There is an old adage that warns, never lend money to family or friends. And if you’ve managed to adhere to such a thing when someone you love has been in a real bind, it’s possible that you’re much stronger than I am and I dare say, most of your fellow readers as well. The secret is to help if you can, but in a way that strengthens that relationship, not destroys it.

Lending money to a family member can get sticky

Does the Lender Get a Say?

Dear Mary: Last month I lent my sister $500 to pay her rent since she said she was in a jam. Well, it’s been months now and she hasn’t paid me back, yet she’s eating out every day and getting a weekly manicure! Needless to say, I’m angry. What can I say to get my money back? Seething in Seattle

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Perhaps it’s happened to you: A many-candled birthday cake or lovely candle centerpiece go awry, leaving you with a mess of melted candle wax, now hardened and hopelessly stuck to your beautiful wood table.

Can that table be saved?

Young girl blowing out the lit candles on her birthday cake

Coax Candle Wax Off Wood Surface

Dear Mary: I was given a beautiful wood pub table. It has candle wax stuck to it from, I am assuming, someone blowing out candles. How do I fix this without scraping it with a knife? Kathy

Dear Kathy: Soften the dried wax with a hair dryer set to medium heat, pointing the dryer to the wax while keeping it 3 to 4 inches away from the table.

Once softened, blot the wax with a soft, white cloth. Keep working at it by softening then blotting until you have removed all of the wax.

Next, mix 1/2 cup white vinegar with 1 cup of water. Dip the cloth into the vinegar mix and wipe away any wax that may remain.

Last, clean your table with furniture polish to restore the shine. That should do it!

Sanitize Laundry

Dear Mary: Thank you for all you do to help us save time, money and our planet. I have been following your advice for years, and eagerly pass on what I find helpful and the products that have become second nature in our home.

My husband is a plumber, and to say that his work clothes get nasty is an understatement. Recently we bought Lysol Laundry Sanitizer—two large bottles for $16. I make our laundry detergent, add white vinegar to the final rinse, and have two sets of wool dryer balls. Was I already sanitizing his clothes with that vinegar?  Nancy

Dear Nancy: Lysol Laundry Sanitizer has been around for years. If you check the ingredients, you’ll see that it contains mostly water with  small amounts of ethanol and alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chlorides (basically alcohol and “salt”). I’m not saying those two ingredents together don’t kill some bacteria but why pay $8 a bottle to do what you can, and are already, doing yourself?

Detergent and hot water kill most bacteria. Acetic acid (white vinegar from the supermarket is 5% acetic acid) is a great disinfectant. It also acts as a deodorizer and cuts grease.

You can tackle salmonella, E. coli and other “gram-negative” bacteria with vinegar. Gram-negative bacteria can cause pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream, wound or surgical site infections.

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Money matters can affect every area of life, often stirring up emotions of worry, fear, anger, and resentment. If not dealt with swiftly, those feelings can turn to bitterness, which can eat a person from the inside out.

How to avoid that bitterness thing from taking hold? Talk it out. Ask for help. Get advice from someone you trust.

fright-and-wonder-woman-with-newspaper at home

Dear Mary: I just read that the company that holds my home mortgage is under investigation by the Feds, has a net worth of negative 63 million dollars and is expected to file for bankruptcy. This company holds title to my house. If it goes bankrupt, am I at risk of losing my home, even though I’ve never been late on my payments?

I don’t want to refinance with another company because I am locked in at a great rate for the life of the loan and refinancing would cost a lot of money. Angela

Dear Angela: From what you’ve told me, I don’t think you have a thing to worry about. I do believe you have stated incorrectly that the lender holds title to your home. I am quite certain the title is in your name, with the lender having a lien on the property secured by a note and deed of trust.

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Few things in this world are more confusing than credit cards—how they work, what they really cost and how to manage them responsibly. While it’s only my opinion, I think credit-card issuing banks are just fine with that.

But I’m not fine with that and you shouldn’t be either! When it comes to credit cards, ignorance is not bliss.

Woman-with-credit-card-woes.

What’s the solution? Stop being ignorant. Learn all you can. Ask questions in order to grow your financial intelligence. That’s the way to win the credit-card game.

Dear Mary: I am on the fast track to paying off my credit-card debt in full and forever. I’m like a racehorse heading into the final lap. Here’s my question: Does it matter when I make my monthly credit-card payments? Would it make any difference if I paid earlier in the billing cycle rather than just before the due date? Kevin

Dear Kevin: Wow, this is great news and I’m out here cheering you on. The answer to your question is Yes, it does matter. Here’s why:

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If I were keeping track of the number of responses from my readers that are filled with praise and gratitude, there would be thousands of hash marks next to Tub and Shower Soap Scum Cleaner. And the word used most-often to describe it? Magical!

