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How do I clean a bathtub?
How do you clean brass and silver?
How do I clean ceramic tile floors?
How do I clean kitchen cabinets?
What kind of products are best to use for cleaning?
How do I clean my dishwasher?
How can I control the dust in my home?
How can I try to cut down on the dust in my home?
What is the best way to clean grout?
How do I remove hard-water deposits from glass shower doors?
What is the best way to clean marble?
How do I clean the microwave?
How do I clean mini-blinds?
What's the best way to clean no-wax floors?
What's the best way to clean an oven?
What's the best way to clean wood paneling?
How do I clean pillows and down comforters?
How do I get rid of soap scum in the shower?
What's the best way to get rid of a toilet bowl ring?
What is the best way to clean vomitus?
What's the best way to clean wood floors?
What is the best way to clean Indoor/Outdoor Carpet?
What can I do about excessive iron in my water?
What is the best way to clean windows?

QuestionHow do I clean a bathtub?
AnswerHow you clean bathtubs depends on what they're made of. Enameled steel or cast iron tubs are very durable and resistant to most cleaning products. You can use heavy-duty cleaners and de-greasers to remove bathtub ring, and even a little scrubbing with mild cleansers from time to time won't do any harm. Be careful of harsh powdered cleansers and colored nylon scrub pads, though, and don't use heavy pressure with even a mild cleanser, or it will eventually dull the surface. Keep strong acids such as bowl cleaner and hydrofluoric rust remover out of enameled tubs too; if you need to remove a rust stain, use oxalic acid.

Fiberglass tubs must be treated more tenderly. Shy away from any kind of abrasive cleanser (even the gentle liquid type), or anything that can scratch and dull the surface. Scrub only with a white nylon-backed sponge, and if absolutely necessary, a mild cleanser approved by many fiberglass manufacturers for use on their products. Fore general cleaning, you can just use a neutral cleaner, not a specialized fiberglass cleaner. Don't use any strong acids or alkalis or solvents, such as toilet bowl cleaner, oven cleaner, acetone, or lacquer thinner, though.

QuestionHow do you clean brass and silver?
AnswerBrass --
Lacquered brass should be gently washed with a mild detergent solution, to avoid damaging the lacquer coating. Never use metal polishes or steel wool on it. When the lacquer gets chipped or scratched, the metal underneath will tarnish. Eventually the lacquer will have to be stripped off and the piece re-lacquered. Tung oil will also protect brass from tarnishing, and it doesn't turn dark and is easier to remove than lacquer. Car wax helps too, but doesn't last as long as tung oil. Unlacquered brass can be left "antique," with its distinctive greenish-brown patina of tarnish intact, or it can be polished to a high shine. To polish solid brass, use a cream brass polish or one of the convenient polish-in-a-rope products. These polishes coat the brass with a thin film of oil to help retard future tarnishing. For plated brass, avoid the more abrasive cream polishes as they will eventually wear through the plating and expose the metal underneath.

Silver --
Fine silver flatware and decorative pieces should be cleaned with a quality silver polish. This not only removes the tarnish, but the buffing process develops a rich patina that enhances the appearance of the silver and tarnish retardants in the polish help keep the silver bright longer. Follow directions on the silver polish you select. Bear in mind that the silver coating on plated silver, especially the cheaper varieties, may wear thin and expose the base metal with repeated polishing. Frequent use and washing will keep such pieces bright and shiny without any polishing. Dip cleaners can be used for utilitarian silver, but they won't develop the rich shine that cream polishes will and they do nothing to retard further tarnishing. Electrolytic cleaning is not recommended for fine silver as it tends to dull the finish, damages antique shading, and can loose hollow handles. Sulfur causes silver to tarnish quickly and salt corrodes it. Don't leave high-sulfur foods such as eggs, mustard, or mayonnaise, or salt or foods containing a lot of salt sitting for long periods in silver containers. Remove food and wash silver immediately after use. Don't put it on rubber mats to dry or use rubber bands to hold it. Using silver regularly and washing and drying it by hand will help keep it tarnish-free. If you intend to store it for long periods, polish with a tarnish-retardant polish first, and store it in special tarnish-retardant cloth bags available from jewelers. Sealing silver in plastic bags will also help keep it bright.

