Love Your Dog (Not His Smell)

Man’s best friend may be your top companion, but he’s not the neatest roommate. He sheds. He licks your floors. He drools after he drinks. It can add up to a not-so-sweet dog odor that hangs around the house. Clean up his act (and your house) with these doggie do’s.

Give hair the heave-ho. Minimize shedding with weekly brushing. (Tip: Do this outside, for neatness.) Consider upgrading your vacuum to a HEPA filter model, which catches teensy particles that Fido may be shaking off around the house, furniture included. Got wood floors? An electrostatic mop will be more efficient on wood than a vacuum, since it won’t blow the hair around.

Clean carpet mishaps. Dogs will eat anything. You know this because the evidence ends up on your rug. Use paper towels to pick up as much solid vomit as you can, and to blot wet spots. Next, clean the spot with a stain remover mixed with water and a clean rag. Use more clean rags to rinse, then blot the spot to help it dry.

Beautify his bedding. Shake out or vacuum his bedding, then put the cushion cover, bed base, and blanket in the washing machine along with his plush chew toys (if they’re machine washable; be sure to follow manufacturers’ directions). Use a large load setting and a stain remover along with your favorite detergent. Dry according to manufacturers’ directions.

Spiff up his crate. Clean the surfaces with a damp sponge and a multipurpose cleaner with stain-removing power. Rinse, then air-dry the crate and toss his blankie back inside. Send him to sleep with a few extra tummy rubs.

Weekend Cleanup: Tackle All Your Floors


Hardwood floors



To keep hardwood floors looking beautiful, play it safe and use a dedicated wood cleaner, and follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully. Use a barely damp mop and dry thoroughly afterward; excess water can cause warping or other damage. If you spot a scratch, camouflage it with a wax stick made for floor scratches, or touch it up with a wood-stain marker. Notice a scuff? Buff it out with a clean, fuzzy tennis ball.




Tile floors



Clean everyday grime with a multipurpose cleanser. Mix it in a bucket of warm water and pair it with a mop. Afterward, rinse with clean water and dry with a lint-free cloth. Tools are key: Get yourself a grout brush for spaces between tiles and a cheap, stiff nailbrush for small corners where your mop doesn’t reach. 



Area rugs



Drag small rugs outside and vigorously shake them. If they’re machine washable, toss them into the washer with your favorite detergent plus a scoop of stain remover. Air-dry when done. For rugs that are too large to carry outside, vacuum thoroughly, then flip and vacuum the other side. Spot treat stains with a stain remover and warm water, then rinse. 



Wall-to-wall carpeting



 Move as much furniture as possible out of the room and vacuum the carpeting thoroughly. Then bring on the carpet-cleaning machine (if you don’t own one, you can rent one from a home improvement store for about $25 a day). Resist the urge to use more soap than the directions call for—excess suds can leave residue behind that attracts dirt. As you clean, aim for damp, not drenched. Let the carpet dry thoroughly, for about eight hours, then vacuum again.


Keep the clean longer



You can help keep your floors spotless by making your home a no-shoes zone: Outdoor shoes transfer bacteria like E. coli to floors, according to a University of Arizona study. In addition, vacuum and sweep at least once a week. And handle carpet and tile floor spills right away, because stains are harder to erase the longer they sit. 


Weekend Cleanup Series: Pretty Up Your Patio


Revive your current decor.



Before buying new chair cushions, see what you can do with the old ones. Shake out dust, then clean up stains with a multipurpose, color-safe cleaner. Mix the cleaner with warm water in a bucket, following package directions, and dip a sponge in the solution and wipe the stains. Let the solution soak in for 15 minutes. Rinse with a hose and air-dry. Got icky umbrellas? Follow the same steps to clean them. 



Add a decorative rug.



A pretty outdoor throw rug will define your seating area and make it feel more intimate. If the rug’s label indicates that it can be washed, do so once a month with a solution of stain remover and water in a bucket. Scrub the rug using a large nylon chore brush, then rinse with a hose and air-dry. 



Let there be light.



Glass lanterns or tiki torches that throw off a warm glow will encourage your friends and family to linger after the sun sets. You can also brighten things up by wrapping strands of tiny white outdoor lights around a column. 



Green it up.



A container garden can beautify your patio and provide mouthwatering fruits and veggies. Pick a container at least 24 inches in diameter so there’s room for strong plant roots to develop. Choose a large plant like a tomato or a tall plant like fennel as a centerpiece, and then fill around the edges with smaller herb plantings, like parsley, basil, or rosemary. As a finishing visual touch, include something that will dangle over the edge, like strawberries. 



Encorporate serene sounds.



Wind chimes made from bamboo, teak, metal, glass, or shells create relaxing sounds of music. You can step the serenity moments up a notch by adding a small water garden (find one with a recirculating pump so you can enjoy the sound of trickling water). All you need now are burgers, drinks, and your loved ones.


Throw the Perfect Fiesta!

Time to bust out the piñata! Cinco de Mayo is the perfect occasion to show off your party-planning skills. A festive atmosphere and a lot of great food will help fuel the fun.

Set the mood. Before the party, fill green, white, and red paper bags with sand, and add a tea light to each one. Line the sidewalk leading up to your house with the luminaries for a festive entrance. Inside, string colorful paper banners along the ceiling (warning, they’re so bright and happy that you might not take them down), and make a playlist of mariachi and salsa music so guests can try their hand at dancing.

Scatter appetizers. Serving up your world-famous guacamole and homemade pico de gallo? Set appetizers on different tables around the room to keep guests from clustering in one area. Ask guests to pitch in and bring a homemade salsa or dip of their choice. Print copies of each recipe and set them near the dish so everyone can take home their favorites.

Make dinner DIY. Cinco de Mayo involves a smorgasbord of delicious dinner ideas, like burritos, tacos, enchiladas, and an array of tasty dips. Use the days leading up to the party to chop veggies, and set out serving dishes ahead of time. On the day of the party, make pulled pork in a slow cooker for hands-off prep and easy cleanup. Then set out a range of hard taco shells and soft tortillas with the pork, veggies, and cheeses for a DIY buffet. Guests can create their own perfect dish! Be sure to label hot sauces on the buffet table so guests can turn up the heat according to their liking.

Give salsa lessons. Maybe you have a talented friend who can lead the group, or you could invite an instructor from a local dance studio to teach everyone how to salsa. A friendly dance competition gives guests an opportunity to shake off some of that pulled pork dinner and show off their skills. Award the best dancers with prizes, like margarita-making supplies.



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.