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The ultimate living room cleaning guide

<p>The living room is our go-to space for relaxing and socialising with friends and family – but first, let’s make sure it’s clean! And we’re ready to go beyond clearing clutter and fluffing pillows. This extensive living room cleaning guide will help you freshen up every inch from top to bottom.</p> <p><strong>Living room cleaning tips</strong></p> <p>Like the kitchen, the living room is a magnet for family clutter. So before you even pick up a dust cloth, grab a basket and clear out all the items that don’t belong. Then, organise your cleaning tasks from top to bottom. Start with dusting ceiling fixtures and window blinds, and leave the rug and flooring for last.</p> <p>When you’re finished, it’s time to light a new scented candle and relax.</p> <p><strong>Living room cleaning tools</strong></p> <p>Cleaning the living room involves a lot of dusting and vacuuming, and the right cleaning products will make all the difference. Here are our favourite tools to get the job done:</p> <p>Magic erasers:  even stubborn wall marks are no match for these.</p> <p>Upright swivel bagless vacuum: this vac works great on both hard and soft floors.</p> <p>White vinegar: you’ll be using vinegar in several cleaning mixtures. It’s effective yet gentle on all living room surfaces.</p> <p><strong>How to clean blinds</strong></p> <p>If there is a lot of dust build-up on your blinds, vacuum first. Close the blinds completely, and drag a horse hair vacuum attachment across the entire length. Then close the blinds the opposite way and repeat.</p> <p>Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a bucket or other container.</p> <p>Use a microfibre cloth to wipe down the blinds with the mixture. You can also put your hand inside a sock.</p> <p><strong>How to clean a ceiling fan </strong></p> <p>The best way to clean a dusty ceiling fan is with an old pillowcase. Standing on a ladder, wipe each fan blade by gently dragging it inside the pillowcase. All the dust will be caught in the pillowcase, avoiding a mess on the floor.</p> <p>Wipe the remaining dust or grime with a microfibre cloth dipped in a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water.</p> <p>If there is a light fixture attached to the fan, wipe it with the vinegar and water mixture, then do a final polish with a glass cleaner.</p> <p><strong>How to clean walls and wall decor</strong></p> <p>Use a magic eraser to get rid of any scuff marks on the wall.</p> <p>Wipe down all the walls and skirting boards with a microfibre cloth and a mixture of vinegar and water.</p> <p>Use the same cloth and mixture to gently wipe the tops of picture frames and other wall decor where dust likes to settle.</p> <p><strong>How to clean upholstered furniture</strong></p> <p>Remove all the lounge and chair cushions and vacuum. Remove any items that have fallen under the cushions (there will be a treasure trove if you have kids!). Then vacuum up the remaining crumbs and debris with a vacuum attachment.</p> <p>In a spray bottle mix 1/4 cup vinegar, 3/4 warm water and 1 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid. Mist the mixture on all the cushions (both sides!) and armrests, then wipe with a microfibre cloth.</p> <p>Let the cushions dry, then replace them on the lounge.</p> <p>For leather furniture, use a mixture of 2 parts white vinegar with 1 part olive oil in a spray bottle and shake well. (You can also add a few drops of essential oil for fragrance.)</p> <p><strong>How to dust furniture </strong></p> <p>Remove all items like lamps and decorative accessories from your end tables, coffee table and any other hard surfaced furniture.</p> <p>Use a damp microfibre cloth (microfibre traps dust rather than just moving it around) and wipe down all the furniture.</p> <p>Use the same cloth to wipe down lamps and accessories before returning them to the tables.</p> <p>To remove a water stain, apply a white, non-gel toothpaste to a soft cloth and rub it in a circular motion. Then, wipe clean with a damp cloth.</p> <p><strong>How to clean TV and media equipment</strong></p> <p>Make sure your devices are turned off and cool before you start cleaning.</p> <p>Wipe away dust and loose dirt with a dry microfibre cloth. (Don’t forget the back of the TV, which gets super dusty.)</p> <p>Spot-clean smudges with moist wipes designed for electronics.</p> <p><strong>How to clean the living room floor</strong></p> <p>Vacuum both your hard and soft floors (sweeping just moves the dust around).</p> <p>For a carpet or rug deodoriser, mix 2 cups of baking soda with 10 drops of essential oil like lemon or lavender. Sprinkle the mixture on the carpet, then vacuum it up.</p> <p>Tackle any stains with this miracle carpet cleaner or mix a DIY carpet cleaner with 2 to 3 teaspoons of mild dishwashing liquid and 4 litres of warm water.</p> <p>Mop hard floors with a mixture 4 litres of hot water, 1 cup of vinegar and 1 drop of dishwashing liquid. Squeeze your mop thoroughly before starting; your mop should be damp but not wet.</p> <p><strong>Daily living room cleaning tasks</strong></p> <p>Now that you’ve thoroughly cleaned your living room, here’s how to keep it clean. These daily tasks will keep your space tidy and ready for guests even if your next weekly cleaning is a few days away.</p> <p>Clear away clutter at the end of every day. Put everything that doesn’t belong in one big basket, then walk around the house with your basket to put items in their rightful spot.</p> <p>Fluff pillows and fold throw blankets.</p> <p>Straighten lounge cushions.</p> <p>Locate the TV remote and any gaming remotes, and put them back where they belong.</p> <p><strong>How to deep-clean your living room</strong></p> <p>These deep cleaning tasks only need to be done once every couple of months, but your living room will thank you!</p> <p>Remove curtains and launder.</p> <p>Remove throw pillow covers and couch cushion covers, if they’re removable, and wash in the washing machine.</p> <p>Clean windows both inside and out.</p> <p>Thoroughly shampoo your carpet and rugs with a rented carpet cleaner.</p> <p>Dust the ceiling using a vacuum extension, or reach the area by securing a microfibre cloth over the bristles of a broom.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/the-ultimate-living-room-cleaning-guide?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</em></p>

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Five ways to reduce waste (and save money) on your home renovation

<p>On average, renovating a home generates <a href="https://ascelibrary.org/doi/10.1061/%28ASCE%290733-9364%281996%29122%3A1%2855%29">far more waste</a> than building a new one from scratch. </p> <p>This waste goes straight to landfill, damaging the environment. It also hurts your budget: first you have to pay for demolition, then the new materials, and then disposal of leftover building products.</p> <p>By keeping waste in mind from the start and following some simple guidelines, you can reduce the waste created by your home renovation.</p> <h2>1. It starts with the design</h2> <p>Waste is often treated as inevitable, factored into a building budget with no serious attempt to reduce it.</p> <p>By raising the issue early with your architect, designer or builder, they can make decisions at the design stage that reduce waste later. Often the designers and architects don’t see their decisions contributing to waste – or rather, they don’t really think about it. </p> <p>During my research on reducing construction waste, I asked one architect what he thought happens to the waste generated. He laughed with a glint in his eyes and said, “I think it disappears into pixie dust!” </p> <p>One simple early decision that dramatically reduces waste is designing with material sizes in mind. If you have a ceiling height that does not match the plasterboard sheet, you end up with a tiny little strip that has to be cut out of a full sheet. In the case of bricks, not matching the ceiling height is even more wasteful. </p> <p>Obviously not all materials will work together at their standard sizes (and you need to fit your renovation to the existing house). But sensitive design can make intelligent trade-offs, reducing overall waste. </p> <p>When I asked architects why they don’t design zero-waste buildings more often, they said clients don’t ask for it. Make it part of your brief, and ask the architect how they can save money by using the materials efficiently.</p> <h2>2. Get your builder involved early</h2> <p>If you’re using an architect for your renovation, it’s common to have very little collaboration between them and the builder. Any errors or issues are usually spotted after construction has begun, requiring expensive and wasteful rework. </p> <p>Instead, ask your architect and builder to collaborate on a waste management plan. Such integrated approaches have worked well in <a href="https://www.pwc.com.au/legal/assets/collaborative-contracting-mar18.pdf">Australia and the United States</a>. </p> <p>This means clients, engineers and builders are collaborating, rather than taking adversarial roles. For such contracts to work, it’s important to involve all parties early in the project, and to encourage cooperation.</p> <p>The briefing stage is an opportunity for architects, quantity surveyors and builders to work together to identify a waste minimisation target.</p> <h2>3. Whatever you do, don’t change your mind</h2> <p>One the biggest contributions to waste on sites is late design changes. Client-led design changes are identified in all literature as having far-reaching implications on waste. </p> <p>These are mostly due to owners changing their mind once something is built. Reworking any part of a building due to design changes can account for as much as <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283714629_Impacts_Of_Design_Changes_on_Construction_Project_Performance_Insights_From_A_Literature_Review">50% of the cost overrun</a>, as well as causing delays and generating waste.</p> <p>The early work with your design and construction team outlined in the first steps gives you the chance to make sure you’re committed to your original design. Skimping in the planning stage can end up costing you far more in the long run. </p> <h2>4. Deconstruction, not demolition</h2> <p>Ask your builder not to demolish the building, but to deconstruct it. Deconstruction means taking a building apart and recovering materials for recycling and reuse. This provides opportunities for sorting materials on site. </p> <p>Salvaged materials can be resold to the community or reused in the renovations. It greatly reduces the tip fees which are usually higher for mixed waste (typical from demolition process) and lower for sorted waste. </p> <p>Of course this takes more time and has an additional cost. Therefore you do have to balance the cost of deconstruction against the savings.</p> <p>Denmark, which recycles <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/studies/deliverables/CDW_Denmark_Factsheet_Final.pdf">86% of its construction waste</a>, has made it mandatory for all government buildings to undergo selective demolition and sorting of construction waste. A good place to start in Australia is your state environment department, which may have <a href="https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/-/media/epa/corporate-site/resources/managewaste/100080-house-deconstruction.pdf?la=en&amp;hash=CD70BEEF7EC72CEBC3641F46F1DBE19862DAED1D">guidelines</a> on what is involved.</p> <h2>5. Choose materials carefully</h2> <p>Good-quality materials last longer, reducing maintenance later. Choosing manufacturers that use minimal packaging also reduces waste (be careful here to check the difference between “minimal” and “inadequate” packaging, as the latter can mean your <a href="http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/30123/7/Saheed%20Thesis_Final%20Copy.pdf">material breaks</a>).</p> <p>Reusing materials from your renovation may also be an option (you will need to discuss this with architect and builder at the beginning of the project). Finally, using materials with recycled content is a great option, and boosts our recycling industry. </p> <p>In March 2017 the <a href="https://hia.com.au/-/media/HIA-Website/Files/Media-Centre/Media-Releases/2017/national/Home-Renovations-Australias-Next-Building-Boom.ashx">Housing Industry Association</a> released data suggesting the Australian residential building industry will increasingly become more dependent on renovation work rather than new construction,</p> <p>If you’re renovating your home, making efficiency and low waste a priority helps cut costs and reduce landfill.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/five-ways-to-reduce-waste-and-save-money-on-your-home-renovation-103942" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</em></p>

