Home Hints & Tips

Placeholder Content Image

Taking the bath out of bathrooms - does your house really need one?

<p dir="ltr">Though there’s something luxurious about being able to unwind in the bath with candles lit, soft music or even a glass of bubbles in hand, when it comes to the debate over keeping a shower or a bath, is the luxury actually worth it?</p> <p dir="ltr">The answer to this contentious debate will likely depend on a few different factors, such as your life stage, the size of your home and even if you plan on selling in the future.</p> <p dir="ltr">For Aucklander Cameron Nicholas, the $200,000 cost to include a large standalone bath in his bathroom was a must, having had to bathe two young children without one for the past four years.</p> <p dir="ltr">"It was a backbreaking nightmare, with me and my wife stooped over the shower trying to get them to stay still, one after the other, or squashing them like sardines into a tiny plastic tub," he told <em><a href="https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/homed/bathroom/98833034/does-your-bathroom-really-need-a-bath" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stuff</a></em>. "My son used to say "I wish we had a big bath." </p> <p dir="ltr">After the renovation, Mr Nicholas was told by his local real estate agent the bath added at $100,000 to the home’s value - he also plans to never move into a home without one again.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>For some, it’s not a necessity</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Though young families benefit from having a bath, there are other circumstances where it isn’t a necessity or could actually deter potential buyers, according to Barfoot &amp; Thompson sales agent Kari-Lee Haldane.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I wouldn’t worry too much if there wasn’t a bath,” Ms Haldane told <em>Stuff</em>. “For smaller units that may attract a young couple or a more mature individual, a bath is not always a plus.”</p> <p dir="ltr">However, she recommends against removing a bath already installed if your home has more than three bedrooms, since it’s an appealing option for families.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>The best of both worlds can still be risky</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">If you are set on having a bath, there are plenty of options in terms of size, design, shape and style - and you can even combine it with a shower.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, interior designer Nicola Manning said running with a combined option could compromise both.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If you’re having a shower you have to step over the bath - this can be dangerous, especially for elderly,” she said. “You’ll have to use either a shower curtain or a glass screen which can often leak. And there’s limited choice available for shower bath options in shape and quality - most are acrylic.”</p> <p dir="ltr">If having a bath will hinder the functionality of your bathroom, you could opt for a quality shower instead.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Spend money on tiling, large glass panels, add a recess for products and twin shower heads,” Manning suggested.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>It all comes down to you</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Ultimately, deciding whether you want a bath or could live without one comes down to you.</p> <p dir="ltr">After considering your preferences, needs and any restrictions on space you might have, it’s also worth thinking about how often you’ll use it and how that affects its worth as an investment.</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-05a86e22-7fff-7e0f-29f6-aa87af7561da"></span></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

Home Hints & Tips

Placeholder Content Image

If these things are in your freezer, toss them out

<p>Out of space in your freezer? Make room by ditching these items that are no longer any good to you.</p> <p><strong>Smelly ice cubes</strong></p> <p>There’s nothing refreshing about taking a big gulp of ice water and tasting the garlic you put in the freezer last week. Once ice cubes have taken on the scents around them, they’ll never get rid of them. Toss those and start fresh.</p> <p>If this is a problem you have found yourself facing, it might be time to invest in ice cube trays with lids – they can help preserve the ice cubes’ freshness and keep them odour-free.</p> <p><strong>Forgotten freezer meals</strong></p> <p>Look at you with your freezer full of healthy freezer meals! It’s great to plan ahead but don’t get overambitious with your meal prep.</p> <p>Prepared freezer meals should be eaten within three months. Try a first-in, first-out approach, and keep track of your freezer’s contents using labels.</p> <p><strong>Stale coffee beans</strong></p> <p>Storing ground coffee in the freezer can preserve freshness but be mindful of how long those beans have been sitting in there.</p> <p>Coffee beans absorb moisture, as well as the various tastes and smells around them, so make sure to use them within three months.</p> <p><strong>Freezer-burned veggies</strong></p> <p>How long has that bag of frozen mixed veggies been sitting in the back of your freezer? If it survived your last move, it’s time to toss it.</p> <p>Frozen veggies can be kept in the freezer for about three months – or shorter, if freezer burn has crept in.</p> <p><strong>Thawed meat</strong></p> <p>We love keeping a supply of chicken freezer meals on hand for busy weeknights. Once meat like chicken begins to thaw, though, it starts to grow bacteria.</p> <p>If your freezer isn’t functioning at the optimal freezer temperature, the meat inside can start to thaw without anyone the wiser, which can be unsafe.</p> <p><strong>Freezer-burned meat</strong></p> <p>Most commonly, though, it’s freezer burn you should fear. Given enough time, it will render your meat dry and tasteless.</p> <p>If you notice small ice crystals in the packaging, or can’t remember how long the meat has even been in the freezer, it’s time for it to go. Tightly sealing your meat before freezing it is a good way to ward off freezer burn.</p> <p><strong>Old deli meat</strong></p> <p>Deli meat is one of those items that is very convenient to have on hand, but which spoils quickly. The good news is that you can definitely freeze deli meat. Even with proper preparation, however, it can only last up to two months in the freezer.</p> <p>After that, even if it remains safe to eat, it won’t taste very good. Just as with other meats, deli meat should be tightly sealed and wrapped before it’s frozen.</p> <p><strong>Pastries with creamy filling</strong></p> <p>Once you’ve gone to the trouble of making a heavenly cheese danish from scratch, the last thing you want to do is throw away the leftovers.</p> <p>But pastries and other treats with cheese or creamy filling don’t keep well in the freezer; in fact, many of the foods that cannot be frozen are dairy products. Toss those cheese danishes after a month (or just eat them to avoid this problem altogether).</p> <p><strong>Unrecognisable leftovers</strong></p> <p>We love finding creative ways to repurpose leftovers; they just won’t last in the freezer forever. Most leftover dishes will keep for two to six months in the freezer.</p> <p>If they’ve been sitting for a while and you can’t remember what the food was in the first place, pitch it and start over.</p> <p><strong>Old ice cream</strong></p> <p>Most of us don’t have the problem of ice cream lasting too long in our homes but if you happen to have more self-control, you may find yourself in this predicament. If your tub of ice cream is older than three to four months, it’s time for it to go.</p> <p>So grab a bowl and a spoon before time is up! If you have a new large tub, try dividing it up and storing it in individual serving containers to help preserve that fresh flavour.</p> <p><strong>Freezer-burned bread</strong></p> <p>If you have more fresh bread than you know what to do with, and don’t want it to go stale before you have a chance to enjoy it, then popping it in the freezer is a great idea. But bread only lasts in the freezer for about six months. After that, freezer burn will likely have ravaged its good taste and texture.</p> <p>If you find a loaf in the back of the freezer that’s been there for who knows how long, then it needs to go. To keep it fresh as long as possible, make sure to wrap it tightly in a layer of plastic wrap, and then in a layer of foil or freezer paper. Pro tip: slice your bread before freezing, so you only ever have to remove what you need.</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/if-these-things-are-in-your-freezer-toss-them-out?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</em></p>

