RE/MAX real estate Newsletter - March 2018 Edition

In This Issue - Cleaning & Decluttering

The only thing more satisfying than a clean, organized home is when you didn't have to totally burn yourself out getting it that way. We've got the cleaning tips and decluttering ideas you need, right from the tidiness experts and real homeowners with consistently neat abodes.

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Once there’s even a glimmer of spring, you’re ready to throw open your windows and let the breeze blow away the winter funk. Well, you might want to rethink that spring cleaning ritual this year.

If you’re an allergy sufferer (and who isn’t?), that’s the last thing you want to do, says Dr. Neeta Ogden, a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “It will allow pollen to settle in your home.”

If you really can’t skip that spring breeze, avoid opening them in the morning, pollen counts are highest in the morning; they decrease late in the day and at night.

And that’s not the only common spring-cleaning mistake homeowners make. Here are eight more to avoid:

#1 Not Looking Up

You’ve worked up a sweat and everything’s starting to sparkle, but then you realize your ceiling fan is coated in dust. Uh, oh. Once you start wiping the fan, dust will scatter on what you’ve already cleaned. That’s why you should always look up to see what needs dusting before you start cleaning at eye level. Tackle hard-to-reach places like the tops of bookshelves, crown molding, and window ledges.

#2 Starting to Clean Without a Plan

You wake up motivated — today you’re going to get all your spring cleaning done! But by noon, your house is in disarray, and not one single room is finished. Ugh. That’s why Briana Norde, owner of Caliber Cleaning Inc. says it pays to break up the biggest cleaning project of the year into smaller, more manageable tasks.

She recommends conquering your hardest job first, like the kitchen, which she calls the “most time-consuming room.” With that first accomplishment under your belt, you’ll have the momentum to take on the remaining tasks. The key is to give yourself plenty of breaks. And there’s nothing wrong with spreading it out over several days.

#3 Ignoring That Weird-Looking Vacuum Attachment

Don’t let your carpet hog the vacuum. The crevice tool, Norde says, “is not used nearly enough.” Use it between your wall and refrigerator to get out the accumulated dust that’s otherwise unreachable, and run it around the edge of your baseboards to clean where standard upright vacuums can’t reach.

#4 Skipping the Mattress

Think of how much time you spend in your bed. Yet, you probably clean the top of your fridge more often than your mattress. Your mattress harbors millions of dust mites, which cause various respiratory conditions including sneezing, a runny nose, itchy eyes, and skin rashes (not to mention just being plain gross).

“[Dust mites’] food is human skin scales, so the bed is just heaven for them,” says Ogden.

She recommends using a vapor steam cleaner to root out the itchy devils, then wrapping it in an anti-allergen mattress protector.

At the very least, sprinkle your mattress with baking soda and let it sit for awhile. Then (using the attachment mentioned above) vacuum it up.

#5 Relying on Harsh Cleaners

There’s a reason many commercial cleaners have the words ”danger,” “hazard,” or “caution,” on their labels. Something in the ingredients is toxic in one form or another, and most all could aggravate allergies and asthma. So, “don’t go crazy with cleaners you don’t need,” says Ogden. Moldy bathrooms may scream for bleach, but most surfaces do not. Ogden recommends making your own solution of water and vinegar (use a fifty-fifty ratio), which will keep most surfaces clean and germ-free.

#6 Using Chemical Air Fresheners

You want your home to smell fresh, so it’s tempting to reach for that mountain-rain-spring-fresh-scent in a can. But aerosol air fresheners contain high levels of toxic pollutants like phthalates, which can affect hormone levels, cause reproductive abnormalities, and increase allergies and asthma. Yikes. Try homemade (and less-expensive) alternatives, such as potpourri, or essential oils and water in a spray bottle.

#7 Leaving the Clutter

All of the spring cleaning tips and advice are useless if you don’t declutter first.

“We tend to not clean well around clutter,” says Ogden. “You’re not going to reach the dust there.”

Make sure toys are put away, books are back on the bookshelf, and paperwork is filed before you begin the cleaning process. Otherwise, you’re leaving room for dust and pollen to hide — making spring cleaning all for naught.

#8 Treating It Like a Chore

If you dread spring cleaning, this should make you feel better: a Harvard study found those who treated cleaning as beneficial exercise saw a decrease in weight, body mass index, blood pressure, and more. That’s what we call a trifecta: living in a clean home, breathing allergy-free air, and feeling great!
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Ahhh! Sparkling floors, gleaming windows, and zero dust bunnies. A thorough cleaning can make your abode feel brand new. But that immaculate house comes with a price — sore biceps.

