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  • 22 Alternative Uses for Baking Soda

    A gentle swap for scouring powder

    The best thing about scouring powder is its abrasive action. The worst is the harsh chemical smell. To get all the benefits without the caustic chemicals, use baking soda instead. In most instances, baking soda will work just as well as scouring powder.

    Simply clean tiles

    For an easy, natural tile cleaner, mix together ¼ cup baking soda and 1 gallon warm water. Scrub with a sponge or mop, then rinse. For tough stains, wait 10 to 15 before rinsing.

    Love your grout again

    Is there anything more satisfying than nice, clean grout? A simple paste of 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water is all you need. Make a new batch each time you plan to attack the space between your tiles.

    Remove scuffs

    To get rid of scuff marks left on vinyl flooring by dark-soled shoes, rub some baking soda into the spot with a wet rag. The marks will disappear.

    Show off crystal-clean crystal

    To clean your cut crystal, mix a teaspoon of baking soda with warm water, then dab it onto the crystal with a soft rag. Rinse with water, and buff with a dry, soft cloth.

    Supercharge your detergent

    To boost the power of your dishwasher detergent, sprinkle a little baking soda in the dishwasher every time you run it. It will also help fight foul odors before they start.

    SEE ALSO: Who Knew's 12 Dishwasher Tips and Tricks

    Know this skillet saver

    The teriyaki chicken you made for dinner was delicious, but the sweet sauce left terrible black burns on the bottom of your frying pan. To clean it, first sprinkle the pan with ¼ to ½ cup baking soda, and fill the pan halfway with water. Bring the water to a boil, and the burned pieces should start to release. When most of the pieces are removed, turn off the heat, dump the water, and wash as usual.

    As the water boils, you may want to use a spatula to help the process along. 

    Get better-tasting coffee

    The secret many of us miss: Make sure you clean your coffee maker regularly. Just add several tablespoons of baking soda to your pot, fill it with water, and run it as usual. Then repeat using only water.

    Tackle tough appliances

    If you haven’t had time to clean up and now there’s dried-on food stuck in the blades of your blender or food processor, bring baking soda to the rescue. Add 1 tablespoon baking soda along with 1 cup warm water to the bowl, put the lid on, and let it blend for 10 to 15 seconds. Wash as usual.

    Perk up your plastic

    Have plastic storage containers with lingering odors? Wash them with hot water plus 2 tablespoons baking soda.

    I can’t even count how many times our boys have left something to fester in a water bottle or thermos! Simply fill the container with hot water and ½ cup baking soda, then let it sit overnight. In the morning, rinse well and it should be as good as new.

    The brightest white cabinets

    White kitchen cabinets can be beautiful, but they can also show grease, dust, and dirt more than their darker counterparts. To keep them looking their best, add water to a small amount of baking soda until it’s a runny paste. Scrub the mixture on the cabinets, and then rinse with warm water.

    Simple step to a shiny sink

    For a spectacularly shiny finish on a stainless steel or aluminum sink, rub a liberal amount of baking soda in a circular motion all over its surface with a damp sponge.

    RELATED: Domestic CEO's How to Clean Your Sink

    Disposal smarts

    Instead of throwing away baking soda when it’s finished its 30-day stint in your fridge, dump it down the garbage disposal with running water. It will keep your disposal fresh, too!

    Freshen rugs and upholstery

    Sprinkle rugs, couches, and upholstered chairs with baking soda and let it sit an hour before you vacuum. It will keep them cleaner and fresher over the long haul.

    Sprinkle some baking soda into the bag of your vacuum cleaner to keep it smelling fresh.

    Save money on delicate detergents

    Use this homemade solution: Dissolve 1 cup baking soda in 1 cup warm water. Add the solution directly to your standard washing machine, or add it to the soap dispenser of a front loader. The baking soda will clean your clothes without harming their delicate fibers.

    All-Natural Fabric Softener: Just add ¼ to ½ cup baking soda to the wash cycle.

    Erase wall marks

    What’s the easiest way to remove crayon, pencil, ink, and furniture scuffs from painted surfaces? Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge, rub clean, and rinse.

    Vinyl siding super-cleaner

    From bird poop to tree sap to standard weather damage, vinyl siding can get very dirty. And while brand-name cleaners will no doubt get the job done, they tend to be costly and loaded with toxic chemicals. Instead, combine baking soda with enough water to form a paste, then scrub into your siding with a damp rag until the stains lift. Rinse off with a hose and, if necessary, repeat on stubborn stains.

