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

Oct 1, 2015

The SAFE Way to Clean up After Mice and Rats

Finding mice or rats in or around your house is nothing less than disgusting. But what their urine and feces can do to your family's health may be downright deadly. In fact, my father-in-law's brush with death may have been leptospirosis - caused by a bacteria that's spread through the urine of infected animals, including mice and rats.We still don't have a definitive answer about the cause of his illness, but knowing he was working in an area that had mouse droppings sure made my stomach turn. And then my husband moved some heavy furniture in our home and discovered mouse droppings left over from an old infestation. Yuck and quadruple yuck!

So how do you safely remove rodent droppings, without opening yourself up to the many diseases humans can get from them?

First, Get Rid of the Source

The first step is to get rid of the rodents completely. Figure out where they are entering the building, and seal up those holes. They say mice can squeeze through a spot as small as a dime, but I've personally seen them slip through barely 1/4 inch slats in vents. So even tiny slits or holes must be repaired. (Not positive what type of pest is leaving behind droppings? This may help.)

You'll also need to set out traps. There are many ways to try to catch rodents, but in my experience, the best is a covered trap set with peanut butter and poison. Of the homemade traps, the type shown here is the best. You may also wish to invest in electronic mouse repellents; we successfully use these. They work well, but you must follow the manufacturer's directions about placing the correct number of them in your building.

Once your traps are free of rodents for seven days, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) says you can be sure you've caught all the rodents in the area - and that any infectious diseases in the droppings are no longer a danger.


Despite the fact that the CDC says droppings that are 7 days old are no longer likely infectious, they absolutely recommend proceeding as if you can still become ill from them. That means wearing gloves (rubber, latex, or vinyl) and old clothes that you don't mind throwing away - or at least washing in hot water when you're done. The CDC says nothing about wearing a respirator (though this site for professionals says the CDC offers guidelines about them), but many other sources suggest it. Professionals also wear goggles while cleaning up rodent droppings.

Once you have all your gear, open the windows and doors and allow the area to ventilate for 30 minutes before you begin work.

Cleaning Up

Because so many diseases that infect humans come from the dried up urine dust of rodents, the most important thing is to not stir up dust while you are cleaning. Instead of sweeping or vacuuming, the CDC recommends the following procedure:

1. Spray down areas with droppings or possible urine dust with bleach water (1 part bleach to 10 parts water) or other disinfectant. (This is not the time to use vinegar, folks. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions for dilution if using something other than bleach.) Wait 5 minutes.

2. Use paper towels to pick up the droppings. Place the used paper towels in a garbage bag and seal it. Place that bag in another bag and seal it, too.

3. Mop the floor, counters, and other affected surfaces using bleach water or disinfectant. Carpets and upholstered furniture should be steam cleaned, according to the CDC. Clothing, bedding, and the like should be washed with laundry detergent and hot water. If you have boxes of things that are contaminated, take the boxes outside and into direct sunlight; remove everything from the box, staying upwind, so nothing blows into your face. Cardboard boxes must be thrown away, but plastic or metal containers can be disinfected by spraying, waiting 5 minutes, then wiping with paper towels.

4. Remove your gloves and place in a garbage bag. Seal it and place in another garbage bag. Seal that bag, too. Wash hands with hot water and soap for at least 30 seconds before rinsing thoroughly.

If You Find Dead Rodents or Nests

1. Spray with disinfectant. Wait 5 minutes.

2. Wearing your gloves, carefully pick up the rodent or nest and dispose of it in a garbage bag. Seal and place in another garbage bag. Seal that bag, too.

* Title image courtesy of George Shuklin and Wikipedia Commons.

Sep 1, 2015

How Color Coding Makes Housework Easier

It's no secret that organization makes homemaking easier. However, when you're living in a tiny house, organization is the difference between absolute chaos and reasonably contented living. So I've been doing a lot of thinking (and some research) on how best to live with children in our tiny house motor home. One wonderful resource is a series of YouTube videos by the Norton family. If you think there's no way you could live full time in an RV with your family, you must watch these videos. The Nortons live with six children in their RV! (They even home school in this environment.) And while I don't have six little blessings, there's a lot I can learn from the Nortons. And even if you don't live in a tiny house, I'm betting you can glean some great ideas from them, too.
My favorite Norton idea is to use color coding to simplify housework. It is revolutionary - and I'm not exaggerating! Mrs. Norton specifically uses color coding in the kitchen, but I think this is a trick that works well for other parts of the house, too. Here's how:

