Showing posts with label Cleaning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cleaning. Show all posts

Apr 9, 2014

A Christian Mom's Guide to Cleaning for Company

The living room floor was covered with toys. I desperately needed to vacuum and mop. The kitchen was obviously disorganized. There was toothpaste and muddy hand prints all over the bathroom counter. But I had guests coming - a mother of a toddler and her husband - so I drove myself to get the house clean. As I scrubbed away at the floor, though, a sudden, strong thought hit me: Why was I driving myself so hard to have a tidy house for company? Did it really benefit my guests? Or was it really about me and my self image? An even stronger thought came to me: "You know, if you really want to help a younger mom, you won't tidy up at all."

Hmmm...I reduced my to-do list a bit, and continued mopping.

Fast forward to when our guests arrived. And at one point, as we stood in the kitchen preparing strawberries for dessert, my guest commented with no small bit of regret: "Your house is so clean and creative! I wish I could do that."

I was taken aback for a moment. (I don't think of my house as clean or creative.) Then I laughed and said, "This is from the Lord! Let me tell you what came to me while I was trying to whip my house into shape for company!"

Here's what I think God was trying to tell me: If, as a slightly more experienced mom, I want to help other, younger mothers who are struggling, showing them a spic-and-span house (or as spic-and-span as my house gets) isn't at all helpful, is it? This just makes other moms feel like they aren't doing enough, or are doing something wrong. On the other hand, if I show them how we really live...that's a lot more helpful! They see that none of us are superwoman, and that focusing on our husbands and children is a lot more important than keeping our homes spotless.

So next time another mom wants to visit my house and I look around disparagingly at muddy hand prints and messy floors, I will resist the urge to rush about cleaning. I will stop being a too busy Martha, and instead try to be more like Mary, hanging on Jesus' every word, ready to serve him in more important ways. How about you?

Mar 31, 2014

Spring Cleaning & Repair Organization - Plus FREE Printable Notebook Pages

Do you ever feel there's so much spring cleaning, repairs, or just general housework to do that you can't possibly remember it all? Me, too.

Here's an idea I love, which I originally saw at Clover Lane: Get yourself a nice, fresh notebook. Or download this free .PDF, print out the pages, punch holes in them, and stick them in a binder. Then:

1. Pick a room and either choose the appropriate printable page for it, or write the name down on the first page of your notebook. Then walk into that room and inspect it. Write down down everything that needs attention. You can include simple cleaning chores (like wash the ceiling and scrubbing the floorboards) to repairs (like fixing the grout or painting). If you like, you can also include things you'd like to change about the room (like change the color scheme or buy a couch slipcover).

2. Walk into the next room, change pages, and make notes.

3. Repeat until you've covered the whole house.

Now you have a handy checklist. You don't have to try to remember everything that needs doing, and you can systematically clean things up or make repairs.

So simple, but so effective, too!

Mar 19, 2014

How to Clean a Popcorn or Textured Ceiling

Whoever thought popcorn-style ceilings were a good idea obviously never did any housecleaning! But if you have a popcorn ceiling in your home - or a ceiling that's highly textured - there has to be some way to clean it...right? Right.

First, a few things to avoid:

* Never saturate a textured ceiling. This can literally make the ceiling fall down or peel off.

* Avoid using any moisture (including steam).

* Don't try to scrape off or remove a textured ceiling. They usually contain asbestos - so if you want to get rid of it, hire a pro.

* Some people use a broom to clean textured ceilings. I don't recommend this because brooms can make a lot of the texturing fall off.

How to Clean a Popcorn or Highly Textured Ceiling:

Use the hose on your vacuum to vacuum the ceiling. Work systematically, so you're certain to vacuum the entire the ceiling. It's not a bad idea to wear safety goggles, and you may want to cover your hair with a kerchief.

If there are stains or spots on the ceiling, some experts recommend the following:

"Mix 1 tablespoon of bleach with 1 gallon of water in a sink or pail. Fill a spray bottle with the mixture. Stand on a ladder and spray dark spots on the ceiling with the bleach/water mixture. Do not oversaturate the ceiling. Spray the spot with two or three blasts then allow the ceiling to dry overnight. Repeat the spray treatment daily until the spots lighten." Emphasis mine; remember that dampness can cause the ceiling to peel or fall off.

If the ceiling still looks dirty, you may need to paint it using a slit foam roller. A very fluffy roller works, too. If there are spots or stains left on the ceiling, paint those first, then allow them to dry before you move on to the entire ceiling. Be sure to only paint in one direction. (If you roll back and forth, the popcorn will get saturated and fall off.) For a second coat, I recommend rolling in a different direction than you did the first time.

According to the San Fransisco Gate you can also try just painting over stained areas: Use texture spray in a color that matches the ceiling paint.

Mar 3, 2014

#1 Best Spring Cleaning Tip for Busy Moms

Before I had young children, my house was reasonably clean. I did a thorough cleaning every spring and just before Christmas - you know, scrubbing down walls, cleaning baseboards, that kind of thing. (My vacuum, by the way, did most of the work.) But since having kids? Yeah right. There are currently dirty hand prints all the way down the hall and on virtually every light switch. (As soon as I clean them, they magically reappear, so I've admittedly become lax about wiping them away.) The baseboards look like they have a century's worth of dirt and dust on them. And don't even think about spot checking the house for dust and fingerprint-free windows.

