The best part of my job as your humble columnist is the mail I get from my loyal readers. I had to laugh today when the first two letters I pulled from my inbox requested help with ants and … sharks!



Dear Mary: Once again this summer, I am dealing with an invasion of ants in my kitchen. Please advise. Exterminators are terribly expensive. Lola

Dear Lola: You’re not the only one! I’ve been hearing from so many readers who are frantic to know how to get rid of  carpenter ants, sugar ants, fire ants, acrobat ants … big ants, tiny ants and every kind of ant imaginable—even crazy ants!

Fortunately, I have a solution for you that is inexpensive, natural and completely safe to use around  kids and pets—a very effective tactic I wrote about recently, and am happy to repeat.

Food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) will take care of this problem and continue to work as long as it stays dry. It is available in most garden centers and home improvement stores and also online at Amazon. I just checked and you can get Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade 10 Lbs from Amazon with Prime free shipping for about $22.

DE is an off white talc-like powder that is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton. If you could take a look at it through a microscope you’d see that it resembles shards of glass. When sprinkled on a bug that has an exoskeleton (centipedes, bed bugs, ants, cockroaches, bedbugs and fleas do) or placed strategically so that bug crawls into it, the DE cuts into the  bug’s exoskeleton, which causes it to dehydrate and die. The amazing thing about DE: It kills bugs but doesn’t hurt mammals. In fact, many people add DE to their daily diet to promote good health!

Sprinkle the food-grade diatomaceous earth powder wherever you have seen ants crawling—along edges, in corners, cracks, baseboards and floorboards. Keep a band of diatomaceous earth across doorway thresholds and on all window sills. Sprinkle it in the cabinet under the sink, behind drawers and baseboards. And if the DE gets wet, clean it up and reapply.

Caution: Use only food-grade diatomaceous earth for pest control, NOT the diatomaceous earth found in pool supply stores. If it doesn’t say food-grade on the label, it has been chemically altered to be used in swimming pools. Non food-grade DE is ineffective against creepy crawlies like those ants in your kitchen.

Dear Mary: Awhile back, you wrote about your top rated vacuum cleaner. I clipped that article but now that I need it, I cannot find it. Would you give that make and model again? I have had several vacuums over the years that I have not been happy with and am desperate to find a good one. Trudy

Dear Trudy: The brand is Shark. That’s the easy part. What’s confusing is that Shark makes numerous models and variations of its vacuums and other floor-cleaning devices. And they manufacture vacuums with model numbers that are unique to stores like Costco and Bed Bath and Beyond. But not to worry. I believe I can make this simple by pointing out the exact model I recommend on Amazon, a retailer that services every address in the U.S. and many other countries as well.

The vacuum I recommend so highly is Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional. The model at is NV356E. This Shark Pro is robust, reliable and relatively inexpensive for a top-of-the line vacuum. I use the Lift-Away feature regularly to vacuum stairs. Should you be looking at Shark vacuums in a store, don’t expect to find that exact model number. Instead look for the words Shark, Professional and Lift-Away in the name. I just checked and as I write, Amazon’s price on this machine is $145 with Prime free shipping. That is a serious bargain!