Weekend Cleanup: Tackle All Your Floors

 

Hardwood floors

 

 

To keep hardwood floors looking beautiful, play it safe and use a dedicated wood cleaner, and follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully. Use a barely damp mop and dry thoroughly afterward; excess water can cause warping or other damage. If you spot a scratch, camouflage it with a wax stick made for floor scratches, or touch it up with a wood-stain marker. Notice a scuff? Buff it out with a clean, fuzzy tennis ball.

 

 

 

Tile floors

 

 

Clean everyday grime with a multipurpose cleanser. Mix it in a bucket of warm water and pair it with a mop. Afterward, rinse with clean water and dry with a lint-free cloth. Tools are key: Get yourself a grout brush for spaces between tiles and a cheap, stiff nailbrush for small corners where your mop doesn’t reach. 

 

 

Area rugs

 

 

Drag small rugs outside and vigorously shake them. If they’re machine washable, toss them into the washer with your favorite detergent plus a scoop of stain remover. Air-dry when done. For rugs that are too large to carry outside, vacuum thoroughly, then flip and vacuum the other side. Spot treat stains with a stain remover and warm water, then rinse. 

 

 

Wall-to-wall carpeting

 

 

 Move as much furniture as possible out of the room and vacuum the carpeting thoroughly. Then bring on the carpet-cleaning machine (if you don’t own one, you can rent one from a home improvement store for about $25 a day). Resist the urge to use more soap than the directions call for—excess suds can leave residue behind that attracts dirt. As you clean, aim for damp, not drenched. Let the carpet dry thoroughly, for about eight hours, then vacuum again.

 

Keep the clean longer

 

 

You can help keep your floors spotless by making your home a no-shoes zone: Outdoor shoes transfer bacteria like E. coli to floors, according to a University of Arizona study. In addition, vacuum and sweep at least once a week. And handle carpet and tile floor spills right away, because stains are harder to erase the longer they sit. 

 

5 Ways to Help the Environment

 

Fill the dishwasher.

 

 

Did you know: Running the dishwasher only when full can save 100 pounds of carbon dioxide and $40 per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Make sure whoever is on dish duty knows that the load shouldn’t be run until it’s full. If you have a newer appliance, skip rinsing before loading—you’ll save even more water.

 

 

Switch to cold.

 

 

Did you know: Doing the laundry in cold water for one year can save enough energy to drive a car up to 421 miles. There are detergents specifically formulated to work effectively in cold water that provide the same stain-removal and color-protection power as a regular detergent. Make the switch to cold, and start saving energy.

 

 

Unplug.

 

 

Did you know: You can charge your smartphone for a lifetime with the energy you save by switching to cold washing for one year. When your phone and other devices aren’t in use, unplug ’em! Store chargers in a basket or drawers to reduce clutter around the house. Use a drawer organizer or segmented basket to keep cords coiled and organized.

 

Bike to work.

 

 

Did you know: Switching your commute—even just a few days—from individual car trips to mass transit or biking can save a lot of energy. In fact, you save the same energy by biking to work for up to five days as you would by using cold water for laundry for a whole year. If you live in a city with a bike share program or are close enough to your office to make the commute, try it out! 

 

 

Turn off the tap.

 

 

Did you know: Leaving the tap running while brushing your teeth can waste up to eight gallons of water per day, according to the EPA. A little run of the tap here, a little run of the tap there, can add up to a lot of water loss. Save H2O by stopping the faucet when you’re not wetting or rinsing your brush, rinsing your hands, or washing suds off a dish. Like cold drinking water? Keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator at all times so you don’t have to run water from the faucet until it’s cold.

 

Mystery Stains? Presoaking Can Help

Presoaking stained or dingy laundry items can help restore your favorite things—be it a shirt or a child’s lovey—to their former brighter glory. And the reason is simple: soaking maximizes contact time between fabric and detergent.

Why a soak makes sense: When you immerse washable fabric in detergent and water, you give the cleanser and all its modern-day bells and whistles (the brighteners, the special crud-fighting enzymes, the sudsy stuff) time to soak into the fabric and lift stains.

For a basic presoak: Fill a sink, tub, or washing machine with enough water to cover your item, using the warmest water allowed on the fabric care label. Then add a measured full dose of your favorite detergent. Stir the water until the detergent is completely dissolved. Add your item. Presoak for 30 minutes, then launder as usual. (Always check the manufacturer’s label for laundry care instructions.)

For extra-tough stains: Mix a stain remover into the presoak with your detergent. If your clothes are brightly colored, make sure the stain remover has a color-safe form of bleach.

Take That, Sweat

Underarm stains can crop up on your favorite tees and blouses seemingly out of the blue. But the sources are no mystery: perspiration and buildup from antiperspirant/deodorant products.

The two culprits, close up: Sweat stains can be white or clear (and undetectable), and—over time—they can turn fabric dingy gray. Stains from antiperspirant/deodorant products tend to look yellow, green, or brown, and they can feel hard or crusty.

Best treatment: Both types of stains have the same solution. First, it’s important to launder the garment right away. Brush the excess stain off the surface of the fabric, and rinse in cold water. Wash the garment in warm water with both a detergent and stain remover. If the stain is stubborn, wash again as above before drying.

Prevention: To stave off future stains, it’s best to wash garments soon after each wear. Letting them linger in the dirty clothes hamper for days gives stains a chance to settle in. If the stain is caused by an antiperspirant/deodorant, be sure to apply a very thin layer of the product to your skin, and always wait a few minutes for a liquid or creamy product to dry before getting dressed. Both steps will reduce the chance that it migrates to your clothes. Take that, sweat! 

Pack (and Unpack) Smart

 

Clean your suitcases.

 

 

Get your vacation gear off to a great start by swiping away old travel-bag grime with a clean rag and multi-purpose stain remover mixed with warm water. Test a hidden spot for color fastness before cleaning the bag. Allow suitcases to dry completely before packing. 

 

 

Protect against spills.

 

 

Packing shampoos and other liquids in a protective carryall is key to preventing spills. If you don’t have a snazzy toiletry bag, store items in a soft lunch tote—the padded, well-insulated kind. It will protect your toiletries in transit and you can use it to carry food once you’re unpacked. Be sure to tuck a few detergent pods inside so you’re equipped if a wash load or two is needed, and include a stain remover pen, so you’re ready for messes on the run. 

 

 

Unpack right away.

 

 

Yes, we all want to jump right into vacation mode, but do take a few moments to unpack your clothes—and have your family do the same. The alternative is that everyone lives out of their suitcases and in a day or two (especially with kids) you have a pile of half-dirty, half-clean, wrinkled clothes, sending you to the Laundromat ahead of schedule.

 

 

Prevent wrinkles with tissue paper.

 

 

White tissue paper is a terrific anti-wrinkle tool. Just lay your clothes out as flat as you can get them between layers of tissue. Recycle the tissue as packing material for the trip back: Use it to wrap up any breakable souvenirs you buy.

 

 

Hand out the “hampers.”

 

 

Once unpacked, designate bags for laundry, whether it’s one for the family or one for each bedroom. Canvas totes can do double-duty as transport vehicles for sheets, towels, and pillows, and—once unpacked—as hampers. It’s another easy way to avoid the dirty-clean clothes mash-up, and to keep you in vacation mode, not cleaning mode.