Home Hints & Tips

Placeholder Content Image

What adds value to your house? How to decide between renovating and selling

<p>The government’s <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/homebuilder">HomeBuilder</a> scheme allows <a href="https://www.corelogic.com.au/news/homebuilder-renovations-where-are-most-owner-occupied-dwellings-below-15-million">certain</a> home owners to apply for a tax-free grant of A$25,000 if they are spending between $150,000 and $750,000 renovating a home or building a new home. Eligibility criteria are strict.</p> <p>The scheme has boosted renovation talk in some circles (although, as CoreLogic has <a href="https://www.corelogic.com.au/news/vacuum-effect-and-its-implications-homebuilder-scheme">pointed</a> out, it may merely bring forward works that were already planned).</p> <p>Here are some questions to ask yourself when trying to decide between renovating and moving – and how to add value to your existing home.</p> <h2>What adds value to a house?</h2> <p>Property market observers <a href="https://www.domain.com.au/advice/how-to-make-your-home-stand-out-when-selling-932031/">advise</a> updating or renewing bathrooms or kitchens – even small fixes such as replacing a cracked or dated splashback, replacing a bath or adding skylights can go a long way.</p> <p>Think about easy repairs that create an invaluable good first impression – a fixed-up fence, a new carpet or resurfaced flooring or even good old decluttering.</p> <p>But remember you’ll only qualify for HomeBuilder if you plan to spend at least $150,000 on an owner-occupied home worth no more than A$1.5 million (CoreLogic has <a href="https://www.corelogic.com.au/news/homebuilder-renovations-where-are-most-owner-occupied-dwellings-below-15-million">listed</a> which suburbs have the most owner-occupied properties under A$1.5 million).</p> <h2>Factors to consider if you’re thinking of renovating</h2> <p>How long till you retire? How secure is your employment? Thinking carefully about your earning potential between now and retirement will help you understand how what you can borrow and afford. If you are planning to stay, you will get the benefit and enjoyment of the renovations. </p> <p>Do you need to stay close to school or work? If that’s a consideration, renovating may be worth more to you than buying further out.</p> <p>Look closely at what your property is worth (there are plenty of online calculators) and keep track of how much similar local properties with one extra bedroom or bathroom sell for. That will give you a sense of the value-add to your home equity that a renovation might represent. </p> <p>Be honest with yourself about the total cost of renovation. There are myriad expenses not always initially apparent. These may include:</p> <ul> <li>planning fees (the cost of getting a development assessed by council)</li> <li>the cost of architectural drawings</li> <li>consultants’ fees for environmental impact statements or arborists’ reports</li> <li>extra costs due to a heritage listing</li> <li>renting, if it’s not possible to live at home during renovation</li> <li>the cost of protecting underground public assets such as water or sewerage pipes</li> <li>extra costs caused by poor access or other limitations.</li> </ul> <p>Consider the possible long-term savings of retrofitting your home to be more energy-efficient. Proper insulation, secondary glazing, draught excluders and solar PV energy are expensive upfront but will save on long term running costs. It’s likely, as energy costs increase, homes that are at least partially off grid will be more attractive and valuable over time. </p> <p>And remember that for some, even with help from HomeBuilder, renovation won’t stack up economically.</p> <p>Some older people may eschew home renovation to put money aside to help children get a foot on the property ladder. </p> <p>Others may decide potentially expensive renovation is worth it to hold onto a family home to which children return as they get older. It might sound sentimental but the idea of Christmas in the family homestead is worth it, for some. </p> <h2>Tax considerations</h2> <p>Find out what tax breaks, if any, you might be eligible for if you renovate to divide the family home into a smaller space (if you’re keen to downsize, or enhance the accessibility of your home, for example) and adding a self-contained granny flat. </p> <p>However, if the granny flat is leased out, this section of the home would be considered income-producing. Your “main residence” is generally <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/General/Capital-gains-tax/Your-home-and-other-real-estate/Your-main-residence/">exempt</a> from capital gains tax when it comes time to sell, but you may not qualify entirely for this exemption if a section of the property is income-producing.</p> <p>You may also consider remodelling the family home into a duplex and, depending on council planning laws, convert the title into dual occupancy. However, these suggestions may complicate eligibility for the HomeBuilder grant (which seems to exclude property investors, although there’s no mention of partly converting the main place into a dual occupancy). </p> <p>The best option here is to seek advice from a tax specialist.</p> <h2>Factors to consider if you’re thinking of selling up and buying elsewhere</h2> <p>Use a <a href="https://www.realestate.com.au/home-loans/stamp-duty-calculator">stamp-duty calculator</a> and <a href="https://www.localagentfinder.com.au/selling-costs-calculator">cost-of-selling calculator</a> to get a rough idea of those costs.</p> <p>How important is proximity to work? Particularly if the coronavirus pandemic has opened your (or your employer’s) eyes to working remotely, would you consider a move to a more remote area where you can afford a bigger house?</p> <p>Chat with a range of real estate agents and get into the habit of reading market media coverage. Have a sense of what houses sell for that featured your desired attributes (such as more bedrooms or off-street parking). </p> <p>As a chartered building surveyor, I’d advise would-be downsizers to be cautious when buying a brand new high-rise apartment, due to risks of potentially costly defects that might become apparent over time. </p> <p>And remember, even if you do sell and buy a new place, very few are able to find the perfect home. You may decide to make renovations anyway.</p> <p>There are no easy answers. It comes down to your individual circumstances, your attitude to risk and ensuring you have a good grasp of the relative costs of each option. </p> <p>Talk to a financial adviser, tax accountant, real estate agents, builders, architects and others who have been through each process about what they’d do differently next time.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-adds-value-to-your-house-how-to-decide-between-renovating-and-selling-140627" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>

Home Hints & Tips

Placeholder Content Image

What is laundry stripping?

<p>Ready for an oddly satisfying way to clean your laundry? Laundry stripping is a method of washing clothes, sheets, and towels that allows you to actually see all the dirt and grime that’s hanging out on your supposedly clean linens. It’s kind of gross; but also totally gratifying when you’re done, knowing your laundry is probably the cleanest it has ever been.</p> <p>Here’s everything you need to know about laundry stripping – and how to DIY.</p> <p><strong>What is laundry stripping?</strong></p> <p>Laundry stripping is essentially a soaking method meant to deep-clean your laundry. The soak is done in a borax solution that removes built-up residue from detergent, hard water, body oils and fabric softener.</p> <p>What makes it so satisfying (but also might leave you slightly horrified) is that often the soaking water turns brown or grey from all the gunk that is “stripped” away from your linens!</p> <p><strong>How to strip your laundry</strong></p> <p>What you'll need is:</p> <p>Borax</p> <p>Washing soda (sodium carbonate)</p> <p>Laundry detergent</p> <p>Bath (or large bucket)</p> <p><strong>Step 1: Make the soaking bath</strong></p> <p>First, you’ll need a vessel large enough to soak the linens you want to strip. We recommend using the bathtub, but you also could use a large bucket or bin. Fill the bathtub with hot water. Add one part borax, one part washing soda, and two parts laundry detergent. For a bathtub, we recommend 1/4 cup borax, 1/4 cup washing soda, and 1/2 cup detergent.</p> <p>Gently stir the water to dissolve the powders.</p> <p><strong>Step 2: Soak the linens</strong></p> <p>Add clean laundry to the water, completely submerging it. Let everything soak about four to five hours, or until the water is cool. Stir the water and swish the laundry around occasionally; the movement helps to remove the dirt and grime from the fabric.</p> <p><strong>Step 3: Rinse</strong></p> <p>Remove the laundry from the bath and drain the water. (Don’t forget to admire the gross murky brown colour!) Now run the laundry through the washing machine, using a rinse cycle without detergent. Dry the laundry as you normally would; then enjoy your crisp, super clean linens!</p> <p><strong>When you should (and should not!) use laundry stripping</strong></p> <p>Laundry stripping is great for sheets and towels because those items are used frequently and can easily collect a build-up of body oils and detergents. If your towels feel less absorbent than usual, and your sheets look a little dingy, it might be time to try your hand at laundry stripping.</p> <p>Be careful with colourful linens, because laundry stripping can cause dyes to run. You’ll also want to avoid delicate linens like lace or embroidered pieces. Also, clothing isn’t a great candidate for stripping.</p> <p>Remember, laundry stripping requires hot water; so keep that in mind and check care label tags before you get started.</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/what-is-laundry-stripping" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</em></p>

