Century-Old Cleaning Hacks to Try This Spring

We could all use a little extra inspiration to take on the spring cleaning that lies ahead. Instead of buying expensive new cleaning gadgets, why not try something different? Our grandparents always give tried-and-true advice, and these spring cleaning hacks are no exception!

Wake Up Early and Plan Ahead

You can accomplish a lot if you get up just a little earlier each day to tackle your spring cleaning chores. We’re often tired by the end of the day, so it is a good idea to make a list and work through your tasks first thing in the morning.

Make Your Own Cleaning Products

Grandma didn’t have all the fancy cleaning supplies we use today. As it turns out, many items in your kitchen will clean your home as effectively and will be kinder to the environment than commercial products. Invest in a bottle of white vinegar and you can tackle a ton of cleaning projects around your home.

Windows are one of the biggest jobs on the spring cleaning list. You can make a perfect window-cleaner by mixing 1 cup of vinegar, 2 cups of water, ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol, and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. You can add several drops of orange or lemon essential oil for a nice scent.

But don’t stop there! You can use vinegar to clean your showerhead by pouring some into a small plastic bag and wrapping it around the fixture. Leave it overnight and wipe away any residue in the morning. You can also mix 1/2 cup vinegar with 1 cup of water and a generous squeeze of lemon juice for a countertop grease-and-grime cleaner.

Banish Dust

If your home is due for a duct cleaning, you may find yourself dealing with more than the usual amount of dust this season. Here are a few cleaning hacks to help you manage:

  • Always dust surfaces with a damp cloth. Add a few drops of essential oil such as orange, lemon, or lavender for a nice scent. Begin at the top and work your way down when cleaning.
  • Use an old pillowcase to clean dust from ceiling fan blades. Cover the blade with the pillowcase and you won’t get dirt and dust everywhere!
  • You can apply a small amount of car or floor wax to your air vents to help prevent dust from building up on the vent itself. However, that won’t do anything for the dust inside your vents — only a professional duct cleaning can effectively tackle that job.

Polish to a Shine

Extra virgin olive oil will do a great job of cleaning your leather furniture. If your pets have left tiny scratches, you can fill them with a little matching colour shoe polish. Mix some with a little lemon oil, and you’ve got yourself a furniture polish, too!

Maybe you were lucky to have inherited some silverware. Plain white toothpaste can polish that silver to a shine. White toothpaste will also clean the jewellery to a sparkle!

Get Rid of Bad Odours

Got musty odours in your closet? Hang a bundle of white chalk to chase away musty odours and dehumidify your closet. Got stinky shoes? Put half a fresh onion in a small bowl of water and place it near your shoes overnight. Believe it or not, the onion will absorb bad odours without leaving an onion scent.

Clean Toilets Overnight

Cleaning toilets isn’t anyone’s favorite task. Here’s an effortless way to clean them overnight while you are asleep! Sprinkle Borax in the toilet bowl, and then spray white vinegar over it. In the morning, just flush for a clean toilet.

Borax has incredible whitening and cleaning properties, and was used widely in the 19th century. You can also add some to your laundry for a boost and decrease the detergent you use.

Deodorize Carpets

Back in the day, it was common to lug rugs and carpets outside to give them a good whack with a broom to knock off the dust. But there is an easier way! You can remove nasty smells from your rugs and carpets by sprinkling baking soda over them for at least 15 minutes before vacuuming.

Welcome the Sunlight

Before dryers, all laundry was hung out on the line to dry. There is nothing finer than the smell of bed sheets that have dried on the clothes line. Take advantage of this natural dryer and save on your hydro bills!

Above all, if you’re not bothered by pollen, make sure to open your windows wide on those first warm sunny spring days and let all that fresh air in to your home. Fresh air is essential for ridding your home of bacteria, mildew and bad odours.


Image: geographica

What You Should Know Before Buying a Boiler

Late winter or early spring is a perfect time to upgrade your home heating system! The cold weather is fresh on your mind, and since there’s no rush, you can take your time to decide which unit is best for you.

If your old boiler is on its last legs, now’s the time to replace it.

Boilers don’t look like much on the outside, but there’s a lot to think about when buying one. Which size of boiler is best? Should you get a condensing or non-condensing boiler? These are the facts you should know before buying a boiler.

How A Boiler Works

A boiler uses hot water to maintain the temperature in a home through radiators. The boiler’s heating element warms the water and then distributes it to radiators throughout the home. Some models can heat  your home and hot water.

