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Here are six ways you can spruce up your home with little effort or money:

  1. Remove the ring from your toilet bowl. Few problems around the house are as unsightly as that dirty ring—and there’s no reason for anyone to ever see it. Just pour cup of white vinegar over the stain, and then sprinkle a cup of borax over that. Let it stand for two hours. Then use a toilet brush to scrub the area and flush. Keep the ring away by pouring a cup of vinegar into the bowl once a week and letting it stand overnight.
  2. Hang pictures straight and securely. Loose, wobbly pictures, shelves and even wall-mounted TV sets are beyond an eyesore; they’re a danger to anyone who walks by when they fall off the wall. Before you hang anything on a wall, find a wood stud behind the wall to attach it to. The best way: Invest $15 or so in an electronic stud finder. It’s a tool that measures the density of a wall and beeps or blinks when it touches a place where the wall is thicker because it’s reinforced by a wooden stud, which is part of the wall’s wooden frame—hidden behind the drywall. Drywall alone isn’t sturdy enough to hold your heavy hangings in place. Attach your hooks and hangers to the drywall where it’s reinforced by studs.
  3. Patch torn window screens. You can replace the entire window screen if you have time, but until then, this is an easy chore that you can take care of with a pair of scissors and an upholstery needle. Just cut a small piece of screen mesh from a new or discarded screen; it should measure about an inch wider and longer than the torn part of the screen you’re patching. Use a piece of wire from the replacement screen or sturdy, invisible finishing thread and a curved upholstery needle to stick the patch right over the tear. Fasten the two screens together as closely as possible. Finish it off with a double knot.
  4. Seal granite countertops. I hear people say they won’t buy granite countertops because they have to have them sealed every year or so. The fact is, this step is a simple, do-it-yourself job. Sealer comes pre-mixed in bottles. To apply it, thoroughly clean the granite, soak a sponge with the sealer and flood the surface with it. Don’t allow the sealer to pool. Note how long it takes for the granite to absorb the sealer. If it takes less than five minutes, apply more. After 10 minutes, blot the remaining sealer and buff the stone dry with a terrycloth towel. Allow it to dry for 12 hours. Repeat every year or two.
  5. Clean and seal tile grout. Even if you keep your tile floor clean enough to eat off of, the grout has a way of holding on to dirt—and looking dirty. You can solve that problem with a good, stiff brush (even a toothbrush will work) and some grout cleaner from a flooring store. Use a mild solution of 10 parts water to one part cleaner. Once you have cleaned the grout, seal it with a colored grout stain. Apply the stain with a brush and wipe drips from the surface of the tile as you go along—before they dry. Stains color the grout, make it look brand new, hide the dirt and act as a sealer.
  6. Remove limescale from sinks and faucets. If your sink faucets or drains have collected a scaly white residue around the rim, Arizona’s hard water has formed limescale in your plumbing system. It’s an ugly, hardened mess, but it’s pretty easy to clean off. All you’ll need is some white vinegar. Soak a few cotton balls with vinegar and wedge them into the faucet and around the dirty drains. Leave them there for at least an hour. The limescale should easily wipe away. 


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