5 Ways to Power Through Procrastination

By Susanne Dwyer

Whether it’s cleaning out the basement or redesigning your website, nearly all of us have something lingering on our to-do list that we just keep pushing off. Below are a handful of ways to stop procrastinating and improve your overall productivity.

Do it first. If you’re dreading it, do it first. There’s nothing worse than a lingering aura of dread over a task, so by tackling it head on, you eliminate both the project and the anxiety around it.

Set small daily goals. If it’s a larger task (like that big basement clean-out), set small daily goals to keep you on track. For instance, choose one small corner to clean every evening, working in 15-minute increments. After two weeks, the project will be off your shoulders and it will have felt like a smaller deal.

Ask for accountability. An accountability partner is one of the best ways to slash procrastination—but choose carefully. You need to find someone not afraid to dole out a little tough love.

Remove temptation. Do you know that social media or Netflix feeds your procrastination demon? Cut those things off completely until you can get your to-do done.

Reward yourself. Kids and dogs aren’t the only ones who love a treat for a trick! Choose an affordable, healthy reward, like a massage or tickets to a play, to help keep you motivated to bump that item off your list. Or, if you’ve removed a few beloved temptations, simply adding them back in may do the trick!

Zoe Eisenberg is RISMedia’s senior content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at zoe@rismedia.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
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Ask the Expert: How Should I Prepare a Home to Sell in the Fall?

By Susanne Dwyer

Today’s Ask the Expert column features Dan Steward, president of Pillar To Post Home Inspectors.

Q: What are your top tips for preparing to sell a home in the fall?

A: First and foremost, use the beauty of the season. If you’re lucky enough to live in a region that experiences changing seasons, take advantage of everything the season has to offer by incorporating autumnal flowers, plants and floral arrangements into the mix. Whether it’s colorful mums or adding intense color and drama to the home’s exterior with perennials, feature a variety of fall floral arrangements both inside and outside the home.

Next, be sure to check the roof and gutters. While a roof’s drainage system diverts thousands of gallons of water from a home’s exterior and foundation walls, it’s important to keep the process moving in order to avoid water damage. In addition to taking the time to unclog and clean the gutters, now is also a good time to inspect the roof from top to bottom. In addition to looking for damage to metal flashing in and around vents and chimneys, check ridge shingles for cracks and wind damage.

While outside, take the time to check driveways, walkways and steps for any noticeable damage. Fixing any problem areas during the fall is critical in order to prevent little problems from becoming expensive headaches down the line. Look for cracks that are more than 1/8-inch wide, uneven sections and loose railings on steps.

Before the bitter temperatures of the winter season move in, take the necessary steps to ensure that outside faucets and in-ground irrigation systems don’t freeze and burst. Close any shut-off valves serving outside faucets, then open the outside faucet to the drain line. If you don’t have shut-off valves, or freeze-proof faucets, you can buy faucet covers at your local home improvement store.

Moving inside, check the home for air leaks, as gaps in caulk and weather-stripping can account for 10 percent of a home’s heating bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. While weather-stripping is the most cost-effective way to control heating and cooling costs, it should be checked and replaced as needed every six months.

And last, but not least, bring in a professional to inspect the home’s heating system to ensure it’s working properly before the cold weather arrives.

For more information, please visit www.pillartopost.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

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Nancy Wey
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How to Sell a Vacant Home in the Off-Season

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

There’s a reason that spring and summer are the major seasons for selling houses. Most people want to move at a time that allows them to be settled by the fall, when kids go back to school and daylight shortens.

However, you might find yourself having to sell a vacant home in the off-season. The home might be empty because the seller had to move on for reasons of work or had to move into a house he or she was paying for.

There are really two issues here. The first is selling a vacant house. The second is selling a house in the off-season. Here are some tips on how to do both:

Selling a Vacant House

Keep Up Maintenance and Repair – Even with no one around, surfaces need to be dusted and kept clean. Once people move out, minor items needing repair, like a leaky faucet or a burned-out light bulb, might not be noticed. It’s your job to notice, though, because signs of even minor disrepair or lack of maintenance can quickly turn off prospective buyers.

