Getting rid of mold/mildew on your shower curtain liner…Cool trick?

 Do you ever get a yucky pink moldy/mildewy buildup on your shower curtain?  (You don’t have to answer that)  If this sounds familiar, I have a solution for you!

(I thought about putting putting a picture here of a nasty
pink-mold-covered shower curtain…but that’s a little gross…I’m sure
you can imagine it just fine)

I encountered this very problem myself just last week. As we were unpacking some of our boxes, I pulled out our old shower curtain liner (it was nice enough quality to think twice about throwing it away when we were packing up our apartment) and to my dismay, the liner was not magically clean again after months of being packed up.  I refused to scrub the curtain by hand because…gross! So as a last resort before giving up and just throwing it away, I came up with a solution.

This may not be a revolutionary idea to some, but for me, I was totally thinkin’ outside the box!  Here’s what you do:

1. Throw your curtain into your washing machine, preferably with some white towels (to get some scrubbing action)
2. Put in a little bit of laundry soap
3. Put in 1/2 cup to 1 cup of bleach
4. Start your washer and just run it like a regular load of laundry

My shower curtain liner came out almost like new, and with ZERO signs of any mold/mildew that had been on it.

Here’s my proof:

Enjoy your clean, good-as-new shower curtain liner! :)

Cleaning Tip: Air Vents

DSC_2476

This tip will work for any vent; I used this on our air intake vent (the most shockingly dirty vent in the house).

Below, my 2/3 cleaned vent is nice and white on the left side, and disturbingly grungy on the right side.  I am convinced that you cannot appreciate the actual level of grime by looking at the picture.  Believe me, it was obvious to anyone walking by.

So, how do you clean a vent without taking the whole grill off?  My dear neighbor, who cleaned professionally at one point, taught me this trick.

First, gather cleaner of choice, a metal butter knife, and a cleaning rag.

Second, wrap the cleaning rag around the knife- if it is a thin rag, double the layer.

Third, spray the vent with cleaner (whatever you’re comfortable with, be it 409, or an eco-friendly non-toxic cleaner, or just water. Seriously, whatever floats your boat.) and insert knife between the metal slats.  Clean side to side.

Fourth, readjust the rag as necessary so you have a clean area of the rag to use.  Rinse and repeat.

Et voila, after less than five minutes: a vent that is spic and span!

This is a particularly good trick for vents that are very difficult to remove, or the paint would be damaged by removing.

Escaping the Clutter

I struggle with clutter.  Growing up, it took me years to realize why my dresser top and my shelves didn’t look tidy even after spending an hour “cleaning” them- or more accurately, re-arranging the knick- knacks and clutter on top of them.  I did eventually learn that cleaning was more than reorganizing a mess (without putting anything out of sight) and that the best look for my dresser was “bare, with 2 or 3 attractive accessories”.

My kitchen clutter “hot spot” (ala FlyLady)

These days I feel oppressed by clutter, stifled even, but still it accumulates… doo-dads in hidden nooks and crannies, baskets full of random items longing to be put away, and even stacks of mail and broken toys that dare to loiter in plain sight on my kitchen counters.  The clutter has become so much more offensive now that I am acquainted with the freedom of shiny, clear counters and dresser tops that imply endless possibilities.

Shiny dresser… ahh!

So what is a girl to do?  If only it were as simple as just putting all the clutter away…  Is anyone with me here?  A year ago or so I really got to work organizing and busting my clutter.  Don’t get me wrong, it is still an issue and I am working on it everyday, but when I realized that we were not going to be able to sell our condo (due to the economy) and move to a bigger home, I decided I was going to do what I could to be happy for as long as we end up needing to stay here.

Are you in a similar situation?  Have you reached a point where you know Something Must Be Done (!) or have you learned to embrace the clutter and just go with it?  Or maybe you are a champion homemaker and you don’t have this problem… (?)

I can’t promise that I can solve your clutter monster problem, but I can share what I did and what is starting to work for me.

Ack!  Another hot spot (office)

Here’s where I started: I looked at my clutter problem (which had me all antsy and irate about my perfectly lovely and comfortable condo, which we seemed to grow out of at an abominably quick rate) and decided to figure out what I could do based on where the clutter problems were coming from.  I think we can classify some clutter problems as “out of our control” issues and others, well, it is up to us to “take control”.

The “out of our control” issues:

  • Apartment/ condo/ home is too small; there just isn’t a “place for everything” 
  • Babies/ Toddlers/ Kids… need I say more?
  • Budget- to a degree, you have to work with what you’ve got as far as furniture, organizing materials, etc.