Home Hints & Tips

Placeholder Content Image

Bunnings' big play to boost property market

<p dir="ltr">Bunnings has announced it will be expanding its services offered to trade customers in a move that will corner the market for small to medium builders.</p> <p dir="ltr">The DIY giant will be increasing the number of its frame and truss sites, which fabricate and supply timber materials to make house frames, as reported by <em><a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/bunnings-to-expand-timber-truss-and-frame-plants-in-australia/ee8a59e1-7d30-46f4-a938-46ad2ed4e4e4" target="_blank" rel="noopener">9News</a></em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">With just three stores offering this service currently, the retailer said it will open more over the next 18 months.</p> <p dir="ltr">Ben McIntosh, Bunnings’ chief operating officer, said this expansion will help the company service commercial customers “end to end”.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Bunnings has operated frame and truss plants in Australia for over 20 years, and it’s an area that we see a lot of opportunity,” Mr McIntosh said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We are excited to be expanding our participation in this market, improving our offer and working with even more customers to provide solutions for their projects, end to end.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The expansion plans form part of our wider commercial strategy as we continue to be a trusted partner to builders, from the moment they are planning to build, right through to the fit out.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The frame and truss centres pre-fabricate and supply roof and wall trusses, as well as wall frames. </p> <p dir="ltr">Trade customers, who must apply for a Bunnings Commercial PowerPass, can either attend the centres in-person or have the Bunnings team come to their work site or office and provide quoting, estimating and detailing.</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-089058df-7fff-7638-eecb-c2ca62b31dfd"></span></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Bunnings</em></p>

Home Hints & Tips

Placeholder Content Image

Helpful tips to declutter

<p dir="ltr">A dream come true would be living in a house that doesn’t require cleaning or decluttering every so often.</p> <p dir="ltr">Unfortunately, that is only a dream and is probably a bit too unrealistic because of family, pets, kids and the usual rushing out of the house in the morning. </p> <p dir="ltr">But decluttering doesn’t have to be that hard, especially once you set your mind to it. </p> <p dir="ltr">Here are five of the best tips to help you get started on becoming a minimalist. </p> <ol> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Divide clothes into piles</strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">Have three piles for your clothes: keep, donate, throw away. </p> <p dir="ltr">Once you have sorted your clothes into their respected pile, you know what to do. </p> <ol start="2"> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Organise your books</strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">We all have books that we absolutely love even if we haven’t touched it in years. </p> <p dir="ltr">Now is the time to organise them similarly to your clothes but with only two piles: keep and donate.</p> <p dir="ltr">If you throw books away, you’re a monster!</p> <ol start="3"> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Clean out your fridge</strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">How long has that microwave meal been sitting in the back of the fridge? Immediately throw it away.</p> <p dir="ltr">Anything that you do not use or require should be taken out. </p> <ol start="4"> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Keep the counters clean</strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">Put simply, clean as you go. If you’re using a certain pot or pan to cook, once it’s washed put it back where it belongs. </p> <ol start="5"> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Throw away old magazine/newspapers</strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">Why are those old magazines and newspapers just laying around in the living room? </p> <p dir="ltr">If you don’t need them, throw them away. You could always find it online anyway. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

Home Hints & Tips

Placeholder Content Image

5 things you should never cook in an air fryer

<p>You can air fry almost anything. And why wouldn’t you want to? There’s a reason these appliances have seemingly taken over everyone’s kitchens. Air fryers can imitate the results of deep-frying with some intense hot air and only a fraction of the oil. With this healthier alternative, crispy foods don’t have to be reserved for nights out and special occasions. But, there are foods that just shouldn’t be seen near an air fryer. Before cooking with your air fryer, see which foods won’t work – even though they may be tempting to throw in there.</p> <p><strong>Battered foods</strong></p> <p>Unless the food is pre-fried and frozen, you’ll want to avoid placing wet batter in the air fryer. Aside from the obvious mess it will create, wet batter won’t set the way it does when it’s submerged in oil, meaning the food won’t have that crunchy shell. If you’d like to add a little crispiness to your food, coat in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs.</p> <p><strong>Fresh greens</strong></p> <p>Leafy greens, like spinach, will cook unevenly and are very likely to burn due to the air fryer’s high-speed air. When choosing vegetables to cook in the air fryer, make sure they hold some weight, like broccoli or zucchini. Kale chips may also be successful if coated in enough oil to weigh them down. Ultimately, experts say that frozen veggies are the way to go when it comes to air fryers because they retain more moisture from the ice.</p> <p><strong>Whole roasts</strong></p> <p>The apparent issue with whole roasts is whether or not it will even fit properly into an air fryer basket, but even if it does fit, it’s best to just stick to the regular oven. The roast will not cook evenly, with the part closest to the heat source likely to burn by the time the part furthest away is safe to eat. The problem comes down to overcrowding. Since the hot air needs room to appropriately circulate, the most successful method would be to cook the roast in smaller pieces. If cooking a chicken, make sure the skin is facing up as air fryers heat from the top.</p> <p><strong>Cheese</strong></p> <p>Who wouldn’t love to instantly make some fried cheese to snack on? Since the air fryer isn’t truly ‘frying’ the food, placing cheese in it without some sort of coating will just melt the cheese into a puddle and create a mess you don’t want to clean up.</p> <p><strong>Raw grains</strong></p> <p>Grains such as rice and pasta can crisp nicely in an air fryer, but they have to be cooked on the stovetop first. Air fryers are intended to dry cooked food, so trying to cook something that needs to be immersed in water to cook properly won’t work. Even with an insert that allows you to place water inside the air fryer, the fan will never get hot enough to boil the water and successfully cook your grains.</p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/kitchen-tips/5-things-you-should-never-cook-in-an-air-fryer" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader’s Digest</a>.</em></p>

