How to Knock Out Serious Mold and Mildew Problems

Dear Mary: Here’s the short version of a long story: Due to an undetected slowly leaking pipe in our home, the basement got very wet over a period of time. The leak has now been fixed and the basement has mostly dried out. But I’m detecting mold and mildew. The smell is awful.

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We called the pros to get a price on treating this smelly situation. They are estimating between $1,800 and $2,000 to kill the mold and mildew. Do you think we could do this ourselves for less using the product you recommend for smelly situations? Thanks, Hank

Dear Hank: Before I answer your question, I want to make sure that all of my readers know that mold is a serious situation, and can have adverse health ramifications for humans and animals alike. Mold is not something you want to live with.

Now to your question: Yes, I believe you can do this yourself.

Most people—myself included, until I did more research—assume that household bleach will kill mold completely. We assume that because it bleaches the dark color. Not so.

Even freshly manufactured household bleach is unable to kill mold. Bleach that sits around store shelves or in your home continually gets weaker over time. Even the manufacturers’ usage directions do not recommend using it to kill mold. If you want effective mold kill, I absolutely recommend that you use Nok-Out (use code DPL for 10% off any order). And not to get too technical, Nok-Out is guaranteed to maintain its efficacy within a two year shelf life, when used according to the manufacturer’s directions. It is effective against mold spores because it structurally disassembles the cell so that it cannot revive to re-infest. Nok-Out does indeed kill spores. 

Refinancing Credit-Card Debt Can Get Tricky

Dear Mary: What do you think about the idea of refinancing my credit-card debt with a loan from one of the peer-to-peer lenders out there? It seems like a good idea to me, but I don’t know that much about it. I’d really like to know what you think of this. Thanks. Tom

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Dear Tom: First, I want to make sure you are talking about P2P (peer-to-peer) loans, NOT payday loans (they have NOTHING in common other than both start with the letter P). I am a huge fan of the idea you mention using a P2P loan (NOT payday), but with a few very strong cautions!

Basically, P2P lending offers a fixed-rate, simple interest, fully-amortized unsecured loan with which a person can, as you state, refinance their credit-card debt by taking the proceeds and paying off those accounts.

The interesting thing is that P2P loans offer rates that are often much lower than the variable rates on most credit cards, but only to folks with good credit, verifiable income and reasonable debt-to-income ratios who can qualify. So far, so good!

But it can get tricky. In fact, without knowing what you’re doing it would be like walking though a minefield blindfolded. There are lots of ways you could blow yourself up. For example, let’s say you get a P2P loan, but then don’t handle those paid-off accounts well. You could end up with double the trouble if you run your credit-card accounts back up—because you have the P2P loan as well. That’s only one of the things that could go wrong.

I suggest you not even think about tip-toeing into the world of peer-to-peer borrowing until you get some help.

Help! My Fine Linens Have Rust Stains

Dear Mary: Please advise how to remove rust spots from white cutwork linen pieces. I have no idea where these came from but would love to remove them. Thanks. Frieda H., California

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Dear Frieda: Provided these are washable, soak the spot with lemon juice then work table salt into the spot. Set it out in the sun for a few hours. Brush the salt away. If any stain remains, repeat. Once the stain is gone, launder as usual.

Dear Mary: I can’t keep lettuce in my refrigerator for more than two days without it turning rusty. I’ve tried everything, Tupperware containers, washing and putting paper towels in bag with it, not washing until using. Even though the date on the package is good for at least 5 days after opening I end up throwing it away before that time. Am I the only one who has this problem? Pat

Dear Pat:  “Rust” on lettuce leaves is harmless. It develops from the natural breakdown process in the cells once it is harvested and isn’t rust at all, as we think of it. This rust-color indicates old lettuce. If this is happening on dated package greens, return it to the store for a refund. When selecting head lettuce, look at the “stem” area where the head was cut from the stalk. If it is bright white, you know it’s very fresh. If it is rust color, it’s getting quite old. Select the head that’s closest to white for your freshest choice.

For the Love of Coffee

I used to get so much mail, it would arrive in long plastic trays. Some days I’d get more than 10 trays, each one holding hundreds of individual pieces of mail.

U.S. Postal Service Proposes Cutting 120,000 Jobs

Twenty years later, that kind of mail has dwindled to only a few pieces each day, but don’t assume that means my mail has slowed. It has changed from physical letters to email. You should see my inbox!

I can’t say that I miss all the trays, the trips back and forth to the post office and all of that paper. I still get just enough of your lovely handwritten letters each week, which I enjoy so much—letters like this one that just showed up on my desk:

Dear Mary: My homemade vanilla gifts for Christmas 2015 are all ready to go—they just need precious time to steep and age. Thank you for the recipe, instructions and links to the bottles and beans. Feels so good to be done this far in advance. Now I have another situation. Today our coffee maker went to the land of dead coffee makers, which means we’re in the market for a new one. What do you recommend? Carolyn

photo credit: lotzman

photo credit: lotzman

Car Mats, Wastebaskets, Baseball Caps: Yes … Gold-Trimmed Glassware: No!

