Kevin Brasler of Consumers' Checkbook on spring cleaning - Home Front

Kevin Brasler
Apr 05, 2018

Kevin Brasler directs the editorial, research, and publishing operations for Consumers' Checkbook. The nonprofit consumer advocacy group empowers consumers to get the best providers and prices on many services. He''ll be answering questions on home services, everything from carpet care to duct cleaning.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than 10 years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

Welcome this morning to Kevin Brasler who directs the editorial, research, and publishing operations for Consumers' Checkbook. The nonprofit consumer advocacy group empowers consumers to get the best providers and prices on many services. He''ll be answering questions on home services, everything from carpet care to duct cleaning. So ask him about home issues you've been perplexed or curious about. Let's chat.

Good morning, everyone. Jura, thanks so much for having me on! My family and friends find it amusing that I’m answering questions on spring cleaning. We here at Checkbook write a lot about how to get organized and how to find and hire different types of cleaning services—even if I’m not what you’d call a neat freak.

I had my carpets cleaned a few months ago. The company, which was one of the large chains, put these plastic squares under the legs of my furniture after they put it back. The rugs were still wet I guess. Now, the indentations that these squares made due to the heavy furniture on top won't come out of my carpets - it's like they have permanent indentations. Is there any way to fix this? Annoying.

There are so many lousy carpet cleaning outfits out there! Try pouring a small amount (1/2 cup) of ice water onto the dents, let it soak in, and then rub the surface with a clean white towel.

Our Kitchen Aid dishwasher has a stainless steel lining that streaked with white residue. How should it be cleaned?

Start with vinegar. Put a cup in a bowl in the bottom rack and run it to see if that does the trick. If it doesn’t, there are dishwasher cleaning solutions you can buy.

My kitchen has lots of great storage but years of fingerprints and human co-existence have left these vertical surfaces with permanent smudges that are most visible in bright sunlight. Any ideas how to clean formica brand plastic laminate? Many thanks.

I'm surprised they don't go away with water and a bit of mild soap. If the finish is ruined you may be stuck.

Almost all of the 24 double-hung windows in my 1940s brick house need repair, i.e., sash replacement, unsticking, etc. I do not want to replace the windows as I am happy with the triple track storm windows I installed decades ago. How much should I expect to spend? And are there such experts around?

This is off-topic, but we do have ratings of window installation and repair outfits at I’m glad you’re interested in repairs; a lot of homeowners waste money on new installs when they can just rehab their old ones.

We’ve set up free access to for participants. Our articles and advice are always free, but we do charge for access to our ratings. (Checkbook is a nonprofit group that doesn’t take ads or referral fees from businesses; we are supported only by direct member support.)

For free access for a limited time, go to

How often should you have your wall to wall carpets cleaned? I know it depends on usage, but what's a good ballpark number.

Well, it depends A LOT on use, how many kids and pets try to destroy them, etc. It also depends a lot on how diligent you are about vacuuming, which can remove a lot of filth. But a reasonable standard is every two years or so for most families.


Good morning! We have a house that's still pretty new-ish. Less than 5 years old. There is molding along a stairwell that has come apart from the wall. We're waiting for the temperature to normalize and warm a bit to do something about it. Does this need to be replaced entirely? Just nailed back to the wall? Just caulked? How can we figure that out and is it something we can just hire a handyperson to do?

Molding at the base of the wall, along the floor? Or crown molding?

How much should you pay for duct cleaning? And how often should you do it if you don't have pets?

Please don't hire duct cleaners. We call the duct cleaning business a solution in search of a problem. It sounds like something you'd need, but it's a waste of money. What little independent research that's been done on duct cleaning finds it actually makes dust levels WORSE, not better. And a lot of duct-cleaning outfits create additional headaches by damaging ductwork.

For all our advice on this, go to

Open Works is a shared work space in Baltimore. They offer amazing classes in woodworking, medal working, computers, sewing and more. You can donate used wood or fabric there.

We had a discussion last week on where to donate fabric and sewing supplies. This is a good post from a reader about a great place in Baltimore that is looking for donations. Thanks.

What are the best months to have your gutters cleaned? Is twice a year the usual?

Once a year is usually enough for most homes. So long as you see water spilling out from the downspouts during light rain you're probably in good shape. If you get gutter covers, you can get away with cleaning a lot less often.

How do you find a good home inspector?

We actually are wrapping up an article on home inspectors for our next print issue. If you email me at editors [AT SIGN] I'll send you a preview of it if you promise not to tell anyone.

What's the best kind of paint to use on the exterior of your home?

Check Consumer Reports' ratings; they do a great job testing them. Note that the most expensive paints aren't necessarily the best paints.

-- I guess it's a bit of both. It's right at the base of each step. Sawtooth, like.

It's a common problem. Most handymen can handle it.

I know there is a big difference in upholsterers - quality and price. How do i figure out if it's worth reupholstering a piece of furniture and how do i find the right company?

