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5 Steps to Solving All of Your Garage Storage Problems

The garage often serves as a dumping ground for old paint, broken toys, and boxes of clothes awaiting a ride to the local thrift store. Luckily, with the right storage, your vehicle doesn't have to squeeze into its dedicated space. Find what meets your needs in a handful of steps.

How to Organize a Garage

Photo: istockphoto.com

Is it starting to seem like there’s no storage space left in your house? Is every closet, cabinet, and drawer totally crammed? Well, the solution to your storage woes may be as close as your garage. Sure, it’s already housing your tools and gardening gear, and maybe even your car, but the average garage can fit more boxes and bins than just about any other space in the home. It may be a messy catchall right now, but with planning, you can turn the garage into an efficient, well-organized household storage annex.

If you get anxious even considering the prospect of dealing with the chockablock situation in your garage, take heart. This isn’t going to be a piece of cake, but with help from professional organizer Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Organizer: A to Z Storage Solutions, we’ve broken the task into a series of discrete, manageable steps. The process begins with clearing out the clutter and ends with implementing smart garage storage ideas suited to your needs. Corralling the chaos starts right now!

 

How to Organize a Garage - Wall Storage System

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1: Visualize the Possibilities

Avoid the common mistake of hastily throwing organizational products at the mess and, instead, start with some strategy. “Imagine what the space will look like when it’s cleaned out and how nice it will feel to drive into it each time you come home,” Smallin suggests. “Hold this image in your head to inspire you.”

Then list out zones you’d like to see in the space to organize items by task or interest. “Your pots, fertilizer, and garden hose should be grouped together for a gardening zone,” says Tim Keaton, Head of Brand and Product Marketing for Gladiator/GarageWorks. “And your golf clubs, soccer balls, and baseball bats should be kept together for a sporting zone.” Other logical zone groupings include holiday decorations, kids stuff, and a workshop area with space for a sturdy bench, plus pegboard or cabinets.

RELATED: 11 “Neat” Garage Storage Solutions

Once you’ve determined what zones you’ll need, work logically to map out where they’ll be easiest to access. For instance, are there certain household items in the garage that you’re likely to need on a regular basis? If so, locate these items near the door so that retrieving them only requires a quick and painless trip. Garden equipment and the lawn mower, on the other hand, make more sense placed by the door leading to the yard. Meanwhile, stash seasonal items like holiday lights in higher, harder-to-reach spots.

In fact, thinking vertical is key. “Look up and you’ll find a ton of wasted space,” says Keaton. “Using vertical space leads to creating more useable space. In addition to hanging rakes and tools, consider hanging up your bikes and wheelbarrow.” Hoists and overhead racks maximize space near the ceiling.

 

How to Organize a Garage - Clear Space

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 2: Take Everything Out

Start by emptying out of the garage. Carefully carry everything out of the garage and lay it down in a staging area, either in an unused part of the home or on the lawn or driveway if clear skies are in the forecast. “Group things in categories,” right from the getgo, Smallin says. “All the garden tools together, for instance, or all the sporting goods.” Organization in taking out items will make it easier to create those zones when you bring your possessions back in.

Broom clean the entire space, taking care to get all the leaves that may have blown in and any cobwebs that may have gathered in forgotten places. And, while you have a good view of it, consider whether the space could benefit from a fresh coat of paint (on the walls or the floor).

RELATED: The 10 Best Things You Can Do for Your Garage

 

How to Organize a Garage - Packing Boxes

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 3: Decide What to Keep or Toss

Cleaning day is a great time to check the condition and usefulness of the items stored in your garage. As you lift out each piece of equipment, toy, or tool, put aside anything that’s broken beyond repair or simply not needed anymore—it won’t be coming back into the garage. One rule of thumb: “Get rid of anything you haven’t used in the past year,” advises Erin Gentry, Associate Public Relations and Consumer Engagement Manager at Rubbermaid.

Group those items you’re eliminating into four piles: toss, recycle, donate, or sell. If parting with perfectly good items proves to be paralyzing, find motivation in a moneymaking garage sale or gain satisfaction from helping a favorite charity. People in your community may be interested in the things you no longer need.

RELATED: 10 Tips for a Money-Making, Hassle-Free Yard Sale

Here are additional sources to get you started:

1-800-GOT-JUNK: This national franchise will remove everything from appliances to tires to trash, donating and recycling whatever is possible. (Ask the hauler to obtain a tax receipt if you are donating to a charity.)

earth911.org: Check here to find local recycling centers where you can safely dispose of paint and chemicals.

donationtown.org: Use this site to match your items with a local charity and arrange pickup.

After you’ve winnowed down the contents of your garage, sort what’s left into groups. After all, items used together ought to be stored together—ideally in the zones planned during Step 1.

 

How to Organize a Garage - Space Planning

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 4: Assess Your Storage Needs

Refer now to the gameplan you made in Step 1, and make lists of the type of storage you’d need to make it happen: two bins to corral sports equipment and three more for seasonal decorations, pegboard and hooks to hang gardening tools, metal shelving the height of the wall, and so on.

Then, look around. An empty garage makes it easy to inventory whether you have enough shelving, boxes, and cabinets to neatly store those items you’re keeping. Chances are that you already own enough supplies to fulfill most of the garage storage ideas you had in mind. These seven storage essentials will get you far:

Garage Storage Ideas - Plastic Bins and Shelves

Photo: istockphoto.com

• Plastic bins. One of the simplest and smartest garage storage ideas is to place like items into stackable, clear plastic containers with lids and labels. (Opaque bins work, too, as long as you detail specific contents on the label of each one—this saves time searching for items later.) These will keep your belongings clean, protect against insects and rodents, and increase the amount of usable floor space. Plus, clear bins create a uniformity among very diverse collections—toys, holiday decorations, home improvement supplies, and more—that in turn cuts down on visual clutter.

• Open shelving. Stackable bins make great use of square footage. Even better than storing one on top of the other, though, is placing them one over the other on a set of sturdy shelves. The extra few inches of clearance above each bin provides easy access without having to first lift off three. Plus, depending on their construction and material (metal, plastic, wire, or wood), 12- or 16-inch-deep shelves are typically capable of holding the heavier items (unlike pegboard).

