Tuesday, 6 January 2015

How to Remove Basic Stains

When dealing with a stain, a lot of people think they can improvise. After a spill, they head to the cleaning cupboard, pick what they believe might work, and give it a go. When that doesn't remove the stain, they try something else, then when that isn't successful, they bring out another product and on it goes until they end up making an even worse mess. Keep in mind that every time you add another chemical, you change the stain's chemical signature. For example, if you spill red wine on the carpet, clean it with bicarb and vinegar; however; if you've mistakenly used soda water; then a spot remover, you can't can't then just use bicarb and vinegar because the stain signature has altered. You're no longer dealing with a simple red wine spill - you have to remove the new stains you've created in addition to the red wine stain! The take-home message from this is: fist, work out what the stain is, then what the surface is and fix it. 

Here is a checklist of things to consider before tackling a stain:


Work out what the stain is made of: is it protein, fat, chemical/biological dye or resin/glue?

Know what the surface is - the kind of fabric, flooring, benchtop etc. that you've stained.

Know the appropriate chemicals to use to remove the stain. If in doubt, speak to an expert. Try to minimise the number of chemicals you use. 

Unless you know it will work, always do a test patch first. It's a good practice run! 

Never spot clean stains on your carpet within four weeks of it being stream cleaned. Vacuum clean the carpet four times before you spot clean it as spot cleaning stains can adversely react with steam cleaning chemicals. 

Never use excessive water or moisture on carpet. More is not better!

Wear appropriate clothing, such as gloves, goggles and mask, especially when using heavy chemicals. 

Don't make chemical mixes you don't understand. Mixing certain chemicals can create toxic fumes. You could add one chemical to another and create a toxic fume, ruin a surface or even have an explosion!

Remove stains as soon as you notice them. Don't wait - they become harder to shift with time.

Stain-removals solutions are not interchangeable. You can't use advice relating to carpet on your woolen jumper . Every surface is different.

There is no substitution or approximation. If you don't know, get expert help.

Protein stains are one of the trickiest to remove because you must not use heat, detergents or many commercial spot removal products on or near them. If you do, it sets the stain. It's just like cooking an egg which goes hard as soon as you add heat. Many proprietary cleaning products will set protein stains. The best way to remove protein stains is with facial soap, cold water and, if it's on carpet, a little water. Scrub soap on the stain, then blot it with a paper towel until it has been removed. Protein includes any animal product such as blood, gravy, meat, eggs, cheese, milk, seeds and beans, Once you remove the protein part of the stain, you can then apply heat to remove other stains.


Oil, grease and fats include vegetable oil and butter. The best de-greaser is dish-washing detergent. You can see how it works when detergent is added to a greasy sink! Be aware that fat stains are often combined with protein stains. If food has been cooked in oil, or has fat in it, such as a lamb chop, the protein part of the stain has to be removed first. Make-up generally contains lots of oil too; detergent is the solvent to use. The best way to determine oil stains is by rubbing the stain between your fingers - fat and oil make your skin slippery and shiny. To remove them, use detergent and warm water. Only use the tiniest amount of water on carpet or upholstery.

Carbohydrates are starches and sugars. They're found in potato, rice and paper glues. The best way to deal with these stains is to allows them to dry, then brush or vacuum them out. For example, if you spill rice on the carpet, remove any solids, pat the area with paper towel, leave to dry then vacuum. If the stain has any other component, such as salt, dilute with a little water first, then apply the process describe above. For sugar stains, add a little vinegar or a little detergent to help break then down.

Inks, paints and dyes require a solvent. Vegetable dyes, such as those found in artificial or naturally coloured foods, are best removed with sunshine. If you can't get the stain in the sun, use an ultraviolet light which can be hired from the chemist. Sponge the area with a small amount of equal parts lemon juice and water then aim the ultraviolet light over the stain. Check the stain every 2 hours until it fades. Some vegetable dyes oxidise, which means they respond to oxygen in the air - like a cut apple turning brown on its surface. As they oxidise, a tannin stain is produced. Remove tannin stains by wiping with a little glycerine, leave for 15 minutes then sponge out with a cloth that's been wrung out in vinegar. Repeat until the stain is gone. The glycerine takes the stain backwards in time a little. This procedure is particularly good for beetroot stains. Again, if the stain is on carpet, don't use too much moisture.

