Dust is a constant source of frustration in the home, especially when the classic, time-consuming methods fail to get spaces truly clean. Skip the rags and polish, and try these three tips to make dusting faster, easier, and—dare we say it—more fun.
Dusting used to mean lazily moving about the house with an old T-shirt and furniture polish in hand, loathing the amount of effort it took to bring a shine every surface. While certain rules are set in stone—working from the top to bottom, for instance—there are, believe it or not, smart and often overlooked ways to relieve the tedium and add a bit of fun to a chore that so many dread. Next time you’re stuck with dusting duty, look to these easy fixes to get the job done—fast!
1. BLOWN AWAY
This smart—and on some levels, fun—tip works best with areas that need less attention. Plug in your blow dryer, aim, and blow! The great part about this trick is that it enables you to get into all of the nooks and crannies, unlike a regular dust cloth. Start from the top of the room and work your way down, blowing the dust onto the ground. Once you’re done, simply vacuum it up. While the vacuum is out, also consider using the upholstery attachment to take care of any dust that is hiding out on curtains or upholstery.
2. WIPE OUT
Just like these handy sheets prevent clothes from clinging together in the wash, they also keep dust from sticking to the surfaces of your home. Simply swipe them over blinds, baseboards, the tops of tall furniture, or any spot where dust tends to accumulate. As a bonus, this trick lets you eliminate a step in the dusting process; instead of throwing them in the laundry like you would a microfiber cloth, simply toss the sheet in the trash when you’re finished.
3. SHAKE IT OFF
Believe it or not, a powerful combination that helps draw dust out of oft-overlooked fabric items is hiding right in your pantry: baking soda and a trash bag. Place items like throw pillows or stuffed animals into a large trash bag. Add a cup of baking soda, shake it up, and then let it sit for about thirty minutes. Pull the items out and brush them off, sucking up any excess baking soda with your vacuum and upholstery attachment. In addition to getting Teddy dust-free, the baking soda will also deodorize, making these subtly stinky items smell so much better.
Any number of events in our day-to-day can trigger a red alert—or perhaps a “code tissue”—as to when germs are nearby, whether it’s when someone in the grocery line ahead of you sneezes or your kid comes home with a note that says his classmate has caught strep, again. Before you run off to squeegee every inch of countertop in chlorine bleach for the second time this week, pause for a beat. The truth of the matter is that this favorite cleanser is not something that can just be used whenever, wherever. While harsh chemicals like bleach boast the ability to prevent illness or infection, many people often use them improperly. Before implementing them into your cleaning routine, you should be aware of and avoid a few potential hazardous practices.
1. Bleach doesn’t play nice with other household cleaners. First, never, ever mix bleach with either ammonia or acids, as either combination can result in toxic and even lethal gases. And many more products on the market and in your cleaning closet can also interact negatively with bleach: drain cleaners, glass and window cleaners, brick and concrete cleaners, dishwasher detergents, toilet bowl cleaners—that list goes on. When in doubt, never combine household cleaners.
2. If used improperly or straight from the bottle, bleach can be harsh on your system. Side effects might include irritation of the nose, throat, and lungs—any of which are especially damaging to a person with respiratory issues like emphysema or asthma. Additionally, the chemical could burn if it comes in contact with your skin or eyes, so take precautions to always dilute the product according to its bottle’s instructions and wear protective gear.
3. Watch out for overuse. No, more does not always amount to better; dousing surfaces with bleach to sanitize will not automatically rid your home of potential germs. A study published in the journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine this year found that kids whose parents used bleach to clean the house weekly had 18 to 35 percent more risk of coming down with infections, particularly the flu and tonsillitis, as compared to the children in households without regular disinfection by bleach. While the results weren’t definitive—there were other factors still at play, like reports of household mold and/or passive smoking—this recent research raised interesting questions about good and bad bacteria and how a completely sanitized home might not be the best defense against illness.
