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Developing a Housekeeping Schedule

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If housework seems like an unending chore, it may be time to set a schedule. Although life gets in the way when transporting kids from one activity to the next, it is possible to get the house organized and relieve the stress of feeling like you are constantly in maid mode.

By setting expectations, building a chart and attaching rewards to household tasks, you may soon find yourself looking forward to an hour or two of cleaning.

Set Expectations

If it feels as if mom, dad or the nanny is the only one cleaning up after the family, it’s time to set some expectations and make some changes in your household. “Everyone needs to agree on the outcome and realize that everyone wants a clean house,” says Leslie Reichert, cleaning coach and author of The Joy of Green Cleaning.

“If everyone doesn’t agree it’s nice to have the house picked up every night, then no schedule will work,” says Reichert.

Begin by scheduling a family meeting to discuss the importance of a clean living environment. Ask your children to point out dangers that could exist if the counters are cluttered or the floors are dirty. From germs that gather to obstacles that could result in someone tripping or falling, your family needs to be aware of how unsanitary areas could cause harm.

Consider Time and Capabilities

Once expectations are set, consider what each family member is capable of cleaning on a regular basis. Age-appropriate chores are crucial. “I tell my family that things are never equal but they are always fair,” says Reichert. “Older children need to be more responsible for larger tasks than their younger siblings.”

Ask each child what she is capable of doing around the house and make a list of preferred chores. Giving your child a choice may help reduce whines, cries and attitudes that often accompany daily chores.

As you discuss capabilities, keep in mind that parents and nannies need to be good examples for children and a primary part of the housekeeping schedule. “Children shouldn’t be the worker bees,” says Reichert. “Everyone should have a task and a time to do it.”

When it comes to timing, evaluate each family member’s responsibilities outside of the home before compiling a schedule. Does your teenager work evenings or have after-school activities? Do your little ones take naps at a certain time during the day? Figure out activity schedules so that everyone will have enough time to do their fair share.

“My daughters always played school soccer, which practiced every day after school,” says Reichert. “I could never give them the chore of emptying the dishwasher because there wasn’t time in their day to do it, but they were responsible on the weekends.”

Stay Positive

Even though not many people enjoy completing household tasks, if you present a housekeeping schedule in a negative manner, it will only encourage gripes and moans. Don’t think of chores as obstacles, recommends Reichert. “They are just opportunities to work together to figure out what works for your family,” she says. “Make the schedule a positive with fun rewards for doing their share of the chores.”

Families can establish a chore chart with a point system tied to privileges and rewards or a schedule that must be completed with deadlines met before the family takes an outing or dives into a family movie night. The key is to find rewards that will motivate everyone.

“Sometimes, it’s just about working out a system that works for everyone,” says Reichert. “For example, I can’t stand having dishes in the sink, so every morning I empty the dishwasher and run the dishwasher every night so there are no excuses. It’s now a habit and everyone knows the dishwasher is always ready for dirty dishes.”

Once all family members have determined their daily or weekly tasks and specific times when the chores must be completed, do your best to make it fun. Young children may prefer to dance and sing with music on in the background while older children may enjoy a race to the finish to see who can complete the most tasks in a certain amount of time.

Primarily, make your housekeeping schedule a routine so cleaning feels less like a chore and more like a natural thing to do to better the home.

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Age Appropriate Household Chores for Children

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Even at an early age, it’s common for children to want to be “helpers.” Although it may seem as if your children are creating more of a mess than they are “helping,” it’s important to build their confidence and allow them to establish independence as a contributor to the household.

Household chores are a beneficial way to allow your child to “help” while also teaching him the importance of responsibility. Let your little ones and big ones join in on cleaning day to ensure your home is spick and span by implementing these creative tactics for completing age-appropriate household chores.

Motivate and Participate

One of the challenges of cleaning day is getting the cooperation of children of all ages. Although your toddler may be eager to help at first, his interest may wane after he realizes that cleaning is work. Older children and teens have already had this realization, so they may be less-than-eager to join in and help.

Providing choices is the key to cooperation, says Yaelle Shaphir, mother of three and health, wellness and parenting expert in Los Angeles. “It is not a question of are you going to help out or not, but rather: ‘Do you want to dust the furniture or sort the clutter under your beds?’” says Shaphir.

Incentives may also motivate your children to whip the house into shape. Provide monetary rewards or other privileges for any chores completed for the week. Display a chore chart with stickers so they are reminded of the potential rewards. You can even ask your child to make a list of privileges or rewards he would like to receive to customize the chore chart. With a treasured prize in reach, he may be more willing to jump in and help when its time to complete household chores.

Involve All Ages

As your family sits down to discuss the division of household chores beyond their preferred choices, it’s also important to determine age-appropriate chores. Everyone needs to be on board – even toddlers can lend a hand around the home.

According to Shaphir, her two-year-old is in charge of dusting. “Give him a spray bottle with water and a rag and he will clean,” she says. “Be prepared to go over the areas again later; however, remember you are laying the groundwork for a helpful, happy co-worker.”

Toddlers can also help in the kitchen when it’s meal time. Ask your little one to fill a small cup of water to put in the mixing bowl or allow him to run items to the garbage can when needed.

As children get a little older, they can take on a bit more responsibility. Shaphir’s six year old gets overwhelmed when sorting or decluttering needs to happen. “However, she loves to do dishes, set the table and dust and clean the windows and mirrors,” she says.

Once a child reaches the 10 to 12 age range, you can begin to trust him or her with bigger tasks, such as dishes, taking out the trash, folding laundry and vacuuming. Anything goes with teenagers since they have the ability to mop floors, mow the lawn and help re-arrange furniture when needed.

Any chore can be customized to fit the age, says Shaphir. “Everyone can help with carrying groceries,” she says.

Make it Fun

The idea of mopping, taking out the trash or even cleaning toilets may not be how your child envisioned spending a Saturday afternoon. Counteract the dreaded looks and somber attitudes by making chore time fun.

Turn up the tunes, have your children race the clock when working or ask the family to work together to complete a task so it is less intensive for one individual. Work right alongside your children, too, so they can see that you are invested in making the home healthier and happier.

Completing all household chores in one day may also be too overwhelming for your children. If it works better with your schedules, consider assigning specific days for certain chores. Designate Saturday as laundry day, Monday for dusting and vacuuming and Tuesday for scrubbing. The key is to provide consistency when involving the entire family in household chores.

