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Unclog and freshen your sink drains

- Author: Crystal

Right now we live in an old rental house, and we inherited from the prior tenants several nasty, clogged drains. These were slow to drain water and emitted foul odors. That is, until I unclogged and freshened them!

This is a process that takes only 10 minutes but feels incredibly satisfying. No complicated gadgets, toxic chemicals or prior knowledge is required.

Part 1: Unclogging

What you’ll need:

  • One Zip-It drain cleaning tool. These are cheap and easy to come by. It’s basically just a plastic stick with big sharp teeth on it. Seriously, these are available in any hardware store or on Amazon. I keep a few of them under my bathroom sink, because you discard them after one use. (You’ll see why.)
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic bag
  • Pair of tweezers (optional)
  • Gloves if you’re squeamish.


  1. Put on gloves if you’re easily grossed out.
  2. Stick the Zip-It all the way down into the drain. I like to wiggle it around a little once it’s in there. You want those teeth to grab onto all the hair, soap scum, etc. that it can.
  3. Okay, here’s where things get gross. Slowly(!) pull the Zip-It out of the drain. It should be covered in chunks of nastiness. I use a paper towel to catch all the gross stuff that comes out, and then I dispose of it in the plastic bag. You’re not technically supposed to put the same Zip-It down the drain again, but sometimes I do.
  4. Once you’ve used the Zip-It 1-2 times, discard the Zip-It in the plastic bag.
  5. This process so far will undoubtedly have helped dredge up some drain crud. Now use the tweezers (if necessary) to grab onto any remaining hair or chunks that you see near the drain hole. Again, discard all chunks and paper towels into the plastic bag.

Next… it’s time to freshen that nasty drain!

Part 2: Freshening!

I learned this technique called “volcanoing” from UFYH (a horribly dirty-mouthed but brilliant website for people who are lazy about cleaning)

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Baking soda. (1 cup should be plenty for one drain)
  • Distilled white vinegar (1 cup should be plenty for one drain)
  • Small funnel (optional)
  • Kettle of hot water


  1. Stick the funnel into your drain and use it to pack as much baking soda down into there as you can.
  2. Next, pour a cup of the vinegar directly into the drain. This combination will bubble and fizz like crazy. Wait 5 minutes to let it do its work fully.
  3. Finish off the freshening by pouring a kettle of hot water down the drain. (If you’ve got PVC pipes or aren’t sure what type of pipes you have, use instead the hottest tap water your sink will produce – rather than boiling a kettle of water.)
  4. Voila! FRESHNESS!

Thoughts on this? Other ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Bathroom, Kitchen

An experiment in tiling

- Author: Crystal

My dad was in town last week to help me do some home improvement projects, one of which was tiling the master bathroom.

Yikes! I had never done tiling work before, and Dad had limited experience too.

Luckily, the nice people in the warehouse area of Best Tile hooked us up with everything we needed, including how-to instructions and some really good tips. Hint: the clearance section of the warehouse is where you can find very fancy tiles at very low prices.

The project was definitely a good challenge for us, but not as hard as we thought it would be.

BEFORE photo of the old yucky vinyl. The hole in the floor is where the toilet goes. Dark blob at bottom of the picture is my Dad’s back.

AFTER: Beautiful glass mosaic and Italian porcelain tile!

Here’s a closeup of my handiwork:

Thoughts on this? Other ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Bathroom

Less packaging, less clutter

- Author: Crystal

One easy way to work toward a simpler, less cluttered lifestyle is to choose products with less packaging.

As an example, opt for bar soap – which comes simply wrapped in paper – instead of liquid hand soap dispensers.

Plastic containers of liquid hand soap may seem convenient.

Yet the simple act of choosing bar soap saves time and money spent having to refill or replace sticky, half-empty containers of liquid soap. As we all know, production of plastic containers require fossil fuels, and these containers usually get tossed into the trash. Even if you do recycle, they are a pain to clean out.

Reasons to buy local, handmade bar soap:

  • Handmade soap from your local farmer’s market smells great (I choose scents like Lemon Verbena, Bergamot and Coriander, Lavender, and Mint);
  • They are usually made with natural ingredients which can be gentler on your hands than your average liquid soap;
  • They are fun to use;
  • Your purchase of these types of bar soap supports artisans and the local economy.

