6 Ways to Tame Paper Clutter

Turn those mountains of paper into manageable molehills and learn how to cut the paper trail off at the source with these tips from Linda Cobb, author of The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter.

It seems that the farther we advance with technology, the more we are inundated with paper. Remember when computer gurus told us we would soon be living in a paperless society? Well, guess what — it seems that the technical revolution has generated a whole new spawn of paperwork.

The vast majority of waste in recycling sites is nothing more than ordinary paper — everything from junk mail, newspapers, magazines, and phone books to the flotsam-and-jetsam paperwork of everyday life. Controlling this particular area of clutter is key to living a less stressful and simpler life. Let’s tackle the paper chase together, shall we?

You’ve Got Mail

When you pick up your mail every day, bring it in the house to the same spot. It can be a basket in the entryway, a designated spot on the kitchen counter, or a space at your desk in the home office. Then take a few moments to go through your mail, and remember the rule to handle each piece of paper only once. Newspapers, catalogs, and magazines go to the magazine rack or a basket, where you can find them and read them at your leisure. Toss out the old catalog as you replace it with the new issue, and make sure to sort through this storage bin regularly (weekly is great) to keep it up-to-date. Toss the water, electric, or car payment into a manila folder or large envelope marked “Bills” for payment. Read personal mail, such as wedding or shower invitations, birthday cards, and the like, and enter information on your family calendar. Scan through junk mail, then toss. The big temptation here is to set down a letter, bill, or “interesting idea” from the junk mail for “later.” However, later usually doesn’t come! Teach yourself to clear out your mail daily, and clutter has that much less of a chance to congregate.

Consider how many charge accounts you have. Do you really need four major credit cards, a gasoline card, and a card for every department store in your nearby mall? Remember that all of these cards generate reams of mail in your direction from these retailers. Simplify your life by cutting down your credit cards to just a few you can use everywhere.

Chances are you’re on some mailing lists for items that no longer interest you. Take 15 minutes today to stop the accumulation of unwanted offers in the mail. You’ll need to make one phone call and write a single letter to do this. To stop unwanted credit offers, dial 1–888–5–OPT–OUT at any time of day or night. Then, write to the following: DMA Mail Preference Service, PO Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512. Include your complete name, address, zip code, and a request to “activate the preference service.” The Direct Marketing Association estimates that this one step will stop 75 percent of junk mail from reaching you for up to five years. Keep in mind this option may stop catalogs and promotions you would have liked to receive.

The Paper Tiger
And some ways to tame it:

  • Think twice before you copy that e-mail or print that delicious recipe you want to try “someday.” The great temptation of the Internet is that it makes so much information available so easily. How may times have you printed out a couple of pages to read later, and later has never come? And how many times have you printed out one page only to be flooded with six or seven? Remember: You don’t have to print everything. The information will be there, on line, the next time you need it.
  • Reuse paper in your printer to copy items for personal use; save the clean copy paper for items you need to send out or keep as a personal record.
  • Consider using electronic or on-line banking — it cuts down dramatically on paperwork.
  • Recycle or toss newspapers and magazines at least weekly. Piles of old newspapers are untidy, and a fire hazard as well.
  • Store important personal papers such as your will, birth certificate, social security card, and passport in a safe place at home (a fireproof box is best) or a safe deposit box at the bank. If you store these papers at the bank, keep a list of what is in the safe deposit box on your computer or in your home files. Go through these papers twice a year to make sure they’re in order. Keep a separate folder for each child in your family. In each, place their immunization record, report cards, birth certificates, social security card, and any other important information, such as allergies, doctors’ names and phone numbers. This will be invaluable, especially at the beginning of each school year.
  • A family calendar is a great idea. Purchase a large one and post it in an obvious place such as the kitchen. Mark down birthday parties, weddings, family parties, as invitations arrive. Keep a clothespin attached to the calendar, where you can hang the invitation or pertinent information. When the event is over, just toss.

Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter (Copyright © 2002 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.



Rid Your Home of Pet Odors and Pet Stains

Tackle tough pet cleanup problems – cat urine, dog urine, fur-covered furniture, and more — with tips from Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty With The Queen of Clean.

Pet odor caused by urine or feces is one of the toughest deodorizing problems you will face. The stain from the problem is only a small part of the dilemma. Unless you completely deodorize the area where the pet accident occurred, the animal, especially cats, will return to the spot and re-soil it.

Pet odor is a protein-based problem and cannot be eliminated by normal spotting procedures. Do not be fooled into believing that you can spray on a deodorizer and the odor will magically disappear. It won’t happen, and you will have wasted time and money on a product that doesn’t work. Now let’s get to the basics of pet odor removal.

You must remove any solid waste from the area and blot up any liquid residue using a heavy pad, paper towels, or old, disposable rags. Lay this pad on the carpet and stand on it to absorb as much liquid as possible.

Pour on club soda. The carbonation will bubble the remaining soil to the surface, and the salts in the club soda will keep it from staining. Now blot firmly again with paper towels. Do this procedure 3 or 4 times, and the last time lay a thick layer of paper towels down and then stand on them to remove all the moisture you can. Continue to do this until you have removed all the moisture you possibly can. Allow to air-dry. To speed drying, use a fan.

Treat the area with your favorite carpet spotter. If you don’t have carpet spotter handy, mix a mild solution of white vinegar and water (1/3 cup white vinegar in a 1-quart bottle filled with cool water) in a spray bottle and spray onto the pet stains to help remove the discoloration. Rinse with clear water and blot.

If you still have staining, combine 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide with 1 teaspoon of ammonia and saturate the stained area. Allow to sit for 30 minutes and then blot. Continue to treat until all the stain is removed or the solution has removed all that can possibly be removed.

Once the area is totally dry, apply a thin layer of ODORZOUT®. Use this product dry. Allow it to sit for 24 hours and then vacuum up. Continue to apply and vacuum until the ODORZOUT® has absorbed all of the odor. ODORZOUT® is 100 percent safe and natural, so it will not harm kids or pets even if they walk through it.

Urine spots may change the carpet color. The carpet may be lightened or bleached. Many times this is not obvious until the carpet is cleaned the first time after the accident. It is more common when the stain has not been treated in an appropriate manner. If this happens, try sponging the area with a mild ammonia solution. This will sometimes return the carpet to its original color or at least make it less noticeable.

When pets have accidents on upholstered furniture, you must first be sure that the fabric can be cleaner and treated with water. Check the platform of the sofa or chair under the cushion to determine the cleaning code. It should be listed on a tag. W indicates that the piece can be cleaned with water, so it can be treated as described on page 92. Clean the area using a good-quality upholstery spotting product. If the code is an S, this means solvent must be used in the cleaning process and this must be done by a professional. Do not apply an enzyme product or spotter. Call a professional. In this instance, the foam in the cushion may require replacing after cleaning.

