How to Clean your Grout, Naturally!

Your kitchen or bathroom looks dirty and old with discolored grout, read through the article to know natural ways to clean your grout.

Here’s all you need to know to give these smooth surfaces a new lease of life – the natural way.

Preventing Mold and Mildew Growth

Kitchens and bathrooms are hot and steamy rooms – which gives mold and mildew the perfect opportunity to thrive. And the porous and uneven surface of grout is the ideal place for this fungal growth to set up shop.

By reducing the moisture levels in these rooms you’ll reduce the growth of mold in grout and on your tiled surfaces. A quick wipe down of tiles after showering or cooking may be all you need to do to keep the worst of the mold growth at bay. You could also open windows, or switch on an exhaust fan or dehumidifier.

Soap scum, which can build up from using conventional cleaners and personal care products, helps mold and mildew to adhere to these surfaces, and allows them to multiply quickly. A regular application of natural products will go a long way toward cutting through this residue.

The Dangers of Bleach

As one of the most commonly used cleaners, chlorine bleach is usually the first line of defense against the mold and mildew that pops up on grout and tiles. It’s also incredibly effective at removing the buildup of soap residue. However, bleach has some adverse effects that go way beyond discoloring clothing!

As printed on the label, simply inhaling the fumes from this corrosive liquid can be irritating to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract.

In fact, a 2015 study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine suggests that passive exposure to bleach in the home is linked to a greater risk of children developing respiratory illness and infection. The children who lived in bleach-using households were found to have a 20% higher risk of flu, and a 35% higher risk of recurrent tonsillitis.

What’s more, bleach is toxic to waterways and aquatic life – it comes from the organochlorine family of chemicals which are rarely found in nature and which take centuries to decompose.

The Importance of Elbow Grease

To effectively clean tiles and grout (with or without bleach) it’s important to note that a hands-on approach is needed.

While bleach can color mold white so you no longer see it, a strenuous scrubbing is necessary to get the cleaning products into the tiny pores of the grout, killing the root of the mildew and removing soap residue. An old toothbrush is the ideal tool for this, while tiles should be thoroughly wiped with a washcloth or sponge.

Now that you know how damaging bleach is, and that it requires the same amount of scrubbing effort as other products, why not check out some greener alternatives?

Here are a few of the natural products you can pair with elbow grease to get sparkling tiles and clear grout.

1. Baking Soda

For regular light cleaning of water spots, minimal product residue and dust, the gently abrasive action of baking soda may be all you need.

Dip a damp sponge into a bowl of baking soda and use this to scrub down tiles, grout and other bathroom and kitchen surfaces. Rinse thoroughly or wipe well with warm water.

2. Vinegar

Among natural cleaners, vinegar is one of the most versatile and effective. Its acidic nature means it creates an environment that inhibits the growth of mold, mildew and some bacteria. It’s also fantastic for cutting through soap scum, mineral deposits, water spots and more.

Mix equal parts distilled white vinegar and water in a bottle and spray it generously onto tiled surfaces. Allow to sit for a few minutes before scrubbing with a brush or sponge. Extra tough stains may require the combined action of baking soda and vinegar.

Vinegar also works as a daily preventative agent so be sure to spray this mixture on tiles and glass surfaces before you get out of the shower.

3. Salt

Salt kills single-cell organisms, like mold, by dehydrating them. Surprisingly, in order for this to work, the area around the mold must be kept wet while the salt is applied!

For floor tiles or other flat surfaces, you can rub the area with a damp cloth and sprinkle on salt, before scrubbing into the grouted parts. Allow to work overnight before cleaning off in the morning.

Any type of coarse salts, including Epsom salts, will work.

4. Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is a favorite among natural beauty enthusiasts for its ability to lighten stains and skin blemishes. It has the exact same action when it comes to tiles – it is an effective stain remover. Like vinegar, fresh lemon juice is acidic in nature and creates an inhospitable environment for mold and mildew.

It works best when combined with baking soda.

5. Borax

This naturally-occurring mineral is a product of the seasonal evaporation of salt lakes. It is highly alkaline (with a pH of 9.3), which is why borax is so effective at cleaning, disinfecting and deodorizing.