We have ratings of upholsterers here at (click this link to get free access to them: )

General rule of thumb is to re-upholster only if you really like a piece and/or it was really expensive. Re-covering isn't cheap. If you do hire an upholsterer, get 3-4 price quotes for the work -- you'll find huge shop-to-shop price differences.

Any tips on who to hire for rug cleaning?

We also have ratings of rug cleaners here at Use this link to get free access:

There are so many lousy rug cleaners in the Washington area. Make sure companies you consider use an immersion cleaning method. And ask if they own and operate their own cleaning plants. A lot of companies advertise that they do rug cleaning work, but they just send rugs out to companies that actually operate plants. May as well deal with the outfit that will actually do the cleaning.

Is it worth repairing a TV?

We used to have ratings of hundreds of TV repair shops, but they're almost all doing other things now. New models are so inexpensive, and most buyers want to replace their TVs with new ones to get new features.

Any suggestions on a shade of pale/soft yellow that would work for a nursery? I don't even know where to start looking for suggestions.

It really just depends on your tastes. My advice is to come up with an overall color-scheme plan, then take home a lot of swatches. Before you commit, for sure put some up on the wall to see how it looks after it dries before you paint the entire room.

What's a good price for window washing?

Call around and get a few prices; it's really easy to get quotes via phone (or email). Note that some companies charge per pane. So if you have a window that's divided into a grid of nine panes, you'll get charged for each pane. Our ratings of window washers include a price comparison score for each company, which we calculate based on prices collected by our undercover shoppers. Those scores will help you identify low-priced outfits.

I had to put of the bath re-do, so I'm looking to freshen it up with paint etc. What's the most effective way to the grout in the shower? Most if it is in good shape, but there is some mold.

This is an easy job even I can do. Start by trying to clean it. There's this thing called Mr. Clean Magic Eraser that works great.

If you need to replace it, that's easy, too. Just scrape away the old stuff and apply new caulk according to the directions on the tube. It's a job that's really hard to screw up!

I’m looking to hire a housecleaning service. Am I better off going with a company, or hiring an individual?

The big advantage to hiring an individual is that housecleaning customers overall like the work they get from them a lot more than they do work from companies. And you’ll get to establish a relationship with someone for what is obviously a very personal job. But when you hire someone, you become an employer, which means you have to pay taxes and do a lot of paperwork you don’t have to do if you hire a company. Fortunately, the IRS has made that paperwork easier (for those who bother to do it).

should you mow your lawn once a week or once every two weeks -

It's not how often, it's how short; many homeowners damage their lawns by cutting theirs too short. Mow so the cut grass blades are about 2.5 to 3 inches high.

I clean my radiator heaters in the summer months and bleed them then too. One of these days, I am hoping to get them painted. Is it advisable to get them sandblasted and then painted? I am afraid of pinholes that may result in leaks if I sandblast but I am so eager to paint them a new color...

Really hard to say without seeing them. But note well that if there is lead paint underneath the top layer (I bet there is!) you should hire a pro to deal with them. Most homeowners think this means shelling out a ton of money for lead abatement, but it's really not that bad. You just want to make sure you hire someone who knows how to properly sequester the room, get rid of the debris, etc.

Woodpeckers are drilling holes in my trees and even in my fence. How can I get them to stop. The holes are large.

Google tells me woodpeckers are a protected species.

I’m moving in a few months to a smaller home. Should I hire an organizer to help me get rid of my excess stuff?

Our biggest lesson learned from trying out organizers is that if you think you need some help, then you’ll probably benefit a lot from hiring a pro. But make sure you interview several. One of our undercover shoppers, for example, just wanted to redo a closet and one company wanted to charge her hundreds of dollars just to come look around her house. Another wanted a $3,000 retainer. Fortunately, most are reasonable. Expect to pay $75 to $200 an hour. Our articles on organizers are here:

Benjamin Moore 163. I think it's called Somerset Peach, but it really isn't peach. It's a cake-batter shade of yellow. I have it in my lr and dr and I love it. Not mustardy or lemony.


I found the CC-WaPo series on organizers really helpful. It made me clarify what exactly I was trying to achieve before just randomly trying to hire an "expert." So thank you!

Glad to hear that!

Is it worth it to hire a detailer? Or should I just go to a car wash?

I used to think detailers were a total waste of money. Then I became a parent. Now I get my car washed a few times a year and hire a detailer every two years or so. It’s kind of expensive ($150-$250), but my kids are really disgusting and detailers just do a much better job than the regular car wash. We also have ratings of both detailers and car washes here at

Another reminder: We've set up free access to for participants. Just go to 

Thanks a lot Kevin. Next week: an expert on floor coverings - Neil Dailey from Floor Coverings International.  See you then.

Thanks again, Jura! Also, a huge thank you to Dani Dredger here at Checkbook central for all her help.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

Home Q&A archiveFind Jura on Pinterest
Kevin Brasler
Recent Chats
  • Next: