How to Clean a Shark Vacuum

I’m pretty sure you know by now just how much I love my Shark vacuum cleaner. And given my readers’ letters and comments, I know that many of you have Sharkys, too. It’s super important that you know how to clean a Shark vacuum to make sure it keeps performing at top efficiency both now and for many years to come.

I love your messages. They make me smile because I understand the range of emotions that come from using a Shark vacuum for the first time—from amazement to flat out embarrassment.

Where on earth did all of this dirt and debris come from? I can’t believe what’s been lurking in my carpet!

With all of the miles I’ve put on my numerous Shark vacs over the years, I’ve never had one fail. And while the manufacturer boasts that Sharks never lose suction, that is predicated on common sense and regularly cleaning Sharky’s canister, filters, rotating brush, and handle hose.

Signs a Shark vacuum needs cleaning

  • Loss of suction: It happens. A big fat hairy fuzzball or a venerable filter that’s stopped filtering can clog a vacuum and cut off suction. Whatever the cause, a loss of suction is the first sign that someone needs a good cleaning.
  • Visible dirt left behind: When working at peak performance, a Shark vacuum will never leave behind a trail of crumbs and debris. If it does, that’s a clear indication it needs to be cleaned.
  • Weird sound: You’ll know it’s bathtime for sure if your Shark sounds like it is gasping for air. That’s because it is. And that can be very hard on the vacuum’s motor.
  • Unpleasant odor: A Shark vacuum should never give off a stinky, dirty odor. If it does, consider that a clear sign this vacuum is overdue for a good cleaning.

How to clean a Shark vacuum

In the more than 12 years I’ve been using Shark vacuums, the company has come out with a crazy number of models. However, my experience is that all Shark vacuums have the same basic parts and operate in much the same way.

What follows are general instructions. Your particular Shark model may vary. If you get stuck, ask in the comment area below, or refer to your owner’s manual.

What you’ll need

✅ warm water

✅ dishwashing liquid

✅ cleaning cloth

✅ wood skewer, or similar

✅ flashlight

✅ soft brush like a bottle brush

✅ scissors

Step 1: Disassemble

Make sure the vacuum is disconnected from power, then take it apart. Don’t go crazy here. We’re not talking about removing screws or detaching wires. Remove the dust canister and the foam/felt filters, the HEPA filter and its cover, and the handle hose.

Shark Vac Cleaning Disassemble

Take note of the placement of the filters so that you can replace them in the same proper order. It’s not difficult. Just pay attention.

Step 2: Check for and clear obstructions

Check every opening. You’re likely to see fuzz, hairballs, and clinging dust. You may find other things like a Lego brick or maybe even a sock!

Shark Vac Step 3 obstructions

Remove all obstructions using your hand or a damp microfiber cloth. Can’t reach it? A wooden skewer works well to fish out or release any weird accumulation.

Step 3: Empty and clean the dirt canister

Open both ends of the dirt canister over a trash can and dump out whatever is in there. Now take the canister to a sink of warm soapy water.

Step 3 cleaning Shark vacuum

Open both ends of the dust canister and put it right into that warm bath. Using a long-handled brush or a rag, get inside that canister and scrub it clean. Once rinsed, dry it thoroughly with a good microfiber cloth.

Step 4: Clean the Shark vacuum filters

Shark vacuums have an excellent filter system consisting of one or two (depending on the model) thick foam filters plus one made of felt; and a HEPA filter. 

collage of shark vacuum filters

Foam/Felt Filters

Rinse the foam and felt filters in cool, clear water (manufacturer recommends no soap), being especially careful not to damage them.

It takes a good amount of squeezy and scrubbing of the foam filter to get it clean. Once cleaned and rinsed well, the filter(s) may or may not return to their new white appearance. But don’t worry. As long as they are not torn, broken, or otherwise disintegrated, they’ll be just fine, even if they remain stained.

NOTE: The manufacturer does not recommend washing the felt filter. I’m not too fond of dirty felt, so I carefully hand wash and have done so many times with no problem. Do this at your own risk.

HEPA Filter

Most Shark vacuum models have an additional filter—a HEPA filter. This is located on the lower front of the machine behind the filter grill (door). Firmly pull the door off to reveal the HEPA filter and pull out the filter. Rinse the filter well in clear water and allow it to dry fully.

Do not return the filter(s) to the vacuum at this point. They must be completely dry first or prepare for mildew and mold—the last thing you ever want growing inside a vacuum. Set the still wet filter(s) on the counter so they can air dry. This may require an overnight stay.

Step 5: Clean the rotating brush head

Next, lay the vacuum on the floor so you can see the rotating brush. You may want to place a bag or towel underneath to catch the debris and dirt you’re about to release.

More than likely, you will see strings, hair, and other material wrapped around the brush. This is normal. I use scissors to cut through whatever has wound itself around the brush. That makes it easy to clean up the brush. You may have to pull and tug a bit, but it will come off. You want to return the rotating brush to its nice and clean condition.

Step 6: Clean the handle hose

Again, since I am not privy to every single Shark model, please check your owner’s manual before cleaning the vacuum handle hose. You want to make sure the hose on your model does not have any electrical components. None of my Shark vacuums ever have, but let’s make sure.

hose handle cleaning collage

The handle hose on a Shark disconnects, easily When you this, you’ll see that it is laden with sticky dust and grime. Removing all of that will help your Sharky to continue to perform smoothly.

Take the hose to your sink or tub of soapy water and drop it in so it can fill with water. Using a brush or rag, reach into the ends to clean it. Warning! Don’t get anything get stuck, especially in that bendy part.

Finish by running water through the hose until it comes out clean and clear from the other end. Find a place to hang the hose vertically so it can drip dry.

Step 7: Reassemble the vacuum

Once the filters and handle hose are completely dry, reassemble your Shark vacuum. 

reassemble collage

Replace the felt filter first. Next, replace the clean foam filter on top of the felt filter. Replace the HEPA filter and then the “grill” cover. Reattach the handle hose. Close both ends of the dirt canister and lock it into place.

Enjoy your nice clean, fresh Shark Vac!

FAQs

Why does my vacuum smell?

More than likely, you are not emptying the dirt canister frequently enough. Just think about what goes inside that dirt canister and also gets trapped in the filters. It’s dirt and debris from outdoors, bits of food, and other organic matter. Allowing that debris to remain in the dirt canister creates a breeding ground for bacteria and mold and the potential for a stinky situation.

How often should I clean a Shark vacuum and filters?

  • Each use: Empty the dirt container after every use.
  • Monthly: Shark vacuum owner manuals generally instruct that the foam/felt filters should be cleaned monthly.
  • Quarterly: Every three months, take the vacuum apart (see above), give the dust canister, brush roll, and hose a good cleaning.
  • Annually: Clean the HEPA filter once each year.

When should I replace Shark vacuum filters?

Your owner manual will most likely advise both the foam/felt and HEPA filters to be replaced once you notice the machine is losing suction, even after cleaning the filters as mentioned above. That’s a strong sign that the filters are no longer effective.

To be on the safe side and since they are not expensive, my practice is to replace the foam/felt filters annually and the HEPA filter as needed.

Where can I get filters and replacement parts for my Shark products?

SharkClean.com carries just about every possible replacement part or accessory you can imagine and for lots of Shark models, even those that are no longer in production. I compare prices with Amazon, where the filters for my Sharks are usually a bit less expensive. You can also find owner manuals for hundreds of models and exceptional support at SharkClean.

There are so many models of Shark vacuums. Do you have a recommendation?

You’re right, there are many models to choose from! I am partial to the models with the Lift-Away feature, making it easy and efficient to vacuum a staircase. And I prefer the Navigator line of Shark vacuums.

I purchased the vacuum in this photo tutorial above in 2015. It has so many miles on it and still looks and operates as if new.

My current recommendation is this Shark Navigator Pro Lift-Away. It comes with several accessories including a pet power brush and crevice tool. It weighs in at just 13.7 lbs., which is just one more thing to love. And oh, that price!

Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn from qualifying purchases, at no cost to you.


Original: 12-30-15; Updated with current information and photos 1-24-21

Girl with blue wallet full of money

The 7-Day All-Cash Challenge

This morning while waiting for gas tank to fill up I put the time to good use. I read all the hazard warnings on the gasoline pump equipment. I couldnt help but think how much better off we might be if there were similar warning signs posted in stores, restaurants, and websites warning of the hazards of plastic.

ATM, debit, and credit cards can be every bit as hazardous to our financial health as fumes and improper handling of gasoline fuel can be to ones physical health.

Girl with blue wallet full of money

Plastic addiction

ATM, debit, and credit cards can be every bit as hazardous to our financial health as fumes and improper handling of gasoline fuel can be to ones physical health.

The vicious cycle of plastic-induced debt begins subtly. Before you know it, youre knee-deep in the accumulation of things, all the while losing something precious called financial freedom.


The cure

There is a cure for the addiction to plastic. Put yourself on a cash diet. Oh, I know that sounds so old-fashioned. It’s so much more convenient to pay with plastic. Some believe carrying cash is simply not safe, an excuse that has put and keeps lots of my dear readers in financial bondage.

The challenge

Heres my challenge: No plastic whatsoever for the next seven days. Of course you shouldnt send cash through the mail if that is the method by which you pay bills. But Im talking about day to day living. Gas in the car, coffee in a shop shop; fast food, restaurant food, diners, drive-thrus, and dives!

Can you do it? Of course you can. I have no doubt whatsoever that in the absence of plastic your life would go on. Your family would not starve and you would become very creative, indeed.

Not convenient?

I know what youre thinking. Thats too inconvenient—and thats the point! If spending money were not so convenient maybe all of us would keep more of it.

Experts tell us based on credible studies and statistics that when we shop and live dependent on electronic payments for everything from groceries to gas to the daily coffee—and on and on and on—we simply spend more. Its the convenience factor. Its mindless to just swipe the plastic for everything without engaging and focusing on the true cost of things. And paying only the minimum monthly payment when the credit card statement is due? We’ve been programmed to believe that’s our right, and an easy way to live way beyond our means.

Take the challenge

Are you ready to take the challenge? Great. Find a safe place for your plastic and just get it out of reach. Hand it over to a trusted friend or relative. Or freeze all of it in a big block of ice. Nothing will be harmed, your cards will be safe so no worries there.

As you are able to pry yourself from plastic you will experience a new sense of well-being and freedom. Its called living within your means, paying as you go, spending only what you have, delayed gratification.

Feeling of freedom

Theres something remarkable about living with cash. Suddenly, youre really paying for things—not creating a promise to pay when the bill arrives.

You are touching and feeling the sensation of that thing known as money. Youll intuitively start paying attention to how much that fast-food lunch costs because youll be handing over currency, not merely swiping plastic while you enjoy the music or exchange pleasantries with the guy in line behind you.

As you cruise the supermarket, the actual prices of things will begin to capture your attention. Youll compare the prices and notice which items are on sale. Youll keep checking your pocket to make sure you have enough to pay as your cart fills up.

Plastic blinders

Plastic has a way of shielding us from what things really cost. That might feel good at the time, but its like living in a fantasy world. Paying with cash clears away all the fog and keeps it real.

Just 7 days

So here’s the deal: Just seven days, one week starting tomorrow morning. That gives you time to get the cash you need to get through one with no plastic purchases at all. Are you with me?

Let’s go!

How to Remove Paint Stains from Carpet & More Great Reader Tips

Want to get latex paint out of carpet, upholstery, or any other kind of fabric―even if it’s an old stain that is dried up? No problem!

You’ll need:

✅ lacquer thinner

✅ clean white cloth

Using a clean white cloth, saturate the stain with any brand of lacquer thinner—not paint thinner, not mineral spirits, or anything else you might be tempted to substitute. It must be lacquer thinner. Find it in the paint aisle at stores like Home Depot, Lowes, Ace Hardware or online. And only a white cloth so there is no chance of transferring the color from the cloth to carpet or other such items to be cleaned.

Allow the lacquer thinner to sit for a few moments to soften the paint so you can scrape, blot, and or scrub it out with the application cloth.

Depending on how old the latex (water-based) paint stain is, you may have to repeat this process a couple of times, but it will come out without leaving a bigger problem in its wake.

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Woman with stinky shoe

It’s a Smelly World Out There—Thank Goodness for Nok-Out

Nok-Out and I met quite by accident. In searching for ways my readers could deal with offensive odors, we found each other online. I’ve used it continuously in my home since then and have recommended it to readers facing serious and potentially expensive odor issues. Not everything in life can be doused in bleach. But in Nok-Out? No problem!

So today I thought I would sum it all up by giving you my top eight reasons that I am hooked on Nok-Out. It’s a smelly world out there and I don’t want to live in it without Nok-Out.

Woman with stinky shoe of her husband – unpleasant smell concept

1. Completely safe

 Nok-Out is not toxic, and totally safe around pets, children, and anyone with allergies. Amazingly, the stuff looks like water and has no scent or fumes.

2. Kills COVID-19 and more

Nok-Out’s companion product SNiPER is anti-bacterial and anti-viral which means it kills COVID-19, H1N1, H3N2 as well as a long list of other nasty germs.

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A fountain in the middle of the tub

How to Clean a Jetted Jacuzzi-Type Bathtub

There are few things as luxurious as taking a bath in a jetted, Jacuzzi-type, or whirlpool bathtub. The warm water and body massage make for one amazing way to relax. But the last thing you want to see are chunks of mystery debris swirling about—all the gunk and grime that’s built-up inside the jets and connecting hoses since the last time you cleaned it, which would be uh, when?

Follow these steps to get the tub, the air jets plus all of the interior plumbing system squeaky clean and sanitized so you can relax in crystal-clear water without fear of filth.

A fountain in the middle of the tub

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Man with binoculars in a field looking for money

Piles of Money Waiting To Be Found

It’s a long story how Mark and Rosalie lost 5,000 shares of Texaco-Canada stock. But they did. They believed their money was well-invested when they relocated to the U.S.

