End-of-Summer Checklist: Getting Your Home Ready for Fall and Winter

This blog post is from a guest contributor: Paul Denikin from the website DadknowsDIY.com. Check it out after reviewing these reminders!

When summer turns to fall, the days get shorter and to-do lists get longer. Not only will you have to clean up, take down and store your summer-only gear, but you’ll also have to work hard to get your house ready for fall and winter. Here’s a checklist of tasks to consider as you transition from the dogs days of summer to winter’s long, cold nights.

 

  • Clean your gutters.Leaves, sticks and small debris can turn into big problems if left in your gutters. Clearing out the trash will help keep your gutters safe when the winter snow and ice piles up. Gutters should be cleaned regularly, but as the leaves keep falling you may need to increase the frequency. As you examine your gutters, you might want to also consider upgrading to seamless gutters or installing gutter guards to help reduce clogging and increase safety.
  • Secure your windows. Inspect your windows for gaps where the cold winter air can seep in, making minor caulking repairs when necessary. You’ll want to know before winter settles in if sealing gaps doesn’t fix the problem, that way you have plenty of time to hire installers to bring in replacement windows before it gets too cold. Since the days are getting shorter you might also want to consider window treatments that really maximize natural lighting, as well as replacing screens, blinds and curtains where needed.
  • Seal your outdoor wood. Your decks, fences, porch furniture and other outdoor wooden items need to be protected from winter’s harsher elements. At the start of summer you probably threw on a coat with UV inhibitors to protect from fading in the sun. For the winter you’ll need to apply a sealant stain and check the deck’s overall stability. Prepare for vulnerabilities that can arise during a wet winter with freezing temperatures.
  • Inspect your siding. Take a close look for siding that’s bending, buckling or bulging, which can be a sign of bigger problems. As you close down the summer aspects of your house before to check your siding for holes. Insects might use holes to survive the winter, which can wreak havoc on your house.
  • Check your roof. Getting your roof ready for winter isn’t just about climbing up and having a look around. You’ll want to test your roof with all your senses—examining the integrity of the shingles. Look especially for curling shingles, or ones that are easily broken, or other signs that a roof replacement is on the horizon. While repairing or replacing a roof is never fun, it’s especially more difficult when it occurs in the shorter, cooler days of winter.
  • Clean and store your awnings. Before boarding up your awnings for the end of the warm season, give them a good cleaning. Be sure they have plenty of time to dry completely and air out before closing them up for the season.

 

Preparing your house for winter can be very exciting. As you box away your pool toys and barbeque equipment, you can reach for a cup of hot cocoa and get ready to relax.

 

A Few Words About Scotchgard

Have you used Scotchgard? It has been around a long time and is now featured in quite a few other products other than fabric and carpeting. It truely is a remarkable product and ,yes, it does really work! Unfortunately, our offer of Scotchgard protection is often declined anymore. Many people used to have the extra application of Scotchgard applied after their carpets were cleaned; not so much anymore. Consider a few reasons we have heard:

  1. “We are going to replace the carpet eventually.” – While this may be in the offing, when will this actually happen? Even if it happens within a year, what about the time leading up to the replacement? Clearly a person who says this cares about the appearance of their home. Why not protect what you have? Honestly, we have cleaned carpets for “the last time” multiple times! Take care of what you have; you never know what the future holds. It may be that the replacement happens further into the future than you anticipate.

  2. “The carpets are old” – This is actually a powerful incentive to have the Scotchgard treatment! As carpets age it is true that they tend to soil faster. Think of your non-stick pans. As you use them inevitably the finish wears and things start to stick more and more. If you could recoat the pan would you? Sure!. But there is no product right now to do that. But there is for carpets! The Scotchgard helps to make the carpets more resilient and renews the original protection.
  3. “We are trying to save money” – Yep, Scotchgard costs more money.; but often not as much as you might think. Maintenance on anything costs but prevents larger amounts down the road. People who protect their carpets with Scotchgard often comment how the carpet does not seem to age. It cleans up well and spots are easily removed. Although protecting your carpet costs more do you know what really costs a lot? Brand new carpet. Protect what you have!
  4. “The carpets were cheap” – Even “cheap” carpets are still expensive. And replacing them is still a pain.So, is this really a reason to let it go? Not really. Take care of inexpensive carpets and you may be pleasantly surprised how long they last and how good they look.

