Perhaps this has happened to you: You’ve lived with carpeting, then for one reason or another you live with hardwood or some other type of hard surface flooring that shows up every little bit of dust and dirt. You can’t believe it! You can sweep or vacuum one day and by the next morning, dust and dirt have returned. 

Happy family of four in love with their clean carpet

Of course, you think that some new dirt- and dust-producing thing has mysteriously descended on your living space, but the truth is it’s the same dust and dirt that has always been present only now you can see it.

I cannot tell you how shocked I was to see what accumulated in such a short time on my new dark wood floors. In my mind, I multiplied by 7, 14 and even 21 days. Am I the only one who doesn’t vacuum every day of her life? Yes, I admit it. And just imagining what had accumulated in the carpeting almost made me wretch. Seriously.

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Do I have a story to tell you—another lesson I’ve learned the hard way so you won’t have to. Truth be told, if my faux pas helps you avoid a huge expense, I’m happy to have suffered it.

While researching to help a reader solve the mystery of black grimy lines around the edges of his home’s carpet, I casually asked my husband if he’d replaced the filter in our heating ventilation air-conditioning (HVAC) system recently. I got one of those blank stares I could easily translate: Nope, didn’t even think about it.

When we bought this house, we had the HVAC system inspected, serviced and the filter replaced. Then we got busy with leasing it while we planned and executed our big move a year later. HVAC filter? Completely forgot about it. By the time I brought up the subject, it had been more than 2.5 years!

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The scariest thing ever was to open that door on the HVAC system, dutifully labeled “Filter.” I cannot adequately describe it but I can tell you that it was nearly black and covered in what looked like fur. So gross. I’m surprised the entire system didn’t just blow up out of sheer rebellion for lack of attention.

I have since learned about the true cost of a dirty HVAC (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning) filter and it’s not pretty!

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If you have hard flooring, carpet or flat surfaces in your home, which just about covers every possibility—there are three specific vacuum cleaners that deserve your attention: an upright, a cordless stick vac and cordless handheld. These are the worker bees that I own, love and don’t want to live without.

Once you familiarize yourself with these vacuums and their specific uses, you’ll know why each one gets my designation of for Best Inexpensive™ in its specific category.

1. Shark Professional Navigator Lift-Away

 

shark-navigator-pro-lift-away-vacuum

In the decade since I met and fell in love with my first Shark upright vacuum, I’ve purchased, tested, given as gifts, and worked nearly to death (it’s really hard to wear out a Shark) many Shark vacuums because the company comes out with a new model or two about every week, or so it seems. I can say with confidence, there is no better basic corded, upright vacuum cleaner on earth.

Now throw in the lift-away feature on some models (allows user to pop off the lightweight canister to easily carry and vacuum stairs), an extended wand for high reaches, high-capacity dirt cup, anti-allergen HEPA filter and 30-foot electrical cord and you’ve got yourself a Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional Vacuum—a fantastic piece of housecleaning equipment.

But here’s the most important feature—the price. Wow! I’d put my Shark up against any brand, anytime, anywhere and I’m talking about even those pricey European brands that come in at $1,500 and more.


 So Disgusting I’m Embarrassed To Tell

…within minutes that canister filled to the top.  I was so shocked, disgusted hardly describes the feeling. I took the canister out to the trash to dump it out hoping the neighbors wouldn’t be peering over the fence to see what was coming out of my home… read more


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It pretty much kills me to spend money on things I know I can make myself for less than their pricey commercial cousins.

Take cleaning products for example. Knowing how to make things for pennies that cost dollars at the store just makes me happy. It’s a no-brainer.

 spray bottles in a bucket filled with cleaners you can make yourself that better than store bought and lots cheaper too

Here are three handy recipes to help you get started saving all that money you’ve been spending on household cleaners.

Granite Cleaner

Countertops made of granite, marble, and stone are tricky because these materials are porous and stain easily. You never want to clean them with anything acidic, which means vinegar and lemon juice are both out.

Here is a homemade granite cleaner that will not stain nor is it acidic. Used with a good microfiber cloth, it works like a champ to clean and shine these natural counters. 

RELATED: Best Inexpensive™ Microfiber, Electronics, Automobiles

Pour 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol into a 16-oz. spray bottle. Add a few drops Dawn liquid dishwashing detergent, 5 to 10 drops essential oil (this is optional, but will add a nice fragrance) plus enough distilled water to fill the bottle. Apply the spray top and shake to mix. You can use this cleaner to clean and shine your appliances as well.

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Salt. It’s mandatory in a human diet. But in other situations, salt can be as destructive as it is needful due to its ability to eat holes through metal and leave ugly stains on footwear.

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I have several pairs of beautiful winter fashion boots in suede and leather. I’d like to remove salt stains that have built up but don’t want to take them to a cobbler. Any advice on how I can do this myself? Maha

Dear Maha: We should be thankful for sidewalk salt in the wintertime because it’s effective in helping us avoid injuries from slipping on icy surfaces. Of course, the downside is, as you know, these chunky salt particles get on boots and shoes causing damage and ugly stains.

Cleaning these stains from your leather and suede footwear regularly throughout the winter will help them last and looking good for many years to come.

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Yellow armpit stains on white shirts are a problem if my inbox is any indication, which I believe it is. And I’ve been avoiding the subject because honestly, it’s kinda’ gross.

Upset girl looking at tshirt with yellow armpit stain after laundry

 

I can’t begin to estimate how many email messages I’ve received asking for help with getting rid of these stains, but it’s a lot. And now it’s time. Today we’re hitting this topic head-on.

What are these stains?

Curious, isn’t it that ugly yellow stains show up only in the armpit area? Left untreated, these stains can cause the material to become stiff as if just being yellow isn’t disgusting enough. And crunchy.

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I love my overflowing inbox filled with questions from my dear readers. What I don’t love is not being able to respond personally to each and every one!

So today, rather than trying to decide which ones to answer, how about I just reach in and let’s see what comes out.

multi-ethinic arms outstretched to ask questions.

Upside Down in a Durango

Dear Mary: I have a Dodge Durango gas guzzler and I owe way too much money on it. If I sell the vehicle outright, I could probably squeak by ending up just $5,000 in the hole. If I trade it in, I would be about $9,000 in the hole.  

I could put the shortfall on a credit card, but I know that is a bad idea for so many reasons. What should I do to pay the difference?

We have an old pick-up truck and an older Subaru that will be okay for now, but how do I get out of the loan and the Durango? And how can I sell it to someone when I don’t have a clear title? Any help will be appreciated. Linda

Dear Linda: There’s no perfect solution here, but here’s a plan that might work: 

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When Swiffer WetJet hit the market years ago, consumers went wild for it. I loved my Swiffer, but did not like the price of the cleaning pads. And my readers didn’t like it either.

Readers still send me their tips on what they use instead for disposable, pricey cleaning Swiffer cleaning pads. Some are clever, some too complicated, and some I just can’t repeat. I like Brenda’s idea, as it saves money and recycles, too.

SECOND LIFE FOR FLANNEL

My tip involves giving my husband’s old flannel lounge pants and flannel shirts a second life as cleaning pads for my Swiffer. I cut pieces 8″ x 20″ (or to fit your mop head of choice), attach to the mop head and then dampen with water before use. When I’m done mopping, I toss these in the laundry. Brenda

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