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10 Ecofriendly Tips and Tricks for Cleaning Your Home

Article by: Luisa Rollenhagen

Chemical based cleaning products have drawbacks: They’re pricey, they may trigger health issues and their manufacture, use and disposal can harm the environment. So if you’re approaching a spring cleaning of your home this year, why not consider these effective all-natural cleaning alternatives?

Lemon

Lemons are nature’s cleaning wunderkind. They have powerful antiseptic and antibacterial properties and are a natural deodorizer due to their high acidic content. Here are some suggestions for how to use lemons in your home: 
Have your copper pans lost their shine? Dip half a lemon in salt or baking powder to scour your pans to their former glory.Mix a bit of lemon juice with baking soda to remove stains from plastic containers. Combine lemon peel and white vinegar in a jar, allow to marinate for a few days, then strain out the peel to use the vinegar as a cleaner. A small dish containing vinegar and lemon juice will absorb odors.Rub a slice of lemon across your chopping board to disinfect the surface.

Baking Soda

Baking soda, like lemon, is another one of nature’s cleaners. Also known as sodium bicarbonate, this mildly alkaline substance functions as a gentle abrasive, deodorant and more. 

A thick paste of baking soda and water can be useful in removing surface rust. A more liquid mixture of baking soda and water can function as an all-purpose light cleaner that’s particularly effective on grease. 

Clean your oven. A thick paste of baking soda and water can be applied to the bottom of the oven to clean it. Let it sit for a couple of hours or overnight before scraping it off and wiping the surface.

Brighten the bowl. Baking soda also is a winner in the bathroom. Throw a cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl and let it sit for more than an hour. Then add a cup of white vinegar, let the mixture sit for a while longer, and flush.


Safely clean your clothes. Baking soda also is a great addition to your laundry room. When added to your washing machine, it can soften your clothes and remove any unpleasant odors.

Fun fact: If your clothes happen to be contaminated with uranium, add a cup of baking soda to the wash to get rid of that pesky nuclear radiation. This sounds like a joke, but it’s not. Apparently scientists have discovered that sodium bicarbonate will bind with depleted uranium dust and remove it from clothes, which chemical detergents can’t manage. Talk about an all-purpose cleaner. Nonetheless, don’t go playing in uranium dust anytime soon, kids.

White Vinegar

Mentioned a couple of times already, white vinegar is a weak acetic acid that can be used in almost all aspects of home cleaning, as it has strong antibacterial properties. 

Vinegar diluted in water is an effective stain remover for various textiles. It’s also a great natural deodorizer, and can be combined with various other natural products, such as lemon juice, to absorb odors. Simmer vinegar with water on the stove while cooking to prevent cooking odors. Vinegar can help remove strong scents left over from fish, onion and garlic too.

Refresh your dishwasher. If your dishwasher could use a thorough cleaning, ditch the expensive chemical tabs and instead fill a dishwasher-safe bowl with two cups of white vinegar and set it on the top rack. Let the otherwise empty dishwasher run one cycle to get rid of any odors and bacteria.

Descale your kettle. Vinegar is your friend again here, although you can use lemon juice, too. Pour a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water into your kettle, allow it to boil, then rinse the kettle out once it cools down a little but is still warm.

Make your windows shine. Vinegar to the rescue again. Fill an empty spray bottle with a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water and use a microfiber cloth to wipe down your windows and avoid any streaking. This also works wonders for mirrors.

Keep those tiles sparkly. The grout between tiles in the bathroom can quickly accumulate mold, which is both unsightly and unhealthy. Remove it by mixing one part carbonated water with one part white vinegar and spray it on the moldy areas. 

If the grime still doesn’t scrub off, add two parts baking soda to the vinegar-water mix to make a thick paste. Let the mixture sit on the grout for at least 15 minutes before scrubbing it off. 

