Spring Cleaning with Homemade Products

Spring Cleaning Products.jpg

Try these DIY cleaning products to get your home sparkling clean this spring.

As spring approaches, our thoughts are turned to…spring cleaning!  We’ve been cooped up in our houses all winter and we’re ready to see the shine of clean walls, windows, and floors!  But with the plethora of products available, it is difficult to decide on which ones to choose and which ones we can afford!  So the answer is…homemade cleaning solutions. Now is a great time to revive an article written by Carolyn Washburn, a USU professor from Washington County.  Thanks to her list of homemade cleaning products, we can have products that are less expensive, less toxic, and are safe and effective.

Some of the basic supplies needed include baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, borax, cornstarch and salt.  Here are a few of her recipes:

Four recipes for general cleaning:

  • 1 tablespoon ammonia, 1 tablespoon liquid detergent, 2 cups water.
  • 1 cup vinegar, 1 gallon water.
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1 teaspoon borax, hot water.
  • ½ cup ammonia, ¼ cup vinegar, ¼ cup baking soda, 1 gallon water

Five recipes for cleaning windows:

  • ½ cup vinegar and 1 gallon water (2 tablespoons to 1 quart).
  • ½ cup ammonia and 1 gallon water.
  • 1 tablespoon ammonia, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 quart water.
  • 3 tablespoons denatured alcohol, 1 quart water.
  • 3 tablespoons dish detergent and 1 tablespoon “Jet Dry” in ½ pail of water for outdoor windows.

Other cleaning solutions she suggests include:

Baking Soda

Baking soda neutralizes acid-based odors in water and absorbs odors from the air. Sprinkled on a damp sponge or cloth, baking soda can be used as a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser for kitchen countertops, sinks, bathtubs, ovens and fiberglass. For laundry, add up to a cup per load to eliminate perspiration odors and neutralize the smell of chemicals. It is also a useful air freshener and carpet deodorizer.

Vinegar and Lemon Juice

White vinegar and lemon juice are acidic and neutralize alkaline substances such as scale from hard water. They are natural cleaning products as well as disinfectants and deodorizers. Acids dissolve gummy buildup, eat away tarnish and remove dirt from wood surfaces. Vinegar can be used as a softener in laundry cleaning. Lemon juice can be mixed with vinegar and baking soda to make a cleaning paste.


Borax is a natural cleaner and bleach. It can boost other cleaning products, but be cautious when using it since it can cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation. Don’t use borax around food, keep it out of the reach of children and pets and be sure to rinse it out of clothes and off surfaces.


Cornstarch can be used to clean windows, polish furniture and clean carpets. As a window cleaner, use it with water, vinegar and ammonia. To use on stains and to polish, use a mixture of water and cornstarch. Sprinkle on carpets to remove stains and odors.


Salt as a cleaner is one way to be a little “greener” at home. It is inexpensive, does not harm the environment and is readily available. Salt mixtures can remove yellowing, clean tarnish, remove lipstick, get rid of mold and can work as a drain cleaner.

Soap vs. Detergent

Liquid dish soaps and detergents are necessary for cutting grease, but they are not the same thing. Soap is made from fats and lye. Detergents are synthetic materials. Unlike soap, detergents are designed specifically so they don’t react with hard water minerals and cause soap scum. If you have hard water, buy a biodegradable detergent without perfumes. If you have soft water, you can use liquid soap.

Ammonia and Denatured Alcohol

Additional cleaning products are ammonia and denatured alcohol. Be careful not to mix ammonia with a bleach product, as it can produce a harmful gas. These toxic products need to be stored carefully and used in well-ventilated areas. Be sure to keep all homemade formulas labeled and out of the reach of children.

Happy Cleaning!


GaeLynn.jpgThis article was written by GaeLynn Peterson. Gaelynn is a long-time resident of Wayne County where she serves the residents as Utah State University faculty with an emphasis in FCS and 4-H. She has an M.S. in Psychology and has worked with at-risk students before joining the USU family. As a mother of seven and grandmother of 28, she has had a lot of experience working with youth, and she loves it! She enjoys traveling, camping, Lake Powell, and any beach.


