Dry Wall Dust and Other Fun Construction Clean Up

This reader question came in via email titled: A kitchen cave-in.
Dear Home-Ec 101

Yep. That’s right. Lost the ceiling in my kitchen – drop ceiling, light fixture, older (plaster?) ceiling above it, and about 18 inches of blown insulation. I am in the process of getting it fixed. I have shoveled and scooped more insulation than I thought existed in the world!

Anyway, now that the drywall is up for the ceiling (it still needs to be painted), I have to clean EVERYTHING, including the surrounding rooms.

Any ideas?

I have linoleum squares in the kitchen and carpeting in the other rooms.

Kind regards,
The Mess, OMG The Mess (And the Dust did I mention the Dust)

Heather says:

Let’s just start with the conciliatory message. I’m so sorry, I’m also so very glad that it isn’t me dealing with this. Don’t worry, there’s a TL/DR summary at the end for some of you. You know who you are. . .

Now, let’s get started on how to tackle the mess that I’m sure is a giant pain in the rear.

Get thee to a hardware store, equipment rental supply store, or maybe even your friend’s basement or garage, pronto. Why? Because you do not want to use a nice vacuum, even or especially rather, with a HEPA filter to clean up the amount of dust you’re about to encounter.

If you are going to spread the clean-up over several days AND have plenty of storage area, go ahead and buy yourself a decent shop vac, it’ll work out to about the same cost. If, however, you have a smaller home and / or live in an apartment and just don’t have the storage, it is possible to rent one.

Whichever route you choose, be sure to get a fine dust bag for the shop vac. This will prevent the dust from blowing right back into the air, where you’ll just have to re-vacuum and then it’ll blow back in the air and . . . (You get where I’m going, right?)

If you have a box or window fan go and and set it IN the window of the room, set it to high, and set it to draw the air from the room and blow it out of the room. The goal here, is to get as much airborne dust out of the living space as possible.

After the first round of  vacuuming, get a clean, or better yet new broom -a whisk broom or foxtail would be perfect and whisk down the walls and baseboards. You might as well do the ceiling fan, if there is one, while you’re at it. While you’re in your bedroom, I would place the pillows UNDER the top blanket or add another sheet over the whole bed to keep all of this mess from settling into your bedding. Dry wall dust and insulation in your pillow would, let’s just say, would not be fun. Don’t forget to shower and wash your hair before getting into bed after this job. This mess is tenacious to say the least. (A hat or do-rag (doo-rag? I’m not sure of the spelling, I’ve only ever said it aloud) wouldn’t be a bad idea, either)

Vacuum the carpeting several times. I’m sorry but it’s just not going to be a one and done job. And when I say vacuum, I mean slowly and thoroughly.

Vacuum the linoleum. Twice.

Once you’re done vacuuming, wipe the baseboards and all ledges with damp cloth to pick up the last of the settled dust. Wipe down your counters and the stove hood, the stove, etc. Then damp mop the tiles

And finally, when you’re through for the day, change the air filter for your HVAC.

You’ve done it

Here’s the short version:

  1. Set a fan in the window to blow dust out-of-doors
  2. Vacuum everything with a shop vac that has a fine dust bag in the collector.
  3. Sweep / whisk down the walls and ledges
  4. Vacuum again
  5. Maybe one more time just for good measure
  6. Wipe everything with a barely damp cloth that gets rinsed and wrung often.
  7. Damp mop the tile
  8. Change the AC filter
  9. Enjoy a beverage of your choice and use the social platform of your choice to brag on how accomplished / exhausted you feel.

There you go. I don’t envy your job, but at least you got a refreshed kitchen out of the deal? Yeah, I know, that’s not really the bargain it sounds. . .Hang in there and thank you for writing in.

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

How to Choose and Clean a Mop

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I have read your post on ‘How to Mop‘ but I have a question for you about the type of mop to use.

