Duster with glovr 250w.jpgIt seems like a small detail, but the right cloth for the right job will yield better results every time. I found some tips from the pros:

  1. Lint-free rags are best, especially if you are cleaning fabric with fabric.
  2. Also for fabric cleaning, it’s best to avoid colored rags unless they have been washed many times. Otherwise you take the chance that dye will rub off onto the very fabric you are trying to clean.
  3. All-cotton rags make excellent cleaning cloths because they absorb water easily, dry fast, and do not leave lint. Cloth diapers and men’s undershirts are two excellent examples.
  4. Microfiber cloths and dusters are great for household and office use because they trap dust instead of letting it fly around the room.
  5. Old shirts and towels made of synthetic fabrics generally do not make good cleaning cloths because they do not absorb or dry well. They can be handy, however, for really dirty jobs, like cleaning grills, engines or outdoor furniture. Toss them into the trash once they’ve been used.
  6. Pop-up wet wipes are handy for kitchen and bathroom use, but avoid using them on wood cupboards or other porous materials. Also: don’t confuse them for hand wipes or diaper wipes! They are much too hard on delicate skin.
  7. Balled-up newspapers make excellent wipes for window and mirror cleaning. Though they aren’t officially cleaning cloths, they are made of paper pulp, which is highly absorbent.
  8. Lint-free flannel is a good buffing cloth.


Brass statue of the jockey on a horse

Tiny objects and tight spaces require special treatment when it comes to cleaning. While routine cleaning is the norm, sometimes it’s necessary to zoom in and clean the corners, crevices and creases of our home furnishings. Here are some tips to help.

Your first line of defense: frequent dust removal. This will prevent build-up that makes cleaning more difficult. Microfiber dusters can work well if you use a gentle and thorough approach. Even better: you can buy a great vacuum attachment kit for exactly this kind of cleaning, complete with an array of tools so diminutive they’re cute. Attach the tool and the adapter included to any vacuum hose and whisk away dust from keyboards, sound systems, sewing machines and more.

Decorative knickknacks and figurines: If dust has slowly turned to fine grime in the tiny angles of decorative objects, you have a few options. If objects are nonporous and submersible in water, it may be easiest to soak them in a solution of mild dish soap and warm water. Carefully clean objects with an old soft-bristle toothbrush, then rinse with a vinegar and clear water solution. Towel-dry with a clean cotton cloth. If water immersion isn’t an option, you’ll have to go with a more tedious technique. A tiny, good quality artist’s brush with very stiff bristles can be used to work out the dirt. You may be able to dip the brush slightly in a mild cleaning solution of white vinegar and dab at the corners. Avoid liquid soaps, which will leave a dull residue.

Window frames, baseboards, cupboards, fine cabinetry, picture frames, leather furniture. Gently vacuum what you can with a soft bristle attachment, or the artist’s brush may be useful if you are working around a delicate photo or painting. Another technique: wrap a credit card in thin flannel and run it carefully along straight edges or seams. Repeat with a fresh section of flannel until clean. If area to be cleaned is not sensitive to moisture, you can dampen the cloth slightly in a mild vinegar and water solution.

Keyboards, motherboards, electronics. These objects can’t be cleaned with anything wet or even moist without risking damage. Use the tiny tools vacuum attachment mentioned above or a can of special air propellant designed for this task.

Other tiny tasks: Old toothbrushes are time-honored scrubbers, of course. A clean cotton swab is another handy cleaning tool for corners or hard-to-reach small places. If the surface is impervious to moisture, dampen the swab with mild cleaning solution first. If you tend to the obsessive side, try wrapping a layer of thin flannel around a chrome needle used to inflate basketballs. How’s that for an itsy-bitsy cleaning tool?


