HOW DO I TAKE CARE OF MY… tile and grout?

A recent trend has been to remove carpeting and replace it with some form of hard flooring. One of the most practical and classic is tile and grout. Most homes have at least some tile and grout, maybe in the bathrooms or utility areas. Some have it in kitchen and foyer areas. How much do you have? How does it look? While we can definitely help you bring back the new look of your floors, how can you keep them looking good longer? Let’s go over a few things that can help.

First, do you know what your floors are made of? Many assume that all tile is roughly the same, but not so. The most common tile used is ceramic and porcelain. These are man made floors and very resilient. They now come in more and more styles and patterns so much so that sometimes they are hard to distinguish from stone. The other material seen more and more is natural stone. This can be travertine, slate, marble, or granite. There are other less common stones as well used for a variety of things in the house.

Second, what should you use on the floors to clean them? Knowing what you have is extremely important as using the wrong thing can cause costly and unsightly damage to the floors. Ceramic and porcelain are the easiest. You can use virtually any household cleaner and not cause any problems. That being said, you should not use just anything on them. As far as stone, it is imperative that you follow the instructions you got when the floor was installed. If you do not have that, go with a neutral ph cleaner as acids (even as common as vinegar) will begin to dull and etch travertine and marble floors.

Third, what is the process for maintaining the floors? The most important aspect of cleaning is dry soil removal. How you do this is very important on tile and grout. Your best means is to vacuum! This lifts the soil off the floor and out of grout lines. A distant second is sweeping. The last thing, just slightly better than nothing at all, is dust mopping. Why? You are pushing the dirt into the grout lines to stay for all eternity! Well at least until a professional cleaning. Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum regularly.

Next comes wet cleaning. Here is where knowing what material your floors are made of is so important. If you are unsure, just use warm water. Even if you do use a cleaner, use it sparingly. Sometimes we treat the floors as if we are scrubbing a greasy fry pan, putting way too much soap in the water. All you need us just enough to help break up the soil, nothing more. The long term effect is that soapy water sits in the grout lines and dries. Grout can become like a dirt magnet in this case. Look at the edges of the room and compare the color of the grout with the color in the center of the room. Darker? It could be that you are using too much cleaner.

Follow these simple steps and keep that floor looking good!

HOW DO I TAKE CARE OF MY… upholstery?

Eating and watching TV. Is that an average night for you? Your favorite food, your favorite beverage, and your favorite chair! We spend a lot of time sitting down. So how do you take care of the things that take care of you? Let’s talk about keeping your upholstery looking good and lasting a long time. After all, HAVE YOU PRICED UPHOLSTERY? YIKES! It is really expensive to replace; so let’s maintain!

As with carpets, dry soil removal is important. Vacuum your upholstery periodically. This does not have to be nearly as often or as vigorous as your carpeting and rugs. The very nature of upholstery means it soils differently; we are not walking on it (hopefully) and there are many vertical surfaces on upholstery which means less areas for soil to settle. Many times it is simply dust and hair that are being removed, but it is still important. One exception is if you have pets; you may need to vacuum quite frequently to remove their hair or fur.

Most of the wear on upholstery will happen in very specific areas: on the armrests, specifically where are hands are, where we rest our head, and on the footrests. The wear happens here not only be these are used often, but also because we are oily beings. Not quite like Golden Retrievers, but still oily. Whenever you sit and rest on the fabric you are leaving a little of yourself. The natural oils produced on the skin rubs off on the fabric. Add to this sweat and you have a concoction that can weaken fabric. It must be removed to avoid becoming a problem.

Removing it requires a little patience. First, find out it the fabric is colorfast. You can do this by putting the cleaner you are going to use on white towel and rubbing each color on the fabric for about 10 seconds. Do this in an area that will not be seen, just in case there is a problem. For instance, the zipper side of a cushion or the bottom corner of a skirt or even the lower back corner of a chair. Look at the towel and see if any color has transferred to the towel. if it has, STOP! Further work may ruin the entire piece. Time to call a professional. If no color transfers, you can proceed.

In order to clean the fabric do not put any cleaner directly on it. First, most will run off and be wasted, and second, it may overwet the fabric. A better idea is to wet a white cotton towel with the cleaner and then gently blot the affected area. If you are worried about water spotting, take a spray bottle with warm water and lightly mist a larger area first, then do your spotting. After the cleaner is applied you can lightly agitate the area with the towel and you will see the oils and sweat begin to lift off. Do not overwet the fabric.

