Category Archives: Home Care & Maintenance

Spring Household Cleaning Hacks

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Let’s be honest … none of us really enjoy spending our precious free time cleaning our homes (at least I’ve never met anyone who does!).

So I’m always looking for hacks that allow me to spend more time doing the things I love – enjoying my family, helping clients, supporting my community – and less time in the drudgery of cleaning.

DEMOLISH DUST

There are two spots in the house that really tough to clean when it comes to dust – ceiling fans, and window blinds. I’ve got great hacks for both!

Ceiling fans: Fill a spray bottle with water and add a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar. Spray the inside of the pillowcase with this solution. Carefully (so you don’t disturb the dust!) slip the pillowcase onto the blades one at a time, covering the entire blade. Pull the pillowcase back toward you, gently squeezing the blade. The pillowcase will catch all the dust!

Blinds: While some people like to vacuum their blinds, I actually find it easier to use a sock! And the good news is you can use the same solution for this that I suggested for the ceiling fans. You might find it easier to have the solution in a bowl for this, so you can dip the sock in the bowl. Simply spraying the sock with the solution isn’t usually as effective.

SHINE THAT STAINLESS STEEL

Stainless steel appliances remain the most popular choice among homeowners, but boy can they be challenging to keep looking “stainless”!  Here are three easy ways to clean your stainless steel appliance – just pick the one you find easiest and most effective!

  1. Rubbing alcohol. Really! Take a microfiber cloth, add a few drops of rubbing alcohol and, well, rub! To really do it right, follow up with a couple of drops of olive oil on a cloth. Rub in, then buff to shine! Don’t have a microber cloth? Don’t sweat it! Any soft cloth will do.
  2. WD-40. Yes, it really does work. Spray WD-40 on the appliance, and use a soft cloth to buff.
  3. Fancy, expensive stainless steel polish. It really doesn’t work any better than the two suggestions above, and it costs far more, but it’s certainly an option.

EMPLOY THE BRUSH-OFF

Here are two tips for getting furniture smelling fresh and feeling clean.

  1. Baking soda slipcovers. I call them this because you’re basically going to coat the problem areas of your upholstered furniture liberally with baking soda. First, brush your sofa off (it probably wouldn’t hurt to vacuum it, but if you don’t have the time or energy a quick brush-off will do). Next, sprinkle the problem areas liberally with baking soda. Let sit for 20 minutes, then vacuum. Not only will the baking soda remove stains, it will freshen the air. Pro tip: these is much easier to manage if your family and pets are not nearby, as they inevitably want to sit on the furniture you’re trying to clean.
  2. “Paint”, don’t push! Frustrated by those heavy pieces of furniture? Rather than manhandle a nine-foot sofa, or heavy wing chair, simply use a stiff paintbrush around and under each piece. Pretend you’re painting the edges of the furniture, drawing out accumulated dust, dirt, and pet hair. Then follow with a quick vacuuming or a dust pan and broom.

CLEAN UP THOSE COMPUTERS

There are quite a few substances you should never use to clean your computer. Before using any cleaning solution, check to see if they contain the following (and if they do, DO NOT use them on your computer:

  • Acetone
  • Ethyl alcohol
  • Toluene
  • Ethyl acid
  • Ammonia
  • Methyl chloride

To clean your keyboard, use a few drops of white vinegar on a microfiber cloth, and gently, but thoroughly, scrub. A cotton swab soaked in vinegar can be effective on problem areas.

If your screen needs cleaning, take a microfiber cloth, and wipe gently. A circular motion yields the best results. If necessary, a light mixture of water and vinegar can be sprayed on a cloth.

You’ll also want to avoid using paper products to clean your computer, and never, ever spray something directly on your screen!

PRACTICE FIRE SAFETY – CLEAN YOUR DRYER VENT

The removable lint filter in your dryer does not catch all the lint … and every year homes burn to the ground because of fires that start in dryer vents (there are over 2,900 fires that start in vents each year).

If you don’t want to tackle this project yourself, simply Google local companies that offer this service.

If you’re more of a DIY-er, or you’re trying to save a few bucks, you can clean your own dryer vent; however, there are special brushes and tools you’ll need.  There are a fair number of steps involved. If you want detailed step-by-step instructions (including photographs), you can find them here.

I hope you enjoyed those tips and found something new you can use.

Keeping your house clean and well-maintained promotes a healthy life. And keeping your home clean and well-maintained adds to its value, which is something I’m always keeping top-of-mind for my clients.

Have other questions about the value of your home? Please reach out to Team Marti – we’re here to help!

