Keeping Your Kids’ Toys Clean

Has your child’s teddy bear attended one too many tea parties? Could those muddy action figures use a bath before returning to combat? Different playthings require different kinds of care, so follow our tips to prolong the life of your child’s favorite toys.

Stuffed animals. When your child’s favorite lion, tiger, or bear gets dirty, place it in a lingerie bag or pillowcase that’s knotted shut and wash on gentle with a liquid laundry detergent in a fun, invigorating scent. If hand washing is recommended, wet a washcloth with water and mild soap, rub the fur gently, and wipe clean with a damp cloth. Tumble dry at medium heat, or allow to air-dry in the sun. And be sure that the stuffed toys dry completely, to prevent mildew from forming.

Wooden toys. Avoid soaking wooden items in water. Instead, wipe all trains, pull-toys, play fruit, and dollhouse pieces with a damp cloth, then dry well with a soft cloth. For stubborn marks, add a drop of dishwashing liquid to the cloth and rub gently before rinsing with a clean, damp cloth and drying.

Action figures. Gather action figures, pretend tools, and other plastic toys in a sink or tub filled with warm water and a few squirts of fresh-scented citrus liquid dish soap. Submerge toys and agitate for a few minutes, then rinse well and dry with a soft cloth or towel. Keep an old toothbrush on hand for scrubbing hard-to-clean crevices.

Vinyl dolls. To clean vinyl baby dolls and fashion dolls alike, gently rub with a damp cloth. Wash dirty tresses with shampoo, and tackle tangles with conditioner and a fine-tooth comb. For marker or crayon smudges on a doll’s skin, rub with a paste made from baking soda and a few drops of water, then rinse well and dry.

Tub toys. Every few weeks those rubber duckies and plastic submarines may need a scrub of their own. In a sink or tub filled with warm water and a few squirts of liquid dishwashing soap, agitate the toys and rub clean with a soft cloth, then rinse well and allow to air-dry. If mold is present, scrub the toys with kosher salt and a bristle brush, then soak overnight in a bucket filled with water and vinegar. In the morning, simply rinse and dry the toys in preparation for their next splashdown.

Say Hello to Spring

Now that spring is upon us, it’s time to shed the winter blahs and perk up your home and your outlook on life. Fortunately, there are easy ways to brighten your environment and your state of mind simultaneously. The trick is to harness the powers of sense- and scent-appeal! Read on to learn how.

Use the power of flowers. Place a vase of yellow daffodils, forsythia, or tulips in a prominent spot in your house, like the kitchen table, your desk, or the front hallway. The sunny color, according to experts, can help foster optimism, hope, and good cheer. Bring it on!

Spring clean walls and windowsills. Use the brush attachment on your vacuum to remove dust from your walls and window ledges, then remove fingerprints and dulling grime with a multi-surface liquid cleaner that has a fresh, ready-for-spring scent.

Let the light shine in. Research suggests that bright light has a positive effect on mood, so throw open the curtains and raise the blinds to let the natural light pour into your home. Not only will this make for a happier, brighter space, it may well do the same for your spirits.

Give dust bunnies the boot. Clear bookshelves and coffee tables and dust the surfaces (and your books). Ditto for ceiling-fan blades, lamps, and any other decorative accessories. After that, take your sofa cushions outside and beat them by hand (or with a clean broom) to remove any dust and crumbs, then refresh the fabric with a freshening spray.

Create a fruit centerpiece. A beautiful bowl of apricots or oranges will remind you that warmer weather and healthy treats from Mother Nature will soon be coming on strong. Some other seasonal options to consider: mangoes, pineapples, or star fruit, all of which promise to tempt your eyes as well as your taste buds.

Lighten up your bed. Swap out your flannel sheets, wool coverlets, and extra-heavy down comforters for cotton sheets and medium-weight blankets. As you’re tidying up the rest of the room, wash linens with a detergent that has a light, delightful scent to help welcome spring. Do the same for your pillows—and you’ll set the stage for sweet, happy dreams.

5 Easy Tips for Saving Money at Home

Fill the washer to capacity each time.

Running two half-size loads wastes water and electricity. Check the manual (or the manufacturer’s Website) for your machine’s capacity, which might be listed in cubic feet, kilograms or pounds. Calculate your machine’s capacity. In general, 3.1- and 4.0-cubic-foot models will hold 12 to 16 pounds of laundry; 4.2- and 4.5-cubic-foot machines will hold as much as 20 pounds. To get a good visual sense of what that adds up to, pack a typical load of dirty clothes into a trash bag and weigh it on your bathroom scale, then adjust accordingly. Overall, remember, it’s important not to overstuff your machine because this can interfere with cleaning; you should be able to fit your hand (positioned as if you were to give the washer a handshake) comfortably between the top of the inside of your machine drum and your clothes. If you can’t, there are too many clothes in the machine.

