Naturally Clean for Spring

Family Features  |  2016-02-02

A Surprising Way to Make Spring Cleaning Simple

(Family Features) Wiping away the grime of winter doesn’t have to mean launching an attack with dangerous chemicals. As you tackle this year’s spring cleaning chores, take a note from Mother Nature and rely on the cleaning power of a surprisingly effective natural product: vinegar.

During the last century, vinegar has become increasingly recognized as a low cost and eco-friendly household product. From cooking and canning, to cleaning items indoors and out, homeowners are discovering that this eco-friendly, acetic liquid is as versatile as it is useful.

“Cleaning with vinegar has always been an effective way to banish dirt and grime in kitchens, bathrooms, the garage and the outdoors,” said Mike Smith, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Mizkan Americas, the makers of Four Monks Cleaning Vinegar.

Despite its strong cleaning power, vinegar does have one downfall: its distinctive odor. You can experiment with dozens of DIY recipes online to overcome this dilemma, or you can rely on a store-bought non-toxic cleaning vinegar such as Four Monks, which is made from a proprietary process that reduces the strong aroma and leaves a clean, crisp scent.

Learn how vinegar can make it easier to tackle common tasks around the house with these hacks and discover more uses for cleaning vinegar at VinegarTips.com.

In the Kitchen
Clean off the blades of a well-worn can opener with an old toothbrush soaked with vinegar to help remove dirt and grease.

Clean your ice/water dispenser by running vinegar through the system. Flush the vinegar out by running water through the system for 30-60 seconds.

Rid your dishwasher of mineral buildup by pouring half a cup of vinegar into the reservoir and running an empty cycle. You can also use vinegar in the dishwasher instead of another glass cleaner to keep your glassware sparkling.

Renew sponges and dishrags by placing them in just enough water to cover them. Then add one-fourth cup of vinegar and let them soak overnight.

Remove dark stains on an aluminum pot by boiling two cups of vinegar. For stained and smelly plastic food containers and lunchboxes, wipe them with a cloth dampened with vinegar.

To clean a grease-splattered oven door window, saturate it with vinegar. Keep the door open for 10-15 minutes before wiping with a sponge.

Deodorize the garbage disposal by pouring in half a cup of baking soda and half a cup of vinegar. Let sit for five minutes then run hot water down the disposal.

Avoid using toxic chemicals where you store food; wipe up spills in the fridge with vinegar.

In the Bathroom
Rid a faucet of lime deposits by tying a plastic bag containing one-third to one-half cup of vinegar around it and leaving it there for two or three hours. Wipe down with a sponge and scrub any remaining deposits with an old toothbrush. The same approach can be used to remove buildup on a showerhead.

The fizzing combo of vinegar and baking soda can unclog and remove odor from a tub drain. Pour half a cup of baking soda in the drain, then follow with two cups of hot vinegar. Immediately plug the drain with a rag to keep the bubbles contained for 10 minutes. Rinse by pouring a kettle of boiling hot water down the drain.

Spray shower doors with vinegar after you’ve squeegeed the glass – or before you turn on the water – to help release hard water deposits.

Clean shower door tracks by filling them with vinegar and letting it sit for a few hours. Pour hot water into the tracks and scrub away any remaining film with a toothbrush.

To make the toilet bowl sparkle, pour in a cup or more of vinegar and let it sit for several hours or overnight. Scrub well with the toilet brush and flush.

Remove old bathtub decals with vinegar heated in the microwave.

In the Laundry Room
Remove coffee and tea stains by flushing the area with vinegar, rinsing and repeating. For wine stains, saturate the spot with vinegar and allow it to stand for several minutes. Then, wash as normal. Tip: For more delicate fabrics or precaution, test on an inconspicuous part of the garment first.

Restore yellowed clothing by soaking garments overnight in a solution of 12 parts warm water and one part vinegar. Wash them the following morning.

Soak new garments in a few cups of vinegar for 10-15 minutes before washing to stop dyes from running in the wash.

If frequent ironing has left your iron plate dirty, make a paste from one part vinegar and one part salt to scrub it clean.