Instead of skimping on your annual deep clean because you’re zonked, use these brilliant hacks for nine of the most pain-in-the-butt tasks. You’ll get the same pristine results with half the time and energy.

#1 Break Out the Drill on Your Bathtub

Cleaning a grungy tub can be back-breaking work. But here’s a genius idea that’ll save you time and sweat: Use your drill. Simply attach a scrubby (or a foam ball polishing attachment if you happen to have one) and use it to do the scrubbing for you. Look in the automotive section for the attachment, which is made specially for tackling grime without scratching surfaces.

#2 Soak Stove Burners in Ammonia

Your stove burners take the bulk of the greasy, gunky mess during cooking, so do them a favor and give them a good cleaning. Don’t worry: No scrubbing involved. To clear the crud, combine your stove burners and 1/4 cup ammonia in a plastic bag and let sit overnight. They should come clean with a light sponge the next day.

#3 Run Floor Vents Through the Dishwasher

Scour as you might, removing all the accumulated dirt and dust from your floor and ceiling vents can be a spring cleaner’s nightmare. If yours are made of aluminum or steel, there’s a shortcut to spic-and-span: Just run them through the dishwasher on a water-only cycle.

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#4 Iron Out Bad Carpet Stains

Don’t spend an hour scrubbing out that nasty, set-in carpet splotch. Iron it out instead. Spritz a solution of one part vinegar, three parts water on the stain, and lay a clean cotton cloth on top. Turn your iron to its highest steam setting and run it over the stain for about 10 seconds to transfer the stain to the cloth and off your carpet.

#5 Tie a Bag of Vinegar Around Your Showerhead

Mineral build-up on your showerhead can cause low water pressure and wonky water streams. But it’s easy to clean them without removing them. Using a rubber band, attach a bag of vinegar to your showerhead, making sure all the holes are submerged in the vinegar, and soak it overnight. Voilà. Good as new.

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#6 Make Your Leaf Blower Multi-Task

Forget the broom and rags when you’re cleaning out the garage. Whip out your leaf blower and let it blow all the dust, debris, and dead bugs (yuck!) away from the floor and shelving. Just be sure to put away light-weight things could accidentally get blown out with the trash.

#7 Get Rid of Crayon Marks with Goo Gone

Removing evidence of your toddler’s overactive imagination from your gorgeous white walls can be a struggle, but a little bit of Goo Gone (traditionally used to clean sticker residue) will remove the crayon and your headache. Spray it on the drawing, wait a moment, and wipe it off cleanly — without exhausting your arms.

#8 Boil Your Range Filter

There’s no need to scrub the grease and grime off your range filters. Use a bit of baking soda and your largest pot instead. Set the water to boil, slowly add 1/2 cup of baking soda, and submerge your filters for about five minutes. (Make sure to dump the water somewhere safe. Grease in the drain is even worse than grimy filters.)
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#9 Sprinkle Your Mattress With Baking Soda

Your mattress needs a springtime refresh, too, but you sure can’t toss it in the washing machine. Cleaning gurus recommend dragging your mattress outside, beating it, and letting the sunshine help freshen it, then dragging it back in. But who has the muscle for that? This is much easier: Use a kitchen strainer to sprinkle baking soda over its surface and let sit for an hour or longer. Longer is better. Then use your vacuum’s upholstery attachment to suck up the odor-absorbing soda.
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When cleaning your home, why not do it in such a way that’ll keep your home cleaner with less effort?

Here are 7 ways to keep your spring-clean fresh all year long:

#1 Use Humidity to Defy Dust

Low humidity levels cause static electricity. Not only does static attract dust, it makes it stick, so it’s difficult to remove. High humidity causes problems, too — it’s an ideal environment for dust mites. These microscopic critters are a double threat: They’re a common allergen, and they contribute to dust production. There are as many as 19,000 dust mites in half a teaspoon of house dust, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Yuck!

What to do: Keep your home’s humidity level between 40% and 50%. That’ll eliminate static while decreasing dust mite growth.

Tip: About 80% of dirt in homes walks in from the outside. Stop dirt with a bristly doormat before it’s tracked inside.

#2 Apply a Car Product to Keep Shower Doors Scum-Free

You can eliminate soap scum build-up by coating your glass shower doors with a rain-repellent product made for car windshields. When applied to glass, products like these create an invisible barrier that causes water, oils, and debris (like soap suds) to bead and roll off.

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What to do: Find this product anywhere that sells basic auto supplies. You’ll know it’s time to reapply when water stops beading on shower doors. Keep in mind, windshield rain repellants were made to treat glass, not plastic, so only use on glass door.

