5 Tips for Eliminating Odors

It’s spring cleaning time again, so we’re offering five tips on how to clear the air and get rid of any nasty lingering odors in your home.

natural cleaning
Baking soda and vinegar just keep showing up in cleaning tips. If you haven’t tried this pet safe, environmentally friendly cleaning method, it’s time you did. Image attribution: By katerha (http://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/5703151566/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
  1. Clear the drains: Garbage disposals are notorious for getting stinky, but even drains without disposals can get funky when they’re clogged. You might not even notice yet that the the sink is draining slowly, but whatever’s down there is stinking up the place. Start by pouring down a mixture of baking soda and vinegar followed by very hot water. If that doesn’t do the trick, call a plumber, or your maintenance department if you rent.
  2. Keep the humidity down: mold and mildew thrive in humid environments, so keeping your home well ventilated is key. Although mold doesn’t typically have an odor, so mildew is the most likely culprit when your home smells musty. If your bathroom doesn’t have a fan, open the window after each shower (or during if possible), and create as much of a cross breeze as you can by leaving the bathroom door open. Wiping down the shower/tub and sink after use also helps to cut back on mildew growth.
  3. Clean soft surfaces: Fabric absorbs odor, so to get your home smelling truly fresh you’ll want to take down all your drapes to wash them (take them to a laundromat with industrial sized machines). You’ll also want to either rent a carpet shampooer or hire a professional cleaner if you have large area rugs or carpeting. Hiring someone is the best route to go because they’ll be able to clean your upholstery as well.
  4. Banish smokers to the outdoors: This may seem obvious, but tobacco smoke deposits tar on all surfaces it comes into contact with, so the smell of one cigarette lingers for ages. To keep your home smelling fresh, smoke outside.
  5. DIY odor eliminators: Most of us know the old trick of keeping an open box of baking soda in the fridge to absorb odors, but that trick applies to more places than the fridge. Plus, coffee grounds do the same thing, so before you throw out your used grounds, consider saving them. A jar full of used, dried coffee grounds soaks up stink just as well as baking soda.

An Ode to Vinegar

We’ve touted the wonders of white distilled vinegar as a natural cleaner on many occasions. Today, we’d like to share something new that we’ve read: vinegar can help prevent mold growth! We’re not sure if it’s true, but since it seems to be true that it prevents mildew growth, why can’t it do the same for mold?

natural cleaning
Baking soda and vinegar just keep showing up in cleaning tips. If you haven’t tried this pet safe, environmentally friendly cleaning method, it’s time you did. Image attribution: By katerha (http://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/5703151566/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
This is how it apparently works: if you find mold growing, clean it up by soaking it in vinegar for an hour then wiping the area clean. After it’s all cleaned up, spray some more vinegar and just leave it there. Reapply every few days. Because vinegar is safe and non-toxic, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to give this a try.

Now, obviously this is no substitute for finding and repairing the source of the moisture that’s allowing the mold to grow in the first place. It is, however, a nice way to give yourself peace of mind that you’ve done everything you can to stop mold from growing.

Have you heard of this trick? What other uses do you know of for vinegar? Share in the comments below.

Pro tip: The best way to spot clean your carpet

Spilled drink? No problem! The contractor who cleans the carpets here at Alvern Gardens just offered us the insider’s secret to cleaning your carpet: Dawn dish soap.

If you have a small stain from a food spill, there’s nothing better than the same soap you use for cleaning food off your dishes. Just remember it’s all about technique:

natural cleaning
Just like tried and tru baking soda and vinegar, Dawn dish soap is an excellent gentle but powerful cleaner that’s safet o use around pets. Image attribution: By katerha (http://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/5703151566/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
  1. Take a paper towel or a plain white towel or cleaning rag (nothing colorful, you don’t want the dye to transfer to your carpet) and dampen it with cold water.
  2. Put a couple drops of Dawn dish soap on it and lather it up a bit with your fingers.
  3. Gently press (don’t scrub) the towel onto the stain. Keep dabbing to lift it out of the carpet fibers. Again, gently dab, don’t rub or scrub, as that only pushes the mess deeper into the carpet.

And there you have it: a clean carpet is as easy as 1, 2, 3! Now, if you have a big mess on your hands, it’s time to rent a machine or call in a professional.

Here are a couple bonus pro tips:

  • Never use bleach to clean a carpet: you’ll end up with a bleach stain!
  • A dye stain will never lift out without ruining the color of the carpet, so always use a drop cloth when painting or take your DIY project outside or to the garage.

Remember: keeping your home spic and span while you’re renting it is good for your security deposit.