“What is most important is the attitude in which the parent introduces the concept of a shared household,” says Shaphir. “Make it fun and it will get done.”

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Is the Common Cold Preventable? Tips for Keeping the Sniffles Away

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As the weather changes, the last thing you want is for you and the kids to be tucked on the couch, rifling through tissues and sniffling away. As temperatures decrease, there are some things you can do to reduce your family’s risk of exposure to bacteria and viruses that lead to the common cold. Prevention is key and with some preparation, those germs will be a thing of the past.

Slow Down

The hustle and bustle of life can leave you and the little ones feeling worn out and exhausted. Packing your schedule without leaving time to relax can increase your risk of catching the common cold, says Denise Baron, integrative wellness coach with Ayurveda for Modern Living. “We must slow down to keep our immune system strong, so this means find time to just chill,” says Baron. “Put down the Blackberry or iPhone and just chill and take a good Epsom salt bath or get a massage.

Ensuring you get enough rest is also crucial to avoid the common cold, says Baron. “Make sure you are getting to bed early and that your children get to sleep at the same time each night.”

According to Dr. Kevin Campbell, North Carolina-based physician, sleep promotes the release of cortisol, which stimulates cells that boost the immune system. “Sleep enhances your body’s ability to fight off infections such as the common cold,” he says. “Getting at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep has been shown in clinical trials to convey a lower risk of cold and flu.”

Minimize Germ Exposure

Germs are everywhere and you can’t avoid them, but you can minimize exposure, says Dr. Samantha Brody, naturopathic physician in Portland, Oregon.

Brody suggests washing hands frequently and keeping your hands away from your nose and face. To ensure the little ones are not overly exposed to germs, it may mean turning down plans with others, too. “Politely turn down play dates when someone else’s kid is drowning in phlegm, coughing or is clearly sick,” says Brody.

Hygiene is especially important when germ season is rampant. Ilyse Schapiro, registered dietitian in Connecticut, recommends leaving the windows open when the weather permits. “Germs love unventilated rooms, so by circulating with fresh air, you help to make the environment less likely for viruses and germs to breed,” she says.

Even though the cooler temperatures may leave you or the kids longing for a hot shower, ending each shower with a burst of cold water may help prevent those sniffles. “The cold will not only remind your body to warm up, but it also helps with immunity, circulation, energy and overall health and well-being,” says Schapiro.

Stock Up On Vitamins and Healthy Foods

One of the best defenses to the common cold is through daily prevention. Schapiro recommends taking a multi vitamin every day. “In the winter, we tend to move less and eat more and the best insurance policy to make sure our bodies are getting what they need is by taking a multivitamin,” she says. “It’s also important to supplement with vitamin D in the winter, as we all tend to spend more time indoors, since it is so important for immunity as well as its function in calcium absorption.

Vitamin E is another important antioxidant that helps to boost your immune system, says Schapiro. “Many popular food sources are rich in Vitamin E such as nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and whole grains, which are available all year round, but recommended intakes are 100 to 400 mg per day,” she says.

Wintertime means cold and flu season, so it is even more important than ever to keep your immune system functioning at its best. “Vitamin C helps to boost the immune system as well as reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by raising good cholesterol, as well as lowering blood pressure,” says Schapiro.

Supplement your diet with healthy foods to stay healthy during high-germ seasons, too. “Oranges and clementines are in season, so why not reach for one instead of the bowl of chips while watching the game?” suggests Schapiro. “These are jam packed with nutrients and fiber and they are also packed with vitamin C.”

Don’t forget your carotenoids when preparing meals. “Beta-carotene, the most well known carotenoid is a major anti-oxidant and it is rich in infection-fighting cells which help to prevent you from getting sick,” says Schapiro. Stock up on carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, romaine lettuce and broccoli to supplement your diet with healthy foods and to prevent the common cold.

“Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables and take advantage of what is in season during the winter,” suggests Schapiro. “They are all full of vitamins to keep you healthy all winter long.”

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100 Housekeeping Chores by the Minute

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Just the thought of cleaning the house top to bottom is enough to stress out even the cleanest of people, and can bring on a feeling of defeat before you even lift a mop. However, cleaning the house in its entirety doesn’t have to be overwhelming – all you need are these 100 housecleaning chores that are broken down by the minute to help you power through the task! Some of these take less than five minutes to accomplish, others will be a little more involved, and, when combined, all will leave you with a house that’s sparkling clean.

25 Tasks You Can Do in Under 5 Minutes

You’ve probably heard the old saying that a watched pot never boils, and you may have even tested it by staring interminably at water that refuses to bubble. These 25 tasks will all take you less than five minutes, making them perfect for tackling when you’re waiting for things like water to boil. One trick to keeping a clean house is to clean as you go instead of waiting for it all to pile up and then trying to tackle it. So the next time you have five minutes, take on one of these tasks.

