Sometimes You Need Magic to Remove Stubborn Stains

DEAR MARY: I can’t get the coffee stains out of the basket of my Mr. Coffee coffee maker, nor can I get the coffee stain off the carafe lid. It’s white plastic. I tried soaking in bleach and cleanser, but none of that worked. Can you help? Margaret


DEAR MARGARET: If those stains are old having now penetrated the plastic, they may be permanent, which may be the reason the black option is best when buying a coffee maker. However, before you surrender, try this: Moisten a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser with water and gently scrub those stained areas. These sponges are fantastic at removing all kinds of stains and are safe to use on nearly every surface. I can’t guarantee this will restore the stained white plastic back to its new appearance, but it’s your best hope at this point. Good luck!

DEAR MARY: I accidentally splattered hair dye on my new white sink cabinet. I have tried Awesome, a paste of baking soda and vinegar, bleach, blue Dawn and rubbing alcohol. Those efforts faded the stain a bit, but it’s still there. Do you have any solution short of having the repaint this cabinet? Jeannette

DEAR JEANNETTE: You need a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, too (see above)! I can’t guarantee it will work, but I’m very hopeful.

The secret behind these types of erasers is a material commonly called melamine foam. With just a little water, melamine foam can dig in and destroy stains that other products can’t touch. Mr. Clean sells its line of melamine foam as Magic Erasers, Scotch-Brite calls the same thing the Easy Erasing Pad.

If you are diligent you could figure out where to buy a big sheet of melamine foam and then cut it into the size and shape scrubbers you want, one sheet would be good for more than enough erasers to last for your lifetime and your friends’ too!

Some Smelly Situations Require Extra Toil and Patience

It is rare, but now and then I hear from a reader who is frustrated using one of my all-time favorite products, Nok-Out. I love Nok-Out because it eliminates odors; it’s non-toxic, fume-free and kills bacteria, too. Awesome stuff.

The feedback I get is mostly filled with praise and gratitude. However, now and then I hear from someone like Linda, who is facing a tough, smelly situation that because of its  location, requires more toil and patience.


DEAR MARY: I have been using Nok-Out [also known as SNiPER) very successfully for months. Thank you for the recommendation!

However, now I have cat urine odor on a sofa and a chair. She sprayed on them. (Did you know that a spayed female will spray under stress?) I cannot get the odor out. I have soaked the stains thoroughly, more than once. The stench might go away for a short period, or it might smell like a combo of urine and Nok-Out for awhile (a kind of soapy smell in this case). Then the full odor returns. Help! I can’t stand it! Linda

DEAR LINDA: Oh boy, this is bad! The offending odor (spray) soaked into the stuffing of those pieces of furniture. The Nok-Out has to penetrate successfully to reach every area that was infected. If it was a true “spray” is it possible that cat urine went in all directions, and that perhaps you need to expand the area of treatment?

I am going to send an SOS to Ted Price at Nok-Out asking him to respond with his best shot. I am certain I know why you’re having this problem, but I’m not fully confident of the specific solution for it. Mary

Hang tight while I get the ultimate expert directive on this! 

Scared and Learning the Hard Way

Recently, I received a heartbreaking letter from one of my readers, which resulted in back and forth messages. She’s given me permission to share our conversation.


DEAR MARY: I have been a Debt-Proof Living member for more years than I can remember. I own every book that you have written. Sadly, I ignored your advice about how easily thieves can steal your debit-card information and use that to hack into your bank account.

Recently, we went on a cruise. Not wanting to use a credit card for our travel and vacation expenses, we carefully set aside the cash we would need in our checking account. Much to my horror, five days prior to departure I discovered that someone had stolen our personal and private information and used it to get into the account, totally draining every last cent. We couldn’t even buy groceries, let alone pay for the cruise. When will I learn? Just call me Learning the Hard Way

DEAR LTHW: Oh, I am so sorry. Where do you bank and have you reported this breach? Please don’t beat yourself up. We all learn from our mistakes, and I’m sure this is an important lesson you will not have to learn a second time.

DEAR MARY: Our bank is Regions Bank in North Fort Myers, Fla. The employee we worked with advised us to file a police report, which we did. She also provided us with information on what to do when your identity is stolen. Knowing that we were planning to leave on a cruise, she jumped through hoops to see that the bank replaced the money in our account. I can’t say enough good things about this bank. And you are absolutely right that this is a lesson that I won’t have to learn twice.  LTHW

Who Else Doesn’t Want to Scrub Floors on Your Hands and Knees?

DEAR MARY: I live in Florida and LOVE your blog. I look forward getting it in my email inbox every day. My question: What is the best tool, machine or method to clean tile? I have a lot of it. Thank you, Alice


DEAR ALICE: The best as well as the cheapest method for getting all of that tile clean and sparkly is to get down on your hands and knees and scrub it hot water and mild soap, then rinse it several times until the rinse water comes up completely clean. Then dry it with a clean, soft cloth until it gleams. Were you looking for a more realistic method, given that you have a lot of tile? Well, I’ve got you covered. I’m not suggesting the hands and knees method because if I won’t do it myself, I wouldn’t expect you to.

