Put Your Elbow Grease to Work

We’re not talking about spring cleaning. For now forget about the floors, dust and windows. Look to the items you have neglected, maybe forever. There are places in your home could be harboring all sorts of nasty gunk and grime. They might not appear dirty, but don’t forget to clean them to keep them working properly and to keep you and your family safe.

If your broom and mop are coated in dirt, you’re ultimately only spreading it around your house when you’re trying to clean. Soak your mop in a mixture of water and bleach to kill anything that’s seeped into it. To clean your broom head, soak it in water and dish soap then wipe it down and let it dry.

Bath mats on the bathroom floor get just as dirty as your towels do. Dirt, dead skin and more end up there and accumulate, and even if your feet look clean, you can track contaminants to other parts of your house. Wash bath mats regularly and spritz them with white vinegar to clean bacteria between washes.

Gunk and buildup on your iron might make it seem like it’s time to buy a new one. But you can make it as good as new by cleaning it with a vinegar and baking soda paste.

Aside from getting tossed in carts and on conveyor belts, reusable grocery bags can get covered in gunk from your groceries, including dirt from vegetables, juice from leaky raw meat and more. Canvas bags can be washed in the washing machine, while recycled plastic bags can be washed by hand in warm soapy water and air dried.

Most people know that smartphones and tablets are magnets for germs because they touch all kinds of surfaces. There are plenty of electronic wipe products on the market because of this. But most people don’t consider items like their driver’s licence and credits cards when wiping down their personal possessions. These cards are handled by other people and set on all sorts of different surfaces. Use a towel or antibacterial wipe to clean it off and then rub an eraser along the magnetic strip to remove any grime that would make it harder to read.

Washing your sheets and pillowcases is part of your cleaning routine, but what about washing your pillows themselves? Dust mites, a major trigger of allergies and asthma, and their droppings accumulate by the millions in your pillow, as can multiple kinds of fungus, so it’s recommended to wash it in hot water. Check the tag on your pillow to find washing instructions.

Your keys can collect all sorts of germs, grease and dirt. On top of sanitizing them, make sure they’re free of rust by scrubbing them with salt and lemon juice or soaking them in water and vinegar. Toothpaste can also help make keys shiny and clean.

Small appliances are often not cleaned as regularly as they should be. While you might clean the coffee pot, what about the coffee maker itself? Bean debris and hard water deposits build up inside the machine. Run a cycle with half vinegar and half water to flush it out, and then a couple more cycles of just water to clear out the vinegar. You can do the same thing with Keurig machines.

You touch your car’s steering wheel and dashboard buttons after touching all sorts of surfaces, including gas pumps and your dirty exterior door handles, so it shouldn’t be surprising how dirty they can be. Wipe down plastic parts with disinfectant wipe and use leather cleaner for any leather surfaces.

It’s obvious when glass shower doors are grimy. But shower curtains can look deceptively clean. Although they’re constantly exposed to soap and warm water, that doesn’t mean they’re clean. In fact, they’re a breeding ground for all sorts of mold and mildew if not cleaned regularly (ideally at least once a month). You can run plastic shower curtains through the washing machine on the rinse cycle with a little white vinegar or run it through the wash cycle with detergent.

Even the sturdiest trash bag is prone to leave little bits of food and garbage lingering in your trash can that can fester and leave unpleasant smells even after you take out the trash. Small indoor trash cans can sometimes fit in your dishwasher for a thorough clean. For large indoor or outdoor garbage bins, take them outside, add some dish soap, scrub them out and spray them down with a hose.

The exhaust fans in your bathroom and kitchen get just as filthy as ceiling fan blades, but the dust and grease accumulates behind a grille or cover. Blast out dirt from the bathroom exhaust fan with a can of compressed air and wipe the exterior with a microfiber cloth. Remove and clean the mesh filters and fans in your kitchen exhaust.

Even after the rinse cycle, your dishwasher can remain dirty. Hard water deposits, soap scum and other buildup can cling onto the racks, and food can clog the drains. Scrub these places thoroughly, then run a cycle on hot with white vinegar to clean and disinfect. Remember to clean the filter.

Dust accumulates on houseplants just the same as other surfaces in your home. Brush down sleek leaves with a duster or microfiber cloth, or spritz them with water and wipe down. For textured or fuzzy leaves, you can use a toothbrush to get into the grooves.