Cleaning with Bleach - Alternatives
Better-than-Bleach Alternatives Rather than opening yourself up to the possibility of misuse—or even increased risk of potential infection—consider taking it easy on the bleach for a bit and rotating a couple other disinfectants into your cleaning routine. Next time you’re at the supermarket to refill your stash, branch out and explore one of these three options:
• Because it evaporates faster than water, rubbing alcohol works well for cleansing electronics that aren’t supposed to get wet, like phones, laptops, light switches, and TV remotes. Simply dip a cotton swab in it, shake off excess moisture, and run it along the hard plastic casing of these devices.
• Hydrogen peroxide also acts as a nontoxic surface disinfectant, especially good for items that may come in close contact with your food: sponges, cutting boards, refrigerator drawers, and even plastic children’s toys. As you clean, be careful where you apply it; like bleach, it can discolor some surfaces and might also eat away at certain natural stone if left sitting too long. The key is to wipe the surface down with the cleanser, let it dry, and then wipe it down once more to be sure there are no leftover spots.
• Soap, water, and elbow grease: Sure, it sounds basic, but giving a surface a thorough scrubbing with hot water and antibacterial soap will disinfect and kill harmful bacteria nearly as effectively as harsher chemicals. Just don’t skimp on energy during these chores! The scrubbing does the real work, breaking down bacteria and getting your standard disinfecting soap and water to do its job.
If you’re inclined to finish off your bleach supply—even continue working with it, albeit less frequently—proceed with a little extra caution and moderation. While it will effectively eradicate viruses to keep you safe from illness like salmonella poisoning, a misstep could leave you vulnerable to its less favorable qualities. Make sure to follow its instructions to a “T.” As the adage goes: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Inspired by a picture she discovered online, Aileen of At Home in Love decided to turn her crafty daydreaming into a reality by making a similar custom piece for her own home. Read on to see how she transformed a few materials into a shimmering strappy shelf.
MATERIALS & TOOLS
- Board(s) from the hardware store, cut to the desired length. We bought a 6 ft long board and cut it in half.
- Paint in the color of your choice
- Painter’s tape (optional)
- Four belts or leather straps, about 1″ wide
- Four drywall anchors
Before starting, choose two belts that suit your style. Discount stores can offer a variety of options at inexpensive prices. If desired, mask off everything except for the edge of the shelf with painter’s tape, and spray-paint the edges of the boards with gold spray paint.
Lay one of the boards on the floor against the wall to see what the strap will look like before cutting. Then use the first strap as the template for cutting the remaining straps the same length.
Fold each strap in half and screw in the screws that came with the drywall anchors about a half-inch from the top of the straps.
Mark the spot on your wall where the straps will be mounted starting with the top board. Make sure that the marks are level, and that there is room for the board to hang over on either side of the straps. Then, follow the instructions for using the drywall anchors.
Once both sets of straps are installed, slide the boards through, adjust them so they are level, and then step back and admire your handiwork!
Thanks, Aileen! For more stylishly attainable DIY ideas, visit athomeinlove.com.
Traci of Beneath My Heart was on a hunt for a shelf solution that met her two boys’ storage needs, but still added a touch of style. After finding some inspiration online, she discovered an industrial pipe unit she loved, and decided to tackle the project head on. Continue reading to learn how she transformed a stretch of wall into a large-scale storage center.
MATERIALS & TOOLS
- 3/4-inch black iron pipes
- Floor flanges
- Tee fitting
- 90-degree elbow
- Wood (I bought 2-inch thick pieces for my shelves)
- Wood Stain
- Wood Seal
First, sand the wood pieces. Next, put the bottom row of pipes together and line them up on the floor. If desired, use some tape to help keep them straight and a tape measure to make sure they are the same distance apart. Then screw the flanges to the floor.
Use a 1¼-inch drill bit to drill holes in the wood. You can use a tape measure to figure out where to drill the holes, and/or place the wood on top of the pipes and use a marker to draw around the pipe.
Attach the first shelf as shown above, and continue doing so for each following shelf.