Remove scorch marks from an iron by rubbing it with a warm solution of equal parts vinegar and salt. If that doesn’t work, use a cloth dampened with vinegar.

Forgot that you left wet laundry in the machine and it now smells moldy? Pour a few cups of vinegar in the machine and wash the clothes in hot water. Then run a normal cycle with detergent to rinse the clothes.

Prevent lint from clinging to clothes by adding half a cup of vinegar to the wash cycle.

What Is Vinegar?
Vinegar is the acetic liquid that results when a product containing sugar is allowed to ferment. Vinegar can be created from nearly any product containing sugar; fruit and grains, such as barley and corn, are common sources of vinegar.

The ingredients in vinegar depend on the type of vinegar produced. For example, Four Monks uses distilled vinegar processed from corn, so it’s safe for your family. All vinegars are diluted with water to the preferred acidity before bottling. Four Monks has 6 percent acidity, which is 20 percent stronger than traditional vinegar, but gentle on everyday surfaces. This acetic quality is what enables vinegar to effectively clean while being safe for the body and the environment.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

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Source: Four Monks

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3 Tips for Breaking the DIY Barrier

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-21

(BPT) - Whether inspired by countless cable shows or the desire to have the perfect kitchen, more Americans are doing their own home improvement projects. Laying hardwood floors, installing plumbing and replacing windows has become another DIY task like changing your oil.

Consider these following tips in determining how to tackle your next job.

Assess the job

Define what you want to accomplish. Determine your timetable, budget and the project scale and scope. Match your tools from there.

Research the project and tools

Many people turn to professionals for jobs they could do themselves because they don't know what tools they need. To avoid the high cost of hiring a professional, research tool reviews, equipment magazines and even retailer websites like Northern Tool + Equipment to help guide you with your tool selection.

One’s skill level also plays a factor when it comes time to choose a tool. A veteran DIYer might not need some tools someone performing a project for the first time might. And to fit these needs, purchasing specialized tools like the Ironton Rotary Hammer Drill allows you to do a specific task - like drilling through concrete - while avoiding the cost of hiring a contractor.

Consider ROI

Look in depth at the tool you need to buy and at the different brands on the market that fit for your budget. Private label brands often offer value. And instead of bouncing from one hardware store to the next, utilize product comparison tools online to compare and contrast product life, value, capabilities and quality to determine the best ROI.

While DIY projects often save money, they also provide an enhanced pride in ownership associated with seeing your handiwork. With the right tools, you can tackle any home improvement project. Ultimately it’s the person who makes the tool, not vice versa. So grab your tool belt, slide on your work gloves and get it done.

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5 Smart Upgrades for the Most-Used Rooms in Your Home

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-19

Solar powered fresh air skylights with energy efficient designer blinds in the kitchen can save valuable wall space for storage while providing natural light, passive ventilation and style.  Solar powered skylights and blinds, along with installation costs, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit.

(BPT) - Kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms are typically the rooms in any home that get the most use, which could also be why homeowners, when surveyed, consistently cite those rooms as the ones they most want to renovate. It makes perfect sense to upgrade the rooms where you spend the most time, but in high-traffic areas, you can’t afford to make changes just for the sake of cosmetics. You want improvements that can enhance your enjoyment of a room and its functionality.

Here are five smart improvements to make in the rooms users of Ranker.com voted as the most popular ones in their homes: kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms and game rooms.

1. Add natural light

Most rooms in the home look better and are more functional in natural light, and more daylight can help reduce the need for artificial light. What’s more, there’s no arguing the positive mental and physical health effects of natural light. Daylight stimulates the body to produce Vitamin D and boosts brain levels of serotonin, which is thought to be associated with positive moods.

Adding skylights is a practical, cost-effective and attractive way to bring more natural light into virtually any room. Remote-controlled, solar-powered fresh-air skylights from Velux America provide not just natural light, but passive ventilation, a real plus in kitchens and baths. Adding solar powered blinds, in designer colors and patterns, increases energy efficiency while giving you total control over the amount of sunlight entering a room through the skylight.

