Archive for the ‘Cleaning’ Category

Preventing Falls at Home

January 15th, 2015

This time of year when you hear of people falling most likely you are thinking it is from icy sidewalks.  Each year though thousands of older Americans fall inside the home.  According to the National Council on Aging one in three older Americans falls every year.   Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for people aged 65+.  The elderly are not the only ones at risk for falling.  All of us including small children can be injured.

There are several things that can be done to help prevent falls.

  • Establish an exercise routine. Regular exercise helps improve strength and balance.
  • Make sure that you have your vision checked yearly. If your vision is not clear it can cause an increase in falls.
  • Wear shoes both inside and outside. Slippers and socks can sometimes have slippery soles.
  • Get up slowly after you have been sitting or lying down.
  • Go over all medication that you are taking with your doctor or pharmacist. Some can make you dizzy or sleepy without you realizing it.
  • Make sure that the lighting in the room is adequate. If there are dark areas it may lead to tripping over something that has been left on the floor.
  • Make sure if there are throw rugs that they have a non-slip backing so they don’t move when they are stepped on.
  • Keep unnecessary items off of the floor. Magazines, books, blankets as well as other items should always be picked up.
  • Make sure items are stored where they can be easily reached. If you must use a step stool make sure that it is steady and that a chair is never used.
  • Be sure that there are grab bars in a bathroom when needed by the shower, tub or toilet. If a shower or tub is slippery use a non-slip bath mat.
  • Use a night light so that you can see where you are walking at night when it is dark. Many now automatically come on by themselves when it gets dark.

With a few simple changes in a home falls can be prevented for not only older relatives but young ones as well.

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Cleaning, Consumer Management, Home Environment, Household Equipment, Housing

Suede Shoe Care

January 5th, 2015



It seems that every winter, I get those nasty salt lines on my suede leather shoes and boots from the salt used to combat ice on sidewalks and streets. Prevention is the best method, but there are ways to clean these unsightly stains to have your shoes back in top shape and looking great again.

Here are a few tips on caring for your leather footwear from the Shoe Service Institute of America:


Water Proofing: The key to keeping suede and nubuck in top condition is preventative maintenance.  Before you wear them in sloppy weather, spray the footwear with a water-repellant coating, (found at shoe or department stores), to prevent stains from occurring.  Check the label to be sure the spray is designed for suede and nubuck and be sure to allow time for the spray to dry before you wear the shoes.  You may have to retreat the shoes with the spray over time if you notice that water is no longer beading up on the surface.


Brushing: Use a plastic or rubber-tipped brush regularly to restore the nap and remove surface dirt before it sets in. Be gentle brushing nubuck.  It is softer than suede and is easily damaged.  With oiled nubuck, use a nubuck conditioner to replace some of those oils on a regular basis.

Stain Removal: If you get a stain on suede or nubuck, try to remove it immediately with a solvent-based cleaner made specifically for the material.  Oil absorbing blocks are also available. These blocks abrade the leather to bring back the nap and remove stains.  Use a less aggressive block with nubuck because of its more delicate nature.  You can also rub off overall dirt with a very soft eraser, or just lightly sand away stains with an emery board.  With more serious stains, you might be better off taking the shoe to a shoe repair professional.

With suede you can’t use oil based cleaners as they will stain the suede more than the salt. To clean pesky salt lines from suede shoes, try a mild blend of 1 teaspoon each of dish washing detergent and fabric softener in two cups of warm water. First brush the suede with a shoe brush to loosen and remove any salt and dirt that may be removed. Spray some of the solution on evenly over the suede and lightly brush it in. Wide off with a cloth dampened with clean water.





Stuff the shoes with crumpled newspaper to help retain their shape. Allow to dry then rub the suede with light sand paper to recover the texture.



With a little care and maintenance, your suede shoes will retain their beauty for a long time.

jill sig



Cleaning, Home Environment, Textiles, Winter

A Mouse in the House?

