How to Start Saving Early for the Holidays


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By Jon Lal


Some people like to plan ahead and start their holiday shopping early, while others would prefer to wait until Halloween is over. Either way, there are a few things you can do right now that will help you feel prepared going into the holiday season to spend money on gifts, entertaining and travel. It’s easy to wait until late November or even December to begin thinking about the holidays, but if you don’t have a set budget or money put aside, you might be at risk of overspending and racking up a large credit card balance. Take on some of these strategies and you won’t find yourself with a holiday spending hangover:

Assess your finances.

It’s a good idea to take a big picture look at your finances every few months, so if you haven’t done so in a while, now is the perfect time. See where your money is going, how your spending habits may have changed recently and how much you owe in loans or on your credit cards. Once you have an idea of your financial health, create a place to keep your holiday spending money. If you don’t already have a savings account specifically for the holidays, commonly known to some as a “Christmas Club,” create one. It’s much easier to leave money untouched if it isn’t easily accessible.

Cut costs and save more.

If you just created an account and don’t have any money saved yet, don’t panic. You just took a long look at your finances; did you see where you can cut costs, at least temporarily? Maybe you’ve signed up for one too many monthly memberships over the last year – those can add up. Some movie and music subscription services have an option to “pause” your membership, so you can take a few months off without losing your settings and preferences.

For those expenses you can’t eliminate, see if there are options to scale back. Start using coupons at the grocery store, which are easy to find on coupon and deals websites. Look into the service providers you have been with for years, like car insurance. Are you getting the best deal, or are there cheaper alternatives? Use a comparison website to make sure you’re getting the best rate possible.

Clean house.

Another way to add some extra padding to your new holiday savings account is to sell your stuff. You’re probably going to get a few new gifts in the coming months, so why not make room? Go through your things and gather the gently used items that you just don’t need. If you haven’t worn something in 12 months, will you really wear it again? Did your kids grow so quickly that they only wore things once or twice? You can get money for good condition furniture, clothes and other odds and ends at consignment shops and garage sales. Then, deposit your earnings into your holiday account.

Set a budget.

It’s great to go into the holiday season with extra spending money, but that doesn’t mean you’re not at risk to overspend. If you can, look at who you need to buy for and what you spent in the last few years to determine an approximate budget. This will help you keep your spending in check.

When you lay out your predicted expenses, go beyond the gifts – don’t forget what you need to spend on entertaining, travel and donations.

Book travel.

Last but certainly not least, this is the time to figure out your holiday travel. Don’t wait until the last minute and end up paying a pretty penny for higher fares. analyzed a year’s worth of data to find out the best time to book airfare, and found that you should purchase your ticket an average of 7 weeks in advance. This is only a guideline, and can vary depending on many factors, but they did advise against buying your airfare too early or too late.

An exception might be when you are planning to travel during a busy time like Thanksgiving – it’s safer then to buy plane tickets even earlier. If you haven’t booked yet and you need to fly somewhere for the holidays, now is the time!


5 Fun Front Porch Fall Decorating Ideas


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Written by Andrea Davis


Transitioning your front porch for fall doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor. You can make a few trips to the home decor store or contract the job out to a decorator, and voila! your front porch is ready. If you decide to do it yourself, here are some tips on decorating your front porch for the fall:

1. Plant fall flowers in your pots and boxes

There are various plants that fit in with the fall. Some types to choose from include sage, white clover, sedum and verbena. You will need to care for them regularly so they won’t freeze or grow brittle. However, they will otherwise look beautiful and allot a natural ambiance to your front porch.

2. Add fall-themed details to your furniture

If your benches, couches, dining porch furniture or swings need a touch of fall, you could buy or sew together some pillow cases for the season. You can sew Halloween designs like ghosts, bats, witches or cats.

If you want a fall aesthetic, design pillow cases with leaves, tree branches or perhaps pumpkins. Other accents to add to your furniture include blankets for curling up at night, candles on the table or a centerpiece.

3. Change your welcome mat for the fall

Welcome mats are important, and you can always change them out to match the season. Why not invest in a new one specifically for fall or Halloween? You can have one with leaves, trees or other designs that match your porch. If you want one that’s spooky, get a Halloween-themed mat. Then you can switch it out when winter comes.