In kitchens, Energy Star-qualified fresh air skylights increase natural light and ventilation without requiring any loss of wall space you could better use for cabinetry. In bathrooms, they provide the perfect combination of privacy and healthful natural light and ventilation.

If you already have older glass or plastic bubble skylights, you can upgrade to the latest solar powered models, plus solar blinds, and receive a 30 percent federal tax credit on the products as well as installation costs. You can even bring more natural light into rooms or areas without direct roof access, like half-baths, closets and hallways, with Sun Tunnel tubular skylights. Visit www.whyskylights.com to learn more.

2. Add organization/storage

Clutter and chaos not only make a room function less efficiently, it can impact your mood as well. Adding organization and storage to rooms where clutter typically collects - such as bedrooms, living rooms and game rooms - is an easy, cost-effective way to improve the function of the room and how you feel about spending time in it.

In bedrooms, maximize closet space by installing organization units. A variety of manufacturers offer ready-made units you can install yourself. Or, for a bit more investment, you can have a professional closet organizer custom-make a unit to fit your space and needs. In living rooms and game rooms, built-in shelving and cabinetry is a functional and beautiful way to improve organization.

3. Improve ventilation

Air flow is critical to the health of your home and everyone who lives in it. Ventilation in kitchens and bathrooms carries away excess moisture that can cause mold and mildew, and creates a fresher, more healthful environment by exhausting stale indoor air.

Bathrooms should be equipped with exhaust fans, and kitchen hoods should vent to the exterior of your home whenever possible. You can further improve ventilation by installing Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered fresh-air skylights, like those made by Velux. Because these skylights open, they provide passive ventilation to allow stale indoor air to escape and admit fresh air. A sensor operates a motor to close the skylights automatically in case of rain.

4. Replace older, inefficient fixtures and appliances

Fixtures and appliances are key elements of kitchens and bathrooms. Older ones not only look dated and shabby, they can cost you money because they use more electricity and water than newer, more efficient models.

Replacing old faucets, shower heads, dishwashers and washing machines with newer models that use less water can reduce your water bill and give kitchens and bathrooms a whole new look. Energy Star-qualified appliances such as stoves, clothes dryers, refrigerators and washers also use less electricity than older appliances, so you can also lower your energy bills.

5. Freshen the foundations

Every room benefits from a good foundation, and that doesn’t just mean sturdy flooring. Wall color, flooring materials and trim are fundamental elements in any room. Simply repainting walls and woodwork can completely change the way any room looks. Or, if you like the colors you have, a fresh coat in the same color will make the room look brighter and newer. Replacing worn carpeting or dated tiles, or refinishing a hardwood floor are also great ways to improve the foundations of any room.

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Getting an Early Start on Spring

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-14

(BPT) - As soon as the first morning frost appears and the first snowflakes start to pile up, many begin looking forward to spring. Images of green leaves, red and orange blossoms, fresh vegetables and herbs help keep the cold winter days manageable as you wait for the ground to thaw so you can start planting. A good green thumb knows early starts in the garden or yard ensure lush, healthy plants, especially if you’re planting trees.

Many people do not realize that they shouldn’t wait for summer. Young trees do best when they are put into the ground in spring and have ample time to establish themselves in the soil before either extremes of heat of cold hit.

Therefore, if part of your winter landscaping daydreams include planting trees, it’s important to know you’ll need to be ready to plant early. Winter is an opportunity to begin planning.

Five simple ways trees are practical and beautiful

Few things can be so practical and as beautiful as a tree. It’s no wonder that with the rising popularity of the do-it-yourself lifestyle, more people are deciding to plant trees in their yard. Here are five simple reasons why:

  1. A mature tree can add up to $10,000 to your property value.

  2. Trees can reduce energy costs by providing shade to a house in the summer.

  3. Trees naturally offset carbon emissions.

  4. Because many change from season to season, trees add a variety of different colors to your yard and allow for a range of creative choices and combinations.

  5. Trees help make memories. Watching a tree grow in your yard from year to year builds a connection between you, your family, your home and the memories you make there.

