Cleaning Your Iron

When was the last time you cleaned your iron?  Cleaning an iron can be one of those tasks that is easily forgotten or put off.  That is, until the iron seems to be sticking to fabric, spraying dirty water, or leaving black spots on your clothing.  It is not uncommon for dirt, dust, lint, detergent, and spray starch to build up on the soleplate of the iron or for water inside the water reservoir used for steam to cause dirty spots.  For those who sew or do fabric crafts, there is often the sticky residue from fusible interfacings or other fusible/iron-on products.

The frequency with which an iron needs to be cleaned depends on frequency of use and/or how it is used.  At any rate, a cleaning or maintenance schedule that meshes with the frequency or use is important to keeping the iron functioning properly.  If maintaining a schedule is too much, then a good rule of thumb is to clean as soon as a problem is detected—iron doesn’t glide as it should or steam doesn’t come out or sprays or spurts out rusty or black droplets onto the cloth.  All are signs that gunk has accumulated on the soleplate, the steam outlets are clogged, or tap water mineral deposits have accumulated in the water reservoir.

Fortunately, cleaning an iron isn’t that difficult.  If you’ve ever Googled “how to clean an iron”, you will find many shared methods.  And if you have a method that works for you, by all means continue on as the bottom line is to achieve a properly functioning iron.  If you are new to iron cleaning or unsure of how to proceed with your iron, the best route is to consult the owner’s manual as there may be specific guidelines for the kind of soleplate (stainless steel, ceramic, titanium, or non-stick), water reservoir, or self-cleaning feature unique to your iron. (If a manual is lost, often times they can be found online.)

Cleaning the Soleplate

Various options exist for cleaning the soleplate.  I will review the three most common recommended by iron manufacturers.  In all cases, never use anything that could scratch the soleplate.

Hot Iron Cleaners.  Cleaning pastes are found almost anywhere fabric or laundry products are sold and usually restore the iron’s soleplate to perfect condition. They are nontoxic, nonflammable, and nonabrasive.  When the pastes are applied to a very hot iron soleplate, they quickly and easily remove starch, detergent, and fusing residue. These cleaners dissolve the residue either by ironing over the cleaner on an old towel or by squeezing the cleaner onto the soleplate and wiping off residue with an old towel or cloth.   (Rowenta offers a product specific to Rowenta irons for consumers who choose to use it.)  One must be careful to remove the paste from the steam vents as well. (Cotton swabs work great for vent cleaning.)

Iron Cleaning Cloths.  Cleaning cloths (usually in packs of 10) are designed to be disposable and as an alternative to hot iron cleaning pastes for quick clean ups.  They dissolve and remove any residue by simply running the cloth over a hot soleplate. They usually work best for less soiled soleplates or for very regular clean up.  Because there is no paste involved, they do not clog the steam vents.

Baking Soda and Water or Vinegar.  Both baking soda and vinegar are common household cleaners.  They also work wonders as a natural scouring agent to remove grime from an iron’s soleplate.  One begins by mixing baking soda with distilled water or vinegar to make a paste (approximate 2:1 proportions of soda to liquid).  Apply the paste with an old tooth brush to a cool, unplugged iron.  Scrub gently with the brush to loosen the residue; wipe residue away with a microfiber cloth until the soleplate is cleaned. Like the commercial pastes, the steam vents must be cleaned, too. 

Hot vinegar applied to a microfiber cloth works like an iron cleaning cloth if the residue is light.

After cleaning, fill the reservoir with water, heat, and run the iron over an old towel or cloth, pressing the spray button several times to insure the soleplate and vents are clean before ironing clothing. 

Cleaning the Water Reservoir

When cleaning the water reservoir, discretion is needed.  Steam iron reservoirs need to be cleaned out often to ensure that the appliance doesn’t leave rusty or black water marks on clothing or fabric, performs properly, minimizes build up that may damage clothing, and, thereby, extends the life of the appliance.  Whenever possible, follow manufacturer’s directions.

Distilled water is commonly and safely used for cleaning the reservoir and vents.  While there are many distilled water and vinegar recipes suggested for reservoir cleaning, most manufacturers caution against the use of vinegar.  In a previous blog, AnswerLine suggested a method of filling the reservoir with distilled water and allowing the iron to self-steam out the minerals, lint, and other accumulations in the reservoir and vents.

