Archives

Carpet Cleaning

This time of year callers are often preparing their homes for graduations, first communions, carpet stainand wedding showers. We often get calls about removing spots from carpeting. The resource we use at AnswerLine for carpet cleaning is the Carpet and Institute’s Spot Solver.

Their experts advise creating a schedule to vacuum you carpets. If the soil is removed from the surface before it is crushed into the carpet it is much easier to remove.  It is best to vacuum slowly; covering an area about four times.  This helps remove dust, pollen, and pet dander, too.  It is best to vacuum at least once a week, but higher traffic areas may need to be vacuumed more often.  If you have a pet or children that track in a lot of dirt, you may want to vacuum daily.  You should plan to vacuum medium traffic areas at least twice a week.

The Carpet and Rug Institute experts also recommend that you treat stains promptly. Even though most carpet sold today is stain resistant, carpet spills and stains happen to all of us. Act quickly when a stain happens.  Scoop or blot up the staining material.  Remember not to scrub as that can cause damage to carpet fibers.  Treat the stain with the solution recommended by the Carpet and Rug Institute.  If you don’t have any of those solutions, remember that plain water is often effective.

In spite of your best efforts there are some spots you may not be able to remove. In that case, you may want to call in a professional.  The Carpet and Rug Institute suggests having the carpets in your home cleaned professionally every 12 to 18 months.  You may want to get bids from several cleaning services.  A good carpet cleaning should include vacuuming, pre-spraying, and spot removal.

These tips should help you keep your carpeting looking and feeling like new.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Keep Bacteria Out Of Your Kitchen

Woman cleaning kitchen

There are several of us at the office that are suffering from colds right now. As we are trying to keep from exposing all of our staff it got me thinking that the spread of viruses and bacteria that cause colds is passed on in the same way that foodborne illnesses are spread – from hand to hand or from hand to food contact.  We are sanitizing our doorknobs, computer keyboards, and phones but there are things at home that we need to disinfect to keep from passing foodborne illnesses on to our family.  An inexpensive sanitizing solution that you can use at the office or for toys, eating utensils, dishes, dining tables, and kitchen countertops at home is to put in a 1 quart spray bottle, 1 teaspoon bleach with 1 quart of water.  If you have concentrated bleach use ¾ teaspoon per quart of water.  Use for 1-2 days then make a new batch.

Let’s look at some areas in the kitchen that we need to pay particular attention to when talking about sanitizing.

  • Cutting boards. Make sure that you are cleaning your cutting boards after each use. Have two separate cutting boards. One for meat and another for fruits and vegetables. When cutting boards get deep knife marks it is time to replace them since bacteria can harbor in those grooves. After cleaning they can be sprayed with the sanitizing solution and allowed to dry.
  • Can openers. These need to be cleaned each time you use them. Then wiped with the sanitizing solution and allowed to air dry.
  • Sinks. Before washing your dishes wipe the sink with hot soapy water and use the sanitizing solution. After spraying the sanitizing solution allow it to work for 10 minutes before you use the sink.
  • Countertops. Think of all of the items that are set on the countertop. Grocery bags that have been sitting in your trunk, the mail, newspapers, etc. Even if a countertop looks clean before you cook, wash and sanitize it. If the countertop has not been cleaned you don’t want to set your rubber scrapers or other utensils on it for fear of transferring bacteria into your food.
  • Dishcloths and towels. Use a clean dishcloth daily. If you wipe up a spill then allow it to dry and put it in the laundry and get out a clean dishcloth. Clean all dish towels and cloths in hot water. If you have scrubbing utensils they should be put in the dishwasher every time that you run it. Most dishwashers have a sanitizing cycle but if you don’t have a dishwasher use your sanitizing solution and allow them to soak for 10 minutes.
  • Garbage disposal rubber splash guard. Bacteria can form on inside folds and the underside of the splash guard. A thorough cleaning on both the top and the bottom is important. Use a brush that can reach in all parts and spray with the sanitizer spray and let it dry after it is clean.
  • Refrigerators. Remember that spills in the refrigerator should be cleaned up immediately. Make sure that you look at your food items regularly and get rid of the items that are past time to safely eat. Don’t allow food to mold or decay.

Be diligent in keeping bacteria away! Remember these tips to keep your family safe.

