Top 10 Cell Phone Cleaning Tips

Research studies have found cell phones to be dirtier than toilet seats, and it turns out the warm devices are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. So how can you safely sterilize them to keep those nasty germs away from your face?

Last winter as our country was swept away by a flu epidemic, I was trying to seek an answer to that seemingly simple question. Popular Mechanics provided some great advice on how to clean cell phones and other electronic devices (Check out their article How to Clean Your 7 Favorite Gadgets), but I also decided to make an inquiry with customer service at HTC, the makers of the popular Android phones. They were stumped. The best recommendation a manager could provide was to use a soft rag. When I probed if isopropyl alcohol (or “rubbing alcohol”) is safe to use on the touch screens, she said “yes, but we can not recommend using any liquids because of the possibility of it getting inside of the phone.” Let’s sort this out a bit more.

Here are Maid in Chicago’s Top 10 Cell Phone Cleaning Tips:

1. Mix your own bottle of isopropyl alcohol solution. Popular Mechanics recommends using a 60/40 mixture of water and isopropyl alcohol. You can purchase a small-sized empty spray bottle at a drug store and mix your own solution.

2. Use a soft cleaning rag or T-shirt. We recommend micro fiber cleaning cloths or flour sack towels.  (Please see our posts Everything you always wanted to know about microfiber cleaning cloths and Cleaning Cloths 101). Lightly dampen the cleaning cloth with the isopropyl alcohol solution.

3. Apply only gentle pressure with your cleaning cloth.

4. Use a Q-tip to clean those hard to reach areas such as in between buttons.

5. Do not use paper towels. They can scratch the touch screens.

6. Do not spray any cleaner directly on your phone. Apply the cleaner to the cleaning cloth instead.

7. Do not use glass cleaners such as Windex. They may contain ammonia which can damage your screen.

8. Do not use disposable disinfecting wipes. The popular brands such as Clorox and Lysol contain bleach, which is unsafe for use on screens of electronics devices.

9. If you prefer a disposable product, use alcohol swaps or alcohol wipes. These inexpensive, generic products, which contain 70% isopropyl alcohol, can be found at your local drug
pictured above: Curad Sterile Alcohol Swabs


10. Avoid using cleaning products which do not list the active ingredients. While it is probably safe to use lens cleaner, lens wipes, or cell phone wipes, the ingredients are often not listed on these products. It might be best to avoid them altogether.

    To schedule a cleaning or for a FREE quote, give us a call at (312) 829-9600. You can also visit Maid in Chicago’s website and fill out our online form.

How to Clean a Drip Coffee Maker

Hard water stains on your coffee pot are not attractive, and the deposited coffee oils and gunk can make your cup of joe taste bad too. To clean a drip coffee maker follow these steps:

1.) Fill the coffee carafe with a 1:2 ratio of white vinegar to water. Pour it into the reservoir of the coffee maker.

2.) Put a filter in the coffee maker as usual.

3.) Run the coffee maker, letting it go through its normal cycle.

4.) Turn the coffee maker off. Allow the liquid to cool 15 minutes.

5.) Discard the vinegar water and hand wash the carafe and filter basket.

6.) Repeat a second time.

We can clean coffee makers as part of our general cleanings of homes. To schedule a cleaning or for a FREE quote, give us a call at (312) 829-9600. You can also visit Maid in Chicago’s website and fill out our online form.

How to hire a maid service

So you are shopping around for a cleaning company. There are a number of things to consider.

Hiring a person vs. hiring a company
First, are you hiring an individual or a company? The “little old lady” down the street will obviously cost less, probably less than half. However, she is not going to come with insurance.  Companies will charge more because they need to pay for an office space, customer service staff, general liability and workman’s compensation insurance, social security taxes, advertising, benefits, etc. Of course many people have friends or family who clean for them, which is fine, but it is usually not a legal business arrangement.

Where do you look?

Most people nowadays start shopping around for maid services on search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo.  You may also want to check out the Better Business Bureau for complaints, and review sites such as Angie’s List and Yelp. One caveat about Yelp is that they are known for erasing positive reviews from companies who don’t advertise with them. Better than seeking advice from strangers though is to ask your friends for recommendations. Social media sites like Facebook make it easy.

