Stop Dirt In Its Tracks
Did you know that over 95% of all dirt found in your house comes from outside? Soil, dust, pollen, air pollution and many other sources get into your house and causes an endless cycle of cleaning, dusting and vacuuming. If it seems that you’re continually losing this battle to the elements why not do something proactive? We suggest you enlist the following three lines of defense!
Keep the outside of your house as clean as possible. Does it not make sense to keep as much dirt as you can in the great outdoors before it enters your house? We can achieve this quite easily by keeping the areas near any entrances free of sand, dirt, small rocks and debris which is easily tracked into your house. By sweeping and cleaning your sidewalks, driveway, patio, porch, etc., on a regular basis, you will prevent a lot of indoor ‘after the fact’ cleaning.
Use entrance mats. Did you know that a good quality entrance mat can capture as much as a pound of dirt per square foot? This is much easier to remove from a mat than when it is spread through out your house. Use as many large, good quality, mats as possible, both indoors and outside. Also, clean them often and thoroughly.
Capture the dirt completely on the first effort. What this means is to use tools and procedures that collect and don’t just scatter dust and dirt. High filtration vacuum bags, treated dusters and dust mops, clean rags, clean wash water, clean wet mops: all these will make your cleaning more effective and longer lasting. Stopping dirt in its tracks is easier if you use the three lines of defense!
The yard is probably the most popular place to spend most of your time and can also be the biggest creator of summer projects. To start with, spread the work over a few weekends so it isn’t as overwhelming. For most, because we spend much less time outside during winter, our yards are neglected. There are exceptions, like the fortunate residents of Florida and Hawaii, but for the most part being beneath a foot of snow puts our yards at the bottom of our priorities. Then the snow melts, and you wonder, where did all of THIS come from. Snow carries with it, pollution and dust, which is left behind when the snow melts. The freezing and thawing cycles of winter can push rocks up to the top of the soil, crack concrete patios, and shift improperly built fences and structures.
The first task would be to survey the entire yard. Walk your entire fence line to check for visible damage. Shake the posts to see if they are secure. Check for damaged boards, rotten posts, and evidence of mildew or fungus. There are many products available for cleaning fences and protecting them from future weathering. Some of the best environmentally friendly (safe for lawns and plants) products available is made by Biowash, which can be found at most Home Centers.
Retaining walls should also be inspected for cracks, or movement. There should be material (ie. crushed rock) that drains well behind retaining walls, so excessive moisture does not build up and cause damage during freezing cycles. Water is also very heavy, and may stress walls if there is no means for drainage.
The best general cleaning of a yard involves removing fallen branches and twigs, sweeping and hosing down driveways and walkways. Check driveway for fluid leaks from vehicles; absorb as much as possible using a non clumping kitty litter, or a commercially available absorbent powder. Remember antifreeze tastes sweet and attracts pets, however it can be very fatal to pets that lick it up.
Gutters help move all of the moisture that collects on your roof, away from your home. Pretty straight forward, but usually the only time we even look at our gutters is when they aren’t doing their job, or when we hang our Christmas lights. Regular maintenance will ensure that you gutters don’t leak, get clogged, or cause damage to your roof.
In the fall, after the bulk of leaves have fallen, BUT before the snow comes, you should check your gutters. A clogged gutter can cause snow and water to back up underneath the shingles. This, with the freezing and thawing cycles of the spring and fall, can cause serious damage to a roof. It is also helpful in the spring to be sure they have not been damaged by these winter freezing cycles, and to be certain they will be ready for “April showers”. Use an approved ladder, preferably with an assembly that will allow the ladder to lean on the roof itself, instead of against the gutter.
Most gutters are thin gauge metal, or even plastic, which can be badly damaged by leaning the ladder directly on them. Before starting, it can be a good idea to use a garden hose to wash any loose debris from the roof into the gutters. Take a small pail, or plastic garbage bag up the ladder with you. Wearing rubber gloves, scoop any debris from the gutter into the pail or bag. A two inch putty knife can be a great help in removing stubborn collections of gunk. Work your way along the gutter, and never stretch beyond a comfortable reach when standing on a ladder.
A final rinsing with the garden hose, can remove small bits of debris that you may have missed. While you are checking the gutter, it is a good idea to tighten screws or tap in nails which have loosened.
If the downspout is slow to drain, or plugged completely, use a garden hose to push the debris out with a strong stream of water. If the downspout goes directly into a drain, you should undo the connection, to avoid pushing the debris into the drain itself.