How to Disinfect Your Home in the Time of Coronavirus

A bleach solution or rubbing alcohol is your best bet for keeping your home sanitized.

There’s everyday clean, guest clean, and then there’s COVID-19 clean.

To get down the absolute nitty gritty on how to disinfect your home, you’ll want your big guns: bleach, rubbing alcohol, and hot water.

The Best Disinfectants

For your high-touch surfaces, the Centers for Disease Control recommends a bleach solution diluted with water, or a 70% alcohol solution.

Follow this bleach recipe: 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water.

Make sure to properly ventilate when disinfecting with bleach.

And check to see if your bleach has expired. Who knew it could? After about 9 months to a year, and if it smells less bleachy, it’s lost its disinfecting power. Time for a new jug.

Tip: Don’t mix bleach with anything other than water; otherwise, it could set off a dangerous chemical reaction. For instance, bleach + alcohol is a deadly combo.

How to disinfect your home if you don’t have bleach? Regular old rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol) works, so long as it’s at least 70% alcohol, according to the CDC. The alcohol concentration will be listed on the bottle. Rubbing alcohol you buy should already be diluted, unlike bleach.

Is There a Such a Thing as Too Much Disinfectant?

According to an EPA fact sheet, studies have found that using some disinfectant products can cause germs to become resistant.

The EPA has issued a list of disinfectants on the market that it believes are effective in killing COVID-19. Look for the EPA registration number on the product and check it against this list to ensure you have a match.

Erica Marie Hartman, an environmental microbiologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., whose research focuses on resistance, confirms soap, bleach, and alcohol are your best bets.

What about the various disinfecting wipes on the market (at least if you can find them)? Hartman says the active ingredient in many of those is an ammonium compound, which could become resistant to viruses over time.

Surfaces That Need Your Attention

With your preferred disinfectant, wipe down high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, tables, remotes, banisters, toilets, sinks, and faucets daily or more often, if someone in your home is sick.

Contact time is another key aspect of surface sanitizing. “Disinfection isn’t instantaneous,” says Hartman. [For a bleach solution], you want to leave it on the surface for 10 minutes before wiping it off. ” 

By the way, new research from scientists at the National Institutes of Health, among other agencies, shows that at least some coronavirus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

But a report in “The Washington Post” notes that the most likely period for infection from the virus on surfaces is in the first 10 minutes to one or two hours.

Not All Floors Can Handle Bleach

For your nonporous floors, like those in the bathroom, the CDC recommends mopping with the bleach solution. 

Avoid bleach on hardwood and other porous floors because of staining. Instead, use a disinfecting wet mop cloth without bleach.

Cleaning Isn’t Disinfecting

From the you-might-be-surprised files: Disinfecting with bleach isn’t actually cleaning. If you also need to clean your countertops of dirt and grime, do that first with soap and water. Then use the bleach solution or rubbing alcohol to combat the virus.

Killing Microbes on Clothes

Most washing machines today do a bang-up job on dirty clothes with cold water, which is best for energy savings. But, and especially if you have a sick person in your house, the hot-water setting followed by a high-heat dry for about a ½ hour to 45 minutes is best for virus eradication.

Don’t forget about your laundry hamper. Wipe it down like you would other surfaces. You can also use a reusable liner bag, which you can launder with the clothes.

What If I’m Selling My House, and Inviting More Germs In?

How to disinfect your home when it’s for sale? Virtual showings and tours are the ideal, and your agent can set those up.

However, if there’s a need to have someone come in, talk to your agent who will work with you to establish a hygienic protocol, including requiring visitors to wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer when they arrive, and to remove shoes or wear booties before entering. Removing shoes not only reduces dirt coming in, but potentially germs.

In addition, many agents are eliminating open houses.

After any showings, practice your surface wipe-down routine.

Finally, when you work with disinfectants, practice some self care. “Alcohol and bleach can be very aggressive on your skin, so wearing rubber gloves can help protect your hands,” Hartman says. 

