Ask Me Anything: Blue Dawn Shampoo, Body Wash

There are days when I open my mailbox and have to sit down because I’m laughing so hard. Some things just strike me funny. Turns out this time, though, the last laugh was on me.

I am a cheapskate. I read your column for hot tips, particularly about Blue Dawn Dishwashing liquid. Recently I have begun to use Dawn for a hair shampoo. My wife is aghast. She says my hair is going to turn blue and I will smell. She claims that shampoos have an acid base balance that ensures shiny luxurious hair. Do you have an opinion? How about using it for body wash, as well? Bill

Dear Bill: l have to admit that I was a bit aghast myself as I read your letter. And I came this close to firing off a response siding with your wife but stopped short by sending myself on a research expedition so I could tell you exactly why you should listen to her and never ever shampoo or shower with Blue Dawn.

Boy, was I in for a shock. Not only could I not find credible reasons to not use Blue Dawn for personal care, I discovered a cult-like following of people out there who swear by the stuff not only for hair care and body wash but as a very effective acne treatment, too.

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Forget the Dry Cleaner: How to Wash a Down Comforter

Reminder: Amazon does not allow links in email, which means any Amazon links will take you directly to the corresponding blog post from this email, where you can access those links directly. There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks! Read more here.

If you’ve ever wondered if it’s okay to wash your down comforter without taking it to the dry cleaners, the answer is yes.

You can absolutely wash your down comforter without spending upwards of $60 (depending on the size, where you live and how dirty it is) to have it dry cleaned professionally. All you need is a mild detergent, wool dryer balls (or tennis balls), a few hours to spend at a laundromat, and patience. And if yours is a king-size comforter, a lot of patience.

A row of industrial washing machines in a public laundromat.

To do this, you’ll need mild detergent (our homemade detergent is ideal, or Woolite), wool dryer balls (or tennis balls work well), an extra-large front loading washing machine (most home models are too small for this task) and an extra-large dryer. Here are step-by-step instructions:

Step 1. Load your down comforter into the largest extra large front-loading washing machine at your local laundromat. The less crowded the comforter is in the washer and dryer, the better the results.

Step 2. Add a small amount of mild detergent. Be careful here as too much detergent will strip the down or feathers of their natural coating that makes down or feathers such a wonderful thermal insulator.

Step 3. Select the gentle or delicate setting on the washer and two rinse cycles. It is very important that the last bit of detergent to be rinsed out.

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Rules for Leftovers

If a trip to the supermarket doesn’t make you sick, you may not be paying attention to prices. Food costs are increasing by leaps and bounds and, we’re hearing from those in the know, there’s no relief on the horizon.

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For some grocery buyers, coupons are the method of choice they use to keep their food costs under control. But that doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, it works well for a very small number of people who have the temperament and commitment to couponing as a part-time job.

There’s another way to keep food costs down: Use it up.

The average American doesn’t eat 20 percent of the food he or she purchases, and every household throws away an average of $2,200 of food each year, according to a report from the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group.

With the cost of food soaring, now is a good time to rekindle the fine art of leftovers!

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Pocket Some Serious Energy Savings Plus More Great Reader Tips

According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, the typical U.S. family spends at least $2,200 a year on home utility bills of which almost half goes for heating and cooling.

If your home has a fireplace with a flue that is not adequately “weatherstripped,” it’s like leaving a door or window open. You’re losing expensive warmed air in the winter and cooled air in the summer. Today’s first reader has a terrific recommendation for how you can easily take care of this problem and pocket some serious energy savings in the process.

man inserting inflatable draft dodger in fireplace

DRAFT DODGER. Last year I bought two Battic Fireplace Plugs. They look a lot like little life rafts. You insert them up against the flue (when the fireplace is not in use) and inflate them to keep warm air from escaping through your leaky chimney damper, sealing out the draft. The difference in our heating bill the month after installing them was astounding. Flues rarely fit snugly and so much heat is lost up the chimney. I have no affiliation with the company, but I certainly have not been shy about recommending them to my friends. Chris

AUTOMATIC SOCK MATCHER. You need: A box of safety pins and a container to keep them where you take your socks off. Remove socks and join together with a safety pin. Socks will remain together in washer and dryer. Remove from dryer and your socks are ready to go into the sock drawer already matched and they don’t get lost or attached to other items. Think of all the time you’ve wasted matching socks!  Jeanne

