The Dreaded Litter Box

Cute tabby cat using a red, closed litter box.

It’s part of the home that you try to hide. It’s one that you hope no one stumbles across and, of course, hope no one sniffs and notices it is there.

If you have cats, you know exactly what we are talking about. If you have cats, you either train them to go outside (unlikely) or use the toilet (as seen on YouTube) — but most resort to the standard litter box for their feline friends to do their “business.”

As much as you would like anyone else but you to take care of cleaning and maintaining the litter box, if you are the owner of the cat, it’s probably your job to do.

Here are some simple tips to do it faster — and better — and keep things a little more sanitary as well.

Keep it contained

One thing most hate is when the cat (or cats) leave the litter box and bring those tiny litter particles with them, tracking them all over the home.

Placing a cat litter mat under the cat box and some type of carpet remnant where the cats step out on helps reduce the amount of litter tracked through the home.

Protect yourself

Litter boxes are festering tubs of bacteria and other contaminants that need to stay right there in the box. But a cleaning must happen, usually every day, to keep the clumps from taking over and becoming difficult to scoop.

Wear a proper pair of gloves, and even a dust mask, to keep yourself healthy and safe when doing the scoopin’.

Fresh is best

Besides daily scooping, adding some litter every few days is smart. When the litter gets low, add a little more to keep the litter box sufficiently full so your cats can easily cover over their “deposits”. You don’t want to give them any excuse to skip the litter box for a more convenient area to use, if you know what we mean. And each month, empty and completely wash the pan, and add fresh litter.

The inevitable

One thing that cats may do from time to time is “miss” the litter box, creating nasty odors, especially in carpet. That’s when you need some real help, from your favorite cleaning service. Do the right thing. Give them a call today. After all, it pays to call a pro!

Has Your Microwave Gotten Gross?

clean a microwave, how to clean a microwave oven

It’s fast. It’s easy. And super convenient. Without it, some of us couldn’t survive in the kitchen. No way.

Yes, the microwave oven is an indispensable appliance.

The microwave oven is a modern invention. The first microwaves were around in the mid 1940s, but were mainly for restaurants and reheating food on airplanes. They were massive devices that had to be cooled continuously by water flow. By the 1950s they were introduced to homeowners and some did indeed purchase them, but they were approximately $12,000 in today’s dollars. The popularity along with more affordability began in the 1980s and microwaves as a common fixture in the kitchen is now here.

Virtually everyone has one. If you don’t, you are in the minority. What all microwave users have in common is cleaning up the mess that inherently comes with using these handy ovens that can cook snacks or complete meals in seconds or minutes instead of hours.

To ensure your microwave oven not only looks good but also operates efficiently, you must keep it clean.

Here’s how to clean a microwave.

Scrape it 

As with any cleaning task, scraping up as much as you can before applying cleaning agents is smart. Food particles and residue that resulted from an “explosion” of food can easily be scraped away from the walls and ceiling of the inside of the oven.

Spray it

When you have scraped up as much as possible, use an appropriate cleaning solution and liberally spray the interior of the microwave. Give it some time for the solution to work, perhaps five minutes, and then wipe away the grime. But if there is a lot of grime, continue reading and do this…

Steam it

Fill a microwave-safe bowl about two-thirds full of water. Put it inside the microwave and heat it up on high for about three to five minutes, or until it is boiling. Don’t open the door! Let the bowl sit in there for approximately 10 minutes, allowing the steam to loosen up the grime.

Then…

Wipe it

Spray the moist interior of the oven with more cleaning solution, and use paper towels to wipe all interior surfaces. Even the toughest grime should come off after all your prep work.

Other dirty surfaces

Microwave ovens aren’t the only grimy things that can be part of the modern household. When you need any of your surfaces cleaned, such as carpet, furniture, hard floors and more, call your favorite cleaning company. It pays to call a pro!

Electricity & Appliance Safety

Electric Power Cable on Pink Background in a studio

Electricity. It’s an amazing force of nature and used by virtually everyone in the world, in some form or other.

For most homeowners, and even those working in commercial buildings, the number of appliances that use electricity is mind-boggling. With that comes the issue of safety. After all, if you have a dozen (or more!) items all humming with power in your home, odds are that eventually there could be an issue with electrical safety.

Don’t let that happen to you. Give these practical, household appliance tips some consideration to keep your family and loved ones safe while enjoying the benefits of anything powered by electricity. Although electricity can become exposed, you don’t want that! Smoke, fire, and other damage can occur.

