HOW TO CLEAN

PRACTICALLY
ANYTHING
FOURm EDmON/UPDATED
THE EDrmRs OF CONSUMER REPORTS BOOKS
WITH EDWARD KJpPEL
Consumer Reports Books
A Division of Consumers Union
Yonkers, New York
Copyright © 1996 by Consumers Union of United States, Inc., Yonkers, New York 10703.
Published by Consumers Union of United States, Inc., Yonkers, New York 10703.
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
How to clean practically anything/the editors of Consumer Reports Books with Edward
Kippel.-4th ed.lupdated
p. em.
Includes index
ISBN 0-89043-843-9
1. House Cleaning. 2. Cleaning. I. Kippel, Edward. II. Consumer Reports Books.
TX324. H69 1996
648.5-<1c20 95-37498
Design by Suzette Ruys
First printing, January 1996
This book is printed on recycled paper. *
Manufactured in the United States of America
CIP
How to Clean Practically Anything, Fourlh Edition/Updated is a Consumer Reports
Book published by Consumers Union, the nonprofit organization that publishes
Consumer Reports, the monthly magazine of test reports, product Ratings, and buying
guidance. Established in 1936, Consumers Union is chartered under the Not-for-Profit
Corporation Law of the State of New York.
The purposes of Consumers Union, as stated in its charter, are to provide consumers
with information and counsel on consumer goods and services, to give information on all
matters relating to the expenditure of the family income, and to initiate and to cooperate
with individual and group efforts seeking to create and maintain decent living standards.
Consumers Union derives .its income solely from the sale of Consumer Reporls and
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met, in part, by nonrestrictive, noncommercial contributions, grants, and fees . Con-
sumers Union accepts no advertising or product samples and is not beholden in any
way to any commercial interest. Its Ratings and reports are solely for the use of the
readers of its publications. Neither the Ratings, nor the reports, nor any Consumers
Union publications, including this book, may be used in advertising or for any com-
mercial purpose. Consumers Union will take all steps open to it to prevent such uses
of its material, its name, or the name of Consumer ReporiS.
Contents
FOREWORD . ............ . ........... .ix
ACKNOWIEDGMENTS .................... xi
INIRODUcnON ........................ 1
DISHES . ............................ 9
Dishwasher Detergents ....... . ........ 9
Dishwashers ...................... 10
Hand Dishwashing Liquids ............ 13
FLOORS . ........................... 17
Carpet and Rug Cleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
First Aid for Carpet Stains .. .. ......... 21
Floor Care ....................... . 22
Hard-Surface-Floor First Aid for Stains .... 26
VI CONTENTS
FURNITURE ................ .. ........ 29
Wood Furniture .. .................. 29
Upholstered Furniture ................ 33
HOUSE CLEANING ................. .. .. .43
All-Purpose Cleaners ................ .43
Bathroom Cleaners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .45
Drain Cleaners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .46
Garbage Bags .. . ................ . .52
Handheld Vacuum Cleaners . . . . . . . . . . . .58
Oven Cleaners ..................... 62
Paper Towels .. . .. . . ............. .. 64
Scouring Cleansers ... . .. ... .. .. ..... 67
Toilet Bowl Cleaners ....... . .. . ...... 69
Vacuum Cleaners .... . ..·.. .. ........72
Window Cleaners ................... 77
LAUNDRY . ............. .... . ..... .. . 81
Bleaches .............. : ......... .82
Boosters ............... .. ....... .85
Clothes Washers . . ... ..... .. ....... . 86
Detergents ........................ 93
Dry Cleaning .... .... .......... .. .. 98
Fabric Softeners ................... 100
Hand-Laundry Detergents .. . ... . ..... 101
CONTENTS VII
METAL MAiN7ENANCE .... .. ............ 105
Metal Polishes ............. . ...... 105
Silver Care ......... ... .. .... ..... 107
MISCELlANEOUS ...... . ...... . ..... . .. 111
Air Cleaners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .111
Auto Polishes . . .. . . . . .... .. . ... . . . 118
Paint Removal ..... . ........ . ..... 120
Power Blowers . ................ . .. 129
Water Treatment .. ... ............ . .132
PERSONAL CARE ........... . ... . ...... 145
Facial Cleansers ... .. . ... .. . ... . .. :145
Facial Tissues ..................... 146
Hand Soaps . . .................... 148
Toilet Tissues .. . .. . . ... . . ......... 150
APPENDIX A
Tips for Cleaning a yariety of Household Items ... 153
APPENDIX B
Stain Removal ......................... .177
APPENDIX C
Disposal of Household Cleaning Materials ...... . 201
INDEX . . ... .......... . ....... . ......... . 203
Foreword
This book contains valuable information based on Consumers
Union's unbiased tests of detergents, cleaning chemicals, and
cleaning equipment. In past editions, Ratings of tested products
were included. But as you might imagine, these Ratings were soon
out of date. So a more generic book was created, designed to be
used in conjunction with recent Consumer Reports articles high-
lighting the best products' for each need. If you want to find a
recent report on a particular class of product, see the index in the
latest issue of Consumer Reports, visit your local library, or contact
Consumer Reports Facts by FAX at 800-766-9988. (There is ,a
charge for each report obtained from this service.)
Acknowledgments
The editors of Consumer Reports Books would like to express
their appreciation to the directors and each of the members of
Consumers Union's Appliance, Chemical and Textiles, Home
Environment, Public Service, and Recreation and Home
Improvement departments for reviewing and providing comments
designed to enhance the quality of each of the sections of this
book. Among these dedicated individuals, special thanks to
Edward Miller (senior project leader) and Bert Papenburg (direc-
tor of testing) of the Chemical and Textiles Department for their
help with many of the chapters.
Introduction
ORGANIZED CLEANING
Many people find that frequent, systematic light cleaning has ad-
vantages over periodic upheaval. For one thing, the continuous
cleaning process is far easier on household surfaces. It minimizes
the need for scrubbing that causes unnecessary wear and tear on
wall, floor, and furniture finishes. In addition, dust on wooden sur-
faces, as well as on upholstery, draperies, and so forth, may be
easier to remove before it builds up and combines with other soil
such as body oils and tiny airborne droplets of cooking grease.
Frequent vacuuming will also minimize the need for professional
cleaning. Some find it easier to do a chore or two a day rather than
let tasks accumulate and become overwhelming.
PLANNING
Develop a list of all tasks that need to be done during the year and
group them under frequency headings-daily, weekly, monthly,
semiannually, and annually. It may be possible to budget your
time so that weekly chores are spread out over several days. For
people with weekday responsibilities other than cleaning, house
1
2 INTRODUCTION
maintenance must be on a catch-as-catch-can basis. But even
within the limits of available time, it's a good idea to plan to ac-
complish household tasks on a regular schedule.
What you clean and how often you clean depend upon your
personal preferences and tolerances. The following schedule is
meant as a guideline to suggest how a home can be cleaned with
well-defined tasks. Divide responsibilities among all family mem-
bers. Make certain that everyone knows who does what and when.
Daily. Dishes should be washed, dried, and put away, and
kitchen counters wiped after each meal. Clean the kitchen sink
and wipe the range surfaces (including the microwave oven) once
a day or, even better, after each use. Picking up should become
second nature.
Weekly. Dust furniture and shelves; vacuum and, where ap-
plicable, brush upholstered furniture. Vacuum rugs and floors.
Clean under furniture and behind it. Damp mop the kitchen
floor. Empty wastebaskets. Wash bathroom basins, fixtures, and
floors. Dust radiators, woodwork, pictures, and mirrors. Wipe
window sills, and brush shades and blinds. Clean kitchen range
burners. Wipe the refrigerator and kitchen cabinet fronts. Polish
bright metal surfaces.
Monthly. Do one or more of the following special jobs in several
rooms on the same day: vacuum and, where applicable, brush
curtains and draperies. Wipe WQod trim and, where needed, wipe
walls and around doorknobs. Wash windows. Wash and, if neces-
sary, wax the kitchen floor. Polish wood furniture and vacuum
upholstered furniture, paying special attention to cleaning under
cushions and in crevices between the back and the cushion
support. To prolong their life, turn over mattresses, end to end
and side to side, which will help equalize their wear. In hot
weather, clean air conditioner filters according to the manufac-
turer's recommendations.
INTRODUCTION 3
Seasonally or semiannually. Take inventory of the items in clos-
ets and drawers that are no longer useful. (The more clutter, the
harder it is to clean.) Rearrange clothes closets by season, hanging
clothes by type for easy access. Weed out unused clothing that can
be donated to appropriate agencies. Pack winter and summer
clothing where it will remain clean and free from moth damage
until needed again. (Dry-cleaning establishments commonly offer
free storage for items you bring them for cleaning.) Pack wool
clothing in cloth bags. This will allow the fiber to breathe and pre-
vent moth damage. Wash mattress covers. Wash curtains and
draperies or have them dry cleaned. Dust the coils behind or un-
derneath the refrigerator.
Annually. Have the furnace cleaned and tuned in late spring or
early fall. A central air-conditioning system arid room air condi-
tioners should be checked for proper operation before the onset
of hot weather. Put power and hand gardening tools in good
order--cleaned, oiled, and greased-before storing them for the
winter. The same applies to snow removal equipment in the
spring. Shampoo carpets and rugs or have them cleaned profes-
sionally every 12 to 18 months.
EQUIPMENT AND STORAGE
If everything is kept organized, it will be easier for you to work
and you won't waste time looking for something when you need
it. If you live in a two- or three-story dwelling, it might be worth
the investment to duplicate supplies-such as vacuum cleaners-
so that you can have them on the same floor where they are used.
Keep special bathroom cleaning equipment and supplies in or
near the bathroom, if space permits.
Keep cleaning equipment as clean and dry as possible, so that
it's ready for the next use. Be sure that any enclosure where clean-
4 INTRODUCTION
ing materials are stored has ventilation holes in the door to allow
volatile materials to evaporate from cloths, sponges, and mops.
Brooms and brushes should not rest on their bristles. Hang them
to prevent premature wear and deformation that result in loss of
usefulness. Since cleaning products are often hazardous, make
sure the shelves on which they are stored are high enough to be
out of reach of young children.
Avoid cluttering a cleaning closet with rarely used supplies and
equipment. Keep a supply of paper vacuum-cleaner dust bags on
hand. Use the brand that is recommended for your particular vac-
uum; off-brand bags may not work well. You may also want to
stock spare sponge-mop refills, as well as a package or two of
hand sponges.
Good dust cloths can be made from cast-off soft cotton gar-
ments and bedding. Although they may be costlier to use-and
some might be less effective than cloth and harsh on some sur-
faces-some people find paper towels convenient. Cloths will
hold dust better if they are pretreated. A simple method is to put
a cloth into a screw-cap glass jar that has been coated on the in-
side with furniture polish. Put about two teaspoons of liquid pol-
ish into a container and turn it until a thin layer of polish covers
the inside surface. Let the cloth stand in the jar for a day or two.
ANOTHER SOLUTION
Housecleaning takes time and effort. One obvious way to escape
cleaning, although the solution can be expensive, is to employ a
qualified, reliable, and courteous home-cleaning service. Some
people use a professional service once or twice a year; others em-
ploy a cleaning person once a week or every two weeks or so. If
you decide to use professional help, ask for referrals from reliable
INTRODUCTION 5
neighbors and friends. If that fails, check the Yellow Pages under
Housecleaning. Always ask for and check references.
When negotiating with a prospective housecleaning provider,
be sure you both understand what is going to be done, how long
it will take, how much it will cost, and how frequently and on
what day of the week they'll provide the service. Be sure there is
an understanding of what cleaning materials and equipment they'll
bring and what you will have to make available. Tell them where
the items you're responsible for will be kept. Be sure the cleaning
provider regularly tells you when supplies are low so you can
stock up before their next visit.
HELPFUL HINTS
Few of us like to clean, but it is something we have to do, so why
not minimize the effort required. The following suggestions
should make the task of cleaning easier.
• It is not necessary to clean things that are not dirty. Sometimes,
all that is needed is a touch-up. You do not need to dry-clean
a suit when it only has to be aired, brushed, or pressed. If there
is a hand print on an otherwise perfectly clean mirror, don't feel
you have to clean the whole mirror; just attack the print.
• If you don't need or like something in your house, give it away,
dispose of it, or recycle it rather than having to clean it.
• Always clean from top to bottom. (Gravity carries dust down
onto lower surfaces.)
• Surfaces that you or your visitors can't see-r-like the top of a
cabinet-don't have to be cleaned regularly. Put some paper
down, and when it gets too dirty, pick the paper up and throw
it out.
6 INTRODUCTION
• If you're vacuuming in a large room, add a 25- to 50-foot ex-
tension cord to avoid the exasperation of having to stop and re-
locate the plug. Be sure the cord has the same power rating as
the vacuum.
• Place mats strategically at each entrance to collect dirt that
would otherwise be tracked in from the outside onto carpets
and floors. Encourage friends and family to wipe their feet be-
fore entering the house.
• Avoid any more walking back and forth than is absolutely nec-
essary by gathering all the supplies you'll need for a particular
project and bringing them along with you at one time in a pail-
style organizer.
• Before using any new cleaning product or an old-standby prod-
uct on a new item, be sure to spot-test it on an inconspicuous
part of the item for possible damage. Pretesting for possible
damage is especially important. It will be mentioned often
throughout this book.
• Store all household cleaning products in their original contain-
ers, with original labels intact so you'll be able to refresh your
memory with regard to directions for use, suggested pre-
cautions, and possible antidotes. Before using any new clean-
ing product, be sure to read the product's label carefully.
Product formulations can change, so it is also prudent to read
the labels on your old standby products before using a new
container.
• To replace a foam cushion taken from a zippered cover, place
the cushion in a plastic garbage bag and insert the bag open-
end first into the cover. Then, all you have to do is pull the bag
out, leaving the foam in place.
• Be careful when cleaning windows to avoid getting window
cleaner on adjacent painted surfaces, furniture, or carpeting and
damaging them.
INTRODUCTION 7
• Don't buy furnishings solely with aesthetics in mind. When
purchasing a carpet or piece of furniture, be sure to ask about
issues related to maintenance. Look for cleanability codes on
upholstered furniture. An "X" code means the piece 'cannot be
cleaned by any method other than vacuuming.
• Maximize lighting when cleaning or attempting to remove a
stain. That way you won't miss an important area that requires
your attention.
• If you plan to have your carpets or furniture cleaned profes-
sionally, be sure to remove pets and plants that might be af-
fected by cleaning chemicals. Keep family members and' pets
out until everything is dry and you are given the "all clear" to
enter the area.
Dishes
DISHWASHER DETERGENTS
"Liquid gel" detergents solve the two major drawbacks of liquid
dishwasher detergents: the liquids tend to dribble out of the dish-
washer's main wash cup yet tend to empty incompletely from their
containers, leaving a sizable amount unused. The gels are free-
flowing and dispense completely from their containers.
The gels are better than powders at removing lipstick from
glasses and cups. But the powders are better than gels in overall
dishwashing, cleaning dried-on foods, and preventing washed off
foods from spotting and resoiling dishes.
While all the dishwasher detergents Consumers Union has
tested tend to discolor silver-plated flatware, after long exposure
powders tend to be slightly safer than gels in this regard. Powders
and gels both etch glassware when used in soft water. Typically,
damage to glassware is less likely in hard water. Powders and
most gels are safer to use on fine china with overglaze patterns
than they used to be years ago. However, it would be prudent to
hand wash fine china, silver, and crystal.
9
10 DISHES
COSTS
Store brands tend to be the cheaper products to use. Two pow-
ders not sold in stores-Shaklee Basic-D Concentrate and Amway
Crystal Bright--deserve special mention because of their extraor-
dinarily high price and cost per load. Although both are excellent
in overall dishwashing, so are other, much-less-expensive pow-
ders.
ENVIRONMENrAL EFFECTS
Most dishwasher detergents contain phosphates. Phosphates help
dishwasher detergents do their job better, especially in hard water.
Over the years, manufacturers have worked on reducing the
amount of phosphates in dishwasher detergents, and a few have
been able to eliminate them altogether. But dishwasher detergents
with phosphates are still permitted everywhere.
RINSE AGENTS
In areas of the country with hard water, there is a more pro-
nounced tendency for spots or film to form on glassware and
dishes after a wash. If your dishwasher leaves spots or film,
change your brand of detergent or try a rinse agent. A rinse agent
is designed to lower the surface tension of water, causing it to
sheet off the dishes. This helps the dishwasher rinse away spots
and film.
DISHWASHERS
Most dishwashers offer some variation on the basic wash-rinse-
dry cycle. A dishwasher's Normal or Regular cycle typically in-
cludes two washes interspersed with two or three rinses. A Heavy
cycle can entail longer wash periods, a third wash, hotter water,
DISHWASHERS 11
or all of the above. A Light cycle usually includes just one wash.
These basic cycles are probably all that is needed. Additional
washing and drying options abound, necessary or not.
The common Rinse and Hold option can be useful for small
families. Instead of stacking dirty dishes in the sink or the dish-
washer, you can gradually accumulate a full load, rinsing the
dishes as you go.
Don't expect a machine that offers a Pots and Pans cycle to do
the work that requires abrasive cleaners and elbow grease. And
think twice before subjecting good crystal or china--especially
sets with gold trim-to a dishwasher's China/Crystal setting. The
harsh detergents and possible jostling could etch or otherwise
damage fine china.
W/tSHING AND DRYING
Fancy electronic controls don't necessarily translate into better
cleaning. Most machines, electronic or not, work pretty well over-
all. Most machines also use their water-heating element to dry the
dishes; some have a blower or a separate duct-mounted heater.
Whatever the method, your machine should do an excellent job of
drying china and glasses. Drying flatware is a bit more . demanding
for some.
No-heat air drying, which utilizes evaporation and heat retained
from the wash, produces reasonably dry dishes provided you can
wait a few hours. You may be able to speed up drying by prop-
ping open the door.
ENJc.'RGY AND NOISE
If you don't rinse dishes before you load-and you needn't-a
dishwasher actually uses no more water than hand washing with
a double sink. In fact, a dishwasher uses less water than if you
12 DISHES
washed dishes under a running faucet. The machines themselves
use a small amount of electricity, consuming between 0.6 and 1.4
kilowatt-hours of electricity when supplied with 120°F water,
which ~ o r k s out to between 5 and 12 cents of electricity at aver-
age power rates. No-heat drying saves a penny or two.
Heating water to feed the dishwasher accounts for the bulk of
its energy costs. An electric water heater will consume about 12
cents of electricity to provide the 9 gallons of 120°F water typically
used for one load; the total comes to about $45 a year, assuming
you run the dishwasher once a day. The hot-water cost for a gas-
or oil-fired heater will be about 4 cents a load, or a total of about
$15 a year.
Quiet operation has become a dishwasher's main selling point,
second only to washing performance and durability. Dishwashers
have become quieter over the years.
SAFETY
All models have a safety interlock that will turn off the power
when the door is opened. All models have a float switch, which
senses accidental overfilling and also cuts power.
Many dishwasher accidents involve people cutting themselves,
usually on knives or forks as they reach over a flatware basket into
the machine's dish rack. It's always a good idea to load flatware
with their points down. In addition, a machine's heating element
can inflict a serious burnl Make sure that the appliance has cooled
before you reach into the bottom of the tub to clean a filter or re-
trieve an item that has dropped.
Door vents, often at a toddler's eye level, can emit steam,
so keep children away while the dishwasher is running. Some
electronic models have a hidden touchpad that locks the controls
to discourage children from playing with them-a worthwhile
feature.
HAND DISHWASHING LIQUIDS 13
DISHWASHER RELIABIliTY
Some of the more reliable brands, based on the experiences of
Consumer Reports readers with dishwashers bought new since
1987, have been Magic Chef, Whirlpool, Hotpoint, Amana,
General Electric Monogram, and General Electric. Frigidaire,
Tappan, and White-Westinghouse dishwashers were most fre-
quently reported as having needed repairs.
HAND DISHWASHING LIQUIDS
Hand dishwashing liquids are formulated to facilitate removal of
greasy soil from dishes (glasses, plates, utensils, pots, etc.). They
also suspend the soil in the wash water to facilitate rins-
ing. Although a hand dishwashing liquid does not have to produce
any meaningful amount of suds to be effective at removing soil,
suds stability has become accepted (rightly or wrongly) as an in-
dication of a product's remaining cleaning power.
Consumers Union surveyed staff members regarding their dish-
washing habits. The respondents reported using one or more of
the following methods. In fact, many of the respondents reported
using all three methods.
• Squirt a quantity of hand dishwashing liquid into a sink, dish-
pan, or equivalent before or during the process of filling it with
water. Then clean the dishes using a sponge, brush, plastic
scrubbing pad, or dishcloth.
• Squirt some detergent into the dish and wash it using a sponge,
brush, plastic scrubbing pad, or dishcloth.
• Squirt some detergent directly onto a sponge, brush, plastic
scrubbing pad, or dishcloth, which is then used to. wash the
dishes.
14 DISHES
THE PRODUCTS
Most products have pull-up dispensing tops. Some have snap-top
dispensing caps or screw caps without dispensers. The 22-fluid-
ounce size is commonly used. However, many products come in
larger sizes, and ultraconcentrated versions come in smaller con-
tainers. Most containers have contoured shapes, presumably for
ease of gripping.
Hand dishwashing liquids may contain alcohol to keep the sur-
factants dissolved; alcohol may irritate some individuals' hands.
They may also contain fragrances, preservatives, and colorants,
which can also irritate.
PRODUCT PERFORMANCE
Most test methods for hand dishwashing liquids are based entirely
on the products' ability to sustain a head of foam in hard water
while challenged by soiled plates. The number of plates that hand
dishwashing liquids will wash before the suds are depleted varies
from product to product and is affected by water hardness, In
Consumers Union testing, several well-known national brands
washed more than 12 plates in both hard and soft water. Most of
the brands will not do much worse.
But suds stability is not the most important characteristic of
good hand dishwashing liquids. Their primary function is to facil-
itate the rt;moval of greasy soil. Hand dishwashing liquids do not
remove soil by themselves, especially carbonized (burned on)
food residues (e.g., the fat in a broiler pan), which can be diffi-
cult. They help loosen and emulsify the soil so you can more eas-
ily remove it with some amount of elbow grease and the help of
a dish cloth, sponge, steel wool, or plastic scrubbing pad.
Typically, the hand dishwashing liqUids Consumers Union
tested were more effective at removing greasy soil in hard water
than in soft water. They were very good to excellent in hard water,
HAND DISHWASHING LIQUIDS 15
whereas the best products were only very good in soft water.
(Most were merely good.) However, some were not much better
than using only hot water-which is not very good at all.
In hard water, the better products (especially the ones with the
best suds stability) might be slightly more difficult to rinse than
most of the others. In soft water the differences are less significant.
Many Consumers Union staff members reported that they never
use protective gloves when they clean dishes, whereas 22 percent
use them some of the time. Although most of those who never
wear gloves or wear them only some of the time reported that
they had not experienced any skin irritation, about 20 percent had.
Contrary to claims that some products attack grease but not skin
oils, the surfactants in all hand dishwashing liquids will remove
natural oils from the skin. Accordingly, none of these products will
actually be beneficial for your hands. But some products are less
harsh than others. Consumers Union found the best "natural"
brands to be almost as mild as baby shampoo. Whereas most
products tested were at least as mild as an adult shampoo, a few
might be more irritating to some people's hands.
DOSE
Very few products provide the user with any definitive dose in-
formation. In fact, several tell the user to employ "one firm
squeeze." To see what a "squeeze" might deliver, Consumers
Union staff members were asked to show how much hand dish-
washing liquid they would squeeze into a sink or dishpan. The re-
sults varied from less than 1 gram to about 25 grams. Thus,
instructions to use a "firm squeeze" to dispense hand dishwashing
liquid do not provide enough information for proper dose control.
RECOMMENDATIONS
If you normally use a hand dishwashing liquid to clean a few
16 DISHES
lightly soiled dishes like milk or soft drink glasses, soup bowls or
sandwich plates, it may be best to apply a few drops of the prod-
uct to a dishcloth or sponge and refresh it as needed. However, if
you wash a sink full of dishes, start with a dilute solution (about
one tablespoon of hand dishwashing liquid for every three to four
gallons of water). If this does not do an adequate cleaning job,
add more. To clean heavily soiled pots, pans, and dishes, you'll
need a product with the ability to effectively emulsify the grease
and loosen the tough soil, thereby making the scrubbing job as
easy as possible.
No matter which product you choose, use water that is as hot
as your hands can bear. Rubber gloves will permit use of the
hottest possible water; they'll also protect sensitive hands from ir-
ritation. The hot water will help to soften the greasy soil, making
it easier for the hand dishwashing liquid's surfactants to loosen
and emulsify it. When washing in a · dishpan or sink, wash dishes
and utensils by groups. Start with the least soiled group and end
with those having the heaviest soil build-up. A good sequence is
glasses, flatware, plates, serving dishes, and pots/ pans last.
OTHER USES
Hand dishwashing liquids are very versatile. They can be used to
clean dirty hands, they can be used to hand launder delicate wash-
able clothing, and, as mentioned throughout this book, they can
be used for many other stain removal and cleaning purposes.
Caution: Do not use a hand dishwashing liquid
in an automatic dishwasher-it will oversuds.
Floors
CARPET AND RUG CLEANING
Typical supermarket carpet-cleaning products include powders,
foam shampoos that come in a pressurized can, and liquids
sprayed straight from the container. A few concentrated prod-
ucts-powder or liquid-must be mixed with water.
Most manufacturers recommend that you gently work the
cleaner into the carpet with a brush and remove the residue
with a regular vacuum cleaner (liquids, of course, need time to
dry first).
Manual carpet cleaning isn't as unpleasant as it might sound.
The powders minimize the mess, and the job goes quickly. The
powders are almost dry, so the room can be used immediately
afterward. (Actually, "dry" powders are slightly moist.)
Stains are likely to be a problem for supermarket carpet-
cleaning products. None of the ones tested in the past were better
than fair in treating any of Consumers Union's test stains.
CIEANING Willi A MACHINE
Wet-cleaning machines (also known as "steamers" or hot-water ex-
traction equipment) are usually sold or rented. with a recom-
mended cleaning product. The majority of machines use a hot
detergent solution, which the machine sprays on the rug. They not
17
18 FLOORS
only apply the solution but also use suction to remove it. The
need for water complicates matters. Some machines . get their
water supply via a long hose that you attach to a hot-water faucet.
As you dean, the hose is dragged along. In other models, you fill
a reservoir with hot water. With both kinds, you will eventually
need to pour out the dirty water, which is collected either in the
base of the machine or in a removable container. When full, the
part you empty ca,n weigh almost 50 pounds.
With any machine that uses water, or with any wet cleaner you
scrub yourself, you must wait for the carpet to dry before walking
GUIDEUNES FOR Do-IT-YOURSELF CARPET CLEANING
Be sure to give your carpet a thorough vacuuming before you start
the wet cleaning process. Whether you use a rented "steamer" or
one purchased for regular use, read the. manufacturer's
tions carefully before attempting to shampoo your carpet.
Use an extra "dry stroke." A carpet's cleanliness can be opti-
mized by ensuring that your machine provides good extraction.
Make an extraction pass with the water spray on, then make a sec-
ond pass with the water spray off. This increases the amount of
water removed from the carpeting. Check your work by wiping
your hand across the top of the carpeting. If you get drops of
water, extract the carpeting again with the spray off. If your hand
is damp and the carpet feels like a wrung-out sponge, you are ex-
tracting correctly.
Use thecorTect chemicals. Use only chemicals designed to clean
carpeting, and use them according to the manufacturer's recom-
mended concentrations. If the package says to use one ounce,
measure it out. Be sure you do not use too much. Do not use laun-
CARPET AND RUG CLEANING 19
on it, which can take at least overnight. There's also a risk of wet-
ting the carpet too much. Water can seep through and damage a
hardwood floor or the latex backing of an old carpet (it shouldn't
hurt the polyolefin backing of most new carpets but can delami-
nate adhesives).
Rented wet-cleaning machines are likely to be larger than those
sold to homeowners. This can pose transportation problems if you
don't have access to a vehicle with adequate cargo space.
Instead of water and detergent, some machines use powder.
They may apply the powder, work it in, and use suction to remove
dry soap, shampoo, dish soap, etc., to dean your carpet. Never
put any kind of bleach through the extraction equipment. Bleach
can ruin your carpet and void a manufacturer's warranty. You can
usually find carpet-cleaning chemicals close to carpet-cleaning
rental equipment or in the cleaning section of a grocery store.
Some of the major brands' of carpet -cleaning chemicals have been
tested by major fiber producers and approved for use on stain-
resistant carpeting.
Pre-spray where necessary. If your carpeting is "really dirty," in-
crease the amount of pre-spray Coften called traffic lane cleaner)
that you use. Do not increase the amount of carpet detergent.
Neutralize. A final vinegar-water rinse (1 cup of white vinegar
in 1 gallon of plain water) and a thorough extraction are helpful
to remove and neutralize any detergent residue in the carpet.
Dry properly. Allow the· carpet to dry completely. Open win-
dows and move air through the house with fans. Keep family
members and pets off the carpet until it is dry.
20 FLOORS
it, or they may merely apply the powder and provide agitation.
You then use your own vacuum cleaner to clean it up. It is im-
portant to vacuum thoroughly to prevent powder buildup.
Residual powder may cause problems if you wet-clean your car-
pet at a later date. If your household vacuum will not do an ade-
quate job, consider renting a commercial vacuum. (Before using a
powder rug cleaner, be sure to read your vacuum cleaner owner's
manual for possible precautions regarding these materials.) Follow
the manufacturer's recommendations regarding the length of time
to leave the powder on the carpet.
PROFESSIONAL CLEANING
Carpets. Ideally, a professional cleaning service should visit your
home to carefully evaluate the carpet's condition before rendering
an estimate, but often this does not happen. Some cleaning ser-
vices will provide a preliminary price pending closer inspection in
the home. This is perfectly acceptable if the cleaners do a careful
inspection and requote (if necessary) before cleaning begins.
The cleaning service should discuss 'its procedures in detail.
Depending on the carpet's condition, it may not be possible to
clean the carpet completely. The company should inform the cus-
tomer if its cleaners will not be able to remove a stain without
damage. There shouldn't be any surprises.
Ask the company what it will do if its cleaners damage the car-
pet, and ascertain how they will protect adjacent furniture. Be sure
to check references to determine if the cleaning service adheres to
these precautions during the job.
Rugs. Loose rugs, especially handmade ones, should be removed
and cleaned professionally "in-plant" rather than in your home.
Rug cleaners offer extra services such as repairing the fringe,
reweaving, and moth-resistant treatment.
You can take any size rug to a professional cleaner or, for an
FIRST AID FOR CARPET STAINS 21
extra fee, some cleaning companies will pick up and drop off a
rug. If you call a service that comes to your home, try to arrange
a definite appointment, or you might have to wait at home all day.
RECOMMENDATIONS
Carpet manufacturers recommend cleaning household carpet
every 6 to 18 months, depending on the level of traffic. To maxi-
mize the time between cleanings, keep dirt outside with mats at
each entry.
Whether you do the work yourself or hire professionals, be sure
to clean your carpet regularly to prevent buildup of soil. Many do-
it-yourself products should be able to handle a lightly soiled car-
pet. Ground-in dirt and stains from spills are much more difficult
to remove. In general, when a rug has been soiled by garden-
variety dirt, it's better to send it out to professionals or to call in a
profeSSional cleaning service.
FmST AID FOR CARPET STAINS
Although no carpet is completely stain proof, most modern carpets
have been treated to render them stain resistant. If you act quickly,
most spills can be removed easily. A delay in taking action will in-
crease the probability of the stain's becoming permanent. With
some spilled substances--children's fruit drinks, for instance-you
have only minutes before the stain sets permanently.
Do not scrub the stained area. Doing so can cause pile distor-
tion. Wherever possible, immediately blot up spills using a clean
white absorbent material to avoid the possibility of dye transfer
and to facilitate inspection of the stain removal process while
stains transfer to the towel. When the stain has been removed,
continue to blot with dry cloths or paper towels until the area is
completely dry.
22 FLOORS
If the spill remains on the carpet for a long time and becomes
a dry mass, scrape off as much as possible using the side of a
spoon or a blunt spatula before attempting to remove the remain-
der. For chewing gum or wax, freeze with an ice cube before
scraping. Be sure to vacuum up all remaining solid residue.
If the cause of a spot can be identified, it may be possible to
remove it yourself. Refer to Appendix B: Stain Removal, and care-
fully adhere to the recommended directions.
Copious spills that penetrate through the carpet to the back-
ing and even to the floor are a special problem. If the substance
smells, the carpet may have to be lifted and cleaned. Consider
hiring professional carpet cleaners rather than attempting to do
the job yourself. Just blot it up and get help.
cleaning efforts might render the stain difficult for even an ex-
pert to remove.)
Household products that contain bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or
some other oxidizing agent can cause irreversible damage. A leak-
ing container of laundry bleach is an obvious villain. Other prod-
ucts are more insidious. The damage caused by acne, foot, or dog
mange medications containing benzoyl peroxide, for instance,
often doesn't show up right away. Those medications, typically
hard to wash off, have ruined many a carpet. Benzoyl peroxide is
activated by moisture from humidity, a spilled drink, or wet clean-
ing of carpets. Impossible-to-remove discolorations may show up
after contact with moisture. Other products to watch out for in-
clude swimming pool chemicals, drain cleaners, toilet bowl clean-
ers, mildew removers, liquid plant foods, and pesticides.
FLOOR CARE
Vinyl is one of the most widely used man-made flooring materi-
als. It is available in conventional and no-wax styles. For durabil-
FLOOR CARE 23
ity, choose a thick vinyl with homogeneous color that extends
through the entire thickness. The no-wax versions have a clear
wear-layer on the surface. Other man-made flooring materials in-
clude linoleum (which is highly susceptible to damage from strong
cleaners), asphalt tile (which is hard but brittle), and rubber tile (a
very quiet flooring material). Natural flooring materials include
wood, cork, masonry, stone, marble, terrazzo, ceramic tile, quarry
tile, terra cotta, slate, and concrete.
The basic rule for proper floor care is to pick the right product
for the job. There are three basic categories of floor care products:
products that clean, combination products that both clean and
shine, and products that add a protective shine to the floor.
FLOOR CLEANERS
Floor cleaners remove dirt and soil from resilient floors or well-
sealed wood floors. Some can leave a dulling residue that must be
washed away. For no-wax flooring, be sure to use a product that
is formulated for that purpose.
COMBINATION PRODUCTS
These products combine cleaning agents for dirt removal and pol-
ishing agents that add protection and shine. Since there are many
types of combination floor care products, be sure to read the label
recommendations pertaining to the types of flooring they claim to
be good for. Some combination products are self-removing,
whereas others should be removed periodically. If you have no-
wax flooring, you may not need to use a combination product,
even for cleaning. If you have very shiny, polyurethane-finished
wood floors, polish won't make any real difference in appearance.
But on no-wax vinyl-surfaced floors, whose shine is a bit less glar-
ing, polish can add a touch of gloss.
If you have a vinyl no-wax floor and feel compelled to use pol-
24 FLOORS
ish, you won't be doing anything but boosting the shine. The
amount of protection offered by a thin film of polish is insig-
nificant compared with the protection offered by the vinyl floor-
ing itself.
Even rugged plastics such as polyurethane and vinyl can get
scratched and worn over time. It is also reasonable to assume that
an accumulation of tiny scratches will eventually dull no-wax
flooring a little. The polishes in combination floor cleaners may
have some ability to fill in tiny scratches, which might improve the
shine of worn areas. Until a no-wax floor is worn, however, floor
polish is a waste of money. You'd be better off saving that money
to make up for the extra cost of the no-wax flOOring.
WAXING FLOORS THAT NEED IT
Before deciding to wax a no-wax floor that looks dull, attempt to
remove any residue buildup that might be causing the dull look.
Use a no-rinse floor cleaner and scrub the floor with a mop or stiff
bristle brush, wiping up the loosened soil as you clean. You may
need to clean the floor three or four times to completely remove
the residue. Once the floor is free of reSidue, use a floor polish
that is formulated for no-wax floors to renew the shine.
Conventional floor polishes are used to protect and add or re-
store shine to resilient floors, as well as stone or masonry floors.
They are applied after the floor has been cleaned, rinsed, and
dried. They dry shiny and require periodic removal.
REMOVING OLD WAX
Technology has produced polishes that don't need buffing, but
it has been less successful in eliminating the chore of stripping
off old polish as the layers build up. Even polishes labeled as
self-cleaning leave a small amount of old polish behind. The prob-
lem is usually most noticeable in corners, where the polish isn't
FLOOR CARE 25
worn away by traffic. While you maybe content to let the layers
of wax accumulate for a long time before trying to remove them,
it is best to remove old polish after six or eight coats, or at least
once a year.
The typical recipe for removing old floor wax is ljz cup of pow-
dered floor cleaner and 2 cups of ammonia in 1 gallon of cool
water, some fine steel wool, and a lot of elbow grease. There are
also wax removers on the market. Some are recommended on the
labels of their brand-mate floor polishes.
RECOMMhNDA110NS
It is important to have a regular floor-care schedule. Floors that are
heavily trafficked will require more frequent maintenance than
floors that get less use. Spills are more noticeable on very light and
very dark floors . Solid-colored floors show soil more quickly than
patterned floors.
Blot spills up as soon as they occur. Do not rub--it could cause
a dull spot. This is especially true for .polished floors .
Remove dirt regularly from wood and cork floors using a
broom, lightweight. vacuum cleaner, or dust mop. Small particles
can scratch the flooring. Periodically restore the shine by rebuff-
ing or using a wax that removes the previous layer as the new
layer'is applied. Stubborn spots can be removed by rubbing with
fine steel wool or, preferably, a plastic mesh sponge dipped in a
solvent -based wax.
Washable floors should first be cleaned with a broom, dust
mop, or vacuum cleaner. They should then be damp mopped
using water and an all-purpose cleaner recommended for washing
floors. Wring out the mop before using it, and change the clean-
ing solution as often as possible.
For taking care of new or fairly new no-wax floors, use a plain
damp mop or a little detergent followed by a rinse. When the floor
26 FLOORS
is so worn that it looks as if it really needs a polish,choose among
the no-wax floor cleaning products or use a combination product
that is recommended for use on no-wax floors. Take particular
care to rinse off combination cleaners after each use.
IIARD-SURFACE-FLOOR FmST AID FOR STAINS
When using any household chemicals, handle them with care and
store them out of the reach of children. Never mix chemicals with
each other or with household cleaning products unless there are
specific directions to do so. Wear rubber gloves when working
with alcohol, hydrogen peroxide solution, household ammonia,
acids, or chlorine bleach. To be on the safe side, it's a good idea
to work in a well-ventilated room: Establish cross ventilation with
open windows and doors and a window fan to exhaust air.
Caution: Never mix ammonia and chlorine
bleach.
Before using any chemical, test it on a small corner of the stain.
If your procedure is wrong, the chemical damage will be limited
to that one area. If you use steel wool on a stain, use grade 00 and
rub gently. On wood, rub with the grain.
After you have tried ordinary hand dishwashing liquid and
water applied with a rag or sponge--or a nonbleaching all-
purpose liquid cleaner sprayed from its container-try these sug-
gestions to remove a variety of potentially stubborn stains.
Whenever possible, work on a wet stain before it has had a
chance to soak in andlor dry.
Alcoholic beverages. Try rubbing with a clean cloth dampened
with rubbing alcohol.
Blood. Try clear, cold water first (before any detergent). If the
HARD-SURFACE-FLOOR FIRST AID FOR STAINS 27
stain remains, cautiously apply a solution of ammonia and cold
water, and quickly rinse to avoid discoloration.
Candle wax or chewing gum. Use ice cubes to chill the mater-
ial to brittleness. Then, using a plastic spatula, carefully scrape the
wax or gum from the floor.
Cigarette burn. For heavy stains, try scouring powder and a
piece of fine steel wool or a plastic scouring pad dipped in water.
For hard-surface floors, rub with a cloth dampened with a solution
of lemon juice and water.
Coffee or fruit juice. Saturate a cloth with a solution of one part
glycerine to three parts water and place it over the stain for sev-
eral hours. (Glycerine is available in drugstores.) If the spot re-
mains, rub it gently with scouring powder and a cloth dampened
in hot water.
Dyes. After applying on an inconspicuous spot to be sure the floor
will not be damaged, rub with a cloth dampened in a solution of
one part chlorine bleach and two parts water. If this doesn't work,
try scouring powder and a cloth dampened with hot water.
Grease and oil. Remove as much as· possible with newspaper,
paper towels, or a plastic spatula. On resilient tile, rub with a cloth
dampened in hand dishwashing liquid and warm water (or an all-
purpose cleaner). On wood and cork, place a cloth saturated with
dry cleaning fluid on the stain for no more than 5 minutes. Then
wipe the area dry and wash with detergent and water.
Ink. Try a commercial ink remover, carefully following instruc-
tions, or use rubbing alcohol. It might be helpful to cover the stain
with a poultice of diatomaceous earth and alcohol, cover with
plastic wrap, and let stand overnight.
Lipstick. Try fine steel wool wet with detergent and water. If the
floor is hard surfaced or has a no-wax finish, or is embossed vinyl
composition, use a plastic scouring pad instead of steel wool.
Mustard. Place a cloth soaked in hydrogen peroxide solution
28 FLOORS
over the stain. Over that, place an ammonia-soaked cloth. Leave
in place until the stain has faded, sponge with water, and wipe
dry. Open your blinds or curtains for one to two days. The sun-
light may fade residual mustard stains.
Paint or varnish. On resilient tile, use liquid or all-purpose de-
tergent with either a cloth, a sponge, or fine steel wool very care-
fully applied. On a hard-surface floor, scrub with a concentrated
solution of powdered detergent and water, or apply undiluted liq-
uid laundry detergent.
Rust. Use a commercial rust remover intended for your particular
type of floor.
Shoe polish or nail polish. If concentrated detergent solution
doesn't work on resilient flooring, try scouring powder or steel
wool. On wood and cork, fine steel wool should do the trick.
Don't use nail polish remover; it may soften resilient flooring.
Tar. Use ice cubes to chill the tar to brittleness. Then scrape the
tar carefully with a plastic spatula. To remove the tar stain, apply
a damp cloth wrapped around a paste made . of powdered deter-
gent, chalk, or diatomaceous earth, and ·water. Leave the paste on
the stain for several hours.
Urine. After applying on an inconspicuous spot to be sure the
floor will not be damaged, rub with a hot, damp cloth and scour-
ing powder. For increased effectiveness, place a cloth soaked in
hydrogen peroxide over the stain and cover that with a cloth
soaked in ammonia. Leave in place until the stain has faded,
sponge with water, and wipe dry.
FINISHING TOUCHE'S
After you have successfully removed a stain, refinishing may be
necessary. Rinse the area well and allow it to dry before you apply
any new finish (polish, for example). The newly finished area
should blend in with the rest of the floor within a day or two.
Furniture
WOOD FURNITURE
Some say keeping wood furniture clean should require a mlnI-
mum amount of care, asserting that the oil or lacquer finish nor-
mally used on furniture protects the wood (by sealing). Others
believe that the original finish itself needs a protective layer-usu-
ally a wax-that should be renewed periodically. Between those
who opt for no wax and those who recommend lots of wax are
those who say you should use a little wax sometimes.
At one time, a key part of spring cleaning involved giving
the furniture a fresh coat of wax-paste wax, no less, applied
with plenty of muscle. The wax was supposed to "feed" the
wood and help protect it. No doubt, some people still hew to
that ritual.
Consumers Union's testers have found that, in general, the need
for waxing and cleaning furniture with a brand-name product is
often quite unnecessary. Most furniture won't benefit from waxing
because its surface has been sealed at the factory with a durable
finish that keeps the wood from drying out and, to some degree,
protects against spills and minor scratches. Oils and waxes don't
penetrate the finish. The minuscule residue that remains from
29
30 FURNITURE
most polishes after application and buffing contributes nothing to
damage control.
Modern furniture does need cleaning, however. Dust, smoke,
and greasy cooking fumes combine to create a dulling film.
Fingerprints begin as small smudges and grow to a grimy coating.
You can choose among dozens of furniture cleaners at the su-
permarket. Many, like the familiar Pledge, Behold, and Endust, are
intended primarily to help remove dust. Others, such as Kleen 'n
Shine and Murphy's Oil Soap, are intended for cleaning wood and
other surfaces. Hardware stores carry still other furniture cleaners
and polishes, generally oil-based products such as Old English Red
Oil and Scott's Liquid Gold. Only a few actually contain wax.
Except for old furniture whose original finish may not have
sealed the wood very well-or newer furniture that has been
used a lot and whose finish may be worn thin-regular dusting
with a soft rag slightly dampened with water may be all you need
to keep furniture looking new and clean. It's still true, however,
that finely finished wood and wood with a modern, well-sealed
finish should be treated with respect when it comes to water. A
wood furniture cleaner should first be tested on an inconspicuous
area before attempting any cleaning or treatment method. Be sure
HOME BREWS
In addition to plain water and dishwashing liquid, Consumers
Union found the following home brews did a creditable cleaning
job on wood furniture:
• Yz teaspoon light olive oil added to y. cup white vinegar. This proved
to be as effective as any store product.
• '/ 4 cup walnut oil plus 4 drops of lemon extract. This was only as
effective as the better oil-based products.
WOOD FURNITURE 31
to read product labels carefully, paying particular attention to
prohibited actions.
The mirror finish on a piece of wood furniture is there courtesy
of the furniture maker. The shine you get from a product depends '
almost entirely on the nature of the furniture's original finish. For
instance, no polish is likely to increase the luster of a piano top
made from high-gloss mahogany. It is already mirrorlike.
Furthermore, the finish isn't likely to be protected to any degree
by using furniture polish.
Waxing won't improve the shine of furniture whose original fin-
ish is still intact. In fact, a furniture polish may muddy the finish.
A buildup of wax can darken the wood and mask its grain. Some
oils (such as lemon oil) applied to a previously waxed surface can
make the surface sticky, vulnerable to fingerprints, and a magnet
for dust. Wax-containing products applied over some oils won't
adhere properly. Cleaning up the mess may require a lot of elbow
grease.
Stains. Consumers Union's tests showed that a supermarket fur-
niture cleaner isn't likely to protect a wood finish against common
stains. Moreover, a fresh application of the product is by no means
guaranteed to remove any new stains. A bit of ordinary dish-
washing liquid and water should do the job just as well. Be sure
to pretest to ensure that it does not leave a film behind, which
could interfere with bonding of wax and varnish.
Water. Any furniture cleaner should be able to wipe away water
spots. But water that's allowed to stand on wood furniture is likely
to penetrate most fini shes. When you wipe away the water, a
cloudy white mark often remains (except solvent-borne urethane
cleaners). You may be able to buff out a light mark with a prod-
uct that has a high oil content. But some rings on certain kinds
of furniture finish won't yield-meaning it's time to call in the
refinisher.
32 FURNITURE
Scratches. Most furniture-care products don't contain dye, so
they aren't meant to cover up deep scratches. Products that claim
to hide surface scratches are worth a try. Tests showed that one
product, Oz Cream Polish, managed to fill in scratches and make
them less visible. Sometimes a little acetone can be used to dis-
solve the lacquer, allowing it to refill the scratches. Here again,
pretesting is essential.
RECOMMENDATIONS
For relatively new furniture that's been maintained in good condi-
tion, there's no practical reason to add another cleaning product
to the clutter under the kitchen sink. It's easy enough to use a little
plain water and hand dishwashing liqUid to take care of dirtier sur-
faces. Again, it's a good idea to try any furniture-treatment prod-
uct on an inconspicuous area before plunging into the job full tilt.
If you want to protect furniture finishes against heat and sol-
vents-such as alcoholic beverages, aftershave lotion, perfume,
cough syrup, and the like-the best protection is a nonabsorbent
barrier, such as a dish or a coaster.
CARING FOR VALUED FURNITURE OR TEAK FURNITURE
Older furniture that still bears its original finish and teak furniture
both require special care. Regular dusting is important for an-
tiques, say the experts. Tools of the trade include feather dusters,
soft cotton cloths laundered without harsh detergents, and small
vacuum cleaners.
The experts also recommend waxing, but generally only once
or twice a year. Some antique dealers recommend waxing at the
beginning and end of the heating season. Changes in temperature
and humidity can be very damaging to wood furniture because
wood shrinks and expands in response to those changes. Waxing
WOOD FURNITURE 33
unfinished surfaces allows the raw wood to absorb the wax,
thereby minimizing the chance that the wood will crack or the ve-
neer will lift or separate. You should wax the underside of a table,
for example, as well as the unfinished interior of highboys, break-
fronts, and other so-called case pieces.
Some experts recommend against waxes that contain silicone.
They say such products compromise the wood's ability to respond
to changes in temperature and humidity, and increase the risk of
cracking.
Teak, which is an oil-finished product, also has special needs.
Some industry experts say frequent dusting is important. Furniture
that's used fairly often may need oiling every month or two. The
experts recommend a solution of mild detergent for cleaning and
tung oil (or equivalent) for restoring the sheen in dry areas ..
Teak furniture not subject to much wear may need oiling only
a few times a year. If the wood looks pale and the surface feels
dry, the furniture probably needs oiling. One teak furniture retailer
suggests using a clean, soft cloth to oil the entire piece, then let-
ting the oil sit for three to four hours or, better, overnight.
Afterward, buff with another clean, soft cloth to remove excess oil.
UPHOLSTERED FURNITIJRE
Regular vacuuming is about the best way to keep upholstery look-
ing fresh. But you may not be motivated to vacuum upholstered
furniture often enough; dust isn't as obvious on an armchair as it
is on a tabletop. Unless upholstered furniture is vacuumed regu-
larly, the material can become so dirty that drastic measures may
become necessary.
A surprisingly large number of people take the most drastic
measure of all-they just throw out the soiled furniture and re-
34 FURNITURE
place it with new furniture. According to a survey, that's how a
significant number of Consumer Reports subscribers dealt with the
problem of soil buildup. Some took a less-drastic approach, opt-
ing for reupholstering or slipcovers. Still others chose heavy-duty,
overall cleaning-a far more economical solution, if it works.
There are three ways to clean upholstered furniture: You
DEALING WITH SPILlS AND STAINS ON LEArnER
Leather dyers either apply a pigmented coating to the leather's sur-
face or treat the hide with aniline dye. Pigmented leather is more
resistant to water-soluble spills and stains. Aniline-dyed leather is
exceptionally soft and exceptionally porous. Spills soak up
quickly,becoming stains that can be almost impossible to remove.
You can test your leather furniture to find out which type of dye
was used. Place a drop of water on a location that's not often seen
(under the cushion, for example). If the water doesn't soak in, the
leather is pigmented. If it does soak in, the leather is aniline
dyed-and vulnerable.
Suede is another vulnerable leather-not just because of the
dyeing process, but because it's porous and quick to sop up stains.
In addition, suede has a nap that's flattened by liquid spills and
by use. Only a professional leather refinisher can restore the nap
to suede.
Vacuuming is an important part of routine maintenance of leather
furniture, whether it's pigmented, aniline dyed, or suede. You can
also wipe pigmented leather periodically with a soft white cloth
dampened with water. And you can brush suede with a terry-cloth
to spiff up its nap. Beyond vacuuming, there isn't much you
can do for aniline-dyed leather. When it becomes stained or soiled,
your only recourse is professional cleaning.
UPHOLSTERED FURNI11JRE 35
can buy a cleaning product and apply it to the fabric by hand.
You can buy or rent a machine that cleans carpets and upholstery.
You can call in a professional deaningservice, usually listed under
"Carpet Cleaners" or "Upholstery Cleaners" in the Yellow Pages.
Generally, cleaning by hand means spraying upholstery cleaner
on the fabric; gently' rubbing the resulting foam with a damp
If you spill something on pigmented leather, the faster you
clean it up, the better. Consumers Union' applied test stains to
swatches of pigmented leather and blotted them up a minute later
with a damp washcloth. The water-based stains (ketchup, cola,
coffee, grape juice, milk, mustard, arid red wine) disappeared, but
oil-based stains like crayon, ballpoint-pen ink, lipstick, Italian
salad dressing, and cream shoe , polish did not come off.
some commercial leather cleaners were tried to see how
theymighthandle these stubborn stains on pigmeljlted leather. All
of the cleaners removed some color.
Don't · consider using cleaning solvents, ink removers, or paint
removers on pigmented leather. Since the color is essentially
painted on the leather, those products can remove color.
When you are faced with stains that won't come out, find a pro-
fessional. Call the store where you purchased the furniture. If you
don't get results, check the Yellow Pages or ask a local dry cleaner
for advice. Cleaners who handle leather clothing don't always
work on leather furniture, so it may take a few calls to find a
leather-furniture cleaner. Expect the cleaning to be costly, and ex-
pect to be without your furniture for a while: often, professionals
prefer to clean leather in the shop. Removing dirt and stains can
also ' remove dyes, so the furniture may need to be recolored.
36 FURNITURE
sponge, cloth, or brush; and vacuuming the residue. The job can
be time-consuming, and the furniture may not turn out clean
enough. Any hand cleaning product is likely to y,rork better if the
job is done before the upholstery is truly filthy.
Even subscribers who cleaned with a machine weren't always
happy with the result, and some found a machine difficult to use.
Setting up the machine, cleaning the piece of furniture, and
then disassembling and cleaning the machine can be quite a lot
of work.
Many subscribers left the cleaning to a professional, but a
substantial number indicated that even the pros couldn't get their
furniture clean.
PROFESSIONAL CLEANING
Cleaning a six-foot sofa can cost anywhere from $40 to $100, de-
pending on where you live and whom you hire. Replacing a dam-
aged sofa with a new one can cost a lot more, so price shouldn't
be the most important criterion when you're hiring a professional;
competence should be.
One way to find an upholstery cleaning service, of course, is to
look in the phone book, where you'll find listings for big national
companies, large regional companies, and local companies. If you
come up empty, the International Institute of Carpet and
Upholstery Certification can recommend firms that have passed a
test on cleaning upholstery. When you call the institute's number
(206-693-5675), a represent3tive will use your zip code to locate
two or three cleaning firms in your area. Another phone number
to remember is the Association of Specialists in Cleaning and
Restoration (1-800-272-7012). Both organizations may be able to
help with questions regarding stain removal.
Expect any upholstery cleaning firm to give you a preliminary
UPHOLSTERED FURNITURE 37
estimate over the phone, then come to the house to evaluate the
furniture and spot-test it-by applying a bit of cleaner to an in-
conspicuous piece of the fabric-before giving a firm price quote.
A reputable company should explain the procedure and tell you
what the furniture will look like after cleaning. They should out-
line their guarantee and voluntarily offer references.
Some professionals may prefer to "steam" clean upholstery with
hot water and detergent because the results are generally better
than dry cleaning with a solvent. But cleaning with water, even
when it's done by a pro, can be a risky business. Therefore, a care-
ful cleaner will spot-test when they come to your home to deter-
mine the potential for damage before quoting a firm price. If
problems appear as a result of a spot test, a professional cleaner
may switch from steam cleaning to dry cleaning.
Some professional cleaners spot -test on the scheduled cleaning
day. That's also an acceptable approach, as long as the tested ma-
terial has time to dry thoroughly-so any defects are visible-be-
fore work begins.
Professional carpet and upholstery cleaners may raise the sub-
ject of chemical fabric protectors. There is, of course, an extra
charge for such treatment, and therefore there are extra profits for
the seller. If a protector was applied at the mill where the fabric is
made, the fabric shouldn't need to be retreated until it has been
cleaned two or three times.
Although there are many brands of stain repellent, there are ba-
Sically two types: fluorocarbons and silicones. Fluorocarbons (e.g.,
Scotchgard or Teflon) protect against both oil- and water-based
stains; silicones protect only against water-based stains. Some sili-
cone products may yellow with exposure to ultraviolet light.
If you don't know whether your upholstery has been treated
with a stain protector, you might consider having one applied after
38 FURNITURE
cleaning. Two caveats: It's important that the protector be applied
evenly. (Electric sprayers and aerosol cans are likely to create a
more even coat than is possible with a pump sprayer.) And it's im-
portant to check the l ~ b e l for precautions. Some protectors are
recommended for use only on certain types of fabrics. As with any
treatment, it is advisable to apply a bit of protector on a hidden
area of the upholstery to make sure the dye doesn't bleed.
RECOMMENDATIONS
Preventive maintenance-vacuuming regularly and catching spills
before they become stains-can go a long way toward postponing
the need for an overall cleaning. Vacuum all surfaces of the furni-
ture, including the back and sides, the skirt, the arms, the platform
underneath the cushions, and both sides of loose cushions.
If you're working on arms that are narrower than the vacuum
cleaner's nozzle, cover the exposed section of the nozzle with
your hand or a piece of cardboard to improve suction. When vac-
uuming a delicate fabric-velvet, nubby silk, or crewel embroi-
. dery, for instance-you can avoid snagging the fabric by placing
a piece of nonmetallic window screen or nylon mesh between the
nozzle and the fabric.
Once furniture is too soiled for vacuuming, your best bet is to
hire a profeSSional. Choose one who will evaluate the furniture
and spot-test the fabric before cleaning. Make sure the company
indicates, in writing, any problems anticipated during the cleaning.
You'll save money by doing the job yourself, but your success
will depend on your own cleaning skills, and the work takes a lot
of time. Spot-test any cleaning product you plan to use before you
submit your furniture to a cleaning, and apply the cleaning prod-
uct in a well-lighted area so you can see how the job is going.
A steamer can be used only on fabrics that can tolerate a water-
based cleaner. Additionally, the machine isn't easy to set up, use,
A GUIDE TO UPHOLSTERY FABRICS 39
and clean. Be careful not to overwet the upholstery, and be very
careful with piping. Moisture can cause many types of stuffing to
bleed. After using a steamer, open windows and doors and use
fans to speed drying. Upholstery should dry in less than 24 hours.
A GUIDE TO UPHOLSTERY FABRICS
Wool, cotton, linen, silk, rayon, nylon, and polyester are among the
fibers that are turned into coverings for sofas and chairs. The fabric
may be made of a Single fiber or a blend, and it may have a special
finish, such as the starchy glaze that gives linen its soft glow.
Steam cleaning with detergent and water is an effective way to
clean many fabrics. But not all fabrics relate well to water. Some
shrink; some become mottled by water spots; some turn brown.
To clean fabric successfully, you must first find out just what
kind of fabric you're dealing with. If the furniture was purchased
within the last few years, it probably has a cleaning code on its
label. (Look under the cushions for a tag affixed to the platform.)
A "w" means that the fabric can be cleaned with a water-based
product. An "S" indicates that a solvent-based cleaner (dry clean-
ing) is required. If the code reads "W-S," the choice is yours. An
"X" is bad news: Only cleaning by vacuuming is recommended.
The guide to upholstery fabrics on page 40 provides informa-
tion about the cleaning of materials commonly used in upholstery
textiles and can help you decide whether to dry-clean with sol-
vents or "wet clean" with a water-based solution. If your fabric is
a blend of different fibers, base your decision on the most sensi-
tive one in the blend.
UPHOLSTERY STAINS
For some furniture, the problem isn't widespread soil but a sud-
den spill. If you're quick enough, blotting the spill with a clean
40 FURNITIJRE
A GUIDE TO UPHOLSTERY FABRICS
This guide was published in a February ·1992 report.
Fiber. Cotton refers to all cotton except Haitian, which may· re-
lease a brown dye and stretch when wet. All the fibers are likely
to be stained by oil-based spills. Cotton, linen, rayon, silk, wool,
and nylon are also'likely to be stained by water-based spills. Dry
cleaning is acceptable for all the fibers. Wet cleaning, which often
works better, is generally OKfor all, but check under "wet-cleaning
Cotton Low
Linen 2 Low High High
Rayon 2 High High Very high
Silk, 1-3 High High Low
Wool 2-3 Low Moderate Moderate
Acetate 4-5 Low Low Low
Acrylic 5 Low Moderate Low
Nylon 4-5 Low Moderate Low
Olefin 5 Low Low Low
Polyester 5 Low Low Low
A GUIDE TO UPHOLSTERY FABRICS 41
flaws" to see what problems can arise, and be sure to spot-test.
Tendency to bleed. On a .scale from 1 to 5, with 1 most likely to
bleed; 5 least likely. Bleeding can occur with either wet or dry
cleaning,
Wet-cleaning flaws. The tendency .for fibers to wateNpot,
brown, or shrink during cleaning with a water-based solution.
These columns can help you determine whether dry or wet clean-
. ing is more appropriate for your upholstery.
be removed
of cleaning.
sizing, or other fin
to shrink even
Water marks may be difficult to remove without damaging fabric.
stretch with excessive agitation.
Turns dark when wet; hard to assess quality of cleaning.
Tends to shrink even when preshrunk. Dissolves in acetone. Avoid nail-
polish remover and commercial ink removers.
Spots may reappear after cleaning.
Dissolves in strong acids.
Spots may reappear after cleaning. Latex backing may be weakened by
age, sunlight, and chlorinated solvents. Resists bleach.
Spots may reappear after cleaning.
42 FURNITURE
white towel or white (no pattern) paper towels may do the trick.
(A white towel lets you see what you're removing and eliminates
the chance of introducing another stain in the form of a dye.)
Once a spill becomes a stain, cleanup can still be successful, if you
use the right approach. Certain basics apply to all stain-removal ef-
forts. For recommended cleaning agents and techniques for re-
moving a variety of stains from both washable and unwashable
fabrics, refer to Appendix B: Stain Removal.
House Cleaning
ALL-PURPOSE CLEANERS
A good all-purpose liquid cleaner should be able to handle a va-
riety of chores but may not be really useful for all p u r p o ~ e ~ . Most,
for example, lack the special qualities required to clean windows
and ovens or remove mildew. But all-purpose cleaners are versa-
tile enough for mopping, washing, and spot-cleaning hard sur-
faces such as walls, floors, appliances, kitchen cabinets, and
countertops. All-purpose cleaners are often the type of product
needed when water won't do.
SPOT CLEANING
Of the two types of all-purpose cleaners available, the "pourables"
(liquids applied on grime) generally have stronger formulations
and do better overall spot cleaning than spray cleaners-which at
best turn in just an adequate job. Top-performing pourables often
contain pine oil, an effective cleaning ingredient with a distinctive
scent of pine associated with the impression of cleanliness.
FLOOR MOPPING
Pourable products when diluted in a bucket of water can also
be' effective for mopping floors. Few spray products suggest that
their liquid contents can be used in a similar manner. For floor
43
44 HOUSE CLEANING
mopping, effective pourables often claim to contain pine oil, citrus
oil, or oil soap.
DAMAGE TO SURFACES
When used at full strength, an all-purpose cleaner should be used
gently, then promptly and carefully rinsed off. Otherwise, you may
risk marring the surface being cleaned. Check the label for pre-
cautions; if in doubt, first test the cleaner on an inconspicuous
place for marring.
SAFETY TO USERS
Some products are caustic enough to warrant your using rubber
gloves when cleaning, or at least avoiding prolonged contact with
the skin. Since the solvents and other ingredients that dissolve,
emulSify, suspend, or otherwise loosen grime are powerful chem-
icals, any cleaner should be used carefully hi accordance with its
labeled precautions and kept out of the reach of children. To
avoid potentially hazardous chemical .reactions, never mix any
cleaner with anything other than water.
RECOMMENDATIONS
It's handy to have both types of all-purpose cleaners: a spray for
quick point-and-shoot cleaning and a pourable for mopping and
heavy-duty spot cleaning. Spot cleaning can always be improved,
within limits, with the application of elbow grease, prompt rins-
ing, and plenty of clean wipes.
Most pourable cleaners may be diluted for cleaning walls and
floors with a sponge or a mop and bucket, and many should
do a respectable job. Some pourables and sprays are labeled
as disinfectants. At best, however, such cleaners can only tem-
porarily reduce populations of some germs in a limited area for
a limited time.
BATHROOM CLEANERS 45
BATHROOM CLEANERS
Some of the products promoted as bathroom cleaners derive most
of their strength from old-fashioned pine oil; others rely on a mix
of other powerful chemicals. Because damp bathrooms are fertile
ground for fungi, bathroom cleaners often claim to contain an anti-
mildew agent, an ingredient some all-purpose cleaners lack.
Per use, some bathroom cleaners cost up to twice as much as
some all-purpose cleaners. Manufacturers try to justify the higher
cost with fancy packaging. Trigger spray pumps, aerosol cans, and
flip-top containers are more convenient than the screw-top con-
tainers that hold some all-purpose cleaners; there's no pouring in-
volved, so spills are less likely.
EFFECTIVENESS ON SOAP SCUM
Most bathroom cleaners and all general-purpose cleaners are
highly effective at cleaning soap scum. For really difficult-to-clean
surfaces, you can improve the product's performance by leaving it
on the soap scum slightly longer than the time recommended on
the label.
EFFECTIVENESS ON j!1IWEW
Despite label claims, few bathroom cleaners are very effective at
removing mildew. Most products including all-purpose cleaners
are largely ineffective in getting rid of mildew that accumulates in
the grout on a tiled surface. A better approach is to apply an ef-
fective cleaner before mildew has accumulated. Common house-
hold chlorine bleach is highly effective and economical for killing
and remOVing mildew (refer to the section on BJeaches).
Many cleaners · claim to diSinfect, and they may indeed get rid
of some microorganisms for a while. But trying to kill microor-
ganisms in an unsterile environment is futile. As soon as you elim-
inate some germs, they're replaced by others.
46 HOUSE CLEANING
SURFACE DAMAGE
You may spill a bit of cleaner and not notice the spill for hours.
Quite a few products dull or discolor brass and painted trim. Some
also mar stainless steel surfaces and, rarely, you may find one that
also mars vinyl shower curtains.
Some cleaning products can irritate skin and eyes. A few are
alkaline or acidic enough to warrant the use of rubber gloves.
Some pump spray products can irritate lungs. A few specifically
warn against use by anyone with heart or respiratory problems.
Generally, bathroom cleaners are not too hazardous for a
healthy, reasonably cautious person to use, but read labels
carefully.
A cleaner containing bleach shouldn't be mixed with a product
containing ammonia or acid. Such combinations can produce irri-
tating fumes.
RECOMMENDATIONS
Specialized bathroom cleaners are convenient to use, and some
are very effective on soap scum and mildew. But a good all-pur-
pose cleaner can cost less, clean soap scum at least as well, and
may also do a good job of inhibiting the growth of mildew.
Disposable wet towelettes are unnecessary, even if they are
handy for small jobs. Most are fairly expensive, considering that
you're likely to use them only for light cleaning on small areas.
DRAIN CLEANERS
Most people give very little thought to their household pipes until
one or more of their drains stops working. Then, they face a
choice of several unappealing remedies: Call the plumber, wrestle
with a plunger or a plumber's "snake," or don protective gear and
pour in some chemical drain cleaner. A fourth remedy, one of the
DRAIN CLEANERS 47
new biological treatments on the market, may help keep drains
clear, but it's not good at breaking up an existing clog.
This book doesn't offer any panaceas, just advice on the best
options available for do-it-yourself drain care. As a plumber might
tell you, the typical kitchen clog differs from a bathroom blockage.
Kitchen drains are chiefly plagued by vegetable scraps and
congealed fats . Bathroom drains tend to clog with soap scum
and hair.
The first order of business on a drain should be preventive
maintenance (see section on "Maintaining the Free-Flowing
Drain"). There, biological treatments, designed to speed up the
slow but still flowing drain, can be useful. But if a drain clogs com-
pletely, turn to a plunger, snake, or other mechanical device. If
that approach fails, and it's a sink drain that's clogged, you might
consider removing the U-shaped trap in the pipes where sink
clogs often lodge (or removing the cleanout plug, if the trap has
one). Consider a chemical cleaner only if all else has failed. Its
powerful ingredients can cause serious. harm if inhaled or acci-
dentally brought into contact with the skin or eyes. And if the
chemical cleaner doesn't budge the clog, you'll be left with a cor-
rosive mess to clean up.
MAiNTAINING mE FREE-FLOWING DRAIN
A few preventive measures will limit the likelihood that you'll have
a clogged drain .
• Avoid pouring grease down the kitchen sink.
• Be sure sinks, tubs, and showers have strainers to trap food,
hair, and the like. Regularly clean the strainers, and periodically
remove and clean the drain-plug mechanism in bathroom sinks
and tubs. That mechanism is a common place for hair that can
escape the strainer to lodge and form an obstruction. The hair,
48 HOUSE CLEANING
in turn, can become a filter for soap, skin oils, and other
residues carried by the water .
• Pouring hot water into a drain is unlikely to clear a clog, but a
weekly dose of boiling water can be effective to maintain a
freely running drain. Heat about a gallon of water, pour in half,
wait a few minutes, and then pour in the rest. Be careful to
pour the water directly down the drain, not on. the basin, tub,
or toilet. Boiling water could crack the porcelain; it can also in-
activate a biological drain. opener. So do not use hot water any
sooner than the residence time mandated by the biological
drain opener's directions.
BIOLOGICAL TREATMENTS
Household drains rarely clog without warning. Unless suddenly
blocked by an object, they tend to run slower as impediments ac-
cumulate. Biological drain treatments are designed to keep pipes
cleaner and clearer by introducing bacteria that feed on the' or-
ganic matter in those accumulations. ·
Biological treatments are often marketed as a safer alternative
to pouring chemical cleaners down your · drains Ca reasonable
claim, given the chemicals' proven hazards). Some treatments are
sold through catalogs that specialize in "environmentally friendly"
products; others are sold in hardware and grocery stores.
Some treatments claim to use enzymes to stage an initial hit-
and-run attack on organic matter in the pipes, notably grease and
soap . .But the real muscle in biological treatments comes from mi-
croorganisms that break down and digest that organic material.
The bugs eventually flourish in the pipes to provide a continuous,
live-in cleanup crew.
Microorganisms don't eat just anything. Hair, for example, being
rather indigestible, is not on their menu. But the bacteria in the
DRAIN CLEANERS 49
treatments do eat away at the sticky organic stuff that often binds
hair and other materials together, or the material that holds it to
pipes. It takes time for the bugs to reach their full effectiveness.
All the biologicals Consumers Union tested require at least one
overnight application, during which time the drain cannot be
used. Most treatments require two to five initial applications to
get the bug colony established. After that, some bacteria are reg-
ularly washed out as the drain is used, so all treatments recom-
mend a regular monthly "maintenance" application. Avoid
pouring boiling water, bleach, disinfectants, solvents, and other
enemies of bacteria into a treated drain.
Don't expect results from a biological treatment when a drain
is blocked by an obstruction made of wood, plastic, or some
other material not in the bugs' diet.
While they are noncorrosive, biological treatments are not en-
tirely benign. The packaging for most biologicals warns of harm
from swallowing, and some labels also recommend avoiding
contact with skin, eyes, and respiratory passages.
MECHANICAL OPENERS
Drain clogs are subject to two kinds of physical assault by the
rnechanical devices tested by Consumers Union: pressure from a
pump, hose-end bladder, or plunger, and drilling through by a
plumber's auger, also known as a "snake."
All the mechanical openers should work fine on a soft, fatty
kitchen clog. But the pumps and plungers may not be able to
cope reliably with a bathroom clog (which may be a concoction
of such materials as facial tissue, toilet tissue, soap, toothpaste,
and human hair). Snakes, however, should have no such trouble.
They snag onto the meshed hair and haul out the entire plug.
All the mechanical devices are safe enough to use, but all do
50 HOUSE CLEANING
require some strength and skill to use effectively. And each type
has its drawbacks. The auger must be threaded through openings
in any cross bars or strainers, and the holes may be too small to
accommodate the cable tip. Also, the auger must be turned as it's
fed into the pipe, a task that's sometimes hard for one person to
accomplish. No auger can be used through a
unit, and some may even have trouble negotiating the trap below
the sink. (They can, however, be fed into the open pipe after the
trap is removed.)
Hose-end bladders can't be used at all through crossbars or
strainers. And a plunger (or any other pressure device) is ineffec-
tive if the drain has a vent between the sink and the clog that can't
be sealed when the device is used. (Duct tape or a wet rag makes
an effective temporary seal for the vents usually found below the
faucet in bathroom sinks and tubs.)
It makes sense to keep a couple of mechanical drain openers
around the house. A snake is the most versatile device, since it can
both break up a greasy clog and snag clumps of hair. Unlike a
pressure device such as a plunger, the snake can remove all or
part of a blockage, limiting the chance that the clog will be liber-
ated only to flow down the drain and cause trouble elsewhere.
Among the pressure devices, a plunger is the best bet for rea-
sons of price, convenience, and versatility. Any plunger can be
used on a sink or tub blockage. However, those models with a
fold-out cup have the edge when tackling toilet clogs.
CHEMICAL CLEANERS
Chemical drain cleaners are among the most hazardous products
sold for household use. All highly corrosive, they can injure eyes
and mucous membranes on contact, and ordinary skin in only sec-
onds. Chemical drain cleaners include liquid lye-and-bleach mixes
DRAIN CLEANERS 51
and granular lyes, which are strongly alkaline, and concentrated
liquid acids.
Even when diluted, chemical drain cleaners can attack not only
the organic matter in clogs but also metal pipes (especially the thin
brass pipes often found under sinks) and porcelain surfaces. The
heat the cleaners release as they work may soften plastic pipes
and weaken the cemented joints between them. In fact, concen-
trated sulfuric acid can release so much heat in a drain that the liq-
uid boils, which may send a small geyser of corrosive liquid back
out of the drain.
Worst · of all, a chemical drain opener may not work and will
leave you with a blocked drain full of corrosive liquid. That's es-
pecially likely if the blockage lies not in the U-shaped trap under
the fixture but farther along in the pipe, where the cleaner may
never reach.
Even if the chemicals do make it to the clog, they're likely to
do a mediocre job at best: That ho-hum performance makes it all
too likely that several applications of a cleaner will be required to
clear a clog, further compounding the 'hazards of using one of
these products.
The granular lye products may even create their own blockages.
If you pour in more than the recommended amount, there's a
chance the granules will form a solid mass. You or the plumber
may then be forced to remove the original obstruction and the
cake of lye.
Safer drain cleaners that use noncorrosive solvents in place of
lye and acid have reached the market in recent years. But none
has succeeded in Consumers Union's tests.
Consumers Union is reluctant to recommend any chemical
drain cleaner, either for tackling a clog or (as some manufacturers
recommend) as preventive medicine for slow drains, and strongly
52 HOUSE CLEANING
advises against acid-based drain cleaners. Concentrated sulfuric or
hydrochloric acid is too risky for amateurs to use and too
dangerous to keep around the house, especially if there are
children about.
SAFETY
The labels of chemical drain cleaners contain multiple warnings
and precautions. In the case of accidental personal contact with
a chemical drain cleaner, immediately flush the area with copi-
ous amounts of cool water and continue to do so while some-
one contacts a poison control center or a medical doctor for
instructions.
GARBAGE BAGS
Plastic garbage bags didn't even exist 30 years ago. People typi-
cally reused paper grocery bags for their kitchen scraps and
burned yard waste, raked it into the street, or threw it into large
metal trash cans. Then they got on with their lives.
You can still reuse other types of bags, of course, but most
Americans don't: Nearly 8 in 10 consider plastic garbage bags a
household staple. If you're among them, you've probably found that
choosing a bag may mean deciding among hundreds of brands.
Why the proliferation? Manufacturers are trying to grab shelf
space from competitors and ring up higher sales by adding any-
thing shoppers might favor,whether it's a drawstring closure, a
scent designed to ward off animals, or a pastel color.
The confusion doesn't end there. Garbage bags are marketed
under different names: trash, rubbish, scrap, wastebasket, kitchen,
lawn, and leaf; and on variations of those themes: tall kitchen,
large kitchen, and large trash and lawn bags. That makes it easy
to pick up the wrong size. What's more, bag size may vary con-
GARBAGE BAGS 53
How "GREEN" Is My GARBAGE?
Garbage bags themselves are an example of wasteful consump-
tion, since they're designed to be used once and thrown away.
The u.s. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that plastic-
bag waste takes up 2.4 percent of all landfill space.
One "green" option, of course, is to reuse bags you already
have instead of buying new ones. Nearly any bag from a depart-
ment store or grocery store is suitable for paper or other dry, light-
weight waste. Plastic supermarket bags are fine for food scraps.
And those bags are free.
Manufacturers can reduce the environmental impact of newly
minted bags by using less plastic. Some manufacturers use recy-
cled plastic (from 10 percent to 100 percent). That includes pre-
consumer waste (scrap from the manufacture of other products) as
well as postconsumer waste (used milk containers, detergent bot-
tles, grocery sacks, and the like). None of the bags have 100 per-
cent postconsumer waste in their recycled plastic.
How does reEycled plastic affect strength? Consumers Union
compared test data from bags that claimed to have recycled con-
tent with data from bags that make no such claim. Although bags
with a small amount of recycled material were as strong and punc-
ture-resistant as bags that make no ciaim, those with 80 percent or
more recycled plastic weren't as tough as the others.
Some towns require yard waste to be put in paper bags, not
plastic, because the material is earmarked for composting.
Consumers Union tested those bags, too. They're essentially punc-
ture proof and are highly resistant to damage when dropped or
dragged. That makes them capable of handling bushes, thorns, or
any debris that's sharp or jagged. Keep filled paper bags under
cover, though: Once they're wet, they're weaker.
54 HOUSE CLEANING
siderably within those groups. As a result, matching the bag to the
trash container can be tricky.
The latest marketing wrinkle targets the "green" consumer. No,
the issue isn't degradability anymore. (The Federal Trade Commis-
sion cracked down on unsubstantiated degradability claims a few
years back, and garbage-bag manufacturers have changed their
pitch.) Now, many of them tout the use of recycled plastic. That's
laudable. However, the trend toward more environmentally
friendly products is driven by government regulation as much as
by anything else.
How do you tell which bag is most robust? You might think that
the number of plies, sometimes noted on the package, is a reliable
barometer. Not necessarily, according to Consumers Union tests.
Nor is there a clear correlation between the thickness of the plas-
tic and the bag's quality. Some bags boast that they're extra-heavy
duty, or made of high-performance or concentrated plastic. When
scrutinized by Consumers Union engineers, however, many bags,
and their claims, didn't pass muster.
To find out which claims are worth listening to and which bags
are worth buying, Consumers Union sent shoppers in 14 states to
buy bags. The 55 products they found included name brands,
store brands, and bags from mail-order catalogs. For comparison
TYPE OF BAG
Waste
Tall kitchen
Trash
Lawn and leaf
A NUMBERS GAME?
USUAL CAPACITY
4--S gal.
13 gal.
30-33 gal.
39 gal.
GARBAGE BAGS 55
purposes, a paper lawn and leaf bag was also tested; in many
towns, residents are required to use such bags.
Consumers Union subjected the bags to laboratory tests and
asked staffers to use them at home. In most cases, staffers' judg-
ments and lab results agreed.
Most garbage bags will work fine if used to hold only light-
weight trash. If you need a bag that can handle heavier stuff, keep
several things in mind:
• You can't judge a bag by its price or name. Inexpensive bags
sold by mass merchandisers and by supermarkets sometimes
outperformed the nationally advertised brands.
• Some bags that did well overall didn't do well in every test.
• The quality of particular brands wasn't always consistent from
size to size.
• Some individual products performed inconsistently from bag
to bag.
SIZING THEM Up
The table on page 54 shows the typical categories and sizes of
garbage bags. Some makers, however, tag their bags with labels
that confound the issue.
All the kitchen bags tested mated easily with the standard '
kitchen wastebasket. Best are those with a star-shaped seam at
their base instead of the usual horizontal seam. They sit flush
against the bottom of the wastebasket.
Most trash bags claim to fit inside 30-gallon garbage cans. In re-
ality, many fit, but barely, and not without a struggle. Such prob-
lems exist because garbage-can capacity is measured in different
ways when filled to the brim or with the lid on, for instance. And
cans rated at the same capacity come in different heights, widths,
56 HOUSE CLEANING
and shapes. As long as no industry standard exists, some bags
won't fit some cans.
THICK OR THIN?
Common sense suggests that thicker is better, but that's not always
true. The type of plastic, the quality and amount of recycled
terial, and the manufacturing process also come into play. Kitchen
bags measuring '/2 mil (a mil is a thousandth of an inch) thick were
sometimes tougher than bags twice as thick.
To further muddle the picture, Consumers Union often found
the same brand in two labeled thicknesses, depending on where
the bags were purchased.
Thickness claims may also be misstated. Consumers Union mea-
sured 20 samples of each brand with an caliper and dis-
covered that eight brands, mostly lawn and leaf bags, were
significantly thinner than the manufacturer had noted.
PlASTICS
Most garbage bags are made from one of three polyethylene
resins. Some brands specify their type of plastic; with others, you
can often tell by feeling the bag. It can pay to know, because the
type of plastic has some bearing on how well a bag will stand
up in use.
Bags made of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) are soft and pli-
able. Those made of linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) are
Their main asset: resistance to tearing. Bags made of
high-density polyethylene (HDPE) are stiffer and more translucent
than the others, and they crunch like tissue paper when touched.
Because the material is inherently tough and resists punctures,
HDPE bags can be made thinner than others without compromiS-
ing strength. One drawback with HDPE: A little nick easily turns
into a big rip.
GARBAGE BAGS 57
CLOSING TIME
Most bags come with wire twist ties, plastic key-lock tabs, or some
variation of a drawstring. Twist ties provide a tight seal and are
simple to use: Merely wrap one around the neck of the bag and
give it a couple of turns. On the other hand, twist ties are
sometimes too short to wrap securely around a bag. And they're
easy to lose.
With plastic tabs, you thread one end through a loop at the
other end, then pull. Like twist ties, tabs are easily lost. And as
you'll find out, if you tty to add another crumpled napkin to a
sealed bag once locked, they're hard to unlock.
Staffers who used bags at home liked drawstrings because
they're easy to manipulate and there are no small parts to lose.
Once the bag is full, you tug and knot the string to close it. On
the other hand, the seal may not close completely. Trash and
odors may escape; moisture and animal scavengers may get in-
side. Drawstrings also can be flimsy. During drag-and-drop tests,
Consumers Union hoisted the bags by their drawstrings. Some
stretched like Silly Putty; others snapped apart.
Less common are handle ties, which look like suspenders atop
the bag's shoulders. You close a handle tie by knotting the two
loops like the laces of a shoe. That ensures a tight seal. Draping
the handles around a container can be a problem, though.
DISPENSE WIlli IT
Garbage bags usually come folded and packaged in cartons. You
remove them from the box as you would tissues, one at a tim'e.
More of a chore are bags that are packaged in a roll and con-
nected by perforations. You pull the end of the roll through a slit
in the packaging and tear off the next bag. Some staffers who used
those bags at home complained that the rolls unfurled or that it
was hard to tear off just one bag.
58 HOUSE CLEANING
HANDHELD VACUUM CLEANERS
The most popular type of handheld vacuum operates on recharge-
able batteries and can be carried easily from room to room. But
hand vacuums with cords offer serious competition, since they can
extend vacuuming beyond the length of time that a typical
rechargeable model allows.
Handheld vacuums offer extras such as revolving· power
brushes to beat dirt out of carpeting, as well as an assortment of
attachments and extensions designed especially for nooks, cran-
nies, drapes, and ceilings. In addition, cordless models come with
a wall-mounted storage bracket that has a built-in battery charger.
Car vacuums, which plug into an automobile'S cigarette-lighter
socket, look much like the cordless models, but they come with-
out a wall storage bracket.
CLEANING ABILITY
Most cordless models rely solely on suction to do the job. The
suction end typically tapers to an oblong slot some three
inches wide.
Plug-in models, on the other hand, generally provide wider
coverage. They often come with a built-in five- or six-inch revolv-
ing brush well suited to cleaning rugs. The plug-ins tend to be
heavier than the cordless models and auto vacuums.
Consumers Union tested cleaning ability with a variety of soils
spread across a smooth wood surface that simulated hardwood
flooring. A hand vacuum should be able to deal with such items
as granulated sugar, rice, and bread crumbs.
Low-pile carpeting littered with tougher material, however,
highlighted the advantage most plug-in models enjoy over their
cordless cousins. To retrieve, say, potting soil from a carpet, most
cordless vacuums and car vacuums need 20 to 30 passes; a good
HANDHELD VACUUM CLEANERS 59
plug-in model, with its spinning brushes, may need just 5 to 10
passes. Hand vacuums without revolving brushes have a tougher
time with beach sand.
Gravel may destroy plastic fan blades or scrape particles of
plastic from the innards of some plug-in models. Cordless or car
WHEN BATIERIES Go BAD
The rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries in cordless hand vacu-
ums should accept hundreds of charges. But eventually the clock
runs out even on those batteries. Ln the past, Consumers Union
testers have found that batteries are difficult to replace in many
hand-vacuum models.
Having a manufacturer's service center replace the batteries can
vary greatly in price. 'Spending, say, $15 to replace the batteries in,
say, a $70 ~ r $80 appliance makes sense. But hand vacuums often
cost much less than that, so in some cases it may pay simply to re-
place the entire vacuum.
A decision to throwaway the vacuum poses an environmental
problem, The cadmium in nicad batteries is toxic and can leach
out of landfills to contaminate groundwater supplies. Incineration
can release the metals into toe air, an even greater hazard.
Some companies will accept their old cordless products for
proper disposal. Check with the manufacturer before you trash an
appliance.
A growing number of states require that the batteries · in cord-
less appliances be easy to remove so they can be disposed of sep-
arately, Consumers Union recommends that you consider ease of
battery removal and cost of battery replacement when purchasing
any rechargeable appliance,
60 HOUSE CLEANING
vacuums won't suffer similar damage, since their filter cup inter-
cepts large debris before it reaches any moving parts.
CONVb"NIENCE
A revolving brush gives the plug-in vacuums an edge in cleaning
carpeting, but it's a mixed blessing. The action of the brush is so
vigorous in some models that it competes with their suction, fling-
ing coarser soils about instead of helping to ingest them. Here are
some other factors to consider:
Edge cleaning. The narrow nozzle of most cordless models can
slip into tighter spots than can the broad brush head of the plug-
in models.
Fallout. Most vacuums have a trap or a flap in the intake designed
to prevent debris from dropping back onto the floor when the vac-
uum is switched off. None works perfectly.
Blowby. the filters in these vacuums don't stop dust or
grit from shooting out through vent holes. It's a good idea to wear
eye protection when you vacuum coarse debris.
Noise. The noise these vacuums make measured at arm's length
with a sound-level meter tends to track their cleaning prowess
(the louder they are the better they clean), especially with
plug-in models. The noisiest are about as loud as a regular
vacuum cleaner.
FEATURES
Some of the vacuums include attachments that can change their
basic character. There may be, for instance, a revolving
brush to convert an ordinary vacuum snout of a cordless model
into a vacuuming carpet sweeper, like that on most plug-in mod-
els. But the add-on piece places a heavy burden on the batteries,
Significantly reducing their ability to run the cleaner before an
overnight charge is needed.
HANDHELD VACUUM CLEANERS 61
A few plug-in models work the opposite way: An accessory
hose lets you convert a built-in revolving brush to a suction-only
nozzle.
Here are some other noteworthy features to consider:
Dual speeds. Several vacuums offer two motor settings. Others
let you reduce suction by opening an air intake. Less suction
may be useful for vacuuming curtains, blinds, or loose-fitting
upholstery.
Brushes, wands, nozzles. On a power-brush model, snap-on
dust brushes let you gently rake upholstery. And on suction-only
models, they improve carpet cleaning by stirring up the embedded
litter. A wandlike crevice tool powerfully focuses suction in small
areas, while a broad floor nozzle lets you cover more area quicker.
RECOMMENDATlONS
A power cord would seem to compromise the main advantage
of a handheld vacuum. But an extra-long cord (some are 25
feet) may make a plug-in vacuum an attractive alternative to a
cordless model.
Plug-in models are strong performers, and some provide much
greater dirt capacity than that available with a cordless vacuum.
DEALING WIm WET SPILLS
A few cordless vacuums are wet/dry models. They're designed to
sip up the proverbial spilled milk, or even the contents of a
tipped goldfish bowl. Since they are cordless, there's no shock
hazard.
You should clean the vacuum (a messy job) after every wet
use, lest the soggy contents turn stagnant. It might be easier to
use a sponge in the first place.
62 HOUSE CLEANING
Most have a broad revolving brush, which helps them make quick
work of a variety of soils ground into a rug.
OVEN CLEANERS
Use oven cleaners only on shiny porcelain-coated metal surfaces,
or glass. Never use them on continuous-cleaning (dull finish) or
self-cleaning oven finishes or on bare metal.
Some oven-cleaning products contain lye, one of the most dan-
gerous substances sold for household use. Baked-on oven dirt is
too tough for ordinary cleaners. Lye causes a chemical reaction,
decomposing the stuck-on fats and sugars into soapy compounds
you can wash away. Lye-containing oven cleaners are corrosively
alkaline and reactive enough to cause serious burns, which is why
labels on such products contain long lists of warnings.
Some oven cleaners on the market are aerosol sprays, which
are convenient to apply but hard to aim neatly. Clouds of aerosol
mist deposit cleaner not only on oven walls but perhaps also on
heating elements, thermostats, and light fixtures, and in your
lungs. Such product labels warn you not to inhale the fumes. But
some other application methods and container deSigns protect
you better.
Still, any product that contains lye must be used with extreme
caution. Lye can burn skin and eyes. Inhaled droplets can actually
burn the throat and lungs. Before using any cleaner containing lye,
you should don safety goggles, a long-sleeved shirt, and rubber
gloves. If you're using an aerosol, you should also wear a paper
dust mask (to keep from inhaling the droplets) along with protec-
tive goggles.
Not only should you take steps to protect yourself from the