This works fine, but you still need a professional cleaning on a regular basis. It may be as often as once a year or more if you have pets and children. If it is not used often, it may be as infrequently as every 2-5 years. It should still be cleaned within this time frame even if it does not look soiled. It is still accumulating oils from the air and dust. It will make it last longer and look better.

As a side note, if you are looking to purchase a new piece of upholstery, make sure you consider the “cleanablilty” of the piece, not just the looks. If possible, get a piece of the material to take home and get it wet, clean it. It is bitterly disappointing to find out that a very expensive piece of upholstery will not clean up like you think! Or at all!

Keeping these things in mind will keep your furniture looking good for years to come.

HOW DO I TAKE CARE OF MY… carpets and rugs?

Let’s talk about maintenance. Does that not seem exciting to you? It’s not, but it is extremely important. We are going to go over things that you have in your home that can easily be taken for granted, but if not properly maintained, will wear out, or worse, ugly out! In other words they become stained or do not clean up well and become a constant source of irritation. Let’s start with our favorite, carpets and rugs!

In order to properly maintain something you must know what it is. What is materials are your carpet and rug made out of? There are two basic categories: synthetic and natural fibers. Synthetics cover materials like nylon, polyester, acrylic, polypropylene (olefin), and others. Commonly used natural materials are wool, cotton, linen, jute, sisal, and silk. Most wall-to-wall carpets are synthetic, while many rugs are natural. Why does this matter? Because you maintain each category differently. If you do not know what you have and you use the wrong cleaning products on it, you can permanently change the appearance or damage them.  In order to identify the materials, check the manufacturer’s information or look at one of the corners of the rug for the tag. You would be surprised how many people do not know what their floor coverings are made of or think they know. 

The most basic and important thing you can do to maintain your floor coverings is to remove the dry soil. Vacuum them regularly with a good vacuum, one with plenty of suction and a good beater bar. TAKE YOUR TIME VACUUMING! This is not a race. Moving quickly over the surface to remove the visible soil will have little effect on the soil trapped deeper in the fabric. Go over the carpets or rugs slowly, perhaps multiple times. You are loosening and removing the soil which takes time and especially so on thicker pile. Entry rugs, which take an extra load of dry soil, can be taken outside and flipped over. Run the beater bar over the backing with as little suction as possible. This will break loose the soil and allow gravity to move it out. Then flip it right side up and vacuum it again. Removing the dry soil is the single best thing you can do to prolong the life and beauty of your floor coverings.

Removing spots as soon as they occur is also vital. This is where knowing the materials your floor coverings are made comes in. Make sure you have cleaners compatible with what you have. Natural materials require a more neutral cleaner while synthetics can handle far more aggressive cleaners. Natural fibers can also be far more susceptible to texture change through friction (rubbing too hard either with a brush or even a towel). In all cases, blot, blot, blot! 

Finally, get your floor coverings professionally cleaned on a regular basis. Think about your teeth. You brush and floss every day, but that is still not enough. You need to go to the dentist regularly for a deep clean; they remove things you are not able to. So it is with your floor coverings. Even though you do everything you are supposed to, you still need a professional to come in regularly to remove things you cannot.

Do these things and you will be a maintenance superhero!

Get Your Carpets Cleaned This Spring!

It’s been a long winter. Of course, it is always a long winter. During the cold months our windows are closed, houses are tightened up to be energy efficient, and we spend a lot of time indoors. Did your family suffer a flu outbreak? Maybe you spent a few nights on the sofa because of not being able to sleep. Did you binge watch some Netflix shows? If so, you spent a lot of time in one room then didn’t you? Let’s face it – we are either in hibernation mode or fighting hibernation mode in the winter months. The result? Carpets and upholstery that need to be cleaned!

As the weather warms and the ground thaws it makes the air smell better. As the sun gets higher in the sky we want to open our homes up and air them out. It is also an excellent idea to have your fabrics cleaned, whether carpets or upholstery. Think about this: If you were sick and spent some time in sweat pants and sweat shirts, what did you do with them when you felt better? You got them in the wash! We want to get rid of any remnant of sickness as soon as possible. But what about the sofa or chair you slept in? What about the carpet in the bedroom you were sick in? Time to clean it!

