Other Rooms - Bob Vila

Category: Other Rooms


Buyer’s Guide: Stick Vacuums

Depending on your type of flooring, a stick vacuum may be your ideal tidy-up tool. Here’s the scoop on their attributes and features—plus our top three choices—to help you pick the perfect stick.

Shopping for the Best Stick Vacuum

Photo: istockphoto.com

Thanks to its smaller motor, a stick vacuum is thinner and far more lightweight than its upright and canister cousins. Stick vacs, as the name implies, also have a longer reach than handheld models, letting them get under furniture with ease to clean floors or reach cobwebs in the corners of your ceilings. What’s more, some sticks are designed to convert into handheld vacuums, giving you the best of both worlds. But these skinny minis might not be able to handle heavy-duty floor cleaning needs. So read on to learn whether the best stick vacuum can really help around your house—and which top-rated model might meet your needs.

Choosing the Best Stick Vacuum

Photo: homedepot.com

Size Versus Strength

Instead of a bulky bag or canister, stick vacuums feature a tube or cup to hold debris that’s only about four inches in diameter. Being so compact makes them easy to store, a boon to anyone with limited supply closet space. But their small motors simply can’t deliver the power of full-size vacuums. A few swipes of a stick vac can clean dirt and debris from hardwood, concrete, and tile, and a bristled rolling brush can help it handle low-traffic carpet with a pile no higher than a quarter-inch. Skip the stick if you’ve got thick, shaggy carpet to clean or floors soiled by a lot of heavy use, though—it just won’t have enough juice to get the job done.

RELATED: 7 Ways You’re Vacuuming Wrong

Cord Versus Cordless

A stick vacuum with a cord offers a steady, unending supply of power and non-stop suction. Cordless versions can go anywhere, but the suction level wanes as the battery drains—after 20 minutes, your cordless may need a recharge.

While stick vacuums usually weigh in between five and seven pounds, corded versions tend to be the lightest. That’s worth factoring in because an extra pound can feel pretty when you’re reaching up to clean curtains or cobwebs from a ceiling.

If comparing cordless models, be sure to consider voltage: Higher voltage translates into longer running time. Stick vacs range anywhere from 12 to even 40 volts; for reference, a model with 20 volts can typically run for about 15 minutes on one charge, which is usually long enough to cover a space smaller than 1000 square feet. Also be aware that the best stick vacuums without cords use a highly efficient lithium-ion battery, which will charge faster and last longer than NiCD and NiMH batteries.

Consider a Combo

Some manufacturers offer a stick vacuum that converts into a handheld simply by disconnecting the shaft from the top portion, where the motor is housed. This enables the unit to do various types of cleaning—floors as a stick and furniture, car seats, and hard-to-reach nooks and crannies in handheld mode.

Best Bets

Set on picking up a lightweight appliance to make light work of floor care? To help you in selecting the best stick vacuum, we’ve rounded up the top-rated and best-selling models on the market today that meet some of the considerations outlined above as well as wow consumers. Consider the following stick vacuums the cream of the crop.

 

Best Stick Vacuum - Dirt Devil Reach Max Plus

Photo: amazon.com

Dirt Devil Reach Max Multi Cordless Stick Vacuum, $130
The product review team at Wirecutter praises the Dirt Devil Reach Max, a multi-function cordless vacuum that converts from stick to handheld with the simple release of a shaft. Recognized by the team as the best stick vacuum on a budget, this model boasts a 24-volt lithium-ion battery, which runs for at least 20 minutes before needing a recharge. With two speeds and brushes/attachments designed to dust, tackle stairs, clean crevices and more, this 6.4-pound multipurpose tool can handle a number of jobs around the house. Available on Amazon.

 

Best Stick Vacuum - Bissell PowerEdge Pet Vacuum

Photo: amazon.com

Bissell PowerEdge Pet Hard Floor Vacuum, $70
More than 6,000 Amazon reviewers are big fans of the Bissell PowerEdge Pet Hard Floor Vacuum, designed specifically to pick up pesky pet hair as well as household dirt to keep hardwood, tile and concrete floors spotless. This corded model, weighing in at 7.1 pounds, has a 20-foot cord, an innovative V-shaped base to capture dirt and debris without an extra brush attachment, and a swiveling head to easily work around tricky furniture legs and odd angles. Available on Amazon.

 

Best Stick Vacuum - Dyson V8 Absolute Cordless Stick Vacuum

Photo: homedepot.com

Dyson V8 Absolute Cordless Stick Vacuum, $450
This high-end model scored with Home Depot shoppers, thanks in part to its impressive 40-minute runtime, HEPA filtration, and overall versatility. Running on a 21.6-volt lithium ion battery, the Dyson V8 weighs just 5.8 pounds and comes with two cleaner heads: one soft roller best suited for smooth surfaces, and one all-purpose (and all-powerful) brush. While its price tag is steep, it offers a 90-day return policy with Home Depot and a two-year warranty on parts and labor. Available at The Home Depot.


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.


Buyer’s Guide: Electric Blankets

We’ve got you covered with this electric blanket primer, including several recommendations for smart buys on the market today.

3 Options for the Best Electric Blanket

Photo: amazon.com

As the temperatures drop, we crave warmth and coziness—but before you turn up the heat, consider an electric blanket. About twice as energy-efficient as a space heater, electric blankets have been given a thumbs-up from the United States Department of Energy for their inexpensive, low-impact energy consumption, typically using only 400 watts to run. (A space heater consumes 750 to 1000 watts, and central heat can gobble up even more.)

Whether your home is prone to drafts or you just love bundling up in a toasty cocoon around the house, the best electric blanket can keep you comfortable all winter long. Read on to learn the ins and outs of this cold-weather staple—everything from size and safety to technical capabilities and cool (er, warm) features—so you can make the perfect purchase.

