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

Nov 19, 2014

The Right Way to Wash Dishes by Hand

When it comes to housekeeping, I hesitate to say one way is wrong while another is right - because, really, what's "right" is what works for you. However, when we move into our tiny house motorhome, for the first time in my life, I won't have a dishwasher. Sure, I've hand washed stray pots and dishes now and then, but I've never had to rely entirely on hand washing. And since no one ever taught me how to hand wash dishes, I knew I needed to research the "proper" way to do it. And if I'm not sure of the "right" way to wash dishes by hand, I feel pretty certain some of my readers don't, either.

First, a couple of notes:


* Consider putting dirty dishes in a plastic tub, instead of the sink. This way the sink is always available for dish washing - or whatever else it's needed for.

* Do dishes after every meal or snack. The sooner you wash the dishes, the easier they are to wash. Besides, nobody likes to see a sink full of dishes waiting to be washed.


How to Wash Dishes by Hand

1. Scrape food off the plates and into the compost bin or garbage.

2. Sanitize the sink.It's one of the germiest spots in the kitchen. Soap and water work okay, but a little bleach or ammonia really gets things much cleaner. Sometimes I'll spray the sink with Windex (which contains ammonia), walk away for several minutes, then rinse.

3. Fill the sink with hot, soapy water. It's smart to put a rubber mat or plastic tub in the sink, to protect glasses and plates from breaking. Use the hottest water you can stand, but don't burn yourself. Rubber gloves make it possible to use hotter water - and protect your skin from drying out due to soap and hot water. By the way, don't fill the sink or tub all the way up, because the water level will rise once the dishes go in.

4. Start washing. There are at least two schools of thought on what to wash first. Some believe that things that touch the mouth (utensils and glasses) should be washed first, since the water will be hotter and cleaner. Others simply wash things from cleanest to dirtiest. Certainly pots and pans should be washed last, because they dirty the water quickly. Also, some people like to use a brush to clean dishes - others prefer a scrubby cloth or sponge. I like Scotch Bright scrub sponges because one side is rough but don't scratch surfaces. Ideally, whatever you use should be easy to disinfect. (For example, you can microwave sponges or wash cloths.)

To wash: Place the item in the hot, soapy water and scrub it while it's underwater. Lift up from the water to examine it. Scrub again, as needed.

5.  Rinse with hot water as you go. If you have a double sink, run the rinse water in that. If not, just run it into the soapy water. Avoid letting the water run in between dishes, since this wastes water and money. If your dishes tend to look spotted after drying, fill a large bowl or tub with water - plus a splash of white vinegar; rinse the dishes in this. (Dump out and refresh as needed.)

6. Drain the tub or sink, if at any time the water seems too dirty. Refill with hot, soapy water.

7. Dry. There are two ways to deal with wet dishes. Some people place them on a dish drying rack; you may wish to place a rimmed tray (like a baking sheet) beneath it, to contain the water that drips off the dishes. Other people prefer to dry dishes as they go, using a good, cotton dish towel. (I find "flour sack" towels work best.) This method is less likely to leave dishes looking spotted.

Want more tips? Check out 10 Ways to Make Washing Dishes Less Miserable



Nov 17, 2014

Practicing Thankfulness

I wish I could report that fixing up the motorhome is going smoothly and well. But no - not so much. I have started, though, and that's something. I'm working in the bedroom, which is at the back of the bus, and the lightest and brightest room. But before I can paint, I have to prep all the woodwork. There's a lot of it - and it's really dirty. I'm not exaggerating when I say I'm cleaning one side of a 14 inch cabinet door for 15 - 20 minutes before it's clean. (And yep, I'm using a good TSP cleaner.)

As I scrub and scrub and scrub - often in uncomfortable positions, due to the small size of the room - I'm focusing on two things. One: Even though this is the most tedious and difficult cleaning job I've ever done in my life, at least I'll know it will be really clean when I'm through. And two: Instead of focusing on how hard the job is, I'm focusing on what I like about our tiny house.