 The “need to take control” issues:

  • Tendencies to hoard certain items
  • Priorities- If you can’t stand the situation and there is something that can be done to improve it, then make it more important than browsing Pinterest, right?
A little closet organization never hurt anyone.

First, I addressed the “need to take control” issues.  I am not a hoarder per se, but I love a good recycling/ upcycling project, and sometimes I tend to get a little carried away in the materials collecting process.  There came a point that I had bags and bags of empty toilet paper rolls, boxes of glass bottles that I had washed and saved from various drinks or condiments, and containers of random pieces of junk that I “might use someday”.  I just had to realize that enough is enough.  I used quite a few of those toilet paper rolls for various projects, but when those were finished, I had to just be done with them, and recycle the rest.  Same with the glass bottles.  I went through all my craft materials and recycled, donated, or otherwise disposed of several huge bags worth of junk.  New rule for myself: I will not hoard craft supplies unless I have a clear plan of what I will be doing with them.  As for my priorities, I didn’t just try to organize the whole house in one day, I have been trying to pace myself a bit and work on one area at a time- and it is working, slowly but surely!

My crafting supplies (not counting sewing stuff) all fit in these bins (at least now they do)!

As a side note, one of my clutter problems stems from junk mail… half of it I can’t throw away because I feel like it needs to be shredded, so it accumulates.  Here is one solution I have found that seems to be working: Catalog Choice.  Just save your junk mail, go to their (free) website and enter the information they ask for for each catalog, and they will opt you out of mailings and name sharing. It’s pretty cool, and no, I didn’t get paid to tell you that!

Next, I got to looking at the “out of my control” issues and wondering if there really wasn’t anything I could do.  As it turns out, there really wasn’t anything I could do about moving to a bigger home yet, but I could rent a small storage unit and fill it with as much rarely-used stuff as I could possibly squish into it.  So I did, and that made a huge difference in how spacious my home felt.  Crib?  Gone.  Changing table?  Gone.  Unused furniture?  Gone.  Boxes of baby clothes too small for my kids?  Gone.  During this whole process I had to really ask myself “Do I want to pay to store this for x number of years?” each time I put something in a box to go to storage.  Consequently, I donated or tossed a lot of stuff here too.

Cheap shelf and baskets that add storage to our guest bathroom.

As for the kids?  Yeah, nothing I can do about the constant messes they make, but I did what I could to organize their toys, and I try to hold them accountable for at least picking up all the toys in the front room before going to bed (at a minimum).  Last week I changed my routine for the morning, so that we all do some cleaning together.  I have my 2 and 3 year old sons picking up items and running around the house putting them away.  They help me clean every room in the house, put away laundry, throw garbage out, and pick up their toys.  I pay them (mostly pennies and nickels) for each task they do, and they love putting the coins in their money jars through a little slot I cut in the lid (originally a small plastic peanut butter jar).  Last weekend I was shocked to realize that every single part of my house was decently clean- not perfect- but acceptable.  Today is more of the same.  It is because of this little routine change that we have implemented.

Now the budget was a tricky one, but I got my husband on board with me and we made a list in a spreadsheet of all the items we wanted or felt like we needed to make our home more comfortable.  That list includes things like smaller furniture for certain rooms, organizational materials like storage containers, shelving, paint, and a few home improvements that would add storage space.  We save our money and try to check a couple of things off the purchase list each month.

It is working!  I think I am always going to have to be mindful of clutter and work to keep it at bay, but for the first time in my life I am starting to feel like I am going to be able to conquer it!

What have you done to combat clutter from taking over your home?  Changed routines?   Are you a pro?  Still working on it?  I’d love to hear what you’re doing!

Another Laundry Tip

Yes, here is another laundry tip.  I am beginning to feel like I do little else but laundry.  I mean, I felt that way with just one baby, and now with two, I am beginning to wonder if I will ever be caught up on laundry again.  I keep hearing echoes of a radio commercial from a few years back in my head:

Announcer: “What are you doing this Friday night?:
Girl 1: “Movie!”
Girl 2: “Pizza!”
Girl 3: “Laundry?”

(Anyone remember that commercial? What was it for, anyway?)  Is there any question which Girl I am?

Annnnnnyway…. I have been having the dreaded stinky washer problem.  And I have the old fashioned top- loading kind (the front loaders are the ones you usually hear about having stinky-type problems).  I know there are products you can buy to run through your washer that are supposed to remove the smell, but I didn’t want to spend $15- $20 on one little bottle (that’s more than I spend on several month’s worth of laundry detergent!).  I occasionally run a load through with bleach, and that sometimes helps, but it seems like the mildewy smell is getting stronger.