In the Kitchen

Give every person in the family a plate and bowl in their own special color. For example, Mom might have a red bowl and plate; Dad uses blue; and child #1 uses green. If I recall correctly, in the Norton tiny house RV, each family member has only one plate and bowl. If you're not living in a tiny space, you might consider giving each family member two or three. The beauty is that now you know who's put their dishes away (or not!), and who's deposited their plates in the dishwasher. And there's no way children can claim they've put away or washed their dishes when they haven't. Brilliant! I think you could easily turn this into an easy way for children to learn to wash their own dishes, too.

You may wonder if you're going to have to buy a different set of dishes for each member of the family, and give the extras away (since most dish sets contain at least four plates and bowls in a single color). The answer is no. Instead of buying a box of dishes, you'll want to shop somewhere that sells dishes and bowls individually. This could be an import store, The Dollar Tree, or even a thrift store. (My favorite dishes came from St. Vincent DePaul's.) Or, you might consider a set of Feista Ware, which sometimes is designed to have every dish be a different color. (Similar to this.)

Now you want to do the same thing with glasses and cups, giving each family member one in his or her own color. This way, nobody looses track of which glass is theirs (leading them to grab a fresh one, which results in a pile of glasses in the sink). If you don't want to use plastic glasses, consider using stainless steel travel mugs with colored plastic on the outside. Or, you could use colored rubber bands to individualize each clear glass. I challenge you to limit each family member to a single glass; they are easy to hand wash! For those who drink coffee, tea, or another hot drink, you might consider also assigning each person one cup or mug.

If you wanted to, you can even take color coding one step further and get utensils in each family member's color.

So, following this plan, you've:

#1. Reduced the number of dishes that need washing (saving on water and energy).
#2. Ensured that everybody takes responsibility for their own dishes/cups.
#3. Limited the amount of space used in your kitchen cabinets.

In the Bathroom

Another way you can implement color coding in your home is with bath towels. One problem many families have is that people get confused about which towel is theirs - which leads them to grab a fresh towel from the linen closet, rather than use a towel that's hanging up. This causes a lot of extra laundry, which not only eats up Mom's time, but adds expense to the budget by devouring extra water and electricity.

A solution is to buy each family member two towels and two washcloths in their own color. Now everybody knows which towel is theirs and there is no more wasting time and money washing towels that don't really need cleaning.

What About Guests?

You may wonder how to deal with dishes and towels for guests. Here are some ideas:

* Keep one set of dishes just for times when you have guests. (Lots of us already have "nicer dishes" for guests, anyway. Just keep them.)

* Entertain casually, using paper plates and cups.

* Add to your existing color coded dishes by buying some extra dishes in yet more different colors. When you have guests, every single person will have a different color plate. It makes for a fun, cohesive dinner set.

* Keep a set of towels just for guests. I recommend using white (because they are so easy to distinguish from your family's colored towels, and because they are easy to clean with bleach.)

Easy peasy! What other ways can you think of to use color coding to make housework easier?

Jul 10, 2015

The Easy Way to Remove Grease From Fabric

Grease is attracted to me like moths are to porch lights. I don't know how it happens, but it seems every time I buy a new piece of clothing, within a wear or two, a grease stain appears on it. (The most likely culprit is food, but I do wear an apron when cooking and I don't think I'm that much of a slob when I eat!) Since I have a teeny tiny budget for my wardrobe, this is not a happy thing. In the past, I've had to relegate many new clothes to the "garden work" drawer of my dresser, because I just couldn't get the grease stains out. But no longer!

Last weekend I learned a neat trick. It is a

super easy, 
super cheap, 
super effective 

way to remove grease stains from fabric. All you need is an ordinary piece of white chalk.

How to Easily Remove Grease Stains with Chalk

1. Grab the piece of clothing or other fabric and lay it on a clean, hard surface - like a table.

2. Grab a piece of chalk. In my case, I used my children's sidewalk chalk. It must be white. Thoroughly color over the grease stain with the chalk.

3. Brush the chalk off of the fabric. An old toothbrush helps with this, but you can just use your hands, too.

4. If the grease stain isn't completely gone, repeat steps 2 and 3.

5. Viola! The grease is GONE!

To help remove any last bits of chalk, I ran the formerly grease-stained area under cool water and let the garment dry.