corrosive effects of lye, you should protect nearby floors, coun-
ters, and other surfaces. Spread newspaper on the floor in
OVEN CLEANERS 63
front of the oven. Take care not to splash any of the cleaner on
aluminum, copper, or painted surfaces outside the oven, and
keep it off the heating element, gaskets, and light fixture inside
the oven.
Another way to avoid dangerous fumes and corrosive spatters
is to use an aerosol cleaner without lye. Instead of using lye to
break down oven grime, such products use a combination of
organic surfactants that are activated by heat. This type of product
doesn't have to carry a long list of warnings on its label. It isn't
likely to damage kitchen surfaces. You don't have to arm yourself
with rubber gloves and a face mask to use it because it isn't likely
to irritate.
PACKAGING
An oven cleaner's packaging affects its convenience of use and
safety. Oven-cleaning products come in several forms such as pad,
aerosol, brush-on jelly, and pump spray. All have drawbacks.
Because they don't create airborne lye particles, pads are a rel-
atively safe way to apply oven cleaner, as long as you've covered
your hands and forearms. Aerosols are easy to apply, but they're
also easy to get on gaskets, heating elements, and sometimes your
face by mistake. A broad, concave button makes it harder to mis-
direct the spray than a small button. .
Not only is it tedious to paint an entire oven with brush-on jelly,
it's almost impossible to keep the jelly from spattering. Finally, a
hand-pumped spray can be a real annoyance. Some products have
an adjustable nozzle that produces anything from a stream to a
misty, broad spray. The stream doesn't cover much and it splat-
ters, and the spray is unnecessarily diffuse and easy to inhale.
RECOMMENDATIONS
The instructions that come with self-cleaning ovens warn against
64 HOUSE CLEANING
using commercial oven cleaners. Wording varies, but a basic warn-
ing reads "Do not use commercial oven cleaners or oven protec-
tive coatings around any part of the self-cleaning oven. " This is
because the cleaners may damage the porcelain finish during the
high-temperature cleaning cycle.
Even if you lack a self-cleaning or continuous-cleaning oven,
you aren't necessarily sentenced to the hard labor of cleaning your
oven. An oven in continual use can reach a steady state at which
grease and grime burn off at the same rate they accumulate.
Serious spills, such as when a cake overflows its pan, can be
scraped up after the oven cools. A little dirt in the oven never hurt
anybody; a little oven cleaner might. So you can skip using an
oven cleaner. But if you feel otherwise, then choose a noncaustic
oven cleaner.
PAPER TOWELS
Some brands of paper towel are available nationwide, but there
are many regional and store brands, too. In some cases, towels
of a nationally known brand may vary somewhat from region
to region.
Manufacturers try to control a larger share of the market by sell-
ing a variety of brands, aiming a premium one, for example, at
consumers who believe that a high price connotes high quality
and aiming a moderately priced one at consumers who treat one
roll of towels pretty much like any other. One supermarket exec-
utive termed premium-priced towels "overspecified"-meaning
they are thicker and heavier than they need to be. The overspec-
ified towel gives the advertiser something to brag about and helps
justify the generally higher price, which in turn pays for
both the manufacturing costs and the heavy advertising and pro-
motion expenses.
PAPER TOWELS 65
Paper towels lead a brief and unglamorous life. They're typi-
cally called upon to scour a dirty oven, sop up a kitchen spill, or
wipe a window, and then within moments they're gone. And yet,
to perform these seemingly unexacting tasks, paper towels need
disparate qualities:
• Even when wet, they should withstand scrubbing without
falling apart .
• For mopping up, a costly but highly absorbent towel can be as
economical as a cheap but less absorbent towel. For spilled
salad dressing or motor oil, a poor-quality towel may smear the
spill rather than absorb it.
But for many other uses, most products will do the job.
Towels should separate cleanly at their perforations; otherwise,
you may be left holding either a torn sheet or more sheets than
you need. Generally, the two-ply towels detach more evenly than
the one-ply towels.
Paper towels with short, weakly anchored fibers tend to
shed lint, a particular problem when you clean a mirror or
Windowpane.
Softness is relatively unimportant in a paper towel, at least ac-
cording to an informal poll of more than 60 Consumers Union
staffers. Soft towels are usually more absorbent, but they may not
hold up as well during scouring.
RECOMMENDATIONS
The strongest, most absorbent towels are likely to be the pre-
mium-priced brands. Use an economical one for everyday chores.
For more demanding tasks-like picking up a large spill or clean-
ing a carpet-you might want to buy a roll of strong and ab-
sorbent, relatively expensive towels to keep around the house.
66 HOUSE CLEANING
Paper towels are the second largest "loss leader" in stores. Wait
for a sale of your favorite product and stock up with enough to
last you until the next sale.
USING PAPER TOWELS WITH MICROWAVE OVENS
For modest microwaving chores like steaming fish or poultry,
cooking vegetables or bacon, or preparing hot sandwiches, it's
wise to wrap or cover the food with white paper towels. They
keep the oven clean by absorbing spattered grease and excess
moisture and help to keep certain foods from drying out or be-
coming soggy. But are some paper towels better than others for
microwaving?
Some manufacturers sell brands that they claim are specially
formulated for microwave tasks. "Microwave" paper-towel brands
are identical to their regular siblings except that they are claimed
to be food grade (FDA approved for food contact), having fewer
heavy metals. But for simple microwaving, there is no need to pay
extra for these specialty products. Any strong, absorbent, plain
white (unprinted) paper towel should do.
TOUGHER TOWELS FOR TOUGH JOBS
Shop towels are for cleaning up grime in the garage or workshop,
scrubbing away rust, and other tasks too tough for ordinary paper
towels. Shop towels made of paper are throwaways; cloth towels
are meant to be washed and reused.
Shop towels tend to be stronger than most ordinary paper tow-
els. Of course, cloth shop towels are far stronger than any of the
paper products.
Both paper and cloth shop towels clean greasy tools and effec-
tively scrub rust. Some ordinary paper towels might tend to shred
a bit but should do the job nevertheless.
SCOURING CLEANSERS 67
Paper shop towels absorb water faster than their cloth counter-
parts. After several washings to remove their sizing, the cloth shop
towels still don't absorb water as quickly but are fine for oil.
Paper shop towels are certainly more convenient than cloth.
But the cloth shop towels are cheaper if they're used at least 10
times. (Household rags, of course, are cheaper still.)
SCOURING CLEANSERS
It used to be that the more abrasive a scouring powder was, the
more effectively it cleaned and the more surely it eroded porcelain-
enamel finishes and the decorative polish of cookware and acrylic
vanities.
Today's cleansers claim to remove soil and stains without dam-
aging the surface being cleaned. Liquid cleansers, introduced in
the 1970s, replaced gritty particles, such as silica, with softer abra-
sives like calcium carbonate. Today, both liquids and powders de-
rive much of their cleaning strength from detergent, bleach, and
other alkaline or acidic ingredients. The detergent in the cleanser
helps loosen soil and cut grease; the bleach aids in removing
many stains, especially from scratched and dented surfaces; and
the other ingredients enhance a cleanser's effectiveness on a vari-
ety of stains.
The gentlest cleansers will leave few or no marks even on a
piece of glass (similar in hardness to the porcelain in bathtubs and
sinks). A slightly abrasive cleanser leaves light hairline scratches
on glass panels and is more likely to erode surfaces over time.
Moderately abrasive cleansers leave a silky smooth frosting of
scratches, although nothing like the deep marks left by old-time
abrasive cleansers.
A good product, if inadvertently spilled and not wiped up,
68 HOUSE CLEANING
shouldn't leave marks on chrome, imitation marble (usually
acrylic), fiberglass, glass, or glazed tile. But watch your pots and
pans: A number of cleansers dull or discolor aluminum, copper, or
other metals if not wiped off after application.
Most cleansers do well on difficult-ta-remove soil and on a variety
of stains such as pot marks and tea stains on a kitchen sink. Some are
especially effective on particular types of difficult stains (such as rust
and hard-water deposits) and are labeled accordingly.
SAFETY
Cleansers containing ble,ach or acid shouldn't be mixed with am-
monia or other cleansers-the combination can produce danger-
ous fumes. Cleansers usually warn about this on the labeL
Some cleansers are strongly alkaline or acidic and could irritate
your skin. You might also want to remove your jewelry and wear
rubber gloves when cleaning with them.
Be especially careful in the use and storage of rust-removing
cleansers. They may contain oxalic acid. If so, they will provide
warnings regarding the hazards involved.
When you're cleaning a new surface or using a new cleanser,
first try it on an inconspicuous corner, wipe it off, and check for
marring. Over time, of course, even a gentle product may cause
some damage, which is why it's important to use a light touch and
a soft applicator, and wipe residues up after each use.
For cleaning with a light touch, apply the cleanser with a cel-
lulose sponge. If this fails on a very soiled surface, cautiously try
a more aggressive applicator (e.g., steel wool or copper mesh
pads), a plastic mesh pad, or a reinforced sponge.
RECOMMENDATIONS
Today's cleansers tend to be very good to excellent in overall
cleaning ability. They range in abrasiveness from negligible to
SCOURING CLEANSERS 69
slight to moderate. Liquid cleansers tend to have the lowest abra-
siveness, while powders occur at all levels. For delicate surfaces,
first try the cleanser in an inconspicuous place.
A barely abrasive product can do an excellent cleaning job,
even on tough soils. If you have some very demanding jobs, like
scraping crusted soil off old pots and pans or cleaning a badly
abraded porcelain sink, you will probably need a moderately abra-
sive product. If you have rust or hard-water stains, you might con-
sider special cleansers labeled for this purpose.
Cleansers are not appropriate for all chores in the kitchen
and bathroom. You'll want a good all-purpose cleaner to take care
of ordinary soil on floors, walls, countertops, range surfaces, and
the like.
TOILET BOWL CLEANERS
A common cause of persistent toilet-bowl staining is minerals that
build up around the waterline and under the rim. The culprit is
usually hard water, which has a high mineral content. As the water
evaporates, minerals such as whitish calcium or magnesium com-
pounds and rust-colored iron compounds are left behind, coating
the upper part of the bowl and eventually hardening into a scale.
Even with soft water, molds can form a dark coating in the bowl.
If the ceramic surface is slick, such deposits hardly find a foothold.
But if the surface has been scratched by abrasive cleaners or
roughened with age, the buildup can grow rapidly.
Automatic, in-tank cleaners are the easiest to use but generally
only mask the dirt. The "real" cleaners are the liquid and granular
in-bowl cleaners that are meant to be used with a brush.
IN-BOWL CLEANf:<.'RS
Most in-bowl cleaners use acid to dissolve mineral scale and erad-
70 HOUSE CLEANING
icate stains. Active agents may include hydrochloric, phosphoric,
or oxalic acids; some granular cleaners use sodium bisulfate,
which when dissolved works like acid. Brands with the highest
acidity have the greatest potential for cleaning. Products with
lower acid content may require more cleaner, more time, or more
muscle to do the job.
Nonacidic liquids may not be very effective at removing min-
eral stains. But they should work well on nonmineral stains that
can be brushed away readily.
You might try a dash of liquid all-purpose cleaner. Brushed on,
it can clean a lightly soiled bowl quite satisfactorily for less than
the cost of in-bowl cleaners.
Compared with liquids, powders are less convenient to apply
around the bowl and under the rim.
The chemicals in toilet bowl cleaners are powerful and should
be handled carefully. Never mix an in-bowl cleaner with other
household chemicals (including in-tank toilet cleaners). To do so
could release toxic fumes .
IN-TANK CLEANERS
Some in-tank products rely on blue dye to tint the water and hide
the dirt that accumulates between scrubbings. Although blue
cleaners generally contain detergent and other ingredients to curb
stains, some do not actually claim to clean a dirty bowl. With some
in-tank cleaners, then, the question is not how well it works but
how long it lasts. Don't be too quick to change containers when
the blue vanishes. Check to see if the dispensing valve has
clogged or if the product is actually used up.
Some blue cleaners claim to deodorize. If you sniff packages on
the store shelf, you may notice wintergreen, pine, or lemon scents.
Indeed, the packages sometimes have a very strong smell. But
TOILET BOWL CLEANERS 71
once the cleaner dissolves in the tank, the scent may be practically
imperceptible.
Some in-tank cleaners slowly dispense chlorine bleach to
lighten stains and give off a scent that many people associate with
cleanliness. These products may contain pebbles of calcium
hypochlorite bleach.
The amount of bleach such cleaners release can vary consider-
ably from flush to flush. Typically, it's very little. However, they
release enough chlorine to bleach stains, since the water may
stand in the bowl for hours. But when a toilet isn't flushed at least
once a day, the bleach may become more concentrated and
may damage parts inside the tank. Some plumbing-fixture manu-
facturers recommend against using in-tank cleaners containing
hypochlorite bleach.
Since chlorine is not as visible as blue dye, you might not
know when to replace a bleach-based bowl cleaner. If your water
is chlorinated, your nose may not tell you. You can use a drop
of food coloring in the bowl as a test. If the coloring lasts for
more than a few minutes, it means that the bleach-based cleaner
is spent.
RECOMMENDATIONS
The best way to clean the toilet bowl is to brush it frequently with
a liquid all-purpose cleaner. In-bowl toilet cleaners are for more
serious stains. Scrubbing with an acidic powder or liquid is the
one sure way to attack the mineral matter that causes most toilet
bowl stains, particularly around the rim.
In-tank cleaners, blue-colored or bleaches, are easy to use,
but don't expect miracles. If you start with a spotless toilet,
they may only slow the , buildup of new stains and keep the
bowl presentable between more thorough scrubbings. In-tank
72 HOUSE CLEANING
bleach cleaners should not be used in a toilet that isn't flushed
regularly. Enough chlorine may accumulate to damage parts inside
the tank.
Finally, do not let any brand's claims to disinfect sway you. At
best, a disinfecting cleaner can only temporarily cut the popula-
tion of some germs.
VACUUM CLEANERS
The two classic kinds of vacuum cleaner, upright and canister,
have become more alike. Each has borrowed features from the
other and become more versatile. Most upright vacuums now have
a flexible hose and tools to vacuum crevices, upholstery, and fur-
niture-tasks that were once the canister vacuum's alone. And, for
carpet cleaning, many canisters now have a power nozzle-a
smaller, detachable version of the upright's built-in power head.
(Power heads and power nozzles use a rotating beater brush to
deep-clean carpeting.)
Upright vacuums remain the most popular choice, outselling
canister models by more than five to one. You should probably
give first consideration to an upright vacuum. Among other ad-
vantages, it's likely to be easier to handle than a canister vacuum,
and probably less expensive. A canister model might suit you if
you vacuum mostly bare floors. The floor brush of a good canis-
ter vacuum may do a better job on flooring than the power head
of an upright vacuum, whose brushes may disperse debris before
it can be vacuumed up.
How THEY CLEANED
Nothing matters more in a vacuum cleaner, obviously, than how
well it picks up dust and debris.
Carpet cleaning. Almost any vacuum cleaner can remove most
VACUUM CLEANERS 73
surface debris. Better machines also pluck dirt from deep within
carpet pile. Overall, there is little difference in deep-cleaning
prowess between canisters and uprights. That wasn't the case in
past years, when uprights held an edge.
Air flow. Most vacuum cleaners either pull or push debris-laden
air through a porous vacuum bag that traps the waste. As the bag
fills, air flow diminishes. This reduces the suction the machine can
sustain. Canisters generally outdo uprights at the outset, but most
of the canisters can't hold the edge as their bags fill.
For those times when a vacuum cleaner accidentally inhales
part of a throw rug or drapes, it's handy to have a control that
reduces suction-typically, a valve that uncovers a hole near
the hose's handle. That allows you to pause, extract the fabric,
and continue to vacuum, all without shutting off the machine.
Most canister vacuums have such a suction control; most up-
rights don't.
CLEARING THE AIR
Even an excellent vacuum cleaner won't necessarily capture all
dust and debris. Some of the waste gets blown around, and some
is vented back into the room through the exhaust port. The parti-
cles most likely to escape filtration are minuscule, and can include
fragments of such allergens as pet dander, pollen, and mold
spores. A clean exhaust, then, is an important consideration to
people who are sensitive to such substances.
The top performers are uprights whose suction fan is located in
front of the vacuum bag and pushes air through the bag. That de-
sign does have a drawback, however: Because incoming air is
drawn through the fan before it is filtered, there is a chance that a
solid object-a coin, say-will damage the fan's vanes. Machines
with that "push" fan design include all the "soft body" uprights,
which enclose the bag in a fabric pouch, and some of the "hard
74 HOUSE CLEANING
body" uprights, which have a rigid plastic casing. The rest of the
hard-body uprights and all of the canister vacuums are "pullers,"
with fans located downstream of the bag.
The vacuums that emit the most in their exhaust are canisters.
However, even the dirtiest among them doesn't spew forth a visi-
ble torrent of debris. But the dust in their exhausts could irritate
some people who are sensitive to airborne allergens. One option,
available on about a third of the machines, is to use "microfiltra-
tion bags, " which supposedly use electrostatic charges to trap
small particles. If the vacuum cleaner allows a choice of bags, non-
allergy sufferers should choose the standard-type bag; they're al-
most always less expensive than microfiltration bags.
WHAT'S EASIEST TO USE?
If you're a typical vacuum-cleaner owner, you'll live with your ma-
chine for years before it breaks. So you want to make sure the one
you buy is as easy to use as possible. Here are some of the fac-
tors to consider:
Lugging it. You can usually hoist an upright with one hand.
Canisters require both hands, not only because they're heavy,
but also because you typically have to juggle more components
at a time.
Getting started Most vacuum cleaners have an On/ Off switch
that's easy to operate by hand or foot. A few force you to bend
uncomfortably to reach the switch. Some canisters have a second,
independent switch on or near the handle to control the power
nozzle. That's a plus when an object gets stuck in the brush and
you want to shut off the machine quickly.
Adjusting cleaning height. Deep cleaning goes better when the
beater brushes are adjusted to the right height-too high and they
won't clean deeply, too low and they'll dig into the pile and make
VACUUM CLEANERS 75
the machine hard to push. Some machines claim to adjust the
height automatically. Consumers Union favors machines that allow
you to make the adjustment yourself, preferably using a foot
pedal, and those models that allow the beater brush in the power
head or nozzle to be switched off so that its rotation doesn't blow
dirt around a bare floor.
Pushing and pulling. Once set at the proper height, most up-
rights are pretty easy to push, especially those with big wheels
or rollers. Self-propelled models require little effort to push
about. However, the power assistance does take getting used to.
And, with the feature turned off, they may be difficult to move
around.
Uprights require more effort to. move about when the hose
is in use than when they're deep cleaning. Some uprights have
a hose that mounts high on the machine, making the vacuum
prone to tip.
Stairs. On stairways, a canister vacuum is generally easier to use
than an upright, whose wide "footprint" often won't fit comfort-
ably on the stair. Vacuuming stairs is easier with a long hose,
which enables you to cover most of the steps with the main unit
at the bottom. You can do a more effective cleaning job on stairs
and along baseboards if there's a minimum of dead space between
the powered brush and the outer edge of its housing. Every power
head or nozzle has such an area in front of and on each side of
the housing.
Cord storage. A vacuum cleaner typically has a 20- to 30-foot
power cord. Canisters usually have a handy built-in winder that
automatically recoils the cord at the press of a button or a yank
of the cord. Uprights typically have two hooks, around which you
wind the cord. If one or both hooks swivel, the cord can be re-
leased quickly. However, some machines have awkward, annoy-
76 HOUSE CLEANING
ing ways to store the cord. Others have no way at all to store it.
Whines and roars. Canisters tend to be slightly less noisy than
the uprights, and hard-body uprights less noisy than soft-body
models.
Emptying dust and debris. To dispose of what a vacuum cleaner
has picked up, you almost always have to change a paper bag.
Uprights usually have the largest bags, but bags that are bigger
don't necessarily last longer. Bags often must be replaced not be-
cause they're full, but because their pores have clogged, restrict-
ing air flow. Some machines have an indicator to let you know
when the bag is full (or if air flow is blocked).
It's often awkward and sloppy to change bags on a soft-body
upright. You may have to place the machine on its back, unzip the
cloth pouch or remove a plastic retainer, and coax the bag's sleeve
over a protruding tube. Removing the old bag without dumping
debris is also a challenge, as is retrieving any spilled dirt from the
bottom of the pouch.
MAiNTAINING THE MACHINE
An object that's stuck in the revolving brush or fan blades can
cause the motor to overheat and burn out. That's why some clean-
ers, mostly canisters, have a shutoff mechanism. Even if you es-
cape such a calamity, vacuum cleaners still require occasional
upkeep-replacing the brush, the drive belt, or the headlcimp bulb
are examples. Doing the upkeep yourself could not only save you
a repair bill, which averages $40, but also the expense of needless
repairs. Replacing parts yourself is easier on some machines than
on others.
LIGHT VACUUMS FOR LIGHT DunES
No room to store a vacuum cleaner? Want some lightweight assis-
WINDOW CLEANERS 77
tance with quick cleanups? The electric broom, which weighs
about six pounds and usually costs less than $50, promises to
help. An electric broom may be handy for quick (if a little dirty)
once-overs on floors in, say, the kitchen or a small apartment. It
may also be a boon for those with limited mobility or hand
strength, who have trouble using either a full-size vacuum cleaner
or a broom and dustpan.
WINDOW CLEANERS
Squeegee-wielding professionals know that plain water can clean
lightly soiled windows. But if you put off washing your windows
until they're really dirty, you'll need something more potent.
The best glass cleaner is one that works fast and removes grime
with a minimum of help from you. Consumers Union's laboratory
NEWSPAPERS FOR CLEANING WINDOWS
Over the years, there have been many opinions about which
window wipers work best. Professionals do their wiping with
natural-sponge applicators and rubber squeegees. Some purists
feel the job is unfinished without the careful application
of a good chamois leather. Yet others swear by yesterday's
newspaper.
In a Consumers Union test of newspaper used with an effec-
tive commercial cleaner on heavily soiled windows, it was found
that newspaper is not very absorbent. It takes a fair amount of
wiping and rubbing to clean and polish a window with it.
Newspaper also blackens hands and leaves ink smudges around
window mullions.
78 HOUSE CLEANING
tests showed that glass cleaners widely vary in their effectiveness.
Many are mediocre. Vinegar brands are generally inferior to
ammonia-based versions.
HOMEMADE RECIPES
Consumers Union's recipes can equal or best many of the
aerosols, sprays, and premoistened towels in the stores. They cost
a fraction of the price for store-bought penny or less
per ounce-and you can easily prepare them at home.
• The Lemon Formula-works for lightly soiled windows. Mix 4
tablespoons of lemon juice in 1 gallon of water .
• The Ammonia Formula-works for heavily soiled windows.
Mix liz cup of sudsy ammonia, 1 pint of rubbing alcohol, and 1
tablespoon of hand dishwashing liquid (do not use more than
1 tablespoon, or streaking may result), and top the mixture up
with enough water to make 1 gallon.
STORE PRODUCTS
A store-bought glass cleaner would cost from around a nickel to a
quarter an ounce. Pump sprays generally carry a lower cost-per-
ounce than do aerosols, and supermarket house brands are gen-
erally cheaper than national brands.
With most commercial products, an ounce of cleaner goes
pretty far. It would cost on average only a few pennies to clean
both sides of a heavily soiled window measuring · 2 by 3 feet.
CARE IN USE
Any glass cleaner, even plain water, can soften latex paint on mul-
lions and sills around a window. Therefore, wipe spilled window
cleaner off painted surfaces without hard rubbing. The paint
should reharden once it has dried.
WINDOW CLEANERS 79
THE ENvIRONMENT
Among the usual ingredients in most glass cleaners, none pose
any problems for the environment. None of the cleaners contain
phosphates, and none of the aerosols use ozone-depleting pro-
pellants.
Laundry
You can get good laundering results if you sort clothes according
to the following guidelines:
• Separate colors and whites into different laundry loads. Intense
colors (very dark or very bright) may bleed, especially when
washed for the first time. They can tint white or light-colored
clothes washed in the same load. A good guide is the maker's
care label.
• Separate chlorine-bleachable light and white clothes from those
that cannot be bleached if you intend to add chlorine bleach to
the wash.
• Most wash loads do quite well in cold or warm water. Heavy
soils on cottons respond better to a hot-water wash. Hot water
may have an adverse effect on permanent-press garments.
Check each garment's care label.
• Separate very dirty clothes that should be presoaked or washed
in hot water from lightly soiled or temperature-sensitive items.
• Separate sweatshirts, new towels, and products made from che-
nille yarn (all of which may tend to generate lint) from perma-
nent press clothes and corduroys (which attract lint).
• As you sort wash loads, remember to empty pockets and close
Zippers to prevent snagging. Next, check for troublesome stains
that may have become set. Some stains won't respond well to
81
82 LAUNDRY
a presoak or laundry booster alone, and require special treat-
ment before washing. Check Appendix B: Stain Removal for de-
tailed instructions on removing those stains.
• To keep socks from getting lost, place them at the bottom
of the washing machine tub, wash them in a mesh bag, or
use "sock savers," plastic rings designed to lock pairs of socks
together.
• Do not overload your dryer. Always allow ample room for arti-
cles to tumble about freely. Placing too many items in a dryer
can lengthen drying time and cause garments to wrinkle.
Leaving clothes in the dryer's drum after tumbling has stopped
can also cause wrinkling.
• To ensure optimum drying time, be sure to clean the dryer's lint
filter after each use.
For the best ways to cope with laundry, check the following
sections on Bleaches, Boosters, Clothes Washers, Detergents, and
Fabric Softeners.
BLEACHES
Liquid chlorine bleach is the old standby, having earned its place
in the laundry room, bathroom, and kitchen for whitening and re-
moving stains and mildew. But chlorine bleach has its problems,
too. The telltale signs of misuse or overuse of chlorine bleach are
splotches of faded color or white spots where undiluted bleach
has splashed, and fabrics that have faded from vivid to dim or
from blue to pink.
Nonchlorine, "all-fabric" oxygen bleaches promise the benefits
of chlorine bleach without the risk. · However, the real story un-
folds in the laundry room.
BLEACHES 83
Chlorine and oxygen bleaches use different active ingredients
that decolorize and solubilize stains so they can be removed with
the help of a detergent. Liquid chlorine bleaches all have about the
same amount of active ingredient, sodium hypochlorite, and there
is little difference from one brand to another. The active ingredi-
ent in liquid oxygen bleaches is hydrogen peroxide. In powder
oxygen bleaches it is sodium percarbonate or sodium perborate
tetrahydrate. Oxygen bleaches usually contain other ingredients as
well to help in stain removal.
Chlorine bleaches have always been far better than oxygen
bleaches at whitening clothes. Oxygen bleaches can only maintain
whiteness, not restore it.
HARD-TO-REMoVE STAINS
In general, chlorine or oxygen bleach should be used with a good
laundry detergent to succeed at removing stains. Some oxygen
bleaches are better than chlorine bleaches at reducing or remov-
ing tough stains such as red wine.
FADING
Chlorine bleach can cause colors to fade. Initially, it may have no
noticeable effect on the brightness of colors. After a few washings,
however, the chlorine begins taking its toll. Slight fading becomes
evident and then, after more washings, objectionable. An oxygen
bleach will continue being kind to colors much longer.
RECOMMENDATIONS
Chlorine bleach, when usedpropedy, is the most effective way to
whiten fabrics, including some synthetics .. It's ideal for the occa-
sional whitening your wash may need, but knowing how to use
chlorine bleach is essential: Improper and long-term use may take
84 LAUNDRY
its toll on colors and fabric life. Using chlorine bleach may be
tricky, but buying it is simple. The only real difference you are
likely to find is price.
All-fabric oxygen bleaches have the advantage of being safe
with most fabrics and dyes, even over the long term. But they're
much more expensive to use than chlorine bleaches.
A good approach is the occasional use of chlorine bleach on
chlorine-safe white fabrics to deliver the whitening you need.
Never use chlorine and oxygen bleaches together; they will
counteract each other. Use all-fabric bleach to brighten colors
without fading and to whiten fabrics that are not safe for use with
chlorine bleach.
When you use bleach, follow these guidelines:
• Before you bleach, read the garment's care label. If it says "no
bleach," don't use any kind of bleach. Chlorine bleach is usu-
ally safe on cottons, linens, and some colorfast fabrics.
• Don't use chlorine bleach on wool, silk, mohair, leather (e.g.,
buttons, Spandex, or noncolorfast fabrics or dyes). If you're un-
sure about the safety of a bleach for a garment, first do a safety
test on an inside seam as recommended on the bleach's label.
• Never use chlorine bleach with hand dishwashing liquids, am-
monia, or toilet cleaners. The combination can produce irritat-
ing fumes.
• Chlorine bleach must first be diluted as directed on the prod-
uct's label. It should then be added 5 to 6 minutes after the
wash cycle has started.
• Oxygen bleach should be added with the laundry detergent to
the wash water before the laundry is added. It is safe on wash-
able fabrics. It works more effectively at higher wash tempera-
tures than at cooler temperatures.
BOOSTERS 85
BOOSTERS
Today's high-performance laundry detergents do not need a laun-
dry booster to remove many common stains. However, some
household stains, such as used motor oil, are too stubborn for
some laundry detergents in ordinary laundering. Stain-fighting
laundry boosters may help a laundry detergent to remove stub-
born stains.
Boosters may be available as powders, pump sprays, aerosols,
liquids, and sticks. Regular laundry detergents can also be used as
self-boosters. Liquid laundry detergents are effective stain re-
movers when applied directly to stains before laundering. Powder
laundry detergents should be mixed with a little water and applied
to the stain as a paste-rubbed in with a new, soft toothbrush-
before laundering.
Consumers Union tested the effectiveness of boosters and liq-
uid laundry detergents on eleven different stains on white cotton-
polyester fabric: chocolate syrup, makeup, grape juice, spaghetti
sauce, blood, mud, grass, tea, black ink, and used motor oil.
Boosters were used according to label instructions to help an
economy-priced laundry detergent, but without presoaking.
Performance was spotty and disappointing in general. The best
boosters were effective on four to six of the eleven stains; the
other boosters on only one or two. One booster was not effective
at removing any of the stains.
CONVENIENCE
Launderers with a Single-stained garment might like a stick. But
there are situations in which a stick would be decidedly inconve-
nient. Imagine rubbing a wash load of grass-stained knees, oil-
stained overalls, and T-shirts dotted with last week's spaghetti
dinner. LiqUids, likewise, must be rubbed in. Sprays are a bit eas-
86 LAUNDRY
ier; you douse stains, then toss the dirty clothes into the washing
machine. When stains are pervasive, you might prefer a powder
that you pour into the machine along with a detergent. But pre-
soaking with a powder is problematic. You can let the stained
clothes soak in the water, but that ties up the machine. A messy
alternative is to let the laundry soak in a tub, then transfer it to
your washing machine.
RECOMMENDATIONS
Laundry detergents are generally so effective that you may not
need a booster if you lead a low-soil life. You can also use the
detergent as a booster as described above. It may make sense,
however, to keep a booster on hand for those inevitable spills
that even the best detergent can't handle. Choose a product based
on your idea of convenience. Some boosters cope quite well
with some stains, but most aren't any more effective than deter-
gent alone.
MAIL-ORDER BOOSTER/SPOT REMOVERS
Consumers Union conducted tests on two specialized spot re-
movers, Amodex Stain Remover (Amodex Products, Inc., P.O. Box
3332, 989 Hancock Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06065) and Magic
Wand (Edwards Creative Products, P.O. Box 8361, Cherry Hill, NJ
08002). Both performed better, overall, than supermarket boosters.
But they weren't equally effective on all stains. Amodex was bet-
ter as both a prespotter and spot remover, removing more stains
from more fabrics.
CLOTHES WASHERS
The design of top-loading automatic washing machines has ma-
tured to the point that periodic model changes are mostly small re-
CLOTItES WASHERS 87
finements. A manufacturer may change the shape of the agitator,
or restyle the control panel, or replace mechanical controls with
electronic ones.
Except for lower-end models, most machines come with such
amenities as two agitation and spin speeds, variable water-level
controls, and bleach and fabric-softener dispensers. Less expen-
sive models may have somewhat smaller capacities and lack some
of those features or have less elaborate versions of them. Most of
the rather deluxe washers have mechanical controls; several mod-
els have electronic controls. "Suds ' saver" models, of which very
few are manufactured, let users recycle the wash water.
Almost all washing machines sold in the United States are top-
loaders, with wash tubs that rotate around a vertical axis. While
front-loading washers, with wash tubs that rotate around a hori-
zontal axis, are available, very few are sold in the United States.
This is the case even though front-loaders use much less water, en-
ergy (mainly in the form of hot water used for washing), and de-
tergent. However, manufacturers expect that within the near
future, DOE energy standards will be much more stringent, and
the most practical way to meet the standard will be with horizon-
tal axis washers. While all horizontal axis machines presently sold
in the United States are front-loaders, future horizontal axis ma-
chines may be designed to be loaded from the top. Models of that
design are available in Europe. Present front-loaders sell for $600
to well over $1,000. Whether the new horizontal axis machines
will be sold for as low a price as present top-loaders remains to
be seen.
Just about any washing machine on the market will clean just
fine, provided you use the right cycle, the right amount of deter-
gent, and the right amount of water. Other critical factors are con-
venience, efficiency (machines that use less water get higher
marks), and load-size capacity.
88 LAUNDRY
For a machine to wash properly, clothes must move around the
tub, toward the agitator, then sink. If that doesn't happen, the
clothes nearest the agitator take a pounding while those around
the side move only slightly.
Consumers Union's testers made up loads of white or light-
colored items plus six "flags"-brightly colored washcloths. The
testers put each machine through its regular cycle with the lid up
so they could count and time the appeara,nce and disappearance
of the flags. If the flags circulated well, the testers ran larger loads
until two flags no longer circulated.
These tests showed considerable differences in capacity. The
size and shape of the tub, the design of the agitator, agitator
speed, and time contribute heavily to those differences.
ENERGY AND m4TER
Water consumption is a critical factor, given the periodic drought
in some parts of the country, the strain that a large load of wash
water imposes on septic systems, and the cost of heating the wash
water. (Providing hot water consumes far more energy than run-
ning the washing machine itself.) To monitor water and energy
consumption, tests were run using the warm wash/cold rinse set-
tings that are suitable for most clothes.
Water use. On fa regular cycle with an eight-pound load, water
use ranged from about 40 to 50 gallons. On the permanent-press
cycle, consumption was slightly more. Front-loaders used about
one-half to one-third of the water used by top-loaders.
Washers are most efficient when run at full capacity, using the
highest water level. You can adjust the water level for partial loads,
but you shouldn't try to wash a full load on a partial water fill.
That will hamper the machine's performance and may also dam-
age the clothing.
Energy use. The range of hot-water use for the machines is strik-
CLOTHES WASHERS 89
ing. Assume you do about 42 pounds of clothes per week, or
2,184 pounds per year. One of the more efficient machines would
do that much laundry in about 160 loads, using 1,800 gallons of
hot water per year. A relatively inefficient machine would need
about 240 loads and 2,800 gallons of hot water. That's about 45
percent more. Actual differences would probably be less dramatic
because you wouldn't fill a machine to capacity for every load.
The "suds One "suds-saver" machine design, which
should more accurately be termed a water saver, spews wash
water into a tub or sink next to the machine, then sucks it up
again to be reused for one or more additional wash-water fills.
Sediment from the first wash settles out in the sink or tub. The
washer's intake hose is designed to leave about half an inch of
water, so the sediment is not pumped That arrangement
saves about 17 gallons of water and about half the detergent for
REpAIR HISTORY
Washing machines from KitchenAid, Whirlpool, and Hotpoint
have had a more reliable record than other brands, according to a
1994 Consumer Reports reader survey. Machines from White-
Westinghouse, Frigidaire, and Magic Chef have been the most
trouble-prone.
The older the washer, of course, the more likely it has ever
been repaired. Accordingly, age is taken into account when ana-
lyzing the repair data. Usage also affects a washer's reliability.
Among machines used for one to four loads a week, only 15 per-
cent ever needed repair. Some 20 percent of the machines used
for five to seven loads a week have needed some repair. And 26
percent of the machines used for eight or more loads per week
have needed repair.
90 LAUNDRY
each reuse. About a gallon of fresh water is added to the next
load of laundry to compensate for what was left in the sink. The
more the wash water is reused, the cooler and the less effective
it becomes; it is up to the user to decide when to stop recycling.
Fresh detergent in each reuse, plus fresh-water rinses, keep clean-
ing performance up.
OTHER CHARACTERISTICS
Here are some aspects of performance other than capacity and
efficiency.
Unbalanced loads. Ski jackets, mattress pads, blankets, and other
bulky items strain a machine's suspension by making the tub os-
cillate as it spins. Consumers Union's testers gave each machine an
increasingly unbalanced load and watched to see if the machine
banged or "walked" across the floor. A few machines did quite
well. Others banged loudly even with a moderately unbalanced
load. Some machines have a switch that shuts the machine off if
the load goes out of balance. But such a switch can work all too
well, sometimes shutting off the machines with even a slightly un-
balanced load.
To minimize rocking and vibration, the legs on a washer must
be set so that the machine is level yet kept as close to the floor as
possible. Many machines have self-leveling rear legs linked to-
gether, a design that makes the machine easier to level.
Sand disposal Most machines do quite well in removing fairly
large amounts of sand in the first wash. Even the worst should re-
move all the sand after two washes.
Linting. Laundering inevitably produces lint, but a well-designed
washing machine should filter it out. Most even have a self-clean-
ing lint filter that flushes lint away when spinning.
Noise. Noise becomes an important consideration if you live in an
apartment or a house where the washer is near the main living
CLOTIIES WASHERS 91
area. As a rule, machines are quietest in the Spin cycle, noisiest
when filling with water. Although the Fill cycle is short, it can be
downright boisterous.
Safety. Most machines on the market are designed to minimize
hazards. The majority have a brake that stops the spinning tub if
you lift the lid. Some lock the lid during Spin and make it impos-
sible to lift the lid for about 45 seconds after the tub has stopped.
CONlROL
Most washers on the market let you choose a Regular cycle, a
Permanent Press cycle (with an extra cold-water spray or a deep
rinse to relax wrinkles), and a Knits/Delicates cycle (with slow ag-
itation and spin). Some models with mechanical controls show
only Regular and Permanent Press cycles, but they allow you to
control agitation and spin speeds. Other machines automatically
set agitation and spin speeds when you choose a cycle.
Many machines offer a setting for a second rinse, but any of
these machines can be set by hand for an additional rinse and spin
at the end of a cycle. An extra rinse is useful if you're using extra
detergent to wash heavily soiled items or if you're sensitive to de-
tergent and want to be sure it's removed from the clothes.
Otherwise, the extra rinse just wastes water.
Most machines can be set for at least the basic wash and rinse
temperatures: a hot wash/cold rinse for white or very soiled col-
orfast items; a warm wash/cold rinse for more lightly soiled or per-
manent press items; and a cold wash/cold rinse for delicates.
A few have additional water-temperature settings between hot
and warm and warm and cold. They provide more flexibility in
adapting choice to specific water temperatures. Other washing
machines offer warm wash/warm rinse and slow agitation, settings
that are preferable for washable woolens.
A few models have an electronic temperature control. It's sup-
92 LAUNDRY
posed to regulate the mix of hot and cold to produce warm water.
Other machines mix a preset proportion of cold and hot.
Manual controls differ in their ease of use. Large, easy-to-read
lettering, uncluttered areas and color, or other clear markers to
illustrate the different cycles are best. No dial has it all. But
some are straightforward and color-coded. Others have very large,
easy-to-read dials that may be better suited for visually impaired
persons.
An electronically controlled machine may seem formidable at
first, but most prove simple to use. With the typical electronic ma-
chine, you choose a cycle, then press Start. The electronics han-
dle all the choices for water temperature, agitation, and the like.
You can use Up/Down buttons to change the preset water level,
the water temperature, the washing time, and so on. Some ma-
chines display prompts to show you which button needs to be
pressed next.
Electronically controlled . units usually command a premium
price. A retired independent repairman told Consumers Union that
electronic controls are more expensive' to repair than mechanical
ones. But the manufacturers Consumers Union contacted main-
tained that electronic controls in washing machines are inherently
more reliable than mechanical ones. Any problems that occur
show up immediately and can be fixed under warranty, say the
manufacturers.
RECOMMENDA710NS
Deluxe machines come with the added features and price tags that
typify top-of-the-line equipment. Less-expenSive machines should
get your clothes just as clean, but they may have a smaller tub or
more rudimentary controls, They may also lack such amenities as
a bleach or fabric-softener dispenser.
DETERGENTS 93
Models with conventional manual controls seem to offer better
value. The electronic machines perform no better overall, and they
sell for $100 to $300 more than their mechanical counterparts.
DETERGENTS
Detergent manufacturers try to attract buyers with specific laundry
problems. There are powders and liquids that ease pretreatment
of tough soils. Some detergents come with special ingredients
such as color-safe bleach, fabric softener, or stain-fighting en-
zymes. Some are free of perfumes and dyes. Practically all are
made without phosphates to avoid possible harm to waterways.
Several "green" brands suggest that they will give the user not only
a cleaner clean but a healthier planet.
There are only a few remaining regular-strength detergents.
Most now come in concentrated strengths. And now there are su-
perconcentrated or "ultra" products, whose containers are as small
as a lunch box but can hold enough detergent for many loads.
The truth is that all detergents clean lightly soiled clothes. But
some are better than others at keeping loosened soil from settling
back on clothes, for stain removal, and in brightening. Powders,
as a class, outperform most liquids. Major national brands of pow-
ders and liquids perform better than store brands. Products that
contain bleach or "bleach alternative" tend to outperform those
that do not. Some mail-order and health-food store "green brands"
do not perform as well as some regular store brands. They also
may cost more.
STAIN REMOVAL
No laundry detergent will completely remove all common stains.
But most major national brands of powders-especially those with
94 LAUNDRY
bleach or bleach alternative-can remove many common stains
better than most liquids. Laundry detergents at best are only fair at
removing used motor-oil stains. However, results improve re-
markably if you use certain detergent boosters before laundering.
BRIGHlENING
Most laundry detergents contain ingredients that absorb ultraviolet
light from the sun or from fluorescent fixtures and emit it as blue
light. Even laundry detergents that claim to be free of perfumes
and dyes can contain brighteners. Most powders produce a
brighter blue-white glow than most liquids.
COSTS
The cost per six-pound load of heavily soiled clothes laundered in
moderately hard warm water averages about 30 to 40 cents.
However, the full range of costs is rather wide for regular liquids,
from 23 to 52 cents. For major concentrated liquids the range is
from 16 to 69 cents per load. For super-concentrated powders the
cost is from 13 to 64 cents.
RECOMMENDATIONS
If your laundry rarely has stubborn stains, buy by price. You can
save the most money by forgetting brand loyalty: Clip coupons
and stock up on whatever satisfactory product is on sale.
If you regularly wash heavily stained clothes, choose a powder
rather than a liquid and a major brand rather than a store brand.
Select the lowest-price major brand rather than a higher-price one.
The differences in performance will be small.
DETERGENT INGREDIENTS
Here's a rundown of five key ingredients you might find on a
package of laundry detergent.
DETERGENTS 95
Sur!actants, or surface active agents, are dirt removers. They
emulsify, suspend, and disperse oil, grease, and dirt, allowing all
of that to be washed away. There are many such chemicals, and
detergents may contain more than one kind. Anionic surfactants,
which have a negative electrical charge, work best in warm, soft
water. They are very effective on oily stains and in removing clay.
Nonionic surfactants, which lack an electrical charge, are less sen-
sitive to water hardness. They excel at removing oily soils. Many
detergents contain this type. Some powders and liquids contain
both anionic and non ionic surfactants. Cationic surfactants, which
carry a positive charge, are more common in fabric softeners.
Builders enhance the cleaning efficiency of surfactants by soft-
ening the water. Some also maintain a desirable level of alkalinity,
which boosts cleaning. Phosphates are builders. They have been
replaced by other builders such as zeolites. Some powders use
washing soda with extra ingredients to make up for the lack of
phosphoms. Liquids may contain other water-softening chemicals
such as sodium citrate.
Whitening agents, also known as fluorescent brighteners, give
laundry an added blue glow in sunlight and fluorescent light, mak-
ing garments appear brighter than they otherwise would.
Enzymes help break down complex soils so they can be more
easily removed. Two common types of enzymes are protease and
amylase. A protease breaks down protein, as in egg or bloodstains.
An amylase digests carbohydrates, as in honey or maple symp.
All-fabnc bleach is an addition to some detergent powders. All-
fabric bleaches, sodium percarbonate or sodium perborate tetrahy-
drate, are safe on most colored washable fabrics except those with
a care label warning "no bleach. "
DETERGENTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT
The washing machine or dishwasher completes its cycle; you pull
96 LAUNDRY
out the clean clothes or dishes; the wash water has drained
away-somewhere. After you've finished using a detergent prod-
uct, you throwaway the empty carton, box, bottle, or can. It goes
into a garbage truck and is driven away-somewhere. But what
happens to that water and those containers? Here is a primer on
the environmental ramifications of cleaning.
Biodegradable? Many detergent products claim to be biodegrad-
able or to contain biodegradable ingredients. The fact is that all
surfactants (the main cleaning agents) in today's cleaning products
are biodegradable and are quickly and thoroughly broken down
during wastewater treatment.
Some manufacturers promote their "natural ingredient" prod-
ucts as being better for the environment than those made with
synthetic (petroleum-derived) ingredients. They state that their re-
spective vegetable-based surfactants are for people who care
about the environment, and that their products save petroleum, a
limited natural resource.
Petroleum-derived oils and vegetable-derived oils are used as
feed stocks for many detergent surfactants. Both types come from
"natural" sources. In each case, the oils are chemically processed
to make the surfactants. They are, therefore, all "synthetic."
Although there are environmental impacts associated with the
manufacture of either vegetable or petroleum-derived surfactants,
there is no inherent environmental advantage to using one surfac-
tant source over the other. Minor ingredients such as optical
brighteners and fragrances may degrade less rapidly than other in-
gredients, but Consumers Union has seen no convincing evidence
that they cause any harm. Overall, detergents are pretty benign to
the environment. Without conducting a complex and exceedingly
difficult life-cycle analysis, it is not possible to compare overall en-
vironmental costs of different detergent products. Accordingly, any
DETERGENTS 97
claimed advantages of the "green" brands should be taken with a
grain of salt and weighed against product performance and cost.
Phosphates. Some liquid detergent products' labels say they are
phosphate-free; others don't. But phosphates aren't soluble or sta-
ble enough to be used in liquid detergents. Accordingly, all are
phosphate-free.
Phosphated detergents, blamed for contributing to the growth
of algae in waterways, have been banned in many regions of the
country. Now, most national powder laundry detergent products
are also phosphate-free. Most detergents formulated for use in
dishwashers-powder and gel--contain phosphates.
Packaging. A few years ago, plastic containers seemed an envi-
ronmental evil; the package of choice was made of paper or card-
board. Paper is "biodegradable," the thinking went, and eventually
returns to the soil. But when it's in a landfill devoid of light and
air, paper has staying power. In .1989, garbage archaeologists un-
earthed readable newspapers from 1942. It's clear that once trash
(or at least nontoxic trash) lands in a landfill, its composition mat-
ters less than its volume.
As landfills, the final resting place for most of America's
garbage, fill up and close down, packaging may become a more
important reason for selecting or rejecting a product. Some
laundry packages lining store shelves contain recycled materials.
Cardboard boxes always have; many plastic bottles do now, too.
Recycling differs from community to community. Although plas-
tic bottles and paperboard boxes may be labeled recyclable, they
aren't always recycled. Most recycling programs take high-density
polyethylene bottles. Paperboard cartons, although theoretically
recyclable, fall into a category of "mixed paper," which is rarely in-
cluded in curbside recycling programs because there's not much
of a market for it.
98 LAUNDRY
Refills for superconcentrated laundry detergents often come in
containers that make use of less material than their original,
reusable packaging. The same is essentially true iIi the case
of most liquid laundry detergents. Differences in the amount of
waste are a function of the detergents' cleaning ability rather than
the size of their packages. A concentrated detergent that cleans
20 washer loads with three pounds of powder leaves behind
far less packaging than a six-pound package that cleans the
same number of loads. Many ultraconcentrated detergents excel
in this regard.
DRY CLEANING
Dry cleaning launders clothes in a solvent, often with detergent
and sometimes a little water. It is recommended for materials such
as wool, which might shrink and suffer other damage if laundered
with conventional detergent and water. Currently, the great major-
ity of dry-cleaning establishments use the solvent perchloroethyl-
ene for general dry cleaning. For spot removal, the chbice of
solvent depends on the type of spot and the fabric.
Use of perchloroethylene raises certain environmental and
human health concerns. The solvent is present in low levels in the
atmosphere in cities. It is released slowly from fabrics, so bringing
home and wearing dry-cleaned clothes exposes the consumer to
perchloroethylene.
Perchloroethylene is classed as a possible human carcinogen by
the u.s. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is being re-
classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer
(IARC) as a likely human carcinogen. Over time, even low doses
of perchloroethylene may increase risk of cancer. People exposed
to moderate doses of perchloroethylene for a long time have ex-
DRY CLEANING 99
perienced kidney damage and altered liver function, as well as
altered neurological function.
The best way for most people to minimize exposure to per-
chloroethylene is to minimize the amount of dry cleaning they do.
Don't dry clean a garment that doesn't need it. A suit that's wrin-
kled or baggy may need only to be pressed. If you brush a suit
after each wearing, it can go a long time between cleanings, bar-
ring a stain. With clothes other than suits and sports jackets, try
hand washing and ironing rather than dry cleaning. Many fabrics,
including silk and rayon, usually do fine in detergent and water, if
handled with care.
Don't store newly dry cleaned clothes in a child's room. Since
children are smaller than adults, they're more sensitive to toxins.
If possible, wait a week or more to let the solvent dissipate be-
fore using newly dry cleaned items. A dry-cleaning establishment
should remove as much cleaning agent as possible before deliv-
ering a garment to you. If you detect a residual chemical odor, re-
turn it to the store for further processing or look for another shop.
Because of the environmental and health problems from dry-
cleaning solvents, alternative "multiprocess wet cleaning" facilities
are becoming franchised in several cities. In this aqueous cleaning
process, the cleaner selects among various cleaning techniques
(including steam cleaning, spot remOVing, hand washing, gentle
machine washing, tumble drying, and vacuuming) to ensure that
garments made of different fabrics are cleaned-hopefully-with-
out damage. In 1993 the EPA published a report on a study de-
Signed to compare multiprocess wet cleaning with dry cleaning.
Although there isn't enough data to determine if the method can
be used to clean all materials safely, the EPA concluded that it is
a viable option to reduce the usage of dry-cleaning solvents. If
there is an outlet near you, consider trying it.
100 LAUNDRY
FABRIC SOFTENERS
Detergents can wash fibers so thoroughly that they leave clothes
feeling scratchy; dryers can cause clothes to cling to each other be-
cause of buildup of static charge. (This is especially true with syn-
thetic fabrics.)
Fabric softeners are waxy materials that are related to soap.
They work by coating your laundry with waxy lubricants and
humectant chemicals. The lubricants let fibers slide past each
other, reducing wrinkling. They also separate a napped fabric's
fibers and stand them on end, which makes a towel, for instance,
feel fluffy. The humectants help the fabric retain moisture to dis-
sipate the static charges that would otherwise cause clothes to
cling and sparks to fly when you pull them apart. Many people
use a fabric softener to cut static cling caused by the dryer's tum-
bling. The friction-reducing chemicals in softeners prevent a static
charge from accumulating.
There are three basic types of fabric softeners. Rinse liquids are
added to the wash during the rinse cycle; many washing machines au-
tomatically add them from a dispenser atop the agitator. Dryer sheets
are impregnated with softener. When you put a sheet into the dryer
along with the laundry, contact and heat release the softener.
Detergents with fabric softeners are added at the start of the wash cycle.
For best results, add rinse liquids at the beginning of the final
rinse (after a wash with a regular laundry detergent that does not
contain softener). Place dryer sheets on top of the wet laundry to
help prevent spotting.
The most effective softeners are the rinse liquids, but the least
effective rinse liquids perform much more poorly than the best.
Major brands and store brands of dryer sheets soften to roughly
the same degree; about as effectively as average-performing rinse
liquids. Detergents that contain softeners are mediocre at soften-
ing as well as cleaning.
HAND-LAUNDRY DETERGENTS 101
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
Brightening. The waxy coating left by fabric softeners may even-
tually make clothes look dingy. If whiter whites and brighter
brights are important to you, use a high-performing laundry
detergent with high brightening ability before you add a fabric
softener.
Fragrance. Makers of laundry detergents include fragrances
partly because some consumers like them and partly to hide the
smell of other chemical ingredients. No matter how potent it
seems in the package, the fragrance is muted considerably by the
time the wash is done. If you like a fabric softener for its other
qualities but dislike the smell, let your clothes air out for a while
before you put them away. Some people can't tolerate any fra-
grance, whether for aesthetic or medical reasons. Fabric softeners
and laundry detergents that are perfume-free are available.
PRICING
The cost per use of rinse liquids tends to be higher than that of
dryer sheets. Detergents that contain fabric softeners are not
money-saving products; they neither clean nor soften as well as
single-purpose products. You can save money by buying whatever
is on sale or using cents-off coupons.
HAND-LAUNDRY DETERGENTS
Your best guide on how to clean a fabric is the care label, which
by law must be sewn into all articles of clothing. If the . label says
a garment must be dry-cleaned, follow that advice, or you will
have no recourse with the manufacturer or retailer should some-
thing go wrong. If the label permits hand washing, you have to
decide how to wash it.
On the supermarket shelves, next to the regular laundry deter-
102 LAUNDRY
gents, you may find several products that make special claims for
laundering fine washables of such fabrics as linen, wool, cotton,
and silk. Many hand dishwashing liquids also say they can be used
to launder fine washables.
WASHING WITH DETERGENT
Detergents are a big improvement over old-fashioned soap. In
hard water, soaps leave behind a gray scum if you don't rinse well.
Not so with detergents; they have ingredients to lift off soil and
keep it suspended in the wash water. Detergents generally include
other ingredients to help remove grease and other soils. Some
have optical brighteners to make whites look whiter and enzymes
to help attack stains.
EFFECTIVENESS
For safe and effective hand laundering of fine washables, try very
gentle hand washing at 70°F, a temperature warm enough to be
comfortable to hands but cool enough to prevent shrinkage. Keep
wash and rinse times to a few minutes each. The less time delicate
fabrics are left soaking, the better.
The optical brighteners found in some hand-laundering prod-
ucts adhere to fabric and give off a bluish color in sunlight or
under fluorescent lights, which makes white cloth appear whiter
than it really is. Brighteners tend to work best on cotton.
HANDLE WITH CARE
Heat causes shrinkage, which is why fine fabrics are typically la-
beled for cold or cool wash, with no drying in the dryer. Silk crepe
tends to pucker and requires ironing after washing. Rayon washes
poorly; it wrinkles badly unless pressed while quite damp. Wool
crepe, its weave tighter in one direction, can lose shape. If, before
HAND-LAUNDRY DETERGENTS 103
washing, a fabric has more "give" in one direction as you gently
stretch it, you may have shrinkage problems.
When you hand-wash garments, roll them between towels and
let them dry flat, away from heat and sunlight; do not wring them.
It's prudent not to launder wool or silk in any enzyme-containing
detergent unless the product's label says it's safe for them.
RECOMMENDATIONS
There is no reason to buy one of the specialized brands of deter-
gents. Use a hand dishwashing liquid. All it lacks is the optical
brightener that regular detergents and most hand-wash products
contain to give. whites extra dazzle. At about a penny a wash,
hand dishwashing liquids are bargains. Even if you have stains to
clean, you may have some luck with dishwashing liquid, depend-
ing on the fiber and type of stain.
.,
Metal
Maintenance
METAL POLISHES
Although many metal polishes make broad claims, no one prod-
uct is likely to be labeled for use on all of the following: silver,
brass, copper, stainless steel, aluminum, and chrome.
COPPER AND BRASS
Copper and brass can be cleaned with a commercial cleaner avail-
able in your supermarket. Some of these products must be washed
off thoroughly, because they can stain or etch metals if left in con-
tact with them. Others, however, may be wiped or rubbed off. It
is a good idea, therefore, to restrict your choice to a wipe-off pol-
ish for objects that can't be readily rinsed or submersed.
Some wipe-off brands may produce a better shine. Wash-off prod-
ucts, however, require less elbow grease to remove tarnish than do
polishes of the Wipe-off variety-a difference that you might con-
sider important if you have to clean a heavily tarnished surface.
105
106 METAL MAINTENANCE
For objects that may be only thinly coated with brass or copper,
you should use the mildest cleaning method possible. This means
a cloth with hand dishwashing liquid and water.
Before any polish can work, the metal surface must be free of
any lacquer. Of course, it mayor may not have a lacquer. If it
does, clean it but don't attempt to polish it.
COPPER-Bo7TOMED COOKWARE
Wash-off polishes are particularly well suited to cookware, which
can be easily washed and doesn't require a high gloss. These
products should be able to remove light tarnish with little or no
rubbing and heavy tarnish with less effort than a wipe-off mater-
ial. Even with the most efficient product, you still must use con-
siderable elbow grease to clean a heavily blackened pan bottom,
and still the metal polish may not work. Steel wool will do the job
more easily than polish but may leave the copper surface
scratched and its mirrorlike finish diminished. If your pans are in
bad shape but you are display conscious, you might first scour off
the worst of the dirt with very fine steel wool and then finish the
job with a wipe-off polish. This will avoid scratch marks and re-
sult in a good gloss.
SAFETY
Polishes, like other household chemicals, should be kept out of
the reach of children. Some products carry special warnings.
How TO POLISH STAINLESS STEEL, ALUMINUM, AND CHROME
Stainless steel may stain with heat; aluminum becomes discolored
with use, and its polished surface may dull; chrome doesn't tar-
nish, but it can become dirty and splotched.
Stainless steeL Ordinary cleaning in the sink will suffice for
stainless-steel cookware except for an occasional stain from heat.
SILVER CARE 107
To remove heat stains from the matte finish inside of a saucepan
or fry pan, a commercial stainless steel cleaner can do a compe-
tent job, at least as good as and maybe better than soapy steel
wool. If the pan's polished exterior is also stained, use a polishing
product cautiously. Work as quickly as possible to avoid leaving
chemicals in contact with the metal for any length of time, and be
sure to rinse thoroughly.
Aluminum. You shouldn't expect to be able to restore a polished
aluminum finish to its original glossiness. Soapy steel wool will
probably restore some of the luster. Rubbing the metal in a straight
back-and-forth motion, rather than in circles, helps to maintain a
uniform appearance.
Chrome. The chrome plating on a metal product may be so thin
that it is best not to use any abrasive polish on it at all. The mildest
cleaning method possible should be used for chrome-plated ap-
pliances and utensils.
ClEANING OrnER COOKWARE TYPES
Cast iron. Wash cast-iron cookware in hot water and hand dish-
washing liquid, but do not scour. Rinse and dry the cookware im-
mediately after cleaning to avoid rusting. If manufacturer's
instructions recommend oiling, do so after cleaning.
Enameled cookware. Clean enameled cookware in warm sudsy
water. Soak pots to loosen burned-on foods and to remove stub-
born stains. If necessary, use a nonabrasive cleanser and a non-
abrasive scrubbing pad. Cookware that has a nonstick finish can
be cleaned in the dishwasher.
SILVER CARE
One type of silver-care product (three-way) removes tarnish, pol-
ishes, and treats silver with chemicals that retard further tarnish-
108 METAL MAINTENANCE
ing. Another variety (two-way) cleans and polishes but doesn't
claim to retard tarnishing. Both types of products include a mild
abrasive. You rub on the polish, wipe it off, and then buff the fin-
ish to the shine you want.
There are also one-way products that come in liquid form and
are used for cleaning only. They don't require tedious rubbing to
remove tarnish. You just dip the silver in them or spread them
onto silver surfaces. Acidic dip cleaners, as a class, have some in-
herent hazards: Wear plastic or rubber gloves to protect your
hands while cleaning, because contact with the cleaner may irri-
tate skin. Be careful not to get any cleaner in your eyes. Since ex-
cessive inhalation of their sulfide fumes may be disagreeable and
may cause headaches, these cleaners should be used only where
there is good ventilation. Rinse silver thoroughly after cleaning
with acidic dip products.
USING JEWELER'S ROUGE
Cleaning and polishing heavily tarnished silver with a stick of jew-
eler's rouge entails coating a piece of flannel with rouge, rubbing
silver surfaces with the flannel until they are tarnish-free, then
buffing the silver with a piece of clean flannel. The result will be
silver just about as clean and bright as you can get with the best
silver polish. This method has two drawbacks: You have to rub a
lot more, and the process is messy, producing quantities of red
particles that can smudge clothes and furnishings and can accu-
mulate in the details, requiring scrubbing with a soft brush to re-
move. Rouge, however, is much cheaper than regular polish, and
the cloths you use for cleaning are reusable until they start to
come apart. You can get rouge from hobby shops or firms that
supply professional jewelers. Look in the Yellow Pages under
"Jewelers' Supplies" and "Craft Supplies."
SILVER CARE 109
SPECIAL PROBlEMS
Antiquefinishes. Dark-looking silver with an antique or oxidized
finish is often deeply patterned. Silver polish is almost certain to
remove some of the finish. Dip cleansers· damage antique finishes,
too, even when you carefully wipe the liquids onto the silver.
Satin finishes. Dips remove tarnish from satin, or low-luster, fin-
ishes without making them shinier (to some degree).
Waining. If you accidentally allow drops of polish to fall on silver
pieces, dip cleaners may leave pale stains. You have to repolish to
remove the stains. Many silver table knives are made with stain-
less steel blades, and-just as the label warns-drops from dip
cleaners can permanently spot or even pit stainless steel if allowed
to dry on the surface. To avoid damage, rinse such knives
promptly after using a dip cleaner on their silver handles.
RECOMMENDA710NS
As a class, three-way products may be higher priced than other
products. Nonetheless, a good three-way product is preferred. It
also does the job of polishing-and does it well. What's more, be-
cause of its tarnish retardance, you won't have to clean the silver
again quite as soon as you would with other polishes. Dip clean-
ers work fast, but you may still need to Use a polish,afterward, and
polishing, after all, is like cleaning all over again.
Miscellaneous
Am CLEANERS
A house can harbor a wide variety of pollutants: radon gas, ciga-
rette smoke, cooking fumes; gases and smoke from furnaces and
gas ranges; solvents from dry-cleaned clothing; and chemicals
from paints, household cleaners, bug sprays, and the like. In the
average American house, outdoor air replaces indoor air at the
rate of only about one air change an hour. A "tight" house, with
well-sealed windows and doors, may have an air exchange only
once every four or five hours.
Obviously, you can ventilate the house by opening the win-
dows, especially when cooking or painting. But you wouldn't
want to do that when the weather is very hot or cold. Obviously,
too, the more pollutants and irritants you can eliminate or control,
the better. You can keep dust mites at bay, for example, if you
wash bedding in hot water. And a k i t ~ h e n exhaust fan can control
cooking odors and smoke.
Using an appliance to clear the air can be less effective, and
much more expensive, than opening a window. Most air cleaners
are designed to remove smoke and dust but not gases, tobacco
111
112 MISCELLANEOUS
odors, or viruses and bacteria. And an air cleaner can never com-
pletely eliminate pollution; new contaminants enter the house
constantly.
A typical tabletop air cleaner can move only small amounts of
air each minute; it is suitable for a small room or part of a large
room. Bigger models are designed to move several hundred cubic
feet of air a minute; they are meant for larger rooms.
How AIR CLEANERS OPERATE
Smoke particles, microbes, and many other solid contaminants are
far smaller than the hair and dust you· see floating in the air, nar-
rower than the 10-micron threshold of visibility (a micron is about
one twenty-five-thousandth of an inch). The gas molecules from
smoke are many times smaller still. To remove such small parti-
cles, air cleaners typically use filters, electrical attraction, or ozone.
Here are the basics of how the principal types work.
Filters. The finer a filter's sieve, the smaller the particles it traps.
"High-efficiency particulate arresting" filters (HEPA, for short)
snare at least 99.97 percent of particles larger than 0.3 micron.
These filters were originally developed to trap radioactive dust in
atomic plants. A variant, the pleated filter, traps at least 95 percent
of the same particles. By comparison, a room air conditioner's
foam filter traps particles only 10 microns or larger, and no more
than 30 percent of them at that. But even the best HEPA filter can't
catch something as small as a gas molecule. Activated carbon or
charcoal filters, found on many HEPA- or pleated-filter air clean-
ers, are needed for that task.
Electrical attraction. There are three main types. In an. electro-
static precipitating cleaner, a high-voltage wire charges particles
drawn in by a fan, which are then attracted to a precipitatit;lg cell
carrying the opposite electrical charge. An "electret" filter uses
AIR CLEANERS 113
fibers with a static charge to trap particles. A negative-ion genera-
tor uses fine, electrically charged needles or wires to ionize parti-
cles, which collect in a filtet: or, more typically, on your walls and
furnishings. None of the electrical-attraction cleaners remove gas
molecules, which tend to diffuse back into the air.
Ozonation. An ozone generator uses a high-voltage electric
charge to convert oxygen in the air to ozone, a pungent, power-
ful oxidant. At sufficiently high concentrations, ozone attacks and
destroys gas molecules and microorganisms. Ozone has no effect
on dust and other particulates, however. And ozone generators
sold for home use can actually foul the air.
There is no universally accepted performance standard for com-
paring air cleaners. The closest thing to one is the clean air deliv-
ery rate (CADR), which expresses the number of cubic feet of
clean air a unit delivers each minute. The CADR, developed and
certified by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, is
used by some air-cleaner manufacturers on their products.
For rooms of various sizes, the CADR is based on both the per-
centage of particles removed and how quickly they are removed.
Tests performed to the appliance association's specifications pro-
vide CADR numbers for dust, smoke, and pollen ..
Consumers Union believes that CADR numbers alone don't pro-
vide a complete picture of an air cleaner's effectiveness. It's also
necessary to know the unit's total air-flow rate to properly assess
efficiency. Two cleaners may have the same CADR, but the one
with the lower total air flow will be the more efficient.
Air flow. Room units move more air than tabletop models do. In
Consumers Union's tests, air flows were 10 percent lower than
what manufacturers claimed.
odoh. A telltale odor will linger long after you clear a room of
tobacco smoke. That's because most .air cleaners won't capture
114 MISCELLANEOUS
gases from the smoke, which stick to walls; furniture, and cloth-
ing, and which seep back into the air over time. Even the best air
cleaners remove smoke particles far more effectively than they do
smoke odors. It would take cleaners at least 10 times longer to re-
move odors than to remove smoke particles.
Noise. Few models are objectionably loud at ,their lowest fan
speed, but many can be annoying at their highest speed. The low-
est setting is generally preferable for continuous use. Because an
air cleaner is often used in a bedroom at night, it is a good idea
to listen to the machine you are planning to buy. If you can't try
it in a quiet location in the store, be sure the air cleaner is return-
able if it turns out to be too noisy at home.
MAiNJENANCE AND OPERATING COSTS
A few air cleaners consume a minimal amount of electricity over
the course of a year-less than $20 at the national average electric
rate. Energy costs range more typically from about $20 to $40.
The cost of replacement filters can be quite high, however, par-
ticularly for units using a HEPAfilter. Based on the manufacturers'
recommended filter replacement intervals, HEPA filters may cost
$50 to $140; other types of filters, $20 to $80 a year.
Most air cleaners require little maintenance beyond filter
changes and cleanings. If you choose an electrostatic precipitator,
you'll need to wash its electronic cell every few months.
RECOMMENDATIONS
Do what you can to minimize or eliminate sources of air pollution.
You may be able to improve the air quality inside your house
without spending hundreds of dollars on an air cleaner. Just open-
ing a few windows may do the job. Even in winter, cracking open
a window a couple of inches won't raise your heating bill by more
AIR CLEANERS 115
than a few pennies an hour. In addition, a kitchen exhaust fan
should effectively dispose of smoke and fumes from cooking.
But if you can't open a window-because the outside air is pol-
luted or the temperature outside is bitter cold--or if you need to
ventilate a windowless space, an air cleaner may be the only way
to reduce smoke and airborne dust.
DEAliNG WITH All.ERGY
Simply setting up an air cleaner in the middle of the room will not
reduce or prevent asthmatic attacks or offer relief from allergic and
respiratory problems, according to Harold S. Nelson, M.D., of the
National Jewish Center in Denver, who chaired a committee orga-
nized by the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology to
study allergens in indoor air and air-cleaning devices.
"Most household dust is inert," he told Consumers Union.
"Removing it from the air with [an air cleaner) won't help much.
As for pollen, an air conditioner may be sufficient."
Dr. Nelson blames the fecal pellets of house dust mites (micro-
scopic creatures that feed on human skin cells that have been
sloughed off) for many allergic reactions. The pellets are too Earge
to remain airborne for long; they settle within minutes,so an air
cleaner is rather ineffective against them.
The problem is that the mites thrive in mattresses, pillows, and
blankets. An allergy sufferer buries his or her face in the bedding,
breathes in the pellets, and suffers an allergic reaction. The best
relief comes from separating the patient from the allergen. The pil-
lows and mattress should be sealed in special allergen-proof cas-
ings, available from surgical supply houses. Blankets and sheets
should be washed often. For the same reason, allergy sufferers
should avoid lying on an upholstered couch.
Some manufacturers promote humidifiers as beneficial for aller-
116 MISCELLANEOUS
gies. Dr. Nelson believes a humidifier can do more harm than
good because house dust ' mites proliferate in humid conditions.
He advises keeping indoor humidity relatively low, at about 20 to
30 percent. If you use a humidifier, clean it frequently and in ac-
cordance with the manufacturer's instructions.
Animal dander is lighter than most dust and tends to remain air-
borne longer, creating a serious problem for allergy sufferers. If
you have a pet, at least keep the bedroom off limits. Here, an air
cleaner 'might help, since the airborne particles of animal dander
can be collected by these machines.
OZONE GENERATORS
Ozone can purify , drinking water, disinfect mildewed boats, and
deodorize fire-ravaged buildings. But ozone is also a toxic gas, a
component of smog, with no known beneficial health effects.
The u.s. Occupational Safety and Health Administration limits
ozone exposure in industrial settings to 100 parts per billion Cppb)
over an eight-hour day, six days per week. At that level, ozone ir-
ritates the eyes, makes the throat feel dry, and stresses the lungs.
The U.S. Food and IDrug Administration has set a limit of 50 ppb
for the ozone from electronic air cleaners. That's a sensible limit
for the home.
Given those facts, an ozone-generating air cleaner would seem
a contradiction in terms. To date, Consumers Union has not found
a unit that allows users to measure ozone output or to control
ozone levels in a meaningful way. Some promotional materials say
you can tell if ozone levels are too high when the distinctive odor
becomes apparent But research has shown that odor isn't a reli-
able yardstick.
When Consumers Union tested ozone generators under a vari-
ety of conditions, they almost always produced ozone levels well
above the FDA's limit of 50 ppb. Although ozone generators have
AIR CLEANERS 117
limited value in unoccupied spaces, it's highly questionable
whether they belong where people breathe.
WHOlE-HOUSE AIR CIEANERS
There are air cleaners designed to fit the ductwork for central heat-
ing or air-conditioning. The simplest type is a filter that replaces
the system's existing one. It should be possible for you to install
and replace them yourself.
More complex-and more expensive-are electrostatic precipi-
tators, which should be installed by a contractor. You can buy
these filters through heating and air-conditioning dealers, or at
home centers. It can cost as much as $300 to have a professional
install one of the electrostatic precipitators.
In tests that mimicked air flow through air ducts, in-duct elec-
trostatic precipitators removed dust and smoke particles within a
room about as effectively as the better room-sized portable clean-
ers. A disposable electret filter was only a notch less effective. A
self-charging electrostatic filter was in the same league as a small
tabletop air cleaner.
Any of these in-duct air cleaners may affect the overall perfor-
mance of the heating and cooling system. The precipitators have
no fan of their own, relying on the furnace or air conditioner to
move air through the system. So when the thermostat shuts the
system down, it will also shut down the air cleaner unless the sys-
tem has a switch to keep the fan going continuously. In addition,
the filters will slow air flow through the ducts. That may make the
system run longer to heat or cool, increasing your energy bill.
If you have air-quality problems throughout the house that can't
be controlled in any other way-and if ductwork is already in
place-then the electrostatic precipitators could be useful. But if
you just need to clean the air in a couple of rooms, a portable air
cleaner would be a better choice.
118 MISCELLANEOUS
AUTO POLISHES
One of the attractions of a new car is its showroom shine. Many
newer models have an additional clear coating designed to add
even more luster and durability to the finish. But eventually sun-
light, water, air pollution, and other contaminants can age and
erode the paint until the gloss fades, and the finish is no longer
able to shed contaminants (e.g., water, dirt, etc.). At this point,
auto polish can make a dramatic improvement.
You'll find auto polish in liquid, paste, and a few spray versions.
The products are interchangeably labeled wax, polish, or sealant
by their makers. The one-step applications contain abrasives or
solvents to remove stubborn stains or oxidation from a car's finish
and waxes or silicones that can fill tiny c r a c k ~ and renew the water
repellency of the finish.
EFFECTIVENESS
On car surfaces that are weathered, some polishes will shine bet-
ter than others. Yet even the better ones won't increase the gloss
of a new car. Some can make new paint look worse by leaving
slight scratches or haze.
A major part of the sales appeal of auto polishes is the protec-
tion they're supposed to provide against the elements. But a pol-
ish can't protect anything once it has worn away. People who
polish their cars may not do it often enough with most polishes.
If you want to see whether a polish is holding up, look at what
happens to water on the car's surface. :rhe beads of water that
form on a protected surface are relatively small and rounded, and
sit high on the surface. As the polish wears away, the beads spread
and flatten. Eventually, when the polish is completely gone, water
doesn't bead at all; it lies in a sheet on the surface.
Liquids are somewhat easier to apply and spread better than
pastes, but all products should goon easily. Spray-on products are
AUTO POLISHES 119
especially easy to apply. But be careful not to get the spray-or
any polish, for that matter-on vinyl surfaces or on the wind-
shield. The polish may affect the appearance of the vinyl. (Be sure
to shake a liquid or spray container before you begin; some of the
ingredients may have settled to the bottom.)
Instructions on the labels of most nonspray polishes call for
spreading them on with an applicator (which is provided with
some products), letting them dry to a haze, and buffing with a dry,
soft cotton cloth. Buffing is likely to · be fairly easy with most. But
a few products dry into a rather stiff coating that needs more ef-
fort to buff. You should never polish a,car in direct sunlight when
the surface is hot to the touch. The paint can soften and be sus-
ceptible to scratching.
ABRASIVENESS
The paint, not the polish, protects a car's metal from rust. So it
makes sense to polish away no'more paint than is necessary to re-
store a smooth finish. If you're using a polish for the first time on
your car, test it on an inconspicuous part of the car. It should re-
move any oxidation or contaminants but shouldn't.1eave a haze or
scratches. On older cars that do not have a clear top coat, polish
should not remove much of the color.
A fine abrasive is useful for removing stubborn stains or oxida-
tion. For an extremely weathered finish, however, even the most
abrasive polishes may not be adequate. Special, highly abrasive
polishing or rubbing compounds are available for such
ing jobs. They are usually found right next to the auto polishes in
the store. But do not rub too long or too hard with them, or you
may rub right through the paint to the primer.
RECOMMENDATIONS
Whichever polish you use, be sure to wash the car thoroughly be-
120 MISCELLANEOUS
forehand. Most road dirt is a good deal harder than a car's finish.
If you polish a dirty car, you'll only grind the dirt into the paint,
scratching the finish as you rub.
You may not need to polish a new car, but you should wash it
often. Bird and tree droppings, salt, tar, and even plain dirt can
eventually mar the finish. Frequent washing is especially important
in the summer, when high temperatures increase the damaging ef-
fects of contaminants.
PAINT REMOVAL
When you have to deal with paint that's in really poor condition,
you may have to go beyond just stripping away the flaking
and peeling paint. If you don't, the surface-whether that offur-
niture, walls, or the side of a house-may continue to deteriorate.
You'd probably have far better results if you stripped off all the
old paint.
Before you remove any paint, find out if it contains any lead.
Lead paint-or more precisely, lead-containing dust from leaded
paint in the . home-is a . major cause of childhood lead poison-
ing. Many children have accidentally been poisoned when the
process of remodeling in an older home spread lead· dust. If your
home or apartment building was built more than 20 years ago, it
may contain leaded paint. If it is more than 50 years old, it is
almost certain that there is some lead paint. Intact lead paint,
covered with layers of unleaded paint, is essentially harmless.
But improper removal that turns the lead loose can create a
severe hazard.
If you do have lead paint to remove, dust control is critical. You
should, therefore, choose a chemical stripper. If you are sure the
paint you need to strip is lead-free, choose any of the three basic
PAlNT REMOVAL 121
methods--chemical. mechanical , or heat-based on each meth-
od's pros and cons. Most do-it-yourselfers use chemicals and/ or
heat guns for all kinds of interior woodwork: furniture, doors,
moldings, and the like.
Chemical strippers soften and dislodge the old finish so you can
scrape it off. They are sold as liquids, gels, or pastes; some are
more toxic than others.
Heat is delivered via heat guns. Some people use a propane
torch, but the open flame can char wood or even start a fire. By
blowing air that can reach temperatures greater than 800
o
F, these
devices-which resemble a blow-dryer--cause paint to blister and
bubble; then you scrape. '
Mechanical stripping relies on such tools as scrapers and sand-
paper, power sanders, and gadgets that attach · to drills. Because
they can scratch, these tools shouldn't be used on smooth or del-
icate surfaces.
Rather than try to strip the paint yourself, you can farm out the
work to professionals. A pro is likely to do a more thorough job,
and the price is usually reasonable.
TESTING FOR LEAD PAINT
Consider hiring a trained person to do a lead hazard
This involves testing representative paint surfaces with a portable
X-ray fluorescence device that produces instant results and can
even find lead paint buried· under of unleaded paint. It also
includes taking samples of dirt from the floors and window.sills to
be analyzed in a laboratory. An assessment should cost about $300
for an average-size house.
Another way to tell whether your home has lead paint is to use
one of the do-it-yourself or mail-in kits available for that purpose.
With the do-it-yourself kits, you cut, scrape, or sand a small patch
122 MISCELLANEOUS
to expose layers of paint. Then you use a chemical reagent-ei-
ther rhodizonate or sodium sulfide-that changes color if the paint
contains lead. With rhodizonate kits, the warning color-pink-is
easy to see unless the paint itself is red or pink. Sodium sulfide
kits indicate lead with a gray to black color, so it is hard to· see a
positive reaction on dark paint. These kits c'learly indicate high
levels of lead, but some may not detect levels slightly above the
0.06 percent legal limit in paint. Although this percentage is much
lower than the levels in most old paint, the levels these kits. can
miss are still too high for safety, especially for households with
children. Two kits-Acc-U-Test ($7) and Tbe Lead Detective
($30)-were found to be sensitive down to 0.05 percent. They're
good on light-colored paints.
Mail-in kits (costing about $20) can detect lead levels down to
0.05 percent. They include a plastic bag, plastic gloves, and a
form to fill out and return with the paint sample. The cost includes
analysis of one sample by a government-certified lab. Results are
likely to be much more accurate than those obtained from home
kits . . Mail-in kits also say how much lead is present, not just
whether it is there or not. Consumers Union found the Clean
Water Lead in Paint Kit to provide a rapid-about 2 weeks-turn-
around.
CHEMICAL PAINT REMOVERS
If you have lead paint to remove, choose a chemical stripper.
Some chemical paint removers are made with volatile solvents-
methanol (wood alcohol), toluene, and acetone. Although they're
cheaper and faster than some less toxic types, they leave a waxy
film that you may need to remove with mineral spirits. But this is
the least of their problems. Most are highly flammable, and their
vapors can cause headaches and, after continued and prolonged
exposure, nerve damage.
PAINT REMOVAL 123
In the world of solvent strippers; those made with methylene
chloride stand alone. A mainstay of paint-removal products for
years, methylene chloride can soften and dislodge a variety of
tough finishes, including polyurethanes and epoxies, and isn't
flammable. But exposure to its fumes can lead to kidney disease,
an irregular heartbeat, even heart attack. The solvent is considered
a possible human carcinogen, based on persuasive animal studies.
Any solvent-based paint remover, whether it uses volatile sol-
vents or methylene chloride, can be dangerous to use indoors,
even with a window open. Protective garb is essential-neoprene
gloves (dishwashiQg gloves will dissolve), goggles, and a respira-
tor to keep you from inhaling fumes.
LEss HAZARDOUS CHEMICAlS
The past few years have seen the introduction of chemical strip-
pers that pose fewer risks than the solvent products. Almost odor-
free as well as safer to breathe, they are less likely to irritate skin.
Cleanup is easier, too. Once the softened paint has been scraped,
light scrubbing with · a . wet sponge or rag will clear away any re-
maining residue.
The safer products, however; are very slow to show results. A
solvent stripper might remove several coats of paint in two or
three hours. A nonsolvent stripper would have to sit from six
hours to overnight. To make matters worse, some nonsolvent
varieties dry out, which means you have to brush additional re-
mover Over the slightly moist paint. Look for products that come
with plastic-coated paper that's applied over the substance to keep
it moist.
HEAT GUNS
If you know you have lead paint to strip, never use a heat gun.
They can increase your exposure to lead by whipping paint dust
124 MISCELLANEOUS
into the air, where you can inhale it. When the dust settles, it can
still be hazardous to young children.
Using a heat gun is intense work, but it's faster than any chem-
ical method. Unlike chemicals, heat guns rarely have to go over
the same area twice. Once . the hot paint separates from the un-
derlying surface, you can peel it off easily.
After the initial expense, heat guns are cheap to use. But they
do have limitations. They're frustrating to use when the paint film
is very thin (they work best when bubbling up several layers);
they won't remove varnish or other clear coatings; ' and they're in-
effective on painted metal. (Metal conducts heat too rapidly.)
Heat guns also have hazards. The expelled-air temperature may
be as high as 87S0F-high enough to cause a severe burn or even
start a fire. Also, it's easy to ignore where you're pointing the gun
as you dig out a persistent bit of paint. Always keep a wet rag and
a bucket of water handy.
Even if you're never blasted by the gun's hot air, you can get
burned by touching the metal nozzle. This is a serious concern,
especially if you put down the gun near a child or curious pet. It
is essential to look for models that have a fan that runs at a Low
or Cold setting to hasten cooling.
PROFESSIONAL STRIPPING
Professional paint removers have one big advantage over do-it-
yourselfers: they use a tank. By immersing items that need paint
removed in a cavernous vat of potent chemicals', professionals can
get the last traces of paint out of nooks and crannies.
"Dip" stripping systems differ significantly. Some rely on corro-
sive lye; others on solvents. When you contact a professional paint
remover, it's a good idea to ask which method of paint removal
will be used.
PAINT REMOVAL 125
A remover who uses lye will dunk the painted object in a lye
and water solution. The softened paint is scraped off, and the item
is neutralized and rinsed with water. It's an inexpensive and ef-
fective treatment-too effective, in fact. Lye not only dissolves
paint; it can also stain wood fibers, raise their grain (making wood
feel "fuzzy"), and extract natural resins. In addition, immersion can
dissolve glues and swell wood so badly that it warps or falls apart.
This won't happen if the operator removes the item from the tank
as soon as the paint is softened. In practice, however, such care is
not always exercised.
Professional paint removers, whose workplaces are regulated
by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, achieve
better results with the solvent method. Oversoaking is less likely
to produce ruined goods. Still, because some companies that use
solvents on items rinse them in water, wood grain can rise and
iron parts can rust. Fortunately, there are solvent systems that
avoid the use of water.
Consumers Union testers took old chairs and shutters to two
professional paint removers. Both stripped with solvents: one used
methylene chloride, hand scraping, and a water washdown; the
other used xylol and dimethyl formamide (DMF) , first as a bath
and then in a spray that dislodged the softened paint. DMF
worked very well. The methylene chloride cleaning was a bit less
satisfactory: The shutter had some raised grain and' mild ruston its
fittilfgs; the chair retained patches of paint and showed signs of
too much scraping.
RECOMMENDATIONS
First, make sure you don't have lead paint. If you do, choose a
chemical stripper. Do not use a heat gun.
Any chemical or heat gun will remove paint, which makes the
126 MISCELLANEOUS
safety factor paramount. Solvent-based strippers, particularly those
containing methylene chloride, pose serious health hazards when
used indoors .. Adequate ventilation may not be enough. Protect
your eyes and hands, and wear a respirator. If you choose a sol-
vent product, try to use it outdoors. Better yet, consider going to
a professional paint remover, who is likely to do a better job. But
this won't work for built-in cabinets,window frames, baseboards,
and other nonremovable woodwork.
For immovable items, such as banisters, moldings, and door
jambs, try a heat gun (if lead is not a factor) or one of the less toxic
chemicals. Although the nonsolvent products are slow and ex-
pensive, they're safer than the others.
Heat guns work faster than chemicals but require precautions
to minimize charring and the risk of burns and fire. However, heat
guns aren't effective on metal and won't strip clear finishes. Don't
succumb· to the seemingly attractive idea of mounting a · scraping
blade on t ~ e nozzle of a heat gun. It doesn't take long for the soft-.
ened paint to pile up. When it does, you have to remove it. Steer
clear of any device that encourages probing around the tip of a
hot heat gun.
MECHANICAL PAINT REMOVERS
Scrapers, rasps, and sandpaper substitutes are available. Each type
has its uses, however specialized. Since none is really expensive,
it's a good idea to keep more than one type in your tool kit. For
chemical or solvent stripping of fine furniture, use wood or plas-
tic scrapers to avoid gouging the surface. Because they create lots
of chips and dust, these methods should not be used to remove
lead paint.
Hook scrapers. A hook scraper is best suited for removing loose
paint from flat surfaces. It looks something like an extra-large
PAINT REMOVAL 127
razor with a stiff, fairly dull blade. And like a razor, it's pulled
along the work surface, so the edge of the blade scrapes away
the paint.
Push scrapers. These resemble the familiar putty knife, although
they vary in details. Some have a long handle, others a short one.
Some have a blunt edge, others are sharpened. You have your
choice of stiff or flexible blades in several widths; the differences
are of minor importance. You should try to match the shape and
size of the scraper to the job at hand-a narrow-bladed scraper,
for example, will work best in and around window frames. Push
scrapers are useful onflat surfaces and for digging paint out of
corners, but they are not meant to be used on curves. In general,
they are less effective than hook scrapers on all but the loosest
paint. It's harder to push a scraper than to pull it.
Rasps and abrasive blocks. These devices can scrape and sand,
and are generally available in a variety of sizes and abrasive
grades. Rasps and blocks can also be used for sanding wood.
Their shape, however, limits their use primarily to flat surfaces.
Sandpaper substitutes. Unlike rasps and sanding blocks, sand-
paper substitutes are fairly flexible, so they can get into places that
the others can't. Typically, they are rectangles of tough cloth
coated on both sides with sheets of abrasive-coated nylon mesh,
or a thin sheet of metal punched with ragged holes. Sandpaper
substitutes are durable and fast cutting; they can be wrapped
around a dowel to sand a concave surface or can be used with a
sanding block. Some may leave the surface rather rough, making
it necessary to do some sanding before painting.
Sponges and glass blocks. To sand moldings and other complex
shapes, woodworkers often wrap sandpaper around a sponge.
Sanding sponges come essentially prewrapped, with an abrasive
coating that covers four sides. They are springy and flexible, as
128 MISCELLANEOUS
you'd expect sponges to be. They can also be rinsed out to un-
clog the abrasive. Foamed glass blocks resemble chunks of hard-
ened plastic foam. They wear away quite rapidly as they're used;
leaving a residue of-glass dust in the work area.
Steel wool. Do not use steel wool where the fine metal shards
may be exposed to water (including water-based varnishes) be-
cause steel wool rusts and leaves a visible stain.
SAFETY
Paint removal, especially with power tools, requires certain safety
precautions. To guard against the obvious hazard-flying chips of
paint or grit-you should wear safety goggles or a face shield,
work gloves, and a heavy jacket. Hearing protectors are also ad-
visable.
You should guard against health hazards that may not be im-
