Recent Cleaning Posts

What to Do When Hoarding Is Discovered | SERVPRO® of Western Essex County

10/7/2021 (Permalink)

Compulsive hoarding in an apartment In need of a team to help restore a space where hoarding has been an issue? Contact our team at 908.650.8611.

Have you ever heard about hoarding? It’s a dangerous mental disorder that can make household dangers, including fires, more likely.

So, what is hoarding exactly? Hoarding is a mental illness that causes people to obsessively hang on to possessions, ultimately accumulating them in large quantities that can take over a home. Those affected by the disorder are rarely hoarding things of any value—trash and other clutter are common.

As these items pile up over time, they can present fire hazards, house insects or rodents, or even hide toxic mold growth.

So, if you you need to clean out a space where hoarding has been taking place, what should you do?

Step 1: Call in the professionals, who can clean up the space and ensure the area is safely rehabbed for future use.

What Is Involved in Hoarding Cleanup

There’s more involved in hoarding clean-up than simply clearing out the hoarded materials and washing the space. A professional team will provide a comprehensive cleanup process that mitigates any safety hazards that have cropped up.

Removal of Dangerous Substances

Piles of hoarded materials can conceal any number of health hazards, including toxic mold growth, along with insects, bacteria, and other pests.

A team of professionals educated in safe removal principles and outfitted in the appropriate gear will help ensure this step is done comprehensively and safely.

Removal of Items

When you think of cleaning up after hoarding, this is probably the step you think of. This involves clearing the space of hoarded materials, including items like newspapers and even trash that has collected over time.

Other items like carpets, furniture, and kitchenware, may also have been contaminated and need to be removed.

Complete Cleaning

Once the space is cleared of all debris and clutter, a professional team will deep-clean the area. This is the last step in the process and helps ensure the property is ready to be used again.

In need of a team to help restore a space where hoarding has been an issue? Contact our team at SERVPRO® of Central Union County, and we’ll make it "Like it never even happened."

Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned – a defensive cleaning program

10/27/2020 (Permalink)

Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned table tents on a white background Our defensive cleaning program gives your business a way forward by providing your employees and customers ongoing safety and assuredness.

Let us help you get back to business

As our communities re-open, we’re all moving back toward a new kind of normal. The expectations of visitors, customers, and employees who come into our establishments have evolved, and staying safe and well is a top concern. The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed what it means to be clean, and we’ve developed a program to help your business meet the new higher standard of clean that is now expected.

Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned is a defensive cleaning program we’re offering to businesses and commercial locations to address the current COVID-19 pandemic. This proactive viral pathogen cleaning program goes well beyond janitorial or carpet cleaning. By choosing Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned, you, your employees, your customers, and your community can rest assured that you’ve selected a higher cleaning standard – you are Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned.

Extensive training and specialized products

As the #1 choice in cleanup and restoration*, we stand on more than 50 years of experience and expertise to help your business become Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned.  Beyond fire & water, SERVPRO professionals are trained and experienced in biohazard decontamination and chemical spills – always adhering to the cleaning and decontamination standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local authorities. 

From formulating and creating our proprietary cleaning products, like SERVPROXIDE, at our headquarters in Gallatin, TN, to taking the utmost care while disinfecting, we will ensure you and your business are set up to inspire consumer confidence as the economy continues to reopen.

3 C’s – Consult, Clean, and Certify

When the stakes are this high, you want a partner who has developed an industry leading, proprietary training program, cleaning solutions, and remediation processes over decades. We’ve cleaned up some of the most challenging biohazards imaginable. Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned reflects our unique experiences and capabilities. The program is grounded with our unique 3 C’s: Consult, Clean, and Certify.

  • Consult – Every business is different, which is why you’ll be assigned a Cleaning Protocol Consultant who understands your business and will create a cleaning program to meet your specific needs. This program will be developed based on your business type, size of space, amount of high frequency touchpoints, foot traffic and congestion points.
  • Clean – Based on your specific business needs, your location will undergo a thorough, deep clean, using exclusive cleaning products, according to protocols set forth by the CDC. Our employees have years of experience, and we will go beyond the scope of work that regular janitorial staff perform. Cleanup procedures generally include cleaning of porous and non-porous surfaces, disinfecting of non-porous surfaces, cleaning and disinfecting of equipment, tools, and/or supplies used for cleanup process, and disposal of hazardous materials.  In the event of a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 event, we will be there cleaning within 24 hours to ensure you get back to business as quickly as possible. 
  • Certify - Once your business location has been Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned, you will gain access to proprietary signage, digital emblems, and other collateral that communicates that you’ve selected a higher standard of clean available to help protect your employees and customers. And because we add the day, month, and year to that proprietary stamp of clean, your guests will know that not only did you choose Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned, but that your location is being cleaned regularly at this standard.

