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Thread: Homecare stuff

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    Default Do-It-Yourself Laundry Detergent

    Do-It-Yourself Laundry Detergent

    by Stacy Johnson - -April 20, 2010

    While having clean clothes is obviously both hygienic and neighborly, how they get that way may be more open to imagination and experimentation than you may have considered. And consider you should, because as it turns out, the companies supplying the soaps you use to make your attire springtime fresh may be doing little more than taking you to the cleaners.

    According to soap super-seller Proctor and Gamble (their Tide label alone accounts more than 40% of all laundry detergent used in the U.S.) Americans are doing 1,100 loads of laundry every minute of every day. And it's certainly possible that, thanks to new concentrates, many of those loads feature too much detergent.

    As you've probably noticed, the latest twist in detergent is to sell us less product at a higher price with "ultra-new-and-improved" concentrates. "Use less soap, save the planet" is the basic idea. But smaller quantities mean more precise measuring is needed: fail to pay attention and you'll pour too much, which doesn't help the earth or your budget ... but does benefit Proctor and other purveyors of these products.

    To read more about the conflict over exactly what kind of green concentrated laundry detergents are really designed to produce, check out this article from the Wall Street Journal.

    Then consider this dirty little secret the suds salesmen don't want you to know: Some people get by with no detergent at all. Many others save 90% of the cost of store-bought by making it themselves.

    Is Detergent Even Necessary?

    I recently did a TV news story showing people how to make their own laundry detergent for a fraction of the cost of store bought. (It's right here on Yahoo!: check it out.)

    As I said in my story, while it may sound impossible, laundry detergent may not even be necessary at all. The blog Funny about Money decided to forgo it completely as part of an experiment. Here's a quote:

    "By and large, all of the freshly washed clothing came out with an odor: It smelled of clean water!"

    You might be surprised to learn that, while clothing has been around since the fig leaf, laundry detergent is relatively new. And yet, ancient people were presumably able to make their clothing at least somewhat clean. How?

    As it turns out, something that may be even more effective than soap is agitation. Ancient people used rocks and rivers, but your modern washing machine can clean lightly soiled clothes by just pushing them around in water.

    In other words, people actually do get away without using detergent at all. But if the idea of using nothing more than water to wash your gym socks sounds a little scuzzy, not to worry. You can still wring significant savings from your laundry money by making your own detergent. It's not hard.

    The Recipe

    A quick search online will show you that there's no shortage of homemade laundry soap recipes: Here's one from The Simple Dollar. And we've got 10 more at Money Talks News. But below is one that seems to work pretty well. You'll need:

    • 4 cups of water.
    • 1/3 bar of cheap soap, grated.
    • 1/2 cup washing soda (not baking soda).
    • 1/2 cup of Borax (20 Mule Team).
    • 5-gallon bucket for mixing.
    • 3 gallons of water.

    First, mix the grated soap in a saucepan with 4 cups of water, and heat on low until the soap is completely dissolved. Add hot water/soap mixture to 3 gallons of water in the 5-gallon bucket, stir in the washing soda and Borax, and continue stirring until thickened. Let the mix sit for 24 hours, and voila! Homemade laundry detergent.

    Of course, who'd post a recipe without trying it out first? I made and washed several loads of clothes with the homemade detergent. And I, like many before me who've traveled this road, couldn't tell the difference between store-bought and homemade.

    Total cost per load? In the neighborhood of 2 cents. Store-bought detergent, depending on what you buy and where you buy it, can cost about 20 cents per load -- 10 times more.

    So, there are at least two alternatives to the agitation of paying too much for laundry detergent: Ditch it altogether and use nothing more than water in your washer, or save to 90% by making your own laundry detergent.

    And here's a final idea for those who, like me, are unlikely to choose either of those options. Since doing this story, I haven't started making my own laundry detergent. I still use the same store-bought concentrate I started with. But I've started using half the amount. Result? No difference at all that I can detect. Now we're really talking green.

    Maybe it's time we all laundered a little money!

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    Default Laundary Problems & Solutions

    How to Make Simple and Cheap Detergents

    by Brandon Ballenger - June 11, 2011

    Ever wonder why there are so many dish soap commercials? Maybe the companies who make this stuff are trying to hide the fact
    it's really simple -- and cheap -- to make your own.

    According to the latest government data, Americans spend an average of $659 a year on housekeeping supplies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which provides that figure, also says the average American earns about $787/week -- which means many people are spending most of (if not more than) a week's pay every year on dish soap, laundry detergent, and other cleaning products.

    If that sounds crazy, here's a better idea: Make your own.

    Recipes for cleaning products are as numerous as recipes for dinner. Here are just a few to help with dishes, clothes and more.

    Dishwasher Detergent

    Here's a simple recipe for dishwasher soap:

    • 1 cup of borax

    • 1 cup of baking soda
    • ¼ cup of table salt
    • 2 packets (half an ounce) of unsweetened lemon Kool-Aid

    You can try to save even more by buying ingredients in bulk, but another idea is to find smaller and much cheaper boxes at your local dollar store: a good idea to since you'll want to try a small amount at first to see if you like the results. The amounts listed above are good for 16 loads -- one tablespoon each -- so even small batches will last a while.

    Other recipes online vary: For example, we found one that suggested combining only borax and baking soda, 1 tablespoon each per load. Another suggested adding a little citrus essential oil to make it smell nice: We didn't try that one, however, because we had difficulty finding inexpensive citrus oil online. Then there's this recipe, which goes in a different direction altogether:

    • 2 bars of shredded Octagon soap

    • 1 cup of baking soda
    • ¼ cup of washing soda
    • ¼ cup of lemon juice

    This one calls for melting the shredded soap in five quarts of water and then mixing in the other ingredients. If that sounds a little like the recipe for laundry detergent we wrote about last year, that's because it is.

    Laundry Detergent

    Speaking of laundry detergent, that's easy, too. You'll need:

    • 4 cups of water

    • ⅓ bar of cheap soap, grated
    • ½ cup washing soda (not baking soda)
    • ½ cup of Borax (20 Mule Team)
    • 5-gallon bucket for mixing
    • 3 gallons of water

    First, mix the grated soap in a saucepan with 4 cups of water, and heat on low until the soap is completely dissolved. Add hot water/soap mixture to 3 gallons of water in the 5-gallon bucket, stir in the washing soda and Borax, and continue stirring until thickened. Let the mix sit for 24 hours, and voila! Homemade laundry detergent.

    Other Cleaning Products

    If you like the results of your homemade concoctions on clothes and dishes, why stop there? The next time you're at the store, instead of picking up a bottle of some expensive cleanser,
    grab these six items and make your own cleaning supplies:

    • Vinegar. It may smell a little weird, but vinegar can handle everything from dishes to laundry and even weeds. We've written about the wonders of vinegar before.

    • Baking soda. Eliminates odors and helps with stains, and also works as a natural method of pest control -- ants hate it.

    • Borax. This mineral salt beats bleach as a toilet cleaner and is also useful for scrubbing walls. And as you see in the recipes above, works with laundry, too.

    • Fels-Naptha soap. This one's actually made by one of those big cleaning companies: Dial. They recommend it for "pre-treating" stains. In other words, "use this in addition to a bunch of our other expensive products, like Purex!" But you can turn the tables by using it as part of a recipe for your own laundry detergent, and they can keep the Purex.

    • Rubbing alcohol. Works as a disinfectant and is also a great glass cleaner. It also gets grime off plastic and metal surfaces like patio furniture or bathroom fixtures.

    • Lemon juice. This cuts through dish grease and is an ingredient for homemade furniture polish -- but it's not the easiest thing to preserve long-term.

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    Default The When-to-Wash-It Handbook

    The When-to-Wash-It Handbook

    By Sarah Jio


    How often you should wash them: After 4 to 5 wears.

