Search This Blog

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stainless Steel Restoration Services 101

How to Repair Scratched Stainless Steel
Whether you can remove a scratch has much to do with how deep the scratch goes. Here are several ways to deal with this problem and restore your cookware, stainless steel appliances, countertops or sinks to their former glory.

You have a shining, gleaming stainless steel and a kitchen that fairly sparkles. Then, it happens. Somehow there is an ugly scratch on the stainless steel refrigerator, oven, or dishwasher, and you can see it from across the room. It's just about as obvious as a blemish on prom night. But you can restore your stainless steel appliances to their former beauty.
STEP 1  Assess the damage. Determine if this is a deep scratch or a surface scratch, by running your finger across it. If you can actually feel the indentation, you have a deep scratch, gouge or ding. With clamps, carefully hold a small piece of dry ice over the gouged area. Hopefully,it will pop out, and not be as noticeable. Then you can treat it in the same way other scratched areas are treated in the steps below.

STEP 2  Determine if the scratched appliance is "real" stainless steel or if it has a synthetic coating or finish. Damage to coated appliances is permanent.

 These are all coated: Whirlpool - "Satina;" GE - "Clean Steel;" Amana - "Ultra Finish Steel;" Kitchenaid - Architect Series II, "Monochromatic Stainless;" Kenmore - "Ultra Satin;" Frigidaire - "Titanium;" Electrolux (all brands except "Classic," "Icon" and "Electrolux"); Maytag - "Silver Ultra Finish," "Satina Stainless Look," "Monochromatic Stainless steel," "Monochromatic Satina."

Also,coated stainless steel doesn't smudge easily and is magnetic. You will only further damage the surface if you use a rubbing compound, or a product like Scratch-B-Gone, on a synthetic or clear-coated finish. If your appliance is coated, you cannot fix the damage.

STEP 3  Identify the existing grain of the stainless steel. See which direction the tiny original brush lines go in the damaged area.

STEP 4 -Use an abrasive pad from the Scratch-B-Gone kit to repair scuffs, light scratches and even deep scratches. The kit has 4 different abrasive pads and instructions to tell you which one to use depending on the severity of the scratches and scuffs. Otherwise, go to an automotive shop and buy different fine grades of sandpaper.

STEP 5   Apply a small amount of Ultra Shine from the Scratch-B-Gone kit onto the appropriate abrasive pad. Or use an automotive rubbing compound on the sandpaper.

STEP 6   Begin rubbing the damaged area of the stainless steel in the direction of the grain covering over about a 5-inch area at a time. Slide the pad backward and forward increasing pressure as needed until you see the scratch is disappearing.STEP 7  Repeat this process until the scratch is removed and the surface is restored. For a deeper scratch, dry rub the area with the coarse pad, and wipe area off with a microfiber cloth to make sure the scratch is gone.

STEP 8   Blend the metal surfaces by using the finest grade sandpaper or abrasive pad with the rubbing compound or Ultra Shine and gradually increase the area around the original damage to about three times the original scratched area. Be sure to go with the existing grain of the stainless steel so you don't create crosshatching.

How to Shine Stainless Steel Appliances
Bright, shiny stainless steel appliances can add a nice touch of class to a kitchen, but if they aren't properly cared for, they will lose their lovely patina. With just few simple steps, you can keep those stainless steel appliances bright and shiny for many years to come

STEP 1 Apply baby oil to the stainless steel appliance with a soft, dry cloth.
STEP 2  Rub it on well, making sure all of the appliance has been coated with baby oil.
STEP 3  Apply a stainless steel cleaner to the area with a soft cloth. Follow up with a stainless steel polish to bring back the shine.

STEP 4  If the scratch is still there or if you can put your fingernail in the scratch, you may have to try fine grit sand paper. Sand the area and go outside the scratch by one or two inches as you did before, following grain of the metal.

STEP 5  After sanding, use the coarse side of the finishing pad. Flip the pad over and use the fine side to help smooth the surface out.

STEP 6  Follow up with using a stainless steel cleaner and apply with a soft cloth. Use a polish afterward to help restore the metal to its original shine.

Tips and Warnings

Do not use abrasive cleaners containing bleach or it could scratch the metal. Use cleaners specifically designed for stainless steel or others such as white vinegar, Windex, club soda, rubbing alcohol or ammonia, which are safe and will not harm the surface. Just because a product is for stainless steel it still may be acidic or slightly abrasive and you should proceed with caution when using. Always use soft cloths to clean such as micro fiber to prevent scratches. You may have to consult a professional for very deep scratches or scuffs.

How to Get Corrosion Off of Stainless Steel Appliances
Stainless steel is a steel alloy that is incredibly resistant to rust and corrosion; it is commonly used in building or decoration. The visual beauty of stainless steel makes it a popular choice as a finish for home appliances. However, although stainless steel is incredibly resistant to wear, it is not indestructible. Proper care can prevent nearly all rust or corrosion, but in rare cases, your appliances can show wear. Luckily, it only takes a few steps to clean stainless steel.

Things You'll Need:
Soft cloth
Mild detergent
Stainless steel cleaner

Step 1   Wipe the appliance down with a wet rag to remove any debris, grease or oils from the surface.

Step 2   Dry the appliance with a soft cloth or towel.

Step 3   Apply a small amount of mild detergent such as dish soap to a wet rag, until the rag is sudsy. Wipe the appliance down, applying mild pressure.

Step 4  Clean off any remaining soap from the appliance and dry.

