When it comes to choosing cleaning products for a home or office environment, the decision can be rather difficult because of the large range of both commercial and natural or home made varieties available. All promise to lift stains and tackle grime on a variety of surfaces, however which are best? Let’s have a look at the features of each and help take the guesswork out of reaching for a miracle solution.
Homemade cleaning products
Natural or homemade cleaning products are very often a product of choice for those who seek not only a cost effective solution, but also one that will minimise chemical use and ensure safety for pets and animals in the home. There are many recipes available online which advocates swear by as the only product you’ll ever need.
Typically, they use common household ingredients including baking soda, vinegar and citric acid, however as with all product, it is wise to test a small area first because some natural alternatives work perfectly on certain surfaces, while others may cause more damage. When mixing ingredients at home, research is imperative to ensure accurate ratios are used otherwise the mix may prove to be unsafe after all.
Commercial cleaning products
Store-bought commercial cleaning products are manufactured to strict guidelines and whilst they can contain harmful ingredients, they are included in minimal amounts that allow them to be sold to consumers. The biggest benefit of buying commercially is that there are clear instructions provided on how, when and where to use the solution. This takes away any potential confusion and ensures that the right product is purchased for its intended use.
The active ingredients used are often difficult to source individually, so replicating them at home can be hard. Even if it was possible, for safety reasons, the correct ratio is critical.
Which products are better?
The choice to select natural over commercial is growing in popularity as people lean towards opting for homemade alternatives, particularly with respect to household cleaning. In recognition of this, many commercial organisations have adapted common products and turned them into eco-friendly varieties, which give consumers a green alternative whilst still providing confidence of a superior clean.
The choice of homemade versus commercial has to come down to personal preference and consideration of the area that requires cleaning. There is nothing wrong with using a mix of the two and stocking a laundry cupboard with a range of alternatives to cover all surfaces and stains.
I do not know of one child that has not enjoyed playing with playdough (play-doh) at one point in their life.
Playdough is versatile, generates creative play, can be pulled, squashed, rolled, cut and even tampered with but still used over and over again. It can be colored red, pink, green, yellow, blue or any color of the rainbow.
Not only is it cheap and easy to make, but when stored in an air-tight container it can last for several weeks – if not longer.
This is a tried and tested, fool-proof recipe with some fun creative ideas for your children to try when you next make a colorful batch.
If you prefer not to ‘cook’ your playdough or want to avoid store-bought food dye there are some alternative suggestions also provided.
How to make playdough and home made food dye
This recipe requires an element of stovetop cooking and uses salt, as per traditional methods.
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 5 min
Ready in: 10 min
Yields: Makes One Large Ball or Multiple Small Ones
- 2 Cups Plain Flour, Use Wheat Flour if allergies exist
- 1 Cup Salt, Regular Table Salt
- 4 Teaspoons Cream of Tartar
- 2 Cups Water
- A Few Drops Food Coloring, (Optional)
Your saucepan will clean up very easily if you let it soak with hot water immediately.
Non Cook Playdough Method
If you prefer to make this without the use of the stove top, follow the same method, mix all ingredients together in a bowl with a wooden spoon and stir until combined and then knead.
- Place a non-stick pot or saucepan over a low heat on the stove.
- Place all of the dry ingredients in and commence adding water a little at a time. Stir with a wooden spoon.
- At this point you will need to add your food dye. A few drops. This will mean that the entire batch will be the color of your choice. If you prefer to leave your playdough natural at this point, and make small batches of different colors, wait until the end.
- Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture starts to congeal and gets too sticky to stir. It will be like a thick dough texture.
- The mix should be sticky but not ‘wet’.
- Take pot off the heat.
- Dust a little flour onto a dry clean bench and remove all of the playdough from pot and commence kneading it with your hands. Continue to knead until it is smooth. It should only take a few minutes.
NOTE: If you have not yet added in food dye to your batch, you can now add it in whilst kneading. If you want to make small batches of different colors, break the playdough into smaller rounds, and push your thumb into the centre, place a few drops of dye in the centre and slowly knead it through. This is a messier option however and you may want to wear gloves as the dye can color your skin.
Make your own food dye
If you do not like the idea of using store-bought food coloring have a try at making some yourself.
Here are some suggestions:
- Use 1 cup of Raspberries with one cup of water for Pink
- Use 2 teaspoons of turmeric and a cup of water for Yellow
- Use 1 cup of blueberries and a cup of water for Purple
For any colour choice, add the ingredients and mix over a low heat once brought to a boil for approximately 20 minutes.
Obviously 1 cup of liquid, even after it has evaporated, will generate more food colouring than than you will probably ever want to use so share with your friends. Once drained and cooled, add to mixture as per original recipe.
Remember though that this may make the playdough more enticing to eat due to its fragrance so more care should be taken.