In summary, take another look at Scotchgard. Don’t quickly refuse the offer. If you have never tried it, do so! Either way you will not be sorry you took care of what you have.

Should I use mats and runners on my carpet?

To use mats and runners, or not to.

We all know that carpeting is going to wear. After all we are walking on it, right? It is only logical to try to slow down or even prevent all together that process. There are a number of ways to do this: vacuuming regularly, taking your shoes off before entering, changing the layout of a room to redirect traffic, etc. Another common thought is to put down a runner or mat over heavily used areas to prevent wear. Is this a good idea? Let’s consider the pros and cons.

There are definite advantages to having mats and runners. As creatures of habit, it can quickly become apparent where we are spending most of our time. Is there a worn area in front of your husband’s favorite recliner? or yours? Is there a path down the hall to the bathroom? Is there excessive wear at the most used entry? Is there heavy wear around an office desk? Putting down a mat or runner immediately stops that wear as it seals off the carpet below and allows little, if any, soil to accumulate.

In many homes there is simply no other way to redirect the flow of traffic; rearranging furniture is not an option. Mats can prevent a lot of wear in these situations as well as the wear that is created in front of recliners. Offices that have chairs that roll back and forth can benefit greatly from a plastic chair mat. The wheels on those chairs wear not only the fibers but also break down the backing of the carpet over time. This can leave the carpet rippled from delamination and heavily faded. A plastic mat improves rolling and protects the carpet from heavy wear.

Sounds like there is no down side, right? Well…

There are definite disadvantages as well to having mats and runners. Let’s start with effect on the carpets first. While mats prevent soil and wear from happening to the areas underneath, the rest of the carpet is still wearing and getting dirty. It is important to remember that carpets change over time due to air, sunlight, and a host of other factors. Carpets also need to ‘breathe’; air needs to be able to move over and through. The carpet under the mat will stay in a ‘time capsule’ and not change. Over a period of time this may create a “footprint.” This is an outline where the mat sits that is generally permanent.

Consider this as well: There are no good ways to hold a mat in place when over carpeting. Using adhesives will create more problems. Nailing it down can damage the materials and is not always possible depending on the subfloor. Rubbery backing materials like latex, may  

hold the mat or runner but can seal the carpet and cause a yellowing that cannot be removed. Plastic chair mats have built in cleats that hold it in place but they do not hold any soil; it all gets pushed to the carpet around creating a vivid ‘footprint’ that is permanent.

So, what to do? If at all possible try not to use mats and runners. Many problems can be avoided or solved with better maintenance. If you do need to use a mat, try to rotate the days you use it. One week on, one week off for instance. This allows the carpet to change with the surrounding areas. If this is not possible, a mat or runner may be better than the premature wear and damage that would be caused without it. You just have to go in with your eyes open to the consequences. Remember to clean those carpets regularly!

While there is no perfect solution, hopefully this material will help you make a more informed decision.

Meeting the Challenge of Keeping a Clean Office!

The last article dealt with the importance of keeping an clean office. The hard part is now how to do it. Saying and doing are two different things! Granted, every office is different due to what type of work goes on, and every office environment is different due to the people in it. But here is an underlying principle: MAINTENANCE IS WORTH THE MONEY IT COSTS! Everything wears out eventually, but properly maintaining it will add many years to the life and it will look better during that time With that in mind, here are just a few general tips to consider that can apply across a wide array of circumstances.

1. Who is cleaning your office?

There are basically two options: hire a cleaning service or do it ‘In House.’ Each has advantages and draw backs. A cleaning service will cost you money and a good one will cost you more. But the benefit is that is will be done regularly and systematically. A good cleaning service is worth the expense!