Step 5   Apply stainless steel cleaner to your appliance, and buff with soft cloth. Rinse with wet cloth.

Step 6   Dry the appliance one last time, making sure to leave no residue of water or cleaner on the appliance.

How To Remove Rust From Stainless Steel
Though stainless does have incredible resistance to oxidation and corrosion there are still major factors that can lead to different types of corrosion. Corrosion of stainless can come from moisture from the ocean and air, humidity and temperature from weather, as well as the oils and skin secretions from people.

The best method to remove rust from stainless steel that we’ve found is to use Bull Frog Rust Remover. This rust remover will remove the rust and it has proven itself safe on the stainless steel finish.

To use Bull Frog Rust Remover on stainless steel just apply the product to the rust stained surface. Let the rust remover work for half an hour, and then wash off with water. If the rust stain remains, repeat the process but leave the rust remover on for an hour. Again, rinse off the rust remover.

Using Bull Frog Rust Remover has advantages over traditional abrasive methods. First, this method is very quick to apply. Secondly, and most important, is the end result. Using abrasive methods can lead to a sanded looking finish on the rust stained area. Keeping the original finish on the stainless steel is important to the overall appearance of the stainless steel. (Source:

To prevent corrosion, all stainless steel should be kept cleaned and coated with a corrosion prevention coating. In salty and humid environments they should be washed more regularly as salt can accelerate the rusting process.

How to clean stainless steel

1. Water and a cloth.

Routine cleaning can be accomplished by using warm water and a cloth. This is the least risky option for cleaning stainless steel. Dry with a towel or cloth to prevent water spots. Wipe in the directions of the polish lines.

2. Mild detergent, (dish washing liquid) and cloth.

For cleaning that needs more power, mild detergent and warm water can do a great job without damaging the stainless steel. Make sure you rinse the surface thoroughly to prevent staining and spotting. Towel dry to prevent water spots which can be caused by minerals in water.

3. Glass cleaner for fingerprints.

Fingerprints are one of the biggest complaints about stainless steel, but can be taken care by using glass cleaner or household ammonia. Rinse thoroughly and towel dry. There are some newer types of finishes for stainless steel that resist fingerprints, a must if your pint-sized helpers leave their mark on your stainless steel appliances.

4. Stainless Steel Cleaner.

If you’ve had staining or scratching, or need to polish your stainless steel, a stainless steel cleaner may be a good option. Some of these cleaners and polishes can help minimize scratching and remove stains. They also can polish stainless steel surfaces nicely. Read the directions on the stainless steel cleaner and test in an inconspicuous spot. Be sure to rinse thoroughly and towel dry.
Tips and Warnings

1. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.

2. Keep stainless steel appliances clean, because dirty appliances will lose their shine very quickly. Wipe them often to remove kitchen grease, using a damp sponge or rag soaked in hot, soapy water. Dry the appliance thoroughlyt with a soft towel. Wipe against the grain and with the grain of the stainless steel

3. Remove fingerprints from stainless steel appliances with window cleaner, and wipe them dry.

4. For a quick shine, put some club soda in a spray bottle and lightly mist the stainless steel appliance. Follow up by drying the appliance with a soft cloth.

5. Never use bleach on stainless steel appliances. It will react with the steel and can cause staining.

6. Never use brushes or steel wool on stainless steel appliances. They can scratch the stainless steel and cause rust to form.

How to Get Scratches Out of Stainless Steel Appliances
Stainless steel appliances can be sharp and modern when they are gleaming, shiny and new. However, it can be easy to scratch up a stainless steel surface and this can take away from its luster. There are a few things that can be done to remove scratches from stainless steel. It just takes a few materials and a little effort to get your appliances back to their original state and shine.

1. Use the coarse side of a finishing pad on the scratch if it is minor. Be sure to follow the grain of the metal. Overlap the area by one or two inches on each side, which will help it to blend in with the surrounding metal. Flip the pad over and use the fine side of the pad to smooth out the area.

For more information, please visit our website:


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dry Cleaning Service 101

Dry Cleaning Know-How

Get the Most Out of Dry Cleaning Services

Dry cleaning is an easy way to maintain some of your more costly garments. Some garments we buy have labels that clearly indicate they need to be dry cleaned. There are some important things to keep in mind when deciding on what items to send out to dry cleaning.

What Does “Dry Clean Only” Really Mean?
Manufacturers are only required to list one cleaning method on the care label of a garment even if other methods exist. So, manufacturers will typically indicate the easiest method that is least likely to cause any damage to the garment. Dry cleaning is usually a safe option, but many items whose care labels say “Dry Clean Only” can actually be hand washed at home.

Do It Together
One mistake many consumers make with dry cleaning is with two-pieced suits. Females sometimes send out the tops or blazers of two-pieced suits in order to save some money on their dry cleaning bills. Since tops can soil more quickly from perspiration than pants or skirts, they simply have the tops cleaned after every wearing and send out the pants after multiple wearings. This can create a problem because the color of the items that are more frequently dry cleaned might pale a little in comparison to their matching pants or skirts. This attempt to save money might actually cost you in the long run if you have to buy new clothes sooner because of the discoloration. If you have a two-piece set in the same color, make sure you send out both items together for dry cleaning.

Watch What You Buy
If you want to reduce the number of items that you send out for dry cleaning, consider your clothing purchases more thoroughly prior to purchase. Technology has kept up with consumer demand, and there are many clothing items on the market that can be machine washed but that look very presentable and dressy. Some sweaters that have labels requiring dry cleaning can sometimes be washed by hand.

