women smelling a spung

Ask Me Anything: Smelly Sponges, Linx Stick Vac, Wood Cleaner, Kids’ Savings Accounts and More

Once again, it’s time to reach into my inbox and pull out a handful of questions from you my dear readers. Every day I get questions galore, great stories, lots of love, and tons of encouragement. Please, never stop writing to me!

A close up of a computer

While I do read every message, I simply cannot respond to all of them. And honestly, I don’t have specific criteria for which questions to answer in posts like this.

Generally, I select questions with universal appeal and a high likelihood that others have the same or similar questions. And here’s a hint: Well-written, complete messages with a clear situation and question get special consideration.

Here is a quick summary of the questions I’ll answer in today’s post. You can click on one to go straight to it, or just scroll down to read all. Enjoy!


1. Smelly Sponge Syndrome

2. Which Hoover Linx?

3. Wood Floor Cleaner OK for wood cabinets?

4. Costco or Sam’s Club?

5. Kids’ Savings Accounts

6. Pesky Ant Invasion


Q1: Serious case of smelly sponge syndrome

Dear Mary: I was wondering if you had a quick and easy way to keep the dish scrubbers—like ScotchBrite with a sponge on one side attached to a pad for scrubbing pans on the other side—from smelling like mildew.

Mine is fine for a few days and then starts smelling. I try to run it in the dishwasher, but don’t always remember. I sometimes spray it with bleach and let it sit for a minute or two before rinsing, and that seems to work, but I was wondering if there was a better way. I tried microwaving a wet sponge, and that just created a hot smelly sponge. Bronson

woman smelling a spunge


Dear Bronson: First, let me congratulate you on discovering a popular cleaning hack that doesn’t work—sponges in the microwave. The theory is that high heat kills most bacteria. However, the amount of time needed in a microwave to reach the desired temperature to kill the bacteria and mildew harbored in the center of a sponge will result in a flaming, incinerated sponge. As reported in The New York Times citing this study, nuked sponges still harbor about 40% of their bacteria, some of which can be life-threatening.

Putting that kitchen sponge in the dishwasher daily, or as often as you run a load of dishes, is a better solution. The heat and detergent are sufficient to kill bacteria and mildew.

I’m going to assume that you use one sponge at a time, and that may be the problem. Let me suggest you have at least two sponges going. This way, one will always be available to wipe the counter and so forth, while the other is getting sanitized in the dishwasher. Do this without fail for a couple of weeks and soon it’ll become a habit.

All that being said, a better choice is to use cotton or microfiber cloths that can be tossed in the washer after every use.

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Q2: But which Hoover Linx cordless stick vac?

Dear Mary: How did you know I’ve been looking for a cordless stick vacuum? I open my newspaper Sunday and there you are, reviewing one! I went online to look for the Hoover Linx you recommend and found there are different models. Which model is it? A loyal reader, Judy

Dear Judy: First, I should let readers know that my blog posts routinely show up in several hundred print newspapers around the country, syndicated by Creators. Local editors often edit for space, dropping details such as specific resources. But not to worry. This is the model you want: Hoover Linx Signature Cordless 18V Lithium-Ion Stick Vacuum Cleaner (Amazon). You can read the whole thing here: Best Inexpensive Cordless Stick Vacuum. 

Thanks for being such a loyal reader and feel free to write anytime!

Q3: Wood Floor Cleaner on Cabinets?

Dear Mary: Can I use your Wood and Laminate Floor Cleaner to clean my wood cabinets? Millie

Dear Millie: Cleaning wood cabinets with our Wood and Laminate Floor Cleaner (one part rubbing alcohol to four parts distilled water plus a few drops blue Dawn dishwashing liquid) will not harm your cabinets. But that would not be my first choice if you want to deep clean and at the same time condition the wood to bring it back to its original beauty.

Howards Feed-N-Wax Orange Oil Polish and Conditioner is what I recommend for this job. It melts away grease and grime and conditions the wood with beeswax and orange oil. You won’t believe the results. Now by the same token, please do not use Howards on your floors. It would make them too slick for safety.

Q4: Should we join Costco or Sam’s Club?

Dear Mary: I love your blog and have learned a lot from you. Now I have a question. My husband and I are considering a membership to either Sam’s Club or Costco. What is your opinion on these types of stores, good idea or not? Any good tips I should know? I am really wanting to stock up on things for future use. Thanks! Terri

Dear Terri: I’ve been a member of both Costco and Sam’s Club in the past but have let my Sam’s Club membership expire. It really is a matter of personal preference, so I recommend you check out both stores as a visitor before making your decision. At Sam’s Club simply request a one-day visitor pass. At Costco, say that you would like to visit the pharmacy, the optical or hearing services (access to all three services are protected by Federal law, which means a Costco membership is not required to use those warehouse club services).

Personally, I find Costco to be more consumer-friendly, while Sam’s Club caters more to small businesses. You should also consider the location. I like the close proximity of my Costco. If my closest Costco were 25 miles away and Sam’s Club was much closer, I might reconsider.

As for how to make a warehouse club work for you, read more here: How to Win the Warehouse Club Game. Thanks for being an EC fan!

Q5: Should kids have real savings accounts?