QuestionHow do I clean ceramic tile floors?
AnswerCeramic tile floors don't need any wax or floor finish, and all you have to do is sweep and mop them regularly to keep them clean and shiny. Mop with clear water (or add just a dab of liquid dish detergent), and change the water as soon as it gets cloudy. Too much soap or dirty water will leave a dulling or sticky film. Don't use brown or black nylon-backed scrub pads on ceramic tile, or you could scratch the surface.

At Merry Maids, we wash most floors on our hands and knees, cleaning and then drying a small area at a time.

QuestionHow do I clean kitchen cabinets?
AnswerMost cabinets are factory manufactured and finished, and even the wooden ones have enough varnish or other protective coating on them so that you can use a cleaning solution on them. The oil slick that builds up on cabinets (especially around the handles) is a combination of kitchen grease, food smears, skin oil, and hand lotion transferred to the door. Regular all-purpose cleaners just won't cut it, which is why you often have sticky cabinets.

If your cabinets are plastic laminate (Formica) or other plastic, metal, painted metal, or glass, you can wash them all over with a strong alkaline cleaner, which can be purchased at a janitorial supply store, or a heavy-duty cleaner from the supermarket. Mix according to
directions and apply the solution with a sponge. Let it sit a minute or two, then take a white, nylon-backed sponge and scrub a little anywhere it seems necessary. Remove the grimy suds from the sponge by squeezing it into the sink or a slop bucket, never back into your cleaning solution. Then, rinse with a damp cloth and wipe dry with a terry cleaning cloth, which will remove any last traces of scum and leave the cupboards clean and glowing.

Never use acids or powdered cleansers on cabinets. A good overall washing of your cabinets once a year should be enough. Keeping a spray bottle of all-purpose cleaner handy the rest of the time and spot-clean after heavy kitchen use.

On wooden cabinets, you want to take a gentler approach. To get off the tough stuff, wash around all the handles and any other grease zones first with that gentle degreaser we all have handy -- hand dish washing detergent -- then wash the entire cabinet, including the handle areas you just did, with oil soap solution. Just wipe lightly with the solution, don't saturate, and buff dry immediately with a terry cleaning cloth. Always wipe dry with the grain or pattern, if there is one. Seldom do you need to add any polish because the surface has its own sheen, which will shine forth if it's clean. If your cabinets are dull from wear or age, a light, light spray of furniture polish once a year or so will fill in the pores and bring back some life.

QuestionWhat kind of products are best to use for cleaning?
AnswerMerry Maids uses its own line of products to clean, and, therefore, we're not allowed to endorse any specific products. However, I can give you some advice on what to look for when cleaning.

For dusting, use a treated or electrostatic dust cloth or a lambswool duster (except on rough surfaces). Always use a gentle wiping action, being careful not to flick dust off the surface and into the air, and don't shake a duster out in the house. For dust on hard floors, you want a treated dust mop. Use can use a dust treatment on your cloths or mops to help them pick up and hold dust. Dust treatments come in aerosol or liquid forms you can mix yourself. The best place to go for dust treatments is a janitorial supply store. Enough dust treatment should be applied to the mop or cloth to make it feel moist but not wet. Dust mops should always be treated (ideally, dust cloths too), then wrapped in a plastic bag overnight before using.

The best way to take care of any wood floors is to vacuum or dust mop them regularly. This will stop dirt from building up and damaging the floor. A safe way to clean all wood floors is with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar in a gallon of warm water. Start with a white cleaning cloth and work on a small area at a time. Then, immediately buff dry the area before moving on. You never want to get wood floors too wet, or let them dry on their own. If you have finished wood floors, the finish eventually will come off with wear. You will likely have to re-finish the floors or begin waxing them. Trying to keep dirt from building up is your best line of defense.

Most toilet bowl cleaners contain either hydrochloric or phosphoric acid. There are nonacid cleaners, safer to use, but less effective on hard-water scale. The phosphorics are the safest of the acid cleaners, for both you and your bathroom surfaces, but slower acting. Formulations containing hydrochloric acid will get rid of hard-water deposits faster but must be handled with GREAT CARE, as they can damage skin, fabrics, carpet and metals. Never use bowl cleaners anywhere except the inside of the toilet bowl, and always use rubber gloves and eye protection when you apply them. Nine percent hydrochloric is reasonably safe to use -- bowl cleaners with over 20 percent should be left to the pros.

For cleaning bathroom floors, your best bet is to use a neutral cleaner in plain water. Hand dish washing detergent is a good neutral cleaner. If you have some tough spots to clean on the floor, you may need to use a white, nylon-backed scrub sponge to loosen stubborn stains.