Store Them Properly
Another important tip to keep in mind concerns how you store your clothes once you bring them home from the cleaners. Do not store your clothing in the plastic bags that the dry cleaner uses. These plastic bags can damage or cause your garment to yellow and decrease the life of your garments. The above tips can allow you to get the most out of the dry cleaning services you use, and you should find them very helpful.


The term "dry cleaning" is actually a little misleading. This technique coats clothes in a chemical -- usually perchloroethylene (PERC) -- that tends to be better for cleaning delicate fabrics, such as silk and cashmere, than regular soap and water.

Unfortunately, PERC has been linked to cancer and a number of other health problems. Many cleaners actually send their clothes to dry-cleaning plants, which can release huge amounts of PERC into the earth, air, and water. Workers in these buildings are exposed to toxic chemicals on a daily basis. PERC can also affect customers who regularly dry-clean clothes and bring the toxic chemical into their homes, where it lingers and they breathe it in -- even while not wearing the clothing.

Dry-clean as few items as possible. Remove the plastic bag and hang any dry-cleaned clothes outside (or in a mudroom or garage) to air out before wearing or hanging in your closet. Recycle the bags along with your grocery-store plastic bags (visit to find drop-off locations), and return the hangers to the dry cleaner.

More Careful
You may have noticed the proliferation of "green" or "organic" dry cleaners lately. Instead of PERC, these companies usually use liquid carbon dioxide (CO2), silicon-based solvent, or wet cleaning," which uses water and nontoxic detergents in technologically advanced machines that clean even delicate clothing.

Most Careful
Avoid purchasing items that must be dry-cleaned. The texture of some fabrics (such as certain silks) changes if they're washed in water, but many items labeled "dry clean only" can be washed by hand with cool water and very mild detergent, then laid flat to dry.
Always check that your garment is suitable for dry-cleaning by checking the fabric care label. Do not rely on the dry-cleaner to reject an item that should not be dry-cleaned.

Dry-cleaning guarantees to remove all general grime and dirt, but may not remove some specific stains. If your clothes have a stain, always point it out in advance and tell the cleaner what it is, if you know. You may have to accept that they can only do their best.

Before you leave the shop with your cleaned garments, always check that they are in fact clean and that any particular stain that the dry-cleaner has agreed to remove has gone. If you have to remove packaging to do so, don't be put off. If the item still has a stain, ask them to do it again.

There will be some solvent smell initially in newly dry-cleaned clothes, but if your garment is damp or still has an excessive smell of solvent (or other resinous smell), complain and do not take it away. This is due to faulty processing, and the garment should be cleaned again.

Do not take a cleaned garment inside a closed car - the solvent fumes may make you unfit to drive. Open a window. When you get home, remove the packaging and hang your clean clothes up for a short while in a place where there is fresh air.

For more information, please visit our website:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Contracting and REO Renovation Tips 101


REO stands for real estate owned, and it refers to homes that have been foreclosed by mortgage lenders and are now owned by the financial institutions that foreclosed. Foreclosed homes may also be listed as "bank owned."

REO homes are typically priced lower than prevailing market price, and sellers may offer incentives including favorable mortgage terms for financing the
purchase of an REO home.

First time buyers - REO properties provide first time home buyers an opportunity to buy a home and get an affordable mortgage. They may also qualify for state, county, and local home buyer funding and assistance.

Real Estate Investment - In spite of today's market fluctuations, licensed contractors and investors can buy a damaged REO property for pennies on the dollar, rehab it, and rent of sell it at a profit. "Flipping" is not recommended unless you're experienced and knowledgeable about home renovation and local real estate markets.

REO Bad News - Foreclosed homes can be damaged by former owners, squatters, and vandals. They may be little more than shells, and can attract crime and vermin. Don't buy an REO property you haven't inspected.

Neighborhood Blight - Foreclosed homes may sit vacant and damaged for months. This invites further damage and can result in citations by city building departments and health agencies. Be prepared to start work on a damaged REO as soon as you buy it.

Negotiate with Seller - Banks and mortgage companies are overloaded with REO homes. Feel free to negotiate with sellers; you may be pleasantly surprised.

Getting a Mortgage - Many lenders selling REO properties can also provide a purchase money mortgage. Ask about this when considering an REO property; you may receive very good terms on a fixed rate mortgage.

Bank Owned (REO) Buying Tips

Properties that have been taken back by the bank through the foreclosure process are known as "real estate owned" or REO. Buying these bank owned homes can result in some real cost savings, however, there are some different procedures and contractual terms that a buyer should understand. It is very important that a buyer work with a seasoned and experienced professional that understands the REO buying process.

Finding bank owned properties is best done through the multiple listing service (MLS). Banks generally list their properties with real estate brokers just like most Sellers. The bank wants to expose the property to as many potential buyers as possible, and this is best done through the MLS. Locating and making an offer on a property before it is listed is very difficult, and most banks will not entertain pre-list offers.

It is absolutely imperative that the buyer be pre-approved for a loan BEFORE, viewing available bank owned properties. Banks take into consideration when evaluating offers: the amount of any down payment, the type of loan and the borrowing strength of the buyer. Some banks may consider a lower purchase price if the buyer will be obtaining a loan through the same bank that currently owns the property. This is especially important when there are multiple buyers making offers on the same property. It is also important to be pre-approved so that as a buyer you're only evaluating and considering homes that you could actually afford to purchase.