Enter my friend Google.  Just moments after submitting my query “how to clean a stinky washer” I am soaking in page after page of (mostly) useful advice.  It seems there are a few main suggestions that come up again and again.  None of these require purchasing fancy products- you more than likely have everything you need on hand already.  I will share:

1. Try to remove clothes from washer as soon as they are done washing.  This is rather elementary, but how many times have we all left a load in the washer all weekend long and come back (to our horror) to a reeking laundry room?  Try setting a timer or a cell phone alarm if remembering to switch the laundry is an issue for you.
2. Clean the lint trap.  Ok, I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know there was a lint trap in washers.  But there is.  Look in your user’s manual or do a Google search to find out where it is and how to clean it.
3. Run an occasional load on the hottest setting.  Hot water helps kill germs and keep odors to a minimum.
4. Add bleach to a load of whites about once a week.  Bleach also kills bacteria which can stink your laundry up.  Non- chlorine bleach may not help with this though.  If you are worried about chlorine bleach doing damage to your clothing, run a wash cycle with water only.
5. Wash your load with vinegar and baking soda.  From what I read, 2 cups of white vinegar and 1/2 cup of baking soda should do the trick.  If that doesn’t work, try running it again but without any towels or clothing in the washer- just hot water
6. Flip the lid up to let the inside air dry between washes.  This prevents mildew and mold from having a damp place to grow.  (Use caution if you have a front loader and children or pets around- I probably would not do this as it could be a safety concern.)
7.  Cut back on the amount of detergent and/or fabric softener you are using.  Using too much can contribute to the stinky smell.  In most situations you can probably use less than the suggested amount on the measuring cup that comes with the detergent (remember, the detergent companies want you to use more so you have to buy again soon).
8. Use powdered detergent instead of liquid.  This is especially true for front loading washers.  The powdered detergent is somewhat more abrasive.  Also, it may not build up in the washer the way liquid detergent can. (Also note: if you have a high efficiency washer, not using HE detergent will cause stinky buildup.)

You may need to try a combination of these things and repeat more than once for the smell to go completely away.  I have noticed a reduction in the musty smell as I have done many of these things today, and I am going to try a few more things tonight.  Maybe in between movies and pizza.

Laundry Tip

One thing about pregnancy that is rather inconvenient to me is the “butterfingers effect” combined with (a) my inability to lean over the table while eating in the latter stages of pregnancy and (b) the tendency of my belly to catch falling food.  Um, that combined with having a toddler who considers me his personal napkin, gets my clothes pretty dirty by the end of the day. 

I recently had two of my favorite shirts, a brown one and a black one, out of commission because of the unfortunate placement of some grease spots on them.  If ya know what I mean.  I washed them over and over, using Spray and Wash, pre-treating with detergent, washing on hot, cold, anything I could think of, but they wouldn’t come out because (I presume) they had been through the dryer.

Not wanting to reduce my already small-ish (usable) maternity wardrobe, I called my mom and asked her if she knew of anything that would remove set- in grease stains.  Of course she did.  Her first suggestions was Energine Spot Remover.  I did not have that on hand, have no idea if they still make it, and recall that it has a horrible, strong smell to it.  Then she suggested Fels Naptha soap.  Ding!  I realized at that moment that I had a fresh, unopened bar of that somewhere in my cleaning stash, but had forgotten all about it until that moment.

Source: http://www.purex.com/products/laundry-enhancers/fels-naptha

I followed my mom’s suggestion, and used an old toothbrush to work up a lather on the bar, then rub the suds into the stains on my shirts.  I didn’t even let them soak long- just threw them in the wash.  They came out grease- spot- less!  Hurray!  I have since used the soap to get out more set- in grease stains, chocolate stains, amoxicillin stains (from my poor, ear infection prone toddler), and even blood.  I don’t love doing laundry, but this makes me want to do a happy dance.  Or at least a happy wiggle, as dancing around is getting increasingly awkward.

I also found out that this soap is great for treating poison ivy, poison oak, and other itchy stuff- you wash your clothes in it, and can actually use it in the shower to remove the oily poison residues that are so hard to get off.  This might not be very relevant to some people, but I grew up on a Christmas tree farm (my family still lives there) and we had poison oak everywhere.  So that bit of information was especially interesting to me.
Apparently there are all sorts of other uses for it, but I won’t bore you with the details here.  If you want to know more, I found an interesting page from my Google search here.  (And no, I’m not getting paid to write any of this, I just found it really useful!)