Author Archives: Marisa Villarreal

About Marisa Villarreal

Marisa Villarreal is a Master's degree candidate in landscape architecture and urbanism at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where she co-chairs Women in Design, the program's largest student-run organization. Ms. Villarreal also served as the editor of the 2018 Harvard University Graduate School of Design Student Guide. As a media professional, her career has included roles at,, and 20x200. Marisa Villarreal on Instagram | Google +

Bug Off: Your Guide to Dealing with Houseplant Pests

Besides the right soil, sufficient sunlight, and neither too much nor too little water, there's one more thing that any thriving houseplant requires—protection from invasive pests.

Houseplant Pests

You’ve got a green thumb, huh? Well, that’s a start. But it takes more than experience to prevent critters from infesting your indoor plants. You need a little luck, first of all. But you also need a plan for fighting back if and when bugs invade. Remember: Houseplant pests aren’t merely off-putting; rather, they rob plants of their beauty and compromise their long-term health. No—infestations aren’t a death sentence (at least not most of the time). But they don’t disappear on their own, either. To save your plants, you need to act, and you need to do so sooner than later. Ready? Continue reading now for key details on identifying and eliminating all the most common culprits.



Houseplant Pests - Aphids


What you’ll see: Plants weakened by aphid infestations typically display stunted growth, along with curled or otherwise deformed foliage. The insects themselves—teeny-tiny in shape and green, brown, or black in color—hide on the underside of leaves.

What to do: Take the houseplant into the kitchen and wash the aphids away under a stream of water. Or head outdoors and simply brush the aphids off with your fingers (or a cotton swab). Finally, apply neem oil or insecticidal soap to prevent the aphids from returning.



Houseplant Pests - Mealybugs


What you’ll see: White and cottony in appearance, mealybugs not only stunt plant growth but mar the look of stems, nodes, and foliage with a residue that, like the insect itself, looks white and cottony. Note that plants infested by mealybugs often feel sticky to the touch.

What to do: First, quarantine the affected houseplant away from others. Next, remove the mealybugs and their left-behind residue with a rubbing alcohol-soaked cotton swab (or arm yourself with a soft brush or cloth and wash the plant with mildly soap water).



Houseplant Pests - Mites


What you’ll see: Spider mites make their presence known by weaving webs around leaves and stems, and also by yellowing and shriveling foliage. But while their handiwork may be hard to miss, catching the tiny, light-colored arachnids in the act isn’t easy.

What to do: Saving a plant from a severe spider mite infestation may not be possible, but if you catch the problem early, rinse the plant under water multiple times. Then, for prevention, apply insecticide—ideally one that contains the mite-repelling chemical bifenthrin.



Houseplant Pests - Scale Insects


What you’ll see: Like mealybugs, scale insects deposit a sticky fungal sap that blocks photosynthesis, arrests growth, and gradually kills its host plant. Once embedded on the underside of leaves, scale often look more like organic protrusions than an invasive threat.

What to do: Isolate the plant away from others. Next, prune the affected leaves and remove lingering residue by using cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol. Repeat the treatment every few days until the plant turns the corner (or until you lose faith that it’ll ever recover).



Houseplant Pests - Thrip Insects


What you’ll see: Being microscopic, thrips evade easy notice, but their damaging and discoloring effects are plain to see. Bear in mind that more than other pests, thrips tend to attack plants that flower. A magnifying glass may help you confirm their presence.

What to do: Every few days, mist the infested plant with a fine spray of water. Then, after each course of misting, treat the plant with neem oil or insecticidal soap. That makes thrips unable to feed on the plant, soon leading to the death of any that remain.



Houseplant Pests - Whiteflies


What you’ll see: Recognizable for their yellow-white bodies and heart-shaped wings, whiteflies gather in groups, usually on the underside of leaves. In time, the host plant begins to look dried out and sickly, and its foliage may drop, leaving stems nearly bare.

What to do: Once you’ve set the affected plant off on its own, remove whiteflies with a vacuum cleaner (the upholstery attachment works well). Next, place sticky fly traps near the quarantined plant. If those traps fail to capture any whiteflies, you can put your plant back in its original spot, without fear of whiteflies returning or spreading to other specimens.



