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Scotts Lawn Care

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Wayne Dalton

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Useful Home Tips

Although our column usually tackles a specific project or subject, this week we're sharing some useful tips with you.

Deck safety check

Recent deck collapses you might have read about underscore the need for proper construction and periodic deck safety checks. Despite good plans, building permits, inspections and building codes, as decks age they can become unsafe. Boards rot, insects destroy wood integrity, and fasteners and railings consequently loosen. The result: a weakened structure. The bigger and higher (and older) the deck, porch or balcony, the greater is the need for doing things right and for frequent checkups.

Drilling ceramic tile

If you're installing a towel bar, shelf or paper holder, drill straight and true, and prevent drill-tip slip and slide. Here's how: Make an "X" by placing two strips of masking tape over your mark. Then drill through it, using a carbide tip bit. The tape will keep the bit from traveling as it grinds through the surface glazing and on, into and through the softer ceramic back. Ease up toward the end to avoid pushing out the backside of the drywall or backer board. The cleaner the hole, both through the tile and inside the wall, the better hollow-wall fasteners will grip and hold.

Concrete painting preparation

Whether you're adding a touch of color on a concrete bench or table, or painting an entire garage or basement floor, here's a preparation that retards - if not eliminates - peeling. Wash first with warm water, rinse and let dry thoroughly, at least a day. Then, using a clean paintbrush, apply a generous coat of white vinegar as a pre-paint primer. Once dry, it will increase the bond, and paints will hold and last much longer. White vinegar pre-wash works well on metal, wood and plastic surfaces, too.

Candle wax on carpets

One of the toughest carpet cleanups is melted candle wax. Cover drips with a brown paper grocery bag and gently run a warm iron over the spot. Start with a low temperature, and keep checking and increasing the temperature as you go. The heat will liquefy the wax and the paper bag will absorb it. Keep checking and repositioning the bag until all wax is absorbed. Caution: too much heat can damage your carpet. Start low and increase heat gradually.

Hollow-wall stud helpers

When you open a wall or build new—and have exposed framing—take time to think ahead concerning things you might want to install in the future. Atop windows, add extra lumber nailed flush between the studs just below the top plate at each end of the header. Later on, you'll have solid backing for any curtains, valences and accessories you want to install. Add backup blocking anywhere you might need extra support later on (for grab bars, shelves or wall-mounted accessories). Not building or opening up a wall? Add strength and support with surface-mounted half-inch-plus lumber. For a spiffier look, use a prefab shelf instead with plastic laminate on all six sides and matching snap-in screw head covers.

Rug corners that curl

Got rug corners that won't stay put and curl and lift up? All you need is a piece of peel-and-stick floor tile a foot square, at least. With a pair of scissors or a utility knife, trim off each of the corners to form four large triangles. Then peel the backing and stick each one to the underside of the rug, where corners are curling. The tile will straighten the unsightly curl and the extra weight will help keep them flat and in place.

Barbecue tuneup

Ready for summer cookouts, but your grill isn't? Here's a quick refresher course: Wrap grill racks loaded with crusty barbecue sauce with aluminum foil (all around with the shiny side in), close the lid and cook on high for 15 minutes. If the lava rocks below are grease-laden, don't replace them. Just turn them over and "cook" them as well. Later, grill racks can be rinsed and brushed to look like new, and grease will have cooked right out of the Lava rocks. Spray high-heat glass windows with glass cleaner, and dab some fine gray fireplace ash on a dampened soft cloth. Rub, and the ash will permeate the microscopic pores and reduce surface tension, making cleaning easier. Oven cleaner adds horsepower, too.

Dramatic deck illumination

The clever use of rope lights and cable illumination systems turns average decks into stunning showplace settings. These lights, contained in flexible clear tubing, can be bent, curved or added onto. The low-voltage mini-bulbs can be clear or one of a myriad of dazzling colors. Rope and cable lighting throws soft indirect long runs of light on or around almost anything. Used under hand railings, on stairs and to outline decks, it adds shimmering pizazz to starry summer nights.


Caring for Patio Furniture

Aside from being unsightly (which can cause one to lose his appetite), stained and dirty patio furniture can turn a clean pair of shorts or a skirt into something that looks more like an automotive shop rag.

Even worse than getting dirty is getting hurt. This can easily happen if a chair leg is loose, rusted, bent or cracked.

More often than not, regular cleaning and periodic repair and maintenance can prevent accidents from occurring. If people treated their outdoor furniture like they treat the outside of their cars, it would look better, last longer and be safer.