Appearance and Price
Electric blankets come in a host of different sizes, so think about how and where you’ll want to use yours. If you want to snuggle up on the couch while reading or streaming television, a throw-sized model might suit your needs. If you’ll be sleeping under it every night, you’ll probably want one the same size as your bed. Fortunately, electric blankets are available in California King, King, Queen, Full, and Twin, as well as smaller sizes similar to a typical throw. There’s a wide assortment of solid colors and various patterns from which to choose. While some have a quilted texture and others do not, electric blankets are usually very soft to the touch, made of fleece or microfiber (i.e., polyester). Depending on the manufacturer and features, they range in price from under $50 to upwards of $300.

Safety Considerations for the Best Electric Blanket

Photo: istockphoto.com

Technical Specs
Originally called “heated quilts” or “warming pads” and around since the early 1900s for use in hospitals, electric blankets first became popular for home use in the 1950s. They’ve haven’t changed all that much since then, but they do have features worth considering!

Heat settings. Many electric blankets have up to 10 heat settings so you’re sure to find the temperature that feels best to you.

Automatic shutoff. This feature, which automatically cuts off the blanket’s heating mechanism after a specific time (usually eight to 10 hours), is an important safety feature that can keep you and your surroundings from overheating or even catching fire. It comes standard in most modern products, but do double-check to make sure.

Separate controls. If you’re sharing your blanket with a loved one who likes things warmer or cooler than you do, opt for a blanket with two zones, each with its own separate controls.

Instructions for machine washing. Many electric blankets can be cleaned and dried in your home’s laundry machines. Just be sure to use the specified washer/dryer settings and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter (which always include untethering all remotes, cords, and peripherals, among other safety precautions).

Warranty and Safety
Although it feels like a soft, simple textile, an electric blanket is actually an appliance and should be treated as such. Especially if you’re investing a few extra bucks on super-soft material or extra features, make sure your blanket comes with a refund or replacement warranty.

Safety is of utmost importance when using an electric blanket, so, again, be sure to follow all the manufacturer’s instructions to a T from the first use to the last. There are also two crucial rules to remember: Keep the blanket as flat as possible to avoid pockets of excessive heat buildup (especially when using higher settings) and never lay objects like books or cell phones on top of or underneath your blanket. It’s too easy for your belongings to trap heat between themselves and the blanket, causing the blanket’s coils to overheat—which could destroy them or burn everything around them.

Best Bets

To help you find the best electric blanket and warmth all season long, we’ve picked a few favorites based on the considerations outlined above and critical reviews on the top shopping sites.

 

Best Electric Blanket - Sunbeam Velvet Plush Electric Blanket

Photo: amazon.com

Sunbeam Queen Velvet Plush Heated Blanket, $130
The professional reviewers at Wirecutter give this plush heated Queen-sized blanket from Sunbeam the highest marks of any electric blanket they tested. While they don’t rank it as the softest or most comfortable, they cite its very few safety complaints among consumers, as well as its easy-to-use digital controls offering 20 heat settings. Sold in nine colors and all standard bed sizes, the blanket is machine-washable, dryer-safe, and has a 5-year warranty. Available on Amazon.

 

Best Electric Blanket - Biddeford Blanket

Photo: target.com

Biddeford Blanket Microplush Electric Throw, $30
Target shoppers love this microplush electric throw blanket from Biddeford Blanket, which scored hundreds of five-star reviews despite having only six heat settings. Made of polyester, machine-washable and dryer-safe, and available in 10 different colors and patterns, it’s a great size for a sofa at 4 feet by 5 feet. Plus, it boasts a 13-foot cord so you won’t be tethered to an outlet. It’s sold without a warranty—not surprising, considering the unbeatable price. Available at Target.

 

Best Electric Blanket - SoftHeat Microplush Fleece Blanket

Photo: amazon.com

SoftHeat Luxury Microfleece Electric Heated Queen Blanket, $115
Amazon customers can’t get enough of this soft polyester electric blanket; in fact, thousands of reviewers give it 3.9 out of 5 stars for its dual heat zones, ultra-thin wires, and a pre-heat-and-hold feature that uses more wattage when you first turn it on to warm up faster. With automatic shutoff, 10 heat settings and a five-year warranty, this machine-washable, dryer-safe model earns extra popularity for its low-voltage technology, which makes for greater safety and less energy consumption as well. Available on Amazon.


Choosing a New Appliance: Gas vs. Electric Dryers

Which is cheaper to run? Dries your clothes quicker? Lets you do DIY troubleshooting? Read on to get a load of the differences between these two types of must-have machines!

Shopping for Laundry Room Appliances? The Lowdown on Gas vs Electric Dryers

Photo: istockphoto.com

As you no doubt know, dryers operate by either electricity or gas. An electric dryer (which has a lifespan of about 14 years) employs an inner coil to generate heat, which is then circulated by a fan as the clothes tumble in a rotating drum. A gas dryer (life expectancy: 13 years) works on the same principle, except the heat is produced by a gas burner. An electric dryer requires a 240V outlet to provide enough juice to produce heat and tumble the clothes. A gas dryer requires both a gas supply line and a 120V electric outlet; the lower, 120V outlet is used only for tumbling the clothes and running the fan—the gas burner produces the heat.

One of your home’s hardest working appliances has got to be the clothes dryer, so if yours is about to conk out, you’ll soon be in the market for a new one. While the type that’s best for you may ultimately come down to the existing utility hookups in your home, there are several notable differences between gas and electric dryers. Consider the following key distinctions in the question of “gas vs electric dryers” while shopping for the right replacement.

Electric dryers are more common. You’ll find more electric than gas models on the showroom floor because virtually all homes have electricity. In many communities, however, homes have both electric and gas lines, allowing a choice between appliances. Most gas dryers are designed to run on natural gas, as that’s what runs through community gas lines, but rural dwellers might not have access to it. In that case, a natural gas dryer can easily be made to run on propane via a conversion kit that costs between $30 and $40.

