How To Clean Your Microwave Without Harsh Chemicals

January 9, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Around The Home 

Clean microwaves, organicallyMicrowaves are often well-worn. Spills and splatters dot their ceilings; splattered food stuffs line their walls.

To clean your microwave, you can use the harsh chemicals on sale at supermarkets and hardware stores, or you can apply an all-natural approach which yields the same results, with only slightly more preparation time.

The extra time may be worth it, too, considering that the chemicals of an over-the-counter cleaner may seep into your foods over time.

To keep your microwave fresh and clean, using organic materials only, here’s what to do :

  1. Unplug your microwave from the wall for safety.
  2. Gather a microwave safe bowl; 1 1/4 cups of water; a lemon; baking soda; white vinegar; and cleaning cloths.
  3. Slice the lemon and place the slices into your bowl. Add the water.
  4. Heat the bowl in the microwave for 7 minutes. Leave the microwave door closed for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the bowl (CAUTION : Bowl will be hot).
  6. Remove the microwave’s glass cooking surface and wheel system. Hand wash and set aside to dry.
  7. Dip a clean cloth in the lemon water mixture. 
  8. Wipe down the microwave’s exterior and interior surfaces, remoistening the cloth as required.
  9. Moisten a clean cloth with vinegar. Wipe down the microwave door’s interior surface. 
  10. Replace glass and wheel system, and plug the microwave back in to the wall.

If you find lingering stains in your microwave, mix baking soda with water to form a thick paste. Dip a corner of your cleaning cloth into the paste and apply it to the stain directly, gently rubbing in a circular motion until the stain is gone.

Microwaves should be cleaned at least once weekly for optimal performance.

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How To Clean An Oriental Carpet

January 3, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Around The Home 

Clean an oriental rugIf you own oriental rugs, you’ll want to clean them at least once annually. But take special care — the process of cleaning an oriental rug is different from cleaning plain carpet.

Extreme caution is required.

To clean an Oriental rug, first vacuum the rug on both sides, then follow these cleaning instructions:

  1. Prepare a solution of cool water and gentle shampoo (i.e. shampoo without ammonia) 
  2. Test the solution on tiny corner of the rug to make sure that the rug’s colors won’t bleed
  3. Using a soft brush or dense sponge, brush the rug with the shampoo solution
  4. Use only light pressure and follow the “grain” of the rug
  5. Shampoo the rug’s fringe, then comb it gently with a large comb or brush
  6. Rinse the entire rug and press out as much water as possible
  7. Lay the rug flat and leave it to dry

After several hours, test the front of the rug for moisture. When it feels dry, flip the rug over to dry its back.

Note : Do not dry an oriental rug in the sun because the sun’s rays may cause it to fade.

Once both sides of the rug are totally dry, feel the top surface. If it feels stiff, crunchy or hard, take a dry brush and make gentle strokes. A light vacuuming will also do the job.

Oriental rugs that receive proper care can become family heirlooms, passed down from one generation to the next. Make sure you clean yours properly.

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How To Keep Your Dishwasher Mold- and Mildew-Free

December 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Around The Home 

How to clean a dishwasher Your dishwasher is a breeding ground for mold and mildew. It’s warm, it’s dark, and there is a bevy of decaying, organic material in the form of both food particles and soap.

Therefore, you’ll want to periodically scrub and disinfect your dishwasher so that it remains it clean and healthy, and so that your dishes stay that way, too.

Here’s how to clean your dishwasher :

  1. Remove all racks from the dishwasher. Wash with dish-washing detergent and set aside to dry. 
  2. Mix 1 part vinegar with 4 parts very hot water into a spray bottle.
  3. Spray the mixture on the dishwasher seal and anywhere else you see discoloration, mold or mildew.
  4. Scrub the affected areas with a non-abrasive scrub brush.
  5. Replace racks in the dishwasher.
  6. Fill a small, dishwasher-safe bowl with white vinegar and place on the top rack.
  7. Without soap, run the dishwasher at the highest temperature setting available.

Then, after performing these steps, you find that your dishwasher still has an “odor”, or if mold or mildew remnants remain, immediately pour 1 cup of baking soda on the floor of your dishwasher, and run the cycle a second time at the highest temperature setting available.

If your mold/mildew problem persists, you should check the dishwasher’s drain line. If it’s kinked, water may be unable to drain and will pool at the bottom of your dishwasher — a mold-breeding situation.

You should also check the food trap at the base of the dishwasher for too-large-to-drain pieces of food.

A good dishwasher will last years with proper care and maintenance. Keep yours mold- and mildew-free. 

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How To Install A Dimmer Switch

December 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Around The Home 

A Madeira home’s lighting accounts for 15 percent of its total energy consumption, a fact that’s both costly to homeowners, and “un-green” to the environment. It’s simple to reduce those effects, however — all you need are dimmer switches.