Use borax in the same manner as you would baking soda: dip a damp sponge into a bowl of the powder and scrub until your tiles and grout shine.

6. Hydrogen Peroxide

When all else fails to whiten grout and remove stubborn molds, it’s time to get out the hydrogen peroxide. Typically used for sanitizing cuts, hydrogen peroxide is a fantastic fungicide and whitening agent.

Mix hydrogen peroxide with white flour to create a thick paste. Apply this to the grout and tiles and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to work its magic overnight, before rinsing well with cold water.

7. Steam Cleaning

An incredibly effective method of removing dirt, soap residue, bacteria and mold, steam cleaners rely on high heats and pressure to do their job.

These machines require no chemicals or products at all – and can be a great option for those who have chemical and mold allergies.

While steam cleaning is great for grout lines and tiles, it is not appropriate for silicone joints, or anodized or enamel surfaces.

4 Homemade Tile and Grout Cleaner Recipes

These homemade cleaners use multiple natural products to ensure your tiles and grout stay sparkling and germ-free. They can all be made ahead in batches for fuss-free cleaning.

Homemade Bathroom Cleaner – used for tubs, tile, grout and all other bathroom surfaces, this cleaner is made with baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and a dash of liquid dish soap.

Grout Cleaner for Tough Stains – stubborn dirt and mildew can be easily scrubbed away with this mix of baking soda, washing soda, borax and liquid castile soap, especially if you pre-wipe the area with full strength white vinegar.

Citrus Scented Grout and Tile Cleaner – deodorize your bathroom and clean it all in one. This cleansing scrub consists of baking soda, lemon essential oil and vinegar.

Whitening Scouring Powder – an effective and refreshing mixture of baking soda, cream of tartar, borax, and grated citrus peel.

How to Fix Dripping Faucets

Don’t let faucets continuously drip, there are simple steps that you can do yourself to check and replace your faucet.

Here’s how to fix a leaky faucet

  1. Turn off the water beneath the sink and drain the faucet by opening it.
  2. Disassemble the faucet by removing the handle screw and handle as discussed below.
  3. Pry or pull off the escutcheon or cap if it has one.
  4. Pull out the cartridge, threaded spindle, ball, or disc.
  5. Check seals, washers and O-rings and, if necessary, replace.
  6. Reassemble the faucet and turn on the water supply

Big Ideas for Small Homes: Maximize Space in Your Little House

For the past couple decades, American home building has been based on the “bigger is better” theory. But not everyone can afford a McMansion, and not everyone wants to live in a McMansion even if they could.

Smaller homes have a lot going for them. They are easier to clean and take care of, they cost less to buy or to build, they cost less to maintain and pay taxes on, and they have a more intimate feel.

If you live in a small home, there are a number of ways to get the most use out of the limited space you have. Try some of these tips and tricks

Live in your outdoor space. No matter where you live, there are certain times of the year when it’s beautiful outside your windows. Go out and enjoy it while you can. Houses that have rooms that open up onto patios allow indoor/outdoor living. Meals can be taken outdoors and children get away from the TV, video games, and gadgets and breathe fresh air and get exercise. In the north there is no better place for summertime dinners than on the patio. Even if you are only allotted a small balcony where you live, add a nice wicker chair with a cushion and some flowers and you have a great spot to read a book or listen to the people on the street.

Eliminate unnecessary rooms. Dining rooms are overrated. They get use only one or two times a year but requiring cleaning, heating, and furniture year round. If you already have a dining room, make it into a room that gets use. Add some french doors to close it off and turn it into an office or a children’s play room. If you don’t have a dining room, use your eat-in kitchen or the patio.

Make your main living spaces open to one another. Living rooms, kitchens, and eating spaces that flow together get the most use. While entertaining, no one feels “left out” because they are subjugated to one zone or another. With families, the parents can keep an eye on their kids while they are busy whipping up dinner. Connecting the spaces you have will make the inside feel larger even if the square footage is still on the small side.

Create built-ins. Built-in furniture, such as desks, and storage, such as dressers and cabinets, tuck needed space into areas that are otherwise hard to furnish. Space under the roofline becomes dead space as it slopes downward toward the floor where no one can fit to sit or stand. But with added built-in dressers or cabinets, the space has function and helps free up other areas where a dresser might otherwise go. A properly organized closet can completely eliminate the need for a bureau in the bedroom.

