Ask Me Anything: Pet Hair, Almond Milk, That Stick Vac

I have a friend who considers himself single, living alone. But nothing could be further from the truth. He has four cats, or as I call them, The Four Shedders.

Max solved his cat hair problem by replacing all of the carpet in his house with laminate flooring and getting a robot vac. Fortunately for today’s first questioner who has her own kind of pet hair problem, I have a much easier (and cheaper!) solution.

Q: How can I remove stubborn pet hair from the carpet in my car? Not one of my three vacuums can remove the hair left behind by my two big dogs. Ellen

A: Grab a pumice stone—the kind we use in foot care to exfoliate dead skin, or to remove a nasty toilet bowl ring—to “scrub” the carpet. Work on a small section at a time, scrubbing in one direction. Prepare to be amazed. That pet hair will surrender and allow you to gather all of it into one pile, the way you might sweep a floor. Then use one of your vacuums to pick it up. You may need to use some elbow grease but it will work because pet hair sticks to the pumice stone more stubbornly than to the carpet. And don’t worry. This will not harm the carpet.

Later from Ellen: I used a pumice stone on a rocker to see if the dog hair would come off it (the rocker needs to be recovered anyway, in case the fabric was damaged). It was AMAZING how quickly and easily the hair just fell onto the floor making it easy to vacuum away. Next: the car! Thank you so much.

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Clever Ways to Use This for That

What a great idea!

For anyone who has had to deal with a child in pain, it can be a painful experience for everyone regardless the age of the child. That’s why as a parent and now a grandparent, I appreciate hints and tips that will help me be even more resourceful.

BABY ORAJEL NOT JUST FOR BABIES. Our teenage daughter badly stubbed her toe and we needed to clip the nail. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t let us near it because of the pain. My wife found a tube of Baby Orajel and covered the area using a cotton swab. It was like magic. It numbed the area well enough that I was able to take care of things. I would never have thought to use Baby Orajel this way. Randall, Texas

DAWN FOR SPONTANEOUS CLEANING. I keep a bottle of Dawn, an automotive detailing brush and an old toothbrush in my shower. Dawn cuts the soap scum and does not leave a gritty residue. Just don’t overdo it since it can get pretty slippery! Laurel, email

SHOUT OUT THOSE STAINS. I found the best cleaner for my dirty golf shoes: Shout laundry stain remover. It works like a charm, getting down in the creases and crevices to get out the ground-in dirt. My golf shoes are leather, and it has not hurt them or the color. Brenda, Michigan

ERASE THE RED POLISH. Red fingernail polish accidentally spilled on my carpet, making a long red streak. A friend told me to use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. The polish had already dried, but with a little elbow grease and several erasers, it all came out of my carpet. This is a wonderful product! Carolyn, Tennessee

LOOK OFFICIAL TO GET ATTENTION. Take a clipboard with you when you’re shopping. You’ll get waited on quickly, since sales associates will think you’re either a mystery shopper or you’re snooping for the competition. LaVonne, California

PEROXIDE CLEANS UP. I use a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water in a spray bottle to clean just about everything in my house. It works great on windows using newspaper, and it freshens my wooden cutting boards. On the lip of my sink, it foamed and cleaned up what I thought was rust. And the best part is it’s cheap. Carol, Illinois

FOAMING BUBBLES AROUND THE HOUSE. I took my foaming bath cleaner out of the bathroom and started using it on my walls, floors, patio furniture, kitchen basically, anything and everything. It cleans it all. When we removed the carpet in the hall, the old vinyl flooring underneath had seen better days. After using the foam on the floor, the dust and carpet fibers came up, and I didn’t have to replace the flooring right away. For most things, just spray, wait a few minutes and whip away the dirt. And it disinfects, too! Jennie, email

Share your own tips in the comments section below, or HERE. Include your first and last name and state.

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Best Inexpensive Bed Sheets

For some time I’ve been toying with whether or not to write this column. You can see I’ve made my decision. Here’s a little back story to explain my conflict.

When it comes to bedding, I am particular. It’s not a matter of decor or brand. It’s the way the sheets feel. They have to be smooth and wrinkle-free. The sheets have to breathe and not stick to me. But they can’t be slick, slippery, crunchy or noisy, either. The weave has to be tight and they can’t feel like sandpaper.

Seriously, if the sheets are not right, I don’t sleep well. And by well I mean sound asleep—not tossing, turning and constantly waking up.

For me, sheets have to fit well, too. The fitted sheet cannot pop off the corners of the mattress; but it can’t be too big, so as to become baggy and then prone to bunching up. Above all, my sheets must be 100% cotton. Not linen, not microfiber or polyester or any other type of fiber or blend thereof.

There was a time when decent sheets were common and affordable. I don’t know what’s happened there, but I  blame it on synthetic fibers—microfiber, polyester and their related manmade fiber-cousins that are cheap to manufacture.

We used to depend on the word “percale” to be the sign of a great sheet, but truth be told percale has nothing to do with fiber content. Percale refers to a type of tight weave. I’ve been fooled by percale sheets that turn out to be polyester percale or microfiber percale—not the fine cotton percale we remember from childhood.