The Dos and Don’ts of Poinsettia Care

Besides the right soil, sufficient sunlight, and neither too much nor too little water, there's one more thing that any thriving houseplant requires—protection from invasive pests.

Poinsettia Care - Do's and Don'ts


During the holidays, nothing rivals the floral festivity of the season’s favorite plant: the always colorful poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima). Whether you prefer the traditional red variety or favor hybridized pastel pinks and yellows, you’ll want to provide the best poinsettia care in order to enjoy the plant’s showstopping blooms as long as possible. Simply abide by these six best practices—and avoid the six biggest mistakes—when tending to this ornamental houseplant.


DO Purchase the Healthiest Plant You Can Find

When shopping for a poinsettia, choose a stocky plant with dense foliage that’s deep green in color, and pass on plants with yellowing or dropped leaves. The colorful flowers, called bracts, should be firm with little or no pollen visible in the center.


DON’T Forget to Protect the Plant in the Car

Some stores sell poinsettias in cellophane cones that will protect the plant from wind damage, but if it’s bitterly cold outside, the bracts and leaves could still suffer. Ask for a larger bag to put over the top of your plant to protect it on the trip to the car and into your home.


DO Position Your Poinsettia in a Well-Lit Location

A southern window is ideal. Poinsettias benefit from plenty of direct daytime light to keep them from getting leggy. If a sunny window isn’t available, choose as bright a spot as possible.


DON’T Let the Leaves Touch a Freezing Windowpane

Poinsettias are tropical plants typically grown in greenhouses, so despite their popularity in winter, they despise the cold. Any leaves that press against an icy window after you position the plant in your home will perish, and the chill could even affect the health of the poinsettia as a whole. Prevent an untimely demise by setting your poinsettia safely on a table in front of a window rather than on a windowsill.


DO Make Sure Your Plant Gets Adequate Darkness

In order for those red or white flowers to last more than a month, poinsettias require more than 12 hours of darkness during their peak bloom period. If you’ve placed the plant in a room that you keep lit all evening, just move it to a darker room, closet, or shadowy corner when the sun sets, then put it back in the window the next morning.


Poinsettia Care - Do's and Don'ts


DON’T Put Your Poinsettia in a Drafty Spot

The tender leaves and bracts wilt in windy conditions, so keep your plant away from open windows, forced-air registers, and fans.


DO Water Your Plant

Poinsettias should be watered whenever the soil surface feels dry to the touch. The best way to water the plant is to move it, pot and all, to the sink and soak it thoroughly. Let it drain until no more water runs out—this will take about an hour—and then place it back in its spot.


DON’T Let Your Poinsettia Stand in Water

Sure, soaking your poinsettia’s soil is the best way to quench its thirst, but be sure to pull off the shiny foil wrapper that came tucked around the pot before you water it. Though pretty, this wrapping prevents the water from draining out, leaving the poinsettia’s soil saturated and roots soggy. Waterlogged roots stress the plant and can lead to leaf-dropping—or worse, a short life.


DO Prune Your Poinsettia If You Plan to Reflower It Next Year

Follow the poinsettia care tips outlined so far, and you may find that your houseplant survives from winter into spring—or even longer. If you plan on keeping it around, prune the stems back to six inches when the plant begins to get leggy, and continue to place it in a sunny spot that’s about 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue to water just as you did before, and feed your poinsettia regularly every two weeks after they’ve stopped blooming with a standard houseplant fertilizer (view example on Amazon). New shoots will eventually develop at the buds below the cuts. In late spring, when overnight temps outdoors are above 50 degrees, prune new shoots back to four inches and sink your poinsettia—pot and all—into a protected spot in your flower bed and let it stay there until early fall when overnight temps dip back into the 40s. While year-round poinsettia care takes commitment on your part, you’ll be rewarded with an even-larger floral wonder the following holiday season.


DON’T Leave a Large Poinsettia in a Tiny Pot

As a poinsettia grows over the summer, its roots grow as well, and they can get cramped in a small pot. So, when you bring your poinsettia indoors after its spring and summer sojourn in the flower bed, be sure to transfer it into a larger planter. Repotting keeps the plant from becoming root-bound. Choose a new pot about two inches wider and an inch or two deeper than your current pot to give your poinsettia’s roots room to spread out during the coming fall growing season and help stimulate foliage growth and bloom production.


