Tips for disposing of your old cell phone!

If your cell phone isn’t the “latest and greatest”, you are likely thinking about replacing it. If it is the “latest and greatest” you are probably wondering how to dispose of the old phone. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you have several choices.

The first thing you want to do is to remove all private and sensitive information that is on the FullSizeRenderphone. Old phone numbers, passwords, account numbers, voicemails, and text messages.  It is important not to let anyone have access to your information.

Some devices have a “restore factory settings” option. If you do use this option, be sure that YOU have all the information, passwords, texts, and pictures that you want to keep before resetting your phone.  Your owner’s manual or online owner’s manual may have detailed instructions for resetting your phone.  Follow them carefully.  You will also want to remove any apps that you downloaded to your phone.  They too can contain sensitive information.

You may also need to remove or clear the SIM or SD card in your phone. Your provider may help you transfer the SIM card or the information on the card to your new phone.  SD cards can hold pictures or other information that you would like to protect.  You may need to remove both cards physically from the phone to be sure your information is protected.

Be sure to double check that you have, in fact, removed the date after your reset. Look at your

  • phone book
  • logs for both dialed and received calls
  • voicemails
  • sent and received emails and text messages
  • downloads and other folders
  • search histories
  • personal photos

Now that your phone is “clean”. You have several options for disposal. The phone can be recycled or donated to a charitable group. Check with your phone carrier for options available locally.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Start Using Your Bread Machine Again

bread machineI decided recently to bring my old bread maker out of the basement and begin using it again. I remember how much our family enjoyed the smell of fresh bread baking! Since it has been a little while since I used mine I thought it would be good to review a few tips that I thought were helpful for using the bread machine successfully!

  • Review your manufacturer’s instruction on the order to add ingredients. They are in an order for a reason. For example if you place the yeast in direct contact with the salt or sugar it will decrease the activity of the yeast and it won’t rise well.
  • When using butter or margarine cut it into small pieces so that it will easily blend in with the other ingredients.
  • Make sure that your liquid ingredients are no warmer than 80° F.
  • If you are using the bread machine’s delay cycle and you are waiting several hours before you start your bread don’t use a recipe with eggs, milk or other ingredients that need to be refrigerated. Items that are normally refrigerated should be out at room temperature only for a short time since bacteria can grow rapidly when they are about 40° F (refrigerator temperature).
  • Be sure to open the lid and check on your dough about 5-10 minutes into the kneading process. If the dough is too dry add additional water (1/2 to 1 Tablespoon at a time) until the dough is elastic and smooth. If a dough is too wet add flour 1 Tablespoon at a time. Only do this during the first knead cycle and never during the rise cycle. Correct measuring is important but there are many variables including humidity that affects dough consistency.
  • Using bread flour will give your bread better volume and texture. If you use a whole grain flour you will have a more dense loaf. A combination of the two flours usually works well and gives you a good quality loaf.
  • If you add raisins or nuts to your bread try tossing them with a little flour to help them work into your bread more easily. If the machine stops kneading and they are not well mixed remove the dough from the machine and knead them by hand until they are mixed then return the dough to the machine.

I hope if you have a bread machine that you haven’t used in a while that you will get it out and try it again! Your family will enjoy the results and you will be a master baker, loved and admired by your family!  If you would like additional information The University of Kentucky Extension has a helpful publication.

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.

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Use the Correct Canner for Home Food Preservation

People of all ages have started gardening and are home canning to preserve their produce. Knowing the correct steps to safely preserve their bounty is important and something that we love to teach here at AnswerLine.  One question that we often get asked is “Can a pressure cooker be used for home food preservation instead of a pressure canner?”  The answer is NO, they are not the same!  The similarity is that they both trap steam and build up pressure inside the pot.  This happens when the lid, which has a gasket, forms an airtight seal when it is in the locked position.  The pressure then builds up and the high temperature destroys microorganisms more quickly in pressure canning or it cooks food canner1faster in pressure cooking.

Here are some of the differences between the two.

Pressure cookers or pressure saucepans

*Used to rapidly cook meats, vegetables and other foods for meals.

*They heat and cool too quickly to be safely used for pressure canning meats and vegetables in jars

*They are smaller in size and will not hold 4 quart jars.

*Many have no way to regulate the pressure since they have low, medium and high settings. Even the ones with weighted gauges may not accurately regulate the pressure.


Pressure canners

*Designed to can low acid foods like vegetables and meat.

*To be considered a pressure canner they must hold more than 4 Quart jars.

*They use a dial or weighted gauge to make sure you are maintaining adequate pressure.

*When canning recipes are being developed, the researchers place a thermocouple into the coldest spot in the jar. They need to know that the cold spot gets hot enough long enough to kill bacteria that may be present. Researchers calculate processing time by adding the time it takes the vessel to get up to pressure, the time at pressure, and the cooling down time. Shortening any of these times will result in an under processed and unsafe product.

Make sure you are using the correct canner when you are doing home food preservation. Using a pressure cooker or pressure saucepan could make your home canned foods unsafe.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Winterize Your Home

person caulking window1Growing up in northwest Iowa in the 1970’s and 80’s I experienced many long winters in a big drafty farmhouse.  I remember fighting with my siblings over who got to stand on the heat grates to warm up and bundling up in the cold upstairs at bedtime.  Homes today are much better insulated and energy efficient but there are still steps you can take with your residence to save energy costs and  keep your family warm and safe this winter. Even though the cold has already hit, it’s never too late to take these steps to prepare for winter.