Related: 9 Cleaning Tasks That Homeowners Tend to Overlook

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Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Is Your Home Older Than Its Years?

Would you throw away $20,000? You are if you’re letting your home age faster than it should. Here’s a simple maintenance strategy to keep your home young.

You know how Dr. Oz says that if you keep your body fit and your mind nimble, you’re likely younger than your chronological years? The same principle applies to your house.

An out-of-shape house is older than its years and could lose 10% of its appraised value, says Mack Strickland, an appraiser and real estate agent in Chester, Va. That’s a $15,000 to $20,000 adjustment for the average home.

But good maintenance can even add value. A study out of the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University finds that regular maintenance increases the value of a home by about 1% each year.

So if you’ve been deferring maintenance, or just need a good strategy to stay on top of it, here’s the simplest way to keep your home in good health.

Focus on Your Home’s #1 Enemy

If you focus on nothing else, focus on moisture — your home’s No. 1 enemy.

Water can destroy the integrity of your foundation, roof, walls, and floors — your home’s entire structure. So a leaky gutter isn’t just annoying; it’s compromising your foundation.

Keeping moisture at bay will improve your home’s effective age — or as Dr. Oz would say, “real age” — and protect its value. It’ll also help you prioritize what you need to do. Here’s how:

Follow This Easy 4-Step Routine

1. When it rains, actively pay attention. Are your gutters overflowing? Is water flowing away from your house like it should? Is water coming inside?

2. After heavy rains and storms, do a quick inspection of your roof, siding, foundation, windows, doors, ceilings, and basement to spot any damage or leaks.

Related: How to Tell if You Have a Drainage Problem

3. Use daylight savings days or the spring and fall equinox to remind you to check and test water-related appliances like your washer, refrigerator, water heater, HVAC (condensation in your HVAC can cause leaks) or swamp cooler, and sump pump. It’s also a great time to do regular maintenance on them. Inspect any outdoor spigots and watering systems for leaks, too.

4. Repair any damage and address any issues and leaks ASAP.

Don’t procrastinate when you spot minor leaks or drips inside your house. Ongoing small leaks can slowly erode pipes and fixtures, and even cause mold and mildew issues you won’t notice until it’s too late.

Say you’ve got a bit of cracked caulk around the kitchen window. It may not seem like much, but behind that caulk, water could get into your sheathing, causing mold damage and rot. Before you know it, you’re looking at a $5,000 repair that could have been prevented by a $4 tube of caulk and a half hour of your time.

To help you with this routine, we have several guides with specifics and tips:

Once you settle into a routine, it becomes easier to handle other maintenance tasks, which will only do more to protect and enhance your home’s value. Plus, you’ll get to know your home better, which will help you spot other one-off problems, such as termites and other wood-destroying insects, that can cause costly damage.

If You Want to Take Home Maintenance to the Next Level…

If you’re a geek about home maintenance like we are, and you want to do more than water patrol, these ideas will help you keep your house in great shape.

Give yourself an incentive to do maintenance. Maintenance is your springboard to sexier projects like a kitchen remodel or basement makeover. So plan a room-per-year redo. This way you’re maintaining, fixing, and improving. For example:

In your basement:

  • Check for dark stains that could signal plumbing leaks. If you find any leaks, fix them.
  • Check your ductwork for leaks that are wasting energy.
  • Clean the lint out of the dryer vent. The machine will last longer, and you’ll help prevent fires.
  • Caulk and seal basement windows to stop air leaks.
  • Once your space is moisture sealed, you can start converting it into a family room or other livable space.
  • Add a basement ceiling.
  • Brighten it up with paint.

