Ask Me Anything: Oven Door, Window Air Conditioners, Hardwood Floor Cleaner

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. I do love to reach into my inbox to find so many letters from my readers,  many of which do 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!

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? 

While you should never use oven-cleaning products on the self-cleaning oven itself, the best way to clean the glass window is with oven cleaner! I suggest Easy-Off Fume Free Oven Cleaner. Unlike other oven cleaners, this one works on cold surfaces. Spray it on liberally, then leave the door open and allow it 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. I’ve used this product to remove stubborn hard-water marks from shower doors and other glass surfaces. I’m hopeful this will be great solution for your oven door.

Do you have a Best Inexpensive Window Air Conditioner recommendation for us? Please!

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 about $130.

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, about $240.

Letters to the Editor: Stick Vac, Travel Tips, Cleaning “Juice,” Garbage Disposals and Sweet Peas

One of the great joys of writing is receiving letters to the editor. Not surprisingly, responses to what I write vary greatly, which I find gratifying. That means your’e reading and thinking. And from time to time I find myself re-thinking in response to what you write. I hope you find this selection of recent letters both interesting and thought-provoking.

Best Inexpensive Stick Vacuum—Finally!

I’m a happy user of the Eufy Cordless HomeVac you recommended. I love it—especially as we have a cat who tracks litter all over. This vac works for so many medium and lightweight uses (toast crumbs, scattered litter, dirt tracked in, for a fast buzz around the dining table, etc). In fact, we have hardwood floors and use this vacuum 90% of the time. It is so lightweight and portable compared to our heavier duty vacuum. Also, I’m amazed how long the charge lasts. When it is charged up and not used for even a week, it still maintains its full charge and is ready to go. Definitely a winner! Joyce

Comments to Travel Tips, Tricks and Hacks

Great tips, as usual. When we travel, along with the Do Not Disturb sign on the door, we also leave the T.V. on so it seems as though someone is in the room. Cathy

Ask Me Anything: Dehumidifiers and Glass Stovetop Disaster

Humidity, or the lack thereof, is a popular topic this time of year. Where I live in northern Colorado, it’s dry! We have like no humidity. Well, not exactly, but it averages in the low mid-20 percent during the summer and fall months. We have a humidifier in our home and it runs 24/7 year round for health and comfort.

Recently, lots of readers have inquired about how to deal with the opposite—high humidity, which can get pretty miserable this time of year.

What is the best inexpensive home dehumidifier? 

I am confident and very happy to recommend two different high-quality machines (depending on the size of the space you have), both of which just happen to come from Frigidaire. A dehumidifier can be a godsend for those who live in high humidity areas to remove excess moisture from indoor air. Some of the most common indications that you may need a dehumidifier are: wet stains on walls and ceilings, stuffy feeling in a room, rotting wood, condensation on windows, musty smells and allergies (if the air in your home is too moist, it will encourage the growth of bacteria and mold, which are common allergens).

Letters to the Editor: Clean Cars, Home Chef, Second Incomes, Coffee Cream

One of the things I love most about my readers is the way you respond. Sometimes that’s with strong opinions and opposing points of view; most often with excitement and joy. Occasionally, I laugh right out loud because your messages can be so entertaining. But it’s your encouragement and heartfelt letters of thanks that keep me going.

To encourage the exchange of ideas and opinions—and to demonstrate that there just may be more than one way to skin a cat (for you youngers, that’s called an idiom; look it up) I’m introducing a new feature, Letters to the Editor, where you have an opportunity to react to recent columns.

Comments on Suddenly, It’s Spring!

I read the article and thought that sounds like a lot of work. I suppose people who want everything clean and shiny, “shipshape and Bristol fashion” as the old salts used to say, would find your detailing program useful. But for people like me who aren’t that sensitive to dirt, and find using two different vacuum cleaners plus assorted professional grade cleaning products for a car that’s just used for running errands and occasional excursions and is not going to be entered in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is not my idea of a good way to spend the morning. Bob


Making sure the car looks great is equally important to keeping it well maintained mechanically, especially if you are determined to drive that car for twenty years. After we drove our 1995 Toyota 4 Runner until 2015 it still ran very well and looked great. We had all the maintenance records and a fully funded car account (we saved to that account for the entir 20 years) for our next 20-year car purchase. These products are great, Mary, and I thank you for the tutorial. Betty

