Ask Me Anything: Concrete Stains, Yellowed Whites, Power Toothbrush

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:

Wash leaf debris from the concrete with a power washer. Apply Cascade powdered dishwasher detergent to the stain while the concrete is still damp. Let the detergent sit for a few minutes.

Scrub the stain with a stiff non-metal brush. Rinse all the soap off the concrete with the power washer. Add more detergent and repeat the cleaning and rinsing process if the stain is still there.

For extremely tough stains that cannot be completely removed following the steps above, continue to the next level: Mix 1 cup liquid chlorine bleach with 2 gallons of water in a bucket. Apply the mixture to the concrete and let it sit without drying for five minutes. Scrub the stain vigorously with the brush and rinse off the bleach mixture with a power washer. To avoid conspicuous bleached areas, clean the entire concrete surface instead of spot-cleaning the stain. Caution: Never mix chlorine bleach with anything other than water.

Still visible? Clean older, super stubborn stains with a stain remover formulated to treat organic stains. Apply the cleaner to the damp stain and let it sit for 24 to 48 hours, according to label directions. Rinse off the stain remover with a power washer.

Q: What can I do to make my white sheets, duvet cover, towels, socks, T-shirts and even delicate items that have become yellowed or dingy gray, white again? 

A: Here is my favorite recipe to remove stains, yellow and dingy gray from whites: Pour 1 cup Super Washing Soda and 1 cup Cascade automatic dishwashing powder into a large pail, bucket or another large container like an ice chest, which works well. Add the hottest tap water you can get. (I usually boil water in a tea kettle, pour that in, then finish filling with HOT tap water.) Stir until Super Washing Soda and Cascade seem to be fairly well dissolved. Add the stained and or yellowed item(s) immediately while the water is still HOT, making sure everything is saturated. Cover if possible and allow to soak anywhere from a couple of hours to overnight. Wring out and launder as usual.

Q: Have you evaluated battery/electric toothbrushes?  If so what are your findings?

A: I have, starting with my own dentist who believes so strongly in the effectiveness of a good electric toothbrush that he gives his patients a new brush head for their particular model, every visit. My pick for the Best Inexpensive™ electric toothbrush is the Oral-B Pro 1000.

Here’s why: It’s a great tool, works like a champ and gets awesome reviews both from professional oral healthcare providers as well as users, like myself. Oral-B Pro 1000 has a built-in timer so I know I have to keep going at it until it gives me an alert that I’m done but also a pulse every 30 seconds so I know when to switch areas. The replacement toothbrush head for this brush is inexpensive, which is a big deal as it must be replaced every three months, to retain its effectiveness.

This brush holds a charge for many days, making it ideal for travel. The manufacturer claims Pro 100 removes 300% more plaque than a regular manual toothbrush, and I’m a believer. About $40.

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  • Mrs Erikson

    Hi Mary, thank you for the suggested treatment for concrete stains, it’s great that you mentioned to cover the nearby plants. But the chemicals that get washed into the soil will cause many problems.
    1. Plant roots will get chemical burn and may kill the plants. Sometimes its right away, sometimes is a slow decline of health and a slow death. Leaving people to wonder what happened.
    2. The chemicals in the soil will kill any living thing from worms to microbes that are essential to healthy soil that feeds the plants. It will take years to leach out and become healthy again.
    3. The chemicals will travel down to any water source, through the soil to underground wells, to streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. There are many rivers that don’t have frogs, fish, and other animals that get killed off. Many bodies of water get super bloom of algae that kill off every living thing. (There is always a trickle down effect with man made chemical. Check out what is happening at the end of the Mississippi river)

    Some suggestions to prevent this are:
    Create a barrier around the concrete to funnel the washing waters to the driveway or street. CHECK WITH YOUR CITY IF THIS IS ALLOWED FIRST. Most bleaches will evaporated if left where the sunew is.
    Pressure washers are good that they only use a little water, so hopefully run off can be avoided. They can be rented at the big box stores.
    When working with bleaches, using safety gear is important. ALWAYS read the Warning labels.
    The environment around your home is as important as out in nature, and every little action counts.

  • Christine

    I wonder if you have tried Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing…..supposed to work well for yellowed whites? What do you think of Borax powder booster as well?