How Blinds and Shades Can Protect Your Family and Your Home

At Blindster, we know that the safety and well-being of your family is your top priority. You go to great lengths to keep everyone protected. Whether it’s investing in an advanced home security system, outfitting your doors with strong locks, and keeping your outdoor area well-lit at night, spending money on protecting your home and your family is always a worthwhile investment.

But did you know that window coverings can also play a major role in protecting you, your family, and your home? Installing the right type of blinds and shades is an often-overlooked aspect of home security, but it can make a big difference when it comes to protecting your family’s health, privacy, and possessions.

Check out some of the top ways that our blinds and shades can give you peace of mind at any time of day:

  • Blinds and shades protect your privacy

    Keep prying eyes out of the inside of your home with our wide variety of blinds and shades. Virtually all our window coverings are effective at protecting indoor privacy, but we also offer many varieties of blinds and shades that can be ordered with optional blackout and privacy liners. These additions further enhance your family’s privacy and make you feel more at ease in every room in your home.

  • Blinds and shades protect your skin

    Everyone knows that the sun’s UV rays can cause skin damage, but did you know that you can get sunburned and even increase your risk of skin cancer while sitting inside your home? Although it’s not as dangerous as direct exposure, sunlight can still penetrate through glass windows and damage skin. Over time, that damage can result in premature aging and even skin cancer. Keeping blinds and shades in closed positions—or using window treatments that filter and absorb the sun’s UV rays—is a great way to protect your family.

  • Blinds and shades protect your home

    Even the most advanced security system and lighting arrangement may not be enough to deter thieves if they know you’ve got valuables inside your home. Without proper window treatments, anyone can see into your home when the lights are on at night. That means would-be criminals could have a clear view of your most cherished possessions. Installing window coverings and keeping them closed at night or all day can keep your home safer and less likely to be the target of burglars when you’re at work or on vacation.

  • CPSC-compliant blinds and shades protect small children and pets

    In recent years, there has been a growing awareness about the potential dangers that blinds and shades pose to small children and pets. Window treatments that utilize cloth, nylon, or chain lift cords present a choking and strangulation hazard, especially when the cords are within easy reach or can be accessed by climbing on nearby furniture. At Blindster, all our corded window coverings are shipped with free cord cleats, which are designed to keep cords safely out of reach. In addition, we also offer cordless varieties of blinds and shades, which eliminate the risk of cord-related injuries completely.

  • Blinds and shades enhance your sleep and overall well-being

    There’s nothing better for your overall health and vitality than a good night’s sleep. But everyone knows that it can be difficult to get much-needed rest when outside lights and noises cause frequent wake-ups, sleep interruptions, and tossing and turning at night. Installing light-blocking, noise-reducing, and temperature-insulating window treatments is a great way to turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary, enhancing your health and giving you more energy during the day. It’s also vital for the well-being of babies, small children, and even teenagers, all of whom need quality, uninterrupted sleep to maintain healthy immune systems and support growth.

  • Blinds and shades protect your furniture

    Do you have a couch, chair, or table that is completely or partially faded and discolored? If so, it may be due to years of sunlight exposure. In addition to being damaging to your skin, the sun’s UV rays can also damage natural materials like wood and fabrics. Dyes can fade and change color, while wood stains can lose their luster. In addition, the constant heating and cooling caused by the sun’s rays can even cause wood and other window treatment materials to warp because of frequent expansion and contraction. Even your flooring and walls aren’t immune to the damaging effects of UV rays. In addition to protecting your family’s skin, high-quality window coverings from Blindster can also protect everything inside your home.

5 Common Misconceptions about Blinds and Shades

Buying blinds and shades may seem like a simple process, but because window treatments can dramatically change the appearance of a room, many homeowners are extremely careful and do their homework before they swipe their credit cards or submit an order. To make the process even more convoluted, there are many misconceptions and myths about blinds and shades that can scare homeowners away from certain types of window coverings altogether.

It’s important to know that window treatments have come a long way in recent years. Many of the drawbacks and shortcomings that were common in past decades have been resolved via extensive product testing and a move to higher quality components and materials. That means that many of the pervasive myths and misconceptions about blinds and shades came about in an era when window treatments were less reliable and more likely to give homeowners trouble.

At Blindster, we’re here to answer any questions and address any concerns that our customers have before and after they place an order. That said, here are some of the top misconceptions about window coverings that all homeowners should know about:

Installing blinds requires special tools, expertise, or a contractor

Blinds and shades may seem complicated to mount and install, but almost anyone can install them with just a few basic tools. For example, most window treatments can be easily installed with nothing more than a drill, drill bit, screwdriver, tape measure, ruler, level, pencil, and step ladder. They also come with installation kits that include things like screws and mounting brackets.

Many window treatments are also lightweight and can be installed by a single person. Best of all, Blindster has measuring and installation instructions for all the window coverings that we sell.

Custom blinds are expensive

At Blindster, all our window treatments are custom. We take customer-provided measurements and cut blinds and shades that fit their windows perfectly. In fact, making sure all our window coverings are custom-sized and custom-cut is the only way to ensure that our customers get the fit and effectiveness that they want out of their new blinds and shades.

Options are limited for window coverings

The number of optional components and features available for window coverings is impressive. In addition to standard options like blackout and privacy liners, today’s blinds and shades include options for things like cordless operation, top down bottom up operation, continuous cord loop operation, and a huge variety of colors and textures.

It’s impossible to pick the right color, pattern, or texture when shopping online

While it’s true that things like different computers, monitors, browsers, and color profiles can make a color appear different onscreen compared to what it looks like in real life, Blindster offers a great way to get an up close and personal view of colors, patterns, and textures without any risk: samples.

We offer samples of a huge variety of our products and customers can order multiple at one time, making it easy to compare them against your furniture and existing décor to get the right color for your home.

