5 After-Holiday Cleaning Tips to Get a Renewed Home

It can be a relief to finally be done with the holidays. If you were particularly busy, it can feel like you finished running a marathon. Suddenly, you have more time to yourself. But now that all the presents have been unwrapped, all the guests have gone back home and the holiday food has been eaten, we’re faced with after-holiday cleaning.

Like any cleaning task, it can feel more manageable if you come at it with a plan. By tackling the chore in smaller steps, the project doesn’t feel quite as insurmountable. So below are several ways to get your home clean after the holidays.

After Holiday Cleaning Wrapped Gifts

You often can’t use everything in these packages. Image: The Happy Home

Sort Out the Gifts You’ll Actually Use

The first step in after-holiday cleaning is to go through all those gifts. After all, you suddenly have a pile of things for which you need to find places. And if you were already feeling like you had little space, this can be the biggest headache of cleaning up after the holidays.

In order to conserve space, it’s okay to go through and assess what you’ll actually use. Many of us have well-meaning relatives who still remain clueless about our personal tastes year after year. There’s no reason to take up closet space on something you’ll never use. Consider donating some of those “it’s the thought that counts” gifts.

On the other hand, you might have the opposite problem: you have all these great gifts you want to keep, but no room for them. In that case, take stock of what you do own and consider donating some of your older items that are worn out or haven’t been used in years.

After Holiday Cleaning Card Tree

Remember to keep those holiday cards; they make great home decorations. Image: Thyme is Honey

Decide What to Keep for Decorations

After you have all the gifts sorted and put away, next it’s time to tackle the holiday decorations. It might be tempting to take everything and throw it in a box in storage. However, you’ll end up with a mess to sort through next year. A good way to put away your decorations is to take an inventory of what you’d like to keep for decorations and what you’d like to throw away.

For instance, many people use their favorite holiday cards as decorations in the home. Sort through your holiday cards, figure out which ones are good for future use and throw away any old ones. You can also use the same method for other holiday decorations. If you got a new decoration that can replace an older or worn out piece, don’t be afraid to part with the latter.

After Holiday Cleaning Christmas Tree

Sure, it’s pretty now, but this jerk is planning to ruin your new year by leaving needles everywhere. Image: M&S

Remember to Vacuum Thoroughly During After-Holiday Cleaning

There’s nothing weirder than finding pine needles from the Christmas tree in the sofa cushion in July. To avoid unpleasant surprises year-round, make sure to clean thoroughly to remove any remaining tinsel, pine needles or other debris like glitter from gift bags. Take the cushions off the furniture and make sure to use an extension on the vacuum cleaner to get everything clean. Plus, this also helps get rid of odors.

Be aware, however, that many home vacuum cleaners cannot handle picking up pine needles or tinsel. In large amounts, both can easily clog many home vacuums, and tinsel can stop the roller bar from turning. Your best bet is to sweep hardwood floors with a trusty broom. For carpeting, you can use a rubber broom or lint brush. You may also want to use a shop vacuum if you have a lot of needles to clean up.

After Holiday Cleaning Refrigerator Cleaning

After the holidays, it’s a good idea to organize and clean the refrigerator and freezer. Image: Normandy Remodeling

Clean Out/Store All the Holiday Food

After-holiday cleaning is a great excuse to take stock of the refrigerator and freezer. Make sure to clean out any holiday food that has already gone bad or you don’t plan on eating. For things you want to hang onto longer, try vacuum sealing them and putting them in the freezer for extended storage.

If you just didn’t get around to cleaning the refrigerator or freezer before the holidays, now is a good time to do it. Clean out any old or expired food to make room for the new. While you’re at it, give your fridge and freezer a good once-over with your favorite cleaning product. (A half and half water/vinegar mixture works well for cleaning the fridge and freezer.)

After Holiday Cleaning Guest Bedroom

Remember to clean the linens in the guest bedroom. Image: Murray Homes

Thoroughly Clean Where Guests Slept and Food was Prepared

This isn’t to say our fondest friends and family are filthy, but it’s a good idea to disinfect the house as part of your after-holiday cleaning. The flu and colds like to hitch a ride on anyone this time of year, so after the holidays, launder the guest bedroom linens if anyone has stayed over.

You should also give your surfaces a once-over with a disinfectant solution or wipes. Target areas like the bathroom, the kitchen and tables. You’ll want to focus on areas where food was prepared in the kitchen to reduce any bacteria from raw meat.