 

 

6 Ways to Save Money While Staying Warm This Winter

6 Ways to Save Money and Stay Warm This WinterIt was so nice to have a white Christmas for the first time in many years. However, along with snow comes cold temps. If your home isn’t properly winterized, that can mean big heating bills. Here are six ways to save money while staying warm this winter:

  1. Close the flue when not using your fireplace. Warm air from your home can escape from your fireplace when it isn’t in use. When not using it, close the flue and consider reducing how often you use the fireplace. If you can’t resist a roaring fire, install glass fireplace doors to keep the warm air inside.
  2. Reduce drafts by installing door sweeps on exterior doors to keep the cold air from seeping in. Also, keep interior doors to unused rooms closed, like the guest room that rarely gets used.
  3. Seal windows with plastic film. Companies like 3M make window film kits to help you seal your windows from the inside. They are inexpensive and easy to install and could help cut your heating cuts this winter.
  4. Window treatments like wood blinds and insulated curtains can make a big difference in keeping the cold air out. Just remember to open them during the day to let the sunlight warm your home naturally.
  5. Install a programmable thermostat. Set the thermostat on a lower temperature when you’re away from home or asleep at night, saving those toasty warm temps for when your family is home and active.
  6. Keep heating ducts, vents and registers free from obstacles. To make sure forced air can circulate properly throughout each room, make sure heating ducts, vents and registers are not blocked by furniture. Not only will this keep your home warmer, but it can prevent a possible fire.

Team Marti’s Winter Home Maintenance Checklist 2017

Team Marti's Winter Home Maintenance ChecklistLike it or not, winter is just 10 days away. If you haven’t already prepped your home for winter and freezing temps, there’s still time. Use our handy checklist to make sure you and your home are ready for winter weather:

  • Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans so the blades rotate clockwise. Keep on a low speed to push air down from the ceiling into your room.
  • Have your furnace surfaced at the beginning of the season and make sure you change the filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Lower your thermostat or use a programmable thermostat to save on energy costs.
  • Remove window screens and install storm windows and doors, if you have them.
  • Shut off exterior water sources and cover the faucets to prevent freezing.
  • Insulate exposed pipes to prevent burst pipes.
  • Insulate your hot water heater.
  • Block drafts from doors and windows and seal cracks with door sweeps, door gaskets, calking and weather stripping.
  • Have your chimney cleaned annually to decrease your risk of fire and buildup and residue.
  • Remove any portable air conditioners and cover condensing units.
  • Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear and free of debris. This will be particularly helpful when the heavy rains come.

 

5 Projects to Improve Your Home’s Curb Appeal This Fall

We’ve said it a thousand times, but it still remains true – curb appeal is everything. It’s what draws a potential homebuyer to want to see the inside of your home. Here are 5 simple, affordable upgrades you can make to your home now to improve its curb appeal this fall:

  1. 5 Projects to Improve Home's Curb Appeal This FallLandscaping: Add fresh mulch to the base of your treas and other plans, and add seasonal plants like mums to your flower beds for a colorful fall look. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, but you still want seasonal decor for your home, add a fall-themed wreath or to your front door or potted mums to your porch.
  2. Upgrade outdoor accessories: Replace those faded house numbers, paint your mailbox or get a new front door. These small, but affordable changes can give your house a fresh, well-maintained look that will entice homebuyers to want to see more.
  3. Keep your lawn groomed. Yes, it is fall and it can be hard to keep up with the falling leaves, but it is important to keep your lawn groomed, especially if you are trying to sell your home. Keep your lawn freshly mowed, the weeds under control, trees and shrubs trimmed and the leaves raked.
  4. Pressure wash the exterior of your home, your porch and patio or deck. Particularly in the Pacific Northwest where moss can accumulate, it is important to pressure wash your home and outdoor living areas. This also makes your home look cared for.
  5. Add or upgrade your outdoor lighting. As our days get shorter, outdoor lighting can create an easy-on-the-eyes aesthetic while also providing an important function – a well lit path to your door. Consider decorative lights along sidewalks, flood lights near entrances and new porch lights.

 

Team Marti’s 10 Tips for Using Smart Home Technology

Team Marti’s 10 Tips for Using Smart Home Technology

As technology evolves, more  and more homeowners are using smart home technology to control systems and appliances in their homes – thermostats, refrigerators, dishwashers, lighting, sound systems and more. These systems and appliances can be controlled by your smartphone, but many can now be controlled by voice-controlled devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home.

