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How to Clean the Most Common Household Items

Date posted: 7 April 2014

How to clean a driveway

Keep your driveway looking neat and keep your neighbours happy by maintaining it regularly, and you will also benefit by prolonging its life.

The first regular task is to keep weeds at bay by prising them out with a knife or weeding tool, or using some weed killer. The other key job is to keep the driveway's surface clean. Rather than trying to do this by hand using a hard brush and cleaning fluid, it makes sense to use a high-pressure washer to remove any build-up of dirt more efficiently. If you don't own one, you can easily hire a pressure washer from your local tool hire centre at affordable rental rates.

How to clean a patio

A dirty patio is not only unsightly but it could prove to be a major hazard in wet weather when it can become slimy and slippery. By sweeping your patio regularly you will remove the majority of debris. Weeding will get rid of anything growing between the slabs or stones, simply by using a knife, a patio-weeding tool, or chemical weed killer. However, if you have allowed dirt and slime to mount up on the surface of your patio, you will need to scrub the surface or use a pressure washer to clean it thoroughly. The cheapest but most labour-intensive option is to apply a solution of laundry detergent and warm water, then scrub it by hand using a firm brush. Another alternative is to apply a specialist stone-cleaning product then rinse it off with a normal hose pipe - although this may involve quite a bit of firm manual brushing in order to achieve good results. If you decide to go for the more efficient method of using a pressure washer, prepare the area by moving plant pots out of the way and, once you start, avoid directing the water near patio lights or grouted areas in case it causes damage. If you don't own a unit, you can hire pressure washers from your local tool hire centre.

How to clean a barbecue

There are a few handy tips that will help you keep your BBQ clean more easily - and the first is to brush some cooking oil over the grills before you even start cooking, to help prevent any food from sticking. After your barbecue, while the grills are still warm, scrub off the worst of the stuck-on food using some aluminium foil scrunched up. You can also sprinkle some salt on to help scour the metal. Finally, wash the grills in warm, soapy water. If your barbecue has a lid, you can place a water-soaked newspaper inside and with a bit of gentle heat the moisture will create steam to soften any caked-on food. This is straightforward with gas models, where you can easily control the heat, but for charcoal barbecues create gentle heat using some small pieces of fire wood or even just a handful of coals.

If you don't clean your barbecue straight after using it, you may need to use chemical cleansers. Remove the grill and place it on some pieces of newspaper then squirt the cleanser (either a stove cleaning solution, or another spray-on kitchen cleaner) liberally. Leave it to soak in for an hour or so before scrubbing the grills by hand.

How to clean decking

If you have garden decking, try to keep it in good condition by sweeping it regularly using a stiff brush. This will help to prevent a build-up of dirt and algae, which can discolour the wood and make it very slimy and slippery.

If your decking has already become algae-covered and slippery, it is a good idea to clean it using a pressure washer. You can hire electric, petrol or diesel pressure washers from your local tool hire centre, and these will make light work of the job. Alternatively, you can buy specialist decking-cleaning products to brush into the wood, leave to soak in, then rinse off – in theory lifting off all the grime with them. Make sure the solution you buy is suitable for your specific type of wood decking. A cheaper and more environmentally-friendly option is to simply wash down the decking with a solution of soda crystals in warm water.

How to clean wallpaper

Walls inevitably become dusty and suffer the odd stain from spilled drinks or dirty finger marks. With painted walls, you may just need to give them a quick touch-up now and again, but if you have wallpaper you will want to keep it clean and extend its life for as long as possible to avoid having to re-paper the entire room.

Vacuum your walls each week to keep the paper dust-free. Many types of wallpaper are washable or at least wipe-able, but if you are not sure whether this is the case try it out first on a hidden corner with a cloth that is only just damp. If you can see the water is being absorbed, you know it is not washable. If it is washable, vacuum the wall then wipe it with a cloth dipped in a mild washing-up liquid solution and then wrung out. Avoid soaking the wall or rubbing it, and gently dab each area of paper dry with paper towels as you work.

How to clean painted walls

If you find a mark or stain on your wall you may not need to get out your paint brushes. Most marks can easily be removed with a damp cloth. Vacuum the wall first to get rid of any dust, then use a weak solution of washing up liquid in warm water and a wrung-out cloth or sponge. Dry each section of wall as you work. If you are tackling heavier stains you may need to use a solution of sugar soap or washing soda crystals – but test this solution on a hidden corner of the wall first before you wash a large area.

How to clean wooden flooring

To keep wooden floors in tip-top condition, sweep or vacuum at least every week using a hard-floor hoover attachment. To clean the floor properly, you can mop if the wood is sealed - although the mop should be well wrung-out. If your floor is waxed, use the mop very sparingly with as little water as possible, and avoid layering on too much wax or it will build up and gather grime. If you need to lift off old wax, use a little white spirit on a cloth and wipe away the residue with some scrunched-up newspaper. Give the floor a mop and then apply fresh wax.

