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...


Friday, August 29 , 2014

Easy, Inexpensive Dishwasher Gunk Remover

Is there strange gunk on the walls of your dishwasher...or a slightly foul smell emanating from within? Don't seek out a pricey special dishwasher cleaner. Use this instead...

Sprinkle three tablespoons or a small packet of a lemon- or orange-drink powder (such as Tang, Kool-Aid or Crystal Light) inside your empty dishwasher or fill the dishwasher's soap dispenser. Run the empty dishwasher for a full normal wash-and-rinse cycle. Any powdery drink mix that contains citric acid will remove gunk, lime and rust stains as well as odors.

More help around the house...


Wednesday, August 20 , 2014

6 Clever Jewelry Organizers

We have one or two very nice jewelry boxes, but they're not quite deep enough to store our long heirloom necklaces. Also, who wants to hide beautiful jewelry away? What better way to brighten the corners of your bedroom than with sparkling jewels and gems! Here are some ideas to do that while keeping your baubles well-organized.

Store and display your bracelets and watches on the branches of a coffee-cup tree. These cup stands come in all sorts of styles, from rustic to contemporary, and are available at places like Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate & Barrel, Macy's and, of course, online. You might even find a nice old one in an antiques store.

You can also use a tie rack as a neat way to store your necklaces. (We have an old tie rack that came with our closet. We purchase necklaces sometimes just to keep it filled!)

Keep your earrings paired up and organized in empty ice cube trays—no, not ugly new plastic trays. Keep you eyes open for retro-style metal ice cube trays at flea markets or yard sales. Or old metal muffin baking trays—the more beat up, the more rustic they look. Wherever you keep you earrings, you can keep the pairs together by sticking each post in a pair through a hole in a large vintage button. Pretty!

Speaking of ties: Choose a cute, colorful necktie (that the man in the house won't miss too much) and then tie it onto your closet rod using a necktie knot (we favor the half-Windsor). Then use the tie to hold brooches and pins. You can even push through pierced earring posts. It's a neat way to hold the jewelry and to see it all at a glance.

More great ways to decorate and organize...


Wednesday, July 30 , 2014

Cool Way to Keep Track of Your Paint Colors

What a nice paint job! Now your friends will want to copy your color choices. And you yourself may need to touch up a room with the same colors in the future. Today’s creative paint names (Seafoam Pearl, Ballet Slipper) are so easy to forget! Here’s what to do…

To ID leftover paint cans: The labels on paint cans often are either not very informative or get covered up by drips of paint. On a 3-x-5 index card, write the paint brand, color name, color number, sheen name (such as flat, semi-gloss or eggshell) and the room you used it in—you might even want to paint a color smear on the card. Then attach the card to the paint can or laundry-detergent bottle (see below), sticking it in place with transparent tape.

To catalogue paint choices throughout your home: While you're at it, paint a sample on an additional index card or dip half a Popsicle stick into the paint. When it is dry, write the paint brand, color name and the room you used it in on the card or stick so you will have the color handy for matching and decorating purposes. Keep your index cards or Popsicle sticks in a small photo album with plastic sheathings and, bingo, you've got a portable decorator's helper.

Great way to store leftover paint: Cleaned-out plastic laundry-detergent bottles make great containers for leftover paint—much better than the original cans with their gooped-up, difficult-to-open metal lids. Laundry-detergent bottles have dripless pouring spouts and handy handles and, if you close them tightly, your leftover paint won't dry out.

More help with home upkeep...