Practical Cleaning and Laundry Tips

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Something so simple confidentially took me way to many years to discover. But this tip has made my life less hassled. Seriously.

Pillow cases, wash cloths, hand towels.  Do you leave a trail of linens en route to the laundry room?  Here’s an easy way to ensure that nothing is inadvertently dropped.   

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Provided that you are not intending to wash the blankets or comforters, remove them from the bed. If you wish to wash them, then place them along with any other linens in the middle of the sheets. Then remove the fitted sheets from the bed, encasing all the other items within. It will make a super efficient tote. Make it as secure as possible to avoid dropping any contents.

Be sure to completely empty the contents of the sheet into the washing machine so the ball of linens doesn’t jam your machine.

Oh that is embarrassingly disgusting!

Oh that is embarrassingly disgusting!

Use a small screwdriver to gently pop the keys from their bases.

Use a small screwdriver to gently pop the keys from their bases.

There’s a part of me that is hoping no one will see this practical tip because it’s embarrassing. Confession: I am a neat freak, no doubt most organizers share that trait. We like to keep things orderly and clean. We are naturally wired that way. So how in the world did I ever let my keyboard get this gross? Frankly, I can’t think of a reasonable excuse. This is definitely one of the hazards of eating while working at your computer. Although my computer is a laptop, I prefer an old-fashioned keyboard that resides on my keyboard slide out drawer on my desk to enable better posture while typing.

Work in small sections to keep track of the keys and replace with ease.

Work in small sections to keep track of the keys and replace with ease.

When the spring clean bug bit, I set aside an hour one Friday, grabbed the vacuum, small screwdriver, and a damp cloth and set to work.

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Gently, I popped the keys from the bases in small sections so that I didn’t have too many keys to figure out where they need to be reseated. I placed them on my desk in order so that replacing them was simple and they snap back in with ease.

Slowly I worked my way through the entire keyboard. As I have the laptop keyboard as a reference, I was able to double-check the placement if I was unsure. I gently scraped areas where the crumbs adhered to the surface, carefully vacuumed all the crumbs, and then gave the keyboard and each key a wipe down with the damp cloth.

Finally, I replaced each of the keys by snapping them back into place, and enjoy your clean keyboard. Now, I will definitely be more mindful about eating at my desk.

Multiple wearings can save energy usage, money, time, and wear and tear on your clothes. Pre-worn jeans can be very forgiving so no one will be wiser.

Multiple wearings can save energy usage, money, time, and wear and tear on your clothes. Pre-worn jeans can be very forgiving so no one will be wiser.

No One Will Know

I seem to be on a laundry tip craze lately but that is because it’s one of those household chores that drive my clients batty. This tip might seem a bit icky to you, but honestly, I think you will be fine. Here it goes:

Wear your pants especially jeans a few times before laundering. You will have less clothes to launder each week, less to put away, and it should help to prolong the life of your pants which your budget will love. Pre-worn jeans can be very forgiving appearing just fine despite multiple wearings so no one will be the wiser. If they’re grass, spill or sweat-stained, then toss them in the washer. If they are linen or other wrinkled material, give them a quick press before wearing. But face it, linen tends to wrinkle anyway each time you sit down. Less laundering might save $$ on your water and energy bills in addition to your personal time bank. Go ahead, wear them one more time.

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Children, as young as toddlers, can help slam-dunk dirty clothes into labeled hampers.  Create simple bin labels with colors and words so they see how to sort.  This helps with responsibility, color identification, reading, categorizing, organizing, but mostly it makes your life easier.

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Go Camo!

Thinking about undertaking a home remodeling project this year?  If so, as the queen of home remodeling projects over the last 30 years, I have zillions of tips to share, but this has to be my favorite. If you don’t like to clean, consider decorating with colors and patterns that camouflage dirt, dust, and grime. 

Unlike the trend on most current interior design tv programs and magazines, I am not a fan of subway tiles. I spent way too many years attempting to coax the dirt and discoloring out of grout.  In high use areas such as bathrooms, no matter how much I cleaned the countertops and backsplash, they looked dirty unless I used harsh chemicals. Moreover, it took too much time and fuss with scant results.

Hair and dust is difficult to see while looking down. But look at the image to the right. The pattern and color disguise are super disguises.