    Lift oil stains

    Cleaning oil spots off the driveway is difficult, and the cleaners can be quite expensive. Instead, sprinkle baking soda over the stains, then rub with a wet scrub brush soaked with hot water. The baking soda breaks apart oil particles, so with a little elbow grease, you can have your driveway looking new in no time.

    Clean battery leaks

    If battery acid leaks inside the compartments of your appliances, there’s no need to throw them away. Simply take a few spoonfuls of baking soda and add water until it’s the consistency of toothpaste. Spread it on your battery terminals, let it sit for 15 minutes, and wipe clean. The acid should come off easily.

    Must-try for musty books

    Place the books in a paper grocery bag with an open box of baking soda. Fold over the bag, staple it shut, and let it sit for a week or two. Your books should smell considerably better when you take them out.

    Refresh suitcases

    Is your suitcase a bit musty? The night before packing, pour a cup of baking soda in it, close it, and shake. In the morning, vacuum up the baking soda and the smell should be gone.

    Get gloves on more easily

    Sprinkle a little baking soda into each of your latex gloves, and they’ll stick less when you’re putting them on and taking them off.

    If you have kids, you’ve had to clean up vomit. Baking soda can make the job a little less gross if you sprinkle some on top as soon as possible. It will soak up some of the mess and make the smell easier to deal with when you have to go at it with the paper towels.

  • Go Green: 5 Tips for Saving Electricity

    After a few weeks of talking about ways to go green, I thought an episode on how to save electricity would be a great way to finish out this green series. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed learning ways to save water, to cut down on the amount of trash you create in your kitchen as well as some environmentally-friendly laundry tips.

    If you’ve ever Googled “How to save electricity,” you’ve found out the hard way that there are hundreds of tips out there. Some of these tips are easy to implement, but some of the ways to save electricity that are suggested online are tips like, “Use candles instead of turning on lights.” While this will certainly save electricity, it’s not incredibly practical. That’s why I decided to put together a list of some of my favorite, easy-to-do tips to help you save electricity.

    Tip #1: Save electricity by turning off lights

    If your parents were like mine, you probably still have a voice rattling around your head saying, “Turn off the lights!” whenever you exit a room. Our parents had it right, because there’s absolutely no reason to keep a light on in a room you are not in. If you can commit to simply turning off the lights in every room when you leave it, you can save electricity immediately.

    Whether you are going to return to the room in 10 minutes or 10 seconds, there’s no reason to have the light on while you’re not in the room.

    Tip #2: Save electricity by turning off (and disconnecting!) electronics

    Just like there’s no use in keeping lights on while you’re not in a room, there’s no use in keeping electronics on while you’re not using them. When you leave for the day, make sure all your electronics are off. This includes your TV, sound system, computer, and any other electronic gadgets you may have around your home.

    Did you know that electronics that are plugged in, and not even turned on, can account for 5-10% of electricity used in a home?

    Taking it one step further, did you know that electronics that are plugged in, and not even turned on, can account for 5-10% of electricity used in a home? Computers, printers, coffee makers, and even phone cords that are plugged in can be energy vampires, sucking electricity (and your hard-earned money) when they aren’t in use. So you may want to invest in a power cord that you can plug most electronic devices into. That way, you can simply unplug off just one switch when you leave for the day (instead of walking around unplugging things throughout your home). Yes, it might take 2 more seconds of your time to turn the power cord on than simply turn the electronic device on, but it can make a big impact in your electricity bill.

    Tip #3: Save electricity by taking care of your air conditioner

    If you live in an area of the world where you use your air conditioner a lot, this can play a major part in your energy consumption. If you want to save electricity, there are a few things that you can do to make sure your air conditioner is running as efficiently as possible.

    First, have your air conditioning unit serviced annually. Most companies charge a nominal fee to have this service completed. It involves cleaning out the coils and checking for any small repairs that are making your unit work overtime. Next, make sure you change your air filters monthly. These filters catch a lot of dust and dirt, which starts to clog them. The more clogged the filters, the harder your air conditioning unit has to work to get the air to pass through the filter. If your filters are any color other than white, making a slight whistling sound, or worse yet, are bent because they are being sucked into the vent, change them immediately. This change alone will save a ton of wasted electricity from being used to cool your home.

