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Spring Seasonal Tips

Fall
Winter
Spring
Summer

Start Outdoor Spring Cleaning in the Garage
Bust the Dust in an Earth Friendly Way
Special Tips on Cleaning Miniblinds
Improving Energy Efficiency in Your House Part Two
Tips on Allergy-Proofing Your Yard
Tips on Saving Water Inside and Out
April Garden Checklist
Protecting Your Children from Lead Poisoning

Start Outdoor Spring Cleaning in the Garage

It's easy to make the garage a "catch-all" room for all those things we don't really have a place to put. Before long, you've got a real mess on your hands, and the garage isn't really useful for keeping those things that need to be there organized and protected from the weather. If you start your spring cleaning in the garage, you can get those garden tools and other necessary items neatly arranged for a season of handy access. Here are some tips for organizing your garage.

  • Arrange items that you want to keep into separate piles.
  • Determine what kinds of containers will best store these items.
  • Hang pegs to organize certain items even lawn chairs can be stored on long pegs.
  • Bicycles can be hung from the rafters when not in use. When the bicycles are in use, assign a certain place for them to be parked.
  • Keep as many items off the floor as possible so it's easy to sweep often. (Twice a month is a good schedule. Remember that dust from the garage often ends up in the house.)
  • If you have bare studs in the garage, place slats of wood across the studs to create bins for items like sports equipment and gardening tools.
  • Hammer nails into the wall or into the studs for tools and other articles.
  • Keep similar items together in marked containers and go through them once a season to clean out things you're not using anymore.
  • Hang shelves and keep storage containers marked with items like toys, tennis balls, nails, lawn chemicals, etc.
  • Use hooks instead of nails for items such as outdoor clothing, backpacks, umbrellas, etc.
  • Keep the items you'll need for the season (rakes, lawnmowers, etc.) close to the front of the garage.
  • Strap items like bats and fishing rod together for easier storage and transport.
  • Take this organizing opportunity to make inventory of items you'll need for the spring such as missing garden tools.
  • Hang garden hose, spare tires and other unwieldy equipment up to prevent accidents.

Bust the Dust in an Earth Friendly Way

Feel like being a little more environmentally conscious this spring? Here are some earth-friendly cleaning recipes to help:

All Purpose Cleaner

  • 4 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 quart warm water

Dissolve baking soda in the warm water. Apply with a sponge or spray with a spray bottle. Use to clean and deodorize all kitchen and bathroom surfaces. Rinse with clear water.

Drain Cleaner

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • Boiling water

Pour baking soda down the drain. Add white vinegar and cover the drain if possible. Let stand for 5 minutes, then pour a pot of hot water down the drain. The vinegar and baking soda will break down fatty acids into soap and glycerin, and wash the clog down the drain.

CAUTION: Don't use this method if you have used a commercial drain opener that may still be present in the drain.

Drain Opener

Use a plunger or a flexible metal snake to loosen clogged drains. Do not use in the presence of harsh or toxic chemicals.

Lime and Mineral Deposit Remover

Soak cleaning cloths in vinegar then apply the cloths to the lime deposits around faucets. Leave the cloths there for approximately one hour. The deposits will soften and can be wiped easily.

Oven Cleaner

  • Baking soda
  • Very fine steel wool

Sprinkle water on oven surface. Apply baking soda and rub using a very fine steel wool. Wipe off with a damp sponge. Rinse well and dry.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Sprinkle baking soda into the bowl, then pour some vinegar in and scour with a toilet brush. This combination cleans and deodorizes.

Furniture Polish

  • 3 cups olive oil
  • 1 cup vinegar

Mix well. Use a clean, soft cloth to apply to furniture.

Disinfectant

  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 gallon hot water

CAUTION: Borax is a toxic ingredient. Handle it with care and store safely.

Special Tips on Cleaning Miniblinds

When the sun starts shining in the windows, you can really see the dust of the winter on miniblinds. Dust is also a hazard for health problems, so take some time to get all those miniblinds sparkling clean and dust-free. Here are some tips to make it easier:

  • Put you hands in a pair of socks instead of using a rag.
  • Dip one hand into a bucket of warm, soapy water and hold the blinds between your hands.
  • Rub back and forth until the surface is clean.
  • Reverse the sides so the dry sock dries the blinds.
  • Wipe blinds with a damp fabric softener sheet to eliminate static. (Static collects dust.)

Or, you can take the blinds down and clean them this way:

  • Take the blinds down and take them outside.
  • Lay them on an old blanket preferably on a slanted area of the yard.
  • Let the blinds out all the way and make sure all the louvers are flat.
  • Mix up a bucket of all-purpose cleaner or ammonia solution.
  • Scrub with a soft brush, then turn it over to do the backside.
  • By now the blanket is wet and is helping to clean the blinds and protect them.
  • Hang the blinds on a clothesline and hose them off.
  • Gentle shaking will help them drip dry.

