5 pro tips for speeding up spring cleaning

By Debbie Carlson – Chicago Tribune

Think smarter, instead of working harder, when it comes to spring cleaning. We asked professional cleaners how to make it go faster and easier, and still get the work done right.

1. Create a checklist. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the idea of spring cleaning, said Meg Roberts, president of Molly Maid.

A spring-cleaning checklist can not only ensure you have all your tools and cleaning products, but make sure you have the right ones for each room, she said. What you need for bathrooms and kitchens is different from what you need for living rooms and bedrooms.

“Do a little bit of an audit of your cleaning materials,” she said, adding that there’s nothing more frustrating than starting to clean and realizing you need to go buy something.

2. Prioritize and declutter. Deep cleaning kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms is always top-of-mind, but don’t forget the less-obvious areas, like the laundry room, the linen closet, the coat closet. “Things of that nature need cleaning up as well, but maybe they’re a lower priority,” she said.

Dan Brosseau, franchise owner at Two Maids & A Mop, said to start by putting things away and recycling what you no longer use. “It’s really hard to clean the home or, for that matter, even enjoy a clean home if there’s just a lot of clutter around,” he said.

3. The right tools. Spring cleaning goes faster and is easier with the right tools. Both Brosseau and Roberts have two favorite products — microfiber cloths and magic erasers. They recommend buying several microfiber cloths, so you’re not cleaning your kitchen with the cloth you used in the bathroom. Dedicate a different-color cloth for each room — red for the kitchen, etc.

“Microfiber is what’s used in hospitals all across the world because it removes 99 percent of bacteria from all surfaces with no cleaning solution whatsoever,” Roberts said. A truly green home can be cleaned with water and microfiber cloths.”

Magic erasers, such as those made by Mr. Clean, ($2.69 for a two-pack, Target) make cleaning easier when they’re used wet, Brousseau said, especially in showers, toilets and high-touch areas, like light switches.

Brousseau also finds pumice stones useful. They can be found in beauty aisles (for example, from Harmon, $2.49, Bed, Bath & Beyond) or hardware stores. The stones work great on rust and hard-water stains. Wet them, and use them as you would an eraser, he said.

Invest in a microfiber duster with an extendable rod, such as the Deluxe Hi-Reach Cleaning Kit ($39.99, Bed, Bath & Beyond), to get into the high corners in a stairway or for other high ceilings, Roberts said.

4. Watch the surface. In your zeal to clean, make sure you’re using the right product for the right surface; otherwise you may cause damage. Steam mops are great for tile floors, but be cautious with them on wood floors. “They can create a lot of water. Most homes today have a lot of wooden floors, and you do not want water (sitting on wood floors). If you put water down, you need a system to wipe it right back up,” Brosseau said.

Earth Friendly Product’s ECOS Floor Cleaner ($4.99, Ecos.com) is one of the products designed for hardwood and laminate floors. It comes in a spray bottle and doesn’t require water.

Keep magic erasers and pumice for tile and hard-surface areas. Don’t use a magic eraser on walls, he said, as it will take the paint off, and pumice can scratch mirrors.

5. Take it easy. Roberts said cleaning shouldn’t be exhausting. Instead, let the tools and the products do most of the work.

“We can tell when our new employees aren’t cleaning properly because they’re overcleaning. They’re getting tired by scrubbing,” she said.

Instead, she says apply cleaning solutions, like multipurpose cleaners, and let them sit for a bit. “Apply the cleaning solution in the shower, and walk away and go clean the sinks. By the time you get back to the shower, the solution is soaked in. You have to do a lot less scrubbing if you let the solution sink into the area that it’s intended to clean,” she said.

Debbie Carlson is a freelance writer.

Posted on March 20, 2018 at 7:20 pm
Noemi Cardoso | Category: Home Improvement, Real Estate News, Seller's Advice | Tagged ,

3 ways to protect Home Exteriors

guttersMost siding material require little to no upkeep. Brick, engineered wood, stone (both natural or manufactured), and fiber cement are thought to last for the life of a home, according to a report released by the National Association of Home Builders and Bank of America, “Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components.”  But Frank Leash, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors, offers some pointers to be shared with home owners to help them protect their siding from damage including:

Keep foliage away: Make sure no plants are growing on the siding. “Plants can trap moisture and allow insects and animals to infiltrate,” Leash says. “You want the siding to be exposed to the elements.”

Watch where water may be getting in: Check areas around the windows and doors to see if water is getting in. Moisture can linger and eventually cause rotting or fungal growth. Make sure those areas have been properly caulked or tuckpointed to prevent seepage.