Having your employees clean for you can save you money and they may be in a better position to clean as they know what needs it most. The down side is that often ‘In house’ lacks the quality and thoroughness needed. So if you are going to do it, first, make sure that your employees have the right equipment (e.g. well-maintained vacuum cleaners, quality cleaners and supplies, etc,) and instructions. Then, make sure you show your appreciation for the extra work it takes.

2.  Preventive steps can mean less maintenance!

There are certain spots in the office that are always going to ‘take it on the chin’ so to speak. You can help your own cause with preventive steps.  For instance:

  • Seriously consider a mat service. Entry mats will prevent a tremendous amount of soil from coming in from outside or from the shop… if they are clean! A mat service will make sure your mats are doing their job.
  • Make sure the coffee area is over an easily cleanable area, like tile. If that is not practical, put something under it to allow easy cleanup of spills, like an entry mat or chair mat.
  • Monitor plants carefully to make sure they are not over-watered. We clean a lot of stains from this and they are not easy to get out.
  • Use chair mats large enough to cover the work area. Chair mats that are too small will leave a ‘footprint’ around the edge, a place where feet and chairs go, that will not come out. (We will cover the pros and cons of mats in general in a future article.)
  • Have a cleaning station that is well stocked and easily accessible. Most people will at least attempt to clean up a mess you make the tools available. Make sure that you have the cleaners, towels, brushes, etc. in a convenient spot.

3. Have your carpets cleaned regularly.

We are not just putting this in because we do this (okay, maybe it is).  As we have mentioned is previous articles, carpets have a subtle but noticeable effect on the space. When they are clean they reduce dust and other allergens and make the office feel brighter and happier. Having your carpets cleaned will often kickstart a new feeling of responsibility on everyone’s part in keeping the office clean.

Spot Cleaning Like A Pro!

If you have carpeting you deal with spots: food spills, dirty feet, pet accidents, etc. It is a fact of life. How do you handle spots? There are plenty of guides both technical and otherwise about spot identification and removal. But, is there more to spot cleaning like a pro? Yes. This article will deal with aspects that do not get talked about that much.

Spots on your carpets can be likened to minor injuries (cuts, bruises, scrapes, etc.) to your body. They can happen without warning, need to be handled properly, and if left, can cause bigger problems. You are no doubt a pro and handling these things on yourself and your children. One of the kids comes in with a skinned knee and *WHOOSH*, you are right to the medicine cabinet and return with bandages, ointments, pain relievers, etc. When something happens to our carpets, though, often we are stunned a bit, not knowing what to do. We reach for whatever cleaner(s) is handy, whether it is the right one or not, and begin pouring and scrubbing; we grab another random cleaner and begin squirting and rubbing until frustration takes over and we give up. Often when we are called in literally everything under the kitchen sink has been used. So…, let’s prepare and do this right.

Spot Clean like a pro
Are you ready to spot your carpets like a Pro?

1. BE PREPARED!
We all invest money in cold/flu medicine, pain relievers, bandages, ointments and many other products that we think we may need. Do the same with your carpet. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ cleaner out there. Some are good cleaners, some good deodorizers. some good spot removers. Have a variety on hand and learn how to use them. Every product will advise you to test it on your fabrics to see if it is colorfast. This is not a process that can be done properly in the heat of the moment, for instance when someone spills red wine on your light carpet. Get the cleaners and test them out long before you have to use them. Make sure they are in an easily accessible spot. If you have home carpet cleaning machines, keep them in good running order and ready to be used. Why? Because you have to…

2. GET TO IT QUICK!
The faster you get to a cut or scrape, the better it will heal. In the same way get to spots right away. Every minute counts. Usually once dry the damage is done. When wet, many things can be removed with relative ease. So don’t wait, but…

3. TAKE YOUR TIME!
When treating a cut or scrape you don’t rush so as not to hurt the person or make the injury worse. That is smart thinking! So, don’t rush when spotting your carpet. It takes time to remove things properly. Be patient and BLOT don’t scrub. Use your body weight; you can be down on your knees or put the towel down and step on it using your body weight. Repeat this over and over again until the spot is gone or not changing anymore. It takes a moment to make a spot, but a lot longer to remove it, perhaps 10-20 minutes. Carpet cleaning takes time. We cannot overemphasize this. Not only will scrubbing push the spot deeper, but it can also permanently change the look and feel of the carpet. Nothing worse that getting the spot out but still having a constant reminder of it because the carpet was damaged.

