Make Cleaning Your Home Easier With Old Wives Cleaning Tips

When it comes to cleaning our homes, we all have our own ways of doing it. Some of us will tackle one room at a time, others will polish everywhere and then vacuum. However you clean your house, wouldn’t it be great if you had a few tips and tricks to make the process quicker and easier.

Over the last month, eSpares ran a competition on Birmingham Favourites to find the best “old wives tales” to help with cleaning. Below are a select few of the entries, including the winning entry from Norman Cherry PhD DA MCSD FRSA CRODCP.

Clean Your Windows...Without the Streaks:

On a bright spring morning, nothing beats sitting eating your breakfast and looking out onto the garden – as it becomes a hotbed of colour and nature. Yet many of us are greeted by dirty or streaky windows.

Whatever specialist window cleaning products we use, the results still seem to be the same – smears and streaks are left. But this doesn’t need to be the case, ditch the specialist cleaning products and instead follow the advice outlined, by Kathleen, below...

“Add a splash of washing up liquid and a splash of white vinegar into a bowl of warm water. Use this to clean your windows, before polishing them with old newspaper”

Remove Odours from Your Carpets:

When you vacuum your floors you remove roughly 80% of the dirt which is on them, but vacuuming alone doesn’t remove odours which may have sunk into the fibres and leave an unpleasant aroma within the room.

Looking to tackle a smelly carpet (or rug)? Keith has the answer...

“Sprinkle bicarbonate of soda over your carpets and rugs, leaving the bicarbonate of soda for 15 minutes before vacuuming. You’ll be left with clean and odour free carpets.”

Tackle the Dust:

Dusting, do you do it before you vacuum or once you’ve vacuumed? If you do it before, any dust which falls on the floor can be removed but it always seems that you need to dust again straight afterwards. If you leave the dusting until after you’ve vacuumed any dust which falls onto the floor remains there, leaving the room looking untidy.

The solution, according to the winning “old wives tale” sent in by Norman, is to not dust. Norman explains...

“After two months, dust no longer grows on your stuff, so just ignore it. This was allegedly practised by the late Quentin Crisp, but my late friend the author Oppi Untracht DID practice this.  I visited his apartment in Porvoo, Finland, and was so impressed by how well it worked that I resolved to try it out myself - and it DOES indeed work.  Think of how much time we could all save if we gave it a try - even only for a couple of months............ and, if we normally employ cleaners, how much money we would save.”

The team at eSpares would like to thank everyone who took part in this competition, and remember if you’re looking for advice and tips on cleaning or maintaining your household appliances, visit the eSpares blog.

By Michael Younger, Copywriter by nature and Twitter user (@myounger14)

Laundry Made Simple With Laundrapp

The "L" word, it sparks fear into a lot of us - particularly males. Our palms become sweaty, our minds race and we begin to panic, often fumbling around hoping that we're doing it right.

Of course, I'm talking about laundry. It's something which I'll hold my hands up to not being very good at. I understand and can do the basics, such as splitting up dark clothing from the white clothing and I know never to add a red item to white laundry. I'm also fairly nifty at hanging the washing out once it has been done. But that bit in the middle, involving the strange white contraption in the kitchen (also known as the washing machine) has me bamboozled.

Thankfully there's now an app to help with the laundry, known as Laundrapp.

You may remember last month we had a competition for one lucky reader to win the chance to get their laundry done for free. The good people behind Laundrapp also offered Birmingham Favourites the chance to review the service - and I snapped up the chance.

After receiving a special code as part of the review, I began to flick through the app (which I'd downloaded onto my smart phone), in the hope of making a decision on which of the laundry we had should be sent off to be washed.

The list of packages on offer, combined with the great prices offered, made it hard to decide. For example, an 8kg bag of laundry (excluding bedding and towels), which is washed on a 30 degree wash and tumble dried, can be done for £14.50, whilst a two-piece suit can be washed for as little as £11.

After some careful consideration, I opted to get a tie washed (okay, I'd just spilt something on it, leaving a greasy mark) and a blanket which is used as part of Tilly's (our pooches) bed. As you can imagine, Tilly's blanket had a bit of a doggy whiff to it, so it seemed a bit of a challenge as to how clean they could get it.

Before completing the order, Tilly tweeted Laundrapp to see if her blanket was classed as a blanket by them - and they were quick to respond, with a nice personal tweet too. So far, so good!

