Showing posts with label Clothing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Clothing. Show all posts

May 29, 2013

Treating Stains - the Easy Way

courtesy 123rf.com
After my Laundry 101 post, a friend asked me to post something similar about stain treatments. I was hesitant because I don't treat stains the "right" way. But I DO treat them the easy way - and that's probably what more moms are interested in, right?

But first, let's talk about the "right way." Martha and all the home keeping gurus before and after her say to keep certain ingredients on hand to treat stains. The list is longish. And therefore, the treating of stains by the "right" method seems too fussy to me. I'm a busy mom. I want to get stains out quickly, easily, and without having to keep a lot of stuff on hand. Also, if you prefer all natural ingredients, this post isn't for you. (Instead, check out The Humbled Homemaker's post on using natural ingredients to remove clothing stains.)

Now, here's what I do.

1. Prevent as many stains as possible, but don't make yourself crazy trying to do so. Stains will happen. If you have babies or toddlers use the largest bibs you can find; better yet, use smocks or over-sized shirts for both messy play and eating. Also, give your children play clothes so they can play freely without worrying about ruining their clothes.

2. Treat stains immediately. That means if my child get ketchup on his shirt, I have him remove it right away and I do something to clean it. (Wondering about those on-the-go stain treatment products? I've not had good luck with them. If you're out and about and can't treat a stain immediately, pat it with a damp cloth or wet wipe, but don't rub the stain further into the fabric's fibers.)

3. Learn to tell the different between "if-it-sits-it-will-stain" stain and an immediate stain. The first only becomes a stain if you ignore it. So make it a habit to remove the clothing immediately and wash it. (Example: Fresh juice from strawberries won't stain unless you let it sit; the "stain" comes out easily if you wash it right away. Ketchup and other tomato-based foods, on the other hand, usually need stain treatment, even if caught and washed right away.)

Once I know I have a real stain to deal with, I:

1. Use a stain pre-treatment - either a stain stick or Spay n Wash (which works better, in my opinion on greasy stains). Let it sit for at least 5 minutes or up to a day. Wash. Hang dry. (Some lingering stains don't show when the clothing is wet, so I hang dry to prevent setting the stain in the dryer.)

If the stain persists, I:

2. Use OxiClean. I have never had a problem with this method ruining clothes, but still - use my method at your own risk, since it's not exactly the way the manufacturer recommends using it. Fill a large bowl (or a well cleaned sink) with lukewarm water and dissolve 1/4 cup of OxiClean powder in it. Add the stained clothing and soak overnight. In the morning, place the clothing in the washer, pouring in the liquid from the bowl. Wash as usual.

Super tough stains may require two treatments of OxiClean, but I've only had that happen once (with a bad blood stain).

And that's it! Very simple. Very effective.

Apr 17, 2013

Laundry 101: How to Do Laundry

Did anyone ever teach you how to do laundry? As I recall, my mom told me to separate darks and lights, throw them in the machine, add lots of detergent, and let the machine do the rest. But even if you had a more extensive laundry lesson than I, it makes sense to review what experts say is the "best way," then determine how - as a mother with plenty of laundry to do - you can make the process easier.
For expert advice, I turned to Martha Stewart, finding her tips matched all the other experts I read - and were actually sometimes more streamlined!

1. Martha tells us to first check the colorfastness of every piece of new clothing. This is usually done by reading the label, but you can also test a small area of fabric (preferably inside the garment - for example, on the seam) by dampening the fabric. Now blot the same area with a white piece of fabric. If any of the garment color transferred to the white cloth, you know the garment isn't colorfast and must be washed by itself. (Often, after several washes, such garments will become colorfast, so retest once in a while.)

2. Next, it's time to sort the laundry. Separate anything that needs handwashing or dry cleaning. Amongst the clothing that can be washed in a machine at home, separate darks and lights: White clothing and clothing in light colors such as pastels go in one pile. Black clothing or any clothes of dark color go in another pile.

3. While you're separating, Martha says to make sure zippers are zipped, drawstrings are tied, cuffs are unrolled, and pockets are emptied. If you see clothes that need mending, fix them before washing them because washing can make the problem worse.
Courtesy admiller, freerangestock.com

4. Now Martha says to pretreat stains.
Most should go into a large bowl, bucket, clean sink to be treated with commercially made or homemade stain treatments.