In your kitchen:

  • Clean out all the cabinets, then wipe them down. It’s a great way to purge and get organized.
  • Take a good look under your kitchen sink. Remove all the wastebaskets and cleaning supplies to help you spot any leaks, and fix them.
  • Pull out the fridge to give that yucky alcove a thorough cleaning. Check the drip pan for moisture that can spawn mold growth.
  • Update cabinet hardware and adjust hinges if necessary.
  • Re-caulk the seam between your backsplash and wall to keep moisture out. To give your whole kitchen a low-cost facelift, how about a new backsplash?
  • Re-paint the walls using paint with a tough, semi-gloss sheen that stands up to repeated cleanings and resists moisture.

Keep a maintenance fund. Some sources say you should save 1% to 3% of your initial house price annually to pay for maintenance. On a $200,000 house, that’s $2,000 to $6,000 a year. Yeesh, that’s a big nut.

Alternatively, make it a goal to save enough money to do a major replacement project, so the bill won’t catch you off guard. Probably the biggest single replacement project you’ll have is your roof or siding.

You can build up this fund over several years by paying yourself a monthly assessment — whatever you can manage. Keep it in a separate account to avoid the temptation to tap it for hockey tickets or other impulse buys.

If you need to replace the roof before you have a fund, an equity loan is an option. But consider very carefully.

If you’re practicing maintenance in the way we’ve outlined here, you won’t need $2,000 per year to manage your home’s natural aging process. Some routine tasks, such as cleaning rain gutters and changing furnace filters, could cost you $300 or less per year.

Your house takes care of you — not just for shelter but as a financial asset. Return the favor and keep it hale and hearty by caring for it with regular maintenance.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.
Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Saint Paul Home & Patio Show Ticket Giveaway

Saint Paul Home & Patio Show
Tickets to the Saint Paul Home & Patio Show at Saint Paul RiverCentre, February 14 – 16, 2020

I’m happy to giveaway a limited number of tickets to this upcoming show where you can review home-related products and services, experience stunning project displays, connect with industry experts and enjoy informative presentations from renowned home professionals that can help you conceptualize your next home project.

Hurry, you can request up to four free tickets (up to a $36.00 value) to the St. Paul Home and Patio Show at Saint Paul’s RiverCentre on February 14th through the 16th. Just fill in the information on the form below to submit your request for tickets. To ensure your tickets arrive before the event I suggest you submit your request no later than Monday, February 10, 2020.

Please note there is absolutely no obligation whatsoever, and I will not share your information with any third parties. Just enjoy the show and have fun!

How many tickets would you like (required)

My Name (required)

My Email (required)

Send my tickets to this address: (required)

Tickets are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information about the event visit the Home and Patio Show site.

The Best Time of Year to Buy Things for Your Home

Baby Under a Towel
When to look for sales on mattresses, appliances, tools, furnishings, and materials.

Buying stuff can be stressful. Cheap out, and you could regret it. Overspend, and you’ll cut into your budget. Knowing the best time of year to buy appliances and other household items can lessen the anxiety.

Here’s a list of the best time of year for sales — or download the one-page calendar here.

Furniture: January and July

Best Time to Buy Furniture

You could save 30% to 60% buying furniture in January and July, as stores try to clear out inventory and make way for new pieces, which manufacturers introduce in February and August.

Floor samples especially often sell for a song, so don’t hesitate to ask.

Storage Essentials: January and August

Best Time To Buy Storage

In August, retailers slash prices and offer free shipping on shelving, organizing systems, baskets, and storage bins, baiting parents who are packing kids off to college or getting organized for a new school year. (No offspring? No problem. Proof of parenthood is not required to qualify for deals.)

It happens again in January, when stores roll out more sales — and selection — to help you find a home for all those holiday gifts and meet your organizing goals for the New Year.

Linens and Towels: January

Best Time To Buy Linens and Towels

Department store “white sales” — launched in 1878 — are still a favorite marketing tactic and make January the best time to binge on high-quality bedding and towels. If the exact color or style you’re seeking is out of stock, ask in-store for a rain check, so you can get exactly what you want at the price that can’t be beat.