Call today for a Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned consultation

We’re Here to Help – 24 hours a day, seven days a week – until life is back to normal in the communities we all call home.

Call SERVPRO of Western Essex County.

* #1 Choice in cleanup & restoration based Commercial Attitude & Usage Tracking study. Polling 816 commercial business decision makers on first choice for future needs related to cleanup & restoration work. Study conducted by C&R Research: October 2019

Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned means professionally trained SERVPRO franchises perform the requested cleaning, sanitizing and disinfection services according to proprietary SERVPRO protocols and recognized industry and CDC standards with EPA approved cleaning products to deliver a SERVPRO certified cleaning experience. Each SERVPRO franchise is independently owned and operated.

Looking to get your HVAC/Air Ducts Cleaned?

6/17/2019 (Permalink)

Did you know your ventilation system is often the biggest culprit in poor indoor air

quality? Inspecting the duct work in your facility or home should be a high

priority. In most cases, the HVAC system has been operating for some time

without much attention. Dirty ducts can circulate odors, contaminants such as mold and irritating dust throughout your building or home.

A routine part of our service is inspecting the heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit (HVAC). Keeping the HVAC and ductwork clean can potentially extend the life-span of the equipment by allowing it to operate at peak condition, which may help save you money.

Duct cleaning may not always be necessary. SERVPRO® of Western Essex County Professionals will inspect your HVAC system and duct work and make recommendations about the best way to address any indoor air quality concerns.

In some circumstances, such as after a fire, smoke or suspected mold growth, duct cleaning becomes an essential part of the cleanup process. In these cases, we can often restore the HVAC system and duct work to pre-damage condition. Unlike the majority of duct cleaning services, we use a portable ventilation and air duct cleaning system to examine duct work and make a clean sweep, removing years of dust and grime. 

  • The process begins by using patented equipment, including a roto-scraper, which automatically adapts to the duct’s shape and diameter while traveling through the duct, removing debris and filth before vacuuming begins.
  • Next, a powerful push-pull air delivery and collection system transfers the debris from the ducting to a 16-gallon container.
  • Air is filtered through a HEPA filtration system, removing 99.97 percent of the particles in the air-stream. HEPA filters capture debris and keep the indoor environment clean.
  • As an optional process, a sealant or coating product may be sprayed to address odor or microbial concerns.
  • Filters will either be cleaned or replaced to remove odor and dirt.

To inquire on prices for HVAC/Air duct cleaning, give us a call at 866-361-3400

Great Uses For Baking Soda

7/16/2018 (Permalink)

The solution to many household cleaning and freshening problems is probably sitting in your cupboard right now—baking soda. Here are some Great uses for baking soda around your home!

  • Clean Floors- Get deep cleaned floors by mixing one-half cup baking soda in a bucket of warm water to make an effective cleanser for no-wax and tile floors. For scuff marks, sprinkle baking soda onto a damp sponge and gently rub until the scuff is gone.
  • Deodorize Carpets- To get rid of unpleasant odor from carpets and rugs, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over the carpet and let it sit overnight. Vacuum until all baking soda is removed.
  • Deodorize Everything- We all know that an open box of baking soda can counterbalance odors in the fridge, but don’t stop there! You can use baking soda to chase away odors in garbage cans, dishwashers, and litter boxes. Simply sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of the container or appliance, let sit for several hours or overnight, then rinse or wipe clean with a damp sponge.
  • Soap Scum- The infamous soap scum in the bathroom. Sprinkle baking soda onto a clean, damp sponge and wipe down surfaces, then rinse with cool water. For heavier bathroom cleaning jobs, make a paste of baking soda, salt, and liquid dish soap. Spread on the surface, then wipe clean and rinse.
  • Clean Drains- By pouring baking soda down the drain while running warm water, you can help neutralize acidity and odors. Make sure to do it on a regular basis.
  • Extinguish Fires- For small cooking fires, make sure to turn off the electricity or gas to the stove, stand back, and throw handfuls of baking soda at the base of the flame to put out the fire.


Avoid Air Duct Cleaning Scams!

7/2/2018 (Permalink)

As a proud member of NADCA, our staff at SERVPRO of Western Essex County are dedicated in providing the best services for your home when it comes to air duct cleaning. We also want you to be aware of switch-and-bait tactics. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This is certainly the case with some companies offering special offers of $49 or $100 for an air duct cleaning job. We see it all the time. Companies advertising very low prices to lure potential customers in, only to up the price once inside your home. Different tactics these companies are using include offering a free mold test. From here, they might show a test where it looks like you have mold but it can potentially be a false test. This is a way for them to merely extort money. Some simple ways to avoid scams like these are to verify if the company is a NADCA member with certified contractors on staff. Always check customer reviews as they can be extremely helpful when deciding which company to go with. Try to avoid advertisements or “whole house specials” for under $100. Aside from those bad apples, there are a great amount of companies with amazing feedback, staying true to the services they provide. This is not to scare you off indefinite, but simply to educate you of potential scams.