5. Open the washing machine and pour in the detergent, Martha says. She also says powdered detergents are best if you have hard water, or the clothes have mud or clay soil on them; liquids are best for greasy stains. "Use the recommended amount," she says.

6. Add the clothes, says Martha, making sure they aren't packed in and that they are evenly distributed. Clothes need to move, so don't fill the machine more than it's capacity - about 3/4 full, she says.

7. Use the shortest wash time - unless the clothes are very dirty. Select the temperature: "Use hot water (120 degrees) to keep whites white and to clean very dirty colorfast clothes - in separate loads, of course. Warm water (90 degrees to 110 degrees) is good for most average loads. Cold water (below 85 degrees) is best for bright colors that are likely to fade and for delicates. Detergents are less effective in water below 65 degrees. Shrinkage is caused by heat -- either from the dryer or hot water in the washer. To avoid it, wash items in warm or cold water, and hang to dry."

8. Select a cycle. According to Martha, "regular" is good for sturdy clothes; "permanent press" is a bit easier on clothes; "delicates" is the most gentle.

9. Once the wash cycle is over, hang clothes to dry or put them in the dryer and select the appropriate setting. The "permanent press" setting reduces wrinkles because it cools down near the end of the cycle. "Air fluff" uses no heat and is best for fluffing pillows or for freshening up clean clothes that have been stored for a while.

Courtesy of Keerat, FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Now, there is nothing wrong with Martha's methods. But are they realistic for a busy mom? Maybe, maybe not, depending upon your life and your personality. So here are a few tips for streamlining things:

* Always read care labels before buying. Don't buy dry clean only clothing, clothes that must be washed by hand, or clothes that aren't colorfast. This will save tons of time and money. If you do end up with something that isn't colorfast (say, black jeans) wash them once in hot water, adding 1 cup of white vinegar to the water. This should make the item colorfast.

* Consider whether the clothes really need washing. Americans waste copious amounts of water, detergent, energy, and time washing clothes that don't need it. Pants, for example, can often be worn several times before washing; towels usually can go a week or so; clothes that your kids dump on the floor but don't wear can get hung right back up. Use the smell test!

* Don't sort lights and darks. I never do. Do our socks look slightly dingy? Eventually, yes, but it really doesn't matter to us. Of course, if you have a special white shirt (Really? A mom with a white shirt??), you should probably wash it separately. Don't rely on bleach to lighten it because bleach is really hard on fabric.

* Treat stains immediately. If you're at home, remove the clothing and wash it right away. Often this prevents the need to use strain treaters. If you're not at home, remove the clothing as soon as you get home and use a stain stick or spray on it. For really stubborn stains, soak in a bowl of OxiClean overnight.

* If you're clothes are coming out with detergent still on them, you may be overcrowding the load. Or,
Courtesy of stockbroker/123RF Stock Photo
try starting the washer (getting the water going). Then add the detergent. Once there's a bit more water in the washer, add the clothes.

* Don't run the washer unless you have a full load. For most families, this is no problem, because even if you want to wash a stained shirt right away, there is always laundry in somebody's hamper!

* Use cold water. It's much cheaper and does a fine job. An exception is if clothes are very dirty or need disinfecting. In such cases, use hot water.

* Use less detergent than the detergent-maker suggests. In many cases, laundry detergent isn't even needed! Use a very small amount unless you're washing very dirty clothes or clothes that need disinfecting.

* Hang as many clothes as possible, to save a lot of money.

* Always use the shortest drying cycle you can. If in doubt, go for a shorter amount of time - you can always add additional time later.

* Clean the lint screen in the dryer every time you use it. It saves energy and makes the dryer a safer appliance.

* If you use a dryer, you'll need some sort of fabric softener. The most wholesome and natural softener and anti-cling "product" is plain old white vinegar: 1/4 cup in the washing machine. Otherwise, I recommend Bounce Dryer Bars; they are much less troublesome than dryer sheets or fabric softener.

* To prevent wrinkles, remove clothes from the dryer as soon as it's done. I know it's not always possible, but make it a goal.

* Give line dried clothes a couple of good shakes before hanging and take the time to straighten cuffs, collars, etc.

