Five Green Cleaning Recipes for a Spring Home
Natural Cleaning Tips to Minimize Asthma and Allergy Symptoms
Did you know that ground cinnamon is an effective and organic way to control ants? How about using acombination of sea salt and lemon to clean chrome, copper, and brass? It doesn't take harsh chemicals to get the house cleaning job done well. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that indoor environments may be two to five times more polluted than the outdoors, in part due to the regular use of traditional cleaning supplies laden with harmful chemicals.
Detox your home this spring with the Maid Brigade Spring Cleaning Go to Guide authored by Green Cleaning Coach Leslie Reichert and Maid Brigade Consumer Health Advocate Marie Stegner. Below are some natural, green cleaning solutions as featured in the guide to minimize asthma and allergy triggers and improve your family's overall health.
Daily All-Purpose Cleaner
1 cup white vinegar
1-cup seltzer water
8 drops tea tree oil
1/8-cup hydrogen peroxide
Mix ingredients in a spray bottle. Spray on surface to disinfect and let soak for several minutes before wiping away. Hydrogen peroxide eventually loses its strength so you will need to add more to the mixture each time you use the solution.
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. water
Juice of 1 lemon
Mix liquids in a spray bottle.Shake well and apply to furniture. Allow polish to sit for 5 minutes before buffing with a dry polishing cloth.
No Wax Floor Cleaner
1/4 cup lemon juice
8 drops dish soap
3 tbsp. skim milk or powdered milk
2 cups warm water
Combine ingredients in a spray bottle and spray directly onto floor. Use a microfiber cloth to clean, then rinse the floor as needed. This method does not require a bucket and uses less cleaner and water than traditional methods.
Find where the trail of ants is entering your home and spread ground cinnamon around the entire area. Ants do not like the smell and will go back to the nest with cinnamon stuck on their legs, moving out shortly after.
Chrome, Copper, and Brass Cleaner
1 whole lemon
1 small dish of sea salt
Cut the lemon in half and dip it in the salt. Rub the salted lemon on the tarnished metal. Then squeeze the juice of the lemon out slowly to cover the metal. Once clean, wash in warm water with a gentle dish soap.
Do you have any homemade cleaning recipes that have worked for you? Comment here and let us know.
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For even more green cleaning recipes and healthy house cleaning tips visit www.maidbrigade.com.
Quick Fixes to Save on Heating and Cooling
The average family spends $1500 a year on energy bills, nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A home energy audit and some quick fixes can save some of that hard-earned money.
The EPA estimates that homeowners can typically save up to 20 percent of heating and cooling costs by air sealing their homes and adding insulation in attics, floors over crawl spaces and accessible basement rim joints.
Conduct an energy audit to identify spots where energy is lost through gaps and cracks. Start in your basement and move upwards. Look for both visible gaps and cold or hot spots.
Your air-conditioning system set-up could be doing more than just heating and cooling your house. It could be an air-infiltration culprit. Check the HVAC ducts from your attic and basement into the living space. There may be gaps where the ducts go through the floor above into the ceiling below.
While plumbing pipes may be hidden behind or under the sink, it doesn't mean that the pipe penetrations aren't allowing unseen bugs and unwanted air into the house. Check for holes under the sink where the pipes enter from the floor or wall in all rooms that have running water (kitchen, bathroom, utility room, and laundry room).
Stand in front of the electrical box of your house and look at where the main electrical exits the box and enters the living space (in the basement look upwards). If there is a hole, seal it.
Use a screw driver to remove your outlet cover plates. Homes have holes cut in the walls for the outlets. Check for gaps between the wall and the metal box that houses the electrical socket.
Seal around the attic hatch frame to keep the unconditioned attic air from entering your living space.
The EPA recommends sealing these leaks with spray foam, caulk, or weather stripping. Insulating foam sealants, such as GREAT STUFF form an airtight, water-resistant seal. The foam is sandable, paintable, and can be trimmed with a utility knife afterwards and is easy to use for do-it-yourselfers of any skill level.