Benefits of Playdough
The benefits of playdough are almost endless. Here are a few I know of:
- Encourages imaginative play
- There is no right or wrong
- Provides hours of entertainment
You can make animals, pizzas, cakes, balls, snakes, towers, sausages, rainbows…all pretend of course. Make hand and foot prints. Shape into numbers and letters.
Playdough can be pulled and poked and made into almost any shape imaginable. Try using some of the following things to aid your children with their playdough fun and see what creative ‘monsters’ they can come up with.
- cupcake / muffin papers
- old advent calender molds
- minature rolling pin
- plastic spoons and forks (supervised if necessary)
- icy-pole sticks
- twigs and leaves from the garden to create impressions
- biscuit cutters and shapes
- plastic animals
- dry pasta or noodles
- plastic cups or bowls
A word of warning
Keep away from the mouths of animals in particular due to the high salt content.
Obviously this extends to children also but they are more inclined to spit it out due to its taste.
Australians love their backyards. Whether it is for a kick of the footy, a summer barbeque with friends or a night out under the stars, nothing tops it off like a luscious green lawn. When you are equipped with the knowledge on how to maintain your turf with ease, you’ll be well on the way to having a garden envied by your neighbours.
Don’t let weeds develop
Whether you grew your lawn from seeds, purchased turf from a local garden supplier or adopted a patch of turf when you moved into your home, your garden will unfortunately not be immune from the humble weed. They seem to sprout out of nowhere and can spread overnight. The trick is to ensure you tackle them as soon as they appear. There are a number of products available on the market including sprays, however make sure you purchase an appropriate weed killer depending on the turf you have and one that will address the specific weed that have sprouted. The longer you leave it, the more it will take over and no one likes a foot full of prickly weeds.
Don’t overlook the fertiliser
Fertilising your lawn regularly will ensure that it has the best chance of surviving Australia’s harsh weather conditions. When your turf has the perfect amount of essential nutrients, it has a better chance of dealing with the heat of summer, long periods of drought and even unfortunate disease. Fertilising your lawn is the best way to give it a boost of essential nutrients. Choose from organic or non-organic fertiliers and keep it up at least twice a year. Don’t overlook the fertiliser, your turf needs it.
Aeration is essential
Overtime our luscious green lawn becomes compacted under foot and as a result water and nutrients struggle to penetrate into the root system. Use a pitchfork, a pair of spikey-soled shoes or an aeration machine to systematically poke small holes into the turf and give it a chance to breathe.
Keep your turf watered
Your grass will love a regular drink so make sure you water it first thing in the morning, or after the sun has gone down, particularly in summer so that it does not lose water through evaporation. Depending on water restrictions in your area, you may be able to use a sprinkler or an automated watering system to assist. Be careful not to overwater though as you can weaken the leaves and cause damage to the roots.
Mowing your lawn
Depending on the variety of turf in your backyard, there may be a need to mow it more often than not. Don’t leave the grass get too long as it is much easier to care for it when you mow it regularly. Long leaves can rip and potentially leave patches and you’ll end up doing more damage than good.
Your turf maintenance plan need not be locked in stone however by following some rough guidelines you’ll be able to keep your grass in tip top condition and allow your friend and family to enjoy it even more.
When a tax refund is on the cards, the notion of tax return investment is probably the furthest thing
from anyone’s mind. Whether there will be a refund of $500 or $2,500, the temptation is usually to spend it or clear an outstanding bill. Choosing to use this money in a different way could actually determine your future financial position. It’s rather simple. Don’t spend a tax refund. Invest it.
Australians dream of having a little nest egg set aside for a rainy day, for a future property purchase or even for the essential retirement fund. The key to making dreams come true is to start. It does not matter how much money makes up the first deposit. It’s never too early to plan for the future.
Use a tax refund to accomplish goals
Let’s take a look at how a tax refund can be wisely invested.
Putting an unexpected sum of money from a tax refund aside for an emergency is definitely a wise move. Everyone should have a shush fund for those moments that can and do crop up every now and then. The money must be easily accessible and also invested wisely so that a $500 deposit does not become $50 because of bank fees and poor investment choices. A financial planner can help with the decision making process however as a rule of thumb, opt for a bank account with a high interest rate that may be an online service only. Be wary of fine print that could lock it away for a period of time though.
- Helping long term plans come true
Whilst the future can often feel like a lifetime away, establishing an investment plan so that dreams become a reality is worthwhile. Long term plans can be kicked off with a tax refund. It could be money for an education fund or saving up for a car. Get it started today.
Investing money in property is a common method, however in this instance, the idea is to invest in an existing property. Channel a tax refund into a mortgage to ultimately save thousands on interest. Make much-needed improvements to a home is also to help improve its value long term.
Running a business takes time and money. A cash injection could be exactly what is needed or utilise a tax refund to help turn an idea into a reality.
A tax refund offers an abundance of opportunities to get ahead and get finances back on track.
Being money savvy can take time but it is possible.
Do you have any money saving tips to share?