Making an offer on a REO begins with the same contract that a buyer would use when placing an offer on a regular house. In addition to the California Association of Realtors (CAR) Residential Purchase Agreement (RPA), almost every bank has their own set of addendums. Some banks prefer to have the terms all completed on their own forms when making the initial offer, while others prefer to evaluate the offer on the RPA only, and then provide the counter-offer terms on their addendum. Each bank is different on these procedures. Knowing how an individual bank works, and then proceeding along their desired system will increase the likelihood of your offers acceptance. Banks generally take longer to accept an offer than a normal seller. This is especially true when the home is priced low for the area and there are multiple offers. Buyers need to be patient, and understand that when there are numerous people bidding on the same house, that only one will "win". Having the "Best" offer is not always the highest price. Knowing what the risks are to a bank is very important in a multi-offer property.

When your offer is accepted, the clock for your Due Diligence period starts ticking. Due Diligence is that period of time that the Buyer has to confirm that this is in fact the property he wants to buy. The banks enforce the timeframes very strictly, and most will only extend the time limits for a fee. The Buyer will have between 5 days and 21 days to complete all of the property inspections, review disclosure reports and confirm that their financing is in place. These dates are usually shorter than the time frames contained in the standard RPA. Banks have different time frames that they follow, so it is very important to understand them and make sure you complete each task on time. Working with a Realtor that knows the time limits is crucial to a successful closing. Most banks do NOT want to fix or repair the properties before they are sold. Be sure that the contracts are very clear about who will be paying for Termite inspection and repairs, or who will handle any of the Buyer's Lender required repairs.

One of the biggest differences between a traditional sale and a REO purchase deals with the deposit. The Earnest Money Deposit is the initial money that is placed into escrow by the Buyer. It is intended to show that the Buyer is "serious" about buying the property. Under the standard RPA, the deposit is usually returned to the Buyer if the home does not close because of a financing or other problem that causes the Buyer to change their mind about closing on the home. When buying a bank owned home, the bank' contract usually allows the bank to keep the deposit once the timeframes for the various contingencies pass per the contract addendum. It is absolutely critical for a Buyer to understand the timeframes, and for them to comply with the dates listed in the bank's contract. The amount of deposit may also have an impact on the banks evaluation of multiple offers on the same house.

Escrow companies that are hired by larger banks with a lot of inventory are usually paid a lower than market fee. This has resulted in a low level of service from these escrows. Patience is a must when going through a REO purchase. Be ready to move very quickly when the bank asks you as the Buyer for paperwork or information. Also be prepared for the bank as the seller to take a long time with no real reason for them to get back to you with information or signatures. Remember that the bank is dealing in some cases with thousands of properties in the system, so responses from them can take some time. Be patient.

Once you close escrow, you get to move into your new house. Do not discuss in detail the GREAT deal you received with your new neighbors. Be courteous and realize that your "Great Deal" probably just lowered the value of your neighbor's home. Make exterior repairs like front lawn and weed abatement as quick as you can after you move in. Be a good neighbor, and enjoy your HOME!

Bank Owned (REO) Contracting and Cleaning Tips

REO foreclosed homes are left vacant with items still inside them. Previous owners who became delinquent and behind in their mortgage payments end up leaving all their personal belongings behind. Business is booming for those who see an opportunity to be the one cleaning out these foreclosures. Home clean out trash out business, many are looking to start a home trash out service.

How to get started in debris cleanup.
Some have suggested that all that one needs to get started is to advertise on the free classified sites letting others know of your services. Charge an hourly rate or a flat rate. It has also been mentioned that you will need to include the cost of the dumpster rental as well as any man power you will need to help you with moving items out and painting if necessary. Print up flyers and contact realtors who sell REO properties, so that you can get repeat referrals. The types of businesses that will need your services are Homeowners, Property Managers, Realtors, REO Agents, Property Investors, Landlords, Tenants, Bank Foreclosures. So look at ways to contact them directly with your price.

How much should you charge to clean up a trashed out foreclosure home?

First you should do some research and find out what the going rates are in your area, be competitive and try to get as many clients as possible and then as they say the snowball will start rolling and getting bigger from their. Real Estate investors will have a list of foreclosed homes that need to be cleaned contact them and let them know you can help them out, find out how much they were quoted in the past. Most pricing is based on cubic yards and weight ot the junk. The going rate is $500 or more depending on what is needed to be done. It can range upwards of $1000 dollars.

Starting a cleaning business can help people who do not have the time or the resources to do it themselves. REO's are not the only places to clean up, people who are moving or those who has a family member die or those who are going through divorce may not want to go through all the stuff in the house and would rather someone come and remove the debris or junk.

Garages are another place people store many items that just ends up collecting dust. Collectibles, antiques and valuables can be saved and put into storage, but most other items will have to go to the dump. Declutter and organization services can be offered as well.

Some of the more popular services include: clean-out service. Included is the clean-up of all interior and exterior trash and debris, carting and disposal of all unwanted items. Professional overall cleaning, including sweeping, countertop and window cleaning.

For more information, please visit our website:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Window Cleaning Tips 101

Window and Door Frames at Cleanup Time FAQs

Wood Window Frames

If painted, use a solution of mild detergent and water, or a mild commercial cleaner whose label says it is safe for painted surfaces. Always rinse off solution. Wipe off excess water with a dry cloth. Do not use strong cleaners or scouring powder as these will damage the paint. If you plan to clean window frames, do it before cleaning window glass so solution does not spot glass panes. If varnished or natural finished, vacuum or dust regularly. Clean infrequently, only when really needed. Use a commercial wood cleaning product or cleaning wax whose label recommends use on natural wood finishes.

