Ask Me Anything: Concrete Stains, Yellowed Whites, Power Toothbrush

Every day when I open my inbox, I find dozens, if not hundreds, of questions from the audience. Want to know the most-asked-about subject? Stains. Nasty, ugly, stubborn stains on everything you can imagine from concrete to laundry, and teeth, too.

Q: Five years ago we replaced our entryway steps and now the concrete has developed green/brown stains from dead, wet leaves, etc. How can we remove these stains?

A: The leaf stains are caused by tannins, the same type of compounds that are found in grapes and make wine taste “dry.” Tannin stains on outdoor concrete may not permanent, but they can be difficult to remove. Fresh stains often go away on their own, provided they are exposed to the powerful bleaching action of the sun. Fresh stains are easier to remove than older stains. Powdered detergents that contain bleaching agents that remove organic stains like food, blood and plant material can effectively clean old, stubborn stains from concrete surfaces, according to Concrete Network.

Here are the steps to follow, making sure you have placed a tarp over nearby plants to protect them from cleaning products. Always test a small, inconspicuous area of the concrete before you apply the cleaner to the stain:

Best Inexpensive™ Dinnerware, Drinkware, Stainless Flatware

Recently, when one of my staff turned 30, I quipped that I have dishes older than he. It’s true.

Sometime during the late ‘80s, my husband took on the huge task of painting the dark walnut kitchen cabinets white—inside and out. Of course, that meant new hardware and lighting, too. What a transformation. To celebrate I went out and bought new dishes—white porcelain, service for 12.

Those dishes were perfect because they were classic in style, just the right size and super sturdy. Plus they were dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe.

The white dishes became our everyday, special occasion, holiday, all-purpose dinnerware. They went with everything and looked great through every season.

More than 30 years later, nothing has changed there. These dishes have made two major moves, served thousands of meals (at least), and look just as they did back in the 1980s. I just took a quick inventory and find we’ve lost only 4 salad plates in all these years.

Best Inexpensive Heated Mattress Pads

Until a couple of years ago, I didn’t know something called a heated mattress pad even existed. Makes sense 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. It was shocking.

We saw a semi-dramatic reduction in the heating bill when we decided to lower the thermostat to 60 F. at night and use a Bionaire micathermic space heater in our bedroom, but that wasn’t altogether successful. My husband and I have different internal thermostats. He would be cold while I’d be turning the space heater down a notch or two.

That’s when I set out to find a way we could both enjoy a warm and cozy sleeping environment without paying a fortune to achieve it. We tried going the electric blanket route. We got this Biddeford model with dual controls. That sounded like a great idea until we used it for a few nights. While the cords and wires are advertised to be flexible, we could still feel them and they felt stiff and bulky. Another problem is the dual controls require separate outlets. But worse—even at the lowest setting, it felt to me that I was trapped under a layer of heat and it didn’t feel good.

Best Inexpensive™ Electric Toothbrush, Folding Knife, Smart Speaker and Extreme Hand Lotion

One of the best things I’ve done in a long time is to invite my readers to send in their requests for my Best Inexpensive picks. I’m not sure why I love it so much, but I think it may have something to do with satisfying my inner shopper without actually shopping.

At any rate, today I’m excited to reveal my Best Inexpensive picks for four completely unrelated, but frequently requested items.

ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH. I’ve gone to the same dentist for so many years, I’m sure he’d be embarrassed if I told you here. Know how much I trust and depend on Richard Oliver, DDS., La Palma, Calif.? I now live 1,100 miles away, but he’s still my dentist and I still show up for regular cleaning and check-ups. Dr. Oliver believes so strongly in the effectiveness of a good electric toothbrush, he gives his patients a new brush head for their particular model, every visit. However, my pick for the Best Inexpensive electric toothbrush is the Oral-B Pro 1000.

Here’s why: It’s a great tool, works like a champ and gets awesome reveiws. Oral-B Pro 1000 has a built-in timer so I know I have to keep going at it until it gives me an alert that I’m done—but also a pulse every 30 seconds so I know when to switch areas. The replacement toothbrush heads for this brush are inexpensive, which is a big deal. This brush holds a charge for many days, making it  ideal for travel. The manufacturer claims this Pro 100 removes 300% more plaque than a regular manual toothbrush. And here’s the best part: About $40.

