According to more than a few messages from you, my dear readers—and in the words of Ricky Ricardo—I’ve got some ‘splaining’ to do! Faithful readers will recall that over the past years, I’d received more requests for the best inexpensive cordless stick vacuum than all other such requests combined. I heard you loud and clear because I’d been hearing the same request from myself.

 

Ricky Recardo telling his wife Lucy that she's got some 'spaining to do

 

Twice now, I’ve pointed you to my Best Inexpensive Cordless Stick Vacuum, and twice things have not gone exactly as hoped.

Today I have good news, but first the background:

I’d been looking for my ideal stick vacuum for so long, I’d just about come to the conclusion that my expectations were completely unreasonable—my perfect stick vacuum did not exist.

My ideal stick vacuum

For me, a stick vacuum is NOT a substitute for a good, powerful household vacuum that can pull dirt, dust, and debris from deep within the pile of a carpet. Just so you know, I am not looking to get rid of my beloved Sharky. Never! A stick vacuum has a different purpose altogether.

It’s a simple tool designed for quick pick-ups; to clean up spills in the kitchen, tracked in sand, dirt, pet hair, cat litter, dust, and loose debris when you don’t have the time or inclination to haul out a full-size vacuum cleaner for such a small task.

A good way to think of a stick vacuum is that it’s an electric broom, dust mop, and dustpan in one. It “sweeps” up and then vacuums away debris in a single pass without the need for the user to bend over or get down on the floor.

In my dreams

I’d almost given up, concluding that my ideal stick vac didn’t exist—that my list of must-haves was beyond reality—nothing more than a pipe dream.

  • Cordless and rechargeable with a runtime of at least 25 minutes
  • Able to stand up alone—who wants to lay the thing down to answer the door or take a call?
  • Lightweight so I can easily carry it up and down stairs in one hand while carrying a load in the other
  • An On/Off switch so I don’t have to continuously hold down a trigger during operation
  • Generous size dirt and debris cup that is easy to empty
  • The dirt cup, filters, and brush roll need to be washable because I like my appliances to be nice and clean
  • Quiet while in operation

I’ll admit that’s a lot of must-haves, but if I could ask for just one more feature, I would want it to be nice looking in a subtle way so that if I were to ever leave it out, it would add a little beauty to the place, not stand out like a sore thumb.

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When it comes to furnishing your home, it’s difficult to find anything more luxurious and elegant than fine leather. With that elegance comes the challenge of how to clean leather furniture, keeping it free of stains, and well-maintained so that it gets even better with age.

Learn to clean this tan leather sofa with two fabric pillows

Improper attempts to clean fine leather can result in the heartbreak of permanent damage. If your leather furniture is stained or looking a little on the tired side, follow these suggestions for perking it up.

Type of leather

To get started, determine the type of leather you’re working with. You want to know if it is aniline or top-coated. Typically, this information will be found on the tags that were attached or the brochure you were given when you acquired the leather item. This written information will generally provide tips on cleaning your specific furniture and should be your first line of defense.

What if you don’t have any instructions? Generally, when talking about leather upholstery, there are two types: aniline leather and top-coated leather.

Aniline leather

This is a type of leather dyed exclusively with soluble dyes. The dye colors the leather without producing a topcoat or sealant. Aniline leather is a natural leather that has a very soft finish, is very absorbent and stains easily.

If yours is aniline, just one instruction: Do everything you can to keep it free of stains and spills. In an emergency, a clear, mild dishwashing detergent may safely remove a grease stain from this type of leather.

Top-coated leather

This is the most commonly used finishing technique for leather used to upholster furnitured and automobile seats. The finish consists of an opaque base coat followed by a protective topcoat. Since the natural color of the leather is covered completely, the leather can be identified by its uniform color. This type of leather is most common on furniture or automobile seats due to its durability and protection from stains and spilling.