A commercial iron cleaner is another option to decalcify and remove lime and mineral build-up from steam irons and vents. However, some iron manufacturers will void the warranty if you use them as they can be harsh and cause additional damage.

Keep the Iron Working at Its Best

Here’s some tips to protect and keep an iron working at its best.

  • Whenever possible, use distilled water.  Tap water, even when filtered, contains minerals that can clog, corrode, or damage the iron resulting in rusty or black steam or spray.
  • Fill the iron with water before plugging in and while cool.
  • Empty the reservoir before storing the iron—especially if it isn’t used frequently.
  • Store in an upright position.  This will prevent water from leaking if water is left in the reservoir and avoid scratching the soleplate.
  • Avoid pressing or ironing over zippers, snaps, decals, pins, or any screen printing without using a pressing cloth to avoid scratching the soleplate or adhering paint or plastics to the soleplate.
Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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What’s Under Your Kitchen Sink?

Is your ‘stash it’ place the cabinet under your kitchen sink?  If you’re like me and so many people, it ends up being the place that this-that-and-the-other gets stuffed for lack of a better location or simply to get it out of sight.  When this happens, it’s hard to keep this area tidy and ready for the unexpected leak.

Along with the maze of pipes that live under my sink, we have a RO (reverse osmosis) system which adds a holding tank and filters in addition to a garbage disposal and slide-out waste basket.  With all of that, it would seem that there would be little space for clutter and junk.  NOT!  I’m always amazed what I find in the ‘cave of castoffs’ scattered among the needed and regularly used dish-washing and kitchen cleaning supplies.

Since the RO system requires annual maintenance, my cabinet undergoes purging and cleaning before service and organizing after. The annual review is scheduled so I must move forward with pulling everything out, inventorying, and cleaning to remove dust and crumbs. This is also a good time to note any water stains on the cabinet floor or suspicious signs with any of the pipes, water lines, or faucets inside the cabinet.  (Anything suspicious should be checked out to prevent a plumbing disaster.)

With everything out and an open space to fill, I do something a little different each year to make the space work a little bit better using tips from various organizing experts on what to put back and what to find a new home for—a saga of Store This, Not That.

Not That
(What Not to Store under the Kitchen Sink)

Unused, old, broken or no-long suitable cleaners, sponges, scrub brushes and other castoffs that have accumulated behind closed doors should be discarded. If they might have a life in another capacity, place them with the anticipated activity. I like to keep worn nylon scrubbers and brushes around to wash the mud from garden produce, particularly pumpkins and squash, when they are harvested so I move these item to a container in the garage for this purpose.

Overstock, Refills, or Extra Supplies.  Quantity or bought-ahead, unopened products should go to another storage area.  Several years ago, I established a shelf in our basement for this purpose.  Here I store paper towels, dishwasher tablets, boxes of trash bags, and other like items.  To remind myself of what I have on hand, I leave myself sticky notes.  For example, I only have space for a small container of dishwashing tablets under the sink.  On the lid of the container, I have a sticky note that says “more tabs downstairs.”  As the container empties, I refill from the stash in the basement until the quantity is exhausted; at which time, I pull the sticky note and place the need on the shopping list.

Towels, rags, paper towels, paper bags. All of these items absorb water and odors.  While absorbing water in the event of a leak may be a good thing, it will ruin them.  These items are also prone to odor absorption from other stored items or the waste basket combined with heat and humidity coming from the sink and/or dishwasher.  If the only storage space available for these items is under the sink, they should be stored in closed plastic containers.

Metal items.  With one exception*, tools, pots and pans, metal cookware, or anything else that is prone to rusting does not belong.  This also includes small appliances and light bulbs.  (*Exception will be discussed in Save This.)

Produce, food items, pet food/treats.   Produce and dry foods may mold under the sink. 

Harsh chemicals, flammable products, insecticides.  Bleach, insecticides, solvents, thinners, paints, polishes, and household cleaners have no place under the kitchen sink.  These items need to be stored in the basement, garage, or utility area and away from small children.  Occasionally the containers of these items spring a leak or emit fumes—all of which we do not want in our living areas and especially not in our kitchen.  Further, often a dishwasher sits next to the sink cabinet; heat or an electrical spark and flammable fumes could cause a sudden explosion or fire.