Gas dryers must always be vented. When gas dryers operate, the combustion that takes place inside produces carbon monoxide, which must be vented either outdoors or into a suitable HVAC ventilation system. Most electric dryers also require venting to keep from blowing hot, moist air into the home. Some newer electrical models, however, eliminate the need for venting. Similar to the process that takes place in an HVAC unit, a ventless dryer recirculates hot moist air through a loop system that cools the air, removes the moisture, and recirculates the air back through the dryer. A ventless electric dryer is a good choice where there’s no suitable way to install an exhaust vent.

Shopping for Laundry Room Appliances? The Lowdown on Gas vs Electric Dryers

Photo: istockphoto.com

Gas dryers cost more than electric dryers. A mid-range electric dryer runs around $400 to $600, while a mid-range gas dryer will set you back $500 to $750. On average, a gas dryer will run approximately $100 more than an electric dryer of the same style and quality. When it comes to high-end dryers, however, price differences between are less. A top-end dryer, gas or electric, runs $1,200 to $1,600. At that range, added costs have less to do with the power source and more to do with such bells and whistles as whisper-quiet operation, delayed start modes, and even steam cycles that dry clothes virtually wrinkle-free. All ventless dryers are electric and if you want one, you’ll pay on average, $75 to $125 more than a standard vented model.

Gas dryers are pricier to install. While a handy homeowner with some DIY skills can often install an electric dryer just by plugging the dryer in a 240V outlet and connecting its vent hose to an in-wall exhaust hookup. A licensed plumber, however, is required to hook up a gas dryer, because gas line connections must be carefully fitted and then tested to ensure that no gas leaks will occur. This can add $75 to $125 to the cost.

Maintenance and repair costs are higher for gas dryers. A DIYer can often troubleshoot operating problems that occur with an electric dryer, such as replacing worn belts or a faulty switch or even installing a new heating element if the old one goes out. But repairs to gas dryers usually require the services of a qualified technician. A typical service call, excluding any necessary replacement parts, can run $75 to $125, and if the technician must make more than one trip, costs can add up quickly. During the warranty period for either type of dryer, you’ll want to contact the manufacturer and have them set up the service call, which will often be free.

Gas dryers cost less to operate. If by now you’re wondering why anyone would wish to dry with gas, it’s this: In most areas, natural gas and propane are less expensive than electricity, so it costs approximately half as much to dry a load in a gas dryer versus an electric one. Gas dryers typically cost 15 to 25 cents per load to dry, whereas it may cost 30 to 40 cents per load in an electric dryer. While you will pay more initially for a gas dryer, the operating savings over time will often make up the difference.

Gas dryers work faster. On average, a gas dryer can dry a load in about half the time of an electric dryer. Gas dryers heat up more quickly because their burners fire immediately producing instant heat. Electric dryers dry slower because their heating elements take longer to warm up, and they never get quite as hot as a gas burner, so you’ll be waiting on those jeans and sheets quite a bit longer (though there are a few things you can do to help your appliance dry clothes faster).

Gas and electric dryers present different safety concerns. Gas-powered appliances always pose a concern because ill-fitting gas line connections can lead to gas leaks in the home—a potential fire hazard. Improperly vented gas dryers also increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have any gas appliances, it’s a good idea to have a carbon monoxide detector located nearby. Electric dryers also pose a small risk of fire, or electrocution, due to improper installation or faulty wiring. Don’t let that scare you, however: When installed correctly, and maintained properly, such as emptying lint filters after every load, not overloading the dryer past its approved capacity, keeping the area around the dryer free from lint and dust buildup, and not using an extension cord, both gas and electric dryers are very safe household conveniences.


10 Big Ideas for Your Small Dining Room

Whether yours is an open-plan nook or a separate, formal dining room, comfortably fitting the whole gang around the table often proves to be a challenge—especially when the same space also needs to accommodate tableware, linen, and accessory storage. Fortunately, there's more than one way to maximize square footage and make your dining room feel bigger than it really is. Read on for ideas!

Small Dining Room Ideas

A dearth of space in your dining area need not put a damper on your next get-together. Yes, even if your eating area looks and feels rather small, it’s still possible to entertain with warmth and grace—and to give your friends and family a bit of extra elbow room too. Scroll down now for smart and simple ideas, not for adding square footage in the dining room, but for making the most of every inch that you do have available. Bon appétit!

 

SHELF LIFE

Small Dining Room Ideas - Open Shelves

Photo: thewoodgraincottage.com

A familiar feature of modern kitchens, open shelving represents a space-smart dining room storage option—one that frees up floor space even while adding visual interest. Best of all, if you’re handy enough to drive a few screws, you can handle installation yourself, without having to go through the hassle and expense of working with a contractor.

 

ON THE BENCH

Small Dining Room Ideas - Bench Seating

Photo: iheartnaptime.net

Simply put, traditional dining chairs take up more room than basic bench seating. Remember that. True: Chairs are more comfortable, but on those special occasions when you’re feeding a crowd, you can always squeeze in more guests if you temporarily swap the chairs out for a couple of sturdy benches—one to run along each side of the table. Don’t own any benches? Make one!

 

RIGHT LIGHT

Small Dining Room Ideas - Lighting Design

Photo: manhattan-nest.com

A pendant or flush-mount ceiling fixture provides the light you need to dine by, as well as the finishing design touch. Just be careful not go overboard. Overly large or elaborate light fixtures dominate small dining rooms, and not in a good way. For a streamlined yet stylish effect, opt instead for a compact fixture in a color that matches the walls.

 

THE BIG PICTURE

Small Dining Room Ideas - Large Scale Wall Art

Photo: designlovefest.com

In a small dining room, once you’ve added the table and chairs, there’s precious little room left over for flourishes. And if you force those decorations to fit, the room’s going to look busy and cluttered. So, word to the wise: Resist the temptation to display dozens and dozens of photos. Pursue a more serene look by hanging only one large-scale painting or print.