  • Use a nut to take scratches out of a wooden table. Good Housekeeping says you can hide scratches by rubbing the meat of a walnut over them.
  • Use Alka Seltzer to clean a toilet. According to Life Hacker, you can clean a toilet bowl by dropping two Alka Seltzer tablets into it, waiting a few minutes and then brushing the bowl clean.
  • Disinfect the garbage disposal using a lemon. Woman’s Day recommends cutting up a lemon, some salt and a few ice cubes and running them down the disposal to freshen and disinfect.
  • Clean and sanitize your cutting boards. Follow the directions on Clorox to sanitize your plastic and wooden cutting boards.
  • Watch this video to learn how to spot clean your bathroom in 5-minutes. Clean My Space recommends using disinfectant wipes to tidy up.
  • Implement the 5-minute pick-up in your home. Grab a laundry basket and walk around your home, adding in anything that doesn’t belong in that room. Once you’re done, put everything back in its rightful place, suggests Spring Cleaning 365.
  • Spend 5 minutes every day cleaning the hot spot. Super Heroes and Tea Cups recommends spending just 5 minutes each day on the one spot in your house that is the catch all spot to keep it tidy.
  • Empty the dishwasher. Surprisingly enough, taking just 5 minutes to do this task will help you keep the kitchen cleaner throughout the day because you can then put dirty dishes into the dishwasher instead of leaving them by the sink, suggests Keeper of the Home.
  • Make your bed. It typically takes around 2 minutes to make your bed, indicates The Art of Simple, and this simple task can change the entire look and feel of your room.
  • Make your sinks, mirrors, and counters shine in your bathroom. Google Books explains how to make your bathroom sparkle in just 5 minutes.
  • Wipe down light switch covers and door knobs. This task is especially important during cold and flu season and, according to The Spicy Sugar Shack, should only take a few minutes.
  • Sweep the floor daily. Live Renewed suggests spending 5 minutes sweeping or Swiffering the floors every day to stay on top of pet hair and spilled food.
  • Play the 100 item pick-up game. If you are like Imperfect Homemaking, you hate to clean. By picking up 100 items as you switch tasks during the day, however, your house will stay tidy without you feeling like you spent the day cleaning.
  • Pick up dirty laundry and start a load. How to Clean Stuff recommends spending just 5 minutes picking up dirty clothes and doing one load per day.
  • Dust your knickknacks during commercials. My Simpler Life suggests working in cleaning tasks throughout the day so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming, like dusting in your living room during commercials.
  • Clean out the silverware drawer. Living on a Dime recommends using just 5 minutes to tackle small tasks around your house, such as cleaning out a drawer.
  • Wash your interior windows. Chasing Super Mom says she can do all of her downstairs windows in under 5 minutes – and you can, too!
  • Scrub down the shower. According to Curbly, you should be able to spray and wipe down the shower in just 5 minutes. Cleaning the shower while you are in it makes the task even simpler.
  • Organize a book shelf. The Organised Housewife has a list of ways to clean the entire kitchen, but recommends that you take on one organizational task, like organizing the book shelf, each day.
  • Clean the microwave. Put a handful of wet paper towels or a sponge into the microwave, turn it on for a couple minutes, then wipe out the microwave with the wet paper towels and you’re done, says Reader’s Digest.
  • Do laundry 5 minutes at a time. Stephanie O’Dea explains how each laundry-related task takes less than 5 minutes, making them easy to fit in throughout the day.
  • Empty all of the trash cans in your house. Parent Hacks suggests using small pockets of time, like the 5 minutes it takes you to reheat food in your microwave, to do one housecleaning task.
  • Wash your dishes after each meal. According to Houzz, you can wash your dishes after each meal in less than 5 minutes, so you don’t have to face a mountain of dishes later in the day.
  • Empty trash and sweep the floor in your bathroom. Only Hangers suggests adding tasks that take 5 minutes or less to your daily routine.
  • Let the products do the work. All Things Frugal recommends spraying the surfaces you want to clean and letting them sit so that it’s not a lot of work when you wipe things off.

25 Tasks You Can Do in Under 15 Minutes

Did you ever think that you could dust your crown molding in under 15 minutes? Unless you have really tall ceilings, you don’t even need a ladder! All you need is a broom, a microfiber cloth and a rubber band and you’re set. If you’re in a rush but need to get a room into a presentable condition, check out some of the tips below. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish in just 15 minutes by following the tips in these 25 posts. Skeptical? Set a timer and give it a try!

  • Dust crown molding and ceiling vents with ease using a broom. Real Simple explains how to cover the bristles of a broom with a microfiber cloth and wrap it with a rubber band to clean hard to reach surfaces in your home.
  • Set a timer to avoid getting bogged down. The Inspired Room encourages you to set a timer for 15 minutes when you start a task to help you stay focused on finishing it.
  • Have a plan for a quick bedroom clean-up. Housekeeping details a list of steps for cleaning up your bedroom in just 15 minutes.
  • Give yourself 15 minutes to put things back where they belong. Tipsaholic explains how to get a maximum amount of things cleaned in just a short amount of time.
  • Clean out the junk drawer. BlogHer says this job should take closer to 10 minutes, and by using an organizer going forward you can keep everything organized and manageable.
  • Gather up and put away everything that is out of place in your living room. Money Saving Mom suggests breaking tasks down and setting a timer to make it into a game to beat the clock.
  • Use 15 minute micro-bursts of cleaning to get deep cleaning done. The Unclutterer shows you how to assess each room and determine how many 15 minute sessions it will take to deep clean it.
  • Clean the mattress. You can take the linens off, vacuum the mattress and remake the bed with fresh linens in only 15 minutes, says Voices.
  • Keep your home clean in 15 minutes a day. All My Sons has a list of chores to do each day that should only take you 15 minutes and will help keep your house clean.
  • Clean up under beds and straighten closets and dressers. Simply Clean Living breaks down tasks like cleaning under beds and straightening closets into 15 minute segments.
  • You can do anything for 15 minutes. FlyLady breaks down how to clean in a hurry if you have guests coming in a few days.
  • Clean sweep in 15 minutes. Apartment Therapy explains that cleaning doesn’t take as long as you think it, so stop procrastinating and get started!
  • After dinner clean up. Teresa’s Family Cleaning suggests that you get the dishes into the dishwasher and wipe down the table and the counters after dinner. After 15 minutes, go sit down and relax.
  • Remove pet hair from the furniture. Bright Nest explains how to remove pet hair using a damp rubber glove.
  • Clean the venetian blinds. Manila Bulletin suggests putting an old sock on your hand to wipe down the blinds.
  • Declutter and sort through paperwork. Suite 101 recommends taking 15 minutes to sort and handle junk mail, magazines, bills and other papers.
  • Clean out your car. How Does She goes over a list of what you can accomplish in 15 minutes, such as cleaning out your car. If you are organized, you can do this task while you kill time waiting for your child to finish soccer practice.
  • Clean out your freezer. Homemaking Organized suggests you take just 15 minutes to clean out your freezer and discard anything that you won’t eat.
  • Tidy up your home. Household Management 101 encourages you to go through and pick up every room and put things back where they belong.
  • Break down your tasks into manageable chunks. Clean Organized Family Home suggests cleaning the microwave on one day, then cleaning the toilets the next, instead of trying to do it all at once.
  • Do a quick pick up and wipe down in 15 minutes. Home Ec 101 lists big tasks and little tasks for each day. The little tasks, like picking up clutter and wiping off smudges, take only 15 minutes.
  • Daily cleaning blasts of 15 minutes. Her View from Home recommends that everyone take 15 minutes each day to tidy up the entire house and put things in their place.
  • Spring cleaning task in 15 minutes. Instead of spending hours on the weekend deep cleaning your home in the spring or fall, take a tip from Staten Island Live and spend just 15 minutes a day on those deep cleaning tasks.
  • Clean the surfaces in 15 minutes. Wishmaids gives an idea for a 30 minute emergency clean-up, with 15 minutes of that clean-up being assigned to wiping and cleaning all of the surfaces in your home.
  • Avoid clogged drains by doing this 10 to 15 minute task. Great White Clean suggests pouring baking soda and salt down the drain, adding hot vinegar, letting it all sit for 15 minutes and then rinsing it down for a fresh and clear drain.