Home Hints & Tips

Placeholder Content Image

6 things plumbers never do in their own homes

<p>Plumbing is something we often take for granted, but without it we wouldn’t have warm showers, toilets that flush or the means to pressure wash the driveway. Not only that, a working plumbing system is key to sanitation – in your home and your community.</p> <p>“It is a known motto in the plumbing community that the plumber protects the health of the nation,” says licensed plumber Aaron Mulder. “As soon as you don’t have working plumbing systems in a country, things start to deteriorate.”</p> <p>That’s why, Mulder says, homeowners need to pay attention to the plumbing in their homes. This involves things like fixing leaks in a timely manner, replacing broken parts before they completely fail and regularly checking water pressure.</p> <p>Perhaps even more importantly, it’s avoiding common behaviours that wreak havoc on a home’s plumbing system. What are those behaviours? We went straight to the plumbers themselves to find out.</p> <p>Here are six things professional plumbers would never do in their own homes.</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don’t flush baby wipes down the toilet</strong></p> <p>The box may say the wipes are flushable, but the truth is there are only two things that should be ever be flushed – toilet paper and human waste, says Mulder. Everything else, from feminine hygiene products to paper towels and beyond, will undoubtedly clog your pipes – if not right away, eventually.</p> <p>These items can also clog up the entire sewer system. Over time, this can create a big expensive mess at your city’s sewage treatment plant, not to mention a threat to public health. Instead, do what plumbers do and toss disposable baby wipes in the garbage bin.</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don’t use harsh chemicals in drains</strong></p> <p>If you routinely pour a store-bought drain cleaner down the sink to do away with clogs, stop immediately. These cleaners are not just ineffective, they are caustic, says plumber Terry O’Shea, who warns chemical drain cleaners can burn your pipes and your skin, if you touch them.</p> <p>And the claims that these cleaners dissolve hair? Nope.</p> <p>“It (might) burn away some of the hair and gunk … but at the end of the day it is not going to stop that buildup from reoccurring,” Mulder says. “It is just (pushing) down to where the chemical didn’t reach.”</p> <p>What should you do about clogs? Plumber-recommended enzymatic drain cleaners are usually safe, or you can try a drain auger (sometimes called a plumbing snake), O’Shea says. Don’t give in to the temptation to use a hanger for the job though, says Mulder. Anything rigid can damage the pipe and cause a whole slew of issues, like leaks, broken seals, bad smells and bug infestations (yuck!).</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don’t pour grease down the drain</strong></p> <p>You just cooked some bacon and need to get rid of the grease. You have a few options, but pouring it down the kitchen sink is not one of them, says Mulder.</p> <p>Initially, the grease will stick to the walls of your pipes and start clogging your drain. Eventually, some of that grease will make it to the sewer, where it mixes with all the other raw sewage (along with those baby wipes that shouldn’t be there). The result? A disgusting sewer-damaging blob called a fatberg. Last year, waste treatment officials in England discovered a fatberg that was more than 60 metres long.</p> <p>We know you don’t want to contribute to such a monstrosity. Instead, Mulder advises scraping congealed grease into the garbage bin, or pouring warm grease into a can or jar to throw away later. Some people even save grease for further use in the kitchen.</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don’t take the term “garbage disposal” literally</strong></p> <p>Despite the name, your sink’s garbage disposal is not meant to dispose of garbage, says Mulder. Small scraps of certain types of food (and the milk at the bottom of your cereal bowl) are OK. But eggshells, hunks of meat, and coffee grounds, among other things, should not go down your garbage disposal.</p> <p>“(These items) are overworking the unit, or overheating it,” Mulder says. If you do this continually, Mulder says, it will damage and ultimately ruin the garbage disposal.</p> <p>And that’s not the only thing. Since the disposal isn’t designed to break down the food, that leftover chicken will rot in your pipes. Before long, you’ll have an unpleasant odour and a dirty job to deal with. Save yourself the trouble and expense by composting or throwing away food scraps.</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don’t put off preventive maintenance</strong></p> <p>Like cars, plumbing systems need regular maintenance even when nothing is amiss. Plumbers know the importance of keeping up on said maintenance in their homes, so they can minimise the possibility of something major going wrong, like a leak, corrosion or a septic tank issue.</p> <p>Mulder says it is particularly important to do an annual pressure check to make sure your water pressure is in a safe range. To meet Australian Standards, the standard maximum is 45-55 PSI (pounds per square inch). The PSI requirements differ from country to country. You can buy a water pressure gauge at your local hardware store.</p> <p>Other preventive maintenance activities include checking for leaks and clogs, and making sure you don’t have any broken internal parts in your toilets, sinks or tubs/showers. He also recommends checking your supply lines – a.k.a. the hoses that allow water to travel from the main water line to individual fixtures – to make sure they are still in good shape. Many homeowners, he says, are surprised to find out supply lines are typically only rated for three to five years of use.</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don’t prolong the investigation of the problem</strong></p> <p>Nobody ever wants to scrap their weekend plans at the last minute to deal with a plumbing problem. But if you wake up one morning and find a pool of water under your washing machine, it’s wise to deal with it right away, says Mulder.</p> <p>“If you think you have a water leak … you definitely want to get it looked at before it becomes a bigger issue,” he says, adding that plumbing problems are not the type that correct themselves over time.</p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/diy-tips/6-things-plumbers-never-do-in-their-own-homes" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader’s Digest</a>.</em></p>

Home Hints & Tips

Placeholder Content Image

Follow this cleaning schedule to keep your home spotless

<p>Whether you’re a neat freak or the type of person who only tidies up before major holidays (or fall somewhere in between), you can stay on track by following a cleaning schedule. Our cleaning checklist, which includes a timeline for the kitchen and the bathroom, tells you what to address and when, so nothing gets so dirty that it takes hours to clean or is left beyond repair.</p> <p>“If you put in even 20 minutes of effort a day, you’ll keep chaos at bay,” says Vera Peterson, president of housecleaning company Molly Maid.</p> <p><strong>Before you start cleaning</strong></p> <p>Step 1. Gather your cleaning supplies.</p> <p>Peterson recommends creating two to three cleaning caddies, each of which has been specially created for a specific area of the house (bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms, etc.) and includes everything you need to get straight to work.</p> <p>Step 2. Move clutter out of the way.</p> <p>Overall, the less stuff you have, the less stuff you must put away, dust, clean and maintain. Stack papers and books in neat piles, and group like items on a shelf or in a corner.</p> <p>Step 3. Group chores by task when monthly or deep cleaning.</p> <p>When you’re doing a whole-house monthly or deep cleaning, it can be faster to group similar chores, such as cleaning mirrors or vacuuming, than go room by room. With the tools already in hand, you’ll be able to finish them up in no time.</p> <p><strong>Daily cleaning schedule </strong></p> <p>Your daily cleaning schedule focuses on tasks you need to do frequently, like making your bed and washing the dishes. The good news is that these tasks are quick and make an immediate difference. Here are more tips for everyday cleaning:</p> <p>Instead of breaking out your stick vacuum daily, invest in a programmable robot vacuum and you won’t even have to think about cleaning your floors.</p> <p>Fingerprints on the taps and toothpaste spots in the sink are almost inevitable. Store sanitising wipes under the vanity to quickly clean them.</p> <p>When you’re finished washing the dinner dishes, sprinkle the kitchen sink with baking soda and scrub it with a slightly damp sponge.</p> <p>After each shower, squeegee the glass or tile walls to prevent watermarks and mildew.</p> <p><strong>Weekly cleaning schedule </strong></p> <p>The chores on the weekly cleaning schedule are a bit more time intensive than the daily ones. The payoff is that the additional attention to these areas now means they’ll be easier to clean than if you pushed the task off another few weeks. These are a few things to consider as you do your weekly cleaning:</p> <p>If you don’t use your microwave regularly, you can get away with cleaning it every other week.</p> <p>When mopping, start at the farthest corner of the room and move back toward the entrance. Rinse the mop after completing each 1.2m x 1.2m area to keep your water fresh.</p> <p>To clean mirrors, use a glass cleaner and microfibre cloth (or newspaper), wipe across the mirror in a broad “S” pattern, working from edge to edge, top to bottom.</p> <p>Don’t forget to dust doors, windowsills and light fixtures (turn them off first). When dusting, move a microfibre cloth from left to right and top to bottom for the best results. High-touch surfaces, such as door handles, light switches and television remotes, are gathering spots for dirt and bacteria. Spray or wipe the surface with a multipurpose cleaner, followed by a disinfectant. Allow it to sit for the recommended amount of time, according to the instructions, then rinse or wipe the surface to remove residue.</p> <p>While you have the vacuum out, do a quick pass over your curtains and any upholstered furniture.</p> <p>Dirty cleaning tools only spread grime. Remember to wash microfibre cloths, sanitise your sponges, and wipe the handle and base of your vacuum and clean its filter.</p> <p><strong>Monthly cleaning schedule</strong></p> <p>The monthly cleaning schedule addresses bigger tasks that require both more time and more equipment. Think of it as an investment in your appliances and your home, and you’ll recognise that it’s time and effort well spent. Here are some things to keep in mind:</p> <p>To clean the splashback, mix one cup baking soda, one cup hydrogen peroxide, and a degreasing dishwashing liquid. The combination breaks down the greasy buildup that is common in most kitchen areas, Peterson says.</p> <p>How you degrease the rangehood depends on if it’s removable or not. Soak a removable range hood in hot, soapy water. Otherwise, clean it in place with a soft, damp, soapy cloth.</p> <p>While you’re cleaning your fridge, toss any old or expired food and wipe down the shelves and drawers.</p> <p>It is possible to get even the grimiest bathroom grout lines clean with extra elbow grease and our secret cleaning concoction: Mix one cup of baking soda with one cup of hydrogen peroxide and scrub with a toothbrush.</p> <p>Mattresses need love too. To refresh yours, sprinkle it with baking soda, let it sit for 20 minutes, then vacuum.</p> <p>To clean skirting boards without bending, run a broom with a microfibre towel tied over its bristles along them. To dust ceiling fans, turn them off, then use an extendable duster to clean the blades and remove dust and any built-up grime.</p> <p>For streak-free windows, spray them with glass cleaner and wipe them with newspapers. Or for hard-to-reach spots, use a telescoping squeegee. Finish by whisking away debris from the window track with a crevice brush.</p> <p><strong>Deep cleaning schedule </strong></p> <p>Every three to six months, roll up your sleeves (and call in some help, if necessary) to knock out the deep cleaning house checklist. These tasks are bigger projects for sure, but they help keep your home looking its best. Keep these points in mind as you prepare to deep clean:</p> <p>You’ll be amazed at how many crumbs you have under your stove and cobwebs lurking behind your fridge. Pull each appliance out to sweep and clean behind them. Vacuum any refrigerator coils to improve its energy efficiency.</p> <p>After you empty your kitchen drawers, wipe them down and thoroughly wash any organisers.</p> <p>To clean window screens, remove them from the window, then loosen grime by lightly scrubbing them with a very soft bristle brush dipped in an all-purpose cleaner mixed with warm water. Rinse with an outdoor hose.</p> <p>Clean and organise your closet and dresser drawers.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared in <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/home-tips/follow-this-cleaning-schedule-to-keep-your-home-spotless" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</em></p>

