The longer I live, the more convinced I am that for every household problem, there are at least two possible ways to deal with it: One that involves calling out the professionals and another do-it-yourself option that’s cheaper, better and maybe even faster!

Crystal vase with fresh violet sweet peas

How to clean fine crystal

Dear Mary: I have a beautiful crystal vase that over the years has acquired a build-up of residue that I cannot remove. Do you have a suggestion on how to remove it? Pat

Dear Pat: That build-up is likely calcium, lime and other minerals from years of standing water. You may need to experiment a bit, but I’m sure you can return that vase to its sparkling beauty without damaging the vase. Here are three simple and completely harmless methods:

Method 1: Fill the vase with your hottest tap water. Pour in a few squirts of liquid automatic dishwashing detergent, or a single pod if that’s what you have, and allow it to sit for a few hours, or overnight. Empty the vase and use a sponge or bottle brush to remove any remaining film. Rinse, dry and look at that sparkle!

Method 2: Fill the vase with water and drop in one or two denture tablets, depending on the vase size. Allow to sit and work overnight. In the morning agitate the container gently to ensure all of the deposits and mineral build-up has come loose. Empty the vase and wash with mild soap and water. Rinse well and dry it completely.

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How often have you been vacuuming and you turn off the vacuum only to see stray hairs—from your own head or your pet’s body—still on your carpet? No matter how hard and often you vacuum, they’re still there. Now imagine all of the hairs you cannot see because they’ve worked their way below the surface.

Experts tell us that one human sheds from 50 to 150 hairs a day. Dogs, depending on the breed, shed many times that amount, as do cats. The mess of pet hair can be enough to drive pet owners nuts.

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What isn’t removed regularly gets stuck and eventually embedded in carpet and upholstery, becoming a kind of greasy magnet for dirt, dust, and debris. If not removed regularly it holds all of that tightly within the carpet and upholstery fibers.

Enter Shark

I met my first Shark vacuum in July 2012. That experience rocked my world. I was both amazed by the piles of debris, dirt, dust, and who-knows-what-else that thing sucked out of the carpet, and plenty embarrassed. It’s not like I never cleaned house.

In the nearly seven years since then, I’ve written about my Shark vacuums a lot. I’ve upgraded several times as new models have been introduced. Currently, I own this Shark Navigator Professional Lift-Away and love it. Given your feedback, I know that thousands of my readers now own Sharks, too. We’re quite the fans!

A New Shark in Town

Several weeks ago, the folks at Shark contacted me, asking if I would like to test their newest upright vacuum, the Shark Apex DuoClean Zero-M Vacuum. I said that I would, but made no promises to review or recommend. I was skeptical because how could they possibly improve on what I consider perfection in a vacuum?

Before this machine arrived, I did a little poking around the SharkClean website to figure out what all this means. I learned:

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Whether a new puppy makes your dreams of the perfect family dog come true or turns into a total nightmare could well depend on how well you’ve prepared for those first critical days, weeks and months. 

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Once you have decided on the kind of dog and size that is best for your lifestyle (Breed Recommender will help you match your lifestyle with the right breed and size) you need to decide where to get the puppy.

From a shelter or reputable breeder? Take the time to research this thoroughly. The shelter of course presents the most affordable choice. 

Where not to get a puppy

The absolute worst place to get a puppy is a pet store. Sadly, virtually all pet store puppies are raised in puppy mills in horrible conditions, and the puppies are sickly with parasites and other serious issues. Not sure where to find a reputable breeder? Get a referral from a local veterinarian. Then check the conditions of the breeding facility yourself.

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No one was more surprised than I when my first granddog, Sir Boddington, nuzzled a place in my heart. I knew I was smitten the day I loaded up on toys, milk bones and other doggie delights. I blame it on “Boddie” that I so willingly became a member of the U.S. population that spent $58 billion in 2014 on food, supplies, services such as grooming and boarding, and medical care for their 358 million pets.

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So how can you afford to care for your furry friend—in sickness and in health? Make prevention maintenance your top priority as a pet owner and you’ll save later on.

RESTRAIN. A fence or some other reasonable restraint is the best way to avoid big vet bills, says David T. Roen, D.V.M., board-certified veterinarian and owner of the Clarkston Veterinary Clinic in Clarkston, Washington. “I see more dogs in my office because of injuries sustained while unrestrained than for any other reason. Dogs should always be leashed, fenced or supervised.”

