As the garden produce has come into the kitchen, so have the fruit flies. Fruit flies are those pesky tiny insects harboring around the kitchen with reddish eyes and are attracted to anything fruit or vegetable in the area. Beyond being a nuisance, they can also carry harmful bacteria. They multiply rapidly so if not controlled quickly, a small problem becomes a big problem.
One of the best ways to control fruit flies in the home is to practice excellent sanitation, eliminate rotting fruits and vegetables and keep as much food in the refrigerator as possible. Keep counters, sinks, and drains clean at all times–even the dishwasher. Trash should be kept tied and taken out frequently, and compost scraps should not be allowed to pileup on the counter. Cracked or damaged portions of fruits and vegetables should be cut off and discarded immediately to prevent infestation.
Chemical control is not recommended; however, you can make your own traps using attractants commonly found in the kitchen such as cider vinegar, wine or even a small piece of fruit. Put a small amount of the attractant in a glass or jar, cover with a plastic wrap that fits tightly to the glass, and poke very small holes in the plastic. Fruit flies will enter the glass but find themselves trapped. The University of Nebraska offered another simple trap using yeast and sugar.
Once you’ve done the work to kill or trap fruit flies, keep them from coming back with these preventative measures:
1. Keep the counter clean. Fruit flies don’t just like to eat fruit; they also like spilled food, crumbs, spilled juice — just about anything. Wipe your counters frequently throughout the day and dry thoroughly.
2. Wash any produce coming into the home. Fruit flies piggyback their way into our homes on fruits and vegetables. By washing fruit and vegetables, you get rid of any eggs that may have been laid on the produce.
3. Keep produce covered or in the refrigerator. If produce must sit on the counter, be sure that it is fully contained and covered.
4. Remove odors immediately. If something smells, chances are it will attracts fruit flies, too. Clean drains, garbage cans, pet bedding, litter boxes and similar things.
Female fruit flies lay 100 or more eggs per day. With the possibility of new eggs hatching, a couple of weeks of diligence will be necessary. Continue using traps, depriving them of food and water, and stepping up sanitary procedures to keep them from breeding and eventually eliminating them from the home.
As I am sitting at work today between phone calls, I am reflecting on the tornados and damage that happened in Iowa yesterday. I have a daughter and family that live in Marshalltown. Their home had no damage and they were lucky enough to finish dental appointments early and be off the road and safe in their basement before the tornado hit.
Fortunately, there were no lives lost in the tornados that struck our state. There was a lot of property damage. Electricity is out in many homes and businesses, which leads to questions about food safety. We are always happy to help callers determine which foods to keep and which foods to discard. If your power has been off for a long time, remember to check the condition and temperature in the freezer and refrigerator when the power comes back on. Give us a call and we can help you keep your family safe.
Sometimes callers have damaged property from flooding or landing in the mud after a storm. Call us at AnswerLine and we can try to help you salvage property and prevent the growth of mold on your damaged possession.
The AnswerLine staff really care about our callers and we want to help you as much as we can. Please call us as often as you need an answer and know that we do not mind visiting with a caller as often as necessary.
Just yesterday, a caller wanted to know how to remove a sunscreen stain from a leather car seat. Leather can be tricky to clean and stains easily, so I had to do some research to find an answer for the caller. Since the weather has been hot and sunny lately, I thought other people might have the same problem.
If you want to clean it with materials you already have on hand, follow these directions:
- First, blot up any excess lotion on the seat. Be careful to blot and not wipe. Wiping the stain can spread it and make a larger stain.
- Next, get some cornstarch or some baking soda. You will need enough to sprinkle over the entire stain. Before you apply the starch or soda, lightly rub the spot. Friction can heat the stain and allow you to adsorb more of the lotion before sprinkling the starch or soda.
- Once you have covered the stain with cornstarch or baking soda, allow it to sit on the stain overnight. The next morning, check the spot. If the cornstarch or baking soda have yellowed, then they have adsorbed some of the stain. If you can still see some of the stain, you can repeat the treatment.
- If the stain remains, it may be time to use a leather cleaner.
- You can always contact the dealership that sold you your car as they often have leather care kits for use on the seats. If they do have a kit available, use both the cleaner and then the conditioner after cleaning the seat.
