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A home cleaning pro’s stain busting secrets

Here’s my A-Z of stain removal tips - but don’t forget one of the most important tip of all is never rub a stain or mark. Only dab, because eventually the stain will go. I learned that tip the hard way. Here are the rest:

Ballpoint ink
Dab off with a white cloth soaked in methylated spirit.

Beetroot juice
Rinse with cold water. Soak coloureds in a borax solution for 15 minutes. For whites, sprinkle borax on the fabric and wash off with hot water. Then wash the fabric with a biological detergent.

Bird droppings
Scrape off the excess. Sponge with a borax solution or biological detergent. If the stain persists, soak whites in chlorine bleach or coloureds/synthetics but not nylon in hydrogen peroxide.

Blood
Soak stains in heavily salted water or detergent.

Blu Tac
Get more blue tac and dab it on the mark you want to remove.

Candle wax
Scrape off any excess. Place a paper kitchen towel over the remnants and press with a barely warm iron until the paper absorbs the wax.  Dab any persistent staining with methylated spirit.

Chewing gum
Get a bag of ice and freeze the gum hard, then scrape the gum away with a knife.

Coffee and tea
Flush with cold water and spot clean with a solution of detergent but not soap. If the stain persists, soak in a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts water or a borax solution.

Contact adhesive and glue
Dab with nail polish remover.

Cooking fat
Spread a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water over the stain. Leave for 30 minutes and wash in a biological detergent.

Crayon
Scrape away excess before dabbing with methylated spirits.

Dried fruit
Place the garment stain side down on a kitchen towel and dampen with lemon juice. Dab with hot water and wash.

Fresh fruit
Dip in a borax solution for 15 minutes and then wash, or cover the stain with salt and wash.

Grass
Detergent will remove most grass stains. Dab any remaining staining with methylated spirit.

Ink on coloured fabric
Soak immediately in slightly warm milk then wash

Ink and felt tip pen
Dab with an absorbent cloth dipped in methylated spirit.

Lipstick

Rub fabric against fabric with soap or a little washing up liquid then wash. Dab with methylated spirit if the fabric is not washable.

Mildew
Mildew on different materials requires differing treatments:
Dried mildew - Rub with damp salt or lemon and leave in the sun for 12 hours
Mildew on shower curtains - Sponge or soak in diluted bleach and machine wash with detergent.
Mildew on white cotton or linen - Soak in diluted bleach then thoroughly rinse and wash.
Mildew on white synthetics - Soak in one part of hydrogen peroxide to nine parts water. Rinse and wash.

Paint

Emulsion or water based - Sponge immediately with warm water.             
Dried paint can be scraped or picked off, but is difficult to wash away.
Gloss or solvent based - Dab with white spirit.

Perspiration
Dab with white vinegar or lemon juice.

Pollen
Lift away the pollen with sticky tape or a vacuum cleaner, but don’t rub.

Red wine
Dab with bicarbonate of soda or soda water and wash. Don’t pour white wine over a red wine stain; you’ll probably do more harm than good.

Shoe polish
Dab with white spirit and wash.

Turning on the waterworks

Water contains minerals depending on the geology of where your water supply originates.

Brown or black stains - your water has traces of manganese and calcium that form lime scale.
Treatments include:
Applying a paste of cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide.
A solution of one teaspoon of water softener to a gallon of water.
Applying a paste of white vinegar and baking soda.

Green or blue stains - these stains come from copper or acid in your water. The tell tale sign is green or blue stains around your plumbing fittings.
Remove with a proprietary acid cleaner or treat with white vinegar or lemon juice.
These stains on enamel baths come from dripping taps. Change the tap washer to solve the problem, then clean the stain away.

Red or brown stains - iron in your water causes these stains, which are effectively rust. Different treatments work in different areas, depending on the proportion of iron in the water. Try:
A paste of lemon juice and borax powder left to dry on the stain then rinsed off.
Oxalic acid is a rust remover. A solution of one part oxalic acid to 10 parts water is recommended.
A paste of scouring powder, cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide takes about 30 minutes to clear the staining.

Battling bacteria in the bathroom

Keeping the bathroom clean and fresh not only makes the room look good, but also avoids creating a breeding place for germs and bacteria.

