Monday, December 31, 2007

Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning Tips

Are you planning a dinner party and the only thing on your mind is "What if someone spills on my carpet?"

Aside from recommending that you don't serve red wine or coffee, here's a simple guide for treating stains and maintaining carpets and upholstery.

Always clean up spills quickly to avoid staining. Start by removing any solid debris. Clean the spill using clean, cold water and blotting with white paper towels or cloths. Never scrub or brush the spill as it will damage fibers and possibly set the stain. Only if this method does not work should you move on to harsher treatments.

Regular vacuuming and spot treatment will improve the quality and life span of your carpets and upholstery.

Since chemicals are hard on the fibers of carpets and upholstery, you should always start with the weakest solution before moving on. Start with clean water and move onto a mild solution of liquid soap (never use laundry detergent) or an oxygen based cleaner which usually works well on organic stains (food, animal, blood) before using chemical spot removers.

Western Regional Pollution Prevention Network (WRPPN) cautions professional janitors and cleaners to avoid using chemicals as much as possible.

Carpet spot removal products are made with some of the most dangerous chemicals and should always be applied when wearing gloves and in an area with good ventilation.

Test the cleaning products for carpets or upholstery in a hidden spot to make certain it won't stain. Place a white paper towel or cloth on the tested area to check for color transfer. If the cleaner is safe apply a small amount of spot removal product to a clean, white cloth and work your way from the OUTSIDE of the stain inwards. Keep at it only using a stronger solution when you are no longer getting results with water or mild detergent.

Upholstery stains can also be treated with a 3% Hydrogen Peroxide solution that can be left on and dabbed. You do not need to rinse. Hydrogen Peroxide works equally well on vinyl furniture.
When the stain is removed rinse with clean water and blot the excess out. Replace towels when they are too wet to absorb anymore water. Be careful to avoid over wetting as it can also damage your carpet or cause mildew in your carpet or upholstered furniture.

Taking the time to treat spills before they're stains will go a long way in keeping your carpets and upholstery looking as good as new!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Vacuum Cleaners and Indoor Pollution

Indoor air pollution in America is a serious and often misunderstood problem. Oddly enough, air quality is related to modern construction techniques.

Todays homes are far superior to yesterday homes in terms of insulation and air-tight sealing. While this is great in terms of energy efficiency and keeping pollens, smuts and other pollutants outside, it also ensures that any pollutants already in the home will remain unless removed. We can either open the doors and windows to 'air out' the house, or we will need efficient air filtration equipment.

One of the biggest pollutant offenders is the vacuum cleaner used to clean our homes. If you ever get that dusty or musty odor, especially while vacuuming, it's due to leakage through the vacuum bag and/or filter.

Look around the living room. Is there a fine sheen of dust on the lamp shades, furniture, TV etc? For the most part, this dust was not brought in from the outside. It's simply being recirculated, much of it through vacuuming. Incidentally, this dust can remain airborne for up to 72 hours. Any dust not breathed into our lungs simply settles onto our upholstery and finally back into our carpeting and flooring. Not a pleasant scenario.

Now, in order for air or furnace filters to work, the dust must be airborne and air must be moved through the filtration media. In the meantime, that airborne dust, with all of its nasty ingredients, is in the air that we breathe.

Most of us have heard of HEPA filtration. It's an industry standard acronym, High Efficiency Particle Arrest, developed by government scientists for passive air filtration. The standard is required to capture 99.97% of all airborne particles down to .3 microns. HEPA is used in nearly every vacuum bag and most air filters in the U.S. But here's the inherent problem with HEPA. HEPA was designed for Passive Airflow. Passive Airflow simply means gentle or normal environmental airflow, such as the movement of air in our living room, for example. There is no powerful fan or other device forcing air into the filtration system at a high volume. We don't feel the air currents unless we're sitting in front of a fan, in other words.

However, when HEPA is used in a vacuum cleaner, it is subjected to the powerful exhaust air volume of the vacuum. The resulting airflow quickly clogs the HEPA bag and filter, as well as degrading the material. Once the filtration medium is saturated, or clogged, the machine cannot "breathe".

A thicker air filter can be used in the vacuum, but air flow is reduced. The machine will filter more air but catch even less dirt.

Since airflow is now reduced, the cleaning ability of the vacuum is lessened. More dirt is left in the carpet flooring and the air that does get through is polluted, effectively creating a dust storm. Unless we change our bags and filters very frequently, we are defeating the purpose of vacuuming.
This problem has been solved by some vacuum manufacturers. They use seven layers of an advanced Electrostatic polypropylene microfiber, along with HEPA, designed to allow full airflow without clogging, and filter down to .3 microns, about the size of a staph bacteria!

With this new technology, the dirt never becomes airborne in the first place, yet virtually every grain of soil and contamination is removed from the home by the vacuum, making a much cleaner and healthier environment, virtually allergen free. For more information on this subject, visit your local vacuum dealer.

Don't Get Ripped Off by Your Appliance Repairman

Picture this. You get home from work and just want to settle into your daily routine. Suddenly, you realize that the refrigerator isn't cold, or the microwave isn't heating, or the washer won't empty. Now what?!? Do you open the phone book and hope to get a well-trained, honest repairman? Or do you just pray that you don't get ripped off?

Try using these six tips to get the service you need without getting taken to the cleaners.

1. Write down the make and model of your appliance and a brief description of the problem (a single paragraph will do) before you pick up the phone. This information will not only help the repairman diagnose the problem; it also makes you look like a smart consumer. Remember, knowledge is power.

2. Try to find a factory authorized repair center first. This is a must if your appliance is still under warranty. Factory authorized means that the manufacturer stands behind the repair and will usually mediate in any disputes. With stiff competition in the appliance market, the last thing the manufacturer wants is an unsatisfied customer who purchases a different brand.

3. Ask people you know for referrals. Okay, this one is pretty basic. But, with all of the appliances we use every day, someone you know has needed to have one of them fixed. Benefit from their experience, good or bad.

4. Check the yellow pages for repairmen who take credit cards. Credit cards offer an extra layer of protection for you. If you are not satisfied with the fix and the repairman refuses to address your concerns, you can contact your credit card company and request a charge back to the merchant. This will involve more paperwork on your part, but can give you a better position when negotiating a dispute. Be aware, though, that using this tactic too often can leave you in bad standing with your credit card company. Check their policies on charge backs first.

5. While you have the yellow pages open, compare the ads. Yellow page ads are not cheap. Only the most successful or competitive companies can afford the big display ads. While this doesn't indicate the level of service you get, it does show which companies invest in advertising and which expect to still be in business in a year or two.

6. When you do start making calls, ask the same questions of each company. A good start would be:

How long have you been in business?
Do you use factory parts?
Are you insured for any damages the appliance may cause after the repair?
Do you offer a written guarantee on parts and labor?
Do you have any corporate references?
Have your repairmen received any factory training?
Has your company ever been taken to small claims court to settle a dispute?

Using these six tips will help you to weed out the dishonest, incompetent, or just plain bad appliance servicemen. They will also help identify the good servicemen that you can count on for a long time to come.