    What to know: Durable denim is excellent at masking dirt—which is a good thing, since overwashing can cause jeans to fade and fray. To keep yours looking like new (or “weathered” just the way you want them): Throw them in the washer inside out and use cold water. Avoiding the dryer will help retain color, too.

    Exception to the rule: Take them for a spin cycle sooner if they stretch out. Or just toss them in the dryer for 10 minutes (but no more than that). Spandex-heavy “jeggings” (jean leggings) should be washed after every wear so the knees don’t bag.

    Dress Pants

    How often you should wash them: After 4 to 5 wears.

    What to know: You’re probably wearing these in an (overly) air-conditioned office, so feel free to revisit them multiple times, particularly those made of stain-repelling synthetic blends. Part of a suit? Dry-clean both pieces together so one doesn’t fade faster than the other.

    Exception to the rule: Your nice trousers will last longer between washings if you change into your “play clothes” as soon as you leave work (as opposed to wearing them to your daughter’s soccer game).

    Jackets and Blazers

    How often you should wash them: After 5 to 6 wears.

    What to know: Typically layered over a blouse, a tee, or a camisole, these don’t require much upkeep. However, a jacket can retain odors (say, from last night’s fajitas), so before you stuff it in a closet, air it out near a window or spritz it with the Laundress Fabric Fresh (Starting at $16 for eight ounces, Yahoo! Shopping).

    Exception to the rule: Periodically check the high-friction areas—collar, cuffs, and placket—for signs of dirt. But you can roll up the sleeves (or even pop the collar) temporarily to conceal stains on an otherwise-clean jacket.

    Khaki Shorts and Pants

    How often you should wash them: After 2 to 3 wears.

    What to know: Light-colored cottons are vulnerable to noticeable spots. Zap smudges between washes with Oxi Clean Spray-A-Way Instant Stain Remover ($3.50 at drugstores), which Chicago stylist Amy Salinger likes because it doesn’t leave water rings behind.

    Exception to the rule: With stain-resistant fabrics, you can get away with an extra wear or two. Never use fabric softeners or dryer sheets, as they diminish the effectiveness of the fabric.


    How often you should wash them: After 3 to 4 wears.

    What to know: Swap out your pj’s twice as often as you change the sheets. “People don’t realize how much they sweat at night,” says Elizabeth Scott, Ph.D., a codirector of the Simmons Center for Hygiene and Health at Simmons College, in Boston. “We also shed thousands of skin cells a minute.”

    Exception to the rule: Do you shower before bedtime? If the answer is yes, you can sneak in an extra wear or two. However, if you snooze in silk pajamas, which absorbs more body oils than cotton, you should switch up your sleepwear daily.


    How often you should wash: After every wear.

    What to know: Treat them like underwear. “Close-fitting and oil-absorbing, these basic pieces add life to your pricier blouses, sweaters, and jackets,” says Corinne Phipps, founder of Urban Darling, a wardrobe- consulting firm in San Francisco. Wash in hot water.

    Exception to the rule: Stick to the four-hour rule. If you wore a T-shirt or camisole only briefly, there’s no need to be rigid. “It’s OK to put a barely-worn tee back in the drawer every now and then,” says Salinger.

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    Washers - Tangled, Twisted, Knotted Clothes

    Tangled, twisted or knotted clothes are usually a result of improper sorting of wash loads.

    To prevent clothing from knotting and twisting:

    • Avoid mixing heavy items with light items.
    • Avoid putting too many or too few items in the washer.
    • Make sure you set the proper water level for the size load you are doing. The water level should just cover the clothes.
    • Never wrap the clothes around the agitator.
    • Be sure your wash water is not too hot for the fabric.

    Possible Reasons and Cures for Wrinkling in the Washer and Dryer

    Reasons for wrinkling

    • Improper sorting of the load (i.e. loading large, heavy items with lightweight, delicate materials).
    • Too many items in washer for the load size.
    • Use of incorrect wash and drying cycles.
    • Incorrect water level during the wash cycles (not enough water for amount of clothes).
    • Washing repeatedly in water that is too hot for fabric.
    • Accumulations of lime scale due to use of carbonate detergents.
    • Failure to use fabric softener.
    • Leaving clothes in dryer after tumbling stops.
    • Too many items in dryer.
    • Too few items in dryer.

    Steps to correct wrinkling

    • Re-tumble on "Permanent Press" setting with small load.
    • Re-rinse and dry on "Permanent Press" setting.
    • If unsuccessful, re-tumble on high heat for 10 - 12 minutes and hang immediately.
    • Iron carefully.
    • If still wrinkled, you may need professional steaming.

    Note: If you follow good laundry procedures and "permanent press" clothes still come out wrinkled, the finish may no longer be good quality. The permanent press "memory" has been worn away.

    Steps to prevent wrinkling

    • Remove clothes immediately when dryer stops tumbling and place on hangers.
    • Dry only one washer load at a time. Do not combine loads.
    • If drying only one article, add two similar articles, even if dry, to ensure proper tumbling.
    • Avoid laundering heavy permanent press items, such as work clothes, with lighter permanent press items, such as shirts or blouses.
    • Do not wash permanent press items with ordinary items such as towels, bed linens, etc.
    • Items must have room to move freely. Permanent press loads should always be smaller than regular loads, and no more than medium loads.
    • Use Permanent Press Wash and Dry Cycles. This cycle provides a cool down rinse to minimize wrinkling.
    • Use Full water fill for medium load, Medium fill for small loads.
    • If a non-phosphate detergent must be used, avoid the use of a high-carbonate detergent (high carbonate would be in the 7% range).
    • Proper use of fabric softener will minimize wrinkling.

    Dryer -
    Lint Concerns and Solutions

    The following information is from studies done by detergent and appliance manufacturers that point to some possible causes of excessive lint.

    UNDISSOLVED GRANULAR DETERGENT may leave white powdery residue on fabrics, which can be mistaken for lint. Feel lint deposit by rubbing between fingers. If the residue is from detergent, it will spread out.

    Note: this usually increases during winter months because of water temperatures being colder.

    • Add detergent and start the washer before adding clothes so that the detergent can dissolve completely & work effectively.
    • Reduce the amount of detergent
    • Increase wash water temperature.
    • Change to a liquid detergent.

    SORTING: Mixing "lint producing" fabrics with "lint collecting" fabrics allows lint to transfer to other garments, instead of being trapped in the lint filter. This is one of the most frequently found causes of linting.

    • Separate lint producers (flannel, cotton knits, terry towels) from lint collectors (fuzzy, brushed fabrics, synthetic blends. ex. corduroy, acrylic blankets, children's sleepwear).
    • Separate dark colors from white and light-colored items.

    LENGTH OF CYCLE: Washing (agitation) beyond what's necessary to clean clothes will generate lint.

    • Shorten wash time (use medium or light soil wash) for smaller loads or lightly soiled garments to avoid washing clothes longer than needed.

    WATER LEVEL: Setting the water level switch to a higher setting than needed will cause linting due to excessive movement of the clothes in the water.

    • Select a water level to just cover the clothes.

    LOAD SIZE: Overloading can prevent lint from being flushed away during the washing process as well as increase the effect of clothes rubbing against one another and generating lint.

    • Loosely load clothes no higher than the top row of holes in the washer tub.

    TOO MUCH BLEACH: Over-bleaching will damage fabric & cause excessive lint.

    • Follow manufacturer's instructions on the amount of bleach to use.

    TOO MUCH FABRIC SOFTENER will coat the fabric and make clothing stiff (rough to the touch). Fabric softener may chemically combine with detergent to form a deposit, which can be white.

