Tag Archives: environment

20 Domestic Demon Tips

I’m not even going to pretend that I’m any sort of Deity, when in fact the thing that is WRONG with my dwelling is most likely that I dwell in it and make messes of all sorts. Also, the cat. [Sidelong glance across the room. Cat yawns and walks away.]

But I know that blog readers love household tricks like toddlers love cellphones, so I’m going to attempt to give you my list, as totally uninspired as it may be. And just for reference, I’m not taking ideas from any other blog because then why would you be here? You could just go there?

1. To rescue white clothes (not synthetic fibers) from yellowing due to age or stains, you can soak them in 1 part bleach to 10 parts water, then pour off all the liquid but leave the clothes still wet and place them in a plastic garbage bag and tie it shut tightly. Let this sit for 24 hours and then run the clothes through a regular wash cycle. They will have a new life. You can’t do this TOO often, because bleach damages the fibers, but it’s good once in awhile.

2. If you simply can’t get a stain out of an otherwise good piece of light-colored, natural-fiber clothing, consider dyeing it with fabric dye that you can buy at most craft stores. It’s cheap and pretty easy and most stains will disappear under the new color. (Notable exception, oil stains may not.)

3. After cooking, when your skillet is really dirty, add dish soap and hot water while the pan is still hot on the stove and let it sit there on the turned-off burner. The heat and soap gets the de-griming action going faster for later washing.

4. To get an enameled pot or pan really clean after many uses, you can scrub it with powdered laundry detergent and water. This takes of months of stains and build-up.

5. Old toothbrushes make excellent scrub brushes for around sink hardware and along grout. Just spray the with cleaning product and go to work.

6. Speaking of teeth, toothpaste and a toothbrush is the best thing to use to clean pearls.

7. My sister told me that to clean a bad-smelling suitcase (the fabric kind), you can wet it down with vinegar and water and let it sit for a few hours and then rinse it off with water. After they dry, they will smell fresh. It works pretty well!

8. Don’t throw away your dry cleaner bags or the hangers/pins/clips. Take them back to the dry cleaner! I hate throwing away plastic, knowing that it will spend 100,000 years in a landfill. Most dry cleaners I’ve used, are happy to reuse hanger, pins, clips, and undamaged plastic clothing bags. If they won’t accept these things, many plastic bag recycling bins will also accept clear bags and metal hangers can be recycled with metals in most places. Check your local recycling guidelines for details. And if you CANNOT recycle the clear plastic bags, save a few now and then to use as drop cloths for painting, crafts, or under messy projects.

9. When packing up clothes for long-term storage, be sure that everything has been recently washed (on HOT if possible) and dried thoroughly. If you suspect a stain, be sure to treat that area well before the last wash. After the clothes have gone the drier, give them time to dry from the humidity of the drier as well, before folding. Layer the folded clothes with fabric softener sheets periodically in your storage container to keep them fresher. All of this goes for Space Bags as well.

10. Large size plastic salad shells from the grocery store, when washed out and stripped of their labels, make excellent storage boxes for shoes and flip flops.

I use this one!

11. Chocolate truffle boxes also make nice earring and necklace storage.

12. Keep your fine silver jewelry stored in small ziplocks, with the air pressed out, just like the jewelry shops do. Use silver polish only when necessary, as the oxidized silver layer gets stripped off, leaving a new layer silver to be oxidized.

13. Tights, nylons, and other garments made of spandex or lycra can become brittle when dry, so if you haven’t worn them in a long time, put them in a steamy bathroom before putting them on to avoid tears, runs, and snags.

14. It is best to iron cotton shirts while still slightly damp rather than drying completely first.

15. Alcohol will make glass streak free if you pour it over the surface to rinse off the surface. This is useful when you are trying to make stemware absolutely sparkle. The alcohol will evaporate and leave the surface clear without any wiping or towel drying. You need to use 70% ethanol or ethyl alcohol or higher. As a bonus, you’ll also sterilize your glass.

16. To ripen hard avocados, put them in a bag with an apple and tie shut. A day or so on the counter will make them ripe and ready to eat.

17. Instead of recycling all glass jars (from things like pickles and sauces), save some, scrub off the labels, and use them to store things you buy in bulk or that come in non-reclosable plastic bags. You can even put a nice label on the new jar or paint the lid so that it looks nicer.