Buy in bulk.

Partner up with friends and neighbors when shopping in warehouse stores, then split up the purchases, especially perishables, to reduce costs and carbon footprints. Or try all-in-one products, such as laundry products that combine detergent, stain removers, and brighteners. By buying an all-in-one product, you reduce excess packaging, which saves resources. Look for energy-saving labels on light bulbs, home appliances, electronics, and other products.

Wash clothes in cold water.

It’s an easy change to make that can save big money over time. (Water heating accounts for the largest portion of your utility bill.) Don’t sacrifice deep clean results: Use a detergent that is specially formulated to deep clean on the cold setting. With this one simple switch, you can save a bundle on your energy bill.

Get digitized.

Lower your utility bills by installing a programmable thermostat to manage heating and cooling systems. Set timers to adjust for periods when you’re home, at work, and asleep.

Turn clutter into cash!

Clean out your closet and take seldom-worn clothing, jewelry, and shoes to a consignment shop, or throw a tag sale. Those ill-fitting or outmoded vintage pieces might be a treasure to someone else. Or organize a clothing swap with friends to update your wardrobes. Old books (especially art books) can sometimes fetch a few dollars at antique shops, or can make for a fun swap party.

6 Ways to Keep Clothes Looking Great — Wherever You Go

Tip 2: Double-bag your liquids

No matter how tightly you think the top of that shampoo bottle is screwed on, it’s better to be safe than sorry. While packing, separate your liquids from your clothes by putting them in two plastic bags.

Tip 1: Roll your clothes

Rolling instead of folding your clothes not only prevent wrinkles, it also saves space. And you know what that means—more room to bring home souvenirs!

Tip 3: Pack a to-go stain remover.

Traveling with kids? (Or do you have a knack for spilling yourself?) Don’t forget to bring along a to-go stain remover. Ice cream meltdowns and ballpark mustard stains don’t stand a chance against a quick application of stain remover, meaning you won’t suddenly find yourself down a pre-planned outfit.

Tip 4: When you don’t have an iron, take a hot shower

You don’t need an iron to stay wrinkle-free. Simply hang your clothes up in your bathroom while you take a hot shower and let the steam get rid of unwanted wrinkles.

Tip 5: Don’t forget detergent pods

Detergent pods are compact and easy to travel with, so bring them along to ensure that you have the detergent you love while traveling.

Tip 6: Use dry-cleaning bags

Dry-cleaning bags can be a useful tool when traveling. Pack small stacks of clothes inside a single bag—this will help prevent friction and therefore wrinkles. As you near the end of your trip, tie a knot at one end of a bag to use it as a dirty clothes hamper.

 

Oops! How to Handle Stained Table Linens and Other Holiday Mishaps—Now and Later

The holiday season is a time for fabulous feasts with family and friends. Unfortunately, it’s also a time for extra laundry, spills and stains. To the rescue, our expert “now and later” tips show you how to clean the most common stains, whether they’re on tablecloths, napkins or other festive linens.

Wax

You’ve just served and enjoyed a wonderful holiday feast for your family and friends, but when you clear the table, you find that the candles that so beautifully lit your repast have leaked all over your decorative table runner and left behind ugly red stains.

What to do now: Wax dries fairly quickly. Wait until it does, then gently scrape off as much as you can with a dull knife and shake off the scrapings. Be careful not to let any of those scrapings get on your carpet or other fabric in the process!

What to do later: After your guests have left, lay the stained area of your linen flat on top of a white paper towel on an iron-friendly surface. Place a second paper towel over it. Press this linen “sandwich” with a warm (not hot!) iron. The paper towels will absorb the residual wax. You may have to change paper towels a few times to soak it all up, depending on the severity of the stain. Follow up your ironing session with a 20-minute pretreatment using liquid detergent and a warm-water wash using bleach, or wash by hand, depending on the fabric.

Wine

You’re at the office holiday party sipping red wine when your arm is jostled and a bit of it sloshes onto your outfit. You don’t have any other clothes to change into, so you’ll have to do a little surgery now, and then a little more when you get home!

What to do now: Head to the bathroom and wet a paper towel or cloth with warm water. Blot the stain to remove excess wine that hasn’t soaked into the fabric. If you have an instant stain remover stick with you, use that instead of water. Another trick is to rub a little salt onto the stain after blotting with a little cold water. Wait a few minutes and then rub the stained area between your fingers. The salt will soak up the pigment.

What to do later: Rub a little liquid detergent into the stained area and let it sit for a few minutes. Then wash according to the instructions on your clothing care label.