Store This
(What to Store under the Kitchen Sink)

Before putting anything back in the cabinet, consider an absorbent mat for the bottom of the cabinet to absorb a bit of water from a dripping sponge or leaking from a pipe or a stored product.  These mats protect the cabinetry and prevent the formation of mold.  One may also want to consider purchasing clear plastic containers for organizing or protecting items or even installing tiered under-sink organizers to make use of the available vertical space or pull-out racks to keep items from getting lost in the back of the cabinet and bring them forward for easy access. Home improvement and container stores have any number of these items designed to work around the pipes and garbage disposal. The inside of the cabinet doors are an ideal place to mount a towel rack or racks made for storing everything from trash bags to paper towels and sponges.

Cleaning products.  Keep the essentials such as vinegar, dish soap, dishwasher products, cleansers, scrubbers, sponges, brushes, kitchen gloves, and cleansing agents—all of the items needed daily to maintain a clean and healthy kitchen. (If young children are in the home, the doors to the cabinet should be secured with child-proof locks to prevent accidental poisoning from any of these products.) A pull-out rack or a lazy susan is a great way to corral these items and make them easy to access.

Small fire extinguisher.  One should always have a serviceable fire extinguisher in the kitchen in the event of a grease fire.  Under the sink within quick and easy reach is one of the best locations for it.  Before storing, the viability date should be checked and replaced if out of date. Consider mounting the extinguisher to a side wall of the cabinet.

Garbage disposal tool.  The one and only tool that should be stored under the sink is the garbage disposal tool used for unjamming the garbage disposal.  Inevitably this tool gets lost.  Some disposals come with a pocket for storing the tool on the side of the disposal.  If not, consider placing the tool in a ziplock bag and thumb tacking the bag to a cabinet wall making it easy to see and locate when a jam occurs.

Others.  Depending upon space, items such as a vase or two, trash bags, dish towels in plastic containers, small dust pan and brush, and bags for recycling (contained in some manner) may find a home under the sink.

By reclaiming and organizing our under sink space, we make our home safer and more efficient with the added benefit of having just what we need under our sink!  

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Getting the Oven Ready for Holiday Roasting and Baking

Baking for the holidays is about more than sugar cravings. It’s about passing along family traditions, singing or listening to holiday music as you mix, roasting nuts and special meats, and delivering fresh-baked cheer to family, friends and neighbors.

Whether this is your first time for holiday baking and roasting or you’re a pro with the butter-stained recipe cards to prove it, it is a best practice to have your oven ready for what you have planned for it. Because some of us despise the chore of oven cleaning, ovens often become a culinary crime scene!  So before whipping out the ingredients, get that oven in tip-top shape.

Manufacturers recommend that ovens be cleaned every three to six months depending upon how much they are used and spiffed up in between when spillovers of food or grease occur.  Regular oven cleaning improves the quality of the food prepared in it; the aromas of old grease and spilled food can taint the flavor of what is being baked or roasted.

While few look forward to the chore, with the right knowledge and a little elbow grease, oven cleaning needn’t be an overwhelming chore.  Depending upon how the oven will be cleaned a few tools may be necessary—gloves, eye protection, newspaper, paper towels or old towels, cleaning clothes, synthetic scouring pad, and a large garbage bag. I also like the nylon pan scrapers that fit into the palm of your hand as they are excellent for helping to remove those hard-to-remove aged grease spatters and scraping up burned on residue.

Oven Interior

There are three primary ways to clean the oven interior—self-cleaning, chemical oven cleaners, and DIY with baking soda, vinegar, and water.

Self Cleaning.  If you have a self-cleaning oven, check and follow your owner’s manual for detailed instructions. Make sure to wipe up any spillovers or liquid grease to avoid excessive smoking during the cycle and setting off your smoke alarm. Remove any oven accessories and the racks before starting the cycle. The self-clean cycle takes about two hours (exact time varies by oven type) during which the temperature reaches 800-1000 degrees F. Because the extreme heat has the potential to destroy the shiny chrome finish on the racks, it is recommended that they be cleaned outside of the oven (instructions follow).  The oven gives off a tremendous amount of heat during the cycle as well as some toxic fumes. You should stay at home while the oven is self-cleaning just in case anything goes awry but you and your pets should stay out of the kitchen and vent the room as much as possible. When it’s over, you’ll see a white ash on the oven bottom that you’ll need to wipe out once the oven cools. 