VACUFLO fam 307x250As temperatures and humidity outside plummet, constantly heated indoor air can wreak havoc, drying your skin, hair and nasal passages. That can create a breeding ground for seasonal viruses and irritate respiratory systems. Keep you indoor winter air healthier this year:

  • Try to keep your home temperature no higher than 68°F. Adjust your thermostat to lower temperatures at night. A cooler temperature of 64 or 65°F makes for better sleeping and less open-mouthed breathing due to dried out nasal passages.
  • On milder days, open a window briefly on each floor of your home to allow fresh air to circulate.
  • Have ductwork cleaned every few years to remove dust and debris collecting there, which recirculates through the home.
  • If your furnace does not have a humidifier setting on it, you can improve humidity levels by placing a pan of water near heat registers. Also, fill your teakettle and heat it until it releases steam into the air for a few minutes. Cool mist room humidifiers can be helpful for people suffering with colds or allergies.

Keep indoor, air-borne irritants to a minimum. A central vacuum system is the most effective method for removing dust and allergens completely from your home environment. In contrast with a standard vacuum cleaner, which can recirculate dust and allergens back into the air, a central vacuum uses powerful suction to remove virtually all dirt and transport it through a system of in-the-wall tubing to a sealed container away from living spaces, such as in a basement, closet or garage. You can have an authorized installer easily retrofit your home with a central vacuum system with minimum disruption to your home.


student girl portrait at university campus

Heading off to college is one of life’s most exhilarating experiences, and possibly also one of its most stressful. Incoming students are exposed to a host of new germs from all around the country and world, which can tax their immune systems. Add into that equation the adjustment to roommates, demands of coursework, new freedoms and frequent sleep deprivation, and overall health can suffer. Encourage these habits in your young adult children to help keep them healthier and happier for campus life.

  • Wear flip flops in the shower to avoid athlete’s foot, which thrives in moist areas and is easily spread.
  • Get a flu shot each season, and a meningitis vaccine before heading off to college. Avoid sharing beverages from the same container. Wash hands frequently, especially before eating.
  • While grungy sheets never killed anybody, at least pack some extra pillow cases. Changing the pillow case will keep the bed fresher. Sometimes bed bugs will show up in dorms for no apparent reason (they are not brought on by dirt or bad housekeeping). In that event, launder all bedding in hot water to eliminate the critters.
  • Keep things dry to avoid mold and mildew problems, which can aggravate the respiratory system and can be harmful to asthma sufferers. Don’t let wet clothes or towels lie around. Dry off bathroom surfaces. Use ventilation such as a portable fan.
  • Get enough sleep. College students often think they are invulnerable when it comes to sleep, but fatigue taxes the immune system heavily. Avoid all-night study sessions whenever possible by creating disciplined study habits. Try not to take long naps in the afternoon or drink caffeine after supper, which will make it difficult to sleep at night.
  • Don’t binge drink, which is not only dangerous, but has been proven to proportionately decrease grade point averages.
  • Keep healthy snacks around the dorm to help avoid temptations for late-night fast food. Bad eating habits in college have been shown to increase the possibility of creating long-term health problems, not to mention adding excess weight.
  • Call home. They miss you, too. A phone call to your folks may not keep you from catching the flu, but it can help stave off the common freshman-year virus known as homesickness.


…on energy, that is. Are your drawers stuffed with old batteries and cell phones you Internet_icon_6(rightly) don’t want to toss in the trash? Is your closet space jumbled with outdated computer monitors and printers? Is that old refrigerator in the basement worth the hefty watts it racks up on your monthly electric bill? Probably not, but who wants to haul it up the steps?

Solutions abound for recycling unwanted, energy-consuming devices. Check out local sources online by typing in key words on Internet search engines, and soon you’ll be freeing up space in your home, doing the environment a favor, helping out someone in need and maybe even earning a few bucks.

Refrigerators: Some utility companies and other organizations will pick up old refrigerators in working condition and even pay you for them, anywhere from $35 to $50. The refrigerators must be empty and clean, plugged in and running the day they are picked up, which is scheduled in advance.