    • To remove coating, wash and dry without fabric softener 3 times.
    • Use fabric softener only in rinse cycle, unless softener manufacturer specifies adding to wash cycle. Use your fabric softener dispenser (if your washer is so equipped.)

    PILLING naturally occurs with polyester/cotton blends. The stronger man-made fibers, instead of breaking off, will collect and hold small bundles of fibers resulting in "pills". Lint becomes entangled in the "pills" and makes the lint appear more obvious.

    • Turning the garments inside out may provide some protection.

    Washers -
    Stain Removal

    Common stains and the proper removal procedures

    Blood: soak in cold water, then launder in warm water.

    Catsup: scrape off excess, soak in cold water, launder as usual.

    Chewing gum: rub with ice, scrape off excess, sponge with cleaning fluid, rinse and launder.

    Chocolate: soak in cold water for 15 minutes, rub detergent into fabric and launder in the hottest water that is safe for the fabric.

    Coffee/tea: soak in cold water, then use bleach treatment with the hottest water that is safe for the fabric. Launder.

    Cosmetics: apply undiluted liquid detergent to stain, or dampen stain and rub in soap, forming a paste. Work until stain is gone and rinse well. Repeat if necessary, bleach if safe for fabric.

    Crayon: loosen stains with kitchen shortening, apply detergent, working in until outline of stain is removed; launder as usual.

    Cream/milk: sponge or soak stain with cool water for 30 minutes or longer, work detergent into stain and launder as usual.

    Deodorants/antiperspirants: scrub area using white vinegar. If stain remains, saturate with denatured alcohol and scrub, rinse, and launder as usual.

    Fruits, fruit juices, wine: follow same procedure as for coffee. If stain persists, blot with lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide. Where hot water cannot be used, sponge well with cool water and work glycerin into stain.

    Grass: rub detergent in stain, launder in bleach, if possible.

    Grease: scrape off as much as possible, rub plenty of detergent into stain, launder as usual.

    Ink/ballpoint: spray stain with hairspray until wet looking, allow to soak briefly. Hand scrub using heavy application of liquid detergent. Launder and repeat, if necessary.

    Meat juice: scrape off dried portion. Sponge with cold water. Rub with detergent, launder as usual.

    Mildew: pre-treat with detergent, launder. If stain remains treat with hydrogen peroxide, launder as usual.

    Mud: brush off dried portion, sponge with cold water then launder in the hottest water fabric can take. If stain remains, sponge with 1 part rubbing alcohol and 2 parts water, launder as usual.

    Mustard: work glycerin into stain. Pre-treat with detergent, launder as usual. (You should be able to obtain glycerin at drug stores.)

    Nail polish: do not use nail polish remover. Sponge with chemically pure "amyl acetate" (i.e. banana oil - can be purchased at local drug stores). Launder as usual. If stain persists, sponge with rubbing alcohol and launder.

    Oil: pre-treat with concentrated detergent. Let it sit for 1/2 hour, then launder in the hottest water possible, bleach if fabric can withstand. Launder as usual.

    Perspiration: if color is affected, sponge fresh stain with ammonia. Old stain, sponge with vinegar. Rinse and launder in the hottest water that is safe for fabric. If fabric is yellow, bleach if possible.

    Rust: apply rust remover, using manufacturer's directions.

    Soft drinks: sponge immediately with cold water and launder.

    Transmission oil: usually impossible to remove. Best possible treatment is detergent and the hottest water the fabric can handle.

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    10 Simple Laundry Prep Solutions

    by Country Living - Jun 17, 2011

    A little bit of TLC before washing can go a long way when you’re doing the laundry. Say buh-bye to stains forever.

    1. Body oils rub onto shirt collars and attract dirt, leaving them grimy and worse for wear. Reverse the damage by grabbing your shampoo and a clean paintbrush and paint a line over the soiled collar before washing.

    2. Soaking clothes overnight in a tub of water really helps loosen dirt and grime and can be especially effective when your clothes have that dingy-all-over look.

    3. To keep brights their brightest and blacks from fading, turn garments inside out and choose the coolest temperature setting that will get them clean.

    4. For stubborn food stains, such as coffee, soy sauce, or mustard, blot the troubled area with foam shaving cream and allow it to sit for half an hour. Repeat the process and if the stain remains, try leaving the cream in overnight.

    5. If you’ve just washed a stained garment, examine the results before tossing it in the dryer. If the stain didn’t come out, the dryer’s heat will set it and make it even harder to deal with. Your chances of success are greater if you remove the item while it’s damp.

    6. Your best chance of salvaging a stained garment after it’s been in the dryer is to soak it for thirty minutes in a solution that’s equal parts water and hydrogen peroxide. Be sure to wash it immediately afterward.

    7. Adding a quarter cup of baking soda to a wash will take care of stale, musty odors common during the summer months and give your machine a fragrant boost to boot.

    8. When conquering dried bloodstains, dampen the damaged garment with hydrogen peroxide, then rinse with cold water. If possible, set your washing machine’s temperature for cold as well.

    9. When battling mildew and soap scum-stained shower curtains, don’t hesitate to drop them in the washing machine. For cloth as well as heavier vinyl and plastic curtains, use ordinary laundry soap and the recommended amount of bleach per load.

    10. Whether you’re washing by machine or hand, vinegar is a must-have in any laundry room. A cup of vinegar is an effective fabric softener in the rinse cycle, adding a little bit to a hand wash will keep clothes from staying sudsy.

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    Simple Laundry Solutions

    These 50 classic cleaning tips explain a how a little bit of TLC can go a long way when you're doing the laundry.

    Prep Work

    1. Body oils rub onto shirt collars and attract dirt, leaving them grimy and worse for the wear. Reverse the damage by grabbing your shampoo and a clean paintbrush and paint a line over the soiled collar before washing.

    2. Soaking clothes overnight in a tub of water really helps loosen dirt and grime and can be especially effective when your clothes have that dingy-all-over look.

    3. To keep brights their brightest and blacks from fading, turn garments inside out and choose the coolest temperature setting that will get them clean.

    4. For stubborn food stains, such as coffee, soy sauce, or mustard, blot the troubled area with foam shaving cream and allow it to sit for a half an hour. Repeat the process and if the stain remains, try leaving the cream in overnight.

    5. If you've just washed a stained garment, examine the results before tossing it in the dryer. If the stain didn't come out, the dryer's heat will set it and make it even harder to deal with. Your chances of success are greater if you remove the item while it's damp.

    6. Your best chance of salvaging a stained garment after it's been in the dryer is to soak it for thirty minutes in a solution that's equal parts water and hydrogen peroxide. Be sure to wash it immediately afterward.

    7. Adding a quarter cup of baking soda to a wash will take care of stale, musty odors common during the summer months and give your machine a fragrant boost to boot.

    8. When conquering dried bloodstains, dampen the damaged garment with hydrogen peroxide, then rinse with cold water. If possible, set your washing machine's temperature for cold as well.

    9. When battling mildew and soap scum-stained shower curtains, don't hesitate to drop them in the washing machine. For cloth as well as heavier vinyl and plastic curtains, use ordinary laundry soap and the recommended amount of bleach per load.

    10. Whether you're washing by machine or hand, vinegar is a must-have in any laundry room. A cup of vinegar is an effective fabric softener in the rinse cycle, and adding a little bit to a hand wash will keep clothes from staying sudsy.

    Keep Colors True

    1. Bleached-out whites can develop a dingy, discolored look over time. Prevent this by adding one-half to one cup of hydrogen peroxide to a load once the washing machine is filled with water. Allow it to soak for half an hour and add about one-third less laundry detergent than usual and wash as usual.

    2. Remember to separate clothes by color, as well as fabric. Towels and fleeces should be divided from smooth, dark fabrics that will ultimately show every speck of lint after the rinse cycle.

