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How to Install Metal Hurricane Shutters

If you live in an area that’s prone to extremely high winds, hurricanes, or tropical storms, you should seriously consider protecting your home and family with hurricane shutters.

hurricane shuttersHome Depot

Most high-wind damage is caused by airborne debris crashing through windows and glass doors. Hurricane shutters, which are also called storm panels, provide an effective and relatively affordable way to cover window and door openings.

Here, we’ll discuss the key steps to installing corrugated aluminum shutters, which are quick and easy to install, remove, and store away. Aluminum shutters are also lightweight and incredibly strong. When properly installed, they’re capable of withstanding an impressive 1,000 pounds of force per square inch.

You can also find hurricane shutters made of steel and clear polycarbonate. Each type of shutter is installed slightly differently than the aluminum shutters discussed here. Therefore, it’s important to carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure the shutters are properly installed.

hurricane shutters sizesHome Depot

Aluminum hurricane shutters measure 15 inches wide and are commonly available in four lengths ranging from 44 to 104 inches.

Before getting into the installation specifics, let’s take a brief look at how hurricane shutters are mounted to the house.

Hurricane Shutters Mounting Systems

A few different mounting systems are used to attach hurricane shutters to the house. The most popular type is known as a track system, which comprises two metal tracks: One track is mounted above the window or door, the other below it. The shutters fit within the two tracks and are secured to protruding bolts with wing nuts. (The aluminum shutters described below are installed with a track system.)

hurricane shutters header trackHome Depot

An aluminum header track secures the top end of the hurricane shutters.

 

stick-stud angleHome Depot

The shutters are bolted to an aluminum bracket, known as a stick-stud angle, that’s installed along the bottom of the window or door.

Track Systems

In a track system, the two tracks are permanently mounted to the house, and the shutters are installed as the storm approaches, and removed and stored away afterwards. There’s another version of the track system that has removable tracks that are taken down along with the shutters. The downside of a removable track system is that it takes much longer to install because you’ve got to install all the tracks first, and then put up the shutters.

 

Direct-Mount Systems

For a direct-mount system, there are no tracks; instead you simply bolt the hurricane shutters directly to the house wall. With this system, threaded inserts are permanently set into the wall and then a machine screw is driven into each insert. When it comes time to install the shutters, you remove the screws, place the shutter over the window or door, and thread the screws into the inserts.

Accordion Shutters

Finally, there are accordion shutters, which get permanently mounted to the house. When there’s a storm coming, all you need to do is pull the shutters closed and latch them. Once the storm passes, simply push the shutters back out of the way. While accordion shutters are the easiest by far to operate, they’re also several times more expensive than aluminum hurricane shutters. Plus, they require professional installation.

 

How to Install Corrugated Hurricane Shutters

Corrugated aluminum hurricane shutters can be installed by any experienced DIYer. Here’s how.

Start by installing the header track, which is often referred to as an H-track because, in profile, it resembles the capital letter H. Next, install the bottom track, which is known as a stick-stud angle because it has threaded bolts (studs) protruding from its surface.

Both tracks must be securely fastened to the house with stainless steel screws or bolts. Check with the shutter manufacturer for specific installation instructions for fastening to various house walls, including wood-framed, concrete block, or poured concrete. Be sure to wear leather work gloves when handling aluminum shutters; they have very sharp edges.

  1. Begin by holding the header track horizontally above the window, making sure its bottom edge is flush with the window opening.
  2. Drive in one screw near the center of the header, then check it for level before driving in the remaining screws.
  3. Run a bead of silicone caulk along the top of the header to seal out rain.
  4. Slip a hurricane shutter into the header and press the shutter tight to the wall. Mark where the bottom end of the shutter contacts the wall below the window.
  5. Measure down ½ inch from the mark and draw a level line onto the wall. Hold the bottom track flush with the level line and screw it to the wall. Most bottom tracks have the bolts already in place. If your track does not, slide the bolts into the provided channel, or pass them through the pre-drilled holes.
  6. Now, with both tracks in place, you can install the hurricane shutters. Slip the upper end of the first shutter into the header.
  7. Press the bottom of the panel against the house wall. Be certain the bolts protrude through the keyhole slots along the bottom of the shutter.
  8. Place keyhole washers onto the bolts, if required by the manufacturer, then thread a wing nut onto each bolt. (A wing-nut driver in a cordless drill makes this job go much faster.)
  9. Slip the second shutter into place, making sure it overlaps the first one. Again, secure the bottom of the shutter with wing nuts. Repeat until all panels are securely held within the two tracks.