Most leather furniture these days uses top-coat protected leather, which is usually safe to clean by following these suggestions:

Vacuum

You need to remove all the loose dirt, dust and debris from the item to be cleaned. A vacuum with the soft brush attachment is the best option as it will get into the seams and crevices. Be gentle, though. Leather is delicate and you don’t want to scratch it as you are vacuuming.

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When it comes to kitchen appliances, nothing says modern and sleek like a beautiful new electric smooth top ceramic or glass cooktop. 

Modern black smooth glass cooktop on white quartz counter

While a smooth top beats a coil element type cooktop in the style department, it requires a different kind of proactive care to keep it looking good while at the same time preventing discoloration and scratching.

What NOT to do

With smooth top cooktops, it’s all about prevention. If you think of your cooktop as a delicate possession that requires your utmost protection, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

Cast iron or stone cookware

Do not use cast iron or stone cookware on a smooth top cooktop or range. It’s tempting I know, because cast iron works so well on a glass induction cooktop. Just don’t do it. Period. The bottom of these types of cookware can be rough, even gritty like sandpaper. Any movement on that cooktop can leave permanent scratches.


MORE: My Hate-Love Relationship with a Cast Iron Skillet


Heavy pots

Do not drag heavy pots across a smooth top cooktop. Always lift to another area of the cooktop to reduce the risk of scratching. Read more

Some time ago, I got a request from EC reader Kelly for a homemade furniture polish recipe. She said that she uses a lot of it and it’s getting so expensive.

 

 

My first thought was, of course, to suggest she time her purchases for when furniture polish goes on sale, and then to stock up. That was fresh on my mind as I’d recently purchased a can of Pledge aerosol polish (reg. $5.49) for $1.50. What a deal! Here’s how I did that:

I’d been harboring a $1 coupon and when Pledge went on sale for 2/$7, I used my coupon (back then my store doubled), bought one can and enjoyed a great bargain.

Kelly didn’t mention environmental issues in her desire to make her own furniture polish, but after doing some research on the matter, I became convinced that may be something all of us should consider—perhaps even more than the high price of quality furniture cleaners, polishes, and protectants.

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Taking care of hardwood or laminate floors can be challenging given the everyday conditions of a family and pets. But keeping your home looking good is crucial to maintaining its value.

Generally, there are two types of residential wood flooring: real wood (solid or engineered) and laminates that are man-made to look like wood. 

 

Gorgeous hardwood and laminate kitchen floors

 

Hardwood

Solid 

Solid hardwood floors are made of planks milled from a single piece of timber.

Engineered

Engineered hardwood is made from layers of material that have been glued together, with a layer of hardwood on the top. Typically engineered wood comes finished wiht a clear protective coating or finish. 

Laminate

Laminate flooring is manmade, a multi-layer synthetic flooring product fused together in a factory using a lamination process. The top layer of laminate flooring is photographic material that is made to look like wood including a clear protective finish. Read more

Got grimy kitchen cabinets? Don’t think you’re the only one. Unfortunately, wood cabinets—painted or natural with a clear finish—are prone to all sorts of grease, grime, and gunk from simply being in the kitchen.

Woman with cleaning supplies ready to clean kitchen cabinets

Depending on just how much grease and grime you’re looking at and the supplies you have available, there are several options to clean kitchen cabinets. At least one should help to get the job done—plus one final suggestion for how to keep your clean cabinets looking gorgeous!

Blue Dawn

Apply a few drops of concentrated dish liquid like blue Dawn, into a bowl of warm water. Dip the soft side of a sponge in it. Squeeze the sponge until suds form. The cleaning agents in Dawn absorb grease just as well on kitchen surfaces as they do on dishes. Apply to the dirty kitchen cabinet, wiping the grease with the soft sponge until it is removed. Immediately dry the surfaces with a clean cloth to prevent streaking.

Kitchen gunk remover

Bust through hardened, dingy layers of old, sticky, dust-grabbing grease with vegetable oil and baking soda. Mix one-part any vegetable oil to two-parts baking soda. Apply this oily paste to dirty areas using a soft cloth or paper towel. That ugly, greasy, dirty build-up on cabinets will begin to soften and start to disappear. Wipe clean and buff with a soft cloth.