If a pet urinates on a mattress, use a steam extraction machine to remove all the urine you can. Continue to clean with the extraction machine, and try to get out all the moisture. Stand the mattress on edge to thoroughly dry — at least 12 hours. Once dry, if odor is present, apply ODORZOUT® to eliminate the smell.

If you have pets, you know what it’s like when your cat or dog suffers a digestive upset. You hear the problem begin and run to move the dog or cat off the carpet (which seems to be their favorite place to leave “gifts”), but you’re too late and faced with a mess to clean up.

First, resist the temptation to wipe up the mess. If there are solids that can be picked up with a paper towel, do so, but do not smear the accident into the carpet. Trying to wipe it up immediately will only make the mess worse. Instead, sprinkle a heavy coating of baking soda on the area and allow it to dry. The baking soda will absorb moisture and digestive acids. Once the area is dry, remove with paper towels or vacuum the area, removing all of the mess that will come up. Vacuum thoroughly to remove the baking soda. Then and only then should you grab the rag and the cleaner. Use your favorite carpet spotter, following the directions carefully. Remember to blot rather than rub.

If any discoloration remains after cleaning, try applying either undiluted lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide from the drugstore. Let it soak on the stain for 15 minutes and then blot. If the spot is still visible, apply again, watching carefully to be sure that there are no changes in carpet color. If you need a more aggressive treatment, mix lemon juice and cream of tartar into a thin paste. Apply to the spot, let dry, then vacuum up. When done with any of these procedures, rinse the carpet with cool water.

Sometimes the vacuum cleaner isn’t enough to remove pet hair from upholstered furniture. In this case, try one of the following methods:

  • Dampen a sponge and wipe over the furniture, rinsing the sponge as necessary.
  • Wipe down with your hands while wearing rubber gloves.
  • Wrap Scotch® tape around hands and wipe, changing as needed.
  • Wipe with dampened body-washing puff.
  • Wipe with a used dryer fabric-softener sheet.

Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty With The Queen of Clean (Copyright © 1998 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.



Do-It-Yourself Pest Control

Stop ants, cockroaches, aphids, and other pests from invading your counters, cabinets, and plants. And do it the safe, earth-friendly way with these insect repellent tips from Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean.

When using insect sprays, especially those containing deet, try spraying clothes instead of skin — it’s much safer, especially for children.

A wonderful substitute for insect repellent is white vinegar. Apply it liberally to the skin with a cotton ball. Bugs hate the way you taste and the smell of the vinegar disappears once it dries. Great for kids!


For ants on the counter, wipe the counter down with undiluted white vinegar.

To prevent ants from coming in the house or getting into cupboards, sprinkle dried mint or red pepper where they are entering the house and in the cupboards. To get rid of anthills, pour 3 gallons of boiling water down them. This is best done when the ants are active and near the surface. Do not do this close to flowers or they will die, too.

Another way to kill ants is to mix a combination of 50 percent borax and 50 percent confectioners’ sugar. Place this on cardboard or a piece of board near the anthill. The ants are attracted by the sugar and carry the fatal borax/sugar combination back to the nest to feed the queen and other ants. Soon all are dead. A note of caution: Do not place this where children or pets may ingest this mixture. Borax is found in the laundry aisle at the grocery store as a laundry additive, not as a pesticide.


Mix nonfat dry milk with water according to the directions on the box, then put in a spray bottle and apply it to the leaves of your plants. As the milk dries, the aphids get stuck in the milky residue and die. You can rinse the plants from time to time with the hose. This will not harm your plants and offers an inexpensive solution to a big problem.


Wash off the plant with a mild solution of dishwashing liquid and water. Try a ratio of 1/2 teaspoon dishwashing liquid to 1 quart water. Flush leaves, including undersides, with the solution. Do not rinse off.

These bugs are attracted to bright yellow and can be trapped by placing a yellow board or other yellow objects such as yellow poster board, oleo lids, or sticks painted yellow, coated with heavy motor oil, petroleum jelly, or Tack-Trap® near susceptible plants. Recoat when the traps dry out.

Use 1 1/2  teaspoons of baking soda per pint of water and apply every seven days. This method is user-, earth-, and child-friendly.

To keep cockroaches out of the cupboards, place some bay leaves on the shelves.

Kill cockroaches with a mixture of 1/3 borax, 1/3 cornmeal, 1/3 flour, and a dash of powdered sugar. Sprinkle this in crevices under sinks and vanities where cockroaches love to hide. Remember, keep this away from children and animals.

You can also try this formula for cockroaches: Mix powdered boric acid with sugar and powdered nondairy creamer. I use a mixture of 50 percent boric acid to 25 percent each sugar and creamer. This is inexpensive and relatively safe, but it should be kept away from children and pets. Sprinkle the mixture in all the dark, warm places that cockroaches love — under sinks and stoves, behind refrigerators, in cabinets and closets, and so on. The roaches will walk through the powder and then clean themselves, much the way a cat preens. Once they ingest the powder they die.

Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean (Copyright © 1998 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.



Give Your Refrigerator a Freezer-to-Floor Makeover

Spills, science experiments, sauces from the last decade…If opening your fridge feels like an archaeological expedition, it’s time for a freezer-to-floor makeover. Learn the best way to store fruits, vegetables, condiments, and half-eaten dinners with this step-by-step guide from Linda Cobb, author of The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter.

The refrigerator and freezer take a lot of abuse. There isn’t a person alive, I venture, who hasn’t peered into the depths of their refrigerator at one time or another and pulled out a “mystery bowl” lurking somewhere in the back. To stop the science experiments, use these tried-and-true methods.

Clean out the refrigerator and freezer separately, starting with the refrigerator. First remove the entire contents of the refrigerator, examining things as you go to determine what is a keeper and what can be disposed of. Have a sturdy trash bag standing by to receive any “mystery items.” Use a cooler to keep perishables cold while you work. (Don’t worry, this won’t take long!) “Keepers” are condiments such as ketchup, mustard, and salad dressings — if they are still fresh.

A quick word of advice: Even condiments have an expiration date. They last, open in your refrigerator, for about 12 to 18 months. Take a look at them as you replace them in the refrigerator. If they have changed color or look excessively watery, it’s time to toss and restock. And remember, when you are using perishable items such as mayonnaise or salad dressing, return them to the refrigerator as soon as possible to keep them fresh longer.

