Sunday, 14 December 2014

Know the Surfaces You're Cleaning

When choosing a cleaning product, you have to know what the stain is and what surface you're working with. For instance, is your wooden table bar timber or does it have a polyurethane, shellac, varnish or acrylic finish? If you don't know, you need to find out. The same goes for any surface you're working with: be it fabric, vinyl, leather or even carpet. They all react in different ways to different cleaning utensils.

What Cleaning Agents Are

Acetone is a volatile, flammable ketone. It's used a solvent for resins, primers, nail polish and heavy plastics. It can also be used to strip polyurethane, but be careful because it is very strong. It's available from the supermarket or hardware store.

Algene is a pool cleaning chemical and an alternative to chlorine. It kills algae, including mildew, and its great for cleaning paths.

Aquadhere is a PVA wood glue and sealant.

Beeswax is the wax produced by bees when making honeycomb. It's a great polishing agent for sealed (except polyurethane) or unsealed timber finishes.

Bicarb is bicarbonate of soda, sodium bicarbonate or bicarb soda. It's a salt and an alkaline that neutralizes acid. It penetrates stains and dissolves grease on many different surfaces. It's available at the supermarket, generally in the cake-baking rather than the cleaning aisle.

Bleach is a whitening agent that weakens fibres. It makes stiff linen become fine linen.

Blu-tak is a putty-like proprietary product used to temporarily adhere one surface to another. It can also be used to clean dirt from hard-to-reach areas.

Borax is a crystalline sodium borate that can be used as a fungicide, insecticide and detergent booster. It is mildly toxic: avoid contact with skin and do not ingest it. It is available from the supermarket.

Bran is the ground husk of wheat or other grains. It's absorbent and can be used as a scourer. It is good for cleaning fabric, fur, silver or silver-plated items.

Brasso is a proprietary product. It's an abrasive and a metal polish polyurethane and polyethylene surfaces. 

Camphor is a ketone from the camphor laurel tree. It has a strong vapour which moths and cats don't like. It's very flammable so never heat it.

Carpet cleaners come in many varieties. They can be soap-based, bicarb-based, detergent-based or alcohol-based. Be careful cleaning your carpets after they'e been steam cleaned because there can be adverse chemical reactions.

Cloves are a a spice that come from the dried flower buds of the clove tree. Cloves deter silverfish and moths are great for cupboards and bookshelves.

CLR stands for Calcium, Lime, Rust. It removes calcium deposits from glasses and kettles, lime scales from coffee machines, toilets and sinks and rust from cement, porcelain, chrome and fabric. It's available from the supermarket or hardware store. You can also use Ranex in the same way. 

Cornflour is a starch from maize, rice and other grains. It's absorbent and a very fine abrasive.

Denture soaker can be used to clean and remove stubborn grey marks on porcelain. It can also clean craze marks on china and remove fruit and plant stains from terracotta.

Detergent is dish-washing liquid used when washing kitchen paraphernalia by hand. It emulsifies grease and oils making them easier to remove.

Dry cleaning fluid is also known as white spirits. It's a solvent and is available from hardware stores.

Epsom salts are hydrated magnesium sulphate and are so named because they were found at Epsom in the UK. They are good for soaking aching limbs in the bath, for un-shrinking woolens and for magnesium-deficient plants.

Eucalyptus oil is an essential oil distilled from the leaves of certain eucalyptus trees. It's a pain stripper, adhesive solvent and releases vapors. It's available from the supermarket or chemist.

Fuller's Earth is a high-calcium clay with a bleaching action. It's very absorbent and acts as a wool relaxant, so it can be used to shrink or unshrink woollens or remove sweat from felt or to block hats. It's available at the chemist.

Goanna oil is rendered goanna fat used to restore glass that has glass cancer. It's very difficult to find but may be available at the chemist.

Glycerine is an odourless, clear liquid. It's used as as agent in cosmetics, toothpaste and shampoos and helps to loosen stains. It's available at the supermarket or chemist.

Graphite puffer is used to unstick locks and hinges. Graphite is a dry lubricant similar to a finely shaved lead pencil minus the clay. The puffer bulb allows access to tight areas.

Gumption is a whitish-grey cleaning paste which has many uses. It's great for cleaning baths and sinks. It contains a mild bleaching agent and abrasive. It's available at the supermarket.

Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidising liquid used as an antiseptic and bleaching agent. It's available at the supermarket or chemist.

Lavender oil is derived from lavender flowers and has many uses, including insect repellent, dog inhibitor, air freshener and toilet cleaner. It's available at the supermarket or chemist.

Lemon oil comes from the oil in lemon peel and is used a furniture polisher, spider and insect prohibitor and stain remover, as well as for its fragrance and flavour.

