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Tip: Vinegar as carpet stain remover.

imageIt seems like vinegar is the cure for anything. I am actually surprised that when I take my kids to the doctor for strep throat I don’t walk away with a prescription for 10ml vinegar twice a day. Seems like it would work, but then I guess the doctors wouldn’t get to enjoy any kickbacks from pharmaceutical reps and use my co-pays to finance their home in the Hamptons.

There are a lot of perks to working from home; one of those perks is NOT noticing every spot and stain your carpet has to offer. This morning I ventured into the basement to see what the kids and their friends left for me from the previous night, and as I was doing my surveillance I found several new spots that look suspiciously like the juice and chocolate that I know was consumed the day before.

I have one stain in particular that I have been working on unsuccessfully with store-bought cleaner; this stain is SunnyD drink that someone not only let drip from a sippy cup, but covered with multiple pieces of paper so I might not notice the spot. I don’t know how long it remained there like that, but I have tried multiple cleaning products and the stain has not budged! I decided that I would try a tip using vinegar and salt on the stain.

Tip specifics

Rub light carpet stains with a mixture of 2 tablespoons salt dissolved in 1/2 cup white vinegar. Let the solution dry, then vacuum.

True or bull?

Bull, at least for the SunnyD stain. It is lighter for sure, but the stain is still visible and the carpet has a crunchy feel where the solution dried.

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Undercover Mother’s revelations

I did try this tip afterward on a couple of small stains, and it seemed to work. The carpet, however, is now crunchy like it was on the SunnyD area and needs to be shampooed in all the areas I tried. I would try this tip in the future on other stains when the usual carpet stain removers are not effective, even if it does require a bit of carpet shampoo afterward. I may even skip the shampoo and tell my neighbors that it is a new expensive Berber carpet that also exfoliates the bottom of your feet and see how many of them run out to try to buy the same thing.

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Tip: Use vinegar to rid your sink fixtures of hard water spots.

Will vinegar get rid of hard water stains?I am in the process of writing a book that I plan on calling: “How the #%@& did the toothpaste get there?” I am sure it will be a best seller, like all true crime thrillers. Today, when I was working on my weekly bathroom cleaning, I noticed that underneath 3 layers of glittery pink toothpaste, I had some pretty nasty hard water stains on the sink faucet.

Quite frankly, water stains are the least of my worries. But today for some reason, they got to me. I know having shiny faucets won’t last more than one visit to the bathroom from my kids, but I can feel good for at least a few moments. I actually have a house rule that forces my kids to eat their meals outside for one day after I clean the kitchen floor. I would like to do the same thing with the bathroom, but I would most likely be arrested or at the very least reported to Child Protective Services and looked down upon by my neighbors.

But back to my water-stained faucets, as I know you are on the edge of your seat wondering what I was going to do. I found a tip using, what else? Vinegar!

Tip specifics

Soak a rag in white vinegar, lay the rag over your hard water stains, and let it sit for a few minutes. The hard water spots will scrub right off.

True or bull?

True. The vinegar-soaked rag worked on removing the water stains from the faucets.

Faucet has water spotsFaucet after the vinegar is clean of water spots

Undercover Mother’s revelations

It’s a quick fix if your issue of the day is water spots on your hardware. I felt good about myself for making something look pretty, but my kids complained about the smell of the vinegar making the bathroom smell disgusting. Apparently they are immune to what it smelled like beforehand, as vinegar is a tremendous improvement to my nose.

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Tip: Use hot water to get sticky ingredients cleanly out of measuring cups.

imageOccasionally I get a craving for something sweet and reach for something with chocolate. Okay, it’s more like daily, but I don’t like to get caught up in the details. One of my favorite quick treats to make is a no-bake cookie, as I have convinced myself that the oatmeal contained in these little pieces of heaven are healthy enough to counteract the cocoa, butter, sugar, milk and peanut butter that I need to consume to make that dry oatmeal taste so delicious.

That these are called no-bakes is deceiving because you still have to cook them, which is followed by a cleanup. My least favorite part of the cleanup is the measuring cup that once held the needed peanut butter. Cleaning peanut butter off, or out, of things is far tougher than removing baked-on gunk from a pan or taking off my workout clothes after 45 minutes on the treadmill. (Seriously, I have contemplated calling 911 a couple of times.)

I discovered a tip that sounded like it might work on my sticky dilemma and decided to give it a try.

Tip specifics

Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill the cup with hot water. Dump out the hot water, but don’t dry the cup. Next, add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out.

True or bull?

We are going to call this one “Trull,” a combination answer. If you use it immediately, it works great. However, I measure out the peanut butter a few minutes ahead of time so it is ready to pour quickly into the boiling chocolate lava that I need to be stirring constantly. The peanut butter that sat for about 3 minutes in that cup refused to slide out, and I had the same old mess.