One person or a team?
Next, do you prefer to have one person in your home or would you rather have a  team cleaning? If you are looking for a company to be in and out in an hour or two, team cleanings may be for you. The down side is that you will have a bunch of strangers in your home, and the team will likely change each visit. Our company sends the same employee each visit rather than a team. We think it is a more personal approach. It also provides our staff the opportunity to get to know our clients better, and allows us time to do laundry too because they are in the home for a minimum of four hours.

Your supplies or theirs?
Fourth, do they supply the cleaning supplies or are you expected to provide them? Do they charge more for bringing supplies? Companies who do team cleanings will likely bring supplies too. Some companies will offer to bring a vacuum cleaner for an extra charge.

In Chicago, where our company is located, many of our clients live in areas with limited parking, and this impedes our ability to provide supplies cheaply. For this reason we usually require our clients to provide their own cleaning supplies for general cleanings.

There are pluses and minuses to that approach. As a customer you can exert control over your own supplies. Most people tend to have their own brand preferences and more and more consumers are using green products. The down side is that it is up to you to keep your supply cupboard stocked with supplies.

There is a “yuck” factor to consider too when companies use feather dusters, rags, and sponges that were used in another person’s home in your home, even if they are properly laundered or sanitized. We have personally witnessed cleaning companies reusing dirty mops in customers’ homes.

See our post: Why we use your cleaning supplies

So how much is it going to cost? Maid in Chicago has flat rates for an employee for a certain number of hours. For example, our current minimum rate for a general cleaning is $98 per employee up to 4.0 hours using our client’s supplies. As mentioned above, some companies send a team of employees. If you are comparing companies and want to get an idea of how much your cleaning is costing per hour, find out how many people they send out, and for how many hours, and multiply the two together. Divide the estimated cost by the total number of cleaning hours. Then you can compare apples to apples. Let’s say you are quoted $100 for a team of two for two hours (or four hours). That would be $25/hour ($100/2 persons x 2 hours= $25 per person per hour). Ask if they charge extra for doing things like laundry or kitchen appliances. We don’t but some companies do.

If you choose to hire a company to clean your home, allow 1-2 days to request and receive proof of insurance.  Why? Unfortunately there are many maid services who say they are insured, but are actually not.  If you are a home owner, it is especially important that your investment is protected. Even if you are only a renter, you still may be liable for damage caused by an uninsured worker.  Properly insured maid services will carry both general liability and workman’s compensation insurance.

See our post: How to verify that your cleaning company is actually insured

Scheduling is another concern. Most of our customers who call for maid service need their homes cleaned sooner rather than later. I was surprised to hear of some companies not having availability for a month out.

Also, companies who do team cleaning are notorious for scheduling appointments for large windows of time (e.g. “from 12:00 noon – 3:00 pm”). For our clients, many who are busy professionals, this would never work. All of our appointments are scheduled to start at an exact time and date in the morning or afternoon. For morning cleanings this means we can arrive before clients go off to work as early as 7:00 am.

Manager on Duty?
Finally, is their office staffed? I can’t tell you many people are pleasantly surprised to find someone who actually answers a phone and returns calls. Problems come up and it nice to be able to reach someone should the need arise.

Hopefully this helps to demystify the process of how to choose a cleaning company.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have any tips for choosing a maid service? Have we left anything out? Please leave a comment below.

To schedule a home cleaning with Maid in Chicago or for a FREE quote, give us a call at (312) 829-9600, or visit our website and fill out our online form.

13 Fall Cleaning Ideas

Those lazy days of summer have passed us by, and many of us are thinking of doing a deep cleaning of our homes before winter arrives. For those of us who are completely overwhelmed and don’t even know where to begin, try to be realistic. A home that has not been cleaned in awhile is going to require much more time to get back into shape than a home that is cleaned on a regular basis. You may want to focus exclusively on only one project.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

1.) Move couches, chairs, and other furniture from those hard to reach areas.  Wipe down your baseboards and vacuum where the furniture was.

2.) Clean the ceiling fans. (See our post Keep ceiling fans clean)

3.) Wash your windows.  (See our post How to clean windows)

4.) Clean the blinds. If you have a lot of blinds, you may want to hire a blind cleaning service to take care of this task.

5.) Clean the inside and outside of your refrigerator. Pull out your refrigerator and clean the coils. You can vacuum them using a crevice tool, or dust them with an extension duster.  Clean underneath your refrigerator too.

6.) Clean the stovetop, oven, and backsplash. Move the oven out from the wall and clean underneath.

