Wanna read about how cute animals clean themselves? Of COURSE you do!

Well, it's official: summertime is HERE. Summer is a great time to relax and kick back and just *enjoy* yourself. With that in mind we've decided to take a break this week from writing about various ways to keep one's home clean and tidy and instead... Well, we all know how humans clean themselves. Showers, baths, etc. Nobody wants to read about that because we've all been there, done that. But, how do birds clean themselves? Is it true that certain species of shrimp clean other fish? Now THAT is something interesting! Dive in and we hope you learn a thing or two!

  • How do dogs clean themselves?

    Ahhh yes, dogs! We've all seen dogs grooming themselves and this may come as a surprise --especially if you've got a big, stinky hound-- but dogs are overall considered to be fairly clean animals. Always licking themselves --especially after doing their business-- and always cleaning their paws, these pups try to keep CLEAN!
  • Ok! Now what about cats?

    These purr-ty felines are built to CLEAN (themselves)! According to petfinder.com, "When it comes to personal hygiene, cats are the epitome of cleanliness. They are naturally equipped with the implements to groom themselves: a barbed tongue with which to lick, forepaws they moisten with saliva and use as a surrogate washcloth, and teeth to dig out tougher debris. Believe it or not, adult cats may spend as much as half of their waking hours grooming themselves, their relatives and friends." The article goes on to talk about a cat's "licking pattern," "if you’ve ever watched a cat groom her face, you’ve probably noticed the highly stereotyped manner in which she does it: first saliva is applied to the inside of one paw, then, using an upward circular motion, the cat begins rubbing her nose with her paw from back to front. The cat will then reapply saliva to that paw and, using semi-circular motions, groom behind the corresponding ear, the back of the ear, the forehead and over the eye." Goodness!
  • Cool! But how do birds clean themselves?

    Now... Birds are a little bit different. They aren't licking themselves clean like your dog or your cat. Sometimes, they're not even using water! In order to fly it is vitally important for birds to keep their feathers clean. According to besgroup.org, "Bathing involves fluffing the feathers and vigorously beating the water. At the same time the head is dipped into the water regularly. The bird then shakes off the excess water and flies off to dry. The feathers need to be preened. Each feather, particularly the wing feathers need to be passed through the beak so that they are cleaned and the separate filaments put back in place." But what if there is no water around? "If water is not available, some birds will take sand or dust bath. They roll about the loose sand or dust and shake vigorously about. The sand or dust particles are believed to absorb excess preen oil as well as remove dry skin and ectoparasites. These include lice, mites, fleas, ticks and what have you that damage the feathers or even suck the blood of the birds. Evidence of dust bathing is the presence of bowl-shaped hollows on the dry ground."
  • Wow! What about everyone's favorite maid-crustacean, the scarlet cleaner shrimp?!

    Ahhhh, yes, the scarlet cleaner shrimp! What a cute and friendly fellow, offering its cleaning services to fish passing by. According to washingtonpost.com, "Coral reefs are home to 'cleaning stations.' In Hawaii, the scarlet cleaner shrimp swim crawl around their hosts like a five-star maid service tidying up your house. The larger fish recognize the cleaners by certain behaviors and let them remove parasites, bacteria and dead skin cells from their bodies." They even let the shrimp crawl around inside their mouths! Wow!

  • Ok! Last one, how do elephants clean themselves?

    According to that same Washington Post article, "elephants, rhinos, and other mammals take baths by rolling in dust and mud. Like birds, shaking the dust or caked mud off their bodies removes dead skin and many unwanted critters. Elephants have the added ability to spray their skin with dust or water, using their trunks like built-in garden hoses."

Whoa! Happy summer, folks. Hopefully the next time you see a cat or dog grooming itself, or a scarlet cleaner shrimp inside the mouth of a much larger fish... Well, hopefully you'll think of us! If you've got a fun summer vacation coming up and LOVE the idea of coming home to a very clean, very tidy home -- please give us a call!

What You Need to Know About Cleaning and Replacing Home A/C Filters!