Clean the house or hire someone to clean it at least once a month. Surfaces need to be dusted, for example, and floors mopped or vacuumed. Do a walkthrough looking for repairs once a month, or hire a property manager to do it.

Make Sure the House Doesn’t Look Vacant A vacant property shouldn’t look vacant for two reasons: First, it’s uninviting to see an empty property. It’s less likely that a buyer will see themselves in the space; second, it’s an open invitation to thieves, vandals and even squatters. You don’t want to open the door one day and see that vandals spray-painted all over the walls.

Develop a plan. Pick up mail if the seller isn’t having it forwarded. Place lights on timers so that they go on automatically in the evening, just as they would if someone still lived there. Many have remote apps that make this easy.

Turn Heat or Air Conditioning on Regularly Don’t leave the heat or air conditioning off for long periods of time. Lack of heat can cause pipes to freeze or burst. Lack of air conditioning may make it difficult to cool the house properly when it comes time to show it. In addition, lack of proper ventilation can make the house smell musty and unused.

It’s best to run the heat and air conditioning at regular intervals while the house is vacant.

Focus on Curb Appeal Don’t skimp on curb appeal just because the house is vacant. If anything, making the house look inviting becomes even more critical if no one lives there. Keep the grounds and garden in the same pristine condition as the house. Paint the door a vibrant color. Place small trees on either side to frame it.

Stage the Interior When prospective buyers come, they need to see an interior that looks welcoming, and that allows them to visualize themselves in the house. They may not be able to do that fully if the house is completely empty.

On the other hand, completely furnishing an empty house may not be practical. What you need to do is stage the interior. Put focal pieces in each room, for example. You don’t need to create a functional room; you just have to give clients a sense of how the room would look if they lived there. In other words: a fireplace with wood, a lamp and a sofa in the living room might be enough. No need for matching armchairs and two more lamps!

Selling in the Off-Season

Price to Sell While you likely won’t attract the maximum number of buyers in the off-season, some people do look in the fall and winter. To move the house, the most prudent move is to price it to sell. If you’re in a hot market, that may be at a market price. If demand is a tad sluggish, price it slightly under. For most sellers, it’s better to sell at a price slightly under the asking price in October than to wait five more months, especially if they’re carrying the mortgage.

Sweeten the Offer Sweetening the offer may also help sell the house in the off-season. Nicely enough, sweeteners abound, depending on the property. Does a patio look as if it may need replacement in the next five years? See if the seller will replace it as a sweetener. Do the same with any major appliance that may go in five years, such as water heaters.

The other sweetener strategy is to wait for buyers to suggest things. Some may want a reseeded lawn or pruned trees. Entertain these offers if they look likely to result in a sale.

It can be more challenging to sell a vacant home in the off-season, but by utilizing these tips, you’ll place yourself at a strategic advantage in moving a house in the off-season.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Don’t Scare Buyers Away This Halloween

By Beth McGuire

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

You may be getting into the holiday spirit this October, but remember that if you’re trying to sell your home, you still have to appeal to the majority of buyers. Not everyone is into the haunted house scene, so maybe tone down the spook factor while you’re on the market.

Keep it lit. You may be trying to set the mood with dim, orange or black lighting, but if your house comes across as dark, then you might be alienating buyers from the get-go. If holiday-themed lights are your weak spot, try to keep them as part of your outdoor decoration, and at a minimum. Trendy lanterns are a great way of boosting your seasonal lighting without incorporating off-putting plastic string lights.

Put the animatronics away. Sure, the sudden sounds and animation are a great way of frightening friends and family when they walk through your door, but you certainly don’t want to have that effect on buyers. That floating head that comes to life with the smallest movement (or goes off randomly, shocking unsuspecting victims)? Keep it stored away until your home is off the market. Even if turned off, these characters will distract buyers from the real reason for their visit: to see if it’s a place they can call home.