Summer Home Maintenance

5/2/2018 (Permalink)

Summer is just around the corner. And that means lots of prepping for the hot weather. Here are some tips to get a head start on any necessary to-dos for a perfect summer experience.

Air Conditioners/ Fans

  • Check your air conditioners. As the weather gets warmer, it becomes the busiest year for window air conditioners, central air conditioner units, and fans. Remove the filters from window air conditioners and clean them thoroughly. Aside from helping keep the air running cool, cleaning your filters will also keep your AC bill low.
  • Try changing the filter once a month. Consider hiring professional services for your central air conditioning unit.
  • For ceiling fans, clean with a damp rag or a fain duster for those hard to reach blades.

Smoke Alarms

  • Check your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are working properly.
  • You should change the batteries on your smoke every six months.

Clean the Gutters

  • Ridding your gutters of any leaves, sticks, and debris can help prevent roof leaks, water damage, even insects and rodents.
  • Gutters should be cleaned at least twice a year

Fix any Leaks

  • Check for leaks in your exterior faucets and hoses. The slightest drop of water can cost you money and a leaky faucet can slowly cause damage along the foundation of your home, which can potentially leak into your home


Old-Fashioned Housekeeping Tips That Still Work- And Why

5/11/2016 (Permalink)

Home styles and trends have certainly changed over the decades, and unless you actually enjoy washing clothes and dishes by hand, improvements in home technology have made housekeeping tasks faster and less time consuming.  But did you know that many of our best, most trusted, most effective housekeeping tips are over a century (or more) old? Here are some tried and true old-fashioned housekeeping tips that you’ll want to try in your own home.

1. Baking soda

History: For baking, gentle cleaning and odor removal, nothing beats baking soda. This water soluble powder, usually found in the baking or cleaning section of your grocery store, is inexpensive and versatile. Baking soda’s chemical makeup is sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) and in nature it is found as nahcolite, a derivative of natron. The history of this mineral is lengthy: Ancient Egyptians used this mineral to create the paste for hieroglyphics. In 1846 two bakers in New York, Dr. Austin Church and John Dwight, started manufacturing and selling sodium bicarbonate. Their partnership eventually became the company we now know as Arm & Hammer. Although it was originally promoted for it’s uses in baking, baking soda was quickly adapted for money-saving personal care and other uses, like gently removing stains and odors, and became a trusted member of the household. In 1986 the copper-lined inside of the Statue of Liberty, which was covered in 100 years worth of coal tar, was cleaned with baking soda!

Uses: You probably already use baking soda when baking cookies, muffins or cakes. You can easily make cleaning solutions with baking soda and apply it to your sink, bathtub or oven to remove spots and stains. Baking soda easily removes coffee stains from your daily mug and can make glassware brighter. Many find that a bit of baking soda in the laundry helps remove odors and stains. Baking soda is really good at removing odors so sprinkle it on your carpeting or inside your dishwasher, or place an open jar inside the refrigerator, freezer or closet. You can even use baking soda as a toothpaste and denture cleaner. Check out the Arm & Hammer website for a huge list of how to use baking soda to clean and care for your home.

Read More: Easy DIY Non-Toxic Cleaning Recipes 

2. Lemons

History: The exact origin of the lemon plant isn’t exactly known but it thought to have originated in northern India or southern China. As world trade expanded so did the lemon, and became prized for its use in medicines, like the treatment of scurvy, and is an important plant in Ayurvedic medicine. The pH of a lemon is low, making it acidic, and the flavor is sour. This fruit quickly adapted to various culinary regions, becoming a feature on the tables of Europe, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and the New World.

Uses: Lemons are an incredibly versatile fruit and you probably already use it in your cooking and baking. After squeezing out the juice of a lemon, toss that leftover peel down the garbage disposal for a quick, refreshing scent. Sprinkle salt on half a lemon and use it to clean and brighten your copper pots. Rub a lemon half over stainless steel or brass to remove spots. Toss part of a lemon in a bowl of water and heat it in the microwave to remove caked on spills and deodorize the inside. The juice of a lemon (one lemon has about 3 tablespoons of juice) can help dissolve grease and grime. The essential oils of a lemon are considered to be antibacterial, can be used as an insecticide, can be used as a wood furniture polish, and the scent can help make any room smell fresh and clean.

