hands in air to ask questions

Ask Me Anything: Baked-On Crud, Window A/C, DIY Floor Cleaner, Shrunken Wool, How to Get Out of Debt, and More!

I’ve been accused of thinking I have an answer for everything (you know who you are, my dear husband), and that kinda’ makes me laugh because I have to admit that maybe I do think that. For certain, I love to reach into the mailbag to find so many letters from my readers, many of which include questions.

Truth be told, when you send questions to which I do not have reliable answers, I set them aside pending further research. They say that “teaching teaches the teacher,” and I couldn’t agree more.

hands in air to ask questions


Oven Door Baked-on Crud
Best Inexpensive Window A/C
Homemade Floor Cleaner Recipe
How to Unshrink Wool
Whose Lien Is It Anyway?
Who Gets Husband’s Pension?
Countdown to Debt-Free
Help! Fruit Flies


Oven Door Baked-on Crud

Dear Mary: The self-cleaning function on my oven works great for the oven itself, but doesn’t get the glass door clean. I’ve tried to clean, but nothing works to remove the baked-on crud. Do you have a solution?

A: While you should never use oven-cleaning products on the self-cleaning oven itself, using an oven cleaner like Easy-Off Fume Free Oven Cleaner usually does the job. Unlike other oven cleaners, this one works on cold surfaces. Spray it on liberally, then leave the door open and allow to sit for several hours. That should soften everything that has become baked-on, allowing you to wipe all of that away with a scrubbing sponge.

DIY option: Make a thick paste of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. Spread this all over the glass and allow to sit for a few hours. Wipe and scrub it away. This works in most oven door situations like yours, and it’s a lot cheaper than a commercial product.

Best Inexpensive Window A/C

Dear Mary: Do you have a Best Inexpensive window air conditioner recommendation for us? Please!

A: Since I don’t know the size of the space you need to cool, here are two options, both of which are great little workhorses:

For a small space of up to 150 sq. ft., the Frigidaire 5,000 BTU 115V Window-Mounted Mini-Compact Air Conditioner.

If you need to cool a larger space, up to 350 sq. ft., the Frigidaire 8,000 BTU 115V Window-Mounted Mini-Compact Air Conditioner will be the model you need.

Below are links to find these appliances online. Optionally, you may be able to find them locally at stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s. Hope that helps!



Homemade Floor Cleaner

Dear Mary: I would like the recipe and instructions for the solution to clean hardwood floors that doesn’t contain vinegar.

Yes, but first a quick review: You do not want to use vinegar on hardwood or laminate floors because it is highly acidic and used repeatedly will, over time, attack the finish on your wood or laminate floors, making them look dull. Vinegar can also soften the finish, making it feel gummy or sticky.

Instead, you want to use isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) because it cleans really well, but also evaporates quickly—and it has a neutral pH, which means it is not acidic.

Hardwood and Laminate Floor Cleaner

You’ll need:

✅  isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, 70% or 91%

✅  distilled water

✅  Blue Dawn dishwashing liquid

In a spray bottle, mix 1 part alcohol to 4 parts distilled water (example: 1/4 cup alcohol and 1 cup distilled water; or 1/2 cup alcohol and 2 cups distilled water) plus 3 or 4 drops Blue Dawn (more or less according to how much you are making, but go easy).

Mix this up in a spray bottle each time you clean the floors. Or if you make it up ahead, be sure to label it well and keep it out of the reach of children.

To use: Sweep or vacuum the floor. Spray the cleaner in a small area, scrub well with a cloth or sponge and immediately wipe the area dry with a microfiber cloth. The secret is to spray, scrub and wipe dry immediately.

If you do not want to do this on your hands and knees, I recommend this Spray Mop for both wood and laminate floors. It sprays the cleaner from its removable bottle that lets you make your own cleaner; a large surface mop with even bigger detachable microfiber cleaning pad that swivels for really easy handling. This mop makes scrubbing wood and laminate floors a breeze.



How to Unshrink Wool

Dear Mary: Thank you for your many helpful articles. In a past column, you wrote about how to unshrink a wool sweater. All I can remember is that it involved baby shampoo. Could you print the instructions again? Thanks!

Sure, here it is: Mix a solution of one gallon of lukewarm water and two tablespoons of any brand of tears-free baby shampoo. Soak the garment for about 10 minutes or until completely saturated.

Now the important part: Do not rinse! Simply blot out all the excess water with a dry towel and very gently lay it flat on a fresh towel. Reshape slowly and carefully stretch it back to its original size. Dry out of direct sunlight or heat.

This tip comes from the Wool Bureau who verifies this technique will work provided the fibers have not become permanently damaged from frequent washing. The baby shampoo releases fibers that have become “shortened” and that allows you to gently stretch the wool item back to its original shape.

Whose Lien Is It Anyway?

Dear Mary: We recently inherited our father’s property after he died and the title has been transferred to us, in our names.  A few months ago we discovered that there is a lien on the property for unpaid taxes. How do we resolve this situation? Are we obligated to pay the taxes to resolve the lien?

The property’s recorded owners of record of the property are legally responsible to clear that lien or suffer the consequences. With the asset comes all outstanding liabilities. That means that you, the heirs, received the property plus all liens and encumbrances, good and bad.

My advice is that you pay this lien in full to stop the fees and penalties that surely are accruing. As long as that lien exists, the possibility remains that the county or state in which the property is located has the legal right to sell it out from under you for the current amount of taxes owing. You don’t want that to happen!