Spring cleaning may not be on your agenda this year. I completely understand, Mama. But if your house is beginning to look a bit too crusty for your taste, I have one very helpful tip for you:

Buy a bunch of Magic Erasers. Truly, these things make spring cleaning so much easier. Your kids can even help! Use them for cleaning:

* Baseboards
* Cabinets
* Walls
* Widow sills
* Toys
* Furnature
* Bathtub/Shower
* Sinks and fixtures
* Appliance exteriors
* Toilets
* Light switches
* Crevices

Just be sure to test a small, inconspicuous spot first.

You don't have to spend a fortune on Magic Erasers, either. I often buy mine at The Dollar Tree. Or you can buy generic melamine foam sponges (yep, that's all Magic Erasers are) on eBay or Amazon. On the day I wrote this post, the best deal on Amazon was just 14 cents a sponge, shipped.

I also recommend you use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser mop. In my experience, nothing beats it on linoleum - AND it makes cleaning walls and ceilings easier, too.

Happy spring!

Feb 3, 2014

How to Make a Bed

Nobody ever taught me how to make a bed; so for years, I just plopped the sheets and covers on and called it good. But there is something to be said for a neat, welcoming bed. So recently, I started doing things the right way. It's not at all hard, and it gives a much nicer appearance to the bed.

1. Remove all the linens. I only have two sets of sheets for each bed, so when I remove them, I wash them right away so they are ready to go next time. Although I wash most things in cold water, I wash linens in hot water, which kills dust mites.

2. Once in a while, vacuum the mattress. I only do this with the change of seasons. Again, the idea is to remove as many dust mites as possible.

3. Rotate the mattress. This prolongs the mattress' life and makes it more comfortable for a longer period of time.

4. Put a clean mattress pad over the mattress. It has elastic at every corner, so it's as simple as just slipping it on and making sure the edges are beneath the mattress.

5. Put the fitted sheet on over the mattress pad. I hear tell some people don't have fitted sheets. If that's the case, simply lay a flat sheet over the mattress pad and use hospital corners on all four corners to tuck it under the mattress. (See step 8 for more detailed info on hospital corners.)

6. Center the flat sheet over the bed so the bottom hangs below the mattress and the sides hang the same distance on each side of the bed. The short end of the sheet with the widest hem goes at the head of the bed.

7. Tuck the bottom of the sheet under the mattress, keeping the sheet smooth and wrinkle-free.

8. Make hospital corners at the foot of the bed:
     a. Grab and lift the side of the sheet near the bottom corner of the bed and let it sit on top of the bed.
     b. Tuck in the long side of the sheet, beneath the part of the sheet you just lifted.
     c. Drop the part of the sheet you lifted onto the top of the bed and tuck it under the mattress.

     d. Repeat on opposite corner of bed. If you're having trouble visualizing this, click the video below.

9. On both long sides of the bed, tuck the sheet under the mattress,. Although this gives the neatest appearance, some people prefer to skip this step.

10. If desired, center a blanket over the top of the sheet and make hospital corners at the foot and (optionally) tuck in the sides.

11. Place pillow covers on the pillows, followed by pillow cases. If desired, put pillow shams over the pillows. Lay at the top of the bed.

12. Center a comforter or quilt over the top of the bed and smooth out any wrinkles.

Sep 20, 2013

How to Clean a Stove

Exhibit One: My dirty stove top.
Until I got married, I never knew how to clean a stove. Oh sure, I wiped down the surface with a soapy sponge, but I didn't know how to clean under the burners, behind the knobs, or beneath the stove surface. I'm sure there are others who could use some tips on the finer points of stove cleaning - especially since "How to Clean a REALLY Dirty Stove" is one of this blog's most popular posts. And, keeping it real, I'm showcasing my extra-dirty, I-just-finish-canning stove top!

The first place to begin is with your stove's manual, if you have it. If you don't have it, try looking for it online. By Googling the manufacturer's name, the word "stove," and the model number (often found in the warming or storage drawer), you can probably find a free manual to download. Read the manual, noting what type of cleaners the manufacturer recommends. Then:

Removing the knobs.
1. Wipe off any food debris, using a damp, soapy dish cloth or sponge.

2. Clean the back of the stove, where the knobs are. Usually the knobs come off with a gentle tug. Degrease and clean that entire surface, as well as the knobs. Replace the knobs.

3. Remove the burners and drip pans. These typically just pop out if you gently lift and pull on them. Clean all around the surface of the stove, removing all grime and grease. If the stove surface just won't seem to come clean, be sure to read "How to Clean a REALLY Dirty Stove Top."

Lifing up the burner...

...and the drip pan.
4. For electric stoves, examine the burners. If they seem dirty, wipe them down with a cloth dampened in soapy water. Rinse, being careful not to get any part of the electrical plug wet. (Never soak electric burners in water!) If there is tough-to-remove gunk on the burners, in a bowl, pour a little baking soda. Add just enough water to make a paste. Use a cloth to put some of the mixture on the dirty area of the coils and allow it to sit about 15 or 20 minutes; scrub it off and rinse. Let the burners dry completely.

5. For gas stoves, read the manual for coil cleaning instructions. If you can't find the manual, very carefully use a pin to unclog the port of each gas burner. (If your stove has a standing pilot light, be sure to shut off the gas first!) Don't dig around in the port; just poke it. Soak all parts of the burner that can be removed in hot, soapy water. If needed for greasy or especially dirty burners, add some baking soda to the water. Scrub gently, if needed. Rinse well. Let the burners dry completely.

6. For smooth top stoves, there are no burners to remove. You simply need to clean the flat surface with a recommended cleaner.