It’s hard to keep blinds and shades clean

Some blinds and shades are more likely to accumulate dirt and dust than others, but they’re all easily cleaned. For blinds and shades that can be damaged by harsh cleaners and solutions, a feather duster and spot cleaning with a mild cleaner is often all it takes to get out stains, built-up dirt, and other debris.

However, many types of window coverings are highly durable and resistant to even the most intensive cleaning. Aluminum mini blinds and vertical blinds, for example, can be removed from their mounts and cleaned in a bathtub, while faux wood blinds can be cleaned with stronger chemical cleaning solutions without the risk of damage, discoloration, or fading.

Decorating Faux Pas to Avoid

Decorating a home is a very unique and individual experience. There are no one-size-fits-all guides and recommendations for getting the home décor of your dreams. Many factors should be considered when decorating a home, such as its size, layout, architecture, color and geographic location.

But despite there being what seems like an infinite number of design and home décor choices, there are still a few decorative decisions that should be avoided regardless of the aesthetic you’re aiming to create.

These faux pas have the potential of throwing an entire home off-balance due to a poor fit—literally and figuratively. And in some cases, the line between bold and creative home décor, and an interior decorating disaster, can be very thin.

To avoid crossing into the home décor danger zone and unintentionally committing a flagrant foul of interior design, check out some of Blindster’s top decorating faux pas that you should avoid at all costs:

  • Placing too many decorative items in each room

Placing too many decorative items in each room

Via Pinterest

 

When it comes to home décor, less is often more. Although small touches in a room can help complete its look, too many items can be overwhelming and make your space feel cluttered, chaotic and disorganized.

 

When decorating a mantle, bookcase, accent table, or another display area, make sure to give each item its own space, without being crowded by other accent pieces. In addition to saving money, you’ll also be able to better appreciate the small decorative items that you truly love.

  • Focusing too heavily on minimalism

Focusing too heavily on minimalism

Via Pinterest

 

While the “less is more” adage is frequently true from a design and décor standpoint, it’s important to avoid accidentally turning your home into a space that feels more like a museum. Unless you’re specifically looking to create a minimalist look in your home, rooms full of bare walls and bare floors can feel impersonal.

 

Make sure to display some personal touches, like pictures of family or favorite pieces of art. Pictures of minimalist homes in catalogs and online galleries are often stunning, but they aren’t always the best look to imitate if you’re trying to create a space that’s both beautiful and comfortable.

  • Using small rugs in large rooms

Using small rugs in large rooms

Via Pinterest

 

Rugs are a great way to create clear divisions in rooms where it can otherwise be difficult to set boundaries. Large living rooms and bedrooms, for example, may feel cavernous, even when fully furnished, if they aren’t clearly sectioned off with furniture and décor. One of the easiest ways to accomplish that is to use rugs.

 

However, you should always stay away from small or medium-sized rugs in large rooms, especially if they will be placed under large furniture arrangements. A rug that is completely overshadowed by a king-sized bed or a large sectional couch looks out of place and awkward.

 

  • Hanging photos and artwork too high on your walls

Hanging photos and artwork too high on your walls

Via Style By Emily Henderson

 

 

If you’ve ever walked into a room and felt that something was off, but couldn’t quite place what it was, there’s a decent chance that feeling was created by wall hangings that were placed too high. Many people have a natural inclination to place pictures, portraits, and paintings on the upper-third of their walls and with the bottom section of the frames at eye-level.

 

However, doing so naturally draws the eye upward and away from people and other furnishings. Keeping wall hangings closer to furniture height—for example, a landscape painting just a few inches above your couch—means less movement for your eyes and a more cohesive look for your home.

  • Placing furniture arrangements too far apart

Placing furniture arrangements too far apart

Via The Decorologist

 

This faux pas is more common in large rooms, and it’s often due to homeowners not knowing how to best utilize their space. When decorating a large room, it can seem wasteful to not take full advantage of the additional square footage, so there’s a tendency to put extra distance between a couch, coffee table, love seat or television stand. Doing so, however, can create a space that feels disconnected and uncomfortable.

 

Keep furniture arrangements closer together, even if it creates empty spaces in the surrounding areas of the room. Having large, open spaces in living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms isn’t an issue if the room is smartly furnished.

  • Choosing style over comfort when buying furniture

Choosing style over comfort when buying furniture

Via Pinterest

 

Imagine yourself at your local furniture store, deciding between two couches for your living room and not being able to choose which one to bring home. It’s a common dilemma. One couch makes you feel like you’re sitting on a cloud, but isn’t a perfect fit for the room, while the other couch is an ideal match for your home décor, but feels more like a park bench.

 

While the latter couch may look better in your home on the day it gets delivered, it will find its way to a thrift store or garage sale faster than you might think. Comfort rules the roost when it comes to buying furniture, and creating the right room aesthetic for a comfortable, but slightly out of place couch or another large piece is easily accomplished with a few inexpensive accent pieces, blankets, or pillows.

  • Getting tunnel vision when decorating with a theme

Getting tunnel vision when decorating with a theme

Via Pinterest

 

There’s nothing wrong with choosing a theme and sticking with it as you decorate your home. For example, many beach homes look fantastic with a nautical theme, while homes near mountains are perfectly suited for a rustic and log cabin-like decorative approach.

 

However, it’s important to recognize when to reign in the thematic décor and choose furniture and accent pieces that are neutral in appearance. Going overboard on seashell motifs and anchors can quickly turn your home into something that resembles a beach-side gift shop, and that’s never a good look.

  • Being afraid to add color to your home

Being afraid to add color to your home

Via Pinterest

 

While it’s true that neutral colors are often the safest option for interior design, they can also lead to boring living spaces that feel uninspired. It’s not necessary to paint an accent wall or load up on bright and bold paint to get the benefits of color throughout your home, but adding small colorful items like pillows, blankets, and plants, can help make rooms feel more alive and lived in than rooms that exclusively feature whites, grays and beiges.

