Sheets and pillowcases ought to be washed once a week. It’s a good idea to do it on a specific day; that way it becomes part of your routine.
A 60C cycle is best for cottons, particularly if you have an asthma-related condition (anything below this temperature probably won’t kill dust mites).
Duvets should be washed once a year. A single size can usually go in the washing machine but anything bigger will have to be taken to the launderette. Make sure it’s completely dried before using again, if particularly down- or feather-filled. And dry quickly because if not the feathers can go mouldy, which will give a nasty smell you’ll never get rid of. Avoid dry-cleaning duvets because the solvent will leave a residue on the feathers.
Pillows will be filled with either feather, down or synthetic material. See the label for wash instructions, but normally you’ll be able to wash two at a time. Once or twice a year will be enough. Again, dry thoroughly and as quickly as possible to avoid mould. You may notice a difference in the weight post-wash! Pillow protectors are well worth using between washes.
Headboards can take on marks where a greasy head has been in contact. If it’s fabric, spot clean with an upholstery cleaner, but don’t overwet or you could end up with watermarks. If veneer or vinyl, wipe with warm soapy water and dry with a clean cotton cloth.
The space under the bed will get very dusty so pull out everything about once a month, and move the bed to one side to vacuum thoroughly. This will keep moths and carpet beetles away, and the dustmites under control.
Mattresses can end up looking pretty nasty. Unless the label says ‘Do not turn’, turn it over every three months to extend its life (and your comfort). Vacuuming it will make a huge difference to reducing the dustmite population. If you don’t have one already, use a mattress protector (waterproof for young children or anyone with incontinence problems). To remove stains, use a foamy mix of hand-wash detergent. Don’t overwet. Make sure it is completely dry before making up the bed again (use a hairdryer to speed things up). If there are any nasty smells there, sprinkle with bicarbonate of soda, leave a few hours then vacuum off.
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Phone (plus case)
Tablet (plus case)
Dishcloths/washing up brushes/floor mops
Backs of chairs
Liquid’s good for greasy stains and as a spot cleaner and pre-treater. Powder is cheaper and fine for general loads and households free of small children and food stains.
When you’re washing corduroy trousers, turn them inside out to avoid crushing the pile. Use a warm cycle, a relatively low spin, then iron on the wrong side of the fabric to further protect the pile.
Next time you’re cooking pasta, use my tried-and-tested method. Bring it to the boil, turn off the heat under the pan and leave for exactly 20 minutes before draining. You’ll save both fuel and the bother of testing to see when it’s ready!
Foot traffic and sunshine can make a rug look tired. Turn it round once or twice a year to even out the wear.
Do you have clothes that smell musty? Or soft furnishings that reek of cigarette smoke? Get them fresh again by pouring some neat vodka into a spray bottle, spritz your item lightly and leave to dry. Any odours should be neutralized, and it’s cheaper than a trip to the dry cleaner!
I love making jam and now it’s chutney time, the preserving continues. The best way of reducing time/faff/question marks over setting is with a Thermapen (jam is set at 105C). They’re not cheap – from £36; thermapen.co.uk – but are professional quality, super-quick and dead accurate. A great present for a jam-maker.
If you’ve mislaid your bookmark, cut a corner from an old envelope and slide over the page you’re at. No more folded-over pages and a cute way to use up old envelopes.
Do you have a favourite wooden spoon that’s looking past its best? Bring it back to life by wiping generously with warmed olive oil, then put it in a medium oven for a couple of minutes.
If your vacuum cleaner isn’t doing its job as well as usual, check the hose for blockages: disconnect it and drop a coin down. If the coin comes out the other end, it’s not the hose to blame!
Now you can easily create professional-looking cappuccinos at home with Aerolatte stencils. The set of six, dishwasher-proof and shaped to sit on most cups, includes a heart and a leaf. £5.99 from Amazon.co.uk.