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How to deal with mould outbreaks this winter

<p dir="ltr">The recent downpour of rain mixed with humid temperatures has led to nation-wide mould outbreaks in many homes. </p> <p dir="ltr">Toxic mould can take a toll on your health, and hijack hidden corners of your home without you even realising. </p> <p dir="ltr">In order to reproduce, mould produces tiny particles called spores that are carried in the air and may cause health problems if inhaled by people who are sensitive or allergic to them, <a href="https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/mould.aspx">NSW Health advises</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Experts have shared how to spot mould in your home, as well as how to clean it and prevent it from coming back. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>What exactly is mould?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/mould.aspx">Mould</a> is a type of fungi, an organism from the same group that includes yeast and mushrooms, which is present virtually everywhere both indoors and outdoors.</p> <p dir="ltr">When airborne mould spores land on damp spots indoors, they may begin to grow and spread.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mould thrives in moist areas that are not adequately ventilated, with rooms such as laundries, bathrooms most at risk, as well as walls and ceilings that don’t receive direct sunlight. </p> <p dir="ltr">Wet weather, increased humidity, and flood damage have seen households across the country battling recent mould outbreaks in their homes.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>How do I stop mould from growing in my house?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Experts say that prevention is much more effective than mould removal, with the key being to keep your home dry and dust-free.</p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Fix any structural damage</span></p> <p dir="ltr">Leaks in roofs, full gutters and leaky appliances are all things that will bring mould into your home. </p> <p dir="ltr">Fixing these issues as soon as they arise is vital, as you want to aim to keep the main structure of your home free of any spontaneous leaks.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If you do notice any leaks, get on top of that immediately because dried mould can still become easily airborne,” consultation microbiologist Dr Cameron Jones told <a href="https://7news.com.au/lifestyle/health-wellbeing/mould-is-coming-back-with-a-vengeance-heres-how-to-tackle-the-outbreak-c-6840176">7News</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">“That’s how people can become quite ill from mould which has dried inside roof voids and dried on insulation - and then it enters into the home around the perimeters and downlights.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Ventilation is key</span></p> <p dir="ltr">Keeping your home well ventilated is your best bet when preventing the growth of mould. </p> <p dir="ltr">Jones says that for good ventilation in the home, you can try, “opening windows, and making sure that ceiling fans in wet areas like laundries and bathrooms are on and working.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“As soon as the weather is good, you should start opening your windows and get some ventilation through,” Institute for Infectious Diseases Professor Dee Carter told 7News.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Drying things out is really key or it’ll just come back.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Some air conditioners have a handy dry mode, while portable dehumidifiers also work to draw in extra moisture from the air.</p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Cut condensation</span></p> <p dir="ltr">Use extractor fans in the kitchen while cooking, and in the bathroom and laundry while washing.</p> <p dir="ltr">Reducing the condensation in your home can also be as simple as popping a lid on your saucepan when boiling water, and opening windows when you’re creating steam within the house.</p> <p dir="ltr">If you see condensation building on walls and inner windows, wipe it up before it has the chance to encourage growth of mould.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Getting rid of mould</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">For a routine clean-up of mould, NSW Health suggests using mild detergent or vinegar.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bleach can be used on non-porous surfaces such as tiles and in bathrooms but is not recommended for materials like wood or drywall.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mould has roots that it sends deep into porous materials, so antibacterial agents work best to attack the roots as well as the surface of the fungi.</p> <p dir="ltr">If you see a spot of mould in one particular place, it’s always best to do a clean sweep of the entire room to see if it is hiding anywhere else. </p> <p dir="ltr">Move all your furniture away from the wall and check hidden crevices. </p> <p dir="ltr">There’s nothing worse than thinking your cleaning job is done and then finding a huge mouldy patch behind your lounge or bed frame. </p> <p dir="ltr">In order to stop your furniture being attacked by pesky mould, try to keep your furniture an inch or two out from the wall. </p> <p dir="ltr">This will stop the mould transferring from walls to surfaces such as fabric that are harder to clean. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Can mould be killed permanently?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Even if you successfully get rid of mould in one area, you’ll need to maintain the conditions of your home continuously to discourage regrowth.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Mould can grow wherever there is moisture source, the correct temperature, and something to grow on,” Jones said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Cellular debris and the food and liquid waste” are also used as a food source by “the pathogens, which are normally around us all the time”, Jones said.</p> <p dir="ltr">If mould grows in a spot once, it can grow there again. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Is mould harmful to humans?</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">A 2018 inquiry by the University of Melbourne recommended that the Department of Health undertake further research into the potential health effects of mould exposure and its prevalence in the built environment.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.mouldlab.com.au/">MouldLab</a> defined biotoxins at the time as including “toxic chemicals found on spores, fine or ultrafine fragments of mould or fungus … that are able to be released into the air”.</p> <p dir="ltr">They stated that some people are “genetically susceptible” and may develop inflammation and chronic illness after coming into contact with these biotoxins.</p> <p dir="ltr">Reported <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/black-mold-exposure#symptoms">symptoms of mould exposure</a> include coughing, wheezing, stuffiness, red or itchy eyes, skin rashes, and a sore throat.</p> <p dir="ltr">These symptoms can be more severe if you have an allergy to mould.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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11 things you shouldn’t store in your bathroom

<p><strong>Medicine</strong></p> <p>Don’t keep your medicine in your medicine cabinet. We’re not just saying that to be ironic. Medicines and vitamins should be stored at a room temperature, below 25°C.</p> <p>Keeping them in a moisture-filled room, like your bathroom, can make them less potent or cause them to go bad before their expiration date.</p> <p><strong>Towels</strong></p> <p>Bathrooms are the perfect breeding ground for mould and mildew, and your towels are easily susceptible to these gross fungi.</p> <p>It’s fine to keep one towel hung up in the bathroom, as long as you swap it out once a week. Turning on an exhaust fan can help dry out the room and your damp towel faster.</p> <p><strong>Bathrobe</strong></p> <p>Another bit of ironic advice: keep bathrobes out of the bathroom. Just like towels, damp robes could harbour bacteria, and humidity can give them a musty odour.</p> <p>Let them dry in your wardrobe instead of on a hook in your bathroom.</p> <p><strong>Books</strong></p> <p>We get it – it can be nice to have some reading material available while you’re doing your business.</p> <p>But the books and magazines that are kept in the bathroom will absorb moisture, leaving you with wrinkled pages and deteriorating binding.</p> <p><strong>Jewellery</strong></p> <p>Jewellery boxes are generally kept on dressers and vanities for good reason. The humidity from your bathroom can make jewellery tarnish more quickly than normal, especially when it comes to sterling silver.</p> <p>Store your jewellery in a cool, dry place. Keeping it in an airtight bag is another effective method.</p> <p><strong>Toothbrush</strong></p> <p>Yes, all the rumours you’ve heard are true. A 2012 study from Manchester University in England found that your toothbrush may house more than 10 million bacteria, and a portion of that comes from faecal matter that’s sprayed around the room every time you flush the toilet.</p> <p>To keep your brush as germ-free as possible, rinse and air-dry it after each use, and, if you still choose to store it in the bathroom, close the toilet lid before you flush – and definitely, don’t store in next to the toilet.</p> <p><strong>Makeup</strong></p> <p>Leaving your prized makeup products in the bathroom exposes them to a lot of unwanted heat and moisture, which allows mould and other bacteria to spread and make your makeup go bad faster.</p> <p>And like toothbrushes, makeup brushes are also bound to get contaminated with faecal matter from sprayed toilet water. That’s something you definitely don’t want touching your face.</p> <p><strong>Perfume</strong></p> <p>Heat and perfume just don’t mix. The experts at perfume.org say that fluctuations in temperature (the kind that can occur when you take steamy showers) can destroy the molecular integrity of your fragrance and cause it to sour.</p> <p><strong>Nail polish</strong></p> <p>Most nail polishes will last about two years, but leaving those bottles in the bathroom can make them go bad – toss nail polish that doesn’t blend, is too thick, or looks crumbly – much faster.</p> <p>Again, heat and humidity are the culprits.</p> <p><strong>Razor blades</strong></p> <p>It’s fine to keep your current razor in the shower, but extra razor blades should be left outside of the bathroom.</p> <p>Otherwise, the humidity may rust or dull them before you even start to use them, <em>Good Housekeeping</em> reports. Drying razors after each shave can help keep them more effective longer.</p> <p><strong>Non-waterproof electronics</strong></p> <p>We love to sing in the shower as much as anyone, but humidity can do serious damage to your phone.</p> <p>If you need your tunes or morning news while you shower, invest in a shower radio (yes, they still exist) or a waterproof speaker.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/11-things-you-shouldnt-store-in-your-bathroom?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

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22 uses for dryer sheets (that aren’t laundry)

