Thursday, January 20, 2011

Time to do some winter cleaning? DON'T buy all those expensive cleaners!!!!

Is it time to do some winter cleaning around your house? If you are like me you have bottles and bottles of different cleaners for every type of surface in your home. It can be really EXPENSIVE to buy all the recommended cleaners and solutions you might need. That is where we at can help. We have found some great solutions to save you some money on cleaning supplies. You can use some simple stuff around your house to make effective and safe household cleaners and avoid having to buy all those expensive cleaners at the store. Try these easy recipes to clean your home effectively and on the cheap.

White Vinegar

Mildly acidic white vinegar dissolves dirt, soap scum, and hard water deposits from smooth surfaces, yet is gentle enough to use in solution to clean hardwood flooring.
White vinegar is a natural deodorizer, absorbing odors instead of covering them up. (And no, your bathroom won't smell like a salad! Any vinegar aroma disappears when dry.) 
With no coloring agents, white vinegar won't stain grout on tiled surfaces. Because it cuts detergent residue, white vinegar makes a great fabric softener substitute for families with sensitive skin. 
Try these recipes to harness the cleaning power of white vinegar:

Homemade Spray Cleaner Recipe

Mix in a sprayer bottle: 
  • 1 cup white vinegar 
  • 1 cup water 
In the kitchen, use vinegar-and-water spray to clean countertops, lightly soiled range surfaces and backsplash areas. 
In the bathroom, use vinegar spray cleaner to clean countertops, floors, and exterior surfaces of the toilet. 
For really tough bathroom surfaces such as shower walls, pump up the cleaning power by removing the sprayer element and heating the solution in the microwave until barely hot. Spray shower walls with the warmed generously, allow to stand for 10 to 15 minutes, then scrub and rinse. The heat helps soften stubborn soap scum and loosens hard water deposits.

Undiluted White Vinegar

Undiluted white vinegar--straight from the jug--makes quick work of tougher cleaning problems involving hard water deposits or soap scum. 
Use undiluted white vinegar to scrub the inside of the toilet bowl. Before you begin, dump a bucket of water into the toilet to force water out of the bowl and allow access to the sides. Pour undiluted white vinegar around the bowl and scrub with a toilet brush to remove stains and odor. Use a pumice stone to remove any remaining hard water rings. 
Clean shower heads that have been clogged with mineral deposits with undiluted white vinegar. Place 1/4 to 1/2 cup vinegar in a plastic food storage bag, and secure the bag to the shower head with a rubber band. Let stand for 2 hours to overnight, then rinse and buff the fixture to a shiny finish. 
Add one cup of undiluted white vinegar to the laundry rinse cycle instead of commercial fabric softener. White vinegar softens clothes and cuts detergent residue--a plus for family members with sensitive skin.

Baking Soda

Baking soda's mild abrasive action and natural deodorizing properties make it a powerful replacement for harsh commercial scouring powders. Put baking soda to work in your organized home: 
Sprinkle baking soda onto a damp sponge to tackle grimy bathtub rings, scour vanities, or remove food deposits from the kitchen sink. 
For tougher grime, make a paste of baking soda and water, apply to the tub or sink, and allow to stand for 10 to 20 minutes. Dirt, soap scum and deposits soften and are easier to remove. 
Slow-running drains? Keep bathroom drains running freely by pouring 1/2 to 3/4 cup baking soda into the drain, and dribbling just enough hot water to wash the solution down. Let stand for 2 hours to overnight, then flush thoroughly with hot water. The deodorizing effect is an added bonus! [Do not use this method on blocked drains.]