4. HAVE AT LEAST A ROUGH IDEA OF WHAT WORKS!
We know that Advil works differently that Tylenol. Neosporin works differently that Hydrogen Peroxide. A fever is different than a headache, a bruise that a cut..Spot cleaning can is similar.  Different products work differently on different carpets. Experiment and have a variety on hand. Also recognize that different carpets react differently to the same cleaner. If you have rugs made of wool or cotton, carpets made of nylon, a room of olefin berber, they will all clean differently and may need special cleaners. Be ready.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you out the next time you have the relatives over or have a dinner party, No need to stress; YOU WILL BE READY!

 

 

Understanding Pet Accidents – Part 2

Last post, Understanding Pet Accidents – Part 1,  dealt with the reasons why urine is so hard to remove. If you have not read that one, do so before you read this. It will make more sense.

Identifying a problem area due to pet accidents is not a difficult thing to do. Dealing with it can be. So what is next? Now it is time to ask some tough questions; questions you need to be honest about.

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Let us help you find solutions!

Is this a problem that can be fixed?

We are not talking about the urine here. That can be fixed. This question is focused on the pet. Can you stop the pet from having accidents? Do you want to take those steps?

As they reach the end of their lives many pets become increasingly incontinent. Some owners are willing to put up with odor in order to enjoy those last months or years. Fixing the problem could also mean restricting the areas the pet can get to. Some are not willing to do this either wanting them to have more freedom. If the problem is likely to continue aggressive deodorizing would be a waste. There are other options.

How much does this really bother you?

This question can mean a lot. We find that some accept a little odor as just part of having a pet; much as some chewed shoes or scratched furniture would be. If the problem is not a huge concern, often less aggressive measures are acceptable. If it is driving you crazy! you will probably need to go with the more aggressive type of deodorizing. It is also good to remember that the odor and the stain are different. Sometimes when we get a call about an problem area the real concern are the spots on the carpet; the odor is not even noticed. Knowing the difference can help you get the services you truly want.

How much upset in the house are you willing to put up with?

Aggressive odor removal can be disruptive to the house as carpets are disengaged, padding and tackless strips are replaced, and carpets are cleaned and treated. The odor in the house may briefly increase during this process. The enzyme deodorizers take at least a few days to work and may take several treatments.  We bring this up  because we have gotten calls on Thursday for severe problems in which relatives are coming Saturday. That is not enough time for complete removal. If you want aggressive measures be able to have the time to do it in.

What is your budget?

In a perfect world, this would not be a question, right? But realistically we must consider it.  Aggressive treatment of heavily saturated areas (disengaging carpet, replacement of pad, sealing of subfloors, cleaning and treatment of carpets, reinstallation of carpet) may be hundreds of dollars or more depending on size. We have many options that can fit your budget and your sense of smell.

Pet accidents are part of having pets, but they don’t need to be thorns in your side. After reading these posts we hope you have a better idea of what you are up against.

WE CAN HELP! Call us and let us discuss options that will fit your unique circumstances.

Understanding Pet Accidents in the Home – Part 1

“Don’t you have something to spray on this to take care of the smell?” This is a question we often hear, especially in the humid summer months. We wish it was that easy. If we had a spray like that we would have probably retired already. But, unfortunately, there is not. The good news is that we can help with this. But in order to do this one needs to understand pet accidents in the home. First, why are pet accidents so hard to remove and second, the problem with amount.