Close up of a welcome mat in front of an inviting house. Focus on foreground

4. Complete the look with extra pieces

Some extra fall decor to add includes bales of hay, straw, scarecrows, a welcome sign or post, pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns, gourds, ravens, crows or maybe a fall-themed wreath. You should include what you feel best suits your budget and the landscape of your porch and yard. Be sure not to add too much to prevent cluttering.

5. Bring it together with the right lighting

Everything you add should be accented with the right lighting. Buy rope lights and install them around your railings, door frames or supports. Maybe enlist the help of an electrician to install spotlights, hanging or standing lamps to accent the decor as well. You should always lean towards LED lighting to save money while still allowing for a bright glow to envelop your porch.

These are a few recommendations for your fall front porch decorations. There are many options available depending on your budget, and what you feel blends into the landscape.


Why is autumn the best time to sell?


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By Nila Sweeney

Spring is traditionally a busy period for the real estate industry – but did you know you’re actually more likely to sell your property in autumn?

It’s popular opinion that spring is the best time to sell your home, explains Luke Woollard, director of Pilot Estate Agents in Mornington, and for good reason.

“After the doldrums of winter, it’s believed that there are plenty of home buyers out there, which will result in lots of competition for your home,” he says.

The reality, however, is that spring doesn’t always bring with it a fresh supply of willing and eager homebuyers.

While it’s true that people become more active when the weather warms up, and you may therefore be able to tap into a greater pool of buyers, you have to factor in that thousands of other vendors may have the same idea – and therefore, the market can be flooded with listings.

It’s also important to realise that every real estate market is impacted by dozens of other factors, such as the state of the economy, mortgage interest rates and local supply and demand.

“In a steady market like the one we are facing for 2011, the [spring] buying frenzy probably won’t happen,” Woollard says.

“In fact, waiting until spring to sell your home might turn out to be very disappointing, as you could be facing a buyers market if an oversupply of homes hits the market. This tended to happen almost every year when I had my real estate agency the Gold Coast.”

In actual fact, real estate agents are often more successful at converting a listing into a sale in autumn than in spring, and it all comes down to quality over quantity, Woollard explains.

“Many people take extended holidays from their busy schedules during the Christmas holidays and early January. This gives them lots of time to research the market and feel confident about their buying decisions,” he says. “They become buyers who are more prepared and ready to go.”

Keep in mind families often go away during the Easter holidays, so the ideal time to list your home for sale is in the first three months of the year.

“I think it’s a good idea to prepare your sales run and property advertising in the summer lead up to autumn,” Woollard advises.

And to those vendors with a garden or courtyard, he recommends that you play up your outdoor assets during your sales campaign.

“Autumn is a special time with wonderful changing colours and fragrances in the garden, which presents a unique opportunity for attractive garden presentation,” he says. “Just think – how many people do you know who fell in love with a home because of its beautiful garden?”




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New homes come with warranties to protect the buyer in case of the unexpected. But what about existing homes? Fortunately, there are a number of companies today who offer warranties for existing homes. Sellers can now offer their buyers a level of assurance that was previously reserved for new construction, and buyers can buy with confidence!

If you are in the market to buy or sell, ask us about the advantages of a home warranty. You might be surprised at how much protection is offered at a very reasonable price.



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Freddie Mac reports that the average commitment rate for a conventional, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.05 percent in July from 3.98 percent in June. This is the first time the rate has been above 4 percent since November 2014 (4.00 percent) and the highest since September 2014 (4.16 percent).

Chris Polychron, NAR President, explained that the housing market is in a much improved position and has made great progress since the depths of the recession. “Five years ago, distressed sales represented 33 percent of the market in July,” Polychron said. “For many previously distressed homeowners throughout the country, rising home values in recent years have helped recover equity and the vast improvement in several local job markets means fewer are falling behind on their mortgage payments.”

