Cleaning tips

Check out our cleaning tips guide for stubborn stains and more

Find out how to clean windows, cookers, washing machines and everything in between with out handy cleaning guides.

If you’re ready to tackle your home’s big clean, you won’t want to miss these expert cleaning tips for every room in your house

Getting ready for your spring clean? Before you put on those marigolds, check out our cleaning hub.

We’ve got top tricks, time-saving cleaning ideas and bags of advice to make your big house clean less of a chore.

Click on to find everything from how to organise your spring cleaning routine, to how to give your windows extra sparkle…

Cleaning checklists and stain removal

Make sure you have everything you need to sail through the washing, however full the basket. It will make it much easier to get cracking in the first place and will save time in the long run.

* A-Z of stain removal tips

From ballpoint pen marks to shoe polish stains, our top tips will to help you make your stuff as good as new with minimal effort required.

* How to plan the perfect laundry room

Organise an overflowing laundry room with a few clever tricks. Once organised, your utility room will help you keep on top of everyday tasks.

* Laundry room storage ideas – SEE VIDEO

Get instant utility chic with these clutter-busting tips in our landury room storage suggestions video.

Cleaning advice for around the home

How to clean floors

From carpets to laminate flooring, we’ve gathered our top tips on how to keep every kind of floor squeaky clean.

* How to clean windows

Follow our guide to crystal clean windows.

* Tips for cleaning out your loft

We’ve identified 5 easy steps to help you get organised and tackle the attic.

* How to clean a washing machine

Keep your washing machine in top condition with our expert cleaning tips.

* 6 easy spring-cleaning hacks you need to try

Raid your kitchen for these free, non-toxic cleaning tips.

* How to clean kitchen work surfaces

Don’t pick up a sponge until you’ve read our complete guide.

* How to clean cutlery

Get spoons so shiny you can see your face in them.

For more decorating, craft ideas and cleaning hacks don’t miss our dedicated DIY guide.

How To Turn Your Bedroom Into Your Own Personal Hit Factory

The home studio is becoming more and more of an ubiquitous setting these days for aspiring music producers; believe it or not, the tough economy that we are facing has touched even the music industry, and the way things operated once upon a time will no longer fly, being that the recording budgets of today, can’t even halfway compare to the astronomical budgets of years ago.

Audio professionals are being forced to become a little more resourceful and smarter with their recording efforts, but it doesn’t matter, because there are so many different options that one could choose to create their own productions from their own home. Major studio settings are no longer necessary to make quality productions, you can get it done with nothing more than a laptop and some headphones.

But the good thing about it is, that for those who are attempting to make hip hop beats, the opportunities are even greater than ever before. Hey, we have always been able to persevere through them hard times, those of us within the hip hop culture that is; so dealing with next to nothing budgets and facing adversity is pretty much second nature to us. Hip hop producers are known for making something out of nothing!

The availability of Pro Tools and similar music production software to the average consumer has leveled the playing field whereas anyone with a few hundred dollars available can now record and create professional quality audio productions that would rival any major studio production, with the knowledge of how to do so that is. Once you get your hands on the necessary equipment, and read up on some topics customary to producing hip hop music such as sampling, cutting and scratching records, playing keys, and audio engineering, you too will be well on your way to producing with the likes of 9th Wonder or Chase N Cashe; so without further adieu, let me share with you how you too can make hip hop beats from the comfort of your own home.

You’re Gonna Need A Good Computer

And not the one that’s been sitting in the corner of your living room for the past three years. Sadly enough, even the computers that are gonna be on sale this weekend will be obsolete by next weekend, especially if you’re talking about Windows operating systems.

Your computer will be the hub, the brains of your operation, so you will want the best computer that you can possibly afford. These days, a quad core processor with 4 gigs of ram is the bare minimum that you would want to go with to operate your system efficiently; most soft synths and audio recording software will have these very specs listed on their boxes as the minimum requirements to ensure a smooth user experience.

The argument as to whether or not you should choose a Mac or a PC and which is better for audio production is an argument that has been going on for YEARS within the audio recording industry; with no immediate ending to that argument in sight any time soon. My take on the argument is that if you can afford a Mac, go with one, because Macs are class compliant with the majority of all audio recording peripherals on the market today, meaning that you can just plug the devices into your USB port on your Mac, and they will work without any further installations, purchases, or tweaks.

With recording on a PC, you can almost guarantee that you will have to search for drivers and make difficult tweaks within your operating system to get your software to work correctly, not to mention having to turn off Wi-Fi settings and adding anti-virus software so that you can fight off the thousands of viruses out there waiting to attack your system whenever you do need to get online. These annoyances are just non-factors with Apple computers, so for the best user experience and the lack of having to buy stock in Excedrine Migraine pills, I chose to go with Mac computers for my home and mobile recording setups. I couldn’t be happier, and i’ll never buy a PC for recording.