October 27th, 2014

mouse white background2Cooler weather makes us think about winter and all the things we have left to do before winter strikes. Mice are not unlike people in this aspect; as the weather cools they begin to look for a way to spend the winter inside your home.

The two most effective methods of ridding your home from mice are exclusion and trapping. You can exclude mice by plugging cracks and holes in the siding or foundation of your home that are ¼ of an inch or larger. Mice need a hole or crack only as large as their head to enter your home.  Since mice are excellent climbers, pay attention to loose windows and holes that contain pipes or cables.  Stuff steel wool into cracks and holes to prevent mice from entering.  Remember that you will not only prevent mice from entering but you may also be lowering your heating bill by tightening up the outside of your home.

Trapping mice is the only way to eliminate the species of mice that spends all it’s time inside your home. Traps set in the center of a room will not be very effective.  Set traps along walls or in the small spaces that mice use to travel inside the home.  If you notice mice droppings, or have seen a mouse moving in a space then you will want to place a trap there. You have a choice between live traps and kill traps.  The simple, cheap snap traps are an effective way to kill mice.  If you want to be more humane, choose a live trap. You may want to set multiple traps to increase the odds of catching a mouse. Peanut butter, moist oatmeal, or chocolate are three of the foods that seem to attract mice.

No matter which style of trap you choose, remember to check them daily. If a snap trap is used, you may need to re-bait or empty the trap.  Live traps should be checked daily; this ensures that you mice will be handled in a humane fashion.  Remember that mice can travel quite a distance and you should release them a good, long distance from your home.





Cleaning, Housing

Clean your drain easily

June 23rd, 2014


We often associate spring with deep cleaning in our home.  Dirty drains can add a funky odor to the kitchen.  We have two different recipes to either clean or freshen the kitchen sink drain.

Drains can be cleaned by mixing ¼ cup of baking soda, ¼ cup of salt and 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar. Pour this mixture in the drain and add ½ cup of white vinegar.  Allow it to stand for 30 minutes, and then flush with cold water.

If your drain just needs a bit of freshening, mix 2 tablespoons of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of salt, and one teaspoon of cream of tartar.  Pour this into the drain and flush slowly with water.

In no time at all, you have a clean (or fresher) kitchen drain.






















Cleaning, Consumer Management, Home Environment

Tips for Laundry Stain Removal

June 19th, 2014

One of the more frustrating things about doing laundry can be set in stains.  Follow these tips for best results.


Tips to Remember for Stain Removal:

• Take care of stains promptly. Fresh stains are much easier to remove than those over 24 hours old.

• Blot up any excess liquid with a clean white cloth or paper towel. Remove excess solids by gentle scraping or chipping with a dull knife or metal spatula. With some solids, such as heavy amounts of surface mud, removal may be easier after the stain has dried. Brush off the excess before the clothing is submerged for washing.

• Avoid rubbing the stained area with a linty terry towel or a dark-colored cloth. You may complicate the problem.

• Never rub a fresh stain with bar soap. Soap sets many stains.

• Check laundry for stains before washing. Many stains need pretreatment.

• Inspect wet laundry before drying to be sure a stain has been removed. If a stain is still evident, do not dryer dry. The heat of drying makes the stain more permanent.

• Before starting on the stain, test on a seam or hidden area of the garment to be sure stain removal products do not affect the color or finish of the fabric.

• Avoid excessive rubbing unless the fabric is tough and durable. Rubbing can spread the stain and damage the fiber, finish, or color of the fabric. However, gentle to vigorous rubbing and agitation under running water helps remove dried food, protein, or oil stains from shirts or jean-weight fabrics made of cotton or cotton/polyester blends.

• Do not iron or press stained fabrics until the stain is completely removed. Heat sets most stains.

• Wash heavily stained items separately. Soil and stains can be re-deposited on cleaner clothing during laundering if a) too little detergent is used; b) water temperature is too low; c) washing time is too long; or d) the washer is loaded with too many clothes.