Distressed sales fell to the lowest share since NAR began tracking this information in October 2008. Foreclosures and short sales dropped to 7 percent in July from 8 percent in June; a year ago they were at 9 percent. Five percent of July’s sales were foreclosures while 2 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 17 percent below market value in July (15 percent in June), while short sales were discounted 12 percent (18 percent in June).



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According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) sales of existing homes grew in July for a third straight month, while first-time home-buyer transactions fell to their lowest level since January, likely due to low inventory levels and rising prices.

Total existing-home sales (measuring transactions for single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops) grew to 2.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.59 million in July, up from a downwardly revised 5.48 million in June. July’s sales kept the briskest pace since February 2007 (5.79 million), and have now increased year-over-year for ten straight months and are 10.3 percent higher than a year ago (5.07 million).

Existing Home Sales By Region

NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, indicated that July’s sales growth solidifies impressive growth in activity during 2015’s peak buying season. According to Yun, “The creation of jobs added at a steady clip and the prospect of higher mortgage rates and home prices down the road is encouraging more households to buy now.”

Key Takeaways

  • The median existing-home price (all housing types) in July was $234,000, an increase of 5.6 percent over July 2014. July’s price growth marks the 41st consecutive month of year-over-year gains.
  • Total housing inventory by the end of July fell 0.4 percent, to 2.24 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 4.7 percent lower than a year ago (2.35 million). Unsold home inventory sits at a 4.8-month supply at the current sales pace, a decline from 4.9 months in June.

10 Outdoor Activities to Kick Off the Autumn Season


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by Anna Fletcher

Fall season is almost upon us! The leaves are about to start changing, the days will get shorter, and mornings will grow chillier and crisp as summer fades away. And though we will miss long summer days and warm nights, we have a brand new, exciting season approaching! So why not start thinking about some fun outdoor activities you can do to celebrate the coming of autumn?? Here are a few…

1. Attend a Barn Dance.  Whether it’s contra dancing or square dancing, hoedowns are a great way to spend fall evenings and nights. Have a blast and work up a sweat in the cold, autumn night air while you dance along to foot-tapping bluegrass and fiddle music!

2. Go Mountain Biking.  Okay, so you can mountain bike at any time of the year (except maybe the dead of winter…ice and snow are no bueno for your tires). But there’s something about the chilly air and bright orange, red, and yellow leaves all around you that makes biking during the fall so amazing.

3. Take a Scenic Drive.  Early to mid-fall is one of the prettiest times of the year, as the trees still have most of their leaves which have turned vibrant with the coming cold. This is the one of the best times to take a drive through the woods, around town, or through the mountains.

4. Go Pumpkin Picking.  Fall season means one thing – pumpkin season! Restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, and many other places around town start selling pumpkin foods, drinks, and products to welcome in the season. You will also be able to find whole pumpkins all over town, whether you want to go pick your own at a patch or get one from the store. If you do take a trip to your local pumpkin patch, you can do many fun, free activities that they offer, like hay rides, corn mazes, and petting zoos. Make a jack-o-lantern with your new prized pumpkin and be sure to keep the seeds so you can roast them! Yumm.

5. Host a Bonfire.  Shorter days and cooler weather make perfect ingredients for a bonfire. Grill out, have a tub of hot apple cider, and don’t forget s’more fixings!

6. Go Climbing.  One of the best times of the year to rock climb is during the fall. As leaves begin to drop and greenery wanes in anticipation for winter, rock faces become more exposed. Cooler weather also means fewer bugs zipping around your face as you make your way up the cliff!


7. Do Some Photography.  Bright multi-colored leaves, teaming autumn wildlife, colorful pumpkins and gourds, and clear, sunny days make for great photo ops. See what amazing autumn things you can capture on your camera!

8. Go Camping.  Cooler, dryer weather means fewer bugs and fewer people, so fall is one of the best times to go camping. Just remember your cold weather hammocking gear, and you’ll be toasty and comfy in the chilly autumn air!

9. Visit an Orchard.  ‘Tis the season for apple picking! The prime months for ripe apples is September and October, and most local orchards open their doors to the public during this time to do some picking. Just think of all the pies, apple butter, cider, and applesauce you can make! And even if you’re not a big apple-eater, just strolling through the trees in the cool fall weather is a great way to spend the day!

