Cleaning out a garburator

Garburators are under appreciated and generally unnoticed appliances that is until they stop working, start to smell funny or sound like a blender filled with marbles and nails.

Garburators are essentially a hefty motor attached to an impeller that pulverizes food until it is small enough to pass into the drain pipe as you run water into the unit.

These units are very reliable, but many older units tend to have problems, especially when they are not used for extended periods.  Garburators mix water and electricity which is typically not an ideal combination.

The most common problem is that the unit just stops working when you press the switch, and this is often realized after you have dumped the most disgusting mix of old food scraps into the unit, and they start to smell because the pieces are too large to wash into the waste drain pipe.

First things first press the wall or sink top button and listen carefully.  If it is working you will definitely hear it turn on, or you may hear a very soft humming or buzzing noise from beneath the sink, or you will hear absolute silence.

If you hear nothing at all, grab a flashlight and look at the bottom or side of the giant motor hanging beneath your sink.  There will be a small (usually red) button, which is an internal safety reset.  Press this button in (you may need the end of a pencil or your pinky if it is inset into a small indent).  If this button has popped out, there is a problem with your garborator, but if the button is depressed already, try to identify the breaker on the main electrical panel, and see if it is switched on.  If the breaker is tripped, reset it by turning it off, then turning it back on.  Test the garborator again. If it works, fantastic, otherwise you may hear the humming noise, (perhaps just briefly) before the breaker or safety reset trips off again.

If you hear the humming, even if just briefly before the breaker shuts off, likely the unit is seized. This sounds like bad news, but frequently it is simply because the unit hasn’t been used for months, or years.

Turn off the breaker, ensure that the switch is in the off position, and proceed to remove the rubber gasket in the mouth of the unit. With a flashlight, you should be able to see clearly into the unit (after you have scooped out all the disgusting food scraps mentioned at the beginning).  With most the food removed, you can usually wash away the small scraps, unless the drain is plugged, in which case you need to remove the waste water in the unit as well.  There are special suction tools for this, but in a pinch a turkey baster, or a car wash sponge will allow you to soak up enough water to see the impeller.

The impeller should turn freely.  If it doesn’t turn (try the end of a wooden spoon) easily, this is what is causing the reset switch or breaker to trip.  Food, dishwashing goo, rust and other assorted stuff can seize up the impeller, which causes the reset switch or breaker to trip, resulting in the clogged and/or smelly garborator.

Sometimes a wooden spoon with a long handle is enough to spin the impeller loose but often a small crowbar or large screwdriver is required.  Be certain the unit is turned off at the breaker when trying to free the impeller!  If you aren’t comfortable or absolutely certain you have disabled power to the unit, call a plumber!

Once the impeller spins freely, replace the rubber gasket or garborator sink stopper, turn on the breaker, double check the safety reset switch and turn the unit on.  If you had the impeller spinning before, the unit should roar to life.

If it is smelling sour, cut up a lemon and dump it into the unit to help clean off whatever it is that is causing the odor.  In fact, once a month or so, it doesn’t hurt to cycle the unit, to be sure it doesn’t seize up again.

If this does work, you have just spent 20 minutes saving several hundred dollars, if this doesn’t correct the problems you are experiencing, likely you require a new unit.  Good luck!

Blotting…say what?

What is blotting?  It does sound kind of silly when you say it but it one of the basic techniques in your cleaning arsenal.

One the most common mistakes I see people make when dealing with a spill is grabbing a wet dish cloth or towel. In most cases the best method is to blot or absorb the stain before introducing water or cleaning solution.

Blotting is the act of absorbing a stain with a dry absorbent towel such as a terry towel or even a paper towel (best using white towels so no colors from the the towel will run into the carpet or fabric you are blotting.) Blotting immediately after a spill or stain has occurred is the best way to combat stains. Blot by placing the towel over the stain. First fold your towel in quarters so you can flip over the towel a few times to get the maximum absorbency of your towel.  Placing a thick terry towel on a spill on a carpet and applying pressure or weight to the towel will often remove the majority of the stain.  Quick action and you won’t even have to spring for any fancy spot cleaners.

Old stickers or decals

Spray with window cleaner or warm soap and water.  Scrape of with a scraper or credit card.  Depending on the surface WD-40 is effective as well.  Just be sure to test a small areas first to be sure the WD-40 has no ill effects.  WD-40 leaves an oily residue so it needs to be rinsed with soap and water.

Cleaning Algae from your fish tank

With a little work and a few simple cleaning supplies you can remove the unsightly algae from your fish tank.  Here are some of the supplies you will need:

Algae scraper/pad, Razor blade, Regular Household Bleach, Filter media, Water siphon, Lime remover or aquarium glass cleaner, Clean rags or towel, Paper towels

Start by cleaning the inside glass, then decorations, gravel, the exterior of the glass and cover and finally the filter.

Begin by giving the glass a thorough cleaning on the inside with an algae pad. There are a wide variety of algae scrapers on the market, from long handled scrubbers to magnetic scrubbers. Although they appear the same, houseware cleaning pads can have soap and chemical residue imbedded in the fibers. This reside can be lethal to your fish, so only use pads specifically intended for aquariums.