Now’s the time to thoroughly clean the interior of the refrigerator. Remove glass shelves or racks one by one to clean them. As you take them out, wash the wall areas of the refrigerator that can be reached. A mild solution of 1 gallon of warm water and a couple of squirts of dishwashing liquid and 1–2 tablespoons of borax will do the job nicely. Mix this up in the sink or a bucket, and use a sponge or soft cloth. You probably found that box of baking soda in the back that has been deodorizing the refrigerator for months. Remove it and sprinkle some of the baking soda on a damp cloth to remove stubborn food spills from the walls and shelves. When you’re done, you can place the box with your cleaning supplies, for many other uses around the house. Put a fresh box in the refrigerator. Wash and rinse the shelves and dry with a soft cloth; then replace them in the refrigerator. Here you’ll want to put a coat of Clean Shield® on the shelves before putting items back. This wonderful product creates a nonstick finish that is stain- and soil-resistant. You can mop up spills in your refrigerator with just a damp sponge, making cleanup a lot easier.

  • Group keepers by type. Store salad dressings, horseradish, and other condiments together in the door. Jams and jellies can stay here too. Check the dates on your perishables and dispose of anything that’s past its prime. Consider how you use things in the refrigerator. If the kids are constantly reaching into the back for the jelly, for instance, move it up front and store less frequently used items in the back.
  • Dairy products such as cottage cheese, yogurt, and sour cream should be stored in their original containers. Hard cheese will stay freshest if stored wrapped in foil, wax paper, or plastic wrap after opening.
  • Group fruits and vegetables separately, each in their own crisper bins. This way you can pull open the drawer and know if you need to pick up a head of lettuce or some more apples. This also keeps your produce fresher longer, as fruits and vegetables emit gases that cause each other to deteriorate; grouping like things together will keep these vapors from mingling. Remember not to wash produce prior to storage, as this speeds up deterioration.

Is your refrigerator the place where you keep the leftovers until it’s time to throw them out?

  • A separate section of the refrigerator just for leftovers is a good idea. This keeps you from overlooking them. Store them in see-through containers, and hopefully you won’t shove them to the back to linger for six months! Remove any leftovers from cans and store in plastic or glass to keep a metallic taste from ruining the food. Leftovers need to be refrigerated no more than two hours after cooking, so be sure to store them as soon as mealtime is over. As you store your leftovers in the refrigerator, make a list of them and tack it to the refrigerator door. You’ll be more apt to remember and to use them and you’ll never find a mystery bowl next time you clean.
  • Perishables such as eggs should be stored on the top shelf of the refrigerator. Remember that the door is often the warmest place in your refrigerator, and that’s where the egg container usually is. It’s much safer to store your eggs in their original container until they’re used. For this reason, you’ll want to store your butter, margarine, and cream cheese on the top shelf too. Leave the door area for your sturdier condiments, such as ketchup and mustard.
  • Store meats on the bottom shelf if your refrigerator doesn’t have a meat tray. This prevents them from dripping on other items, in case the wrapping isn’t tight. Thaw a roast or other large cut of meat inside a bowl, so that as it defrosts the juice will run into the bowl, not all over your shelves.
  • If your family drinks a lot of canned juices and soft drinks, a can rack will come in handy. Here’s where an extra refrigerator is a bonus too, to hold beverages you buy on sale or use frequently. A word of warning: Do not place warm cans of soda in the freezer to quickly cool them off. The carbonation causes the can to burst. Not a pretty sight.

Don’t overcrowd the refrigerator, as the premise for keeping food cool is that interior air is allowed to circulate. You’ll want to set the temperature dial to less than 40 degrees to keep harmful bacteria from growing. Look for a refrigerator thermometer at home stores; leaving one in your refrigerator will help you keep your food fresher longer.

Leftovers? Think Again!
By now you probably have collected partially used bottles and containers with just a little left in them. Here’s what you can do with those leftovers.

  • That old odor-absorbing box of baking soda — put it down the kitchen drain followed by 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar for a fresh-smelling, clear-flowing drain.
  • Lemon juice — clean your brass with lemon juice by adding salt. Rub it on, rinse, and dry well. Clean stains off counters with a paste of lemon juice and cream of tartar. Remove rust from hard surfaces or white fabrics by putting the lemon juice on the rust. For fabric, lay it out in the sun.
  • Ketchup — now’s the time to shine that copper by rubbing it with ketchup until it shines. Rinse and dry well.
  • Clear soda water that’s lost its fizz — use to wipe down white appliances for a great shine. Buff with a soft cloth. Clear soda water also adds vigor to plants and cut flowers.
  • If that onion is not good enough for the salad, remove rust from your utensils, such as paring knives, by sticking them in the onion and letting them sit until the rust is removed, usually a matter of hours.
  • Put citrus peels from citrus fruit past its prime down the garbage disposal to freshen and deodorize.
  • If that potato isn’t looking great, cut it in half and rub it on white shoes. Let the shoe dry, and then polish for a streak-proof shine. Or, remove mud from clothes by rubbing with the cut side of a potato.
  • Add shine to a wood table by polishing with that last bit of mayonnaise in the jar. Rub it in well and buff with a soft cloth.


Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter (Copyright © 2002 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.


5 Cleaning Products You Should Never Be Without

Make your home sparkle by turning five everyday items into powerful homemade, all-natural cleaning products. From Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean


Use white vinegar to remove heavy soap scum and mineral deposits from showers, tubs, and sinks. Warm the vinegar and put in a spray bottle. Spray on showers, tubs, and sinks and let soak for 10–15 minutes. Then use a nylon scrubbing sponge to remove scum. Re-spray if necessary. To remove mineral deposits from around drains, close drain and pour in enough white vinegar to cover the drain area. Let soak overnight, scrub with a nylon scrubbing sponge, drain vinegar, and rinse.

To remove scum and mineral buildup from showerheads and keep them free-flowing, put undiluted white vinegar in a plastic bag. Tie around the showerhead overnight. Scrub head and poke any loosened mineral deposits with a toothpick, rinse, and enjoy your next shower.

To remove soap scum and mildew from plastic shower curtains and liners, fill the washing machine with warm water, 1 cup of white vinegar, and your regular laundry detergent. Add the curtains, along with several old, light-colored towels. Run through complete cycle and re-hang curtains immediately.

Add 2–3 tablespoons white vinegar to hot water along with your regular dishwashing liquid to cut grease on dishes and crystal.

Add 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the washing machine during the final rinse to soften clothes and remove lint from dark clothes.

Apply, undiluted, to the skin with a cotton ball to deter bugs — they hate the way you taste, but the odor disappears immediately from your skin.

Neutralize pet urine odor with diluted white vinegar (25 percent vinegar to 75 percent water) sprayed on carpets. Always test in an inconspicuous spot before treating a large area.