• Ceiling-mounted racks. For infrequently used belongings, ceilings provide ideal, out-of-the-way storage space. Ladders and seasonal gear can be kept here, hung by clips or straps fastened to the joists. Or you can take advantage of hoist pulley systems, which cleverly operate like the cords on window blinds. Bear in mind, however, that ceiling storage must be oriented so that it doesn’t interfere with the operation of the garage door.

• Closed cabinetry. Even when organized so that you can find everything, collections half-used paint cans, garbage bags, lawn equipment, and backyard toys still appear jarring in the close quarters of your garage. Cabinets with doors are highly desirable because they can hide this chaos from view when you pass through the garage on the way to or from home. If you already have these, great! If not, keep in mind that cabinets—be they freestanding or wall-hung, with countless material and style options—tend to cost more than other solutions. Consider mixing-and-matching with another system from this list to both lower costs and successfully store even the bulkiest items.

Garage Storage Ideas - Pegboard and Hooks

Photo: istockphoto.com

• Pegboard. If you’ve got a lot of ceiling height in your garage, use those tall walls wisely. Inexpensive and easy to install, this perforated hardboard has been a garage storage favorite for generations. By hanging and outfitting pegboard with a custom combination of compatible pegs, hooks, clamps, bins, and shelves, you can use this utilitarian method to store and organize just about anything of modest weight. Store paintbrushes and rollers, lawn and garden equipment, and the contents of your overstuffed toolbox out in plain sight and easy reach.

RELATED: 9 Ways to Get on Board with Pegboard

• Panelized systems. Cover entire walls with specially designed panels by companies including GarageTek, Rubbermaid, Schulte, and Gladiator/GarageWorks and coordinate with any number of companion add-ons (e.g., hooks, bins, ball holders, cabinets, and shelves). Though these ultra-flexible panelized systems can handle heavy and awkwardly sized items, that sort of strength and utility comes at a cost, if you need to add new ones.

• Wall hooks and hook racks. Hooks are inexpensive, easy to use, and available in all sizes for a variety of tasks. Unlike pegboard and wall systems, though, these wall-mounted options offer slightly less flexibility for how you can use vertical space. Certainly, individual hooks can be placed anywhere you really only need to keep a couple of items accessible: keys, scissors, garden hoses, or (if heavy-duty) bikes. You can suspend even more items a hook rack, from tool belts to rakes and shovels with their business ends above the pegs. Still, configurations are limited.

Short on bins or shelves? See one or two garage storage ideas on the list that seems a perfect addition to what you already own? Subtract your inventory from your wish list of solutions, and take the pared-down version shopping in the next step.

 

How to Organize a Garage - Garden Tools Garage Rack

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 5: Get and Implement What You Need

Whatever smart organizational products you don’t have on hand, you can purchase with a quick trip to a local home improvement store—and, thanks to the inventory you made, in the exact amount you need. This strategy will ensure that you do not buy so much stuff that you and your overcrowded garage are back at square one.

While there are lots of garage storage ideas—from hooks and chrome racks to customized, professionally installed systems priced in the thousands—organization hinges on consistency. As you pick out the last of your storage, choose cabinets and racks of the same color and type. Look for systems made of metal, plastic, or wood specifically treated for garage use. And remember that bigger is not always better. You need a garage storage system that will allow you to find your stuff and still leave room for the car.

A few other shopping tips to keep in mind:

• Open shelving is a solid choice for bins and equipment alike. Invest in deep shelves for larger items like snow tires. Know that you’re picking a free-standing or wall-mounted model with the right weight limit for what you want to store.

• Ensure cabinet choices serve both form and function. Tall cabinets with double doors are great, but be sure they come with enough adjustable shelves to optimize the space inside. Include at least one lockable cabinet to keep dangerous chemicals and power tools out of reach of children and pets. If you’re adding some low cabinets, consider putting them on casters for a flexible garage layout and even topping them with a durable work surface that you could use in projects.

• Decide whether you want a professionally-mounted wall panel systems or a DIY alternative. This type of heavy-duty wall storage is a big spend, especially since some products require pro installation. To save money, consider models that use tracks or rails—these are easiest for do-it-yourselfers to install. Whatever your decision, you won’t regret your investment when you see your payoff: By capitalizing on the wall space, you can fit more into your garage without sacrificing access.

Puzzle-piece your garage storage solutions together according to the master plan and then reload. Remember: Group items by task and prioritize convenient access to those items used most often. With these principles in mind and your stash winnowed, you should be in great shape the next time you need to find…well, anything.

 


How To: Clean Silver Plate

Restore the spotless shine to dirty or tarnished silver plate pieces with a few common household cleaners.

How to Clean Silver Plate

Photo: istockphoto.com

Silver plate platters, tea sets, and flatware—typically made of copper, brass, or nickel and topped with a thin layer of pure silver or a silver alloy through the process of electrolysis—add a touch of class to any table (at a far more reasonable price than solid silver). Yet silver plate can lose its luster through regular use, accumulating dirt and tarnish, a dingy film formed when traces of sulfur in the air chemically react with the silver surface to produce silver sulfide.

Because the silver plate coating is delicate, it requires uniquely gentle cleaning (unlike its solid sibling, which can actually stand up to mild abrasives like toothpaste). Read on to learn how to clean silver plate safely and easily after everyday use and periods of tarnish, and you can enjoy it on a daily basis—not just when company comes.

RELATED: 8 Things You Never See on the Dining Table Anymore

 

How to Clean Silver Plate

Photo: istockphoto.com

EVERYDAY CLEANING

Use this procedure for how to clean silver plate to get rid of dirt and grime that accumulates from regular use.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Plain water
Acidfree liquid dish soap
Gloves
Soft cloth or sponge

STEP 1
Determine whether your silver-plated item is lacquered (sealed with a clear protective coating) or non-lacquered by pressing the tip of a fingernail into an inconspicuous location. If this leaves a small mark, it’s lacquered; if there’s no mark, it’s non-lacquered.

