Monday, December 31, 2012

Cleaning Your Humidifier

I don't know about your house, but everywhere I've lived we've always had a very dry house in winter. I get frizzy hair, dry skin, and the cats are static balls. It's been so bad this year that their water bowls evaporate by the end of the day - and normally I refill them once a week. A humidifier works so well to cure that problem, especially at night.

But how much thought have you given to making sure that it's kept clean? Think about it. It's a water reservoir, that's sole job is to create a warm humid place. And what loves warm humid places? Mold. Not something you want growing anywhere in your house.

And what else can muck it up? Using water with minerals in it. Anyone with well-water has surely seen the effects of too much iron on their toilets at some point or another. Not using distilled water can muck up the plumbing, and vaporize the minerals so that they're spread throughout your house and you breathe them in. Now I don't know what health effects that would carry with it, but it doesn't sound good either way!

So it's important to clean your humidifier, and regularly. Weekly is a good standard. To clean the filter, rinse it in water and let air dry. Don't use any sort of chemicals, as they can damage the filter (and who wants to buy a new part they didn't need?).

To clean the water tank, pour in vinegar and let it soak in half an hour. Clean with a soft brush so that you don't damage the plastic. Do this as many times as necessary, though once is often enough. Rinse it well with water, to make sure you don't end up with the lovely smell and effect of vinegar in your air.

To disinfect (though vinegar does a bang up job), use 1 tps of 3% hydrogen peroxide per gallon of water in the tank, and like the vinegar let it sit. Then rinse, and put it back together. Not too complicated, is it?

You can get more information here.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fish Tank Cleaning Tips

<i>Pictured Above: "Pleco - The Algae Eater"<br>
<a href=I haven't had fish in years, but anyone who has one knows that even the goldfish in a bowl still requires some upkeep beyond throwing some food into the tank daily.

Green algae forms quickly and is the biggest indicator that you need to clean. To stay on top of it, get an algae eating fish like the plecostomus, a type of catfish (in the picture). They come in a whole host of sizes, but finding one in a pet store is a good bet that it won't outgrow your aquarium. The more fish you have and the bigger thank, the better idea it is to get a little cleaning buddy to make things a little easier on you. To clean the algae yourself, it's a safe bet to get an algae scrubber and scrub the sides before dumping out the water so that you can get the worst cleaned in one fell swoop.

Instead of changing the water too often, remove 10%-20% once a week. It'll freshen the water, but leave some of the fish bacteria that is beneficial to them. You don't need to get any special filtered water from the store, tap water is fine. But do a quick check that your water is not chlorinated for the fish's sake. A lot of cities chlorinate their water, but a lot also remove that chlorine long before the water makes it to your house.

To clean the gravel in a small tank, just rinse it out in a strainer whenever you change the water. Do this a few times until the water runs pretty clean, but don't worry about cleaning them too well. As mentioned above, a little bacteria won't hurt the fish and is actually good for them. If you have a bigger tank, you may want to look into a special vacuum you can use to clear up the debris while the tank is still full (but any fish are removed!)

Finally, make sure to keep the filter clean if your tank needs one. But don't switch and clean all filter parts at once, to keep that good bacteria in the tank!


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Post-Christmas Laundry Tips

laundry tips 8Merry belated Christmas! I know in my home, the best Christmas's gifts are often clothes. Especially now with our quickly growing daughter! In that light, here are a few laundry tips:
  • Add a 1/4 cup (use this amount as a base, you may want more or less) baking soda to the powdered detergent cup in the washer. This helps whiten whites, as well as removes any detergent or softener buildup, making clothes softer and returning towels back to their original absorbency.
  • In the winter, hang clothes to dry on shower rods and over heating vents. Make sure your washer has a good spin so that they dry properly and don't drip. This will not only save you money, but will help to keep the air in your house a little less dry. (source)
  • Use a felted dryer ball instead of dryer sheets. For more information, see my post on dryer balls here.
  • Conversely, make your own dryer sheets. They are less work than making a dryer ball, and you can use your favorite fabric softener with them as well. 
  • To whiten whites without bleach (an alternative to baking soda), boil a pot of water with cut lemons and soak the whites in the hot water. It'll not only whiten your whites, but make your house and laundry smell fantastic!
  • Remove grease stains with corn starch or vinegar.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Silverware (& Anything Else) Cleaner

miracle cleanerSilverware will at some point get spots, especially cheap silverware. To get the spots off, all you need is a simple baking soda and hydrogen peroxide paste. Mix enough of the two together for a thick paste, and then rub it onto the stain or buildup to clean it quickly and easily. According to blogger Jillee at One Good Thing, this works not just on spots and stains on silverware, but stuck on paper gunk and mess almost anywhere. Head on over to her blog to see a full picture-laden tutorial. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

How to Grow Candy Canes

I don't remember where I saw this originally, but a very cute idea for your kids this time of year is "growing" candy canes. The idea is that they get magic candy cane seeds/dust, whichever you prefer. It can come in a note from the North Pole, from you Elf of the Shelf, or even "bought" at the store. To make the dust/seeds, crush some candy canes or mints, or keep mints whole or halved. To create fertilizer, use glitter mixed with talcum powder. Large glitter works best, or dye large sea salt red or green and let it dry (be wary, the salt takes several days to dry, unless you have a dehydrator). Put this in a separate container from the seeds/dust, and write a letter on how to "grow" the candy canes to the children. Include a pot of fake snow/sand/whatever you wish, and help your little ones to plant the seeds/dust, then fertilize it. If you wish, they can water it again. After one or two days, replace the seeds with whole candy canes before the kids wake up. They'll be amazed at the magic that happens when their seeds grow up! If you wish, you can also have the candy canes "grow" in increments, breaking whole canes into smaller portions that increase in height daily. For a description of the process that includes photos, visit A Dragonfly's Red Thread Family.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Easy Winter Car Fixes

My husband hates scraping windows. His solution is to carry a big bottle of windshield wiper solution, the kind that is supposed to de-ice, in the trunk. He pours it out over the windows that he'd otherwise have to scrape. However, I'd like him to use something that is more earth-friendly. The cost isn't really a problem, as a big jug lasts about a month of bad weather, and costs roughly $3.50. Through looking around, I was able to find a good alternative, as well as other winter car trouble tricks. Some great tips I found, that are more earth-friendly:

Wipe or spray vinegar on your windows before the storm and freezing, as acetic acid raises the melting point of water.Mix it three parts vinegar to one part water. Spray it on the frozen windshield as well, to melt the ice.

Rubbing alcohol should keep the wipers from skipping and squealing when rubbed on. While this doesn't defrost the windows, it helps keep the windshield clear and your nerves from fraying :)

Shaving cream can be used to keep the inside from fogging. Spray on, wipe off. Don't worry any more about window fog!

Cooking spray keeps the doors from freezing shut.

Car wax keeps the headlights and taillights clear from snow and other winter goop.

Hand sanitizer unfreezes the door locks and handles


Monday, December 3, 2012

Dust Your Christmas Wreath

Salt used to decorate wreathSo this one is actually very well-timed. I love wreaths on my front door, but they don't look too great when they're covered in dust. So to clean them - easiliy - put them in a bag big enough to hold the wreath, and add around 1/4 cup of salt, depending on the size of the wreath. Use a bigger grain, or you'll be right back where you started with the mess. Put them together in the bag, and shake until clean. If it's a pinecone wreath like on the left, or any other one that has lots of tiny areas to hold the salt, you may have to shake the wreath outside to remove the salt residue. Hang it up on the door, and you've got a pretty, fresh wreath.