<p>Along with making clothes soft and sniffably fresh, dryer sheets can be used in dozens of ways around the house. Their clean scent covers up plenty of odours, and they’re abrasive enough to clean, but won’t damage most surfaces. Here are the most unexpected uses for dryer sheets.</p> <p><strong>Clean skirting boards</strong></p> <p>Vacuum the carpet or sweep the floor, then wipe a dryer sheet along the skirting boards to remove stubborn dust and pet hair. Bonus: It repels dust later, too!</p> <p><strong>Dust your TV screen</strong></p> <p>The sheets have anti-static properties that will help prevent dust from settling on the screen.</p> <p><strong>Clean window blinds</strong></p> <p>Just like with the TV, dryer sheets will repel dust and make blinds easier to clean over time.</p> <p><strong>Tame flyaway hair</strong></p> <p>Did dry air make your hair static-y? Rub a dryer sheet between your brush’s bristles to smooth things over.</p> <p><strong>Clean up pet hair</strong></p> <p>Dryer sheets are great grabbers. Rub one along the floor or couch to pick up pet hair – or clippings from at-home haircuts.</p> <p><strong>Freshen up your shoes</strong></p> <p>Stick a dryer sheet in your flats or sneakers overnight to get rid of stinky odours.</p> <p><strong>Scrub away soap scum</strong></p> <p>Rub a sheet on glass shower doors to clean caked-on grime.</p> <p><strong>Easily scour pans</strong></p> <p>If food gets burned on a pan, let it soak overnight with water and a fresh dryer sheet.</p> <p><strong>Give chrome a polish</strong></p> <p>From bathrooms to vehicles, dryer sheets can help restore chrome’s trademark shine.</p> <p><strong>Clean up pantry spills</strong></p> <p>From bathrooms to vehicles, dryer sheets can help restore chrome’s trademark shine.</p> <p><strong>Freshen the air fast</strong></p> <p>Place sheets in vents or behind fans to fill your home with a fresh, clean scent.</p> <p><strong>Cover up nappy smells</strong></p> <p>Tuck a fresh sheet into your nappy bag or bathroom garbage bin can help take the edge off odours.</p> <p><strong>De-musk old books </strong></p> <p>You scored some great reads at a garage sale – but they’re a little musty. Put old books in a bag with some dryer sheets – after a few days, they’ll smell as good as new.</p> <p><strong>Remove crayon marks</strong></p> <p>Lightly rub walls with a sheet and watch the crayon disappear. Magic!</p> <p><strong>Get paint off brushes</strong></p> <p>Put a dryer sheet in warm water along with the brush – within a few minutes of soaking, the paint should wash right off.</p> <p><strong>Sharpen scissors</strong></p> <p>Run a used dryer sheet along the blades to restore their snipping power.</p> <p><strong>Repel insects</strong></p> <p>Mosquitoes don’t like the smell of dryer sheets, so slip one into your belt loop to ward off the pesky insects.</p> <p><strong>Keep camping gear fresh</strong></p> <p>Toss dryer sheets into your tent and sleeping bags to stave off a mildewy smell.</p> <p><strong>Banish post-beach sand</strong></p> <p>This is one of the most surprising uses for dryer sheets! Wipe yourself and your kids with a dryer sheet to rid skin of dry sand before getting in the car.</p> <p><strong>Keep cars smelling fresh</strong></p> <p>Put a few sheets underneath the seat to freshen up your car without hanging something from your rear-view mirror.</p> <p><strong>Clean the toilet</strong></p> <p>Dryer sheets are great to use for cleaning the toilet – especially that crevice at the back that traps all kinds of hair and dust.</p> <p><strong>Remove deodorant stains</strong></p> <p>Keep your clothes streak-free (and smelling fresh) with a quick dryer sheet wipe on deodorant stains.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/home-tips/22-uses-for-dryer-sheets-that-arent-laundry?pages=2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</em></p>

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This unlikely cleaning product will transform your toilet

<p>A mum has been applauded as a genius after finding a cleaning hack to turn dirty brown toilets spotless, using a very unlikely item that every household has.</p> <p>Taking to social media, Jennifer posted a picture of her toilet which had discoloured yellowy-brown stains on the underside of the seat. It’s widely considered one of the hardest things to scrub, even with multiple attempts.</p> <p>Alongside a photo of her dirty toilet seat, she posted an after photo showing a spotless bright clean toilet, showcasing the stunning transformation.</p> <p>Jennifer revealed tooth cleaner was what she use to make her toilet spotless, in particular the White Glo Activated Charcoal Teeth Polishing Powder.</p> <p>"Check out what activated charcoal can clean," she wrote on the Cleaning &amp; Organising Inspiration Facebook group.</p> <p>"Ran out creme cleaner to try (I tried everything), so I figured why not try my activated charcoal teeth cleaner."</p> <p>Jennifer explained she put the teeth cleaner directly on a wet cloth and gently scrubbed the dirty areas, warning not to leave it on for too long incase it stains. </p> <p>"I wouldn't leave it too long as it can stain, but will eventually come off," she said.</p> <p>"It even removed hair dye stain off my toilet seat. Hot pink ... damn kids!"</p> <p>Thousands responded to her hack, saying they've tried everything to remove the stains from the same place and haven't had any luck until now.</p> <p><em>Image: TikTok</em></p>

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The pandemic’s gardening boom shows how gardens can cultivate public health

<p>As lockdowns went into effect in the spring of 2020 to slow the spread of the coronavirus, reports emerged of a <a href="https://www.sfchronicle.com/culture/article/A-comeback-for-victory-gardens-amid-Bay-Area-15177272.php">global gardening boom</a>, with plants, flowers, vegetables and herbs sprouting in backyards and on balconies around the world.</p> <p>The data backs up the narrative: An analysis of Google Trends and infection statistics found that during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, country-by-country interest in gardening, from Italy to India, <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/11/26/opinion/covid-inspired-gardening-was-worldwide-phenomenon/">tended to peak just as infections peaked</a>.</p> <p>Why did so many people find themselves being pulled toward the earth in a time of crisis? And what sort of effect did gardening have on them?</p> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2022.127483">In a new study</a> conducted with a team of environmental and public health scholars, we highlight the extent to which gardening became a coping mechanism during the early days of the pandemic.</p> <p>Even as restrictions related to COVID-19 have eased, we see some real lessons for the way gardening can continue to play a role in people’s lives.</p> <h2>Dirt, sweat, tranquility</h2> <p>To conduct our study, we used an online questionnaire to survey more than 3,700 respondents who primarily lived in the U.S., Germany and Australia. The group included experienced gardeners and those who were new to the pursuit.</p> <p>More than half of those we surveyed said they felt isolated, anxious and depressed during the early days of the pandemic. Yet more than 75% also found immense value in gardening during that same period. Whether done <a href="https://doi.org/10.3733/ucanr.6720">in cities or out in the country</a>, gardening was almost universally described as a way to either relax, socialize, connect with nature or stay active.</p> <p>More than half of the respondents reported a significant increase in the amount of time they were able to spend gardening. Other respondents found some value in growing their own food, but few felt financially compelled to do so. </p> <p>Instead, most respondents saw gardening as a way to connect with their community and get some exercise.</p> <p>People with more personal difficulties due to COVID-19, like the inability to work or struggling with child care, were more likely to spend more time gardening in their spare time than they had in the past.</p> <h2>The garden as a refuge</h2> <p>In our analysis of written responses to the survey, most gardeners seemed to either experience a heightened sense of joy and reassurance or feel more attuned to the natural world. This seemed to have positive therapeutic and psychological benefits, regardless of age or location.</p> <p>To many people, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wss.2021.100055">gardening became a sort of safe space – a haven from daily worries</a>. One German gardener started seeing their garden as a sanctuary where even “birds felt louder.” </p> <p>“Gardening has been my salvation,” a respondent from the U.S. noted. “I’m very grateful I can surround myself with beauty as a buffer to the depressing news COVID brings each day.”</p> <p>Another German gardener wrote that their garden became their “little safe universe in a very uncertain and somewhat dangerous time. … We have learned to appreciate the so far very high value of ‘own land, own refuge’ even more.”</p> <h2>A green prescription</h2> <p>As life returns to normal, work ramps up and obligations mount, I wonder how many pandemic gardens are already being neglected.</p> <p>Will a hobby born out of unique circumstances recede into the background?</p> <p>I hope not. Gardening shouldn’t be something that’s only taken up in times of crises. If anything, the pandemic showed how gardens serve a public health need – that they’re not only places of beauty or sources of food, but also conduits for healing. </p> <p>In fact, several countries like New Zealand, Canada and some in Europe now allow “<a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/02/green-prescriptions-health-wellbeing/">green prescriptions</a>” to be issued as alternatives to medication. These are directives from doctors to spend a certain amount of time outdoors each day or month – an acknowledgment of the very real health benefits, from lowered stress to better sleep and improved memory, that venturing into nature can offer.</p> <p>I also think of the people who never had a chance to garden in the first place during the pandemic. Not everyone has a backyard or can afford gardening tools. Improving access to home gardens, urban green spaces and <a href="https://theconversation.com/not-all-community-gardens-are-environmental-equals-10485">community gardens</a>could be an important way to boost well-being and health.</p> <p>Making seeding, planting, pruning and harvesting part of your daily routine seems to open up more opportunities, too.</p> <p>“I never previously had the time to commit to a garden,” one first-time gardener told us, “but [I’ve] found such satisfaction and happiness in watching things grow. It has been a catalyst for making other positive changes in my life.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-pandemics-gardening-boom-shows-how-gardens-can-cultivate-public-health-181426" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</em></p>

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(At least) five reasons you should wear gardening gloves

