Solutions for Stains on Shirts and Windows, Too

From time to time I reach into the proverbial EC mailbag and pull out a few of your questions to answer here. My goal is to select questions I believe the answers to which will have a wide appeal. But I can tell you for sure that when the question arrives with a photo showing me the problem, that gets my attention in spades.


Dear Mary: My husband wears white undershirts and no matter what brand or fabric content, they get gray blotches in the wash. Here’s a photo:


I typically use non-chlorine bleach and fabric softener but recently stopped those additions and that didn’t help. I use high efficiency detergent. The washer is set is “whites” and dryer to “cottons.” I changed detergent brands, switched from powder to liquid but still the blotches appear.

I wash my white t-shirts in the same load as his undershirts, and mine come out fine. I am including a photo from this last load of laundry so you can see this problem.

Any suggestions on why these blotches appear, how to remove existing ones, and how to avoid them in the future will be very much appreciated! Mona

Purrfect Solution for a Stinky Cat Litter Box

Dear Mary: I am a new reader and I’m getting so many good ideas from your column. Thank you!  I believe I read in a recent column about a super litter box deodorizer. My interest is prompted by the fact that our daughter is moving in with us soon and she has two cats. Your new faithful reader, Heather


Dear Heather: There are few more difficult odors to control than those associated with a cat litter box. Until someone figures out how to successfully potty-train cats including teaching them to flush, the next best option is Nok-Out.

The location of the litter box is important. It should be away from doors and windows, as far from family and food activities as possible. Cats want privacy so this rules out the kitchen or other high-activity locations.

The size of the litter box and the emptying frequency are both important. If the bottom of the box becomes too soiled or the smell of urine too concentrated because the box has a cover; if the box is too small, or if there are too many cats per box, your new house guests may choose a spot near the box, avoiding the litter box altogether.

Triple Punch for Laundry Stains Plus DIY Coffee Creamer

Dear Mary: I read in a recent column that I could use Cascade automatic dishwasher powder in my washing machine to remove grease, ground in red dirt and even old stains not removed in previous washes. That sounds like just the ticket for me as I have a husband who can get his work clothes dirtier than any child I have ever seen. This begs the question though, and the reason for the email: 


First, can I use this powder in my high efficiency (HE) top load washer? Second, do I use it along with my regular HE detergent or instead of? Since I already purchased the Cascade powder, I am anxious to give it a try.  Thank you for your excellent column. I look forward to reading it every day. Suzie

Dear Suzie: The quick answer is, Yes! You would use Cascade powder (about 1/2 cup per load in the wash cycle) in addition to and right along with your regular HE detergent and the hottest water the clothes can handle. For an additional boost, add 1/2 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda as well. Now you’ve got a triple punch to attack those stains.

How to Remove Years of Kitchen Cabinet Grit and Grime

When did you last look at your kitchen cabinets? Not a passing glance, but an up-close visual study—paying particular attention to the areas around the knobs and handles that get touched thousands of times throughout the weeks and months? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about and what I’m pretty sure Reader Sandy is talking about, too.


Dear Mary: We’re moving into a new house and would like to know what kind of cleaner to use on the wood kitchen cabinets? Thank you. Sandy

Dear Sandy: If you are looking for a commercial product to clean those cabinets, you’ll never beat the effectiveness of real orange oil polish to melt away grease, grime, polish and wax buildup and leaving a fresh scent and beauty in its place. At about $12 for 16 ounces, it’s going to cost a bit to do your entire kitchen, should you decide to go the commercial route.

Or you can make your own cleaner that will be equally effective, for just pennies. That’s what I prefer and I’ll bet you do too.

I have two recipes for your wood cabinets, whether they have a natural finish or they’re painted.  The first is great if those cabinets just need some sprucing up to bring back the beauty and shine; the second is more powerful if you’re looking at years of built-up gunk and grime.

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


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?


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


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.