Summer Food Stain Removal

BBQSummer is here and we have shed our dark winter clothing for our light colored clothing. Spills and stains are inevitable but they can cause laundry challenges when it comes to stain removal.  Remember the sooner that you treat the stain the easier it will be to remove.  Here are some common food stains and some suggestions on how to remove them.

  • Kool-Aid: Dye stains are difficult to remove. First, pretreat the stain with a liquid laundry detergent. Allow it to work for several minutes than rinse the spot in hot water in your sink. If it is still there a colored garment can also be soaked in a dilute solution of enzyme pre-soak like Biz or Clorox 2. If the garment is white, soak in a dilute solution of liquid chlorine bleach and water. Be sure that your bleach is fresh and soak no longer than 15 minutes. When using bleach if the stain is not removed in 15 minutes it can’t be removed and further bleaching will only weaken the fabric.
  • Catsup or barbeque sauce: Scrape off any excess. Rub liquid laundry detergent into stain before washing in warm or hot water if safe for the fabric. If stain remains, soak colored fabrics in an enzyme pre-soak which are color safe and rewash. Make sure stain is gone before putting in the dryer.
  • Butter: Pretreat with liquid laundry detergent. Allow to work for several minutes then rinse the spot in hot water in your sink. After, treat again with detergent then wash in the temperature that is safe for the fabric. Do not put in the dryer until you are sure that the spot is out.
  • Watermelon: Make sure that these spills are rinsed out as quickly as possible. Many times as the spots dry the stain seems to disappear. Unfortunately if left over time, the stain oxidizes into pale yellow or brown stains. To make sure this doesn’t happen launder it in the hottest water that is safe for the fabric.
  • Berries: Berries are tannin stains. Fresh tannin stains can usually be removed by laundering the fabric using detergent (not natural soap) in hot water, if safe for the fabric. If hot water is not safe for the garment rinse the spot in hot water in your sink before washing. Natural soap (bar soap, soap flakes, or detergents containing natural soap) makes tannin stains more difficult to remove. Old tannin stains may need a bleach solution.

So enjoy the warm weather. Eat and drink knowing that if you spill something we are here to help you get the stain out!

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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Caring For Your Electric Blanket

The weather is starting to electric blanketwarm up during the days and into the evenings so I determined that it is time to take off the flannel sheets and the electric blanket! Have you ever wondered how to wash and store your electric blanket so that it is ready to use next winter?  Here are some suggestions to keep it in top working condition.

Laundering an electric blanket is as easy as laundering a regular blanket. Follow the specific manufacturer’s care instructions for best results; generally manufacturers indicate electric blankets should not be dry-cleaned. Dry-cleaning solvents will cause deterioration of the wiring insulation. Consumers should select the laundering method most suitable for them.

  • Machine wash for a limited period of time; generally one to five minutes is suggested. Dissolve detergent in the suggested water temperature before placing the blanket in the washer. Do not use bleach. Evenly distribute the blanket in the washing machine. Use a gentle cold water rinse and spin cycle. If a conventional washing machine is used, do not use a wringer to extract the water.
  • Hand wash by soaking the blanket for 15 minutes in detergent and lukewarm water. Squeeze the suds through the blanket. Rinse in cold water at least twice. Do not vigorously twist or wring the blanket.
  • Machine dry by preheating the dryer at medium temperature. Add the blanket and allow it to tumble dry for ten minutes. Most manufacturers suggest the blanket finish drying by draping the blanket over two parallel clothes lines. If the blanket is dried completely in the dryer or dried at a Laundromat, blanket shrinkage and damage to the thermostat could result.
  • Line dry by draping the blanket over two parallel lines, gently stretching it to the original length and width. Do not use clothes pins as they will damage the blanket wires.
  • Store electric blankets by folding and placing them where heavy objects or other blankets will not be put on top of them. It is not necessary to use moth preventive sprays or materials as synthetic fibers are not consumed by moths. Also, moth preventive chemicals could cause deterioration to the wire insulation in the blankets.

These tips should help you keep your electric blanket in good condition and it will be ready when you want to use it again next year!

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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Clothes Dryer Safety

Clothes dryer safety is not a topic that we think about very often, even though I use my dryer on dryer2almost a daily basis. I do try to take care of the easy maintenance but I don’t always take the time to thoroughly clean the vent system for my dryer.  Here are a few easy steps we can take to avoid a clothes dryer fire.

