Archive of ‘Cleaning/Life Hacks’ category

So you want to Clean you Toilet

toilet8I think I should warn you from the beginning that if you are eating, or have a queasy stomach you may not want to continue with this post.  There are some graphic pictures and I don’t want to be blamed for anyone losing their lunch.

Alright, you’ve been warned, let’s continue.  I have to clarify this post by saying that I really thought that I had been cleaning my toilet the best it could be cleaned for the past number of years.  I have 5 boys (just in case you forgot) and my toilets can get pretty bad.(understatement of the year)  I have scrubbed them, used a toothpick to get into the crevices the best I could and used an old tooth brush on occasion, but there have always been stains that I just couldn’t get off.

toilet1I had my friend Dana (my scientist friend who helped me out with this post) mention a while ago that she takes a part the toilet when she cleans it and then “waxes” it.  I thought “Wow” and didn’t think much more of it until she mentioned it again recently and I decided that I needed to have her teach me her ways.  I haven’t been haptoilet2py with mine for a while and thought that I just needed to replace the toilets all together.  I asked Dana to come teach me and she said she’d be happy to.  She had me get a few supplies together.  Gel Gloss, bathroom cleaner (whatever kind you prefer), a wrench, a flat head screwdriver, a magic eraser, and denture cleaner.

toilet4toilet3Fill your sink so that the water is about 4 inches high and put in around 3 denture cleaner tablets.  These are supposed to be for 8 oz of water each, so adjust as needed for the size of your sink.  Now for the gross part.  The first thing to do is remove the toilet lid.  To do this you use the screwdriver to pop up the latches at the hinge as shown in this picture.  You then use the wrench to grab the plastic nut under the toilet holding the screw in place and use the screwdriver to take off the big plastic screws holding the lid on.  Don’t be surprised if dried bits of grossness drops down when you take these off.  Yuck!!!  Place the screws and the nuts in the sink to soak, along with the bottom of the toilet lid giving those hinges a good chance to soak.

toilet5toilet6Now you clean your toilet.  Spray it with your cleaner and wipe it down thoroughly.  If there are stained areas that you can’t get clean, use a magic eraser.  This should get everything else off.  Next go to the things that have been soaking in the sink.  If left in long enough, almost no scrubbing should be needed on the screws and nuts.  I had to use the magic eraser to get some yellow stains off the seat.  I was really surprised that everything came off.  I mean everything.  Yeah!!  Once the toilet is dry, spray it with the gel gloss.  The same goes for the lid.  I did the lid in a dry bathtub so that the overspray would land in there.  Dana recommends spraying the floor by the back of the toilet and also any walls and baseboards around it.  The Gel Gloss will protect all of these things and make clean up a snap.  After spraying, you will need to wait 10-15 minutes for the Gel Gloss to dry.  Once it is, take a clean dry cloth and rub all surfaces that you sprayed in a circular motion just like you would if you were waxing your car.  You’ll be amazed at how shiny and smooth everything is.

toilet7All that is left now is to reattach the toilet lid.  Once it’s screwed back on tightly, go wash your hands really well and reward yourself with a brownie, ice cream, or Diet Coke.  I’d say you’ve earned it!

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How to Clean your Top Loading Washer

washer-dirtyI try to keep on top of things around my house but sometimes I fail.  I had a major failure a few weeks ago when I put a load in the washer and then forgot about it for two days.  In a normal washer this would just mean that the clothes would need to be rewashed and everything would be fine but my washer has started to stop after filling unless someone kicks it into the agitation cycle.  I didn’t remember to do that and so I had a tub full of water sitting for two days.  When I finally did open it wasn’t good.  After a couple washings the clothes were ok, but the washer still had a funky smell.  It was definitely time for a cleaning.

I found a great tutorial on One Good Thing by Jillee.  She had a simple process that involved using bleach and vinegar.  It worked really well, I feel much better about using it and no funky scent.  Yeah!!