Have furniture with multi-functions. Buy a kitchen or dining table that is round and expandable. They not only allow for more space, they are friendly for other uses such as men’s poker night, ladies’ bunco night, or family game night. A desk can double as a night stand in a child’s room or in the master bedroom. A china hutch can store and display your dishes away from your cramped kitchen cabinets and hide board games in the enclosed space below. A coffee table with drawers can stow away children’s legos, action figures, and crayons and craft paper.

Small spaces can be family friendly spaces and they can be great for entertaining. A pint-sized home is friendly on your wallet and the environment. You want to live in a house that allows you to live as you wish, and not monopolize your time with cleaning extra spaces and extraneous upkeep. Be proud of the small place you call home.

Common Door Problems

Doors take a lot of beating on a daily basis. If you have doors that need repairing, here are some quick and easy tips to get you started…

1. Door will not stay closed

If a door sags a little, the latch bolt will be out of alignment with the striking plate. You can correct a small misalignment issue by unscrewing the plate and enlarging its cut-out with a small metal file.

Alternatively, remove the striking plate and fix it a little lower down the frame. Use a sharp chisel and a mallet to extend the recess in which it fits. If the plate has to be moved only a small distance, drill out the old screw holes and fill them with dowels. Drill new pilot holes for the fixing screws.

2. Fix a loose door frame

Slamming a door will often lead to the frame becoming loose. For masonry walls, make new fixings using three easy-drive Fischer wall anchors on either side of the frame.

The length of the frame plugs, which come complete with hammer-in screws, should be the thickness of the frame plus at least 60mm. Using the correct size masonry bit for the size of the wall plug you will be using, drill through the frame and into the wall behind it to the required depth.

Hammer the screw and plug into the hole until the screw head is flush with the frame.

3. Door that is hard to close

A door that is difficult to close, and tends to spring open, is said to be hinge-bound. The problem is usually caused by hinge recesses cut too deep in either the door edge or in the frame.

Generally, when correctly fitted, the hinge flaps should be flush with the surface of the wood. Protruding screw heads and badly placed hinge flaps can stop a door from closing and even damage the door.

Open the door fully and then put a wedge under it. Clear any paint from the slots in the hinge screws and remove them. Remove the screws from the bottom or lower hinges first, always leaving the top hinge attached with at least one screw until last. Then have a helper hold the door while you remove that last screw.

Hinges may bind because the screws have been put in askew or because their heads are too large to fit flush in the countersinks in the hinge flaps. Remove the offending screws and replace them with screws with smaller heads. If they will not tighten, pack out the holes with matches, toothpicks and wood glue.

Binding can also be caused by hinge flaps that are set into the frame too near to the door stop or rebate. As the door is closed, the face presses against the stop. Remove the hinges, drill out the old screw holes and plug them with glued dowels. Chisel the dowel ends off flush with the recess.

Drill new fixing holes so that the hinge is farther away from the door stop. The hinge pin should be just clear of the door edge. Fill the resulting gaps beside the re-positioned hinges with wood filler.

Christmas Decor for the Home: Antiqued Mantel/Dresser Scarf

Materials Needed:

1/2 yard of muslin fabric
pencil
1 skein of embroidery floss
Embroidery needle
Embroidery hoop
Sewing machine
Thread
Scissors
Muslin toned trim 1/2 yard (one inch to one and a half inch)
Trim the shade of the embroidery floss 1/2 yard (one quarter inch)
Instant tea or coffee
Needle
Iron
Cinnamon (optional)

Preparation

Cut the muslin in half. If you started with 36″ fabric it will be 18″ in length and width. If you started with 45″ fabric it will be 22 1/2″ in length by 18″ width. Either is fine.

You will be working along the 18″ width. Lightly draw the holiday saying you want your scarf to express. Make sure to space the letters so they are centered. To do this count all of the letters in your saying and find the center letter. Draw that letter first in the center of the width. Work your way out on both sides by drawing the remaining letters making sure they spread out across the distance and are not bunched up in the middle.
Construction

Using the embroidery floss, embroider the letters in one color.