FOLDING KNIFE. Having all sons and one husband, I’m know how much many men enjoy and depend on a decent pocket knife. In my family, I’ve joined those ranks. I love having a good, dependable cutting tool in my handbag. And I know the heartache of losing my favorite, well-used and always sharp knife. That’s when it’s good to know I carry the best that is also inexpensive. My pick for Best Inexpensive pocket knife: Columbia River Knife and Tool with Plain Edge.

Here’s why: It is the perfect size and shape. Once folded, it locks in place for safety. The blade is high-quality stainless steel and razor-sharp . For the money, this is a super bargain. About $23. 

Instant Pot Quick-Start Guide

About 20 years ago there was a pressure cooker renaissance in America. Our grandmothers knew that day would come, that we would return to her favorite kitchen tool—a pressure cooker—to make fast braises, stews, soups, and casseroles. They just didn’t know how we’d get there.

If you, like me, are a Nervous Nellie who grew up hearing stories about a great aunt who shellacked her ceiling with country stew when the thing nearly blew her to Oz and back, relax. I’ve powered through the fear and discovered modern pressure cookers have amazing safety features to put all fear to rest. Now it’s time for you to start exploring as well, especially if you’re busy, hate spending hours in the kitchen but hate even more having to go out and spend a fortune on a marginally edible restaurant meal.

Perhaps you impulse bought an Instant Pot—on a whim and now it sits unopened in the garage, nearly forgotten. Or it’s been on the countertop for months and truth be told, you don’t have a clue what to do with it.

Or it’s possible you have used Instant Pot, tried it once and it turned out to be a complete disaster. The pot roast turned out dry and tough as shoe leather. The pasta came out a frothy, sloppy mess. Disappointment, thy name is Instant Pot.

Whatever your situation—even if you’ve never heard of a pressure cooker let alone how or why you need to—today’s the day. It’s time to put away all preconceived notions, rumors, and failures and start over on the right foot.

IT’S DIFFERENT. Pressure cooking is a completely different kind of cooking. You can’t just throw stuff in willy-nilly and expect perfection five minutes later. There are rules, which when followed, pay off in spades. But you have to know them, learn them and follow them. It’s not hard, but it is completely different than what you might be used to.

Best Inexpensive: Towels, Mattress Pad, Down Comforter

In my lifetime, I have spent way too much in an attempt to furnish bedrooms and baths with high quality towels and bedding. What I have discovered through a lot of trial and error is that the price does not always guarantee great results.

Today I want to tell you about my picks for the Best Inexpensive bath towels, mattress pads and down (the real deal) comforters.

TOWELS. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that when it comes to towels, my husband and I are both very picky. They can’t be too thin, but not too thick either. Towels need to be highly absorbent, 100% cotton. We’re not into bath sheets, preferring our bath towels to be somewhere around 30” x 56.” They need to be soft but not too soft, so as not to give an invigorating rub down following a hot shower.

I want towels that launder well—able to handle hot wash, vinegar rinse and a high-temperature dry with wool dryer balls. We stick with all white linens, so our towels need to be able to handle an occasional bit of chlorine bleach.

My pick for Best Inexpensive bath towels is Land’s End 100% Rare Supima Combed Cotton towels, hand towels, and washcloths. These are amazing towels. They do not shrink, launder beautifully and look gorgeous hanging in the bathroom. These towels come singly or in sets and in a choice of 15 colors, including white.

Lands’ End Rare Supima Combed Cotton 6-piece Towel Set (2 bath towels, 2 hand towels, and 2 washcloths) $79.

Best Inexpensive Bed Sheets

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask Me Anything: Rust Stains, Computer Printers, Dark Spot Remover

Got a question? Lots of readers do and chances are pretty good their questions just might be your questions, too. At the very least, you may find these answers to be somewhat educational, if not entertaining!

The rust in our city water leaves an unsightly brown build up in my bathroom sink made of vitreous china. I have tried homemade remedies and store-bought products, nothing has worked in completely ridding the unsightly stains.  Can you recommend something that will help make my sinks look new again? Diane

Bar Keepers Friend, available in the household cleanser aisle of most supermarkets and discount stores, will remove those stains without harming the enamel coating on porcelain, known as vitreous china. The active ingredient in Bar Keepers Friend is oxalic acid, an organic acid that works as a bleach and rust remover. I think you will be amazed by the ability of BKF to remove these stains! As always, it is vitally important that you test any product in an inconspicuous place first to make sure it will not be damaged before proceeding.

image_print