Cleaning Tips

Tips for Getting Kids to Help Clean

Wouldn't it be nice if summer didn't mean a messy house? I was thrilled to be a part of the this month's issue of TulsaKids Magazine. In this article by Betty Casey, I shared tips for keeping your home nice and tidy. My secret? Give the kiddos some ownership in assisting with the chores. Brilliant, right? Check it out:

School is out and that means kids are at home, their friends are over more, and the house is feeling the strain. While summer may mean more mess, it also means that you have more leisurely time and daylight to teach children simple tasks to keep the house clean and clutter-free, giving everyone more time to head to the pool or park. 

Expert cleaner Amy Bates, owner of Merry Maids in Tulsa, and mom, has some advice that will help involve the kids in keeping things tidy, so the whole family can spend more time having fun.

Start by looking at the ways your family uses your home. Notice where items tend to pile up or create clutter. “Have areas and baskets of your home dedicated to the items that are frequently left by the entrances and exits of your home,” Bates said. “If towels tend to be dropped right outside the patio doors leading to the pool, place a basket handy. Hooks for camp bags, bins and baskets for balls and outdoor toys should be handy in the garage. The easier it is to put things away, the more likely things will make it to their keeping areas.” 

Another smart idea to support tidy interiors is to hang shoe pockets on the bathroom doors. Tuck hair products, hair ties, bows, brushes and other small items that tend to be left strewn on counters into the pockets of the hanger. “Clear pockets make it easy to see what you need,” Bates said. “Also in bathrooms, consider hooks instead of towel bars to make it easier to put away towels. My kids were challenged with towel bars in their younger years. Easy storage makes it far easier to avoid stinky towels!”

Labeling clear bins for toys also makes it easier for children to put belongings where they belong. And if you need more storage, Bates suggests looking for unused storage areas. Throw away items you never use and reclaim the space for things you do use.

Children can also help with tidying up the house at the end of the day. “Have the children grab an empty laundry basket and round up their belongings to take back to their room,” Bates said. “If you have younger children, consider making it a contest to see who can pick up the fastest! Making it a part of your routine, this is a great habit to carry over throughout the school year.” 

Bates said that her high traffic areas need vacuuming more than once a week, but other areas can wait for a weekly sweep. Other weekly tasks such as dusting are easier once you have clutter-free surfaces, so staying on top of clutter every day shortens the time spent on once-a-week cleaning. Because families are usually less rushed during the summer months, Bates suggests that it’s a good time to talk to children about expectations for chores so that everyone can work together to keep “the house looking good and feeling manageable” in a short amount of time.

“If you like to have allowances earned (like I do!),” Bates said, “have a chart with a few ‘above and beyond’ projects like sweeping the garage, mating the unmatched sock pile, etc. that can be done to earn a little extra money.”

Good Chores for Elementary School Kids

  • Loading and unloading the dishwasher
  • Cleaning bathroom counters, patio doors
  • Picking up their own toys
  • Matching socks, sorting laundry
  • Setting the table
  • Dust mopping wood floors
  • Sweeping the porch
  • Feeding and walking the dog
  • Assist with changing linens, and dusting.

The key is to be patient with children, and to give specific tasks in small enough areas to make them achievable. 

Helpful Hints for Getting Kids to Clean

  • Set clear expectations. Bates says that “pick up your room” can mean a lot of different things to kids.
  • Set attainable goals (for example, don’t say, “Clean up the whole house before you leave in one hour.” Be specific)
  • Give immediate tasks to younger children (“Please pick up the toys since you are done playing with them.”)
  • Assign weekly tasks to older children so they can learn to manage responsibilities and time.

This Cleaning Hack Will Change How You Enjoy Your Patio This Allergy Season

I didn’t have seasonal allergies issues until I moved to Oklahoma, and it sometimes feels like it’s the allergy capital of the U.S.! In fact, Oklahoma City was ranked third and Tulsa 12th on the list of most challenging cities for spring allergies from The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. As a result, dealing with dust and pollen both inside and outside is a priority in the Bates house! 

A Sweet Fix For Preventing Cloudy Glasses From The Dishwasher

My friend and Don’t Look Under The Rug® team member, Jenna Schario, is sharing her struggles with cloudy dishes today on the blog. It was too good to pass up, so enjoy:

I didn’t grow up with a dishwasher. I spent my childhood on a farm washing dishes in an old, double sink that sat below two windows looking out at the garden. When your cracked the windows just right a cool breeze would come through the screens, giving the washer relief from the soapy hot water that was constantly spilling everywhere. 

