Thursday, December 4, 2014

Making Possessions Last Longer (Part 2)


Making Possessions Last Longer (Part 2)
(By Wong Ee Lynn, /


In the December 2014 Green Living column, we provided tips on how to care for clothes, shoes, bags, mattresses and pillows to make them last longer, and the proper etiquette for donating used items. In this month's column, we will share ideas and tips on how to care for electronic devices and appliances, books, toys and furniture to make them last and help you save on money and resources.
1. Mobile phones and battery-operated devices
- Get (or make!) a good quality protective casing or cover for your phone, tablet device, MP3 player or other device to protect it from scratches, dirt, dust, water, sweat and drops/falls.
- Don't expose your phone or other device to extreme heat or moisture. Don't leave it on your vehicle dashboard or next to / on top of the refrigerator or stove, and don't bring your devices into the shower or swimming pool with you.
- Switch off the battery charger once your device is fully charged. Never charge your device for more than 12 hours. Conversely, you should not let your battery get fully drained before you recharge it. Always use the correct charger for your device. Cheap knock-off battery chargers can damage batteries and devices.
- If your phone or device ever falls into water, switch it off as soon as you retrieve it to prevent an electrical short circuit. Disassemble your device quickly and dry the battery and removable parts with a dry cloth or towel to prevent corrosion. Spread the battery, SIM card and other removable parts out onto a teatowel and let them dry overnight. Do NOT use a hairdryer to dry a wet phone or device, as the heat can cause further damage. Reassemble your phone or device the following day and test it to see if it will work again.

2. Electrical Appliances
- Switch off and unplug anything that is not in use. Switch off battery chargers once appliances are fully charged.
- Have a proper place to store appliances to prevent damage caused by water or being accidentally dropped or pushed off ledges and counters. Store smaller appliances, e.g. hair dryers, blenders and mixers, in drawers and cabinets when not in use.
- Unplug your refrigerator and clean the compressor coils at least once a year to keep it running efficiently. Same goes for fans and air-conditioning units. Regular cleaning will help them run more efficiently and prevent breakdowns. As a general rule, wipe down all appliances after use to prevent dirt, dust and pet hair from clogging up vents and moving parts.
- Microwave ovens can last around 10 years, given proper care. Clean out your microwave after use before the grease and food bits solidify and harden, which will increase the risk of sparking, which can seriously damage your microwave oven. Heat up a bowl of water with a slice of lemon or lime in it in your microwave until the water boils. The steam will loosen the grease and food particles and make your microwave oven easier to clean.
- Don't put heavy items, e.g. books and ornaments, on top of appliances, such as television sets, computer monitors and microwave ovens, which can add strain to the structure of the appliance.
- Read your appliance manual and warranty documents to find out the proper way to care for and service your appliances.

3. Books
- Buy good quality book covers/ plastic wrapping paper for wrapping your book covers in. This will protect them from dirt and moisture and help them look new for many years to come, which is a bonus if you plan to sell or donate your pre-loved books. If the books are used or old books, wipe down the cover and sides with a damp cloth and let the book air-dry completely before you wrap it. Repair all torn pages and covers or split spines with adhesive tape.
- Don't scribble on book pages. If you have a habit of writing down ideas and thoughts or new words to look up in a dictionary, keep a few pieces of scrap paper or memo pads around in your reading corner so your books can be spared the scribbles.
- Have bookmarks lying around, or one bookmark for each book, to discourage yourself from dog-earing pages, or putting books face down on a table (which may dirty the pages or break the book spine, causing pages to come loose). You can easily make bookmarks by cutting laminated flyers, cereal boxes or greeting cards into strips, or using the cardboard tags from your new clothes or shoes as bookmarks. Don't use rubber bands or paper clips as bookmarks, as rubber bands can melt and leave stains and paper clips will rust and damage paper.
- Keep your hands reasonably clean while handling books and reading. If you are in the habit of snacking while reading, keep a washcloth or handkerchief nearby to wipe your fingers on.
- Don't roll up your books or stick them into your pockets. Hold them in your hands or store them in a bag or backpack instead.
- To avoid your books getting dirty, crumpled or mixed up with other things in your backpack, store them in a paper or plastic bag before stowing them in your backpack. This will prevent the book from opening up or getting creased, torn, dirty or dog-eared in your backpack.
- If you read in the bathroom, take your book out with you so that it will not be damaged by the moisture in the bathroom. If you have a designated stack of reading materials in the bathroom, put up a shelf or rack for the books, away from water and areas where they are likely to get splashed or sprayed with water.
- If you use cookbooks in the kitchen, you might want to save a few large transparent plastic bags (e.g. the kind that new shirts come in) to put your book in when you open it up to the page you want. This way, you can hold the pages open with pegs, clips, a skirt hanger or heavy items like salt and pepper shakers, but the pages will not be damaged.
- If you have children who love to acquire and accumulate books, you may want to create an incentive for them by putting up the books they no longer read for sale on secondhand books forums or social media. The better the condition the book is in, the higher the price you can quote. Your child can keep 50% of the proceeds of sale. This will be an incentive for him or her to keep his or her books in good condition for resale and donation.
- Store your books upright or lying flat down, never slanting or sloping, as this will put pressure on the pages and increase the risk of pages getting torn or the books getting bent out of shape. Keep your bookcase clean and free from dust and damp. Store books away from open windows where they might get wet during rain or discoloured by sunlight, or refrigerators and vents where they can get damaged by heat. Your book storage area should ideally be a cool, clean and dry area.

