Should I Use My Vacuum on Construction Dust Clean-Up?

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Dear Home-Ec 101,
I just found your site. I could totally read it all day! I was not given a lot of training on house keeping and still struggle in my 40s now on how to do things properly.

I was reading your article about cleaning fine dust from construction mess and you said don’t use your regular vacuum. This might sound lazy of me, I do like to cut corners when I can, but will it damage the vacuum to use it for this or just fill up the bag quickly? We just had a couple rooms’ ceilings de-popcornized and we’re doing the rest of the sanding and eventually painting ourselves and it is a big dusty mess. We’ve been using our regular vacuum which seems to be working ok. We have a shop vac but my husband says it’s not very good and I would need to get the fine dust bags.

Vacuuming in Vancouver

Heather says

Construction clean up is certainly a pain and you have my sympathy. I’ll be right there with you when the contractor gets started here. (I am a wee bit excited)

When a regular household vacuum cleaner encounters fine dust particles it sucks them up, right along with the bobbie pins and legos, but certainly not with that one tiny piece of paper. No, you must run over that multiple times, pick it up, look at it, and put it back before the vacuum will work on that.

That is the household truth of random paper scraps.

So yes, your regular vacuum will pick up the fine dust.

The problem occurs after the fine dust is inside your vacuum. If you have a high-end vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter the filter will quickly clog and put strain on the motor. Some dust will manage to pass through the filter and it will find its way into the motors.

Small appliance motors and dust do not get along well. The fine particles will quickly cause excessive wear or clog the motor. If you live in a more rural area it may be very difficult to find a qualified repair person and even in an urban environment the repair may be cost prohibitive.

If you have a cheap-o vacuum that you were planning on getting rid of in the very near future. I guess you could use it, just be aware that some of the dust particles will get spewed back into the air each time you use the vacuum until it goes to that great hall closet in the sky.

My advice is still to stick with the fine dust bag in the shop vac.

And, please wear a dust mask while you do the clean-up. Yes, they are very uncomfortable, but your lungs are much more valuable than a small appliance motor and they don’t appreciate the particulates either.

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How to Clean Home Appliances


Click for all the cleaning articles on Home Ec 101

Why Is Spring Cleaning a Thing Anyway?

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spring cleaning tradition
Heather says:

Why did Spring Cleaning become a tradition?

In the past many homes were heated with wood fire or coal stoves, both of which produce soot that gets deposited on walls, windows, and flooring. Over the winter this soot and the mud and filth tracked in would build up. Spring cleaning meant opening the windows wide, washing the walls, welcoming in the fresh air and cleaning out the dust, soot, and mud from the winter.

While many newer homes have forced air or other means of heating, it’s still nice to open the windows in the spring and welcome in the new season. Improved heating methods also have done nothing to stop the tracked in mess of mud and salt.


What is the point of welcome mats, door mats, and runners?

Finally spring cleaning serves as a convenient time to perform annual and semi-annual chores both inside and outside of the home.

  • Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors.
  • Check your fire extinguisher(s).
  • Wash your windows.
  • Rotate mattresses and clean them while you’re at it. You do have a mattress pad, right?

How to clean your mattress and why you should

How to store blankets without inviting mildew

Here at Home-Ec 101 I’ve been giving the site a makeover. I hope you’re enjoying the new more Pinterest friendly graphics. When I started this site, back in the dark ages of ’07, Pinterest didn’t exist. I am not a graphic designer and for years I stressed about how to fix this. Finally, I realized I should hire people who are good at this. HE101 is getting its own Spring Cleaning and articles that have been buried in the depths of the site are getting dusted off, tweaked, and brought out into the light.

My physical home is also getting a makeover and in the next few weeks I should finally have a bathroom that isn’t cringe worthy. Yay! It’s a big project that involves ripping out the subflooring, repairing joists, and adding an extension to a sewage pipe. I’m bringing in a contractor to handle the big stuff, but I still have to finish stripping the wallpaper. Can I tell you how much I hate stripping wallpaper?

While we aren’t a 100% done with the site makeover, if you haven’t looked at the Clean It section of the site, I invite you to take a quick poke around and tell me what you think.

Do you have an opinion on whether or not I should keep the Chore Post-It on the site?

Clean Up with Home Ec 101

Click this picture to read cleaning tips for every room of the house!

guide to spring cleaning

Click the picture to learn more!


How To Clean And Shine a Dull, Grimy Kitchen Table

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Dear Home Ec 101,
I love receiving your info! So much fun to read! Anyway, I really need help with the following: I
bought a beautiful dining room table and chairs from a friend with children. Unfortunately, she has never instilled the clean-hands rule with them and the table is sticky and dulled with finger marks every single place hands can reach! I am confident that I could remove them, but no luck and I am at my wit’s end. I have tried Murphy’s Oil Soap, liquid dish washing detergent, vinegar, vinegar and oil. Please help.
I have a formal home and this looks so dirty and tacky that I am embarrassed.
Greasy Grimy Finger Prints

How to remove ground in dirt and grime from wooden furniture
Heather says

The clean hands rule is such an uphill battle, I can sympathize with your friend and because my kids leave the frustrating grime, I can sympathize with you, too.

