Cleaning Myths Debunked: Mold & Mildew

maidpro NJ

Uncontrolled growth of mold in your home can be a scary, dangerous, and expensive thing. But, knowing a few important facts about mold can help you to address the risks and keep your home healthy for a lifetime. Here are five big mold myths debunked:


Myth: Mold & mildew are the same thing.

Mildew is powdery or downy white, yellow, or brown-colored fungus that grows in a flat pattern on surfaces and can be scrubbed off easily with a spray cleaner and brush. Mold is a fuzzy, aggressively growing fungus that creates difficult-to- kill spore clusters that behave like roots and grow deep into porous surfaces such as drywall, tile grout, and wood. Mold can be blue, green, yellow, brown, gray, black, or white. In bathrooms, mold roots can travel all the way through grout, behind tiles, and into walls and house framing. Mold consumes and destroys surfaces and, depending on the variety, may also cause health problems, including sinus infections, headaches, allergies, inflamed respiratory airways, and more.


Myth: Bleach kills 100% of mold and mildew.

Bleach only kills mold and mildew on tops of surfaces. The chemical structure of bleach disallows its absorption into porous surfaces, no matter how much you apply, even when undiluted. The surface top may look clean and white, but just a few millimeters underneath the mold is still alive and will start re-growing within minutes.


Myth: Once a surface looks clean and white, all mold has been removed.

Bleach requires a full five-minute soak time with at least three-quarters of a cup of bleach per gallon of water to kill surface mold spores. The problem is that bleach makes mold look white before it dies, so people often rinse bleach away before it has killed any mold at all. Worse yet, the water in your bleach solution soaks into porous surfaces and feeds the deep mold you are trying to kill. Unchecked, the mold grows deeper into walls and studs until structural damage and health impacts become so bad the problem can no longer be ignored.


Myth: If grout looks good after cleaning with bleach, it was just mildew.

This is a dangerous half truth and a big reason why so many home owners let mold damage get out of control in their bathrooms. There is a simple test: if you can scrub stains off easily with a bleach-free bathroom cleaner, it’s probably just mildew. If you use a bleach-based cleaner and the stains return after a few days in roughly the same spots, you’ve likely got mold growing beneath the surface.


Myth: Once mold is dead, the problem is solved.

This is, by far, the falsest claim of all. It is impossible to keep new mold spores from entering your home as it can grow anywhere it finds food—decaying matter such as fallen leaves, garbage, or trash—and moisture—which can be anything from leaky pipes to air humidity—in temperatures ranging from 32-120°F. Even mold on food in your freezer doesn’t die; it merely goes dormant until it warms up! If you can survive in an environment, so too can mold. What is more, there are varieties of mold spores that are just as toxic and allergy-inducing when dead as when they are alive and growing.


Myth: Homeowners can easily solve mold problems on their own.

The only way to truly solve a mold problem is by removing infected materials and the sources of moisture that started the problem. Controlling indoor air humidity, repairing leaky pipes and shower walls, resealing and replacing porous grout, caulking, and more are all parts of the solution. Most mold sprays are simply fancy-marketed bleach sprays that remove mold stains, but do nothing to address root problems. As a rule of thumb, if you have a mold-affected area larger than 10 square feet, immediately seek the help of a professional mold-abatement service.

Spring Cleaning Tips: Tackling the Bathroom

maidpro bathroom

Every room in your home needs a deeper-than-usual clean and refresh at least once or twice a year. With its fresh air and tone of rebirth and renewal, there is no time like spring for finding the inspiration to get it all done. Here are five tips for tackling the bathroom this spring:

Get into the nooks and crannies. Bathrooms have plenty of tiny, inconvenient-to-clean spaces that you might pass over on regular daily or weekly cleanings. For example, when is the last time you dusted out the narrow space between your toilet tank and the wall? Or, the last time you cleaned just under and around the lid of the tank? Both are great spaces for mildew and other germs to hang out and multiply. Other oft neglected spots include around the bases of faucets and fixtures where soap scum and grit builds up and hardens, often requiring scraping for a true clean. While you’re at it, take a good look at your grout, which can usually be brightened up with the right cleaner, a small sturdy brush, and a bit of elbow grease.