    • Do use a professional to install the dryer.
    • Be sure the lint filter is in place before starting the dryer.
    • ALWAYS clean the lint filter before starting a new dryer load.
    • Be sure the dryer vent that exhausts air from the dryer is clean and sturdy.
    • Don’t overload your dryer. Smaller loads will dry quicker.
    • Don’t run the dryer if you are planning to leave home or when you are sleeping.
    • Be sure the outlet for the dryer is connected properly and grounded.
    • This time of year, be sure the dryer outlet outside is not blocked by snow or ice.
    • Keep flammable items away from the dryer.
    • Don’t put clothing that has come in contact with flammable liquids like gasoline into the dryer. Let them air outside and dry before washing. If you still can smell an odor after washing, don’t put them in the dryer.

I know that I will thoroughly clean the vent system on my dryer this weekend. The last thing we need is a dryer fire.






Liz Meimann

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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Confused by Clothing Care Labels?

care labelThis year for Christmas new clothes were on everyone’s list. As I was getting them ready to be washed I looked at the care label and found that some of them only had pictures rather than written directions for washing.  Some of the symbols were easy to interpret but with others I didn’t have any idea what they were telling me!

Here is what I found out when I did some investigating on clothing labels. In 1971 the Federal Trade Commission issued the Care Labeling Rule.  This rule said that manufacturers must have a tag in their clothing with at least one safe cleaning method.  Beginning July 1, 1997, manufacturers could use certain care symbols in place of the words on these care labels.  The symbols and their written meaning were required for the next eighteen months.  After January 1998 either written or symbols must be provided by the manufacturer but they don’t have to put both on.

So if you have an item to wash and the label only shows symbols print this helpful chart and keep it in your laundry area for your reference. If you have any questions about laundry and stain removal give us a call at AnswerLine.  We would love to help you!


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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Time for a new washing machine?

HE washerHigh efficiency (HE) washing machines have been on the market for several years now.  Not only do they use less water (they range from 20% to 66% of the water used in traditional machines) but also less energy since there is less water to heat.  These qualities help consumers save money and are environmentally friendly.

In traditional washers with center agitators the clothes are completely submerged in water.  HE models use little water but can still clean large loads, many times larger loads than the agitator type.  They are available in either a top load where spinning, rotating and or “wobbling” wheels, plates or disks move the clothes in the machine or a front load where the laundry tumbles through the water as the tub alternately rotates clockwise and counter clockwise.

HE washing machines require HE detergent.  These detergents are formulated to be low-sudsing and quick dispersing.  This means that you will not see bubbles like you did with traditional detergent.  Ignore the urge to add more detergent to the washer!  If non HE detergent (detergent made to be used in a machine with more water) is used it causes too much sudsing which could keep the soap from being rinsed out and could keep the clothes from getting clean.

Here are a few things to consider when selecting a new washer:

  • Will the washing machine be placed where noise is a factor? If it is next to the living room you will want to choose a machine that is rated quiet.
  • When comparing costs look at the energy savings over life time of the appliance. The water and utility savings help to justify the potential higher price of the machine.
  • Many utility companies offer rebates for energy efficient models. Check to see if an Energy Star rebate is available to you.
  • Make sure that all of the features (customized cycles, steam cleaning, extra rinse cycle, etc.) that are offered are important to you. The cost will go up as more features are added.
  • HE washers have longer washing times than conventional machines but will wash more clothes in each load.
  • If possible keep the door open between loads on a front loading machine to allow for air circulation and to prevent a mildew smell from developing. Many machines now have a tub cleaning cycle but if it doesn’t, try using hot water and adding 1 cup of bleach to a load that doesn’t contain clothes to freshen the machine. Be sure and use the correct amount of detergent so buildup is not an issue.

Selecting a new washer is a big decision.  Be sure to put some thought into your selection and pick the model that best fits your family.

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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Crayon Stains in Clothing

imageNow that school has started it may be time to get into a new routine.  Remembering to check the pockets of clothing is a task I can often forget. Here are some tips if you miss one of those new school crayons and it goes through the washer and dryer.  Remember, this is a dye stain so you will need to spray or sponge that stain with a dry-cleaning solvent (Goof Off or Goo Gone) then rub with heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent before washing.