STEP 2
Insert a sink stopper into the drain of an empty sink. If cleaning a lacquered silver-plated item, run warm water from the tap until the sink is three-quarters of the way full. (Hot water can strip the lacquer.) If cleaning a non-lacquered item, run hot water from the tap.

STEP 3
Add to the water half teaspoon of acid-free liquid dish soap (check the ingredient list, avoiding soaps with “citric extracts” or citric acid, a common ingredient in citrus-scented dish soaps that can have a mild corrosive effect on silver plate). Using a gloved hand, stir the contents until the soap has completely dissolved.

STEP 4
Submerge the silver-plated item in the soap bath completely. Give the piece three to five minutes of dwell time to loosen dirt or grime, then remove it and place it on a clean surface.

STEP 5
While the item is still wet, gently rub its entire surface with a soft, dry cloth or dish sponge to slough off loosened dirt and grime. Steer clear of steel wool, polishing cloths, or other abrasive utensils, which can scratch silver plate.

STEP 6
Rinse the item under warm tap water to wash off lingering debris, then wipe it down with a soft, dry cloth. Now, don’t forget to polish to completely restore the metal’s luster! Jump to the last section to read how to shine your silver plate.

 

How to Clean Silver Plate

Photo: istockphoto.com

DEEP CLEANING

Use this technique for how to clean silver plate at least once a year or whenever you notice the dark, shadowy film of tarnish form.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– Glass bowl
– Aluminum foil
Plain water
– Two-quart saucepan
– Baking soda
– Tongs
– Soft cloth

STEP 1
Line the base and sides of a large glass bowl with a sheet of aluminum foil (either the shiny or dull side can be facing up), then set the silver-plated item inside the bowl directly on top of the foil.

STEP 2
Boil four cups of plain water in a saucepan, then move the saucepan of water from the heat to an empty sink. Add a quarter cup of baking soda to the saucepan while the water inside is still hot. The water will bubble as the baking soda dissolves.

STEP 3
If cleaning non-lacquered silver plate, immediately pour all of the hot water and baking soda solution over the silver-plated item in the foil-lined glass bowl. If the item is lacquered, wait until the water is warm to the touch before pouring it over the silver-plated item (hot water can strip the lacquer). The baking soda will immediately begin to chemically react with the silver sulfide. You should start to see the dark film diminish within one minute and, depending on the degree of tarnish, disappear entirely within five to 10 minutes.

STEP 4
Remove the silver-plated item from the bowl using tongs, then rinse it under warm tap water to wash away any lingering film. Wipe the item down with a soft, dry cloth, and polish according to the next section before storing.

 

How to Clean Silver Plate

Photo: istockphoto.com

 

POLISHING

Following either the regular or deep cleaning routines, use this procedure to restore sheen to silver plate.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Gloves
– Silver polish (either paste- or cream-based)
Plain water
– Soft cloth
– Anti-tarnish silver storage bag
– Anti-tarnish fabric lining

STEP 1
After donning gloves, squeeze a dot of silver polish onto a soft, clean, dry cloth. Gently rub the paste- or cream-based polish (e.g., Wright’s Silver Polish Cleaner, available for $5 on Amazon) over the entire surface of the clean silver-plated item using circular motions.

STEP 2
Rinse the item under warm tap water to wash away excess polish, then dry the item immediately with a clean soft cloth; air-drying can lead to unsightly water marks.

STEP 3
Store your cleaned and polished silver-plated items in an anti-tarnish silver storage bag (e.g., the Hagerty Holloware Bag, available for $15 on Amazon) or a kitchen drawer covered with anti-tarnish fabric lining (e.g., Kenized Anti-Tarnish Silver Cloth, available for $12 on Amazon). These fabrics absorb sulfur present in the air, preventing the chemical reaction that causes tarnish.


Solved! When to Use Your Washer and Dryer’s Permanent Press Cycle

Combat creases in clothes, accessories, and linens the easy way with this little-known laundry appliance setting.

What is Permanent Press? How to Best Use the Wash and Dry Setting

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: I’ve always been pretty simple with my laundry settings—hot water for whites, cold water for darks—and haven’t taken advantage of the other less-than-straightforward settings on my washer and dryer. What is Permanent Press, and when do I use it?

A: Think of the permanent press setting on your washer and dryer as your first line of defense against unwanted creases in your favorite fashions. The setting—which evolved from the 1950s-era invention of permanent press fabric that was chemically treated to ward off wrinkles—sets in motion a wash or dry cycle that removes existing wrinkles in fabric and prevents new ones from forming. That alone reduces the need for manual ironing after a load, which can fade, shrink, or burn fabric over time. And, since the cycle is gentler on laundry than a Regular wash or dry cycle, it also maintains the color and condition of your clothes, accessories, and linens and prolongs their usefulness. But the setting is better suited for some clothes than others, so read on to learn how it works and how best to put it to use.

In washing machines, it uses a combination of warm and cold temperatures as well as a fast wash and slow spin to de-wrinkle the load. The permanent press setting is more commonly found on traditional washers with agitators (spindles that twist and turn to remove dirt) but it’s also available on some high-efficiency washers that house fin-like impellers instead of agitators to remove dirt. Set the machine’s dial to “Permanent Press,” and the 30-minute cycle—which is five minutes shorter than the average Regular cycle—will wash your load in warm water and rinse in cold water with fast agitation. The warm water relaxes and removes creases in clothes, while the cold prevents color fading and shrinking. Then, during the spin (water drainage) phase of the cycle that occurs after the rinse phase, the washer transitions to a slow spin, which prevents the formation of new wrinkles in the laundry.

In dryers, Permanent Press leverages medium heat to de-wrinkle laundry. Throw in five pounds of wrung-out laundry, turn the dial to “Permanent Press” or “Perm Press,” and the dryer’s setting will kick on at medium heat (usually between 125 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit) for either all or the majority of the 30- to 40-minute cycle. That’s both 10 minutes shorter and 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the average Regular dry cycle, a combination that helps smooth creases as the clothes dry. If your dryer includes a cool-down phase at the end of the permanent press cycle (not all dryers do), the dryer will transition to a cool temperature toward the end of the cycle to prevent fading and shrinking of laundry.