Home Hints & Tips

Placeholder Content Image

Get the kitchen you’ve always wanted!

<p dir="ltr">The kitchen is quite possibly everybody’s favourite place because that’s where all the delicious food is – obviously.</p> <p dir="ltr">And because we keep walking in and out every day, it’s also fairly easy to get tired of the same old same old. However, if you don’t have the kind of ready cash needed for a full-blown renovation, worry not – there are plenty of things you can do that will result in a splendid makeover to keep things feeling fresh and new. </p> <p dir="ltr">Start with these easy basics: </p> <ol> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Paint </strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">Almost everything in the kitchen can be painted and if you want to feel like it's a brand new room in the house, then why not? </p> <p dir="ltr">From cabinets, walls, trims, splashback and even floors – paint can be splashed wherever you like. </p> <ol start="2"> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Pantry makeover</strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">Instead of keeping your dry foods in their bags or boxes, just empty them into a clear container and label it. Not only would you have so much more room but imagine how organised your pantry would be.</p> <p dir="ltr">Baskets can also be used for fruits or veggies. Don’t forget to use racks and brackets on the back of the door to hold spices, paper towels, aprons, dustpans and brooms.</p> <ol start="3"> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Replace handles and fixtures</strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">If you’re feeling just that little bit more imaginative, why not replace the door knobs and drawer pulls with something else that could go with the fresh coat of paint? </p> <ol start="4"> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Update appliances</strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">Do you even remember the last time you bought new appliances? Grab your coat and head to the shops and buy that new toaster or kettle that you’ve been dying to get. </p> <ol start="5"> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Create a signature nook</strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">It seems that almost every kitchen has that weird corner/cupboard that just doesn’t really need to be there. </p> <p dir="ltr">However, that space can actually be used to put items away, or have your baked goods on display. The kitchen (world) is your oyster.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

Home Hints & Tips

Placeholder Content Image

Easy ways to update your kitchen

<p dir="ltr">The kitchen is the heart of a home. Given how much time we spend there, each and every day, it needs to be functional and feel a little bit special.</p> <p dir="ltr">While a full kitchen renovation can be costly and time-consuming, there are lots of simple ways to update a tired kitchen that don’t require getting out a sledgehammer or taking out a second mortgage. We’re talking freshly painted cabinet doors, some new light fittings or door handles and hardworking storage.</p> <h3 dir="ltr">1. Paint everything</h3> <p dir="ltr">Paint can be such an amazing tool for changing the look and feel of a room. When it comes to kitchens, the cabinets, walls, trims, splashback, even floors can be painted — the trick is to select the right finish. Consider a high-wearing enamel paint for the trims, an easy-clean semi-gloss for the cabinet doors and a low-sheen paint for walls.</p> <p dir="ltr">Don’t forget to do your prep work, too. A light sand and scrub followed by a coat of primer will ensure an even finish and a longer lasting result.</p> <h3 dir="ltr">2. Makeover your pantry</h3> <p dir="ltr">Keep your pantry contents easily accessible using a range of storage options. Decant dry goods into clear, labelled containers and group like items together, such as grains, spices, condiments and so on. Baskets are good for loose items like potatoes and onions, while tubs will keep kids’ snacks in order. Use racks and brackets on the back of the door to hold spices, paper towel, aprons, dustpans and brooms.</p> <h3 dir="ltr">3. Replace handles and fixtures</h3> <p dir="ltr">This quick and easy trick will instantly refresh and elevate the look of your kitchen. Simply unscrew your existing kitchen doorknobs and drawer pulls and replace with something to suit your new aesthetic. Installing a new sink, tapware or statement pendant will require a little more skill, but the results will be equally effective.</p> <h3 dir="ltr">4. Update your appliances</h3> <p dir="ltr">If your kitchen is getting on in years, chances are your appliances aren’t functioning as well as they could. Upgrading to a newer model with multiple functions will be life-changing. The same goes for small appliances like toasters, kettles and mixers. </p> <h3 dir="ltr">5. Create a signature nook</h3> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-a0bee2e2-7fff-02ef-11de-2033b9f3e822"></span></p> <p dir="ltr">Many kitchens have a tricky corner that doesn’t really serve a purpose, so why not utilise this space for a specific need? For example, turning a corner of the benchtop into a dedicated display area for baked goods. Take this idea and tailor it to you.</p>

Home Hints & Tips

Placeholder Content Image

Energy bills are spiking after the Russian invasion. We should have doubled-down on renewables years ago