Learn more about homemade cleaning products: https://extension.usu.edu/admin/files/uploads/mpp-2009-04-01-s-004.pdf


Three Tips for Tree Planting

Tree Planting Tips.jpgTrees are an integral part of landscaping, and it’s important to know the basics of starting them out right so they will flourish for many years to come. Here are answers to three frequently asked questions about tree planting.

When is the best time of year to plant?

Trees are best planted when they are still dormant with tight, unopened buds in the early to mid-spring after the soil has thawed. Cool temperatures and good soil moisture in the spring help trees get established. Fall planting also works well for many species, though watering is critical if the fall is dry. Summer planting of balled-and-burlapped and container plants can be successful, though hot temperatures, dry conditions and non-dormant trees make good care especially important and survival less sure. Bare-root trees should only be planted in spring while still dormant.

Which type of tree is best?

Landscape trees and shrubs can be obtained in four basic types: balled and burlapped, container/potted, bare root and tree spaded. Each type has advantages and disadvantages, and none is ideal for all situations. Bare-root trees have the most naturally formed root system and are less expensive, but they are not commonly available from nurseries. Balled and burlapped trees work well because they have been grown for several years in soil and are more likely to have a well-distributed root ball than potted trees. Potted or containerized trees are most likely to develop root system problems such as girdling roots and buried root collars. Spaded trees grow well but are not always available.

How large does the root ball need to be?

All four types need to have an adequate root system. A good rule of thumb is that the root system, root ball or container diameter or spread should be 10 to 12 inches for every inch of stem caliper (diameter at ground-line just above any basal swell). Therefore, a 3-inch caliper tree should have a 30 to 36-inch-wide root ball as a minimum. Root ball depth is not as critical as width, but should be deeper for larger trees.

For further information on planting trees and general tree information, visit forestry.usu.edu.

This article was written by Mike Kuhns, Utah State University Extension forestry specialist, 435-797-4056, mike.kuhns@usu.edu

Mother’s Day // Honoring the Women in Your Life


Mother's DayMother’s Day is coming right up. Try some of these thoughtful ideas to celebrate mom, grandma, and all the influential women in your life. 

Mother’s Day has been a tradition since the 1860s when Ann Jarvis created a committee to establish a “Mother’s Friendship Day” and was nationally recognized in 1914 by a proclamation signed by Woodrow Wilson.  It is a great way to honor those who gave us life, nurtured us and helped us on our way through life. It is usually celebrated in May in the United States. So how can we let these wonderful women know of our love and appreciation?  Here are a few ideas you might try or adapt.

For Your Mom or Grandma- After You Have Left the Nest

When children grow up and leave home, it is very hard for their moms. They still worry about their children, and miss all the fun times and meaningful interactions they had together.

Creating an “All about Mom” questionnaire can be a way to remind your mom how much you love her, and of all the good she has done. Not only does this gift come from the heart, but it’s simple to do and can to involve everyone. Try one of these questionnaires:

All About Mom from One She Two She

All About Mom or Grandma from The Crafting Chicks

Try having all your siblings fill out the same questionnaire (be sure to send them the questionnaire in plenty of time before Mother’s Day). You can present the completed questionnaires to your mom or grandma on Mother’s Day along with her favorite treat or flowers. Another idea is to roll up all the questionnaires, tie a ribbon around them and attach a little bag of Hershey’s Hugs and Kisses.

From Mom, to the Kids

Sometimes on Mother’s Day we leave the rest of the family out of the celebration.  Recognizing and sharing with your family why you love being a mother to them can strengthen your parent-child relationships, build lasting bonds, and remind you why you are glad to be a mother. You can use this form to write to each of your children, young or old, telling them why you love being their mom or grandma. Roll it up and tie it with a ribbon, then attach a treat such as Sweetrts. Here’s a printable tag you can attach as well. Mother's Day 2

Download Happy Mother’s Day.. From Me! Form Mother's Day TagsDownload Printable Tags

For Other Women who have Influenced You 

For many women, motherhood may not be a role they have had. They may not have become mothers for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they may have never married or not been able to bear children. They may be a neighbor, close friend, aunt, teacher, etc.  Mother’s Day can be a painful reminder of not being a mother. These women often play a vital role in the nurturing and “mothering” of other’s children.

Create a similar questionnaire and fill it out or have your children fill it out for the person who is special to you.  You could also take a picture of them with your children, frame it and have your children write a special note to them.  Write a letter telling them how they have impacted your life, and let them know of your love for them.  You could top it off by inviting them over for a meal or special party to honor them.