Improving Energy Efficiency in Your House Part Two

An energy-efficient home is not only more economical; it's also healthier. Causes of poor air quality such as humidity, drafts, cold windows in the winter or hot windows in the summer, are all lessened by improvements in energy-efficiency. Here are some more tips on keeping your home efficient and healthy.

Kitchen

  • Defrost your freezer if the ice is 5mm thick.
  • Keep refrigerator condenser coil free from dust by vacuuming frequently.
  • Make sure the magnetic door seal on the refrigerator doesn't leak
  • Make sure the on/off cycle of your refrigerator works properly.
  • Use the kettle, not the microwave, to heat small amounts of water.
  • Use only the amount of water you need in the kettle.
  • Keep cold water in the refrigerator for drinking.
  • Use cooking utensils that have a flat base and tight sealing lids.
  • Check the oven seal for leaking heat.
  • Run only full loads in the dishwasher.

Laundry Room

  • Set the hot water heater thermostat to no more than 65 degrees Celsius.
  • Insulate hot water pipes well.
  • Turn off hot water system if you're going on vacation.
  • Repair leaking hot water taps.
  • Have hot water heater checked periodically by a professional.
  • Use cold water to wash clothes when possible.
  • Don't overload the clothes dryer.
  • Clean lint filter from dryer after each use.

Tips on Allergy-Proofing Your Yard

Getting those red itchy eyes and runny noses again? Sinuses clogged? Sneezing all the time? Maybe it's those awful allergies. Pollen is the cause of that and some plants are worse than others about spreading the stuff around. Here are some tips for allergy-proofing your yard and allergy-smart gardening.

  • Plants with bright pretty flowers cause less allergy problems because they rely on insects to transfer the pollen.
  • Plants that rely on the wind to spread the pollen produce large amounts of pollen.
  • Rain helps to wash pollen out of the air, but it also breeds mold, mildew and weeds. If you are allergic to mold, avoid gardening after a good rain.
  • Keep your garden well weeded and keep the grass cut short.
  • Wear a mask when gardening or doing lawn work.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and wash them when you're finished.
  • Avoid gardening in the early morning or at sundown when pollen counts are highest.
  • Keep the yard and garden free of weeds such as ragweed, dock, English plantain and lamsquarters.
  • Protect your eyes with glasses or sunglasses.
  • Take a shower when you come in from the yard.

Plants to watch out for:

  • Male junipers
  • Fruitless mulberries
  • Seedless ashes
  • Cottonless cottonwoods
  • Elm, sycamore, olive, oak, walnut, maple, birch, ash, willow and pecan trees
  • Cypress and privet hedges
  • Bermuda grass
  • Bluegrass
  • Artemisia
  • Amaranth
  • Sorrel

Plants that won't aggravate allergies:

  • Fruited mulberry, pear, silk, magnolia, palm, redbud, yew and fir trees
  • Azalea, oleander, yucca, pyracantha and hibiscus shrubs
  • Cacti
  • Lilies
  • Iris
  • Tulips
  • Crocus
  • Hyacinths
  • Daffodils
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Roses
  • Bougainvillea
  • Ferns
  • Orchids
  • Gladiolas

Tips on Saving Water Inside and Out

Using excess water or having leaks can cost you hundreds of dollars a year in wasted water. A simple toilet leak can use 50 extra gallons of water a day, and a faucet leak can waste up to 5,000 gallons a year. We've got some tips for keeping that water bill down.

Saving water indoors

  • Think you might have a leak? Check by reading your water meter before and after a 2-hour period when water hasn't been run in your home. If the reading isn't exactly the same, you've got a leak.
  • If you've got a well-water system and the pump comes on when no one is using water, you have a leak.
  • Find out if the toilet is leaking by putting a few drops of food coloring into the toilet tank. If the color leaks into the bowl, replace the flapper.
  • Get those dripping faucets repaired. Usually it's a simple matter of replacing worn washers. Check all the washers in the house and replace them all at once.
  • Replace "sticky" toilet handles.
  • Make sure the flapper ball in the tank seats correctly.
  • Don't use the toilet as a wastebasket or ashtray. Avoid unnecessary flushing.
  • Install faucet aerators to slow the flow of water.
  • Rinse vegetables over a large bowl and reuse what would have gone down the drain to water plants.
  • Keep drinking water in the refrigerator to avoid letting water run until it gets cool enough to drink.
  • Defrost foods in the microwave instead of under running water.
  • Insulate water heater and water pipes. (65% of the water you use is hot water.)

Saving water in the bathroom

  • Don't let the water run continuously when you are shaving, brushing your teeth, etc.
  • Replace two-handle systems with single-lever faucets.
  • Shower instead of bathe.
  • Install low-flow showerheads that reduce water use up to half but still give a great feeling shower.
  • Get a showerhead with a "shower off" button to conserve water while you lather up.
  • Take shorter showers. Five-minute showers per day for a four-member family use about 28,000 gallons of water per year.

