Category Archives: Housekeeping

Your Furnace Air Filter

When was the last time you changed your furnace air filter? If you forget to change your furnace filter, you’re bound to reduce the operating efficiency of your furnace which could eventually damage the motor.

This warning comes as a, “do as I say, not what I did,” bit of advice.

January has been snowy and cold.  In the mornings, I head to my home office, shut the door, and flip on a small electric heater for just a few minutes to add a bit of additional heat to what my furnace provides. I stay toasty warm.

For the past several weeks, when leaving my office, I noticed the rest of the house seemed a bit chilly. I thought it was because the outside temperatures were so cold and the fact that my office was so warm, that the other rooms of the house felt cold.

Last Saturday, while working in the rest of the house, I noticed how really cold it was. Putting my hand over the heat vent and feeling very little air flow, it dawned on me what the problem was.

Bolting to the basement, I tried to remove the furnace filter to no avail. I tugged and pulled, tearing one end off before it became loose enough to remove. It was so full of dirt, the blower had forced it up against a side wall trying to push air through. What came out looked like a gray fur bearing animal.

In shock, and I tried to remember the last time the filter had been replaced… sometime around Halloween flashed in my mind… or was it Labor Day? Once the filter was removed, my house warmed up in just a few minutes and the furnace did not run continuously. I can just imagine what my fuel bill is going to be! Yikes!

Some dealers recommend that filters be changed once a month. Others say that every three months is sufficient. However, during the coldest months of the year, the filter should be changed more frequently because the furnace is running for longer periods of time, filtering out dust and other contaminants.

Learning from this experience, I’m marking my calender in advance, as a reminder to “change the filter.” On a three month rotation, the first day of every season might be a good idea. Every other month is probably a better idea…better safe than sorry.

Again… “do as I say and not what I did.” Run now and check your furnace filter so your furnace will function more efficiently and you’ll say warm.

Till Later

Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

PS Don’t forget, most air conditioners filter the air through the furnace. Changing the filter often will help keep your summer fuel bill reasonable. On second thought… is there ever a reasonable fuel bill?

Winter Snow Removal

Winter snow removal is not a welcome part of my winter scene.  I have to admit… “Let It Snow” is not a part of my vocabulary.  And, skiing or snowboarding is not my idea of winter fun.  Curled up by a roaring fire eating popcorn with a cold Diet Coke is more my cup of tea.

At this time of year… I envy those of you who enjoy warm winter days in a mild climate.  However, here I am… living at the base of the Wasatch Mountains… what else could I expect.

Living alone…winter snow removal has become my inevitable responsibility… like it or not.  After a few years of shoveling snow… I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade…

Here are 7 tips to remember when you have to shovel show.

1.  Wax the blade of your snow shovel.  It will help the snow come off your shovel blade faster and cleaner.

2.  If you shovel a path down the center of your driveway you will create a path from which you can push the snow to the edges of your full-width driveway.  If your driveway is wide and long… like mine is… this method will save your bacon… or should I say your “back.”

3.  Shovel the snow as soon as possible after a snowfall and the snow can be moved easily.  Driving or walking over areas that need to be shoveled compresses the snow and it will quickly turn to ice.  Block off the end of your driveway to discourage traffic until you get the area cleared.

I become a bear… when folks drive over fresh snow in my driveway.  I’ve been know to park my car out in the front of my house and let it get covered with snow, rather than park it in the garage, where I might be tempted to drive down my driveway before I’ve cleared the white stuff.

4.  Concentrate on exposing as much of the pavement as you can.  “Get to the black.”  Areas that are exposed attract the warmth and sun.  You’ll notice the areas surrounding expose pavement will melt faster.

5.  Slush and standing water need to be removed. Snow that has melted, or soften will turn to ice after the temperature drops in the evening.  After snow removal, Halite or ice met can be used in areas that don’t dry out but freeze instead… because they are not exposed to sunlight.

6.  When possible, use a snow pusher rather than a shovel.  It saves bending and straining your back.

7. Invest in a snow blower.  You might consider pooling resources with neighbors and purchasing one together.  You’ll save your back as well as hours of time if your have a great brother-in-law, by the name of Dew Atwood, who gives his sister-in-law, a snow blower for Christmas.

Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S.  I no longer dread looking out the window, to discover little white flakes of snow hit the ground.  I bundle up.. plug in my new snow blower, push the electric start button and away I go.  Instead of it taking four hours to clear my driveway, garage pad, and walks… it only take me an hour.

Thanks Dew!

Dyson, The Carpet Mucher

I was excited to have new carpet in my home. Little did I know that my Dyson Vacuum would eventually be accused of being “The Carpet Muncher.”

To make a long story short…Several years ago, I had a kitchen fire in my home the day before Mother’s Day.  (Don’t leave bacon cooking while you go with your brother-in-law to the neighbors to discuss tearing down a fence.)

After the many months of turmoil dealing with clean up,  insurance agents, carpenters and painters, the last workers left. I was happy to settle in and enjoy my new kitchen, new wall paint and new carpet.  Little did I know, a “Carpet Muncher” was hiding in my closet.

I had selected a shag carpet and the strands were about one inch long. I understand that when a carpet is new, the carpet will shed a bit and, you will get a fair amount of loose fibers in your vacuum canister.  But, for only a short period of time.  However, I become concerned when I couldn’t get through the entire house without having to empty my Dyson Vacuum canister several times.  I began to save the carpet fibers when I emptied the vacuum and by Thanksgiving I had almost filled a 30 gallon plastic bag. The ends of the carpet had “bloomed” and flared. There was some serious carpet matting in the traffic areas.

I took the bag of fiber to the carpet dealer (who was also my disaster clean-up company.)   They were surprised to see the contents of the bag.  “Wow, I think something is the matter here.”  They called the manufacture, who was Shaw Carpet, and told them of the problem.  Shaw had never heard of anything like it before.  An independent adjuster came to my home to evaluate the problem.

Several weeks later, Shaw Carpets informed us it was not a faulty carpet… it was my vacuum.  “No, No, it couldn’t be… I owned a Dyson Vacuum.”  My carpet dealer didn’t agree with the decision and went to bat for me. In the end, Shaw Carpet agreed to replace the carpet.

I think I just came under the wire, because shortly after that, I learned that Shaw does not guarantee their shag carpet if your vacuum has a beater bar.  (You know… that little brush that goes round and round.)

I selected new carpet and, it came into the dealer’s wear house over a year ago.  The new carpet was just installed a couple of months ago.  (They had to fit it in between disasters… flood and fire. They’ve been busy folks.) In the mean time, I vacuumed rarely but, when I did, the canister always filled up quickly.  The Carpet Muncher was at work.

During the last year, I’ve seen the same carpet shag in many homes.  No where in the Shaw Carpet sample book does it warn against using a vacuum with beater bar or a Dyson.  So Beware!  Check with your dealer concerning the guarantee.  I love my Dyson… but it looks like I’ll be trading it in…. “for a Shop Vac?”

My new selection is a short nap carpet… I’m through with the shag.  The carpet installers said the the Dyson Vacuum is probably not the best vacuum to use. It’s suction is too strong and you can’t adjust the beater bar.  (In other words.. it does too good of a job.)

My advice:  Make sure you do your homework before you buy carpet of any brand!

Till later,

Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S.  My carpet was such a mess, I’m convinced it was defective and the Dyson vacuum didn’t help matters.  The dealer and carpet layers agree.  Apparently Shaw Carpet must have agreed also… for which I’m grateful.  Thank you!  And… I like my new carpet.

P.S.S.  That little pile of something in the picture… is some of the carpet fiber from the very last vacuuming

Smelly Odor In Your Washing Machine

If there is a smelly odor in your washing machine, it’s coming from mildew, fungus and mold. If you have a new HE front loading washer, you will eventually have a tendency to have a stale or foul order come from your machine. Older top loading machines often have the same problem. Once the washer has a build up of mold, it’s nearly impossible to have fresh smelling clothes… especially towels and rags

The gals who have front-loading HE machines love them because they can do a batch of laundry in no time at all and… they claim, their clothes are cleaner. However, some gals complain their towels eventually begin to have a moldy smell, which does not revel itself until they dry off after a shower and the towel becomes damp.