Appliance safety

An “appliance” doesn’t have to be a stove or refrigerator. The term can refer to smaller items, such as space heaters. All appliances that use electricity generate some type of heat and can become unsafe if electrical connections become loose or damaged. That can happen with normal wear and tear and age of the appliance. Even gas appliances, such as an oven or stove, most likely use electricity to ignite the flame, or even keep track of the time of day.

The job of certain types of appliances is to generate heat, and lots of it, which is a safety hazard . These can be toasters, toaster ovens, regular ovens and stovetops, space heaters, clothes and hair curling irons, hair dryers and more. The list can be extensive. Make sure, when applicable, there is plenty of space from anything that generates heat and anything that can ignite. Many homes have suffered fire and smoke damage because someone set down a clothes iron on something ignitable. Or the toaster was too close to the side of the refrigerator and papers attached to it caught on fire.

We all know this, as well. When there is electricity and water, shock hazards can occur, along with possible fire ignition. Analyze each appliance and make sure they aren’t too close to any water source.

Next month, we’ll discuss another appliance safety feature that you might be wondering about… power cords!

And remember, if anything does happen in your home, whether it is a fire and smoke damage situation or flooded basement, do the best thing to bring conditions back to normal. Call your favorite disaster restoration company. After all, it pays to call a pro!

Solar Bottom – Is It Here Yet?

ideal solar, lighting & electric solar panels

Jeff Nichols of Ideal Solar, Lighting & Electric tells us about the present or future of solar power:

There are 3 factors that determine the cost of solar – material cost, labor cost and incentives.

The future cost of solar panels is open to interpretation because of tariffs and other factors. But we do not foresee any major changes in the cost of panels from where they are now.  

From our own experience labor costs are on the rise. 

The Federal Tax Credit is currently at 30% but it is due to start phasing out at the end of this year. By the end of 2021, the tax credit will be zero. 

Because of these factors we see a slight upward trend in solar installation costs.

Arguably, the bottom is here, within a few solar percentage points. 

Our recommendation to homeowners is to install solar this year while tax incentives are still at their highest point. 

Spring Cleaning: Closets

spring cleaning closets, organization, closet cleaning

Although traditionally a spring cleaning chore, cleaning and organizing a closet can be done any time of year.

And no, keeping the door shut isn’t the best solution to a messy, disorganized closet, although it may give you moments of sanity that quickly disappear when you venture inside for that favorite pair of pants you haven’t seen in months.

Here are a few quick tips on organizing and spring cleaning closets:

Empty the closet. 

Take everything out. Put it in organized piles according to type, such as a pile of shoes, shirts, pants, sweaters, etc.

Clean all surfaces in the closet. 

This means a bucket of soapy water and a sponge, some paper towels or cotton cloths. This is a good time to clean the walls, shelves, every surface you can reach.

Inspect what needs to go back in. 

Take a close look at those piles of shoes, shirts, pants, sweaters, etc. Do you need all of them? Are there some items you might discard or donate to charity? Now’s the time!

If you are a seasonal organizer, this could be an opportunity to store away, perhaps in a basement, items you won’t need for the near future.

Restock the closet. 

Give this some thought. Hanging as many items as you can on thinner hangers saves space. Have areas in the closet where you keep items you wear more frequently and other areas for items that you wear occasionally.

Consider garment organizers.

They’re helpful in keeping items separate for seasonal use, or for specific types of events, such as formal occasions. And remember the floor space, which can be used for shoe organizers.

Closets are very important real estate. Take advantage of them and keep them all neat, clean and organized. Imagine… going into a closet that doesn’t scare you as you select your favorite sweater to ward off a cold evening chill. Nice thought, right?

Why Baking Soda is an Amazing Homemade Pet Stain Remover

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Baking soda (not to be confused with baking powder) is sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3). You can easily buy it in any grocery store.

This article is probably not the first time you’ve heard someone singing praises for baking soda. It’s not a miracle, in the strictest sense, but it sure can seem like it when used as a homemade pet stain remover.

This inexpensive white powder can help neutralize acidic substances, remove odors, and absorb wet messes. It’s not dangerous to your carpets or your pets when used on floors. It’s simultaneously more affordable and safer to use than many store-bought cleaners, yet highly effective.