Computers and Electronics: Did you know full-service Best Buy stores will accept many working and nonworking items for free recycling and disposal, regardless of where they were purchased? Certain restrictions apply, but no appointment is necessary. You can drop off items any time during regular business hours.

C-PAP Machines: Machines used to restore adequate oxygen intake to those who suffer from sleep apnea can save lives. If you upgrade to a newer device, the old one can be recycled and distributed to a patient who might not otherwise be able to afford it.

Cell Phones: Corporate stores of both Verizon and Sprint will refurbish used cell phones, chargers and headsets regardless of make, model or service provider, and donate them to victims of domestic violence. Drop off items anytime during regular business hours. Nonworking cell phones are properly recycled and disposed of.

Batteries: Some Batteries Plus stores will recycle batteries from laptops, cell phones, cameras, watches, even motorcycles and cars, as well as your everyday rechargeable and single-use lithium batteries. They don’t take alkaline batteries.


I had an elderly neighbor friend who moved through her day in a way I admired: unhurried, focused on the task at hand. Whether she was weeding her vegetable garden or sweeping the concrete stoop outside her kitchen door, she seemed to apply a kind of steady, sustained energy to everything she did.  I think of her now every time I catch myself rushing out my own kitchen door.

Somewhere in the last century it became fashionable to hurry. Perhaps it implies we have somewhere important to be, that we are in demand at all hours. Being pressed for time is no longer the exception for many people, but the rule.

storm-0914-scribble-206Could there be a different way to relate to the clock? It takes practice, but here are some simple strategies to try.

  1. Block out “empty” segments of time. The very idea of this may sound foreign.  Begin with short increments during the “between” times: between waking and work, between work and supper, between chores and bedtime. Resolve to take fifteen unassigned minutes. Just sit, or nap, or read, or walk around the block, or talk to your spouse or kids without an agenda. Watch the world go by without you in it. Work up to longer blocks. You may even learn to build into your calendar one day a month where you do absolutely nothing that isn’t restorative to your mind, body and soul. Imagine that.
  2. Aim lower. Decide what you really can accomplish in any given time—without killing yourself. What non-essential components can you eliminate from any task? If you’re a perfectionist, or highly driven, this is far more challenging than setting lofty goals. The sweet surprise to this strategy? You get more done, at a higher level of quality, and you are much more pleasant to be around.
  3. Think of time as your friend. We tend to look at time with a scarcity mentality: there will never be enough to do what we want and need to do. So of course we always feel time-starved. Try looking at time as a banquet of 24 of our favorite foods, lovingly prepared and laid out for us each and every day. Instead of wolfing it down like fast food from a drive-through, savor it one bite at a time. Everything tastes better that way.


nx_light_bulb energy saving_LABEL2black2Major holidays mean heavy kitchen use in most households, as families prepare large meals for festive gatherings. High efficiency appliances have come a long way over the years to reduce their carbon footprint. You can also reduce the cost of kitchen energy during the holidays and all year round in simple ways:

  • Try not to peek at what’s cooking.Every time you open a heated stove, it’s forced to work harder to restore its set temperature.
  • Plan your fridge forays.Don’t open the door multiple times to retrieve multiple items. Instead, remove what you need for any given task at the same time.
  • Use the right burner for the right pot.A small pot on a large burner is a waste of energy. A large pot on a small burner takes longer to heat food to the appropriate temperature.
  • Rethink the freezer setting.If your ice cream is rock hard, the temperature is probably set too low, using unnecessary energy to freeze food.
  • Use an energy-efficient small appliance like a toaster oven or crock pot when possible, rather than heating up the whole stove.
  • Only preheat when the recipe calls for it.Time the preheating so you are ready to put the food in when the oven is ready.
  • Water will boil fasterif you put a lid on the pan.
  • A self-cleaning ovenwill consume less energy if you start the cleaning process immediately after cooking something. The oven temperature will be that much closer to the high heat it must achieve to clean itself.