Sleek & Shiny Washer and Dryer

Now that some of our big projects are complete, we’ve turned our attention to the laundry room with its over 20-year-old washer and dryer.

Old W & D

Do they work? Yes.
Do clothes get clean? I think so.
Are your whites gleaming white? Not so much.
Do they have all the bells and whistles? Nope.
Do they take forever to run through a wash cycle? You better believe it.
Are they a little grungy, a little funky? Yep.

Now the MR doesn’t do the laundry, never has, probably never will. I don’t cut down trees; we all have our gifts. That being said, for whatever reason, our old washer and dryer gave him fits.

So when the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Weekend rolled around last month, we went shopping. The year before we’d checked out a sale at Home Depot, but we had floors, the conversation pit, moldings, carpet, bathroom remodels, and furniture on the agenda for last year. We decided the new appliances could wait.

Another year, another sale, and we were off. The nice lady at the hardware store didn’t seem very informed. Home Depot offers free installation, but with the need for propane conversion rather than natural gas, that whole idea went sideways. With propane, they don’t install the machines, you have to call another company, and deal with them to get your appliances working. When she called this company they couldn’t find the part and seemed basically clueless.

About that time, we put the deal to a halt and decided to think about it. Well, a few days later, the MR checked out Fredreck’s Appliance Center, one of our local stores, where we had purchased the oven, microwave, cooktop, and dishwasher when everything conked out in the first few months here.

Not only could they install a washer and dryer and hook up to propane, they would match the big box store’s price. You gotta love it when the little guy makes good.

So Tuesday, a couple nice fellows installed these beauties in under an hour.

New W & D

 

We went with the Electrolux front-loading models after checking out service records. I didn’t want the pedestals, since I have great storage above. I was also worried about noise. The pair we had at our old house shook like crazy on their pedestals. I figured a lower center of gravity might help, and I like being able to fold clothes on top and reach the cupboards easily.

I haven’t been doing non-stop laundry for the past few days, but I was shocked at how quickly I can run a load through the washing machine. The MR mentioned one of his new shirts was still a bit wrinkly after I ironed it, so I suggested the steam cycle on the dryer.

I still have a lot to learn about how to run my new toys. Maybe I’ll spend an hour with the instruction manual or just keep pushing buttons and see what happens.

Of course, this is just the beginning. We have a whole list of things to do in the laundry room. We need to paint it–it’s the only room downstairs besides the pantry that hasn’t received a new coat of paint.

We need to figure out a better laundry sorting system. The laundry room has also become the dogs’ room, since they can’t be trusted to behave in the rest of the house. They’ve taken to going through the little laundry bags, chewing up the frames, and tearing up the socks and underwear. Don’t you just love them?

Vacuum 2

Maybe we need to extend the cabinets to the floor, so we can hide the vacuum cleaners and have a place for brooms and mops, and a sorting system behind closed doors.

We also have been having a bit of a problem with the dogs opening the pocket doors, getting into the trash, and lounging on the new furniture. The MR bought a hook and eye; maybe that will keep them locked up when I’m out and about. They just don’t know how good they have it.

I’ve been checking out Houzz and Pinterest to get some sorting/storage ideas.

How do you handle sorting at your house? Do your pets drive you batty? 

(Cocoa likes to chew the corners off my throw pillows when I’m out. She’s lucky she’s cute.)

 

 

In Search of White–New Laundry Soap

I thought a well would mean independence. We’d no longer have to rely on anyone else for water; it would be just like water from the city but free. I was so naive.

Not only have we spent an arm and a leg on well repairs, I’ve had the joys of learning to work with hard water. We are fighting gunk on our faucets and a film on our showers. One of the things that drives me totally crazy is my socks. They are no longer white or even a close facsimile to white. I’ve tried soaking them in a bleach solution before putting them in the wash without any luck. They were still dingy, gray, and ugly. Bleach is bad for our septic system, so I should be avoiding that anyways.

So I decided to dodge the bullet and just buy gray socks. Then no one will notice how dirty my socks are. That’s kind of like giving up.

Socks2

The thing is I still know, and I do love a challenge. So I’ve been researching options. A friend mentioned that you have to use more detergent with hard water. Boosting my amounts didn’t make any noticeable change. I’ve been using Method from Target for years. I love the no mess pump that you can just refill and that it’s better for the environment. But it just wasn’t working with our hard water, so I decided to give making my own laundry soap a go. I know it sounds crazy like I’m in some pioneer woman mode, but I hate the mess of big bottles that slop all over the place and powder that scatters everywhere. The ingredients were cheap, readily available on Amazon, and they promised that this was the best laundry detergent Eva’ (I’m going into my Baby Girl mimicking mode just in case you’re wondering; it’s always good to have a little swag).

