Most of us know there is a great deal of cleanup after a disaster hits. But how often do you think about what to clean before disaster strikes?
Here are some helpful cleaning measures you can do before a storm or other calamity so your burden is not so great after.
Mow the Lawn
If your lawn is mowed low and even now, you won’t have tall grass to trudge through later. Refill any gas cans and/or re-charge any lawnmower batteries after mowing. It will be much easier to pick up and remove any debris that lands on the mown lawn. And you may need to use the gas in the filled can to operate other equipment for the after-cleanup.
Trim, Whack, and Blow
Trim the hedges, whack down those weeds, and blow those leaves now. Otherwise, you may later find yourself with a big mess on top of a big mess.
Bring It In
Bring in any garbage cans, lawn furniture, or other yard items that could make a mess if blown over, broken, or made into dangerous shrapnel.
Lightning storm. Photo Source: UF/IFAS
Leave No Piles
Make sure there are no dirty dishes in the sink or the dishwasher. Make sure everything is cleaned, dried, and put away. Then, if you lose electricity after the storm or are not sure of the safety of your water, you don’t have to worry about clean plates to eat on, glasses to drink from, or utensils to eat with. And you don’t have a mess to look at or a stink from the sink to deal with.
Clean, dry, and put away all the dirty laundry now. If you lose that all-important electricity later, you won’t have to worry about stepping over piles of clothes or wonder how you’re going to deal with wearing the same dirty clothes over and over again. If you have a generator, you could use that to clean your clothes, but most of the time those generators are best used to keep food safe in the refrigerator or to operate emergency equipment.
If your bathroom tub is scrubbed clean now, you can fill it with water for flushing toilets, cleaning, or purifying and using as extra drinking water. You can also take a relaxing, cleansing bath from a hard, dirty day’s work after the storm.
And cleaning a dirty toilet now means you’ll have one less thing to have to deal with later – along with everything else on your to-do list.
Get Rid of It
Make sure the garbage can, recycle bin, and compost container are all emptied. The last thing anyone needs is old piles of trash with new piles of trash added on top.
Been meaning to give away those extra items (knick knacks, doodads, toys, etc.) you don’t use or like anymore? Doing that now makes for a cleaner house as opposed to having more “stuff” in the house, adding to the mess you may have to deal with later.
Clear the Clutter
Pick up papers, bills, tools, and any other important items that may be on various surfaces throughout the house (you may actually want to eat on that dining room table some day). Then organize them together in a safe place. This helps to keep them from getting water damaged or tossed around and you’ll be able to find them later.
Have your emergency kit filled and ready to go in a plastic tub or waterproof container. Make sure everyone in the house knows where it is. For other disaster preparation and recovery resources, go to https://disaster.ifas.ufl.edu/ and/or talk with your county UF/IFAS Extension Agent.
If your home or property are destroyed in a disaster, these measures probably won’t really help much. But if all is not lost and there is just some debris and damage cleanup to be done after a large weather event, the above measures taken before can alleviate a lot of extra stress after. And if there is no disaster, hey, your house is nice and clean. Relax and enjoy it!
Make sure you clean before disaster strikes.
Eeekkk! A roach! Quick – where’s the bug spray? That seems like a logical way to get rid of the pesky critter, right? But what if the roach is in your kitchen? Or you have pets or small children? Is there a less toxic way to keep pests out of your home?
Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, uses a combination of methods to help you:
- Stop pests
- Inspect and monitor for pests
- Identify pests
- Have a game plan to protect your home
- Know if your plan is working
Pests, like people, need food, water, and shelter to thrive, so if you eliminate one or all these factors, you increase your pest control success. You can use IPM to prevent indoor and outdoor pests and solve existing pest problems.
If you can see light around the door edge, insects can enter. Photo source: UF/IFAS
Exclusion is a major part of prevention in IPM; it prevents outdoor pests from entering.
- Check the weather-stripping around exterior doors and windows – if you can see light, pests can enter. Did you know an American cockroach can enter through a gap the thickness of a quarter?
- Install door sweeps on exterior doors so insects can’t enter under the door – be sure the sweep brushes the floor.
- Patch or replace window and door screens to keep flying insects out.
- Use sealants around doors and windows to fill tiny gaps where pests can enter. It will help to conserve energy, too!
- Cover vent pipe openings, like dryer vents, on your home’s exterior with strong mesh or other covering to keep rodents and other small animals from entering.
We sometimes make it easier for pests to move in and thrive in our home due to our habits. Here are a few easy ways to prevent pests:
- Wash dishes promptly. Pests feast on food particles so wash dishes immediately after meals.