25 Tasks You Can Do in Under 30 Minutes

You can do a lot of cleaning in just half an hour, whether you do six 5 minute tasks, two 15 minute tasks or one 30 minute task. Housekeeping expert the Flylady says that if you do nothing else, make your sink sparkle. The next time you have 30 minutes to kill, tackle one of these 30 minute tasks. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

  • Clean front door, switch plates and fingerprints on the walls. The Homemaking Arts suggests tackling one deep cleaning task per day for 30 minutes. At the end of 30 days your house will be deep cleaned.
  • Wipe appliances and mop the floor. Black and Married with Kids suggests spending 30 minutes a day cleaning your home.
  • Take down, wash or dry clean curtains in living room. The Country Chic Cottage suggests doing various tasks to deep clean your home 30 minutes at a time.
  • Create a list of birthdays. Take advantage of technology when you can by using something like Slipstick to remind you of upcoming dates.
  • Clean out your expired food. This is purely a personal choice, because according to the FDA expiration dates refer to quality and taste, not safety, notes Healthy Discoveries.
  • Create a filing system for your financial documents. Follow the instructions listed on Dummies to figure out a way to organize your bills.
  • Update your annual calendar. Take a new calendar and transfer important dates onto it, suggests Practical Organizing.
  • Clean out your medicine cabinet. According to Advil, you need to take the time to check the expiration dates on your prescription drugs and toss the ones that have expired.
  • Organize your scrapbook papers. Find several ideas on Studio Pebbles on how to organize your paper packs and stacks.
  • Clean your dishwasher. One Good Thing by Jillee recommends several different ways to clean and deodorize your dishwasher, even if it’s not very old.
  • Wash out your trash bins. Overstock has a step-by-step method for cleaning the trash bins in your home to keep them fresh.
  • Wash your dishes. P & G Everyday gives tips on how you can cut your dishwashing chore time in half by using a few tricks.
  • Clean your sink. Follow the directions given on Savvy Sugar to disinfect your sinks.
  • Polish kitchen cabinets. After you’ve cleaned your kitchen cabinets you should polish them to keep them looking their best, suggests Guardsmen.
  • Clean your tub. According to Finely Ground, you can use Borax and a wet scrub brush to get old stains out of your tub.
  • Wax your bathtub. By waxing your bathtub with car wax you can maintain it better throughout the year, says Change Your Bathroom.
  • Prevent future fridge troubles in less than 30 minutes. Family Handyman suggests spending 30 minutes or less cleaning in and around your refrigerator to avoid costly repairs.
  • Clean your drip pans. From daily cleaning to deep cleaning, Home Guides has some helpful cleaning solutions for making this task a breeze.
  • Clean your toaster. Sounds simple, but did you know that it’s not a good idea to turn your toaster upside down? Read the tips on All About Home Repair to learn the proper way of cleaning out your toaster to prevent a possible fire.
  • Seal your grout. After cleaning your grout it’s important to seal it to prevent future stains. This task is simple, but may take a while if you have a lot of grout, according to Lowes.
  • Clean the silver. Before any big holiday gatherings you may want to give your silver a good polish. It won’t take as long as you think if you use this method by Chemistry.
  • Clean your lamp shades. You can dust your lamp shades in minutes using a simple paint brush, but to actually clean a lamp shade you may need water, explains Michigan State Extension.
  • Remove lint and wash your lint trap. You can save money by cleaning and washing your lint screen and making sure the hose is clear of debris, claims The Christian Science Monitor.
  • Clean your ceiling fans. Try the pillow case trick offered on Quick and Dirty Tips that allows you to dust your ceiling fan without covering the floor with dust bunnies.
  • Wash your baseboards. DIY Life suggests spraying your baseboards and letting them soak for 10 minutes before wiping them down in each room.

25 Tasks You Can Do in Under an Hour

By giving up just one soap opera or nighttime drama or getting up an hour earlier each morning you can find an extra hour in your day. This one hour can allow you to get or keep your house impeccably clean. It won’t happen overnight if you haven’t been keeping house very well, but it could happen at the end of 30 days if you stick with it. These hour long tasks go above and beyond daily cleaning. By keeping your home clutter-free and organized you will find that you need to spend less time cleaning. This will allow you to have more time for fun with your family and friends. So what are you waiting for?  Check out these 25 blogs to get started!