  • Overloading beds, couches, chairs, and love seats with pillows

Overloading beds, couches, chairs, and loveseats with pillows

Via Pinterest

 

Pillows are a quick and easy way to add interesting designs, colors, and textures to your home, but they should be used sparingly. A couch that’s filled to the brim with pillows of varying shapes and sizes isn’t very welcoming. Pillows that are placed in seating areas often end up on the floor or uncomfortably wedged into someone’s back. Place just enough pillows for guests to be comfortable, whether they’re sleeping or sitting. You’ll spend less money and your rooms will feel less cluttered.

Tips for Maintaining Your Blinds and Shades

Like all things in your home, your window treatments need occasional maintenance to look and operate at their best. For the vast majority of blinds and shades, only light maintenance is necessary to avoid running into problems down the road.

At Blindster, we sell window treatments that are designed to last for years without issues, but taking exceptional care of your blinds and shades is an easy way to prolong their life and keep them looking as beautiful as the day you purchased them.

Maintaining your blinds and shades is a simple process that can be incorporated into both your weekly “light” cleaning routine and monthly or bi-monthly “deep” cleaning routines. So whether you’ve maintained your blinds and shades from day one and are just looking for new ways to get the job done, or you’re ready to begin a maintenance routine for the first time, you can’t go wrong with our tips below.

  1. Wipe away dust every week.

Wipe Away Dust Every Week

Dust, pet hair and pollen, are the biggest threats to your blinds and shades. Window treatments that are installed in rooms with heavy foot traffic, such as living rooms, bedrooms, and bathrooms, can accumulate dust rapidly and may need more frequent attention. Keeping a strict dusting schedule for your blinds and shades is an easy way to keep them in perfect shape without the need for intensive cleaning, and it also helps prevent operational problems due to irritants getting inside the headrail and other moving parts.

 

Safely dust blinds and shades that have only a small build-up of debris, using your vacuum’s soft brush attachment to quickly lift away loose dust and dirt from fabric, slats, and the headrail. To get in between the slats on your blinds, simply use an old sock or a duster that’s designed to fit into small spaces. Finally, use a soft, clean cloth and a mixture of warm water and a gentle cleaning solution to wipe away small stains and areas of accumulated dirt and dust from your blinds’ slats and your shades’ fabric that won’t lift away with your vacuum or feather duster.

 

  1. Smooth wrinkled shades by lowering them, steaming them, or using a wrinkle-remover.

Steam Cleaner

Shades look their best when they are perfectly crisp and without any wrinkles, folds, bumps, or creases. Shades can easily become wrinkled due to things like humidity, exposure to open air, and being raised for long periods of time.

 

If your shades have become wrinkled, there are three effective options for getting the wrinkles out and restoring a beautiful matte and uniform appearance to the fabric:

  • Lower your shades and keep them down for several days.

Shades that are raised and rolled up for long periods of time can naturally become wrinkled. Getting those wrinkles out can be difficult if the shades are repeatedly raised and lowered and never have a chance to remain stationary in an extended position. For a natural and non-intrusive method for getting wrinkles out of your shades, simply lower them as far as you can and keep them down for around 48 to 72 hours. During that time, the wrinkles should come out naturally without any further intervention on your behalf.

 

  • Steam the wrinkles out.

The easiest way to get wrinkles out of clothing is to use heat and steam, and the same principle is true for shades. You can use handheld steamers that are designed for clothing to quickly remove wrinkles from Cellular Shades, Roman Shades, Roller Shades, and more. Use a handheld steamer that puts out continuous steam and direct its flow across the entire wrinkled surface of your shade. Put gentle pressure on the bottom of the shade as you use the steamer to help further de-wrinkle the fabric.

  • Use a wrinkle-removing solution.

Sprays and other chemical solutions that are designed to release and eliminate wrinkles can be highly convenient, but it’s important to be careful when using these on your shades. Always check the cleaning and care instructions for your shades before using any chemicals on them, and do a test patch on a small inconspicuous area to test the effect the spray will have on the fabric. If the fabric doesn’t stain, fade, or discolor, the wrinkle spray will be safe to use and can be a great alternative to a handheld steamer for quickly releasing wrinkles.

 

  1. Repair or replace broken slats.

Replace Broken Slats

Pets, small children, and everyday household accidents can ultimately lead to the slats on your blinds cracking, chipping, and breaking. When that happens, you have two options: repairing the broken slat or replacing it altogether.

 

For wood and faux wood blinds, using a strong wood glue or other adhesive and carefully gluing any broken pieces of slat back together is a quick and inexpensive repair. But if one or more of your slats were seriously damaged and are unable to be glue back together, you may need to replace the slats entirely.

 

To do that, follow these steps:

 

  • Remove the plugs underneath the bottom rail and untie the lift cord on both sides.
  • Pull the lift cord through the slats until you reach the damaged or broken slats.
  • Remove the damaged or broken slats and insert the replacement slats.
  • Thread the lift cord through the replacement slats.
  • Tie the remaining sections of lift cord together.
  • Place the excess lift cord inside the holes on the bottom rail and replace the plugs.

  1. Fix misbehaving vertical blind slats by flipping them and using a hole punch.

Hole Punch Vertical Blinds

If one or two slats on your vertical blinds can’t stay aligned with the rest, there’s a good chance they may be off-kilter due to problems with the hooks at the top of the slat itself. For a quick and easy way to remedy this problem, remove the slat and flip it upside down. Then, use a hole punch to create a new hole that should be roughly the same size and shape as the holes on your slats. The slat will move smoothly and stay in-line with the rest of slats, restoring a uniform appearance to your vertical blinds.

How to Make Your Jack-o-Lantern Last Longer

Carving pumpkins is a Halloween tradition, but it can be disheartening to see your hard work and artistic brilliance start to wither away just days after you’ve put the finishing touches on your Jack-o-Lantern masterpiece. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do that will help ensure that it lasts through Halloween and well into November.