Now, this is not to say that you shouldn’t use a PC for your recording needs, you need to use whatever you can afford. Just try your best to stick to the aforementioned specs, and be prepared to do some research. You and Google are about to become great friends as you prepare to install your software applications. The bright side to this is, a comparable PC to a Mac system with similar specs will more than likely be $500-600 cheaper. So take those things into consideration, and make a choice as to what would be best for your situation.

Choose an Audio/Midi Sequencing Application, aka DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)

You have Logic Studio(Mac Only), Pro Tools, Propellerheads Reason, Cubase, Sonar (PC Only), Ableton Live, and MOTU Digital Performer (Mac Only). These are all digital audio workstations, which would be the house that you would be building upon the foundation that you chose within your computer. Ultimately, whichever computer platform you choose could ultimately drive which software choice you are to choose, so think on this one.

Many hip hop producers tend to lean towards Propellerheads Reason, Pro Tools, Logic Studio, or Ableton Live for their recording and production setups. Also one that I did not mention, FL Studio, is very popular amongst hip hop producers. Myself, I use Reason almost exclusively, as Reason is now complete with audio recording and mixing, where with all of the other applications, you could already record audio. Reason was pretty much a studio rack in software form, complete with synths, drum machines, sequencing, and audio effects like reverbs, delays and compressors. With Reason, I don’t need anything else.

I have Pro Tools, Logic Studio, and Ableton Live as well within my personal studio setup, and I use them whenever I get the urge. But it’s not necessary, as Reason is complete with everything that I need to produce complete hip hop productions. You can download the demo for Reason and all of the other DAW’s that I mentioned by going to their respective websites, from there see which one will be the right fir for you and your needs and your workflow.

A MIDI Keyboard Will Be Next

You will need a MIDI keyboard to control your softsynths. A softsynth is a software version of a keyboard synthesizer, MIDI is the musical instrument digital interface in which control commands are sent to the musical instrument/softsynth to tell it which notes are being played, how hard or how soft, and how long each note is being held. Without a MIDI keyboard, you might have a hard time trying to play chords with ASDF computer keys! So get yourself a nice lil’ MIDI keyboard, 49 keys at least. Any brand will do the trick, so you can’t really go wrong here.

Get Yourself Some Good Headphones and Skip the Confusion

A good set of headphones will be detrimental to your audio production efforts, because as a bedroom music producer, more than likely your room does not have the correct and accurate acoustics to accurately mix audio projects with overcompensating for something in your mix. And soundproofing your room and trying to add Auralex foam will become expensive and time consuming, so just skip all that and buy some good headphones for audio mixing. You want a pair of headphones that will give you a flat response and the best possible representation of the full audio spectrum as possible, the Beyer Dynamic DT 770s are great choices for good audio headphones. You get crystal clear highs and deep lows, with a tight midrange unlike anything I have ever heard before in a pair of headphones. Ultimately you should choose the best that you can afford, but since I have the space to make a recommendation, I think that you will be pleased with the DT 770’s.

Once you have the computer, your DAW, MIDI Keyboard, and some headphones, you’re ready to get it. Those are the bare necessity tools that every hip hop producer will need to compete in the industry and make the type of beats that you hear on the radio, there is no right or wrong choice here, because ultimately, it will be your talent and your drive that will propel you to the top of the game.

Reading up on and studying hip hop producers, learning piano scales and melodies, reading books on mixing audio, and collecting records and samples are all things that you will need to do as well to help yourself become a more complete and efficient music producer. If you can collaborate with other beatmakers or producers in your area, and find a music mentor even if possible. Having someone who has already done or can do what you’re trying to get into will help to cut your learning curve in half literally.

I hope that I have given you some insight on what will be necessary to create hip hop music, and i’ll be back giving you more info on the topic of creating beats and producing music as well; I love doing this! Hip hop is what I do, and soon it will be what you do too. It’s in you, I already see that you’re winning… Better Beats Ahead.

Fun Ways To Exercise At Home

There are multiple ways to exercise that are fun and inexpensive that you can do at home. Gym memberships need not apply. I’m not a huge fan of going to the gym and working out. I’ve come up with some fun ways to exercise at home. Without throwing out statistics and percentages, I bet it is safe to say that most people don’t exercise. We all have our jobs, families, and other responsibilities that allow us to make that excuse of “I don’t have time.” But you can make time for exercise and have fun in the process.

There are many activities you can do without spending a lot of money. Grab a water bottle, your walking shoes and hit the pavement. Walking is a great form of exercise. You can take along a camera and do some still shots of the local park, shoreline, or city walk Take in the scenery while you are exercising. Sounds fun right? How about getting some friends together and setting up some walking time. You can talk and have some down time while you’re, you guessed it, “exercising.”

If you are like me, you have a bike that is just hanging in the garage with no riders. How about getting that bike out and riding some laps around the neighborhood. Get your heart beat going and burn off those calories from that hot fudge sundae you had earlier. If you don’t have a bike, that’s OK too.

Do you have children? Why not get them involved. Are they video game’olics? There are some really good interactive games on the market that you can buy to promote physical activity and get them off the couch and on their feet. There are so many fun ways to exercise at home.

