If you’ve ever wondered if it’s okay to wash your down comforter without taking it to the dry cleaners, the answer is yes.

You can absolutely wash your down comforter without spending upwards of $60 (depending on the size, where you live and how dirty it is) to have it dry cleaned professionally. All you need is a mild detergent, wool dryer balls (or tennis balls), a few hours to spend at a laundromat, and patience. And if yours is a king-size comforter, a lot of patience.

A row of industrial washing machines in a public laundromat.

To do this, you’ll need mild detergent (our homemade detergent is ideal, or Woolite), wool dryer balls (or tennis balls work well), an extra-large front loading washing machine (most home models are too small for this task) and an extra-large dryer. Here are step-by-step instructions:

Step 1. Load your down comforter into the largest extra large front-loading washing machine at your local laundromat. The less crowded the comforter is in the washer and dryer, the better the results.

Step 2. Add a small amount of mild detergent. Be careful here as too much detergent will strip the down or feathers of their natural coating that makes down or feathers such a wonderful thermal insulator.

Step 3. Select the gentle or delicate setting on the washer and two rinse cycles. It is very important that the last bit of detergent to be rinsed out. Read more

Pop quiz: What do car leases and laundry detergent have in common? Both can be confusing! Just ask today’s readers whose respective questions  washed up in my inbox ….

Husband and wife have mixed emotions over driving and old car

Dear Mary: My wife and I are having a disagreement. I want to lease a new car now because ours is old and paying for repairs is like flushing money down the drain. She wants to keep it until we can afford to buy better car. I hate car trouble and think peace of mind is something to be considered. I’m sure we can afford the payment but she’s not. What should we do? James

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If there’s one subject that shows up in my inbox more often than any other, it has to be rust. Ugly, orange-ish stains on tubs, showers, toilets; washing machines and sinks, even stainless steel.

One reader (who shall remain nameless as I have hopelessly misplaced your message) wrote that tiny rust marks have appeared on his new stainless steel refrigerator! Sadly, the manufacturer considers this a cosmetic issue, so the warranty does not apply.

And so today, for my nameless friend plus all others who’ve written about annoying rust problems, I have a story followed by a very effective, if not exciting, solution.

The year was 1882, the setting Indianapolis.

A chemist took a break from his scholarly endeavors to cook up a pan of rhubarb, that sour-but-hardy vegetable, common in the gardens of yore.

After plating his recipe, the man found that his formerly tarnished pot fairly sparkled. Being a chemist, he quickly ruled out magic and set out to discover what it was that made rhubarb such a superior cleaning agent.

The secret? Oxalic acid. Found naturally in rhubarb and other vegetables like spinach, oxalic acid attacks stubborn rust, tarnish, and lime stains at the molecular level, breaking the bonds that hold them together.

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Finally, you found a perfect pair of jeans. They fit great and feel fantastic. Basically, you want them to last forever, but that’s not going to happen. In fact, just the opposite is what I’m hearing from my readers: These days, jeans seem to rip and fall apart long before their time, a problem that sent me in search of a solution.

What I’ve learned is fascinating. The problem is our laundry habits. We’re pretty much washing our jeans to death.

Truth be told, your dream that your favorite pair of jeans should pretty much last forever is not that far from reality. They really should, and they can if you learn these seven simple secrets for how to make denim jeans last longer:

Wash rarely. And when I say “rarely,” I mean once every few months—not every wearing or even every week. The trick is to immediately spot treat any spills or stains, then launder them much less frequently. Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh says that a good pair of jeans worn regularly doesn’t really need to be washed in the washing machine, except for infrequently—once every six months. (While I’m not quite ready to follow that extreme practice myself, I have no doubt that I’ve been guilty of washing jeans to death.)

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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:

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Just when I think I’ve heard every possible tip and trick for how to do things cheaper, better and faster, here comes the email from my awesome readers with their favorite tips, hints, and ideas. Some are old, lots are new and every single one is so much appreciated and enjoyed— by me!

Take a look and just see if you don’t agree with me.