QuestionHow do I clean my dishwasher?
AnswerTo clean the outside of your dishwasher, spray and wipe the exterior, like most kitchen appliances, with all-purpose or glass cleaner and a cleaning cloth and polish dry. While your cloth is still damp with the cleaner solution, wipe the control panel, knobs, and buttons clean.

Occasionally check the drain for scraps of food and the edges of the door for splatters and eliminate them to avoid odors. The interior of a dishwasher cleans itself. Any darkening, browning or scale you see there is caused by minerals in the water. You may need to try more than one of the following removal techniques for this:

Scrub the spots in question with a white, nylon-backed scrub sponge and a gentle cleanser. Never use anything that will scratch and damage the finish. Run the rinse cycle when you're done.

To remove light lime deposits in hard-water areas: Start an empty dishwasher on the rinse and hold cycle, open the door during the fill and add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the water, then let the cycle finish. If you have heavier deposits, start an empty machine at the main wash cycle, open the door, add 1 cup Lime-A-Way (or similar cleaner) or phosphoric acid cleaner to the water, and let the entire wash cycle finish.

Brown, red or black deposits may be caused by iron or manganese in the water. To remove, start the empty dishwasher on the rinse and hold cycle; while the machine is filling, open the door and add 1/2 cup rust remover from a janitorial supply store to the water; then allow the cycle to finish.

These procedures can be repeated as needed.

QuestionHow can I control the dust in my home?
AnswerUse Walk-off Mats: Eighty percent of the dirt in your house walks in through the door -- on people's feet. The right kind of mats placed inside and out of all entrances will help cut down on cleaning time (vacuuming, dusting and mopping). Buy the professional kind of mats you see at the entrances to hospitals and supermarkets. You can buy these in a janitorial supply store. They're called walk-off mats because they give the dirt a chance to be walked off before it gets in and all over. Walk-off mats are usually nylon or olefin with a rubber or vinyl back for inside the door, and rubber of vinyl-backed synthetic turf for outside on the step. They're available in a variety of colors, and to do their job well, both the inside and outside mats should be four strides long. Vacuum your mats regularly or shake them outside. Hose them down and scrub with all-purpose cleaner solution as needed. You can also use upholstery shampoo or a wet/dry vacuum to clean them. It's important to always hang them until they're COMPLETELY DRY so that moisture (which can damage your floor) isn't trapped under the vinyl backing.

Sealing: If you have any concrete or mortar joints that haven't been sealed, they can bleed off bits of sand and concrete dust onto surrounding surfaces. You should also make sure your windows and doors seal tightly. Some utility companies will even come out and inspect your home for free to determine if you have any cracks where things could be going out or coming in.

Vacuum Care: Keep bags, filters, seals and gaskets in good repair to prevent fine dust from being blown back into the air as you vacuum.

No Feather Dusters: Feather dusters typically don't do much but spread dirt around. If you have some surfaces you're using a feather duster on, you may want to look at alternative cleaning options.

QuestionHow can I try to cut down on the dust in my home?
AnswerA good vacuum is one of the most effective dusting tools we have, because it traps and holds dust so it can be removed from the premises. You can use a vacuum dusting brush for everything from hard floors and furniture to lampshades and woodwork. Just make sure the bags, filters, gaskets and sales are in good shape, so dust really is gathered up by the machine and not just blown back into the air as you vacuum.

When you hand-dust, you also need to collect and hold the dust, and you can't do that with just any old rag. What you want is a treated or electrostatic dust cloth or a lambswool duster. A lambswool duster is better than a feather duster, but either can redistribute dust into the air if used to vigorously. Always use a gentle wiping action, being careful not to flick dust off the surface and into the air, and don't shake a duster out in the house. For dust on hard floors, you want a treated dust mop.

No matter what tool you're using, you always want to dust from top to bottom, and be sure to switch sides when one side of your cloth or duster gets loaded up.

As far as dust treatments go, they are usually oily or waxy compounds designed to attract and hold dust. Whatever dust treatment you decide to use, you should apply enough to the mop or cloth to make it feel moist but not wet.

