Archive for the ‘Cleaning’ Category

Pantry Pests

March 27th, 2014

Moths2There is nothing like the surprise you get when you open a package from your pantry and find “little friends” wiggling around inside. Finding insects inside stored food is a common problem.  There are many different types of insects that invade stored food. They eat a very small amount of food but most people find the remaining food unappetizing and unfit for consumption. Fortunately, the bugs do not fly, sting, or bite people.

Nearly all dry food products are susceptible to insect infestation, including flour, cake mix, cornmeal, rice, spaghetti, crackers, cookies, seeds such as dried beans and popcorn, nuts, chocolate, raisins and other dried fruits, spices, powdered milk, and cured meats. Non-food items can be infested too.  Some of these include birdseed, dry pet food, ornamental seed and dried plant displays, ornamental corn, dried flowers, garden seeds, potpourri, and rodent baits.

The infestation can happen anywhere; at the food processing plant, during transport or food storage, at grocery store, or inside your home. Food products that are left undisturbed on the shelves for long periods are particularly susceptible to infestation. However, foods of any age can become infested. Stored food insects are capable of penetrating unopened paper, thin cardboard, and plastic, foil or cellophane wrapped packages. They may chew their way into packages or crawl in through folds and seams. Insects within an infested package begin multiplying and can spread to other stored foods or food debris that has accumulated in corners, cracks and crevices, and eventually the entire cupboard. All stages (egg, larva, pupa, and adult) may be present simultaneously in infested products.

While it is not always possible to prevent an infestation, following these suggestions may limit your exposure to this problem.

  1.  Purchase dried foods in quantities small enough to be used up in a short period of time. Use oldest products before newer ones, and opened packages before unopened ones.
  2. Inspect packages or bulk products before buying. Packages should be sealed and unbroken. Also check the freshness packaging date. Look for evidence of insects, including holes in the packaging or wrapping.
  3. Store insect-free foods in tightly closed glass, metal or heavy plastic containers. Refrigerate or freeze small amounts of highly susceptible foods.
  4. Keep food storage areas clean. Do not allow crumbs or spilled food to accumulate. Remove and discard old, unused products and inspect the remainder.


Cleaning, Food Safety

Repairing Water Rings on Furniture

March 24th, 2014

Water Stain

I love beautiful wooden furniture – oak, maple, cherry, walnut, etc. - each wood has it’s own character and I love them all.  Though I try to be careful in preventing water stains, either from glasses left on wood without a coaster or from water leaking out of a saucer under a freshly watered plant, I have still had more than my share of water stained furniture. Water rings commonly appear as a filmy gray spot and can be easy to remove. Follow one of the following steps in repair:

1. Rub with wax and 4/0 (very fine) steel wool.

2. Rub spot lightly with a soft, lintless cloth moistened with camphorated oil. Wipe immediately using a clean cloth.

3. Dip a small piece of cheesecloth in hot water to which has been added two or three drops of household ammonia. Wring cloth out tightly and rub spot lightly.

4. Place a clean, thick blotter over the spot and press with a warm, not hot, iron. If this does not work, rub with a cleaning polish or wax.

• White Marks, Spots, and/or Rings — White marks, spots, or rings on furniture are generally caused by some change in the finish due to heat, alcohol or moisture. Successful removal will depend on sufficiently warming and blending the surface without making it rough. Remember that not all substances will work on all finishes. Begin with the mildest and continue to try stronger ones until the spot has been removed. Blemishes of this nature are similar to others listed. Usually the direct cause of the blemish is not known so that they are treated as one group.

1. Mix equal parts of boiled or raw linseed oil, turpentine, vinegar and rub the surface gently.

2. Rub lightly over the spot with a cloth dampened in a mixture of water and household ammonia (one part water to two parts ammonia).

3. Place a piece of blotting paper over the spot and press over it with a warm iron.

4. For varnished or shellacked surfaces (not lacquered) rub the spot with a cloth dampened in essence of peppermint, spirits of camphor, or turpentine and water. Watch carefully to see that the surface does not become tacky or sticky. When dry, apply a good wax furniture polish or polish with the oil and turpentine mixture.

5. Moisten a small cotton pad with alcohol or dilute shellac in addition to a few drops of raw linseed oil. Rub over the spot in the directions of the grain.

CAUTION: Use care in working with any treatment that requires a cleaning compound. Some products are highly volatile and inflammable. Provide some means of fresh air in the meeting room if possible. Caution the group about smoking while treatment is in process. Read manufacturers labels and heed their warnings. Replace caps immediately after pouring liquids. Do not let containers of flammable liquids stand uncovered. Place cover on container while you work. Place rags or papers used in metal covered cans after use. Or destroy them at once.




Source: Linda R. Adler, M.A., Extension Specialist for Home Furnishings, University of Kentucky, HF-LRA.048;

FURNSURF.2; Revised 12/96


Seasoning Cast Iron Cookware

March 17th, 2014

imageIf you have a brand-new cast iron skillet you will need to season it before you can use it.  Rub it lightly with vegetable shortening. Coat the interior where food will touch. Do not use vegetable oil as it will leave the pan sticky. Next, heat the pan in a 250 degree oven for 2 hours. It may be necessary to add extra shortening to the pan. Do not let it dry out; if it does then apply more shortening. Let it get stone cold and wipe out with paper towel.