Aluminum Window Frames

If painted, use a solution of mild detergent and water, or a mild commercial cleaner whose label says it is safe for painted surfaces. Always rinse off the cleaning solution. Wipe off excess water with a dry cloth. Do not use strong cleaners or scouring powder as these can damage the paint. If you plan to clean window frames, do it before cleaning window glass so solution does not spot glass panes.

Bare, unfinished or mill finish aluminum gradually weathers and turns gray. It forms its own oxide coating which protects it. (A coat of clear lacquer will prevent this.) In early stages of weathering, washing with soap and water will restore brightness. If you want to restore brightness when it has weathered more, stronger cleaners or mild abrasives will be needed. Test any new cleaner on a hidden spot to be sure it will work satisfactorily.

Do not clean aluminum if it is hot to touch, or if temperature is below 50 F. Always remove all traces of cleaner thoroughly, with water-rinsing, or, if a solvent wax type by wiping. Avoid excessive use of abrasives which leaves permanent scratches. Badly weathered window frames may be washed with soap and water, rinsed thoroughly, and painted.

10 Window Cleaning Tips

Accckkkk! Many people put off cleaning windows or struggle through it because they make the same mistakes I have made for 47 years. I had it all wrong! Do you want crystal clear windows - just like you see at businesses and commercial buildings?

Here is how to achieve it!

 Use the Right Tools - You must use the professional squeegees, soap and applicators I have already spoken of. If you don't, your windows will look like they do now!

A Clean Scrubber - Always start the job with a clean scrubber or lambs wool applicator, sponge and/or porcupine cleaner. A dirty applicator can leave dirt behind. Rinse the scrubber frequently if you are cleaning many windows, especially dirty windows.

Watch the Sun - NEVER wash windows in direct sunlight. The sun can superheat the glass and cause all sorts of streaking problems.

Holding the Squeegee - Hold the squeegee at an angle so the water runs down the glass. In other words, mimic the motion or setting of a snow plow. The blade on a plow aims towards where the snow ends up. If a plow simply aims straight ahead, snow flows out of the plow at both ends. You don't want water flowing from both ends of the squeegee.

Wipe the Blade - After each squeegee stroke, you must wipe the rubber blade with your lint free cloth. Placing a wet squeegee on the glass will leave a blade mark. You will get good at quickly wiping the blade.

Don't Cut it Close - Overlap squeegee strokes by about one and one half inches. Remember to angle the squeegee so water flows towards the wet window surface, NOT the area that is clean and dry.

Lots of Water - When first washing the window with the scrubber, use a liberal amount of cleaning water. You want the dirt to come off the window with this solution. Use a decent amount on interior glass surfaces, but not so much as to cause a flood or standing water on woodwork.

Go Sideways - Horizontal squeegee strokes are recommended when at all possible. If you are right handed, the left side of the window pane will have triangles of water left behind with each stroke. You will wipe these at the end with a final vertical stroke going from the top of the pane to the bottom of the pane.

Wipe the Edges - There will always be water marks or spots at the edge of the window pane. After all squeegee action is complete, wipe the entire window edge with the lint free cloth.

Practice First - Practice with the squeegee when you first get it. It may be hard to control. Professionals often use an 18 inch model. You might want to start with a 12 inch squeegee and work your way up to a larger model once you develop good hand/eye coordination.

How To Wash Windows

To wash your windows perfectly and make them streak-free, it’s really not about the glass cleaner. It’s about the tools you use. The best way is to clean the outside windows first. It’s usually a bigger job, and you might decide you want to do the inside windows the next day. Besides, there’s nothing worse than cleaning your inside windows and not knowing if they are actually clean because the other side is dirty!


If you have a lot of windows, it is easiest to remove all of your screens from the inside. Take a pencil and write in tiny letters on the frame where it belongs as you remove them. Example: MBR – L (Master Bedroom, left window) or something that will make sense to you later. To clean your screens, you will need:

•A bucket of soapy water – dish soap is fine

•A SOFT bristle brush

•Access to a garden hose

Begin by using the hose on a soft setting – don’t use a strong “jet” setting that will damage your screens. Slop some of the soapy water onto the screen if necessary (if there are dead bugs, grit on the frame, spider webs), and gently use the soft brush to get off the mess.

While you’re cleaning your screens, look for tears or holes. Don’t put a screen back that is damaged. Keep it aside for the next weekend project. Repairing or replacing screening within a frame is simple and takes about a half an hour! Rinse off the screens and place them somewhere to air dry.

Outside Windows

While the screens are off, tackle the outside windows. Start with a DRY broom and sweep any spider webs, dirt, and bugs off the windows and the frames. (Note: for upstairs windows, I cheat by taking another broom or mop and duct-taping it to my broom. I can reach the windows that way standing on a step stool.) If you have a lot of caked on gunk, you should make another bucket of soapy water and dip the broom in, slosh up some water and give the window and/or frame a scrub. If the windows just need cleaning, use one of the methods for window cleaning below. If you have a two story home, you can try a commercial glass cleaning product that attaches to your garden hose to spray the windows clean.

If your outside windows are difficult to reach from the outside, you can clean them from the inside. If you have two windows next to each other, it’s easier. Open the windows all of the way to get the top of the outside window. If you have two windows together, you can get the bottom of one from the other side. If it’s a single window, you will have to close the window as much as you can while still being able to reach your hand under to clean the top of the bottom window. Voila! No ladders (or waiting for help!) and the outside windows are clean!