Things Baking Soda Won’t Do:

  • deteriorate the color of your carpet
  • create moisture damage to your floors
  • cause any harm to your pets unless ingested in large amounts
  • cost you a lot of money

How to Use Baking Soda to Clean Up Urine

When you find a wet mess in your carpet, grab a box of baking soda and sprinkle it onto the wetness thickly. If your can, rake/spread the baking soda into the carpet fiber as opposed to saturating it. Allow the soda time to absorb moisture and wick the urine or moisture from the carpet fibers. There should be enough soda to absorb the mess fully. Do leave it until it’s dry. This may take 24 hours.

While the baking soda sits there, it’s both absorbing moisture and having a chemical reaction that uses its base Ph to neutralize the acidic urine. This is why the smell goes away. The acidic Ph of urine can also discolor or damage the color of your carpet or rug, but quick action with baking soda can prevent or minimize this affect.

Once the baking soda has dried, use a flat tool to scrape off the chunks of dried soda. This can be a spatula, putty knife/scraper, spoon, or similar item. Try to get all the large pieces off and leave only crumbly soda. Do not scrub or become overly aggressive with the tool.

The last step is vacuuming up the last bits of baking soda. If the baking soda is fully dry, this should work easily and look great. If you have a wet/dry shop vacuum, use this first. Then use a regular carpet vacuum with or without a beater bar.

If you find yourself with spots or marks on your carpeting that your homemade pet stain remover or other efforts don’t resolve, then give us a call. We’re always happy to serve as your full service carpet, rug, upholstery, tile and hardwood floor cleaner!

How to Compare Area Rugs: Know Quality When You See It

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Area rugs can be an extremely important part of your overall aesthetic in a room. It’s the area rug that tends to tie in all the colors in a room, provide a soft welcoming feeling, and soften sounds. If your rug is going to be central to your decor and the tone of your room, you should invest wisely. To do this, you’ll need to be able to successfully compare area rugs.

 

Rug Shape

When you compare area rugs, you’ll find quality differences show themselves in shape. Some square rugs are actually squares, while cheaper ones can be parallelograms or irregular rectangles. Some area rugs are round, and others are actually ovals that are trying really hard to be round. This in itself may only be a problem as much as it’s noticeable. But even if the imperfect shape is understated, it’s a sure sign of poor quality craftsmanship.

 

How it Lies

A high quality rug will lie flat. If it’s been rolled up a long time or up until recently, there may be some curl to it when you first see it, but this curl must be minimal and even. A rug that has irregular raised areas or wavy edges is not high quality. In fact, if it’s truly well-made, the rug seller wouldn’t store it rolled up for any length of time anyway. Always see a rug flat before buying it.

 

Compare Area Rugs Finishes

Rugs made with low quality fibers tend to be unnaturally shiny or bright, or unusually washed out for a new rug. When shopping, take note of the luster of high quality and high priced area rugs. Recognizing the natural finish and color saturation level of wool and other natural materials can help you determine what kind of fiber you’re looking at.

 

How the Area Rug is Made

There are many methods for making area rugs. Some are machine made and can last about 20 years, but there are hand tufted, hand knotted and flat woven rugs that can last much longer. Although handmade rugs are often less “perfect” they have character a machine made rug can never match.

 

Knots Per Inch

Comparing area rugs with designs in them, the ones with low knots per inch have more pixelated lines and designs. Higher knots per inch means the designs look smoother and the rug will also feel more dense. Not as course as a low knots-per-inch rug. You don’t usually have to ask about knots per inch because you can tell by observing density and the clarity of the pattern.

Knowing your rugs can help you find the right piece at the right price.

Tile and Grout Floor Care

Tile floors are everywhere, and where there’s tile, there’s also grout to separate it all, keeping everything nice and even, with straight lines.

But a straight line may not always be so… clean. Dirt and grime and other contaminants build up over time and make what was once a beautiful floor look downright ugly. The grout is especially susceptible to soiling and staining.

Just as you would clean any surface, tile and grout floors need special attention. If you keep them clean, following a maintenance schedule, you won’t have to deal with the tough issue of restorative cleaning.

Here are a few simple tips for you to follow in order to keep your tile and grout floors in tip-top shape.

Sweep it

The first step is keep the floor swept. Sweep it daily, which will remove dust and debris and other contaminants that can eventually cause tough-to-remove soiling.

Mop it

Tile floors are very easy to clean and maintain. Use a clean mop and an approved detergent to clean the floor. Some prefer the newer flat floor cleaners. Doesn’t matter the tool, it is how you use it and the products you choose.

Some recommend the use of chlorine bleach, which acts as a disinfectant. The challenge here is remaining residues can create issues, such as being tracked off onto carpet, causing color loss. Be careful with the use of any type of bleach.