Man with binoculars in a field looking for money

They were unaware that when the company was sold to Texaco USA, all shares were liquidated and the proceeds returned to their rightful owners.

No doubt, a check was mailed to them, but by then they were long gone and their forwarding information had expired. So what happened to those funds? That’s what I set out to discover. And in the process, I discovered a lot more.

Mark and Rosalie are not alone. From security deposits to expired gift certificates, insurance refunds to old bank accounts, and proceeds from class-action suits, Americans are missing out on billions of dollars simply because they are unaware.


Piles of money

Unclaimed property refund checks are often in the $800 to $1,000 range. Even so each year states return only 4 percent of unclaimed assets to their rightful owners. Most owners don’t know they have money coming and it is simple to find the money that the state or federal governments have for you to claim.

Unclaimed property is generally defined as any financial asset that has had no activity by its owner for a period of five years or more. This includes savings accounts, safety deposit boxes, checking accounts, uncashed dividends, stocks, customer deposits or overpayments, certificates of deposit, credit balances, refunds, matured life insurance policies, and uncashed death benefit checks.

Forgotten funds

For example, if you have ever moved without getting your utility deposit back or forgotten about an old checking or savings account, you are entitled to those funds. Banks, insurance and utility companies, landlords or brokerage firms cannot keep your money simply because they cannot find you or you fail to pick it up. Federal and state laws require that those funds be held in safekeeping until their rightful owners (you!) claim them or until the property is sold at auction.

Start searching

Many states offer free online access to property databases and even online claim forms. To find that online do a simple google search, i.e. “unclaimed funds California.”

The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, (unclaimed.org) a nonprofit organization affiliated with the National Association of State Treasurers, is an excellent source of information on unclaimed property. You can access all states through their website.

Forgot your refund?

The IRS provides specific information on its website on how to obtain a past refund that remains unclaimed. You can also try its toll-free phone number, 800 829-1040.

Search for others

If the unclaimed property is not in your name, you must prove that you are the legal guardian or rightful heir to recoup it. That is not a difficult task.

More than $8 billion worth of matured savings bonds have never been cashed. You can bring your uncashed savings bonds to your local bank, which will cash them in for you. If you think you have lost a savings bond and have a record of the serial number, go to publicdebt.treas.gov to look up its status.

Also, bonds that are lost, stolen, mutilated, or destroyed can be replaced free of charge as long as the Bureau of the Public Debt can establish that the bonds haven’t been cashed.

Surprise! Look what I found!

While it required an attorney to locate Mark and Rosalie’s stock sale proceeds, I did find $43.54 with their name on it, just waiting to be claimed. It seems the insurance company misspelled their street name so a refund was returned as undeliverable and eventually turned over to the State of California.

But that’s not all. In searching under the names of family members I found $85.90 for my husband’s parents (a refund that was mailed to an old address after forwarding information had expired).

Still more: I searched for myself and found a $125 insurance check that was returned as undeliverable because the sender failed to include our zip code. I have no idea the reason for this refund, but I’m not asking questions. I completed the simple claim form, sent in copies of identifying information, and am looking for a check any day now.

A pile of money—large or small—just might be waiting for you to claim what is rightfully yours! Or to surprise someone you know and love. At the very least, it is rather enjoyable to go on a search.


How to Remove Yellow Sweat Stains—It Really Works!

Yellow stains on the armpits and collars of shirts are a problem if my inbox is any indication, which I believe it is. And I’ve been avoiding the subject because honestly, it’s kinda’ gross.

I can’t begin to estimate how many messages I’ve received asking for help with getting rid of these stains, but it’s a lot. And now it’s time. Today we’re hitting this topic head-on.

A person preparing food in a kitchen, with Stain and LaundryWhat are these stains?

Curious, isn’t it that ugly yellow stains show up only in the armpit area?

Left untreated, these stains can cause the material to become stiff as if just being yellow isn’t disgusting enough. And crunchy.

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Highly Effective Food Cost-Cutting Strategies for Every Lifestyle

Ever wonder why you never have enough money to consistently save some of it for emergencies? I’m talking about consistent, regular deposits out of every paycheck that go straight into a savings account. Maybe it’s time to consider that you’re handing over your savings to restaurants, drive-thrus, diners, and coffee shops. Think about it.

What if you were strategic in buying basic ingredients and then cooking great meals at home? What if you had all of that money tucked away in a savings account rather than the coffers of local eating joints?

No matter your lifestyle, I am confident that with the right strategies, you really can reduce the amount of money you’re spending on food.

More time than money

If yours is a single-income household struggling to survive in a two-income world, keeping food on the table and the bills paid can be quite a challenge. The good news is that time is on your side. The one not working outside the home has the time—it takes time to carry out the best strategies—to keep the cost at rock bottom without sacrificing quality. Read more

Dishwasher

14 Things That Should Never Go in the Dishwasher

Without a doubt, my least favorite household chore is hand washing dishes. That makes my dishwasher the one appliance I can’t live without. I love it. In fact, I have this motto that if it can’t go in the dishwasher I don’t need it.

Despite all my efforts, I still end up having to hand wash a few things since having learned the hard way there are certain items that should never go in a dishwasher. They can be ruined or they can ruin your dishwasher. You should hand wash them instead.

Dishwasher

Wood

You’d be amazed how well I could fit wood cutting boards, wood bowls, and utensils made of wood or with wood handles into my dishwasher. But what was I thinking? I’m careful to not expose my wood floors to standing water because that’s just asking for trouble. But these small items made of wood might somehow be impervious to the brutality of super hot water plus detergent followed by blistering high drying heat? So wrong!

Bottom line is that water causes wood to swell and distort. Detergent strips the natural oils, causing the wood to crack. Wood needs to be hand-washed and dried quickly.

When you need to disinfect, use a mild solution of one gallon of 70 F (cool) water plus one teaspoon of liquid bleach in a spray bottle. Spray the surface, allow to sit for a few minutes then rinse and dry. That does the trick.

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You Need an Emergency Fund (How to Get Started!)

Emergencies are a fact of life. When faced with an unexpected event—from a broken bone to a job layoff—it’s good to be prepared. Nothing new there, I’m sure. We know what we should do. It’s actually doing it that eludes so many.

An emergency fund, what we call our Contingency Fund, is a stash of money set aside for protection during the financial storms life throws our way—events that can be stressful and costly.

Meet Mitch and Jenn

Several years ago, Mitch and Jenn had a string of bad luck. Mitch broke his leg in a skiing accident, Jenn’s car broke down requiring major repairs and their home’s aged roof decided to fail right in the middle of a major winter storm.

The timing for all of this wasn’t ideal—four weeks before Christmas. The financial and emotional toll of these events continues to be huge, but nothing like it might have been if they hadn’t been diligently building their Contingency Fund, more commonly known as an emergency fund.

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A plate of food and a cup of coffee

How To Make Family-Friendly Finger Foods Kids Love

Are trips through the closest fast-food joint driving a hole through your food budget? It’s no wonder. Prices on all foods are sky-rocketing, but fast food takes that prize. Yikes!

A plate of food and a cup of coffee

Unlike supermarkets where every week you can find fabulous sales, you’ll never find sales at Wendy’s, McDonald’s, or Burger King. Or any other fast-food restaurant for that matter. I don’t consider an occasional coupon to be a Sale.

I know what you’re thinking: Chicken. Chicken Nuggets, Chicken Fingers, Chicken Sandwiches—they’re all so tasty from these places, so convenient and so kid-friendly.

Consider this: In less time than it takes you to get into the car and drive to the closest drive-thru, you can make your own fast-food chicken fare—for half the price, or less. In fact, you can make a fabulous coating mix to mimic the best-coated chicken you’ve ever eaten, in five minutes flat.

And if that’s not enough, you’ll get three bonuses for your effort:

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kitchen island wood floor beautiful kitchen

How to Clean and Care for Hardwood, Laminate, and Vinyl Floors

Taking care of the floors in your home can be challenging given the everyday conditions of a family and pets. But keeping your home looking good is crucial to maintaining its value. This is how to clean three types of residential flooring: real wood, laminate, and luxury vinyl. 

Hardwood

There are two types of hardwood flooring—both made from real wood.

Solid 

Solid hardwood floors are made of planks milled from a single piece of timber. Hardwood flooring comes both finished and unfinished; sealed and unsealed. While not completely waterproof, solid hardwood flooring can be sanded down and refinished should it become water damaged. Solid hardwood floors are the most expensive option.

Engineered

Engineered hardwood is man-made from layers of material including HDF (High-Density Fiberboard which is a wood by-product) that have been glued together, with a thin layer of real hardwood on the top. Typically engineered wood comes finished with a clear protective coating or finish.

Engineered hardwood flooring is not waterproof. In the event of water damage, it is not suitable to be sanded down and refinished because the top layer of real wood is quite thin. Engineered hardwood is considerably more affordable than its solid cousin.

Laminate

Like engineered hardwood, laminate flooring is also manmade, but from all synthetic products. It consists of a core made from HDF (High-Density Fiberboard which is a wood by-product) mixed with resins, then a top layer of plastic photographic material that is made to look like wood plus a clear protective finish.

All of those layers are fused together in a factory using a lamination process. Laminate flooring is not waterproof. A major water spill or a flood of any kind will most likely require the floor to be replaced. That center HDF core acts like a big sponge.

Luxury vinyl

Very similar to laminate flooring, luxury vinyl flooring uses PVC instead of HDF for its core, which makes it 100% waterproof. Luxury vinyl can handle major spills and floods.

Is it finished?

Don’t know what you have exactly? No worries. When it comes to cleaning wood floors (solid, engineered, laminate, or vinyl) the only thing you need to figure out is whether or not your floors have a finish. You don’t really need to know the type of finish. The important fact is whether the floors have been treated in some way to make them resistant to standing water, which is the enemy of all wood and wood-like floors.

Drop-of-water test

To discover if your flooring is finished, drop a single drop of water on the floor. If it beads and just sits there, the flooring has been finished. If the drop of water soaks in and disappears leaving a dark spot, the wood is not finished.

What follows is for finished solid or engineered wood, laminate, and vinyl flooring only. Unfinished hardwood CANNOT be mopped since it will damage the flooring.

CAUTION: If your floor is unfinished, or if it’s an old wood floor and some of the finish has started to wear away, then don’t use any moisture or product on the floor at all. Just dust-mop it with a flat-head mop.

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cleaning bathroom sink

Tips to Rescue Rust-Stained Sinks, Pitted Chrome, and Slow Running Drains

Isn’t it ironic that the places in our homes that should be the cleanest—the washing machine, kitchen sink, bathroom tub, shower, sinks—are often the most troubled? Harsh chemicals, soap deposits, food stains, rust, hard water minerals, and water spots, when allowed to build up, will eventually not only look bad but can cause permanent and irreversible damage.

The good news is that you can halt—even reverse—much if not all of this kind of damage.

cleaning bathroom sink

Lime deposits

The stubborn white spots on and around the faucets are lime deposits from mineral-rich hard water. They’re easy to remove with good old white vinegar. Soak a paper towel in vinegar, then wrap the towel around the spotted area. Wait 10 minutes or so then remove the paper towel and buff with a dry paper towel or soft clean cloth.

CAUTION: This works well on all types of fixtures except brass or colored fixtures, which may become discolored when treated with vinegar. Again, test first in an inconspicuous place.

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bright colored cleaning cloths on white counter

These are the Best Microfiber Cloths (They Work Like Magic!)

There’s nothing like microfiber for cleaning just about any surface in and about the house. If you’ve never used a microfiber cloth, you’re going to be amazed by how fast and efficiently you can clean.

bright colored cleaning cloths on white counter

Housecleaning and car washing—they’re chores that most of us love to hate. Who would have thought there could ever be a better way to scrub things clean than using good old soap and water plus an old, ratty cotton cloth?

If you’ve tried the latest microfiber cleaning cloths, you know that technology really can make life easier. Not only are microfiber cloths more hygienic, but they also avoid the need for expensive cleaning products, which are often laden with strong chemicals that for some cause allergic reactions and skin problems.

Microfiber cloths get things looking far cleaner in a lot less time. Especially windows, mirrors, and stainless steel. And drying dishes. It’s not really magic—it’s science.

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laundry room detergent

How to Make the Best Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

I’m not proud to admit it, but there was a time that I would’ve rather shoved toothpicks under my fingernails than be bothered with making my own homemade laundry detergent. Are you kidding me? Why on earth would I do that? I’m happy to live in modern times, not the stone age for goodness’ sake!

laundry room detergent

Oh my, how arrogant and ignorant I was. And deeply, horribly in debt to prove it.

Long story short, I learned how to cut expenses—to scrimp where it doesn’t matter in order have what matters most. And yes, I most willingly learned to make my own homemade laundry detergent for cheap—less than a nickel a load, giving up spending $ .35 or even $.50 a load for the ready-made options. And I got out of debt—paid off a massive amount of credit card debt, now happily debt-free with more joy than I can possibly express.

Look, I’m not saying that making laundry detergent is going to get you out of debt. That one move on its own will, at best, make a small dent in your weekly grocery tab. But add that to hundreds of other changes (hang around me with and I’ll teach you), and your life will change in dramatic ways. Just think about it.

In the meantime let me show you how quick and easy it is to do this:

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fearful woman looking out window

How to Keep Calm and Carry On

Life is uncertain. We know that. What we don’t want to admit is how quickly uncertainty can morph into fear, worry, and all-out panic.

Waking this morning to the reality of national unrest on top of a global pandemic brings even more new meaning to uncertainty. In all of this, we’re supposed to keep calm? Carry on? Nice words, but how?

fearful woman looking out window

Fear is the enemy

Fear leads to stress. And stress leads to the breakdown of mental and physical health.

Fear skews our common sense, clouding our decision-making. Unfounded fears lead us to do and believe really dumb things.

Fear can so easily lead to depression as we rehearse over and over in our minds every possible thing that could happen. Fear and greed are very close cousins. Together they can lead to panic, and that leads to no good!