Dust mops should always be treated (ideally, dust cloths too), then wrapped up in a plastic bag overnight before using to give the oil a chance to saturate the fibers evenly. This is especially important for mops, as most have an absorbent pad that acts as a reservoir, to which you apply the dust treatment. The mop is designed so that just the right amount of oil will wick down into the strands from the reservoir. If you try to hurry the process and spray the strands so you can use a mop immediately, they usually are too wet and you end up with oil on the floor. Most liquid dust treatments come with directions telling you how much of the product to use to treat different-size dust mops. After the initial treatment, an occasional light misting with dust treatment will keep your dust mop or cloth fresh and effective.

QuestionWhat is the best way to clean grout?
AnswerFor old grout, scrub with wax stripper or heavy-duty cleaner solution and a grout brush to get it as clean as possible. Use bleaching cleanser on stubborn spots. Rinse well. After it's good and dry, apply a coat of masonry sealer to keep it from absorbing so many stains and dirt in the future. For mildewed grout in tub and shower enclosures, scrub with a 1:5 solution of liquid chlorine bleach and water, then rinse.

For colored grout: If the grout is old and dirty, you'll want to clean it with a heavy-duty (no bleach) cleaner and a grout brush. Once the grout is clean, apply a coat of masonry sealer on it to keep it from absorbing so many stains and dirt in the future. If colored grout is very stained, you may want to try a mixture of 1:5 liquid chlorine bleach and water, then rinse. Keep in mind, however, that bleach may remove the color along with the stain.

QuestionHow do I remove hard-water deposits from glass shower doors?
AnswerFor removing hard-water deposits, use a de-greaser to cut through them. Janitorial supply stores have products specifically designed to remove it. Or, you may want to try automatic dish detergent in a bucket of warm water. The best time to work on this is immediately after you shower when the hot water and steam have already loosened the build-up. You can use a white nylon sponge to scrub. Follow up with glass cleaner. In the future, dry the doors after every shower to prevent further build-up.

QuestionWhat is the best way to clean marble?
AnswerIf polished marble is protected with floor finish, the finish must be buffed or burnished and periodically replaced to keep the surface protected and looking good.

Because marble is sensitive and porous, it needs to be cleaned with a neutral cleaner solution and then polished dry. Scratched and dull surfaces can be revived with a marble restorer (available from janitorial supply stores).

Cultured marble is stronger than real marble, but it does lose its luster after being cleaned for years. Clean it with a spray bottle filled with all-purpose or disinfectant cleaner and a soft cloth. Always keep it wet while working on it. Never use powdered cleansers, steel wool, metal scrapers or colored scrub pads on cultured marble. If the surface is worn and looks dull even after cleaning, polishing compound may bring back the glow. A little appliance wax, car wax or silicone sealer will also help fill fine scratches and restore the shine.

QuestionHow do I clean the microwave?
AnswerMicrowaves are a cinch to clean compared to conventional ovens! And if you just get in the habit of wiping yours out after each use, you may never need to do a serious cleanup. It's not a bad idea to always cover dishes with a paper towel to keep spatters off the walls.

If you have globs of food, you can hit it with a paper towel, cloth or white nylon-backed scrub sponge dampened with dish detergent and water. If you still have stuff stuck, you can try boiling a 1/2 cup water in there for several minutes and then let the water stand without opening the door for several more minutes to loosen any remaining goo. Add a little lemon juice or a dash or two of pumpkin-pie spice to the water to remove lingering odors.

Many microwave parts are plastic -- even the windows on some models -- so don't use metal scrapers, steel wool, or powdered cleansers that could scratch or damage. Treat the outside of your microwave and the seal around the door with non-abrasive care too. Spray and wipe with all-purpose or glass cleaner and a soft cloth. Never use abrasive pads or cleansers; they can mar the finish and may damage the seal. And push the CLEAR button when you're done to erase any instructions you may have cleaned in.

QuestionHow do I clean mini-blinds?

If you dust your mini-blinds regularly, you can at least put off the inevitability of having to take them down and wash the with soap and water. For wood mini-blinds, you can use a white cotton glove sprayed with furniture polish to dust them -- running each blind between your fingers. If you have vinyl mini-blinds, you can use a white cotton glove sprayed with window cleaner to dust them -- running each blind between your fingers. You can also use a vacuum with a dust or upholstery brush. Close the blinds all the way up flat and dust the front, then reverse them, close them in the opposite direction, and dust the other side.

When blinds finally need to be washed, forget trying to do it in place. It won't do a thorough job, it stresses the blinds, and it takes forever. And don't try to wash them in the sink or bathtub either. It's too slow and messy. Here's a good method:

1. Take the blind down and find a slanted surface, outside if possible, and lay an old blanket, quilt, rug or dropcloth on it.