 

COUNTER POINT

Small Dining Room Ideas - DIY Breakfast Nook

Photo: offbeatandinspired.com

If your dining room lacks the floorspace for a full-size table, consider compromising with a clever, space-saving solution like this one. A charming addition and surpassingly easy to DIY, this corner cafe barely projects into the middle of the room, with its attendant bar stool slipping easily under the table surface when not in use.

 

FLEXIBLE FURNITURE

Small Dining Room Ideas - Space Saving Furniture

Photo: ikea.com

Multitasking furniture—it’s a beautiful thing, because it enables you to do more in less space. For instance, while the shelves of a bar cart may hold extra dishes and utensils, the surface can function as a buffet station. Likewise, if you have a bench with built-in storage, you can seat extra guests even while storing linens and things away from view.

 

CURTAIN CALL

Small Dining Room Ideas - Tall Curtains

Photo: theinspiredroom.net

Tall curtains create the illusion of higher ceilings and inject a pop of eye-catching color or pattern in the process. For best results, locate the curtain rod as close as possible to the ceiling (not necessarily within the window frame), then to finish the job, add curtains that hang all the way down to the floor, stretching the full height of the wall.

 

OFF THE WALL

Small Dining Room Ideas - Wall Storage

Photo: curbly.com via DIY Maven

Don’t discount the idea of folding chairs. If your dining area would accommodate more seating than you need on a daily basis, you can store the extra chairs in a nearby closet until the day you need them. Closets already stuffed to capacity? Collapse the chairs and mount them right on the wall, with their weight supported by heavy-duty hooks.

 

 

OPTICAL ILLUSION

Small Dining Room Ideas - Strategic Mirror Placement

Photo: theartofdoingstuff.com

This is a classic trick, an oldie-but-goodie that works like a charm: Use mirrored surfaces to bounce light through the dining room, fostering an artificial sense of airy openness. Mirrored furnishings magically blend in, becoming practically invisible. But for those less daring, there’s an effective half measure—mounting a mirror on the wall.

 

 

TABLE TRANSFORMATION

Small Dining Room Ideas - Dropleaf Table

Photo: ana-white.com

Dining tables with drop leaves have been around for centuries, for one timeless, practical reason—the design makes it quick and easy to extend your table when necessary for holidays, parties, and other special events. When the guests go home, simply collapse the leaves (or remove the extensions). Complicated? No. Genius? Absolutely.


14 Entryway Ideas to Steal for Your Home

Impress your guests—and organize the clutter—with these 14 inspiring entryway ideas.

SHARES
Entryway Ideas

Photo: istockphoto.com

First impressions are the most lasting. Ensure that your home makes a memorable one by designing an entryway that features dazzling decor, functional furnishings, bold lighting fixtures, and smart storage solutions. Get inspired with 14 entryway ideas from homeowners like you.

1. MAT FINISH

This woodland-inspired entryway invites nature inside while leaving bad weather at the door. Assorted jute, sisal, or cloth mats help dry off and air out sopping shoes and boots, while wicker baskets stash gloves and scarves.

2. HIGH ART

Creativity and pragmatism aren’t mutually exclusive—especially in this unconventional and space-saving wall art gallery. Hang hats or other personal collections on the wall with pegs, hooks, or even thumbtacks for an artful storage solution.

3. GUIDING LIGHT

Don’t let a bleak foyer make your doorstep seem dark and uninviting. Lighten up with a minimalist DIY hanging pendant. (Check out this tutorial to learn how to make your own.) Precut wood molding helps expedite the project, while a simple electrical wiring technique ensures that your entryway will radiate warmth and charm (and light).

4. SOLE PURPOSE

Gain twice the efficiency by constructing a double-duty bench that offers both shoe storage and a comfortable woven jute-and-cotton perch in a compact footprint. The roomy shoe rack, which consists of a layer of furring strips mounted under the bench, can tame any entryway’s unruly footwear. See the tutorial for more info.

5. CLUTTER CURE

Transform an underutilized entryway into a vibrant, multipurpose household hub with the addition of space-smart accents. Here, a bench with cubbies and woven baskets, an umbrella stand, and a ladder that’s been repurposed as a shelving unit lend an air of well-ordered whimsy.

6. EXTENDED FAMILY

Get your family’s reminders and organizational habits on effortless autopilot with a can’t-miss check-in station like the one described in this tutorial. Cubbies for everyday essentials and personalized, painted bulletin boards will corral everyone’s stuff in one convenient location and help keep track of plans and activities.

7. REFLECTION PERFECTION

Your guests will see themselves in the comfort of your happy home, reflected in a leather-bound mirror placed strategically at your entry. Accentuate the mirror of your choice with a space-efficient demilune console table for an all-around incredible design.

8. TIGHT-QUARTERS TITAN

If your foyer lacks storage space—and you’re nervous at the prospect of erecting teetering, sky-high cabinets—build your own credenza from an IKEA cabinet that’s been wrapped in plywood and mounted low on the wall. Although this clever solution is expansive enough to display cherished mementos and store plenty of essentials, its slim profile and floating installation keep it visually light in a long, narrow space.

9. DRESSER FOR SUCCESS

Keep your foyer clutter-free with a hardworking dresser that can conceal mail, keys, and personal effects discreetly behind closed drawers. Place the dresser to the side of your entry to facilitate easy access without blocking foot traffic.

10. KNOCK ON WOOD

Warm up a cold entryway with the homey ambience of wood by erecting a plank wall of budget-friendly plywood as shown in this tutorial. With wood stained in a variety of shades, a row of practical hooks, and a bold hanging clock, this entry lets your guests really know they’ve arrived.

11. KEEP IT SIMPLE

For a truly elegant and understated storage solution, install a shelf made of pallet wood and supported by austere brackets as seen in this tutorial. The narrow shelf accommodates decorative accessories and must-have items, and leaves ample floor space for umbrellas and boots, without impeding the flow of traffic.