International Home + Housewares Show 2016 - Chicago

I just got back from the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago and it was a blast! This truly was a Mecca for the cleaning obsessed! I loved previewing innovative new products, and exploring the event with fellow cleaning nuts!...I even got to meet MR. CLEAN (he does exist!)...scroll through my photos for proof:

How To Clean Your Cast Iron Skillet Without Using Soap

I really enjoy cooking with a good cast iron skillet. I love being able to take the skillet from stove top to oven in a snap. Plus, the heavy skillet speeds up cook time of roasting chicken, without drying it out, and leaves it with a delicious golden color. 

Bare cast iron vessels have been used for cooking for over two thousand years, and date back as early as the Han Dynasty. In many cases, you will see cast iron skillets, dutch ovens, or other containers passed down from generation to generation -- from grandmother, to mother, to daughter, and so on. These skillets have experienced A LOT of cooking hours, and no doubt many people will have put a lot of care in maintaining the skillet's "seasoning". This seasoning is what keeps your skillet from rusting and creates a non-stick surface, so it is definitely worth protecting. Whether you are the recipient of a generational skillet, or you bought one brand new, you definitely want to take care of it!

Cast iron skillets are different than other cooking tools, so the way you clean them needs to be different, too! The key...DO NOT WANT TO USE SOAP when cleaning your cast iron skillet (I repeat: DO NOT USE SOAP WHEN CLEANING YOUR CAST IRON SKILLET)! Why? Because using soap will take away the seasoning!

Here's my cleaning tip for cleaning your cast iron skillet...in one minute:

  I shared this cleaning tip with my friends at the NewsOn6 - The key to protecting your cast iron is to NOT use soap on it!


I shared this cleaning tip with my friends at the NewsOn6 - The key to protecting your cast iron is to NOT use soap on it!

How To Easily Clean Chocolate Stains On Clothing

So there’s a reason I know how to clean chocolate stains and smears so easily from fabric and clothing. My chocolate cleaning powers have to do with my childhood. Growing up, I never learned to eat chocolate properly without making a giant mess! You may think every child has problems with “properly eating”, but my poor candy eating skills go far beyond basic kid blunders.

See, I was raised by a self-proclaimed chocoholic AND a small-town dentist! This parental combination was confusing and challenging for me. It may be hard to understand, but I would like you to imagine these memories from my upbringing...

I would find my mom's ever-present, old, half-eaten Hershey’s bars hidden throughout the entire house. It felt like there was a constant temptation of forbidden, freshly made brownies in my mother’s kitchen. Then, “You are going to rot your teeth!” would ring in my ears as I peeled back the foil on the brownie pan. Despite the constant stream of chocolate in our house, the Hershey’s and brownies belonged to my mother, and she…did…not…like…to…share! I didn’t even dare to ask for such delicacies for myself. 

Since my father was the town dentist, to be publicly seen at the Main Street Ben Franklin buying chocolate sweets was simply not permitted. Despite my mother’s chocolate obsession, Halloween was for apples and CandiDent at my house. I was never taught to properly eat chocolate because it was taboo to have it in the first place. So when I eat chocolate as an adult, it is next to impossible to not cover every nearby surface in its melted goodness. 

Since moving from the cooler temps of Minnesota to the sweltering heat of Oklahoma, I frequently practice properly eating the divine delicacy as it melts so much faster! I have learned to easily clean up the smudges, stains and smear that milk, dark and semisweet chocolate leaves behind. So if you need to remove chocolate stains from your shirt, I have you covered with this easy cleaning tip:

How To Easily Clean Chocolate Stains on Clothing

What You Need :

  1. Access to cold water

  2. Dull knife (a butter knife does fine)

  3. Enzyme Detergent (I like TIDE)

  4. Extra clean cloth on hand

  5. Pre-treatment spray or hydrogen peroxide (in case this chocolate stain is really set in)

#happycleaning

-Amy Bates

How to Quickly and Easily Clean Baseboards

Of all the items in my house, baseboards feel like a never ending battle. And, most definitely one of my biggest housecleaning challenges. It seems to be one of the areas that I tend to see my guest's eyes glance towards when they enter a room. Could they be admiring my beautiful wood floor finish? Are they glancing down to search for my beloved pets? Well, I wish those were the circumstances. But I know the truth. I own a cleaning service company, and my guests are really inspecting my team's handiwork. Truth is, I often take my house off the schedule. So that means one thing.... I am scrambling to tidy up every time I know that doorbell is going to ring. My son, Adam, has a friend coming over Saturday morning? No problem! It simply means the area six feet inside the front door needs my immediate attention. How do I get that area ready for inspection? I will let you in on one of my favorite easy DIY cleaning tips:

DRYER SHEETS. Yes, they are the best little baseboard cleaners on earth! Sure, you could grab a microfiber or treated dust cloth. But if you use Snuggle or Downy sheets, keep the used ones after you finish the laundry. Don't throw those lovely things in the trash, repurpose those babies! They make some of the greatest smelling dust clothes imaginable. Dusting baseboards is a great easy chore for kids, and they love earning the extra money if you pay for chores. Even better, incorporate it into a regular task as a part of their allowance or simple household chores. Bonus: the sweet-smelling waxy coating is a magnet for pet hair and dust and will freshen your room and make the work more enjoyable!  I just love easy cleaning tips that use what I already have on hand!

