Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tis the Season for Floods and Fires

We don't like to think about it, but along with the snow that blankets our region this time of year we also have to worry about disasters in the home. If you happen to be a victim of fire, smoke, or water damage there are a few things you need to know when it comes to what you should and should not be doing in that situation.

We'll start with some Do's and Don'ts for smoke and fire damage. This would include furnace puffbacks, chimney fires, or even severely burning Christmas dinner (yes, we have had a fire job before as a result of a burnt holiday dinner).

Fire and Smoke Damage

-Blow off or brush-vacuum loose soot particles from upholstery, drapes, and carpets.
-Cover carpeted traffic areas with towels or old linens to prevent additional soiling and permanent damage.
-Discard open food packages as the food could be contaminated.
-If you loose electrical service as a result of the damage, clean out any refrigerators and freezers you may have. Prop the doors open, and if there is an odor in the unit place some charcoal in the unit.
-Clean formica and chrome fixtures in the kitchen and bathroom to prevent permanent tarnishing.
-Wipe residue from porcelain fixtures to prevent permanent etching.

-DO NOT wait to call for professional help
-DO NOT attempt to clean/wash any walls covered in wall paper or a flat finish paint without consulting your professional cleaner. Incorrect cleaning procedures could compound the soot residue problem.
-DO NOT attempt to clean carpets or upholstered furniture. Again, incorrect cleaning procedures could result in increased damage.
-DO NOT use electrical appliances that have been close to fire or water. These appliances should be evaluated by a professional to ensure your safety before using them.
-DO NOT use ceiling fixtures if the ceiling is wet. A short circuit could result.
-DO NOT touch anything with soot on your hands. Soot on your hands can permeate upholstery, walls, and woodwork, causing further damage.
-DO NOT eat food that has been exposed to fire or smoke.

Water damage is also a common occurrence for winter months as we see pipes break, and in some cases water damage happens as a result of extinguishing a fire. Below are some Do's and Don'ts for water damage.

Water Damage

-Remove as much water as possible by mopping and blotting.
-Use fans to circulate air. This promotes proper drying.
-Move photos, paintings, art objects, and other valuables to a safe dry location.
-Remove wet fabrics and dry them as soon as possible. Hang furs and leathers to dry separately at room temperature.
-Remove damp books from shelves and spread open to dry.
-Remove wet area rugs or other floor coverings.
-Prop up wet furniture cushions for even drying.
-Place small pieces of aluminum foil under furniture legs.
-Wipe furniture dry.

-DO NOT use an ordinary household vacuum to remove water.
-DO NOT use electrical appliances while on wet carpet or wet floors.
-DO NOT go in to rooms with standing water if the electricity is still on.
-DO NOT lift up tacked down carpet without professional help. Lifting carpet incorrectly could promote shrinkage.
-DO NOT wait to call for professional help. Damage from the water and bacteria growth can begin within hours.

I know that was a good bit of reading, but you can never be too knowledgeable when disaster strikes your home. Once again, I can not stress how important it is to seek the help of a disaster restoration professional if your home falls victim to flood, fire, or smoke damage. Too many times homeowners try to take care of the cleaning and repairs themselves which often results in more sever problems down the road.

Thanks for reading,

ServiceMaster by Bell Inc.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Today's Topic: Mold in Your Home

Mold is a very touchy subject these days. There is growing concern over the presence of mold in homes and the effect that it may have on you and your family. The disturbing reality is that there are mold spores everywhere. In your normal daily routine it is inevitable that you will come in contact with mold spores in the air, unless your daily routine takes place in a medical or scientific clean room. The following may give you some insight as to why you are having mold issues, and what you can do to help stop and prevent mold from growing in your home.

There are a few factors that determine wether your home provides an adequate environment for mold growth. One major factor is the humidity in your home. Mold spores are activated as the humidity in an environment climbs. Typically the hot number here is 70%. If an environment reaches a humidity level of 70% or more, the likelihood of having mold growth increases. Luckily for us, this is a factor that can be easily controlled. Take a look around your place and count how many live plants you are watering. These plants, although beautiful and fragrant, will increase the relative humidity in your home. Obviously, if you only have one small plant in your home the effect will not be as great as a person who is cultivating a small greenhouse worth of plants in their home.

Ventilation systems can help control mold growth, but can also promote mold growth if they are not installed properly. Ensure that all ventilation systems vent to the outside of your home and not in to an attic, crawl space, etc. This includes bathroom exhaust fans, the range hood in your kitchen, and clothes dryer vents. If you are not removing the humid air from your home, you are only promoting the growth of mold.

Luckily for us there are ways to control the humidity in our homes. Dehumidifiers and air conditions do a great job of lowering the relative humidity, discouraging mold growth. Now don't get me wrong, I am not encouraging you to run your a/c all year round. Although I would not be against it, (I love when the temperature in my house is around 65-68 degrees) you may find some resistance from the others that you live with. Also, I'm sure telling them that I said it is a good idea will not fly.