That doesn’t accomplish much, does it?

I am going to make an assumption from the information provided, the hand prints and grime are noticeable because the table is a lighter, blonde wood without a high gloss finish. Do not use the following suggestion for a glossy piece of furniture.

Removing built up dirt and grease from a table has a fairly simple, if tedious solution. Grab a box of baking soda and some cheap vegetable oil, leave the fancy EVOO for another time. You’re also going to need a sponge or rag, a bowl, and a whole lot of patience.

Mix the baking soda and oil in the bowl in a 2:1 ratio. ( For every 1/2 cup of baking soda, you’ll use 1/4 cup of oil, make sense?) Stir to form a paste and apply with a rag or sponge following the grain of the wood.

The baking soda acts as a very mild abrasive and brings the grease into the solution. Remember the adage about like dissolving like? That’s what is happening here, the baking soda can get down into the tiny crevices and bring the bits of greasy dirt into the oil. Tasty!

Once you’ve removed the grimy hand prints from the table, wipe the entire table down with a damp rag with just a tiny bit of soap or cleaning agent like Murphy’s. (I, as most of you are tired of hearing, am a fan of Method’s line, especially the wood cleaner) and then wipe again with a rag that’s just dampened with water.

Now to restore a nice shine to the table, you’ll want to wax or oil it. Paste wax is the easier of the two options. And if you’ve ever waxed a car, you’ve got the basic idea. Wax on, wax off.*

Supplies needed:

Apply the paste in a circular motion, this works the wax into all of the tiny nicks, pores, and cracks in the finish of the table. Allow the wax to dry for a few minutes and then buff the table with the grain rather than in circles.

I know that was a lot of work, but on the bright side, if there aren’t kids in your home, you probably won’t have to repeat the oil and baking soda trick.

Waxing your table every six months or so will help maintain the finish of your table.

Submit your questions to

*Award yourself One Internet if you said that like Pat Morita, please take care of it, all of my friends live in it.



The Home-Ec 101 Guide To Keeping The Kitchen Clean

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keeping the kitchen clean

It’s said to be the heart of the home. The kitchen is certainly the most used area with a lot of traffic. It’s also the source of a lot of work, but there is a certain satisfaction in making it clean and shiny. Here are some articles that might help you; click the title of the ones that you want to read more of.

How To Hand Wash Dishes

Here’s a question for those of us in Nashville who are conserving water due to the flood, what’s the best way to conserve water while washing dishes? I know the dishwasher is out. Should we wash dishes individually, or do the whole fill-up-the-sink-with-water thing? Does that really get dishes clean?

How to Repair Stained Grout

I’ve swept and mopped for three years on my tile floors, and I’ve been knowing I need to do something to make the grout white again. I did the test to see if my grout had been sealed. It hasn’t! Will I be able to restore them to white again?

How to Reduce Cooking Odors

I love having my home grown bacon or sausage on the weekend, but how do I get rid of the horrible grease smell after I have enjoyed breakfast?

Cutting Board Basics

This past weekend I attempted to fix a wood (plank, not end-grain) cutting board with some pretty deep cuts in it, and wound up totally botching the project. Do you have any tips or tricks for cutting board maintenance?

How to Clean a Dirty Broiler Pan

Even though I sprayed my roasting rack and pan with Pam, it still took a large SOS pad, an overnight soaking, and a lot of elbow grease to get it clean. Every time I use that pan I think there must be an easier way. How do you do it?

How to Clean a Smooth Top Range / Stove

I have a glass smooth top stove. Recently I managed to burn it pretty badly – I think there were some food particles either on the burner or the bottom of my pot, because when I put the pot on the burner it sizzled and then a very bad burning smell filled the air. I was able to scrub the pot bottom clean, but am not sure what to do about the burner.

How to Clean Dirty Drip Pans

How in the WORLD do you clean off the reflectors on the stove top after you’ve successfully made them the most horribly dirty items in your house? I am down to one burner that I can use without setting my fire alarms off!

How to Clean Stained Enameled Cast Iron

I have one of those pricey enameled cast iron Dutch, err…French ovens. One particularly rushed morning I let a chunky ragu scorch onto said pricey French oven. After several days of soaking I gave in and scrubbed. Now my cookware is stained and lacks the original luster I paid for. Can the enamel luster be restored and saved?!

How to Clean a Smelly Garbage Disposal

How do you de-stink a garbage disposal?