DO Keep Pets Away from Poinsettia

One thing pretty much everyone knows about poinsettia care is the importance of keeping poinsettias out of the reach of furry members of the family. While scare stories link the plants to pet poisoning, the milky sap of the poinsettia actually contains low-toxicity chemicals that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and itchiness if a pet eats a large amount. Even though the risk is pretty low, don’t chance it. Keep your plant away from Fluffy or Fido.


DON’T Hesitate to Call Your Vet If Your Animal Eats It (Just in Case)

The pesticides used at garden centers and nurseries could cause reactions if your pet ingests poinsettia leaves, especially if you have a very young animal. If you’re concerned about persistent or severe symptoms, call your vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. A consultation fee may apply.


Poinsettia Care - Do's and Don'ts


Weekend Projects: 5 Designs for a DIY Hanging Planter

Besides the right soil, sufficient sunlight, and neither too much nor too little water, there's one more thing that any thriving houseplant requires—protection from invasive pests.

‘Tis the season for winterizing your garden, a task that gives you the opportunity to bring your most beloved plants indoors. What better way to display these seasonal visitors than on a perch in your direct line of vision? (And one that takes hardly any counter space, at that.) Get inspired by these five DIY hanging planters that make it a cinch to showcase your favorite greenery and protect it from the chilly weather ahead.


DIY Hanging Planters


Although glass terrariums are a sleek, functional way to showcase prized greenery, the price of a store-bought glass design can be steep. Take a cue from A Beautiful Mess and make your own budget-friendly version instead—from none other than a clear plastic fishbowl (or two or three, depending on how many plants you’d like to display). Turn each transparent bowl on its side for easy watering, but enjoy an unobstructed view of your buds from nearly any seat in your living space.



DIY Hanging Planters


Raise not one, not two, but four terra-cotta pots off the floor using this vertical planter from I Heart Naptime. The best part? Scrap wood and rope are all you’ll need to build it—and likely already on hand! Although the rustic display looks great with succulents, you could also build your own hanging herb garden with each seasoning—from basil to rosemary—displayed at a different height.



DIY Hanging Planters


This faceted teardrop planter from Vintage Revivals elevates your greenery, both in height and in elegance. And because it requires so little in the way of supplies, the finished project is a steal, costing only about $15 to assemble. You’ll need round brass tubing, floral wire, and a mini tubing cutter before you can get to work. Then, all that’s left to do is channel those geometry skills. With a bit of patience, you’ll be able to string this DIY hanging planter together in a few hours.



DIY Hanging Planters


Instead of sending empty coffee creamer containers to the recycling bin, use them to fashion this hanging planter, as demonstrated by Hello Glow. Creamer containers are typically plastic, so use scissors (or an X-Acto knife) to carefully remove the tops and fill the majority of the containers with potting soil and greenery to turn the canisters into a tall planter. Holes poked in its sides for threaded twine make it ready to hang! A fresh coat of colorful paint is optional, but it really dresses up the planter.



DIY Hanging Planter


Do you have a few extra needlepoint supplies lying around? If so, follow this tutorial from Northstory for a different sort of craft: creating a lovely DIY hanging planter. All this one-of-a-kind design requires is an embroidery hoop and a ceramic bowl. Glue the two materials together and let them bond overnight; the next day, you can hang your upcycled creation from a length of rope, and admire your gorgeous greenery as it sways in the breeze.

Weekend Projects: 6 Designs for DIY Garden Furniture

Besides the right soil, sufficient sunlight, and neither too much nor too little water, there's one more thing that any thriving houseplant requires—protection from invasive pests.

With the right furniture, you can turn your garden into an outdoor reprieve for rest and relaxation. But, unfortunately, the weather-proof options don’t always come cheap. That’s why we pulled together six DIY garden furniture designs—building your own outdoor furnishings allows for total customization without emptying your wallet. Whether you’re looking for a place to put your feet up after hours of labor or a table to keep you organized while you get your hands dirty, there’s sure to be a handmade option that will meet your gardening needs.