<p>Gardening is a great way to relax, be one with nature and get your hands dirty. But lurking in that pleasant environment are some nasty bacteria and fungi, with the potential to cause you serious harm. So we need to be vigilant with gardening gloves and other protective wear.</p> <p>Soils contain all sorts of bacteria and fungi, most of which are beneficial and do helpful things like breaking down organic matter. But just as there are pathogenic bacteria that live on your body amid the useful ones, some microorganisms in soil can cause serious damage when given the opportunity to enter the body. This commonly happens through cuts, scrapes or splinters. </p> <p>Plants, animal manure, and compost are also sources of bacteria and fungi that can cause infections.</p> <h2>1. Tetanus</h2> <p>Traditionally, the most common and well-known infection is tetanus, caused by Clostridium tetani, which lives in soil and manure. Infections occur through contamination of cuts and scrapes caused by things in contact with the soil, such as garden tools or rose thorns. </p> <p>Fortunately, most people have been vaccinated against tetanus, which means even if you are infected, your body is able to fight back against the bacteria to prevent it becoming serious. Symptoms include weakness, stiffness and cramps, with the toxins released leading to muscular paralysis and difficulty chewing and swallowing – hence the common term for tetanus of lockjaw.</p> <h2>2. Sepsis</h2> <p>Bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter jejuni, and Listeria monocytogenes are often present in gardens as a result of using cow, horse, chicken <a href="http://miami-dade.ifas.ufl.edu/pdfs/urban_hort/Gardening-Infectious-Disease.PDF">or other animal manure</a>. Bacterial infections can lead to sepsis, where the bacteria enter the blood and rapidly grow, causing the body to respond with an inflammatory response that causes septic shock, organ failure, and, if not treated quickly enough, death. </p> <p>A <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/03/solicitor-dies-from-sepsis-five-days-after-injuring-her-hand-gar/">high-profile case recently occurred</a> in England, where a 43-year-old solicitor and mother of two died five days after scratching her hand while gardening. This hits close to home, as a number of years ago my mother spent ten days in intensive care recovering from severe sepsis, believed to be caused by a splinter from the garden.</p> <h2>3. Legionellosis</h2> <p>Standing pools of water may hold Legionella pneumophila, the bacteria causing Legionnaires’ disease, more commonly known to be associated with outbreaks from contaminated air conditioning systems in buildings.</p> <p>Related bacteria, Legionella longbeachae, are found in soil and compost. In 2016 there were <a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/home-property/77013947/8-dangers-lurking-in-your-garden-that-you-might-not-know-about">29 confirmed cases of legionellosis in New Zealand</a>, including a Wellington man who picked up the bug <a href="https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/76915471/potting-mix-nearly-kills-wellington-man">from handling potting mix</a>.</p> <p>Another ten cases were reported in Wellington in 2017, again associated with potting soil. In New Zealand and Australia, Legionella longbeachae from potting mix accounts for approximately <a href="http://hcinfo.com/about/outbreaks/recent/">half of reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease</a>. There were <a href="http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/cda-cdi4001e8.htm">around 400 total cases</a> of Legionellosis in Australia in 2014. </p> <p>The bacteria is usually inhaled, so wearing a dust mask when handling potting soil and dampening the soil to prevent dust are recommended.</p> <h2>4. Melioidosis</h2> <p>An additional concern for residents of northern Australia is an infection called melioidosis. These bacteria (Burkholderia pseudomallei) live in the soil but end up on the surface and in puddles after rain, entering the body through cuts or grazes, and sometimes through inhalation or drinking groundwater. </p> <p>Infection causes a range of symptoms, such as cough and difficulty breathing, fever or sporadic fever, confusion, headache, and weight loss, with up to 21 days before these develop.</p> <p>In 2012, there were <a href="http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/warning-as-three-die-from-soil-disease/news-story/293f88df25be1ed673d8eea5c443e4dc?sv=d2b413f169f14cdab32b7c5257c75ced">over 50 cases in the Northern Territory</a>leading to three deaths, with <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-12/melioidosis-season-darwin-man-flees-deadly-dirt-disease/6846404">another case receiving publicity in 2015</a>. Preventative measures include wearing waterproof boots when walking in mud or puddles, gloves when handling muddy items, and, if you have a weakened immune system, avoiding being outdoors during heavy rain.</p> <h2>5. Rose gardener’s disease</h2> <p>A relatively rare infection is sporotrichosis, “rose gardener’s disease”, caused by a fungus (Sporothrix) that lives in soil and plant matter such as rose bushes and hay. Again, infections through skin cuts are most common, but inhalation can also occur. </p> <p>Skin infection leads to a small bump up to 12 weeks later, which grows bigger and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/sporotrichosis/index.html">may develop into an open sore</a>. An outbreak of ten cases was <a href="http://outbreaknewstoday.com/australia-sporotrichosis-outbreak-reported-in-the-northern-territory-41184/">reported in the Northern Territory in 2014</a>. </p> <p>Aspergillus, usually Aspergillus fumigatus, and Cryptococcus neoformans are other fungi that can cause lung infections when inhaled, usually in people with <a href="http://www.livingthecountrylife.com/gardening/fungal-infection-garden-work/">weakened immune systems</a>. Gardening activities such as turning over moist compost can release spores into the air.</p> <p>Of course, there are plenty of other dangers in the garden that shouldn’t be ignored, ranging from poisonous spiders, snakes and stinging insects, to hazardous pesticides and fungicides, poisonous plants, and physical injuries from strains, over-exertion, sunburn, allergies, or sharp gardening tools.</p> <p>So enjoy your time in the garden, but wear gloves and shoes, and a dust mask if handling potting soil or compost. And be aware if you do get a cut or scrape then end up with signs of infection, don’t delay seeing your doctor, and make sure you let them know what you’ve been doing.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/at-least-five-reasons-you-should-wear-gardening-gloves-89451" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>

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20 things professional organisers would never do in their own homes

<p><strong>Never doing these things means less mess</strong></p> <p>Clutter-busting habits make all the difference between a messy home and a tidy one. So the first thing a professional organiser does is find a place for every single thing – then keep it there.</p> <p>This doesn’t mean purchasing sets of matching bins or decanting all your pantry foods into clear glass containers with hand-printed labels. Rule of thumb, if an organisational system (like decanting) actually increases the time and effort you’ll have to spend keeping things tidy, ditch it.</p> <p><strong>They don’t always alphabetise</strong></p> <p>Instead of assuming you must always alphabetise for easy access, try storing things by frequency of use. For example, those nesting mixing bowls that you frequently reach for should be kept on a low shelf and that crystal vase that you break out every Valentine’s Day should go higher up.</p> <p>This goes for smaller things like spices, too. “I never alphabetise my spices, because I don’t use allspice as often as I use thyme,” explains workplace productivity expert Susie Hayman.</p> <p><strong>They don’t mix dissimilar things</strong></p> <p>Speaking of spices, Vicki Norris, organising expert and “life reclaimist” of Restoring Order tells us she never co-mingles sweet and savoury spices on the same shelf.</p> <p>Why? Because “on a bleary-eyed morning, no one wants to accidentally put chilli powder in their oatmeal instead of cinnamon!”</p> <p><strong>They don’t hang onto donations</strong></p> <p>To avoid letting unused things pile up, Tamah Vega of Tamah Vega Design has a rule we can all get on board with, “Never go without a donation bag in the house ready for items you no longer need.”</p> <p>This way the minute you decide you’re ready to donate the item, you can have it ready to go.</p> <p><strong>They don’t leave computer files unnamed</strong></p> <p>After downloading a file, Andrew Mellen, author of <em>Unstuff Your Life!</em> immediately renames it and saves it in the appropriate folder.</p> <p>This way you avoid wasting time trying to remember its name or where to look for it next time you need it.</p> <div class="slide-image" style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit; box-sizing: border-box; border: 0px; margin: 0px; outline: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline;"> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;"><strong>They don’t let the mail pile up</strong></p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">“I deal with it all as soon as I get it,” explains Jessica Dolan, owner of Room to Breathe. She sorts, tosses and shreds junk mail, then immediately deals with whatever remains.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">Better yet, eliminate junk mail before it even gets to you.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;"><strong>They don't forget to run errands</strong></p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">Move items – like those books to return to the library or returns you are taking back to the store – from house to your car trunk immediately, shares Amy Trager, certified professional organiser.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">“If they’re already in my car, I’m more likely to get them taken care of,” she says. Keep car clutter to a minimum too and you’ll always have room to store.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;"><strong>They don't keep the old version</strong></p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">Once you have made a decision to replace an item, let the original go, suggests Birdie with Birdie Brennan Custom Closets &amp; Organising.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">Her rule, “never keep something that you have replaced.” That’s especially true for tech items you’ve upgraded – learn how to recycle or donate your outdated devices.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;"><strong>They don't bunch up bags </strong></p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">Instead of storing reusable bags in the house, Sheryl Hadley, president of Organisation &amp; Relocation, puts them right back in her car after every use.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">This way you won’t forget them when you go to the store and you won’t have a messy pile of bags cluttering up your house. Win win.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;"><strong>They don't unload handbags halfway</strong></p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">When you switch handbags, empty the current one out completely, Vega advises.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">Otherwise, you might lose track of your favourite lipstick – or that licence or credit card that never made it back into your wallet.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;"><strong>They don't use their chair as a closet</strong></p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">“I never leave clothes lying or draped on the floor, chair, bed or treadmill,” says Betsy Fein, president of Clutterbusters. They can get wrinkled, coated in pet hair, or simply forgotten about when not stored properly.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">If you need space to hang gently used clothes for another wearing, try installing a few hooks on the back of your closet door.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;"><strong>They don't clutter the bedside table</strong></p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">Keep your bedroom clutter-free for a good night’s sleep. “I never clutter a nightstand because it’s next to where I sleep, and I need peaceful surroundings to get the best night’s rest,” says Ellen Delap, a certified professional organiser.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;"><strong>They don't shop for organising products first</strong></p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">When you’re preparing to organise an area of your home, don’t make buying organising products the first thing you do, says professional organiser Jodi Granok.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">Shop for an organising solution only after you’ve edited down and know how many and what size containers you need – or whether you already have one you can re-use.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;"><strong>They don't just buy more containers</strong></p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">“Never purchase a new organising bin just because the current one is full,” says Colleen Ashe, certified professional organiser. Make space in the current container by paring down what’s inside.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;"><strong>They don't overcrowd</strong></p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">One thing most of us don’t need help with is acquiring more stuff, so leave room for that eventuality. “Leave some room to grow in your cabinets, bins, drawers and shelves,” suggests Granok.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">Otherwise, you’ll outgrow your storage containers, find yourself storing stuff in random spots, and you’ll never be able to find things when you need them.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;"><strong>They don't forget to plan for storage</strong></p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">“I never buy anything unless I know where it’s going to live in my home,” says Standolyn Robertson, certified professional organiser and owner of Things in Place.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">This goes for everything from that new juicer you want to that item of clothing you’ve been eyeing. This rule of thumb will help you “buy one, let go of one” and avoid the problem of having something new and nowhere to store it.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;"><strong>They don't forget to label </strong></p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">“Never put unlabelled cables in a drawer or box,” says Sharon Lowenheim, a certified professional organiser. You’ll have no idea what devices they belong to when you come across them later.</p> <p><strong>They don't make a mess in the pantry</strong></p> <p>If you buy in bulk, take the individual items out of the giant bag. “Never leave bulk items, such as protein bars and snack foods, in large packages,” advises Laura Leist, author of <em>Eliminate Chaos: The 10-Step Process to Organise Your Home &amp; Life</em>. She places often-used items into bins in the pantry for easy access.</p> <p><strong>They don't let the dishes linger</strong></p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">One sure way to get your day off to a bad start is to wake up to a pile of dirty dishes in the morning, says Gayle Goddard, certified professional organiser.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">Deal with the dishes before you go to bed, because “a spotless sink sets the tone for your house – and your day,” she says.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;"><strong>They don't keep out of date things</strong></p> <p>Don’t keep things that are past their prime; it could be unsafe to use them.</p> <p>This includes expired food, expired home goods, like batteries, and expired personal care items, says John Trosko, founder of OrganizingLA. This goes for expired medications, too.</p> <p><strong>They don't skip the dividers</strong></p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">Never toss things in a drawer without dividers. “By using dividers you’ll know what and how many you have,” says Kathi Burns, certified professional organiser of Add Space To Your Life.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;">“This also saves you from going overboard buying excess items you already own but cannot find.” The dividers don’t have to be fancy – upcycled shoe boxes will do the trick.</p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 16px; font-style: inherit;"><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/home-tips/20-things-professional-organisers-would-never-do-in-their-own-homes?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</em></p> </div>

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The one product to NEVER use on your carpets