Saving water in cleaning

  • Older standard washing machines use up to 50 gallons of water per load, Newer models use only 11-30 gallons.
  • Don't wash half loads, and if you do, adjust the water level.
  • Presoaking prevents having to re-wash heavily soiled clothes.
  • Soak dirty dishes instead of rinsing each dish separately.
  • If you're washing dishes in a double sink, wash them all at once and rinse them all at once.
  • Replace an old, water-inefficient dishwasher. You can save 10 to 20 gallons of water per wash cycle.
  • Select the water-saving cycle on your dishwasher.

Saving water outdoors

  • Landscape with plants that need less water.
  • Don't overwater. Buy a gauge to measure the rain your lawn gets.
  • Water lawns during the time of day when temperature and wind speed are lowest to reduce evaporation.
  • Put a timer on your sprinklers so you don't forget to turn them off.
  • Over-fertilization increases your lawn's need for watering. Don't over feed.
  • Use a soaker hose instead of a sprinkler system to better target the water to your plants.
  • Mulch plants well to retain moisture.
  • Make sure your sprinkler system isn't watering the sidewalk, driveway or street.
  • Set your lawnmower blades to 3 inches or higher to encourage you lawn to grow deeper roots and hold moisture better.
  • Use water-saving filters in your pool.

April Garden Checklist

In most places, it's pretty safe to start thinking gardening when April rolls around. Here's your April garden checklist.

Early April

  • Plant some garden peas. They are easy to grow and add great taste to all sorts of dishes.
  • If the danger of frost is over in your area, plant fuchsias, pelargoniums and geraniums.
  • Start the brightening up by planting annuals and perennials.
  • Don't have room in the garden for vegetables? Consider using containers for tomatoes, eggplant, cucumber or green peppers.

Mid April

  • Got roses? Now's the time to feed them to increase the number and size of your blooms.
  • If you know of dry spots in your garden, plant drought resistant, attractive shrubs like crape myrtle, oleander, wild lilac and rosemary.
  • For sunny, hot locations in the garden try geraniums.

Mid-to-late April

  • Plant gardenia shrubs in a warm, sunny corner for sweet scent and lovely flowers. Try planting them under a window for a special treat when the breeze blows in!
  • Begin mulching in flowerbeds around shrubs and annuals to conserve moisture and reduce weeds.
  • Want great color? Try planting petunias about now. For more blooming, pull off dead blooms every day.
  • If deciduous flowering shrubs have bloomed, it's the best time to prune them.
  • When camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons stop blooming, feed them with acid fertilizer.

Late April

  • Feed the lawn.
  • Prune flowers, shrubs and trees.
  • Watch for moth damage.
  • Control slugs, earwigs and aphids.
  • Plant seeds and seedlings.

Protecting Your Children from Lead Poisoning

All children are at risk to being exposed to lead. Learn the facts in order to protect your child from lead poisoning.

Common causes of lead:

  • Lead-based paint. (If your home was built before 1980 there is a 75% chance you have lead paint.)
  • Ceramic ware, bone china, lead crystal or earthenware dishes
  • Tap water
  • Household dust
  • Dust and soil near industries and roads

Occupations and hobbies related to lead exposure:

  • Plumbing and pipe-fitting
  • Auto mechanics and body shops
  • Stained glass
  • Home remodeling or construction

Symptoms of lead poisoning:

  • Cranky or restless behavior
  • Tired a lot
  • Often sick to the stomach
  • Has poor appetite
  • Problems sleeping

Effects of lead poisoning:

  • Lower IQ scores
  • Speech and hearing difficulties
  • Learning disabilities
  • Poor motor skills
  • Anemia
  • Death

What you can do:

  • Screen your children beginning when they are 6-12 months old.
  • Ask your doctor how often you should have follow-up checks for lead exposure.
  • Keep your home lead-safe.
  • Don't let children eat paint chips, dirt or dust.
  • Before sanding a painted or varnished surface, wet that surface.
  • Have a professional remove lead paint from your home.
  • Keep children away from areas where removal of lead paint is taking place.
  • Damp-mop floors instead of sweeping.
  • Vacuum carpets often.
  • Remove clothing when you come home if you are in a lead-risk profession.
  • Wash your work clothing separate from other clothing.
  • Run cold tap water for at last a minute before using, especially in the morning.
  • Feed children foods rich in calcium and iron.
  • Feed children low-fat foods.
  • Encourage hand washing before every meal, before bedtime and after playing outside.
  • Leave shoes at the door.
  • Keep children's toys clean.
  • If you suspect that you may have lead contamination in your home, call your local health department.
  • Keep this 24-hour Lead Hotline number handy 1-800-LEAD-FYI.

 

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