Keep it neat. You want your home to appear as neat as possible when it’s on the market. Any excess decorations—even if they’re fake spiders, tombstones, ghouls or spider webs—can come across as clutter. Make it as easy as possible for buyers to envision themselves living in the house. Selling will be significantly harder if your home looks like a scene from a horror movie. (On that note, put the fake blood away for the time being, as well.)

Don’t deck out the exterior. While you may be proud of your hair-raising cemetery, rolling fog and thundering sound effects, prospective buyers may have a hard time looking past your seasonal decor. All of the Halloween accessories can take part in molding buyers’ first impressions. You want them to think of your place as home, not a haunted attraction.

If you can’t live without the Halloween-themed accessories, keep it simple. There are plenty of Gothic-inspired items that scream Halloween without being over the top. A simple black rose wreath on your front door and a couple of pumpkins by the entrance won’t hurt your chances of selling. Candles are a great way to show off your holiday spirit, and they also make your home smell clean. Many fall centerpieces with leaves and twigs look great for Halloween, so double up on your autumn decor!

Don’t focus on the fact that you can’t embellish every nook and cranny with scream-worthy accessories. Remember, the faster you sell, the faster you can get into the comforts of your new place, where blood-curdling screams and chilling ghost stories make you feel at home.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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From: Remax Real Estate Advice

    

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Nancy Wey
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Get Ahead of Home Maintenance Before the Holidays

By Susanne Dwyer

Twenty-four percent of home contractors recently surveyed by American Home Shield (AHS) reported Thanksgiving as the busiest holiday season for repairs and service. Get ahead of home maintenance with these tips from AHS:

  1. Wake your heating system from hibernation.
    No homeowner wants to wake up seeing their own breath because the furnace broke down in the middle of the night. Schedule a furnace check-up now with a heating system professional to ensure everything is running properly and that your system meets the manufacturer’s rated efficiency. One of the biggest causes of wasted energy is restricted air flow to the heating system, so have a contractor check that the filters and coils are allowing for enough air flow. Getting ahead of this issue will help you avoid appointment delays during the busy winter season and give you peace of mind.
  1. Give your gutters a fresh start.
    Leaves, twigs and other debris can easily clog gutters, which can lead to ice dams. Ice dams cause melting water to back up and flow into the house, resulting in a very expensive repair. Save yourself the money and trouble by thoroughly cleaning out your gutters after the leaves have fallen. Make sure to tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets, and replace any worn sections before it’s too late. Check that downspouts extend at least five feet away from the foundation. If they don’t, buy an inexpensive extension.
  1. Mind the gaps.
    Walk around the inside and outside of your home and check it for air tightness, carefully looking for any signs of cracks where air could leak out, as this can be a significant source of energy loss. An inexpensive tube of caulk can help seal the leaks and also help prevent moisture from getting inside the walls of your home. Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ducting or electrical wiring comes through walls or floors.
  1. Get smart—a smart thermostat, that is.
    The Wi-Fi rage is real, especially when it comes to your thermostat. If you still have a manual thermostat or even a programmable one, consider upgrading to a smart thermostat. Today’s models can learn your living patterns, heat only rooms that are occupied, turn up the heat as you near your home, allow you to make adjustments remotely from your phone, and much more. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save as much as 10 percent a year in energy usage (and on your utility bills) by making smart adjustments to your thermostat.
  1. Double-check doors
    Inspect all doors that open to the outside or to the attic and be sure that they close tightly. An easy way to check for air leaks: place a piece of tissue in a clothespin, hold it at various points along the doorway and watch for any movement near the edge of the door and the frame. If you have a leak, take a photo of your door and door jamb, and ask an employee at your local hardware store for help finding the right weatherstripping or door sweeps. Air leaks cause your heating system to work harder, which costs you more money on your utility bills—and can shorten the lifespan of your system.