Clean stainless steel sinks with a paste of baking soda and vinegar. Don’t let the foaming scare you — it works great!

Make a window cleaner in a spray bottle with 1/4 cup white vinegar added to 1 quart of water.

Make air freshener in a spray bottle with 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar, and 2 cups of water. After the foaming stops, put on lid. Shake before using.

Clean vinyl floors with 1/2 cup white vinegar to 1 gallon of warm water.

Keep drains free-flowing with 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup white vinegar poured down the drain monthly. After pouring in baking soda and vinegar, cover the drain for 15 minutes (it will foam). Then flush with cold water.

Clean mirrors with a solution of half vinegar and half water. Wet a sponge, soft cloth, or paper towel, wash, then buff dry. Never spray water onto a mirror. Moisture that gets into the edges and behind mirrors ruins the silvering on the mirror, resulting in dark spots.

Spray vinegar on the underarms of clothes and let soak 15–30 minutes to deodorize and minimize underarm stains.

Make an excellent toilet cleaner with 1 cup borax and 1 cup vinegar. Pour the vinegar over the stained area of the toilet, then sprinkle the borax over the vinegar. Soak for 2 hours and then brush and flush.


Baking soda is a great deodorizer, cleaner, and mild abrasive use as you would a soft-scrubbing product or cleanser in tubs and sinks.

Keep food disposals fresh and free-flowing by putting the stopper in the disposal and adding 3 inches of warm water and a handful of baking soda. Turn on the disposal and let water run out.

Remove perspiration stains and odor from clothing by applying a paste of baking soda and water and letting it soak 30 minutes prior to laundering.

Mix 1 gallon of warm water and 1/4 cup of baking soda. Soak freshly washed socks in this for 30 minutes. Spin out in the washer (do not rinse out the solution), dry, and you will have odor-eater socks.

Clean smudges on wallpaper with baking soda and water.

Remove crayon from hard surfaces with baking soda on a damp rag.

Use on any hard surface as a mild abrasive to remove stains.

Use as a bug killer for aphids. Use  1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda per pint of water and apply every 7 days.

To clean grout (any color), mix 3 cups of baking soda with 1 cup of warm water. Scrub grout with a brush and rinse.

Use baking soda on a damp cloth to polish silver.

To remove burned food in casseroles, fill dish with hot water and add 1 tablespoon of baking soda and allow to soak.

To clean up pet vomit, sprinkle on a heavy coating of baking soda. Let it absorb moisture and dry, then scoop or vacuum up. The baking soda will neutralize acids and help prevent stains. Follow with your favorite carpet spotter.

Remove heel marks from hard floors with a damp cloth and baking soda.

Clean screen stain and mineral deposits off windows by dipping a soft, wet cloth in baking soda and rubbing gently. Follow by washing windows as usual.

Remove streaks and greasy film from car windshields with a thin paste of baking soda and water. Rinse well.

Put in the bottom of cat litter boxes to help eliminate odor. Put in a thin layer of baking soda, then add the litter as usual. This works with clay or clumping varieties.


Lemon juice is nature’s bleach and disinfectant.

Apply to clothes, undiluted, to remove fruit-based stains. Let soak 30 minutes and then launder.

Remove rust from clothes by applying undiluted lemon juice and laying the garment in the sun. It disappears like magic.

Bleach spots off Formica® counters by using straight or mixing in a paste with baking soda.

Clean brass and copper with lemon juice and salt. Sprinkle salt on half a lemon and rub metal, then rinse thoroughly. If you don’t have fresh lemons, you can also mix bottled lemon juice and salt.

Make a cleaner in a spray bottle with 2 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon of liquid dish soap, 1 tablespoon of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of borax. Shake before using to clean any hard surface.

Apply lemon juice to chrome and buff to a shine.

As a bleach alternative, use 1/4 cup of lemon juice and 1/4 cup of white vinegar mixed in 1 gallon of warm water, and soak clothes for 15 minutes prior to washing.

Remove stains from hands with lemon juice.

Bleach wooden breadboards by applying lemon juice and letting them sit overnight. Wash and rinse in the morning.


Check the unit price before shelling out for that large, economy size. Often that thrifty size isn’t so thrifty at all!

Club soda is the best emergency spotter there is. Keep club soda on hand to clean up spills on carpet and clothing. Remember to react as soon as possible to a spill. If you act fast, a spot shouldn’t become a stain. Club soda will remove red wine, coffee, tea, pop (yes, even red pop!), Kool-Aid®, and any other spills you can think of. Lift any solids carefully off carpet or clothes and then pour on the club soda, blotting with an old rag until all the color from the spill is removed. Don’t be afraid to really wet the carpet, it won’t hurt it — carpet goes through countless dippings in water as it is made. Blot carpet easily by folding a rag and standing on it, turning the rag as it absorbs moisture and discoloration from the spill. The carbonation in the club soda brings the offending spill to the surface so that you can blot it up, and the salts in it will help prevent staining.

If you spill something on your clothes in a restaurant, ask for a little club soda or seltzer and use your napkin to blot the stain until it is removed. At home you can pour the club soda directly onto the spot, flushing it out.

I have found that club soda will work on many old stains, too. Always keep several bottles on hand.


Now’s your chance to harness the power of twenty mules for general cleaning and laundry. Borax is a natural additive that will boost the cleaning power of your regular laundry detergent and deodorize your laundry, too. But don’t stop there. It is amazing for all kinds of cleaning. Look for 20 Mule Team® Borax in the laundry additive section at grocery and discount stores.

Borax and water is a great cleaner for porcelain bathroom fixtures. Make a paste, and rub well, then rinse.

Combine 2 parts baking soda, 1 part borax, and 1 part hot water to make a fantastic grout cleaner. Mix together and, using a brush, rub into the grout. Rinse well when you are done.

Remove hard-water rings from toilets by shutting the water off at the tank and flushing the toilet to remove as much water as possible. Spray the toilet bowl with heated white vinegar and then sprinkle on borax. Use a piece of fine drywall sandpaper to remove the ring. Turn the water back on and flush for a sparkling toilet bowl.

To clean white appliances, combine 8 cups of water, 1/2 cup of chlorine bleach, 1/2 cup of baking soda, and 2 tablespoons of borax. Wash white appliances thoroughly (using care around carpets and fabrics), rinse well, and dry.

To keep dishwashers odor free, use a damp sponge and some borax to wipe out the inside of the dishwasher, door, and gaskets. No need to rinse, just do the next load of dishes.

To make your own dishwasher spot stopper, combine the following ingredients in a container with a lid: 1 cup of borax and 1?2 cup of baking soda. To use: Add 1 teaspoon of the mixture to the dishwasher along with your regular dishwasher detergent.