Comments on How to Meal Kits to Cut Your Food 

I was reading [Everyday Cheapskate] this morning and thought I should send you my comments on Home Chef, which I tried with the $30 coupon you offered. I really like it. I have health issues, need to lose some weight and have been concerned with how I’m eating. Add to that being bored with the way I have been preparing food. I’m single, and whenever I try something new, I’m concerned that if I have to buy a quantity of something, particularly fresh food, that it may spoil before I have a chance to eat it all. Home Chef takes care of that. Also, the instructions are easy to follow and I really like that I can get fresh fish. I live in a small town in the Midwest and fresh fish is hard to come by. Thanks for offering this from your column. Since I’ve used Home Chef, I have delicious and exciting meals to enjoy and am not tempted to eat takeout. Moira


Thanks for the intro to Home Chef. My wife and I both commute quite a distance to our jobs each day. By the time we get home, it’s late, we’re hungry and tired. We would end up eating junk or spending even more time away from home eating restaurant food. Expensive and not even that good. We tried Home Chef and loved it. We regularly order 5 meals a week now. It’s like we got our lives back. We know what’s for dinner. We how long it will take to prepare—and know we will have every ingredient we need, all ready to go. First one home is Chef of the Day. Best of all we know it will be just perfect—a great meal that is healthy, fresh and delicious. So far we have thoroughly enjoyed every single meal. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. We cannot thank you enough for letting us know about the wonders of Home ChefRobert and Heather

Comments on How Much is a Second Income Worth, Really?

If Bethany wants to stay home she could save so a lot of money by buying groceries wisely and learning to love cooking. Sylvia


I read your column regularly, and learn a lot. I just read the letter about the woman who was considering staying home, because it seemed like work expenses took up her whole check.  This is a fine approach if she worked in an unskilled job, but if she has any kind of career, this will very likely set her back to the point where she can’t recover, unless she puts a lot of effort into staying current and connected in her field. Sometimes staying home really is the right answer for the time, but there is a lot more to the equation. Mary Beth


Your column about whether a woman should stay home or keep working and pay for childcare was short-sighted and half true. I stayed on the job while my three children were young and half of my paycheck went to childcare. The result 35 years later? I make a fabulous yearly income, have a pension and Social Security, a hefty 401(k) and health care at retirement. You’re doing women a disservice by only suggesting that they look at the “now” instead of their future. RJK


I do not  feel that you covered all the right points with Beth.

  1. They may have their children in one of the most expensive childcare programs and could check and possibly reduce their cost.
  2. You did not mention whether they are filing a form 2441 Childcare Expenses on their federal taxes.
  3. Work related costs do not necessarily include clothes as one can wear their own personal clothes on most jobs and if they shop right that does not have to cost an arm and a leg.
  4. Most jobs you can take your lunch so that could mean less fast food. Also learn menus that can be cooked in a slow cooker to cut down on take out and if you are tired. This is a learning process.
  5. If you have to hire help for yard work and housecleaning, maybe you need to downsize or move to an apartment.
  6. You assumed she worked in an office and had office pools and gift expenses. Maybe not.
  7. Unless both parents have outstanding jobs with very high salaries, they probably won’t be in a higher tax bracket.
  8. If she is not trying to conserve money now, it is doubtful that she is going to cook, clean, and garden.
  9. What happens to her Social Security retirement and her IRA or 401 Retirement. Especially if something happens to her husband. Maybe they have enough life insurance to help out, but probably not enough to live the rest of her life and educate their children without working. It is harder to find suitable work if you have been out of the workplace very long.

It all sounds good but in reality, most are not prepared financially for their future. It takes life long dedicated work and there are many that have no work ethics or financial future plans. I think your advice should be reconsidered and learn more about the individual rather than give swayed advice that could damage the family down the road. However if they are lazy and just want to stay home, no advice will help them! I enjoy your column and agree with you most of the time. This time I think you missed the boat. I am a Tax Accountant and Financial Advisor. Jim

Mary: Of all the feedback to this column (there was a ton), I find it curious that no one mentioned the welfare of Bethany’s children and the short window of time they will be in the home compared to the years Bethany will have to produce a second income. I didn’t get that she was asking how she could afford to keep working, but rather how could she afford to stop working to be home with the children during their most formative years. It just keeps ringing in my ears that the days are long, but the years are short.