There are areas and times where you will need to wash your baseboards. I love mixing up a bucket of hot water with a bit of all-purpose cleaner and a squirt of Dawn dish soap. You can even add a small splash of lemon oil to the mix, but watch it, if you have flat paint. On occasion, I use a mixture hot water and Murphy's Oil soap. Either DIY solution will get the job done. For reference, I tend to hit each room, at least, every six months, and the rest of the year it is dryer sheets. Easy Cleaning Helpful Hint: Keep a moistened magic eraser with you as you clean to help remove scuffs from your painted walls.

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Here are the key areas that need your attention first:

1. Areas near doors into your home. Whether patio doors, garage doors, or the all important front door, keep them clean.

2. Bathroom baseboards. These are a must clean...especially around the toilet. The truth is, this zone may take a bit more love. Grab a magic eraser for the wall around the stool, please don't forget the area behind the toilet, and next to it. In fact, while you are there, wipe the base of the stool down. Trust me, it needs it!


3. Laundry room: Lint. Enough said.

And there you have it! While running around with a laundry basket to hide clutter from last minute guests, I always have a dryer sheet in hand. Now you know one of my super secrets. Welcome to the inner circle, you have virtually looked under the rug in the Bates house! #happycleaning
 


How To Make a Pet-Safe Carpet Deodorizer

My two dogs are a huge part of my family, life and cleaning regimen. There is “Louie the Wonder Beagle” and “Ziggy the Beast”. I am sure you can imagine their personalities based on their colorful names. Neither dog knows they are not human, so they love to be wherever I am in the house. They even occasionally steal a car ride when I am headed to work at my cleaning business. They seem to be everywhere in one form or another. On the couch, in the laundry room, and in the kitchen stealing snacks from my team on video shoots. Louie sheds hair like crazy, but Ziggy on the other hand is an Airedale Terrier and doesn’t share his hair nearly as much. In any case, I have become a cleaning expert at battling pet hair in my house. But I still have one area I fear: Pet smells!

  My dogs, "Ziggy the Beast" and "Louie the Wonder Beagle" like to share their cuteness, pet hair and doggie aroma in the house! I use this DIY carpet deodorizer to keep that "cuteness" at bay!


My dogs, "Ziggy the Beast" and "Louie the Wonder Beagle" like to share their cuteness, pet hair and doggie aroma in the house! I use this DIY carpet deodorizer to keep that "cuteness" at bay!

Unpleasant dog odor can come from many places. Ziggy’s coat is oilier than many other dog breeds which causes it to be stinkier during certain seasons. But a dog’s coat isn’t the only culprit - pet odor can seep into your carpets! Our house is primarily hardwood floors but the living and family rooms do have carpet rugs - which just happens to be the places my dogs like to lounge the most! These are also the areas of my home where guests tend to hangout.

One such time was when my mother-in-law was coming for a visit. Before she arrived, I was nervous there was a dog smell coming from the carpet in front of the television and around the couches. I knew my mother-in-law, or myself for that matter, would not appreciate the aroma welcoming her stay. Lighting candles wasn’t going to do it. So it was time to do a full on carpet deodorizer session in the Bates’ home!

Having pets means you need to use cleaning products that are safe and effective. Pet safe cleaning is a huge part of my cleaning regimen at home and in my cleaning business. But guess what?! You don’t have to spend a lot of money on deodorizer treatments to eliminate dog odor in your carpet! Here is my D.I.Y. cleaning tip on how to make pet-safe carpet deodorizer:

Ingredients and tools for pet-safe carpet deodorizer:

  • ½ cup borax
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • Plastic container for mixing and storage
  • 20 drops of essential oil of choice (a lavender blend is a good choice)
  • Sifter
  • Spoon

Mix the borax, baking soda and essential oil in a large bowl with spoon. You can then put it in a pretty mason jar with a lid but I never have time for that, so I leave it in a labeled plastic container. Find the carpet areas of your home where your pets hang out the most. For our home, Louie and Ziggy LOVE the carpet rug in the living room area, with direct view of my kitchen counters. They like to watch me cook as they chew on bones and snooze. Spoon the mixture through a sifter (to break up any big clots) and over the most trafficked areas. Wait 30 minutes and then vacuum up the carpet! It is completely pet friendly, natural and will leave your carpet and home smelling amazing!