Hair and dust is difficult to see while looking down. But look at the image to the right. The pattern and color disguise are super disguises.

Most of my remodeling projects feature the fewest grout lines possible with sleek, minimal widths.  Countertops with no grout lines are less hassle, so much quicker to clean, and maintain a spic and span appearance. In circumstances where grout is unavoidable, avoid white grout if you can. The darker, the easier to camouflage dirt and keep it looking fresh.

As for tiles and counter surfaces, I am a happier camper if you can’t see the ick.  To be honest, this periodically backfires when entertaining. On more than one occasion when I have not wiped down surfaces in a few days, I have glanced over at a counter witnessing tiny crumb balls. Cringingly, I cross my fingers hoping no one else will notice. Since the crumbs and dust are only visible at eye level, they are otherwise difficult to detect.  Looking down at my multi-speckled and colored kitchen, laundry room, and powder room counters, I rarely see the unwanted flecks. 

My newly remodeled master bathroom floor does not show hair bunnies.  On the flip side, if I run my hand along the floor, it occasionally comes out caked with hair.  Yet no worries if unexpected guests pop by hoping to see the finished bathroom. I am not embarrassed by the dirt because it is unseen while standing.

This was the result of a hand swipe in the vanity area shown to the left.

This was the result of a hand swipe in the vanity area shown to the left.

So if you are considering remodeling floors or countertops, and if appearance and time savers are important to you while extra work and hassle are not your thing, go camo!

Personal Spring Cleaning Tip:  Disinfect Your Earrings

When was the last time you disinfected your pierced earrings? 

Think back to when you first got your ears pierced.  As I recall, I was diligent about following the instructions to cleanse the posts in alcohol daily.  Throughout my life I have taken this precaution before wearing a newly purchased pair, but have been a bit lax otherwise. 

Ok, so I admit I do not sanitize my own earrings nearly as often as I should which ideally is weekly.  Our earrings can be contaminated with a variety of dirt and bacteria.  Since we are inserting them into our bodies, we should be mindful about any residue on them.  In fact, it is wise to wash your hands prior to inserting the posts into your ears in order to avoiding transferring any bacteria from our hands into the holes in our ears (or any other piercings).

Some earrings will scream at you that they need some TLC as they have become discolored, tarnished, or showing obvious signs of dirt.  Once you clean them, you will be absolutely wowed by the difference.  Therefore, I do ensure I at least incorporate a dousing, detarnishing, and scrubbing into my yearly spring clean. 

Before cleaning any heirloom, high value pieces and precious gems such as emeralds and pearls, please consult a jeweler or have them professional cleaned.  The Practical Sort assumes no responsibility for damage to your jewelry, so please exercise caution.

Here's my simple process:

Step 1:  Wash your hands with soap and water to remove any contaminants that could spread to your earrings and your ears.

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Step 2:  Pour some alcohol into a container, I prefer to use glass, but I had none available when I had a few minutes to do to this.  Therefore, I grabbed a small plastic container that was under my vanity.  I rinsed it first before adding the alcohol.

Step 3:  Swish the earrings around for a minute or two.  If you do not feel comfortable submerging them, then carefully cleanse the posts or wires with some alcohol on a cotton swab.

Step 4:  Run them under water for a quick rinse. 

Step 5:  Gently rub them with a microcloth to remove any remaining ick and to hasten the drying time. 

Voila, I was done in less than 10 minutes.

Check out this recent practical tip to learn how to remove tarnish from silver jewelry.  You can also use a toothbrush or other bristle to loosen ground in dirt.  But please do so gently.

What to do with any remaining alcohol?

I used the remaining alcohol to rub down door handles and toilet flushers since my husband has been sick the last several days.  Even if he had not been ill, it is a good practice to clean those heavily used areas frequently.  Paying extra special attention to bathroom handles that are touched after using the toilet but prior to washing your hands and handles used when entering your home.  You never know what germs you came in contact with while you were out.