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A bowl of soup on a table

5 Quick and Easy Homemade Soup Recipes to Soothe the Soul and Budget

Loyal readers know that I love to cook. And I prefer to make things from scratch. But given my crazy schedule, many days I have zero time to get a meal on the table—not even 30 minutes (sorry, Rachael Ray). I’m always on the lookout for the fastest food.

Homemade Hot Butternut Squash Soup

I need quick and easy meals that are also delicious. If something is fast and tastes good, it’s so much better than eating out. And way cheaper, too. The five recipes that follow (presented as recipe cards so you can easily print them) are my family’s favorite homemade soups!

Contents

Butternut Squash Soup

Slow Cooker Taco Soup

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Potato Ham Soup

Quick and Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

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Afro woman repairing furniture at home.

9 Extremely Useful Home Repair Products to Fix Just About Anything

Maintenance and home repair are a never-ending reality for just about everyone—homeowners and renters alike. But it doesn’t have to be painful or necessarily expensive. The secret to making it easy is to fix stuff as it happens—right away, not next month or sometime in the future when you decide to sell.

Afro woman repairing furniture at home.

The best way to ensure you’ll actually perform quick home repairs is to make sure you have top-notch repair products on hand—in a handy place you will remember.

Check out my collection of favorite home repair products, some of which you may have already. And if you have favorites not listed below, please let us know in the comments area!

Scratch Fix Pens

Miller Scratch Fix pens are the absolute best for hiding scratches on furniture, floors, cabinets, doors, and moldings—even antiques. Makes scratches, stains, and imperfections invisible. Dries in seconds making multiple coats, if necessary, super simple.

These pens (available in a variety of colors) contain waterproof wood stain instead of ink, which means that once dry, even wax and polish won’t smudge it. Follow the directions exactly for the best result. Keep a set of these stain markers in the house to touch up nicks and scratches on all your wood surfaces to keep maintenance easy and manageable.

Weldbond Adhesive Glue

Weldbond Adhesive Glue is amazing for most applications. It’s super adhesive, while at the same time cleans up with water, is non-toxic, nearly odorless, and dries clear while remaining flexible.

This is the glue you want if your repair will remain visible. It works equally well on porous and non-porous surfaces, however, it’s at its best when you scuff the materials to be glued with something like a nail file or sandpaper.

Weldbond is great on most plastics, wood, metal, tile, porcelain, fabric—items all of us have around our homes that need to be repaired from time to time. Cures fully in only 24 hours.

As always, test any product new to you in an inconspicuous place first. You want to know exactly this is going to work and appear once you use it to make a home repair.

Original Gorilla Glue


Gorilla Glue comes in a number of varieties, many of which I can live without. It’s the Original Gorilla Glue that has saved my bacon more than a few times and occupies a permanent location in my repair products cupboard. It will stick anything together and hold it there for dear life and quite possibly through all eternity. However, the repair most likely will remain visible so plan your strategy carefully.

I love Original Gorilla Glue because it takes a while to dry (read the instructions carefully), which means I have time to reposition and get things just right. Original Gorilla Glue is perfect for situations where you just don’t have a clear, clean break with two like surfaces to join together.

Example: The wireframe on one of my lampshades broke leaving the thing hanging cockeyed. There was no apparent way that I could reattach it because, well, you’d have to see it to understand. But that was not an impossible challenge for Original Gorilla Glue.

It worked beautifully to attach the severed wireframe—delicately—to the lampshade fabric on the inside where it is not readily visible! That repair is now the strongest point on the entire lampshade. Yep, good forever.

Now you can understand why I don’t want to live without my trusty bottle of Original Gorilla Glue. Read more

13 Surprising Ways to Use Your Coffee Maker

You might think your coffee maker is a one-trick pony—does anything smell more wonderful than a fresh-brewed pot of coffee? But let’s think about this for a moment.

That appliance heats water to about 200 F. and comes equipped with a hot plate to keep it at about 165 F. Whether you’re traveling, living in a dorm room, or just like the idea of a kitchen tool doing more than one thing, you’re going to love knowing all the things your coffee maker can do besides brew coffee.

Make soup

Instant soup, especially those packets of ramen, is perfect for preparing with a coffee maker. Break up the noodles then pour the entire contents including seasoning mix into the coffee carafe.

Now pour water through the machine as if you were making coffee. Let it set on the hot plate for a few minutes and you’re good to go.

Cook Pasta

Thin pasta like linguini, fettuccini, and spaghetti can be cooked to perfection in your coffee maker. Prepare the coffeemaker to make a full pot of coffee, but leave out the filter and the coffee. Break the dry pasta (for a single serving) as needed so it fits into the empty carafe and place it on the hotplate. Turn the coffeemaker on and all the carafe to fill. Leave in place on the hotplate until the pasta is cooked to al dente. Drain in a colander and enjoy! in the colander!

Fry pancakes

You’re going to think I’m nuts but stick with me here. You really can make mini-pancakes on a coffee maker’s hot plate.

First, line the burner with foil (optional, but foil will keep it clean), and let it heat up. Now pour a small amount of batter right onto the foil. Flip it over when the edges begin to turn brown and the surface develops small bubbles.

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This is What to Do With Leftover Green Salad

If throwing out perfectly delicious leftover green salad were a crime, I’d be serving a life sentence. It kills me to do it, but until fairly recently, I hadn’t considered that leftover green salad could have a second life, dressed or not. Once tossed, passed, and partially consumed, that’s it, right? Wrong.

Salad dressing

Mix the leftover salad in a blender with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and some garlic or herb seasonings and you have the dressing for your next salad. I have done this several times now and the results are quite amazing. You have to try it. Just make sure you keep your seasonings handy.

Make soup

Turn that leftover green salad into hot vegetable soup: Process the leftover salad in a blender or food processor with 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock. Pour into a saucepan, stir in another 1/2 cup stock or the amount needed to create a nice consistency. Heat thoroughly and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve garnished with sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped fresh herbs like basil, chives, or parsley.

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Cash and Dollar

Simple Ways to REALLY Save Money This Year

It was shocking to read that 47% of Americans would experience significant financial distress in order to handle a $400 emergency. Apparently, nearly half of us just do not know how to save money.

Lotta Schelin standing next to a woman

I know how easy it is to think we are saving money by buying things on sale, turning down the heat, making our own cleaning products, and other ways we can think of to spend less. Heck, we even congratulate ourselves on doing that, right? But hear me on this:

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chinese brown sauce

How to Make Homemade Chinese Brown Sauce

Some of my earliest childhood memories center around Asian food. But not just any Asian food. I’m talking about the food at the Golden Dragon restaurant in Boise Ida., city of my birth, and the home of tiny pork ribs swimming in the most beautiful and delicious brown sauce with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

To my 7-year-old sense of fine cuisine, that dish was to die for. My favorite thing in the whole, wide world!

chinese brown sauceFor me, it was all about the sauce. Brown sauce. Yummy, amazing make-my-mouth-water kind of sauce. I poured it on my noodles; would eat it with a spoon like soup.

I recall exactly what it tasted like, too. It was definitely brown, kinda’ sweet but a little tangy and shiny—not clear like broth but not dense like gravy, either. And smooth. No chunks or chewy bits. No onions, peppers, or pineapple pieces. None of that. Just glorious, shimmery, fabulous sauce over tiny ribs and sticky white rice on the side. I would all but lick the plate clean. Wait, maybe I did that.

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Three shiny red apples a day

Three Apples a Day to Get Rid of Fat

In the modern-day supermarket, apples are something that never disappears. No matter what time of year it is, there will be apples. But does that mean there is still a season for apples when they’re at their cheapest? There is, and that would be from about August until spring.

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Apple season isn’t that difficult to spot. Have you been to the market lately? Apples happen to be a great bargain right now. And variety? For snacking you’ve got your Gala, Fuji and Pink Lady, your Red and Green Delicious to name a few. And don’t forget the more tart Rome and Granny Smith, which are ideal for baking.

When you load up on apples starting around October, which is National Apple Month, you are going to save some dough, and you’re going to save something else, too. Calories! Researchers have compelling proof that three apples a day will get rid of fat. And apple nutrition facts bear that out.

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A person flying through the air on a snow covered mountain

How to Guarantee You’ll Stick to Your New Year’s Resolution

So, did have you made any New Years resolutions? Reportedly, half of us do that. Here we are, only hours into the 2021, and how are you doing?

A person flying standing a snow covered mountain depicting success

Before you answer, let me promise you that if you’re struggling or have already fallen off the wagon—it’s not your fault. It was bound to happen! You’re not a loser and failure does not define you.

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2020 washing away in the surf

The 10 Most Popular Posts of 2020

No doubt about it, we can now say with confidence that hindsight is 2020. There it goes, washing away—the year never to be forgotten.

2020 washing away in the surf

Despite all the challenges, it’s been a good year here at EC Central—a year filled with growth, surprises, worries, and wonder. And now we look toward the bright new horizons of 2021.

Believing that it’s always a good thing to look back to see where we’ve been and to count the blessings—here is a roundup of the 10 most popular Everyday Cheapskate posts in 2020 starting with number 10 and working our way to the number-one most popular.

Here we go!

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How to Use Wool Dryer Balls and Why You Should

Because dryer balls also agitate against the fibers in clothes and linens, everything feels softer coming out of the dryer. And used properly, they also take care of static cling …

Read it here …

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Can’t Get Your Hands on Hand Sanitizer? Make Your Own

A glass, with Hand sanitizer and Purell

What’s a wise person to do when hand sanitizer is nowhere to be found? You can make it yourself …

Read it here …

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Worst and Best Ways to Clean Your Eyeglasses

A woman wearing glasses and smiling at the camera

You just paid a small fortune for new eyeglasses. On top of the cost for prescription lenses and fashionable frames, you opted for Anti-Reflective, Anti-Scratch and UV Coatings too. After all, eyesight is a precious thing and it’s only wise to do all you can to protect it, right? Absolutely! But here’s the deal: You may be destroying your investment one cleaning at a time …

Read it here …

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How to Remove Years of Kitchen Cabinet Grit and Grime

before and after proper cleaning of filthy kitchen cabinet

When did you last look at your kitchen cabinets? Not a passing glance, but an up-close visual study …

Read it here …

How to Clean a Shark Vacuum and Its Filters

collage of photos for how to clean shark vacuum

With all of the miles I’ve put on my numerous Shark vacs over the years, I’ve never had one fail. And while the manufacturer boasts that Sharks never lose suction, that is predicated on regularly cleaning Sharkie’s canister, filters, and rotating brush …

Read it here …

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Surprising Trick Removes Stubborn Hard Water Stains from Glass Shower Doors

A glass door, with Hard water

Got stubborn hard water marks and stains on your tub or shower doors that simply will not budge no matter what you try? You’re not alone …

Read it here …

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Einstein in the Kitchen or Let Them Eat (Carrot) Cake

Scrumptious Absolutely To-Die-For Carrot Cake

In this world there is carrot cake and then there is scrumptious absolutely to-die-for carrot cake—the kind of cake you’ve only experienced with a $200-per-person meal at a fancy hotel (you do that all the time, right?). This is the cake that’s going to make your friends and family think you’re a genius …

Read it here …

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How Can I Get Rid of This Stubborn Toilet Ring?

It’s not the most elegant question I get, but certainly one of the most common. “I’ve tried everything I can think of, but that stubborn, ugly toilet bowl ring won’t go away!” Or “It goes away, but just keeps coming back!”

Read it here …

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How to Make Ugly Soap Scum, Mildew, and Water Marks Disappear Like Magic

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Quite possibly one of the best tips to ever land my mailbox came from a guy who is a professional property manager. He handles rental apartments and lots of them. As an apartment is vacated, his job is to see that it is thoroughly cleaned and made ready for the next occupants …

Read it here …

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Hands Down the Best Way to Kill Weeds and It’s Not Roundup

There is one provable and very compelling reason to not buy Roundup: It’s too expensive! Even if it were proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Roundup is safe as water, I still wouldn’t shell out the high price for the stuff. I kill weeds like crazy with kitchen pantry items that are really cheap and non-toxic: white vinegar, ordinary table salt, and dishwashing liquid …
Read it here …
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And now I want to know—what was YOUR favorite Everyday Cheapskate post this year?

Thank you for helping to make 2020 such a fabulous year in this little corner of the Internet; wishing you the best that 2021 has to offer. Let’s make it a good one!

A stack of currency chained together and padlocked. Used for any money inference where money is tight or protected.

The Truth About Joy and Living Well, Below Your Means

Even the mention of words like frugality, thrift, and living below your means send some people over the edge because, for them, those words conjure up thoughts of poverty and deprivation. They assume that cutting costs is tantamount to diving into dumpsters to find their next meal. No wonder so many people prefer a life of debilitating debt to one of frugality. Let me set the record straight. Please.

A stack of currency chained together and padlocked. Used for any money inference where money is tight or protected.

There is nothing undignified about spending less than you earn. That’s called living below your means, and it’s a fabulous way to live. It means there is a gap between what you earn and what you spend. You have money set aside in a safe place that you are growing regularly.

That’s what happens when you don’t spend all that you have. You become less fearful, more confident. Stress dissipates. Your perspective changes.

When you spend less than you earn, you are not dependent on credit to get by. You’re not always white-knuckling it until next payday. It is a very good thing.

So, you may be wondering, how can you move from overspending to living below your means without giving up your quality of life? It starts with prioritizing everything according to how important it is to your life. Then only spend on things at the top of the list. You ruthlessly cut out spending on the things that don’t matter.

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black and white cat lying in yard garden

Easy Ways to Naturally Repel Cats From Your Yard and Garden

If you’ve ever suffered the annoyance of outdoor and feral cats ruining your yard and garden, help is on the way. Neighborhood felines instinctively seek out bare soil to use as their toilet space and that’s what makes your garden a perfect outdoor litter box. Consider these ways to repel cats naturally that will make your property so unattractive to cats that they’ll find some other place to hang out and do their business.

black and white cat lying in yard garden

Keen sense of smell

Cats have a highly developed sense of smell that is about 40 times more sensitive than ours. Many scents that we find enjoyable actually repel cats naturally. The goal is to identify those that are so intense for cats, they become effective repellants to drive them away.