If the crayon accidently end up inside a dryer load of clothes and left multiple stains:

  • First place the amount of detergent you would use for that size washer load into the washing machine.
  • Next, add 1 cup water conditioner (Spring Rain, Calgon or Rain Drops) and 1 cup baking soda.
  • Fill up washer with clothes and water and agitate the load for 5 minutes.
  • Allow the load to soak for a bit before you finish washing.
  • Check before putting in dryer. You may still have to try a dry cleaning fluid on remaining spots.

If you need to clean the dryer:

  • Unplug or shut off the gas. Use a non-abrasive, non-flammable cleanser (Soft-Scrub) and clean.
  • Rinse thoroughly with warm water.
  • Then tumble a load of old rags or towels on regular cycle to remove rest of stain.

Hope that this helps when you find yourself with this problem.

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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Removing a Red Wine Stain

I had a friend tell me that her husband had a red wine stain on his white dress shirt after trying to open a bottle of wine at a wedding recently.  Since it was at a wedding it wasn’t easy to rinse the shirt out so the stain was well set in by the time they got home.  After trying all of the suggested tips and even taking it to the dry cleaner nothing was taking the stain out.  I love a good challenge so I asked if I could work on it for her.

I tried to pretreat it with a dry cleaning solvent and liquid detergent and rinsing it in hot water and nothing happened.  Wine is a tannin stain so the recommendation is to wash in hot water with detergent making sure to not use a natural soap (bar soap, soap flakes or detergents containing natural soap).  Using a natural soap makes tannin stains more difficult to remove.  When this didn’t work I decided to try using fresh lemon juice and salt.

To be honest it made me nervous because when I squeezed the lemon juice on the salt and the stain was getting brighter!  But what I found was that it was pulling the wine out from deep in the fabric.  After it sat in the sun for several hours I rinsed it off in the sink and the stain was definitely getting lighter.  After repeating the process several times the stain was completely gone and the shirt was wearable again!

If you have a problem stain give us a call at AnswerLine.  We will use our research based knowledge to help you remove your tough stains.

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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Spring Laundry Challenges

Spring can bring some interesting laundry problems.  Here is some help if you come in contact with some of these stains.

  • Removing pollen from clothing.

Pollen from plants can be very difficult to remove from your clothing.  If you notice that you have some pollen on your clothing don’t try to brush it off with your hand.  Instead use scotch or masking tape to lift it off the fibers. Brushing off the pollen by hand can set the stain.  If you have a stain rub liquid laundry detergent into the stain and launder in as warm water as is safe for the fabric.  If color remains use a bleach solution for white clothes or color safe bleach for colored clothes.

  • Perspiration stains

To remove perspiration stains apply liquid laundry detergent on the stains or soak in warm water with an enzyme presoak (Axion, Biz or Clorox 2) according to package directions.  If it is on a white t- shirt you could put salt on the stained area then squeeze fresh lemon juice on the salt.  Put it in the sun and allow to dry.

  • Mud and grass stains

Mud is a protein stain and needs cold water to remove.  Try rubbing the fabric against itself under cold running water to dislodge the mud.  If hot water is used first it cooks the protein, causing it to coagulate between the fibers in the yarns of the fabric, making it more difficult to remove.  If you also have a grass stain you treat the mud first then when the mud is removed use a pre-treater or liquid detergent to rub into the stain.  Allow 10-15 minutes for it to start breaking up the grass stain then rinse under hot water in your sink while rubbing the fabric together.  Pretreat again before washing as usual.   If the stain is not completely removed you can soak white items in a diluted bleach solution or colored ones in color safe bleach.

  • Tar stains

Tar stains are treated as a combination stain.  First you remove the oily/waxy portion of the stain by using a dry-cleaning solvent (Aerosol Shout, Spray’n Wash or K2R Spot Lifter) or stain stick and allow it to work to break up the stain for 10-15 minutes.  Then rub with a liquid laundry detergent and scrub in hot water.   If it is not completely removed rub liquid detergent into the stain again before washing.

With all stains check to be sure the stain was removed before putting in the dryer.  The heat from the dryer can set stains and make them almost impossible to remove.  Get out and enjoy the outdoors knowing that even if you get a few stains we can help you get them out!

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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The Many Uses of Baking Soda

baking soda

Baking soda is something that everyone has in their cupboards to use in baking but it has so many other uses as well.  Did you know that more than 100 tons of baking soda was used to clean the Statue of Liberty’s inner copper walls during its 1986 restoration?  If it is good enough for the Statue of Liberty just think of the ways that it can be used in your home!