Inspect and discard all expired stuff. If you have unused prescription meds, bring them to your pharmacy for proper disposal or find out if your city or town offers a drug take-back program. Expired OTC meds can go right into the trash. Be sure to inspect all lotions, creams, and makeup items too, as many have surprisingly short shelf lives. Toothbrushes should be replaced about once every three months and be sure to store new ones in an upright position to enable complete air drying between uses, experts say.

Purge the excess. As bathrooms tend to have limited space, give careful consideration to everything you store there. Is there a curling wand that gets used only 2-3 times a year taking up precious real estate? Are there five hair brushes, where one might do? Are you storing large refill containers of shampoos and conditioners bought at wholesale clubs? Remove rarely-used items to a different location, such as a linen closet. The less you keep in your bathroom, the more functional it becomes and the easier it will be to keep clean and tidy all week long.

Do make room for critical supplies. No one wants to be the person using a bathroom when it runs out of toilet paper, hand soap, or towels. Nice baskets filled with unwrapped toilet paper rolls and a soap display add decorative elements to your bathroom, while also making family members and guests feel most comfortable. Pre-moistened wipes or a spray bottle and clean rag near to hand make it easy for you and family members to wipe up toothpaste gobs, stray hairs, and other small daily messes. If you ever entertain overnight guests, extra new toothbrushes are great extra items to keep on hand as well.

Get organized. If your bathroom often resembles a jumble sale, it might be worth investing in a few elegant, yet simple and inexpensive organizing solutions. Think wooden drawer organizers, canvas totes, shower caddies,and the like.

Refresh your look. Your bathroom is one of the easiest and least expensive rooms to completely re-style with a new look or color scheme, especially if floors, counters, and tile are white or neutral in tone. Consider changing up your shower curtain, bath mat, or towels and ‘shopping at home’ for things you might repurpose to add style and keep your bathroom organized. A china sugar bowl, for example, makes a great decorative container for cotton balls or tooth-floss picks, while a shallow serving tray can be a great way to corral lots of small items you want near to hand such as lotions, creams, and perfume bottles. There are also hundreds of chic, decorative paper designs available at low costs for lining shelves and adding visual pop to the insides of bathroom cabinets and drawers.

 

Spring Cleaning Tips: Turning over Closets

maispro-springclean

With spring busting out all over, the last thing you might want to be doing is turning over your wardrobe from winter to spring/summer. Use these eight steps to get the job done fast yet effectively:

Purge, purge, purge. Start by taking everything out and inspecting each item as you do. Haven’t worn it at least once or twice in the past season? Is it getting a little shabby? Does it fail to fit well and flatter your figure? Is it cheap, trendy, and unlikely to be in-style next season? If you answer yes to any of the above, consider donating or tossing.

Physically clean storage spaces. Thoroughly vacuum closets and drawers; dust and be prepared to re-line shelves and drawers if needed. While you’re at it, discard broken and bent hangers, empty dry-cleaning bags, shoe boxes, retail tags, and any other detritus that might have collected in clothing storage spaces over the past season.

Launder or dry clean all garments before storing. Even if it looks and smells clean, if it has been worn, you can be sure it’s harboring some form of human dander that will become food for dust mites, mold, and mildew.

Choose plastic. Cardboard and corrugated boxes are prone to bugginess and may also absorb moisture and odors. Invest in sturdy plastic containers that seal well as these will last virtually a lifetime. Protect wools with cedar chips or planks, but be aware that cedar may stain certain fabrics, so wrap accordingly.

Package with care. Fold neatly, wrapping delicate items in tissue paper, and stuffing boots and handbags to ensure they hold their shape and come out of storage ready to wear next year.

Pack with your next seasonal turnover in mind. For example, group heavier sweaters, winter outerwear, and so forth and place into the least accessible locations. Next, group long-sleeved shirts, lighter sweaters and slacks, and any other transitional clothing to be easily accessible and ready to pull out either for unseasonable or transitional weather days.

