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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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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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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Leather care tips!

A leather or suede garment is usually a major investment, and it is important to choose it carefully and care for it wisely. In selecting a leather garment. Buy from a reputable store. Look for careful matching of colors and textures. Avoid a snug fit. Hides are stretched during tanning and some relaxation shrinkage can be expected in use and cleaning. Read and save any accompanying care information. Light colors are less likely to fade in cleaning than are deep colors.  Heavy buckles or trim could cause tears in the leather in wear or cleaning.  Suede and leather are natural materials.  They will never be completely uniform, but that is part of their desirability.

There are several things to consider when cleaning leather garments. Remember, suede is the underside of the leather, buffed to a uniform nap and used as the outside of the garment. Frequent brushing with a soft brush will help to remove surface soils. In smooth leather, the outside of the skin is the outside of the garment. Wipe smooth leather with a damp cloth to remove surface soils.

Remember these care tips to keep your garment in top condition. The tips apply to both suede and smooth leathers.

  • Wear a scarf to protect the collar area from perspiration and body oils.
  • If the garment gets wet, let it air dry away from heat.
  • Store leather garments in a cool, ventilated area. Leather is subject to drying out if exposed to dry heat and to mildew if stored in a hot, humid environment.
  • Do not store leather in a plastic bag.
  • If staining occurs, take the garment to a professional suede and leather cleaner as soon as possible.  DO NOT TRY TO REMOVE SPOTS AT HOME.

When it is time to take leather clothing to the cleaners, remember:

  • Have all matching pieces cleaned at the same time.
  • Give your cleaner any care information that came with the garment.
  • Point out any stains. Old, set stains cannot always be removed safely.
  • Don’t be surprised if your cleaner asks you to sign a consent form before cleaning. This will occur only if there is some question about clean-ability.
  • Many cleaners send leathers to a specialty leather cleaner.  After you get your clothing back from the cleaners, realize that leather garments are made up of skins taken from various portions of the animal and usually from several different animals. The manufacturer tries to match the skins so that your garment is as uniform as possible, but even with the best matching, there will be some variance in texture, weight, and color uniformity. These variations may be accentuated after cleaning.  Be prepared to see a slight variance in the depth of color after cleaning. In manufacture, the tanner immersed the skin in a dye bath to obtain a uniform color, but skins from various parts of the animal may vary in colorfastness. The cleaner can correct some color variance, but must rely on spray dyeing, which will not dye the suede or leather to the same degree as the original immersion process.
  • During tanning, leathers are impregnated with oils to keep them supple. Some of these oils used in the tanning process are lost in cleaning. Even though the professional leather cleaner has special additives to restore suppleness, there could be some change in the feel or hand of the garment.

Some imperfections may become more apparent after cleaning:

SCAR TISSUE: The animal’s skin may have been injured while it was alive by briars, barbed wire, diseases, or in fights with other animals. The resulting scar tissue does not dye evenly, so it is covered with fillers before dyeing. These fillers are removed in cleaning, and the original scar tissue will become more apparent, usually as a light area.

VEIN MARKS: Some thick skins are split, revealing the veins in the skin as irregular, wavy lines. These are also masked with fillers and reappear after cleaning.

WRINKLES: Skins taken from the loose neck or belly portion of an animal are normally wrinkled. The skins are stretched out to some degree when the garment is made up and the wrinkles are hardly visible. As the skins relax with age, the wrinkles reappear. The agitation that occurs in cleaning can cause greater relaxation of the leather, accentuating the wrinkles.

TEXTURE CHANGE: The manufacturer tries to select skins of uniform texture for a garment, but sometimes smoother skin is combined with a skin or portion of skin with a coarser texture. Cleaning may make this variance more apparent.

SHRINKAGE: Some shrinkage will likely occur in your garment over time as the skins relax. This may be accentuated in cleaning. As you wear a leather garment it tends to conform comfortably to your body. After cleaning, the leather is pressed, so it may feel a little uncomfortable or snug when you first put it on. As you wear it this feeling will dissipate. Sometimes skins are overstretched in manufacture and relax permanently. This problem cannot be anticipated by the cleaner.

THIN SKINS: Some skins are extremely thin and really too fragile for use in apparel. These skins tend to wear through exceptionally fast even with normal usage. The agitation of cleaning may cause separation of very thin skins.

STAINS: Leather is very absorbent. Stains sink right into the texture of the skin. Because leather is an animal skin, the structure can be damaged by stain removal techniques that would be safe for textiles. Another limitation is the dyes used on leather. Stain removal can also mean dye removal. Particularly on garments worn next to the skin, perspiration can cause color loss. This may be masked by body oils until after cleaning. Leathers are also susceptible to rings caused by the migration of dye if a liquid is spilled on them. This is difficult or impossible to remedy. Given all the potential problems, prompt attention to stains is the best hope for their removal.

