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Tipping For The Holidays

A common question asked when it comes to having your home cleaned is, “how much do I tip the cleaning crew?”. When it comes to tipping the cleaning crew (just like any other situation in which you would tip someone) I think it comes down to a few factor, such as; how much work was done? Were you satisfied with the job? Were they polite? Etc….. But how should you tip around the holidays? Here is an article from Market Watch which gives you tips on how to handle tipping this holiday season. 

Holiday tips are one of the first expenses to fall by the wayside when times are tough, and they’re sometimes the last to bounce back. Even though consumers say they plan to spend more on gifts, decorations and other purchases this year, experts say tipping will remain fairly flat.

Last year, 39% of consumers didn’t tip any of their service providers, up from 38% in 2010, according to the Consumer Reports National Research Center. Average tip amounts have held steady, with $20 averages for providers including garbage collectors, teachers, hairstylists, newspaper carriers and pet-care providers. “Tips are pretty uniform,” says Tobie Stanger, senior project editor for the Consumer Reports National Research Center, which tracks gifting for 10 different service providers. “We haven’t seen much of a change.”

There are some small signs that budget crunches are easing, if only slightly: 68% of people gave a cash tip or gift to their housecleaner in 2011, up from 61% the year before, according to the survey. While about the same number of people (34%) tipped a pet-care provider, more gave a check or cash, versus a gift, which could be less valuable. Some consumers are also talking about giving a little more, says Jodi R.R. Smith, founder of etiquette consulting firm Mannersmith.

Experts say tipping etiquette varies by region — states on either coast tend to focus more on cash tips, for example, while Middle America favors gifts, Stanger says. And the appropriate amount to give can vary based on local pricing. A regular stylist is typically given a gift that’s equivalent to the cost for one appointment, for instance, an amount tha may be much more or less than the median $20. Skipping the tip, however, is a bad idea no matter where you live, says Teri Rogers, the founder of real-estate guide You risk poor service going forward. More important, it’s rude, says Smith.

Try these tips for giving without offending:

Say thanks

Include a thank you note with any holiday tip. “Holiday giving is really a way of saying thank you,” Stanger says. A grateful note is especially important if you’re giving less than usual — or can’t afford to give at all, she says. That lets recipients know that they’re not being snubbed.

Calculate rates

The rule of thumb is to tip the cost of one session for a provider you see regularly, like a personal trainer, babysitter or lawn-care provider, says Smith. “If you’re somebody who only gets your hair cut twice a year, you can scale it down appropriately,” she says. Daily helpers like nannies, elder-care workers and dog walkers should get more: Give a week’s pay, at least. Ask neighbors what they tip for service people you don’t pay directly, such as a building superintendent or garage attendant, says Rogers. Those amounts tend to vary widely.

Consider gifts

Cash is preferable for most recipients, but in a few cases, gifts are the better choice. “In a lot of school districts, they frown upon teachers getting cash. It could be looked on as a bribe,” Stanger explains. Postal workers can’t accept cash, or any gift valued at more than $25. Consider such restrictions when deciding whether cash or a gift is more appropriate. Gift-giving etiquette means putting thought into the item you pick. A generic gift card is better than one to a specific store if you don’t know what the housekeeper likes, says Smith


Melting Away The Snow

With winter upon us and snow falling already, it’s time to break out the shovels, snow blowers and sidewalk salts. Now obviously shoveling is a bit more work than using a snow blower but, it is also less harmful to the environment. Most snow blowers run on gas and, therefore, pollute the air. If you decide to shovel, you will not only be helping out the environment but yourself as well because shoveling snow is a good exercise (and with all the holiday meals, a little extra workout couldn’t hurt).

Switching from snow blowers to shovels isn’t the only to consider this winter. Switching from the traditional rock salt or chloride based ice melters to clear up  your walkway/driveway, to a greener alternative can also help. Rock salt can be corrosive and harmful to vegetation and even your pets by being eaten or stuck between their paws. The calcium chloride products which have become more popular over the past few years, actually heats up and can burn skin and also is harmful to vegetation.

So when you’re looking for deicers this year, try to look for a product that is biodegradable and non-corrosive. You should look for products that use urea or calcium magnesium acetate. Both are safe for the environment and your kids and pets.

How To Clean Wine Stains

With Thanksgiving over you probably have a fridge full of leftovers, a recycling can full of bottles, and maybe an unfortunate wine stain on your carpet from a family member who had a little too much holiday cheer. Before you run out to the store and buy an expensive carpet cleaner which is full of chemicals, try this little homemade remedy for a natural, easy solution.

Step 1: Dab the area stained with a towel (do not wipe!).

Step 2: Add about a tablespoon of dish soap to a cup of hydrogen peroxide.