February Checklist for a Smooth-Running Home

Article by:

February means the thick of snow and cold across most of the country — but that doesn’t mean we can’t dream of spring. Spruce up your home this month by giving your bedroom a feng shui makeover in honor of Valentine’s Day, plus take stock of cleaning supplies, keep road salt out of the house and refresh walls with paint (and maybe some new art, too). These 10 to-dos can help you keep your home in top shape, even if the weather outside is still frightful. 

1. Tune up the bedroom with feng shui. With Valentine’s Day this month, it seems like a good time to spruce up the bedroom. If you are in the market for new bedding, consider shades of pink and red to encourage romance. Rotating your mattress regularly will help prevent it from developing hills and valleys, which in feng shui can be seen as separating partners in the bed. While you’re moving mattresses around, have a peek underneath the bed — what’s hiding down there? In feng shui a clean area beneath the bed is best for relationships, so be sure to vacuum up dust bunnies and deal with hidden clutter. 

2. Fluff pillows and duvets. Duvets and pillows looking flat? That’s because over time, air is pressed out of them, and the filling (whether down or synthetic) can shift and clump.

Some synthetic-filled pillows and duvets can be machine washed (check the labels for instructions), and even down-filled items can be fluffed up in a dryer on a no-heat setting. Toss a few tennis balls into the dryer with your duvet to help it regain maximum fluffiness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Clean up road salt from entrances. If the winters are chilly where you live, you know how grimy road salt and melted snow can leave your floors, especially in high-traffic areas. After giving these areas a thorough cleaning, stow your supplies nearby so it’s easy to sweep floors regularly.

4. Clean seat cushion covers. Like floors, entryway seat cushions can take a beating at this time of year. Take off removable covers and launder them; spot clean upholstery. 

5. Tidy and restock cleaning supplies. Get prepped for spring cleaning by sorting out your cleaning supplies. Toss products you tried that didn’t work and fill in gaps with fresh cleaning supplies and tools. Look over your dish towels, mop heads and microfiber cleaning rags, and replace them as needed. 

6. Rotate art and touch up walls. Give your home a winter wake-up call by swapping out a few pieces of artwork, patching dings in the walls and touching up paint. 

Make rearranging your collection easier in the future by installing a few narrow shelves around the house, like the one shown here.

 

7. Recycle e-waste. Old tech devices, CFL bulbs, ink and toner cartridges, and batteries contain dangerous toxins and cannot be tossed in with your other garbage or recycling. Store up your e-waste in one place and take it to a recycling center that accepts these items. Some office supply stores, like Staples, have free e-waste recycling programs — just drop everything off at your local store, and you’re done. 

8. Change furnace filters. A clean furnace filter will help your heating system work more efficiently and trap more dust and allergens. Most high-efficiency filters should be changed every three months — but it helps to inspect them every month, just to be sure.

9. Spruce up your favorite reading nook. This is a good time to get cozy with a book. Spruce up your reading corner with a warm throw, a soft rug and a comfy ottoman to put your feet on. And if you find yourself stuck in the house on a snowy afternoon, why not spend it organizing your books?

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Book a summer rental … and consider renting your home out, too. Seem a little early to be thinking about summer vacations? Not if you want to book a cottage — highly coveted locations arebooked months in advance. 

And if you want to offset the costs of your trip this year, consider listing your home as a rental or look into doing a house swap to stay somewhere for free.

10 Ways to Cozy Up the House for Fall

Article By: Laura Gaskill

From the first crisp morning and the first leaves that change colors to the first night you need to put an extra blanket on the bed, signs of fall beckon us to spend more time indoors. Satisfy your urge to nest while sparing your wallet with these 10 easy, elegant and, of course, cozy touches for every room. Whether you are looking for an instant change (toss a plaid blanket over your table) or something more permanent (install DIY shelving), here you’ll find inspiration to get your creative juices flowing. 

