Monday, August 25 , 2014

Arrange Flowers Like a Pro

Do you have a lovely crop of roses or daisies or chrysanthemums (or any other flower) that could serve as a perfect decoration for your dining room table...if only the stems weren't too short or too uneven? Garden flowers don't always grow to the right length to fit in an arrangement. Here's what to do...

To lengthen stems that are too short for a vase, stick each in a plastic straw and then cut the straws to the proper length for the vase. A straw will also keep a droopy stem straight and cooperative.

To help keep different-weighted flowers evenly spaced in your vase, put transparent tape across the mouth of the vase, crisscrossing it according to the size of the vase and the number of flowers you intend to put in the arrangement. The tape will make it easier to do the arranging because it will hold the flowers in place...just make sure you have enough bottom foliage to cover the tape.

More garden help...


Friday, August 22 , 2014

Easy Protection for Oven Mitts and Potholders

You try to be as careful as possible, but that cheesy casserole spilled over onto your attractive fabric oven mitts. Here's what to do to prevent light grease stains from ruining your mitts or potholders.

Before you use your new potholders or oven mitts, thoroughly spray them with scent-free laundry starch. Let them sit overnight to dry completely. You won't need to wash them very often, but each time you do, spray again after washing. The starch forms a coating that protects the potholder or mitt, preventing oily stains from seeping through the fabric.

More help with stains...


Tuesday, August 19 , 2014

Kill Aphids the Natural Way

Certain critters can be the pestiest of pests, especially on precious houseplants and hanging potted flowers that make our homes a better place to be. If you've recently had an invasion of tiny crawlers that seem to be sucking the life out of your favorite foliage, here's what to do...

Aphids are plant lice—soft-bodied, pear-shaped insects that are less than one-eighth-inch long and are most commonly green, yellow or black. If you see aphids on your plants, mix one-half cup of powdered milk with one quart of warm water and put the solution in a spray bottle. Spray the plants' leaves thoroughly. As they dry, the aphids will die. And you have spared the air in your home from toxic chemicals.

More ways to fight pests...


Thursday, August 14 , 2014

Nonbleach Trick to Brighten Whites

Don't you hate it when your favorite white cotton top starts to get that grayish dingy look? Here's what to do…

Fill a basin or sink with warm water, and add one-quarter cup of powdered automatic dishwasher detergent. Add your tops, socks, underwear and whatever else needs brightening. Swish them around, and let the garments soak for one hour. Wring out the sopping clothes—enough to get them to the washing machine without making a mess—and then launder as usual.

More help with laundry...


Tuesday, August 05 , 2014

Remove Stains from Your Marble Top

If you have a beautiful white marble surface (an antique armoire or a coffee table, for example) that does not have stone-sealer protection, you need to be on the lookout for stains, because marble is a porous stone. Be sure to wipe up any spills immediately, and then do this...

For white marble: Mix one part 3% hydrogen peroxide to four parts water. Dip a cloth in the solution, and rub the stain, then wipe it quickly. If the stain doesn't go away, repeat the process. Do not use this solution on colored marble because peroxide can lighten nonwhite surfaces.

For colored marble: Spill enough table salt to cover the stain, then dribble on some milk to dampen the salt (sour milk works well, if you happen to have that around). Leave the salt-milk paste on the stain for two days (cover with plastic wrap if it's in a high-traffic area). Then use a damp cloth to wipe up the milky salt. The stain should be gone for good!

Note: These cleaning methods are safe for most marble surfaces, but there are many varieties of stone that might react differently. Be sure to test an unseen spot first with either solution to make sure it doesn't discolor the marble.

More household magic...


Wednesday, July 23 , 2014

Clean Marker, Crayon or Pen Off Your Wall

If you have a budding artist in your home who has recently expressed himself or herself on your painted walls, here's what to do...

Note: Whichever tip you try, test it on a small, inconspicuous spot of wall first to make sure your particular paint can handle the treatment. Then...

To clean crayon marks: A baby wipe or ammonia-based window cleaner should remove most crayon marks without removing the paint. Be sure to wipe the area completely dry after using one of these cleaners.