But now and then a response will report problems having to do with allergies and, well … that smell!

Dear Mary: I love your homemade formulas for how to make our own cleaning products But a lot of them use the blue Dawn dish soap. I am allergic to Dawn soap, all fragrances, and citrus, among other things. Do you have a suggestion of what else I could use as a substitute? Peggy

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It’s time to reach into the inbox and pull out a few questions from my loyal readers—answers to which I suspect might be of interest to others.

I love receiving your questions, by the way, so keep them coming!

Dear Mary: What is “tamari?” It is an ingredient in a recipe I would like to make for Spiced Hazelnuts. Where can I find it? Thanks for any information you can give me. Catherine

Dear Catherine: Tamari is a type of soy sauce, usually used in Japanese food. You can easily substitute with Chinese light soy or regular Japanese soy sauce. You should be able to find tamari in the Asian section of a good supermarket or for sure in a Japanese food store. 

Dear Mary: Could you please tell me where I can purchase Glisten Dishwasher Cleaner? I used to get it at the grocery store, but they don’t carry it any longer.  It is really wonderful for cleaning my stainless steel dishwasher and also glassware. Peggy

Dear Peggy: Your favorite Glisten Dishwasher Cleaner and Hard Water Spot Remover is available at Amazon, about $7 for two single-use packets. You might want to consider a cheaper alternative that gets even higher raves and reviews, Lemi Shine Multi-Purpose Appliance Cleaner, which comes with three single-use packets for about the same price—and a more far-reaching availability. Both produce the same result, in my experience, which I would rate as excellent!

Dear Mary: I have four bottles of sunscreen that have expired. I know that they have lost their full effectiveness as sunscreen, but is there another use? I hate to throw them out. Dorothy

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It’s reader response day when I take the opportunity to report back with a few of the comments I get from you, my Dear Readers, every single day of my life.

And you wonder why I keep doing this? It’s no secret that I thrive on your feedback and kind comments. Please, don’t stop.

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Comment on: Best Inexpensive™ Heated Mattress Pad

Dear Mary: I have been reading and enjoying your column and advice for years. You have saved us a ton of money and made us healthier with tips on non-toxic cleaning products, dryer balls, and getting out stains. But I’m truly most grateful for your recommendation for heated mattress pads. I have mild arthritis and winters are hard for these reasons: It’s cold, my bed is cold, my husband can’t tolerate it if I turn up the thermostat. But even if I turn up the heat, the bed is still cold and takes forever to warm up. Arthritis seems to hurt more when I’m cold and trying to get to sleep.

I got the queen sized heated mattress cover with dual controls. I’m so very happy with it. It’s like a giant heating pad for arthritis. I turn it on to heat a few minutes before crawling into bed. It puts me to sleep without meds. Thank you, thank you! You are a huge blessing to us. Anne

Comment on: 8 Wedding Gift Hacks

Dear Mary: I love these suggestions for wedding gifts but if you choose an idea from the couple’s registry and buy it elsewhere it remains on the registry and you take a chance that someone else buys the exact same item. D.J.

Some wedding registries, Amazon, for example, allow you to mark the item as purchased but from another source so that it comes off the list in order to avoid duplication. -mh

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

Dear Mary: I just want to let you know how much I appreciate the recipe for the shower cleaner with vinegar and blue Dawn. I am amazed how it’s taken care of my soap scum buildup. None of the other cleaners I’ve tried work half as well as this does. Thank you. Julie

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My fondness for TV game shows’ lighting rounds—the duration of the round is a pre-determined length of time, and the goal is to accomplish as much as possible within that period—may have something to do with my attention span. Lightning round questions are short, the answers quick and concise.

I see we have lots of questions in the audience, so let’s set the clock. Ready? Set … Go!

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Q: Do I HAVE to use HE labeled laundry detergent only in my new Whirlpool washer? Why? Pegg

A: Yes. If the owner manual recommends HE detergent, that means it is a high-efficiency washer. HE washers use considerably less water and have sophisticated computer-like electronics. They’re very smart!

HE detergent creates no suds or bubbles. The presence of too many suds can confuse washing cycles, cause delays and make proper rinsing of clothes difficult if not impossible.

By the way, you can make your own detergent is HE because it creates no suds or bubbles. Recipe and tutorial HERE. Make sure you measure the detergent in every load. I use 2 tablespoons in my HE machine, which seems like not nearly enough,  but it is! Using too much detergent can cause all kinds of problems. Read your manual.

Q: Do you have a favorite makeup primer? I’m wondering if using a primer will help hide some of those tiny lines. Jeannine

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