Understanding Pet Accidents

Why are pet accidents (urine) so hard to remove? When the accident first happens urine is in a liquid form and quite easy to remove; just vacuum or absorb it up, and the problem is solved. The trouble begins when it dries. Urine that dries forms urine salts, crystals that form on carpet strands. (Imagine rock candy: sugar is dissolved in hot water and strings are placed in the water during the cooling process. The sugar collects around the strings in the form of sugar crystals. This process is similar to what is happening in your carpet, but not nearly as desirable.) Bacteria begin to feed on the dried urine and cause the unpleasant smell that prompts the opening question. Why not just clean the area? The issue with this is the urine salts will not clean off with detergents and water. They must be dissolved off with other types of cleaners and deodorizers. A cleaning will remove temporarily remove the bacteria but not the urine. Immediately bacteria begin to grow again.This process of removing urine is much slower and involved than a simple cleaning for soil, grease, food, etc.

Second, the pet accidents are often complicated because a pet may start to develop a bad habit in an area we may not see. Cats, for instance, may start spraying a wall behind furniture or in a corner in a lower level. A dog may start lifting it’s leg in an out of the way place. If the bad habit begins in drier months like winter it may not be noticed. As the warmer, humid air of spring and summer come, the problem seems to suddenly appear, the moisture triggering the smell. By the time the problem is noticed many ‘deposits’ may have been made, sometimes dozens! At this point the urine has penetrated the carpet, carpet backing, and padding. The tackless strip may be affected, trim may have absorbed urine, furniture and walls may have urine dried on them. While the carpet may be the most obvious source of odor it is by no means the only one.

So the bottom line: there is no simple spray. But it can be treated! We can discuss options that may work in your situation. Part 2 will discuss some of these.

Dealing With Small Floods.

You come home and find a present in your lower level. All that rain today and this is the day your sump pump decides to quit. Squish, squish, squish through your lower level you walk assessing the situation. Can you deal with this yourself? Maybe. Here are some things that may help deal with the problem and help you determine what is next.

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1. IS THE WATER STILL COMING IN? CAN YOU IDENTIFY WHERE IT IS COMING FROM?
This may seem obvious but it is very important. Some floods are obvious; water emanating from the overflowing sump pit, a broken basement window, etc. Sometimes it is not so easy; for instance, a water softener may only flood when it regenerates. We have helped some dry their carpet only to get a call a few days later telling us that the EXACT SAME FLOOD happened. Incredibly frustrating for the homeowner and very expensive. So, stop the water and get the problem fixed.

2.WHAT IS THE SOURCE OF THE WATER?
There are three categories of water:
Clear: This is fresh, clean water (a water pipe breaks, a filling hose on the washer ruptures, etc.)
Grey: This is water that has been used, it has things in it (the drain on the washer comes out, rainwater, dishwasher leaks, etc.)
Black: This is generally sewage or close to it (Ejector pump fails, floor drain connected to city sewer backs up, etc.)
Clear and grey water can be extracted and the carpet dried. SERIOUSLY consider replacing carpet that has been exposed to black water ESPECIALLY if you are on city sewers. Complete disinfection of the carpets is almost impossible.

3. IS THERE CARPET CUSHION THAT IS WET?
You may not think that there is any padding under your carpet but don’t assume that. Is there a metal piece (bull nose) where carpet and concrete or tile meet? That is a sure sign that there is a cushion under the carpet. Don’t go by feel either. Many cushions over concrete are quite thin. Good chance there is pad; most carpets have pad unless they are glued down. The pad must be removed if it has been wet for more than 36 hours. Even if it has been less than 36 hours, removing the pad greatly speeds up the drying process.

4. HOW MUCH AREA IS WET?
Always assume that more area has been affected that it seems. Often we look for visual clues, but water travels along the ground and will spread father than you think. Even if the carpet feels dry, the pad my be damp and in need of removal. A carpet will generally be wet underneath about three feet farther than the surface wetness.

This is just a brief guide to help you. If any of this seems to be a bit more than you can handle, call for help! Although expensive, the expense of professional help is minor compared to the amount of damage that water can do to your home and the long term effects of mold on your family.

Can you clean carpets in the winter? Do you?