While it’s impossible to make your Jack-o-Lantern last forever, understanding a few facts about the lifespan of pumpkins and what makes them begin to break down can help you stave off the decomposition process for as long as possible.

To keep your carved pumpkins looking their best long after thoughts of ghosts and goblins are replaced with thoughts of turkey and cranberry sauce, check out Blindster’s tips below:

healthy pumpkin

  • Choose a healthy pumpkin.

One of the most important aspects of making sure your Jack-o-Lantern survives well beyond Halloween is to make sure it’s healthy when you purchase it. First, inspect every inch of the pumpkin. If you see or feel any soft spots, choose another pumpkin, as that may be indicative that the decomposition process has already started. You should also check its color. Any discolorations can also indicate that the pumpkin may be on its last legs. Finally, try to purchase your pumpkin from local growers, if possible. The more recently the pumpkin was harvested (and the less distance it traveled to get to you), the longer it will last on your front porch.

dirty pumpkin

  • Clean the pumpkin before you begin carving.

After you’ve picked out a robust-looking pumpkin, it’s time to prepare it for the coming days and weeks. Start off by wiping the pumpkin clean with a damp cloth. Scrub away any caked on mud or dirt, and make the surface as shiny and grime-free as possible. Next, thoroughly clean your carving knife and wash your hands before you begin the carving process. The fewer contaminants that are spread to your pumpkin, the better its chances of surviving will be.

pumpkin guts

  • Remove all of the pulp and wipe down the inside of the pumpkin.

After you’ve removed the top of the pumpkin, remove all of its “guts” and pulp before you begin carving. Use a clean damp cloth or paper towel and wipe down the inside of the pumpkin after you’ve removed the bulk of the pulp, then use another dry paper towel to soak up any excess moisture. Damp pumpkins or pumpkins with small amounts of water in the bottom are more likely to rot than pumpkins that are completely dry and clean.

bleach

  • Coat the inside and outside of the pumpkin with a bleach and water solution.

No matter how well you cleaned your pumpkin initially, it is still home to countless microorganisms that will contribute to its eventual demise. Mix one tablespoon of bleach per quart of water and pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Coat the entire pumpkin, inside and out, with the solution. This will help remove a large amount of the bacteria that can accelerate the decomposition process. Allow the mixture to remain on the pumpkin for around 30 minutes before wiping it clean.

night pumpkin

  • Keep your carved pumpkin cold, hydrated, and out of the sun.

After you’ve carved your pumpkin, it’s important to note that the decomposition process is already taking place, even if you can’t see it yet. There are a few ways to stave it off as long as possible, and they all involve keeping the pumpkin shielded from the elements. After its first night on display, bring your pumpkin inside and soak it in a bucket or large bowl filled with cold, fresh water for at least one hour, although you can also leave it in overnight. Dehydration is a big factor for causing pumpkins to dry out and begin rotting, and a prolonged cold water bath can help freshen up the skin.

 

Another option is to keep your pumpkin in the shade during the day. Pumpkins that are exposed to direct sunlight will quickly dry out and begin showing signs of the decomposition process much faster than pumpkins that are protected from the sun’s UV rays. Try to keep your pumpkin away from sunlight as much as possible during the day, or simply keep it indoors until dusk.

 

Finally, you can also wrap your pumpkin in plastic wrap or place it in an extra-large freezer bag and place it in the refrigerator overnight—especially if you live in a warm climate. Make sure the pumpkin is completely dry before refrigerating it, as even small amounts of moisture can accelerate the decomposition process.

 

  • Keep insects an other animals away from the pumpkin.

Carved pumpkins are under constant attack from microorganisms, but insects pose another big risk that can quickly turn even the hardiest pumpkin into a withering mess in just a few days. Stave away pests by putting out fruit fly traps using mason jars filled with beer, fruit juice, or apple cider vinegar and topped off with a hole-punched lid. You can also light candles that are designed to repel insects and even place one directly inside the Jack-o-Lantern.

vent

  • Make sure the pumpkin has proper ventilation for the heat produced by the candle.

Placing a candle inside a carved pumpkin is the final touch required to make a true Jack-o-Lantern, but it’s also one overlooked step that can damage the pumpkin over time. If your pumpkin doesn’t have proper ventilation, the heat can get trapped inside, which can actually bake the pumpkin and cause it to become soft. Eventually, it may even collapse on itself. Make sure the top of your pumpkin has enough room to allow the heat to escape.

Little girl with fall flowers, haybale and pumpkin

How to Stay Safe on Halloween

Costumes, candy, haunted houses, decorations, parties, and scary movies are all a big part of what makes Halloween a holiday that’s enjoyed equally by kids and adults. But whether you’re taking your kids trick or treating or attending a party with your friends and family, the best way to enjoy yourself on Halloween is to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

No matter what your plans are for Halloween 2015, here are a few simple tips from Blindster that you can follow to make the holiday both fun and safe for your entire family:

  • Make sure your children know how to cross the street safely.

Trick or treating is one of the highlights of Halloween for children, but it’s also a time when they can be vulnerable to dangers—especially when they’re crossing the street. Make sure older children understand when and where to cross the street. Teach them about the importance of only crossing at designated crosswalks and never running out in the middle of the street. In addition, keep a close eye on younger children and never allow them to cross the street without yourself or another adult watching them carefully at all times.

 

  • Reduce the risks created by unsafe costumes.

Costumes and costume parties are a big hit on Halloween with people of all ages, but it’s important to make sure that costumes are safe and don’t pose any unnecessary dangers. Before heading to trick or treat or going to a party to celebrate with friends and family, make sure costumes fit well and don’t restrict or obstruct breathing. In addition, be careful when allowing children to wear masks, helmets, or anything else that might obstruct their vision—especially if they are trick or treating and walking near areas with vehicle traffic.

 

  • Reduce your speed and stay extra cautious and alert while driving.