Cleaning Your Windows Perfectly

To clean windows, most people either use a squeegee or a cloth. If you have the right tools, what you actually use to clean the windows really doesn’t matter very much. In fact, you can clean windows with plain water wiped off with newspaper! If you use this method, you’ll want to wear gloves or your hands will be filthy, but it works very well.

For more information, please visit our website:
Clear or colored anodized aluminum resists weathering, and can be washed with mild detergent and water like painted frames. Solvent cleaners can be used to remove grease spots from anodized frames. Never use abrasives on either anodized or painted surfaces as they will scratch it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Handyman Lighting and Electrical Tips 101

Removing Broken Light Bulbs

So... Welcome to the club!! You broke a bulb in the socket, and you feel like a klutz!


I suppose you have heard of the old potato trick. Cut a potato in half, push it into the bulb base, and twist it out. Does it really work? I guess it could, though I must admit (sigh) that I never tried it. Why, you ask? I guess it's because I don't carry a potato in my toolkit!

Only one... if the power is on!

1) First and foremost, make sure the electric power is off. If you can't determine which circuit the fixture is on, turn off ALL circuits.

2) Put down a tarp to catch any remaining broken glass from the old bulb.
3) Leather gloves are preferred if you have to touch the broken bulb base.
4) Wear eye protection, especially if you are working on an overhead fixture. A hat might also help keep glass off your head!
There are two ways to take out the bulb's base...
Way 1

•Using both hands, insert the pliers as far into the broken base as you can.
•Spread the handles apart, exerting force against the sides of the bulb base with the tips of the pliers, and rotate counter-clockwise (the pliers, I mean).
•Continue turning until the base is out. If you meet resistance, turn base back in slightly and then back out. The idea is to remove the broken bulb base, not break the fixture.
If the first method doesn't work, try this:
 Way 2
•CAREFULLY insert a small screwdriver or awl between the bulb base and the socket. Bend the bulb base SLIGHTLY INWARD, just enough to allow the needlenose pliers to get a grip.
•Hold the pliers firmly and begin to turn the base out, counterclockwise. You will probably meet some resistance. When you do, turn the base back in slightly, then out again. The trick is to work the base out, not break the fixture.

If you follow this simple, commonsense guideline, you will probably never have to remove another broken bulb (unless you do it for other people)!

When you replace a bulb, turn the bulb in just until you feel slight resistance. Turn the switch on. If the bulb lights without flickering, you are DONE. Do not turn the bulb any further!
If bulb has not lit, turn switch back off, turn bulb a quarter turn, and try again. Do this until the bulb lights. Never screw in a bulb so tightly that it bottoms out.
Let there be light!!
 Home Electrical Safety Tips

Here are some checks you can make in your home today to ensure electrical safety! This information is provided courtesy the Electrical Safety Foundation International, or ESFi, a non-profit organization whose goal is to prevent deadly and unnecessary electrical accidents and injury.
Check for outlets that have loose-fitting plugs, which can overheat and lead to fire. Replace any missing or broken wall plates. Make sure there are safety covers on all unused outlets that are accessible to children.
Make sure cords are in good condition—not frayed or cracked. Make sure they are placed out of traffic areas. Cords should never be nailed or stapled to the wall, baseboard or to another object. Do not place cords under carpets or rugs or rest any furniture on them.

Extension Cords
Check to see that cords are not overloaded. Additionally, extension cords should only be used on a temporary basis; they are not intended as permanent household wiring. Make sure extension cords have safety closures to help prevent young children from shock hazards and mouth burn injuries.

Make sure your plugs fit your outlets. Never remove the ground pin (the third prong) to make a three-prong fit a two-conductor outlet; this could lead to an electrical shock. NEVER FORCE A PLUG INTO AN OUTLET IF IT DOESN'T FIT. Plugs should fit securely into outlets. Avoid overloading outlets with too many appliances.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)
GFCIs can help prevent electrocution. They should be used in any area where water and electricity may come into contact. When a GFCI senses current leakage in an electrical circuit, it assumes a ground fault has occurred. It then interrupts power fast enough to help prevent serious injury from electrical shock. Test GFCIs according to the manufacturer's instructions monthly and after major electrical storms to make sure they are working properly.
Light Bulbs
Check the wattage of all bulbs in light fixtures to make sure they are the correct wattage for the size of the fixture. Replace bulbs that have higher wattage than recommended; if you don't know the correct wattage, check with the manufacturer of the fixture. Make sure bulbs are screwed in securely; loose bulbs may overheat.

Circuit Breakers/Fuses
Circuit breakers and fuses should be the correct size current rating for their circuit. If you do not know the correct size, have an electrician identify and label the size to be used. Always replace a fuse with the same size fuse.
Water and Electricity Don't Mix
Don't leave plugged-in appliances where they might fall in contact with water. If a plugged-in appliance falls into water, NEVER reach in to pull it out—even if it's turned off. First turn off the power source at the panel board and then unplug the appliance. If you have an appliance that has gotten wet, don't use it until it has been checked by a qualified repair person.
If an appliance repeatedly blows a fuse, trips a circuit breaker or if it has given you a shock, unplug it and have it repaired or replaced.
Entertainment/Computer Equipment
Check to see that the equipment is in good condition and working properly. Look for cracks or damage in wiring, plugs and connectors. Use a surge protector bearing the seal of a nationally recognized certification agency.
Outdoor Safety
Electric-powered mowers and other tools should not be used in the rain, on wet grass or in wet conditions. Inspect power tools and electric lawn mowers before each use for frayed power cords, broken plugs and cracked or broken housings. If damaged, stop using it immediately. Repair it or replace it. Always use an extension cord marked for outdoor use and rated for the power needs of your tools. Remember to unplug all portable power tools when not in use. When using ladders, watch out for overhead wires and power lines.