mediately apparent, such as the problem of lead. The key to
preparing lead-painted surfaces for repainting is dust control. If
you're doing the job yourself,take the following precautions:
• Thoroughly cover the area with heavy plastic drop cloths.
• Remove furniture or wrap· it · in plastic.
• Tape· plastic over doors and windows.
• Wear plastic booties over your shoes.
• Rent or buy a HEPA respirator designed to filter lead dust. Keep
it on while· disposing of the drop cloths and plastic coverings.
• Wet the surface with a spray bottle before scraping or sanding
with a wet/ dry abrasive.
• Instead of sanding to "rough. up" a glossy surface, use a chem-
ical etcher.
• Thoroughly clean all surfaces after the stripping process. Scrub
with water plus a phosphate detergent. If you live in an area that
bans phosphate, try using a powdered dishwasher detergent.
POWER BLOWERS 129
• Wring out the sponge, mop, or rag in a separate bucket so you
don't recycle the lead in the cleaning solution, and change the
rinse water frequently.
If you hire a contractor, be sure to find one who will use these
techniques. Look for a contractor who is certified or licensed for
lead safety. Otherwise, you could prepare the most deteriorated
spots to paint yourself, then hire a regular contractor to do the
rest-with strict instructions not to sand or scrape.
POWER BLOWERS
People use a power blower to clean up leaves and spread grass
clippings after mowing, to vacuum· debris from decks and side-
walks, even to dry up puddles in the driveway. These versatile
machines take some of the work out of tidying a lawn. But with
more blowers running longer for more of the year, the noise from
a blower-about the same as that from a very loud lawn mower-
has become an unacceptable intrusion in hundreds of communi-
ties. More than 280 towns and cities have restricted the use of
power blowers, and a handful have banned them entirely.
Noise level is one of the factors · when looking at gasoline-
powered and electric handheld blowers (the kind. most people
buy), as well as backpack models similar to those used by the
pros. Most of the handheld blowers work as both a vacuum and
as a blower; some lower-priced models are blowers only.
Electric blowers, the quieter type, used to be conSiderably
weaker than gasoline-powered ones. But fairly quiet gas blowers
and powerful electrics both exist.
How THEY PERFORM
Noise. Gasoline-powered models produce enough noise to war-
130 MISCELLANEOUS
rant wearing ear protectors. The average electric blower typically
creates about half the racket of a gasoline model and so doesn't
demand hearing protection. The noisiest gas-powered blowers
might make you less popular with the neighbors.
Blowingpower. A blower's effectiveness at piling up leaves is not
necessarily related to engine size and horsepower or motor am-
perage, or to the manufacturer's claimed nozzle air speed.
The best way to assess a blower's effectiveness is to blow leaves
into elongated rows. The most powerful blowers can build
rows 18 weakest, only 8 to 10 inches. That may
not seem like much of a range, but a pile 18 inches high may
contain more than three times as many leaves as one 10
inches high. The weakest power blowers are adequate only if you
BACKPACK BLOWERS
Professional lawn-care services use backpack blowers. The back-
pack's weight, in the neighborhood of 20 pounds, isn't a draw-
back once the unit is donned and properly adjusted. It's also
much less fatiguing than a hand-held blower for big lawn-clean-
ing jobs. For the' most part, backpack blowers are comfortable
and easy to handle, and several have conveniences like a handle
with the throttle and On/Off switches on the blower tube, a large
fuel-filler opening,and a throttle control you can preset.
Nevertheless, these high-priced machines have limitations.
They don't vacuum. They are all very loud. And, despite their
size, they aren't inherently more powerful than regular blowers.
In fact, several handheld models can equal the blowing power of
the b<;!st backpacks. Unless you have a big yard or a yen to look
like a pro, there's little reason to buy a backpack.
POWER BLOWERS 131
have a small lawn, or if you mainly need to clear driveways and
other hard surfaces.
Blower cleaning. A blower may have the power to pile up plenty
of leaves but still lack some lawn-cleaning ability. You should as-
sess a blower's ability to rid a lawn of all leaves in areas with
heavy leaf accumulations amid grass about three inches high.
The blowers that clean best are those '\Yith a round-end blower
nozzle. All the so-so blowers have a "diffuser" nozzle that's roughly
rectangular at the end.
Blower handling. A blower handles well if it's' easy to moye in a
sweeping side-to-side motion. A good blower should also be easy
to hold in the odd and varying positions sometimes necessary 'fot
cleaning out tight spots.
Two forces conspire to make handling more difficult: the down-
ward thrust caused by the curved shape of most blower nozzles,
and the resistance to back-and-forth motion generated by models
with a ' horizontal driveshaft.
One feature helped mitigate the effect of the downward thrust:
a comfortable, well-positioned second handle.
How 71iEY VACUlM
Speed. The collection bags that come with blowers don't hold
enough to make them practical for vacuuming an entire lawn,
even though the machines shred vacuumed material to greatly re-
duce its volume. But these machines are handy for vacuuming
leaves away from shrubs, flower beds, and other pla<;:es where
raking or blowing proves impractical.
Handling. The easiest blowers to handle have effective, well-
positioned, and comfortable handles; don't vibrate much; and
don't make you stoop to hold the end of the suction tube ' at
ground level.
132 MISCELLANEOUS
CONVEMENCE
Blowers judged convenient typically had these handy features:. For
gasoline-powered models, a starter cord near the engine housing's
center line, so pulling the cord didn't make the blower twist; an
engine-kill switch you can reach with the same hand that holds
the main handle; and a throttle that lets you pres'et two or more
positions. For electric blowers, an On/Off switch that you can
reach with the hand holding the main handle and a second, lower-
speed setting for those times when you don't need too much
power.
WATER TREATMENT
Public concern over the quality of drinking water often centers on
how the water looks, smells, or tastes. But such aesthetic problems
are usually caused by calcium, sulfur, chlorine,or iron, which are
harmless. Of more concern are pollutants such as lead, radon, and
nitrate, which pose a health hazard.
Before buying any equipment or taking the expensive route of
buying bottled water, find out what's in your water.
You can ask the water company for a copy of its latest water
analysis. Or, if you draw water from a private well, call the local
public health department to find out about any groundwater prob-
lems. (If testing is warranted, see page 134.)
Water-treatment devices range from simple filtering carafes and
faucet attachments to whole-house systems. They're sold in places
as diverse as drugstores and TV home-shopping networks. As a
rule, hardware stores, home centers, department stores, and mass
merchandisers sell the more modest devices for as little as $20.
Sophisticated systems, which can cost more than $1000, are sold
by water treatment dealers and direct-marketing companies. Major
brands include Ametek, Amway, Brita, Culligan, Glacier Pure,
WATER TREATMENT 133
Instapure (Teledyne/WaterPik), Mr. Coffee, NSA, Omni, Pollenex,
Rainsoft, and Sears.
PROBlEM POlLUTANTS
Lead. Chronic lead exposure, even at low levels, could cause per-
manent learning disabilities and hyperactivity. It's particularly
dangerous for pregnant women and children. In adults, chronic
exposure is linked to high blood pressure and anemia.
Lead gets into water primarily through corrosion of household
plumbing and the service line (the pipe connecting the home
plumbing with the water main). Installation of lead service lines
has been banned for nearly a decade, but many homes more than
30 years old still have them. They may also have copper pipes
with lead solder (also banned). Lead in water can also come from
brass in faucets and well pumps.
Since 1991, the u.s. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has
required water companies to run spot tests for lead contamination.
If more than 10 percent of the households checked have lead lev-
els above 15 parts per billion (ppb), the company will have to take
action, either by treating the water or by replacing lead service
lines. The deadline for companies serving more than 50,000 peo-
ple is January 1997; smaller systems have until 1999.
In 1992, Consumer Reports tested water in the homes of 2,643
readers in ~ i g h t cities, finding worrisome results in some cities, in-
cluding Chicago, New York, and Boston. Later, 1,280 homes in
those cities and in Portland and St. Paul, where the EPA had found
fairly high lead levels, were tested.
The water supply in Chicago had improved considerably. New
York showed modest improvement. Although Boston has been
treating the water in its reservoir for years, results still show room
for improvement. Lead concentrations remained too high in St.
Paul even after running the water. In Portland, first-draw water
134 MISCELLANEOUS
(which has stood in the pipes for hours) had moderate levels of
lead; purged-line water (drawn after running for a while) had
almost no lead.
To minimize your exposure to lead from pipes, use only cold
water for cooking and drinking; hot water dissolves more lead.
Running the water for a minute or so to flush the pipes may help,
but it's not a sure cure. If you have more than 5 ppb of lead in
your water even after letting it run, you need to take action.
Radon. This probably poses a greater health risk than any other
waterborne pollutant. According to the EPA, radon, a naturally oc-
curring radioactive gas, may cause more than 10,000 lung-cancer
deaths each· year. Most of the radon seeps into homes from the
ground. But some well water contains dissolved radon, which es-
capes into the air from showers and washers.
Waterborne radon is usually confined to private wells or small
community water systems that use wells. Before testing water for
radon, test the air inside your house for radon. If the level is high
WHERE TO GET YOUR WATER TESTED
Companies that sell water-treatment equipment often offer a free
or low-cost water analysis. Don't depend on that kind of test: The
results may be biased. Instead, ask your water company,health
department, or cooperative extension agency for a referral. You
can also check the Yellow Pages under "Laboratories-Testing,"
or contact a mail-order laboratory.
To get water tested for lead by mail, contact any of the fol-
lowing: Clean Water Lead Test Inc., Asheville, N.C., 704251-6800
($17); Environmental Law Foundation, Oakland, Calif., 510 208-
4555 ($16.50); SAVE, New York, N.Y., 718 626-3936 ($20).
Avoid do-it-yourself home testing kits.
WATER TREATMENT 135
and you use well water, have the water tested. If the level of radon
in the air is low, don't worry about the water.
Although experts disagree as to the level of radon you should
do something about, you should take action if the level in the
water is 10,000 picocuries per liter or higher. Radon is easily dis-
persed in outdoor air, so aerating the water before it enters the
house is usually the simplest solution. Ventila,ting the bathroom,
laundry room, or kitchen may also help.
Nitrate. High nitrate levels in water pose a risk mainly to infants.
Bacteria in immature digestive tracts convert nitrate into nitrite;
that combines with hemoglobin in the blood to form methemo-
globin, which cannot transport oxygen. The reSUlting ailment,
methemoglobinemia, is rare but can result in brain damage or
death. Some adults, including pregnant women, may also be sus-
ceptible.
Chemical fertilizers and animal wastes are prime sources of ni-
trate contamination, so homes in agricultural areas with private
wells should have their water tested regularly. Some state health
departments test wells for free. High nitrate levels may also signal
the presence of <:>ther contaminants.
TREATMENT METHODS
The chart on pages 136-37 shows which technologies work best
for which substances. Some products, called single-stage filters,
use one of the methods explained below; others, called multistage
filters, combine two or more. Note: None are suitable for treating
bacteriologically contaminated water, which requires sterilization
with ultraviolet rays, ozone, or chlorine.
Carbon filtration. This is the most popular method of water
treatment. Carbon filters overcome a variety of problems. They re-
move residual chlorine, improving the water's taste. They can also
remove organic compounds such as pesticides, solvents, and chlo-
136 MISCELLANEOUS
WATER TREATMENT 137
WATER PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS
rn ppm = parts per million; ppb = parts per billion; pc/l = piccocuries per liter. [gJ Most will
also remove organic substances. ~ Action level. ~ Some will remove lead.
138 MISCELLANEOUS
roform. Some carbon filters are effective for lead; some aren't. The
whole-house variety is especially useful for removing radon.
Where lead contamination is known to be a problem, a larger
filter is better. Small p<?ur-through filters and fist-sized units that
thread onto the faucet can improve the taste of water, but they're
only moderately effective against hazardous chemicals. There, a
high-volume undersink or countertop filter is the best choice.
Replaceable filter cartridges made either with a "carbon block" or
granulated carbon are better than those made with powdered
carbon.
Reverse osmosis (RO). This method excels at removing inorganic
contaminants, such as dissolved salts, ferrous iron, chloride, fluoride,
nitrate, and heavy metals such as lead. RO works slowly, producing
only a few gallons of fresh water per day, and is wasteful-for every
gallon of water purified, several gallons are wasted.
Most ORO systems use a carbon filter. They have a second filter,
a cellophanelike semipermeable membrane that's easily clogged
by minerals in hard water. (To extend its life, install a separate sed-
iment prefilter upstream of the carbon filter. A 5- to 10-micron
mesh is fine enough.) The membrane needs replacement every
few years, carbon filters more often.
Distillation. Distillation improves the taste of brackish water, and
it water polluted with heavy metals. But it's ineffec-
tive against volatile organics like chloroform and benzene, which
vaporize in the distiller and wind up in the condensed water. The
process is slow-it takes a couple of hours to produce a quart of
water-and uses a lot of electricity. Since it collects and concen-
trates minerals, scale can build up quickly and must be cleaned
out.
Water softeners. Water softeners remove hard water minerals,
stain-producing iron and, in some cases, lead, They don't remove
radon, nitrate, or pesticides.
WATER TREATMENT 139
Systems vary in size, but all consist of a large tank near the main
supply of water to a house. As a result, softeners are effective
against lead only if contamination occurs in service lines outside
the house.
Activated alumina. If lead is your only problem, activated alu-
mina cartridges, which come in faucet-mounted filters and in-line
units, are an effective' treatment.
Aeration. Aerators are effective at removing chlorine, radon, ben-
zene, carbon tetrachloride, and trihalomethanes.
TREATMENT PRODUClS
Reverse-osmosis devices are installed in the water line under the
sink by a profeSSional. They have their own spigot and storage
tank. If your household needs maximum lead removal, consider
one of these. Their large storage tank holds a supply of treated
water ample enough for most uses. Operation cost is fairly low.
However, if you should empty the tank, you'll have to wait two or
three hours for it to process another gallon.
Distillers, which aren't plumbed in, sit on the counter and are
plugged into an electric outlet. They're a good choice if you need
highly effective lead removal and don't consume a lot of water.
Although cheaper to buy than a reverse-osmosis system, they're
much more expensive to operate.
Under sink filters are plumbed in and have their own spigot.
This type is best suited for a household that uses a lot of water. It
produces purified water on demand, at a rate of about one-third
gallon a minute. They're less expensive and easier to install than
reverse-osmosis devices. Anundersink filter can be installed by a
do-it-yourselfer whose counter has an opening for the unit's spigot
or who is willing to drill an opening.
Countertop filters sit next to the sink and attach to the existing
faucet with flexible tubing. Like an undersink filter, a countertop
140 MISCELLANEOUS
model provides filtered water on demand, but it requires no
major changes in plumbing. This type of unit takes up counter
space, and its connector tubes can get in the way when you're
using the sink.
Afaucet-mountedfilteris similar to a countertop unit, but it has
no tubing at all, is smaller, and sits atop the faucet. It gives puri-
fied water on demand without taking up counter space or requir-
ing much installation. But you may not like the way it looks
perched on your faucet, and it may get in your way.
Carafe filters are stand-alone units that require no connection to
the plumbing. They sit on a counter; you simply pour water
through them. Water poured into the top compartment trickles
through the filter and collects in the pitcher below. A carafe is best
used' to process only small amounts of water, perhaps a gallon or
two a day.
RECOMMENDATIONS
The chart on pages 136-37 summarizes the best methods for the
most common water problems. Before doing business with a
water-treatment company you don't know, call the Better Business
Bureau or a local consumer-protection agency to find out whether
any complaints against the company are unresolved.
DRINKING WATER: Is IT SAFE 10 SOFTEN THE RULES?
When you turn on the tap for a glass of water, you probably don't
wonder whether it's safe to drink. You don't have to: It usually is.
However, Congress may scale back the regulations that help keep
your water that way as legislators consider c:hanging the Safe
Drinking Water Act.
The act, approved in 1974, was originally passed because some
of the thousands of water systems in the United States were sim-
ply not delivering clean water.
WATER TREATMENT 141
The regulations have had a good effect. All public water sys-
terns · that use surface water now must disinfect it, and most must
filter it. And restrictions on lead in drinking water should help pro-
tect 600,000 children who might otherwise have unsafe amounts
of lead in their blood.
But on occasion, people still get sick from contqminants in their
water. The most readily recognized are acute outbreaks of illness
caused by microbes. In the best-known such incident, in 1993,
hundreds of thousands of Milwaukee residents were sickened and
more than 100 killed by cryptosporidium, a microbe not yet cov-
ered by water regulations. It's harder to know how many people
are harmed by chronic, low-level exposure to pathogens and chem-
ical contaminants.
Setting limits. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Environ-
mental Protection Agency originally set monitoring requirements
and contaminant limits for 26 substances that can taint drinking
water. The debate over the effectiveness of the act dates back to
1986, when Congress directed the EPA-which had been lack-
adaisically implementing the act-to add 57 more substances, such
as benzene and dioxin, to the list of contaminants that water sys-
tems must monitor and limit. Congress' also told the EPA to add 25
new contaminants to the list every three years.
Those changes, critics say, cost too much. Nearly 90 percent of
the nation's 58,000 community water systems are small ones, serv-
ing fewer than 3,300 people. Many of those systems say they have
neither the staff nor the money to obey the 1986 regulations.
Indeed, in 1994, community water systems were cited for about
100,000 violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Most of those
cited were small systems that were not complying with monitor-
ing and reporting requirements rather than systems found to have
dirty water.
Complying with the regulations could add several hundred dol-
142 MISCELLANEOUS
lars a year to the water bills paid by customers of some small
water systems.
Realistic regulations. Under pressure from water companies,
local officials, and governors, the Senate came up with a plan for
lightening the burden on water suppliers.
Small systems' testing requirements would be eased. Already, a
state can let a .water system skip particular tests if its water source
is protected from contamination, or if a particular contaminant,
such as a pesticide, was never used in the area. Under the pro-
posal, states could issue testing exemptions much more freely.
Also, for any contaminants that don't cause acute health prob-
lems, the water systems would be able to test just once a year, or
in some cases once every three years if the first test was clean, in-
stead of quarterly testing.
Rules for cleaning up contamination would be lighter too. The
EPA would require cleanup technologies that the small systems
could more realistically afford, rather than base its standards on
the best available methods that a large system can afford.
What's more, the proposed law would allow water systems that
serve as many as 10,000 people to fail to meet federal health stan-
dards, if they can't afford to comply and if no unreasonable health
risk would be created. As of 1995, only the very smallest sys-
tems-those that serve fewer than 500 households--can obtain
such a waiver.
Finally, the bill proposes! that the federal government give the
states a total of $lbillion in loans and grants to help small water
systems improve their facilities.
Going too far. It makes sense for Congress to revise a law that
doesn't adequately account for the limited staff and resources of
small water systems. No one is being served if those suppliers are
just racking up violations instead of actually testing their water. But
just as the 1986 law is too broad, so are the proposed revisions.
WATER TREATMENT 143
The problem is that the Senate bill doesn't just give small water
systems a break; it also eases up on the large systems that serve
most Americans.
The standards for cleanup technology would be made more le-
nient for large systems-an unnecessary move. And the bill would
grant water systems three to five years to comply with any new or
revised federal health standards, up from 18 months.
The bill also gives the EPA five or six years to develop several
new standards that are already behind schedule. The limit onar-
senic in drinking water, which dates from 1942, was to have been
revised in 1989. Now it won't be updated until 2001. Limits on
"disinfection byproducts," such as the potentially cancer-causing
compounds created when chlorine is added to water, once were
due in 1989 but now could be .delayed until 2000. Existing court
orders requiring the EPA to issue rules for about a doz<;:n contam-
inants would be nullified. Even the rules being· developed to
thwart cryptosporidium could be delayed by extra regulatory
hurdles.
What's more, the pace of new contaminant limits could be
greatly slowed. Instead of setting standards for 25 contaminants
every three years, the EPA would have to consider just five by
2001.
Those changes are a false economy. It's unwise to act as though
we know there are few new contaminants of any consequence to
be found. For people served by large water systems, the water bill
would go up only about $25 a year if all the EPA regulations go
into effect on schedule. That seems like a small price to pay to be
sure that the water is safe.
Personal Care
FACIAL CLEANSERS
The main purpose of a facial cleanser is to remove makeup and
grime. Soap and water do that, of course, but too much soap can
remove a skin's natural oils, leaving it rough, chapped, and ten-
der. Soap and water also have less clout than cleanser in remov-
ing heavy makeup.
A typical cleanser, whether cream or lotion, contains water;
glycerine or other moisturizers; oils, fats, or greases (to give the
product the right consistency and to help loosen grime); deter-
gents (to wash away grime); preservatives (to forestall spoilage);
and dyes and scent . (to make it look and smell good).
The archetypal cleanser is the traditional "cold cream" that you
massage into your skin, then wipe off. Pond's Cold Cream and its
descendants-including wipe-off lotions-'-are still very popular.
Years ago, however, Noxzema cream in the blue jar pointed the
way toward a revolutionary alternative: a less greasy substance
you can wash off with water. Today, there are as many wash-off
creams and lotions as there are those that you have to wipe off.
There are also creams and lotions that you can remove either way.
The results of use tests conducted by Consumers Union showed
that the preferences for cleansers specified by their makers for
normal, dry, oily, or "combination" skin seemed to have no con-
145
146 PERSONAL CARE
nection with skin type. Some women with dry skin preferred oily-
skin products, some with normal skin liked dry-skin formulations,
and so on.
PREFERENCES
An effective cleanser should be easy to apply and remove, take off
makeup efficiently, smell pleasant, feel good on the skin during
use, and leave the skin feeling nice.
Some cleansers are hard to remove. Removing sOme of the
wash-off products can take more than a dozen rinses.
Cleansers should leave the skin feeling nice ("smooth" or
"creamy"), but some may leave the skin feeling slightly coated, or
dry and stiff. And some may leave the skin feeling greasy.
Most products have a scent, ranging in type from medicinal
through spicy to floral. Some cleansers claim to be fragrance-free,
but most of those have their own smell from ingredients not added
for their fragrance, which you mayor may not find pleasing.
Scent can play an important if unconscious role in judgment of
overall quality. When Consumers Union's panelists scored a prod-
uct low in smell, they generally gave it a low overall score.
COST, SIZE, QUALITY
Cleansers come in a variety of sizes. The price range is astonish-
ingly wide, as it often is in the world of cosmetics. Priee per ounce
can vary considerably with container size.
FACIAL TISSUES
Tissues are used to handle all sorts of jobs-to wipe eyeglasses, to
remove makeup, and as a stand-in for a napkin or a towel. But
you expect most from a tissue when your nose runs nonstop and
FACIAL TISSUES 147
your eyes water. A tissue shouldn't shred when you ;meeze into it,
arid you don't want one so harsh and scratchy that it chafes your
nose. Yet you want something fairly economical. If the tissues are
packed in a box to match your decor, so much the better.
QUALITY
Consumers Union tested tissues for sneeze resistance, wet
strength, and softness. Since people can't be expected to sneeze
on demand or to sneeze exactly the same way time after time,
Consumers Union invented a mechanical sneezer to test tissues ..
The most sneeze-resistant tissues usually withstood the test just
fine, but the worst were almost always shot through.
To measure strength when wet, testers clamped each tissue in
an embroidery hoop, it with a measured amount of
water, then poured a slow, steady stream of lead shot onto the
tissue. The strongest ones held more than 10 ounces of shot be-
fore they broke; they are the tissues Iyou can count on to handle
the most demanding jobs without The weakest tis-
sues ruptured under about one ounce of weight. The thickest tis-
tested were the three-ply, which weren't the' strongest.
Several two-ply varieties were even stronger; some others were
just as strong.
Manufacturers often make facial tissues in more than one plant
around the country to cut down on shipping costs. This practice
could create variations in the same brand of tissue purchased in
different areas. With few exceptions, however, the tissues bought
from stores in the East, South, and West were quite consistent.
RECOMMENDATIONS
It doesn't make much sense to spend a lot of money on. a throw-
away product like facial tissue. But it does make sense to buy tis-
148 PERSONAL CARE
sues that are reasonably soft, suitably strong, and low in price. The
softest tissues are obviously the most soothing for a proloD;ged
cold or bout of hay fever. Those with only average softness are
fine for . everyday use.
HAND SOAPS
Soaps were the first surface-active agents prepared by.man. They
are the salts of water-insoluble fatty acids. Detergents are chemi-
cally different from soaps. Both are able to emulsify oils, hold dirt
in suspension, and act as wetting agents. Since the 1950s, some
soaps have detergents, which work better than soap in
hard water. (Soap combines with the minerals in hard water, leav-
ing a bathtub ring; detergents do not tend to form such scum.)
Most liquid products are basically detergent, not soap.
You can wash your hands for a penny with most soaps, but
some deSigner . brands cost around 4 or 5 cents per wash. Here's
what a soap maker can do to make a penny's wash seem worth a
nickel, a dime, or a quarter:
• Add fancy perfume. In its natural state, soap smells somewhat
like the fat in fresh meat. Fragrance masks this odor. Some soap
makers think that if they mask the odor well enough, it will up-
scale their product from the supermarket shelf--where soap
can cost a dollar or less per bar-to the beauty counter at de-
partment stores, where you can easily pay $10 a bar.
• Appeal to health. The package claim that the soap is "hy-
poallergenic" or "noncomedogenic" (that means the soap won't
clog pores and promote blackheads, or comedones). A manu-
'facturer makes formulations for different skin types.
• Promise beauty. Manufacturers pledge that added emollients-
HAND SOAPS 149
bath oil; moisturizing cream, lanolin, vitamin E-will soften and
condition skin. (As the Better Business Bureau reports, no soap
can be truthfully represented to keep skin young! and none
may be advertised "as a cure, remedy, or competent treatment"
for any skin disease.)
• Prevent embarrassment. Some brands claim that they are able
to keep body odor at bay. These deodorant soaps usually in-
clude an antibacterial agent. (Perspiration itself doesn't smell.
Body odor is caused by bacteria that act on perspiration.) All
provide protection against unwanted odors because .all soaps
float off bacteria along with dirt and grease.
PERFORMANCE
Consumers Union found that all soaps tested by a panel were at least
good in cleaning or in the way they left hands feeling, but some
clearly performed better than others. Liquids generally didn't feel as
good on the skin as bar soap, probably because they are more likely
to contain detergent, which tends to feel harsher than soap.
Soap and detergent can dry the skin because they remove its nat-
ural oils. Once its oil coating is gone, the skin reaqily g i ~ e s up water.
Most soaps have emollients, which may help seal in moisture.
If you have dry skin, however, don't look for some magic soap
formula to provide relief. Apply baby oil or a moisturizer after
bathing, while the skin is still damp.
COST
It makes no sense to pay more than a penny a wash for soap. On
average, liquid soaps are slightly more. expensive to use.than bars,
and their plastic containers often leave more packaging waste.
(For many liquids, a pump refill is available, but then the refill bot-
tle is tossed out.)
150 PERSONAL CARE
TOILET TISSUES
Whatever the price per roll, you expect certain basic qualities in
this homely but indispensable product.
The stronger the tissue when wet, the less likely it is to break
or t e ~ r in use. Wet strength is far more important than dry strength.
Two-ply tissues are stronger as a group, but there are some strong
single-plies, too.
Most toilet tissues are soft enough for all but sensitive individ-
uals. Many people won't find even the roughest toilet tissues ob-
jectionable. Two-ply tissues are generally softer than single-ply.
Toilet tissues should quickly and thoroughly absorb moisture.
When last tested, two-ply models soaked up a drop of water
within five seconds or less. Most single-ply tissues were not quite
as absorbent.
Tissues should break up promptly when flushed away. If they
don't, a slow toilet may back up . .
Some tissues are scented. Scent serves no practical purpose in
bathroom tissues, and it may be irritating to some people.
CONVENIENCE
Some tissues come in single rolls, some in packages of 12 or more.
Four-packs are the most popular.
A package should be easy to open, the roll should be easy to
start, and tissues should be easy to tear off. Plastic packages with
perforations around the top are easiest to open.
On some rolis, the first few sheets stick to the ones underneath,
an annoyance when you begin using the roll. On others, the end
of. the first sheet hangs free, providing a pull tab that's easy to
grasp. Sometimes the tab works well; sometimes it shreds before
freeing the next sheet.
Most two-ply models are relatively easy to detach, thanks to
TOILET TIssUES 151
their adequate perforations. By contrast, some single-ply products
are flimsy and tend to tear raggedly.
SUMMARY
No tissues have all four qualities: softness, strength, ability to tear
easily, and inexpensiveness. Some qualities are mutually exclu-
sive. For example, softness generally doesn't go with strength.
Then again, perhaps all the fuss about softness is unnecessary.
AppendixA
TIPS FOR CLEANING
A VARIETY OF HOUSEHOLD ITEMS
Acetate fabric. Dry cleaning is safest for this delicate fabric even
if there are laundering instructions on the care label. Hand laun-
dering must be carefully done. Avoid wringing or twisting gar-
ments. Dry acetate items by carefully spreading them out on
terry-cloth bath towels on a horizontal surface or draping them
over a clothesline. Do not use nail polish remover or other clean-
ers that contain acetone to attempt to remove stains. Acetone will
dissolve acetate.
Acrylic furniture. Gently dust acrylic furniture with a damp cloth
or chamois. Wash with hand dishwashing liquid and water using
a soft cloth. Rinse with water and blot dry with a clean cloth.
Air conditioners. Clean or change a window air conditioner's fil-
ter once a month during the air-conditioning season to keep the
machine's efficiency as high as possible. When cleaning or chang-
ing the filter, vacuum clean any visible cooling coils. (Be careful
not to cut yourself on sharp edges.) Plastic foam filters can be
washed at the kitchen sink, using a mild solution of a. hand dish-
washing liquid and water. Condenser coils facing outside also
need cleaning before hot weather sets in, but the unit may have
to be removed from the window to do the job. In very sooty areas,
or when the air conditioner is in a window over a heavily traf-
153
154 APPENDIX A
ficked street, you may need to hire a professional firm to do the
cleaning.
Aluminum cookware. Acidic foods-such as tomatoes or
rhubarb-may remove stains or discolorations as they are being·
cooked. You can also boil a solution of one quart of water con-
taining 2 to 3 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice in the cook-
ware, followed by light rubbing with a soap-filled scouring pad.
Aluminum scuffs. Some porcelain sinks, especially older ones
with a bit of their enamel worn off, tend to collect scuff marks
from aluminum pots and pans. A good cleanser should readily re-
move these marks. Cover the stain with the cleanser for a few min-
utes, then rinse it off.
Appliance exteriors. Many kitchen and laundry appliances
have a baked enamel surface that scratches easily', unlike the
glass-hard porcelain enamel finish that is common on kitchen
ranges as well as on some washing machines or other appliance
tops. Never use an abrasive cleaner on baked enamel. Hand dish-
washing liquid and water should do the job. If this doesn't work,
a liquid all-purpose cleaner can help, but check the label instruc-
tions to be sure the manufacturer states that it is safe to use on
painted surfaces.
Asphalt tile. Damp mop forday-to-day cleaning. Don't use sol-
vent-based wax; the solvent can soften and damage the tile.
Audiotape recording and playback heads. It is importaht to
periodically clean recording and playback heads, capstans, pinch
rollers, and tape guides. Once a month is probably a reasonable
interval. Use a small cotton swab or-even better-a lint-free
TIPS FOR CLEANING 155
piece of cotton cloth wrapped around the swab. The swab or cloth
should be lightly moistened with cleaning agent. You can use rub-
bing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol), but it is probably safer and bet-
ter to buy tape-head cleaner from an electronics supply store. If
the deck or tape player is not accessible for cleaning, you might
try a special head-cleaning tape. Carefully follow instructions.
Never use any kind of abrasive material to clean the heads.
Auto carpeting, upholstery, and mats. Regular vacuuming is
important to prevent buildup of particulate matter that can con-
tribute to carpet wear. A plug-in, lightweight, handheld vacuum
cleaner works best. A cordless model with rechargeable batteries
may work well enough on loose surface litter.
Barbecue griUs. If you run a gas barbecue for about 15 minutes
at the highest heat setting-after you finish cooking-it should
look reasonably clean but may still need some wire brushing to
get rid of any heavy residue. When using a charcoal barbecue, let
the grill stand over the coals for about 20 minutes after cooking to
achieve similar results. Any remaining baked-on dirt should yield
to wire brushing or to an abrasive powdered cleaner.
Bath mats. Many bath mats and toilet tank covers can be cleaned
in a washing machine. Use a mild detergent at a setting of not
more than 90
0
F for dark colors and J05°F for light colors or
whites, rinse thoroughly, and tumble dry using a low temperature
setting. In lieu of machine drying, hang or spread items in the
shade until dry, then brush lightly.
Bathroom fixtures. Some bathroom cleaners can mar brass,
paint, stainless steel, vinyl shower curtains, or wallpaper.
Immediately rinse off cleaner to avoid damage.
156 ApPENDIX A
Blankets. Read and follow the manufacturer's care instructions.
For best results, wash each blanket separately. Be sure the blan-
ket dries evenly. Nonwoven blankets contain synthetic' fibers that
are pressed together and heat bonded. They should be machine
washed with a gentle cycle, using warm water and a high water
level, then air dried. Vellux nonwoven blankets use adhesives to
bond the fibers to a foam base. They should be washed using
a short agitation cycle of five to eight minutes .. Vellux blankets
can be tumble dried at low heat. Wool blankets should be
machine washed in cold water on the delicate cycle; tumble dry
on low heat.
Blenders. Glass containers stay better-looking longer than plastic
ones because they resist scratching and staining; a glass container
should be dishwasher safe. A plastic container probably should
not go into a dishwater, as it might soften or melt if placed too
close to the machine's heating element. As an alternative to hand
washing, fill with water, add a few drops of hand dishwashing liq-
uid, cover, and blend the solution on the Stir setting for 10 to 20
seconds or until the sides are clean; then rinse thoroughly.
Brass. Lacquered brass should be c l e a n ~ d only with hand
dishwashing liquid and water. Anything stronger may ruin the
finish. Clean uniacquered brass with a commercial copper or
brass cleaner, then wash in sudsy water and rinse. Buff with a. soft
clean cloth.
Butcher blocks. See Wooden work surfaces,
Camcorders. To clean the lens surface, first blow off dust with a
blower brush .. Then, to remove any smudges or fingerprints, gen-
tly wipe the lens surface with a piece of lens cleaning paper or a
nps FOR CLEANING 157
clean cotton cloth moistened with a drop or two of lens-cleaning
fluid (available at camera stores). Clean in a spiral motion from the
center outward.
A noisy picture during playback can be caused by an incorrectly
set tracking control, by clogged video heads, or by a circuit fail-
ure. Preferably, video head cleaning should be performed by a
qualified service technicia.n. An alternate solution is to use a
cleaning cassette-but only when necessary. Cautiously use the
cleaning cassette in strict accordance with the manufacwrer's in-
structions. If the cleaning tape doesn't restore the picture in a few
tries, profeSSional servicing may be necessary.
Cameras. To clean the lens surface, first blow off dust with a
blower brush. Then, to remove any smudges or fingerprints, gen-
tly wipe the lens surface with a piece of lens cleaning paper or a
clean cotton cloth moistened with a drop or two of lens-cleaning
fluid (available at camera stores). Clean in a spiral motion from the
center outward.
Caution: Do not use film cleaner. It contains organic
solvents that may damage the lens or camera finish.
With proper care, the mirror and focusing screen in an
era should stay clean enough. If cleaning becomes necessary, use
a blower brush. If more cleaning is necessary, never attempt to do
it yourself. Take the camera to an authorized service facility.
Use a blower brush to remove accumulated film dust particles
from the film chamber, being"careful not to touch the shutter. Store
the blower brush in a container or plastic bag to keep it clean.
Carpet grit. Use a full-size upright vacuum cleaner or canister
model with a power nozzle. Vacuum on a regular basis. This is
158 APPENDIX A
especially important near entrance doors and in heavily traveled
areas.
cat lUter box. Use hot water and hand dishwasher . liquid . to
clean litter box surfaces. Avoid using chlorine bleach for cleaning:
Fumes are created through a chemical reaction between the
bleach and residual ammonia remaining· in a litter box after it has
been emptied.
Cbl"" dlsbware. It's best to wash fine china by hand with a hand
dishwashing liqUid. Some dishwasher detergents may wear away
the overglaze and metallic decorations on some fine china, . and
fine china can easily be chipped or broken by forceful water jets
or jostling among pots and pans. Everyday china can be washed
in the dishwasher.
Citrus juicers. The easiest-to-clean juicer has the cone, strainer,
and juice container as a single unit. Models with several pieces
have to be taken apart, washed, dried, and put back together. It's
helpful if the pieces can be put into a dishwasher; check the man-
ufacturer's instructions.
Ootbes dryers. Clean a dryer's lint screen after each load. This
will maintain high drying efficiency and will help to prevent
excessive heat buildup. Vacuum clean any visible lint buildup in
other parts of the machine, but leave any disassembling to a ser-
vice technician.
CoUeemakers. The carafe and brew basket of a drip-type cof- ·
feemaker should be cleaned after every use because dried coffee
oils can ruin the taste of even the best blend. Coffee taste may also
TIPS FOR CLEANING 159
be improved by using a special coffeemaker cleaner. Because min-
erals accumulate in the tank and tubes of automatic-drip units, it's
important to clean them now and then, especially if they are used
with hard water. As a substitute for a commercial cleaner, try run-
ning white vinegar diluted with water through the machine. It's a
chore, but worth the trouble.
Compact discs (CDs). Light dust will not harm a CD. Heavier
dust can be removed by gentle strokes with a soft, lint.:.free cloth.
Always wipe the CD in the radial direction-across the "grooves."
Radial scratches will be ignored by the CD player. Smudges or de-
posits should be washed off under running water with a little hand
dishwashing liquid if needed; then rinse the CD, allow the excess
water to run off and carefully pat it dry with a soft lint-free cloth.
Computer keyboards. Vacuum keyboards regularly, using
the soft brush attachment. To dislodge particles of dirt and dust,
turn the keyboard upside down and. hit it several times with the
flat of your hand. You can also use a can of compressed air (avail-
able from electronics stores). Periodically, clean the keys with ei-
thera lint-free cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol or a commercial
keyboard wipe. Be sure to unplug the keyboard first, or shutthe
computer off.
Computer monitors. See Television sets.
Concrete floors. Many methods recommended for removing
stains from concrete involve use of strong solvents like trisodium
phosphate or flammable materials like kerosene, and lots of elbow
grease. Because of safety concerns, Consumers Union cannot rec-
ommend a home brew for this purpose. However, there are some
160 ApPENDIX A
commercially available products that may do the job. It is ex-
tremely important to read and carefully follow the directions and
safety precautions when using these products.
Continuous-cleaning ovens. The porous finish of a continuous-
cleaning oven is supposed to dissipate light dirt gradually at nor-
mal cooking temperatures. But majorspills won't go away-you
have to wipe them up right after they happen. Minor spill's appear
to be eliminated slowly, partly because they spread out on the fin-
ish, which is mottled, thereby helping to disguise patches of dirt.
You-can protect most exposed surfaces from becoming soiled in
the first place by covering the oven bottom with aluminum foil,
but be careful to avoid blockingany vents in a gas oven or short-
circuiting an electric element.
Copper cookware. Clean with a commercial copper cleaner,
then wash in sudsy water and rinse. Buff with a soft clean cloth.
Countertops. A quick wipe with a damp cloth or with a cloth con-
taining a mild solution of hand dishwashing liquid will take care of
most spills on laminated countertops. Be sure to remove any pud-
dles immediately, to avoid warping. Never use an abrasive cleanser
on aplastic-laminate surface. For more difficult stains, clean these
easy-to-scratch surfaces with the gentlest all-purpose cleaner possi-
ble, rinse thoroughly, and dry with a soft cloth. For very stubborn
spots (like newsprint ink), use undiluted liquid household bleach,
being sure to follow the label directions for proper use. Let the
bleach stand for no more than 11/2 minutes and then rinse thor-
oughly with .warm water. In the bathroom, liquid cleaners should
be rinsed off to prevent damage to the countertop finish.
Curtains. Vacuum thin fabrics at a reduced suction setting to pre-
TIps FOR CLEANING 161
vent the fabric from being drawn into the cleaner's nozzle. It might
be helpful to place a stiff piece .of plastic screen between the
nozzle and the fabric, to prevent the fabric froin being sucked into
the nozzle.
Debumldlfiers. Vacuum the coils at least once a year, more. often
in. a dusty environment. This will help maintain the appliance's
performance.
DeUcatefabrlcs. Follow the manufacturer's care and cleaning in-
structions.The less time some delicate fabrics spend . in water,
even cold water, the better.
tHsb sanlHzlng. Some dishwashers have · a final rinse cycle
that uses extra-hot water. Their makers claim that this. helps pre-
vent the spread of cold and flu germs. In fact, once you put "san-
itized" dishes into the cupboard, household microbes-the same
microbes that are on everything else in the house---quickly settle
on them.
DIsinfecting. It's really not possible to prevent the spread of
germs in the house by using a disinfectant. ' When a medical proh-
lem arises that requires using a germicide, ask a doctor for advice
on how to proceed.
Dust on hard surfaces. A little bit of spray furniture polish on
a rag makes the rag tacky enough to pick up more dust than a
dry cloth.
Electric blankets. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for laun-
dering (usually a cold or warm wash and low-heat machine dry:"
ing or, even better, line drying). Never have an electric blanket or
162 APPENDIX A
pad dry-cleaned; dry-cleaning chemicals can damage the wiring.
Do not machine-dry unless the care label recommends it. Instead,
hang the blanket over two clotheslines or lay it flat to dry.
Electric range tops. Electric coil elements are all self-cleaning,
since spills burn off quickly. If you soak an electric element in
water, it may become damaged. Clean under the control knobs by
pulling them off. Use care when scrubbing around the control
panel: The markings can often be rubbed off with steel wool or
an abrasive powdered cleanser.
You can raise or remove thecooktop to clean beneath it. B u ~
some electric ranges have a fixed cooktop; in that case, you
have to poke your hand through the burner holes. Clean drip
pans and reflector bowls with the least abrasive cleanser . that
will keep them looking up to par. A nevi spare set of drip pans
or reflectors is handy for making the cooktop presentable at a
moment's notice.
Smooth-top cooktops should be cleaned with a special cleaner
made for such use. Spills of food-especially those containing
sugar-should be wiped up immediately.
Fans. Dirty fan blades impair air-moving efficiency and also de-
tract from the appliance's appearance. Clean metal blades carefully
to prevent bending them, which can cause unwanted vibration
when the fan is turned on . . A whole-house or attic fan's louvers
and screening should be brushed and vacuumed at least once a
season to keep the air-flow rate at the maximum.
Floor cleaning. A lightweight upright vacuum cleaner works well
for picking up loose dirt from bare floors. For stains and adherent
soil, however, uSe a damp (not wet) sponge mop or its equivalent.
TIPS FOR CLEANING 163
Floor wax buildup. Try a wax remover. Use fine steel wool for
stubborn spots.
Food processors. The simple, clean lines of these machines make
for easy cleaning. Use a damp sponge for gaps around switches
and trim.
Freezers. Self-defrosting is available in some upright models: You
can skip the manual defrosting chore and just swab down inside
surfaces with a cleaning solution of baking soda (bicarbonate of
soda) and water.
A chest freezer has a smooth interior and removable wire bas-
kets or dividers instead of shelves. Use a windshield ice scraper to
remove frost and hasten defrosting. An uprigh't freezer requires
more patience because you must wait for the ice to melt off the
cooling C9ils in the shelves. If you use a tool to scrape and pry ice
away to speed the process, the result could be damage to the re-
frigeration system, which is expensive to repair.
Defrost when the food supply is low. Transfer any remaining
food to an iced picnic chest or to the refrigerator's freezer or cool-
ing compartment. Or wrap food in food wrap, then layers of news-
paper for insulation while you defrost. On a very cold winter day,
you may be able to store the food outdoors while you defrost.
Furniture. The original oil or lacquer finish on a piece of. furni-
ture provides the best protection. Quickly clean up spills before
they have a chance to attack the finish. Use the softest cloth pos-
sible for dusting.
If you apply polish each· time you dust, excessive wax buildup
can result, causing loss of the wood's natural beauty as well as dif-
ficulty in getting the kind of luster you really want. Don't wipe
164 ApPENDIX A
against the grain. Be sure to use soft insulating pads under hot,
heavy, or sharp objects or containers.
Furniture nicks and scratches. Some polishes are colored to
match the furniture wood, and thereby mask the marred area, but
the color match must be accurate for the cover-up to work well.
Garbage disposers. Most manufacturers suggest allowing a dis-
poser to run for 30 to 60 seconds after grinding is finished. Some
also suggest purging the disposer by filling the sink halfway with
water, removing the drain stopper, and turning on the machine for
a few seconds.
Glass-fiber fabrics. This material is resistant to soiling and can
be very decorative. It is fragile and should be carefully hand-laun-
dered and line dried.
Glassware. It is best to wash crystal glassware by hand; there's
a possibility of chipping and breakage if you wash such items in
a machine. Some glassware can become etched as a result of a
chemical r,eactiQn of water, glassware, and detergent , in a dish-
washer. This phenomenon is especially prevalent in soft or s o f t ~
ened water. Etching is irreversible. To minimize it, use a small
amount of detergent and do not exceed 140
0
F water temperature.
Underload the dishwasher to permit proper rinsing and draining,
and dry without heat.
Greasy dirt on hard surfaces. Pine oil in some all-purpose
cleaners helps · penetrate and loosen greasy dirt.
Heaters. Some space heaters have shiny reflecting surfaces to
help direct the heat where you want it. If the shiny area becomes
TIPS FOR CLEANING 165
dulled, the heater will be less effective. After unplugging the ap-
pliance, vacuum ariy surfaces yqu can reach.
Heating systems. Vacuum radiators and fins regularly during
the heating .season to keep them at their maximum operating
efficiency. Change or wash any filters in a warm-air heating
system at . least once during the heating season, as well as during
the summer if the air ducts also serve as part of a central air-
conditioning system.
Hot plates. Unplug before cleaning. Do not immerse in water.
Clean nonburner surfaces with warm· water and hand dishwash-
ing liquid and a dishcloth, sponge, or plastic scouring pad. For
difficult-to-remove soil, use a fine soapy metal scouring pad. Be
sure to test it first on an inconspicuous area.
Humidifier dust. If you use a cool mist . or ultrasonic humidi-
fier, you may be forever wiping up white dust that settles on fur-
niture a ~ d other surfaces, even beyond the room in which the
humidifier is located. If you live in a hard-water area, use only
distilled water or demineralized water in cool-mist or ultrasonic
humidifiers.
Humidifiers. Molds and bacteria from humidifiers and vaporizers
may trigger allergic symptoms. Although ultrasonic models do not
emit fine microorganisms, they have been implicated in spraying
fragments of bacteria and molds into the air. Therefore, like cool-
mist and evaporative humidifiers, an ultrasonic humidifier should
be scrupulously cleaned daily.
After unplugging and emptying the humidifier, clean it as di-
rected by the manufacturer. If there are · no directions, rinse the
tank with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach in a pint
166 ApPENDIX A
of water, followed by a thorough rinsing with fresh water. For
large units, use a cup of bleach in a gallon of water, then rinse the
tank with fresh water.
A steam vaporizer, the kind that boils water and produces mois-
ture ip the form of steam, doesn't present problems of molds and
bacteria. But a steam vaporizer must still be cleaned to keep it
working properly. Rust or scale accumulations in a steam vapor-
izer are harmless but should be rinsed out periodically, particularly
before storing the unit.
Insect killers ("bug zappers"). First unplug the appliance. It's
usually difficult to poke through the outer screen or blow through
it with a vacuum cleaner's exhaust. It's much easier to disassem-
ble the unit, at least to the extent of removing the sides so that the
grid can be brushed off properly. I
Linen. This is a durable fabric whose appearance and "feel" im-
prove with laundering. Linen that has been chemically treated for
wrinkle resistance may withstand hot-water washing.
Lint on garments. A washing machine's lint filter helps, but tum-
bling in a clothes dryer may be even more effective. It's worth try-
ing a lint roller or even wrapping Scotch-type sticky tape around
a hand, sticky side out, and patting the garment to remove the lint.
LiUer on carpeting and hard-surface floors. Use a lightweight
vacuum cleaner. Reserve uprights and power brushes for cleaning
deep in a carpet's pile.
Microwave cookware. Except for the browning dishes and the
crevices on some trivets, cleaning microwave cookware should be
TIPS FOR CLEANING 167
easy with just hand dishwashing liquid and water. Some plastic
utensils have a nonstick finish. This is usually unnecessary, since
stuck-on food is seldom a problem in microwave cooking. The
nonstick finishes are probably a drawback because they easily
scratch and quickly look wom. Browning dishes sear food and ac-
cumulate a fair amount of burned-on soil that requires some clean-
ing effort to remove.
Microwave ovens. Wipe the inside with plain water, or water
with a bit of hand dishwashing liquid. Spills and spatters are gen-
erally easy to wipe up with a damp (not wet) sponge. Keep the
oven clean to prevent odors from developing.
Mildew around the house. Mildew has an unpleasant odor and
appearance. It's a common household mold that thrives in dark,
damp, poorly ventilated places. Chlorine bleach, diluted according
to label directions, is a good mildew remover for use on colorfast,
waterproof hard surfaces.
Mildew can also be controlled by lowering the humidity in a
closed-in space such as a closet. In very humid weather, when
mildew growth is greatest, use a . continuously burning 60-watt
bulb in a large closet to raise the temperature (and thereby lower
the relative humidity). A smaller bulb can be used in a smaller
enclosure. Be certain that the bulb is well away from any stored
articles.
Mildew in bathrooms. Some specialty bathroom cleaners contain
effective mildew fighters. But liquid chlorine bleach applied ac-
cording to label directions is an effective mildew cleaner. Because
it can discolor many fabrics and wallpaper, rinse thoroughly any
mildewed surface that has been washed with bleach. Never mix
168 APPENDIX A
bleach with other cleaning products. Bleach reacts with many
household cleaners and can produce hazardous fumes.
Nylon. White nylon items should be washed separately because of
nylon's tendency to pick up colors froni other items in a laundry
load. Oily substances can stick to nylon. QUickly rinse off these
stains before they have a chance to set.
Ovens. Refer to the Oven Cleaners section in the chapter on
House Cleaning, and Continuous-cleaning ovens and Self-cleaning
ovens in this section.
Painted surfaces. All-purpose cleaners should be tried on an in-
conspiCUOUS area first. Cleaners containing pine oil can damage
paint. Avoid excessive rubbing and abrasive cleaning.
Polyester. Fabrics containing polyester fibers have a strong affin-
ity for oily substances. Wash oily stains as soon as you notice
them. Try rubbing them with a wet bar of hand soap, then with a
wet towel followed by rinsing. Unfortunately, even qUick attention
may not result,in satisfactory stain removal.
Porcelain enamel bathroom fixtures. Sinks, bathtubs, toilets,
and other plumbing fixtures are generally made of metal with a
heavy outside layer of glasslike porcelain. Porcelain can tolerate
abrasive cleansers without wearing off, but the shiny finish will be
gradually destroyed, making the fixture less resistant to staining
and therefore more difficult to clean. Stick to nonabrasive
cleansers on new or nearly new fixtures.
Porcelain enamel kitchen fixtures. Treat these items as gently
TIPS FOR CLEANING 169
as possible to avoid unsightly scratches that can make future
cleaning increasingly difficult.
Portable food mixers. Crevices and grooves trap food and dirt.
A dampened new toothbrush reserved for this purpose can help.
Rayon. See Silk.
Records, long-playing (LP). Keeping an LP record dust-free is
the best way to make it last longer. Records should be cleaned im-
mediately before you play them with a cloth-pile brush available
from an electronics store. Handle records only by Jheir edges to
;prevent perspiration and skin oils from attaching dust to the
record's surfaces. When putting a record away, make sure the
opening in the inner sleeve doesn't coincide with the opening in
the outer cover. Be sure any commercial record-cleaning spray
you might purchase does not contain . silicone, which can cause
dust to stick to records.
Refrigerator/freezers. The condenser coil, which helps dis-
perse heat, is outSide the cabinet, where it tends to collect dust.
Dust lowers the appliance's efficiency and raises the cost of run-
ning it. The condenser should be cleaned once or twice a year,
particularly before the onset of hot weather, because high
outside temperatures impose heavy demands on a refrigerating
system.
It's easy to clean a back-mounted condenser once you pull out
the refrigerator. But in many models, the coil is mounted in a com-
partment underneath the cabinet. Clean this area py using a con-
cleaning brush (available in hardware · and appliance
stores) and a vacuum cleaner's crevice tool. Most manufacturers
170 ApPENDIX A
tell you to clean from the front, a task made more difficult if the
coil is under a shield and toward the refrigerator's back. Cleaning
the coil from the back after you remove the cardboard "service ac-
cess" cover . is a bit easier, but you'll have to wrestle the appliance
from its normal position.
Some older refrigerators have a removable drip pan that can de-
velop odors from food spills that drip into it from inside the r e ~
frigerator. If possible, check it from time to time, and wash and
rinse the pan using hand dishwashing liquid and water.
Cleaning inside the refrigerator is best done with the mildest
possible detergent or just a damp sponge. Try to avoid scratching
soft plastic surfaces. A solution of baking soda and water is prob-
ably enough to do the job if water alone doesn't work. It's partic-
ularly important to keep the door seal (gasket) clean: Dirt buildup
impairs the gasket's ability to hold in the cold air.
Resin furniture. A soft cloth and all-purpose, nonabrasive
cleaner will keep resin furniture clean for a longtime.
Self-cleaning ovens. Use the self-cleaning cycle as often as nec-
essary. The energy cost (using national average rates) is less per
cleaning than an application of a chemical cleaner in an oven
without the self-cleaning feature.
The self-cleaning cycle turns the most stubborn spills into a
powdery gray ash residue. At the end of the cycle, simply wipe off
the residue:
The self-cleaning cycle produces smoke and fumes; which exit
through a vent on the back guard of gas models or under a rear
element of electric ovens. If there's a loose duct from the oven to
the rear element, hard-to-clean dirt may be deposited under the
cook top during the cleaning cycle. Ventilate the kitchen during
TIPS FOR CLEANING 171
the self-cleaning cycle to prevent smoke and fume particles from
being deposited on the kitchen's walls and ceiling.
A self-cleaning oven's door and frame usually need some scrub-
bing outside the door seal, where vaporized soil can leak through.
Use the mildest nonabrasive cleanser. Avoid scrubbing the gasket
itself, except very gently with a sponge that has been dampened
with a solution of hand dishwashing liquid, followed by a sponge
rinse with plain water.
Shavers. Men's electric shavers need daily cleaning. Unclip the
blade cover. Shake and brush clippings from the cutters and the
underside of the head. Once every week'ot two, the shaver should
be cleaned thoroughly to help maintain its ability to operate satis-
factorily, a job that usually involves removing, brushing, and refit-
ting the cutters and the head.
Silk. Garments made of silk usually require dry cleaning because
water and silk are often not compatible. However, there are some
silk garments that can tolerate washing in water. Be guided by
care labels. Some dyes used on silk will dissolve in water, causing
dye bleeding and dye transfer. Be sure to test multicolored articles
before washing.
Slow cookers. Avoid an abrasive cleaner or steel wool in favor of
a sponge, cloth, or nonscratching plastic scrubber. Cleanup is eas-
iest if the appliance has a removable liner that can be immersed.
If the liner is not removable, takt: care not to wet any electrical
parts of the cooker.
Smoke detectors. To keep detectors operating properly, vacuum
them annually, cleaning with the vacuum wand from a full-
172 ApPENDIX A
powered canister cleaner, if possible. If a detector has a fixed
cover, pass the wand across the cover's openings. If a detector's
cover is removable, gently vacuum the sensor chambers.
Spots on glassware and dishes. This is a particularly annoying
problem in areas of the country that have hard water. Try a d d i n ~ a
rinse agent to your dishwashing machine. These products help to re-
duce spotting. Many dishwashers have dispensers for such additives.
Stainless steel cookware. For stubborn food reSidues, use a
commercial stainless steel cleaner.
Stainless steel flatware. Scratches or surface imperfections tend
to diminish the stain resistance of stainless steel tableware.
Consequently, flatware should not be cleaned with scouring pow-
der or steel wool. It is advisable to wash stainless steel soon after
using it to minimize any possible staining.
Steam irons. Unpiug the iron and allow it to cool down before
cleaning. If an iron's soleplate has a nonstick finish, any adherent
starch or dirt should be removed easily by wiping with a damp
sponge. For an iron without a nonstick finish, clean with a mild
solution of hand dishwashing liquid and water. Avoid abrasives,
which could scratch the soleplate. Do not immerse the iron in
water.
Television sets and computer monitors. A television's screen
attracts fingerprints, but even more of a nuisance is its tendency to
accumulate dust and grime as a result of static electricity. With the
set turned off, use glass cleaner sparingly. Wet a rag or paper
towel with the cleaner rather than spraying it, to avoid getting
cleaner on the cabinet.
TIPS FOR CLEANING 173
Toasters, toaster ovens, toaster oven-broi1ers. Clean the crumbs
from these appliances often enough to prevent an accumulation
that will smolder. Too many crumbs may also impede the opera-
tion of door-opening mechanisms.
A "continuous-clean" interior is supposed to rid itself of grease
and grime at normal cooking temperatures. This doesn't seem to
work very well, however, although a continuous-clean finish's
dull, usually mottled surface may present a cleaner appearance for
a longer time than an ordinary finish will. In the long run, a c o n ~
tinuous-clean finish may be something of a disadvantage since its
rough, soft surface eventually makes cleaning very difficult. It
doesn't hold up to scrubbing or to the use of harsh cleansers.
Vacuum cleaners. Clumps of dust or other debris can clog a vac-
uum cleaner's hose. One way to dislodge dirt is with a broom or
mop handle inserted into the hose, working carefully to prevent
puncturing the hose cover. Change the paper bag or clean the
cloth bag as soon as the cleaner's suction drops noticeably, even.
if the bag doesn't seem full. Small quantities of fine, dense dirt can
reduce a bag's efficiency and consequently a cleaner's suction.
Vaporizers. See Humidifiers.
VCR recording and playback heads. The picture generated by
a: VCR may begin to deteriorate over time. Replacing the heads can
be expensive. There is not much you can do about normal wear
resulting from the head spinning at high speed against the tape
and the tape moving past the head. Try to keep the machine as
free of dust as possible by covering it when the VCR is not in use
and by storing tapes where they aren't likely to gather a lot of dust
and debris. You might try a special VCR cleaning tape, cautiously
using it in strict accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. If
174 ApPENDIX A
the cleaning tape doesn't restore the picture, professional
ing may be necessary.
Vinyl and vinyl-composition floors. Damp mop for day-to-day
cleaning.
Waffle makers. The bits of food that stick to nonstick grids can
be removed with a brush when the grids are cool. When you want
to wash away excess oil, dunk removable grids in a sinkful of
warm, sudsy water. (Never dunk the appliance itself.) Flat grids for
grilling usually require thorough cleaning-sometimes
to remove hamburger grease or sticky cheese. Many manufactur-
ers recommend washing the grids by hand rather than· in a
dishwasher.
Washing machines. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for
cleaning underneath the agitator of Cleaning a lint filter. Sponge
off detergent accumulations from around the top of the machine.
Water heaters. Periodically drain off some hot water to keep sed-
iment from accumulating at the bottom of the tank. In areas with
hard water, draining is best done every month. Where the water is
soft, every three or four months should be enough. Be aware that
sometimes after this is done, sediment · gets caught in the drain
valve, which will leak.
Wooden work surfaces. Butcher blocks and other wooden work
surfaces used for food preparation should be cleaned after each
use. Use chlorine bleach to kill germs from raw foods such as
chicken, fish, and meat. Wash any surface that · touches these
foods. Then cover the surface for two minutes with a dilute solu-
tion of unscented chlorine bleich, rinse thoroughly, and air dry.
TIps FOR CLEANING 175
Wood-handled utensils. Unless the manufacturer's instructions
say the utensil is dishwasher safe,it is better to hand wash it in
hot, soapy water and towel dry. Do not allow the utensil to soak
in the water. Doing so may damage the wood.
WooL Dry cleaning is the safest method, unless the item has a care
label stating that it is machine washable. If it says the wool can be
laundered, use only cool or cold water, and use minimum agita-
tion and spinning to prevent shrinkage and matting of the wool
fibers. Do not use bleach.
AppendixB
STAIN REMOVAL
Quick action is often the key to success with stain removal. Many
a tie, blouse, carpet, or upholstery fabric has been saved by im-
mediately treating the stain. Gather all of the materials mentioned
in the section entitled "Spot Removal Kit" (see p. 182) and keep
them in a place where you can locate them quickly. Be sure they
are out of the reach of children.
It is important to follow the garment, carpet, or furniture man-
ufacturer's instructions as well as the cautions listed on the label
of any product used in the stain removal process. The process of
attempting to remove a stain may be unsuccessful and may, in
fact, set the stain, making it · more difficult to remove. If you are
not sure if your attempt to remove a stain will cause damage, it
might be better to seek professional help (a dry cleaner or a pro-
fessional carpet, drapery, or upholstery cleaning service). But it is
important to understand that even though professional cleaning
may do the trick, it too is not always a foolproof approach.
Professionals may not be able to remove some stains. Be sure· the
professional you select evaluates the stain and the stained mater-
ial, and informs you about any potential risks associated with at-
tempting to remove the stain.
Cleaning procedures. The following procedures have been ob-
tained from several sources, including the Association of Special-
ists in Cleaning and Restoration (ASCR International) and the
Carpet and Rug Institute (cru). Neither the editors nor the pub-
lisher can guarantee or be responsible for any results obtained by
using these procedures.
177
178 APPENDIX B
Whether you plan to attempt stain removal yourself or use the
services of a professional, it is important to blot up all spills im-
mediately using clean, white unprinted napkins or towels. You
may use cloth or paper for this purpose. However, if you decide
to use paper napkins or towels, first test them to be sure they will
be strong enough to do the job.
Do not scrub the area! Scrubbing can damage delicate fabrics or
carpet pile. Continue to blot with napkins or towels until the area
is completely dry. For semi-solids, gently scrape the residue up
with the edge of a rounded spoon. On carpets, solids should be
gently broken up and vacuumed until completely removed.
For any residual stain resulting from a spill or for stains that
have already had a chance to soak into the fabric and dry, locate
the substance that caused the stain in the stain removal steps sec-
tion (see p. 184) and carefully follow the recommended cleaning
steps in the order shown.
Pretest each recommended cleaning agent on an inconspicuous
area of the soiled item (inside the flap that covers a Zipper, under
or in back of a couch cushion, the back of a tie, a section of car-
pet inside a closet, etc.) using the following pretest procedure. On
a multicolor fabric, conduct the test in a place where the different
colors meet, or be sure to test each of the colors.
• Apply several drops of the cleaning agent to the testing area.
• Hold a wet white doth on the testing area for 60 seconds. If
you can get to both -Sides, do the same on the underside of
the fabric.
• Examine the wet cloth for color transfer and the fabric or car-
pet for color change or damage. If any of these changes are
evident, try the next cleaning solution in the recommended se-
quence or seek professional help.
STAIN REMOVAL 179
If no damage or color change is evident from the pretest, you
may begin the cleaning process. Apply a small amount of the first
recommended cleaning agent to a white cloth or paper towel and
gently work it into the stained area. Problems can result from
working with large amounts of cleaning materials, even water. So
it is better to start with a small amount of cleaning agent and re-
peat the process as needed. B l o t ~ o not rub or brush. Excessive
agitation can cause unSightly fabric or carpet pile distortion, which
may become permanent. Work from the outer edge of the stain to-
ward the center. Repeat the procedure with additional clean white
cloths or paper towels until you can't transfer any more stain to
the cloth or towel. Do not proceed to the next recommended
cleaning agent until this is done. Be· patient! Complete stain re-
moval may require repeating the same step several times. In many
cases it will not be necessary to use all of the recommended steps
to remove the stain.
If you have access to the back of the fabric on clothing, place
the front face on a white towel and work the cleaning agent into
the fabric from the back. Of course, this is not typically possible
when cleaning upholstery or carpets.
Some cleaning agents may promote rapid resoiling. For wash-
able clothing, launder the garment as soon as possible after re-
moving the stain. For fabrics or carpet materials that are water
safe, it is also important to rinse or wash the area after the stain
has been removed completely. During the process of rinsing,
avoid using excessive amounts of water on carpets and upholstery
fabrics. Use a mist-type sprayer to prevent overwetting. For those
nonwashable fabrics that will tolerate water, the treated fabric
should be damp-sponged with cool water to remove any residue
from the stain removal process. Check a garment's care label; if it
reads "Dry Clean Only," you may want to avoid using water-based
180 ApPENDIX B
cleaning agents. Likewise,upholstery fabrics that carry a label with
an "S" (indicating that a solvent-based cleaner is required) or an
"X" (vacuuming only) should not be cleaned with any materials
that contain water. Occasionally, professional cleaners have spe-
cial techniques to clean upholstery labeled "X." They usually
charge extra for this work. Upholstery cleaning codes are not
always attached to furniture: Check the underside of a chair or
sofa or look on the deck under the cushions.
After the stain is removed from a carpet or upholstery fabric and
the area has been rinsed, apply a thick pad of white cloth or paper
towels and weight them down to absorb the excess water or
cleaning material from the final cleaning step. Change pads as
needed until the area is thoroughly dry.
Consumers Union testers found that some of the more effective
laundry detergents (especially those with bleach or bleach alter-
native) were quite effective at removing stains caused by spaghetti
sauce, chocolate milk, and mud. Most could not remove motor oil.
WORm WRITING FOR
• Contact the Carpet and Rug Institute (P.O. Box 2048, Dalton, GA
30722, 800-882-8846) for a copy of their Carpet Spot Removal
Guide.
• If you have small children, c:ontact Binney & Smith, Inc., Con-
sumer Communications (P.O. Box 431, Easton, PA 18044, 1-800-
CRAYOLA), for a copy of their Stain Removal Suggestions for
Crayola products.
• Write to ACR International 00830 Annapolis Junction Road,
Suite 312, Annapolis Junction, MD 2070l}. Enclose a legal-size
self-addressed stamped envelope for a copy of their carpet and
upholstery spot removal guide.
• Contact the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration
Certification (800-835-4624) and the Association of Specialists in
STAIN REMOVAL 181
Cleaning and Restoration (800-272-7012) for listings of profes-
sional interior cleaners in your area.
OTHER ITEMS WORTH KEEPING AROUND
Baking soda. Can be used to neutralize acids (e.g., battery acid).
Bleach. Refer to the section on Bleaches in the Laundry chapter.
Hydrogen peroxide. The kind sold as an antiseptic (3 percent).
Petroleum jelly. Can be used to soften hardened paint, tar, and
rubber cement on washable fabrics. (Launder fabrics treated with
petroleum jelly immediately after application.)
Laundry booster. Refer to the section on Boosters in the Laundry
chapter.
182 APPENDIX B
SPOT REMOVAL KIT
Use the recommended stain removal agents in the order indicated
in the following table.
Dry cleaning. Some examples of nonflammable dry cleaning fluid
are Afta and K2r. Use small amounts to avoid damage to sizing,
backing, or stuffing material. Apply only in a well-ventilated area
or-if possible--outdoors. (Note: The active ingredient in these
products is being phased out by the EPA. Consumers Union does
not know how the reformulated versions will perform.)
Detergent. (mild) Mix one teaspoon of a clear (not colored) hand
dishwashing liquid per one cup of lukewarm water. Hand dish-
washing liquid residues can cause rapid resoiling, so rinse thor-
oughly after using. Never use laundry detergents on upholstery or
carpets because they contain optical brighteners that may discolor
the fibers or affect light and white colors.
Ammonia. Mix 1 tablespoon of household ammonia with '12 cup
of water.
Caution: Apply only in a well-ventilated area. Never mix
ammonia and bleach during any cleaning operation.
Vinegar (5 percent acetic acid solution). Mix y, cup of white
household vinegar with % cup of water.
Enzyme. To make an enzyme-containing detergent, mix a solution
of powdered' enzyme-containing laundry detergent according to
the directionS on the box. Allow the solution to remain on the
stain for the length of time recommended· by the manufacturer.
Caution: Do not use an enzyme detergent on non-
washable fabrics, especially wool, mohair, or silk.
STAIN REMOVAL 183
AlcohoL (Rubbing) Seventy-percent alcohol is available in most
drug- and grocery stores.
Caution: Rubbing alcohol is ignitable. Use in a well-
ventilated area, away from heat or flame, and store carefully.
Remover. Some nail polish removers contain acetone. Some may
contain amyl acetate. Amyl acetate is also used in paint, oil, and
grease (POG) removers (available in hardware stores). POG re-
movers may leave residues that can cause rapid soiling. When
using a POG remover on upholstery and carpets,always blot the
area with a dry cleaning fluid, then rinse the area thoroughly with
warm water. (See cautions for overwetting on p. 180.)
Caution: Do not attempt to clean acetate or
triacetate fabrics with nail polish remover.
Acetone and amyl acetate are ignitable.
Water. Rinsing with water alone should be the last step of the
stain removal process. Do not overwet upholstery fabrics, carpets,
and nonwashable clothing. Use a moist towel or a mist-type
sprayer for gentle rinsing.
ProfessionaL A professional should be called if an item is espe-
cially important to you, if you are in doubt with regard to the best
stain removal method, or if there is a possibility that you'll dam-
age the stained material. Professionals have the ability and the
equipment to use more aggressive cleaning solutions to remove
stubborn stains.
Vacuum. This is a handy . tool for picking up loose dry spills.
Caution: Do not use gasoline or lighter fluid.
184 APPENDIX B
FOR STAIN REMOVAL, EMPLOY THE FOLLOWING STEPS IN THE ORDER
PRESENIED (1=FIRST, 2=SECOND
J
ETC.).
Blood 2 3
Candle wax 2 3 4
Use tt:Je reco":Jmended cleaning agents in the order indicated in the table. For
more information, see page 182.
Dry cleaning = Nonflammable dry cleaning fluid. Detergent = mild detergent.
1
(POG)
STAIN REMOVAL 185
For washable clothing, pre- .
soaking for several hours in cold
salt water may help. Full-strength
3% hydrogen peroxide may also
help. Note: All cleaning agents
should be used at room _
temperatl.He (not warm or hot).
Scrape excess wax off the fabric
before cleaning. For washable
clothing, pouring boiling water
through the fabric from a height
of 12 inches may help. For
nonwashables, sandwich the
fabric between paper towels and
use a warm iron.
Ammonia. Vinegar. Enzyme = Enzyme-containing detergent. Alcohol = Rubbing
alcohol. Remover = Nail polish or POG remover. Water. Professional = Call a
professional. Vacuum.
Chewing gum 2
Use t ~ e recorrymended cleaning agents in the order indicated in the table. For
more Infol!flatlOn, see page 182.
Dry cleanmg = Nonflammable dry cleaning fluid. Detergent = mild detergent
3
STAIN REMOVAL 187
Freeze the gum with ice and gently
break with a hammer to remove
before cleaning. You can also rub
about 12 tsp of full-strength liniment
(e.g., Ben-Gay) into the affected
area, heat the area with a hair
dryer, and wipe with polyethylene
squares. Follow with mild detergent
and a rinse. For washables,
softening the gum with peanut
butter followed by laundering might
facilitate removal. Caution: Peanut
butter can also stain. Pretest
before using this remedy.
Ammonia. Vinegar. Enzyme = Enzyme-containing detergent. Alcohol = Rubbing
alcohol. Remover = Nail polish or POG remover. Water. Professional = Call a
professional. Vacuum.
188 APPENDIX B
Fruit & juices
2 3 4
Use the recommended cleaning agents in the order indicated in the table. For
more information, see page 182. . .
Dry cleaning = Nonflammable dry cleaning fluid. Detergent = mild detergent.
STAIN REMOVAL 189
For .' clothing, pouring
boiling water through the fabric
from a height of 12 inches may .
help. C,onsumers Union testers
also found that several laundry
booster products helped the
removal of grape juice.
Ammonia. Vinegar. Enzyme = detergent. = Rubbing
alcohol. Remover = Nail polish or POG remover. Water. ProfessIonal = Call a
professional. Vacuum.
190 APPENDIX B
Use the recommended cleaning agents in the order indicated in the table. For
more information, see page 182.
Dry cleaning = Nonflammable dry cleaning fluid. Deterg.ent = mild detergent.
Ammonia. Vinegar. Enzyme = Enzyme-containing detergent. A I ~ o h o l = Rubbing
alcohol. Remover = Nail polish or POG remover. Water. Professional = Call a
professional. Vacuum.
192 APPENDIX B
Use trye reco":lmended cleaning agents in the order indicated in the table For
more Infor!llatlon, see page 182. "
Dry cleaning = Nonflammable dry cleaning fluid. Detergent = mild detergent.
STAIN REMOVAL 193
Ammonia. Vinegar. Enzyme = Enzyme-containing detergent. Alcohol = Rubbing
alcohol. Remover = Nail polish or POG r e m o v e ~ . Water. Professional = Call a
professional. Vacuum.
194 APPENDIX B
Use the recommended cleaning agents in the order indicated i ~ the table. For
more information. see page 182.
Dry cleaning = Nonflammable dry cleaning fluid. Detergent = mild detergent.
STAlNREMOVAL 195
Ammonia. Vinegar. Enzyme = Enzyme-containing detergent. Alcohol = Rubbing
alcohol. Remover = Nail polish or POG remover. Water. ProfessIonal = Call a
professional. Vacuum.
196 APPENDIX B
Use t ~ e recon:'mended cleaning agents in the order indicated in the table. For
more Information, see page 182. .
Dry cleaning = Nonflammable dry cleaning fluid. Detergent =mild detergent.
Ammonia. Vinegar. Enzyme = Enzyme-containing detergent. Alcohol = Rubbing
alcohol. Remover = Nail polish or POG remover. Water. Professional = Call a
professional. Vacuum.
198 APPENDIX B
Wine
2 3 4
Use the recommended cleaning agents in the order indicated in the table. For
more information, see page 182.
Dry cleaning = Nonflammable dry cleaning fluid. Detergent = mild detergent.
In the restaurant, sprinkle fresh
stains with Club soda. For red wine
spills, it might be beneficial to blot,
sprinkle on white wine, and blot
For washable clothing,
pouring boiling water through the
fabric from a height of 12 inches
may help.
Ammonia. Vinegar. Enzyme = Enzyme-containing detergent. Alcohol = Rubbing
alcohol. Remover = Nail polish or POG remover. Water. Professional = Call a
professional. Vacuum.
AppendixC
DISPOSAL OF HOUSEHOLD
CLEANING MATERIALS
The best way to dispose of a cleaning product is to use it up. If
you can't use it, try to find someone who can-give it away.
If either of these options is not feasible, check the label for rec-
ommendations regarding disposal. Some products may require
special handling.
Water-soluble products. Water-soluble cleaning products are
formulated to be treated in municipal sewage treatment plants or
household septic systems. Accordingly, products that do not rec-
ommend special handling can be poured down the drain. This in-
cludes all-purpose cleaners, bleaches, dishwashing and laundry
products, toilet bowl cleaners, and water-based metal cleaners and
polishes. Be sure to run copious amounts of water while discard-
ing, and never mix cleaning products-certain combinations may
release dangerous fumes.
Solid cleaning products. Solid cleaning soap
bars, rinse agents, soap pads, and toweldtes-should be disposed
of in the trash.
Solvent-based products. This category includes cleaning materi-
als such as turpentine, mineral spirits, and other stuff used to clean
paint brushes; spot removers; some metal and furniture cleaners;
and any cleaning product labeled flammable. Solvent-based prod-
ucts should be disposed of in the same manner as household haz-
201
202 ApPENDIX C
ardous waste. Contact your municipality for local procedures, or
call the manufacturer's telephone number-found 6n some prod-
uct labels.
Do not flush solvent-based wastes down the toilet; do not pour
them down a .storm drain; do not dump them in a ditch, in your
backyard, or in a vacant lot; and do not throw them out with the
trash. If you store hazardous cleaning materials in anticipation of
a collection day, keep them in well-ventilated racks, out of the
reach of children and animals. Store them in the original container,
tightly sealed, and kept dry. If a container begins to leak, place it
in a larger intact container of similar material.
Household Hazardous Waste Collection Centers
Many municipalities have some type of household hazardous
waste drop-off center. These services may be permanent or they
may open periodically-several days per week, one or two days
a year, or anything in between. Each center should list the specific
types of waste it will and won't accept. Commonly, centers accept
such items as cirain cleaners, solvent-based cleaning products,
paints, paint strippers, pesticides, batteries, gasoline, motor oil,
charcoal lighter fluid, solvents, etc. Most do not accept banned
chemicals such as PCBs, chlordane, and radioactive waste . . Call
your local sanitation authority for center locations and collection
schedules.
Some communities may not accept empty containers from
such products as bleach, toilet bowl cleaner; oven cleaner, and the
like, either for recycling or regular trash collection. These con-
tainers may also have to go to the household hazardous waste
collection site.
INDEX
Abrasive cleansers, 67-69
Acc-U-Test, 122
Acetate fabric, 153
Acetone in chemical paint
removers, 122
Acrylic furniture, 153
Air cleaners, 111-17
air flow and effectiveness
of, 113
allergies and, 115-16
filters, 112
maintenance and operating
costs, 114
noise, 114
odors and effectiveness of,
113-14
ozone generators, 116-17
performance measurement,
113-14
principles behind operation of
1 1 2 ~ 1 3 '
recommendations, 114-15
size and ability to perform, 112
whole-house, 117
Air conditioners
allergies and, 115, 116
cleaning, 153-54
Alcoholic beverage stains, 26
. Allergies, air cleaners and,
115-16
All-purpose cleaners, 43-44
Aluminum
cleaning, 106, 107, 154
scuff marks on, 154
American Academy of Allergy
and Immunology, 115
Ammonia
chlorine bleach and, caution
against mixing, 26, 46, 68, 84
window cleaners, ammonia-
based, 78 .
Amodex Stain Remover, 86
Amway Crystal Bright, 10
Animal dander, allergic reaction
to, 116
Annual cleaning chores, 3
Appliance exteriors, 154
Asphalt tile floors, 23, 154
Association of Home Appliance
Manufacturers, 113
Association of Specialists in
Cleaning and Restoration, 36
Asthmatics, 115
Audiotape recording and
playback heads, 154-55
Automobile carpeting,
. upholstery, and mats, 155
Automobile polishes, 118-20
abrasiveness of, 119
effectiveness of, 118-19
forms of, 118 .
recommendations, 119-20
washing before polishing,
1 1 ~ 2 0
Barbecue grills, 155
Bath mats, 155
Bathroom cleaners, 45-46
203
204 INDEX
Bathroom fixtures, 155
porcelain enamel, 168
Behold,30
Benzoyl peroxide, 22
Blankets, 156
Bleaches
all-fabric bleach in laundry
detergents, 95
on carpets or rugs, 22
chlorine. See Chlorine bleach
for laundry, 82-84
oxygen, 82--84
Blenders, 156
Bloodstains, 26-27
Blowers, power. See Power
blowers
Brass, polishing, 105-6, 156
"Bug zappers," 166
Butcherblocks, 174
Camcorders, 156-57
Cameras, 157
Candle wax, 27
Carpets and rugs, 17-22
first aid for stains, 21-22
guidelines for' do-it-yourself,
18-19
machine cleaning of, 17-20
manual cleaning of, 17
professional Cleaning of, 20-21
22 . ,
rec()mmendations, 21
stain removal, 21-22
vacuuming, 18, 20
Cars
carpeting, upholstery, and
mats, 155 .
polishes. See Automobile
polishes
Cast iron, caring for, 107
Cat litter box, 158
CDs (compact discs), 159
Chemical paint removal, 120,
121, 122-23
Chewing gum, 22, 27
Children, safety of. See Safety
China dishware, 158
See also Dishwashing liquids,
hand
Chlorine bleach, 45, 71
ammonia and, caution against
rrWdng, 26, 46,68,84
for laundry, 82-8.4
Chrome, polishing, 106, 107
Cigarette burns,27
Citrus jUicers, 158
Clean air delivery rate (CADR)
113 . '
Clean Water Lead in Paint Kit,
122 .
Clothes dryers, 158
Clothes washers. See Washers,
clothes
Coffeemakers, 158-59
Coffee stains, 27
Cold cream, 145
Compact discs (CDs), 159
Computer keyboards, 159
Computer monitors, 172
Concrete floors, 159-60
Cookware
aluminum, 107, 154
cast iron, 107
chrome plating, 107
copper, 106, 160
enameled, 107
microwave, 166-67
scouring cleansers used on, 68
stainless steel,106-7, 172
Copper, polishing, 105-6, 160
Countertops, 160
Curtains, 160-61
Daily cleaning chores, 2
Dehumiclifiers, 161
Delicate fabrics, 161
Detergents, 93-98
brightening by, 94, 95
in concentrated strengths, 93
Cost of,94
environment and, 93, 95-98
"green brands," 93, 96-97
hand-laundry, 10i-3
ingredients, 93, 94-95
national brands versus store
brands, 93, 94
packaging, 97
powders versus liquids, 93, 94
recommendations, 94 .
stain removal, 93"':'94
Dimethyl formamide (DMF) , 125
Dish sanitizing, 161
Dishwasher detergents, 9-10
Dishwashers, 10-13
cycles, 10-11
drying, 11
energy use, 11-12
hand dishwashing liquids,
caution against use of, 16
nOise, 12
reliability, 13
safety, 12
washing, 11
water usage, 11-,12
Dishwashing liquids, hand,
13-16
dishwasher, caution against use
in, 16
dose, 15
INDEX 205
methods for using, 13
other uses for, 16, 103
performance of, 14-15
the products, 14
recommendations, 15-16
Disinfecting, 161
Disposal of household cleaning
materials, 201-2
Drain cleaners, 22, 46-52
biological treatments, 48-49
chemical cleaners, 50-52
mechanical openers, 49-50
preventive maintenance, 47-48
safety, 52
Drinking water, treatment of. See
Water treatment
Dry cleaning, 98-99
alternative, 99
Dryers, clothes, 158
Dust cloths, 4
Dust mites, 111, 1'15, 116
Dust on hard surfaces, 161
Dyes, stains from, 27
"Electret" filter, 112-13
Electrical attraction, air cleaners
operating by, 112-13
Electric blankets, 161-62
Electric brooms, 76-77
Electric range tops, 162
Electrostatic precipitating cleaner
112 '
Electrostatic precipitators, 117
Enameled cookware, caring for,
107
Endust,30
Environment
detergents and, 93, 95-98
garbage bags, "green," 53
206 INDEX
Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA), 53, 98, 99, 133, 141
Equipment, care and storage of,
~
Fabric softeners, 100-101
Facial cleansers, 145-46
Facial tissues, 146-48
Fans, 162
Federal Trade Commission, 54
Filters, high efficiency particulate
arresting (HEPA), 112, 114
Flatware, stainless steel, 172
Floor care, 22-28, 162
asphalt tile, 23, 154
carpets and rugs. See Carpets
and rugs
combination products, 23-24
concrete, 159-60
finishing touches after stain
removal,28
first aid for stains, 26-28
floor cleaners, 23
linoleum floors, 23
natural materials, 23
no-wax floors, 22-26
recommendations, 25-26
rubber tile, 23
stain removal, 26-28
vinyl floors, 22-23, 174
waxing and wax removal,
24-25, 163
Fluorocarbons, 37
Food and Drug Administration,
U.S, (FDA), 116
Food mixers, portable, 169
Food processors, 163
Freezers, 163
Fruit juice stains, 27
Furniture, 29-41
purchasing, thinking of
maintenance when, 6-7
resin, 170
upholstered. See Upholstered
furniture
wood. See Wood furniture
Garbage bags, 52-57
capacity of, 54, 55-56
clOSing, method of, 57
dispensers, 57
"green" options, 53, 54
plastics used in, 56
recycled, 53
thickness, 56
for yard waste, 53
Garbage disposers, 164
Giving away unused items, 5
Glass blocks, foamed, .128
Glass-fiber fabrics, 164
Glassware, 164, 172
Grease stains, 27
Greasy dirt on hard surfaces, 164
Hand dishwashing liquids. See
Dishwashing liquids, hand
Handheld vacuum cleaners,
58-62
batteries for, 59
cleaning ability, 58-60
convenience, 60
features, 60-61
tecommendations, 61-62
wet spills, dealing with, 61
Hand-laundry detergents, 101-3
Hand soaps, 148-49
Hard water, 102
dishwashing liquids
and, 14, 15
dishwater detergents and, 10
stains from, 68, 69
water softeners, 138-39
Hazardous materials. See Safety
Hazardous waste, disposal of
household, 201-2
Heaters, 164-65
Heat guns for paint removal,
121, 123-24, 126
Heating systems, 165
Helpful hints, general house
cleaning, 5-7
High-efficiency particulate
arresting filters (HEPA), 112,
114
Hook scrapers, 126-27
Hot plates, 165
House cleaning, 4 ~ 7 9
HUmidifiers, 115-16, 165-66
Hydrogen peroxide, 22
Ink stains, 27
Insect killers, 166
International Agency for Re-
search on Cancer (lARC), 98
International Institute of Carpet
and Upholstery Certification,
36
Irons, steam, 172
Jeweler's rouge, 108
Juicers, citrus, 158
Kitchen exhaust fan, 111, 115
Kitchen fixtures, porcelain
enamel, 168
Kleen 'n Shine, 30
Laundry, 81-103
bleaches, 82-84
INDEX 207
boosters, 85-86
clothes washers. See Washers,
clothes
detergents. See Detergents
dry cleaning, 98-99
dryers, clothes, 158
fabric softeners, 100-101
hand-laundry detergents, 1 0 1 ~ 3
sorting, 81-82
spot removers, 85-86
washers. See Washers, dothes
Lead Detective, The, 122
Lead in drinking water, 133-34,
138
Lead paint, 120, 121-22, 123-24,
128, 129
Leather furniture, 34-35
Leaves, power blowers for.· See
Power blowers
Lighting when cleaning 7
Linen, 166
Linoleum floors, 23
Lint, 90, 166
Lipstick stains, 27
Lye, 62, 63, 124-25
Magic Wand, 86
Mats at entrances, 6
Mechanical paint removal, 121,
126-29
Metal maintenance, 105-9
aluminum, 106, 107, 154
brass, 105-6, 156
chrome, 106, 107
copper; 105-6, 160
silver care. See Silver, caring for
stainless steel, 106-7, 172
Methariol (wood alcohol) in
chemical paint removers, 122
Methemoglobinemia, 135
208 INDEX
Methylene chloride, 123, 125,
126
Microwave cookware, 166-67
Microwave ovens, 167
Mildew, 22, 167
bathroom cleaners, 45, 167
Monthly cleaning chores, 2
Multiprocess wet cleaning, 99
Murphy's Oil Soap, 30
Mustard stains, 2 7 ~ 2 8
Nail polish stains, 28
Negative-ion generator, 113
Nelson, Dr. Harold S., 115, 116
New cleaning product
reading the label carefully, 6
spot-testing with, 6, 38, 119
Newspapers for cleaning
windows, 77
Nitrate in drinking water, 135
Noxzema, 145
Nylon, 168
Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA), U.S.,
116, 125
Oil stains, 27
Old English Red Oil, 30
Organized cleaning, 1, 6
OSHA. See Occupational Safety
and Health Administration
(OSHA), U.S.
Oven cleaners, 62-64
Ovens
continuous-cleaning, 160
microwave, 167
self-cleaning, 170-71
Oz Cream Polish, 32
Ozonation, air cleaners operating
on principle of, 113
Ozone-generating air cleaners,
116-17
Painted surfaces, 168
Paint removal, 120-29
chemical, 120, 121, 122-23
heat guns for, 121, 123-24, 126
leaded paint, 120, 121-22, 123-
24, 128, 129
mechanical, 121, 126-:-29
professional paint removers,
121, 124-25, 126, 129
recommendations, 125-26
Paiht stains, 28
Paper towels, 64-67
for microwaving, 66
recommendations, 65-66
shop towels for tougher jobs,
66-67
Perchloroethylene, 98-99
Pesticides, 22
Pets
animal dander, allergic reaction
to, 116
cat litter box, 158
safety, 7
Phosphates, 10, 93, 95, 97
Planning cleaning tasks, 1-3
Plant food, liquid, 22
Plants, 7
Pledge, 30
Pollen, 115
Polyester, 168
Pond's Cold Cream, 145
Porcelain enamel bathroom and
kitchen fixtures, 168
Pots and pans .. See Cookware
Power blowers, 129-32
cleaning, 131
convenience features, 132
effectiveness of, 131
electric, 129
gasoline-powered, 129-30
handling, 131":'32
noise level, 129
vacuuming ability, 131
Professional cleaning services
for carpets and rugs, 20-21, 22
for leather furniture, 35
pets and plants, removal of, 7
for routine house cleaning, 4-5
for upholstered furniture 35
36-38 ' ,
Professional paint removers 121
124-25, 126, 129 "
Push scrapers, 127
Radon, 134-35
Rasps and abrasive blocks, 127
Rayon. See Silk
Records, long-playing (LP), 169
Recycling unused items, 5
Refrigerator/freezer, 169-70
Resin furniture, 170
Rhodizonate, 122
Rubber gloves
for dishwashing, 16
to protect hands from cleaning
products, 26, 44, 46, 108
Rubber tile floors, 23
Rugs. See Carpets and rugs
Rust removal, 28, 68
Safety
chemical paint removers, for
use of, 122-23, 126
cleaning materials storage 3-4
6,26,106 "
of clothes washers, 91
INDEX 209
of dishwashers,12
of drain cleaners, 52
equipment storage, 4
for heat guns used in paint
removal, 124 .
lead paint removal 120
121-22, 128, 129 ' ,
for mechanical paint removal
128-29 '
of metal polishes, 106
of oven cleaners 62
of scouring 68
of toilet bowl cleaners, 70
ventilation, 26
water treatment. See Water
treatment
Safe Water Drinking Act, 140
Sanding sponges; 127-28
Sandpaper substitutes, 127
Scheduling cleaning taskS, 1-3
Scotchgard, 37
Scott's Liquid Gold, 30
Scouring cleansers, 67-(j9
Scratches on wood furniture 32
164 . ' ,
Seasonal or semiannual cleaning
chores, 3
Self-cleaning ovens, 170-71
Shaklee Basic-D Concentrate 10
Shavers, 171 '
Shoe polish stains, 28
Silicone, 33,37
Silk, 171
Silver, caring for
with antique finishes, 109
jeweler'S rouge, 108
recommendations, 109
with satin finishes, 109
staining from polish, 109
types of products, 107--8
210 INDEX
Slow cookers, 171
Smoke detectors, 171-72
Soaps, hand, 148-49
Sodium sulfide, 122
Soft water, dishwashing liquids
and, 14-15
Sponges, sanding, 127-28
Spots on glassware and dishes,
172
Spot-testing new products, 6, 38,
119
Stainless steel, polishing, 106-7,
172
Stains, 177-99
on carpets or rugs, 21-22
chart, stain removal, 184-99
detergents' removal of, 93-94
on floors, 26-28
on leather furniture, 35
protection of upholstered
furniture against, 37-38
on upholstered furniture, 39-41
on wood furniture, 31
Steam .irons, 172
Steel wool for'mechanical paint
removal, 128
Suede furniture, 34
Swimming pool chemicals, 22
Tar stains, 28
Teak furniture, 32.,...33
Teflon, 37
Television sets, 172
Tissues, 146-48
Toasters, toaster ovens, and
toaster oven-broilers, 173
Toilet bowl cleaners, 22, 69-72
in-bowl cleaners, 69-70
in-tank cleaners, 70-72
recommendations, 71-72
safety of, 70
Toilet tissues, 150-51
Toluene in chemical paint
removers, 122
Touch-ups, 5
Upholstered furniture, 33-41
disposing of soiled, 33-34
fabric guide, 39, 40'
fabric protectors, chemical,
37-38
guide to fabrics, 39, 40
hand cleaning of, 35...,.36
leather, 34-35
machine cleaning of, 35, 36,
38-39
professional cleaning of, 35,
36-38
recommendations, .38-39
replacing a foam cushion from
a zippered cover, 6
reupholstering, 34
slipcovers for, 34
stain protection, chemical, 37-
38
stain removal, 39-41
vacuuming of, 33, 38
Urine stains, 28
Vacuum cleaners, 72-77
air flow, 73
carpet cleaning, effectiveness
in, 72-73
cleaning height adjustments,
74-75
cord storage, 75-76
ease of use, 74-76
emptying and replacing bags,
76 .
exhaust, 73-74
handheld. See Handheld
vacuum cleaners
lightweight electric brooms,
76-77
maintaining, 76, 173
microfiltration bags, 74
moveability, 74, 75
noise, 76
on stairs, 75
starting, 74
suction control, 73
uprights vs. canisters, 72-76
Vacuuming, 166
carpets and rugs, 18, 20,
157-58
extension cords, use of, 6
of leather furniture, 34
of upholstered furniture, 33, 38
See also Handheld vacuum
cleaners; Vacuum cleaners
Vaporizers, 115-16, 165-66
Varnish stains, 28
VCR recording and playback
heads, 173-74
Ventilation, 26, 111, 114-15, 126
See also Air cleaners
Vinyl floors, 22-23, 174
Waffle makers, 174
Washers, clothes, 86-93, 174
capacity, 88
controls, 91-92
energy use, 87, 88--89
front-loading, 87
lint, filtering out, 90
noise, 90-91
recommendations, 92-93
repair history, 89
safety, 91
sand disposal, 90
INDEX 211
"suds saver," 89-90
top-loaders, 87
unbalanced loads, 90
water consumption, 89-90
Water heaters, 174
Water spots or damage to wood
furniture, 31
Water treatment, 132-40
activated alumina, 139
aeration, 139
bacteriologically contaminated
water, 135
carafe filters, 140
carbon filtration, 135, 138
chart, 136-137
cost, range in, 132
countertop filters, 139--140
distillation, 138
distillers, 139
faucet-mounted filters, 140
lead in water, 13y..34, 138
legislation affecting drinking
water standards, 140--143
methods, 135, 138--40
nitrate levels in water, 135
problem pollutants, 133-135
products for, 139-140
radon in water, 134-35
recommendations, 140
reverse-osmosis (RO), 138
reverse-osmosis (RO) devices,
139
softeners, 138-39
testing of water, 133-35
undersink filters, 139
Wax
candle, 27
on carpets or rugs, 22
floor care, waxing and wax
removal for, 24-25, 163
212 INDEX
Weekly cleaning chores, 2
Window cleaners, 77-79
care in use of, 78-79
homemade recipes, 78
newspapers used with, 77
precautions when cleaning, 6
store products, 78
Wooden work surfaces, 174
Wood furniture, 29-33, 163-64
home brews, 30
older furniture, caring for
valued, 32-33
pretesting cleaners, 30
reading labels on cleaners, 31
recommendations, 32
routine cleaning, 30
scratches on, 32, 164
stain removal, 31
teak furniture, 32-33
water damage and spots, 31
waxing, 29-30, 31, 32-33
Wood-handled utensils, 175
Wool,175
Xylol,125