If you find an old cast iron pan in the basement or at a garage sale, scour the pan with steel wool and then follow the above directions for seasoning the pan.  Wash cast iron quickly with a little dish washing liquid. Don’t soak it for long periods of time or use a scouring pad. Always be sure to dry with a paper towel and then set on a warm burner to finish drying.   Re season the pan as needed. 



Smelly Fridge??

March 10th, 2014

imageIf you have ever lost your power for a long period of time or had your refrigerator or freezer fail and food has spoiled, you know how hard it is to remove the odor.  Here are some steps to help you get your refrigerator or freezer odor free.

  1. Dispose of any food that has spoiled.
  2. Wash all of the shelves and drawers in hot water and detergent.  Then rinse using a sanitizing solution of 1 tablespoon unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water.
  3. Wash the interior of the refrigerator and freezer with hot water and baking soda.  Make sure that you also clean the door and gasket.  Rinse with the sanitizing solution.
  4. Leave the door open for about 15 minutes to allow for air to circulate.  Remember if you have small children make sure that they don’t get trapped inside.

If the odor still remains try one or more of the following:

  1. Use equal parts of vinegar and water and wipe the inside of the unit.
  2. Leave the door open and allow the refrigerator or freezer to air out for several days.  Again take precautions if you have small children.
  3. Try stuffing both the refrigerator and freezer with crumpled up newspapers sprinkled with water.  Close the door and leave the papers in for several days with the appliance is running.  Next, remove the newspapers and clean with vinegar and water.
  4. Sprinkle coffee grounds or baking soda on cookie sheets or in shallow containers and put in several shelves of the refrigerator or freezer.
  5. Place a cotton ball soaked with vanilla in both the refrigerator and freezer.  Check in 24 hours for improvement.
  6. Look for a commercial cleaner.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

With persistence, most odors can be removed.  If you are unable to clean it and need to dispose of the refrigerator contact your local waste collector to find out what rules apply to disposing it.

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Cleaning, Household Equipment

Oh the smell of burned popcorn…

March 3rd, 2014

imagePhew!  Have you ever burned popcorn in your microwave and wondered how to get rid of the smell?  Try mixing ½ cup of lemon juice and 1 cup of water in a bowl.  Cook in the microwave for 5 minutes.  The fresh lemon smell will go up and out of the vents, cleaning them, since that is where the odor is residing.  If the smell isn’t completely gone try adding more lemon juice and boiling it again!

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Cleaning, Household Equipment

Cloudy glassware?

February 20th, 2014

etchingIf you have cloudy glasses after they come out of the dishwasher it could either be from hard water filming or etching.  To identify the cause try soaking the glassware in undiluted white vinegar for about 5 minutes.  If the film is gone, the cloudiness is from hard water.  If it is not removed,  the glasses are etched.

Etching is a permanent pitting or eroding of the actual glass surface.  It usually appears as shades of blue, purple, brown or pink when the glass is held at an angle toward the light.  As the etching becomes more advanced it starts to appear cloudy or can even look frosted.  Unfortunately there is no way to restore glasses that are etched.

Here are some tips to help avoid etching on your glasses.

  1.  If all of the food is removed from the dishes prior to loading them in the dishwasher it increases the alkaline concentration of the dishwasher detergent and it increases the possibility of etching.
  2. Adjust the amount of detergent according to the level of water hardness.  If you have soft water less detergent is needed.
  3. Having the water temperature too high can also be a problem.  Water entering the dishwasher should be between 120° F – 140° F.

If the vinegar removed the cloudiness here are some steps to keep it from returning.

  1. Use the correct amount of detergent for the level of hardness in your water.  If you have extremely hard water it is very hard to get acceptable dishwashing results.
  2. If the water temperature is too cool it can also cause a film.  Try running the hot water in your sink before starting the dishwasher.  That will clear the cold water from the line.  This is especially important when using a shorter wash cycle.
  3. The use of a rinse aid improves the sheeting action of the water, allowing it to slide off the dishes more easily and not leave water spots.

Use these tips to keep your glasses looking new!

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Cleaning, Consumer Management, Household Equipment

Oh No! Crayon stains in clothing!

February 3rd, 2014



imageCrayon stain on your child’s clothing? This is a dye stain so you will spray or sponge the stain with a dry-cleaning solvent (Goof Off or Goo Gone) then rub with heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent before washing.

Did a crayon accidently end up inside a dryer load of clothes? First place the amount of detergent you would use for that size load.


1 cup water conditioner (Spring Rain, Calgon or Rain Drops) and 1 cup baking soda.

Fill up washer with clothes and water, agitate 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.

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 the next time you find yourself with this problem.



Cleaning, Laundry, Textiles

Hotline Resources

January 27th, 2014

Sometimes, even in this day of Google searching and networking, it is hard to find the answer to a question.  I’ve listed hotline numbers for Iowa and Minnesota that may be helpful.  Remember that AnswerLine is only a phone call away if you don’t see a resource for the question that you have.



