How to Clean a Hot Water System

Drain the sediment and residue from an electric tank water heater.

Hot water systems need to be routinely drained to avoid the build-up of sediment, debris, minerals and other foreign substances that could slow down or block the process.

Without this routine maintenance, you run the risk of the heating process getting interrupted (leading to sudden bursts of cold water), or the flow of water stopping entirely.

To prevent this, you will need to periodically drain your hot water system at least once a year.  Some trade experts suggest it should be once every six months, which isn’t bad advice by any means.  Your safest bet would be to check the manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation.

Generally speaking (not matter which type of hot water system you use): the more use the system gets, the more diligent you will need to be.  If you have a household with more than 5-6 people, it would be wise to check twice a year.   (Of course, this is an incredibly easy thing to forget, overlook or simply make excuses to avoid.  Be sure to mark the maintenance dates down in your calendar far in advance.) Continue reading

How to Clean a Shade Sail

If you’re covering your home patio or garden with a shade sail or shade cloth structure, you can easily clean it with readily available home accessories.

What you will need:

  • One tablespoon of dish-washing liquid, powder or soap.
  • A bucket
  • A nearby garden tap
  • A hose and light spray attachment
  • A soft scrubbing brush

The one guiding trick is to be gentle every step of the way, from the hose pressure to the strength of the brush.  You will need to be gentle enough to avoid damage, but thorough enough to actually clean.

Add the dishwashing soap to the bucket and fill it up with the hose. Make sure the water pressure isn’t too intense, so you can avoid going overboard with bubbles.

Set the bucket aside and wet the shade cloth gently with a coat of (non-soapy) water.  If you have a suitable hose attachment, spray it thoroughly with a very light mist.  Again, the trick here is to avoid too much direct pressure.

Start scrubbing the shade cloth, repeatedly dipping the scrubbing brush into the bucket of soapy water.  

Work on small sections at a time (no larger than 2-3 feet).  When each individual section is done, spray off the soap with a garden hose.  Again, keep it very light to avoid damage.

Voila!  Simply let it dry in the sun and host it back up the next day, good as new!

Source: Shade Sails Brisbane

How to Unclog a Drain Garbage Disposer

Blocked DrainsThere are several ways you can successfully unblock a garbage disposer:

  • Reset the unit.  The switch can usually be found on the underside of the device, easily accessible from under the sink.
  • Use a broom.  Unplug the garbage disposer from the power, stick the handle of a broom right down to the bottom, then spin the blade – first one way, then the other. This will, in all likelihood, loosten the blockage.
  • Use Vinegar and Baking Soda.  Half a cup of each – left to sit for hand an hour – should soften the food scraps inside enough for it to work the next time.

Got any other tips?  We’d love to hear them!

Roof Mold: How to Prevent Regrowth

The importance of zinc strips and regular re-cleaning. 

Last week we discussed how to clean roof mold.  But alas, nothing lasts forever!  To keep your roof clear of algae, moss or mildew, you will need to take further preventative measures.

Roof Stains

Roofing stains can lower both street appeal and property value if kept unchecked.
Source: Stock.xchng

Step One: Make the Environment Inhospitable for Mold

The most important step in discouraging mold is to take away its favorite things: moisture and shadow. Remove any nearby vines or branches if possible to maximize direct sunlight and a healthy flow of air.

Contact your local roofing store about zinc strips. Zinc will initiate a chemical reaction that effectively stops mold from any further group. This rather clever invention will send water – and thus, the chemical reaction – down the slope of your roof when it rains.

Zinc Strips to Prevent Mold and Algae Regrowth
Zinc Roof Armor
Shingle Shield Zinc Strips

Perform Annual Follow-Up Cleans

Remember that mold is famously resilient, so check well and often for regrowth. An annual re-cleaning is also highly recommended.

Got any further tips for preventing regrowth?  We’d love to hear from you!  Simply leave a comment below.

Quick Tip: Is Your Toilet Leaking?

Find out the easy way!

To detect toilet leaks, simply drip some food dye into the back tank and wait half an hour.  If the coloring has made its way into the bowl, voila – instant plumbing diagnosis!

Timber Floor Cleaning

How to clean your timber flooring the safe way (and extend its lifespan in the process).

Clean Timber Floor

Image courtesy of Max Francis Quality Floors

Why it’s Essential

When it comes to timber and other hardwood floors, timber floor cleaning is far more than a aesthetic responsibility.  Not only will dirt block the gorgeous matte or reflective shine that makes it so distinctive; it will actually damage it!