To remove paint stains, you need to know if the paint is water-based, acrylic or oil based. For children's water-based paints, remove with soap and water. For acrylic house paint or tube paint, use methylatd spirits. If oil-based, use white spirit/dry cleaning fluid.
Resin stains require a chemical solvent. For apoxy resins, use acetone. You must use acetone and not nail-polish remover. Take care using heavy chemical solvents. Be mindful that the solvent may break down surfaces around the stain. For example, white spirit/dry cleaning fluid will break down paint, so only apply the solvent to the stain itself, rather than the surrounding area. Be careful how much you use.  

Quick Guide to Removing Stains


Below is a kind of ready reference or quick guide to stain removal from fabrics:

Beer (including dark beer) Paint a paste of Napisan Oxygen on the stain and leave for 15 minutes. Then wash normally. 

Beetroot Treat with glycerine before washing normally.

Bird droppings Wash fabric normally.

Blood Wash fresh bloodstains through the washing machine on the cold setting. If you can't, use cornflour and water. For old bloodstains, use cold water and soap.

Chewing gum Harden the gum with ice and cut as much of as possible with scissors or a blade. Then apply dry cleaning fluid with a cotton ball, sprinkle talcum powder to absorb it and work the remaining gum out by rubbing in circles.

Chocolate First clean with soap and cold water. Then clean with soap and hot water.

Coffee or tea For fresh stains, use glycerine applied with a cotton ball, then wash in washing powder. For old stains, use glycerine, then dry-cleaning fluid and detergent.

Deodorant Use dry-cleaning fluid before washing.

Egg yolk Use soap and cold water first, then washing powder and warm water

Fruit juice Use detergent and sunshine. For stone fruits and fruits with a high tannin, treat the stain with glycerine first.

Grass Use dry-cleaning fluid before washing in washing powder.

Grease and oil Detergent suds. For heavy staining, soak in baby oil first.

Hair dye Dry-cleaning fluid or kerosense, or hairspray if you can get to the stain immediately.

Ink or ballpoint pen Rotten milk or dry-cleaning fluid. Use glycerine first on red ink.

Lipstick and make-up Dry-cleaning fluid.

Milk Wash normally on cold cycle.

Mud For red clay mud, apply dry-cleaning fluid then wash. For black mud, wash in the washing machine.

Nail polish Apply acetone, not nail polish remover.

Paint For water-based paint, use methylated spirits. For oil-based paints, use turpentine.

Rust Use CLR or lemon juice and salt.

Sap Apply dry-cleaning fluid.

Shoe polish Use methylated spirits.

Soft drinks Treat as though it's fruit stain because soft drink are made of vegetable dyes.

Sweat Make a paste of Napisan Oxygen and water and leave on the stain for 15 minutes before washing normally.

Tar Use baby oil, kerosene or dry-cleaning fluid.

Urine Wash in washing powder and dry in sunshine.

Vomit Washing powder, sunshine or Napisan, washing machine and dryer. 

Wax Ice, dry-cleaning fluid, talcum powder.

Wine New red wine - vinegar. Old red wine - glycerine, bicarb and vinegar. White wine - vinegar. 

Prevention is Better than Cure


It's a well-known phrase, but a good one. Ask yourself before you embark on an activity; what can go wrong and how can I prevent it? Try to anticipate potential stains and put into place measures to avoid them. For example, for high dirt areas, spray carpet with Scotchgard (this works on shirts as well); use old newspapers on the tops of cupboards to capture grease and grime. Don't do things like serve spaghetti bolognese on white shag-pile carpet - your're just asking for trouble! Create specific areas for doing messy jobs. For example, clean shoes outside or on several layers of newspaper.

And remember: when removing stains from carpet, always rinse chemicals out after you've cleaned. This applies even with basic chemicals such as vinegar and milk. If you don't you'll be left with bad smells and more stains.

When doing the laundry, prevent disasters by reading the labels on your clothes. Use the recommended washing temperature. If the information isn't included on your clothes, I recommend washing in warm water - unless there's a protein stain. If there's a protein stain, wash in cold water. Warm water relaxes the fibers and makes cleaning easier. To avoid shrinkage, use the same water temperature in the wash and rinse water. Wash woolens in blood-heat water.

For new garments, put the iron on a cool setting in case the garment contains a fiber, such as elastin, that reacts with heat. You don't want to end up with a shriveled shirt! Never iron clothes with any stains on them because you will set the stain.