Confirmation received that the blanket was good to go, the process continued. First selecting a collection day and time, followed by a delivery day and time. Laundrapp has a range of options available with hour time slots, making it easier to arrange for your laundry to be collected and delivered to fit in with a busy schedule.

Navigating throughout the app was easy to do, as was adding the payment details - without having to click on lots of boxes which many sites require making them almost impossible to use on a phone.

With the order placed, a confirmation email was quickly sent from Laundrapp confirming details of order - with the collection of the laundry coming a few days later.

Although the collection of our laundry was slightly later than we'd requested, the service cannot be faulted. And with the items back with us, there are no complains.

The tie is as clean as the day I purchased it, whilst Tilly's blanket is spotless, smelling fresh and extremely soft. Tilly seems to approve too.

Overall, a top service from Laundrapp - and a service I would highly recommend for anyone who wants to take the chore of laundry out of their lives!

Find out what Tilly thinks of @Laundrapp by tweeting her @T1lly_dog

By Michael Younger, Copywriter by nature, Twitter user (@myounger14) & laundry novice.

Laundry Competition

Want to get your laundry done for free?

To celebrate Laundrapp launching in Birmingham, they are offering one of our lucky readers the chance to have their laundry done FREE!

Simply tell us about your worst laundry disaster and the best one wins! Send us your laundry disaster confession (include photos if you have any!)

Email us or Tweet @BrumFaves before midnight on Friday 24th July


  • Winner receives a £30 voucher to use with Laundrapp Birmingham
  • To be eligible, your email address will be added to our Faves list (here)
  • One entry per household please
  • Only people who live in the Laundrapp area are eligible (Check your area here)
  • Deadline for entries is midnight, 24 July 2015. The winner will be announced on Friday 31st July 2015.

Keeping House: Cleaning Tips from Chef Nick Part 2

See part one of Nick's cleaning tips here

Part two of  the cleanings stars with the dreaded post-Christmas oven clean.  Open the oven door, and remove the shelves.  Leave them to soak in a sink full of detergent and very hot water.  If you have a vacuum with a hose attachment, run it around the inside of the oven, to pick up any loose carbon or whatever is inside.  Now, apply your oven cleaner according to the instructions on the bottle.  Use extreme caution, and always wear gloves!  

This stuff is full of abrasive chemicals.  Clean your oven as directed by the instructions.  Scrub it hard and all the gunge will scrape off.  Scrub your oven shelves with wire wool until the blackness and stickiness is just a bad memory.  Replace them in the oven.

Done all that?  You have earned a cup of tea and a five minute sit down.

Right, let's crack on.  Deep fat fryers need their oil changing every week or two, depending on how often you use them.  Empty the oil into a container, never down the sink!  (It will set like concrete the drainage system).  Then empty the container into a hole in the back garden.  Or keep a container by the bin to store it until you can dispose of it in the proper area.  Clean the insides out with hot water and detergent, using a green scourer (never wire wool).  Dry it out very thoroughly with paper kitchen towel.  And refill with fresh oil.

If you have a kitchen air-vent, it will need a good scrub with detergent hot water and a green scourer.  These things pick up dirt and grease like you would not believe.

Next the sink and drainer.  Change the water and detergent you have been cleaning with, and get fresh, piping hot water and detergent  Take some wire wool and start with the drainer, working along the grooves, scrub it hard, all the way down, along the corners.  Now do the sides of the sink, scrub them like hell, and finally the bottom of the basin. Run some water down the draining board and wash it down into the sink.  Wash out the basin with fresh water and allow to dry on its own.

Finally, the big job.  The floor.  First, open a window, this is important for safety.  Take a mop bucket, and squirt in a little bleach  Add boiling water.  Drop some water on to the floor, minding your feet.  Take the long handled deck-scrubbing brush and start in the far corner.  Scrub the floor from one corner and work your way backwards towards the door.  If the water is hot enough if will evaporate very quickly indeed.  

Well done, you have earned the rest of the afternoon off.  Good food always starts with a clean kitchen.

Catch up with Nick on @Nick1975 or take a look at his website

Keeping House: Cleaning tips from Chef Nick

Well hello, you lovely lot.  I hope your year has got off to a good start?  We have lots of delicious food to cook this year, including plenty of warm food coming up soon plus a romantic meal for two in February.  From there we will be getting in to spring chicken and then start on the summer months.  Trust me, the time will fly by.


But first and foremost, we need to deep clean the kitchen.