Blitzing basins, bidets and baths

Cleaning methods for basins, bidets and baths depends on the material they are made from:

    •    Acrylic - rinse and dry with a soft cloth after your bath, especially if you relaxed with a bubble bath that leaves a film on the acrylic. If you need to give the bath a good clean, rub in a non-abrasive cream cleaner, rinse and buff. Scratches are easily removed by rubbing gently with a metal cleaner.

    •    Glass fibre - clean with a neutral detergent and take care not to scratch as the colour is often just a thin surface coating. Do not scrub with abrasive or metal cleaners, as they will eventually scour the surface away.
   
    •    Vitreous or porcelain enamel - do not use abrasives as they will dull the sheen. Try white spirit on stubborn surface marks and tidemarks. Wash the white spirit off straight away with a neutral detergent.

Assaulting mouldy sealant

Get to grips with mouldy bath sealant with bleach on an old toothbrush. Rinse when clean then treat with a fungicidal wash to deter the mould returning.

A knight on the tiles

Wipe over with a solution of one part white vinegar to four parts water, rinse and buff. Groom grout with an old toothbrush dipped in a solution of one part bleach to six parts water.

Top tips for taps

Just like baths, the cleaning method depends on what the taps are made from:

    •    Chrome taps need a wipe with a damp cloth and buffing dry. Grease comes off with a neutral detergent and more serious stains are removed with a nonabrasive liquid metal cleaner.

    •    Gold-plated taps need wiping with a soft cloth while they are still damp to stop marks.

If the tap has lime scale on the spout, fill a small container with white vinegar and tape the container to the tap, so the spout is in the vinegar to dissolve the lime scale. An hour soaking is generally long enough, but if the scale remains, try for another hour.

Going with the flow

Clean plugs and overflows with a bottlebrush. Pour some bleach down the plug and rinse after a minute or two to kill smells.

Turpentine will bring the shine back to rubber plugs.

Magic with the mirror


Rub a little liquid soap on the mirror, then dry off with kitchen roll to eliminate steaming up when you run a bath or shower.

Treating the WC gracefully

Cleaning with a lavatory cleaner weekly will keep the bowl clean.

Hold off the bleach as it damages the glaze and makes the bowl harder to keep clean.  Where lime scale stains inside the bowl, you will first need to remove the water with a small, disposable container then apply a descaler.

Don’t mix and match chemical cleaners as they may give off dangerous fumes.

Wash the lavatory brush in hot, soap water and rinse in cold water containing a few drops of disinfectant to stiffen the bristles. Wash and disinfect the holder as well.

Wipe the lavatory seat on top and underneath with a germicidal solution. Dry with kitchen paper.

Always keep any cloths for the bathroom separate from others to prevent cross contamination.

Game, set and mat

Scrub any non-slip rubber mats with a brush and neutral detergent. Rinse well so they remain non-slip

Power shower cleaning tips

Clean the shower cubicle according to the hints above for tiles, taps and baths.

Methods for descaling shower heads depends whether they are metal or plastic.

The formula for a shower head descaling solution is one part white vinegar to two parts water. Cook up the same solution for both types of shower heads - using warm on metal and cold on plastic.

If you can detach the shower head, make the solution in a small saucepan from half a litre of white vinegar to a litre of water. Bring to the boil and submerge a metal shower head for about 15 minutes.

Allow the solution to cool for plastic shower heads.

If the shower head is not removable, let the solution cool, pour in to a plastic bag, tape to the shower head and leave overnight.

In bed with the enemy - (how to clean mattresses)

Many people do not understand the dangers of the enemy that lurks within their beds - the dust mite.

These microscopic creepy-crawlies, that are invisible to the naked eye, feed on skin flakes we shed in bed as we sleep. It is not so much the mite but what the mite excretes that is the problem.

A typical dust mite lives for up to 150 days and excretes 200 times its body weight in that time... the excrement includes a compound called guanine, that is associated with asthma, bronchitis, red itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing, headaches, depression and a lot more allergic reactions.

A bed can have between 100,000 and 10 million microscopic mites living in the fabrics. Mattresses also contain:

    •    Sweat and body fats - in one night a person can lose up to a pint of sweat and body fats
   
    •    Bacteria and viruses

    •    Skin - the average family will shed up to 1.5 kilos of skin in a year. Up to 10% of the weight of an old pillow is probably dead skin.