<p dir="ltr">A professional cleaner has shared her holy grail tips for cleaning carpets and what products to avoid. </p> <p dir="ltr">Kacie Stephens, from <a href="https://www.instagram.com/thebigcleanco/">The Big Clean Co</a>, shared the golden tip on her TikTok account which has racked up thousands of views. </p> <p dir="ltr">The cleaning expert said that dishwashing detergent is a common product that is good for many cleaning tasks around the house, but has been known for damaging carpets. </p> <p dir="ltr">“By now you probably know how obsessed I am with dishwashing liquid … I really do just love this extremely versatile product but there is an exception and that is carpet,” she tells her followers in the clip. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Do not be tempted to remove your own stains with dishwashing liquid. Because one day a professional will come in and all that residue will still be there, and it will start to foam, and it looks like this.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Kacie can then be seen running a vacuum over carpet where dishwashing detergent had clearly been used – showing large, pale circles appearing on the floor.</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/reel/Ccue6U3AXKa/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/reel/Ccue6U3AXKa/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by The Big Clean Co - Est 2017 (@thebigcleanco)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p dir="ltr">“Whenever you put a chemical on your carpet you want to be able to remove it completely. (That’s why professionals use a process called hot water extraction with high-pressure hot water going in, and a powerful vacuum sucking it out.)”</p> <p dir="ltr">“When you do a home hack on your carpet, you aren’t removing all that residue,” she said. </p> <p dir="ltr">“So along comes a pro, and that dishwashing liquid residue mixes with the high-pressure water going in and hellloooo foam.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“You can’t hide those hacks you tried before you called a professional carpet cleaner … Your carpet reveals the secrets.”</p> <p dir="ltr">One follower asked Kacie what they should do in the meantime while they wait for their carpets to be cleaned professionally. </p> <p dir="ltr">“What should we do when we get a spill (before calling in professionals)?” they wrote under the video. “Just blot with a damp cloth?” </p> <p dir="ltr">To which Ms Stephens responded. “Exactly.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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Older Australians on the tough choices they face as energy costs set to increase

<p>Australian aged care <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/resources/corporate-plan-2018-2019/our-performance/ageing-and-aged-care">policy</a> and <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/aged-care/aged-care-initiatives-and-programs">programs</a> are increasingly focused on what’s known as “successful ageing” – helping people feel satisfied, happier and healthier as they age. The goal is not just living longer, but also <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/aged-care-living-longer-living-better-bill-2013-provisions-and-related-bills">living better</a>. </p> <p>An <a href="https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/69115">essential</a> part of <a href="https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0277953615001537">ageing successfully</a> is having <a href="https://energyconsumersaustralia.com.au/great-grants/exploring-the-nexus-of-energy-use-ageing-and-health-and-wellbeing-among-older-australians">enough energy</a> for cooking, heating, cooling, cleaning, and leisure activities. </p> <p>Being able to use energy in these ways can <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953616304658?via=ihub">help</a> prevent <a href="https://www.thieme-connect.de/products/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-2002-20137">ill health</a> or <a href="https://academic.oup.com/heapro/article/26/4/492/585858?login=false">premature death</a>, manage <a href="https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/91591">illness and chronic disease</a>, sustain <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378778816319089">social relations</a>, and support <a href="https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/gho-documents/world-health-statistic-reports/6-june-18108-world-health-statistics-2018.pdf">positive mental health</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S027795362200020X">Recent research</a> I led focused on the role domestic energy consumption plays in supporting successful ageing. Over several months, we met with and interviewed 39 householders aged over 60 living in the New South Wales Illawarra region, from varying economic, social and cultural backgrounds, and housing arrangements.</p> <p>We found clear associations between energy consumption and health and well-being outcomes. Many people told us they avoid using energy – risking even their health and well-being – to reduce costs.</p> <h2>When you can’t use the clothesline anymore</h2> <p>Carl is a 97-year-old widower who survived the sinking of two battleships during WWII. He now lives alone after his wife died following a long illness.</p> <p>He recently had a couple of bad falls, which means he can no longer manage to use his clothesline outside to dry his laundry. Carl explains, "I’ve stopped using the outside line because I felt awkward. I’d have to put my stick down and lift things up, then I’d go wobbly. I fell a couple of times […] I have a dryer for emergencies, but I try not to use it because of the electricity costs […] It dries in the kitchen anyway."</p> <p>To save on energy costs, Carl uses a kitchen pulley system to dry his clothing. </p> <p>While he is just about able to manage, is he ageing successfully?</p> <p>Carl’s worries about the cost of energy have led him to risk his health instead of choosing the safer and easier option of the dryer.</p> <h2>Comfort versus cost</h2> <p>We found other participants were rarely putting the heating on. Danielle, a 72-year-old woman who lives with her husband, told us, "My daughter was here last night. She complained about being cold. I gave her a blanket. I offered to put the heater on; I gave her a blanket instead."</p> <p>Zack, an 89-year-old widower, only offers to put the reverse cycle air conditioner on when he has visitors. "I put it on yesterday afternoon because I knew the daughter was coming. But at times I just got a couple of throw rugs and just sit here and watch the television with that on."</p> <p>This inability to live at a comfortable temperature was also an issue for Georgie, a 72-year-old woman who lives alone in a small unit. Despite the cold mornings in winter, Georgie has so far avoided buying a reverse cycle air conditioner due to the cost. "It’s really quite cold in here in the winter. In the morning […] I get up really early. I’m up by 5:00 in the morning, and it’s cold. But it [reverse cycle air conditioning] would be expensive to run."</p> <h2>Energy supports health and socialising</h2> <p>Participants also had to consider energy costs associated with essential medical devices such as <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-a-cpap-machine">CPAP machines</a>, chairlifts, and blood pressure and blood sugar monitors. </p> <p>As Daisy, a 72-year-old married woman explains, her husband Joe relies on energy for his CPAP machine, "Really, I mean, that has to come first, the fact that he needs to breathe."</p> <p>Many older Australians face a difficult choice between using energy to manage their health or face high energy bills they can ill afford.</p> <p>We also found energy supports well-being; hosting friends for a cup of tea or initiating social connections is tough without energy.</p> <p>Genevieve, aged 89, explains how her computer helps her keep in touch with family, "There is a little bit of communication between them regularly every time we have a meeting and, you know, little things, so it’s continual. So, I’m doing emails and little reports and little things like that on it."</p> <h2>Energy policy must consider the needs of older people</h2> <p>Existing Australian <a href="https://www.energy.gov.au/government-priorities/australias-energy-strategies-and-frameworks/national-energy-productivity-plan">energy policy</a> focuses on <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0263775820961397">marketisation</a>, productivity, efficiency, security and the clean energy transition, offering little focus on health and well-being. </p> <p>On the other hand, <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/about-us/what-we-do/policy">health policies</a> pay scant attention to the role domestic energy consumption plays.</p> <p>With energy prices set to <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/power-companies-say-expect-higher-electricity-bills-within-months-20220411-p5acn8.html">increase</a> later this year, <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421515302093">billing anxiety</a> <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2753/JEI0021-3624480213">lingering</a> and fuel insecurity looming, there’s a risk the health and well-being needs of older Australians are neglected. </p> <h2>What would help?</h2> <p>Our findings underscore the need for health, energy, and housing policy to be integrated to better support older people to age successfully, in homes fit for purpose – without constant worries about high energy bills. </p> <p>Policies and programs geared towards energy cost savings such as solar installations, insulation and efficient appliances would help. So too would promoting access to higher value energy rebates for those with chronic health conditions.</p> <p>Health professionals can help by guiding eligible Australians towards their entitlements. </p> <p>By recognising that energy is a basic human need, essential for health and well-being, we can better support successful ageing.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/older-australians-on-the-tough-choices-they-face-as-energy-costs-set-to-increase-180974" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</em></p>

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5 easy ways to revamp your home facade

<p dir="ltr">There’s no doubt that first impressions count, and our homes are no exception. </p> <p dir="ltr">The front facade of a home can set the tone for what’s inside, and welcome your guests into a warm, comforting space. </p> <p dir="ltr">Giving the front facade of a home a revamp is easier than you might think, with five key steps to make the exterior of your home feel brand new that anyone can undertake. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Get painting</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Nothing transforms a tired, outdated facade like a fresh coat of paint. </p> <p dir="ltr">A paint job will add instant value to your home, while also highlighting architectural features and being a great way to hide imperfections. </p> <p dir="ltr">The colour you choose entirely depends on your own personal style and the aesthetic you’re hoping to achieve. </p> <p dir="ltr">Picking something timeless will have your house standing out for years to come, just don’t forget to repaint the gutters and trims in a contrasting shade.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Update your front door</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">While you’ve got your painting supplies out, why stop at the walls?</p> <p dir="ltr">Painting your front door is a quick and easy trick that will add personality and life into your home, without going so far as to replace the door entirely. </p> <p dir="ltr">While black and white are popular options, bright colours and pastels are also having their moment in the spotlight: especially if the rest of your facade is painted in neutral colours. </p> <p dir="ltr">Finish the look with a new door knob or handle for the ultimate refresh. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Add some greenery</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Introducing lush greenery to the front of your home will add layers of colour, height and depth, and help it look lived in and properly completed.</p> <p dir="ltr">Whether it's potted colourful flowers, a few raised garden beds or vines climbing up the wall, any greenery will completely transform your space. </p> <p dir="ltr">Aiming for a good mix of shrubs, grasses and trees will give a natural layered look, with low-maintenance options the best for filling a whole garden. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Make some simple style updates</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">If the thought of painting and gardening is too overwhelming, there are even simpler ways to liven up your home’s exterior. </p> <p dir="ltr">New light fittings, a state-of-the-art doorbell, chic new house numbers, a replacement mailbox or a characterful doormat will improve the look of your facade at a fraction of the cost and effort. </p> <p dir="ltr">These seemingly small changes can breathe new life into your space with simplicity, and can easily be switched up whenever you feel like a change. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Don’t forget somewhere to sit </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">When adding finishing touches, make the most of your revamped space by adding a seating area where you can sit with a cuppa or a book and just be amongst it all.</p> <p dir="ltr">You can also jazz up an existing patio with a table and chairs, bench seat or swing, some cushions and throws and a couple of outdoor lanterns.</p> <p dir="ltr">Adding seating to your facade will act as an extension of your living area, and will serve as a tranquil retreat for you to relax in. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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Another surprising use for a massage gun

<p>Massage guns have become hugely popular gadgets over the past couple of years. Not only do they ease aches and pains at home, but they are also being used in an unlikely cleaning hack.</p> <p>American woman, Lanie, posted a video on Tiktok showing how effective massage guns are at lifting up hidden dirt and sand in car floor carpets.</p> <p>The video of the strange hack has quickly gone viral with a massive 12.8 million views in just three days. You can watch the TikTok in the video above.</p> <p>"Thought this was cool," Lanie captioned the clip.</p> <p>In the video, you can see big piles of dirt exposed by the massage gun vibrations before being sucked up by a vacuum. It's one of those TikTok cleaning clips that is as satisfying to watch, as it is scary to see truly how much dirt is lurking where we don't see it.</p> <p>What makes the hack even more shocking is that Lanie revealed in the comments the car carpet had been vacuumed before using the massage gun.</p> <p>"Vacuum first then use this so we can see how much extra dirt appears!" a viewer suggested.</p> <p>To try the hack you’re going to need a massage gun with an attachment known as a fork, and a vacuum cleaner.</p> <p>All you need to do is touch the car floor with the massage gun so the vibrations it produces can lift out the hidden dirt. As you move the massage gun around the floor, you'll need to follow it with a vacuum.</p> <p>Tiktok users were blown away by the hack and surprising alternative use for the massage gun.</p> <p><em>Image: TikTok</em></p>

