Don’t Forget to Clean These Household Items

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Regardless of how diligent your cleaning routine is, there are probably at least several items in your house that may be in need of some elbow grease. While we can’t entirely eradicate germs from our homes, it is important to clean these often-overlooked items to ensure the health of our households.

Reusable Grocery Bags

Reusable grocery bags are certainly good for the environment, but they could compromise your health. According to a recent study, 97 percent of consumers never wash their bags. About 50 percent of the bags tested contained coliform (fecal) bacteria, and 12 percent contained E. coli.

Washing them after each use is the key to stopping contamination from vegetables or raw meat. Cloth bags can go directly into the washer and dryer, and recycled plastic bags can be wiped down with hot soapy water or treated with a disinfectant spray. Researchers also advise using each bag for only a single purpose—carrying raw meat, carrying vegetables, transporting laundry, or as a miscellaneous shopping tote.

Showerheads

Your shower is a place you go to get clean, not to pick up germs, but… a study at the University of Colorado at Boulder found that 30 percent of showerheads tested positive germs that can cause lung infections, in addition to other bacteria and fungi.

Since some microbes may be resistant to chlorine, the best way to clean a showerhead is to soak it in a diluted vinegar solution and then scrub the deposits away with an old toothbrush. Plastic showerheads are more prone to bacterial buildup than metal ones, so people with compromised immune systems are advised to consider switching if necessary.

Computer Keyboards

Did you know that your computer keyboard could harbor five times as many bacteria than the average toilet seat? Bacteria that include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), E. coli, and staph.

First, eliminate dirt and crumbs using a vacuum cleaner or compressed-air canister, and then use a solution of diluted dishwashing detergent or isopropyl alcohol to swab down the keys with cotton balls or cotton swabs. (Make sure you disconnect the keyboard first.) Repeat these steps with the mouse and any remotes in your home. (Remember to remove any batteries first.)

Draperies

In addition to lending warmth to your rooms, drapes and curtains are a magnet for dust mites, pet hair, mold, dander, and debris of all kinds. If someone in your house suffers from indoor allergies, cleaning the curtains regularly can help reduce allergen buildup. Simple panel curtains can usually be washed and dried at home and then steamed to release wrinkles. There are certain types of draperies you should take to a dry cleaner or other cleaning professional, including lace curtains, designs with embroidery or appliqué, those with pleats or complicated fabric construction, and draperies that are too big to fit into your washing machine.

In between washings, vacuum curtains with a hose and brush attachment at least once a month to prevent debris from building up.

Trash Cans

Given that the kitchen is usually the dirtiest room in the house (yes, even dirtier than the bathroom) it’s no surprise that trash cans can become laden with germs. The can itself comes into contact with all manner of germ-infested items – dirt, dust, old food, raw meat, decomposing vegetables, moldy leftovers, cat litter, etc.

Clean the trash cans at least twice a month to prevent the spread of germs like E. coli, salmonella, trichinosis, and simple cold and flu bugs. Small pails can go into the dishwasher; wash large cans with hot water and a mild bleach solution or with a product designed for pet messes, which contain enzymes to break down bacteria.

Doormats

While not a pleasant fact, studies consistently show that over 90 percent of shoes carry traces of fecal bacteria on the soles. After washing, you may consider leaving shoes at the door.

Vacuum mats with fabric tops before washing to remove dust and loose dirt; you can wash rubber-backed mats in the washing machine. The easiest way to clean any doormat is to spray it down with a garden hose or use the pressure washer at a car wash, using a small amount of soap or detergent. Allow the mat to air-dry completely before putting it back into service.

Toothbrush Holder

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This one is often overlooked by even diligent cleaners. Toothbrush holders can quickly get moldy and gross, especially since it’s drenched in a warm water a few times a day. Depending on what it’s made of, you can either throw it in the dishwasher for a good cleaning or clean it with a microfiber cloth and solution.

Pillows and Duvets

You probably clean your pillow cases and sheets, but what about the pillows themselves? Though home to dust mites, dead skin cells, and more, most pillows can be machine-washed and –dried – just make sure to check the label first! S

Set the washer on the gentle cycle and wash the pillows in hot water with a mild detergent. You can throw two regular-sized pillows in together to keep the load balanced, but you should really only wash one king-sized pillow at a time. Put them through the rinse cycle twice to get the soap out, and place them in the dryer with two clean tennis balls on low heat.

Ceiling Fans

Wipe down the blades regularly with a duster or a damp microfiber cloth to prevent dust from swirling around in the air.