Create the open space by using 18-inch pipes. You can see how we still used the 6-inch pipes and the elbows underneath the shelf. Because the final pipe on top needs to reach the wall, use an 8-inch pipe instead of a 6-inch pipe. Attach a flange to that pipe and then screw it into the wall. If it’s not a perfect fit, add an extra piece of wood to the back of the flange to close the gap between the flange and the wall.
Stain and seal the shelves, lightly sanding in-between each coat of poly. Lastly, customize your self with various storage add-ons, like the guitar clips and storage crates shown here.
This unassuming coffee table has a hidden secret: underneath the top it stores a toy train set and a lego building station. When Kim from The Kim Six Fix spotted this fantastic furniture plan on the internet, she set out to make her own—with a few modifications, of course. Read on to see how she made a multi-purpose table that works for her young family.
MATERIALS & TOOLS
- 1 x 6 boards
- 1 x 3 board
- Finish nails
- 1 x 2 boards
- Cabinet pulls
- Wood glue
- Wood filler
- Gorilla Glue epoxy
- Lego plates
- Nail gun
- Orbital sander
- Foam roller
STEP 1 – 8
Visit Ana White for the original tutorial and furniture plans.
I didn’t split the plywood down the center as the original tutorial suggests because I wanted to use one side as a LEGO table. I just drilled 1-inch holes in each end to make it easier to remove. (You would NEVER get it out without the holes.)
To finish it, I filled in all the holes with stainable wood filler. Then I caulked all the seams with my favorite color changing caulk. Seriously, this stuff is awesome! It changes from pink to white when it is dry so you can tell where you freshly caulked and what areas are cured.
I stained the outer edge of the table first (so I could cover any drips with paint) and then I primed the bottom using a foam roller and an angled brush to reduce brush strokes. I stained the table top with some stain I found on clearance. By using a polyurethane/stain mix, I saved a step. I also used a wood conditioner on this plywood to get a more even stain.
Then I divided the long sides into 6 equal sections by adding a short 1×2 to give it that trendy “apothecary drawer” look. Then added inexpensive black cabinet knobs. They were the cheapest ones I could find ($1.35 each) although if I wasn’t doing this on a budget I may have picked something fancier. I do think they make the table look great, especially considering that all 12 knobs only set me back about $17!
I took advantage of the reversible inset by installing LEGO plates on one side. To attach the LEGO plates, I did my research into different adhesives and I settled on Gorilla Glue Epoxy. There is going to be a LOT of torque on the plates as the kids pull the blocks on and off and I needed something that was super strong.
When you're enjoying the outdoors, stains of all kinds—especially grassy ones—just come with the territory. But they don’t have to ruin your clothes or your mood on laundry day! With quick action and the right tools, those clothes will be clean enough to wear (and stain again) next weekend.
Grass stains are souvenirs of outdoor sports and other messy fun—as well as battle scars from labor-intensive rounds of yard work. Above all, they’re the bane of your summer laundry chores. But why exactly are they so stubborn to remove come laundry day? Well, those blotchy green stains consist of chlorophyll and other natural pigments, dirt, and additional organic material. Classified as protein stains (putting them in a category that includes offenders like blood, chocolate, and sweat), these stains will actually bond on a chemical level with natural fibers, making them incredibly difficult to remove. Follow these steps, though, and you’ll see fresh green stains disappear from your gardening clothes or kids’ sports uniforms.
TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Rubbing alcohol
- Absorbent towel or cloth
- Enzyme detergent
- Scrub brush (or an old toothbrush)
- Lukewarm water
- Washing machine
STEP 1 It’s best to attack a grass stain right away. Don’t let it set in, if you can help it! Start by scraping off any excess dirt or material from the stained area. Next, having laid the grass stain face down on an absorbent towel or cloth, sponge a bit of rubbing alcohol onto the stain. The alcohol, a solvent, should help dissolve the dirt. Blot as much of the stain as possible onto the towel beneath.
Sponge the area with lukewarm water and allow it to dry. Be aware: Heat can permanently set a protein into the fibers it’s bonded to, so do not use hot water. (Similarly, you won’t want to run the article through the dryer until you’ve inspected it first to be sure the stain has come out.)