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Undercover Mother’s revelations

I was really excited when I started the experiment and saw how smoothly the peanut butter slid out of the preheated measuring cup. Actually, it fell out so quickly it landed in my sink and clogged the drain, leaving me to dig the peanut butter out with the skinny end of the spatula. After using a few choice curse words and cleaning it up, I convinced myself that I could easily get over that issue when I was able to avoid the peanut butter aftermath that I am usually left with, BUT I was disappointed.

I hate sounding like a Debbie Downer, so let’s try to end this on a happy note. The sticky substance will actually dive out of the measuring cup and leave it clean if you use it immediately after you fill it. But if you wait, you will have to soak and scrub your measuring cup to get it clean. At least you can look forward to a tasty treat either way!

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Tip: Whiten grout using a toothbrush dipped in undiluted vinegar.

imageThe person that originally selected the colors for the house we bought 3 years ago has an obsession with white. I would call their taste “Casual Caucasian.” We have white carpet, white countertops, white walls and moldings, white appliances and white ceramic tile in all the bathrooms.

Now, I have nothing against the color white; I would even incorporate it, moderately so, into my designing. What bothers me about so much white is that there is so much more opportunity for dirt to show. My bathroom floors have 4-inch white tiles, and I assume at one time the grout was also white. Now it is much more of a gray and, in some places, yellow color. When I let my mind roam freely, I really start to wonder about what must go on in a kid’s bathroom that could have caused the yellowing of that grout.

Now, bleach is my best friend. I love the smell of those chemicals that tell me that it has just 1 job and that is to disinfect the heck out of anything that gets in its way. I like to clean with bleach whenever possible, but there are times when it is just not possible. This week I thought I would attempt to work on the grout and see if I could restore it to a fresher, brighter white. My friends at Real Simple suggested using vinegar.

Fact or bull?

Bull. I scrubbed right after applying the vinegar and saw no results, I then let it sit on there for 15 minutes and scrubbed again. Results are still the same; the grout did not look any whiter to me.

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Undercover Mother’s revelations

I have to be honest, I buy that paste—like Soft Scrub cleaning product—squirt it into my grout and then go at it with a scrub brush. And I find that the results are pretty good. I don’t think white grout ever can go back to being truly white, which gives manufacturers and contractors the option to replace it for you at a substantial cost to you.

Next time I select a floor, I am choosing gray or colored grout, do you think there is a color called dingy? On another note, my bathroom now smells like a salad, which makes me want to go eat a brownie.

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Tip: Pour salt and hot water down a slow drain to clear it.

imageA couple of days ago I was partaking in one of my most favorite and relaxing activities: cleaning my young children’s bathroom. There are so many spots and smells I can’t identify that it is similar to watching the forensic shows I enjoy so much. Every time I clean, I discover something new and mind-provoking, which usually results in nausea or a migraine.

I don’t think my children’s sink is any worse than the average children’s sink and it probably has the same amount of cemented-on toothpaste. What I did encounter after spraying cleaner and trying to remove the toothpaste was that the water would no longer go down the sink quickly. Reluctantly, I decided to take a look at what was happening.

I feel that it would be harmful to your well-being if I gave any details on what I did find when the water finally drained and I pulled out the stopper. What I will say is that it is something similar to a horror movie and made me throw up in my mouth a bit. While I might spare you my mental picture, I am going to show you a picture of the black abyss in that drain because, really, why should I suffer alone?

Tip specifics

Get a slow-moving drain flowing again and pour a solution of ½ cup of salt for every quart of hot water down the pipe.

True or bull?

True. The hot, salty water cleared out much of the black goop that was keeping the water from draining successfully.

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Undercover Mother’s revelations

Mom: It can be a disgusting job, but someone’s got to do it. In all honestly, I have changed diapers that were far worse than that black sludge that I had to deal with, and the memory of my baby’s “disposal” is still enough to make my eyes water today. I think this tip would be great to work into your cleaning routine by adding the salty cocktail to your drains every third or fourth time you clean your bathrooms, unless you only do it quarterly, and then I suggest you invest in a good snaking system and leave it to the man of the house!

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Tip: Wiping mirrors clean with newspaper won’t leave streaks or lint.


imageI truly don’t understand the attraction of any child under the age of 10 to touch a mirror—and not just once, but touching it over and over again. A mirror is one of the only items that you don’t actually have to touch to use it, so why do it? My kids have never been able to give me any kind of response other than a shoulder shrug or my all-time favorite: “I don’t know.” If you can’t tell, it irritates me.

I am not a fan of mirrors for many reasons, and not being able to get them clean without leaving behind lint residual is one of those many reasons. Yes, when they aren’t reminding me of a new gray hair or wrinkle that has sprouted up overnight, they are in my face saying, “For someone that doesn’t work full-time, you would think your mirrors would at least be sparkling clean.” Yes, I talk back to the mirror, and, no, you don’t want to know my response.