Dear Mary: Twenty years ago I was lucky enough to receive a five-piece, service for 12, Spode Christmas Tree China (green band) from my mother. Since then I have filled out the set with many accessory pieces. When washing the china in the dishwasher I have been very careful to use the gentle/china cycle and cool dry. There has been no fading of the green band around the plates, cups, bake ware, etc., but the gold band around some of the glasses I bought only six years ago has washed away.  A friend said it wasn’t the cycle, but I needed to use a gentle dishwasher soap. However, no one knew or could agree on what was a gentle detergent. I’m hoping you can give me some help. Thank you. Susan.

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Dear Susan: First, let me say that I am so jealous. That is an amazing set—a wonderful treasure. The problem for any china, glassware or crystal that has gold, silver or platinum trim is the hot water. It will actually flake that fine metal trim away. And once it is gone, there’s nothing you can do to bring it back. That’s why I want to strongly suggest that from now on you hand wash these beautiful items  in mild soap and warm water. And I’m not alone in this. Spode recommends that any of its ware (china, imperialware, vitreous) not marked as dishwasher safe, be hand washed only. It’s an investment of your time that will come back to bless you with many years of enjoyment.

Dear Mary: I enjoy your daily emails a lot. Can you let me know what bedroom humidifier you recommend? Thank you. Maria

Clean Up the Cloudy Headlight Covers

Well, you’ve done it again! You clever readers have come up with another batch of fabulous ways that you save time and money every day.

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AUTO CLEANER. Use plain old baking soda on a damp rag to remove bugs, tar and anything else from your vehicle. Works great, even on the grill and chrome work. Leaves no residue or odor and won’t harm the paint. I just make a paste with baking soda and water, clean away and just rinse off. Works better than any commercial product I’ve tried. This method even cleans away the cloudy film on headlight covers. Bud

CUSTOM FLOOR MATS. I wanted floor mats for our mini-van so I stopped by our local car dealership. Boy, was I floored (pardon the pun). I checked a discount department store and while their mats were priced more reasonably, they didn’t fit well. I found a perfect solution by buying clear plastic runner material that is available by the yard at the home improvement center. With a utility knife I customized the fit around the seat hardware. This saved a lot of money and works beautifully. Judith

FRIDGE DEODORIZER. Used coffee grinds can eliminate even the worst refrigerator odors. I store kimchee (Korean pickled cabbage with a distinct odor) in my refrigerator regularly and I don’t smell it anymore! Simply take out the used coffee filter with the coffee grinds in it and place it in your refrigerator in an open container. It works better than baking soda or any other commercial remedy. I’ve tried them all. Just replace the coffee grinds when they dry up. Jay

When Life Happens

Dear Mary: I’m in a quandary. I can’t see the forest for the trees. By some coincidence, my washing machine died this month after my having babied it for 18 months. Within a week, my dishwasher, refrigerator, and screen door all announced they were on their last legs.

On top of that, a pipe burst and water leaked for weeks underneath my yard till we got a $670 water bill. A plumber ripped up the yard and fixed the leak ($450), and the Dept of Water and Power gave me a bill for $220 (a usual water bill is $45). Two days ago in the rain storm, my car wouldn’t start. Turns out water got into the hybrid battery which may cost $5000 to replace. Property taxes are due next week.

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I have paid off one credit card, am existing on the other, and my Contingency Fund is nowhere near able to handle the cumulative disaster that has become my life. I managed to pay the property taxes, but I’m not sure how to prioritize or what to do next. It’s so overwhelming, I feel paralyzed.

It’s so surreal that all of this has happened in such a short period of time. I have one dollar and some change in my purse. Do you have some advice for me? I need some structure and a light at the end of the tunnel. I still have a young teenager at home I need to provide for. Thanks in advance for your wisdom. Amy

Stick it Out or Get Out Now?

Dear Mary: Last summer, I refinanced my home and paid off my car so that I could begin a new career in insurance sales. I’ve been at my straight-commission job for just over six months now and although I am doing well by company standards, I’m making less than half of what I used to earn.

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Business is slow for me right now and my debt is starting to creep up again. I’m good in sales but getting started in this market is tough. I know you started with nothing in the real estate business and did well. Insurance and real estate are similar in that they are heavy referral industries.

Do I bail and find another job to protect my family’s finances or do I give it my all to make this career a success? Where’s the line? I know you can’t make my decision for me but your thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Dinah

Dear Dinah: When I went into real estate sales and property management back in the 1980s, I was on salary plus commission, so we had something to count on. Three years later, my husband and I started our own real estate company, which then became commission only.

I had three years to establish a clientele and we’d also accumulated enough money to live on as we got established in our own business. I landed my first big commission as a commissioned salesperson in the business that I also was co-owner, within weeks of opening our business—only because I’d built a strong customer base of users and repeat buyers (investors) who trusted me. We had a lot of strength going in.