Friday, August 9, 2013

Let's Clear the Air

In keeping your home clean and your family healthy, it’s easy to overlook the unseen risks that can accumulate over time. Home heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) and vent maintenance are easy ways to keep your house comfortable year round.

An HVAC system heats your home during the cold Chicago winters and keeps it cool in the summer. Changing the HVAC air filter is critical for ensuring efficient operation of the system and decrease operational costs. The filter keeps pollution and debris out of the system. As you would expect, a dirty filter slows down the air flow, making the system work order and use more energy.

According to, HVAC filters should be changed from once a month to once every three months, depending on the type of system in use. The manufacturer will provide this information in the owner’s manual. Frequency of changing the system, however, is also dictated by how much the HVAC is used. If the air conditioner runs infrequently and windows are kept open to circulate air, this may reduce the need for frequent filter changes. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions for installing the replacement filter, which can be purchased at hardware or home-improvement stores.

Venting your problems
The air vents and ducts move air throughout your house. Over time, it’s possible they will become dirty or contaminated with mold and dust. Keeping a dryer vent clear is also important for reducing the risks of fire.

Mold develops in areas where moisture accumulates with poor ventilation. If mold develops inside your air ducts, spores may be released into your living areas. If present, mold will appear inside the hard surfaces of the air ducts or on other areas of a heating and cooling system. If insulation becomes damaged or moist, replace it.

Air ducts and vents can become clogged by debris or even small animals. If this occurs, mold and mildew can be present in the decayed matter, which will then blow into your home.

The home ventilation system should be professionally cleaned and inspected annually, to ensure the integrity of the system. This is especially true if you suspect you may have a mold problem, as this can difficult to detect by sight alone.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Is My House a System?

Keeping your home clean can lead to improved health and well-being, but where do you start? A spritz with an air freshener spray or a swipe with duster may make take care of obvious debris, but that’s a quick fix. Even a fresh-smelling home can be masking an undercurrent of health risks. Home indoor air quality is affected by a combination of non-organic and organic products and chemicals. These can range from plastics and paints, tobacco products, craft and hobby materials to heating and cooling equipment. Even your furniture can affect air quality, especially those made from pressed wood products.

Respected news organizations like ABC News have done indoor air quality special reports and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers indoor air pollution one the nation’s top  health risks. As more and more people work and play indoors, the opportunity for exposure increases. An average home has been reported to have more than 100 dangerous pollutants.

“But my house is clean,” you may say. “I vacuum and clean regularly. It looks clean!”

Looks can be deceiving. In particular, indoor air quality is subject to a wide variety of elements, including bio material (pet hair, dust, mold spores, bacteria, etc.) and outdoor pollutants (pesticides, dirt, etc.). These materials can settle into your carpet, your drapes and curtains, your furniture or your ventilation. That’s why it’s important to look at your house not just as a structure, but as a system requiring regular maintenance. From your foundation to your roof, a home has interconnecting areas influenced by each other. Dirt deposited on a rug by the front door, for example may be tracked throughout the house if that rug isn’t cleaned often.

Cleaning air filters, rugs and carpets may not seem related, but they contribute to overall the health and well-being of your family. There’s a lot of cleaning activities you can yourself do to improve air quality, like opening windows (weather permitting) or regular cleaning of carpets and area rugs. This is especially true for high-traffic areas, where moisture may accumulate and unseen mold has an environment to grow.

Further, just as a twice-yearly checkup at the dentist is a good idea for even those of us who brush and floss regularly, professional attention to your carpet and ventilation systems is important for continued “house health.” Professional attention to your key house areas – floors, walls, vents, furniture and more – can maintain the health of the occupants, as well as extend the life of your interior furnishings and floors.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Use the Right Tools to Clean

Your carpet is one of the most visible features of your home. Carpet and rugs can be expensive to replace but, with some routine maintenance, can maintain a fresh appearance for years. The key word is “routine.” Keeping carpets clean means more than the occasional pass with the vacuum cleaner. Regular vacuuming with a well-maintained and properly-filtered vacuum cleaner can go a long way to keeping carpet looking new, in between cleanings.

