Cleaning Basements Attics and Garages: Since these spaces are hidden, it may not seem important to keep them clean, but regularly cleaning your basement, attic, and garage has benefits. You can catch problems with leaks, mold, insulation, pests, and other issues more quickly, and cleaning away dust from these areas will make your whole home cleaner and may improve allergies and asthma symptoms. Finally, storing your belongings in a cleaner place will help them stay in better shape, especially clothing and other fabrics, which can degrade in dirty and moist conditions. Make the job manageable by cleaning these spaces 2–3 times per year.
BASEMENTS AND ATTICS
Protect yourself. Since these rooms are often dirty, dusty places, be sure to wear a filtering face mask while you clean to protect your lungs from allergens. Wear gloves to protect your hands from grimy surfaces and sharp objects. In your attic, always walk on floor joists instead of between them to be extra safe.
Move stored items to facilitate easy cleaning. Stack all your stored belongings in one area, or move things as you go, so you can easily access the floor and other surfaces to clean more thoroughly. Consolidate boxes if you can to reduce clutter and free up more storage containers for use in the rest of the house.
Remove musty smells with an onion. To remove offensive odors throughout your home, cut an onion in half, and place it near the smell. Let it sit overnight. The onion will absorb the odor, and it should be gone by the next morning.
Deep clean concrete with soapy water. Scrub really dusty, dirty concrete with soapy water and a scrub brush. Rinse carefully with the garden hose or buckets of clean water, and suck up excess water with a wet/dry vac. Leave the basement door open (if weather permits) and the dehumidifier running to air out the rest of the moisture left from cleaning.
Clean up efflorescence. Efflorescence is a white powder that can accumulate on concrete in basements. It’s actually salt that is left behind when concrete floors or walls seep and the water evaporates. Clean it up with a scrub brush, mop, or cleaning cloth and some soapy water. If it returns, you may need to waterproof your basement.
Look for mold. Mold is usually black or gray, but it can also be orange, brown, green, or white. Musty smells also indicate moisture and mold and mildew growth.
Kill mold and mildew with vodka. Spray surfaces liberally with vodka to kill fungal growth. Let them sit for 30 minutes to an hour, then scrub clean with soapy water. Spray the surface again lightly to serve as a barrier against future growth. You can also use hydrogen peroxide in place of vodka if you prefer.
Prevent molds from forming with a dehumidifier. Most basements have too much moisture, so to prevent issues that moisture can cause, such as mold and mildew growth, it’s important to keep a dehumidifier running at all times to absorb moisture from the air.
Store belongings in plastic containers. Cardboard boxes are not the best choice for storing items. Moisture can cause the cardboard to break down fast, rendering it unusable, and these boxes offer no protection against mold and mildew growth and pest infestations. To protect your belongings, store them in sealable plastic bags or bins. Stack the containers to preserve space, and consolidate if you can.
Use your vacuum hose to suck up cobwebs and dust. Unless you already clean your basement and attic regularly, you’ll probably have to deal with a lot of dust. Instead of wiping surfaces clean with a cloth, first vacuum up dirt and debris, or use a broom to sweep up the mess. Use your vacuum’s attachments to reach smaller spaces. If you see signs of rodent infestation, set up traps, or call an exterminator.
Purge your belongings. Now would be a great time to go through everything to see if you can sell it or give it away. If it’s in your attic or basement and not being used regularly, chances are you don’t really need it. Of course, the exceptions are seasonal items like holiday decorations.
Keep your basement and attic cleaner longer. Reduce the amount of dirt and dust that accumulates in your attic and basement by sealing cracks and holes that may allow dirt, dust mites, and other pests into your home. Check for leaks, and seal them immediately to keep mold and mildew from getting out of control.
Get rid of the clutter. Find a new home for everything you don’t need. Have a yard sale, give things away, or donate them. When your storage space is overflowing, you need to ask yourself repeatedly: “Do I really need this?” Go through your belongings at least once or twice a year to see if you can get rid of anything else.
Air it out. Leave the garage door open for a while to remove any offensive odors and help the floor dry faster. Direct a fan across the floor to help moisture evaporate even more quickly. Clean surfaces and neutralize with a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water used as a cleaning spray. Set out dishes full of baking soda to freshen even more.