Spent coffee grounds

Cats hate the smell of coffee, which has strong natural scents that only get stronger after being ground up and exposed to hot water. Take advantage of this and use the spent coffee grounds after you brew that pot of coffee in the garden to repel cats from using it as their personal outdoor litter box.

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11941179 - young brunette women with sunglasses knocking on

Weird Ways to Earn Money on the Side

Recently, while brainstorming with a reader who needed to supplement her regular full-time job, I made a quick list of the ways I’ve done that in my life. I wanted to help her discover what she does well that others might pay her to do for them. 

11941179 - young brunette women with sunglasses knocking on

Process Server

I worked as an independent process server for a company that attorneys hire to have subpoenas delivered in their civil cases. Whenever I had a couple of hours to spare, I’d pop into the office, pick up a stack of subpoenas and head out to attempt to “serve” unsuspecting defendants in civil lawsuits.

My mission was to locate the defendant then address the said person by name (Laura … Laura Smith?). By law, I was required to make sure I had eye contact, wait for that look of “knowing” and then hand off the document. Even if the person refused it, turning to walk (run) away, I could legally assert that I had completed the mission.

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Food supplies crisis food stock for quarantine isolation period. Different glass jars with grains, pasta, cans of canned food, toilet paper, chalkboard handwritten chalk lettering Stay home and relax.

20 Foods with Long Shelf Lives to Stockpile for an Emergency

If recent world events have given you one big fat wake-up call, you are not alone. The message is clear—every household needs to have some amount of food in storage. Natural disasters like blizzards, hurricanes, and floods often come with little or no warning.

Stocking up now on the right non-perishable foods with long shelf lives will help you weather any storm (or global pandemic) with less stress. The type and amount of food to store is an individual decision that depends on your financial resources and storage area.

Food supplies crisis food stock for quarantine isolation period. Different glass jars with grains, pasta, cans of canned food, toilet paper, chalkboard handwritten chalk lettering Stay home and relax.

Start small

Ideally, your long term goal is to have stockpiled enough to feed your family for six months. But start with shorter goals, like enough food for one week, then two weeks, and then a month.

This kind of incremental plan won’t bust the budget or throw you into panic buying that can easily lead to burnout and buyer’s remorse.

Long shelf life

Following is a list of foods that won’t spoil quickly, making them good choices to stock should you want to quarantine now during the coronavirus pandemic, or to be prepared for future unknowns.

1. Beef jerky

Shelf life: 1 to 2 years

Dried pieces of meat known as “jerky” are a delicious snack item in a non-perishable food stockpile. It’s lean, dry, and salted—a combination of qualities that contribute to its longevity if it’s kept in an unopened package.

2. Canned vegetables

Shelf life: 1 to 2 years past “best by” date

Generally, commercially canned foods are good for two to five years from the date they were packed. High acid food like tomato sauce will not keep as long as a can of beans, for example. Canned varieties can provide you with essential nutrients, making these a great hurricane food or natural disaster option.

If not subjected to extreme heat, canned fruits and vegetables stay good for at least one year and possibly two years past the “best by” date on the can. Cans with swollen tops or sides should be discarded, however, as this may indicate the presence of bacteria.

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Lately, Have You Checked the HVAC Filter?

Everyone agrees that we should change the filter in our home heating ventilation air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Actually doing that is something else altogether. It’s all about the where, when, and how of performing that simple household chore that results in procrastination and selective amnesia.

We tell ourselves it’s not a difficult maintenance chore. The problem is in making it a priority. Besides, it can’t be that big of a deal, right? If the thing still turns on and cools and/or heats the place, who cares?

Filter and Furnace

Unintended consequences

Consider these three unintended consequences, which should help push this simple home maintenance task up to a respectable place in your list of things that are important.

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Jesus Christ our Savior is Born!

Let Heaven and Nature Sing!

Jesus Christ our Savior is Born!

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village where he worked in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty. Then for three years, he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He did not go to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born.

He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.

While he was dying his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone and today he remains the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind’s’ progress.

All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned put together, have not affected the life of man on this planet so much as that one solitary life.

— James Allan Francis, 1864-1928

Merry Christmas from all of us at
Everyday Cheapskate! 


homechef displayed on countertop

How We Use Meal Kits to Cut Food Costs During Quarantine

Faithful readers will recall that my husband and I tested and now continue to enjoy the most popular meal kit delivery service.

homechef displayed on countertop

Since first writing about that I’ve gotten the most interesting feedback. But first, a quick review:

  • From the meal kit delivery services available at that time, I selected Home Chef because our zip code is in its delivery area—and now nearly 98% of the country is
  • It is the cheapest meal kit option.
  • I predicted it would be the most family-friendly. Turns out I nailed it.
  • Home Chef beats take-out, curbside pick-out, DoorDash, and all other contactless, home delivery of food
  • No tax or tip added to the bill

Home Chef meals are absolutely delicious and use normal, fresh food—not exotic fare or ingredients we’ve never heard of and can’t pronounce.

Users select meals and menus based on preference and dietary needs including classic, calorie-conscious, carb-conscious, less-than-30 minutes, and vegetarian.

A Home Chef meal kit includes all of the fresh ingredients and instructions needed to cook restaurant-quality meals for 2, 4, or 6 people in the comfort of your own kitchen, eliminating recipe searches and food shopping by sending everything required for that meal—perfectly portioned and ready to go.

Seriously, Home Chef is like having your own personal shopper and sous chef. The meals are wonderful, so easy to prepare—and versatile. And here’s the best thing: Everything I need to make that meal is included all portioned out and ready to go except for oil, salt, and pepper. And I can leave out or reduce items to taste, like the red pepper flakes; or salt. Read more

emergency checklist

7 Things You Need to Do Now to Plan Ahead for Disaster


The idea of emergency preparedness is good. But just having an idea is not good enough. Every person—every family—needs a plan in the event of a disaster that could disrupt the normal course of life. But where to start? That’s where most of us get stuck for lack of useful, specific direction.

Hopefully, these quick tips will do the trick to get you unstuck and on your way to being disaster ready.

emergency checklist

Water storage

You don’t have to live in hurricane country to get hurricane prepared. Disasters can hit anywhere. This means water could be in short supply. For true emergency preparedness, store bottled drinking water in your home for your immediate needs.

For flushing toilets and showers, line 30-45 gallon garbage cans with those large contractor plastic bags available at home improvement stores. Then, fill the garbage cans with water and apply their tight-fitting lids. Most people forget that three weeks without electricity means three weeks of no water if their water utility provider has not attached a generator to pump water to houses.

Read more

open a paper envelope with the dollars tied with red ribbon and bow.

A Mostly Complete Guide to Tipping During the Holiday Season

It is a social custom in this country to give cash gifts, known as tips or gratuities, during the holiday season. How this custom came to be I have no idea. Thankfully, there are no rules and no tipping police.

open a paper envelope with the dollars tied with red ribbon and bow.

We see a plethora of tipping guidelines in newspapers and magazines during the holidays, but they are editorial suggestions.

Some I’ve read are mind-boggling and include the garbage man, newspaper delivery person, mail carrier, the nanny, driver, and doorman; the housekeeper, butler, and maid (don’t we all have one of those?), which for me begs the question:

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homemade blueberry muffin on wood board

Muffins So Amazing, They’re Insane!

I love to bake, however, baking has not always been fond of me. We’ve had our moments. It wasn’t until I surrendered to the following recipes exactly that our relationship made the turn.

I had to come to the point that I was willing to measure the ingredients, follow directions and believe that little things like “folding in” does not mean beating it to death, “one-cup of flour” doesn’t mean, that looks about right, and “butter softened,” does not mean boiling like a witch’s cauldron.

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coffee cup and saucer on a wooden table. dark background.

Gifts to Thrill and Delight Coffee Snobs

Even if you aren’t one, chances are pretty good you know someone who is a bonafide coffee snob. That’s because unmitigated devotion to coffee has reached epic proportions.

For these folks, nothing says “I care” more than a gift that affirms said snobbery and love for truly great coffee. I can pretty much guarantee that any one of these coffee-related gifts will rack up some major love and respect in return. 

With Amazon Prime on our side, there’s still time to get those last-minute gifts before Christmas.

By way of full disclosure, I will admit to being a home roaster, which does earn me a certain level of coffee snobbery. I purchase green coffee beans directly from the La Minita Plantation in Costa Rica and roast those beans one pound at a time.

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23 Remarkable Ways to Use Blue Dawn Outside the Kitchen

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.

3 bottles of Blue Dawn on blue background

Original Blue Dawn

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. According to the International Bird Rescue Research Center, Blue Dawn is biodegradable and contains no phosphates. 

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This is What You Need to Know About the Healing Power in Chicken Soup

Have you ever wondered if chicken soup really does have medicinal effects against colds and flu? Me, too. I decided to find out.

Here’s what I learned: There is some scientific evidence to suggest that homemade chicken soup contains several ingredients that affect the body’s immune system.

Dr. Stephen Rennard, University of Nebraska Medical Center says that chicken soup, while not a cure, has anti-inflammatory properties that soothe sore throats and ease the misery of colds and flu—and even COVID-19. It helps us feel better so we can get better and that’s good enough for me.

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Portrait Of Family Enjoying Camping Holiday In Camper Van

Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Gift Ideas RV Owners, VanLifers Will Love!

Article - Gift Guide for RV Vanlife

Looking for some great campervan gifts for friends or family members who just got their new van or more seasoned RVers? Check out these ideas, sure to please anyone living the dream!

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6 Fabulous Last-Minute Gift Ideas

Need a last-minute gift for a neighbor, friend, a beloved teacher, or anyone else on your gift list? Here are six great ideas that won’t take much time, and certainly won’t break the bank.

Photo Explosion Box

Imagine a small photo album “box,” made from scrapbooking card stock, which folds out to reveal special photos when the lid is removed. What a perfect gift for parents, grandparents, children—anyone who loves photos.

Gather some photos. Print from your phone or device. Take screenshots from Instagram, dig through your phone or find that box of old family photos and “snapshots!” While you’re there, dig out all those scrapbook supplies you’ve been hoarding.

You can make a photo explosion box in just a few hours. In fact, while you’re at it make several. Find a complete tutorial here, or search around. Lots of YouTube videos out there if you need more help.

Read more

Coffee filter

24 Weird but Awesome Ways to Use Coffee Filters

It was a dumb mistake. I grabbed the biggest package of coffee filters—a pack of 1,000—only to discover much later that I’d picked up the wrong size for my coffeemaker.

Coffee filter

Coffee filters are not expensive, which is probably the reason I didn’t bother returning them to the store. I suppose I should have tried, but I’m glad didn’t. I began finding all kinds of ways to use those filters for other things than making coffee.

What I discovered is that the basket-style filters are super useful around the house and the garage, too for so many things that have absolutely nothing to do with coffee!

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Gift-Worthy Caramel Corn Just in Time for the Holidays

I remember it like it was yesterday, the day I wandered into (actually I was sucked in against my will by the seductive aroma) Popcornopolis in South Deerfield, Mass., (curiously, located inside the Yankee Candle Village Store) and walked out with the most amazing gourmet caramel popcorn.

Yankee Candle Flagship Store

As an admitted lover of good caramel corn, I have to say a few things about this gourmet popcorn. These people know how to make caramel corn!

With its rich depth of flavor, Popcornopolis Caramel Corn is about as close to perfection as I have ever tasted. But as wonderful as it is, it is also very expensive.

Read more

happy family at christmas opening gifts together on the couch

Memories are Gifts that Last for a Lifetime

If you could use an injection of fresh ideas for how to make this Holiday Season meaningful for the children in your life, take a lesson from my friend, Connie Copeland. 

happy family at christmas opening gifts together on the couch

Connie’s clever creativity allowed her and her husband to give their four kids and now her 13 grandchildren the four things kids really want for Christmas, even when money was tight:

  • Relaxed and loving time with family
  • Realistic gift expectations
  • Evenly paced holiday season
  • Reliable family traditions

When her kids were little, Connie would spread the excitement of Christmas throughout the month. She did that with little notes—one tiny note per child, per day.

Most days the notes were the same for each child, such as:  Read more

Christmas Holiday Tips, Tricks, Hacks

I am enjoying the unique holiday tips and tricks readers have been sending my way, to be shared with you. Over and again, I find myself saying, “Wow! Why didn’t I think that?”

Just this week, I was boiling mad at myself when I opened boxes marked “Christmas” to find supplies of cards, tags, and gift wrap purchased on sale, then promptly forgotten. You can be sure this year I’m going to file all this stuff under “Halloween!” You’ll understand as you read on.

Traditions reign

With coronavirus requiring us to make some tough decisions this Christmas, we’re just not doing everything we used to. Even so, we have determined to keep as many traditions as possible. We’re putting up all of the decorations and making all the special foods we love, even though we won’t have many people in this year. Instead, we’ll be doing a lot of facetime and phone calls while looking forward to a brand new year filled with hope. Teri

Canned bows

I use the large Christmas popcorn tins (cleaned and dry) to store my Christmas bows. I use one for red, another for green, and the other two for gold and mixed colors. I can stack them in storage, and my bows stay new looking all year. I reuse these bows for several years. Gwen

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A close up of a basket

With Bath Towels Invest In Luxury to Save Money

When asked to describe the perfect bath towel most people would include the words soft, thick, and thirsty. Cotton Incorporated, a trade association of cotton wholesalers, agrees and goes on to say that the perfect towel is a luxurious towel that can also stand up to constant use and laundering for at least a decade. 

towels in a basket

The secret to buying the perfect affordable bath towel is in understanding fibers, loops, and dyes because unlike bed sheets, towels don’t come with easy measures like thread counts.

