15 Brilliant Spring Cleaning Hacks

iStock.com/CasarsaGuru
iStock.com/CasarsaGuru

Spring cleaning feels great ... once it’s finished. But getting there isn’t always so fun. To help you get to the enjoyable side of spring cleaning, we’ve rounded up some tips and tricks to streamline the process and leave you with more time to enjoy your fresh and tidy home.

1. Add a Lazy Susan to Your Fridge

If you’re already taking everything out to give the fridge a good scrub, add a lazy Susan to each shelf before you restock. Being able to spin it to access things in the back will cut down on spills and make your next spring cleaning that much easier.

2. Disinfect Your Sponge

If you’ve got a big job to do and only one sponge to do it with (the horror!), freshen things up halfway through by squeezing it out and microwaving it on high for a minute.

3. Don’t Forget to Clean the Garbage Disposal

If you’re lucky enough to have a garbage disposal, don’t neglect it during spring cleaning. Drop in a cut-up lemon, some salt, and a few ice cubes to clear away any unwanted odors or built-up residue.

4. Time Yourself

Pink Kitchen Cooking Timer on Blue Background
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Not only will you be more likely to stay focused and get your tasks done efficiently with a timer ticking, seeing how long chores actually take makes them more manageable. If you know it only takes 10 minutes to scrub the bathroom, maybe you won’t wait till next spring to do it again.

5. Wax Your Stovetop

After you’ve scrubbed the grime off your stovetop, apply a thin layer of car wax and then buff it off with a clean towel. Not only will this make it look shiny and new, it will make wiping off future spills a breeze.

6. Use a Lemon to Clean Stainless Steel Faucets

Just cut the lemon in half and start rubbing to remove hard water stains and rust from any stainless steel in the bathroom or kitchen. Plus, this leaves behind a fresh, natural, citrusy scent instead of harsh chemical fumes.

7. Steam-Clean Your Microwave

To remove old food stains from the inside of the microwave, steam them before you scrub. Fill a microwave-safe bowl with 1 to 2 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, and a few drops of your favorite essential oil and zap the mixture for five minutes.

8. Wash Your Windows on a Cloudy Day

Man cleaning windows on a cloudy day
iStock.com/Koldunova_Anna

For a quick made-at-home window-washing solution, mix equal parts white vinegar and warm water or add one teaspoon of mild dishwashing liquid to several gallons of water. But time your cleaning wisely: Sunshine will cause your windows to dry too quickly, leaving streaks.

9. Make Space for Clutter

One way you can ensure that your hard-earned neatness doesn’t disappear is by setting aside space for the inevitable clutter. If you have an entryway closet, mount a plastic or cloth shoe rack to store toys, hats, gloves, and unsorted mail.

10. Dust With Fabric Softener Sheets

Dryer sheets are a cheap substitute for more expensive electrostatic cloths, and they work just as well. Lone socks that have lost their mates, when worn as a mitten, also work for dusting tight areas and Venetian blinds. Always remember to work top to bottom when dusting to avoid wasting time going over surfaces twice.

11. Use a Hair Dryer to Banish Water Rings

Someone hasn’t been using a coaster and now your wood coffee table paid the price and has those telltale white water rings. Try erasing them with a hair dryer. Simply blast the offending spot on high heat until it starts to disappear. Once it’s gone, rub a little bit of olive oil on the area to recondition the wood.

12. Toss Expired Toiletries and makeup

Woman cleaning out medicine cabinet
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If your medicine cabinet is starting to seem over-cluttered, spring cleaning is the perfect time to re-check the expiration date on all your toiletries and trash anything that’s past its prime. You can check the internet for specifics, but sunscreen should only stick around for a few years after you purchase it, and mascara should be replaced every couple of months.

13. Use Your Dishwasher for More Than Dishes

There are tons of things that you can clean in the dishwasher that don’t have anything to do with place settings. Once every few months, toss some of the following into the dishwasher for a deep clean: contact lens cases, hair brushes, makeup brushes, pet dishes, plastic kids toys, refrigerator shelves, soap dishes, tweezers, various knobs and pulls, and even your showerhead (if it’s removable).

