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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!

Contents

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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Questions: Mascara Renewal | Robot Vacuum | Ant Killer | Malfunctioning Oven

It’s time, once again, to reach into my virtual mailbag to read what a handful of my Dear Readers have written. I love to hear from you with your questions, feedback, thoughts, and ideas.

A person sitting at a table using a laptop computer

 

Dear Mary: I am an Ann Arbor News reader—especially on Sunday. Love, love your column. Thank you!

I lost the column from I think two weeks ago, regarding rejuvenating mascara. You used saline solution or something like that.

Please republish the formula if possible.  I have good, not great mascara and it does get clumpy, messy. I’ve thrown away soooooo many mascaras because of that. Sharon

Dear Sharon: First, I should explain to my online readers, that some of my blog posts are syndicated by Creators, and distributed to hundreds of local, independent newspapers such as The Ann Arbor News. I never know which post is going to show up in which newspaper, but I’m pretty sure I know the tip you’re referring to. Here it is:

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11 Quick and Easy Ways to Get Rid of Pesky Ants

If the heat of summer is bringing ants into your home and yard, don’t panic. You may not require toxic pest control products or a professional service to take get rid of these pesky ants.

In fact, chances are good you already have everything you need to do it yourself. Or if you prefer a commercial product that is eco-friendly and really works fast, I’ve got that for you, too.

Ants getting into a house

Soap and water

If you have ants or other bugs around the house, pour a 50/50 mixture of Blue Dawn dish soap and water into an empty spray bottle and keep it handy. When you see the insects, spray them with the mixture. Provided you really saturate those little critters, the soap actually breaks down their exoskeletons, and they die almost immediately. Cheap and easy cleanup, too.

Mop and vacuum

To get rid of sugar ants, start by mopping the floor at least once a day. Mopping and vacuuming helps to remove the ants’ pheromone trails. Cleaning and mopping will also rid your home of the food and crumbs that attract the ants. Make sure you don’t leave any dirty dishes in the sink and empty the trash bin regularly.

Black pepper

To deter sugar ants, sprinkle ground black pepper around the home’s entry points to keep the ants from coming inside.

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How to Make Non-Toxic Natural Pest Control

Recently, a friend sent me an S.O.S. asking if I knew of any natural pest control to rid an apartment of fleas—a method that would not be toxic to small children.

Treating their pets and animals would be the first step, but surprisingly these folks have no animals. The truth is that flea infestations often occur simply because neighborhood cats or dogs like to lounge near their home or they have purchased an infested piece of furniture from a yard sale.

 

Ant and Pest

I headed right for my collection of pest control recipes and retrieved the perfect solution for fleas. I thought you might enjoy knowing that one, plus remedies for all kinds of home and garden pests.

All-purpose outdoor insect spray

Mix one chopped garlic clove, one chopped small onion, and one tablespoon cayenne powder with one-quart water. Allow to steep one hour, then add one tablespoon liquid dishwashing soap. This all-purpose insect spray remains potent for only one week, so use it up by spraying the exterior perimeter of the house.

Ants

A flock of birds sitting on top of a wooden table

Repel an ant invasion by with this natural pest control: Wash countertops, cabinets, and floors with equal parts water and vinegar.

Or, if you have ants or other bugs around the house, pour a 50/50 mixture of Blue Dawn dish soap and water into an empty spray bottle and keep it handy. When you see the insects, spray them with the mixture. Provided you really saturate those little critters, the soap actually breaks down their exoskeletons, and they die almost immediately. Cheap and easy cleanup, too.

Aphids

A close up of a green leaf

Mix 1-gallon water, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and 2 tablespoons liquid dishwashing detergent. Spray on plants where aphid damage is evident.

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Make Your Own Natural Non-Toxic Ant Spray

If you’ve ever had to deal with an invasion of ants, you may know the meaning of exasperation. While the kids think ants are so cute the way they march in formation, stop to help one another, and work hard to prepare for their own life challenges ahead, it’s better to study these amazing creatures than to wake up to find a million or so feasting on that last piece of pie someone left out on the counter last night. While commercial ant sprays work well, most brands are expensive if not toxic.

 

A bird sitting on top of a tree

Of course there are dozens of homemade remedies for dealing with ants—from poisoning them with boric acid, borax, or ammonia, but even those ingredients can create toxic situations for crawling babies, pets, and that salad you’re about to make on the counter where you just dealt with an ant attack.

Other methods, like one that promises to blow up their digestive systems with cornmeal—while perhaps better to use than harsh chemicals—can create a new challenge when the solution turns out to be messier than the problem.

All natural option

Today, I want to tell you about an effective recipe for an all-natural DIY ant spray made from ingredients that are toxic to ants but perfectly safe for pets* and people.

This recipe is safe, quick, natural (did I say that already?) and highly effective. And so handy. Just grab and go whenever you see a problem. You are going to love it.

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Readers in Search of Help with Ants and Sharks

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!

 

A close up of a wire fence

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. Read more