Put Your Elbow Grease to Work

We’re not talking about spring cleaning. For now forget about the floors, dust and windows. Look to the items you have neglected, maybe forever. There are places in your home could be harboring all sorts of nasty gunk and grime. They might not appear dirty, but don’t forget to clean them to keep them working properly and to keep you and your family safe.

If your broom and mop are coated in dirt, you’re ultimately only spreading it around your house when you’re trying to clean. Soak your mop in a mixture of water and bleach to kill anything that’s seeped into it. To clean your broom head, soak it in water and dish soap then wipe it down and let it dry.

Bath mats on the bathroom floor get just as dirty as your towels do. Dirt, dead skin and more end up there and accumulate, and even if your feet look clean, you can track contaminants to other parts of your house. Wash bath mats regularly and spritz them with white vinegar to clean bacteria between washes.

Gunk and buildup on your iron might make it seem like it’s time to buy a new one. But you can make it as good as new by cleaning it with a vinegar and baking soda paste.

Aside from getting tossed in carts and on conveyor belts, reusable grocery bags can get covered in gunk from your groceries, including dirt from vegetables, juice from leaky raw meat and more. Canvas bags can be washed in the washing machine, while recycled plastic bags can be washed by hand in warm soapy water and air dried.

Most people know that smartphones and tablets are magnets for germs because they touch all kinds of surfaces. There are plenty of electronic wipe products on the market because of this. But most people don’t consider items like their driver’s licence and credits cards when wiping down their personal possessions. These cards are handled by other people and set on all sorts of different surfaces. Use a towel or antibacterial wipe to clean it off and then rub an eraser along the magnetic strip to remove any grime that would make it harder to read.

Washing your sheets and pillowcases is part of your cleaning routine, but what about washing your pillows themselves? Dust mites, a major trigger of allergies and asthma, and their droppings accumulate by the millions in your pillow, as can multiple kinds of fungus, so it’s recommended to wash it in hot water. Check the tag on your pillow to find washing instructions.

Your keys can collect all sorts of germs, grease and dirt. On top of sanitizing them, make sure they’re free of rust by scrubbing them with salt and lemon juice or soaking them in water and vinegar. Toothpaste can also help make keys shiny and clean.

Small appliances are often not cleaned as regularly as they should be. While you might clean the coffee pot, what about the coffee maker itself? Bean debris and hard water deposits build up inside the machine. Run a cycle with half vinegar and half water to flush it out, and then a couple more cycles of just water to clear out the vinegar. You can do the same thing with Keurig machines.

You touch your car’s steering wheel and dashboard buttons after touching all sorts of surfaces, including gas pumps and your dirty exterior door handles, so it shouldn’t be surprising how dirty they can be. Wipe down plastic parts with disinfectant wipe and use leather cleaner for any leather surfaces.

It’s obvious when glass shower doors are grimy. But shower curtains can look deceptively clean. Although they’re constantly exposed to soap and warm water, that doesn’t mean they’re clean. In fact, they’re a breeding ground for all sorts of mold and mildew if not cleaned regularly (ideally at least once a month). You can run plastic shower curtains through the washing machine on the rinse cycle with a little white vinegar or run it through the wash cycle with detergent.

Even the sturdiest trash bag is prone to leave little bits of food and garbage lingering in your trash can that can fester and leave unpleasant smells even after you take out the trash. Small indoor trash cans can sometimes fit in your dishwasher for a thorough clean. For large indoor or outdoor garbage bins, take them outside, add some dish soap, scrub them out and spray them down with a hose.

The exhaust fans in your bathroom and kitchen get just as filthy as ceiling fan blades, but the dust and grease accumulates behind a grille or cover. Blast out dirt from the bathroom exhaust fan with a can of compressed air and wipe the exterior with a microfiber cloth. Remove and clean the mesh filters and fans in your kitchen exhaust.

Even after the rinse cycle, your dishwasher can remain dirty. Hard water deposits, soap scum and other buildup can cling onto the racks, and food can clog the drains. Scrub these places thoroughly, then run a cycle on hot with white vinegar to clean and disinfect. Remember to clean the filter.

Dust accumulates on houseplants just the same as other surfaces in your home. Brush down sleek leaves with a duster or microfiber cloth, or spritz them with water and wipe down. For textured or fuzzy leaves, you can use a toothbrush to get into the grooves.

Kitchen, bathtub and shower drains get a lot of TLC to make sure they don’t get clogged with hair, soap scum and food. But the drains in your bathroom sinks shouldn’t be neglected. Pop-up bathroom sink plugs are easy to forget to clean because you can’t see the gunk surrounding them. But before your bathroom sink gets so clogged it’s unable to drain, disconnect the stopper piece from underneath the sink to give it a good cleaning, and remove all the debris stuck in the pipe above it.

