Cleaning your outdoor tiles

Nothing gives an outdoor tiled area a refresh quite like a thorough clean. Here’s how to make yours sparkle once more:

  1. Sweep – Remove loose grit, leaves and dirt from the surface using a soft broom. If necessary use a stiff broom to remove larger debris, followed by a soft broom for smaller grit such as sand.
  2. Scrub – Use a mix of warm water and your preferred tile cleaner and scrub into the tiles with a soft broom.  Be aware it may leach into your soil, so go for toxin free choices here.
  3. If you’ve got grout that needs cleaning,sprinkle on bicarbonate soda, then spray down with white vinegar, leave for five minutes, then scrub out using a stiff broom – or even better – a long handled grout scrubbing brush (if you don’t have one, they’ll change your life, and save your back – available from all good hardware stores.)
  4. Spray your tiles down with a hose to remove your cleaning products.
  5. Wipe down using a dry, clean mop.

And how to cope with heavier staining? Or in the a case of life-got-away-with-me-and-its-been months? 

Heavy grime (oil stains, bird poo, grease, baked in dirt and grime etc) will need a stronger alkaline solution to remove it. Using the same process as above, use a high pressure washer before scrubbing (Karcher does a relatively cheap model, and it will earn its cost back quickly with outdoor cleaning jobs and DIY car washing).

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All you’ll ever need to green clean

I won’t lie – I like the smell of bleach in the morning, and I’m not super invested in only using green cleaning products, but as I get older and more educated through friends, family, I do find myself steered more and more in that direction. Being a tad on the cheap side also helps – DIY eco friendly cleaning methods tend to be better on the ole budget.

You can make your own natural cleaning products using combinations of these natural ingredients, and having them on hand means rarely being without – just like being a cook that can turn three walnuts and a limp lettuce into a meal using cupboard staples, those that get to know their green cleaners are rarely without a solution for most messes, even the day before the ‘big shop run’.

So here’s the ‘must have’ list:

  • Water – hot, soapy water will kill most bacteria, and soaking in plain water will also remove many types of stains.
  • Baking soda – It cuts through grease, softens water, removes stains and acts as a whitening agent. It’s also abrasive, making it a must have for scrubbing those pots and pans.
  • Fresh lemon juice – the citric acid in lemon juice can deodorise, remove stains, brighten whites, cleans glass, frightens off mould and disinfects toilets. Neat lemon juice is the perfect antidote for removing grime at the base of taps.
  • Pure soap flakes – added to warm water and a little washing soda, this gem will handle most cleaning jobs (and smells divine.)
  • Salt – a disinfectant and natural, gentle abrasive, salt can be used to clear drains and clean stained kitchen utensils. It can also remove burn marks from dishes, stains from china ware and whiten a discolored bread board.
  • Washing soda  – having a stronger base than baking soda, it’ll take care of those super stubborn stains including grease or petrol stains on garage floors, or tough fabrics and clothes.
  • White vinegar – containing acetic acid,, this all purpose product can dissolve calcium build-up in dishwashers, coffee pots, kettles, sinks, shower screens and windows. It can also cut through grease and soap scum, deodorizes, remove stains from wood when mixed with olive oil, or polish brass and copper when mixed with salt or baking soda.
  • Microfiber cleaning tools – with a little water added, a quality microfiber cloth can clean any surface, while microfiber mops do a brilliant ob of attracting dust and hair from your floors.

Green clean your car

School holidays. My car. Bomb site. We have an eclectic mess of coffee stains, old wrappers, discarded cups, odd shoes, socks and plenty of pet hair to round things out.

Operation clean the car is on like Donkey Kong.

  • Step One: Find bucket, soap, vinegar, microfibre clothes, hoses, extension cords for vacuum cleaner, laundry basket/ box/ shopping bag for collecting stray goodies and a plastic bag for the not-so goodies.
  • Step Two: Go through the interior and separate everything into either the rubbish bag or the laundry basket to be put away. Everything set to stay in the car goes out on the lawn, ready to be put back after the deep clean.
  • Step Three: Next up, make a  window cleaner using half a cup white vinegar and two cups of water in a spray bottle. Spray it on, then wipe off using a micro-fiber cloth for extra shine.
  • Step Four: Hot soapy water is good for wiping down interior doors, handles and spot cleaning any marks on the cloth seats – you can use the soap water on vinyl seats as well. For spots on the steering wheel or console, sprinkle a little baking soda on a wet towel and gently rub. Wipe with a clean damp cloth.
  • Step Five: Now the vacuum comes out to suck away all the grass clippings, food crumbs (I say “no food in the car” after every deep clean, only to remember I have a family and we travel a lot and it is massively unrealistic) and other general debris.
  • Step Six: To clean your floor mats, lay them on your driveway and pour white vinegar on them (don’t do this on the lawn.) After they have soaked for a few minutes, rinse off the vinegar and swipe clean.