It occurs to me that this last part is a good reminder for any homemaker. Because I've met women who live almost literally in shacks and women who live in what I consider nearly-mansions, and all of them can point to things they hate about their homes. It's not emotionally or spiritually healthy for us to focus on what we hate about our homes - so making a concerted effort to think about and thank God for what we have is a good thing.

So, I find myself talking with God as I clean, thanking him that I currently have two homes: One that's keeping us currently cozy and will hopefully soon sell and get us started on our new homestead, and one that will shelter us in the near future.

I also thank him for a tiny motorhome house with:

* Real wood cabinets. Sure, the finish is pretty worn out, but think how nice they'll be once they are painted.

* A sunny, comfortable bedroom. There are three large windows in this room, and the closet doors are mirrored, so there's plenty of light and cheer here. And, unlike a lot of RV bedrooms, there's actually room to climb out of bed and use the restroom without disturbing my husband. (Or vice versa.) Score!

* A bathtub. It's not huge, but it's there.

The bedroom.
* A gas stove. It keeps the motorhome nice and warm, and it looks like a real fire. I like the ambiance!

* New flooring. And it's not carpet! I think it will be easy to care for, and I'm grateful.

* Lots of storage.

* A gas stovetop. I've never used one, so I'm thankful for the chance to give one a try.

I'm also thankful for a husband who is pretty much letting me do what I want with the motorhome, without complaint. (Yes, he was a little shocked I wanted to paint the real wood, but he didn't argue with me. And when I ordered some bedding only to have it be a different color from what it looked like online, he didn't complain when I returned it and ordered a rather feminine, flowered set instead.)

And so I keep scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing. And soon (I hope) I'll be sanding, sanding, sanding - then painting, painting, painting...and I'll only have the bedroom done. But I'm trying to see all this work as a great opportunity to practice thankfulness and give God his due credit.


Nov 12, 2014

Cheap, Easy, Effective Stain Removal

Last month, my daughter accidentally dripped the filling of a bean burrito onto her favorite sweater. I washed it almost immediately, but the stain didn't come out. So I used my long-time stain removal method (soaking it in Oxiclean overnight), but it didn't come out. I re-soaked it overnight...still nothing. Then I tried spraying it with stain remover spray and let it sit overnight again. But the stain just wouldn't go away.


I was afraid we were going to have to throw out the sweater - but then I happened upon this article on Pinterest. It claimed that Fels-Naptha, a soap commonly used in homemade laundry detergent, was something of a miracle stain remover. Since I can buy Fels-Naptha for .97 cents at Walmart, I decided to give it a try.

It worked! The procedure was very simple and quick - and now I have a new, much cheaper stain removal method!

How to Remove Stains with Fels-Naptha:

1. Lay the stained fabric on a flat surface that won't be damaged by water. Fels-Naptha can be used on any fabric you can wash at home. To be extra safe, it's a good idea to test it in an inconspicuous spot on the garment.

2. Dampen the stain with water.

3. Rub the bar of Fels-Naptha onto the stain.

4. Rinse. If the stain is gone, launder as usual. If not, repeat step 3 and 4. Viola! The stain is gone!




Oct 8, 2014

10 Ways to Make Doing Dishes Less Miserable

Dishes. Ugh. It just always seems the sink is full of them. So much so, I've developed a real dislike of dish washing. But that attitude only makes the job harder, so lately I've been focusing on a few little tricks that make doing dishes a lot less miserable:


1. If you have a dishwasher, develop thankfulness! Remind yourself how much less you'd like washing dishes if you had to do them by hand. Remind yourself that many women throughout the world wash all dishes by hand. Every. Single. Day. (If you don't have a dishwasher, take heart, and read on.)

2. Envision dish washing as a time for prayer. Or as prime time for contemplating Bible passages or memorizing Bible verses. Busying your brain with something else - especially something that's spiritually enriching - makes dish washing time fly by.

3. Try to reduce the number of dishes you use. For example, when you're cooking, instead of using a bowl, then tossing it in the sink, hand wash it and reuse it later in the cooking process. You might also consider how your family uses cups and glasses. At our house, I encourage my children to put their cups on the kitchen table (at their assigned seating spots) and re-use them throughout the day. You might even assign each family member a different color cup so they can more easily keep track of what's theirs. (Because if they can't find their cup - you guessed it! They are gonna go grab a fresh one from the cupboard. And yep, that means more dishes to wash.)