    Tip #4: Save electricity by making easy swaps

    A couple of quick swaps in your house can help you save electricity. The first you may want to consider is using ceiling or box fans instead of running your air conditioner as much. Oftentimes, just circulating the air in a room will help the room feel cooler. Instead of running the massive cooling unit outside your home, a fan uses about the same amount of electricity as a light bulb. For every degree you can raise your air conditioner, you save about 5% of the energy being used. I live in the desert of Arizona and my fellow dessert-dwellers are very familiar with this technique. It costs an arm and a leg to cool a house in Arizona to 70 degrees, so most people set their thermostats between 77 and 81 degrees and run the fans to do the rest. It keeps us comfortable, both with the feeling inside our house as well as when we see our electric bills!

    Another easy change is to switch incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent, otherwise known as CFL, light bulbs. CFL bulbs use just 25% of the energy of regular light bulbs, so when you combine that with always shutting them off, you can dramatically save on your electricity consumption. Just remember that CFL bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, so they need to be disposed of properly. Check with your local government agency to see how they require these bulbs to be disposed of.

    Tip #5: Save electricity by keeping nature outside

    The final tip on how to save electricity is to make sure you don’t have any drafts coming into your home. If you hold a feather around the edges of your windows and doors, the feather should be perfectly still. If it wavers, that means outside air is getting into your home. The more outside air that gets into your house, the more your air conditioner or heater has to run. Seal up your windows and doors with weather stripping, which is available at your local hardware store and is relatively easy to apply.

    Also, during the summertime, keep the sunshine out of your house using room darkening blinds and curtains. By keeping the sun out, especially from south and west facing windows, you will keep your house from heating up, which will do a big part in helping to save electricity.

    These are just a few tips to save electricity to get you started. 

  • 17 Natural Remedies to Get Rid of Acne and Pimples

    Little bit of lemon (or vinegar)

    To help clear out clogged pores, simply dab some lemon juice right on your pimples. The acid will help dissolve the oil that keeps them around. You can also use vinegar, but lemon juice smells nicer!

    An aspirin a day keeps acne away

    Did you know that the bottle of aspirin you’ve got at the back of your medicine cabinet is a powerful pimple popper? Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory drug, and its active ingredient is similar to salicylic acid, which is used to treat acne. To harness aspirin’s anti-acne properties, simply crush up a tablet or two and combine with enough water to make a paste. Apply it to the blemish and allow the paste to dry, then rinse off with cool water. Your skin will look great, and you won’t have had to spend an extra cent for a fancy pimple cream!

    Obviously, avoid using aspirin to treat acne if you’re allergic!

    Milk of magnesia mask

    On the off chance you don’t have any aspirin around, you can also try using milk of magnesia. (Yes, the same stuff used to treat constipation or upset stomach.) Just dab it on affected skin like a mask. Allow to dry, then rinse it off with warm water. Not only does milk of magnesia absorb excess oil, but the zinc it contains also helps heal pimples.

    Chamomile–witch hazel toner

    For acne-prone skin, try this antioxidant-rich toner. Brew a strong cup of chamomile tea, allowing the bag to steep for five minutes or more. Allow the tea to cool, and mix in an equal amount of witch hazel, a powerful astringent that can be found at most drugstores. Apply the toner to clean skin with a cotton ball and rinse after 10 minutes. The leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.

    Special blackhead buster

    For blackheads, mix together 2 tablespoons salt and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Spread the paste onto skin and allow to dry, then rinse off with warm water. This wonderful smelling toner will prevent acne, get rid of blackheads, and tighten your pores!

    RELATED: 4 Common Skin Problems and How to Deal

    Banana peels for pimples

    As we shared in our post on the many uses of a banana peel, you can rub the pulpy side of the peel right on your face to help get rid of pimples.

    Acne attacker

    Got a pimple problem? Don’t head to the skincare aisle of the drugstore just yet—not only are those treatments costly, they also contain tons of chemicals that your skin does not need. Instead, reach for a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. This common (and cheap) over-the-counter antiseptic is a miracle-worker on acne. It kills the pimple-producing bacteria living in your skin and oxygenates your pores to prevent new bacteria from setting up shop. First, wash your face with soap and water to remove dirt, oils, and any make-up. Gently pat dry. Then soak a cotton ball in peroxide and dab it over any blemishes or apply it all over your face. Let sit for about two minutes, or until the peroxide stops bubbling, then rinse off with water and apply oil-free moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated.

    Experiment with what you’ve got in your pantry and see what works best for your skin.

    DIY pore strips

    Here’s an affordable alternative to commercial pore strips, which help keep skin clear and free of pimples. Mix together 1–2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin with equal parts milk, and heat until warm. Spread this mixture on your skin, and allow to dry completely. You will be able to peel it off in strips, removing blackheads in the process!