Dear Mary: My son is saving cash in envelopes. That seems kind of cumbersome. What is your opinion? Why not in a savings account then assign categories, keeping track of the amounts for each category? Dick

Dear Dick: I agree. Kids need savings accounts. In my book, Raising Financially Confident Kids, I recommend that kids be required to save at least 10 percent of everything they receive in a real savings account at a bank or credit union.

Of course, your son could save more than 10 percent, and keep a record for how much in his savings account he is allocating for say “College Savings,” or “New Bike,” “Summer Camp” and so forth.

Since most banks now allow customers to track their accounts online, your son could watch his money closely via computer or mobile device.

Tell him that I’m proud of him and those envelopes! Not many kids are aware of how important it is to take good care of their money. But now he needs to learn about a real, live bank, too, by keeping some of his money there.

Q6: Ant invasion!

Dear Mary: We just discovered that we have a small ant invasion. How can we get rid of them with a Mary’s home remedy before this turns into all-out war? Thank you in advance. Janice

Dear Janice: You have options depending on what items you have in your pantry or around the house, from boiling water to vinegar, black pepper, and citrus peel or products like WD-40 and diatomaceous earth. Check out 11 Quick and Easy Ways to Get Rid of Pesky Ants for exact recipes, instructions and options!

Updated 6-19-20


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  1. Cathy says:

    In regards to Sam’s Club vs Costco, I much prefer Sam’s Club and have belonged to both. The prices and items are comparable at both, but Sam’s Club employees are MUCH friendlier and helpful (never a word from gruff Costco employees), Sam’s aisles are marked with item signs above (Costco aren’t) and after shopping each time, I get a an email from Sam’s asking about my shopping experience (never any communications or care when I belonged to Costco). Sam’s has my vote and I’d drive farther to a Sam’s than a closer Costco (I live in SW Michigan).

  2. Linda S. says:

    Okay Mary you have the answers and solutions for tons of things but I can’t find a recipe for individual hand wipes like the brand name Wet Ones any place!! I have seen the one with cutting paper towel roll in half but I need individual ones to carry in my purse. Do you think I could use my handy dandy Food Saver to make individual ones? Come on Mary I need your help here :). P.S. I have used many many of your other recipes and ideas over the years so I am confident you have a solution for this!!!

  3. Nanette says:

    My super simple, and completely effective solution to smelly sponges and dishcloths is to rinse them under the hottest water you can stand for at least thirty seconds every single time you use them. As Mary has explained about smelly bath towels, it’s not rinsing out all the detergent, or in the case of sponges and dishcloths whatever you were wiping up, that gives the germs a place to breed. I am super sensitive to that smell staying on my hands after I use a smelly sponge or dish cloth. I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and can verify that it works. It’s a habit that I don’t even think about anymore, mostly because my hands don’t smell. Germs grow on any damp material, so cloths are not any cleaner than sponges unless you rinse, or chemically sterilize, them thoroughly after every use. Soap and detergent aren’t anti-bacterial unless they’re made to be. Their main purpose is to loosen dirt and oils. Even if you wash your towels, etc., with hot water, most washers I’ve seen use cold rinse water, which isn’t as effective at removing all the soap/detergent. Hence Mary’s advice to do a second cycle or rinse with vinegar.

    • Lynn says:

      Also, make sure to squeeze as much water out of the sponge as you can before you leave it! This works for our house. I can always tell when someone put the sponge aside drenched…smells musty!

  4. Don says:

    When trying to post, I’m getting an error message that says, “duplicate comment detected. Looks like you already said that.”

    I like Costco a lot more than Sam’s Club. Their prices are comparable. The deciding factor for me is selection. Costco has a lot more products to choose from. Also, their “food court” has more choices, and I like their pizza better.

  5. Don says:

    I like Costco a lot more than Sam’s Club. Their prices are comparable. The deciding factor for me is selection. Costco has a lot more products to choose from. Also, their “food court” has more choices, and I like their pizza better.

  6. J D WOLFE says:

    RE: ant invasion – be sure there are NO tree limbs touching your house. ants will continue their march into your house no matter what you do because they enter from above. so, treat at the entry point by cutting back all tree limbs that touch your gutters, roof, windows, or siding.

    as for smelly sponges – sponges do one thing really well – breed bacteria. instead of sponges, use a simple wash rag for regular clean ups and a plastic scrubber for harder scrubbing. every time you wipe with a sponge, you are spreading more germs than you are cleaning up.

    jd wolfe
    st louis MO

  7. tboofy says:

    As far as Sam’s vs. Costco…If you have a gift card from Costco, you can enter and purchase items. You will have to use the card and leave it if you use the entire balance (not a problem if you use MORE than what’s on it; you can pay the rest with a credit card or cash). If you choose a one-day complimentary pass to Sam’s, you’ll have to pay a 10% surcharge; not the case if you have a Costco gift card in hand. So I pay for the Sam’s membership and pay my sister to get me a couple $10 Costco gift cards whenever I need to make a Costco run.

  8. KatyL says:

    What works with sponges is to squeeze out every last bit of water, and stand it on end to dry. I’ve been doing this for the last few weeks (in addition to washing them in the dishwasher), and no mildew smell.

  9. Lida says:

    I was thinking of buying that Hoover stick vacuum but I am concerned that there are so many bad reviews of it on Amazon.

  10. skile says:

    I checked with our closest Costco (2 hours away) and was told I need a membership for the hearing services. It is not included in the Federal law like pharmacies.

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