Keep your dust mite population down by airing your bedroom frequently. Low temperatures discourage breeding. Vacuum clean often to remove mite excrement and debris.

Stick the kids’soft toys in the freezer for 24 hours every now and then, as the cold will kill dust mites.

If you have asthma or breathing difficulties, only vacuum with a ‘Hepa’filtered vacuum cleaner and keep the keep the carpet in stead of laying hardwood floors. Carpets trap and hold allergens that you can vacuum up, but they do not settle on a hard floor and tend to stay in the air causing more stress to allergy sufferers.

You can call in a specialist mattress cleaner - Bone-Dry Carpet Cleaning offer this service for a reasonable charge - www.bone-dry.co.uk

Solutions for common cleaning problems

Sometimes we make our home cleaning job that little harder for ourselves because we go about the task the wrong way.

Over the years, professional home cleaners have learned short cuts, tips and tricks that save time and money. Here are a few of the common domestic cleaning problems and their solutions:

Flawed floors

Most people will clean a hard wood or tiled floor with some sort of wet cleaner that includes soap or detergent.

The problem is when the cleaning solution dries out, the soap or detergent is left as a sticky residue on the surface. As soon as someone walks across the floor, they transfer the residue to the nearest carpet where the stickiness acts like a dirt magnet.

That’s why carpet nearest a hard floor is often dirtier than elsewhere. To stop the problem, just rinse the hard floor with water so no trace of soap or detergent is left.

Only suckers buy cheap vacuum cleaners

In a perfect world, floors are vacuumed every day to cut down the amount of dirt and grit in carpets and on hard floors. The trouble is few us live in a perfect world and have to rush the vacuum round once a week or so.

One of the best cleaning investments is a good quality vacuum with a ‘Hepa’filter.

Cheap vacuums generally have less powerful motors that give less suction and poorer filtering systems than the more expensive models.

This can mean that they blow out ‘dirty’ air laden with pollen, hair, dirt and house mites as exhaust, making rooms dusty again.

Cleaner carpets

Most of the dirt in a carpet is trapped, dry soil. Hanging the carpet outside for a good beating is the best way to clear the pile of dirt.

Unfortunately, this isn’t possible with a fitted carpet. so vacuuming is the next best cleaning method, but won’t remove all the dirt and grime.

Lots of people try a wet cleaning system - like hiring a machine from the local DIY - but this makes the dirt muddy and difficult to clean up.

Beware. These carpet cleaning machines are not necessarily good for every carpet because some shrink if they become too wet. Even professional domestic cleaning firms sometimes have to call in experts who have the special equipment to do certain jobs effectively - like carpet and oven cleaning.

Don’t hire cowboys offering to do your carpet cleaning job for about £25 a room - even if they are well meaning, they won’t do a decent job and if something goes wrong, they will probably just take your money and run without offering a guarantee.

I would suggest a company called Bone-Dry Carpet Cleaning. They use a dry cleaning system that will not damage or shrink expensive carpets and offer a 100% guarantee - simply the best clean you have ever seen or it’s free.  Unfortunately they don’t operate in all areas so you’ll have to seek out someone locally to you.
   
Winning Windows

The best time to wash the outside of your windows is on an overcast day.  Sunshine makes them dry too quickly and leaves streaks.

Add a couple of teaspoons of white vinegar to a gallon of cool water. Wash the windows with horizontal, side to side, strokes on the outside and vertical, up and down, strokes on the inside. This way you can tell which side any streaks are on.

Polish the windows dry with crumpled newspaper, but remember to wear rubber gloves to keep the ink off your hands.

Giving your doors a wash and brush up

Here’s an insider tip most professional house cleaners would rather you didn’t know - washing all the doors, including front door, gives the illusion of a bright, clean and friendly home.

Rinse the door, following the cleaning top to bottom rule, so you don’t drip dirty water over the area you have already cleaned. Your stiff bristle brush should remove any stubborn marks.

Don’t forget the top of the door frames - generally the place most forget when cleaning.

Home cleaning in seven easy steps

This is the part where we brush up on your house cleaning skills.

Good domestic cleaning requires a systematic approach and organisation, so you don’t have to keep going over the same place twice and exert minimum effort for maximum results.