That’s all there is to it. It usually takes about five minutes to install aluminum hurricane shutters on an average-size window and less than 10 minutes to protect a sliding patio door. Once you’re sure the storm has passed, you can remove the shutters just as quickly by reversing the installation steps.

The Cost of Hurricane Shutters

By now, I’m sure you’re curious to find out how much aluminum hurricane shutters cost. Prices depend on the size of the shutter, but they also vary from one region of the country to another. However, here’s a ballpark idea of costs:

Corrugated aluminum shutters are typically 15 inches wide, and commonly available in four different heights: 44  ($25), 68  ($34), 86 ($42), and 104 inches ($55).

Expect to pay about $35 for a 146-inch-long aluminum header track, and $56 for the same-length stick-stud angle bottom track. Both tracks can be custom-cut to length.

Depending on how many windows and doors you need to protect, the final cost of hurricane shutters can be significant. However, you should be able to recoup some of the expense through lower homeowner’s insurance premiums; most insurance companies offer considerable discounts if you have hurricane shutters.

Final Advice

Here are two final pieces of advice for your consideration:

1) Practice installing all of your hurricane shutters, and time how long it takes to get them out of storage and hang them up so you have a realistic idea of the lead time you need if a major storm approaches.

2) Be sure your hurricane shutters are easily accessible, and be prepared to act quickly. When a storm is approaching, jump into action, installing the shutters as soon as possible. Hurricane shutters will provide very little protection if they’re buried deep inside your garage.

Joseph Truini is an author and home improvement expert who writes for The Home Depot. He provides advice on everything from picking the right shutters to installing a kitchen island. To view a variety of shutter options, click here.

 

5 Home Projects To Do Before Cold Weather Arrives

With fall right around the corner, it’s time to complete a few home projects that are best handled before the weather turns cold and the days grow short—most notably buttoning up your house and getting its heating system working comfortably and efficiently.

cutting foam window weatherstrippingCameron Whitman / Shutterstock.com

Adhesive-backed foam weatherstripping is easy to cut with a sharp knife.

Don’t wait too long. When cold weather and short days arrive, you won’t want to discover cold air blowing in through your windows—or out of your heating system.

Nothing instills a sense of urgency like cold drafts or a broken furnace—but that urgency can be expensive and uncomfortable—in fact, an unheated house can be downright deadly in the wrong situation. The longer you wait, the more likely contractors or other service people will be overbooked and will charge a premium for their services.

So here are five things you should handle now, before the weather turns cold.

 

1: Get the heating system in order. A good place to start is your thermostat. Set it to “Heat,” and turn it up to about 5 degrees warmer than room temperature. If the heat doesn’t go on and stay on until the room reaches the set temperature, either the thermostat or the heating system has a problem.

replace and put date on new furnace filter©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Mark the date on the filter’s frame so you’ll know when it’s time to change it. Note: Be sure the “air flow” arrow is pointing in the right direction.

Replace the thermostat’s batteries first, and then try again. If you suspect that the thermostat may be defective, this is a good time to replace it with a new programmable model that can reduce your energy costs. If you know that the thermostat is functional, or replacing it doesn’t do the job, call an HVAC professional to check and service the heating system.

Be sure to change the air filters, which are typically located in the furnace’s air handler or inside the return-air registers in the rooms. If you’re having a pro work on the system, he or she should do this. Clean filters don’t just mean cleaner air—they also help the system work more efficiently.

When checking on the delivery of warmed air through the registers, make sure dampers or registers were not closed for the summer and that heated air can flow freely into rooms.

If your home’s heating system is powered by fuel that is stored on the premises, such as propane or fuel oil, be sure you have enough fuel for the next month or two.

 

2: Prepare the fireplace. If your home has a wood-burning fireplace that you intend to use regularly, stock-up on firewood and make sure the wood is protected from rain.

Next inspect the fireplace. Shine a flashlight up into the chimney from inside the fireplace. Make sure the damper works, and then open it. Check to be sure birds or rodents haven’t nested in the chimney. Inspect the chimney walls. If they are coated with creosote, a sap-like material that builds-up on surfaces, have the chimney cleaned by a professional chimney sweep—creosote is highly flammable and can cause a chimney fire. Also look for any missing bricks, crumbling mortar or broken chimney flue tiles that need to be fixed.

 

foam pipe insulationFrost King

Foam pipe insulation can help quiet some noisy pipes.