Don’t let a stain keep you from protecting your skin with sunscreen this summer.
In the last two years, several of the AnswerLine staff members have remodeled their kitchens and bathrooms. During the remodeling process, a big topic is always what sort of countertops are the best for my situation and what kind of maintenance will the countertops require. I have done a bit of research on several of the existing options.
Granite counters are very popular right now. They do not require a lot of maintenance but it is a good idea to wash the counters regularly with a soapy cloth to prevent stains. Blotting spills with paper towels eliminates the possibility that you will spread a stain while swiping it with a cloth. Acidic cleaners like lemon juice, ammonia, and window cleaner may damage granite counters. Instead, you can make your own cleaner with three parts of dish detergent and one part rubbing alcohol.
Granite countertops need to be sealed several times a year. Test yours to see if the previous seal has worn away. Place a few drops of water on the countertop and check for beading. If the water beads up, the counter does not need to be resealed. If it does not bead up, then seal the counter with a granite stone sealer. Follow the directions on the package. If you are sealing kitchen countertops, be sure that the sealing compound is non-toxic. Apply sealer to clean countertops and allow it to rest for a half hour or so. Sealing the countertop will not eliminate the chance of staining but it will help the granite be more resistant to staining.
Quartz countertops are also very popular right now. I chose them for my kitchen because they do not require sealing. Quartz is actually a manufactured product, made of quartz stone and a synthetic polymer. They are very easy to care for and do not require polishing. I clean my countertops with a warm, wet dishcloth. Clean spills and sticky foods as soon as the spill occurs to avoid stains. Glass and surface cleaners will not damage quartz surfaces. However, avoid bleach and harsh, acidic cleaners on quartz as well as granite surfaces. In addition, hot pans set directly on the quartz countertops can cause damage.
Marble countertops are not quite as popular as granite and quartz. Marble is a porous surface even though it is very durable. Remember to use only mild dish soap and warm water to clean marble. Test your marble counter top every couple of months to see if the marble needs to be resealed. Test marble in the same manner you test granite. If needed, apply the sealer over clean countertops and let it sit on the countertop for about 30 minutes.
Soapstone is another choice for stone countertops. This stone is very durable and hard to scratch or etch. Soapstone is a non-porous surface that is hard to stain and is tolerant of hot pans. Remember that soapstone can be damaged by dropping heavy objects on it. Soapstone is more likely to dent than scratch or chip. Soapstone does not need to be sealed, but like a butcher block counter, it does need to regular oiling. Oil the counter by spreading some mineral oil on the surface. Use a towel to rub the oil into the stone. Leave for 30 minutes and the remove excess oil. Not oiling the surface will result in dark spots showing on the surface of the stone—over time. Again, harsh or acidic cleaners are not recommended.
We are lucky to have so many different choices for countertops these days. Stone countertops do not require much more care than my old Formica countertops and I do enjoy the look of stone.
Are ants finding their way into your home this Spring/Summer? AnswerLine receives calls on a regular basis from callers looking for ways to get rid of those pesky ants.
Ants are typically trying to get in looking for nutrition and/or shelter so the first thing to do is eliminate any food or water sources the ants would be attracted to including rinsing out recycling containers before putting them in the storage bin.
If there appears to be nothing the ants might be looking for but they are still coming in, clean the infested area with soapy water or an ammonia window cleaner. If you can find the entry point where the ants are getting in you can seal it with petroleum jelly until you can silicon caulk the opening.
There are pesticide-free sprays on the market that can be effective in getting rid of ants. The safest homemade remedy to deter ants is to mix equal parts water and white vinegar and spray on the paths.
If you can identify the type of ant you are trying to get rid of you can be more specific in what you use. There are hundreds of different species of ants found in the United States but only a fraction of those are actually found in or around homes and buildings. Observation and baiting with sticky traps can be important steps in the beginning to help determine where the ants might be coming from or where they are most active.
Terro is a commercial product you can purchase that typically has good results. Be sure to read the instructions for storage and usage if you have children and/or pets in the house. Terro makes products to treat ants both inside and outside the home.
Ants are Springtime house guests that are never welcome. With a little bit of diligence we should all be able to keep our homes ant free.
