You’re worried that the washing machine may be on its last spin cycle. It makes a horrible screeching sound and needs a lot of coaxing to make it all the way through a full cycle. It’s not like it’s still under warranty. You’ve had it for a long time and it wasn’t new when you got it.

You get an estimate for repair and discover it will cost $319 to get it back into tip-top shape.

Should you give this old, inefficient machine the heave-ho in favor of a new model that will use less electricity and water?

A new name-brand front-loader is on sale for $899 plus tax and delivery. Should you basically throw away $319 now for a temporary fix, or bite the bullet and buy the new one?

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I’ve recently added two new gadgets to my kitchen that famed television chef Alton Brown would not be happy about if he knew. He’d call them unitaskers—single-use kitchen gadgets; objects whose only real purpose is to create clutter.

I’d argue that while his theory—that every tool in the kitchen should be able to perform multiple tasks—is certainly ideal, there are exceptions. Then I’d demonstrate for him my new gadgets, and let him know that I truly wonder how I ever got along without them.

THE THAW CLAW. We’ve all been there. You forget to take the chicken, roast or burgers out of the freezer in the morning to give them enough time to thaw in the refrigerator in time for dinner. Now you’re left scrambling. Do you try to thaw that chuck roast in the microwave? Search for something else altogether? Or just give up and go out—again.

My handy Thaw Claw has given me another option: thaw it super quick. Here’s the deal: The best way to defrost meat, fish, or poultry safely and quickly is by submerging it in a sink full of cool water. The only problem, those packages from the grocery store tend to float. For the thawing process to work really fast, your frozen item needs to be completely submerged.

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I have a friend who considers himself single, living alone. But nothing could be further from the truth. He has four cats, or as I call them, The Four Shedders.

Max solved his cat hair problem by replacing all of the carpet in his house with laminate flooring and getting a robot vac. Fortunately for today’s first questioner who has her own kind of pet hair problem, I have a much easier (and cheaper!) solution.

Q: How can I remove stubborn pet hair from the carpet in my car? Not one of my three vacuums can remove the hair left behind by my two big dogs. Ellen

A: Grab a pumice stone—the kind we use in foot care to exfoliate dead skin, or to remove a nasty toilet bowl ring—to “scrub” the carpet. Work on a small section at a time, scrubbing in one direction. Prepare to be amazed. That pet hair will surrender and allow you to gather all of it into one pile, the way you might sweep a floor. Then use one of your vacuums to pick it up. You may need to use some elbow grease but it will work because pet hair sticks to the pumice stone more stubbornly than to the carpet. And don’t worry. This will not harm the carpet.

Later from Ellen: I used a pumice stone on a rocker to see if the dog hair would come off it (the rocker needs to be recovered anyway, in case the fabric was damaged). It was AMAZING how quickly and easily the hair just fell onto the floor making it easy to vacuum away. Next: the car! Thank you so much. Read more

For anyone who has had to deal with a child in pain, it can be a painful experience for everyone regardless the age of the child. That’s why as a parent and now a grandparent, I appreciate hints and tips that will help me be even more resourceful.

BABY ORAJEL NOT JUST FOR BABIES. Our teenage daughter badly stubbed her toe and we needed to clip the nail. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t let us near it because of the pain. My wife found a tube of Baby Orajel and covered the area using a cotton swab. It was like magic. It numbed the area well enough that I was able to take care of things. I would never have thought to use Baby Orajel this way. Randall, Texas

DAWN FOR SPONTANEOUS CLEANING. I keep a bottle of Dawn, an automotive detailing brush and an old toothbrush in my shower. Dawn cuts the soap scum and does not leave a gritty residue. Just don’t overdo it since it can get pretty slippery! Laurel, email

SHOUT OUT THOSE STAINS. I found the best cleaner for my dirty golf shoes: Shout laundry stain remover. It works like a charm, getting down in the creases and crevices to get out the ground-in dirt. My golf shoes are leather, and it has not hurt them or the color. Brenda, Michigan

ERASE THE RED POLISH. Red fingernail polish accidentally spilled on my carpet, making a long red streak. A friend told me to use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. The polish had already dried, but with a little elbow grease and several erasers, it all came out of my carpet. This is a wonderful product! Carolyn, Tennessee

LOOK OFFICIAL TO GET ATTENTION. Take a clipboard with you when you’re shopping. You’ll get waited on quickly, since sales associates will think you’re either a mystery shopper or you’re snooping for the competition. LaVonne, California

PEROXIDE CLEANS UP. I use a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water in a spray bottle to clean just about everything in my house. It works great on windows using newspaper, and it freshens my wooden cutting boards. On the lip of my sink, it foamed and cleaned up what I thought was rust. And the best part is it’s cheap. Carol, Illinois

FOAMING BUBBLES AROUND THE HOUSE. I took my foaming bath cleaner out of the bathroom and started using it on my walls, floors, patio furniture, kitchen basically, anything and everything. It cleans it all. When we removed the carpet in the hall, the old vinyl flooring underneath had seen better days. After using the foam on the floor, the dust and carpet fibers came up, and I didn’t have to replace the flooring right away. For most things, just spray, wait a few minutes and whip away the dirt. And it disinfects, too! Jennie, email

Share your own tips in the comments section below, or HERE. Include your first and last name and state.

It was a silly bedtime rhyme we said when we were kids—a line that meant nothing to me other than it was funny. Goodnight, sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite! 

Years later I would learn that bedbugs are real and they are no laughing matter.