3: Protect water pipes. If you live where outdoor temperatures can drop below freezing, protect water pipes that run through unheated spaces, such as an attic or crawlspace. To do this, you can buy inexpensive foam pipe insulation sleeves at a home improvement center. These are sliced along their lengths so you can just push them onto pipes. While you’re in the plumbing department of the home improvement center, also buy an inexpensive emergency pipe repair clamp to keep on hand just in case a water pipe bursts.

 

4: Stop drafts. Windows and doors should be weather-stripped to prevent drafts and energy loss. To weather-strip windows and doors, you need to keep them open for a while, so it’s best to do this work before the weather gets too cold. If some of your windows and doors are not protected by weather-stripping, now is the time to seal them up. Buy inexpensive vinyl or foam weather-stripping and apply it according to the label directions.

Storm windows and doors can help with minimizing energy loss, too. If you have the kind of screen-and-storm doors that utilize interchangeable screen and glass panels, switch out screens for glass. Before you install the panels, check and tighten the clips that secure them. Also check and, if necessary, adjust the storm door closer so that it pulls the storm door tightly closed without banging it.

 

5: Flush the water heater. When the weather gets cold, so does the water that travels through outdoor pipes to supply your water heater. As a result, the water heater has to work longer to heat that very cold water. So water heater efficiency becomes really important.

The best way to keep a water heater working efficiently is to flush it once or twice a year. Mineral deposits build up over time and coat the bottom of the tank, reducing the efficient transfer of heat from the burners at the base. Flushing out some of the water helps remove these deposits.

water heater drain valve©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Water Heater Drain Valve

To flush a water heater, turn off the heat, either at the gas valve of a gas water heater or by shutting off an electric water heater’s electrical power. Then turn off the valve at the cold-water inlet pipe, usually right above the water heater. Locate the faucet-like drain valve in the side of the water heater at its base, attach a garden hose to it and run the end of the hose outdoors, terminating at a point that’s lower than the water heater. Turn on a nearby hot water faucet to allow air into the plumbing system, and then open the water heater’s drain valve to flush sediment out through the hose. Drain about 3 or 4 gallons of hot water until it becomes visibly clear, and then close the valve.

Reverse this process to refill and reheat the water heater. In other words, disconnect the hose, turn off the nearby hot water faucet, turn on the water supply to the water heater and wait a few minutes for the water heater to refill. Then, for an electric water heater, turn the power back on, or for a gas water heater, turn on the gas and, unless it is a pilotless model, relight the pilot light.

This article, written by HomeTips’s Don Vandervort, was originally posted by US News.com

The Best Way to Store Christmas Lights

When it’s time to decorate with holiday lights, nothing can be more frustrating than needing to untangle a web of light strings before you can begin. When this happens, the problem, of course, usually originated at the end of the previous holiday lighting season when the lights were taken down and put away.

Here are a few tips to make your life much easier next lighting season:[GARD align=”right”]

Check light strings for broken or faulty bulbs at the end of the season, when they’re still stretched out. Just plug them in and look for dead bulbs. If you find an occasional non-working bulb, try wiggling and twisting it slightly to get it to work again. If this doesn’t do the trick, put a short piece of tape on the wire next to each dead bulb to identify its location. Then unplug the light strings and replace faulty or missing bulbs. You can buy an inexpensive [easyazon_link identifier=”B000R8KBOK” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]Christmas light tester[/easyazon_link] on Amazon.

winders and storage for lightsKennedy Home Collection

Super smart! This pack keeps Christmas lights neatly organized and protected—light strings wrap around winder cards.

If entire lengths of light strings are not working, the problem is with a fuse or wire. If you can’t repair your light strings, give them to charity. Don’t pack them away to be dealt with next year!

 

Simple plastic winder is an inexpensive solution for storing Christmas lights.Adams

Simple plastic winder is an inexpensive solution for storing Christmas lights.

Wind up the light strings—don’t just coil them and stuff them back into their original boxes.  Several products are available online to make this job easier, or you can make your own winders.

For example, you can wind indoor lights around clothes hangers, or make a simple winder by cutting a V-shaped slot into opposite sides of an 8-by-10-inch piece of cardboard. Just unplug any end-to-end connections and wind one string per cardboard winder.

For both indoor and outdoor lights, you can buy commercial plastic winders, spools, and reels. For instance, the simple plastic winder shown here costs less than $7 online at Amazon and makes quick work of a string of lights.

