Spring cleaning time

By Tom Seymour | Apr 04, 2014
Photo by: Tom Seymour A wood rack is a source of dust and insects.

For most of us, getting outside and working in our yards is not an option. Lingering snow keeps us housebound and even where snow has melted, lawns and even walkways are wet, spongy and muddy, which makes walking on them a bad idea.

But we can still put our energy to good use by tackling seasonal indoor chores. These need doing anyway and it’s better to get on with them now rather than waiting until it becomes warm outside. At that time, we surely won’t feel like doing anything other than getting out and working on our gardens and lawns.

Mold and mildew

Examine closely all windows and glass doors. Does the bottom of the glass show a buildup of some kind of black substance? If so, it’s probably mildew. Every time the glass becomes fogged from simmering water on the stove or even too-high a setting on the humidifier, it drips down to the bottom of the pane. And there it remains, the perfect host for mold and/or mildew.

Mold and mildew are nothing we want in our homes. They can cause a host of problems for humans and some public buildings have had to be evacuated or even torn down because of them. But nipping this condition in the bud is quite simple. Better yet, it doesn’t require expensive and dangerous chemicals.

White vinegar, that common, everyday product we use on salads and in making pickle brine, is also the perfect cleaning agent. To get rid of that black mildew on the bottom of windows, just use a half-and-half solution of white vinegar and water. Wet a paper towel in the solution and wipe off the mildew. It’s that simple.

So go around the house and inspect every window. Chances are if windows in one room have a mildew buildup, all the others do as well, to varying degrees.

For really bad mildew problems, use 100 percent white vinegar. It’ll knock down that mildew and bacteria fast.

Bye-bye firewood

It’s about time when average daytime temperatures are too warm for a wood fire, and that’s a good thing for more reasons than one. In addition to the chore of hauling firewood from the shed or storage area to a wood rack or woodbox near the stove, that firewood causes several problems once it’s inside.

First, do you ever notice houseflies in winter and wonder how they got there? How about mosquitoes? It’s perplexing to see mosquitoes buzzing around indoors in winter. These insects and more come inside with the firewood. As soon as the wood reaches room temperature, the pests become active and make their presence known. Spiders, too, come in on firewood. And all spiders bite. Some are too small or have too-small mouths to present a problem to humans, but they have the will to bite nevertheless. We don’t need spiders and other troublesome insects living in our homes with us, ever.

Indoor firewood also poses another problem. It’s messy. Constantly sweeping up bits of bark, sawdust and other debris is a regular winter chore. Also, dust from indoor firewood becomes suspended in the air, causing a drop in indoor air quality. Are you coughing and sneezing more than ever, yet don’t have a cold? It could be because of suspended dust particles. This dust even shortens the life of humidifier filters, since it coats them and clogs them.

So you see the good in getting woodboxes out of the house as soon as possible in spring. And what about those chilly nights when we need a small fire in the stove to take the chill off? Well, it’s far better to make one trip to the woodshed and bring in just enough wood for one fire than to leave all that wood stacked up inside.

Cool and clean

Now, at the very beginning of moderately-comfortable outdoor temperatures, is a good time to get that air conditioner ready for when summer heat strikes. In order for your air-conditioning unit to function at its best, it needs cleaning, not just outside but inside too.

Remove the front panel and clean everything you can see. Then thoroughly clean the drain pan. This can host a buildup of unpleasant clutter such as various bacteria. After cleaning, sprinkle some baking soda on the bottom of the pan to keep it smelling clean and fresh.

And finally, if your air conditioner has a removable filter, now is the time to remove it and clean it. Use the crevice cleaner attachment on your vacuum cleaner to remove the worst of the dust buildup. After that, thoroughly wash the filter in a mixture of 1 ½ tablespoons of baking soda to 1 quart of water. Replace the filters only when they have fully dried. Cover the unit to keep dust off until it is time to call upon it. Then it will be ready to go on a moment’s notice.

White vinegar

Baking soda and white vinegar, two common household products, have countless uses besides cooking. Baking soda is great for cleaning stains from countertops, porcelain, glass oven doors and other non-porous materials. Just wet a cloth and dunk into some baking soda.

White vinegar has a use that most people would never think of. White vinegar helps get rid of skunk odor from pets. Now, in early spring, skunks are on the prowl and roam about at night. Dogs, out on their evening or early-morning run, are liable to get sprayed by a skunk. Some dogs get sprayed repeatedly. It seems they never learn.

The age-old remedy of pouring a quart of tomato juice on a skunk-sprayed dog works fairly well, but so does plain, white vinegar. And even if tomato juice is absent from the pantry, chances are some white vinegar will be around. Put the dog in a bathtub or shower stall (not fun, I can say from experience), wet it thoroughly and pour white vinegar all over it. Work the vinegar in with your fingers. You may want to wear latex gloves for this. Keep the vinegar from the pet’s eyes.

White vinegar also makes a top-notch window cleaner. Now, with warming temperatures, it’s far more pleasant to stand outdoors and clean the outside of a window. You only need a solution of half white vinegar and half water, along with the black-and-white section of a newspaper.

But don’t rush right out to do this springtime chore if the sun is shining brightly. Cleaning windows in direct sun makes for streaking, because the cleaning solution dries too quickly, making for streaks on the glass. So wait until a cloudy day or else do it early or late on a sunny day, while shadows still touch the windows.

To do this, lightly crumple a sheet of newsprint and dip it in the vinegar-and-water solution. Wipe the windows as normal and when almost dry, take a fresh sheet of dry newsprint and wipe again. This will buff and shine the glass, making it look brand-new.

Make sure to clean any mildew from windows before cleaning the glass.

By the way, that same solution of white vinegar and water can clean your car or truck’s windshield. Follow the same procedure as per regular windowpanes, using crumpled, black-and-white newsprint. Your windshield will sparkle.

So try and get these little nuisance jobs done now, because soon we’ll be outside, cleaning up sticks, branches and other debris left over from last winter and last winter’s ice storm. We’ll be outside working in our short sleeves soon and it’ll be a comfort to know that those inside, spring cleaning chores are all taken care of.

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