If possible, choose dark, dry places to store your containers. Even clothing packed in tightly-sealed plastic can take on permanent musty odors if stored in humid spaces such as basements. For high-value items, consider storing professionally; many dry cleaners will store for free or at very low cost.

Use the turnover of seasons as an opportunity to rethink how you organize your wardrobe. By color? Type of garment? Whole outfits? What has not worked well in the past? Might there be a different system that better suits your personality and lifestyle? While you’re at it, check out different folding techniques that can help you to better optimize your use of space, make it easier to put away laundry, and to see everything you have available when you are trying to to put together that perfect outfit.

The Big Key to Pet-Friendly Cleaning: Rinse Like a PRO

 

Pet Friendly Cleaning

When it comes to pets, house cleaning poses a serious conundrum.

On the one hand, families with pets need to clean more often and with greater rigor. Beyond all the shedding, fur, and dander, pets track in dirt and mud, their paws and claws can harbor pathogens, and sometimes they roll deliberately in yucky things you definitely don’t want on your furniture, floors, and other household surfaces.

On the other hand, harsh cleaning chemicals can be especially toxic to pets. Compared to their humans, household pets typically have faster metabolisms, smaller lungs, are into sniffing and licking things, and simply lack a consciousness of dangers they wouldn’t normally encounter in the wild.

Google the phrase ‘pet-friendly cleaning’ and you’ll find plenty of advice for do-it-yourself (DIY) cleaning solutions often revolving around such ingredients as vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda. A big problem is that many such solutions create only an appearance of clean, meaning they don’t properly disinfect (kill germs) or actually remove dirt and grime that builds up and damages your floors and household surfaces over time. What’s more, to create a fragrance of clean, many DIY recipes rely on essential oils, which pets can’t always metabolize, meaning they can build up rapidly to toxic levels, even causing organ failure.

So, how to ensure both a clean home and healthy pets?

Many articles on pet-friendly cleaning simply advise one to choose solutions that are scent-free, biodegradable, and/or derived exclusively from plants. That’s great starting advice, but we’d take it a few steps further. The key to choosing well is to understand that well-designed household cleaners are chemically engineered to bind with and suspend dirt and oils in water and to be rinsed away completely, leaving minimal residues. Cheap or poorly engineered cleaners (even if they claim to be green or pet-friendly), mops, cloths, and sponges with poor absorbency, and nonprofessional cleaning techniques pose the greatest threats to pets because they can cause toxic residues to be left behind on surfaces.

In choosing cleaning solutions, be sure to look past the pet-friendly labeling to the actual science that ensures a solution is designed chemically to clean effectively and to rinse away completely.

A thorough process for rinsing—something our own cleaning PROs are taught in their training—is one of the best ways to ensure home safety and protection from cleaning chemicals for pets and humans. Be sure to read and follow to the letter any usage instructions accompanying pet-friendly cleaners and use PRO tools and techniques for making sure your surfaces are simultaneously clean and free of chemical residues.

Here at MaidPro, our PROs always arrive equipped with solutions and tools that we have selected carefully for the balance they offer between safety and effectiveness. However, our PROs are always happy to use any alternative cleaning products that our clients leave out with instruction.

MaidPro’s Spring Cleaning Roadmap

Spring Cleaning

First step: Get your head in the game. The good news about spring cleaning is that it’s usually inspired by a combination of three things: stir craziness from being inside for much of the winter, that whole ‘new-growth’ feeling that spring brings, plus a desire to get a bunch of needed tasks out of the way before the high heat – and big fun – of summer come rolling along. You can add to the feeling of inspiration by focusing on the facts that: annual deep cleaning protects the value of your home and health of your family, is a great way to burn extra calories in advance of bathing-suit season, and yields a crisp palette for freshening up your home décor.

