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Here's How Often You Should Wash 10 Grimy Household Items

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Even though it may not feel like it, spring is right around the corner, and with it, the dreaded chore of “spring cleaning.” To avoid spending the first 60-degree day of the year unclogging your drains and power washing the inside of your refrigerator, why not get a jump start now?

To help you get ahead of the game this season, deep-cleaning expert Dave Rotunno of Four Monks Cleaning Vinegar told mental_floss how often you should be washing ten of your grimiest household items—and offered tips for how to get it done right.

1. YOUR SHOWER DRAIN: ONCE A WEEK

Cleaning your shower drain may give you seriously creepy The Ring vibes, but the longer you put it off the worse it’s going to be. “If your drain is clogged or slow to drain, a fizzing combo of white distilled vinegar and baking soda is a great way to unclog and remove odor,” says Rotunno. “Pour half a cup of baking soda in the drain, then follow with a mixture of one cup white vinegar and one cup of hot water. Immediately plug the drain with a rag to keep the bubbles contained for 10 minutes. Rinse by pouring a kettle of boiling hot water down the drain.”

2. YOUR OVEN: ONCE EVERY SIX MONTHS

Just because you may not have to look at the grime inside your oven all the time doesn’t mean it’s not there. “The inside of the oven should be cleaned around every six months, or more frequently if needed,” says Rotunno. You can get grease splatters off of an oven’s door by coating them in a vinegar solution, letting it sit for 10 to 15 minutes with the door open, then wiping with a sponge.

3. YOUR PILLOWS: ONCE EVERY SIX MONTHS

You’re already washing your pillow cases at least once every two weeks, but did you know you’re supposed to wash your actual pillows too? “Each time you sleep on your sheets, the pillow cloth absorbs a buildup of dirt and oil from your skin,” says Rotunno. “Always wash your linens on the hot setting (if the fabric can withstand it) to help break down the dirt and oil buildup.” Most pillows are machine washable (check the label), so this should be an easy fix for two laundry days out of the year.

4. YOUR CARPET: VACUUMED ONCE A WEEK, DEEP CLEANED ONCE A YEAR

Between shoe dirt and dust mites, your carpet is basically a bacterial playground. “Carpets should be deep cleaned once a year and vacuumed on a weekly basis,” says Rotunno. “To remove carpet stains on an as-needed basis, you can make a paste of two tablespoons of Four Monks and one-quarter cup salt or baking soda. Rub the paste into the stain and let it dry overnight, then vacuum up the residue the following day.” Just make sure you test the solution on an out-of-sight part of the carpet for discoloration before you go gung-ho.

5. YOUR POTS AND PANS: AFTER EVERY USE

The good news is that your nonstick pans can seem like new for over five years. The bad news? You have to clean them very well, very regularly for that to happen. To remove water spots, Rotunno suggests wetting a thick, clean towel with white distilled vinegar that has been brought to a boil, laying the vinegar-soaked towel on the water spot, and waiting 30 minutes. Then, sprinkle with baking soda, scrub, wipe clean, and dry. You can remove rust from a cast iron pan by soaking it in a solution that’s equal parts white distilled vinegar and water, but don’t let the solution sit too long or the acid in the vinegar could permanently damage the pan. (And when cleaning a cast iron skillet, stay away from soap and steel wool.)

6. YOUR FRIDGE: ONCE A SEASON

Between expired leftovers and 3-year-old jars of jam that you never seem to finish, the inside of your fridge can be a war zone. If you don’t clean it out regularly, you’re bound to be left with tough stains that need to be soaked and scrubbed. Rotunno advises deep cleaning your refrigerator and freezer once a season. Wipe down shelves and trays with vinegar or an all-purpose cleaner, and let stains soak to get rid of any residual food smells. You should also clean the refrigerator handle every day, and throw away expired or smelly foods on a weekly basis.