For stubborn residue on the glass, use a razor blade held at a very narrow angle to scrape it off. If your aquarium is acrylic, use a plastic razor blade, as steel razors will scratch acrylic even if you are very careful.

Once the inside glass is cleaned, remove rocks, artificial plants, or decorations that have significant algae growth, or are noticeably dirty. Do not clean them with soap or detergents as it is impossible to completely remove soap residue, and as mentioned even a trace can be lethal to fish. Typically a good scrub with an algae scraper will remove the algae and dirt from rocks and plants. For particularly stubborn cleaning problems, mix a 10% bleach solution and soak the items for 15 to 20 minutes. Scrub any remaining residue off, rinse thoroughly in running water, and allow to air dry, in the sun if possible.

Live plants can bleached, however stem plants are not tolerant of bleaching. To bleach live plants prepare a 5% bleach solution, soak the plants for two minutes, then rinse well. Leave the rocks, decorations and plants out of the tank while you vacuum the gravel. This way none of the debris stirred up from the gravel will settle back on the cleaned items.

Clean the gravel next, by using a water siphon to vacuum away the debris. There are several types of siphons available, all of which work essentially the same. Be sure to vacuum the entire surface of the gravel thoroughly so that all debris is removed.

Once the inside of the aquarium is cleaned, clean the hood, light, tank top, and outside glass. Regular glass cleaners contain ammonia, which is toxic to fish. Standard lime cleaners are even more toxic. I strongly urge using vinegar or cleaners designated as aquarium safe, and rinse rinse rinse!

After the outside is clean, the rocks, plants, and other decorations may be returned to the tank. Now wait a couple of weeks before cleaning the filter. Why wait? The major cleaning you just performed disturbed the beneficial bacterial colonies on the plants, rocks, and gravel. Fortunately many beneficial bacteria reside within the filter media, so you haven’t completely upset the Eco-system. However if you changed the filter at the same time, you might trigger a dangerous ammonia spike because there aren’t enough beneficial bacteria left to eliminate the toxins.

When you are ready to clean the filter, should you clean or simply replace the filter media entirely? Some experts caution that replacing the filter media removes too many of the beneficial bacteria, and triggers a new tank break-in cycle.  Some experts argue that sufficient bacteria reside on the rocks, plants, and in the gravel to prevent the tank from cycling when the filter is replaced.  What you should do depends on the type of filter media you use.

If you have filter media containing carbon, ammonia absorbers, or ion-exchange resins, it should be replaced if it’s more than three weeks old. After a couple of weeks the absorbing qualities of the media have been exhausted, and it no longer serves its purpose. Media that acts as a mechanical filter instead of absorbing toxins (i.e.: ceramic rings, filter fiber, or sponges) should be gently rinsed to remove debris and returned to the filter instead of replaced. If care is taken to use water that is the same temperature as the aquarium water, and the media is quickly returned to the filter, the bacterial colonies growing on them will not be lost entirely.

Don’t forget to clean the filter tubing and other parts of the filter assembly. A filter brush will help clear out the sludge that invariably builds up in all the small crevices.

Regular maintenance is the key to avoiding or significantly increasing the time between these major cleaning procedures.  Scrape the glass weekly, vacuum the gravel every time you perform a water change, and clean any rocks or plants as soon as you see debris or algae on them. Clean the filter monthly, either by replacing the media, or rinsing it. With regular care, your aquarium will look beautiful all the time.

For fish tank cleaning visit All Pond Solutions

Trouble shooting guide to tough stains on Pots and Pans!

If you have men or teenagers in the house attempting to cook you will have some challenging stains of your Pots and Pans here are some quick hints to address some common troublesome stains.

Aluminum pots

Discoloration – add 2(two tablespoons of cream of tarter or lemon juice per liter (quart) of water) boil for 12 minutes


baked on stains impervious to the dishwasher! – use baking soda and scrub gently.

Iron Pots or pans

Cooked or baked on food – 2 teaspoons of baking soda with a liter of water boil for 5 minutes.

Non-stick pot or pans

Lingering onions or garlic aromas – 2 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice, soak for 15 minutes.  wash with warm soay water and rinse.


Lime scale build up – One to one ratio of water and white vinegar.  Let sand for a few hours and scrub with an abrasive scrubber if possible or just  rinse really well after letting the kettle soak.

Brass pots

A home made tarnish remover is a paste made of flour, salt and white vinegar (or lemon juice), rub gently to remove tarnish.

Tar from Hard Floors

“I just found what I think are tar marks all over my new “5 month old” wood floor. I believe they were made from the bottom of my child’s cast (broken foot). She must have tracked them in from outside. They are all over……..Please, any advice would be great.”

Tar is easily removed with a general- purpose solvent (even rubbing alcohol if you want to save the trip to the hardware store). Be sure to test a small area first to be sure no damage will occur.

Using a cleaning towel or cotton ball, place some solvent on the towel and wipe.

There are citrus based cleaners which are not as harsh as solvents which can also do an effective job, its also worth it to try a magic eraser I have seen it remove some pretty bad stains will no ill effects.