12. ON THE HOOK

You’ll be able to take your guests’ coats, hats, and bags without delay if you have a generously sized coat rack right next to your front door. This rustic storage solution is made from scrap wood and outfitted with plenty of bargain-buy wall hooks. Hang a favorite plaque above the rack to offer all who enter a warm welcome.

13. METAL METTLE

Don’t wait for the other shoe to drop before you install an inventive, wall-mounted shoe rack. With the help of this tutorial, you can construct a sleek, functional rack of your own using copper pipe and floor flanges. As an added benefit, it’s extremely easy to clean between and underneath this metallic marvel.

14. IT’S A DATE

Unlike traditional calendars, a conspicuous, customized chalkboard calendar like this one is a real attention-grabber. Hang the calendar at eye level to ensure that you’ll be ready for whatever’s coming your way.


So, You Want to… Screen In a Porch

Building yourself a space that blends the best that the outdoors and indoors have to offer can be easy and affordable if you're starting with an existing porch. Just keep these key considerations and handy tips in mind as you scope out your weekend project.

How to Screen in a Porch

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Seabrook Island, SC

A porch is an extension of a home’s living area—a place to savor a summer’s breeze, observe wildlife, or bask in birdsong at the end of the day. Since most people want to spend more time outdoors, it comes as no surprise that many homeowners would like to screen in their porches. After all, when protected from insects and blowing leaves, life on the porch takes on a whole new appeal. Just imagine enjoying outdoor meals without swatting away flies! A screened-in porch can serve as a second family room, a place to entertain friends and spend relaxing evenings with the kids.

For any lucky homeowner who already has a covered porch, the steps for how to screen in a porch are often straightforward, do-it-yourself-friendly, and speedy enough to be completed in a single weekend. But before you grab that screw gun, however, keep reading! We’ll help you decide what type of screened-in porch design is right for you and whether you should install it yourself or consider hiring a pro.

Costs and Other Considerations
The materials to screen in an existing covered porch of approximately 200 sq. ft. could run as little as $450 dollars, including the lumber needed for building screen panels, the screen fabric, screws, and paint to finish the frames to match the trim on your home. If you hire a pro for the same project, expect to add another $300 to $600 to the total cost for labor.

Looking for a little more of a middle ground between starting from scratch and hiring help? Consider the screen room kits available from home improvement stores and websites. A typical 8-foot-by-10-foot kit contains everything needed to cover an 8-foot-by-10-foot section on a covered porch and sells for around $250 to $300 per section.

Installation requires existing deck posts or walls for attaching the screen frames. Costs increase substantially when additional construction is necessary, such as the need to build a roof over an open deck or patio—which, unless you’re skilled in framing, is not a DIY job. Professional construction of a covered deck or porch could run anywhere from $5,000 to well over $20,000, depending on the size and design of the project and the inclusion of custom-built railings, windows, and other amenities.

That said, most homeowners who want to screen in their porches already have suitable covered porches on their homes. Often in these cases, all that is needed are frames to support the screens.

 

How to Screen in a Porch

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Shawnee, KS

Design Details
Screen panel size and configuration depend on porch size and individual homeowner tastes, and each style has its pros and cons.

• Smaller screen panels are relatively simple to repair if a screen is torn, though they obstruct views.

• Conversely, large screen panels provide an open, less-encumbered view, but are more difficult and costly to repair than smaller panels. Moreover, even though screen fabric isn’t weighty enough to require a substantial framework for support, it might have a tendency to sag and bulge if you live in a windy area or if children and pets bump against the bottom of the screening.

Consider the proposed use of the porch when choosing screen panel size. If you live in a high-wind region, or if children and pets will use the porch, smaller screen panels make better sense than floor-to-ceiling screen panels.

Also, keep in mind that porch floors 30 inches or more above the ground must have a railing to prevent falls. Screen panels can be installed behind the railing, but the fabric, itself, is not substantial enough to ensure safety.

Screen Fabric Options
Screen fabric has come a long way from the days when your grandparents used rigid metal screening on their screen doors. Today’s screen fabrics offer a variety of options to suit specific needs.

How to Screen in a Porch

Photo: istockphoto.com

Fiberglass screen fabric, available in a handful of different colors, is relatively soft and easy to work with. It won’t rust or corrode, but it can be shredded by cat claws. Fiberglass screen fabric is often what you’ll find inside a screen-in porch kit.

High visibility screen fabric is also made from fiberglass but it features a very fine weave and thin fiberglass threads that provide optimum visibility. While some types of high-visibility fabric may seem nearly invisible from inside your porch, they are typically more fragile than lower-visibility fiberglass screens.

Aluminum screen fabric makes a sturdy screen that withstands strong winds, but it can be difficult to install and it creases easily. Uncoated aluminum screen can corrode or rust in humid climates, and even coated aluminum screen will corrode if the coating is scratched off by an animal or scraped by metal patio furniture.

Pet-resistant screen fabric, which is made from durable vinyl-coated polyester, is designed to withstand scratches and tears from cats and dogs. While it’s very resilient, it’s also thicker than other types of screen material so it’s more difficult to see through.

Pro tip: If pets will be an issue, consider installing pet-resistant screen only on the areas where a pet might scratch, such as on a screen door and on adjacent lower screen panels. You can still install screen fabric with higher visibility on upper screen panels.

Solar screen fabric is manufactured from synthetic fibers and designed to block or reduce the amount of sunlight that filters through, making it a good choice for porches with upholstered furniture that might fade in direct sunlight. Solar screen may also help reduce heat on the porch as it offers a more “shaded” effect.

Codes, Covenants, and Other Considerations
In many communities, as long as you don’t change the structure of your house, pulling a permit isn’t necessarily always the first step for how to screen in your porch. Always err on the side of caution, though, call your local building authority to make sure. If you do have to build something in order to screen in your porch, such as a roof over the porch that ties into your home, you’ll almost certainly need a permit.

