How to Rescue Fabric and Clothes from the Stench of Mothballs

I love fabric and fine textiles of all kinds, but mostly I love cotton goods—cotton sheets, cotton quilts. You might say I am a collector, but only in the best sense of the word. My friends know me as a recovering fabricholic. That’s why I was particularly drawn to a letter that hit my inbox recently. When I read the sender’s dilemma involved fabric, I was on it.

Dear Mary: I was recently given some fabric that had been stored in mothballs. Any advice on how to get the smell out? I tried washing and ended up with a whole load of laundry that smelled of mothballs. Thanks, Lucille

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Dear Lucille: This a tough problem. So difficult, I called in the pros for advice on how to rescue your fabric and that load of laundry. Here’s what I learned:

Mothballs are small balls of chemical pesticide used to protect clothes from hungry moths and other insects while in storage. The active ingredient, depending on the age of the mothballs used, is either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, both of which are petroleum-based and toxic to both people and pets.

Help! Mom’s in Financial Trouble, Leather Seats are Hopelessly Stained and Need Recipe for Window Cleaner

Dear Mary: I read stories about parents with grown children who constantly need bailouts. What do you do when it’s your 62-year-old mother who has the money problem?

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My mom has a job and makes enough money to support herself. A few years ago, she bought a house for $95,000. She had little debt at the time. Since then, she’s refinanced her home twice to cash out her equity and now owes $127,000 on top of extensive credit-card debt.

Recently, she called me saying she was $3,000 in the red. My husband and I sent her the money. This isn’t the first time we’ve bailed her out. My brother and I are at our wits’ end. She is hanging on by a thread. I can’t make her get a roommate, a second job, or take away her checkbook.

What do you do with a person who cannot make good financial decisions? We don’t want her to be homeless and live in her car, but we don’t want her to move in with us, either. Please help! Anonymous

Blown Out Vacuums and Teen Clothing Allowance

Dear Mary: Back in 2012, you posted an article in Everyday Cheapskate regarding blowing out your third Hoover Wind Tunnel and electing to go with the Shark Navigator.  At the time, I wasn’t in need of a vacuum, but I printed off the article and archived it in a folder I hold for future reference.

Recently I’d become so disappointed in the way my current vacuum was performing, I talked my husband into purchasing a Shark Navigator. Taking you at your word, we put the product together when it arrived last week, and then my husband left for a business trip. The morning he left, I pulled out my new Shark and began tearing the house apart to do a deep clean while he was away.  OH. MY. GOSH.  I was not only awe-stricken, I could not believe what was happening. That Shark performed way beyond my expectations and I was amazed at the dirt that was coming out of what I thought was a fairly clean home. I kept calling my husband telling him he would never believe what was happening; as well as kicking myself in the rear-end for not purchasing this item many years earlier.

I just wanted to take a moment to write you and tell you how thankful I am that you wrote that article; as well as to let you know how much I enjoy reading all your information. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and information with the rest of the world.  I look forward to many more years of helpful tips and information. Kind regards, Robyn

Hail Damage is Bad but Better than Owing Money to the IRS

Dear Mary: I was wondering how you feel about depending on homeowners insurance for getting a roof replacement. I have had State Farm homeowners insurance since 1995 and have never made a claim. But now, the 20-year old roof on my house has suffered hail damage. Should I pay for the roof or should I file again insurance to have it fixed? I’m concerned about the risk of having my premium increased or the insurance canceled? Any advice would be very helpful. Thanks and keep up the great work. Mark

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Dear Mark: First, make absolutely sure that the damage is more than cosmetic. If you determine that in fact the hail damage is significant enough to require repair or replacement to preclude further harm, I suggest you file a claim. Find out how much the insurance company will cover for repair and or replacement.

If they base the claim on depreciating the value of the 20-year old roof (most likely) you may decide against going through with a claim because the damage amount they will pay is lower than your deductible. If, on the other hand, you have full replacement coverage (not likely, but possible) and this will preclude you from having to cover the cost out-of-pocket once the deductible is met, I’m pretty sure I would go for it, all things considered.

You can file a claim, receive the insurance company’s offer and at that time decide which way to go.

Questions About Down Comforters and Inexpensive Vacuums

Dear Mary: I love your articles, and I have learned so much from you about which products to purchase. I don’t know if you have ever written anything about down comforters, but I am looking for one that is machine washable, not too expensive, can be used year round and has a lot of loft. Jackie

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Dear Jackie: I’m humbled by your trust in me to make a recommendation for an excellent down comforter. The first thing you need to know is how to rate “down.” Down is the layer of fine feathers found under the tougher exterior feathers of ducks or geese. It’s the good stuff! A down-filled comforter is, not surprisingly, filled with down and quite luxurious. Down is a very lightweight insulator against cold and also against heat. It is a natural wonder and makes for a fantastic blanket, year round.

Some “down” comforters are filled with a combination of down and feathers, while others are only feathers, which can be stiff and “pokey,” albeit less expensive because they are of a lower quality.

Then comes a new version known as “down alternative” comforters. These are filled with polyester and have no down or feathers in them at all. And as you would expect, the price of these alternative models are considerably less. Make sure you keep your eyes open for that word “alternative.”

Strollers, Rust Stains, Green ‘Dawn’ and … Soilove UPDATE!