OXIDATION: Dyes can oxidize from exposure to light and to gases in the atmosphere. This is a slow, progressive condition that develops as the item is worn. It may become more noticeable after cleaning, but protected areas, such as under the color, will retain more of the original color. Once this type of fading has occurred, it cannot be corrected.

COLOR SHADING FROM ADHESIVES: Adhesives are sometimes used to glue seams, hems, and other areas during construction. These glues or adhesives may not be solvent resistant. The adhesive may be removed during cleaning, causing hems to open and necessitating regluing by the cleaner. Sometimes the glues don’t dissolve completely, but leach through the leather and cause shaded areas. This cannot always be corrected by additional cleaning.

SHADED LEATHER: The texture of skins varies, and some skins tend to absorb more of the fat liquors and cleaning additives in cleaning and come out a little darker in some areas than others. Sometimes this shading can be seen on the garment before cleaning, but cleaning will accentuate it. Many people consider such shading a desirable characteristics. In any case, it is a natural phenomenon that is beyond the control of the dry-cleaner.

It is very important to check the care label on an imitation leather or suede. Some of these fabrics are quite fragile and will not withstand dry cleaning. The most common problem is failure of a film coating or of an adhesive. This results in self-sticking of the fabric or in blistering or puckering of the coating. On flocked items, the flocked coating may be lost in wear areas such as collars and cuffs. Cleaning may aggravate this condition. Nonwoven structures usually withstand dry cleaning very well.

You have made an investment in quality. Therefore, take good care of your leather garment to add to its life and appearance.

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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Suede Shoe Care


It seems that every winter, I get those nasty salt lines on my suede leather shoes and boots from the salt used to combat ice on sidewalks and streets. Prevention is the best method, but there are ways to clean these unsightly stains to have your shoes back in top shape and looking great again.

Here are a few tips on caring for your leather footwear from the Shoe Service Institute of America:

Water Proofing: The key to keeping suede and nubuck in top condition is preventative maintenance.  Before you wear them in sloppy weather, spray the footwear with a water-repellant coating, (found at shoe or department stores), to prevent stains from occurring.  Check the label to be sure the spray is designed for suede and nubuck and be sure to allow time for the spray to dry before you wear the shoes.  You may have to retreat the shoes with the spray over time if you notice that water is no longer beading up on the surface.

Brushing: Use a plastic or rubber-tipped brush regularly to restore the nap and remove surface dirt before it sets in. Be gentle brushing nubuck.  It is softer than suede and is easily damaged.  With oiled nubuck, use a nubuck conditioner to replace some of those oils on a regular basis.

Stain Removal: If you get a stain on suede or nubuck, try to remove it immediately with a solvent-based cleaner made specifically for the material.  Oil absorbing blocks are also available. These blocks abrade the leather to bring back the nap and remove stains.  Use a less aggressive block with nubuck because of its more delicate nature.  You can also rub off overall dirt with a very soft eraser, or just lightly sand away stains with an emery board.  With more serious stains, you might be better off taking the shoe to a shoe repair professional.

With suede you can’t use oil based cleaners as they will stain the suede more than the salt. To clean pesky salt lines from suede shoes, try a mild blend of 1 teaspoon each of dish washing detergent and fabric softener in two cups of warm water. First brush the suede with a shoe brush to loosen and remove any salt and dirt that may be removed. Spray some of the solution on evenly over the suede and lightly brush it in. Wide off with a cloth dampened with clean water.

IMG_1052Stuff the shoes with crumpled newspaper to help retain their shape. Allow to dry then rub the suede with light sand paper to recover the texture.

With a little care and maintenance, your suede shoes will retain their beauty for a long time.



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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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I have such fond memories of special Halloween celebrations with my two kids, who are young adults now. We would make “scary” treats, homemade costumes, attend school parties, trick-or- treat on beggar’s nights, etc.  I’m not sure who had more fun – the kids or me?

Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control to help make the festivities safe and fun for all:

alphabet letter sSwords, knives, and other costume accessories should be short, soft, and flexible.

alphabet letter aAvoid trick-or-treating alone. Walk in groups or with a trusted adult.

alphabet letter fFasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see you.
alphabet letter eExamine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before eating them. Limit the amount of treats you eat.


alphabet letter hHold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help you see and others see you. Always WALK and don’t run from house to house.
alphabet letter aAlways test make-up in a small area first. Remove it before bedtime to prevent possible skin and eye irritation.
alphabet letter lLook both ways before crossing the street. Use established crosswalks wherever possible.
alphabet letter lLower your risk for serious eye injury by not wearing decorative contact lenses.
alphabet letter oOnly walk on sidewalks whenever possible, or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.
alphabet letter wWear well-fitting masks, costumes, and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips, and falls.
alphabet letter eEat only factory-wrapped treats. Avoid eating homemade treats made by strangers.
alphabet letter eEnter homes only if you’re with a trusted adult. Only visit well-lit houses. Never accept rides from strangers.
alphabet letter nNever walk near lit candles or luminaries. Be sure to wear flame-resistant costumes.
Keeping these suggestions in mind while planning and celebrating your holiday will help ensure everyone enjoys themselves and makes it home safely.  Happy Halloween to all!
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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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Easy Halloween Costume Ideas

Easy Halloween Costume Ideas for busy parents:

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I was usually the homeroom parent for parties in preschool and grade school and would make elaborate costumes for my children and myself to wear to image[4]these celebrations. I’m not sure who enjoyed these events more – me or my kids!  Sadly, my kids are college-aged now and create their own costumes to wear to mark the occasion.  I still manage to dress up to hand out goodies to the neighborhood kids on beggars’ night. My weimeraner, Pearl, is now the object of my costume obsession.  She has grudgingly become Princess Leia from Star Wars, a hippie, a crazy Cyclone fan, and more over the years.