For more information, please visit www.ahs.com/home-matters.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

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Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Autumn Additions

By Susanne Dwyer

(Family Features)—Fall provides a time for fun and celebration, but it also can be an opportunity to refocus on taking care of your home both indoors and out.

These simple upgrade ideas can help you improve aesthetic appeal, upgrade safety, keep your home free from pests and save you time, resources and money.

Find more ideas for upgrading and updating your home at eLivingToday.com.

De-Bug Your Doors
Enjoy nature without all the pests by adding a protective barrier to your entryways, such as an ODL Brisa Retractable Screen Door. It can be installed over single, double and sliding doors, and can take just 30 minutes to install from start to finish. With one-touch entry and auto-slide open, it allows for easy access when your hands are full. When you’re not using it, you can use the secure locking latch or let it slide back into its cartridge.

Elegant Entry
With a low-profile cylinder, Baldwin’s Spyglass Entrance Set with Spyglass Levers offers an elegant, architecturally inspired design. With SmartKey re-key technology, the set is the ultimate in convenience and safety as it allows you to re-key your lock in seconds and has American National Standards Institute and Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association Grade 2 security features. Belonging to the premium Prestige Series, the Spyglass Entrance Set delivers effortless, accessible style and affordable luxury.

Get Smart About Laundry
Take a load off and let your washer’s technology do the work. Available in white or diamond gray, the top load laundry line from GE Appliances gives owners the power to pretreat stains or hand-wash delicates with an industry-first soapy water station, automatically dispense the right amount of detergent and fabric softener based on each individual load and control the load remotely through smart devices by using WiFi Connect.

Feel the Heat
If temperatures are dropping and a warm blanket isn’t doing the trick on an especially chilly day, a space heater can help keep you cozy. Many options are light and portable, allowing you to move it from room to room as necessary. Rather than layering up to enjoy a lazy day on the couch, simply plug it in and choose the setting that’s right for maximum comfortability. Plus, by flipping the space heater switch rather than cranking up the heat, you can save money on energy bills.

Simple Shredding
One of fall’s obnoxious chores in the eyes of many is cleaning up leaves scattered about the yard. To help save time and energy, add a leaf shredder to your arsenal of lawn equipment. By shredding leaves rather than expending time and resources bagging and disposing them, you can improve the look of your yard without as much physical stress.

Mess-Free Mudroom
On cold days when a brisk chill sends you seeking indoor shelter, it can be easy to make a mess at the door with shoes and outerwear. Instead of a pile of garments greeting you each time you come home, add some structure to the mudroom with an organizer that allows you to hang coats and scarves and stow away shoes. While keeping clothes orderly, it can also help keep you and guests from tracking salt, mud and other messes throughout the house.

Source: Family Features Editorial Syndicate

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Give Your Home a Facelift: Home Improvement Projects for Less Than $500

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Home improvement doesn’t have to break the bank. You can freshen up the spaces in your home or investment property with a number of small projects that cost less than $500, and make you feel like you spent a lot more! Here are some basic ideas.

Paint Power
Painting is one of the cheapest and easiest home improvements to make. A fresh coat of paint will make any room look as good as new, which is sure to add value. Choose colors that are popular to give a more modern, up-to-date look, or stick to the neutral classic colors. At around $25 a gallon, paint is an inexpensive way to improve your home’s desirability and is something that just about any homeowner can tackle on their own. While you’re at it, look up—do you have that outdated popcorn ceiling? Scrape that texture away to get rid of the dated looking ceilings.

Borrow Ideas
Instead of hiring a designer who will inevitably give you a lot of expensive ideas, such as tearing down walls or pulling up perfectly good flooring, just copy what others have done. You can find all sorts of ideas in books and magazines and on interior decorating TV shows, Pinterest and other websites. To keep to a tight budget, pick projects that can be completed yourself.

