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The Independent Online

Loving... electric blankets

Feeling chilly after last week's cold snap? Or just reeling from rising fuel costs? Either way, this season's big winner seems to be the electric blanket. According to new figures, sales of these winter warmers are up 72 per cent. Quick to heat up and comforting on cold evenings, they're a good alternative to turning up radiators full-blast – but it's worth bearing in mind that 'leccy blankies need to be used sensibly. Never buy second-hand, have an expert check yours at least once every three years, look out for signs of wear and tear – and never, ever, ever use with a hot water bottle.

Hating... scented candles

They may smell gorgeous and look pretty, but don't be deceived – the days when you could sit in a bath, listening to Enya while enjoying rose-scented candles may no longer be guilt-free. Almost 95 per cent of the candles sold in Britain today are made from paraffin, which when burned releases harmful toxins such as acetone, benzene, trichloroethene, phenol, cresol and lead – and that's just the wax. The chemicals used to create the artificial scent – the same used in room odorisers – can exacerbate migraines and asthma. Instead, opt for beeswax candles or those made using plant waxes and essential oils, which are both completely harmless. Devon-based Jo Wood (0845 607 6614; www.jowoodorganics.com ) make 100 per cent organic, naturally fragranced, biodegradable soy wax candles for £30.

Buying... the Roomba

Vacuuming is one of those chores that few enjoy, but none can escape. Or so we thought. This automatic vacuum, which bears more than a passing resemblance to a flattened R2D2, uses sensors that readjust more than 67 times a second to detect the dimensions of a room. It has bumpers and can tell when it is approaching a wall so it can slow down, and fits conveniently under beds. There are three models, the latest and most expensive (£249) of which adjusts to the floor surface and has more power so will be able to free itself from jams. Despite the price, at least you will be safe in the knowledge that it's actually cleaning rather than putting its feet up and watching GMTV. For stockists call 01249 815 511

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