DIY Rope Ottoman


You don’t need a store-bought ottoman to add functionality to your patio. Try making your own by following this clever project from Style Me Pretty—all you need is a spare tire, two types of rope (nylon and sisal), and a hot glue gun. Start by wrapping the nylon rope around the sides of the tire, then hot gluing the sisal rope in a circular pattern on top. You can paint the whole thing with a light coat of sealer so that it survives during rainstorms.



DIY Potting Bench


Gardening is a lot easier when you have a dedicated set-up that’s just for re-potting blooms. This two-shelf table from Refresh ReStyle can be constructed to store your trowels and pots beneath the area where you’ll work. When you’ve wrapped up construction, give the table a rustic look with a stain of your choice. The entire project will take the length of an afternoon—and just $15 out of pocket. Not bad!



DIY Patio Chair


To build a backyard chair that’s both comfy and sturdy following this design idea from the How To Specialist, you’ll want to invest in heavy-duty lumber and plywood. The key to this construction is making exact measurements upfront, then doubling up in terms of fasteners: Use both a waterproof glue and a power drill to attach each carefully cut 2×4 together. An exterior wood stain would ensure that your hard work doesn’t succumb to water damage. Then, repeat the process to make a pair for your yard.



DIY Outdoor Bench


When it comes to garden furniture, the flexibility provided by a bench that seats anywhere from one to three people is always best. This original design from incorporates a variety of lumber in different sizes—2×2s, 1×2s, 1×3s, and 1×5s—to build an interesting striped design right into a sturdy frame, each width of slat highlighted in a different finish for emphasis. Thanks to two protective coats of varnish, the result is a weathered-looking bench that can be kept outdoors year-round.



DIY Sofa Bench


A robust selection of leftover wood and screws are all it takes to assemble this one-of-a-kind outdoor seating option. Building a solid frame that doesn’t sag or get warped over time requires plenty of center supports, but Funky Junk Interiors‘ step-by-step makes this DIY garden furniture look doable. Also, a pro tip from the handy blogger who dreamed up the design: Find the mattress first before diving into the woodworking, since the soon-to-be seat cushion will dictate the size of the furniture’s frame.



DIY Bistro Table


Rather than searching for the perfect “table for two” to match your garden aesthetic, follow this tutorial from The Shabby Creek Cottage and make your own—to the tune of $15. The only lumber you’ll need to pick up is a handful of humble 2×4s, which the DIY blogger then advises cutting with a power saw into the variety of pieces that make up this garden classic. Sanded down and assembled with a power drill, the wooden bistro table only needs a fresh coat of paint to provide a pop of color in your backyard hangout.

Quick Tip: What to Do If a Bird Flies into Your House

Besides the right soil, sufficient sunlight, and neither too much nor too little water, there's one more thing that any thriving houseplant requires—protection from invasive pests.

How To Get a Bird Out of Your House - Bird at Window


Cracking the windows is an effective way to air out your house in the summer—but an open window can also be an open invitation to any number of unwanted visitors. Occasionally, a bird may fly in through this entrance and trap itself indoors, fluttering about looking for an exit. If one makes its way into your house this season, keep calm and just head to the linen closet for the only thing you need for assistance: a flat sheet.

How To Get a Bird Out of Your House - Bird Indoors


Start by opening one window as wide as possible to give the bird a way out. Then, close all blinds and drapes over the rest of the windows, and switch off all lights inside the house so that the open window shines brightly like an exit sign. Your feathered intruder will associate the light with the open air and will, we hope, fly toward it. If the bird still hasn’t made any moves after some time, get ready to guide it. Take your large bedsheet in both hands, and hold it up at eye level or higher, arms extended so that it makes a large, flat surface. Check that the bird is between you and the exit, then slowly walk toward the bird. By creating a “wall” closing in on it, you can better direct the bird out through the window. Once it leaves, close the window, send your sheet through the wash, and call it a day.

Additional notes: If you’re still stuck with a bird in the house even after following these suggestions, then it is time to call in the professionals. Look up wildlife groups or bird sanctuaries in your local area to see whether they will come and deal with your feathery nuisance. Wildlife experts know how to handle a bird without causing injury, and they have equipment to help the process along.

How To: Make Concrete Garden Edging

Besides the right soil, sufficient sunlight, and neither too much nor too little water, there's one more thing that any thriving houseplant requires—protection from invasive pests.