7. There are several ways to clean drip pans; the easiest is to put them in the dishwasher. Soap, water, and the scrubby side of a sponge can work, too. For super dirty drip pans, try boiling them in water with a little vinegar added. Or place the drip pans in individual Ziplock bags; add 3 tablespoons of household ammonia. Seal the bag and let it sit overnight. In the morning, remove the burners from the bags and rinse clean. (Seal the bags and throw them in the trash.)
Lifting the stove top.
8. Replace the drip pans and burners. Finally, on electric stoves, lift the entire top of the stove. (Yes! It lifts up!) All this usually takes is a gentle tug. Clean the inner surface of the stove, as well as the outer sides of the stove, where food sometimes falls. Replace the lid.

But which cleaning products are best to use? Anything non-abrasive. Sponges are fine, but avoid the rough "scrubbing" type sponges. Dish towels work, too. For cleaners, I like a little Dawn and water. If the stove is particularly greasy, I follow this by putting a little white vinegar on a sponge. After wiping the stove down with that, I wipe off the surfaces again with a clean sponge. I've also heard of people using baking soda as their "soap." If you have a glass top stove, extra caution is needed, but you might wish to check out the homemade glass stove top cleaners here and here.

Just be sure, no matter what type of stove you have, that your cleaning products are not abrasive - or you could easily and permanently damage your stove top.

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Aug 5, 2013

The Easiest Way to Clean a Microwave

Yes, it is easiest to clean the microwave as it becomes dirty. You know, the sauce you're warming pops and splashes in the microwave, and as soon as it's warm, you wipe down the interior to clean it. Yeah. That may happen in Martha Stewart's house - but definitely not mine. Nope, my microwave often has remnants of several foods. And I never seem to have time to clean it until all that food is caked on good and hard.

In the past, I cleaned my dirty microwave with good old fashioned elbow grease. Then I learned the power of steam. A little steam goes a long way toward making even the dirtiest microwave interior quite easy to clean. There are two ways to use the power of steam in this way:

1. After cooking. If you've microwaving something moist - say a potato -  for 5 minutes or more - the microwave should be moist on the inside afterward. Take advantage of that time to clean it with a damp, soapy sponge or cloth.

2. By adding moisture. Place a bowl of water (or a Pyrex measuring cup filled with water) in the microwave and nuke it for 5 to 10 minutes. Then clean with a damp, soapy sponge. Some folks like to add up to a cup of white vinegar to the water before microwaving it. This doesn't make the microwave any cleaner, but it may increase the power of the sponge or cloth - and some people like the scent. Another option is to cut a lemon in half and add those wedges to the water. Some people also like to add a small amount of extract (like vanilla or almond); this doesn't help with cleaning, but it does leave behind a pleasant scent.

And viola! Suddenly your dirty microwave is sparkling - and you didn't have to scrub!

Jan 14, 2013

Natural Alternative to Dryer Sheets & Laundry Softener

Last year, I heard a rumor that you could use white vinegar in place of dryer sheets or laundry softener. But I'd just replaced my Bounce Dryer Bar and it was, as usual, working great. Still, I thought, it would be nice to have an all natural alternative - even if I only used it in a pinch.

So last week, dryer bar now empty, I gave it a whirl.

How to Use Vinegar Instead of a Dyer Sheet or Clothes Softener

1. Fill the washing machine with clothes and add laundry detergent.

2. Measure 1/4 cup of white vinegar; pour the vinegar in the dispenser of the washing machine.

3. Wash and dry as usual.

It worked! the clothes were completely static free and didn't smell the least bit like vinegar. (That last part is very important in my household, because my husband loathes the smell of vinegar!)

Then I wondered: What if you don't have a washing machine with a dispenser that releases liquid toward the end of the cycle? What if you put the vinegar directly into the washing machine, along with the clothes and detergent? So I ran another load, pouring the vinegar over the clothes just before starting the machine. This, too, worked.

Vinegar is also a great natural fabric softener, so clothes I hung dry were not stiff at all.

Next I wanted to know if using vinegar was more frugal than Bounce Dryer Bars. My local Wal-Mart carries four month dryer bars for $6.77. (You may be able to purchase bars that last up to 6 months.) I find the four month bar actually lasts me about five months - possibly because I hang some of our clothes to dry. Anyway, each dryer load costs .21 cents in Bounce Dryer Bar.

In my town, one gallon of Wal-Mart brand white vinegar is $2.82 - which means it costs just .04 cents per load to use.

So there's a definite savings here, assuming you can get a good deal on white vinegar - plus I like that vinegar is all natural and doesn't contain smelly perfumes. Try it!

May 28, 2012

7 Ways to Keep Housework Under Control

Maybe you just had a baby. Or perhaps one of your kids has been ill, or there was a death in the family, or your schedule is just that overwhelming - and now your house is a total mess. Oh boy, have I been there (too many times to count!). But it doesn't have to be that way.

Think about what tasks need doing the most. (Ideally, you'll consider this before you get overwhelmed.) Then find a way to do that bare minimum. Here are my suggestions:

1. Do at least one load of laundry every day except the Sabbath. Pop a load in the washer in the morning, and toss it in the dryer before bedtime. Make sure you also put away the last dried load, enlisting your family's help whenever possible. (Even toddlers can help! Don't worry about drawers being messy.) Also, don't bother to sort clothes before washing unless you have some very dirty or delicate items.

