House Cleaning

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Occasionally home owners are faced with unusual problems that defy the normal procedures they use to clean their homes. If you are faced with such a problerm please feel free to Ask a House Cleaning Question.

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  • Lisa from Ohio asked (03/08/12): I love your website. It has motivated me, and I'm going to try your recommended list of cleaning products and tools!

    My question is about what to do with chrome bathroom faucets with HEAVY mineral buildup on them. I've tried using a cloth saturated with vinegar, and also a cloth saturated with CLR, but little success. Can you recommend a better method? Also, is it really safe to use the powdered Barkeepers Friend on polished chrome? I use BF for other things, but have always been afraid to use it on my polished chrome.

    I also have one new satin nickel faucet, and I don't know what to use on it. My water is very hard, but I want to keep it looking new without damaging it.

    Thanks so much!

    • The Works shower cleaner used regularly on your faucets will prevent the minerals from building up. It's safe for shower faucets so there is no reason to avoid it on sink faucets. Just make absolutely sure that you rinse freely with water if it is not completely rinsed off it *will* etch the metal. I make that caution very clear on the supplies page.

      Shower heads? White Vinegar. Choose a baggie large enough to fit over the shower head with enough left over to gather it together behind the shower head and still secure with a rubber band, clothes pin etc. Fill with enough white vinegar to cover the shower head, secure it making sure the shower head is covered with the vinegar. Leave over-night. In the morning remove the baggie and turn the shower head on to clear the vinegar that has seeped into the inner part of the head. This method can also be used to clean sink faucets IF they are angled down enough to maintain contact with the vinegar. Otherwise you will have to periodically remove the aerator, being extremely careful to not allow the inner workings to come apart, with some they are very hard to figure out how to put them back together correctly.

      Barkeeper's Friend can be used HOWEVER; your rag must be dripping wet and you do not use hardly any pressure what-so-ever. Be cautious until you find out what level of pressure you can safely use. I use Barkeeper's Friend in this manner on just about everything when the solution I tried to use fails to work.

      The Works Shower cleaner should work on your satin faucet however you can test it before completely saturating it with the cleaner by dipping a cotton swab into shower cleaner and wiping it across a section either at the back or a side away from the door where it won't be visible. I've never found any faucet that I haven't been able to use this on but it is absolutely critical that it not be allowed to dry. IOW lock the cell phone in a kitchen drawer until you are finished LOL

      I hope this answers your questions.

  • Miriam from Indiana asked (03/13/11): Hey--what do you think of using rubbing alcohol (a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alchohol) to shine up facets after cleaning?

    Also, have you ever used turtle wax to detail shower doors after they've been cleaned? my friend did this and her shower doors sparkled, but i am unsure if i want to do this. also, i love, love, love your website!! thanks so much--it's very helpful!

    • Rubbing alcohol is great for some things. For example I use a mixture of denatured alcohol and water; 50/50 to clean chandeliers. But I wouldn't waste alcohol on faucets. Instead clean them w/Soft Scrub w/bleach and the hottest water you can stand. After 30 yrs of cleaning I rarely have to turn on the cold water :-) Not only is the heat beneficial in adding cleaning power to the Soft Scrub but I also clean the faucets with the Soft Scrub and rinse them by filling my rag with the hot water and squeezing the rag out over them until all *suds* are gone. I then usually just allow them to air dry. Only occasionally is it necessary to dry them with a rag. They sparkle just as well using this method as they would using alcohol and there isn't an extra step to do when cleaning.

      The same applies for waxing showers. I just don't do it. I use either my Tilex Soap Scum Remover or Works to clean then rinse thoroughly with the hottest water possible. Glass can then be squeegeed, not necessary if water is hot enough, and when needed metal parts dried w/a cloth. On sliding doors one thing I do, if the doors are in excellent condition, is I put a little lemon oil on a rag and carefully wipe down the metal parts on the door so the metal repels water.

  • Leslie from Texas asked (01/30/11): Why would you use Bar keepers friend powder, and not Comet powder cleanser? Comet disinfects as it scours off tough stains- works on soap scum, mildew, grease, food, rust, water stains, etc... With bleach it is way better than bar keepers friend.

    • I use it because it is the best product with the least chance of damaging what it is used on. When used properly the list of things that can be cleaned with it, totally without fear of scratching caused by other products, is almost endless.