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol provides the base for an evaporating cleaner to rival commercial window and glass cleaning solutions. Use this glass cleaning spray recipe for windows, mirrors, chrome fixtures and for a shiny finish on hard-surface ceramic tiles:

Homemade Glass Cleaner Recipe

Mix in a sprayer bottle: 
  • 1 cup rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol 
  • 1 cup water 
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar


A strong alkaline solution, clear, non-sudsing ammonia creates stronger window and all-purpose cleaning recipes than acidic vinegar. Choose non-sudsing varieties of household ammonia for these cleaning recipes. Suds may make it appear like the cleaner is working, but they're tough to rinse and remove. Try these ammonia recipes for spring cleaning or tough chores:

Strong Glass Cleaner Recipe

Mix in a sprayer bottle: 
  • 1 cup rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol 
  • 1 cup water 
  • 1 tablespoon clear, non-sudsing ammonia

Strong All-Purpose Cleaner Recipe

Mix in a sprayer bottle: 
  • 1 T clear, non-sudsing ammonia 
  • 1 T clear laundry detergent 
  • 2 cups water

Furniture Polish

Most of us no longer use hard-to-apply furniture wax, but rely on oil-based polish to keep furniture protected and shiny.
This "salad dressing" recipe for furniture polish avoids the danger of silicone oil, found in most commercial polishes and sprays. Silicone oil can penetrate tiny cracks in furniture finish and enter the wood, causing problems in the event refinishing is needed. 
Lemon juice dissolves dirt and smudges, while olive oil shines and protects the wood:

Furniture Polish Recipe

Mix in a sprayer bottle: 
  •  1 cup olive oil 
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice 
Shake well and apply a small amount to a flannel cleaning rag or cleaning cloth. Spread evenly over furniture surface. Turn cloth to a dry side and polish dry.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Some more great tips for your home in the Winter

We here at Plano Area Home Tips and Information (PAHTI) are always searching the web for more helpful advice to share with you, our loyal readers. I found another great winter checklist I would like to share with you; this one from State Farm Insurance. It gives some great tips for maintaining and caring for your house during the winter time. And sure, we don't have extreme winters here in Dallas, but it does get cold enough for just a few weeks to do some major damage to Dallas houses. So hopefully if you follow these guidelines your home will run safe and smooth all winter long. Like always if you have a tip you don't see on the list please be sure and share it with all of our awesome readers in the comments section.

Winter Maintenance Tips For Your Home

Winter tips

  • Remove screens from windows and install storm windows
  • Clean out gutters and downspouts
  • Insulate pipes in your home's crawl spaces and attic
  • Store firewood at least 30 feet away from your home
  • Familiarize responsible family members with the gas main valve and other appliance valves
  • Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct, damper and space under the dryer
  • Make sure all electrical holiday decorations have tight connections
  • Check the attic for adequate ventilation
  • Clean the kitchen exhaust hood and air filter
  • Check the water hoses on the clothes washer, refrigerator icemaker and dishwasher for cracks and bubbles
  • Test all ground-fault-circuit-interrupter (GFCI) outlets

Remove the screens from the storm window frames and install storm windows

Storm windows help reduce the cost to heat your home and help prevent windowsills from rotting.

Clean out gutters and downspouts

Cleaning debris and fallen leaves reduces the chances of an ice dam forming. One good step is to spray water down the downspouts to wash away leaves and other debris. A good tip is to place gutter screens over gutters. Read more about ice dams at attic ventilation and water damage.
Extreme caution should be exercised when working on or around the roof. Consider hiring a professional.

Insulate pipes in your home's crawl spaces and attic

These exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing. Remember: the more insulation you use, the better protected your pipes will be.

Store firewood at least 30 feet away from your home

This will reduce a home's fire load and the chance of attracting termites.

Familiarize responsible family members with the main gas valve and other appliance valves

Responsible family members should be familiar with the location and operation of valves. If you are unsure of the location and operation of these valves, contact a qualified plumber.

Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct, damper and space under the dryer

Poor maintenance allows lint to build up in the exhaust duct and may cause a fire.