Make your own nonabrasive scouring powder by combining 4 parts baking soda and 1 part borax. Store in a labeled shaker container.

To clean vinyl floors, mop with a mixture of 1 gallon of warm water and 1 tablespoon of borax. This will maintain the shine on floors, even those that are waxed.

To remove odor from training pants and socks, soak in a solution of 2 tablespoons of borax and 1 gallon of hot water for one hour prior to laundering. Then dump the entire contents of the bucket into the washer and add detergent; wash as usual.

To revive table linens, add 1/2 cup of borax to your laundry along with your detergent. It will boost your detergent to remove those mystery stains and that stale odor from storage.

To easily clean cloth hats and baseball caps, put them on the top rack of the dishwasher. To avoid color fading, fill the detergent cup with borax and allow to wash up to the dry cycle. Remove the hats prior to the dry cycle and set on a pitcher or jar to dry, shaping as needed.

Make your own Queen’s Power Paste by lathering Fels-Naptha® Laundry Bar Soap onto stained laundry, fabric patio cushions, etc. Then work borax into the lather, rubbing between your thumbs. Removes most difficult stains.

Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean (Copyright © 1998 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.



End Closet Clutter and Get Organized in 3 Steps

Tangled hangers, over-crowded racks, dark corners, and jumbles of shoes, purses and ties? Put an end to the chaos hiding behind closed closet doors and get organized. Linda Cobb, author of The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter, shows you what to keep, what to toss, and how to find a place for everything in your wardrobe in three steps.

Unpack: To do the job right, you have to take everything out of the closet. If you have some rolling racks, put them to use now. If not, you can utilize the shower rod (provided it’s attached firmly to the wall), the bed, and floor. Group the clothes by whom they belong to and into categories — blouses in one pile, skirts in another, slacks in still another. You get the idea.

  • Remove everything from shelves and floor, sorting as you go. Make piles of keepers, “not sure,” and “get rid of.” In the keeper piles, try to group types of clothes together, it will save you time later.
  • Clothes that need laundering or dry cleaning should go in a dirty-clothes hamper or dry-cleaning basket.
  • Take the time to wash down closet walls thoroughly and vacuum the carpet or wash the floor (that way your favorite silk blouse won’t get tangled in a cobweb!).

Evaluate: Sort clothes, putting “toss” or “donate” items into appropriate containers, such as boxes or trash bags. It’s a good idea to use black trash bags so that you or the family can’t see your “treasures” departing. Place the clothes you are keeping on the bed or a rolling portable rack.

As you are evaluating each item, consider:

  • Does it fit?
  • Be tough. If you haven’t worn it in a year, you probably won’t ever wear it again. If you haven’t been a size 6 since high school, move on and eliminate the size 6s.
  • Do I need to alter this? How much will the alterations cost?
  • How about repairs — can the item be repaired and still be wearable?
  • Will shoe polish really take care of that huge scuff mark on the toe of my shoe?
  • Give yourself permission to have a pile of “not sure” things. These are things you just can’t quite make up your mind about. If, after further consideration, you are still not sure, box them up, label the box with its contents, and date it. In six months if you haven’t revisited any of the items, donate the contents or dispose of it.
  • Really consider each item. Where will you wear it? When? If you can’t come up with a good answer, say good-bye!


  • Get rid of extra wire hangers. Give them back to your dry cleaner if he will take them; otherwise donate them to a nursing home or toss them.
  • Anything mismatched will not likely be missed — throw out mismatched items.
  • Look through your “not sure” pile one last time and make any additional judgment calls — be strong!

By now you should have boxes and bags for donating, garage sale, and trash. Remove these from the room, so that you have space to work . . . and no matter now tempting it is, don’t look in these containers again. If they are full, tape them up and label them with where they go and get the trash bags into the trash . . . quickly! It’s like pulling off a Band-Aid®, it hurts less if you just “do it”!

If things cannot be fixed, altered, or repaired and be really wearable, then they should be tossed. If the items are salvageable, then keep them, but take care of the problem before putting the item back in the closet.

Neaten Up

  • Determine hanger type — wire, clip, or plastic. Be consistent. A jumble of wire, plastic, and wood hangers will become tangled and be harder to separate and use — plus it just plain looks better!
  • Start re-hanging clothes, grouping by color and type.
  • If using a double-hung system, hang trousers and skirts on the lower rack.
  • Group blouses and shirts by color, and hang them over appropriate pants or skirts (this is called instant dressing!)
  • Hang long clothes in areas where they won’t tangle with things on the bottom of the closet floor.
  • Hang or fold and store sweaters. Sweaters actually do better when folded because they don’t stretch. If you prefer to hang sweaters, be sure to use padded hangers to avoid those shoulder dimples. And button them to keep their shape.
  • Arrange men’s ties on a tie rack or hang over a hanger. (Take a tip from a salesman friend of mine who has a vast collection of ties: after he wears one, he slips it off his neck without untying, and drapes it over a hanger in the closet. His wife has assembled a half dozen “tie hangers” by color in the closet this way.)
  • Replace purses on shelves in your storage area, grouping matching purses and shoes together.
  • Use a clear plastic shoe box to capture miscellaneous items such as hair-bands, scarves, and belts, and place on the shelf.
  • Cover seldom-worn clothes with a cloth cover, or group them together and cover with fabric, such as an old sheet or tablecloth, to keep them clean.
  • Be sure you have enough light in the closet. Consider a battery-operated light, or one that “taps” on and off as needed. This helps you to avoid leaving the house in one navy and one black shoe!

A Sentimental Journey
Now you’re probably staring at a group of what I call the “sentimental keepers.” These are things you don’t wear or use, but can’t bear to part with — so don’t. Make sure they are clean (stains can oxidize over time), and pack them in a box labeled something like “sentimental favorites.” Store them away, under the bed, on a top shelf, or in the attic (as long as the temperature there remains fairly consistent). You still have the items, but they’re not taking up valuable space in your closet. Who knows, one day when you’re baby-sitting the grandkids and run out of ideas, you may grab it for a “dress up” box. Most kids love to play this game.

No More Closet Confusion
Let’s talk about storage options in your closet.

