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Frugal living tip #7. February 16, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. It’s Monday, and that means it’s frugal living tip time here at Poor Richard’s Almanac. Today’s frugal living tip is about wine, specifically red wine.

No, I’m not claiming that wine-drinking is a frugal habit! Nor am I going to recommend inexpensive but delicious brands and types of red wine. Instead, this tip is about red wine stains, or more specifically, how to get rid of them. Red wine is one of the hardest stains to get out of fabric. And having to toss out a piece of clothing, napkin, tablecloth, or (yikes) rug or piece of furniture because you can’t get the stain out is not my idea of frugal living.

I like to cook with wine, and just the other day I was adding red wine to a tomato sauce when—splat!—some splashed on my pumpkin-colored top. Normally, I don’t have to worry about spills like this, not because I’m so neat (far from it) but because I’ve learned through many a grease and tomato stain to wear an apron when I cook. (And a full frontal apron, please. Maybe those stupid little half-aprons were considered sexy in the Fifties, but if you’re trying to keep from getting stuff on your clothes, you need to cover the part that sticks out farthest, and if you’re a woman, hopefully that isn’t your gut. In fact, if you’re a man, hopefully it isn’t your gut, either, come to think of it. But I digress.)

Anyway, for some reason I got arrogant when I was making this sauce and left the apron in the drawer. Splat! That’ll show me. Now I had a dark wine stain front and center on one of my favorite tops. What to do?!

Typically, when I need to clean something up, I turn to a higher authority—Linda Cobb, aka the Queen of Clean. Linda swears by a product called Wine Out, and notes that it not only removes wine stains but many another hard-to-get-out stain like magic.

I’m not big on buying tons of cleaners, but one day I saw a little purse-size spray container of Gonzo Wine Out for just a couple of dollars and remembered reading the Queen of Clean’s comments. Unfortunately, I don’t check my clumsiness at the front door, so when I’m eating out, I’m liable to find myself with a dressing-drenched piece of lettuce or mercy knows what in my lap or worse, on my top. (If I were Arbiter of Taste, good manners would consist of serving food in bowls that one raised to just below one’s chin when eating. And salad would be cut in bite-sized pieces!) I guess I was thinking that it might be a good idea to carry the little container of Wine Out in my purse, but of course it ended up on a shelf in the laundry room instead.

In this case, that was just as well. I sprayed the Wine Out on the wine stain and tossed the top in the laundry basket, hoping for the best. Yikes, when I looked in later, the spray had dried but the stain was still there. But sure enough, when I did the laundry, the stain disappeared! Whew.

I understand that there are other products out there like this, including one called Wine Away. If any of you have used one, please let us know how it worked! Meanwhile, it’s worth investing a couple of dollars to save your clothes and furnishings from ruin. As our hero and blog mentor, Ben Franklin, would say, no sense being penny wise and pound foolish!

            ‘Til next time,



Getting out those post-party stains. December 31, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Between today’s New Year’s Eve parties and tomorrow’s TV football marathons, there’s gonna be a whole lot of eating and drinking going on. And where there’s serious partying, there are usually serious stains: champagne or (worse) red wine spilled on sofas and rugs; greasy dips and chips dumped on laps and ground into upholstery; mustard, ketchup, mayo, barbecue sauce, and relish; chocolate. Need I say more?

Fortunately, the situation’s not hopeless, even if you, ahem, fail to notice the stains until the next morning. (But bear in mind that the sooner you can tackle a stain, the easier it is to get out.) I recommend a quick trip to your laundry room to see if you already happen to have any of the stain-busters I’m about to list. If you don’t, it’s not a bad idea to stop at the grocery en route home from work and arm yourself with a bottle or two. You probably need to pick up a few last-minute party items anyway, right?

Here are stain-busting’s heavy hitters:

Wine Out. Originally created to remove red wine stains (these are among the toughest of all stains to get out), Wine Out works wonders on pretty much any stain. You can even buy a small portable size to slip into your purse, so you’ll be prepared if you’re out partying and get wine (or something) on your clothes. But as the package notes, don’t use it if you’re wearing corduroy, silk, or velvet. An alternative is Wine Away Red Wine Stain Remover.

Tuff Stuff. This is our friend and fellow blog contributor Richard Saunders’s all-time favorite stain and spot remover. He insisted on giving our friend Ben and me a can of it when our dog Molly was battling an infection and having accidents in the house, and he was right, it does seem to work on everything, from dog urine and cat vomit to red wine and grass stains. Let’s hope you don’t have to confront anybody’s vomit after your New Year’s Eve party, but it never hurts to be prepared.

Zout Stain Remover. Zout is a laundry pre-treatment product: Apply it to the offending spot(s) before you wash your clothes. The Queen of Clean (we’ll talk more about her in a moment) loves Zout, and that’s good enough for me.

Spot Shot Instant Carpet Stain Remover. Another of the Queen’s favorites, you can also use Spot Shot to pre-treat spots on fabrics before popping them in the washing machine.  

Biz All Fabric Bleach. If you cut your hand while chopping up veggies for those party dips and end up with bloodstained clothing or dishtowels, nothing works to get blood out of fabric like Biz. Apply a paste of Biz and cold water to the bloodstain, let it dry for several hours, and wash. This works for grillin’ guys who get blood from steaks on their aprons, too.