2. Make sure the sink is free of dishes every night. Many times I've left that last load of dishes for the morning. But mornings are busy, and it's depressing to start the day off doing the previous days chores. And remember, it only takes 5 minutes or so to pop dishes into a dishwasher. Ideally, put away clean dishes before the sink fills up. One of the joys of a dishwasher is that you can fill it as you dirty dishes, making for a cleaner kitchen.

3. If there are clean dishes in the dishwasher, remove dishes from it instead of pulling them out of the cupboard. It's a waste of time to put all the clean dishes away only to pull them out of the cupboard a few minutes later.

4. If something is out of place, take a couple of seconds to put it away - right then. Putting it off steals more time and energy.

5. If there is a mess (spilled milk, chocolate hand prints on the wall, etc.) clean it now, rather than later. Such messes are easier to clean while they are fresh.

6. Store toys in your kids rooms. If toys migrate to other rooms, there will be less of them, making pick up easier. Your children's rooms probably won't stay as tidy, but at least you won't be stepping on Legos all day.

7. Vacuum the floor, even if you can't mop it. (Truly, vacuuming is easier than sweeping.)

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Apr 30, 2012

How to Clean a REALLY Dirty Stove Top

For years, I've struggled with safely cleaning my stove top. When I use a hot water bath canner, I nearly always end up with a dark brown or black ring around the burner. The water and dish soap recommended by my stove manufacturer doesn't even begin to touch this kind of dirty, and other things I've tried, like Barkeeper's Friend, scratch the surface of the stove, causing permanent damage.

You may not have this trouble with canning, but if you accidentally let a pot boil over, or if you cook on a stove that's dirty, you may have just as much trouble getting the stove top clean.

Happily, I at last have found an easy, safe way to clean even the dirtiest of stove tops!

What You Need:

Paper towels
Plastic wrap (or plastic shopping bags)
Dish soap

How to Do It:

1. Begin by cleaning the stove as best you can with a little dish soap placed on a wet sponge. This will clean up any grease on the stove top. Don't bother to scrub a lot. Just a good wipe down does the trick.

2. Place paper towels over the still-soiled areas. Fold the paper towels, if necessary, so they don't go over the sides of the stove. (Because that would lead to cleaner dripping off the stove and onto other surfaces.)

3. Pour a little ammonia over the paper towels. I like to pour it into a tablespoon first, then drizzle it over the towels; it doesn't take much to saturate the paper towels. I don't recommend putting the ammonia in a spray bottle, because this puts the cleaner into the air.

4. Cover the paper towels with plastic wrap. Ammonia is really pungent, so open a window or door in the kitchen, for good ventilation. If you've touched the ammonia, wash your hands. Leave the stove alone for 3 hours.

NOTE 9/6/13: If you don't have plastic wrap laying around, plastic grocery bags make an excellent substitute.

5. After 3 hours have passed, remove the plastic wrap and paper towels. Wipe down with a sponge (no dish soap is needed). If necessary, scrub a little - but it probably won't be necessary. If there are still spots that are tough to clean, place the paper towels and plastic wrap back over those areas. (However, it's unlikely the first soak won't do the job.) After an hour, remove the plastic wrap and paper towels and wipe off the stove. Dispose of the paper towels and wrap in an outside garbage can. Wash your hands.

NOTE: Use a similar method for the stove's drip pans. Just place them in a large, seal-able plastic bag, then add a tablespoon or two of ammonia. Seal and allow to sit for 12 to 24 hours.

CAUTION: Never mix ammonia with bleach. The combination creates a toxic and deadly gas. Keep ammonia in an area where children can not reach it.

Apr 14, 2012

Making a Mama Chore Chart

Your kids probably shouldn’t be the only ones in the house with a chore chart. In fact, by keeping what I called a "Mama Chore Chart," your house will likely be cleaner and neater and you will reduce stress and chaos in your life - and your family’s life. Although it may take a little time to establish a truly useful chore chart for Mama, I think you’ll find it makes your life as homekeeper considerably easier.

The trickiest part of having a Mama’s Chore Chart is that some household jobs might happen seasonally, others just once in a while, others weekly, and still others daily. But with a little patience and time, you can come up with a chart that really works well for you. (Although I'll let you take a peek at my chore chart, I'm not offering a free printable for this one. That's because every household is different, and a Mama Chore Chart that works for me may not work at all well for you.)

Making a list of daily chores is probably the easiest part of coming up with a Mama’s Chore Chart. Just jot down the household chores you do every day. Post that list on your refrigerator, and as you go about your day, add more chores as you think of them. Here are some things that might go on that list:

* Wash dishes.

* Clean kitchen counters.

* Clean the stove top.

* Clean the dining or kitchen table.

* Laundry.

* Vacuum or sweep floor.

* Empty trash.

* Make beds.

* Tidy each room.

Next, think in terms of chores that don’t need doing daily, but must be done at least once a week. These could include:

* Vacuum and mop.

* Dust.

* Clean the oven.

* Clean the fridge.

* Thoroughly clean one room.

* Clean the bathroom.

* Change the linens.

* Clean doorknobs and switch plates.

* Clean mirrors.

Now think of jobs that really only need doing about once a month. These could include:

* Vacuum ceilings, woodwork, lamp shades, couches, etc.

* Wash curtains.

* Clean ceiling lamps and fans.

* Turn mattresses.

* Clean baseboards and woodwork.

* Polish furniture or floors.