Keep the gutters cleaned:  Many home owners think they only need to check for clogged gutters in autumn when leaves are falling. A neighbor’s stray tennis ball, a bird’s nest, or even squirrels stocking up for winter can quickly become a serious problem. If water backed up in your gutter, it could damage your siding too, Lesh notes. Have gutter checked at least twice a year. Or better yet, clean them four times a year to prevent back-ups.



Posted on October 19, 2016 at 7:00 am
Noemi Cardoso | Category: Home Improvement | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The New Higher-Impact Way to Hang Art

how to hang photos

British architectural and interior designer Ben Pentreath had finally persuaded an English antique map peddler to part with his last copy of a detailed engraving of 18th-century London’s streets. But the triumphant cartophile faced one problem: how to hang the 24 panels that comprised the 13-by-7-foot map.

Mr. Pentreath turned to a technique designers use on collections of similarly sized art (or large images broken into pieces): Framing each panel identically, he butted them to form a tight grid. This kept the presentation compact and imposed a pleasing geometry over the unruly arch of the Thames. (Antique maps of this size often come ready-made in panels, and Mr. Pentreath doesn’t recommend taking scissors to an image to achieve this look.)

The grid technique is arguably more surprising when you’re framing individual but related images. This refreshing alternative to salon-style hangings has major impact but captures viewers’ attention more quietly than the “trendy, heroically-sized works” that “consume the viewer as well as the room,” explained Manhattan-based designer Jeffrey Bilhuber.

“The individual images draw you in,” said another New York designer, Richard Mishaan,“and when you stop looking closely, they become a wallpaper.” He hung 12 photos by Massimo Vitali in a client’s dining nook. The shots—from crowded Italian beaches to Alpine resorts—share an overexposed, sun-faded quality that unites the group. Any thread, such as genre or color scheme, can unify botanical prints, 19th-century silhouettes, even vintage wallpaper samples.

Explaining why he massed a client’s collection of etchings by German artist Thomas Schütte, Mr. Bilhuber said, “Having them in this grid format creates a dialogue.” Dispersing them throughout the house breaks up the narrative, diminishing their impact.

Thin, equal-sized frames work best. Matting can compensate for slightly different sizes of art. And a second set of eyes will help make sure the arrangement coheres.

Downsizing is completely acceptable. “A 10-by-10 grid of 1-inch-square intaglios,” said Mr. Bilhuber, “could be powerful.”


Posted on October 5, 2016 at 7:00 am
Noemi Cardoso | Category: Home Improvement | Tagged , , , ,

How to Paint a Room Like a Pro

painting supplies 

Painting a room is one of the quickest and most impactful ways to give your home new life. The problem? Most homeowners who hire professional painters will pay somewhere between $380 and $790 for a 10-by-12-foot room. Ouch! Going for a whole house refresh? That could cost between $941 and $2,431 on average, according to HomeAdvisor’s Home Interior Painting Cost Guide.

You’ll slash those costs by doing it yourself, but beware: A bad job could launch you into a vicious cycle of painting again and again (and again) to cover up mistakes. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you learn how to properly wield a brush and roller.

Here’s how to paint a room in a way that will reap fantastic results.

Buy the right materials

Set yourself up for success by buying the right equipment. Aside from paint, of course, you’ll need paintbrushes, rollers, trays, tarps, and painters tape (no, the edger tool won’t cut it). Don’t skimp on what you buy.

“Really cheap paintbrushes do not work. These cause more problems by not applying the paint properly,” says Dwayne Siever, founder of the Real Milk Paint Co. “Buy a higher-quality brush or foam brush, and you’ll save yourself a lot of aggravation.”

Test your paint

Before you jump in and lay down the first coat, paint a sample on the wall and give it time to dry. You want to make sure the texture and color work well in the room, and both can change from how it looks when wet.

To save yourself time, money, and aggravation, buy two or three sample-size paints in varying shades and finishes (paint stores will mix any shade you want for a small fee), and try them all on the wall at once.

Prep the room for painting

Got your paint all set? Hold on, partner—you still have some more prep to do. Start by covering any remaining furniture and the floors with plastic tarps or sheets you don’t mind ruining, and don’t be stingy.

“Be sure to cover the whole floor, rather than moving a painter’s cloth around the room where you’re painting,” says Siever. Moving a dropcloth will interrupt the painting process, which is not good if you want a seamless paint job. Plus, it may get folded and end up smearing paint on the surfaces you’re trying to protect.

Next, run painters tape along the edge where the wall meets the ceiling, making sure the corners are fully covered. Then clean the walls; the cleaner the surface, the smoother your new paint job will be.

