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Old grout can be made to look like new again

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Dear Reena,
I really enjoy your column and I hope you can help me with this problem. My house is 45 years old and my bathrooms are all finished with one-inch ceramic tiles. I have recently replaced the sinks and toilets, but the rooms still do not look fresh because the grout is not white like it should be. Is there anything I can do to lighten and brighten the old grout? Thank you for your kind attention. Regards, Elaine

Dear Elaine,
Whenever I want to freshen up old grout, I get a handy little piece of pumice stone. Pour some dish soap onto the pumice stone and wet it, then scrub the grout. It looks wonderful. Next spray isopropyl alcohol onto grout to prevent mildew from growing and discolouring the grout (keep away from small children). Another option is to make a paste of borax and water, scrub grout with an old toothbrush.
Dear Reena,
We have a problem which is; trying to eliminate the stain/varnish odour in a new cradle which our son built for his new daughter. It was varnished nearly two months ago. The paint store where we purchased it from advised us to use oil-based varnish, and that it would be safe within three weeks. Well, the baby was born on Thursday, and we all think the cradle still stinks a bit too much for the baby. So, she’s in the crib for now, but not so handy for mom and dad during the night. We read your remedy for smelly, mouldy bread in the cupboard. Regarding your solution of using coffee grounds in a sock, should the coffee be brewed, and the grounds new moist grounds, or should we use unused ground coffee?  

I’m going to look for Murphy’s Oil soap, but my husband and I are having a debate as to whether to use wet coffee grounds, or unused ground coffee. Your column said "fresh coffee grounds" so I went ahead and put this morning’s fresh (wet) grounds into a sock and he’s laughing at me. We put it in the cradle and then put a large plastic bag loosely over the top of the cradle. Please clarify for me. Or maybe you have a better solution for removing the last bit of odour from the cradle before we use it for our new granddaughter.  Thanks, Julie

Dear Julie,
First of all congratulations on the new addition to your family, how exciting! Secondly, I would not recommend putting the baby into the cradle until the smell is gone. In my opinion her lungs are still developing and should not be exposed to the crib until the oil based stain has completely cured. If possible, place the cradle into a room with better ventilation so that the stain cures faster.

Another option is to lightly sand the cradle and seal it with an odour free clear latex finish. If you must leave the cradle as is, take a bowl of water, slice an onion in half and place it inside the bowl. Put the bowl somewhere in the room near the cradle. Onions absorb odours effectively without leaving a smell behind. Also bring a fan into the room to circulate the air and help the cradle dry. Coffee will be difficult to apply to a cradle, instead use two teaspoons olive oil per pint of vinegar. Spray onto cradle and wipe. Or apply Murphy’s Oil according to the directions. Worst case scenario, seal the cradle with shellac. Congratulations again! P.S. Unused dry coffee grounds mask odours best, leave used coffee grounds for the garden.

Dear Reena,

I have some polyester/cotton backpacks and bags with organization logos on them. They appear to be stamped onto the cloth. Is there any way to remove these logos?  I would like to donate the bags but want to remove the logos first. I have tried a hot iron and paper towel but this has not worked. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks Dawn

Dear Dawn,
An inked on logo is going to be very difficult to remove especially if the ink has dyed the backpack which is often the case. Instead of removing the logo, you will save a lot of time by covering the logo with a sewn on or press on patch.

Reena Nerbas is author of the national best-selling series, Household Solutions 1 with Substitutions, Household Solutions 2 with Kitchen Secrets and Household Solutions 3 with Green Alternatives.

Email her at or check out her website:

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