HOW TO CLEAN PRACTICALLY ANYTHING
FOURm EDmON/UPDATED
THE EDrmRs OF CONSUMER REPORTS BOOKS WITH EDWARD KJpPEL

Consumer Reports Books A Division of Consumers Union Yonkers, New York

Copyright © 1996 by Consumers Union of United States, Inc., Yonkers, New York 10703. Published by Consumers Union of United States, Inc., Yonkers, New York 10703. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data How to clean practically anything/the editors of Consumer Reports Books with Edward Kippel.-4th ed.lupdated p. em. Includes index ISBN 0-89043-843-9 1. House Cleaning. 2. Cleaning. I. Kippel, Edward. II. Consumer Reports Books. TX324. H69 1996 648.5-<1c20 95-37498 CIP Design by Suzette Ruys First printing, January 1996 This book is printed on recycled paper. Manufactured in the United States of America How to Clean Practically Anything, Fourlh Edition/Updated is a Consumer Reports Book published by Consumers Union, the nonprofit organization that publishes Consumer Reports, the monthly magazine of test reports, product Ratings, and buying guidance. Established in 1936, Consumers Union is chartered under the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law of the State of New York. The purposes of Consumers Union, as stated in its charter, are to provide consumers with information and counsel on consumer goods and services, to give information on all matters relating to the expenditure of the family income, and to initiate and to cooperate with individual and group efforts seeking to create and maintain decent living standards. Consumers Union derives .its income solely from the sale of Consumer Reporls and other publications. In addition, expenses of occasional public service efforts may be met, in part, by nonrestrictive, noncommercial contributions, grants, and fees . Consumers Union accepts no advertising or product samples and is not beholden in any way to any commercial interest. Its Ratings and reports are solely for the use of the readers of its publications. Neither the Ratings, nor the reports, nor any Consumers Union publications, including this book, may be used in advertising or for any commercial purpose. Consumers Union will take all steps open to it to prevent such uses of its material, its name, or the name of Consumer ReporiS.

