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  • Care and Feeding for a Beautiful Living Room

  • Life is a dirty adventure, which makes the living room an oft-used, oft-dirtied space – use these tips to keep it running clean for years to come
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  • Despite the plethora of cleaning products on the market, the professionals say good old soap and water is making a comeback. Simplicity is trendy and professional cleaners are following suit. From downsizing the China collection to investing in a decent cloth for dusting, cleaning is going back to the basics. Use these easy tips to keep your living room space looking fresh and clean.
    Everyone is prone to clutter, but keeping clean can be even easier if surfaces are barer and the floor can actually be seen. “Do everything with an eye toward maintenance,” says Mindy Starns Clark, author of “The House That Cleans Itself” (Harvest House Publishers, 2007). “Most people don’t like to clean and have more important things to do with their time.”
    Dusting, vacuuming and keeping dirt at bay can take less time if magazines are off the floor and shelves are less cluttered, says Bridget Bodoano, author of “Quick Fixes for the Home Handywoman” (Quadrille Publishing, 2007).
    “Keep things off the floor,” she says. “Storage is quite important. If you’ve got a lot of stuff around, it’s going to attract a lot of dust.”
    And anything that can be mounted should be mounted says Starns Clark. “Think up and away,” she says. “I like things off of surfaces. Don’t buy the clock that sits on the mantel. Buy one that sits on the wall. The less stuff that sits on a surface, the easier it is to clean that surface. Think simplicity and convenience. Is it worth it or not?”
    Gravity also plays a role in easier cleaning, says Jeff Bredenberg, author of “2,001 Amazing Cleaning Secrets” (Reader’s Digest, 2004).
    “In general, bookcases that have glass doors on them are better than open bookcases because that will keep the dust off your books,” he says. “The dust will just settle to the floor. And then you can just vacuum it up.”
    Being realistic about the people and pets that inhabit the house is equally important to embracing a cleaning strategy.
    “Camouflage wherever possible,” Starns Clark says. “If you have a black dog, don’t get a white rug.”
    On a blistering day, the last thing you might want to do is wash your floors with warm water, but your floors, wood pieces and glass surfaces will thank you.
    “Hot has a tendency to break down finishes,” says Laura Dellutri, the Healthy Housekeeper.
    Even though products for a specific purpose might seem best, Bodoano says the same effect can be achieved with a gentle cleanser and warm water.
    “If something needs washing down, I think all you need is a little bit of warm water,” Bodoano says. “For cleaning windows, for instance, sometimes you can use a spray, but I just think warm soapy water, and dry them.”
    As exciting as it may seem to house a cabinet full of magical cleaning products, one for every inch of your home, a larger number of products can cause increased build up.
    “People get gummy build up on their furniture because they overspray the polish,” Deluttri says. “Spraying less is always better [as is] not spraying directly on a surface.”
    Starns Clark says it’s important to understand what different surfaces require.
    “I will just wet wipe them with a damp rag and follow it up with a dry rag, and as much as you can do that without using any kind of cleaner at all, the kinder it is to your wood,” she says.
    Besides the build up, many products can do more harm than good, not only to furniture, but to the people cleaning them as well.
    “There are lots of great polishes and cleaners and sort of things, but I don’t like them very much because they are quite chemically laden,” Bodoano says.
    “I think people use too many fancy cleaners. A lot of them have got silicone in them, and it actually isn’t very good for the wood because it forms a coating and the wood needs to breathe.”
    David Bower, author of “Dad’s Own Housekeeping Book” (Workman Publishing Company, 2006) says silicone, aside from being bad to ingest, is actually a dust attractant.
    “People should avoid abrasive cleaners,” he says. “Something gentle usually does a better job.”
    Downsizing products also extends to appliances and other cleaning devices. While most professionals recommend using all ten fingers and some good old-fashioned manpower, some cleaning tools will never become obsolete.
    “A good vacuum cleaner is your best friend when it comes to cleaning,” Bodoano says. “Get one with good attachments for cleaning upholstery.”
    And if the electricity goes out, she also recommends investing in “lots of nice cloths, some very nice bees wax polish for occasional use…and a feather duster. You need good dusters.”
    Other cleaning tools may have been hiding in-house all along, says Starns Clark, who recommends using a lint roller to clean lampshades and get pet hair out of the rug.
    Even with the downsized number of tools, with cloth, for example, Deluttri says fewer are still better.
    “Half dry, half damp,” she says. “You can fold the cloth over and over again. Just keep folding the cloth. You should be able to do it in quarters and then flip it.”
    Even if most people wanted to clean every day that may not be the best for surfaces and furniture.
    The problem areas, says Deluttri, or high traffic areas “where people are going to spread germs and bacteria” should be cleaned every week.
    Cleaning can even be a time to admire a space that might otherwise go unnoticed, says Bodoano.
    “Polish pictures,” she says. “Just get into the habit of dusting them every week. If you dust them, you can admire them every week.”
    And if treating your hallway as your own personal art gallery isn’t reason enough to whip out the trusty cloth and soapy water, do it for peace of mind, says Bower.
    “It’s a quality of life thing as well,” he says. “It’s much nicer to get up to a clean house than be faced with something when you get up in the morning.”
    So until coffee-scented soap becomes a bona fide cleaning product, frequent and simple maintenance might be the best solution.

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