• Avoid using hot water on stains of unknown origin. Hot water can set protein stains like milk, egg, or blood.

• Use the water temperature recommended by product manufacturer. Hot water should be between 120 and 140 degrees F, warm water between 85 and 105 degrees F, and cold water between 65 and 75 degrees F. Water below 60 degrees F is too cold for detergents to be helpful.



Cleaning, Consumer Management, Laundry, Textiles

Caring for a Hardwood Floor in your home

June 16th, 2014


I love the beauty and durability of my oak hardwood floors in my home.  I also appreciate the fact that they don’t trap dust particles that contribute to allergies and other health issues.  But I’ve often wondered what the best methods are to clean and maintain them? Well there’s good news!  I’ve done some research and I’ve discovered that caring for them is actually quite simple!wood floor pic

If your floor has a surface finish, such as polyurethane, the general maintenance steps are:

  1. SWEEP with a soft bristled broom.
  2. VACUUM with special bare floor attachments to get rid of dirt and dust.  Or use a good dust mop with a 12”-18” cotton head
  3. You can also CLEAN your floors periodically with a professional wood floor cleaning product recommended by a wood flooring professional. The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) can help you find a pro in your area.  Make sure your mop is well wrung out so that it is just damp. Standing water can dull the finish, damage the wood and leave a discoloring residue.

When cleaning no longer restores shine, recoat the floor with a surface finish.  How often you do this depends on the amount of traffic. If you have kids or pets, your floors may get lots of mud, water, sand, or dirt tracked on them regularly; they may need to be recoated more often.

***Never wax a surface-finished floor, and never use vinyl or tile floor care products on any wood floor.


Do you have a wax or penetrating-stain finish on your wood floor?  Here are steps to follow to maintain the finish:

  1. DUSTMOP or VACUUM regularly.
  2. Use a BUFFER to maintain the shine.  Follow manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations if known.

If buffing no longer restores shine, you may need to rewax.  Apply a cleaner and liquid wax specifically for wood floors.  Apply the wax evenly, allow the floor to dry, and buff to the desired luster. Most wood floors need to be rewaxed once or twice a year. Try not to overwax a wood floor.  If the floor dulls, try buffing instead. Avoid wax buildup under furniture and other low-traffic areas by applying wax half as often as in higher-traffic areas.

Is your wax finish soiled or discolored?  Use a combination liquid cleaner/wax made specifically for wood flooring.  Make sure it is solvent rather than water-based.  Spread the liquid cleaner/wax with a cloth or fine steel wool and rub gently to remove grime and old wax.  Wipe the floor clean, let it dry for about 20 minutes, then buff.

Never damp-mop a waxed floor.


  • Place mats and throw rugs at doorways to help protect wood floors from grit, dirt, and sand.
  • Place felt pads under furniture legs.
  • Vacuum or dust your wood floor regularly.
  • Avoid walking on floors with cleats, sports shoes, or high heels. Interestingly, a 125-pound woman walking in high heels has an impact of 2,000 pounds per square inch. An exposed heel nail can exert up to 8000 pounds per square inch!  Can you say “DENTS”?
  •  When moving furniture, do not slide it on the wood flooring. It’s best to pick it up to move it.
  • Use a humidifier during the winter months to minimize gaps or cracks.

Follow these steps to enjoy the beauty of your wood floors for years to come.

jill sig

Cleaning, Housing


June 5th, 2014


With Father’s Day fast approaching, I’ve been reminiscing about grilling in the backyard with my dad. He had an award-winning recipe for Grilled Stuffed Pork Chops and my mouth waters to this day just remembering biting into them. He was a livestock producer so we always had an abundance of fresh meat cuts to barbecue on the old Weber charcoal grill, along with fresh-picked Iowa sweet corn and my mom’s fresh garden vegetables. Such good memories!