1. Cleaning top to bottom

The phrase came about for a reason. Starting at the top and working down means any dust or dirt you dislodge does not fall on somewhere you have already cleaned.

Apply the same rule to every room - start at the top, dusting the cobwebs out of the ceiling corners and work down to the floor. If you live in a house, start with the room at the tops and work down the stairs floor by floor.

2. Getting in the zone

Break home cleaning down in to smaller tasks - zoning your house and spending an hour each day in a different zone is a great idea if you are pushed for time.

3. Cut the clutter

Those ornaments, books and magazines just get in the way and gather dust.  Make sure everything has a place and everyone puts away what he or she uses.

4. Keep your cleaning caddy close by

Having your kit to hand cuts down running up and down the stairs every few minutes and speeds up the job.

5. Sweet smell of success

Make your home smell fresh as well as looking clean and tidy. Leave some bicarbonate of soda in the bin. You can also sprinkle dry bicarbonate of soda on carpets overnight to absorb musty smells. Vacuum the powder  away the following morning.

6. Don’t move - extend

Plug your vacuum cleaner in to a six metre extension cord so the cable trails all round your home rather than having to keep unplugging and plugging in.

7. Letting the dust settle

Tackle the dry jobs first in a room - like dusting. Then move on to the wet jobs like cleaning glass and polishing so the dust has settled and does not cling to any wet surfaces.

Choosing your weapons in the war against dirt

Fighting dirt is an endless war where you must aim to win every battle.

You must have the tools at your disposal to deal effectively with everything thrown at you.

First, you need your cleaning caddy - one of those plastic trays with a handle - to keep all your cleaning materials together.

Next, you need to gather your basic day-to-day cleaning materials:

    Cleaners:
   
    •    Spray surface cleaner

    •    Glass cleaner

    •    Polish

    •    Powder scourer, like soda crystals


    Cloths:

    •    Duster

    •    A ‘greenie’ scrubber

    •    Small, stiff-bristled brush, like a toothbrush

    •    Small, soft paintbrush for dusting delicates

    •    Micro fibre cloths that do not leave any lint

    •    Clean rags for applying polishes and cleaners

    •    Paper kitchen towels


    Bin bag:

    •    For collecting rubbish and used kitchen towels

Keeping your home fresh, clean & healthy

The quickest and easiest way of stopping dirt and grime creeping in to your home is by bricking up the doors and windows!

More seriously, the number one tip for keeping your home clean is asking visitors to remove their shoes before coming in.

If you sent some shoes off to a lab for testing, the muck and germs that are walked or blown in to your home through open doors and windows would astonish you.

An average six room home collects enough dirt in a year to fill about 20 two-kilo bags (like you buy your sugar in) and 85% - or 35 kilos - of that comes in on shoes, boots and paws.

Just think for a minute - anything and everything lying on the ground in the streets and gardens around your home is carried on shoes or in the air. That means everything...

    •    Mud, pollen, leaves
    •    Grit, sand and cement
    •    Animal mess and bird droppings
    •    Tar, oil, diesel and petrol
    •    Tobacco, chewing gum, sweets and food

If, like most people, you don’t like asking visitors to take off their shoes, then you need a defence between your home and the filth trying to find a way in from the outside world.

Lots of people have coir, or coconut, matting in the doorways. Take my advice as someone with a few year’s experience of cleaning just about every downright nasty bit of grime you could imagine - and worse - that these mats are next to useless. The bristles catch some of the walked in dirt, but the rest is still spread around your home.

Coir matting is better outside the door as your first line of defence. To really protect your home, I would recommend a 100% cotton trapper mat. These doormats stop 95% of dirt and moisture from coming in to your home. All you need to do to keep them clean is vacuum regularly. When they are grubby, stick them in the washing machine and they will come out as good as new.

I was convinced about how well these mats work when the company that makes them showed me a demonstration of a man wearing working boots walk through a tray of wet mud, wipe his feet twice on the mat and walk on to a white tiled floor leaving no trace of mud! I’m not the only one to recommend these mats, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the intrepid explorer also recommends these mats, along with several other famous names. I’m certainly not famous, but these mats really work, by removing the moisture and grime from shoes before they ruin your floor .

Lemons: the key to a clean home

Crazy as it may sound, lemons aren’t just good for adding to your gin and tonic. They can also be a god-send when it comes to making a clean home.