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Ask Me Anything: Formica Restore, Silverfish Relief, Party Pressure

Recently, I reached into the pile known as my mail and pulled out a great question, “How can I restore the finish to an original, classic mid-century modern Formica top table that has some noticeable dull spots?” I have the answer but misplaced the letter. So while I don’t know your name, you know who you are and that’s all that matters.

vintage formica and chrome kitchen table set

Dear Reader: Don Aslett, America’s #1 Cleaning Expert says to brighten dull or scratched laminate, rub it down with Jubilee Kitchen Wax (a venerable product, still available online) or a good paste car wax, Meguiar’s Gold Class CarnaubaJust follow the instructions on the package. By the way, Jubilee Kitchen Wax is for use on almost anything: cars, boats, bikes, countertops, skis, your glasses, but don’t apply it to floors. It’s too slick. As I recall you are very fond of your table, so if you don’t already have one of the recommended products, a $10 investment might be worth the price.

Dear Mary: I have a silverfish problem in my home. Nothing I have tried works. Please help. Helene

Dear Helene: Silverfish are such a pesky problem. They’re nocturnal, so you won’t see them much during the day. And silverfish are so hardy they can go without food for up to a year. When they do eat, they find cardboard and wallpaper to be quite tasty.

An excellent pesticide for silverfish is food-grade diatomaceous earth, available at garden centers or hardware stores. Make certain you purchase food-grade diatomaceous earth, NOT the variety used in swimming pools, which has been chemically altered and will not work as a pesticide.

When silverfish and other crawling insects come in contact with the powdery substance they dehydrate. Even silverfish cannot live without water.

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Get Financially Confident Starting Now

For a good deal of my life, I lived under a dark cloud of fear that I would end up financially destitute—a bag lady. Studies reveal that I’m not the only one. Most of us have felt that way, not because we’re broke, but because we lack confidence. That makes us timid, worried and financially insecure.

Look, we don’t have to accept financial insecurity as some kind of life sentence. And that constant and gnawing fear of becoming destitute? Forget it! We can do something about this.

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Become a saver. Saving money is like magic because it changes your attitude and calms your fears. I saved my way out of a six-figure pile of debt. Knowing I had cash tucked away in a safe place quieted my insatiable desires. That is where I found my determination to stick with repaying the debt. You must start now, today—no matter your situation. Even if you are in debt and struggling to catch up and even if you are already contributing to a 401(k) plan at work. This is different. You need money in the bank to boost your financial confidence. 

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Finish Off a Great Meal With Cake

There’s nothing like following a great dinner with cake. It’s an exclamation mark on a meal. I love to bake cakes and today I have three very different recipes to share: one from scratch, one that starts with a cake mix, and the third—it really isn’t cake, but once a year my family pretends it is.

Yummy slice of homemade from-scratch chocolate macaroon bundt cake

Chocolate Macaroon Bundt Cake

You might remember this cake from your childhood. Chocolate Macaroon Bundt Cake used to be available back in the 1970s, as a mix from the folks at Pillsbury. It’s long since been discontinued, but here’s the from-scratch alternative.

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Ask Me Anything: Dirty Dishwasher, Charged-Off Debt

From dishwashers to debt, readers of this blog ask great questions. And if statistics can be trusted, we know that for each one who asks there are 999 others who have the same question but just haven’t gotten around to asking, yet!

 

Do you have any suggestions for cleaning the inside of a dishwasher? I have seen packaged cleaners in the supermarket, but are they worth the money? Kelly

Dear Kelly: While I’m a big fan of Glisten Dishwasher Magic Cleaner for that once-a-year major dishwasher cleaning, I do have a super-cheap solution that works really well for routine maintenance.

You’ll need three packets unsweetened lemonade Kool-Aid powder—about $.25 each, available in any supermarket or online by the case of 48.

Divide the contents of three packets between the two detergent cups. Run the dishwasher empty on the hottest, longest cycle. Lemonade Kool-Aid is loaded with citric acid, which will remove rust, hard water build-up and soap scum—leaving the dishwasher sparkling clean. Just know that lemonade is the only Kool-Aid flavor that works for this task.

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