NO STREAK FLOORS, BRITE LAUNDRY. I have two products that I cannot do without. I’d tried Bona on my hardwood floors and found it left streaks; tried extra rinsing, still streaky. So, I tried my trusty Murphy’s Oil Soap (about $7) following the label instructions. It works great. No streaking, leaves a beautiful shine plus smells extra clean. I use it with the Hardwood Floor Spray Mop (about $40) you recommend. Perfect! Second, I have white capris, tees, etc. which needed a brighter look. I tried White Brite Laundry Whitener (about $10 for a 22 oz. jug). It makes everything so white and bright—like new! Nell

HANDY SCRAPER. In response to a recent post about finding something to use for scraping away oven crud, we use a Lil’ Chizler Vinyl Label Scraping Tool ($4 for a 2-pack) all over the house to scrape paint, oven doors; to lift labels, decals, stickers and remove just about everything you can imagine—all without scratching. It’s amazing. Kaki

RECYCLE HC ICE PACKS. I posted my Home Chef freezer packs on freecycle.org. Quite a number of people wanted them. One hunter took two boxes full. Barb

RESHIP IT. In response as to what to do with the Home Chef package material, we have a Going Postal Shipping Store that is happy to reuse all the packaging material for their clients’ shipments. Dawn

NO MORE SKANK. I drop a denture tablet in boiling water in hubby’s thermos and let it sit overnight. I use a bottlebrush in the morning and all the built-up coffee stains (disgusting) come right out! Joannie

DAWN RESCUE. I have a way of removing stains (especially grease) from washable fabric that I never hear anyone suggest. I put Blue Dawn Dishwashing Liquid on the stains, let them sit for a minute and 99% of the time the stain comes out completely. A friend even used it on a pair of her husband’s jeans that were stained and had been washed several times.  All the stains came out. Blue Dawn is easy to get at any grocery, drug or hardware store. Rita

STAIN RECIPE. Here is the recipe I use to make my own Laundry Stain Remover. Mix together in a one-quart jar: 1 cup water, 1 cup household ammonia, 1 cup white vinegar and 1 cup liquid laundry detergent. I apply the lid to the jar and then use this to fill a spray bottle that I keep handy next to the washer. I spray stains generously, allow the item to sit for about 10 minutes, then wash as usual. It really works for me! Ginny

Thanks a million to all of today’s “tipsters!”

Got a great tip you’d like to share? Send it to me. Then sit back and watch for it to show up in a future post.

The wedding was complicated and expensive. But it’s over and you are ready to settle back and enjoy your new life together.

Lucky for you I’m here to warn you about some common money myths that newlyweds have been known to bring with them into their marriages.

 

Myth: Double the income, half the expenses. 

This is what I call newlywed fuzzy math: Merging your lives and incomes into one household is the equivalent of getting a raise. Don’t believe that, not for a second.

Counter: Start out living on only one income and save the rest. This will require going against everything the culture insists you deserve, but it will allow you to move seamlessly into parenthood. When that day comes you’ll have an impressive savings account and options. And a gallery of envious friends. 

Myth: There’s stuff we can’t live without. 

No there isn’t. But it will be easy to convince yourselves that you absolutely must have matching furniture, new cars, and all kinds of gadgets and services to make your lives easier and to keep up with your expectations, to say nothing of your friends.

Counter: Make a pact that you will never go into debt for “stuff.” Period.  Read more

Several times over the past years, I have wished with all my heart I could call Mr. Migaki, my favorite teacher of all time who sparked curiosity and the love of science in my fifth-grade self. I needed to ask him about minerals and crystals and why something called borax can be powdery soft one day and hard as a rock the next.

Dear Mary: Your Everyday Cheapskate column is one of the few emails I receive that I open and read every day, without fail. Both your product recommendations and your recipes are wonderful. Your Italian Sausage Soup and Bread Pudding recipes are five-star and often served at our house. Practically all of our dinner guests have raved and asked for both recipes!

I also use your homemade laundry detergent recipe, and it works well to clean our clothes, but I have a question about it. The last batch I made went into two clean gallon containers, and as I was pouring the last out of the first container, I got a lot of white crystalized lumps at the bottom. So I strained the contents of the second container into another jug and got a lot of the same white crystalized lumps from it. So:

1.  Did I do something wrong? The previous several batches were fine and lump-free, and I followed the same recipe with the same ingredients.  (I know you probably can’t answer this, but maybe other readers have reported the same phenomenon?)

2.  Do you know what these lumps are?

3.  Is the strained liquid going to be an effective cleaning agent? Where I live in Southern California we’re still under drought water-usage rules. I don’t want to waste a couple washer loads of water with useless detergent if I don’t have to. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated! Pat  Read more