Then, use these other cleaning tips between carpet deodorizer treatments to keep your home smelling great:

  1. Open the windows to let fresh air in at least once per day, for at least 10 minutes
  2. On occasion, vacuum the underside of area rugs to help minimize the dust and pet dander dogs create.
  3. Change your vacuum bag regularly
  4. Clean up pet accidents right away
  5. Use a blacklight to check for any accident spots you may have missed
  6. Keep your pets groomed
  7. Clean cages, crates and pet bedding regularly
  8. Have a lint roller and microfiber towel handy to rid furniture and lamps of pet hair in a hurry
  9. Check out these other great Clean-House Tips for Pet Owners from MarthaStewart.com

How To Clean Up Now That The Holidays Are Over - Today Show Cleaning Tips

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If you follow me online, you will know I recently was on the Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda! It was an amazing experience, and I absolutely loved sharing quick cleaning tricks to help viewers clean up after guests. The whole trip was a whirlwind filled with friends, laughs, a little bit of nerves, and of course...some amazing cleaning tips! 

WATCH MY SEGMENT: "HOW TO CLEAN UP NOW THAT THE HOLIDAYS ARE OVER" FROM THE TODAY SHOW

Now for the behind the scenes of my trip to the Today Show:

I definitely want to send out a mega huge THANKS to Merry Maids for the opportunity to represent them. Plus, my great friend Kim was so much fun while she dashed around New York City with me! We have been friends for many years and she was sweet enough to take off a bit of time from her job to help keep me sane (let's just say, I am not use to the hustle and bustle of NYC)!

When I arrived, we met and went for a delicious dinner of Peking Duck at a awesome little place called Decoy.  It was simply amazing, and rightfully so, because I found out later that Decoy's Perking Duck was ranked #1 out of 10 Top NYC Restaurants by GQ's Alan Richman!  I LOVE Peking duck, and so I was glad she made a reservation! 

Trying to procure all of the props and stain them for the Today Show segment was not easy. I am grateful the Merry Maid's home office team member helped shop and stain things for me!  Even the candles had to be burned down. The cooking segment before mine had Kathie Lee Gifford giving a sample of the choco-covered banana to a guest.  Right before I went live (live taped), the producer saw that he had disposed of his banana in my coffee cup and used my clean cleaning cloth to wipe his face! This all worked out perfectly, because the stained and dirty dishes actually looked like stained and dirty dishes!!

As I waited in the green room, my tummy was growling SO loudly I was terrified the microphone was going to pick up the sound! But I was a little distracted at least because I saw Carmen Elektra and Rachel Patton in the green room!

When I got on set Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda are nothing short of hilarious and sweet.  They immediately made me feel comfortable and were so fun to work with on set!  I just wished I could have completed all of the cleaning tips, as promised. I've done television segments many times in the past, and it never seems like you have enough time. But then again, I guess time flies when you are having fun! 

Traveling during this trip was a little challenging.  I never, EVER, leave anything behind...until now! I started off the night before my segment by leaving my phone in a cab! Thank goodness it was delivered back to me at the hotel! Thank you, honest cabbie! There was construction next door to my room. Thankfully the hotel staff moved me, but I left my nightgown in the room, and it was never seen again.  Then, I realized I left my beloved hair dryer in the hotel when I headed back to Tulsa! Next time, I will keep my travel packing cubes perfectly and double check the room.  

As a joke, when I travel I look for items people leave behind in hotel rooms - like socks or random shoes. No luck this time (which isn't necessarily a bad thing)! My room at the Hilton was very clean, and staff was awesome. But, they likely are laughing at me now, because I AM THE ONE WHO LEFT SO MUCH BEHIND!

Cleaning Tips For Fighting The Flu At Home

Oh my gosh! The flu season is here and after the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it is time for some cleaning tips to use after all the guests have left!

So just a little reminder about how the flu is spread (Thank you WebMD):

Basically anytime you are in large groups and someone has the flu virus, you are at major risk to get the flu yourself. Think daycare facilities, workplace, college dorms and your own home! When you inhale droplets in the air that contain the flu virus or handle something a person contaminated with the flu has touched, you could be on your way to suffering the effects. No fun. 

What to do?

WASH YOUR HANDS - like your mother or grandmother always told you - and in the event you do get sick - STAY HOME (obvious)! But while you (or a loved one) is on the mend at home, make sure to use these cleaning tips to keep the icky flu virus from spreading or accidentally recontaminating yourself:

Areas to remember to clean when you have the flu:

  • Pillows, sheets and other bedding
  • Toothbrushes
  • Fridge handles, door knobs (pretty much all door knobs)
  • Light switches
  • Cell phone screens
  • Remote control
  • Counters (especially where you cook or are performing personal hygiene)
  • The cabinets where you keep the drink ware
  • Stove top (any area where you are putting food in mouth)