For After Your Mother is Gone

After my mother died, it was hard to celebrate Mother’s Day without her, so I decided to reach out to some wonderful aunts of mine who I had interacted with during my growing up years. I purchased Mother’s Day Cards, and wrote a note telling them of my love for them.  I was surprised at how many of them responded back about how much my thoughts had touched them.  Some other ideas you might consider:

  •    Send a note of remembrance to a someone who has lost their mother.  This might help the child be reminded of the fine person their mother was, lessons she taught them or what wonderful characteristics they have inherited from her.
  •    Send Mother’s Day notes or cards to neighbors who you love but are not your own mother. You may want to recount a fond memory and thank them for their influence on your life.

Mother’s Day Brunch Fruit Dip

Melted white chocolate is blended into cream cheese and lightened up with fresh whipped cream in this effortless, delicious fruit dip! Perfect for serving at Mother’s Day brunch.


  •    ¼ cup milk
  •    4 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
  •    8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (very important!)
  •    ¼ cup sugar
  •    ½ cup heavy cream
  •    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  •    Fresh fruit (berries, apple slices, pineapple wedges, kiwi fruit, etc.)


  1.     Heat milk until hot but not boiling. Whisk in white chocolate until melted and totally smooth. Set aside to cool.
  2.     In a large bowl, beat sugar into cream cheese. Mix the white chocolate mixture into the cream cheese mixture.
  3.     In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the heavy cream and vanilla until soft (not stiff) peaks form. Gently fold this whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.
  4.     Cover and chill for at least 4 hours (to overnight). Serve with fresh fruit dippers, and/or vanilla wafers, graham crackers, etc.


If the cream cheese is not completely at room temperature, the melted white chocolate will re-solidify into little chunks once you mix the two together.

Pretzel Flowers

These tasty little flowers would make a cheery gift, and this recipe would be a great one to make with children.


  • Pretzel twists or squares
  • White chocolate pieces or candy melts
  • M&M candies


Heat oven to 200 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange pretzels on parchment, and place one candy melt on top of each pretzel. Warm in oven for 2 minutes, or until candy melt is soft, but not melted through the pretzel. Place M&Ms on top of the candy melt in a circle to make a flower shape Let cool for an hour or two before storing in an airtight container.

Microwave Instructions: 

Place pretzels topped with candy melts on a paper plate and melt in microwave at 50 percent power for 30-50 seconds.  Arrange M&M candies on top in a flower shape. Let cool for an hour or two before storing in an airtight container.


This article was written by Marilyn Albertson – Extension Associate Professor – Family & Consumer Sciences, Salt Lake County

Fruit dip recipe from http://oneshetwoshe.com/2014/04/white-chocolate-cheesecake-fruit-dip.html

Less is More: 3 Tips to Spring Clean Your Life


Spring Clean Your LifeDo you find yourself surrounded with clutter? Try these three tips to spring clean your life and clear away some of the clutter.

Ahhh…Spring!  A time of re-birth, baby animals, green grass, flowers and budding trees; basically a season for renewal all around. Historically, spring was the time homemakers cleaned the winter coal soot off the wall coverings and fixtures of their homes. A deep clean on the inside of the home, no doubt, reflected the freshness of the season outside. Here’s my deep thought for you today: What kind of “coal soot” is covering your “insides?” Don’t worry—this isn’t about colon cleanses or detoxifying your diet. It’s bigger than that. I’m talking about clutter.

Clutter is all around us; our lives are cluttered with words, images, data, sounds and STUFF. Big stuff, little stuff, stuff we don’t even remember we have because it is buried under other stuff or stuffed into boxes of stuff. Clutter is our generation’s “coal soot.”  We bring it into our lives to fill a need, be it emotional or physical. But for some reason we let it stay long after the need has been filled. My challenge to you is to clear the clutter and spring clean your life.  Here’s how:

  1. Create a baseline.  Just like in budgeting or weight loss or any habit change, it’s difficult to make changes unless you have a good idea of what’s happening to begin with.  For example, assess your clutter. Is it mostly clothes, toys, papers, tools or books?  Start by bringing all of the same type of item together in one place.  Start small, say, with shirts.  Get all your shirts in one pile.
  1. Assess the value.  Now that you have all your shirts (or whatever item you’ve chosen to start with) go through the pile one by one.  Evaluate whether each item brings you joy.
  1. Keep, trash, donate, or sell.  Your number one goal is to only keep the items that are bringing you the most joy and the rest you can send on its way.  And it’s okay! There will be lots of items that have good use left in them. But if you’re not using them, do what you can to get the items into the hands of someone who will.

