Spring Cleaning in Lincoln, NE – 2019
As you may have heard, Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most famous groundhog, predicted an early spring this year. Even though it may not feel like the welcomed warmth of the next season is around the corner, the flowers will be blooming before we know it! The Groundhog’s Day prediction is certainly good news in that sense, but it also means “Spring Cleaning” will have to start early this year. No matter what the temperature is outside, the official, non-groundhog start to spring is Wednesday, March 20. Spring is the perfect time of year to take on some of the household or office projects that you’ve been avoiding.
Just like a shadow may be intimidating to a groundhog, many homeowners may be intimidated by their plumbing, heating, and air conditioning systems. Not only do these systems require checks for upkeep and replacement, they also are affected by the changing temperatures of Nebraska’s hectic winter and spring seasons. As the plumbing supervisor for John Henry’s Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning, Joe Reinke says that many homeowners prefer having an annual inspection of these systems, though it can vary depending on the age and amount of stress put on them. While having a professional inspect your plumbing is recommended, anyone can look for signs of plumbing problems on their property to help protect against expensive damage. “On the plumbing side of things, if you see anything, whether that’s a leak or a drain backing up, that’s potentially a sign of a larger problem. Also, look for any signs of corrosion on faucets or fixtures,” explains Reinke.
While some property owners prefer to use notes or reminders to alert them to when something needs to be replaced, a service plan is a useful option for those who are less comfortable dealing with plumbing and HVAC equipment themselves. “On the HVAC side, we provide a service maintenance plan with the heating and air conditioning. We come out twice a year and service the equipment, make sure it’s all working. Usually before the summer and before the winter,” adds Reinke. Because John Henry’s is committed to explaining their recommendations to their customers and only doing work their customer has approved, Reinke thinks that home owners shouldn’t feel intimidated by these systems. “Technology is technology. We want to make sure that everything works above their expectations,” assures Reinke.
Winter not only brings cold, arctic air, it also brings muddy, snowy, salty sludge into homes and offices. Jon Paolini of Service Master explains the practical reasons for why spring has become the perfect time for cleaning: “Carpet cleaning is preferred in the spring (though it is best done year round) as many customers want to wait out the slushy, salty stuff that is coming in all winter and get the carpets nice, clean, and fresh for the coming year.”
In addition, the daylight hours in spring make it more practical for work to be done. “Spring is when we start to begin to have light in the evenings once again and since most of what we do for customers takes place in the evening, it is a good time to catch up on glass and any detail cleaning as things are more visible for us. Some things are just hard to see at night during the darker months as the lighting inside just isn’t the same as when the sun is out,” explains Paolini.
A cleaning service can sanitize surfaces in a home or office, but it helps to prepare an area before-hand. “We typically suggest to customers to clear desks, credenzas, shelves, etc., and allow us to completely wipe them down. Many areas of a work space end up covered with paperwork and other items and can’t be thoroughly cleaned as we don’t want to disturb these items,” advises Paolini.
The term “adulting” has become a popular slang term to describe coping with daily responsibilities. One project homeowners can easily tackle during the spring months is to ensure they have proper air flow to any outdoor air conditioner units or heat pumps their home may have.
Aaron Rood, the residential development manager for Star City Heating and Air, discussed how, during the spring, some plants can gunk up these outdoor units. “Especially if you are in a place with a lot of cottonwood trees, try running a hose over that outside air conditioner unit or heat pump from time to time. Once or twice during a summer,” says Rood.
Before attempting any work on an outdoor unit, it is vital to always turn off the power. “Obviously, before you do anything to a unit, you want to shut off the power to it at the breaker. There is usually a switch right outside the house near the unit. You’d want to do that just to avoid any issues. A lot of air conditioners and heat pumps you can take the top off and hose down the fins along the outside of the unit. Run a hose with a little bit of pressure along them, not a power sprayer, so as not to damage the fins. If there are some damaged fins, you can straighten those out with a butter knife or a fin straightener,” explains Rood. He also offered advice on four common things that can radically affect a home’s comfort and sanitation:
- Humidifiers: When you get towards summer, if you have a humidifier, you want to turn that off. You don’t need any more humidity in the summer.
- Air filters: Changing filters is huge. In the summer that furnace turns into an air handler. It’s dispersing air through the house.
- Request an air duct cleaning every few years: It’s not going to be a DIY project, but duct cleaning is important. If you start restricting air flow, getting any junk in the ducts can cause air quality problems, especially if you own animals.
- Ensure that evaporator coils are able to drain downhill. When the air conditioner is running, it’s going to create a lot of condensation. You need to ensure that it’s not getting clogged.