Bathroom Exhaust Fan – If you have one of these in your bathroom, you might not realize how dusty and dirty it gets over time. Remove the vent and wash it with warm soapy water regularly to keep it squeaky clean.

A/C and Heating Vents – Just like your bathroom exhaust fan, it’s a great idea to clean these vents frequently. In addition to creating a cleaner home environment, you’ll also help improve the efficiency to your system!

Are there any other overlooked harbors for germs that you would like to add?

 

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Is It Really ‘Just’ Allergies?

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A stuffy nose and headache are common symptoms of allergies, as well as many illnesses. So how can you tell whether the culprit is a sinus infection, a common cold, or allergies when the symptoms of these three conditions are so similar?

It can sometimes be difficult even for doctors to differentiate, but there are some key differences that can give you some clues to what is causing your congestion.

Sinus Infection

Sinus congestion can cause an aching sensation and a feeling of fullness in the middle of your face. A sinus infection may also be accompanied by other symptoms like post-nasal drip, green (or yellow) nasal discharge, aching in your teeth, fever, bad breath, and sinus pressure or a headache that worsens when you lean forward or lie down. Your face may also feel tender, and upon examination, a doctor should be able to see pus draining near the sinuses.

Causes: Bacteria or viruses trigger sinus infections. Colds, allergies, asthma, and other health conditions can also cause them.

Duration Sinus infections may clear up on their own without treatment, but some might require medication. If your symptoms last for longer than seven to 10 days, your doctor may consider prescribing antibiotics.

Cold

Allergy2With the common cold you can expect a stuffy nose, but also some runny, discolored mucus. You may also experience a sore throat, cough, sneezing, headache, or fatigue.

Another sign is a rising temperature: Colds often trigger a fever, but sometimes those fevers are so mild that people think they have allergies instead.

Cause: A virus.

  • Duration: People usually fend off the cold virus (without treatment) within seven to 10 days. But if your symptoms have lingered past that window of time, you might have sinusitis. If you suspect you have a sinus infection, you should talk to your doctor.

Allergic Reaction

You may experience some nasal congestion with allergies, but it usually accompanies a runny nose (clear, watery discharge), sneezing, and itchy nose and eyes. One big key clue– allergies do NOT cause a fever.

Causes: Allergens cause an allergic reaction. Common indoor allergens include mold, dust, and animal dander, while outdoor triggers include pollen and ragweed.

  • How long it lasts: If you have seasonal allergies, you may struggle with allergy symptoms throughout the spring and fall. If you’re allergic to indoor allergens, you may experience symptoms year-round.

How to Treat Congestion

Because sinus infections, colds, and allergies share some similar symptoms, including congestion, medications like nasal sprays, oral antihistamines, and eye drops can help minimize your discomfort.

If allergies are to blame, do your best to avoid your known triggers and steer clear of any other potential irritants, such as smoke or air pollution. Long-term treatments like immunotherapy (allergy shots) can help desensitize you to allergens and improve symptoms over time.

If the culprit of your congestion is allergies or a cold, it doesn’t mean you won’t develop a sinus infection later on. Both cause the lining of those nose to swell, preventing proper mucus drainage. Be on the lookout for the symptoms of sinus infections, and treat them promptly.

 

 

Spring into Clean!

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Spring has arrived! The warmer air invites us to throw open the windows and let fresh air in. Take advantage of the opportunity to start the season with a good, thorough spring cleaning.

FOYER

  1. Dust lighting fixtures.
  2. Wash walls and trim
  3. Wash doors, knobs and switch plates.
  4. Wash bench or other furnishings.  Launder bench cushion, if applicable.
  5. Empty out coat closet.  Wash walls and floor, if needed.  Sort items as you return them to the closet.  Store out of season items, donate unneeded items.
  6. Clean or replace entry mat.
  7. Sweep and scrub floors.
  8. Reseal grout lines, if necessary.

BEDROOMS

  1. Open windows
  2. Dust furniture.
  3. For each drawer: remove items, wash drawer, place items back neatly.  Donate Items you no longer need.
  4. Remove everything from closets. Sweep and wash closet floor. Put everything back neatly.  Donate items you no longer need.  Try not to store things on closet floor.
  5. Move Bed.  Sort and put away anything that was under bed.  Sweep or vacuum under bed.  Try not to store things under bed.
  6. Put bed back.  Freshen mattress by sprinkling with baking soda, letting sit briefly, and the vacuuming it up.
  7. Launder bedding and curtains.  Wash pillows and duvet in hot water.  Air out mattress pad, if you have one.
  8. Dust lights. Clean lamp shades.
  9. Wash windows and window sills.  Take out and wash window screens.
  10. Wash switch plates.  Wash walls and trim as needed.
  11. Wash mirrors or dust art.
  12. Wash doors and doorknobs.
  13. Wash floor registers and other vent covers.
  14. Sweep and wash floor or vacuum.