    Glue pore strip

    Here’s another cheap and easy DIY pore strip: white glue like Elmer’s. Spread a thin layer on the problem area (avoiding the eyes), let dry, and peel away. It works on blackheads, and it’s actually pretty fun!

    Potato acne fighter

    Sprouting pimples like they’re going out of style? Try this neat trick to clear up your face. Cut a raw potato in half and rub the flat end over your face. Leave the juice on for 20 minutes before rinsing off. The starch in the potato will help dry out your oily skin.

    RELATED: Which Type of Potato Should You Use?

    Nourish with nutmeg

    This nutmeg-milk scrub provides a double-whammy of skin nourishment: Nutmeg works as an astringent, exfoliant, and anti-inflammatory (goodbye blackheads and acne), while the milk’s lactic acid works as a peel to eliminate dead skin cells. To make the scrub, combine nutmeg and milk until the mixture resembles a paste. After washing your face with a cleanser, massage the nutmeg scrub onto your skin in gentle circular strokes. Exfoliate for 5–10 minutes, then rinse.

    Stop a zit in its tracks

    If a giant pimple sprouts up at work or school, here’s a way to make it less noticeable without applying a face mask at your desk: Place an ice cube on it for 30–60 seconds, and/or place a few eye drops onto a tissue and hold it on the spot for 3 minutes. This will cause the blood vessels below your skin to contract, making the pimple less red and easing some of the irritation.

    Honey for pimples

    We love this all-natural remedy for skin blemishes—it’s easy, effective, and cheap! Simply apply a drop of honey on top of the affected area and cover with a band-aid. Honey is loaded with healing enzymes that kill bacteria and toxins, reduce inflammation, and moisturize the skin. So the next time your skin acts up, just reach into your kitchen pantry for some sweet stuff.

    No ifs, ands, or butts

    Who knew diaper rash cream could help get rid of pimples? Dab a bit on offending areas, and the zinc oxide in the cream will dry up oil and kill bacteria, while the moisturizers will soften your skin. Meanwhile, it costs less than most store-bought acne treatments with the same ingredients.

    Tea tree + toothpaste

    Fear you’re getting a pimple? Dab the offending spot with a little tea tree oil (available at many drugstores), then cover it with a bit of toothpaste. The tea tree oil is a great all-natural remedy with proven results similar to over-the-counter acne creams, and the toothpaste has an anti-inflammatory effect. Repeat three times a day for an ongoing acne problem.

    If you have rosacea, avoid tea tree oil because it may aggravate your condition.

    Bag those blemishes

    Both chamomile and mint have anti-inflammatory properties, so try soaking a tea bag in water and then applying to your acne for a few minutes several times a day. You can also use green tea, which is both anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory. Supercharge this remedy by making ice cubes out of the tea! Chamomile, mint, and green tea work great, but you can also use hibiscus or even basil tea. Experiment with what you’ve got in your pantry and see what works best for your skin.

    SEE ALSO: Who Knew's 5 New Uses for Used Tea Bags

    Get rid of acne scars

    Do you have acne scars or other dark spots on your face? Erase them with home remedies. You can use the enzymes in certain foods to help lighten them! Here’s a soothing mask to try. Stir together 1 teaspoon each lemon juice and honey plus 2 teaspoons plain yogurt in a small bowl. Apply to your face, and leave on for about 10 minutes. Rinse with warm water.

    For more all-natural remedies from all around the internet, check out our Health and Beauty Tips board on Pinterest. 

    The suggestions offered here are for informational purposes only.  The author and publisher do not accept liability for damages arising from the use, attempted use, misuse, or application of any of the suggestions included on this website.

  • 17 Tips to Transform Your Outdoor Space

    Whether it's improving your garden or making your patio BBQ-friendly, these clever tips will have you taking your space to the next level, all for practically nothing.

    Beautiful Natural Spaces

    1. Bring in the Birds
    Don’t throw out those net bags that onions and citrus fruits come in! In early spring, fill them with anything that might appeal to nest-building birds: pet hair, human hair, lint, plant clippings. Then tie off the bag and hang so birds can help themselves and nest nearby. You can use the same bags to serve suet to your feathered friends in the winter.

    2. DIY Birdbath
    Want to try a birdbath but don’t want the expense and commitment of those heavy commercial types? Simply use a sturdy tomato cage as your base, topped with a round drainage tray for potted plants. It’s easy to move and very affordable! Place some colorful marbles or pebbles in the tray before adding water—the brighter the color, the better to attract birds.

