Sunday, February 12, 2017

Solutions and substitutions

Reena Nerbas

This week: Brighten stainless steel pots, how to clean cast iron grills on a gas cooktop, Removing iron on clothing labels from everyday garments, removing chewing gum from pants, delicious crunchy homemade croutons, toilet bowl iron stains, stinky drains, life hacks, restaurant teriyaki sauce, remove the backing off a carpet, get iron on clothing labels off of everyday garments, burnt stuck tin foil in an oven, good gravy.

Dear Reena,

I can't seem to bring that shine back to my stainless steel pots. Even though I scrub them, the bottom has a cover on it that only seems clean when wet not dry. Bonnie

Hi Bonnie,

Here are a few tricks to brighten a stainless steel pot: soak tomato juice, sauce, puree, ketchup, any tomato acid base in the pot. Add a little water and boil for 5 mins. Or boil rhubarb leaves in water to bring shine back to old pots, the oxalic acid found in rhubarb cleaner is a strong cleaner. Or scrub pots with an S.O.S pad, water and Bar Keepers Friend to rejuvenate pots.


Dear Reena,

What solutions can you recommend to clean cast iron grills on a gas cooktop. Also please share tips on how to clean my oven without using the self-cleaning feature? Evelyn

Dear Evelyn,

To clean cast iron grills on a gas cooktop check your manufacturer’s manual for the recommended cleaning procedure. I myself either scrub them with an S.O.S pad and dish soap and water or clean them in the dishwasher. While many people advise against full submersion, I have never found a problem with my own grills. For that once a year really intense spring cleaning many people opt to clean their grates with ammonia. Place grate into a plastic bag; add ¼ - ½ cup household ammonia depending on the size of the grate. Seal bag and leave for 8 hours. Remove grates from bag, scrub with water and an S.O.S. pad.

For people who do not own a self-cleaning oven, the oven mess does not need to become a dreaded chore. The world's easiest way to clean an oven is to sprinkle the bottom of the oven with baking soda. Pour white vinegar over the baking soda, let bubble and soak for 30 minutes. Wipe and rinse with water. In the meantime, put an old towel on the bottom of your bathtub, fill it with hot water and 1-cup of washing soda. Let oven racks soak overnight and in the morning (while wearing gloves) rinse the racks and wipe with vinegar. Clean as a whistle! Note: Do not leave water in the tub if small children live in the home.


Feedback from Wonderful Readers

Re: Removing iron on clothing labels off of everyday garments

Hi Reena,

We had the same problem as your reader and I found using a damp/wet tea towel with the iron worked. It was over four years ago and we started to peel the label when it was warm/hot. We removed labels from a variety of fabrics like, sweaters, linens, polyester and rain jackets. Hope this will help, Pat

Fantastic Tip of the Week

Next time you sit on a piece of chewing gum. Place your pants into the freezer for a couple of hours, peel gum off. Remember to remove your pants before placing them in the freezer hee hee.

Delicious Crunchy Homemade Croutons

The star of any great salad is the toppings and nothing says ‘yum’ more than homemade, easy to prepare croutons.
  • Tear stale pieces of bread into pieces. 
  • Into a frying pan heat about 2 tbsp. olive oil. Add 3 whole cloves garlic. Cook for 5 mins. 
  • Remove and discard garlic. 
  • Add bread pieces into the oil and cook for about 5 mins. or until golden brown. Slightly cool before adding croutons to the salad, to avoid wilting leaves. 

Hi Reena,

I have a brown stain in my toilet bowl and I’ve tried all kinds of different solutions and even a pumice stone; I drained the toilet as best as I could and poured bleach in it. I actually bought a new toilet but I still have a problem with my other two toilets; any suggestions besides replacing the toilets? Thanks, Gerry

Dear Gerry,

Purchase a bottle of ‘Iron Out’ at your local hardware store. Drain the toilet tank. Fill the bowl and the tank with hot water. Turn on the exhaust fan. Pour half cup Iron Out into the toilet bowl, then pour one quarter cup Iron Out into the tank. Let sit for 30 mins. While wearing gloves and a mask scrub the inside of the toilet bowl. Flush the toilet, the bowl should be white.