Read more: 8 Ways To Use Lemon Around The Home

3. Vinegar

History: Vinegar has been used throughout history. Traces of vinegar have been found in Egypt dating back to 3000 BCE and may have been used to fight bacteria. Many ancient cultures used vinegar for food preservation, medicinal purposes, as cleaning agents, and as a food enhancer. There are all sorts of colors and flavors of vinegar, from the dark, thick balsamic to the cloudy, orange apple cider. There is malt vinegar, fruit vinegar, rice vinegar, cane vinegar, wine vinegar, and many other varieties. Essentially vinegar is the result of fermentation of ethanol, and consists of acetic acid, water and sometimes flavoring.

Uses: Vinegar has long been used for good health, preservation of food and for cleaning and today many homeowners rely upon vinegar to perform a host of jobs around the house. Vinegar is acidic and can easily etch or leave marks on natural stone like marble. For cleaning around the home try using distilled white vinegar.  Simply pour it on a dry cloth and rub it on stainless steel to remove fingerprints or spots. You can use this same method to clean the inside of your washing machine and dishwasher, particularly the rubber gaskets and seals. Mixed with water it makes an excellent cleaning liquid for flooring or other surfaces like glass. Use it as a rinse in your coffee maker to remove oily coffee residue. Vinegar can remove odors too. Try boiling a tablespoon in a pot of water to remove household smells or place an open bowl of vinegar in a stinky cupboard or fridge. Vinegar can remove sticky residue, like a sticker or tag that won’t come off.  You probably remember this from science class: mixing vinegar with baking soda will produce an effervescent effect and can be a great combination to battle dirty dishes and also works well as a drain un-clogger (follow this up with some boiling hot water down the drain).

Read more: 1001 Uses For Vinegar In The Home

4. Salt

History: Salt is comprised of sodium and chloride (NaCl) and in the days before refrigeration, salt became the leading method to preserving foods. Historically and economically, salt was a prized possession throughout many cultures. Salt was so valuable in ancient Rome that soldiers were sometimes paid in salt (the Latin word for salt is sal, which is where we get the word “salary”). Dozens of place names and expressions have derived from this mineral. “Worth his weight in salt,” “salt of the earth,” “take it with a grain of salt,” and “to sit above the salt” are all recognizable phrases we still use today.  Salt would have been a featured object on an table, but only placed closest to the head of the table. And salt was a common gift to bring someone to their new home. Whole geographic areas in Europe were named after salt mining, like Saltzburg, Austria, the salt road in Italy (via Salaria), and in Britian the suffix “wich” means a place of salt or brine. If you want to learn more about the history of salt, check out Salt A World History by Mark Kurlansky.

Uses: Salt is abrasive and is a perfect weapon against caked on, baked on grime or grease. Sprinkle it on a cutting board to thoroughly remove debris, or sprinkle in your mugs to remove coffee or tea stains. Salt is absorbent and can help soak up wine spills or other stains on fabrics or fibers. Use salt to melt ice, use it in the wash load to remove perspiration stains, or remove lime buildup in the sink. Sprinkle salt on a lemon half and use it to scrub and polish copper. Sprinkle salt on the windowsill to deter ants. Want more household uses for salt? Check out this list here.

Read more: Using Salt To Remove Snow & Ice

5. Leftovers: Recycling & Reusing

History: You might think that composting and recycling is a new idea however it wasn’t that long ago that households reused or recycled nearly everything. If you lived on a farm, or had property, you’d most likely feed your leftover food scraps to the animals or place them in the ground. City dwellers in England would rely upon the rag and bone man to buy leftover goods that weren’t reused or recycled. Victorian households had a surprising lack of waste – much of this can be attributed to lack of food waste (no food was ever wasted), reusable packaging (no plastic), buying only what the household needed (no electronics replaced every few years), and lack of sanitary department to pick up rubbish (higher motivation to reuse). Mending was both economical and earth friendly and belongings tended to have a longer life cycle.  Ancient Greece actually had a ruling about dumping waste outside the city limits as far back as 500 BC and Londoners regularly needed to revisit public dumping laws due to outbreaks of cholera and concerns for public health. New York City was among the first cities in America to create a formalized garbage management system in 1895, but other cities took longer to organize sanitation departments. Fortunately for households today we have opportunities to turn leftovers and garbage into useful products both outside and inside the home.

Uses: It’s a smart idea to get to know your city’s policies on rubbish and recycling; your yard waste bin, for example, might also collect food scraps. And your recycling bin make accept more types of plastic than you think. There are many leftovers in your home that you might already be reusing like glass jars, egg cartons or newspaper, which can be used for all sorts of ways in the home. Don’t forget the more “old fashioned” ways of using leftovers, like saving old linens, towels and clothing for cleaning rags or polishing projects. Try using old toothbrushes for cleaning hard-to-reach areas of the home or car. Soot or ashes from the fireplace can be spread in the yard as a nutritious additive, so can your used coffee grounds or eggshells. Seashells make excellent scraping tools, lemon rinds can be used to deodorize your kitchen sink, and newspapers can be used to clean your windows. Sites like this have all sorts of creative ways to reuse or upcycle nearly anything!

