The months of cooler weather are coming to an end, and that can only mean one thing: it’s time for spring cleaning.
We donned our rubber gloves and asked the experts how to tackle those tedious tasks to get your home spic and span in an environmentally friendly way.
Ants and cockroaches are the main scourges at this time of year and getting rid of them is not as simple as reaching for a can of insect killer.
Justin Tavares, operations manager at Bermuda Pest Control, said: “Aerosols in general are bad for the environment. With Baygon, it says if you spray it you have to close that room off and don’t go in for 15 minutes. It’s not the best chemical to use, health wise.”
Claire Jessey, an entomologist at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, explained: “Although the label indicates that they can be applied by you to kill insects inside your house, it is important to remember that many insecticide sprays have toxic active ingredients which are designed to poison the pests.
“If overused or used incorrectly these sprays can also be toxic to you, your pets or children. Whenever possible, avoid using chemical sprays.”
The best solution is to stop creepy crawlies getting into your home in the first place.
“This will mean ensuring that all windows and doors are well sealed with no gaps or tears in any screens,” Ms. Jessey said.
“Doors and windows left open, particularly in the warm summer months, especially in the evenings with lights on, welcomes pests such as cockroaches into your house.
“Scan the interior and exterior of the house looking for cracks or crevices through which insects or spiders may be able to squeeze.
“Pay particular attention to openings for air conditioners, dryer vents, roof eves, pipework, drains and gaps in wooden floors. Seal up all openings wherever possible.”
You should also inspect any items brought into the house, such as second-hand books or furniture, boxes or cardboard.
Insects can squeeze through the tightest of gaps in your house.
Mr. Tavares said: “Ants can tunnel through any crack or crevice on the exterior of a house and make their way in. Roaches can fit through something ludicrously small.”
He suggested putting caulking around tiles and countertop areas, making sure the outside is properly plastered, patching up cracks on the roof, putting spray foam around conduits, repairing old skirting boards and putting a weather stripping at the bottom of the doorway.
Mr. Tavares warned roaches love paper bags and cardboard boxes, which they use for shelter and food.
So how do we get rid of those pests that have managed to sneak in?
Some non-toxic sprays use natural ingredients such as peppermint, lemongrass, or citronella.
Ms. Jessey said: “These products may not be as instantly effective as the harsh toxic chemicals, or may need to be applied more often, but in combination with your other efforts to reduce pests in the house, you will make progress towards reducing your insect pests.”
She added that you should always read the label before use and follow all precautions.
Mr. Tavares said: “Most cleaning products will kill a cockroach. Bleach will kill cockroaches and ants. Windex will kill cockroaches and ants. Boric acid is a very natural, very safe thing to use, that will help with ants and roaches.”
And if it’s a serious infestation?
“There’s always going to be a point where chemical intervention is needed,” Mr Tavares said. It’s not the first step we take but other times it’s a necessary step. The chemicals we use today are pretty eco-friendly.”
MOULD AND MILDEW
As all homeowners know, Bermuda’s humid conditions are a breeding ground for mould and mildew.
Jean-Maire Cannonier, the founder of Labor Ready Bermuda cleaning services, said: “Bermuda houses have a lot of mould, and it can cause asthma and allergies.”
She said you can wipe away mould if:
It is on easy-to clean surfaces like glass, metal, tile, tubs or sink areas;
You don’t have any health problems that could be made worse by exposure to mould;
You are sure it is not black mould or have sought professional advice that it is safe to do so.
If you are tackling low levels of mould and mildew with products from the grocery store, you should make sure it is environmentally friendly. The Department of Health advised: “The label contains, in brief, all the information needed for safe use and disposal and that includes for human health and mitigation of risks to the environment.
“It is also possible to readily obtain a material data sheet online for every product that contains additional information. One can google ‘MSDS product name’ and they should get the result they are looking for.”
For black mould, seek advice from the Bermuda Government’s environmental health officers on 278-5333.
The US Environmental Protection Agency reports that indoor air pollution can be up to five times higher than outdoor air, and can contain contaminants and moisture that can lead to sickness, fatigue, coughing, allergies, eye inflammation, poor concentration, drowsiness, breathing complications and headaches.
A spokeswoman for the conditioning firm AirCare said: “The quality of the air we breathe is an essential component in a person’s level of comfort, health, and ability to work and function throughout the day.
“When Indoor Air Quality is discussed, it should account for a multitude of factors such as temperature, humidity, lack of outside air, poor ventilation, mould, odours, airbourne particulates, pathogens including viruses and bacteria, and exposure to chemicals.”
You can improve your indoor air quality by keeping interiors clean, getting indoor plants, using natural cleaning products and installing a suitable air quality system.
AirCare, on Serpentine Road, offers air purifying systems that send safe oxidisers into you room to kill bacteria, mould and viruses.
The Government recommends keeping your roof clean and painted and cleaning your tank at least once every five years. Disinfect your water with up to half a cup of household bleach to every 1,000 gallons of water.