How to Make Concrete Garden Edging


Always affordable and at once both decorative and functional, concrete garden edging effectively defines garden beds, tree surrounds, and driveway curbs, their versatility enabling you to match any landscape contour.

Perhaps most appealing of all is that concrete garden edging lasts for years and years. Once you’ve completed this project, you can forget all about it and rest assured of its durability.

Even though the quantity of requisite materials will vary in keeping with the ambitiousness of your vision, you can use the steps below to make concrete garden edging in whatever length you wish.

STEP 1: Decide on the placement of your concrete garden edging.

Start by laying out the perimeter of your edging with a garden hose or a length of rope. For best results, devise a design in which the border is at least 5″ wide.


STEP 2: Dig and tamp the soil where you’ll pour the concrete.

Excavate your planned border perimeter to a 4″ depth and an 8″ width. Compact the soil to create a solid base for the concrete you will add in a later step.


STEP 3: Stake outside the border.

Drive 1″ x 1″ x 12″ wood stakes at one-and-a-half-foot intervals along the border.

STEP 4: Create your concrete mold.

With 1″ wood screws, attach 1/4″ x 4″ x 8″ pieces of flexible hardboard (for curved borders) or rigid plywood (for angular installations) to the wood stakes.


STEP 5: Insert spacers to keep the edging an even width.

For spacers, cut 1″ x 1″ boards in lengths equal to the width of the border. Meanwhile, set 1″ x 1″ x 12″ wood stakes along the outside of the border in three-foot intervals, then set your spacers as needed along the bottom of the excavated area to maintain a consistent garden border width.

STEP 6: Mix and pour your concrete.

Having mixed the concrete to a firm, workable consistency, pour it into the border form, using a margin trowel to spread and consolidate the mix.


STEP 7: Smooth the concrete and cut control joints.

Wait for the bleed water to disappear, after which time you can smooth the surface with a wood float. Then, using the margin trowel, cut control joints at three-foot intervals, each one at least 1″ deep into the concrete. Consolidate and smooth the border edges using a concrete edging tool.

STEP 8: Coat with an acrylic concrete sealer.

Finally, apply acrylic concrete sealer to the concrete before letting it cure for three to five days. Once the concrete has cured, remove the forms and backfill against the lawn border with dirt or sod.

For more garden edging and walkway solutions, visit QUIKRETE.

Quick Tip: Rescue Scorched Cookware

Besides the right soil, sufficient sunlight, and neither too much nor too little water, there's one more thing that any thriving houseplant requires—protection from invasive pests.

How to Clean a Burnt Pot


Fear not: Cleaning blackened, burned cookware doesn’t have to mean an arm-wearying afternoon of intensive scouring. It doesn’t have to mean the use of harsh, toxic chemicals, either. You probably already own everything you need to save a scorched pot or pan from the clutches of charred food. So if and when your usual let-it-soak-and-wait method ultimately meets with failure, try one of these tried-and-true strategies for restoring scorched cookware to its original, shiny state.

How to Clean a Burnt Pot - Scrub Detail


Light Duty
Fill the burned pot with enough water to cover the charred area completely. Bring the water to a boil on the stove and let it continue boiling for two or three minutes. Next, remove the pot from the stove and set it aside to cool down. Pour out the water only once the water has returned to room temperature.

Now that the char in the pot has softened considerably, sprinkle in a generous amount of baking soda and proceed to scrub. With luck, you should find that the black residue comes off much more easily, particularly with the potent abrasive combination of baking soda and a rough-textured scouring pad.

Heavy Duty
If the technique described above ended up helping but not enough, call in more firepower—that is, white vinegar. Pour enough of the stuff into the pot to cover the charred area completely (here, vinegar substitutes for the water used in the first method.) Once finished, add in about one cup of baking soda. Once the fizzing dies down, pour the liquid out of the pot and proceed to scrub the burned area clean.

In the most extreme cases, try this alternative method: Fill the pot with enough vinegar to cover the charred area, then bring the vinegar to a boil. Let it simmer on the stove. (As the vinegar simmers, you might even see blackened bits breaking away from the bottom and sides of the pot.) After a few minutes, set the pot aside and add baking soda. Once the fizzing has stopped, pour out the liquid and scrub.

