THE CAREYS | Around the House Get down and dirty with hard-to-clean surfaces



With the right tools and cleaners, any household item can look brand new.
By JAMES and MORRIS CAREY
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Cleaning, without a doubt, is the least-expensive home improvement, and one you can manage on your own. Some examples:
MARBLE
Marble consists of petrified sea shells (calcium carbonate). It is not stone, but petrified alkali. Marble can be easily dissolved with a mild acid. Orange juice, grapefruit juice and lemon juice are high in citric acid and can etch marble. This is why we oppose using marble as a surface in the kitchen; it is susceptible to damage from many common foods. Vinegar contains acetic acid and it also can eat a hole in a marble surface. And alcohol also will dissolve marble. Alcohol is found in hair spray, adult drinks, perfumes and cologne.
Some types of marble are denser than others. Not all react to acid attack. What do you think the experts say will clean marble faster than anything else? A mild acid. However, it is recommended that the selected acid be used in combination with a mild abrasive, such as salt crystals. That's why we recommend slicing an orange or grapefruit in half (you can use a lemon, but it's smaller), dip it in a plate of salt and rub it onto the marble. Flood the area with fresh water to rinse. Then, pat dry with a soft towel.
STAINLESS STEEL
Stainless steel is one of the hardest metals known to man, and a high-quality stainless- steel sink can outlast most kitchens if properly cared for. Stainless steel doesn't rust, but many of the elements that attach to it will rust. Cleaning a brushed stainless steel surface with a metal scrubbing pad can be a mistake. Fibers from the pad can get caught in the stainless surface and rust. Also, abrasive cleaners should not be used on stainless steel; they can rub a hole in the finish. Abrasive cleaners should not be used on most household surfaces such as glass, tile, plastic laminate, linoleum, porcelain and plastic. A nonabrasive cleaner is safer to use and will clean just as well.
COPPER AND BRASS
Copper and brass are very soft metals that easily oxidize (tarnish). Because they are soft metal they are easier to polish to a high sheen. Slightly tarnished copper or brass can be cleaned with any number of household ingredients, such as a paste made from table salt and vinegar or ketchup -- by itself. Just wipe on, then wipe off. We don't have anything against commercial metal polishes. Some are quite good. But, if you can get it clean without making a special purchase, why not do so?
CERAMIC AND PORCELAIN TILE
Ceramic and porcelain tile covered in mineral deposits and soap scum can be effectively cleaned with many nonabrasive substances. Never use scouring powder on tile. Pure lemon oil (any brand) is our favorite. Use a nylon scrubbing pad soaked in the oil to get the surface clean. The more buildup, the more scrubbing will be required.
Keep in mind that lemonade (the juice) is for drinking, not cleaning tile. Lemon oil (from the skin of the lemon) is what should be used.
TILE GROUT
Tile grout is extremely porous. Whitening chemicals are best used on grout. One that does a good job is hydrogen peroxide. A standard 3-percent solution can be poured right onto the affected area and the cleaning-foaming action can make light work of your grout-cleaning job. Chlorine bleach also works well. The problem with tile grout is that it must be regularly cleaned. Once dirt is allowed to sink deep into grout's pores, getting it out can become impossible.
MILDEW
Mildew can be found everywhere -- inside or outside. Both chlorine bleach and alcohol work well on mildew. If you try these chemicals and neither works, you might have algae growing where you think mildew exists. Keep in mind that algae is not affected by alcohol or bleach and can only be eradicated with a proper algaecide (pesticide for algae). For mildew removal: mix 1- third of a cup of powdered laundry detergent and 1 quart of liquid chlorine bleach into 3 quarts of warm water. Add the bleach to the water first, and then the detergent. Although this formula is relatively mild, be sure to wear gloves and eye protection and make sure that there is plenty of ventilation. Transfer the thoroughly blended concoction into a spray bottle or pump sprayer and soak the affected area. Continue to re-spray the area, keeping it wet until the black mildew turns white. Then, rinse with fresh water and pat dry with a towel.
POLISHED METAL
Polished metal (faucets, shower heads, etc.) never should be scrubbed with an abrasive. Even a nylon scrubbing pad can scratch a polished metal surface. Instead, soak a rag or towel in pure vinegar. Gently wring out the excess liquid and lay it over the affected surface. Keep the rag wet by covering it with plastic wrap (this prevents evaporation). In one to eight hours, lime deposits will disappear with a gentle wipe.
SINK DRAINS
Sink drains can really be a pain. Hair and soap scum can build up and create an unmanageable clog. Preventing this kind of problem is easy. You will need 1 cup of old-fashioned table salt, 1 cup of baking soda (replace the one in the fridge and use the old one for this formula), a cup of vinegar and 2 or 3 quarts of boiling water. Add the dry chemicals to the drain, pouring slowly, and then add the vinegar. Let the mixture fizz for a minute or so, then pour in the boiling water. Do this before bed once a month to keep your most frequently used drains open and running free.
XOn the Net: For more home improvement tips and information visit www.onthehouse.com

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