If Green Cleaners Aren’t Cutting It, You Might Need a Cleaning “Re-Set”

If Green Cleaners Aren’t Cutting It, You Might Need a Cleaning “Re-Set”

Shifrah Combiths


With five children, Shifrah is learning a thing or two about how to keep a fairly organized and pretty clean house with a grateful heart in a way that leaves plenty of time for the people who matter most. Shifrah grew up in San Francisco, but has come to appreciate smaller town life in Tallahassee, Florida, which she now calls home. She’s been writing professionally for twenty years and she loves lifestyle photography, memory keeping, gardening, reading, and going to the beach with her husband and children.

You Should Pour Vinegar into Your Washing Machine—Here’s Why

You Should Pour Vinegar into Your Washing Machine—Here’s Why

Is there anything you can’t clean with vinegar? Really, I wonder why I bother buying so many specialty cleaners when vinegar is basically the magic sauce that does everything. (Have you tried the trick with setting a saucer full of vinegar out to get rid of stink in a room? It totally works!) Here’s another fun thing is does: It cleans your washing machine.

Yes, your washing machine needs cleaning. Out of sight, out of mind, maybe, and it’s getting cleaned every time you use it, right? Well, no. Just like your sink and shower need cleaning, so too does the hard-working washing machine.

And it turns out you don’t need any fancy, special “washing machine cleaner” (seriously, that’s up there with an avocado slicer as a uni-tasker). My Maytag wants me to use a branded products so badly it slaps the brand name of the recommended cleaner right on the dial! The cleaner is two bucks a pop (not a box, each!). No thanks. According to the internet, all you need is good ol’ vinegar.

But just because you read something on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true, so I checked with an expert. And Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance, a Neighborly company, gave me the lowdown.

“It might seem counter-intuitive to have to clean a machine that does the cleaning, but over time soap scum and detergent buildup can start causing problems,” he says. “Your washing machine — and your clothing — will benefit from a periodic cleaning.”

So why should white vinegar be your go-to? Well for starters, we all probably have a jug of it in the kitchen anyway. And “instead of using a bunch of harsh chemicals to force your washing machine into cleanliness, vinegar is recommended as a more natural and inexpensive way to clean your appliances,” Shimek said.

Here’s his step-by-step guide to cleaning your washer with vinegar.

Confession: I only did the second step, and my very heavily used washing machine (you do a LOT of laundry when you run a full time Airbnb) looked brand new and shiny inside when the wash cycle finished, so I didn’t do the rest. But when I’m in a real cleaning fever kind of mood, I’ll come back to it. Shimek said this is something you should do every six months to keep things clean and running smoothly, which is totally manageable.

Dana McMahan


Freelance writer Dana McMahan is a chronic adventurer, serial learner, and whiskey enthusiast based in Louisville, Kentucky.

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6 Household Uses for Mint

6 Household Uses for Mint

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Whether you have a mint plant growing on your windowsill or a bottle of mint essential oil that you’re not sure what to do with, there are several household uses for the herb. Below, six household uses for mint you may not have thought of before.

In a DIY Household Cleaner

You can add a few drops of mint essential oil to your homemade or unscented store-bought cleaner, according to Mother Earth Living. Try this recipe for a cleaning solution that works on wood, concrete, or tile floors: Dilute a cup of white vinegar in a gallon of water and add three to five drops of mint essential oil for a clean scent.

In an Essential Oil Diffuser

Mint essential oils offer a lovely light, fresh scent to your home when diffused.

If you’re in a pinch, you can dilute mint essential oil and spray it in your home as an ant repellent, which will remain effective for up to one week, according to several studies. Do not do this in an area where your pets will be.

As you already know, mint smells great. You can make your own minty room spray using 10 drops of peppermint essential oil, five drops of lemon essential oil, five drops of orange essential oil, and two tablespoons of orange flower water, according to Reader’s Digest. We suggest skipping out on room sprays if you have pets in the house.

