Making Sense of Clothing Care Labels

I was recently doing some laundry for a family member and double checking the care labels. If you are anything like me, some of them can be confusing! Here is a basic primer on care labels with links for more information if you are interested.

Anything wash related has a pictogram that looks like a wash tub with waves representing water on the top. If that is the only symbol showing, it is okay to wash the garment normally. Any lines under that tub indicate permanent press or a delicate/gentle cycle depending on the number of lines.

The bleach pictogram is a triangle. If there is a blank triangle, any bleach is okay to use when needed. If there are lines in the triangle, only non-chlorine bleach should be used when needed.

A square represents the dryer. A circle inside the square means normal drying. Again, any lines under that square would mean less heat on either the permanent press or delicate/gentle cycle depending on the number of lines. A blank circle in the square means any heat is okay while a darkened circle in the square means no heat/air only. Between those two extremes are circles with dots in. Three dots for high heat down to one dot for low heat.

The ironing symbol looks basically like an iron. Unless the pictogram shows lines representing steam coming from the bottom of the iron with those lines crossed out, you may use a dry or steam iron. Again, maximum temperatures for ironing are shown in dot form with three dots being high temperature down to one dot for low temperature.

A circle on its own is used for dry cleaning. An X through the circle means “Do Not Dry Clean”. Additional information in or around the circle is for the drycleaner.

The Federal Trade Commission enforces the Care Labeling Rule which requires manufacturers and importers to attach care instructions to garments.

This was a good refresher for me and I hope helps you read the care labels in your garments more easily.

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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Putting Your Canner to Bed

canner1This is the time of year when the garden has stopped producing and it is time to think about storing your canning equipment.   If you spend time in the fall to clean and pack your canner and supplies your equipment will be ready to go when your produce is ready to harvest in the spring.

Here are some tips from the National Center for Home Food Preservation that you can do:

Begin with your canner.

  • Check and clean your vent and safety valve. Clean the vent by drawing a small cloth or string through the opening. In order for it to operate it needs to be free of any food or debris. Clean the valve by removing it if possible or by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Check your gasket. The gasket is what seals the canner and keeps steam from leaking when canning. If you need to replace your gasket order a new one from a hardware store that sells canning supplies or from the manufacturer. It is better to do this now than having to wait for one to be ordered when you are ready to use your canner.
  • Dial gauge canner need to be tested yearly. Call us at AnswerLine and we will be able to tell you where you can have your canner dial gauge tested. If your gauge is off you will have time to get a new gauge ordered before spring. Weighted gauge canners do not need to be tested.
  • If the inside of your canner has turned dark fill the canner above the dark line with a mixture of 1 tablespoon cream of tartar to each quart of water. Put the canner on the stove and heat to boiling. Boil covered until the dark deposits are gone. Dump out the water and finish cleaning with soapy water. If you struggle with hard water try adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to the water in the canner when you are processing your jars.
  • Store your canner with crumpled clean paper towels inside. This will help absorb any moisture. Place the lid upside down on the canner. Never store it with the lid sealed.

Now check on your jars and lids.

  • Look over all of your jars for any chips or cracks. By taking the time now you can prevent jar breakage during canning.
  • Make sure to remove all rings from the home canned foods when storing them. Wash and dry them completely and store them in a dry place. Bands can be reused unless they rust.
  • The flat lids can only be used once so discard after using the jar of food. If you have some flats left over, write the date on the package. The sealing compound should be good for 3 to 5 years after purchase if stored in a cool dry place.

Remember to use your home canned foods within a year or two years at the longest.

By taking the time now to “put your canner to bed” you will be ready when the warmer days of spring come and the canning season begins again!

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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Preparing your home for winter

fall-tree1The leaves on the trees are turning beautiful colors outside our windows reminding us that fall is here and winter is on its way! Is your home ready for winter?  Doing some simple tasks now can reduce your utility bills and keep problems away.

