Author Archives: Sarah Littleton


Genius! DIY Portable Fire Pit

A streamlined, modern fire pit makes your outdoor living area look like a million bucks, and it costs only $25 to make.

DIY Portable Fire Pit

Photo: theartofdoingstuff.com

Karen loves fires—summer bonfires, barbecues, and winter evenings spent ’round the living room hearth. Even so, she’d hesitated to add a fire pit to her backyard patio. But when she saw a portable fire pit her sister had made, Karen realized that during the so-called “shoulder” months—March, for example, or September—a small, portable fire feature would not be an eye-catching decorative addition to her outdoor living space, but would also afford a few extra weeks of patio season.

On her blog, The Art of Doing Stuff, Karen provides a step-by-step tutorial for building a DIY portable fire pit that looks about $300 more expensive than it actually costs to assemble—$25. The patinated metal base of the fire pit actually started out as planter. Karen got hers on sale at a garden center. Meanwhile, the glass components are repurposed from a quartet of cheap picture frames that were lying around her house, as if it waiting patiently for a second chance in life.

DIY Portable Fire Pit - Process Shot

Photo: theartofdoingstuff.com

With clear marine silicone (available at hardware stores and home centers), Karen adhered the glass panels both to each other and to the planter base. Then, having measured the space within the chamber, she cut a piece of metal mesh that would fit perfectly inside. Before placing in the mesh, though, Karen added her secret ingredient, gel fuel. Sold in small, low-cost canisters, gel fuel burns cleanly, and though it produces no smoke, its flames look convincingly like those of a genuine wood fire. The mesh layer separates the pebbles from the gel, while concealing the canister even from those standing right next to the fire pit. To ignite the gel, simply inch the pebbles aside and administer a flame by means of a long kitchen match—or take a cue from Karen, who likes to use a spaghetti strand!

If you enjoy splitting wood, hauling logs, and disposing of ashes—tasks often entailed by a traditional fire pit—this isn’t the DIY for you. But if you love the minimal maintenance requirements of Karen’s version, her ingenious tabletop version, clean-lined and modern, may be the perfect addition to your deck, porch, or patio.

FOR MORE: The Art of Doing Stuff

DIY Portable Fire Pit - Close Up View

Photo: theartofdoingstuff.com


How To: Patch Carpet

If a section of your carpet has seen better days, why not patch it rather than replace the entire thing? Here's how.

How to Patch Carpet

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Carpeting inevitably undergoes wear and tear, whether from foot traffic or the accidents of everyday life. If those fraying, discoloring factors have concentrated in one particular section of your carpet, you can patch the installation rather than replace the entire thing. Properly planned and executed, a new carpet patch blends seamlessly into the original floor covering while enabling you to side-step the considerable cost of starting from scratch. To learn how to patch carpet, read on.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Utility knife and carpet patch adhesive (or carpet patch kit)
- Carpet patch
- Tape measure
- Heavy-duty tape
- Scissors
- Carpet seam roller

STEP 1
Gather your supplies. If it’s your first time patching a carpet, consider opting for a carpet patch kit. Available at hardware stores and home centers, these contain all you need to complete the project, including an adhesive and some cookie cutter-like tools that facilitate removing the stained or damaged area. Of course, carpet patch kits are not a must. You really only need a utility knife and an adhesive (the glue that’s going to hold the patch in place). Above and beyond tools and materials, the critical prerequisite here is an extra section of carpet that matches what’s already on the floor. If you don’t have any remnants left over from the original installation (and the style has been discontinued), you can, in a pinch, remove a section from an unnoticeable area, be it the closet or beneath a bed.

How to Patch Carpet - Floorcovering Texture

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Look closely at both the existing carpet and the patch. Is the pile biased in a certain direction? If so, you take care to orient the patch so that its pile direction correctly corresponds to the surrounding carpet. As a helpful reminder to yourself, draw an arrow on a piece of tape and stick it to the patch.

STEP 3
Measure the carpet area in need of replacement. If using a carpet patch kit, the included tools make it easy to cut a precise size and shape out of both the existing carpet and the remnant piece. Skipping the patch kit? Simply tape off a square or rectangular section of the stained or damaged carpet.