Bedbugs are parasitic insects of the cimicid family that feed exclusively on blood. They’re tiny, nocturnal and able to hide in cracks and crevices. They’re also really good hitchhikers, jumping into luggage from an infested hotel room or hiding in the seams zippers of clothing manufactured in an infested factory.

A problem worldwide, bedbugs are resurging, causing property loss, expense, and inconvenience. The good news, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) is bedbugs do not transmit disease. But they can torment their blood hosts in ways I won’t go into here. The best way to prevent bedbugs is with a regular inspection for signs of an infestation—droppings, bite marks and mysterious blood stains on bedding. Read more

It was Christmas Eve. Company would be arriving in a matter of hours. I opened the refrigerator only to discover everything inside had reached a balmy 70 F. This could not have happened at a worse time.

Away to my computer I flew like a flash, straight to RepairClinic.com, where I entered the make and model of our refrigerator and read all the possibilities for why it was running but not cooling.

By following the suggestions and detailed instructions, we performed eight years’ worth of maintenance by looking under the darned thing for the coils that had become hopelessly covered in refrigerator gunk. We were back up and cooling in no time at all.

One thing I learned from my holiday refrigerator crash is that, like cars, major appliances require routine maintenance to keep them working at the peak of efficiency and to guarantee a long and useful life.

Here are five simple appliance maintenance jobs all home dwellers should do—each of which takes only minutes and can be tackled by anyone.

DISHWASHER RACKS

Inspect the dish rack tines for rusting. Rust particles can ruin the pump and seals, causing a hidden leak or pump failure.

A tine repair kit, available at manufacturer websites or Amazon, can save you the cost of a new dish rack. The kits come in various colors to match yours. If the dish rack is beyond salvation, it should be replaced. Read more

As vast and overwhelming as the Internet can be at times, it does offer so many ways to improve our lives.

Today I want to tell you about five websites that have the potential to simplify your life, whether you need to figure out how to use that huge crop of basil growing in your herb garden or find the perfect dress for your daughter’s wedding.

SEASONAL PRODUCE GUIDE. One of the best tips I know for cutting the cost of healthy, fresh food is to buy only during a fruit or vegetable’s “peak season.” Items at their peak are far more plentiful, which typically causes the prices to drop because of supply and demand. But how can you know for certain if say, cherries, are at their peak?

SustainableTable.org offers a simple way to find out. Go to the site and scroll down and click on the Seasonable Food Guide graphic. Now select your state and month. Or you can select an exact produce item, to discover its peak season where you live. This handy online tool will also offer more information on every type of produce you can imagine such as what to look for, how to store and recipes, too. SustainableTable.org.

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If the heat of summer is bringing ants into your home and yard, don’t panic. You may not require toxic pest control products or a professional service to take care of the problem. In fact, chances are good you already have everything you need to do it yourself.

Here are 10 ways to get rid of ants using ordinary things from around the house or in the garage.

SOAP AND WATER. If you have ants or other bugs around the house, pour a 50/50 mixture of Blue Dawn dish soap and water into empty spray bottle and keep it handy. When you see the insects, spray them with the mixture. Provided you really saturate those little critters, the soap actually breaks down their exoskeletons, and they die almost immediately. Cheap and easy cleanup, too.

MOP AND VACUUM. To get rid of sugar ants, start by mopping the floor at least once a day. Mopping and vacuuming help to remove the ants’ pheromone trails. Cleaning and mopping will also rid your home of the food and crumbs that attract the ants. Make sure you don’t leave any dirty dishes in the sink and empty the trash bin regularly.

BLACK PEPPER. To deter sugar ants, sprinkle black pepper around the home’s entry points to keep the ants from coming inside.

VINEGAR AND WATER. A 50/50 ratio of water and white vinegar can also deter ants. Spray this mixture on countertops, window sills, and high traffic areas.

WD-40. Spray any areas where ants are feeding or accessing your house with WD-40. The spray will kill ants and also serve as a deterrent from further access as long as residue from the spray remains. Not sure where they’re coming in? Spray WD-40 along the outside perimeter of the house. They will not cross it because ants hate the smell of WD-40. (So do rabbits!) Repeat as necessary.

CHALK. Keep ants at bay by drawing a line around your homes entry points using ordinary blackboard or sidewalk chalk. The ants will be repelled by the calcium carbonate in the chalk.

BOILING WATER. If fire ants plague your yard or patio and you’re tired of getting stung by those tiny attackers, a flowerpot can help you quench the problem. Place the pot upside down over the anthill. Pour boiling water through the drain hole and you’ll be burning them and their house for good.

CITRUS. You don’t need insecticides or ant traps to ant-proof your kitchen. Just give it the lemon treatment. First squirt some lemon juice on door thresholds and windowsills. Then squeeze lemon juice into any holes or cracks where the ants are getting in. Finally, scatter small slices of lemon peel around the outdoor entrance.

COFFEE. Sprinkle your used coffee grounds in the garden and around the outside of your house. Ants are repelled by the scent given off by the grounds and as a bonus coffee grounds are good for your soil and plants.

DIATOMACEOUS EARTH. Make sure you’re using food-grade diatomaceous earth, NOT swimming pool DE, which has been chemically altered. Sprinkle the food-grade DE outside around the perimeter of your home. You can also safely sprinkle it inside where you see the ants. Do not wet the DE or it will not work. Once the ants walk in the fine powder they’ll die because the DE quietly destroys  their exoskeletons.