While many home owners like to perform these tasks on their own, Star City Heating and Air has also helped some customers by performing all of these as part of a thorough cleaning and maintenance check. “We offer a yearly VIP maintenance plan. We do all that plus a lot more, or we could also come out for one-time maintenance. Whether the system is a day old or 20 years old, I tell my clients you wouldn’t buy a car and drive it for decades without changing the oil…What you’re doing now is preventing major breakdowns. That furnace never breaks down when it’s 40 degrees outside. It’s always when it’s 10 below and 3 o’clock on a Saturday morning,” he adds.
While heating and air conditioning systems can affect the air quality of a home, there are other considerations for those who want to keep their space sanitary, especially families with young children. As the local founders of Essentials Home Services, the Lincoln native mother-son team of Mary McCombs and Chris McCombs offer valuable tips for fighting germs in places most people overlook.
“Spring cleaning is a good time to reorganize all your cabinets and pantries, because now is the time of the year when pests start to come back. If you have a buildup of crumbs, it’s more likely to attract pests. It’s a great time to scrub down cabinet covers and drawers since a lot of bacteria tends to build up in there,” says Chris.
In addition to the insides of drawers, the fronts of kitchen cabinets are often exposed to germs, but are not frequently washed. “Sometimes germs just drip down the front from the counters and the bacteria never gets cleaned away,” warns Mary. “Also, when cleaning out your refrigerator, check the seal,” she adds. “Many people own refrigerators where they need to clean out the coils. Dust tends to build up there. Same thing with behind sofas,” explains Mary.
Chris has noticed that one of the most common things people forget to check for sanitation is underneath their dishwashers. “Everyone should check the bottom panel and try cleaning off the filter. If you don’t do that, certain dishwashers just blow more bacteria on your dishes. That’s something we always look for,” ensures Chris.
Chris and Mary explained that there are a variety of common problems they look for while performing interior and exterior home inspections. Here are just a few examples of things to look for:
- Dangling cords and wires which should be kept out of reach of children.
- Dust buildup on curtains and blinds.
- Overgrown tree branches causing damage to the paint and siding.
- Signs of wear or sagging in decks, patios, fencing, and gates.
- Holes in screens and cracks in seals on exterior doors and windows.
“We deal with our customers on an individual basis. We offer a lot of services in addition to our basic maintenance. We are very flexible on what we can offer to our client,” says Chris.
Germy surfaces are not the only potential health hazards. Water treatment is vital for any home or office that wants to promote health and sanitation, and especially in the Midwest where hard water is common, it requires some extra attention. As the director of business development for Aqua Systems, Jeff Sneller is experienced in the treatment of municipal water, as well as water for residential and commercial applications.
Sneller explains three key areas that home and business owners should consider about treating their water: water softening, reverse osmosis (water filtration), and better alternatives to public drinking fountains.
“The term ‘hard water’ is meant to describe the amount of minerals dissolved in water, most commonly calcium and magnesium. Hard water is inconvenient to use for all cleaning and washing because it leaves behind these minerals. Hard water also creates an uncomfortable film, like soap scum, when washing or showering. The lifespan of a water softener can vary, and while 10 years is a good estimate, water softeners that are used frequently, for large families for example, can have a shorter lifespan. Spring cleaning is a good opportunity to check to ensure your water softener is not past its lifespan,” suggests Sneller.
Beyond the inconvenience created by hard minerals, germs and contamination can also affect untreated water. “Reverse osmosis systems use pressure to force water through a series of filters, leaving contaminants behind. This is a popular choice to prevent water with a funny odor, taste, or color,” says Sneller.
Traditional public water fountains are frequently disliked by customers and guests. Who knows how many people have left their saliva on one? Sellner encourages business owners to consider a bottleless water cooler as an alternative. “A bottleless water cooler has none of these sanitation problems. Furthermore, we use the same micro filtration process used to make bottled water,” promises Sneller.
With so many tasks to remember for spring cleaning, a thorough checklist can be an invaluable tool. If someone only has the time to care for something once a year, missing it can cause twice as many cobwebs, grime, and decay to build, which can go undetected. As the owner of 360 Clean, Teresa Hodgen has noticed that an aspect of cleaning that many people tend to miss is dusting in high and hard-to-reach areas and cleaning and disinfecting light fixtures.
“Light fixtures frequently attract insects, and tend to get skipped over since they are inconvenient to reach. If left unattended, they can become a Petri dish for germs and decay. This is an example of something we would be looking for when we perform an initial consultation,” says Hodgen.
As Hodgen explains, most professional cleaning services should begin with an inspection to identify key areas and missed spots. “We perform a walkthrough of the property and identify important cleaning needs for each client on an individual basis. Then we would set up a personalized cleaning clan to ensure you receive the exact cleaning experience you want,” she says.
She adds that not only are food crumbs stains on carpet unappealing to visitors, they can also severely shorten the number of useful years for a carpet, meaning expensive replacements occur sooner. “Routine carpet cleanings help maintain the lifespan of your carpet and help protect your investment. Our carpet cleaners leave a mildly wet carpet that dries quickly, and we use a pet and child safe formula,” offers Hodgen.
