Home & Family Articles

Sometimes home, sweet home can seem like a money pit. But your house and family don’t have to cost you tons for care and upkeep when you use ingenuity, creativity, shopping sense, and savings sense to bring out the best without breaking the bank.

In this category, you’ll find some sweet and sensible ideas, tips and ideas—from how to make your own cleaning products (yes!), wash a down comforter (forget the dry cleaners); the worst and best ways to clean your eyeglasses,  the very best way to kill weeds ( it’s not Roundup) and so much more.

Here you’ll find so many sweet and sensible ideas for making your house a wonderful home with money and time to spare!

14 Ways to Use Dryer Sheets That Have Nothing To Do with Laundry

Perhaps you’ve seen the list of uses for dryer sheets floating around the Internet. Who knows where that list came from. What we do know is not all of the alternative uses can be verified as true.

 

Box of dryer sheets

 

For example, we have no confidence at all that Bounce or any other brand of dryer sheet will repel mosquitoes. We’ve tried and nope, those suckers seem to enjoy dry sheets! But spiders and flies? Or how about stinky shoes? Read on.

Pests

Many of our readers have confirmed that dryer sheets will repel both spiders and flies. Keep a few extra sheets in clothes hampers and around the laundry area and you can kiss all those spiders goodbye.

 

Active house spider

Luggage

Slip a dryer sheet into your suitcases while they are in storage and they won’t smell musty when you take them out to use.

Blinds

Wipe down your blinds with a dryer sheet to prevent static electricity and to keep dust from collecting. Grab that dryer sheet with a pair of kitchen tongs and use that to quickly run over each slat. It’s quick, easy and will even pick up the dust.

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8 Surprisingly Useful Ways to Use a FoodSaver

My vacuum sealer is one of my favorite kitchen appliances. I vacuum seal fresh fruit to extend the useful by at least two weeks, often much longer. I vacuum seal meat before I freeze it to stave off freezer burn, which keeps it perfect for six months to a year. I could go on and on about how my FoodSaver saves our food bill, but today I want to tell you the useful ways I use a FoodSaver that have nothing to do with food!

 

A vacuum sealer is useful to protect and preserve lots of things around the house

 

But first, two general vacuum-sealing tips:

Convenience

I’ve learned through trial and error that for my vacuum sealer to work at maximum efficiency it must be handy. It cannot be stuck in a cupboard or on a pantry shelf. If I have to make the smallest effort to get it out and plug it in, I stop using it because I forget, or it’s such a hassle I skip using it “just this one time.”

My FoodSaver has to sit on the counter with nothing obstructing it—always plugged in and ready to go. And the bags have to be equally handy. I keep them in the drawer immediately below the counter where FoodSaver resides.

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Let’s Clear Up the Mystery of Ceiling Fan Direction

As a toddler, I must have driven my parents crazy. And I am still doing it, but now to my husband. I can’t help it. I want to know the “Why?!” about everything. Take ceiling fan direction for example. Most ceiling fans have a switch with two options. “Forward” spins one way, “Reverse” the other. But why? What for? Who made that rule?
Ceiling fan is rotating at the ceiling of the room.

Years ago a reader sent in her handy tip, passed along from her husband, a heating and air conditioning specialist: In the winter, make your ceiling fans spin counterclockwise. Or was that clockwise? To be honest, it totally slipped my mind as soon as I shared it.

Shrugging young woman confused over fan direction

But I do remember the barrage of responses I received. Some thanked me for printing the correct answer to the burning question, while others told me I was wrong and it should spin in the opposite direction. But why?!

Today, I have the answers.

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How to Clean a Painted Wood Floor

A message in my inbox this week came from Joan who asked, “What is the best way to clean a very grimy painted wood floor?”

 

Vintage kitchen with beautiful green painted floor

 

Before I get to an answer for Joan, let’s talk generally about wood floors and the difference between a painted wood floor and a finished wood floor. I would never suggest that anyone treat them as equals when it comes to cleaning.

RELATED: How to Clean and Care for Hardwood and Laminate Floors

Please, make sure you never use a painted floor cleaning formula on your finished hardwood or laminate floor because it will be too harsh and could cause damage.

Paint by definition is different than say a polyurethane finish, typically used on hardwood floors. Paint is tougher, especially latex enamel that has been formulated for wood floors.

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How to Fix Scratches on Glass

Our homes are well accessorized with glass from windowpanes to shower doors, tabletops and lovely glassware, too. While glass is both beautiful and durable, normal wear and tear or mindless abuse can result in ugly surface scratches on glass.

Looking through a windshield that has suffered surface scratches

I wanted to kick myself around the block. Rather than stop and think, I grabbed a razor blade to remove adhesive stuck to a kitchen window. Instead, I managed to create several ugly surface scratches on glass.

It took a few hours of research and testing to discover three easy ways to fix scratches on glass. Here are the three methods that use ordinary household items together with a little elbow grease, beginning with the easiest and least invasive.

Toothpaste

Provided the scratches are smooth and relatively tiny, toothpaste offers a cheap way to fix scratches on glass. But just not any toothpaste. You want non-gel, whitening toothpaste that contains baking soda. For example, Arm & Hammer AdvancedWhite.

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Questions on Online Savings Banks, Opossums, XL Bed Sheets, Stinky Refrigerator, and Lots More!