Chemical Oven Cleaners.  This is the easiest, fastest process and will remove serious amounts of grease and grime. The caveat is that oven cleaners can be quite caustic, so if you’re sensitive to harsh chemicals or prefer an all-natural approach this is not for you.  There are low- or no-fume products on the market that do work quite well. Carefully follow the directions on the product and be sure to protect the area around the oven with newspaper, paper towels, or old towels.  Remove the racks for cleaning (instructions follow) as well as any other items in the oven.  Spray the entire interior being careful to not get spray on the heating elements of an electric oven or the gas inlet of a gas oven.  Lift the heating element and spray under it. Gloves and eye protection should be worn when using oven spray cleaners. Also be aware that it is possible that using an oven cleaner could affect the surface of the oven; you may experience white or grey discoloration of the surface. Also, due to the porous nature of the oven surface, some of the product may be left behind after the cleaning process and fumes will be detected the first time the oven is turned on.

DIY.  While this may not be the fastest way to clean the oven, it is by far the safest and is appropriate for any oven type.  Begin by removing everything from your oven and protecting the floor beneath your oven with newspapers, paper towels, or old towels.  Mix 1/2 cup of baking soda with 2 to 3 tablespoons of water to make a spreadable paste.  Spread the paste around the inside of the oven using fingers, spatula, or brush covering the entire interior including crevices. Keep the paste away from the heating element of an electric oven and away from the gas inlet of a gas oven. It is also possible to lightly mist the paste with white vinegar in a spray bottle which will cause the paste to bubble and foam.  Close the oven and allow the paste to sit for 30 minutes to 10 – 12 hours, or overnight depending upon the depth of cleaning needed.

After time has elapsed, glove up and begin to rub the surfaces with a synthetic scrubbing pad dipped in vinegar or a plastic scraper to loosen baked on grime.  Wipe down all surfaces with a damp cleaning cloth. If the paste is dry, spray with vinegar to soften and remove.  After all of the paste and grime has been wiped away, spray the oven with vinegar and wipe dry.

Racks

Racks can be cleaned with either chemical oven sprays, ammonia, or with baking soda and vinegar.  If oven sprays or ammonia are used, the work should be done outdoors with rubber gloves and eye protection.  Once the racks are cleaned, washed, rinsed and dried, replace them in the clean oven.

Chemical Oven Sprays.  Lay the racks on a garbage bag that has been cut open, spray the racks with the cleaner, cover, and tuck the bag tightly around the racks and let them sit overnight.  Spray wash them with a garden hose to remove the chemical residue and then wash them with dish detergent in either the kitchen sink or bathtub scrubbing as necessary. Discard the bag used by placing inside of another bag and putting in the trash.

Ammonia. This is the most dangerous method but one that is frequently used.  Place the racks in a large trash bag. Add 2 cups ammonia to the bag. Tightly tie or seal off the bag so that the ammonia cannot leak out and let them sit overnight lying flat. The racks do not have to be coated in the ammonia because the fumes will circulate and do the job. The next day, open the trash bag being cautious of the ammonia and the fumes.  (Avoid inhaling the fumes.)  Spray the racks with a garden hose and then wash with dish detergent followed by a rinse.  Dispose of the ammonia by mixing with water and pouring down the kitchen sink or toilet.  If you have a septic system, the ammonia should be neutralized with baking soda, cat litter, and sand and disposed in the outside trash.  The bag should be sprayed with the garden hose, bagged, and also put in the outside trash.

Baking Soda, Vinegar, and Hot Water.  Place the racks in the bathtub. Plug the tub and sprinkle baking soda on the racks and then pour vinegar on top creating a foam. When the foaming stops, run hot water until the racks are fully covered.  Allow the racks to sit in the water for 10-12 hrs or overnight. Remove racks from the water and scrub with a cleaning cloth, pumice, or synthetic scrubber until all grease and grime is gone.

Pat yourself on the back when the job is done. You might want to reward yourself with a holiday gift by investing about $10 in an easy-to-clean non-stick oven liner that catches spillovers and crumbs and helps prevent the fore mentioned ‘culinary crime scene’.  Be sure to use the liner correctly in your oven.

Lastly, give yourself a break and don’t stress if the oven doesn’t turn out spotless.  The object is to get it clean enough that the grime doesn’t taint anything that is baked or roasted in the oven and the aromas coming from the kitchen are pleasant.  After all, ‘tis the season for a little fun, too!