    3. Well before you load the machine, take the time to straighten sleeves and pant legs, close zippers and untangle sheets and towels. Not only will you save time on drying and ironing later on, but your clothing will retain its shape better and be remarkably cleaner.

    4. To keep brights their brightest and blacks from fading, turn garments inside out and choose the coolest temperature setting that will get them clean.

    5. If a garment bleeds onto other items in the load, don't let the stained items dry. Instead, wash them again immediately with detergent and a color-safe bleach-and without the garment that caused the trouble.

    6. Before putting the brightly colored clothing in the dryer or outside to hang, remember to keep them turned inside out to prevent fading.

    7. Always line dry colors and bright fabrics in partial shade or in the afternoon in order to prevent fading.

    8. If you've dyed clothing in your machine and the dye left stains, run an empty cycle of hot water with two cups of bleach added. If the traces of eye still remain, repeat the process but allow the diluted bleach to soak in the machine for several hours.

    Line Drying Secrets

    1. The key to less ironing is proper hanging, so it's worth taking the time to do it right. First shake each item to release wrinkles, then straighten and smooth each garment as it's hung.

    2. Give your clothing some breathing room if you have the space. Leaving a foot or two between each garment on a clothesline reduces drying time.

    3. Dirty clotheslines make for spotty clothing. Once a month, use a rag to go over your outdoor clotheslines with warm water and pine oil cleaner.

    4. Choose a day that's sunny and at the very least, breezy to dry clothes outside. The motion of the wind prevents clothes from stiffening to if left for a few extra hours, can help make your clothing noticeably softer.

    5. Make sensitive fabrics like spandex and elastic go the distance and avoid the machine dryer. Clothing that's been lined-dried won't wear through as easily from constant rubbing and aren't vulnerable to shrinking.

    6. let whites take in a bit of sun in the early morning-it might surprise you how strong a natural bleaching effect solar rays can have on your garments.

    7. Avoid clothespin marks on the shoulders of your dress shirts and lighters knits by putting them on hangers with the top button closed.

    8. Don't hang bath towels by the corners-the weight of the cloth will pull the corners out of shape and leave unsightly indents, instead, double them over the line.

    9. It's important to take proper care of your clothespins and keep them clean. Place them in a mesh bag, swish in a bucket of warm, soapy water, rinse thoroughly and hang the entire bag on the line to dry.

    10. For all its pluses, asthma and allergy sufferers should steer clear of line drying their clothing. Airborne pollen will easily stick to clothing and remain on items long after they were washed.

    11. Line drying is an easy and effective way to cut costs at home. Standard dryers account for 50 to 65 percent of the average household's electric bill. Not only that, but you can scratch dryer sheets off your shopping list. Clothes that hang dry don't develop static cling.

    12. When the temperature takes a dip outdoors, put on a pair of thin, lightweight cotton or knit gloves, and add a pair of rubber gloves over them-your fingers will stay nice and toasty.

    The Right Cycle

    1. Before tossing clothing in the dryer, be sure to unroll any wadded-up hems, cleaves or pant legs. By giving each garment a few extra snaps, you will facilitate ironing later on.

    2. Make sure to dry with like materials in order to prevent over-drying or worse, shrinkage. Synthetics and lightweight natural fabrics can both run on the permanent press cycle, while sheer and fragile materials fair better with a short tumble in cool air.

    3. Try not to under-pack your dryer. Too few clothes will reduce the tumble action, lengthening overall drying time and in turn, wasting more energy.

    4. Be careful not to overload your dryer because the air will not be able to circulate evenly. As a result, clothing may emerge wrinkled and damp in areas. Instead, find out what the optimum capacity is for your dryer and pack it accordingly.

    5. Adding a clean, dry bath towel to heavier dryer loads containing blue jeans, rugs, blankets or bath towels helps absorb extra moisture and reduce drying time.

    6. Reduce static cling by removing items from the dryer before they are bone dry.

    7. Before running the dryer, check to make sure the vent isn't blocked and that the lint basket is clean. Doing this cult drying time, save energy and in turn, save you money.

    8. In order to prevent down items from clumping in the dryer, remove them from time to time and shake vigorously.

    9. Contrary to popular belief, tennis balls and sneakers will not help reduce drying time. These items can spread dirt and even melt onto your belongings. A dry, fluffy towel is the best addition to a dryer cycle you can make.

    10. Drying two loads back to back is more efficient than drying them at different times because the machine heats up only once. If you need to do a double-batch, do the lightweight clothes first, as the machine will be evenly heated for the more demanding load.

    Ironing Tips

    1. To iron a shirt or blouse, begin with the underside of the collar, followed by the upper side and sleeves, back to front. Next, do the back of the garment, starting with the yoke and then the front inside facing. At last, run the iron over the exterior front.

    2. In order to protect your garment's finish, be sure to iron with smooth, even strokes. Keep the iron moving with the grain of the fabric and avoid pressing too hard or revisiting the same area multiple times. For synthetic fabrics, iron them inside out so they won't develop a sheen.

    3. When dealing with pleated items, start at the bottom of the fold and iron in an upward motion. Your pleats will be perfectly straight with little effort.

    4. For perfectly pressed slacks, iron the inside pockets, waistband, backside and front down to the crotch. Next, lay the slacks out straight with the inside seams together. Lift the top leg and press the inseam side of the bottom leg. Press the seam out and create a straight crease. After that, press the side seam on each leg. Lastly, hang up the class by the cuffs in order to retain their shape.

    5. Remove wrinkles while ironing clothing by spraying them with a mixture of five parts water and one part fabric softener. As an added bonus, your garments will smell wonderful.

    6. Linens and cottons are easier to iron if you moisten them with a spray mist, bundle them in a plastic bag and let cool in the refrigerator for several hours.

    7. When ironing delicate fabrics like lace, lay a moist handkerchief over the wrinkled area and press gently. This will get rid of any stubborn areas and protect the material from burning.

    8. The natural heat of a warm dryer can actually save you from ironing smaller items like pillowcases and t-shirts. Simply fold and allow them to rest on top of the machine.

    9. Give your legs and back some much needed rest while you iron. Adjust the ironing board to table height and pull up a chair to avoid strain.

    10. You can easily save energy by letting laundry partially dry on a rack before finishing in a dryer. When dealing with heavier knits, place the garments in a mesh shopping bag and hang in the shower. This prevents stretching and reduces excess moisture.

    Excerpted from Living Simple country Wisdom: 501 Old-Fashioned Ideas to Simplify Your Life, by Susan Waggoner.

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    7 Things in Your Home that Are More Valuable Than You Think

    Dec 20, 2011

    Cari Cucksey, professional liquidator and host of HGTV's Cash and Cari, says that, based on her experience, the average family has about $10,000 worth of unused items in their home. But how do you know what's worth something and what's just plain junk? We asked Cucksey and a few other experts to tell us the most often overlooked items-and the best online resources for you to start cashing in.

    Used Clothing and Shoes

    A lot of people donate to charity clothing that has been sitting in their closets for years, but, Cucksey says, "There is a really big secondhand market out there of people who will buy styles that look outdated to you." It's often lesser-known designer items that are most surprising: Many of her clients are ready to toss their boxed, funky purses from the '60s and '70s before she lets them know they are by designer Enid Collins and commonly sell for $300 and up. And don't discount the pieces from the '80s you'd rather forget: Those garments (shoulder pads and all) are considered vintage. They're some of the most popular items at resale shops right now. Visit ConsignmentShops.com to find a store near you.