There are electric, natural gas, propane, and oil boilers available. A natural gas boiler is the best option in terms of efficiency and operating cost here in Ontario.

Difference Between Condensing and Non-Condensing Boilers

Want to save energy and reduce your carbon footprint? If so, a condensing boiler is an excellent choice. Condensing boilers can operate at lower temperatures by pre-heating the water that enters the boiler using vapour produced in the heating process. A non-condensing boiler, on the other hand, vents the excess water vapour outside.

Which Size of Boiler is Best?

Size matters when it comes to buying a boiler. If the unit is too small for the house, it will have to consume more energy to keep up with the heating demand. If the boiler is too big, it will cycle on and off faster than it should and waste energy.

Many factors impact your household heating demand: the home’s foundation, the thickness of the walls, the insulation, and more. For combination boilers and water heaters, the number of occupants and bathrooms in the home matters as well.

A qualified heating and cooling technician can help you determine which size boiler is best for your home.

Boiler Energy-Efficiency

Like furnaces, all boilers sold in Canada have an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating, which indicates how much energy the unit converts into usable heat. The higher the AFUE rating, the less energy the boiler wastes.

A high-efficiency condensing boiler may cost more upfront, but it can save money over time with a lower operating cost.

Comparing Boilers to Gas Furnaces

Why choose a boiler over a gas furnace? In many cases, homeowners move into homes with a boiler system already in place. Replacing an old boiler with a new one is often more affordable than replacing the whole system.

There are other benefits to buying a boiler. Having a boiler instead of a furnace means you don’t have to deal with the care and maintenance of air ducts. Boilers also increase the level of moisture in the air, which helps to prevent many of the issues caused by low humidity during the winter.

Boiler Maintenance

No matter which type of boiler you choose, it will require annual service by a technician to run at its best. Trust us — we know a lot about them. In fact, AtlasCare has been installing and servicing boilers since 1932!

We’re happy to help you decide which heating system is right for your home. In addition to routine boiler service and installation, we also offer  4-hour emergency boiler repair service.


Are Air Conditioners Bad For You? Essential Facts on the Health Effects of Air Conditioning

We all know the link between indoor air quality and our health. But does it make a difference if the air circulates through an air conditioner? Is air conditioning bad for you?

Before you switch on the A/C this summer, learn the essential facts about the health effects of air conditioning.

Health Effects of Air Conditioning

Air conditioning is in many ways beneficial to your health, especially in a smog-heavy city like Toronto. Researchers have found that central air conditioning causes fewer outdoor pollution particles to enter the home than an open window, thus lowering the health risks of air pollution.

But there’s a catch: if the unit is not properly maintained, an air conditioner can contribute to health problems from other sources.

Below, we’ll look at some of the indirect health effects of air conditioning and how you can avoid them.

Mould Growth

The process of cooling hot air creates moisture. Central air conditioners expel this excess moisture through an exhaust vent. So there is no concern this is being circulated indoors. However, portable window air conditioners may either vent the moisture through a window attachment or collect it in a pan.

If the ventilation system is not working properly, or the homeowner neglects to empty the water pan, this moisture can become a magnet for mould growth. Mould in a portable air conditioner can be a health hazard because the unit causes the spores to circulate in the air.

In the case of central air conditioning, it is also important to have the air ducts cleaned every few years, since mould feeds  on the organic matter found in dust.

Low Humidity

Air conditioners pull moisture from the air to cool it, reducing the humidity inside your home. For some, this comes as a welcome relief, especially in muggy depths of summer.

However, low humidity can also contribute to some less-than-desirable health effects. Dry air can irritate your nasal passages, increasing the chance of sinus congestion and inflammation.

You can counteract this effect with a humidifier.

Temperature fluctuation

The human body is great at adapting to changes in temperature. Think of how single-digit temperatures can feel warm in the spring, and downright chilly come fall!

For the most part, moving from hot air outdoors to a cool, air-conditioned building does not pose any risk to your health. However, some health conditions, like diabetes, can make temperature fluctuations more difficult to manage. People with those conditions may prefer to minimize the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures so their bodies can adjust more easily.

Airborne Illness

In certain high-rise apartments and office buildings, the central air conditioning system uses water to cool the air.

With proper maintenance, this system poses no greater risk than any other air conditioner. But if the water becomes stagnant, it can harbour harmful bacteria. In rare cases, this can lead to the spread of airborne illnesses.