Hotlines available for all
Iowa Concern (800-447-1985)

  • Financial questions, legal issues, family transitions
  • Phones are answered all hours, all days
  • TTD (Telecommunications Device for Deaf Persons) (800-735-2942)
Teen Line (800-443-8336)

  • Personal and health-related information and referral
  • Phones are answered all hours, all days
  • Teen Line is an information/referral hotline
  • TTD (Telecommunications Device for Deaf Persons) (800-735-2942)
Farm On (877-BFC-1999)

  • Program to match beginning and retiring farmers
  • Hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
BETS OFF (800-BETS-OFF) (800-238-7633)

  • Gambling a problem? Call to be connected to a treatment program
  • Concerned about a family member or friend? Call for information.
  • Need an informational packet for a training? We can send one free of charge.
  • Answered everyday, all day.
Hotlines available to Iowa Residents Only
AnswerLine (800-262-3804)

  • Questions relating to home and family
  • Relay Iowa (TTY) 800-735-2942
  • Hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m.
  • Email questions to
Iowa Healthy Families (800-369-2229)

  • Health Information and Referral, Confidential
  • TDD (Telecommunications Device for Deaf Persons) (800-735-2942)
  • Phones are answered all hours, all days.
Hortline (515) 294-3108

  • Hortline provides assistance to home gardeners on lawn, garden, and ornamental questions
  • Hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon and 1-4:30 p.m.
  • Email questions to
PORKLine (800-808-7675)

  • Available to assist Iowa pork producers in all aspects of pork production
  • Hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Email questions to


The MN Bed Bug Hotline 612-624-2200 or 1-855-644-2200
The bed bug hotline at the University of Minnesota can:
 Provide information on bed bugs
 Suggest ways to reduce the number of bed bugs in your home
 Provide advice on selecting a Structural Pest Control Company
 Recommend steps you can use to avoid bed bugs in your everyday
life and while traveling.

Search: Lets Beat the Bug @letsbeatthebug


Minnesota Farm Information Line  800-232-9077

Minnesota agriculture and small acreage farm questions

Referrals made to local Extension Agriculture Personnel when available

Will answer some horticulture questions

Available: 8:30-1:30 Monday through Friday

Water Resources Center 800-322-8642

General water information and research information about water quality, shorelines, drinking water, and sewage and septic system questions.



Cleaning, Consumer Management, Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Home Environment, Housing, Laundry, Nutrition

Cleaning Electronic Screens

January 2nd, 2014

Cleaning Electronic Screens

I am amazed at the number of electronic screens in my household. Between the computer screens, television screens, I Pad screens, and I Phone screens, I seem to have a great many finger prints to remove on a regular basis!  Here are a few simple steps to keep in mind when cleaning electronic screens:


  1. Cleaning monitorsUse a microfiber cloth or soft, lint-free cloth that has been slightly moistened with plain water. Never use paper towels, as they can scratch the surface of the screen. Wipe the screen gently to remove dust and fingerprints.
  2. For glass CRT (television-style) monitors, use an ordinary household glass-cleaning solution and a soft, lint-free cloth or microfiber cloth. Never spray the cleaner directly onto the screen. Instead, spray the cloth, then use on the screen.
  3. Do not use alcohol or ammonia-based cleaners on the monitor unless the manufacturer recommends differently. They can possibly damage the anti-glare coatings. Follow the same instructions on television screens.Carolyn

Cleaning, Electronics

Holiday Laundry Stains

November 11th, 2013

The holidays are right around the corner – a time we want to dress up our tables for special dinners. With this comes the possibility of staining our holiday tablecloths. Please read below to discover ways of removing certain types of stains from these special[2

For all stains, it is important to:

  1. Check laundry for stains before washing. Many stains need pretreatment.
  2. Take care of stains promptly. Fresh stains are much easier to remove than those over 24 hours old.
  3. Blot up any excess liquid with a clean white cloth or paper towel.
  4. Inspect wet laundry before drying to be sure a stain has been removed. If a stain is still evident, do not dryer dry. The heat of drying makes the stain more permanent.

For Cranberry, Apple, Grape, and Orange Stains as well as Wine Stains (also referred to as Tannin Stains):

  1. Do NOT use natural soap (usually in bar form). Wash in hot water with detergent (Wisk, Era, Tide). Fresh stains are usually removed by laundering the fabric using detergent in hot water (f safe for the fabric), without any special treatment.
  2. Old tannin stains may need bleaching for more complete removal.

For Candle Wax and Gravy, Use a two step treatment:

  1. Remove the oil/waxy portion of the stain, then
  2. Remove the dye portion using bleach (f safe for the fabric).
    1. Spray or sponge with a dry-cleaning solvent or tret with a stain stick. Then rub with heavy duty liquid detergent and scrub in hot water.        
    2. Soak in an all-fabric bleach diluted according to package directions. Use liquid chlorine bleach for tough dye stains on fabrics that are color fast to bleach. Wash in as hot of water allowable for fabric using detergent.Carolyn

Cleaning, Holiday ideas, Laundry, Textiles ,