Ask Me Anything: Linty Dryer Balls, Grease Relief, Fingerprints on Stainless Steel

Does this happen to you? You get so involved in doing something that you completely lose track of time? You’re shocked to look up and see it’s time to go home when it feels like you just got back from lunch. Or you sit down for a few minutes to start a new book and suddenly you’re on Chapter 21.

woman reading a book and drinking coffee

Happens to me when I open my email inbox. I can blow through four hours without ever looking up.

There is a theory floating around that smart people are more likely to lose track of time (we like that theory, right?) but also solid research to show that artists lose track of time when they are fully engaged in their artwork.

I suspect that the more often a person is fully engaged in whatever he or she is doing, the more likely that person is to lose track of time. All that to say, I really enjoy the mail I get from you, my dear readers.

Dear Mary: I have not used fabric softener for more than a year. Instead, I now use white vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser of my washer and wool dryer balls in the dryer. I love everything about this new routine except some of my dark colored items are picking up white lint from the dryer balls. I have tried a sticky roller like you would use for pet hair to get this lint off my dark wool socks, without success. The only thing that works is to pick the lint off by hand. Any suggestions? Gail

Dear Gail: I know that problem—and the solution. The dryer balls are like magnets for errant lint that doesn’t get lodged in the lint trap. And mostly it’s not a problem—until as you have discovered, those white wool balls carry bits of white lint into a dryer load of dark clothes. The solution is to invest in a set of black wool dryer balls that you use only in your dark loads. It’s easy to switch back and forth. I keep an attractive wire mesh bowl next to the dryer to hold the set of dryer balls that are not in use. This fixed the problem for me and I’m confident it will for you, too.

Dear Mary: I’ve thought many times about writing you with this question. Years ago, I used a product to wash dishes that was called Grease relief. It came in a red bottle with a white top that you pulled up to dispense the soap. The stuff worked great and guess what? It was blue similar to the Blue Dawn that we use now. And then it went away and never came back again. Is it possible that the Dawn that we use today is the Grease relief that we used and loved back in the day? Kathy

Dear Kathy: Interesting thought, however, my research says that Grease relief (yes, it is  “relief” with a lowercase r) was originally manufactured by Dow Chemical, then sold to SC Johnson, who eventually discontinued it.

Curiously, I see that Grease relief is available online in a 22 oz bottle for around $7, but now manufactured by Malco Products in Ohio. I can’t say for certain it is the same formulation as the original Dow product, but the name, packaging and product description seem to match your description. I’d check it out if I were you.

In scouting around to discover the history and outcome of your beloved Grease relief, I’ve discovered Grease relief developed quite a “cult following”—folks for whom it was their favorite cleaning product, especially for challenging burned-on messes in the kitchen and grease stains on furniture and clothing. This news may give many of my readers a reason to jump for joy. Be sure to let us know your review should you give Grease relief by Malco Products a try.

Dear Mary: Is there a secret to cleaning stainless steel appliances to get rid of and then prevent future smudges and fingerprints? Thanks. Phyllis

Dear Phyllis: Most appliance manufacturers have come out with their versions of fingerprint and smudge-proof stainless steel. Folks who have opted for this type of finish report that it works well, but is more resistant to fingerprints and smudges than preventing this problem altogether. The way the stainless steel is treated to achieve this feature seriously changes the look of the stainless, causing it to have darker, highly brushed appearance. If you love stainless steel for its brilliant, high shine appearance you may not care for that look.

Back to traditional stainless steel appliances. The folks over at This Old House really know their stuff, so I was curious to learn how they deal with stainless finishes that are so prone to showing watermarks, smudges, and fingerprints. They suggest WD-40, the blue can of spray lubricant sitting on the shelf in many garages.  WD-40 will clean the surface like a breeze, but also protect against producing those marks for quite awhile. This isn’t a permanent fix so you’ll have to repeat routinely, but not nearly as frequently as with other cleaning options.

Caution:  WD-40 is not a food-grade product; it is petroleum based and should be used with care on or around any surface where you will be handling food. Keep this in mind before you start spraying it around countertops and food. Here’s what I would do: Spray the product into a soft cloth, then use the cloth to apply it to the surface to be cleaned, rubbing it well into the surface by going with the grain (yes stainless steel has grain just like wood, but you have to look closely to detect which way it goes), followed by buffing with another clean soft cloth.

Another option: Pour white vinegar into a spray bottle and spray down the stainless surface to be cleaned. Wipe it dry with a soft cloth. Now pour a bit of olive oil into a dry, clean soft cloth. Rub it into your stainless steel working with the grain. Take a fresh clean soft cloth and buff the surface. You will be removing most of the olive oil, but some will stay behind to create a thin layer of protection against fingerprints and smudges. Repeat weekly.

Hope that helps!

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