Dispose of dangerous items properly. Most areas have laws governing how you can dispose of toxic chemicals; electronics like computers, air conditioners, and printers; and other hazardous materials. Check with your town’s sanitation department to see how they dispose of such items.
Remove dirt, dust, and debris. Work from top to bottom, cleaning the floor last. Use a broom to remove cobwebs and dust from the walls and corners. Sweep the floor thoroughly. Mop with 1/2 tablespoon of Sal Suds in 3 gallons of water, using a deck brush to scrub the floor thoroughly, then rinse clean with a garden hose. Squeegee the floor to remove excess water, or use a wet/dry vac. Let the floor dry completely before putting your things back in the garage.
Inspect your garage door regularly. Malfunctioning garage doors, especially motorized doors, can cause serious injuries. Regularly inspect the door and motor to ensure they are in good working order, and immediately fix any problems as they arise. Wipe the door and hardware clean with a damp cloth, paying special attention to the tracks. Don’t lubricate the tracks, since doing so may cause the door to shift and become unbalanced.
Chemical-Free Ways to Remove Stains from Concrete
All sorts of difficult stains can crop up on concrete. Never use a metal brush to scrub concrete, as it can scratch the surface and cause permanent damage. Use these tips to keep your garage and driveway looking great.
Use powdered laundry detergent to remove barbecue grease. Sprinkle powdered laundry detergent on the stain. Add a little water to form a thick paste, and scrub the mixture into the stain. Let it sit at least 30 minutes, then rinse.
Treat motor oil stains with dish soap. Squirt liquid dish soap on the stain, and scrub with a stiff-bristle brush. Let it sit for 30 minutes, and use the hose to rinse the soap away.
Clean rust stains from concrete with Kool-Aid. Combine a packet of Kool-Aid Lemonade powder with a few drops of hot water to form a paste. Apply it on the stain, and let it sit for 10 minutes. Scrub with a firm bristle brush, then rinse with clean water.
Use boiling water to get rid of moss and algae stains. Pour a pot of boiling water over the stain, scrub with a brush, and rinse well with a high-pressure garden hose.
Remove mildew stains with a pressure washer. Buy or rent a pressure washer so you can clean mildew from concrete surfaces without using any chemicals. If this doesn’t work, spray the stain liberally with white vinegar, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Scrub clean, and rinse with a garden hose. You can also use hydrogen peroxide or vodka to clean mold and mildew stains. Be careful when cleaning mold and mildew. Cleaning can release spores into the air, so it’s a good idea to wear a protective face mask, gloves, and eye protection, especially when scrubbing and hosing off the stains.
Scrub away leaf stains with dish soap. Squirt a little natural dish soap or Sal Suds on the stain, and add a little water to make it foam. Scrub the stain with a brush, then rinse well with high pressure from the hose.
Swap commercial salt deicers for baking soda. Commercial salt deicers can stain concrete. Remove ice without the chemicals and staining by sprinkling with baking soda instead. This works because baking soda is a type of salt, and it lowers the freezing point of treated surfaces.
Round up water with a cheap DIY floor squeegee. Put a piece of foam pipe insulation over the tines of a gardening rake to quickly sweep water to a drain or out the door.
Soak up spills effortlessly with sawdust. Pour sawdust on the spill. Let it sit for 30 minutes, then sweep it up. No dealing with sopping towels! This trick even works for oil spills.
Clean out your garage fast with a leaf blower. Instead of spending all that time sweeping the floor, blow out dirt and debris the quick and easy way with your leaf blower. Put on gloves, a dust mask, safety glasses, and ear protection, and blow your mess right out the door.
Use vertical space for storage. Garages often have loads of unused vertical space. Build a shelf close to the ceiling for storage bins and coolers, and hang bicycles, kayaks, lawn care equipment, and more to free up floor space.
Clean safety glasses in the dishwasher. Toss your safety glasses in the top shelf of the dishwasher to remove dirt and gunk.
Renew old paintbrushes with vinegar. Soak messy nylon paintbrushes in white vinegar for 30 minutes to loosen paint and soften bristles. Wash with soap and water, using your fingers to remove any remaining paint, then rinse well, and air-dry.
Help your vacuum reach new heights with a PVC pipe. Attach a 10-foot PVC pipe, available in the plumbing aisle at your local hardware store, to your vacuum’s hose, and use it to clean higher than ever before without using a ladder or step stool.