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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That DECK Job! Cleaning (and Refinishing)

I’ve had an ongoing project for the better part of a month—cleaning and refinishing our more than 30-year old wood deck.  We have a large, second story deck with two flights of steps that I had let cleaning and resealing go for a while as there was ‘hope’ and ‘promise’ that we’d be replacing the wood floor and rails with different materials to reduce maintenance.  For one reason (or excuse) or another, the project has not come about.  As spring came and time outside became more of our normal routine, I found myself knowing I couldn’t go another year looking at the disgusting discoloration and unsightliness.  If a new deck wasn’t to be, something had to be done—and I did!

I started by washing the deck using a power washer to remove as much dirt and debris from the surface as possible.  There are mixed feelings among “professionals” as to whether one should use a power washer.  Concerns suggest that using a power washer may force algae, molds, and fungus deeper into the wood, may cause undo raising of the wood making the deck surface rough, and remove the sealant.  In my case, I had little to lose in regard to removing the sealant and I was willing to take a chance on the other two concerns.  I was careful to use a fan nozzle and keep the wand at a 45-degree angle a foot away from the surface.  The result was amazing!

The second step was to do a thorough scrubbing.  Sometime in the past for a previous cleaning, I had purchased a deck cleaning product for this step; however, it was somewhat toxic and precautions had to be taken to cover vegetation, etc.  Having done so, I still experienced damage to vegetation from the runoff.  Not wanting to repeat history, I used a powered oxygen bleach solution suggested by Decks.com and a 3-ingredient DIY recipe (OxyClean™, Dawn® Dish Detergent, and water) from Bob Villa.com .  I had no damage to any vegetation and the cleaning solution did an amazing job along with my ‘elbow grease’ and a stiff deck brush.  While there are recipes using TSP and bleach, these products are not for me.

Between the power washing and the scrubbing, I found no evidence of the previous sealant so refinishing was definitely needed to preserve the wood, repel water and mildew/mold and block UV rays.  There are numerous products on the market and deciding which one was the best was a task in itself.  Due to COVID-19, all of my research was done online.  After a lot of reading and thinking, I chose a water-based, semi-transparent stain and sealant specifically recommended for older decks.  The cost was greater than using an oil-based product.  However, the cleanup was easy (soap and water), it dried quickly, and had virtually no odor and therefore no volatile organic chemical (VOCs) fumes.  The product was super easy to apply (I used the hand brush on-hands-and-knees method for better control) even though the old deck boards soaked the product like a sponge.  Two coats were applied leaving a flat, natural looking finish upon completion.  There was just enough product left to also spruce up the skirting, rails, and spokes.  Cleaning and refinishing took quite a bit of time as I had to pick my days and times; application of refinishing products should not be done during direct sunlight or wet weather. All of the time and effort spent was well worth it; we are really enjoying the new look of our old deck and hopeful that the resurfacing will last until the ‘promise’ is delivered.

My sister-in-law asked about cleaning a composite deck.  I referred her to the Decks.com website.  After cleaning, she still had stains that were bothersome which lead to the suggestion of trying an environmentally friendly product, Wet & Forget®.  I’ve used this product on our concrete porch and vinyl railing to remove stains and our brick siding to remove barnacles and other biological stains.  It is not an immediate acting product but over time, the stain gradually, almost magically, disappears.  The active ingredient in Wet & Forget® is Alkyl Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride, an ingredient that most consumers already have in their homes in the form of an anti-bacterial wipe or a similar product. (Unlike these products, Wet & Forget® contains a danger warning on its label because the product is a concentrate with 9.9% active ingredient. When diluted with water for application it is only 2% active.)  The product can be applied to a variety of surfaces safely.

Decks take a great deal of abuse from rain, snow, wind and sun. Although we can’t change the weather, we can prolong the life of our decks by regular cleaning and refinishing as necessary.  Regular upkeep will ensure a safe and usable outdoor space.  Sweep leaves and debris off the deck often to prevent stains and mildew.  A fall and spring cleaning is also recommended.  Don’t let safety issues—loose boards, wobbly rails, raised nails/screws—go.  Decks are a great place to enjoy the warm weather, entertain or just sit on the deck and read.

