Many people welcome a new year with a clean house. Not that they don't clean during the rest of the year, but a clean house symbolizes a fresh start. For the starting gun on 2005...

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Many people welcome a new year with a clean house. Not that they don’t clean during the rest of the year, but a clean house symbolizes a fresh start.

For the starting gun on 2005, I vacuumed behind the furniture, routed the cobwebs hiding on the popcorn ceiling, scrubbed the crannies in the bathroom floor with a toothbrush and laundered all the throw rugs.

But I still need help. Dirt has wandered onto the carpet from the patio, and the cats have grayed the corners of the walls that they caress with their whiskers. I turn to my Web advisers.


The challenge:

Out with the dirt of 2004.


Web site:

www.doityourself.com/clean, DoItYourself.com, independent site based in Raritan, N.J.


Purpose:

Offers how-to steps for home improvement, household fix-it, home safety, with referral to contractors, flooring installers and other service providers.


Ease of navigation:

The site’s home page will knock your eyes out — it’s nearly a solid wall of type. Fahgetaboutit! Go directly to “Cleaning Stain and Removal” via the URL above. A huge list of cleaning options spreads before you.


What you’ll find:

The page starts with descriptions of basic cleaning chemicals and what they do. It tells you how to whip some of these ingredients into your own cleaners. Then it tells how to use them — or not. From general cleaning techniques (dusting, polishing), you’ll plunge into problematic challenges, such as floods, pets, rusty nails, skunks and other wreakers of havoc. Stains merit an entire section with 51 possibilities, including latex paint and salsa. Surfaces get all sorts of attention, including butcher block, oil paint (for when Junior touches up your Thomas Kinkade in crayon) and Teflon.

The site recently added a line of cleaning products for sale. Sweetly, when it pitches a product during a clean-up description, it also provides the old-fashioned way of tackling the problem without a special cleaner.


The best part:

Call me Martha, but lead me to the “Homemade Cleaners” section. Here I find that I can use vinegar and water to clean bathroom fixtures and to open drains, vinegar alone to remove hard-water deposits, and other nifty tricks.


Thumbs-down:

Every self-help site must have some advice that strikes those with advanced degrees in the subject as a no-brainer. Here’s one example to make masters and doctors of cleanology scratch their heads. “A Faster Vacuuming Tip: Wouldn’t it be nice to plug your vac in once and be able to do the whole house (or at least one level) without changing plugs? The simple solution is to add an extra-long extension to your vac so you can go from room to room in one easy sweep.”


Surprise:

The site says brake cleaner can be used as a last resort to remove food stains if shaving cream doesn’t work. Brake cleaner, it says, contains a dry-cleaning solvent; it should be used sparingly and in a well-ventilated area.


Related site:

www.allabouthome.com; ServiceMaster Residential/Commercial Services. Click “home tips” on the left side of the home page, then click “cleaning” to arrive at a short list of cleaning tips. Many of the tips don’t seem to go far enough, such as cleaning the toilet bowl while you’re away by adding bleach — no mention of cleaning the rim or under the seat. Others, such as the ideas that will have us laboring all day over carpet-stain removal, seem intended to encourage a reader, not surprisingly, to hire a professional.

Home on the Web appears the first Sunday of the month in Home/Real Estate. Her e-mail is homeontheweb@seattletimes.com