Remove grease from hands with a homemade sugar scrub. Mix granulated sugar with enough water to form a paste, and use it to scrub motor oil right off hands!
Zap oil stains with soda. Pour soda over the stain, let it sit overnight, then rinse with the hose.
Clean up all sorts of sticky messes with homemade all-natural gunk remover. This DIY gunk remover does an amazing job of cleaning paint and grease from your hands and surfaces, including concrete, tools, plastic, and more—and is completely safe to use!
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup coconut oil
10 drops lemon essential oil
- Mix the baking soda and coconut oil in a small bowl until well combined. (You can use another kind of vegetable oil, such as olive oil, instead if that’s what you have on hand.) Add the essential oil, and stir well.
- To use, apply a dab to remove stickers and labels, and let them sit for 20 minutes. Rinse in warm water, and scrub the label with your finger or a cloth. To clean your skin, put a small glob in your hand, and rub it into your stained skin. Use a toothbrush for extra scrubbing power, if needed, then rinse and dry.
Natural Ways to Clean and Prevent Rust
Since garages often hold tools, bicycles, cars, and other metal objects, you may find yourself dealing with a rust problem at some point. Commercial rust cleaners are especially harsh and dangerous to your health and the environment. Learn how to remove rust naturally with these safe and easy methods.
Scrub away rust with steel wool. The best place to start cleaning rust is with good old elbow grease. See how much rust you can scrub away with steel wool, a wire brush, sandpaper, or even a balled-up piece of aluminum foil.
Get more cleaning power with baking soda. Make a paste by mixing baking soda with a little water, making sure the paste is thick enough to stick to the rusty surface. Apply the paste, let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour, then scrub with steel wool.
Prevent rust before it starts. The easiest way to fight rust is to prevent it in the first place. Whenever possible, store metal items indoors and away from moist areas like basements. Store garden tools in a bucket full of sand to keep them dry and rust-free. Prime and paint objects that may be exposed to wet conditions, such as bikes, lawn furniture, and outdoor fixtures, to prevent rust from forming again.
Use cola as a rust remover. Soft drinks contain phosphoric acid, which is another good rust dissolver. Soak items in soda for 24 hours, then scrub and rinse thoroughly. You may want to follow up with some natural dish soap to remove any stickiness left behind by the sugar content. If the item is larger and can’t be soaked, saturate a sponge with soda, apply it to the item, and scrub. For chrome fixtures on motorcycles, bicycles, and cars, put some cola on a piece of aluminum foil crumpled into a ball, and use it to scrub away light rust.
Make a scrub with lemon and salt. Sprinkle kosher salt on the rust, and add lemon juice. Let the mixture sit for just a few minutes, then start scrubbing, adding more salt and lemon juice, if needed. Don’t let it sit too long, though, since lemon is an even stronger acid than white vinegar and can damage the metal underneath with prolonged contact. If you’re using fresh lemon, cut the lemon in half and use the salt and lemon like a scrub sponge. Just like with vinegar, you’ll want to make sure to rinse well after cleaning.
Mix lemon and vinegar for a superstrong cleaner. Soak rusty items in a solution with a 1:1 ratio of white vinegar and lemon juice for the strongest cleaning yet! You’ll want to keep an eye on this cleaning method, however, since this soaking mixture is even stronger than using vinegar or lemon alone. Please note that the acids in vinegar and lemon juice may temporarily turn items black, but this should go away after rinsing with water.
Clean tough rust buildup with vinegar. The acetic acid content in vinegar dissolves rust, so if you’re not making much headway with scrubbing, try soaking rusty objects in white vinegar. Just be sure to rinse objects thoroughly after cleaning since prolonged exposure may cause permanent damage.
For really stubborn rust, use diluted ammonia. If none of these natural hacks are working, you may need to resort to something even stronger. Some people use ammonia in natural cleaning, but it’s actually pretty toxic. Just be careful when handling, always wear gloves and eye protection, and keep out of reach of children and pets. To remove rust, mix 1 teaspoon of ammonia for every cup of warm water, and soak the
items. Check at least once per hour, and scrub away any loosened rust. Once the rust is removed, be sure to clean the item with soapy water, and rinse thoroughly to ensure no ammonia is left behind.
Remove light rust with a potato. Potatoes naturally contain oxalic acid, which dissolves rust. Cut a raw potato in half, sprinkle some kosher salt on the area, and use the potato to scrub the rust away.
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