An easy way to get started

The nonprofit Arbor Day Foundation is encouraging people to get an early start on their tree planting this year by offering 10 free flowering trees with a $10 membership. Which 10 flowering trees a new member will receive is based on what the state forester recommends or other trees selected for your area to ensure they thrive when planted.

The 6 to 12-inch trees are guaranteed to grow and are currently scheduled to be shipped in March or April, a perfect time for optimal, early season planting. So if you’re already getting excited about spring projects, visit www.arborday.org/earlyplanting to make sure your trees arrive at the right time for planting where you live.

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Homeowners Liable for Snow, Ice Control

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-12

(BPT) - During the winter months, it’s common to see shopping centers and business owners out and about clearing snow and ice from pathways, parking spaces and entrances. But this isn’t just good business to help customers get in the door - it’s also a liability issue should someone slip and fall and injure themselves. Homeowners, too, face similar, albeit more limited, liability if they fail to take adequate steps to remove such slippery hazards from their property.

Generally speaking, homeowners are responsible for limiting dangers on their property, but in some cases, this can also extend to public sidewalks abutting your home. In some localities, governments also require homeowners clear snow and ice or face fines. A regional survey of county and municipal agencies conducted by the Salt Institute found 83 percent have written policies directing property owners to remove accumulated snow and ice "within 24 hours of the end of the snowstorm." Penalties for property owners not complying can range from nominal tickets, to misdemeanors punishable by up to 90 days in jail, to fines of up to $500.

Shoveling snow is simple, but ice removal is another matter, and nothing works better to remove or prevent ice from forming than salt. Salt lowers water’s freezing point, the temperature at which it changes from a liquid to a solid and vice versa. The most effective way to use salt is to melt the snow or ice that is right at the pavement. If you can do this, then you will find it much easier to shovel the snow or ice from the sidewalk. This process, preventing water from freezing in the first place, is called anti-icing. It is best achieved by putting salt (or some other anti-icing material) down on the sidewalk when a freeze or a snowfall is expected. In contrast, melting water already frozen is called deicing and in this case salt is applied once ice appears. It still works, but is less efficient than anti-icing.

Commercially available anti-icing materials include salt (sodium chloride), calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium acetate and calcium magnesium acetate. Each has its advantages and disadvantages but salt remains the best choice for use at temperatures above 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-9.4 degrees Celsius). For extremely low temperatures, look for a mixture using calcium or magnesium chloride instead.

Laws regarding snow and ice clearing vary by state and from locality to locality, but most mandate some action must be taken within a reasonable time period (often 24 hours) after it stops snowing. For example, the Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act states that any owner who "removes or attempts to remove snow or ice from sidewalks abutting the property shall not be liable for any personal injuries allegedly caused by the snowy or icy condition of the sidewalk resulting from his or her acts or omissions unless the alleged misconduct was willful or wanton."

The dangers from slips and falls should not be taken lightly, especially for the elderly. Each year thousands are rushed to emergency rooms as a result of icy falls with injuries that could have easily been prevented. One enterprising hospital, St. Vincent’s in Indianapolis, Indiana even decided to give away road salt to local residents to try and prevent such injuries and the resulting emergency room visits. In the end, the person who is most likely to slip and fall is the homeowner themselves.

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Four Steps to Protect Your Home from Winter Water Damage

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-05

(BPT) - Rain, sleet, ice and snow - no matter what form it’s in, precipitation can lead to major winter damage resulting in many issues for home and business owners. Icy roads, ruptured pipes and ice dams are all complications brought on by winter water, and the threat may be even greater this season according to national weather predictions.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting this winter to be wetter-than-average in many parts of the country. Additionally, when you consider the threat of El Nino looming for certain regions, proper seasonal preparation is especially important this year.

“When it comes to winter weather, it pays to be prepared for the worst,” says Peter Duncanson, director, disaster restoration system development at ServiceMaster Restore. “Preparing now is important, as excessive precipitation combined with freezing or near-freezing temperatures can cause significant damage overnight.”

To protect yourself and your home from winter’s harshest weather, here are four must-do tips from the experts at ServiceMaster Restore.

