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Ask Me Anything: Big Bulky Laundry, Cash for Text Books, Who Needs Life Insurance, and More

hands in air to ask questions


Large Blankets, Small Washer
Cash for Used Text Books?
Tennis Balls vs. Wool Dryer Balls
Who Needs Term Life Insurance, Anyway?

Large Blankets, Small Washer

Dear Mary: It’s summertime and I would like to wash the large blankets and comforters on the beds, but they’re too big for my standard size washing machine. A large machine at a laundromat is at least $7 a load! Yikes!!

What’s a better and or cheaper way to get them washed and bring them home and hang them out on the clothesline to air dry and freshen? Thanks again for all you do! Marie

A: If your home is like most, you have the perfect vessel large enough to handle any size blankets, making them line-ready to air dry. It’s the bathtub. Read this post, then adapt the method for your blankets according to their specific laundering instructions.

Basically, run a tub of water at a temperature compatible with the type of blanket you’re going to wash. Add your preferred detergent being careful to err on the side of too little, not too much!

If you use too much detergent, you’ll have a challenging time getting it all rinsed out. Allow a blanket to soak in the wash water for several hours, then using a long wooden spoon or similar implement, gently stir that blanket, agitating it as if it were in a washing machine.

Pull the drain plug and allow all of the wash water to drain out. Replace the plug and fill the tub again with clean cool water. Agitate to release any remaining detergent. Drain, and leave the blanket in the tub until enough water has drained away that you can pick it up.

Then gently squeeze out as much water. Roll in dry bath towels to blot out even more water, then hang to dry.

Cash for Used Text Books?

Dear Mary: I have a lot of text books I’d like to get rid of—mostly on the subject of internet technology (IT). What is the best way to sell used books? Deborah

A: There are multiple online sites that buy used text books—each with a different criteria. And let me warn you that book buyers can be fickle about which books they’re buying on any particular day. It all depends on trends and what a particular buyer believes is hot for its particular audience.

Rather than try to find all of the individual companies that purchase used books yourself, I suggest you go to Book Scouter. This is a one-stop shop that searches more than 30 different online book buyers with one click.

You’ll quickly discover which book dealer, if any, is interested in buying the books you have. With that kind of an audience looking at what’s on your bookshelves, I think you have a decent chance to make quite a few sales.

Most buyers make it easy to send the books, by paying for shipping and allowing you to simply print a prepaid mailing label. Just keep in mind that IT is a quickly changing field. Good luck. I hope you can make a lot of sales.


Tennis Balls vs. Wool Dryer Balls

Dear Mary: My daughter works for a hotel chain and instead of wool dryer balls they use tennis balls in the laundry room. I’ve been considering purchasing dryer balls since reading your article.

Would tennis balls work the same? They are considerably less expensive than the alternative.

A:  I think you should trust your daughter’s professional advice here and give it a try! I have heard of this before, and my hesitancy has been a personal quirk—I am not fond of how a tennis ball smells. As I recall (I haven’t sniffed a tennis ball in a very long time), it’s an unpleasant rubbery odor. And I’m not convinced that suitable tennis balls are cheaper than wool dryer balls.

However, I’m ready to do some research and give tennis balls another chance. And I hope you’ll report back with your findings. Thanks for being such a faithful reader, Dee. In Florida.

Who Needs Term Life Insurance, Anyway?

Dear Mary: I enjoy your column and just read one about life insurance.

My husband and I retired within the last year and are 64. We live on our Social Security benefits plus investment income from 401K and SEP/IRA accounts. We don’t have a lot of “extra” income but we live frugally and are doing fine.

I have a $250,000 term life policy and my husband has a $150,000 term policy. Should we keep these or reduce our monthly payments and cancel them? Gail

A: There is only one reason to carry life insurance, and here it is: To replace income for those whose livelihood would disappear upon your death. Specifically, that would be minor children, perhaps elderly parents you support financially who are so dependent that, without your financial support, would become financially destitute.

Let’s look at your situation. You do not mention any dependents, such as children, grandchildren, or elderly parents who depend on your income for their livelihood. That leaves one another.

If your husband were to precede you in death, even with the provision that you would continue to receive the higher of your two Social Security monthly benefit checks, would the loss of the smaller monthly check put you into a financially difficult position?

If you answer yes, then life insurance is an excellent way to replace the income that will go missing and upon which you, the remaining spouse, will depend.


As for the funds in your 401k and SEP/IRA accounts, either of your deaths should not affect them, provided you have named each other as beneficiaries.

Once you have determined the monthly income you will need to replace upon either of your deaths, if any, multiply that by a reasonable life expectancy of the remaining spouse. That is a good estimate of the amount of term life insurance each of you need.

I suggest you leave the policies in place for now, while you do your own independent research. As we age, life insurance becomes more expensive and many companies require a health exam as part of the application process. I wouldn’t cancel any term insurance until you are confident a remaining spouse will be well protected without it.

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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5 replies
  1. Linda says:

    I intend to keep some amount of life insurance until my death. I want my son and daughter to have something available to cover funeral and any remaining bills I may have such as medical costs. How do you recommend these expenses get covered if not by insurance?

  2. Patty says:

    Have you tried washing a blanket in the bathtub? Sounds like a big hassle to me. I can’t believe $7 would stop someone from the convenience of a large machine at the laundromat!

  3. Margie M Shapira says:

    hi mary,
    that first item about large blankets for the washer was fresh in my mind as i took my king size mattress pad to the laundromat yesterday; i can’t wash it in my top load agitator machine. the cost of a repair would be astronomical so unless one has a front loader machine, a trip to the laundromat is a safer bet if you have one near you. and as many of your fans tell you, we love your tips!! I’ve been your “fan” since at least 2005. Thank you for all you do. Best,


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