I have tried many different ways of cleaning over the years, even switching from paper towels to rags and cloths and the results are always the same, so you will understand my skepticism when I found this tip from Real Simple.

Tip specifics

Newspapers deposit less lint than paper towels do and don’t leave any streaks. Just spray on a glass cleaner and wipe.

True or bull?

True. Absolutely. What a difference using the newspaper made. I have tried all sorts of cloths and cleaners that I have bought because they are advertised to leave your glass streak-free. None of them were even close to the newspaper results.

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Undercover Mother’s revelations

I am impressed, and it takes a lot to impress me; just ask my husband.

While cleaning the glass, be careful with the newspaper on the surrounding surfaces. I wasn’t aware, it being my first time, and ended up having to clean the newsprint off the wall that the mirror was anchored on. Yes, your hands are going to get a bit dirty, but get over it and wash them in the sink that is probably no more than 12 inches away from the mirror you just polished. Or, you could always just wear gloves. It’s worth the results.

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Tip: Use a ball of aluminum foil to scrub glassware clean.

imageWhen I was growing up, my mom was one of those women who made a point to cook big meals, especially on the weekends. My attitude is more along the lines of: “I have been doing this stuff all week. Let’s eat out!”

This past weekend I must have been feeling a bit nostalgic or bumped my head because I decided to put a bit more effort into cooking. Among the many things I made, there was a cake and a meatloaf involved.

I admit, sometimes cooking can be fun, at least until I get to the cleanup. Since I slightly overbaked the cake and failed to use that thing (I don’t know the name of) to put under my meatloaf in the pan, I was left with some messy dishes. Another thing I remember from my childhood is my mom always saying, “Those are going to have to presoak overnight. Just leave them, and you and your brothers can do them tomorrow.”

While I don’t enjoy cleaning, I am also the person that can’t go to bed unless the sink has been cleared and the counters wiped down, so the idea of presoaking overnight sends an uncomfortable shiver down my spine.

To make my life easier I decided to check out my bank of tips to see if there was anything to help me out, and, sure enough, I found a tip to get baked-on foods off in a jiffy! For the record, I just smacked myself for saying jiffy.

Tip specifics

Use aluminum foil as a glassware scrubber to get baked-on food off a glass pan or an oven rack. Dishwashing liquid and a ball of foil can be used in place of a steel-wool soap pad.

True or bull? 

True! It took me less than a minute to work the awful stuff out of the bottom of my glass casserole dishes. It takes me more time than that to rinse the dishes that my kids “already rinsed” and get them into the dishwasher. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case the pictures; they look good as new!

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Undercover Mother’s revelations 

This tip is a time-saver; just make sure you only use this on glass bakeware. If you try to use the aluminum foil on your metal pots and pans, count on replacing them. While my grandmother would have reused that piece of aluminum foil another 10-15 times before discarding it, I strongly advise against it. Start fresh each time.

Now that the dishes are clean, I am off to try to find a way to get off the mouthwash that has been sprayed on the wall right next to the sink it should have been spit into without losing my sanity.

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Tip: Use a fork to fluff carpet.

imageYou read it right: I wrote “forking carpet.” About every other week, I attempt to dust and push the vacuum around, and sometimes I even take my time and do a good job. One thing that always bothers me is the indentations left from the furniture, causing me to rant on about the forking carpet!

While the indentations in my carpet bother me, I am usually more focused on the pile of laundry that I have to climb over to get into the kid’s bedroom or the loaf of crumbled bread underneath the kitchen table. These are things that I can attack and they go away, at least for a few hours.

I have to laugh when I see people use those furniture coasters (you know, the same ones our grandparents used 60 years ago), which only leave larger dents in the carpet. They don’t work and they look ridiculous. When my bored housewife “friends” talk behind my back, I would prefer it be about my carpet dents then my poor attempt to hide them.

But, I digress. We were discussing what to do about my carpet dents, so I found a tip from Real Simple to try out.

Tip specifics

Use the tines of a fork to gently fluff plush carpet fibers back to their original height, removing dents left by heavy furniture. Now, that’s a real fork lift. 

Please note: I did not write the “fork lift” remark at the end. That was actually part of the tip. If I had written something, it would have been much wittier than that.

True or bull?

Bull. While I was able to rake the carpet around a bit with the fork, the indentation is still clearly there.

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Undercover Mother’s revelations

The carpet in my house is about 14 years old, and it looks like a dirty, white cat with a bad case of the mange. I like to tell myself this house is full of love where kids play and blah, blah, blah, but it doesn’t change the fact that the carpet shows every spot of that “love.” Since I was already down there forking away, I tried using some rug shampoo and a toothbrush to fluff those areas up. That made an improvement, but it still isn’t great. And now if you’ll excuse me, I have another mountain of laundry to climb.