  • First, consider adding extra shelving. This will give you lots of extra space for those things that you don’t use often, but still need to have on hand, like handbags and totes, evening shoes, sweaters, and bathing suits.
  • If you store things that tend to tip over or fall off the shelf, such as purses or stacks of sweatshirts, put them in a see-through type container such as a plastic milk crate. You want to easily see from the floor what you are looking for. If you used a closed container, have it labeled in bold print.
  • I keep a set of “grab-its” in my closet. These are super-long tongs-like things on a long wooden handle that you can use to reach high above your head. Look for these in home and health stores, and catalogs. They are meant for people who lack mobility, but they’re a wonderful tool to keep handy, not only in your closet, but in the kitchen, garage, and even the living room.
  • Look your closet over and determine how many long items you have, such as dresses and long skirts, trousers that are hung from the cuff, bathrobes, and long coats. This will help you determine how much of your closet space to allocate to their storage. If you don’t wear a lot of long things, then you will only need a small area to store them.
  • If you have a lot of blouses, shirts, trousers folded over padded hangers, and other shorter things, consider adding a bar to the closet to instantly double your storage space. You don’t have to run it the entire length of your closet; you can break the closet up into “long” and “short” zones. By adding double racks, you can store your slacks on the bottom and coordinating blouses on the top rack. Double racks should be installed at about 82 and 42 inches high to make the most of your closet space.
  • Separate your clothing by color and you can grab an outfit at a glance when it’s time to get dressed. This method also lets you know what items are in the laundry too. By adding an extra rack, you may have enough space in your closet to store sweaters hanging on padded hangers to keep them wrinkle free (although I still say sweaters are better folded — no stretching).
  • No need to hang T-shirts; roll them in drawers to conserve space and deter wrinkles.
  • Hooks on the back of the closet door are fine for robes and pajamas.


Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter (Copyright © 2002 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.



Tang in the Toilet and 17 Other Ingenious Bathroom Cleaning Tricks

Short on bathroom cleaning supplies? Maybe not!: All the tools you need for a good tile-to-tub scrub can actually be found in your garage, laundry basket, kitchen cupboards and medicine cabinets. Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean, has done the dirty work to come up with this list of effective — and ingenious — cleaning concoctions.

To clean and polish a porcelain tub and remove stains, make a paste of powdered alum (available in drugstores) and water. Rub well, as if using cleanser. For stains, make a paste of powdered alum and lemon juice; apply and let dry, then moisten with more lemon juice and rub well. Rinse thoroughly.

Borax and water is also a great cleaner for porcelain. Make a paste and rub well, then rinse.

Heat white vinegar until it is hot, but not too hot to pour into a spray bottle and work with. Spray it on the shower and tub heavily. Wait 10–15 minutes and then moisten a scrubbing-type sponge with more of the vinegar and scrub down the shower, using additional heated vinegar as necessary. Rinse well and dry.

Many plastic-type tubs have a dimpled, slip-proof bottom that defies cleaning. I have found that using a good gel cleaner or a mild cleanser, and a piece of fine drywall sandpaper (looks like window screen) works the best. Cut the sandpaper into a workable size, apply the cleaner, and rub. Use this only on dimples in plastic and Fiberglas™ tub and shower bottoms.

For stubborn shower spots and scum buildup, use a dry, soap-filled steel-wool pad on a dry shower. Do not allow water to become involved in this process, as it will cause the steel-wool pad to scratch. Follow up with the previously described vinegar process.

To make shower upkeep simple, apply a coat of car wax. Do not use this on the floor of the tub or shower. After showering, use a squeegee to wipe down the shower door and walls, and your shower will stay clean and you’ll have fewer problems with mildew.

You can keep ahead of grout cleaning if you use a dry typewriter eraser on dry grout to remove mildew and stains as they appear. For bigger problems, make a paste of baking soda and chlorine bleach and apply to the grout. Let dry and then rinse. Do this in a well-ventilated area, using care near carpet or fabric. Even the fumes of chlorine bleach can remove color from towels left hanging in the tub area.

Combine 2 parts baking soda, 1 part borax, and 1 part hot water, adding additional water as necessary to form a thick paste. Apply to the tile and grout, and scrub with a soft brush. Rinse well.

This is a handy spray-on grout cleaner for frequent use, good for removing soap scum and cleaning tile counters:

1/2 cup of baking soda
1⁄3 cup of ammonia
1/4 cup of white vinegar
7 cups of water

Combine all the ingredients in a labeled spray bottle and shake well to mix. Do not use this in conjunction with chlorine bleach or where chlorine bleach has been used. Simply spray it on and then wipe with a damp sponge or cloth. No rinsing required.

Removing soap and scum buildup on glass shower doors is always tedious. Lemon oil or even plain old mineral oil will remove it quickly and easily, and will help to keep it from coming back. Apply the oil to a rough cloth, such as an old washcloth, and rub it across the dirty shower door surface. Next buff with a soft cloth or paper towels to provide a haze-free shine. The oil provides a protective coating that keeps the water beading and the soap scum from adhering. Never put oil or allow it to drip on the floor of the shower; this will prevent good traction in the shower and may cause someone to fall.

Put the shower curtain in the washing machine with 1 cup of white vinegar, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup of your favorite liquid laundry detergent, and several old, light-colored towels. Fill the washer with warm water and run through complete wash and rinse cycle. Remove from the washer and hang on the shower rod immediately.

Fill a plastic sandwich bag with undiluted white vinegar. Tie this around the showerhead and leave overnight. In the morning, remove the bag, scrub the head with a brush, and it’s ready to use.

Put 1/2 cup of baking soda down the bathroom drain and follow with the vinegar from the plastic bag — great drain opener! Wait 30 minutes, then flush with water.

Use white vinegar on a cloth or sponge to remove water spots and soap scum. Dry and buff with a soft cloth. Rubbing alcohol is also a great spot remover. Apply, then dry and buff.

To shine chrome or any metal fixture in a hurry, use a used dryer fabric-softener sheet on a dry fixture.

Apply some lemon juice to chrome fixtures and buff with a soft cloth to a brilliant shine.

You can use this formula to remove hair spray residue from any hard surface — vanities, tile, floors, walls, etc. Mix a solution of 1⁄3 liquid fabric softener and 2⁄3 water in a spray bottle. Spray on the surface to be cleaned and wipe. Not only does it remove hair spray, it also acts as a dust repellent and shines vanities beautifully!

Mix 50 percent rubbing alcohol and 50 percent water in a spray bottle and use it to remove styling product residue.

Lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the decals and heat with a blow-dryer on high. Work up the edge of the decal with a dull straightedge (credit cards work great) and keep applying the heat as you pull. If the decal is stubborn, lay down the foil as necessary and heat well and peel again. To remove the residue, try petroleum jelly, denatured alcohol, or nail polish remover. Test these products in a small area first before applying.

HAIR TODAY: Dilute your shampoo and conditioner with water to save, save, save. No need to watch all that money go down the drain!