* Fold or hang clothes right away to prevent wrinkles and the temptation to re-wash. Sometimes this seems like a monumental task, but it usually goes much faster than you think.

* Have your kids help! This is a life skill they need to know, and most kids enjoy helping if you start them early. Toddlers can do things like pull all the socks out of the laundry pile. As they get older, teach them to roll socks into a bundle, sort clothes by family member (they can at least pull out their own clothes), fold simple things like wash cloths, and put their clothes away. My 7 year old daughter can do all her laundry on her own except for the folding (which we are working on); best of all, she enjoys doing it!

 
And what about detergent? Well, you already know you need a lot less than you're probably using. And I know some people swear by their homemade laundry detergent. I, personally, have found it doesn't dissolve well in cold water and isn't money-saving in my region. (Read more here.) In most cases, powdered detergent is less expensive than liquid. I've tried all the cheap brands and found they all work about the same - so pick and choose your ingredients as you see fit.

See also:
How to Do Less Laundry
Get Out from Under the Laundry Pile
Air Drying Indoors

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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May 6, 2011

The World's Best Work Pants for Men

My husband used to wear expensive Carhartt work pants and ordinary Levi jeans for everyday wear. But he found the Carhartt's uncomfortable and the Levi's short-lasting. Then we discovered Duluth Trading Company's Ballroom Work Jeans. Not only does my husband declare them the most comfortable pants he's ever worn, but they have firehose material strengthening the waistband, cuffs, and pockets, a more comfortable fit, lots of pockets, and - as the name implies - a hidden gusset to give more crotch room. To top it off, the jeans have Duluth's impossible to beat "no bull guarantee." If you don't like 'em, return 'em with for a no hassle refund.

We also recommend Duluth's Firehose Workwear; these clothes are made of durable firehose material that's perfectly comfortable. The Firehose Work Pants come with an additional guarantee; if you're ever able to wear them out, or if they rip, tear, fray, return them and Duluth will send you a free, new pair. Duluth is also well known for their long tail shirts, perfect for men who are long waisted or are big enough regular shirts are too short.

I have no affiliation with Duluth Trading Company and I won't earn a dime if you purchase their products. I'm just really impressed with both the service we've received from this company and the products we've purchased from them. I think you'll be impressed, too.

Mar 22, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent: An Experiment

For years, I've read about women who swear by their homemade laundry detergent. One friend says she saves over $10 a container every time she makes her own powder detergent. So last week, when I ran out of my regular detergent, I decided to give it a try.

Gathering Supplies
My first challenge came right away. I could not find the three necessary ingredients in my home town (which has a population of about 9,200). Since I currently do all my shopping in town, this was a pretty big draw back. However, the next time I was in a bigger town, I visited the local Wal-Mart superstore and found in the laundry aisle:

* 1 (12 oz.) box Borax: $2.98

I couldn't find washing soda, so I assumed the large box of baking soda in the laundry aisle was equivalent:

* 1 (4 lb.) box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda: $2.12

Once I got home and researched it, though, I discovered washing soda is much stronger and more caustic (harsh) than baking soda. Nonetheless, I decided to follow my recipe for detergent exactly, substituting baking soda for washing soda.

I also couldn't find the Fels-Naptha bar soap most people say is ideal for homemade laundry detergent, so I substituted with a type of soap a few websites recommended:

* 3 (3.1 oz. each) bars Ivory soap: $1.07

Total Cost: $6.17.


Putting it Together

I think the best way to store home made laundry soap is in an airtight plastic container. You can buy these at the Dollar Tree or you can reuse a container used to hold coffee or similar grocery items. (To remove smells from re-used containers, soak them in white vinegar overnight.) Then you can either re-use the measuring cup from an old box of laundry detergent or you can buy a kitchen measuring cup set at the Dollar Tree.

However, this was just an experiment for me, so I didn't want to make even a small investment in a container or scoop, so I reused the box and scoop from my store bought laundry detergent. Then I:

1. Measured 8 cups of baking soda and poured it into the box with a lid.

2. Measured 8 cups Borax and poured it into the box.

3. Grated the 3 bars of soap. You could use your food processor, but I just used a hand cheese grater. Then I poured the soap gratings into the box and stirred with a spoon. (If you have a secure, lidded container, you can just put the lid on and shake.)