STEP 4
Using the kit tools or a utility knife, carefully carve out the carpet section you wish to patch, then immediately proceed to prepare the replacement. After measuring and double-checking your measurements, cut the carpet remnant to fit precisely within the now-empty area. For easier and more precise cutting, be sure to lay the patch face down and to cut along its underside.

STEP 5
It’s time to get gluing. Apply the carpet patch adhesive directly to the empty space, followed by the patch itself. (Again, remember to align the carpet fibers so that they lie in the same direction.) Work swiftly, if possible, as the adhesive is likely only to take approximately 15 minutes to dry completely.

STEP 6
With the patch in place, finish with a couple tweaks to make it look as though there’s been no repair. First, use a pair of scissors to trim any long, shaggy carpet fibers that might draw attention. Then, as a last step, go over the area with a carpet seam roller to blend the fibers and hide any visible seams.


Quick Tip: Clean Carpet Stains with a Clothes Iron

Take a cue from professional carpet cleaners and harness the power of steam to remove even months-old stains that have firmly set in.

How to Clean Carpet Stains with a Clothes Iron - Texture

Photo: shutterstock.com

You know and loathe the traditional way to clean a carpet. But however laborious it may be, there’s no doubt that blotting the stain can be effective—so long as you act immediately, before the stain has the chance to set in. What happens, though, if you fail to notice the stain right away? How do you remove it days, weeks, or even months after the fact? One option is to shell out for professional cleaning. Another, less-discussed method involves less hassle and costs nothing at all. The key? Your clothes iron.

How to Clean Carpet Stains with a Clothes Iron - Isolated Appliance

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 1
In a spray bottle, mix together a solution of vinegar (1 part) and water (3 parts). Alternatively, if you’re convinced of the need for extra firepower, combine 1 part clear ammonia with 3 parts hot water. Once ready, liberally spritz the entire stained area and leave it to sit for several minutes.

STEP 2
Now lay an old, light-colored towel over the stain. Since the iron is going to transfer the stain to the fabric of the towel, don’t use one of your favorites! Meanwhile, a light color makes it easy to discern whether or not the method has worked for you. The dirtier your towel, the cleaner your carpet.

STEP 3
With your iron to its highest steam setting, apply it directly to the towel, moving it back and forth over the stained area briefly, for about ten seconds. As you do so, expect the iron to hiss and release steam. Place the iron aside, lift up the towel, and look: You should now see the stain on the towel.

STEP 4
If a mark remains on the carpet, lay the towel back down, being careful to place a clean section of the fabric over the stain. Again, apply the iron directly to the carpet for about ten seconds. With additional attempts, the stain ought to transfer, gradually and completely, from the carpet to the towel. Once you’re satisfied, let the carpet air-dry. Finish by vacuuming the carpet to restore its fluff.

As you work, take pains not to allow the iron to come into contact with the carpet (as opposed to the towel). The heat of the appliance can singe or melt the carpet fibers, whether natural or synthetic.


How To: Clean a Refrigerator

While you may cringe upon opening the door to a dirty fridge, even more upsetting is how the appliance may be affecting your electric bill. Clean your refrigerator today, not only for cosmetic and health reasons, but for financial reasons as well.

How To Clean A Refrigerator

Photo: shutterstock.com

As the only home appliance to host a rotating population of mess-making foods, it’s no wonder the refrigerator ranks as the quickest of all to get seriously grimy. Within only a week, splatters and drips, leakage and smells take hold and compromise, not only the appearance of your fridge (and your mood upon opening it), but also its energy efficiency. That means a fridge you haven’t cleaned is a fridge that’s costing you more than it should on your month-to-month energy bills. So if you were looking for a reason to clean the refrigerator, you’ve finally got one—money! To do a thorough job it, follow the simple series of steps detailed below.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Coil brush
- Vacuum with attachments
- Soft cloths
- Rubbing alcohol
- Vinegar
- Dishwashing detergent
- Warm water
- Sponge
- Toothbrush
- Baking soda

STEP 1
Start by unplugging the fridge. Next, locate the condenser coils; these may be on the back of the unit or on its bottom side. If the coils are on the back, pull the unit away from the wall and then use a coil brush (a tool well worth its low cost) to free whatever dust and dirt has accumulated there. If the coils are on the bottom of the fridge, you need not go through the trouble of moving the appliance, but you do have to hunker down so as to manipulate the coil brush toward the target area. In either case, sweep up or vacuum all the stuff your brushing has brought to light—there may be quite a bit, if you haven’t cleaned the coils before.