Other ways to save on energy
* Either installing a timed thermostat or by turning up or down the temperature before heading to work.
* Make sure the fireplace flu is closed and install glass fireplace doors to keep energy from escaping.
* Check to be sure no air vents are being blocked by furniture or drapery.
* Insulate any areas that are not heated and cooled (garage, attic, basement, or crawl space).
For more information on how you can save money by sealing gaps, visit www.dowgreatstuff.com.
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Transform Your Trash
by Marisa Belger
The jars came first. Instead of sending my growing collection of empty glass receptacles to their usual fate at the bottom of the recycle bin, I did something unexpected -- something wild. I peeled off their labels and plopped them in the dishwasher.
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I wanted to see just what would happen if I gave these jars another chance. Full disclosure: I was motivated not only by the thought of transforming trash into something new, something useful, even something cool, but also by the fact that jars were clogging up my kitchen. Jump to full text of article.
The Lighter Side of Nature-Inspired Home Decor
If the words "nature-inspired decor" make you think of muted wall hues or overwrought floral fabrics, it's time to rethink your take on this hot design trend.
Nature-inspired design can certainly be soothing, sedate and traditional, but a plethora of new products and techniques is also bringing the bold, bright and fun side of nature indoors. Whether it's a throw pillow that looks like birch bark or a full wall mural of green bamboo, nature's brighter side is spicing up modern American decor.
If you're looking for fun, funky ways to bring the brighter side of nature-inspired design into your home, here are a few ideas and items to look for:
"Woodn't" it be good
Wood has been a beloved design element in home interiors for centuries. But you don't have to invest in expensive hardwood floors or put up with dated wall paneling to enjoy wood's rich beauty in your decor. Logs are the latest, and not just in log homes.
From glass tabletops perched delicately atop natural twig and branch bases, or a faux wood-grained area rug to plush throw pillows in fabric that mimics the grain of natural wood, you're barking up the right tree by incorporating the look of log into your decor.
You don't have to spend a dime to bring this trendy yet timeless material into your home, either. Simply take a stroll in the woods, gather some eye-catching branches, bring them home, tie with your favorite colored ribbon and use them as an accent piece above mantles, windows or doorways.
Way to do a wall
Wall murals have been around for thousands of years, and the latest twist on nature-inspired murals is bold. Forget the walls of idyllic woodland scenes that were ubiquitous during the 1970s. Modern nature-inspired murals amplify the graphic qualities and bright hues found when you take a closer look at Mother Nature's artistry.
Zoomed in close-ups of a pebble-filled beach, bright green bamboo stalks and graceful birch trunks turn familiar natural scenes into graphic design elements that emphasize color and pattern. Each look adds a unique touch of nature-inspired drama to a room's design. You'll find all three murals for just $99 at www.DecorPlace.com, which sells easy-to-install wallpaper murals.
Some nature-inspired decor is anything but serious. From parchment votive holders made out of real vegetables (at www.vivaterra.com) to lamps that resemble a tumble of glossy stones (www.stonecreationsonline.com), it's easy to find the fun side of nature-inspired accessories.
Made slice by slice from fresh produce, sculptor Margaret Dorfman presses veggies into durable parchment, then fashions them into flower shapes to create inventive votive holders.
Bamboo is another versatile material that's finding fun applications in American homes. A serene stand of miniature bamboo shoots elegantly displayed on a coffee table is a perfect foil to the vibrant, joyful color of a bamboo wall mural. A spritely bamboo window film can balance the rich, practical presence of bamboo flooring.
Americans' continuing interest in the environment and eco-friendly living is sure to keep the nature-inspired home decor movement going strong. Colorful, whimsical decorator items that remind us of Mother Nature's sense of humor are finding their place beside the more serene staples of this decorating trend.
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Courtesy of ARAcontent
Flavorful Landscapes -- A Growing Trend
Nothing beats the flavor of a fresh-from-the-garden tomato; warmed by the sun, plucked right from the plant and eaten in the garden.