  • Try this one hour quick clean plan to get your whole house company ready. Better Homes and Gardens breaks cleaning the whole house down into manageable steps.
  • Tidy up the whole house using speed cleaning tips and 45 minutes. Living Well Spending Less explains how to accomplish this task step-by-step.
  • Tackle a room a day. My 3 Monsters lists everything you need to clean each room and recommends doing a room a day.
  • Plan a birthday party. Check out the tips on Martha Stewart for planning a child’s birthday party.
  • Organize your spice cabinet. Use this four step process from Simplify 101 to sort, purge, label and store your spices.
  • Organize your recipes. The Kitchn has several ways to organize recipes, like this one that uses binders.
  • Work on creating a simple command center in your home. From simple to elaborate, you can get ideas from Southern Living for making a command center for your home.
  • Switch out your seasonal clothing. Take time and evaluate each item as you go through your clothes to determine if you want to keep it or donate it, recommends HGTV.
  • Organize your photos. Determine which photos you want to preserve or frame and which photos you can get rid of by using tips from Money US News.
  • Clean and organize your clothes closet. Using tips from My Home Ideas you can organize your clothes in a more usable way.
  • Clean your oven to get rid of old spills. WikiHow explains several methods for cleaning your oven based on the type of oven you own.
  • Freshen up your mattresses. Make it Do suggests removing bed linens, vacuuming the mattress, sprinkling it with baking soda and an essential oil and allowing it to sit for a while before vacuuming it up.
  • Wipe down kitchen cabinets. Clean Like the Pros will take you step-by-step through the process of giving your cabinet fronts a thorough cleaning.
  • Clean your window screens. Follow the simple steps by the DIY Network to give your screens a good washing.
  • Scrub the grout on your floor. According to a story on the Washington Post, the best way to clean grout is by soaking and scrubbing it with oxygen bleach.
  • Wax your table top. Applying a protective coating of wax will last a lot longer than a quick spray of furniture polish, explains The Master’s Touch.
  • Rake the leaves. Depending on how many leaves you have, you may opt to mulch the leaves by mowing over them, but if you have a lot of leaves and decide to rake, here are 10 tips from Realtor to get it done right.
  • Organize your book shelves. Whether you go alphabetically or by genre, organizing your bookshelves can be a worthwhile task; check out the tips on Quirk Books.
  • Clean range hood filter. Depending on how dirty the underside of your range hood is, this task may take way less than an hour. Use the tips on House Cleaning London to speed up the task.
  • Spot remove and clean your leather furniture. Learn how to make your own inexpensive leather cleaner from The Krazy Coupon Lady.
  • Steam clean the carpets. Follow the steps on Housewife How To’s for directions on steam cleaning your carpets to get that deep down clean.
  • Clean the front porch. Tidy Mom explains step-by-step how you can get your porch clean and ready for guests or an event.
  • Clean light fixtures. At least once a year you may want to get out the ladder and clean the light fixtures, suggests University of Hawaii.
  • Clean your shower doors. The Pin Junkie shows before and after pictures of how well this simple solution of vinegar and dishwashing liquid works for this job.
  • Organize your pantry. Simply Fabulous Living gives tons of suggestions on how to create your dream pantry.
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Dirtiest Places in the House

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Caring for young children means you are a responsible for keeping them safe, happy and healthy – both inside the house and out. A session in the local ball pit might send you scrambling for the hand sanitizer, and the thought of public toilets might kick your anxiety into overdrive and make you wish for the safety and cleanliness of home. However, studies show public toilets are nothing to worry about in comparison to a few surprising germ hideouts on the home front.

Here’s a room-by-room guide on where to find those germs and how to kill them:

Kitchen

One might guess the kitchen trash is the culprit in this room, but in actuality it is unexpected small items that harbor massive germ counts. Kitchen sinks are 100,000 times more contaminated than bathroom sinks, so a swish of daily soap and water is a must, followed by a weekly chaser of a germ bashing detergent.  The faucet itself will shock you with the level of built up grime hiding inside. Unscrew the aerator tip and soak in vinegar, then take a toothbrush to any remaining buildup. Sponges need to be replaced every week or two, but a two minute spin in the microwave will kill most of the germs, viruses and parasites in between switch outs.

While handles of appliances could use a wipe down during daily cleaning, the real culprit usually gets overlooked. Stove dials and oven temp gauges are frequently touched while cooking, especially when hands might be contaminated with germs from uncooked meat and foods. Many can be popped off and soaked in vinegar; clean those that cannot with Q-Tips or a toothbrush soaked in antiseptic cleaner.

Bathroom

A natural assumption is that the throne in the room would be the royal pain to keep germ-free. However, this room also features secret germ hangouts. Replacing a toothbrush on a regular basis or after colds might have become second nature; however, it becomes a moot point when you place these brand new tools into a holder that on average holds several million bacteria cells. The taste factor makes soaking a toothbrush holder in bleach or vinegar a less than ideal solution, so instead opt for a dishwasher safe or cup-style toothbrush holder and add it to the wash on a regular basis.

Boys of all ages might be aim-challenged when it comes to using the restroom, but youngsters having just graduated to the full-sized toilet will end up having an even more difficult time with the art. Floors might get frequently spot cleaned as a result, though the surrounding walls might be forgotten in the effort. Spray the walls and let the cleaning solution sit for a few minutes so the enzymes in the cleaners can do their work before wiping them down.

Bath time is often on a list of duties, but with a quarter of all tubs and showers offering a home to staphylococci bacteria, you might be risking the health of your little ones if you don’t take the necessary precautions. Create a lifetime health habit by letting them help wipe the tub dry and opting for a natural product that contains 3% hydrogen peroxide to let your (appropriately aged) little helper spray down the tub after use.

Living Room

The living room might seem pretty harmless when it comes to germs. After all, you vacuum and wipe down the coffee table, so all is well, right? Not so fast. The power level of the average vacuum cleaner doesn’t reach the bottommost part of the carpet, where an enormous amount of bacteria cells seek refuge. When a crawler spends most of his time with his hands in close contact to this bacteria-filled carpet (and then places those hands immediately into his teething mouth), this can be a big concern. A steam clean every 12-18 months can remove the majority of these cells.

Even if the TV isn’t part of your daily routine with young kids or babies, older kids tend to have more freedom in that regard and toddlers love to play with remote controls – which are often handled by everyone in the house and rarely cleaned. Germs abound, so opt for a disinfectant wipe and rub an alcohol-laden Q-tip between the buttons.

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Easy Meal Preps Your Children Will Love

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Cries of “ewwww” and “yuck” from the dinner table can frustrate even the most masterful chef. If your children are less-than-enthusiastic about your meal preps, then it’s time to cook up something creative and better yet, easy, to pacify the pickiest eaters in your household.

From lunchtime to dinnertime, nannies and parents can offer meals that are both tasty and healthy and will leave your children exclaiming “yum” and “wow.”

Beyond Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Children are creatures of habit. Even though your child may willingly eat mac ‘n’ cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for every meal, it doesn’t mean you should serve these high-fat feasts. Instead, opt for easy to prepare healthy choices that appeal to their sense of taste.

Begin by asking each child to compile a list of their favorite foods, suggests Rania Batayneh, a San Francisco-based nutritionist and author of “The 1:1:1 Diet.” Making the food fun is key for younger children. “Add veggies to their pasta,” she says. “Mac and Cheese could become ‘Mac and Trees’ with the addition of steamed broccoli.