Major Appliances: January, September, October, and the Holidays

Best Time To Buy Major Appliances

The prices on this year’s appliances bottom out when they suddenly become last year’s models. With the exception of refrigerators (more on that below), you can pick up last year’s models for way less in September, October, and January, when stores are making room for new inventory.

For good deals on this year’s models, wait for Black Friday and the holidays. The season rivals inventory clear-out bargains as the best time of year for sales on appliances. And if you’ve got more than one appliance on the fritz, holidays are often the time to find incentives for buying multiple items.

Mattresses: February and May

Best Time To Buy Mattresses

Even the most obscure holiday seems to inspire mattress sale commercials. Annoying, yes, but also a reminder that you should never pay full price for a mattress. The best time of year for sales is February (courtesy of Presidents Day) and May (Memorial Day).

Many department stores offer coupons for additional savings on the sale price, while specialty chains — which have the biggest markups — can drop prices 50% or more. But don’t waste your time price shopping: Manufacturers have exclusive deals with retailers for each model, so the only way to find a lower price is to snuggle up to a different mattress.

Refrigerators: May

Best Time To Buy Refrigerators

Unlike other big-ticket appliances, new fridges are released in May. Combine the need for retail turnover with Memorial Day sales, and you get epic savings nearly all month long, making it the best time of year to buy a new refrigerator.

Snow Blowers: March and April

Best Time To Buy Snow Blowers

The best time to pick up a low-cost snow blower is exactly when you DON’T need it: in March and April. That time of year, no store wants them taking precious floor space away from spring merch like patio furniture and grills.

Vacuums: April and May

Best Time To Buy Vacuums

New vacs debut in June, so last year’s models go on sale in April and May — just in time for spring cleaning.

Roofing: May

Best Time To Buy Roofing

For the lowest price on materials, buy in May.

But if you’re paying a pro to install a new roof, contractor rates begin their climb April 1 and stay high through fall. So if weather allows for wintertime installation, you could save big.

Gas Grills: July and August

Best Time To Buy Gas Grills

Come July 5, there’s still smoke in the air from Fourth of July fireworks, but stores are already moving on to Halloween, with Christmas not far behind. So, they’ll cook up juicy savings on grills and other summer staples in July and August. Sales peak by Labor Day, so you could pick up a new grill and still have time to host one final summer hurrah.

Lawn Mowers: August, September, and May

Best Time To Buy Lawn Mowers

August and September are the perfect time to retire an ailing mower. You’ll find the lowest prices of the year (but also the slimmest selection) as stores replace mowers with snow blowers. Retailers also kick off the season with sales every April. You generally won’t save quite as much, but you’ll have more choices.

Perennials: September

Best Time To Buy Perennials

Unlike non-perishable goods, there’s not much retailers can do with last season’s perennials, so September brings savings of 30% to 50% and two-for-one offers on plants like hostas, daylilies, and peonies. And note that independent gardening stores can typically offer deeper discounts than big chains.

Cooler weather also makes this a great time of year to plant. How’s that for a win-win? If you prefer planting in the spring, many nurseries offer 10% to 20% off when you pre-order in February or March.

Power Tools: June and December

Best Time To Buy Power Tools

Power tools are a favorite go-to gift for Father’s Day and the holidays, so June and December are the best time to buy tools like cordless drills.

Paint: January, May, July, November, and December

Best Time To Buy Paint

Prices for interior and exterior paint bottom out when the mercury (and demand) falls — in November, December, and January, but also when it rises back up, in May and July.

HVAC equipment: March, April, October, and November

Best Time To Buy HVAC Equipment

Like snow blowers, the best time to buy furnaces and whole-house air conditioning systems is when you don’t need them. Prices are lowest during months with moderate temperatures — generally March and April, then October and November.

Many installers also run promotions during these slow seasons to help load their books. They also may be more willing to negotiate a lower price or throw in a free upgrade like a fancy thermostat.

