Monday, March 02 , 2015

Quick Dryer Fix

Dryers are so full of hot air. And all this energy eventually disappears out a vent while your clothes take a long beating. Here's a trick to cut drying time considerably…

Toss in a dry hand towel with each dryer load. The dry towel will absorb moisture from the wash, then dry quickly and continue to absorb more water.

Is your dryer sluggish? You probably know not to cram it with too many items. But an average load of clothes or towels should be dry by the end of one cycle. If they're not, you could have an airflow problem. Read this before you buy a new dryer.

More help with laundry…


Thursday, February 19 , 2015

What Color Did I Paint That Room?

It's time to paint your bedroom or guest room or wherever, and you've discovered the best color ever. Here's a way to guarantee you'll remember that specific shade for future repaints.

Record all your painting info under the light-switch cover. After you paint but before you put the light-switch cover back in place, make a note on the wall of the brand and exact paint color you're using. Also include the amount of paint it took to do the entire room. Replace the cover, and your painting record is there for keeps.

More about home decorating…


Monday, February 09 , 2015

You’re Cleaning Your Mirror Wrong

Did you know that spraying window cleaner on a mirror is one of the worst things you can do to clean it (especially an antique one in a fancy frame)? Here's what to do instead…

Mix equal parts of white vinegar and warm water in a bowl. Scrunch up a piece of noncolored newspaper, and dip it in the mixture. Shake off the excess, and wipe the mirror with the moistened newspaper. Then buff the mirror dry with a soft cloth, paper towel or dry newspaper. (It's best to wear rubber gloves to keep the newsprint off your hands.)

Caution: Never spray water—or any liquid (especially window cleaner)—on a mirror. When moisture seeps into the edges and back of the mirror, the silvering can “spoil,” causing dark spots. Seeping liquid also can corrode any kind of metal or brass framing.

More easy ways to clean…


Tuesday, December 09 , 2014

Watch This Easy Way to Clean Venetian Blinds

This is how to clean window blinds (easily).

Venetian blinds or any kind of slatted shades can be a real pain to dust! Cover your hands with either heavy cotton socks or cotton gardening gloves, then run your hands over the slats to dust them. Your fingers will be protected if your blinds are the sharp metal kind. To keep your blinds cleaner longer, give them a once-over with a fabric-softener sheet. The antistatic agent in the dryer sheet helps repel dust.

Monday, December 08 , 2014

Tame Your Junk Drawer

Now is a good time to clean up and cull through your clutter. You need to make room for your incoming Christmas presents! Cleaning out a big storage drawer is usually something to put off till tomorrow, unless you have a system that's somewhat fun. Here's what to do…

To organize a drawer in the most efficient manner, have a plastic trash bag and three shoe boxes (or larger boxes, depending on the size of your drawer) at your side. Now you're ready to dig in.

• Put anything you want to throw away in the trash bag.

• Place anything you want to store elsewhere into the first box.

• Stash anything worth giving to charity in the second box.

• Save any candidates for a garage sale in the third box.

Now keep everything that’s left in the drawer—hopefully it's hardly anything at all! Oh, and if you have a few items that fall under the “I-don’t-know” category, we find this phrase quite helpful: When in doubt, throw it out! Plan your trips to the dump, the storage facility and your favorite charity. And start designing your garage sale signs for the spring.

Motivation to declutter: Think of cleaning out drawers or closets as going shopping. How often have you found something while cleaning out a storage space and happily said, So that's where I put that!

Thanks to Baking Soda, Banana Peels, Baby Oil…and Beyond (Reader’s Digest and Bottom Line Books) for help with this tip. (To purchase Baking Soda, Banana Peels, Baby Oil…and Beyond, call Bottom Line Books customer service at 800-678-5835.)

More help with clutter…


Wednesday, November 05 , 2014

Keep Curtains Crisp and Wrinkle-Free

Washing sheer curtain panels is such a daunting task—you don't want them to lose their stiff crispness. But they do get soiled and dingy. So here's what you do...