If your child favors chicken, focus on recipes that will please the little rooster, such as veggie, cheese and chicken enchiladas or baked chicken with low-fat mac ‘n’ cheese. Mixing in their favorites with new foods will expose them to healthier options and help them keep an open mind to try new meals.

Beyond chicken, consider lasagna-style dishes with hidden veggies, reduced fat cheeses and whole grain noodles or turkey or lean beef chili made with less meat and more beans.

Tackling Time

To save time and effort, Batayneh recommends sifting through the freezer for fast meal preps. Pick and pair meatballs with frozen veggies or compile a homemade pizza with frozen tomatoes, mushrooms and your child’s favorite meat topping, she says.

You can also decrease meal time prep by taking stock of what you have on hand. Mix and match ingredients from the pantry, freezer and fridge for a variety meal. Jackie Keller, founding director and executive chef of Los Angeles’ food company NutriFit, recommends making large sandwiches with a variety of meats and chopping them into sections to serve different days of the week. This will help you save time on days when you are running from dance lessons to soccer practices.

According to Bridget Swinney, registered dietician and author of Healthy Food for Healthy Kids and Eating Expectantly, it also speeds up meal preps when you have your most-used ingredients on hand. Swinney suggests keeping the following around for when you get in a pinch to whip up a magnificent meal:

  • Pasta (dry and frozen cheese ravioli)
  • Marinara sauce, pizza crust, pita bread or French bread
  • Leftover or canned chicken
  • Evaporated milk
  • Mozzarella, Parmesan, cream cheese and cottage cheese
  • Bread crumbs
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetarian refried beans
  • Corn
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Black or kidney beans
  • Pineapple tidbits
  • Fresh potatoes
  • Frozen vegetables

Save time, too, by using the same base protein different ways, says Keller. You can mix up tacos, meat sauce and chili with one batch of ground turkey and freeze the meat for preps later in the week. Buying pre-cut or frozen vegetables can also help parents and nannies save precious time when preparing meals.

Crockpots also come in handy when meal prep is keeping you away from tending to the children. After preparing a light breakfast for the family, toss in chicken breasts, noodles and cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup to simmer for four to six hours. By lunchtime, the aroma of this simple meal will beckon the family to the table.

Planning Pays Off

Organizing your weekly meals can save you time and money. At the beginning of the week, ask for meal suggestions from the entire family and prepare your grocery list accordingly. When shopping, only purchase the items on your list to prepare a week’s worth of meals.

In some cases, you can prepare the meat ahead of time and freeze it for when you are ready to reheat and mix together a delicious meal. Long-term planning can free up your time and set expectations for meals. There will be no more “ewwww” or “yuck” from your children when they have had a say in the meal selections.

Put the kids to work, too, when preparing meals early in the week. Little ones can help you measure and older children can assist with chopping and stirring. If you make meal time prep a family affair, it’s likely those moans and groans will diminish over time.

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80 of the Best Tips for Working Moms

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Whether you are a new mom just heading back to the work force or a mom that has been back for years, you probably have found that it’s difficult to balance your work and home life. Finding ways to fit in all the things you have to do while still being able to enjoy all the things you want to do isn’t easy. However, there are ways you can reduce the time you spend tackling things on your to-do list. With the help of these 80 blogs you’ll find you have more time during the evenings, you’re better dressed during the day and you and your family are happy and healthy.

Meal Preparation

After a long day at work the last thing you probably want to do is stand over a hot stove and fix dinner, especially on the nights that one or more people in the house have evening activities to attend. While ordering a pizza or swinging through the drive-thru may seem like the most efficient way to get everyone fed, you can actually save both time and money by fixing up a quick meal at home. These 10 blogs are stocked full of ideas for quick, easy, healthy dinners that you can get on the table in no time on even the craziest of nights.

Choosing Childcare

Deciding who is going to take care of your child is not something you should take lightly. After all, whoever you decide on will be spending eight to 10 hours a day with your child. Before making a decision, consider your unique family situation and what kind of childcare would work best for you. If you want your child to spend his days with kids his age, daycare might be the best option. However, if you want your child to have one-on-one attention throughout the day, you might consider hiring a nanny. Take a look at these 10 blogs for tips on what to look for as you investigate different childcare options.

Self-Care

When it comes to priorities, moms often find that their own hover somewhere near the bottom of the list. However, while you’re busy taking care of everyone else, who’s taking care of you? It’s important to exercise some self-care as you go through your days, and these 10 blogs can help you find the time to take care of yourself. You’ll find that once you start making time for you, you’re able to better take care of everyone else.

Breastfeeding Tips

Choosing to continue breastfeeding once you go back to work is something that is both admirable and difficult to accomplish. Before you go on maternity leave, talk to your Human Resources department to find out the logistics of pumping at work. You’ll want to plan ahead in the weeks prior to going back to work by shifting the baby’s feeding schedule to one that will match the times you are able to pump. For more tips on breastfeeding after going back to work, read these 10 blogs.

Versatile Wardrobe

You’ll likely notice that your body has gone through some changes after giving birth. Even after you’ve lost the baby weight, it’s unlikely that your body will go back to being exactly the same as it was pre-baby. To compensate for this, you may find you need a new wardrobe. For ideas on how to put together a kid-friendly wardrobe, check out these 10 blog posts.

Travel Tips

Not every working mom has to travel for work, but many do from time to time. Being separated from your child for even a few days can be emotionally stressful for you and your child. There are ways to prepare both you and your child for a trip, though, even if you are still breastfeeding. If your kids are older, involve them in the planning and packing for the trip. Plan something fun for them to do while you’re away. These 10 blogs will share more tips on how to travel for work while the kids stay home.

Organization

Being organized can help you streamline your life, whether you are a working mom or not. However, for working moms, organization can help you get everything done and reduce the stress on everyone. Utilize the many apps that are available for your smart phone to help keep track of appointments and other commitments. Do as much preparation as you can the night before to reduce morning stress. Find these and other organizational ideas for working moms in the following 10 blogs.

Housework

Face it; most people don’t relish the idea of doing housework. It’s one of those necessary evils of life. The trick is to make it as painless as possible for all involved. Find ways to save time and still get everything done by reading through the tips on these 10 blogs.