- Quickly clean up grease and spills. Just like dirty dishes, grease and food spills attract pests so clean them as soon as they occur. This also will keep the spill from spreading, saving you cleaning time in the long run.
- Store food items in sealed plastic containers. This keeps pests out and food items fresher for longer.
- Clean on a routine schedule. Regular sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, dusting, and general cleaning removes food sources for pests and creates a healthier indoor living space for you and your family.
- Get rid of clutter. Piles of paper, clothes, and other items can provide a dark, cozy home in which pests can hide and multiply. Organize these areas so your home is less inviting to pests. Cockroach control alone can significantly reduce allergen levels.
- Dispose of recycling frequently. This removes a breeding ground for pests.
- Inspect incoming goods or items before bringing them into your home. This will reduce the risk of “stowaways” entering.
- Use plastic bins for long-term storage. Cockroaches love cardboard boxes and paper bags so transfer items you plan to store for longer than three to six months to plastic storage bins with tight-fitting lids.
There are a variety of treatment options for controlling pests.
Use window cleaner, rubbing alcohol, or baby wipes to disrupt ant trails in your home. Photo source: Judy Corbus, UF/IFAS Extension
- Window cleaner, rubbing alcohol, baby wipes: Ants travel in trails to and from their food source, emitting pheromones, or scent trails, to “mark” their path to the food. To disrupt ant trails, spray window cleaner on or apply rubbing alcohol to a paper towel or use baby wipes to wipe the ant trail. This removes the scent trail so the ants cannot find their way back to their food.
- Whole home gel bait: These products come in a syringe-type applicator with formulations for cockroaches and ants. Examine your home carefully to see where these pests are entering and apply a pea-sized dollop of the gel bait at the entry points. The pests eat the bait and return to their nest, where the gel bait eliminates the nest. The gel bait can be used anywhere in and around the house where cockroaches or ants are found and is more effective than treating kitchens and bathrooms only, a common pest control practice. Gel bait works well behind appliances, swtichplates, and outlet covers. Reapply gel bait periodically to keep pests from returning. You may need to rotate brands, as pests can develop immunity over time.
So, the next time you see a bug in your home, consider IPM before you reach for the spray. For more information about integrated pest management for homes, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.
You may be spending more time creating and experimenting in your kitchen these days. But are you taking the time to clean and enjoy the beauty of the kitchen when you’re not making those new culinary masterpieces? Here are 11 super simple kitchen cleanups that can take away the stresses caused by kitchen grime, stink, and clutter.
- Dust and Cover
For space between upper cabinets and the ceiling, begin by using a duster (and soapy sponge if needed) to get rid of all those dust bunnies. Then lay down wax paper (which holds the dust) or newspaper, paper grocery bags, or parchment paper. Then you can just lift the old paper and put down new a few times of year without having to clean years of dust and grime by hand. You may want to start with this because dust may fall from the top. Then work your way down to the rest of the kitchen.
- Clean the Microwave
Add about one cup of water to a large microwave-safe bowl. Cut a lemon in half. Squeeze the lemon juice into the bowl then add the lemon halves too. Microwave on high for about 2 minutes until the liquid boils and the window steams up. Don’t open the door yet; let the bowl sit for about 5-10 minutes. The steam loosens the gunk. Then it’s just an easy wipe down with a sponge inside and out.
- Wipe Down Surfaces
Wipe cabinet shelves and doors, counter tops, and trashcans with warm soapy water. Use the rough side of a double-sided non-scratch sponge for stuck-on areas and the softer side for crumbs and easier messes. You can also disinfect these surfaces with a spray bottle filled with a solution of one tablespoon bleach to one quart water, using paper towels to wipe dry.
Photo: A. Hinkle
- Scrub a Stove-top
Clean/ready to cook.
Photo: A. Hinkle
First, wipe down with warm soapy water. Put half a cup of baking soda in a bowl. Then slowly pour in hydrogen peroxide, mixing until it becomes a thin paste. Pour a little paste on the stubborn spots and rub with a heavy-duty paper towel or rag. The stains should come right off. For stubborn stains, pour a bit more of the paste onto the stuck-on stain and let it soak for about 10 minutes. Then scrub, scrub, scrub some more until the stove-top is completely clean.
(Check manufacturer’s directions for smooth top stoves.)
