Take a look under the sink where you keep your cleaning products. See a bottle of Blue Dawn Dishwashing Liquid? Well, say “Hello” to a very versatile and surprisingly multi-purpose household product.

Beautiful, blue dawn over a lake and mountains.

Original Blue Dawn, a product of Procter & Gamble was introduced in 1972. Since then, it has gone through several tweaks, changes and upgrades so that today we see a number of varieties including Dawn Ultra and Dawn Platinum, to name just a few.

My research tells me that the Ultra version is highly concentrated; Dawn Platinum contains enzymes to help break down tough, cooked on foods and that “original” refers to the scent from the original 1972 product, which is still available if you know where to look.


Does any of this matter when it comes to the amazing ways Dawn can be used so effectively outside the kitchen? Probably not. But does the color matter? I can’t prove it, but I think it does. And if it has “Ultra,” 2X or 4X on the label, it’s highly concentrated so you can use less.

Here’s the bottom line: If it’s Dawn and it’s blue, you can count on it to be an amazing product with tons of very effective if not ingenious uses.


Partially fill a strong zip-type sandwich bag with Dawn dishwashing liquid, close. Just to be safe, double bag it. Freeze.   Dawn stays cold much longer while remaining flexible, which means it will conform to the place you need an ice pack. It can be re-frozen many times.


If you get tree sap on your hands, clothes or car, hit it with a bit of Blue Dawn. It will eat through the sap without harming your skin, clothing or the car’s paint finish.


Fill a spray bottle half full of white vinegar. Fill the rest of the way with Blue Dawn. Put the spray top on and shake well. Spray on your tub and shower walls, allowing it to sit for a few minutes up to a few hours before rinsing away. This will even take care of the bathtub ring. Let it sit on the shower floor overnight and scrub the scum and gunk away in the morning. More here.


For fresh or old oil-based stains such as lipstick, grease, butter, motor oil, cooking oil, and most pen inks—even stains that have made it through the washer and dryer multiple times—apply full-strength Blue Dawn liquid directly to the stain. Allow to sit for a bit then launder as usual. For really tough challenges, apply Blue Dawn then scrub with a small brush or toothbrush until the oil is removed.

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I will admit to having an extreme aversion to mice. They give me the creeps and just knowing one is in the house totally disrupts my life.


A tiny chill ran down my spine when I read Lucy’s letter. Been there, solved the problem and hope to never experience that again!


It’s that time of year when mice invade our homes. I’m a pretty good housekeeper and we have two cats, but I just cleaned a disgusting mess of mouse tracks out of my pantry. Any suggestions on how to discourage mice for the future? I love your daily e-mails and read them all! Lucy

Dear Lucy: Oh, I feel your angst. I hate even the idea of a mouse in my house! As the temperatures start to drop in the fall, mice start looking for warm places they can settle in for winter and multiply. Any crack or crevice will do.

For me, it needs to be about preventing mice from getting in rather than finding ways to trap them once they’ve entered. That means we have think like a mouse!

Start with the exterior of your home. Look for tiny places mice can slip in through damaged weatherstripping, under doors and around pipes and vents. Seal every opening you find with a filler that mice cannot chew through (that eliminates spray foam) or will breakdown and rust.

An excellent choice is Xcluder Rodent Control Steel Wool Fill Fabric DIY Kit. It’s easy to use, resistant to critters’ attempts to chew through it, and will hold up and be effective for years to come.

To prevent mice from coming in under doors, Xcluder makes door sweeps and garage door sweeps DIY kits from the same type of material that is rust and chew resistant.

Closing up all cracks and crevices is going to take some time, but doing it right now will come back to bless you for many years to come. And as a bonus, you’ll be sealing your home from cold drafts, too. 



What kind and what brand bed sheets do you recommend? Your trusting friend, Janice

Dear Janice: I have to admit to being super picky when it comes to bed sheets. I need 100% cotton. And the fabric must have a smooth, soft “hand,” (the way the fabric feels to the touch). And sheets can’t come out of the dryer horribly wrinkled. And they must fit well (how annoying is it for a fitted sheet to pop off at the corners?).

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From sharing their super cool tricks and tips for keeping fresh produce fresher longer, to making buttermilk last as long as it takes to use it up; a super cool way to fold clothes faster and more efficiently and keeping toys under control, my readers are the best!

Finding your tips, tricks and clever ways to save time and money makes opening my mail a treat! (Keep ’em coming, hear?)

