Don’t Rely on Vinegar to Disinfect

Dear Mary: What is a safe disinfectant for colored clothes, such as underwear and bath towels? I can’t use chlorine bleach, and since I usually wash my colored clothes in cold water, I do not feel like I am getting them sanitized enough. Thanks. Sherri

Photo Credit: Kasia

Photo Credit: Kasia

Dear Sherri: Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill tested conventional household disinfectants, hospital disinfectants and natural alternatives to measure each product’s ability to kill specific hazardous microbes. Their results show that white vinegar killed 90 percent of germs without regard to the temperature of the water.

Sounds pretty good until you realize that leaves a 10 percent chance for Salmonella, Streptococcus and Staphylococcus viruses, Influenza A2 virus and Herpes Simplex Type 1 to live on. A product like Lysol disinfectant, on the other hand, kills 99.9 percent of those germs.

For fabrics that cannot be washed with bleach, add a liquid disinfectant according to product instructions, such as Lysol, NokOut (coupon code DPL for 10% off) or Mr. Clean Antibacterial to the wash.

Just a reminder that water at 120 F degrees water (hot) plus laundry detergent is sufficient to kill ordinary household germs without the need for an added disinfectant.

More Little Ways to Save Time and Money

CLOG-FREE PET WASH. When giving your dog or cat a bath in the sink, cut a circle the size of your drain out of a green scrubbie pad. Place the pad in the drain to keep it from clogging with animal hair. Mary

Photo Credit: Qwen Wan

Photo Credit: Qwen Wan

BOOK BARGAINS. Look in the For Sale section of your local library for inexpensive books. We find books for adults and kids for $2 or less. I always look there for a book I am interested in before spending a lot at a bookstore, and sometimes I get lucky.  Sommer

ONLINE THRIFTING. Goodwill is no longer just a chain of walk-in thrift stores. They now have a website,, an Internet auction site operated by a nonprofit organization. It’s a great place to browse high quality donation items from across the country. You can find designer items like purses or shoes that are in great condition for a fraction of the retail price. Brenda

NOT JUST FOR TEETH. To remove pen or magic marker from nearly any hard surface—stained wood, plastic, baby doll faces, walls, flooring—use toothpaste! It works better than anything I’ve ever tried. Just don’t use whitening varieties on colored surfaces.  Jennifer

Satisfaction: Your Basic Consumer Right

Statistically speaking, chances are slim-to-none that you consistently avail yourself of the most fundamental of all financial principles—to get what you pay for.

According to Donna McCrohan, author of Get What You Pay For or Don’t Pay at All, only 4 percent of dissatisfied customers let a business know when they are unhappy with a product or service and then follow up effectively until they are satisfied.


One can only conclude that the rest of us throw good money down the drain for clothing that doesn’t fit right and appliances that don’t live up to their promises. We prefer to cram the stuff into closets and cupboards rather than take the time and effort to request a refund or satisfactory replacement.

When the dry cleaner ruins a favorite shirt we gripe to a friend instead of the dry cleaner’s owner. Or when the coffee grinder doesn’t grind, we mumble under our breath and don’t even look for the customer service 800 number, which might well be printed right there on the infuriating little monster.

I can only conclude from all of this that 96 percent of us complain about shoddy workmanship or inferior service but never get around to requesting the work be redone or negotiating a fair and reasonable adjustment. We give up too soon—or more likely, don’t even get started.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

If it was easy to get out of debt, no one would have credit-card balances, student debt or personal loans. No one would be in debt.

It’s not easy to get out of debt. But it is possible. And if you are using the correct method, possible becomes highly probable.


Granted, there are several methods for getting out of debt but only one that offers you hope of lasting success.

I’ve gone down every road that promises a way out of debt and have discovered that most come to a dead end. Others are filled with impossible twists and turns. But there is a way out. I found it. My husband and I are now completely debt-free including the mortgage. Done. Free at last. And that is what makes me uniquely qualified to tell you the best way to get out of debt.

But first let’s identify the roads you should avoid and the reasons why.

FAST AND AGGRESSIVE. This way out of debt is very inviting because it promises a quick and easy shortcut. It goes like this:

What it is. First you make sure you have $1,000 in the bank to cover emergencies. But that’s all you need, so stop saving. Take every dollar you can squeeze out of your life and send it to your debt. Hurry! Fast! And if you pass Go and collect $200, send that in, too.

The rebate check you got in the mail? Off it goes. Tax refund? Birthday check? You know the routine—apply it to your debt.