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Keep Your Home Healthy During Flu Season

flu season

Small changes – like a bowl of fruit on the counter to make it easy to eat nutritiously – can help you keep your home healthy this flu season. Image: TLA Studio

‘Tis the season. No, not just for the holidays. The fall marks the start of flu season. Although it’s tricky to predict flu season’s peak (the CDC reports that it could fall anywhere between November and March), it’s no secret that the winter is a time for sickness. You can’t control everything, unfortunately. Your coworkers will come to the office ill. The flu will spread in your kids’ schools. But you can control your own home. Taking some steps to keep your home healthy this flu season can make all the difference.

Before you batten down the hatches and hole up for the winter, consider a more moderate approach. Making some small but meaningful changes to your house or apartment can make it easier to fend off the flu even as you lead your normal life. We’ve rounded up some tips and tricks to help you keep your home – and your family – in good health this flu season.

flu season bathroom

A pleasant, well-stocked hand washing area encourages everyone to keep their hands germ-free. Image: The Kitchen Studio of Glen Ellyn

Encourage hand washing

It’s not rocket science. From the time we’re small kids, we’re told that washing our hands prevents the spread of germ and sickness. This is definitely not a season to skimp on sudsing up. Even though you can control how much you wash your own hands, you can only force your family members to scrub up so often. Instead of having to constantly remind people of the importance of this action, why not take a more subtle – but equally effective – approach?

In each bathroom, set up a nice hand washing station. Get good smelling soap and soft hand towels. Consider adding a moisturizer (winter is a time for dry skin, too), a scented candle and whatever other touches would amp up the pleasantness of the hand washing area. Essentially, your goal should be to make washing your hands such a nice experience that no one who visits your home would even think of skipping it.

Disinfect everything

The winter is not a time to skimp on cleaning. If you don’t already, make it a habit to disinfect your countertops, door knobs, light switches and cabinet handles or pulls every few days. Also, keep that washing machine busy. If sickness is going around your office or your kids’ school, wash sheets and towels more frequently than normal. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to include your dish towels. Ideally, you should be swapping them out for clean ones every other day or so.

Extend past the standard disinfecting tasks, too. Did you know that toothbrushes can be run through the dishwasher? Did you know you can microwave your sponges to kill bacteria? Look for the porous or soft areas of your home where germs could live and take steps to keep them sanitized. We’ve created a list of the nasty nine – key places you need to be cleaning – to help you keep your home healthy this flu season.

flu season bed

Make it enticing to get the rest your body needs to stay healthy this winter. Image: A+B KASHA Designs

Set up your beds

We already mentioned that you should be washing your bedding on a regular basis, but don’t just throw it back on the bed. Create a cozy space where you’ll want to curl up. Sleep is one of your body’s biggest tools in combating illness. Getting enough shut-eye is absolutely critical if you want to stay healthy this flu season.

Do whatever it takes to get yourself and your family to bed at a time where you’ll all get enough sleep. If your daughter wants to add twinkle lights above her bed, do it. If you want an extra cozy throw to tempt yourself to unplug from your day earlier, get it. Sleep is one of your greatest allies this winter.

Stay supplied

Make it easy to do right by your body this winter and you’re more likely to stay healthy. This means stocking your fridge and pantry with nutritious, whole food. Add a bowl of fruit to your kitchen counter to make it easy for you to grab fresh produce and give your body what it needs to fend off illness. Foods rich in antioxidants are especially important during flu season.

Similarly, make it simple to stay hydrated. Add water carafes or water bottles to everyone’s nightstands. If your family isn’t a big fan of plain water, start infusing it with fruit or herbs (lemon, mint, cucumber and strawberries are great options to start) to entice everyone to get the fluids their bodies need to stay healthy.

Use these tips to keep yourself, your family and your home healthy this flu season. Do you have any other recommendations to combat the flu season? Let us know in the comments.

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10 Holiday Decor Storage Hacks You Need to Know

holiday decor storage hacks

Here are a few holiday decor storage hacks to take the pain out of packing up the season. Image: Joanna Kosinska

The holiday season is one of the most fun and beautiful times of the year. We gather with friends and family, we share meals and gifts and we can all feel the cheer in the air. When it comes time to pack up the tree, take down the stockings and unstring the lights, it can feel a little sad – and a little overwhelming. After the busyness of the season, you’re looking at a fair amount of work to get your house back to normal. Fortunately, these holiday decor storage hacks can make things a little easier for you.