14. Clean Your Dishwasher

What good is a dirty dishwasher? After you remove any visible grime, place a (dishwasher safe) cup of vinegar on the top shelf and run the hottest cycle your dishwasher has. After that, sprinkle a cupful of baking soda around the bottom and run it through a short but complete cycle using the hottest water.

15. Clean Your Showerhead

A high-tech luxury shower head
iStock.com/grandriver

If your shower head isn’t detachable and thus can’t be run through the dishwasher, you can clean it by letting it soak in vinegar overnight. First, fill a sandwich baggie with vinegar and then carefully secure the bag over the shower head so it’s fully submerged—you can use an elastic hair tie or rubber band. Leave the whole thing to soak overnight—just be sure you remember to remove the vinegar bag before you turn on the shower in the morning!

12 Creative Ways to Spend Your FSA Money Before the Deadline

stockfour/iStock via Getty Images
stockfour/iStock via Getty Images

If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), chances are, time is running out for you to use that cash. Depending on your employer’s rules, if you don’t spend your FSA money by the end of the grace period, you potentially lose some of it. Lost cash is never a good thing.

For those unfamiliar, an FSA is an employer-sponsored spending account. You deposit pre-tax dollars into the account, and you can spend that money on a number of health care expenses. It’s kind of like a Health Savings Account (HSA), but with a few big differences—namely, your HSA funds roll over from year to year, so there’s no deadline to spend it all. With an FSA, though, most of your funds expire at the end of the year. Bummer.

The good news is: The law allows employers to roll $500 over into the new year and also offer a grace period of up to two and a half months to use that cash (March 15). Depending on your employer, you might not even have that long, though. The deadline is fast approaching for many account holders, so if you have to use your FSA money soon, here are a handful of creative ways to spend it.

1. Buy some new shades.

Head to the optometrist, get an eye prescription, then use your FSA funds to buy some new specs or shades. Contact lenses and solution are also covered.

You can also buy reading glasses with your FSA money, and you don’t even need a prescription.

2. Try acupuncture.

Scientists are divided on the efficacy of acupuncture, but some studies show it’s useful for treating chronic pain, arthritis, and even depression. If you’ve been curious about the treatment, now's a good time to try it: Your FSA money will cover acupuncture sessions in some cases. You can even buy an acupressure mat without a prescription.

If you’d rather go to a chiropractor, your FSA funds cover those visits, too.

3. Stock up on staples.

If you’re running low on standard over-the-counter meds, good news: Most of them are FSA-eligible. This includes headache medicine, pain relievers, antacids, heartburn meds, and anything else your heart (or other parts of your body) desires.

There’s one big caveat, though: Most of these require a prescription in order to be eligible, so you may have to make an appointment with your doctor first. The FSA store tells you which over-the-counter items require a prescription.

4. Treat your feet.

Give your feet a break with a pair of massaging gel shoe inserts. They’re FSA-eligible, along with a few other foot care products, including arch braces, toe cushions, and callus trimmers.

In some cases, foot massagers or circulators may be covered, too. For example, here’s one that’s available via the FSA store, no prescription necessary.

5. Get clear skin.

Yep—acne treatments, toner, and other skin care products are all eligible for FSA spending. Again, most of these require a prescription for reimbursement, but don’t let that deter you. Your doctor is familiar with the rules and you shouldn’t have trouble getting a prescription. And, as WageWorks points out, your prescription also lasts for a year. Check the rules of your FSA plan to see if you need a separate prescription for each item, or if you can include multiple products or drug categories on a single prescription.

While we’re on the topic of faces, lip balm is another great way to spend your FSA funds—and you don’t need a prescription for that. There’s also no prescription necessary for this vibrating face massager.

6. Fill your medicine cabinet.

If your medicine cabinet is getting bare, or you don’t have one to begin with, stock it with a handful of FSA-eligible items. Here are some items that don’t require a prescription:

You can also stock up on first aid kits. You don’t need a prescription to buy those, and many of them come with pain relievers and other medicine.