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

More Posts

Cleaning your dishwasher

Have you had problems with your dishwasher not cleaning well or growing mold? Here are dishwasher2some tips on cleaning your dishwasher to make sure that your dishes come out clean and sanitized.

  • Mold requires nutrients and moisture which can both be found in a dishwasher.  The first thing to check is the filter to make sure there is no food left in it.  To get to the filter remove the bottom rack.  Usually it is either in the middle or back on the bottom of the dishwasher.  Then clean any food or gunk that might be in it.  If your dishwasher is attached to your garbage disposal it is always a good idea to run it before you start your dishwasher to make sure there is no food remaining in the sink drain.  Also check the silverware drawer to make sure there is no food caught in it.  It can easily hide in that spot!
  • Check the door gaskets to make sure that there is no mold growing.  Look on the sides of the gaskets since often water can get trapped there and mold can grow.  If that is a problem you may need to wipe the gaskets dry after you empty the dishwasher.
  • If the inside of your dishwasher is NOT stainless steel try getting a bucket with 1 gallon of water and 1 cup of bleach.  Remove the racks and use a brush to scrub the inside of your machine.  If there are small areas try an old toothbrush.  I try and save some for just these kind of projects.  Make sure you aren’t mixing the bleach with any other cleaning products and wear gloves to protect your hands.  After cleaning run the dishwasher empty to rinse out the bleach residue.
  • If your dishwasher inside is stainless steel don’t use the bleach solution since it could damage it.  Instead try cleaning with vinegar.  Getting on the inside with a brush or toothbrush and using the vinegar will get in all the areas that need to be cleaned.  If there is an area (most commonly right inside the door on the bottom) where mold is growing try soaking some paper towels in vinegar and laying them on that area to soften and clean.  Then scrub with the brush again.
  • Remember I said earlier that mold grows with food and moisture so use the heated dry setting.  This will not only make your dishes dryer when they are clean but also dries out the inside of the machine.  If you plan to be gone and not using your dishwasher regularly it might be a good idea to leave the door open slightly to make sure that any moisture that might be in it will have the opportunity to dry and not cause a mold problem.
  • One last thought…check the holes on the spray arm to make sure they are not clogged.  Sometimes hard water can plug the holes and not allow the water to circulate in the dishwasher.  If you find any that are plugged remove the spray arm to clean it.

Hopefully these cleaning steps will help!  If you have any additional questions please don’t hesitate to contact us at AnswerLine.

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

More Posts

Clothes Dryer Safety

Clothes dryer safety is not a topic that we think about very often, even though I use my dryer on dryer2almost a daily basis. I do try to take care of the easy maintenance but I don’t always take the time to thoroughly clean the vent system for my dryer.  Here are a few easy steps we can take to avoid a clothes dryer fire.

    • Do use a professional to install the dryer.
    • Be sure the lint filter is in place before starting the dryer.
    • ALWAYS clean the lint filter before starting a new dryer load.
    • Be sure the dryer vent that exhausts air from the dryer is clean and sturdy.
    • Don’t overload your dryer. Smaller loads will dry quicker.
    • Don’t run the dryer if you are planning to leave home or when you are sleeping.
    • Be sure the outlet for the dryer is connected properly and grounded.
    • This time of year, be sure the dryer outlet outside is not blocked by snow or ice.
    • Keep flammable items away from the dryer.
    • Don’t put clothing that has come in contact with flammable liquids like gasoline into the dryer. Let them air outside and dry before washing. If you still can smell an odor after washing, don’t put them in the dryer.

I know that I will thoroughly clean the vent system on my dryer this weekend. The last thing we need is a dryer fire.

 

 

 

 

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Tips for Using Nonstick Pans

As I was making breakfast this morning, I took a hard look at my favorite small frying pan. I amPan2 pretty disappointed in the way the pan looks as I have been trying to take really good care of this pan. My husband surprised me with a new set of pots and pans for Christmas several years ago. I’ve really tried my best to keep them in immaculate condition; but I use the small fry pan as often as I can because it has a nonstick coating. I’ve always used wood or plastic utensils in the pan and I wash it with hot, soapy water after each meal. It looks like it is time for me to give this cherished pan a really good, careful cleaning. I’ve looked at the research based information as well as the information provided by several top manufacturers of these products. Here are the results of my research:

  • Be sure to use wood or plastic utensils to avoid scratching the cookware.
  • Also use cleaners designed for these surfaces. Avoid abrasive cleaners or scrubbers. Scrub cooking residue inside pans with baking soda and water.
  • Chose a good quality pan that transmits heat evenly; hot spots in the pan can cause damage to the nonstick surface.
  • Avoid high heat; choose low or medium-low heat for cooking.
  • Never leave these pans unattended, damage can occur if pans boil or cook dry.
  • Don’t use aerosol spray oils.
  • Don’t put nonstick pans in the dishwasher, the combination of high heat and harsh cleaners can damage the surface.

