As much as we try to be healthy cooks and eaters, a lot of fats, oils, and grease (FOG) are used at Holiday time. Leftover fats, oils, and grease are not to be poured down the drain, through the dishwasher or garbage disposal, or toilet. Once FOG cools, it will solidify and begin blocking the drain. It slowly begins to coat the inside of pipes which will restrict water flow and cause a back-up resulting in inconvenience and potential costs to the homeowner which always seems to happen at the most inopportune time.
The safe way to dispose of FOG is to put it in your garbage or compost. There are a few things you can and should do before disposing of it. Number one is to remove excess FOG from dishes and pans before washing in either the sink or dishwasher. You can do this by using paper towels or even coffee filters. Throw the used paper towels or coffee filters away in your regular garbage.
If you have cooked something that needs to have the FOG drained from it (bacon, ground beef, etc), collect the grease in a container. An aluminum foil lined bowl works great for this. Once the grease is cool you can squeeze the foil closed and dispose of the package in your regular garbage.
Are you planning to deep fry a turkey for the Holidays? If so, remember to dispose of the cooled used oil after cooking. It is not safe to leave the oil in the fryer as it attracts pests and may turn rancid.
There are chemicals on the market that claim to dissolve grease. In most instances those chemicals only move the problem further down the line. Many of those chemicals are also not allowed by city ordinances.
With a little effort on all of our parts we can avoid expensive plumbing mistakes by safely disposing of fats, oils, and grease.
Many of you have probably finished your home canning for the season. As you are selecting your jars for use make sure you examine each jar for spoilage. What should you be looking for? First of all make sure the lid is tight and a vacuum seal was created. Look for any streaks of dried food on the outside of the jar. As you look at the contents inside the jar, see if you can detect cloudy canning liquid, rising air bubbles, or any unnatural colors. When you open the jar make sure you do not see any mold growing. Also pay attention to any spurting liquid or odd smells. These things are good indicators of food spoilage. Never taste the food from a jar that you suspect has been spoiled. You will also want to dispose of it properly.
If the jars are still sealed but show signs of spoilage, you can leave the jar intact but write on the jar that it is spoiled or poisonous and to not eat it. You can place those jars in a heavyweight garbage bag, close the bag, and place it in your regular trash container or dispose of it in your nearby landfill.
If the jars are not sealed they should be detoxified before being disposed of. In order to do that you will want to first of all protect yourself by wearing rubber or plastic gloves. Remove the lids from the jars. Carefully place the jars in a large pan on their sides. Add the lids to the pan as well. Add water to the pan until it reaches one inch above the jars. Cover the pan and bring the water to a boil. Boil for 30 minutes to detoxify the possible botulism toxin in the food. Once the food and lids have cooled you can throw them away in your regular trash. Wash the jars and the pan you used in hot soapy water.
To decontaminate any surfaces that the spoiled food may have come in contact with, spray or wet the surface with a solution of one part bleach to five parts water and let it sit for 30 minutes. If you are decontaminating metal utensils, use one teaspoon bleach to one quart of water and again let it sit for 30 minutes. Use paper towels to wipe up any treated spills. Discard of the paper towels in a plastic bag before putting them in your regular trash.
Spoilage in home canned food does happen. Make sure you examine your jars carefully before serving any not only to your family and friends but pets as well.
Now that the weather has changed it is time to store all the spring and summer clothing away and make room for the warm winter clothing. It can be tempting to pack things away without examining them for stains. Sometimes we don’t notice a stain on a piece of clothing but when we get the clothing out of storage, the stains are very noticeable and sometimes hard to remove. These stains can be caused by sugary foods or even perspiration that was not removed before storing the garment.
It would be best to launder or dry clean all the summer clothing and store it in a way that will keep it clean and free of pests until it is needed again. Be sure that clothing is completely dry before storing as your clothing might develop mildew if stored damp. Large plastic tubs with tight fitting lids work well to keep dust out of clothing. Additionally, it will keep out insects like Asian lady beetles and prevent mice from making a nest in your favorite outfit. If a tub has clear sides, it is easier to know what is in the container. Better or more formal items can be stored on hangers. Allow enough room between hangers that new wrinkles are not pressed into the garment.
Cleaning these summer items doesn’t need to be a huge project. You can keep a large plastic bin near where you do laundry and add a few summer items to each load of laundry you do for the next several weeks. Simply fold and place the dry clean clothing into the bin as you do your regular laundry.
When the seasons change again, you can remove the summer things and begin cleaning and storing the winter clothes. Be sure that all your sweaters and other woolen items are clean and stored in an air tight container. That will prevent damage from clothing moths. It is so discouraging to find a hole in one of your favorite sweaters when it can be prevented so easily. If you would like more information on clothing moths, Iowa State University has an interesting article. Moth balls or granules are no longer recommended for storing woolens, they can be caustic and irritating and difficult to remove the odor when you take the clothing out of storage.