If you drive on Halloween, keep in mind that there will be an increased number of pedestrians—including small children—on or near the roadway. That means you should decrease your speed and proceed with extreme caution, especially when driving through residential areas. Keep your headlights on and take your time when passing through neighborhoods that are known for trick or treating or block parties. Always yield the right of way to pedestrians—even if they aren’t in crosswalks—and give small children and their parents or guardians plenty of time to cross the street at intersections.

 

  • Make sure your children trick or treat in groups, never alone.

Older children may not require constant supervision on Halloween, but it is important for them to stick together throughout the night. In addition to making sure that your child trick or treats with a group of friends or family, you should also make sure that he or she sticks to neighborhoods that are familiar. Giving your child a cell phone to call home or call for help in case of an emergency is also helpful, especially if he or she plans on staying out later than usual.

 

  • Choose reflective and brightly colored costumes.

Dressing in dark colors on Halloween can be appealing for kids, but it’s also extremely dangerous due to how difficult it can be for drivers to see them. When choosing a Halloween costume for your child, choose one that’s made primarily with bright colors as well as one that features highly reflective surfaces. If the costume doesn’t have any reflective surfaces, consider attaching small bits of reflective tape to the costume to make it more obvious to drivers, as the tape will reflect their headlights and draw attention to your child’s presence in the street or on the sidewalk.

 

  • Test make-up and face paint in a small area before applying it to the face or body.

Many Halloween costumes use face paint and make-up to create a stylish or ghoulish effect, but they’re also more prone to causing redness, irritation, and even allergic reactions than traditional make-up purchased from a cosmetics counter. Instead of applying an entire Halloween costume make-up kit at once, apply a small amount to a small test spot and wait several hours to determine whether it’s safe to use.

 

  • Provide your children with flashlights while they’re trick or treating.

In addition to having a brightly colored and reflective costume, the next best thing your child can carry on Halloween is a bright flashlight powered by fresh batteries. A flashlight not only illuminates their path and makes it easier to walk at night and avoid obstacles, but it also makes them far more visible to drivers. Give each of your children a flashlight of their own to enhance the effect as they travel from house to house.

 

  • Avoid costumes with special footwear or long robes and capes.

Trick or treating involves walking for long periods of time on unfamiliar terrain. Costumes that involve awkward shoes or footwear, or costumes that feature long, flowing fabric can pose significant tripping hazards to you or your children. Make sure that all costumes are clear of obstructions that can impair walking ability. In addition, long costumes that drag on the ground may be flammable and can put you or your children at risk if they come into contact with hot surfaces, including open flames or even hot lights on or near walkways.

 

  • Avoid costumes with decorative contact lenses unless ordered through an eye doctor.

Decorative contact lenses can create a dramatic effect on the appearance of the eyes, but they can also pose serious risks—especially if they’re purchased online or through a non-approved retailer. Contact lenses are medical devices with strict safety standards that should only be acquired after a thorough eye examination and prescription. Novelty contact lenses purchased from a non-licensed retailer can pose serious risks to the eyes, including corneal abrasions, allergic reactions, eye infections, and irritation.

 

  • Make sure your children know to not enter the homes or cars of strangers.

If you have older children who will be trick or treating without adult supervision, make sure they know to never enter the homes of strangers or to accept rides from people they don’t know. In addition, make sure they only visit well-lit homes in populated areas and that they never venture too far away from familiar areas.

 

  • Illuminate your own porch or walkway if you’re in an area with trick or treaters.

In addition to keeping yourself and your children safe on Halloween, you can also do your part by keeping children in your neighborhood safe by fully illuminating your walkway. Turn on your porch light to make it easier for children to see your home, and place lights throughout the path to your front door to help reduce tripping hazards.

Common Garden Plants That Are Toxic to Dogs

If you’re dog owner, you know that there’s nothing that your canine friend enjoys more than spending time outside. And while there’s no substitute for taking your dog on regular walks, a quick trip to your backyard is a great way for your fur baby to burn off some pent up energy.

However, when intruding your dog to a new yard you should be cautious, as many common plants that seem harmless are actually toxic to dogs and can cause symptoms ranging from minor intestinal discomfort to serious medical emergencies.

To make sure your garden is safe for your furry friend, check out Blindster’s list of toxic plants that may be growing right under your feet.

aloe vera

Aloe vera

A plant widely regarded for its healing properties in countless cultures throughout the world, aloe vera is actually highly toxic to cats and dogs. If you grow aloe vera either indoors or in your garden, make sure it is kept in an area where your dogs can’t reach it. Symptoms of aloe vera ingestion in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, and change in urine color.

Azaleas

Azaleas add beauty and rich colors to any garden or landscaping project, but they’re also highly toxic to dogs and most animals. Dogs that consume even just a small amount of an azalea plant can suffer serious medical problems, and symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and drooling require immediate treatment by a veterinarian. To stay on the safe side, it’s best to remove any azaleas from areas where your dog may venture in your yard or garden.

azaleas

tulips

Tulips

While the actual flowering part of tulips aren’t excessively toxic, the bulbs of the plants are. That’s particularly bad news for gardeners with dogs that love to dig, as ingestion of a tulip bulb can cause dogs to suffer extreme irritation in their mouths and throats. Depending on how much of the plant is consumed, dogs may require nothing more than a rinsing of the mouth and anti-vomiting medication, while others may require more intensive treatments to flush the toxins from their intestinal tracts.

Daffodils

Like tulips and azaleas, daffodils are beautiful flowering plants that add dimension to any garden. But daffodils contain an alkaloid chemical called lycorine, which can strongly irritate the intestines of dogs that consume the plant. As with tulips, the strongest concentration of the chemical is inside the bulbs of the plant, which means dogs that like to dig are the most at-risk of ingestion. Symptoms can range from vomiting and diarrhea to cardiac arrhythmias and labored breathing; any dogs that consume this plant should receive immediate veterinary attention.

daffodils

oleander

Oleander

Popular in gardens throughout the world and in all climates, oleander is an evergreen shrub that thrives in a wide variety of conditions. It’s also one of the most toxic plants commonly found in home gardens and cause significant health issues to animals when ingested. The plant contains a chemicals known as cardiac glycosides, which means they can disrupt the function of the heart of any animal that consumes the plant. Dogs that ingest oleander always require immediate veterinary attention, as even small amounts of the plant can be fatal.