Another option: Automatic shower cleaners claim to let you clean your shower and tub less frequently — like every 30 days. After you finish bathing, the gadget will douse your shower and tub with a cleanser that prevents soap scum build-up while combating mold and mildew. You can buy automatic shower cleaners at most big-brand retailers, like Target and Walmart.

#3 Seal Your Stone Countertops

Natural stone countertops, including granite and marble, are porous, so if they’re not sealed, liquids like red wine, juice, or soy sauce can stain them. A countertop sealer repels stains by causing spills to bead instead of getting absorbed. Most countertops are sealed when installed, but the sealant does wear down.

What to do: To keep your countertops in tip-top shape, re-apply sealer twice a year. To see if you need a fresh coat, pour a tiny bit of water on your natural stone countertop. If the water doesn’t bead or doesn’t stay beaded for two to three minutes, it’s time to reseal.

Shopping for stone countertops? Slabs with lots of swirls or veins tend to be more porous, and, therefore harder to keep clean.

#4 Use Protectants on Furniture and Carpets

Protective furniture sprays and carpet sealants, like Scotchgard and Ultra-Guard, guard against inevitable spills by causing liquids to bead on the surface instead of being absorbed.

Some of these products also protect fabrics from fading and resist mold, mildew, and bacteria.

What to do: Apply the appropriate sealer once a year after a deep upholstery and carpet cleaning.

#5 Clean Your Oven the Old-Fashioned Way

Forget oven cleaners that promise an easy job. Most cleaners give off noxious fumes and make a horrible mess. The basic ingredient in many oven cleaners is lye, which can burn your eyes and your skin; it’s usually fatal if swallowed.

What to do: Use a wet pumice stone to scrape off dirt and grease. It’s faster than oven cleaner and toxin-free.

Tip: Need to wipe your range or anything else down? You can bust filth faster by heating up a clean, damp sponge or cloth in a microwave for 30 seconds before wiping with or without a cleaning product. Put on rubber gloves before you pick up that hot sponge.

#6 Do Quick Touch-Ups

Small cleaning projects prevent filth from building up. When you spot clean daily, you can prevent smudges from staining, banish dust bunnies, and even combat allergens.
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What to do: Create a spot-cleaning kit so you can address small, dirty situations in minutes.

  • Cleaning pads are great for eradicating dirty fingerprints on walls and light switches.

  • Damp micro-cloths can reduce airborne dander when used daily to wipe down pets.

  • Dry sweeper cloths can quickly pick up dust and dry dirt off floors, shelves, and electronics.

Tip: Keep stored items cleaner longer by shutting closets, cabinets, and drawers, so circulating dust and dirt can’t get in.

#7 Update Your Light Bulbs

Okay, It’s not really cleaning. But good lighting can make you and your home look and feel great — and help you spot that spill before it gets funky.

A room lit with low-wattage incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescents can look dark and dingy. “Daylight” bulbs brighten things up. These full-spectrum light bulbs mimic natural light, so they give better visual accuracy. Bonus: Like sunlight, these bulbs can boost your mood.

What to do: When shopping for bulbs, look for those marked “daylight” that have a range between 5,000 to 6,500 kelvins.

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There’s a certain sense of calm and satisfaction that comes from seeing things well-organized.

This can feel downright indulgent in the bathroom, where there’s so much to corral and function often overrules form.

#1 Keep Things Bright, White, and Open

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Space can be tight in the bathroom, but one trick to make it at least feel larger is to keep the color scheme bright and white.

Even better? Install some open shelving. It helps you use — but still see — every extra inch of available space. So things seem extra roomy.

#2 Tame Under-Sink Clutter with Baskets and Bins

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To keep the cabinet underneath your sink from becoming a toiletries landfill, use baskets and storage containers to keep the space organized and satisfyingly symmetrical.

Clear containers with drawers make it easy to see (and get a hold of) what’s inside, plus they’re a cinch to stack — a great shortcut for making things look neat and tidy.

And if you’ve got some empty space below the cabinet itself, slide some baskets in down there too. It was just a floor. Now, it’s storage space.

#3 Get Creative with Unused Space

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Don’t have enough space to stash your unruly cluster of styling tools? Yes, you do. Converting the wasted space under the basin into a sneaky hidey-hole keeps them out of sight, but still within easy reach.

No one will ever suspect a thing.

#4 Create Storage Out of Thin Air

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And speaking of unused space …

Attach shelving to cabinet and closet doors, which is usually space that gets overlooked. Hanging wire baskets create extra storage out of thin air.

Plus, it helps make all those little bathroom items super easy to find.

#5 Make the Tiny Stuff Easy to Find with Labels

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A designated medicine bucket or shelf might be good in theory, but when you just need an aspirin, who has time to rifle through cold meds and Band-Aids (and cotton balls and sunscreen, and why are there chopsticks in here)?