  • Clean out your gutters. The leaves and debris can cause water to back up. In the fall that could cause water to overflow and instead of being diverted away from your house it could cause basement water problems. In the winter frozen water from thawing snow can cause ice dams that can cause moisture damage to your roof and interior ceiling. Running water through the gutter will also show if there are leaks that need to be fixed.
  • Have your furnace checked. Regular maintenance of both your air conditioning and furnace will keep them running well. There is nothing worse than waking up on a cold morning and not having the furnace working! Changing the furnace filter regularly will help with utility costs since air does not circulate well through dirty filters.
  • Check the weather stripping on doors and windows. Sealing gaps around doors and windows will keep cold air out and warm air in.
  • If you have a wood burning fireplace be sure and have the chimney inspected. Regular cleaning can keep soot or creosol from depositing inside the chimney. Regular cleaning reduces the risk of a chimney fire.
  • Change the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.   This should be done once a year. Test the detectors monthly to make sure they are working properly.
  • Since the days are shorter replace light bulbs with LED or CFL lights. These ENERGY STAR bulbs last longer and save you a lot of money on your electric bills. When you are decorating for the holidays look for LED Christmas lights.
  • Make sure you drain your outdoor hoses and store them in the garage for the winter. Drain any irrigation system and rain barrels that you have been using this summer. Allowing water to freeze can cause damage that you will find in the spring.

Many of these items can be done without hiring a professional. By spending some time in the fall you will enjoy the energy saving and the peace of mind knowing you are ready for the snow to fly!

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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Try Grilling Pizza

Have you ever tried using your grill to cook a homemade pizza? If you haven’t done it before you should try it!  Not only is it easy to do, the pizza has a wonderful crispy crust and you are not heating up your house cooking it inside!  I usually make a homemade crust but there are several options available at the grocery store if you want to save that step and purchase one.  If you use your favorite homemade pizza dough recipe spread both sides with corn meal to keep it from sticking to the grill grates.


You are then ready to put the pizza crust on a hot grill. The crust will cook quickly so watch it carefully to make sure it doesn’t get to dark. Usually it will only take a couple of minutes. Once you see grill marks simply flip it over so both sides are cooked evenly. *We will be putting it back on the grill with the toppings for the final cooking.)  When finished the crust should have char marks on it.


When it is done remove the crust to a cutting board or cookie sheet. Now you are ready for your toppings. We like to be creative but you can use any toppings that you like. Our favorite is chicken, bacon, ranch with spinach. The ranch dressing is our pizza sauce   Make sure that your toppings aren’t piled too high since we will be returning it to the grill to finish cooking.


If you have a charcoal grill the last cooking will be done with indirect heat meaning that you will want to gather your coals to one side of the grill. The pizza will cook in the other side. I have a gas grill so I simply turn off one side of the burners. This indirect heat will be like putting it in your oven. The toppings will heat and the cheese will melt. The result will be a pizza that your family will rave about!



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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Go ‘Bananas’ for Summer Treats

July is National Ice Cream month and even has its own day on July 17th in 2016! Ice cream as we know it is made from dairy products, sweeteners, gelatin, flavorings, fruits and other ingredients. America loves ice cream. In fact, the average American consumes nearly 22 pounds of this delectable dessert per year (

But look out ice cream, there’s a new ‘one ingredient ice-cream’ in town and it’s taking the internet and media by storm! It’s low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and is a great source of dietary fiber, potassium, and manganese. Further, it’s perfect for those looking for a guilt-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, egg-free, or vegan treat with no added sugar. What is it?

If you guessed BANANAS, you are right!! Thanks to banana’s high pectin content and a bit of kitchen wizardry, bananas make a wonderful soft-serve treat. And because it’s a simple, make-it-yourself treat, you can personalize it with additions of other fruits, nut butters, chocolate chips, nuts, cocoa, spices, or any other add-in desired. Or, bananas can be the only ingredient.

Besides bananas (and any other fruit or add-in desired), you will need a high-powered processor to pulverize the fruit. There are designated frozen dessert soft-serve processors on the market which work very well such as the Yonanas, Big Boss, and Dessert Bullet. However, a blender or food processor will usually work equally as well as long as it is powerful enough to pulverize frozen bananas.

