Breathe a little easier this winter with these tips

Posted11/28/2014 12:01 AM

Most of us spend the majority of our time indoors during the winter. Staying warm and dry is a smart thing to do. But it's a fact that the air inside your home can be worse for you than the great outdoors.

Dust, pet dander and other pollutants can get trapped inside a tightly sealed-up home. Here are some ways to help you breathe a little easier this winter.


Cleaning is the most important thing you can do, but think before you act. Vacuuming is very important. But make sure your vacuum has a really good filter to trap all of the dust that might end up back in the air as you work. If there is a HEPA filter available for your vacuum, buy one and keep it clean. Change the bags often, too.

When using chemical cleaners, read the labels. Try to weed out some of them and switch to more environmentally friendly versions. Good old vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda are great cleaners for most things.

Use high-quality filters in your furnace to help filter out a lot of things that can contaminate your home.

On the semi-nice days, open a few windows and air out the place. This can be very helpful and healthful.

It has been suggested that dry cleaning should spend some time in your garage or patio before coming indoors.

When doing renovations like replacing your carpets or painting, check the product information to make sure it doesn't let off any fumes that you need to be concerned about.

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Room air filters can do even more air cleaning and can sanitize your home, in many cases. Consider putting one in the room where you spend most of your time, like your bedroom.

Plants also are a good way to filter the air. It might seem too easy, but it's true -- they do help clean the air inside your home.

These are just a few simple things you can do, but they might make for a much more comfortable winter for you and your family.

Cleaner bathrooms

Most toilets will at least clean the toilet bowl a little bit as the water drains from the tank into the bowl as it flushes. It does this through small holes around the edges of the inside of the toilet bowl, washing it as it goes. But these holes are small and can become clogged with mineral deposits over time. If you want to know which ones to clean out, just put some food coloring into the toilet tank and give it a flush. You'll see the areas where the color isn't coming through, and these are the ones you need to work on. You can use a toothpick and mirror to see what you are doing. Sometimes just going after all of them with a stiff bristle brush will do it.

Furry friends

I love cats and dogs, but they do shed, and it can be a mess. There are lots of ways to control the hair situation, but I used to use lint brushes most of the time. That is, until I tried this super trick: Put the lint rolls on a paint roller instead of the small handheld lint roller handles. You can put two or three of them on one paint roller and get the job done a whole lot quicker! You'll see what I mean the first time you try it. I'd rather get rid of the lint than the animals! Try this yourself.


Super hints

• Cans of lubricant and some other shop materials come with a straw to help you get it into just the right spot. But most are taped to the can. I suggest slipping a rubber band around the can to hold the straw instead of the tape. The tape will go bad long before the rubber band will.

• My neighbor, Carol, made the cutest backsplash and it cost her practically nothing. She just put up a wallpaper border above the countertop under the cabinets. It was cheap and super easy to do, and looks fantastic!

• Before folding up and storing tarps away, measure and tag them. This way it will be easy to know which one you need to pull out for a project when you need it.

Q. My bathroom walls are made of a plastic material. It's been great for cleaning and seems to resist mildew, but it's not too attractive. I was wondering about the possibility of painting it. What type of paint would work best, and is there anything else I need to know?

A. Check your paint store for a paint that will work well on plastic surfaces. It's a good idea to scuff-sand the surface first and then apply a primer. Use a paint that works with the primer, and you should be able to get a good, long-lasting surface.

Q. The kids were working on a craft last weekend and spilled some white glue on the carpet. They didn't say anything to me, and it dried to a hard spot. What can I use to remove the glue from the carpeting?

A. Most white glue is water-soluble, so put some water on it and give it plenty of time to soak in and loosen things up. Then you can start scooping it up. It will take a while, but it should all come up eventually. I think the kids should help, as this is what I like to call "a teachable moment."

Q. I am trying to get rid of ants in my house. I have seen them in several rooms and have put out a few ant baits but keep finding them. What else can I try?

A. The baits usually are a good idea, but some ants aren't attracted to them. Try ant gels and sprays, too. Keep food cleaned up and countertops and floors cleaned daily. Use indoor and outdoor sprays if you need to. A monthly treatment might be required for a short period to keep them under control until they are all gone.

Reader tips

• I'm trying to create more of a home office so I can keep our home better organized. I took everything off the wall and was going to paint. But it didn't look that bad, so I just decided to patch up the holes if I could. I mixed some of the wall paint with the wall putty and dabbed it over the holes. It worked great. You can't see the holes or even the patches. That was fast, and I thought it would take a whole lot longer.

• I just use window air conditioners in my home. The summers aren't too bad and my bills stay under control with these. I am not a beefy guy, so I just leave them in the windows all year long. During the winter, I cover them with plastic sheeting and insulation panels. This is all it takes to seal them up and prevent cold air from getting in. And, best of all, I can leave them in place, so no heavy lifting!

• We have always had a plain mirror over our vanity. It was large but just very plain and boring. I found a frame that was the perfect size for the mirror and just hung it over the mirror. I didn't want to try to take the mirror down, but just hung the frame around it. It looks great and gave the whole bathroom new life. And it was an inexpensive upgrade, too.

• We have doors that rattle. I'm not sure when it started happening, but it has gotten worse through the years. I don't notice it much, but my sister was visiting and mentioned it a couple of times. We bought some small felt "bumpers" that had a peel-off backing and stuck them on the doorjambs, two per door. Now the doors hit these, fit tighter and don't rattle anymore. Maybe now she'll stop complaining about it!

• Our patio looked OK, but it had some surface cracks in it and a couple of stains. I thought about painting it and started researching the project. I found that I would need to apply a concrete topper over the surface first. I applied the topper, and it looked so great that I decided to just leave it like that. It is smooth and has a plain, neutral color. It was very inexpensive, too. Maybe someday I'll paint it, but it looks great like it is.


• If you have a septic system, then you know that you need to maintain it on a monthly basis. If you've used the powdered products, then you know it can be a little messy. Drano has come out with a drop-and-flush packet for septic systems. The pouches dissolve once flushed and are great as a monthly treatment. The concentrated natural enzymes will help your septic system work more effectively. Check them out at and at your discount and grocery stores. It's even less expensive than the powdered products.

• During the winter when our furnaces are running, our inside air becomes really dry. It's uncomfortable to say the least, but also can be unhealthy, especially if you have any breathing issues. The MistMate Mini Humidifier by Honeywell could be the answer you've been looking for. It's a small humidifier for your bedside or home office. It's easy to operate and maintain and even comes in a variety of colors. You can say goodbye to dry eyes, itchy throats and chapped lips. Check it out at or at select dealers.

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

© 2014, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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