4. Don't put off doing the dishes. It only makes the job harder and longer. Instead, do dishes after every meal.
Be thankful. You could be doing dishes by hand. On the street. With no running water. Courtesy Steve Evan, Wikipedia.
5. Hand wash what's left over. If you have a dishwasher, but not all the dishes fit into it, don't let the dishes sit in the sink. This just means the next time you run the dishwasher, you probably won't have room for them again. Hand washing those few dishes doesn't take long, and it's much more encouraging to see a clean sink.

6. Remove clean dishes from the dishwasher as soon as they are clean. It really takes very little time, and it makes the next point possible.

7. As you dirty dishes, put them in the dishwasher. This keeps the kitchen looking cleaner and breaks down the job of dish washing into shorter periods.

8. And if the dishwasher if full of clean dishes, by all means use those dishes, rather than dishes from the cupboard. It saves a step!

9. Time yourself. If you hate doing dishes, chances are you have an inflated idea of how long it takes to do them. If you time yourself and discover it only takes 8 minutes (for example) to do them, you're more likely to tackle washing dishes instead of putting them off.

10. Start teaching your children to do dishes as soon as possible. No, a five year old can't do dishes all by himself. But you can start teaching him how to put glasses and plates in the dishwasher, or how to dry and put away utensils. Eventually, your children will know an important life skill - and will be able to take over the chore of washing dishes. (Yay!)

Courtesy Granny Enchanted, Wikipedia.
Top image courtesy Mysid, Wikipedia.


Sep 22, 2014

How to EASILY Clean Ceilings & Walls - Even in a Greasy Kitchen!

Few things make the whole house look grungy than dirty ceilings and walls. Yet many of us put off cleaning ceilings and walls because the traditional way to do it (with a sponge and chemical cleaner) is a real pain. But it doesn't have to be that way!
Last weekend, I decided it was time to tackle my really grimy, greasy kitchen ceiling and walls. (Yep, that's my kitchen ceiling in the photos here.) It wasn't hard, and it took me only about 15 minutes. (And so you can truly appreciate just how very dirty those ceilings and walls were, I hadn't cleaned them in about eight years. Yes, eight! Suffice it to say I just haven't been well enough to keep my house as spic and span as I'd like; recently, I gave up on conventional doctors and am seeing a naturopath who is really healing me up. But I digress...)

So...no matter how dirty your walls are, you really can clean them in a short amount of time - and without a bunch of chemicals.

NOTE: Popcorn ceilings require a different cleaning method; click here for more information.

How to Easily Clean Even Grossly Greasy Ceilings and Walls - Without Chemicals:

1. Grab yourself a new mop head. I highly recommend you use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser mop head because I think they are one of the greatest inventions in recent history. They make cleaning so much easier - and may make it possible for you to clean your ceilings and walls without any cleaners whatsoever. (More on that in a moment.)

If you prefer, you can use a regular sponge mop head. (Don't use the string-style, cut end mop head.)

2. Thoroughly wet the mop head, then wring it out very well.

3. Test clean an inconspicuous spot. Any type of mop head has the potential to do weird things to paint, so this is an important step. Read step 4 for advice about using cleaners - or not.

4. Start with the ceiling, so that any dirty drips that might roll down the walls get cleaned up later. Now mop the ceiling, begining at one end of the room and working your way across.

If you're using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser mop head, try moping without any cleaner first. I know this sounds crazy, but even my really greasy kitchen ceiling came out perfectly clean just by using water and a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser mop head. If you're using a sponge mop, I recommend using a little Dawn dish soap in warm water, and using that as your cleaner. If a damp Mr. Clean mop head or a mop head with a little sudsy water doesn't so the trick, I recommend using Windex. But that is almost never necessary.

5. Once the ceiling is clean, mop the walls.

6. If there are areas where the mop couldn't reach - say around light fixtures or in corners - use a clean sponge to wipe down those areas. For a cleaner, use warm, sudsy water or a little Windex sprayed onto the sponge (not onto the walls or ceilings).