<p>Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is happening half a planet away from Australia. </p> <p>But the ripple effects are plain to see at every petrol station and, potentially soon, your electricity bill. </p> <p>As a result of the invasion and Western sanctions on Russian exports, energy prices have skyrocketed. </p> <p>If that makes you think nations should have taken steps to secure alternatives to fossil fuels years ago, you’re not alone. As it is, the much higher energy prices are likely to accelerate the exit of coal – and gas – from our energy grids. </p> <p>This should be a wake-up call. It doesn’t matter that Australia is far from the battlefield. Everyone in the world will be affected in some way.</p> <h2>What’s the link between the invasion and Australian energy prices?</h2> <p>You might think Australia’s domestic supply of coal and gas means we’d be immune to price rises. Not so. </p> <p>Due to formal sanctions and informal shunning of Russian exports, oil, coal and gas are now extremely expensive on a global scale. Thermal coal prices have increased five-fold to an unprecedented ~$A500 per tonne. Oil is ~$140 a barrel and up 60% year on year. Natural gas in Europe is around 50% higher than last October, but since the invasion, prices have spiked as high as ~200% higher than 2021 levels. </p> <p>Coal buyers are locking in supply, concerned that Russian sanctions will continue. Russia is the <a href="https://www.spglobal.com/commodity-insights/en/market-insights/latest-news/metals/030722-factbox-russian-metals-industrys-reliance-on-china-set-to-rise-as-sanctions-disrupt-supplies">third largest exporter of coal</a> and its existing customers are now under pressure to find alternative supplies. </p> <p>Russia’s aggression is not just resulting in a major humanitarian and political crisis. It is also causing pain at the bowser for Australian consumers due to the surge in oil pricing and may soon result in higher electricity bills. </p> <p>Australia’s east-coast electricity market is still heavily reliant upon coal. While many coal-fired power stations have existing supply contracts, the much higher global coal price may increase the cost of any extra coal purchases by existing power stations. </p> <p>Not only that, but our gas-fired power stations are facing potential increases in operating costs due to much higher global gas prices. </p> <p>Unfortunately, we may see the result in rising power bills. The price of future contracts for wholesale electricity next year in NSW are now twice what they were a year ago. Assuming this flows through to end-users, prices for residential customers could increase by as much as 10–15%. </p> <h2>So what should Australia do?</h2> <p>While it’s too late to dodge this bullet, we can prepare for future shocks by doubling down on firmed renewables. The faster we move, the less we’ll be hit by the price and reliability risks of coal. </p> <p>Already under pressure from cheaper renewable technologies, coal power station operators now find themselves potentially facing much higher costs in the short-term. There’s no relief for coal in the long term either, with the rapid rise of renewables and other zero-carbon technologies.</p> <p>Not only that, but most of our coal power stations are near the end of their lives, and industry doesn’t want to build new ones. That means coal will become more and more expensive, as the plants become <a href="https://www.aemo.com.au/-/media/files/electricity/nem/planning_and_forecasting/inputs-assumptions-methodologies/2020/aep-elical-assessment-of-ageing-coal-fired-generation-reliability.pdf">increasingly unreliable</a>. </p> <p>Wind and solar technologies are now much cheaper per unit of energy generated and can be integrated with energy storage to provide dispatchable “firmed” energy. The faster we transition to renewables firmed by storage, the better.</p> <p>If we do this, our new grid will also be more reliable. Continuing to rely upon coal is like relying upon a 1970s car to travel from Sydney to Melbourne on the hottest day of the year. </p> <p>State governments around the nation are already embracing this approach, with the New South Wales government moving ahead with plans for 12 gigawatts (GW) of new renewables and storage and the Victorian government announcing plans for 9GW of offshore windfarms. </p> <p>Governments must carefully design policies to avoid guaranteeing profits for private sector players while socialising any losses across taxpayers and energy consumers. In NSW, <a href="https://econpapers.repec.org/article/blaajarec/v_3a66_3ay_3a2022_3ai_3a1_3ap_3a136-163.htm">alternatives</a> are being considered.</p> <p>As European and many other nations scramble to reduce their dependency on Russian coal, oil and gas, Australia now has a once in a generation opportunity to become a leading exporter of new clean energy. </p> <p>We have truly enormous clean energy resources in the form of free sunlight and wind. To export it, we can either run underseas cables to neighbouring countries, or convert cheap renewable power into <a href="https://theconversation.com/green-hydrogen-is-coming-and-these-australian-regions-are-well-placed-to-build-our-new-export-industry-174466">green hydrogen</a> and ship this to the world just as we currently do with LNG.</p> <h2>What else can we expect to see?</h2> <p>Surging fossil fuel prices has supercharged the existing disruption to an already rapidly changing domestic energy industry. In the past month, Origin announced it would abandon coal more rapidly, with the closure of its NSW coal-fired power station, Eraring, in 2025. </p> <p>Meanwhile, AGL has been pursuing a “demerger” with a view to splitting off its coal assets and pursuing new energy technologies. This comes as Australian tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes and Canadian asset fund Brookfield <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-03-06/brt-agl-brookfield-bid-rejected/100887042">offered to buy AGL</a> for $8.25 a share, though they were not successful. Their plan was to accelerate the closure of AGL’s coal assets, which would move AGL from the <a href="https://www.greenpeace.org.au/news/new-government-data-reveals-agl-as-australias-biggest-climate-polluter/">highest carbon emitter in Australia</a> to a clean energy company. The age of coal power is ending, and much faster than most of us realise.</p> <p>This crisis should spur us to build a future-proofed fleet of “firmed” and well-distributed renewables with a known cost structure. </p> <p>By doing this, we will protect ourselves from the pain of geopolitically driven fossil fuel prices. And we will have a platform ready if we want to provide clean energy to the world in the form of green hydrogen.</p> <p>We have had decades to make full use of our wealth of renewable energy resources. We haven’t embraced this as fully as we should have. </p> <p>It turns out localised clean energy production is not just necessary to tackle climate change. It will prove a vital resource as we navigate the highly turbulent decade we have found ourselves in.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/energy-bills-are-spiking-after-the-russian-invasion-we-should-have-doubled-down-on-renewables-years-ago-179336" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>

Home Hints & Tips

Placeholder Content Image

A comprehensive guide to removing mould from household items

<p dir="ltr">Due to the humid conditions, including the wet and rainy seasons mould is popping up everywhere. There’s nothing like decluttering your wardrobe and discovering spores all over your favorite jackets and sneakers. Instead of throwing everything out, why not try salvaging them?</p> <p dir="ltr">Here are the four common household items that will remove mould:</p> <h3 dir="ltr">1. Hot water</h3> <p dir="ltr">One of the simplest ways to remove mildew from fabric is to wash them in hot water. Before washing anything, check the care labels first to see if a hot wash is suitable. Then set the water temperature on your washing machine as high as you can for at least 10-30 minutes.</p> <p dir="ltr">Although a hot wash will kill the mould and mildew, it won't remove the stains or prevent the mould returning. Its best to remove the stains before you dry the clothes as once dried the stains are harder to move.</p> <h3 dir="ltr">2. Vinegar and baking soda</h3> <p dir="ltr">A mixture of vinegar and baking soda is quite effective at killing mould and works as a great stain remover too. Mix 2 parts baking soda to 1 part of white vinegar and add this to a bucket of hot water and soak the clothes in it before washing them. However, do not mix vinegar and bleach as this combination can release a dangerous gas. </p> <p dir="ltr">3. Borax</p> <p dir="ltr">Borax not only kill mould, but is water soluble, making it an easy addition to a load of washing. Check your garments' care labels, especially on any delicate clothing items to make sure they won't be damaged. Also, best to do a small spot test first before adding to the whole wash.</p> <h3 dir="ltr">4. Bleach</h3> <p dir="ltr">Bleach is known as an effective mould killer and stain remover. But as bleach tends to cause clothes to fade quickly, a spot test is recommended.</p> <p dir="ltr">Pre-soak the clothes in bleach for 30 minutes to an hour before adding them to a regular hot wash. It should be noted that bleach may be effective at killing mould spores hidden deep in the fabric, but it does weaken the cloth fibres and will shorten the lifespan of your clothing.</p> <p dir="ltr">Also, bleach should only be used in well-ventilated areas and never be mixed with other chemicals or vinegar.</p> <h3 dir="ltr">Tips to prevent your clothes from getting mouldy</h3> <p> </p> <ul> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Don't leave damp clothes and laundry at the bottom of washing machines or the laundry basket.</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">When you do a load of laundry hang it out as soon as possible to dry in the sun.</p> </li> </ul>

