For the Love of a Good Iron

While it’s true that life is uncertain, there’s at least one thing of which I am very sure: I will never be held hostage for refusing to iron.

Unlike Mrs. Tyrrell whose son Robert held her at gunpoint for six hours because she refused to iron his clothes, I love to iron. I’m not saying that I would be that thrilled to do it for a 29-year old son who refused to leave home, but I would do it.

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I know that my love for ironing is a little odd. It’s just that I find the process to be soul soothing. It gives me instant gratification. I love the sound of a good surge of steam over an ample ironing board that is positioned in good, natural light. More than that, l love ironing for the fact that it helped me get out of debt. I’m not kidding.

Years ago when I came to terms with the fact that I have a serious shopping problem, I sat down one day to analyze it. I figured out that I just love the emotional sensation of buying stuff. And being able to get the feeling even though I didn’t have any money (buying stuff on credit made me feel like I had money) was a kind of emotional high that defied description. I loved the feeling and I wanted to repeat it as often as possible.

I’m no therapist, but I figured that if I could find something less damaging that would produce a feeling at least equal to my shopping rush—and was easily accessible on a moment’s notice—maybe I could use it to modify my behavior.  I knew in a heartbeat what that activity would be. Ironing.

Giving myself permission to iron whenever I got a sudden urge to respond to an infomercial or head for the mall (this was somewhat prior to the advent of online shopping) was like giving a kid the key to a candy store. And you wonder why I didn’t tell a soul about this for so many years? Because I feared they would think I’m nuts the way you’re thinking right now.

My secret plan worked. And better than I could have ever imagined. I didn’t realize how quickly my urge to spend would vanish once I could successfully distract myself.

Over the years my ironing has taken on a more serious tone. I have possibly the world’s finest home ironing system for which I make no apologies. It was pricey, granted. But compared to multiple sessions with a therapist, untold thousands in credit-card debt or the heartbreak of divorce, my venerable and rather noisy IronMaven has turned out to be quite a  bargain.

The fringe benefits are myriad. I have all but eliminated dry cleaning bills from my life. I realized that I can hand wash just about anything that would normally be dry cleaned. What I was paying for in the past was the professional press. I can do that myself now and I get to enjoy doing it, too. My husband’s clothes, even his jeans, are always freshly ironed. Guests in my home sleep on fine, ironed linens.

There are some who might believe I’ve just traded one obsession for another. Could be. But I’m happy with the results.

And I never fear being held hostage for lack of a good iron.

(While my old IronMaven is no longer available, in a recent column I responded to a reader asking for the best inexpensive steam iron out there. I responded with three options—best inexpensive, best of the best and best steam station in “Three Best Steam Irons,” together with my brief reviews and best prices.)

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Think Sacrifice, Not Deprivation

I have a dark financial past. I didn’t set out to ruin my life. In fact, I truly believed I was improving things for myself and my family. I used all the credit I could get my hands on to create a lifestyle we so richly deserved.

When everything began to spin out of control, I tried to stop using credit cards to spend money we didn’t have. I tried to fit into a budget. But all of that spelled just one thing for me: Deprivation.

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I felt like I was being punished the same way that a prisoner is deprived of freedom and personal choice. I tried to reform but my feelings were much stronger than my desire to change. A battle raged inside me and my overwhelming feelings won all too often.

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For Every Problem, WD-40

It’s not new. The blue and yellow can is about as familiar as anything I remember from my childhood. Banished to a shelf in the garage, I assumed WD-40® was for cars. Boy, was I wrong! WD-40 is amazing. And cheap. A 12-oz. is about  five bucks purchased online or at Home Depot and discount stores like Walmart and Target.

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Here’s the WD-40 rule: Use it, then remove it. Always. WD-40 must be wiped off, washed out and or rinsed away, as appropriate. Some say that a buildup of WD-40 can cause its own sticky mess over time.

WD-40 is a petroleum-based product (so is Vaseline). While the aerosol propellant is flammable, the product itself is, according to the manufacturer, harmless to humans. WD-40 gets things unstuck and a lot more. I know. I go through this stuff like it’s water.

If it’s melted …

Have you ever opened the dryer to find a red crayon has ruined the entire load? The folks at Crayola offer this remedy for fresh heat-set crayon stains.

1. Place the stained surface down on a pad of paper towels.
2. Spray with WD-40, let stand a few minutes, turn fabric over and spray the other side.
3. Apply liquid dishwashing detergent and work into the stained area, replacing toweling as it absorbs the stain.
4. Wash in hot water with laundry detergent and Clorox 2 or Biz for about 12 minutes (use “Heavy Soiled” setting if there is no minute timer on your machine) and rinse in warm water.
5. Be sure to clean the drum of your dryer to remove any remaining wax residue. Spray a soft cloth with WD-40, and wipe the drum well. Run a load of dry rags through a full dry cycle.