1. Give an old quilt a new purpose. While you wouldn’t want to eat on Grandma’s priceless heirloom, vintage quilts picked up at thrift shops can make fabulous tablecloths. Spot clean it between uses and give it a full wash only when really necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Craft DIY shelving. Why spend big bucks on a fancy industrial-style shelving unit when you can make your own with basic supplies from the hardware store? Check out the tutorial for the piece shown here on The Brick House and thissimilar industrial shelving project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Use a plaid blanket as a tablecloth. A small, round table is the perfect spot for showing off your favorite fall colors and textures in the form of a cozy blanket. Let the blanket drape to the floor — imperfect is what you are going for here. Top it with a cluster of small picture frames or place one large item, like an urn or a lamp, in the center.

 

4. Display fall gourds the elegant way. Want to try something different from the usual piles of pumpkins this year? Pick up at least five or six big decorative gourds for an abundant display — look for the kind with elegant, swan-like necks — and line them up down the center of your dining table. What could be easier? 

5. Scour fall flea markets for original art. Vintage portraits and landscapes from unknown artists are often affordable. Choose just one to spotlight, or collect art around a theme and make a gallery wall. 

6. Paint your stairs a daring hue. Who says stairs have to be boring? If you have plain wooden stairs, especially if the wood is not in particularly good condition, consider painting them magenta, navy, mustard … or any color you love.

This is a bold look, so if you are feeling wary, try it on a back stairway or in a tight stairwell — not on the front-and-center entry stairs.

 

7. Use vintage textiles as upholstery. Although the sectional shown here was custom made, you can draw inspiration from this look to revamp your own sofa, chair or cushions with colorful vintage textiles, including rugs. If you’re DIY savvy, you could attempt to re-cover cushions or upholstery yourself, make cozy pillow covers or simply wrap seat cushions in textiles for a temporary change.

If you want to use vintage rugs on your furniture, have them professionally cleaned first. Or you can carefully clean vintage textiles yourself by gently agitating them by hand in a bathtub of lukewarm water with a mild soap. Rinse and air-dry them before using. 

8. Get beautifully organized. Bring a touch of glamour to your morning routine by setting the items you use daily atop pretty trays. There’s no need to buy new trays — just peek into your kitchen cabinet or china hutch, and grab a few pieces you haven’t used in a while. 

If you really want to go the extra mile, scoop up a few little glass containers at the craft store and decant your favorite toiletries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Style your kitchen. Corral jars of pretty preserves and artisanal cocktail makings on a tray, bring in a real table lamp for a soft glow, and put something sculptural and a little unexpected (like the antler shown here) atop a high shelf. 

We tend to cook and congregate more in the kitchen during the fall and winter, so why not make it a place that feels just as warm and cozy as the rest of your house?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Paint your front door. It’s the first thing you see when you come home each day — why not make it gorgeous? A few coats of a rich hue that complements the color of your siding, plus a shiny new door knocker, can completely transform the front of your house for less than 50 bucks.




12 Ways to Make Your Home Feel New Again

Treat your furniture, walls, floors and countertops to some TLC, to give them a just-bought look for a fraction of the cost!

Photo Credit: The Marshall Kitchen | American Cabinet & Flooring, Inc.

Shopping is the easy part for some – the thrill of the chase, the flutter of excitement at bringing a new treasure home, choosing a new paint color or materials for a remodel. But what happens to those glorious finds and finishes months or years later? Before you give in to the urge to shop for new stuff, consider some home maintenance to show off what you have in the best possible light. You may find that after giving what you already have a little extra TLC, your craving for new stuff fades. You never know; you may even find yourself falling for your home and decor all over again.

#1 – Maintain Upholstery

Regular maintenance can go a long way toward keeping upholstery looking as good as new for as long as possible. Vacuum the fabric and rotate cushions each time you clean the living room, and clean spills and mend small tears right away.

Even if a stain has been there for a long time, it can still often be removed with stain removal or hydrogen peroxide; treat it repeatedly until it fades. Just be sure to test new cleaning products on a less-visible area of fabric first.