This cycle is ideal for wrinkle-prone fabrics made of synthetic fibers. Permanent Press is best suited for washing and drying fabric made with synthetic fibers—e.g. polyester, nylon, acrylic, rayon, or knitwear; permanent press (no-iron) fabric; or fabric made with a blend of synthetic and natural fibers. While you can still safely use the permanent press setting to wash or dry fabrics made with purely natural fibers like cotton or jute, avoid using it on delicate fabrics like lace, cashmere, or silk. These delicates call for cold water, slow agitation, and slow spin throughout the wash cycle, and low heat during the dry cycle, which makes the gentle or delicate wash or dry cycle the best choice for washing or drying them.

What is Permanent Press? How to Best Use the Wash and Dry Setting

Photo: istockphoto.com

It’s most effective on lightweight, moderately soiled laundry. Since the slower agitation and spin rate at the end of a permanent press wash cycle are gentle on clothes, accessories, and linens, you should reserve it for lightweight clothes and accessories: dress shirts and pants, dresses, t-shirts, sweaters, scarves, socks, and bed sheets with light to moderate soiling. Heavy-duty clothes and linens like jeans, blankets, or towels—particularly those that are heavily soiled—need the faster agitation and spin of a regular or heavy-duty wash cycle to get clean. These heavy-duty wears also take longer to dry, which is why you want to put them through a longer and hotter regular or heavy-duty dry cycle. Put heavy-duty wears through a permanent press dry cycle, and they may come out slightly damp and require another dry cycle to get fully dry.

Your load will require less ironing and, a bonus, less de-pilling. Synthetic fabrics are not only more prone to forming wrinkles but also pills, those balls of fiber on fabric that take a steady hand with a razor or an electric pill remover to shave off. The longer these fabrics stay in the washer or dryer, the more pills they develop. Thus, the shorter duration of a permanent press cycle results in clean, dry fabrics with fewer pills and wrinkles!

Know this: Permanent Press won’t magically banish every wrinkle. While this wash or dry cycle will smooth the majority of visible wrinkles in a load of laundry, it won’t necessarily clear every crease. If you continue to spot wrinkles in clothing following a permanent press dry cycle, use these tips to finish the job:

• Manually iron the piece on an ironing board using the heat setting specified by the ironing symbol on the label of the piece. The good news: It should only take a touch-up!

• Spritz warm water from a plastic spray bottle directly onto the wrinkled fabric, then dry with a hairdryer on low heat. Hover the dryer over the wrinkle no closer than two inches from the fabric until the heat smooths it over.

• Spray a store-bought wrinkle remover like Downy Wrinkle Releaser over the offending wrinkles in the fabric, then let the fabric hang-dry completely to eliminate the crease.

Proper loading and unloading of laundry can also help minimize wrinkles. To ensure that a permanent press wash or dry cycle results in as few wrinkles as possible on laundry day:

• Loosely pack items in the washer or dryer so that the appliance is no more than three-quarters full. Laundry is more likely to crease when it has no room in the washer or dryer drum to move freely during the permanent press cycle.

• Never wrap items directly around the agitator or impellers of your washer; they can get caught on them and wrinkle or tear.

• Transfer laundry from the washer to the dryer immediately after the permanent press wash cycle ends (this is when it will be in its most wrinkle-free state) and start a permanent press dry cycle.

• When a permanent press dry cycle ends, immediately retrieve the laundry from the dryer drum and hang or fold it. Left in an unfolded pile, items at the bottom of the pile are likely to develop creases under the weight of the pile.


Video: How to Get Rid of Sticker Residue

Watch and learn to discover the secret cleaning solution for dispatching one of the tiniest and most annoying household messes.

SHARES

So, you’ve removed a label or price tag from a jar, bottle, or other household surface, and now the only evidence of its existence is a sticky residue that just won’t budge. If you’ve ever struggled to remove that nasty left-behind mess, this one’s for you. You can easily and (almost) effortlessly lift sticker residue using materials you probably already have in the pantry. Take a look at this video and remember the step-by-step solution next time you find yourself in a sticky situation.

For more cleaning advice, consider:

15 Genius Tricks for Keeping Your Car Clean

7 Tips for Quick and Easy Cleanup After Dinner

15 Brilliant Hacks for a Cleaner Home in 2018


Enter Bob Vila’s $4,000 Smart Storage Giveaway with IKEA TODAY!

Enter today and every day this month for your chance to win a $1,000 gift card to IKEA!

SHARES

Over the holidays, you’ve likely accumulated many new goodies—but, unfortunately, your humble abode hasn’t gained any storage space. Homeowners everywhere are seeking to organize their belongings affordably and efficiently. That’s why we partnered with IKEA to give away four $1000 gift cards, allowing winners to organize their living space in 2018 for a better everyday life at home! !

Bob Vila’s $4,000 Smart Storage Giveaway with IKEA is live starting today, December 31, 2017, at 12:00 p.m. EST through January 31, 2018, at 11:59 a.m. EST. You could win one of four $1,000 gift cards to IKEA!

ENTER NOW!

IKEA Contest

Photo: ikea.com

Founded in 1943, IKEA is the world’s largest home furnishings retailer. The Swedish company is known for its ready-to-assemble pieces, which combine functionality with Swedish design. Visit one of 47 IKEA U.S. stores for beautiful and affordable furniture, kitchen tools, lighting solutions, decor pieces, bedding, and more. You can also visit their website at http://www.ikea.com/us/en/.

Are you looking to declutter and organize your home? Enter Bob Vila’s $4,000 Smart Storage Giveaway with IKEA daily to increase your chances of winning. Four lucky winners will receive a $1,000 gift card to IKEA. You can put the winnings toward one of the many storage solutions available at IKEA, such as their customizable PAX wardrobe systems, which allow homeowners to create their dream closet.