Hey there, folks! Today we're gonna talk about HOME A/C FILTERS. Question: Can you remember the last time you replaced your filter? If you have to stop and think about it, or, even worse, cannot remember... It's time to replace those filters! A lot of us have the disposable kind, some of us have the type that you can take out and clean -- we'll be discussing both in this article.
Pictured below, two air filters; one new and one absolutely filthy! Summer is FIVE days away and it's time to make sure your home HVAC system is ready for the heat!

That dirty filter on the right... is that what you want all the air in your home passing through before you end up breathing it in?!
According to serviceexperts.com,
How often to change your air filters can depend on the following:

  • the type of air filter you are using
  • the overall indoor air quality
  • how many pets are in the home
  • the number of people occupying the home, and
  • the level of air pollution and construction around the home

For basic 1"-3" air filters, manufacturers usually direct you to change them every 30-60 days. If you suffer from light to moderate allergies, you could upgrade the air filter or change them [even more often|more frequently|every few weeks. Or, if you're in a more remote area or less occupied home (like a vacation home) and there are fewer cars around, annually may be often enough.

Here are averages that might help you know how often you should change the air filter at home:

  • Vacation home or single occupant and no pets or allergies: every 6-12 months
  • "Average" suburban home without pets: every 90 days
  • Add a dog or cat: every 60 days
  • Add more than one pet or anyone has allergies: 20-45 days

That's right! Approximately every 90 days you need to be replacing those filters!
There are a few different types of home air filters. They are, according to thefuntimesguide.com,

Fiberglass air filters are very thin and they have a simple flat panel surface for trapping particles from the air. They were originally developed to protect your heating and air conditioning equipment, not to improve your indoor air quality. They can often be purchased for less than $1 apiece. Unfortunately, they remove less than 10% of the air pollutants from your home. They have a MERV rating between 1 and 4.

Pleated air filters remove up to 45% of the air pollutants from your home. The number of pleats per foot impact their overall efficiency. They usually cost around $10 each. They have a MERV rating of 10 to 13.

High-efficiency air filters are the most practical air filters for most residential HVAC systems, removing up to 85% of the air pollutants from your home. They have a MERV rating between 14 and 16.

Now what if you have the type that is cleanable? WELL, the steps to getting that bad boy cleaned are easy-peasy! Simply take the filter outside, use a brush to remove a lot of the big chunks of debris and dust, and then use a hose with a spray nozzle on a lighter setting and hose that filter down! Let it dry and you're good to go!

What are the benefits of knowing all of this information, and using it appropriately? Well... not only will you be breathing in cleaner air, but your likely to save a bit of money on your monthly utilities bill (cleaner filters means a more efficient HVAC system means a lower bill) and not only that but you might be saving yourself a few hundred dollars that results from a technician making a house call to repair your system that's become clogged with dirt, dust, and debris.

Happy almost-summer, friends! Go ahead and take care of your air filters and while you're at it, give us a call and let us take care of all your other home-cleaning needs!

Do you compost or like the idea of composting? We’ve got a q&a with Bruno Welsh of Compost RVA!

Hi, folks! We usually like to use this forum to discuss all things related to keeping a clean home but today we're going to change things up slightly. It's still about living in and keeping a clean home, but today we're talking specifically about composting! We're here with Bruno Welsh who's going to answer a few of our questions regarding composting and the concerns some people may have. We're all familiar with the word "compost," but maybe the finer details of the process --and how to get started-- could use a little more light?

First, Bruno, what can you tell us about Compost RVA?
Compost RVA started out of a long journey of addressing the food waste we all produce, and finding that bridge of education and philanthropic business practices to make the connection. I currently pick-up for businesses, teach classes to children and adults, donate time to gardens, and work with various organizations in creating a consciousness of how to mitigate our waste stream.

For people new to composting, is it ok to keep a crock of kitchen scraps in or around the house before putting it in with the compost?
Go for it! I would recommend keeping it in the freezer if you can to keep down smells, and also speed up the decomposition process when you put it into your pile or bin. If you have it outdoors, make sure it is latched shut, or else you will make friends with local critters.

