Mattress Cleaning and Other Indoor Sports

Dear Home-Ec 101,

What is the best way to clean a mattress? Dec 2008 I splurged and upgraded from a queen bed to a fabulously huge king size bedset.I’m wondering what is the best way to clean the mattress? I have a small “spot” cleaner by Hoover (I think)-and I use that to get stains/spills-thank goodness there have only been a few. But I’ve been thinking how does everyone clean their mattresses? I’ve heard of putting it outside and letting it “air out” but that’s not feasible where I live. Recently in a yoga catalog I saw a sanitizing “wand” sort of thing (uses UV I think) and have thought about getting that. Just curious as to what other people do.

Signed,

Bedwarmer

Heather says:

We humans are fairly nasty creatures and we spend a lot of time in bed. We shed skin cells, which the dust mites adore and then there’s hair oil, sweat, drool, and potentially other bodily fluids. Even if you don’t have allergies, it’s something to think about. Mattresses can get pretty funky without attention.

Let’s give a thought to prevention. Let your bed air out daily and no, I don’t mean drag the whole thing outside. Just fold the sheets back toward the foot of your bed. Take a shower, eat breakfast, then make your bed. Dust mites love moisture and if you create a favorable environment, they’ll hang out eating, breeding, excreting. . .

Change your sheets frequently, they are your mattress’s first line of protection.

Invest in a good mattress pad. These are absorbent and made to soak up sweat and other people funk.  Wash the mattress pad every other week or once a month. In the Solos house, it’s every other week in the summer and monthly in the winter, unless someone has been ill.

If you have allergies, consider encasing your mattress in an allergen barrier, these can make a huge difference if your mattress is several years old.

Speaking of allergies, your bed is a haven for dust mites.

Vacuuming is the only recommended cleaning technique by Sealy. Simmons, Serta, and Sealy all recommend using a mattress pad since stains are not covered by their warranties.

Never use dry cleaning chemicals on a mattress, not only can they damage the fibers, most are toxic.

Never soak a mattress, they take a long time to fully dry and this could encourage the growth of mildew.

If your mattress is dirtier than a vacuum can clean and still under warranty, contact the manufacturer for advice.

As a last resort, for a mattress that is no longer under warranty, consider steam cleaning, but approach the job with care, try not to get the mattress too wet, and remove as much moisture as possible with the unit. Allow the mattress to dry fully before replacing the mattress pad.

Some carpet cleaning companies offer mattress cleaning services.

Good luck and take care of your investment.

Send your household questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

Bathroom Cleaning 101: What you Need, What to Use and How to Use It

Heather says:

Thursdays mean clean bathrooms here on Home-Ec 101. Don’t believe me? Please check out the printable weekly chore chart or look at the every popular sticky note right there ↑. (If you’re reading this via the Home-Ec 101 Newsletter, well you’ll just have to click through to the site to see what I’m talking about.)

What if you’re a Home-Ec n00b? Don’t be ashamed, we all start somewhere and not everyone’s parental units taught them basic life skills like cleaning toilets.

It’s okay, it’s what keeps me employed*. (Parents, don’t teach your kids anything, I’d like to be useful for the NEXT generation, too.) I kid, please teach your kids to clean. . . Please? If for no other reason to get a break from doing it yourself for a few precious years. As my own kids slowly begin taking over chores, I’m beginning to think that’s what empty nesters actually miss, the ability to cajole, bribe, or sometimes even just ask someone else to take over the chores we hate.

Today we’re going through a bathroom cleaning how-to. (Would anyone like this in video format? I can probably pull that off now)

How to Clean the Bathroom

Remember how to clean like a professional?

Say it with me: Top to bottom, left to right, dry to wet.

Before you choose your bathroom chemicals, I’d like to point you in the direction of the Home-Ec 101 Guide to Household Chemicals (I got rid of the ones you probably wouldn’t even think about using in the bathroom) DO NOT MIX BLEACH with anything. Got it?

So, let’s gather our bathroom cleaning supplies (this is for a heavy duty, deep clean, you don’t need ALL of these items every time, keep what you use daily in the bathroom if possible)

  • Broom (if the exhaust fan is dusty, you may want a foxtail or whisk broom and step ladder, or grab an old pillow case and put that over the broom straw)
  • Vacuum preferably with a soft bristled brush
  • Rags
  • Paper Towels or coffee filters or newspaper -for the mirror / window
  • Bucket
  • Mop
  • Grout Brush -if you have tile
  • Acid Based All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Bar Keepers Friend -not for use on acrylic
  • Q-Tips
  • Squeegee -optional
  • Window Cleaner
  • Carnuba Wax – optional
  • Fan -if there isn’t a window / exhaust fan… bathroom cleaning should always be done in a well-ventilated situation.