Step 3: Dip a sponge into the cup and wring it out about 50%. Then dab the area with the sponge (remember don’t wipe), most of the stain should come out right away. Let it dry and if there is any stain still visible, repeat dabbing with the sponge.

Cleaning up the spill right after it happens is the best way to make sure there isn’t a stain, but unfortunately some stains aren’t noticed until the party is over.

A Green Thanksgiving

“Gobble, gobble”, it’s that wonderful time of year when we all stuff our face so much that we need to take a nap before dessert. Thanksgiving is the one time of year when wearing sweatpants and watching football on a Thursday is completely acceptable……awesome. What would be even more awesome, is if you could enjoy the holiday and help the environment. Well, luckily the good people at Recyclebank have put together a list of 10 ways to have a “green” Thanksgiving. Check it out…


1. Make a master list. If you take the time to make out a grocery list of all the ingredients you’ll need for the entire holiday weekend, you can conserve resources by making only one trip to the market. Try to plan out all the stops you’ll need to make; the liquor store, the farmer’s market, the grocery store; and plan your route to make the most of the fuel you’ll need to use. Taking the extra minute to research and plan will cut down on transportation time, gas and subsequent shopping trips. Try to combine stops when you can and park your car and walk between shops if possible. Carry an ice chest or cooler bag in your car to store items that need refrigeration. Remember to bring your reusable shopping bags to carry your purchases.

2. Shop for local meat and produce. It’s better for the environment because less fuel is needed to bring to your market and less packaging is needed to keep it fresh. It also helps promote and encourage locally sustainable farming practices. Plus, you’ll be helping your local economy by supporting local businesses. Buy in bulk when possible. Nuts and grains are good choices for bulk items.

3. Use your prettiest dishes and skip disposable anything. It can be a hassle to iron napkins and table cloths. And there is an argument to be made, I guess, that using recyclable/disposable plates and napkins saves water, but I like using my “good” dishes and napkins. Why do you have that beautiful china if you don’t use it? Or those beautiful cloth napkins? Believe me, if they could talk, they’d say, “Let me outta here! I want to serve!”

If you don’t have enough table settings, hit your local thrift store and pick pieces that will blend with what you already have. A mix and match look is so chic right now. And a table set with different glasses and plates looks interesting and can help move sagging conversations along. Just think how smart you’ll sound when you talk about what a great find those vintage Flintstone’s jelly glasses are.

4. Make use of an already hot oven. If you’re already roasting a turkey at 350 degrees, choose side dishes that can go into the oven alongside the turkey at the same temperature. Slide the sides in at the appropriate time alongside the bird. Plus, by doing this, you impress everyone with your Martha-like skill of having all the dishes ready at the same time!

5. Let nature be your centerpiece. Go out into your own back yard or for a hike in the woods and look for fallen oak and maple leaves, acorns, pine cones and berry sprigs to adorn your table. Almost anything will work. Magnolia leaves, boxwood branches, and twigs look so pretty when nestled together on a pretty tablecloth. For color, use organic fruits that can be eaten later, or gourds that can be recycled into a beautiful birdhouse after Thanksgiving.

6. Add eco-friendly candles for a warm glow that won’t hurt the planet. Candles add a lot to the atmosphere of any gathering. And it may seem like a small thing, but the type of candles you choose can make a big eco-difference. This year, choose soy candles, which emit no carcinogens when they burn. Or choose beeswax candles. Beeswax is a completely renewable resource and your candles will burn longer than traditional paraffin candles.

7. Serve individual drinks from recyclable aluminum cans and wine from a box. Use glasses you have on hand, not plastic cups for beverages—and never, never, styrofoam (some areas are now recycling styrofoam, but I still think regular old glasses are a better choice.)

8. Start a leftover tradition. Have everyone on your guest list bring their own reusable container and fill it with leftovers for them to take home.

9. Keep it separate. Ask guests to help you separate compostables and recyclables as you’re cooking and cleaning up.

10. Carpool to your holiday party destination. Instead of taking three or four or five cars to Grandma’s this year, why not go together. Go pick up your cousin and aunt. Give your brother and his family a ride. What better time to sing “O’er the river and through the woods…” than together on the way to your holiday celebration. You’ll save resources and time, which means you get to eat turkey (or tofu, if you wish) that much sooner. list of 10 ways you can have a green Thanksgiving. Check it out…



Cleaning The Chimney

With the cold air of winter moving in, and perhaps a potential visit from a jolly bearded fellow in a red coat (if you’ve been good), now is a good time to clean out your chimney. Cleaning out your chimney is a bit of a chore, but it’s an extremely important one. By cleaning out your chimney, you are protecting your family and home from creosote fires. Creosote is the tar-like soot that builds up over time in your chimney from wood smoke. Cleaning out your chimney before lighting the first fire of the year is also important because I’m sure you don’t want to harm any birds or squirrels that may have made a home for themselves in your chimney since the last time you used your fireplace.