This process took me just 3 minutes, with interruptions from my kids. When I was done, I had about half the amount of laundry soap I'd normally purchase at one time. I used all the ingredients purchased, except for a small amount of the Borax.

The Wash Test

You only need about 3 or 4 tablespoons of home made laundry detergent per large load. I didn't measure, but just sprinkled in a small amount. (For more about using small amounts of detergent, check out this post.)

I was pleased with how well the first load of clothes came out. They both looked and smelled clean. However, I noticed on my second and third loads that little bits of the grated Ivory soap had not dissolved during the washing and were sticking to the clothes. Perhaps this is because I wash almost everything in cold? Or perhaps it's because I used Ivory instead of Fels-Naptha? Either way, I had to pick the bits of soap off the clothes so they wouldn't ruin my dryer.

UPDATE 3/23/11: Yesterday, I tried a load of laundry with hot water and my home made laundry detergent and still found the soap shavings did not melt.

Savings?

The bad new is, I saved very little. Normally, I pay $12.47 for a 14.4 lb. box of laundry detergent (Arm & Hammer brand). Since I made about half what I normally buy, the home made detergent would have to cost less than $6.24 a batch for it to save money. Therefore, I only saved $0.07. Although home made detergent isn't difficult or time consuming to make, it just isn't worth it for my family.

UPDATE 12/08/12: Because so many people told me repeatedly - even after reading this post - that homemade detergent is cheaper, and because a local store finally started carrying all the ingredients, I decided to price it out again. At our local Wal-Mart, washing soda is $3.24, Fels-Naptha is .97 cents, and Borax is $3.38. That's $7.55 total, more than when I originally made this post. A 14.4 lb. box of Arm & Hammer laundry detergent is still $12.47. It is now officially cheaper to buy my laundry detergent.

Mar 2, 2011

Air Drying Laundry Indoors

There is a strong movement against automatic clothes dryers. There's good reason for this: Dryers are huge energy consumers - the biggest hogs in the average American home. They are hard on electric and gas bills. And they are hard on clothes, too. But what if you don't have space for - or, due to regulations, aren't allowed to have - a traditional clothes line or tree? Here are some ideas.

* Hang a clothes line under a coverage porch.

* Install a line in your basement (as long as it doesn't have moisture issues).

* Install a line on your (flat) rooftop.

* Buy a clothes rack or tree and place it in an out of the way location in your home. Placing it near a heat source speeds up drying - just be sure clothes aren't too clothes to the heat source, or you may cause a fire.

* Hang wet clothes on ordinary clothes hangers and place them over the shower rod to dry.

* Install a BreezeDry drying cabinet in your home. It pulls air from outside and circulates it to dry clothes, using 90 percent less energy than a traditional clothes dryer.

Do you dry your clothes indoors? What's you're method?

Jan 17, 2011

How To Do Less Laundry

Are you wasting energy, time, water, electricity, detergent, and dryer sheets because you're washing clothes too often? Are you wearing clothes out in the washing machine? And when it comes to clothes washing, how often is too often, anyway? These are questions I've been pondering lately, as my pile of laundry reduces far too slowly.

Back before their were automatic washers and dryers, people washed their clothes a lot less often. It was simply too much work to do the laundry more than once a week. This does not mean, however, they walked around in filthy clothes. So how did the housewife of old - who probably had more kids than you do and whose work and life was messier because of lack of modern conveniences - manage to wash so infrequently?

For one thing, everyone had just five different types of clothes:

* School or work clothes
* Play clothes
* Church or special occasion clothes
* Night clothes
* Underwear

The average middle class family might have two or three outfits in each category, tops. So, obviously, there were fewer clothes to launder.

But it was the way they wore these clothes that saved the most labor and money. Kids wore school clothes only to school. When they came home from school, they removed their school clothes and hung them to air out. Then they put on their play clothes. They often had only one set of "good" church clothes, and they were worn only while at church or on special occasions, like weddings. This outfit was washed infrequently. Nightgowns or pajamas were worn every night for a week before they were washed. Adults handled their wardrobe similarly.

In addition, women (and sometimes men) wore aprons while working.