So how do you make this magical treat? It starts with the bananas. Always use bananas that are ‘cheetah spotted’ or over ripe. 20160531_223140These bananas are the sweetest and have developed their pectin potential. 20160531_223509


Peel the bananas and cut into ¼-inch coins if using a food processor or blender; if a designated dessert processor is used, follow the manufactures directions.20160531_223744

Place the banana pieces in an airtight freezer bag and freeze for at least 2 hours before using; 24 hours is best. Do the same with other fruits you intend to use with your bananas. Remove bananas and other fruit from the freezer and let thaw for 10-15 minutes before making your treat.

One large banana will make two servings especially if additional fruit is used. The ratio of banana to other fruit is about one banana to 3/8 cup fruit. You can make a bigger batch as long as the food processor or blender is big enough and powerful enough. If using a designated dessert processor, follow the manufacturers’ directions for preparing your soft-serve treat by feeding the fruit through the tube into the pulverizing part of the machine.

20160609_203407If using a blender or food processor, follow these instructions: place the frozen banana pieces (and other frozen fruit , if using) in the blender or food processor and pulse. At first the banana pieces will look crumbled, then mushy and gooey something like oatmeal, and suddenly they will magically become smooth and creamy. You will have to stop occasionally and scrape down the sides and help move the fruit into the blades. After the magic happens, continue to blend for a few more seconds to add a little air and blend in any nut butters, cocoa, flavorings or spices desired. 

20160609_204819The banana soft-serve is now ready to eat. Stir in any additional whole or chopped add-ins or top off as desired. OR, put it in an airtight container and freeze until solid or for later use.

Recipe ideas are endless. To get started, check out Banana “Ice Cream”, Chocolate Banana Ice Cream, and the Yonanas recipe website and let your imagination go. Enjoy your ______-free treat!


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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Treating cast iron cookware

One of my children is interested in purchasing cast iron cookware and is wondering how to treat it. Cast iron pan

Season new cast iron by rubbing lightly with vegetable shortening. You will want to coat the interior where the food will touch. The vegetable oil will leave it sticky.

After coating, heat the pan in a 250 degree F oven for 2 hours. It may be necessary to add extra shortening to the pan. Do not let it dry out.

Let the cast iron get stone cold and wipe out with a paper towel.

Remember when you need to wash the cast iron, don’t let it soak in the water for an extended period of time or you will need to re-season.

If you find some older cast iron pieces at a garage sale that you would like to use, simply scour and scrub them with steel wool.  Then season and enjoy.

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 oven racks

Dirty ovenPart Two of oven cleaning addresses how to clean oven racks and the oven window. Again, always remember to remove the oven racks before cleaning your oven.  Failing to remove the racks can cause permanent damage to them.

You are going to want to cover the oven racks with hot water. Many people put them in the bath tub to do this. Once the racks are covered with very hot water, add ½ cup powdered or liquid dishwasher detergent to the water. Swish around until the detergent is dissolved. Let soak 4 hours or overnight. Rinse, dry, and replace in your clean oven!

Enjoy clean oven racks without all the hard work.

Of course, no oven is clean without a little attention to the window.  Harsh cleaners or scrubbing pads can damage the surface of the window.  You may want to try warm sudsy water  or a solution of vinegar and water to clean the oven window.

It won’t take long and your oven will be sparkling like new.

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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Oven Cleaning

Dirty oven      clean oven

Tis the season for Spring cleaning! For many of us that includes the oven. It is suggested to clean your oven monthly and wipe down the oven door weekly. Dirty ovens are less efficient at reaching temperatures and crusty buildup can impact the taste of food.

AnswerLine’s recommended way to clean an electric oven is to preheat the oven for 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and place a bowl of boiling water on the bottom shelf and a bowl of ammonia (about ½ cup ) on the top shelf. Close the oven door and let set overnight. Wipe down and scrub with a nonabrasive scrubber if necessary the next day. This procedure is not recommended for gas ovens with pilot lights for safety reasons. For gas ovens place a bowl of water in the oven and turn the oven on high for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow the steam to loosen dried on food and grease overnight.

If spills do happen, sprinkle salt on the spills when warm and scrub with 3 tablespoons washing soda (which can be purchased at the grocery store) mixed into 1 quart warm water.

The next blog will address the recommended way to clean oven racks.

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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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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