10. Play Some Pick-Up Football.  Labor Day weekend officially kicked off football season, so what better way to celebrate that than to play some football yourself? Grab family and friends and head out to the park or backyard for some down-set-hike!


Miraculous Fall Lawn Care Tips


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Fall is the best time to prepare your lawn for next spring because you can do more now to impact how your lawn will look next year than at any other time of the year.

Unfortunately, many of us have lost our enthusiasm for yard work at this time of year, because we’ve been hard at it all summer, and because many of us think about lawn care only during the fresh exciting months of spring when everything is growing.

If however, you can get out there and do a few last easy tasks this month, it’s a guarantee that you’ll be way ahead for next year.

That’s because with cooler temperatures, the grass is going to be focusing on root growth. Therefore, we want to build up the density of the grass and encourage the most vigorous, healthy turf we can now to enjoy later.

Another good thing about giving your lawn a little care in the fall, is that you can do more for weed control by attacking them right now than can be done with two or three weed killing applications in the spring or summer.

Lastly, none of the following items take long to do, but the results will look like you spent hours because your lawn will come blazing into spring with immense growth and color.

General To-Do List

  1. Fertilize your lawn in October before the first heavy freeze, no matter if you have a cool or warm-season grass – but use a winterizer fertilizer
  2. A winterizer fertilizer is like a 7-3-2. They are usually clearly labeled.
    • This all-natural product is formulated specifically for use in late summer and fall and it encourages strong, vigorous root development on both cool-weather and warm-weather lawns
    • Vigorous fall root development allows grass to over-winter better, and get off to a better start the following spring
    • At the same time it improves soil structure
    • It helps increase resistance to disease and insect pests
    • It provides a long-lasting balance of nutrients and helps grass get prepared for harsh winter weather
  3. Other common winterizing fertilizer formulas are 18-6-12 or 15-5-10 which come in organic and non-organic products.
  4. The winter weeds are germinating like crazy in the fall, and getting ready for next year, so make sure you apply a pre-emergent as soon as possible. The best time to apply a pre-emergent to combat winter weeds is in August or September, but if you haven’t done so yet, do it now! A good organic pre-emergent is corn gluten meal. Corn gluten can be found at most garden centers.
  5. By attacking the weeds now, you can do more about weed control than you can in the spring or summer.
  6. If you have a lot of leaves, mulch them up and apply them to your lawn. They won’t contribute to thatch and they act almost as another fertilizer application for the turf.
  7. Lastly, mowing is the single most important thing you can do to manage the vigor of your grass and its ability to compete against weeds. In the fall, the best results are obtained by mowing at the highest setting on your mower. In no case should the mowing leave the grass less than 1.5 inches (3.75 cm) tall. This will help insulate the grass during the winter.  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

Tips for Moving During the Fall


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By Robert Moreschi

Fall is often considered to be a picture-perfect time of year – with mild temperatures, ever-changing outdoor scenery and pleasant weather, it is a favorite season for many. Not only is the fall a beautiful time to camp outdoors and enjoy nature, but it’s also one of the best times for moving.

Benefits of Moving in the Fall

Depending on where you live, you’ll get to enjoy leaves changing colors in vibrant reds, yellows and oranges from the end of September through November, and a crisp quality to the air that isn’t present during any other season.

We all know that the summer is the busiest moving season, due to the easy transition for kids in school, warm weather and longer days – but prices are high and moving companies are busy. Winter, on the other hand, has unpredictable weather conditions making it an unfavorable moving season.

Let’s have a look at some of the benefits of moving in fall, as well as some tips to ease your fall move right along:

Get better service at lower prices: Moving during the fall will make your move more cost-effective. Moving companies are not as in demand as in the busy summer season, so you can find moving services at a much lower rate. You also won’t have to worry about a shortage of moving supplies during the fall, and you can probably expect to spend slightly less on these items as well.

Cooler temperatures: The cooler weather during the fall makes for a much easier move, especially when compared with the hot and sticky weather that usually accompanies summer moves. By moving during the fall, you can also avoid having to move during the winter with dangerous icy road conditions and the potential to have your move delayed by a snowstorm or other bad weather.

