Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In Praise of Bleach!!!

Yea Bleach!!! Bleach often saves the day, makes a tough stain disappear and makes a long job into a quick fix. Yea Bleach.

Lets talk about the properties of bleach (briefly). Bleach is a chemical -- it is featured on the Periodic Table of Elements -- let's NOT go there... 'k. Good.

For our purposes, here is what we need to know about bleach -- it serves three functions:
1. Bleach whitens.
2. Bleach disinfects (kills germs).
3. Oxidizes metals

In the above photo you will see my three favorite forms of bleach -- household laundry bleach, bleach infused in a cleanser, like Comet, and a super concentrated bleach in the bathroom cleaner, Tilex.. 

When we are cleaning with bleach we need to be particularly careful to not mix bleach with other chemicals -- doing so can be dangerous and deadly. (I am far from an alarmist -- I think the world is far better off with a lot less Nerf... but I will say this, use bleach with caution.) 

Assuming we are going to play nice and not mix bleach with other chemicals, like ammonia or CLR... let's talk about the fabulous things bleach can do for you: 

Before we go on, lets be clear -- bleach does NOT CLEAN ANYTHING. It does not cut grime, it does not wash away dirt. It bleaches. It sanitizes. It deodorizes. But it does NOT clean anything. If your stove is dirty, bleach will not help you. If the floor is filthy, pass bleach on by. What it does do it does great, but bleach does NOT clean. 

Bleach sanitizes, deodorizes, whitens, brightens fabrics, metals and  water surfaces, such as sheets, towels, socks, toilets, sinks, tubs, bottles, toys, bird baths, ice chests, refrigerator seals... The list goes on. If you need to kill mold, mildew or algae, bleach is your weapon. If you need to remove dyes and stains from linens and clothing, assuming they are white, bleach is the best thing going. 

Bleach is NOT great for all white clothing -- it will yellow polyester and cause white Rayon to go gray. Use only on natural fibers -- cotton, wool, linen, ramie -- and only sparingly. 

To use in the home -- pour a 1/2 cup on bleach in the toilet, top with a sprinkle of Comet and leave sit for 10 minutes of so.

For an odor coming from a kitchen sink, bath tub or shower drain,  pour a 1/2 cup down the drain AFTER thoroughly cleaning with such products as Comet or ammonia or CLR and giving a thorough rinse . You may need to resort to bigger guns -- like a drain cleaner or a plumber, but a 1/2 cup of bleach is a good place to start. 

In and around bath and kitchen sink drains, remove the stopper, if you dare. Remove the stopper in the bathroom (sometimes easier said than done).  If you can remove it you might see that it is black from top to bottom. This is common mold -- and it's icky. I like to set such a mold covered item in a ceramic bowl, cover with water and add a 1/2 cup of bleach -- leave it sit for several minutes to several hours. You may need to scrub with a cleanser and a tooth brush. (I do this while the water is running it's not quite so ooky!)

Now take a look at the rubber gasket in the garbage disposal. If it's never been cleaned, beware -- not for the squeamish. Most kitchen sink odors are the result of mold infused drains and gaskets. I clean these gaskets using a bleach cleanser (Comet/Ajax, on a textured scrubber -- Scotch Brite) with the water slightly running. Scrub, rinse, scrub, rinse. 

Additionally, in the kitchen, bleach is the best for making coffee and tea stains disappear from pale laminate counters. 

Another spot for bleach is the ridged refrigerator seal. Take a look, if it is supposed to be white you might notice that it's very black. Using a paper towel or cotton ball, dip into a bowl of bleach and wipe the seal making sure all the mold is removed as you go. 

A better cleaner for that seal is actually vinegar. It not only removes mold faster, but keeps mold from coming back far longer. Vinegar appears to act as a mild bleaching agent -- it is actually an acid, but there we are, back on the Period Table of Elements and we did not want to go there.

While we have a bowl of bleach, soak the kitchen and bath faucets, where the water comes out and wipe with a paper towel or cloth. Don't be surprised to find large pieces of mold floating in the bowl... in warm months especially, faucets are an optimum breeding ground for mold. 

If you have ever seen plastic squeeze bathtub toys look black from the inside out, this is mold growing inside. To wage war on the mold and to sanitize plastic toys, fill a sink with hot hot hot water -- add a cup of bleach and dunk in the toys. For the squeaky-type bathtub toys, squeeze the air out, hold under bleach water, release the squeeze (to make water suck into the toy, shake and squeeze to remove the bleach water. 

Should your stainless steel flatware start looking dull, dump it in a large bowl or sink filled with hot water and a 1/2 cup of bleach. It takes only a few moments. Submerge the stainless silverware, dump, rinse and dry. 

Bleach does wonders with stainless steel -- even refrigerators. If your stainless fridge is looking dull and mottled, spray with a bleach solution of 1/2 cup of bleach to a quart of hot water. Wipe dry with a paper towel. It will look brighter, but it won't shine nice. Bleach dries too quickly and leaves a bit of residue. Once the fridge is dry, clean as usual with an ammonia solution or an oil-based fridge cleaner. Your fridge will glisten! 

