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posted: 10/17/2013 3:30 PM

Cleaning and organizing your laundry room

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Laundry day doesn't have to be all washed up! Here are some super ideas for upgrading your laundry area to make it a breeze to use.

Whether your laundry room is in a utility room, bedroom or even a closet, it can be made better with just a few simple, inexpensive additions.

• A closet rod is a must. This can be placed over the machines if they are side by side. If you have a door, you can install an over-the-door clothes rod. Another option might be a tension rod. They even make fold-down rods just for this purpose. Keep spare hangers here if you can.

• Keep all of your soaps, fabric softener, etc. in one spot, either on a common shelf, in a plastic bin box or on an over-the-door wire rack.

• Add a message board of some type. You can use a bulletin, chalk or dry-erase board. It will be a great place to note supplies needed, maintenance dates and other useful information.

• You'll also need a trash can of some type for dryer sheets, lint, etc.

• Add a folding table. There are some neat fold-down tables that you could install for this purpose.

• Make sure you have enough light in the room. Add more if you need to.

• If you don't have adequate ventilation in the room, consider adding it. If you have it, then use it.

• An ironing board would be handy too. It could be an ironing pad that can be set on one of the machines, a free-standing model or one that folds up into a cabinet mounted on the wall. A clothing steamer would also be handy if you have room for one.

Add just one of these ideas and you'll see a difference. Add them all and you might actually ENJOY doing the laundry!

Give your ceiling fan a fresh new look

Are you tired of the same old wooden fan blades on your ceiling fan? Of course you can change them out, but to what -another type of wood, or maybe a white painted blade? You could paint them a custom color, add decals or maybe even cover them with wallpaper or fabric. Remove your old blade, sand clean them thoroughly and scuff-sand them if you plan to paint. Then, get creative with paint or whatever medium you want. You might want to apply a clear sealer like polyurethane over them to protect and preserve them. Now, that will look better!

Get a 'baby sitter' for your fall vegetable garden

Fall vegetable gardens are more popular than ever. But in many parts of the country, watering can be an issue. One way to do so more easily is with a self-watering system. This also is a great way to water your plants when you go on vacation. Just clean out a plastic milk jug, poke small holes into the bottom of the jug, fill it with water, replace the cap on the jug and set it next to each plant. This way the water slowly leaks out into the soil and is taken up by the plant roots. If you have a lot of wind, you can put a few rocks into the jug. We think of it as a veggie baby sitter!

Super hints

• Those inexpensive cosmetic sponges are great for lots of shop uses. You can buy a whole bag of them and they are small and just perfect for paint touch-ups, small messes and lots of other small projects in the shop and home.

• My husband likes to use our leaf blower after mowing every weekend. So when I need one for my back porch and he's using the other one, I just haul the shop vac out there and use it, on the "exhaust" setting. Then my patio gets cleaned at the same time!

• Making your own steppingstones is a piece of cake! Just use aluminum cake pans as your mold. These are inexpensive but able to stand up to several uses and can be thrown away or recycled when you are finished. Make your own custom steppingstones. It's a piece of cake!

Q. I love the brick wall over our fireplace. It adds a lot of texture to the room. The only thing I don't like is the color. It's painted white just like the outside of the house. I would really like to paint it a green color that I think would look better in the room. What do I need to do to get good, solid coverage that will last?

A. If the paint still is in good shape, then you can paint over it. If it is peeling or bubbling, then you need to scrape off any loose paint, prime and then paint. Take your time and do it right. It will be worth it in the long run.

Q. When we had our front door replaced, I couldn't decide what color I wanted it to be, so I asked them to leave it primed and ready to paint. Now I am ready to do it. I want to know if there is a way to make it look like wood instead of just a color. Can you tell me how to do it?