18. Keep nuts from going bad by storing them in the freezer.

19. Store fresh herbs that are on stems like you would cut flowers, in a vase of water on the counter, instead of in the fridge.

20. Most glues and inks will dissolve in acetone, so if you have a stubborn label or ink stain, you can try nail-polish remover. Just be careful not to use it on silver, or polystyrene, which will cloud.

Cloth diapers rock

BumGenius 4.0: My favorite.

There are a million full-fledged websites out there devoted to the cult world of Cloth Diapering (herein referred to as CDing), so I’m not even going to pretend that I’m any sort of guide on this. But now that I’m nearing the end of my diapering days (Or perhaps this is like a function with limit=0, where it approaches 0 days but never actually reaches it? By now you should no longer need a Nerd Alert for me) I thought I’d at least give you my thoughts on the whole business.

Overall it’s great. You can see why there is a total OBSESSION for CDing among certain types of moms. Not only are there so many options, there are ways to customize, personalize, troubleshoot, perfect, stockpile, and swap–everything that those with Very Mommy Tendencies love to do (or at least feel compelled to do). There are hundreds of companies now with CDing supplies and that’s not even counting all the “mom-preneurs” making diapers/covers to sell on Etsy and the like. If you haven’t seen cloth diapers since the days of diaper pins and plastic pants, it’s come a long, long, way. I get asked questions about this topic pretty frequently from the strangest people, people often with NO future prospects for diapering of any sort (my favorite was the elderly gentleman in a Panera who was simply fascinated by the idea of G-diapers).

I started out intending to use prefolds and covers and have a diaper service who did all the washing. For those of you who don’t know what a “prefold” is, it’s a flat piece of absorbant cotton that you FOLD into a diaper or use as an insert (folded into a rectangle) inside a water-proof cover. The covers usually close with velcro tabs or snaps and come in all kinds of styles, sizes, and patterns. You can use almost any prefold with any cover. This is probably the cheapest way for CDing.

First, I never ended up getting a diaper service because I found that keeping up with my small pail of diapers (usually soaking in cold water with a tiny bit of soap) was not that hard. Even when my daughter was a newborn and going through 8 diapers a day, it wasn’t that bad. I was even handwashing all of them since it didn’t makes sense to run a whole load just to wash a dozen diapers (and they have to be run separately, since you use a special soap).

Also, I eventually started using more and more All-in-one’s (AIOs). There are so, so many kinds of these. I have three: Bum Genius, Rumparooz, and Totbots. AIO’s are one diaper where the absorbant part (usually comes with the diaper) gets placed between the waterproof outside and a fleece-material inner lining. The lining keeps moisture away from the baby’s skin. Even if you use prefolds, you should use a fleece liner on top of them for this purpose. It’s nice to have it already there. I really like AIOs, especially as my daughter got bigger and more mobile, these were so much less bulky and flexible. I also prefer the ones that snap instead of velcro since no matter what I seem to do the velcro rubs on the tops of her legs and leaves redness. These diapers are, of course, more expensive, however, you can always find deals on them online and they really hold their value, so if you treat them right and can keep them mostly stain-free, you can sell them when you’re done. The Facebook Cloth Diaper Swap is a fast-paced and fierce place. I never cease to be amazed at how fast diapers move over there.

There are “hybrid” diapers (like G-diapers or Flips) that allow you to throw out or flush one part (usually the liner) and wash just the cover or sometimes an absorbant insert. I haven’t tried them because washing the inserts is fine with me. I am not all that horrified by touching a dirty diaper. If you are, maybe these diapers are for you.

I have used disposables, mainly Pampers. I use them when I’m traveling or when I’ve been lazy with the laundry. I am not one of the truly militant CDing moms who’s going to lie and tell you that cloth is SO MUCH BETTER ALL THE TIME and that you are poisoning your child with disposables. Yes, there are some kids who react very badly to the materials in disposables. But they are easier, flat out, honest truth. But they are terrible for the environment. Even taking into consideration manufacturing and washing, CDing wins at being greener. I read in “Greeniology” by Tanya Ha (Penguin) this interesting gem and it’s stuck with me:

“In 1567, when James VI, later James I of England, was crowned King of Scotland, he was 13 months old. Had he been wearing disposable diapers, that were tossed into landfills like today, some still would not have decomposed.”

