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Cleaning Magic with Common Items

Shaving foam, baking soda, dryer sheets and other common items can perform wonders in keeping your house clean. Even if you never use any of these secrets, you can impress all your friends by just knowing them. With great wisdom comes great responsibility, so share your knowledge with those less informed.

Removing Stains

On fabrics/carpets: Fresh carpet stains can be reduced by gently soaking up with paper towels, then spraying with shaving foam. Don’t rub the stain. You will end up rubbing it deeper in the carpet. Leave to soak in and repeat if necessary.

Urine/vomit stains: On washable fabric, soak in cold water and spray with a spot remover. Then wash in a strong detergent. Alternatively, sponge with a vinegar solution (1 tablespoon to 1 pint cold water). On non-washable fabrics, remove surface deposits, sponge with warm water (with a couple of drops of ammonia). Blot dry with absorbent paper.

Dog poop (on carpets): Remove surface deposits. Wipe with damp cloth. Clean with carpet cleaner, rinse and blot, repeating as necessary.

Stains on wallpaper: Rub gently with a piece of fresh bread. For greasy food stains, use a light application of a solvent such as lighter fuel.

Kitchen Hints

Can’t get the ketchup out of the narrow-necked bottle? Hold a thumb over the end of a drinking straw, push the straw to the bottom of the bottle, remove thumb. The ketchup should now pour easily.

Put two or three lumps of sugar in with the cheese to stop it from going moldy.

Rub your hands with vinegar before and after slicing onions. This will eliminate the smell.

To prevent foam from forming and boiling over when boiling pasta in water, put a couple of drops of vegetable oil in the water.

To prevent an egg cracking while boiling, add a pinch of salt to the water.

To remove food stains from hands, rub on raw potato and rinse with water.

To keep the “fizz” in an unfinished canned drink, put the end of a teaspoon in the can and the next day it will still be fizzy…really, try it.

For non-self-cleaning conventional ovens, smear a thin paste of baking soda and water on the oven panels. It looks messy but is easily wiped off the next time you clean.

To prevent refrigerator smells, leave a piece of charcoal on one of the shelves and this will absorb any odors. Remember baking soda. It will also help. If, however, the fridge already smells, dissolve 2 to 3 teaspoons of baking soda in a pint of water and wipe the inside surfaces. You can also remove the top from a box of baking soda and place it on one of the shelves. Stir the contents from time to time. Dampen some cotton wool with vanilla extract and put it on the middle shelf.

More with Baking Soda

Bicarbonate of soda is the magic do-everything stuff. It is rarely used for baking, but somehow is used for just about everything else. Baking soda on a damp sponge easily removes grease from stoves, back-splashes etc. It also works well for deodorizing carpet. Just sprinkle some onto the carpet before going to bed and vacuum it up in the morning.

Baking soda or Borax is great for getting rid of unwanted insects. Simply sprinkle around cabinets and cupboards and other areas where insects might visit.

If you burn a saucepan, never fear, just add a little baking soda and allow it to soak for a few hours.

Baking soda can also be used for many other jobs, such as scrubbing sinks, bathtubs, stoves, refrigerators and laundry. You can use it to keep pipes under the sink clean. Pour about 1/4 cup down the drain with about 1 cup of vinegar. Then pour hot water down the drain. Presto!

Dryer Sheets

These are the fabric conditioner sheets used in tumble dryers. To remove baked-on food from a pan, fill with very hot water and one dryer sheet, then leave it to soak for an hour or two. Pour off the water, toss the sheet and wipe out the pan. All the baked-on food comes off easily. If it does not come clean, let it soak overnight.

When cleaning dust and animal hair from free-standing fans, window unit air conditioner filters or Venetian blinds, use a dryer sheet. It not only removes dust and hair faster, but after prolonged use it creates a protective coating on the wires of the fan for even easier dust removal later.

Dust your television and computer screens with a used dryer sheet, as this will reduce the static and prevent dust resettling. Clean shower doors with a used dryer sheet to dissolve soap scum. Collect animal hair by rubbing the area with dryer sheets; they will magically attract all the loose hairs.

Joe Kahler is the author of Out On My Own...Now What? (Booksurge Publishing, $19.95)

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