If you find that food is sticking to the nonstick surface, it may actually be stuck on a residue inside the pan. This residue can form from oils in the food you cook; it may not always come clean when washed. Removing this residue may require soaking in how water with a hand dishwashing detergent and scrubbing with a non-scratching scrubber sponges. You may try Soft Scrub cleaner without bleach. Always consider checking with the manufacturer for tips for your particular pans.

I plan to work on refreshing my small fry pan this weekend, when I have a bit of extra time.

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Tips for Maintaining Your Garbage Disposal

One of my favorite conveniences in my kitchen is my garbage disposal. I wanted one for many years and my husband finally installed one two disposalyears ago.  I have learned that a garbage disposal requires regular maintenance to run well.  Follow these tips to keep your garbage disposal working like new.

Daily Care:  Flush the disposal with hot soapy water once daily.  Fill the sink with hot soapy water.  Turn the disposal on and empty the sink.  Remove the rubber gasket and scrub.

Monthly Care: Deep cleaning on a semi-regular schedule will keep build up down and help sharpen the blades.  Flush the disposal to remove any small food particles.  Grind some ice cubes to clean the blades.

For a more thorough cleaning, pour ½ cup baking soda into the disposal. Slowly add 1 cup of vinegar to the soda.  Let this mixture fizz in the disposal for 10 minutes; heat a large pan of water to a boil.  Carefully and slowly pour the water into the disposal.  Remove the gasket and scrub it in hot soapy water.  If you want a fresh smell, grind some citrus peels.

Removing Blockages: If you are careful this will be an infrequent occurrence. Be very careful when removing blockages.

Start by turning off the fuse to the disposal. Double check by trying to turn the disposal on, if power is shut off properly it should NOT run.  Next, remove the rubber gasket and using a flashlight look for the blockage.  Use a pliers or tongs to remove the object or block.  Be cautious around the disposal blades; try not to damage them or your hands.  Once the blockage has been removed, replace the gasket and turn the power back on.

I have not yet had to remove a blockage from my disposal but I do follow the daily and monthly care routines. My disposal runs like new.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Tips for Organizing Toys

Toys3The AnswerLine staff has been thinking and talking about getting more organized in 2016. Recently, I was visiting with my daughter as she was organizing her sons’ toys.  As she was adding Christmas toys to the boys’ rooms; she was removing some toys they don’t play with much anymore and making sure the remaining toys are age appropriate.

 

Here are some tips to help you organize toys at your house:

  1. Choose a time when children are away, sleeping, or otherwise occupied.
  2. Make 3 boxes for toys labeled: dispose, donate, store.toys1
  3. Dispose of broken toys and those that can’t be safely repaired.
  4. Remove toys that you seldom see the children using.
  5. If an older child has outgrown a toy, recycle it to a younger sibling, relative, or a box to be used when younger children visit.
  6. Rotate toys you don’t want to be without. Plan to remove some toys for a season or 3 months. Exchange these toys with other seasonal toys at that time.
  7. Consider investing in some clear, plastic storage boxes. You can group toys according to theme; farm toys, train toys, play dough. This makes storage and room cleaning so much easier.
  8. Older children may want to help choose which toys to remove, donate, or dispose.  This can be a great learning experience.
  9. Remember, some toys are favorites and it may be better to organize than remove them.Toys5

Hopefully, reorganizing your children’s toys will bring a less cluttered and more enjoyable 2016.  I plan to reorganize the grand children toys at my home this weekend.  I will buy some more boxes for the train toys to help the grandkids find what they need more easily.  I won’t dispose of any trains or accessories as they are a favorite with all my grandchildren.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Time for a new washing machine?

HE washerHigh efficiency (HE) washing machines have been on the market for several years now.  Not only do they use less water (they range from 20% to 66% of the water used in traditional machines) but also less energy since there is less water to heat.  These qualities help consumers save money and are environmentally friendly.