*

...Contents FOREWORD ... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . .9 Dishwasher Detergents .. . . . . . . . . .ix ACKNOWIEDGMENTS . . . . .. . . . .. .. . .1 DISHES . . . . . . . . . .22 Hard-Surface-Floor First Aid for Stains . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . .. .. . . .. . . . . . .. .9 Dishwashers .. . . .. . . . . . . 26 . . . . 21 Floor Care . . . . . . .xi INIRODUcnON . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . 13 FLOORS . . .. . . . . . .17 First Aid for Carpet Stains . . . . . . . . . .. .. . .. . . 10 Hand Dishwashing Liquids ... . . .. .. . . . . .. .. .. . . . . . . . . .. ... 17 Carpet and Rug Cleaning . . . . . . ...

. . . 67 Toilet Bowl Cleaners . . . .. .. . .. . ... . ... .. . : . 69 Vacuum Cleaners . ... . . . . .. .. .. .. . .. ... . . . .. . . .. .. . ... . .... . . . . . . . ... .. . . . . . . . .. .. . . . . . . ... . . .. . . .. .72 Window Cleaners .43 All-Purpose Cleaners . . ... ... . .. . . . .85 Clothes Washers . . . .. . ... . . . . . ..86 Detergents .52 Handheld Vacuum Cleaners ... .. .... . ..82 Boosters . . . . . . . . .. .. .. .. . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Upholstered Furniture . ... 64 Scouring Cleansers .VI CONTENTS FURNITURE . . . . . . . . .. . . ..... . . .. .. . . .. .. 101 . . . . .. . ...... ... . .. .. .. .... . .. . . . .... . . . . .58 Oven Cleaners ... .. . . . . .. . . .. ... . . .. 93 Dry Cleaning .. .45 Drain Cleaners . . ...29 Wood Furniture . . . . . . .. . .. .. . . .. . ... . . . .. . .. . . .. .. . .. . . . .. . .. . .. . . .. .. . ... .. 62 Paper Towels .. . . .... .81 Bleaches . . .. .. . .. .. . . . . . . 98 Fabric Softeners . .. . . . .. ... . . . . ..·. 100 Hand-Laundry Detergents . .... ... . .. . .....43 Bathroom Cleaners . .. . ... . . .. .. 33 HOUSE CLEANING . . . . . . . .. . . .46 Garbage Bags . 77 LAUNDRY . . . . .. . .. . . . ... . . .. . . ... . . ..

. .. . . .. . . . ... ... . .. .177 APPENDIX C Disposal of Household Cleaning Materials . . . . ... .. .. .. 129 Water Treatment .. .. . . . .. . . :145 Facial Tissues . .. .. . .. 148 Toilet Tissues . .... 150 APPENDIX A Tips for Cleaning a yariety of Household Items . . .. .CONTENTS VII METAL MAiN7ENANCE . . ... . . . .. .. . . . . . . . .132 PERSONAL CARE .. . . ... . . .. . ... . . . .. . .. .. 153 APPENDIX B Stain Removal . . . .201 INDEX . . . . . ... . . . . . . 105 Metal Polishes . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . ....... . . . . . . . . ... ... 105 Silver Care ... .. . . .. . . .. . . . . .. . . . . 107 MISCELlANEOUS . . . .. .. ... ... . . . . . . .. ... . . . 146 Hand Soaps . ... . .. . . .. . . . .. . 111 Air Cleaners . 120 Power Blowers . .. . .. . . . . ... . . . . .. . .. . . . .. . . . .111 Auto Polishes . . .118 Paint Removal . . .. . . . . . . ... .. .. . . . . . . ... .. . ... . . . .. .... . . . . . .203 . .. ... . . . . .. ... . .. . . .. . . . . .. . . . .. 145 Facial Cleansers .. .. ... .. .. . . ...

a charge for each report obtained from this service. Ratings of tested products were included.) . In past editions. If you want to find a recent report on a particular class of product. cleaning chemicals. these Ratings were soon out of date.Foreword This book contains valuable information based on Consumers Union's unbiased tests of detergents. see the index in the latest issue of Consumer Reports. visit your local library. But as you might imagine. So a more generic book was created. or contact Consumer Reports Facts by FAX at 800-766-9988. and cleaning equipment. (There is . designed to be used in conjunction with recent Consumer Reports articles highlighting the best products' for each need.

Chemical and Textiles.Acknowledgments The editors of Consumer Reports Books would like to express their appreciation to the directors and each of the members of Consumers Union's Appliance. and Recreation and Home Improvement departments for reviewing and providing comments designed to enhance the quality of each of the sections of this book. Home Environment. Public Service. Among these dedicated individuals. special thanks to Edward Miller (senior project leader) and Bert Papenburg (director of testing) of the Chemical and Textiles Department for their help with many of the chapters. .

floor. monthly. may be easier to remove before it builds up and combines with other soil such as body oils and tiny airborne droplets of cooking grease. house 1 . systematic light cleaning has advantages over periodic upheaval. It may be possible to budget your time so that weekly chores are spread out over several days. and so forth. dust on wooden surfaces. and annually. and furniture finishes. the continuous cleaning process is far easier on household surfaces. It minimizes the need for scrubbing that causes unnecessary wear and tear on wall. For one thing. as well as on upholstery. For people with weekday responsibilities other than cleaning. Some find it easier to do a chore or two a day rather than let tasks accumulate and become overwhelming. In addition. Frequent vacuuming will also minimize the need for professional cleaning.Introduction ORGANIZED CLEANING Many people find that frequent. weekly. draperies. semiannually. PLANNING Develop a list of all tasks that need to be done during the year and group them under frequency headings-daily.

paying special attention to cleaning under cushions and in crevices between the back and the cushion support. after each use. and brush shades and blinds. Wash and. Clean under furniture and behind it. turn over mattresses. But even within the limits of available time. To prolong their life. where applicable. Divide responsibilities among all family members. and kitchen counters wiped after each meal. end to end and side to side. In hot weather. even better. if necessary. Make certain that everyone knows who does what and when. it's a good idea to plan to accomplish household tasks on a regular schedule. brush upholstered furniture. Picking up should become second nature. where applicable. pictures. Clean kitchen range burners. which will help equalize their wear. Wipe the refrigerator and kitchen cabinet fronts. and mirrors. Polish wood furniture and vacuum upholstered furniture. Wipe window sills. The following schedule is meant as a guideline to suggest how a home can be cleaned with well-defined tasks. Weekly. Do one or more of the following special jobs in several rooms on the same day: vacuum and. Daily. clean air conditioner filters according to the manufacturer's recommendations. wax the kitchen floor. Dust radiators. woodwork. brush curtains and draperies. . Monthly. and put away. Wash bathroom basins. vacuum and. Clean the kitchen sink and wipe the range surfaces (including the microwave oven) once a day or. wipe walls and around doorknobs. Polish bright metal surfaces. Empty wastebaskets. Wipe WQod trim and. dried. Damp mop the kitchen floor. Dust furniture and shelves. fixtures . Dishes should be washed.2 INTRODUCTION maintenance must be on a catch-as-catch-can basis. where needed. Vacuum rugs and floors. and floors. What you clean and how often you clean depend upon your personal preferences and tolerances. Wash windows.

(The more clutter. Wash curtains and draperies or have them dry cleaned.) Rearrange clothes closets by season. if space permits. Wash mattress covers. oiled. Have the furnace cleaned and tuned in late spring or early fall. Dust the coils behind or underneath the refrigerator. Keep cleaning equipment as clean and dry as possible. Annually. Put power and hand gardening tools in good order--cleaned. Be sure that any enclosure where clean- . The same applies to snow removal equipment in the spring. A central air-conditioning system arid room air conditioners should be checked for proper operation before the onset of hot weather. the harder it is to clean. it might be worth the investment to duplicate supplies-such as vacuum cleanersso that you can have them on the same floor where they are used. EQUIPMENT AND STORAGE If everything is kept organized. Keep special bathroom cleaning equipment and supplies in or near the bathroom. it will be easier for you to work and you won't waste time looking for something when you need it. Take inventory of the items in closets and drawers that are no longer useful.INTRODUCTION 3 Seasonally or semiannually. This will allow the fiber to breathe and prevent moth damage. Weed out unused clothing that can be donated to appropriate agencies. If you live in a two.) Pack wool clothing in cloth bags. and greased-before storing them for the winter. Pack winter and summer clothing where it will remain clean and free from moth damage until needed again. so that it's ready for the next use. (Dry-cleaning establishments commonly offer free storage for items you bring them for cleaning. Shampoo carpets and rugs or have them cleaned professionally every 12 to 18 months.or three-story dwelling. hanging clothes by type for easy access.

ask for referrals from reliable . Cloths will hold dust better if they are pretreated. Let the cloth stand in the jar for a day or two. If you decide to use professional help. Since cleaning products are often hazardous. although the solution can be expensive. others employ a cleaning person once a week or every two weeks or so. as well as a package or two of hand sponges. One obvious way to escape cleaning. Keep a supply of paper vacuum-cleaner dust bags on hand. Although they may be costlier to use-and some might be less effective than cloth and harsh on some surfaces-some people find paper towels convenient. You may also want to stock spare sponge-mop refills. reliable. Hang them to prevent premature wear and deformation that result in loss of usefulness.4 INTRODUCTION ing materials are stored has ventilation holes in the door to allow volatile materials to evaporate from cloths. Good dust cloths can be made from cast-off soft cotton garments and bedding. off-brand bags may not work well. make sure the shelves on which they are stored are high enough to be out of reach of young children. Brooms and brushes should not rest on their bristles. and mops. Put about two teaspoons of liquid polish into a container and turn it until a thin layer of polish covers the inside surface. Use the brand that is recommended for your particular vacuum. Avoid cluttering a cleaning closet with rarely used supplies and equipment. ANOTHER SOLUTION Housecleaning takes time and effort. and courteous home-cleaning service. Some people use a professional service once or twice a year. is to employ a qualified. sponges. A simple method is to put a cloth into a screw-cap glass jar that has been coated on the inside with furniture polish.

or recycle it rather than having to clean it. but it is something we have to do. pick the paper up and throw it out. When negotiating with a prospective housecleaning provider. (Gravity carries dust down onto lower surfaces. and how frequently and on what day of the week they'll provide the service. dispose of it. how much it will cost. If there is a hand print on an otherwise perfectly clean mirror. Sometimes. Put some paper down. • It is not necessary to clean things that are not dirty. • If you don't need or like something in your house. how long it will take. If that fails. Be sure there is an understanding of what cleaning materials and equipment they'll bring and what you will have to make available. give it away. Be sure the cleaning provider regularly tells you when supplies are low so you can stock up before their next visit. Always ask for and check references. all that is needed is a touch-up. check the Yellow Pages under Housecleaning. don't feel you have to clean the whole mirror. Tell them where the items you're responsible for will be kept.INTRODUCTION 5 neighbors and friends.) • Surfaces that you or your visitors can't see-r-like the top of a cabinet-don't have to be cleaned regularly. just attack the print. You do not need to dry-clean a suit when it only has to be aired. • Always clean from top to bottom. The following suggestions should make the task of cleaning easier. brushed. be sure you both understand what is going to be done. HELPFUL HINTS Few of us like to clean. so why not minimize the effort required. . and when it gets too dirty. or pressed.

6

INTRODUCTION

• If you're vacuuming in a large room, add a 25- to 50-foot extension cord to avoid the exasperation of having to stop and relocate the plug. Be sure the cord has the same power rating as the vacuum. • Place mats strategically at each entrance to collect dirt that would otherwise be tracked in from the outside onto carpets and floors. Encourage friends and family to wipe their feet before entering the house. • Avoid any more walking back and forth than is absolutely necessary by gathering all the supplies you'll need for a particular project and bringing them along with you at one time in a pailstyle organizer. • Before using any new cleaning product or an old-standby product on a new item, be sure to spot-test it on an inconspicuous part of the item for possible damage. Pretesting for possible damage is especially important. It will be mentioned often throughout this book. • Store all household cleaning products in their original containers, with original labels intact so you'll be able to refresh your memory with regard to directions for use, suggested precautions, and possible antidotes. Before using any new cleaning product, be sure to read the product's label carefully. Product formulations can change, so it is also prudent to read the labels on your old standby products before using a new container. • To replace a foam cushion taken from a zippered cover, place the cushion in a plastic garbage bag and insert the bag openend first into the cover. Then, all you have to do is pull the bag out, leaving the foam in place. • Be careful when cleaning windows to avoid getting window cleaner on adjacent painted surfaces, furniture, or carpeting and damaging them.

INTRODUCTION

7

• Don't buy furnishings solely with aesthetics in mind. When purchasing a carpet or piece of furniture, be sure to ask about issues related to maintenance. Look for cleanability codes on upholstered furniture. An "X" code means the piece 'cannot be cleaned by any method other than vacuuming. • Maximize lighting when cleaning or attempting to remove a stain. That way you won't miss an important area that requires your attention. • If you plan to have your carpets or furniture cleaned professionally, be sure to remove pets and plants that might be affected by cleaning chemicals. Keep family members and' pets out until everything is dry and you are given the "all clear" to enter the area.

Dishes
DISHWASHER DETERGENTS

"Liquid gel" detergents solve the two major drawbacks of liquid dishwasher detergents: the liquids tend to dribble out of the dishwasher's main wash cup yet tend to empty incompletely from their containers, leaving a sizable amount unused. The gels are freeflowing and dispense completely from their containers. The gels are better than powders at removing lipstick from glasses and cups. But the powders are better than gels in overall dishwashing, cleaning dried-on foods, and preventing washed off foods from spotting and resoiling dishes. While all the dishwasher detergents Consumers Union has tested tend to discolor silver-plated flatware, after long exposure powders tend to be slightly safer than gels in this regard. Powders and gels both etch glassware when used in soft water. Typically, damage to glassware is less likely in hard water. Powders and most gels are safer to use on fine china with overglaze patterns than they used to be years ago. However, it would be prudent to hand wash fine china, silver, and crystal.
9

Although both are excellent in overall dishwashing. ENVIRONMENrAL EFFECTS Most dishwasher detergents contain phosphates. This helps the dishwasher rinse away spots and film. manufacturers have worked on reducing the amount of phosphates in dishwasher detergents. change your brand of detergent or try a rinse agent.10 DISHES COSTS Store brands tend to be the cheaper products to use. and a few have been able to eliminate them altogether. A dishwasher's Normal or Regular cycle typically includes two washes interspersed with two or three rinses. Over the years. Two powders not sold in stores-Shaklee Basic-D Concentrate and Amway Crystal Bright--deserve special mention because of their extraordinarily high price and cost per load. so are other. RINSE AGENTS In areas of the country with hard water. there is a more pro- nounced tendency for spots or film to form on glassware and dishes after a wash. A Heavy cycle can entail longer wash periods. But dishwasher detergents with phosphates are still permitted everywhere. causing it to sheet off the dishes. a third wash. DISHWASHERS Most dishwashers offer some variation on the basic wash-rinsedry cycle. hotter water. much-less-expensive powders. If your dishwasher leaves spots or film. Phosphates help dishwasher detergents do their job better. A rinse agent is designed to lower the surface tension of water. especially in hard water. .

Whatever the method. The harsh detergents and possible jostling could etch or otherwise damage fine china. No-heat air drying. Most machines also use their water-heating element to dry the dishes. which utilizes evaporation and heat retained from the wash. Drying flatware is a bit more . Instead of stacking dirty dishes in the sink or the dishwasher. W/tSHING AND DRYING Fancy electronic controls don't necessarily translate into better cleaning. Don't expect a machine that offers a Pots and Pans cycle to do the work that requires abrasive cleaners and elbow grease. necessary or not. You may be able to speed up drying by propping open the door. The common Rinse and Hold option can be useful for small families. In fact. A Light cycle usually includes just one wash. And think twice before subjecting good crystal or china--especially sets with gold trim-to a dishwasher's China/Crystal setting. Additional washing and drying options abound. These basic cycles are probably all that is needed. electronic or not. Most machines. you can gradually accumulate a full load.'RGY AND NOISE If you don't rinse dishes before you load-and you needn't-a dishwasher actually uses no more water than hand washing with a double sink. a dishwasher uses less water than if you . work pretty well overall. rinsing the dishes as you go. some have a blower or a separate duct-mounted heater.DISHWASHERS 11 or all of the above.demanding for some. ENJc. produces reasonably dry dishes provided you can wait a few hours. your machine should do an excellent job of drying china and glasses.

can emit steam. SAFETY All models have a safety interlock that will turn off the power when the door is opened. . Dishwashers have become quieter over the years.12 DISHES washed dishes under a running faucet. No-heat drying saves a penny or two. often at a toddler's eye level. the total comes to about $45 a year. Door vents. An electric water heater will consume about 12 cents of electricity to provide the 9 gallons of 120°F water typically used for one load. assuming you run the dishwasher once a day. The machines themselves use a small amount of electricity. Quiet operation has become a dishwasher's main selling point. a machine's heating element can inflict a serious burnl Make sure that the appliance has cooled before you reach into the bottom of the tub to clean a filter or retrieve an item that has dropped. The hot-water cost for a gasor oil-fired heater will be about 4 cents a load.6 and 1. consuming between 0. Some electronic models have a hidden touchpad that locks the controls to discourage children from playing with them-a worthwhile feature. so keep children away while the dishwasher is running. which senses accidental overfilling and also cuts power. usually on knives or forks as they reach over a flatware basket into the machine's dish rack. It's always a good idea to load flatware with their points down. or a total of about $15 a year. Heating water to feed the dishwasher accounts for the bulk of its energy costs. All models have a float switch. In addition.4 kilowatt-hours of electricity when supplied with 120°F water. second only to washing performance and durability. which ~orks out to between 5 and 12 cents of electricity at average power rates. Many dishwasher accidents involve people cutting themselves.

brush. Then clean the dishes using a sponge. suds stability has become accepted (rightly or wrongly) as an indication of a product's remaining cleaning power. Frigidaire. Hotpoint. or dishcloth. Although a hand dishwashing liquid does not have to produce any meaningful amount of suds to be effective at removing soil. .HAND DISHWASHER RELIABIliTY DISHWASHING LIQUIDS 13 Some of the more reliable brands. plates. plastic scrubbing pad. which is then used to. or equivalent before or during the process of filling it with water. • Squirt a quantity of hand dishwashing liquid into a sink. Tappan. wash the dishes. or dishcloth. pots. brush. • Squirt some detergent directly onto a sponge. plastic scrubbing pad. The respondents reported using one or more of the following methods. Amana. Consumers Union surveyed staff members regarding their dishwashing habits. General Electric Monogram. utensils. plastic scrubbing pad. etc. • Squirt some detergent into the dish and wash it using a sponge. They also suspend (~mulsify) the soil in the wash water to facilitate rinsing. HAND DISHWASHING LIQUIDS Hand dishwashing liquids are formulated to facilitate removal of greasy soil from dishes (glasses. brush. and White-Westinghouse dishwashers were most frequently reported as having needed repairs.). many of the respondents reported using all three methods. or dishcloth. In fact. based on the experiences of Consumer Reports readers with dishwashers bought new since 1987. Whirlpool. have been Magic Chef. and General Electric. dishpan.

steel wool.moval of greasy soil. The 22-fluidounce size is commonly used. which can also irritate. The number of plates that hand dishwashing liquids will wash before the suds are depleted varies from product to product and is affected by water hardness. They may also contain fragrances. sponge. the hand dishwashing liqUids Consumers Union tested were more effective at removing greasy soil in hard water than in soft water.14 DISHES THE PRODUCTS Most products have pull-up dispensing tops. Their primary function is to facilitate the rt. They were very good to excellent in hard water. presumably for ease of gripping. many products come in larger sizes. But suds stability is not the most important characteristic of good hand dishwashing liquids. However. Hand dishwashing liquids may contain alcohol to keep the surfactants dissolved. especially carbonized (burned on) food residues (e. which can be difficult. and colorants. and ultraconcentrated versions come in smaller containers. or plastic scrubbing pad. . They help loosen and emulsify the soil so you can more easily remove it with some amount of elbow grease and the help of a dish cloth.g. Most of the brands will not do much worse. In Consumers Union testing. PRODUCT PERFORMANCE Most test methods for hand dishwashing liquids are based entirely on the products' ability to sustain a head of foam in hard water while challenged by soiled plates. Most containers have contoured shapes. the fat in a broiler pan). alcohol may irritate some individuals' hands. preservatives. Typically. several well-known national brands washed more than 12 plates in both hard and soft water. Some have snap-top dispensing caps or screw caps without dispensers. Hand dishwashing liquids do not remove soil by themselves..

a few might be more irritating to some people's hands. about 20 percent had. But some products are less harsh than others. RECOMMENDATIONS If you normally use a hand dishwashing liquid to clean a few . (Most were merely good. Thus. Many Consumers Union staff members reported that they never use protective gloves when they clean dishes. Consumers Union staff members were asked to show how much hand dishwashing liquid they would squeeze into a sink or dishpan." To see what a "squeeze" might deliver. The results varied from less than 1 gram to about 25 grams. Consumers Union found the best "natural" brands to be almost as mild as baby shampoo. In hard water. the surfactants in all hand dishwashing liquids will remove natural oils from the skin. Accordingly. Whereas most products tested were at least as mild as an adult shampoo.) However. Contrary to claims that some products attack grease but not skin oils. instructions to use a "firm squeeze" to dispense hand dishwashing liquid do not provide enough information for proper dose control. some were not much better than using only hot water-which is not very good at all. the better products (especially the ones with the best suds stability) might be slightly more difficult to rinse than most of the others.HAND DISHWASHING LIQUIDS 15 whereas the best products were only very good in soft water. Although most of those who never wear gloves or wear them only some of the time reported that they had not experienced any skin irritation. In soft water the differences are less significant. In fact. DOSE Very few products provide the user with any definitive dose information. whereas 22 percent use them some of the time. several tell the user to employ "one firm squeeze. none of these products will actually be beneficial for your hands.

thereby making the scrubbing job as easy as possible. . as mentioned throughout this book. The hot water will help to soften the greasy soil. However. they can be used for many other stain removal and cleaning purposes. serving dishes. When washing in a ·dishpan or sink. they'll also protect sensitive hands from irritation. Caution: Do not use a hand dishwashing liquid in an automatic dishwasher-it will oversuds. If this does not do an adequate cleaning job. OTHER USES Hand dishwashing liquids are very versatile. Rubber gloves will permit use of the hottest possible water.16 DISHES lightly soiled dishes like milk or soft drink glasses. To clean heavily soiled pots. you'll need a product with the ability to effectively emulsify the grease and loosen the tough soil. start with a dilute solution (about one tablespoon of hand dishwashing liquid for every three to four gallons of water). add more. wash dishes and utensils by groups. A good sequence is glasses. plates. pans. making it easier for the hand dishwashing liquid's surfactants to loosen and emulsify it. and. and dishes. soup bowls or sandwich plates. if you wash a sink full of dishes. use water that is as hot as your hands can bear. and pots/ pans last. No matter which product you choose. they can be used to hand launder delicate washable clothing. They can be used to clean dirty hands. flatware. it may be best to apply a few drops of the product to a dishcloth or sponge and refresh it as needed. Start with the least soiled group and end with those having the heaviest soil build-up.

with a recommended cleaning product. They not 17 . and liquids sprayed straight from the container. CIEANING Willi A MACHINE Wet-cleaning machines (also known as "steamers" or hot-water extraction equipment) are usually sold or rented. and the job goes quickly. "dry" powders are slightly moist. of course. which the machine sprays on the rug. None of the ones tested in the past were better than fair in treating any of Consumers Union's test stains. The powders are almost dry.Floors CARPET AND RUG CLEANING Typical supermarket carpet-cleaning products include powders. A few concentrated products-powder or liquid-must be mixed with water. so the room can be used immediately afterward. The powders minimize the mess.) Stains are likely to be a problem for supermarket carpetcleaning products. foam shampoos that come in a pressurized can. Most manufacturers recommend that you gently work the cleaner into the carpet with a brush and remove the residue with a regular vacuum cleaner (liquids. need time to dry first). (Actually. Manual carpet cleaning isn't as unpleasant as it might sound. The majority of machines use a hot detergent solution.

which is collected either in the base of the machine or in a removable container. Open windows and move air through the house with fans. some machines use powder.." A carpet's cleanliness can be optimized by ensuring that your machine provides good extraction. and use them according to the manufacturer's recommended concentrations. Use an extra "dry stroke. If you get drops of water. you will eventually need to pour out the dirty water. Neutralize. shampoo. This can pose transportation problems if you don't have access to a vehicle with adequate cargo space.n weigh almost 50 pounds. Allow the· carpet to dry completely. With any machine that uses water. Dry properly. Some machines . If your hand is damp and the carpet feels like a wrung-out sponge. you fill a reservoir with hot water. Keep family members and pets off the carpet until it is dry. A final vinegar-water rinse (1 cup of white vinegar in 1 gallon of plain water) and a thorough extraction are helpful to remove and neutralize any detergent residue in the carpet. . extract the carpeting again with the spray off. Use thecorTect chemicals. Instead of water and detergent. then make a second pass with the water spray off. You can usually find carpet-cleaning chemicals close to carpet-cleaning rental equipment or in the cleaning section of a grocery store. The need for water complicates matters. When full. dish soap. Bleach can ruin your carpet and void a manufacturer's warranty. They may apply the powder.get their water supply via a long hose that you attach to a hot-water faucet. Do not use laundry soap. manufacturer's instruc~ tions carefully before attempting to shampoo your carpet. In other models. and use suction to remove GUIDEUNES FOR Do-IT-YOURSELF CARPET CLEANING Be sure to give your carpet a thorough vacuuming before you start the wet cleaning process. As you dean. Do not increase the amount of carpet detergent. etc. Water can seep through and damage a hardwood floor or the latex backing of an old carpet (it shouldn't hurt the polyolefin backing of most new carpets but can delaminate adhesives). Use only chemicals designed to clean carpeting. If the package says to use one ounce. the part you empty ca. measure it out. or with any wet cleaner you scrub yourself. to dean your carpet. Pre-spray where necessary. Rented wet-cleaning machines are likely to be larger than those sold to homeowners. work it in. Be sure you do not use too much." increase the amount of pre-spray Coften called traffic lane cleaner) that you use. Never put any kind of bleach through the extraction equipment. Whether you use a rented "steamer" or one purchased for regular use. This increases the amount of water removed from the carpeting. you must wait for the carpet to dry before walking on it. which can take at least overnight. Some of the major brands' of carpet-cleaning chemicals have been tested by major fiber producers and approved for use on stainresistant carpeting. Make an extraction pass with the water spray on.18 FLOORS CARPET AND RUG CLEANING 19 only apply the solution but also use suction to remove it. If your carpeting is "really dirty. the hose is dragged along. Check your work by wiping your hand across the top of the carpeting. read the. There's also a risk of wetting the carpet too much. you are extracting correctly. With both kinds.

Residual powder may cause problems if you wet-clean your carpet at a later date. (Before using a powder rug cleaner. a professional cleaning service should visit your home to carefully evaluate the carpet's condition before rendering an estimate. Some cleaning services will provide a preliminary price pending closer inspection in the home. If your household vacuum will not do an adequate job. especially handmade ones. reweaving. You then use your own vacuum cleaner to clean it up. and moth-resistant treatment. for an . This is perfectly acceptable if the cleaners do a careful inspection and requote (if necessary) before cleaning begins. Ask the company what it will do if its cleaners damage the carpet. or they may merely apply the powder and provide agitation. You can take any size rug to a professional cleaner or. but often this does not happen. Rugs. it may not be possible to clean the carpet completely. The cleaning service should discuss 'its procedures in detail. should be removed and cleaned professionally "in-plant" rather than in your home. PROFESSIONAL CLEANING Carpets. Ideally. Rug cleaners offer extra services such as repairing the fringe. consider renting a commercial vacuum. There shouldn't be any surprises.) Follow the manufacturer's recommendations regarding the length of time to leave the powder on the carpet. Loose rugs.20 FLOORS it. Depending on the carpet's condition. be sure to read your vacuum cleaner owner's manual for possible precautions regarding these materials. and ascertain how they will protect adjacent furniture . The company should inform the customer if its cleaners will not be able to remove a stain without damage. Be sure to check references to determine if the cleaning service adheres to these precautions during the job. It is important to vacuum thoroughly to prevent powder buildup.

Wherever possible. If you act quickly. To maximize the time between cleanings. some cleaning companies will pick up and drop off a rug. it's better to send it out to professionals or to call in a profeSSional cleaning service. With some spilled substances--children's fruit drinks. Doing so can cause pile distortion. be sure to clean your carpet regularly to prevent buildup of soil. FmST AID FOR CARPET STAINS Although no carpet is completely stain proof. Ground-in dirt and stains from spills are much more difficult to remove. for instance-you have only minutes before the stain sets permanently. If you call a service that comes to your home. When the stain has been removed. most modern carpets have been treated to render them stain resistant. RECOMMENDATIONS Carpet manufacturers recommend cleaning household carpet every 6 to 18 months. In general. or you might have to wait at home all day. try to arrange a definite appointment. depending on the level of traffic. Many doit-yourself products should be able to handle a lightly soiled carpet. most spills can be removed easily. Do not scrub the stained area. Whether you do the work yourself or hire professionals.FIRST AID FOR CARPET STAINS 21 extra fee. A delay in taking action will increase the probability of the stain's becoming permanent. continue to blot with dry cloths or paper towels until the area is completely dry. keep dirt outside with mats at each entry. immediately blot up spills using a clean white absorbent material to avoid the possibility of dye transfer and to facilitate inspection of the stain removal process while stains transfer to the towel. when a rug has been soiled by gardenvariety dirt. .

It is available in conventional and no-wax styles. FLOOR CARE Vinyl is one of the most widely used man-made flooring materials. Other products are more insidious. it may be possible to remove it yourself. or some other oxidizing agent can cause irreversible damage. the carpet may have to be lifted and cleaned. Those medications. hydrogen peroxide. foot. Other products to watch out for include swimming pool chemicals. and pesticides. The damage caused by acne. liquid plant foods. Benzoyl peroxide is activated by moisture from humidity. drain cleaners. often doesn't show up right away. For chewing gum or wax. If the cause of a spot can be identified. typically hard to wash off. Copious spills that penetrate through the carpet to the backing and even to the floor are a special problem. scrape off as much as possible using the side of a spoon or a blunt spatula before attempting to remove the remainder. A leaking container of laundry bleach is an obvious villain. For durabil- . or dog mange medications containing benzoyl peroxide. freeze with an ice cube before scraping. toilet bowl cleaners. (Do-it~yourself cleaning efforts might render the stain difficult for even an expert to remove. Be sure to vacuum up all remaining solid residue. Consider hiring professional carpet cleaners rather than attempting to do the job yourself. If the substance smells. Refer to Appendix B: Stain Removal. and carefully adhere to the recommended directions. Impossible-to-remove discolorations may show up after contact with moisture. or wet cleaning of carpets.) Household products that contain bleach. Just blot it up and get help. have ruined many a carpet. mildew removers. a spilled drink.22 FLOORS If the spill remains on the carpet for a long time and becomes a dry mass. for instance.

whereas others should be removed periodically. slate. and concrete. and rubber tile (a very quiet flooring material). If you have very shiny. The no-wax versions have a clear wear-layer on the surface. choose a thick vinyl with homogeneous color that extends through the entire thickness. If you have a vinyl no-wax floor and feel compelled to use pol- . terrazzo. quarry tile. There are three basic categories of floor care products: products that clean. Some can leave a dulling residue that must be washed away. Some combination products are self-removing.FLOOR CARE 23 ity. Natural flooring materials include wood. stone. terra cotta. you may not need to use a combination product. polish won't make any real difference in appearance. masonry. The basic rule for proper floor care is to pick the right product for the job. be sure to read the label recommendations pertaining to the types of flooring they claim to be good for. whose shine is a bit less glaring. marble. Since there are many types of combination floor care products. combination products that both clean and shine. polish can add a touch of gloss. But on no-wax vinyl-surfaced floors. polyurethane-finished wood floors. For no-wax flooring. and products that add a protective shine to the floor. cork. even for cleaning. ceramic tile. be sure to use a product that is formulated for that purpose. If you have nowax flooring. FLOOR CLEANERS Floor cleaners remove dirt and soil from resilient floors or wellsealed wood floors. COMBINATION PRODUCTS These products combine cleaning agents for dirt removal and polishing agents that add protection and shine. asphalt tile (which is hard but brittle). Other man-made flooring materials include linoleum (which is highly susceptible to damage from strong cleaners).

They dry shiny and require periodic removal. you won't be doing anything but boosting the shine. however. It is also reasonable to assume that an accumulation of tiny scratches will eventually dull no-wax flooring a little. Until a no-wax floor is worn.24 FLOORS ish. Use a no-rinse floor cleaner and scrub the floor with a mop or stiff bristle brush. and dried. The problem is usually most noticeable in corners. Once the floor is free of reSidue. wiping up the loosened soil as you clean. Even polishes labeled as self-cleaning leave a small amount of old polish behind. attempt to remove any residue buildup that might be causing the dull look. which might improve the shine of worn areas. The amount of protection offered by a thin film of polish is insignificant compared with the protection offered by the vinyl flooring itself. You'd be better off saving that money to make up for the extra cost of the no-wax flOOring. They are applied after the floor has been cleaned. where the polish isn't . You may need to clean the floor three or four times to completely remove the residue. rinsed. use a floor polish that is formulated for no-wax floors to renew the shine. Even rugged plastics such as polyurethane and vinyl can get scratched and worn over time. The polishes in combination floor cleaners may have some ability to fill in tiny scratches. as well as stone or masonry floors. but it has been less successful in eliminating the chore of stripping off old polish as the layers build up. Conventional floor polishes are used to protect and add or restore shine to resilient floors. REMOVING OLD WAX Technology has produced polishes that don't need buffing. floor polish is a waste of money. WAXING FLOORS THAT NEED IT Before deciding to wax a no-wax floor that looks dull.

Do not rub--it could cause a dull spot. or dust mop. and change the cleaning solution as often as possible. a plastic mesh sponge dipped in a solvent-based wax. some fine steel wool. When the floor . While you maybe content to let the layers of wax accumulate for a long time before trying to remove them. Small particles can scratch the flooring.FLOOR CARE 25 worn away by traffic. Floors that are heavily trafficked will require more frequent maintenance than floors that get less use. Washable floors should first be cleaned with a broom. or at least once a year. They should then be damp mopped using water and an all-purpose cleaner recommended for washing floors. Remove dirt regularly from wood and cork floors using a broom. it is best to remove old polish after six or eight coats. and a lot of elbow grease. Periodically restore the shine by rebuffing or using a wax that removes the previous layer as the new layer'is applied. lightweight. vacuum cleaner. Wring out the mop before using it. Stubborn spots can be removed by rubbing with fine steel wool or. Solid-colored floors show soil more quickly than patterned floors. For taking care of new or fairly new no-wax floors. or vacuum cleaner. dust mop. Blot spills up as soon as they occur. The typical recipe for removing old floor wax is ljz cup of powdered floor cleaner and 2 cups of ammonia in 1 gallon of cool water.polished floors . Some are recommended on the labels of their brand-mate floor polishes. preferably. RECOMMhNDA110NS It is important to have a regular floor-care schedule. This is especially true for . use a plain damp mop or a little detergent followed by a rinse. Spills are more noticeable on very light and very dark floors . There are also wax removers on the market.

If your procedure is wrong.choose among the no-wax floor cleaning products or use a combination product that is recommended for use on no-wax floors. Take particular care to rinse off combination cleaners after each use. test it on a small corner of the stain. rub with the grain. Never mix chemicals with each other or with household cleaning products unless there are specific directions to do so. Caution: Never mix ammonia and chlorine bleach. acids. If you use steel wool on a stain. To be on the safe side. If the . Before using any chemical. cold water first (before any detergent). Alcoholic beverages. household ammonia. the chemical damage will be limited to that one area.26 FLOORS is so worn that it looks as if it really needs a polish. IIARD-SURFACE-FLOOR FmST AID FOR STAINS When using any household chemicals. work on a wet stain before it has had a chance to soak in andlor dry. handle them with care and store them out of the reach of children. Try rubbing with a clean cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol. Try clear. Blood. hydrogen peroxide solution. or chlorine bleach. On wood. it's a good idea to work in a well-ventilated room: Establish cross ventilation with open windows and doors and a window fan to exhaust air. Whenever possible. After you have tried ordinary hand dishwashing liquid and water applied with a rag or sponge--or a nonbleaching allpurpose liquid cleaner sprayed from its container-try these suggestions to remove a variety of potentially stubborn stains. use grade 00 and rub gently. Wear rubber gloves when working with alcohol.

Use ice cubes to chill the material to brittleness. carefully following instructions. Place a cloth soaked in hydrogen peroxide solution . Mustard. cautiously apply a solution of ammonia and cold water. It might be helpful to cover the stain with a poultice of diatomaceous earth and alcohol. or a plastic spatula. use a plastic scouring pad instead of steel wool. Coffee or fruit juice.HARD-SURFACE-FLOOR FIRST AID FOR STAINS 27 stain remains. try scouring powder and a cloth dampened with hot water. (Glycerine is available in drugstores. rub with a cloth dampened in hand dishwashing liquid and warm water (or an allpurpose cleaner). paper towels.) If the spot remains. rub with a cloth dampened with a solution of lemon juice and water. On wood and cork. Remove as much as· possible with newspaper. cover with plastic wrap. If the floor is hard surfaced or has a no-wax finish. Try a commercial ink remover. and let stand overnight. Ink. Dyes. or is embossed vinyl composition. Candle wax or chewing gum. try scouring powder and a piece of fine steel wool or a plastic scouring pad dipped in water. For hard-surface floors. Then wipe the area dry and wash with detergent and water. using a plastic spatula. carefully scrape the wax or gum from the floor. rub with a cloth dampened in a solution of one part chlorine bleach and two parts water. and quickly rinse to avoid discoloration. Saturate a cloth with a solution of one part glycerine to three parts water and place it over the stain for several hours. Cigarette burn. For heavy stains. Lipstick. Grease and oil. or use rubbing alcohol. place a cloth saturated with dry cleaning fluid on the stain for no more than 5 minutes. rub it gently with scouring powder and a cloth dampened in hot water. Try fine steel wool wet with detergent and water. Then. On resilient tile. After applying on an inconspicuous spot to be sure the floor will not be damaged. If this doesn't work.

Leave in place until the stain has faded. apply a damp cloth wrapped around a paste made . Use a commercial rust remover intended for your particular type of floor.28 FLOORS over the stain. For increased effectiveness. Open your blinds or curtains for one to two days. and wipe dry. a sponge. The newly finished area should blend in with the rest of the floor within a day or two. On a hard-surface floor. Over that. To remove the tar stain. of powdered detergent. Rinse the area well and allow it to dry before you apply any new finish (polish. refinishing may be necessary. On wood and cork. Paint or varnish. place an ammonia-soaked cloth. sponge with water. chalk. Shoe polish or nail polish. place a cloth soaked in hydrogen peroxide over the stain and cover that with a cloth soaked in ammonia. or fine steel wool very carefully applied. Urine. for example). Use ice cubes to chill the tar to brittleness. Rust. and wipe dry. fine steel wool should do the trick. The sunlight may fade residual mustard stains. On resilient tile. or diatomaceous earth. rub with a hot. try scouring powder or steel wool. . use liquid or all-purpose detergent with either a cloth. Then scrape the tar carefully with a plastic spatula. If concentrated detergent solution doesn't work on resilient flooring. FINISHING TOUCHE'S After you have successfully removed a stain. or apply undiluted liquid laundry detergent. Leave in place until the stain has faded. and ·w ater. After applying on an inconspicuous spot to be sure the floor will not be damaged. Tar. it may soften resilient flooring. sponge with water. scrub with a concentrated solution of powdered detergent and water. damp cloth and scouring powder. Leave the paste on the stain for several hours. Don't use nail polish remover.

The minuscule residue that remains from 29 . Others believe that the original finish itself needs a protective layer-usually a wax-that should be renewed periodically. The wax was supposed to "feed" the wood and help protect it. Consumers Union's testers have found that. no less. applied with plenty of muscle. protects against spills and minor scratches. to some degree. Between those who opt for no wax and those who recommend lots of wax are those who say you should use a little wax sometimes. asserting that the oil or lacquer finish normally used on furniture protects the wood (by sealing). Oils and waxes don't penetrate the finish. a key part of spring cleaning involved giving the furniture a fresh coat of wax-paste wax. No doubt.Furniture WOOD FURNITURE Some say keeping wood furniture clean should require a mlnImum amount of care. At one time. the need for waxing and cleaning furniture with a brand-name product is often quite unnecessary. Most furniture won't benefit from waxing because its surface has been sealed at the factory with a durable finish that keeps the wood from drying out and. some people still hew to that ritual. in general.

30 FURNITURE most polishes after application and buffing contributes nothing to damage control. however. Consumers Union found the following home brews did a creditable cleaning job on wood furniture: • Yz teaspoon light olive oil added to y. Except for old furniture whose original finish may not have sealed the wood very well-or newer furniture that has been used a lot and whose finish may be worn thin-regular dusting with a soft rag slightly dampened with water may be all you need to keep furniture looking new and clean. that finely finished wood and wood with a modern. like the familiar Pledge. well-sealed finish should be treated with respect when it comes to water. and Endust. and greasy cooking fumes combine to create a dulling film. It's still true. Behold. This proved to be as effective as any store product. Be sure HOME BREWS In addition to plain water and dishwashing liquid. You can choose among dozens of furniture cleaners at the supermarket. Dust. Fingerprints begin as small smudges and grow to a grimy coating. are intended primarily to help remove dust. Many. generally oil-based products such as Old English Red Oil and Scott's Liquid Gold. This was only as effective as the better oil-based products. Modern furniture does need cleaning. smoke. Others. are intended for cleaning wood and other surfaces. cup white vinegar. A wood furniture cleaner should first be tested on an inconspicuous area before attempting any cleaning or treatment method. Only a few actually contain wax. however. Hardware stores carry still other furniture cleaners and polishes. such as Kleen 'n Shine and Murphy's Oil Soap. • '/ 4 cup walnut oil plus 4 drops of lemon extract. .

Water. Be sure to pretest to ensure that it does not leave a film behind. You may be able to buff out a light mark with a product that has a high oil content. But some rings on certain kinds of furniture finish won't yield-meaning it's time to call in the refinisher. Wax-containing products applied over some oils won't adhere properly. But water that's allowed to stand on wood furniture is likely to penetrate most finishes. the finish isn't likely to be protected to any degree by using furniture polish. Consumers Union's tests showed that a supermarket furniture cleaner isn't likely to protect a wood finish against common stains. vulnerable to fingerprints. When you wipe away the water. no polish is likely to increase the luster of a piano top made from high-gloss mahogany. a fresh application of the product is by no means guaranteed to remove any new stains. The mirror finish on a piece of wood furniture is there courtesy of the furniture maker. a furniture polish may muddy the finish. Furthermore. For instance. Waxing won't improve the shine of furniture whose original finish is still intact. Moreover. Cleaning up the mess may require a lot of elbow grease. . A buildup of wax can darken the wood and mask its grain. The shine you get from a product depends ' almost entirely on the nature of the furniture's original finish. which could interfere with bonding of wax and varnish. a cloudy white mark often remains (except solvent-borne urethane cleaners). paying particular attention to prohibited actions.WOOD FURNITURE 31 to read product labels carefully. A bit of ordinary dishwashing liquid and water should do the job just as well. and a magnet for dust. It is already mirrorlike. Any furniture cleaner should be able to wipe away water spots. In fact. Stains. Some oils (such as lemon oil) applied to a previously waxed surface can make the surface sticky.

cough syrup. managed to fill in scratches and make them less visible. Some antique dealers recommend waxing at the beginning and end of the heating season. such as a dish or a coaster. say the experts. Tools of the trade include feather dusters. It's easy enough to use a little plain water and hand dishwashing liqUid to take care of dirtier surfaces. so they aren't meant to cover up deep scratches. The experts also recommend waxing. Changes in temperature and humidity can be very damaging to wood furniture because wood shrinks and expands in response to those changes. soft cotton cloths laundered without harsh detergents. and the like-the best protection is a nonabsorbent barrier. Waxing . Sometimes a little acetone can be used to dissolve the lacquer. and small vacuum cleaners. perfume. it's a good idea to try any furniture-treatment product on an inconspicuous area before plunging into the job full tilt. Oz Cream Polish. Products that claim to hide surface scratches are worth a try. Most furniture-care products don't contain dye. pretesting is essential. Here again. RECOMMENDATIONS For relatively new furniture that's been maintained in good condition. Tests showed that one product. there's no practical reason to add another cleaning product to the clutter under the kitchen sink. aftershave lotion. Again.32 FURNITURE Scratches. but generally only once or twice a year. allowing it to refill the scratches. Regular dusting is important for antiques. CARING FOR VALUED FURNITURE OR TEAK FURNITURE Older furniture that still bears its original finish and teak furniture both require special care. If you want to protect furniture finishes against heat and solvents-such as alcoholic beverages.

Some industry experts say frequent dusting is important.WOOD FURNITURE 33 unfinished surfaces allows the raw wood to absorb the wax. and other so-called case pieces. dust isn't as obvious on an armchair as it is on a tabletop. also has special needs. UPHOLSTERED FURNITIJRE Regular vacuuming is about the best way to keep upholstery looking fresh. breakfronts. If the wood looks pale and the surface feels dry. as well as the unfinished interior of highboys. overnight. A surprisingly large number of people take the most drastic measure of all-they just throw out the soiled furniture and re- . Furniture that's used fairly often may need oiling every month or two. One teak furniture retailer suggests using a clean. for example. the material can become so dirty that drastic measures may become necessary. They say such products compromise the wood's ability to respond to changes in temperature and humidity. soft cloth to remove excess oil. then letting the oil sit for three to four hours or. But you may not be motivated to vacuum upholstered furniture often enough. buff with another clean. You should wax the underside of a table. The experts recommend a solution of mild detergent for cleaning and tung oil (or equivalent) for restoring the sheen in dry areas . Teak. Unless upholstered furniture is vacuumed regularly. better. Afterward. thereby minimizing the chance that the wood will crack or the veneer will lift or separate. Some experts recommend against waxes that contain silicone. and increase the risk of cracking. which is an oil-finished product. Teak furniture not subject to much wear may need oiling only a few times a year. the furniture probably needs oiling. soft cloth to oil the entire piece.

You can buy or rent a machine that cleans carpets and upholstery. there isn't much you can do for aniline-dyed leather. the faster you clean it up. When you are faced with stains that won't come out. Expect the cleaning to be costly. Only a professional leather refinisher can restore the nap to suede. . grape juice. Vacuuming is an important part of routine maintenance of leather furniture.polish did not come off. ink removers. If you spill something on pigmented leather. If you don't get results. And you can brush suede with a terry-cloth tow~l to spiff up its nap. coffee. The~ some commercial leather cleaners were tried to see how theymighthandle these stubborn stains on pigmeljlted leather. or paint removers on pigmented leather. the leather is pigmented. Consumers Union ' applied test stains to swatches of pigmented leather and blotted them up a minute later with a damp washcloth. for example). cleaning by hand means spraying upholstery cleaner on the fabric. opting for reupholstering or slipcovers. the better. You can call in a professional deaningservice. The water-based stains (ketchup. All of the cleaners removed some color.becoming stains that can be almost impossible to remove. check the Yellow Pages or ask a local dry cleaner for advice. Since the color is essentially painted on the leather. Call the store where you purchased the furniture. Spills soak up quickly. Italian salad dressing. professionals prefer to clean leather in the shop. Don't ·consider using cleaning solvents. According to a survey. but oil-based stains like crayon. If it does soak in. Place a drop of water on a location that's not often seen (under the cushion. Removing dirt and stains can also ' remove dyes. whether it's pigmented. suede has a nap that's flattened by liquid spills and by use. Generally. find a professional. There are three ways to clean upholstered furniture: You DEALING WITH SPILlS AND STAINS ON LEArnER can buy a cleaning product and apply it to the fabric by hand. so it may take a few calls to find a leather-furniture cleaner. or suede. if it works. but because it's porous and quick to sop up stains. Pigmented leather is more resistant to water-soluble spills and stains. milk. that's how a significant number of Consumer Reports subscribers dealt with the problem of soil buildup. If the water doesn't soak in. and expect to be without your furniture for a while: often. Some took a less-drastic approach. When it becomes stained or soiled. the leather is aniline dyed-and vulnerable. usually listed under "Carpet Cleaners" or "Upholstery Cleaners" in the Yellow Pages. your only recourse is professional cleaning. aniline dyed. mustard. lipstick. ballpoint-pen ink. You can also wipe pigmented leather periodically with a soft white cloth dampened with water. You can test your leather furniture to find out which type of dye was used. those products can remove color. overall cleaning-a far more economical solution. cola. Suede is another vulnerable leather-not just because of the dyeing process. In addition.34 FURNITURE UPHOLSTERED FURNI11JRE 35 place it with new furniture. arid red wine) disappeared. Cleaners who handle leather clothing don't always work on leather furniture. so the furniture may need to be recolored. Beyond vacuuming. Still others chose heavy-duty. and cream shoe . gently' rubbing the resulting foam with a damp Leather dyers either apply a pigmented coating to the leather's surface or treat the hide with aniline dye. Aniline-dyed leather is exceptionally soft and exceptionally porous.

Another phone number to remember is the Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration (1-800-272-7012). When you call the institute's number (206-693-5675). and the furniture may not turn out clean enough. Many subscribers left the cleaning to a professional. Replacing a damaged sofa with a new one can cost a lot more. The job can be time-consuming. of course. or brush. but a substantial number indicated that even the pros couldn't get their furniture clean. Both organizations may be able to help with questions regarding stain removal.36 FURNITURE sponge. large regional companies. is to look in the phone book. and local companies. so price shouldn't be the most important criterion when you're hiring a professional. Even subscribers who cleaned with a machine weren't always happy with the result. and some found a machine difficult to use. Expect any upholstery cleaning firm to give you a preliminary . Any hand cleaning product is likely to y. where you'll find listings for big national companies. cloth. One way to find an upholstery cleaning service. and then disassembling and cleaning the machine can be quite a lot of work. PROFESSIONAL CLEANING Cleaning a six-foot sofa can cost anywhere from $40 to $100.rork better if the job is done before the upholstery is truly filthy. the International Institute of Carpet and Upholstery Certification can recommend firms that have passed a test on cleaning upholstery. competence should be. a represent3tive will use your zip code to locate two or three cleaning firms in your area. cleaning the piece of furniture. If you come up empty. and vacuuming the residue. depending on where you live and whom you hire. Setting up the machine.

Although there are many brands of stain repellent. then come to the house to evaluate the furniture and spot-test it-by applying a bit of cleaner to an inconspicuous piece of the fabric-before giving a firm price quote. Some professionals may prefer to "steam" clean upholstery with hot water and detergent because the results are generally better than dry cleaning with a solvent. a careful cleaner will spot-test when they come to your home to determine the potential for damage before quoting a firm price. the fabric shouldn't need to be retreated until it has been cleaned two or three times. If a protector was applied at the mill where the fabric is made. and therefore there are extra profits for the seller. That's also an acceptable approach.. Scotchgard or Teflon) protect against both oil. Some silicone products may yellow with exposure to ultraviolet light. you might consider having one applied after . even when it's done by a pro. Fluorocarbons (e. There is. A reputable company should explain the procedure and tell you what the furniture will look like after cleaning.UPHOLSTERED FURNITURE 37 estimate over the phone. But cleaning with water. Some professional cleaners spot-test on the scheduled cleaning day. a professional cleaner may switch from steam cleaning to dry cleaning. of course.and water-based stains. as long as the tested material has time to dry thoroughly-so any defects are visible-before work begins. If you don't know whether your upholstery has been treated with a stain protector. Therefore. They should outline their guarantee and voluntarily offer references. Professional carpet and upholstery cleaners may raise the subject of chemical fabric protectors. an extra charge for such treatment.g. If problems appear as a result of a spot test. silicones protect only against water-based stains. can be a risky business. there are baSically two types: fluorocarbons and silicones.

but your success will depend on your own cleaning skills. Two caveats: It's important that the protector be applied evenly. and both sides of loose cushions. Additionally. it is advisable to apply a bit of protector on a hidden area of the upholstery to make sure the dye doesn't bleed. the skirt. Spot-test any cleaning product you plan to use before you submit your furniture to a cleaning. the machine isn't easy to set up. for instance-you can avoid snagging the fabric by placing a piece of nonmetallic window screen or nylon mesh between the nozzle and the fabric. A steamer can be used only on fabrics that can tolerate a waterbased cleaner.38 FURNITURE cleaning. or crewel embroi. use. As with any treatment. . dery. If you're working on arms that are narrower than the vacuum cleaner's nozzle. your best bet is to hire a profeSSional. the platform underneath the cushions. Make sure the company indicates. Some protectors are recommended for use only on certain types of fabrics. in writing. and apply the cleaning product in a well-lighted area so you can see how the job is going. and the work takes a lot of time. You'll save money by doing the job yourself. When vacuuming a delicate fabric-velvet. Vacuum all surfaces of the furniture. including the back and sides. any problems anticipated during the cleaning. Once furniture is too soiled for vacuuming. cover the exposed section of the nozzle with your hand or a piece of cardboard to improve suction. nubby silk. (Electric sprayers and aerosol cans are likely to create a more even coat than is possible with a pump sprayer. the arms.) And it's important to check the l~bel for precautions. RECOMMENDATIONS Preventive maintenance-vacuuming regularly and catching spills before they become stains-can go a long way toward postponing the need for an overall cleaning. Choose one who will evaluate the furniture and spot-test the fabric before cleaning.

The fabric may be made of a Single fiber or a blend. base your decision on the most sensitive one in the blend.A GUIDE TO UPHOLSTERY FABRICS 39 and clean. If you're quick enough. (Look under the cushions for a tag affixed to the platform. the problem isn't widespread soil but a sudden spill. open windows and doors and use fans to speed drying. cotton. blotting the spill with a clean ." the choice is yours. Be careful not to overwet the upholstery. and be very careful with piping. An "S" indicates that a solvent-based cleaner (dry cleaning) is required. some become mottled by water spots. To clean fabric successfully. If your fabric is a blend of different fibers. The guide to upholstery fabrics on page 40 provides information about the cleaning of materials commonly used in upholstery textiles and can help you decide whether to dry-clean with solvents or "wet clean" with a water-based solution. such as the starchy glaze that gives linen its soft glow. Upholstery should dry in less than 24 hours. silk. rayon. UPHOLSTERY STAINS For some furniture. After using a steamer. An "X" is bad news: Only cleaning by vacuuming is recommended.) A "w" means that the fabric can be cleaned with a water-based product. But not all fabrics relate well to water. linen. A GUIDE TO UPHOLSTERY FABRICS Wool. If the code reads "W-S. it probably has a cleaning code on its label. Steam cleaning with detergent and water is an effective way to clean many fabrics. If the furniture was purchased within the last few years. Moisture can cause many types of stuffing to bleed. Some shrink. nylon. and polyester are among the fibers that are turned into coverings for sofas and chairs. and it may have a special finish. some turn brown. you must first find out just what kind of fabric you're dealing with.

Cotton refers to all cotton except Haitian. stretch with excessive agitation. brown. which often works better. Spots may reappear after cleaning. ing is more appropriate for your upholstery. Fiber. Dissolves in strong acids. or shrink during cleaning with a water-based solution. All the fibers are likely to be stained by oil-based spills. Resists bleach. rayon. or other fin to shrink even be removed of cleaning. 5 least likely. Turns dark when wet.40 FURNITIJRE A GUIDE TO UPHOLSTERY FABRICS 41 A GUIDE TO UPHOLSTERY FABRICS This guide was published in a February ·1992 report. Wet cleaning. Wet-cleaning flaws. Dry cleaning is acceptable for all the fibers.scale from 1 to 5. These columns can help you determine whether dry or wet clean. Spots may reappear after cleaning. flaws" to see what problems can arise. . The tendency . and chlorinated solvents. Tendency to bleed. Latex backing may be weakened by age. Dissolves in acetone. and nylon are also'likely to be stained by water-based spills. wool. hard to assess quality of cleaning. Avoid nailpolish remover and commercial ink removers. Tends to shrink even when preshrunk. Wool Acetate Acrylic Nylon Olefin Polyester Low 2 2 1-3 2-3 4-5 5 4-5 5 5 Low High High Low Low Low Low Low Low High High High Moderate Low Moderate Moderate Low Low High Very high Low Moderate Low Low Low Low Low sizing. Spots may reappear after cleaning. but check under "wet-cleaning Cotton Linen Rayon Silk. is generally OKfor all. silk. which may · release a brown dye and stretch when wet.for fibers to wateNpot. Bleeding can occur with either wet or dry cleaning. and be sure to spot-test. sunlight. linen. Cotton. with 1 most likely to bleed. Water marks may be difficult to remove without damaging fabric. On a .

if you use the right approach. refer to Appendix B: Stain Removal. For recommended cleaning agents and techniques for removing a variety of stains from both washable and unwashable fabrics. cleanup can still be successful. Certain basics apply to all stain-removal efforts.) Once a spill becomes a stain. .42 FURNITURE white towel or white (no pattern) paper towels may do the trick. (A white towel lets you see what you're removing and eliminates the chance of introducing another stain in the form of a dye.

lack the special qualities required to clean windows and ovens or remove mildew. for example. SPOT CLEANING Of the two types of all-purpose cleaners available. and countertops. But all-purpose cleaners are versatile enough for mopping. floors. All-purpose cleaners are often the type of product needed when water won't do.House Cleaning ALL-PURPOSE CLEANERS A good all-purpose liquid cleaner should be able to handle a variety of chores but may not be really useful for all purpo~e~ . Top-performing pourables often contain pine oil. FLOOR MOPPING Pourable products when diluted in a bucket of water can also be ' effective for mopping floors. the "pourables" (liquids applied on grime) generally have stronger formulations and do better overall spot cleaning than spray cleaners-which at best turn in just an adequate job. For floor 43 . Most. and spot-cleaning hard surfaces such as walls. an effective cleaning ingredient with a distinctive scent of pine associated with the impression of cleanliness. washing. kitchen cabinets. Few spray products suggest that their liquid contents can be used in a similar manner. appliances.