Ta da! All done!

Jun 27, 2014

3 Cleaning Habits to Stop NOW

Is my house spotless? Definitely not. But I am learning to keep it cleaner most of the time. And in doing I've discovered three bad cleaning habits we should all stop doing right now.
STOP:

1. Doing it all yourself. If you're trying to do all the housecleaning yourself, you're not only making your job too hard, you are failing to teach your children an important life skill. For ideas on age appropriate chores, click here.

2. Cleaning only once a week. It took me too long to figure this one out! Pre-kids, I could clean the house all in one day and it would stay clean for a week - usually longer. But once kids enter the picture, the simple fact is you must clean more frequently. So start cleaning a little every day. Ultimately, it's easier, plus it will keep your house cleaner. For ideas on figuring out what chores should be done daily, weekly, and monthly, see my "Making a Mama Chore Chart" post.

3. Putting off cleaning messes right after they happen. Spills and other messes are so much easier and quicker to clean if you do it right away. Spills that are allowed to dry require scrubbing - plus you have to see them while you put off cleaning. This rule applies to clutter, too. Make sure you are a great example to your kids and clean up one mess before making another. And start implementing a new rule in the house: No one is allowed to get out more than three toys (or sets of toys), or tools, or whatever, without putting away one or more first.

May 30, 2014

How to Remove Wax from Fabric

Last weekend, my husband marched into the kitchen with an annoyed expression. I laughed when I saw him, because his shirt was covered with wax. When I asked what happened, he said something about sniffing a Citronella candle and somehow tipping it over, making wax run down his shirt front. He wasn't hurt, so I laughed again. "Well, this shirt is ruined!" he said, kind of upset because it was a favorite. (Yes, the secret is out. My husband loves Duck Dynasty.) "Oh, no it's not!" I said. "I can fix that!" He was highly skeptical, but I did manage to keep him from throwing the shirt away. The next evening, when he came home from work, he was astonished. His shirt was as good as new! And that fact is, it was an easy fix.

You may not have as much wax to clean up as I did, but if you ever get wax on fabric, here's an easy way to remove it.

You Will Need:

Butter knife (non-serrated)
Iron
Paper towels
Oxi-Clean (optional)

How to Remove Wax from Fabric:

1. Allow the wax to cool completely. This is important! Trying to remove the wax while it's still hot or warm can actually ruin the fabric.
Wax covered shirt.
2. Use a dull butter knife to scrape off as much of the wax as possible. (In my case, I was a wee bit worried the knife might scrape off the lettering on my husband's T-shirt, but that wasn't a problem at all.) I kept a bowl nearby to put all the little pieces of wax, but unless you have a big job like this one, that's probably not necessary. Alternative: Pop the fabric in the freezer until quite hard. When removed, the wax should pop right off.
Scraping wax off the shirt.
3. Remove all the scraped-off pieces of wax. In my case, I carefully took the shirt outside and shook it. If you're working on something you can't easily move (like the fabric of a couch), just brush the area well to remove the scraped-off wax.
What the shirt looked like after scraping.
4. Put two layers of paper towels down on an ironing board or other hard surface. (These will protect the surface from wax.) Lay the fabric down flat on the paper towels and cover with another paper towel (which will protect the iron from wax). If you're dealing with furniture, just place a paper towel over the affected area.
Pressing the wax away.
5. Warm the iron to medium heat, then press the affected areas. Repeat until all remaining traces of wax are gone.
The shirt after pressing.
6. Wash the fabric. If the wax has left behind a colored stain, wash the fabric with Oxi-Clean.

May 14, 2014

How to Clean Soap Scum, Easily, Naturally (And How to Prevent it in the First Place)

Cleaning the tub and shower used to be my least favorite housekeeping chores, mostly because I don't like all that scrubbing. But then I learned two very easy ways to clean up soap scum in a snap.

Method 1: Borax

Borax is a natural mineral commonly found in the laundry section of grocery and drug stores. (It should not be confused with boric acid.) It's often used in homemade laundry detergent recipes - and it happens to do a splendid job of cleaning up soap scum!