Even with regular sweeping, normal traffic from children, from pets and from outdoor debris can soil carpet fibers and dull the appearance of your carpet. This is why a regular cleaning regimen with a professional carpet cleaner is important.  Your carpet may appear clean on the surface, but periodic cleaning by a certified
technician can remove what you can’t see and help your carpet retain its fresh appearance.

One easy way to keep carpets fresh-looking is, while vacuuming heavily trafficked areas, crisscross these places multiple times. Just one pass of a household vacuum is usually enough to dislodge the most superficial dirt; deep-down particles need more work. Even if the carpet looks clean, it’s not. Dirt and debris can lurk underneath the surface fibers and contribute to lingering odors.

Some carpet types are harder to clean than others, and the material of the fabric, dyes used and length of the pile all factor into this.  Since the construction and sturdiness of the fibers are also variables that affect how maintenance is performed, consider hiring a professional when the correct approach is unclear, especially for the most persistent stains and invasive odors.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Life Happens

Life happens between professional cleaning appointments, however, so there are times when you will have to clean tough stains appearing from random spills, mishaps and accidents. When a spill happens, it’s important to act quickly, but not rashly.  The first step would be to contain the stain; ensure a stain does not spread by blotting to soak up the liquid, rather than using a rubbing motion. Also, start at the edges of the spill and work towards the center. Once you’ve blotted up the excess liquid, you’re not done.

Read the labels on cleaning solutions, because not all of them are suitable for all stains. Some solutions have bleaching properties appropriate for certain colors or fibers but may damage others. A solution that may be fine on one rug may entirely ruin another. How do you know? Perform a spot-test on a leftover carpet remnant is a good way to see if discoloration will happen if you use the solution. (Of course, a professional cleaning service would render these services unnecessary, as these trained technicians know the right products and techniques for different cleaning situations.)

Some spills require different approaches. For example, red wine is a particularly difficult spot to treat and remove. Red wine, along with coffee and tea, is heavily saturated with organic compounds called “tannins.” The astringency from the tannins is what causes the dry and pucker feeling in the mouth following red wine consumption, and the modification of tannins over time plays an important role in the aging of wine. If improperly treated on the first try, a red-wine spot could become a permanent stain. Red wine may also have a reddish blue dye produced by the red grapes used to make the wine. If blotting excess liquid doesn’t yield results, a small amount of white wine may be used to restore a red wine spot. Nonetheless, a red wine stain should be examined by a professional carpet cleaning service before any extensive treatment.

Due to the presence of tannin, coffee and tea spills can also present cleaning challenges. Because they are so popular, coffee and tea drinks present frequent opportunities for spilling on carpets, area rugs and upholstery.  Never scrub coffee and tea stains; gently blot excess liquid with white absorbent towels and treat the area with cleaning products specifically designed for coffee and tea. Other product will permanently set the stain. If the stain is stubborn, consult with a professional cleaning service.

Pet stains are probably the most common household spots. There are many products on the market for treating pet stains; all pets are different with many variables (type, breed, diet, etc.), so consider your options carefully. In general, follow these steps:
First, gently remove any excess solid or liquid waste. Liquid waste should be blotted – never scrubbed! Do this using a white towel. Solid waste should be gently scooped away.
Second, allow the rest of solid waste to completely dry and then gently remove loose waste with a vacuum.
Third, treat both solid and liquid waste spots with an enzyme-based spotter designed for pet use. Do not blot up the spotter; allow it to dry.

Drying the carpet is an underestimated and often-overlooked part of the cleanup process. Wet carpet fibers and fabric can quickly pick up dirt if subjected to traffic and can result in musty odors if furniture is moved to a damp area. Give wet carpet plenty of time to dry.

Blood stains are an unusual occurrence in most homes and, fortunately, are usually small and don’t have enough volume to penetrate fibers deeply. Blood is a protein-based stain like urine and feces. If the spot is small, just let the blood dry and sit on top of the fibers for easy removal. If the blood stain does not penetrate fibers, there is a good chance the spot can be successfully treated.

Large amounts of blood, on the other hand, can sometimes be impossible to remove. If there is enough volume to fully saturate carpet and backing, professional cleaning is necessary. Only synthetic textiles like Nylon, Olefin or Polyester have the ability to partially release the proteins found in blood. Wool, Cotton and Jute can be permanently stained the instant that the blood penetrates the fiber.