Why Air Fresheners Stink

air fresh

The sense of smell is strongly linked to memories and emotions. Even if your grandmother’s house never smelled like fresh-baked apple pie, surely such a fragrance would add warmth and comfort to your own home. Or the smell of freshly laundered linen drying in the sun would be a lovely scent to return home to in the evenings…or maybe not.

Air fresheners rely on certain chemical agents that, when atomized and inhaled, are capable of blocking our smell receptors, hindering our ability to detect odor. Other air fresheners coat our nasal passages with an oily film, and many still just cover up the original odor with better-smelling scents.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), most store-bought air fresheners consist of formaldehyde, petrochemicals, p-dichlorobenzene and aerosol pollutants. The agency’s “Indoor Guide to Air Quality” also notes that air fresheners “release pollutants more or less continuously.”

Despite advertisements that constantly tell us otherwise, a clean home really shouldn’t smell like anything. Below are some natural tips to rid your home of any malodors and add some pleasing scents without harming your health.

Open windows daily to let some fresh air into your home. This will make everything smell cleaner and fresher.

Eliminate odors in your home by preventing dampness and installing extraction fans to remove moisture from kitchens and bathrooms.

Vinegar, baking soda and fresh lemon are inexpensive but effective deodorizers for a fresh, natural smell.

Remove any unwanted odors by bringing 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup of white vinegar to boil and letting it simmer for 30 minutes.

Boil ground coffee (1 cup of water and 2 tablespoon of coffee) on the stove and let the rich aroma of coffee infuse your home. Alternatively, you can simmer cinnamon sticks in a pot of water for a warm, spicy smell.

If you prefer to use candles to add a nice scent to your home, choose those that are made from pure beeswax and pure essential oils.

Plants and greenery provide natural scents, purify the air, and add oxygen to your home. Check out this list of ten powerful houseplants that help filter pollutants.

How do you keep your home smelling fresh without chemicals?


Rain, rain, go away


April showers bring May flowers…since we are well into May and the rains seem never-ending, let’s talk basement flooding while we wait for the sun to reemerge. Spring rains often bring out the worst in flawed grading and foundations, leaving homeowners with a mess to clean up.

If you’ve never dealt with basement flooding before, there’s a set procedure to getting things back in order. First, get rid of the water. If you don’t have a sump pump, you can rent one from some home improvement stores. If more than a few inches of water have already accumulated, you may need to call a professional. Once the water is removed, you need to provide as much ventilation as possible to decrease the possibility of mold growth. Open all the windows and doors, and use fans to increase air circulation.  My suggestion – follow these simple guidelines from the National Restoration Network to reduce your risk for basement flooding.

Gutters & Downspouts

Keep gutters free of debris and position downspouts away from the foundation. The goal is to drain storm water at least three feet away. In a pinch, you can purchase inexpensive downspout extenders at most big box stores. If necessary, consider running extensions or troughs.

Foundation Cracks

Inspect the exterior foundation and your basement’s walls and floors. Use epoxy to fill any foundation cracks and if warning signs are detected, apply masonry sealer indoors. If the problem is more serious, it is time to call in a professional.

Sump Pumps

If you have a below-grade sump pump, check to make sure the well is free of debris. If you have a portable pump, position it in the lowest part of the basement and be sure it’s connected to a power source.

Sewers & Septics

If you haven’t had your sewer inspected or your septic tank cleaned, spring is a good time to address these concerns. During periods of prolonged, heavy rainfall, clogged sewers and over-taxed septics are disasters waiting to happen.

Window Well Covers

If you have below-grade basement windows, install window well covers that will fasten securely to your home’s foundation. Clear acrylic covers will allow light to enter, even as they keep out rain, leaves, and pests.



Remember a sump pump only works if you have power. If you live in an area plagued with frequent storms and power outages, a generator may be a long-term investment worth considering.


Review your property insurance policy and consider additional coverage, especially if you have a finished basement. Usually, homeowners’ insurance does not cover flooding or sewer backups.

How are you handling this especially rainy spring?



“If you can’t feed 100 people, then feed just one.”



Helping those who are not (currently) able to help themselves is an incredibly important service. This week I am so pleased to bring attention to The Disciples Kitchen – the very first recipient of a Win Win for a Cause Donation.