  • Use it to clean off sticky grease on pans or kitchen equipment (ex. waffle maker). The baking soda acts like an eraser to clean off the grease.
  • To clean a drain, pour ½ cup of baking soda and ½ cup of salt down the drain. Follow with ½ cup of vinegar. Cover the drain and let it work for at least 15 minutes. Finish by pouring a tea kettle of boiling water down the drain.
  • Make a paste of baking soda and water in a small container. Apply the paste to your tooth brush to make your own toothpaste.
  • Sprinkle baking soda liberally over dry carpet to remove odors. Leave it on overnight and then vacuum in the morning.
  • If your plastic food containers have picked up a strong odor wash them in hot water and baking soda. Next sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda inside the container. Cover and let it stand for at least one hour or overnight. Wash as usual and the odor should be gone.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge to erase crayon, pencil, ink and furniture scuffs from painted surfaces. Rinse when the mark is removed.
  • Are you getting black marks on your floor from your shoes? Rub the area with a paste of baking soda and water. Rinse and wipe dry.
  • If you have a small grease fire in your kitchen pour baking soda on it to help put it out.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on baked on pans. Then add a little hot water and dish soap. Let it sit and absorb for several minutes then use a kitchen dish scrubber to remove the baked on food.
  • Do you have an oil spot in your garage? Sprinkle a mixture of baking soda and salt over it, let it soak to absorb and then sweep to remove.
  • Adding ½ cup baking soda to top loading machines or ¼ cup to front load washers help you to reduce the amount of bleach you need by half in your laundry.

With so many uses for both cooking and cleaning I keep a several containers of baking soda handy!

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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Pillow Talk

Pillows generally last a long time, so you don’t need to buy them very often. But when you do need new ones, it’s helpful to have a few facts at hand. The most common bed pillow fillings are polyester fiber fill, feathers, down, and molded or shredded foams.  The foams may be latex, polyurethane or rubber. Each stuffing material has a somewhat different feel. Fiberfill, feathers and down all feel soft and cushiony.  Down and fiberfill are more resilient than feathers and return to shape more easily after crushing.

Latex and Polyurethane Foam Pillows:

Polyurethane is stiffer than latex. Memory foams are a type of polyurethane.  These foams return to shape immediately after crushing, but can deform with continued pressure over time.  Shredded polyurethane foam tends to feel somewhat lumpy unless stuffed fairly tight and covered with a heavy ticking fabric.  Latex gradually stiffens and crumbles on exposure to oil and air.  Latex will last about 10 years if coverings are washed regularly.

Down and Feather Pillows:

When purchasing down pillows, look for at least 80% down and 20% feathers.  If you can feel quills, there isn’t much down in the pillow.  Pure goose down can be a real sleep inducer, but it is the most expensive type of down pillow. Often, different kinds of feathers may be mixed in the same pillow.

It is not easy to compare one down pillow to another unless you compare weights.  There should be a label attached to the pillow or in the packaging. Down and feather pillows sometimes irritate persons with allergy problems, whereas polyester and other synthetic fiber and foam pillows do not. Sniff a pillow for odor before you buy it.  If dust or lint appears as you pound or pat a pillow, this is a clue it could cause problems.  Down will last a long time.  They are usually dry-cleaned, but when washable, the pillows need careful drying to prevent mildew.


Fiberfill pillows can be easily laundered.  Stuffing can sometimes shift, but you can expect polyester fill pillows to keep their fluffy resilience at least five years.

Washing Feather Pillows:

If you want to wash your feather pillows, make sure the ticking is in good condition before washing. We would also suggest slipping the pillow into a pillow case and basting the case shut, for additional insurance against the ticking failing and releasing the feathers.  Fill the washer with warm water and the regular amount of detergent for a normal load, gentle cycle, agitate to dissolve the detergent.  (Dissolving the detergent is not as critical if a liquid detergent is used.)  For a balanced load, wash two pillows at the same time or one pillow and enough bath towels to balance.  Immerse the pillows in the sudsy water until they are completely wet.  Wash using the gentle or soak cycle for 10 minutes.  Rinse the pillows twice.

To dry, tumble in the automatic dryer using the warmest setting for one hour; reduce the heat and finish drying.  Or, in warmer weather, hang the pillows on a clothes line in a gentle breeze – occasionally “fluff” or move the feathers around within the pillow.  This will take a few hours – then finish drying in an automatic dryer.

Now you can sleep peacefully, enjoying the fresh scent of your clean pillows.

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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