The density of the fabric is what makes the difference. The more dense and heavy the fabric, the more it holds mold spores. Personally, I’ve found my micro-fiber rags are the worst. Even though the rags are thin… they are very densely woven.

Regular clothing doesn’t seem to have the same problem… at least not in the beginning. However, if the problem is not nipped in the bud, in time, all of your clothing will have a bit of a moldy smell.

There are several reasons why this problem occurs in the new HE machines.

1. Water gets trapped between the washer drum and intricate parts of the washer. Some models are more predisposed to this problem than others. The seal around front-loading washers can be very tight and water gets trapped under the seal and can’t dry out.

2. A build up of fabric softeners and detergent under the seal and other parts of the washer become a breeding ground for mold and fungus… which leads to smelling clothing.

Prevention:

1. Remove clothes from the washer as soon as the cycle is over. Leaving wet clothes in the washer over night or for long periods of time can begin to create mold spores.

2. Reduce the amount of detergent you’re using. Several sources say you can use ½ of the HE detergent suggested on the container and still have clean clothes. Use a dry detergent rather than a liquid. Liquid detergent has properties that cause build up.

3. Avoid fabric softeners. I know, you want wonderful smelling clothes… but fabric softeners are the biggest culprit for builds up. Use dryer sheets… but wash your dyer filter often.

4. Leave the door ajar after doing a batch of wash. This will allow the interior of the washer a chance to dry out. On a top-loading washer, this is especially important.

Solutions:

1. Pull back the seal to examine whether you have a built up of detergent, softener and mold. Remove build up with a solutions of water and bleach.

2. Run a 1/2 cup of Cascade Complete through a hot water cycle…no clothes of course. (Top loading machines only)

3. There are products that you can purchase on line which are effective in helping over come this odor problem. Affresh.com claims their product is for front-loading machines. SmellyWasher.com seems to be recommended the most. These products will run you about $20.00 and will provide around 20 cleanings.

4. After you’ve cleaned your washer… add a couple of teaspoons of soda to your wash and it will keep your clothes and towels smelling fresh. Borax is also wonderful… because it whitens as well as gives your clothes a fresh aroma.

5. If your smelly washer problem persists, call the manufacturer’s hotline or service department. I wouldn’t go though the store where you purchased the washing machine. I really don’t think salesmen know how to remedy the problem anymore than you do. If you feel apprehensive about using any product, always call the manufacturer of the product first.

Till Later

Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S. On the Q.T. In my research, the Whirlpool, the Bosh, and the LG… in that order… had the most consumer complaints in the smelly washer area. Kenmore had the least.

P.S.S. If you have any suggestions or homemade remedies that work for smelly washing machines and towels… give us a comment. We welcome all of your ideas.

Lead Poisoning and Crock Pots

Crock pots containing lead was the subject of an investigation that started in Salt Lake City with KUTV’s Bill Gephardt. After his investigation about lead in ceramic glazed plates, bowls and mugs and finding high a content of lead in them, his focus turned to ceramic glazed crock pots after a viewer did a little research on her own.

A mom from Weber County, was a frequent user of her crock pot. Her concern about lead poisoning prompted her to take her Rival slow cooker to the county fair, where a booth was doing free lead testing on dishes. What she discovered was her crock pot contain lead. She notified Gephardt about her findings and he took the investigation from there.

Gephardt took several slow cookers to Data Chem lab in Salt Lake City to be tested. He found that 20 percent of the cookers were leaching out measurable amounts of lead into food. When ceramic ware is heated to just 80-degrees, it releases nearly 10-times the amount of lead as a plate at room temperature. (Something to keep in mind when you heat food in the micro-wave on ceramic dishes.) Crock pots can heat up to more than 250-degrees.

Wanting additional findings, Gephardt took a crock pot to chemist Robert Aullman, who preformed the standard test established by the Food and Drug Administration for testing leaching lead. He found that the Rival slow cooker leached lead at .085 parts per million. Anything below 2.0 is considered acceptable by the FDA. (It’s important to note that lead does not leave the body easily. A build up of lead over a period of time is dangerous.)

Mr. Gephardt took his findings to Utah House Rep. Jim Matheson. Congress was looking into a proposed amendment that would force manufactures to put labels on ceramic ware to identify lead content. However, Gephardt’s investigation was reported in 2004 and, so far, no law or amendment has been put into place.