Fold the fabric in half with the embroidery on the inside. Stitch the fabric all the way around leaving an opening for turning. Clip the corners off of the fabric beyond the stitching. Turn fabric right side out. Press with the iron. Do not use starch.

On the edge of the fabric under the embroidery sew the muslin colored trim from end to end. Once done repeat with the colored trim over the top of the muslin trim. (figure 1)
Antiquing

To give it that appearance of being aged the scarf is then tea dyed. This does not mean you need to go out and purchase tea. If you have coffee, it will work just fine. Fill your sink with a couple inches of very hot water. Sprinkle the tea or coffee into the water liberally. Place the scarf into the water and make sure all of the fabric gets submerged. Now sprinkle more coffee or tea over top of the fabric. If you have cinnamon, sprinkle cinnamon into the dyed water onto the fabric. Mix it around a bit so the tea or coffee dissolves and doesn’t leave a pitted look on the fabric. (figure 2)

Lay the scarf onto a baking sheet and bake it in the oven at 275 for 30 minutes.

If the scarf is too dark for your taste, rinse it thoroughly and dry it in the oven once more. (figure 3)

If you like the look of the scarf prior to dying simply stop there. You can always spray the scarf with a cinnamon scent to still get the aroma through your home.

sauna at home

Building a Customized Sauna With Multiple Uses

Massachusetts Builder Devises Own Creation With Personal Imprint

Saunas are a tradition for Gabriel Lortie in keeping with his family’s Finnish origins. While growing up, everyone—frequently joined by other relatives and friends—used the sauna his father built. Now he is approaching completion of his own custom sauna in the yard of his home in Middleboro, Massachusetts.

sauna construction

It is an undertaking in which he has drawn as well on his professional background. Lortie, 34, who holds a civil engineering degree, operates a commercial and residential building and design business with his father. Their work, which includes church steeple reconstruction, takes them around the greater Boston area and elsewhere in New England.

Lortie has had to balance the time spent on the sauna with his work and other commitments, he told during an interview inside the 500-square-foot structure. His ideas for what he wanted go back a few years but he’s had to do the building in stages and budget for the separate components.

Interval Between Original Sauna Foundation and Outside Construction

He put in the concrete after starting the design and layout, sometimes continuing to sketch what was in his mind wherever he was at the moment. The sauna foundation stood for four or five years with no blocks or anything else before he had the outside and walls built, Lortie said.

After erecting the exterior building, another several months were required to install the windows, shingles, and do the painting. He did the electrical circuit wiring himself from a manual. Lortie’s father, Bill, helped do some of the siding when he had time available. His youngest brother, Justin, who also has worked on their construction projects, helped to paint the trim and do other steps along the way.

During often weather-related company project lulls, Lortie has been able to hire regular work crew for parts of the sauna. “I had precut all the rafters and already arranged it all. They came and nailed it all together and we put the walls up.”

Plans for Additional Getaway Space for Work and Relaxation

building a sauna

His intention all along was to build a room connected to the sauna. But that concept has expanded to include having some additional space outside of his home and something of a retreat from daily pressures. “I’ve made it more of a little sanctuary” to do work, relax, socialize, have a meal, or even sleep, he said. Lortie is trying to do the different elements together instead of just building a sauna alone first, even though that requires more time. “I want to make everything work all at once.”

The sauna building eventually will have a TV room, a living room, and possible art studio to accompany the existing loft with a railing around it and slide into wall ladder. High definition wires and cables are going to the television.

Lortie plans to have a surround sound speaker underneath where he placed all the speaker wires. He moved all the wires out of sight to go into a closet which will have a receiver, Blu-ray player, RF connection, and electronic eye.

A wireless Internet hub additionally will be inside the wall. The wires will be sealed with expanding foam insulation to keep out moisture when the sauna’s in use, even if moisture collects on the other side of the wood.

“If you’re doing something for yourself, you kind of have the freedom to take your time and not worry about how much money you’re making or every hour you work. You know also that your work is yours and you can satisfy yourself over its quality and permanence.”

home tool set

Creating a Home Tool Set

Be Prepared for Emergencies with A Home Repair Tool Kit

home repair tool kit

Putting together a basic set of home tools is as easy as a trip to the hardware store. No item in this home tool box costs more than twenty dollars, but having these essential tools on hand could save hundreds in professional repair expenses.