The recipe calls for a bar of Fels-Naptha Soap, Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda, 20-Mule Team Borax, and water. I’d already had great success with Fels-Naptha Soap. I have an old, over-sized sweatshirt that I like to throw on when I’m cooking. I’m not sure how, but I managed to get a large grease stain on my chest. It was there for months and never went away with stain removers and pre-treaters and scrubbing. I was resigned to the fact that it’s a work shirt and I don’t care if it’s ugly and stained, and then I tried the Fels-Naptha, and it was totally gone. If that’s going in the detergent, it’s gotta have some power.

So I gathered all the ingredients, grated the bar soap, heated them on the stove, stirred and stirred and stirred, waited awhile and whirled them up in the blender. For all the details check out Budget 101’s Mom’s Super Laundry Sauce.

Detergent Supplies

When making the soap, I was reminded that you can attach mason jars to the bottom of your blender and whip things up right in the jar. It was pretty slick.

Enough about blenders. My homemade laundry sauce is supposed to be enough for 100 loads of laundry and cost less than $2 to make (according to Budget 101’s estimates, I didn’t keep track). Since online Target has their 50 load bottle for $12.99, I’m saving over $20 trying this out.

New Laundry Detergent

Saving money is great, but it doesn’t really matter if it doesn’t work. It’s been a few weeks, and our clothes look as good as before, I’m just not sure that they look better. Here’s that spot-free sweatshirt, the MR’s sock, Baby Girl’s sock, and then my still sad and dingy sock.

Sweatshirt and socks 2

 

Perhaps a scoop of Oxiclean when I wash the whites would help. All the ingredients in the laundry sauce are septic safe, so I’m saving money and not damaging anything, but I still have a ways to go.

Many of you are probably tired of laundry and wanting updates on exciting things like tiling the girls’ shower. Well patience my friends. The MR went to OR for dads’ weekend with Sweet Miss and didn’t get back until late Sunday night. Then a power outage, a spa malfunction, a dentist appointment, and volleyball districts have all gotten in the way of progress this week. Don’t worry; I do believe my guy will be back at work on the upstairs bath tomorrow. He did promise Sweet Miss that it would be finished by the time she gets home for Thanksgiving, and time’s a ticking.

How do you keep your whites nice and bright? I’m thinking bluing liquid or packaged water softener may be my next options.Would a pre-soak in Oxiclean help or should I just burn them (we are out of kindling)? 

March of the Lady Bugs

Things they are a changing. Just a few weeks ago, the bougainvillea looked gorgeous covered in blooms, and now it’s leafless branches are pathetic.

BG Collage

It’s all just a part of the change of seasons. Our blue skies have been traded in for a hazy gray, and the temperatures just like the leaves are dropping.

We’re not the only ones to notice that fall is here. The wasps have continued to try to build nests in the top of the windows, and the ladybugs are back. I hadn’t thought we had a real problem. Sure, I’ve been sweeping them up daily, but a couple dozen isn’t too bad compared to last year. Then the boiler serviceman asked as he was leaving if we’re breeding ladybugs. Granted, he was down in the boiler room on the sunny southern wall of the house–maybe he’s just not used to these things. Then I went upstairs to Sweet Miss’ room. With her new sorority requirements, she needed all her black dresses sent to school. That’s when I realized she at least had a problem.

So I decided to take the vacuum to this mess.

The baseboards need dusting as well. I always notice these things after the photo.

The baseboards need dusting as well. I always notice these things after the photo.

Here’s a look at the broader scope of things in high def, just in case you’re doubting the seriousness.

Ladybugs HDR

A quick vacuum did the trick. Cocoa was shocked that we had a big mess she knew nothing about for once.

All Clear

The baseboards look lovely, if only that stack of clothes would disappear as easily.

Cleaned Up

As with my past tales of woe about the ladybugs (here and here), we have no idea how the silly creatures are getting in. Sweet Miss’ room is two-stories above the boiler room and that whole wall of the house was covered with ladybugs the other day. I’m seriously considering buying a “Ladybug Buster” from Gardener’s Supply Company. These little boxes containing eggshell quicksand and a nontoxic lure simply attach to a window and can hold up to 2,000 ladybugs. Maybe one for Sweet Miss’ Room and one for the great room would do the trick.

Does anyone have any experience with these? Ever been inundated with a “beneficial insect”?

Gunk

Hard water, who knew?