Sago Palm

A plant that’s more common and popular in warm climates, sago palms are cultivated both indoors and in outdoor gardens. Unfortunately, sago palms are both highly toxic and highly appealing to animals, especially dogs. Symptoms of poisoning may not show up until nearly 12 hours after the initial ingestion of the plant and can range from unexplained bruising and nose bleeds to damage to the stomach lining and even liver failure. While the seeds are the most toxic part of the sago palm plant, all parts of it are harmful to dogs, making it a plant that simply has no place in dog owners’ homes or garden.

sago palm

poinsetta

Poinsettia

Poinsettias are most widely associated with Christmas decorations and displays, but they’re robust plants that can survive year-round, even during the winter, provided they don’t receive excess exposure to frost. Over the years, poinsettias have been singled out as being one of the most toxic common plants to animals—especially dogs—but they’re actually much less harmful than many of the other plants on this list. However, animals that ingest poinsettias still certainly experience discomfort, as symptoms can include irritation of the mouth and throat as well as mild vomiting and diarrhea.

Tomato plants

One of the few edible entries on this list, tomato plants are a staple of many outdoor gardens, as they’re not only fun to grow and cultivate, but they also produce delicious fruits. While the fruit can be safely consumed by dogs and other animals, the plant itself—the leaves, stems, and other green parts of the plant—are mildly toxic, although large amounts are often needed to produce adverse effects, such as vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and lethargy. To be stay on the safe side, keep dogs away from tomato plants and supervise them if you grow tomatoes in your garden.

tomatoes

lily of the valley

Lily of the Valley

Prized by gardeners for its fragrance, attractive appearance, and ease of growth, lily of the valley does well in a variety of conditions, including shady areas and gardens in both dry and wet climates. However, this plant comes with a significant drawback for dog owners, as it’s highly toxic and, like oleander, contains cardiac glycosides that are known for causing heart arrhythmias in animals that ingest the plant. Even small amounts of the plant are known to cause symptoms ranging from abdominal pain and vomiting to drowsiness and reduced heart rate.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms can quickly and easily grown in your garden whether you want them there or not, but if you notice any sprouting up among your plants, it’s best to remove them immediately. Because there are so many different varieties of mushrooms, it’s nearly impossible to determine what type of mushrooms may be growing in your garden, as well as their overall toxicity level. Many mushrooms are known to range from irritating, to highly poisonous, for dogs and other animals, it’s best to err on the side of caution and remove mushrooms from your garden right away.

mushroom

Fourth of July Safety Tips

Independence Day 2015 will mark the 239th anniversary of the date the United States became an independent nation. It’s no surprise that patriotism runs high on the Fourth of July, and it’s also one of the biggest holidays of the year, complete with family get-togethers, barbecues, pool parties, and fireworks displays.

While the Fourth is the quintessential holiday for outdoor fun, it’s also a day that can pose serious risks to your friends and loved ones—especially to small children. To keep your entire family safe on the Fourth of July, check out some of Blindster’s top safety tips for the holiday.

sparkler

Firework Safety

Fireworks can create a dazzling display at your get-together, but they must be handled with care. The following safety tips can decrease the chances of an accident or mishap.

Never allow children to use fireworks or sparklers.

While fireworks are a staple of most Fourth of July celebrations, they should only be handled by adults. Children are at a high risk of suffering serious burns from small fireworks like bottle rockets and sparklers, which much larger fireworks can cause severe injuries. To avoid these potentially serious injuries, always keep fireworks locked up and away from children throughout the year—not just around the Fourth of July holiday.

Never shoot fireworks when there’s a fire warning.

Fireworks tend to produce huge amounts of sparks. While most of those sparks fall harmlessly back to the ground, they can sometimes ignite grass, leaves, and other materials—especially if the area is experiencing a drought. Before shooting fireworks at your Independence Day celebration, check the fire danger rating for your area. If it’s high, avoid shooting fireworks at all, as a single spark could start a fire that could quickly grow out of control.

Never shoot fireworks in the direction of people.

When shooting fireworks, always aim them up and away from guests and onlookers. Shooting fireworks intentionally in the direction of people, either using containers on the ground or by shooting them by hand, is exceptionally dangerous and can lead to serious injuries.

Never disassemble or modify fireworks.

Fireworks are explosive devices that are designed to be used only as intended. That’s why it’s vital that you never attempt to modify them by tampering with the fuse or by removing parts of the explosives. Only shoot fireworks that are whole and immediately discard fireworks that appear to have been modified.

grilling

Grilling Safety

Make your barbecue safe, fun, and memorable by following these tips:

Grill outdoors and in areas with proper ventilation.

When grilling, it’s important that you do so in an area with full ventilation. Grilling produces gases that can quickly become toxic, which means that grilling in fully or semi-enclosed areas, including decks, sun rooms, and garages can be extremely hazardous to your health or the health of your loved ones.

Move your grill away from flammable areas.

Grills produce large amounts of heat and occasionally flames that may briefly leap several feet in the air. If your grill is too close to anything flammable, including parts of your home, it may cause a fire. To avoid this, always keep your grill in an open area far away from other objects.

Cook all food thoroughly and inspect it before serving.

Grilling can be an inexact science, and no matter how experience you are, it’s difficult to cook everything exactly the same every time you fire it up. Before serving hamburgers, chicken, steaks, and other meats to your friends and family, make sure to check that they’re fully cooked. Serving undercooked meats can cause foodborne illnesses that can range from minor gastrointestinal discomfort to medical emergencies.