Cotton

A towel’s main duty is to blot up and absorb water. One hundred percent cotton does the best job because cotton naturally attracts water. Synthetic fibers like polyester repel water, making a cotton-polyester blend less absorbent and to be avoided. 

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A group of people sitting at a table

What Teachers Really Want for Christmas

I’ve never been a school teacher, but I am a parent. I wish I’d known years ago what I know now about what teachers really want for Christmas. I would have skipped the “Teachers Have Class!” coffee mugs and gone more for the classroom supplies.

A group of people sitting at a table

It’s been a tough year, especially for students and teachers who have been required to move to on-line, remote learning. I cannot even imagine all that teachers in all learning situations this year have had to do to keep going. It brings certainly brings new meaning to the word pivot, something teachers seem to do with ease.

Still, wanting to know how teachers really feel about gifts, I contacted teachers I know, asking them how they really feel about gifts from parents and students—at Christmas and other times of the year, too. Each one of them hesitated. I could tell they didn’t want to come across as ungrateful.

Make no mistake—teachers are very grateful for the thoughts behind all of the stuff they get during the year, but particularly at Christmas.

But the stuff itself? Not so much. In fact, most gifts become a problem for that teacher. What would you do with 27 random coffee mugs or 16 bottles of cologne or aftershave of dubious origin? 

This year you can make sure that your gifts for teachers will be exactly what they really want. So listen up on these ideas for teacher gifts. And take notes. There may be a quiz.

Read more

Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Best Gift Ideas for Him

From teen boys to grandfathers, from travel to coffee; your brother or your bro, father or hubs—treat him to something special that he’ll use for years to come. Can’t come up with any ideas? Gifts for guys can be challenging. But not to worry! I’ve got you covered with gifts for him that cover a variety of interests. Check back as this list expands and updates often.

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Womans hand cleaning smartphone screen with alcohol. Concept of Cleaning dirty screen phone for disease prevention from virus Covid-19.

How to Disinfect Your Phone

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in 2020, it’s that our health is closely tied to things we touch throughout the day. And what’s the one thing we touch more than a few times a day? Our phones! Or as the Journal of Hospital Infection refers to them, our portable Petri dishes.

Womans hand cleaning smartphone screen with alcohol. Concept of Cleaning dirty screen phone for disease prevention from virus Covid-19.

Phones fall on bathroom floors. They come into contact with tiny droplets from sneezes and coughs, and encounter every type of germ a person’s hand does. But unlike the hands, phones are impossible to wash with soap and water.

Therefore, cell phones are a potentially dangerous source of viruses including Streptococcus, MRSA, E. coli COVID-19; bacteria, and other pathogens. And according to this study—at least 10 times more germs than a toilet seat. Gross!

It’s not certain how long viruses survive on surfaces, but the World Health Organization reports it may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions such as the type of surface, temperature, or humidity of the environment but just think now how often you touch your phone.

If there’s the slightest possibility that a surface has been infected, err on the side of caution and clean it with simple disinfectant to kill viruses and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. And for goodness’ sake, clean your phone!

What not to do

When it comes to disinfecting your phone and other electronic gear, you want to kill viruses and bacteria without doing harm or voiding your phone or device warranty. That means no dripping antibacterial wipes. Do not use a prohibited cleaner or do not spray anything directly on the device.

Disinfect phone basics

Follow these basic instructions for how to clean your phone, screens, keyboards and other electronic gadgets

  • Always unplug the phone or device before attempting to clean it.
  • Prepare a dry, soft cloth or open a packaged alcohol wipe designed for eyeglasses cleaning. Never use paper materials like tissues, napkins, or paper towels. The paper contains wood pulp that can leave scratches and permanent marks.
  • Cleaning instructions vary from one manufacturer to another. If in doubt, consult the manufacturer’s website.
  • Allow the disinfectant to air dry on the surface for at least 10 minutes before you wipe down it with a soft, clean towel.
  • Clean frequently used phones, devices, and keyboards twice a day.

How to disinfect iPhone

Apple has just updated its support page to say that you can clean your iPhone with 70% isopropyl alcohol poured or sprayed onto a clean, soft cloth, alcohol wipes, or Clorox disinfectant wipes. Use only a soft, lint-free cloth. Avoid abrasive cloths, towels, paper towels, or similar items.

  • Avoid excessive wiping, which might cause damage.
  • Unplug all external power sources, devices, and cables.
  • Keep liquids away from the product, unless otherwise noted for specific products.
  • Don’t get moisture into any openings.
  • Don’t use aerosol sprays, bleaches, or abrasives.
  • Don’t spray cleaners directly onto the item.

How to disinfect Android, Pixel

For the Pixel 3a and other Android phones, Google recommends screen disinfecting wipes or eyeglasses cleaner on the screen and ordinary household soap or cleaning wipes, as needed. There are no restrictions on alcohol-based wipes.

Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn from qualifying purchases, at no cost to you.

How to disinfect computers, tablets, keyboards, remote controls, mouses

  • Unplug and remove batteries, if any.
  • Spray 70% isopropyl alcohol on a cloth, never on the screen, keyboard or device.
  • If using an alcohol wipe, make sure it is not dripping wet. Wring it out a bit first as necessary, then proceed. You do not want to drip liquid into any openings, especially a keyboard.
  • Consider a wipeable cover for your laptop keyboard so you can disinfect it without suffering potential harm to the keyboard itself.

Resources

These EPA-approved disinfectants are good options for cleaning phones, devices, screens, remote controls, and keyboards.


hands holding small Christmas gift in kraft paper and red bow

Homemade Body Lotion You’d Actually Love to Receive

Gifting friends, family, co-workers teachers, and others with a jar of your own signature Luxury Hand and Body Cream will definitely put you on the map. It’s a homemade gift you would actually like to receive! It’s that good. And what better time than this weekend to make Christmas gifts? It’s quick and easy!

hands holding small Christmas gift in kraft paper and red bow

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—all of which are readily available in supermarkets, drugstores or online.

Here’s the routine:

Read more

Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts

Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts—Sinfully Delicious!

I see lots of delicious-looking things as I spend time cruising the Internet, searching, and researching. But rarely if ever, do I come across something so compelling, appealing, and downright decadent that it stops me in my tracks and sends me flying to the kitchen to give it a try. I mean really, could there be anything more perfect than an Apple Fritter Waffle Donut?

Admittedly, I may be late to the party on this one, but if you have never heard of such a thing—you’re in for the treat of a lifetime.

Yes, I did make Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts. In fact, I’ve made this recipe four times in the past 30 days. I call it research. You know, honing my pastry skills. My family calls them delicious and please make some more!

Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts

Before we get going here, if you have hopes of this being low-cal, gluten-free, vegan, low-carb dairy-free, Whole30 (did I miss anything?), let me dash those hope right upfront. This is none of that.

This not health food. AFWDs are a special treat, a Christmas morning breakfast indulgence. A lovely item alongside the best semi-homemade Cinnamon Rolls of all time.


Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts

(Complete printable recipe below)

You’ll need:

  • all-purpose flour
  • white granulated sugar
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • salt
  • cinnamon
  • buttermilk
  • butter
  • eggs
  • vanilla extract
  • apples
  • oil
  • powdered sugar
  • milk

General steps to make AFWDs

1. Make the waffle batter, and use it to make waffles according to your waffle maker manufacturer’s instructions. Depending on your waffle maker, you should come out with about 8 individual waffles.

2. Move waffles to a cooling rack, about 20 minutes.

3. Move waffles to a cooling rack, about 20 minutes.

4. Cut waffles in half, diagonally to make about 16 AFWDs.

5. Once cool, deep fry AFWDs until golden brown.

deep frying Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts

6. Drain on paper toweling.

7. Dip the hot AFWDs into the glaze.

There you go … decadent, warm Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts — Wonuts!

Enjoy!

Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts

Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts

Absolutely delicious, bordering on decadent! Yummy served warm with ice cream!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin
Course: Dessert, Sweets
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 16
Calories: 376kcal
Cost: $5

Equipment

  • Waffle maker
  • Deep fryer, skillet or wok

Ingredients

WAFFLES

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 tspn baking powder
  • 1/2 tspn baking soda
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 2 tspn cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 2 cups chopped apple peels removed, chopped finely
  • oil for frying

GLAZE

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 tspn vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Preheat waffle maker,
  • In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt
  • In a separate medium size bowl, combine buttermilk, melted butter, eggs and vanilla. Beat with a fork until well-incorporated.
  • Stir wet ingredients into the dry. Mix until fully incorporated.
  • Fold in chopped apple until evenly distributed.
  • Use batter to make waffles, according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Move waffles to a cooling rack. Once cool, use a knife to cut diagonally or the shape you desire.
  • Heat your oil of choice in a deep fryer, deep skillet or wok to 350 F.
  • Fry two sections, or the number you can easily fit into the oil vessel of choice, until golden brown, about 1 to 2 mins on each side.
  • Remove to paper towels to drain and then to cooling rack.
  • Whisk together the Glaze ingredients and pour into a shallow dish, like a pie pan or the like.
  • Dip "donuts" into the glaze so that all sides are coated. Move back to cooling rack to drip and set up.
  • Wait, if you can, about 20 minutes before serving.

Notes

  1. I use two small apples to equal 2 cups chopped. Your mileage may vary.
  2. I use canola oil for frying, however, vegetable, corn, or peanut oil would also work well.
  3. The deep-frying process goes super fast—it takes about 1 min. on each side, so keep your eye on things!
  4. This is my deep-fryer. It's small, inexpensive and mighty! I recommend it highly for occasional deep-frying, which is the frequency with which I use it. 
  5. Many thanks to Janica of CookingWithJanica.com for teaching me how to make AFWDs❣️.

Nutrition

Calories: 376kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!
Christmas Gift in female hands

Meaningful DIY Gifts That Cost Less Than $5 to Make

Here we are just a few weeks before Christmas. For many, panic is setting in as time is short, but money is even shorter. I have good news for you: You don’t have to spend a lot of money to show those you love how much they mean to you.

Best DIY Gift Ideas

Here are three of my favorite ideas for DIY gifts that are certain to hit the mark for giftees of all ages! Each one will take a bit of time on your part, and less than $5 in supplies.

1. Personalized directional signs

Create a gift set of directional signs pointing to your giftee’s favorite places. It might include a college, amusement park, hometown, beach, or other location, place on his or her bucket list—anywhere in the world to be hung on a wall, planted in a garden, or standing on a porch.

DIY directional signs

Photo credit: Etsy.com

This is so much fun requiring only a bit of research, pointed wooden stakes, and paint or paint pens.

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How Can I Get Rid of This Stubborn Toilet Ring?

It’s not the most elegant question I get, but certainly one of the most common. “I’ve tried everything I can think of, but that stubborn, ugly toilet bowl ring won’t go away!” Or “It goes away, but just keeps coming back!”

white toilet suffering from a nasty toilet ring

Toilet bowls develop discolorations for many reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the housekeeping. Basically, the toilet ring is the result of hard water conditions together with water standing in a toilet that sees a lot of use.

While there are lots of commercial products out there that promise to remove hard water stains in the toilet, ordinary household pantry items you have already can be just as effective to rid your toilet of the dreaded toilet ring without harsh chemicals.

What are those stains, anyway?

Toilet bowl stains that look like rust are likely due to mineral deposits and hard water. Green, orange or black streaks or rings may be mold. A bacteria called serratia marcescens shows up as pink. Knowing what is causing the ring makes it easier for you to choose the best method for getting rid of it.

Under most conditions, regular weekly cleaning prevents heavy stain buildup and reduces the appearance of any existing stains so the bowl can look pristine and white again.

And when none of that works? Don’t worry, I have the mother of all solutions for that too, in a bit. But let’s start with the easiest.

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How to Wash a Down Comforter

If you’ve ever wondered if it’s okay to wash your down comforter instead of taking it to the dry cleaner, the answer is yes. You can absolutely wash a down comforter without spending upwards of $80, depending on the size, where you live, and how dirty it is, to have it dry cleaned professionally.

To do this, you’ll need mild detergent (our homemade detergent is ideal, or Woolite), wool dryer balls (or tennis balls work as well), an extra-large front loading washing machine (most home models are too small for this task), and an extra-large dryer. Here are step-by-step instructions:

Step 1: Big machine

Load your down comforter into the largest extra-large front-loading washing machine at your local laundromat. The less crowded the comforter is in the washer and dryer, the better the results.

If you have a full-sized washing machine, it may be possible to wash your comforter at home. But this is tricky. The comforter needs ample room to move about inside the washer, making a front-loading machine most ideal.

If your machine has a center agitator, you need to make sure that the comforter doesn’t get tangled and twisted around the agitator. That could cause the cloth cover to tear. Should the feathers and down were to escape the cotton cover, you’ll have one big fat mess on your hands. Your best bet is to head for the laundromat.

Washing machine

Step 2: Detergent

Add a small amount of mild detergent. Do not use any product with additives like softeners or enzymes. Be careful here as too much detergent will strip the down or feathers of their natural coating that makes down or feathers such a superb thermal insulator.

Step 3: Warm and gentle

You want to wash a down comforter using these settings on the washer: Warm wash, cold rinse; gentle (delicate) agitation and two rinse cycles. The last bit of detergent must be rinsed out.

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Coffee

13 Things You Need to Know About How to Reuse Coffee Grounds

If you love your morning cup of Joe, it’s a pretty good bet you’re throwing out spent coffee grounds on a regular basis. Take a look at this list and you just might discover more than a few ways you can recycle and reuse old grounds so you can enjoy them over again!

Not a coffee drinker? These days local coffee shops offer their spent grounds for free. Find one near you, then stop by to pick up a bag or two.

four ways to use spent coffee grounds

Smoke out mosquitoes

According to the EPA, coffee grounds are a safe and effective way to keep pests away. The smoke from burning used ground coffee is especially effective to send mosquitoes away because they are seriously repelled by the smell, which to humans is quite subtle. Remember this outdoor trick for your next summer barbecue.

