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Cleaning blogs: Online help for your spring cleaning plans

Here at Goldstar, we try as much as possible to provide you with experience-based tips and tricks to make cleaning easier. But we know we’re not the only game in town – in fact, there are a staggering number of online blogs dedicated to house cleaning, organizing and decorating. Most are written by ordinary folks, just like you. So, if you’re looking for some DIY inspiration for spring cleaning, check out these four outstanding blogs: The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking: How does a mother of six find time to blog, craft and keep an immaculate house? Follow Kelly as she dispenses pearls of wisdom on everything from child-friendly art projects to simply delicious cooking. (imperfecthomemaking.com) Check out: Free Printable Spring Cleaning Checklist,¬†A Million Great Uses For Binder Clips   iHeartOrganizing: Jennifer Jones has a place for everything. Her blog, iHeartOrganizing, was recently featured on HGTV’s Clean Freaks, but Jones wants to make clear that you don’t have to go crazy to have an organized space. In fact, her tips may bring some serenity back into your house. (iheartorganizing.blogspot.ca) Check out: Quick tips for getting your garage summer ready, An organized cleaning caddy   Spring Cleaning 365: People encourage us to take life one day at a time; why not cleaning, too? This comprehensive blog provides daily, step-by-step instructions for every conceivable spring cleaning chore, from washing the windows to organizing the nightstands. The blog also reminds you to perform regular “habits”; little chores that make housework easier. Check out: Spring cleaning windows, Cleaning window frames   A Slob Comes Clean: Let’s face it: we all fall short of our Martha Stewart-esque dreams for keeping an immaculate house. That’s what makes Dana White, aka Nony’s blog so refreshing. A Slob Comes Clean holds nothing back while chronicling Nony’s continuing battle to de-clutter her family’s home – the good, the bad and the grungy. She also has several e-books available. Check out: Dishwashing Rhythm ‚Äď And My Lack of Cleaning Intuition, Simplifying My Bathroom Counter

Checking out: How to avoid germs during your hotel stay

Whether you’re on vacation¬†at a tropical¬†resort or¬†away on business, your hotel room is supposed to be your home-away-from-home.¬†Unfortunately, that¬†“home”¬†was used by hundreds of strangers before you arrived – and¬†they may have left more than just a pair of dirty socks behind. A recent investigation by CBC’s Marketplace found¬†alarming¬†levels of¬†bacterial contamination on “high-touch” spots in hotel rooms across the country. The tests,¬†conducted by University of Guelph microbiologist Keith Warriner in 54 rooms at six hotel chains, found that many commonly used¬†surfaces and items failed to meet¬†basic sanitation standards, and in some cases contained dangerously high levels of bacteria. And if you¬†think you can avoid the problem by opting for a luxury suite, think again;¬†Warriner’s¬†test found that rooms at¬†high-end hotels like¬†Fairmont and Sheraton were no¬†cleaner, on average, than rooms at¬†budget hotels like Super 8 and EconoLodge. So, if you’re planning a special getaway¬†this February,¬†follow these simple tips to keep your hotel stay as sanitary as possible. Disinfect “high-touch” spots. The Marketplace investigation found that bathroom faucets and TV remotes were¬†among the¬†dirtiest¬†items in most hotel rooms. Use an alcohol-based sanitizing wipe to clean¬†these “high-touch” items, as well as¬†the phone, door knobs, toilet handle and¬†ice bucket. Set aside the comforter.¬†It’s the¬†dirty secrets of most hotels –¬†they don’t clean the comforter¬†for every new¬†guest. It’s no wonder¬†it was one of the filthiest areas¬†uncoverd by Marketplace‘s investigation.¬†¬†If you’re concerned about clean¬†bedding, call and ask your hotel how often they launder their comforters, or just bring your own blanket. Give your¬†glassware a quick cleaning. Most hotels require cleaning staff to wash all glasses in a dishwasher between stays – but the staff may have other ideas. Marketplace used hidden cameras to¬†record housekeepers skirting the rules of basic cleanliness, including one cleaner¬†at a high-end Toronto hotel¬†who washed glasses with a touch of hand soap. To be safe, run all glassware (including your coffee pot) under hot water for at least¬†minute before using. Stay away from the bathroom counter.¬†Personal hygene products and¬†bathroom germs don’t mix. Keep your¬†toothbrush, razor and dental floss in travel containers and off the bathroom counter, where bacteria is likely to propagate. Don’t let the bed bugs bite. Bed bug infestations¬†have risen sharply across¬†North America in the past decade, according to Health Canada. Hotels are a prime breeding ground for the¬†tiny blood suckers, who can then travel home with you and¬†make your life very, very¬†uncomfortable. To inspect for bed bugs, lift the mattress and look for reddish-brown spots on the mattress or other parts of the bed (that’s bed bug excrement). Don’t expect to¬†see any live insects; though visible to the naked eye, bed bugs are¬†adept at hiding in small cracks and crevasses.¬†You should also¬†check for bed bug poop¬†between couch cushions¬†and in¬†the space between the carpet and the wall. Bed bugs feed at night, leaving behind¬†itchy red bumps on the skin, similar to mosquito bites.¬†If you discover any signs of a bed bug infestation, inform the front desk immediately and request a new room. Never leave luggage, clothes or purses on the bed or floor of your hotel room, where¬†bed bugs can easily climb aboard. Instead, put these items in the bath tub or on the luggage rack.