Plug the drain holes in the door track with a little bit of paper towel made into a ball. Pour in undiluted white vinegar. Let this soak for 30 minutes, unplug the holes, rinse the track with a spray bottle of water, and run a rag down it. This will flush the accumulated buildup out of the track.


If you have indoor plumbing, then you have to clean the toilet once in a while, whether you like it or not. Follow these tips and it will be a breeze:

Tang® Tune-up
To keep your toilet clean and your dog happy, put several tablespoons of Tang® Breakfast Drink in the toilet before you leave for work or at bedtime. Let it soak, use your toilet brush to swish around under the rim, and flush. The great thing about this is you don’t have to worry if the kids get into the toilet bowl cleaner.

Removing Hard-Water Rings

Shut off the water at the toilet tank and flush. Spray undiluted white vinegar around the inside of the toilet, then sprinkle borax onto the vinegar. Let soak about 30 minutes and then scrub with a piece of fine drywall sandpaper (looks like window screen — available at hardware stores and home centers). If you have an old hard-water ring, you may need to repeat this several times.

Plop-Plop-Fizz-Fizz Cleaning
Drop a couple of denture-cleaning tablets into the toilet and let sit overnight. Brush under the rim with your bowl brush and flush.

To clean stubborn stains from a toilet bowl, first shut off the water at the tank and flush the toilet to remove as much water as possible. Combine in a bucket:

1 tablespoon ammonia
1 cup of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (drugstorevariety)
1 1/2 quarts water

Pour the solution in the toilet bowl and use a brush to apply it to the sides of the bowl. Let stand at least 30 minutes, then scrub the inside of the bowl with a scrub brush. Allow to remain in the toilet for up to several hours, reapplying the solution to the sides of the bowl frequently as needed. Do not use this with chlorine bleach or products that contain chlorine bleach. This solution cleans and disinfects.

Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean (Copyright © 1998 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.



How to Remove Stains Using Common Household Products

You can remove all kinds of stains with the everyday items you probably already have in your cupboard. Linda Cobb, “The Queen of Clean” and author of The Royal Guide to Spot and Stain Removal, tells you how.

Some of the very best spot and stain removers are things you use every single day! These stain removers work great and they’re right at your fingertips!

Alcohol: Rubbing alcohol is great for grass stains and so much more.

Ammonia: The perspiration stain fighter.

Automatic dishwasher detergent: Keep this on hand as a bleach substitute and whitener/ brightener even if you don’t have a dishwasher. Liquid, powder, and tablet form all work well. If you choose the tablet, make sure it has dissolved before you add clothes. Pour directly on stain, or soak.

Baking soda: Removes odors.

Club soda: My favorite Oh my gosh, how did I do that? spotter. Use it on any fabric or surface that can be treated with water. A slight dabbing on dry-clean-only fabrics is also permissible, just be sure to test first! Use club soda on any spill — ask the waiter for some if you’re dining out — dab it on and blot it off. Club soda keeps spills from becoming stains and brings the offending spill to the surface so it can be easily removed. It’s totally safe. I always make sure to have a bottle on hand.

Cream of tartar: I bet you have some of this in the kitchen cupboard, but how often do you use it? Well, here’s your chance. Mix cream of tartar with lemon juice and you have a wonderful bleach for white clothes spotted with food or other stains. It’s even effective on many rust stains.

Denture-cleaning tablets: The cure-all for white table linens with food stains and white cotton with stains. Dissolve one tablet per 1/2 cup water. Pour directly on stain or spot.

Dishwashing liquid: A wonderful spotter, used undiluted on tough stains.

Glycerin: You can remove tar, tree sap (think Christmas tree), juice stains, mustard, ketchup and barbecue sauce.

GOJO Crème Waterless Hand Cleaner®: Totally awesome for removing grease and oil, including shoe polish.

Hydrogen peroxide: 3 percent hydrogen peroxide is super for removing bloodstains, especially if they are fairly fresh. It also is a wonderful bleaching agent for stubborn stains on white clothes. Combine ½ cup of hydrogen peroxide and 1 teaspoon of ammonia for an unbeatable stain removal combination. Make sure to use 3 percent and not the kind you use to bleach your hair!

Lemon juice: This is nature’s bleach and disinfectant. I don’t know where we’d be without it. If you have spots on white clothes, apply some lemon juice and lay them in the sun. Apply a little more lemon juice prior to laundering, or pre-spray and launder as usual. This is really effective on baby formula stains.

Meat tenderizer: A combo of meat tenderizer (unseasoned, please, or you’ll have a whole new stain!) and cold water is just the answer to protein-based stains such as blood, milk, etc.

Salt: Sprinkling salt on spilled red wine will keep the wine from staining until you can launder it. Mixed with lemon juice, salt will remove mildew stains.

Shampoo: Any brand will do. Cheap is fine. I save the small bottles from hotel/motel stays and keep them in the laundry room. Great for treating ring-around-the-collar, mud and cosmetic stains.

Shave cream: That innocent-looking can of shave cream in your bathroom is one of the best spot and stain removers available. That’s because it’s really whipped soap! If you have a spill on your clothes (or even your carpet), moisten the spot, work in some shave cream, and then flush it with cool water. If the offending spot is on something you’re wearing, work the shave cream in and then use a clean cloth (a washcloth works fine) to blot the shave cream and the spot away. A quick touch of the blow-dryer to prevent a ring and you’re on your way. The best thing about shave cream is that even if it doesn’t work it won’t set the stain, so the spot can still be removed later. Keep a small sample can in your suitcase when you travel. It’s saved me more than once!

WD-40 Lubricant®: Check out your garage or the “fix-it” cupboard. If you don’t have any, pick up a can the next time you’re at the hardware store or home center. Why? Because we’ve all had those nasty grease stains and oil stains on clothes: Salad dressing misses the salad and gets the blouse, or grease splatters when you are cooking — or crayon/lipstick/Chap Stick® gets on your clothes! WD-40 is your answer. Spray some on, wait 10 minutes, and then work in undiluted liquid dishwashing soap and launder as usual. Works well on everything except silk!

White vinegar: A great spotter for suede — used undiluted. It’s also a wonderful fabric softener. Just put 14 cup white vinegar in the final rinse. (And no, you won’t smell like a salad!) It’s worthwhile to keep these things on hand. As you can see, most are inexpensive and have other uses. They’ll make you the laundry Queen — or King! — in your home.

Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of The Royal Guide to Spot and Stain Removal (Copyright © 2001 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.



24 No-Fuss, All-Natural Gardening Tips

From keeping weeds at bay to preventing dirt from getting under your nails, here are two dozen easy gardening tips from Linda Cobb, the Queen of Clean and author of A Queen for All Seasons: A Year of Tips, Tricks, and Picks for a Cleaner House and a More Organized Life!