Try putting a good slice of fresh lemon into a jug of clean tap water and blasting it in the microwave for three to four minutes on high power. Let the jug sit in the microwave for fifteen minutes or so to let the steam get to work on the dried-on food.

At this point it may be worth pointing out that you should ensure that the jug or bowl you use is microwave-safe and that you keep an eye on the water while it is boiling. If it looks as though it is starting to over-boil, stop the microwave for a moment and then re-start it. Burnt fingers aren’t a very helpful way to get a clean home.

When you’re happy that the steam has done its job, open the microwave and give it a wipe round with a sponge or cloth. You should have maximum results with minimum effort.

Lemons, like vinegar, also have bacteria-killing properties meaning that you can replace your usual anti-bacterial cleaner with a squirt of lemon juice. The germs will be killed and you will avoid using harsh chemicals in your home. Also, your home will smell lovely and fresh if you use lemon as a cleaner.

Because of the clean fresh smell that lemons have, you can also use them as a natural room fragrance in your quest for a clean home. Mix together in a spray bottle 500mls of warm water and 22.5g of bicarbonate of soda with the juice of half a lemon. You can spray this around your home to remove bad odours and leave a pleasant smell in their place. Don’t be tempted to mix up too much of this in advance however.  The lemon will only stay fresh for around a week so you will need to make it when you need it.

For more tips on how to maintain a clean home visit us next week.

Make leather look like new when cleaning the house

Leather sofas look stylish and inviting but a grubby sofa doesn’t look so good. 

You may think leather would be an easy fabric to keep clean but the reality is that it can be easily damaged if you use the wrong products. With the right products though, it is probably one of the easier tasks when cleaning the house.

The best product to use when cleaning a leather sofa is soap flakes.  They are gentle enough not to strip the protective layers from the leather but strong enough to restore the leather to its former glory. Just mix the flakes with some water and, using a clean cloth, gently wipe the sofa with the liquid.  Dry it with a towel and you’re done. 

If you have stains or marks on your leather sofa don’t panic yet.  There are a number of ways to remove different stains from leather without ruining it.

Ink stains can be troublesome but often are easy to remove with the right know-how. If you notice pen on the sofa when cleaning the house the best thing to do is find a can of hairspray. Spray the marked area generously and then wipe off the spray with a clean cloth.  This should remove the stain first time.  If it’s a particularly stubborn stain then try this a second time.  If the stain still won’t budge, I’m afraid it’s time to call the professionals.

Grease stains can be a big problem on your leather sofa or dining chair. If you have a grease mark, wipe the excess grease away using a clean cloth. Then sprinkle the area with talcum powder which will slowly absorb the grease. Leave the powder for about four hours and then wipe it off. The stain should be gone and you can finish cleaning the house!

Check the website next week for ways to cheat when cleaning the house.

How to clean your oven without a domestic cleaning company

If you use your oven regularly, cleaning it can require a lot of elbow grease but don’t worry – it is possible without the use of a domestic cleaning company.

First, arm yourself with a good oven cleaner and a pair of rubber gloves.  Oven cleaners are filled with chemicals that can harm your skin so be prepared.  Also, all these chemicals tend to smell so it may be wise to ventilate the kitchen before you get started.

Most oven cleaners work overnight so spray the inside of your oven when you know you won’t need it in the morning. Cover the inside of the oven with the spray, including the shelves and reward yourself with a good night’s sleep.

In the morning you will need to put that elbow grease to use and give the oven a good scrub using a damp cloth.  It’s a good idea to put the shelves in a washing-up bowl in order to give them a clean without soaking yourself in the process.

If you want a chemical-free way to clean your dirty oven without calling in a domestic cleaning company, then this next tip is for you.

Mix a large quantity of bicarbonate of soda with enough water to make a thick paste.  Spread this onto the inside of your oven and leave it to do its magic for about half an hour.  The mixture will work on the dirt to soften it and break it down.  Then just scrape off the mixture with a wallpaper or car window scraper.  Your oven will look as good as new and the next time you cook food in the oven you will avoid that chemical smell that oven cleaners usually leave behind.

Of course, an easy way around cleaning your oven is to make sure that you wipe it clean after every use.  And even easier way would be to contact a domestic cleaning company and save yourself the time and effort!

Visit again next week for another top cleaning tip.