STEP 2
Empty the refrigerator of all contents and put them aside. In the process of doing so, take the opportunity to purge any items that are past their expiration date. When it comes to choosing a cleaning solution, you may prefer something store-bought, but the following homemade version works well, too. Mix 1 teaspoon rubbing alcohol, 1 teaspoon vinegar, and warm water into a spray bottle. Add in a few drops of dish detergent, then shake it up. While the alcohol and vinegar cut through tough stains, the detergent works to eliminate grease and disinfect. It’s a potent cleaning cocktail, to be sure, but using it won’t make you want to retch.

“]How To Clean a Refrigerator - Compartment

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 3
Take out any shelves or drawers that are removable, place them on the counter, and clean them one by one in the sink. Spray each with your cleaning cocktail, then scrub with a sponge. Once you’ve cleaned one, rinse it off and move to the next. As they all air-dry, proceed to cleaning the inside of the fridge.

STEP 4
Start at the top and work your way down, spraying the back and side walls along with any fixed-in-place shelving. Use the sponge to scrub any areas with stubborn food residue, and follow up with a paper towel to clean up the excess spray. Where crevices have collected crumbs, use an old toothbrush or a similar tool. Pay special attention to where the drawers sit, and don’t forget to address the pocket panels on the door. Finish by tackling the door edges as well as the door seal (go gentle on the latter).

STEP 5
Now it’s time to clean the refrigerator exterior. Spray and wipe it down on all sides; go over the door handles more than once, as they are likely to harbor both finger smudges and germs. Note that if yours is a stainless steel appliance, special cleaning techniques apply. Do not use any product that contains bleach, and shy away from any abrasive scrubbing pads that might leave scratches behind. Opt instead for a damp, soapy washcloth. For extra firepower, mix together baking soda and liquid dish soap, then apply the paste with a nylon scrubbie. As a last step, wipe away all remaining suds with a damp towel.

STEP 6
Plug the refrigerator back in and refill it. Your appliance is now in tip-top shape!

Additional Notes
It’s best to clean the refrigerator coils every few months, even if the visible parts of the refrigerator look more or less clean. If you find the refrigerator isn’t getting cold enough, dirty coils are likely to blame.


Quick Tip: Restore Shine to a Light Fixture with… Denture Tablets?

To bring the brilliance back to your glass lighting fixtures, look no further than the oral hygiene aisle of your local drugstore.

Clean a Light Fixture with Denture Tablets

Photo: shutterstock.com

Highly Effective Fizz

While denture tablets work wonders on light fixtures, these fizzy fighters can also be used to clean a surprising range of glass, ceramic, and porcelain items in the home. For instance, if you scrubbed and scrubbed but cannot purge the brown bits from inside a glass baking dish, try soaking it in warm water with a couple of denture tablets. Likewise, if your ceramic mug has coffee stains you were beginning to consider permanent, fill the vessel with water and drop in a denture tablet. Hey, you can even use denture tablets to clean a toilet bowl!

Time has a way of proving the old adage “out of sight, out of mind.” Case in point: Whether your ceiling lights are flush-mount fixtures or hanging pendants, chances are you’ve neglected to clean them—not because you’re lazy, but simply because those fixtures seldom enter your eyeline. Of course, like anything else in your home, glass lighting fixtures accumulate dust and dirt; left unattended for months or even years, their radiant dazzle slowly dulls to a hazy glow. Fortunately, even if you’ve fallen far behind on housekeeping, you can catch up quite quickly, thanks to an unlikely yet effective secret weapon—denture tablets!