Canvas carrier holds three spools for lights.Treekeeper

Canvas carrier holds three spools for lights. This is a tidy answer if you just have a few light strings.

For a more complete answer, you can buy cardboard or plastic winders and spools that fit into storage containers. A couple of examples are shown on this page—just click the photos if you want to shop for them at Amazon. For really long strings, you can even use a small garden hose reel.

 

Be careful with light strings. They are not very durable. It doesn’t take much to render them unworkable. Take care not to break or loosen bulbs or break wires as you wind them.


You Won’t Believe These Halloween Pumpkin Creations!

Rise of the Jack-O-Lanterns offers a stunning display of professionally carved pumpkins.

carved skeleton pumpkins©Don Vandervort, HomeTips.com

Skeletons made of carved pumpkins dance in the darkness.

Want to awaken a wealth of ideas for your family’s pumpkin carving this year? If you live near Long Island, Los Angeles, Boston, or Secaucus, don’t miss the Rise of the Jack-O-Lanterns exhibit.

pumpkins make giraffe©Don Vandervort, HomeTips.com

Sculptural giraffe is a stunning creation from carved pumpkins.

On display along an easy 1/3-mile walk are more than 5000 professionally hand-carved and beautifully illuminated pumpkins. The creativity is of this exhibit is exceptional.

pumpkin carver©Don Vandervort, HomeTips.com

Pumpkin carver displays his artistic techniques.

Some Jack-o-lanterns stand alone on the ground or perch on various stands, but most are connected together in larger-than-life sculptural arrays that depict dinosaurs, Chinese dragons, classic cars, wild animals, and much, much more.

Tiger created from carved pumpkins©Don Vandervort, HomeTips.com

Lifelike Tiger from Pumpkins

The resulting sculptures, combined with the excellence of artistic carving and painting, are off the hook.

This wonderful show runs from early October until November 1 at Old Westbury Gardens in New York, the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, Fairplex in Pomona, Seaport in Boston, and Meadowlands in New Jersey. For more information, visit www.therise.org.

Be sure to scroll all the way down the page, there are a ton of great ideas here!

Carved Pumpkin Heads©Don Vandervort, HomeTips.com

Carved Pumpkin Heads in Water

 

 

 

 

 

Sesame Street pumpkin characters©Don Vandervort, HomeTips.com

Sesame Street characters are carved and painted on a grouping of pumpkins.

Dinosaurs©Don Vandervort, HomeTips.com

Dinosaurs from carved and painted pumpkins roam the landscape.

Chinese Dragon©Don Vandervort, HomeTips.com

Incredible Chinese dragon winds through lanterns—all made from pumpkins.

Sea Creatures©Don Vandervort, HomeTips.com

A brilliant display of sea creatures floats through the night.

A School of Fish©Don Vandervort, HomeTips.com

In the dark of night, these carved pumpkins become a school of fish.


12 Ways to Get Your House Ready for Storms

As severe weather continues to dominate the news, it pays to take heed and prepare for the worst, even if your home isn’t in the direct path of current storms. Here are 12 ways to get your house in order if you live in or near regions where storms and heavy rains are predicted.

cleaning leaves from rain gutter©Photographee.eu / Shutterstock.com

Clean gutters and get them ready to handle heavy flow.

A home that isn’t ready for rain can become a winter nightmare as water leaks through the roof and ceilings, floods the ground floor or basement, and compromises the home’s structure. Here are 12 things you can do now to get ready:

  • Clean your gutters and downspouts. When gutters and downspouts clog with leaves and debris, water overflows and spills down where it can damage walls and footings. Please see Rain Gutter Cleaning & Maintenance.  If your house is beneath many trees, it’s smart to clear the gutters at the beginning of the season, and then clean them again after the first rain to remove leaves and debris that wash down from the roof.
  • Check your roof, skylights, and flashing. The roof is the most obvious point of entry for rain. Please see How to Find & Fix a Roof Leak.  If checking your roof is more than you want to handle yourself, please see our affiliate partner, HomeAdvisor, to receive free bids from local asphalt shingle roof repair pros.
    Leaks often occur at the flashing in valleys or where pipes penetrate the surface. Seal these with asphalt roofing cement.Ernest R. Prim / Shutterstock.com

    Leaks often occur at the flashing in valleys or where pipes penetrate the surface. Seal these with asphalt roofing cement.