To learn more about IKEA, click here.

“Bob Vila’s $4,000 Smart Storage Giveaway with IKEA” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia who are age 18 or older. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period for Prize runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Sunday, December 31, 2017, through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Wednesday, January 31, 2018. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.


How To: Clean Granite Countertops

To maintain its glossy shine, granite should be cleaned regularly—and carefully. Here's how.

How to Clean Granite Countertops

Photo: shutterstock.com

In many people’s minds, granite means strength and resilience. But if you want to know how to clean granite countertops successfully, the watchword is caution. The stone can actually be damaged by many of the products and techniques that are perfectly safe to use on other kitchen surfaces. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out how to clean granite countertops properly; the job just requires a bit of extra care and attention. Follow the steps outlined here, and you’re bound to be satisfied with the result of your efforts.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Mild dish soap
 Microfiber cloths (3)
Soft sponge
Baking soda (optional)
Hydrogen peroxide (optional)
Bowl (optional)
Spoon (optional)
Plastic wrap (optional)

How to Clean Granite Countertops

Photo: flickr.com via James Bowe

STEP 1: Squirt dish soap into a soft sponge.

For regular cleaning, your best bet is nothing more sophisticated than mild dish soap that’s been diluted with water. (Although there is a homemade granite cleaner you can make with a base of rubbing alcohol.) Wet a sponge with water from the tap and squirt dish soap into its center. Bear in mind, however, that because granite scratches easily, the solution ought to be applied with a soft sponge, or even a microfiber cloth—that is, not with an abrasive scrubber.

STEP 2: Wring out excess water.

Massage the sponge or cloth until you see suds, then wring it out so as not to compromise the highly absorbent stone (it can become discolored beneath standing water).

STEP 3: Wipe the counters.

Gently wipe across the entire countertop in small, circular motions. Dried-on food splatter might require a little more elbow grease, but stick to this non-abrasive method unless you have a stain. (Dealing with a stain? That’s a different story; see the next section for how to clean granite countertops that have been stained by standing water or oil.)

STEP 4: Dry granite countertops completely.

Dry off the countertop, not only to protect the granite from water damage but also to eliminate streaks and leave the surface with an eye-catching, irresistible shine.

STAIN REMOVAL

Don’t panic! Most of the time, stained granite countertops can be cleaned with household items so common that you probably already have them in your pantry. No matter the source of the stain, start with baking soda. If you wish to clean a water stain, mix the baking soda with a small amount of hydrogen peroxide in a bowl. For an oil-based stain, mix the baking soda with water. In either case, the mixture should generate a thick paste. Generously spoon and spread that over the stain, then cover the area with plastic wrap, taping down its edges. Leave the homemade stain remover overnight (or even for a couple of days), before rinsing and wiping down the granite.

ADDING PROTECTION

Most installations of granite are protected by a layer of sealant. If you’ve repeatedly tried and failed to remove stains from your counters, chances are that the sealant has ceased to function as it should. In situations where the sealant is to blame, stained granite becomes difficult or impossible to clean, at least for the average do-it-yourselfer. Your best bet is to hire a professional to completely clean and then properly reseal the stone, thereby preventing future problems.

If you’ve been lucky enough to avoid stains so far but want to know the extent of your countertop’s protection, test whether or not it’s sealed. Spoon out just a few drops of water onto the surface, and keep your hydrogen peroxide and baking soda at the ready. Give it a few minutes. You want to see the water bead up atop the protective seal; that means it’s strong. But, if the water penetrates the granite, address the stain quickly with the baking soda and hydrogen peroxide paste described above (under “Stain Removal”) and schedule a time to reseal the slab.

STAY CLEAR

Keep these cleaners far away!

• Household acids including vinegar, lemon, lime, and citrus

• Ammonia or ammonia-based cleaners like Windex

• Bleach

• Steel wool

• Scrubby sponges

They’re bad news for the gloss of your granite as well as the protection—over time, they will etch, dull, and even weaken the surface sealant.

 

Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from BobVila.com
There’s no way around it: Keeping the house clean demands your time, your energy, and even some of your money. Fortunately, this arsenal of cleaning tips can help you finish the housekeeping more quickly—and with fewer commercially sold products.


All You Need to Know About Shaker Style

Understand this ever-popular “keep it simple” design philosophy to achieve the look for your own interiors.

The Timeless Look of Shaker Style Homes

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org via Steven C. Price

Once in great a while, a style comes along that captures such a wide audience that its popularity is, well, unshakable—and clean, minimalist Shaker style is a prime example. Today, 150 years after the Shakers (a branch of Quakerism) settled in the United States, their contributions to construction and furniture design still enjoy widespread appeal. If you’re interested in this basic yet beautiful look, read on to learn how it evolved and how you can bring it into your home.

BASIC BELIEFS, SIMPLE SYMMETRY

During the mid-1800s, Shaker communities dotted the New England landscape. Their commitment to leading simple lives led to the development of the Shaker style, which features unadorned lines, unrivaled craftsmanship, and an assurance of quality.

In the midst of a quickly changing 19th Century, when mass production began to replace handcrafted quality, the Shakers remained firmly committed to superior workmanship. Their devout beliefs that simplicity, order, and neatness surpassed ornateness served as the foundation for their no-frills designs. Buildings, cabinetry, and furniture were intended to fulfill a need, rather than serve as décor.

AUSTERE ARCHITECTURE

Shaker residences, called “dwelling houses,” borrowed their rectangular box design from federalist and Greek Revival architecture, but removed all traces of ornamentation—no columns, no wraparound porches, and no fancy millwork. Every element of Shaker construction was functional. Shutters, when used, were built on the insides of dwellings, and were operable, to block out harsh sunrays or frigid winter drafts as necessary.

Shaker dwellings housed many residents and so were often quite large, reaching three and four stories in height and topped with simple gable roof lines. Everything the Shakers built was utilitarian and often balanced in design from one side to the other—for example, the two large fireplaces at opposite ends of the dwellings. Interiors were divided into two nearly identical halves, each served by a separate staircase, because Shaker brothers lived on one side and Shaker sisters on the other.