    3. Get Reddy for Hummingbirds
    These fast fliers are attracted to red. But if your garden color scheme is less fire engine and more pastel, you can fake it. Just wire some red silk flowers around the garden until they discover nectar-filled flowers you’ve offered in other colors.

    4. Make Your Own Nectar
    Don’t spend money on hummingbird nectar when it’s so simple to make! Just dissolve 1 part sugar in 3 parts water, then add a few drops of orange extract or orange juice. Use it immediately, or keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

    5. The Butterfly Water Cooler
    Butterflies like puddles to gather around and drink. Make a butterfly water station out of an old cookie sheet or big saucer lined with gravel. You can also “plant” an old mug up to its rim in the soil, and fill it with water when rainwater doesn’t keep it supplied.

    6. Baby Your Garden
    Got some old baby gear in the basement or attic? Make your family wonder by getting it out! Then take it outside. Baby gates, spindle cribs, and even the metal springs from cribs make easy trellises you can train flowers or vegetable vines to climb.

    7. Stones From a Tree
    Having a tree taken down? Put it to good use! Cut some “slices” (about 2 inches thick) to use as stepping-stones.

    8. Mulch with Souvenirs
    Every beach vacation, we bring home more shells and stones than we can use for decoration around the house. So we now bring many into our outdoor spaces. They make perfect mulch and accents around plants, just like purchased pebbles from home centers (without the steep price)!

    Outdoor Problems Solved!

    9. A Sweet Concrete Cleaner
    Powdered lemonade mix can come to the rescue to help scrub away stains on your concrete! Simply add a few drops of water to the drink mix, just enough to form a paste. Apply the paste to a concrete stain and use a stiff scrub brush to scrub the area clean.

    Entertaining Ideas

    10. Lanterns for Much Less
    Trendy outdoor décor stores sell lanterns for a pretty penny. But you can make your own with all kinds and sizes of jars—from baby food and minced garlic to pasta sauce and even large pickle jars. Once they’re clean with the labels removed, simply place a votive candle in the jar. You can add pebbles or sand to the jar to raise the height of the candle or steady a taller candle. Want a hanging lantern? Fine-gauge wire can be bent to form a handle, with the rest wrapped around the mouth of the jar to secure.

    11. Create Your Own Luminarias
    Have empty tin cans you can repurpose? Fill them with water and freeze overnight. Once frozen solid, you can use a large nail and hammer to punch holes in a decorative design on the cans. Need a guide? Draw the design you want with a dry-erase marker that you can wipe off later. After the design is complete, simply let the water thaw, empty, and dry the can. Light a tea light inside for your own custom luminaria!

    12. Color Swatch Your Lights
    White string lights can go from simple to sensational with a trip to the paint counter—or maybe even your junk drawer! Collect some paint swatch strips in fabulous, bright colors. Curl them into cylinders (with the color sides facing out) and secure with clear tape. Slip one sleeve over each bulb on your light string, and attach it to the wire with tape or a small binder clip. Magical mini lampshades for free!

    13. Ladder Up
    Need more serving space while entertaining? Place plywood planks across the rungs of a stepladder. Runners can cover the plywood for a fancier look. Now you have a tiered serving station for food or drinks that tucks away again until the next time you need it!

    14. Protect Those Drinks
    Keep bugs out of drinks by supplying cupcake liners. They easily slip over the tops of cans and glasses. And you can pop a straw through them if desired. Put a stack in a mason jar for a pretty display that you can label with the intended use.

    15. Forget the Ice
    Replace the ice for your drink cooler, tub, or kiddie pool with frozen water balloons. To make them, fill the balloons two-thirds full and stick in the freezer. When the drinks are gone and the ice has melted at the end of the day, have fun!

    16. Condiment Cleanup
    Repurpose inexpensive, clear soap dispenser pumps as condiment servers. You’ll upgrade your picnic table from plastic bottles, and make topping that burger or hotdog easier, with less mess.

    17. S’more Solutions
    Is it feeling crowded around the fire, or are flames rising too high for kids to toast s’mores? Line terra-cotta pots with aluminum foil. Then add charcoal and light. These handy little cookers allow each person to have their own fire to toast marshmallows with ease. Sticking with one big fire but need to toast a lot of marshmallows for the hungry masses? Use a clean metal rake to fit them all over the fire at once.