Clean a Light Fixture with Denture Tablets - Fiz

Photo: shutterstock.com

Denture tablets are those fizz-making additives Grandpa plops into a glass of water, along with his dentures, before he goes to bed. Just as the tablets’ effervescence manages to penetrate and sanitize the crevices of dentures, so too does the fizziness lift ancient residue from within the facets and angles of any glass lighting fixture. A box of denture tablets, conveniently available at any pharmacy, costs less than ten bucks, so even if you’re skeptical, we think it’s definitely worth a try.

STEP 1
Fill a bucket with hot water. Make sure the bucket is large enough to accommodate the fixture you are trying to clean. Place the glass fixture into the bucket, then add a handful of denture tablets (about six or eight, depending on the size of the fixture). Let the bucket sit for about 30 minutes.

STEP 2
Remove the fixture and set it aside, then dump out the dirty water from the bucket.

STEP 3
Refill the bucket, this time adding one part bleach for every two parts water. Rinse the fixture off, then place it back in the bucket. Let it sit for another half hour, ventilating the area as necessary. When the time has elapsed, rinse and dry off the fixture before finally putting it back into position.

While the denture tablets pull dust and debris from all the nooks and crannies that would otherwise be hard to reach or inaccessible, the bleach goes the extra mile toward restoring sparkle to the glass.

A word of caution: Make sure that neither pets nor children have access to the bucket when it’s full. Denture tablets can be toxic if ingested, and of course the harmful effects of bleach are well known.


How To: Get Rid of Fleas in Your Home

If you own a pet, itchy bites may be a sign of a flea infestation. Clear the house of these pests in five quick steps and then rest at ease again with your furry friend.

How to Get Rid of Fleas in the House

Photo: shutterstock.com

Fleas are irritating—not only for pets but also for people. If you have fleas in the house, you can usually expect some itching, as well as unwelcome red bumps on the skin. But since pests carry disease, the problem can be more than merely annoying. To get rid of fleas in the house, address the issue from a number of angles by cleaning your pets, your pets’ bedding, and the most flea-vulnerable surfaces around your home. Follow the steps outlined below in order to be successful.

How to Get Rid of Fleas in the House

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 1
Though they may be present in your carpeting, fleas prefer to live on a host—namely, your pet. So to completely get rid of fleas in the house, start with treating your dog or cat. Whether it’s a dip or tablet, there are many readily available products designed for the purpose. Timing is key: Administer the treatment on the same day that you de-flea your house. In addition, dispose of the bedding your flea-ridden pet has been using. Place the bed in a trash bag, seal it, and take it outside immediately.

STEP 2
If your pet frequently sleeps on your bed, toss your own bedding directly into the washing machine. Next, get out your vacuum and throughly go over the entire house, paying special attention to areas under and behind the furniture. Also be sure to vacuum the furniture itself, as fleas often hide in upholstered sofas and chairs. In corners, use the vacuum nozzle attachment. Be aware that in the process of vacuuming, disturbed by the vibrating machine, fleas may actually emerge.

STEP 3
Very important: Once you’ve finished vacuuming, take the machine outside and empty it there. Seal the vacuum cleaner bag or its contents in a trash bag, seal it, and leave the bag safely outside your home.

STEP 4
Choose an insecticide that contains an insect growth regulator (ICR). These are chemicals (e.g., methoprene and pyriproxyfen) that prevent fleas from reproducing. Treat all soft surfaces, including carpeting, with the insecticide. Then keep pets and family members away from the treated areas for at least a few hours, until the insecticide has dried. Ventilate by opening doors and/or windows.

STEP 5
Some fleas may survive the insecticide. A week or two after treatment, you may find that fleas have returned. If so, vacuum the entire house once more, again taking care to empty the machine outside. You may also consider using flea traps to vanquish the remaining pests. Try mixing a bit of dish soap into a bowl of water; the mixture kills any fleas that fall in. Place bowls near the light sources that attract fleas. Likely targets are the lamps in the same room as your pet’s preferred sleeping area.

Preventing Future Infestations
It’s equally important to prevent fleas from returning. Here are a few tips to help you make your house—and your pets—inhospitable to a flea renaissance.

• If your pet seems itchy, put on a flea collar or administer a gel treatment. You must act fast, before the fleas migrate from your pet to the carpeting and furniture in your home. Watch Fluffy and Fido closely!

