Written by Elisa Krovblit
An expert on the chemistry of clean, Kim Dunn holds a degree in industrial microbiology and owns a Molly Maid franchise. Her tips on cleaning come from her scientific insight. Use these suggestions to up the ante on your spring cleaning.
Spring cleaning: Mattress and pillows
You don't want to know how dirty your mattress and pillows are, and you may not be able to sleep after Dunn is done, but if you're not using a good mattress protector, washing it and vacuuming your mattress, "you've got some lively behaviour beneath you at night! Mattresses and pillows are full of fungus and bacteria, and let's not forget dust mites. You're sweating, you're excreting oils, shedding skin cells, and dust mites feast on skin cells. If they're eating, they're excreting," chimes Dunn."
A mattress gains 10 per cent of its weight over the course of its lifetime -- oils, mites, mite poo, skin cells. A typical mattress has between 100,000 and 10,000,000 dust mites feasting!"
Keep it covered and keep it clean. Get a mattress cover that's waterproof and impervious to skin cells and bodily secretions. Remove it once a month and wash it. "
Laundering the cover regularly and vacuuming helps, too. The vacuum gets rid of skin cells and mites. When removing the mattress cover, vacuum the mattress. Use the vacuum's crevice tool to get right into the creases."
You should also keep your pillows in protectors. They should be replaced regularly.
Spring cleaning: Sports equipment
"Sports equipment. Really bad," Dunn says right off the... err... bat. You almost don't want to know. Hockey bag? Yes, but don't stop there. Think shin protectors, jocks, padding, snowboard boots and yoga mats. They're all breeding grounds. "
If it smells, there's something growing. It's an abyss of germs in any given sports bag. Yes, I said an abyss," she repeats herself. Most padding is made of foam. "The surface area is 100 times what you think it is, like a sponge." It's a massive surface area for germs and bacteria to grow. Not just big sports bags, it's those yoga mats you roll up and throw into the trunk until next class.
Think about how you use them, she suggests. You're sweating and laying on them -- hot yoga is worse. "Bacteria and fungus feed off of moisture -- off of our sweat." Worse than just being dirty, diseases like Staph A and MRSA can be harboured and spread on this equipment.
"Deodorizing is not cleaning. Masking the odours is not killing anything." You can take your equipment for an ozone treatment. That will get rid of the smell and the bacteria. You should also wash the equipment on a sanitizing cycle.
Aside from treatments, the best thing you can do for your equipment, says Dunn, is to "Air it out and let it completely dry before you put it away. Put it in the sun to dry." The UV light, she explains, is beneficial for drying out and killing bacteria and fungus.
And that yoga mat? "Carry a spritz bottle filled with water and add essential oils: 10 drops of tea tree oil and 10 drops of your favourite essential oil, like lavender, eucalyptus or citrus. Spray your mat and let it air dry before putting it away," she says. And anything metal based, like a mask, should be swabbed with rubbing alcohol.
"A study was done to see where the typical equipment fit within our provincial guidelines for the acceptable limits of bacteria:
- Shoulder pads: 19 times higher than the acceptable limit
- Helmet: 30 times higher than the acceptable limit
- Pants: 180 times higher than the acceptable limit
- Jock: 376 times higher than the acceptable limit
- Shin pads: 3,440 times higher than the acceptable limit.
There are 188,650 bacteria/25 square centimetre in shin pads. If it smells, it's growing."
Spring cleaning: Pets
"The fur babies bring in a bevy of bacteria and change the microbiome of your home. Over half the home's microdiversity is attributed to the animals in that home, what they have naturally existing on their bodies."
While they bring in their own specific bacteria, sharing it wherever they, they also have some filthy habits. "Animals bring a lot of poo into our homes," says Dunn. Whether running around the dog park or the backyard, dog paws and fur pick up whatever they touch. Rotting leaves and dead fish are like perfume to dogs -- they roll in just about anything that smells good to them. Then they come into your home, walk on your carpets, sit on your sofa, nuzzle up against you, snuggle up in your bed -- and share all of it with every point of contact.
"In comparing homes with and without dogs, they found homes with dogs had more types of bacteria.
- TV screen: 52 per cent more
- Pillow cases: 42 per cent more
Fecal contamination in homes with animals is 30 to 35 per cent higher."
And then there's the cat. Litter box use guarantees their paws are covered with fecal contamination. They walk on the countertop, curl up on your bed leaving a bacteria trail wherever they wander.
Aside from swearing off pets -- because that's not an option for many, wiping their paws is a big factor in reducing the contamination. "We wipe our feet when we come. Clean their paws with soap and water, or at least wipe them down. Keep pets off furniture and bedding. Put a washable blanket on their favourite spots -- and wash that weekly.
"Don't let animals drink out of the toilet, it's a huge cross-contaminant - and wash hands after playing with animals."
