Fabric Softeners are the Problem Not the Solution

In the laundry room, most of us are prone to overkill. We want beautifully clean, brilliantly white, soft, and fluffy laundry results. And we don’t measure. We pour stuff out of jugs, straight into the washer, often adding a second big glug just to make sure.

 

Supermarket aisle shelves filled with laundry softening products

We use liquid fabric softener by the gallon and dryer sheets by the hundreds because there’s no such thing as too soft when it comes to towels and sheets. And when things come out looking gray, and feeling stiff and crunchy, what do we do? More detergent, more softener—even more dryer sheets!

Grungy build-up

The problem is product build-up that never gets rinsed out. Every time you do the laundry, more and more product gets left behind. This build-up of detergent and softeners can make appliances stink, colors look dingy, whites turn gray and linens feel stiff and scratchy. Towels, especially, can turn sour and stinky no matter how much you re-wash and re-soften. The detergent and softeners that aren’t properly rinsed away begin to harbor odor-causing bacteria. The washing machine gets stinky, too. But that’s not the worst.

MORE: Stinky Laundry, Smelly Machine: How Nasty Germs Survive in Your Washer and What To Do About It

Health and respiratory issues

The medical website, WebMD.com reports that the perfumes and additives in laundry products may cause skin problems—from itchiness to full-blown dermatitis. Fabric softeners are very allergenic and can cause eczema, which can appear as dry, flaky, chronically itchy skin.

Dryer sheets contain volatile organic compounds like acetaldehyde and butane, which can cause respiratory irritation. Fabric softener chemicals known as quaternary ammonium compounds have been linked to asthma. Acetone, also used in dryer sheets, can cause nervous system effects like headaches or dizziness. Read more

Give Your Washing Machine This Critical Check-Up Now

As wonderful as a washing machine is when it comes to saving time and effort, it can also be a troublesome member of the household. It is critical that you perform a washing machine check-up now.

 

Washing machine control panel

 

Washing machines are responsible for more than $150 million of damage in homes across the U.S. every year. Imagine a river flowing from your laundry room with hundreds of gallons of water per hour, pouring over thresholds and flooring, soaking your furniture and prized collectibles. It happens.

Imagine a river flowing from your laundry room with hundreds of gallons of water per hour, pouring over thresholds and flooring, soaking your furniture, and prized collectibles. It happens.

Washing machine hoses score number one in the line up of the most neglected maintenance items in a home.

Last year, State Farm alone paid more than 7,500 water damage claims from broken washing-machine hoses. These claims ranged from a few hundred dollars to more than $100,000. There are steps you can and should take routinely to make sure this does not happen to you.

Supply hose leaks

More than 50% of all washing machine water damage claims can be traced back to a supply hose failure. This can be caused by:

  • The hose got pinched during installation or when moved, causing a hairline break
  • A faulty connection to either the washing machine or wall
  • The hose is old and has become brittle

Annual check-up

If you have a washing machine you need to check the water inlet or “water-fill” hoses at least once a year. Not performing a washing machine check-up is like not checking the oil in your car. Nothing seems to be amiss until your life flashes in front of you as you see your sofa floating down the front walkway.  Read more

12 Things You Can Do Now to Get Ready for Christmas

Faithful readers know that we pull out all the stops around here to celebrate Christmas in July. Or at least start thinking about the holidays, just five months down the road. If you are or have ever been plagued by credit-card debt, I can nearly guarantee that revolving expenses related to Christmas have contributed greatly to that miserable situation. The problem? Procrastination.

 

Santa's hat next to the pool suggesting it's Christmas in July!

 

Face it, when it comes to Christmas, the longer you wait, the more you’ll spend. The opposite is also true: The sooner you get started the less you’ll spend.

Everyone procrastinates in some area. And some people procrastinate about everything. Why do we do it?

We feel overwhelmed

The holiday expectations we place on ourselves plus those that come from our families, the community, even the church can be so great we feel paralyzed. So we do nothing until the only choice we have is to spend as much money as it takes to get by.

We overestimate how much time we have

From where we sit here in July, Christmas seems so far away. We tell ourselves we have “plenty of time!”

We have to do it perfectly

Experts tell us that at the root of procrastination is perfectionism. Because we feel we have to do everything perfectly—and fear that we might not—we do nothing rather than run the risk of failing.

We say we work better under pressure

Waiting until the last minute can provide quite an adrenaline rush. Procrastinators  believe they cannot operate without that creative surge, so they sit back and wait for it to happen.

The way to deal with procrastination is to identify why you do it. Ask yourself: What price have I paid in the past for the delay? Do I really want to pay that price, or even more, again this year?

If the answer to the last question is yes, you have lots of time; you don’t need to be thinking about the holidays yet.

If on the other hand, you are not willing to go into debt to measure up to others’ expectations, get started. Do something now.

1. Start saving

I get it that not all of us are into Christmas shopping any time other than December. It just doesn’t feel right. What you can do starting now is get diligent with creating a healthy cash stash so you have the money to do that come December.

