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.

 

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. 

Time to Turn In

The hours before your head hits the pillow can determine whether you’ll be up tossing and turning or falling right to sleep. If you find your mind racing and unable to shut down, try these simple tricks so you can drift into sweet slumber, easily.

Power down. The last thing you need at the end of the day is more stimulation. Make it a rule: no distractions, no electronics. That means no computer, TV, cell phone—zilch! Artificial light can trick your body’s internal clock into thinking it’s not time for bed. Keep it simple. Reading a book or magazine can help you let go of a hectic day as you get ready to go to sleep.  

Beware of sleep disrupters. Alcohol, which may initially make you drowsy, can negatively affect your sleep. Heavy meals may cause indigestion, so it’s best to finish dinner two or three hours before bedtime. Exercise is encouraged; however, strenuous activity is not recommended for two hours before you go to sleep.

Establish an evening ritual. A warm bath at night can relieve tension and help you to feel relaxed and sleepy. Try to regulate your body’s clock, too, by going to sleep and waking up the same time each day. Slip into soft PJs washed with a fabric softener in a calming scent for extra cozy comfort.

Set the mood. Keep your bedroom tranquil and serene, with no bright lights. Soft lamplight or the gentle glow of a scented candle works better as you’re getting ready for bed. If your mind is endlessly wandering, write thoughts down in a journal (no electronics!).

Breathe deeply and meditate. Practiced for thousands of years, mediation may help you to relax and let go of the daily stress that takes up too much space in your head. A tip from the experts: Stay mindful of the flow of your breath. Positive affirmations may also help. Silently repeat a reassuring word or phrase.

Comfort is key. The most important part of your evening oasis: the bed. Launder linens with a liquid fabric softener in a amazing scent. The silky soft sheets will feel fabulous as you drift off to sleep.