• Fleas dislike sun, so consider restricting your pets to those areas that receive a lot of light during the day. If impossible, keep in mind that there are flea-targeting insecticides formulated for use outdoors.

• Tiny and able to fit through the smallest cracks, fleas are an enemy of homes with many air leaks. Caulk as many holes and gaps in your house as you can.


Quick Tip: Scrub Your Tub with… Grapefruit?

If you love grapefruit, here's one more reason to keep the sweet citrus amply stocked in your kitchen.

Clean Your Bathtub with Grapefruit

Photo: shutterstock.com

The Natural Alternative

Is a grapefruit going to leave your tub any cleaner than a commercial cleaner would? Probably not. So if you've already got a solution that works for you—and which you don't mind using—stop reading now. Just keep this in mind: Cleaning doesn't have to be a noxious affair. Few people truly enjoy scrubbing, but such chores can be slightly more palatable if you insist on using cleaners that do not irritate your skin or make it hard to breathe normally. Yes, in some particularly sticky situations, your best bet is likely going to be a potent, lab-formulated commercial cleaner. But for everyday cleaning, why not go a little easier on yourself?

There are plenty of housekeeping jobs that people put off. And as opposed to a task like clearing the gutters, there are few risks tied to not cleaning the bathtub. But it’s only a matter of time before you finally tackle the tub, with all its nasty soap scum and mineral buildup. When that day comes, you have no shortage of options, from potent store-bought cleaning agents to milder, all-natural alternatives. Surprising though it may seem, one method gives you the best of both worlds: It’s not only an effective cleaner, but it’s also pleasant to work with. Yes, it’s grapefruit. We’re used to hearing about all the many wonderful things you can do with lemons, but this time it’s a different citrus fruit that not only fights stains and germs, but also imparts a genuinely fresh, invigorating scent in the process.

Clean Your Bathtub with Grapefruit - Tub Closeup

Photo: shutterstock.com

Depending on the size of your tub and the condition it’s in, you may need more than one grapefruit. But in any case, start by cutting one decently sized grapefruit in half. Next, coat the flesh of each half with a generous helping of salt. The salt works as abrasive that allows the fruit’s acidity to penetrate more deeply.

Now run the shower or bath for about thirty seconds, or for as long as necessary to dampen the full length of the tub. Once it’s wet, sprinkle additional salt over the area. You’re now ready to begin scrubbing. Apply the grapefruit directly to the tub, and as you go, be sure to squeeze the fruit gently to release its juice.

The most satisfying results come when the grapefruit juice and salt work in tandem, so add salt or switch to a new grapefruit half whenever you need to. For any particularly stubborn areas of residue, try scrubbing, not with the flesh of the fruit, but with its rind. Oh, and don’t forget to give some attention to the fixtures!

Once finished, simply run the water to rinse away the leftover juice, pulp, and salt. To wipe down the shower head, valve, tub spout and drain, use a clean cotton or microfiber cloth. That’s it—all clean, right?

Of course, it would be silly to keep grapefruit in your house all year round simply in order to clean the bathroom. Rather than base your bathroom cleaning schedule around trips to the grocery store, you can prepare a grapefruit cleaning paste that’s easy to keep on hand in all seasons. Here’s how to make a small batch (double or quadruple the recipe, if it’s grapefruit season and you can purchase the fruit at low cost).

1. Halve the grapefruit and squeeze the from each half until you have a half-cup of liquid. Remove seeds.

2. Add one and a half cup of salt to the liquid, then stir until the ingredients are combined.

3. Transfer the paste to an airtight container.

The next time you wish to clean the tub, apply the paste to a clean cloth and then scrub the entire tub, including the fixtures, washing or wiping away the grapefruit-and-salt remnants once you’re finished.


How To: Get Rid of Spiders

We love the benefits of spiders in our gardens—less so in the rest of our home. Clean up a spider infestation and keep them out in the future with these six steps.