Who Gets Husband’s Pension?

Dear Mary: Will I get my husband’s pension, 401(k), and IRA if he dies?

Yes, provided your husband named you as the sole beneficiary of those plans. Most plans have a stipulation that if the beneficiary is anyone other than the spouse, the husband or wife must consent to that in writing, to prevent any surprises.

Upon your husband’s death, the rules that applied to him for eventual distribution of his pension, 401(k), and IRA will now apply to his beneficiary, presumably that’s you.

For example, if your husband dies before the minimum withdrawal date (age 59 1/2), you will have to wait until that date to withdraw funds without a penalty, regardless of your age. Hope that helps!

Countdown to Debt-Free

Dear Mary: I am a 70-year-old single male with a decent income who faced the stark reality of bankruptcy. I have spent my entire life doing everything wrong when it comes to finances.

While rearing my family we lived well, but a lot of it on stupid, credit-card debt. I have never saved, seldom invested wisely, gave consistently―though at times very unwisely. My poor awareness of the proper way to handle money left this old man groping for a way out. With a debt load of over $36,000 on a fixed income, I entered a CCCS debt management program. Shortly after, I saw an ad for your book, Debt-Proof Living. I bought it and have read and re-read it. I wish that I could have been exposed to this wisdom as a young man.

To know that “money is not to spend, but to manage” has changed my life. If God allows me to live long enough I will be debt-free in 44 months. I can’t begin to express to you my gratitude. Thank you for giving me hope and God bless.

You have no idea how much you have encouraged me. Thanks for not only reading my story and book, but for putting the simple principles and instructions into action! You affirm what I so strongly believe and what I have heard from countless thousands who have discovered what you have—there’s always hope and a way out of debt.

Your story has encouraged me in ways I cannot adequately express, recharging my batteries and giving me a reason to keep going. I think you’ll be debt-free sooner than you think and I cannot wait to hear about that.

Now, my only concern is what I will do with all the letters I get from 70-year-old single females who want your address!



Help! Fruit Flies

Dear Mary: I have been having a real problem with fruit flies. I’ve tried numerous remedies and I get a few, but they’re still everywhere! I don’t have any fruit out. No open bottles of booze. I just can’t seem to get rid of them. PLEASE HELP!!!

Fruit flies can be a problem year-round but are especially common during late summer and fall because they are attracted to ripened or fermenting fruits and vegetables. That bait may not be in your house, but your neighborhood and community is likely enjoying a harvest of tomatoes, melons, squash, grapes, and other perishable items. Those are breeding grounds for these tiny critters.

Fruit flies are also attracted to rotting bananas, potatoes, onions, and other unrefrigerated produce purchased at the grocery store.

All it takes is one pregnant fruit fly to get in and before you know it, you’re dealing with a full-fledged fruit fly infestation. I know. I’ve been battling this problem, too!

How to Make a Fruit Fly Trap

You’ll need:

✅  a small glass bowl

✅  plastic wrap

✅  apple cider vinegar (no substitute)

✅  Blue Dawn dishwashing liquid

Pour some apple cider vinegar into the bowl. Add a drop (no more, no less) of liquid dishwashing soap, like blue Dawn. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, pulling the wrap back just a tiny bit at one edge to allow for entry.

Don’t skip any of these steps. The apple cider vinegar by itself has significant “surface tension.” That means the fly can actually walk on the surface, take a sip and then use it for a runway to take off. The liquid soap breaks that surface tension and the plastic wrap helps make sure that sucker gets hopelessly trapped.

That’s it. Just set the bowl out on the counter and go about your business.

Got a question? You can submit it HERE (not in the comments area below, please). Mary receives hundreds of messages every day, so please do not expect a personal response. Questions of general interest will appear with answers in future posts. Thanks.


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7 replies
  1. Pepper says:

    I have a white smooth topped kitchen stove. I stained it with sugar when I first purchased it for our new house. We have tried EVERYTHING. It is NOT scratched, just stained which is a mystery to me. Some how the stain got INTO the tops of 2 of the 5 burners I only use the two my husband and I stained while making strawberry jam, so that the rest of the burners won’t get stained also. I think I need a REALLY smart common sense chemist to get to the bottom of this. Are you or a family member a Chemist? I’d really love to get my burners white again.
    Thanks for all of your great ideas,

  2. Lida says:

    So just to get it through my thick head you are saying never to use any cleaner on a self cleaning oven other than the door?

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Yes. Check your owner manual, just know that every manual I’ve checked warns against using any oven cleaning product on the self-cleaning surfaces. The glass door is the exception.

      • Lida says:

        Thanks for that information. I had no idea. I always thought you had that option but I will definitely check.

  3. Birgit Nicolaisen says:

    I can’t stand Easy Off or any of those spray oven cleaners. I use Norwex’s Cleaning Paste and a spirinett from them with just a little water. It cleans my oven door and so much more with very little effort. It may not seem cheap when you look at the price, but a little goes a long way and I have had the same container of paste for well over a year. Just a thought for those like me who have difficulty breathing with those nasty chemical sprays. And no, I am not a Norwex consultant.

  4. Pat says:

    Myself and my 2 sisters also my mother moved into a 6 bedroom house in 1997 the best idea we every had together. Here it is 2021 the house is paid for and all we owe are the utilities and food each month. We have no credit card debt. My younger sister has always been a very saving person and has touch all of us in the house to pay yourself first and use the rest wisely.


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