Since cleaning is essential for a healthy comfortable lifestyle, make it fun: stick a smile on your dial and do it together. Alternatively, you can always get a free quote from one our accredited Auckland commercial cleaners



Monday, 5 January 2015

Cleaning the Dining Room 

Dining areas are incredibly diverse, ranging from the formal to the chaotic. Use the same quick cleaning technique as the lounge room (see Cleaning the Lounge).

Cleaning Tables

If you have a valuable timber dining table, I strongly suggest using a table protector to guard against scratches. Use heat resistant placements and have extra mats for the centre of the table when serving. Using tablecloths will cut down on mess and speed up your cleaning.

Quick tip: Mixing beeswax, lavender oil and lemon oil on a cloth is a great timber cleaner. Antique stores often use this combination. 

What is French Polish?


French polish is created by layering very thin coatings of shellac either on timber or papier-mache. Clean it with a non-silicone-based furniture polish. Try not to use water near French polish because it will whiten the surface.

Quick tip: To repair a heat mark on a table

Heat marks appear as a white ring on your table. To repair  a French polish finish, use beeswax applied with a piece of lemon peel. If the table is very damaged, use a mixture of 1 part bicarb and 1 part olive oil, paint it onto the mark, leave it for a few minutes, then polish it off with a cloth. Polish normally.

Be very careful with polyurethane surfaces because if you scratch them, you'll have to reseal them. If you do scratch the surface of polyurethane, wipe it with Brasso in the direction of the grain. The mark will become worse before it gets better. Brasso works because it partially melts polyurethane. If the scratch has penetrated through the timber, you'll have to reseal the area which is a big job. If this is the case, seek the advice of a professional. 

If heat has bubbled the surface, for French polish, see a restorer. For a polyurethane finish, fill a syringe with 1 part Aquadhere to 20 parts water. The mixture should be the consistency of runny cream. Inject a small quantity into the centre of the bubble then press down. Place a weight, such as a heavy book, on it while it dries, using a piece of plastic wrap to protect the underside of the book.

Cleaning Chairs

Don't forget to wipe chairs because they are great dust collectors - and don't forget to clean the legs as well.

Vinyl: Clean vinyl with vinegar and water mixture then rinse with a damp cloth.

Fabric: Wash loose fabric covers or removable cushions regularly, either by hand or in the washing machine. If you can, have two sets of covers so you can replace them immediately. If you like, use different colours to change the whole mood of the dining area. Upholstered chairs should be vacuumed or brushed thoroughly with a lint - or clothes-brush. If they're stained, mix bran and white vinegar until it forms clumps and rub it over the stain. Leave to dry, then vacuum.

Leather: Leather should be treated with leather dew. For scratches, if the leather is brown., rub a cult walnut along the scratch. For other colours, use shoe cream along the scratch

Timber: Timber should be cleaned with a small amount of cider vinegar, water and a damp cloth. Shellac or French polish should be cleaned wit ha good non-silicone furniture polish.

Plastic: Plastic should be cleaned with a cloth wrung out in water. For stubborn stains, use dish-washing liquid applied with a cloth. Minor scratches can be treated with a small amount of glycerine on a cloth.

Stainless steel: The best way to clean stainless steel is with bicarb and vinegar. Mix them together on a sponge and wipe over the chair. Then wipe with a cloth that's been wrung out in water. For scratches, apply a dab of Gumption to a sponge and wipe over the scratch.
Then apply bicarb and vinegar and clean with a cloth.

Chrome: Clean chrome with a cloth and a little detergent and water or vinegar. 


Cleaning Mirrors

If you have mirrors in this room, clean them with a lint-free cloth dampened with methylated spirits and wrung out.

Quick tip: Place mirrors high enough on the wall so that they can be tilted. Mirrors should never be flat but rather sit with a 10 percent title forward. A tilted mirror also speeds cleaning because not as much dust will sit on top of the mirror's edge.

Quick tip: If you drop candle wax on carpet or fabric.

Put ice on the wax to harden it then scrape as much away as possible with a blunt knife. Wedge a metal comb underneath the wax and put a paper towel on top of the wax, then use a hairdryer over it. The paper towel will absorb the wax. Repeat until all the wax is removed. Never use an iron carpet as it can char natural fibres or melt synthetic fibres. 



Cleaning Ornaments

Brass should be cleaned using a proprietary cleaner or my choice of cleaner, bicarb and vinegar. If you're coating it, use shellac rather than brass coat because it can be removed more easily.Be aware that brass will tarnish even after being coated, but the coating will help it last a little longer.

Bronze can be cleaned with a damp soapy cloth but never rub bronze or you'll remove the patina.