Less truly is more.  The tiny house movement really might be onto something!  When we own less, we have less to clean and less to trip over in the dark – just think of the health benefits!  Not to mention the potential to lift moods and bring harmony into a home; can you imagine a weekend without nagging your kids to clean their bedrooms? Fewer items to put away paired with habits of giving every item a “home” creates an opportunity for neatness.

Now, I’ll share a few cautions:

  1. Beware of the temptation of storage bins.  While the storage industry has made leaps and bounds in developing items that are fashionable and attractive, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need them.  After you’ve decreased the number of belongings, you might just realize you don’t need so many bins and pockets and cubbies to hide things in so your home has the appearance of tidiness. Tidiness is a natural result of owning less.
  2. Evaluate your buying habits and motivations.  As you are letting go of things you no longer need, think about why you purchased/acquired the items to begin with. If there are habits you need to change, apply those habits to future purchases and learn from the experience.
  1. Be kind to yourself. You’ll no doubt have some misgivings about the items you’re letting go of. The money spent on those items is gone, and guilt over making a purchase you didn’t necessarily use responsibly or no longer need isn’t worth it.

The feeling of a lifted burden is invigorating and refreshing. Kind of like spring… and cleaning the coal soot out.

This article was written by Rebecca Mills, Extension assistant professor in family consumer sciences and 4-H youth development


Kondo, M. (2014). The life-changing magic of tidying up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. New York: Ten Speed Press.

5 Steps to Spring Clean Your Finances

Get started on your spring cleaning—no elbow grease required! Try these 5 steps to spring clean your finances from USU Extension Family Finance Pro Amanda Christensen.



3 Ways to Jump-start Spring

jumpstart-springIt’s not quite springtime, but that doesn’t have to stop you from getting things growing. Here are three ideas to get an early start on spring that we shared last week on Studio 5. Watch the video, or read on for highlights.


Starting Seeds


Start thinking about your vegetable garden, and start your own plants from seed.

Materials Needed

To start your own seeds you’ll just need a few basic supplies:

  • Seeds: If you plan well enough in advance, you can order seeds from a catalog and find unusual plant varieties, or you can pick up seed packets at your local garden center or nursery.
  • Containers: You can find trays and containers at your local garden center, or you can use small plastic containers from your recycle bin. Egg cartons work really well– you can cut off the lid and use it as a tray to catch drainage water. If you do use recycled containers, be sure to poke holes in the bottom for drainage, and sanitize them before using.
  • Soil: Use soil mix specifically for starting seeds, and do not reuse soil from other plants or take soil from your yard.
  • Light Source: Young seedlings need a lot of light as soon as they emerge, even more than a sunny window can offer. You can buy a lighting setup, or build your own (see instructions here).
  • Fertilizer: Find a fertilizer specifically for seedlings or vegetable plants. Mix as directed on the package, and begin using once seedling has emerged.

Caring for Seedlings

Most indoor air temperatures will be perfect for seedlings—between 60-80 degrees. Just after planting seeds, dampen the soil using a spray bottle. You don’t want to water log the seeds or seedlings, but you don’t want them to dry out at any point during the germination process. Continue to keep them moist with a spray bottle until they germinate and emerge.

Cover trays or containers with plastic wrap or a plastic bag until the seedling emerges, then begin watering with a plant production fertilizer for optimal results. You’ll also want to start using your grow light once the seed has sprouted. Keep the light 2-4 inches above the plants as they grow. Run your grow light for 12 to 14 hours a day, and give your seedlings a break at night.


It takes about a week for seeds to germinate and sprout, and the seedlings need an additional 4-6 weeks before they can be transplanted into the garden, depending on the plant type. Mid March is a good time to start seeds indoors, but check with your local Extension office to find out exactly when you should start your seeds and transplant your seedlings into the garden, as it varies year to year depending on the previous year’s frost date.

