Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The How To of "Wet Work": Ya gotta start at the top

Ceiling and mouldings:
If your ceiling and crown moulding require washing, that’s going to be your first “wet work” task. Washing a ceiling seems like a daunting task, something any sane person would definitely put off to another day. Visions of teetering on a ladder with a scrub brush and precariously balanced bucket of soapy water slowly float through our minds and procrastination…putting the job off until the last…comes quickly to mind.

1) a new sponge-type mop, one with a squeezer

2) two buckets of warm water, one with a cleaning solution, one plain.

Cleaning solution:
1 gallon (4 litres) warm water and 2 tablespoons household ammonia.

Washing a painted ceiling:
1) Dip mop into bucket containing cleaning solution, squeeze dry.

2) Starting in one corner, wipe the ceiling (no scrubbing back and forth…just one steady wipe) for a foot or two (half metre or less).

3) Bring down the mop for inspection. Rinse the mop thoroughly in the clear water, squeezing it out

4) Dip the mop in the cleaning solution again

5) Thoroughly squeeze out any excess, then repeat*

*If the mop was extremely dirty when inspected, use shorter strokes and rinse more often. Change the rinse water if necessary. If it was only mildly soiled, then continue with strokes of up to a yard (approximately a metre).

Cleaning decorative mouldings and ceiling rosettes:
Unfortunately, for these lovely bits of household décor, if vacuuming with the soft bristled brush didn’t do the trick, the ladder is your only real option.

Use these techniques ONLY with painted mouldings or PVC plastic. If you are using the Styrofoam stuff, then you may vacuum and blot gently with a cloth dampened with water and nothing else! Rough handling can cause the decorative bits to break off!

You will need your ladder, a cloth or small sea sponge for applying the cleaning solution, a fresh cloth to wipe the solution away when you are done, a small pail of fresh water to rinse the fresh cloth, and a spray bottle with the cleaning solution on it. In your apron pockets you should have a small brush (a 1” to 2” wide paint brush is perfect) and something with a bit of a point on it so you can get into crannies where dirt may be lodged.

It is wise to wear some kind of eye protection as this technique can cause drips and ammonia or vinegar in the eyes can be extremely painful. Tying a scarf around your hair (I prefer to use a cheap shower cap!) to keep the cleaning solution out of your hair is helpful. And to protect your floors/carpets, a cheap plastic drop cloth under your work area is not a bad idea.

Start by assembling your tools and placing them where you can work with them easily. Using a painter’s ladder…the kind that has a little platform near the top…is best. Put such things as your cleaning cloths (a small natural sponge is the absolute best for cleaning this kind of thing), brushes, etc. in your apron pocket, and you can hang the spray bottle from your waistband by its trigger.

1) Position the ladder beneath the area you are going to clean.

2) Do not stand any higher on the ladder than the manufacturer recommends.

3) Spray cleaning solution onto the sponge: do not saturate because if it is drippy, the drips will run down your hand and arm and into your underarms. very unpleasant.

4) Wad the sponge into the shape you need to reach into the crannies of the design and rub gently.

5) Use the rinse cloth to wipe away the cleaning solution

6) Something pointy like the barrel of a ball-point pen can be wrapped in a bit of cloth and used to poke into corners for cleaning.

7) Consider antiquing the mouldings and rosettes so next time the dirt won’t show!

Chandeliers and light fixtures:
If your chandeliers or light fixtures have removable bits like crystals and shades, this is the time to take them down for cleaning. Because there is such a variety of design of such items and an infinite number of materials, only a few suggestions can be imparted here:

1) If the shade is made of paper, cloth, cardboard, or anything other than glass, metal, or hard plastic, do not clean it with water or anything wet. It should be vacuumed thoroughly and, at most, wiped quickly with a cloth barely dampened in water and thoroughly wrung out. Masking tape, because it is barely adhesive, can be used…sticky side out…to remove dust and “fluff” without risking smearing.

2) If the light fixture has crystals that can be easily removed, take them down and place in a bath of vinegar and water (or sudsing ammonia and water) to soak. As soon as the ceiling is clean, wash each crystal in the bath in which it has been soaking, rinse in clear water and polish with a soft cloth. Return the crystals to their right places.

3) If your light fixture has a removable glass shade, do the same as with the crystals. If it is not removable, wipe the fixtures on all sides with a clean cloth dampened in the vinegar or ammonia solution, wipe next with a cloth dampened in plain water, then wipe dry and polish with a fresh cloth.

Cleaning the fixture:

Electricity + water = disastrous results!

If you need to clean light fixtures like chandeliers and ceiling and wall-mounted light fixtures, caution is in order. Since you likely have no idea the state of your wiring, it is always better to err on the side of caution. If you can shut off the electricity to the room you are working in, then do so. If not, ensure that the switch to the fixture is turned off and that you are grounded (earthed)!

A wooden ladder is best as they are non-conductive. If you are using a metal ladder, make sure it has rubber feet on the bottom and that there are no holes in the feet where the bare metal shows through.

OR…put a rubber mat on the floor under the ladder. A real rubber mat, not some fuzzy rug with a rubberized backing.

OR…wear a pair of wellies (gumboots, rubber boots)

OR…wear rubber gloves (not latex kitchen gloves…real rubber gloves)

OR…do all of the above

1) Do not spray cleaning solution or any liquid onto light fixtures that are affixed to a wall or ceiling

2) Instead, dampen your cleaning cloth and use it to wipe dirt away

3) Do not allow the liquid to get into the fixture and do not attempt to clean the cavity into which the light globes are screwed/fitted

4) Dry fixtures with a soft cloth before turning on the switch

5) If the fixtures are so dirty they require more vigorous cleaning, have someone with a knowledge of electricity remove them from the wall/ceiling and reinstall them after you clean them.

Wait to replace the shades, crystals, etc., onto wall-mounted light fixtures until you are finished washing the walls.

Next: washing walls and woodwork

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