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Caring For Your New Home

One of the most enjoyed benefits of owning a new custom home is the beauty of new cabinetry, flooring, and surfaces throughout the home. Keeping those finishing touches looking new often results in questions of how to clean and care for a new home.

Carpet care is one of the most complex issues in home maintenance. Initially, carpets may shed, sprout a few strands that extend above the normal carpet height, and can even appear to change color in areas. During the first few weeks, regular vacuuming is critical to the life of your carpet. This keeps shedding, which is a normal occurrence, to a minimum and keeps dirt and soil from becoming embedded during the business of moving in and settling into your new space. Stray strands that "grow" from your carpet can simply be trimmed with scissors -- not pulled. Seeming changes in color are actually caused by light being reflected in different ways as pile fibers are bent in various directions.

Carpet life can be extended several years with good maintenance, especially regular vacuuming. Two or three times a week is the minimum recommendation by most manufacturers and heavy traffic areas may require more frequent cleaning.

Protecting against stains is also critical in keeping your carpets looking new. Quickly blotting liquids and using spot removal techniques before the spill has a chance to penetrate carpet fibers will keep stains to a minimum. When using cleaning agents on spills, be sure to test the product on an inconspicuous area. Apply several drops, hold a white tissue on the area, and count to ten. Check the tissue and carpet for dye transfer or damage. With a clean, white, absorbent cloth or paper towel, work the cleaning agent from the edges of the spot to the center. Blot thoroughly and repeat until the spot no longer transfers to the cloth. Use clean water to remove any remaining cleaning agent and absorb remaining moisture. When completely dry, brush or vacuum the pile to restore texture.

Long-term care requires deep cleaning by either you or a professional every 12 to 18 months or before it shows soiling. Methods vary depending on the type and grade of carpet installed so be sure to check with your homebuilder to find out the best method of cleaning.

Tile and stone finishes provide truly low-maintenance and beautiful surfaces on floors, counters, and work areas. Cleaning these surfaces properly keeps them looking new for many years. If installed in heavy foot traffic areas, a daily sweeping is recommended along with periodic cleaning with a neutral pH cleaning solution to remove dirt buildup. On tile, avoid products such as dish detergent, vinegar, muriatic acid, bleach, abrasive cleaning powers, and steel wool. These products can dull, discolor, and scratch the surface of the tiles. For deep cleaning, an alkaline-based cleaner will remove grease and synthetic waxes from surfaces.

Grout, a cement with color additives, is extremely porous, making it vulnerable to spills and stains. When initially installed, a thin film residue will be seen or felt over the entire hard surfaced area. As grout cures, it may show shading variations. A sealant can help protect grout from discoloring; however, the best way to keep it clean is to change mop water frequently. For more thorough cleaning, use the same type of cleaner as usual and apply with a scrub brush. Commercial products can also be used and are available at many home maintenance stores.

Stone surfaces are similar to tile and sealants can be used to help resist the possibility of staining. When cleaning, avoid cleaners that contain grit or non pH balanced solvents. Liquids such as ammonia, lemon juice, cola, soy sauce, pickle juice, ketchup, mustard and other acidic products can also destroy the finish of the stone. If staining occurs, a poultice-based powder will draw out dirt and stains from the stone''s pores.

Wood and laminate surfaces will remain beautiful for years with proper care. The specific type of wood and finish used comes with detailed manufacturer''s guides for proper cleaning and care, but general guidelines can be observed regardless of the finish. Dirt and grit can act as sandpaper, damaging the finish of your surface. Use door mats at all exterior entrances to keep dirt and moisture from being tracked into your home. Rubber, foam-backed, or plastic mats on wood or laminate floors should be avoided as these products can cause discoloration. Area rugs are helpful in front of sinks, tubs, and entrances into your home. Use only rug underlays that appear in your manufacturer''s care guide. Vacuum or sweep regularly to remove dirt and keep surfaces clean.

Water is a natural enemy to these surfaces and should be avoided. Never damp mop wood floors as standing water can damage flooring. Spills should be wiped up immediately. Dried spills can be removed with a slightly damp cloth.

Furniture can gouge and scratch wood or laminate flooring. To protect these surfaces, use fabric glides on the legs of furniture. Use wide, flat bearing surfaces or wide, rubber rollers to save floors. When moving furniture, place a blanket or scrap piece of carpeting upside down between the floor and furniture. High heels can often cause indentations on surfaces and should be avoided when possible.

Long term care can be affected by humidity, sunlight, and refinishing techniques. Be sure to check your manufacturer''s care guide to address these additional factors.

Proper care is primary in maintaining your home''s surfaces. Be sure to ask questions of your homebuilder and follow the specific care guides that come with your surfaces to enjoy a beautiful environment for years to come.

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