    Costume Jewelry

    Unique jewelry pieces can be sold with a heavy price tag, especially if they have their original stamp or maker's mark. At JewelryWonder.com, you can set up an online store by uploading photos of pieces you own. If the jewelry was passed down by a relative or looks as if it's a few decades old, it might be just the thing costume jewelry enthusiasts are eager to get their hands on. Pieces by Trifari, a jewelry company popular in the '30s, can be distinguished by its trademark "T" stamp with a crown above it. Other sought-after pieces are Eisenberg Ice, especially pins made of Swavorski crystal (marked with "Eisenberg Originals") from the '30s.


    "We once had a client who had a pottery vase they were using as a toilet brush holder," says Stuart Whitehurst, vice president of Skinner, Inc. auctioneers in Boston. "They had no idea it was made in the late 1800s by Boston pottery maker William Grueby and that its yellow glaze was extremely rare. That toilet brush holder ended up being worth $18,000." So how do you know if Grandma's umbrella stand is actually precious pottery? JustArtPottery.com has a large gallery of patterns and frequently publishes articles on how to tell what kind of pottery you own. And one of the hottest items on the market right now, Whitehurst says, is Chinese porcelain. Commonly found in a traditional blue and white motif, it's now exceptionally popular because Chinese collectors are trying to reclaim pieces that were brought to the States by American missionaries in the 20th century.


    If your music collection is now on your iPod, you might have some vinyl records sitting in your attic collecting dust. As with most collector's items, the more rare the record is, the better (and if it's autographed by a popular artist, it's definitely worth thousands). The vinyl records that sell for the highest prices tend to be albums from the '60s and '70s by artists like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan that are still sealed (never opened) and in great condition. Gently used records are still sought after. To learn more about your collection, ForeverVinyl.com offers auction and appraisal services and also buys and sells vinyl records, as well as CDs.


    While the antique book market isn't what it once was, appraisal expert Allan Stypeck says rare, autographed and original editions, especially manuscripts, are still highly valued. Because books are usually passed down through relatives over the years, many of his clients have no idea what theirs could fetch at auction. "A woman recently called and said she had a book she thought might be worth something," Stypeck says. "It turned out it was a 13th-century illuminated [handwritten and illustrated] manuscript from a monastery in Paris that was worth a minimum of $30,000." But because book appraising depends on a multitude of factors (edition, condition and rarity) Stypeck doesn't recommend trying to figure out your books' value on your own. The Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (abaa.org) has a directory of rare booksellers who can get you on the right track.

    Computer Parts

    You've upgraded, and now your old computer sits there, obsolete. Many buyers will pay good money for your old desktop, hard drive, monitor, router and even keyboard and printer. Computer parts are especially popular on eBay: Visit PCSellingCenter.ebay.com for detailed instructions to get started on selling what you've got. You'll be doing the Earth a favor: Disposed computer parts, also known as "e-waste," are an environmental hazard due to their toxic parts.

    Vintage Toys

    Pez, Barbies, figurines from popular cartoons like the Smurfs or Snoopy-any toy that brings back a little nostalgia could be something a collector will pay big money for. There are certain rarities to look out for, says Whitehurst, like Barbies with a side part and bubble haircut (which were mostly sold in Europe in the '60s and are now highly sought after by American collectors) or a Pez dispenser with a patent number (found toward the bottom of its stem) of 3.9 or lower, which means it was manufactured before 1976. ToyCollectorNetwork.com allows you to sell, learn more about and keep track of your classic toys online.

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    Default 13+ Things Your Landscaper Won’t Tell You

    13+ Things Your Landscaper Won’t Tell You
    Add as much as 15% to your home's value with these expert landscaping tips.
    by Michelle Crouch from Reader's Digest Magazine | May 2012

    1. Ditch the mower bag.

    Those grass clippings will become food for earthworms and microbes that will help make your lawn green and healthy.

    2. Sure, the view from the street is important, but don’t forget to look at your landscape from inside the house.

    If you have a room with a big window, make sure it looks good from there too.

    3. Don’t fill every inch of your space with plants and flowers.

    By next spring, you’ll have a weeding and pruning nightmare.

    4. That "pretty" red mulch you love?

    It has been found to contain arsenic and other harsh chemicals that can be harmful to children and pets and will contaminate your soil.

    5. Hate bagging leaves?

    You don’t have to. If there’s just a light layer, go over them with your mower and leave them on your lawn. As they break down, they’ll help limit weeds from popping up.

    6. You can send a sample of your soil to a local agricultural agency to have it tested.

    Dig down six to seven inches deep and then gather two cups of dirt into sample bags. Mail them off to find out what nutrients you need.

    7. If you find a flower you like, always buy more than one.

    Plant clumps of species in odd number, such as five or seven in one area, or repeat the groupings throughout your landscape for a unifying effect.

    8. DIY landscapers tend to make their planting beds too narrow and too close to the house.

    You want to extend your beds out at least one to two thirds of the house’s height, if not more.

    9. Laying weed fabric is generally a waste of money and time for the long term; weeds just grow on top of it.

    I once had a customer whose beds had seven layers of weed fabric, yet she still had weeds. I guess she kept thinking, If I put down just one more layer, the weeds will stop coming.

    10. Most lawn fertilizers have about 30 percent nitrogen, which is way too much.

    Look for fertilizer with time-releasing water-insoluble nitrogen and use it only twice a year on a steady schedule, like on Memorial Day and after Labor Day. In general, well-irrigated and older lawns need less fertilizer.

    11. Watch out for a gorgeous plant called purple loose-strife, or Lythrum salicaria, which a lot of nurseries still sell.

    Though it’s inexpensive and has a lovely flower, it’s an invasive species that will spread everywhere and choke out other plants.

    12. To keep from overwatering your lawn, remember that one inch of water once a week is ideal, maybe once every five days in extreme heat, depending on your soil.

    Infrequent watering encourages roots to grow deeper to find groundwater, creating a stronger plant.

    13. Looking at a color wheel is a great way to choose garden flowers.

    Colors that are opposite each other, like yellow and purple, look beautiful together.

    14. If you don’t have a big budget, hire someone to do a landscape design and then install it yourself in stages.

    That will keep you from making costly mistakes, like putting plants in the wrong spot.

    15. Bushes and spruce trees planted at the end of your driveway may look nice, but they can block your view of oncoming traffic.

    Keep your line of sight clear.

    16. One thing I’ll never understand: people who spend thousands on their new landscapes and then neglect to water them. It happens all the time.

    17. It’s better to plant too high than too deep.

    People have a tendency to over-dig, and the roots of the tree or plant can get buried, causing it to suffocate, or water accumulates at the root level and rots out the roots.

    18. We know your kids want to help, but they’re just making our job take longer.

    And squirting us with a squirt gun? Now you’re really pushing it.

    19. Please don’t stand there talking to me with a cold drink when it’s 100 degrees out.

    Offer me one.


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    Default 5 Ways to Make Your Home Safer

    5 Ways to Make Your Home Safer

    By Heather Larson - January 20, 2012

    For anyone who has seen those World's Dumbest Criminals clip shows on late-night TV, it may come as no surprise that burglars aren't always the smartest tools in the shed. But sometimes they don't even have to be.

    Burglars most often enter a place through an unlocked door, says Craig L'Esperance, a detective for a Midwest law enforcement agency. Other times the home owners have a burglar alarm, but forget to set it when leaving the house, even for just a short amount of time.

    Those problems are easy enough to remedy, but what about the criminals who aren't deterred by locks or alarms? L'Esperance is also the author of the thriller Terror from Within, which concerns a burglary crew that commits residential and commercial burglaries and describes how and why they pick their targets, and he and other experts weighed in on how homeowners can safeguard their possessions.

    Lock It Up

    Standard exterior doors should contain a good quality deadbolt lock, says Robert A. Gardner, a certified security and crime prevention consultant with offices in California, Arizona and Nevada. That bolt should have a hardened steel insert and a minimum throw of one inch, so check the packaging if you're thinking of installing a new one. Double exterior doors should be equipped with a vertical throw deadbolt and all locks should have a five-pin (or more) tumbler, he says.