      I fought using it for years, even though it was recommended to me over and over again. Then I had a glass range top that nothing could get the burnt on material off, my one attempt to do so with the recommended product that came with it, resulted in not only failing to remove all the burnt on debris but in places where it did remove it there were scratches.

      I capitulated, bought a can and not only did it easily remove the new burnt on debris but it removed the previous debris too! Even though it was over a month old and had been burnt on through that additional month!

      I began to slowly begin using it on other suggested surfaces and its claims, if anything, are way understated.

      I can't make you change all I can do is present, to those interested, what I have found to work best. Bar Keeper's Friend is now a permanent part of my cleaning arsenal.

      And BTW cleaning w/bleach has little or no impact on continued sanitation in the home. Surfaces to be sanitized with bleach MUST be cleaned first. Sanitizing w/bleach can take up to 20 minutes during which time the surface to be sanitized must be kept wet and then the bleach wiped away.

  • Jeanette from California asked (12/27/10): How do you remove the spots from the glass walls in the shower that have not been taken care of by previous renters?

    • This is a tough question to answer because my solutions are dependant on how bad the situation is. They also should not be tried one after the other to avoid interaction between the different chemicals.

      If the problem is light to moderate then several cleanings using The Works, See Cleaning Supplies for additional information, should eventually remove all the spots. This product must be completely rinsed from all surfaces.

      If this doesn't do the job because the spotting is heavier then you can try a paste of baking soda and white vinegar. The benefit of this mixture is that it will usually clean stainless steel and chrome nicely.

      Vinegar and The Works are NOT friends and should never be used in the same cleaning session.

  • Beverly from New York asked (12/27/10): white tile kitchen floor grout seems worn washing 2-3x aday

    • Worn grout can be caused by a number of things. 1. Age of installed tile and grout, 2. Lack of proper sealing after installation or 3. Failure to renew sealer on a regular basis.

      Regardless of the cause I am not qualified to advise you on the repair or replacement of the grout in your tile installations.

      Once you do repair the grout, you need to reseal it on a regular basis, ask what the time frame for your particular floors, walls is.

      To prevent future damage to your newly repaired tile you should never clean it with harsh cleaners such as scouring powders, bleach etc.

      The best cleaner is a solution of water and Soapy Ammonia, Never mix stonger then the manufacturers recommendation. 1/4-1/2 cup of Soapy Ammonia to one gallon of water is more then sufficient to clean a floor properly.

  • Leslie from Texas asked (08/17/10): I started professional housecleaning using Playtex rubber gloves. My fingertips quickly end up in pools of sweat and water. Any recommendation for gloves to wear while housecleaning?

    • Reply: I use disposable, non-allergenic gloves. I buy them in boxes of 100 gloves. This allows me to switch gloves when needed.

  • Kathy from Florida asked (07/08/10): I have been told that vinigar is good for cleaning with, how is it used for cleaning floors?

    • Reply: I am not a proponent of vinegar for cleaning most anything. While almost miraculous uses for such things as health benefits, continue to be discovered by researchers, many of the claims for other properties are being exposed.

      1. The length of time required to clean with vinegar is contradictory to making housecleaning easy. You either want to accomplish your cleaning in a timely manner or not.

      2. Vinegar has relative small properties for killing bacteria and viruses! Yes it does kill a very small number of microorganisms with the advent of viruses, with life threatening ramifications, I am not willing to subject myself nor my clients, many w/babies and small toddlers, to the possible consequences.

      3. Lastly in nearly 30 yrs of cleaning, when asked to use it by a client, I have never been able to get plain vineger to dissolve GREASE! without the addition of a surfactant such as Dawn®.

      My preferred cleaning solution for floors is Parsons Ammonia. Ammonia is effective in destroying a broad spectrum of harmful microorganisms but is not as toxic as Bleach. ALWAYS use according to the directions on the container!

      The one thing that vinegar does very well is dissolve lime! BUT it can take multiple treatments of soaking lime coated items for up to 24 hrs at a time, e.g. shower heads. However; there are other products on the market that can accomplish the same thing almost immediately.

  • Dianne from Florida asked (06/05/10): How to remove burned on fruit from non-stick cooking surfaces (like burned blueberries from making blueberry pancakes)?