Get a head start on summer! Plant seeds in an egg carton to which you have added a small amount of soil — don’t pack it too hard, and don’t let it spill out over the sides. Keep the soil moist, taking care not to overwater. When you’ve seen the last frost, it’s time to pop the seedlings out of the egg container and plant them in the ground. Still impatient? Speed up germination by laying a piece of plastic wrap over the seedlings to keep them moist and warm. Leave the plastic in place until the plants start to poke their heads through the soil.

  • Try latex gloves in the garden instead of cloth. They’re easier to clean — you can just rinse them under the hose and let them air-dry — and they don’t stiffen up like canvas gloves do.
  • Tie a used fabric softener sheet around your belt to keep mosquitoes away while you garden.
  • For a moisturizing treat while gardening, rub your hands with cream or petroleum jelly before donning your gloves.
  • Don’t like to wear gloves? Scraping your fingernails over a bar of soap before you get started will prevent dirt from penetrating under your nails and will protect them from breaking.
  • Use a little wagon to haul your supplies around the garden. Check garage sales for good deals.
  • Carry a quart spray bottle filled with water and a squirt of liquid dish soap. If you see bugs attacking your flowers, just give them a squirt and they’ll vamoose!
  • Need a kneeling pad? Take a 2- or 3-inch piece of foam, wrap it in plastic or put it in a large re-sealable bag and you’re all ready to go.


  • Crushed eggshells worked well into the soil make a wonderful fertilizer. Terrific for gardens and houseplants, they aerate the soil, too.
  • Bury some used coffee grounds in your garden to provide much-needed acid to the soil that has a high alkaline content. You’ll notice much greener greens!
  • Fish tank water is loaded with nutrients. Use it for gardens and houseplants.
  • Plants love starch, so save the water each time you boil noodles or other pasta. Just make sure to let the water cool down first.
  • Dampened newspapers placed on the ground around plants will help keep the soil moist and hold weeds at bay. Wet the newspapers well — you need the weight of the water to hold them down — then sprinkle lightly with soil. The papers are biodegradable, so they will eventually dissolve.


  • Keep pests such as aphids, mites, and whiteflies off roses, geraniums, hibiscus, and other plants by spraying them with a combination of 1 quart of water and 1/2 teaspoon of liquid dish soap. Reapply the solution every two weeks.
  • Planting garlic, parsley, or basil among your flowers will deter bugs. Marigolds also work well. Just plant them as an edging around the garden.
  • Dissolve 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda in 1 quart of water to kill bugs on flowering plants. Spray every 7 to 10 days.
  • Powdered milk can kill aphids on roses. Mix 1/3 cup of powdered milk in one quart of warm water, and spray. The aphids will get stuck in the milk and die. Hose the roses down occasionally and re-apply as needed.
  • Here’s a great natural way to control black spots on roses. Add 1 tablespoon each of baking soda and vegetable oil to 1 gallon of water. Then add 1 drop of liquid detergent and shake well. Spray directly on the foliage, and spray every 5 to 7 days during humid weather. Make sure to wet both sides of the leaves.
  • Chase away pests that feed on your tender plants by mixing 1 tablespoon of hot mustard or red pepper with 1 quart of water. Spray directly on foliage. One hot taste and the pests will be gone!


  • Old panty hose make great ties for plants and tomatoes. They’re strong and flexible, but soft enough so that they won’t cut into the plant.
  • Cutting roses and trimming bushes can be a prickly job, but if you grip thorny stems with barbecue tongs or clothespins… no more pierced fingers!
  • Tuck a bar of soap inside a mesh bag and tie it around the outside faucet. After gardening cleanups will be a breeze.
  • Hands that are very dirty can be cleaned with a thick paste of oatmeal and water. Rub well into hands before rinsing and washing as usual.
  • Kill weeds with a natural toddy of 1 ounce of white vinegar, 1 ounce of inexpensive gin, and 8 ounces of water. Pour on the weeds and say good-bye.

Linda Cobb, author of A Queen for All Seasons: A Year of Tips, Tricks, and Picks for a Cleaner House and a More Organized Life! (Copyright © 2001 by Linda Cobb), first shared her cleaning tips with readers in a weekly newspaper column in Michigan, where she owned a cleaning and disaster-restoration business dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods. After moving to Phoenix, she appeared weekly as a guest on Good Morning Arizona; since then she has shared her housekeeping tips on radio and television shows across the country, and in two New York Times bestsellers, Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean and Talking Dirty Laundry with the Queen of Clean.



Make Your Own Laundry Spot and Stain Removers

Here’s how to be a spot hotshot with powerful, do-it-yourself spot removers made from common household ingredients. From Linda Cobb, “The Queen of Clean” and author of The Royal Guide to Spot and Stain Removal.

I love natural products, and I love things that I can make for pennies and still have them work better than the products I could buy at the store. Here are some of my favorite laundry spot removers. Use them just as you would over-the-counter products, but take note: many of them are designed to take care of specific spots and stains.

Start with a clean spray and/or squeeze bottle, and always be sure to label any product you make. It’s important to know what the bottle contains and what it was intended for. I like to include the recipe on the label too — that way I can mix up additional product with ease. Cover the label with clear packaging tape or a piece of clear adhesive sheet to protect the label from moisture.

These spotters are all intended for washable fabrics. If in doubt, test in an inconspicuous spot, such as a seam.

General All-Purpose Laundry Spotter
Combine the following to make a generic spotter that works on a wide variety of stains:

1 part rubbing alcohol
2 parts water

If you use a large spray bottle you can add 1 bottle of alcohol and 2 of the alcohol bottles filled with water. Spray this on spots and spills, wait a few minutes, and then launder as usual.

Beverage, Fruit and Grass Remover
Combine equal portions of:

white vinegar
liquid dishwashing soap

Shake well and work the solution into the spot. Let stand a few minutes and then launder as usual.

Non-oily Stain Remover
Combine equal portions of the following ingredients:

liquid dishwashing soap

Shake well, and work the solution into the spot. Let stand a few minutes and flush with water. This solution works well on stains such as milk, blood, perspiration and urine. Do not use on washable wool, silk, spandex, acrylic and acetate.

Oily Stain Remover
Combine the following:

1 tablespoon glycerin
1 tablespoon liquid dishwashing soap
8 tablespoons of water

Work the solution into grease and oil stains. Let sit a few minutes, flush with water, and launder as usual.

Again, remember all of these spotters are for washable fabrics only and none of them are for silk, wool, spandex, acrylic and acetate. When in doubt, test first!

Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of The Royal Guide to Spot and Stain Removal (Copyright © 2001 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.