Rather than just shoving things back into boxes, only to find broken ornaments and missing bulbs when you start to decorate next year, employ these tips. With these holiday decor storage hacks in your arsenal, packing up – and packing neatly – is a snap.

holiday decor storage hacks - labels

Label your decor as you put it away to make decorating easier next year. Image: Squared Away

Get on board with organization

Here are two tips to help you store everything in a logical way so decorating next year is a breeze.

  • As you’re packing things up, set yourself up for success next year. Rather than shoving things into random boxes, label each one (e.g. the “Living Room” box would get filled with all the decorations you use in the living room). You can also place individual labels on items of which you have multiple (e.g. “Banister Garland” and “Mantle Garland”). Those leftover gift tags are perfect for labeling as you pack up.
  • When you buy new strings of lights, write critical information like where you bought them (so you know where to go for replacement bulbs) and length on the plug. Then, as you take strands down at the end of the season, wrap them around an old Pringles can or cardboard tubes that held paper towels. Cut a slit in the lip to hold the plug in place so you can neatly wrap the entire strand and easily access the info you’ve written. You can also tape spare bulbs in the tube’s center.
holiday decor storage hacks - reuse

Reusing items you already have can help you protect your holiday decor. Image: Make Life Lovely

Reuse to reduce

The holiday season creates a lot of waste. But you can use that to your advantage with these tips.

  • Shred old wrapping paper, including those random scraps that get left over when wrapping oddly shaped gifts. Use this stuffing to pad fragile items as you pack your holiday decor into storage.
  • Hold on to the packaging for your ornaments. This the ideal way to store them so they don’t get broken. If you’ve already tossed the boxes, however, you’ve got some other options. Save egg cartons to store smaller ornaments. Larger ornaments can get a similar upcycle treatment if you save two cardboard drink holders. Nestle four ornaments – one in each cupholder – in the first one, then use the second as a lid. Plastic carryout containers can be equally useful when padded with a little leftover tissue paper.
  • Corral garlands and little holiday tchotchkes in old tennis ball containers.
holiday decor storage hacks - moisture

Your holiday decorations are precious – so protecting them from moisture is key. Image: Piccadilly Design

Minimize the effects of moisture

There’s a reason you dedicate precious storage space to your holiday decor. Treasured heirlooms, handmade items and memory-filled objects make up the bulk of your decorations. Here are a few ways to protect them.

  • Are you storing your decor in the basement? If so, make sure you safeguard it from the effects of a damp space. Pack everything in plastic bins to keep it dry.
  • Put homemade, food-based ornaments (like those precious macaroni stars) in sandwich bags to keep the food in better shape and prevent them from falling apart. Store everything in cookie tins to keep away pests who would want a nibble.
holiday decor storage hacks - fresh

Opt for fresh greenery that you can toss (or compost!) at the end of the year to free up storage space. Image: Julie Ranee Photography

Get fresh and free

How much space do you dedicate the other eleven months of the year to storing your decorations? Here are a few holiday decor storage hacks to help you free up some of that square footage.

  • Fresh decor – like garlands, pinecones and cranberries – adds festive cheer to any space but can be tossed in the trash guilt-free at the end of the season. Plus, you just can’t beat that evergreen smell!
  • Tired of trying to stack rolls of wrapping paper? Use a plastic garment bag to corral them. Thread a hanger through the top to make it easy to hang them up and out of the way.
  • Similarly, wreaths will stay in better shape if they’re hung vertically, plus will take up less space that way. Twist tie a wreath to a hanger. Cut a hole in the bottom of a trash bag and thread the hanger through to protect the wreath from dust.

Good luck packing up the season! We hope these holiday decor storage hacks make life a little bit easier for you. And if you want to keep the home hacks rolling, here are 5 New Year’s Resolutions to help you get your house in top shape.