A thorough rinsing with the garden hose once a week usually is all that is required. Most furniture should be thoroughly cleaned every four to six months with a solution of dishwashing detergent in warm-to-hot water. Use a sponge, cloth or soft nylon brush to apply the solution. Never use abrasive cleaning products or an abrasive applicator such as a scouring pad or steel wool as these could permanently damage the finish.

Among the most difficult-to-remove stains are those caused by tanning lotion. We suggest that a towel be placed between the tanning body and the chair or lounge to prevent staining.

Outdoor wicker is becoming increasingly popular for patios. The wicker and cushions periodically should be vacuumed using an upholstery tool. Both the frame and wicker can be washed with the detergent solution referred to earlier. Wipe dry with a soft, clean, dry cloth and apply a coat of auto wax to the frames.

Wax my patio furniture? Have the Carey Brothers gone nuts? Well, not totally. If it's good for your fancy set of wheels why not your outdoor furniture? Be it plastic (PVC), vinyl-coated, fiberglass or metal, a coat of wax can make your furniture look almost new. What's more, the wax will help the finish to resist staining, make it easier to clean and slow down natural deterioration that results from prolonged exposure to the elements.

Acrylic cushions should be spot-cleaned by sponging briskly with soap in lukewarm water. The area should then be thoroughly rinsed with clean water to remove the soap, and allowed to air dry. Stubborn stains generally can be removed with a commercial cleaning product or stain remover.

Solution-dyed acrylic does not promote mildew - dirt does. Therefore, if mildew is present, you're sure to get rid of it using our famous solution that consists of one-third cup powdered laundry detergent, one quart of liquid chlorine bleach and three quarts of warm water. Add the bleach to the water first and then the detergent. Put the solution into a spray bottle and apply it onto the affected areas. But don't let it dry. Rinse with fresh water, and towel dry. Even though this solution is mild, you should wear rubber gloves and safety goggles, and be sure to have plenty of ventilation.

Many people have outdoor furniture with vinyl straps. These should be cleaned as previously outlined. Wash with a mild detergent solution, rinse, and towel dry and wax. Using an electric buffer can make the job of waxing your patio furniture much easier. Scuffmarks usually can be removed using a soft dry cloth and a dab of toothpaste.

Rusted wrought iron furniture should be cleaned using a wire brush and rust removal product. Any rust that remains should be painted with a rust converter. Bare metal should be primed with a metal primer. A high-quality oil-base semi-gloss or gloss enamel is your best bet when it comes to painted furniture.

Wood patio furniture should be washed as least once each year with a solution of synthetic trisodium phosphate (TSP) and coated with a high-quality stain or penetrating oil finish.

Tip: A great way to improve the lasting quality of your outdoor furniture is to store it indoors during damp weather when it is not being used.

Introducing Soap Free Procyon

Try this test at home. The next time you shower, wash your hair but don’t rinse out the shampoo. Let it dry on your head. Feel it. It’s sticky and attracts dirt. Try to vacuum the residue off your hair. It doesn’t work, but yet we do the same thing to our carpet and wonder why it re-soils quickly. We wonder why the carpet takes 6 to 8 hours to dry out. (Remember mold and mildew can grow in damp carpet after 4 to 6 hours).

Still not convinced? How many rinse cycles does a washing machine go through? Three; But yet if we go into a hot tub with swimwear --- what happens? Foam is everywhere forcing the use of de-foam products. Some of the foam is related to body oils, but most of it is a result of the detergents reactivating from the swimwear. It’s very difficult to completely rinse residue based cleaners from fibers.

In addition, traditional residue based cleaners are chuck full of toxins which off-gas in our homes causing indoor air quality issues. Indoor air quality is increasingly becoming the number one concern amongst homeowners. Procyon helps solve that problem too.

Soap Free Procyon was developed over 20 years ago by a professional carpet cleaner who was concerned about the health issues related to carpet cleaning methods and chemicals.

Procyon is completely soap free and odor free. It’s non-toxic and biodegradable. There’s no bleach and no enzymes plus it’s hypoallergenic. Procyon is indoor air quality approved and far exceeds the Green Seal standards for green cleaning products. It’s even safe enough to drink, though it tastes awful. Procyon also works really well. Wow.

Procyon has been used to clean the White House and Air Force One, Disneyworld, the E.P.A. building and the Tennessee Aquarium. It was used to clean the Pentagon after 9-11. It’s used everyday by thousands of professional carpet cleaners, school districts, hospitals, and homeowners nationwide and in Europe. Procyon is safe for children and pets. To learn more visit our website at www.procyon.biz....