In the Bottom of Your Trash Can for a Fresh Scent

Adding some peppermint oil to your trash can can offer the same effect as scented trash bags. Just pop the oil on a cotton ball and place it beneath your trash bag to help mask odors. 

No Air Conditioning? 7 Great Ways to Cool Down ASAP

No Air Conditioning? 7 Great Ways to Cool Down ASAP

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Record-setting heat this summer has many people searching for cooling solutions — especially in regions like the Pacific Northwest, where it’s commonplace for homes to be built without air conditioning. 

Use apartment staples to keep cool.

This first tip comes recommended by an emergency health specialist, Megan Healy, MD, of Temple University Hospital. Healy says you can look to your freezer staples and put ice packs (or bags of frozen veggies) in your armpits and groin area if you’re looking to cool down quickly. “The large blood vessels are close to the surface in those areas,” Healy explains, so your whole body will cool down faster by applying cool packs there.  

Ramp up your fan’s cooling power.

Another tip you can borrow from the ER? “Take advantage of evaporative cooling,” Healy says. “Folks cool off more quickly when you combine misting with cool water and a fan. So set yourself up with a cheap spray bottle in front of your fan, and spray away!” Any of these stylish, high-powered fans will do the trick. And if you don’t have a spray bottle, setting a solid block of ice on a plate in front of the fan will create the same cooling mist effect.

Place your fans strategically in your house or apartment.

In addition to your table fan and spray bottle setup, you’ll want to place box fans with purpose. You can set a fan by the window and change its blade direction to blow hot air out during the day and cool air in at night (if the nighttime temps are cooler outside than inside).

Add extra shades to your home’s windows. 

The PNW-based Heating and Cooling company Entek has several great solutions for cooling off your home, and some require no permanent installation whatsoever. “Reduce the sunlight coming in,” an Entek blog post says. “This is most important in the afternoon. Be sure at least by lunchtime that you have closed all the blinds you can to block out sunlight and UV rays on both your first and second floors.” Entek recommends heat-blocking shades, but in a pinch, you can use car shades — which serve the same purpose — and set them in your windows.

Turn off home appliances whenever possible.

Another great suggestion from Entek is to power down your appliances — laundry machines, dishwashers, and even hair appliances. It’s best to save those to-do list items for early morning or nighttime when it’s cooler. Similarly, if it’s hot outside, try making a dinner that doesn’t require turning on the oven. (Hello, sushi, sandwich wraps, and summer salads!

Seal cool air inside your house or apartment.

Cool air can rapidly escape through gaps in doors, and to prevent that problem, Kelly Maughan, a spokesperson for Duck Brands, suggests using the company’s double draft seal, which works for interior or exterior doors. The foam inserts can easily be cut to fit any door frame, and straps hold the seal in place. “Plus, the dark grey fabric liner complements most home décor and is machine washable (and pet friendly!),” Maughan says. To create a seal around your windows, too, try a weatherstrip seal. Additionally, Maughan says, roll-on window insulation kits create a barrier between the outdoor air and your home’s inside.

Try an apartment-friendly portable AC unit.

Ranging in size, capacity, and price, portable air conditioners can be moved to room and don’t require permanent install, making them a great fix for many apartments, according to New York-based AC experts Neptune Air Conditioning, Inc. Ready to buy one but don’t know where to begin your search? Check out this handy guide to portable air conditioners, starting at $41.

Remember, these fixes alone might not be enough to stay cool when the temperature is dangerously high. Young children, pregnant women, and the elderly are at even greater risk for heat-related illness. “If you are overheated and start to feel dizzy, nauseous, or experience muscle cramps, please call your doctor or visit your closest ER as soon as possible,” Healy says. 

To search for your city’s cooling centers, refer to your city or county website, local news outlet, or public library website. Here’s to staying cool and safe this summer.

Sarah Everett

Editorial Assistant

Sarah is Apartment Therapy’s editorial assistant. She recently completed her MA in journalism at the University of Missouri and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Belmont University. Past writing and editing stops include HGTV Magazine, Nashville Arts Magazine, and several outlets local to her hometown, Columbia, Missouri.