Vegetables fresh produce at a market stall

Alive, Growing and Cheaper, Too!

I went to the supermarket to pick up what I needed for a cocktail to bring to a BYOB pool party. One ingredient on my list was fresh mint. In the produce department I noticed live plants in small starter pots for $2.50, including mint, basil, etc.  The plant was cheaper than the mint that was packaged, ready-to-use.

I purchased the plant, which stayed perky and fresh for my cocktails at the party, and then brought it home to plant in a pot on my patio. I had fresh mint all summer long! I have done this before with basil, too, when I needed it for a recipe. Monica


Stainless Steel, Silver and Fresh Produce

I have found that keeping fresh produce long enough to be consumed can be quite a challenge. A large slice (cut from the larger piece so at least on surface is fresh-cut, but not peeled) fresh ginger in a bag of potatoes, oranges or apples retards spoilage. Stainless steel bowls have kept my veggies fresh for weeks.

I keep Romaine fresh for up to six weeks in stainless steel. I keep melons in the rind, because the rind is a life providing, life extending protection to the inside. We are organic food eaters, so the produce we buy does not come coated with preservatives, making it twice as difficult to keep produce fresh for an extended period.

Stainless steel naturally inhibits bacterial growth, as does silver. The early settlers put silver dollars in the bottom of their water barrels to kill life threatening bacteria. It works the same in the bottom of a food storage bowl. These tips work! Deb

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If you’ve ever dealt with vinyl flooring—especially in an older home where the flooring has not been well-cared for, you know the heartbreak of trying to clean it. The problem is tiny grooves and crevices, especially along the baseboards and thresholds where stubborn dirt has built-up over time and is now holding on for dear life.

But, truth be told, vinyl flooring is still alive and well—highly improved, and quite lovely. In fact, some brands of vinyl flooring have now entered the luxury lines of flooring.


If you have new vinyl, old vinyl, grimy vinyl, or shiny vinyl, it’s good to know how to care for it—what to do and what not to do.

Vinyl Floor Care

I just installed new vinyl flooring in my bathroom. What is the best way to care for it? Is it ok to use rubber backed bathroom rugs? Sherry

Dear Sherry: Congratulations! I’ll bet your new luxury vinyl flooring is as gorgeous as it is practical. And affordable, too. Vinyl flooring has come a long way. But the problem remains that petroleum-based products like rubber can, over time, permanently stain vinyl. On light colors that stain will be an ugly shade of yellow. On darker vinyl, over time, the stain may give a dark, shadowy appearance.

Rather than rubber-backed rugs for your bathroom, look for those made of or backed with polypropylene, which will not damage vinyl. Bath mat sets like this Grand Era Mat Polypropylene Fiber Set come in a variety colors and patterns, in 2- or 3-piece options.

You could apply lines of silicone caulk (not latex or rubber) to the back of a traditional bath mat that has no rubber or latex backing, to create a non-skid surface.

Another idea would be to use bath mats that have no rubber backing over thick felt rug pads. As long as the pad is heavy and slightly smaller than the rug itself, it should stay in place and provide a luxurious cushion for your feet and protection for your floor.

As for care and cleaning of vinyl flooring, here are some guidelines:

Preventing Dirt and Damage. Try minimizing dirt, stains, and abrasions before they occur. Dirt and dust, over time, can wear down and degrade the finish on any type of flooring, including vinyl tile or laminate. That’s why it is is always a good idea to locate a good-quality doormat or area rug in front of doorways so that grit and grime stop there and are not tracked into the house.

Another helpful hint is to use a sheet of plywood or paneling whenever you need to move furniture across the floor, or some other type of furniture “mover” that will help prevent scuff marks or tears in the vinyl. Use vinyl coasters under the feet and legs of your furniture to safeguard against permanent indentations.

Cleaning Vinyl Flooring. Vacuum and mop the floor often with plain water to remove surface dirt, dust, hair and product build-up that happens in a bathroom. For weekly cleaning and disinfecting of vinyl flooring, use plain white vinegar. The acidity helps removed dirt and grime without leaving a build-up of soap or wax.

To Use: Mix one cup vinegar with one gallon hot water. Use a damp mop to clean, rinsing the mop frequently with hot water. If the floor is especially dirty, add a few drops of Blue Dawn liquid dishwashing soap to the mixture before mopping. Then mop once with the soap mixture, a second time with vinegar and water to rinse.