Inspect gas grills for leaks or damage before use.

Gas grills are often more efficient and safe than charcoal grills, but they’re also more dangerous in the event of an accident or unnoticed damage. Always inspect your gas grill thoroughly before use by looking for damage or holes in the hoses and the gas tank. Damaged gas grills are more likely to suddenly catch on fire or even explode, so it’s important to never use your grill if you notice any damage to those areas.

kids pool

Water Safety

Enjoying the warm summer weather and splashing around in the pool, on the lake, or at the ocean are staples of Fourth of July celebrations. Keep your family safe on the water by keeping these tips in mind.

Always wear sunscreen when exposed to sunlight for long periods of time.

Sunburns are more than just painful nuisances—they can pose serious risks to health, especially to small children who get burned early in life. Always make sure you and your family apply sunscreen frequently when exposed to the sun and reapply after an hour of exposure or after swimming. You should also do your best to stay in the shade as much as possible and protect your face and eyes by wearing sunglasses and a hat.

Provide life jackets for everyone when boating.

Not only is it required by law on almost all bodies of water, but it’s also simply common sense to provide everyone with a life jacket when boating. In addition to just providing lifejackets, you should also make sure that they’re the proper size for everyone onboard the boat. Adult life jackets are generally too big and ineffective for small children, so always have smaller sizes on hand to account for their presence.

Always supervise children when they’re swimming.

Keep a close eye on all children when they’re swimming, whether it’s in a pool, in a lake, or in the ocean. Never allow children to swim without adult supervision and always stay in close proximity and with life preservers handy in case any children need to be pulled to safety from the water.

Move away from the water if there’s lightning in the area.

The summer months are notorious for sudden storms, and the Fourth of July is no exception. Always check the weather forecast before planning outdoor activities and move away from the water if you notice storms moving into the area. Make sure everyone gets out of the pool, lake, or ocean at the first sign of lightning, even if it appears far away. Storms can move quickly, so it’s best to err on the side of caution as soon as possible.

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8 Home Upgrades and Additions to Avoid

If you have the means and desire to do so, upgrading your home seems like a no-brainer as a sound investment. Not only will it increase your satisfaction with your home, but it will also increase your home’s property value, right? Well, in some cases, the complete opposite is true. Not only will the upgrade become more of a burden than a boon, but it also could ultimately cost you money if you ever decide to sell your home.

While every home upgrade or addition should be treated on a case-by-case basis, there are some that almost never contribute anything to a home’s value and can, in fact, cause it to drop dramatically and even make it harder to sell. Before you schedule any major home renovation or upgrades, check out Blindster’s list of the upgrades you should avoid.

home office

1. Built-in electronics and entertainment systems

Having a state-of-the-art home theater system installed in your home, complete with a full surround sound system, a projector or large flat-screen TV, Blu-ray player, and all the necessary wires tucked away within your walls may sound like a dream come true, but those components may be hopelessly out of date in 15, 10, or even just five years down the road.

The display resolutions of projectors and televisions are constantly improving, and an impressive screen in 2015 may be considered completely obsolete just a few years later. The same thing applies with speaker wires, display wires, and optical media players. That’s not a major issue if you can easily swap it for a new model, but built-in entertainment systems have much more difficult to change components.

Tech-savvy homebuyers will see your outdated home theater or entertainment system, not as a selling point, but as a major money sink if they plan on modernizing it.

2. Outdoor spaces that don’t take the climate into consideration

Enjoying the great outdoors while never leaving home is a dream for many homeowners and homebuyers. But what happens when the summer fun is over and your dream patio is suddenly under a deluge of daily rain or covered by a foot of snow?

Before you go all out on transforming your backyard into an outdoor oasis, consider the climate of the area where you live. Outdoor patios are great to install in areas that get at least five to six months of pleasant outdoor weather, but areas where the summer months are the only viable time to truly enjoy being outside may be less than ideal.

If you live in a colder climate, consider building an outdoor area that’s partially covered and that features a large fireplace or fire pit to keep warm when the temperature drops. If you live in a warm climate, you have more options and can even spring for a pool to cool off on hot summer days.

snow porch

bathroom reno

3. Sacrificing a bedroom to make room for something else

Sure, that extra guest bedroom may seem like a waste of space right now—especially if you have grand ideas for knocking down a wall to create a giant master bathroom, walk-in closet or expanding any other part of your home.

But before you start combining rooms, consider your neighborhood and the types of homes nearby. Do most family homes have three or four bedrooms? If so, eliminating one of yours to add luxury to another element of your home may do more harm than good—both for your home’s resale value and your home’s overall ability to support your family.

4. Dedicated home office

While it’s true that more and more people are beginning to work from home or simply enjoy the convenience of having a home office, it’s important that you give yourself and potential buyers the option to choose whether they need one. A room with built-in bookcases, a large and immobile desk, and flooring or wall coverings that clearly indicate that the room is made for working can seriously reduce its appeal to buyers—especially those who have no interest in a home office of their own.

aquarium

5. A large custom aquarium

A full-size custom aquarium built in to your home can be a mesmerizing sight and very impressive to your friends and family, but it’s an investment that potential buyers can view with skepticism or even dread. While fish are certainly easy pets to take care of, they still require a significant amount of upkeep—and the bigger the aquarium and fish inside it, the more work you have to put in to keep it clean and running.

6. Sunroom

Sunrooms are typically built with huge floor to ceiling windows that are designed to let in as much light as possible to provide a warm and comforting place to relax, read, study, or nap. Despite their inviting nature, sunrooms are notorious for being difficult to cool during the summer and hard to heat during the winter—which can significantly increase your electric bill.

In addition, many homeowners find that they would prefer to use the space for something else, like a separate bedroom or even as a dedicated outdoor area.

sunroom

extension

7. Extensions and additions to your home

If your family is simply running out of room in your home, you can either move, downsize your belongings, or build an addition onto your home. While the latter may be an appealing option, it’s rarely worth it in the end. Additions are often very expensive upgrades and in the hands of the wrong contractor can actually threaten your home’s stability and overall structural integrity. Not only that, but many potential home buyers may even view the addition as a cost and upkeep burden.