45 Uses for Dryer Sheets

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/dont-throw-dryer-sheets-away-234400083.html

We stumbled across this article today on 45 ways to reuse dryer sheets. Because we like anything that saves money and gives new purpose to something that would otherwise land in the trash, we just had to share it.

Here are our personal highlights:

  • Cleaning bugs off your car with a wet dryer sheet is a much faster alternative to going through the car wash when all you need is that little touch-up.
  • Keeping bugs away while spending time outdoors is suddenly a lot easier and more pleasant. Goodbye stinky bug spray! And while we’re lining our pockets, we’re also going around our homes stashing dryer sheets under the mattress, under the couch cushions, and in other unobtrusive places in hopes that the creepy crawlies are kept at bay indoors too.
  • Getting deodorant marks off clothing is apparently made much easier with a wet dryer sheet, and we all know how stubborn those white marks are.
  • Reducing static in clothes and hair is one we’ve heard before, but it’s such a smart tip that it bears repeating. You can even wipe down your pit to reduce static in their fur.
  • Trapping and reducing tobacco smoke by exhaling into a dryer sheet is a brilliant way to keep your home smelling just a little fresher and a little less like smoke.
  • Removing soap scum and the ring around the toilet bowl is a hassle, but we can’t wait to try it with a dryer sheet.
  • Cleaning oven racks, irons, and scissors with a dryer sheets are probably some of the more far-fetched tips on this list, but it’s worth a try.
  • Wiping up dry spills like flour is easy with a dryer sheet because it traps small particles. Who knew!
  • Dusting, pet hair removal, and cleaning baseboards with a dryer sheet means you’re freshening your home at the same time you’re wiping up dust, debris, and pet hair.

Do you know any uses for dryer sheets that aren’t listed in the linked article? Share your tips below!

Preventive treatments against mold

We’ve posted a lot in the past about natural ways to keep your home clean, and we just came across this article on natural mold treatment and prevention methods. As it warms up (and gets more humid) here in the Pittsburgh area, we’d like to highlight a few of these preventive measures.

natural cleaning
These natural mold prevention methods will help you keep your bathroom (and the rest of your home) mold free.

The most important thing to remember about mold is that it thrives in moist environments, so keeping your home dry and ventilated is key. Opening windows when it’s nice out, drying the shower with a rag or squeegee after each use, and keeping your shower curtain closed to let it dry are simple steps to make habitual. In basements, crawl spaces, or other areas without proper ventilation, a dehumidifier might be in order. But there are other factors to keep in mind as well.

If you have a ventilation fan in your bathroom, kitchen, or elsewhere in your home, it’s important to clean it regularly. A clean fan is a functional fan. The same goes for air conditioners and heating/cooling ducts. If you rent your home, familiarize yourself with your lease and know who (you or your landlord) is responsible for maintaining whatever heating/cooling system you have.

An air purifier can calm your concerns about airborne mold spores. While some models are pricier than others, a little research will help you find the right unit for your space. They’re great for allergy sufferers and most don’t require much electricity to run. They can even help deodorize your home when it’s too cold out to open a window.

Now, we’ve already told you about how great vinegar can be for cleaning mold, but did you know it can help prevent mold as well? It can! Just spray it onto susceptible areas such as the grout around your bathtub, your bathroom ceiling, particularly moist corners of your basement, wherever, and let it dry. You’ll just have to deal with the smell for a little while, but that will fade. If the smell is too much, try diluted citrus seed extract instead. Whichever method you choose, you’ll need to reapply regularly. Luckily both of these preventive substances are natural and nontoxic.

If you find that you have a persistent problem area resistant to your every attack, it’s time to contact your landlord, or if you’re a homeowner, a mold specialist.

Related Posts:

Battling Mildew

How to clean your acrylic bathtub

Spring cleaning the natural way

Spring cleaning to protect your security deposit

Spring cleaning the natural way

If you scour the internet, you’ll find all sorts of creative natural cleaners that you can DIY with stuff you already have at home.

Not only are natural, homemade cleaners an affordable way to an effective yet safe and environmentally friendly clean, it’s also good for your security deposit. Some heavy duty cleaners out there are so harsh that they damage the very thing you’re trying to get clean, and you might not want to clean as thoroughly or as often if it involves a risk of inhaling dangerous fumes. With a natural, homemade cleaner, you’re unlikely to need protective gear and you don’t have to worry about using it around kids or pets. Plus, mixtures like baking soda and vinegar pack a punch without damaging surfaces.

natural cleaning
Bathrooms can be hard to keep clean, but natural cleaners can make the work safer and more affordable.