China should be dusted with a hairdryer on a low setting and use a small paintbrush for those difficult-to-reach areas. Wash every six months in blood-heat water and dry thoroughly with a hairdryer, if very dirty, add a little detergent to the water except if the item has non-china elements, such as lace or paper. Never soak china.

Clay should be vacuumed and dusted regularly. Never soak because clay absorbs moisture. If you wash, do so quickly and dry thoroughly so you don't lift the glaze.

Cloisonne is enamel fused into small wire pockets on the outside of a bronze, brass or copper vessel. Clean it with vinegar and water. Never use soaps because it will tarnish.

Embroidery where possible, should be kept out of direct sunlight. Keep it covered and inside cabinets. Hand wash gently if its's colourfast. If not, take it to a restorer or a good dry cleaner.

Ephemera should be kept as flat as possible under glass or in cabinets. Spray fabric with surface insecticide spray to keep bugs away.

Fabrics can be treated as you would your best table linen. Keep them well dusted and, where possible, vacuum.

Ivory can be cleaned with sweet almond oil applied with a cloth.

Lace should be hand washed in pure soap and rinsed very well. Glue medical gauze underneath a hole to hold it until you're ready to repair it properly. Embroider over the gauze in the same pattern as the lace, trimming away any excess gauze when you have finished.

Paper must be kept dust free and away from direct sunlight. Wash carefully with a slightly damp cloth. Just dab rather than wipe the paper. If in doubt, use a restorer or conservator. 

Silver can be cleaned with a proprietary cleaner or bicarb soda and vinegar. Polish with bran.

Timber, it it's sealed, can be cleaned using a good silicone-free furniture polish, it it's unsealed, clean with furniture oil.

Tinware can be wiped with warm soapy water and dried thoroughly with a rag dampened with sewing machine oil. This will prevent rust. If tin does rust, apply WD-40 with a cloth. To stop bugs eating paper labels on tinware, wipe the labels with a damp tea bag.









Saturday, 3 January 2015

Cleaning the Lounge

For many people, there's not a lot of lounging going on the lounge room. In some homes, this area is converted into a playroom for children with toys such as racing car tracks and doll's houses placed smack bang in the middle of the room. Other houses combine all the communal areas of the home -the lounge, dining and family rooms - into a grand living space. And yet other houses have separate lounge and dining rooms, formal spaces that are reserved for special occasions, which may also be the show-off rooms - the places where guests are likely to spend their time. Whatever your arrangement, the cleaning process is similar. Tailor these general instructions to your needs!

Assemble the Cleaning Kit

Clutter bucket - to transport displaced items; bicarb - cleaning agent; white vinegar - cleaning agent; mehtylated spirits - to clean mirrors and entertainment systems; furniture polish - to polish furniture; beeswax, lavender oil, lemon oil - combined to make furniture polish; cloth - to wipe over surfaces; dusters - to clear dust; paper towel - to absorb water and polish; insecticide spray - to deter insects; spray bottle - to hold vinegar and water; hairdryer - to clean ornaments; small soft paintbrush - to clean ornaments. 

Lounge Room Quick Clean 

Begin with your clutter bucket, putting it in anything that doesn't belong in the lounge room. Place it outside the lounge room. Add a little lemon oil to a soft broom head or a long-handled duster and dust the ceiling and light fittings - the lemon oil will transfer to the dusted surface and inhibit spiders. Then dust the walls with a broom covered in an old T-shirt. Wipe down all paintings, picture frames or wall art, especially along the tops of frames. Wipe light switches and power points with vinegar on a cloth. Wipe door jambs with either vinegar or detergent and water on a cloth adding lavender oil for fragrance. Dust over windows sills.

Quick tip: there is a knack to cleaning window sills. Use the fine nozzle or brush head on the vacuum cleaner and vacuum all the dust. Wipe over with a cloth that's been wrung out in the water. If there's any build-up of grime in the corners, wrap a cloth that's been wrung out in water over a butter knife and reach into the corners. You can clean sashes in the same way. The window action will work better if it's kept clean.

Wipe all surfaces including the coffee table with the appropriate cleaner. I advise against using silicone-based cleaners because silicone builds up each time you use it and traps dirt between the layers - and because there's no solvent for it, you can't release that dirt! To clean laminate, use equal parts white vinegar and water on a cloth. 