I’m still in the process of getting all our summer clothing stored; when I’m done I will be glad to have more room in my closet.
With kids back in school, it’s probably only a matter of time until you hear about head lice. Anyone who comes in close contact with someone who already has head lice is at risk for acquiring head lice as they are easily transmitted from head to head. Preschool and elementary-school children and their families are most often infected. While head lice infestation is very common and has been around for centuries, they are contagious, an annoyance and disruption to family life, and sometimes tough to get rid of—been there, done that!
The head louse is a tiny, wingless parasitic insect that lives among human hairs and feeds on tiny amounts of blood drawn from the scalp. While they are frustrating to deal with, they aren’t dangerous as they don’t spread disease. However, their bites make a child’s head itchy and scratching can lead to infection. It is best to treat head lice quickly once they are found as they spread easily from person to person.
Head scratching is usually the first sign that your child has head lice. However, when scratching is noticed, the child already has an active case. Therefore, it is best to check your child’s scalp weekly for nits (lice eggs) by parting the child’s hair into small sections and looking particularly near the scalp, around and behind the ears, and near the neckline at the back of the head. Even though small, nits can be seen by the naked eye. Adult lice lay eggs on the hair shafts close to the scalp; nits look like dandruff, but can’t be removed by brushing or shaking them off. The eggs hatch within 1 to 2 weeks after they have been laid. After hatching, the egg casing remains firmly attached to the hair shaft and the newly immerged nymphs, smaller than a sesame seed with six tiny legs, are on the move seeking blood to survive. Nymphs become adults within 1 to 2 weeks and are gray-white in color and about the size of a sesame seed. Nymphs and adults are often harder to spot as they move fast. See the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website for pictures of the various lice stages and for the best information on how to treat lice.
Lice cannot jump or survive long without a human host. They cannot spread to pets as they can only survive on human blood. They are spread by direct contact with the hair of an infested person. Cleaning is a necessary part of ridding the home of head lice. Here are some simple, but time consuming, ways to get rid of lice and prevent re-infestation:
- Wash all bed linens and clothing that’s been recently worn by the infested person in very hot water; dry with the hot cycle of the dryer for at least 20 minutes.
- Put stuffed animals and non-washable items in airtight bags for at least 3 days. Place the bags in the garage or someplace away from constant human contact.
- Vacuum carpets and upholstered furniture (car seats, too); dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag in an airtight bag away from the home.
- Clean hair-care items like combs, barrettes, hair ties or bands, headbands, and brushes by soaking in rubbing alcohol or medicated shampoo for an hour. If tolerated, these items can also be washed in the dishwasher.
Finally, know that having head lice is NOT a sign of poor hygiene or a dirty home. They are a problem for all mankind. Remind your kids to avoid head-to-head contact with other children and avoid sharing brushes and hair/head attire. Most importantly, help them understand that while having lice can be embarrassing, they have not done anything wrong and they are not dirty.
Our family has a longstanding tradition of going out to the cemeteries and decorating the graves of family members who have died before us. We typically visit six different cemeteries and clean and decorate the graves with artificial flowers. This is the one time of the year that we pack all the tools and water we will need to clean those gravestones that are dirty or show a bit of mildew. Our grandchildren really enjoy using the brush and water to clean the stones. I was thinking about this upcoming trip and wondered if there were any better options for cleaning headstones than just water and a soft brush.
I’ve learned through my searches that if the grave stone has any flakes or cracks in it, you should be extremely careful so that you don’t do any additional damage while cleaning it. It was interesting to learn that most of the cleaners I would be tempted to use may do some damage to the stone. Avoid house hold cleaners like, borax, Spic and Span, Fantastik, Formula 409, muriatic acid, or phosphoric acid. These strong acids or bases (depending on the cleaner) are corrosive and could damage the headstone. It is important to remember to clean the stone from the bottom up to avoid streaking.
Lighter colored stones that show some moss, mildew, or algae growth can be cleaned using a cup of household ammonia mixed into a gallon of water. Be sure to rinse with clear water after cleaning. If there is lichen growing on the headstone you can clean it with one part of ammonia in four parts of water. Again, remember to rinse with clear water.
Use a very soft brush for scrubbing; a brush that would not damage the finish on your car would be suitable. Pre-wetting the stone will prevent the cleaning solution from being adsorbed into the headstone. Once you have cleaned a headstone this thoroughly, you will not need to clean it again for about ten years. Cleaning more frequently can cause deterioration of the stone. I plan to make up both ammonia solutions and pack some extra gallons of clear water for my trip next week. I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with the grandchildren soon.