Home Hints & Tips

Placeholder Content Image

5 common items with hidden health risks

<p><strong>1. Hand sanitiser</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>2. 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. 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>3. 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. “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>4. 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. 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>5. 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. 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>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/home-tips/15-common-items-with-hidden-health-risks">Reader's Digest</a>.</p> <p> </p>

Home Hints & Tips

Placeholder Content Image

14 laundry myths that are ruining your clothes

<p>Doing laundry is always a learning experience. Should you wash your clothes in warm water? Do all-purpose cleaners work for all stains?</p> <p>Read on to hear from laundry experts on what you should (and shouldn’t) be doing to your clothes.</p> <p><strong>More detergent means cleaner clothes</strong></p> <p>One popular myth you’ve probably heard is that using more detergent means cleaner clothes. However, the truth may be a bit different. “Using more detergent doesn’t make it work extra hard. Instead, it can leave residue on your clothes,” Brian Sansoni, from the American Cleaning Institute, tells Reader’s Digest.</p> <p>“You’ll probably just need to wash them again and over time these extra washings can make them wear out faster. Check the detergent label for how much detergent to use for your size load and washing machine, especially since many detergents these days are concentrated.”</p> <p><strong>The hotter the water, the better the cleaning power</strong></p> <p>Surely, the temperature of the water would have a profound effect. However, hot water may not have as much of an impact as you might think. “Hot water won’t necessarily get clothes cleaner. In fact, it can damage some fabrics or cause some stains to become permanent instead of being removed,” Sansoni says.</p> <p>“This is the case of a myth that may have been true in the past but detergents these days have been designed to work just as well, if not better, in cold water. Always follow the fabric care label.”</p> <p><strong>The more dryer sheets, the better</strong></p> <p>Too much of a good thing can actually, well, sometimes be a bad thing. “There is such thing as too many dryer sheets,” Laura Johnson, Research and Development at LG Electronics, tells Reader’s Digest. </p> <p>“Overuse of dryer sheets can reduce the efficiency of your machine by leaving behind a sweet-smelling residue and congesting your lint screen.”</p> <p><strong>Wash clothes after every wear</strong></p> <p>Sometimes, you may not need to wash your clothes every single time you wear them. “If you throw clothes in the washing basket to be washed after every wear, you may be over-washing some items and causing them to wear out prematurely,” Sansoni says.</p> <p>Unless it’s underwear or there’s a stain, it may not need to be washed.</p> <p><strong>Overloading your washer with too many bulky items can damage your machine</strong></p> <p>“Any larger items must be placed in the washer in a balanced manner to prevent laundry casualties,” explains Johnson.</p> <p><strong>You can ignore the fabric care label</strong></p> <p>As with everything, always read the instructions – and that includes the fabric care label. “There are times when it’s tempting to throw all the clothes in the washer and be done with it,” Sansoni says.</p> <p>“However, every piece of commercial clothing has a tag with care instructions from the manufacturer designed to keep the item looking its best. Learn what the symbols mean and follow those instructions to extend the life of your favourite clothes.”</p> <p><strong>All stains are created equal </strong></p> <p>If you think you can use the same laundry detergent for blood stains as grease, you might need to rethink that plan. The stain’s type actually determines how you can remove it.</p> <p>According to household cleaning expert Shannon Lush, blood stains should be removed with cold water and common bathroom soap, while to get rid of grease stains, simple squeeze a few drops of dishwashing liquid on your fingertips without water and rub the spot until it has changed to a jelly texture, then rinse with cold water.</p> <p><strong>You can use body wash to thoroughly wash clothes</strong></p> <p>It’s happened to the best of us. You put in a load of laundry and then realise that you’re out of laundry detergent. As a last resort, would body wash do the job? While hand/body wash will clean your clothes, it will not do as an effective job as a laundry detergent, since body wash has more gentle chemicals.</p> <p>“It is best to use items that have the right amount of stronger chemicals to provide a deep clean,” Leanne Stapf, of The Cleaning Authority, tells Reader’s Digest.</p> <p><strong>You can only hand wash your bras</strong></p> <p>Who here has hand washed their bras and then found out there’s an easier way to wash them? “There is a myth that you can only hand wash your bras which is not true,” Jené Luciani Sena, intimate apparel and lifestyle influencer, tells Reader’s Digest. </p> <p>“You can put them in a mesh garment bag zip it up, and put on a cool water gentle cycle with a gentle detergent in the washing machine.”</p> <p><strong>Using hairspray to remove cloth stains</strong></p> <p>This is untrue of course as hairspray makes stains worse, especially ink as it will spread it more.</p> <p>Instead, “blot some water on the stain and to make it more effective, use a versatile stain remover powder,” Robert Johnson, founder of Sawinery, tells Reader’s Digest.</p> <p><strong>Filling the machine conserves water and energy</strong></p> <p>What is a full machine, anyway? “Your definition of a full machine may be different from the manufacturer’s definition,” Melanie Musson, an insurance expert tells Reader’s Digest.</p> <p>“Washing machines are designed to work optimally with a two-thirds full maximum. If you pack the machine to the top, the detergent won’t be able to spread around and clean all the clothes and you’ll have to wash them again, saving neither water nor energy.”</p> <p><strong>Visible stains are the only types of dirt you need to worry about on clothes</strong></p> <p>You might think that a shirt is dirty when you see a stain, but there’s a lot more than meets the eye. “Your clothes might be dirtier than you think. In fact, only 30 per cent of the soils in your laundry are visible – things like food, dirt and grass stains,” Jennifer Ahoni, Tide Senior Scientist, tells Reader’s Digest. </p> <p>“The other 70 per cent include invisible soils made up of body soils like sweat and body oils, which if not removed by a deep cleaning laundry detergent will build up over time and cause odours, dinginess and dullness. Deep clean removes both visible and invisible dirt.”</p> <p><strong>You only need to sort laundry by colours</strong></p> <p>This might be good news for people who may not have time to sort through their clothes by colour. “While sorting by colours is always a good idea, you also need to consider sorting by fabric type,” says Ahoni.</p> <p>“Heavier fabrics such as denim can damage finer and more delicate fabrics. Make sure to always check the care label for the best guidance on washing and recommendations on other fabrics to wash with.”</p> <p><strong>You should fasten buttons before washing</strong></p> <p>How many times have you buttoned up your shirt before placing it in the washer? In fact, you may not need to do this at all. “Fastening buttons before washing can lead to the buttons falling off due to the stress the washing machine puts on the clothes,” Musson says.</p> <p>“It can also lead to the article of clothing getting stretched because of the uneven pressure the place of the button puts on the clothes when compared to a seam.”</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/14-laundry-myths-that-are-ruining-your-clothes?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

