Cleaning made easy
May 27, 2008
The New Year’s resolution to clean up your life has long been broken, and the greasy outline of spinach-artichoke dip spilled two holiday parties ago still taunts you like a little flag of surrender.
In a century where we can talk on our cameras and take pictures with our phones, there’s no need to be a slave to household grime. Jeff Bredenberg, cleaning expert and author of “How to Cheat at Cleaning,” likens today’s advances in cleaning technology to the invention of the vacuum cleaner a century ago.
“People were very interested, but they were also very suspicious,” he says. “The suspicion of labor-saving (devices), I think that kind of thing still happens today.”
But cleaning technology is not something to be feared. An array of high-tech products and services can make your home cleaner and your life a little saner.
“I say jump in with both feet,” Bredenberg says. “Look at the new products that come along, because some are really cool and really can save you a lot of time and effort.”
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Some cleaning aids sound like contraptions the Jetsons had.
SteamMaster, a nearly 30-year-old company based in Minturn, enlists Superman-style help to identify unseen moisture in homes, which can cause mold growth and other big headaches for homeowners. Infrared cameras, which cost more than $8,000 apiece, produce a digital image that shows temperature differences within the wall that are invisible on the surface, exposing leaks.
“It is so obvious when you point it to a surface,” says Raj Manickam, chief executive officer of SteamMaster.
Once SteamMaster technicians discover water damage or mold, they have a variety of methods of removing it. A system called Injectidry uses suction panels to extract moisture from subsurface layers; high-powered sanding and blasting gets rid of mold from critical structures in the home, such as its wood frame.
A host of automated cleaners, from vacuums to self-cleaning litter boxes, aim to remove humans from the cleaning equation (see sidebar). But the prize for the most science-fiction sounding product goes to odor-eating light bulbs.
Bredenberg recommends the bulbs, which are coated with titanium dioxide that kills organic odor molecules when the light is turned on, to combat unpleasant smells.
In just a few minutes, the bulbs freshen a room, Bredenberg says – a fitting example of his take on many high-tech cleaning items.
“If they just take three, four, five minutes of drudgery out of your life, to me it’s worth it,” he says.
Some like it hot
When it comes to stubborn stains, it may be time to enlist professional help and one of the most potent weapons: heat.
“When you’re cleaning, the hotter the better, generally,” says Dave Hunt, owner and operator of Modernistic Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning in Avon.
After 35 years in the business, 16 of those in the Vail Valley, heat is the reason Hunt has converted to truck-mounted carpet-cleaning equipment. As opposed to portable units powered by a separate motor of just 15 to 20 horsepower, Hunt says, the truck-mounted systems run off the vehicle’s engine, putting 200 horsepower to work on tough stains. The result is a cleaning temperature around 200 degrees, about 10 to 15 degrees hotter than older methods.
“We hear it all the time that we get spots out that have been there for years and years,” Hunt says.
Some truck-mounted systems also specialize in hard-surface cleaning, or you can harness the power of heat on your own with products like the Bissell Steam Mop, which turns water to steam to simplify cleaning hardwood, marble, linoleum and other sealed surfaces.
Some like it cold
At the other end of the thermometer, extreme cold also can be effective for cleaning.
SteamMaster uses a technique called cryo blasting to remove mold and dirt. Rice-sized particles of dry ice are loaded into a compressor then blasted onto a surface such as wood or stone. At a temperature of -109 degrees Fahrenheit, the dry ice sublimates, or turns to carbon dioxide gas, on contact with the surface, taking with it ground-in grime.
Cryo blasting can also rid stone of what SteamMaster chief operating officer Matt Monica calls the “Las Vegas look” – topical sheens popular during the 1980s. The blasting removes the topcoat, returning stone to a more natural mountain look, Monica says.
Leave it to a 21st century cleaning method to pull us out of the ’80s cleaning drudgery. Cleaning pro Bredenberg would probably say it’s about time.
“I think these kinds of (conveniences) have a cumulative effect,” he says. “You have much better things to be doing with your life than slaving away.”
What’s Better than Do-it-Yourself? Do-It-Itself
No sense spending precious time cleaning when you can make a little robot do it.
The vacuuming robot that started it all, made by iRobot Corp., has sold more than 2 million units since 2002. Its latest incarnation, the Roomba 580, navigates through four rooms on one battery charge, with increased coverage of corners and hard-to-reach places, then docks itself into its charger.
The Bissell SpotBot scrubs and suctions away both recent and worn stains without having to lift a finger. OK, so maybe you’ll have to lift one finger. Push a button, and its Automatic Smart System gets to work while you get on with the day.
Scooba, from the makers of Roomba, specializes in hard floors. Load a cleaning solution into Scooba and watch the little over-achiever prep, wash, scrub and squeegee, passing over each spot an average of five times.
Potty train your cat with the Cat Genie, a self-flushing, self-washing litter box. This contraption scoops waste into a holding tank that empties into your home’s sewage system, then cleans and sifts washable granules that take the place of regular litter.
And finally, another iRobot creation that makes gutter cleaning a bit like steering a remote-control car. Controlled by a wireless remote, the Looj tunnels through gutters, tossing out leaves, dirt and sludge and brushing them clean.