Reference to any commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporate name is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement, recommendation, or certification of any kind. Persons using such products assume responsibility for their use and should make their own assessment of the information and whether it is suitable for their intended use in accordance with current directions of the manufacturer.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Need to wash an quilt?

I have gotten a few calls lately from callers that needed to wash a quilt. We always need to get a bit more information when giving washing directions. It is important to know the age and condition of the quilt along with how the quilt was constructed and quilted. In addition, is the quilt actually soiled or does it need to be freshened?

Callers need to know that a hand pieced and hand quilted quilt is more delicate than one that was assembled and quilted by machine. It is important to know if the quilt has been washed before, as some unwashed fabrics will bleed into the wash water. Often red or other intense color fabrics will run and discolor other fabrics in the quilt. We would advise using cool to cold water to wash this quilt and the use of Shout brand color catchers in the washing machine. Color catchers will adsorb the loose dye preventing dye transfer into other parts of the quilt.

You may want to wash a hand pieced and quilted quilt by hand. Usually the bathtub will be large enough to immerse the quilt and gently agitate the quilt. Letting water out of the tub is easier on the quilt that the spin cycle of a washing machine. You should plan to rinse the quilt by adding clear water and draining the tub several times.

The stitching in a hand pieced or hand quilted quilt is easily broken so it is important not to use a dryer. Air-drying is the recommended technique. If you have access to a clothesline, make a sling of a bed sheet and place the quilt on top to dry is the best option. Never allow the quilt to hang by the wet weight of the quilt. That is a sure way to damage the quilt.

A newer, machine pieced and quilted quilt is safe in the dryer on a gentle setting. It may be best to remove it from the dryer before it is completely dry. Allow it to air dry on a bed.

Please call us if you have other questions about washing a quilt. We love to help.

 

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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Tree Sap?

Parking your car underneath a tree can actually do permanent damage to the finish of your car. It seems that we have all experienced parking under a tree and discovering some sap on the hood or trunk of the car. I always thought this was just a minor inconvenience in life and never worried too much about removing the sap. According to Consumer Reports magazine, “Heat accelerates how sap sticks to the paint. The longer you wait, the harder it is to remove.” Sap left on the car can actually eat through the paint.

The magazine recommends using rubbing alcohol and a soft cloth to remove sap. Test it on an inconspicuous area of the car before attacking the sap on the hood. If rubbing alcohol does not seem to work, some specialized cleaners remove both sap and bug stains. As we do with stains on clothing, wash the car after using either of these products. Waxing the car will help to further protect the finish on the car.

If you find sap on the windows of the car, remove it with a plastic scraper. If necessary, a single edged razor blade can also remove sap. Just be careful not to scratch the glass.

I will look more carefully at my parking spots if I need to park under a tree at my grandsons’ baseball games this summer.

 

 

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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Potato Peelings

We recently had friends spend a long weekend with us and they were telling us about a recent mishap at their house. They were entertaining friends for dinner and were preparing a potato dish. They put the potato peelings down the garbage disposer. You may have guessed what happened next – the drain got totally clogged. Typically things like that happen when it is holiday time and we are preparing food for more people than usual. Plumbers are usually not available at a reasonable price at those times as well!

There are foods you should never put down your garbage disposer. Sometimes it happens though that we forget or a helper in the kitchen is not familiar with foods that should not be disposed of in the garbage disposer. Our friends contacted a plumber but decided to try a few things themselves to unclog the drain and they were successful!

Many of us will probably be making potato salad this Summer so I thought it might be a good reminder to all of us to not put potato peelings down the garbage disposer and also to review some ways to try and unclog a drain on your own.

You may want to try the Baking Soda and Vinegar method: Pour 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar and cover the drain if possible. Let set for a few minutes, then pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain to flush it. The combination of baking soda and vinegar can break down a clog and wash it down the drain. DO NOT use this method after any commercial drain opener has been used or is still present in the standing water.

Another method is using Salt and Baking Soda: Pour 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain. Follow with 6 cups boiling water. Let sit overnight and then flush with water. The hot water should help dissolve the clog and the baking soda and salt serve as an abrasive to break through the clog.

