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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:

    •    Spray surface cleaner

    •    Glass cleaner

    •    Polish

    •    Powder scourer, like soda crystals


    •    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.

Finding stains when cleaning a home

Stains can be a complete nightmare when cleaning a home but as we all know, accidents will happen.  In these instances the faster you act the better chance you have of removing the offending stain.

Firstly, for any liquid stain on any surface, try to soak up as much of the liquid as possible working from the outside to the inside to stop the stain from spreading.  Once you have completed this step it may look as though the stain has already been removed but don’t be tempted to leave it at that.  If left untreated, most stains will reappear and become more difficult to remove.  Always treat any stain with a product designed for that surface.

Never scrub at a stain as this will work it deeper into the material and make cleaning a home much more difficult.

Spilling red wine on a carpet or sofa can seem disastrous but with the right know-how it doesn’t have to ruin the party. When the wine is spilt soak up what you can with a clean white cloth, then sprinkle salt over the area.  This will absorb the wine and stop it clinging to the fibres.  When the salt has done its job, vacuum it up and then dilute some biological detergent in warm water and sponge the stain.  Then sponge the stain with cold water until it disappears.  Afterwards, shampoo the carpet with a spot cleaner.

Ice cubes can be your saviour when you need to remove certain things from your furnishings.  Chewing gum and candle wax can be cooled with an ice cube and easily scraped away without a lot of hassle. This is also another good reason to refill the ice tray when you use the last cube!

When cleaning a home you may find a stain that you hadn’t noticed before. These should always be treated with more care as you will have to use stronger products to remove the stain.  It is always worthwhile checking with an expert what professional product they would recommend.

For more tips on great tips on cleaning a home come back next week.

Use vinegar for professional cleaning results

When you want to knuckle down to some professional cleaning, there is no better tool than a bottle of white distilled vinegar (not the stuff you put on your chips!). Because of the acidity, vinegar is a fantastic alternative to harsh chemicals and can be put to many uses.

Make your own all-purpose household cleaner by mixing one part vinegar to one part water and you will have a rival to your professional cleaning products.  You can even add a few drops of lemon essential oil to give your home that clean fresh smell.  Keep a bottle handy in the kitchen or bathroom and you can ditch the supermarket cleaning products for good.  This mixture can also be used as a room deodoriser and replace the synthetic chemical sprays that you normally use.

If you have a smoker in the household, or have had visitors who have smoked in the house, get rid of the odour quickly simply by placing an ashtray of neat vinegar in the room.  The vinegar will absorb all the bad smells and leave your home smelling fresh once again.

You can remove lime scale from all number of places in your home safely and easily by replacing your expensive lime scale remover with a cup of vinegar.  Boil a cup of vinegar in your kettle and leave it to soak overnight - you will be amazed by the results.  It can also be used to remove the lime scale from your bathroom taps, tiles and shower.

Try washing your windows with vinegar instead of using professional cleaning products.  Just use the all-purpose household cleaner that you made to spray the windows, then wipe off the product with some scrunched-up newspaper or cloth.  You will have a streak-free finish and a shine that your neighbours will be jealous of.

One point to remember though is to never use vinegar to clean marble surfaces like a worktop.  Marble is very porous and is damaged very easily by acidic products.

For more tips on professional cleaning check back next week!