2. Let the blind out all the way and make sure all the louvers are flat.

3. Lay the blind on the padding, and mix up a bucket of all-purpose cleaner or ammonia solution.

4. Scrub with a soft brush parallel to the slats, and be sure to get back under the ribbons. Then turn the blind over and do the other side. Use a little powdered (bleaching) cleanser on the ribbons if they aren't coming clean. The cushioning cloth will be soapy by now and help clean the blind, plus protect it from being scratched or dented.

5. Hold the blind up or hang it on a ladder or clothesline and rinse it with a hose.

6. Shake it to get all the water off you can, then let it air-dry the rest of the way and re-hang.

If you have dark-colored blinds and live in a hard-water area, rinsing with a hose will leave spots. You'll have to either use softened water to rinse or blot your blinds dry.

If you'd really like your blinds to look like new -- cords, slats, and all -- without all this effort, look in the Yellow Pages under "Blinds Cleaning" for someone who does ultrasonic cleaning. It's expensive but effective.

QuestionWhat's the best way to clean no-wax floors?
AnswerWith time and use, especially heavy use, the glossy layer of no-wax floors develops worn or dull areas that need to be coated with a floor finish (wax) to maintain a uniform shine. If you have a new no-wax floor that doesn't see much action (you never wear shoes and you don't have kids), with good care, you can keep it looking good for years without wax. However, if you have a lot of foot traffic and tracked-in dirt, or if the floor is showing signs of wear, it's best to keep it waxed to protect it from further deterioration. You can choose one of the major brands of floor polish sold in the supermarket, or get a self-polishing, metal-interlock floor finish from a janitorial supply store. After the initial waxing, re-coat the traffic areas as needed to maintain a good protective layer. Whether you decide to wax the floor or not, daily maintenance is the same. Sweep and damp-mop (using plain water, or water with a dash of neutral cleaner, like dish soap, added) regularly to keep abrasive soil off the surface, scrubbing as needed with a white nylon-backed sponge to loosen stubborn or ground-in soil. Good mats at entrances will keep damaging grit out of the house.

QuestionWhat's the best way to clean an oven?
AnswerMost commercial oven cleaners contain lye and must be handled with great care. Oven cleaner will eat your fingers if you get it on your skin. Protect yourself with long sleeves and rubber gloves, as well as safety goggles and a paper mask. Protect your kitchen too, by putting down newspapers or a drop cloth on the surrounding floor. Then paint or spray the cleaner on according to directions. Put on a good thick coat and leave it there a long time (like overnight). Most oven cleaners will work faster on a warm oven. Keep the spray off wires, light bulbs, thermostats and elements (you may want to wrap these in aluminum foil before you begin). Take the oven door off, spray it and set it aside.

When it's time to remove the oven cleaner, make sure you're well-protected. Use paper towels to get off the worst of the gunk and stuff them into a garbage bag. You might also want to use a rubber spatula or small squeegee to scrape off the initial layer. After you've removed the bulk of the mess, wipe with a water-dampened sponge or cloth until all the oven cleaner is gone. If it's dried up a bit overnight, a light new application of oven cleaner will re-soften it and it should come right off. If you still have some stubborn spots, just reapply cleaner to the holdouts and leave it one for at least 30 minutes.

Using a two-bucket operation makes this job a little easier. Have one bucket full of water and the other just a quarter full. Each time your sponge gets loaded up, squeeze it into the quarter-full bucket and rinse the heavy soil out of the sponge in that one too. Then dip the sponge into the full bucket to refill it with water. Repeat by always squeezing the sludge into the slop bucket.

Going over the surface with a cloth dampened in vinegar water after most of the sludge is gone will neutralize the alkaline residue and make rinsing easier.

After the inside is done, wash the outside of the stove and around the oven will all-purpose cleaner or de-greaser solution. Don't forget the edges and underside of doors and drawers where the drips like to collect.

For the racks, the best thing is to take them outside, lay them on newspapers and spray them on both sides. Then, place them where children and pets can't reach them and let them sit. The next day, hose them off and then wipe them dry.