Stash $50 a week starting now, for Christmas shopping in December. Once you are in motion it will be easier to keep going. Even if that’s all you do, you’ll be way ahead.

 

2. Book travel

We’re learning that the ongoing Boeing 737 Max grounding is going to affect holiday travel and not in a good way. Southwest Airlines opened its calendar for booking flights for December much earlier than usual. And by the looks things, lots of flights are already sold out. Now’s the time to book any holiday travel you have in mind.

Southwest, which doesn’t charge travelers fees to change or cancel their flights, will waive fare differences for customers who need to change their trips because of the extended schedule disruption.

3. Family photo

Whether it’s for your family Christmas card or to frame for a gift to friends and family, now’s a great time to take that photo. You’ll have plenty of time to shop around for the  best price on high-quality prints.

 

Parents giving piggyback ride to kids at beach. Close up of smiling family having fun at summer vacation. Portrait of happy family looking at camera at beach.

Costco

It’s hard to beat Costco’s prices and service, but you need to be a member. However, right now it doesn’t appear you can order holiday photo cards—if you want to go this route. You’ll have to check back in a few months to see if their holiday templates are available.

Snapfish

You can get 5×7-inch photo cards printed for as little as $1 each when you order a package of 20—and the price goes down if you order more. Even though it’s July, Snapfish has its holiday templates available for you to order and print.

Vista Print

A great source for a postcard with your photos, plus many other options. VistaPrint has frequent specials and sales throughout the summer, so check back to see if you can get a deal at VistaPrint.com. Caution: You will be hounded throughout the order process to buy all kinds of “add-ons.” Don’t waste your money. Buy only what you came to buy.

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Make Your Own Natural Non-Toxic Ant Spray

If you’ve ever had to deal with an invasion of ants, you may know the meaning of exasperation. While the kids think ants are so cute the way they march in formation, stop to help one another, and work hard to prepare for their own life challenges ahead, it’s better to study these amazing creatures than to wake up to find a million or so feasting on that last piece of pie someone left out on the counter last night. While commercial ant sprays work well, most brands are expensive if not toxic.

 

Team of ants constructing wooden house in forest, teamwork, ant tales

Of course there are dozens of homemade remedies for dealing with ants—from poisoning them with boric acid, borax, or ammonia, but even those ingredients can create toxic situations for crawling babies, pets, and that salad you’re about to make on the counter where you just dealt with an ant attack.

Other methods, like one that promises to blow up their digestive systems with cornmeal—while perhaps better to use than harsh chemicals—can create a new challenge when the solution turns out to be messier than the problem.

All natural option

Today, I want to tell you about an effective recipe for an all-natural DIY ant spray made from ingredients that are toxic to ants but perfectly safe for pets* and people.

This recipe is safe, quick, natural (did I say that already?) and highly effective. And so handy. Just grab and go whenever you see a problem. You are going to love it.

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How to Make Ugly Soap Scum, Mildew, and Water Marks Disappear Like Magic

When all three messages landed in my inbox on the same day, the problem of soap scum, shower mildew, and hard water buildup grabbed my attention.

I’ve been told that if one person actually writes to me with a problem, that represents a thousand other readers with a similar situation. True or just slightly exaggerated, either way, three in one day tells me there’s a lot of this problem going on!

 

Ugly soap scum, mildew and water marks disappear like magic

How do you remove soap scum from shower walls and fl00r—and the hard water spots from shower doors? Diane

My shower mat has turned almost black. I have tried to clean it, but unsuccessfully. Can you help me? Ronnie

We recently remodeled our kitchen with stainless appliances. We have treated well water. The very first week we had a large water stain in the water dispenser area that I can’t get off. It looks terrible! Is there any way to remove it? Help! Pat

 

Quite possibly one of the best tips to ever land my mailbox came from a guy who is a professional property manager. He handles rental apartments and lots of them. As an apartment is vacated, his job is to see that it is thoroughly cleaned and made ready for the next occupants. 

This reader told me that the biggest challenge is always the bathroom, specifically the tub and shower. He kindly left specific details to my imagination but let me know that “gross” is not strong enough to describe what he often finds.

And that’s when he gave me his super magical potion—the only product he uses to return showers, tubs, tile, enclosures, faucets, and doors to their sparkling clean and sanitized selves.

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Update On My Favorite Laundry Detergent

Some of the strangest looks I get are from people who just don’t get why I would make my own laundry detergent when it is so readily available in just about any store. I’ve written about this before, but for those of you who aren’t convinced, I’d like another chance to change your mind.


Cost

You’re not surprised that this would be first on my list. In my own unscientific way, I have done exhaustive research on this. When a bottle of Tide or ALL laundry detergent promises “82 Loads” consider the fine print. Check it. Realistically, you have to cut that number of loads in half if you have a high-capacity washer. Read the instructions. They are talking about small loads of laundry.

My research has determined that on average, regularly priced laundry detergent costs from $.35 to $.50 per load of laundry. That may not sound like much to you until you consider that you can make your own detergent for about $.03 to $.05 per load. Read more