For plastic storage containers that have acquired a stain or an odor, try bleach. 1/2 cup bleach to ever quart of water -- and here's a tip -- squirt a bit of acidic (lemon) dish detergent. You will see the detergent foam up almost immediately -- it will also get hot and clean the plastic better. (red food stains, such as tomato may be permanent).      

To sanitize water, to be safe for drinking, assuming you get stuck miles and miles from the nearest sanitary tap or bottle of water, you need very little bleach to make your water clean and safe. 1 part bleach to 100 parts water. 

Bleach is essential for cleaning a house -- for killing mold, whitening stains, sanitizing surfaces. Use it -- a little goes a long long way!    

Monday, July 25, 2011

What Works For Wood???

Wood can be tricky. For our purposes we are talking about everyday, pedestrian, non-museum quality furniture. If you have spectacular wooden antique furniture in need of cleaning, consult a professional antiques restorer.

For the rest of us, walk this way -- Wood finishes are not all the same. Some wood is finished with a clear polyurethane (permanent), some with shellac (semi-permanent) and some with (short-term finish) none of which are treated equally. (There are other finishes -- polycrylic, varnish, tung oil -- but the three mentioned are the basics and we'll stick with those. There are ways to tell the differences... but take care so as to not damage the furniture piece. 

Polyurethane, whether gloss or satin, has a plastic sheen on top of the wood which is mostly impervious to drink spills and food stains -- however, do not sit hot dishes directly onto the wood -- a white hazy stain will likely appear and not recede. Clean with whatever's handy -- polish, ammonia mix, water. Spray and wipe to a clean shine. Polyurethane looks lovely, holds up to heavy traffic use, but once damaged it is not forgiving.

What I like about good quality commercial polishes, like Pledge, is that they work -- they do a nice job cleaning and shining. Occasionally a client will disapprove of a commercial polish because she feels it may cause wax build up. These cleaners don't contain wax -- rather than wax build-up, what they are seeing is the product evaporating -- which means it needs to be polished again. Pledge makes several products, one might be better fit for one particular wood finish over another. Try them to see which one works best for you. 

Shellac is a sealer that leaves wood sealed from within, as opposed to on top of the wood. Clean a shellacked piece of furniture with furniture oil, bee's wax or commercial polish like Pledge. If using a wax or an oil, work across the grain, so the polish oozes into the pores of the wood. Remove as much of the excess as possible and wipe, wipe, wipe, shine, shine shine. 

A wax finish looks like no finish -- it looks like naked wood. If the surface is very dirty clean it with mineral spirits -- pour mineral spirits onto a cloth and wipe. Re-wax with bee's wax or paste wax, work it into the pores of the wood and buff to a high shine. 

When the wood furniture is clean the whole room feels clean. Ahhhh. Enjoy. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Losing Natalie

Immediately after my last post Natalie, the dark larger dog in this photo was diagnosed with a very large abdominal tumor... and my world blew up. I am not sure why I thought she would always be here... except it seemed she always had been . Since that day 12 years ago when she leaped into my van and we drove away like bandits in the night (I quite literally stole her from bad people) Natalie had been my right hand, my protector, my common sense... I breathed better because she was here. And when she was sick I was helpless to return the favor, to save her, to protect her... to make it all better for her.

There was no way to know how much time we had... the tumor caused her labored breathing, it interfered with her intestines. I may have moved heaven and Earth to have the tumor removed if the vet felt it were operable... but we didn't get very good news. "Take her home, love her, make her comfortable..." At 12, in addition to the tumor, she had an enlarged heart, gall stones and something about the thyroid...

And so I did... till the morning very recently when she woke up unable to walk... her back legs were weak, her balance was off... and you just know...

They let me stay with her the whole time... in the back of my mind I knew that up till the very last minute I could change my mind, scoop her up, run away... but I didn't... we laid on the floor till the very end...till her labored breathing stopped... and she was gone.

At home she was lain in her grave, wrapped in a blanket. I brought out Talia, the younger dog, who sniffed her face all over, Natalie's nose, her eyes, her ears. Talia looked at me, sniffed her again and backed away. The recognition of death enveloped her, took her to places she'd never been to before...

In our home, the dynamics have shifted. Talia doesn't know when to pee, I'm not certain we are safe from the things that go bump in the night... so we got a new dog from a rescue group. A sweet bundle of silly nonsense who was scheduled to be done away with too soon. It is not the same as with Natalie... but Talia has perked up and the shroud of death has lifted. We are distracted and she is fitting in. Natalie might have even liked her -- the way she mostly liked everyone... Especially Natalie would have liked that I am back to putting one foot in front of the other and am once again getting things done.

So I am back, ready to work, ready to share, to help clean up our homes so we can all make the most of our lives.