If you’re considering smart home devices, here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Manage your smart home devices on a secure home WiFi network.
  2. Start small to see if smart home technology fits your lifestyle. For example, try LED light bulbs that you can dim or turn on and off with your smartphone, or buy a smart plug to turn lamps on with a timer.
  3. Smart lights, which are all LEDs, use a lot less electricity than other light bulbs.
  4. Voice controlled devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home let you use voice commands to order a pizza, play music, shop online, or tell you the news or weather.
  5. Security cameras like those by Nest and video doorbells like those by Ring are a great way to monitor your home from your smartphone, tablet or laptop. You can mount them outside your front door to see who is coming and going. Some also offer monitoring services and cloud-based video storage.
  6. Smart locks are also growing in popularity. You can lock and unlock your front door using your smartphone, and you can grant temporary access to guests like a pet sitter or babysitter.
  7. Smart home hubs can control multiple smart home devices, so they communicate with each other. Companies like Samsung create hubs, but Amazon Echo can also act as a hub.
  8. Want to save on your energy bill? A smart thermostat can help. You can automatically set the temperature of your home with your phone, and adjust it as needed. You can even turn on the heat remotely if there’s a sudden weather change, so you don’t have to go home to a cold house.
  9. You can now get a smoke detector to let you know if there is smoke or fire in your home, no matter where you are.
  10. If you enjoy technology, universal remotes are a cool way to control your TV, stereo, DVD player, cable box and more, all from one device.

There are so many smart home products on the market, and we don’t want to recommend any specific products here, but there are review sites like The Wirecutter and Tom’s Guide that will give you their recommendations. Also, before you buy anything, check buyer reviews on Amazon to see if customers are pleased with their purchases. Good luck!

Team Marti’s Fall Maintenance Tips

Team Marti's Fall Maintenance TipsMake sure your home is ready for the changing seasons with this handy fall home maintenance checklist from Team Marti:

Inside:

  • Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change batteries.
  • Replace furnace filters.
  • Seal cracks and gaps around windows and doors.
  • Install storm doors and windows.
  • Check weather stripping around your garage door.
  • Clean your humidifiers.
  • Reverse direction of ceiling fans.

Outside:

  • Clean and repair gutters and downspouts.
  • Drain outside faucets and hoses.
  • Make repairs or repaint peeling or blistering paint.
  • Have your roof inspected and schedule repairs.
  • Clean and store lawn furniture.
  • Prepare your lawn and gardens for winter.
  • Check your driveway, sidewalk and patio for cracks.

 

 

Avoid These 8 Home Security Mistakes to Prevent Summer Burglaries

Avoid these 8 home security mistakes to prevent a summer burglary.According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice cited by Alarms.org, on average, burglary rates are the highest in the summer. Winter has the lowest burglary rate, with February having the lowest amount of burglaries.

Did you know that break-ins are 6% more likely to occur during the day between 6 AM and 6 PM while people are at work? According to the FBI, there were 1.9 million burglaries in the U.S. in 2013, or approximately one every 16 seconds. About a third of these occurred through an unlocked door or window, says Urban Survival.

There is good news though. There are easy ways for you to protect your home and your belongings by avoiding these home security mistakes.

  1. A full mailbox. This is a clue to a would-be burglar that no one is home. Make sure that your mail doesn’t accumulate when you go out of town, whether it is a day trip or a week’s vacation. Ask a neighbor to take in your mail, or have the U.S. Post Office hold your mail for up to 30 days.
  2. Hiding a spare key in an obvious place. Don’t hide a spare key where it is likely to be found, like in a flower pot by the door, under the welcome mat, or one of those fake rocks that we all know are for hiding keys. Better yet, instead of hiding one outside, give a spare key to a trusted neighbor in case you lock yourself out.
  3. Talking about your trips on social media. These days so many of us post photos and check-ins of our vacations and business trips on social media. This is an invitation to a burglar looking for an easy target. Wait until you get back to post the pix, and/or tighten your security settings on social media so only your friends can see your posts.
  4. Disabling your security alarm. Because more residential burglaries occur during the day, you should not disable the alarm when you’re home during the day. Leave it enabled to protect your home and your family from a daytime break-in.
  5. Leaving doors and windows unlocked. We get comfortable in our surroundings and assume that no one will try climbing in a window or letting themselves into your home through an unlocked door. Wrong. Upgrade to heavy-duty door and window locks, use dowel rods or similar devices to keep your windows from being able to easily slide open, or consider getting door and window alarms which go off when the door or window is opened.
  6. Leaving your garage door open and unlocked. Once upon a time, neighbors would leave their garage doors open, so they could easily go in and out of their homes on the weekends while their kids were playing outside or they were working in the yard. This creates an opportunity for a thief to get inside effortlessly. Err on the side of caution. Leave the door down and locked when not in use.
  7. Poor lighting. A poorly lit exterior can provide good cover for a burglar who wants to break into your home at night. Add exterior lighting or perhaps lights with a motion detector sensor.
  8. A ladder in the yard. Yes, taking your ladder in and out of the garage while you are working on an exterior project can be a pain, but leaving the ladder out is an easy way for a burglar to enter your home through the second story.