A modern dimmer switch works by rapidly opening and closing a light circuit, providing less energy to the bulb, and consuming less energy from the source.   

In this 2-minute video, you’ll learn how to reduce your home’s standard on/off lighting switches using dimmer switches. The dimmer-switch project is a do-it-yourself project and requires only basic handyman experience. 

First, determine whether you need a 3-way dimmer switch, or a single-pole dimmer switch. If your fixture is controlled my two light switches, you’ll want a 3-way dimmer switch. Otherwise, the single-pole choice is best.

Next, just follow the directions :

  1. Cut the power to the light switch via your home’s circuit breaker
  2. Remove the existing light switch plate and pull the switch from the wall
  3. Disconnect the in-wall wires from the existing light switch plate
  4. Connect the in-wall wires to their same-color wires on the dimmer switch plate
  5. Push the wires into the wall and reconnect the power via the circuit breaker

The amount of energy that dimmer switches will save your home depends on light-types and to what degree you use the switch’s dimmer capabilities. One caveat, though — not all energy-saving light bulbs are dimmer switch-capatable.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs, for example, don’t work with dimmer switches unless the bulb is specifically designed to be “dimmable”.

The rooms with highest wattage rates are typically the master bathroom and the kitchen. 

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Home Improvement Projects : How Much Equity Will You Build?

November 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Around The Home 

Is that next home remodel worth it?

Home improvement projects are booming, expected to cross $110 billion in total volume this quarter. Unlike in recent years, however, the projects aren’t helping to create much new home equity.

According to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs Value Report 2011-2012, for each home improvement dollar spent in 2012, homeowners can expect to recoup just 58 cents in home equity. 

This figure is down sharply from 2005, when the cost-to-value ratio was 87 percent. 

Today’s Madeira homeowners get a much smaller payoff on their home improvement projects. If you’re planning to remodel/update in preparation for sale, therefore, consider the following projects, each of which carries a high cost-to-value ratio.

From Remodeling Magazine’s “Mid-Range Project” list :

  • Steel Entry Door Replacement : Cost, $1,238; Recoup, 73.0%
  • Attic Bedroom : Cost, $50,184; Recoup, 72.5%
  • Minor Kitchen Remodel : Cost, $19,588; Recoup, 72.1%
  • Garage Door Replacement : Cost, $1,512; Recoup, 71.9%
  • Wood Deck Addition : Cost, $10,350; Recoup 70.1%

By contrast, other projects carry a low cost-to-value ratio, and should only be undertaken if the project’s utility exceeds its cost. These projects don’t do much to raise a home’s resale value.

  • Home Office Remodel : Cost, $27,963; Recoup, 42.9%
  • Sunroom Addition : Cost, $34,133; Recoup, 45.9%
  • Backup Power Generator : Cost, $14,760; Recoup, 47.5%
  • Bathroom Addition : Cost, $140,096512; Recoup, 51.0%
  • Fiberglass Entry Door Replacement : Cost, $3,536; Recoup 56.3%

In the “Upscale Projects” category, projects including the replacement of doors, siding and windows occupy the list’s first 6 slots in terms of cost-to-value. 

If you’re planning a home improvement project over the next few months, the timing is right — both contractor costs and material costs are low nationwide, and improving a home can extend its useful life.

See the complete Cost vs Value report online.

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Using Home Generators? Here’s How To Stay Safe.

November 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Around The Home 

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas. It kills more 400 people die in their homes each year.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is especially common during periods of power outage. This is because homeowners throughout Cincinnati fire up their personal home power generators.

Home generators are a leading cause of poisoning by carbon monoxide and, in this 4-minute from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll learn about home generators, how they operate, and the safety measures everyone homeowner should undertake.

A few basic home generator safety rules, as described in the interview, include :

  • Never modify a generator or its engine
  • Keep a 10-foot distance between the generator and your home
  • Always point the generator’s exhaust away from your home

Furthermore, make sure your home has an ample supply of carbon monoxide detectors, and that they’re operational.

One of the video’s highlights is clever illustration employing a vase of water and a dash of red dye. The demonstration shows just how few carbon monoxide particles are required to cause injury and/or death to a person in your household.

Therefore, if you own a home generator, take 4 minutes watch this video. Safety when home generators is paramount to your health.

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Using Space Heaters? Use This Safety Advice.

November 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Around The Home 

Space heater safety tipsSpace heaters are popular among homeowners in Cincinnati because, as portable appliances, they can heat a small space quickly and inexpensively. It requires less energy to run a space heater than to raise the temperature of an entire home by a few degrees.

However, space heaters can be dangerous, too.

In its November 2011 report, the National Fire Protection Association reveals that heating equipment was involved in an estimated 58,900 home structure fires, 480 civilian deaths, 1,520 civilian injuries and more than $1.1 billion in damage.