BATHROOMS

  1. Open windows
  2. Empty all cabinets and vanity.  Wash inside, replace items neatly.  Discard expired medications and cosmetics.
  3. Wash outside of cabinets and vanities
  4. Clean tub. Wax if necessary. Clean drain.
  5. Clean toilet, inside and out.  Remove seat and clean around seat bolts.
  6. Clean sink and drain.
  7. Shine faucets.
  8. Clean mirror and frame .
  9. Dust light fixtures.
  10. Wash windows and window sills. Take out and wash window screens.
  11. Wash switch plates.  wash walls and trim.  Wash doors and door knobs.
  12. Wash floor registers and other vent covers.
  13. Sweep and wash floors.
  14. Reseal grout lines if necessary.

KITCHEN

  1. Open windows.
  2. Remove and clean window coverings.
  3. For each cabinet or drawer: Remove items, wipe out drawer, place items back neatly.  Donate unneeded items.
  4. Wash and sanitize cutting boards
  5. Wash cabinet doors and knobs
  6. Clean and organize non-refrigerated food. Check expiration dates. Donate what you won’t use.
  7. Clean oven and stove top.
  8. Clean and organize fridge and freezer. Defrost freezer, if necessary.  Check food expiry dates.
  9. Clean under fridge and stove.
  10. Vacuum refrigerator coils.
  11. Clean microwave.
  12. Clean crumbs out of toaster.
  13. Clean and descale kettle.
  14. Wipe down any other counter appliances
  15. wash counters and back splash.
  16. Wash and shine sink. Shine faucet. Clean drain.
  17. Clean dish washer. Use baking soda to clean the built-up gunk around the edges. Run a cycle with a cup of vinegar in a bowl on the top rack.
  18. Dust light fixtures.
  19. Wash windows and window sills.  Remove window screens and wash.
  20. Wash switch plates.
  21. Wash walls and trim as needed.
  22. Wash doors and door knobs.
  23. Wash floor registers and other vent covers
  24. Sweep and wash floor.

DINING ROOM

  1. Open windows.
  2. Wash curtains.
  3. Wipe down table, chairs, and any other furniture.
  4. Clean chair pads, if applicable.
  5. Dust any displayed china or serving dishes.
  6. Shine silverware.
  7. Wash windows and window sills.  Take out and wash window screens.
  8. Wash switch plates
  9. Wash walls and trim.
  10. Wash doors and door knobs
  11. Wash floor registers and other vent covers.
  12. Clean floors.

LIVING ROOM/ FAMILY ROOM/ PLAYROOM

  1. Open windows.
  2. Vacuum sofas.
  3. Spot clean sofas, if applicable.
  4. Launder throw pillows and blankets.
  5. Dust shelves, furniture and decor.
  6. Clean lamps and lamp shades.
  7. Wash windows and window sills.
  8. Take out and wash window screens.
  9. Clean television screen and dust electronics.
  10. Sort books and magazines.  Donate or recycle ones that no longer suit your families interests.
  11. Wash switch plates.
  12. Wash walls and trim as needed.
  13. Wash doors and knobs.
  14. Wash floor registers and other vent covers.
  15. Clean floors.

LAUNDRY ROOM

  1. Open windows.
  2. Wash windows and window sills.
  3. Take out and wash window screens.
  4. Wash cabinet doors and inside cabinets.
  5. Wash outside of washer and dryer.
  6. Wash inside of washing machine.
  7. Wash lint trap with soap and water to remove filmy build-up from laundry soaps and dryer sheets. Let air dry thoroughly before putting back in place.
  8. Wash switch plates.
  9. Wash walls and trim.
  10. Wash doors and door knobs.
  11. Wash floor registers and other vent covers.
  12. sweep and wash floors.

STAIRS

  1. Sweep/vacuum stairs. If you have pets, use a carpet rake.
  2. Spot clean walls.
  3. Wipe down handrail.
  4. Dust art and light fixtures.

Last but not least, remember to dust ceiling fans and reverse direction to push cooler air down.
fresh air 3 fan

 

Gifts Aren’t to Be Paid Back, They’re to Be Paid Forward

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We are all familiar with the phrase ‘Pay it Forward,’ whether because you read the book, watched the movie, or have just paid attention.