Tools Needed for a Complete Home Tool Set

Hammer – Hammers come in all shapes and sizes but a hammer that weighs about 16 ounces will work for most home repair jobs. Avoid hammers with a checkerboard or ‘waffle’ head, as these are designed for framing buildings. The claw end of the hammer should be curved as hammers with curved claws are easier to use in small spaces.

Screwdriver – Like hammers, screwdrivers also run the gamut of shapes and sizes and come in two basic varieties: Phillips (for screws with a ‘cross’ mark on the head) and Straight. Most screws these days have a Phillips-style head, but to be on the safe side look for a screwdriver kit with replaceable tips. Buy the best screwdriver or set you can afford as the cheaper varieties are made of softer metal and will deform or break with use.

Tape Measure – The least expensive and most common tape measure for most home tool kits is 25 feet long. Avoid those labeled ‘commercial grade’ as they tend to be expensive, heavy and bulky and measure no better than tapes half the price.

Utility Knife -Utility knives have all kinds of handy uses at home, from trimming off loose caulk to scraping stickers off glass. As with tape measures, more expensive doesn’t mean better. Purchase one with a retractable blade, which is safer than a fixed-blade model. Most utility knives contain blade storage in the handle. Buy an extra 5 blades to store in the handle and it will be ready to go for years of use.

Pliers – Pliers are among the most useful tools in the home tool box for picking up small objects, bending things back into place, and pulling out things like staples. This is an item where spending more is worth it.

Adjustable Wrench – Commonly known as a ‘crescent’ wrench, this tool can be adjusted to hold just about any size bolt or nut. Although these come in a variety of sizes, an 8 or 10 inch model is best for the home repair tool kit.

Small set of open and ‘box’ end wrenches – Buy a set that includes 5/16″, 3/8″, 7/16″, 1/2″, 9?16″ and 5/8″ sizes. For light use at home, a cheap set works fine.

Safety Glasses – They’re inexpensive and the pros use them. Safety glasses are especially important when hammering things.

Storage Box – Toolboxes and generally expensive, however a five dollar plastic box is just fine for storing home tools in the closet. Make sure the box lid can accept a padlock if there are small children in the house.

Pre-assembled home owner tool sets found in big box retail stores often contain cheaply made tools that will break with even minor use and are often overpriced. The investment of just an hour at the local hardware store can result in a complete tool kit of quality tools that will last for many years.

increase home value

Ways to Increase Home Value Before Selling

Inexpensive and Simple Changes Can Boost Your Home’s Value

While North American real estate sales have continued to struggle over the past several years due to the economy, experts predict that homeowners will see an increase in sales in the spring of 2010. Low mortgage rates, tax benefits and lower prices will contribute to this increase in real estate sales. However, are homeowners prepared for the upcoming increase in home buyer traffic?

increase home value

Most homeowners would like to purchase a home that’s move-in ready. However, most home seller’s aren’t interested in making, or can’t afford, major changes or improvements to a home that’s being sold. There are a few simple changes that homeowners can make to boost the value of their home before putting it on the market.

Curb Appeal

curb appeal

First impressions are important, right? Curb appeal, the first thing potential buyers see when driving up to a home, is as important as the home’s inside appeal. Most homeowners feel that the condition of a home’s exterior is an indication of a home’s interior condition.

Paint is an inexpensive way to spruce up a home’s exterior. When painting a home for resale, homeowners should choose a neutral color that would be attractive to a wide variety of homeowners. Any damaged siding or porch floorboards should also be repaired before painting.

Lawn maintenance is also something that the homeowners should take into consideration when preparing to sell their home. Bushes and shrubs should be trimmed and grass should be cut. If landscaping is at a minimum, homeowners should invest in sturdy, colorful plants that complement the home’s exterior color.

Interior Paint and Floors

interior paint and floors

Experts agree that flooring is an essential key to boosting a home’s interior appeal . Homeowners don’t need to invest a lot of money to replace flooring. However, homeowners should be willing to invest time into rebuffing and waxing floors and steam cleaning carpet.