Space heaters caused a disproportionate percentage of the accidents : 

  • 79% of all home heating-related civilian deaths 
  • 66% of all home heating-related civilian injuries 
  • 52% of all home heating-related property damage

If you use space heaters, therefore, please remember to read (and follow) the manufacturer’s instructions for proper usage, and to obey basic safety standards.

First, never place anything flammable within three feet of a space heater. Space heaters get very hot, very quickly and can ignite rugs, paper and curtains.

Next, make sure your space heater is placed on the floor, on level ground. Do not rest it on books, or on furniture.

Also, make sure to turn space heaters off when leaving a room, or when going to bed. Space heaters are not meant to replace whole-home heating and should not be left unattended under any circumstance.

The Underwriters Laboratory makes a list of general safety tips available on its website. Considering how much damage space heaters can cause, the list is worth committing to memory.

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Your Home Has A Smoke Detector. Are You Sure It’s Really Working?

November 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Around The Home 

Smoke tests offer more safetyAn estimated 356,000 in-home fires caused more than $7 billion in U.S. residential property damage in 2009, according to data from the United States Fire Administration.

The fires caused more than 12,000 injuries, and killed more than 2,500 people in Mason and nationwide.

Unfortunately, many of affected homes did have smoke detectors — they just weren’t working properly. This is why it’s critically important to test your home’s smoke detectors at least once annually.

When you test a smoke detector, you’re making sure that the alarm will trigger in the event of a real-life fire. A proper test will confirm that the batteries have useful life, and that the device’s smoke detection components are operating as expected.

To test your smoke detector, here’s what to do :

  1. Make a checklist of your home’s smoke detectors
  2. Go to the first smoke detector
  3. Ask a helper to go to the farthest point from the detector within your home
  4. Press the smoke detector’s testing button up to 10 seconds to activate the alarm
  5. Confirm with your helper that the alarm could be heard from his/her location
  6. Note on the checklist whether the smoke detector worked, or needs replacement

You can also take your test a step further.

Just because the smoke detector’s alarm can be heard from the farthest point in your house doesn’t mean that the alarm will sound in the event of a real fire. Therefore, you may want to buy a “smoke test”.

Smoke tests are aerosol cans that simulate a bona fide in-home fire. You can buy them for less than $15 at your local hardware store, or at Amazon.com. If your smoke detector fails to sound its alarm in the presence of a “real fire”, make sure you replace it right away.

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Lower Your Fall/Winter Energy Bill With Ceiling Fans

October 31, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Around The Home 

Ceiling fans for all 4 seasonsNovember is here with many parts of the country are already feeling the chill. This weekend, a nor’easter dropped up to 20 inches of snow in cities along the eastern seaboard  — a reminder that winter is coming.

No matter where you live, though, the seasonal change in temperature throughout Madeira serves as an excellent reminder to reset the blades on your home’s ceiling fans.

Ceiling fans don’t warm or cool air, specifically. Instead, they circulate air which can have the effect of making a room feel warmer in the winter months, and cooler in the summer months.

When it’s cold outside, ceiling fans push warm air down from the ceiling, balancing the heat within a room. This can make a room feel 4-6 degrees warmer. Then, during warmer months, ceiling fans push a room’s cold air back into circulation, which creates a windchill effect, of sorts.

This, too, can change a room’s temperate 4-6 degrees.

The secret to a ceiling fan is in the rotation direction of its blades. 

  • When fan blades rotate clockwise, the fan makes a room feel warmed
  • When fan blades rotate counter-clockwise, the fan make a room feel cooler.

This Weather Channel video explains how it works.

If your home is without ceiling fans, consider installing one (or more). Ceiling fans are economical and “green”, using the equivalent energy of a 100-watt light bulb, while lowering your home’s energy costs.

Plus, they’re relatively simple to install. 

Tutorial videos are available online for the do-it-yourselfers, or just call a qualified electrician for assistance.

Installing a ceiling fan is a 1-hour project.

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How To Change Your Doorbell

October 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Around The Home 

When we move into a home, we make changes. Appliances get replaced, rooms get painted, and floors get refinished or recarpeted. It part of how we make a home “ours”.

One item we tend to skip, though, is the changing of the doorbell. In most Mason homes, the existing doorbell is “good enough”. 

Well, if you’ve ever had a mind to change your home’s hard-wired doorbell system, the good news is that changing your doorbell is a simple, do-it-yourself project. Whether you want chimes, songs, or the traditional ding-dong, all you need is a screwdriver, some tape, and the new doorbell system.

This 2-minute video from Lowe’s maps it out :

  1. Cut the power to your doorbell from your circuit breaker
  2. Unscrew the doorbell face plate
  3. Replace the face plate with your new doorbell
  4. Locate your in-home receiver and remove the chime system
  5. Replace the chime system with your new system

The video also includes helpful tips such as how to use tape to prevent “losing” wires in your walls, and how to label your wires for faster re-wiring.

Changing a doorbell is a quick, 1-hour project. Use the video’s guidance to make you don’t miss a step.

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