Children learn by asking questions. Students learn by asking questions. New recruits learn by asking questions. I learn by asking questions! It is the simplest and most effective way to learn.

Brilliant thinkers (aka EC readers) never stop asking questions because they know that this is the best way to learning practical ways to improve their lives.

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Dear Mary: I’ve been looking to buy the inexpensive The First Years Ignite Stroller you so highly recommend, only to discover that it has been discontinued. Any suggestions on a replacement model that you can also recommend? Janet

Dear Janet: While The First Years Co. is no longer in business, as I write I see that Amazon has a few of this terrific stroller left in inventory. If you are unable to grab one of them, an excellent alternative is the Summer Infant 2015 3D Lite Convenience Stroller—priced at about half the current price of the Ignites. I like Summer Infant 2015 3D Lite Convenience Stroller a lot because it folds up so easily, it’s lightweight and quite comfy for the little ones. This stroller is very close  to the Ignite in every way and it’s getting lots of great reviews!

Teaching Readers ‘How to Fish’ and Get Rid of Pet Odors, Too

Dear Readers: Yesterday I opened my mailbox to find 1) a letter from Jenn, asking me to send her my new an improved recipe for homemade laundry detergent (she’d clipped it from her newspaper, but now she couldn’t find it,  2) a message from Chuck asking me to send him the coupon code to get 10% off Nok-Out odor eliminator, and a frantic request from Beverly who is battling ants in her kitchen and kicking herself around the block that she didn’t save the column on non-toxic ways to get rid of household pests.

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Every day I get requests to repeat tips, resources and information from past posts and columns.  And I don’t give these people the answers they’re looking for. Instead, I direct them to EverydayCheapskate.comthe repository for my columns and posts where all of the information they need is available including links to all of the resources, information and websites using the easy-to-use search function. There’s also a contact form that lets anyone send a message straight to my inbox.

 The site is free. And while it’s not required, if you subscribe, you’ll hear from me from time to time. I send out bonuses, updated information and follow-ups to folks who have subscribed at EverydayCheapskate.com.  

Using Regular Detergent in a High-Efficiency Washer is Risky Business

If you’ve ever wondered what’s the difference between regular laundry detergents and those designated as “High Efficiency” or HE, if they’re interchangeable and if you could possibly make your own to cut the cost, you are not the only one! Those are questions that frequently show up in my mailbox. 16788336_m

Dear Mary:  First, thank you for your column, I love it! I just inherited several bottles of regular laundry detergent. I have an HE front-loader washer. Is there a way to use or modify regular laundry detergent for HE use? Christin

Dear Christin: Standard washing machines that use traditional laundry detergent (the type of detergent you’ve inherited) use up to 23 gallons of water per load. Full-sized energy efficient top-loaders like my beloved LG High-Efficiency Top Load Washer (which I loved and gifted it to my son when we moved into a tiny apartment—another long and lovely story for another time), use about 13 gallons of water per load (a savings of more than 3,000 gallons of water per year!) operate much differently than a standard machine. This is one of the reasons that HE detergent is quite different than the standard type of detergent.

So, can you use standard detergent in your HE machine? I must advise you that your owner manual is not likely to support such an idea, potentially putting your warranty at risk. That being said, I will admit that I did use standard detergent from time to time in my LG top-loader that required HE detergent. But I used MUCH less per load because it uses so much less water.

Too much detergent will clog up the machine because the amount of water it uses is not sufficient to rinse it out. That build up can cause the machine to malfunction and to eventually create an offensive odor.

When I say “less” I mean a lot less. Like one-fourth the amount you might  normally use. I measured it in tablespoons, not capfuls. And I diluted it in a large container of water before pouring it into the machine.

Would I do that again? Yes, but not on a regular basis. I want you and all of my readers to know that to do so would be, according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, taking a potential risk should the machine require service under its warranty.

Given the potential harm you could do to your machine, you might want to consider re-gifting the detergent to friends, family or a shelter in your area that uses traditional washers. Then make a big batch of my new and improved liquid homemade HE detergent (read on to learn more about that). That way others win and you win, too. Hope that helps. And thanks for loving EC.

Dear Mary: I made up the laundry soap recipe that you published back in 2012. It seems like there is way too much Fels-Naptha soap for the recipe. I bought a similar jar of laundry soap mixture at the local Farmer’s Market and the vender did not have nearly as much soap in it. It did quite well in my HE washer. I just want to make sure there wasn’t a misprint in your article.

I look forward to your articles each time they are in my local newspaper. Thank you for your diligence and pithy advice. Cheryle

Dear Cheryle: The recipe for powdered laundry detergent you refer to (1 cup grated Fels-Naptha soap, 1/2 cup Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda and 1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax) is correct. It may seem like a lot of Fels-Naptha but keep in mind, you use only 2 tablespoons of the final product per washer load.

This recipe is suitable to be used in any clothes washer including those designated “high efficiency” or HE, as this detergent does not create suds. You would want to use a bit more in a standard washing machine, however.

Since that column ran more than three years ago, I’ve discovered what I believe is a much improved  recipe for homemade liquid laundry detergent; one that does not require Fels-Naptha soap (somewhat difficult to find these days plus all that grating!) and is also HE compliant. I find it performs better, too.

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