Super Dirty, Stained Vinyl. This can be a problem, especially in older homes where dirt and grime have been allowed to build up over time, especially at doorways and along baseboards. The solution: Bar Keepers Friend cleanser. The folks at BKF have confirmed that Bar Keepers Friend is excellent for deep-cleaning vinyl. Work in a small area, wetting the floor and sprinkling BKF as you go, scrubbing and cleaning as necessary to remove ground-in dirt, and making sure to rinse very well, before moving to a another area.

What Not to Do. Keep these “Don’ts” in mind as you care for your new vinyl floor.

  • Do not use a “beater bar” attachment when vacuuming vinyl. This can damage the flooring surface.
  • Never use highly-abrasive scrubbers or steel wool.
  • Do not use detergents, abrasive cleaners, or “mop and shine” products, because these can leave a dull film on the floor.
  • Do not use paste wax or solvent-based polishes.
  • Do not use ammonia or ammonia-based cleaning solutions on vinyl flooring; these can break down the material and cause cracks in the flooring.

Hope that helps!

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As you know—and only because I write about it so much—I may as well be president of the Artisan-In-Five fan club for how the book and method of making bread have rocked my world.

Back when I was first learning to do this (it is so easy), I decided I needed bread bags not only to store partial loaves, but also for presentation. Let’s just say that when you bake bread, you have a lot of friends.



Turns out bread bags are quite inexpensive, purchased in bulk. And when I say bulk, I mean a case of 1,000 bread bags. I did. I bought a case of 19-inch, gusseted bread bags.

As I look back, I’m not sure what I was thinking. Apparently the idea of 1,000 loaves of bread ever coming out of my kitchen was overshadowed by a bargain-basement price on large bread and bakery poly bags when purchased in bulk. These slightly smaller bags are equally useful, for about half the price.

RELATED: Got 5 Minutes? Bake Bread!

While I continue to bake bread as needed by my household of two people, I use one, maybe two, bread bags a week for bread. But for dozens of other uses around the house? These bags are the best thing since, well, sliced bread! Read more

Gifting friends, family, co-workers teachers and others with a jar of your own signature luxury hand and body lotion will definitely put you on the map. It’s that good. And what better time than this weekend to get a head start on Christmas gifts.

Not particularly crafty? No worries. If you can assemble, empty, stir and mix well, you’ve got what it takes to make dozens of these gifts start to finish in a single evening. And the best part? About $3.50 per gift, depending on where you buy the ingredients and containers.

Here’s the routine: Purchase the specific ingredients, mix them together, divide between your choice of small containers, apply a label or gift tag, embellish with a ribbon and there you go. Done and in no time flat.

To make this lovely hand and body lotion you’ll need:

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Today’s topic is not pretty, but unless you have $8,000 earmarked for dental care, it could prevent a lot of pain—both dental and financial.

Periodontal disease is an infection that destroys the attachment fibers and supporting bones that hold the teeth in the jaw bone and the bone itself.

Bacteria get caught between the teeth and also under the gum, forming a sticky substance called “plaque,” that hardens to form tartar.

This leads to infection known as gingivitis. As it spreads deeper into the bone it begins to decay and pus forms, which causes swelling, redness and bleeding. If not treated, the teeth will become loose and fall out.

Do I have your attention? Great because there are relatively inexpensive measures you can take to prevent this ugly situation and all of the very expensive treatments required to treat and (hopefully) reverse.

If you remove the soft plaque from the gum margin around the teeth you will toughen the gum and prevent the disease. Here’s how to do that: Read more

Can’t remember the last time I laughed right out loud while reading my mail the way I did today—not because an aged turkey is so funny or spending $2.00 to save half-a-penny is particularly hilarious.

It’s just that, well … both tickled my funny bone!


Cheap Ice

My husband says that it costs more to make ice in the freezer than to buy it in bags. I find that hard to believe. Do you know the answer? J.M.

Dear J.M.: Let’s say a 10-pound bag of ice at the store costs $2. Two dollars’ worth of water from your tap would be nearly 350 gallons at the U.S. average price of about $0.0058.per gallon—enough to make a lot of ice!

You are already keeping the freezer at 0 F., so it will take no more energy to make ice in it than you’re spending now to freeze other stuff.

Your husband’s theory might hold water if he’s talking about buying a separate ice-making machine that will be an additional appliance in your home that draws its own electricity. Otherwise, I think he’s all wet!

RELATED: Tap Water: Good for Your Health and Your Wealth


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