Green cleaning the exterior is loads more fun, and generally easier to shanghai the kids into helping out with. Grab yourself a green cleaner – I personally use the Enjo Car Glove (I use a lot of their stuff, my mum bought me a stack of them and I was an instant convert!) with tons of water.

Best part? Clean car aside, I’ve done my workout for the day!

Home made cleaners

A quick safety note before you get going, never combine ammonia-based cleaners with chlorine bleach or products containing bleach (think powdered dishwasher detergent), because they can create extremely dangerous fumes. Always read a product label before using. Also be aware what surfaces you can and can’t use a cleaner on – for example, marble and granite doesn’t play well with a heavy duty scrub.

Here are my faves:

All-Purpose Cleaner and Deodorizer
• 4 tablespoons bicarb soda
• 2 cups warm water
Perfect for kitchen counters, appliances, and inside the refrigerator. I often throw into a little eucalyptus oil for a fresh smell.

Toilet cleaner
• 1 cup bicarb soda
• 1 cup vinegar
Flush the loo, sprinkle the bicarb around the bowl and leave for ten minutes. Sprinkle (or spray, I keep a spray bottle of white vinegar at all times) vinegar around the bowl and watch the fizz. Leave for five minutes, then flush – or use the loo brush first if it’s especially messy!

Urine cleaner
While I wash the mattress for really bad cases, a light amount can be cleaned by covering with bicarb soda and leaving for a few hours in the sun to draw out the urine. Brush it all off, then soak with vinegar to remove any remaining smells, leaving to fully dry in the sun.

Glass Cleaner
• 2 cups water
• 1/2 cup white vinegar
• 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol (70 percent concentration, also called isopropyl)
Combine ingredients and store in a spray bottle. Spray some solution on a paper towel or soft cloth first, then on the glass.

Heavy-Duty Scrub
• Half a lemon
• 1/2 cup borax (a laundry booster; find it in the detergent aisle)
Great for: Rust stains on porcelain or enamel sinks and tubs
Dip lemon into borax and scrub surface; rinse. (Not safe for marble or granite.)

Grease Cleaner
• 1/2 cup sudsy ammonia mixed with enough water to fill a four litre container.
Great for: Oven hoods, grills
Dip sponge or mop in solution and wipe over surface, then rinse area with clear water.

Marble Cleaner
• Mild dishwashing liquid (non-citrus-scented)
• Warm water
Mix a drop or two of detergent with 2 cups warm water. Sponge over marble and rinse completely to remove any soap residue. Buff with a soft cloth; do not let the marble air-dry. Caution: Never use vinegar, lemon, or any other acidic cleaner on marble or granite surfaces; it will eat into the stone.

Brass Cleaner
• White vinegar or lemon juice
• Table salt
For non-lacquered brass, dampen a sponge with vinegar or lemon juice, then sprinkle on salt. Lightly rub over surface. Rinse thoroughly with water, then dry well immediately with a clean soft cloth.

Cleaning with bicarb

Something I always keep in my house is bicarb – the stuff is magic. It can lift pee out of a mattress or wooden floorboards like nobody’s business – and in a house with this many males (including very young dogs), pee is a part of my life.

Here are just some of the many, many ways this cheap and easily available ingredient can help keep your house clean…

  1. Remove odour from your carpet by sprinkling the affected area with bicarb soda. Let stand for at least fifteen minutes, then vacuum. Repeat as needed.
  2. To quickly clean pets and remove ‘wet dog’ odor, sprinkle with bicarb soda and brush out their fur.
  3. Clean kids toys with a mix of 1/4 cup bicarb soda to 400mls of warm water. You can either submerge and soak the toys, or wipe them down with a damp sponge dipped in the solution.
  4. A bowl of bicarb soda in the refrigerator, freezer, or cupboard will keep unpleasant smells at bay.
  5. Similarly, bicarb soda will keep away garbage odours  – simply sprinkle the bottom of your bin each time you put a new bag in.
  6. To clean most surfaces, sprinkle bicarb soda on a damp cloth. Wipe, then rinse with clean water.
  7. To remove stale smells from food containers, rinse out with hot water and bicarb soda. If the smell persists, let the container soak overnight in the bicarb soda and water mixture.
  8. To clean silver, use a paste of 3 parts bicarb soda to one part water. Rub the paste onto each item, then rinse with warm water and dry with a soft cloth.
  9. To remove scuff marks or grease spills from the floor, sprinkle with bicarb soda and then wipe with a warm, damp cloth. This is even safe for no-wax floors!
  10. For burnt-on food in the bottom of pots, sprinkle with bicarb soda, then add hot water. Let soak overnight; the dried on food will come loose much more easily.
  11. Hairbrushes and combs can be cleaned in a bicarb soda solution.
  12. To avoid clogged drains, pour 1/4 cup bicarb soda down weekly. Rinse through with hot water.
  13. Replace half of each measure of laundry detergent with bicarb soda to keep clothing fresh.
  14. To remove grease stains, either add bicarb soda to the wash load or pretreat the stains with a bicarb soda paste.
  15. Pre-treat nappies in a bucket with bicarb soda.
  16. Bicarb soda increases the effectiveness of chlorine bleach. Add 1 / 2 cup to your laundry, along with the usual amount of bleach.
  17. To remove burnt food from your barbecue, sprinkle with bicarb soda, then soak. After several hours, the charred pieces will come loose easily.
  18. Outdoor furniture can be easily cleaned with a rinse of 1/4 cup bicarb soda in one litre of warm water.