Let’s get started on page 2 of Bathroom Cleaning 101

Pages: 1 2 3

PSA: Is Your Can Opener Clean?

Bran says:

This is a public service announcement from Home Ec 101.
Let me ask you a quick question: When was the last time you washed your can opener?*

Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m the dude who, when cooking in your kitchen, scrubs the can opener before I use it. And nearly every time, I’m fighting against caked-on rusty-red sludge. Or actual rust. Really.

Help me.

Do me a favour. Do yourself a favour. Do anyone who eats food from your kitchen a favour. Please keep your can opener clean. It’s one of the things health inspectors check for a reason—I mean, you open a can of tomato puree, and as it opens tomato seeps up through the cut in the metal and smears all over the blade. Sometimes, it sloshes over the side and hits the wheel, too. If left unwashed, that stuff builds up and becomes that dark, rusty-brown home for things you don’t really want to ingest. “Unsanitary”, meet “Ew”.

Electric can openers are even worse for this, I’ve found. Cleaning them well is a nightmare—particularly if the goo has already set up well on it. You’re gonna need some elbow grease and some vinegar to get that off. If you have an electric opener and the lever/cutting wheel is removable, (unplug the machine first! and) pop that lever-piece into a bowl of white vinegar for a soak until the gunk comes off when brushed with a toothbrush. In the meantime, scrub the heck out of the main body of the opener, all around the mechanism, everything. Rinse it clean, dry it all very well so you’re not just inviting rust back in, and reassemble.

If you have one where the blade and lever can’t be removed, chuck that thing and get a hand-held one. I’m serious. Better still, if you have an electric one at all my recommendation is to chuck it and get a hand-held one. Because you really should be cleaning your can opener whenever you use it, and isn’t it a pain-in-the-butt chore with that electric one?

Manual can opener technology has come a long way since we were kids; even the middle-of-the-road brand will open up a can with less effort than you’d expend trying to clean one of those blasted electric machines, and a good quality one will open your can like a hot knife through butter. Gone are the days of busting your knuckles with some dull contraption of twisted steel. Some of the can openers on the market are actually a joy to use. …Don’t look at me like that. It’s true. And a lot (most, I’d wager, but check the packaging) of these manual marvels of engineering are even dishwasher-safe.

If you already have a manual can opener, and it’s dirty, the same trick with the vinegar and a toothbrush should work on it. Alternatively, if it’s old, and you notice it’s taking a little too much work to use it, take the opportunity to toss it and get a new one with a sharp blade and a distinct lack of food build-up. (In fact, having a sharp blade is a key factor in cutting metal—I know, it’s a shock—so if you’re having to put in a whole lot of effort, or if your opener skips or gets stuck, a dull blade might be the problem. Replace the blade or buy a new opener.)

And this time, this time, keep your can opener clean. Clean it every time. Keep the hinge well-oiled with food-grade mineral oil. It’s a tool, and tools deserve to be taken care of.

Thanks, on behalf of Anyone Who Eats Food From Your Kitchen and other interested parties. You won’t regret it.

*Tin opener, if you’re inclined to call them tins instead of cans. In my house it could really go either way.

Synthetic or Distilled Vinegar, Is It the Same as Apple Cider Vinegar for Cleaning?

Dear Home-Ec 101,
I came across your blog via Stumbleupon… I thought you would b he right person to ask this question… In a lot of homemade cleaning products people use vinegar as a component. I get only the synthetic vinegar here in India. I do get apple cider vinegar but its far too expensive (Rs 160 per 0.5L against Rs 30 per 1L of synthetic). Can I use that to make those cleaners? Or do I use the Apple Cider one?

Signed,
Unsure in Udaipur

Heather says:

You’re in luck. Distilled and / or synthetic vinegar will work just fine for cleaning.

Recently we talked about solubility, it’s the amount of stuff that can go into solution. When we are talking about cleaning solutions, the stuff is usually dirt and oil. We want to the dirt to come off of a surface and go into the cleaning solution where it can be wiped away. Lowering the pH (increasing the acidity) of a solution can increase the amount of dirt that can be wiped up.

