Spring has finally sprung and while the warm sunshine is welcome it does shine its light onto dust motes lingering on surfaces and highlight other tasks within the home that need attention.
Working from home means you can see what needs to be done but, after a long day on a laptop at the kitchen table or hiding from the rest of the household in the attic, the last thing you want to do is take on chores. You’d rather zombie out in front of another screen, binge watching Brigerton.
The trick is to start slowly on a weekend afternoon and ideally share out tasks among family members, giving them a deadline for completion. You could discuss what the reward, if any, might be around the dinner table. Or you could farm out the tasks to professionals when the restrictions lift.
Here’s a baker’s dozen of to-dos to help refresh your home.
On a dry day rugs can be taken outside, hung over a wall or line and beaten using a broom handle, the old-fashioned way, to give them a low-environmental impact spruce up. Wear a mask and don’t leave out overnight or wet as it can suffer chafing, advises The Carpet Doctor MD, Niall Tuohy. Regular vacuuming prevents dust settling on the pile, which is what weakens it.
When it comes to cleaning carpets you can hire an industrial machine though Tuohy says these devices are a sixteenth as powerful as the motors in the machines he uses. His cost for three bedrooms, stairs and landing ranges from €110 to €240.
2. Soft furnishings
Soft furnishings, upholstered furniture, bed heads and mattresses can be steam-cleaned with equipment from any hardware store. But professional cleaner Angela O’Dwyer of Simply Clean says this “refreshes and sanitises but it will not remove stains”.
Stain removal requires hot water extraction and detergent use, says Val Dirsina of Upgrade Clean who says he can remove 95 per cent of wine, water, food, drink and pet hair and dander stains. He also cleans down the back of sofas and seating making them feel like new. Drying times vary depending on whether the seating is upholstered in natural fabrics, which take longer to dry than synthetics. Servicing the greater Dublin area only a two-seat sofa costs from €49, a three-seat from €69 and an L-shaped sofa from €89. A three-piece suite costs from €109.
3. Wood Flooring
Those of you with solid timber floors can rejuvenate scuffed timbers with a simple sanding, says Russell O’Halloran of RH Wood Floors. His high-torc buffing machines are more than 90 per cent dust-free, so it’s a lot less intrusive a job than it used to be. A room of about 20sq m will cost from about €450, ex VAT. DIYers can rent machines with bags from Hire Here Ltd from about €37 per day. You will need an edger, from about €25 per day, varying grades of sandpaper and a good deal of elbow grease.
“There’s a fair amount of dust. You need a dust mask. The machines are quite loud and you need to seal the room,” advises Derek McCarthy, so not a job to do during lockdown.
O’Halloran says small scuffs can be gently rubbed out using a small amount of Cif soaked into a cloth. If you know what type of varnish is on your boards then you can refresh them using Bona Freshen Up, available from Clean Fast. One litre, about €14.50, will do about 25 sq metres of flooring.
“If you don’t then you will first need to sand them and then apply a stain or varnish. Each varnish type requires a different kind of finisher. Use the wrong one and you will wreck your floors.”
A washer and squeegee using soap and water is the best option for cleaning exterior windows, says Paul Daly of Base Window Cleaners. The least-messy option for interior glass is Windowlene applied to a larger microfibre cloth, 80cm by 40cm, using a new one for each window.
His firm charges €50 to do the exterior windows of a three-bed house using special, water-pumped brushes to clean surrounding frames and glass. It costs another €50 to do the interior of such a property but doesn’t include the cleaning of interior frames.
Grubby grouting can be spruced up by using a steam cleaner or a good kitchen degreaser, says Angelina O’Dwyer of Simply Clean. She sometimes paints on thick bleach and leaves it to work. This writer finds chlorine-rich, HG Mould Spray very effective but you will need to open windows before spraying and leave the bathroom once finished. Mould, however, is a different matter and if deep into the grout you will need to re-grout, says O’Dwyer.
Dirty black grouting normally indicates either a mould problem, which could be caused by a lack of ventilation, or an internal leak in the wall, says Graham Philips of Atech Professional Tiling, listed on Online Tradesmen. Use a diamond-edged grout remover to remove existing grout taking care not to crack the tiles. You can then apply new grout to give a clean finish.
He suggests Evo-stik’s Total Grout or Weber grouting and finds Screwfix to be one of the most affordable places to buy. Before you start, knock on the tiles to see if they sound solid or tinny, he counsels. If the latter, they may no longer be affixed to the wall or board and you may have to strip all this out to get to the source of the problem. This is a job for a professional.
In constant use during lockdown, most kitchens probably need a decent spring clean. Professional organiser Sarah Reynolds of Organised Chaos advocates splitting the task in two, dividing the declutter into food and non-food matter, the latter being the presses, drawers, shelves and surfaces that house the cookware, serveware, tableware, glasses, vases, cleaning products, medicines, and anything else that might live in this room.
Decant their contents onto a floor or adjacent breakfast room or dining room table so you can see what you have and begin editing out the essentials, the items needed for every day use. Put all the quotidian pots and pans into one cupboard, all the baking-related ware into another, delph into another, and so on. Homes for the excess should be found elsewhere in the house, in a living room sideboard, displayed on open shelving, under the stairs or in the attic.
Do the same with food and foodstuffs, binning anything that is past its sell-by date. Reynolds organises her fridge, keeping all the daily-used foods on eye-level shelves, and uses one of the bottom drawers to store raw meat safely, away from the rest of the contents.