How to Get Rid of Spiders

Photo: shutterstock.com

You can try to focus on the fact that spiders are theoretically beneficial to the home and garden, being that they snack on the other insects that might otherwise go unchecked. But for many, the truth about spiders doesn’t make it any easier to sleep at night, when you know there are spiders under the same roof as your bed. Fortunately, there are many ways to get rid of spiders, with methods ranging from the all-natural to the chemical-laden. Though spiders are persevering pests that do not go down without a fight, it’s well worth trying the technique outlined below. With luck, you can get rid of the spiders and save the cost of an exterminator.

STEP 1
If you’ve spotted any spiders already, their egg sacs are likely lurking in the darkest crevices of your home. First things first, vacuum the entire house, from under the living room sofa to the corners of closets. As you go, eliminate any spider webs—or actual spiders—you come across, before promptly disposing of the vacuum bag.

How to Get Rid of Spiders - Isolated View

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Your next goal is to discourage spiders from entering your home in the first place. You already know that light attracts bugs, and it’s no different with spiders. So it can only help matters to switch off some of your outdoor lights, or to swap out the regular bulbs for yellow sodium vapor lights. While you’re at it, remove non-essentials from the immediate perimeter of your home. As spiders are attracted to warmth and shelter, things like leaf piles and firewood stacks are best kept at a remove.

STEP 3
Head back inside and then go about placing dozens of sticky traps throughout your residence. While these squares alone are not likely to eradicate the problem—partly because they do not contain any pesticides—they are laced with a spider-luring aroma. That means, based on which traps end up with the most activity, you can identify which rooms are most vulnerable and proceed accordingly.

STEP 4
The next step is to address the problem area with the pesticide of your choice. Nontoxic options are preferable, particularly in homes with pets and children, and many such products are available at your nearest home center. No matter which product you select, expect to apply the solution more than once, as these pesticides work only upon direct contact. Follow the printed instructions closely.

STEP 5
Having administered a pesticide, follow up with a spider repellent. It’s easy to make your own, since many essential oils—including rosemary, lavender, citrus and peppermint—are thought to be effective. In a spray bottle, mix five to seven drops of the oil with two cups of water, plus a drop of dish soap. The spritz any area where a spider might potentially enter your home—window frames, for instance, or the gaps around exterior doors. It may take a bit of experimenting to find out what works best.

STEP 6
The final step is to seal all openings in your home, whether it’s a crack in the foundation or a drafty window. And because spiders can sneak through small holes, it’s by no means overkill to place mesh screens within vents. So long as there’s a way for spiders to gain entry to the home, you can never truly consider the problem solved. The silver lining here is that, besides warding off spiders, there are many good reasons to seal your home, so it’s well worth the trouble and expense.


Quick Tip: Make Your Candles Last Longer

The amber glow of those flickering flames doesn't come cheap. To get the most bang from the big bucks you're spending on candles, give these quick tips a try.

Photo: shutterstock.com

Burning at Both Ends

There are so many reasons to burn candles at home, from their flame-flickering aesthetic appeal to their room-freshening aroma. Unless you have small children or mischievous pets, we can think of only one reason not to love pillar and taper candles, tea lights and votives—lovely though they may be, they sure ain't cheap! Believe it or not, you can spend less on new candles by using a handful of simple, time-tested tricks to lengthen the lives of the ones you've already bought and paid for.

To coax a candle into burning more slowly so that you can enjoy it for a longer period of time, try out one of the following two methods—or, for the best possible results, do both in tandem.

First things first, put the candle in the freezer. Yes, the freezer. By doing so, you are hardening the wax, which makes it melt more slowly and therefore last longer. The thinner the candle, the less time it needs to spend in the freezer. While a thick pillar candle might take six or eight hours to freeze, a thin taper might be ready within an hour or less. But as there’s no danger of a candle spending too long in the freezer, you might as well store all of your candles in the freezer, assuming there’s room. If there’s no space in there, simply slip your next-up-to-burn candle into the freezer on the morning or night before you’re planning to light it.