Cleaning out the chimney yourself can be a bit of a messy job, but it can also save you money. With a few cheap items from the local hardware store, you can have your chimney clean and safe for use over the long winter. The best time clean your chimney out is early fall, right before the time when you will use the fireplace the most.If you haven’t had your chimney cleaned out for awhile (or ever), you may want to have a professional come in to inspect it just to make sure you don’t have a dangerous amount of soot, or that the workmanship on the chimney itself is ok.

Once you’re ready to start cleaning, throw on some junk clothes, put on a dusk mask, lay down some drop cloths around your fireplace and get to work. You’ll need a stiff wire brush,  chimney brush and a flashlight (preferably one you can mount on your head). Your first step is to reach inside the fireplace, find and open the damper and brush it off with the wire brush. Next, cover your fireplace with a damp blanket to keep soot and other junk from from getting in your home. Then, head up to your roof and scrape the inside of your chimney as far as you can reach with the chimney brush. Push down and pull up several times all along the inside. When you’re done with the top of the chimney, come back down, go into the fireplace, and start scraping the sides as far up as you can with the wire brush. After you’re done with that, replace the metal damper clean up the soot and mess (Shop Vac works great). The final step before lighting that toasty fire is to light a creosote sweeping log, this will reduce the amount of creosote that gets stuck in your chimney and make it easier to clean.


Wipe Your Feet, Reduce The Dirt

Sometimes, reducing the amount of dirt and grime that you bring into your home is as simple as it sounds. By wiping your feet onto a “welcome” mat (or whatever little greeting the mat may have written on it), will help keep dirt from being dragged into your home in the first place. Even though dirt will still make it’s way into your home through open windows and doorways, the amount that is brought in on the soles of your shoes is far greater.

By having an outdoor mat and an indoor mat, you can double up the effectiveness. The type of material used in the matting also makes a difference. For instance, rubber matting is good for an outdoor mat because it really does a good job of getting dug in dirt, plus it can be easily cleaned by hosing it off. For indoor matting, your best bet is acrylic with either rubber or vinyl backing. These are good because they are also easily cleaned by either being vacuumed or shaken outside.Of course you can always ask people to remove their shoes before entering your home, as well.

The home isn’t the only place that deals with the problem of dirt being dragged inside on the bottom of people’s shoes, businesses also need to reduce the amount of dirt brought in from outside as well. Of course you don’t see many people wipe their feet off before entering an office building or a store, and it’s not likely as a business owner that you would ask people to remove their shoes. Good entrance matting is the answer. The ideal length for the matting should be about six strides (if space allows), and should be by entrances and/or elevators. Good matting can hold double its weight in dirt.

So, whether in the home or at the office, the simple act of wiping your feet can reduce the amount of dirt tracked in and even increase indoor air quality.

What Are Green Cleaning Hybrids?

Here is a very informative article from Environmental Leader, on green cleaning hybrids. In the article, they explain what these hybrids are, what they consist of, and how they are used in the cleaning industry.


Understanding Green Cleaning ‘Hybrids’

While they have been in limited use for more than 30 years, mostly for consumer cleaning, what some call “hybrid” cleaning products — commonly known as oxygen-based, bio-based, bio-enzymatic, or bio-renewable products — are making more and more headway into the professional cleaning industry.

Before going into the reasons for this growing popularity, let’s discuss what these hybrids are, how they are used, and whether they are green. Bio-cleaners are typically derived from agricultural products such as corn, soybeans, coconuts, and citrus. Because they are made from renewable sources, they may be the ultimate in sustainable cleaning chemicals, if they have also been certified, proven safer for people and the environment.

Some bio-cleaners are bio-enzymatic cleaners. In addition to being made from agricultural products, bio-enzymatic cleaners are also formulated with specific enzymes as well as aerobic bacteria (bacteria requiring oxygen to survive) and anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that require little or no oxygen to survive) that essentially “eat” living soils.

Oxygen cleaners are another type of bio-cleaner. These contain primarily hydrogen peroxide along with surfactants and/or other ingredients.  Because of the hydrogen peroxide, some oxygen cleaners, if they have EPA (US) or Health Canada/DIN (Canada) Registration, can be used for disinfecting.

While bio-enzymatic cleaners may be used to eat soils such as bacteria that cause odors and oxygen cleaners may be used to help sanitize and disinfect surfaces where they have EPA or DIN Registration, overall, bio-cleaners can be used as alternatives to most cleaning chemicals, green or conventional.