If you haven’t already heard or read, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will be issuing new cards to beneficiaries beginning in April. The cards will automatically be mailed to all 58-60 million current beneficiaries. Beneficiaries don’t need to do anything to receive one beyond watching their mailbox. However, if there has been an address change, beneficiaries should contact the Social Security Administration (SSA), which will be preparing and mailing the cards, at ssa.gov/myaccount or by calling 800-772-1213.
The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015, required the removal of Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from all Medicare cards by April 2019. The new cards will feature a randomly assigned Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) made up of 11 letters and numbers rather than the beneficiary’s social security number that is currently used to help prevent identity theft. The MBI will replace the SSN for Medicare transactions like billing, eligibility, and claims.
Recently the CMS released information as to when beneficiaries can expect to receive their new card. The mailing schedule is as follows:
Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia: April-June 2018
Alaska, American Samoa, California, Guam, Hawaii, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon: April-June 2018
Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin: After June 2018
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont: After June 2018
Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina: After June 2018
Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming: After June 2018
Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Virgin Islands: After June 2018
Beneficiary benefits won’t change under the new MBI and there is NO charge for the card. Sadly, scammers are already at work. Beneficiaries should beware of anyone who contacts them about their replacement Medicare cards. CMS officials will never ask a beneficiary for personal or private information or for any money as a condition of getting a new Medicare number and card.
This would be a good time to prepare elderly parents, relatives, or friends for the change and warn them of any possible phone or internet scams regarding the new card as well as check addresses with the SSA. Since most Midwest beneficiaries won’t begin receiving the new cards until June 2018 or later, there is time to act. Just don’t forget to do so!
For additional information, check the CMS new card info site.
Recently a friend emailed me asking how to clean an electric programmable pressure cooker (EPPC) so that it didn’t retain the smells of previous cooked foods. This friend is certainly not the only one asking this question. In fact, after I got my own EPPC, I had the same concern. In my search for advice, I encountered lots of stories and advice from other EPPC owners with one owner even claiming to have found maggots growing in the condensation collector! True or not, there are at least eight parts of any EPPC that should be cleaned after every use and it only takes minutes to do: the inner pot, base, trivet, lid, silicone ring, pressure valve, condensation collector, and the anti-block shield. With the exception of the base, all of these parts are dishwasher safe with most manufacturers. The cooker base must be kept dry but can be wiped with a damp cloth.
It is always best to consult the manual that came with the EPPC for the best way to clean the appliance, but we know how manuals get misplaced or sometimes really don’t provide much information. Another source is to look online for the EPPC manufacturer and hopefully find care information; however, this may not be possible with some generic EPPC brands. One EPPC manufacturer, InstantPot, provides great care and cleaning tips. While the tips may be specific to InstantPot, they would be useful for other EPPCs as well if information cannot be found from a specific manufacturer.
If after all of these areas have been cleaned properly and a lingering odor is still detected, it is likely coming from the silicon sealing ring as it does hold food odors. I have found three ways to help defuse those odors: soaking the ring in vinegar, turning the lid upside down between uses or leaving the ring exposed to air, and placing a small box of baking soda in the unit between uses. Other suggestions I’ve read include putting the ring in the sun, wiping the ring with a stainless steel soap disc, soaking or steaming in lemon water and baking soda, or purchasing two rings, one for savory and one for sweet. If one does opt for a second sealing ring or needs to replace a ring, be sure to get genuine manufactured parts to ensure the EPPC will work correctly and safely.
Another concern EPPC users have is with the gradual discoloration of the stainless steel inner pot. If it is turning a blue-yellow, white vinegar will bring it back to it’s original luster. The procedure is to let white vinegar stand in the pot for at least 5 minutes and then rinse with water. If the bottom of the pot is dulled perhaps due to sautéing or hard water, I have found that a small amount of baking soda or a non-abrasive scouring cleanser like Bar Keepers Friend Liquid Cleanser on a damp cloth or sponge does an excellent job of bringing back the original shine after rinsing and drying. Don’t use anything metallic for scouring because it will damage the finish!
These are the suggestions that I gave my friend as they seem to work well for me. If you are an EPPC user and have additional suggestions, I’d love to hear your tips!