Easter Brunch on a Budget

It seemed like such a great idea several weeks ago when you invited the entire clan to your place for Easter Brunch. And now as the time draws near, you feel yourself beginning to panic.

How on earth will you ever come up with a menu you can easily fit within your spending plan that will feed an extra dozen or so hungry guests? Easy.


Follow this menu that is curiously meat-free and depends on eggs, which are priced cheap around Easter—plus bread, potatoes, cheese and a few other fairly ordinary pantry items.

Add a big green salad, a plate of fresh fruit pizza (start with a slice of watermelon, top with a variety of fresh fruit bits and Feta cheese), and a basket of crusty bread to your gorgeous spread and you’re good to go.

If you feel you need dessert, delegate that to the first person who asks if they can bring something.

Affordable Skin Care

It had to be a typo, even though I know that national magazines have proofreaders so they don’t release issues that include typos. But that was the only thing  I could come up with to explain why a new skincare product costs $1,095 for a small 1.7 oz. jar.


I did a quick search only to discover it was no typo at all. 111Skin Celestial Black Diamond Cream retails for $1,095. All I can say is at that price, it better contain a miracle. Seriously. It almost most makes Lancome’s Hydra Zen cream ($56) and Le Lift Firming Anti-Wrinkle Cream by Chanel ($105) look cheap!

Okay, back to reality: High-quality and effective skincare should not be considered a luxury available only to the wealthy. If you are diligent, you can find high quality, reasonably priced skin care products that are equal, if not superior to their department store cousins—right in your drugstore or discount department store.

Cetaphil makes is an excellent line of affordable skin care products. For example Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser is less than $10 for 8 oz. and Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream is priced about the same. (See for more detailed information.) Tip: Walmart sells a generic version under their brand name Equate for about $6.50. I’ve had reports from several readers who insist it’s just like the real thing for a lot less.

Other cleansers that receive high marks with my dermatologist are Pond’s Cold Cream Cleanser Moisturizing Deep Cleanser ($6.99, 6 oz.); Basis Sensitive Skin Bar ($3.99, 4 oz. bar); Lever 2000 ($.89 per 4 oz. bar) and Dove for Sensitive Skin ($.98, 4 oz. bar).

Help! My Fridge is Making Icky Ice

Dear Mary: I hope you can help me. My furniture was in storage for six months. Everything was fine before that but now the ice cubes from my ice maker taste stale. That’s the best description I can give. 

Photo Credit: MzScarlett

Photo Credit: MzScarlett

I have repeatedly washed the freezer and the ice cube container with vinegar. I’ve tried putting baking soda in the freezer. I cannot get rid of this taste. Other items in the freezer taste fine. I am embarrassed to serve my guests ice. Can you help? I love your column. Keep up the good work! Joanne

Dear Joanne: It sounds to me like the problem may be in the water coming into the ice maker. When did you last replace the system’s water filter? Most manufacturers recommend that we do this twice a year. Or if this appliance was in storage for six months, it’s also possible something has built up in the water line that connects the ice maker to the water source. You may need to replace that line as well. Take a look at your owner’s manual or visit the manufacturer’s website for specific information. This may be a simple do-it-yourself job. I sure hope that helps!

Dear Mary: Recently we moved from the big city with public utilities to a home that came complete with a septic system. In previous columns you’ve suggested using white vinegar in the laundry, as a cleaning agent and also to remove hard water buildup. Can you tell me if vinegar will harm the system or destroy the beneficial bacteria? Thank you in advance. Anne

Secrets of Stress-Free Vacations with Kids

Family vacations can be either delightful or disastrous—it depends greatly on your attitude and the care you devote to research and planning.


Adjust your attitude. Here is the first rule of family vacations: Parents on vacation really aren’t. If you can unload personal expectations that you will be relaxed and refreshed when it’s over, you won’t be disappointed when you’re not. And if you do get a little R&R along the way, consider it an unexpected bonus.

Be realistic about cost. Decide ahead of time how much cash you have for this vacation. If you have say a family of five and $500 to spend, don’t even think about a couple of days at Disney World. Always consider the money you have first and then design a vacation that will realistically fit within that financial boundary.

Be realistic about time. Don’t try to stretch your available cash to cover the maximum time you have to be away from home. Divide what you can spend by a reasonable daily budget to determine how many days you can be gone. Carefully consider all the costs, not only the admission fees and overnight accommodations. Instead of full weeks, consider day trips or a weekend vacation. When it comes to family vacations, quality is considerably more important than quantity.