I have a string mop and one of those flat mops with a removable cloth that can go through the washer after it is used. I think the string mop is easier to use – gets in corners easier, I can get up on the baseboards, and I feel like it’s faster, but it also feels dirty to me. It feels unsanitary and like I’m just spreading the dirt around my house and then re-spreading the next time I get it out to use.

Is it? I have tile floors and wood floors. What is the best type of mop to use?

Signed,
Mopping Makes Me Go “Meh”
Heather says:

The key to keeping a cotton string mop from being disgusting, is to clean it THOROUGHLY after each use. As you have noted cotton string mops have some distinct advantages over their sponge mop counterparts.

Wash the mop thoroughly after each use under HOT running water until the water runs clear, wring it thoroughly, and allow it to dry completely.  Some cotton string mop heads can even be thrown into your clothes washer, if it makes you feel better. (Just be sure you remove the metal part of the head or you’ll scratch up the inside of your washing machine which may lead to rust stains on your clothes.

Never leave a cotton mop soaking in dirty mop water, or you’re right, you will be spreading nasty things all over your home. And using a mop bucket with a wringer will make your life easier.

Sponge mops may be a little easier to clean, but they do need to be replaced more often and are not a good choice for textured flooring. Well, not a good choice unless you find shredded mop bits an attractive decorative addition.

Finally, here’s something to remember. We may joke about floors being clean enough to eat off of, but that’s not what floors are for. The only time you really need to worry about the floors is if you have infants who are crawling around. By all means, sweep and vacuum up the dust bunnies and grit (which will harm both your carpet and your hard flooring) and always spot mop anything sticky or greasy -we’re not out to invite unwanted guests here, either, but really try not to stress out too much about germs on the floor.

We wash our hands properly before preparing food and eating for a reason, as humans we do come into contact with germs. It’s normal, unless our immune systems are compromised, we’re built to withstand a little bit of exposure. In fact there is some evidence that we evolved in such a way that NOT being exposed to germs may actually do more harm than good.

Not every surface in our home has to be sanitary. That said, always mop the kitchen first and the bathroom last, just like in the shower or tub, where you wash your face before you wash your butt…

And regarding your hardwood floors, you shouldn’t be mopping often and when you do, it’s a DAMP mop, not a wet mop (that’s where the wringer really comes in). Try to stick to using a dust mop and then spot mopping only when necessary. Tile can take more frequent mopping and thanks to the grout, a string mop is a better choice.

Good luck!

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

Warning: There Is No Secret

Heather says:

I should probably give all readers a clear warning before continuing:

I am a stressed out, hot mess of a person right now. This afternoon at 1pm PST I’m going on an internet show to pitch my startup SpinPicks. I am nervous as can be. The kids’ football season is in the chaotic mess of having two boys on different teams playing games on different nights in different places. Apparently, it’s Open House week and I just had to say to heck with that, between football and the shifts I work, there’s not a chance I can make it. (This is not a plea for pity, just a holy cow I’m stressed vent)

My tact button is broken.

Recently, it was requested that I share the daily chores from the post-it notes on the Home-Ec 101 Facebook Fanpage. So I’ve been doing just that.

The chores and clean house chore chart are a framework. I am purposely not specific with the names of rooms, what time, or how long a person should spend per room because frankly there is no way I can tell you it will take you 30 minutes to clean your living room.

What if you don’t have a living room? I was once asked, with no further detail, how long will it take me to clean my house? In my home, there is a FROG and a Florida Room, we don’t have a basement or a mudroom. We have a dining room and a family room, but no formal living room. My point is there are so many variables -what variables? Read the how long will it take post ^^^- that I could spend days writing up individualized plans, but -and this is selfish- I love y’all, but I just don’t have that kind of time or mental energy.

I’ve told you the secret to a clean home, it’s simple, there’s no secret: put your stuff away. This means the clutter gets put away, the trash goes in the garbage, the dirt goes down the drain, and the laundry gets cycled and put away. Do you not know how to get started with cleaning?