Home Hints & Tips

Placeholder Content Image

The many uses for bicarb soda outside of the kitchen

<p>If you’ve recently bought bi-carb soda, it’s probably in one of two places – sitting in the back of your fridge to ward off bad odours, or in your pantry with your baking ingredients.</p> <p>Believe it or not, bi-carb soda, also known as bicarbonate of soda and baking soda, can be useful for a variety of things, including improving your overall health. Its use has been applied to help alleviate symptoms from illnesses, soothing itchy skin, to even brightening your smile.</p> <p>We spoke with health experts who weigh in on the various health benefits of bi-carb soda. Remember, you should always speak with your doctor before trying anything new to alleviate or treat health ailments.</p> <p>1. Reducing heart burn</p> <p>Bi-carb soda can be the perfect helper for occasional heartburn. “Bi-carb soda can help treat heartburn by neutralising stomach acid because bi-carb soda is a base,” says Dr Niket Sonpal. “Dissolve a teaspoon of bi-carb soda in a glass of cold water and drink the mixture slowly. However, if you are having daily heartburn symptoms, then you should see your doctor – this remedy is for occasional symptoms,” he says.</p> <p>2. Soothing mouth ulcers</p> <p>Bi-carb soda can help soothe those painful lesions. “When you have painful mouth ulcers, rinsing with bi-carb soda and water neutralises the acidic ulcer and can calm the pain down,” says dentist Candy Sebold. “Eating becomes easier.” Try mixing a half-teaspoon of the soda with a half cup of warm water and then rinsing your mouth.</p> <p>3. Fighting plaque </p> <p>Brushing your teeth with bi-carb soda can help protect your teeth from damaging plaque. “Bi-carb soda is a gentle cleaning agent that effectively removes surface stains from tooth enamel without being excessively abrasive,” says dentist Jared Cox. “Using bi-carb soda can be antibacterial and help eliminate germs associated with plaque. By reducing the number of germs on the teeth, the glossy surface of the tooth enamel is better protected.”</p> <p>Try mixing a half-teaspoon with a little water to make a paste, then use it as you would your toothpaste.</p> <p>4. Whitening teeth</p> <p>“Bi-carb soda has been found to remove many stains from teeth so teeth are whitened by its use,” Sebold says. “But bi-carb soda does not contain cavity-fighting fluoride,” she explains. Sebold suggests using bi-carb soda a few times a week, alongside a fluoride-containing toothpaste for the rest of the week. This will “ensure the most favourable outcome in terms of cavity prevention, whitening and safety”.</p> <p>5. Cleaning your food</p> <p>If you want to effectively clean your produce, bi-carb soda is a potent cleanser – without contaminating your greens with detergents. “Some studies show that soaking fruit and vegetables in a mix of bi-carb soda and water for 15 minutes can kill almost all pesticides,” says Dr Lina Velikova, which is a lot better than peeling off the skins which are rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.</p> <p>6. Deodorising everyhing</p> <p>If you’re looking for a natural deodorant, bi-carb soda may just do the trick. “The bacteria that make your armpits smell bad converts your sweat into acidic waste products that give sweat its odour,” says Dr Sonpal. “Bi-carb soda can eliminate the smell of sweat by making the odours less acidic. Try patting bi-carb soda onto your armpits and you may notice the difference.”</p> <p>The same technique can be used to reduce the smell of stinky feet – and even help with bad breath. “Bi-carb soda can neutralise and disrupt the bacteria in your mouth and gums that lead to bad breath,” says Dr Sonpal. “The recipe for bi-carb soda mouthwash is adding a half a teaspoon of bi-carb soda to half a glass of warm water, and then swishing as usual.”</p> <p>7. Soothing sun burn</p> <p>If you spent too long in the sun or skipped a spot with the sunscreen, a bi-carb soda bath can help reduce the pain. “To make a bi-carb soda bath, add 1 to 2 cups of bi-carb soda to a lukewarm bath,” says Dr Sonpal. “Make sure the affected area is soaked thoroughly.”</p> <p>8. Soothing Eczema </p> <p>If you have eczema or another itchy rash, bi-carb soda might be just the salve you’re seeking. The US National Eczema Foundation recommends mixing a 1/4 cup of bi-carb soda into lukewarm water and soaking for up to 15 minutes, then, while the skin is still damp, applying any prescription creams and a creamy moisturiser to seal the skin. If you have an especially itchy patch of eczema, apply a paste of bi-carb soda to help reduce the itching and soothe the spot.</p> <p>9. Boost sports performance</p> <p>Could taking bi-carb soda help you improve your workout stamina? A 2019 study of cyclists, published in Nutrition, found that high doses of bi-carb soda taken by the bike riders delayed the rise of lactic acid – a byproduct of burning carbohydrates in muscle cells and red blood cells – until post-workout, allowing them to work harder during exercise. (When the acid builds up, performance suffers.) And a similar 2017 study using female college basketball players, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, achieved similar results, with the players improving in repeated sprints and jumps, and showing an increased ability to withstand a heavier training load.</p> <p>10. Slowing kidney disease</p> <p>If you have chronic kidney disease, bi-carb soda may help slow down the rate of decline in your kidneys. A 2019 study of 700 people, published in the Journal of Nephrology, found that the group who took bi-carb soda over the three-year study were less likely to reach end-stage renal failure and require dialysis treatment. This was compared to people in the control group, who received the standard level of care for their kidney disease. Overall, the researchers of the study concluded the use of bi-carb soda is safe and can improve outcomes for the kidneys and patients.</p>

Home Hints & Tips

Placeholder Content Image

The quick and easy way to create an office in your living area

<p dir="ltr">Working from home is here to stay, but for many Australians the luxury of a home office isn’t always an option. Bunnings have teamed up with Better Homes and Gardens to bring you these handy hacks to create your own designated work space at home. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>1. Find the perfect desk</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">First things first, you’ll need a sturdy desk. Whether you buy a ready-made desk or build one yourself, ensure it’s the ideal size (common dimensions range between 120 and 180cm wide and 60 to 90cm deep).  </p> <p dir="ltr">Select your countertop material to suit your interior style. A minimalist, timber design is the epitome of Scandinavian style, whereas a black metal desk evokes an industrial mood.</p> <h3>2. Add a feature wall</h3> <p dir="ltr">A bold feature wall creates a strong visual contrast and can liven up any lacklustre room. It’s also the key to dividing your study nook from an open-plan area — creating a separate space that’s truly your own.</p> <p dir="ltr">Here, the Bunnings team use premium paint to form a striking focal point. This rich black colour has a calming and powerful effect, perfect for creating focus in a working zone. What’s more, this simple DIY paint project can transform your home office in a matter of hours.        </p> <h3>3. Install floating shelves</h3> <p dir="ltr">Sufficient storage is key to an organised workstation, so you can sit down with a clear mind at the start of each working day. Floating shelves are the answer to decluttering your desk and keeping organised, as they can hold folders, stationery, and other office equipment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Open shelves are also a beautiful way to personalise your study and show off décor. Plus, installing shelving is a straightforward DIY task that any renovation novice with a power drill can tackle.        </p> <h3>4. Allow for ample lighting</h3> <p dir="ltr">Whether your home office is tucked around a corner or is a statement piece in your living room, it’s important to consider lighting. Poor lighting can induce eye fatigue and headaches, while negatively affecting your energy and productivity.</p> <p dir="ltr">Whilst we can’t all have an office with a view, it is worth considering a space with great natural light, which creates a warm, attractive environment and can enlarge a small space. If possible, position your desk near a window, and invest in a lamp to further brighten your desk.</p> <h3>5. Decorate with plants   </h3> <p dir="ltr">Bring the outdoors in with a burst of greenery on your desk. A leafy desk friend is proven to boost attention, reduce stress and increase creativity, not to mention plants also improve air quality.</p> <p dir="ltr">Decorate with indoor plants that are easy to care for and require little sunlight, such as a snake plant, peace lily or philodendron green.   </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Better Homes &amp; Gardens</em></p>

Home Hints & Tips

Our Partners