Now, I'm not necessarily suggesting you and your family have such limited wardrobes (although cutting back on clothes is probably a great idea). And I'm not suggesting you weara clothes that are visibly dirty or smelly. But I am suggesting that we don't generally need to wash clothes that have been worn for only a few hours. To do so, frankly, shows how spoiled we are. What a waste of resources, time, energy, and money!

So here's my challenge for you this week: See how few clothes you can reasonably wash. Wear an apron while cooking - and perhaps even while housekeeping or doing garden chores. Change from good clothes into play clothes as soon as possible. Wear your nightclothes repeatedly.

I think you'll find your life is less stressful and more simple. And you'll be a better steward.

Let me know how it goes!

Jun 26, 2010

Dollar Stretching Saturday: 10 Wasteful Practices

1. Cable or Satellite Television. These days, there's little reason to pay for tv. You'll save TONS of money and time if you don't plan your life around television programs - and all those commercials. But this doesn't mean you can't watch tv programs. You may know that Netflix delivers DVDs of movies and tv shows to your door (with no late fees), but what you might not realize is Netflix also allows you to instantly watch tv programs and movies on our laptop or (with the right equipment) your television. No commercials, either. Too, there are free Internet sources for watching tv shows, including Hulu and tvDuck.

SAVINGS: At least $400 a year, depending on your cable bill, which Netflix program you choose, and whether you stick to freebie sites.


2. Clothes. Of course you need clothes, and I'm not suggesting you wear rags, but almost all Americans have way more clothes than they actually need. (In jeans alone, statisticians say women in the U.S. own 8.3 pairs.) Instead of having an enormous closet of clothes (which takes time and money to care for, incidentally), select classic clothes that mix well together.

SAVINGS: Hundreds to thousands each year.

3. Bottled Water. Study after study shows that bottled water is no more tasty or healthful than tap water, yet many people continue to drink it. All those disposable bottles are wasteful too, and there are possible health risks due to BPA in them. Really, a faucet filter is much, much cheaper. And when you're on the road and need water, plan ahead just a bit by using a reusable stainless steel drinking bottle.

SAVINGS: If you drink just one bottle of water every day at an average cost of $1.50, you'll save over $547 a year.

4. Food Waste. How much food do you throw away each week? What if you could minimize - or completely put an end to - this practice? I really believe even the least organized person can plan meals with my simple method. Then prepare only as much as you need - or, if you make extra, be sure to freeze it right away or eat it for lunch the next day. And if you find yourself stuck with some odds and ends - a few carrots, some potatoes that are about to wrinkle up, a little left over meat - toss them in a pot and make stew or soup.

SAVINGS: Hundreds a year.

5. Printer Manufacturer Ink Cartridges. I never, ever buy the ink my famous-maker printer is designed to use. And I never, ever pay more than a few dollars for a single ink cartridge - because I purchase generic manufactured cartridges. I've been doing this for years, and they always work perfectly. The best source for this depends upon what printer you have, but I usually shop at Elotusland.

SAVINGS: I save over $67 each time I replace my ink cartridges. For me, that's a savings of over $402 a year.

6. Paying Someone Else to Do Your Taxes. Unless your personal or businesses taxes are truly complicated, use software like TaxCut or TurboTax. The latter lets those with really simple taxes use the software for free. Not only will you save on tax preparation expenses, but you may save on your actual tax bill. I can't tell you how many of my friends and acquaintances have discovered - after using do-it-yourself tax preparation software - that their accountant was doing their taxes wrong, costing them considerable sums of money. (And yes, the software is super easy to use.)

SAVINGS: About $100 per filing or more.

7. Assuming Dollar Tree Stuff is a Good Deal. Often, you'll waste money at the Dollar Tree. Wal-Mart and other discount stores are often cheaper, if only by pennies. (But remember, all those pennies add up.) While the Dollar Tree does have excellent deals on some things, like incandescent light bulbs and children's art supplies, the trick is to pay attention to prices and only buy it if it's truly a good deal.

SAVINGS: Depending on your shopping habits, you could save hundreds each year.

8. Buying Brand Names. Some people just assume generic isn't as good, but in my experience, this is rarely the case. I always try generic or store brands before dismissing them as "not as good." 95% of the time or more, I stick with generic. Although it may surprise some people, some store brands are actually better than brand name products. For example, an employee at a very famous membership club store tells me the store brands at her place of business are actually held to a higher quality standard than name brand products.