If you’re looking for smart uses for vinegar, vinegartips.com is our favorite place for pointers on one of the cheapest, most versatile natural cleaners out there.

Keep in mind though that vinegar isn’t the end-all-be-all, and it’s not always the best cleaner for the job. For example, vinegar is ineffective for wiping up raw egg as it will basically poach the egg as you’re trying to clean it up. Before you decide what product to use, consider the task at hand and what you want to accomplish. If you’re not sure what to use, check online for tips.

Most of the time, vinegar is the way to go for deodorizing and wiping away greasy grime. It’s excellent for wet dusting and getting your microwave to sparkle. For a deeper clean, combining it with baking soda for a fizzy paste does the trick. This method works wonderfully on stained coffee mugs. With any vinegar solution, giving it time to sit and do its work is key.

Here are some tips and recommendations we’ve offered in the past:

Spring cleaning to protect your security deposit

Cleaning tips for your acrylic bathtub

Battling mildew

Battling mildew

Mildew is gross, and it can building lots of places, especially in bathrooms. Here are some tips for keeping at bay—and cleaning it up when it appears.

cleaning mildew
Bathrooms can be hard to keep clean, and mildew is one of the main reasons. So ventilate, clean regularly, and attack mildew before it overwhelms your bathroom.
  1. Ventilate your bathroom. If you don’t have a ventilation fan in your bathroom, you surely have a window, so use it. As long as it’s warm enough out that your heat is off, and as long as it’s not raining, open your bathroom window. This is most important right after showering. To create a cross breeze, it’s a good idea to also leave your bathroom door open. If you prefer them closed, shut them again once the room is aired out.
  2. Wipe down your tub/shower after using it. Wiping away excess water with a squeegee or rag keeps mildew out of grout. Bonus: it also prevents soap scum buildup and stains.
  3. Clean it up right away. If you see mildew starting to form, clean it up as quickly as you can. The longer you wait, the worse it gets. No matter the cleaning method you use, make sure the room is well ventilated and wear rubber gloves while you work. You’ve probably heard of using bleach on mildew, but there are safer cleaners that don’t produce toxic fumes. Vinegar and undiluted hydrogen peroxide are two of the safest cleaning methods, and they work on a wide variety of surfaces. Mixing borax with warm water makes a safe, effective cleaner not only for mildew, but mold as well. The two-step process of baking soda and vinegar also works on both mold and mildew. First, spray a mixture of baking soda and water onto the affected surface, then spray vinegar on top of it. After the fizzing of the chemical reaction slows, wipe everything clean.

Just like keeping your bathtub clean, prevention is key when it comes to fighting mildew. So ventilate and wipe, and clean when you need to.

Related Posts:

Spring cleaning to protect your security deposit

How to get your full security deposit back

How to keep your acrylic bathtub sparkling (and protect your security deposit)

We’ve posted in the past about security deposits, spring cleaning, and other tips for renters. This week, we’re going hyper focused: how to maintain an acrylic bathtub. Why? Because a lot of tubs are acrylic now, and keeping acrylic clean requires slightly different methods from porcelain or enamel. Plus, the return of a renter’s full security deposit depends largely on how clean the rental is after they vacate it, and the bathroom (along with the kitchen) is one of the places renters tend to lose most of their security deposit.

bathtub cleaning
Bathtubs can be hard to keep clean, but giving your acrylic weekly attention will make your move-out process much easier.

Our main point is prevention: the cleaner you keep your tub for the duration of your lease, the easier it will be to get it downright squeaky upon move-out. This is especially important if your tub is acrylic, a porous material that stains more easily than others but also requires gentler cleaning methods.

Tub Maintenance

Deposits from hard water and soap scum are the main culprits of tub stains. To prevent these from building up, rinse your tub with warm water after each use and have a squeegee or rag handy for wiping it dry. Bonus: this keeps grout clean and mold free, too.

Weekly cleanings are paramount to protecting your acrylic tub, but you don’t need heavy duty products. You could use dish soap, a mixture of vinegar and water, or even shampoo. Don’t use abrasive scrubbing pads, as this will scratch the acrylic. A plain old sponge will do just fine for regular cleanings. The final step of your weekly clean should always be a rinse with warm water followed by a wipe down with a rag or squeegee.

Be sure to include your tub surround—be it tile or acrylic—with all of the above maintenance measures.