What to clean

  • Anything involving textiles – think curtains, drapes, rugs, carpets, bedding, mattresses, pillows, and furniture upholstery – which play host to tons of human and pet dander, dust and dust mites. When possible, expose textiles to fresh air, sunlight and wind.
  • Inside, under and behind all furniture and major appliances, including your refrigerator, oven, dishwasher (decalcify), washing machine (sanitize by running empty with super hot water and plenty of bleach) and clothes-dryer (clean lint venting system thoroughly to remove fire hazard).
  • Clean or replace filters on air conditioning units, water taps and/or inside refrigerators that dispense water and ice.
  • Closets, drawers, kitchen and bathroom cabinets – remove everything; purge unwanted and expired items; clean drawers, floors and shelves before replacing items.
  • Long-term storage areas – basement, attic, garage (take advantage of the numerous donation opportunities that arise in spring).
  • Windows – inside and out.
  • Floors – deep clean and protect or wax (if needed).
  • If you have young kids, spring is also the best time to clean and sanitize their toys.

Whew! That’s a long list, but with good planning and preparation, it can be managed quite easily.

Sequencing your spring clean

Start by making a list of the tasks you know you will never tackle yourself. Schedule appointments with contractors and service providers – for example, carpet and upholstery cleaners, gutter cleaners, landscapers – early before their schedules fill up. Tip: Schedule some of your own big cleaning jobs to coincide with times you know you will be home to host various cleaning contractors.

Purge. Purge. Purge. It’s a lot easier to clean when you’re not inundated with stuff. Figure out ahead of time when opportunities will arise for you to donate unwanted items. Collect boxes and make sure your junk is packed, labeled and ready to go well in advance of donation dates.
Unless you live in a climate that is warm year round, start with less-intensive inside cleaning jobs – closets, drawers, cabinets – that do not require extra ventilation for cleaning solutions.
Schedule the remaining fresh-air-and-sunshine jobs for those first blissful – throw-open-your-windows -weeks of real spring weather. Plan to work in half-day segments so you don’t squander all the good weather on cleaning. And set manageable goals for what you will accomplish in each segment so you don’t fall into the common trap of enthusiastically ripping everything apart, then running out of time or energy before you can get it put back together. Pay particular attention to long-term weather forecasts so you can match tasks to expected conditions. For example, warm, sunny and windy days are perfect for quickly drying damp upholstery, heavy bedding and area rugs outside.

Recruit a help crew

Unless you crave solitude after a winter spent cooped up inside with your family, be sure to enlist plenty of help for big spring cleaning jobs. Adult partners and teenagers should be recruited to haul junk, add extra elbow grease to extra grimy areas and push around larger pieces of furniture and moveable appliances. Younger children can be put to work with organizing and sorting (for example, re-uniting their game pieces, boards, cards, dice, etc.) and moving around lighter items such as pillows, curtains and bedding.
Make a detailed spring-cleaning plan and stick to it using the following MaidPro Spring Cleaning Survival Guide. Come summer you will be absolutely delighted that you did.

Shake Off Those Winter Blahs!

winter blues MaidPro

If you feel unusually tired, unmotivated to go out and exercise, or find you have developed an affinity for binge-watching TV and comfort foods, you might be suffering from a case of winter blues. Here are seven quick ideas to get you out of winter hibernation mode and ready for spring—which, according to Punxsutawney Phil, is right around the corner!

Stop blaming yourself. The shorter days of winter have been altering your circadian rhythms and the complex hormones that regulate sleep, hunger, and feelings of well-being. According to Psych Central, the best way to reset your internal body clock is to allow yourself to wake naturally (versus setting an alarm) at least on weekends and to get at least 20 minutes each day with some skin exposed to direct sunlight. That doesn’t have to be outside. On super cold days, try taking a long drive, sitting near a window, or joining your wise pet for a nap in the sunny spot on the floor.

Buddy up! Ask a person whose company you really enjoy to join you for a daily exercise routine. The social aspect will energize you, and on the days you really don’t feel doing it, your buddy can motivate you and vice versa.

Check your gear. If you shy away from exercising outside in winter, check the quality of your outdoor gear. You’ll be more likely to head outside if you’re confident you’ll be warm and dry the entire time. Is your attire warm enough for all temps? Does it allow for delayering as your body temp rises? Is it designed to wick away perspiration? Does it help you to feel safe from hazards such as snow or ice underfoot and passing vehicles? Having the the gear attire handy for all weathers is a great motivator.