How to Remove Burnt Food from Aluminum Pots and Pans

Last night, I left an aluminum pot on a burner I thought I had turned off. I served dinner and by the time I came back to it, all I found was a pan full of burnt food. Is my aluminum pot ruined? How do I remove the mess?

How to Remove Burnt Food from Glassware

Any suggestions for cleaning a burned pan? It is glass, and I am hesitant to use steel wool on it. The glass cleaners don’t seem to be helping.

How to Remove Hard Water Spots from Glassware

I tried using “Kaboom” on the shower tiles and glass doors, but it seemed to have no effect. The scum on the doors is truly gross. We have relatively hard water, so it’s just caked on. Any suggestions for getting off years of mineral deposits and soap scum?

How to Remove Melted Plastic from Cookware

I burned carrots… how do you burn carrots? Anyway, while dumping the carrots in the trash the plastic bag that the carrots came in, that was in the trash can, jumped up and touched the bottom of the hot pot. Now I not only have no carrots for my daughters lunch… but I have a plastic bag stuck to the bottom of my pot. How do I get it off?

How to Get Started on the Giant Pile of Dishes

We’ve all had an evening where we’ve looked at the pile of dishes and thought, “I’ll get that in the morning.” Sometimes in periods of high stress, sickness, or just plain laziness we neglect the dishes longer than just overnight and the next thing you know, there’s no clean dishes in the house and you’re wondering if it would just be easier to trash all those dishes and just eat off paper plates from now on.

How to Clean and Shine Stainless Steel

I just got some new stainless steel appliances–and they streak–and have blotchy places on them. Any ideas?

How to Clean Out the Fridge

I’m gearing myself up to finally tackling the scary fridge. I don’t want to use any harsh chemicals, as I’m concerned about the smell/taste of it transferring over to the food once I’m done. Is there some sort of magic baking soda/vinegar/lemon juice/elbow grease combination that might get the ew nasty out of my fridge?

How to Clean Corian

I have Corian counter tops and sink. The sink is stained because my family never cleans it. I try to clean it, but even with a special Corian cleaner or bleach, I cannot get the stains out after several cleanings.

How to Clean Granite Counters

Can someone tell me why one of the hardest substances on earth is so picky about what it’s cleaned with? Seriously, new house, new coutertops, new to granite. How do you clean AND disinfect safely on granite?

How to Remove Acrylic Paint from Laminate Countertops

One of my darling monsters spilled acrylic paint on my laminate counters. Then, being the smart little cookie he is, he placed one of my cookbooks over the stain to hide the mess. I don’t know when this happened, but it was long enough to let the paint dry. I don’t care about the book, but how do I save my counter?

How to Remove Ink from Laminate Countertops

The other day, I set a wet a receipt on the bathroom counter to dry. (The cat has gotten a bunch of things wet.) It was one of those older fashioned ones with purple ink. The next morning, I discovered I’d put it ink side down and now had a nice copy of the receipt on the countertop.

How to Remove Kool-Aid from Laminate Countertops

Red Kool-Aid strikes again. This time on my new granite. How can I get it off?

How to Remove Milk Splatter from Wood Furniture

How does one remove dried milk from wood? No matter how I try to clean them, I get the same result: it looks clean while it’s still wet and I think I’ve won, but as soon as it dries, the spots are still all there!

How to Dispose of Cooking Grease

I have never had a good answer to the question: how should I dispose of cooking grease (that is, grease from hamburger, bacon, etc.)?

How to Clean Kitchen Light Fixtures

I had to change a lightbulb in my kitchen the other day and the globe is nasty with dust and grease. Is there an easy way to fix this?

Someone Put Dish Soap in the Dishwasher (How to get rid of the bubbles)

Some how dish liquid had gotten in the dish washer, there were 6 inches high of soap bubbles at the bottom of the dishwasher, not really knowing what to do I drained it, added some vinegar to try to kill the bubbles, it seemed to work, but I did notice bubbles in the next load as well, so much for rinsing the soap off. Any ideas of what to do in case this happens again?

Why Isn’t My Dishwasher Performing as It Should

My dishwasher just isn’t doing as great a job anymore. I haven’t changed anything: same soap, I scrape the plates, I still use a rinsing agent. What could be going on?

how to clean appliances

Click the picture for more tips!

furniture care guide

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Well That Wasn’t Fun

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Heather says

Hi, it’s been a couple weeks, hasn’t it?

Things started off with the best of intentions, but then my youngest decided to play Typhoid Mary (only she was sick, too) with a fun thing called Rotavirus.

Parents of very young children probably know this term and are cringing. I took the kids to a water park and she thanked us by giving us the gift of a highly transmissible stomach virus. And one by one we fell.

While I’m doing laundry, cleaning the bathroom, and disinfecting all of the hard surfaces, why don’t you tell me how you have been?