A. You certainly are ambitious! You'll want to use a base coat first, a lighter color. Then you can use a

wood-graining tool. Practice on cardboard first. It sort of rocks back and forth as you drag it, and the paint, over the surface. This will be the "wood" color. Put a clear coat on top to protect your finish. All of your paint should be high-quality, UV-resistant, exterior paint. Good luck!

Q. I have an older wall-mounted electric heater in my bathroom. It still works great but I would like to clean it before I need it again this winter. Where do I start?

A. Start by turning the breaker in your electrical panel that controls the heater "OFF." Now you can remove the face plate or outer grill. Use soapy water to clean it thoroughly and set it aside to dry. Use a vacuum cleaner to clean out the inside of the heater, being careful not to dislodge coils or other parts. Now you can place the grill back into place. You should do this every year to keep it looking and working good for many years. Space heaters can save money on heating bills too, if used properly. Keep up the good work.

Reader tips

• I finally had our back porch enclosed. It's something I always wanted to do. The one issue I had to address was the dryer vent, which had always been vented onto the porch. We found a contractor to do the job, but he couldn't do it for a couple of weeks. I didn't want to have the lint blowing into the room, so I put a pantyhose leg over the end of the vent. I reasoned this would catch the lint, and it did. I had to clean it several times before the new vent was installed.

• My wife does a lot of sewing around our home. Her latest feat are the drapes in our dining room. I bought a standard rod for them and hung it up for her. She put some very heavy drapes up. Then she wanted to put up a second layer of sheer panels behind these but the rod was not going to work for this purpose. I ran some wire from one side of the rod to the other, behind the main rod. The sheers are lightweight and hang nicely on this wire. Problem solved -- thank goodness!

• I like my shop vacuum, but I had to replace the rigid sections that fit on the hose. They got stuck together, and I broke them trying to pull them apart. Now I spray them with WD-40 every once in a while so the new ones don't get stuck like the old ones. It's easy enough to do. I wish I had thought of it before I had to replace them!

• I would really be in trouble if my sump pump failed. That's why I keep it cleaned and ready to go. I have installed a pre-filter on it. I slipped it into a mesh produce bag, the kind with very small holes. This traps any debris on the outside of the bag. When it looks like it's going to get blocked up, I pull it off and wash it. Then I can just put it back in place. It's much easier than unplugging the whole thing and removing it to clean it out.

• I know I will have to replace the compressor on my air conditioner, but I just wanted to get through the last of summer before it conked out. When it started to whine, I got some oil to lubricate it with. The straw on the can wasn't long enough to reach it though. I bought some fishing aquarium hose the same size and fit it to the end of the straw. Then I got the hose into the right spot and sprayed away. It stopped the whining. I sighed with relief and will start shopping soon.


• Would you like to make a nifty Christmas gift for your friends and family this year? Wind chimes add a touch of music to your deck or patio and make a great gift. We have plans for a set of easy-to-make wind chimes using things like electrical conduit and other shop scraps. Electrical conduit is easy to cut and not very expensive. You can substitute other pipe if you want. Copper would look really neat after weathering. The other parts are available at your favorite hardware place -- or, you may have them left over from another project. You can have your gifts ready to go well in advance if you get started now. It's a lot of fun to do, too!

• The new Gyro Motion Activated Screwdriver from Black & Decker is a must-have for every homeowner. It's a compact, rechargeable screwdriver that senses where you are trying to remove or install a screw. Just a little turn, either way, will get it started and even will control the speed. It can stay charged for up to 18 months at a time and even has a built-in LED light to help you see what you are working on in dark places. Go to to see it in action. It's available at a wide variety of hardware stores and home centers.

• Wall coverings come in all sorts of sizes and shapes, but one that we ran across recently is really unique-looking. Designer Cork Tiles by GreenClaimed are super easy to apply with double-sided tape. Cork bark can be harvested without taking the tree down, so it's a "green" product. The tiles come in three styles and are stunning. To find out more, go to

• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit the Carrells' website at

2013, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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