#2 – Remove Scuff Marks and Touch Up Paint

Small things like scuff marks from shoes and bags, tiny dings and chipped corners can make a space feel worn out. Spend a day scrubbing, patching and touching up paint, and you’ll notice a world of difference.

#3 – Make Furniture Gleam

If you can’t remember the last time you polished your wood furniture, doing so will probably make you wonder why you don’t do it all the time – the difference is amazing.

The type of finish on your furniture will determine what you use to polish it. Midcentury teak pieces are often finished with oil alone, so simply rubbing in a bit more teak oil from time to time will suffice. Finished wood pieces may respond well to a furniture paste or wax – read the directions thoroughly before trying any new product. 

#4 – Remove Stains from Marble

This porous surface is prone to staining, so it’s important to wipe up spills immediately. Of course, there are time that just doesn’t happen. No matter how or when it happened, there still may be hope for restoring the beauty of your marble. Check the chart available from the Marble Institute of America for methods of removing all sorts of stains. If you still can’t get it out, call a pro – improving the counters you have is still cheaper than getting new ones. 

#5 – Care for Wood Counters

Remove scratches and stains on your wood countertops by gently sanding the area; then rub in a food-grade mineral oil with a soft rag. To prevent future damage, always use trivets under hot items, wipe up spills quickly and cut items on cutting boards, not on the counter.

#6 – Refresh Old Wood Floors

Even if you don’t want to have your wood floors refinished, there are still ways to make them look their best. What you use to refresh your floors will depend on the type of finish your wood floors have.

Floors with a natural oil-rubbed finish can be shined up with wood oil. Really old, worn floors may do well with a wax. Floors finished with polyurethane can be cleaned with a solution of white vinegar and water. Just avoid getting the floors really wet by applying the solution with a barely damp mop and wiping dry with a towel immediately after. Excess water on wood floors of any type can potentially cause damage.

#7 – Refluff Area Rugs

Fluffy rugs like flokatis and sheepskins look amazing when you first bring them home, but… less amazing after several months of wear and tear. Most small natural flokati and sheepskin rugs can be hand washed (or even machine washed on delicate) in mild soap and then air dried.

Between washings, simply shake out and then brush your rug with a dog brush. Just be sure to read the cleaning instructions before deciding on a method.

#8 – Deep Clean Wall-to-Wall Carpeting

Regular vacuuming and spot cleaning will get you only so far. Every once in a while, it pays to rent, borrow or buy a steam cleaner to give your carpeting a deep clean. To help the floor dry as quickly and completely as possible, wait for a dry day ant set up a dehumidifier in the room afterward.

#9 – Condition Leather

Leather furniture can actually look better with age, provided that it is properly cared for. Use a leather conditioner a few times each year to keep the leather from drying out and cracking.

Keep it looking fresh by vacuuming and then buffing with a dry microfiber cloth as needed. Wipe up spills as soon as they happen, using a dry cloth to soak up any liquid. 

#10 – Brighten Whites

Slipcovers, pillow covers, curtains, towels and more can all use a good refreshing from time to time. If you don’t want to use chlorine bleach on your whites, try an oxygen – or hydrogen peroxide-based nonchlorine bleach instead. 

#11 – Touch Up Appliances

Years of use can create all sorts of stains and scratches on the once-pristine finish of your washer and dryer. If new appliances are not in the cards, consider painting yours with a product designed for the task, like the Appliance Enamel paint from Rust-Oleum. You can also use appliance paint on wornout finishes to the dishwasher. Do not use it on surfaces that get hot, like stovetops. 

#12 – Stock Up for Proper Maintenance

Beyond your usual cleaning tools, if there are any special items that would make it easier to care for your home and belongings, go ahead and make the investment. If you have lots of carpeting, for instance, a good steam cleaner could be a worthy addition. Leather conditioner, wood oil, furniture polish – having the little things you need at hand can help you keep your home looking its best.