7. YOUR DISHWASHER: ONCE A MONTH

Washing dirty dishes in a dirty dishwasher pretty much defeats the purpose of having a dishwasher at all. “It’s great to give your dishwasher a deep clean once a month, because minerals and dish soap can build up in your dishwasher over time,” says Rotunno. “Try running a half-cup of Four Monks through a regular cycle of an empty dishwasher to help remove buildup and to leave your dishes and the inside of your dishwasher sparkling.”

8. YOUR SHOWER HEAD: ONCE A WEEK

“Clean your shower head every time you clean your bathroom, if not more regularly,” says Rotunno. “This helps to prevent bacteria from building up within the shower head. This also helps ensure that water flows freely and evenly through every facet of the shower head by preventing mineral deposits.” To properly clean it, pour a half cup of baking soda and one cup of white distilled vinegar into a sandwich bag and tie it around the shower head. Let the bag set for an hour after the bubbling stops, then remove the bag and let the water run for a few minutes before getting in.

9. YOUR COMPUTER: ONCE A MONTH

Your computer is fantastic at helping you get work done and watch cat videos on YouTube, and it also happens to be a disgusting cesspool of germs—just think about how many times a day your grimy fingers touch the keyboard. To keep from spreading those germs, and to keep the machine running properly, it’s best to give the whole computer a once-monthly wipe down. Use a cotton cloth with a minimal amount of rubbing alcohol to clean the screen, and a portable vacuum and a cotton swab to clean the keyboard.

10. YOUR WASHING MACHINE: ONCE A MONTH

You’ve probably never thought about it before, but where do you think all of the dirt goes after it’s washed out of your clothes? Spoiler alert: Some of it sticks around in your washing machine. “Frequently filled with water and dirt, a dirty washing machine can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew,” says Rotunno. “Remove soap scum and clean the hoses of your washing machine with vinegar by running the machine through a regular cycle with only a cup of Four Monks inside, with no clothing or detergent.”

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Food
Cook Your Next Out-of-This-World Meal in a Cosmic Le Creuset Dutch Oven
Le Creuset
Le Creuset

Le Creuset, one of the most coveted names in cookware, has given its classic Dutch oven a stellar makeover. As delish reports, the updated item is decorated with the image of a starry night sky.

The pot’s midnight blue exterior is scattered with white and yellow stars. The print, which is known as “cosmos,” is one of the brand’s boldest looks yet.

Le Creuset Dutch ovens have gained a cult following for their durable cast iron hardware and iconic design. The enameled equipment comes in several vibrant colors, including pink, turquoise, and the company’s signature orange.

While Le Creuset has produced patterned pots in the past, they’re usually hard to come by. Earlier this year, it released limited-edition soup pots inspired by Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. This latest product appears to be sticking around for the foreseeable future, but shoppers are still limited in their options. The cosmos look is only available as a 4.5-quart round oven and it's exclusively sold by Bloomingdale's. If you’re looking to gift this to a heavenly home cook in your life, it will cost you $380—about $80 more than a regular Le Creuset oven of the same size.

Space-printed cookware.

Space-printed cookware.

[h/t delish]

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25 Holiday Hacks to Make Your Life a Little Easier This Season
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Chances are you’re already stressed out by the holidays. That’s no good. It feels like you don’t have enough time, enough money, or enough of a break during the break, which is why it’s important to take care of yourself and find shortcuts for making the holidays less tense.

Whether it’s decorating, wearing an ugly sweater to your office party, or finding the perfect gift, here are some holiday hacks to take the stress out of the season.

1. USE SANTA’S BAG TO ORGANIZE YOUR GIFTS.

Santa's Bag app screenshots
Santa's Bag

Santa's Bag, an excellent shopping list manager app, lets you keep tabs on your budget, your gift ideas, and your recipients so that no one leaves empty-handed—and you don’t end up with an empty wallet.

2. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FREE SHIPPING DAY ON DECEMBER 15TH.

Person delivering package to woman at house
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If you’re planning to purchase gifts online, you can shave a bit off the bottom line by doing it on December 15th, a.k.a. Free Shipping Day. As of this writing, more than 400 retailers are participating, including Kohl’s, Target, and Barnes & Noble.