Paint is another way to freshen up a home’s interior. A fresh coat of paint will give a room, or an entire home, a new smell and feel that is enticing to prospective home buyers. Homeowners should be careful when choosing colors for repainting. Like the exterior of a home, interior paints should be a neutral color that will appeal to a wide variety of homeowners.

New Appliances and Fixtures

Replacing appliances and fixtures is an expensive change that some homeowners don’t want to commit to. However, simple fixture changes and an addition of one inexpensive appliance doesn’t have to be a budget buster for home sellers. Faucets in bath and kitchens can often be changed by almost any do-it-yourself novice and be picked up inexpensively at many home improvement stores.

New appliances can be costly. Homeowners should scour home improvement stores for discount, close-out or clearance appliances. Even adding one new appliance to a kitchen can modernize it enough to be appealing to a buyer. If homeowners are on a tight budget, used appliances can be purchased online or at local salvage stores. One thing that homeowners should consider when purchasing used appliances: there will be no warranty to offer home buyers, and used appliances will need to be checked for electrical issues.

Repairs and Improvements

home repair and improvement

Most prospective home buyers aren’t interested in purchasing a home that requires costly repairs and improvements and most are willing to pay more for homes that are already in tip-top shape. When considering putting their home on the market, homeowners should take inventory of all major areas of their home like the roof, electrical and foundation.

If possible, homeowners should make any repairs to these areas before listing their home for sale. Odds are, when the home is sold, an inspector will find any areas that need repair and the home buyer will request these be taken care of before the purchase is finalized.

Getting Rid of Clutter and Cleaning

getting rid of clutter

It seems that cleaning and getting rid of the clutter is a given. However, a lot of home owners tend to bypass this very important step. By presenting a clean and clutter free home, homeowners are presenting to buyers that home has been taken care of.

Homes on the market should be free of any unnecessary clutter and personal items. Family photos and artwork should be put away so that buyers can imagine their family mementos filling the walls and mantel. Also, any unnecessary furniture should be put into storage to that rooms appear larger.

As important as getting rid of clutter, cleaning is also an important step in the home selling process. Homeowners need to take a hard look at bathrooms and kitchens and make sure they are thoroughly cleaned before any viewings of the home. Mold and mildew should be cleaned away and mirrors should be free of spots and streaks.

Even though a homeowner’s furniture is probably not being sold with the house, all furniture should be neat and tidy. Slipcovers and a dust cloth can be an asset to a homeowner when trying to sell a house.

Gutter Cleaning in During Fall

Gutters are an important part of a home that keeps the rainwater from damaging both the interior and the exterior areas of your house. If left without maintenance and cleaning, the chances are that they will cause an extensive damage to your foundation and basement. Debris and leaves accumulate on the gutters and downspout leading to clogging. Clogs block rainwater from flowing through the gutters. This causes gutter overflow. It is therefore important to regularly clean the gutters and check for damaged areas that need repairs.

The best season to clean your gutters is during the fall, especially towards the end. This ensures that your gutters are clean as you wait for winter season, where you expect much freezing and melt water to fill your gutters.

Gutter cleaning is quite simple. First of all, you need to check for debris and damage. This requires a number of equipment which should be available before you get down to work.

  • A bucket that will be used to collect all the debris you remove from the gutter.
  • A ladder to help you reach and clean the gutter.
  • A hose that will provide water with enough pressure to clean out the gutter.
  • Gloves and eye wear to keep you from injuries.
  • Trimmers to trim off those overhanging branches causing the debris.
  • Drill and fasteners to help secure the loose area on the gutter.

Once you have all the equipment ready start by removing all the debris and place them on the bucket. This process will not eliminate all the dirt; this is where the hose pipe comes in as it will clear the smaller dirt off. Make sure to start from the downspout so as to make the work easier. As you are cleaning note if there places that may need repair or replacements such as cracks.

Tree branches overhanging the roof are the man cause for debris so make sure to trim off the branches after the cleaning process or as you clean. It the gutter has damaged parts make sure to follow up on the repair and if necessary replacement especially if your gutter has been around for some time.

Besides, you will need to ensure that the gutter system is well-installed. Loose gutters can be a major cause of leaky and overflowing rainwater. All these issues should be fixed during the fall.