How to clean up after your dog

A while back now I was commissioned to write about a topic I understand well – trying to maintain a tidy house while being a loving pet owner (ie: an ever so slightly defensive version of saying my dogs often sleep on my bed/ couch etc etc.)

Here’s what I discovered and wrote for the fabulous Dog’s Life magazine:

If you like a tidy home but think having a dog makes this ‘mission impossible’, read on for some tips on how to clean up after your dog… without banishing them to the great outdoors.

It’s fair to say that life with a dog is rich, rewarding … and sometimes distinctly on the nose. They can also bring fleas and other parasites into the picture, and if the four-legged member of your clan is not quite there yet with the toilet training, well, let’s just say the smell can be blush-inducing when surprise guests drop in. The good news is, with a little planning and some go-to products in your arsenal, your home can stay clean and odour-free.

Rule one: the cleaner the dog, the cleaner the home

If you wouldn’t walk a pair of muddy boots through a clean house or leave smelly shoes lying around and expect it to stay clean and fragrant, the same should be said of your pooch. “If your dog is muddy, smelly, or carrying his body weight in grass clippings or has fleas or other parasites, then you can guarantee your house will too,” says Marc Jarvis, marketing manager for Vileda at Freudenberg Australia.

Use a mild pet shampoo and clean your dog once a month (sooner if there are any mud or swimming incidences of course!). “Every dog is unique and so are the needs of their owner – if your dog spends a lot of time in your bed or on your couch, more frequent washing is needed, but keep in mind washing more than once a week can dry out your dog’s skin,” says Lorren Godfrey of Rufus & Coco. If you don’t feel your dog can make it through the week without a wash, perhaps use a spritz with a deodoriser, like Rufus & Coco 4in1 Pamper Spray, or a wash without water, like Rufus & Coco Water Free Wash. “If you have a dog that sheds routinely, you don’t want to bathe them too often; if you have a non-shedding dog, they will need to be bathed much more frequently,” Godfrey says.

Seek advice from your vet about flea and parasite control products (you can even use your smart phone to set a monthly reminder). Regular outdoor grooming will also remove loose hairs, leaving less to drop indoors.

Jarvis says as pets are likely to spend a fair amount of time on their beds, it makes sense to clean it regularly with a mild washing detergent – for ease of washing, choose a bed that is washing-machine safe.

Cleaning up “accidents”

Samantha Cheesman from from UrineFree says it’s best to get in and clean up urine as soon as possible. “Start by blotting up as much of the liquid as you can. Using a special bio-enzymatic urine removal product, like UrineFree, saturate the affected area and cover with plastic wrap and leave as long as possible to allow time for the biological action to work.” Cheesman says not to use other odour products such as baking soda, vinegar or bleach, as they can coat the urine and make it harder to treat.

If you have the scent of urine in a room, but can’t find the source, using a urine detector can help. Dried urine will fluoresce under darkened conditions. Once located you can then use your urine removal product – even on old stains and smells.

Cheesman says cleaners like bleach will not help remove the smell; you’ll notice it growing stronger within hours of cleaning, and the ammonia in the bleach attracts dogs back to the area.

Hair everywhere

Dogs will shed hair, and as well as being unsightly, it can leave rooms heavy in hair with a distinct whiff of dog. “Use washable covers on couches, chairs and other pieces of furniture that pets like to sit on, so they can be easily and regularly cleaned – again, go with fabrics that are easy to machine-wash,” says Jarvis.