Cranberry

This winter berry is a hallmark of many traditional holiday dishes. But it also tends to leave behind rather vivid red stains on your tablecloths. Dealing with the stains, however, is well worth the enjoyment you’ll get from the sweet flavor.

What to do now: Blot the stain with a little bit of cool water, and follow up with a 15-minute soak in a mixture of 1 tablespoon white vinegar and ½ teaspoon liquid laundry detergent.

What to do later: Wash the fabric according to care label instructions. Use a bleach alternative product if fabric care allows.

Gravy

When the holidays are here, you’ll be ladling this thick, delicious dressing on just about everything—and sometimes that includes your placemat! Gravy, while delicious, is usually greasy, which makes any stains it leaves behind more difficult to treat with just water or club soda.

What to do now: Mop up or scrape off any excess gravy with a paper towel. Then apply an instant stain remover. If you don’t have that handy, pour a little bit of liquid detergent over the stain and let sit for 20 minutes.

What to do later: Wash the stained fabric in the hottest water that it can tolerate, according to care instructions.

Lipstick

The holidays aren’t the only times you’ll find little smooch-marks on your napkins after a dinner party, but ’tis definitely the season for darker, bolder lip colors. Lipstick stains are unfortunately an unavoidable side effect of entertaining with fabric napkins, but fortunately there’s an easy way to get them out.

What to do now: After you’ve cleared the table, toss the napkin or napkins in a plastic bin or bucket. Fill it with a liquid laundry detergent – about 1 1/2 tablespoons (about half a capful) per gallon of cold water. Make sure the napkins are completely submerged, and let them soak for about a half hour.

What to do later:  Wash the stained napkins in warm water and detergent. If there

Declutter Your Life: Laundry Room Edition

There is a lot of unavoidable stress in your life so why not declutter and organize where you can? The laundry room is a good place to start. After all, it is mission control center for tidy and clean homes. Here are a few useful tips that will keep your laundry room orderly—and your mind clutter-free.

1. Clearly label a bin for darks and a bin for lights.
Separating laundry into dark and light loads can be a hassle, so make your life easier and have family members sort it themselves! Two clearly marked bins in the laundry room will do the trick.

2. Pin up a “lost sock board.”
There’s nothing more annoying than losing a sock, throwing out its mate and then finding the original sock months later. Be organized and preemptively handle the age-old lost sock conundrum by putting up a lost sock corkboard. Fair warning: This may turn into more of a memorial wall… but it will still look cute.

3. Start a laundry room piggy bank.
When you turn pockets inside out and find lose change and bills, drop the bounty in your laundry room piggy bank. Aside from looking adorable, a piggy bank may prompt family members to check pockets before putting dirty clothes in the hamper.

4. Designate a basket, bin or shelf to each family member.
Having a designated area for each family member makes sorting laundry after washday a breeze. Then they can be in charge of picking up and folding their own clean items to help ease your load.

5. Hang up a stain chart.
Knowledge is power. A stain chart will ensure that you are always prepared.

Four Ways to Freshen Up Your Home

It’s the time of year that we really start to crave those long, sunny days, a garden bright with blooms, and gentle breezes permeating the house. Why not hurry up your springtime? Here are four simple household refreshers that will kick-start that much-needed transition from dreary winter to glorious spring.

1. Brighten up.
Introduce bright colors and warm-weather floral patterns to a living room or bedroom with new throw pillows or area rugs, or try out a different window treatment, such as sheer curtains, that will allow for more natural light.

2. Flora and fauna.
Don’t wait for the annuals to bloom; embellish your house with natural beauty. Fill a glass or ceramic bowl with lemons and leave them on your kitchen counter. Go to the local nursery and buy bulbs to force in pots indoors—imagine the fragrance of hyacinths in a couple of weeks’ time. Cut some forsythia sprays or apple, pear, cherry, or plum branches off of your trees in the backyard, stick them in a tall vase of warm water, let them transition first in a cool area, and then watch them bloom spring in your living room.

3. Fresh scents.
The windows have been closed for months and you can’t wait to air out the house. There’s an alternative way to refresh your house while the mercury is still low. Start by selecting an air freshener, which come in a variety of amazing scents. Now gather up all of your spring cleaning—bed linens, towels, bath mats, slipcovers, throws, and rugs—and wash them with liquid laundry detergent and a fabric softener of your fragrance choice. Then dry them with dryer sheets or dryer bars of the same scent. You can even enhance your fragrance with a scent booster that will allow that heavenly aroma to linger longer.

4. Color your world.
Want to experiment with a new wall color in your house, but feeling just a little fearful? Take a tip from interior decorators: Play out a new palette in the guest bedroom this weekend. Because guest rooms tend not to be in daily use, decorators will tell you they’re a great place to be more adventurous with color. Let springtime inspire you.