What do you think is the SIMPLEST way for somebody to get their own pile started?
Step out of your door, look for a small space in your garden that you want to plant in sometime in the near future, and throw down some coffee grounds! Remember, composting, just like recycling, is a big leap into changing how you see the lifespan of an object. So don't make the education for yourself heavy and stressful. You'll appreciate the results more, and save yourself from the nervous sweats.


What can they/what can't they compost?
If you are vermicomposting (using worms) stay away from dairy, large amounts of citrus more than a handful, breads, and meats. But do use pretty much everything else. If you are doing a pile, I prefer using everything, and figuring out how to keep out the wildlife as much as possible. But that also means making sure your pile is hot upwards of 100 F at least. Easier to do than you may think, just remember: lots of leaves, lots of carbon in general, the smaller in consistency the better. In general stay away from any "99.99%" [antibacterial] products or things that have been wiped with them going into your compost -- because, after all, you are trying to grow colonies of helpful bacteria. Also, keep out plastics, unless you know that not only are they compostable, but they are certified to be so. There are many false compostable products that are either labeled "biodegradable" or some on the market that say they are "compostable," however, they don't have certification. Like I said, it is a lifestyle change; research and accountability on our part is key!

Do you think there is a major concern for critters popping up around the site of composting?
I think lots of people have concens about critters. I have had them from time-to-time. There are ways to cover scents through lots of carbon, lots of coffee grounds, and working your compost so that it is hot. Remember though, that some of these critters include birds, bees, and the like, which leads to your garden space being a more ecologically diverse space. There are many pros and cons to critters.


What are the advantages of composting?
Food waste is mitigated, carbon dioxide and methane production are mitigated as well, and the very process of working with the bacteria in and around the soil has been linked to being a stress reducer. Plus, through composting, you can create spaces hospitable for planting that may not have been previously.

Do you have a short n' sweet "composting story" for our readers? Whether it was something crazy that popped up in a pile or something that happened at a pickup site -- we love a good story!
Yes! It was the early days of my composting when I worked at 1 N. Belmont Restaurant. I had a wire frame bin in my parents' backyard. It was around 2008-ish after a heavy snow fall in Va. I went to work on the bin one very cold night that was dimly lit by the moonlight. As I approached the bin, with pitchfork in hand with snow falling around me, I stepped on some twigs near the bin. Suddenly, the bin moved, a cat leaped from the top of the bin, and a huge plume of steam came from the pile. This was my introduction to hot compost, the possibilities of harnessing the energy from composting for other purposes, and made a grumpy chore that night into something that still makes me laugh today.

Aaaand, finally, what do you think was your "a-ha!" moment of realization, that moment you realized you love composting?
The bin story with the cat, and also that bin which I affectionately called "Grandpa," because it was created when I found out my grandfather had just died, showed me the meditative benefits of working toward making a living thing through composting to benefit the soil. I still get "a-ha!" moments where things I didn't quite get, come together through experience, or questions I get in my classes. It's those moments where the train of thought is moving, and suddenly another car attaches expanding your vocabulary to answer the "why" questions I often get.

Thanks for joining us, Bruno! 
And thank you to our readers as well! We hope that this discussion is the first step in many peoples' foray into the exciting world of home composting. You can find Compost RVA's website at http://www.compostrva.com/.

 

Seven Surprising Uses of White Vinegar!

White vinegar... what CAN'T it do? While that may be another blog post for another day, what we're here to discuss right now is the wonderful things white vinegar CAN do!

  1. Deodorize your carpet!

    From eandbcarpetcleaning.com: To deodorize a carpet pour 1 tablespoon of vinegar, 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 2 cups of warm water into a spray bottle. Shake well. When the mixture stops bubbling, lightly spray onto the carpet. It will smell strongly of vinegar at first. Allow it to dry completely. When it dries the bad odors should be gone.
  2. Get your taps and shower heads GLEAMING

    White vinegar, wow! All you need for this one is to mix equal parts warm water with vinegar into a plastic bag and fasten that bag around your tap or shower head. Let it sit for at least an hour! Afterward, give it a bit of a buff and watch that bad boy SHINE!
  3. Use as a "rinse-aid"

    Simply pour some white vinegar into the "rinse-aid" receptacle of your dishwasher and be amazed when those dishes come out shining and streak-free!
  4. Hide some of the scratches on furniture!