Dear Reena,

What should I do to eliminate the foul odor in my kitchen sink? Don

Dear Don,

Believe me you are not alone; I receive hundreds of letters from people with 'The Stinky Drain Challenge'! The overnight baking soda, hot water and vinegar solution (listed below) is a powerful way to freshen drains and using this method once a month has no disadvantages. However, if your sink continues to smell you may have a clog in your pipes which will need to be cleaned out. Other causes of smelly drains are old grease sitting in pipes for a long period and becoming rancid or poor ventilation. Another option instead of vinegar: pour 1 cup household non-sudsing ammonia down the drain and chase with 1 cup baking soda. Plug drain and leave overnight. In the morning remove drain and pour boiling water down the drain. If smell remains call in a licensed plumber to check out the system, and vent lines. The plumber should also check valves, and controls needed to bring the job up to code.


Life Hacks

Remove wrinkles from clothing in a hurry. Toss the item into the dryer with two ice cubes. Run the dryer for a few minutes to zap those wrinkles!

Do not throw out dented ping pong balls. Hold a lighter under them, so that the gases can inflate the balls.

Save Silica Gel packs (the kind found in shoeboxes and purses). Place them inside of drawers, empty suitcases or bathroom cabinets to reduce moisture damage.

Restaurant Teriyaki Sauce:

I owned a restaurant for thirty years and this is my recipe for our Yummy Teriyaki Sauce. Into a measuring cup combine one quarter cup water and 2 tbsp. cornstarch. Into a pot combine: 1 cup water, one quarter cup soy sauce, one quarter tsp. ground ginger, one quarter tsp. garlic powder, one third cup brown sugar and one tbsp. honey. Heat on the stove for one minute; add combined cornstarch and water mixture. Continue stirring and heat on the stove until thickened. Add water for a thinner consistency if desired. Pour over vegetables, rice, cooked beef, chicken or pork. Submitted by: Lee


Dear Reena,

I shave my legs three times a week with a pull type razor. How long should I use it before tossing it into the garbage? Jessica

Dear Jessica,

If you ask ten different people, you will receive ten different answers. Some people recommend that disposable razors are fine for three uses and others suggest three months or longer. If the razor nicks your skin, it is dull so throw it out. If you maintain the razor by drying the blade after each use it will last longer.


Dear Reena,

How do you remove the backing off a carpet that is stuck on a tile floor? Signed, JM

Dear JM,

Pour hot water onto the foam. Let the water soak for 10 minutes. Scrape with a long handled ice scraper and remove all of the foam.


Dear Reena,

My friend asked me to write to you and ask if you know a way to remove burnt, stuck tin foil from the bottom of her oven. The oven has the burner under the enamel in the bottom. She put a pot on top of the tin foil on top of the element. Any ideas on how to remove it? Thanks, Mary Ellen

Dear Mary Ellen,

While the following isn’t an instant solution; it is effective at removing foil without damaging the porcelain finish of your oven. In a cool oven, lay a hot, wet rag on the oven floor, leave for 20-30 mins. Use a little liquid dish soap to lubricate the area and scrape the foil with a plastic scrub pad, plastic scraper, or a credit card. The foil will eventually burn off over time.


Dear Reena,

Can you tell me how to get iron on clothing labels off of everyday garments? My mother was in a nursing home where they put her name on iron on labels on every item she owned. I would like to remove the labels and repurpose the clothing. I tried some ideas i.e. add more heat (hot iron) use a tea towel as a barrier, those didn't work. These things are really stuck on and there is no lifting even one corner. P.S. The laundry ladies did not have any suggestions at the nursing home.

Dear Doris,

This is a common grievance since the labels are glued on in order to stay secure. With the help of the readers we may be able to send you a great solution. In the meantime, consider spraying the edge of the labels with WD-40 to loosen the glue. Leave for 20 mins. and attempt to remove the labels.

Fabulous gravy secrets

Adding a teaspoon of instant coffee granules or cocoa per two cups gravy enriches the flavor as well as adds color.

Cooked meat stores and freezes better in its gravy. The gravy keeps the meat from drying out.

Cornstarch has twice the thickening power of flour.

Instant mashed potato flakes will work as a thickener for gravy and produces no lumps. You may need extra salt.

Click here for more solutions and substitutions

Note: Every user assumes all risks of injury or damage resulting from the implementation of any suggestions in this column. Test all products on an inconspicuous area first.

Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website: Ask a question or share a tip at

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