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Ask Me Anything: Bed Sheets, Vanilla Extract, Washing Soda, Lestoil, and More!

I just pulled a load of questions from my mailbag, which is really my email inbox, and while I don’t always know the answers right off the top of my head, today was my lucky day! And hopefully yours, too. So let’s get right to them.

 

group of hands holding speech bubbles

Contents

1. Throw rug break-down

2. Washing soda?

3. Gross, grimy kitchen cabinets

4. Sheets with Deep Pockets

5. Where can I get Lestoil? 

6. Re-Use vanilla beans

 

Q1: I wish you’d address throw rugs. I bought some with a rubber backing that are now casting debris in the dryer. I want to be safe but also want to cover my beautiful wood floors in the kitchen.  Is there any way to rescue throw rugs that have lost their rubber backing? I would hate to throw them out.

I’ve got good news for you. You may be able to rescue these rugs using something you may have already that’s sitting on a shelf in the garage.

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Ask Me Anything: Silicone Storage, Kitchen Gadget, JCPenney Sheets, Dehumidifier, and More

Today’s the day I reach into the inbox and pull out some of your questions and only because I want you to feel free to ask me anything!

Multi ethnic hands up in the air waiting to ask a question

Dear Mary … I’ve got a question!

 

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. My silicone food storage bags stink

2. Got a shrimp deveiner?

3. JCP best sheets

4. Looking for home air purifier

5. Help! Overpowering humidity

 

Q1: How can I remove food odors from my reusable silicone food storage bags?

Dear Mary: I stored some left-over smoked salmon in one of my new reusable silicone storage bags. After I’d used up the salmon, I washed the bag as usual in my dishwasher. It still smelled of salmon. I got out my trusty Nok-Out. I soaked the bag in that for a few hours. Still smelled of salmon. Help! Sue

Dear Sue: There’s something that might not have gone right. Tell me exactly how you did it. Did you spray the inside? Pour some Nok-Out in the bag? Did you dunk it in a bowl of Nok-Out? And what did you do at the end of “a few hours?”

There’s a specific way to do this,  and I’m just trying to figure out where things might have gone wrong to help you get it right. xo m
b
Dear Mary: I first sprayed the bag inside and out. When that didn’t do it, I immersed the bag in Nok-Out, weighted it down and left it for about 2 hours. Didn’t do it.Thanks for checking for me. I’m at my wit’s end. Have pretty much gone from disposable zipper bags to these. Sue

Dear Sue: I’m pretty sure I know the problem. Once every bit of the surface has been doused well with Nok-Out, it must be allowed to “oxidize.” This happens when Nok-Out meets air and is allowed to dry fully—no rinsing.

So let’s do it again. Completely spray or submerge the bag in Nok-Out, but do not rinse it. Do not rinse it! Lift it out and prop it open on something; upside down, maybe like the sink faucet. It must be allowed to fully air dry. Don’t be surprised when it gives off a “stinky swimming pool” odor. That’s the oxidation in process. Nok-Out will eliminate the stink by neutralizing it, not covering it up. I understand why this is so important. Reusable isn’t if it creates a stinky problem! xo m
Dear Mary: I did as you directed: I submerged the bag in Nok-Out, then let it air dry (keeping it open). No more salmon smell! Thanks for your help. I can now feel comfortable in using my silicone bags for potentially smelly contents knowing there’s a way to get rid of the odor. Sue
v

Q2: I need a shrimp gadget

Dear Mary: What is the best kitchen gadget to remove the shrimp vein? Winora

Dear Winora: I use either a wood skewer or sharp knife, whichever is most handy, to remove that vein that runs right along the back.
To do this: Insert the tip of the skewer crossways and under the vein about ½-inch down from the head of the shrimp and pull the skewer tip up towards you. This will lift up the vein and you can pull off the vein with the skewer or with your hand. If the vein is broken, then insert again a bit lower towards the tail.
There is a specific inexpensive tool you might want to consider if you prepare a lot of shrimp. This Shrimp Deveiner Knife works well to devein and peel shrimp in one step, simultaneously. It makes cleaning and peeling quick and easy.
v