Start with completely dry, used coffee grounds. Place the grounds in a bowl, on a plate or other flat surface lined with foil and light them with a match around the edges, the way you would light incense. Watch this video. Add a few fresh bay leaves to amplify your repellant. Set the containers(s) upwind to get the scent moving.

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Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Best Ideas for Cooks, Home Chefs, Foodies

Yes, another Holiday Gift Guide, and not so much because I love creating these guides for you (I do!) but due to popular demand. If it wouldn’t have appeared to be overly self-serving, for sure I would have titled this Guide something like “my favorite really awesome kitchen things that foodies, gourmet cooks, and home chefs of all levels are sure to love as much as I do.”

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10 Best Homemade Gifts Under $10

If you have more time than money this Holiday Season—or just prefer to give and receive homemade gifts—here are ten of my best ideas that cost less than ten bucks.

Spa Set

mycrazyblessedlife.com

Photo credit: My Crazy Blessed Life

Give all the stressed-out folks on your gift list the gift of relaxation. Make your own bath products and then assemble them in a nice basket.

Bath Salts

1 cup Epsom salts, 1 cup sea or rock salt, 20 drops fragrance oil, food coloring. Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until fully combined and color is even.

Bath Oil

1/2 cup almond oil, 1/2 cup castor oil or aloe vera, the oil from 6-8 Vitamin E capsules, 25-30 drops fragrance oil. Mix all ingredients in a bowl with wooden spoon until combined.

Bubble Bath

Mix 3 cups clear, mild dishwashing detergent; the oil from 6-8 Vitamin E capsules, 1/4 cup glycerin, 25-30 drops fragrance oil, food coloring.

Salt Scrub

Mix together Epsom salts and enough almond oil (better) or baby oil (cheaper) to resemble very wet snow. Add essential or aromatherapy oil for fragrance and soap colorant if you desire. 

Place your spa products in individual bottles or small jars and decorate with ribbons, labels, and or embellishments. Add other items you can pick up at the drug store such as a washcloth, pumice stone, or loofah.

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cropped shot of young couple shopping online with credit card and laptop at christmas

How to Shop with CASH at Amazon

I can think of only a few things worse than waking up on Dec. 26 with a raging debt hangover—an all-too-common after-Christmas condition.

cropped shot of young couple shopping online with credit card and laptop at christmas

The only reason you paid for everything with a credit card is that it was convenient. Besides, it’s not safe to shop online with a debit card, so what were your options?

Of course, you promised yourself that you would be paying the balance in full the minute the statement arrives, but who are we kidding here?

You were already carrying a balance on every card in your wallet, so now all of those new purchases will exacerbate the problem by plunging you even deeper into debt. Worse, you don’t even know for sure how much you spent because who keeps track when you pay for everything with a credit card?

Just imagine if you’d kept your promise that this year would be an all-cash Christmas—that you locked those credit cards away where they were safe from you. You’d be heading into the New Year with a much different attitude. No excuses, no hiding the holiday bills; no worries, and no regrets.

I’ve got some good news for you. This year really can be an all-cash Christmas. You can do it and make your cash stretch even further when you take advantage of the lower prices when you shop online. You really can shop with CASH at Amazon, absolutely no credit card or debit card required.

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Christmas vintage presents on a wooden background

Gift-Giving: What’s the Point?

The simple act of gift-giving has become extremely complicated. I blame that on the consumer credit industry.

Think about it: You can be completely broke but still spend thousands of dollars on Christmas gifts—and believe it is not only your right to do so but that you are obligated to do it.

The culture has created a message that we have to spend a lot on Christmas gifts to be socially acceptable.

Christmas vintage presents on a wooden background

Gift-giving is a custom that has pretty much run amok. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can choose to make wise and reasonable decisions about the gifts we give.

How many of you cannot recall the gifts you gave last Christmas? How about the gifts you received? Come on, let’s see those hands. Okay, that’s just about everybody.

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Roast beef on cutting board with saltcellar and pepper mill

From Chuck Roast to “Prime Rib” in Three Hours Flat

Shortly after I wrote a column on the specific steps to roast a cheap cut of beef so that it turns out like prime rib, I got an email from faithful reader, Mary B. We went back and forth a bit as she prepared this for guests. I thought you would enjoy the feedback.

Roast beef on cutting board with saltcellar and pepper mill

But first, here’s a quick refresher on how to do that:

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my clean kitchen

How to Cook and Keep the Kitchen Clean at the Same Time

my clean kitchen

I love to cook. And I enjoy inviting guests for dinner parties or more casual meals. What I hate is the big ugly mess that happens in the kitchen as I’m cooking and concentrating on getting everything on the table. My kitchen is right out there in the open for all to see, which is why I’ve come up with strategies to cook and keep the kitchen clean at the same time.

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Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes and Gravy


I know what you’re thinking: Make the Thanksgiving mashed potatoes AND gravy ahead of time—several days before the big day? Like serve leftovers for the biggest best meal of the year? You have got to be kidding.

Well yes, that is exactly what I am suggesting and will be doing myself, but let me be clear—this is not leftovers. What you are about to learn is so amazing—and I’m not talking about only the recipes, but also the how-tos and full instructions. This has the potential to completely transform your Thanksgiving dinner prep by moving the two big last-minute tedious kitchen tasks—mashed potatoes and gravy—from the last minute to days ahead.

You gotta’ trust me on this. Once ready to serve, the flavors will have melded in ways you could have not predicted.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

(Full printable recipe card follows)

You can make these amazing fool-proof mashed potatoes several days before you will be serving them. Don’t worry. No one will ever detect your secret. In fact, fabulous mashed potatoes just might become your signature dish.

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (see recipe card notes)
  • 2 (3-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons onion salt
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • butter, chives, or green onions for optional garnish

Instructions

Several days ahead …

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into large cubes.
  2. Place potatoes in a large pot of lightly salted water and set over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes or until fork-tender.
  3. Drain. Move potatoes to a large bowl and mash using a potato masher or standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  4. Add cream cheese, sour cream, milk, onion salt, and pepper. Mix well until everything is well incorporated.
  5. Transfer to a large casserole dish for oven method, or to slow cooker inner removable pot. Cover and refrigerate.

On serving day…

Oven method

On the day of serving, remove potatoes from the refrigerator and allow to stand for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 325 F (165 C). Bake covered casserole in the preheated oven for 35-50 minutes, depending on the size and shape of the dish. Garnish as desired. Serve hot.

Slow cooker method

Four to 6 hours before mealtime, move the slow cooker pot holding the mashed potatoes to the slow cooker unit. Set to Low. Cover. Stir every 2 hours or so. Once thoroughly heated through, move the slow cooker to Warm. Garnish as desired. Serve hot.

Make-Ahead Gravy

(Full printable recipe card follows)

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • Turkey (chicken, beef)  drippings

Instructions

Several days ahead…

  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan over med-high heat.
  • Whisk in the flour until well incorporated
  • Cook, whisking frequently until this roux is golden brown or about 10 minutes.
  • Add the chicken stock and whisk until combined.
  • Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking occasionally, until the gravy is thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, salt, and ground pepper.
  • Cool then refrigerate in an airtight container.

On serving day

  1. Transfer refrigerated gravy to saucepan set over low heat.
  2. Pour turkey drippings into a fat separator (or measuring cup and spoon off the fat),
  3. Add the drippings to the gravy.
  4. Stir until well combined and hot.
  5. Pour into a gravy boat and serve.

mashed potatoes with melted butter and chives

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Let me be clear—but this is not about serving leftovers. This has the potential to completely transform your Thanksgiving dinner prep by moving the two big last-minute tedious kitchen tasks—mashed potatoes and gravy—from the last minute to days ahead.
Once ready to serve, the flavors will have melded in ways you could have not predicted. So good!
4.58 from 7 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Reheating in oven: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 12 people
Calories: 189kcal
Cost: $6

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes Russet or red-skin potatoes are also good
  • 2 3-oz cream cheese softened
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 tspns salt See notes
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • butter, chives, green onion for optional garnish at time of serving

Instructions

Several days ahead ...

  • Peel the potatoes and cut into large cubes.
  • Place potatoes in a large pot of lightly salted water and set over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes or until fork-tender. Drain.
  • Move potatoes to large bowl and mash using a potato masher or standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  • Add cream cheese, sour cream, milk, onion salt, and pepper. Mix well until everything is well incorporated.
  • Transfer to a large casserole dish for oven method, or to slow cooker inner removable pot. Cover and refrigerate.

On serving day: Oven method

  • On the day of serving, remove potatoes from the refrigerator and allow to stand for 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat oven to 325 F (165 C). Bake covered casserole in the preheated oven for 35-50 minutes, depending on the size and shape of the dish. Garnish as desired. Serve hot.

On serving day: Slow cooker method

  • On the day of serving at least 4 hours before mealtime, move the slow cooker pot holding the mashed potatoes to the slow cooker unit. Set to Low. Cover. Stir every 2 hours or so. Once thoroughly heated through, turn the slow cooker to Warm. Garnish as desired. Serve hot.

Notes

  1. Feeling adventurous? Substitute some or all of the salt with onion salt! 

Nutrition

Calories: 189kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 96mg | Potassium: 836mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 134IU | Vitamin C: 37mg | Calcium: 55mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Make-Ahead Gravy

Such a great way to make homemade gravy with the last-minute hassle and mess
4.58 from 7 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 25 minutes
At time of serving: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 107kcal
Cost: $5

Ingredients

  • 5 tbspn butter
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbspn Worchestershire Sauce (optional, but delicious!)
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tspn Kosher salt, or to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • Turkey drippings or beef, chicken; about 1 cup is ideal but use what you have

Instructions

Several days ahead ...

  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan over med-high heat.
  • Whisk in the flour until well incorporated
  • Cook, whisking frequently until this roux is golden brown or about 10 minutes.
  • Add the chicken stock and whisk until combined.
  • Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking occasionally, until the gravy is thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, salt, and ground pepper.
  • Cool then refrigerate in an airtight container.

On serving day ...

  • Transfer refrigerated gravy to saucepan set over low heat.
  • Pour turkey (beef, chicken) drippings into a fat separator (or measuring cup and spoon off the fat),
  • Add the drippings to the gravy.
  • Stir until well combined and hot.
  • Pour into a gravy boat and serve immediately. Yum!

Nutrition

Calories: 107kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 17mg | Sodium: 260mg | Potassium: 141mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 154IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!
Multi-ethinic arms outstretched to ask questions

How to Get Pet Hair Out of Carpet, Ugly Out of Laundry and More

Once again, it’s time to reach into my virtual mailbag and answer a few questions from my dear readers.

Multi-ethinic arms outstretched to ask questions
What’s inside? Here are the questions I’m answering from my bulging reader mailbag. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question. Or just scroll through to read all. Enjoy!

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fun stuff for kids 2020

Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Super Fun Stuff for Kids

2020 Christmas Gift Guide - Fun Stuff Kids

Looking for fun stuff for the kids? Well, yes, because it can’t be ALL about socks, underwear, and science experiments. Sadly, we no longer have the Sears & Roebuck Wish Book to find all kinds of a fun stuff! But you can dry those tears because here are some of the best ideas ever for how to add a lot of fun to all the joys of Christmas for kids of all ages. Check back often as I’m updating daily!

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Set of sale and discount paper labels with red bows and ribbons.

Here Are the Big 10 Holiday Shopping Mistakes to Avoid

It’s still touted as the biggest holiday shopping day of the year. Black Friday—when retailers slash everything to unheard-of rock bottom prices. When customers camp out in store parking lots to make sure they bag a 65-inch TV for $99.

crowded fighting over TVs on Black Friday

Photo credit: DailyHive.com

Black Friday—the day shoppers boast of getting all of their Christmas shopping done in one big, glorious fell swoop!

In case you’ve been living on another planet (lucky you!), things have changed. This year, holiday shopping is moving from a mall near you into cyberspace. And from the looks of my inbox, Black Friday is not waiting for the day after Thanksgiving. Lots of merchants have already begun rolling out their “best” Black Friday Spectaculars.

Please join me in stepping back to take a deep breath.


The ways that we respond to all of the hype this Holiday Season—especially during this coming week—could make or break it for us for years to come.

Look, I know how easily I could justify buying now and paying (and paying and paying) for it later. Because I think we’re a lot alike, I’ll bet you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Today, I’m committing to keeping my head on straight, acknowledging what I know to be true, and doing everything in my power to avoid the big ten shopping mistakes that could so easily land me in a big pile of credit-card debt and terrible regret.

Are you with me?

Mistake 1: Not having a spending plan

Know how much you have to spend, and how you will spend it. Write it down. Then keep track of every penny. Ponder before you load up your shopping cart impulsively by referring to your spending plan. Search, read reviews, think hard before you pull the spending trigger.

Mistake 2: Not holiday shopping with cash

Yes, you can shop online with cash. It takes a bit more planning and preparation, but you can do this. You can shop with cash at Amazon, Kohl’s, Target, and so many other online sites as well.

It’s a 2-step process: Take your cash to a store like Walgreens, big supermarkets, or drug stores. Purchase Gift Cards for the amount of cash you have for the sites you plan to shop.

You can buy Gift Cards for Target, Amazon, Walmart, Apple, Best Buy, Bed Bath, and Beyond—I could go on and on. Nearly all Gift Cards say right on them that they are good for in-store and online purchases. But don’t take my word for that—read the card before you buy it to make sure.

Caution: Bank-issued Gift Cards (VISA Gift Cards, Mastercard Gift Cards, etc.) are typically associated with activation fees, dormancy fees, non-use fees, and service fees. Avoid them!

Mistake 3: Not seeing through the marketing hype

Oh, the slogans and promises we’re hearing and seeing already. Tune your eyes and ears to spot the most ridiculous. My “favorite?” The more you spend, the more you’ll save! I heard that at least 12 times in one day last week.