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Dividing and Conquering: How to Delegate Household Chores

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If cleaning the windows, washing the laundry and scrubbing the floors are getting in the way of your family bonding time, there’s no need to worry. It is possible to get your home whipped into shape while spending quality time with your children. Household responsibilities should not be isolated to mom, dad or the nanny. Instead, get your children involved to promote responsibility and development, says Shannon Battle, a licensed therapist and CEO for Family Services of America in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

“When you have children in the house, a mother or father should not have to be overwhelmed with minor chores,” says Battle. “Kids can learn to pick up behind themselves.”

With a joint effort and cooperation from the kids, the nanny and both parents, your family will be all smiles and your home will be sparkling clean.

Create Incentives

In order to obtain a clean home and a happy household, consider motivating family members with chore charts. Age-appropriate charts with stickers, privileges or points for allowance can help show your children that they must earn rewards by chipping in and helping out when needed.

Designate a portion of the chart for daily tasks, such as feeding pets, making beds and keeping rooms picked up. The primary portion of the chart should include minor tasks that need to be completed on a regular basis, such as taking out the trash, dusting the furniture and washing laundry.

Battle says she uses star charts for her younger children, and the stars they receive can accumulate to earn allowances. If they complete extra tasks, they have the ability to earn additional allowance.

“On top of having an allowance, they are required to put money into a savings account in which I manage for them,” she says. “The savings incentive is that by the end of the year, the child that saved the most money, mom and dad will double that money to promote financial wisdom for my six, nine and 10-year old.”

 Stray from Gender Specific Roles

Many times stereotypes influence a resistance to household chores. If you have subscribed to the belief that men take out the trash and women cook the meals, you could be turning your family off to the idea of keeping the home and family intact.

“As the wife and mother of five children, I used to believe that chores were assigned gender specific roles relative to physical demands,” says Battle. “In this day and age, it’s no longer realistic.”

Instead of assigning and delegating duties based on gender, Battle recommends discussing how all members of the family are capable of doing the most chores. “Whoever sees that something needs to be done and if they have the capability of doing it, then that should be their responsibility,” says Battle.

Ask for Preferences

No one likes being told what to do, especially adolescents who are trying to establish their own identity and freedom. Instead of taking an authoritative approach when delegating household chores, ask for preferences from everyone in the home. Providing choices is key, says Yaelle Shaphir, mother of three and licensed acupuncturist in Los Angeles, Calif.

“It is not a question of are you going to help out or not, but rather how,” she says. When it’s time for chores, use phrases, such as “do you want to dust the furniture or sort the clutter under your bed?”

When children are given a choice, they feel more invested in both the activity and the outcome. In other words, they feel more in control and may put forth more effort to complete the chores.

Make it Fun

“What is most important is the attitude in which the parent introduces the concept of a shared household,” says Shaphir. “Make it fun and it will get done.”

Try energizing cleaning day with these activities:

  • Shake It: Turn on dance music to motivate everyone to shake their groove thing while folding laundry or dusting the furniture.
  • Squirt and Spray: Toddlers will feel empowered and overjoyed to be responsible for their very own spray bottle. Add a little water and vinegar to a bottle and allow your child to spray down counter tops and then wipe it away on his own.
  • Race to Clean: If your children are dreading cleaning tasks, make it a game. Set the timer and see who can clean up their room the fastest or rake the leaves in the yard.

Even if you don’t have a magic wand or a full-time house cleaner on the job, there are still ample ways to enroll all the members of the household – no matter what age – to participate in weekly household duties. Make it fun, provide choices and get your home in tip-top shape.

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70 Tips for Getting Your Home Organized before the Holidays

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There’s nothing like hosting a holiday get together to get you motivated to clean and organize your home. For some people, this will mean hiring a sitter so they can get the cleaning and organizing done. With your children in the hands of a capable caregiver, you can turn your focus onto getting holiday ready. For 70 great tips on getting your home organized for the holidays, whether you need an additional helping hand or not, read on.

Cleaning Checklist for Parties

Cleaning for parties is a little different than typical daily surface cleaning. To get your home squeaky clean and festive, you’ll need to start cleaning about a week before the party. Try to do a little deep cleaning every day to avoid getting overwhelmed. You’ll also want to use checklists to keep track of what you’ve done and what you still need to do. Check out these 10 blogs to get some cleaning ideas and downloadable checklists.

Getting Junk Mail and Paperwork under Control

What do you see when you look at the surfaces in your home? If the answer is stacks of paper, you’re not alone. You are in luck though, because eliminating paper clutter is relatively simple to do. Start by going through each stack of paper in your home and sort it into piles. If it’s junk mail, throw it out. Now, decide which school papers you want to save and which need to go. Store the ones that you are saving in a designated box for each child. Once you do that you should be seeing a light at the end of the paper clutter tunnel. Go on to file the rest into appropriate files. These 10 blogs will help you determine how to file, what you need to hang on to and what needs to be shredded.

Organize Your DIY Projects

Do enjoy the occasional DIY project? The holidays tend to bring out the crafty, creative side of people, whether it’s baking a batch of cookies or fixing the broken latch in the bathroom. If you are expecting guests this holiday season, you may want to do a few tasks around the house that you have been putting off, like touching up the paint or fixing a squeaky door. Start a list of the things you need to do and organize a repair kit for touch-ups around the house. You can also organize your decorations to make them simpler to find when it’s time to decorate. For tips on organizing your projects, take a look at these 10 blog posts.

Create a Holiday Task List

Do you love to look at creative ideas on Pinterest? Have you got big plans for this holiday season? If you answered yes, it’s time to create a task list of everything you’d like to accomplish during the holidays. The sooner you can get started on your list the better. Take this opportunity to cross a few things off your list, too. Removing a few items from your To Do list will reduce your stress and hopefully allow you to enjoy the holidays more. Find some sample checklists on these 10 blogs to help you get started.

Decluttering Tips

Clutter makes everything more difficult to manage, and often is comprised of things you don’t need or want. Decluttering is different from organizing because once you remove clutter you can organize what is left. What better time to clear out the clutter than before the holidays? These blogs will help you get started decluttering your home.

Create a Command Center

By creating a command center in your home you will have a central space to keep important information. There’s always a calendar at the command center, and often storage baskets to contain papers and mail. You may also like to keep your coupons at the command center or your menu planning supplies. This spot should serve a purpose for you and your family. If you can’t visualize what a command center should look like, take a look at these 10 blogs.        