Q3: JCPenney bedsheets

Dear Mary: Would you repeat your recommendation for Best Inexpensive Sheets. I believe they are 100% cotton from JCPenney. Thank you! Sharon
Dear Sharon: Liz Claiborne 400tc Sateen Sheet Set is my pick for the Best Inexpensive luxury, 100% cotton bedsheets. These sheets have a velvety, soft hand, which helps to make them wrinkle-resistant provided you do not overdry. They are smooth, luxurious; not noisy, rough or any other negative thing on my list of cannot-tolerates.
These bedsheets launder beautifully in hot water and come out of the dryer nearly wrinkle-free. I usually touch them up with the iron, but honestly, I may stop doing that. The fitted sheet in this set has deep pockets without being baggy. These are the kind of sheets I  remember from my childhood. Available in a variety of colors and sizes.

One set in Cal King is list priced at $140. But wait. The JCPenney site regularly offers discount coupons (I’ve been watching this like a hawk and there’s always a coupon), plus these specific sheets are frequently on sale. With my first online order, I didn’t have to search or inquire. At checkout, I simply clicked on “Coupons” which was right next to the checkout button. Immediately, the price dropped to $56.

I have checked many times since to see how that discount holds up and have yet to find a time that I would have had to pay full price. I can’t represent the exact discount you’ll get, but know that these sheets are frequently on sale and discount coupons and codes are readily available.

Q4: Looking for home air purifier

Dear Mary: I am truly grateful for all your suggestions and research you do! They all have helped my family run much smoother. I’m looking for a good home air purifier. Do you have any thoughts you can share? Cheryl   P.S. We LOVE our new Hoover Linx Cordless Stick Vac.

Dear Cheryl: All things considered—up-front cost, maintenance, and cost to operate—I don’t think you can beat the Coway Mighty Home Air Purifier (AP1512HH), my pick for Best Inexpensive Air Purifier. Rated for spaces up to 360 sq. ft., this unit is compact, attractive, and super quiet. And did I mention efficient? Very efficient with its True HEPA filter, deodorization filter, and Vital Ion. Also has a pollution sensor that communicates indoor air quality in real-time. Available in black or white at Walmart and Amazon.

Q5: Extreme interior humidity

Dear Mary: I am puzzled by an ongoing, distressing problem since I moved into a fourth-floor condo. I find that mildew is growing everywhere! On my wood dining table, on cast iron pans, inside cabinets. I am distressed about where I’ll find it next. I use a 50/50 vinegar solution to wipe it off. I keep ceiling fans going and the thermostat at 77 degrees. Windows and doors always closed. I hang Damp Rid in closets. That is getting expensive. Annette

Dear Annette: I must admit to being anything but an expert on living in humid areas, but can help you figure out how to tackle this problem. I live in Colorado where we enjoy very dry conditions—the other extreme to your high humidity. You have my empathy, for sure. I cannot imagine what you are going through.

If I were you I would first consult with the management of your condo association. If this is considered normal—meaning that all of your neighbors are experiencing the same thing—find out how they are dealing with it. Or you may discover that your problem is unique, and related to something that needs to be remedied and quick!

If you discover this is just the way it is in Florida in a fourth-floor condo, I recommend that you research and consider getting a dehumidifier for your home. This is an appliance that actually removes moisture from the air and sends it down the drain. There are many options so you want to find one that meets your specific needs.

Some of the most common indicators that you may need a dehumidifier are wet stains on walls and ceilings, stuffy feeling in a room, rotting wood, condensation on windows, musty smells and allergies. If the air in your home is too moist, it will encourage the growth of bacteria and mold, which are common allergens and not good for your health.

You can read a previous post about room dehumidifiers here, which includes my Best Inexpensive picks. I believe one of them will be just right for your home, should you discover this will be the best remedy.