Since a screened-in porch will affect the exterior aesthetics of your home, additional neighborhood regulations may apply. If you live in a residential development that has covenants (binding restrictions that apply to your property), you may not be able to screen in your porch—or you may have to adhere to a specific design. Your local building authority can tell you if covenants apply to your property. Similarly, if you live in a homeowners’ association (HOA), you’ll have to submit your porch design to the governing committee for permission to screen in your porch. Covenants and HOAs exist to maintain continuity of design in specific neighborhoods.

 

How to Screen in a Porch

Photo: istockphoto.com

Tips for a Successful DIY Screened-In Porch
If you’re lucky enough to have an existing covered porch, and you are familiar with basic carpentry techniques, you can save money by doing the project yourself. We’ve put together a few tips that you might find useful when working on your DIY screened-in porch:

• If you choose to install a screen in porch kit, keep in mind that individual sections can usually be cut down to fit a smaller area, but cannot be adjusted to fit a larger area. Depending on your porch dimensions and configuration, you may need to purchase multiple sections.

• If you’re building your own screen panels from wood, choose insect- and weather-resistant redwood, cedar, or treated lumber since the wood will be exposed to the elements.

• When building with redwood or cedar, use exterior-rated screws, such as galvanized screws, to prevent corrosion. If you’re building with treated lumber, use ACQ-compatible screws.


Buyer’s Guide: Mattresses

Time to replace your mattress? We've broken down the best options on the market for your sleeping habits.

SHARES
How to Choose a Mattress

Photo: istockphoto.com

While the average mattress has a life span of seven to 10 years, most homeowners don’t consider replacing the sleeping necessity until it sags, causes back aches, or brings on restless nights of tossing and turning. Fortunately, most mattress woes can be solved by purchasing a new mattress that is specifically designed to improve your comfort and quality of sleep. Read on to learn which mattresses best address common nighttime complaints, so that you know how to choose a mattress that meets your unique needs and preferences.

HOW TO CHOOSE A MATTRESS

Before hitting the mattress store, consider these tips on how to choose a mattress that’s perfectly suited for you.

Know the lingo. In a mattress store, signage and tags often contain industry terms that apply to specific mattress types. It’s important to understand the lingo before shopping, so that you don’t wind up with a mattress that doesn’t fit your needs. For starters, the four major types of mattresses are distinguishable by the support system it’s named for: innerspring mattresses use steel springs, memory foam uses body-contouring polyurethane foam, latex uses a latex foam support system, and air uses an air chamber.

• The term “coils” refers to the springs of an innerspring mattress. Coils are available in multiple varieties: Bonnell and Offset (hourglass-shaped coils), Marshall (coils wrapped in fabric pockets), and Continuous (single length of wire shaped into multiple rows of coils).

• Traditional memory foam mattresses are sold alongside air cool mattresses (which dissipate heat to cool the pad) and gel memory foam mattresses (which are infused with gel for improved air circulation).

• Latex mattresses are described as natural (made from rubber tree serum), synthetic (made from petroleum), or blended latex, which is a combination of natural and synthetic latex.

How to Choose a Mattress - A Buyer's Guide

Photo: istockphoto.com

Budget accordingly. A new mattress can set you back anywhere from $100 to upwards of $4,000, depending on the type and size of mattress you choose. Innerspring mattresses are the most affordable option with an average cost of $940, while memory foam and latex varieties average $1,370 and $1,600, respectively. At the upper end of the scale are air mattresses, which cost $2,180 on average.

Avoid allergens. If you’re sensitive to latex, wool, dust, or other substances, avoid mattresses that increase your risk of exposure to the allergen. For example, traditional innerspring mattresses with pillow tops—or padding stitched atop the mattress—encourage dust mites. If you suffer from dust allergies, opt for a latex or memory foam mattress instead. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to blacklist all mattresses of a certain type to avoid an allergen. For instance, even though the Pure Green mattress listed below is made of natural latex, it’s topped with a wool cover that allows latex-allergy sufferers to avoid direct contact with the material.

Test thoroughly. Give every mattress the Goldilocks test before you purchase it. Lie down on the mattress in your normal sleeping position, whether it’s on your back, side, or stomach. Change positions several times, noting if the mattress feels too firm, too soft, or just right for your needs. Also take note of any aches, pains, pressure, or skin reactions. This test run will help you pinpoint the mattress type, brand, and model with the firmness, comfort, and support level you need for a restful night’s sleep.

Comply with the warranty. The typical mattress warranty lasts between 10 to 25 years, and it only covers manufacturing defects—not normal wear and tear. Moreover, most mattress warranties offer prorated coverage over the life of the warranty, meaning that you derive fewer benefits as your mattress ages. Understand that an improper frame or poor mattress condition (i.e. staining) can void the warranty in some cases. To prevent cosmetic damage and maximize the life of your warranty, use a mattress cover from day one.

 

TOP THREE PICKS FOR BETTER SLEEP

Now that you understand basic shopping considerations, read on to find the best mattress for your particular needs.

If your mattress is sagging or worn before its time…

You need a more durable mattress that can better support your weight and movement. Minor body impressions in a mattress are expected with normal use, but sags exceeding two inches in height signal that your mattress has passed its prime. Innerspring mattresses with soft cushions are more prone to sagging because their support springs easily compress. Latex or memory foam mattresses with firm cushions can better withstand weight and absorb motion, making them more likely to retain their shape over time.

Best Type of Mattress: Latex
The high density of latex makes it the best type of mattress for sleepers with above-average heights or builds, as well as individuals who frequently shift positions while sleeping. After being subjected to weight or movement, latex quickly reverts to its original shape, which minimizes mattress sagging and wear over time. Additionally, many modern latex mattresses offer motion isolation, meaning they can absorb movement in a localized spot without significantly compressing the mattress or disturbing surrounding areas. This explains why natural latex foam mattresses last for a minimum of ten years, but often last 20 years or longer.