The problem with any type of flooring is that dust and dirt (sometimes so fine you can not see it until you remove it) get ground into every time you walk on it. You can’t feel it necessarily, or as I said, even see it. But over time that wears on the finish causing the floors to look dull and dingy.

Once a week you should vacuum the floors well to get up loose dirty and debris. Then every two weeks, clean and scrub the floors with an excellent cleaner and a good mop that cleans and wipes the floor nearly dry in a single effort. Here’s the recipe for the best floor cleaner ever: Mix one part rubbing alcohol to four parts distilled water plus a few drops blue Dawn dishwashing liquid. Mix this up in a spray bottle each time you clean the floors. Or if you make it up ahead, be sure to label it well and keep it out of the reach of children. 

How to Put the Clean Fresh Scent in Homemade Detergent

DEAR MARY: My friend, (anyone who has helped me so much I consider a friend ), I was wondering, as a result of my wife asking, is there a way to fragrance the homemade laundry detergent? I have made a couple batches now, and the wife doesn’t want to use it because it does not sweeten the scent of clothing.Thanks much for all you do for us “cheapskates” (I prefer “frugal” myself).  Sincerely, Steve.


DEAR STEVE: You can add a few drops of essential oil to the detergent to leave a wonderful subtle scent on your clean laundry. Lemon is a good option, so is lavender. You can get essential oils at crafts stores, health food stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts or online. Expect oils to be a little pricey. A little goes a long way so even a tiny bottle will last a long time.

Another option (cheaper) is Downy Unstopables Fresh In-Wash Scent Booster. You can find this product that comes in a variety of scents in the laundry aisle of your supermarket or online. I use this from time to time, especially for guest room linens. But go easy with it. The container suggests you use a lot more than I find necessary to leave a nice scent. Just toss a small handful into the washer (not the dryer) with the clothes. Works great!

A Big Serving of Homemade Laundry Detergent with a Side of Humble Pie

DEAR MARY: For years I made fun of one of my best friends because she made her own laundry detergent. She raved about how much money she saved and how she shared it with her daughter and daughter in-law. She went on and on about how the three of them would to get together and make laundry detergent and have such a great time.


I would say to her that I had better things to do with my time than to make laundry detergent.

Recently, she and I and our husbands got together for a fun weekend. When I complained about my new LG washing machine and how it didn’t get my clothes as clean as my old Maytag, she started in again about her homemade laundry detergent. Once again, I said, “You have got to be kidding me!”

When I got home I came across your new and improved recipe for homemade laundry detergent. In a weak moment, I decided to try it. And I went a step further—I even substituted white vinegar for my regular liquid fabric softener.

Readers Invited to Reveal Favorite DIY Tools and Products

Just this week, I received a great letter with very helpful information plus a suggestion for how all of you, my dear readers, can participate in a fun project. Are you curious? Read on.


DEAR MARY: I would like to suggest asking your readers to submit a list of the specific tools and or products they find most useful around their homes—inside and out. I think many of your Everyday Cheapskate readers, like myself, are do-it-yourselfers (DIYers) for many things around their homes.

I’m sure there are lots of tools, in the broadest sense, that others find as useful as your Shark Navigator vacuum, your Sonic Duo Floor and Carpet Scrubber and Nok-Out Odor Eliminator are to you.

I’ll go first:

Miller Scratch Fix Pen. This is a great product to hide scratches on furniture, even antiques. Follow the directions exactly. I use a tissue to apply, for the best result. This scratch fix pen, which comes in a variety of stain colors, saved the veneer on my 25-year-old dining room table.

Weldbond Steel Tough Universal Adhesive. This adhesive cleans up with water, is non-toxic, nearly odorless and dries shiny clear. I’ve discovered that it works best if you scuff the materials to be glued  with something like a nail file, which I’ve discovered works well.

This stuff is great on most plastics, wood, metal, tile, porcelain, fabric—the stuff all of us have around our homes that need to be repaired from time to time. Cures fully in only 24 hours. 

How Does $500 Sound in Exchange for a Scratch or Dent?

DEAR MARY: I love your columns that I read in our local newspaper. We need to purchase a new washing machine and would like your recommendation.  I tried to find a column you previously wrote on this subject but was unsuccessful. We need a large capacity machine for our large family.  Thank you. Monica


DEAR MONICA: Go to and you will find all of the columns including those that do not show up in your newspaper. When you get to that website, there is a search box in the upper right area, “search my blog.” Type in washing machine or some other key word(s) and you will find what you’re missing. You can always count on every Everyday Cheapskate column to be archived at this site.

I’m thinking you should head over to Sears Outlet website.  Because Sears carries so many brands of appliances and they have so many stores across the country, this outlet site consistently offers some of the best deals out there. This is where damaged and refurbished appliances go to be sold at highly discounted prices.

When you get to the site, expect to find every dented washer Sears has available for sale at the time you search, located in every Sears Outlet store in the country.

I find Sears Outlet to be a great learning site. It’s amazing just how many models each appliance manufacturer has and what the suggested retail price was before it was sent to the outlet. Outlet appliances will be new or refurbished, and at prices around 50 percent off.