I love to hear from my readers. I encourage you to write to me, and for that, I get hundreds of messages every day—questions galore, great stories, lots of love, and tons of encouragement. Please, never stop writing to me!

Laptop computer illustrating email by envelopes coming out of the screen

While I do read every single message, I simply cannot respond to all of them. And honestly, I don’t have specific criteria for which questions to answer in posts like this.

Generally, I select questions with universal appeal and a high likelihood that others have the same or similar questions. And here’s a hint: Well-written, complete messages with a clear situation and question get special consideration.

Here is a quick summary of the questions I’ll answer in today’s post. You can click on one to go straight to it, or just scroll down to read all. Enjoy!

Contents

1. Are online savings banks safe?

2. Opossums are making my life miserable!

3. Single fitted XL twin bed sheets?

4. Help! My new refrigerator stinks!

5. How can my daughter qualify for a decent credit card?

6. I tried Lestoil and this is what happened

7. Need furniture polish recipe again, please?

 

Q1: Are online savings banks safe?

Dear Mary: The interest rates offered at most online savings banks like Ally.com for example,  are so much better than the brick and mortar bank where my husband and I have our savings. Our rate of interest is terrible! But we are hesitant to move any of our savings to an online bank. Is it safe? I would love to hear your opinion. I love your website! I have used your recommendations on so many things. Thank you. Heidi

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Kitchen Drawer Makeover: Top 10 Essential Kitchen Tools

Whether you’re a newlywed, recent grad moving into your first apartment or perhaps one of the 25% of millennials that Forbes recently reported as living at home with mom and dad—surely the idea of furnishing a kitchen has crossed your mind. I’d love to help you get started. Here’s the deal: There are a few basic essential kitchen tools you absolutely need—ten to be exact—without which you are not likely to use that kitchen for more than a place to pile takeout containers. We’re not talking about mountain of stuff—just ten basic essentials to get started.

 

Young woman wearing an apron cooking a big pot of soup

1. Fire extinguisher

My personal experience makes this an absolute requirement and first on the list. It was one of those lazy Saturdays. I decided to make grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. I set the greased skillet over high heat and ran out to the garage to say something to my husband. A neighbor wandered over and we started talking. It was the smoke alarm that caught my attention and sent me flying.

In those few moments that pan flamed out and caught the upper cabinet. My kitchen was on fire! This First Alert fire extinguisher sitting on the counter saved the day. I am still surprised that I’d learned and reacted, almost intuitively, how to use the thing. Your kitchen must have a fire extinguisher that is fully charged.

 

MORE: Burn Down the House? I’ll P.A.S.S.

2. Knives and sharpener

 

 

 

You need good knives. And I’m talking about knives that can be sharpened and you will keep sharp. That means they need to be handy and super easy to use. If you can find an exceptional set that comes with a block and shears, plus at least a chef, carving, and paring knives and perhaps even a bread knife like this 15-piece set—at that amazing price—that’s exactly what you need.

 

 

 

You also need a knife sharpener that you will actually use in your drawer of kitchen tools. This Block Sharpener is the one in my kitchen. It’s small, and fits easily in my utensil drawer. It’s so easy—foolproof—to use (watch tthe video. And boy does it work!

 

MORE: 5-Minute Artisan Bread: The Master Recipe, Tools, Resources

 

3. Pots and pans

You can go broke on pots and pans or you can go smart with a high-quality basic set like this Tramontina 9-Piece  Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Set.

You want to make sure you have at least a skillet, a couple of sauce pans and a larger pot for soups and stock. This set comes with three interchangeable glass lids and a steamer basket.  Read more

16 Ways Car Wax Can Make Your Life Easier

Chances are good that there’s an old can of car wax hanging out in your garage or basement. Now would be the time to find it, dust it off and hope it’s not all dried out.

Of course, car wax is good for waxing a car, but it’s handy in so many other ways around the house that really are quite amazing.

 

Male hands holding can of car wax and sponge applicator

 

Car wax, whether paste or liquid, is formulated to fill scratches and give a high shine to nonporous surfaces like glass or metal and leave them resistant to smudges and stains.

As for which car wax works best, I prefer Meguiar’s Cleaner Wax paired with a good microfiber cloth because it cleans, polishes and leaves a beautiful finish—all in one step.

Turtle Super Hard Shell Paste Wax is a fine choice too, just know that you’ll need to clean the surface first, then apply the car wax.

MORE: Best Inexpensive™ Microfiber Cloths

De-fog mirrors

There’s nothing like a nice hot shower to steam up bathroom mirrors. Car wax is the secret to make them fog-free. Apply a small amount to the entire mirror, allow it to dry then buff it away with a microfiber cloth.

Shiny faucets

No matter how water spotted and dull your tub, shower and sink faucets are, car wax will make them look like new—and help them stay that way. Rub a small bit of auto wax into all of that metal and allow it to dry for a few minutes. Now just polish it away with a soft dry cloth. The wax will prevent new water spots and keep those fixtures sparkling*.

Fight mildew

After using your regular cleanser, apply a layer of car wax to the inside and outside of a shower door and buff off with a dry cloth to discourage mildew growth and hard water marks.

RELATED: How to Make Your Own Powerful Tub and Shower Cleaners

Fingerprint-free appliances

Tired of smudges and fingerprints all over your beautiful appliances? Apply a thin coat of car wax to stainless-steel fridges and stoves. Buff clean and that surface will resist fingerprints and smudges.

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