Get Organized for Guests

Are you expecting guests this holiday season? One idea to help you always be prepared is to create a basket full of fresh linens and other items guests can use that you can grab at moment’s notice. You can also reduce the stress of unexpected guests by making up some appetizers, cookies or meals ahead of time and storing them in the freezer. For more ideas on how to prepare for guests read these blogs.

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10 Chemicals to Be Cautious of When Cleaning Around Kids

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Keeping your house spotless, shining and most of all, clean, with kids around can be a challenge. Somehow, a small handprint appears before you are even finished cleaning the windows. Even with gallant efforts to keep your abode sparkling, know that there can be dangers lurking if you are using products and chemicals that are harmful to your children.

Know which chemicals to avoid when cleaning areas in your home that little hands and mouths tread frequently.

1. Triclosan

The past 10 years or so have seen an explosion in the prevalence of household anti-microbial products, previously used only in clinical and industrial settings, according to Joe Walsh, founder of Green Clean Maine in Portland. As the most common consumer anti-bacterial agent, triclosan containing benzalkonium cloride may be leading to strains of bacteria that are resistant both to disinfectants and prescription antibiotics.

“Before you reach for the bottle of anti-bacterial hand soap or kitchen counter cleaner, consider plain old soap and water as an alternative,” says Walsh. “It’s often cheaper and is all you need to get the job done.”

2. Benzalkonium Chloride

Also found in many anti-bacterial products, benzalkonium chloride offers many of the same risks as triclosan. Although antibacterial products promote clean health, a growing chorus of researchers and medical professionals are raising concerns about the health effects of the widespread use of anti-microbial agents in the home, says Walsh.

“The idea is that highly disinfected household environments prevent children from developing strong immune systems early in life,” says Walsh. “Without the challenge of bacteria exposure, the immune system gets lazy and underdeveloped.”

3. Alkylphenol Ethoxylates

Chemicals that end in “-phenolethoxylate” are commonly used in surfactants, such as those found in all-purpose cleaners. “They are estrogen mimickers, which makes them particularly harmful to women and especially children,” says Walsh. “They do not break down in the environment, but persist and bioacumulate, meaning they build up in human tissue over time.”

The most reliable way to find out if your household cleaning products have this family of chemicals is to look the product up in the U.S. Department Health and Human Services’ National Household Products Database.

4. Chlorine Bleach

Danger is lurking when a child is exposed to chlorine bleach. Keeping bleach around increases the risk of a child ingesting it, spilling it or touching a surface that has been cleaned with bleach. In addition to being highly toxic on its own, chlorine bleach also forms carcinogenic compounds, including chloroform, when it mixes with organic materials in the general environment, says Walsh.

Luckily, there are great alternatives to bleach that can whiten without the dangerous side-effects. Walsh suggests non-chlorine bleach, such as hydrogen peroxide, or oxygen bleaches and sodium percaronate. “The use of the detergent booster, washing soda, will also help to keep clothes bright and white without bleach,” says Walsh.

5. Ammonia

Although ammonia may make your glass surfaces shine, the harmful chemical is not advised as kid-friendly. “Ammonia can be toxic to the skin, eyes and lungs and like bleach, it’s far too easy to mix it with other things unknowingly,” says Walsh. Many household cleaners contain ammonia, but as a rule, it is in the traditional glass bottle cleaners, as well as metal and oven cleaners.

6. VOCs

This type of chemical includes ethylene glycol, propylene glycol, butyl cellusolve and anything under the heading of petroleum distillates. According to Walsh, the acute effects of exposure are eye, skin and mucus membrane irritation. The long-term risks include nervous system damage and liver, blood, lung and kidney damage.

“Daily VOC exposure in children has been directly linked to asthma, and in mothers has been directly linked to diarrhea, earaches and even depression,” says Walsh. To avoid VOCs, look for products that contain a warning label that the product is “combustible” or “flammable.” Many products with VOCs also offer precautionary statements that the product can cause respiratory irritation or recommend using in a well-ventilated area.

7. Perchlorethylene

While trying to keep your carpets clean, avoid products with perchlorethylene, a common agent in carpet and upholstery shampoos. This carcinogen against animals is claimed to be harmful for the liver, kidneys and nervous system, according to Kris Koenig, CEO of Natura Clean, a residential and commercial cleaning company in Middleton, Wisconsin.

According to Koenig, the effects of exposure to perchlorethylene can include dizziness, fatigue, headaches and irritation to skin, eyes, nose and throat.

8. Nitrobenzene

Your children are frequent loungers on the couch, chairs and furniture within the home. Ensure they are not at risk while watching their favorite TV show by avoiding use of nitrobenzene, a common chemical found in furniture and floor polishes. “Small amounts can cause minor skin irritation,” says Koenig, “but regular exposure to high concentrations can reduce the blood’s ability to carry oxygen.”

9. Formaldehyde

Mold and mildew poses risk for your family as it is, but disinfectants with formaldehyde are just as harmful, says Koenig. Formaldehyde is used as a disinfectant in mold and mildew removers and some dishwashing liquid. Check your labels to ensure that you are not posing more risk when cleaning.

Exposure to high doses of this chemical can affect the mucous membranes, with some people developing sensitivity and triggers to asthma attacks, says Koenig.

10. Phosphates

Even though you may think you are providing a sanitary and clean environment for your children when tossing dirty laundry into the washer, there may be harmful chemicals that will pose a risk for the family’s health. Phosphates, commonly found in laundry and dishwashing detergents, are also fertilizers, which means that they can cause rapid algae growth after washed away into rivers and lakes, says Koenig. Ensure you are keeping your household healthy and the environment safe by straying from products with these chemicals.

Alternatives

If you’re concerned that all of your household cleaning products pose risks to your children, there are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives to keep your home sparkling clean. According to Leslie Reichert, cleaning expert and author of “The Joy of Green Cleaning,” you should only use items you could eat when cleaning around children.

“You can do a fabulous job cleaning with things like white vinegar, baking soda, salt and lemon juice,” she says. “If you feel like you have to disinfect things, you can use hydrogen peroxide (which is safe enough to use as a mouth wash) or conquer stains on sinks and counters with toothpaste. We really don’t need to use any toxic chemicals around our children.”

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