To clean magic marker spots: Put some rubbing alcohol on a cotton puff, and wipe the marker spots. The marker should come off, and the paint or wallpaper should stay on.

To remove ballpoint pen marks: Spritz any type of hairspray on the pen mark, then blot it with a clean, soft rag.

Long-term solution: Purchase a huge paper roll at an office- or art-supply store, and plaster the walls of your playroom (or what serves as a playroom) with it. Hand your graffiti-artists-in-residence their weapons of choice, and let them knock themselves out. Who knows? If anything, you can sell the results on eBay. Bravissimo!

More quick tricks to clean your home…


Friday, July 18 , 2014

Counter Stain Remover

How many times has the purple or red ink from a stamped-on price stayed on your countertop? It does not have to be there forever. Here's what to do...

Rub off the ink with rubbing alcohol or the inside of a piece of lemon rind. Then wipe with a damp cloth or sponge. If the alcohol or the lemon doesn't do it, try nail-polish remover.

If you have any hesitation about using alcohol or nail-polish remover on the surface of your counter, test a tiny can't-be-seen-area first.

More help with stains...


Friday, July 11 , 2014

Protect Your Hands While Gardening

There's nothing like a relaxing afternoon in the garden. But hot weather makes you sweat, and moist hands blister easily. Then there's the occasional scratch or bug bite that can really make you uncomfortable. Here's what to do...

When your hands get sweaty from working with a shovel, hoe or pruner, rub your palms with some soil to help keep them dry and blister-free.

Soothe the sting and stop infection: It's not unusual to get a scrape...a scratch...a nick...a gash...or an insect bite while working outside. However, you don't want to run into your house to tend to every little abrasion. The answer is to keep a small spray bottle of full-strength white vinegar and a few adhesive bandages in your garden tote. Spritz the minor wound with the vinegar—which will help prevent it from becoming infected—then cover the boo-boo with a bandage until you go indoors and can clean and dress it properly.

Bonus sweet secret to help your hands: After gardening, add one teaspoon of sugar to your soapy lather, and wash your hands with it. The sugar acts as an abrasive to clean away grass and garden stains.

More help in the garden...


Thursday, July 10 , 2014

The Secret to Spotless Crystal

We'd like to help you care for your crystal—the fancy tumblers and stemware and serving pieces you take out only for company and on special occasions. That ice bucket wedding gift, that beautiful vase that's heavy as heck...

To clean these irreplaceable treasures, fill a basin or sink with three parts hot water to one part white vinegar. Dip a nonabrasive sponge or cloth into the solution and gently clean the item...or dunk the whole piece into the mix, whatever's easiest. Once all the crystal is clean, rinse each piece with water and dry with a lint-free cloth. Your best bet in terms of lint-free is a linen towel or a cloth made of least 25% linen.

No-more-broken-glass tip: Crystal can be scary to clean because you don't want to drop it and chip, crack or break it.

Here's what to do: When you wash delicate crystal (or any glassware that's difficult to handle), line the sink with a very fluffy towel or a thick rubber mat in case a precarious piece slips out of your hands. Keep your basin of washing solution to the side, and gently wash and rinse the item over the towel or mat, which will protect your treasure even when wet. Now you can relax!

More help with housework...


Monday, July 07 , 2014

Bug-Splat and Bird-Doo Remover

Don't you love summer road trips? They would be even better without the bug splats and bird doo on the windshield. Here's what to do...

If you get bugs or bird doo splattered on your windshield, mix one tablespoon of liquid dish detergent with two cups of warm water and pour it across the top of the windshield. Then take a plastic-mesh onion (or potato) bag or a shower sponge (the kind with the plastic weave), and give the splats a going over. You can start with just wiping, then scrub harder if you need to. Finish the job by wiping the windshield with a clean cloth.

Alternative method: Panty hose have a nice, nonabrasive scrubby surface and might even work better than those mesh bags depending on your exact splat. Never throw out old pantyhose!

More help with travel...