One Day At A Time/One Thing At A Time:  Your Guide to A Manageable Spring Clean

Spring is here.  Have you noticed the cherry blossoms and their luscious scent?  The daffodils colorfully swaying their bonneted heads in the wind?  The neon azaleas and the vibrant white dogwoods screaming for your attention?  If you haven’t cottoned on, I love spring.  And like many folks, I welcome the season by delving into a deep dive clean especially for those neglected areas of my home that are crying out for some TLC.  And when I plunge in, I try my best to be mindful about the products I am using and the amount of resources consumed.  That is definitely not easy when it comes to things like patio moss removal, outdoor window cleaning, and roof washing.  But, where I can make an impact to be kind to the planet, I try my best because face it, that is all we can do right?

I cannot believe I am sharing this icky photo with you, true confessions for sure

I cannot believe I am sharing this icky photo with you, true confessions for sure

In fact, if you are interested in learning more about nurturing your home while reducing your environmental footprint, keep your eyes peeled.  Recycling Guru Betty Shelley and I have a number of workshops in the offing where we will be sharing a boatload of tips that are easy on your time, wallet, and Mother Earth.  And what guest would be more appropriate for my April Earth Day Month blog than Betty?  I am super excited for the interview.  She shared some awesome ideas.  Be sure to check that out next month.

Where to begin spring cleaning since there is so much to do?  Pick one thing a day that fits into your available time frame.  For instance, I use tiered shelving in my master bathroom closet for toiletries.  Wow, they were grossly dusty.  Well, they should be, I have not fully cleaned them in a year.  One unit was coated with oils that dripped from dispensers and mouthwash that ran down the side of the bottle unnoticed.  That took some scraping.

Before leaving for work one morning, I tackled that shelf.  I grabbed a bin to temporarily house the containers while I washed the plastic expandable shelving.  Then with a damp rag, I swiped down the built-in shelf.  Each day I selected a different row of the 5 sections to clean.  This kept the job very manageable in the time I had available.

Heck yes that is an embarrassing layer of thick dust. This basket was atop my TV cabinet so it was hard to see the extent of the coating.

Heck yes that is an embarrassing layer of thick dust. This basket was atop my TV cabinet so it was hard to see the extent of the coating.

I also did the same thing with my artificial plants (yes, I still have some of those).  I filled the washing machine with warm water for a small load, grabbed the plants, and one by one swished them in the water.  I then allowed them to dry in the utility sink while some rested on rags on the countertop.  By the time I returned from work later in the day, they were ready to be returned to their baskets and respective homes in each room.

As I previously mentioned in another tip, I did have my throw rugs and upholstery cleaned by an eco-carpet cleaner a few weeks back,  and they did a beautiful and thorough job without toxic chemical smells or residues.  Another thing checked off the list.  And the advantage of having someone to do it for me was that I was able to do my work while they scrubbed.  The price was somewhat reasonable since we have been saving for ten years (embarrassed blush).  Thank goodness those dark colors hid the dirt pretty well.

Vinegar and Norwex Enviro Cloth and Window Cloth

Vinegar and Norwex Enviro Cloth and Window Cloth

Next up, one room a day interior windows and sills.  The job goes relatively fast using vinegar on a Norwex Enviro Cloth to do a first round cleaning.  Then I give the glass a shine with the Window Cloth.  When the weather gets nicer, I will tackle the exterior windows that I can reach. 

I hope this gives you some food for thought about how to get started on your projects without the overwhelm that some people encounter. 

If you need a quick boost to get past the resistance to making progress, check out this modified Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) tapping podcast.  Scroll down past the videos.  The videos might be helpful too.  I will be offering more podcasts and links to other's EFT and Simple tapping podcasts in the future.  This podcast by my tapping idol Gene Monterastelli will also get you moving if you are uncertain where and how to begin.

And if you still need a hand, contact and we will craft a path toward success together.


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Who Knew?  In all my years of doing laundry, I had no idea about the concept of givers and receivers.  In fact, it seems that only in the last few years I have been noticing white spots on my dark clothes.  The spots are most predominant on those items that I do not put in the dryer.  Most likely the dryer removes the discoloring as it tosses and turns.  It made me question with the reformulation of detergents whether that is a contributing culprit.

However, last month my 20 year old washing machine made its final spin to the recycling facility, and upon reading the manual for my new machine I came across something very interesting.  The concept of Givers and Receivers. 