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What you should know before starting a garden

<p>So you’re about to start establishing your very own garden. Read these tips before picking up a trowel.</p> <p><strong>Starting a garden is expensive</strong></p> <p>Build a thrifty patio garden with containers you find on the kerb – just drill drainage holes. “The only thing you should splurge on is good quality potting soil and seeds,” says gardening writer Gayla Trail. </p> <p>You’ll save later on produce.</p> <p><strong>No yard? No problem!</strong></p> <p>If you don’t have a yard or your soil is inhospitable, you can still do some fruitful urban gardening in containers. The bigger the pots, the better, says Trail. “The soil will stay wet longer in a large container,” she explains.</p> <p><strong>Gardening has benefits you can't put a price on</strong></p> <p>In a 2011 Dutch study, two groups of people were asked to complete a stressful task, then assigned 30 minutes of either gardening or reading.</p> <p>The gardeners’ stress hormones were found to be significantly lower.</p> <p><strong>Dirt has surprising benefits</strong></p> <p>What makes digging in the dirt so satisfying? It might be the dirt itself.</p> <p>M. vaccae, a healthy bacterium that lives in soil, has been found to increase serotonin and provide anxiety relief when inhaled.</p> <p><strong>Gardening's physical benefits increase as we age</strong></p> <p>Digging, pulling weeds and planting help strengthen your hands, which is especially important for seniors, whose loss of grip strength worsens arthritis pain and leads to difficulty performing tasks.</p> <p><strong>Maintenance may take as little as five minutes a day</strong></p> <p>“As much time as it takes to walk around your garden and put your finger in the soil up to the second knuckle,” says gardening columnist and broadcaster Mark Cullen.</p> <p>“If it feels moist and cool, there’s no need to water.”</p> <p><strong>Learning your soil type is key</strong></p> <p>Understanding your soil type – sand, silt, clay or loam – is crucial when starting a garden. Your soil type can tell you which plants will do best and which amendments you’ll need to add, such as peat moss for better drainage.</p> <p>“Grab some earth and squeeze it,” Trail says. “Sand feels gritty, clay will stick together in a ball, and loam feels light and fluffy, like cake.”</p> <p><strong>Don't disregard weeds</strong></p> <p>Weeding several times a week provides the best return on your time invested.</p> <p>“Weeds are competition for desirable plants, so you need to get rid of them to maximise the productivity of your food plants and flowers,” says Cullen.</p> <p><strong>Mulch is a gardener's BFF</strong></p> <p>A five- to 10-centimetre layer of straw or shredded leaves around the base of your plants will do double duty holding moisture in and preventing weeds.</p> <p><strong>Don't ignore yellowed, limp leaves</strong></p> <p>If you’re starting a garden, you might be killing your garden with too much love.</p> <p>“Nine out of 10 plant problems are caused by overwatering,” says Cullen. “If the soil feels cool and damp, don’t water.”</p> <p><strong>Experienced gardeners swear by soaker hoses</strong></p> <p>Keeping water off the foliage will prevent mildew and cut costs on your water bill by delivering the moisture directly to the roots.</p> <p><strong>Fast-track your compost</strong></p> <p>A compost pile can be a great source of free fertiliser, but it takes time to brew.</p> <p>Cheat by dropping lettuce leaves, eggshells, banana peels and coffee grounds in a pot, filling with soil and placing plants on top, giving the roots steady access to nutrients.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/gardening-tips/what-you-should-know-before-starting-a-garden?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

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4 easy ways to rejuvenate your laundry

<p dir="ltr">The laundry is one of the hardest working rooms in the house. </p> <p dir="ltr">From washing clothes to being a stacked out storage space, it's easy to overlook making the laundry look nice as well as being functional. </p> <p dir="ltr">There are a few simple ways to breathe new life into your laundry room that won’t break the bank, and will keep the space working at maximum capacity. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Give it a colour refresh</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">When it comes to refreshing a small space, your colour choices can go one of two ways: using the same colours as the rest of your home for continuity, or use the opportunity to be creative. </p> <p dir="ltr">A citrus colour can instantly brighten a space, while green or blue makes sense for a wet room. </p> <p dir="ltr">To liven things up even more, you can always put vinyl wallpaper or fun prints on the walls as well. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Streamline your laundry routine</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">When refreshing your laundry, it's best to think of a way to enhance the functionality of the space by simplifying the clothes-washing process. </p> <p dir="ltr">An extended benchtop, a hanging rod for drying and a heated towel rail are just some inclusions that can boost how the room functions efficiently. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Let in the light</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">A dark laundry is not a fun place to be, so consider bringing in new lighting options to brighten the space. </p> <p dir="ltr">A statement pendant can add a decorative touch, while lighting strips under cabinets illuminate your workspace. </p> <p dir="ltr">Alternatively, harness the power of natural light by installing a skylight in the ceiling or swapping out a solid timber door for one with a window in it.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Maximise storage options</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Get the most out of your cupboard and shelves in your laundry with clever solutions to declutter the space. </p> <p dir="ltr">Wall hooks for dog leads, tubs for kids’ sports uniforms, bins for dog food, labelled canisters for pegs and laundry powder and a rack system for brooms and brushes can all help to boost functionality, minimise clutter and capitalise on space. </p> <p dir="ltr">Now everything has its own place to help the room stay clean and tidy. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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15 common items with hidden health risks

<p>You probably already know that many <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/home-tipsscience-technology/12-everyday-things-that-pose-huge-security-risks" target="_blank" rel="noopener">everyday things pose security risks</a>. But you may not realise that other favourite products – ones that make our lives easier or allow us to live more healthfully – can also pose a health risk.</p> <p>“A number of common everyday household items that one might think are innocuous can become hazards,” says James H. Dickerson, PhD, chief scientific officer at Consumer Reports. You might be surprised to learn that the following helpful – or even healthful – items can actually be deadly if used incorrectly.</p> <p><strong>Hand sanitisers</strong></p> <p>These germ killers have become staples of life during the coronavirus pandemic. “The active ingredient for most proper hand sanitisers is ethanol or isopropanol,” Dickerson explains. But with demand for hand sanitisers at an all-time high, some companies have begun manufacturing knockoffs using a different type of alcohol, called methanol. Dickerson says methanol can be lethal if too much is absorbed through the skin.</p> <p>What’s more, even some perfectly legitimate hand sanitisers have become potentially hazardous by adding fruity or floral scents, making them appealing to children. “We’ve heard reports across the country of children drinking hand sanitiser,” he says. Frighteningly, the alcohol concentration can be even higher than in hard liquor and can poison a young child. To be safe, buy hand sanitisers from verified sources that will stand behind their product, and keep the product away from children or others who might be tempted to ingest it.</p> <p><strong>Ultrasonic humidifiers</strong></p> <p>These “cool mist” humidifiers have grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to their nearly silent operation and affordable price points. They’re great at making dry rooms more comfortable by turning water into mist – but they can pose considerable respiratory risks if not used properly.</p> <p>That’s because they aerosolise everything that’s in the water – from minerals in hard tap water (often seen as a white dust that lands on nearby objects) to mould and bacteria that may build up without routine cleaning. Dickerson recommends following any manufacturer instructions carefully, particularly if they advise using distilled or filtered water. He also recommends cleaning humidifiers frequently.</p> <p><strong>Furniture</strong></p> <p>There’s something about heavy, sturdy furniture that makes us feel like we’re buying quality products. But in fact, heavy and sturdy aren’t always the same thing. “You cannot look at a piece of furniture and tell if it’s going to be intrinsically stable under normal use,” Dickerson says.</p> <p>“It’s one of the biggest home hazards in terms of injury or death, he says, citing the many people who are injured by a piece of furniture falling over on them. Dickerson says Consumer Reports is actively working with manufacturers to design products with stability as a focus. In the meantime, he says, consider anchoring heavy pieces, such as dressers and bookshelves, to a wall to prevent accidental tipping.</p> <p><strong>Plastic containers</strong></p> <p>So-called “forever chemicals,” scientifically known as PFAs or perfluoroalkyl substances, are present in everything from reusable food storage and takeout containers to the liners on bottle caps and paper-based food packages, Dickerson says. Heating (or reheating) food in such containers is especially problematic. “As you increase the cooking temperature,” he explains, “the chemicals can leach from containers into the food.” These chemicals are also present in many nonstick pans, which is why you should never heat them to more than 260° C or use utensils that could scratch the coating and release the chemicals.</p> <p>Exposure to these forever chemicals – which never break down and accumulate in the body over time – may have detrimental health effects, such as low infant birth weight, thyroid problems, immune system issues, and may even contribute to cancer. You won’t be able to tell if the food packages you purchase contain PFAs, but you can resolve to use glass storage containers at home and never reheat food in plastic.</p> <p><strong>Generators</strong></p> <p>Many people rely on backup power generators when their electricity goes out during a storm. But an average of 180 people die each year from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning due to improper use. “Portable generators should never be used inside your house” or your garage, says Dickerson.</p> <p>Instead, it should be placed at least 6 metres from your home and any neighbour’s home, with the exhaust pointed away from any dwellings. “If people have less than 6 metres between houses, point it toward the street,” he advises.</p> <p><strong>Button batteries</strong></p> <p>The flat, circular batteries commonly found in everything from watches and hearing aids to TV remotes and video games pose a choking risk to small children and pets. Even worse, says Dickerson, is that once swallowed, the batteries are exposed to stomach acid, which breaks them down and releases toxic chemicals. This can lead to severe burns and other injuries in the digestive tract.</p> <p>In the first seven months of the pandemic, ER visits for swallowed batteries rose 93 percent among children ages five through nine. The best approach is to keep them completely out of reach of anyone who might be at risk for swallowing them. Some companies are also starting to add a bitter coating to reduce their appeal to kids.</p> <p><strong>Immersion blenders</strong></p> <p>We’re all guilty of making certain common kitchen mistakes. But these handy tools, also known as stick blenders, can pose a danger to home cooks who attempt to scrape something off the blades while in use, or who accidentally turn the device on (usually with a button on the side that’s easy to trigger) while cleaning or changing blades.</p> <p>Those blades, however, are exceptionally sharp, and can make mincemeat of the user’s fingers, even severing nerves and tendons. If you must clean the blades, make sure the device is unplugged first.</p> <p><strong>Collapsible clothing hampers</strong></p> <p>Collapsible clothing hampers are usually girded with wire frames tucked inside canvas or another sturdy fabric. Kids love to play in these makeshift tunnels, but those internal wire frames have been known to come loose, causing severe eye injuries.</p> <p>If you buy a collapsible hamper or tote, make sure kids are supervised when using them, and replace them at the earliest signs of fraying.</p> <p><strong>Laundry and dishwashing detergent pods</strong></p> <p>Bright candy colours, a fun squishy texture and shiny packaging – what’s not for a kid to like? Unfortunately, many kids are drawn to these pods, and with dire consequences. Once the pods are exposed to saliva or even wet hands, they begin to dissolve and release their liquid. People who have swallowed them have died from poisoning and respiratory failure.</p> <p>It’s not just kids, though, who are at risk. Deaths among elderly people with dementia have also occurred. Some manufacturers have changed the packaging to look less appealing, and some have also added a bitter coating to deter accidental ingestion. If you use detergent pods, it’s best to keep them in a locked cabinet.</p> <p><strong>Inclines infant sleepers</strong></p> <p>Sleepers with an incline of 10 to 30 degrees make it difficult, if not impossible, for babies to lift their heads or otherwise reposition themselves. Furthermore, the plush materials prevent babies from gaining any leverage to move, and therefore pose a suffocation risk.</p> <p>A recent report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that none of the inclined sleep products they tested is safe for infant sleep. Babies should be put to sleep on flat, rigid surfaces with inclines of less than 10 degrees.</p> <p><strong>Air fresheners</strong></p> <p>Everyone appreciates a clean-smelling home, but commercial air fresheners are not the healthy way to achieve it. Air fresheners release volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, including formaldehyde and other gases. VOCs are considered indoor air pollutants and can trigger allergies, asthma, migraines and more.</p> <p>In addition, they often contain a class of chemicals called phthalates, which are known hormone disruptors, meaning they can cause birth defects and other medical problems. If you’re trying to rid your home of unpleasant smells, start by opening windows.</p> <p><strong>Cosmetics and personal care products</strong> </p> <p>Each day, the average woman uses 12 personal care products, including makeup, lotion, cleansers, conditioners, fragrances or dyes, and the average man uses six, according to the Environmental Working Group. The effect? Exposure to hundreds of chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled.</p> <p>While many of these chemicals are perfectly safe, others – like parabens and phthalates – have been linked to reproductive harm, breast cancer, immune system deficiencies and more. Some products even contain heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, or PFAs like those in plastics. To find out if a personal care product has concerning ingredients, check EWG’s SkinDeep database.</p> <p><strong>Worn-out sneakers</strong></p> <p>Running or walking shoes that are past their prime increase your risk of injury. The average sneaker life span is 480 to 800 kilometres, or about six months, if you exercise regularly. If you’ve had them longer than that, or if your shoes show obvious signs of breakdown, it may be time to give them the boot.</p> <p>A couple easy-to-spot clues: worn out treads, or once-rigid shoes that you can now twist or bend. If the internal structure or even the cushioning has worn down, you could develop problems ranging from a sprained ankle or blisters to plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, or other foot conditions caused by a lack of support.</p> <p><strong>Mattresses</strong></p> <p>If you have allergies, your safe haven for sleep might actually trigger symptoms. It’s not just that sleeping on dirty sheets can make you sick. Dust mites love snuggling into mattresses and bedding, so use an airtight plastic cover on your mattress if you’re prone to sneezing. Some mattresses are also made with chemicals such as polyurethane and formaldehyde that can off-gas while you sleep.</p> <p>And if your mattress is more than eight or ten years old, consider replacing it. Otherwise, it may no longer provide the support you need and lead to back pain. Rotate your mattress frequently, and when it’s time to buy a new mattress, look for one made with organic materials.</p> <p><strong>Extension cords</strong></p> <p>We love our electronic devices and appliances, and we love the convenience of having them within arm’s reach. Many of us use extension cords throughout our homes for this reason. But using an extension cord incorrectly could be a fire hazard or cause electric shock.</p> <p>Before plugging in an appliance, make sure the cord is designed to handle its wattage, and never use an extension cord for more than one major appliance, warns the Electrical Safety Foundation International. Also, don’t try to hide them by running them under a rug or furniture. And if you’re using an extension cord outdoors, be sure it’s plugged into a GFCI outlet to protect against shock in the event of rain or snow.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/home-tips/15-common-items-with-hidden-health-risks?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