Get an Energy Audit
Take advantage of your utility company’s free energy audits to determine which improvements could save you hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars in utility costs each year. Most local utility companies will come and inspect your house for free, and the improvements are generally going to have some sort of tax rebate. Having an energy-efficient home is a salable improvement, or, if you plan on staying in the home for the long haul, you can put the money saved toward a different home improvement.

Plant a Tree
Landscaping will improve the curb appeal of your home greatly. Trees provide shade to keep the harmful rays of the sun from bleaching out your paint or heating up the inside of the house. Mature landscaping is a huge plus when trying to sell a home and is frequently sought after. When choosing which species or varieties to plant, it is important to take into consideration the water and maintenance requirements of the plants. Purchasing drought-tolerant plants that are slow or moderate growers will save you hours of yard work and money in the long run. Keeping the yard well maintained will help keep the property looking nice and tidy without investing a huge amount of money.

Keep It Clean
Keeping a home clean and clutter-free will leave a good impression. Get rid of the things you don’t need and “travel light.” You’ll be happy if you ever decide to sell the home that you don’t have a bunch of extraneous stuff to haul around with you or decide what to do with when you are in the middle of moving. If you are selling, it’s often difficult to make the house sparkle from top to bottom, so hire a cleaning service to really give the home a thorough cleaning. It’s worth the money.

Fake the Footage
Houses are often analyzed by price per square foot to help determine if it’s a good deal or not, but the feel and layout of the home can make the house appear bigger than it really is. Keeping the rooms light and airy by choosing light paint, furniture and window coverings can create a feeling of extra space. Adding a large mirror can double the room’s size just by creating that mirror image. An uncluttered home will make the space look bigger and more open. Have a big garage sale to get rid of the unnecessary clutter and put that money towards other home improvements.

New Fixtures
Nothing dates a home like old fixtures. Replacing old lights, faucets, door handles, etc. with updated fixtures really can change the look and feel of a home. The cost of fixtures do add up quickly, so shop around and start with rooms that receive the most traffic, such as bathrooms, the family room and kitchen. Updating these core rooms in the home can give you the biggest impact for the money.

These small improvements can make your home more pleasant for everyday living and give you a feeling of confidence when sharing your space with guests. In addition, if you are planning to sell your home, putting the time and money into small improvements can increase the value and pay off big in the end—quite a bit more than $500!

Kaycee Wegener manages marketing and media relations for Rentec Direct and shares industry news, products and trends within the community.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

How to Make Buying a Beach House an Affordable Thing to Do

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

The dream of purchasing a beach house is potentially one that you’ve had since you were a teenager or young adult; however, setting aside the money for this venture is an entirely different project. Instead of continuing to watch your dream shrink, consider some strategies for making a beach house a reality.

Look for Less Desirable Locations
In your view, any house on the beach is likely in a desirable location, but that really depends upon what the buyer is looking for. One thing that you should consider is how the school district can have a significant effect on the price of a house. If you are looking for a summer home or you may not have children, the quality of the school district may not affect you at all. As a result, you can buy in a community that has a school district of a lower quality, which will likely mean a lower price.

Research Seasonal Communities
When you’re looking to purchase a house, you might think you need to buy a place that is yours to visit throughout the year; however, that isn’t necessarily the case. You may be able to find a home in a community that is only open to residents for a set number of months per year. During the colder seasons, it may close down. Due to the fact that you’re unable to inhabit the house year-round, you may have a greater chance of procuring a lower price.

Rent the House
A beach house is a desirable location for many people, which provides you with the opportunity to rent it to them. You could rent your house out on AirBnB, for example. Some people decide to rent their houses out for the majority of the year and spend a short amount of vacation time there themselves, and others choose to just rent the house during peak seasons. You can decide what works for you.

Buy a Smaller House
In most cases, people looking to buy beach houses are not planning to live there during the entire year. As a result, you probably don’t need a prodigious beach house. Even when you want to make the beach house your full-time residence, ask yourself what you are willing to sacrifice to get a house on the beach. When you don’t intend to have children, one or two bedrooms in a house might be just right.