3. FIND STORES THAT HONOR ONLINE PRICES.

woman looking at smartphone in clothing store
iStock

Stores like Macy’s, Home Depot, and Bed Bath & Beyond will price match that perfect gift with the price on their website, and those savings can stack up quickly. Be careful to check for small print like blackout dates and be sure to have your phone with you to show the sales clerk.

4. PICK UP COOPERATIVE BOARD GAMES.

Photo of a family playing a board game
iStock

While you’re price-matching and enjoying free shipping, check out board games like Pandemic, Castle Panic, and Forbidden Island to bring out the cooperative spirit while passing the time with your family. Games like TableTopics can also be a great way to launch some fun conversations.

5. TURN YOUR PUMPKINS INTO SNOWMEN.

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Just as there's always that one neighbor whose holiday lights are still twinkling come Valentine's Day, there's a good chance that there are still some pumpkins hanging around your neighborhood, even though we're more than a month past Halloween. If that's you, turn your laziness into a craft by piling your leftover pumpkins up and turning them into a snowman. It's simple to do, fun for the whole family, and gives you an Earth-friendly excuse for still having a jack o' lantern in December.

6. LET SANTA IN WITHOUT A CHIMNEY.

Santa
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If your child is worried about how Santa will visit the house without a chimney to climb down, pick up a Magic Key and hang it on the door Christmas Eve. You can also build a DIY chimney out of cardboard boxes.

7. LET APPS BE YOUR GUIDE.

Honey app
Honey

Try using an app like Hopper to help you optimize your flight or an app like Honey to automatically apply promo codes to online shopping trips. You can also use apps from stores you like to get special rewards and coupons.

8. INVITE YOUR CROCK POT TO PARTIES.

Crock-Pot
Amazon

Utilizing your slow cooker can be a big help for family dinners and parties. Recipes are usually simple and delicious, there’s enough for everyone, and you don’t have to be stuck in the kitchen while everyone else is having fun. When dinner’s done, make a big batch of hot cocoa or mulled wine.

9. SET UP A SECONDARY FRIDGE WHEN ENTERTAINING.

food in fridge
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Parties take up a lot of room in your refrigerator, so organize a cooler with condiments and extra ingredients you’ll need access to while cooking, or use it to stow random items you won’t need so you can use that valuable refrigerator real estate for drinks or party food essentials.

10. COOK AND BAKE AHEAD AS MUCH AS YOU CAN.

A photo of gingerbread cookies being iced
iStock

Instead of cramming your cooking into a single day, reduce the stress of getting it all done on time by prepping foods in advance. Items like mashed sweet potatoes, beet soups, and veggie salads can be made up to a few days prior to the party. The same goes for several pies, dough-based deserts, and cookies. All you’ll have to do is bake and chat with your friends.

11. ENHANCE YOUR OVEN SPACE.

Betty Crocker 3-tier Oven Rack
Amazon

Just like with your precious refrigerator space, there’s never enough room in the oven for everything you want to cram in there. You can expand that space with a tiered oven rack; perfect for dishes like pies and casseroles.

12. STOCK UP ON BUTTER.

stack of butter
iStock

Seriously. Almost every recipe uses it. You’re going to run out (and have to run to the crowded grocery store at the worst possible time).

13. USE SQUEEZE BOTTLES FOR KID-FRIENDLY ICING PROJECTS.

Girl and woman decorating cupcakes
iStock

If you’re looking for a fun way to bring the little ones in on the baking without the Jackson Pollock-style messy aftermath, use condiment bottles to make it easier for small (and big) hands to apply that royal icing.

14. PICK UP BROKEN GLASS ... WITH SANDWICH BREAD.

Photo of a broken red wine glass on the floor
iStock

These things happen (especially where there’s hot mulled wine available), but it’s annoying to need to pick up broken glass shards while you’ve got dozens of feet shuffling around the floor. The easiest, safest way to handle the situation is to grab a slice of sandwich bread (yes, really); press it on the ground to grab big and tiny bits of glass, then toss it in the trash.