Depending on how they are diluted, bio-cleaners can be used for such things as:

  • Cleaning and spotting carpets
  • Cleaning hard-surface floors
  • Removing grease and grime from hard surfaces
  • Cleaning restroom fixtures
  • Doing all-purpose cleaning
  • Polishing stainless steel

Some are even used for stripping floors, which serves as an indication of just how powerful bio-cleaners can be. In fact, a Massachusetts hospital tested eight different bio-cleaners used for stripping floors and found that all eight surpassed the effectiveness of the conventional floor chemical strippers that were then being used in the facility. And further evaluations found that all eight products had a reduced impact on the environment when compared to conventional floor strippers.

However, this leads us to a clarification that must be made about bio-cleaning products. While they can offer a greener and more sustainable way to clean all kinds of surfaces in a facility, they are not all green certified. Only some bio-cleaners have been proved sustainable by such organizations as Green Seal, EcoLogo, and the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for Environment Program. Just as with other green cleaning chemicals and products, managers must look for the eco-label on the product to ensure the bio-cleaner they are selecting is indeed proven green.*

So why are these hybrid cleaners garnering more attention today than they did, say, 25 years ago? One reason relates to what we just discussed: many have now been certified and proved sustainable. This means they may be used as part of a green cleaning program, especially in those properties seeking to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.

Another reason involves price and performance. As the price for these hybrid cleaners has come down, their effectiveness has improved. New technologies developed over the past few years have significantly improved these products, including developing ways to make them more cost effective.

However, the big catalyst making bio-cleaners so much more prominent in professional cleaning is the US Department of Agriculture BioPreferred program created in 2002. The program requires that a certain percentage of all cleaning products purchased for use in federal facilities be bio-cleaners registered in the Bio-Preferred Program. The program was developed to help promote the use of these products in all federal facilities around the world, create new jobs, reduce US dependence on foreign oil, promote sustainability, and help reduce cleaning’s impact on the user and the environment.

The program received a boost in 2009 when President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13514, which encourages the purchase and use of bio-cleaners in Federal facilities wherever and whenever possible. The goal of the order is for the US government to “lead by example” by setting sustainability performance standards and selecting products that are derived from renewable resources and have less negative impact on health and the environment.

And the program is working. More and more bio-cleaners are now available for professional cleaning, and, even more important, more have been independently tested, proven sustainable, and registered in the Bio-Preferred Program.

While they will likely not entirely replace green and/or conventional cleaning products, it is expected that bio-cleaners will find their niche in professional cleaning. For instance and as expected, we are finding government facilities, school districts, and educational facilities big markets for bio-cleaners. What green-certified bio-cleaners offer facility managers is another alternative to keep their facilities clean and healthy while at the same time protecting the health of cleaning workers, building users, and the environment.

*Some bio-cleaners contain d’limonene as a key cleaning agent, which prevents them from being Green certified. D-limonene—can be a skin and respiratory irritant and cause allergic reactions for some people.

Getting Rid Of Mold In Your Home

There are few things worse to have in your home than mold. Besides the gross factor of having a living fungus growing inside your home, there are the health risks attached to mold. Mold has been known to cause respiratory problems and aggravate symptoms for people who have allergies or asthma, it has even been linked to depression. Luckily, ridding your home of mold can be done by using natural household items.

Of course, the easiest way of preventing mold from being in your home is taking steps to prevent mold from forming in the first place. Simple things like, cleaning up after something is spilled, letting in fresh air and sunlight by opening a window or door, and keeping fabrics dry will help prevent mold from forming. Since mold grows in warm, humid areas, places like your basement and bathroom are usually the spots you will find mold. You can combat against the growth of mold in these places by purchasing a dehumidifier, fixing any leaky pipes, and replacing shower curtains if they have mildew on them.

If you happen to already have mold, however, here are a few natural ways to rid yourself of the fugus:

“Vinegar”- What I’ve found to be the best natural all around cleaner, can actually kill mold as well. Simply pour some white vinegar into a spray bottle, spray onto the area with mold, and let it sit. After letting the vinegar sit for a few minutes, just wipe off and you’re good.

“Vodka”- As much as it pains me to even suggest wasting booze, vodka does work well on mold. The good news is, the cheaper vodka seems to work better, so you won’t have to waste that bottle of Grey Goose after all. Pour the vodka into a spray bottle, (just like the vinegar) spray on the mold and wait. After letting the vodka work for awhile, wipe down the area with a rag or sponge and the mold should be gone.

If you happen to have a ton of mold in your home, these remedies may not do the trick. You may need to call in a professional mold removal company instead.