I’ve always lived in town with mountain water. It snows every winter, in the spring the snow melts, the reservoirs fill, and great tasting, soft water has always been ready any time I needed it.

And then we moved here with our own well. Suddenly our water was free. With all the work we’ve had done on the well, the MR says this is the most expensive free water ever.

I don’t know that ours would be classified as “hard” water, but it’s something. It tastes a little funny, and it leaves behind a trail of white. The chic black soap dispenser in our bathroom was retired covered in a film if white. And after 20 years of this water, all the faucets are covered in hard crusty gunk.

I’ve scrubbed. My housekeeper has scrubbed. We’ve brainstormed ways to shine up all the sinks and tile. Nothing seemed to work, so I turned to Pinterest for a little help.

The picture showing disgusting faucets turned all shiny and new seemed right up my alley. Sometimes my life is rather sad.

DIY Confessions had great results and a simple potion to achieve it. It was worth a try.

I just mixed up half a bottle of white vinegar, 1/4 cup lime juice (the recipe called for lemon, but all I had was fresh and it seemed a little upscale for cleaner) and roughly half a bottle of dish soap. Then I sprayed it on and left it for awhile. Here’s the yucky before.
Faucet gunk

Here we are all up close and personal. I know it’s bad.

Gunk

And a little waiting, a little scrubbing, a little wiping later, we ended up with this.

Second Soak

It’s not perfect, but it’s oh so much better. I figure it took 20 years to look this disgusting, maybe it takes more than one try to look great. You’ll have to excuse me now, I have some scrubbing to do.

Any hard water tips you’d like to share?

All the Difference

I always had fun volunteering at the student store when the girls were in middle school. The store window looks out on a breezeway and the cafeteria. It was the perfect place to watch boys and girls migrating in groups, laughing and talking and flirting. Some kids on the lonely side would come and chit-chat with the moms and tell all sorts of stories.

One day a girl told us how she didn’t have money for the chips and cookies we were selling and that if she spent her lunch money, her dad would make her scrub the floors on her hands and knees. The lady working with me said that girl needed a shark… Excuse me? She went on to extol the virtues of the Shark combo vacuum/steamer that cleaned hardwoods and tile in seconds flat. Wow, that sounded great, but I didn’t have much in the way of tile and hardwoods. I do love gadgets, but I try to be reasonable.

And then we moved here. This place is double the size of our old house and a four-foot-wide path of tile encircles the whole first floor. I asked Baby Girl to calculate the square footage of the tile, but she wasn’t in a cooperative mood. Let’s just say there’s over 400-square-feet of tile in the pathway around the living room and our bedroom and that doesn’t include the dining room, kitchen, entry, powder room, laundry room and hallway to the garage. We have a lot of tile.

Along with tile we have Bogart. Our first dog was a long-haired shepherd, chow, malamute, and commercial white-wolf mix. OK, so she was a mutt with an undercoat and lots of fur; she shed everywhere. When we picked out Bogart, we purposely got a short-haired dog with lots of energy. Instead of leaving piles of fur where he lies down, Bogart simply leaves a fine layer of hair everywhere.

He looks so innocent for a hair factory.

After a few months living here, the combination of seas of tile and a shedding dog made that Shark vacuum seem incredibly attractive. Sweeping was the most dreaded of chores, and the sad thing was it was so unfulfilling. As soon as I finished sweeping, I’d always see more clouds of fur needing to be cleaned up.

A couple weeks ago, when I stopped to pick up more curtain rings. I saw the Shark on display, and it called to me. I had been resisting, but my defenses were down, and I totally caved.

My new favorite toy.

Sometimes the right tool makes all the difference. It’s small, lightweight, and works great. I get a lot of satisfaction emptying a pile of dog hair after just a little vacuuming. It takes 30 seconds for the water to heat up for the steam action, and the floors and grout look so much brighter and cleaner after a quick steam. The one draw back is the noise–that little thing is loud. Sweeping is much quieter, but I’ll give up a little peace for efficiency.

Do you have a favorite appliance that makes your life easier? A splurge that’s turned out to be the perfect tool?

On other topics, this has been a big few days around here. It’s official, Sweet Miss graduated from high school and we couldn’t be happier. The family gathered together Friday night for the celebration. My oldest is growing up. It’s one of those bittersweet moments. Her father and I are so proud of her, the strong, kind, loyal, smart, funny person she is and the wonderful person we know she’ll become. So here’s a few photos for those far-flung loved ones to share in the joy.

A proud Papa Willy with Sweet Miss.

Sharing the evening with MeeMee and Papa Larry.

We’re so proud of you Sweet Miss.