Finally, think in terms of seasoning cleaning. In some households, this might translate to “spring cleaning.” In other homes, you might do this sort of cleaning once in the spring and once in the fall. If you’re super-fastidious, you might do these chores with every change of season. These jobs might include:

* Clean all windows, inside and out.

* Clean screens on windows and doors.

* Dry clean draperies, wash curtains, clean Venetian blinds.

* Wash walls and ceilings.

* Shampoo carpet.

* Shampoo or clean upholstery.

* Clean out/declutter/reorganize closets and cabinets.

* Sort through clothes and stash what’s out of season.

I cannot stress enough that what you put on your Mama Chore Chart depends upon your family’s habits (Do you take off your shoes right away? Are your kids messy or neat?), where you live (Is it a dusty area? Is there a lot of rain and mud?), what kind of heating system you use (Do you have dust-producing wood heat?), and your personal preferences.

Once you have a fairly complete list of chores for your chart, type them up or write them neatly. Put the daily chores on one page, the weekly ones on another, the monthly chores on still another, and the seasonal chores on yet another. Stick these lists inside page protectors, then either tape them to the inside of some cupboard you frequently use, or keep them in a homekeeper’s binder. (I’ll discuss those in an upcoming post.) As you begin using your lists, add chores as needed – and feel free to remove chores or move them to a different page. (For example, you might move mopping from a daily to a weekly chore.)

Finally, you'll need to decide how you will fit weekly, monthly, and seasonal chores into your daily schedule. For most of us, the easiest way to do this is divide the number of extra chores into 6 days (leaving one day free for the Sabbath). Then add them to your to do list. (For a free, printable to do list, click here.) For example, let's say I have 6 weekly chores, in addition to my daily chores. I would then add 1 extra chore per day during the week, so I didn't have to do all the weekly chores in one fell swoop.

Of course, some of you may enjoy doing all the weekly, monthly, or seasonal chores in one day or on the weekend. If that works for you, that's fine, too.

Now, refer to your Mama Chore Chart regularly! I like to use a dry erase pen to put a check mark next to each chore as I complete it. If you like, you may also indicate chores you’ve passed on to other members of the family. For example, you might have your teenager do the monthly dusting - so write his initials next to that chore using a dry erase pen. Next month, should you both wish it, you might assign him a different chore - so erase his initials from "dust" and instead write them next to “shampoo the carpet.”

Once you have your chore charts handy, I'm certain you'll be thankful you took the time to make them! You can see mine in this .PDF file. If you want to use mine as a template for your own, try downloading it in Word format.

Mar 27, 2012

Homemade Mr. Clean Magic Erasers

I love Mr. Clean Erasers. They make so many cleaning chores a breeze - and often clean messes I can't find another way to clean up! (The day I wrote this, I spilled printer ink on my white laptop. I tried to clean it with a sponge and soap, with Windex, and with Clorox wipes. They all just spread the ink around. But my Mr. Clean Eraser cleaned up the mess instantly.)

For years, I've been buying the Dollar Tree's knock off version of the Eraser, but recently I read that this product is simply melamine foam. Loretta, a reader who follows Proverbs 31 Woman on Facebook, did a little research of her own and confirmed what I'd read.

This is great news because you can buy melamine foam cheaply! A peek at eBay shows it's widely available there, and I see this site (from which I've never made a purchase) sells 30 sponges for just $6.50!

So you don't really have to make your own Mr. Clean Erasers. You can just buy them really inexpensively.

Mar 21, 2012

Cleaning the Oven Door

If you use Pinterest, you've probably seen pins for a "miracle" oven door cleaner that turns an ugly, dirty glass oven door into a perfectly clean one. I saw it, too, and thought: "You mean the glass doesn't have to look brown???"

So I gave it a try. Now, my oven is about 2 years old, and while I've wiped the glass down with soap and water or Windex, the fact is, neither or those really touch the grease that makes a glass oven door look dirty. Unfortunately, I didn't think to take a "before" picture, but trust me when I say the glass part of the door was entirely brown.

First - and Second - Try

The "miracle" door cleaner is nothing more than a baking soda and water: Take 1/2 cup of baking soda and add a little water at a time until the mixture is a spreadable paste. Then spread this paste all over the inner glass part of the oven door. Wait 15 to 20 minutes, then scrub with a cloth to remove the grease.

But when I did this, my door didn't look any cleaner. I did notice the baking soda paste had a slight brown tinge, though, so I let it sit another 10 minutes. That didn't help; my door was still dark brown.

Third Try's the Charm

So I removed all the baking soda paste and sprayed the glass with Windex - and used a Mr. Clean Eraser in circular motions. Viola! The icky brown stuff came off without a ton of effort! I now have a clean oven door.

Mar 12, 2012

DIY Tub & Shower Cleaner (& Toilet Cleaner, too)

Recently, I totaled up how much it cost me to purchase household cleaners. I was astounded. So yes, I am currently following the bandwagon of homemakers who are making homemade cleaners...but as my experiment with homemade laundry detergent taught me, homemade isn't always more frugal. Would the cleaners I tried work? And would they save us money?

Tub & Shower Cleaner #1:

The first cleaner I tried was a tub and shower cleaner recipe I found at (of all places). I figured I needed a really good DIY cleaners because, um, my tub was really dirty.

Ick. That's a couple of weeks worth of soap scum and dirt (worsened by the fact that our tub was resurfaced by the previous owner and therefore seems to attract dirt much more than an ordinary tub).

Normally I use Scrubbing Bubbles, but in addition to cost, I can't seem to find the traditional version of this product locally, and the newer version is terribly noxious.