    Sliding doors also need a lock system that prevents the door from being pried open or lifted off of its track.

    In general locks should be changed when moving into a new residence or whenever a key is lost. Make sure the locksmith has the necessary licenses and is bonded and insured, and get recommendations from friends or business rating agencies if you can, Gardner says.

    Gardner also offers a home security test on his website, so you can see how well your home is protected.

    Know Your Neighbors

    If you're not already acquainted with the neighbors on either side of you, get to know them now, says Todd Morris, CEO of BrickHouse Security in New York City.

    "Get their cellphone numbers and give them yours," Morris says. "Then if you see something awry, like a package left out in the rain or a strange car at their home, you can text message them and ask that they do the same for you."

    But Morris doesn't recommend giving these neighbors – or anyone else for that matter – a key to your house. Use a fingerprint scanner lock instead, he says, or a lock you have to punch a code into to open. Non-key access with an audit trail is the best, he says. That way you'll know when the dog walker, house cleaner or anyone else enters and leaves your house.

    Beware of Dog

    You don't actually have to own a canine to scare a burglar into thinking you do. Post a sign in your yard that says, "Attack Dogs Trained and Sold Here," says Susan Bartelstone, host of the radio show Crime Prevention 101 in New York. "Extremely Vicious Doberman" works too, she says.

    "Then get a recording of a fierce-sounding barking dog and set it on a timer to go off periodically when you aren't home," Bartelstone says.

    To give a burglar pause, leave a large dog bowl by the front door with the name "Cujo" or "Killer."

    Make It Look Used

    If you are planning a vacation, L'Esperance advises, either put a hold on your newspapers or mail or stop them altogether. Nothing says, "Come in and take what you want," like a pile of old newspapers on your porch.

    Also have your home phone forwarded to your cellphone so people who hear the phone ring will think you're home, says L'Esperance.

    There are some other important ways to deter thieves no matter if you're there or not, like making sure the grass is cut, the snow is shoveled off the driveway in the winter, and there are no ladders lying about in the yard or against the side of the house. Most burglars know people don't usually lock second-story windows, L'Esperance says, so a ladder is basically an invitation.

    If you have a garage, make sure to protect that as well. Lock your car so nobody can get to your garage door opener and enter your home through the garage or just steal what's inside the garage.

    For the most authentic lived-in look, make it appear you're home by leaving the TV or a radio on and add a timer to your lights so they turn on at different times of the day and night.

    Go Hi-Tech

    Senior real estate specialist Chantay Bridges, who works for Clear Choice Realty & Associates in Los Angeles, has seen vacant homes vandalized, with squatters taking up residence in houses for sale and then taking all the appliances, furniture, and fixtures when asked to leave.

    Bridges suggests installing a home security system, but using one that has apps for your smartphone so that you can monitor the system from anywhere. Alarm.com lets you send commands from your phone to arm or disarm your system remotely. You can also watch live video from your security cameras to see what’s going on when you’re not there.

    Mobiscope.com works the same way and sends e-mail notifications to your BlackBerry if any motion is detected at your home.


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    Weed Killer Recipe from Your Kitchen


    • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Table Salt
    • 1–2 Cups of white Vinegar
    • 1 Tablespoon of Dr Bronner Liquid Castile Soap


    1. Pour the table salt into the spray bottle.
    2. Pour Dr Bronner Liquid Castile Soap to the spray bottle.
    3. Next fill the spray bottle an inch from the top with white vinegar. Put the nozzle spray cap back on. Gently shake the spray bottle until mixed.
    4. Spray directly onto the weeds thoroughly covering them.
    5. Beware that it may affect the grass around it so try to be careful with about over spray.
    6. Do not use in your garden or flower beds.

    The weeds should be dead within 24 – 72 hours.

    If your weeds are in rock, gravel or in between sidewalk cracks…. boiling hot water poured over them with kill them within 24 hours.

    Dr Bronner Liquid Castile Soap helps cut through the weed’s (plant) protective oil so the vinegar and salt can work at killing it quicker.


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    Pre-Season Air Conditioning Checklist

    Don’t wait for a hot summer day to find out that your air conditioning is not working, when you may have to wait days for a service person. Here is a quick pre-season checklist, so that you can be sure that your AC is good to go. This video and article also explains in simple terms how your AC system works, and what can typically go wrong:

    - How Your AC System Works
    - What Can Typically Go Wrong
    - A Pre-Season Checklist


    The fundamental purpose of your AC system is to move heat from inside your house to the outside. To do this, your AC system has five essential parts:

    1) a heat exchanger outside of your house (the box on the outside of your house with the big fan in it, which is called the “condenser”);
    2) a heat exchanger inside of your house (the box inside your house with a blower which circulates the air from the inside of your house, which is called the “evaporator”);
    3) refrigerant piping (containing a special high pressure fluid which absorbs and releases heat).
    4) ductwork which delivers cool air to your rooms, and draws warm air back.
    5) and, a thermostat which tells your system when to turn on and off.

    Other components of your AC system include: the compressor (which is located in the outside unit) which circulates the refrigerant around; your air filter (which takes dust and particles out of the air which circulates through your house); and the condensate pump (which removes the water that drips from the inside unit).

    A simple way to understand how your AC system works, is to think of the refrigerant in the pipes which go between your inside and outside units as a heat “conveyor belt.” Your inside heat exchanger puts heat onto the conveyor belt, and then your outside heat exchanger unit takes the heat off the conveyor belt. And this is how heat get removed from your home. So even though you may think of your AC system as blowing “cold” air in your home, it is actually blowing air that has had its “heat removed”!

    The other components of your AC system are there to make this process happen efficiently. For example, your compressor not only circulates the refrigerant around your system, but it also increases its pressure so that it can absorb and release heat more effectively. The blower circulates the air around your home. And your thermostat allows you to set your desired room temperature.

    Some things that you may have noticed about your AC system is that if you are standing near your outside unit, that when it is running it will be blowing out hot air. This is the heat that is being removed from inside your house. If something obstructs the flow of air around this unit, then it can’t do its job of removing heat. So you will want to be sure that this unit is not cluttered with leaves or blocked by shrubs, etc.

    And regarding your inside unit, you may have noticed a water condensation pump located next to the unit. The reason for this is that in the process of cooling the air, your air conditioner works as a dehumidifier. To understand this, imagine a cold glass of water on a hot day. In a little while you will see water droplets forming on the outside of the glass. This is because when the warm air hits the cold glass, it causes water in the warm air to condense out. The same effect happens when the warm air in your home hits the cold refrigerant pipes in your inside unit of your air conditioner. And when the reservoir fills up with water, the condensate pump needs to kick on to pump it out of your home.


    Now that we have discussed the different parts of your AC system and how they work, let’s now look at some things that typically go wrong with your AC system:

    1. Compressor: The motor in your compressor can go bad, or it can have valves which have problems. Or you can have leaks which develop around the compressor.
    2. Condenser: The fan for the condenser can develop problems, or the condenser coils can begin to leak.
    3. Refrigerant Lines: The refrigerant lines may begin to leak.
    4. Air filter: As your air filters get dirty, they reduce the energy efficiency of your AC system.
    6. Evaporator: The evaporator coils can start to leak.
    7. Condensate drain: The drain can become blocked, and if the system uses a pump, the pump can fail.
    8. Power to the system: From time to time, at peak loads an AC system can sometimes trip its circuit breaker switch.


    To prevent surprises when the temperatures start to soar, April is the right time to do a pre-season check of your AC system. Skipping this checklist could leave you sweltering on the first hot day of the year, when getting a service person to come out is more difficult and can be more expensive.