Need a soap dish for your new bar soap? I had fun picking out handmade stoneware soap dishes from Etsy.

If you have thoughts or other ideas to share, please post a comment or write to Crystal and let her know.

No Comments - Categories: Bathroom, Kitchen

Declutter your medicine cabinet in four steps

- Author: Crystal

Jennifer Chait’s blog Declutter It! includes this handy post with the four steps to sorting out your medicine cabinet. She says,

1. First take everything out – use this time to actually wipe down the medicine cabinet interior. Plus you’ll finish the job all at once if everything is out.

2. Get rid of totally obvious stuff like expired meds, then locate the not so obvious. By not so obvious, I mean check out each container and make sure nothing has gone bad. No funny colors or smells, no cracked bottles, no liquids separating. Toss anything odd.

3. Recycle or safely toss your containers and the medication in them. To learn more read, How To Recycle Prescription Bottles.

4. Move all your medicines, cosmetics, and other items back where they go, and give your child safety latches a once over (if you have kids).

To this, I would also add:

  • Sort through your medicine cabinet at least twice per year.
  • Consider moving prescription medicines to the kitchen or other location, as the heat and humidity of bathrooms can affect the potency of the drugs.
  • While you’re at it, check your home first aid supplies to make sure they’re stocked and ready for you and your family. I keep these first aid supplies in a box labeled “First Aid” in the hallway closet.

Have additional thoughts or ideas to share? Leave a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know.

No Comments - Categories: Bathroom

$ saver: Put your shower curtain liner in the washing machine

- Author: Crystal

Thanks to my new friend Kristina R. (Durham, NC), I now realize that I can stop buying shower curtain liners so frequently.

Old idea: I used to buy the thicker, more expensive “mildew proof” type of semi-opaque shower curtain liner. I’d use it for a few months but then throw it out once the mold and scum would creep in.

New idea:

When the mildew shows up, simply detach the liner from your rod, wad it up and throw it in the washer with a load of bath towels or other clothes. Add half the amount of detergent you’d usually use, along with about a half cup of baking soda. Set the machine to GENTLE and COLD water. (Do NOT put the liner into the dryer afterward, duh.) The result is extraordinary!

Have additional thoughts or ideas to share? Leave a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

2 Comments - Categories: Bathroom

3-minute bathroom maintenance

- Author: Crystal

Investing just three minutes a week in lightly maintaining your bathroom will keep all that hair, scum and mildew from building up. A great time to do it is on a weekend, right before you take a shower.

A note about vinegar: the effective, natural cleaning product. There is no need to use dangerous disinfectants, antibacterial products or cleaning products that contain chlorine in your bathroom, all of which cause negative health effects and are bad for the environment. This 3-minute bathroom maintenance guide recommends using only white vinegar and water. You can read more about the amazing natural cleaning power of vinegar here. And for $1.79 per gallon jug, white vinegar is a steal!

The following bathroom maintenance steps will only take you about three minutes:

  1. Clear everything off the bathroom counter.
  2. Sweep the dust and hair off the floor.
  3. Use a clean rag, a piece of toilet paper or a washcloth to wipe the hair off the counter and out of the sink.
  4. Spray white vinegar on all the surfaces of the toilet: the lid, frong and sides of the tank, the top and bottom of the lid, top and bottom of the seat, and inside and outside the bowl. Pour a little white vinegar into the toilet bowl.
  5. Wet a clean rag with warm water and wring it out well, then use it to wipe down the surfaces of the vinegary toilet. If you are squeamish about cleaning toilets, use disposable rags for this job.
  6. Scrub the toilet bowl with a toilet brush. Flush the toilet, then swish the brush around in the fresh water to clean it off.
  7. Spray the sink, counter and faucets with white vinegar. Scrub the sprayed surfaces with a scrub brush or rag.
  8. Spray the mirror with white vinegar. Wipe the mirror dry with a slightly used towel, then use it to dry the sink, counter, faucets, and, last of all, the floor. Then throw the well-used towel in the hamper.
  9. Spray the floor with white vinegar, then wipe it dry with another towel.

After the bathroom surfaces dry, the vinegar smell will disappear, leaving lovely clean air behind!

Thanks go to Organic Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck for these helpful tips!

Have more ideas to share? Post a comment or write to Crystal and let her know!

2 Comments - Categories: Bathroom, Sustainable living