Many Shaker dwellings were framed from wood timbers, and featured shiplap siding, while others were constructed of brick and limestone. Meeting houses were the largest structures in the communities, and in some Shaker villages, they were built in a circular design, featuring high interior ceilings, and painted all in white, outside and inside, to symbolize the purity of their faith.

 

Shaker Style Chairs Hung on the Walls

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org via Richard Taylor

FINELY CRAFTED FURNITURE

Shaker Style Ladder Back Chair

Photo: istockphoto.com

The most enduring contribution the Shakers made to the world of design is utilitarian furniture with plain lines. Simple ladder-back chairs, no-frills tables with square legs, solid wood cabinets, and well-built wardrobes were constructed using strong joinery techniques. Their use of complicated dovetail joints and wooden peg assembly took extra time but set a high standard for quality construction.

Remaining pieces of original Shaker furniture (for the most part in private collections and museums) are in exceptional condition, due to the superior craftsmanship that went into their construction. The traditional ladder-back chair was first popularized by the Shakers and then adapted by furniture makers all over the world.

The simple cabinet door style introduced by the Shakers is still a favorite today among those wanting an unpretentious vibe. Modern cabinet makers continue to follow the Shaker principle of five-piece construction—one piece for the flat door panel and four additional boards that form a frame on the face of the door. This method of Shaker style construction prevented warping and gave the doors superior strength.

A QUEST FOR LIGHT, AN ABSENCE OF COLOR

In their mission to create utopian communities that replicated heaven on earth, the Shakers incorporated light into virtually everything they designed. With no decorations in their rooms, a single large window could create a halo-type effect as it radiated light to the rest of the room. Daylight was their light of choice, and they came up with some resourceful ways of using it.

Rooms and hallways in the interiors of large dwelling houses, depended on “borrowed light.” By installing windows in interior walls between rooms, such as a dividing wall between two bedrooms, the Shakers cleverly directed illumination from well-lit rooms to dimmer ones within the dwelling. Skylights directed extra light downward over wooden staircases, which eliminated the need for candles and lamps during daylight hours.

Wood floors, furniture, and staircases were varnished to protect them from humidity and temperature fluctuations, but the Shakers did not use wood stain to enrich the natural color of the wood. The tone of the wood in the dwellings was dependent on the type of wood available in their region. Strong hardwoods, including oak, pine, maple, apple, pear cherry, walnut, and hickory were commonly used for both furniture making and to construct interior wood elements such as staircases.

The Shakers used white paint to protect the exterior of their buildings, while interior walls were finished in hand-applied and smoothed plaster, which offered a satiny-white hue. Shaker rules allowed a minimal splash of color, often solid blue, for chair pads. Multicolor fabrics and patterns were avoided. While most Shaker walls were white with natural wood trim, some of the earliest Shaker dwellings incorporated painted yellow trim and doors.

 

Shaker Style in the Kitchen

Photo: flickr.com via larkandlarks.co.uk

GET THE SHAKER LOOK

Because it offers a sense of serenity in a hectic world, Shaker style remains a timeless favorite. Building a new house along Shaker architectural lines isn’t feasible for most, but by incorporating Shaker elements in your home, you can achieve a similar sense of minimalism and modesty.

Paint walls and ceilings soft white. The Shakers used white extensively to create a sense of purity and luminosity within their dwellings, stores, and meeting houses.

Think “monotone” when selecting decor. In a Shaker dwelling, the only colors—besides the white of the walls and the wood tones of the floors and furniture—were the natural tans of cotton and linen cloth used to make bedspreads and cushions, and the occasional colored seat cover. If you choose to add a splash of color, make it a muted one in a solid design: Sage green throw pillows, a natural wicker basket to stow reading materials, or a braided country blue throw rug will add a bit of color without detracting from the Shaker style.

Install picture rail and chair rail on walls. Chair rail, a narrow trim board that runs horizontally along walls, about 28” above the floor, offers visual appeal while protecting walls from the bumps of chairs being scooted backward. Picture rail, another narrow horizontal trim board, can be installed at eye level or slightly above. While picture rail is often used today to hang artwork, for the Shakers, it was purely functional; pegs were attached to the rail to hold coats and hats.

Timeless Shaker Style in the Modern-Day Kitchen

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Oklahoma, OK

Add Shaker-style furniture. When it comes to Shaker style furniture, less is more and plain rules over fancy. An eat-in kitchen is a perfect spot for a modest square or rectangular solid wood table, complete with ladder-back wood chairs. Invest in a plain wood rocking chair for an added touch. Shakers were permitted one rocker per room. Choose natural wood dressers, nightstands, and wardrobes that feature flat-front doors and drawers.

Take pictures off the walls and clear away clutter. Artwork was shunned, so true Shaker style walls should be free from pictures. Store family photos in photo albums. For an authentic bit of wall décor, hang an old-fashioned bonnet or a natural-bristle flat broom (the Shakers invented the flat broom) from a peg on the back of a door or on a picture rail. Keep only the items you use on a daily basis on countertops, and stow your toaster and coffee maker out of sight.

Replace curtains with operable interior shutters. Real wood shutters (unpainted) provide privacy when closed, let daylight stream in when open, and add an authentic touch of Shaker design to your room.

Update kitchen cabinets with new faces and iron hardware. Even if you can’t afford an entire kitchen remodel, you can replace existing doors and drawer fronts with new Shaker-style doors and fronts. Choose simple black iron hinges and pulls to complete the Shaker look. Opt for plain white or linen-colored hand towels.


Video: Stop Making These Mistakes in the Laundry Room

Have you been sabotaging your own laundry routine? Pay attention to these mistakes that could be making the job harder than it has to be, and ruining your clothes in the process.

If you’ve ever shrunk your favorite sweater by drying it on the highest setting, or turned your white socks pink by dropping them into the washer with a colorful load of clothes, you already know that laundry day can be fraught with difficulties. Luckily, the science of washing clothes is quite simple. If you avoid making a few common mistakes, you’ll extend the life of your linens and clothes and get them cleaner than ever. It’s really that easy. Check out our video to find out how to improve your washing routine.

