Election Section

Cleaning screens and other spring cleaning tips

By James and Morris Carrey The Associated Press
Friday April 27, 2001

Spring is an important time of year for home dwellers. It’s when we get a chance to shake the winter dust out of our pillows and mattresses and begin the process of cleaning our home inside and out. If you have a regular routine, the process can be easier and even fun. We have a pressure washer that makes cleaning everything outside a breeze. We use it to clean spider webs from beneath the eaves, dirt from the walls – especially at the trim over doors and windows, windows, screens, doors, patios and walks, patio furniture, the barbecue, statuary and more. The trick is to start high and work down. Begin at the roofline and work your way to the ground. Start at one corner of the house and work your way around. Don’t use too much pressure. You won’t want that powerful spray to take any paint off. Be sure to use detergent with the pressure washer. Most have a feature that mixes cleaners and other concoctions into the pressurized spray. 

A pressure washer will do a good job by itself, but the addition of detergent and a little elbow grease will result in a cleaner, brighter result. If you have a one-story home, a short pole with a scrub brush on the end will allow you to do most of the cleaning with both feet planted squarely on the ground. 

This is the one time of year when you will appreciate having a full hip roof. That’s the kind that has an overhang all the way around. You can reach everything that needs cleaning with your feet on the ground. If not, you will need a ladder or scaffolding of some kind to reach additional stories or those areas where the siding is farther from the ground – like at dormers, copulas or gable ends. A gable-wall is where the wall extends up to the peak. 

Tip: Someone once told us that the only difference between a single-story home and its multistory counterpart was the stairs. Granted stairs are good exercise, but, if you have a choice, get a treadmill instead. Owning a single story home is significantly more cost-effective. Take for example the cost of maintenance. Everything you do to maintain a multistory home costs more. 

Whether your screens are made of copper, steel, aluminum or nylon, you will need to use caution during cleaning. Older metal screens have a tendency to rip and – old or new – aluminum and nylon screens can easily be stretched out of shape. And, they don’t bounce back. Once a screen is stretched, it stays that way. After the screen has been removed, lay it on a flat surface and wet it thoroughly. Use a sponge of soft bristle scrub brush to wash both sides. While the screen is drying, clean the window frame and wash and dry the window itself. If you don’t have a pressure washer, use a stiff bristle brush to clean the grooves and tracks in the frame. Once the window is clean, reinstall the screen. Plants and shrubs should be protected during the cleaning process. Press wooden stakes into the ground around fragile plants and drape a lightweight plastic cover over the stakes. This will prevent surrounding activity from unnecessarily breaking limbs and branches. 

Remove fabric covered pads and other cloth or cloth-covered items from harm’s way. Although most patio furniture pads are made to withstand attack by water, chances are they will last a lot longer if they aren’t inundated with water and detergent. 

Finally, be careful when using ladders, scaffolding and heavy equipment such as a pressure washer. Anytime you work with equipment that sprays anything, you should wear eye protection and protective clothing. And when it comes to ladders and scaffolding, make sure you have a helper to steady things