In addition to the carpet and upholstery cleaner, the Procyon product line includes our Multi-Purpose Cleaner & Degreaser and Spot & Stain Remover. These general cleaners are perfect for your home… especially if you are concerned about the health of your family. Our products are soap free, non toxic and hypo-allergenic. They are perfect for tile and grout, grease in the kitchen and general all purpose cleaning! Order your bottle(s) of Procyon by visiting our site at www.soapfree.net. Here’s to your health… and a to a clean home!!!

No Floor Too Big -- Or Small -- To Clean

Keeping clean what's under foot can be a daunting task -- especially if pets and little ones are a part of one's brood. Good looks aside, regular cleaning and maintenance will keep a floor looking good and can prevent expensive damage repairs -- or worse, the expense of replacement.

Simple things such as frequent vacuuming, floor mats at all exterior doors and shoe removal can do wonders to cut down on unnecessary housework and costly repairs. Beyond that, most floor cleaning and maintenance "challenges" can be dealt with using one or more of the following tips.

Scuff marks on a vinyl floor are unsightly and can be a real pain to clean. Get an art-gum eraser (one of those grayish-tan ones you used in high school) or borrow a pink pearl eraser from your child. Simply rub the mark and it will disappear. For tough scuffs that may need a bit more "cleaning horsepower," pour a sparing amount of mineral spirits (paint thinner) on a clean, white, soft cloth and rub the spot clean. Test an inconspicuous area first to be sure it doesn't damage the finish.

Here's an idea for eliminating bubbles in your vinyl floor: If they're small, take a large sewing needle and poke a tiny hole in the center of the bubble all the way through the vinyl. Lay a thick towel over the area and use a hot iron to soften and flatten the flooring. Then stack several large books onto the repair to keep the former bump in close contact with the adhesive while it cools and re-bonds to the substrate. Larger bubbles (6 to 8 inches or more) require more sophisticated solutions, and are best left to a flooring pro.

Something as simple as vacuuming can do wonders to extend carpet wear. A popular falsehood is that frequent vacuuming will weaken carpet fiber and thus shorten the life of the carpet. Just the opposite is true. Carpet should be vacuumed at least once weekly and more frequently if possible. Ground-in soil abrades carpet fibers that results in premature wear and greater stain susceptibility.

Does your carpet smell like dirty gym socks? Not a pleasant thought, but often a reality. You can try a commercial carpet deodorizer or you can go to the pantry and arm yourself with a box of baking soda. Sprinkle it into the carpet, leave it for several hours and then vacuum it up. For less money and a little extra work, try sprinkling grated potato (yes, potato) throughout the area. Let it stand for several hours, then vacuum. The extra work with the potatoes is in the grating. If neither of these methods works, a call to a professional carpet cleaning company is probably your best bet.

If you have a damaged section of carpet or vinyl flooring, here is a suggestion: Make a patch by removing the damaged section and replace it with a remnant. If you don't have a scrap laying around to make the repair, then grab a piece from a closet, from under an appliance or from beneath a piece of furniture. It may not match perfectly, but our experience is that most of your guests will never know "the real truth" about your floor.

Got dirty hardwood floors? Most cleaners you can buy at the store work fine. But if you want to save money, or just prefer to do things the old-fashioned way, mix up a 5 percent solution of vinegar and water. Measure carefully, and don't use any extra vinegar -- the acid can dull the finish. Keep in mind that water and wood don't mix, so when you mop, use as little water as possible. Your mop should be damp, not wet. Do a section of the floor at a time and wipe the floor dry immediately with a clean, soft cloth. Never let the floor air-dry. You can damage the wood and end up with water marks.

Scratches in hardwood flooring aren't quite as simple to deal with. There is nothing you can do except refinish. So, for future reference, be sure to use a welcome mat or rug at the outside and inside of each exterior door to catch the grit that might get tracked in and acts to "sand" the finish. And don't be embarrassed to ask workmen, children and ladies wearing spike heels to take off their shoes before coming in.

There is only one way to properly repair a damaged section of hardwood floor. Be prepared to replace any stained or damaged wood and then sand and refinish the entire floor. In the greatest percentage of cases, any other solution will leave a noticeable "patched" area.

Want to keep ceramic tile from looking lousy? Don't use abrasive cleansers. They literally "sand" off the finish. Check the labels of the products you use. It will amaze you how many contain abrasives. A mild soap and water solution is usually all that's needed to keep most floor tile looking good. Be certain to rinse the area thoroughly and dry and polish with a clean cloth.

And remember, when it comes time to choose new flooring, make sure that you consider appearance and how practical it is for your family. A durable, easy to clean finish may not necessarily be the most "plush" choice, but it may end up looking best considering Fido and the kids or grandkids. Fortunately, with today's wide product selection, you won't need to trade style for practicality.

You will have to look at that floor every day of your life, and regardless of what makes best economic sense, it is important that you're comfortable with it.