Read more: How To Make Home Improvement Greener

6. Oil & fats

History: Using all parts of the animal was how our ancestors lived, and it was common practice to use the hide, bones and fat for all sorts of household uses. Animal fat helped illuminate homes until natural gas, then electricity, became common. Animal fat was also used to make soap, protect the skin, seal containers, protect clothing from water and many other uses. Technological advancements may have replaced our animal fat usage however our homes still need, from time to time, the coating and lubrication that an oil provides. Olive oil, made from the fruit of the olive tree, was thought to have been produced in the Mediterranean as far back as 6000 BC. Coconuts have long been used by the peoples of Asia and the Pacific for thousands of years. Both oils were historically used for a multitude of purposes: food, medicinal, personal health, beauty, fuel, and in religious ceremonies. Today we don’t have to rely upon animal fat to illuminate our home, and it’s easier than ever to purchase olive and coconut oils.

Uses: You can use both types of oils around the home for many purposes (other than cooking or baking). A thin coating of olive oil over your stainless steel refrigerator can help keep off fingerprints. Coconut oil does a great job seasoning your cast iron skillets or BBQ grates. A bit of oil or fat can help unstick a zipper, take the squeak out of a door hinge and makes drawers roll smoothly. A small amount of olive oil on a dry cloth can help polish wood furniture (add some lemon essential oil and it will smell better than Pledge). Rub your garden tools (like shovels) with oil to keep them in good condition. Your shoes will look a bit shinier with a homemade oil polish.  Coat your measuring cup with oil to prevent sticky substances, like molasses, from sticking. Both of these oils work well for the body as well. Use them as moisturizers for the hair or skin, use them for treating irritated or cracked skin, or use it to remove makeup. Sticky bandaids come off much easier when the adhesive is rubbed with oil.

The 7 Biggest Benefits of Hiring a Green House Cleaner

4/20/2016 (Permalink)

It may seem like a luxury to hire a house cleaner, but when it comes to keeping your house spotless and sparkling, a professional can not only make sure everything is dirt and grime-free from top to bottom (including baseboards and ceiling fans), but can give you time back that you’d typically spend scrubbing toilets and washing windows. Even better, if you hire a green cleaner, you’re also doing your part to be environmentally responsible and take care of the earth. Read on to find out the benefits of hiring a house cleaner that’s planet-friendly and how it’s actually quite easy to be green (despite what that charming frog says).

Find a Green Cleaner

1. Green Cleaning Is Safer for Your Family and Pets

Certainly there are times when one needs to disinfect an area (like on surfaces that have had contact with raw meat or when someone has a contagious illness), but the chemicals in disinfectants can trigger asthma, allergies, and create other health issues. Exposure to living bacteria is actually good for us and according to some research may actually strengthen immune systems. Mostly though, by cleaning with products that don’t contain toxins, pollutants, or suspected carcinogens such as VOCs, solvents, chlorine, ammonia, sulfates, or irritating dyes and perfumes, you’re making sure your children and pets are living and thriving in a healthy and safe environment.

2. Green Cleaners Don’t “Green Wash”

Green cleaners wash your home in a green way, but they don’t “green wash,” meaning they won’t deceive you about the products they’re using to clean your home. If they say they’re using eco-friendly products and practices, then they really are. This means they’ll also be honest about which organic products are most effective and won’t tell you they’re disinfecting if they’re not.

3. Green Products Are Better for Your Health

Most common household cleaners contain toxic chemicals that can have an adverse affect on your health, which is why the biggest advantage giving your home an eco-friendly cleaning is that everything will be cleaned with all-natural products. There are tons of household cleaners that can keep your home fresh and clean that are non-toxic, biodegradable, and made from renewable resources. That being said, it’s true that sometimes it can take a little more time and elbow grease to get green products to work because they’re much more gentle than chemical products. Chemicals may make cleaning easier, but they don’t make it any better. Still, green products won’t disinfect and kill bacteria the way traditional cleaning products do, so if that’s important to you, it’s something to think about. Though it’s also worth nothing that it’s not necessary to kill bacteria on a surface, just to remove it, which green products will do.

Find a Green Cleaner

4. Green Cleaners Provide the Products

In order to ensure your home is being cleaned with non-toxic and environmentally friendly products, most green cleaners provide all of the cleaning equipment and products, though they will use your products if you ask them to.