For more cleaning tips, consider:

12 Smart Dish Washing Hacks No One Ever Taught You

7 Tips for Quick and Easy Cleanup After Dinner

15 Brilliant Hacks for a Cleaner Home in 2018


5 Little-Known Advantages of Linoleum Flooring

First patented in the mid-1800s, this durable flooring can still be found in kitchens, bathrooms, mudrooms, and foyers more than a century later. Find out what makes linoleum so desirable.

Linoleum Flooring in the Mudroom

Photo: forbo.com

Think linoleum and vinyl flooring are one and the same? Think again. While many people mistakenly call vinyl tile ‘linoleum’, the two couldn’t be more different. Unlike vinyl tile—a floor covering developed in the 1930s from chips of a synthetic resin called polyvinyl chloride (PVC)—linoleum boasts a more-natural makeup that has been in production even longer. Patented in the 1860s, it’s made with renewable materials including linseed oil (also called linoxyn), tree resins, recycled wood flour, cork dust, and mineral pigments, all of which mounted on a jute or canvas backing. To understand how this material remains a viable flooring option in homes for centuries, get to know linoleum flooring’s history and best features.

A Brief History of An Original Eco-Friendly Building Material

The first commercial linoleum was manufactured by the American Linoleum Manufacturing Company of Staten Island, NY, a company formed by English inventor Frederick Walton and partner Joseph Wild in 1872. The resilient and water-resistant material didn’t take long to gain favor with American homeowners. In fact, it became one of the most popular flooring choices used in American homes throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, installed everywhere from high-traffic areas like hallways to moisture-prone zones like kitchens and bathrooms. (Its water-resistant properties even appealed outside of the home! Indeed, a special heavy-gauge linoleum known as “battleship linoleum” was commissioned by the U.S. Navy to be used on interior warship decking.)

Despite its affordable price point, linoleum was considered a luxurious material for many years—it was actually used in the Grand Ballroom, the dining room, and other areas of the Titanic! But gradually cheaper vinyl flooring overtook linoleum in the 1940s. While vinyl is more economical and easy to maintain, it’s simply a printed design with a protective layer on top. Once that protective layer wears down or is damaged, the flooring must be replaced. The benefits associated with linoleum flooring, on the other hand, ran deeper. Here are five key reasons homeowners choose linoleum.

 

Linoleum Flooring

Photo: forboflooringna.com

 

Durability: Most manufacturers back linoleum flooring with warranties of 25 years or more, but proper care and maintenance can extend the product’s lifespan up to 40 years—more than double the expected lifespan of vinyl flooring. Some of the product’s longevity is due to its inherent colorfast construction: The color and pattern are throughout the entire width of the material, not just printed on the surface (as it is in tile). Just make sure that you’re outfit homes with linoleum flooring that includes a protective coating added by manufacturers to prevent the surface from darkening or taking on a yellow tinge (a process called “ambering”), especially when exposed to direct sunlight—it’s not necessarily included with every linoleum flooring option. This protective top layer reinforces the material’s resilience against dirt and scuffs, but linoleum is not altogether impervious. Still avoid damage like dents and tears by sharp objects, including high heels, metal furniture legs, and dropped knives.

Why Choose Linoleum Flooring in the Kitchen

Photo: istockphoto.com

Water resistance: Beyond rigidity that holds up under the normal wear and tear of foot traffic, linoleum features a basic water resistance that you won’t find in flooring options like wood. This advantage makes it an intelligent choice for spaces that welcome wet shoes and snow-covered boots from the outdoors as well as those that see splashes, like kitchens or bathrooms. Linoleum floors should never be immersed in water, however, because excessive moisture can cause the edges, corners, or seams to curl. Floods, burst pipes, and even high humidity can do damage. For a more waterproof option, research comparable vinyl tile options instead.

Easy maintenance: Linoleum is one of the easiest flooring materials to clean and maintain. While its protective top layer wards off dirt and scuffs, you’ll still need to clean it regularly with mild, non-ammonia-based cleansers. A quick sweep or vacuum periodically will remove the abrasive dirt particles that could scratch up linoleum over time, as would an occasional damp mopping with warm water. Stains can be easily removed with a rag and mild detergent. Since the color in linoleum runs all the way through the material, if it does get stained or scratched, you can buff out the damage and refinish your floor. Linoleum that is not factory-coated to protect against ambering will also need to be cleaned and waxed every two or three years to prevent yellowing and also to protect the surface from scratches and water damage.

Eco-friendliness: The name linoleum reflects the product’s all-natural roots, coming from the Latin words “linum,” meaning flax or linen, and “oleum,” meaning oil. Linoleum is also easily recycled and biodegradable. Thanks to its wood components, after 25 to 40 years you can toss the material out guilt-free—take the used linoleum to an energy-recycling incineration plant or, if the discard pile is small enough, even compost it for your garden as you might do with mulch or wood chips. And its all-natural composition ensures that it does not emit any harmful VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions, to boot!

Myriad options: Today’s linoleum comes in an enormous variety of colors, styles, and patterns, including designs that mimic the look of wood, stone, or marble. Linoleum’s appearance isn’t the only decision to be made, though; it’s available in a number of options for installation and overall looks, too.

Sheet linoleum flooring offers the largest variety of colors and patterns and comes in jumbo-sized rolls that are suitable for covering large, open areas.

Tile linoleum flooring is similar to ceramic, porcelain, and stone tiles but much less expensive.

Click-and-lock linoleum is designed to be used as part of a floating floor system and comes in tiles or planks. Sheet and tile linoleum is typically glued in place, while click-and-lock flooring snaps into place on a floor frame and therefore does not require any additional adhesive.

 

Linoleum Flooring in the Kitchen

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Montclair, NJ

To DIY, or Not to DIY?