8. Outdated décor and furnishings

In most cases, home buyers prefer hardwood floors and exposed walls. So the last thing you want to do is cover your floors with carpet and your walls with wood paneling or wallpaper. While it’s true that both of those installations can increase comfort, privacy, and insulation, they’re rarely at the top of potential home buyers’ lists of needs or wants.

Place area rugs in places where you want somewhere soft to sit or walk, like your living room, dining room, or bedroom, and install privacy blinds and shades on your windows to reduce outside noise and improve insulation.

vintage decor

Tell-Tale Signs Your Home Needs Repairs

Owning a home gives you a lot of freedom. You can paint it any color you want, renovate it at a moment’s notice, and even knock down walls or build additions to any room in your home. But for all those perks, homeowners have to put up with one pesky problem: repairs.

As a homeowner, it’s inevitable that you will face repairs that range from annoying inconveniences to problems that could quickly become catastrophic without immediate action. Thankfully, most home-related problems can be quickly spotted with a keen eye and a cautious mindset.

Here are some of Blindster’s tell-tale signs that you may be due for some home repairs in the near future.

Leaky, crumbling, and buckling roof

Asphalt and shingle roofs, which are extremely common on homes in the U.S., typically last between 20 and 25 years. However, frequent exposure to harsh elements or poor installation techniques can cause roofs to fail sooner than that.

Replacing a roof is expensive, but something almost every homeowner will face at least a couple of times during their lifetime. But how do you know when it’s time to shell out the cash for a new roof?

The most obvious sign of roof failure is a leak. This indicates that the roof is no longer doing its job of protecting the inside of your home from the elements outside, and the water damage can quickly cause wood to rot, ceilings to fail, and insects/pests to take residence inside your home.

Another sign of failure are missing or broken shingles. Over time, shingles begin to slowly detach from each other and fall off. Early warning signs can also include small pieces of shingle granules accumulating in your gutters.

Finally, shingles that are warped, curling, or buckling are a strong indicator that your roof is nearing its final days. To prevent serious water damage occurring in your home, consider getting your roof replaced right away when you notice these warning signs.

Unreliable circuit breakers, frequent power outages, and nonfunctional outlets

Dependable electricity and power throughout your home is something you take for granted. In fact, it’s a necessity for modern life. So when your home begins to have issues with electricity, at best it means that you may need to replace your wiring, and at worst it means your appliances, electronics, and other gadgets could get damage due to power spikes and surges.

Circuit breakers that constantly trip due to overloaded circuits are not only annoying, but they can also be dangerous to your possessions. If your circuit breakers continue to malfunction, unplug any high-value electronics, such as televisions, computers, and steroes, before resetting the circuit breaker in your home’s fuse box. If the problem continues to occur, you may need an electrician to investigate the issue.

Another sign of potential electrical failure in your home is when your small appliances, such as your toaster, vacuum, or blender, produce sparks when you plug them into an outlet. Sparking outlets are extremely dangerous, as they could start a fire. If you notice an outlet producing sparks, immediately discontinue using it and call an electrician to have it tested or replaced.

Finally, outlets and light switches that have simply stopped working are often an obvious sign that your home’s wiring is simply too old and in danger of failing completely. Wiring systems have a limited lifespan, and once power outages and failing outlets begin occurring, it’s often best to replace the entire wiring of the home.

Unreliable circuit breakers

Heating and air conditioning problems

Heating and air conditioning problems

Much like reliable electricity, reliable heating and air conditioning is a must-have for homes located in almost every climate in the country. Without it, winters quickly turn even the most well-insulated homes into iceboxes and summers turn them into uncomfortable sweatboxes.

Fortunately, air conditioning units and furnaces rarely stop working without giving homeowners ample warning signs and opportunities to fix minor or major issues. However, to take advantage of these early warning signs, it’s important that you know what to look for.

The first warning sign to look for is a sluggish response from your AC unit when you change the thermostat. In most cases, efficient AC units respond almost immediately to changes in temperature settings and you’ll be able to feel warm or cool air within a few seconds of moving the dial. The longer it takes the AC unit to respond to changes at the thermostat, the more likely it is to fail in the near future.

Vents producing warm or hot air in the summer, even when the air conditioner is set to “cool,” is another warning sign that your unit needs to be repaired. Because air is still circulating, this problem typically means that there’s a problem with the unit’s refrigerant or condenser coils. To avoid these issues in the future, schedule regular inspections for your AC unit from qualified professionals.

Overflowing and packed gutters

Gutters are an often overlooked parts of homes, but they play an important role when it comes to redirecting rain water and preventing it from eroding soil, sidewalks, grass, and landscaping around your home. While many issues with gutters can be solved by simply giving them a thorough cleaning, they have limited lifespans just like roofs and need to be replaced or repaired after a certain timeframe.

While the most obvious signs of gutter failure include gutters becoming detached from your roof, clean gutters overflowing, and water leaking from the seams, there are other more subtle signs that you should watch out for to avoid expensive repairs and water damage.

Lines of weathered and eroded soil and grass directly beneath your gutters is an early and obvious sign that they’re not performing up to par and that they either need repairs or replacement. Signs of erosion and water accumulation in landscaping and flower beds under your gutters is another warning sign.

Something else to watch out for is peeling and flaking paint or rotting wood in areas directly under your gutters, including garage doors, exterior home doors, windowsills, and wooden planters.

Finally, keep an eye on how flush your gutters are with your roof. If you notice part of your gutter that’s beginning to sag away from the roof, reattach it to the roof as firmly and tightly as possible using new nails or adhesive. The sooner you reattach the gutter, the less likely it is that you will have issues in the near future.

packed gutters