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washer-cleanFirst I selected the longest cycle on the washer, filled it with hot water, and added a quart of bleach to the cycle (no detergent).  While it was running I used a microfiber towel to wipe down the outside of the machine.  After the cycle was done I wiped down the inside.  I took this part out of the middle and ran water through it, shook it around and ran more water through it until nothing was coming out of the bottom anymore.  I couldn’t believe all of the chunks of caked on fabric softener that came out of it.

After everything looked cleaned up I ran it again on the longest cycle, with hot water and a quart of white vinegar.  That’s it.  It’s done and didn’t take much work on my part.  Ideally this cleaning should be done every six months.

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How to Clean the Jets in a Whirlpool Tub

whirlpool-tubMy friend moved into a new home last summer.  One of the things that she and her husband were excited about was the whirlpool tub in the master bedroom.  I asked last week how they were enjoying it and she said that they hadn’t used the jets yet because she had never figured out how to clean them.  What?!?!  I know that I do this all of the time too.  It’s not that the task is going to be hard, but that I just never take the time to figure out how.  I helped her get the tub clean the next day and you’ll be amazed at how easy it really is.

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I’ve been using this method for years and it works great.  This just cleans the insides of the jets, not the outside.  You’ll still need to clean the surface of the tub and the jets.

Allow 45 minutes to complete the process.

How to clean the jets: Fill the tub with enough hot water to cover the jets.  While filling the tub add in 1/2 a cup of bleach and 2 tablespoons of  dishwasher soap powder (I use Cascade).  Run the jets, on max power, for 15 minutes.  Empty the tub.  Rinse out any debris that is left. (yes, it will be very gross!)  Refill tub with water (doesn’t need to be hot) and run jets for 10 minutes.

Your tub is ready a luxurious, relaxing bath.  Make sure and take one!

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Who knew you had to clean a Dishwasher?

clean-dishwasherHave you ever thought about cleaning your dishwasher?  I hadn’t.  I mean, if the inside is getting rinsed with detergent every night while it cleans my dishes, it should be getting cleaned too; right?  Nope, that’s not the case.  In fact, if you want to take a minute to go and examine the bottom corners where the door seals to the dishwasher, you might be surprised at what you find.  I was.  There was mold; yucky black mold.  EEW!  I spared you a picture of it.  It wasn’t pretty.  I promise, and I didn’t think that you’d want a picture of that popping up in front of you.  I also promise that once you find it, you won’t still feel like your dishes are “clean” coming out of the dishwasher.

I looked around for an easy way to get rid of the mold; particularly something that didn’t involve me having to wipe it out with my hands.  Yeah, that doesn’t exist.  I’m sure it’s because the buildup is happening where the door is sealed and that can only be reached when the door is opened.  After reading what to do at 4 different sites, here’s how I decided to get my dishwasher clean.

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Many sites had you mixing in a spray bottle one part white vinegar to two parts water.  I didn’t have a spray bottle handy, and I wanted the vinegar at full strength to get rid of this grossness, so I dipped my paper towel into straight vinegar.

As I just mentioned, I used paper towels.  I also recommend using disposable gloves, if you have some on hand.  I wanted to be able to throw away everything that came into contact with this stuff.

After dipping the paper towel in the vinegar, use it to scrub all around the inside edge of the door where the seal happens.  This tends to get hard water mineral build up and the vinegar will get rid of it, and sanitize it at the same time.

When the door is finished, move on to the outer edge of the actual dishwasher, also where the seal is.  You will use several paper towels in this process.  Continue scrubbing until everything comes out sanitized and deodorized.

Now that everything is cleaned around the door seal, measure one cup of white vinegar, toss it into the bottom of your dishwasher and run it on the hottest setting available.  This will get the rest of the inside clean.

This was enough to get my dishwasher completely clean.  I am lucky though because my dishwasher is stainless steel inside.  If the inside of yours is plastic, and you still feel like there is a bit of an odor, measure one cup baking soda, sprinkle it on the bottom of your dishwasher, and let it sit overnight.  This should get rid of any lingering odors.  In the morning, run the dishwasher, leaving it empty.

Congratulations!  You now have a dishwasher that is clean enough to clean your dishes!!