Comment on Make it Better Yourself: Homemade Coffee Creamer

You are contributing to the fattening of America. Your recipe is giving permission to people who read your daily column to eat/drink whatever they want. 40-50% of American’s are fat and the world is getting closer and closer to our increasing weights. Your column is a good one but this was not well thought out. Georgia

Ask Me Anything

Ugly Toilet Rings, Co-Signing Fed Student Loans, U.S. Census Surveys

Last week we kicked off a new feature, Ask Me Anything, in which I invite you do just that. Lots of readers took me up on the offer.


How can I remove the ring around the water line in my toilets? I have tried everything on the market and nothing removes this ring. I have well water and am wondering if you have any suggestions. I have tried many of your wide and various suggestions re other problems with excellent success. Barbara


Dear Barbara: Toilet bowl rings are the result of hard water and mineral deposits that develop from standing water in the bowl or from the toilet not being flushed multiple times during the day. No amount of scrubbing, harsh chemical cleaners or bleach will completely remove this kind of buildup—especially when it’s the result of very hard well water. The solution is to “sand” that ring away (and any other stains, too) using a pumice stone—the same thing that you might use for callused heels. Amazingly, pumice will not damage the surface, but those rings will be history. Any pumice stone will work, but I prefer one with a handle like Pumie Toilet Bowl Ring Remover, (about $9) designed specifically to reach ugly toilet rings and stains so you can scrub there away.

Ask Me Anything

Power Dissolver, Best Inexpensive Blender, Hotel Rooms, Deck Cleaner

As you may know, and only because I mention it so often, I get a lot of mail. And up until just recently, it’s gone into one big out-of-control pile I call The Mailbag.

Having reached the tipping point where I was ready to pull out every last hair in my head, I’ve come up with a new three-category plan. From now on all of my mail will be sorted by three categories: Questions, Comments and Tips.

Today I’m kicking off a new “Ask Me Anything” feature where I’ll answer as many questions as space permits.

Comments will be addressed in another new feature, “Letters to the Editor,” (watch for it) and your awesome tips will continue to show up in “Great Reader Tips.”

Questions, comments and tips will be considered for publication based on their appeal, relevancy and whether the message strikes your humble columnist’s fancy!

Cheap and Easy Upholstery Cleaner and Stick Vac Feedback

Getting a great deal on used chairs can quickly turn sour when it’s going to cost a lot of money to have them professionally cleaned. But not to worry. Whether you’re looking at hundreds of chairs or the sofas and chairs at home, there’s a very effective and inexpensive way to get that job done.

Dear Mary: Lestoil sounds like a great stain remover for laundry. What do you use for stains on upholstered chairs? Our church is fairly new and when we bought chairs for the sanctuary we bought what we could afford—used. Some of the chairs have some interesting stains. What would you suggest  as the best way to clean them? Thank you in advance. Lois

Dear Lois: This is tricky. Depending on how much general soil has accumulated on the chairs, spot treating the worst stains could result in an even bigger problem with lots of nice clean spots that stand out and look as bad at the stains. I suggest that you do this right by performing complete upholstery cleaning on all of those “new” chairs. Don’t panic. What I am about to recommend is not difficult. In fact, it’s kinda’ fun.

Find someone in your congregation who owns a good portable upholstery cleaning machine and is willing to lend  it to you for this project. Or if someone wanted to make a donation (you’ll be cleaning those chairs more than a few times I predict), I recommend a good, portable machine like the Bissell 3624 SpotClean Professional Portable Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner, about $130. If that’s not a possibility, check into renting a portable carpet spot and upholstery cleaning machine. 

How to Treat Laundry Stains with Less Toil and Trouble

Now and then I open my mailbox to find a letter than makes me want to jump up and run around yelling, “I know the answer! I know exactly how to fix this problem!” That’s exactly what happened the day I heard from Chris …

Dear Mary: As an older woman whose hands tremble a bit (I’ve been thoroughly checked and it’s not a serious matter) I am forever dropping food on my clothing while I eat. That results in grease spots that set in no matter what I do. I have tried pre-washes, baking soda, double washing, and stain removers. I have not found anything that will remove the grease stains and I am not willing to wear a bib, especially while eating in a nice restaurant with friends and family. I am on a limited budget, and this is becoming a real issue. Please help! Chris

Dear Chris: I can identify because I have the same problem, only mine is a result of cooking over a splattering stove while failing to wear an apron. I know what you mean about tough grease spots setting into my clothes and refusing to budge. But not to worry. I have the perfect solution—one I’ve used nearly every day of my life since I found it.