SAVINGS: Let's say you buy brand name Wheat Thins twice a month at $4.29 a box. If you switch to a generic brand that's just $1.24 a box, you'll save over $73 a year just on that one item.

9. Eating Out. For frugal families, having dinnerout ought to be a once-a-month or less treat. Keep your pantry well stocked with staples, and whenever possible, make a double batch of food and freeze half. That way, when you're too exhausted to cook, all you have to do is pop something in the microwave, instead of calling for pizza.

SAVINGS: If you're accustomed to eating our or having food delivered even just once a month, this step will easily save you $250 - 360 a year.

10. Paying for Things You Don't Use. Here's just one example. I used to pay for a certain magazine subscription but either didn't get around to reading the mag or didn't get much from each issue. So I quit paying for the thing and started reading only the articles that interested me on the magazine's free online site. If you look around your house, perhaps you can see some things you've paid for but got little or no use from: Kitchen gadgets, decor, craft supplies...?

SAVINGS: I saved $30 a year by canceling my subscriptions, but depending upon your habits, you could save much more.



Mar 16, 2010

How Much Laundry Soap Do You Really Need?

According to Consumer Reports, many Americans use too much laundry detergent - primarily because the measuring cups that come with the soap are difficult to read.
"'If the lines aren't clear or are hard to see, it's easy to overdose and use too much detergent,' says Pat Slaven, a program leader in our Technical department who conducted the detergent testing. 'Plus, for all the products we tested, the line for a medium load—the most commonly done load—is less than a full cap, which makes it easier to use too much detergent.' The line for a maximum load is also typically less than a full cap."
Not only does using too much laundry detergent mean you have to buy detergent more often, but according to CR, it can cause lint and soap deposits to develop inside the washing machine - which might cause mold and could restrict filters, resulting in mechanical failure. With high-efficiency washing machines, CR reports, using too much detergent can lead to over-long wash cycles and mechanical failure.


But is laundry detergent even necessary? According to MSN, the answer is usually no. In one reporter's unscientific tests, all her clothes came out just as clean without detergent as they did with detergent.
"Minor stains that I thought would come through unscathed actually washed out. A pair of fluffy cotton socks, which I wear around the house and patio as slippers, was pretty grimy when I put them in the washer. They came out looking exactly the same as they do when they’re washed with detergent.
The socks, which are three or four years old, always have a little gray on the bottom -- no amount of detergent or bleach gets it out. If anything, they actually look a little better than the last time I ran them through the washer.
Peeking into the machine during the wash cycle, I found that the water looked exactly as dirty as it does when I’ve added detergent, only without the suds. The rinse cycle ran clear as tap water."
How can this work? Because modern washing machines clean primarily through their agitators, not through detergent.

I'm not quite ready to give up detergent for really dirty clothes (baby poop and caked on mud, for example), but I was already using only a few tablespoons of laundry detergent for most loads. So I tried this experiment myself and had similar results to the MSN reporter. Wow! Imagine the cost savings! And since laundry detergent is to blame for many rashes, eczema, and dry skin, there could be additional savings from using lotion and Cortizone-10.

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Jan 16, 2010

Dollar Stretching Saturday: Saving $ on Kids' Clothes and Shoes

Imagine a retailer that will replace your children's clothes or shoes if they wear them out before outgrowing them. Seem like a fantasy? It's not. Good ol' Sears offers this deal through their KidVantage program:

"You want the kids’ clothes and shoes you buy to last—especially in today’s economy. That’s why KidVantage Club members get this great guarantee: if the kids’ clothes or shoes you buy at Sears wear out before they’re outgrown, we’ll replace them for free. You’ll get an identical item, whenever possible, or a similar item of equal value in the same size. Please note that you must present your receipt to replace worn-out national brand clothing and shoes."


There is no fee to join KidVantage, although you must sign up for the program before you can take advantage of the guarantee. There is also no time restriction on the guarantee, and KidVantage members also earn regular discounts. Learn more at Sears' website.

(Of course, if your kids have lots of clothes and shoes, they probably won't wear them out before they outgrow them. So buy your kids fewer clothes! This will also make laundry easier to handle.)

