Monday, November 28, 2011

The Mountain's gift

Look deep into a mountain and you might find marble, travertine or limestone. These stones could be 300-400 million years in the making. To remove the gift inside this mountain, the mountain must bleed a little. If you are lucky enough to have the gift from this mountain, remember it is a gift.

The characteristics of marble, travertine and limestone are what they are. Their sensitivities haven't changed over the years. We may have placed these stones in new spots or expected more but the essence of the stones remain the same.

Sometimes when you look for new counter tops or flooring, a material will jump out and take your breath away. You fall in love, the look, the feel, the history, the smell, the way the light dances of the minerals. It doesn't matter, the stone's essence has grabbed you and won't let go. This happens and when you find a true love, sometimes you have to give in. Your brain may give a list of reasons why this stone should not be your stone but just like in love we don't always get to choose.

If you find yourself and your home blessed with a new stone please don't ask for perfection. It won't happen. Don't try to change it's essence or tap dance around your life's messes and mishaps. Let it be as it is. Learn the stones natural sensitivities: Acid sensitive, scratch sensitive and absorbant. Learn how to care for it, what to use and how to prevent unnecessary damage and then love your stone. Yes, it may need professional maintenance and sometimes polishing done. But whatever you do, do not stop living in your home.

Everyday, remember this stone was once part of a grand mountain. It is perhaps the oldest antique in your home. Remember, there is no other stone anywhere in the world just like yours. Everyday, try to find a new pattern or flow to your stone.

This stone you have, will never be perfect, it will be better than perfect. It is a gift from a mountain.

As always, wishing you a healthy and happy home.

Denise Frakes

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Survey: Mothers are stressed about clean homes

On my way home tonight I was listening to the radio and heard about a recent survey. Apparently mothers both working and stay at home, list how clean their homes are as one of their top 3 stresses. Of all the zillions of reasons to be stressed, how clean our home is should not be one of them.

Maybe we could be concerned about how healthy our home is or even how well maintained our home is but to worry about what our home looks like is not worth your energy. Cleaning should be what we do to make our homes healthy, to increase the life of our surfaces, to keep our homes happy. A spotless home will not get you into heaven and a messy one will not keep you out. Cleaning is just an ongoing act to support a happy and healthy family.

The National Center for Healthy Homes gives 7 essentials to a healthy home. I have added one: Keep your home stress free. Let's not judge ourselves in what our home looks like. Maybe if we stop judging ourselves we will no longer feel judged by others.

Our homes should be where we go to rest and love our families. Clouding our lives with judgement, stress and worry will benefit no one. As a professional cleaner for the past 20 years, here is the absolute truth: There is no such thing as a perfect home. There are happy homes, homes in transition, busy homes, stressed homes, funny homes, serious homes, etc... but I have never met a perfect home or family. It is has been my pleasure to meet incredible families in beautiful homes but thankfully we are all human!

Please keep this in mind, when you feel the need to criticize yourself, On any given day company will stop by. That very day will usually be the day you have dishes in the sink, dust bunnies roaming the floors and dog slobber on your slider door. On the flip side, when your home is sparkling clean, no one will stop by. It is a natural law.

If you find company stopping by when life is happening around you, remember this: If you welcome your guests with a open and joyful heart, they will not care about your smears and smudges. Give yourself break and enjoy your family and company.

Besides, where we get our cleaning knowledge usually comes from companies selling cleaners. Our stress is a tremendous benefit to their sales plan. Commercials and advertisements are not based in reality but on increasing your use of their products. (A thought to ponder)

As always, wishing you a healthy, happy and stress free home
Blue Sky Services
Healthy Home Specialist

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Blue Sky at 2011 Focus on Design Conference

Next week, I will be speaking at the 2011 Focus on Design Conference, here in Seattle. In case you are interested, below is the link to the conference on Oct 6th & 7th. I will be speaking on Thursday @ 10:45 am and on Friday @ 9:30 am.

What happens to a home after the dust of remodeling or construction settles, is my topic. There is a stong correlation between maintenance within the home and having a healthy home. If you come to the conference, you will learn how to possitively influence the health of a home and how to minimize maintenance frustruations through design and education.

This conference gives me a wonderful opportunity to visit with designers, architects, and builders about how to create homes where health and value are the focus. The connection between design-health-maintenance is huge. Setting up a good foundation from the get go is priceless!

Hope to see you at the conference. If you would like more information about creating a healthy home and residue free maintenance, click on our healthy home tab. There you will find our home health and maintenance education services.

As always, wishing you a healthy and happy home,
Denise Frakes
Blue Sky Services
Certified Healthy Home Specialist

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Essence of Stone for World Peace!

Saturday Dallas and I were out on a job and I got to pondering. When we try to improve the essence of our surfaces- bad things can start to happen. Slate floors come to mind. Slate is a beautiful stone. We have 16 inch tiles throughout our home. There is no coating or finish, just beautiful stone. Each piece is a work of art. There is texture, color and personality. It moves with the light of the day. I never get tired of this natural art.

If you were to cover your stone-art up with a coating or finish, the essence of the stone would be hidden under a plastic cover. The color spectrum would be diminished, the textures would be hidden, its essence would be lost.
This plastic cover/coating will actually attract more dust than its natural counterpart.
This plastic cover/coating will get scratched, scuffed and may be damaged by a drip here or spill. This plastic cover/coating will at some point need to be removed.
While removing this plastic cover/coating strippers will need to be brought into your home. These strippers could also damage other parts of your home as they will also remove paint and varnishes.
These strippers may also be toxic.
The process to remove this plastic cover will also be pretty expense.

In covering up the essence of a beautiful stone, you gave yourself a headache and an extra expense. Stay with the essence of the stone. Before installation of your new surface, do your research. What are the characteristics and sensitivities of your surface choice? What are your most likely soils and what could be damaging in that location. (think moisture, tracked in sand, hard water deposits) What look do you want? Will the surface you picked need to be altered, changed or professionally maintained?

Practice an ounce of prevention and keep with the essence of your surface and home. You will be happier with your choice, your home will be healthier, your budget fuller. World peace will follow. OK, maybe that was pushing it but still it couldn't hurt!

As always, wishing you a healthy and happy home,
Denise Frakes Co-Owner of Blue Sky Services
Certified Healthy Home Specialist and Residue free Consultant

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sending out Labels and Thank you's

After 20 years of sending out newsletters, the time has come to print out labels. It is not that I'm against technology, I just think a hand addressed letter is more personal. Yes, I know I could hire someone to print my letters, I could also have my letters printed in a hand written style but the point is it isn't me saying thank you. It might be old fashioned but I personally don't like getting mass printed mail and I figure I'm not alone. Sadly, my right shoulder will no longer let me print so many address and for the first time I'm sending out a newsletter with a label.

As a compromise to myself and you, I am still hand writing the thank you on the back envelope. It might seem like a detail not worth mentioning but over these past 20 years I have learned the value in gratitude. Saying thank you is not just lip service, it is deeply rooting in both our success and happiness in business.

After, my first letters went out this week, I realized spending time on the "thank you" was extremely enjoyable. My hand didn't cramp and my shoulder doesn't ache but I got my thank you in anyway. Not in a hand written label but in a heart felt thank you.

And yes, I do realize this blog post was mushy and corny but if you know me, you probably aren't too surprised. I'm also seriously wanting to start a future e-newsletter. How I'm going to attach a personal thank you is still a question.

As always wishing you all a happy and healthy home!!
Thank you!
Denise Frakes
Co-Owner of Blue Sky Services and Healthy home Specialist

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

No healthy level of lead in our blood

Last week, I attended an all day seminar for Children's Environmental Health Training. Lead was once again a huge topic. Last night, I got to thinking it was time I posted about lead exposure and your kids. Please read on for sources of lead exposure, the effects lead has on our families health and finally tips for an Ounce of Prevention.

When a child or anyone tests high for lead exposure, finding the source of the lead is critical.
Toxic levels can be created by volume x frequency. Sometimes the exposure can be small amounts of lead from multiple sources or one source with consistent exposure. You can also have a one time high level exposure.

Common Sources of lead:

Houses built before 1978 (paint, varnishes, window and door sills)
Soil (smelt plants and leaded gas residues)
Shooting ranges (shot-bullets)
Weights (golf, curtain, lifting, fishing sinkers)
Garden hoses (the insides switch to white drinking hoses or run water through before use)
Imported foods and spices (sometimes even US products)
Mini Blinds
Antique -painted furniture
Beverage containers

If you have a small child it is a good idea to get a blood lead level test. The ideal blood level would be zero ug/dl. There are no safe levels. The average level is 2ug/dl. A child's body is developing, this developmental time is a critical time to protect your child. Keeping a look out for exposure to lead is one of the best gifts you can give your child. "One out of every 40 American Children has too much lead in his or her body. The rate of lead poisoning is even higher in cities"

Blood lead levels of less than 10ug/dl can cause these health problems:

In children:
Decreased IQ
Increased Behavioral problems
Decreased learning ability
Decreased attention span
Decreased test scores
Decreased motor skills
"Damage can be irreversible, affecting children throughout their lives"

In adults:
High blood pressure
Physical fatigue
Hazardous to pregnant women - damages the baby

I hover between not wanting to instill fear and wanting to educate for a healthy family. In the case of lead, finding high lead blood levels and removing the sources is the side I landed on. An ounce of prevention is the best medicine.

An Ounce of Prevention Tips:

Wash hands after playing in the soil and before eating
Know when your home was built. Either have a certified renovator test or use the lead check kit from (follow instructions very carefully)
1978 or older: test for lead before doing any remodeling, changing windows or painting.
1978 or older: damp dust, vacuum with HEPA filtered vacuum
1978 or older: clean up any paint chips around windows and doors. Lead is sweet children may eat the sweet paint chips or suck on window sills
Install effective and large entry mats to every entrance to home and take off shoes
Install water filters
Test children for blood lead levels, Especially, when kids are crawling and on the ground a lot.

As always, wishing you a healthy home and family,
Denise Frakes
Certified Healthy Home Specialist and Renovator

Sources: Healthy home Essentials course, Lead Safety for Renovation, Repair and Painting and Children's Environmental Health Training

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Minimize Carbon Monoxide Exposure

Are you serving carbon monoxide for dinner? Most homes we visit, have gas burning ranges. Cooking with gas is fast, reliable and the choice of most chefs. One little irksome trouble is the possibility of Carbon Monoxide (CO) exposure. If you have a CO monitor in your home- good job. Make sure to put one on each level of your home and especially on the bedroom level. Consider getting a peak flow monitor to help you know when and what your levels are.

The CPSC or Consumer Products Safety Commission sets the CO limits at 70ppm. At this level of CO, the monitor will give you a warning to prevent death. Preventing death is a noble reason to get a CO monitor. But you might consider getting a CO monitor with a peak flow monitor. Levels of CO can be low enough not to be fatal but high enough to cause all kinds of other health issues.
Interestingly, World Health Organization puts CO indoor air at 32ppm - max. The Canadian Department of National Health and Welfare has CO at 25ppm at a 1 hour limit. These are far below our 70ppm.

What is CO? "CO is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death. It is a result of the incomplete combustion of carbon." Some of those irksome health issues at lower levels of CO can be headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. At low levels, chest pain and fatigue are most common. At higher levels you might get flu like symptoms and of course death.

If you have gas appliances, does this mean you also have a high CO level? Not necessarily, remember CO is an odorless gas. Because it is a sneaky toxin, you will want to install a safety net and minimize you families risk.

Here are some healthy home tips to minimize CO exposure:

Install CO monitors on every level of home- preferable peak flow monitors
Have your appliances, furnaces and fireplace professionally installed and maintained
Install and use an exhaust fan over your range- making sure it vents to the outside!!
When cooking always run your exhaust fan
Do not idle your car in the garage
Never used charcoal grills, camping stoves, gas powered equipment indoors
Never use gas powered stoves or ranges to heat home

Besides gas ranges, here are some other CO producers to keep an eye out for:

Any gas appliance: furnace, water heater, washer, dryer....
Wood or gas burning stoves
Gas/fuel burning equipment- such as pressure washers or heaters
Charcoal grills and camping stoves
Attached garages

As always, wishing you a healthy, happy home and good cooking!!
Denise Frakes
Certified Healthy Home Specialist

Sources: Healthy Housing Referrence Manual, Essentials for Healthy Homes Practitioners Course, EPA

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Open up the windows and ventilate your home

The sun is finally shining up here in the NW, it feels like summer. Time to open up the windows and air out the home. When I was growing up, my mom was always opening up the house to air it out. Most times it wasn't as nice as today. I was usually cold and wondering why my mom did the things she did. Now I realize, it was because she was very wise.