As part of Spring cleaning it is a good idea to check expiration dates on items you have held over from previous years. Sunscreen is one of those products that can lose it’s effectiveness over time. Sunscreens are designed to remain at original strength for up to 3 years. If yours has an expiration date on it and it is past the date, you should discard it. If the sunscreen has no expiration date on it, you should date it when you purchase it and discard after 3 years. If you notice any changes in color or consistency you should discard the product regardless of the expiration date.
If you are using sunscreen correctly it should not last too long. The recommendation is to apply generously and frequently using 1 ounce to cover exposed body parts and reapplying every 2 hours. If you are swimming or perspiring a lot you should apply more frequently. If you buy a 3 or 4 ounce container of sunscreen you would use it up pretty quickly.
To maximize protection it is best to use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 up to 50. There is little evidence to suggest SPF 50+ offers better protection. Sunscreen should be applied even on slightly cloudy or cool days.
Sunscreens work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. They contain chemicals that interact with the skin to protect it from UV rays. All sunscreen products do not have the same ingredients so if your skin reacts badly to one, try another.
Sunscreens can break down in the heat so be sure to store them in a cool place. The glove box or trunk of your car would not be good storage spots.
Enjoy the feeling you get after a good day of Spring cleaning!
AnswerLine calls are a great resource for blog topics. Today’s blog comes from an AnswerLine caller who wanted to know how to clean cooking grease from a painted kitchen wall.
Grease stains on any surface can be an intimidating problem. They are both unsightly and difficult to remove. Due to meal preparations involving cooking, sauteing and frying, the kitchen is the most common area in the home where grease stains occur; not only are the spatters of concern, but also the fine mist that gradually collects on walls and other surfaces. The longer grease, and especially cooking grease, is left on any surface, the more difficult it is to remove; over time it tends to gel and bond to the host surface. Further, the more porous the surface is, the more difficult the grease is to remove. Even after the stickiness is gone, there is often some discoloration to the surface, especially a painted wall, which will likely require repainting. Since one can never be totally sure that all the grease has been removed, it is a good idea to prime the wall with a KILZ paint to make sure that the stain will not eventually show through the new paint.
Here’s some common household items that will help remove grease stains from painted walls:
- White vinegar. Mix one part white vinegar with one part hot water. Use a spray bottle to apply the solution to the grease. Allow it to set for several minutes and then wipe with a clean rag. Work in small areas and repeat as many times as necessary to get the wall clean. If the area is large, use several rags to collect the grease.
- Baking soda. Make a paste of three tablespoons of baking soda with one cup of warm water. Work the paste into the grease stain. Gently rub the area with a nylon scrubber until the stain disappears. Wipe clean with a clean damp rag.
- Ammonia. Mix two cups of household ammonia with one gallon of hot water. Use a spray bottle to apply the solution and scrub with a nylon sponge or brush to remove the stains. Gloves and ventilation are a must when using ammonia.
- TSP (Trisodium Phosphate). TSP is a strong cleaner. It can cause irritation and even burn if it is used incorrectly. Wear rubber gloves, safety goggles, and long sleeves to protect your skin and eyes. Surfaces outside of the affected area should be protected from TSP splashes as it can discolor or de-gloss paint, wood, and metal. A solution of ¼ cup TSP per gallon of very warm water is a good place to start. For heavy grease build up, increase the ratio to ½ cup TSP per gallon of water. Use a sponge to apply the solution, wringing out the sponge to avoid dripping. Working from the bottom up reduces streaking. Allow the solution to sit on the wall for two minutes to soften the grease before scrubbing with a nylon scrub pad. Rinse the affected area thoroughly as any residue left on the wall could prevent paint from adhering.
The wind is a blowin’ and the leaves are a fallin’. It’s that time of the year to rake those leaves OR not? Most people rake their leaves because their neighbors do and they want to avoid the condescending glares for not doing it OR they were taught that leaves can suffocate a lawn. For years, we have been raking and bagging leaves because when leaves pile up with wet, heavy snow, it can mean problems for the grass below due to suffocating or snow mold (a fungal disease that attacks turf). So how should fall leaves be managed?
To begin, it is no longer acceptable to send leaves off to the landfill where they take up space and generate harmful gases. So if your town or county doesn’t offer leaf composting as part of its leaf removal program, other options need to be considered to keep the leaves out of the waste stream, appease your neighbors, and better your lawn or garden. K-State Research and Extension offers some great solutions for getting rid of fall’s abundant leaves that include mulching, composting, stockpiling, and incorporating.