Today, parents are busier than ever it seems, with all of the work and activity demands on them. Check out some simple costume ideas for kids that can be made at home. Many of these can be made from items you may already have.  Think of it as re-purposing and recycling these items.

Have a SAFE, FUN HALLOWEEN everyone!

Jill Signature

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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Tips for Laundry Stain Removal

One of the more frustrating things about doing laundry can be set in stains.  Follow these tips for best results.

Tips to Remember for Stain Removal:

• Take care of stains promptly. Fresh stains are much easier to remove than those over 24 hours old.

• Blot up any excess liquid with a clean white cloth or paper towel. Remove excess solids by gentle scraping or chipping with a dull knife or metal spatula. With some solids, such as heavy amounts of surface mud, removal may be easier after the stain has dried. Brush off the excess before the clothing is submerged for washing.

• Avoid rubbing the stained area with a linty terry towel or a dark-colored cloth. You may complicate the problem.

• Never rub a fresh stain with bar soap. Soap sets many stains.

• Check laundry for stains before washing. Many stains need pretreatment.

• Inspect wet laundry before drying to be sure a stain has been removed. If a stain is still evident, do not dryer dry. The heat of drying makes the stain more permanent.

• Before starting on the stain, test on a seam or hidden area of the garment to be sure stain removal products do not affect the color or finish of the fabric.

• Avoid excessive rubbing unless the fabric is tough and durable. Rubbing can spread the stain and damage the fiber, finish, or color of the fabric. However, gentle to vigorous rubbing and agitation under running water helps remove dried food, protein, or oil stains from shirts or jean-weight fabrics made of cotton or cotton/polyester blends.

• Do not iron or press stained fabrics until the stain is completely removed. Heat sets most stains.

• Wash heavily stained items separately. Soil and stains can be re-deposited on cleaner clothing during laundering if a) too little detergent is used; b) water temperature is too low; c) washing time is too long; or d) the washer is loaded with too many clothes.

• Avoid using hot water on stains of unknown origin. Hot water can set protein stains like milk, egg, or blood.

• Use the water temperature recommended by product manufacturer. Hot water should be between 120 and 140 degrees F, warm water between 85 and 105 degrees F, and cold water between 65 and 75 degrees F. Water below 60 degrees F is too cold for detergents to be helpful.

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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Mud is not a four letter word

I had the pleasure of going to a Little League baseball game and thought it might be a good time to talk about how to get out mud stains on pants!  Mud is a protein stain and it can be removed by rubbing the stain under cold water in your sink or soaking in cold water.  If hot water is used first, it cooks the protein, causing it to coagulate between the fibers in the yarns of the fabric, making the stains more difficult to remove.  After using the cold water use a pretreater and rub some liquid detergent into the spot and wash in warm water.  Inspect after it comes out of the washer and if it remains soak for ½ hour in cold water and detergent, reapply pretreater and rewash.

So don’t worry when they slide into home plate.  We will help you get those stains 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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Laundry Stains?

imageIt seems as if winter just won’t go away this year.  It is time to begin thinking about storing winter clothing and getting out the spring and summer things. Remember that it is always best to store clean clothing.  We may not notice that there are some small spots on a garment as it is stored but theses spots will be noticed upon the first wearing next fall.

Pretreating stains is a simple procedure that will help assure that stains get removed in the first washing.  There are three types of pretreating products:  liquid or aerosol, sticks and gels.

  • LIQUID AND AEROSOL pretreaters do their best work while they’re still wet.  Pretreat the stain and wash the garment within a few minutes after the product is applied.  Leaving these products on longer than recommended on the product label may cause color loss or change if the fabric dyes are unstable.
  • STICK pretreaters do their work dry and should be left on the stain for three or four days before washing.
  • GEL pretreaters should be applied as soon as possible to help prevent stains from setting.  They can be applied up to a week before washing.  One exception to this time period is when using them on bright or fluorescent colors.  Do not pretreat these colored garments more than a few minutes before washing as they are susceptible to color loss.

If you are uncertain about the stability of the garment dyes, pretest the garment in an inconspicuous area.  Apply the pretreatment product, and then rinse out the product and note if there was any color change.  If not, the pretreatment is safe to use.

Call us with stain removal questions, or check out our stain guide.

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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