Blinds offer window of opportunity

Blinds can be an easy and functional alternative to drapes. They can also be dust magnets that let in more light than you want.

How do you find the right kind for you, and keep them clean once you have them? Here's a quick guide:

Style and finish: The combination of the size of the slats and the type of material you choose depends solely on your good taste. Most commonly used are: wood, plastic, aluminum and faux wood. Keep in mind that some blinds have a "blackout" feature -- overlapping slats ensure that no light enters the room when the blinds are closed. This feature can prove very practical for bedroom windows.

Mini blinds: Mini blinds are one of the most practical and versatile styles of window blinds, ideal for small and medium-sized windows. They can be used practically anywhere in the house, and "custom" mini blinds can be made to fit oddly shaped windows.

The least expensive are vinyl blinds, but the slats are fragile and can be easily damaged. Also, the slats are thin and can sag. Vinyl blinds are a good choice if you are renting or expect to move soon. For strength and durability aluminum blinds are better than vinyl. Wood is at the top of the cost but add warmth and beauty.

Large blinds: Larger wood or aluminum blinds hold up well and can last for decades. Aluminum blinds are generally available in 1/2 inch, 1 inch and 2 inch slat sizes. Faux wood blinds (we like to call this the "plastic coated chip board line") also are available and look quite nice, but don't last nearly as long as aluminum or real wood.

Cleaning blinds

Vacuum: One of the easiest ways to clean window blinds is with a vacuum. Make sure to use the brush attachment. The brush helps grab dust and reduces the chance of scratching. Be sure to slightly open the blinds so that the vacuum can get to both the top and bottom of the slats.

Dust: Try to dust window blinds once or twice each month. Use a soft, clean cloth, making sure that you tilt the slats in both directions to make sure that both sides (top and bottom) get cleaned. Another great method is to use a chemically treated dust cloth or a synthetic feather duster.

Washing: If you really want to get things clean, you can wash your blinds. Use a soft, lightly dampened sponge and a small amount of a mild liquid dish detergent in warm water -- no abrasives please.

If your blinds are totally grungy, you can soak them in the bathtub for a brief period of time. Keep in mind that doing this for long periods can deteriorate the binding cords. After you remove them from the tub, you should rinse them with fresh water and hang them up to dry (A clothes line in the back yard works great). And don't forget to wipe them down -- they will watermark.

Spraying: If you don't want to soak your blinds, you can spray them. Sometimes all you'll need is plain water.

For heavier soil you may want to use either a commercial glass cleaner or your own cleaning concoction. We like to use water containing 5 percent vinegar (use white vinegar -- wine vinegar can stain the bindings and chords).

Also we have used water with a teaspoon of alcohol. Both work great. But be careful of nearby furniture and decorations.

Do not do: You should never use steel wool or scouring pads to clean metal or vinyl blinds. It's simply far too harsh.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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