Growing up in the suburbs of a major Midwest city, life without a garage was simply unheard of. Where else were you going to store your fishing tackle, house paint, cars, BBQ supplies, and assortment of power tools? Garages have great purpose, but they also have a large potential for hazards and, contrary to the belief of some, do require maintenance. We've told you how to get rid of smells in the garage, and here are a few more of our best tips, products and solutions for this multi-purpose space.There are 3 types of people when it comes to garages: there are those who keep everything in its place at all times, those who use it as crazy storage and you're lucky to find a path to walk through, and last but not least, those who use their garage with great regularity and there's always a project going on. No matter what type of garage you have, there's always a little room for some green cleaning!
1. General Maintenance: Although we don't "live" in our garage, it does need to be tidied regularly. If not for your own sanity the next time you have a project to do and can't find your tools, but to make the rest of the cleaning process easier and more thorough. Clean the floors, sweep it out, wipe down shelves with a microfiber cloth (or some basic cleaning spray), replace light bulbs with eco-friendly options and sweep it one more time. It's amazing how much dust one garage floor can really hold.
2. Cleaning The Floor: Although we just mentioned above that the floor should be swept... twice, it can still need a good mopping once in awhile. Before you hop on your mop and do the clean thing, try removing oil spills and stains on concrete (be it inside or out) with these helpful tips. If your garage floor is smooth, one of the best ways to clean it is to mop and then squeegee it back off. That way there's no dusty streaks left when you're done and there's no dirty mop water to dip back into!
3. Sand Workbenches, Tables and Stools: You can always paint over surfaces that are getting a little grimy, but when those surfaces already exist in a work area, why not sand them down with a belt or orbital sander instead? When you're finished, go over them with steel wool and a tack cloth to remove all dust and apply mineral or linseed oil to seal. You'll be amazed what a clean workbench will inspire!
4. Sort Old Paint: Unless you've painted your home in the last few years, there's a good chance that the paint sitting in your garage isn't of the "green" variety. If you want to keep your colors, but are ready to upgrade, try painting a few chips of wood with what's in the can and then taking the remaining paint to your local toxic waste disposal. Ditch the cans and keep the small blocks of wood. That way when you need a touch up, you have the exact color to take to the hardware store to pick up a fresh greener gallon. If you can still read the sticker on the paint with the chemical/color makeup, write it on the back of your piece of wood and it will help your paint person match things dead on.
5. Seal Windows: For those garages with windows, make sure to check around the seals to ensure they're still keeping the cold air in and the warm air out. It's a quick way to reduce your electric bills and keep those drafts out.
6. Close The Air Vents: For the most part, your garage will always stay warm enough to keep all air vents closed. For those living in particularly polar regions, you'll obviously need to leave them open. For those in moderate climates, keeping your vents closed, even in the winter can reduce your electric usage tremendously. It means all the heat and air you're generating are going to cool the parts of the home you use the most.
7. Reduce, Donate & Recycle: It's easy to become inundated with extra bits of stuff in the garage. Make sure you sort it regularly to keep tools paired down, house items either in storage or in the donation bin and be sure to check for recycling options whenever possible.
8. Clean Hand Tools: A bucket of play sand will keep new tools clean, just submerge their heads below the sand for permanent storage. If your tools need some cleaning, try boiling water and a Magic Eraser to remove built up dirt and debris. Coat lightly with oil or lubricant and store as directed above.
9. Examine Electric/Power/Gas Tools: When you have a yard, things like lawn mowers, weed eaters, and chainsaws are a must. Each year, assess if you can afford to upgrade to an electric or even better, hand-powered version. Ditching the riding mower for a Reel Mower can be a fantastic move!
(Image: Flickr member alexik licensed for use by Creative Commons. Originally published 2010-05-18)