Here’s the truth: The more you spend, the more you’ll spend! There are no savings involved unless you stop at the bank to deposit all that money you saved didn’t spend! Do you get that? Don’t let such blatant lies coerce or entice you to go outside the plan you have created.

Mistake 4: Spending more to get free shipping

We’ve all done it and soon regretted: Placing two well-thought-out items in the shopping cart, only to realize we need to hit the $99 mark to get free shipping! Then packing the cart foolishly with a bunch of other stuff just to hit the mark. Think about it: Spend, say, $37 to save a $5 shipping charge. Doesn’t make sense, does it!

Mistake 5: Buying intending to return

Can’t decide on the right size or color? Want to grab that sale before it disappears? Both are excuses I’ve used in the past for overbuying like that top in 2 sizes because I’m not quite sure—fully intending to return everything I don’t want. I’ll get the refund that zeros out the purchase, and everything will be just dandy, I say. Yeah, right. It’s not that easy to return things (although I must say Amazon comes as close to perfect as possible).

Plans to return can so easily go awry, so don’t make the mistake in the first place. Don’t buy with definite plans to return.

Mistake 6: Not making returns

Sometimes things do not show up as we intended they should. Maybe it doesn’t fit, or something is broken. Or it just isn’t what you thought it would be. You’ll be making a big mistake if you do not return it immediately. Follow the merchant’s guidelines and then watch to make sure you get that refund or credit.

Mistake 7: Not checking the price

You think you’ve found a great deal—you’re getting a discount and everything! But before you check out, check around. Search that product. Look high and low on the search results. You might be happily surprised by what you find.

Mistake 8: Not shopping anonymously

You may know that many online shopping sites show you prices and selections based on your shopping location, the time of day, shopping history, and so forth. When you shop anonymously, that site thinks you are a visitor—a potential customer. You can be sure they’ll show you their best deals, their best discounts in an effort to convert you into a paying customer.

Use your browser’s private mode to hide your location and history from that site. Or use a search engine like DuckDuckGo.com to do anonymous searches.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means this site gets a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products and services I love and have had a positive experience with. Thank you!

Mistake 9: Shopping sleepy or hungry

I make really dumb mistakes when I’m tired and or hungry. How about you? We need clear minds when holiday shopping in cyberspace.

Mistake 10: Leaving money on the table

Many (many!) holiday shopping sites participate in cashback programs. But they don’t say this on their sites, nor do they remind you at check out. The cashback site I use and rely on is Rakuten. Here’s how that works:  Join Rakuten. Once a member (it’s free), opt to have the Rakuten extension on your browser. Now, when you visit a Rakuten member site, you’ll get a notice at the top of your screen to activate cash back should you make a purchase. Of course, f you do not want the extension, make sure you sign in at the Rakuten site first, then proceed to Kohl’s or Target, etc.


A close up of a metal pan on a stove top oven, with Dough and Yeast

Homemade Artisan Bread—Amazingly Easy and So Delicious!

The year 2007 was a good one for me for lots of reasons. Here’s one: It’s the year I got good at baking homemade bread thanks to a simple discovery that would go on to revolutionize the world of home baking.

Presented in their book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, authors Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoë Franḉois stated that anyone with an oven, flour, yeast, salt, and water could make authentic, artisan bread in just five minutes a day.

Within hours of getting my hands on that book, I was onboard. My first attempt at making homemade bread was ridiculously easy. And so successful I shocked myself and my family!

A more delicious loaf of artisan bread I cannot buy anywhere. And why would I, when I could now make it myself for about $.40 a loaf in just five minutes a day? Read more

A bowl of oranges on a table

Let’s Make Every Day Thanksgiving!

A bowl of oranges on a table

I love Thanksgiving so much it vies for first place in my favorite holiday lineup. I love and adore a classic Turkey Dinner with all the trimmings. I love the fall weather, which always accompanies the day. I love the fact that Thanksgiving ushers in the winter holidays, offering me a front-row seat at the very best time of the year.

I love all of those things. In fact, I kinda’ wish that every day were Thanksgiving! Gratitude is too important in our lives to be considered briefly en masse on this, the fourth Thursday of November.

This has been one awful year. The coronavirus has turned our lives upside down. My heart breaks for those of you who have lost a loved one, a friend, a colleague. I know that many of you are struggling with financial stress due to a layoff or reduced hours, or lost clients. We’ve been filled to the max with heartache and challenge.

Even in the face of such heartache, challenge, and uncertainty, I am more convinced than ever that giving thanks and counting our blessings is good for us. It reminds us of the positive things in life. Gratitude turns bad things into good things, takes our eyes off ourselves, and reminds us to thank others.

Just imagine what might happen if our annual single-day tradition of giving thanks were to become a daily routine? Health professionals suggest we would be rewarded with better health, as medical science reveals more about the strong connection between gratitude and good health.

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A group of people sitting at a table with wine glasses

Gifts That Don’t Cost a Dime

Long on Christmas lists but short on cash this year? What you need are tips, tricks, and Gift Guides to help you save money, right?

“Save money?!” you sneer. “What if we don’t have any money?” 

That, my friend, is a reliable signal that it’s time to get creative. Often the most meaningful gifts and the most difficult ones to give are those that cost no money at all.

A group of people sitting at a table with wine glasses

A gift from the heart is a gift of time and talent. It’s going to require some (all?) of your free time over the next week or so, but it sure beats going into debt to buy a bunch of gifts for others—or missing out altogether because you refuse to show up empty-handed.

No one was more creative than my mother-in-law one Christmas years ago. I’d always admired her beautiful crystal, a wedding gift from her parents in 1942. Imagine how stunned I was when she gave it—all of it—to me. My favorite pieces are the water pitcher and cordials. Her gift, which cost nothing in terms of money, was and continues to be priceless to me.

Are you getting the picture? Great. Consider these idea starters to show someone you care that won’t require spending any cash at all. And please, add your own ideas in the comments!

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A close up of a bottle of wine

Instant Pot Vanilla Extract—One Week from Start-to-Gift

For nearly a decade I’ve been making vanilla extract for Christmas gifts. And every year I find myself scrambling because it’s a process that requires a minimum of three months—six months or even six years is even better! Vanilla extract gets better and better with age. But all that has changed since discovering how to make vanilla extract using my Instant Pot electric pressure cooker. Instead of months, Instant Pot vanilla extract takes just one week from start-to-gift!

homemade vanilla extract in amber bottles

For me (and friends and family on my gift list), vanilla extract is still the perfect homemade holiday gift. The difference in taste is extraordinary. And now that pure vanilla extract has become so expensive (more on that in a bit), it’s like pure gold!

Processing homemade vanilla extract in an electric Instant Pot pressure cooker gives it the intensity of aged high-quality store-bought vanilla in a fraction of the time. Now our perfect homemade gift can be a perfect last-minute gift, too.

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heated mattress pad

A Very Effective Way to Cut Winter Heating Bills

Until several years ago, I didn’t know something existed, a heated mattress pad. It makes sense I suppose since I’d lived in Southern California for most of my life, where it is mostly warm all year round.

Relocating to Colorado where the seasons are more pronounced, I had a lot to learn about heating a house without going broke. That first winter our heating bills shot to the moon because we were heating the entire house to a comfortable temperature day and night. Trust me—high heating bills can be shocking.

cold house high energy bills

Lower the temp

We saw a semi-dramatic reduction in the heating bill when we decided to lower the thermostat to 60 F. at night, then using this micathermic space heater in our bedroom. That worked relatively well, but that wasn’t altogether successful. Let’s just say that my husband and I have different internal thermostats. He would be cold while I’d be turning the space heater down a notch or ten.

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womans hand holding steam iron that is bursting with steam

How to Clean a Steam Iron So It Steams and Looks Like New

Before you toss that steam clothes iron because it refuses to steam, and the soleplate is now sporting a brown, burned-on, gross mess—you might want to give it a little love with a good clean out and clean-up. It’s not difficult to bring a tired steam iron back to working like a dream!

womans hand holding steam iron that is bursting with steam

As always, check the owner manual before proceeding with any cleaning process if you’d just as soon not void am active warranty.

Clean the soleplate

The soleplate is the iron’s flat surface that has the tiny holes where the steam comes out—the part that gets hot. Over time, it can get dirty with a buildup of scorched, ugly brown build-up of various stains from melted-on fabric to spray starch. A dirty steam clothes iron will not press fabric properly and leave streaks of dirt and stain behind on your clothing.

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Body Scrub and Coconut oil

5 DIY Body Scrubs to Keep Your Skin Vibrant and Healthy

Body scrubs are popular because they offer a most effective way to exfoliate your skin. Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of your skin using a chemical, granular substance, or exfoliation tool.

Body Scrub and Coconut oil

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, your skin naturally sheds dead skin cells every 30 days or so to make room for new cells. Sometimes, dead cells don’t shed completely, resulting in dry, flaky patches and clogged pores. Exfoliating can help prevent this, keeping your skin looking vibrant and healthy.

While there are plenty of pricey body scrubs to choose from, for just pennies you can make your own equally effective DIY Body Scrubs using ingredients you already have in your pantry.

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15 Insanely Simple Ways to Save Money on Groceries

According to the USDA, a normal American family of 4, is spending on average, $1,071.40 a month on food at home. That’s a lot of money for groceries, no matter the size of your family.

shopping disaster couple

The list is long for reasons why we should get groceries for our meals instead of eating out or ordering in. While it’s typically less expensive than eating out for every meal, grocery shopping isn’t exactly cheap. But it is downright expensive if you don’t have a strategy.

Good news: You can slash your grocery costs. These tips require effort, but when combined, they can really add up to significant savings and make a big difference in your household finances.

1. Shake it up, baby!

When buying produce, shake off excess water BEFORE you weigh an item—spinach, lettuce, celery, broccoli, etc. Water weight can add about $1 to your grocery tab PER TRIP—costing you at least $50 a year if you buy groceries each week.


2. Weigh bagged produce

Prebagged potatoes, onions, broccoli, apples, lemons have a fixed price—all those bags are the same price. And they must meet the weight stated in that bag, for example, 5 lbs. potatoes. But rarely does that item weigh exactly the state weight. Take the time to weigh a couple of bags, then choose the one that weighs the most. Take the time and bag the savings with a bag marked 5 lbs that weighs in at 5.5 lbs or more. Prepare to be amazed.

Woman Keeping Piggybank In Shopping Cart Full Of Groceries

3. Don’t pay full price

Here’s the Golden Rule of Groceries: Eat the sales. Don’t put anything in your basket that is not on sale. If it’s not on sale this week, it will be next or soon enough. If chicken is the loss leader this week, don’t plan meals around beef. And when that happens, try to buy enough chicken to last until the next time it’s on sale. You may need to stop being so brand loyal. Typical supermarkets and grocery stores work on a 12-week rotation. That means everything will be on sale at least once every three months.

4. Pass up the grocery cart

Walk on by the carts (aka trollies for my dear readers in the UK) when all you need are a few items. Surely you can carry the “few things” you need. Or get one of the hand-held baskets. The point here is that you won’t be buying more than you can carry.

5. Don’t dawdle

This is not the place you want to hang out to soak in all the great sights and smells from the bakery, deli, and rotisserie chickens. If you weren’t hungry when you arrived, you will be soon. Get what you need and get out of there. For every ten minutes, you delay, plan on spending about another $35.

6. Don’t deprive yourself

Work some “flex spend” into your budget. We all want to try new things, and in the Candyland-of-choice known as the grocery store, this can lead to expensive last-minute choices. In my experience, the best way to combat this is not to fight it. Allow yourself a little flexibility—say, a five-dollar allowance or a single impulse item each week. That’s the way to avoid the feeling that you’re drowning in deprivation. You’ll be less likely to go overboard.

7. Make a list

This is almost a given, but making a list is the easiest way to see what you need and estimate how much it should cost. Here’s a pretty clever interactive grocery list template.

8. Pay with cash

The best way to stick to the budget is to go in with a plan and pay with cash. When you go to the store with cash in hand, you know exactly how much you can spend. And when you’ve spent what you came with, that’s it. No room for impulsive unplanned purchases.

9. Avoid impulse buys

Another way to prevent impulse buys is to stay out of the store altogether. Grocery pickup services offered by mainstream retailers like Kroger, Target, and Walmart allow you to order your groceries online and then have them brought out to you while you wait in your vehicle.

10. Sell-buy dates

Items like dairy, meat, and even some bagged produce come with sell-by dates. Often as that date nears, stores will slap a discounted price tag on them, but not always. If you find items that are close to their sell-by date that are not discounted, speak up. Ask for a discount. As long as you plan to use these items soon, there’s no problem at all. Sell-buy dates allow for that item to be safe and delicious for at least 7 days past the date.

11. Look high and low

Supermarkets and grocery stores regularly place the higher-priced, brand name items at eye level. Have you ever noticed that? That’s no coincidence. Not a fluke!  It’s on purpose, and you’re being set up to behave impulsively. Here’s how to beat ’em at their own game: Look high and low. Expect to find generic alternatives, lower-priced brands, and other options. Compare prices. Don’t give in to the manipulation.

12. Shop the cheap stores

Most dollar stores offer random non-perishable food items and even fresh produce at huge discounted prices, so stop there first. You may be able to mark some items off your grocery list. Private label stores like Aldi and Trader Joe’s are notorious for their super lower prices on their food products.

13. Snag manager specials

Most supermarkets’ meat and bakery departments feature “Manager Specials.”  Depending on the season and that particular store’s inventory, you’ll often find discounts as much as 50% off on anything from meat to bread, poultry, fish, and seafood. Buy enough to use and or freeze to last until the next time it goes on sale. Of course, you won’t know exactly when that will be, so estimate provided that stocking up doesn’t bust the budget.

14. Ethnic markets

Even if you’re not into exotic cuisine, Asian, Ethiopian, Latin American food markets are harboring some terrific bargains on items you’re regularly buying at a full price elsewhere. It can’t hurt to check them out! You’re sure to find items like rice, flour, fresh poultry, and produce at regular prices in ethnic markets that beat your supermarket by a mile.