If you take your seedlings directly from their cozy indoor setup to the garden, they won’t survive. You have to harden off your plants; a process that takes about two weeks. This means gradually getting them used to being outside. Start with an hour in the afternoon, gradually working up to a full 24 hours.  Then your plants are ready to be transplanted into the garden!

Find out More

View our seed starting fact sheet, Wasatch Front vegetable planting guide, detailed seed starting video, visit garden.usu.edu for more information on gardening, or attend the Seed Starting Workshop on February 22 at USU Botanical Center (registration required).

Easter Wheat Grass


Sprout wheat grass this year for fun springtime decor. This makes lovely table decor, and is a fun activity to do with children.

Materials Needed:

  • Wheat berries
  • Potting Soil
  • Festive containers (pots, baskets, bowls, etc.)
  • Spray bottle
  • Plastic wrap or bags

Soak wheat berries overnight so they begin to sprout. Prepare containers by adding soil. If using an Easter basket, line with plastic wrap before adding soil. Spread a thick layer of sprouted wheat in your container of soil (any potting soil will do, you can even wet the soil before adding the wheat). Spray with water so that everything is saturated evenly. Cover container with plastic wrap or place it in a large plastic bag, to keep the wheat berries moist and encourage growth. Move containers to a sunny window, and spray  with water a few times daily. Don’t let them dry out! Once the grass has begun to grow, you can remove the plastic and continue watering regularly. Grass should grow 6-10 inches in two weeks.

Forced Branches


You can urge those spring blossoms out a little early by bringing budding branches inside. Willows and Forsythia are probably the most common branches to force inside, but you can also try dogwood, cherry, lilacs, or serviceberry branches. Be careful when pruning that you aren’t ruining the shape of your bush or tree. Choose long and thin branches with well-formed buds on them, and cut near a junction. Bring them inside and put them in a vase of lukewarm water, out of direct sunlight (a cool basement room works well). Keep an eye on the water level, and add more as needed.

Four Basic Veggie Categories & When It’s Safe to Plant Them

spring has sprung

Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining and temperatures are rising. Spring is in the air! But don’t let that fool you, frost can still happen. Read on for ways to know when it’s okay to get your garden planted so you can avoid the frosty pitfalls.

Spring has sprung, but frost still likely!

Determining when to plant a garden can be especially confusing in Utah’s unpredictable, varied climate where last-frost dates can vary by many days within just a few miles. Many experienced gardeners have planted and later lost their plants to frost.

An example of how fickle Utah’s climate can be is in Cache Valley. Frost-free days vary from an average of 113 days in Lewiston and Trenton to 158 days on the USU campus. Similar examples are common around the state.

Geographic characteristics of where you live can help in determining when to plant. When a yard is located in a populated area or on a mountain bench, it usually has a longer growing season. Other areas located at slightly lower elevations where cold air drains and cannot escape have a shorter season. This is why local commercial orchards are generally located on benches. Additionally, urban and suburban areas are slightly warmer than surrounding areas due to the urban heat effect. Heat from buildings and warmth generated by sunlight reflected from roads and other surfaces increases temperatures and delays frost. It can be helpful to chat with a local farmer or experienced gardener in your area to determine what works for him or her regarding when to plant.

In addition to frost information, it is important to take into account the needs of the plants. Vegetables planted locally fall into four basic categories: hardy, semi-hardy, tender and very tender. Depending on which category a plant belongs to, planting dates vary from early spring until early summer. Consider the following:

  • Hardy vegetables, including asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, onions, peas and spinach, can be planted as soon as the soil is workable in early spring. This usually ranges between 45 and 60 days before the average last frost. These same vegetables can be safely planted until the average last frost date.
  • Semi-hardy plants, such as beets, carrots, lettuce and potatoes, can be planted one to two weeks after the hardy group. These can be planted until the average last-frost date.
  • Tender vegetables, such as celery, cucumbers, corn and most beans, should be planted on the average last-frost date.
  • Very tender plants, such as squash, beans, melons, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, should not be planted until at least a week after the average last frost. Even if frost does not occur before this time, these plants will not grow well and are more susceptible to disease until warmer weather.

If you have lost plants to frost, you are not alone, and all you can do is try again.



This article was written by Taun Beddes, Utah State University Extension horticulturist.