    Simply mix equal parts iodine with white vinegar and apply it to the scratches to help conceal them. If the scratch is especially deep or dark, try using more iodine than vinegar in your solution.
  5. Quickly clean your microwave!

    Part of the problem of trying to clean the microwave is that, as you use the device, the heat tends to bake the stray food into a harder and harder crust until it seems almost impossible to remove. Use this to your advantage -- take a bowl of equal parts water and white vinegar and let it heat up in the microwave for about 3 minutes. This will cause the mixture to steam the inside of your science oven and loosen up all that food crust. Once the steam-clean is all done, dip a towel into that same mixture of vinegar & water and give the inside a good scrub. All done!
  6. Use white vinegar to remove the rust from tools

    Soak the tool(s) in white vinegar for a few hours and then scrub the rust right off!
  7. Loosen and remove old bumper stickers

    People change. Political affiliations change. Musical tastes change. WHATEVER the bumper sticker is that you need to remove from your automotive vehicle, simply give the sticker a spritz of white vinegar and slowly work at removing it. Apply more vinegar as necessary until the job is done!

Well, there you have it! Thanks for joining us and we hope you learned a thing or two!

What uses less water — hand-washing dishes or using a dishwasher?

Ah, yes -- the age-old question: "What uses less water -- hand-washing dishes or using a dishwasher?" If you're anything like us, you've probably asked yourself this question multiple times. Well, we here at World Class Cleaning have done some sleuthing and we've got an answer for you!

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Ok, to set forth the criteria of our study, let us assume that you just had a *wonderful* dinner party for you and seven of your closest friends. The dinner party went really well, by the way! You served parmesan polenta cakes with heirloom tomato-corn salad along with a few sides. It all tasted amazing! Everybody had a wonderful time and are now all well on their way home. That leaves you. And 8 place settings, as well as the miscellaneous serving dishes, etc. This works out well for our study because Energy Star assumes that the load in a "standard" dishwasher bears "a capacity greater than or equal to eight place settings and six serving pieces." We've set the scene and we're now to ready to ask the question: What is going to be a more water-efficient method of washing these dishes?

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According to avonlakewater.com, the average kitchen faucet dumps out about 2.2 gallons of water PER MINUTE. That's quite a bit of water and this information falls in line with other resources available regarding the amount of water generated by a kitchen faucet per minute. The average dishwasher cycle uses roughly 12 gallons per load, while the more water-conservation-friendly units use as little as half that amount per load. NOW... Between 8 place settings and the serving dishes, etcetera, you are looking at well over 50 dishes that are in need of washing. Now... for the sake of this conceptual study, let's say that you average 15 seconds per dish when hand-washing. Let's say you've got 60 dishes to wash, which means you're looking at 15 minutes of scrub time! Now if your kitchen faucet falls into the median range of around 2.2 gallons of water per minute, this means you're looking at using THIRTY-THREE gallons of water to hand-wash all those dishes from your wonderful dinner party. If you stick them in your early 2000's "standard" style dishwasher? 12 gallons. What if your dishwasher is a modern Energy Star certified water-conserving model? All those dishes will be clean with as little as SIX gallons of water. And this is not factoring in running a cycle on the "light load" setting, which makes dishwashers look like an even BETTER option in the interest of conserving water (and saving yourself some dollars on that monthly utility bill). Let us not forget that you're going to be using less soap per load in a dishwasher, you're NOT going to be using a kitchen sponge (arguably one of the germiest objects in the house) AND your dishes --thanks to the higher temperatures of a dishwasher-- are going to come out even cleaner than if you hand-wash them. We feel like this one is a clear winner.
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Thanks for joining us, and be sure to check back for our latest blog post!