One of the most important things you can do to improve the health of your home is to improve its ventilation. Stagnate air out - fresh air in. Opening up the windows, turning on your vents and running your whole house ventilation system can help improve your ventilation. Keep in mind, what goes out must come back in. Any air that leaves the home, the equal amount must come back in.

Having a home with healthy ventilation does many beneficial things. According to the National center for healthy homes "Proper ventilation can reduce hazards of:

Volatile organic compounds (VOC)
Environmental Tobacco smoke
Particulate matter
Carbon Monoxide

Considering, in most homes, the indoor polutants have higher concentrations than outdoor air by 2x5 times! Keeping your home ventilated is a fundamental part of a healthy home and family.

Wishing you a healthy and happy home,
Denise Frakes

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Carpet maintenance resource site

There is a web site where most of your carpet questions can be answered. The carpet and rug institute site is a one stop resource bonanza for all things carpet.

Here are some of my favorite parts of this site:
A list of recommended and certified vacuums
A list of recommended and certified carpet spotters and cleaning solutions
A detailed and at your fingers carpet spotting guide
Lots of answers to common question and uncommon questions
A list of manufacture recommended cleaning methods

For your fastest search path:
Start by clicking the Residential tab
On the left hand side click cleaning and maintenance
Your resources topics will appear on the left hand side

If you don't feel like all that clicking here is my summary of carpet care:

1. Install effective and clean entrance mats
Keep these mats clean- they are the filters to your home
Put good mats at every entrance

2. Vacuum, Vacuum, Vacuum
Get a good one with a HEPA filter or equivalent filter
Vacuum at least once per week
Do not over fill your filter bag
Vacuum slowly and thoroughly
(list of recommended vacuums on the site)

3. Spot clean- ASAP
Blot don't rub
Use mild - recommended cleaners
Like our Procyon Carpet and Upholstery cleaner
Rinse and dry
(The site has a good spotting guide)

4. Professionally clean your carpet
Most manufactures recommend every 12-18 months
In most cases, hot water extraction is the preferred method.
(the manufacture recommended list is on the site)

Wishing you a healthy and happy home,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Residue: the number 1 thing we remove

Websters definition of residue:
Matter remaining after treatment or removal of part; something which remains.

Residue is the number one thing we remove when cleaning is done properly.

What is in this residue?

Here are the usual 3 suspects:
* Soil
* Cleaners
* Water

Part of residue is made up of soils left on the surface. In "cleaning", the soil might be smeared around by mopping or wiping but it's regularly left behind. Residue also comes from the cleaners we use. If the cleaners are not removed, then those cleaners can actually help in attracting new soil- great right? Finally, water left behind is also part of your residue. Water doesn't seem too bad but in water there are hard water or mineral deposits and moisture. You know what hard water deposits can do in a shower! But what about moisture left behind? Have you ever cleaned your car and then had dust land on it? Soil is more likely to stick to a damp surface than a dry one. Plus mold needs moisture to grow. You leave something damp long enough and soon you will also have mold as part of your residue- again think showers!!

Just imagine this: taking a mop and mopping or as we call it smearing, a window. Now let that air dry. Come back next week and do it again. Imagine what a whole year of this weekly mopping would do to a window-yuck!! Imagine 12 years!!!

Window's are obvious because we can actually see the residue left behind. But what about your floors, showers or countertops? The same residue is there, it just is harder to notice. It takes a while but before you know it your floors are brown, black; your showers are water spotted, waxing feeling and moldy; your countertops are greasy and dingy. The true beauty of your home or business is covered with soap, soils, mineral deposits and mold!!

Amazing stuff right? Residue would make a fun science experiment! It is also best removed. This is where we come in, we specialize in leaving surfaces residue free and teaching you how to keep your surfaces residue free!

Wishing you health, happiness and prosperity,

Blue Sky Services
20 years restoration cleaning experience, research and a very curious mind