5. Green Cleaners Are Committed to Being Green in All Areas

While using green house cleaning products is a huge part of taking care of the earth, green cleaners know it goes further than just that and make an effort to save water, reuse bottles, reduce waste, and implement sustainable business practices.

6. Green Cleaning Is Also Safer for the People Doing the Cleaning

A sustainable cleaning philosophy means that cleaners are not exposed to toxic chemicals that could adversely affect their health.

7. Green Cleaners Will Save You Time

Okay, this is true of any house cleaner, but it’s still worth mentioning. Whether you live in an apartment or a house, a green cleaner is saving you the time and effort it takes to keep everything looking its best. And they will clean on a schedule that works for you, whether that’s once a week or once a month. In addition, by taking care of your home and providing regular maintenance, you’ll save money in the long run.

How To Deep Clean an Oven

2/2/2016 (Permalink)

Prentiss Architects

Regularly cleaning your oven is the best way to ensure you don’t end up with an appliance that looks older than it really is and it’s the best way to avoid baking your dinner in an unhygienic oven. A clean oven will make the whole kitchen more attractive and may even make you a happier baker. Here are three common methods for cleaning your oven.

1. Cleaning An Oven With The Self-Cleaning Setting

A self-cleaning oven is a well-insulated oven that heats to a very high temperature (upwards of 800′ Fahrenheit or more) and incinerates baked on food and grease. General Electric is accredited with inventing the pyrolytic cleaning (commonly called the self-cleaning) oven feature in 1963. Much like you can clean off your outdoor grill by turning up the heat and letting the debris bake off, the self-cleaning method utilizes extreme heat to remove stuck on food. But don’t be fooled by the name. Most manufacturers will recommend first removing as much grease and grime before your self-cleaning session and afterwards you’ll need to wipe off and remove the remaining ashes. If you are nervous about having your oven heat up to nearly 1000′ for over three hours you’re not alone. Many people wonder if this will damage the oven (or damage a person who accidentally touches the front of the oven) yet manufacturers assure us that a self-cleaning oven is perfectly safe to use as long as you follow the operating instructions. Some ovens require that you remove the interior racks prior to cleaning, and you don’t ever want to leave your house with this setting on. Because a self-cleaning oven burns all left-on debris to a crisp, you may see smoke or vapors coming from the oven. Households with pet birds will want to sequester them away from the oven during the self-cleaning process as the vapors be highly toxic to birds.

Self-Cleaning Oven Pros:

  • Inexpensive (if it already comes with your oven)
  • Easy to use
  • Effectively burns off baked on debris
  • Self cleaning ovens are more insulated which makes it more energy efficient when baking
  • You don’t need to use additional oven cleaning chemicals to clean

Self-Cleaning Oven Cons:

  • Potentially dangerous if the exterior is touched during cleaning
  • You still need to clean the oven before and after the self-cleaning session
  • Hazardous fumes and vapors are released during the process, toxic enough to kill birds
  • Strong smells may be unpleasant
  • Smoke from burning food may set off your smoke alarm

2. Cleaning An Oven With Chemical Oven Cleaners

Arguably the most dangerous way to clean an oven is by using an off-the-shelf chemical cleaner. Not that it doesn’t do the job; chemical cleaners use lye (along with a host of other chemicals) to magically lift off caked on grease and grime. The number one reason you won’t want to use this product is that it is incredibly hazardous to your health and the health of your family. Lye is caustic and can cause irritation to mucus membranes, eyes, skin and lungs. In fact, most manufacturers recommend wearing long gloves and goggles while using the product. Corrosive alkalis are dangerous to inhale and can damage lung tissue. Chemical cleaners may contain a combination of monoethanolamine (MEA) which is a volatile organic compound, diethylene glycol monobutyl ether, petroleum gases and many other dangerous chemicals. In fact, if you’d like to see the ratings of cleaning products like oven cleaners, check out the Environmental Working Group’s rating system of this particular brand

Chemical Oven Cleaner Pros:

  • Easily removes baked on grease and leftover foods

Chemical Oven Clean Cons:

  • Highly toxic fumes can damage lungs and respiratory system
  • Chemical components are known to cause cancer, damage to DNA and reproductive health, skin irritation and allergen
  • Known environmental hazards
  • Deadly poisonous if swallowed


3. Cleaning An Oven Using Non-Toxic, Homemade Cleaners

You might think that something as tough as baked on food would either need to be burned off by heat (self cleaning method) or by chemicals, but you’d be wrong. There are several ways to clean a dirty oven using non-toxic (and incredibly inexpensive) ingredients. In fact, most kitchen appliances can be cleaned using homemade cleaners you can easily make in a matter of seconds with products you probably already have in your pantry. Baking soda is a very effective cleaner; it’s abrasive enough to remove caked on debris but won’t scratch surfaces. It also helps remove odors. Vinegar, or lemon juice, easily cuts through grease and removes germs. Some recipes call for Castile soap, which is a vegetable based soap, and you can decide whether or not to add this ingredient to the following recipes.