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The nifty hack to clean your sink

<p>It’s hard to know exactly how much dirt and grime lurks in the depths of your sink, but a TikTok trend currently doing the rounds suggests a few ice cubes could bring it all to the surface.</p> <p>Makeup artist and bartender, who goes by the handle <a title="@stephyroc99" href="https://www.tiktok.com/@stephyroc99" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@stephyroc99</a> on TikTok, revealed the surprising household hack in a recent video posted.</p> <blockquote class="tiktok-embed" style="max-width: 605px; min-width: 325px;" cite="https://www.tiktok.com/@stephyroc99/video/7076202494824729902" data-video-id="7076202494824729902"> <section><a title="@stephyroc99" href="https://www.tiktok.com/@stephyroc99" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@stephyroc99</a> 😭😭😭😭😭 I could throw up right now! <a title="macysownyourstyle" href="https://www.tiktok.com/tag/macysownyourstyle" target="_blank" rel="noopener">#macysownyourstyle</a> <a title="fyp" href="https://www.tiktok.com/tag/fyp" target="_blank" rel="noopener">#fyp</a> <a title="cleaningtok" href="https://www.tiktok.com/tag/cleaningtok" target="_blank" rel="noopener">#cleaningtok</a> <a title="aeriereal" href="https://www.tiktok.com/tag/aeriereal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">#AerieREAL</a> <a title="trending" href="https://www.tiktok.com/tag/trending" target="_blank" rel="noopener">#trending</a> <a title="foryoupage" href="https://www.tiktok.com/tag/foryoupage" target="_blank" rel="noopener">#foryoupage</a> <a title="♬ Wild Side (feat. Cardi B) - Normani" href="https://www.tiktok.com/music/Wild-Side-feat-Cardi-B-6984983914901161985" target="_blank" rel="noopener">♬ Wild Side (feat. Cardi B) - Normani</a></section> </blockquote> <p>"Ya'll I'm so disgusted. I moved here two months ago and randomly decided to do this TikTok trend," she wrote in her video.</p> <p>In the video, Rochelle poured a few handfuls of ice cubes into her sink drain. She followed that step with running water from the kitchen tap.</p> <p>A few seconds later, a murky brown colour bubbled up into the sink.</p> <p>"I could throw up right now," Rochelle captioned the TikTok.</p> <p>Absolutely disgusted by the results, she decided to let all the brown water drain out of the sink. Then she poured generous amounts of dishwashing detergent and bleach down the drain.</p> <p>Rochelle tried the ice hack once again to check the state of her sink drain and the liquid that emerged from the sink was clear this time round.</p> <p>Given how shocking the results it's not surprising the ice cube hack has gone viral, racking up 8.3 million views.</p> <p><em>Images: TikTok</em></p>

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Naming that plant just got easier

<div class="copy"> <p>A major difficulty in plant research is the sheer abundance of names. </p> <p>Most databases contain multiple or archaic names for many species, which makes sharing information confusing. Alternatively, a database may not have been updated with the copious amounts of new taxonomic data discovered with modern genomics.</p> <p>Plant lovers will, therefore, be forever indebted to Martin Freiberg, the curator of the Botanical Garden of Leipzig University, and colleagues from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv).</p> <p>They trawled through more than a million names for vascular plants – almost four times the actual number of species – to create a single compendium called <em>The Leipzig Catalogue of Vascular Plants</em> (<a href="https://idata.idiv.de/ddm/Data/ShowData/1806" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">LCVP</a>). </p> <p>“In my daily work at the Botanical Garden, I regularly come across species names that are not clear, where existing reference lists have gaps,” Freiberg says. </p> <p>“This always means additional research, which keeps you from doing your actual work and above all limits the reliability of research findings. I wanted to eliminate this obstacle as well as possible.”</p> <div class="newsletter-box"> <p>This is an important step forward because messy language can be a great inhibitor of scientific progress. Using different names of single plants is confusing and it wastes huge amounts of time and resources.</p> </div> <p>“Almost every field in plant research depends on reliably naming species,” says Marten Winter of iDiv. “Modern science often means combining data sets from different sources. We need to know exactly which species people refer to, so as not to compare apples and oranges or to erroneously lump different species.”</p> <p>“The catalogue will help considerably in ensuring that researchers all over the world refer to the same species when they use a name,” adds Freiberg.</p> <p>Remarkably, this database became accessible almost by chance. Freiberg originally began compiling the list alone for internal use in Leipzig but made it available to others by popular demand.  “[M}any colleagues from other botanical gardens in Germany urged me to make the work available to everyone,” he says.</p> <p>Vascular plants are characterised by how they transport water and food inside them. They comprise a huge chuck of the plant kingdom; the few plants that aren’t vascular are mosses and worts. </p> <p>The researchers used 4500 other studies to consolidate 351,180 species within 13,460 genera, 564 families and 85 orders of the plant kingdom. They then added 70,000 new species and subspecies to create the LCVP.</p> <p>Plants that have multiple names exist as a single entry with the extra name details, so can easily be referred to instead of accidentally being classed as two separate plants based on a mistake of language.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --> <img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=128191&amp;title=Naming+that+plant+just+got+easier" width="1" height="1" data-spai-target="src" data-spai-orig="" data-spai-exclude="nocdn" /> <!-- End of tracking content syndication --></em></div> <div id="contributors"> <p><em>This article was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/nature/naming-that-plant-just-got-easier/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cosmosmagazine.com</a> and was written by Deborah Devis. </em></p> </div>

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12 simple ways to update your bedroom