Creating homemade cleaners is playing chemist in your kitchen.

Vinegar is a common ingredient in most household cleaners; it’s relatively cheap and known to be a safe and effective cleaning agent. Distilled vinegar is your go to for cleaning recipes. You know the pH and therefore have a good idea of its effectiveness as a disinfecting agent. (Do you know the Difference Between Clean, Sanitary, and Sterile?)

Please remember that creating your own cleaning solutions is a great way to save money, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

1) Never mix chlorine bleach and vinegar.

2) Know that acidic cleaners are not safe for some surfaces.

3) Vinegar is a good disinfecting agent, but if someone in a household has a compromised immune system, it may not be effective enough.

Thank you for sending in your question.

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

Is Vinegar an Acceptably Safe Alternative for Chlorine Bleach when Disinfecting

Dear Home Ec 101,

Can one substitute vinegar -lots of it- for the bleach when cleaning and disinfecting?
I can’t be around bleach, it triggers SEVERE migraines.

Signed,
Pickled in Pickens

home ec logoHeather says:

There are certain times where I am reluctant to give a hard answer. In our litigious climate, I’m sure you can understand my concern. The CDC says the use of vinegar is inconclusive and needs to be studied further and I only found this after using a multitude of search terms to try and weed out the 934462 sites on the web that basically say, “Vinegar is the Greatest Cleaning Agent Ever!!! I don’t have any evidence, so you’ll just have to trust me because I say so”.

Do you know how vinegar is made?

Vinegar is the byproduct of ethanol fermentation. Basically, a specific kind of bacteria -genus Acetobacter metabolize (think of it as their equivalent of eating) alcohol and produce acetic acid as their waste. You’re just craving some french fries with malt vinegar, now aren’t you?

Distilled vinegar is the only type of vinegar that should be used for disinfecting. Why? You need to know the acidity of your cleaning agent. Aside from that, you certainly aren’t going to save money by cleaning your toilet with aged balsamic vinegar, even if it does smell nicer.

So here is my advice, given with the understanding that if you have any type of condition that may compromise your immune system, you follow your health care provider’s advice and not mine. Got it?

In most cases, distilled vinegar is acceptable as a disinfectant for hard surfaces in a home.

It is not safe to use as a disinfectant for any medical equipment. If you are looking for information on cleaning home healthcare items, you must follow your physician’s advice.

There’s a whole genus of bacteria Pseudomonas out there that really don’t give a hoot about vinegar. Is Pseudomonas an issue? Well, for some people, it certainly is. If you have anyone in your home with Cystic Fibrosis, it can cause pneumonia, in patients on chemotherapy it can cause skin infections, etc. Ever heard of hot tub rash? Pseudomonas is the likely culprit. So there are cases where vinegar really isn’t the smart choice. In hospitals, Pseudomonas can be particularly devastating, it’s the cause of Necrotising Entercolitis in NICU patients and devastating skin infections in burn patients.

Dilute solutions of chlorine bleach applied properly is the only agent I feel comfortable recommending when disinfection truly matters. If you use chlorine bleach properly, there should not be a significant source of fumes.

Your home is not a hospital.

As humans we actually need some exposure to pathogens (disease causing agents). Encounters with small amounts of some bacteria may actually be good for our body’s ability to recognize and fend off disease. Think of it this way, influenza is especially problematic because of the way it changes. It’s still the flu, but each season new strains of it show up. Because they are just different enough that our immune systems may not have defenses, they cause people to get sick. If the virus did not change, most healthy individuals would pick up a natural immunity to the virus through exposure and it wouldn’t tear through populations each year. It would be more like the chicken pox or other one-time diseases that can be miserable -or worse in cases like polio, but it wouldn’t really have the potential for a pandemic.

Those of us who have healthy immune systems should be exposed to some bacteria. On a related note, there are some really interesting studies that suggest allergies are the result of our lack of exposure to parasites. -I know when I’m sneezing, itchy-eyed, and snot-nosed for days on end, that a low-grade case of hookworms sounds like a fabulous alternative. I am not an advocate of keeping a hyper-sterile home. Despite all this there are times where disinfection matters, in those cases vinegar is a good choice for most of us, but dilute chlorine bleach is the better alternative for those at risk.

Please use your best judgement when making these decisions.

Also? Wash your hands.

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

ref: http://www.cdc.gov/hicpac/Disinfection_Sterilization/3_3inactivBioAgents.html