    • Reply: Well, I've never encountered this type of problem because I almost never wash my non-stick cooking skillets, and don't use non-stick pots. I instead immediately, while still blazing hot, wipe it out with paper towels. This preserves the non-stick properities and over time, in my opinion, actually enhance those properties. Washing with ANY soap solution removes all that beautiful seasoning you went to so much trouble to apply, at least I assume you applied, when it was brand new. To be honest my sister has heart palpations when I tell her the above but my reply to her is always the same. WHEN do you use a skillet without heating to temperatures that kills any offending organism.

      If for some reason I did have the problem my first action would be to dissolve about teaspoon of Borax, see, in enough water in a seperate container, to fill the skillet up to 2 inches deep, then cover the bottom of the pan with an even layer of baking soda, pour the Borax solution in and put back on the burner, bring to a boil and let sit overnight. If any of the debris is left try using a gentle plastic scrubber to remove.

      If this works DO NOT forget to re-season the pan again. I do this by adding at least a tablespoon of vegetable oil, heat the pan until the oil begins to smoke, turn off and let sit, absolutely do not move it without extreme care, until cool. Then wipe out with paper towels and NEVER again wash it with any soap product or put it in the dishwasher!

  • Dewalar, from Georgia asked (05/31/10): How do you learn how much to price a house?

    • Reply: No one can answer that question. Prices vary greatly from one region of the United States to another and even within a geographical location depending on what services a house cleaner provides compared to others in the region. It's necessary to do your homework by checking out what others charge and what services they provide. Check out places where other housecleaners advertise; e.g. Craig's list.

  • Dewalar, from Georgia asked (05/31/10): How do you clean glass shower doors to get hard warter stains off?

    • Reply: I provide a full list of the supplies I use regularly at Depending on the degree of build-up, which you don't mention, the most likely product to get the lime build-up initially will be "The Works". As with all cleaning products READ the DIRECTIONS for the correct way to use and to insure your surface is not listed among those it should not be used on. NEVER spray any product on ANYTHING and walk away! I've even used this to do regular cleaning of sinks.

  • Julie, from Queensland, Australia asked (04/15/09): My daughter bought a house recently and didn't notice how dirty her floor tiles are. They are unglazed tiles with in-ground dirt, they have tried just about everything and plenty of elbow grease with no success, what can you recommend?

    • Reply: Unglazed tile is considered a much higher maintenance product then almost any other type of flooring because it stains easily and dirt becomes ground in. Maintenance recommendations usually include suggestions to sweep daily and frequent mopping, even daily in rooms used frequently. Floors that have not been well maintained may never be able to be completely reclaimed to their original state.

      Following are two suggestions that should achieve the best results that will be possible. For optimum results I would recommend that both be used down on the knees, tile by tile using a nylon bristle brush.

      • A. 1 gallon of warm water, 1/2 CUP of borax dissolved then add 1-2 teaspoons of Dawn for its grease cutting properties. Less Dawn can be used in rooms other then the kitchen. For additional cleaning of stains in the grout she can try spot cleaning with hydrogen peroxide, this will have various degrees of success depending on what the stain actually is and should be tested in an inconspicuous area such as a closet.

        Absolutely do not clean unglazed ceramic tile and grout with any product that is acidic, abrasive or strong commercial soaps. Never use anything that has a strong *color* or chemical base. Unglazed tile can absorb the color and begin to change color itself. Yellow dyes are particularly bad for causing *yellow aging*.

        Do Not Use highly abrasive scrubbers such as stainless steel scrubbers, steel wool etc.
      • B. An alternate product that might prove successful, though I have had no reason to use it for unglazed tile as of yet, is Oxyclean, mixed according to the directions. I have a friendly competitor that uses it to clean granite floors. Don't allow either mixture to soak, which would be the standard operating procedure for many different applications. Unglazed tile and the grout are very porous and will absorb too much moisture with soaking. Make sure to rinse the floor well and dry as she progresses.

      Since the floor is so dirty I also assume the grout has not been properly resealed in many years, if ever. That should be the first priority after getting the floors clean. However if neither of the above solutions work I would consult with a professional flooring specialist. Do not reseal grout until the floors are as clean as she feels they are going to become.

  • Katie asked: Hi, thanks for your site. I have engineered wood (not Pergo but real wood) type floors. I usually vacuum and then mop with microfiber type flat mop lightly moist with water. I would like to find something that brings more shine, but am hesitant to use anything like Orange Glo since it really shows water spots and cannot be removed afterwards.. Can you recommend anything?