No one likes the grungy jobs, but they are highly necessary as a kitchen can acquire an awful lot of dirt and germs in a relatively short space of time.

You will need at least the following:

  • Green scourer pads
  • Rubber gloves
  • Wire wool
  • Bleach
  • Oven cleaner
  • Disinfectant spray
  • Sponges
  • J-cloths
  • Cling film
  • Detergent
  • Lots of hot water
  • Kitchen roll

Let's start with the cupboards, and the top shelf.  Remove every item, and check the dates of everything.  If anything is out of date, throw it out.  If you have any open packets, cling film the inner bag to keep them fresh.  

Take a bowl, add a little washing up liquid or mild detergent, and top up with very warm water.  (I use it out of a kettle)  Apply your gloves, take a green scourer and scrub the shelves clean.  This cleans off any sticky marks or loose flour and crumbs that every cupboard picks up.  Dry with kitchen roll. When you are done, wipe the bottom of every jar and bottle. This will save you having to do the whole job again in a week.

Open the fridge and repeat the actions as above.  Check every packet, every bottle and every container.  Smell test everything that is open.  If it smells less than at its best, throw it. Make sure that all sealable containers are sealed properly.  Remove the shelves, and scrub them thoroughly.  Rinse them clean under the tap and dry with kitchen roll.  Now clean out the interior of the fridge with a green scourer and hot water and detergent.  Dry the outside with kitchen roll.

Freezers need defrosting every six weeks.  Remove what is inside it.  If you can use it up, do so.  If not, then you need to find another freezer for your stuff, for a night.  What you need to do is turn it off, and leave the damn thing alone.  Just place an old towel in the base to soak up the drainage water.  Don't pick the ice off, don't take a knife to it, just leave it with the door ajar.  After 24 hours it will be free of ice and back in perfect working order.

If you have a fridge freezer combination, remember to remove everything from your fridge too, or it will spoil.

Part two coming up once you've taken care of this little lot. Contact Nick via Twitter @Nick1975 or take a look at his website.

Be sure to send your before & after photos to @BrumFaves or comment below!

Recipe: Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto

Can’t face the rush of booking a table for Valentine’s day?  We don’t blame you, I mean, few can afford such extravagance! Instead, we have a very simple, recipe for you to wow with.

Firstly, remember, Valentine’s day cannot be done by halves.  Find yourself a decent, clean table-cloth and spread it so the central crease is in the middle.  Place the salt and pepper over this, and how about a small flower in a vase or candles in a strong base?

You need two decent sized, clean plates and clean, well-polished cutlery.  You can even check the table is stable and the  chairs and floor are clean.  These things matter, trust me.

So, onwards and upwards. You need:

  • One hour’s cooking time.
  • One punnet of closed cap mushrooms, chopped and diced.
  • Vegetarian stock cubes (I recommend Knorr)
  • risotto  rice
  • Two sticks of celery and a large white onion
  • One large free range egg
  • Three sticks of asparagus
  • One teaspoon of Pesto
  • Vinegar, and seasonings.

Nick Gilmartin risotto cooking collage


  1. To start with, take a deep, thick based pan and put on to heat.  Add a very small amount of oil.
  2. Dice the onion thinly, along with the celery and the mushrooms.
  3. Fry the onions and celery first, until the onions are brown and the celery is soft.  Add the mushrooms and continue to fry.  You may wish to add half a cup of water to give a little steam.
  4. Boil a pint and a half of water, place into a jug with two stock cubes.  Stir them and break them down with a spoon.  Add to the pan and allow to simmer.  If it starts to boil, reduce heat immediately and keep stirring.
  5. Now add a cup and a half of Risotto rice.  It might not look much at first but it expands quickly.  It also absorbs a lot of the juice.  If the Risotto looks a little claggy, add a few drops of water.  But it will need to be firm.  Stir in a teaspoon of Pesto and green herbs, such as oregano, if you like
  6. Boil a second pan of water, add a little salt and place three sticks of asparagus in it.  Cook them until they are just a little soft.  When they are nice and soft, dry them off.  First, cut off the woody ends.  Then cut the stalks in half.  Place to one side, somewhere warm.  Take the boiling water off the heat.
  7. Using the same water and pan, add 50 ml of vinegar and carefully break an egg into the centre of the pan.  Stir very carefully so the egg poaches.  You know it is poached when it is firm, but not hard.  When it is done, place it on  saucer and dry very carefully with a paper towel.  Just dab it.
  8. Take the plate and warm it slightly.  Place a wide cookie cutter or collar in the centre of the plate.  Carefully ladle the risotto into the middle of the collar and spread it down with a spoon so that it completely fills the space.  Place the base ends of the asparagus stalks in a triangle shape around the risotto and remove the collar.  Carefully, using a spoon, place the poached egg on the flat top of the risotto.  Top this with half a twist of black pepper.  Finally take the top ends of the asparagus and prop them up against the risotto at an angle.  (If this does not work, just lay them down flat)

And, enjoy!

By chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.

Library of Birmingham – a green building for the future

Everyone loves the Library of Birmingham, recently voted as building of the year by readers of Architects’ Journal. Did you realise that it is the most environmentally friendly new building Birmingham has seen?
The most eye-catching environmental features are the living roofs.  They deliberately mimic the local topography, geology and flora, to attract invertebrates and birds that live locally.  The Discovery Terrace on Level 3 and the Secret Garden on Level 7, grow flowers that occur in wild areas around the canals and railways, along with fruit and aromatic herbs such as dill, sage and lavender which people grow in courtyards and window boxes around city centre apartments.  Level 10 features a brown roof, a rubble-strewn post-industrial landscape, to attract one of Birmingham’s most rare and iconic birds, the Black Redstart.  Bird boxes attract local species including the peregrine falcon.  Using three levels reflects the geodiversity of Birmingham – a ‘city of soft hills’, as described by Library architect Francine Houben.  The living roofs insulate in winter, cool in summer and alleviate flood risk by absorbing rainwater.

The Library opened during a mini-heatwave in September 2013.  How many modern buildings over-heat at the mere hint of summer?  Not so the Library of Birmingham.  Once more the Library works with the local environment rather than against it, to achieve a comfortable working temperature.  Cold groundwater from an aquifer under Broad Street is used to provide low-carbon air conditioning to the building.

The building is connected to the Broad Street Combined Heat and Power network (CHP).  This is a mini power station, which, unlike conventional power stations, re-uses the waste heat from electricity generation.  The CHP also supplies efficient, low-carbon electricity and heat to the ICC, the Rep theatre, the Hyatt, and other buildings around Broad Street.

These features helped the Library to achieve a prestigious ‘Excellent’ rating its the BREAAM sustainable buildings assessment.  Other environmentally friendly features include maximising daylight and natural ventilation, rainwater harvesting, and minimising energy used in construction.  Wind turbines and solar panels are good things but the Library shows that there are many ways to minimise the environmental impact of a building.

Of course, not everyone can use an aquifer to cool their building, or construct a living roof on their home.  But everyone can be inspired to do something to save energy and water, especially if you do things in the right order:

-        Don’t use energy and water that you don’t need.  Use your heating controls.  Don’t spend too long in the shower.  Leave the car at home if possible.

-        Use energy more efficiently.  Insulate the walls and roof of your home.  Use energy efficient appliances and heating systems.

-        When you’ve done the first two, then you can consider using renewable energy – solar hot water systems or solar electricity are a good investment.

The Library of Birmingham shows the future for high-quality, low carbon buildings in cities like Birmingham.

By Phil Beardmore who can be reached on @philbeardmore or take a look at his blog here.

Shining Light on Crafting in Birmingham

By Rickie Everyone is at it. Crafting, that is! So a couple of weeks ago, I went along to Cow Studio (Creative Open Workshops) in the Jewellery Quarter who teach you to make everything from dresses to bags to jewellery or in my case, a lampshade. Fed up with not finding what I wanted in the shops, I'm learning to make my own!

Cow lampshade Collage

The ever-patient and knowledgeable Francine from CoW  talked us through what we'll be doing and we set about choosing our material to make the shade with (top right). You also have the option to take your own in although it's sheer co-incidence that three of us chose shades of blue/green!

While we're learning and making, all the participants chat and it's a great atmosphere, a world away from my normal  city bustle and actually quite therapeutic. We soon go from a blank sheet of special paper and white rings (middle and bottom right) to what appears in front of you in the larger photo.

It took less than two hours to have something looking like a shade in front of us and we go out into the evening air about half an hour after that with our efforts in our hands, ready to take pride of place in our homes.

So now I know how to make a lampshade I really want to make more. Does anyone need one?

To find out more about all of the CoW Studio take a look at their website. Remember to come back and tell us what you made!

Rickie J can be contacted via @BrumFaves or @RickieWrites  or find out more here