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Oct 30, 2009

Teach Little Ones to Put on their Own Jackets

Toddlers and preschoolers are notorious for saying "I'll do it!" Toddler and preschoolers are also notorious for hating to put on a jacket. Make trait #1 put trait #2 to rest by teaching your toddler or preschooler to put on his or her own jacket. She will love the independence, and it's really not difficult, as long as you use an old trick.

1. Place the jacket on the floor, the right side facing down.

2. Have your child stand at the head of the jacket and place her arms inside the sleeves. It will look like she's about to put on her jacket backwards and upside down.

3. Have your child flip the jacket over her head. Viola! It's on correctly and you or your child can now zip it up.


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Oct 26, 2009

Get Out From Under the Laundry Pile

Before I had kids, keeping up with the laundry was no big deal. When our first child came along, I still managed pretty well. But when our youngest child entered the household? Somehow things went amuck.

My husband began giving me withering looks when he discovered, in the wee hours of the morning, he didn't have any shirts appropriate for work. I started digging through the hamper for the jeans I wore the day before (you know, the ones with baby food splattered on them) because I couldn't find any clean clothes. And I began making my oldest wear her chocolate milk stained jammies two nights in a row because I couldn't otherwise seem to keep up with demand.

I won't say I have the laundry thing mastered. However, I have learned a few tricks that make the laundry pile easier to get through. Maybe some of my ideas will work for you, too:

* My best laundry tip is this: Instead of reserving one (or two or three) days a week for doing laundry, do laundry every day except the Sabbath. This keeps the laundry pile under control and makes the chore of cleaning clothes a lot easier. Through trial and error, figure out how many loads you must do each day; in my house, I only need to do one load of laundry, six days a week. Make it a habit, and it will soon become no big deal. Try hard not to skip a day, but if you do, make up for it the very next day.

* If you have room to store them in the laundry or bedroom areas, keep one laundry basket for every bedroom. As you pull things from the dryer or clothes line, sort them room by room into the laundry baskets. If you have time, fold as you sort. Then place the basket in the appropriate bedroom. Put the clothes away later, if necessary, or have the kids put away their own clothes.

* Get the kids involved. Even toddlers can help with the laundry by bringing you dirty clothes and pulling out all the socks, or all of daddy's shirts, or all their own undies, for folding by you. Preschoolers can begin to help with folding and putting clothes away so that by the time they are in grade school they can do this chore easily. (No, they won't fold everything - or perhaps anything - perfectly, but a few wrinkles never hurt anyone.)

* Treat stains before they go into the hamper. If I put Spray N Wash Stain Stick on clothes as they go into the hamper, by the time I do laundry, they usually wash out and I don't have to spend time soaking or otherwise pre-treating. This means I keep a stick wherever clothes might come off, including the bathroom and the kids' rooms.

* Wear clothes more than once. Truly, many clothes can be worn more than once without washing in between. Unless it's smelly or shows dirt, hang it up to wear another day.

* Buy fewer clothes. I know some women who literally buy their kids several wardrobes of clothes because they are always behind on laundry. If you do laundry every day, you don't need as many clothes, which saves you time and money.

* Save time and effort by hanging any items that go on hangers as you take them out of the dryer or off the clothesline. This means you'll need a stash of hangers nearby.

* Mark children's socks with the appropriate child's initials, using puffy fabric paint on the soles. This makes sorting a lot easier.

* Don't separate darks from lights. This may seem revolutionary to some, but I stopped doing separating darks from lights several years ago, and my family's clothes look just fine. If I'm washing new, dark clothes I think might bleed, I wash them separately once, with a cup of vinegar or salt in the wash water.


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Oct 24, 2009

Dollar Stretching Saturday: Bras

Does it seem like your bras don't stay well-fitting for very long? Here's a tip that can really extend the life of your bras and make you more comfortable, too.

When you buy a new bra, choose one that fits well when it's fastened on the last hook. That way, when the bra inevitably stretches, you can adjust the hooks and it will still fit well.

According to MyIntimacy, most of the support you get is from the band, not the straps, making this little precaution even more important. For more bra fitting and life-extending tips, check out MyIntimacy.com.

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