15. Get the app

Your phone is a powerful tool, so download this grocery app. It may be easier than clipping coupons.

Ibotta will pay you cash for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts.

Here’s how it works: Before heading to the store, search for items on your grocery shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes, and with that, you’ll get cash back.

Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $20 sign-up bonus after redeeming your first 10 bonuses within 14 days.

Question: Given these tips are just a start, what is your favorite way to save money on the food you eat at home? Could you share with us in the comments below?


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A close up of many different types of food on a table

Your Best Thanksgiving Feast Ever, Healthy, Delicious, and Cheap!

If there’s one thing we should be thankful for this Thanksgiving, it’s this: Turkey is cheap*! And the rest of the Thanksgiving dinner can relatively inexpensive, too.

A close up of many different types of food on a table

The secret to enjoying a traditional feast without overspending is to plan ahead and know a few tricks.

I sat down with two highly respected professionals—a butcher and a personal chef. What I learned from John Smith, professional butcher and personal chef, Liz Tarditi, pretty much blew a hole in everything I thought I knew about buying, thawing, and preparing a turkey.

Get the best turkey

Choosing the best turkey is easier said than done unless you fully understand the difference between a store brand and a name brand bird. Just because a turkey is more expensive does not make it any better, says John. All that means is that it has a lot of advertising built into its price.

What customers don’t know is that one turkey processor will slap many different labels on his crop of birds. The turkeys are all the same, only the labels are different.

And now for my conversation with John the butcher:

Fresh or frozen?

JS: First, let me define a “fresh” turkey. According to the people who make the laws, turkeys can be called “fresh” even though the moisture in the bird is frozen! If you press very firmly on the bird the meat is not frozen. The turkey processors have it down to a science. They bring the temperature of the “fresh” birds down to the very legal limit before sending them off to the store two weeks before Thanksgiving.

Frozen turkeys, on the other hand, are quick-frozen immediately upon butchering. So the freshest turkey is really a frozen turkey. The freezing process has no noticeable effect on the quality of the bird.

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Fluffy white towels on table with shutter doors

6 Reasons You Need To Add Vinegar in Laundry

Using inexpensive distilled white vinegar in the laundry is smart because it will whiten, brighten, reduce odor, and soften clothes without harsh chemicals.

Fluffy white towels on table with shutter doors

Vinegar is safe to use in both standard and high-efficiency washers because it is very mildly acidic.

When buying vinegar to use in the laundry, choose distilled white vinegar with 5% acidity. It contains no natural plant dyes that can stain clothes.

It’s cheapgallon white vinegar

Plain distilled white 5% vinegar runs around 2.5 cents per oz. in the typical supermarket when purchased by the gallon.

Name brand liquid fabric softeners come in at about 8 cents per oz.—nearly three times the cost. As an alternative to liquid softener, dryer sheets are a cheaper way to ruin your clothes and linens, on average about 4 cents per sheet.

It softens

Plain white distilled vinegar with 5% acidity is a natural fabric softener. The acid helps remove detergent and soil that is left clinging to fabric fibers, which is what allows clothes and linens to come out feeling soft and clean.

Commercial softeners work just the opposite. They are designed to coat fibers, leaving behind their scented residue, which can build up over time rendering those items non-absorbent, dingy gray, and anything but soft.

A half-cup of white vinegar when added to the final rinse (pour it into the washer reservoir marked for laundry softener), on the other hand, will soften fabrics and leave no residue at all. A light scent can be added, if you want, with a few drops of lavender oil. However, once dry your laundry will not smell like vinegar.

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It is safe to use

Distilled white vinegar is safe to use in both standard and high-efficiency washers. At 5% acidity, it is 95% water, which makes it mildly acidic.

Once added to the washer, food-grade vinegar becomes even more diluted onced mixed with gallons of rinse water in the typical machine.

Vinegar in the laundry is not only safe in septic tanks, it is beneficial to that type of system, and to the environment as well.

It whitens, brightens

The acetic acid in distilled white vinegar will not harm washable fabrics because it is so mild, while at the same time strong enough to dissolve the alkalis left by soap and detergent.

Adding one-half cup of vinegar to the final rinse will result in brighter, clearer colors. Add the distilled white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser or add the vinegar manually at the beginning of the rinse cycle if your washer gives you that option.

It reduces odor

Wet towels left sitting in a hamper or forgotten in the washer can produce a sour, moldy smell. To get rid of that problem and to get those towels smelling nice and fresh, do this:

Fill the washer with hot water, add two cups of distilled white vinegar and run a complete wash cycle with no detergent. Run a second complete cycle with detergent added.

This works well for minor situations and small loads. For more serious situations, you’ll want to use this more aggressive treatment.

It releases lint, pet hair

One-half cup of white distilled vinegar in the rinse cycle will help prevent lint and pet hair from clinging to clothes. The vinegar will help the fabric fibers relax and “release” the hair. For the same reason, it helps get rid of the excessive lint if you accidentally washed something dark with something that produces lint, like towels.


chicken tortilla soup

Quick and Cozy Slow Cooker Soup

Dump and run. That’s the kind of slow cooker recipe I love. No muss, no fuss— and no hovering over a hot stove to get dinner on the table.

As the days of autumn bring cooler weather, I find myself thinking about hot soup. And having dinner all planned and taken care of ahead of time.

These hearty soups couldn’t be easier to whip up.

chicken tortilla soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

So easy, so delicious!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Slow Cooking: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 102kcal
Cost: $8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cooked chicken, shredded
  • 1 15-oz can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
  • 1 10-oz can enchilada sauce
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 4-oz can chopped green chiles
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 14.5 oz chicken broth
  • 1 tspn cumin
  • 1 tspn chili powder
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1/4 tspn ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 10-oz pkg frozen corn
  • tortilla chips, optional garnish
  • sour cream, optional garnish
  • grated cheese, optional garnish

Instructions

  • Place all ingredients into the slow cooker in a 6-qt slow cooker. Stir. Cover.
  • Cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours or on High for 3 to 4 hours.
  • Optional: Garnish with tortilla chips, sour cream and grated cheese. Amazing.

Nutrition

Calories: 102kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 43mg | Sodium: 99mg | Potassium: 150mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 60IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!
Creamy Loaded Baked Potato Soup with Bacon and Cheese

Creamy Potato Soup

Creamy, smooth and delicious, with or without the garnish, this just may be the easiest, yummiest potato soup you've ever served up!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dinner, Soup
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
slow cook: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 292kcal
Cost: $6

Ingredients

  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1 med onion
  • 2 10.5 oz cans condensed chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 5 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • ½ tspn salt
  • ½ tspn dried dil weed
  • ½ tspn ground white pepper substitute black pepper OK
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cuyps half and half
  • 1 12-oz can evaporated milk
  • Grated cheese, bacon bits, chopped green onion, optional garnish

Instructions

  • In a small skillet over high heat, sauté the onion with the bacon until bacon is evenly browned.
  • Drain off excess grease and place bacon and onions into slow cooker along with the chicken broth, water, potatoes, salt dill weed and pepper. Cover.
  • Cook on Low for 6 to 7 hours, stirring half way through.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and half and half. 
  • Stir into the soup along with the evaporated milk.
  • Cover and slow cook for another 30 minutes before serving. 
  • Optional garnish: Grated cheese, bacon bits, and chopped green onion. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 292kcal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 59mg | Potassium: 1332mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin C: 62mg | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Quick and Easy Chicken and Dumplings

Got 10 minutes? Load up the slow cooker, set it, and forget it. You'll have this delcious, homemade potato soup for dinner!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Slow cooking: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 96kcal
Cost: $6

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 10.75-oz cans condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 14-oz can chicken broth
  • 1 med onion, finely diced
  • 2 10-oz packages refrigerated biscuit dough torn into pieces

Instructions

  • Place the chicken, butter, soup, onion, and chicken broth in a slow cooker. Cover.
  • Slow cook for 5 to 6 hours on High.
  • About 30 minutes before serving, place the torn biscuit dough in the slow cooker. Cook until the dough is no longer raw in the center.
  • You won’t believe how good this is!

Nutrition

Calories: 96kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 44mg | Sodium: 94mg | Potassium: 229mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 106IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

How to Make Your House Smell Like the Holidays

Recently, my husband and I made a quick getaway to experience autumn in the tiny town of Lititz, Penn. The fall colors were at their peak; the air crisp with just an occasional sprinkling of rain. In a word? Perfect.

We bundled up to take in a street festival, wandered through tiny shops, and cheered the sounds of a local one-man band who brought new meaning to the word ‘talent.’ We ate delicious local fare and drank coffee. Lots of coffee.

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Ask Me Anything: Pet Odor, Line-Dried Towels, HOT Cold-Brew and MORE!

Here it is mailbag day, when I reach into my virtual mailbag to read and respond to a handful of letters and messages from my wonderful readers. I love to hear from you with your questions, feedback, thoughts, and ideas.

1. Help! Dog, cat odor in carpet

2. My stiff, line-dried laundry

3. HOT cold-brew coffee?

4. Appliances and power strips

5. Lawn mushrooms, garden aphids

6. Cook’s trick to counter sweetness

7. How to safely store linens and textiles

Q1: Help! Dog, cat odor in carpet

After reading about Lestoil and how amazing it is for removing laundry stains and cleaning up all kinds of greasy messes, I’m wanting to know, does Lestoil also removes animal smells like cat and dog pee in carpet? Corinne

Dear Corinne: I can’t confirm that Lestoil will remove that very strong, difficult-to-deal-with odor. I have not tested that, nor have I read anything to suggest Lestoil is that powerful against awful odors.

But I know what will—and with amazing results. You need Nok-Out. It is safe around pets and kids, has no fragrance, fumes, or odor, is not toxic. Provided you use it as directed, will completely neutralize and remove that odor—even if it has soaked all the way through the carpet, pad, and into the flooring below. Nok-Out is available direct from Nokout.com or at Amazon.

Let me direct you to How to Completely Neutralize and Eliminate Pet Odors for specific instructions on how to use Nok-Out effectively. There’s a lot of science involved so you want to follow the protocol carefully. It’s super easy—but must be done right to make sure those odors are completely neutralized and removed. Good luck and let us know how that works for you! xo m

Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn from qualifying purchases, at no cost to you.

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You Have Been Hacked Sign illustration design over white

How a Startling Red-Hot Alert Made My Day!

Some days I sit down to write this column and the words just pour from my mind through my fingers and onto the keyboard. Other times, like right now, all systems go blank—one big expansive, frustrating void.

You Have Been Hacked Sign illustration design over white

Just as I was about to run outdoors and bang my head on my new stone wall, I got that little ding letting me know I had mail—this time from Nancy.

Dear Mary: I’m interested in signing up for LifeLock. Do you feel it would be better to take the LifeLock Ultimate Plus (the most expensive) or the LifeLock Advantage plan and why? Thank you for your help. Nancy

That’s when I remembered that I wanted to tell you what happened to me. (Oh, this is so good!)

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Lestoil in laundry basket

10 Things You’ll Be Happy to Know About Lestoil

Have you ever had the occasion to wonder, “Where have I been all my life?” That was my reaction to learning about a simple heavy-duty cleaning product, Lestoil.

Apparently, Lestoil has been manufactured right here in the USA for decades and loved by many. Curiously, I’d never even heard of it—let alone used it like a rabid fan—until only a few years ago.

Lestoil Collage

In the off chance you, too, are not familiar with the powerful cleaner of all things hopelessly dirty, greasy or stained, here are 10 things you will be glad you know.

1. Heavy-duty grease and stain remover

Lestoil (pronounced less-toil … get it?) can be used full-strength on stains—especially really difficult stains; the kind of stains you just give up on like ink, toner, grease, oil, scuff marks, blood, lipstick, nail polish, paint, grass stains, coffee stains, crayon and marker stains on every surface you can imagine.

Great for both soft and hard surfaces like laundry, shoes, carpet, garage floors, counters, linoleum, tile, patios and plastic, Even the sticky stuff left behind by stickers and labels.

Apply Lestoil full strength to that stain, rub it in then allow it to sit for a few minutes, hours, or even overnight. Launder as usual or in the case of upholstery or other situations that cannot be laundered, rinse and blot; repeat as necessary (especially if the stain is old and the item has been washed and dryed repeatedly).

2. Really old

Lestoil has been around since 1933. While I have not been around quite that long, this makes me wonder where I have been, since I’ve only learned about Lestoil more recently. Lestoil is a registered trade name of Clorox for a heavy-duty multi-purpose cleanser product, although it contains no chlorine bleach, which we usually associate with “Clorox.”

3. So far 100%

Lestoil has removed every old stain I’d given up on as well as every new stain I’ve acquired since the two of us met—on clothing, carpet, concrete, and all kinds of patio furniture including molded plastic. It removed black stains that accumulated on outdoor furniture covers.

Lestoil made short order of some ugly stains on cultured stone. It removed that gross, sticky residue that shows up on vinyl and plastic, restoring it back to its former glory.

So far, Lestoil has worked on everything I’ve tried, most recently this shirt (with apologies to all of my expert photography readers—I promise to work on my lighting ).

Lestoil and Stain

Before After Results of Lestoil Heavy-Duty Stain Treatment

4. It’s soapy

Lestoil contains, among other things, sodium tallate (Tall Oil Acid), which is a type of soap. This means that once the job is done, it must be rinsed out, washed off, or otherwise removed to make sure the item being treated doesn’t retain a residue that will attract a new stain. Complete list of ingredients.

To clean: Use one-quarter cup Lestoil per gallon of water, rinse as needed. For tough jobs, use full strength and rinse immediately. Works on grease, tar, oil, fresh paint, scuff marks, and stains. Brush when necessary. With prolonged use, wear rubber gloves. For laundry, apply Lestoil to soiled areas. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Launder in the hottest water recommended on the garment label. Do not use on wool or silk. Before use, test inconspicuous area of garment for colorfastness.

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Baking ingredients on a wooden board, horizontal, close-up