For the Tough Stains

Comet, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, OxyClean, Scrubbing Bubbles, Lime-A-Way, CLR Cleaner, and the list of products goes on. Sure, these work great. But you know what else works? Vinegar, baking soda, borax, hydrogen peroxide, cream of tartar. Whether you’re making a paste from Comet powder or baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, consistency and duration are key. Paste should be thick enough to stay put on a stain for an hour or more. Another method is to soak a clean white cloth in vinegar and lay it on top of the stain. You could also fill the tub with a mixture of hot water and vinegar until the stain is submerged, let it sit for several hours, then drain and scrub the tub.

A quick Google search will bring up all sorts of odd methods: dissolve laundry detergent powder, dishwasher detergent, or even denture cleaner in your tub filled with hot water. Scrub rust stains with toilet bowl cleaner. The lesson: think outside the box.

When it comes to soaking away stains, be patient. Find something else to do for the hour or more that the cleaner needs to soak. If the stain is still there, repeat the process. Make sure to follow the directions to the letter and soak for the maximum length suggested. If you have to re-soak, soak it longer the second time.

Once your stain has soaked and you’re ready to apply elbow grease, use a soft sponge, nothing abrasive.

When You Move Out

So you’ve been maintaining your tub meticulously for the duration of your lease, and now you’re moving. You take the time to clean everything thoroughly, including your tub. How do you make sure you’ve done everything right? How do you protect yourself? First, consult any pictures you may (should) have taken of the vacant apartment when you first signed the lease. Compare the picture of the tub before you started using it to the picture of how it is now. Do they look the same? Perfect! You’re all set to turn in your keys. If your tub has stains that weren’t there when you moved in, take a little more time to get rid of them. If you notice them, you can bet your landlord will too and take the cost of cleaning out of your security deposit.

Once you’re confident that everything is how it was when you first moved in, take pictures of everything all over again. These will serve as evidence in the event that you have a dispute over the return of your deposit. If, however, you’ve followed all your landlord’s instructions and left everything as clean as how you found it, you shouldn’t have any problems.

Spring cleaning tips: good for your security deposit

March 20th is the first official day of spring, so this is a good time to share some spring cleaning tips. Keeping your apartment in ship shape throughout your residence there can make moving out and getting your full security deposit back a lot easier.

A key part of moving out of an apartment is cleaning it top to bottom, including shampooing the carpet and wiping down surfaces that perhaps haven’t seen a dampened rag in years. Spring cleaning makes this process much easier by ensuring those otherwise untouched spots get a nice scrubbing at least annually, preventing all that nasty buildup.

You’ve never used the top shelves in your cupboards because you can’t reach them? Now is the time to pull out a step ladder and wipe them down anyway. Your landlord has no way of knowing that you never used them so if they’re dirty when you move out, it’ll be on you regardless. Same goes for the top of your refrigerator.

It’s too bad refrigerators don’t have a self-cleaning setting like ovens do. You’ll have to pull out your crisper drawers and shelves and employ good old-fashioned elbow grease. For the microwave, loosen grime with steam.

Rearranging things like appliances and furniture will show you just where dirt and dust have collected, so after you finish the usual tour with the vacuum, pull all your furniture to the center of the room to get to all those nooks and crannies. Take all your appliances off the kitchen counters and wipe away the crumbs that have been hiding under them.

If dust bunnies have colonized your ceiling fan, use a spray or damp rag to clean them rather than a dry duster to avoid spreading the particles around. Use the wet dusting method for all your seldom-Swiffered areas.

Just because you’re not moving out, doesn’t mean you don’t need to shampoo your carpet, especially if you’ve been living in the apartment with a pet or two. You don’t have to go the full 9 yards and hire a professional or even rent a shampooer, you can use a can of carpet foam on high traffic areas like around the litter box and front door.

spring cleaning
Baking soda and vinegar is a cheap cleaning solution with a variety of uses. Pittsburgh’s own Heinz sells cleaning vinegar by the gallon. Image attribution: By katerha (http://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/5703151566/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
If you like to keep things cheap and environmentally friendly, you can take care of most of the above cleaning projects with solutions of white distilled vinegar and water.

Finally, here’s some things to ask about before tackling it yourself:

  • Check with your landlord or management company as well as the municipality where you live for rules about disposing large items. For example, one of the services maintenance provides at Alvern Gardens Apartments, is curb-side pickup of old furniture, this keeps the dumpsters from overflowing and ensures the property is always looking its best.
  • Read your lease and ask your landlord about unclogging drains, especially if you live in an older building. Acid products like Drano can corrode pipes and might not be OK to use in your rental.
  • Ask about regulations surrounding air conditioners in your apartment before you start installing them. At Alvern Gardens, you can pay maintenance $35 per a/c unit to avoid liability for leaks due to improper installation.