“Clean dirt off with TSP (trisodium phosphate) or any other residue-free cleaner,” says Siever. “For painting over glossy paints or surfaces, sand lightly with 220 grit for better adhesion.”

Paint the room

It’s finally time to paint! Just make sure you do the edges first, top to bottom, with a foam brush. Once you’re ready to work on the main part of the wall, use a roller and apply gentle pressure. Keep it slow and steady.

“Rolling too fast will spray paint around the room,” says Siever.

And don’t stop or move to another section before you reach the borders you painted earlier.

“When you are painting a wall you need to keep a wet edge. Do not stop in the middle of a wall,” says Siever. If you stop and come back later, you’ll end up with uneven patches.

Once you’re done, leave it be. Wait for the manufacturer-recommended amount of time before touching the wall or removing the painters tape. We know you’re eager to see your fantastic paint job, but jumping the gun will cause smudges. Wait it out for the best results.

Posted on September 28, 2016 at 7:00 am
Noemi Cardoso | Category: Home Improvement | Tagged , , ,

Cool Home Decor Hacks That Cost $3 (or Less!)

How you decorate can make or break your home’s appearance—but it can also break the bank. On one hand, who doesn’t want to be surrounded by lovely, eye-catching items? But on the other, can you really justify blowing a bundle on pillows and candles?

No, we can’t either. And, thankfully, we don’t have to.

Check out these cool home decor hacks that cost $3 or less for your pantry, pillows, lamps, and beyond.

Pillar candles

Perennially plain ivory pillar candles get a fun and funky face-lift with the help of a little tape. Allison Griffith of Refunk My Junk creates DIY washi tape candles but notes that you can use electrical tape if you have it on hand. Just remember to remove those stripes before you light them.

Adding tape to create a unique candle is a bright idea you'll use again and again.
Adding tape to create a unique candle is a bright idea you’ll use again and again. Refunk My Junk.com

Decorative doorknobs

A $3 can of spray paint is all it takes to elevate these doorknobs from dated to decorativein no time. Rene Peery Beagle, aka the Domestic Lady, notes that this is a perfect project for DIY novices, and can add a touch of elegance to your doors and overall decor.
Add instant character to your door with a bit of paint. thedomesticlady.com


If you’ve admired the colorful countertop jars at your local Anthropologie but didn’t want to cough up the big bucks for them, Sarah Khandjian of Sarah Hearts shares the secret to creating knockoffs for practically pennies. Just slap chalkboard adhesives onto jars so you can write (and change) the label based on what’s inside.


Chalkboard adhesives take your regular spice cabinet to new heights. sarahhearts.com

Repurposed Mason jars

In case you didn’t already recognize the versatility of the almighty Mason jar, here’s another reason to love the go-to canning favorite. Lauren Shaver of Bless’er House puts the glasses to work as a decorative addition to a vanity light fixture. Spray-painted in oil-rubbed bronze, this light looks like a vintage piece you’d pay a pretty penny to own.

Skip preserving that jam and create this clever sconce instead. www.blesserhouse.com

Cute throw pillows

If you can’t look at a bandana without picturing singer Bret Michaels, we’re about to change that mental image for you. Heather T. of Heathered Nest takes the country-style kerchiefs and turns them into cute-as-can-be throw pillows. They’re available at the dollar store in an array of colors. So go ahead, go bandanas!

Bandanas—they’re not just for pirates anymore!  Heathered Nest.com

Organizer for measuring cups and spoons

If your measuring cups routinely cascade onto your head when you open a kitchen cabinet, or you spend hours looking for a tablespoon, you’ll want to try this clever home improvement hack from Beckie Farrant at Infarrantly Creative. Just grab a yardstick or paint stirrer, and mark where each measuring tool goes, add hooks, and you’ve got anorganized storage solution in minutes.

Find those measuring tools at a glance instead of hunting through drawers.
Find those measuring tools at a glance instead of hunting through drawers. infarrantlycreative.net

Fancy mirror

Transform an old mirror with the help of some colorful clothespins. The tutorial, shared by Aunt Peaches, makes it sound so simple, you may find yourself buying  more clothespins to fancy up other decor.

Dye your clothespin to match or offset your decor, and sit back and watch your guests admire your creativity. AuntPeaches.com

Stylish chair

This inexpensive office chair makeover is an attractive addition to your home office.Allison Murray of Dream a Little Bigger took a seat and gave it a new lease on life with two cans of paint and a little TLC.

This retro desk chair gets a fresh look thanks to a fresh application of spray paint.
Posted on September 21, 2016 at 7:00 am
Noemi Cardoso | Category: Home Improvement | Tagged , , , ,