I will always happily answer any specific how to question, but I cannot make you do something you don’t want to do or make you read the content already on the site. If you want a clean house, you’ll work on it, a little each day. You can search the site for specific problems – why is there so much lint in my laundry room, how do I clean enameled cast iron etc. Maybe you’ll find value in the Cleaning 101 series. I don’t live in your home so I can’t tell you to pick up the socks under your bed. Honestly, I try not to stalk any of you, I’m a little weird, but not THAT weird.

Hang in there, I know it’s hard, especially when it feels like no one helps and it feels as though all you do is work and never get anywhere. I cannot emphasize enough how much I do understand. I know it seems like I sit here at the ready to answer your questions,doing nothing else, but I’m out there living life, too.  And life IS messy, I just help tell you how to clean it up.

Cross your fingers for me later today and I’ll continue to be here for you to the best of my ability.

Real Estate Ready?

Dear Home Ec 101,

I am trying to get my house on the market to sell.  Any cleaning/organizing advice?  My house is atrocious!  I hope you can call that comment a “Sunday Confessional”.  I have a 20 month old baby, work full-time, and no one in the house cleans up after themselves.  I can’t keep the house clean or get it ready for sale.

Any advice?

Signed,
Frantic in Fresno

Heather says:

First off, I hope the market in your area is better than ours or you may be in for a long ride. I’ve been toying with the idea of selling for 5 years, but the market just hasn’t made it worth the hassle. When you list your home, you do have the option of asking for 24 hours notice for showings. It is important to note that this will make your home less appealing to real estate agents as they now have to factor this into their schedules. Just remember, it IS an option.

From the sound of your email, I’m guessing you are not a single parent, that there is at least one other adult who shares the responsibility of getting the house real estate ready. Sit down with your partner in crime and have a pen and paper at the ready. The two of you are going to make a prioritized list of what needs to be done to be “showing ready.” Start working on that list as soon as possible and keep reminding your partner, it’s a team effort. It’s not just your house for sale.

If you’re looking to get your house ready for the market, put the Home Ec 101 Weekly Chore List into effect and over the next few weeks, it will come together. It does take consistency, though.

Having a toddler in a home does make selling a home far more interesting, but there are ways and means to contain their mess and for better or worse the responsibility for this falls on your (the parents’) shoulders.

Until the house has been sold:

  • Food and drinks stay in the kitchen or dining room. No exceptions. NONE. It’s a hassle, but it is not child abuse to have a specified areas and times for food and drinks. (Water can be available at all times)
  • Use a tarp below the high chair to reduce the number of times a week mopping is necessary.
  • Have a basket in each room for the toddler’s toys and make sure the toys are put away before leaving the room.
    See Cleaning Up with Preschoolers

If you’re already in crisis mode and the house is on the market and you’re just waiting for the phone to ring, start working through the following.

Get rid of clutter

All counters should all be clear as humanly possible, this means both kitchens and bathrooms. In general people won’t be going through your drawers or cabinets in a walk through, so try not to stress over the hidden clutter (except closets) at this time, worry about that when you move.

NO DIRTY DISHES.

Few things are as big a turn off as crusty dishes in a sink or left on the counter. Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Clean dishes drying in a rack are tolerable, but put away is best.

Hampers for Laundry

There is no way you can always have all of the laundry done, all of the time. Make sure it is at least contained in clothes hampers to reduce the chance of strangers seeing your dirty underwear.

Make the Beds

Get in the habit of making the beds every morning. It’ll be one less thing to worry about in the final run through.

Odor Free

Be extra vigilant about any odors, whether they are stale odors from cooking, mildew in the laundry room,  musty odors, or mysterious pet odors.

Bathrooms

Close the lid on the *clean* toilet and make sure the mirror and sink are shining. This means no dried toothpaste spatter. And try to make sure your personal care items are not sitting out.

Make sure tub toys are at least in a mesh bag and hanging.