I encourage you to join millions of people around the world to celebrate International Pay it Forward Day – Friday, April 28th. This day is recognized by over 70 countries and over 50 state and city proclamations, it is a celebration of creating a huge ripple of kindness throughout the world through small, sometimes random, acts of kindness to strangers.

By paying it forward, one person and one seemingly small act can make a meaningful impact in the lives of many. The sum is greater than the parts. You can’t do everything, but you can do something.

Below is a list of ideas. Please use them throughout the year to spread a little joy. Most cost nothing, but could mean the world to someone.

  1. Hold the door open for the person behind you.
  2. Clean out all your old clothes and donate them to someone in need.  Your old is someone else’s new.
  3. Donate blood.  One pint of blood can save up to three lives.  Locate your nearest blood drive.
  4. Share your umbrella with a stranger on a rainy day.
  5. Check up on someone who looks lonely.
  6. Let someone with only a few items cut you in line at the grocery store.
  7. Stop and buy a drink from a kid’s lemonade stand.
  8. If you shop online, make your purchase through Give Back America or Amazon Smile.
  9. Drop off your old eye glasses at your local LensCrafters as a donation to the OneSight
  10. Redirect gifts.  Instead of having people give you birthday and holiday gifts, ask them to donate gifts or money to a good cause.
  11. Offer your seat to someone when there aren’t any left. (You can’t always see pain.)
  12. Hug a friend. Just because.
  13. Send a nice email or handwritten card to someone you know, unexpectedly.
  14. Leave encouraging post-it notes in library books and other random places.
  15. If you see a couple taking a self-pic, offer to take the picture for them.
  16. Donate cat and dog food to an animal shelter, as well as old towels or blankets.
  17. If there’s been an accident or a potentially hazardous situation presents itself on the road, report it to the local authorities.  Your phone call could save a life.
  18. When you’re getting fast food, buy an extra meal for a homeless person.
  19. Compliment the first three people you talk to today.
  20. Send a positive text message to five people right now.
  21. Leave quarters at the laundromat.
  22. Leave unused coupons next to the corresponding products in the grocery store.
  23. Leave a great server the biggest tip you can afford.
  24. Stand up for someone. Lend your voice.
  25. When someone wants to repay you for something, ask them to pay it forward.

Have you ever been the recipient of a random act of kindness? Feel free to share your stories and ideas to pay it forward.

Quick, Easy, & Inexpensive Home Upgrades

Looking to add a little value to your home? It doesn’t need to be a cost-prohibitive undertaking to add up to some valuable changes. Invest a few hours of sweat equity, a few bucks (generally under $100), and you’ll be surprised at the results.

All of these projects can be done over the course of a weekend. Several actually, if you are highly motivated.

Frame out your bathroom mirror

Know how to use a saw and have some understanding of how to calculate angles? You can make your builder grade bathroom look more custom by creating a quick and easy frame. According to DIY Network, this easy project should cost about $25 in materials and take approximately four hours to complete and that’s using cedar boards. MDF molding may cost even less. Give it a quick splash of paint or stain to make it your own.

Change your chandelier

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How old is that dining room light fixture? Was it inherited from the previous owners or part of an outdate trend? A quick trip to your local home improvement store can seriously amp up your style. This trendsetting, Kenroy Home Anemone 7-Light Bronze Chandelier will make a huge impact in your space, and, at just $96.25, will have friends and potential buyers (if you’re planning to sell) thinking you spent much more.

Change your light bulbs

Burned out light bulbs may seem insignificant, but they can easily lend the impression of a dark and dreary or, even worse, untended home. How many light bulbs are actually functioning in your house right now? Fresh bulbs can lighten up your home, and your mood. Bulbs are available in a range of options – from soft white to bright, bright daylight to suit any home and any room. Don’t limit yourself.

 Buy a new fan

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Winter is a great time to buy ceiling fans because stores are looking to move inventory that might sit until spring and summer. Swap out or install a fan that will add a new element to your rooms. From the very modern to classic, choose a style that fits your home’s personality. Or the personality you want it to cultivate.

Mulch your yard

Mulch is cheap, easy to install yourself, and can add valuable curb appeal that makes your home look fresh and well-taken-care-of. A two-cubic-foot bag will cost you $3–4 a bag, but watch for sales at Lowe’s and Home Depot, when they go on sale for two bucks each. Mulches come in many colors to compliment your house and yard.