Trick number two can be done in addition to, or separate from, the first. After letting the candle burn long enough for a pool of wax to collect around the wick, go ahead and blow out the flame. Then, acting fast, proceed to sprinkle table salt into the liquid wax. If necessary, use a toothpick to ensure that the salt actually mixes into the wax and doesn’t merely sit on the surface. Adding salt serves the same purpose as putting the candle in the freezer—it slows down the rate at which the wax melts, giving you a longer, more economical burn. When you use salt in addition to the freezing method, you’re doing all that can be done to squeeze extra time out of a candle. But it can also be helpful to keep the candle wick trimmed to about a quarter inch in length, because longer wicks tend to hasten burning.

Beyond burn time, there’s another factor to consider. Have you ever had a candle that became more and more lopsided as the wick flamed its way down, leaving you at the end with nubby, waxen walls encircling a burned-out crater? The leftover wax signals that you didn’t get all you could have gotten from the candle. To get the most bang for your buck, you need to ensure that the candle burns both evenly and completely. What matters most here is how long you let the candle burn the first time you light it. It’s critical not to extinguish it until the pool of wax has extended across the diameter of the candle. Blow it out too soon, and you are in effect dooming the candle to leave excess wax; if it doesn’t melt on the first lighting, the dry, hard wax around the outside edge will almost never burn. Finally, remember not to leave the candle near a door or window or in any similarly drafty spot; not only is such a location unsafe, but it can also result in uneven burning.


Clean Your Floors with What’s in the Pantry

Cleaning floors doesn't have to be a tedious chore. Once we hook you up with the right DIY solution for your flooring type, the rest will be easy.

Homemade Floor Cleaner

Photo: shutterstock.com

Sweeping dirt under the rug: Tempting, sure, but it’s no long-term solution. Different rooms in different houses require different levels of care, so only you can determine how often to clean. But we can tell you that homemade floor cleaner simplifies the task, somehow making it seem like much less of a production. In other words, when you clean with a homemade floor cleaner, it doesn’t feel like the sort of cleaning you know and dread. We think that’s largely because homemade floor cleaner contains no harsh chemicals; it’s completely non-toxic. It smells good, too—not in that artificial way, but genuinely good. Best of all, it’s cheap and easy to make and only requires ingredients that you likely have on hand. Here’s how to make special formulations  for some of the most common floor materials out there.

Wood Floor Cleaner
A popular recipe for cleaning and freshening hardwood floors includes the following: ¼ cup white vinegar, 1 gallon warm water, and a few drops of essential oil. When it comes to the oil, use any you like, or whatever you have, be it lemon or lavender or something else. While the vinegar disinfects, the oil adds a pleasing scent. Though it’s a forgiving formula overall, be careful to use the correct ratio of vinegar to water. If you fail to strike the right balance, the acid in the vinegar may damage the floor finish. When applying the homemade floor cleaner, do so with a dampened cloth or a mop with excess liquid wrung out of it.

Homemade Floor Cleaner - Mop

Photo: shutterstock.com

Ceramic Tile Floor Cleaner
Before applying homemade floor cleaner to ceramic tile, remember to sweep or vacuum first. There’s a chance that, in the process of wiping or mopping, loose debris could scratch the floor surface. Once it’s free of bits and pieces, scraps and shards, proceed to mix the DIY cleaner. Combine ¼ cup white vinegar, ¼ cup baking soda, 1 tablespoon dish detergent, and 2 gallons hot water. Apply it either with a damp cloth or a wrung-out mop. After, go over it with fresh water, then allow to dry.

Vinyl Floor Cleaner
The trick here is to avoid using any ingredients that might damage the vinyl. One safe bet is to mix together ½ cup rubbing alcohol, ½ cup vinegar, a few drops of dish detergent, and 2 gallons of water. The alcohol cuts through the really tough stains, while the detergent helps remove grease and residue. Mop the entire floor, then rinse with fresh water, if it seems necessary. If desired, you can also add a few drops of essential oil to infuse your home with a fresh-smelling aroma.

Carpet Cleaner
Carpet cleaning can be a complex job involving a big machine or expensive outside help. But for a more casual approach, try this: In a spray bottle, combine a few drops of dish detergent, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 1 cup warm water, and 1 teaspoon baking soda. After vacuuming, generously spritz the carpeting in one section. Then, using a clean towel, rub the solution into the stain. Now, use a different towel to absorb all the moisture. In this way, clean the entire carpet, section by section.