    • Reply: This method should not be used with laminate type floors but I find extremely good with real wood. I have used it with extremely dirty laminate floors but DO NOT recommend it without extreme caution being used. I currently have two clients with an Australian Wood Floor and this method is approved by the installer of those floors.

      Use the Synthetic Cut End Wet Mop listed at House Cleaning Tools and double sinks. I love this type of mop because it can hold as much or as little cleaning solution as you want or need and it rinses out very cleanly. You can wring it out until it is all but dry yet if more moisture is required it can be left slightly wetter. Place the cleaning solution in one sink and RINSE water in the second.

      The cleaning solution is 1/4-1/2 cup of Soapy Ammonia to one gallon of water. In the US the most common product is Parson's Ammonia, make sure you get the sudsy version. You will have to adjust the solution according to the amount of cleaning power required.

      Wet the mop with the cleaning solution and wring out to your desired dampness and mop. The advantage of this type of mop is when you get to dirtier areas you can dig the toe of your shoe into the mop and really scrub away instead of futilely mopping away in unproductive manner.

      CHANGE your mop rinse water frequently especially the first few times you use this method as you will probably find it becomes dirty frequently.

      The advantage of using this method of cleaning your wood floors is that you are always using a clean mop and CLEAN solution.

  • Amy asked: Sometimes very early in the morning, before the alarm goes off, or after I have been away over night I can smell an extremely foul odor that seems to be originiating in my master bathroom. Do you have any idea what could be causing it.

    • Reply: If the water in your sink or tub is slow to drain it's possible the trap in either is allowing debris to build up replacing the area allowed for water to rest. Water in the trap is what prevents sewer gases from backing up. If enough water is displaced by debris what water is there will evaporate and allow sewer gases to back up into your bathroom.

      The debris, which usually consists of the grease, shampoo or soaps allowed to go down the drains, can be eliminated by using an enzyme based product such as Roto Rooter Pipe/Drain cleaner. This environmentally safe, enzyme based product needs to be used according to directions at a time that you will not use the sinks or drains on the same line for at least 8 hours. I recommend doing it just before you leave for work or just before dropping into bed at night.

      Eight hours later run water according to the directions and then repeat applications either weekly or monthly as needed by your particular usage patterns.

  • Helen asked: We are building and my husband has covered all our new aluminium window frames in sticky tape to "protect" them while the stone/blockwork went around them. The tape has melted/dried/stuck on and so far everything I have tried, turps, detergent,scourer (anything scratchier scratches the window frame) metholated spirits and eucalypt oil does not work only my fingernails work and that could take years! My lovely new window frames - I feel like they are ruined. Is there any hope?

    • Helen, I do have a four stage answer but the end results may mean you have to repaint the windows :-( Do one step at a time and review the results to determine the need for the next step.

      1. Starting at a location where you can get a hold on an end of the tape, heat the tape using your hair blow dryer* set on high. DO NOT RUSH. As the glue melts the tape should begin to release on its own, as it does move the hair dryer on to the next portion until you have removed all the paper. If as I suspect, the tape for the most part has already been removed go to step 2.

      2. Again using your hair dryer* (on high) and a plastic/nylon pancake turner/spatula again heat, using the spatula to remove as much of the paper and glue residue as you possibly can.

      3. Tear up something like an old bed sheet into rags. Tear do not cut to prevent lint. Now heat the residual *glue* back up, make sure the glue is completely soft, and using your *lint free* rags wipe as much of the glue residue off as you possibly can. Change the surface of your rag around frequently to avoid redepositing glue back on the window frame. Change rags frequently for the same reason.

      4. While the glue has been freshly softened, meaning immediately after Step 3, use a product called Goo Gone** or Goof Off*** wipe down the surface hopefully removing the final residue.

      * A heat gun could also be used but increases the risk of blistering the paint on the window frames.

      ** Goo Gone is a citrus based remover for sticky substance removal and at step 4 I would try it first.

      *** Goof Off is a chemical solvent and if you have to use it, or its equivalent in Australia, you will increase your chances of needing to repaint as it can and will dissolve most paints.

      • Thanks so much! What a great service I found - I thought whoever replied would likely just try to sell me something. I have found similar products to Goo Off here in Oz and I will ask the guy who supplied the windows about the safety of using various products before I start your 4 stage plan (the windows are powder coated aluminium) The hair dryer is a great idea - someone suggested a heat gun but that would be too hot and damage the rubber etc parts of the window seals. Thanks again - I really appreciate the time you took.

        Kind regards
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