Next, select a detergent containing protease, an enzyme that combats proteins by breaking down the large molecules, so they can be washed away. Pour a bit of this detergent, at full strength, onto the grass stain, letting it sit for 15 to 30 minutes. A stain pretreater that contains enzymes (most do) would be an appropriate substitute.
After pretreating, loosen the stain from the fabric by gently scrubbing it from the back with a scrub brush or old toothbrush. If the stain is old and isn’t budging, soak it for several hours in a mixture of lukewarm water and a capful of enzyme detergent.
Finally, put the stained article in a load of wash on a cool or lukewarm water cycle. Check the affected area before transferring the article from the washer to the dryer. If you notice that the stain isn’t completely gone, repeat the process before drying.
Getting out the door is not without its difficulties. Misplaced keys, sunglasses, or phones can leave the best of us scrambling for our belongings on our way out of the house. That’s why Jenni at I Spy DIY set out to make a custom storage solution that could check essentials at the door and help streamline her life. Read on for her stunning yet simple DIY.
An unsightly scratch in your new hardwood floors—or worse, the expensive mahogany table you splurged on in a recent dining room redesign—can be enough to turn your hair gray. But before you start to stress over normal wear and tear, rest assured that there is an easy and inexpensive trick that can minimize slight damage to your favorite wood surfaces. Moreover, that fix might just be hiding out in your pantry, camouflaged as a favorite afternoon snack.
Crack open the shell of a walnut and dig out the meaty portion—one nut should be enough for one scratch, so no need to sacrifice an entire handful. Run the nut back and forth over the scratch a few times in the same direction as the wood grain, then rub your finger over the scratch to warm the wood even further. Let the scratch sit for about five minutes, and finish by buffing it with a soft cloth. The oils from the nut will form a layer over the scratch, filling it in and darkening it so that your furniture will look as good as new. The best part of this simple solution? You get to reward yourself for a job well done with a tasty treat of leftover walnuts.
Summer vacation is all about fun: swimming pools, later bedtimes, and epic blanket forts. With all the lively activity, it’s hard to sell the idea of settling down to read a little every day in an effort to keep those hard-earned schoolyear skills from slowly melting like the chocolate in a s’more. To drum up some excitement, I designed an A-frame reading tent from furring strips and dowels that the kids and I could assemble together—a project meant to combine their passion for building forts with my hope for a little extra time devoted to summer reading. Follow these instructions, and your kids, too, will have a hideaway that will make them want to spend more time curled up with library books than gaming on the couch!
SKILL LEVEL: EASY TO MODERATE This project is appropriate for kids of all ages, but it does require some use of power tools. If your kids are young, cut the lumber prior to working on the project with them and do the drilling yourself; they can help with the measuring and sanding. Kids as old as 8 or 9, on the other hand, might be able to handle the drill with your supervision. Use your judgment, and have fun.
TOOLS & MATERIALS
- Three 8-foot-long 1″x2″ furring strips (cut into six 4-foot pieces)
- Tape measure
- Safety glasses
- Drill with 3/4” spade bit
- Three 4-foot-long 3/4” dowels
- Twin- or full-size bedsheet
- 1/4” eyelet tool
- 1/4” eyelets
- Parachute cord
Halve each 8-foot furring strip into two 4-foot lengths. (You can get this done at the big-box hardware store where you pick up your lumber, or make the cuts at home.) Then, on every 4-foot length of furring strip, mark placement for holes about 1 3/4 inches from each end of the board—a great task for the kids.
Next, drill through the marks to make 3/4-inch-diameter holes at the ends of each length of board; smooth over any rough edges on your furring strips using sandpaper.
Ready the flat sheet (the tent’s cover) so it can attach to the bottom of each side of the tent frame. (A twin sheet works best here because it leaves the least amount of excess fabric, but any old bedsheet you have to spare will serve just fine.) To keep the sheet from fraying after a trip through the washing machine, we’re using some metal eyelets. A single eyelet tool is easy to use and fairly inexpensive to pick up at a big-box or craft store—beyond that, all you need are scissors and a hammer.