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Put Yourself on an Allowance

It used to be that when I felt broke, I chased away the horrible feeling by turning to my bevy of credit cards. As long as I could spend money, it felt like I had money. And the more I used my credit cards to prove to myself that I wasn’t really broke, the more debt I created until finally I couldn’t fake it any longer.

It took me thirteen years to get out of the financial mess I got my family into. It was bad. But I did it and in the process I learned a very important lesson: No matter the situation, all of us need some money we can call our own.

At some point during that long journey back to financial health, my husband and I agreed to put me on an allowance. It changed everything for me. As long as I had my own money and it wasn’t money I was sneaking out of the account in hopes that he would not find out, I didn’t feel broke. And when I didn’t feel broke, I was much more willing to be frugal with the rest of our income. My change of attitude made all the difference.

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A Vanilla Bean Hedge Fund

Back in 2013, I bought half a pound of Bourbon-Madagascar Vanilla Beans for $34.95, to make a pure vanilla extract for Christmas gifts,

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In 2016, because I didn’t want to run short as by then my homemade vanilla extract had become so popular with friends and family, I made a second purchase of the same quantity of vanilla beans from the same company. The price had suddenly become $66.95. It was shocking, but considering how many gifts I knew I could make from a half pound—plus never having to worry about running out for my own baking needs—I took a deep breath and carried on.

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One year later, I’m grateful I made that purchase. Today, the price of one-half-pound of Bourbon-Madagascar Vanilla Beans from the same company has skyrocketed to $276 (that’s $552 per lb.). The reason? A tragic vanilla bean shortage with global outreach. That story is HERE.

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Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite!

It was a silly bedtime rhyme we said when we were kids—a line that meant nothing to me other than it was funny. Goodnight, sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite! 

Years later I would learn that bedbugs are real and they are no laughing matter.

Bedbugs are parasitic insects of the cimicid family that feed exclusively on blood. They’re tiny, nocturnal and able to hide in cracks and crevices. They’re also really good hitchhikers, jumping into luggage from an infested hotel room or hiding in the seams zippers of clothing manufactured in an infested factory.

A problem worldwide, bedbugs are resurging, causing property loss, expense, and inconvenience. The good news, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) is bedbugs do not transmit disease. But they can torment their blood hosts in ways I won’t go into here. The best way to prevent bedbugs is with a regular inspection for signs of an infestation—droppings, bite marks and mysterious blood stains on bedding.

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Ask Me Anything: Chromebook, Oven Grates, Best Inexpensive Curling Iron, Fluffy Soft Towels

I don’t know where I first heard it, but I sure do believe it: “Teaching teaches the teacher!” I love your questions because they keep me on my toes and always learning.

Would I be able to use QuickBooks on the Asus Chromebook laptop computer you recommend as your Best Inexpensive pick?

If you use QuickBooks Online you should have no issues. A Chromebook won’t run the actual software version of QuickBooks, but if you are able to access it from a web browser the way that QuickBooks Online works, then a Chromebook should work just fine.

Is there an easy and time-efficient way to clean stainless steel oven grates/racks? I was advised not to leave them in oven during the self-clean cycle.

My favorite method is to spray them with Dawn Dish Power Dissolver spray cleaner. I’m mostly heartbroken that Procter and Gamble has discontinued manufacturing this cleaner, but happy that it is still available in limited quantities. The problem is finding it. So far and as I write, you can still get Dawn Dish Power Dissolver online. I’m harboring a couple of cases, which I intend to make last for a very long time. A reasonable alternative, also from P&G, is Dawn Heavy Duty Degreaser. If your kitchen sink isn’t large enough to accommodate those racks, consider scrubbing them in a bathtub. Just make sure you lay a towel or mat on the bottom of the tub first to prevent damaging the tub surface.

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Appliance Maintenance You Can Do Yourself

It was Christmas Eve. Company would be arriving in a matter of hours. I opened the refrigerator only to discover everything inside had reached a balmy 70 F. This could not have happened at a worse time.

Away to my computer I flew like a flash, straight to RepairClinic.com, where I entered the make and model of our refrigerator and read all the possibilities for why it was running but not cooling.

By following the suggestions and detailed instructions, we performed eight years’ worth of maintenance by looking under the darned thing for the coils that had become hopelessly covered in refrigerator gunk. We were back up and cooling in no time at all.

One thing I learned from my holiday refrigerator crash is that, like cars, major appliances require routine maintenance to keep them working at the peak of efficiency and to guarantee a long and useful life.

Here are five simple appliance maintenance jobs all home dwellers should do—each of which takes only minutes and can be tackled by anyone.

DISHWASHER RACKS

Inspect the dish rack tines for rusting. Rust particles can ruin the pump and seals, causing a hidden leak or pump failure.

A tine repair kit, available at manufacturer websites or Amazon, can save you the cost of a new dish rack. The kits come in various colors to match yours. If the dish rack is beyond salvation, it should be replaced.

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