- Wash the Refrigerator
Take out shelves, drawers, and other removable parts of your refrigerator and freezer and wash with hot water and dish soap – just as if they were dishes. Wash the inside walls and door compartments of the refrigerator and freezer with a solution of 2 tablespoons baking soda and 4 cups warm water to clean and reduce any strong odors. Rinse with clear warm water and dry with a soft cloth. Wipe off all jars and dishes as you replace them in the refrigerator.
Wash the outside of the refrigerator and freezer with hot soapy water, rinse, and dry. Don’t forget the door gaskets – sticky gaskets can cause air leaks, using more energy over time.
- The Garbage Can
Sprinkle baking soda into the bottom of the trash bag to help keep the shudder-inducing smellies away and/or add a cotton ball soaked in essential oils to add a nice scent.
- The Stinky Sink
First, run hot water down the drain. Follow that with a cup of baking soda. Finish off with a cup of lemon juice. This fizzy reaction is fun to do with the kids.
- That Refrigerator Smell
Placing an open box of baking soda on a shelf in the refrigerator gets rid of most smells. If your unit has a pan or plastic tray on the very bottom to collect the condensation or defrost water, remove and clean it once or twice a year. Dust and moisture in this pan can lead to mold growth and cause health problems for persons with allergies. It also can develop an unpleasant odor. Check your care manual for the location of the pan.
That’s Got to Go!
- Food – Organize, Keep, Toss
Go through your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry and throw away anything that is expired, moldy, or you have no idea what it is. (To learn more about Use-By, Sell-By, and Best-By dates on food packages, check out Understanding Date Labels.) FIFO (First In First Out) your pantry foods by placing the older foods at the front and newer foods in the back. This way, you use up the foods that will expire first. Throw away any foods with freezer burn.
- Herbalicious…or Not
Toss out any herb or spice containers that are past their best-if-used-by date. Herbs and spices begin to quickly lose their wonderful tastes and aromas after this date. If it has no date and you have no idea how long you’ve had it, best bet is to throw it away.
That Kitchen Drawer
Photo Source: A. Hinkle
- That Drawer
Where is that ladle? I know I put it in this drawer. Why is the kitchen tool I want to use always at the bottom of the utensil (or junk) drawer? And why do I have five corkscrews when I don’t even drink wine? Help beat these frustrating dilemmas. De-clutter and organize this drawer. Start by taking everything out – yes, everything. Pick out things you never use. If you’ve had a melon baller for 10 years and used it once nine years ago, put it in a giveaway pile. Put four of the five corkscrews in that pile too. Throw away anything that’s broken or unusable. Wipe out the drawer using a sponge and warm soapy water or disinfectant wipes. Refill the drawer starting in the bottom/back with those tools you don’t use as often. Work your way forward and up with the tools you use most often. Ah, so much better now, and from now on.
Try tackling two or three of these tips a week. You can complete the whole list in one month. Your kitchen will be cleaner and more comfortable, and you can be less stressed and happier.
Hurricane season is June 1 to November 30, with peak season in September and October. And hurricanes are not the only disasters we have to contend with. Living Well in the Panhandle provides the trusted Disaster Resources you need so you know what to do to keep your family and you living well.
Below are helpful resources for preparing for and handling the aftermath of a disaster. For more information, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.
Is My Food Safe to Eat?
Keeping Your Food Safe During Emergencies: Power Outages, Floods, and Fires
USDA – A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety-Severe Storms and Hurricanes Guide
Well Water Safety
Well Water Testing
Search for an open emergency shelter near you by texting SHELTER and your zip code to 4FEMA (43362) Example: SHELTER 01234
Lightning storm. Photo Source: UF/IFAS
Cleaning Up After a Hurricane
Safety Comes First!
Get the Right Tree Care Professional
Hiring an Arborist – Spanish
Cleaning Mold After a Flood
Hurricanes and Mosquitoes
Mosquito Control Tips for Homeowners
Money Management/Consumer Issues
Avoiding Fraud and Deception
Six Steps in Making an Insurance Claim
Replacing Lost or Damaged Documents
FEMA – Individual Disaster Assistance
FEMA – Interim Housing Resources
USDA Farm Service Agency Disaster Assistance
Disaster Recovery Loans
Tax Relief After a Disaster
Complaints – If you have a complaint about disaster relief assistance, contact the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General’s Office at 1-800-323-8603.