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Calm Down Jar & Removing Labels on Plastic

IMG_1234For the last several years I have had to make dinners fairly quickly because dinnertime seems to be the “witching hour” for all of my children when they were toddlers and it seemed like everyday was guaranteed to have a meltdown between 5:00 and 7:00.  When I saw a link for a “Calm Down Jar” a couple of years ago I pinned it and had every intention of making one, but like so many other things in life, it just never happened.

My youngest is now 4 and he will still have meltdowns, partly from being the youngest and being used to getting his way, and from having a few issues when things are not done in the right way (according to him).  I decided that now was the time to give this a try.  I had read about it on Chasing Cheerios and made one a few weeks ago.  Here’s what I’ve decided about it.

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The jar that Melissa used was a half pint mason jar.  I couldn’t imagine handing that to my child when they are happy, let alone upset.  I looked for a clear plastic jar that would work.  The thing that I decided would work best is a Talenti Gelato container.  I took one for the team and ate it all in two days (can’t imagine why I’m needing to lose weight). 😉  The only problem with the Talenti jar was that it had writing all over it.  After searching on the internet I discovered that the writing would come off simply by rubbing acetone nail polish remover on it.  I was amazed at how well (and easily) it worked!  I’m definitely going to keep that on file.

All that is needed to make this is a jar, water, and a small bottle of glitter glue.  You’ll use the entire bottle of glitter glue.  I warmed up the water to help the glue “melt” faster.  I’m not convinced that it was necessary.  My jar took 24-48 hours for the glue to all completely melt.  Before that happened it looked really weird with little red glitter tadpoles and a couple of huge glitter clumps swimming around in my jar.  It was a bit disturbing.  Eventually everything melted and it works great.

She has you add more clear school glue and glitter.  I don’t think that’s necessary and the extra glitter tends to just stick to the bottom.

In case you’re wondering why you can’t just put glitter in water, I tried that, and the glitter just sticks to the sides of the jar and doesn’t swirl.

As for “calming” my son down, that didn’t work.  All the boys have fun grabbing it and showing it too him when he’s upset  because they think it’s funny to see him push it away.

I think that this is a really great snow globe.  To put a character in it, glue it to the bottom with an epoxy glue, and wait until it dries completely, and then add the water and glitter glue.

If nothing else, it’s just relaxing to watch it.  You really should try the removing of writing off a plastic container with nail polish remover.  It was really cool.

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Life Hack That Actually Works

price-tagI’m pretty excited right now.  I’m working (mostly my computer guru husband is working) on getting my site reformatted and more user friendly.  Hopefully it will be going up in the next week.  If you have any suggestions for things that you would like to see, or that would make it better, please leave a comment and let me know.  Any and all feedback is appreciated!
Now for the promised life hack.  There are many things that when I buy them, or think of buying them, I get a pit in my stomach.  That pit comes from the sticker or price tag attached to said item, and knowing the it may be super easy to get off, or a nightmare.  I’ve had a few plates that I bought at a local thrift store to use in food photos, but I’ve put off using them, because they had the dreaded price tag on them.  I found this life hack on realsimple.com along with lots of other ones that I’m excited to try.  The cleaning the soap scum off of a glass shower door with a fabric softener sheet and the using a coffee filter to wipe down dusty and staticky computer monitors and TV screens.
I haven’t tried those yet, so I can’t vouch for them, but I did try the remove stubborn stickers one, and it was a homerun.

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My favorite thing is when a few method calls for something that I already have.  This called for white vinegar, which I had plenty of on hand.
I took the sticker off as much as I could, without working at it.  I really diprice-tag-removeddn’t want to have to put any effort into removing it.  I poured a little bit of vinegar over the sticker, set the timer for 5 minutes, and went and did other things.  When the timer went off, I wiped it off and it took NO effort on my part.  It came right off!!  I’ve used this method twice since then with the same results.  It’s genius!  File this away for the next time you need to get a sticky sticker off.  You’ll be grateful you did.
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Who knew Cleaning a Toaster could be so Easy?