The Disciples Kitchen in Waynesboro, VA is a local soup kitchen open to individuals and families in need of a hot meal. Since opening its doors in September 2007, Disciples Kitchen has served almost 80,000 meals.  They are one of the deserving, local charities my clients can designate for their Win Win donation from the sale or purchase of a home.

Four days a week, The Disciples Kitchen staff and volunteers provide warm meals to local residents. Averaging about 45 diners per meal, they are served Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 11:30 am to 12:15 pm in the Fellowship Hall of 2nd Presbyterian Church at 133 Delphine Avenue (entrance to the kitchen is at the rear of the church off Commerce Avenue).  Breakfast is served each Saturday from 10:00 to 10:45 a.m. at Basic United Methodist Church on the corner of 5th & Delphine. All meals are served free-of-charge to anyone in need.


Disciples Kitchen is a non-denominational ministry sponsored by more than 30 churches and organizations and close to 250 active volunteers.  The goal of the program is to share what so many of us have, and probably take for granted, by providing a hot, nutritious meal free-of-charge to anyone who needs it. 

The group is appreciative of donations and volunteer resources to help provide warm meals for their neighbors.

For further information, please visit How You Can Help or contact them directly at (540) 943-3211.

How do you plan to volunteer your time?

Pre-approved? Avoid Making These Eight Mistakes


It may feel like the home stretch, but if you have been pre-approved for a mortgage on your next home, there are few absolute ‘no’s’ to keep in mind over the next several months. Remember that loan pre-approval is not loan approval.

Don’t apply for new credit

With a new home it can be tempting to apply for a credit card at a home improvement store or a furniture store to make your house a home, but applying for credit can lower your credit score. Not only will you lose a few points because of a credit inquiry, but if you are approved for new credit, a lender may worry that your debt-to-income ratio will change, making you a riskier loaner.


Don’t close any credit accounts

This may also seem like a great time to get all of your finances in order by closing unused credit accounts or transferring your debt to a new credit card with a zero-interest balance transfer offer.

While that’s a smart move financially, it’s a bad one for your credit score because you lose points when you have a higher usage of debt compared to your limit on one credit card and to your overall credit availability.

Don’t move your money

Your lender will need the most recent bank statements before you go to settlement, so if you have any unusual deposits you will need to provide complete documentation of where the money came from.

Don’t increase your debts

In addition to your credit score, your debt-to-income ratio is extremely important to a loan approval. If you take on more debt you could be in danger of going above the maximum acceptable debt-to-income ratio.

Don’t skip a payment or make a late payment

Your history of on-time, in-full payments of the most important elements of your credit score. Do not get caught up in the excitement and forget to keep up with your current finances.

One single 30-day late payment can knock 60 to 110 points from your credit score.

Don’t make any major purchases

Depletion of your savings or the addition of a new loan could derail your mortgage application.

Don’t change jobs

Even if a job change means a raise or career development, it could also delay your settlement. Your lender needs to verify employment and will need paystubs to prove your new income before your loan can go to settlement.

Don’t spend your savings

You’ll need cash on hand at the settlement for your down payment and closing costs and your lender may even verify your cash reserves one more time, so make sure the funds stay in place.

The key here is to ensure that nothing has changed since your pre-approval. You must take care to maintain the same credit profile that led to your loan approval until your mortgage paperwork is completely signed.

What advice would you offer buyers who are in the process of closing?


Exploring the Shenandoah National Park


Whether you are a local or a visitor, there is so much to do this summer in the Shenandoah National Park. Just 75 miles outside of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park offers outdoor entertainment for just about everyone. If you live in Central Virginia, I encourage you take advantage of this national treasure right in your back yard.

Discover cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, quiet wooded hollows—take a hike, meander along Skyline Drive, or picnic with the family. Learn about the history of the Valley, and learn about the indigenous animals and plants of the Shenandoah National Park.

Take a hike

Shenandoah National Park has over 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Some trails lead to a waterfall or viewpoint; others delve deep into the forest and wilderness. Over 50 types of mammals inhabit the area – keep your eyes open for white-tailed deer, groundhogs, rabbits, and even bobcats.