Hope that helps!

Got a question you’d like me to answer in a future post? You can ask me anything here. Thanks!


In case you missed yesterday:

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Questions on Online Savings Banks, Opossums, XL Bed Sheets, Stinky Refrigerator, and Lots More!

I love to hear from my readers. I encourage you to write to me, and for that, I get hundreds of messages every day—questions galore, great stories, lots of love, and tons of encouragement. Please, never stop writing to me!

Laptop computer illustrating email by envelopes coming out of the screen

While I do read every single 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. Are online savings banks safe?

2. Opossums are making my life miserable!

3. Single fitted XL twin bed sheets?

4. Help! My new refrigerator stinks!

5. How can my daughter qualify for a decent credit card?

6. I tried Lestoil and this is what happened

7. Need furniture polish recipe again, please?

 

Q1: Are online savings banks safe?

Dear Mary: The interest rates offered at most online savings banks like Ally.com for example,  are so much better than the brick and mortar bank where my husband and I have our savings. Our rate of interest is terrible! But we are hesitant to move any of our savings to an online bank. Is it safe? I would love to hear your opinion. I love your website! I have used your recommendations on so many things. Thank you. Heidi

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An Important Update on Best Inexpensive Bed Sheets

For some time I’d been toying with whether or not to write this post on bed sheets. For months I’d been researching, testing and assessing bed sheets with the goal to identify what I could offer to you as the Best Inexpensive Bed Sheets.

You may recall that about two years ago, I did achieve my goal—our Best Inexpensive bed sheets. And then some things changed. One of our Best Inexpensive options was discontinued! And new options appeared, prompting fer today’s update.

 

White bed sheets with flowers

 

Sheet snob

Here’s the reason I was conflicted. When it comes to bed sheets, I am particular. Call me a sheet snob and you’d have me pegged, which could make my personal standards too high to be considered affordable.

It’s not a matter of decor or brand. It’s the way the sheets feel. They should be smooth and wrinkle-free. The sheets need to breathe and not stick to me. But they can’t be slick, slippery, crunchy or noisy. The weave has to be tight and sheets can’t feel like sandpaper.

For me, sheets have to fit well, too. The fitted sheet cannot pop off the corners of the mattress; but it can’t be too big, so as to become baggy, which can lead to bunching up. Above all, my sheets must be 100% cotton. Not linen, not microfiber or polyester or any other type of fiber or blend thereof.

Seriously, if the sheets are not right, I don’t sleep well. And by well I mean sound asleep—not tossing, turning, and continuously waking up.

Where did the percale go?

There was a time when decent sheets were common and affordable. I don’t know for certain what’s happened there, but I  blame it on synthetic fibers—microfiber, polyester, lyocell and their manmade fiber-cousins that are cheap to manufacture.

We used to depend on the word “percale” to be the sign of a great sheet, but truth be told percale has nothing to do with fiber content. Percale refers to a type of tight weave. I’ve been fooled by percale sheets that turn out to be polyester percale or microfiber percale—not the fine cotton percale I  remember from childhood.

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25 Remarkable Ways to Use Blue Dawn Outside the Kitchen

Take a look under the sink where you keep your cleaning products. See a bottle of Blue Dawn Dishwashing Liquid? Well, say “Hello” to a very versatile and surprisingly multi-purpose household product.

Beautiful, blue dawn over a lake and mountains.

Original Blue Dawn, a product of Procter & Gamble was introduced in 1972. Since then, it has gone through several tweaks, changes and upgrades so that today we see a number of varieties including Dawn Ultra and Dawn Platinum, to name just a few.

My research tells me that the Ultra version is highly concentrated; Dawn Platinum contains enzymes to help break down tough, cooked on foods and that “original” refers to the scent from the original 1972 product, which is still available if you know where to look.

household blue dawn

Does any of this matter when it comes to the amazing ways Dawn can be used so effectively outside the kitchen? Probably not. But does the color matter? I can’t prove it, but I think it does. And if it has “Ultra,” 2X or 4X on the label, it’s highly concentrated so you can use less.