Methylated spirits is a raw alcohol with menthol. It's a solvent for some paints and can also be used to disinfect surfaces. The alcohol kills most bacteria but should never be applied to a timber surface. It's available at the supermarket or hardware store.

Napisan is a soaking agent, originally used to soak nappies, that comes in several varieties. Napisan Complete Nappy Treatment removes some proteins, oils, organic or petrochemical stains, but can only be used if the item being cleaned is white. Napisan OxyAction Max can be used on colours and is good tannin stains, protein, fats and oil stains. Napisan Plus Advance Soaker is great for mystery stains and for underarm deodorant stains. Use Napisan as a soaker, powder or create a paste by adding water.

Oil of cloves is a cold-pressed oil from the dried flower buds of the close tree. It's a mould inhibitor, insecticide - particularly for silverfish - toothache soother and cooking ingredient. It's available from the chemist.

Oil of pennyroyal is a oil from a small-leafed mint. It deters moths, fleas and hard-shell insects, such as beetles and millipedes, but is harmful to pregnant women and animals and shouldn't be used by them or near them. Pennyroyal can be difficult to obtain but you can always get living plants from your nursery.

Potter's plaster / plaster of paris is a white powder made of calcium sulphate. It forms a paste when mixed with water and can be shaped before setting. It's also absorbent and is good for removing stains from granite and pavers when applied in thin layers. It's available from art supply stores and hardware stores.

Ranex is like CLR and is used to remove calcium deposits, lime scale and rust.

Salt is an abrasive, a disinfectant and kills mould. When cleaning, use non-iodised table salt, which are cheaper.

Scotchgard is an abrasive, a disinfectant and kills mould. When cleaning, use non-iodised table salt, coarse cooking salt or swimming pool salt, which are cheaper.

Shellac is a varnish made from the resin of the Coccus lacca scale insect. The resin is dissolved in alcohol or a similar solvent and used for making varnish, polish and sealing wax.

Slurpex is a fine-grade, chamois-like block that is a very absorbent sponge. It removes moisture from carpet and other surfaces. It is only available directly from the company, Slurpex

Soap (cake of soap) used for general cleaning. The only difference between the cheap and expensive ones is the perfumes, oils and moisturisers used in them. Cheap ones are fine for cleaning and are often better.

Soap flakes are very thin pure flakes of soap. You can buy them as flakes or grate a cake of soap. You could also use a soap shaker for the same result. A soap shaker is a wire box with a handle. Place a cake of soap inside, clip it shut and run water through it or shake it in water to generate suds.

Soap powder is washing powder used for washing clothes in the washing machine.

Sweet almond oil is the oil extracted from almond nuts. It's used to clean bone and ivory and lubricate glass. It can be used to remove glass stoppers in decanters. It's available at supermarkets and chemists.

Talcum powder is an absorbent, a lubricant and a fine-grade abrasive. It can be used for polishing, absorbing stains or soothing babies' bottoms. It also helps prevent rubber from perishing. It is also useful for determining the tracks of ants and fleas.

Tea unless-specified, use black, Indian tea. Tea contains tannin's, which are good for cleaning aluminium, killing dust mites and inhibiting insects. It's also a great pick-me-up when sipped!

Tea tree oil is an oil extracted from tea tree bushes. It's used as an antibacterial and solvent for oil-based paints. It removes resin stains, such as sticky tape residue and wax.

Vanilla essence is the product of extract from vanilla beans combined with alcohol. It is used to provide fragrance and flavour to food and as a deodoriser. If you run out of perfume, dab behind your ears and you might get your neck nibbled. It is available from the supermarket.

Vaseline is a petroleum jelly that is used as lubricant, a water barrier and to stop snails getting into your letterbox.

Vinegar is an acid. It's a preservative, condiment, beverage, cleaner and sanitiser. Cider vinegar is a best on hard surfaces which are not colour sensitive. Don't use it on white tiles, white laminex or anything that is lighter than the colour of the cider vinegar. White vinegar is better for cleaning light-coloured surfaces, such as white marble, and fabric. Both are available from the supermarket.

White spirits is also known as dry cleaning fluid or Murlex. It's a solvent and is available from hardware stores.

Whiting is a fine-grade abrasive powder used in cleaning and polishing glass, furniture and polychromate sinks. When mixed with glycerine it can clean most plastics. It's available from leadlight stores.

WD-40 stands for Water Displacement, 40th Attempt. It's a high-grade penetrating oil and stops corrosion. It lubricates small areas and can inhibit some insects.

Woolwash is a mild soap or detergent mixed with eacalyptus oil and bicarb. It's available at the supermarket.