<p><strong>On the move</strong></p> <p>Simply rearranging your bedroom furniture can give the space a whole new lease of life and, what’s more, it won’t cost you a penny.</p> <p>Refresh the layout by switching the bed’s position to a different wall so you wake up to a new view in the mornings—play around with repositioning mirrors and artwork, too.</p> <p><strong>Paint job</strong></p> <p>If your bedroom is feeling a little tired and drab, a lick of paint on the walls and ceiling could be all it needs to make it look loved and lived in again.</p> <p>Even giving the existing colour a recoat will revive damaged walls and get rid of unsightly scuff marks. Don’t forget to repaint skirting boards, coving and door frames too, to give the whole room a makeover.</p> <p><strong>Pattern hit</strong></p> <p>For a more drastic design change, consider wallpapering a single wall to create a focal point in the room. This works particularly well on the wall behind your bed, as it will frame and draw attention to the main feature.</p> <p>Opt for a pattern and colourway that are well-suited to a bedroom; something in a calming palette will help set a tranquil scene and avoid overly busy designs that may be distracting rather than relaxing.</p> <p><strong>Dress up</strong></p> <p>Give your bedroom textiles an update by investing in new bedding to help the room feel brand new. In plainer rooms, patterned bedding is a great and affordable way to add interest or, for a more boutique look, keep it simple with a crisp white duvet set.</p> <p>Accessorise with a bedspread or throw at the foot of the bed and introduce two or three accent cushions for a cosy finishing touch.</p> <p><strong>Picture perfect </strong></p> <p>Perk up any room in the house by changing the artwork on the walls for a quick facelift. Check out online retailers for prints—photographic, typographic and illustrations—that won’t break the bank, or collect pretty wrapping papers to put into frames for a budget-friendly styling idea that can be changed easily when you feel like trying out a new look.</p> <p><strong>Bright idea</strong></p> <p>If your bedside table lamps or ceiling lights are looking a little dated, switch them for something more modern or in-keeping with your bedroom scheme. A new shade can be easily swapped yourself, or ask a local electrician to fit something if it needs wiring in.</p> <p>Don’t feel limited to traditional lamps either; Anglepoise-style desk lamps, for example, make great bedside lights as they can be adjusted for reading and come in whole range of colours.</p> <p><strong>Get creative </strong></p> <p>Changing your bedroom design doesn’t have to mean buying new furniture; simply upcycling what you already have can completely change the look and feel of the room and for a fraction of the price.</p> <p>Use chalk paint to paint wooden furniture or change the façade of a chest of drawers by replacing the handles with a new design. Why not remove the legs of a dressing table and replace them with metal hairpin legs for an affordable update?</p> <p><strong>Floor filler</strong></p> <p>Making your bedroom feel welcoming is all about adding cosy textures, not only on the bed itself but around the whole room. Laying a soft rug underfoot will not only be a comfort in the cold winter mornings, but it can act as a design feature to ground your whole scheme.</p> <p>Choose a large design to sit beneath the bed or lay a long runner down one side depending on the space you have to work with.</p> <p><strong>Focal point</strong></p> <p>Rather than investing in a whole new bed, changing the headboard is a simple way to add some wow-factor into your room.</p> <p>Consider upholstering the existing headboard in a new fabric and adding a studded surround, for example, or build your own wooden board using reclaimed scaffolding planks which can be sanded and varnished before being fixed to the back wall.</p> <p><strong>Window dressings</strong></p> <p>Switching your existing curtains, blinds or shutters can make a big different to the look and feel of a bedroom.</p> <p>If fabric curtains or blinds are looking a little tatty, invest in a new set (or have a go at making your own)—choose a fabric that ties in with the colour or pattern on your walls to create a cohesive look throughout.</p> <p><strong>Storage</strong> </p> <p>If keeping clutter at bay is becoming a problem in your bedroom, position an ottoman or trunk at the end of the bed to provide additional storage.</p> <p>This handy piece of furniture is ideal for stashing away spare bedding or winter coats. If you’re short on space, a slim bench will also do the trick and allow you to store boxes or rows of shoes underneath.</p> <p><strong>New angles</strong></p> <p>View your bedroom in a whole new light by cleverly positioning mirrors to open up the space. Stand a floor mirror so that it’s angled at a pretty corner of the room and reflects a key part of the interior design, such as a wallpaper or gallery wall.</p> <p>Use wall mirrors to bounce light coming in from the window around the room to brighten up dark corners.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article was originally published on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/home-tips/12-simple-ways-to-update-your-bedroom?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

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Wearing shoes in the house is just plain gross, says the verdict from scientists who study indoor contaminants

<p>You probably clean your shoes if you step in something muddy or disgusting (please pick up after your dog!). But when you get home, do you always de-shoe at the door?</p> <p>Plenty of Australians don’t. For many, what you <a href="https://sfamjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jam.13250">drag in on the bottom of your shoes</a> is the last thing on the mind as one gets home.</p> <p>We are environmental chemists who have spent a decade examining the indoor environment and the contaminants people are exposed to in their own homes. Although our examination of the indoor environment, via our <a href="https://www.360dustanalysis.com/">DustSafe program</a>, is far from complete, on the question of whether to shoe or de-shoe in the home, the science leans toward the latter. </p> <p>It is best to leave your filth outside the door.</p> <h2>What contaminants are in your home, and how did they get there?</h2> <p>People spend up to 90% of their time indoors, so the question of whether or not to wear shoes in the house is not a trivial one.</p> <p>The policy focus is typically on the outdoor environment for soil, air quality and environmental public health risks. However, there is growing regulatory interest in the question of <a href="https://ncc.abcb.gov.au/sites/default/files/resources/2021/Handbook-Indoor-Air-Quality.pdf">indoor</a> <a href="https://www.euro.who.int/en/media-centre/sections/press-releases/2021/new-who-global-air-quality-guidelines-aim-to-save-millions-of-lives-from-air-pollution">air quality</a>. </p> <p>The matter <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09603123.2018.1457141?journalCode=cije2">building up</a> inside your home includes not just dust and dirt from people and pets shedding hair and skin.</p> <p>About a third of it is <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/es9003735">from outside</a>, either blown in or <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/how-the-dust-in-your-home-may-affect-your-health/2019/07/19/9f716068-a351-11e9-bd56-eac6bb02d01d_story.html">tramped</a> in on those offensive shoe bottoms.</p> <p>Some of the microorganisms present on shoes and floors are <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/epidemiology-and-infection/article/mechanisms-for-floor-surfaces-or-environmental-ground-contamination-to-cause-human-infection-a-systematic-review/37BF6318BD1473C4918A23C843B25D05">drug-resistant pathogens</a>, including hospital-associated infectious agents (germs) that are very difficult to treat.</p> <p>Add in cancer-causing toxins from <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10408444.2018.1528208">asphalt road residue</a> and endocrine-disrupting <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23273747.2016.1148803">lawn chemicals</a>, and you might view the filth on your shoes in a new light.</p> <h2>A roll-call of indoor nasties</h2> <p>Our work has involved the measurement and assessment of exposure to a range of harmful substances found inside homes including:</p> <ul> <li> <p><a href="https://www.newscientist.com/article/2231210-antibiotic-resistance-genes-can-be-passed-around-by-bacteria-in-dust/">antibiotic-resistant genes</a> (genes that make bacteria resistant to antibiotics)</p> </li> <li> <p><a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.estlett.0c00587">disinfectant chemicals in the home environment</a></p> </li> <li> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2021.117064">microplastics</a></p> </li> <li> <p>the <a href="https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/11/5/e044833.citation-tools">perfluorinated chemicals</a> (also known as PFAS or “forever chemicals” because of their tendency to remain in the body and not break down) used ubiquitously in a multitude of industrial, domestic and food packaging products</p> </li> <li> <p><a href="http://hdl.handle.net/1959.14/1276977">radioactive elements</a>.</p> </li> </ul> <p>A strong focus of our work has involved assessing levels of <a href="https://theconversation.com/house-dust-from-35-countries-reveals-our-global-toxic-contaminant-exposure-and-health-risk-172499">potentially toxic metals (such as arsenic, cadmium and lead)</a> inside homes across <a href="https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.1c04494">35 nations (including Australia)</a>.</p> <p>These contaminants – and most importantly the dangerous neurotoxin lead – are odourless and colourless. So there is no way of knowing whether the dangers of lead exposure are only in your <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2021.106582">soils</a> or your <a href="https://www.abcb.gov.au/sites/default/files/resources/2020/Lead_in_Plumbing_Products_and_Materials.pdf">water pipes</a>, or if they are also on your <a href="https://theconversation.com/house-dust-from-35-countries-reveals-our-global-toxic-contaminant-exposure-and-health-risk-172499">living room floor</a>.</p> <p>The <a href="https://theconversation.com/house-dust-from-35-countries-reveals-our-global-toxic-contaminant-exposure-and-health-risk-172499">science</a> suggests a very strong connection between the lead inside your <a href="https://www.mapmyenvironment.com/">home and that in your yard soil</a>.</p> <p>The most likely reason for this connection is dirt blown in from your yard or trodden in on your shoes, and on the furry paws of your adorable pets. </p> <p>This connection speaks to the priority of making sure matter from your outdoor environment stays exactly there (we have tips <a href="https://www.360dustanalysis.com/pages/interpreting-your-results">here</a>).</p> <p>A recent Wall Street Journal <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/heres-why-ill-be-keeping-my-shoes-on-in-your-shoeless-home-11644503227">article</a> argued shoes in the home aren’t so bad. The author made the point that E. coli – dangerous bacteria that develop in the intestines of many mammals, including humans – is so widely distributed that it’s pretty much everywhere. So it should be no surprise it can be swabbed on shoe bottoms (96% of shoe bottoms, as the article pointed out). </p> <p>But let’s be clear. Although it’s nice to be scientific and stick with the term E. coli, this stuff is, put more simply, the bacteria associated with poo. </p> <p>Whether it is ours or Fido’s, it has the potential to make us very sick if we are exposed at high levels. And let’s face it – it is just plain gross.</p> <p>Why walk it around inside your house if you have a very simple alternative – to take your shoes off at the door?</p> <h2>On balance, shoeless wins</h2> <p>So are there disadvantages to having a shoe-free household? </p> <p>Beyond the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/feet-toes-broken-pain-covid/2021/01/11/470d2efa-4a05-11eb-a9f4-0e668b9772ba_story.html">occasional stubbed toe</a>, from an environmental health standpoint there aren’t many downsides to having a shoe-free house. Leaving your shoes at the entry mat also leaves potentially harmful pathogens there as well.</p> <p>We all know prevention is far better than treatment and taking shoes off at the door is a basic and easy prevention activity for many of us. </p> <p>Need shoes for foot support? Easy – just have some “indoor shoes” that never get worn outside.</p> <p>There remains the issue of the “sterile house syndrome,” which refers to increased rates of allergies among children. Some argue it’s related to overly sterile households.</p> <p>Indeed, some dirt is probably beneficial as <a href="https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(10)00907-3/fulltext">studies</a> have indicated it helps develop your immune system and reduce allergy risk.</p> <p>But there are better and less gross ways to do that than walking around inside with your filthy shoes on. Get outside, go for a bushwalk, enjoy the great outdoors. </p> <p>Just don’t bring the muckier parts of it inside to build up and contaminate our homes.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared in <a href="https://theconversation.com/wearing-shoes-in-the-house-is-just-plain-gross-the-verdict-from-scientists-who-study-indoor-contaminants-177542" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</em></p>

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