7. Make sure you’re covered in the bedroom.

Condoms are FSA-eligible, and so are pregnancy tests, monitors, and fertility kits. Female contraceptives are also covered when you have a prescription.

8. Prepare for your upcoming vacation.

If you have a vacation planned this year, use your FSA money to stock up on trip essentials. For example:

9. Get a better night’s sleep.

If you have trouble sleeping, sleep aids are eligible, though you’ll need a prescription. If you want to try a sleep mask, many of them are eligible without a prescription. For example, there’s this relaxing sleep mask and this thermal eye mask.

For those nights you’re sleeping off a cold or flu, a vaporizer can make a big difference, and those are eligible, too (no prescription required). Bed warmers like this one are often covered, too.

Your FSA funds likely cover more than you realize, so if you have to use them up by the deadline, get creative. This list should help you get started, and many drugstores will tell you which items are FSA-eligible when you shop online.

10. Go to the dentist.

While basics like toothpaste and cosmetic procedures like whitening treatments aren’t FSA eligible, most of the expenses you incur at your dentist’s office are. That includes co-pays and deductibles as well as fees for cleanings, x-rays, fillings, and even the cost of braces. There are also some products you can buy over-the-counter without ever visiting the dentist. Some mouthguards that prevent you from grinding your teeth at night are eligible, as are cleaning solutions for retainers and dentures.

11. Try some new gadgets.

If you still have some extra cash to burn, it’s a great time to try some expensive high-tech devices that you’ve been curious about but might not otherwise want to splurge on. The list includes light therapy treatments for acne, vibrating nausea relief bands, electrical stimulation devices for chronic pain, cloud-connected stethoscopes, and smart thermometers.

12. Head to Amazon.

There are plenty of FSA-eligible items available on Amazon, including items for foot health, cold and allergy medication, eye care, and first-aid kits. Find out more details on how to spend your FSA money on Amazon here.

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5 Easier Ways to Water Your Christmas Tree

Artfoliophoto/iStock via Getty Images
Artfoliophoto/iStock via Getty Images

A decorated Christmas tree adds instant holiday cheer to any room—for a few days, at least. If you neglect to care for it, however, it doesn't take long for that tree to start dropping needles and dry up into a brittle, brown fire hazard. The key to keeping your tree looking healthy until the New Year is to water it every day. Of course, that comes with its own problems, like sap-covered clothing and sore knees. Here are some alternative methods for watering your Christmas tree that won't have you wishing for the end of the holiday season.

1. Rig a funnel and PVC pipe.

The worst part of watering a Christmas tree is crawling around on your hands and knees, but once you've set up this funnel rig, you can water it while standing up. As Eric Palonen demonstrates in the video above, all you need to do is stick a PVC pipe into the tree stand, attach a funnel to the other end with an elbow connector, and pour in the water.

2. Dig out a pool noodle.

Don't have a spare PVC pipe at home? A foam pool noodle works just as well as the receptacle for your funnel.

3. Disguise a DIY water dispenser as a present.

On Instructables, Rickyspears shares his step-by-step process for building a Christmas tree-watering rig. Using a bucket and plastic tube with brass fittings, you can create a water-siphoning system that automatically keeps your tree hydrated. And because a big bucket of water beneath the tree isn't the most festive sight, Rickyspears also tells you how to disguise it by hiding it in a box decorated with wrapping paper.

4. Use a wine bottle.

Still have some leftover wine bottles from Thanksgiving (or the weekend) lying around the house? Use one of them to water the base of your tree while keeping a safe distance between you and the sticky branches. (Though if you do get some sap on your hands, there are a few easy ways to get rid of it.)

5. Invest in an automated watering system.

DIY watering rigs are inexpensive, but if convenience is your main concern, it's hard to beat a product that was designed just for this purpose. The Christmas tree watering bag from Elf Logic senses when your tree needs water and replenishes it automatically. Plus, it hangs on a branch like an ornament, making it easy to tuck away.

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