Kitchen, bathtub and shower drains get a lot of TLC to make sure they don’t get clogged with hair, soap scum and food. But the drains in your bathroom sinks shouldn’t be neglected. Pop-up bathroom sink plugs are easy to forget to clean because you can’t see the gunk surrounding them. But before your bathroom sink gets so clogged it’s unable to drain, disconnect the stopper piece from underneath the sink to give it a good cleaning, and remove all the debris stuck in the pipe above it.

Most people know to wipe down their patio furniture before storing it away for the winter and again getting it out in time for backyard barbecues in the spring. But many people neglect their outdoor umbrellas, especially the inside. Dirt, moisture and bugs get trapped inside and can stain the fabric, allow mildew to grow and possibly even rust the metal mechanisms in the umbrella. Brush or vacuum out debris before washing the umbrella with warm water and laundry detergent. Add bleach to tackle mildew or tree sap stains.

Running over your lampshades with a duster once in a blue moon might not be enough to grab grime that has sunk into the surface. Try rolling it with a sticky lint roller, or vacuum it with an upholstery brush attachment. If your fabric lampshade is stained, soak the lampshade in warm soapy water with laundry or dishwashing detergent, then scrub it clean, rinse and dry.

So many crumbs fall into the bottom of a toaster. When these accumulate, they can start to burn, creating an unappetizing smell, or even catch fire. On top of simply dumping out the crumbs, wash out your toaster using soapy water and a washcloth, thin scrubber or toothbrush to make this small appliance as good as new.

Many people empty out their dust cup and replace or clean the filters on their vacuum regularly, but some additional steps are necessary to keep this appliance running smoothly. Wash your dust cup with warm soapy water and check your brushes, belts, and hoses to remove any built-up dirt or hair caught in them. It’s important to keep your vacuum clean, because it’s just one of the many areas of your home where dangerous bacteria might be growing.

Happy cleaning, everyone!

7 Ways to Maintain a Good Credit Score

There are many benefits of having a good credit score, like enjoying a lower interest rate on your credit cards and loans. A good credit score also allows you to save money on insurance and security deposits on new utilities and cell phone service. It’s all about how you use credit that lets you to keep a good score.

credit-score-tree1. Know what goes into a good credit score. The more you know about what goes into your credit score, the easier it will be to maintain a good one. Five key pieces of information are used to calculate your credit score – your payment history, level of debt, credit age, mix of credit and recent credit. Not everything financial affects your credit score. For example, checking account overdrafts and utility payments won’t automatically help or hurt your credit score.

2. Pay your bills on time. That goes for all your bills, not just your credit cards and loans. While certain bills don’t get reported to the credit bureaus when you pay on time, they could end up on your credit report if you fall behind. Even a small library fine could wind up on your credit report.

3. Keep your credit card balances low. The higher your credit card balance is, the worse your credit score will be. Your credit card balance should be within 30% of your credit limit to maintain a good credit score. Card issuers typically report the balance when your statement closes and if that’s a high balance, your credit score will be affected.

4. Manage your debt. Credit card balances aren’t the only accounts that influence your credit score. Loan balances and lines of credit also impact your level of debt (30% of your credit score). Having too much debt can cost credit score points and make it difficult to afford your monthly payments. The lower your debt, the easier it will be to maintain a good credit score.

5. Don’t close old credit cards. When you close a credit card, your credit card issuer no longer sends updates to the credit bureaus and the credit scoring formula places less weight on inactive accounts. After 10 years or so, the credit bureau will remove that closed account’s history from your credit report. If the account was an old one, losing that credit history will shorten your average credit age and cause your credit score to drop.

6. Limit your applications for new credit. Each time you apply for credit – whether a credit card or loan – your credit score takes a small hit. Credit inquiries are only 10% of your credit score, but if you have a high credit score (say 800), you stand to lose a lot of points. Opening a new credit account also lowers your average credit age (15% of your credit score). To maintain a good credit score, you should open new credit sparingly.

7. Watch your credit report. Just because you do everything right with your credit doesn’t mean everyone else will. Errors could end up on your credit report leading to a drop in your credit score. Identity theft and credit card fraud can also lead to inaccurate information on your credit report. Checking your credit report throughout the year lets you detect these mistakes sooner so you can correct them and maintain a good credit score.