If you have a gas oven, you'll need to check out your manufacturer's directions. In general, don't start cleaning until you turn off the gas valve. The interior of the oven can generally be cleaned like a conventional oven, but there's an additional range drawer for broiling that usually slides out and usually needs oven cleaner and serious degreasing. Removable pans and other parts, as long as they're not aluminum, can be soaked in ammonia water (4 ounces per gallon) for several hours. When you finish cleaning, you'll need to re-light the pilot light(s).

Finally, if you have a self-cleaning oven, you should never use caustic oven cleaners. And, if you'd like to try to avoid all the caustic oven cleaners, you can leave a pan of ammonia in the oven overnight.

QuestionWhat's the best way to clean wood paneling?
AnswerBoth real and imitation wood paneling can be cleaned the same way, as long as it has a protective coating (such as varnish) on it. If it doesn't, if it's just raw wood, washing is risky, so you may want to use a dry sponge, then damp-wipe it lightly and, once it's dry, oil it with a wood treatment recommended by the manufacturer or a local cabinet maker.

Paneling that does have a finish on it can be cleaned with an oil soap. Clean from the top down. Apply the solution sparingly with a sponge, and squeeze the sponge into an empty bucket each time it gets dirty, not back into your cleaning water. then buff the paneling dry with a clean cotton terry cloth, wiping with the grain so an occasional streak or skip won't be noticed. The bit of oily residue left by the oil soap will shine up the paneling and save you from applying gunky panel polishes which tend to leave a sticky surface that collects and holds dust, dirt and handprints. Any sealed wood surfaces can be cleaned this way, just don't leave the solution on for more than a minute or so.

Raw, natural wood and unfinished paneling should coated with a finish so moisture and stains won't penetrate the wood. You'll then be cleaning the finish, not the surface of the wood itself.

QuestionHow do I clean pillows and down comforters?
Pillows are such a pain to clean, the best thing to do is to keep them from getting dirty in the first place. So use a pillow cover over the ticking and under the pillowcase. You don't want a plastic one though, because then the pillow can't breathe and if it's a feather pillow it will develop a slight odor.

Launder or dry-clean pillows every couple of years -- they should have labels identifying the filling and care instructions. If not, a synthetic-filled pillow can be washed as follows: Look over the ticking first and stitch up any holes. Dissolve a low-sudsing detergent in the water before adding pillows to the machine. Squeeze as much air as possible out of the pillow and be sure to submerge it when you put it in. Use a short, delicate cycle, warm and high water setting. Wash two pillows at a time to balance the machine. Check occasionally to make sure the pillows are still submerged. Don't expect a pillow to have exactly the shape it did before washing.

Hand-washing a pillow (the more conservative approach) can be done in a tub of lukewarm water with low-sudsing detergent mixed into the water well before you add the pillow. Hold the pillow down till you're sure it's soaked, and squeeze the solution through it gently several times. Drain the tub and add rinse water and repeat the squeeze play. Use the spin cycle of your washing machine to get that wet pillow weighing less than 20 pounds, then air-dry it the rest of the way.

Machine-dry one pillow at a time for 60 to 90 minutes on hot. (This restores the fluffiness.) Or drip-dry, but don't expect quick drying.

Feather or foam rubber bed pillows should be dry-cleaned for best results.

If you must wash a foam rubber pillow, confine it to washing the case -- washing can cause the foam to disintegrate, and machine-drying can cause it to catch fire.

Throw pillows take a beating, especially if they're actually use, not purely ornamental. My best advice is to put the washable ones in the TV room and save the satin showpieces for the guest room. Include the pillows when you vacuum your sofa cushions, using the upholstery tool.

Fluff up pillows when you make the bed. You can restore the loftiness of fiberfill or feather pillows by putting them in the dry on fluff (no-heat setting) with a clean tennis shoe or a couple of tennis balls.

Down Comforters:
You should definitely check the label before doing anything with a down comforter. If it can be machine-washed, you'll want to use a large capacity washer at a laundry. If you crowd it into a regular-size machine, it will stay dirty and come out wrinkled and lumpy. Pre-treat any spots or heavily soiled areas, make sure the detergent has already dissolved before you add the comforter, arrange it loosely in the tub, and use warm water and a short delicate cycle. Don't use detergent with bleach or brighteners/whiteners. You should make sure down comforters are actually submerged before washing begins -- down things have a tendency to float. Check it a couple more times during the washing process for the same reason. Dry in a large-capacity dryer on warm or air only with a couple of big, dry towels to act as a buffer and a couple of clean sneakers or rubber balls. Remove the comforter before it's completely dry, shape it flat on a sheet, and let it finish drying at room temperature.