    So here is a quick pre-season checklist for your AC system:

    1. Uncover the outside condenser unit. (If you have covered it for the winter).
    2. Check the outside condenser unit. Make sure that it is not obstructed by leaves, trash, etc. Also ensure that shrubs, etc are not blocking the condenser.
    3. Change your system’s air filters.
    4. Check air distribution registers in your rooms to be sure they are open (of you closed them for the winter). Also make sure that the registers are not blocked by furniture , carpeting or drapes.
    5. Inside unit: Check the condensate drain pipes and drain pan. Sometimes the pan gets bumped out of place. Be sure that the pan is not cracked and the pipe is unobstructed. If you have a condensate pump, then pour some water in it to be sure the pump automatically kicks on.
    6. Switch on your AC to test it. You don’t have to run it for long, just check that it turns on and starts delivering cold air.

    And if you are more ambitious and handy around the house, here are some other maintenance tasks which you should consider for your AC system:

    CONDENSER: Check condenser coils. Dirty condenser coil will cause the AC unit to be inefficient. A dirty condenser coil will act as an insulator and prevent the rate of heat transfer. Clean and straighten any bent fins of the unit. And check condenser fan and oil the motor if necessary.

    EVAPORATOR: Clean the evaporator coils. If the coil is dirty it reduces its effectiveness for absorbing heat. Clean the indoor blowers. In older models, the blower may have a fan belt which should be checked for tears and wearing. If the blower has blades then clean the blades, as dirt on the blades can cause resistance to air flow.

    DUCTWORK: Inspect your exposed HVAC ductwork in unfinished areas to see if there are any air leaks. Ductwork cleaning. You may be able to clean inside of your registers (both supply and delivery registers) with a vacuum attachment, however a more thorough cleaning of your entire system will require a professional.


    We hope that the article has helped you understand the parts of your central AC system, how they work, what typically may go wrong, and how to do a pre-season maintenance for your system.


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    Erasing Winter Damage

    If you only do one task in April, here it is. Winter takes its toll on any house. Large temperature variations, heavy rains, ice, snow . . . all conspire to weaken your home and yard, which opens the door for bigger problems in the spring and summer. This video and article describes the post-winter trouble spots that you will want to nip in the bud before they turn into bigger, more expensive problems later.

    With just a quick quick walk around your home, you can see if you have any problems brewing in the following six likely trouble spots:

    Roof Damage

    Small problems caused by the winter to elements of your roof, can easily turn into very big problems later. A quick and easy way to inspect your roof after the winter is to walk around your home with a set of binoculars, and look for signs of anything unusual. Places in particular that you will want to look on your roof include: loose, curled or missing shingles; and flashing around vent pipes, skylights, chimney, etc. (flashing is the sheet metal placed to deflect water away from where things penetrate your roof).

    Gutters and Downspouts

    The purpose of your gutters and downspouts are to channel water away from the foundation of your home. If your downspouts have moved or pieces have come loose, then you will want to put them back in place so that they can do their job properly. And if your gutters have started to sag, then you will want to get them adjusted before they get worse.

    Ground or Shrubs Touching Your House

    You never want the ground or shrubs touching your house, as this can create an avenue for insects and moisture to begin to infiltrate your home. Over the winter, shrubs and ground can get blown or bent against your home. With just a quick walk around you house, you can fix these spots and prevent problems.

    Wood decking Damage

    As you probably know, water expands when it freezes, and this freezing water can turn small cracks on your wooden decks into big cracks, cause nails to raise up, loosen boards, etc. A quick inspection after the winter can help you to identify these potential safety issues. In addition, you will want to look for any early signs of mold or mildew.

    Weakened Trees

    If you have large trees around your home, you will want to look for signs that they have been weakened over the winter. Check especially for cracked branches which can fall onto your home, and look for any signs that their bases have been compromised.

    Lawn Damage

    The winter can be hard on your lawn in a number of ways. Road de-icing salt can damage the areas adjacent to your street, which need to be repaired. Snow piles remaining longer in shady areas can lead to snow fungus formation, so you may need to use a shovel to help spread the snow around, so that this area melts faster. And you may need to repair damaged areas caused by moles, etc.


    The old adage that “a stitch in time saves nine” is definitely true when it comes to keeping small problems due to winter elements from turning into big problems. Hopefully this video and article has helped you to identify where the likely problem spots are, and what you can easily look for.


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    25 Dishwasher Operating Tips

    Your dishwasher uses jet sprays of hot water to clean your dishes, and an electric heating element to dry them off. This article and video gives you 25 tips that will help you to reduce energy, improve performance, and extend the useful life of your dishwasher.

    So let's go through each of them now:

    1. Get the water in your sink running hot before starting your dishwasher, especially in the winter, so that your dishwasher doesn't start running with cold water.

    2. Run an empty load with a cup of vinegar in the bottom to clean out old food particles to keep your dishwasher smelling fresh.

    3. Always separate your stainless steel from silver (or silver-plated) flatware, because if they touch in the wash, a reaction may occur and can cause the silver to pit.

    4. Place flat pans and platters along the sides and back of dishwasher, but not in the front, where they can block detergent from the door.

    5. Dishwashing by hand is less efficient and uses more water than using a dishwasher. So whenever possible, it is better to use your dishwasher, unless you have just a couple of items that can't wait for your to create a full load.

    6. Dishwashers actually work better when there is some residual food on the dishes, so just scrape them rather than pre-rinsing. But if your dishes are going to be sitting in the machine all day and dry the food on, then you will need to pre-rinse them.

    7. Dishwasher detergent works best when it is fresh, so only buy what you can use up within two months, and store it in a cool, dry place . . . . not under the sink.

    8. Make sure the forks and spoons don't nest together. Place some handles up and others down so that all surfaces get washed.

    9. Secure all plastics to prevent them from falling onto the heating element and melting.

    10. Let dishes air-dry instead of using the drying feature of the dishwasher. Not using the drying feature of your dishwasher reduces its energy usage by around 50%.

    11. Check the temperature of the hot water at the sink adjacent to your dishwasher. Run the hot water into a cup and use a thermometer to check to see if this temperature is consistent with your dishwasher manufacturer's recommendation for the inlet water temperature for proper performance.

    12. Load plates and bowls so that the dirty side faces the water spray. Pots, pans and casseroles should angle down for the best cleaning results.

    13. Watch out for utensils with long, thin handles, as they might slip through the rack and prevent the spray arm from spinning freely.

    14. For multiple loads, try to keep soil levels together to get the best performance. In other words, put the heavily soiled items together in one load, and the lighter soiled items in the next load.

    15. If your utility has off-peak electricity pricing, then run your dishwasher during off-peak periods to save on the cost of your electricity.

    16. Run your dishwasher full, but don't over-pack to the point that you have to re-run the load to get everything clean.

    17. Test your water to see if it is "hard," and if so, you may need to add a water softener to allow your dishwasher to perform better.

    18. Keep the dishwasher drain clean, to make sure food isn't clogging it up and keeping it from draining properly.

    19. Treat regularly for scale build-up, using the method that is appropriate for your particular type of scaling. You can find the recommended procedure for each type of scale in the “dishwasher” section of Home-Wizard.com.

    20. Frequently clean the door seals to ensure that it closes tightly and doesn't leak water onto the floor of your kitchen.

    21. Don't add rinse aid if already in your detergent. Some detergents already include rinse aids, so if yours does, then you are just wasting money adding it separately.

    22. Arrange wineglasses carefully so that they don't bump against either one another or the top of the dishwasher.

    23. Never stack items, as the water spray won't be able to reach the top items.

    24. Use as short a wash cycle as possible which still gets your dishes clean, if your model allows you to change the length or type of wash cycle.