The floor will wear a fair percentage of lost hair, so time-saving sweeping instruments will lessen your load. If you have the budget, there is a range of electronic vacuum “robots” that will move themselves around your floors, then return to base to recharge themselves, he says. These do carry a price tag in the several hundreds, so a broom or flat microfibre mop offers a more economic solution. “Rubber brooms are exceptionally effective at sweeping up hairs and are easy to clean, as there are no fine bristles for the hairs to get caught in. A flat mop with microfibre head is another good option – they attract the hairs to the mop, so a simple sweep over the surface will remove the hairs and other dust,” he says.

Clean up on aisle dog

What to do when your dog has skidded in with mucky feet or wiped themselves over your walls or couches, leaving a mix of slobber and drool? The quickest fix for walls is sugar soap and warm water, mixed to scale in a spray bottle and wiped off with a damp microfibre cloth. It’s best to spot clean as much as you can with tracked mud to avoid spreading it about – Jarvis says you should sweep it up with a rubber broom, then mop the area thoroughly.

Air fresheners

Keep windows and doors open as much as possible, keeping the fly screens closed, says Jarvis. Aroma reeds offer a low-maintenance option that provide a pleasant, slow-release scent, though you’ll need one per room to be effective. Essential oils and potpourri are other great natural scent solutions.

The cleaning kit for every dog-friendly home

  • Microfibre cleaning cloths – cut back on your use of harmful chemical cleaners by using microfibre cloths to dust and wipe up spills or messes.
  • Vinegar, sugar soap and bicarbonate soda for surface and wall cleaning.
  • Flat micofibre mop – these attract hair and dust fibres, making for a quick sweep through the house. The mop heads can be washed for the next use.
  • Rubber topped brooms – these brooms do a great job of grabbing hairs, and are easy to clean, meaning you aren’t starting the job with a broom full of debris on your next whip through.
  • Dust pan and brush – those hairs need to be picked up somehow!
  • Tea tree, eucalyptus and lavender oil can be added to hot water for mopping, or homemade cleaning sprays, to scent the area.

Preventing zoonoses

Zoonosis refers to diseases that can be passed from animals to humans, explains Dr. Rachael Guthry from Rowville Vet Clinic and Hospital. “Zoonotic diseases are infectious diseases that are caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites. Some are transmitted through direct contact, spread via contaminated water, some through contaminated food, and others are spread by insects.”

Here are some common examples and how to prevent them:

  1. Dog bite wounds: The most common zoonosis in Australia is bacterial infection caused by dog bite wounds. Dr Guthrie says dogs carry large numbers of bacteria in their mouths, and when their teeth puncture the skin, the bacteria are injected into the deeper layer of skin, so any bite that punctures the skin should be seen by a doctor.
  2. Fleas and tapeworm: The best way to stay safe from fleas and tapeworm is to ensure your pet is on a strict worming and flea-control regime, says Dr Guthrie.
  3. Roundworm: Roundworm eggs are shed in dog faeces, and can remain on your dog’s coat, meaning you can come into contact with these eggs through patting your dog without washing your hands, or even through gardening in infected soils, says Dr Guthrie. The two key ways to reduce the risk are to practice good hygiene (hand-washing after petting your animal or gardening outside), and putting your pet on a strict worming regime.
  4. Ringworm: Ringworm is highly infectious and the fungal spores can live in the environment for years. The lesions on your pet may appear as areas of fur loss in a patchy or round shape and/or areas of scaly skin. Lesions on humans appear red, raised and often round, and are intensely itchy. If you suspect ringworm, see a doctor and take your pet to the vet.

How to clean a mattress…and yes, you really should

I recently giggled at a FB post from a friend asking about how to clean their mattress when someone replied that should be done once a month. Considering I only cleaned mine when something specifically made it dirty, I thought this was too neat freak-y even for me (in fairness, I do often have to clean them more often than this thanks to the chillens and the dogs!) But she told me about the dead skin cells and other nasties that collect on mattresses and very quickly changed my mind (took me a week to agree to sleep on one ever again.)

So here’s how you do it:

  • Use the upholstery special nozzle on your vacuum to thoroughly clean once a month.
  • You can wash your mattress by using an upholstery shampoo or simply with warm, soapy water. Wipe the area with a damp (not soaking wet) sponge. Allow the area to dry thoroughly. Do not allow the interior padding of the mattress to get wet. If it’s warm outside, you can dry a mattress quickly outside.
  • Air the mattress regularly.
  • Use a mattress protector.
  • If you are the lucky recipient of pee in the bed, dab up as much liquid as you can with a towel, then cover the wet area with bicarb soda. Leave it for a few hours while it draws up the liquid and then vacuum it up. Now sponge the area with white vinegar and take outside to air.