First, flip the sheet so that it’s right side up and you’re working with one of the shorter sides. Measure and mark for eyelets every 12 inches or so, about 3 to 4 inches in from the edge; cut a small hole at each spot with scissors. Place the base of the eyelet tool with the large half of the eyelet under the hole, and fit it through. Then, set the second half of the eyelet on top, and hammer the pieces together with the top of the eyelet tool.
Cut 12- to 18-inch lengths of the parachute cord—as many lengths as you have eyelets—and put large knots at the end of each. String each cord all the way through an eyelet from behind the sheet, and tie it again on the other side so the eyelet is secure between two big knots. You should have several inches of cord left hanging, which you’ll use later to tie around the tent frame.
On the ground, lay out the square base for the tent: two parallel furring strips connected by two dowels. To “fasten” them together, thread each dowel through the holes at the ends of the furring strips. (This no-hardware assembly makes it even easier to collapse for storage!)
Divide the last four pieces of furring strips into two sets of two; each set connects to the base to form the A-frame entrances at the front and back of the tent. Start at one entrance, and attach a furring strip to both corners by fitting the drilled hole into the dowel at the base. Then, bring the furring strips together at point, match up the holes on the ends, and slide the last dowel into the hole to hold them together. Repeat on the other side, attaching the last two furring strips to the dowels at the base.
Throw the sheet over the frame and tie it down on each side. Let the reading and other tent-worthy summertime shenanigans begin!
When you’re done for the day, you can take the pieces apart and roll them up into the sheet, then simply wrap the cords around the bundle and tie to keep it tidy. But, for the record, my kids don’t want to take it down. In fact, they want to make another one so they can each have one in their bedrooms! Luckily, with a project this easy and inexpensive, an extra A-frame is totally achievable.
It’s a safe bet that you consider your grill’s bag of fuel a summer essential. Come the weekend, when you set the dusty black cubes alight, they transform standard raw burgers or steaks into crusty, juicy, memorable backyard feasts. But charcoal doesn’t just work wonders in your barbecue grill—you can also put those briquettes to use all over the house and yard. Read on for five extremely useful and inspiring ways to use up a few leftover lumps.
1. SUPERCHARGE YOUR COMPOST
Charcoal consists of wood char, which is mostly carbon—and carbon is essential for making good compost. (And actually, if your compost gives off an ammonia-like odor, that’s most likely a sign of a carbon shortage!) Toss a few pieces of the natural lump-style coal into your bin of food scraps and yard clippings to fortify your mix.
2. FRESHEN UP
In spaces that lack air circulation—think closet, attic, basement—put out several lumps of additive-free charcoal in a lidded plastic container pierced with a few holes. The black nuggets will absorb funky odors and moisture, leaving the area smelling clean. Bonus: This arrangement works well in a fridge or under a sink too! (Just be sure to keep the container out of reach of children and pets.)
3. KEEP TOOLS CLEAN
Stash a bit of charcoal wherever you store your hammers and nails. Thanks to its powers of moisture absorption, the coal will help keep your gear rust-free. Try a similar trick for your garden implements: Each time you finish a bag of charcoal, pour the the leftover bits from the bottom of the bag into the pot where you stow your garden spades and weeding tools—they’ll stay shinier and sharper.
4. PLANT A TERRARIUM
Photo: flickr.com via gergelyhideg
For an adorably miniature indoor gardening project, tuck some charcoal into the bottom of a large vase or fishbowl, then fill it with potting soil and small plants. The charcoal will work to purify this mini ecosphere, warding off root rot and keeping the plants in your tiny terrarium healthier.
5. MAKE YOUR MARK
Charcoal sticks have served as artists’ tools for centuries, and these sketching instruments are little more than whittled-down charcoal briquettes! Even an ordinary charcoal nugget can make a handy outdoor marker should you be missing your bucket of sidewalk chalk. Grab one when you want to sketch a new furniture layout on the patio or leave a sidewalk welcome message for guests arriving at your barbecue, then forget about it—it’ll wash away with the next summer rain.