Growing up in Boise, Ida. (shout out to all my Gem State readers) my parents had a percolator. I can still hear that coffee pot perking away in the mornings. My mom used something called Dip-It powder to keep the thing clean.

That’s a memory that sent me into research mode, prompted by today’s first reader inquiry.


Q: I purchased an electric coffee percolator several years ago. It’s still working fine but now I’m having a problem purchasing Dip-It by Reckitt Benckiser to clean it. I understand they’ve stopped making it. I have tried using vinegar and it did not work very well.  Do you have any ideas on how I can make a Dip-It like product myself? Vickie

A: Yes, but first a little history. Dip-It Coffee Food and Beverage Stain Remover for Percolators and Cookware by Rickitt Benckiser was acquired by the Lime-A-Way company, which continued manufacturing the powdery product for awhile until it changed it to Lime-A-Way Dip-It Coffeemaker Cleaner liquid (about $6 for a 7-ounce bottle) with a completely different formulation designed for modern drip coffeemakers. But not to worry. I have a process that reasonably duplicates the venerable Dip-It results for keeping your coffee percolator beautifully clean, provided you do this in steps rather than combining cleaning ingredients:

Step 1: Pour 1/4 cup baking soda into the pot. Add water to the maximum fill line. Position the vertical tube, basket, and lid just as if you were making a pot of coffee. Plug it in and let it perk away for a complete cycle. Unplug the machine, pour the water out and scrub away any coffee stains that remain. You’ll be surprised by how dirty that water appears.

Step 2: Pour 1/4 cup white vinegar into the pot. Repeat process by filling pot with water, inserting the basket and tube and allowing the pot to run another full perk cycle. Remove the water and scrub the inside of the pot and the apparatus as necessary to remove all traces of coffee stains.

Step 3: This is optional, should your pot be aluminum that often becomes darkly stained over time: Pour 1/4 cup Cream of Tartar into the pot, fill with water and allow one more full perk cycle as above.

I have located a product very similar in its formulation to the original Dip-It powder. KAF-TAN Coffee Pot Cleaner/Stain Remover powder (about $5) is a reasonable facsimile to the original Dip-It for use in a coffee percolator.

For my Dip-It powder diehards, a limited quantity of the original Dip-It is available online. Just be warned that it is priced to reflect its scarcity—about $40 for one 5-ounce package.

Q: I don’t have a tip but I need one! I have laminate floors and would like to know of a good cleaner. Right now I am using vinegar and water and after mopping, I have to get on my hands and knees and dry the floors or they streak. Any suggestions? Thank you and I love your column! Amy

A: The best cleaner for both laminate and hardwood floors that I know of is the one you can make yourself. And you can make it in any quantity you want to have on hand or that you need at the moment. But first an explanation:

Vinegar is acidic. Used on flooring that has a finish—as both hardwood and laminate flooring do—it will dull that finish over time and in some cases even make it sticky. Tap water contains minerals that when allowed to dry on these type of flooring can cause streaks and eventually a haze-like buildup. That means no vinegar and no tap water in your cleaner. The solution is alcohol because it cleans well, is not acidic and evaporates quickly along with distilled water because it is mineral-free. Here’s the recipe:

One part alcohol (rubbing alcohol, vodka or gin) to four parts distilled water plus a few drops blue Dawn dishwashing liquid. Mix this in a spray bottle each time you clean the floors. Or if you make it up ahead, be sure to label it well and keep it out of the reach of children.

To use, simply spray a small area of the floor then scrub well with a mop or sponge and immediately wipe the area dry with a microfiber cloth. I’ve written more extensively about this recipe and how to use it well in How to Clean and Care for Wood and Laminate Floors.

A: You recommend Blue Dawn quite often. Does Dawn make an unscented cleaner that works as well? Ann

Q: I do recommend original Blue Dawn because I have found that it is a remarkable cleaner around the house and in the laundry. I’ve researched a bit about why it is different than any other liquid Dawn product, something I’m still working on. However, I’m convinced already that it has a specific, albeit proprietary, formulation that cuts grease like none other.

Procter & Gamble, which owns and manufacturers the Dawn products, does not have any version of Dawn in any color that states clearly “unscented.” P&G does, however, manufacture Dawn Free & Gentle Dishwashing Liquid, which is Hypoallergenic and Dye-Free. This version of Dawn seems to enjoy highly rated reviews.

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