If you’d rather not rake and bag, mow mulching may work for you. The leaves are mowed and left on the turf to degrade and returned to the soil. Research at Michigan State (MSU) has shown leaf mulching to be efficient and benefit the lawn when properly done. Besides cutting down on the need for fertilizers and other chemicals, the decomposing pieces of leaves cover bare spots between turf plants where weed seeds germinate. MSU research has shown a reduction in dandelions and crabgrass after adopting this practice for just three years.
Composting may require raking or mowing with a catcher. The horticulturalists at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offer some great suggestions on constructing and managing compost piles. While this option will take some time, the leaves will be reduced to wonderful organic matter usable in the garden.
Shredding and stockpiling leaves in bags or containers allow the leaves to be used as garden mulch the following spring and then tilled into the soil at the end of the season for added organic matter.
Leaves can be incorporated into the garden in the fall; Mother Nature will compost them over the winter. To do so spread a couple inches over the garden and work into the soil.
Not all of these solutions will work for everyone, but with a little thought, we can all do our part to keep the leaves out of the waste stream, be a good neighbor, and benefit our own lawn and gardens.
Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are all things that we want to avoid when spending time hiking, camping or even golfing (can you tell I have looked for a few golf balls in the woods). The first and most important part of prevention is learning to identify the plants. The attached links show what these plants look like to help you to know which ones to avoid when you are out having fun!
Here are some things to remember if you come in contact with any of these plants.
- It is important to wash the oil off as quickly as possible with soap and water. The oil enters the skin quickly and can leave skin with an itchy red rash with bumps or blisters. Make sure that you pay attention to your fingernails as well.
- The rash does not spread by the fluid from the blisters. Once the urushiol oil has been washed off the skin it will not spread from person to person.
- Most people don’t react to the urushiol immediately. It can vary from 6-8 hours or it may even be days before you see the rash develop.
- All items that have come in contact with the plant oil need to be cleaned well. The oil remains on tools, clothing, shoes and pets for a very long time. If you come in contact with those items in the future it can cause the rash to return if it was not cleaned off.
- Keep your pets from coming in contact with these plants so the urushiol doesn’t stick to their fur which can spread to you. If you think your pet has been exposed give your pet a bath and use long rubber gloves to keep from spreading it to your arms.
- Wash all of your clothes immediately in your washing machine. Be careful to not have the clothes touch the outside part of your washing machine or the floor. If you feel those areas may have been exposed wash with soap and water. Remember to wash sleeping bags, jewelry, gloves or anything that may have come in contact with the oil.
- Wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when you are walking in areas that may have these plants.
- Do NOT burn poison ivy, oak or sumac to get rid of it. The resins can be spread in the smoke and anyone breathing it could have severe reactions. See a medical professional immediately if you are having trouble breathing and you think you may have been exposed to smoke from the burning of these plants.
Being out in the woods is a fun summer activity but being aware of your surroundings and able to identify these plants is important. Teach yourselves and your kids what to look for and what to do if you are exposed.
Quilting is my favorite hobby, and the one that consumes most of my time. Since quilting has been popular for quite a few years now (I got started in 1980) it seems possible that you may have a quilt in your home that you need to clean.
If you have been using the quilt on a bed, it is possible that the quilt has stains from food or body oils. A quilt that has only used for display will probably have more dust and dirt from the air than stains. Quilts can best be cleaned using one of two methods.
You can choose to vacuum a quilt or wash it with water. Vacuuming the quilt puts the least stress on the quilt. You will want to use a small screen and a small vacuum. The screen will be placed between the vacuum and the quilt. The screen prevents damage to the quilt from the suction of vacuum on the quilt as you clean it. You should vacuum both the front and the back of the quilt. Pay special attention to the creases in the quilt and try to remove all dust from those areas. Resist the urge to give the quilt a good shake outdoors. The shaking can stress both the quilting stitches and the piecing stitching. Additionally, if the fabric in the quilt is old and delicate, shaking can damage it, too.
If you must wash the quilt, you will want to check to be sure that all the fabrics in the quilt are color fast. If the dyes run while washing, you will have more stains to clean than just oils and dirt. Use the largest place possible to wash the quilt. This may mean washing it in the bath tub. Avoid over agitating the quilt and wringing it out. Be sure to use a very mild soap, preferably use one designed for washing quilts. Rinse the quilt well and allow it to drain as much water as possible before moving it to dry. You can dry the quilt outside, in the shade on a sheet. If you want to use the clothes line to dry it, make a hammock out of a large sheet and lay the quilt on it. You may want to lay it over several different clothes lines to spread the weight of the quilt out over a larger area. If the wet quilt hangs by itself, you may cause irreparable damage to the stitching in the quilt.
If you have more questions about cleaning your quilts, please call or email us at AnswerLine. We would love to help you.