So, I whipped up some homemade cleaner.

What You Need:
A 24 oz. (or larger) spray bottle (You may use one from an old bottle of cleaner; just wash it thoroughly first.)

1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) white vinegar (for the best price, buy it in the largest bottle you can find)
1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) Dawn liquid dish soap (again, buy it as cheaply as you can, which usually means buying a bigger bottle)

How Make It:

1. Measure out the vinegar in a Pyrex (heatproof) measuring cup. Heat it in the microwave until it's warm. In my microwave, that took about 60 seconds, but your microwave may vary, so heat it 30 seconds at a time until it feels warm.

2. Carefully pour the vinegar into the spray bottle.

3. Measure out the Dawn, then pour it into the spray bottle.

4. Put the lid on the bottle and shake gently to mix.

How to Use It:

1. Spray onto the tub, shower, sink, and/or fixtures.

2. Use a scrubbing sponge, scrub the surface.

3. Rinse clean.

4. If there are particularly dirty areas, you could let the cleaner sit for several hours, or overnight. I didn't find this necessary.

Conclusion: My tub and fixtures were sparkling clean after using this homemade cleaner. It worked at least as well - if not better - than Scrubbing Bubbles. It even had a pleasant scent (not chemically, nor very vinegary). It was very bubbly, however, so I suggest using less cleaner than you normally do.

But was it cheaper? My homemade cleaner cost $1.32 for 12 oz., while Scrubbing Bubbles (at Walmart) is $2.47 for 12 oz. - saving me $1.15 a bottle. I also used less of the homemade cleaner, so my own concoction is clearly a better deal - and I don't have to worry about noxious chemicals.

Tub & Shower Cleaner #2:

Two weeks later (but with a tub that wasn't nearly so disgusting), I tried a super-simple homemade cleaner: Ordinary baking soda.

How to Do It:

1. Sprinkle the baking soda lightly over the bottom surfaces; you don't need much.

2. Wet your sponge and used the scrubbing side to clean the tub or bottom of the shower.

3. To clean the vertical parts of the tub or shower, sprinkle a little baking soda on a damp sponge, then scrub.

4. Rinse.

Conclusion: This worked very well, although it took a little more scrubbing and the tub didn't shine as it did with the Dawn mixture. Too, baking soda isn't as effective at killing germs as vinegar (although it does have antifungal and some antiviral and antibacterial properties, according to Wikipedia).

Was it cheaper? Most definitely! A 4 lb. container is $2.88 at our local Walmart, and I used just a couple of tablespoons. That means I'll get at least 32 cleanings from of that one box of baking soda. (For those who are concerned about chemicals, please note: Arm & Hammer baking soda is aluminum free.)

Toilet Cleaner:

Before I busied myself with cleaning the tub with baking soda, I tried another trick I've read about: Using baking soda in the toilet.

How to Do It:

1. Measure 1 cup of baking soda and dump it into the toilet.

2. Let it sit for 1 hour, then flush.

Conclusion: This didn't work at all. However, after I flushed, I used a toilet brush, and the toilet cleaned very easily - more easily than if I'd used Scrubbing Bubbles. I will use this trick again!

Is it cheaper? Oh definitely. Baking soda is very inexpensive. (See Tub & Shower Cleaner #2, above.)

Feb 24, 2012

The Power of a To-Do List - and a FREE printable

Recently, I've re-introduced the daily to-do list into my life - and I've been amazed how much more productive I've become!

Pre-child, I frequently used a to-do list, but somehow when babies came along, I rarely wrote one. Now I'm so very glad I'm using a list again. Not only am I finding it easier to do the really important things in life (like read my Bible, pray, and make special time to play with the children), but my house is tidier, too! I also feel far more encouraged about my home making skills.

I think there are several tricks to making a to-do list work. First, it has to be realistic. You can't just make a list of everything you need to do and hang it up on the refrigerator where it will mostly serve to discourage you. Instead, write down only things you can truly accomplish in a day. You might have to experiment with this until you discover how many to-do activities fit into your daily life. For example, I've found that more than 10 on a given day is completely impractical for me. I'm better off with perhaps 8 - but if I'm homeschooling that day, even that is too much and I'd better aim for a few less.

It's also important to realize that sometimes life gets in the way of your to-dos; there's no need to beat yourself up if you have a day or two where your list is largely ignored. What you don't want, however, is for this to become a habit - which is why writing down a realistic number of to-dos is vital.

In addition, it's helpful to prioritize your top three most important things to do each day. I put these at the top of my to-do list, in their own special spot.

If you struggle with things like getting down on the floor and playing with your children, or finding time to read the Bible, don't neglect to put these on your to-do list, too.

Be sure to break down large tasks into individual steps. Instead of putting "clean the house" on your list, write "dust," then "vacuum," then "mop," and so on.

Finally, check off items as you accomplish them. It will give you a feeling of satisfaction, and will encourage you to accomplish more. And if I end up doing additional items not on my list, I always add them to my list. Then, at the end of the day, I can have a realistic look at all I've done. (As an aside, seeing my completed to-do lists has helped my husband appreciate what I do even more.)

I've created a simple template for my to-do list (incpired by TshOxenreider's Organized Simplicity). It includes the date, an area for marking down what's for dinner that night, a place to write my top three priorities, check offs for my to-dos, and a section at the bottom where I can make notes - often about home keeping projects I want to add to my to-do list in the near future. I print (and fill out) a fresh template every evening so I can look back on old lists and feel encouraged. But you might slip yours into a page protector and use a dry erase pen to create a new list every day.