44 HOUSE CLEANING mopping. and plenty of clean wipes. Since the solvents and other ingredients that dissolve. effective pourables often claim to contain pine oil. DAMAGE TO SURFACES When used at full strength. any cleaner should be used carefully hi accordance with its labeled precautions and kept out of the reach of children. then promptly and carefully rinsed off. or oil soap. and many should do a respectable job. . with the application of elbow grease. or at least avoiding prolonged contact with the skin. never mix any cleaner with anything other than water. To avoid potentially hazardous chemical . prompt rinsing. citrus oil. Otherwise. Check the label for precautions. SAFETY TO USERS Some products are caustic enough to warrant your using rubber gloves when cleaning.reactions. emulSify. if in doubt. RECOMMENDATIONS It's handy to have both types of all-purpose cleaners: a spray for quick point-and-shoot cleaning and a pourable for mopping and heavy-duty spot cleaning. an all-purpose cleaner should be used gently. Most pourable cleaners may be diluted for cleaning walls and floors with a sponge or a mop and bucket. first test the cleaner on an inconspicuous place for marring. suspend. Some pourables and sprays are labeled as disinfectants. however. Spot cleaning can always be improved. within limits. or otherwise loosen grime are powerful chemicals. such cleaners can only temporarily reduce populations of some germs in a limited area for a limited time. you may risk marring the surface being cleaned. At best.

bathroom cleaners often claim to contain an antimildew agent. few bathroom cleaners are very effective at removing mildew.BATHROOM BATHROOM CLEANERS CLEANERS 45 Some of the products promoted as bathroom cleaners derive most of their strength from old-fashioned pine oil. and they may indeed get rid of some microorganisms for a while. you can improve the product's performance by leaving it on the soap scum slightly longer than the time recommended on the label. and flip-top containers are more convenient than the screw-top containers that hold some all-purpose cleaners. As soon as you eliminate some germs. they're replaced by others. EFFECTIVENESS ON j!1IWEW Despite label claims. Manufacturers try to justify the higher cost with fancy packaging. so spills are less likely. aerosol cans. Per use. an ingredient some all-purpose cleaners lack. For really difficult-to-clean surfaces. . But trying to kill microorganisms in an unsterile environment is futile. some bathroom cleaners cost up to twice as much as some all-purpose cleaners. Most products including all-purpose cleaners are largely ineffective in getting rid of mildew that accumulates in the grout on a tiled surface. Many cleaners ·claim to diSinfect. there's no pouring involved. Trigger spray pumps. Common household chlorine bleach is highly effective and economical for killing and remOVing mildew (refer to the section on BJeaches). Because damp bathrooms are fertile ground for fungi. others rely on a mix of other powerful chemicals. EFFECTIVENESS ON SOAP SCUM Most bathroom cleaners and all general-purpose cleaners are highly effective at cleaning soap scum. A better approach is to apply an effective cleaner before mildew has accumulated.

46 HOUSE CLEANING SURFACE DAMAGE You may spill a bit of cleaner and not notice the spill for hours. bathroom cleaners are not too hazardous for a healthy. reasonably cautious person to use. Then. But a good all-purpose cleaner can cost less. Some cleaning products can irritate skin and eyes. Most are fairly expensive. wrestle with a plunger or a plumber's "snake. considering that you're likely to use them only for light cleaning on small areas. they face a choice of several unappealing remedies: Call the plumber." or don protective gear and pour in some chemical drain cleaner. you may find one that also mars vinyl shower curtains. Disposable wet towelettes are unnecessary. A cleaner containing bleach shouldn't be mixed with a product containing ammonia or acid. A fourth remedy. Such combinations can produce irritating fumes. A few specifically warn against use by anyone with heart or respiratory problems. A few are alkaline or acidic enough to warrant the use of rubber gloves. but read labels carefully. and some are very effective on soap scum and mildew. and may also do a good job of inhibiting the growth of mildew. Some also mar stainless steel surfaces and. Some pump spray products can irritate lungs. Generally. clean soap scum at least as well. DRAIN CLEANERS Most people give very little thought to their household pipes until one or more of their drains stops working. rarely. even if they are handy for small jobs. Quite a few products dull or discolor brass and painted trim. one of the . RECOMMENDATIONS Specialized bathroom cleaners are convenient to use.

can be useful. tubs. Kitchen drains are chiefly plagued by vegetable scraps and congealed fats .DRAIN CLEANERS 47 new biological treatments on the market. Consider a chemical cleaner only if all else has failed. and it's a sink drain that's clogged. and showers have strainers to trap food. and the like. The hair. snake. but it's not good at breaking up an existing clog. • Be sure sinks. biological treatments. Bathroom drains tend to clog with soap scum and hair. just advice on the best options available for do-it-yourself drain care. Regularly clean the strainers. you might consider removing the U-shaped trap in the pipes where sink clogs often lodge (or removing the cleanout plug. That mechanism is a common place for hair that can escape the strainer to lodge and form an obstruction. the typical kitchen clog differs from a bathroom blockage. This book doesn't offer any panaceas. harm if inhaled or accidentally brought into contact with the skin or eyes. And if the chemical cleaner doesn't budge the clog. may help keep drains clear. MAiNTAINING mE FREE-FLOWING DRAIN A few preventive measures will limit the likelihood that you'll have a clogged drain . if the trap has one). • Avoid pouring grease down the kitchen sink. The first order of business on a drain should be preventive maintenance (see section on "Maintaining the Free-Flowing Drain"). you'll be left with a corrosive mess to clean up. . hair. If that approach fails. Its powerful ingredients can cause serious. or other mechanical device. designed to speed up the slow but still flowing drain. and periodically remove and clean the drain-plug mechanism in bathroom sinks and tubs. As a plumber might tell you. There. turn to a plunger. But if a drain clogs completely.

Unless suddenly blocked by an object. Microorganisms don't eat just anything. it can also inactivate a biological drain. notably grease and soap . is not on their menu. and then pour in the rest. . · Biological treatments are often marketed as a safer alternative to pouring chemical cleaners down your · drains Ca reasonable claim. The bugs eventually flourish in the pipes to provide a continuous. Some treatments claim to use enzymes to stage an initial hitand-run attack on organic matter in the pipes. Hair.the basin. But the bacteria in the . wait a few minutes. Heat about a gallon of water. So do not use hot water any sooner than the residence time mandated by the biological drain opener's directions. and other residues carried by the water. for example. but a weekly dose of boiling water can be effective to maintain a freely running drain. • Pouring hot water into a drain is unlikely to clear a clog. live-in cleanup crew. or toilet. being rather indigestible. Boiling water could crack the porcelain. they tend to run slower as impediments accumulate.But the real muscle in biological treatments comes from microorganisms that break down and digest that organic material. Be careful to pour the water directly down the drain. given the chemicals' proven hazards). pour in half. BIOLOGICAL TREATMENTS Household drains rarely clog without warning. Biological drain treatments are designed to keep pipes cleaner and clearer by introducing bacteria that feed on the' organic matter in those accumulations. can become a filter for soap. opener. others are sold in hardware and grocery stores. Some treatments are sold through catalogs that specialize in "environmentally friendly" products.48 HOUSE CLEANING in turn. tub. skin oils. not on .

but all do . disinfectants. But the pumps and plungers may not be able to cope reliably with a bathroom clog (which may be a concoction of such materials as facial tissue. The packaging for most biologicals warns of harm from swallowing. and other enemies of bacteria into a treated drain. soap. and some labels also recommend avoiding contact with skin.DRAIN CLEANERS 49 treatments do eat away at the sticky organic stuff that often binds hair and other materials together. MECHANICAL OPENERS Drain clogs are subject to two kinds of physical assault by the rnechanical devices tested by Consumers Union: pressure from a pump. or plunger. or some other material not in the bugs' diet. hose-end bladder. should have no such trouble. or the material that holds it to pipes. and drilling through by a plumber's auger. All the biologicals Consumers Union tested require at least one overnight application. eyes. While they are noncorrosive. so all treatments recommend a regular monthly "maintenance" application. All the mechanical devices are safe enough to use. plastic. After that. and respiratory passages. biological treatments are not entirely benign. during which time the drain cannot be used. fatty kitchen clog. Most treatments require two to five initial applications to get the bug colony established. They snag onto the meshed hair and haul out the entire plug." All the mechanical openers should work fine on a soft. toilet tissue. Snakes. also known as a "snake. It takes time for the bugs to reach their full effectiveness. solvents. however. toothpaste. and human hair). Avoid pouring boiling water. some bacteria are regularly washed out as the drain is used. Don't expect results from a biological treatment when a drain is blocked by an obstruction made of wood. bleach.

Chemical drain cleaners include liquid lye-and-bleach mixes . Any plunger can be used on a sink or tub blockage. and some may even have trouble negotiating the trap below the sink. CHEMICAL CLEANERS Chemical drain cleaners are among the most hazardous products sold for household use. and the holes may be too small to accommodate the cable tip. However. limiting the chance that the clog will be liberated only to flow down the drain and cause trouble elsewhere. those models with a fold-out cup have the edge when tackling toilet clogs. the auger must be turned as it's fed into the pipe. A snake is the most versatile device. All highly corrosive. be fed into the open pipe after the trap is removed. and versatility. a plunger is the best bet for reasons of price. and ordinary skin in only seconds. And each type has its drawbacks. (Duct tape or a wet rag makes an effective temporary seal for the vents usually found below the faucet in bathroom sinks and tubs. (They can. however.) It makes sense to keep a couple of mechanical drain openers around the house. convenience.50 HOUSE CLEANING require some strength and skill to use effectively. the snake can remove all or part of a blockage. since it can both break up a greasy clog and snag clumps of hair. Among the pressure devices. Also. Unlike a pressure device such as a plunger. No auger can be used through a garbage~disposal unit. they can injure eyes and mucous membranes on contact. And a plunger (or any other pressure device) is ineffective if the drain has a vent between the sink and the clog that can't be sealed when the device is used.) Hose-end bladders can't be used at all through crossbars or strainers. a task that's sometimes hard for one person to accomplish. The auger must be threaded through openings in any cross bars or strainers.

Safer drain cleaners that use noncorrosive solvents in place of lye and acid have reached the market in recent years. and strongly . Worst · of all. The heat the cleaners release as they work may soften plastic pipes and weaken the cemented joints between them. Even if the chemicals do make it to the clog. But none has succeeded in Consumers Union's tests. which are strongly alkaline. they're likely to do a mediocre job at best: That ho-hum performance makes it all too likely that several applications of a cleaner will be required to clear a clog. and concentrated liquid acids. there's a chance the granules will form a solid mass. Consumers Union is reluctant to recommend any chemical drain cleaner. where the cleaner may never reach. chemical drain cleaners can attack not only the organic matter in clogs but also metal pipes (especially the thin brass pipes often found under sinks) and porcelain surfaces. which may send a small geyser of corrosive liquid back out of the drain. You or the plumber may then be forced to remove the original obstruction and the cake of lye. If you pour in more than the recommended amount. That's especially likely if the blockage lies not in the U-shaped trap under the fixture but farther along in the pipe. a chemical drain opener may not work and will leave you with a blocked drain full of corrosive liquid. In fact. concentrated sulfuric acid can release so much heat in a drain that the liquid boils. The granular lye products may even create their own blockages. Even when diluted. either for tackling a clog or (as some manufacturers recommend) as preventive medicine for slow drains. further compounding the 'hazards of using one of these products.DRAIN CLEANERS 51 and granular lyes.

SAFETY The labels of chemical drain cleaners contain multiple warnings and precautions. lawn. People typically reused paper grocery bags for their kitchen scraps and burned yard waste. or threw it into large metal trash cans. and leaf. rubbish.whether it's a drawstring closure. you've probably found that choosing a bag may mean deciding among hundreds of brands. or a pastel color. especially if there are children about. The confusion doesn't end there. and on variations of those themes: tall kitchen. bag size may vary con- . If you're among them. Garbage bags are marketed under different names: trash. What's more. scrap. immediately flush the area with copious amounts of cool water and continue to do so while someone contacts a poison control center or a medical doctor for instructions. a scent designed to ward off animals. kitchen. raked it into the street. but most Americans don't: Nearly 8 in 10 consider plastic garbage bags a household staple.52 HOUSE CLEANING advises against acid-based drain cleaners. Then they got on with their lives. Concentrated sulfuric or hydrochloric acid is too risky for amateurs to use and too dangerous to keep around the house. You can still reuse other types of bags. and large trash and lawn bags. wastebasket. Why the proliferation? Manufacturers are trying to grab shelf space from competitors and ring up higher sales by adding anything shoppers might favor. GARBAGE BAGS Plastic garbage bags didn't even exist 30 years ago. large kitchen. That makes it easy to pick up the wrong size. of course. In the case of accidental personal contact with a chemical drain cleaner.

How does reEycled plastic affect strength? Consumers Union compared test data from bags that claimed to have recycled content with data from bags that make no such claim. They're essentially puncture proof and are highly resistant to damage when dropped or dragged. Although bags with a small amount of recycled material were as strong and puncture-resistant as bags that make no ciaim. because the material is earmarked for composting. Nearly any bag from a department store or grocery store is suitable for paper or other dry. those with 80 percent or more recycled plastic weren't as tough as the others. lightweight waste. and the like). Environmental Protection Agency estimates that plasticbag waste takes up 2. The u. Consumers Union tested those bags. is to reuse bags you already have instead of buying new ones. grocery sacks. That makes them capable of handling bushes. Keep filled paper bags under cover. since they're designed to be used once and thrown away. Plastic supermarket bags are fine for food scraps. Manufacturers can reduce the environmental impact of newly minted bags by using less plastic. And those bags are free. too. they're weaker. None of the bags have 100 percent postconsumer waste in their recycled plastic. not plastic. Some manufacturers use recycled plastic (from 10 percent to 100 percent).GARBAGE BAGS 53 How "GREEN" Is My GARBAGE? Garbage bags themselves are an example of wasteful consumption.4 percent of all landfill space. detergent bottles. One "green" option.s. Some towns require yard waste to be put in paper bags. thorns. though: Once they're wet. or any debris that's sharp or jagged. of course. . That includes preconsumer waste (scrap from the manufacture of other products) as well as postconsumer waste (used milk containers.

Some bags boast that they're extra-heavy duty. 13 gal. many bags. however. Not necessarily. How do you tell which bag is most robust? You might think that the number of plies. and bags from mail-order catalogs. the issue isn't degradability anymore. However. 30-33 gal. store brands. is a reliable barometer. (The Federal Trade Commission cracked down on unsubstantiated degradability claims a few years back. sometimes noted on the package. As a result. and garbage-bag manufacturers have changed their pitch.) Now. according to Consumers Union tests. didn't pass muster. The latest marketing wrinkle targets the "green" consumer. Consumers Union sent shoppers in 14 states to buy bags. When scrutinized by Consumers Union engineers. The 55 products they found included name brands. matching the bag to the trash container can be tricky. or made of high-performance or concentrated plastic. many of them tout the use of recycled plastic. No. 39 gal. Nor is there a clear correlation between the thickness of the plastic and the bag's quality. To find out which claims are worth listening to and which bags are worth buying. the trend toward more environmentally friendly products is driven by government regulation as much as by anything else. For comparison A NUMBERS GAME? TYPE OF BAG Waste Tall kitchen Trash Lawn and leaf USUAL CAPACITY 4--S gal.54 HOUSE CLEANING siderably within those groups. That's laudable. . and their claims.

Consumers Union subjected the bags to laboratory tests and asked staffers to use them at home. however. • Some individual products performed inconsistently from bag to bag. Best are those with a star-shaped seam at their base instead of the usual horizontal seam. staffers' judgments and lab results agreed. Such problems exist because garbage-can capacity is measured in different ways when filled to the brim or with the lid on. If you need a bag that can handle heavier stuff. keep several things in mind: • You can't judge a bag by its price or name. All the kitchen bags tested mated easily with the standard ' kitchen wastebasket. They sit flush against the bottom of the wastebasket. Most garbage bags will work fine if used to hold only lightweight trash. . • Some bags that did well overall didn't do well in every test. but barely. widths. many fit. And cans rated at the same capacity come in different heights. tag their bags with labels that confound the issue. residents are required to use such bags. for instance. Some makers. In reality. a paper lawn and leaf bag was also tested. Inexpensive bags sold by mass merchandisers and by supermarkets sometimes outperformed the nationally advertised brands. In most cases. Most trash bags claim to fit inside 30-gallon garbage cans. SIZING THEM Up The table on page 54 shows the typical categories and sizes of garbage bags.GARBAGE BAGS 55 purposes. and not without a struggle. • The quality of particular brands wasn't always consistent from size to size. in many towns.

Their main asset: resistance to tearing. Those made of linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) are stret~?ier. some bags won't fit some cans. One drawback with HDPE: A little nick easily turns into a big rip. HDPE bags can be made thinner than others without compromiSing strength. depending on where the bags were purchased. To further muddle the picture. It can pay to know. Because the material is inherently tough and resists punctures. The type of plastic. Thickness claims may also be misstated. were significantly thinner than the manufacturer had noted. PlASTICS Most garbage bags are made from one of three polyethylene resins. but that's not always true. Bags made of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) are soft and pliable. you can often tell by feeling the bag. and they crunch like tissue paper when touched. Bags made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) are stiffer and more translucent than the others. mostly lawn and leaf bags. with others. THICK OR THIN? Common sense suggests that thicker is better. because the type of plastic has some bearing on how well a bag will stand up in use.56 HOUSE CLEANING and shapes. Some brands specify their type of plastic. Consumers Union often found the same brand in two labeled thicknesses. the quality and amount of recycled ma~ terial. . As long as no industry standard exists. Consumers Union measured 20 samples of each brand with an electr~nic caliper and discovered that eight brands. Kitchen bags measuring '/2 mil (a mil is a thousandth of an inch) thick were sometimes tougher than bags twice as thick. and the manufacturing process also come into play.

twist ties are sometimes too short to wrap securely around a bag. one at a tim'e. On the other hand. . You remove them from the box as you would tissues. others snapped apart. Like twist ties. During drag-and-drop tests. tabs are easily lost. Once the bag is full. you thread one end through a loop at the other end. plastic key-lock tabs. Some staffers who used those bags at home complained that the rolls unfurled or that it was hard to tear off just one bag. With plastic tabs. Drawstrings also can be flimsy. then pull. Twist ties provide a tight seal and are simple to use: Merely wrap one around the neck of the bag and give it a couple of turns. Draping the handles around a container can be a problem. the seal may not close completely.GARBAGE BAGS 57 CLOSING TIME Most bags come with wire twist ties. Some stretched like Silly Putty. Less common are handle ties. though. moisture and animal scavengers may get inside. That ensures a tight seal. You pull the end of the roll through a slit in the packaging and tear off the next bag. Consumers Union hoisted the bags by their drawstrings. which look like suspenders atop the bag's shoulders. if you tty to add another crumpled napkin to a sealed bag once locked. Staffers who used bags at home liked drawstrings because they're easy to manipulate and there are no small parts to lose. And they're easy to lose. You close a handle tie by knotting the two loops like the laces of a shoe. Trash and odors may escape. you tug and knot the string to close it. And as you'll find out. they're hard to unlock. More of a chore are bags that are packaged in a roll and connected by perforations. DISPENSE WIlli IT Garbage bags usually come folded and packaged in cartons. or some variation of a drawstring. On the other hand.

but they come without a wall storage bracket. since they can extend vacuuming beyond the length of time that a typical rechargeable model allows. Plug-in models. crannies. say. They often come with a built-in five. which plug into an automobile'S cigarette-lighter socket. The plug-ins tend to be heavier than the cordless models and auto vacuums. as well as an assortment of attachments and extensions designed especially for nooks. Low-pile carpeting littered with tougher material. potting soil from a carpet. drapes.or six-inch revolving brush well suited to cleaning rugs. A hand vacuum should be able to deal with such items as granulated sugar. cordless models come with a wall-mounted storage bracket that has a built-in battery charger. In addition. But hand vacuums with cords offer serious competition. Car vacuums. a good . most cordless vacuums and car vacuums need 20 to 30 passes. and bread crumbs. however. Consumers Union tested cleaning ability with a variety of soils spread across a smooth wood surface that simulated hardwood flooring. Handheld vacuums offer extras such as revolving· power brushes to beat dirt out of carpeting. and ceilings. generally provide wider coverage.58 HOUSE CLEANING HANDHELD VACUUM CLEANERS The most popular type of handheld vacuum operates on rechargeable batteries and can be carried easily from room to room. To retrieve. look much like the cordless models. The suction end typically tapers to an oblong slot some three inches wide. CLEANING ABILITY Most cordless models rely solely on suction to do the job. on the other hand. rice. highlighted the advantage most plug-in models enjoy over their cordless cousins.

But eventually the clock runs out even on those batteries. Having a manufacturer's service center replace the batteries can vary greatly in price. say. may need just 5 to 10 passes. Cordless or car WHEN BATIERIES Go BAD The rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries in cordless hand vacuums should accept hundreds of charges. Gravel may destroy plastic fan blades or scrape particles of plastic from the innards of some plug-in models. 'Spending. Consumers Union testers have found that batteries are difficult to replace in many hand-vacuum models. an even greater hazard. Incineration can release the metals into toe air. A decision to throwaway the vacuum poses an environmental problem. with its spinning brushes. Hand vacuums without revolving brushes have a tougher time with beach sand. a $70 ~r $80 appliance makes sense. The cadmium in nicad batteries is toxic and can leach out of landfills to contaminate groundwater supplies. Some companies will accept their old cordless products for proper disposal. Ln the past. . But hand vacuums often cost much less than that. so in some cases it may pay simply to replace the entire vacuum. A growing number of states require that the batteries ·in cordless appliances be easy to remove so they can be disposed of separately.HANDHELD VACUUM CLEANERS 59 plug-in model. $15 to replace the batteries in. Check with the manufacturer before you trash an appliance. say. Consumers Union recommends that you consider ease of battery removal and cost of battery replacement when purchasing any rechargeable appliance.

FEATURES Some of the vacuums include attachments that can change their basic character. There may be. flinging coarser soils about instead of helping to ingest them. But the add-on piece places a heavy burden on the batteries. a snap-o~ revolving brush to convert an ordinary vacuum snout of a cordless model into a vacuuming carpet sweeper. . Sometim~s the filters in these vacuums don't stop dust or grit from shooting out through vent holes. Blowby. Noise. Here are some other factors to consider: Edge cleaning. The action of the brush is so vigorous in some models that it competes with their suction. CONVb"NIENCE A revolving brush gives the plug-in vacuums an edge in cleaning carpeting. especially with plug-in models. Fallout. The noisiest are about as loud as a regular vacuum cleaner. The noise these vacuums make measured at arm's length with a sound-level meter tends to track their cleaning prowess (the louder they are the better they clean).60 HOUSE CLEANING vacuums won't suffer similar damage. since their filter cup intercepts large debris before it reaches any moving parts. The narrow nozzle of most cordless models can slip into tighter spots than can the broad brush head of the plugin models. for instance. like that on most plug-in models. Significantly reducing their ability to run the cleaner before an overnight charge is needed. None works perfectly. It's a good idea to wear eye protection when you vacuum coarse debris. but it's a mixed blessing. Most vacuums have a trap or a flap in the intake designed to prevent debris from dropping back onto the floor when the vacuum is switched off.

blinds. snap-on dust brushes let you gently rake upholstery. But an extra-long cord (some are 25 feet) may make a plug-in vacuum an attractive alternative to a cordless model. nozzles. Brushes. and some provide much greater dirt capacity than that available with a cordless vacuum. they improve carpet cleaning by stirring up the embedded litter. Others let you reduce suction by opening an air intake. lest the soggy contents turn stagnant. or even the contents of a tipped goldfish bowl. Several vacuums offer two motor settings. or loose-fitting upholstery. Plug-in models are strong performers. And on suction-only models. Here are some other noteworthy features to consider: Dual speeds. On a power-brush model. RECOMMENDATlONS A power cord would seem to compromise the main advantage of a handheld vacuum. DEALING WIm WET SPILLS A few cordless vacuums are wet/dry models. They're designed to sip up the proverbial spilled milk. A wandlike crevice tool powerfully focuses suction in small areas. while a broad floor nozzle lets you cover more area quicker. Less suction may be useful for vacuuming curtains. wands. . You should clean the vacuum (a messy job) after every wet use. It might be easier to use a sponge in the first place.HANDHELD VACUUM CLEANERS 61 A few plug-in models work the opposite way: An accessory hose lets you convert a built-in revolving brush to a suction-only nozzle. Since they are cordless. there's no shock hazard.

which is why labels on such products contain long lists of warnings. Such product labels warn you not to inhale the fumes. But some other application methods and container deSigns protect you better. you should also wear a paper dust mask (to keep from inhaling the droplets) along with protective goggles. Spread newspaper on the floor in . and other surfaces. decomposing the stuck-on fats and sugars into soapy compounds you can wash away. counters. Some oven-cleaning products contain lye. thermostats. any product that contains lye must be used with extreme caution. Lye can burn skin and eyes. one of the most dangerous substances sold for household use. If you're using an aerosol. and in your lungs. and light fixtures. Some oven cleaners on the market are aerosol sprays. you should protect nearby floors. Lye-containing oven cleaners are corrosively alkaline and reactive enough to cause serious burns. a long-sleeved shirt. or glass. Lye causes a chemical reaction. Before using any cleaner containing lye. OVEN CLEANERS Use oven cleaners only on shiny porcelain-coated metal surfaces. Baked-on oven dirt is too tough for ordinary cleaners. Never use them on continuous-cleaning (dull finish) or self-cleaning oven finishes or on bare metal. which helps them make quick work of a variety of soils ground into a rug. which are convenient to apply but hard to aim neatly. Still. and rubber gloves. Inhaled droplets can actually burn the throat and lungs. you should don safety goggles. Not only should you take steps to protect yourself from the corrosive effects of lye. Clouds of aerosol mist deposit cleaner not only on oven walls but perhaps also on heating elements.62 HOUSE CLEANING Most have a broad revolving brush.

Because they don't create airborne lye particles. Not only is it tedious to paint an entire oven with brush-on jelly. it's almost impossible to keep the jelly from spattering. This type of product doesn't have to carry a long list of warnings on its label. Instead of using lye to break down oven grime. heating elements. You don't have to arm yourself with rubber gloves and a face mask to use it because it isn't likely to irritate. Oven-cleaning products come in several forms such as pad. Another way to avoid dangerous fumes and corrosive spatters is to use an aerosol cleaner without lye. or painted surfaces outside the oven. and keep it off the heating element. and pump spray. and the spray is unnecessarily diffuse and easy to inhale. PACKAGING An oven cleaner's packaging affects its convenience of use and safety. brush-on jelly. It isn't likely to damage kitchen surfaces. but they're also easy to get on gaskets. broad spray. aerosol. Finally. The stream doesn't cover much and it splatters. such products use a combination of organic surfactants that are activated by heat. gaskets. Aerosols are easy to apply. as long as you've covered your hands and forearms. Take care not to splash any of the cleaner on aluminum. copper. pads are a relatively safe way to apply oven cleaner. concave button makes it harder to mis. and sometimes your face by mistake. All have drawbacks. and light fixture inside the oven. a hand-pumped spray can be a real annoyance.OVEN CLEANERS 63 front of the oven. direct the spray than a small button. A broad. RECOMMENDATIONS The instructions that come with self-cleaning ovens warn against . Some products have an adjustable nozzle that produces anything from a stream to a misty.

Manufacturers try to control a larger share of the market by selling a variety of brands. a little oven cleaner might. PAPER TOWELS Some brands of paper towel are available nationwide. In some cases. But if you feel otherwise. . Serious spills. The overspecified towel gives the advertiser something to brag about and helps justify the generally higher price. for example. such as when a cake overflows its pan. then choose a noncaustic oven cleaner. can be scraped up after the oven cools. An oven in continual use can reach a steady state at which grease and grime burn off at the same rate they accumulate. Even if you lack a self-cleaning or continuous-cleaning oven. too. Wording varies. you aren't necessarily sentenced to the hard labor of cleaning your oven.64 HOUSE CLEANING using commercial oven cleaners." This is because the cleaners may damage the porcelain finish during the high-temperature cleaning cycle. towels of a nationally known brand may vary somewhat from region to region. So you can skip using an oven cleaner. One supermarket executive termed premium-priced towels "overspecified"-meaning they are thicker and heavier than they need to be. but a basic warning reads "Do not use commercial oven cleaners or oven protective coatings around any part of the self-cleaning oven. but there are many regional and store brands. A little dirt in the oven never hurt anybody. at consumers who believe that a high price connotes high quality and aiming a moderately priced one at consumers who treat one roll of towels pretty much like any other. aiming a premium one. which in turn pays for both the manufacturing costs and the heavy advertising and promotion expenses.

or wipe a window. weakly anchored fibers tend to shed lint. . • But for many other uses. otherwise. to perform these seemingly unexacting tasks. a poor-quality towel may smear the spill rather than absorb it. you may be left holding either a torn sheet or more sheets than you need. Softness is relatively unimportant in a paper towel. They're typically called upon to scour a dirty oven. Towels should separate cleanly at their perforations. And yet. • For mopping up. sop up a kitchen spill. For spilled salad dressing or motor oil. RECOMMENDATIONS The strongest. most products will do the job. at least according to an informal poll of more than 60 Consumers Union staffers. Use an economical one for everyday chores. most absorbent towels are likely to be the premium-priced brands. Soft towels are usually more absorbent. paper towels need disparate qualities: Even when wet. but they may not hold up as well during scouring. Generally. the two-ply towels detach more evenly than the one-ply towels. they should withstand scrubbing without falling apart .PAPER TOWELS 65 Paper towels lead a brief and unglamorous life. and then within moments they're gone. a particular problem when you clean a mirror or Windowpane. relatively expensive towels to keep around the house. Paper towels with short. a costly but highly absorbent towel can be as economical as a cheap but less absorbent towel. For more demanding tasks-like picking up a large spill or cleaning a carpet-you might want to buy a roll of strong and absorbent.

They keep the oven clean by absorbing spattered grease and excess moisture and help to keep certain foods from drying out or becoming soggy. cloth shop towels are far stronger than any of the paper products. and other tasks too tough for ordinary paper towels. having fewer heavy metals. it's wise to wrap or cover the food with white paper towels. plain white (unprinted) paper towel should do. scrubbing away rust. there is no need to pay extra for these specialty products. absorbent. Both paper and cloth shop towels clean greasy tools and effectively scrub rust. TOUGHER TOWELS FOR TOUGH JOBS Shop towels are for cleaning up grime in the garage or workshop. or preparing hot sandwiches. Of course.66 HOUSE CLEANING Paper towels are the second largest "loss leader" in stores. Shop towels made of paper are throwaways. USING PAPER TOWELS WITH MICROWAVE OVENS For modest microwaving chores like steaming fish or poultry. Wait for a sale of your favorite product and stock up with enough to last you until the next sale. Some ordinary paper towels might tend to shred a bit but should do the job nevertheless. "Microwave" paper-towel brands are identical to their regular siblings except that they are claimed to be food grade (FDA approved for food contact). Shop towels tend to be stronger than most ordinary paper towels. But for simple microwaving. cloth towels are meant to be washed and reused. Any strong. cooking vegetables or bacon. . But are some paper towels better than others for microwaving? Some manufacturers sell brands that they claim are specially formulated for microwave tasks.

of course. The gentlest cleansers will leave few or no marks even on a piece of glass (similar in hardness to the porcelain in bathtubs and sinks). Today's cleansers claim to remove soil and stains without damaging the surface being cleaned. are cheaper still. Paper shop towels are certainly more convenient than cloth. and other alkaline or acidic ingredients.) SCOURING CLEANSERS It used to be that the more abrasive a scouring powder was. if inadvertently spilled and not wiped up. replaced gritty particles. A good product. Today. (Household rags.SCOURING CLEANSERS 67 Paper shop towels absorb water faster than their cloth counterparts. with softer abrasives like calcium carbonate. both liquids and powders derive much of their cleaning strength from detergent. Liquid cleansers. such as silica. the more effectively it cleaned and the more surely it eroded porcelainenamel finishes and the decorative polish of cookware and acrylic vanities. the cloth shop towels still don't absorb water as quickly but are fine for oil. After several washings to remove their sizing. and the other ingredients enhance a cleanser's effectiveness on a variety of stains. The detergent in the cleanser helps loosen soil and cut grease. bleach. introduced in the 1970s. although nothing like the deep marks left by old-time abrasive cleansers. especially from scratched and dented surfaces. A slightly abrasive cleanser leaves light hairline scratches on glass panels and is more likely to erode surfaces over time. the bleach aids in removing many stains. Moderately abrasive cleansers leave a silky smooth frosting of scratches. . But the cloth shop towels are cheaper if they're used at least 10 times.

of course. Be especially careful in the use and storage of rust-removing cleansers.68 HOUSE CLEANING shouldn't leave marks on chrome. or other metals if not wiped off after application. But watch your pots and pans: A number of cleansers dull or discolor aluminum. If so. Cleansers usually warn about this on the labeL Some cleansers are strongly alkaline or acidic and could irritate your skin. apply the cleanser with a cellulose sponge. copper. or glazed tile. You might also want to remove your jewelry and wear rubber gloves when cleaning with them. Most cleansers do well on difficult-ta-remove soil and on a variety of stains such as pot marks and tea stains on a kitchen sink.. wipe it off. SAFETY Cleansers containing ble. They range in abrasiveness from negligible to . they will provide warnings regarding the hazards involved. first try it on an inconspicuous corner. glass. They may contain oxalic acid. fiberglass. RECOMMENDATIONS Today's cleansers tend to be very good to excellent in overall cleaning ability. a plastic mesh pad.g. cautiously try a more aggressive applicator (e. even a gentle product may cause some damage.ach or acid shouldn't be mixed with ammonia or other cleansers-the combination can produce dangerous fumes. and wipe residues up after each use. which is why it's important to use a light touch and a soft applicator. steel wool or copper mesh pads). When you're cleaning a new surface or using a new cleanser. For cleaning with a light touch. If this fails on a very soiled surface. and check for marring. imitation marble (usually acrylic). Some are especially effective on particular types of difficult stains (such as rust and hard-water deposits) and are labeled accordingly. Over time. or a reinforced sponge.

As the water evaporates. like scraping crusted soil off old pots and pans or cleaning a badly abraded porcelain sink. you will probably need a moderately abrasive product.SCOURING CLEANSERS 69 slight to moderate.'RS Most in-bowl cleaners use acid to dissolve mineral scale and erad- . Even with soft water. For delicate surfaces. IN-BOWL CLEANf:<. coating the upper part of the bowl and eventually hardening into a scale. If you have rust or hard-water stains. walls. The "real" cleaners are the liquid and granular in-bowl cleaners that are meant to be used with a brush. in-tank cleaners are the easiest to use but generally only mask the dirt. Liquid cleansers tend to have the lowest abrasiveness. range surfaces. the buildup can grow rapidly. The culprit is usually hard water. you might consider special cleansers labeled for this purpose. which has a high mineral content. You'll want a good all-purpose cleaner to take care of ordinary soil on floors. molds can form a dark coating in the bowl. Automatic. countertops. If the ceramic surface is slick. minerals such as whitish calcium or magnesium compounds and rust-colored iron compounds are left behind. Cleansers are not appropriate for all chores in the kitchen and bathroom. If you have some very demanding jobs. while powders occur at all levels. first try the cleanser in an inconspicuous place. TOILET BOWL CLEANERS A common cause of persistent toilet-bowl staining is minerals that build up around the waterline and under the rim. such deposits hardly find a foothold. A barely abrasive product can do an excellent cleaning job. even on tough soils. and the like. But if the surface has been scratched by abrasive cleaners or roughened with age.

some do not actually claim to clean a dirty bowl.70 HOUSE CLEANING icate stains. To do so could release toxic fumes . some granular cleaners use sodium bisulfate. pine. the packages sometimes have a very strong smell. With some in-tank cleaners. Brushed on. or lemon scents. Active agents may include hydrochloric. Although blue cleaners generally contain detergent and other ingredients to curb stains. IN-TANK CLEANERS Some in-tank products rely on blue dye to tint the water and hide the dirt that accumulates between scrubbings. phosphoric. Products with lower acid content may require more cleaner. Never mix an in-bowl cleaner with other household chemicals (including in-tank toilet cleaners). Check to see if the dispensing valve has clogged or if the product is actually used up. Nonacidic liquids may not be very effective at removing mineral stains. or oxalic acids. or more muscle to do the job. Compared with liquids. Don't be too quick to change containers when the blue vanishes. But . the question is not how well it works but how long it lasts. The chemicals in toilet bowl cleaners are powerful and should be handled carefully. Brands with the highest acidity have the greatest potential for cleaning. you may notice wintergreen. more time. then. it can clean a lightly soiled bowl quite satisfactorily for less than the cost of in-bowl cleaners. You might try a dash of liquid all-purpose cleaner. If you sniff packages on the store shelf. powders are less convenient to apply around the bowl and under the rim. But they should work well on nonmineral stains that can be brushed away readily. Some blue cleaners claim to deodorize. Indeed. which when dissolved works like acid.

are easy to use. blue-colored or bleaches. Some in-tank cleaners slowly dispense chlorine bleach to lighten stains and give off a scent that many people associate with cleanliness. If your water is chlorinated. Scrubbing with an acidic powder or liquid is the one sure way to attack the mineral matter that causes most toilet bowl stains. If you start with a spotless toilet. Some plumbing-fixture manufacturers recommend against using in-tank cleaners containing hypochlorite bleach. Since chlorine is not as visible as blue dye. buildup of new stains and keep the bowl presentable between more thorough scrubbings. the scent may be practically imperceptible. RECOMMENDATIONS The best way to clean the toilet bowl is to brush it frequently with a liquid all-purpose cleaner. These products may contain pebbles of calcium hypochlorite bleach. you might not know when to replace a bleach-based bowl cleaner. However. If the coloring lasts for more than a few minutes. But when a toilet isn't flushed at least once a day. The amount of bleach such cleaners release can vary considerably from flush to flush. they may only slow the . since the water may stand in the bowl for hours. your nose may not tell you. it means that the bleach-based cleaner is spent. they release enough chlorine to bleach stains. You can use a drop of food coloring in the bowl as a test. Typically. In-tank . In-bowl toilet cleaners are for more serious stains. it's very little. In-tank cleaners.TOILET BOWL CLEANERS 71 once the cleaner dissolves in the tank. the bleach may become more concentrated and may damage parts inside the tank. particularly around the rim. but don't expect miracles.

and probably less expensive. detachable version of the upright's built-in power head. obviously. upholstery. it's likely to be easier to handle than a canister vacuum. And. and furniture-tasks that were once the canister vacuum's alone. many canisters now have a power nozzle-a smaller. outselling canister models by more than five to one. Finally. do not let any brand's claims to disinfect sway you. You should probably give first consideration to an upright vacuum. How THEY CLEANED Nothing matters more in a vacuum cleaner. VACUUM CLEANERS The two classic kinds of vacuum cleaner. a disinfecting cleaner can only temporarily cut the population of some germs.72 HOUSE CLEANING bleach cleaners should not be used in a toilet that isn't flushed regularly. Most upright vacuums now have a flexible hose and tools to vacuum crevices. Almost any vacuum cleaner can remove most . Among other advantages. whose brushes may disperse debris before it can be vacuumed up.) Upright vacuums remain the most popular choice. Carpet cleaning. The floor brush of a good canister vacuum may do a better job on flooring than the power head of an upright vacuum. upright and canister. for carpet cleaning. have become more alike. A canister model might suit you if you vacuum mostly bare floors. than how well it picks up dust and debris. Enough chlorine may accumulate to damage parts inside the tank. (Power heads and power nozzles use a rotating beater brush to deep-clean carpeting. At best. Each has borrowed features from the other and become more versatile.

there is a chance that a solid object-a coin. That wasn't the case in past years. but most of the canisters can't hold the edge as their bags fill. is an important consideration to people who are sensitive to such substances. That design does have a drawback. and some is vented back into the room through the exhaust port. The top performers are uprights whose suction fan is located in front of the vacuum bag and pushes air through the bag. extract the fabric. when uprights held an edge. all without shutting off the machine. This reduces the suction the machine can sustain. The particles most likely to escape filtration are minuscule. which enclose the bag in a fabric pouch. and some of the "hard . For those times when a vacuum cleaner accidentally inhales part of a throw rug or drapes. however: Because incoming air is drawn through the fan before it is filtered. most uprights don't. Overall. a valve that uncovers a hole near the hose's handle. and mold spores. A clean exhaust. Air flow. Some of the waste gets blown around. As the bag fills. Better machines also pluck dirt from deep within carpet pile. and can include fragments of such allergens as pet dander. Machines with that "push" fan design include all the "soft body" uprights. then. pollen. and continue to vacuum. it's handy to have a control that reduces suction-typically. Canisters generally outdo uprights at the outset. Most canister vacuums have such a suction control. CLEARING THE AIR Even an excellent vacuum cleaner won't necessarily capture all dust and debris. air flow diminishes. there is little difference in deep-cleaning prowess between canisters and uprights. say-will damage the fan's vanes. Most vacuum cleaners either pull or push debris-laden air through a porous vacuum bag that traps the waste.VACUUM CLEANERS 73 surface debris. That allows you to pause.

is to use "microfiltration bags. which have a rigid plastic casing. A few force you to bend uncomfortably to reach the switch. Deep cleaning goes better when the beater brushes are adjusted to the right height-too high and they won't clean deeply." with fans located downstream of the bag. WHAT'S EASIEST TO USE? If you're a typical vacuum-cleaner owner. Adjusting cleaning height. Some canisters have a second. Getting started Most vacuum cleaners have an On/ Off switch that's easy to operate by hand or foot. Here are some of the factors to consider: Lugging it. too low and they'll dig into the pile and make . but also because you typically have to juggle more components at a time. So you want to make sure the one you buy is as easy to use as possible. The rest of the hard-body uprights and all of the canister vacuums are "pullers. You can usually hoist an upright with one hand. But the dust in their exhausts could irritate some people who are sensitive to airborne allergens. they're almost always less expensive than microfiltration bags. you'll live with your machine for years before it breaks. available on about a third of the machines. The vacuums that emit the most in their exhaust are canisters. That's a plus when an object gets stuck in the brush and you want to shut off the machine quickly. Canisters require both hands. One option. nonallergy sufferers should choose the standard-type bag. However." which supposedly use electrostatic charges to trap small particles. even the dirtiest among them doesn't spew forth a visible torrent of debris. independent switch on or near the handle to control the power nozzle.74 HOUSE CLEANING body" uprights. not only because they're heavy. If the vacuum cleaner allows a choice of bags.

move about when the hose is in use than when they're deep cleaning. Some machines claim to adjust the height automatically. And. However. On stairways. which enables you to cover most of the steps with the main unit at the bottom. You can do a more effective cleaning job on stairs and along baseboards if there's a minimum of dead space between the powered brush and the outer edge of its housing.to 30-foot power cord. Uprights typically have two hooks. Cord storage. Vacuuming stairs is easier with a long hose. the power assistance does take getting used to. whose wide "footprint" often won't fit comfortably on the stair. around which you wind the cord. Stairs. most uprights are pretty easy to push. some machines have awkward. Self-propelled models require little effort to push about. preferably using a foot pedal. If one or both hooks swivel. with the feature turned off. the cord can be released quickly. especially those with big wheels or rollers. Some uprights have a hose that mounts high on the machine. Consumers Union favors machines that allow you to make the adjustment yourself. A vacuum cleaner typically has a 20. making the vacuum prone to tip. Uprights require more effort to . annoy- . and those models that allow the beater brush in the power head or nozzle to be switched off so that its rotation doesn't blow dirt around a bare floor.VACUUM CLEANERS 75 the machine hard to push. Once set at the proper height. they may be difficult to move around. Canisters usually have a handy built-in winder that automatically recoils the cord at the press of a button or a yank of the cord. a canister vacuum is generally easier to use than an upright. Pushing and pulling. However. Every power head or nozzle has such an area in front of and on each side of the housing.

Emptying dust and debris. Removing the old bag without dumping debris is also a challenge. Some machines have an indicator to let you know when the bag is full (or if air flow is blocked). Doing the upkeep yourself could not only save you a repair bill. Even if you escape such a calamity. That's why some cleaners. restricting air flow. have a shutoff mechanism. LIGHT VACUUMS FOR LIGHT DunES No room to store a vacuum cleaner? Want some lightweight assis- . and hard-body uprights less noisy than soft-body models. Canisters tend to be slightly less noisy than the uprights. which averages $40. as is retrieving any spilled dirt from the bottom of the pouch. mostly canisters. It's often awkward and sloppy to change bags on a soft-body upright. but bags that are bigger don't necessarily last longer. You may have to place the machine on its back. Uprights usually have the largest bags. unzip the cloth pouch or remove a plastic retainer. but also the expense of needless repairs.76 HOUSE CLEANING ing ways to store the cord. Bags often must be replaced not because they're full. Whines and roars. you almost always have to change a paper bag. Others have no way at all to store it. or the headlcimp bulb are examples. To dispose of what a vacuum cleaner has picked up. Replacing parts yourself is easier on some machines than on others. and coax the bag's sleeve over a protruding tube. MAiNTAINING THE MACHINE An object that's stuck in the revolving brush or fan blades can cause the motor to overheat and burn out. vacuum cleaners still require occasional upkeep-replacing the brush. the drive belt. but because their pores have clogged.

Consumers Union's laboratory NEWSPAPERS FOR CLEANING WINDOWS Over the years. Professionals do their wiping with natural-sponge applicators and rubber squeegees. Newspaper also blackens hands and leaves ink smudges around window mullions.WINDOW CLEANERS 77 tance with quick cleanups? The electric broom. It takes a fair amount of wiping and rubbing to clean and polish a window with it. Yet others swear by yesterday's newspaper. In a Consumers Union test of newspaper used with an effective commercial cleaner on heavily soiled windows. there have been many opinions about which window wipers work best. But if you put off washing your windows until they're really dirty. the kitchen or a small apartment. The best glass cleaner is one that works fast and removes grime with a minimum of help from you. you'll need something more potent. promises to help. It may also be a boon for those with limited mobility or hand strength. it was found that newspaper is not very absorbent. which weighs about six pounds and usually costs less than $50. WINDOW CLEANERS Squeegee-wielding professionals know that plain water can clean lightly soiled windows. An electric broom may be handy for quick (if a little dirty) once-overs on floors in. who have trouble using either a full-size vacuum cleaner or a broom and dustpan. Some purists feel the job is unfinished without the careful application of a good chamois leather. say. .

can soften latex paint on mullions and sills around a window. HOMEMADE RECIPES Consumers Union's recipes can equal or best many of the aerosols. With most commercial products. Many are mediocre. 1 pint of rubbing alcohol. sprays.78 HOUSE CLEANING tests showed that glass cleaners widely vary in their effectiveness. wipe spilled window cleaner off painted surfaces without hard rubbing. and supermarket house brands are generally cheaper than national brands. Mix liz cup of sudsy ammonia. Mix 4 tablespoons of lemon juice in 1 gallon of water. Pump sprays generally carry a lower cost-perounce than do aerosols. and premoistened towels in the stores. They cost a fraction of the price for store-bought products~a penny or less per ounce-and you can easily prepare them at home. and 1 tablespoon of hand dishwashing liquid (do not use more than 1 tablespoon. or streaking may result). • The Lemon Formula-works for lightly soiled windows. The paint should reharden once it has dried. It would cost on average only a few pennies to clean both sides of a heavily soiled window measuring ·2 by 3 feet. even plain water. CARE IN USE Any glass cleaner. • The Ammonia Formula-works for heavily soiled windows. an ounce of cleaner goes pretty far. STORE PRODUCTS A store-bought glass cleaner would cost from around a nickel to a quarter an ounce. and top the mixture up with enough water to make 1 gallon. . Vinegar brands are generally inferior to ammonia-based versions. Therefore.

none pose any problems for the environment. . None of the cleaners contain phosphates. and none of the aerosols use ozone-depleting propellants.WINDOW CLEANERS 79 THE ENvIRONMENT Among the usual ingredients in most glass cleaners.

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check for troublesome stains that may have become set. Some stains won't respond well to 81 . • Most wash loads do quite well in cold or warm water. • Separate sweatshirts. Next. • Separate very dirty clothes that should be presoaked or washed in hot water from lightly soiled or temperature-sensitive items. Heavy soils on cottons respond better to a hot-water wash. • Separate chlorine-bleachable light and white clothes from those that cannot be bleached if you intend to add chlorine bleach to the wash. new towels. especially when washed for the first time. Hot water may have an adverse effect on permanent-press garments.Laundry You can get good laundering results if you sort clothes according to the following guidelines: • Separate colors and whites into different laundry loads. Check each garment's care label. remember to empty pockets and close Zippers to prevent snagging. Intense colors (very dark or very bright) may bleed. and products made from chenille yarn (all of which may tend to generate lint) from permanent press clothes and corduroys (which attract lint). A good guide is the maker's care label. • As you sort wash loads. They can tint white or light-colored clothes washed in the same load.

" plastic rings designed to lock pairs of socks together. BLEACHES Liquid chlorine bleach is the old standby. and kitchen for whitening and removing stains and mildew. · However. too. But chlorine bleach has its problems. the real story unfolds in the laundry room. and Fabric Softeners. • To keep socks from getting lost. Boosters. bathroom.82 LAUNDRY a presoak or laundry booster alone. Clothes Washers. be sure to clean the dryer's lint filter after each use. Leaving clothes in the dryer's drum after tumbling has stopped can also cause wrinkling. • Do not overload your dryer. or use "sock savers. The telltale signs of misuse or overuse of chlorine bleach are splotches of faded color or white spots where undiluted bleach has splashed. check the following sections on Bleaches. having earned its place in the laundry room. • To ensure optimum drying time. and fabrics that have faded from vivid to dim or from blue to pink. Nonchlorine. . "all-fabric" oxygen bleaches promise the benefits of chlorine bleach without the risk. Always allow ample room for articles to tumble about freely. For the best ways to cope with laundry. wash them in a mesh bag. and require special treatment before washing. place them at the bottom of the washing machine tub. Check Appendix B: Stain Removal for detailed instructions on removing those stains. Detergents. Placing too many items in a dryer can lengthen drying time and cause garments to wrinkle.

not restore it. Some oxygen bleaches are better than chlorine bleaches at reducing or removing tough stains such as red wine. HARD-TO-REMoVE STAINS In general.BLEACHES 83 Chlorine and oxygen bleaches use different active ingredients that decolorize and solubilize stains so they can be removed with the help of a detergent. chlorine or oxygen bleach should be used with a good laundry detergent to succeed at removing stains. It's ideal for the occasional whitening your wash may need. The active ingredient in liquid oxygen bleaches is hydrogen peroxide. objectionable. Initially. Oxygen bleaches usually contain other ingredients as well to help in stain removal. Chlorine bleaches have always been far better than oxygen bleaches at whitening clothes. but knowing how to use chlorine bleach is essential: Improper and long-term use may take . when usedpropedy. FADING Chlorine bleach can cause colors to fade. after more washings. RECOMMENDATIONS Chlorine bleach. Slight fading becomes evident and then. Liquid chlorine bleaches all have about the same amount of active ingredient. An oxygen bleach will continue being kind to colors much longer. is the most effective way to whiten fabrics. After a few washings. however. it may have no noticeable effect on the brightness of colors. In powder oxygen bleaches it is sodium percarbonate or sodium perborate tetrahydrate. Oxygen bleaches can only maintain whiteness. the chlorine begins taking its toll. sodium hypochlorite.. including some synthetics . and there is little difference from one brand to another.

Chlorine bleach is usually safe on cottons. • Oxygen bleach should be added with the laundry detergent to the wash water before the laundry is added. follow these guidelines: • Before you bleach. If it says "no bleach. or noncolorfast fabrics or dyes). and some colorfast fabrics. The combination can produce irritating fumes. Spandex. leather (e. It is safe on washable fabrics. Use all-fabric bleach to brighten colors without fading and to whiten fabrics that are not safe for use with chlorine bleach. It should then be added 5 to 6 minutes after the wash cycle has started. If you're unsure about the safety of a bleach for a garment. . even over the long term. read the garment's care label. • Chlorine bleach must first be diluted as directed on the product's label. ammonia. but buying it is simple. mohair. buttons. linens. Never use chlorine and oxygen bleaches together." don't use any kind of bleach.g. • Don't use chlorine bleach on wool.84 LAUNDRY its toll on colors and fabric life. silk. first do a safety test on an inside seam as recommended on the bleach's label.. All-fabric oxygen bleaches have the advantage of being safe with most fabrics and dyes. • Never use chlorine bleach with hand dishwashing liquids. The only real difference you are likely to find is price. Using chlorine bleach may be tricky. or toilet cleaners. But they're much more expensive to use than chlorine bleaches. It works more effectively at higher wash temperatures than at cooler temperatures. A good approach is the occasional use of chlorine bleach on chlorine-safe white fabrics to deliver the whitening you need. When you use bleach. they will counteract each other.

oilstained overalls. and T-shirts dotted with last week's spaghetti dinner. Consumers Union tested the effectiveness of boosters and liquid laundry detergents on eleven different stains on white cottonpolyester fabric: chocolate syrup. black ink. blood. liquids. spaghetti sauce. Stain-fighting laundry boosters may help a laundry detergent to remove stubborn stains. Performance was spotty and disappointing in general. Regular laundry detergents can also be used as self-boosters. and sticks. such as used motor oil. Boosters may be available as powders. likewise. the other boosters on only one or two. soft toothbrushbefore laundering. mud. However. Imagine rubbing a wash load of grass-stained knees. CONVENIENCE Launderers with a Single-stained garment might like a stick. Powder laundry detergents should be mixed with a little water and applied to the stain as a paste-rubbed in with a new. LiqUids. tea. makeup. grape juice. The best boosters were effective on four to six of the eleven stains. Boosters were used according to label instructions to help an economy-priced laundry detergent. But there are situations in which a stick would be decidedly inconvenient. and used motor oil. aerosols. pump sprays. Sprays are a bit eas- . but without presoaking. are too stubborn for some laundry detergents in ordinary laundering.BOOSTERS 85 BOOSTERS Today's high-performance laundry detergents do not need a laundry booster to remove many common stains. some household stains. One booster was not effective at removing any of the stains. grass. Liquid laundry detergents are effective stain removers when applied directly to stains before laundering. must be rubbed in.

Inc.. Box 3332. NJ 08002). Bridgeport. Both performed better. It may make sense. Choose a product based on your idea of convenience. overall. MAIL-ORDER BOOSTER/SPOT REMOVERS Consumers Union conducted tests on two specialized spot removers. but that ties up the machine. but most aren't any more effective than detergent alone. Box 8361. then transfer it to your washing machine. Amodex Stain Remover (Amodex Products. But they weren't equally effective on all stains. You can also use the detergent as a booster as described above. you might prefer a powder that you pour into the machine along with a detergent.86 LAUNDRY ier.O. P. CLOTHES WASHERS The design of top-loading automatic washing machines has matured to the point that periodic model changes are mostly small re- . CT 06065) and Magic Wand (Edwards Creative Products.O. You can let the stained clothes soak in the water. When stains are pervasive. then toss the dirty clothes into the washing machine. removing more stains from more fabrics. But presoaking with a powder is problematic. than supermarket boosters. Some boosters cope quite well with some stains. Cherry Hill. to keep a booster on hand for those inevitable spills that even the best detergent can't handle. Amodex was better as both a prespotter and spot remover. you douse stains. RECOMMENDATIONS Laundry detergents are generally so effective that you may not need a booster if you lead a low-soil life. A messy alternative is to let the laundry soak in a tub. however. 989 Hancock Avenue. P.

Most of the rather deluxe washers have mechanical controls. energy (mainly in the form of hot water used for washing). and detergent. Almost all washing machines sold in the United States are toploaders. Except for lower-end models. While front-loading washers. . This is the case even though front-loaders use much less water. and the right amount of water. variable water-level controls. efficiency (machines that use less water get higher marks).CLOTItES WASHERS 87 finements. DOE energy standards will be much more stringent. several models have electronic controls. are available. Present front-loaders sell for $600 to well over $1. and load-size capacity. Just about any washing machine on the market will clean just fine . of which very few are manufactured. with wash tubs that rotate around a horizontal axis. or replace mechanical controls with electronic ones. the right amount of detergent. manufacturers expect that within the near future. provided you use the right cycle. A manufacturer may change the shape of the agitator. "Suds ' saver" models. Models of that design are available in Europe. most machines come with such amenities as two agitation and spin speeds. and the most practical way to meet the standard will be with horizontal axis washers. Whether the new horizontal axis machines will be sold for as low a price as present top-loaders remains to be seen. Less expensive models may have somewhat smaller capacities and lack some of those features or have less elaborate versions of them. Other critical factors are convenience. very few are sold in the United States. with wash tubs that rotate around a vertical axis. or restyle the control panel. future horizontal axis machines may be designed to be loaded from the top.000. While all horizontal axis machines presently sold in the United States are front-loaders. and bleach and fabric-softener dispensers. However. let users recycle the wash water.

On fa regular cycle with an eight-pound load. If that doesn't happen. tests were run using the warm wash/cold rinse settings that are suitable for most clothes. The size and shape of the tub. and time contribute heavily to those differences. then sink. ENERGY AND m4TER Water consumption is a critical factor. That will hamper the machine's performance and may also damage the clothing. Water use. and the cost of heating the wash water. The testers put each machine through its regular cycle with the lid up so they could count and time the appeara. If the flags circulated well. Front-loaders used about one-half to one-third of the water used by top-loaders. You can adjust the water level for partial loads. Washers are most efficient when run at full capacity. agitator speed. toward the agitator. Consumers Union's testers made up loads of white or lightcolored items plus six "flags"-brightly colored washcloths. consumption was slightly more. The range of hot-water use for the machines is strik- . the strain that a large load of wash water imposes on septic systems.88 LAUNDRY For a machine to wash properly.nce and disappearance of the flags. Energy use.) To monitor water and energy consumption. the testers ran larger loads until two flags no longer circulated. the clothes nearest the agitator take a pounding while those around the side move only slightly. (Providing hot water consumes far more energy than running the washing machine itself. These tests showed considerable differences in capacity. given the periodic drought in some parts of the country. clothes must move around the tub. the design of the agitator. using the highest water level. but you shouldn't try to wash a full load on a partial water fill. water use ranged from about 40 to 50 gallons. On the permanent-press cycle.

That arrangement saves about 17 gallons of water and about half the detergent for REpAIR HISTORY Washing machines from KitchenAid. Sediment from the first wash settles out in the sink or tub. and Magic Chef have been the most trouble-prone. Frigidaire.800 gallons of hot water per year. A relatively inefficient machine would need about 240 loads and 2. Assume you do about 42 pounds of clothes per week. Actual differences would probably be less dramatic because you wouldn't fill a machine to capacity for every load. Some 20 percent of the machines used for five to seven loads a week have needed some repair. and Hotpoint have had a more reliable record than other brands. Whirlpool.184 pounds per year. The older the washer. according to a 1994 Consumer Reports reader survey." One "suds-saver" machine design. The "suds sa~er.CLOTHES WASHERS 89 ing. using 1. or 2. That's about 45 percent more. One of the more efficient machines would do that much laundry in about 160 loads. . The washer's intake hose is designed to leave about half an inch of water. of course.800 gallons of hot water. age is taken into account when analyzing the repair data. Accordingly. so the sediment is not pumped b~ck. Among machines used for one to four loads a week. then sucks it up again to be reused for one or more additional wash-water fills. only 15 percent ever needed repair. which should more accurately be termed a water saver. the more likely it has ever been repaired. And 26 percent of the machines used for eight or more loads per week have needed repair. Machines from WhiteWestinghouse. spews wash water into a tub or sink next to the machine. Usage also affects a washer's reliability.

Sand disposal Most machines do quite well in removing fairly large amounts of sand in the first wash. Consumers Union's testers gave each machine an increasingly unbalanced load and watched to see if the machine banged or "walked" across the floor. A few machines did quite well. sometimes shutting off the machines with even a slightly unbalanced load. Laundering inevitably produces lint. it is up to the user to decide when to stop recycling. Linting. Many machines have self-leveling rear legs linked together. Unbalanced loads. To minimize rocking and vibration. but a well-designed washing machine should filter it out. OTHER CHARACTERISTICS Here are some aspects of performance other than capacity and efficiency. Fresh detergent in each reuse. a design that makes the machine easier to level. But such a switch can work all too well. Most even have a self-cleaning lint filter that flushes lint away when spinning. About a gallon of fresh water is added to the next load of laundry to compensate for what was left in the sink. mattress pads. The more the wash water is reused. Some machines have a switch that shuts the machine off if the load goes out of balance. blankets. the cooler and the less effective it becomes. keep cleaning performance up. Even the worst should remove all the sand after two washes.90 LAUNDRY each reuse. the legs on a washer must be set so that the machine is level yet kept as close to the floor as possible. plus fresh-water rinses. Ski jackets. and other bulky items strain a machine's suspension by making the tub oscillate as it spins. Others banged loudly even with a moderately unbalanced load. Noise. Noise becomes an important consideration if you live in an apartment or a house where the washer is near the main living .

They provide more flexibility in adapting choice to specific water temperatures. noisiest when filling with water. the extra rinse just wastes water. a warm wash/cold rinse for more lightly soiled or permanent press items. and a Knits/Delicates cycle (with slow agitation and spin). machines are quietest in the Spin cycle. Many machines offer a setting for a second rinse. CONlROL Most washers on the market let you choose a Regular cycle.CLOTIIES WASHERS 91 area. Otherwise. a Permanent Press cycle (with an extra cold-water spray or a deep rinse to relax wrinkles). Some models with mechanical controls show only Regular and Permanent Press cycles. Other washing machines offer warm wash/warm rinse and slow agitation. Most machines on the market are designed to minimize hazards. It's sup- . The majority have a brake that stops the spinning tub if you lift the lid. but they allow you to control agitation and spin speeds. settings that are preferable for washable woolens. and a cold wash/cold rinse for delicates. Safety. An extra rinse is useful if you're using extra detergent to wash heavily soiled items or if you're sensitive to detergent and want to be sure it's removed from the clothes. Although the Fill cycle is short. A few have additional water-temperature settings between hot and warm and warm and cold. Most machines can be set for at least the basic wash and rinse temperatures: a hot wash/cold rinse for white or very soiled colorfast items. As a rule. it can be downright boisterous. but any of these machines can be set by hand for an additional rinse and spin at the end of a cycle. A few models have an electronic temperature control. Other machines automatically set agitation and spin speeds when you choose a cycle. Some lock the lid during Spin and make it impossible to lift the lid for about 45 seconds after the tub has stopped.

uncluttered areas and color. easy-to-read dials that may be better suited for visually impaired persons. and the like. Large. Electronically controlled . then press Start.units usually command a premium price. With the typical electronic machine. You can use Up/Down buttons to change the preset water level. An electronically controlled machine may seem formidable at first. . or other clear markers to illustrate the different cycles are best.92 LAUNDRY posed to regulate the mix of hot and cold to produce warm water. Any problems that occur show up immediately and can be fixed under warranty. the washing time. say the manufacturers. and so on. A retired independent repairman told Consumers Union that electronic controls are more expensive' to repair than mechanical ones. The electronics handle all the choices for water temperature. you choose a cycle. They may also lack such amenities as a bleach or fabric-softener dispenser. Some machines display prompts to show you which button needs to be pressed next. Less-expenSive machines should get your clothes just as clean. Manual controls differ in their ease of use. agitation. the water temperature. But some are straightforward and color-coded. but most prove simple to use. Other machines mix a preset proportion of cold and hot. easy-to-read lettering. but they may have a smaller tub or more rudimentary controls. No dial has it all. Others have very large. But the manufacturers Consumers Union contacted maintained that electronic controls in washing machines are inherently more reliable than mechanical ones. RECOMMENDA710NS Deluxe machines come with the added features and price tags that typify top-of-the-line equipment.

Powders. Some mail-order and health-food store "green brands" do not perform as well as some regular store brands. STAIN REMOVAL No laundry detergent will completely remove all common stains. fabric softener. or stain-fighting enzymes. DETERGENTS Detergent manufacturers try to attract buyers with specific laundry problems. for stain removal. Some are free of perfumes and dyes. and they sell for $100 to $300 more than their mechanical counterparts. whose containers are as small as a lunch box but can hold enough detergent for many loads. They also may cost more. Products that contain bleach or "bleach alternative" tend to outperform those that do not. There are only a few remaining regular-strength detergents. and in brightening. Practically all are made without phosphates to avoid possible harm to waterways. Most now come in concentrated strengths. But some are better than others at keeping loosened soil from settling back on clothes. There are powders and liquids that ease pretreatment of tough soils.DETERGENTS 93 Models with conventional manual controls seem to offer better value. Major national brands of powders and liquids perform better than store brands. as a class. But most major national brands of powders-especially those with . Several "green" brands suggest that they will give the user not only a cleaner clean but a healthier planet. outperform most liquids. And now there are superconcentrated or "ultra" products. The truth is that all detergents clean lightly soiled clothes. The electronic machines perform no better overall. Some detergents come with special ingredients such as color-safe bleach.