Cleaning, I have become convinced, is the bane of my existence.  I clean something, someone comes in, and almost immediately, messes up what I have cleaned and I have to clean it again.  Sweeping, mopping, cleaning a sink, you name it; it is a never ending cycle.
I have found that there are things that I get great satisfaction from when I clean them.  The cubby where the dryer hose attaches that I had not ever thought of cleaning until last year, the air vents on the ceiling that I only think of cleaning every couple of years, and the toaster, which I regularly clean the crumbs out of, but tends to build up a sticky brown residue over time.  I enjoy things like this because when I’m done, I see a big transformation and it generally takes some time of my work to be undone.
I do like doing jobs like this in the easiest and quickest way possible, so when I saw a suggestion to clean my toaster with just water, a sponge, and some cream of tarter on a real-life housewife, I had to try it.

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This worked great.  It was easy, fast and it didn’t require me to buy anything.
I mixed 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar and a few drops of water in a bowl, dipped the sponge in and went to work.
The solution worked great and quickly took off all of the brown residue, with very little elbow grease needed..
There was also a suggestion on the site to use “The Bar Keeper’s Friend” so I tried it on one side of the top.  It worked the same, I felt like.  I didn’t like using it though because when you are cleaning, part of the solution tends to drip down into the bread slots and even though I rinsed everything off with water, I still like using a “no chemical” cleaner for this job.
I would definitely recommend using cream of tarter for getting the brown grime off.  Who knew the solution was that easy?

*Always unplug your toaster before cleaning,  Never submerge it in water and wait 12 hrs after rinsing before plugging it in and using it again.

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The time a Crayon went through the Dryer

I had this happen to me when my older kids were little.  That time it was a red crayon in my load of whites.  It was a nightmare.  I looked up on the internet some ideas and I vividly remember lots of WD-40 and still being left with a light pink stain on everything!  I was vigilant after that.  I checked each load careful for years to make sure that no unwelcome “guests” made it into the dryer, but over time I slacked off and now, with our laundry room upstairs and the crayons kept downstairs, I don’t feel the need.  So, how’s that working out for me you ask?  Not so well.
This week, after getting a load out of the dryer, I noticed a yellow crayon sitting on the bottom.  As I then hurriedly started checking the clothes, I discovered that almost everything had gotten yellow crayon on it somewhere.  Visions of WD-40, lots of elbow grease, and things still having yellow marks on them started entering my head.  I wasn’t even going to even to try and just started make a pile for the thrift store, silently cursing how a 5 cent crayon could ruin $200 worth of clothes.  My husband quickly decided that we should see if the internet had any answers.  I wasn’t confident and left to clean up the kitchen.  A few minutes later he came down saying he had found a post on Diary of a Doctor’s Wife that said all you had to do was a simple soak in the washer with dish soap, white vinegar and hot water and then run you washer.  I was less than confident, but was easy, so I decided to give it a try, and I am really glad that I did.

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This method works AMAZING well!! I didn’t try and scrape crayon off of anything, I just put everything straight in the washer with out touching it and the crayon came completely out 95% of the time.
The one material that had the hardest time was the boys gym shorts.  I had to run them through twice, and then it was mostly gone.
The crayon came completely out of my husband’s dress pants and dress shirt. Hallelujah!!
We did the pot of boiling hot water on the stove.  I think having the water super hot helps get the wax completely off.
I found some clothes the next day that I had missed and was tempted to throw them away.  Even though I had seen this work, I still looked at all that crayon and thought, “There is no way this is coming out.”  I ran another load, and it worked.  I am a believer!!
Instructions:
1) Put the clothes in the washer, and set the water to hot.  I’m thinking as hot as you can get it to get the wax melting.  If you are worried about your water getting hot enough consider adding a pot of boiling water.
2) Add your laundry detergent (I used Tide), 1/2 cup of white vinegar, and 4-6 Tbs. of dish liquid (I used Palmolive).
3) Agitate for 1 minute and then let the clothes soak for 15 minutes.
4) Let the wash run normal.  We had it do an extra rinse at the end of the cycle.