While spring isn’t quite here, it’s not too early to set some time aside to clean your medicine cabinet, drawer, or shelf. To some extent, most people welcome spring with a little extra attention to mopping, dusting, or vacuuming away winter’s dust and dirt. While the windows may shine and the house and yard look fresh, the medicine cabinet remains untouched with a variety of forgotten old prescription bottles and OTC medications that “might come in handy someday” still on the shelf. Likely some of these medications have expired and may cause more harm than good.
I’m guilty of keeping them too long myself. Largely I forget about them and as long as I don’t need anything from the medicine cabinet, they are out of sight and out of mind. Since it is a common problem, different groups have initiated “Take Back” or cleaning times to call attention to the issue. Twice each year we have “National Prescription Drug Take Back Day” when consumers are encouraged to return unused or old medicine to their pharmacies, hospitals, or drop-off sites. The first one in 2018 will be April 28; there will be a second in the fall, usually in October. We also have National Spring Cleaning Week the last week in March when medicine cabinet cleaning is encouraged as part of the spring cleaning routine.
What should consumers do the rest of the year to safely dispose of medicines if they are unable to utilize the designated drop-off times? The FDA offers instructions on how to safely dispose of medicines by flushing unwanted drugs down the toilet and for placing them in the garbage. The downside of these alternatives are that drugs that are flushed can taint our rivers, lakes, and water supplies. Drugs in the trash are a potential hazard to the environment and may be found accidently by children or pets, or scavenging teens or adults looking for a high. In 2014 the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) authorized pharmacies and hospitals to take back drugs designated as controlled substances any time from a consumer wishing to surrender them; prior to that time, controlled substances had to be surrendered to law enforcement. Controlled substances include opioid painkillers like Oxycontin, stimulants like Adderall, and depressants like Ativan. Drop-off is completely free and anonymous.
Now there’s a new alternative. Since 2016, the drugstore chain, Walgreens, has been installing safe medication disposal kiosks across the nation. Not every store has one so to find a kiosk in your area, visit Store Locator. The kiosks provide a safe and convenient way to dispose of unwanted, unused or expired prescriptions, including controlled substances, and over-the-counter medications, ointments and creams, liquids, lotions, pet medications, prescription patches, and vitamins and supplements at no cost.
Certain medications or items are not accepted at the kiosks including needles, inhalers, aerosol cans, hydrogen peroxide, thermometers, and illicit drugs. As part of Walgreens drug take-back program, the kiosks make the disposal of medications easier and are available year-round during pharmacy hours to help reduce the misuse of medications and the rise in overdose deaths.
Here are some tips to get you started on extending your spring cleaning to your medicine cabinet:
Check the dates. Examine everything in the medicine cabinet, including ointments, supplements and vitamins. Discard any item that is beyond the expiration date and any prescription medications that are more than a year old. It is important to note that the expiration date really refers to that product unopened. Once a medication has been opened and used, the clock starts ticking on its shelf life as contamination has been introduced. Medications and vitamins may lose their effectiveness or potency after the expiration date. Some may even become toxic. Therefore, write the date you opened it on the container and after one year, get rid of all things opened or partially used.
Discard any items that have changed color or smell funny. Regardless of the expiration or use by date, these items should be disposed. This includes any colors that have faded, because they may have been exposed to too much light
Discard unmarked containers. If something is no longer in its original container or cannot be identified, get rid of it. Medications should always be kept in their original containers so that they are easily recognized. This includes ointments, since these can easily be mistaken for creams.
Dispose of medication and medical supplies properly and carefully. Because of the potential harm to the environment or to humans or pets, it is not recommended to simply throw out medication or flush them down the toilet. If you must do so, follow the FDA recommendations. Consider the disposal options aforementioned and utilize whichever works best for you.
Most collection sites won’t accept asthma inhalers, needles, insulin syringes or any other syringes, marijuana, mercury thermometers, and medications containing iodine. For disposal information and drop-off locations for syringes, needles, and other injectables—for example,for example, expired EpiPens—go to Safe Needle Disposal or call 800-643-1643. When in doubt about how to safely dispose of a medication or medical device, check with your pharmacist.
Remove any personal identifying information on the prescription label. Prior to disposal or container recycling either remove the label or black out any personal information including the RX number. Also be sure the container is clean before recycling.
Inspect adhesive bandages. Bandages and tapes have a limited lifespan, too, and should be replaced before their adhesive breaks down.