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Make It Yourself: Copper Cleaner, Aluminum Cleaner and Dishwasher Detergent, Too

There are so many good reasons to make your own household cleaners. It’s cheaper, healthier and greener, too. The homemade household cleaners I share with you from time to time do not contain chemicals. That means you can always count on them to be non-toxic.

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DEAR MARY:  The copper post tops on my deck are becoming tarnished. Do you know of a natural (cheap) way that I can clean them without causing any damage to the copper? I’m enclosing a picture of this problem. Patti

DEAR PATTI: I really like this beautiful treatment on your deck. Thanks for sending the photo (always a good idea, by the way). I do have a solution for you using ordinary items from your pantry. It is cheap to make, easy to use and works great. Best of all it contains no toxic chemicals.

Copper Cleaner

6 tablespoons table salt
6 tablespoons flour
white vinegar

Make a paste of equal parts salt and flour with a few tablespoons of white vinegar. Apply to copper item with a soft cloth and rub gently to remove tarnish. Rinse with water and dry.

DEAR MARY: I have inherited a set of vintage aluminum canisters. Somewhere along the line, this canisters were washed in the dishwasher and came out so discolored they are no longer pretty. I have tried a couple of cleaning methods that did nothing to restore their beauty. Do you have any suggestions? Ina

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Watermelon, Every Kid’s Favorite Vegetable

That’s right. Watermelon is a vegetable, not fruit. But don’t tell the kids. Watermelon contains many important vitamins and minerals also lycopene, an important antioxidant. Healthy and delicious, watermelon is at the peak of its season now and that means it is also cheap.

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Here’s a reliable way to pick out the best melon: Choose a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free of bruises, cuts and dents. Lift it up. The watermelon should be heavy for its size. Turn it over. On the underside there should be a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun. A spot that is white or pale green signals an unripe melon.

Once you get the perfect melon home, you could simply carve it into wedges and serve. But that may get boring after a few melons. Keep these recipes handy and you’ll enjoy watermelon right through summer … and all through winter, too, if you decide to make Watermelon Pickles. Come on, you can do it!

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Three Best Steam Irons

I just asked Siri*, “How do most people relax?” She rattled off a list of activities including, “nosh on chocolate,” “rub your feet over a golf ball,” “count backward,” “meditate” and “drip cold water on your wrists.”

Siri completely missed my favorite way to relax. I iron (not to be confused with “I pump iron,” which I do not). No really. There’s something soothing and instantly gratifying about a good iron with a heft of heat and steam gliding back and forth over wrinkled fabric.

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That’s why I was excited to get this message from Martha, “I find myself in need of a new iron. I’ve perused the Internet trying to find the best steam iron for the best price and all I got was terribly confused! Any suggestions?”

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Credit Cards in the Hands of Financially Immature Students

Our kids are fortunate to be growing up in the most progressive and exciting time in history. Sadly, the very culture that offers them the world is also perpetrating this lie:

You are entitled to have everything you want even if you don’t have the money to pay for it. It’s not a problem. Buy it now and you can pay for it later!

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There’s a huge consumer-credit industry out there planning to give your kids their very own credit cards—personal passports into the abyss of consumer debt.  This is not going to require your permission or approval, something that today’s first writer is experiencing first hand.

DEAR MARY: My daughter who is in college got a credit card and now she is in over her head, unable to pay what she owes.

She works part time and makes a very small salary. With the high interest and late fees, the balance is now over $2,500. I will have to step in and handle the account.

How can I negotiate with the credit-card company to settle for less? I don’t know how she got this card on her salary but she kept quiet about not being able to make the payments until we started getting collection calls for her. I appreciate your thoughts and expertise. Millie

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Other Uses for Ordinary Dryer Sheets

Perhaps you’ve seen the list of uses for dryer sheets that’s floating around the Internet. Who knows where that list came from. What we do know is not all of the alternative uses can be verified as true. For example, we have no confidence that Bounce or any other brand of dryer sheet will repel mosquitoes. But spiders and flies? Read on.

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PESTS. Readers have confirmed that dryer sheets will repel both spiders and flies. Keep a few extra sheets in clothes hampers and around the laundry area and you can kiss all those spiders goodbye.

BURNT PAN. Fill that icky casserole pan with warm water and lay a dryer sheet flat on top to soak overnight. In the morning, the baked-on gunk will have either floated off or be loose enough to scrape off easily with a spatula.

TISSUE ROLL. Roll up a dryer sheet and stuff it inside the paper roll. Each time you spin, it releases a little freshness into your bathroom.

BLINDS. Wipe down your blinds with a dryer sheet to prevent static electricity and to keep dust from collecting.

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