A beautiful drive: If you decide to move during the fall and you’re traveling to a place where the fall foliage is prominent, like in the northern portions of the country, you can enjoy the scenery and the leaves changing colors, which is sure to add some enjoyment to an otherwise rather tedious journey.

Tips to Prepare For Your Fall Move

For many people in the moving industry, the fall is the ideal time to move. The best way to approach a fall move is to prepare for some of the more unique conditions you may encounter during this time. The following useful tips can help you to minimize the stress involved in a typical move and make sure the job is done to perfection.

      • Make sure to clean and clear your walkway

        Though the beautiful fall leaves are a symbol of the season that provide generous photo opportunities, when done changing colors, they must fall off the tree. When they do, they can create quite the mess. If you don’t clean up the fallen leaves by your home, they can become wet and slippery over time and become a hazard, especially for your movers on moving day. Clearing off the fallen leaves from your walkway and other areas around your home should be your number one priority before the move. One slip and fall on wet leaves can be a disaster and it can lead to damaged goods and, even worse, injury for you or for the movers.

        Wet leaves also tend to stick to the bottoms of your shoes. When you enter your home with them on your shoes, you can risk creating a potential hazard for slipping and falling in your home, as well as the potential for damaging your carpets or floors.

        Tip: It is always a good idea to place a broom in front of the house, so either you or the movers can clear the way before they begin moving the goods. This can reduce the risk of new leaves being blown onto the sidewalks or driveway and creating a hazard.

      • Transitioning Your Child into a New School

        While the fall is an excellent time to move, it also comes with some difficulties, especially if you have children.

        One of the reasons why many people with children choose to move during the summer is because of the easy transition between schools that can happen during summer vacation. However, the transition during the fall becomes a little murkier to navigate since the new school year has already begun.

        It can be difficult for children to leave their school and classmates behind a few weeks or months into the school year, only to immediately begin at a new and unfamiliar one. To add to the difficulty, the classes are likely to be different, and your children will have to catch up with the rest of the class.

        In addition to preparing your children for the change well in advance by talking with then and allowing them to ask questions, you should contact the new school well before your move. You can ask your children’s future teachers for assignments and well as supplemental material that may assist in getting your children up to speed.

  • Clothing Tips for Moving in the Fall

    The way that you dress plays a fairly important role when moving. To make your move comfortable and stress-free, you need to dress according to the season.

    Make sure to wear comfortable clothes on your fall moving day. While you can’t predict the weather, you can certainly plan for it, so keep your eye on the forecast and make sure to dress accordingly. Dress in layers so that if the temperature becomes cooler you’ll be warm enough, and if it warms up by the afternoon, you can always remove some of the layers. Make sure your clothing does not impede your ability to move around or to carry heavy items back and forth.

    Have a look at the following table for suggestions on possible clothing ideas for your fall move:

    Season type and temperature Seasonal clothing
    Early Fall – brisk, warmer during the afternoons, cooler at night Light-weighted clothes, cotton tee-shirts and shorts or comfortable jeans
    Late Fall – much cooler temperatures throughout most of the day, chilly breezes Lightweight sweaters, jackets, jeans, long-sleeved shirts

    Make sure to also always have rain gear on hand, not only for you but for your belongings as well, like tarps and blankets to cover them with. If it rains suddenly, you and your things will stay dry. Pay special attention to your shoes, as they may be slippery because of wet leaves. Do not wear open-toed flip-flops or sandals during your move.  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

Tips For Closing Your Pool


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Protect Your Pool Over the Cold Winter Season

As cold weather approaches, you will want to start thinking about winterizing the swimming pool. The main purpose in winterizing your swimming pool is to protect it from damage due to freezing water. Another reason to close the pool correctly is to keep it as clean as possible for the next season. Closing your swim pool properly can save you a lot of work when it comes time to open the swimming pool for the summer. Here are a few steps to follow that will make your pool as safe as possible for the winter and low maintenance to open when warm weather returns in the spring.

