Need simple solutions for sprucing up your home and wardrobe this spring? Our experts will get you decorganized in no time flat. By Monique John, REDBOOK.
1. Give Stained Clothes a Second Chance
Before shelling out big bucks on a new wardrobe for spring, do a quick survey of the beautiful clothes you already have. Have a shirt you love but can't wear because of an ink stain? Before cleaning it, soak it in solution with two-parts milk and one part white vinegar overnight. Stain, be gone.
2. Clean Your Toilet-With Kool-Aid
It may be better known as one of America's favorite juice mixers, but Kool-Aid can be used in another very important way: as toilet bowl cleaner. "Kool-Aid is natural and non-toxic. It's full of citric-acid that will clean the toilet," cleaning guru Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan says. The cherry flavor is his favorite. Before you go to bed, flush your toilet and pour in a packet of Kool-Aid. Let it sit overnight and flush in morning. Don't worry about stains; because it's being used on a porcelain surface, the color won't bleed. A can of Coca Cola or Pepsi can also do the job, according to Todd Saunders, president of the Cleaning Specialists of America. Who knew!?
3. Have an Arsenal in Each Room
Don't waste time trying to find your cleaning supplies. "If you have multiple bathrooms, I recommend putting products in buckets in each bathroom," cleaning specialist Laura Wittmann says. "It saves you the time running around from the kitchen.
4. Swap Paper Towels for Newspapers
Paper towels are not always the most effective for wiping surfaces, especially glass. "There's oil on glass, and that's where the streaking comes from, Gillingham-Ryan explains. While paper towels simply smear the oil, newspapers can penetrate it, making the glass shinier. For cleaning windows, Gillingham-Ryan suggests, "Use dry bundles of newspaper and solution with alcohol to cut the grease. It scrapes the window, removing the grease, and then it wipes the window once it's reached the surface."
For a stronger window cleaning solution, try mixing 1/2 cup of ammonia, 1/2 cup of alcohol and a couple teaspoons lf Down in a gallon of lukewarm water. Anthony Barnes from Glo-Pro Cleaners says that mix is more effective than Windex, which may not be compatible with the kind of window you have.
5. These Colors Won't Run
The most dreaded part of doing laundry is definitely the tedious task of gathering and sorting--once the clothes are actually in the machine, it's smooth sailing. Wittmann says it doesn't have to be that way: "I don't sort my laundry. I wash each child's laundry separately with vinegar to keep the colors from running. I don't even need to use fabric softener."
Acid in distilled white vinegar is strong enough break down detergent's alkalies, making it more effective in cleaning your clothes-yet still mild enough to preserve and soften fabrics. The acid also makes your clothes smell fresher because it cuts through perspiration and residual deodorant. Don't worry about the vinegar's odor--it goes away as the clothes dry.
Make sure you have individual baskets for each person in the house. When it's time to wash, add a half a cup to a cup (depending on the size of the load) of white vinegar with laundry detergent when filling up the washing machine. Be sure to separate red items and new denim for the first wash.
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6. Run on Empty
If you find spots on your glassware, it's time to run an empty cycle. Gillingham-Ryan suggests clearing the dishwasher and running a cycle with a package of citric acid crystals you can find at the drugstore or supermarket in the canning or spice aisle. Then, run another cycle with regular detergent. Make sure to rinse and soak stained dishes in Clorox and water before putting them in the dishwasher. This will stop stains from spreading to other plates and flatware.
7. Improve Your Flow
After you've cleaned the air vents in your house, wax them with car wax. "This way the dust won't build up as quickly, and the air will pass through better," Gillingham-Ryan says.
8. Keep it Dry
Most people would think to wipe their walls with a wet rag, but Gillingham-Rhyan suggests otherwise. "[Use] a dry microfiber towel on a wall and stay dry on the wall in general. Then on smaller, more detailed surfaces like knobs and molding, use surface cleaner with the microfiber towels." Gillingham-Ryan suggests using Magic Erasers from Mr. Clean on tough stains.
9. Ditch the Funk
There's nothing like warm spring air coming through open windows to get rid of winter stuffiness. However, it might take more than fresh air to ditch the smell. "At the end of the day, nature is your best answer," says Gillingham-Ryan, who suggests an "all-natural beeswax candle with a mild scent to clean the air." Avoid using chemically-laden cleaning products when cleaning floors. Gillingham-Ryan suggests using lavender rather than citrus. "Lavender is much nicer than citrus; it's more of a food smell than a cleaner one." Since winter funk tends to settle in fabrics, try sprinkling your carpet with baking soda before vacuuming. For an elegant final touch, place a vase filled with fresh flowers and light some beeswax candles on your countertop.
10. Fight Stains With Toothpaste
Did your little one get crayon stains on the wall again? Saunders suggests dabbing some toothpaste onto a damp napkin to wipe it out. "But don't lather it on," he warns, "or it'll get pasty." Saunders also says you can use the same technique to clean scuffs off your shoes, the bottom of an iron, or on chrome surfaces in the bathroom to make them shine.
11. Rub Away Pet Hair
No one likes a couch coated in pet hair, but who wants to pick it up strand by strand? Luckily, Saunders says you can get if off by using a dishwashing glove. "Wear any latex or dishwashing glove and rub it rapidly [on the upholstery]. It builds up an electrical charge and the hair will stick to it." When you're done, just take the glove off and throw it in the trash.
12. Create a Self-Cleaning Tub
No one enjoys dealing with mold and mildew that builds up in the shower, so add some booze to the equation. Saunders suggests spraying the area with vodka-its acids will cut right through the grime. Let the vodka sit for 10 minutes, then clean normally. It'll cut down on scrubbing-big time.
If you have a whirlpool, let Gillingham-Ryan's cleaning solution do the work for you. Fill the tub with hot water halfway to the top so jets are covered. Add 1/2 cup of bleach to disinfect and 1 tbsp powdered dishwashing detergent to lift grease. Run the jets for 15 minutes. Then, clear out the tub and rinse the jets by refilling the tub with cold water and running the jets for another 15 minutes.
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