Family Health and Wellness
Call the Disaster Distress Helpline 24/7 for free counseling – 1-800-985-5990 (TTY) 1-800-846-8517
OR text TalkWithUs to 66746
Mental Health for Adults
Mental Health for Kids
Mental Health for Adolescents
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Practices to Minimize Flooding Damage to Commercial Vegetable Production
Florida Panhandle Agriculture
Florida Panhandle Agriculture Facebook
I love spring cleaning. Well, I love spring. I wish someone else would do the cleaning. It does feel nice to have everything clean and sparkling for those sunny spring days. According to a 2018 survey by the American Cleaning Institute, nearly 76% of households engage in spring cleaning each year. These spring cleaners report deep cleaning and clearing clutter as the top two reasons for this annual springtime spruce up.
If you want to join the springtime cleaning craze but aren’t sure how to start, here are a few ideas:
Clear the Clutter
Get ready for the springtime spruce up. Photo credit: Kendra Zamojski
Personal belongings hold a host of memories and other emotional attachments. This means stuff can accumulate in closets, drawers, cabinets, and other places. In my own life, I try to get rid of items I haven’t used in the last year. Others may use different criteria. Pick a closet, cabinet, or other area to de-clutter and start by sorting. Separate items into boxes or baskets labeled: Keep, Donate/Sell, Recycle, Trash. This is also a great way to help children make decisions about their stuff. It always makes me feel better to clear the clutter and organize a messy cabinet or closet.
Deep cleaning involves going through each room and cleaning it to a higher standard or reaching dirt that might get missed in a regular cleaning routine. On deep cleaning days, wash window and shower curtains, wash windows and mirrors, scrub floors, wash or wipe down walls, baseboards, and doors. Dust or wipe down light fixtures, ceiling fans, furniture, and shelves. Other tasks might include vacuuming under furniture, cleaning the carpets and rugs, and cleaning under and behind appliances.
Spring cleaning takes a little extra elbow grease compared to the regular cleaning routine. If you find this overwhelming, start small by choosing a room or even smaller by choosing a closet or cabinet. Once you see the difference, it will motivate you to tackle the next job.
Healthy Homes: Dealing with Household Clutter. 2015.
Available at: https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/C%201067_1.PDF
Spring Cleaning Tips
Available at: https://lancaster.unl.edu/home/articles/2005/springcleaning.shtml
Photo source: UF/IFAS Northwest District
The holiday season is here and, with it, many colorful decorations, delicious treats, and fun events. There also are hidden dangers that can mar this special time of year if we aren’t careful. Follow these twelve tips for a safe holiday celebration:
- To reduce fire risk, do not connect more than three strings of incandescent lights. Follow label guidelines for stringing together LED lights. Check lights for frayed or exposed wires, loose connections, and broken sockets and replace as needed.
- Place candles on stable surfaces away from trees, curtains, and other flammable items and out of reach of children. Never leave burning candles unattended or sleep in a room with a lit candle. Consider using battery-operated candles.
- Use caution when decorating with “angel hair” and artificial snow. Angel hair is made from spun glass and can irritate eyes and skin; always wear gloves when handling or use non-flammable cotton instead. Artificial snow can irritate your lungs if inhaled; follow package directions carefully.
- Keep kids and pets in mind when decorating the tree. Place breakable ornaments or ones with metal hooks near the top out of reach of little hands, playful paws, and wagging tails.
- Use a sturdy step ladder, not chairs or other furniture, to reach high places. Get someone to “spot” you and assist with handing or taking items.
- If you use a fireplace, have your chimney checked and cleaned at least once a year by a certified chimney sweep. Cleaning removes soot and other by-products that can lead to chimney fires and carbon monoxide intrusion into your living space.
- Use special care when giving toys that use coin lithium batteries to children. Older children’s devices with these batteries can be enticing to young children. Ingestion of button batteries can cause serious injury or death. Lock away spare batteries and closely supervise young children around products with button batteries. In case of ingestion, contact the 24-hour National Battery Ingestion Hotline, (800) 498-8666.
- If you want to fry a turkey, consider using an oil-less turkey fryer or purchase a fried turkey from a professional establishment. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that since 2002, there have been 168 turkey-related fires, burns, explosions, or carbon monoxide poisoning incidents, 672 injuries, and $8 million in property damage. Don’t add to the statistic count!
- Use a food thermometer to ensure meat reaches a safe internal temperature. Click here for a convenient temperature chart.
- Refrigerate food within two hours. Cut leftover meat in small pieces and store foods in shallow containers so they will chill quickly. Use leftovers within four days or freeze or discard.
- Reheat sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil before serving.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water to reduce your risk of illness.
Have a happy, healthy holiday season!
National Safety Council
Chimney Safety Institute of America
Electrical Safety Foundation International