Spring cleaning: A clean house is a healthy house

Herald Health CorrespondentApril 8, 2014 

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300 dpi 4 col x 14.5 in / 220x368 mm / 749x1253 pixels Chris Ware color illustration of a frolicking man and dog carrying cleaning supplies. Lexington Herald-Leader 2001 With SPRINGCLEANING, Knight Ridder by Beverly Fortune

CHRIS WARE — KRT

Even if spring-cleaning isn't a tradition at your house, a few simple fixes can make your home a healthier place. Skip the top-to-bottom vacuuming, dusting, mopping and mattress turning -- or go for it, your choice. But try some of the frequently overlooked clean-ups that can yield big rewards for just a little effort.

The following suggestions are from Roger Danziger, a physician and allergy specialist in Bradenton, and Samantha Kennedy, director of the Manatee County Extension Service and big fan of vinegar as an all-purpose non-toxic cleaner.

Ceiling fans: These are otherwise known as swirling dust machines. Chances are you don't look at the top of the blades where unnoticed dust can build up in thick layers.

"You could make a Halloween costume out of what collects on there," said Danziger.

He recommends getting rid of ceiling fans, but jokes that most Floridians would rather die first. If that describes you, at least keep the blades clean. Here's how: Use an old pillowcase to wipe down the top of the blade. But first, slip the pillowcase over the blade top and bottom; the dust will be trapped instead of falling.

Air-conditioning units: They should be serviced once or twice a year, said Danziger. Have the technician open up the air handler and inspect with a flashlight. The air handler can collect mold that you otherwise can't see or smell.

Air-conditioning filters: Check to see if the filters are dirty and dusty. The rule of thumb is to replace them monthly in high-use homes.

Sink cabinets: Use a flashlight to look for slow leaks that can lead to mold. Small puddles or a black mold patch indicate dripping water.

Drains: Gunk can build up in drains along with bacteria. Kennedy recommends cleaning them with baking soda and white vinegar to sanitize and deodorize. Here's how: Pour ¼ cup baking soda and 2/3 cup white vinegar into the drain. The combination will be fizz. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then pour in lots of very hot water.

Cabinets: Remove dishware and glassware; wipe down the cabinet interiors. Kennedy said this is where dust and even pet hair can accumulate, despite cabinet doors.

Meanwhile, you can't beat white vinegar as a cleaner, says Kennedy. It is a non-toxic sanitizer that leaves surfaces clean and fresh. The vinegar smell won't linger, despite its sharp scent straight from the bottle.

The following are places that could use a swipe of vinegar, said Kennedy. Wipe off residue with a water-dampened cloth.

• Faucets

• Ice and water dispenser nozzles on refrigerators

• Microwaves -- dried splatters attract pests and bacteria

• Oven door handles and stove knobs

More kitchen work: Clean the silverware compartment in dish drainers with hot, soapy water and throw out old sponges because they collect bacteria. "The lifespan of a sponge isn't long," said Kennedy.

And while you're at it, you might as well clean the coffeemaker. Pour a carafe of vinegar -- what else? -- into the machine and turn on the brew cycle. The vinegar will dissolve any deposit in the coffee maker. Follow with one or two brew cycles of plain water to keep vinegar residue out of your coffee.

Susan Hemmingway, Herald health correspondent, can be reached at shemmingway@hotmail.com.

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