7.) Declutter your home. Check out this great article by professional organizer Pooja Gugnani: We Are What We Live In: Get Organized, Get Happy!

8.) Clean the grout in between your shower tiles. (See our post How to Clean Marble Grout)

9.) Clean out your medicine cabinet and dispose of all expired pharmaceuticals.

10.) Clean out your pantry and throw away any expired food.

11.) Wipe down the inside and outside of kitchen cabinets.

12.) Clean the inside of your closets including the shelving.

13.) Clean door frames, and doors on both sides.

Have we missed any fall cleaning projects? Let us know. Not feeling motivated to do your own cleaning? We can handle it. To schedule a cleaning or for a FREE quote, give us a call at (312) 829-9600. You can also visit Maid in Chicago’s website and fill out our online form.

Top 9 Tips for Cleaner Dishes From Your Dishwasher

It’s been two years since phosphates were phased out of dishwasher detergents. Even though manufacturers seem to have figured out how to get their formulas right, it is still more challenging than ever to get your dishes clean. Check out our tips below for cleaner dishes from your dishwasher.

1. Scrub the most heavily soiled dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

2. Run your dishwasher with full loads, but don’t overload it.

3. Face dirtier sides of dishes toward the center of the machine. Don’t block the jets.

4. Don’t allow bowls and utensils (especially spoons) to nest.

5. Use one of the 6 best automatic dishwasher detergents rated by Housekeeping.

pictured above: Finish Quantum, rated  “best powder tab”
by Housekeeping
Photo credit:

6. Cloudy glasses? Run an empty load once a month with some vinegar in the detergent dispenser. If that doesn’t work then your water jets may be clogged with mineral build-up. Try clearing each jet with a pin or a wire.

7. Clean your dishwasher on a regular basis. See our post: How to Clean Your Dishwasher

8. Run your dishwasher with hot water. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends dishwashers with a booster heater, which increases the temperature of the water entering the dishwasher to 140°F.

9. Use a rinse aid such as Finish Jet-Dry, especially if your water is hard. This will help prevent streaking and spotting.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have any tips that we have missed? Please leave a comment below.

To schedule a home cleaning with Maid in Chicago or for a FREE quote, give us a call at (312) 829-9600, or visit our website and fill out our online form. As part of our cleaning service we do do dishes, including loading and unloading dishwashers.

Do It Yourself Dry Cleaning

Call me frugal, but I would rather not spend a lot of money on dry cleaning. And in this tight economy every dollar counts. That’s why I feel smart using a home dry cleaning system such as Dryel on a few of my dry-clean-only garments every now and then.

The vast majority of my dry cleaning requires ironing, so I’m more than happy to let the professionals handle all of my dress shirts and pants. What I have found out though is that these DIY home dry cleaning systems are ideal for freshening up garments in between visits to the dry cleaners and cleaning sweaters. I think of them as another way to stretch the family budget.

So this is how the Dryel system works. Remove any stains on your sweaters with a stain removal pen and blotter. Spray “cleaning booster” on collars and underarm areas. Put 1-4 garments in the Dryel dry cleaning bag along with one “moist cleaning cloth.” Zip the bag and put in your dryer on medium heat for 30 minutes. That’s it!

You can use Dryel on most of your dry-clean-only items, but garments with serious stains will require professional care. For more information, take a look at Dryel’s FAQs or read this detailed article on How Home Dry Cleaning Works.

Now it’s your turn. Have you tried DIY dry cleaning? Please leave a comment below.

To schedule a home cleaning with Maid in Chicago or for a FREE quote, give us a call at (312) 829-9600, or visit our website and fill out our online form. Yes, we can help you with your home dry cleaning, and we can even drop off or pick up your dry cleaning at your neighborhood dry cleaners too if it’s nearby. We are here to make your life easier.

Best Way to Store Christmas Ornaments

pictured above in foreground: “Sterilite Show Off Ornament Box Set” from Target

Christmas has passed and the New Year’s celebrations are over. It’s that sad time of year when the Christmas trees must come down. Last year we started using these “show off ornament boxes” to store our Christmas ornaments, and they really work super. Not only do they protect your precious ornaments and save you the trouble of individually wrapping them in newspaper or tissue paper, but they look great and save tons of space.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have any great storage ideas for Christmas ornaments and other holiday decorations? Please leave a comment below.

Please also check out our post Cleaning Up Christmas Tree Needles.