Dress upon waking. When you sit around all morning in comfy slippers and jammies drinking coffee or tea, it’s much harder to persuade yourself to get up and go. Dress for exercise as soon as you rise in the morning and you’ll be far more likely to actually walk out the door.

Discover new winter activities. Skating, skiing, sledding—all are great fun, but have you ever tried snow shoeing? Ice fishing? Maple sugaring? Curling? Winter bird watching or amateur photography? Building a snowman or starting a snowball fight are other great ways to get your heart pumping while you soak up some sunshine in late winter months.

Focus on signs that spring is coming. Maybe it’s a web site that shows day lengths growing by two-and-half minutes each day, browsing seed catalogs for your garden, tuning into the drip, drip of icicles melting, or the gradual return of morning birdsong. Focus on the positive and your mind-body-spirit is bound to follow.

Plan a summer vacation. Maybe it’s a week at the beach, a series of fun day trips, or even a productive stay-cation where you take on a strenuous home project you’ve been meaning to get to for a while. The point is to give yourself something to look forward to and/or something to work toward in terms of optimizing your health and physical fitness.

7 Ideas for a Happy, Healthy Valentine’s Day

MaidPro Nj/DE

This year for Valentine’s Day, instead of focusing on heart-shaped things and material symbols of love, why not plan a day that makes your heart truly sing? Make it all about nurturing the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of your own heart, the ones you love, and even the hearts of pets and people you don’t know. The great thing about such an approach to Valentine’s is that it matters not if you are partnered, single, surrounded by friends and family, or feeling alone in the world just now. Here are a few ideas for making this February 14 a happy, healthy Valentine’s Day:

Renew vows for healthier, happier living. Perhaps you made a New Year’s resolution—to quit unhealthy habits, lose weight, exercise more, eat less sugar and refined carbs—that you have already let go. It’s never too late to get back on track, so make February 14 the day you forgive yourself for transgressions and renew the vows you made to honor and care for own physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Cook at home. One of the heart-healthiest things you can do for yourself and your family is to cook real foods from scratch at home where you control menu choices, ingredients, flavors, and portion sizes. If you’re not the greatest cook or need to lighten up your repertoire, make a Valentine’s date for yourself—and maybe a mate—for a heart-healthy cooking class. If you’re already handy in the kitchen, spend quality time with loved ones finding and experimenting with new heart-healthy recipes and finding different ways to add flavor to food with healthy spices and seasonings rather than excess fats and sodium.

Get active. Research shows that a moderate-intensity walk or hike can yield the same heart-healthy benefits as high-intensity running. It’s also a great way to escape distracting devices, chores, and other cares, and share quality time and conversation with the ones you love. If it’s too cold to go outside, find ways to get active inside: climbing stairs, dancing, or practicing yoga with an app or online video.

Go outside. Wintertime depression is closely tied to a lack of Vitamin D, which your body manufactures from exposure to natural sunlight. If your winter climate is cold, you might be especially susceptible to the February blues. Hiking, sledding, skating, skiing, and even ice fishing are all great ways to get outside, boost vitamin D stores, and tend to your heart happiness on Valentine’s Day.

Give compliments. How often have you thought of nice things to say to people, but, for some reason, just never said them? Resolve to spend Valentine’s Day looking for reasons to appreciate people in your life and then following through and verbalizing the compliments—or, if you are really shy, writing them. While you are at it, be sure to find a few compliments for yourself.

Do anonymous acts of kindness. While, for many, Valentine’s means grand romance, it can be a hugely painful day for anyone suffering loss, grief, or loneliness. The act of making others happy—without taking credit—always rebounds to the giver, so resolve to spend at least part of your Valentine’s Day doing random, anonymous acts of kindness for those who really need it.