How to clean laminate flooring

Laminate flooring or not compatible with water, so you need to be very careful when you clean it. Regular sweeping (or vacuuming with a hard floor attachment) will keep the floor relatively clean, but every so often you will want to wash the floor. Use a flat mop and warm water that has been thoroughly wrung out in order to give the laminate a barely-damp wipe over rather than an actual soaking. Specialist laminate cleaners are also available, but choose a product that is suitable for your particular type of flooring. Always try a test area first.

How to clean stone flooring

Stone floors should last a long time, but unsealed stone is very porous and can end up looking terrible very quickly – so make sure it is properly sealed and that you re-seal it frequently to protect it and extend its life. To clean sealed stone you can simply vacuum it and then mop it with a mild solution of warm water and washing-up liquid. You can tackle stains with a special stone-cleaning product following the manufacturer's instructions –  although it is always a good idea to test an inconspicuous patch first.

How to clean ceramic flooring

Ceramic flooring can look wonderful in a kitchen, but to stay looking good it will need to be swept regularly to avoid a build-up of dirt and grime, and it will also need to be mopped regularly using a mild detergent. When the grout between the ceramic tiles gets dirty you can clean it with a soft brush and a mild bleach solution, although by choosing a grey-coloured grout rather than white grout any dirt will always stand out less!

How to clean linoleum flooring

Lino is a very practical and durable floor covering that is easy to clean. All you need is a mop soaked in a mild (i.e. non-acidic) detergent and then well wrung-out. Linoleum does stain more easily than some other floor coverings, however, so always clean up spillages as soon as they happen. Marks can also be removed using a fine nylon pad, which can be bought from a supermarket. If your lino has become particularly discoloured or faded-looking it may need stripping and re-waxing according to the manufacturer's recommendations.

How to clean terracotta tiles

If you want your terracotta tiles to last as long as possible, you will need to look after them carefully. They are porous, so they need to be sealed properly to avoid soaking up everything that spills in your kitchen. When you buy your floor tiles, get advice on the best sealant and cleansing products for your new floor, and follow the instructions when you use them. Just remember that terracotta is a material that naturally mellows and matures over the first year after you lay the floor, and that no amount of cleaning will reverse this process.

How to clean woven garden furniture

Woven furniture is a very popular choice for gardens because it is easy to maintain and is made of natural materials that look great in most settings. You can usually just give the furniture a rinse from time to time with a hose or a bucket of warm water to brighten up the weave by removing superficial grime. For grime that has become more ingrained in the weave, scrub it off using a stiff brush or even an old toothbrush and some soapy water – although you should always check the manufacturer's instructions before you use any cleaning products on the furniture.

How to clean wooden furniture

Whether your wooden furniture is cheap and contemporary or an expensive family heirloom, the right care will keep it looking great and extend its life. You can wipe over most wooden furniture using a soft cloth such as microfibre to remove dust, using a small-headed paintbrush or a vacuum cleaner with a special attachment to draw dust out of any mouldings. You don't necessarily need to use wax polish on wooden furniture, but it will help to protect the wood. If you do want to use wax, get rid of any dirt first by cleaning the item using a barely-damp cloth, and only apply the wax once or twice a year. Stick to the same product each time, and use it sparingly, buffing thoroughly afterwards.

Oiled timbers are usually tropical hard woods such as beech or teak, and these need to be cared for using an oil such as linseed, teak oil or Danish oil. Follow the manufacturer's instructions as to how often you should use the oil and how it should be applied. Usually oil needs to be applied using a smooth, fluff-free cloth, and should then be left to soak in before it is wiped clean.

If your wooden furniture has been marked more seriously – by watermarks or alcohol spots, for example – you may be able to use a cream metal polish to help remove the marks. Always test a product on an inconspicuous area before you use it all over. Any faded areas of wood can be made less obvious using ash or shoe polish. Greasy marks on unsealed wood can be given a light sprinkling of talcum powder, which you then cover with kitchen paper and press with an iron on low heat to absorb the grease. Scratches can be made less conspicuous by filling them with some wax crayon or shoe polish of the same (or similar) colour.

How to clean painted furniture

Unless you are aiming for the shabby chic look, painted furniture needs to be cleaned fairly regularly to stay looking at its best. A dust every few days or once a week with a damp or microfibre cloth will help prevent a build-up of dirt. Occasionally the item may need cleaning more thoroughly, in which case use a very mild solution of washing-up liquid and warm water on a wrung-out damp cloth. If there are tricky corners or mouldings, you could use a brush (such as a small paintbrush or soft toothbrush) to reach those. If the paint is chipped, sand the spot to remove loose flakes and then repaint that area. If the original paint has faded a lot, you may need to sand and repaint the whole item if you want to achieve an even colour all over.

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