Fortunately, this is not a risk in home air conditioning systems.


Image: 123RF

5 Possible Red Flags for the Air Quality Inside Your Home

Have you ever stopped to think about just how much time you spend indoors? If you are anything like the average person, you have a roof overhead and four walls around you about 90% of the time. That means most of the air you breathe recirculates through a ventilation system — along with any airborne particles that populate it. As a homeowner, it is important to recognize what could be red flags for the air quality inside your home.  

People are often surprised to learn that the air inside our homes and workplaces can be anywhere from two to five times as polluted as outdoor air. With the amount of time we spend in our homes, indoor air quality (IAQ) is as much a concern for our health as it is for comfort.  

Symptoms of Poor Indoor Air Quality 

Physical symptoms are often the first sign of poor indoor air quality. According to the Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, common symptoms of poor-quality air include: 

  • Dryness and irritations of eyes, nose, throat, skin 
  • Headache 
  • Fatigue 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Dizziness 
  • Nausea 

The trouble is, all of these symptoms can result from other common health conditions as well, making it difficult to diagnose indoor air quality from physical symptoms alone. You must look to other factors in the environment as well.  

Red Flags for the Air Quality Inside Your Home 

If you can rule out that the above symptoms are the result of other health issues, or they accompany one of the red flags below, you should investigate the air quality as the possible culprit.

1. Signs of Mould 

Do certain parts of your house have that musty “wet basement” smell? That is a sure sign of mould growth. Mould contributes to poor air quality by releasing tiny spores that are small enough to breathe in, which can be harmful to your health.  

2. Dust from the Air Registers 

As your furnace or air conditioner draws air through its intake, it also pulls in the dust, pet dander, and other airborne particles that are present in your home. These contaminants build up in the air ducts over time. If years go by without a thorough duct cleaning, the dust will continue to circulate and pollute the air inside your home. 

It is normal for ducts to be a bit dusty, but if you see dust coming out of the registers, that’s not a good sign. For duct cleaning in Toronto and the GTA, we recommend scheduling an appointment before the busy season in the summer. 

3. Allergy Symptoms that Worsen at Home 

Do your allergies seem to act up more at home? Physical symptoms that develop within a few hours of arriving home (and improve after you leave) could be a red flag for your air quality.  

The same goes for reactions in other indoor spaces; if your symptoms flare up at work, for example, there could be problems with the air quality there. 

4. Malfunctioning Furnace or Air Conditioner  

Your home’s HVAC system is responsible for removing stale indoor air and replacing it with fresh, outdoor air. Problems with the heating or cooling equipment, or the ventilation system that distributes warm or cool air, is a frequent cause of poor indoor air quality. If your system is in need of repairs, it could be a red flag for the air quality inside your home. 

5. Recent Renovations 

Home remodelling projects can create lots of dust. They can also expose patches of mould that was growing surreptitiously behind the walls. Without proper ventilation, these airborne contaminants can spread to other parts of the home. If your symptoms of poor indoor air quality follow a recent renovation, it could be a sign of excessive dust or mould contamination.  

We recommend replacing the air filter on your furnace or air conditioner after renovating. Your air ducts may also be due for cleaning. We’d be happy to visit your home for a duct cleaning in Toronto or elsewhere in the GTA. 


Image: Wavebreak Media Ltd

How Indoor Air Quality Can Help You Recover From the Flu

The horrible flu that went around this winter reminded me that it has been some time since I wrote about indoor air quality.

As we face these tough strains of flu, an aging population and young children with growing lungs who are especially vulnerable, it’s important to reinforce the benefits of having the purest indoor air possible. I’m not saying it will prevent the flu, but it is proven to help, and every defense is a smart one.

The issue of air quality impacted me directly this year, as my new home doesn’t have the IAQ equipment I am used to. I noticed immediately and I sure miss it.

The first piece of equipment I plan to install is a high-efficiency filter on my new Lennox furnace called the PureAirTM system. It’s an industry-leading product that cleans the air in your home better than any other single system you can buy. It removes 99.9% of all airborne particles like pollen, dust and pet dander, and removes over 90% of viruses such as flu and cold. It’s also great at removing household odours caused by things such as pets, cleaning products and cooking.

March and April are the ideal time to install an IAQ system – ahead of allergy season and the winter viruses that are likely going to rear their ugly heads again next winter.


Image: Shao-Chun Wang