Swimming Pool Testing Kit

Balance The Water

About 4-7 days prior to closing your pool for winter, bring your pool pH (7.6-7.8), pool alkalinity (80-100), and calcium hardness (150-250) in line. Shock the pool with a chlorine shock to bring the chlorine level up to 10-12ppm. Allow the pool chlorine to come down to its normal level, about 1.5-3.5ppm before adding any pool algaecides, pool winterizing chemicals, or your pool cover. If you are unsure of how to correctly balance the water, take a sample to your local pool retailer and they can test it and make recommendations.

Removal Of Inground and Above Ground Pool Accessories

Remove the skimmer baskets, heaters, slide, any wall fittings, vacuums, pool cleaners, ladders, handrails, or anything else that shouldn’t be in the pool. Scoop out any debris on the top and bottom of the pool using a good leaf rake. At this point you may want to invest in a winter conditioner or a winterization swimming pool water treatment kit to keep your pool water chemistry on track. You can visit a local pool professional retailer to get all you need for your inground and above ground pool chemicals.

Clean And Backwash The Filter

You’ll want to do one final brush and vacuum to winterize your swimming pool. Once this is done, it’s time to back-wash your filter.

Swimming Pool Cover

Lower The Water Level

You can either use your filter pump or a submersible pump to lower your pool water level. You’ll need to lower the level about 4″-6″ below the lowest plumbing line, normally the water return line. Be sure the water level is at least below the skimmer. You can remove the above ground pool skimmer.

Drain Your Pump, Filters, Heaters, and Chlorinating Equipment

Your pump, filter, heater, and chlorinator all have a drain plug. Either drain the water out of these or blow the line out with a shop vac. This will ensure all of the water has drained and none is left inside any plumbing lines. If you have a DE pool Filter or a cartridge filter, now would be a good time to take them out and clean the grids or cartridges and store them away for the winter. If the filter is small enough, you might be able to take it apart and store it for the winter. Keep the plugs out of these units. If you plug them back up and water happens to get into them, they might freeze over and crack your equipment. Place all the plugs in the skimmer basket during your pool winterization maintenance. By doing this, you’ll know where they are when you need them next spring.

Empty Your Chemical Feeder

If you have a chemical feeder, now would be a good time to drain and empty it. By leaving chemicals in your chemical feeder during swimming pool winterization, you might damage your equipment. Remember to put the top back on the chemical feeder and be sure to wear safety goggles and gloves.

Swimming Pool Cover with Snow

Winter Pool Covers

Now is the time to break out your above ground pool winter cover or inground pool winter cover to keep the debris out of the pool. Use a solid cover that keeps out all debris and sun. These solid covers should keep the pool clean and prevent algae growth. You should also use an air pillow. These air pillows hold the pool cover up like a tent so water and debris fall off instead of collecting on the top. They also help to take up any water expansion which could occur from freezing and possibly cause your above ground pool wall to split.

How to Store your Winter Pool Cover

Spring is here and you have taken the necessary steps to get your pool area ready for endless hours in the backyard: You have cleaned up plant debris from the pool deck, patio, nearby planting beds. You have also taken the time to prune trees and hedges that have grown in recent months and might hang over your pool. You have also checked your supplies and purchased all new chemicals for this pool season and properly disposed of all chemicals from last season. Now, it’s time to remove the pool cover!

The last thing that you want to do is just pull the cover off, fold it up and place it in the shed. During the fall and winter months your pool cover accumulates water. Be sure to avoid mixing the water on the top of the cover with your pool water by using a pump or shop vacuum to remove the water from the top of the pool cover. After carefully removing the cover, take it to a driveway or other solid place on a slant or slope for easier drainage. Thoroughly sweep and hose off the cover, and use cleaner or treatment if it’s recommended by the manufacturer of the cover. PoolStyle Clean-N-Store removes dirt, grease, oil, grime and deodorizes as well as protects the cover during storage – ensuring a longer life for your pool cover. You can pour the cleaner on and scrub it with a brush. There is no need to let the cover completely dry, however it is recommended that you buy a large plastic container to store your pool cover in. This way, it can remain wet and no insects will have access to it.



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