 

9 Ways to Freshen Your Home’s Curb Appeal This Spring

Kent Realtor Marti Reeder: 9 Ways to Freshen Your Home’s Curb Appeal This SpringWhen you’re selling your home, you want to make a good first impression, so curb appeal is important. This is particularly true when you’re marketing your home online. According to HGTV, 88% of home searches begin online, so make sure your home is inviting.

Here are 9 ways to freshen your home’s curb appeal this spring:

  1. Take photos of your home and then look at them as if you were a prospective homebuyer. Do you see anything out of place (maybe kids’ toys in the garden or Fido’s bone on the front lawn) or that wouldn’t appeal to you as a potential buyer? Remove any unwanted items.
  2. Make obvious repairs or replacements. Are the house numbers faded or missing? Could your front door or mailbox use a fresh coat a paint? Is a shingle missing? Is one of your shutters crooked?
  3. Spruce up a paint job, siding, deck, driveway and sidewalk with a good pressure washing. It is an easy, affordable way to freshen your home’s exterior for springtime.
  4. Add some color with seasonal flowers in the garden, or add a colorful container garden to your front porch or patio. Clusters of three pots of different sizes and styles can also add a welcome pop of color.
  5. Evaluate your window treatments from the outside, including curtains, blinds and shutters. Do any of them need replacing? For example, if you have pets, the ends of blinds can sometimes get bent or broken, and those will be obvious from the outside. Changing out the blinds is an easy and affordable fix.
  6. Groom your lawn. This is true before and after your Realtor® takes photos. Groom your lawn. Keep your lawn freshly mowed, the edges trimmed, beauty bark freshened annually, and your trees and bushes pruned.
  7. Upgrade your lighting. Whether you are switching out a light fixture on your porch, adding landscape lights to a garden pathway or installing outdoor spotlights to your backyard, new lighting is a cost-friendly way to add ambience to your home’s exterior.
  8. Create an inviting entrance with a cozy front porch. In addition to the tips above, consider adding a seasonal wreath to your front door, attractive seating (maybe even a porch swing!), a new rug and a fresh coat of paint.
  9. Maximize outdoor living space, whether it is a side deck or a backyard patio. This might include lighting, landscaping, outdoor furniture, outdoor cooking spaces, play areas for the kids, butterfly garden, or even a backyard sanctuary.

If you’re considering listing your home this spring, and want suggestions for how to improve your home’s curb appeal, Team Marti can help. Contact us today.

Sources: HGTV and Forbes

10 Tips to Save Water, Energy and Money at Home

After the holidays, and as we start the new year, many of us are looking for ways to save money. Here some ways you can do that by also saving energy and water.

  1. Cover your water heater. Water heaters have to exert a lot of energy to heat the water in the tank, especially for larger water heaters. Invest in a water heater blanket for insulation and to conserve energy.
  2. Use low-flow fixtures. The kitchen and bathroom are typically where the majority of water in your home is used. By replacing faucets and showerheads with a low flow version, you will save water and money, and new fixtures are easy to install. Also, consider a Water Sense rated dishwater and washing machine for additional savings.
  3. Upgrade your toilet. If you have an older toilet (installed before 1992), it could be using twice as much water per flush than a newer model which wastes both water and money. Try a low-flush model that uses less water per flush.
  4. Inspect your dishwasher, washing machine and water heater regularly. These three appliances use a lot of water and energy, so it is important that they are maintained properly. Clean them regularly, check for leaks and fix any potential problems before they become costly ones. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the average life span of each appliance, so you’ll have a good idea of when they’ll need to be replaced, and budget accordingly.
  5. Turn off the tap. Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth or washing your hands. Turn the water on when you’re ready to rinse.
  6. Go to the car wash. Rather than washing your car in the driveway, take it to the car wash instead. This will not only save water, but if you choose a car wash that recycles water, you are helping to protect the environment too.
  7. Install a rain garden. Rain gardens are a great way to conserve and recycle water at home while protecting the environment from pollutants and rain runoff. Learn more about creating a rain garden at 12,000 Rain Gardens.
  8. Take shorter, less frequent showers. Showers can use as much as 5 gallons per minute, so shorter showers and/or less frequent showers can make a big difference on your monthly water bill.
  9. Reduce the size of your lawn. By reducing your lawn’s footprint, you may be able to save water. You could install landscaping features, stone, a low-water garden or even a rain garden to cut back on the amount of watering needed to maintain your outdoor space.
  10. Minimize water use when washing dishes by hand. If you’re washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run. Instead, fill one side of the sink or a wash basin for washing and a second one for rinsing.

 

Sources: Roto Rooter, Care2 and WaterUseItWisely.