The differences in performance will be small. results improve remarkably if you use certain detergent boosters before laundering. You can save the most money by forgetting brand loyalty: Clip coupons and stock up on whatever satisfactory product is on sale. Select the lowest-price major brand rather than a higher-price one. Even laundry detergents that claim to be free of perfumes and dyes can contain brighteners. from 23 to 52 cents. If you regularly wash heavily stained clothes. BRIGHlENING Most laundry detergents contain ingredients that absorb ultraviolet light from the sun or from fluorescent fixtures and emit it as blue light. the full range of costs is rather wide for regular liquids. For major concentrated liquids the range is from 16 to 69 cents per load. DETERGENT INGREDIENTS Here's a rundown of five key ingredients you might find on a package of laundry detergent. . However. Laundry detergents at best are only fair at removing used motor-oil stains. choose a powder rather than a liquid and a major brand rather than a store brand.94 LAUNDRY bleach or bleach alternative-can remove many common stains better than most liquids. Most powders produce a brighter blue-white glow than most liquids. buy by price. For super-concentrated powders the cost is from 13 to 64 cents. COSTS The cost per six-pound load of heavily soiled clothes laundered in moderately hard warm water averages about 30 to 40 cents. However. RECOMMENDATIONS If your laundry rarely has stubborn stains.

are safe on most colored washable fabrics except those with a care label warning "no bleach. are dirt removers. give laundry an added blue glow in sunlight and fluorescent light. Some also maintain a desirable level of alkalinity. There are many such chemicals. Some powders use washing soda with extra ingredients to make up for the lack of phosphoms. All-fabnc bleach is an addition to some detergent powders. Builders enhance the cleaning efficiency of surfactants by softening the water. also known as fluorescent brighteners. Anionic surfactants. and dirt. or surface active agents. suspend. They are very effective on oily stains and in removing clay. They emulsify. and detergents may contain more than one kind. which boosts cleaning.DETERGENTS 95 Sur!actants. Allfabric bleaches. Whitening agents. " DETERGENTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT The washing machine or dishwasher completes its cycle. They excel at removing oily soils. Phosphates are builders. soft water. Liquids may contain other water-softening chemicals such as sodium citrate. They have been replaced by other builders such as zeolites. grease. allowing all of that to be washed away. Many detergents contain this type. which carry a positive charge. which have a negative electrical charge. Nonionic surfactants. Two common types of enzymes are protease and amylase. and disperse oil. An amylase digests carbohydrates. work best in warm. you pull . A protease breaks down protein. as in honey or maple symp. Some powders and liquids contain both anionic and non ionic surfactants. are more common in fabric softeners. Enzymes help break down complex soils so they can be more easily removed. as in egg or bloodstains. are less sensitive to water hardness. sodium percarbonate or sodium perborate tetrahydrate. Cationic surfactants. which lack an electrical charge. making garments appear brighter than they otherwise would.

it is not possible to compare overall environmental costs of different detergent products." Although there are environmental impacts associated with the manufacture of either vegetable or petroleum-derived surfactants. Without conducting a complex and exceedingly difficult life-cycle analysis. the oils are chemically processed to make the surfactants. Minor ingredients such as optical brighteners and fragrances may degrade less rapidly than other ingredients. there is no inherent environmental advantage to using one surfactant source over the other. But what happens to that water and those containers? Here is a primer on the environmental ramifications of cleaning.96 LAUNDRY out the clean clothes or dishes. They state that their respective vegetable-based surfactants are for people who care about the environment. detergents are pretty benign to the environment. Accordingly. The fact is that all surfactants (the main cleaning agents) in today's cleaning products are biodegradable and are quickly and thoroughly broken down during wastewater treatment. After you've finished using a detergent product. but Consumers Union has seen no convincing evidence that they cause any harm. Both types come from "natural" sources. a limited natural resource. all "synthetic. Some manufacturers promote their "natural ingredient" products as being better for the environment than those made with synthetic (petroleum-derived) ingredients. you throwaway the empty carton. Overall. or can. therefore. Biodegradable? Many detergent products claim to be biodegradable or to contain biodegradable ingredients. It goes into a garbage truck and is driven away-somewhere. and that their products save petroleum. In each case. any . Petroleum-derived oils and vegetable-derived oils are used as feed stocks for many detergent surfactants. bottle. They are. box. the wash water has drained away-somewhere.

Most recycling programs take high-density polyethylene bottles. all are phosphate-free. But phosphates aren't soluble or stable enough to be used in liquid detergents. garbage archaeologists unearthed readable newspapers from 1942. blamed for contributing to the growth of algae in waterways. the package of choice was made of paper or cardboard. have been banned in many regions of the country. Now. its composition matters less than its volume. too. Although plastic bottles and paperboard boxes may be labeled recyclable. . Paper is "biodegradable. Most detergents formulated for use in dishwashers-powder and gel--contain phosphates. Packaging.DETERGENTS 97 claimed advantages of the "green" brands should be taken with a grain of salt and weighed against product performance and cost. As landfills. they aren't always recycled. Recycling differs from community to community. many plastic bottles do now. Cardboard boxes always have. Some liquid detergent products' labels say they are phosphate-free. most national powder laundry detergent products are also phosphate-free. paper has staying power. It's clear that once trash (or at least nontoxic trash) lands in a landfill." the thinking went. packaging may become a more important reason for selecting or rejecting a product. Phosphated detergents. Accordingly. and eventually returns to the soil. plastic containers seemed an environmental evil. the final resting place for most of America's garbage.1989. fall into a category of "mixed paper. But when it's in a landfill devoid of light and air." which is rarely included in curbside recycling programs because there's not much of a market for it. A few years ago. Paperboard cartons. although theoretically recyclable. others don't. fill up and close down. Phosphates. Some laundry packages lining store shelves contain recycled materials. In .

Perchloroethylene is classed as a possible human carcinogen by the u. The solvent is present in low levels in the atmosphere in cities. Currently. often with detergent and sometimes a little water. People exposed to moderate doses of perchloroethylene for a long time have ex- . A concentrated detergent that cleans 20 washer loads with three pounds of powder leaves behind far less packaging than a six-pound package that cleans the same number of loads.98 LAUNDRY Refills for superconcentrated laundry detergents often come in containers that make use of less material than their original. even low doses of perchloroethylene may increase risk of cancer. which might shrink and suffer other damage if laundered with conventional detergent and water.s. Use of perchloroethylene raises certain environmental and human health concerns. Differences in the amount of waste are a function of the detergents' cleaning ability rather than the size of their packages. For spot removal. The same is essentially true iIi the case of most liquid laundry detergents. reusable packaging. so bringing home and wearing dry-cleaned clothes exposes the consumer to perchloroethylene. It is recommended for materials such as wool. the chbice of solvent depends on the type of spot and the fabric. the great majority of dry-cleaning establishments use the solvent perchloroethylene for general dry cleaning. Over time. Many ultraconcentrated detergents excel in this regard. DRY CLEANING Dry cleaning launders clothes in a solvent. It is released slowly from fabrics . Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is being reclassified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a likely human carcinogen.

DRY CLEANING 99 perienced kidney damage and altered liver function. Because of the environmental and health problems from drycleaning solvents. try hand washing and ironing rather than dry cleaning. If you brush a suit after each wearing. wait a week or more to let the solvent dissipate before using newly dry cleaned items. In this aqueous cleaning process. If possible. Many fabrics. A dry-cleaning establishment should remove as much cleaning agent as possible before delivering a garment to you. return it to the store for further processing or look for another shop. spot remOVing. A suit that's wrinkled or baggy may need only to be pressed. it can go a long time between cleanings. and vacuuming) to ensure that garments made of different fabrics are cleaned-hopefully-without damage. If there is an outlet near you. they're more sensitive to toxins. With clothes other than suits and sports jackets. In 1993 the EPA published a report on a study deSigned to compare multiprocess wet cleaning with dry cleaning. the cleaner selects among various cleaning techniques (including steam cleaning. Don't store newly dry cleaned clothes in a child's room. hand washing. usually do fine in detergent and water. If you detect a residual chemical odor. gentle machine washing. Don't dry clean a garment that doesn't need it. the EPA concluded that it is a viable option to reduce the usage of dry-cleaning solvents. consider trying it. as well as altered neurological function. . alternative "multiprocess wet cleaning" facilities are becoming franchised in several cities. including silk and rayon. Although there isn't enough data to determine if the method can be used to clean all materials safely. if handled with care. The best way for most people to minimize exposure to perchloroethylene is to minimize the amount of dry cleaning they do. barring a stain. Since children are smaller than adults. tumble drying.

Rinse liquids are added to the wash during the rinse cycle. The humectants help the fabric retain moisture to dissipate the static charges that would otherwise cause clothes to cling and sparks to fly when you pull them apart. add rinse liquids at the beginning of the final rinse (after a wash with a regular laundry detergent that does not contain softener).100 LAUNDRY FABRIC SOFTENERS Detergents can wash fibers so thoroughly that they leave clothes feeling scratchy. The most effective softeners are the rinse liquids. There are three basic types of fabric softeners. for instance. feel fluffy . The lubricants let fibers slide past each other. which makes a towel. When you put a sheet into the dryer along with the laundry. The friction-reducing chemicals in softeners prevent a static charge from accumulating. contact and heat release the softener. They work by coating your laundry with waxy lubricants and humectant chemicals. Many people use a fabric softener to cut static cling caused by the dryer's tumbling. Major brands and store brands of dryer sheets soften to roughly the same degree. dryers can cause clothes to cling to each other because of buildup of static charge. . (This is especially true with synthetic fabrics. They also separate a napped fabric's fibers and stand them on end. Place dryer sheets on top of the wet laundry to help prevent spotting.) Fabric softeners are waxy materials that are related to soap. reducing wrinkling. Dryer sheets are impregnated with softener. about as effectively as average-performing rinse liquids. Detergents with fabric softeners are added at the start of the wash cycle. but the least effective rinse liquids perform much more poorly than the best. many washing machines automatically add them from a dispenser atop the agitator. For best results. Detergents that contain softeners are mediocre at softening as well as cleaning.

You can save money by buying whatever is on sale or using cents-off coupons. If you like a fabric softener for its other qualities but dislike the smell. the fragrance is muted considerably by the time the wash is done.label says a garment must be dry-cleaned. Detergents that contain fabric softeners are not money-saving products. use a high-performing laundry detergent with high brightening ability before you add a fabric softener. No matter how potent it seems in the package.HAND-LAUNDRY DETERGENTS 101 OTHER CONSIDERATIONS Brightening. If whiter whites and brighter brights are important to you. PRICING The cost per use of rinse liquids tends to be higher than that of dryer sheets. Fabric softeners and laundry detergents that are perfume-free are available. which by law must be sewn into all articles of clothing. The waxy coating left by fabric softeners may eventually make clothes look dingy. follow that advice. Makers of laundry detergents include fragrances partly because some consumers like them and partly to hide the smell of other chemical ingredients. you have to decide how to wash it. HAND-LAUNDRY DETERGENTS Your best guide on how to clean a fabric is the care label. they neither clean nor soften as well as single-purpose products. next to the regular laundry deter- . On the supermarket shelves. Fragrance. Some people can't tolerate any fragrance. let your clothes air out for a while before you put them away. If the label permits hand washing. If the . or you will have no recourse with the manufacturer or retailer should something go wrong. whether for aesthetic or medical reasons.

102

LAUNDRY

gents, you may find several products that make special claims for laundering fine washables of such fabrics as linen, wool, cotton, and silk. Many hand dishwashing liquids also say they can be used to launder fine washables.
WASHING WITH DETERGENT

Detergents are a big improvement over old-fashioned soap. In hard water, soaps leave behind a gray scum if you don't rinse well. Not so with detergents; they have ingredients to lift off soil and keep it suspended in the wash water. Detergents generally include other ingredients to help remove grease and other soils. Some have optical brighteners to make whites look whiter and enzymes to help attack stains.
EFFECTIVENESS

For safe and effective hand laundering of fine washables, try very gentle hand washing at 70°F, a temperature warm enough to be comfortable to hands but cool enough to prevent shrinkage. Keep wash and rinse times to a few minutes each. The less time delicate fabrics are left soaking, the better. The optical brighteners found in some hand-laundering products adhere to fabric and give off a bluish color in sunlight or under fluorescent lights, which makes white cloth appear whiter than it really is. Brighteners tend to work best on cotton.
HANDLE WITH CARE

Heat causes shrinkage, which is why fine fabrics are typically labeled for cold or cool wash, with no drying in the dryer. Silk crepe tends to pucker and requires ironing after washing. Rayon washes poorly; it wrinkles badly unless pressed while quite damp. Wool crepe, its weave tighter in one direction, can lose shape. If, before

HAND-LAUNDRY DETERGENTS

103

washing, a fabric has more "give" in one direction as you gently stretch it, you may have shrinkage problems. When you hand-wash garments, roll them between towels and let them dry flat, away from heat and sunlight; do not wring them. It's prudent not to launder wool or silk in any enzyme-containing detergent unless the product's label says it's safe for them.
RECOMMENDATIONS

There is no reason to buy one of the specialized brands of detergents. Use a hand dishwashing liquid. All it lacks is the optical brightener that regular detergents and most hand-wash products contain to give . whites extra dazzle. At about a penny a wash, hand dishwashing liquids are bargains. Even if you have stains to clean, you may have some luck with dishwashing liquid, depending on the fiber and type of stain.

Metal Maintenance
METAL POLISHES
Although many metal polishes make broad claims, no one product is likely to be labeled for use on all of the following: silver, brass, copper, stainless steel, aluminum, and chrome.
COPPER AND BRASS

Copper and brass can be cleaned with a commercial cleaner available in your supermarket. Some of these products must be washed off thoroughly, because they can stain or etch metals if left in contact with them. Others, however, may be wiped or rubbed off. It is a good idea, therefore, to restrict your choice to a wipe-off polish for objects that can't be readily rinsed or submersed. Some wipe-off brands may produce a better shine. Wash-off products, however, require less elbow grease to remove tarnish than do polishes of the Wipe-off variety-a difference that you might consider important if you have to clean a heavily tarnished surface. 105

If your pans are in bad shape but you are display conscious. and still the metal polish may not work. How TO POLISH STAINLESS STEEL. Stainless steeL Ordinary cleaning in the sink will suffice for stainless-steel cookware except for an occasional stain from heat. you should use the mildest cleaning method possible. COPPER-Bo7TOMED COOKWARE Wash-off polishes are particularly well suited to cookware. Before any polish can work. you might first scour off the worst of the dirt with very fine steel wool and then finish the job with a wipe-off polish. If it does. like other household chemicals.106 METAL MAINTENANCE For objects that may be only thinly coated with brass or copper. ALUMINUM. This will avoid scratch marks and result in a good gloss. and its polished surface may dull. but it can become dirty and splotched. AND CHROME Stainless steel may stain with heat. should be kept out of the reach of children. SAFETY Polishes. clean it but don't attempt to polish it. you still must use considerable elbow grease to clean a heavily blackened pan bottom. This means a cloth with hand dishwashing liquid and water. it mayor may not have a lacquer. which can be easily washed and doesn't require a high gloss. Some products carry special warnings. Even with the most efficient product. Steel wool will do the job more easily than polish but may leave the copper surface scratched and its mirrorlike finish diminished. chrome doesn't tarnish. Of course. . aluminum becomes discolored with use. the metal surface must be free of any lacquer. These products should be able to remove light tarnish with little or no rubbing and heavy tarnish with less effort than a wipe-off material.

The chrome plating on a metal product may be so thin that it is best not to use any abrasive polish on it at all. If necessary. helps to maintain a uniform appearance. Wash cast-iron cookware in hot water and hand dishwashing liquid. rather than in circles. Chrome. Clean enameled cookware in warm sudsy water. polishes. Rubbing the metal in a straight back-and-forth motion. do so after cleaning. Work as quickly as possible to avoid leaving chemicals in contact with the metal for any length of time. but do not scour. at least as good as and maybe better than soapy steel wool. If the pan's polished exterior is also stained.SILVER CARE 107 To remove heat stains from the matte finish inside of a saucepan or fry pan. Soapy steel wool will probably restore some of the luster. SILVER CARE One type of silver-care product (three-way) removes tarnish. and treats silver with chemicals that retard further tarnish- . The mildest cleaning method possible should be used for chrome-plated appliances and utensils. and be sure to rinse thoroughly. use a polishing product cautiously. a commercial stainless steel cleaner can do a competent job. You shouldn't expect to be able to restore a polished aluminum finish to its original glossiness. ClEANING OrnER COOKWARE TYPES Cast iron. Enameled cookware. Rinse and dry the cookware immediately after cleaning to avoid rusting. use a nonabrasive cleanser and a nonabrasive scrubbing pad. If manufacturer's instructions recommend oiling. Cookware that has a nonstick finish can be cleaned in the dishwasher. Aluminum. Soak pots to loosen burned-on foods and to remove stubborn stains.

is much cheaper than regular polish. Acidic dip cleaners.108 METAL MAINTENANCE ing. requiring scrubbing with a soft brush to remove. USING JEWELER'S ROUGE Cleaning and polishing heavily tarnished silver with a stick of jeweler's rouge entails coating a piece of flannel with rouge. these cleaners should be used only where there is good ventilation. Be careful not to get any cleaner in your eyes. Since excessive inhalation of their sulfide fumes may be disagreeable and may cause headaches. Rouge. You rub on the polish. wipe it off." . then buffing the silver with a piece of clean flannel. Rinse silver thoroughly after cleaning with acidic dip products. and then buff the finish to the shine you want. Both types of products include a mild abrasive. and the cloths you use for cleaning are reusable until they start to come apart. You just dip the silver in them or spread them onto silver surfaces. You can get rouge from hobby shops or firms that supply professional jewelers. and the process is messy. Another variety (two-way) cleans and polishes but doesn't claim to retard tarnishing. producing quantities of red particles that can smudge clothes and furnishings and can accumulate in the details. They don't require tedious rubbing to remove tarnish. however. Look in the Yellow Pages under "Jewelers' Supplies" and "Craft Supplies. because contact with the cleaner may irritate skin. The result will be silver just about as clean and bright as you can get with the best silver polish. rubbing silver surfaces with the flannel until they are tarnish-free. as a class. have some inherent hazards: Wear plastic or rubber gloves to protect your hands while cleaning. There are also one-way products that come in liquid form and are used for cleaning only. This method has two drawbacks: You have to rub a lot more.

finishes without making them shinier (to some degree). and polishing. a good three-way product is preferred. because of its tarnish retardance. What's more. rinse such knives promptly after using a dip cleaner on their silver handles.afterward. Many silver table knives are made with stainless steel blades. Waining. after all. It also does the job of polishing-and does it well. To avoid damage. too. . Dip cleaners work fast. Satin finishes. Nonetheless. If you accidentally allow drops of polish to fall on silver pieces. dip cleaners may leave pale stains. or low-luster. three-way products may be higher priced than other products. Dip cleansers· damage antique finishes. Silver polish is almost certain to remove some of the finish. but you may still need to Use a polish. Dips remove tarnish from satin. Dark-looking silver with an antique or oxidized finish is often deeply patterned. You have to repolish to remove the stains. RECOMMENDA710NS As a class. and-just as the label warns-drops from dip cleaners can permanently spot or even pit stainless steel if allowed to dry on the surface. is like cleaning all over again. you won't have to clean the silver again quite as soon as you would with other polishes. even when you carefully wipe the liquids onto the silver.SILVER CARE 109 SPECIAL PROBlEMS Antiquefinishes.

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and much more expensive. Most air cleaners are designed to remove smoke and dust but not gases. too. with well-sealed windows and doors. solvents from dry-cleaned clothing. You can keep dust mites at bay. Obviously. and the like. especially when cooking or painting. outdoor air replaces indoor air at the rate of only about one air change an hour. the more pollutants and irritants you can eliminate or control. the better. In the average American house.Miscellaneous Am CLEANERS A house can harbor a wide variety of pollutants: radon gas. for example. cigarette smoke. household cleaners. and chemicals from paints. A "tight" house. bug sprays. And a kit~hen exhaust fan can control cooking odors and smoke. Using an appliance to clear the air can be less effective. cooking fumes. you can ventilate the house by opening the windows. tobacco 111 . if you wash bedding in hot water. may have an air exchange only once every four or five hours. But you wouldn't want to do that when the weather is very hot or cold. Obviously. gases and smoke from furnaces and gas ranges. than opening a window.

traps at least 95 percent of the same particles. electrostatic precipitating cleaner. or ozone. A typical tabletop air cleaner can move only small amounts of air each minute. which are then attracted to a precipitatit. Bigger models are designed to move several hundred cubic feet of air a minute. air cleaners typically use filters. To remove such small particles. The finer a filter's sieve. narrower than the 10-micron threshold of visibility (a micron is about one twenty-five-thousandth of an inch). new contaminants enter the house constantly. a high-voltage wire charges particles drawn in by a fan. and no more than 30 percent of them at that. they are meant for larger rooms. found on many HEPA. the smaller the particles it traps. for short) snare at least 99.112 MISCELLANEOUS odors. Filters. By comparison.or pleated-filter air cleaners.lg cell carrying the opposite electrical charge. electrical attraction. Here are the basics of how the principal types work. These filters were originally developed to trap radioactive dust in atomic plants.97 percent of particles larger than 0. "High-efficiency particulate arresting" filters (HEPA. the pleated filter. Electrical attraction. In an. There are three main types. are needed for that task. But even the best HEPA filter can't catch something as small as a gas molecule. A variant. And an air cleaner can never completely eliminate pollution. a room air conditioner's foam filter traps particles only 10 microns or larger. An "electret" filter uses .3 micron. it is suitable for a small room or part of a large room. microbes. How AIR CLEANERS OPERATE Smoke particles. or viruses and bacteria. The gas molecules from smoke are many times smaller still. and many other solid contaminants are far smaller than the hair and dust you· see floating in the air. Activated carbon or charcoal filters.

A negative-ion generator uses fine. Two cleaners may have the same CADR. The CADR. however. on your walls and furnishings. There is no universally accepted performance standard for comparing air cleaners. And ozone generators sold for home use can actually foul the air. Consumers Union believes that CADR numbers alone don't provide a complete picture of an air cleaner's effectiveness. but the one with the lower total air flow will be the more efficient. None of the electrical-attraction cleaners remove gas molecules. It's also necessary to know the unit's total air-flow rate to properly assess efficiency. powerful oxidant. Ozone has no effect on dust and other particulates. An ozone generator uses a high-voltage electric charge to convert oxygen in the air to ozone.. air flows were 10 percent lower than what manufacturers claimed.AIR CLEANERS 113 fibers with a static charge to trap particles. A telltale odor will linger long after you clear a room of tobacco smoke. is used by some air-cleaner manufacturers on their products. Air flow. the CADR is based on both the percentage of particles removed and how quickly they are removed. more typically. Room units move more air than tabletop models do. The closest thing to one is the clean air delivery rate (CADR). That's because most . odoh. For rooms of various sizes. and pollen . which collect in a filtet: or. Ozonation. smoke. a pungent. which tend to diffuse back into the air. developed and certified by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. ozone attacks and destroys gas molecules and microorganisms. which expresses the number of cubic feet of clean air a unit delivers each minute. Tests performed to the appliance association's specifications provide CADR numbers for dust. electrically charged needles or wires to ionize particles. At sufficiently high concentrations. In Consumers Union's tests.air cleaners won't capture .

The cost of replacement filters can be quite high. Just opening a few windows may do the job. The lowest setting is generally preferable for continuous use. particularly for units using a HEPAfilter. cracking open a window a couple of inches won't raise your heating bill by more . be sure the air cleaner is returnable if it turns out to be too noisy at home. You may be able to improve the air quality inside your house without spending hundreds of dollars on an air cleaner.their lowest fan speed. furniture. however.114 MISCELLANEOUS gases from the smoke. HEPA filters may cost $50 to $140. Most air cleaners require little maintenance beyond filter changes and cleanings. Even the best air cleaners remove smoke particles far more effectively than they do smoke odors. you'll need to wash its electronic cell every few months. and clothing. If you can't try it in a quiet location in the store. Energy costs range more typically from about $20 to $40. RECOMMENDATIONS Do what you can to minimize or eliminate sources of air pollution. which stick to walls. but many can be annoying at their highest speed. Based on the manufacturers' recommended filter replacement intervals. Noise. other types of filters. Because an air cleaner is often used in a bedroom at night. Few models are objectionably loud at . $20 to $80 a year. and which seep back into the air over time. Even in winter. If you choose an electrostatic precipitator. it is a good idea to listen to the machine you are planning to buy. MAiNJENANCE AND OPERATING COSTS A few air cleaners consume a minimal amount of electricity over the course of a year-less than $20 at the national average electric rate. It would take cleaners at least 10 times longer to remove odors than to remove smoke particles.

"Most household dust is inert. Nelson. according to Harold S. The pellets are too Earge to remain airborne for long. a kitchen exhaust fan should effectively dispose of smoke and fumes from cooking. But if you can't open a window-because the outside air is polluted or the temperature outside is bitter cold--or if you need to ventilate a windowless space.. and suffers an allergic reaction. Some manufacturers promote humidifiers as beneficial for aller- .ERGY Simply setting up an air cleaner in the middle of the room will not reduce or prevent asthmatic attacks or offer relief from allergic and respiratory problems. In addition. Blankets and sheets should be washed often. an air cleaner may be the only way to reduce smoke and airborne dust. who chaired a committee organized by the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology to study allergens in indoor air and air-cleaning devices. The best relief comes from separating the patient from the allergen.D. pillows. of the National Jewish Center in Denver." he told Consumers Union.AIR CLEANERS 115 than a few pennies an hour. For the same reason. available from surgical supply houses. The problem is that the mites thrive in mattresses. DEAliNG WITH All. The pillows and mattress should be sealed in special allergen-proof casings. "Removing it from the air with [an air cleaner) won't help much. As for pollen. M. An allergy sufferer buries his or her face in the bedding. breathes in the pellets. an air conditioner may be sufficient. Nelson blames the fecal pellets of house dust mites (microscopic creatures that feed on human skin cells that have been sloughed off) for many allergic reactions. and blankets. they settle within minutes." Dr.so an air cleaner is rather ineffective against them. allergy sufferers should avoid lying on an upholstered couch.

clean it frequently and in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. OZONE GENERATORS Ozone can purify . makes the throat feel dry. and deodorize fire-ravaged buildings. The U. If you have a pet. He advises keeping indoor humidity relatively low. a component of smog. If you use a humidifier. Here. Some promotional materials say you can tell if ozone levels are too high when the distinctive odor becomes apparent But research has shown that odor isn't a reliable yardstick. at about 20 to 30 percent. Animal dander is lighter than most dust and tends to remain airborne longer.S. disinfect mildewed boats. Dr. with no known beneficial health effects. at least keep the bedroom off limits. Occupational Safety and Health Administration limits ozone exposure in industrial settings to 100 parts per billion Cppb) over an eight-hour day. six days per week. Consumers Union has not found a unit that allows users to measure ozone output or to control ozone levels in a meaningful way. When Consumers Union tested ozone generators under a variety of conditions. an air cleaner 'might help. Given those facts. and stresses the lungs. an ozone-generating air cleaner would seem a contradiction in terms. That's a sensible limit for the home. Food and IDrug Administration has set a limit of 50 ppb for the ozone from electronic air cleaners.drinking water.116 MISCELLANEOUS gies. ozone irritates the eyes. To date. creating a serious problem for allergy sufferers. The u. Nelson believes a humidifier can do more harm than good because house dust ' mites proliferate in humid conditions.s. since the airborne particles of animal dander can be collected by these machines. Although ozone generators have . they almost always produced ozone levels well above the FDA's limit of 50 ppb. But ozone is also a toxic gas. At that level.

That may make the system run longer to heat or cool. . the filters will slow air flow through the ducts. The precipitators have no fan of their own. it will also shut down the air cleaner unless the system has a switch to keep the fan going continuously. In addition. it's highly questionable whether they belong where people breathe. increasing your energy bill. In tests that mimicked air flow through air ducts. But if you just need to clean the air in a couple of rooms. WHOlE-HOUSE AIR CIEANERS There are air cleaners designed to fit the ductwork for central heating or air-conditioning. or at home centers. You can buy these filters through heating and air-conditioning dealers. If you have air-quality problems throughout the house that can't be controlled in any other way-and if ductwork is already in place-then the electrostatic precipitators could be useful.AIR CLEANERS 117 limited value in unoccupied spaces. So when the thermostat shuts the system down. It should be possible for you to install and replace them yourself. It can cost as much as $300 to have a professional install one of the electrostatic precipitators. which should be installed by a contractor. A self-charging electrostatic filter was in the same league as a small tabletop air cleaner. relying on the furnace or air conditioner to move air through the system. Any of these in-duct air cleaners may affect the overall performance of the heating and cooling system. A disposable electret filter was only a notch less effective. a portable air cleaner would be a better choice. in-duct electrostatic precipitators removed dust and smoke particles within a room about as effectively as the better room-sized portable cleaners. The simplest type is a filter that replaces the system's existing one. More complex-and more expensive-are electrostatic precipitators.

water. You'll find auto polish in liquid. water doesn't bead at all. dirt. paste. A major part of the sales appeal of auto polishes is the protection they're supposed to provide against the elements. water. but all products should goon easily. EFFECTIVENESS On car surfaces that are weathered. Many newer models have an additional clear coating designed to add even more luster and durability to the finish. it lies in a sheet on the surface. People who polish their cars may not do it often enough with most polishes. :rhe beads of water that form on a protected surface are relatively small and rounded. auto polish can make a dramatic improvement. look at what happens to water on the car's surface. and the finish is no longer able to shed contaminants (e. and sit high on the surface. Eventually. As the polish wears away. when the polish is completely gone.g. The one-step applications contain abrasives or solvents to remove stubborn stains or oxidation from a car's finish and waxes or silicones that can fill tiny crack~ and renew the water repellency of the finish. etc. or sealant by their makers. the beads spread and flatten. The products are interchangeably labeled wax. Some can make new paint look worse by leaving slight scratches or haze. Liquids are somewhat easier to apply and spread better than pastes. But eventually sunlight. Spray-on products are .). Yet even the better ones won't increase the gloss of a new car. and other contaminants can age and erode the paint until the gloss fades. At this point. But a polish can't protect anything once it has worn away. some polishes will shine better than others. polish. If you want to see whether a polish is holding up..118 MISCELLANEOUS AUTO POLISHES One of the attractions of a new car is its showroom shine. and a few spray versions. air pollution.

however. protects a car's metal from rust. letting them dry to a haze. But do not rub too long or too hard with them. If you're using a polish for the first time on your car. They are usually found right next to the auto polishes in the store. be sure to wash the car thoroughly be- . Special. test it on an inconspicuous part of the car. RECOMMENDATIONS Whichever polish you use. and buffing with a dry. ABRASIVENESS The paint. some of the ingredients may have settled to the bottom. But be careful not to get the spray-or any polish. (Be sure to shake a liquid or spray container before you begin. even the most abrasive polishes may not be adequate.1eave a haze or scratches. Buffing is likely to ·be fairly easy with most. highly abrasive polishing or rubbing compounds are available for such challeng~ ing jobs. So it makes sense to polish away no 'more paint than is necessary to restore a smooth finish. For an extremely weathered finish. It should remove any oxidation or contaminants but shouldn't. But a few products dry into a rather stiff coating that needs more effort to buff.) Instructions on the labels of most nonspray polishes call for spreading them on with an applicator (which is provided with some products). A fine abrasive is useful for removing stubborn stains or oxidation. not the polish.car in direct sunlight when the surface is hot to the touch.AUTO POLISHES 119 especially easy to apply. The paint can soften and be susceptible to scratching. The polish may affect the appearance of the vinyl. for that matter-on vinyl surfaces or on the windshield. On older cars that do not have a clear top coat. or you may rub right through the paint to the primer. You should never polish a. polish should not remove much of the color. soft cotton cloth.

lead-containing dust from leaded paint in the . scratching the finish as you rub. salt. But improper removal that turns the lead loose can create a severe hazard. You may not need to polish a new car. or the side of a house-may continue to deteriorate. If you don't. is essentially harmless. Before you remove any paint. If you polish a dirty car. but you should wash it often. Intact lead paint. major cause of childhood lead poisoning. Most road dirt is a good deal harder than a car's finish. If it is more than 50 years old. PAINT REMOVAL When you have to deal with paint that's in really poor condition. you may have to go beyond just stripping away the flaking and peeling paint. Bird and tree droppings.home-is a . find out if it contains any lead. You'd probably have far better results if you stripped off all the old paint. If your home or apartment building was built more than 20 years ago. Lead paint-or more precisely. it may contain leaded paint. you'll only grind the dirt into the paint. and even plain dirt can eventually mar the finish. choose a chemical stripper. when high temperatures increase the damaging effects of contaminants. it is almost certain that there is some lead paint. tar. Frequent washing is especially important in the summer. You should. If you are sure the paint you need to strip is lead-free. walls. dust control is critical. Many children have accidentally been poisoned when the process of remodeling in an older home spread lead·dust. covered with layers of unleaded paint. therefore.120 MISCELLANEOUS forehand. choose any of the three basic . the surface-whether that offurniture. If you do have lead paint to remove.

TESTING FOR LEAD PAINT Consider hiring a trained person to do a lead hazard ~ssessment. Most do-it-yourselfers use chemicals and/ or heat guns for all kinds of interior woodwork: furniture.sills to be analyzed in a laboratory. you cut. Heat is delivered via heat guns. A pro is likely to do a more thorough job. Chemical strippers soften and dislodge the old finish so you can scrape it off. or pastes. these tools shouldn't be used on smooth or delicate surfaces. It also includes taking samples of dirt from the floors and window . these devices-which resemble a blow-dryer--cause paint to blister and bubble. or heat-based on each method's pros and cons. An assessment should cost about $300 for an average-size house. Rather than try to strip the paint yourself. and the price is usually reasonable. This involves testing representative paint surfaces with a portable X-ray fluorescence device that produces instant results and can even find lead paint buried· under layer~ of unleaded paint. Because they can scratch.PAlNT REMOVAL 121 methods--chemical. gels. power sanders. you can farm out the work to professionals. and the like. Another way to tell whether your home has lead paint is to use one of the do-it-yourself or mail-in kits available for that purpose. but the open flame can char wood or even start a fire. By blowing air that can reach temperatures greater than 800oF. and gadgets that attach · to drills. Some people use a propane torch. then you scrape. They are sold as liquids. moldings. mechanical. some are more toxic than others. doors. scrape. With the do-it-yourself kits. or sand a small patch . ' Mechanical stripping relies on such tools as scrapers and sandpaper.

they leave a waxy film that you may need to remove with mineral spirits. With rhodizonate kits. after continued and prolonged exposure. but some may not detect levels slightly above the 0.06 percent legal limit in paint. Sodium sulfide kits indicate lead with a gray to black color. toluene. But this is the least of their problems.05 percent. . They're good on light-colored paints. Two kits-Acc-U-Test ($7) and Tbe Lead Detective ($30)-were found to be sensitive down to 0. choose a chemical stripper. Results are likely to be much more accurate than those obtained from home kits . Mail-in kits (costing about $20) can detect lead levels down to 0. The cost includes analysis of one sample by a government-certified lab. Mail-in kits also say how much lead is present. and acetone. can miss are still too high for safety. Then you use a chemical reagent-either rhodizonate or sodium sulfide-that changes color if the paint contains lead. so it is hard to ·see a positive reaction on dark paint. Most are highly flammable. They include a plastic bag. especially for households with children. CHEMICAL PAINT REMOVERS If you have lead paint to remove. These kits c'learly indicate high levels of lead. Although they're cheaper and faster than some less toxic types. plastic gloves. Although this percentage is much lower than the levels in most old paint. the warning color-pink-is easy to see unless the paint itself is red or pink. . and their vapors can cause headaches and. the levels these kits.122 MISCELLANEOUS to expose layers of paint. and a form to fill out and return with the paint sample. Consumers Union found the Clean Water Lead in Paint Kit to provide a rapid-about 2 weeks-turnaround.05 percent. Some chemical paint removers are made with volatile solventsmethanol (wood alcohol). nerve damage. not just whether it is there or not.

and a respirator to keep you from inhaling fumes. even heart attack. never use a heat gun. Look for products that come with plastic-coated paper that's applied over the substance to keep it moist. which means you have to brush additional remover Over the slightly moist paint. But exposure to its fumes can lead to kidney disease. some nonsolvent varieties dry out. however.wet sponge or rag will clear away any remaining residue. including polyurethanes and epoxies. To make matters worse. an irregular heartbeat. can be dangerous to use indoors. too. and isn't flammable. Almost odorfree as well as safer to breathe. Protective garb is essential-neoprene gloves (dishwashiQg gloves will dissolve). whether it uses volatile solvents or methylene chloride. The solvent is considered a possible human carcinogen. are very slow to show results. methylene chloride can soften and dislodge a variety of tough finishes. They can increase your exposure to lead by whipping paint dust . Once the softened paint has been scraped. A solvent stripper might remove several coats of paint in two or three hours. even with a window open.PAINT REMOVAL 123 In the world of solvent strippers. light scrubbing with ·a . LEss HAZARDOUS CHEMICAlS The past few years have seen the introduction of chemical strippers that pose fewer risks than the solvent products. HEAT GUNS If you know you have lead paint to strip. based on persuasive animal studies. A mainstay of paint-removal products for years. The safer products. Cleanup is easier. they are less likely to irritate skin. A nonsolvent stripper would have to sit from six hours to overnight. those made with methylene chloride stand alone. goggles. Any solvent-based paint remover.

PROFESSIONAL STRIPPING Professional paint removers have one big advantage over do-ityourselfers: they use a tank. others on solvents. it can still be hazardous to young children. Some rely on corrosive lye. heat guns rarely have to go over the same area twice. They're frustrating to use when the paint film is very thin (they work best when bubbling up several layers). By immersing items that need paint removed in a cavernous vat of potent chemicals'. where you can inhale it. Once .) Heat guns also have hazards. the hot paint separates from the underlying surface. After the initial expense. Also.124 MISCELLANEOUS into the air. The expelled-air temperature may be as high as 87S0F-high enough to cause a severe burn or even start a fire. Unlike chemicals. heat guns are cheap to use. When the dust settles. (Metal conducts heat too rapidly. they won't remove varnish or other clear coatings. it's easy to ignore where you're pointing the gun as you dig out a persistent bit of paint. professionals can get the last traces of paint out of nooks and crannies. you can get burned by touching the metal nozzle. you can peel it off easily. . But they do have limitations. When you contact a professional paint remover. especially if you put down the gun near a child or curious pet. Using a heat gun is intense work. It is essential to look for models that have a fan that runs at a Low or Cold setting to hasten cooling. but it's faster than any chemical method. it's a good idea to ask which method of paint removal will be used. This is a serious concern. "Dip" stripping systems differ significantly. Even if you're never blasted by the gun's hot air. ' and they're ineffective on painted metal. Always keep a wet rag and a bucket of water handy.

In addition. If you do. Consumers Union testers took old chairs and shutters to two professional paint removers. raise their grain (making wood feel "fuzzy"). Lye not only dissolves paint.PAINT REMOVAL 125 A remover who uses lye will dunk the painted object in a lye and water solution. hand scraping. first as a bath and then in a spray that dislodged the softened paint. It's an inexpensive and effective treatment-too effective. whose workplaces are regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. wood grain can rise and iron parts can rust. which makes the . such care is not always exercised. This won't happen if the operator removes the item from the tank as soon as the paint is softened. The softened paint is scraped off. choose a chemical stripper. make sure you don't have lead paint. Fortunately. there are solvent systems that avoid the use of water. because some companies that use solvents on items rinse them in water. Both stripped with solvents: one used methylene chloride. Do not use a heat gun. DMF worked very well. the other used xylol and dimethyl formamide (DMF) . however. immersion can dissolve glues and swell wood so badly that it warps or falls apart. The methylene chloride cleaning was a bit less satisfactory: The shutter had some raised grain and'mild ruston its fittilfgs. in fact. the chair retained patches of paint and showed signs of too much scraping. and extract natural resins. In practice. Professional paint removers. achieve better results with the solvent method. Still. Any chemical or heat gun will remove paint. it can also stain wood fibers. and a water washdown. RECOMMENDATIONS First. Oversoaking is less likely to produce ruined goods. and the item is neutralized and rinsed with water.

these methods should not be used to remove lead paint.126 MISCELLANEOUS safety factor paramount. try a heat gun (if lead is not a factor) or one of the less toxic chemicals. When it does. MECHANICAL PAINT REMOVERS Scrapers. such as banisters. A hook scraper is best suited for removing loose paint from flat surfaces. rasps. heat guns aren't effective on metal and won't strip clear finishes. But this won't work for built-in cabinets. It looks something like an extra-large . pose serious health hazards when used indoors . However. Each type has its uses. If you choose a solvent product. It doesn't take long for the soft-. consider going to a professional paint remover. Hook scrapers. it's a good idea to keep more than one type in your tool kit. Solvent-based strippers. For immovable items. Better yet. you have to remove it. and sandpaper substitutes are available. who is likely to do a better job. and other nonremovable woodwork. Protect your eyes and hands. Heat guns work faster than chemicals but require precautions to minimize charring and the risk of burns and fire. Adequate ventilation may not be enough.window frames. Don't succumb · to the seemingly attractive idea of mounting a · scraping blade on t~e nozzle of a heat gun. use wood or plastic scrapers to avoid gouging the surface. and door jambs. Steer clear of any device that encourages probing around the tip of a hot heat gun. ened paint to pile up. Since none is really expensive. Because they create lots of chips and dust. particularly those containing methylene chloride. try to use it outdoors. Although the nonsolvent products are slow and expensive. they're safer than the others. and wear a respirator. For chemical or solvent stripping of fine furniture. however specialized. baseboards.. moldings.

In general. Sandpaper substitutes are durable and fast cutting. To sand moldings and other complex shapes. You have your choice of stiff or flexible blades in several widths. it's pulled along the work surface. woodworkers often wrap sandpaper around a sponge. Some may leave the surface rather rough. sandpaper substitutes are fairly flexible. Push scrapers. And like a razor. however. fairly dull blade. Typically. Rasps and blocks can also be used for sanding wood. Push scrapers are useful onflat surfaces and for digging paint out of corners. Sponges and glass blocks. they are less effective than hook scrapers on all but the loosest paint. the differences are of minor importance. others are sharpened. Unlike rasps and sanding blocks. They are springy and flexible. Rasps and abrasive blocks. so they can get into places that the others can't.PAINT REMOVAL 127 razor with a stiff. It's harder to push a scraper than to pull it. others a short one. as . making it necessary to do some sanding before painting. and are generally available in a variety of sizes and abrasive grades. limits their use primarily to flat surfaces. so the edge of the blade scrapes away the paint. but they are not meant to be used on curves. for example. or a thin sheet of metal punched with ragged holes. they are rectangles of tough cloth coated on both sides with sheets of abrasive-coated nylon mesh. with an abrasive coating that covers four sides. Some have a blunt edge. You should try to match the shape and size of the scraper to the job at hand-a narrow-bladed scraper. Sandpaper substitutes. will work best in and around window frames. Their shape. although they vary in details. Sanding sponges come essentially prewrapped. Some have a long handle. they can be wrapped around a dowel to sand a concave surface or can be used with a sanding block. These resemble the familiar putty knife. These devices can scrape and sand.

• Wet the surface with a spray bottle before scraping or sanding with a wet/ dry abrasive. Tape ·plastic over doors and windows. They wear away quite rapidly as they're used. use a chemical etcher. If you're doing the job yourself. . requires certain safety precautions. • Thoroughly clean all surfaces after the stripping process. SAFETY Paint removal. Wear plastic booties over your shoes. They can also be rinsed out to unclog the abrasive. If you live in an area that bans phosphate. Hearing protectors are also advisable. and a heavy jacket.128 MISCELLANEOUS you'd expect sponges to be. such as the problem of lead. Foamed glass blocks resemble chunks of hardened plastic foam.up" a glossy surface. Remove furniture or wrap ·it ·in plastic. try using a powdered dishwasher detergent. To guard against the obvious hazard-flying chips of paint or grit-you should wear safety goggles or a face shield. You should guard against health hazards that may not be immediately apparent. especially with power tools.take the following precautions: • • • • • Thoroughly cover the area with heavy plastic drop cloths. • Instead of sanding to "rough . The key to preparing lead-painted surfaces for repainting is dust control. Do not use steel wool where the fine metal shards may be exposed to water (including water-based varnishes) because steel wool rusts and leaves a visible stain. work gloves. Rent or buy a HEPA respirator designed to filter lead dust. Keep it on while ·disposing of the drop cloths and plastic coverings. Scrub with water plus a phosphate detergent. Steel wool. leaving a residue of-glass dust in the work area.

the quieter type. as well as backpack models similar to those used by the pros. the noise from a blower-about the same as that from a very loud lawn mowerhas become an unacceptable intrusion in hundreds of communities.POWER BLOWERS 129 • Wring out the sponge. and change the rinse water frequently. But with more blowers running longer for more of the year. mop. Gasoline-powered models produce enough noise to war- . If you hire a contractor. But fairly quiet gas blowers and powerful electrics both exist. most people buy). to vacuum · debris from decks and sidewalks. These versatile machines take some of the work out of tidying a lawn. Otherwise. Most of the handheld blowers work as both a vacuum and as a blower. you could prepare the most deteriorated spots to paint yourself. Noise level is one of the factors · when looking at gasolinepowered and electric handheld blowers (the kind. Electric blowers. Look for a contractor who is certified or licensed for lead safety. and a handful have banned them entirely. More than 280 towns and cities have restricted the use of power blowers. How THEY PERFORM Noise. be sure to find one who will use these techniques. used to be conSiderably weaker than gasoline-powered ones. or rag in a separate bucket so you don't recycle the lead in the cleaning solution. POWER BLOWERS People use a power blower to clean up leaves and spread grass clippings after mowing. even to dry up puddles in the driveway. then hire a regular contractor to do the rest-with strict instructions not to sand or scrape. some lower-priced models are blowers only.

Nevertheless. The weakest power blowers are adequate only if you BACKPACK BLOWERS Professional lawn-care services use backpack blowers. They are all very loud. backpack blowers are comfortable and easy to handle. there's little reason to buy a backpack. or to the manufacturer's claimed nozzle air speed. they aren't inherently more powerful than regular blowers. It's also much less fatiguing than a hand-held blower for big lawn-cleaning jobs.and a throttle control you can preset. and several have conveniences like a handle with the throttle and On/Off switches on the blower tube. In fact. a large fuel-filler opening. these high-priced machines have limitations.!st backpacks. The average electric blower typically creates about half the racket of a gasoline model and so doesn't demand hearing protection. The backpack's weight. Blowingpower. . Unless you have a big yard or a yen to look like a pro. A blower's effectiveness at piling up leaves is not necessarily related to engine size and horsepower or motor amperage. That may not seem like much of a range.130 MISCELLANEOUS rant wearing ear protectors. And. but a pile 18 inches high may contain more than three times as many leaves as one 10 inches high. isn't a drawback once the unit is donned and properly adjusted. The noisiest gas-powered blowers might make you less popular with the neighbors. several handheld models can equal the blowing power of the b<. The most powerful blowers can build rows 18 incheshigh~the weakest. in the neighborhood of 20 pounds. despite their size. The best way to assess a blower's effectiveness is to blow leaves into elongated rows. For the' most part. only 8 to 10 inches. They don't vacuum.

The collection bags that come with blowers don't hold enough to make them practical for vacuuming an entire lawn. wellpositioned. Blower handling.POWER BLOWERS 131 have a small lawn. A blower handles well if it's ' easy to moye in a sweeping side-to-side motion. Blower cleaning. How 71iEY VACUlM Speed. and don't make you stoop to hold the end of the suction tube ' at ground level. and the resistance to back-and-forth motion generated by models with a 'horizontal driveshaft. or if you mainly need to clear driveways and other hard surfaces. flower beds. even though the machines shred vacuumed material to greatly reduce its volume. But these machines are handy for vacuuming leaves away from shrubs. well-positioned second handle. and comfortable handles. The blowers that clean best are those '\Yith a round-end blower nozzle. Handling. All the so-so blowers have a "diffuser" nozzle that's roughly rectangular at the end. . A blower may have the power to pile up plenty of leaves but still lack some lawn-cleaning ability. One feature helped mitigate the effect of the downward thrust: a comfortable. A good blower should also be easy to hold in the odd and varying positions sometimes necessary 'fot cleaning out tight spots. Two forces conspire to make handling more difficult: the downward thrust caused by the curved shape of most blower nozzles.:es where raking or blowing proves impractical. don't vibrate much. and other pla<. You should assess a blower's ability to rid a lawn of all leaves in areas with heavy leaf accumulations amid grass about three inches high. The easiest blowers to handle have effective.

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CONVEMENCE

Blowers judged convenient typically had these handy features:. For gasoline-powered models, a starter cord near the engine housing's center line, so pulling the cord didn't make the blower twist; an engine-kill switch you can reach with the same hand that holds the main handle; and a throttle that lets you pres'et two or more positions. For electric blowers, an On/Off switch that you can reach with the hand holding the main handle and a second, lowerspeed setting for those times when you don't need too much power.
WATER TREATMENT

Public concern over the quality of drinking water often centers on how the water looks, smells, or tastes. But such aesthetic problems are usually caused by calcium, sulfur, chlorine,or iron, which are harmless. Of more concern are pollutants such as lead, radon, and nitrate, which pose a health hazard. Before buying any equipment or taking the expensive route of buying bottled water, find out what's in your water. You can ask the water company for a copy of its latest water analysis. Or, if you draw water from a private well, call the local public health department to find out about any groundwater problems. (If testing is warranted, see page 134.) Water-treatment devices range from simple filtering carafes and faucet attachments to whole-house systems. They're sold in places as diverse as drugstores and TV home-shopping networks. As a rule, hardware stores, home centers, department stores, and mass merchandisers sell the more modest devices for as little as $20. Sophisticated systems, which can cost more than $1000, are sold by water treatment dealers and direct-marketing companies. Major brands include Ametek, Amway, Brita, Culligan, Glacier Pure,

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133

Instapure (Teledyne/WaterPik), Mr. Coffee, NSA, Omni, Pollenex, Rainsoft, and Sears.
PROBlEM POlLUTANTS

Lead. Chronic lead exposure, even at low levels, could cause per-

manent learning disabilities and hyperactivity. It's particularly dangerous for pregnant women and children. In adults, chronic exposure is linked to high blood pressure and anemia. Lead gets into water primarily through corrosion of household plumbing and the service line (the pipe connecting the home plumbing with the water main). Installation of lead service lines has been banned for nearly a decade, but many homes more than 30 years old still have them. They may also have copper pipes with lead solder (also banned). Lead in water can also come from brass in faucets and well pumps. Since 1991, the u.s. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has required water companies to run spot tests for lead contamination. If more than 10 percent of the households checked have lead levels above 15 parts per billion (ppb), the company will have to take action, either by treating the water or by replacing lead service lines. The deadline for companies serving more than 50,000 people is January 1997; smaller systems have until 1999. In 1992, Consumer Reports tested water in the homes of 2,643 readers in ~ight cities, finding worrisome results in some cities, including Chicago, New York, and Boston. Later, 1,280 homes in those cities and in Portland and St. Paul, where the EPA had found fairly high lead levels, were tested. The water supply in Chicago had improved considerably. New York showed modest improvement. Although Boston has been treating the water in its reservoir for years, results still show room for improvement. Lead concentrations remained too high in St. Paul even after running the water. In Portland, first-draw water

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(which has stood in the pipes for hours) had moderate levels of lead; purged-line water (drawn after running for a while) had almost no lead. To minimize your exposure to lead from pipes, use only cold water for cooking and drinking; hot water dissolves more lead. Running the water for a minute or so to flush the pipes may help, but it's not a sure cure. If you have more than 5 ppb of lead in your water even after letting it run, you need to take action. Radon. This probably poses a greater health risk than any other waterborne pollutant. According to the EPA, radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, may cause more than 10,000 lung-cancer deaths each· year. Most of the radon seeps into homes from the ground. But some well water contains dissolved radon, which escapes into the air from showers and washers. Waterborne radon is usually confined to private wells or small community water systems that use wells. Before testing water for radon, test the air inside your house for radon. If the level is high
WHERE TO GET YOUR WATER TESTED

Companies that sell water-treatment equipment often offer a free or low-cost water analysis. Don't depend on that kind of test: The results may be biased. Instead, ask your water company,health department, or cooperative extension agency for a referral. You can also check the Yellow Pages under "Laboratories-Testing," or contact a mail-order laboratory. To get water tested for lead by mail, contact any of the following: Clean Water Lead Test Inc., Asheville, N.C., 704251-6800 ($17); Environmental Law Foundation, Oakland, Calif., 510 2084555 ($16.50); SAVE, New York, N.Y., 718 626-3936 ($20). Avoid do-it-yourself home testing kits.

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135

and you use well water, have the water tested. If the level of radon in the air is low, don't worry about the water. Although experts disagree as to the level of radon you should do something about, you should take action if the level in the water is 10,000 picocuries per liter or higher. Radon is easily dispersed in outdoor air, so aerating the water before it enters the house is usually the simplest solution. Ventila,ting the bathroom, laundry room, or kitchen may also help. Nitrate. High nitrate levels in water pose a risk mainly to infants. Bacteria in immature digestive tracts convert nitrate into nitrite; that combines with hemoglobin in the blood to form methemoglobin, which cannot transport oxygen. The reSUlting ailment, methemoglobinemia, is rare but can result in brain damage or death. Some adults, including pregnant women, may also be susceptible. Chemical fertilizers and animal wastes are prime sources of nitrate contamination, so homes in agricultural areas with private wells should have their water tested regularly. Some state health departments test wells for free. High nitrate levels may also signal the presence of <:>ther contaminants.
TREATMENT METHODS

The chart on pages 136-37 shows which technologies work best for which substances. Some products, called single-stage filters, use one of the methods explained below; others, called multistage filters, combine two or more. Note: None are suitable for treating bacteriologically contaminated water, which requires sterilization with ultraviolet rays, ozone, or chlorine. Carbon filtration. This is the most popular method of water treatment. Carbon filters overcome a variety of problems. They remove residual chlorine, improving the water's taste. They can also remove organic compounds such as pesticides, solvents, and chlo-

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WATER TREATMENT

137

WATER PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

rn

ppm

=parts per million; ppb =parts per billion; pc/l =piccocuries per liter.

[gJ Most will

also remove organic substances.

~

Action level.

~

Some will remove lead.

or pesticides. scale can build up quickly and must be cleaned out. Where lead contamination is known to be a problem. Water softeners remove hard water minerals. The process is slow-it takes a couple of hours to produce a quart of water-and uses a lot of electricity. Distillation improves the taste of brackish water. Water softeners. Reverse osmosis (RO). They don't remove radon. some aren't. nitrate. chloride. in some cases. Some carbon filters are effective for lead. a high-volume undersink or countertop filter is the best choice. ferrous iron. But it's ineffective against volatile organics like chloroform and benzene. and is wasteful-for every gallon of water purified. A 5. They have a second filter. such as dissolved salts. Small p<?ur-through filters and fist-sized units that thread onto the faucet can improve the taste of water. fluoride. carbon filters more often.) The membrane needs replacement every few years. Most O systems use a carbon filter. Replaceable filter cartridges made either with a "carbon block" or granulated carbon are better than those made with powdered carbon. lead. and heavy metals such as lead. RO a cellophanelike semipermeable membrane that's easily clogged by minerals in hard water. a larger filter is better. Distillation. . producing only a few gallons of fresh water per day. Since it collects and concentrates minerals. nitrate. and it d~mine~alizes water polluted with heavy metals. RO works slowly. There.to 10-micron mesh is fine enough. but they're only moderately effective against hazardous chemicals. This method excels at removing inorganic contaminants. stain-producing iron and. install a separate sediment prefilter upstream of the carbon filter. (To extend its life. The whole-house variety is especially useful for removing radon. which vaporize in the distiller and wind up in the condensed water. several gallons are wasted.138 MISCELLANEOUS roform.

WATER TREATMENT 139 Systems vary in size. if you should empty the tank. Their large storage tank holds a supply of treated water ample enough for most uses. Activated alumina. at a rate of about one-third gallon a minute. you'll have to wait two or three hours for it to process another gallon. This type is best suited for a household that uses a lot of water. are an effective' treatment. which aren't plumbed in. activated alumina cartridges. softeners are effective against lead only if contamination occurs in service lines outside the house. Anundersink filter can be installed by a do-it-yourselfer whose counter has an opening for the unit's spigot or who is willing to drill an opening. They're less expensive and easier to install than reverse-osmosis devices. radon. They're a good choice if you need highly effective lead removal and don't consume a lot of water. and trihalomethanes. sit on the counter and are plugged into an electric outlet. If lead is your only problem. It produces purified water on demand. Undersink filters are plumbed in and have their own spigot. consider one of these. Operation cost is fairly low. Distillers. Like an undersink filter. TREATMENT PRODUClS Reverse-osmosis devices are installed in the water line under the sink by a profeSSional. Although cheaper to buy than a reverse-osmosis system. carbon tetrachloride. which come in faucet-mounted filters and in-line units. benzene. Aerators are effective at removing chlorine. Countertop filters sit next to the sink and attach to the existing faucet with flexible tubing. If your household needs maximum lead removal. They have their own spigot and storage tank. they're much more expensive to operate. As a result. Aeration. However. a countertop . but all consist of a large tank near the main supply of water to a house.

But you may not like the way it looks perched on your faucet. Carafe filters are stand-alone units that require no connection to the plumbing. but it has no tubing at all. It gives purified water on demand without taking up counter space or requiring much installation. was originally passed because some of the thousands of water systems in the United States were simply not delivering clean water. They sit on a counter. call the Better Business Bureau or a local consumer-protection agency to find out whether any complaints against the company are unresolved. approved in 1974. Before doing business with a water-treatment company you don't know. you probably don't wonder whether it's safe to drink.140 MISCELLANEOUS model provides filtered water on demand. A carafe is best used' to process only small amounts of water. You don't have to: It usually is. However. This type of unit takes up counter space. you simply pour water through them. perhaps a gallon or two a day. Congress may scale back the regulations that help keep your water that way as legislators consider c:hanging the Safe Drinking Water Act. Afaucet-mountedfilteris similar to a countertop unit. DRINKING WATER: Is IT SAFE 10 SOFTEN THE RULES? When you turn on the tap for a glass of water. RECOMMENDATIONS The chart on pages 136-37 summarizes the best methods for the most common water problems. Water poured into the top compartment trickles through the filter and collects in the pitcher below. but it requires no major changes in plumbing. . and its connector tubes can get in the way when you're using the sink. is smaller. and it may get in your way. The act. and sits atop the faucet.

000 children who might otherwise have unsafe amounts of lead in their blood. Those changes. Many of those systems say they have neither the staff nor the money to obey the 1986 regulations.000 violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act. cost too much.000 community water systems are small ones. Most of those cited were small systems that were not complying with monitoring and reporting requirements rather than systems found to have dirty water. But on occasion. community water systems were cited for about 100. In the best-known such incident. It's harder to know how many people are harmed by chronic. low-level exposure to pathogens and chemical contaminants. The debate over the effectiveness of the act dates back to 1986. a microbe not yet covered by water regulations. hundreds of thousands of Milwaukee residents were sickened and more than 100 killed by cryptosporidium. the Environmental Protection Agency originally set monitoring requirements and contaminant limits for 26 substances that can taint drinking water. Indeed. when Congress directed the EPA-which had been lackadaisically implementing the act-to add 57 more substances. The most readily recognized are acute outbreaks of illness caused by microbes. All public water systerns ·that use surface water now must disinfect it. in 1994. Congress'also told the EPA to add 25 new contaminants to the list every three years. critics say.300 people. serving fewer than 3. Nearly 90 percent of the nation's 58. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Setting limits. to the list of contaminants that water systems must monitor and limit. And restrictions on lead in drinking water should help protect 600.WATER TREATMENT 141 The regulations have had a good effect. Complying with the regulations could add several hundred dol- . and most must filter it. such as benzene and dioxin. in 1993. people still get sick from contqminants in their water.

Going too far. or if a particular contaminant.000 people to fail to meet federal health standards. only the very smallest systems-those that serve fewer than 500 households--can obtain such a waiver. What's more.water system skip particular tests if its water source is protected from contamination. . Small systems' testing requirements would be eased. states could issue testing exemptions much more freely. instead of quarterly testing. rather than base its standards on the best available methods that a large system can afford. Already. The EPA would require cleanup technologies that the small systems could more realistically afford. No one is being served if those suppliers are just racking up violations instead of actually testing their water. local officials. Rules for cleaning up contamination would be lighter too. But just as the 1986 law is too broad. the proposed law would allow water systems that serve as many as 10.142 MISCELLANEOUS lars a year to the water bills paid by customers of some small water systems. the Senate came up with a plan for lightening the burden on water suppliers. or in some cases once every three years if the first test was clean. It makes sense for Congress to revise a law that doesn't adequately account for the limited staff and resources of small water systems. and governors. such as a pesticide. As of 1995. a state can let a . so are the proposed revisions. Under pressure from water companies. if they can't afford to comply and if no unreasonable health risk would be created. Finally. the bill proposes! that the federal government give the states a total of $lbillion in loans and grants to help small water systems improve their facilities. Also. for any contaminants that don't cause acute health problems. was never used in the area. the water systems would be able to test just once a year. Realistic regulations. Under the proposal.

Instead of setting standards for 25 contaminants every three years. The bill also gives the EPA five or six years to develop several new standards that are already behind schedule. That seems like a small price to pay to be sure that the water is safe. The limit onarsenic in drinking water.delayed until 2000. it also eases up on the large systems that serve most Americans. And the bill would grant water systems three to five years to comply with any new or revised federal health standards. was to have been revised in 1989. the EPA would have to consider just five by 2001. which dates from 1942." such as the potentially cancer-causing compounds created when chlorine is added to water. up from 18 months. once were due in 1989 but now could be . The standards for cleanup technology would be made more lenient for large systems-an unnecessary move. It's unwise to act as though we know there are few new contaminants of any consequence to be found. For people served by large water systems.WATER TREATMENT 143 The problem is that the Senate bill doesn't just give small water systems a break.:n contaminants would be nullified. Existing court orders requiring the EPA to issue rules for about a doz<. . Even the rules being · developed to thwart cryptosporidium could be delayed by extra regulatory hurdles. Limits on "disinfection byproducts. Those changes are a false economy. Now it won't be updated until 2001. the pace of new contaminant limits could be greatly slowed. the water bill would go up only about $25 a year if all the EPA regulations go into effect on schedule. What's more.

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glycerine or other moisturizers. dry. preservatives (to forestall spoilage). or "combination" skin seemed to have no con- 145 . Soap and water do that. Soap and water also have less clout than cleanser in removing heavy makeup. Noxzema cream in the blue jar pointed the way toward a revolutionary alternative: a less greasy substance you can wash off with water. there are as many wash-off creams and lotions as there are those that you have to wipe off. of course. leaving it rough. contains water. oily. A typical cleanser. and dyes and scent . The results of use tests conducted by Consumers Union showed that the preferences for cleansers specified by their makers for normal. Years ago. or greases (to give the product the right consistency and to help loosen grime).(to make it look and smell good). chapped. but too much soap can remove a skin's natural oils. and tender. The archetypal cleanser is the traditional "cold cream" that you massage into your skin. oils. Pond's Cold Cream and its descendants-including wipe-off lotions-'-are still very popular. fats. however. detergents (to wash away grime). then wipe off. There are also creams and lotions that you can remove either way. Today.Personal Care FACIAL CLEANSERS The main purpose of a facial cleanser is to remove makeup and grime. whether cream or lotion.

The price range is astonishingly wide. feel good on the skin during use. Cleansers should leave the skin feeling nice ("smooth" or "creamy"). as it often is in the world of cosmetics. But you expect most from a tissue when your nose runs nonstop and . Some women with dry skin preferred oilyskin products. When Consumers Union's panelists scored a product low in smell. and so on. to remove makeup. smell pleasant. And some may leave the skin feeling greasy. COST. and as a stand-in for a napkin or a towel. FACIAL TISSUES Tissues are used to handle all sorts of jobs-to wipe eyeglasses. QUALITY Cleansers come in a variety of sizes. they generally gave it a low overall score. SIZE. Some cleansers claim to be fragrance-free. and leave the skin feeling nice. Removing sOme of the wash-off products can take more than a dozen rinses. but most of those have their own smell from ingredients not added for their fragrance.146 PERSONAL CARE nection with skin type. Priee per ounce can vary considerably with container size. some with normal skin liked dry-skin formulations. ranging in type from medicinal through spicy to floral. Some cleansers are hard to remove. Scent can play an important if unconscious role in judgment of overall quality. take off makeup efficiently. which you mayor may not find pleasing. or dry and stiff. Most products have a scent. PREFERENCES An effective cleanser should be easy to apply and remove. but some may leave the skin feeling slightly coated.

a throw- away product like facial tissue. wet strength. the tissues bought from stores in the East. To measure strength when wet. and softness. This practice could create variations in the same brand of tissue purchased in different areas. so much the better. RECOMMENDATIONS It doesn't make much sense to spend a lot of money on . then poured a slow. With few exceptions. which weren't the' strongest. but the worst were almost always shot through. Several two-ply varieties were even stronger. A tissue shouldn't shred when you . arid you don't want one so harsh and scratchy that it chafes your nose. and West were quite consistent. d~mpened it with a measured amount of water. If the tissues are packed in a box to match your decor. some others were just as strong. steady stream of lead shot onto the tissue.FACIAL TISSUES 147 your eyes water. Consumers Union invented a mechanical sneezer to test tissues. South. The weakest tissues ruptured under about one ounce of weight.meeze into it. Since people can't be expected to sneeze on demand or to sneeze exactly the same way time after time. testers clamped each tissue in an embroidery hoop. The most sneeze-resistant tissues usually withstood the test just fine. they are the tissues Iyou can count on to handle the most demanding jobs without dis~ntegrating. Manufacturers often make facial tissues in more than one plant around the country to cut down on shipping costs. But it does make sense to buy tis- . Yet you want something fairly economical. however. The thickest tissu~s tested were the three-ply. The strongest ones held more than 10 ounces of shot before they broke. QUALITY Consumers Union tested tissues for sneeze resistance.

