It’s cheap. It’s available in every supermarket and home center in the universe and so useful around your home, you may have a difficult time believing it. That’s the power of white vinegar—the same vinegar you cook with and pour on your salad!

 

 

1. Windows

Add 1/4 cup white vinegar to a quart of very warm water to make a good window cleaner. Wipe with a microfiber cloth and your windows will sparkle.


MORE: Best Inexpensive™ Microfiber, Electronics, Automobiles


2. Computer mouse

Clean your mouse that has a removable tracking ball with a 50/50 vinegar-water solution. First, remove the ball from underneath the mouse by twisting off the cover. Dip a clean cloth into the solution, wring it out and then wipe the ball clean. Next, remove fingerprints and dirt from the mouse itself. Then use a vinegar-moistened cotton swab to clean out the gunk and debris from inside the ball chamber. Allow all parts to dry a couple of hours before reinserting the ball.

3. Laundry

Instead of fabric softener or dry sheets, add 1/2 (one-half) to 1 cup vinegar to the last rinse in your washing machine (as you would liquid softener). Your clothes will come out soft because the vinegar helps to remove every trace of laundry detergent, which causes fabrics to stiffen.

4. Watermarks

Vinegar will dissolve hard-water marks like those on shower doors, faucets and in vases. If the vinegar is hot (heat in the microwave) it works even faster.

5. Ballpoint pen ink

Got ink marks from ballpoint pen adorning a wall, desktop, or other inappropriate space? No worries. Dab full-strength white vinegar on the ink using a cloth or a sponge. Repeat until the marks are gone. Then buy your child a nice big sketch pad.

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For years I’d tried to grow a decent vegetable garden. It was the high cost of fresh basil—$3.50 for a few measly, wilted fresh basil leaves, ditto for a pound of somewhat reddish tomatoes and mostly pink strawberries—that prompted me to try.

I started with tomatoes, basil, and peppers (a salsa garden!). In no time, I added zucchini and cucumbers to my repertoire—even corn one year.

 

But I have to be honest. My harvests have ranged from disappointing to mediocre. Only that one year did my garden produce enough to share with others. I’m still trying to remember how I did that. So far, I’ve been unable to duplicate the results.

Uniquely talented

One thing I do quite well is weeds. I try not to take too much credit here, but I have to tell you I’ve never seen anyone else grow weeds quite as successfully as I do. And I can take them right through the season until they actually re-seed themselves for the next!

Oh, the effort

While I love the concept of a garden that’s not only nice to look at but actually produces something we can eat, I’m not 100% in love with the anxiety, pressure, guilt, backaches, leg cramps, and fear of needing hip replacements.

There has to be a better way

While in the past my efforts to grow a garden have been more of a hobby than a serious endeavor, I feel that changing. The high cost of food—specifically produce—tells me it’s time to get serious. We need to become more self-sufficient, but in a cost-effective way.

True cost? Yikes!

While I feel that I’ve mastered weeds, I’ve failed miserably in cost-effectiveness. I shudder to imagine the true cost of the pathetically tiny bounty I’ve garnered over the years.  That doesn’t mean I’m ready to give up on vegetable gardening, only that I’m ready for a new way to do it.


RELATED: Grow Tomatoes at Home Even If You Don’t Have a Garden


 

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When all three messages landed in my inbox on the same day, the problem of soap scum, shower mildew, and hard water buildup grabbed my attention.

I’ve been told that if one person actually writes to me with a problem, that represents a thousand other readers with a similar situation. True or just slightly exaggerated, either way, three in one day tells me there’s a lot of this problem going on!

 

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How do you remove soap scum from shower walls and fl00r—and the hard water spots from shower doors? Diane

My shower mat has turned almost black. I have tried to clean it, but unsuccessfully. Can you help me? Ronnie

We recently remodeled our kitchen with stainless appliances. We have treated well water. The very first week we had a large water stain in the water dispenser area that I can’t get off. It looks terrible! Is there any way to remove it? Help! Pat

 

Quite possibly one of the best tips to ever land my mailbox, it came from a guy who is a professional property manager. He handles rental apartments and lots of them. As an apartment is vacated, his job is to see that it is thoroughly cleaned and made ready for the next occupants. 

This reader told me that the biggest challenge is always the bathroom, specifically the tub and shower. He kindly left specific details to my imagination but let me know that “gross” is not strong enough to describe what he often finds.