Even gourmet chefs scorch cookware occasionally, so there’s no telling when you might face the problem again. But now you know not to dispose of a burned pot or pan. Though it may seem impossible at first, black and bristly char can indeed be removed, and often without a great deal of effort. You only need to know what staples to pull out of your pantry and precisely how to employ them to get results.

Quick Tip: Removing Coffee Stains from Carpet

Besides the right soil, sufficient sunlight, and neither too much nor too little water, there's one more thing that any thriving houseplant requires—protection from invasive pests.

How to Remove Coffee Stains from Carpet


It’s not what you feared. Spilling coffee on the carpet doesn’t have to mean living with an eyesore until you replace the floor covering. Besides the branded cleaners readily available in stores, you can remove coffee stains from carpet using a combination of only a few common household items you likely have on hand already.

Time is of the essence—the faster you treat the stain, the better your chances of restoring the carpet to pristine condition. As soon as you discover the accident, jump into action by moistening, not soaking, a clean cotton cloth. Next, use the cloth to blot around the sides of the stain, gradually working toward the center. Do not press down hard on any portion of the affected area. Rather, continue blotting, dampening fresh sections of the cloth as needed, until the stain becomes faint.

If blotting alone isn’t doing the trick, follow the steps outlined below to remove coffee stains from carpet, whether the mark has been there five minutes or five days.

How to Remove Coffee Stains from Carpet - Spill Detail


Step 1

Mix one tablespoon of liquid dishwasher detergent with one tablespoon vinegar and two cups of water. While the detergent works to dissolve the stain, the vinegar dislodges the coffee from the carpet fibers.

Step 2

Dampen a clean cotton cloth in the solution, then apply it to the stain with frequent blotting. First, blot the perimeter of the mark, then work gradually towards the center, re-moistening the cloth as you go along.

Step 3

To absorb the detergent and vinegar, sponge the affected area with cold water, then blot it dry with paper towels. Before finishing up, consider going over the once-stained carpet with a hair dryer or hand vacuum.

In the grand scheme of cleaning solutions, homemade or store-bought, liquid detergent and vinegar are quite mild. Even so, before applying the mixture to your carpet, it may be wise to test it somewhere inconspicuous. In the case of wall-to-wall carpeting, experiment on the floor of a seldom-used closet. Otherwise, focus on the carpeting located beneath a large piece of furniture.

When testing, be sure to wait a few minutes before assessing the results. If the mixture seems to have hurt rather than helped, try to remove it right away with cold water and a sponge. Even if the attempt fails miserably, you will have jeopardized only a small patch of carpet in an out-of-the-way place, while learning to look for a new strategy.

Of course, the right approach to cleaning a coffee-stained carpet can return the textile to its unblemished state, so long as you are prepared to be patient and persistent in your efforts.

How To: Clean a Down Comforter

Besides the right soil, sufficient sunlight, and neither too much nor too little water, there's one more thing that any thriving houseplant requires—protection from invasive pests.

How to Clean a Down Comforter


Just about every down comforter has a tag with care instructions that read, “Dry Clean Only.” But if you’re on a budget, or reluctant to expose your bedding to the harsh chemicals used in dry cleaning, or simply intent on avoiding yet another errand, there’s good news: You can clean a down comforter at home. It’s only possible, however, if you have a large-capacity front-loading washer. In a small machine, the considerable weight of a comforter can damage the appliance, while in a top-loader, the agitator can rip the fabric, causing feathers to spill out everywhere. But assuming that your washer is both large in size and front-loading in design, you can clean a down comforter by following these steps!

TOOLS AND MATERIALS Available on Amazon
Down soap
Dryer balls

How to Clean a Down Comforter

Step 1

First things first, load the comforter into the washing machine. Next, add in a mild soap or, better yet, a soap specially formulated for down—yes, such things exists! (View example on Amazon.) Avoid using standard laundry detergent. What you’d normally use to clean your clothing would, if used on a down comforter, strip away the natural oils that are responsible for making the feathers so exceptionally light and delightfully fluffy.