Top Pick: Pure Green Natural Latex firm mattress ($719 to $1,699)
The Pure Green Natural Latex firm mattress, which has a natural latex foam base layer and a quilted wool surface, is the best option for sleepers seeking a durable, eco-friendly product with a long lifespan. Rated 4 star by Consumer Reports’ reviewers, the sturdy mattress can adequately support sleepers 6’2″ and 220 pounds or beyond, as well as side and stomach sleepers of all builds. Available at Sleep On Latex.

How to Choose a Mattress - Pure Green Natural Latex Firm Mattress

Photo: sleeponlatex.com

 

If your mattress is causing back pain…

Consider swapping it for a medium-firm mattress that relieves pressure on the spine. Overly firm mattresses force the natural curves of the spine into a flat alignment, which pushes up against sensitive pressure points on the spine and causes pain. Similarly, overly soft mattresses force the lower back to sink out of alignment with the rest of the body. Both memory foam and innerspring mattresses help relieve back pain by providing a moderate level of firmness while still accommodating the natural curvature of your back.

Best Type of Mattress: Memory Foam
Memory foam mattresses strike the best balance between comfort and support to reduce pains for backache sufferers. Made primarily of polyurethane, the multi-layered foam mattresses leverage temperature-sensing capabilities to conform to the unique curvature of your back when you lie down, but revert to their original shape when you get up. The custom contouring and firmness supports the arch of your back to improve comfort and reduce pain on pressure points of the spine. Modern memory foam mattresses also adjust to shifts in movement so that you maintain an ergonomic sleeping pose throughout the night.

Top Pick: The Casper ($550 to $1,150)
The Casper, a 10-inch-thick memory foam mattress, puts back pain to bed with a four-layer foam construction topped with open-celled hypoallergenic latex, which keeps you cool and comfortable all night. The budget-friendly bed-in-a-box received 4.3 out of 5 stars from Amazon shoppers, who praised its comfort, ease of setup, and hassle-free 100-day return policy. Available at Amazon.

How to Choose a Mattress - The Casper

Photo: amazon.com

 

If your partner can sleep but you can’t…

Opt for a mattress that can be adjusted to accommodate personal sleep preferences. Conventional innerspring mattresses limit couples to a single setting for mattress firmness, comfort, or support—which may be right for your partner but cause you sleepless nights. Air mattresses, memory foam mattresses, and dual-chamber water mattresses are better options for couples, since they adjust to needs of each partner without disrupting the sleep of the other.

Best Type of Mattress: Air Mattress
Consisting of air chambers covered with upholstery, air mattresses have made a comeback as a permanent sleeping option for couples, thanks to their cutting-edge technology and customizability. Today’s dual-chamber adjustable air mattresses feature independently functioning halves that enable each sleeper to individually set the firmness, comfort, and support level for their half of the bed. Air mattresses are also less prone to sagging than their innerspring counterparts since there are no springs inside; instead, you’ll find air chambers that can be inflated with an easy-to-use air hose.

Top Pick: The Sleep Number c2 Air Mattress ($499.99 to $1,499.99)
The Sleep Number c2 air mattress affords more restful nights to couples, since each partner can apply preferred settings for comfort, firmness, and support to his or her half of the bed. Optional adjustable mattress bases and SleepIQ sleep tracking technology allow for further customization of the 4.2-star rated mattress, which earned one of the top spots in Consumer Reports’ “Best Mattresses in 2016” ranking. What’s more, the mattress is covered in woven fabric and topped with comfortable quilting foam. Available at Sleep Number.

How to Choose a Mattress - The Sleep Number c2 Air Mattress

Photo: sleepnumber.com


The Complete Guide to Decoding Laundry Symbols

Learn how to decipher laundry care symbols and properly take care of your fabrics.

Laundry Symbols Meaning

Photo: istockphoto.com

Take a look at your clothing tags before your next load of laundry. If you’re lucky, they’ll include a set of fine-print instructions for care without any confusion—but, occasionally, you’ll find little more than a handful of triangles, squares, circles, and dots. How likely are you to know the laundry symbols’ meaning, especially when some icons are distinguishable by a mere dot? Remember, the stakes are high if you can’t decipher the icons or ignore them altogether; an incorrect wash, dry,  or iron could lead to a shrunken favorite sweater or faded pair of pants. Thankfully, you have a cheat sheet. Follow this guide to common laundry symbols to keep your clothes and household linens in pristine condition.

WASHING LAUNDRY SYMBOLS

Perhaps the most important icons, these three symbols let homeowners know if a piece of clothing should be washed in a machine, hand washed, or dry cleaned.

Laundry Symbols Meaning

Photo: istockphoto.com

1. MACHINE WASH: You can throw this item into the washer with no worries. Most cotton and synthetic fabrics are machine washable, so cleaning items like jeans and T-shirts is always a cinch.

2. HAND WASH: To clean the fabric, you’ll need to hand wash with a mild detergent. Most delicate clothing requires hand washing, since machines may stretch, shrink, or otherwise damage them.

3. DO NOT WASH: Water may ruin this fabric on contact, so you’ll need to head to your local dry cleaner and leave the washing process to the pros. Some linen, silk, rayon, and wool items often require professional dry cleaning, as do some rare specialty fabrics.

 

TEMPERATURE LAUNDRY SYMBOLS

Fabrics respond in various ways to hot and cold water, so take heed of these three temperature-related laundry care symbols before you begin your next load.

Laundry Symbols Meaning

Photo: istockphoto.com

4. WASH IN COLD WATER: Some fabrics shrink in warm water, meaning you’ll want to keep them cool, whether you’re washing by hand or with a machine. Linen, silk, rayon, and wool items tend to require cold water (typically somewhere between 60 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 degrees Fahrenheit), as does cotton that hasn’t been pre-shrunk.

5. WASH IN WARM WATER: Warm water (usually around 110 degrees Fahrenheit) works best for everyday clothes in need of basic cleaning and odor removal. This symbol doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t wash them cold water; rather, it signifies that your clothes are safe in warmer water as well.