White vinegar

Vinegar is not just for making pickles or drizzling over French fries. It has grease-busting, cleaning ability. Dampen a clean, dry cloth with undiluted white vinegar, and wipe down greasy cabinets. Rinse your cloth with warm water, wring out most of the moisture, and use it to rinse the cabinetry. Dry the damp surfaces with a paper towel, but note any still-sticky spots that need a second attempt.

Caution: Vinegar should be used only occasionally, to remove greasy grime, not for maintenance. Its acidic nature may, over time, begin to dull the surface.

 

Woman with cleaning supplies ready to clean kitchen cabinets

Soap and paint thinner

This is a heavy-duty, industrial strength solution. Use it on the toughest, most stubborn grease and grime, knowing that it could remove a layer of the finish. Mix equal parts of paint thinner and mild soap, such as Murphy Oil Soap. Apply with a sponge or paintbrush. Wipe the solution away with a rag to clear the dirt; you’ll likely remove a thin layer of varnish or shellac, because the grime may have melded with it.

Wood polish and conditioner

After rigorous cleaning, wood cabinets are thirsty for moisture and protection. But you want to be careful that you don’t make matters worse by using something that will create a new kind of build-up that becomes a magnet to kitchen grease and grime.

You won’t find a better product to do that than Howard’s Feed-n-Wax Wood Polish and Conditioner. It contains beeswax, carnauba wax and orange oil to keep the wood from drying out, while at the same time repelling kitchen grease. Fantastic for all of the wood surfaces in your home—not only kitchen cabinets.

CAUTION: Before attempting to use any of these options on any wood surface—painted or natural—test first in an inconspicuous place so you know how the method of cleaning will react.

First published: 3-26-17; Updated with new info and photo credit 5-19-19

PREVIOUSLY: Put a Big Smile on Your Face with a Dental Savings Plan


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A message showed up in my inbox that made my heart sink. I couldn’t help imagine what it would be like to lend my car to someone, only to have it come back to me with a little something I’d not counted on—that noxious odor of gasoline!

Worse, what if that condition were permanent?! Thankfully, I have good news for at least one desperate reader.

Portable generator in back of car

 

I have a problem that I can’t solve and was wondering if you would be able to help.  Someone borrowed my car recently and transported a small generator in it.  Somehow, the gasoline spilled out inside my Explorer and left a very intense gasoline smell.

“I have tried everything I can think of and nothing has removed the smell.  I steamed cleaned it with carpet shampoo, sprinkled it with baking soda and vacuum it up, saturated it with Nok-Out at least three times but to no avail. Can you help? Lisa

My first reaction to Lisa’s dilemma was to wonder if this “someone” was at one time on her list of friends (relatives?) but I won’t go there. Instead, I do have a solution and one that does not involve pushing that SUV off a cliff. It’s long, so bear with me.

This is definitely a job for Nok-Out—an odor-eliminating product that is non-toxic, fragrance-free and absolutely works wonders to eliminate the strong odor of gasoline providing it is used specifically and scientificallyRead more

If you have a bathtub with a slip-resistant bottom that no matter what you use to clean it, it still looks dingy, grungy and downright grimy, today I have really good news and at least one sure-fire solution that will bring even an older tub bottom back to clean, like new!

Before and after of cleaning tub

Since the Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990, all bathtubs must be manufactured with some type of anti-slip bottom. Kohler porcelain tubs come with its patented Safeguard Slip-Resistant Surface, which has a very distinctive look and seems to be the most prone to this ugly problem.

The problem is not only with Kohler tubs but with any manufacturer who etches the tub’s bottom to provide the non-slip feature. That encourages the oil from your feet to start staining the tub’s bottom. Then it’s like these stains get embedded and locked in forever.

I’ve heard from many readers who have tried everything they can think of to remove these stains, without success. In fact, all of those efforts seem to do just the opposite, eventually making the problem even worse.

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