Grout issues

The toughest part of a tile and grout floor cleaning job is… the grout. It’s porous, even if sealed, and becomes an eyesore quickly. Purchase a heavy-duty grout cleaner and follow the directions. You will most likely be on your hands and knees, and it takes time to do this right. Apply the product to the grout, allow some reasonable contact time, and scrub – scrub – scrub! Repeat as necessary. Work carefully until the grout looks great again.

When everything is cleaned up, be sure to rinse with a neutral detergent, or just water, and let air dry and inspect. You will find areas need more attention. When you do… get back to work!

Tile and grout cleaning is no easy task, especially when it becomes really soiled. When you find yourself up against an impossible task, do the smart thing. Call your professional cleaning company. After all, it pays to call a pro!

What Can FEMA Disaster Relief Do for You?

A flood, fire and other disasters are devastating to families. Thankfully, there is assistance you can take advantage of.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides help to many of those in need; homeowners and others that need special aid when a disaster strikes.

What do you have to do to get assistance? Just ask for it. Here’s how.

Although the government and its workers are not always quick to respond, you can get the process started by visiting this link. You can also call the FEMA helpline at (800) 621-3362. You will enjoy an automated voice service but be patient and you should have your questions answered.

What’s next?

After you apply for disaster assistance, FEMA will mail you a copy of your application and a copy of a document entitled “Help After a Disaster.” This is especially helpful if you don’t have insurance coverage for the disaster event your family is facing. This happens more than you think.

Here is what FEMA says they will do for you, in part, according to the government website:

  • If you do not have insurance: An inspector will contact you after you apply to schedule a time to meet you at your damaged home.
  • If you have insurance, you need to file your insurance claim and provide FEMA with a decision letter (settlement or denial) from your insurance company before FEMA disaster relief issues an inspection.
  • There is an exception for damages caused by flooding; if you have flood insurance, FEMA will issue an inspection before receiving a copy of your flood insurance decision letter to evaluate your eligibility for temporary living expenses since these are not covered by flood insurance.
  • About 10 days after the inspection FEMA will decide if you qualify for assistance. If so, FEMA will send you a check by mail (or direct deposit) with an explanation of what the money covers (i.e. rent or home repair).
  • If FEMA determines that you are ineligible for any reason, you will receive a letter and a chance to appeal. Appeals must be in writing and mailed within 60 days of the determination. Read the letter carefully for the reason of ineligibility before filing your appeal.

But no matter what, when in need, your disaster restoration company can take care of you. Give them a call today!

Cold Weather Comfort

space heater safety, home safety, precautions

 

It’s coming. You can probably feel it right now. Space heater safety season!

That’s right. Brrr! For some across the country, this means trying to keep warm and snug in the home.

Some find comfort from their fireplaces. Others might use electric blankets. And others rely on space heaters, either gas powered or electric, to boost the comfort level their regular heating system can’t always provide, especially in sub-zero temperatures.

Space heater safety is very important, as many suffer from accidental fires and burns annually from these necessary devices.

The first consideration is which type of space heater you will choose. Electric models are considered safer than those which use fuel, which can be overturned and quickly cause a fire difficult to extinguish. So be smart when shopping and consider how the heater will be used and if there are children or pets (or clumsy adults) that might tip it over.

Space Heater Safety features

  • Consider the size and shape of the heater. Lower-profile heaters are more difficult to tip over. Some space heaters are shaped like a tower, and can easily be tipped. Avoid those.
  • While all space heaters should have an automatic turn-off mechanism if tipped over, still do your research and ensure yours has one.
  • If you have children or pets, an outer grill safety feature should be mandatory. You don’t want accidental contact burns to occur.

General Fire Safety tips

  • Measure the area you wish to heat and make sure the device you purchase is sufficient for the space. An overworked heater can be dangerous. And one that is too large for a room can overheat the room and be uncomfortable.
  • When purchasing a fuel-fired heater, never fill it while the device is on. Open flames are dangerous. Use appropriate, approved containers to carry the fuel.
  • When purchasing an electric heater, make sure it is plugged into a three-prong outlet that is grounded. Any extension cords you use must be able to handle the current your heater will need. Be sure to ask an expert about this.
  • Common sense dictates keeping any flammable materials away from the heater, such as furnishing, draperies, etc.
  • When you turn the heater off, give it plenty of time to cool down before touching or moving it.

But if anything does happen, such as a fire or smoke damage, then it’s time to get some professional help. Call your disaster restoration experts. After all, it pays to call a pro!