Think of every particle of dust, dirt or grit as a tiny shard of glass.
And think of every footstep, grinding it into your timber floor finish, wearing down that shine.

An exaggeration?  Perhaps, this is a fairly accurate summation of what happens, albeit on a very slow and microscopic level.  When it comes to timber floor cleaning, a little  healthy paranoia here will get you in the right mindset.

How to Reduce your Workload

Simple preventative measures can save you a lot of trouble.  Place welcome mats at every major entrance.  This will remind guests that they’re bringing dirt inside with them, encouraging a diligence you would not otherwise expect.  Consider placing mats inside as well, covering popular corridors, and even dedicated covering for areas you know will see a lot of use, such as certain places in the kitchen.  Of course, it would defeat the point to conceal too much of your beautiful floor, so it comes down to a balance between style and protection.  Follow your own intuition.

From here, it’s a simple case of diligence.  A thorough weekly clean is more easily said than done, so these preventative steps will provide a safety net.

How to do it (and NOT do it)

The key take-home message: avoid moisture.

Timber is particularly vulnerable to warping on exposure to liquid or humidity, particularly if it gets between the floorboards.  As such, you will need to approach cleaning with caution.

Spill and Stain Removal

  • To wipe up simple spills (i.e. water), use a dry towel or cloth.
  • For stickier substances, damp the cloth without soaking it.  After you’ve removed the spill, use a dry second cloth or towel to remove the moisture.
  • If this isn’t enough, mix a solution from vinegar and hot water.
  • If the stain is particularly tough, replace the vinegar with mentholated spirits.
  • If you must use detergent, keep it a minimum, mixing just 2-3 drops with hot water.  (More could eat away at the finishing.)
  • …and, as alaways, remember to clean up the resulting moisture with a dry cloth afterwards.

Routine Mopping

  • Mopping should only be done with a soft, lint free microfiber mop.  Under no circumstances should you use a steam mop, as this will effectively force heated water between the floorboards, breaching several floor care rules at once!


  • Choose a dustpan, brush and broom with soft bristles that don’t risk scraping the timber coating.  An electrostatic broom is perfect for this, as it will pick up most debris without any added pressure.

Got any other wooden floor tips?  Leave a comment below!

Further Reading: How to Clean a Timber Floor


Hose Washing and Water Blasting – The Common Mistakes

House Washing

Learn what NOT to do when cleaning exterior walls and surfaces.

  • Don’t spray too close.
    With a powerful enough pressure blaster, 3-5 feet should be enough.  Any closer runs the risk of damaging paint.
  • Wear protective goggles.
    Accidental blasts are more common than you might think, and potentially disastrous for the eyes.
  • Don’t add bleach (or any other chemical) to the pressure cleaner’s tank.
    If you must use bleach, it needs to be applied selectively and separately, with a brush, directly onto the surface.
  • Don’t focus too much on a single point.
    No matter how much it needs the attention, too much prolonged pressure could wear down the paint or damage many surfaces.
  • Avoid anything fragile, i.e. windows.
    This may seem obvious, but our friends at House Washing Brisbane tell us this is a surprisingly common error for first time DIY cleaners!)
  • Remember to practice.
    Before moving on to painted areas, try the pressure cleaner out on a driveway, path or another concrete surface. This way you’ll get a proper feel for the equipment, and aren’t so likely to be caught by surprise.
  • Most importantly, be very careful if using a ladder.
    Do not under any circumstances increase the pressure, as the kickback could throw you off balance.
  • Check very carefully for electrical outlets.
    Interior or exterior; obvious or remote.  The dangers of electrocution here are fairly self-explanatory!

With special thanks to the Pressure Cleaning Safety Checklist. 

Anything we’ve missed?  Feel free to leave your suggestions with your fellow readers below!

Roof Cleaning: Removing Mold and Mildew

Roof Shingles

Roof Shingles: One of mold’s favorite foods! (Image source:

Why mold matters, how to get rid of it, and how to stop it growing back.

While many homeowners fear roof mold, mildew, algae, moss and fungus for their damage to aesthetic appeal and property value, sometimes it seems too out of reach or irrelevant to matter. Roof mold is easy to overlook or ignore, but the consequences can be dire all the same.

The following post will explore the risks of roof mold, how to clean it, and the most effective techniques to stop it growing back afterwards.