Cleaning the grill was not such a fun memory, however. Like most people, I still don’t enjoy cleaning the grill; but a dirty grill can mean off flavors and/or excess smoke the next time you barbecue.  The following are  steps we can take to make this “dirty job” easier:


BEFORE lighting the grill, apply non-stick spray on the grates. This cuts down cleanup time later. The grates need to be cleaned completely after every use. Use a stiff wire brush (or if you don’t have one, crumpled up aluminum foil works for this). Most people don’t know that it’s actually better to do this AFTER you cook while the grill is still warm as cooling hardens the food on the grate.

CHARCOAL GRILLS:stock-photo-grill-138335288[1]

Many charcoal grills come with a handy ash catcher attached to the bottom. These grills still need to be cleaned after every use to help cut down on excess smoke and bad flavors. Simply brush out the ashes and cooked foods that have dropped to the bottom of the grill. Occasionally get in there and really scrape out that stuff that seems to develop on the bottom.. At least once a year, get out a bucket of soapy water and give it a really good clean and rinse.




timthumb[2]GAS GRILLS:

Your gas grill may have a “clean” setting on the knobs. I’m sorry to report that this is not how you clean your grill. It will burn up stuff that has fallen down into the grill, but it doesn’t really clean it. Like a charcoal grill, you need to clean your gas grill after each use by cleaning the grates and brushing off the sides and lid. Regularly lift out the cooking grate and clean off the barrier above the burners. This might be lava rock, briquettes, or some variation of metal plates, and cooked on grease and food particles should be cleaned periodically.

Once a year, do a more thorough cleaning on your gas grill. To do this, start by disconnecting the gas and then lift out the grill parts layer by layer. Once you get down to the burners, inspect them thoroughly. Make sure nothing is blocking the flow of gas. If a burner is clogged, it will give you uneven heat and make for poor grilling. If you can clean it, do so, otherwise, replace it. If your grill uses lava rocks or ceramic briquettes you need to make sure that these are not too heavily encrusted with cooked on foods. If they are, replace them to avoid bad tasting smoke that dirty rocks can produce.

Take everything out of the gas grill and clean it completely with soapy water. Heat up the grill completely before you cook again to make sure that any leftover soap residue burns off.

One more handy tip: I use rubber or plastic gloves to clean my grill – it saves fingernails and keeps soot and grime off the hands.

Taking these steps to clean your grill regularly will help ensure delicious barbecued meals time after time.  Make memories in the backyard with your friends and family and enjoy the summer grilling season – it flies by quickly!

jill sig

Cleaning, Food Preparation, Home Environment, Household Equipment

Help…I can’t see out of my windows!

May 5th, 2014

window cleaningDoes this nice warm weather make you want to get out and wash windows.  Here are a few hints that may help you.

• Most professionals use a small amount of hand dishwashing detergent (such as Ivory, Dove, Dawn) and warm water along with a squeegee to remove water to help prevent streaking;

• Homemade window cleaner =½ cup vinegar or ammonia to one quart warm water;

• For greasy or heavily soiled windows, use ½ cup ammonia, 1 pint rubbing alcohol, ¼ tsp. dish detergent, 1 gallon water

Remember, streaking is often caused by heat in the glass, and consequently drying too fast.  So, plan to wash the windows while they are in the shade for the best results.

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Pantry Pests

March 27th, 2014

Moths2There is nothing like the surprise you get when you open a package from your pantry and find “little friends” wiggling around inside. Finding insects inside stored food is a common problem.  There are many different types of insects that invade stored food. They eat a very small amount of food but most people find the remaining food unappetizing and unfit for consumption. Fortunately, the bugs do not fly, sting, or bite people.

Nearly all dry food products are susceptible to insect infestation, including flour, cake mix, cornmeal, rice, spaghetti, crackers, cookies, seeds such as dried beans and popcorn, nuts, chocolate, raisins and other dried fruits, spices, powdered milk, and cured meats. Non-food items can be infested too.  Some of these include birdseed, dry pet food, ornamental seed and dried plant displays, ornamental corn, dried flowers, garden seeds, potpourri, and rodent baits.

