QUESTION: I'm sure you have been asked this question before, but a search on your website did not bring up an answer. I collect Elmo (from Sesame Street) dolls. Sometimes when I buy them, they are a little unclean. But because they have mechanized motors inside them, I am not sure how I should clean them -- sprinkle with baking soda and vacuum like you would a rug? I am also paranoid about bringing any unwanted "bugs" into the house. Would setting them outside in the freezing cold get rid of any bugs they may have? Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thank you! Sandra, Winnipeg
ANSWER: Winter is the best time of year to clean plush toys, mattresses and pillows. Set them outside and allow them to freeze for 24 hours. Doing this kills bacteria and freshens them well.
You may also want to place the toys in a garbage bag, add baking soda and shake them, being careful not to shake too hard, as you don't want to damage the mechanized motor. However, if the stuffed animals happen to have bedbugs, freezing them won't kill those critters; only heat kills bedbugs. If you froze them, they would become dormant and be on the move once the toy stabilized to room temperature.
QUESTION: Would you happen to have a solution for perspiration stains on the collar of suede jackets? Thank you. Sharon, Winnipeg
ANSWER: Sprinkle the collar with baking soda and using a stiff, damp brush. Briskly move the brush back and forth until the stains are gone. This is one of those rare times when water works better than vinegar.
QUESTION: I have two questions: How does one remove rust from a cotton hoodie? How can one clean a stainless steel sink around the top? Watermarks remain, no matter what cleaner I use. We have hard water and we use a water softener. Thanks. Joan, Winnipeg
ANSWER: In order to remove rust from the hoodie, sprinkle the area with 3 per cent hydrogen peroxide and either cream of tartar, baking soda or salt. Place the hoodie in a sunny area for several hours. Wash as usual and repeat as needed.
In terms of the stainless steel sink, begin by cleaning the sink with washing soda and water. Rinse with vinegar. Pour cooking or olive oil onto a cloth and wipe the sink. Oil repels water and makes stainless steel shine like the sun (well, maybe not that shiny).
QUESTION: What is the purpose of cream of tartar in baking? Great website! Glenda, Winnipeg
ANSWER: The most common use of cream of tartar in cooking/baking is stabilizing egg whites. Many foods that we eat and cook with (including fruits) contain acid. Egg white, milk and baking soda are common non-acidic foods that we eat; cream of tartar is masterful at adding volume to egg white. If you find yourself tackling an egg-white recipe that calls for cream of tartar but don't have any, use the same amount of white vinegar in the recipe.
Did you know? Grapes are the only significant natural source of tartaric acid, and cream of tartar is obtained from sediment produced in the process of making wine.
Feedback from Manitobans who care
We buy Barkeepers Friend at Reliable Parts, St James. It is the best. Pauline, Winnipeg
I purchase Barkeeper's Friend at Home Outfitters as well as D.A. Neils. Nothing else gets my white cast-iron sink clean. Karen, Dugald, MB
Would you be willing to publish information in your column warning pet owners of the potential harms of many household substances/items? I think that many people don't realize, for example, that Easter lilies are extremely toxic to cats and can lead to kidney failure and death just by inhaling the pollen.
There are also other items in our homes that may cause serious illness, even death, to our cats, dogs, birds, etc. These can include: Aspirin and other over-the-counter drugs, chocolate, onions, garlic, various house plants and flowers and a wide array of household cleaning products. Pop, Winnipeg
Fabulous tip of the week
I have recently become addicted to Costco's Sweet Kale salad and mix it up in a large metal mixing bowl. I was at a loss as to how to cover the bowl so I could store it in the fridge. Shrink wrap is too narrow (my bowl is 14" across), and it takes two pieces of wrap to cover the bowl, and it doesn't cling very well to the bowl edges. It occurred to me I could use a plastic shower cap, the kind with the elastic around the edge. They cost only one dollar for three at the Dollar store, and provide a nice, tight seal. Submitted by Michael, Winnipeg
I enjoy your questions and tips, keep them coming. Missed a column? Can't remember a solution? Need a speaker for an upcoming event? Check out my brand-new videos/blog/website: reena.ca!