You can download my template in Word format or .PDF format. I hope it helps!

Nov 18, 2011

12 Frugal Ways to Spruce Up Your Home

Whether you're just plain tired of your house, you have the winter dull-drums, or you want to spruce up for Christmas guests, there are many simple and inexpensive things you can do to make your house more homey:

1. Clean the baseboards. I like using a Mr. Clean Eraser for this, but I used to use Windex and paper towels.

2. Declutter. Longtime readers know I stuggle in this area, and I know I'll never have an austere home. But even some decluttering can make a big difference. I especially strive to remove items from flat surfaces, like coffee tables. (In fact, I found clutter so instantly returned to coffee tables, I've banned coffee tables from my home!)

3. Paint a single wall. It's an instant perk up - and it's an activity that takes very little time or money.

5. Clean the windowsills.
6. Clean the windows, indoors and out.

7. Paint door jams, window sills, and baseboards.

8. Lay down area rugs - or, if you've had them down for some time, remove them for a few months.

9. Rearrange the furniture.

10. Clean the carpets.

11. Use slipcovers on shabby furniture - or just for a change of pace.

12. Replace door handles. If you only do a few at a time, this is both easy and inexpensive.

What are your favorite frugal ways to spruce up your home?

Nov 14, 2011

How to Remove Crayon From...

For some reason, my daughter never had the urge to color on anything but paper. Then - hello! - along came our son, who puts bits of crayons in his pockets so he can color on the walls, the piano, his bed, the carpet - you name it - whenever we aren't looking. So now I have some plenty of experience cleaning crayon off of nearly anything. Here are some tips:*

Painted or Plastic Surfaces: My favorite method is a Mr. Clean Eraser (or a knock off version of this product sold at The Dollar Tree). It's easy and quick - and my son can do it himself! Vinegar and a toothbrush work, too, as does plain toothpaste and a brush.

Brick: Spray a little WD-40 on the affected area and scrub with a bristled cleaning brush. Spray again with WD-40 and wipe with a soft towel. Wash with soapy water.

Carpet or Fabric: Try scraping the crayon off with a metal spoon. Crayola suggests spraying with WD-40 and letting it sit for several minutes, then using a stiff cleaning brush to scrape away the crayon. Remove the excess crayon with paper towels, spray again, and add a little liquid dish detergent. Work this in with the brush and clean off with a damp sponge. Upholstery cleaners may work, too. My method is to place a brown paper lunch bag on the affected area, then used a warm (not hot) iron to press the area. Do not iron back and forth or you may spread the crayon around.

Glass: Windex and paper towels.

Vinyl Flooring: Mr. Clean Eraser. Vinegar and a toothbrush. WD-40.

Wood Flooring: I have used Mr. Clean Erasers for this, but our wood floors are in poor condition. If they were in decent shape, I'd use another method - probably dish washing detergent and a sponge.

Tub or Shower: WD-40 (followed by a good rinsing).

Television or Computer Screen: Thankfully, this is one I've not had to deal with. Some experts suggest wetting a microfiber cloth and wringing it until it's almost dry; then gently use it to remove the crayon. Isopropyl alcohol is supposed to work, too, and Crayola recommends a little WD-40 and a microfiber cloth.

To prevent crayon stains in the first place: Keep crayons where children can't reach them until they prove they are responsible enough not to use them inappropriately. Of course, if your child squirrels away bits of crayons when you're not looking, you'll still have a problem - but hopefully it won't be as wide spread. Whenever possible, have your child clean off the crayon herself. However, children should always be supervised during this cleaning - and young children should not use WD-40. In addition, you might consider having your child wear protective cleaning gloves.

* Please remember: Before using any of these methods, test in an inconspicuous spot.

Sep 8, 2011

Preparing for Sabbath, a Day of Rest

Once I became a mom, the issue of resting on the Sabbath become a challenge. My duties and chores were many; how could I observe the Sabbath the way God commands when I kept thinking "I really need to get the dishes done" or "If I don't mop the floor now, it's going to drive me crazy all day?"

The first step for me was to fully embrace the day of rest that even God required. (Gen. 2:2-3) God commands us to keep the Sabbath and make it holy and without work (Deut. 5:12-15). Period.

I'll admit, it took me years to completely get my head and heart around a day of rest. But with Bible study and prayer, I've been able to submit to this command - and it's been a true blessing in our lives.

Yet among believers, there's a lot of debate about just how to keep the Sabbath. A few centuries ago, it wasn't uncommon for Christians to do nothing but go to church, read the Bible, pray, read devotionals, and meditate on the Lord on the Sabbath. By contrast, many modern Christians catch up on their chores.

For me, the biggest question was "What constitutes work?" You can read my 2010 post on that topic here. If you, too, wonder on this topic, I think that's a good sign. It means you are truly trying to obey God.

I am not going to give out a list of do's and don'ts for the Sabbath. I think it's important for all Christians to study the Bible and pray on this topic. (Here's one interesting article on the topic, to get you started. Here's another.) However, I would like to offer some ideas on how mothers can more easily observe God's holy day of "no work."

* Eat food that's already prepared and just needs reheating (or can be eaten cold). If you already double recipes and freeze them, this may be easy. Or you can double the meal the night before and keep it in the fridge. Or, the day before you can whip up another, simple meal from that night's leftovers, and refrigerate it.