During an electrical storm, do not use appliances (i.e., hairdryers, toasters and radios) or telephones (except in an emergency); do not take a bath or shower; keep batteries on hand for flashlights and radios in case of a power outage; and use surge protectors on electronic devices, appliances, phones, fax machines and modems.
Space Heaters
Space heaters are meant to supply supplemental heat. Keep space heaters at least 3 ft. away from any combustible materials such as bedding, clothing, draperies, furniture and rugs. Don't use in rooms where children are unsupervised and remember to turn off and unplug when not in use. Do not use space heaters with extension cords; plug directly into an outlet on a relatively unburdened circuit.
Halogen Floor Lamps
Halogen floor lamps operate at much higher temperatures than a standard incandescent light bulb. Never place a halogen floor lamp where it could come in contact with draperies, clothing or other combustible materials. Be sure to turn the lamp off whenever you leave the room for an extended period of time and never use torchiere lamps in children's bedrooms or playrooms. Consider using cooler fluorescent floor lamps

Repairing and Troubleshooting Fluorescent Fixtures and Tubes
On the home repair scale of 1 to 10 (10 being hardest), repairing a fluorescent fixture is a 3 or 4... fairly simple but some basic electrical skills are necessary, such as being able to identify wires by color, stripping insulation from the ends of cut wires, installing wire nuts and reading instructions. I added the first and last with tongue in cheek... I know most of you are not color-blind and most of you can read... or you wouldn't be here!
Here are some common fluorescent freak-outs and some suggested solutions! Note that I will be primarily referring to fixtures using straight fluorescent tubes in this discussion. Curved tubes work in a similar fashion but have different mounting methods.

I use the term "bulb" and "tube" somewhat haphazardly and inconsistently. My apologies. Both are correct, though "tube" is the more correct term and probably a little less confusing.

Fluorescent bulbs designed to replace incandescent bulbs in standard fixtures, such as in recessed lights or table lamps, have all the same features of a fluorescent fixture. Alas, they cannot be repaired... they must be replaced if they become defective.
Finally, let the buyer beware!! Parts for some small fluorescent fixtures may cost more than a new fixture!
Troubleshooting dead or flickering fluorescents... could be a bulb, the starter or the ballast!!

A dead fluorescent can be caused by lack of electrical power (tripped breaker or blown fuse), a dead or dying ballast, a dead starter or a dead bulb(s). Check for power first... then the starter (if applicable) and then the bulbs. When all else fails, the ballast should be replaced. Since it is the most expensive item, be sure it really is dead!! Ahd check the price before you buy... some ballasts are more expensive than new fixtures!!
When flickering is the issue, you still must do the same sort of troubleshooting since all the same problems that can cause a lamp to not work can also cause flickering... defective starters, defective bulbs or a defective ballast.
IMPORTANT: Flickering fluorescent tubes can cause the ballast to overheat and fail prematurely! They can even cause a starter to burn out! Don't wait too long to fix the problem or you may end up with a bigger repair!

Testing fluorescent tubes...
First and foremost... look at the bulbs! If either bulb appears to be very dark near either end the bulb is defective or close to failure. Note the upper bulb in the left graphic... it is definitely approaching its golden years! Though this bulb is still producing light its days are numbered.

There is an electrode located inside each end of a fluorescent tube. Each has two visible pins which fit into the mounting sockets on either end of the fixture. By testing across these pins you can determine whether or not the electrodes are intact. Electrically speaking, if there is continuity across the pins, the electrode should be working. However, even if the electrodes are intact the bulb may not light. This can occur if some or all of the gas has leaked from the bulb... a condition for which there is no sniff test! Also, there may be a slight short in the electrodes that gives you a positive reading but the electrode is in fact kablooey!

Thus, the most reliable way to test a fluorescent bulb is to install it into a known working fixture. If you are troubleshooting a 4-tube fluorescent fixture, this is easy! Just remove one of the still-working pair of fluorescent tubes and replace it with each of the questionable tubes, one at a time. 99% of the time it will be one of the tubes that is the culprit.
What about pairs of fluorescent tubes?
A flickering fluorescent bulb means that it or one of a dependent pair of bulbs in the fixture has bought the farm. In many fluorescent fixtures, power is sent through a pair of bulbs. If either bulb is bad, they may both flicker or one may flicker and the other show no life.

My philosophy of sensible repair is to always replace both bulbs. Fluorescent tubes have such a long life and are so inexpensive (with the exception of some of the "natural light" bulbs) that it makes no sense to skimp.

Not that it's the most economical solution... it is just a practical viewpoint from someone (me) who has been paid to do this type of work for others (you). To receive a second call in a month because the other of the two bulbs has gone bad is neither desirable from the customer's point of view ($$) or mine (pride in a job done right).