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How to Beat Dry Skin at Home This Winter

dry skin - bedroom

You can make changes at home – from your bedding to your bathroom – to banish dry skin this winter. Image: Alexander L. Palmer

Winter brings the good, the bad and the ugly. It offers the good of the holiday season, when friends and family gather and spirits are merry. It offers the bad of the busyness of this time of year. And it brings the ugliness of dry skin. When the temperatures drop and the nights get longer, drier air comes, too. When you’re prepping for holiday parties, the last thing you want to have to worry about is dry, itchy skin. Fortunately, you can do a few simple things at home to make a big difference. Here are four changes you can make at your house or apartment to fend off dry skin and stay comfortable all winter.

dry skin - bathroom

Stock moisturizer right by bathtubs, showers and sinks so it’s easy to hydrate your skin anytime you strip it of oils by washing. Image: Gabriel Holland Interior Design

Stock your bathroom

It should come as no surprise that one of your greatest weapons in combating dry skin this winter is moisturizer. Make sure your bathroom is readily stocked with options for you, your family and your guests. Damp skin has an easier time absorbing moisture and locking it in, so make it easy to grab some lotion right after washing your hands or hopping out of the shower. And don’t be afraid to have a wide arsenal available. Sure, it might take up some counter space, but different parts of your body have different needs. You might not want a scented lotion as your after-shower moisturizer, for example, but it could be a nice touch for your guests. You might not need a heavy balm everywhere, but it can feel great on dry feet.

Moisturizer is just as important in powder rooms as it is in full baths. Every time we wash our hands, we strip them of their natural oils. Following hand washing with a moisturizer is key when dry air won’t do that stripped skin any favors. Setting up a moisturizer area in every bathroom in your home this winter can make it easier to fight off dry skin – and keep it away.

Add a home humidifier

Just because the air outside is brutally dry doesn’t mean you need to suffer indoors, too. Did you know you can use your home’s existing HVAC system to make your life more comfortable? Your heating and cooling system doesn’t have to push the same dry air into each room. You can add a home humidifier and air cleaner to your HVAC to get some much-needed moisture back into your house.

A home humidifier works a lot like the humidifier you might already use in a single room, except that it balances the moisture levels throughout your home, helping your skin throughout the winter. Plus, improving the air quality in your house helps you keep a healthy home. It also makes it easier to fend off sickness this flu season.

dry skin

Caution: hot! Getting too close to the fire will only make skin drier. Image: Strickland Mateljan

Take some space from the fire

During the cold winter months, it’s extremely tempting to curl up in front of the fireplace and soak up some of that warmth. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do your dry skin any favors. Sitting in front of the fire – or even the radiator or any other heat source – sucks moisture from your skin. Think about it. A damp towel will dry much more quickly when hung near something warm. It’s better to turn the thermostat up a couple of degrees than to sit near a source of radiant heat for prolonged periods. Or, better yet, moisturize your skin and layer a sweater over it to lock in the moisture and keep yourself cozy.

Rethink your bedding

During the winter, you’ll probably want to pile the heavy blankets on your bed. They might feel heavenly when you first slip under the covers, but they can actually hurt you in your battle to keep your skin healthy. Once your body warms up, those heavy blankets can make you perspire while you sleep. This can irritate your skin and, ultimately, make it drier throughout the winter.

To start, choose sheets with breathability. That could mean the traditional cotton, but you’ve got a lot of options beyond that. Linen and bamboo sheets can serve you well in every season. Then, instead of adding just a few heavy blankets on top of your sheets, layer your bed. That way, as you get warmer and cooler throughout the night, you can adjust your bedding to your needs. On top of that, make sure you’re washing your sheets on a regular basis. Clean, dry sheets help your skin stay healthy and hydrated.

These are a few tips to get you started, but keeping your skin hydrated during the winter is a matter of finding what works for you. What are your favorite home tips for fighting off dry skin through the colder months? Let us know in the comments!

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4 Ways to Get Holiday Home Cleaning Off Your To-Do List

Few people actually like cleaning their home. But once you start, you get into a type of rhythm. And as your home becomes more and more presentable, that feeling of accomplishment grows until you’re looking at a pleasant, spotless home. The trick is having the motivation to get started with your holiday home cleaning.

Having people over for the holidays is a pretty solid motivator. And by coming to your holiday home cleaning with a plan, you’re more likely to actually get started and stick to that plan. So below are some tips for getting your home clean for that next get-together or holiday event.

Holiday Home Cleaning Carpet Cleaning

Make sure your carpets are stain-free by planning any professional cleaning they might need. Image: ProCarpet

Plan for Any Large Overhauls

Your first step for holiday home cleaning is to take stock of everything that needs to be done. There are the obvious cleaning duties like vacuuming/sweeping, dusting, cleaning up the clutter and possibly putting out holiday decorations.