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January is ending and February is about to begin. It’s cold and dreary. Why not add a little sunshine to the interior of your home? Often we are asked, “Can you clean carpets in the winter? Do you?” Without a doubt, the answer is YES. Consider the advantages and drawbacks of winter.

Yes, there are a few drawbacks.  These are often the reasons that winter cleaning is dismissed by some homeowners:

1. It’s cold outside!    This is very true. Our machines are truck-mounted, which means that all the hoses must go through an open door. Without a doubt, this leads to cold air entering the house. We do our best to minimize the effects of the cold by covering the door, but your house may drop a few degrees. Take heart, though, your furnace will warm up the house quickly when the cleaning is done.

2. It’s sloppy out!   This is true to a degree as well. Salt, slush, and snow are the mainstays of winter. But really, when is it not dirty out? Spring is rainy and muddy, summer is hot and humid, etc. Do you avoid washing your car in the winter because the roads are sloppy? Or do you wash it because the roads are sloppy? With good housekeeping practices that we know you have, the sloppy conditions will not cancel out the good effects of cleaning.

3. We are tight on funds!   Winter is a tough time financially for many of us. We, too, are not immune. We can work with you to get the most needed areas done. We can clean traffic patterns, spots, and the like to keep cost down but make sure you home looks great. Also, keep in mind that we accept credit cards. While we are not encouraging going into debt, these can serve a useful purpose.

Now consider the advantages!

1. Dry times are low!    Cold winter air has very little moisture in it -so- the humidity levels in your house are low! This allows carpets to dry quickly and efficiently with very little effort.

2. Humidity in the winter feels great!   No extra charge for the humidity. As the carpets dry, the moisture level in the air will increase, making the house feel warmer and more comfortable.

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3. Clean carpet = clean air!   We spend a tremendous amount of time indoors during the winter. Soiled carpets + dry air = lower indoor air quality. Clean carpets can help keep the air clean.

4. We have plenty of openings!   Winter is always a slower  time for us, so you can have your choice of times and days. No waiting lists and we can often respond the same day. Did your schedule open up today? Give us a call and we may be able to get you right in.  Yep, winter is a great time to have your home cleaned!

Green Cleaning – It doesn’t have to cost a lot!

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Green – it is a word that seems to be attached to more and more things. Manufacturing processes, fuel, cars, chemicals, cleaners, etc. (and the list could go on) are labeled as “Green.” No doubt, all of us want to take care of the planet and do what we can. But doesn’t it seem at times that the term ‘green’ seems to fit the money we spend and that companies make in the process? Home cleaning is no different. There are plenty of ‘green’ cleaners out there and you may have a few in your home.  Let’s talk about some things that you almost certainly have in your house that are often overlooked as excellent cleaners:

Hot Water: You can’t get any more environmentally friendly than this. So often when we want to clean or spot something we immediately think of detergents. Without a doubt, there is a place for those (i.e. grease, waste, etc.) but why not try water first? One of the things you can do is to heat the water first. The closer it is to boiling the better cleaner it becomes. When we clean carpets, we clean near 200 degrees! At that temperature you don’t need much soap.

White Vinegar: This is a great cleaner for windows, floors, and carpets. It dissolves urine, sweat, and other organic sources of odor. It also dissolves mineral buildups around sinks and faucets. It won’t leave a residue and is not harmful or toxic. Check this site out for more uses:  http://www.thenewhomemaker.com/cleanorg/vinegar.html

Hydrogen Peroxide (3%): This is the same stuff that you get at the supermarket or pharmacy. It works great to get out naturally occurring dyes and stains like wine or fruit juice. It can remove coffee stains, vomit stains, and may help with the stain left from feces.

Ammonia: This is also a very good all around cleaner for floors, kitchens and baths, carpets, and more. Check this site out: http://www.thriftyfun.com/Cleaning-With-Ammonia-1.html

Club Soda: I have been told by many people that they have gotten stains out of their carpets with this old remedy. I have not personally tried it, but it certainly is worth a try.

Hopefully, you get a sense that some of these old remedies still carry a lot of merit. Give them a try next time. It saves money and the environment. Hard to argue with that.