The infestation can happen anywhere; at the food processing plant, during transport or food storage, at grocery store, or inside your home. Food products that are left undisturbed on the shelves for long periods are particularly susceptible to infestation. However, foods of any age can become infested. Stored food insects are capable of penetrating unopened paper, thin cardboard, and plastic, foil or cellophane wrapped packages. They may chew their way into packages or crawl in through folds and seams. Insects within an infested package begin multiplying and can spread to other stored foods or food debris that has accumulated in corners, cracks and crevices, and eventually the entire cupboard. All stages (egg, larva, pupa, and adult) may be present simultaneously in infested products.

While it is not always possible to prevent an infestation, following these suggestions may limit your exposure to this problem.

  1.  Purchase dried foods in quantities small enough to be used up in a short period of time. Use oldest products before newer ones, and opened packages before unopened ones.
  2. Inspect packages or bulk products before buying. Packages should be sealed and unbroken. Also check the freshness packaging date. Look for evidence of insects, including holes in the packaging or wrapping.
  3. Store insect-free foods in tightly closed glass, metal or heavy plastic containers. Refrigerate or freeze small amounts of highly susceptible foods.
  4. Keep food storage areas clean. Do not allow crumbs or spilled food to accumulate. Remove and discard old, unused products and inspect the remainder.


Cleaning, Food Safety

Repairing Water Rings on Furniture

March 24th, 2014

Water Stain

I love beautiful wooden furniture – oak, maple, cherry, walnut, etc. – each wood has it’s own character and I love them all.  Though I try to be careful in preventing water stains, either from glasses left on wood without a coaster or from water leaking out of a saucer under a freshly watered plant, I have still had more than my share of water stained furniture. Water rings commonly appear as a filmy gray spot and can be easy to remove. Follow one of the following steps in repair:

1. Rub with wax and 4/0 (very fine) steel wool.

2. Rub spot lightly with a soft, lintless cloth moistened with camphorated oil. Wipe immediately using a clean cloth.

3. Dip a small piece of cheesecloth in hot water to which has been added two or three drops of household ammonia. Wring cloth out tightly and rub spot lightly.

4. Place a clean, thick blotter over the spot and press with a warm, not hot, iron. If this does not work, rub with a cleaning polish or wax.

• White Marks, Spots, and/or Rings — White marks, spots, or rings on furniture are generally caused by some change in the finish due to heat, alcohol or moisture. Successful removal will depend on sufficiently warming and blending the surface without making it rough. Remember that not all substances will work on all finishes. Begin with the mildest and continue to try stronger ones until the spot has been removed. Blemishes of this nature are similar to others listed. Usually the direct cause of the blemish is not known so that they are treated as one group.

1. Mix equal parts of boiled or raw linseed oil, turpentine, vinegar and rub the surface gently.

2. Rub lightly over the spot with a cloth dampened in a mixture of water and household ammonia (one part water to two parts ammonia).

3. Place a piece of blotting paper over the spot and press over it with a warm iron.

4. For varnished or shellacked surfaces (not lacquered) rub the spot with a cloth dampened in essence of peppermint, spirits of camphor, or turpentine and water. Watch carefully to see that the surface does not become tacky or sticky. When dry, apply a good wax furniture polish or polish with the oil and turpentine mixture.

5. Moisten a small cotton pad with alcohol or dilute shellac in addition to a few drops of raw linseed oil. Rub over the spot in the directions of the grain.

CAUTION: Use care in working with any treatment that requires a cleaning compound. Some products are highly volatile and inflammable. Provide some means of fresh air in the meeting room if possible. Caution the group about smoking while treatment is in process. Read manufacturers labels and heed their warnings. Replace caps immediately after pouring liquids. Do not let containers of flammable liquids stand uncovered. Place cover on container while you work. Place rags or papers used in metal covered cans after use. Or destroy them at once.




Source: Linda R. Adler, M.A., Extension Specialist for Home Furnishings, University of Kentucky, HF-LRA.048;

FURNSURF.2; Revised 12/96