Instead, cut down your search time by sorting things into smaller categories so everything is easy to find.

You can even do your future self a favor by labeling your bins.

#6 Spruce Things Up with Symmetry

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Aaaahhh, that tranquil feeling that symmetry can bring. It’s a classy touch that can also be instantly calming and super satisfying.

Achieve that visceral sense of calm by using matching towels (or alternating colors), repeating textures in storage baskets, or arranging ornaments like candles in neat rows.

#7 Splurge on Built-Ins in the Shower

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Wading through bottles every time you step into the shower?

Nix the awkward rack hanging from the shower head and give your feet some breathing room by springing for some built-in shelves (with their own greenery, if you’re really feeling fancy).

You can even make it a double …

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#8 Pull It All Together for a Bathroom Worth Spending Time in

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A breezy color palette that feels blissfully bright and open? Check.

Peace-inducing symmetry? Check.

Easy-to-find, perfectly arranged essentials? Check.

Yup, storage really can be a work of art. Or, at least, it can help make your bathroom’s official vibe “serene and satisfying.”

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When it’s time to clean, have your trusty green cleaners at the ready — baking soda, vinegar — plus another ultra-cheap gem: hydrogen peroxide. You can use it anywhere, and can’t beat the price: A 16-oz. bottle only costs a buck or so.

Here are 10 ways you can use that ubiquitous brown bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide to your home’s advantage:

In Your Kitchen

1. Clean your cutting board and countertop. Hydrogen peroxide bubbles away any nasties left after preparing meat or fish for dinner. Add hydrogen peroxide to an opaque spray bottle — exposure to light kills its effectiveness — and spray on your surfaces. Let everything bubble for a few minutes, then scrub and rinse clean.

2. Wipe out your refrigerator and dishwasher. Because it’s non-toxic, hydrogen peroxide is great for cleaning places that store food and dishes. Just spray the appliance outside and in, let the solution sit for a few minutes, then wipe clean.

3. Clean your sponges. Soak them for 10 minutes in a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and warm water in a shallow dish. Rinse the sponges thoroughly afterward.

4. Remove baked-on crud from pots and pans. Combine hydrogen peroxide with enough baking soda to make a paste, then rub onto the dirty pan and let it sit for a while. Come back later with a scrubby sponge and some warm water, and the baked-on stains will lift right off.

In Your Bathroom

5. Whiten bathtub grout. If excess moisture has left your tub grout dingy, first dry the tub thoroughly, then spray it liberally with hydrogen peroxide. Let it sit for a little while (it may bubble slightly), then come back and scrub the grout with an old toothbrush. You may have to repeat the process a few times, depending on how much mildew you have, but eventually your grout will be white again.
6. Clean the toilet bowl. Pour half a cup of hydrogen peroxide into the toilet bowl, let stand for 20 minutes, then scrub clean.

In Your Laundry Room

7. Remove stains from clothing, curtains, and tablecloths. Hydrogen peroxide can be used as a pre-treater for stains — just soak the stain for a little while in 3% hydrogen peroxide before tossing into the laundry. You can also add a cup of peroxide to a regular load of whites to boost brightness. It’s a green alternative to bleach, and works just as well.

Anywhere in Your House

8. Brighten dingy floors. Combine half a cup of hydrogen peroxide with one gallon of hot water, then go to town on your flooring. Because it’s so mild, it’s safe for any floor type, and there’s no need to rinse.

9. Clean kids’ toys and play areas. Hydrogen peroxide is a safe cleaner to use around kids, or anyone with respiratory problems, because it’s not a lung irritant. Fill an opaque spray bottle with hydrogen peroxide and spray toys, toy boxes, doorknobs, and anything else your kids touch on a regular basis. You could also soak a rag in peroxide to make a wipe.


10. Help out your plants. To ward off fungus, add a little hydrogen peroxide to your spray bottle the next time you’re spritzing plants. Use a 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide added to one gallon of water for your plants.
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It’s time for you to take a trip. You won’t need airfare or luggage. Just a passport.

I’m talking about the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail’s annual Vino in the Valley event. It’s held each weekend in March at member wineries. With your “passport,” (aka ticket), you’ll find delicious food and wine pairings each weekend.

Vino in the Valley offers a great incentive to get out to the wineries and explore what they have to offer.

Here’s how it works: You buy a $35 passport, which entitles you to visit any (or all) of the wineries each weekend in March. You passport is stamped each time you visit a winery.

You can buy your passport online at lehighvalleywinetrail.com by Feb. 23 (it will be mailed to you). Or you can buy it at the wineries, either in advance or on the day of the events.

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