However, you may want to take a survey of your home to see if there are any major parts that need updating. For instance, that stain on the carpeting could require scheduling a professional cleaner. The curtains could start looking faded and require replacing. Do you need a bigger table for all the guests you have coming over? By looking at these large chores ahead of time, you can have time to plan for appointments and bigger purchases.

Holiday Home Cleaning Clean Kitchen

Get rid of clutter fast with a systematic approach. Image: Habitat by Resene

How to Declutter Fast

For the next step in your holiday home cleaning, you’ll want to declutter. Cleaning out all the accumulated junk will make it easy to actually see the counter in order to clean it. So here are some tips for decluttering fast:

  • Your first step is to identify what is quite obviously garbage and throw it away: flyers for events from months ago, bottles, old newsletters, expired medicines in the cabinets, etc.
  • Next, take a look at what ended up in the wrong room and put it in its right room (for instance, that remote for a TV in the bedroom that’s in the kitchen for some inexplicable reason or books that should go back near a bookshelf). You don’t have to organize everything perfectly in this stage. Things should just be in the right part of the home.
  • Now organize the things you want to keep into neat piles that you can then file away. For instance, that pile of bank statements, the DVDs you left out or those books that should go back to the shelf.

Decluttering just looks intimidating because of how fast things can pile up. Once you have a system in place, decluttering isn’t that hard.

Holiday Home Cleaning Floor

Don’t forget to clean often-forgotten places like under the counters. Image: Divine Design + Build

Tips for Holiday Home Cleaning

After you’ve got everything put away or thrown out, next comes that part where you actually have to get everything clean. Here are a few handy cleaning tips:

  • When dusting, don’t forget hard-to-reach places. You’d be surprised what your guests notice. Get an extendable duster for cobwebs in the high corners, dust the molding and around the vents, clean the top of the ceiling fans so no one has a dust shower when they go to turn on the fan, dust the top of picture frames, etc. Be thorough.
  • Remember to sweep or vacuum behind doors, under the sofa and other unseen places. Accumulated gunk in these places can be unsightly in the off-chance that someone spots it and cleaning these areas can reduce odors.
  • Don’t forget to give surfaces a once-over with anti-bacterial wipes. The holidays can be a time for colds and the flu, so keep everyone healthy with proper sanitation.
  • Wipe windows and mirrors with a window cleaner for a spotless presentation.
  • Don’t forget to clean the often-forgotten places like inside the microwave, inside the toaster (crumbs can create a fire hazard) and inside garbage cans.

After holiday home cleaning, you’ll feel like you’re in a new home.

Holiday Home Cleaning Christmas Tree

For easy holiday decorating, use the tree as a focal point combined with subtle accents like lights around the mantel. Image: Chris Snook

Easy Ways to Decorate for the Season

Now that your home is clean and decluttered, you can get down to the fun part: decorating for the season. There are many ideas for getting a fun, festive home. If you want something on the low-fuss end after all that extensive cleaning, there are a few tips for getting a festive home the easy way:

  • Decorate around large focal point decorations, like the tree or large seasonal wall hangings. You can place these in the home and use only a few smaller items as accents.
  • Make use of holiday-themed throw pillows or blankets. They add festive cheer with minimal effort.
  • Use seasonal dishes and table runners. These are also easy to place and set the seasonal tone around the dinner table.
  • Take a look at these minimalist Christmas decorating ideas.

As you can see, a festive vibe is possible with just a few simple room additions.

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5 Top Tips for Arranging Your Home for Entertaining

With guests coming over for the holidays, you may be wondering how to accommodate them all. This can be especially true if you have multiple people coming over from different sides of the family or other separate social areas of your life. Without proper organization in your home, you could end up with crowded clusters of people milling about awkwardly. Luckily, it’s actually pretty easy to accommodate all kinds of different people. Some of these ideas just involve changing the furniture around. Others might have you planning for your next remodel. Below, you’ll find multiple tips for arranging your home for entertaining.

Arranging your Home for Entertaining Seating Area

Your guests will appreciate intimate seating areas. Image: Scott Weston Architecture Design PL

Think Intimacy for Sitting Areas

A hallmark of a well-organized home during a party is having multiple intimate seating areas. The photo above shows an example of such an area. Multiple individual seats face each other.  They’re not too far apart, but not too close. An ottoman in the middle helps give some visual balance and organization to the area. The space itself is also set off to the side by a window, making it a cozy area to sit and enjoy some catching up with friends or family.