The package ~ay claim that the soap is "hypoallergenic" or "noncomedogenic" (that means the soap won't clog pores and promote blackheads. You can wash your hands for a penny with most soaps. Fragrance masks this odor.everyday use. which work better than soap in hard water. The softest tissues are obviously the most soothing for a proloD. leaving a bathtub ring. • Appeal to health. not soap. In its natural state.man. but some deSigner . or comedones). Those with only average softness are fine for . A manu'facturer makes formulations for different skin types.ged cold or bout of hay fever.148 PERSONAL CARE sues that are reasonably soft. and act as wetting agents. a dime. it will upscale their product from the supermarket shelf--where soap can cost a dollar or less per bar-to the beauty counter at department stores. They are the salts of water-insoluble fatty acids. Some soap makers think that if they mask the odor well enough. and low in price. soap smells somewhat like the fat in fresh meat. HAND SOAPS Soaps were the first surface-active agents prepared by . or a quarter: • Add fancy perfume. Both are able to emulsify oils. Here's what a soap maker can do to make a penny's wash seem worth a nickel. • Promise beauty. detergents do not tend to form such scum. Detergents are chemically different from soaps. hold dirt in suspension. Since the 1950s.) Most liquid products are basically detergent. suitably strong. (Soap combines with the minerals in hard water. where you can easily pay $10 a bar. Manufacturers pledge that added emollients- .brands cost around 4 or 5 cents per wash. some soaps have incl~ded detergents.

vitamin E-will soften and condition skin. but then the refill bottle is tossed out. liquid soaps are slightly more . (Perspiration itself doesn't smell.expensive to use. don't look for some magic soap formula to provide relief. PERFORMANCE Consumers Union found that all soaps tested by a panel were at least good in cleaning or in the way they left hands feeling. the skin reaqily gi~es up water. Body odor is caused by bacteria that act on perspiration. Liquids generally didn't feel as good on the skin as bar soap. while the skin is still damp. which may help seal in moisture. Most soaps have emollients. Once its oil coating is gone. which tends to feel harsher than soap. moisturizing cream. (For many liquids. If you have dry skin.) • Prevent embarrassment. however. but some clearly performed better than others. These deodorant soaps usually include an antibacterial agent. probably because they are more likely to contain detergent.) .HAND SOAPS 149 bath oil. and their plastic containers often leave more packaging waste. Soap and detergent can dry the skin because they remove its natural oils.) All provide protection against unwanted odors because . COST It makes no sense to pay more than a penny a wash for soap. Apply baby oil or a moisturizer after bathing. remedy.all soaps float off bacteria along with dirt and grease.than bars. or competent treatment" for any skin disease. no soap can be truthfully represented to keep skin young! and none may be advertised "as a cure. a pump refill is available. On average. lanolin. Some brands claim that they are able to keep body odor at bay. (As the Better Business Bureau reports.

150 PERSONAL CARE TOILET TISSUES Whatever the price per roll. Many people won't find even the roughest toilet tissues objectionable. . A package should be easy to open. Four-packs are the most popular. Most single-ply tissues were not quite as absorbent. Plastic packages with perforations around the top are easiest to open. a slow toilet may back up . On others. the roll should be easy to start. The stronger the tissue when wet. an annoyance when you begin using the roll. sometimes it shreds before freeing the next sheet. the first few sheets stick to the ones underneath. but there are some strong single-plies. and tissues should be easy to tear off. Two-ply tissues are stronger as a group. two-ply models soaked up a drop of water within five seconds or less. Sometimes the tab works well. If they don't. Toilet tissues should quickly and thoroughly absorb moisture. the less likely it is to break or te~r in use. Tissues should break up promptly when flushed away. some in packages of 12 or more. Wet strength is far more important than dry strength. Some tissues are scented. thanks to . Most two-ply models are relatively easy to detach. too. and it may be irritating to some people. the end of. CONVENIENCE Some tissues come in single rolls. On some rolis. When last tested. Scent serves no practical purpose in bathroom tissues. providing a pull tab that's easy to grasp. Two-ply tissues are generally softer than single-ply. you expect certain basic qualities in this homely but indispensable product. Most toilet tissues are soft enough for all but sensitive individuals. the first sheet hangs free.

Then again. . ability to tear easily. some single-ply products are flimsy and tend to tear raggedly. strength. SUMMARY No tissues have all four qualities: softness. Some qualities are mutually exclusive. perhaps all the fuss about softness is unnecessary. By contrast.TOILET TIssUES 151 their adequate perforations. softness generally doesn't go with strength. and inexpensiveness. For example.

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Gently dust acrylic furniture with a damp cloth or chamois. vacuum clean any visible cooling coils. Wash with hand dishwashing liquid and water using a soft cloth. Rinse with water and blot dry with a clean cloth. using a mild solution of a. Dry acetate items by carefully spreading them out on terry-cloth bath towels on a horizontal surface or draping them over a clothesline. Condenser coils facing outside also need cleaning before hot weather sets in. Avoid wringing or twisting garments. or when the air conditioner is in a window over a heavily traf- 153 . Dry cleaning is safest for this delicate fabric even if there are laundering instructions on the care label. Acrylic furniture. Clean or change a window air conditioner's filter once a month during the air-conditioning season to keep the machine's efficiency as high as possible. Acetone will dissolve acetate.AppendixA TIPS FOR CLEANING A VARIETY OF HOUSEHOLD ITEMS Acetate fabric. (Be careful not to cut yourself on sharp edges. Air conditioners. Do not use nail polish remover or other cleaners that contain acetone to attempt to remove stains. but the unit may have to be removed from the window to do the job. Hand laundering must be carefully done.) Plastic foam filters can be washed at the kitchen sink. When cleaning or changing the filter. In very sooty areas. hand dishwashing liquid and water.

followed by light rubbing with a soap-filled scouring pad.154 APPENDIX A ficked street. but check the label instructions to be sure the manufacturer states that it is safe to use on painted surfaces. Some porcelain sinks. Audiotape recording and playback heads. capstans. Many kitchen and laundry appliances have a baked enamel surface that scratches easily'. Acidic foods-such as tomatoes or rhubarb-may remove stains or discolorations as they are being · cooked. Appliance exteriors. Aluminum scuffs. you may need to hire a professional firm to do the cleaning. Aluminum cookware. unlike the glass-hard porcelain enamel finish that is common on kitchen ranges as well as on some washing machines or other appliance tops. It is importaht to periodically clean recording and playback heads. A good cleanser should readily remove these marks. Don't use solvent-based wax. Asphalt tile. tend to collect scuff marks from aluminum pots and pans. Hand dishwashing liquid and water should do the job. the solvent can soften and damage the tile. then rinse it off. If this doesn't work. Damp mop forday-to-day cleaning. and tape guides. Cover the stain with the cleanser for a few minutes. Never use an abrasive cleaner on baked enamel. pinch rollers. Use a small cotton swab or-even better-a lint-free . a liquid all-purpose cleaner can help. especially older ones with a bit of their enamel worn off. Once a month is probably a reasonable interval. You can also boil a solution of one quart of water containing 2 to 3 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice in the cookware.

Some bathroom cleaners can mar brass. If the deck or tape player is not accessible for cleaning. The swab or cloth should be lightly moistened with cleaning agent. When using a charcoal barbecue. . then brush lightly. Many bath mats and toilet tank covers can be cleaned in a washing machine. Any remaining baked-on dirt should yield to wire brushing or to an abrasive powdered cleaner. You can use rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol). stainless steel. Regular vacuuming is important to prevent buildup of particulate matter that can contribute to carpet wear. let the grill stand over the coals for about 20 minutes after cooking to achieve similar results. or wallpaper. hang or spread items in the shade until dry. but it is probably safer and better to buy tape-head cleaner from an electronics supply store. you might try a special head-cleaning tape. handheld vacuum cleaner works best. upholstery. Immediately rinse off cleaner to avoid damage. A cordless model with rechargeable batteries may work well enough on loose surface litter. If you run a gas barbecue for about 15 minutes at the highest heat setting-after you finish cooking-it should look reasonably clean but may still need some wire brushing to get rid of any heavy residue. Bath mats. Auto carpeting. Never use any kind of abrasive material to clean the heads. paint.TIPS FOR CLEANING 155 piece of cotton cloth wrapped around the swab. and tumble dry using a low temperature setting. and mats. In lieu of machine drying. rinse thoroughly. Use a mild detergent at a setting of not more than 900 F for dark colors and J05°F for light colors or whites. Barbecue griUs. vinyl shower curtains. Carefully follow instructions. Bathroom fixtures. lightweight. A plug-in.

fill with water. See Wooden work surfaces. first blow off dust with a blower brush . then air dried. then rinse thoroughly.156 ApPENDIX A Blankets. Wool blankets should be machine washed in cold water on the delicate cycle. Lacquered brass should be clean~d only with hand dishwashing liquid and water. Brass. and blend the solution on the Stir setting for 10 to 20 seconds or until the sides are clean. gently wipe the lens surface with a piece of lens cleaning paper or a . Then. then wash in sudsy water and rinse. as it might soften or melt if placed too close to the machine's heating element. For best results. Blenders. add a few drops of hand dishwashing liquid. Read and follow the manufacturer's care instructions. using warm water and a high water level. Vellux nonwoven blankets use adhesives to bond the fibers to a foam base.. Buff with a. Glass containers stay better-looking longer than plastic ones because they resist scratching and staining. Clean uniacquered brass with a commercial copper or brass cleaner. As an alternative to hand washing. To clean the lens surface. Be sure the blanket dries evenly. wash each blanket separately. soft clean cloth. Nonwoven blankets contain synthetic' fibers that are pressed together and heat bonded. Anything stronger may ruin the finish. Vellux blankets can be tumble dried at low heat.. tumble dry on low heat. They should be washed using a short agitation cycle of five to eight minutes . Butcher blocks. They should be machine washed with a gentle cycle. A plastic container probably should not go into a dishwater. to remove any smudges or fingerprints. Camcorders. cover. a glass container should be dishwasher safe.

n. never attempt to do it yourself. being"careful not to touch the shutter. Store the blower brush in a container or plastic bag to keep it clean. If the cleaning tape doesn't restore the picture in a few tries. To clean the lens surface. Use a blower brush to remove accumulated film dust particles from the film chamber. Use a full-size upright vacuum cleaner or canister model with a power nozzle. video head cleaning should be performed by a qualified service technicia. If cleaning becomes necessary. Cameras. It contains organic solvents that may damage the lens or camera finish. If more cleaning is necessary. Cautiously use the cleaning cassette in strict accordance with the manufacwrer's instructions. to remove any smudges or fingerprints. Then. Carpet grit. Preferably. use a blower brush. profeSSional servicing may be necessary. gently wipe the lens surface with a piece of lens cleaning paper or a clean cotton cloth moistened with a drop or two of lens-cleaning fluid (available at camera stores). With proper care. Take the camera to an authorized service facility. first blow off dust with a blower brush. Clean in a spiral motion from the center outward. Clean in a spiral motion from the center outward. Caution: Do not use film cleaner. Vacuum on a regular basis. or by a circuit failure.nps FOR CLEANING 157 clean cotton cloth moistened with a drop or two of lens-cleaning fluid (available at camera stores). the mirror and focusing screen in an SLRcam~ era should stay clean enough. An alternate solution is to use a head~ cleaning cassette-but only when necessary. This is . by clogged video heads. A noisy picture during playback can be caused by an incorrectly set tracking control.

cat lUter box.and fine china can easily be chipped or broken by forceful water jets or jostling among pots and pans. Coffee taste may also . Use hot water and hand dishwasher . Cbl"" dlsbware. and put back together. The carafe and brew basket of a drip-type cof. dried. Models with several pieces have to be taken apart. .· feemaker should be cleaned after every use because dried coffee oils can ruin the taste of even the best blend. liquid . The easiest-to-clean juicer has the cone. Avoid using chlorine bleach for cleaning: Fumes are created through a chemical reaction between the bleach and residual ammonia remaining ·in a litter box after it has been emptied. Vacuum clean any visible lint buildup in other parts of the machine. Ootbes dryers. It's best to wash fine china by hand with a hand dishwashing liqUid.to clean litter box surfaces. CoUeemakers. Citrus juicers. but leave any disassembling to a service technician. washed. check the manufacturer's instructions. and juice container as a single unit. strainer. It's helpful if the pieces can be put into a dishwasher. Clean a dryer's lint screen after each load. Everyday china can be washed in the dishwasher. Some dishwasher detergents may wear away the overglaze and metallic decorations on some fine china. This will maintain high drying efficiency and will help to prevent excessive heat buildup.158 APPENDIX A especially important near entrance doors and in heavily traveled areas.

clean the keys with eithera lint-free cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol or a commercial keyboard wipe. lint. using the soft brush attachment. Smudges or deposits should be washed off under running water with a little hand dishwashing liquid if needed. Periodically. Heavier dust can be removed by gentle strokes with a soft. but worth the trouble. Many methods recommended for removing stains from concrete involve use of strong solvents like trisodium phosphate or flammable materials like kerosene. then rinse the CD. Concrete floors.hit it several times with the flat of your hand. Vacuum keyboards regularly. As a substitute for a commercial cleaner. try running white vinegar diluted with water through the machine. It's a chore. and lots of elbow grease. Light dust will not harm a CD. Always wipe the CD in the radial direction-across the "grooves.free cloth. Be sure to unplug the keyboard first. Computer monitors.:. it's important to clean them now and then. there are some . Because of safety concerns. Because minerals accumulate in the tank and tubes of automatic-drip units. To dislodge particles of dirt and dust." Radial scratches will be ignored by the CD player.TIPS FOR CLEANING 159 be improved by using a special coffeemaker cleaner. turn the keyboard upside down and . Compact discs (CDs). especially if they are used with hard water. Consumers Union cannot recommend a home brew for this purpose. allow the excess water to run off and carefully pat it dry with a soft lint-free cloth. Computer keyboards. or shutthe computer off. You can also use a can of compressed air (available from electronics stores). See Television sets. However.

You -can protect most exposed surfaces from becoming soiled in the first place by covering the oven bottom with aluminum foil. Never use an abrasive cleanser on aplastic-laminate surface. In the bathroom. The porous finish of a continuouscleaning oven is supposed to dissipate light dirt gradually at normal cooking temperatures. which is mottled. Be sure to remove any puddles immediately. It is extremely important to read and carefully follow the directions and safety precautions when using these products. then wash in sudsy water and rinse. A quick wipe with a damp cloth or with a cloth containing a mild solution of hand dishwashing liquid will take care of most spills on laminated countertops. being sure to follow the label directions for proper use. and dry with a soft cloth. But majorspills won't go away-you have to wipe them up right after they happen. to avoid warping. use undiluted liquid household bleach. Countertops. For more difficult stains.warm water. Vacuum thin fabrics at a reduced suction setting to pre- . Minor spill's appear to be eliminated slowly.160 ApPENDIX A commercially available products that may do the job. thereby helping to disguise patches of dirt. Copper cookware. Buff with a soft clean cloth. Continuous-cleaning ovens. rinse thoroughly. For very stubborn spots (like newsprint ink). Curtains. Let the bleach stand for no more than 11/2 minutes and then rinse thoroughly with . clean these easy-to-scratch surfaces with the gentlest all-purpose cleaner possible. but be careful to avoid blockingany vents in a gas oven or shortcircuiting an electric element. Clean with a commercial copper cleaner. partly because they spread out on the finish. liquid cleaners should be rinsed off to prevent damage to the countertop finish.

helps prevent the spread of cold and flu germs. a dusty environment. even cold water. Electric blankets. more. Their makers claim that this. ask a doctor for advice on how to proceed. In fact.in water. tHsb sanlHzlng. the better. It might be helpful to place a stiff piece . It's really not possible to prevent the spread of germs in the house by using a disinfectant. DeUcatefabrlcs.of plastic screen between the nozzle and the fabric. DIsinfecting. A little bit of spray furniture polish on a rag makes the rag tacky enough to pick up more dust than a dry cloth. Debumldlfiers. household microbes-the same microbes that are on everything else in the house---quickly settle on them.TIps FOR CLEANING 161 vent the fabric from being drawn into the cleaner's nozzle. Vacuum the coils at least once a year. Some dishwashers have · a final rinse cycle that uses extra-hot water. even better. ' When a medical prohlem arises that requires using a germicide. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for laundering (usually a cold or warm wash and low-heat machine dry:" ing or. to prevent the fabric froin being sucked into the nozzle. once you put "sanitized" dishes into the cupboard.The less time some delicate fabrics spend . This will help maintain the appliance's performance. Follow the manufacturer's care and cleaning instructions.often in. line drying). Never have an electric blanket or . Dust on hard surfaces.

that will keep them looking up to par. Dirty fan blades impair air-moving efficiency and also detract from the appliance's appearance. Spills of food-especially those containing sugar-should be wiped up immediately. which can cause unwanted vibration when the fan is turned on. since spills burn off quickly.162 APPENDIX A pad dry-cleaned. dry-cleaning chemicals can damage the wiring. in that case. For stains and adherent soil. Electric range tops. uSe a damp (not wet) sponge mop or its equivalent. Clean drip pans and reflector bowls with the least abrasive cleanser . hang the blanket over two clotheslines or lay it flat to dry. Clean under the control knobs by pulling them off. Do not machine-dry unless the care label recommends it. You can raise or remove thecooktop to clean beneath it. .A whole-house or attic fan's louvers and screening should be brushed and vacuumed at least once a season to keep the air-flow rate at the maximum. If you soak an electric element in water. you have to poke your hand through the burner holes. Instead. Clean metal blades carefully to prevent bending them. A nevi spare set of drip pans or reflectors is handy for making the cooktop presentable at a moment's notice. A lightweight upright vacuum cleaner works well for picking up loose dirt from bare floors. Electric coil elements are all self-cleaning. Floor cleaning. Use care when scrubbing around the control panel: The markings can often be rubbed off with steel wool or an abrasive powdered cleanser. it may become damaged. however. Bu~ some electric ranges have a fixed cooktop. Fans. . Smooth-top cooktops should be cleaned with a special cleaner made for such use.

which is expensive to repair. The simple. Use a windshield ice scraper to remove frost and hasten defrosting. furniture provides the best protection. Quickly clean up spills before they have a chance to attack the finish. Or wrap food in food wrap. Self-defrosting is available in some upright models: You can skip the manual defrosting chore and just swab down inside surfaces with a cleaning solution of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) and water. then layers of newspaper for insulation while you defrost. The original oil or lacquer finish on a piece of. Use fine steel wool for stubborn spots. Freezers. Transfer any remaining food to an iced picnic chest or to the refrigerator's freezer or cooling compartment. On a very cold winter day. Try a wax remover. A chest freezer has a smooth interior and removable wire baskets or dividers instead of shelves. An uprigh't freezer requires more patience because you must wait for the ice to melt off the cooling C9ils in the shelves.TIPS FOR CLEANING 163 Floor wax buildup. If you apply polish each· time you dust. excessive wax buildup can result. Furniture. Food processors. causing loss of the wood's natural beauty as well as difficulty in getting the kind of luster you really want. the result could be damage to the refrigeration system. Use a damp sponge for gaps around switches and trim. you may be able to store the food outdoors while you defrost. If you use a tool to scrape and pry ice away to speed the process. Use the softest cloth possible for dusting. Defrost when the food supply is low. clean lines of these machines make for easy cleaning. Don't wipe .

removing the drain stopper. glassware. Glass-fiber fabrics. or sharp objects or containers. It is fragile and should be carefully hand-laundered and line dried. use a small amount of detergent and do not exceed 1400 F water temperature. and turning on the machine for a few seconds. Glassware. and dry without heat. Furniture nicks and scratches. Be sure to use soft insulating pads under hot. Some also suggest purging the disposer by filling the sink halfway with water. and detergent . Some polishes are colored to match the furniture wood. This material is resistant to soiling and can be very decorative. To minimize it. heavy. Heaters.eactiQn of water. Garbage disposers. Underload the dishwasher to permit proper rinsing and draining.in a dishwasher. This phenomenon is especially prevalent in soft or soft~ ened water. and thereby mask the marred area. Pine oil in some all-purpose cleaners helps ·penetrate and loosen greasy dirt. Some space heaters have shiny reflecting surfaces to help direct the heat where you want it. Most manufacturers suggest allowing a disposer to run for 30 to 60 seconds after grinding is finished. there's a possibility of chipping and breakage if you wash such items in a machine. but the color match must be accurate for the cover-up to work well. Some glassware can become etched as a result of a chemical r.164 ApPENDIX A against the grain. Greasy dirt on hard surfaces. If the shiny area becomes . It is best to wash crystal glassware by hand. Etching is irreversible.

you may be forever wiping up white dust that settles on furniture a~d other surfaces. Humidifiers. Hot plates. rinse the tank with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach in a pint . clean it as directed by the manufacturer. Molds and bacteria from humidifiers and vaporizers may trigger allergic symptoms. as well as during the summer if the air ducts also serve as part of a central airconditioning system. After unplugging and emptying the humidifier. If you live in a hard-water area. Unplug before cleaning. Be sure to test it first on an inconspicuous area.or ultrasonic humidifier.season to keep them at their maximum operating efficiency. Vacuum radiators and fins regularly during the heating . Heating systems. Although ultrasonic models do not emit fine microorganisms. Clean nonburner surfaces with warm ·water and hand dishwashing liquid and a dishcloth.TIPS FOR CLEANING 165 dulled. If there are ·no directions. Do not immerse in water. an ultrasonic humidifier should be scrupulously cleaned daily. For difficult-to-remove soil. use a fine soapy metal scouring pad. sponge. After unplugging the appliance. or plastic scouring pad. Therefore. like coolmist and evaporative humidifiers.least once during the heating season. use only distilled water or demineralized water in cool-mist or ultrasonic humidifiers. Change or wash any filters in a warm-air heating system at . If you use a cool mist . vacuum ariy surfaces yqu can reach. Humidifier dust. even beyond the room in which the humidifier is located. the heater will be less effective. they have been implicated in spraying fragments of bacteria and molds into the air.

A washing machine's lint filter helps. at least to the extent of removing the sides so that the grid can be brushed off properly. This is a durable fabric whose appearance and "feel" improve with laundering. Reserve uprights and power brushes for cleaning deep in a carpet's pile. particularly before storing the unit. cleaning microwave cookware should be . sticky side out. Rust or scale accumulations in a steam vaporizer are harmless but should be rinsed out periodically. First unplug the appliance. doesn't present problems of molds and bacteria. LiUer on carpeting and hard-surface floors.166 ApPENDIX A of water. A steam vaporizer. Except for the browning dishes and the crevices on some trivets. For large units. Insect killers ("bug zappers"). It's much easier to disassemble the unit. Linen that has been chemically treated for wrinkle resistance may withstand hot-water washing. I Linen. Lint on garments. It's usually difficult to poke through the outer screen or blow through it with a vacuum cleaner's exhaust. use a cup of bleach in a gallon of water. But a steam vaporizer must still be cleaned to keep it working properly. the kind that boils water and produces moisture ip the form of steam. Use a lightweight vacuum cleaner. and patting the garment to remove the lint. It's worth trying a lint roller or even wrapping Scotch-type sticky tape around a hand. Microwave cookware. followed by a thorough rinsing with fresh water. but tumbling in a clothes dryer may be even more effective. then rinse the tank thor~:)Ughly with fresh water.

damp. A smaller bulb can be used in a smaller enclosure. poorly ventilated places. rinse thoroughly any mildewed surface that has been washed with bleach. Chlorine bleach. or water with a bit of hand dishwashing liquid. continuously burning 60-watt bulb in a large closet to raise the temperature (and thereby lower the relative humidity). Wipe the inside with plain water. Mildew around the house. Spills and spatters are generally easy to wipe up with a damp (not wet) sponge. since stuck-on food is seldom a problem in microwave cooking. waterproof hard surfaces. Be certain that the bulb is well away from any stored articles. is a good mildew remover for use on colorfast. It's a common household mold that thrives in dark. Because it can discolor many fabrics and wallpaper. This is usually unnecessary. diluted according to label directions. Some plastic utensils have a nonstick finish. Keep the oven clean to prevent odors from developing. Microwave ovens. The nonstick finishes are probably a drawback because they easily scratch and quickly look wom. Mildew can also be controlled by lowering the humidity in a closed-in space such as a closet. Some specialty bathroom cleaners contain effective mildew fighters. But liquid chlorine bleach applied according to label directions is an effective mildew cleaner. use a . Browning dishes sear food and accumulate a fair amount of burned-on soil that requires some cleaning effort to remove. Never mix . when mildew growth is greatest. Mildew in bathrooms. In very humid weather. Mildew has an unpleasant odor and appearance.TIPS FOR CLEANING 167 easy with just hand dishwashing liquid and water.

All-purpose cleaners should be tried on an inconspiCUOUS area first.in satisfactory stain removal. bathtubs. Ovens. Porcelain can tolerate abrasive cleansers without wearing off. Painted surfaces. Avoid excessive rubbing and abrasive cleaning. QUickly rinse off these stains before they have a chance to set. Unfortunately. Cleaners containing pine oil can damage paint. Treat these items as gently . Porcelain enamel kitchen fixtures. even qUick attention may not result. Wash oily stains as soon as you notice them. but the shiny finish will be gradually destroyed. Try rubbing them with a wet bar of hand soap. Bleach reacts with many household cleaners and can produce hazardous fumes. toilets. Fabrics containing polyester fibers have a strong affinity for oily substances. White nylon items should be washed separately because of nylon's tendency to pick up colors froni other items in a laundry load. Oily substances can stick to nylon. and other plumbing fixtures are generally made of metal with a heavy outside layer of glasslike porcelain. then with a wet towel followed by rinsing. making the fixture less resistant to staining and therefore more difficult to clean. Sinks. and Continuous-cleaning ovens and Self-cleaning ovens in this section. Nylon.168 APPENDIX A bleach with other cleaning products. Stick to nonabrasive cleansers on new or nearly new fixtures. Polyester. Refer to the Oven Cleaners section in the chapter on House Cleaning. Porcelain enamel bathroom fixtures.

See Silk.prevent perspiration and skin oils from attaching dust to the record's surfaces. Clean this area py using a condenser~coil cleaning brush (available in hardware ·and appliance stores) and a vacuum cleaner's crevice tool. A dampened new toothbrush reserved for this purpose can help. Refrigerator/freezers. Be sure any commercial record-cleaning spray you might purchase does not contain . which can cause dust to stick to records. long-playing (LP). Crevices and grooves trap food and dirt. which helps disperse heat. the coil is mounted in a compartment underneath the cabinet. make sure the opening in the inner sleeve doesn't coincide with the opening in the outer cover. Rayon. The condenser should be cleaned once or twice a year. Handle records only by Jheir edges to . where it tends to collect dust. Dust lowers the appliance's efficiency and raises the cost of running it. Records. But in many models. is outSide the cabinet. When putting a record away. The condenser coil. Portable food mixers. because high outside temperatures impose heavy demands on a refrigerating system. particularly before the onset of hot weather.TIPS FOR CLEANING 169 as possible to avoid unsightly scratches that can make future cleaning increasingly difficult. It's easy to clean a back-mounted condenser once you pull out the refrigerator. Records should be cleaned immediately before you play them with a cloth-pile brush available from an electronics store.silicone. Keeping an LP record dust-free is the best way to make it last longer. Most manufacturers .

A soft cloth and all-purpose. Cleaning inside the refrigerator is best done with the mildest possible detergent or just a damp sponge. Cleaning the coil from the back after you remove the cardboard "service access" cover . Some older refrigerators have a removable drip pan that can develop odors from food spills that drip into it from inside the re~ frigerator. Use the self-cleaning cycle as often as necessary. a task made more difficult if the coil is under a shield and toward the refrigerator's back. If there's a loose duct from the oven to the rear element.is a bit easier. A solution of baking soda and water is probably enough to do the job if water alone doesn't work. Self-cleaning ovens. which exit through a vent on the back guard of gas models or under a rear element of electric ovens. Try to avoid scratching soft plastic surfaces.170 ApPENDIX A tell you to clean from the front. At the end of the cycle. If possible. It's particularly important to keep the door seal (gasket) clean: Dirt buildup impairs the gasket's ability to hold in the cold air. Resin furniture. simply wipe off the residue: The self-cleaning cycle produces smoke and fumes. check it from time to time. The energy cost (using national average rates) is less per cleaning than an application of a chemical cleaner in an oven without the self-cleaning feature. and wash and rinse the pan using hand dishwashing liquid and water. hard-to-clean dirt may be deposited under the cook top during the cleaning cycle. Ventilate the kitchen during . nonabrasive cleaner will keep resin furniture clean for a longtime. The self-cleaning cycle turns the most stubborn spills into a powdery gray ash residue. but you'll have to wrestle the appliance from its normal position.

a job that usually involves removing. brushing. However. Be sure to test multicolored articles before washing. vacuum them annually. Unclip the blade cover. Shake and brush clippings from the cutters and the underside of the head. Shavers. cleaning with the vacuum wand from a full- . Garments made of silk usually require dry cleaning because water and silk are often not compatible. or nonscratching plastic scrubber. there are some silk garments that can tolerate washing in water. Avoid an abrasive cleaner or steel wool in favor of a sponge. the shaver should be cleaned thoroughly to help maintain its ability to operate satisfactorily. A self-cleaning oven's door and frame usually need some scrubbing outside the door seal. Once every week 'ot two. Silk. where vaporized soil can leak through. To keep detectors operating properly. Avoid scrubbing the gasket itself. takt: care not to wet any electrical parts of the cooker. followed by a sponge rinse with plain water. Smoke detectors. Use the mildest nonabrasive cleanser. Some dyes used on silk will dissolve in water.TIPS FOR CLEANING 171 the self-cleaning cycle to prevent smoke and fume particles from being deposited on the kitchen's walls and ceiling. and refitting the cutters and the head. Be guided by care labels. Men's electric shavers need daily cleaning. If the liner is not removable. cloth. causing dye bleeding and dye transfer. Cleanup is easiest if the appliance has a removable liner that can be immersed. Slow cookers. except very gently with a sponge that has been dampened with a solution of hand dishwashing liquid.

Television sets and computer monitors. Steam irons. A television's screen attracts fingerprints.172 ApPENDIX A powered canister cleaner. Scratches or surface imperfections tend to diminish the stain resistance of stainless steel tableware. These products help to reduce spotting. but even more of a nuisance is its tendency to accumulate dust and grime as a result of static electricity. gently vacuum the sensor chambers. If an iron's soleplate has a nonstick finish. If a detector has a fixed cover. to avoid getting cleaner on the cabinet. Do not immerse the iron in water. Stainless steel flatware. any adherent starch or dirt should be removed easily by wiping with a damp sponge. Wet a rag or paper towel with the cleaner rather than spraying it. It is advisable to wash stainless steel soon after using it to minimize any possible staining. clean with a mild solution of hand dishwashing liquid and water. Avoid abrasives. For stubborn food reSidues. Consequently. If a detector's cover is removable. if possible. . This is a particularly annoying problem in areas of the country that have hard water. which could scratch the soleplate. Try addin~ a rinse agent to your dishwashing machine. use glass cleaner sparingly. Unpiug the iron and allow it to cool down before cleaning. pass the wand across the cover's openings. flatware should not be cleaned with scouring powder or steel wool. Spots on glassware and dishes. For an iron without a nonstick finish. With the set turned off. Stainless steel cookware. use a commercial stainless steel cleaner. Many dishwashers have dispensers for such additives.

toaster ovens. Too many crumbs may also impede the operation of door-opening mechanisms. usually mottled surface may present a cleaner appearance for a longer time than an ordinary finish will. Vacuum cleaners. Clumps of dust or other debris can clog a vacuum cleaner's hose. One way to dislodge dirt is with a broom or mop handle inserted into the hose. dense dirt can reduce a bag's efficiency and consequently a cleaner's suction. You might try a special VCR cleaning tape. if the bag doesn't seem full. This doesn't seem to work very well. The picture generated by a: VCR may begin to deteriorate over time. A "continuous-clean" interior is supposed to rid itself of grease and grime at normal cooking temperatures. Try to keep the machine as free of dust as possible by covering it when the VCR is not in use and by storing tapes where they aren't likely to gather a lot of dust and debris. although a continuous-clean finish's dull. however. Change the paper bag or clean the cloth bag as soon as the cleaner's suction drops noticeably. Vaporizers. working carefully to prevent puncturing the hose cover. cautiously using it in strict accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. It doesn't hold up to scrubbing or to the use of harsh cleansers. soft surface eventually makes cleaning very difficult. a con~ tinuous-clean finish may be something of a disadvantage since its rough. There is not much you can do about normal wear resulting from the head spinning at high speed against the tape and the tape moving past the head. If . Small quantities of fine. Clean the crumbs from these appliances often enough to prevent an accumulation that will smolder. Replacing the heads can be expensive. VCR recording and playback heads. even . See Humidifiers. In the long run. toaster oven-broi1ers.TIPS FOR CLEANING 173 Toasters.

draining is best done every month. Many manufacturers recommend washing the grids by hand rather than · in a dishwasher. Water heaters. Waffle makers. which will leak. In areas with hard water. (Never dunk the appliance itself. Then cover the surface for two minutes with a dilute solution of unscented chlorine bleich. Vinyl and vinyl-composition floors. The bits of food that stick to nonstick grids can be removed with a brush when the grids are cool. Butcher blocks and other wooden work surfaces used for food preparation should be cleaned after each use. Wooden work surfaces. sediment ·gets caught in the drain valve. dunk removable grids in a sinkful of warm. Be aware that sometimes after this is done. rinse thoroughly. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning underneath the agitator of Cleaning a lint filter. Periodically drain off some hot water to keep sediment from accumulating at the bottom of the tank. Use chlorine bleach to kill germs from raw foods such as chicken. Washing machines. and air dry. Damp mop for day-to-day cleaning. sudsy water. Sponge off detergent accumulations from around the top of the machine.174 ApPENDIX A servi~­ the cleaning tape doesn't restore the picture. Where the water is soft. and meat. . fish. professional ing may be necessary. Wash any surface that · touches these foods.) Flat grids for grilling usually require thorough cleaning-sometimes soaking~ to remove hamburger grease or sticky cheese. When you want to wash away excess oil. every three or four months should be enough.

soapy water and towel dry. Doing so may damage the wood. .it is better to hand wash it in hot. WooL Dry cleaning is the safest method. and use minimum agitation and spinning to prevent shrinkage and matting of the wool fibers. Do not use bleach. Unless the manufacturer's instructions say the utensil is dishwasher safe. unless the item has a care label stating that it is machine washable. use only cool or cold water.TIps FOR CLEANING 175 Wood-handled utensils. If it says the wool can be laundered. Do not allow the utensil to soak in the water.

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Be sure ·the professional you select evaluates the stain and the stained material. carpet. carpet. set the stain. The following procedures have been obtained from several sources. or upholstery fabric has been saved by immediately treating the stain. it too is not always a foolproof approach. The process of attempting to remove a stain may be unsuccessful and may. or furniture manufacturer's instructions as well as the cautions listed on the label of any product used in the stain removal process. including the Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration (ASCR International) and the Carpet and Rug Institute (cru). in fact. making it ·more difficult to remove. Be sure they are out of the reach of children. Gather all of the materials mentioned in the section entitled "Spot Removal Kit" (see p. Neither the editors nor the publisher can guarantee or be responsible for any results obtained by using these procedures. Many a tie. and informs you about any potential risks associated with attempting to remove the stain. drapery. it might be better to seek professional help (a dry cleaner or a professional carpet. blouse.AppendixB STAIN REMOVAL Quick action is often the key to success with stain removal. If you are not sure if your attempt to remove a stain will cause damage. It is important to follow the garment. 177 . 182) and keep them in a place where you can locate them quickly. or upholstery cleaning service). But it is important to understand that even though professional cleaning may do the trick. Professionals may not be able to remove some stains. Cleaning procedures.

solids should be gently broken up and vacuumed until completely removed. However. do the same on the underside of the fabric. • Examine the wet cloth for color transfer and the fabric or carpet for color change or damage. . On carpets. try the next cleaning solution in the recommended sequence or seek professional help. the back of a tie. For any residual stain resulting from a spill or for stains that have already had a chance to soak into the fabric and dry. if you decide to use paper napkins or towels. 184) and carefully follow the recommended cleaning steps in the order shown. If you can get to both -Sides. You may use cloth or paper for this purpose. Do not scrub the area! Scrubbing can damage delicate fabrics or carpet pile.) using the following pretest procedure. • Apply several drops of the cleaning agent to the testing area. or be sure to test each of the colors. locate the substance that caused the stain in the stain removal steps section (see p. gently scrape the residue up with the edge of a rounded spoon. Continue to blot with napkins or towels until the area is completely dry. first test them to be sure they will be strong enough to do the job.178 APPENDIX B Whether you plan to attempt stain removal yourself or use the services of a professional. On a multicolor fabric. a section of carpet inside a closet. conduct the test in a place where the different colors meet. white unprinted napkins or towels. it is important to blot up all spills immediately using clean. If any of these changes are evident. etc. For semi-solids. under or in back of a couch cushion. Pretest each recommended cleaning agent on an inconspicuous area of the soiled item (inside the flap that covers a Zipper. • Hold a wet white doth on the testing area for 60 seconds.

Check a garment's care label. the treated fabric should be damp-sponged with cool water to remove any residue from the stain removal process. if it reads "Dry Clean Only." you may want to avoid using water-based . Be · patient! Complete stain removal may require repeating the same step several times. avoid using excessive amounts of water on carpets and upholstery fabrics. it is also important to rinse or wash the area after the stain has been removed completely.STAIN REMOVAL 179 If no damage or color change is evident from the pretest. Use a mist-type sprayer to prevent overwetting. During the process of rinsing. In many cases it will not be necessary to use all of the recommended steps to remove the stain. So it is better to start with a small amount of cleaning agent and repeat the process as needed. you may begin the cleaning process. If you have access to the back of the fabric on clothing. even water. Apply a small amount of the first recommended cleaning agent to a white cloth or paper towel and gently work it into the stained area. which may become permanent. place the front face on a white towel and work the cleaning agent into the fabric from the back. launder the garment as soon as possible after removing the stain. For washable clothing. Some cleaning agents may promote rapid resoiling. this is not typically possible when cleaning upholstery or carpets. For fabrics or carpet materials that are water safe. Blot~o not rub or brush. Work from the outer edge of the stain toward the center. Do not proceed to the next recommended cleaning agent until this is done. Of course. For those nonwashable fabrics that will tolerate water. Repeat the procedure with additional clean white cloths or paper towels until you can't transfer any more stain to the cloth or towel. Problems can result from working with large amounts of cleaning materials. Excessive agitation can cause unSightly fabric or carpet pile distortion.

Consumers Union testers found that some of the more effective laundry detergents (especially those with bleach or bleach alternative) were quite effective at removing stains caused by spaghetti sauce. professional cleaners have special techniques to clean upholstery labeled "X. • Write to ACR International 00830 Annapolis Junction Road. Cleaning and Restoration Certification (800-835-4624) and the Association of Specialists in . 1-800CRAYOLA). Upholstery cleaning codes are not always attached to furniture: Check the underside of a chair or sofa or look on the deck under the cushions. Likewise. • If you have small children. Occasionally. • Contact the Institute of Inspection." They usually charge extra for this work. After the stain is removed from a carpet or upholstery fabric and the area has been rinsed.O. MD 2070l}. GA 30722. for a copy of their Stain Removal Suggestions for Crayola products. Inc. Dalton. Change pads as needed until the area is thoroughly dry.upholstery fabrics that carry a label with an "S" (indicating that a solvent-based cleaner is required) or an "X" (vacuuming only) should not be cleaned with any materials that contain water. and mud.. Consumer Communications (P. Box 431.O. apply a thick pad of white cloth or paper towels and weight them down to absorb the excess water or cleaning material from the final cleaning step. WORm WRITING FOR • Contact the Carpet and Rug Institute (P. Most could not remove motor oil. Enclose a legal-size self-addressed stamped envelope for a copy of their carpet and upholstery spot removal guide. PA 18044. 800-882-8846) for a copy of their Carpet Spot Removal Guide. Suite 312. Annapolis Junction. c:ontact Binney & Smith. Box 2048. Easton. chocolate milk.180 ApPENDIX B cleaning agents.

Can be used to soften hardened paint. (Launder fabrics treated with petroleum jelly immediately after application. Petroleum jelly. . Refer to the section on Boosters in the Laundry chapter. and rubber cement on washable fabrics. The kind sold as an antiseptic (3 percent).g. battery acid). tar. Hydrogen peroxide. Can be used to neutralize acids (e.. Refer to the section on Bleaches in the Laundry chapter. OTHER ITEMS WORTH KEEPING AROUND Baking soda.) Laundry booster.STAIN REMOVAL 181 Cleaning and Restoration (800-272-7012) for listings of professional interior cleaners in your area. Bleach.

so rinse thoroughly after using. (mild) Mix one teaspoon of a clear (not colored) hand dishwashing liquid per one cup of lukewarm water. Never mix ammonia and bleach during any cleaning operation. mohair. Mix 1 tablespoon of household ammonia with '12 cup of water. Use small amounts to avoid damage to sizing. cup of white household vinegar with % cup of water. or silk. . (Note: The active ingredient in these products is being phased out by the EPA. mix a solution of powdered ' enzyme-containing laundry detergent according to the directionS on the box. Ammonia. To make an enzyme-containing detergent.) Detergent. or stuffing material. Caution: Apply only in a well-ventilated area. especially wool. Dry cleaning. Caution: Do not use an enzyme detergent on nonwashable fabrics. Mix y. Allow the solution to remain on the stain for the length of time recommended ·by the manufacturer.182 APPENDIX B SPOT REMOVAL KIT Use the recommended stain removal agents in the order indicated in the following table. Some examples of nonflammable dry cleaning fluid are Afta and K2r. Consumers Union does not know how the reformulated versions will perform. Hand dishwashing liquid residues can cause rapid resoiling. Enzyme. Never use laundry detergents on upholstery or carpets because they contain optical brighteners that may discolor the fibers or affect light and white colors. Vinegar (5 percent acetic acid solution). Apply only in a well-ventilated area or-if possible--outdoors. backing.

away from heat or flame. then rinse the area thoroughly with warm water. carpets. and store carefully. Some nail polish removers contain acetone. Water.always blot the area with a dry cleaning fluid.tool for picking up loose dry spills. ProfessionaL A professional should be called if an item is especially important to you. Use in a wellventilated area. or if there is a possibility that you'll damage the stained material. Professionals have the ability and the equipment to use more aggressive cleaning solutions to remove stubborn stains. This is a handy . STAIN REMOVAL Caution: Rubbing alcohol is ignitable. and grease (POG) removers (available in hardware stores). (See cautions for overwetting on p. Do not overwet upholstery fabrics. oil. 180. and nonwashable clothing. Caution: Do not use gasoline or lighter fluid.183 AlcohoL (Rubbing) Seventy-percent alcohol is available in most drug. . When using a POG remover on upholstery and carpets. if you are in doubt with regard to the best stain removal method. Rinsing with water alone should be the last step of the stain removal process.) Caution: Do not attempt to clean acetate or triacetate fabrics with nail polish remover. Vacuum. POG removers may leave residues that can cause rapid soiling. Remover.and grocery stores. Amyl acetate is also used in paint. Some may contain amyl acetate. Acetone and amyl acetate are ignitable. Use a moist towel or a mist-type sprayer for gentle rinsing.

Enzyme = Enzyme-containing detergent. Use tt:Je reco":Jmended cleaning agents in the order indicated in the table. Blood 2 3 For washable clothing. For nonwashables. pouring boiling water through the fabric from a height of 12 inches may help. EMPLOY THE FOLLOWING STEPS IN THE ORDER PRESENIED (1=FIRST.He (not warm or hot).). Note: All cleaning agents should be used at room _ temperatl. Alcohol = Rubbing alcohol. soaking for several hours in cold salt water may help. Vacuum. Professional = Call a professional. Full-strength 3% hydrogen peroxide may also help. = = Ammonia. For more information. Vinegar. sandwich the fabric between paper towels and use a warm iron. see page 182. Water. Remover = Nail polish or POG remover. Detergent mild detergent. 2=SECONDJ ETC.184 APPENDIX B STAIN REMOVAL 185 FOR STAIN REMOVAL. pre. Candle wax 2 3 4 1 (POG) Scrape excess wax off the fabric before cleaning. For washable clothing. Dry cleaning Nonflammable dry cleaning fluid. .

Follow with mild detergent and a rinse. . You can also rub about 12 tsp of full-strength liniment (e. Detergent = mild detergent Ammonia.. Dry cleanmg = Nonflammable dry cleaning fluid. Water. Ben-Gay) into the affected area. Alcohol = Rubbing alcohol. and wipe with polyethylene squares. Professional = Call a professional. see page 182. Remover = Nail polish or POG remover. Enzyme = Enzyme-containing detergent.STAIN REMOVAL 187 3 Chewing gum 2 Freeze the gum with ice and gently break with a hammer to remove before cleaning .g. Use t~e recorrymended cleaning agents in the order indicated in the table. Vinegar. For more Infol!flatlOn. Pretest before using this remedy. Vacuum. softening the gum with peanut butter followed by laundering might facilitate removal. For washables. heat the area with a hair dryer. Caution: Peanut butter can also stain.

help. AI~ohol = Rubbing alcohol. . For more information. . Enzyme = Enzyme~containing detergent. Detergent =mild detergent. Water. pouring boiling water through the fabric from a height of 12 inches may . Dry cleaning = Nonflammable dry cleaning fluid. Vinegar. C. see page 182. .188 APPENDIX B STAIN REMOVAL 189 Fruit & juices 2 3 4 For .' clothing. Ammonia. Vacuum.onsumers Union testers also found that several laundry booster products helped the removal of grape juice. Use the recommended cleaning agents in the order indicated in the table. Remover = Nail polish or POG remover. ProfessIonal =Call a professional.

. For more information.190 APPENDIX B Use the recommended cleaning agents in the order indicated in the table. Dry cleaning Nonflammable dry cleaning fluid. e = = Ammonia. see page 182. Vacuum. Remover = Nail polish or POG remover. Water. Deterg. Vinegar. Professional =Call a professional. Enzyme = Enzyme-containing detergent. AI~ohol = Rubbing alcohol. nt mild detergent.

Water. see page 182. Vinegar. = = . Remover = Nail polish or POG remove~. Ammonia.192 APPENDIX B STAIN REMOVAL 193 Use trye reco":lmended cleaning agents in the order indicated in the table For more Infor!llatlon. Alcohol Rubbing alcohol. Vacuum. Detergent = mild detergent. Professional = Call a professional. " Dry cleaning = Nonflammable dry cleaning fluid. Enzyme Enzyme-containing detergent.

ProfessIonal = Call a professional. Vacuum. Detergent mild detergent. . Enzyme = Enzyme-containing detergent.194 APPENDIX B STAlNREMOVAL 195 Use the recommended cleaning agents in the order indicated i~ the table. Vinegar. = = Ammonia. see page 182. Remover = Nail polish or POG remover. For more information. Alcohol = Rubbing alcohol. Water. Dry cleaning Nonflammable dry cleaning fluid.

Ammonia. . For more Information. Remover = Nail polish or POG remover. Professional = Call a professional. .196 APPENDIX B Use t~e recon:'mended cleaning agents in the order indicated in the table. Detergent =mild detergent. Water. see page 182. Dry cleaning = Nonflammable dry cleaning fluid . Vinegar. Vacuum. Alcohol = Rubbing alcohol. Enzyme = Enzyme-containing detergent.

it might be beneficial to blot. Vinegar. . Use the recommended cleaning agents in the order indicated in the table. Professional = Call a professional. Water. sprinkle on white wine. Enzyme = Enzyme-containing detergent. Remover = Nail polish or POG remover. sprinkle fresh Wine 2 3 4 stains with Club soda. see page 182. Dry cleaning = Nonflammable dry cleaning fluid. pouring boiling water through the fabric from a height of 12 inches may help. For red wine spills. Detergent = mild detergent. Vacuum.198 APPENDIX B In the restaurant. For more information. Alcohol = Rubbing alcohol. and blot For washable clothing. Ammonia.

.

Solid cleaning products. Accordingly. and other stuff used to clean paint brushes. products that do not recommend special handling can be poured down the drain. spot removers. rinse agents. bleaches. Some products may require special handling. check the label for recommendations regarding disposal. Water-soluble products. Be sure to run copious amounts of water while discarding. If either of these options is not feasible. If you can't use it. toilet bowl cleaners. and any cleaning product labeled flammable. Solvent-based products should be disposed of in the same manner as household haz- 201 .AppendixC DISPOSAL OF HOUSEHOLD CLEANING MATERIALS The best way to dispose of a cleaning product is to use it up. dishwashing and laundry products. This category includes cleaning materials such as turpentine. and water-based metal cleaners and polishes. and toweldtes-should be disposed of in the trash. some metal and furniture cleaners. Water-soluble cleaning products are formulated to be treated in municipal sewage treatment plants or household septic systems. Solvent-based products. and never mix cleaning products-certain combinations may release dangerous fumes. soap pads. Solid cleaning products~suchas soap bars. This includes all-purpose cleaners. mineral spirits. try to find someone who can-give it away.

or call the manufacturer's telephone number-found 6n some product labels. Each center should list the specific types of waste it will and won't accept. motor oil. toilet bowl cleaner. Contact your municipality for local procedures.storm drain. Do not flush solvent-based wastes down the toilet. chlordane. either for recycling or regular trash collection. These containers may also have to go to the household hazardous waste collection site.Call your local sanitation authority for center locations and collection schedules. . and do not throw them out with the trash. or in a vacant lot. pesticides. out of the reach of children and animals. . solvents. If a container begins to leak. These services may be permanent or they may open periodically-several days per week. place it in a larger intact container of similar material. Some communities may not accept empty containers from such products as bleach. and the like. etc. solvent-based cleaning products. tightly sealed. in your backyard. one or two days a year. do not dump them in a ditch. gasoline. batteries. keep them in well-ventilated racks. do not pour them down a . Household Hazardous Waste Collection Centers Many municipalities have some type of household hazardous waste drop-off center. Most do not accept banned chemicals such as PCBs. oven cleaner. paints. Store them in the original container. or anything in between. and kept dry. paint strippers. If you store hazardous cleaning materials in anticipation of a collection day. charcoal lighter fluid. Commonly. and radioactive waste . centers accept such items as cirain cleaners.202 ApPENDIX C ardous waste.

and mats. 26 . 155 Automobile polishes. 112 whole-house. recommendations. 10 Animal dander. 115-16 filters. 118-20 abrasiveness of. 153 Air cleaners. 46. 155 Bath mats. 117 Air conditioners allergies and. 112 maintenance and operating costs. 86 Amway Crystal Bright. 116-17 performance measurement. 113-14 ozone generators. 153 Acetone in chemical paint removers. 115 Ammonia chlorine bleach and. 68. 154 American Academy of Allergy and Immunology. 155 Bathroom cleaners. ammoniabased. 154 Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.Allergies. 113 Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration. 118-19 forms of. Amodex Stain Remover. 122 Acrylic furniture . allergic reaction to.INDEX Abrasive cleansers. 115-16 All-purpose cleaners. 113-14 principles behind operation of 112~13 ' recommendations. 111-17 air flow and effectiveness of. 3 Appliance exteriors. caution against mixing. 84 window cleaners. 154 Asphalt tile floors . 23. air cleaners and. 119 effectiveness of. 114 odors and effectiveness of. 113 allergies and. 122 Acetate fabric. 114 noise. . 153-54 Alcoholic beverage stains. 114-15 size and ability to perform. 116 Annual cleaning chores. 43-44 Aluminum cleaning. 118 . 116 cleaning. 107. 11~20 Barbecue grills. 119-20 washing before polishing. upholstery. 45-46 203 . 78 . 26. 106. 36 Asthmatics. 154 scuff marks on. 154-55 Automobile carpeting. 115. 67-69 Acc-U-Test. 115 Audiotape recording and playback heads.

155 porcelain enamel. 159-60 Cookware aluminum. 71 ammonia and. 107 chrome plating. hand Chlorine bleach. 21-22 vacuuming. 27 Children. 107 Cigarette burns. 160 . Clothes dryers. 17 professional Cleaning of.27 Citrus jUicers. polishes. power. See Washers. 120. 174 Camcorders. upholstery. 122 . clothes Coffeemakers. 105-6. 107 copper.106-7. 27 Carpets and rugs. 107 Cat litter box. 159 Chemical paint removal. and mats. 21-22 guidelines for' do-it-yourself. caring for. 45. 121. 22. See Chlorine bleach for laundry. 158 Clothes washers. 159 Computer monitors. 172 Concrete floors. 155 . polishing. 22 . 107 microwave. polishing. 158-59 Coffee stains. 82--84 Blenders. 158 Clean air delivery rate (CADR) 113 . 107. 106. 168 Behold. 156 "Bug zappers. 172 Copper. 22 Blankets." 166 Butcherblocks. 156-57 Cameras. 156 Bloodstains. 18-19 machine cleaning of. 18.84 for laundry. 82-8. 154 cast iron. safety of. rec()mmendations. 17-22 first aid for stains. 158 CDs (compact discs). 22 chlorine. polishing. See Automobile polishes Cast iron. 105-6. 26-27 Blowers. 157 Candle wax. 26. 82-84 oxygen. 156 Bleaches all-fabric bleach in laundry detergents. See Safety China dishware. 27 Cold cream. 20 Cars carpeting. 21 stain removal. 158 See also Dishwashing liquids.4 Chrome.204 INDEX Bathroom fixtures. 122-23 Chewing gum. ' Clean Water Lead in Paint Kit. caution against rrWdng. 166-67 scouring cleansers used on. 68 stainless steel. 160 enameled.68.30 Benzoyl peroxide. See Power blowers Brass. 106. 159 Computer keyboards. 20-21 . 145 Compact discs (CDs). 17-20 manual cleaning of. 95 on carpets or rugs. 46.

2 Dehumiclifiers. 49-50 preventive maintenance. 158 Dust cloths. caution against use in. 15 methods for using. 161 Detergents.30 Environment detergents and. 52 Drinking water. 93 Cost of. 12 reliability. 22. 125 Dish sanitizing. 11-12 hand dishwashing liquids." 93. 16 dose. 13 other uses for. 50-52 mechanical openers.94 environment and. 95-98 garbage bags. 161 Delicate fabrics. 93-98 brightening by. 11 energy use. "green. 161 Disposal of household cleaning materials. caring for. 94 packaging. 117 Enameled cookware. 12 washing. 4 Dust mites. 14-15 the products. stains from. See Water treatment Dry cleaning. 11-. 93. 93. 107 Endust. 98-99 alternative. 48-49 chemical cleaners. 99 Dryers.INDEX 205 Countertops. 94-95 national brands versus store brands. 95-98 "green brands. 160 Curtains. 93. 161-62 Electric brooms. caution against use of. 94 . 27 "Electret" filter. 162 Electrostatic precipitating cleaner 112 ' Electrostatic precipitators. 15-16 Disinfecting. 16 nOise." 53 . 94 recommendations. 161 Dishwasher detergents. treatment of. 9-10 Dishwashers. 13-16 dishwasher. 14 recommendations. 112-13 Electric blankets. 160-61 Daily cleaning chores. 161 Dyes. 201-2 Drain cleaners. 10i-3 ingredients. 46-52 biological treatments.12 Dishwashing liquids. 112-13 Electrical attraction. 10-11 drying. 47-48 safety. 1'15. 94. 95 in concentrated strengths. stain removal. 103 performance of. 10-13 cycles. hand. air cleaners operating by. 16. 93. clothes. 97 powders versus liquids. 11 water usage. 13 safety. 96-97 hand-laundry. 76-77 Electric range tops. 93"':'94 Dimethyl formamide (DMF) . 116 Dust on hard surfaces. 111. 93.

(FDA). 57 "green" options. U. 172 Floor care. 57 dispensers. 141 Equipment. 145-46 Facial tissues.S. 60-61 tecommendations. 60 features. 23 natural materials. 22-26 recommendations. See Dishwashing liquids. 15 . 55-56 clOSing. 102 dishwashing liquids and. 162 asphalt tile. 22-23. foamed. 26-28 vinyl floors. 27 Furniture. 164 Hand dishwashing liquids. 163 Freezers. 14. 54. 61-62 wet spills. 148-49 Hard water. 163 Fluorocarbons. 98. 116 Food mixers. 6-7 resin. 5 Glass blocks. 54 plastics used in. 159-60 finishing touches after stain removal. 112. 52-57 capacity of. 133. portable. See Wood furniture Garbage bags. 101-3 Hand soaps. 154 carpets and rugs. See Upholstered furniture wood. 174 waxing and wax removal. 163 Fruit juice stains. 114 Flatware. 23. 146-48 Fans. thinking of maintenance when. 164. 23 no-wax floors. 59 cleaning ability.28 first aid for stains. stainless steel. 27 Greasy dirt on hard surfaces.206 INDEX Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 99. 23-24 concrete. 56 for yard waste. 53 Garbage disposers. 22-28. 170 upholstered. method of. 23 linoleum floors. 61 Hand-laundry detergents. 53. 26-28 floor cleaners. 162 Federal Trade Commission. 100-101 Facial cleansers. hand Handheld vacuum cleaners. 164 Giving away unused items. 29-41 purchasing. 53. 169 Food processors. high efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA).128 Glass-fiber fabrics. 164 Glassware. dealing with. 53 thickness. 37 Food and Drug Administration. . See Carpets and rugs combination products. 24-25. 172 Grease stains. 54 Filters. 23 stain removal. ~ Fabric softeners. care and storage of. 58-62 batteries for. 56 recycled. 25-26 rubber tile. 58-60 convenience.

158 fabric softeners. 105-6. 105-6. 86 Mats at entrances. 133-34. 166 Linoleum floors. general house cleaning. porcelain enamel. 107 copper. 34-35 Leaves. 122 Methemoglobinemia. 123-24. 121-22. 164-65 Heat guns for paint removal. 123-24. 128. 115-16. See Safety Hazardous waste. 121. 121. 6 Mechanical paint removal.INDEX 207 dishwater detergents and. 85-86 clothes washers. 30 Laundry. power blowers for. 27 Lye. See Washers. 107. 112. citrus. 100-101 hand-laundry detergents. disposal of household. 27 Insect killers. 172 Jeweler's rouge. 68. 81-103 bleaches. 114 Hook scrapers. 168 Kleen 'n Shine. 120. 22 Ink stains. See Detergents dry cleaning. 101~3 sorting. 166 Lipstick stains. 165-66 Hydrogen peroxide. 111. 90. 156 chrome. 105-9 aluminum. 135 . 154 brass. 62. 115 Kitchen fixtures. 108 Juicers. 69 water softeners. 172 Methariol (wood alcohol) in chemical paint removers. 36 Irons. 165 Helpful hints. 98 International Institute of Carpet and Upholstery Certification. 138-39 Hazardous materials. 10 stains from. 129 Leather furniture. 166 International Agency for Research on Cancer (lARC). 201-2 Heaters. 124-25 Magic Wand. 126-29 Metal maintenance. See Silver. steam. 126 Heating systems. 158 Kitchen exhaust fan. 81-82 spot removers. 4~79 HUmidifiers. caring for stainless steel. 138 Lead paint. 82-84 boosters. 126-27 Hot plates. dothes Lead Detective.· See Power blowers Lighting when cleaning 7 Linen. The. 106. 106. 98-99 dryers. 165 House cleaning. 106-7. 23 Lint. See Washers. 122 Lead in drinking water. clothes. 85-86 washers. clothes detergents. 160 silver care. 63. 5-7 High-efficiency particulate arresting filters (HEPA).

145 Porcelain enamel bathroom and kitchen fixtures. 116-17 Painted surfaces. 166-67 Microwave ovens. 116 cat litter box. 168 Pond's Cold Cream. 121. 93. 126. 28 Paper towels. 97 Planning cleaning tasks. 125-26 Paiht stains. 123-24. 12324. 121.. 120. 6 spot-testing with. Dr. 120-29 chemical. 126-:-29 professional paint removers. See Cookware Power blowers. 32 Ozonation. 168 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 132 . 1-3 Plant food. 22. 125. 98-99 Pesticides. Harold S. 120. 135 Noxzema.S. Oven cleaners. 129 recommendations. 121. 170-71 Oz Cream Polish. 128. 115 Polyester. 125 Oil stains. 116. 22 Plants. 160 microwave. 145 Nylon. 119 Newspapers for cleaning windows. 122-23 heat guns for. 115. 77 Nitrate in drinking water.208 INDEX Methylene chloride. 7 Pledge. 129 mechanical. 66-67 Perchloroethylene. allergic reaction to. liquid. 1. 167 Mildew. 116 New cleaning product reading the label carefully. 168 Pots and pans . 64-67 for microwaving. 28 Negative-ion generator. 126 Microwave cookware. 167 bathroom cleaners. 124-25. 113 Ozone-generating air cleaners. 129-32 cleaning. 30 Mustard stains. 27~28 Nail polish stains. 131 convenience features. U. 2 Multiprocess wet cleaning. 22 Pets animal dander. 113 Nelson. U. 6 OSHA. 168 Paint removal. air cleaners operating on principle of. 99 Murphy's Oil Soap. 62-64 Ovens continuous-cleaning. See Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 126 leaded paint. 167 Monthly cleaning chores. 7 Phosphates. 30 Pollen. 45. 121-22. 6. 38. 65-66 shop towels for tougher jobs.S. 10. 66 recommendations. 27 Old English Red Oil.. 167 self-cleaning. 95. 30 Organized cleaning. 158 safety. 121. 123..

171 Silver. long-playing (LP). Seasonal or semiannual cleaning chores. 122 Rubber gloves for dishwashing. 109 with satin finishes. 91 of dishwashers. 129 " Push scrapers. 4 for heat guns used in paint .106 " of clothes washers. 109 types of products. 33. 16 to protect hands from cleaning products. 46. 127 Scheduling cleaning taskS. 26. 68 of toilet bowl cleaners.37 Silk. 28 Silicone. 3 Self-cleaning ovens. caring for with antique finishes. ' . See Silk Records. 170 Rhodizonate. Professional paint removers 121 124-25. 131":'32 noise level. 131 electric. 129 vacuuming ability. 23 Rugs. 108 Rubber tile floors. 128. 22 for leather furniture. removal of. 7 for routine house cleaning. 35 pets and plants. 129 gasoline-powered. 26 water treatment. 67-(j9 Scratches on wood furniture 32 164 . for use of. 171 ' Shoe polish stains. 107--8 . 4-5 for upholstered furniture 35 36-38 ' .12 of drain cleaners. 127 Rayon. 106 of oven cleaners 62 of scouring clea~ers. 124 lead paint removal 120 . 170-71 Shaklee Basic-D Concentrate 10 Shavers. 122-23. 108 recommendations. 129 ' for mechanical paint removal 128-29 ' of metal polishes. 131 Professional cleaning services for carpets and rugs. 127-28 Sandpaper substitutes. 30 Scouring cleansers. 44. 169-70 Resin furniture. 37 Scott's Liquid Gold. 121-22. 169 Recycling unused items. 52 equipment storage. 134-35 Rasps and abrasive blocks. 140 Sanding sponges. 68 Safety chemical paint removers. 109 jeweler'S rouge. 28. 1-3 Scotchgard. 126.INDEX 209 effectiveness of. 5 Refrigerator/freezer. 126 cleaning materials storage 3-4 6.26. 109 staining from polish. See Carpets and rugs Rust removal. removal. 70 ventilation. 127 Radon. 20-21. 129-30 handling. See Water treatment Safe Water Drinking Act.

128 Suede furniture . 33-34 fabric guide. 22. 26-28 on leather furniture. 76 . sanding. polishing.. exhaust. 34 stain protection. 6. 122 Touch-ups. 173 Toilet bowl cleaners. 36.36 leather. 33. 146-48 Toasters. 5 Upholstered furniture. 37 Television sets. 35.. 172 Tissues.210 INDEX Slow cookers. toaster ovens.. stain removal. 171-72 Soaps. 177-99 on carpets or rugs. 122 Soft water. 40 hand cleaning of. 33-41 disposing of soiled. 35. 35. 73 carpet cleaning. 148-49 Sodium sulfide. 69-70 in-tank cleaners. 74-76 emptying and replacing bags. 37-38 guide to fabrics. 34 Swimming pool chemicals. 38 Urine stains. 22 Tar stains. 184-99 detergents' removal of. 34 slipcovers for. 14-15 Sponges.. 39-41 vacuuming of. 106-7. 32.. 37-38 on upholstered furniture.irons. 35 protection of upholstered furniture against. 39. 3738 stain removal. hand. 6 reupholstering. and toaster oven-broilers. 150-51 Toluene in chemical paint removers. 28 Teak furniture. 73-74 . 36-38 recommendations. 70 Toilet tissues. 38.. 39-41 on wood furniture.33 Teflon. chemical. 71-72 safety of.. 74-75 cord storage. effectiveness in. 38-39 professional cleaning of. 34-35 machine cleaning of. 72-77 air flow. 75-76 ease of use. 172 Stains. 93-94 on floors. 171 Smoke detectors. 172 Steel wool for'mechanical paint removal. 69-72 in-bowl cleaners. 72-73 cleaning height adjustments.38-39 replacing a foam cushion from a zippered cover. 70-72 recommendations. . 39. 21-22 chart. 28 Vacuum cleaners. chemical. 40' fabric protectors. 127-28 Spots on glassware and dishes. dishwashing liquids and.. 119 Stainless steel. 31 Steam . 172 Spot-testing new products.

72-76 Vacuuming. 134-35 recommendations. 132 countertop filters. 139 Wax candle. See Handheld vacuum cleaners lightweight electric brooms. 174 Water spots or damage to wood furniture." 89-90 top-loaders. 174 Washers. 28 VCR recording and playback heads. 139 softeners. range in. 86-93. clothes. 140 lead in water. 174 capacity. 90 noise. 73 uprights vs. 90 water consumption. 22-23. 139 faucet-mounted filters.. 87. 76-77 maintaining. 89 safety. 26. 111. 126 See also Air cleaners Vinyl floors. use of. 173 microfiltration bags. 138 distillers. 88 controls. 87 unbalanced loads. 173-74 Ventilation. 38 See also Handheld vacuum cleaners. 132-40 activated alumina. Vacuum cleaners Vaporizers. 89-90 Water heaters.handheld. 27 on carpets or rugs. 140--143 methods. 74 suction control. canisters. 76. 133-135 products for. 24-25. 140 reverse-osmosis (RO). 135 problem pollutants. 91-92 energy use. 136-137 cost. 174 Waffle makers. 135. 157-58 extension cords. 133-35 undersink filters. 92-93 repair history. 20. 34 of upholstered furniture. 139 aeration. 90-91 recommendations. 88--89 front-loading. filtering out. 74 moveability. 166 carpets and rugs. 91 sand disposal. 139 bacteriologically contaminated water. 90 INDEX 211 "suds saver. 87 lint. 139--140 distillation. 115-16. 135. 138 reverse-osmosis (RO) devices. 75 starting. 74. 18. 13y.34. 114-15. 138 legislation affecting drinking water standards. 33. 138--40 nitrate levels in water. 6 of leather furniture . 75 noise. 31 Water treatment. 22 floor care. waxing and wax removal for. 138-39 testing of water. 139-140 radon in water. 165-66 Varnish stains. 135 carafe filters. 140 carbon filtration. 163 . 138 chart. 76 on stairs.

174 Wood furniture. 78-79 homemade recipes. 30 reading labels on cleaners. 32-33 Wood-handled utensils. 29-33. 6 store products. 31. 30 older furniture.125 . 31 waxing. 77 precautions when cleaning. 32-33 water damage and spots.212 INDEX Weekly cleaning chores. 31 teak furniture. 78 Wooden work surfaces. 77-79 care in use of. 163-64 home brews. 32-33 pretesting cleaners. caring for valued. 78 newspapers used with. 29-30. 30 scratches on. 32 routine cleaning. 31 recommendations. 175 Wool. 164 stain removal. 2 Window cleaners. 32.175 Xylol.

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