Flooring: December and January

Best Time To Buy Flooring

From mid-December and into January, homeowners tend to take a break from major remodeling projects because of the holidays. Flooring retailers and installers are looking for business, so that gorgeous wide-plank flooring or luscious carpet can be yours for an even more scrumptious price. Happy Holidays to you.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.
Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

5 Holiday Hosting Disasters and How to Avoid Them

Holiday Party

5 Holiday Hosting Disasters and How to Avoid Them

Why does the oven go kaput on a holiday? No worries. Here’s how to go on the offense now.

Imagine you’re preparing to host your annual holiday party, and you’re past the point of no return. The veggies and meats have been bought. Guests are already braving busy airports and crowded highways to get to your home — and then your oven won’t turn on. Your home-cooked meal has quickly turned into a microwave dinner.

That’s just one of many hosting nightmares that can end your holiday party before it even begins. Thankfully, some of the most damaging mishaps easily can be avoided. We collected five of the most prevalent issues and give you preventative tips to keep your holiday party on track.

Related: Cleaning Your House For Guests: A Checklist

Problem: The Oven Doesn’t Heat

For any holiday occasion, the oven is the most important appliance in your house. If it fails to work, the centerpiece of your meal could go from roasted beef, ham, duck, or Turkey to Peking Duck from the local Chinese takeout joint.

How to avoid:

  • There are any number of reasons a stove can break, but one common cause of disaster is easy to prevent. Don’t self-clean your oven until AFTER the holidays. You risk blowing a fuse or a thermostat, and tracking down an oven technician around the holidays can be tough.

Problem: The Kitchen Sink Clogs

The day after Thanksgiving is the busiest of the year for plumbers. The prime cause of this clog-a-thon is the mistreatment of drains when cooking holiday feasts. We hope your Thanksgiving went well, and that you avoid clog-a-thons for the rest of the holidays.

How to avoid:

  • Fats and cooking oils can solidify in your pipes, so never dispose of them in your kitchen sink.
  • If you have a garbage disposal, make sure it’s running before anything goes in it, and never feed it any stringy, fibrous, or starchy foods like poultry skins or potato peels.
  • To fix, don’t rely on chemical drain-clearing products that can harm your pipes. Use a snake instead, available for $15 at your local hardware store. Best to keep one on hand.

Problem: The Heat Goes Out

As the party’s host, you’re supposed to hang guests’ coats — not apologize to them for having to keep them on. A lack of heat can stop a holiday party dead in its tracks. 

How to avoid:

  • The key to avoiding freezing your party to a standstill is regular maintenance of your HVAC. Every 90 days, a new one-inch pleated furnace filter should be installed. If you haven’t done it in a while, now’s a good time to replace it.
  • Also inspect insulation on refrigerant lines that are leading into your house. Replace them if they’re missing or damaged.

Related: HVAC Maintenance Checklist

Problem: The Toilet Stops Up

Toilets have a way of clogging up at the worst times, such as during parties and when you have overnight guests. This is especially true if you have a low-flow toilet from the early 1990s. 

How to avoid:

  • Don’t flush anything other than sewage and toilet paper down the toilet. And there’s nothing wrong with putting up a polite note to remind your guests to do the same.

Problem: The Fridge Doesn’t Cool

Without a properly functioning refrigerator, your meat could get contaminated, your dairy-based treats could go sour, and you may not be able to save your yummy leftovers. To avoid discovering a warm fridge after it’s too late, take these simple precautions.

How to avoid:

  • Get a thermometer for your refrigerator to make sure each shelf stays below 40 degrees and you can be aware of any temperature changes.
  • Also make sure the condenser coils located on the back of the unit or beneath it are free to breathe. Coils blocked from circulating air by cereal boxes atop the fridge, or dirtied by dust or pet hair can prevent a fridge from keeping cool.

Related: When to Repair or Replace Your Appliance

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.
Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.