For best results, wipe off as much baked on food prior to either method and make sure oven is completely cool.

Non toxic cleaning method #1

  • Generously sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of the oven
  • Using a spray bottle, wet the baking soda with vinegar (you don’t want a puddle of vinegar). Note that the reaction of the vinegar and baking soda will cause bubbling.
  • Let sit for about 4 hours or overnight
  • Wipe away vinegar and baking soda with a textured sponge.
  • If any residue is left, simply use clean water to wipe clean

Non toxic cleaning method #2

  • In a mixing bowl combine about 1 cup of baking soda with enough water to make a paste
  • Generously coat inside of oven with paste
  • Let sit overnight
  • Remove with a damp sponge and repeat wiping until clean

Non-Toxic Cleaning Pros:

  • Inexpensive, easy to make
  • Effective at removing debris from oven
  • Non-irritating and doesn’t produce harmful fumes
  • Not harmful to the environment
  • Can control the amount and types of ingredients used

Non-Toxic Cleaning Cons:

  • May need to use more “elbow grease” to remove debris
  • May take longer to clean oven than other methods

Ensemble Architecture

How To Keep Your Oven Clean All The Time

The best way to keep your oven clean is to prevent spills from happening in the first place. This shouldn’t be too difficult, especially as you know your baking habits. If it’s always spilled casseroles or pie, simply put your baking dishes on top of a jelly roll pan. If it’s grease spatters from weekly chicken roasts, consider covering up the chicken with foil or immediately wipe off the grease while the grease is still warm. Just like your BBQ grill, it’s much easier to wipe away drippings while they are still warm rather that bake them repeatedly and expect to get it clean later.

How to Clean a Fireplace; 5 Hacks for a Safe and Warm Winter by the Fire

11/5/2015 (Permalink)

t’s starting to get chilly outside again, and few things seem more appealing than cozying up by the fire with a good book and a mug of hot cocoa. But whether you have a wood- or gas-burning fireplace, it’s important to clear it of debris and buildup so that it functions efficiently and you and your loved ones stay safe this season. Read on for 5 fireplace-cleaning hacks*.

Related link: 4 Must-Read Tips for Fireplace Safety

Cleaning a wood-burning fireplace

Whether it’s the strangely satisfying crackles and pops, the fragrance of fresh wood, or those cool-looking tools they come with, few people can deny the allure of a traditional wood-burning fireplace.

But with burning wood comes ash, soot, and creosote buildup that can quickly accumulate and affect the efficiency and safety of your fireplace. That’s why it’s a good idea to clean it up every fall so it’s ready to, er, fire up once winter hits.

(By the way, you’ll want to make sure you haven’t used your fireplace for at least 72 hours before cleaning it in order to reduce the risk of starting fires outside your fireplace.)

1. Prep for the scrub-down

Safety first! It’s wise to wear a dust mask, rubber gloves, and even clear goggles to avoid direct contact with any harmful materials.

Lay a plastic tarp around the hearth to protect any surrounding carpet and reduce the amount of after-work cleanup. You may also want a kneeling pad for your comfort. And remember to wear old clothes (or at least an apron) since this can get messy.

Pro tip: Save some used coffee grounds or tea leaves to sprinkle on top of the ash and debris. That way, you’ll avoid inhaling the dust when you’re ready to sweep everything up.

2. Remove any grates and take them outside

Using a nylon brush, scrub soot and debris off your fireplace’s grates. When you’re done, simply rinse them off with water and wipe them dry. If you’re aiming for extra shininess, you can use metal polish to get that trademark gleam.

Related link: Fall Home Maintenance Tricks You’d Be Crazy Not To Try

3. Get rid of ash piles

To avoid breathing in ash and dust, sprinkle some used coffee grounds or tea leaves over the piles of debris in your fireplace. You can sweep everything up with a brush and dustpan and then place it in a metal bin or bucket outside and away from your home.

4. Start scrubbing

Next, scrub the fireplace walls with the same nylon brush you used on the grates. Work your way from the top of each wall to the bottom. It also helps to line the bottom of your fireplace with newspaper for easier cleanup.

5. Tidy up the hearth

You’re almost done! Carefully gather up the plastic tarp and soot-covered newspaper and dispose of them outside. Vacuum any remaining debris on and around the hearth and spray the sooty areas with water.

Then apply hearth cleaner and give those areas a good rub. (Spraying the areas with water first prevents the hearth cleaner from soaking in too quickly, which tends to be more of an issue with brick fireplaces.)