I love simple, easy ways to take care of stains. Don't you?

Jun 15, 2015

Trick for Re-Using Canning Jar Lids

This weekend, I opened a cabinet door and a box of cocoa came flying out. Does that ever happen to you? Sometimes I think the food is trying to run for it''s life. Anyway, the box landed on the counter, popped open, and cocoa went flying all over the kitchen. On the counter, on the stove, in the stove grills, on the sink, on the floor, on the floor mat....I felt like I was cleaning up after a toddler again. Fun.

Turns out, temperature fluctuations in the kitchen had caused the plastic lid on the cocoa box to relax. The lid no longer fit the container. When I was done cleaning cocoa off everything, I put what cocoa was still in the container in a canning jar for fresher - and safer! - keeping. But I'm a busy mom - plus I'm nearing menopause - so I knew I'd forget what was in the jar...unless I labeled it.

It's not uncommon for me to put homemade condiments or store bought stuff that takes up too much room in a box in a canning jar. And, like I said, it's always best to label them or my hair-brain will never know what's inside. (Sweetened cocoa? Unsweetened? Who knows!) Since I'm frugal, I don't like to use new, unused canning lids for this purpose. Instead, I use canning lids that have come off home canned goods. I run them through the dishwasher, and they are perfect for storage purposes.

I don't like to keep a ton of them around, though, or they get in my way. (If food flies out of my cupboards, imagine what would happen with a drawer full of used canning lids!) So I keep only a handful. And I've found an easy way to remove the writing from these lids, so I can neatly and easily write on them again:

Rubbing alcohol.

Just dip a Q-tip (or the corner of a towel) in some rubbing alcohol and rub it over the pen markings on the lid.

They come right off. The lid dries in a few moments, and you can write on it again.

Easy! And when you're a harried mom with food flying out of the cupboards, easy is very, very good.

Apr 22, 2015

The Simple Cleaning Tip that Changes Everything

When I still had children in high chairs, I struggled to keep the high chairs, kitchen table, and dining-area floor clean. No matter what I gave those kiddos to eat, it seemed to end up all over the floor, the table, the chairs...and the children. So I would wipe the children off with a warm towel...but often neglected to wipe off the eating area surfaces, too.

That is, until I realized that doing so made cleaning those surfaces so much harder!

Yes, I was really tired. Yes, a thousand other things pulled at me, shouting, "I need attention...right now!" (Not to mention children were literally pulling on me, saying "Mama! Mama!") But putting off cleaning messes only meant more work, more energy, and more time later.

So I learned to clean messes the way I cleaned my children: Right away.

(Okay, confession time: I'm not perfect at this. Sometimes I still put off cleaning messes. But I know the work is much easier if I don't!)

So next time your sweet babes, your husband, or you make a mess, stop. Clean it up right then. Usually, it will take less than a minute. Rarely will it take more than a couple of minutes. And then it's done. It won't tug at your mind, it won't weigh you down, and it will clean up quickly and easily, rather than requiring more effort on your part.

It's a game changer, friends.

Apr 15, 2015

10 Spring Cleaning Tips

Spring cleaning is the time to tackle projects you otherwise might not think of...but as the spring sun begins to shine through your windows, become more noticeable. Every house is different, but here are my top spring cleaning projects. See which ones you need to add to your list, too.

1. Clean the baseboards. Especially if you have pets or kids (or both!), baseboards can get surprisingly yucky. The easiest way to clean them is with a Magic Eraser and a little water. I put warm water in a bowl, wet the Eraser, scrub, then clean the Eraser in the warm water.

2. Clean windowsills. Again, a Magic Eraser and water makes this job a breeze.

3. Clean the molding around doors. Don't forget the tippy top! I like my Magic Erasers here, too. But assuming you don't want to use Magic Erasers for this or any other job, the next best thing is a sponge with a scrubby side and some Windex.

4. Shampoo the carpets.

5. Vacuum all the furniture, and shampoo it, too, if needed.

6. Actually, vacuum everything. I use my vacuum on the walls, ceilings, welcome mat...For tips on using the vacuum to clean much of your house, click here.

7. Clean all appliances. Wipe them down with Windex and towels (or a scrubby sponge if they are really dirty), inside and out, paying special attention to seals, edges around doors, and the backs.