More than 43 percent of U.S. households plan to experience this and the other benefits of homegrown fruits, vegetables and herbs this summer, according to a recent survey by the National Gardening Association.
Space Limited? Get Creative
The good news is you don't need much space to have an edible garden. Many gardeners grow food in containers or mixed in with their flowers, shrubs and other ornamental plantings.
Look for creative ways to include vegetables in your landscape. "I like to mix them with flowers in my container gardeners" says Melinda Myers, horticulturist and author. "One of my favorite combinations is ornamental corn, eggplant, tri-color sage, purple ruffle basil and trailing verbena. For a quick burst of spring beauty and produce I use Swiss chard as a vertical accent, add a few pansies -- they are edible -- colorful leaf lettuce or ornamental mustard and a trailing ivy or two for aesthetics, not eating."
Limited sunlight? No worries
Full sun will give you the best results, but you can still grow edibles where sunshine is limited. Save the sunniest spot for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and other vegetables where you eat the flowers or fruit. They produce their best and have fewest disease problems when grown in eight to 12 hours of sunlight. Root crops such as beets, radishes and carrots can get by with about a half a day of direct sun and leafy crops like lettuce and spinach can still produce in a shady location with only four hours of sunlight.
Get Your Garden Off to a Good Start
Use a quality potting mix when growing in containers. It should have good drainage and retain moisture. In the garden, it's important to properly prepare the soil before planting. Add several inches of compost, peat moss or other organic matter to the top 6- to 12-inches of soil. This improves drainage in heavy soils and increases water holding capacity for sandy or rocky soils.
Add a slow release fertilizer like Milorganite to the soil. This goof-proof organic source of nitrogen meets the Environmental Protection Agency's Exceptional Quality standards and will help encourage growth without interfering with flowering and fruiting.
Time it Right
Let the weather be your planting guide. Cool season crops like lettuce, peas and broccoli can tolerate chilly air and soil. Wait for the danger of frost to pass and soil to warm before planting tomatoes, peppers, squash and melons. Myers suggests anxious gardeners can, "Jump start the season with the help of floating row covers. These polypropylene fabrics let air, light and water through while trapping the heat near the plants. The best part, you won't need a hammer, nail or other tools. Simply lay the fabric over your planting leaving enough slack for the plants to grow and anchor the edges to the ground with stones, boards or other items."
Maximize Your Efforts
Check the seed packets and plant tags for details on when and how to plant each herb and vegetable seed or transplant. Increase productivity with succession plantings. Simply start with lettuce, radishes or another cool weather plant. Once harvested, replant the area with onions or beans. After these are done you can replant the area once again with a fall crop of lettuce, spinach or radishes.
Double your harvest with interplanting. Plant quick-to-mature crops like radishes and lettuce in between longer maturing plantings of cabbage, tomatoes or eggplant. The short season vegetables will be ready to harvest just about the time the bigger plants are crowding them out.
Consider planting vegetables closer together in wider rows. You'll waste less space for pathways putting more room in plantings. Make sure each plant has enough space to grow and that you can reach all planted areas to weed and harvest.
Just a Bit More Care Needed
Water new plantings thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil moist but not too wet. Add a layer of shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic material to conserve moisture, suppress weeds and moderate soil temperatures. Midsummer, give your plants a boost with a slow release organic nitrogen fertilizer like Milorganite. And don't worry if the weather turns hot and dry, Milorganite won't burn. It will remain in the soil until the plants are ready to use it.
Pull weeds as they appear, watch for bugs and wait for the produce to come pouring in. You may find this is a great family activity that gets even the most reluctant vegetable eaters munching on a few fresh carrots and maybe even broccoli.
Courtesy of ARAcontent
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Tips for Getting Room Color Right
There's nothing quite like committing to a paint color only to find that once it's on the walls, it looks nothing like you envisioned. Or, you realize too late that while you may love the color orange, it really doesn't work as a living room wall color. Or maybe you just can't decide which color is right for your bedroom.
Color dilemmas happen all the time, causing more than a little frustration.