4. Furniture
- Use a furniture protector spray or polish to protect fabrics and upholstery against stains. Be sure to read the label carefully, and choose the product with ingredients that cause the least harm to the environment and human health.
- Get washable, removable slip covers made for your sofa, armchairs and seats.
- Lubricate moving parts such as drawer rails so that they roll in and out smoothly, thus preventing rough handling.
- Polish wooden furniture with wood polish (environmentally-friendly options include beeswax polish, and olive oil if you are vegan) to protect and waterproof their surfaces and hide scratches and dings.
- Cover shelves, table tops and insides of drawers with plastic or linoleum sheets cut to size to protect them against dirt, dust, moisture, and scratches.
- Tighten the screws and joints of furniture from time-to-time to ensure they don't wobble and crack. Try not to overload shelves. Keep the heaviest loads on the lowest shelves to prevent furniture from falling or tipping over and to protect furniture joints and supporting columns.
- Try to keep wooden or steel furniture off the floor to prevent damage from water, e.g. during mopping. Elevate furniture off the floor using castors, rubber risers (available in hardware and home improvement stores) or tiles.
- Use furniture corner protectors (from hardware or home improvement stores and baby goods sections) for furniture items that frequently get bumped into or that hit other surfaces, for example, cabinet doors that swing into the wall when opened too quickly.

5. Toys
- The fewer toys a child has, the better he or she is able to care for them. Buy only the best quality toys available and rotate toys regularly (e.g. store a box away in your closet, ensure child has no more than 30 toys to play with at each given week and switch the toys around when he/she is tired of the existing ones).
- Create an incentive system to encourage your child or teen to part with his/her old toys. Have him/her clean up and repair/restore old toys and locate missing pieces and parts. Put the toys up for sale via social media, online forums or a yard sale. Your child/teen gets to keep an agreed percentage of the proceeds of sale. This will motivate him/her to keep toys in good condition and ensure parts and pieces do not go missing. Unsold items can be donated to charitable organisations. Too often, toys donated to charity are broken, dirty, torn or incomplete.
- Wash soft toys by hand in cold soapy water to remove dirt and stains. Sometimes, you may need to undo a few stitches, remove damp and contaminated cotton/stuffing, and restuff the soft toy with clean stuffing once the toy is dry. Ensure all tears and holes are patched or stitched up before they are beyond repair.
- Wipe down battery-operated toys, particularly toys that are taken outdoors such as remote-controlled cars. This will prevent a buildup of dirt that can wear down moving parts.
- Wash plastic toys and sports equipment in soapy water and allow them to dry. This will keep them looking new longer and prevent dirt from wearing down moving parts or damaging grooves, joints and stitches.
- Have a proper place to store toys that break easily, for example, kites, paper lanterns and vintage toys.
- Keep toys organised and sorted into proper containers or boxes. The more messy a collection of toys are, the more likely it is that parts and pieces will go missing, rendering the rest of the toy or game useless.

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