Make sure all electrical holiday decorations have tight connections

If possible, use 3-prong plugs and cords. The use of 2-prong adapters, which permit 3-prong plugs to be used in 2-prong outlets, doesn't always provide grounding to protect against shock. Unplug decorations when not in use.
Use of extension cords should be temporary. To help reduce the chances of overheating, electric cords, including extension cords, should never be bundled together or run under rugs and carpet.

Check the attic for adequate ventilation

Check the exterior wall to be sure the ceiling insulation is not blocking the outside air from the soffit vents from getting into the attic. Make sure the attic has plenty of vents. Caution should be taken in all attic spaces that are unfinished. Read more at Attic ventilation and water damage.

Clean the kitchen exhaust hood and air filter

Keeping this clean of cooking grease will help keep a stovetop fire from spreading.

Check water hoses on the clothes washer, refrigerator icemaker and dishwasher for cracks and bubbles

Replace hoses that show signs of leaking. Read more about Preventing water damage in your home.

Test all ground-fault-circuit-interrupter (GFCI) outlets

These need to be tripped and reset once a month. If they do not trip or reset, have the outlet changed by a qualified electrician. These types of outlets are required around wet areas like bathrooms and kitchens to offer protection against shock. Only a qualified electrician should make changes in your home's electrical system.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lawn Tips for the winter

Are you wanting a lush and green yard this summer? Well there a few important steps you can take in the winter that can greatly help you get the yard you want this spring. Winter is a great time to get your yard prepared to bloom and blossom this spring.The first, and perhaps easiest, step is to pick up any leaves that cover your lawn. If left sitting over grass, they will create dead spots.The same goes for clutter and debris, such as toys. You may think that grass is completely dormant during Winter months, however, grass still needs oxygen and sunlight to maintain life. If you have it covered, you have it smothered.The next step, do not drive on the grass. Winter is a time for holiday parties and family get-togethers. Many people may be tempted to park on lawns. Resist the urge!You can take lawn care two steps further, as well. If your lawn has pH issues, now is the time to treat it with lime and other additives. Contact your local lawn specialist for more information. Late Winter is also the time to aerate your lawn. What is aerating? By making small holes in the surface of your lawn, you allow for deeper root growth. You also allow nutrients to gain direct access to the grass roots. This should give you a fuller, thicker lawn.
Follow these simple steps and wake up to a beautiful Spring lawn.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Apartment prices set to climb; could now be a good time to buy?

It has never been much of a problem for people to find an apartment to rent in and around Dallas. Well, that is about to change in the next year economists claim. Builders are unable to keep up with the growing demand for rental properties thus the rents on existing properties could rise steeply in the next year. And that is why NOW might be a great time to start thinking about buying as opposed to renting. Instead of paying double what you pay today to rent that same apartment next year wouldn't it be nicer to have a place that is all yours? Where you know nobody is going to double the price it costs to live in your home year after year? With interest rates still so low, often times your house payment can be less than an apartment payment, and you are building equity. And while Dallas didn't see the housing prices decline like they did in states like Florida and California there are still some great deals out there for hungry buyers. Before you sign that next lease you owe it to yourself to sit down with a real estate professional and at least look at all of your options. You could very easily save alot of money by buying this year as opposed to renting another apartment for a year.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Keep your home safe in the cold

Brrrrr....... it has been a cold week here in Dallas.It all started with a nice snow shower on Sunday afternoon. And since then it has only gotten colder, causing much of the snow to stick around on roofs and bushes.While Dallas certainly is not known for having the harshest winters on Earth, we do get our fair share of cold weather in the winter months. And when the temperatures go below freezing it can really wreck havoc on your home. Roof damage, burst drains, and frozen pipes are just a few of the headaches Mr. Winter can cause. Below I have posted some great tips from that can help minimize winter's threat to your home. If you have any useful tips not listed below please leave them in our comments section so we can share them with our other readers.

Winter Weather Home Tips

While you can't change the weather, you can minimize some of winter's biggest threats to your home.
Heavy snow accumulation can pose a threat to your home or business -- both as it builds up and as it melts. The three most important things to do are:

  • Watch for snow accumulation on the leeward (downwind) side of a higher-level roof, where blowing snow will collect. For safe removal that won't endanger you or damage your roof, consult a roofing contractor for a referral.