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Add a backsplash

You can give your kitchen a little love and make it look more updated easily by adding a backsplash. Subway tile is an easy choice because it’s classic and neutral and has been the favorite backsplash option for several years.

quick-backsplash

If you want a bold option that doesn’t require grouting, opt of a peel and stick glass tile. With a multitude of colors and designs to choose from, you can add the look of the real thing with minimal effort.

Freshen the Front Door

A freshly painted (or brand-new, if needed) front door is repeatedly counted among the best updates to make to your home. This is a task you can easily tackle yourself in just a few hours. Not sure what color to pick? This quick and fun HGTV quiz can help you decide. You can also change out the hardware to add a new element to an existing door.

What are some of your favorite, inexpensive home upgrades?

Deck the Halls (Safely)

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Holiday decorations are a hallmark of the winter season. Over 85% of Americans decorate their homes to celebrate each year and almost 50% include the use of outdoor lights and decorations.

While holiday lighting and decorations contribute to the splendor of the season, they can also significantly increase the risk of fires and electrical injuries if not used carefully. Use these best practices to decorate safely.

  • Double check lights for frayed wires or cracks, and be sure there is a bulb in each socket. Discard and replace damaged strands. Frayed or cracked electrical cords or broken sockets are leading fire hazards.
  • Lights should be approved by Underwriters Laboratory. “UL” will be clearly displayed on the tag, signifying the product has been inspected for potential safety hazards. Red UL marks indicate the lights are safe for indoor/outdoor use, and green UL marks indicate the lights are only safe for indoor use.
  • Don’t use outdoor lights indoor – they’re too hot for interior use. For the coolest bulbs and greatest energy efficiency, try LED lights, which come in a wide range of styles and colors. Indoor lights should not touch drapes, furniture or carpeting.
  • Do not hammer tacks or nails into the electrical cord when hanging lights. They can cut through the wire insulation and create a fire hazard. Only use UL-approved hangers.
  • Use heavy-duty extension cords, and only use cords outdoors if they are designated for outdoor use. Avoid overloading extension cords by using no more than three sets of standard lights per cord.
  • If possible, outdoor lights and inflatable decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). GFCIs help prevent electric shock by breaking the circuit when differences in the currents of hot and neutral wires occur.
  • Use a timer or turn off lights before going to bed, or if you will be away from home.
  • Prevent tripping by placing cords and decorations in low-traffic areas where they won’t be walked on. Avoid twisting, kinking or crushing cords.
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When they season is over, remember to take down your outdoor decorations in a timely manner. Ninety days is the recommended maximum duration. The longer they stay up, the more likely they are to suffer damage from weather and animals.

It is also important to safely store decorations for next year – tangled lights can lead to damaged cords and broken sockets. After the holidays, coil each string loosely around a stiff piece of cardboard, wrap it in paper or fabric to protect the bulbs, and store in a sturdy container until next year.

 

 

 

 

First Home Upgrades

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For most first-time homeowners, the draw of making a sound financial investment is a huge factor in the decision to buy. You not only want to stop paying someone else’s mortgage, but also to increase your return on investment. This is a big decision and you want it to pay off. Below are a few relatively inexpensive upgrades that will not only provide you with comfort and enjoyment, but will also help increase your home’s value.

 

Swap out your kitchen countertops

Granite, while considered the cream of the crop in countertops, makes an impression, has lost some of its ‘wow’ factor as it becomes increasingly common. If the countertops are the only upgrade you’re planning, splurge on recycled glass (around $85 per square foot) for a truly unique and polished look.  For a less expensive but equally stunning option, try quartz (around $60 to $75 per square foot).

Conventional colors are the best bet here, but that doesn’t mean boring. Stick with neutral colors like white, gray, or “greige,” which will appear clean and bright and won’t turn off potential buyers.

Increase your living space

Outdoor areas are an affordable extension of your home and a perfect place to entertain guests or relax with your family. The possibilities are many – in addition to the traditional raised deck, consider creating patios, outdoor living rooms, and even outdoor kitchens.

Add outdoor lighting

In addition to doorways and porch lights, consider lights along your driveway, walkways, and patio, and uplights on trees. All of these will create ambiance the evening and will increase the quality of any photos you post of your home when it comes time to sell.

Give your exterior a makeover

Have your house exterior and front porch professionally power-washed, upgrade light fixtures (this can be as simple as replacing the bulbs with Edison-style ones that add instant character and warmth), swap out the hardware on your front door, upgrade your mailbox, replace worn-out or broken shutters, and freshen up your landscaping.

What are some of your favorite home upgrades? Please share your experiences.