If the weather is nice, plan an outside activity with them. Women, men, boys and girls, we all want to stay healthy and are looking for fun ways to exercise at home. We don’t want the hassle of having to pay a gym membership fee or get scrutinized in public when you incorrectly do a lunge.

We need to start being “active”. So many of us have lost our desire to work out and keep our bodies in shape. We digress because of our everyday stress from our jobs and other events going on in our lives. What’s the point in exercise if you can’t make it fun? Whether you are married, single, divorced, or widowed, exercise should be a part of all our lives. Whatever your situation is, take some time to think about fun ways to exercise at home.

No matter your preference, exercise can be fun and shouldn’t be a negative aspect of your daily routine. Develop some goals for yourself and your family. Write those goals down and set up times during the week to achieve these goals. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder or a super model. You want to promote a healthy way of living for yourself, your children, your family, and your friends. Take a lead role in your neighborhood and develop a neighborhood exercise program; but remember to make it fun!

How To Setup A Home Aquarium

This is a step by step guide for anyone wishing to setup a home aquarium and enjoy fishkeeping in their home. In this article is a ist of basic products you will need to purchase to successfully setup a home aquarium. Following this list is a discussion on what each of these products are, what they do and why you need them in your home aquarium.

  1. Home Aquarium
  2. Backing Picture
  3. Gravel Filter (optional)
  4. Air pump and Air stone (optional)
  5. Gravel
  6. Water Pump/Filter
  7. Heater
  8. Thermometer
  9. Light Unit and Tube (if not already fitted)
  10. Plants and Ornaments
  11. Tropical Fish

Firstly and most importantly choose your aquarium carefully. If possible buy as big an aquarium as your budget and space in your home will allow. These can be brought from the internet, used or new, and also from your local pet/fish store. It is important if you buy a used aquarium to give it a thorough clean but do not use chemical cleaners. Also it is important to think about where in your home you are going to position your new home aquarium. A few tips, do not place aquariums in direct sunlight as this extra heat source increases algae production in the aquarium, do not place aquariums near a radiator as this is another unnecessary heat source and finally do not place aquariums near doors which may bang into them causing shock to the fish. Also talking of positioning if you dont want to see all the way through your home aquarium or if it is by a wall then putting a backing picture on the back glass panel of your aquarium is a good idea. These are simply cut to size and stuck on the outside of the back glass panel of your aquarium.

The next thing to purchase and install is a gravel filtration tray, which is an important feature of your home aquarium as it breaks down left over fish food and fish faeces, otherwise these things would simply sit in your gravel! There is differing opinions from pet/fish stores as to the need for a gravel filtration tray. For instance we were told that they were no longer recommended so we didn’t use one. But after losing some fish we decided to install a gravel tray and have not lost any fish since. This is a choice for you to make, this is why it is marked as optional in the purchases list. But if you do decide to use a gravel tray you will also need an airstone to go inside each lifter pipe, and and air pump which is connected to the lifter pipe. The purpose of the air pump which works with the air stone is to oxygenate the water.

Whether you use a gravel tray or not the next product you will need to buy is gravel. There are many colours and a few sizes to choose from and you can get advice on this from your local pet/fish store depending on the size of your home aquarium, as this will determine how much gravel you need to buy. Also please remember to wash gravel thoroughly before placing it in the aquarium. As fish need moving water to swim in a good quality water pump/filter is essential to filter the water and keep it moving. For more expert advice on this ask at your local pet/fish store or search online if you prefer.

Next as this is a home aquarium for tropical fish a heater is a must have to keep your fish at the correct temperature. There are lots of types available so again get specialist advice relating to your own home aquarium. As a general rule the majority of tropical fish enjoy a temperature of between 77 – 80F (25 – 27C). However when you buy your fish please check as there are some variations to this temperature rule. A good idea is to buy a thermometer to keep a check that your heater is maintaining the temperature that you set it to.

If your home aquarium does not come fitted with a light tube in the lid/hood then you will need to buy a light unit and light tube. Before buying one of these it’s a good idea to measure which size light tube will fit in your lid/hood. Also there are daylights and moonlights available but I would suggest starting off with a daylight. Then you can get a moonlight at a later date if you wish. As fish like to hide or sometimes breed in privacy, plants and ornaments are a good addition to your home aquarium as they can provide your fish with private spaces to do these things. Please note if you choose to use live plants over artificial ones then these require a daylight to thrive. As a generlal rule darker leaved plants require less light than the lighter leaved variety.

Once your home aquarium is set up please wait for about two weeks before introducing any tropical fish, as this gives the filter time to break down any additives which may be present in tap water. Alternatively you could use a water treatment which claims to get the water in your home aquarium ready for your fish much quicker. However I can not comment on how effective these treatments are as I have not used them before. This article has covered the basic equipment needed to set up your home aquarium and begin experiencing the joys of tropical fish keeping. If you follow the steps and advice given here then both you and your aquarium will be ready to start caring for tropical fish in your own home.