My research in to whether Rival had removed the lead from their crock pots produced conflicting information. I called Rival’s Consumer Services department (1-800-777-5452) and they confirmed that their slow cookers still contain lead. They stated that the level is below the FDA standard for lead in ceramic products.

Upon further investigation, I called Hamilton Beach (1-800-851-8900) and they assured me that their crock pots do not contain any lead or cadmium. (Cadmium is another highly toxic metal associated with zinc ores. Oil paint used by artist’s contain a lot of Cadmium and Zinc…. Cadmium Red…Cadmium Yellow… Zinc White. It’s also found in industries where ore is being processed or smelted. Ceramic can be colored with Cadmium colors.)

It’s been suggested that you can use plastic liners in your crock pot so lead doesn’t leach into your food. I personally don’t recommend doing that because plastics heated to high temperatures leach other kinds of toxins. However, Reynolds claim their liners are made from a high resin nylon which is suitable for high temperature cooking. You’ll have to be the judge on this one.

I don’t use my crock pot often, but when I do, I want to know that the food is completely safe for my family. “So long… Good-bye… Rival crock pot.”

I find it disconcerting that the FDA allows any amount of lead in products if it’s possible to manufacture them with out it. A little of this… and and little of that… here and there can amount to a lot of toxins being ingested by Americans.

I’m not convinced that the FDA always has our best interests in mind. Just look at how many drugs and products are taken off the market that have been found to be harmful… even deadly… after the FDA has put its stamp of approval on them.

Becoming aware, and taking responsibility for our own well-being is the best solution for combating toxic and lead poisoning.

Till Later
Insightful Nana

P.S. The Hamilton Beach 6 Qt. slow cooker runs about $49.99 compared to Rival’s 6 Qt. at $34.99. It looks like Hamilton Beach is a bit more expensive… but what’s $15.00 when you can have a lead free product and peace of mind.

P.S.S. If you find another crock pot that doesn’t contain lead… let me know.

Housekeeping Tip For Your Bathroom Sink

A housekeeping nightmare can present itself around your bathroom sink, floor, shower or tub.  Have you noticed how static electricity keeps you from picking up a fallen dry hair… and snagging a single wet hair is next to impossible?

For some reason, this is a subject no one wants to discuss… Talking about the hair on our heads doesn’t seem to be a problem… as illustrated by the lovely blond tresses in the photo.

But,  just mention the unsightly hair that falls around the sink, on the bathroom floor or, the strays that adhere themselves to the side of the tub… and it’s off limits for open discussion.

Maybe the uncomfortableness is attached to, “hair in your food” or “loose hair on your shoulder” or just admitting our humanness.  But, face the fact… cleaning a bathroom and confronting “The Hair Problem” haunts all good housekeepers.

Now… I have thick dark hair… and so does my daughter, Katie.  For some reason we shed hair like a Labrador Retriever.  Don’t fret… it seems to grow back over night but loose hair in our bathrooms is a continual problem.

I use to frequently travel for business with a co-worker and we often shared a room at a hotel.  Jumping into the shower and washing my hair became a bathroom housekeeping nightmare.  Wanting to be a compatible roommate, I would spend at least fifteen minutes in the bathroom tiding up my fallen mane before my friend could enter… and she’s thinking… “What in heck is taking so long?”

Well, several year ago, my sister, Sheila, came to my rescue.  She had a cleaning business and serviced homes in the Park City ski area. The tip she shared with me is so simple that you’re going to be surprised!  Toilet Paper… That’s right… simple Toilet Paper does the trick!  Grab a few sheets of paper and wipe the tub, around the sink and the floor. The loose hair attaches to the paper like a magnet. Wow… it really works!I don’t know why it works… it just does.  (Probably creates a static electricity field… who knows!)

Now if you have any better ideas… just let me know.  I’m always open to discuss uncomfortable subjects. (My daughter’s don’t agree… but I just think they’re the one’s who are uncomfortable.)

Till Later

Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S.  Now you can alway use those Pledge “Grab It” dusting cloths. But, toilet paper is handy and cheaper.  And, I know you won’t want to carry dusting cloths in your make-up bag when you travel.  Might raise a few eyebrows!