  • Remove snow from basement stairwells, window wells and all walls. Melting snow can lead to water damage and moisture intrusion.

  • Keep your attic well ventilated to maintain a temperature close to that of the outdoors to minimize the risk of ice dams forming. A warm attic melts snow on the roof, causing water to run down and refreeze at the roof's edge, where it's much cooler. If ice builds up and blocks water from draining, water is forced under the roof covering and into your attic or down the inside walls of your house.

  • Water intrusion and flood damage from melting snow and ice can threaten homes and businesses, but you can take these steps to help minimize the potential damage.
    Immediately after the threat of physical danger has passed:

  • Make sure the building is structurally safe to enter or reoccupy.

  • Turn off electrical power. Do not use electricity until it is safe to do so.

  • Ensure that natural gas sources are safely secured.

  • Secure the exterior to prevent further water intrusion. This can include boarding up broken windows, making temporary roof repairs, sealing cracks or tacking down plastic sheeting against open gaps in walls or roofs.When it's safe to begin cleanup:

  • Disconnect all electronics/electrical equipment and move it to a safe, dry location.

  • Remove as much standing water as possible from inside the building.

  • Begin to remove water-damaged materials immediately.

  • Ventilate the home as best you can with fans and/or dehumidifiers.

  • Contact a water extraction company, if necessary, for assistance.
    By taking immediate action, you will reduce the amount of damage and increase the chance of salvaging usable materials. You'll also reduce the amount of rust, rot, mold and mildew that may develop, and lower the likelihood that the water will lead to structural problems.

    Ice dams are an accumulation of ice at the lower edge of a sloped roof. When interior heat melts the snow, water can run down and refreeze at the roof's edge, where it's much cooler. If the ice builds up and blocks water from draining off the roof, water is forced under the roof covering and into your attic or down the inside walls of your house.
    To help reduce the risk of ice dams:

  • Make sure your gutters are clear of leaves and debris.

  • Keep the attic well ventilated so snow doesn't melt and refreeze on the roof's edge.

  • Make sure the attic floor is well insulated to minimize the amount of heat rising through the attic from within the house.

    Bursting pipes occur when frozen water causes a pressure buildup between the ice blockage and the closed faucet. Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are particularly vulnerable to extreme cold. To keep water in your pipes from freezing:

  • Fit exposed pipes with insulation sleeves or wrapping to slow heat transfer.

  • Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes with caulking.

  • Keep cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate around pipes.

  • Keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets connected to pipes that run through an unheated or unprotected space.Source: Institute for Business and Home Safety. IBHS is a national nonprofit initiative of the insurance industry to reduce deaths, injuries, property damage, economic losses and human suffering caused by natural disasters. 
  • Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    Thinking about doing some painting? Here is what you need to know!

    Are you tired of staring at the boring white walls of your home? Thinking about adding a little color and texture to your life? Repainting a wall in your home can give it a real fresh and new feel. And it is not all that hard to do. However, there are a lot of choices to make when you decide to paint your home. We have found a great painters dictionary and guide on that we would like to share with you. Hopefully this will make it a little easier for you when you go into your local paint store to pick your next color.