Most people know to wipe down their patio furniture before storing it away for the winter and again getting it out in time for backyard barbecues in the spring. But many people neglect their outdoor umbrellas, especially the inside. Dirt, moisture and bugs get trapped inside and can stain the fabric, allow mildew to grow and possibly even rust the metal mechanisms in the umbrella. Brush or vacuum out debris before washing the umbrella with warm water and laundry detergent. Add bleach to tackle mildew or tree sap stains.

Running over your lampshades with a duster once in a blue moon might not be enough to grab grime that has sunk into the surface. Try rolling it with a sticky lint roller, or vacuum it with an upholstery brush attachment. If your fabric lampshade is stained, soak the lampshade in warm soapy water with laundry or dishwashing detergent, then scrub it clean, rinse and dry.

So many crumbs fall into the bottom of a toaster. When these accumulate, they can start to burn, creating an unappetizing smell, or even catch fire. On top of simply dumping out the crumbs, wash out your toaster using soapy water and a washcloth, thin scrubber or toothbrush to make this small appliance as good as new.

Many people empty out their dust cup and replace or clean the filters on their vacuum regularly, but some additional steps are necessary to keep this appliance running smoothly. Wash your dust cup with warm soapy water and check your brushes, belts, and hoses to remove any built-up dirt or hair caught in them. It’s important to keep your vacuum clean, because it’s just one of the many areas of your home where dangerous bacteria might be growing.

Happy cleaning, everyone!

Great Inventions from the Heartland

From agriculture to high tech, sports to personal comfort, inventors from America’s heartland and Canada have given us great inventions.

A Canadian gym teacher from Almonte, Ont., James Naismith, is credited with creating the game of basketball in 1891.

St. Louis, Mo., native John S. Thurman devised the world’s first powered vacuum cleaner in 1898 and named it the “pneumatic carpet renovator.” The enormous gadget had an internal combustion engine and traveled from house to house on a horse-drawn cart as part of a mobile cleaning service.

In 1913, aviation pioneers William Purvis and Charles Wilson were awarded a patent for the world’s first helicopter which they developed in Goodland, Kan.

Quebec-born Arthur Sicard produced the first snow blower in 1925, and today he is hailed from January to March by Canadians trying to clear their driveways.

And probably no one gave the world such a lift as Moses (Moe) Nadler. The Montreal-born Nadler invented the Wonderbra. Nadler was the founder and majority owner of the Canadian Lady Corset Company.

Women have been using improvised tampons for thousands of years – for instance, soft papyrus was the material of choice in ancient Egypt – but the first modern tampon featuring a tube within a tube applicator was invented by Dr. Earle Hass in Denver,Colo., in 1929.

One of the most notable and important Canadian inventions ever, insulin, was created by Dr. Frederick Banting, an Alliston, Ont., native and Nobel laureate. He shared credit with his colleague Dr. Charles Best.

A colossal 90% of land in Iowa is dedicated to farming, so it’s only fitting that the gasoline-powered tractor was invented in the state. John Froelich built the very first one in Clayton County back in 1892.

Next time you take out the trash, thank Winnipegger Harry Wasylyk, the man behind the modern-day garbage bag. He, along with Larry Hansen of Lindsay, Ont., invented a disposable green polyethylene garbage bag – they were first intended for commercial use at places like hospitals and quickly became a household must. The invention was marketed by Union Carbide as the Glad bag.

In 1936, Omaha’s James Michael Curran invented the first ski lift, without which the modern ski industry couldn’t function. Before Curran’s invention, skiers had to use tow ropes powered by horses or engines to get up the mountain. Seems strange that this one comes from a flat-lander!

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s Superman, a hero across the globe but one who was created by American writer Jerry Siegel and Toronto-born artist Joe Shuster in 1932.

Heart patients the world over have engineer Earl Bakken of Minnesota to thank for developing the implantable pacemaker. The battery-powered device was invented by Bakken in 1957 at the Medtronic workout in Fridley, following a blackout that killed one of his patients, who was dependent on a large, mains-operated pacemaker.

The classic breakfast cereal Cream of Wheat was first manufactured in 1893 by wheat millers in Grand Forks, N.D., and the semolina-based porridge fast became America’s most popular breakfast staple, enjoyed in homes up and down the country.

South Dakota-born nuclear scientist Ernest Lawrence was awarded the 1939 Nobel Prize in physics for the cyclotron, the particle accelerator he patented in 1935, and the precursor to CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.

Known as the “Space Suit Father,” innovator Siegfried Hanson of Wisconsin developed the early Mark I space suit during the 1950s, playing an important role in the Space Race, which began in August 1955 and continued up until the early 1990s.

Illinois engineer Engineer Martin Cooper developed the first handheld mobile phone in 1973 while working at Motorola in Schaumburg, Ill. Dubbed “the brick,” the bulky device measured 10 inches and weighed a hefty 2.5 pounds.