Here are some great tips from the folks at

  • Insulate walls and attics
  • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
  • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
  • Insulate any water lines that run along outer walls. This will make water less likely to freeze.
  • Service snow-removal equipment.Snowy
  • Have chimney and flue inspected.
  • Install easy-to-read outdoor thermometer.
  • Repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on your home or other structure during a storm.

For more in depth information on preparing your home, car, and more for the winter, visit the information pages.

Here are some additional resources for keeping your family safe and warm during the long Midwest winter:

Happy Winter!!!

contributed by Jill Jensen, former AnswerLine Specialist


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.

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Gifts for Canners

Do you have family members that are interested in home food preservation?  Here are some great gift ideas that anyone would be interested in receiving! 

ball blue book1The 37th edition of Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving offers 200 pages that will guide you while you learn about preserving. This book provides information about equipment and step-by-step instructions for each preserving method. Also included are over 500 recipes for canning, pickling, dehydrating, freezing food, and much more!


So Easy to Preserve


The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension has now published a 6th edition of its popular book, So Easy To Preserve. The book is new as of September 2014. Chapters include Preserving Food, Canning, Pickled Products, Sweet Spreads and Syrups, Freezing and Drying. Ordering information is available on the So Easy to Preserve website.



Clear Jel® is a chemically modified corn starch that produces excellent sauce consistency even after fillings are canned and baked. Other available starches break down when used in these pie fillings, causing a runny sauce consistency.  Make sure that you are using the regular Clear Jel® and not the instant type.  It is not readily available in a grocery store but is available online.  A one pound package will make approximately 7-9 quarts of pie filling.



Complete book of home preserving

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving contains 400 tested recipes that are easy to understand with detailed instructions to preserve your foods safely.   It includes everything from salsas and savory sauces to pickling, chutneys, relishes and of course, jams, jellies, and fruit spreads, such as: Mango-Raspberry Jam, Damson Plum Jam Crab Apple Jelly, Green Pepper Jelly Spiced Red Cabbage, Pickled Asparagus Roasted Red Pepper Spread, Tomatillo Salsa Brandied Apple Rings, Apricot-Date Chutney.  Excellent for new to advanced canners.


Another possible idea is to print off these publications published by Iowa State Extension and Outreach’s Preserve the Taste of Summer.  Also available are hands-on workshops in several areas across the state taught by our ISU Human Sciences Extension and Outreach Nutrition and Wellness Specialists.

With these resources your canner will have tested, reliable information, equipment and recipes to preserve their foods.

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.

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Power Outage and Food Safety

imageWe receive many calls during the spring and summer regarding power outages and freezer and refrigerator food safety. The callers may have experienced extreme weather conditions such as a severe storm or flooding, or other reasons.

What foods can you keep and what needs to be tossed?  That depends. If your freezer is full, your frozen food can remain safe for three days, but if it is on the emptier side and the temperatures are warm, it may not last as long.  Here are some guidelines for what to keep and what to dispose of and what steps to take in this situation:


  • Without power, refrigerators keep food cool for four to six hours.
  • Place block of ice in a container in the refrigerator to keep food cooler.
  • Do NOT open the refrigerator.


  • If power is interrupted, do NOT open the freezer unnecessarily.
  • If the freezer is full and you keep the door closed, the food will stay frozen about two-three days.  If the freezer is not full, group packages together so they stay cold longer.
  • If you anticipate the power going off, turn the freezer control to the lowest temperature setting. If you have several days without power, act quickly. Get dry ice and put it in the freezer before the food starts to thaw.  For a 20-cubic-feet, full freezer, 50 pounds of dry ice keeps food frozen for four days.  To use dry ice, place cardboard on top of the food.  Put the dry ice on top of the cardboard.  Handle it with gloves and have the room well ventilated.  Caution: be certain of good ventilation in the room. Carbon dioxide gas can accumulate and cause loss of consciousness/asphyxiation.
  • If power will be out more than a few days, transfer foods as quickly as possible to another freezer or a commercial locker.
  • Do not put food out on the snow-the sun may cause warming.

After Power is Restored:

  • Check food temperatures. If food is above 40 degrees, you need to determine how long it was at 40 degrees. If food items were above 40 degrees longer than two hours, throw away the food.
  • For frozen foods, look for ice crystals and check temperature.
  • Throw away perishables such as meat and poultry leftovers.

Do Not Refreeze:

  • Food that has thawed completely and is less than 40 degrees, especially meat, poultry and seafood.
  • Prepared, cooked foods such as pizza, hot dishes, stews and soups.
  • Foods with off colors or odors.
  • Creamed foods, pudding or other low-acid foods that have thawed.

Safe to Refreeze:

  • Foods that still contain ice crystals.
  • Bread, cake, cookies, doughnuts.
  • Nuts, flour, cereal.
  • Raw meat and poultry that is 40 degrees or less.
  • Cheese, butter.

For more information, call us here at AnswerLine and our staff will be happy to assist you.


Jill Signature

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.

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