Let me know if this works for you!
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PS- As I’m writing this I’m enjoying some Crockpot Sausage and Cheese Tortellini.  If you haven’t tried it yet, you really should.  It’s easy-peasy and really yummy!

3 ways to Clean Silk/Velvet Flowers

Do you ever have things around your house that you just stop noticing?  Apparently that is what happened to me with the arrangement of velvet roses that I have on the nightstand next to my bed.  I dust the nightstand, but don’t think too much of the flowers, that is until Boy 5 spilled a glass of water on the nightstand this week.  I hurriedly put the vase on the floor and started clearing everything off as quickly as I could to avoid water damage to anything.  Once danger was averted I started to put everything back when I looked down and suddenly saw them: Old Lady Flowers!  You know how when you go to an elderly woman’s home and they have old floral arrangements that look like they’re from 20 years ago and probably haven’t been dusted since then.  Well, that’s what I had, except that I like to think that the roses look timeless and not dated.  The dust was so bad that I couldn’t even bring myself to take a picture of it to post.  I mean, we’re just getting to know each other and I don’t want to drive you away with pictures of disgusting things in my home.  I will, however, show you a picture of three of the rose heads so you can see just how dusty they were.  Ewe!
There is a little bit of a reason that they have gotten so bad.  They are velvet roses, and as such, the dust clings to them and I’ve never found a good way to get them clean.  This time I was determined.  I found 3 different ideas of how to do it.  I tried each of them, and here is what I found.

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The first way, and the rose on the far right, worked least effectively.  It was simply dusting the flower by blowing it with a hair blow dryer. This one, as you can see, yielded the worst results.  It got a little bit of the dust off, but still left much of it on.

The second way, and the rose in the middle, is by using a can of compressed air and once again, blowing the dust away.  This was much more effective and worked pretty well.  I wouldn’t recommend this over the third method though because it didn’t work quite as well, and it blew the dust into the air. (and as you can see, it was a lot of dust)

The third way, and the one that I felt worked the best, was to dust was using a vacuum hose.  To use this method, take the hose attachment for your vacuum.  Slide the leg of an old pair of pantyhose over it until the “toe” of the pantyhose is at the “mouth” of your hose.  This will help keep the flowers and leaves from being damaged and ensure that nothing gets unexpectedly sucked up.  Hold the pantyhose in place by gripping your hand around the vacuum hose, turn the vacuum on and watch the magic happen as your flowers transform from a soft grey color to the brilliant color they once were.

You may think it’s a miracle when you’re done, but no, that’s just what cleaned up looks like. ;0)
Let me know if this works for you too!

Have fun trying! Anne

Magic Scratch Remover?

My kitchen table is a scratched up mess.  There, now you know.  After using it daily for the last 8 years, it’s showing it’s wear.  I know that what I really need to do is go to the effort to sand it down and restain it, but I was really hoping that there was a quicker/easier solution out there.  I found this wood cleaner tip on Lily & Thistle and since it used things that I had around my house and looked like it wouldn’t take much time, I decided to give it a try.  It didn’t work, and it did.  Let me explain.

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Kitchen Table Before and After

The directions say to mix 3/4 oil with 1/4 C vinegar.  Mix together, dip a rag in and wipe on wood.  Easy enough.
If you do try this, I don’t think that you would ever need this amount of this mixture.  I’d start with 3 T oil and 1 T vinegar and go from there.  A little goes a long way.
I tried it first on my kitchen table.  It shined it up well enough, but did not do too much for the scratches. So much for the lazy way out. 😉
I did notice that in her example and in the examples that she linked to, they all used antique furniture.  I have an antique desk in my room that I decided to give it a shot on.  As you can see in the before and after picture, it worked magically on the desk.  I have concluded that the wood needs to not have an “artificial stain” on it, but just be the wood’s natural color for this to work.
This is perfect if you have a great yard sale find, old furniture that you’ve inherited, or a piece of Amish furniture that needs some sprucing up.

Have fun trying! Anne