Basements are typically hot spots for mold growth. One thing to check in your basement is the floor covering you have installed. If you look down the basement steps and see carpet you will have to keep a closer eye on the humidity than if there was a hard floor covering. Carpet will tend to trap moisture and in turn increase the relative humidity of the room. Once again, this is easily remedied by running a dehumidifier in your basement.

While you can treat mold yourself, it is always recommended that you consult a professional especially if the mold growth is extensive or if you are sensitive to mold. Here at ServiceMaster by Bell we are ready to talk with you about any mold issues you may have and as always, we offer free estimates! We are experienced in mold remediation and have a staff trained in how to handle and treat mold. We also offer air quality testing to ensure our customers that the air in their home is of a safe quality.

Once again, thanks for reading and please do not hesitate to give us a call if you have any mold issues or questions.

ServiceMaster by Bell Inc.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Some FAQ's

Here at ServiceMaster by Bell, we offer a variety of cleaning services that span everything from carpet cleaning to disaster restoration services. With offering so many services, we have to field a lot of questions. Below I will try to address some of the most frequently asked questions we see at the office and out in the field.

Q: If I have your company do a house cleaning for me, how much cleaning do you do?
A: We can do as little or as much cleaning as you want us to do. For example, there is a list of things that are we would typically do for a house cleaning. As the customer you do not have to stick with that list. It is simply a starting point and can be tailored to fit your needs.

Q: What services do you offer?
A: If it can be cleaned, chances are we can take care of it for you. We do carpets, hard floors, resilient floor maintenance, windows, furniture both upholstered and leather, odor removal, and general cleaning services (dusting, vacuuming, etc.). I'm sure I am forgetting something from that list, but as I said; if it can be cleaned, chances are we can help you out with it.

Q: I think there is mold in my house. What should I do about this?
A: If you're asking us this question, you have already taken the first step. As much as you don't want to deal with mold, we do! First, if you suspect that there is mold in your home please stay away from it and just give us a call. We have state of the art testing procedures and exclusive products that will kill mold and stop the spreading of mold. We are also able to provide air quality tests that will confirm that the air in your home is once more safe for you to be breathing.

Q: What would the cost be to have the carpets cleaned in X number of rooms in my house?
A: We do not price our carpet cleaning by the room. Instead, we price our carpet cleaning by square footage. This ensures that our customers receive the best pricing on each and every job. Since rooms in your home may be different sizes than rooms in another customer's home, one flat rate for a living room, bedroom, hallway, etc. is not fair to you, the customer. Also, we take in to consideration any furniture that you may not want to have moved in the cleaning. We will deduct the area covered by those pieces from the total because if we do not move something, there is no way we can clean under it so why should you pay for that?

Q: How soon can I walk on my carpet once it has been cleaned?
A: You can walk on your carpet immediately. Your socks will get wet though as the carpet will still be slightly damp from the cleaning. If you must walk on the carpet immediately it is best to do so in your bare feet, socks, or a pair of house slippers or shoes that you don't wear outside. Drying time for your carpets all depends on humidity levels in and out of the house as well as how much air is being moved across the carpet. Typically our customers report a 3-4 hour drying time.

As we think of more FAQ's I will add to this list so be sure to keep checking out the blog!

Thanks again for reading,


Monday, November 1, 2010

Some tips for staying healthy through flu season.

This morning I was greeted by some lovely frost on my car and was reminded that here in Western PA, snow is a lingering threat any and all times from October-May. With this chilly weather we also see the start of everyone's favorite season, Flu Season. A paper came across my desk last week with some tips and pointers to help fend off the flu this winter. As always, they (the CDC) say the "first line of defense against infectious diseases and influenza" is vaccination. I'll leave that up to you to decide if that is something you want to buy in to. But enough with my opinions and on to some things you can know and do to help protect you and your family from the flu, aside from getting pricked with a needle.

-Do routine cleaning and disinfecting.
Match your cleaning and disinfecting activities to the types of germs you want to kill. Luckily for us Flu viruses are pretty fragile. That makes killing them relatively easy and most standard cleaners and disinfectants will do the job.

-Clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched often.
This would include, but is not limited to: countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, faucet handles, phones (even your cell phone), and light switches.

-Clean and disinfect properly.
Be sure to always follow the directions on the label of your cleaning and sanitizing products. This is commonly overlooked as some cleaners do not disinfect immediately, but take a few seconds or a minute to work to the best of their abilities. For example, we have a can of Lysol disinfectant that takes 30 seconds to disinfect properly. I know I've used Lysol to disinfect and have sprayed it on and wiped it off after only a few seconds on the surface without even thinking about how it probably did not work correctly.

-Wash your hands with an anti-bacterial hand soap.
Wet your hands with running water. Apply liquid, bar or powder soap and Lather well. Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails. Rinse well. Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel or air dryer. If possible, use your towel to turn off the faucet.

*Keep in mind that antibacterial soap is no more effective at killing germs than is regular soap. Using antibacterial soap may even lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the product's antimicrobial agents — making it harder to kill these germs in the future. -The Mayo Clinic

So hopefully with these tips you'll be able to beat the flu and stay healthy this winter. Be sure to subscribe and keep up with the blog here as there will be more great information and some exclusive offers on our services that you can only get right here.

Thanks for reading,