    Painter's Glossary
    All About Paint
    Latex Paint: Often called “acrylic latex" because it contains a plastic resin made of acrylics or polyvinyls to help it adhere better (see Water-Based Paint).
    Oil-Based Paint: Commonly used on molding, cabinets and furniture. It provides a protective coating and creates a smoother finish than water-based paint.
    To tell whether your current wall color is water- or oil-based, douse a white cloth with rubbing alcohol and rub it on the wall (in an out-of-the-way spot). If the paint softens and begins to transfer onto the cloth, it is water based. If the alcohol does not remove any color, it is oil-based.
    Primer: Used to seal bare surfaces and provide a base for paint to grab on to. If you've spackled your walls, priming is a must to prevent the spackle from bleeding through the paint. Use water-based primer on new drywall, previously painted walls (including those that have been patched, repaired or stained), galvanized metal and nonferrous metals. Use oil-based primer on severely stained or damaged walls, on paneling, under wallpaper, and on wrought iron, ferrous metal and raw wood.
    Sheen: A paint’s sheen gives it a certain finish and quality. There are several options:
     - Matte/Flat – Smooth finish, has little or no sheen. Helps hide surface imperfections but may suffer damage more easily than other finishes. Best for low-traffic areas. 
     - Eggshell – Velvety sheen, easy to clean. Great middle-of-the-road option between flat and high gloss. Gives a flatter look than glossy paint but still provides hard-wearing and protective coating.
     - Satin – Silky, pearl-like finish, stain-resistant. Creates protective shell that resists moisture and mildew. Good for kitchens, bathrooms and high-traffic areas. 
     - Semigloss – Sleek, radiant and high resistance to moisture. Good for cabinets, doors and windows. 
     - High Gloss – Very durable and easy to clean. Its glass-like finish makes it good for trim and molding.
    Water-Based Paint: (Latex paint is often called water-based) Commonly used on walls and ceilings, it is less toxic and easier to clean up than oil-based paints. Water-based paint comes in a variety of sheens including matte, eggshell or high-gloss (see above).
    Water-based paint works well on surfaces previously painted with latex or flat oil-base paints. It usually doesn’t adhere well to high-gloss finishes, however, and cannot be used on bare steel because it will rust it. Water-based paint can be used on top of wallpaper, but there is a risk that the water in the paint may cause the paper to peel away from the wall.
    Color Basics
    Color Wheel: A pie-shaped diagram showing the range and relationship of colors.
    Complementary Colors: Hues directly opposite each other on the color wheel. For example: green paired with red or orange paired with blue. As the strongest contrasts, complements tend to intensify each other.
    Harmonious (Analogous) Colors: Three to six colors close together on the color wheel. The shared underlying color generally gives such color schemes a coherent, sophisticated look. Since little variety of color is used, interest has to come from texture, pattern, lighting and accessorizing.
    Hue: Another term for specific points on the pure, clear range of the color wheel.
    Primary Colors: Red, blue and yellow. All other colors are derived from these three.
    Monochromatic: Color schemes that are shades and tints of one color. For example: brown and taupe.
    Secondary Colors: A mix of two primary colors. For example: violet is made from mixing blue and red, green is made from yellow and blue, and yellow and red combine to make orange.
    Triad colors: Three colors that are equally spaced on the color wheel, such as violet, red and orange or red, yellow and blue.
    Value/Tone: Degree of lightness or darkness of a color. It is determined by adding black to create a shade, white to create a tint, or gray to create a tone. Monochromatic color schemes are shades and tints of one color.
    Finding the Right Tools
    Paintbrushes – Which type is best?: Use a nylon-bristle brush for water-based paint and natural bristles for oil-based paint. Do not use natural bristles with water–based paint, the water can make the bristles limp. Foam brushes are good for intricate work such as painting molding or window casings. These brushes usually last for only one use because they're hard to clean and easy to tear.
    Paintbrush Shape: 
     - Angled-Sash Paintbrush – The bristles are cut at an angle to make it easier to cut into corners and paint moldings. 
     - Straight-End Paintbrush – Straight-end brushes' bristles are cut at the same length.
    Types of Bristles: The best brushes have bristles that are flagged and tipped. Flagged bristles are slightly split, so they’ll hold more paint and spread it more smoothly. Tipped bristles are slightly tapered to help release an even, controllable amount of paint.