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Tip: Whiten laundry whites with lemon juice.

imageIn my house I am the CLO. To those of you unfamiliar with my title, that is Chief Laundry Officer.

Ironically enough, I despise doing laundry: all the sorting and prespotting and presoaking and, of course, the folding. I do take my role as CLO very seriously and try to keep up with the laundry, as it is similar to my children in a grocery store—one minute it is under your control and the next minute you cart is full of stuff you didn’t put in there and a cat-like fight has broken out in aisle 7.

The whites are my biggest challenge; all those socks and undergarments that have to be folded just to be stuck in a drawer where they can be rummaged through and become unfolded. At least with a normal load of laundry, I can pull most of it out and put it on a hanger. But not with whites; it is very labor intensive, especially for an Officer such as myself.

My kids are tough on clothes and especially tough on their white socks. For some reason whenever the doorbell rings, my kids walk outside with their socks on and will continue on down the blacktop driveway until I scream from inside, “You need to have your shoes on to play outside!” My children think they can outsmart the CLO by saying they are just outside talking and not playing and thus wait for me to come outside screaming like a nut before they return to the house, with filthy socks, to retrieve their shoes.

Please note: I am willing to pay good money to the first person that can make a doorbell that 20 seconds after being buzzed will automatically say, “Please put your shoes on before exiting.” Since no one has developed the special doorbell I am in dire need of, I decided to search for a tip that might lighten my load. (Yes, that is a bad pun.)

Tip specifics

Skip the bleach—add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of lemon juice to the wash cycle to brighten up those fading whites

My whites are pretty dingy, and let’s not forget how dirty the bottom of my kid’s socks were. I dumped the laundry in and added the normal amount of detergent and fabric softener, skipping the bleach and substituting 1/2 cup of lemon juice. I did snap a picture of the laundry (notice I hid the tighty-whities and my bras under the shirts and socks) and as you can see, I placed one of the driveway walking socks right on top. I started the load and headed for the basement for my much-needed workout, where I found two more pairs of dirty socks lying in the middle of the family room floor. I got a bonus workout of walking back upstairs to add them to the washer, I guess my kids really are supportive of my initiative to workout more often.

True or bull?

Bull. Sadly, my whites did not appear any brighter, and the socks were still pretty dirty. Just look for yourself at my “after” picture.

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Undercover Mother’s revelations

My findings supported my love of bleach. Yes, I will be repeating this cycle of whites with bleach, which means more work for this mom. On a more positive note, I have saved you readers the trouble of trying this tip yourself and eliminated some extra work for all of you.

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Tip: Clean your glass cooktop using baking soda.


imageI do a lot of cooking, but my cooking is more about survival than joy. My family needs to eat, someone needs to feed them and, as a result, I cook. I think what really takes away the joy is the cleanup afterward and the fact that I can never just make one meal that everyone will enjoy.

The other day, I was reheating something with red sauce in a pan that was far too small for the job, but easier to reach than the pans way in the back that would have resulted in my pulling everything out and then putting it back away. Anyway, I get it in there and try to stir it around to get it evenly warmed, and red sauce starts boiling all over the sides of the pan and winds up burning the heck out of my glass cooktop. Not only was it messy, but it invoked a round of, “Mom, it smells like burnt in here. Are you trying to cook again?” (Remember: Big smile and deep breath before responding.)

Aside from the need to cook is the need to clean. And now I am not just dealing with the dishes, but the messy cooktop scorched with a bit of Italian. After wiping down anything that wasn’t burned into the glass, I began scrubbing with a sponge and after a few minutes I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere. Sounds like a job for Undercover Mother!

Tip specifics

Fill a bowl with hot tap water, and mix it with some dish soap. Apply baking soda in a generous amount all over cooktop. Soak rag in soapy water and partially wring out and then lay over baking soda. Wait about 15 minutes and then swirl the rag around in circles, using the baking soda paste as a gentle scrub. Dry surface and shine it up with Windex.

As usual, I am going to show you some before and after pictures so you know I am not pulling your leg. Please remember that while I may have a gift with words, photography isn’t my strong suit so there is some glare and such. Just use your imagination. I followed the tip I found and went to work.

True or bull?

True. Well, mostly true. The glass top is substantially cleaner and even shines, but when you look close there are still several spots that need work.

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Undercover Mother’s revelations

We all need help, and I am one of those people that believe some help is better than none. From a distance my glass top shines, and I would guess that the people I choose to let in my house are too polite to take a real close look and point out the imperfections. I am also one of those people that don’t care if they do, as I will be sure to return the favor by tripping on their white carpet with a glass of Merlot the next time I am invited over. “Oops, will you look at that, but I am sure I got a tip I could send you for removing red wine.”