CHOOSE THE RIGHT FOOD. Dr. Roen advises pet owners to skip all the fancy premium foods sold by vets. Use name-brand pet food from the supermarket labeled “complete and balanced.” Or look for the seal of approval of AAFCO (the Association of American Feed Control Officials). Stick with the same brand. Switching abruptly can cause health issues for some animals. And less is better, as slightly underweight pets have fewer health problems.  Read more

Dear Mary: I saw in your column a long while back an article about the carpet scrubber (was it Bissell?) and I poopood it at the time. Now I am ready to cry UNCLE since I discovered to my horror that one of my cats got shut in a bedroom and peed on the carpet. The smell is so bad my eyes are watering. I have Nok-Out (I’m huge fan of that stuff—even though it is a bit pricey it is worth every penny) but I feel a deep cleaning is needed as well. I want to get the carpet cleaning machine you recommend so I don’t waste money on an inferior one. Help! Laurie

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Dear Laurie: My eyes are starting to water just thinking about what you’re dealing with. But not to worry! You are certainly on the right track starting with Nok-Out. It really is the only product I know of that will neutralize and eliminate that pungent odor—provided you follow specific instructions for how to use it (don’t forget to use code DPL at checkout for 10% off). And I agree you need to power clean the carpet.

My Hoover SteamVac really is The Best Thing I Ever Bought. I use it rather unconventionally, which you can read about in the original column. My machine is quite a few years old now, but it works as well as ever. The current model, which is even better, has a “clean surge” feature. I suggest that you make full use of that feature as you undue your poor kittie’s unfortunate accident. Read more

Dear Mary: I am a new reader and I’m getting so many good ideas from your column. Thank you!  I believe I read in a recent column about a super litter box deodorizer. My interest is prompted by the fact that our daughter is moving in with us soon and she has two cats. Your new faithful reader, Heather

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Dear Heather: There are few more difficult odors to control than those associated with a cat litter box. Until someone figures out how to successfully potty-train cats including teaching them to flush, the next best option is Nok-Out.

The location of the litter box is important. It should be away from doors and windows, as far from family and food activities as possible. Cats want privacy so this rules out the kitchen or other high-activity locations.

The size of the litter box and the emptying frequency are both important. If the bottom of the box becomes too soiled or the smell of urine too concentrated because the box has a cover; if the box is too small, or if there are too many cats per box, your new house guests may choose a spot near the box, avoiding the litter box altogether. Read more

I love to read my mail because so much of it contains great ideas and tips from my awesome EC readers. Take a look at this small sampling and tell me if this just doesn’t make you happy, too!

DIY pet meds. Trips to the veterinarian for puppy and booster shots can be very expensive. Most reliable pet stores and grooming shops sell the medications and offer instructions so you can inject your pets at home. It is easy and cheap. You can find instructional videos online that will teach you exactly how to inject your pet. Veterinarians in my area charge from $25 to $45 for each injection. The same shots from the same manufacturers purchased from grooming shops or pet stores can be more like $5 to $10 each. It is legal in most states to administer these medications to your pet. Be sure to check yours. Tracey H.

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Travel light and save. It may sound like mission impossible but if you learn to travel light with only your carry-on you will save a tremendous amount of time and money. You can ride the bus instead of hiring a cab. You won’t have to tip porters to carry all your suitcases. And if your flight is overbooked, you can volunteer to get bumped (you’ll get a voucher for a free ticket), and not worry about whether you will ever catch up with your checked luggage. Joe D. Read more

 

Got pets? Then you also have costs for everything from food to toys, grooming and perhaps even daycare from time to time. But that doesn’t mean your little friends need to break the bank to be happy. Today I want to share some great tips and tricks that readers have sent in that just might get you in the groove to save some dough. Woof!

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NO-TIP WATER DISH. Use an old Bundt or angel food pan for your dog’s water bowl. Push a wooden stick through the hole in the middle of the pan into the ground to keep the pan from turning over. The pan can be lifted off for cleaning but the dog can’t tip it over.

SHREDDED PILLOWS. If you love for your large dogs to sleep in comfort but do not love the cost, maintenance and smell of the doggy beds, stuff old clean pillow cases (the ones with zippers) with shredded paper from your shredder. Once a week wash the pillow cases and refill with new shreddings. Now each dog has a plump and fresh pillow every week. They sleep in comfort and there are no doggy smells or costs involved. Read more