    Cleaning Paintbrushes: Use soap and water to clean latex paint off the brush immediately after painting. If the paint dries on the brush, you'll need special solvents to remove it. If your house is on a public sewer system, you can clean the brushes in your sink, but be careful not to dispose of paint in an area where it might seep into the groundwater.
    For oil-based paints, you'll need a solvent such as paint thinner or mineral spirits. Pour about two inches of thinner into a metal container and swirl the dirty brush in it until the paint comes off. Press the brush against the side of the container to remove excess thinner and clean off the remaining thinner with a rag, then rinse with soap and water. If oil-based paint dries on your brush, just soak it in thinner for a few minutes before cleaning. Caution: Rags, steel wool, sanding dust or waste soaked with oil-based products may spontaneously catch fire if improperly discarded. Immediately after each use, place rags, steel wool, sanding dust or waste in a sealed, water-filled metal container
    Moist paintbrushes can be wrapped in plastic or waxed paper and sealed with a rubber band or aluminum foil. Hang brushes upside down to maintain their shape.
    Painting Pads: These can be very useful for cutting around trim. The pads come with small wheels that allow you to paint up to the edge of the trim without getting paint on the trim. To use one, dip the pad face into the paint, being careful not to get paint on the rollers.
    Paint Sprayers: There is a wide selection of sprayers available, ranging in size, capabilities and price. No matter which type you use, always wear a dust mask or respirator to protect yourself from fumes.
     - Hand-held airless paint sprayers – best for staining and for outdoor work, such as painting a fence or sealing a deck. Use only oil-based paint or stain unless it is rated at 45 watts or more.
     - Airless spray paint roller -- works like a paint roller, without the inconvenience of having to continuously refill your paint tray as you work.
     - High-volume low-pressure sprayer – designed for professional finishing jobs, where the control of the spray is important. Good for painting interior walls, exterior jobs and crown or dentil molding. They come with various nozzles that can be used to create special designs. Can use oil- or latex-based paint.
     - High-pressure, low-volume sprayer – this sprayer is gravity fed and works with a compressor. It has the capacity to spray a wide variety of finishes, but can overspray and splash back at times.
     - Diaphragm paint sprayer – works with five-gallon bucket to provide a continuous supply of paint.
    Paint-Sprayer Cleanup: After using latex paint, run water through the sprayer until it's clear. After using oil-based paint, pour paint thinner into the sprayer. It's important to clean the sprayer and nozzles thoroughly because any leftover paint can ruin the machine.
    Roller Covers: Paint rollers are great time savers on any paint project. Using the correct roller cover can make your painting a whole lot smoother.
     - Nap –The correct nap length of roller cover all depends on the texture of the surface you are painting. For a rough surface, use a roller with a long nap length. For smooth surfaces, use a shorter nap length. For example, on concrete block or stucco use a roller cover with a 3/4" to 1" nap. A 3/8" or 1/2” nap will probably work for most interior wall surfaces and with various sheen levels. A 1/4” nap is too flat and hard for most wall applications. 
     - Fiber – Mohair is good for applying enamel paint. Lambswool covers are excellent for alkyd paints, but not for latex. Synthetic fibers are the most versatile but cannot be used with epoxies and polyurethane. 
     - Core – Cardboard cores are not very durable because they absorb the paint, get soft and often lose their shape. Also, cardboard and many other types of roller covers use glue to hold the fabric to the core. The problem here is that the solvents in paint can cause the glue to dissolve, making the roller fall apart.
    When selecting a roller frame, look for expandable poles made from heavy-gauge wire, and make sure it has end bearings for smooth operation.
    Cleaning Rollers:
     - For latex paint, scrape as much paint off the roller as possible. Partially fill a sink or large bucket with warm water and roll the applicator back and forth. If necessary, use detergent with the water to remove difficult paint. Rinse the roller until the water is clear. Let dry. 
     - For oil-based paint, scrape as much paint as possible off the roller. Roll the applicator in a paint tray containing mineral spirits or paint thinner then wash the roller in soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and let dry. 
     - Store rollers in clean plastic bags.
    (Once again thanks to for this awesome guide to painting!)

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