Clean glass tabletops with methylated spirits and a cloth, then wipe the glass with a paper towel until it squeaks. Never use furniture polish on glass and see a restorer for scratches. Perspex tables can only be cleaned with dish-washing liquid and water. Never use abrasives on perspex or it will mark (proprietary window cleaners are abrasive).

Don't forget to wipe along shelves. Anything that's a dust magnet, such as knick knacks, brick-a-brack or emphera needs to be wiped wit ha cloth that has been tightly wrung out in water.

Quick Tip: Hints For Blokes - because most men think visually, if they can't see it, they won't clean it. If dust and dirt is out of sight, before you start cleaning, use a three-step ladder to see where things need to be cleaned.

Dust should be blown off fragile ornaments with a hairdryer. Loosen any tough spots with a small soft paintbrush then use the hairdryer. 

If your fireplace is operational, clean it after each use. To clean the surrounds, simply dust the area with a soft clean cloth. Clean the mantle piece according to what it's made of. Use diluted vinegar to clean marble, then rinse with clean water. Timber can be cleaned with a little dish-washing liquid, water and an old pair of stockings scrunched into a ball. If there is some or soot staining, try cleaning with vinegar and an old pair of pantyhose first. If that doesn't work, collect some of the ash from the fireplace, mix with water and make a slurry, then wipe over the area. Allow it to dry then rub off with an old pair of pantyhose. To clean the inside cavity of the fireplace, hire a chimney sweep when you do you spring clean.

Next, sprinkle a small amount of bicarb over the carpet, couches and soft furnishings.Roughly pat the bicarb through the soft furnishings with you hands to both deoderise and clean any light soil marks. Then vacuum the soft furnishings and the floor. Make sure you remove the cushions on the couch and vacuum underneath them.

If you spill something on the couch, work out what the stain is made of, then use its solvent. Remove protein stains with cold water and soap suds, remove fats with warm water and detergents suds, remove chemicals with their solvent. You can identify protein stains because they have a dark edging around the stain. Carbohydrate stains are evenly coloured across the stain. 

If there are any spider webs around the couch, remove the and wipe lemon oil on the underside of the couch. Spiders hate lemon oil and will stay away.

Don't forget to clean bookshelves with the brush head attachment on the vacuum cleaner. Vacuum curtains, pelmets and picture rails with the brush head attachment. Before using the brush head attachment. make sure it's clean. To clean it, wash in water and dry in the sunshine.

Vacuum floors and if it's a hard floor, wipe over with a cloth that's been wrung out in vinegar.

Replace items such as doilies and tissues and fluff cushions. Have a small bowl of bicarb and essential oil for fragrance. Empty the clutter bucket then put away your clean kit and top up your master list.




Cleaning the Linen Cupboard

Linen cupboards can be located in various spots in a house. Many are situated at the end of the front hallway or on landings. I don't feel at home unless my linen cupboard is sorted. Whenever I move house, it's the first thing I arrange. It also means a pretty tablecloth is ready to use if people suddenly pop over. You may not have time to polish a table, but you can always throw a tablecloth over it.

The linen cupboard should be sorted by having items most used at eye level, those least used on higher levels and items for children, such as towels, on lower levels. Make sure there's nothing dangerous on the lower, child-accessible levels.

Speed your cleaning by storing linen according to the room it's used in. That way, when you're cleaning a particular room, you can easily grab one pile of linen rather than sorting through several shelves. If you only have a limited amount of storage space, have the linen piled from bottom to top, but group it according to the room it's used in. If you have items stored for a long time, wrap them in acid-free tissue paper to stop them from going yellow. Acid-free tissue paper is available from newsagents, art supply stores, picture framers and sometimes from dry cleaners.

Quick tip: If an item has gone yellow, it's generally because of soap residue. To repair cotton items, soak them in Napisan. For sil, hand wash in 1/4 cup of lemon juice added to a nappy-sized bucket of blood-heat water, then dry in the sun. For vintage items, use 2 teaspoons of soap flakes, 1/4 cup of white vinegar added to a bucket of blood-heat water, rinse then dry.

Bugs love linen, so keep bath salts and fragrant soaps in the linen cupboard to deter them. The salts and soaps will leave a lovely scent on your linen. Also use scented paper liners on the shelves, which you can make yourself. Never store medicine in this cupboard because the linen will absorb the smell. Even Band-Aids have an odour that will be absorbed by the linen. 

Cleaning the linen press is a spring/autumn cleaning job. Remove all the linen, then vacuum the shelves of the linen press. Shake each item and refold before returning it to its spot in the linen press.