Skyline Drive

The Skyline Drive runs 105 miles north and south along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park and is the only public road through the park. With 75 overlooks, It takes about three hours to travel the entire length of the park.

Wildflower Weekend

May 7th is a weekend of special hikes, walks, and talks designed to feature Shenandoah’s diverse and beautiful wildflowers. Wildflower Weekend celebrates the over 850 flowering plants that thrive in the Shenandoah National Park.

Explore Shenandoah with a Ranger

Ranger-guided programs give visitors the opportunity to explore the wonders of the park with a ranger. Programs are offered in spring, summer, and fall. Discover the many stories of Shenandoah’s past, take a walk through the splendor of a unique mountain meadow, or learn about the many animals and plants that thrive in Shenandoah National Park.

Blackberry Delight

Blackberry Delight is an annual event held at Skyland each July that celebrates the sweet-tart fruit in all its glory. Skyland chefs create amazing dishes (even wine!) with fresh berries picked from open areas along the roads, trails and streams of the national park. The day is full of live music, dancing, Shenandoah storytelling, and kid’s activities.


There are four campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park that are open in the spring, summer, and fall. Reservations are recommended.


Mathews Arm (mile 22.1)

Big Meadows (mile 51.2)

Lewis Mountain (mile 57.5)

Loft Mountain (mile 79.5)

What outdoor activities are you looking forward to?

Providing Shelter in the Storm


The homeless are often overlooked because they are not always visible. One wonderful local organization opens its doors each winter, committed to helping homeless adults in our community find shelter during cold nights. I am proud to say that People and Churches Engaged in Ministry (PACEM) is one of the local groups supported through Win Win for a Cause donations.

At the end of March, PACEM closed their shelters after the 11th winter of providing shelter and compassionate support to 201 people who are homeless in the Charlottesville area.

The idea for PACEM was formed In 2003 during discussions among Charlottesville clergy and homeless advocates. Members of Charlottesville’s Downtown Ministerial Alliance realized they shared the experience of showing up for work in the morning and regularly finding homeless neighbors sleeping in the doorways. The need to provide shelter for individual who could not access existing programs was evident.

The Downtown Ministerial Alliance and Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless (TJACH) joined together to create PACEM.


PACEM opened the doors of its shelters during the winter of 2004. Eleven years later, they continue as a grassroots organization, committed to helping homeless adults find shelter during the cold winter nights.  PACEM has provided more than 73,000 total nights of shelter for homeless individuals in our community.

Want to help?

If you are interested in volunteering your time, you can find information here

The next time you’re shopping on Amazon, please enter through AmazonSmile.  A portion of every purchase you make goes to a non-profit organization of your choice. PACEM is now one of your choices.

If you’re eligible to contribute to the Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign, PACEM’s CVC number is 03345.

                             How do you plan to give back to the community?


Give a Child a Voice and a Chance.


This week I am spotlighting another local organization doing incredible work in the Shenandoah Valley. Piedmont Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Inc., provides trained volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in our area. I am proud to say that CASA is one of the deserving organizations supported through Win Win for a Cause contributions.


Each year in the Charlottesville / Albemarle region, hundreds of children are victims of violence, sexual abuse and severe neglect. CASA is an organization that trains Court Appointed Special Advocates, who work one-on-one with abused and endangered children to assist the courts in determining the best environment to ensure each child’s safety and well-being. Volunteer court advocates may be the only voice that can truly speak for these children.

Last year, 118 volunteers advocated for over 200 children in 16th Judicial District of Virginia, promoting and supporting safe, permanent and nurturing homes for child victims. Piedmont CASA promotes awareness about child abuse and neglect through community education and outreach.

Piedmont CASA depends on volunteers. Be an advocate for a child in need – your time or donation will help provide the voice that saves a child. Volunteers come from all walks of life – all you need is to be 21 years or older and to have a desire to make a difference in the lives of local children. In addition to advocates, CASA is seeking Office Volunteers to help on an as needed basis.

If you are interested in this type of volunteer opportunity, please contact CASA at volunteer@pcasa.org.

If you buy or sell a home this year, what organization would you like to receive the donation in your name?