And that’s when he gave me his super magical potion—the only product he uses to return showers, tubs, tile, enclosures, faucets, and doors to their sparkling clean and sanitized selves.

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What do vacuum sealers and apartments that smell like a stale ashtray have in common? Absolutely nothing other than these two messages showing up in my mailbox at the same moment—both of them in response to earlier posts.

I just read your column on simple science that makes Nok-Out work to eliminate really difficult odors. Can you give me some quick advice on how to apply that method to rid my apartment of the smell of smoke? The apartment is new. The problem is that the crew smoked in here during construction. It’s yuk! Thank you, Judy

 

 

Dear Judy: You do have a terrible problem, and I’m so sorry about that. Have you contacted the owner or manager? Assuming you have but that hasn’t worked out very well—and you do not want to move—Nok-Out absolutely can oxidize (neutralize) the odor of tobacco smoke. The challenge is to make sure Nok-Out comes in contact with every square millimeter of a surface that the smoke has penetrated. And that’s a real challenge!

When treating a large open area where the odor became airborne and most likely is now clinging to every bit of the ceiling, walls, flooring, cracks, and crevices—Nok-Out must do the same in order to reach and then oxidize all of the stink.

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No one likes to talk about it, but truth be told it happens. Toilets malfunction. They get clogged.

Sure, it’s inconvenient but more than that, downright embarrassing if you’re somewhere other than the privacy of your own home. Here’s a cheat sheet so you’ll know ahead of time how to deal with the situation.

Woman unclogs a stinky toilet with plunger

Quick! Stop it from overflowing

The moment you realize something’s wrong, and the water level is rising, you need to act fast to turn it off. There are two ways to do this. I’d do both just to be sure: 

  1. Take off the lid, then reach in (that water is clean) and close the open flapper. 
  2. Reach behind the toilet near the floor and turn off the water supply off by turning the handle clockwise.

Now you can stop worrying about flooding the place and move on to freeing the clog using one of the following methods.

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What do stinky, yellowed, and crayon-stained laundry items have in common? They’re the reason lots of people write to me. Fortunately, each of these problems has a unique remedy—a way to reverse the stains and get those items back to looking good as new.

Stinky towels

No matter how many times you wash those items, you just cannot get rid of the disgusting sour, mildewy odor. They’ve become stiff and scratchy and have begun to repel rather than absorb water. The problem is clear evidence of a build-up bacteria that continue to live along with soap and softeners that have not been rinsed out—despite having been previously washed and dried.

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multi-ethinic arms outstretched to ask questions.

If it’s Friday, it just might be Ask Me Anything day when I reach into the mailbag and pull out three recent questions from my loyal, loving readers—two of them with the same name!

My dog recently had a “scare” and piddled on my hardwood floor. I did not catch it right away. I now have a stain. Is there anything you would recommend to get rid of it without refinishing the floor? Thank you. Linda

Dear Linda: This is tough. It’s difficult to know if you have a stain sitting on top of the floor or if the floor’s stain has been penetrated and bleached by the heavy presence of ammonia in dog urine. Regardless, it’s surely worth a try to see if this can be reversed. Here is a recipe and instruction for removing dog urine from a hardwood floor:

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For some time I’d been toying with whether or not to write this post on bed sheets. For months I’d been researching, testing and assessing bed sheets with the goal to identify what I could offer to you as the Best Inexpensive Bed Sheets.

You may recall that about two years ago, I did achieve my goal—our Best Inexpensive bed sheets. And then some things changed. One of our Best Inexpensive options was discontinued! And new options appeared, prompting fer today’s update.

 

 

Sheet snob

Here’s the reason I was conflicted. When it comes to bed sheets, I am particular. Call me a sheet snob and you’d have me pegged, which could make my personal standards too high to be considered affordable.

It’s not a matter of decor or brand. It’s the way the sheets feel. They should be smooth and wrinkle-free. The sheets need to breathe and not stick to me. But they can’t be slick, slippery, crunchy or noisy. The weave has to be tight and sheets can’t feel like sandpaper.

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, which can lead 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.

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

Where did the percale go?

There was a time when decent sheets were common and affordable. I don’t know for certain what’s happened there, but I  blame it on synthetic fibers—microfiber, polyester, lyocell and their 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 I  remember from childhood.

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