Sorting by color to allow for temperature variances has always been my routine to avoid dark colors running onto lights and whites.  However, I have now added one more load, yuck the eco side of me is NOT happy.  Some fabrics shed lint while others attract which can lead to lint build-up on items like my workout pants and Columbia fleece jacket.

The shedders are cottons, terry cloth, chenille, bedspreads and rugs and anything that has been heavily bleached.  While the receivers are synthetic fabrics, permanent press, knits (including socks), corduroy and any smooth, satiny fabrics.

Sometimes it is better to give than to receive and white ick on clothes is a perfect.  So if you are experiencing this same issue, it is time to think about one more sort.


Freshen Up the Linens

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If you have kids returning from college for the holidays or if out of town guests will soon be arriving at your doorstep, then this would be an ideal time to freshen up the bed linens and towels that haven't been used in months. 

Toss the linens in the laundry so that they will be ready when your guests arrive tired from their journey.   Add a few drops of pure lavender essential oil to your laundry detergent to help your guests fall into a peaceful sleep.  Be wary of using any scents if allergies or sensitivities are an issue.  If you would like to make your own Vinegar Laundry Rinse, check out this link for the ingredients.

Grubby shower curtains could probably also stand a run through the washing machine.  If the shower curtain liner is ripped or unsightly beyond repair, consider investing in a new one (they are fairly inexpensive) and use the old one as a tarp for painting or other household projects.

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We have had some chilly mornings lately.  You may have noticed your heater pop on with that scent of burning dust.  With the change of seasons, it is time to think about replacing or cleaning your HVAC system air filters.  The accumulation of ash that descended upon the Pacific Northwest during the last month or two makes this critically important this year.

Clean filters will ensure your HVAC system runs more efficiently resulting in more economical, higher capacity performance.  You should notice less dust in your home which means less cleaning for you.  Good quality filters will remove pollen, lint, dust, and other airborne contaminants.

If you have a washable electrostatic filter, it is recommended that you simply dust off excess dirt and flush under hot water.  Let it dry completely before replacing. A mild detergent can be used if required. However do not use oils, adhesives, house hold cleaners, industrial cleaners or alkali solutions as this will damage the filter.

If you have replaceable filters, I recommend that you buy a multi-pack and bring the used one with you to the store or make note of the size to ensure that you purchase the correct one for your system.

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Eyeglass Cleaning

Wish to avoid harsh chemicals to clean your eyeglasses or sunglasses?  Use a Norwex Window Cloth to get them crystal clear.  I wash my glasses then dry them with the cloth using circular motions.  In a matter of seconds, the lenses are super clean.  The cloth also works wonders on your mirrors, shower doors, jewelry, stainless steel and of course windows. 

I use the window cloth to clean my silver earrings.  First coat the item in toothpaste (I use Crest) and rub it in until the tarnish disappears.  Then quickly rinse the toothpaste off with water.  Wipe it dry with the cloth.  The tarnish should be gone and the silver should be radiant.  If not, try the process one more time.

Click here for more information on Norwex products, or contact, and I can refer you to a Norwex Rep who can answer any additional questions you may have or help you to place an order.

Toilet Rust Rings


Do those rust rings in your toilet drive you crazy?  You may have tried scrubbing with toilet brushes or using harsh chemicals, yet nothing seems to work.   It took me many years before I discovered a pumice scouring stick.  It quickly, easily, and safely removes those rings at least temporarily.   Yes, nothing good lasts forever.  

Dampen the stone first in the water to soften it so that it does not scratch the toilet.  Then use the stone to erase the ring.

There are some reported circumstances of pumice stones scratching older toilets, so please check with the manufacturer first prior to using this method.

Because I keep up with removing the rust stains, it may be difficult to see the ring in the first slide.  After removal, I add some baking soda and vinegar to the bowl.  Let it sit for a few minutes, then finish cleaning with a toilet brush and flush.  You will be amazed at how clean the bowl is in a matter of minutes with no toxic chemicals.

Cleaning Up Excess Caulk

Need to get rid of excess newly applied gooey caulk?  Use ice.  Wrap the ice in paper towel (enough so that you can hold it without freezing your fingers, but thin enough for the cold to penetrate).  Scrape along the caulk and wipe up with a clean cloth as you go.   Even works on glass.  Use a little vinegar on the glass after to shine it up.