However, if both tubes are functional, the problem is with the ballast or, if applicable, the starter. The starter is replaced first, and if that does not solve the problem, the ballast should be replaced. Read on...
Does your fixture have a starter? Maybe... though probably not!
A fluorescent starter is a little gray metallic cylinder that plugs into a socket attached to the fixture's frame. Its function is to send a delayed shot of high-voltage electricity to the gas within the fluorescent bulb. The delay allows the gas to become ionized so that it can conduct electricity. Because this process is not instantaneous, the bulbs will flicker for a few seconds before lighting. Hence, a defective starter can cause either flickering or total darkness!

Most modern fluorescent fixtures do not use starters, so you might not find one if your fixture is less than 15 to 20 years old. When determining whether your fixture uses a starter, be sure to look underneath the bulbs... sometimes the bulbs have to be removed first to gain access to the starter. If you do not see a starter... they are never hidden under any covers or "trap doors"... your fixture is a modern "self-starting" type.

Starters are rated by wattage to the bulbs they will control. If you have a fixture but have misplaced the starter, write down the wattage of any of the fluorescent tubes and take that information to the hardware store, lest you be scolded by the mean clerk and sent home without supper... or a starter.

Sadly, there is no way for the home handyman to troubleshoot a starter except by replacing it. Before replacing the existing starter, though, be sure it is securely seated in the base by removing and then reinstalling it. A starter is installed by pressing it into the socket and then turning clockwise till it locks in place. To remove a starter, press in and turn counterclockwise... then withdraw the starter. You may need

If you own fluorescent fixtures that use starters, always keep a few handy for troubleshooting purposes! And don't forget to throw away used ones... most of the time it is impossible to tell the difference between a good and bad starter!
Replacing the ballast (or not) may have unexpected side effects on your wallet!
I'm sure many of you wonder where the name "ballast" came from. After all, there is the nautical term "ballast" which refers to the contents of tanks on a submarine which control its buoyancy. Fill the ballast tanks with water and the submarine sinks... with air and it surfaces.
A defective ballast in your fluorescent fixture may make you want to sink it in the nearest pond! Indeed, the cost of replacing the ballast in a fixture may rival the cost of a new fixture... especially if you want to use a modern electronic ballast that lights the bulbs faster, runs cooler and is virtually hum-free. (Yes, Virginia, that hum when you flip on the fluorescent lamp is from the ballast, not the bulbs!)
When my customers ask my advice in this matter, I always lean to the aesthetic first. Do they like the appearance of the fixture? If not, add one point to the "replace it" side. Then I confront the ceiling repair issue. If the new fixture is smaller or has a different "footprint" than the original fixture, the ceiling may need to be repainted to cover the unpainted area under the old fixture. Sometimes, ceiling texture also has to be touched up after a fixture is taken down!
Smaller fluorescent fixtures, such as those in kitchens to illuminate countertops or built into furniture, follow the same basic criteria. Since you may have a problem finding an exact replacement fixture (especially if the fixture is very precisely sized), replacing the ballast may be the best choice.
Thus, unless the fixture is absolutely hideous, replacing the ballast is usually the least expensive repair overall when all other factors are considered!
Replacing a ballast... just follow the colors!
To the left is a graphic of a two ballast, four-bulb fluorescent lamp system, with the ballast cover off to expose the wiring. One look at the spaghetti-like wiring could make anyone lose their appetite! But get the Rolaids... all is not lost! Within that snarly mess is order... just follow the colors!
Fortunately, most modern ballasts have a wiring diagram right on the body of the ballast, with the wire colors clearly marked. If not, the diagram will be packed in the box or printed on it. As if that wasn't enough help, common ballasts often use the same color scheme, making the job about as easy as it can get!
Choosing the correct ballast...
Needless to say, when you go shopping bring your old ballast with you to assure you get the correct size. Size is not everything, though. Since you must purchase a ballast that is wired identically to the existing one, your only choice is the type of ballast, magnetic or electronic.
Magnetic ballasts are the old-time workhorses in the fluorescent world. They are inexpensive and will give 10 to 20 years of service. There were some fluorescent fixtures in my father's gas station that were over 40 years old and still working!!
Electronic ballasts are the new guys on the block. They have some specific advantages over magnetic ballasts. First, they start more quickly than magnetic ballasts. Second, they do not hum. Magnetic ballasts hum right out of the box. The sound comes from the internal vibrations caused by the magnetic core which supplies power to the bulbs. As they age, magnetic ballasts tend to get louder and louder... till they finally fail. Electronic ballasts are silent out of the box and remain so... till death do you part.
Whether the additional cost of an electronic ballast is worth up to double the cost is up to you. I personally prefer the electronic ballasts because the hum makes me nuts. It's up to you!
Can you use a dimmer with fluorescent light fixtures?
Yes and no. Yes, there is a specially-designed dimmer switch that will work with some fluorescent fixtures. However, this type of dimmer is "ballast-dependent", meaning that each brand of fluorescent dimmer will only work with certain ballasts from certain manufacturers. In other words, trying to find a dimmer to match your fixture may be a mind-numbing chore. The ideal situation is to choose the dimmer and the light fixture together to assure compatibility. Also, these dimmers will not work for incandescent fixtures. You cannot mix fluorescent fixtures and incandescent fixtures on the same switch.
The "No" part of this question is that the "conventional" dimmer switches you can purchase at the hardware store are designed for incandescent lighting only, not fluorescent lighting. If you attempt to use them, the fluorescent fixture may work but only in the full-on position, if at all.

For further information, please visit our website:
Your shouldn't feel too bad! After all, Murphy's Law says that the most likely bulb to break is the most difficult to replace, i.e. cathedral ceiling recessed floodlights! Well, let's see what we can do to get it out.