Take a look under the sink where you keep your cleaning products. See a bottle of Blue Dawn Dishwashing Liquid? Well, say “Hello” to a very versatile and surprisingly multi-purpose household product.

Beautiful, blue dawn over a lake and mountains.

Original Blue Dawn, a product of Procter & Gamble was introduced in 1972. Since then, it has gone through several tweaks, changes and upgrades so that today we see a number of varieties including Dawn Ultra and Dawn Platinum, to name just a few.

My research tells me that the Ultra version is highly concentrated; Dawn Platinum contains enzymes to help break down tough, cooked on foods and that “original” refers to the scent from the original 1972 product, which is still available if you know where to look.

household blue dawn

Does any of this matter when it comes to the amazing ways Dawn can be used so effectively outside the kitchen? Probably not. But does the color matter? I can’t prove it, but I think it does. And if it has “Ultra,” 2X or 4X on the label, it’s highly concentrated so you can use less.

Here’s the bottom line: If it’s Dawn and it’s blue, you can count on it to be an amazing product with tons of very effective if not ingenious uses.

ICE PACK

Partially fill a strong zip-type sandwich bag with Dawn dishwashing liquid, close. Just to be safe, double bag it. Freeze.   Dawn stays cold much longer while remaining flexible, which means it will conform to the place you need an ice pack. It can be re-frozen many times.

TREE SAP

If you get tree sap on your hands, clothes or car, hit it with a bit of Blue Dawn. It will eat through the sap without harming your skin, clothing or the car’s paint finish.

BATHROOM SCUM

Fill a spray bottle half full of white vinegar. Fill the rest of the way with Blue Dawn. Put the spray top on and shake well. Spray on your tub and shower walls, allowing it to sit for a few minutes up to a few hours before rinsing away. This will even take care of the bathtub ring. Let it sit on the shower floor overnight and scrub the scum and gunk away in the morning. More here.

LAUNDRY STAINS

For fresh or old oil-based stains such as lipstick, grease, butter, motor oil, cooking oil, and most pen inks—even stains that have made it through the washer and dryer multiple times—apply full-strength Blue Dawn liquid directly to the stain. Allow to sit for a bit then launder as usual. For really tough challenges, apply Blue Dawn then scrub with a small brush or toothbrush until the oil is removed.

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If you hate your carpet because it’s old, stained and bordering on disgusting, I have great news. There are steps you can take that will have you falling in love all over again.

upper view of family of three lying on carpet

Years ago when we remodeled our California home, we replaced some of the carpet with hardwood. What a revelation.

Now I could see the dirt and dust and, honestly, I couldn’t believe what accumulated in such a short time on those wood floors.

Of course I never saw it on the carpet but I know it was there all along. What a wakeup call it was to see the old carpet removed, rolled up and hauled away.

Here’s what we need to know and never forget: Regardless the color, brand or style—carpet hides dirt. This is not a good thing.

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If you have hard flooring, carpet and/or flat surfaces in your home, which just about covers every possibility—there are three specific vacuum cleaners that deserve your attention: an upright, a cordless stick vac and cordless handheld. These are the three worker bees that I own, love and don’t want to live without.

Familiarize yourself with these vacuums and their specific uses and you’ll know why each one gets my designation of for Best Inexpensive™ in its specific category.

Shark Professional Navigator Lift-Away

Shark Navigator Professional

In the decade since I  met and fell in love with my first Shark upright vacuum, I’ve purchased, tested and  worked nearly to death (it’s really hard to wear out a Shark) many Shark vacuums because the company comes out with a new model or two about every week, or so it seems. I can say with confidence, there is no better basic corded, upright vacuum cleaner on earth.

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The bumper sticker is pretty funny the first time you see it: Get Even: Live Long Enough to Become a Problem to Your Kids. Haha, right? Well, not really. Today’s first question comes from a reader who feels like this is happening right now and her parents are not even that old.

Black sports car with insolvent parents bumper sticker

INSOLVENT PARENTS

Dear Mary: My husband and I have been debt-free for three years. My father has recently been very ill, and my mother spilled the beans about their debt. They have two bank credit cards plus several store cards—all with large balances. They also have a mortgage, HEL (home equity loan) and a big car payment.

I’m frustrated, disgusted and heartbroken to find out my parents have so much debt in their 60s. My husband and I paid off one major credit-card account for them that had a balance of several thousand dollars. Afterwards, my mother went out and bought a new outfit on that card—something she did not need.

