Michele Gastl1. Disinfecting and Deodorizing Sponges
Don't throw out the kitchen sponge that smells like last night's salmon. Soak it in water spiked with white vinegar or lemon juice, then heat it on high for 1 minute. (Use an oven mitt when you remove it.) This will also disinfect any sponges you used to wipe up the juices from a raw chicken.
See Real Simple's Surprising Household Cleaners
2. Cooking an Entire Dinner in Under 10 Minutes
And we don't mean the TV variety. We mean braised salmon with green beans and mashed potatoes. Use the microwave for any recipe that calls for braising, poaching, or steaming. Just subtract about three-quarters of the cooking time. Remember to stir liquids often to redistribute the heat, and always take the food out a minute or two before it's completely done, since it will continue to cook.
3. Disinfecting Plastic Cutting Boards
Wash the board well, rub it with the cut side of a lemon, then heat for 1 minute.
4. Making Potatoes
While the microwave won't give
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Michele Gastl1. Disinfecting and Deodorizing SpongesRead More »from 5 Surprising New Uses for Your Microwave
- Real Simple Magazine | Work + Money – Tue, Sep 23, 2008 9:29 PM EDT
Problem: You don't have a spare bedroom.Read More »from Prep Your Home For Overnight Guests- Guest Room Alternatives
Solution: You can invest in an inflatable air mattress, but most air beds are still made of vinyl, which can be punctured by a stray safety pin or a cat's claw. Look for models with thicker padded tops (like the AeroBed), or cover the bed with a mattress pad to provide a protective layer of cushioning.
A simpler solution? A feather bed (like the Pacific Coast CuddleSoft Feather Bed, $109 for full, www.pacificcoast.com). "It can be rolled up tight for easy storage, and the extra layer of cushioning makes the couch--or the floor--that much more comfortable," says Meryl Starr, author of The Home Organizing Workbook: Clearing Your Clutter, Step by Step.
Photographer: Monica BuckFinally, instead of tossing out an old mattress, consider storing it under your bed (if space allows) so you can just slide it out when guests arrive.
See Real Simple's Get a Good Night's Sleep
See Real Simple's How to be a Great Houseguest
Making the Thanks Fit the Favor
Spots, smudges, and schmutz shouldn't ruin your day - or your dressRead More »from Stain Removal 101
Photographer: Monica BuckComing Clean
Splattered spaghetti sauce, misfired merlot, and loose lipstick. They're the goofs that keep on giving - in the form of unsightly stains. But with speed, the right splotch-fighting agents, and the proper plan of attack, your shirt doesn't need to be relegated to the rag pile.
See Real Simple's What to Wash (or Not) By Hand
Washables: Apply an oil solvent like Carbona and let dry, then remove residue. Treat with a liquid soap like Woolite and very little water. Rub to form suds, then rinse. Use an eyedropper and diluted ammonia to bleach any remaining color. Rinse with cool water.
Nonwashables: Same as for washables, but use diluted vinegar bleach instead of ammonia, which can corrode wool and silk.
Washables: Stretch fabric over a bowl and, from a height of about one foot (gravity helps), pour boiling water from a kettle. Follow with an application of an oil solvent if the coffee had
Photographer: James BaigrieSimple tips for saving money, resources, and the planet
Cut heating and cooling costs
- Program your thermostat to turn heat down or air-conditioning up when you're out. If your furnace is more than 10 to 15 years old, or your boiler is more than 20 years old, replace it with a model approved by the federal government's Energy Star program (marked by rating stickers in stores). It will pay for itself in energy savings in 5 to 10 years.
- Seal your house: Close the fireplace damper; install a timer (available at hardware stores) on the bathroom exhaust fan; seal ductwork.
- Cool your home naturally: Open windows on cool summer nights. Use energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs (they emit less heat). Hang washing out to dry, and grill food outside. Install window awnings. Plant deciduous trees on the east and west to shade your house and cool it by as much as 20 degrees.
- Install an Energy Star-certified ceiling fan (50 percent more efficient than others) and comfortably keep
With a plan of attack, you can maintain a sparkling house in just 19 minutes a day
Photographer: Mikkel VangKitchen, 4 1/2 minutes daily
Always start with the sink. A sparkling sink becomes your kitchen's benchmark for hygiene and tidiness, inspiring you to load the dishwasher immediately and keep counters, refrigerator doors, and the stove top spick-and-span, too.
- Wipe down the sink after doing the dishes or loading the dishwasher (30 seconds).
- Wipe down the stove top (one minute).
- Wipe down the counters (one minute).
- Sweep, Swiffer, or vacuum the floor (two minutes).
Photographer: Mikkel VangBathroom, 2 minutes daily
Make cleaning the basin as routine as washing your hands. But don't stop there. Get the most out of your premoistened wipe by using it to clean around the edges of the tub and then the toilet before tossing it.
- Wipe out the sink (30 seconds). Wipe the toilet seat and rim (15 seconds).
- Swoosh the toilet bowl with a brush (15 seconds).
- Wipe the mirror and faucet (15 seconds).
Follow these exercises to improve your overall strength and achieve optimal muscle tone
Photographer: Beatriz da Costa
To maintain your muscles, aim for 20 minutes of strength-training exercises two to three times a week -- with at least one day off in between workouts so your muscles have time to rest, recover, and grow.
Liz Neporent, an exercise physiologist and the president of Wellness 360, a New York City-based corporate-wellness-consulting company, suggests the following seven exercises, which work most of the major muscles in your body.
Do one to three sets of 8 to 15 repetitions of the exercises, resting no more than 45 seconds between sets to keep the workout challenging. If you haven't used weights before or if you're out of shape, start with light weights (when they're called for) of two to five pounds and do fewer sets.
Works: Buttocks and thighs
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, weight slightly back on your heels, hands on your hips. Pull your abdominals in, standing up tall with square