I think if there’s two things that I would like people who are curious about CDing or wanting to make a greener choice, to know, it would be these:

1. Get the good diapers, straight up, the cost isn’t bad over the long term. You don’t have to buy a ton of them, start with just one even, before you decide which type works best for you.

2. You don’t have to commit to 100% CDing. You can go back and forth. You can try different kinds, use them only at home, use them only when you feel like it, or sell them if it doesn’t work out. I think many parents are afraid of CDing because it seems like a huge commitment, but it doesn’t have to be! You get just a few diapers you think seem cool and you can add more later if you want. Every time you use a cloth diaper, that’s one less disposable in a landfill. So it’s a good start.

To sell us plastic

There are a lot of baby/child products out there. I am not going to look up the number for you, but it’s probably a 9 gazillion dollar industry. Sure, some of them have made taking care of the littlest members of the species a whole lot easier, safter, and more fun, but the vast majority have got to just be there to trick us.

Before I lived here in Montreal, I lived in New York City. It is well known to NYers that the restaurants around Times Square are vastly overpriced and of rather poor quality (there are some exceptions, of course). But so many of the “fine dining” establishments near the Theater District exist just to cater to the tourist crowd and don’t really rely on repeat business. They just need you to come eat their crappy pasta once. I feel like many products for little kids and babies are like this.

I was forewarned not to buy a “Diaper Genie” by savvy moms-in-the-know. I didn’t really want/need one anyway. But who are these marketing people? If something is called a Diaper Genie, I expect it to grant wishes or at least store an unfathomable amount of diapers. Apparently, these suckers run out of space pretty fast and the bag refills are their hidden revenue stream. And it’s SO boring looking. If you’re gonna go with “Genie” you should make it look like a cool copper urn with gems or something.

“Spa Baby?” My mother thought it should have jets like a foot bath but for babies. It’s just a pail. A specialty pail that helps your infant sort of sit up in the warm water you put in it. It’s not that awesome. It’s “European.” We use ours as pail to soak diapers. At least it’s recycled plastic. Baby bath tubs were just not something we needed. When our toddler was much more wee, we took baths with her and held her. It sure beats leaning over the tub for a half hour.

I am just a little bit sad that I know what a “Boppy” is. I know that there are women who LOVE their boppy. I’m glad that they have found each other and I hope they are very happy. I just wonder how the boppy made it on the list of must-haves when you are shopping for your first baby? Whatever happened to regular pillows? I imagine that having a curved one is better, and if you find all kinds of uses for it, way to go. But is it necessary? Not really. You gonna use it for years and years to come? Probably not. Just more poly-fiber-fill to go around.

Baby-wipe warmers. Why? Is your house that cold?

The plastic safety devices, latches and door locks and outlet covers… I have mixed feelings about them. I have some. Most of them don’t work. Many are impossible to get open and shut without swearing under your breath. We finally gave up on the toilet latch, which I was so convinced we needed, because I couldn’t stand having to fumble with it when I really had to pee. My toddler has never once tried to open the toilet. She couldn’t be less interested. She basically never goes into the bathroom unless I’m already in there. (And then, her contract states that she MUST be present, it seems.) No one wants to put their kid at risk of electric shock, drinking toxic cleaning fluids, etc. But there are just SO many products for babyproofing. And they all clamor to make you feel like a bad parent for not having installed each and every one.

When the aliens come to earth, long after the human race is gone due to inhospitable atmospheric conditions and temperatures, they are going to survey the places of buried remains of our civilization, much like we have with our own ancient societies. They are going to find a lot of weird things that will make them wonder about our culture. Like billions of little plastic parcels of dog poop. They might think we worshiped dog poop, for us to have wrapped it up so carefully for long-term storage. I think they are also going to find a ton of broken toy parts. Which will also be quite confusing.

I try to buy toys in natural fibers, wood, even rubber, when I can. But there is a perverse amount of plastic in kids’ toys. We better start finding ways to recycle these types of objects (many of them with mixed plastic types) or our polymer footprint might give our carbon footprint a run for its money. Polymers aren’t “eaten” by anything we have on earth. They will break down, sure, but then their pesky little molecules just get into the planet’s bloodstream, and therefore everything we eat, and then us. Better alternatives to plastic toys and safety equipment would also help.