If you need some help cleaning up after taking down your tree, give Maid in Chicago a call to schedule an appointment: (312) 829-9600. You can also visit our website and fill out our online form for a FREE quote.

How to Monitor Moisture in Your Home

This is another post in our series about mold. (See our other posts: How to Clean Moldy Caulking, Top 5 Tips to Prevent Mold in Showers, How to Clean a Moldy Shower Curtain, and How To Clean Mold in Your Home.)

What do you do if you have cleaned away mold but it keeps coming back? You may want to check to see what your relative humidity is in your home. It may be too high.

According to the CDC “controlling moisture in your home is the most critical factor for preventing mold growth.” You can monitor the level of humidity in your home with a simple electronic device called a hygrometer. They are inexpensive (the one below costs less than $20) and can be purchased online or at home improvement stores such as Lowe’s, The Home Depot, and Menards.

pictured on the left: Acu-Rite Home Comfort Monitor

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends a relative humidity level between 30%-50%. In the summer months, when you are running an air conditioner, the relative humidity should be between 40%-50% for optimal comfort. In the winter months, when you are running your heater, the relative humidity may need to be lower  than 40% (in the 30%-40% range) to prevent condensation on windows. Lower than 30% is too dry; higher than 50% is too moist.

If you discover your humidity level is too high (such as 62% in the picture above to the left) you need to do something to get to  the root cause of the moisture. Start by checking for any leaky pipes. Also make sure there is proper ventilation in your kitchen and especially in the bathroom.  Running a dehumidifier or regulating your humidistat will take the moisture out of the air. For more information on controlling moisture in your home, check out this article by the EPA.

For more information read Protect Yourself from Mold by The Centers for Disease Control. For serious mold problems, consult a mold remediation expert.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have moisture or mold problems in your home? Have you tried monitoring relative humdity? Please leave a comment below.

To schedule a cleaning with Maid in Chicago or for a FREE quote, give us a call at (312) 829-9600. You can also visit our website and fill out our online form.

How to Clean Mold in Your Home

This is a follow-up to our posts How to Clean Moldy Caulking, Top 5 Tips to Prevent Mold in Showers, and How to Clean a Moldy Shower Curtain, which dealt with mold in the bathroom.

Today I thought we would take a step back and talk about what cleaning products you use to clean mold. Walking down the cleaning aisle of your grocery store, you may be perplexed by the variety of cleaning products you see for mold and mildew. However, contrary to what you see on all of these product labels, the go to product for cleaning mold is simply bleach.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends cleaning mold with a bleach solution of no more than a cup of bleach to a gallon of water. This is the equivalent of filling a 32 fl.oz spray bottle with water and 2 oz. of bleach. Then simply spray some of the cleaner on a cleaning cloth, and wipe away the mold from the affected area.

When cleaning with bleach, always heed these warnings. First, make sure you properly ventilate the area you are cleaning. Second, never mix bleach and ammonia together. It causes a dangerous chemical reaction. Finally, make sure you wear a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands.

For more information read Protect Yourself from Mold by The CDC. For serious mold problems, consult a mold remediation expert.

Now it’s your turn. Have you ever battled mold in your home? Please leave a comment below.

To schedule a cleaning with Maid in Chicago or for a FREE quote, give us a call at (312) 829-9600. You can also visit our website and fill out our online form.


How to Clean Lamp Shades

It won’t be long before those 24-hour marathons of the holiday classic A Christmas Story begin running on TV. If you are lucky enough to be like “Old Man” in the movie, and win a “major prize”  such as a leg lamp, (you know–the kind that are shaped like a women’s leg wearing fishnet stockings) at some point you are going to wonder how to clean your piece of art.

Lamp shades are notoriously tricky to clean. Anything wet or damp can ruin them. It is better to dry dust them regularly; maintenance is key.

Tip: Gently whisk away the dust with a clean paint brush. Reserve it for use on lamp shades only.

So there you have it, a tip to maintain your pride and joy. We triple dog dare you not to try it out. Have a safe holiday season and try not to shoot your eye out!

Bonus tip: Did you know that tickets for A Christmas Story The Musical at The Chicago Theatre are now on sale?

Now it’s your turn. Do you have any works of art that you don’t know how to clean? Or perhaps you have some tips of your own to share. Please leave a comment below.

To schedule a cleaning with Maid in Chicago or for a FREE quote, give us a call at (312) 829-9600. You can also visit our website and fill out our online form.