Thinking about buying a beach house might feel overwhelming to you because of the perceived costs; however, you can actually make this wish a reality.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Ask the Expert: How Can Homeowners Ensure Preparedness?

By Susanne Dwyer

Today’s Ask the Expert column features Buddy Stark, director of Operations for HomeTeam Inspection Service.

Q: What can homeowners do to ensure their home is well prepared and more energy-efficient throughout the coming months?

A: Fall officially begins this month and HomeTeam Inspection Service—the only national home inspection company to utilize a team of inspectors onsite—offers the following home maintenance tips.

Roof
Inspect the roof covering and flashing from the ground for indicators of wear, like missing, loose or cracked shingles or tiles. Water can seep into these areas and cause damage if left unattended. Contact a professional roofer for repair or a replacement evaluation if water intrusion is occurring or suspected.

Gutters and Downspouts
Gutters and downspouts are critical in protecting your home from water damage. Fall is one of the most important times to check your gutters and downspouts to ensure they’re not rusted, rotted, disconnected or full of debris.

Fireplace
Have a certified chimney sweep inspect and clean your chimney, fireplace and vents at least once per year, as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association. A do-it-yourself inspection for creosote buildup can be performed by wearing goggles and a basic disposable dust mask. Take a flashlight and your fireplace poker and scratch the black surface above the damper (smoke chamber). If the groove you scratch is paper thin, no cleaning is needed. If it’s 1/8 inch thick, schedule a cleaning. If you have 1/4 inch of creosote, don’t use the fireplace until it’s cleaned—a chimney fire could occur at any time.

HVAC
Get your furnace cleaned and serviced by a professional before the heating season begins. Also, clean or replace your furnace filters as recommended throughout the year. Dirty filters restrict airflow and reduce efficiency.

Ensure that all supply and return vents aren’t blocked or closed, as this causes the return duct to pull in cold air from cracks in windows and doors. In addition, the warm air that’s still trying to push up through closed vents will either start to leak out ducts that aren’t sealed properly, or be forced back down into your basement or floor cavities.

Trees and Bushes
Trimming trees and bushes provides many advantages to your home’s exterior. Trim so that all leaves and limbs are at least three feet away from your house. This prevents them from hitting the sides of your house when it’s windy, decreasing the amount of leaves and debris that will end up in your gutters.

Windows and Doors
Cracks in the seals around windows and doors allow heated or cooled air to escape, which can cost you money. Caulking and weatherstripping can wear over time, so check the seals around your windows and doors. One of the easiest ways to diagnose this issue is to close the door or window and hold a lighted candle near the frame. If the flame flickers at any spot, you likely have an air leak. Replace or add caulk or weatherstripping where needed.

For more information, please visit www.hometeam.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Odd Things to Run in the Dishwasher

By Susanne Dwyer

Move over, dinner plates! The dishwasher can actually be used to wash a myriad of strange items. Below is a good rundown. A quick bit of common sense: if suds-ing up something super greasy or grimy (like an old hubcap), don’t mix your eatery into the same load.

Rubber Boots and Flip Flops – Want to wash your favorite rubber footwear? Pop them in the dishwasher upside down.

Kitchen Sponges – Toss them into the silverware tray for a speedy sanitize!

House Keys – Ever wonder how filthy your house keys get over the years? So long as none of your keys have electric starters, pop the whole ring into the silverware tray.

Grill Rack – Is your grill rack covered in grease? Place it on the top tray and set the heat to high to get it gleaming again.

Hubcaps – Crazy, but true! Just add a cup of white vinegar to your detergent and hit start.

Nail Clippers – Pop these in the silverware tray and they’re good as new.

Tools – Get your favorite tools gleaming with a quick cycle in the washer.

Contact Lens Cases – The dishwasher is a great place to sanitize these every couple weeks or so.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893