And as far as the color scheme goes, this space has a good visual cohesion to it. The blue chairs stand out slightly from the blue wall and curtains behind it due to the slightly different shades of blue. It’s a good example of monochrome layering. The teal chairs in the foreground don’t clash with the blue, but they still stand out for an additional layered feel. Paying attention to color can make a sitting area look like its own design element in the room.

Arranging your Home for Entertaining Foyer Space

Set a welcoming and well-styled tone for your home right in the entryway. Image: James Traynor Custom Homes

Have a Welcoming Foyer

You’ll also want to pay attention to the foyer area when you’re arranging your home for entertaining. Make sure it’s welcoming and stylish to set the tone as guests enter. The photo above shows a good example.

Small accents like plants can give a touch of warmth and life. Having personalized items like art or family photos in the foyer can make the space feel like a natural part of the house. Matching rugs, like in the photo above, give a sense of well-planned cohesion and can help set the design tone that guests can expect in the rest of the home. Seating areas by the door are good for guests to take off shoes or have a rest. And remember, foyer color is important. Little additions like these can help the foyer feel less cold and forgotten, as can often be the case with such a space.

Arranging your Home for Entertaining Pool Table

Guests will like multiple activity options. Image: Synergy Design and Construction

Have Multiple Spaces for Different Guest Interests

It can be tempting to have a pattern where the furniture is organized surrounding the TV when you’re arranging your home for entertaining. After all, that’s how we tend to live the rest of the time when we don’t have guests over. However, you might want to pay special attention to how your space is organized so different interests can be accommodated. Not everyone likes to sit around and watch football.

For instance, the photo above shows a pool table for people who like to be more active at parties. You might also try having tables and chairs set out with games on them or poker tables set up. Also, think about individual seating areas set away from the TV for people who like intimate conversations.

Arranging your Home for Entertaining Sectional Sofa

Try a sectional sofa for seating in smaller areas. Image: Brad Ramsey Interiors

Sectionals Can Be Good Visiting Spaces

The seating ideas above tend to work well if you have a larger space. But for smaller spaces, a larger sectional sofa can work well for seating guests. It’s counterintuitive, but larger one-piece furniture sets like this work well in smaller rooms since the spacing between chairs can actually take up more floor space.

The photo above shows how a larger sectional can work in a narrower room. People can either sit next to each other and talk or watch TV. The four-piece ottoman set can also be a good place to put serving trays for snacks, as long as there isn’t a grabby pet around.

Arranging your Home for Entertaining Seating Space

Multiple large-scale seating areas can accommodate different groups of people. Image: BUILD

Try Multiple Sitting Areas When You’re Arranging Your Home for Entertaining

You might also want to consider multiple sitting areas while you’re arranging your home for entertaining. The photo above shows a large-scale example of multiple sitting areas. This can work well for parties where people from different parts of your life gather, like work friends and family. That way, different groups can have enough space to talk to each other.

If you don’t have such a large space, you can also make the idea work by placing small groupings of chairs around your home. You might face two smaller sofas away from each other and surround each in chairs or loveseats. You can also place additional chairs around natural eating areas, like adding chairs to a breakfast nook.

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Dealing with Asthma and Allergy Triggers in Your Home

Pet dander, dust and more

Identifying the source of the allergens that may be plaguing your home is key to dealing with issues they cause your family. Source: Artistic Renovations Ohio

What you can’t see, can hurt you – especially if you or your family suffer from asthma or allergies. Dust, smoke, pet dander, lint, pollen and other asthma and allergy triggers can make your home an unhealthy place.

Particles in your air can include tree pollen, grass and weed pollen, mold spores, dust mites and pet dander. They are all potential triggers for asthma and allergy attacks. Dust, smoke and bacteria are often .3 microns or less. At that size, allergens can get deep into your lungs because they aren’t filtered well by your nose and throat. Luckily, there are things you can do to improve the air quality of your home. Use these tips to help your friends and family breathe easy when they’re in your home.