Black Mold

In order to remove house mold there are several different strategies that you could take. Mold inside your home can be a serious problem for you. It can cause health concerns for the inhabitants as well as decimate the value of the property if it spreads throughout. Taking care of mold when you first notice it is very important. Here are a few easy ways to remove house mold.

Using chlorine bleach is one way to help remove mold. However, it will not work in all situations and in all surfaces. You should only use chlorine bleach if the mold is growing on a non-porous surface. For example, if you have the mold in your bathroom on a hard surface such as a bathtub or countertop. If you have mold on wood, chlorine bleach will not work because properties in the bleach prevent it from going deep down into the wood and killing the roots of the mold. You can use bleach to disinfect the area after you remove the mold, but on porous surfaces, you should stay away from chlorine bleach.

One thing that will work on porous surfaces is detergent. One common ingredient in many laundry detergents is borax. Borax is great for penetrating deep into porous surfaces and eliminating mold and other materials. Therefore, if you have mold on wood or another porous surface, this would be a great product to use. You can mix it with water and form a nice compound for removing mold quickly and efficiently. Scrub the area with this mixture and a scrubbing brush to remove the mold. Then you can disinfect it with chlorine bleach after.

Another common household item that can be used to remove mold is hydrogen peroxide. Mix 1 cup of warm water with 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide. Then scrub the surface of the mold with this mixture to remove it.

How to clean Ivory piano keys

I have a very old piano with ivory keys, however the ivory keys are dirty and turning yellow. Can this be safely cleaned off?

Yes it can be removed or lightened, however it is not advisable, nor is it wise if the piano is an antique. This yellowing can be considered relative to the age of the instrument, and removing it can diminish the authenticity of the piece. Ivory is very reactive to its environment.

It bleaches when exposed to light but the most severe changes are linked to changes in relative humidity and temperature. Low humidity can cause shrinking and cracking, while high relative humidity can cause warping and swelling. Some darkening or “patina” is the result of the natural aging process and because it is porous, ivory is also susceptible to staining. It darkens in contact with the skin or oils and can be stained by corroding metals or other colored materials.

Many liquids, including water and many cleaning chemicals, are destructive to ivory and should be avoided. Ivory will yellow more readily in the dark. If there is a key cover, keep it open so that the keys will be exposed to sunlight. This will not likely improve the present degree of yellowing but it will help to prevent further discoloration.

As far as removing the yellow, it depends how deep it has gone. Often rubbing the keys with #0000(very fine) steel wool will remove the yellow, however it would be best to have someone familiar with restoring ivory evaluate the condition first.

Here are some tips for regular cleaning to keep your piano keys looking their best.

Always begin cleaning with the gentlest method, and gradually use more invasive techniques, as required. Due to ivory’s sensitivity to moisture, only dry cleaning methods should be used. If these are insufficient, consult a conservator with experience cleaning ivory. You must always be careful that you are not trying to remove original surface coats, pigments or patinas! Also, because ivory so readily absorbs oils and stains, wear a pair of white cotton gloves.

1. Soft Brush. Using a clean, soft paintbrush or duster, remove dust from the keys. Work slowly towards the edge.

2. Powdered Eraser. Grate white vinyl eraser, using a zester. It MUST be white vinyl eraser! Gently rub the grated eraser on the ivory, using either the soft brush or your fingertip while wearing the white cotton gloves. Be certain to gently brush away all of the eraser bits when you are done.

3. White Vinyl Eraser. Gently use a white vinyl eraser (un-grated) over the surface of the ivory. Be careful not to apply too much pressure, and to work only one key at a time.

4. Groomstik. Groomstik is a natural rubber product, which is sticky. It pulls the dirt off of the surface of the ivory. It is available through museum supply houses — check with your local museum. Using a small piece of Groomstik, gently roll it across the surface of the keys. Be careful not to pull off any small or loose pieces of ivory, or of pigment, etc.

If these cleaning methods do not work, again, contact a conservator experienced in working with ivory.

Abrasive Cleaners

General Information :
Abrasive cleaners generally use some kind grit to boost their cleaning ability, along with detergents, acids, alkalis and other compounds. Some are in powder form while others suspend the abrasive in liquid. The quartz or silica that constitutes the grit will easily scratch and/or damage softer surfaces such as laminate, fiberglass, stainless steel, etc. Even on very hard surfaces such as porcelain, use caution. Over time abrasives will dull and scratch.

However, abrasive colon cleaners will often work where others fail. Remember to rinse well after use to remove any residue.

Liquid abrasive cleaners are generally more expensive but are more convenient to use.

Writing on the walls…

Are your children budding artists?

If your children have decided to use the bedroom walls to create their latest crayon masterpieces, you’ll get excellent results by dipping a damp rag into baking soda and then using that mixture to scrub it off.  Its the home remedy that my Grandma used.

Although a quicker way is to use a Magic Eraser, which, as a professional cleaner for the past 20 years, in my opinion is one the best cleaning products I have seen for quick cleanups. WD-40 does work very well at removing crayon marks, however you have to clean off the oily residue after with soapy water.


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