I’m not willing to do that again or to go into debt to pay off their debt. I explained to her that with that kind of debt they will never retire. Am I wrong? I would appreciate any advice you might have for us. Julie

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If there’s one thing you confidently can stop buying ever again, it’s glass cleaner. You already have ingredients around the house that will work to clean glass, windows and mirrors—from vinegar to vodka (true!) to warm soapy water. The problem is that these items, used as single ingredients, have significant drawbacks. 

Clean windows using Homemade Glass Cleaner and Microfiber

Vinegar will do a fairly decent job if your windows have water spots, but it’s not that great if they have any kind of stubborn dirt and sticky residue. Used on its own, you’ll end up with annoying streaks. 

Rubbing alcohol, because it acts as a solvent, works well to clean glass. But used straight up it’s harsh and so strong-smelling you’ll want to wear a face mask or use that as an excuse to not clean those windows! 

Vodka works similarly to rubbing alcohol but way more expensive, so unless you’re about to throw it out anyway, let’s go ahead and eliminate vodka as a reasonable option.

The secret to making your own glass cleaner is to combine ordinary ingredients to create a highly effective, super cheap cleaner that easily cuts through dirt, dust and greasy sticky residue then wipes away easily without leaving streaks. 

RELATED: Sparkling Clean Windows—Cheaper, Better, Faster!

Mixing Homemade Glass Cleaner

Start with a new, empty spray bottle with a high-quality sprayer top. Label bottle clearly so you use it exclusively for glass cleaner in the future. This eliminates the possibility of a toxic chemical reaction between the new ingredients and whatever mystery thing was in the bottle previously. Always keep cleaning products out of the reach of children and pets.

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Recently, in my never-ending quest to organize my home, I came across the  half-full case of baby wipes I’d purchased more than three years ago when our younger grandson was born.

Baby wipes for other uses on white background isolation

My first thought was that since Sam is all potty trained now, I should find someone with a baby or take them with me to church next week and make a gift to the nursery—both good ideas provided those wipes are still good.

That’s when my mind flooded with all of the tips, tricks and ideas I’ve gathered over the years for alternative uses for handy-dandy baby wipes. I did a quick search to discover even more baby wipe tips, tricks and clever ideas. Here are a few of my favorites—plus a bonus.

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From time to time I hear from readers who have sensitivities or allergies to our beloved Blue Dawn. Is there something else we can use that will not trigger these reactions but still work well? There is and it is Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap.

While olive-oil based castile soap has been around for centuries, Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap, itself dating back to 1858, is making a big, glorious, all-natural comeback.

8 differnt color bottles for claning

Available in several versions including one that is unscented, this organic castile soap is available online as well as in grocery, health food and discount department stores.

CASTILE SOAP USES

All-Purpose Cleaning Spray

Add 1/4 cup Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap to one quart warm water and mix gently. Pour into 32-ounce spray bottle use as you would any spray cleaner around the house. Safe on granite and quartz counters and laminate surfaces. Optional: A few drops of lemon or orange essential oil will give this cleaner a fresh, pleasant fragrance.

RELATED: Some (But Not All) Spray Bottles are Designed to Fail

Degreaser Cleaning Spray

Add 1/4 cup Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap to a 32-ounce spray bottle then fill with warm water. Fill a second 32-ounce spray bottle with 1 cup white vinegar and warm water to fill.  Spray greasy kitchen surfaces with the soap-water solution and clean them well with a soft cloth. Then spray the same surfaced with the vinegar-water solution to rinse, followed by another round with the soft cloth. Caution: Rinse granite or other natural stone surfaces with clear water and vinegar may, over time, dull and damage the stone’s sealant.

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These days its nearly certain that there’s a pricey product available to clean just about anything. But why spend the money when you can make your own homemade products that perform just as well from ingredients you may have already in your cupboards and pantry? I’m talking cheaper, faster and quite possibly better!

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What is the best and most effective way to clean a steam iron?

You need to clean both the inside and the sole plate of a steam iron regularly to keep it in tip-top condition. Before you proceed with my cleaning suggestions, make sure you read the owner manual that came with your iron to make sure there are no instructions or cautions that might preclude the following.

INSIDE: To remove build-up from the inside of the iron, which over time can really clog things up, pour equal amounts of white vinegar and water into the iron’s water chamber up to the maximum fill line. Turn the iron on to “steam” setting and iron a soft clean cloth to clean out the steam ports. 

Depending on how clogged up the iron is, it make take several attempts for the steam to bust through. It’s the vinegar that will break down all of that hard-water scale and buildup inside the iron. Read more