Healthy home

Maintaining a healthy home often involves frequent cleaning rituals and having the best allergen-beating systems in place. Source: Bunch Design

6 ways to manage asthma and allergy triggers in your home

  1. Control dust mites: Use anti-dust mite covers and wash your sheets in hot water at least once a week.
  2. Stay smoke-free: Avoid non-ventilated, smoky rooms and second-hand smoke.
  3. Avoid pet dander: Keep pets off the furniture, out of the bedroom, and if necessary, consider taking the pet out of the home.
  4. Close doors and windows: Keeping windows and doors shut helps reduce the amount of outdoor pollens, allergens and irritants inside your home.
  5. Regularly change your air filters: Regularly changing out your home’s air filters helps reduce a number of problematic particles in your air.
  6. Install a whole-house air cleaner: A whole home air cleaning system can help remove airborne particles and allergens too small for your nose and mouth to filter naturally. They offer you an additional level of protection beyond air filters.

How do whole-home air cleaners work?

A whole-home air cleaner helps to filter and remove some of the smallest airborne particles and allergens. These can be ones that a regular air filter might miss. But how does it work?

First, the pre-filter traps the large particles your home circulates through your heating or cooling system. Next, it charges and collects smaller particles. Multiple small electrical fields, rather than a single charged metal wire or plate, allow for more airborne contaminants to be collected than in traditional electronic air cleaner systems. Finally, it collects the smallest particles. With each layer of collection elements only .08 inches apart, an air cleaner can trap particles down to .1 micron in size.

Additionally, you can reduce the allergens outside your home by planting allergy-friendly flowers in your garden.

Make your home a healthier, happier place by adding a few air quality tips to your cleaning routine. To learn more about improving the air quality in your home, contact an air-quality expert today.

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Do You Live in One of Orkin’s Top 50 Rattiest Cities?

Today, Orkin released its annual Top 50 Rattiest Cities List. The list is based on the metro areas where Orkin has conducted the most rodent treatments (residential and commercial) from September 15, 2017 through September 15, 2018.

Rattiest Cities

Do you live in one of the rattiest cities in America? Image: Ed Sologa Design Build

The top 10 on the Rattiest Cities list include, in order: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Denver. The next 10 on the Rattiest Cities list include Minneapolis-St. Paul, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Boston, Seattle, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Hartford, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati.

Spots 21-30: Milwaukee, Charlotte, Houston, Portland, Columbus OH, San Diego, Raleigh-Durham, Buffalo, New Orleans, and Norfolk. Spots 31-40: Richmond, Albany, Kansas City, Portland, Nashville, St. Louis, Sacramento, Greenville, Grand Rapids, and Phoenix.

Rounding out the top 50 of the Rattiest Cities: Orlando, Tampa, Burlington NY, Champaign, Rochester NY, Syracuse, Charleston WV, Dayton, Memphis, and Flint.

Here’s what you need to know about rats and other pests – including ways to keep them from setting up shop in your home.

Mi casa es su casa?

Mi Casa is Su Casa?

Pests like warmth as much as you do. Image: The PRG Group

When temperatures drop, most people try to escape the cold by spending more time in the house. However, insects and critters are also seeking warmth and shelter wherever they can find it. “These unwanted visitors primarily include rodents, cockroaches, spiders, and ants,” according to Dr. Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).

But aren’t they equipped stay outside regardless of the season?  Nope. “Rodents like to come inside because they aren’t well adapted to survive the cold coming with fall and winter,” says Glen Ramsey, BCE, Technical Services Manager at Orkin. “Depending on what part of the country you are in, there are a variety of other pests that want to come inside – for example, ladybugs, boxelder bugs and stink bugs – and will look for small holes or gaps to protect themselves from rain, snow, or cold weather,” Ramsey explains.

Understand pest dangers

Mice can damage your electrical wires and start a fire. Image: Richard Hughes/Element 5 Architecture

Some pests are just a nuisance, but others can cause serious problems. For example, Dr. Fredericks says that rodents such as roof rats and house mice can damage your drywall and electrical wires – and the latter can lead to house fires! “They also transmit pathogens like salmonella and other diseases.”

Also, he says that cockroaches carry bacteria and can contaminate your food. “In addition, rodents and cockroaches can both trigger allergy and asthma symptoms, and spiders and ants – which can be difficult to eradicate once they settle in, can threaten humans if disturbed,” Dr. Fredericks warns.

So how can you keep them out of your home?

Eliminate food sources

Eliminate food sources

Airtight containers keep pests out. Image: AMC Design

In addition to shelter, Dr. Fredericks says these invaders are also looking for food and water.  “Eliminate potential food sources for pests by keeping kitchen counters clean, disposing of garbage regularly in sealed receptacles and storing food in airtight containers,” he advises. Dr. Fredericks also warns against leaving your pet’s food dishes outside for extended periods of time.  “In addition, keep basements and attics well ventilated and dry to prevent moisture buildup,” he says.