Practice gratitude. One of the best ways to relieve stress, to make your heart sing, and improve heart health is to spend a few moments of each day in a state of pure appreciation and gratitude for all you have—be it your partner, family, friends, acquaintances, knowledge, talent, passions, possessions, and life itself. If you don’t do this regularly already, let Valentine’s be the day you start a new habit of daily gratitude and appreciation.

More Great Activities for When Your Kids are Stuck Inside

fort-small

Rain, snow, and cold weather often translate into more inside time for kids. Unfortunately, it often means more screen time, sedentary behaviors, unhealthy snacking, and ‘I’m bored’ complaints. Our November holiday postincludes a host of great non-screen activities for kids. Here are a few more ideas for keeping your kids occupied in positive ways on foul-weather days this winter:

Reading three ways. (1) Start a reading challenge where kids earn markers (such as stickers) for each book they finish. Offer non-material rewards for reaching specific goals: for 10 books, a favorite meal for dinner; for 15 books, the privilege of choosing what to watch on family movie night. (2) Select a beloved book somewhat above your kids’ reading levels, get cozy, and read it aloud. (3) Download a free kids classic audiobook and settle back to listen while a professional with lots of great voices makes the story jump right off the pages.

Build a fort. Gather a big pile of blankets, comforters, sheets, and pillows. Give kids permission to move furniture to add structure and let them go wild building an intricate blanket fort. They’ll play in it for hours, but be prepared when they want to sleep there too!

Cook or bake. Involve kids in cooking and baking projects. Let them do all the measuring and mixing, and demonstrate how to safely use knives, mixers, burners, and ovens. Teach other things, too. For example, what does each ingredient add to a recipe in terms of nutrition, flavor, and function? How is baking a lot like being a chemist?

Teach them to clean. Teach kids how to operate real household appliances such as a vacuum cleaner, washer, or clothes dryer. If vacuuming, let them explore what each attachment does and explain what it means to do a thorough job of vacuuming. Show them how to sort, wash, dry, and fold laundry. As an incentive to learn and help, let them keep any loose change they find under cushions or in pockets. If you do this when kids are still relatively young and eager to learn, they’ll have fewer excuses for not helping around the house in their teen years.

Introduce ‘old-fashioned’ games. You might not have many board games lying around the house anymore, but there is plenty you can do with a simple deck of cards. Rediscover the joys of playing Go Fish, Crazy Eights, Slapjack, Rummy, Blackjack, Solitaire, Spit, and so many more. You can also encourage kids to research, learn, and practice cool magic card tricks.

Online learning. If your kids simply must use their screens, encourage them to spend at least part of the time learning and practicing valuable digital skills such as photo or video editing, making music, animation, orkeyboarding (typing with all ten fingers without looking down). There are literally thousands of great, free tutorials available on YouTube and other sites.

Tips for Keeping Kids Occupied During Holiday Gatherings

MaidPro Holiday

If you have ever hosted a large holiday gathering featuring kids as guests, you’ll know they tend to feed off each other’s energies and create chaos. Here are some ideas for helping the kids at your holiday gathering to channel their energies in positive—and occasionally quiet—directions:

Crafts. Have a few age-appropriate, easy table craft projects set up before kids arrive. The key is to make sure the crafts can be done independently or with help only from elder children in the group. Pick crafts with practical applications, such as holiday decorations or this TP-roll winter bird feeder.

Science experiments. It’s a fair bet that not every kid in your group will have an interest in doing crafts. Where crafts fail, science experiments often succeed! For inspiration, check out these recipes for play snow, dissolving candy cane experiment, making frozen bubbles, or this collection of 20+ winter science experiments for kids.

Hunts. Kids need to move, so plan at least a few activities that promote big positive motion. You might organize a candy cane or similar type of hunt. If entertaining during the day, you can send kids outside to collect pinecones, acorns, evergreen branches, and other seasonal items you might use to decorate your home for winter. Offer an incentive prize to the kid who collects the most, but have plenty of consolation prizes to avoid drama and meltdowns!

