of any mold."

None of this is cause for alarm, though.

"On showers, any kind of degreaser works really well; if you just saturate them and use white scrubbies, which are basically white scrubbing sponges," she said.

"With furniture, it helps to vacuum the dust first with a soft bristle adjustment so you're not just smearing around the dirt. The same thing goes for baseboards."

Mrs. Matson suggested looking behind things on the countertops and in cabinets, the bottom of the commodes, shower door tracks and the grease pans under the stoves. And if you have one, take that chandelier down and toss that sucker in the sink. If you want to clean like a pro, staying focused is a must.

"We can do a house in two to five hours because we don't have the distractions. We don't have people calling for us on the phone, and there's none of our stuff around to distract us."

The same stuff that distracts us also can be an obstruction. That's where Marsha Peebles, the owner of Home Coordinator Inc. in Appling, comes into the picture. She makes a living suggesting ways people can better use the space in their homes.

"People are coming out of that winter slump, they're ready to feel invigorated and the small things can do that," she said. "The satisfaction of cleaning out the closet can seem like a simple thing, but if it's been years in the planning, it can be very gratifying."

A big part of spring cleaning should be finding ways to "declutter" a space.

"Baskets are really big right now to keep things from looking cluttered. It looks like you at least attempted to organize," Mrs. Peebles said.

"Look up, because people don't look to the upper parts of the rooms as places to keep things," she said. "Most of us are about 5 feet, but our ceilings go up to 8 feet."

Even a small investment in clear plastic storage containers will go a long way.

"No matter what your economic situation, there's no excuse for having a dirty house," she said.

Graham Haley, a co-author of the book Haley's Cleaning Hints, suggests homeowners have a look in their kitchen cabinets before running to the store for a pricey chemical cleaner.

"You literally have a gold mine sitting in your home," he said from his Toronto home. "I call them household heroes because they come to your help when you need them most."

That red wine that just spilled on your white table cloth? In their book, Mr. Haley and his wife, Rosemary, say Borox is the antidote.

"People forget how well it works, even in cold water," Mr. Haley said.

"White vinegar is a chrome cleaner, glass cleaner, shower door cleaner a microwave cleaner and a coffee maker cleaner. You might smell like salad for a while but it goes away eventually," he said.

Stains are the No. 1 concern of his readers, and Mr. Haley said one of the most versatile treatments is waterless hand sanitizer. If a cleaning job seems insurmountable, Mr. Haley said there's no substitute for putting on an upbeat CD and turning the whole endeavor into a workout.

"Prevention is the better cure, but you may as well make it as fun as possible; get a brightly colored duster or two socks for the kids to use to dust around," he said. "People don't realize how much money costs if things aren't clean; a light bulb loses 75 percent of it's efficiency if it's dirty."

And who knows what long-lost treasures you might find in those sofa cushions. Mrs. Matson said she once got called to a home in Evans to clear out the possessions of an owner who had skipped town.

"We found potions and books; we called it the voodoo house," she said.

keep it clean

FRIDGE DUST BUNNIES: The brush on the other end of your car ice scraper is just the right size for getting dust and dirt that collects under your refrigerator. It's also great for dusting the back coils of your fridge.

SIX-SECOND SILVER CLEANING: Run about a quart of hot water into your sink (cool enough not to burn you). Dissolve 1 tablespoon water softener or laundry washing soda and 1 tablespoon salt in water. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom of the sink and place the tarnished silver on the foil. The silver that's touching the foil and covered by the water should be clean in 10 seconds. Don't use this method on silver that has been antiqued or on jewelry set with stones.

tips to live by

NEATNESS IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: If you're really pressed for time, here are some tricks to give the impression your living room is cleaner than it might really be. Make sure your light-colored chairs are clean; your guests will automatically think the darker ones are clean, too. Also, a couple of colorful vases of fresh flowers will usually distract the eye from all but the most obvious untidiness.

WICKER FURNITURE: Clean wicker furniture by running a stiff brush dipped in warm salt water. The salt should prevent the wicker from yellowing. Be careful not to wet the wicker too much.

TOILET-RING TRICKS: Remove stubborn toilet rings with a paste of lemon juice and borax. Allow to set before scrubbing. Also, you can pour a cup or two of white vinegar into the toilet bowl, let sit overnight, brush well and flush or pour a can of cola into the toilet bowl, let sit overnight and brush well the next day.

Source: Haley's Cleaning Hints

Reach Patrick Verel at (706) 823-3332 or patrick.verel@augustachronicle.com.