If you decide to hand-wash it, fill the bathtub with lukewarm water and dissolve a light-duty detergent or gentle soap like Woolite, following label directions. Lower the comforter into the tub and let it soak for 30 minutes or as the label directs. Drain and re-fill the tub several times to rinse well. You can also hand-wash in the washer. Fill the tub with warm water and a mild soap, arrange the comforter evenly in the washer and spin. Fill the washer will cool water and rinse by hand, then arrange evenly and spin out water. Repeat rinse if soap is not all removed. To dry, gently roll the quilt up in towels to remove excess water and spread out over a sturdy double clothesline to air dry.

QuestionHow do I get rid of soap scum in the shower?
AnswerPrevention is one answer to the soap scum problem. Consider using Zest soap, squeegeeing shower walls before you step out, and wiping tile shower enclosure walls down will lemon oil will all retard the formation of soap scum. And, if you have a porcelain tub, you can apply a light coating of boat or car wax to the sides (never the floor) to help ward off soap scum.

To get rid of the problem once it exists, usually takes some elbow grease. Use a degreaser to cut the soap scum. Soap scum is an oily/fatty deposit, so a strongly alkaline cleaner is what you need. Janitorial supply stores also have products specifically designed to remove soap scum, or a handful of automatic dishwasher detergent in a bucket of water will work too. Cover the tub or shower walls completely and leave the solution on for 15 to 20 minutes or more to soften the deposits. Keep them wet and let them soak while you do something else. Right after a shower is a good time, as the walls will already be good and wet. Then, scrub the walls and floor with a stiff scrub brush or a white nylon-backed scrub sponge. Keep soaking and scrubbing until all soap scum is removed, then rinse.

If you have hard water, you'll probably also have to clean with a phosphoric acid cleaner to remove the mineral scale. Put it on, let it soak awhile, and scrub stubborn spots with a stiff brush or white nylon-backed scrub sponge. Be sure to rinse well and let dry. You should have to use the acid cleaner only once in a while, the soap scum remover more frequently. Overuse of strong acid cleaners on ceramic tile showers can deteriorate the grout.

QuestionWhat's the best way to get rid of a toilet bowl ring?
AnswerBleach isn't the solution because it may take the color out of a ring, but the ring itself remains and keeps on building up and staining. When the ring is young and tender, an enthusiastic brushing with acid bowl cleaner will generally remove it. If the chemical action of the bowl cleaner doesn't entirely dissolve the mineral buildup, you can scrub it with an abrasive (green) nylon-backed scrub pad while the acid is working. An old ring is a real encrustation that calls for mightier measures. Forget about sandpaper, razor blades, and other remedies than can result in damage to you as well as the bowl surface. Take a pumice stone, wet it in the toilet water, and rub it on the ring, being sure to keep it wet the whole time you are scrubbing. Don't use pumice bars on colored, enameled, or plastic fixtures - only on vitreous china toilets.

Once a ring has been removed with a pumice bar, weekly use of bowl cleaner thereafter should keep it from reforming.

QuestionWhat is the best way to clean vomitus?
AnswerVomitus, whether human or pet, creates several challenges. The intensely acidic nature of vomitus can discolor carpet by causing the acid dyes in the carpet to move. This problem alone may permanently damage the carpet. It is important that the acid be neutralized or at least diluted soon after the accident so it does less damage.
Treating the area using a professional carpet detergent, rinsing the area with clean hot water and extracting the soiled solution away will bring the carpet back to a neutral pH. Vomitus creates a second challenge. The dyes in the food or medicine in the human's or pet's stomach can also stain the flooring, helped along by the intense stomach acid.
The FiberFresh Coffee Stain Remover Additive may be helpful removing these stains.

Peroxide is a relatively strong oxidizing agent depending on the strength of peroxide used. It would not only remove the vomitus stain, it would also remove carpet dye color. For this reason ServiceMaster franchisees use a slowly releasing reducing agent instead of faster more unstable oxidizing agents to remove stains.
The FiberFresh Coffee Stain Remover Additive has removed various dyes including coffee, red wine, betadine and KoolAid and is such a reducing agent.

If the stains cannot be removed, you may consider having those areas dyed. While not as permanent as factory dyeing, spot dying will solve the problem of bleached carpet.