Spring cleaning parent tip: Lice
"We never had lice. Add eight to 10 drops of tea tree oil into your shampoo." This is a natural lice repellent. Dunn says you may find the tea tree oil leaves a scent, but it's greatly preferential to lice!
So, what are you planning to clean first?
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
MORE ON HUFFPOST:
TRUE: A truly green alternative, lemons are a great way to safely remove water stains from glass and chrome in the kitchen and bathroom. Their acidity breaks down stains while also releasing a fresh clean scent. Simply rub a lemon on the stain and then rinse. Also a great way to remove general grunge from around faucets.
FALSE: Bleach doesn’t clean so much as it disinfects. Bleach does a great job killing bacteria, and also removes tough stains. But bleach doesn't really clean dirt and residue from surfaces. To do that, you need to scrub and rinse the surface with a cleaning product. For many household cleaning jobs, bleach just isn't the right choice. It has heavy fumes that can make you sick, as well as damage and remove colour from some surfaces.
FALSE: We often associate freshness and cleanliness with fragrant scents. But sometimes the fragrance may just be covering up the actual problem. It’s been proven that scented and unscented versions of the same product clean equally well. The best way to know whether a surface is clean is to do the touch test. If it feels clean and looks clean, chances are you have sufficiently removed dirt and grime from the surface.
TRUE: A window squeegee does a great job at removing pet fur from carpets and furniture. Pet hair from dogs and cats can be hard to remove once it has become embedded in the fibres — even with a vacuum. The solution? A simple window squeegee. Use the rubber blade to rake up the pet hair. Once most of the pet hair has been successfully removed, a vacuum should be able to finish the job.
TRUE: For natural furniture scratch repair, just take the meat of a walnut (not the hard shell), and rub it gently on the scratch in the wood using a circular and up-and-down motion. The walnut will release an oily substance, which should also be rubbed into the scratch. It is these natural oils that help repair the wood. A quick polish and the scratch should be gone.
FALSE: An ordinary cleaning cloth has fibres made of cotton or a synthetic material such as nylon. The fibres in these fabrics are quite large. But a microfibre cloth has far more fibres and they're much smaller. Microfibres are able to attach themselves to even the smallest, most microscopic dirt particles — ones that ordinary cloth fibres simply brush past.
FALSE: Citrus peels may temporarily eliminate nasty scents from the garbage disposal. However, if they aren’t completely ground up, they will eventually contribute to the bad smells wafting from your sink. Citrus peels can clog your drain and corrode the metal in your disposal. It’s safer to pour a few teaspoons of white vinegar into the disposal instead.
TRUE: This sounds strange, but there is truth to it! Take an ice cube and place it in the stubborn carpet dent for a while, then fluff it with a fork to get the fibres looking good as new.
TRUE: Plant experts tell us that specific varieties do a great job purifying the air in our homes. Plants such as rubber trees, corn plants, bamboo palm, ficus, gerber daisies, english ivy, peace lily and philodendrons are great picks.
TRUE: This is a popular one. It seems impossible that a sheet of paper covered in ink could clean anything, but it has been a contractor's trick for years. Using newspaper on windows leaves no streaks, is absorbent and easy to maneuver around the window. The lack of lint on newspaper (vs. paper towels or an ordinary cleaning cloth) is the key.
FALSE: The argument here is that the rotating brush in a vacuum can pull, stretch, and wear out carpet fibres. However, this is untrue. Dirt puts more wear and tear on our carpets than most vacuum cleaners ever could. That being said, it is possible to overwork your carpet. If your vacuum cleaner has multiple settings, be sure to use it on the correct one. Don’t use the bare floor setting when vacuuming the carpet.
TRUE: Natural cleaning methods are just as effective as their chemical counterparts but may need to be used differently. Some natural cleaning methods need to sit and soak for maximum efficacy. That said, they definitely do the job when tested. For example, white vinegar not only cuts through grease, but has acidic properties that can create an unfavourable environment for mold and bacteria. Those who make the switch to natural cleaning products find that they can remove stains from clothing, scrub tough grease out of dishes and sanitize their kitchens and bathrooms without using dangerous chemicals.
TRUE: Surprising but true. When you add equal parts of white vinegar with baking soda, clogged drains beware! Simply sprinkle ½ cup of baking soda down your clogged drain, followed by ½ cup of vinegar. Cover with a cloth and wait 5 to 10 minutes before flushing with very hot water. Drains should be clear.
FALSE: Using cold water to wash our clothes is a great way of saving energy and money on our monthly utility bills. It also keeps clothes looking new and fresh longer. However, sometimes hot water is a must. Using hot water helps to kill bacteria, mold and viruses. So, when washing your undergarments, bed sheets, bathroom towels or anything else that may be filled with germs, it’s a good idea to turn the dial to hot.
Follow YPNextHome on Twitter: www.twitter.com/YPNextHome