* Do the dishes the night before. Sometimes I forget to do this, or I simply run out of time to do it. I'm learning to stop obsessing over that pile of dishes in the sink so I can focus on God - but I admit this is a tough one for me. Ideally, the dishes should be done and put away the night before; this way, we can just slip dirty dishes into the dishwasher on the Sabbath, keeping my mind more focused on God, not housework.

* Do at least one load of laundry every day, so you don't feel pressed to do any on the Sabbath. A day or two before the Sabbath, make sure everyone has clean clothes for Monday, so you aren't tempted to run "just one load" on the Sabbath.

* Make the day after the Sabbath "clean up" day. Spend the morning doing housework, so you don't feel burdened by it later in the week. Ideally, get the housework done the day before the Sabbath.

* Have lots of family time - and work to center that time around God. For example, if you go on a family outing in the woods, talk with your children about God's creation, pointing out specific examples of his ingenuity.

* Although a lot of people focus on what they're not supposed to do on the Sabbath, try to rein vision the Sabbath by thinking about the things Jesus told us we could do. For example, all works related to helping the needy are encouraged. (See, for example, Mark 3: 1-6.)

How do you observe the Sabbath?

Jun 15, 2011

Time for a Cleaning Vacation

Is your house out of control? Clutter, dirty floors, too-small clothes and too many toys? Just not enough of you to go around and housekeeping keeps getting put at the bottom of the list? I think it happens to most moms at some point. That's when I know it's time for a cleaning vacation. No, not a vacation from cleaning, but a vacation from other stuff in order to clean.

So I've decided that once school is officially over, I'm taking a one week cleaning vacation. I will do no work (for pay), but will focus on decluttering and deep cleaning the house. Even though I could really use a week off just to rest, I'm looking forward to getting my house under better control. Here's my plan:

* Get the kids onboard. I'm already prepping their minds for this week of cleaning. I'm encouraging them to be my helpers, getting them thinking about other children who could benefit from some of their books, toys, and clothes, and generally preparing them for a week of work. I'm also making a list of age-appropriate chores my kids can do - including some "make work" so I can get "real work" done.

* Use kid propaganda. To get my kids (2 and 5) in the proper mindset, we are reading fun books about cleaning up. Their favorite is Too Many Toys by David Shannon, which is a funny way to approach decluttering and getting rid of toys. Their second and third favorites are The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room (about reorganizing to make clean up easier) and The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need (about decluttering and giving away to those who could use it).

* Prepare meals ahead of time, if possible. My goal is to have a week's worth of breakfasts (pancakes and waffles) and dinners in the freezer. (Our lunches usually whip together very quickly.) This will mean more time can be spent cleaning, instead of cooking.

* Pray about it. To some, the thought of praying about housework seems ridiculous. But the Bible tells us God cares about the details of our lives - and he certainly cares if those details are stressful or difficult for us. So pray take a week to pray about your cleaning vacation before it happens. If there are parts of it (like giving stuff away) that might be stressful for your children, be sure to have group prayers, too.

* Keep a (realistic) basic schedule and stick to it. For each day, I have a certain portion of the house I will work on. I'm trying to be realistic about this by allowing more time than I think is necessary for each room. My list is already posted on the fridge.

* Work the worst rooms first. This way, if I run out of time or steam, at least I've gotten the worst of it cleaned up.

* Declutter first. Once this happens, it's much easier to clean.

* At the end of the week, haul off anything we don't want or need anymore. It's tempting to set it aside to sell, but that would take time I simply don't have. Instead, I will give what I can to a favorite charity organization.

How you do manage to deep clean with little children in the house?

Apr 29, 2011

Update on My Paper Towel Conversion

In March, I announced I was going to reduce - possibly even eliminate - the use of paper towels in our home due to rising wood and paper prices. My first step was to purchase some additional flour sack kitchen towels (about $1 each at Wal-Mart), plus some hand-cloth sized scrubbing cloths (about $3 for 4 at Wal-Mart).

Then I tucked a single roll of paper towels up where nobody would notice them. I placed one each of the cloth towels in a handy location in the kitchen and determined the small ones were best for spills and such, whereas the flour sack towels were best for drying.

It took only a few days for me to start turning automatically to the cloth towels instead of paper. My family, however, found the switch more difficult. My 5 year old kept asking for paper towels to use as napkins, or to clean up food spills. It took several weeks for her to realize she liked cloth better.

My husband, on the other hand, still grumbles. He refuses to use cloth towels, saying they aren't really clean - even though I'm careful to toss any cloths used to wipe up spills directly into the washer and I change the flour sack cloth every day (more often, if needed). He also prefers paper towels for blowing his nose, saying toilet paper or Kleenex isn't strong enough for him. He even went so far as to bring some of his shop towels (heavy duty paper towels used by mechanics) into the house for his personal use.

I also found that when draining foods (like bacon), I really missed paper towels. At first, I tried draining them on a wire rack with a plate or bowl beneath, but I discovered a lot of fat still clung to the food. I considered using cloth directly under the food, but I didn't want to deal with trying to wash out that kind of grease. In the end, I decided to stick with paper towels for this particular job.

Oh, and then there was the night we had company for dinner and I realized I had no napkins! Normally, we use paper towels for this purpose, if we use napkins at all. Having company made me realize I need to invest in some cloth napkins.

But even with these complication, we've still drastically reduced our paper towel consumption while not increasing our laundry load. Those cloth towels slip into any load of clothes quite easily.

What about you? What are your challenges getting away from paper towels?