Houses and floors aren’t the only things which are negatively affected by snow, salt, and sludge.
Cars can sustain lasting damage from salty buildup after driving in snowy conditions, and many car owners don’t bother with washing during the winter. However, there are cleaning techniques which protect cars from the damage salty roads can cause to paint jobs.
Not only has JetSplash opened five locations for car washes, they pride themselves on designing an efficient system to both clean and dry a car. Kendra McDonald explains that listening to customer feedback and keeping up-to-date on the latest cleaning materials solutions has been critical to JetSplash for over 16 years of service.
“For example, we introduced free vacuum stalls in 2007. These have become very popular with our regular customers, especially families with kids, and we’ve made them standard in every JetSplash. In 2018 we installed air hoses with the vacuums to get in those hard-to-reach areas while vacuuming,” explains McDonald.
The process JetSplash uses works all-year round, so having a wet car frost up during a cold snap shouldn’t be a concern. “We innovated a membership program that’s all about convenience for our customers. You don’t have to worry about keeping track of another membership card. We will take care of tracking your membership, either using your vehicle’s license plate number or an external RFID tag. Because washes for members are unlimited, you don’t have to worry about washing your car only for it to snow or rain the next day and waste your effort. There are also no long-term contracts or sign-up fees. You can easily sign up online or in person with a plan that works for you,” adds McDonald.
Their newest product, Jet Gloss, targets small pieces of dirt and dust which hide in small crevices, creating a smooth, glossier finish.
Inclement weather can not only muck up a car, it can also limit certain kinds of repair work on homes. Ryan Reinke, owner of TruBlue Total House Care, discussed types of house work that homeowners should consider taking care of before extreme weather makes it difficult.
“There were a few years where we had hail storms. You could not get a guy who was available to install gutters for 90 days out,” explains Reinke.
Reinke points out that while TruBlue Total House Care has worked on large outdoor projects for customers in even bitterly cold conditions, it’s still generally a good idea to schedule outdoor work during nicer weather. “No matter what product you have, you need to have a highly skilled installer. No doubt in my mind that we have some of the best in terms of brickwork, drywall, windows, siding, wrapping,” says Reinke.
While doing home care and housing projects, Reinke trains his employees to search for other potential home problems which might require emergency attention. “We have a customer who is in a wheelchair. She just needs some help pouring salt on the driveway, changing light bulbs. When we are there, we are looking for water stains. That’s one of the big advantages of having us come in to change air filters, maybe come in once a month or every other month.”
Like any complex machine, a home has many working parts that can go wrong. “You wouldn’t own a car without changing the oil. So your house should have a look over at some intervals. There is just so many things a maintenance guy could pick up on from the noise a toilet makes. I could tell you what the problem is and the part to fix it. We will sometimes recommend another vendor we trust if we catch a problem,” explains Reinke.
While many people may be aware of the damage and inconvenience caused by inclement weather, one last aspect of a home that many people may be surprised by is the air quality problems they may be experiencing, especially if they own pets. While it is often recommended to change air filters once every six to 12 months, homes with multiple occupants, and especially homes with any pet will require far more frequent replacements for air filters. For families with more than one pet or where someone suffers from allergies, changing the filter once per month is recommended.
As the owner of All Pro Heating and Air Conditioning, Constantine Syniy is particularly concerned about maintaining air quality. “We are very big on air quality. The air inside the house, because the house is so enclosed, is never as good as the air outside. We provide premium filtration. People get used to buying bottled water and filtered water…air filtration should be just as important.”
As the season changes to spring and then summer, Syniy cautions his customers to consider humidity and preventing mold growth in warm, damp, dark places.
“When you wake up in the morning and your nose is bleeding, your wood floors are squeaking, and there is static on your clothes, those are effects of humidity. Humidity fluctuates depending on the temperature outside. For humidity control in the summer time, we focus on providing UV light. People don’t realize that the component which provides humidity is always dark, moist, and warm. It’s a place where mold would grow. That’s why it’s a good idea to shine UV lights in those areas.”
Whether or not you believe in the Groundhog’s Day prediction of an early spring, warmer spring weather will come sooner or later, and the longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures demonstrate why spring cleaning is such a widely accepted tradition. It’s the most practical time of the year for this work, especially for businesses and busy homeowners who want to hire a professional service that fits with their schedule. Lincoln businesses offer a range of services which target different aspects of a home or business, from cleanliness and sanitation, to expertise on the machines that maintain our water and air systems, to preserving building materials from rust, mold, and the elements. If you are unsure where to begin with your own spring cleaning regimen, a conversation with one of these local experts would be a good place to start to learn how you can care for your property.