  • Repair gutters and downspouts. Fix loose, sagging, or leaking gutters and make sure downspouts carry drainage well away from the house. For more, see How to Fix Rain Gutters & Downspouts.
  • Inspect the house siding. Check for damage, cracks, and holes. Seal up leaks with paintable or clear caulk. Make sure the paint is in good condition. If it isn’t, consider getting the house painted before winter really sets in.
  • Weatherstrip windows and doors to seal out drafts and minimize heat loss. For more, see Weatherstripping Windows and/or Door Weatherstripping Options.
  • Prepare or install storm doors and windows. If your home has a combination storm/screen door with interchangeable glass and screen panels, switch from screens to glass (see Screen & Storm Door Buying Guide). Spray a little WD-40 on the storm door’s hinges and latches. Be sure the door closer is adjusted and working smoothly.
  • Need a sump pump? If your basement or crawl space is susceptible to flooding, consider buying a sump pump. If your home already has one, be sure it is in good working order. For more, see Sump Pumps Buying Guide.
    DuroStar electric generatorDuroStar

    1000-watt generator will provide emergency power.

  • Consider buying a generator. In the event of a power outage, a portable emergency generator can provide enough power to keep a few important lights and appliances running. A whole-house standby generator will automatically kick-on to keep the keep the whole house powered.
  • Cover and protect outdoor furniture, barbecues, outdoor equipment, and firewood with heavy tarps. Secure the tarps with ropes or heavy objects such as bricks.
  • If your property is in danger of being flooded, have materials such as sandbags or concrete edgings on hand to divert water to drainage areas.
  • Have trees trimmed, especially if they’ve become weakened by drought. When laden with rainwater, weak trees can snap or become easily uprooted.
  • Be ready for the worst. Assemble a disaster supply kit, and have it readily accessible. Scan and store important documents on thumb drives or hard drives located away from your home (or on the Cloud). Consider flood insurance; be aware that your home may become flooded even if it isn’t located in a high-risk area. Please see What To Do During a Storm Disaster.

How to Clean with Non-Toxic "Green" Cleaners

In This Article:

Green Cleaning Solutions

Keeping the homestead in shape is job one for most homeowners. Whether it is cleanup after a project or the routine maintenance a home needs, a homeowner’s work is never done. Unfortunately, some of the tools we use to maintain our happy homes can be toxic.

Modern-day cleaners and detergents contain powerful and potentially harmful chemicals. Additives to increase brightness, kill bacteria, and reduce the need for scrubbing are often caustic to the person cleaning as well as to the rest of the family, pets, and the environment at large.

Take, for instance, those nifty additives called optic brighteners that are commonly added to laundry detergent to make your whites whiter. These fluorescent whiteners don’t actually get the clothes any cleaner, they simply mask the yellowing of fabrics that naturally occurs by absorbing certain ultraviolet rays and then reflecting back visible blue light. This gives garments the appearance of being cleaner, even if they are not. The trouble with this optical illusion is that these brighteners are washed down the drain once the rinse cycle is done and enter the local water supply where they can be toxic to fish. Some people also find that this additive can be irritating to sensitive skin and eyes.[GARD align=”left”]

Along with the ingredients designed to improve the performance of cleaning products, dyes that dress up color and perfumes that help deliver an artificial lemony or piney fresh scent can also be troublesome for a home’s occupants. While some products naturally have a pleasant deodorizing effect, like those that use citrus oil, many cleaners and degreasers have petroleum-based fragrances to mask the smell of the cleaning solvent. This means that while you are cleaning your home of the normal dirt you would expect to find, you are actually introducing new and potentially harmful materials into your living space.

Helping to confound the homeowner trying to keep a healthy home are claims by some products that their cleaning materials are safe because they contain “organic” ingredients. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), many cleaning, disinfecting, and degreasing products contain organic solvents that can release organic compounds while you are using them and, to some degree, when they are stored. This means that you are potentially introducing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your home, not only when you are actively scrubbing but even when these products are sitting under the kitchen sink. Organic in cleaning products doesn’t always mean safe and healthy.

The overall negative health effects of VOCs on a home’s occupants can be staggering. VOCs can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; allergic skin reactions; dyspnea; loss of coordination; nausea; fatigue; dizziness; and damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. And the trouble doesn’t stop there—it flows downstream.

Chemicals used within the home for cleaning are almost always dumped down the drain and end up being released into local waters. Phosphates, which are sometimes used in laundry and dish detergents, have been found in increasingly strong concentrations in oceans and lakes. Abundant amounts of phosphates can cause eutrophication and destroy local wildlife habitats. Eutrophication is the scientific term for when an excess of nutrients encourages an unhealthy algae bloom. These blooms create a suffocating, slimy mess for the local ecosystem and, according to the EPA, are now present in 48% of America’s lakes.