Group exercise. There’s also a very good chance the kids at your holiday party will consume more sugar than they are accustomed to doing. Soon after you serve dessert, suggest a group walk outside. Or, crank up a contemporary playlist for a 20-30 minute dance party to help the kids—and any willing adults—at your gathering to burn extra energy just as their glucose levels are spiking.

Talent show. Most kids these days participate in a host of extracurricular pursuits—music, dance, martial arts, singing, sports, and so forth—and love to show off their accomplishments. Provide a quite space far removed from the adult party (playroom, basement, etc.) and encourage the kids to collaborate on developing a talent show to put on for the adults. Let parents know in advance in case they need to bring instruments or other items, and provide props such as costumes, microphones, and music clips, and encourage the kids to spend sufficient time planning and rehearsing their show.

Recruit kids into service. Kids love to play in adult roles, such as waiters and waitresses. Use this to your advantage, recruiting them to make place cards and seating arrangements, escort people to their seats, take beverage orders, pass hors d’oeuvres plates, and to help set and clear your table.

Games. Most kids are quite capable of making their own fun in groups. When fights break out—as they are wont to do—organized games are a great way to quickly restore peace and harmony. Provide a distinctive holiday item that the kids can take turns hiding in creative places for others to find while taking ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ directions from people in the know. Or set up a game of indoor snowball toss.

The possibilities are endless. All you need is a little creativity, research, and planning to keep kid-driven chaos to a minimum at your next holiday gathering.

DIY Scents to Make Your Home Like the Holidays

WinterScents_small

Ever wonder why particular aromas have the power to instantly evoke cherished childhood memories? It’s because your sense of smell is the only one of the five with a direct connection to your mood, memory, behavior, and emotion. With the incredible power of smell in mind, here are six easy and inexpensive techniques to fill your home with evocative holiday and winter scent combinations.

Simmer pots. A scented simmer pot consists of nothing more than water, fruits/fruit rinds, fresh herbs, and spices, simmering gently on a back burner, in a crock pot, or atop a wood-burning stove. It’s likely you already have most of the ingredients for a yummy smelling simmer pot or can easily find them at your local grocer’s. Think: cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, star anise, fresh ginger root, vanilla beans; baking extracts such as vanilla, almond, or peppermint; and fruits such lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, apples, and cranberries. The possible scent combinations are endless. Be inspired by this simple winter recipe.

Potpourri. The word translates as ‘rotten pot,’ following a 17th century French custom of collecting and layering fragrant herbs and plants over the course of spring and summer, allowing them to ferment and mold, then mixing in aromatic spices in the fall and winter to scent rooms. Contemporary potpourris favor drying over fermenting and molding of plant materials – something you can accomplish quite easily in your oven on low heat with a baking sheet and parchment paper. Check out these winter spice and aromatic winter potpourri recipes.

DIY scented candles. You could spend upwards of thirty bucks on one great-smelling holiday candle. Or you can spend a great deal less making dozens of winter-scent combos to either burn in your own home or give as holiday and hostess gifts. DIY scented candles are a great way to use up mason or jelly jars and other beautiful containers you might have lying around the house or can pick up for next to nothing at yard sales and thrift shops. If melting wax seems like too much work, try this simple technique for making scented olive-oil candles.

Essential-oil combos. Used for thousands of years in spiritual, cosmetic and natural health practices, essential oils are thought to represent the purest essences of plants. They also happen to smell wonderful. Only a few drops will go a long way to scenting a room and there are countless combinations of essential oils you can assemble to evoke happy holiday and winter feelings. Do read up on safety precautions when using essential oils, as some can be unfriendly to pets, children, and the elderly. Some simple ways to diffuse winter and holiday essential oil combinations are with a DIY reed diffuser, creating your own EO-based room air spritzers, or using essential oils to make classic winter decorations such as cinnamon-scented pinecones.

Scented fire starters. If you have a traditional fireplace or outdoor fire pit, consider creating your own scented fire starters to layer comforting, traditional winter scents over the smell of burning wood. You can create dry sachets, plant and herb bundles, or these aromatic wax fire starters. Note: scented fire starters are not for use in gas fireplaces or enclosed wood-burning stoves.