To use borax as a soap scum remover, you can either:

* Sprinkle it lightly over the scum scum-infested surface and use a wet sponge to wipe it clean.

* Pour some borax in a bowl and add a little bit of water, making a paste. Apply the paste with a sponge. Wipe clean.

See the photo to the right? That's me cleaning my husband's very neglected shower with borax. The clean streak you see there is just one swipe with a borax-coated sponge.

I should note that there's some debate about how safe it is to handle borax. To read up on this, I recommend Getting to the Bottom of Borax: Is it Safe or Not? The problem is mostly about contact dermatitis, which can be prevented simply by wearing rubber gloves while handling the stuff.

Method 2: Mr. Clean Eraser

Ah, the mighty Mr. Clean Eraser. Yes, it cleans up crayon, scuffs, grease, and general grime like a dream. And soap scum? It's no match for a Mr. Clean Eraser, either.

To use, just dampen a Mr. Clean Eraser (or generic alternative) and scrub over the soap scummed surface.

How to Prevent Soap Scum in the First Place

Having a quick, easy way to clean stuff is always a great thing - but preventing the need to clean in the first place is even better.

Lots of things affect how much soap scum ends up in your bathroom, including how many people use the shower or tub; what type of soap, shampoo, and other products you use; whether your tub/shower has been resurfaced; and whether you take any preventative steps.

I've blogged before about how great I think Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner is. But if you want something more economical and natural, simply spraying some white vinegar will do the trick. Keep a spray bottle filled with ordinary white vinegar in the shower or tub area. When you're done bathing, spray the surfaces of the tub or shower with the vinegar. Do not rinse.

If you hate the smell of vinegar, you can use 1/3 cup of household rubbing alcohol and 1 cup of water instead. Again, don't rinse after spraying.

May 5, 2014

How to Clean Really Dirty Stainless Steel Pots and Pans

Stainless steel pans are a great choice for your kitchen. They are affordable, very durable, and don't react with acidic foods. But, as I learned the hard way, if you use spray oil on them, you will end up with some very ugly cookware. I tried everything to clean my stainless steel pans, including baking soda, vinegar, a heated combination of vinegar and baking soda, wood ashes, and Bartender's Keeper. Nothing got the ugly build up of the spray oil (now carbon) off my cookware. I thought I was going to have to live with ugly pans -  until I discovered this very simple trick:

Oven cleaner.

I know, I know. The trend right now is toward natural cleaners. Like our grandmothers used. (Well...not really. I collect antique and vintage home keeping books, and I can most assuredly tell you that women used a lot of really nasty and hazardous things to clean their houses, at least as far back as the 18th century.) But the fact of the matter is, safe, natural cleaners don't always get the job done. In the case of spray oil carbon build up, trust me: natural cleaners don't cut it.

So, just use some common sense. Work in a well ventilated area. Keep the kids out of the room. Wear rubber gloves. And you might consider wearing a cleaning mask, too.
You'll Need:

Cold oven cleaner (I used Easy-Off)
Rubber gloves
Sponge

1. If you haven't already, clean the pan as best you can with ordinary dish soap (or run it through the dishwasher). Wipe clean. As you can see, my pan had a ton of build up.
2. Read the instructions on the oven cleaner. Be sure it's the kind that doesn't require heating. Spray onto the pan and set aside.
3. How long you leave the oven cleaner on depends upon how bad the build up is. Try wiping the pan clean after about 25 minutes. You shouldn't have to scrub. If the pan still has build up on it, spray it again and set it aside. My pan was in really bad shape, so I let it sit until evening, rinsed it, and repeated the oven cleaner spray, letting it sit overnight. I had to do this for two days and nights, but each time, I could see a lot of the build up had been cleaned off.
4. Once the build up is gone, wash the pan thoroughly before cooking with it.

Viola!

Oh, and to avoid this carbon build up in the first place, avoid spray oils with stainless steel pans. Use a sliver of butter or a tiny bit of oil instead - put into the pan only after it is heated enough that a flick of water from your fingers makes a sizzling sound.

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:

Ammonia
Paper towels
Plastic wrap (or plastic shopping bags)
Sponge
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.