The Future is Now: 8 Household Gadgets from CES 2013

Last week, more than 150,000 tech-hungry shoppers flocked to Las Vegas for the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show. The annual event draws some of the world’s biggest tech companies, as well as start-ups hoping to wow consumers (and generate buzz) with their innovative new products. Along with new smartphone technology and super high-definition televisions, many of the headline-grabbing devices were designed with everyday living in mind. From smart fridges to forks that help you lose weight, here are 10 gadgets destined to bring your household into the 21st century. (Note, some items are not yet commercially available). 8. HAPIfork: Usually, utensils are supposed to aid in the consumption of food. The HAPIfork by Hapilabs does this only to a point. In addition to tracking your “fork servings” and how fast you eat, the HAPIfork vibrates and lights up when you eat food too quickly. The HAPIfork also comes equipped with a USB drive and software to track your eating habits. (hapilabs.com)   7. WeMo Switch: For the cautious, careless (or simply neurotic) traveler, Belkin’s WeMo Switch allows you to monitor and control electronic devices from your iPhone and other electronic devices. Combine with the WeMo Motion to automatically turn on devices whenever you enter a room. As an added bonus, you can freak out the person who waters your plants by having your blender go off, Poltergeist-style, when he stops by. ($49.99 WeMo Switch, $99.99 WeMo Switch and Motion, belkin.com)   6. Moxie showerhead: Singing in the bathtub has never been easier thanks to Kohler’s Bluetooth-enabled shower head with waterproof speaker and “60 angled nozzles for a full water spray.” Not recommended for people who already spend too much time in the bathroom. ($199, us.kohler.com)       5. iPotty: Yes, this is a real thing. CTA Digital, maker of iPad and Kindle accessories, has developed a training potty complete with iPad holster, allowing your tot to play games or watch cartoons while using the bathroom. How did we ever potty train without it? ($40, ctadigital.com)   4. Flower Power plant monitor: Until the day we genetically engineer talking plants, you’ll have to rely on French electronic company Parrot’s new gadget to tell you what your azaleas are thinking. The Y-shaped Flower Power sensor monitors moisture, sunlight, humidity, temperature and fertilizer conditions via your smartphone. It also comes with an electronic database of best care tips for more than 6,000 plant species. (parrot.com) 3.¬†Compact4All Appliances: Like LEGO blocks for the kitchen, these four cube-shaped home appliances by Princess (kettle, toaster, coffee maker and juicer) can be stacked and plugged into a single electrical outlet. ($52 each, princess.nl)       2. Famibot: It’s a Roomba… I mean, a home service robot, that patrols your home, purifying the air, guarding against intruders and communicating with family members. So really, there’s no reason for you to come home anymore. (ecovacs.com)           1. T9000 Refrigerator: Not to be mistaken with the T-1000 android from Terminator, the T9000 is part of a new line of “smart” appliances conceived by Samsung. The stainless-steel, 32-cubic-foot combination fridge/freeszr comes equipped with a 10-inch display screen and plenty of culinary-themed apps, like Epicurious, which provides recipe ideas based on the items you have in your fridge. ($4,000, samsung.com)

The 10-Minute Holiday Cleanup

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a… dust bunny? With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, keeping your space ready for Santa’s annual inspection can seem like a tall order. But not every cleaning job requires hours of work.¬†This solid ten-minute cleanup will ensure your home is ready¬†to entertain¬†over the holidays. First,¬†grab a laundry basket¬†and gather¬†up your clutter. This includes anything you don’t want guests to see. (We’re looking at you, Elf on the Shelf.)¬†Focus on clearing out common areas, like the front entrance, kitchen, living and dining room and bathrooms. Throw in anything and everything that doesn’t belong, toss it in¬†a closet and sort through it later. Next, wipe down surfaces, focusing on the bathroom and kitchen. Use quick disinfectant wipes to leave surfaces shiny and clean. If you’re pressed for time, don’t worry about moving things around. If you’re really pressed for time, cover the surfaces with holiday-themed decorations. (We’re looking at you, Elf on the Shelf.) Give the bathroom a once-over.¬†Nothing fancy: pour some Pinesol into the toilet bowl, wipe down the mirrors,¬†clean the sink and lay out fresh towels. Polish it off with some candy cane-scented¬†pot pourri¬†to give your WC a festive touch. Sweep, sweep, sweep. You want your floors to pass the “step test”: Can you walk across the floor in your stocking feet without picking anything up in them? Good enough. Finally, vacuum your¬†carpets. Don’t concern yourself with the nooks and crannies; the key is to make those comforting “vacuuming lines” on the carpet, to show guests that you care about cleanliness – or at least pretend to.