tips + tricks

inspired by: modern naturals

posted October 9, 2013 by meagan |




our modern naturals collection for Target was inspired by the organic patterns and textures found in nature: wood grains, natural stone, fall and winter foliage, and ancient textiles. just in time for fall, we found these simple ideas for incorporating the warm, rustic modern naturals sensibility into your home decor. our silver birch, plumeria, or dulce de leche hand wash would look perfect next to that marble sink, don’t you think?

clockwise from the top: 1 | | 3 |  4 |  5 |  6 |  7

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ditch dirt at the door

posted October 1, 2013 by meagan |

shoes in entryway


quick tip: shoe track in tons of dirt, grime, and toxins, especially in urban areas. ditch dirt at the door by creating a space for shoes and boots in the entryway with a decorative metal or water-proofed tray. keep the area nice and tidy in preparation for autumn rains and cold weather.

photo credit: Real Simple
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say buh-bye to tarnish

posted August 13, 2013 by fred |

tarnished silverware

sooner or later, someone is bound to put some real silver in the dishwasher. and sooner or later, that silver will tarnish.  it’s a hit or miss thing; it’s not so much about the dishwasher detergent as it is about the combination of metals that you put in there.  complex chemistry happens when you combine soft metals like silver, copper, brass and aluminum with the other metals that normally find their way into the washer.  each pair of metals forms a little ‘battery’.  if you happen to land on a bad combination, the result can be tarnished metals. the risk is especially high if there is sulfide in your water, which is easily identified by a “sulfury” smell.

what is tarnish?  it’s silver sulfide, mostly.  it’s a brown-green smutty coating on metals.

how does tarnish happen?  tarnish happens when a silver surface gets etched by the battery effect of certain types of metals together.  the freed silver meets some of the natural impurities in your water to coat things as tarnish.  it can even happen slowly in air.  the good news is that tarnish is fairly self-limiting, meaning the build-up gets slower and slower over time. tarnish can not only coat silver, but other metals and even the interior of your dishwasher.

is it safe to use dishes from a dishwasher that has tarnish in it?  yes.  there is not enough metal from tarnish to act as anything but a supplement.

how do I fix it?  we’re glad you asked.  we have an easy, natural home remedy to get rid of tarnish.

the flatware:  fill a glass or enamel-coated pan with a few inches of 100-200 degree water. shake in enough baking soda to create a thin layer on the pan; cover the baking soda with a piece of aluminum foil, making sure the foil is immersed and also touching the baking soda underneath.  now, lay your tarnished silverware on the foil.  you won’t believe your eyes –  the tarnish will rapidly convert back to silver*.  essentially, you just set up a little kitchen battery to push things in the other direction from what happened in the dishwasher.  pretty cool, huh?.

*note from our lab: if the flatware trick doesn’t remove the film, it probably wasn’t tarnish in the true chemical sense.

the dishwasher: did you get a brown-green coating in the dishwasher at the same time as the tarnish on your silver.  relax!  you can fix that, too.  grab a liter bottle of 3% peroxide.  measure 6 ounces of lime or lemon juice into a small bowl.  start your dishwasher on a normal cycle (not an energy-saver cycle), empty of dishes.  after one minute into the first full cycle, stop the dishwasher.  Open the door and pour the peroxide and citrus juice into the water at the bottom.  act quickly in case your washers drain automatically when you open the door.  close the door immediately and resume the cycle.  this trick turns sulfides into soluble sulfates to safe go down the drain. boom, done.

if you try these tips for tarnish, let us know what you think in the comments.

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hard water, no problem

posted November 15, 2012 by fred |

hard water is a common conundrum, but how do you know if you have it? and what are you supposed to do about it? as usual, science has the answer.

what is hard water?
hard water has had contact with the earth for enough time to absorb and dissolve some minerals. in short, it’s mineral laden, or “hard.”

is that bad?
hard water leaves deposits when it gets warmed. it also interferes with some styles of soaps and detergents. have you ever stayed at a hotel where suddenly your shampoo won’t lather up like usual or rinse out as well? that would be hard water. so, no, it’s not great.

how did hard water get that way?
the earth does a great job of cleaning and filtering water for us. somewhere along its path, it flows over or through some rock, dissolving a little bit as it goes.

how do I know if I have hard water?
your home will tell you. do you have white deposits in your coffee maker? crusty stalactites on the showerhead? rings around your faucets? discoloration in the dishwasher? you can think of these chalky deposits as little presents from the earth or you can admit you have hard water.

I admit it. I have hard water. how should I deal with it?

remove hard water deposits
the gentle and most natural way to get rid of these marks is an old standby, white vinegar. just a few minutes of soaking and a little elbow grease with a scrubby pad should do it. white vinegar also removes stubborn water spots from your car windshield.

prevent it
our daily shower spray is a gentle daily treatment that slows the buildup of hard water deposit and soap scum.

to prevent pesky deposits on your dishes, we now offer smarty dish® plus dishwasher tabs. it’s specially formulated to leave your dishes sparkling clean even where the water’s hard. you can also use smarty dish® plus to bolster your laundry. hard water can wreak havoc in there, too, but it’s just a little tougher to see.

and now you know.

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refresh your denim

posted September 5, 2012 by fred |

denim experts tell us not to wash our expensive jeans too often. raw denim, not at all for the first six months. and when you do, it should only be washed in cold water, gentle cycle and then line-dried. it’s all a lot more hassle than it should be for some jeans, if you ask me.

luckily, my wife gave me a helpful chemistry lesson the other day. yes, I am a chemist, but wives know all.

long story short, we had something come up out of the blue and she wanted to wear her favorite jeans, which had been relegated to the dirty clothes pile for careful laundering later that week. there was no time for all that now, so she grabbed the bottle of our new dryer-activated fabric softener spray. as I looked on impressed, she dampened a towel, gave it a couple squirts of the spray and threw it in the dryer along with the jeans. fifteen minutes later they came out looking like they had just come from the dry cleaners.

it turns out that the hypoallergenic, concentrated formula we worked tirelessly on to soften fabric, help eliminate wrinkles and leave a fresh scent also gives your denim a pick-me-up without putting them through the wash cycle. an unintended bonus that I’m now passing along to all of you. aren’t wives the best?

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