8. Clean the disposal and sink. Really, the disposal should be de-stinkified as needed and the sink sanitized every day. (The kitchen sink is one of the germiest place in your house!) To clean the disposal, take a fresh lemon of two, cut them in half, and feed them to the disposal one by one. Afterward, give the sink an extra good clean. I like to spray it with Windex, then scrub with a sponge. If the sink is stainless steel, use the scrubby side of the sponge, or a Brillo pad, to make it sparkle.

9. Wash walls and ceilings, if needed. I love to use mop to do this; learn more about my method here.

10. Clean refrigerator and freezer coils. To keep these appliances running smoothly and as efficiently as possible, you should clean the coils once a year. Unplug the appliance (the food will be fine as long as you keep the door closed) and vacuum away using a brush attachment. (Don't have a brush attachment? Use your vacuum's wand with one hand, and a stiff cleaning brush with the other.)

Dec 31, 2014

Most Popular Posts - for 2014, and for all time!

The most popular post!
It's always fun for me to see which posts are most popular on this blog. (They are never - never! - the posts I imagine will most interest readers!) Oddly, what shows up as popular depends upon what source I look at; but studying stats from Blogger, Pinterest, and other top sources, it's easy to see which posts are all time favorites and favorites for the year. And since recent months have brought a great many more readers to Proverbs 31 Woman, I thought it would be fun to share these lists with you - especially since many of the posts are from years' past. It's a pretty eclectic list; enjoy!

(P.S. Want to see more popular posts from Proverbs 31 Woman? Check out the Pinterest page "Most Popular Posts at Proverbs 31 Woman.")

Top 5 Posts for 2014:

1. 52 Simple Sewing Projects for Kids

2. 10 Things I Learned During Our Tiny House Test Run

3. The Letter of the Week Series, especially Letter R

4. Free Art History Curriculum: Claude Monet

5. Walmart Savings Catcher: Hit or Miss?

Top 10 Most Popular Posts of All Time:

 1. How to Train Chickens  (it completely cracks me up that this is the most popular post among readers!)

2. 6 Ways to Teach Kids the Books of the Bible

3. Best Free Apron Patterns on the Net

4. How to Clean a REALLY Dirty Stove

5. Best Ideas for Upcycling Jeans

6. Canning Pickled Green Beans (Dilly Beans)

7. Harvesting and Making Your Own Chamomile Tea

8. How Much Money Can You Save Gardening & Homesteading

9. 52 Simple Sewing Projects for Kids

10. Easiest Fruits & Vegetables to Grow

Dec 3, 2014

Get Your House Under Control - and Keep it That Way!

I'm sick this week with an exhausting virus, so I haven't had much energy to write. Or work on our tiny house motor home. Or anything else. But I've been thinking a lot about what life will be like in our tiny house - including what it will be like to keep it clean.

I've never had a spotless house, but I used to be much a better housekeeper than I am now. What changed? Over 9 years ago, I was put on pregnancy bedrest - right when I was in the middle of decluttering and moving things around in order to get ready for our first child. Due to our first born's months long hospital stay, some outside helpers moving things around, lots of therapy for our first child, the birth of our second child, my working at housekeeping just never recovered.

So moving into the tiny house motor home will give me a fresh start. That's a good thing! It's my hope I can keep things tidier - and the fact that we'll be in such a small place will, I hope, help me in this goal. It's true smaller spaces get dirtier faster - but it's also true there is less to clean.

And so I'm mentally setting up my Mama Chore Chart for tiny house living. But even if you don't live in a tiny house, Mama Chore Charts are an excellent way to get your house under control - and keep it that way. Not sure how to set up your own Mama Chore Chart? Click over to my past post on the topic. There you'll find free printable Mama Chore Charts for daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal cleaning. Plus, I offer advice on personalizing these charts to suit your family's needs. If you stick to your Mama Chore Chart, your house will become tidier.

And don't forget to have your children help you! I know it's an uphill battle getting young kids to clean, and trust me, I know it's easier just to do the cleaning yourself. Some days, give yourself a "break" and do it yourself - but most days, have the children help. Because as I lay around sick and see my 9 year old doing dishes and laundry, and I can tell you it's completely worth the effort! (Need help getting your kids started with chores? Check out Kids & Chores, Chores Teach Helpfulness, and Age Appropriate Chores for Kids.)

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...) 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 so, I've discovered three bad cleaning habits we should all stop doing right now.

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)
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

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.


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.