Rinse the cleaner off with a clean sponge and let it air-dry. Then put the grates you cleaned back inside. Voilà — you now have a clean fireplace!

But what if you have a gas-burning fireplace, you ask?

How to clean a gas fireplace

Luckily, gas-burning fireplaces are pretty low maintenance and not many steps are required to clean one out for this winter’s use.

It’s really simple: use your vacuum to clear out ash and debris in or around the vents of the fireplace. Then, make sure that gas logs are positioned properly, wipe down any glass doors with a non-ammonia-based cleaner, and give yourself a pat on the back — your fireplace is now ready to go.

Related link: 5 Green Home Tipes This Winter Holiday (and Convincing Cases for Each)

What about the chimney?

Creosote, which is essentially wood tar, is extremely flammable and can accumulate along the flue walls of your chimney, presenting a major safety issue. In fact, it’s one of the main causes of chimney fires.

It’s generally recommended that you have a licensed chimney specialist come out once a year to inspect for dangerous buildup — especially if you use your fireplace frequently.

According to HomeAdvisor, most Americans spend between $123 and $314 for a chimney sweep to inspect and clean their chimney. That’s nothing compared to the thousands of dollars you could spend after a catastrophic chimney fire. If you’re a homeowner, make sure you have homeowners insurance, which can financially protect you from fire damage and so much more.

Cleaning A Kitchen Range Exhaust System

10/28/2015 (Permalink)

The ventilation system above or next to your stove top serves several important functions in the kitchen. It helps remove moisture, smoke and odors, helps improve indoor air quality, and most importantly, helps trap flammable, aerated grease that is creating during the cooking process. Some states or cities require a ventilation hood to be present in the kitchen but even if your area doesn’t require one, you’ll want to make sure one is installed in your kitchen. Regularly cleaning and maintaining this ventilation system will help it function better, remove bacteria and mold, and reduce the risk of a kitchen fire.

Why your kitchen needs an exhaust system

In addition to whisking away odors, steam and smoke, a good ventilation or exhaust system will suck in and trap tiny grease and oil particles that would otherwise end up drifting throughout the kitchen and into rest of the home. Additionally, if you cook with natural gas, understand that a certain amount of nitrogen dioxide (along with carbon monoxide and formaldehyde) may be produced when cooking. These chemicals are bad for the lungs and can aggravate people with asthma or respiratory issues. When cooking, always turn on the exhaust system to help improve the indoor air quality.

How to clean the hood, filters and ventilation system

The exhaust system filters act as a trap for grease and oil and should be cleaned or replaced often. How often depends upon the type of filter system as well as how often you cook. If you wok fry food weekly, for example, a monthly cleaning will be necessary. But most find that a regular schedule of cleaning the filters every 3 months is the best way to keep a routine that you can stick to. Recirculating hoods use charcoal disposable filters and should be replaced every 6 to 12 months. Check with your manufacturer for more specific replacement or cleaning instructions.

To clean the wire mesh filters first remove them from the hood or ventilation system. You can either wash them by hand with warm soapy water (some find that baking soda works great too) or you can place them in an empty dishwasher and run a full cycle. You may need to repeat these methods if they are particularly greasy. Once they are clean, inspect them to insure there is no rusted or broken parts. Let them dry completely before placing them back in the ventilation system.

The rest of the ventilation system, like the hood, should also be periodically cleaned. Most hoods are made from stainless steel so use a cleaning product designed for this material or use one of ournon-toxic stainless steel cleaning recipes here.  You’ll want to remove dust, grease and debris and always rub the stainless steel in the direction of the grain.

Commercial kitchens regularly have the entire exhaust system cleaned to remove grease and prevent dangerous fires. Homeowners can have this done as well; find a professional who is a member of the International Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning Association.

What happens if you don’t clean the stove ventilation system

The three biggest reasons for keeping the filters and ventilation hood clean are better indoor air quality, reduction of bacteria and mold, and fire risk reduction. As mentioned above, having a functioning and clean ventilation system will help create a healthier indoor air quality. This is especially important in the cooler months of fall and winter when many homeowners are cooking inside more and have the windows closed.

The warm and moist environment directly above a hot stove top is perfect for growing bacteria and mold, especially when there is a steady supply of food particles and oils. Dust can also stick to this grease buildup and create a nasty mess, not to mention a bad smell.

Kitchen fires are a very real hazard that you need to be aware of. When cooking on the stove, high heat mixed with oil can create a flame. If this flame is high enough, or near enough a grease-soaked filter, the flames can catch and spread. A grease or cooking fire can be very scary, spread quickly, and is responsible for 50% of reported residential house fires every year. Always keep a fire extinguisher labeled “for cooking fires” or with a “K” to put out a kitchen grease fire.