Green Cleaning Solutions

If you spend some time reading labels and researching companies, you will be able to find quite a few green cleaning products on the market today. Because of the increased awareness of environmental, health, and sustainable living issues, products catering to the green crowd are becoming more economical and available.

However, if you really want to know what you are spraying on your countertops, nothing beats homemade solutions. The ingredients for healthy cleaning solutions are inexpensive, readily available, and nontoxic. Here is a list of the basics you’ll need before you begin:

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). If you need a reason to believe in the cleansing power of baking soda, just remember that it was the primary cleaning agent used in the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. Baking soda is an effective cleaning agent for three reasons:

1) The crystalline form of baking soda makes for an excellent scrubbing abrasive, but it’s not so abrasive as to harm sensitive fiberglass tub surrounds or tile flooring. In fact, it is the gentle abrasive qualities of baking soda that make it an ingredient in “whitening” toothpastes.

2) It is a natural deodorizer in both its dry and diluted state. This means it can work to neutralize all sorts of odors whether run through the laundry (use a half cup when adding bleach to your wash for the clothes to come out free of the bleach odor) or sprinkled directly on carpets before vacuuming to extract pet odors.

3) It plays well with others. Because sodium bicarbonate neutralizes acid qualities, baking soda is ideal when used in combination with lemon for cleaning stains or with white vinegar as a degreaser.

Photo: Heinz

White vinegar (acetic acid). Vinegar is old—really old. This slick solution has been around since the dawn of recorded history and has yet to run out of new and helpful uses. Most white vinegartoday is mass-produced using a rapid ethanol fermentation process. All vinegars are sold in concentrations between 5% and18% acetic acid, with the white or clear vinegar generally being the most potent. A 5% solution is plenty strong for most household tasks.

The cleaning uses for vinegar around the house are almost endless. If it’s dirty, vinegar will probably get it clean, shiny, and smelling fresh. Want a shiny toilet? Toss in a couple cups of vinegar, let it sit for five minutes, and then flush. Soap scum clogging up the clothes washer? Run a cup of vinegar with each load to dissolve it. Lunchbox have a stale smell? Soak a couple paper towels in vinegar and put them in the box overnight. Kitchen sink has a bad odor? Just dump a cup of baking soda down the drain and chase it (slowly) with a half-gallon of white vinegar. Dirty windows and countertops, a greasy kitchen sink, even pet urine and berry stains—vinegar takes care of them all.

Essential oils. Baking soda and vinegar do well to remove smells, but sometimes having a little fragrance in the air makes a home just seem cleaner. Instead of reaching for artificial perfumes, go natural with essential oils. Besides having a pleasant smell, many also pack powerful anti-bacterial, antiseptic, and deodorizing properties that make them ideal for certain household tasks.

Because the oils are derived from plants, they contain no fatty compounds so they dissolve easily and are less likely to leave any residue. To kill bacteria, mold, and germs, use tea tree or eucalyptus. For floors, think lemon, pine, lavender, or oregano, which is a powerful antiseptic. For laundry, consider orange. Citrus oils help get clothes cleaner and also provide a pleasant smell.

Scent-free, dye-free liquid dish soap. There’s nothing special here, just soap. Other ingredients to keep on hand include nonsudsing ammonia and isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). With these ingredients, you can create almost any cleaning solution you would normally buy in the store, without the synthetic additives and toxic dangers. Here are a few basic recipes for better cleansers:[GARD align=”right”]

Window cleaner
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon liquid soap
5 drops of an essential oil
Mix and shake well before each use. Wipe windows down with a soft cloth.

Scrubbing paste
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 teaspoon liquid soap
5 drops of an essential oil (tea tree or lavender for antibacterial cleansing)
Mix the ingredients together to form a toothpaste-like gel and spread it on a sponge. Rinse the surface well after cleaning.

Wood-floor cleaner
1 cup vinegar
1 gallon clean hot water
10 drops of an essential oil (pine or lemon are favorites)
Mix well and mop. Discard when the water gets cold or cloudy.

Keeping your home clean shouldn’t put you, your family, your pets, or the local waterways at risk. Taking advantage of the natural cleaning properties of these basic (and inexpensive) supplies makes for a cleaner and healthier home.