Here’s the bottom line: If it’s Dawn and it’s blue, you can count on it to be an amazing product with tons of very effective if not ingenious uses.

ICE PACK

Partially fill a strong zip-type sandwich bag with Dawn dishwashing liquid, close. Just to be safe, double bag it. Freeze. Dawn stays cold much longer while remaining flexible, which means it will conform to the place you need an ice pack. It can be re-frozen many times.

TREE SAP

If you get tree sap on your hands, clothes or car, hit it with a bit of Blue Dawn. It will eat through the sap without harming your skin, clothing or the car’s paint finish.

BATHROOM SCUM

Fill a spray bottle half full of white vinegar. Fill the rest of the way with Blue Dawn. Put the spray top on and shake well. Spray on your tub and shower walls, allowing it to sit for a few minutes up to a few hours before rinsing away. This will even take care of the bathtub ring. Let it sit on the shower floor overnight and scrub the scum and gunk away in the morning. More here.

LAUNDRY STAINS

For fresh or old oil-based stains such as lipstick, grease, butter, motor oil, cooking oil, and most pen inks—even stains that have made it through the washer and dryer multiple times—apply full-strength Blue Dawn liquid directly to the stain. Allow to sit for a bit then launder as usual. For really tough challenges, apply Blue Dawn then scrub with a small brush or toothbrush until the oil is removed.

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Ask Me Anything: Toys R Us Gift Cards | Percale Sheets | Best Upright Vacuum

Everything is different when you’re a child: The trees are taller, colors are brighter, and every new day is more exciting than the last. And some things stay in our memories for a long time—in fact, sometimes they end up being with us forever.

 

Dear Mary: The sad news that Toys R Us is closing all of its US stores not only has us nostalgic for childhood memories, but it also has me wondering: what should they do with their Toys R Us gift cards? Michael

Dear Michael: This is a very sad topic in my family. My adult kids and grandsons too, are going through a kind of grief as thoughts of Toys R Us flood them with wonderful memories. 

As for Gift Cards—there’s one important thing to remember: Gift cards are not the same as cash. They represent store credit. One of the dangers of holding onto Gift Cards is that the store will file for bankruptcy or some other event that causes those Gift Cards to become virtually worthless without notice. My advice is that you use Gift Cards as soon as possible—never hold onto them for the long term. 

Get thee to the nearest Toys R Us store you can find that is still open to buy some Christmas gifts! Don’t assume you’ll be able to use those Gift Cards at ToysRUs.com as the online store has been closed. Only a sweet, tearjerker message remains with a reminder me that deep down inside, we’re all Toys R Us kids. 

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Best Inexpensive™ Flannel Bed Sheets Plus How to Prevent Pilling

There are few things as comforting as slipping between super soft, cozy flannel bed sheets on a cold, winter night.

 

 

But not all flannel is created equal. The problem with cotton flannel and other raised-fiber fabrics like fleece and knits is the heartbreak of “pills”—those little, raised balls that develop over time, creating a super-annoying, bumpy surface.

The solution to the pilling problem with flannel sheets is two-fold: 1) Opt for high-quality flannel and 2) take steps to prevent pilling.

QUALITY FLANNEL

Quality flannel is not cheap. You could spend the outrageous price of $400 or more for a set of high-quality flannel sheets with a luxury brand name on the label, OR you could opt for the Best Inexpensive™ flannel sheets, JCPenney Home Solid Flannel Sheet Set. These flannel sheets are nicely manufactured, of excellent quality, and resistant to pilling.

Flannel sheets are not measured by thread count but rather by the weight of the material. These beauties are made of 100% cotton flannel with a warmth factor of heavyweight, rated 155 gsm by weight, with a  mattress depth of up to 15 inches.

Available in all sizes including Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King and Cal King they come in a  choice of five colors.

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