6. WASH IN HOT WATER: Hot water, which runs above 130 degrees Fahrenheit in washing machines, helps soap work more quickly and effectively—especially on stained and soiled items. That’s why hot water is preferred for towels, sheets, and other durable – materials that get a lot of daytoday use.

 

BLEACH LAUNDRY SYMBOLS

“To bleach or not to bleach” is a common question when you’re loading up the washing machine. The answer lies with three triangles, which can tell you when it’s safe and when it’s not advisable.

Laundry Symbols Meaning

Photo: istockphoto.com

7. BLEACH IS OK: Chlorine bleach effectively whitens whites, and oxygen bleach is a gentler alternative that can add an extra cleaning kick to your laundry load. Bleach is rarely safe on wool but often safe on cotton. If using any type of bleach, add a capful to your machine’s bleach dispenser; never apply it directly to the fabric.

8.BLEACH IS NOT OK: It’s not advisable to use bleach on any item that bears this symbol on the tag, since splotches or discoloration may occur. Most white cotton and synthetic fabrics are able to handle bleach without catastrophe, but if you dare go against a laundry label’s warning, beware the potential consequences.

9. ONLY USE COLOR-SAFE BLEACH: Color-safe bleach uses hydrogen peroxide as its primary ingredient instead of chlorine bleach, and it often contains other chemicals that brighten colored clothing. This symbol indicates that homeowners can safely use a hydrogen-based product on a garment, but make sure the bottle clearly states that it’s color-safe.

 

DRYING LAUNDRY SYMBOLS

To prevent winding up with a pile of ruined clothes, be mindful of your label’s drying instructions. Here are four symbols to know.

Laundry Symbols Meaning

Photo: istockphoto.com

10. TUMBLE DRY: This symbol signifies that the item can safely run through a cycle in the dryer. If the circle has one dot in the middle, low heat is preferred when tumble drying. Two dots indicate a that the item can handle a maximum of medium heat, while three dots signal that high heat may be regularly used. If the icon has no dots in the middle of the circle, homeowners can dry the garment on any heat setting. Cotton, polyester, and nylon typically require low heat, while spandex, linen, and microfiber pieces are best left to tumble dry on a cool temperature.

11. DO NOT TUMBLE DRY: Putting a “do not tumble dry” item into the dryer could ruin it entirely, so always air dry any garment with this symbol. Silk, wool, suede, and high-spandex fabrics can’t usually survive a run through the machine without losing shape.

12. DRY CLEAN ONLY: For clothes with this symbol, it’s best to leave the cleaning process to the professionals, since they may fade and shrink in your laundry machines. Many silk, wool, velvet, taffeta, and acetate items require dry cleaning.

13. DO NOT DRY CLEAN: On the other hand, some clothes aren’t meant to withstand the chemicals used in the dry cleaning process. There’s almost never a need to dry clean cotton, so the more of it that you have in your wardrobe, the less often you’ll need to make a trip to the cleaners to keep your clothing fresh.

 

IRONING LAUNDRY SYMBOLS

Most clothes come out of the dryer looking ready-to-wear, but not all fabrics are created equal. When in doubt, iron it out—unless the label tells you not to.

Laundry Symbols Meaning

Photo: istockphoto.com

14. IRON ON LOW/COOL: If your label has an iron with one dot inside, it can only tolerate cool ironing temperatures. Set your iron to its lowest temperature and test an inconspicuous corner of the fabric to see the reaction before you iron the entire piece. Generally, synthetic fabrics are best ironed with low heat and no steam.

15. IRON ON MEDIUM: An iron symbol with two dots indicates the item can be ironed with medium or average heat. Again, dial your iron to the appropriate level and test an inconspicuous patch of fabric, just to be safe. Cashmere, flannel, and silk are often ironed on a medium setting with no steam, and the garment is usually turned inside-out while being ironed.

16. IRON ON HIGH/HOT: Fabric with this label can handle an iron on its highest setting. Linen and cotton can often be ironed and steamed on maximum heat.

17. DO NOT IRON: If your laundry label has this icon, the fabric will likely shrivel and burn if you use an iron on it, even on a low setting. If you’re in need of some crease reduction, a light application of wrinkle releaser (sold in a spray bottle) is your best bet.

18. IRONING ALLOWED:  If you see this icon, you may use an iron on any setting, with or without steam.

 

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.


Bob Vila Radio: Troubleshooting a Washing Machine

Washer on the blink? Resist the temptation to call in a pro—at least not until you've made sure the problem isn't easily remedied by a common, no-help-needed fix like one of these.

Clothes sopping wet at the end of a wash? That’s not a good sign. The likeliest culprit? The spin cycle. Here are a few things to check right off the bat, before you call the repairman.

Washing Machine Troubleshooting

Photo: istockphoto.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON WASHING MACHINE TROUBLESHOOTING or read below:

First things first, make sure the laundry load isn’t throwing the machine off balance. If you’re washing heavy garments and they all happen to settle on the same side of the drum, the resulting imbalance may be what’s suppressing the spin cycle.

You also want to make sure that the washer sits level on the laundry room floor. With the machine running, listen for any vibrations or strange, excess noises. If something doesn’t sound quite right, realign the adjustable legs and test again.

One more thing to check: the spin switch. That’s the small switch hidden inside the lid of the washer. When depressed, the switch signals internally that it’s safe for the spin cycle to begin. If the switch isn’t working, the part needs to be replaced.

Yet another common cause of washing machine woes is the water hose. Pull the unit away from the wall and inspect the hose for kinks. No dice? OK. Just be careful when you’re repositioning the washer. Water hoses kink easily, after all!

Finally, search for any small items lodged in the drainage hose (adjacent to the drain pump at the rear of the unit). Remove the clamps holding the hose in place, reach around to clear any clogs, then reattach.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!