15. MOVE THE CROWD TO AVOID DIRTY DISHES.

adults drinking wine in the living room
iStock

The curse of hosting a party is that you don’t get to enjoy your own gathering. Clean-up can be a major culprit because you don’t want people chatting around a pile of dirty dishes, but people will start saying their goodbyes as soon as you rinse the last dish. To avoid both, have your guests move into a different area to visit after dinner and leave the dishes for the morning.

16. DE-STALE YOUR LEFTOVER CHIPS.

Bag of potato chips
iStock

When you have five half-emptied bags of chips following a party, and you’re looking at eating nothing but chips for the next week, you can either feed the birds or take the inevitable staleness out of the chips by tossing them into your oven for a few minutes.

17. MAKE BOWS OUT OF TAPE.

holiday pattern Scotch Duct Tape
Amazon

Duck Brand makes duct tape in festive patterns, which you can use to make sturdy, attractive bows for presents and decorating. They have snowmen, penguins, and candy canes, and if you need to do some quick air conditioner repair work, you can always undo the bows.

18. TURN A MASON JAR INTO A SNOW GLOBE.

mason jar snow globe
Mashable Watercooler, YouTube

Looking for a unique, inexpensive keepsake for each holiday season? This mason jar snow globe is ingenious. It’s simple to make, and since it’s customizable, you can make one every year with craft-sized versions of Christmas trees, menorahs, or whatever your imagination invents.

19. USE A LASER PROJECTOR FOR YOUR OUTDOOR LIGHTS.

holiday lights projected onto a house
Amazon

If you don’t have the time, inclination, or a large enough ladder to string up lights all around the outside of your house, consider buying a laser projector to create an incredible design without all the hassle.

20. TAKE THE TANGLE OUT OF YOUR HOLIDAY LIGHTS.

holiday string lights
iStock

If you find yourself wrestling with the tangled, Christmas light Kraken, it’s time to set your future self up with an organized solution by cutting your own cardboard holders for plastic bins, wrapping them on plastic coat hangers, or wrap them around tension rods before stowing them away.

21. GET YOUR WRAPPING PAPER SAFELY SORTED.

gift wrapping materials
iStock

Like lights, you can buy an expensive wrapping paper-specific storage container if you’d like. You can also use a wire wastepaper bin, a wine crate, clip them to plastic rings to hang on hooks on the back of a door, or keep them in a hanging garment bag. (Plus, ribbon rolls stays obedient when you keep them on a paper towel holder.)

22. IMPROVISE IF YOU RUN OUT OF WRAPPING PAPER.

wrapped gift
iStock

Instead of yet another trip to the store, you can use brown bags, map pages from an old atlas, newspaper pages, scrap fabric pieces, or your ugly Christmas sweater to creatively wrap a gift.

23. GET RID OF GIFT CARDS YOU DON’T WANT.

gift card
iStock

Maybe you wanted Home Depot but they got you Starbucks. Or maybe you wanted Target but they got you Jiffy Lube. Either way, Gift Card Granny offers a way to sell unwanted gift cards and buy discounted ones from tons of stores.

24. GET RID OF YOUR TREE WITHOUT DROPPING THE NEEDLES.

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The beauty of a live Christmas tree is only rivaled by the metric ton of pine needles that fall off as you drag it out of your house. To avoid leaving a needle trail, wrap the tree in trash bags (or a special tree removal bag) before carrying it out. Just remember to remove the trash bags once you get it to the curb (or else your tree will end up at the garbage dump instead of being mulched).

25. REMEMBER TO TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF.

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iStock

The holidays are demanding, and hacks can only trim your time and budget down so much. With so much extra duties on our plates, it’s important to actively plan some low-key relaxation time for yourself. Prepping a big family dinner or party? Maybe plan to get a quiet coffee with a friend the day before. Struggling to come up with activities for all your visiting relatives? Even five minutes of solo meditation can make a big difference.

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