In traditional washers with center agitators the clothes are completely submerged in water.  HE models use little water but can still clean large loads, many times larger loads than the agitator type.  They are available in either a top load where spinning, rotating and or “wobbling” wheels, plates or disks move the clothes in the machine or a front load where the laundry tumbles through the water as the tub alternately rotates clockwise and counter clockwise.

HE washing machines require HE detergent.  These detergents are formulated to be low-sudsing and quick dispersing.  This means that you will not see bubbles like you did with traditional detergent.  Ignore the urge to add more detergent to the washer!  If non HE detergent (detergent made to be used in a machine with more water) is used it causes too much sudsing which could keep the soap from being rinsed out and could keep the clothes from getting clean.

Here are a few things to consider when selecting a new washer:

  • Will the washing machine be placed where noise is a factor? If it is next to the living room you will want to choose a machine that is rated quiet.
  • When comparing costs look at the energy savings over life time of the appliance. The water and utility savings help to justify the potential higher price of the machine.
  • Many utility companies offer rebates for energy efficient models. Check to see if an Energy Star rebate is available to you.
  • Make sure that all of the features (customized cycles, steam cleaning, extra rinse cycle, etc.) that are offered are important to you. The cost will go up as more features are added.
  • HE washers have longer washing times than conventional machines but will wash more clothes in each load.
  • If possible keep the door open between loads on a front loading machine to allow for air circulation and to prevent a mildew smell from developing. Many machines now have a tub cleaning cycle but if it doesn’t, try using hot water and adding 1 cup of bleach to a load that doesn’t contain clothes to freshen the machine. Be sure and use the correct amount of detergent so buildup is not an issue.

Selecting a new washer is a big decision.  Be sure to put some thought into your selection and pick the model that best fits your family.

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

More Posts

Tips for maintaining cutting boards

Cutting boardFall can be a great time to think about catching up on some things around the house. I’m thinking about giving my cutting boards a thorough cleaning and oiling after the workout they got this summer. I have a number of cutting boards at my house. I use my vintage wooden cutting boards for cutting fresh fruits and vegetables. I use my plastic boards for cutting both raw and cooked meat. Of course I use a different cutting board for raw and cooked meats to avoid cross contamination.

I clean the wooden boards with a damp dishcloth. I try not to get the cutting boards overly wet as that can cause cracking. I sanitize the boards after use with a mild bleach solution. I use 1 teaspoon of bleach in a quart of water. I spray the surface of the board with this solution and let the board air dry. If I used a stronger bleach solution, the boards might dry out and crack.

My wooden boards do not have a varnished finish, so I oil the boards with mineral oil when they seem to be getting dry. I warm the oil a bit and apply a coat, going in the same direction as the wood grain. I let the oil dry and give it another coat after 6 or so hours. This oiling will help keep the board from drying out and cracking. If that happened, I would have to toss the board or use it only decoratively. If my boards were deeply scored by knife marks, I would sand them and then oil them.

I send my plastic cutting boards through the dish washer. The hot water and dish washing detergent sanitize the boards after each use. Now I’ll be ready for all the cutting and chopping I do to make those hearty stews, soups, and casseroles this winter.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Crayon Stains in Clothing

imageNow that school has started it may be time to get into a new routine.  Remembering to check the pockets of clothing is a task I can often forget. Here are some tips if you miss one of those new school crayons and it goes through the washer and dryer.  Remember, this is a dye stain so you will need to spray or sponge that stain with a dry-cleaning solvent (Goof Off or Goo Gone) then rub with heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent before washing.

If the crayon accidently end up inside a dryer load of clothes and left multiple stains:

  • First place the amount of detergent you would use for that size washer load into the washing machine.
  • Next, add 1 cup water conditioner (Spring Rain, Calgon or Rain Drops) and 1 cup baking soda.
  • Fill up washer with clothes and water and agitate the load for 5 minutes.
  • Allow the load to soak for a bit before you finish washing.
  • Check before putting in dryer. You may still have to try a dry cleaning fluid on remaining spots.

If you need to clean the dryer:

  • Unplug or shut off the gas. Use a non-abrasive, non-flammable cleanser (Soft-Scrub) and clean.
  • Rinse thoroughly with warm water.
  • Then tumble a load of old rags or towels on regular cycle to remove rest of stain.

Hope that this helps when you find yourself with this problem.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website