The first thing to keep in mind is that light has a huge influence on color. Fluorescent light brings out the blues and greens while making reds look duller. Incandescent lighting - like what you have in your home - gives off a warmer light that makes yellows and reds brighter while dulling blues. So that soft yellow that looked nice in the store may look a lot brighter on your walls at home, simply because the light is different.
Natural sunlight gives the truest color - but even that has its variations. Southern exposures tend to have brighter, warmer light, while northern facing rooms will seem cooler and have more of a blue light to them. And at night, incandescent light casts shadows, so painted walls look darker.
So what can you do make sure your room turns out the way you really want it to?
Find the inspiration. If you're not sure what color you want, it really helps to find an inspiration piece to get you started. Maybe it's a favorite vase or the quilt on your bed. Use two or three colors in that piece to be the color palette for your room - one main and two accent colors.
Forget the chip. Paint chips just aren't big enough to give you a good idea of what a color will look like in your room. Once you've narrowed down your color choices, buy a small sample of each. (Some companies offer samples of a just few ounces, but if you can't get one, buy a quart.) Paint one sheet of poster board with each color. Now you have a paint "chip" that will really help. Move the boards around to different parts of the room at different times of day. And put them next to furniture pieces and fabrics in the room, too. You'll be amazed at how different a single color can look!
Find the balance. There's a color principal commonly called the 60-30-10 rule that helps keep a room's color in balance. Sixty percent of a room - usually the walls - should be one color of the color scheme. Cabinetry and/or furniture make up 30 percent, and accents and accessories - linens, art, plants, decor items - make up 10 percent. So if orange really is your favorite color, find a neutral color for your 60 percent, and let orange show up in your accents and accessories. You'll get the bright color "pop" you want without overwhelming everything in the room.
Take some time to experiment - when you get the color right, you'll have a room you can feel good about.
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Room Makeovers That Won't Break the Budget
So you have a room that needs updating, but you don't have a lot of time or money? Not a problem. These quick-fix ideas will spruce up a room in no time without emptying your wallet.
* If you like old fashioned tin ceilings, try ceiling tile paintable wallpaper. It's textured wallpaper that looks like embossed white plaster, and you can paint it any color you want. Put it up under a chair rail to make a unique wainscoting in a weekend.
* For artwork, frame color copies of prints out of books, magazines or catalogs. If it's a kids' bathroom, frame some of their art.
* A few fresh hand towels and a new toilet seat will freshen things up, as well.
* A new duvet cover or comforter and matching shams will instantly change the look of your bedroom. Reversible covers give you even more design bang for your buck.
* Paint an accent wall to bring a new color into the room. If your other walls are neutral, go with a bolder color on the accent wall. If the other walls are a strong color, pick out a neutral tone.
* Fabric remnants are an inexpensive and easy way to dress up your room. Recover pillows or add a colorful band to your drapes. At about one-third of the regular fabric price, they're a bargain.
* One of the easiest - and cheapest - ways to change up a room is to rearrange the furniture. Take everything out and start over with a clean slate. And don't be afraid to poach items from other rooms - the mirror in the hall just might look perfect behind the sofa now.
* Don't forget the floors. If you have wood floors, put the shine back into them with wood cleaner. If you have carpet, add a colorful area rug on top for a splash of color and to help define an area.
* Go green - with plants. Whether it's a single palm leaf in a vase or a pretty silk tree, greenery adds a lot to a room. For the best effect, group plants of varying heights, fullness and color together.
* Replace cabinet hardware with decorative pulls and handles. It's an easy way to add personality to ordinary cabinetry. New switch plates are another affordable change that can make a difference.
* Dress up your windows with a new valance. A fresh color will perk things up in no time. If you have solid curtains or sheers, try a patterned valance. If the curtains are print, compliment them with a solid valance.
* Add a new throw rug and a few fresh kitchen towels and you've got a brand new look for next to nothing.
Some creative thinking and a little elbow grease is all it takes to make a room feel like new.
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