Why Roof Mold is Serious Business

Beyond the damage to your home’s value and appearance, roof mold also have a hidden impact on monthly expenditure.

Mold will eat a way at a roof’s shingles (especially if they’re made of limestone), effectively weakening the weather-proofing of your home. The insulation will become less effective, leaving the residents to rely on air conditioning and other expensive forms of temperature control.

This leads to an even greater problem: the chance that mold spores outside will travel through the air conditioner, trigger allergies, and ultimately start growing indoors as well.

Yellow Mold

It’s easy to forget mold is alive, and like us, requires the right food and conditions to survive and grow. A poorly maintained roof offers exactly that.

How to Remove Mold from Your Roof

The following simple remedy has proven very effective for many homeowners. For maximum efficiency, you will need a large, reasonably powerful hand-held pump.

Fill a bucket with:

  • 3/4 water
  • 1/4 bleach
  • 1-2 tablespoons of trisodium phosphate (often marketed as “TSP” or “Sugar Soap”)

Before you begin, spray any nearby plants or trees extensively with clean water. This will prevent the bleach from poisoning the vegetation. (Source: Roof Cleaning Brisbane.)

Spray the solution over the affected area, wait 15 minutes, then use a scrubbing brush. If it doesn’t quicky and easily fall away, start over and repeat the process until it does.

Once you’re confident the mold is dislodged, rinse the roof very thoroughly with water. This will prevent a very easy-to-make mistake: leaving the bleach on to eat away at the roof in the mold’s place!

Next installment, we’ll cover tips on how to prevent regrowth.  Stay tuned!

Prevent a Flooding Laundry or Bathroom

When it comes to DIY plumbing, a little basic precaution can save a huge amount of money and worry alike.  This is particularly vital when it comes to the risk of burst pipes, overflow or flooding. The following tips will help you familiarise yourself with your home plumbing infrastructure and take the preemptive measures that can stop the damage before it starts.

Find and Label your Main Shutoff Valve

This simple component has the power to stop all incoming water.  Closing it quickly should be the very first step when flooding begins.  You will then have all the time in the world to take the next step, whether it’s investigating yourself or calling a professional. (Information via Plumber Gold Coast)

Of course, the middle of a plumbing emergency is never an ideal time to start the search.  You can generally find it at ground level, either outside or in the basement.  Place some colourful tape or any other eye-catching marker around it, preferably with an arrow drawn to indicate which direction to turn (something easy to forget in a moment of panic).

Tell everybody in your home where to find it, and encourage practice so it becomes second nature.  And since you won’t be home 24/7, consider using the shutoff valve before you leave on holidays.

Keep a very close eye on your laundry.

The laundry is possibly the most common place flooding can occur.  The rubber hose fitted to most washing machines can easily become dislodged, warped or cracked; all risks that can be prevented with a diligent eye in the preceding days and weeks.

Alternatively, you can replace it with metal piping: a much sturdier alternative that brings far better peace of mind.

How to Clean Out a Blocked Drain

Blocked Drain

A step-by-step guide to drain unblocking.

Fixing a blocked drain is effectively a process of elimination.  Try the following steps in order.  If one doesn’t work after 1-2 attempts, move on to the next option.

1) Try to physically pull out the obstruction.

A long pair of pliers will work well, provided they’re long enough.  If pulling out the blockage is out of the question, and it’s not something that needs to be retrieved, you can also try using any long or thin object (utensils, chopsticks, or even knitting needles) to dislodge or break up the blockage.

2) Use a chemical drain cleaner.

Be sure to choose your product carefully and follow the recommended instructions to the letter.  The wrong type of cleaner or technique could be corrosive or damaging to your drain hole.

After the use of drain cleaner, the use of gloves and eye protection is highly recommended from here on in.

3) Use a plunger

Lay down a wet cloth over the sinkhole.  This will seal the opening.  If the sink is not already filled, add enough water to cover the plunger head.
Using both hands, force the plunger down and up repeatedly.  Do this without losing the seal, and you will have created a powerful vacuum.  After 10-15 seconds, unseal the plunger with a few sharp tugs.

If the water does not drain out, try again another two times.  This can take some patience.

4) Look under the sink.

Finally, if you’re feeling confident and plumbing-savvy enough, try removing the trap under the sink, with a bucket underneath to catch the water as it’s released.  Be sure to consult an expert – or at least perform a little research – before moving into this riskier phase blind!

If none of these steps work in fixing a blocked drain, the problem might be much deeper, it’s time to call in a professional.