    25. And lastly, you should perform annual maintenance as described in the dishwasher section of Home-Wizard.com. Annual maintenance includes: cleaning the filter and trap; clearing the spray arm holes; clearing the "air trap"; checking and tightening any loose water hose clamps; checking the door seal gasket for any cracks or leaks; and checking the pre-heating mechanism.


    We hope these 25 tips will help you to reduce energy, improve performance, and extend the useful life of your dishwasher.


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    Make Your Stainless Steel Sink Sparkle!

    Stainless steel has become the norm in today’s home kitchens – from the sink, to the cookware, to the appliances. Some really snazzy kitchens are made entirely of stainless steel! That’s way too much steel for my taste, but I do love my trusty stainless steel sink.

    And although I scrub it down with a soapy sponge once a day, over time, it accumulates a light film. A slight discoloration from days and weeks of all the liquids, food scraps, and dirty dishes that have graced its surface. It’s such a gradual process, but one day you look down and there it is…the dreadful brownish tinge staring back at you reminding you of your lack of diligence in cleaning.

    And that’s when I bust out 2 of my favorite little kitchen helpers: baking soda and salt. If you remember, I used these guys to help me “scrub” my grapes clean a few weeks back – and they worked wonders! So this time, I decided to test them on my sink.

    And guess what? Again, they worked wonders! After finishing a load of dishes, with the entire sink nice and wet, I scrubbed it with a soapy sponge (I keep a separate sponge near the sink just for cleaning – not the same one I use to wash the dishes, of course), then sprinkled some baking soda and some salt all over the base of the sink. Then, I went to town scrubbing away. It took all but a few minutes before I was satisfied that I’d covered every spot. To finish off, I just rinsed the whole sink clean with warm water.

    I’ve tried to clean my sink with just baking soda before, but a) it never really scrubbed as well as I’d like, and b) the grittiness of the baking soda always left a white film on the sink, unless I scrubbed it down again while rinsing – double scrubbing? Not for me, sorry. So the salt served two purposes here: it gave some extra scrubbing power and it also helped to minimize the left over grittiness from the baking soda!

    Baking soda and salt are cheap, non-toxic, and readily available in my pantry, so this is just a no-brainer.


  17. #17
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    Jan 2007


    $10 DIY One Hour Upcycled Firepit

    Happy weekend to you. Yesterday Joe and I wanted to do a fun and quick project for the house. We thought a firepit would be fun but didn’t like the looks of the ones sold at Home Depot and this geometric firepit at DWR is out of our budget. Eventually, Joe will design his own and fabricate it himself but since that will take a fair amount of time and energy we decided to make something quick in the interim.
    A few years ago while on a trip to Joshua Tree Joe’s friend Jens introduced him to the washing machine drum firepit. It’s a super-easy project and the design of the washing machine drum is perfect for a fire. Its small holes around the drum not only allow for oxygen flow to the fire but also make for a pretty light show. Joe added some welded feet to ours and painted it black but if you omit the extra features you can make this in an hour or less. It couldn’t be easier. See below for instructions.

    Materials we used:1 Recycled Washing Machine Drum (we got ours at a used appliance store for $10)Angle grinder (optional)Cup wire brush, Cut-off wheel, and Flap-wheel sanding disc (for grinder, also optional)Safety GlassesAngle-stock and Flat-stock steel (optional)High heat black paint (optional)When we got the drum home we thought it could also make a fun, diy, side-table with lights inside.Step One: Strip the drum. Remove all plastic bits including plastic rim (right) and plastic base (left). Clean off any gunk.Step 2: Remove center spindle. This is optional.Step 3: Cut off metal lip. Again, this is optional but makes the top look a little more clean. (p.s. gratuitous grinding shot) Detail of removing the top lip. It’s pretty rough when you take it off but then you can grind it down with the flapper-wheel.Step 4: smooth out the top lip, any metal burrs, or jagged edges.Step 5: The wire brush made quick work of removing years of soap scum.Step 6: Joe fabricated some steel legs and welded them to the base so it was off the ground just a bit. This is also optional. Those little square tabs were added so it doesn’t sink in the ground.Step 7: Paint your firepit. Be sure to use high-heat paint. We chose black matte but something bright would be fun. It looks so pretty at night.Enjoy your part-modern, part red-neck firepit. You’ll particularly love it at night.


  18. #18
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    Jan 2007


    How To Make Endless Hot Water Without Electricity

    Did you know that rocket stoves can be used for other things besides cooking? Scott Hunt will show you in this next video how to heat water using a rocket stove. All you need to do is have some chopped wooden pieces and you’re ready to heat water without using electricity. Just imagine how much money you could save by applying this technique in your own home. The way this works is actually very easy and the video below contains a thorough explanation and a demonstration, so you don’t need to be an engineer to put this great idea into practice. Just watch the video below and listen to Scott Hunt. Scott Hunt is the owner of Practical Preppers.

  19. #19
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    Jan 2007


    Things You Should Never Clean with Vinegar

    By Lauren Piro - 6/28/2014

    We're huge fans of having vinegar in our cleaning arsenal. It's great at lifting stains, freshening laundry, cleaning windows, and much more. Plus, it's inexpensive and all-natural. But vinegar is also acidic, which means that you can't quite use it everywhere. Skip it on these spots:

    Granite and marble countertops

    "The acid in vinegar can etch natural stone," says Carolyn Forte, director of the Home Appliances and Cleaning Products lab at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute. Use a mild liquid dish detergent and warm water instead.

    Stone floor tiles

    Just like countertops, the natural stone in your bathroom doesn't take kindly to acidic cleaners, like vinegar and lemon. Avoid ammonia, too, and stick to cleaning with special stone soap, or dish detergent and water.

    An egg stain or spill

    If you drop an egg on the floor (or find that your house or car has been the victim of some rambunctious teens), don't reach for the vinegar to help clean up. Just like when you poach an egg, the acidity can cause it to coagulate, making the egg more difficult to remove.

    Your iron

    "Vinegar can damage the internal parts of an iron," says Forte. "So don't pour it through to freshen and clean it out. To keep irons from clogging, empty them completely after use, and follow the manufacturer's cleaning instructions."

    Hardwood floors

    The jury's still out on this one: Some homeowners find that vinegar solutions cleans their sealed hardwoods beautifully, but others report that it damages the finish. Our advice? Use a cleaner specifically formulated for hardwood (we recommend Bona). But if you want to try vinegar, always dilute with water and test it on an inconspicuous spot before you tackle an entire room.

    Certain stubborn stains

    Blot, sponge, and try as you might, grass stains, ink, ice cream, and blood won't come out with vinegar alone, says Forte. They tend to set into the fabric quickly or just don't respond to acid, so treat them with a prewash stain remover like Shout Advanced Gel, and launder with a detergent with enzymes (check the package -- most stain-fighting detergents have them).

    Never Use Vinegar On Your Computer Monitor Or Smartphone

    Your computer screen may start to look blurry from fingerprints, but that doesn’t mean you should clean it with vinegar. If you do,
    it could eliminate the oleophobic (a fancy word for oil-resistant) coating on the screen, which will create a bigger problem.

    Instead, use a microfiber cloth. You can even get this PhoneSoap Patch, which is a microfiber cleaning pad that you can travel with for any last-second phone-cleaning.

    Never Mix Vinegar With Bleach

    You may think it’s fine to mix vinegar and bleach—think again. If you do, a
    toxic chlorine gas is emitted, and it’ll do more harm than good for you and anyone around you, causing irritation to the eyes, throat and lungs. If that occurs, seek medical attention.

    Never Clean Your Pearls With Vinegar

    Here’s some pearls of wisdom—vinegar has been
    known to dissolve pearls. Yep… dissolve them! This is due to the fact that pearls consist of calcium carbonate like limestone. When combined with acids, like the acetic acid that is vinegar? Goodbye


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