If you would like a professional ServiceMaster carpet-cleaning service provider to contact you to discuss your cleaning challenges, please call 1-800-WE-SERVE (1-800-937-3783). The phone agent will contact the closest ServiceMaster service provider, asking him or her to contact you to set up an appointment. If you have further questions, please Ask the Expert.

QuestionWhat's the best way to clean wood floors?
AnswerThe best way to take care of any wood floors is to vacuum or dust mop them regularly. This will stop dirt from building up and damaging the floor. A safe way to clean all wood floors is with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar in a gallon of warm water. Start with a white cleaning cloth and work on a small area at a time. Then, immediately buff dry the area before moving on. You never want to get wood floors too wet, or let them dry on their own.

If you have finished wood floors, the finish eventually will come off with wear. You will likely have to re-finish the floors or begin waxing them. Trying to keep dirt from building up is your best line of defense.

QuestionWhat is the best way to clean Indoor/Outdoor Carpet?
AnswerAstroturf or other indoor/outdoor carpets are completely synthetic making them easy to clean and difficult to damage. Here are some steps for cleaning this type of carpet.

Begin with a very small amount of a neutral detergent, no more than 1/2 to 1 ounce per gallon of water. Apply this on the area to be cleaned. Then scrub the area with a soft brush, a push broom would work nicely here. Now hose off the carpet with a pressure nozzle to increase the pressure of the water. Hot water will work better if you can get it. Spray the carpet and use the broom like a squeegee to push the water and detergent out of the carpet. The better you rinse the more completely you will remove the soil.

Since synthetic carpet cannot provide a food source on which molds may feed, the growth on the indoor/outdoor carpet probably is feeding on the soil in the carpet. As you clean it thoroughly you will not only clean away the growth, you will clean away the soil on which it feeds. Because the carpet is outdoors, you may have to repeat this process every so often to get rid of the soil. If the area is particularly moist the growth will reoccur more quickly when it finds some soil to eat.

QuestionWhat can I do about excessive iron in my water?
AnswerCheck your local hardware and variety stores for "Iron Out" type products. Stores in areas with very hard water will often carry such products You could also check in a plumbing supply house to see if they have any leads. Since they deal directly with water and water conveyance systems, they may have an idea where to look. Handling and using such products requires some care. These products typically need to be strong to effect the required chemical reaction.

However, without dealing with the source of the problem, "Iron Out" type products will only be a very temporary fix. The iron oxide (rust) may be built up in the pipes not just suspended in the water. So even if the water supply is changed the conveyance system will still contain the problem for years to come.

QuestionWhat is the best way to clean windows?
AnswerThe best way to clean windows, or any large expanse of glass, is with a squeegee. It does a faster and better job.

You need a professional-quality squeegee, a window wand, and an extension pole if you'll be doing high windows. The basic process is simple -- apply the cleaning solution with the window wand, then pull the dirt and water off with a squeegee.

Now the details.

1. Put a capful of ammonia or five drops of liquid dish detergent in two gallons of water. Resist the urge to use too much detergent; that is what causes streaking.

2. Dip your window scrubbing wand or a sponge 3/4 of an inch into the solution, picking up just enough water to wet the window without flooding it. Wet the entire window, then go back over it once to loosen any stubborn soil. Last, go all around the window against the frame with the scrubber to pick up any dirt you've pushed against the frame.

3. Dampen the squeegee blade before you start, and wipe it with a damp cloth between strokes. A dry blade will skip and jump on the window instead of gliding smoothly.

4. Tilt the squeegee at an angle sot hat only about an inch of the rubber blade presses lightly against the top of the window glass. Then pull the squeegee across the window horizontally. This will leave a one inch dry strip across the top of the window. By squeegeeing across the top first, you eliminate drips running down.

5. Place the squeegee close tot he frame in the dry area near the top, and pull down to about three inches from the bottom of the glass. Continue this way all across the window, overlapping into the clean, dry area with each stroke, and wiping the blade with a damp cloth after each stroke.

6. Finish with a horizontal stroke across the bottom, and wipe any water off the sill with a damp cloth.

On some windows, it's easier to cut the water off the frame side as well as the top, and then squeegee the entire pane using horizontal strokes.

Large (picture) windows should be wet and squeegeed half at a time, the top half first.

Finally, if you're doing both inside and outside the window, you may want to squeegee horizontally on one side and vertically on the other, so you can tell whether any streaks are inside or out.

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