In order to keep your drain running smoothly you may consider pouring a kettle of boiling water down it on a weekly basis to melt fat that may be building up or to put some vinegar and baking soda down the drain to break up fat and keep it smelling fresh.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Hand Dryers vs Paper Towels

We recently had someone reach out to us asking about the sanitation of hand dryers vs paper towels for drying  hands. I noticed as I recently did some traveling that many airports, restaurants and rest areas are going to air hand dryers rather than paper towels. I’m sure it is beneficial to them as a means to keep their restrooms more tidy.  According to the CDC, drying your hands is very beneficial as germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands. But is it more beneficial to us to use a hand dryer or paper towels?

According to an article in the Harvard Health blog from Harvard Medical School, bacteria in a bathroom can form a fecal cloud due to lidless toilets being flushed. That fecal cloud contains many microbes. Fortunately the majority of those microbes do not cause disease in healthy people. For those people in a hospital or with a weakened immune system though this could be a big problem.

As I was beginning to look for pictures to go along with this article the first place I decided to check was our local clinic. I found only paper towel dispensers there. As I did more research I found that is because paper towels are already routine in health care settings.

As was stated in the CDC article, the best way to dry hands remains unclear because few studies about hand drying exist and the results are unclear. There are many factors involved and of course it depends on who is paying for the study. Many are sponsored by either the paper towel industry or the air blower industry with results of course favoring their products. Some studies focused on the effectiveness of the hand drying, some on the cost, some on the carbon footprint, and some on the degree of which bacteria and viruses are deposited on the hands during the drying process.

The Harvard Health study recommended using paper towels as they found them to be the most hygienic way to dry your hands. Another study agreed suggesting paper towels can dry hands efficiently, remove bacteria effectively and cause less contamination of the restroom environment. That same study found that with air dryers people were more likely to incompletely dry their hands or not dry them at all.

The bottom line is to wash your hands effectively and dry them completely with whatever method is available. Don’t let your hands drip dry and don’t dry them on your clothes.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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FOG (Fats, Oils and Grease)

As we continue to enjoy the Holidays with family and friends, I want to remind everyone about something we may not think about often but that could certainly impact a gathering in our homes. If not disposed of properly, fats, oils and grease can build up in the pipes of your home and cause a sewer backup. Those backups are always unpleasant and expensive to repair and there are things we can do to help prevent the backups in the first place. Many food products can lead to a buildup in your homes pipes if not disposed of properly: grease from cooking a turkey in the oven or a deep fat fryer, salad dressing, leftover gravy, cooking oil, butter/margarine, etc.

Here are some tips to help us all avoid having a sewer backup event:

Use a paper towel to remove as much leftover fat, oil and grease as you can on dishes and pans before you wash them.

If you cooked with the fat, oil or grease, let it cool completely then either throw away the fat that has hardened or pour the leftover fat in a sealable container and throw it away in your garbage.

If you have deep fried your turkey, dispose of that oil after each use. If you leave the oil in the fryer to reuse at another time it may attract pests and may not be safe. Many resource recovery plants will accept used cooking oil at no or minimal cost.

By following a few tips in removing fats, oils and grease from our dishes and pans we can save ourselves a lot of stress over clogged pipes in our homes.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Cleaning up the garden tools

Fall is just around the corner and I cannot believe just how quickly the summer has passed. I must admit that I just did not have the time to spend out in the garden that I have had in previous years. We have done some remodeling around our home and the place that I always stored my garden tools has changed. I plan to use the remaining warm summery days to organize and clean up my tools so I can have a great fresh start next summer.

I need to scrub the dry and crusty dirt off my shovel and garden trowels. I will use some hot soapy water and a brush then spray the shovels with the hose. I can apply some WD 40 to the digging surface to prevent rust. My trowel handles are rubber and plastic. I can clean them in the hot soapy water. I will wash the wooden handle of my shovel and wipe it down with some boiled linseed oil.

I plan to wash my shears and trimmers. I will sharpen the blades with a ceramic stone. It is an easy process if you can take the shears apart easily and hold the stone at a slight angle to the blade. A light spray of WD 40 will keep those shears from rusting and will lubricate the blade for easier cutting.

This is also a great time to wash and repair my garden planter. I can organize the planter plates and make sure everything is in working order.

If I need to repair any tools or replace them, fall is a great time to purchase the replacements. Often stores are clearing out their summer stock and I may find a bargain.

If I spend some time organizing my tools, discarding old seed, and making sure that garden chemicals are stored correctly I know I will be motivated to take better care of my tools.

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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