How to Clean a Down Comforter - Bedding Detail


Step 2

Set the washer to run with warm water on a delicate cycle. If there’s an extra rinse option, enable it. If there isn’t, that’s OK; you’ll simply need to run the comforter through a separate rinse cycle manually. No matter how you achieve it, the extra rinse is needed to remove soap residue from the down.

Step 3

Immediately transfer the comforter to a high-capacity dryer. Set the dryer to operate on low heat, and toss in either dryer balls or clean white socks stuffed with tennis balls. Yet another option is to periodically remove the comforter from the dryer and give it a vigorous shake. All three methods perform the same important function, which is to prevent the down from clumping.

Step 4

As the comforter dries, be sure to check on it every now and again, particularly at the beginning of the cycle. There is a danger of the comforter overheating, in which case the fabric could either melt or get burned. If you notice the comforter sticking to the interior walls of the dryer, stop the machine, remove the bedding, and hand-fluff it before continuing.

Step 5

Keep the comforter in the dryer until it is bone-dry and the down has returned to being soft and fluffy. This may take several hours. Resist the temptation to take the comforter out of the dryer before it’s completely dry. Doing so would, at best, compromise the bedding’s insulating power and, at worst, encourage the growth of mold and mildew.

Down Comforter Care

Keep the bedding covered, at virtually all times, with a duvet cover. Like a pillowcase for your down comforter, a comparatively easy-to-clean duvet protects the underlying bedding from stains. Every three or four months, remove the comforter from its duvet and hang it outside by means of clothespins. Save this chore for a dry, sunny, and preferably windy day. Once it’s hung, leave the duvet out until the sun sets. Cared for in this way, a down comforter may only need to be cleaned once every five or ten years!

How To: Clean an Oven

Besides the right soil, sufficient sunlight, and neither too much nor too little water, there's one more thing that any thriving houseplant requires—protection from invasive pests.

How to Clean an Oven


You’ve put it off for months, hoping the little spills and splatters inside the oven would vanish of their own accord. There comes a time, though—as much as you wish it weren’t true—when you must clean an oven to ensure its continued operation. Of course, that’s assuming you don’t have a self-cleaning oven. These marvelous inventions have been around for a number of years. They maintain themselves by heating to an extremely high temperature that burns away residue. Older appliances are not so conveniently equipped. But by following the instructions detailed below, you can clean an oven completely in only a handful of steps.

Step 1

Start be removing the oven racks. These may need to be cleaned, too. The most effective method of cleaning oven racks is to give them a good, long soak in hot, soapy water (liquid dish soap or a crumbled dishwasher tablet ought to suffice). Can’t fit your oven racks in the kitchen sink? As an alternative, you can soak them in the bathtub. Just be sure to line the tub with an old towel so as to prevent the metal racks from chipping or scratching the delicate finish on your tub.

How to Clean an Oven Door


Step 2

Within the oven itself, use a metal spatula to gently scrape away residue. The sides of the oven may be messy too, but most of your effort is likely to be spent on clearing ashy chunks off the bottom of the oven chamber. Most baked-on spills and splatters can be removed this way, but you’re not finished yet!

Step 3

Mix baking soda with just enough water to create a thick paste. A typical ratio is one half-cup of baking soda and two or three tablespoons of water. Apply the paste to every surface inside the oven, including the back side of the door. Let sit for several hours or overnight, allowing the paste to penetrate deeply.

Step 4

Once six or eight hours have gone by, lay old newspapers or paper towels on the floor in front of the oven. Next, using a slightly moist sponge, wipe out as much of the paste as possible. Lots of grease and ash should come out along with the paste. Continue wiping, rinsing the sponge as necessary, until no more paste remains in the oven. If the chamber still seems dirty, you may want to repeat the process, reapplying the baking soda and letting it sit before attacking the oven with a sponge yet again.

Step 5

Fill a spray bottle with a 50-50 mixture of white vinegar and water, using it to spray down the glass portion of the oven door. Wipe away the moisture with a clean, dry cotton or microfiber cloth.

Additional Notes
In the future, to make oven maintenance less of a time-consuming chore, why not regularly wipe down the oven chamber with soapy water? If you stick to a program of more frequent, less intensive cleaning, your oven may never again need such major TLC. Hey, it’s something to think about, at least!