  • Understand your insurance policy. If something goes wrong at your house, you want to know you’re covered. That means now is the perfect time to review your insurance policy closely. As you do so, pay special attention to what is and is not specifically covered, as it applies to winter weather conditions. You may find gaps in your policy where additional coverage is needed.

  • Keep your gutters flowing. Your gutters are one of your home’s most important defense mechanisms when it comes to water removal - but only if you keep them clean. Clear your gutters of debris as soon as possible and repair any leaks to ensure proper water flow. Keeping your gutters clear does more than just rid your home of excess water, it also stops the possibility of ice dams - a very expensive seasonal hazard. Once your gutters are clean, make sure your downspouts are clear of debris as well, and that they properly divert water several feet away from your home’s foundation.

  • Fortify your foundation. Water damage to your home’s foundation can easily cost thousands of dollars so it’s worth your time to reinforce it in advance. Take a trip around your house and inspect the foundation for cracks or small holes where water can seep in. Even a few inches of water can damage your carpet, drywall, wood floors or the foundation itself.
  • Prevent pipes from freezing. A frozen pipe that ruptures can be one of the most destructive winter water accidents. To protect against frozen pipes, insulate your home’s outdoor pipes with a faucet cover or even a towel. You should also ensure pipes that border an exterior wall are well insulated. This will keep the pipes warm and reduce their risk of bursting. On the coldest nights, it’s a good idea to open faucets a small amount, allowing water to drip into a drain to keep water moving through the pipe. You can also leave cabinet doors open underneath sinks to circulate air and protect against freezing.

Follow these four steps to help your home enter the spring nice and dry. To learn more about ServiceMaster Restore, visit ServiceMasterRestore.com.

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Winter Tree Trimming: Why The Season of White Is a Great Time to Think Green

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-05

(BPT) - Is your winter tree maintenance limited to trimming the Christmas tree? If so, you’re missing out on one of the season’s most important home projects. Many homeowners pay little attention to their trees and bushes once colder weather arrives, but seasonal maintenance done during these months can be incredibly beneficial, not only for the plant but for you as well.

So grab your tools and your gloves because it’s time to get started on your winter tree pruning.

Why is winter tree pruning important?

Think of winter tree pruning as a head start. Pruning trees and shrubs during the dormant cycle ensures they will have a full growing season when spring arrives. In addition to the longer growing season, winter is also a good time to prune because colder temperatures reduce the risk of disease or pests attacking the plant.

Finally, pruning your trees during winter is also an easy way to protect your home from dying or diseased branches that may pose a falling risk. This is especially true in regions where heavy snowfall is common.

What trees or shrubs should you prune during the winter?

There are several species of trees or shrubs that can be pruned during the winter months, but you can categorize them into three easy-to-remember groups:

  • Hardwood trees. Pruning hardwood trees in the winter is easy thanks to their lack of foliage. Branches should be cut just above the branch collar - the space where the limb and the tree come together. This area of the tree is rich in anti-microbial chemicals to help the tree heal from the pruning without suffering decay. Clippers can be used to trim smaller branches, but for larger sections or dying plants, use the Husqvarna 450 chainsaw. This all-around powerful saw features the X-Torq engine for lower fuel consumption and emission levels without a drop-off in power. Its auto return stop switch makes it easier to handle, perfect for those spots where you need to make that precise cut.
  • Fruit trees. Similar to their hardwood cousin, winter is also a great time to prune fruit trees. Each species of fruit tree has special considerations you must take into account, however, so research your species before pruning. Once you’re finished, your efforts will be rewarded in the spring with larger, more delicious fruit.

  • Shrubs and/or trees that flower. Want the best blooms next summer? Prune any tree or shrub that flowers after May 15, late in the winter. To handle those projects efficiently, use the Husqvarna 136LiHD45 hedge trimmer. This trimmer features advanced battery technology for optimal power output, and their one-touch keypad makes it easy to get the job done right without excess battery loss.

When do you start pruning?

Branches that pose a falling risk should be handled immediately, but if you want to maximize the spring growing season, late winter is the time to prune. Start your project with the right tools and you’ll support fuller, healthier plant growth during the spring, giving you another great reason to say goodbye to winter.

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