Make us a part of your spring cleaning routine. You will feel better about your home and it will actually be better. Call today!

Why do carpets wear?

Has this happened to you? You decide that your room needs some changes; furniture needs to be moved around. You begin by pulling out the recliner and it pops out at you like a red blinking light. A worn spot in front of the chair. You begrudgingly slide the chair back, grumbling as you do, realizing that rearranging the furniture will have to wait till…never. Why do wear spots appear? The answer may seem obvious but understanding the reason can help preserve your investment.

First we need to get technical. Do carpets really “wear?” Not really. Wear is what happens to the brake pads on your car. The material is literally worn away and is gone. This process is not generally the source of the dark spots on your carpets that are in your hallway or by your chairs. What is really happening is the carpet is a process referred to as abrasion. This is the damaging of the fibers not the loss of them.

Look at the picture. Do you see all the little fibers? Each one is a smooth piece of nylon. What happens when soil is introduced and not removed? What happens when feet walk over the area grinding the soil in? The fibers become damaged. They are no longer smooth but have abrasions on them – cuts, scrapes, etc. The result is twofold and both are negative.

The most obvious consequence is that the fibers no longer reflect light as they did when they were new.  Imagine taking a fine sandpaper over the paint on your car. The paint would no longer shine, not because it was dirty, but because the light is not being reflected but rather is being diffused. This is a prime reason that heavily used areas on your carpets begin to darken.

The second consequence is that your carpets soil more quickly. Why? Think of your nonstick pans in your kitchen. When they are new, nothing sticks to them…NOTHING! It’s amazing. But what happens months or years later after countless uses? The finish begins to wear and things start to stick. The same process happens with the abrasion on your carpets. Those nice smooth fibers that nothing seems to stick to when new get cuts, nicks, and scratches that begin to hold soil. This process accelerates with poor maintenance; a vicious cycle.

What can we take away from this? First, you need to live in your house. Abrasion and wear are part of life. Second, there is no set time for the process. In other words, how fast this takes place is entirely up to you! Vacuum your carpets regularly! There are no shortcuts here! Also, have your carpets professionally cleaned with hot water extraction, the type we use here at Reliable Maintenance. No other method will clean your carpets more thoroughly. Your carpet is a big investment. Take care of it!

Call today to schedule your spring cleaning!


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 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.


Time to get your windows cleaned!

Look at your windows. What do you see? Do you see the outside world pouring through? Unfiltered sunlight and color and joy? Or do you see reminders of past rains? Insect leftovers? Fingerprints and smudges? Nose and paw prints from pets? Sadness?

Fall is here and fall cleaning projects abound. Do not underestimate the effect that clean windows can have on the look and feel inside your home. Windows become dirty gradually and you may not even realize how much they need to be cleaned. They can dim the light  in the home substantially and make things look dull. So, have you considered having your windows professionally cleaned? You might think, ‘Why pay? I can do them myself.’ You are correct. But consider a few reasons to have them done by us.

  1. Time – There are only so many nice days each Fall. How do you want to spend them? Enjoying time with the family or cleaning windows? It can be a big job, especially if you are not used to doing it and don’t have the equipment, and can take many hours or a couple of days depending on how hard your windows are to access. How valuable is your time?

  2. Quality – Most of the time we think of window cleaning with a squirt bottle and rag. This does clean the window, but do you get streaks? We have experimented with many types of cleaners from name brands to professional brands to home recipes. There really is a difference, but even the best of them still can leave streaks as you cannot completely remove all the cleaner. When we clean we wet the window with a window mop, scour it to get bug remains and other things off, and then strip the window with a squeegee. This leaves nothing on the window; you are left with a crystal clear piece of glass. It will stay looking good longer as well.
  3. Safety – Cleaning windows inevitably involves ladders or step stools to reach the higher ones. How comfortable are you ladders? Some of us are, and some are not. If you are unsure on your feet or have a fear of heights, ladders are not for you. Even worse is when we don’t have access to the proper ladder or stool and we improvise! Standing on buckets, chairs, tables, etc. is dangerous. Having fallen off a bucket and broken my patella (kneecap) I can attest to this! Don’t risk it. We have the equipment and training to do the job the right way.

This fall, why not let us clean your windows? We can come out and do a free estimate. It will make your house shine and let the radiance of Fall and the fall colors flood your home.

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.