Flooring

Should be swept or vacuumed just before the showing. Spot mop if necessary (this is why I suggested a tarp, so it won’t always be necessary).

Lighting

Make sure there aren’t any burnt out bulbs in your light fixtures. It makes a big difference.

Those are your biggies, you can read up on curb appeal or watch shows on the DIY network to get ideas on staging, but I have a feeling just getting the house in order will be enough of a task. I know there are some real estate agents who read Home Ec 101 and I would love for them to chime in anything I miss in this list.

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

The Dangerous Comparison Game

From a recent comment here on Home-Ec 101,

I have one child that lives at home and a teenager that moves in and moves out lol, and also another child that is with me every other weekend. When I get my house clean, it stays that way for a couple of days then it’s dirty again. I am also a single stay-at-home-mom and I homeschool my youngest child.

How can I organize the chaos?

Sometimes I seem to have it together and there are times I want to pull my hair out!

I see so many moms that always look like their house is clean, and their make up is fresh, but not me! I’m the one you see in the store with my hair just tied up in a messy knot, and if you come to my home I have to move something so that you can sit down. lol

ANY ADVICE ?????

Signed,
Frustrated

Heather says:

The first thing to do is STOP comparing yourself to other people.

You are only seeing the face they want you to see. They aren’t inviting you over when their house is a wreck, you aren’t seeing them when they first tumble out of bed in the morning, and you certainly aren’t seeing them when their kids have the flu and they’ve been under a deadline and and and and.

You cannot compare your life where you see every moment, good or bad, with someone else’s best foot forward.

It’s not a fair comparison and if you convince yourself it is, you will never measure up to your own expectations and you will be miserable.

To be perfectly honest, I stress myself out all the time with this stuff, because I have put myself out there as a resource on this subject. I feel as though my house has to be company ready at any moment. This also makes me feel like a hypocrite at times. It’s all just that internal critic having a field day.

People are more concerned about themselves than they are about you.

I know this on the rational level, I’m  still working on convincing that little voice to take a hike. Does it make you feel a little better to know you aren’t the only one?

I also have to say this. I am not a licensed therapist nor am I a doctor; if you constantly feel overwhelmed, you NEED to talk to a licensed professional about your feelings.

Still convinced you’re alone? Read this post: Feeling Desperate

My friend Angela England and I did a presentation at BlogWorld Expo in October on Professionalism and Productivity and while some of the tools and tips won’t apply to your situation, you may pick up a few nuggets and tools that will help you. Ang and I are also both homeschooling parents. And we both fully admit there are times that are rougher than others. If I ever tell you everything is absolutely hunky dory all the time, I’m lying, and I want you to call me on it.

As far as getting your house in order, understand that it’s not a sometimes thing, it’s a constant process. Once you adjust to the fact that maintaining a home requires constant, low-level upkeep, it will begin to feel a lot less work intensive.

It’s easier to quickly wipe down your bathroom every day than it is to give it a thorough scrubbing after the dirt and other nastiness has time to accumulate and adhere to the calcified toothpaste blobs.

As far as actually gaining a little control over the chaotic nature of your life, there are lots of things you can do to bring a little order into your home. Don’t attempt to do them all at once.

Finally some specific tools you may find useful:

See that yellow sticky note in the upper right of this post? (click through to the site if you’re reading via email) Click it, it’ll take you to a weekly chore chart, print it out and start following it.

Alternately, if you want LOTS of email reminders and encouragement, maybe FLYLady is more your style.

Cozi – calendar / organization, it has smart phone apps available

Google Calendar – calendar

SayMmm – meal planning tools You’ll find many Home-Ec 101 recipes on SayMmm.com

SavingDinner.com – complete meal plans and grocery lists. I used Leanne’s mailer while I was adjusting to life outside the traditional workforce, back in ’03 or ’04 (long before I started Home-Ec 101) and I’m happy to see she’s still going strong.

Home-Eccers, what tools make your life easier? What do you recommend to Frustrated?

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