Lastly, consider relocating your medicine cabinet. The bathroom is not the best place to store medication. The temperature and humidity changes that come with the shower running can lower the potency of some medicines. Medications should be kept in a cool dry place, away from children, pets, and scavengers. Consider a locked drawer or a locked box on a shelf.
It’s smart to undertake a medicine-cabinet cleaning every spring. An annual review of prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, and medical products can help keep us safe and healthy. Using an old product won’t necessary land you in the ER, but it could or it may not work effectively thereby wasting you money, affecting your health, or possibly delaying your recovery. Further, if the medicine isn’t on the shelf, it can’t be accidently used, incorrectly used, or abused.
While I enjoyed many holiday conversations with family and friends, the one that sticks out the most in my mind was a conversation about car odors. Oh, the stories and oh, the laughs! I’m not sure how we got to the conversation, but it certainly flickered an idea for a blog when someone asked, “So how do you get rid of those smells?”
Anyone who has lived with children—newborn to teenagers—and animals, and have carted them around from one event to the next in the mom-mobile, knows those smells—spit up/vomit, diapers/urine, milk, French fries, mustard, ketchup, apple juice, dirty or wet clothes and shoes, coffee, peanut butter, dog breath, wet dog, cigarette smoke, etc.
The smell of a new car is intoxicating but quickly disappears with human use. If you’d like to regain a bit of that new-car smell, here’s some tips. I make no promise that these tips will return you vehicle to a showroom quality smell but do promise a clean, fresh, and better smelling car to enjoy.
- Pick a sunny day to clean, if possible. Throw away all the trash, dirt, and refuse. Remove the floor mats, child seats, and child seat mats.
- Thoroughly vacuum the carpet and seats. The headliner may also be vacuumed. If the odors are particular strong, sprinkle baking soda on the carpet and cloth seats and let sit for several hours before vacuuming.
- Use vehicle cleaning wipes or a wet cloth to wipe down the dash board, the inside of the doors, door rests, steering wheel, seat belts, seats, seat backs, and other surfaces. Be sure to get between the seats and seat backs where spills can reside and go unnoticed. If there are food spills on seats or carpet, use a wet cloth to gently rub and wash the spill away as much as possible. A 50/50 white vinegar and water solution in a clean spray bottle is good for cleaning as well as eliminating odors. Use a lint-free or microfiber cloth for wiping. There will be no residual vinegar smell once it has dried. Vinegar water is quite effective even on cigarette smoke.
- Clean the floor mats. Use warm water and a few drops of dish soap water. Place the mats on a flat surface (maybe the driveway) and scrub the mats with a soft scrubbing brush and the solution. Rinse the mats and hang them to dry before placing back in your car.
- Use a leather cleaner to clean leather seats following the manufactures directions.
- Shine the inside window glass, mirrors, screens, and light covers using the vinegar/water solution or your favorite window cleaner and a lint-free cloth to wipe.
- Launder the infant/child seat covers and thoroughly clean the plastic liner, base, and lock- down belts with the vinegar/water solution.
- If you are a fan of commercial odor neutralizers, hanging car fresheners, or essential oils, use them sparingly in your freshly cleaned car. Some of them can undo the cleaning, scrubbing and elbow grease you just put into your vehicle. Most of these products simply mask the odor rather than solve them; further, they may give off irritating odors for those who are sensitive to them.
Once you have a clean smelling car, try to keep it that way. Place a container or containers of some sort in the vehicle for collecting refuse or containing equipment. Take a couple of minutes after every event or trip to make sure all equipment, dirty clothes, food wrappers, etc., are removed from the vehicle. Clean up spills right away or as soon as possible. Seal sweaty clothes/shoes or dirty diapers in garbage or zip bags. Do a weekly cleaning as often as possible and a thorough cleaning three or four times annually.
And if these DIY tips don’t bring the relief that you seek, replace the cabin air filter in your vehicle. You may also want to consider a professional cleaning job. Additional sources of help are air filtration products that can be purchased. Two favorites are an air purifier (Frieg, $20) that can be plugged into the power outlet and a compact filtration system (Philips Go-Pure, $144) that attaches to the back of a seat. Both of these products are designed to improve air quality by eliminating smoke, pollen, dust, and other irritants.
Here’s to a healthier, happier, smell-free ride!