After you launder as usual (follow label instructions), soak the curtains—one panel at a time—in a basin or sink filled with at least one cup of Epsom salts (available at drugstores) and about a gallon of cool water.  Let each panel soak for about five minutes, and then hang them up to drip dry. (Do not wring, or they will wrinkle! Make sure you have something underneath them, like some old towels, to catch the drips.) They should dry crisp and wrinkle-free.

More easy ways to clean...


Monday, October 13 , 2014

6 Fixes for Scratched Furniture

Thrift shops and Craigslist can be frugal outlets for furniture...but sometimes the wood looks a bit beat up. If it's just a few scratches that are holding you back from a great piece of used furniture, here's what to do...

You don't have to be a woodworking expert to fix up old furniture.

On dark wood, fill in a scratch or nick with a paste of instant coffee grounds (two to three tablespoons mixed with one or two drops of water). Use a cotton swab to apply.

Cover up a scratch on varnished wood by using an appropriately colored eyebrow pencil, shoe polish or crayon. You can also try rubbing a pecan, walnut, Brazil nut or peanut into the scratch.

On mahogany, a little iodine will hide most minor scratches. Apply with a clean cloth or a cotton swab.

More help for your furniture...


Tuesday, September 30 , 2014

Clear Those Paint Smells

To eliminate strong paint odors, the obvious thing to do is open a window and air out the smell. But doing so runs the risk of bugs and dust coming in and messing up your newly painted walls. It also might be rainy or cold! Instead, keep the windows closed—and do this...

Cut one or two big yellow onions into chunks. Put the chunks on dishes, and place the dishes around the room. They will absorb the paint smell. (By the way, don't keep the onions out for more than a day, or you'll need something to get rid of the obnoxious onion smell.)

Charcoal briquettes placed around the room will also help absorb paint smells. So will a few plates or cookie trays filled with a layer of table salt.

More ways to clear the air...


Tuesday, September 23 , 2014

Heavy-Duty Mold Remover

We usually like to err on the side of gentle, nontoxic cleaners, but, when dealing with mold or mildew, sometimes you have to play hardball...

It is estimated that about half of all US homes are contaminated with mold. Mold (and its cousin, mildew) are fungi, and their spores are everywhere, both indoors and out. Mold needs moisture to grow, which is why it thrives wherever there is moisture in your home—in large areas, such as damp basements, or even in small piles of damp clothing.

If you're exposed long enough—mainly through inhaling mold spores—you may become allergic, experiencing a chronic runny nose, red eyes, itchy skin rashes, sneezing and asthma. Some types of mold produce secondary compounds called mycotoxins that can even cause pneumonia or trigger autoimmune illness such as arthritis. Yikes! It's time to get medieval with those spots of mold!

To remove small areas of mold (it can be black, brown, green, yellow or white and may have an acrid smell), scrub them with a mixture of one-eighth cup of laundry detergent, one cup of bleach and one gallon of water.

Note: Mold on a wall often is a sign that mold is also within the wall, so you'll need to consult a professional about removal, especially if the area is larger than 10 square feet.

Thanks for this tip goes to Mitchell Gaynor, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City. He is the founder and president of Gaynor Integrative Oncology and is board-certified in oncology, hematology and internal medicine. He has written several books, including one about environmental dangers.

More help with mold and mildew…


Monday, September 08 , 2014

Easily Disinfect Your Countertops

If you like your countertops and other kitchen surfaces clean and disinfected but don't like that harsh, bleachy smell, here's a better way to clean.

Keep two spray bottles handy—fill one with 3% hydrogen peroxide and the other with white vinegar. Lightly spray your counter with the peroxide, and wipe it clean. Follow up with a light spray of the vinegar, and wipe it clean. Then relax, knowing that your countertop and other kitchen surfaces have been treated with antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial agents. Yes, your kitchen will smell like vinegar for a little bit, but it will dissipate quickly.

Note: Do not use peroxide and vinegar on a regular basis to clean marble or unsealed granite countertops (most granite counters have a coat of protective sealant). Both solutions are acidic and could discolor these surfaces over time.

Where the germs lurk...