Updating the kitchen floors with linoleum can be a do-it-yourself project, particularly if you’ve gone the route of tiles, which often come in a “snap-together” configuration designed to be installed as part of a floating floor system. For sheet linoleum, however, you might be better off calling in a professional flooring contractor—this variety of linoleum flooring is much stiffer than sheet vinyl and can be difficult to measure, cut, and fit accurately. If you’re hiring out, be sure to budget for labor when planning your remodel. The cost for installation typically ranges from $716 to $2,068, with the national average at $1,378, according to Home Advisor’s True Cost Guide.

Installing a new floor is a series of steps beyond simply making sure you know how pieces click. Since prep is key to end results you’ll love to live with, take these considerations into account prior to installation regardless of whether you take the DIY path or call in a pro:

• Make sure the underlying floor is level.

• Remove any old flooring material, staples, tack strips, nails, or debris.

• Have a properly-installed subfloor.

• Maintain a gap of at least 3/8-inch between the subfloor and the top of the baseboards to allow for natural expansion and contraction of the linoleum floor.

 

Linoleum Flooring Pros and Cons

Photo: istockphoto.com

Cost Comparisons

Linoleum is an extremely cost-effective flooring option, especially when compared to hard surface flooring such as hardwood, ceramic, or stone. Average prices for linoleum typically run in the neighborhood of $2.50 to $3.50 per square foot—that’s slightly more than vinyl flooring, which can start as low as $.50 per square foot and go as high as $5 or even $8 per square foot for the newer, luxury vinyl alternatives. Meanwhile, hardwood may cost you between $5 and $15 per square foot, ceramic tiles between $5 and $15, and stone tiles between $7 and $20 per square foot, according to Home Advisor’s Flooring Costs Overview.

If linoleum flooring’s pros outweigh its cons for you, start researching your options with the one company now selling the majority of the linoleum for residential use here in the U.S.: Forbo Marmoleum. (Armstrong Marmorette had been recently discontinued, and now recommends comparable vinyl products for those flooring options no longer in production.) Its linoleum comes in sheets or tile form, in a wide variety of colors that can look just as great in a Craftsman-style home as a super modern one. Kitchen, bathrooms, entryways, and mudrooms could all benefit from the easy-care, quality material.


How To: Defrost a Windshield

Get your windshield crystal clear and primed for your next wintertime drive with these proven defrosting techniques.

How To Defrost a Windshield

Photo: istockphoto.com

If you’ve ever parked your car outside during an onslaught of sleet or a frigid winter’s night, you’re familiar with the frustration of waking up to a windshield riddled with frost or under a thin sheet of ice. Your solution might be to let the engine run with the defroster on and wait for the problem to melt away—a prospect that wastes precious time and gas. Or you might opt to manually scrape the windshield, an effort-intensive chore outside in the cold. Fortunately, there are a few better, faster ways to attack the problem and get you safely back on the road. Below, we outline three foolproof techniques for how to defrost a windshield—as well as how to prevent further freezing episodes.

How To Defrost a Windshield

Photo: istockphoto.com

DEFROST A WINDSHIELD… with Lukewarm Water

 

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Onegallon bucket
Plain water
Gloves (optional)

Fill a gallon-size bucket three-quarters of the way with lukewarm water. (Never use hot water; the temperature difference between it and the frozen windshield will cause the glass to expand, and in some cases, crack.) Tote the bucket to your car and gradually pour the water over the frozen windshield, starting from the top left or right corner and working horizontally across the glass. As the warm water trickles down, it will immediately thaw the ice in its path, turning it into an opaque slush. Remove this by either running your windshield wipers or wiping down the windshield with a gloved hand. Use any remaining warm water to thaw iced-over car windows—just be sure the windows are fully closed first!

 

How to Defrost a Windshield

Photo: istockphoto.com

DEFROST A WINDSHIELD… with Rubbing Alcohol

 

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– 12-ounce plastic spray bottle
– Rubbing alcohol
Plain water
– Gloves or a credit card

That alcohol you rely on to clean minor scrapes makes an effective deicer because it has a much lower freezing point than water (minus 128 degrees Fahrenheit). When applied to an icy windshield, the alcohol itself doesn’t freeze; instead, its heat is transferred to the ice, increasing its temperature and melting it.

To de-ice, fill a dry, 12-ounce spray bottle with four ounces of room-temperature water and eight ounces of rubbing alcohol, then replace the spray head and invert the bottle a few times to mix. Spray over your windshield to completely coat the glass, then let the solution dwell for one minute, allowing the alcohol to seep into and soften the ice. Wipe frost away with a gloved hand, or scrape with a plastic credit card. When your windshield is clean and clear, store the spray bottle in the glove box or trunk so you can tackle future freeze-ups away from home. Rubbing alcohol’s ultra-low freezing point means there’s virtually no risk of your deicer freezing on you.

 

How to Defrost a Windshield

Photo: istockphoto.com

DEFROST A WINDSHIELD…with Homemade Heat Packs

 

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– Old socks or mittens (2)
– Uncooked rice

Prefer to de-ice your windshield from the warm and toasty confines of your car? Fill two old socks or mittens with uncooked rice, then zap the rice-filled socks in the microwave for 30 seconds. While sitting in your car, grab one sock in each hand and gently glide them over the entire interior surface of the windshield glass, taking care not to position the heated sock over any one spot for more than 10 seconds (this can increase the risk of the glass cracking). The heat from the rice will transfer to the glass and start to melt the windshield ice. When the frost has melted or sufficiently softened, run your windshield wipers to clear off the slush.

 

How to Keep a Windshield from Frosting Up

There are a few ways outsmart ice and frost so they won’t build up on your windshield before your next drive:

• Whenever possible during the cold season, park in a garage with all of your car windows closed.

• If you don’t have indoor parking, cover your car with a tarp or place a beach towel or a few rubber mats over the windshield, using your wipers as clips to secure the cover in place. The will act as a shield, accumulating frost and ice while the glass below remains clean and clear.

• Place an old stocking or knee-high sock over each of your windshield wiper blades to keep dew and snow from reaching them; this will keep the blades from freezing in place on the glass.