Remove clutter and debris

Remove clutter and debris

Try to keep your belongings off the floor. Image: Garage Guru

Robert Taylor is the owner of The Real Estate Solutions Guy in Sacramento, CA. The company specializes in remodeling run-down homes, and Taylor says they see a lot of home and estates that have problems with mice and other rodents. “One cause of this an abundance of clutter lying around the house and against the house where rodents can hide – and this can be clutter in the garage, in rooms in the house or even outside against the house,” Taylor explains.

“Animals need a safe place to hide from predators, whether this be your household pets or other animals,” Taylor says. He adds that clutter creates a place to hide and a place to nest, and recommends removing clutter to help remove rodent problems.

Gretchen White, M.S., Animal Nuisance Biologist at Scotts Miracle-Gro has a few additional tips. “Store materials off the floors on shelves, wherever possible, in rodent-proof containers,” White says. “Use rodent-proof storage bins and prevent access to paper and fabric that could be used as nesting material.”

Don’t lend a helping hand

Don’t store firewood next to your house. Image: Dean Herald-Rolling Stone Landscapes

You should keep the exterior walls of your home clean for aesthetic reasons. But according to Taylor, this will also reduce the probability of subterranean termites finding a way into your home. “And, if you live in an area that uses firewood, be sure not to keep the firewood stacked against your house,” Taylor advises.

Sydney Crawley, Ph.D., Public Health Entomologist, Scotts Miracle-Gro, agrees. “ If you must stack firewood, keep stacks elevated and store more than 20 feet away from the home — Do not stack firewood directly against your home’s exterior,” Crawley warns.

Also, if you have a compost site/yard waste, she recommends monitoring it regularly to prevent insect breeding.

Tame the landscape

Keep trees and bushes from touching your house. Image: Minnetonka Custom Homes

Another way you can avoid lending a helping hand to pests is by maintaining your landscape. “Trees should be pruned back at least five feet from the roof to prevent access to your house from rodents,” Taylor advises. “Ivy and other vine type plants also need to be trimmed back so that they don’t create a pathway to your roof or the vents in your eaves” he says.

In fact, Ramsey says there should be a 12-18 inch buffer around the home so stop pests from entering your home through surrounding plants. “Look around your home for pest-attractive plants; ladybugs feed on other insects that drink plant juices; boxelder bugs and stink bugs feed on the plants themselves,” Ramsey explains.

Seal any holes

Check for gaps around pipes. Image: Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Cove

Homeowners use air vents so the house can breathe. However, if they contain holes, Taylor recommends replacing them. “Even the smallest of holes can allow a mouse or other rodent access into your home.” He also recommends looking for openings inside the house. “Look behind your stove where the electrical or gas may come out of the wall, look underneath your sinks where the plumbing comes out of the wall.” If there is an excessive amount of space where the pipes enter the wall, he says this will allow rodents to enter your home. “Mice may find a way into your walls, but that doesn’t mean you need to let them find a way into your house through these gaps,” Taylor says. “Have the gaps sealed tight with metal flanges that you can buy from your local hardware store, or sealed off properly by a skilled handyman.”

Dr. Fredericks says you can also seal exterior cracks and crevices with caulk and steel wool. “Install door sweeps and repair damaged screens, as torn window screens and cracks under doors are ideal entry points for pests.” He also says that it’s possible for you to bring pests in the house yourself. “Inspect items like boxed deliveries and grocery bags before bringing them inside,” Dr. Fredericks says.

Remove offenders

As a last resort, set traps to catch pests. Image: Euroline Steel Windows

Despite your best efforts, especially if you live in one of Orkin’s Rattiest Cities, it’s possible that pests may find a way into your home. “Some areas are just more prone to repeated rodent problems, like those close to wooded areas or located in urban centers,”  White explains. “To help control rodents around the outside perimeter of your home, place bait stations approved for outdoor use, like the Tomcat Rat & Mouse Killer Child & Dog Resistant, Disposable Station or Tomcat Mouse Killer Child & Dog Resistant, Disposable Station, in areas where rodents may try to enter your home, such as doors, vents, under siding or around pipes.” Do you live in a city on Orkin’s Rattiest Cities list? What tips do you have for keeping your home pest free?

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