In the freezer she uses its top drawer for storing batch-cooked meals, labelling and dating each. If you want to defrost your freezer don’t do what this impatient writer did and take a mallet and screwdriver to disengage ice blocks. It could lead to you puncturing the Freon tubing and a call to the National Poison Control hotline. Instead fill a basin with boiling water and put inside the freezer. Shut the door and put towels on the ground. As water cools replace with another steaming hot basin and repeat until the ice melts. If purchasing a new freezer go for a frost-free design.
7. Chimneys and stoves
Leave the cleaning of stoves and chimneys to the professionals – modern cleaning method combines rod and brushing with high-suction vacuuming making it a far less messy job than it used to be, says owner Derek Hennessy of Stillorgan Chimney Sweep where prices for an open fire sweep starts from €69.
Cleaning to prevent soot and tar build-up in a stove and flue or insert fire, starts from €79 and should be done at least once a year, the beginning of the season in August or September and, ideally, again at the end of April or early May, he says. Regular cleaning will also address other maintenance aspects like a loose door handle or broken door seal.
Clogged gutters can be a major cause of damp or water ingress in a home. If there’s water cascading down yours or you can see plants growing out of them then they need attention. It is a job you can do yourself but it can be dangerous unless you’re very used to using ladders and have all the safety accessories such as base and gutter stands to free your hands to attend to the job. The daily rental of a ladder and a base stand comes to about €50, ex-delivery, within Dublin, and doesn’t factor in any costs to visit A&E should you fall.
This is one job you should leave to the professionals, says Luke Joyce of The Cleaning Company whose firm uses mobile vacuum systems with cameras that can determine the cause of blockages without climbing ladders. He also takes away all the mulch. His fee is from about €95 for the front and back of a small, three-bed semi. Gutters should be done on an annual basis, ideally in November after the leaves on the trees have come down and before the heavier rains of winter.
9. Outdoor furniture and decking
Decking should be power-washed at the beginning of each season, mid-February to early March, says Mark O’Carroll, store manager at Woodies Dundalk branch. If it hasn’t been maintained then wait for a dry forecast and apply deck cleaner – Ronseal and Netrol are both good – wait for 20 to 25 minutes and then power wash. A Karcher K4, costing €249, is a good all-rounder for small and bigger gardens.
“Then leave the deck to dry for 24 hours before applying either an oil, if the deck is relatively new and you don’t want to change its existing colour; a stain to an ageing deck that will inject it with a wash of colour or, if the decking is on its last legs but you want to get another year’s use out of it, a rescue paint.” Cuprinol and Ronseal both do good ranges. The latter is available in 24 colours and can also be used on brickwork and plant pots.
Lockdown is a good time to nurture your green fingers. Houseplants look good but their main cause of death is over or under-watering, explains Sam Smyth of Urban Plant Life. “You can tell if a plant needs a drink by lifting the pot. If it feels light it needs watering. Another option is to stick a finger into its soil to determine how dry or damp it is.
A handy tool is a moisture metre, a device that will tell you the state of the soil without having to touch it. A Garland Soil moisture metre costs €8.99. Spathiphyllum, peace lily, is good for beginners – it has a tell, its leaves go floppy when it needs moisture.
11. Walls and woodwork
While left-over paint can be used to touch up small marks on light-coloured walls it works less well with the dark shades that are currently fashionable, says Mervin Phelan of The Fitzwilliam Painting Company. If you want a professional finish a 20 sq room will take his firm two days and cost €600, ex-paint and VAT. This includes filling in, moving all the furniture to the centre, disconnecting the TV, taking down curtains, photos and artworks, covering all, and once complete, vacuuming, re-hanging and repositioning furniture and TV.
12. Hall Storage
While off-the-shelf storage is more affordable bespoke storage fits the proportions and look of your home, says Ruairí Devoy of Michael Devoy & Sons, a favourite of many interior designers including Trisha Younge. In a high traffic area like a narrow hall push release doors on under stairs storage stop your clothes catching as you pass by and a floating console table, positioned above a radiator will serve the same purpose but declutters the floor.
“Some homeowners hang hooks below to use the heat to dry short coats, out of sight, in winter. Allot each member of the household a drawer in the console for gloves, scarves, keys and space atop for helmets. Outdoor shoes can be set on the floor below.”
Such a piece will cost from about €2,668. By taking the legs off an existing side table you can create a DIY version of this.
13. Pictures and photo hanging
Get your artworks and photos in order. Retrieve those living under beds or leaning against walls and find a permanent home for them. A custom-frame can really make a room sing. Frame Foundry’s Morris Deegan has been commissioned by IMMA, the National Gallery, the OPW and a large portfolio of artists. His prices start from about €50 for an A4 with regular glass. The same size featuring reflective glass will cost from €70.
“If you want a gallery wall style set up use the floor as your canvas to lay out all the works. It allows you to play with the positioning of the pieces until you are happy with how they look together,” he says.
“When hanging individual pieces ask a friend or family member to hold each in your suggested location, ideally at eye level, and photograph so you can compare and contrast to see which option works best.”
For professional hanging Hang Man makes house calls to advise on where to put artwork, mirrors or TVs. Prices within Dublin cost from €110 for the first hour and €55, per person, per additional hour. If hanging large items such a over-mantle mirrors you will need two people minimum, says MD Conor Lyons.