Wieman’s Wax Away. Candlelight may be romantic, but there’s nothing romantic about candle wax dripping all over a tablecloth or bare table (or mantel). Use Wax Away to get it off with ease. 

Fine, you may be thinking, but what if I don’t have any of this stuff and need to get stains out with ordinary household products? Or what if I want to use the most natural products I can? Not to worry. Over the years, I’ve read a whole lot about how to use household products to remove stains, and I find some claims a lot more believable than others. But sometimes the most outlandish-sounding things are the ones that actually work. (Would it occur to you to spray WD-40 on an old grease stain?!)

So when I want to know if I can really use lemon juice or Epsom salts or club soda to get out stains, I turn to my ultimate authority, Linda Cobb, aka The Queen of Clean. I have and love The Queen’s classic cleaning guides, Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean and Talking Dirty Laundry with the Queen of Clean. But when I’m fighting stains, I want to be able to get information ASAP, so I turn to The Queen of Clean: The Royal Guide to Spot and Stain Removal. Linda has actually been there, done that. She ran her own successful cleaning service for bazillion years before taking her hard-won knowledge to the general public. If she says it works, it works. I’d recommend keeping this inexpensive ($5.99) little paperback in your laundry room; it will pay for itself the first time you save a tee-shirt! Here are a few of the Queen’s favorite household stain-busters:

Club soda. Dab club soda on clothing, linens, or upholstery and blot to keep a spill from becoming a stain. Linda points out that if you’re eating out and spill something on yourself, you can always ask your server for some club soda. Good idea! Our friend Ben and I don’t drink club soda, but you can bet I have a few bottles in the laundry room just in case!

Lemon juice. Linda recommends putting lemon juice on stains on white fabrics and setting them in the sun to bleach naturally before laundering. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be trying to find and squeeze a fresh lemon at a time like this. It makes sense to keep a bottle of real lemon juice on hand.

Salt. Ahem. As faithful readers know, salt is one thing that’s never in short supply here at Hawk’s Haven. But who’d have thought it was a natural stain fighter? The Queen of Clean sprinkles salt on red wine stains to keep them from setting, and mixes salt with lemon juice to combat mildew stains.

Meat tenderizer. Use it to fight protein-based stains like blood and milk, but make sure you’re using unseasoned tenderizer! 

Shampoo. Rub it in to fight “ring around the collar” before doing the wash.

Shaving cream. A great spot-treatment for stains on clothing, fabric, and carpeting. The Queen carries a small sample can in her suitcase to combat stains on the road! Use cream, not gel.

Rubbing alcohol. Use it to fight grass stains.

Toothpaste. Use plain white (non-gel) toothpaste to get out makeup stains and ink. But guys, if you’ve got lipstick on your collar, you are in deep trouble! Lipstick’s notoriously difficult to get out. If the stain is fresh, try rubbing it with a slice of white bread (and yes, you read that right). 

The Queen of Clean lists plenty of other ingenious stain-busting uses for household products from denture-cleaning tablets to hydrogen peroxide, cream of tartar, and yes, that can of WD-40. She also recommends many commercial products for combating stains, and includes a stain-by-stain guide as to what works best for removing everything from infant formula to the dreaded (by me, anyway) spaghetti sauce. But hopefully, this is enough to get you through New Year’s and into the new year! And if you have any stain-fighting secrets you’d like to share with us, we’d love to hear them!

           ‘Til next time,


Tell me why: chefs wear white August 7, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Last night, as I splattered melted butter, sauce, and assorted beverages all over my clothes yet again in the process of making dinner, I began to wonder what on earth possessed chefs to wear white. Admittedly, chefs have long had a reputation for craziness—what sane person would choose to work such long, crazy hours at such a frenetic pace, after all?—but white. That is too much.

If you’ve ever tried to get grease, tomato sauce, turmeric, red wine, blood, and the like out of your clothes, you know what I mean. Even though I dab dishwashing liquid on each spot before tossing the hapless garments in the dirty clothes basket, it can take as much as five launderings to get some of those stains out. Grrrr!!! Meanwhile, all those chefs are out there in their tidy-whiteys from head to toe. What are they thinking?!!! You can bet that, if I were a chef, the Official Silence Dogood Kitchen Uniform would be a cheerful bright red with a small, overall freeform pattern. No stain would ever get the better of me again!

Chefs, if you’re out there reading this, I’d love to hear a plausible explanation. Otherwise, I’ll be forced to conclude that the answer lies somewhere between madness and masochism. After all, that food is out to get us…

        ‘Til next time,


Help us, Tomato Casual!!! June 16, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Our friend Ben and I are desperate. We’ve tried everything, and nothing works. So we’re turning to the ultimate authority, Tomato Casual, “Everything tomato for people who love tomatoes,” to see if they can’t rescue us. (You’ll find this great blog at http://www.tomatocasual.com/.)

Now, our friend Ben and I are definitely “people who love tomatoes.” Specifically, we love to eat tomatoes. We love to eat them fresh, in salads, on sandwiches (thick, luscious tomato slices with Romaine lettuce, cheese, and mayo on toasted whole-grain bread—yum!!!), in fresh salsas, sliced with corn on the cob and coleslaw, or sliced and salted with cottage cheese for a light, refreshing summer lunch when it’s too hot to face much else. We also love them in tomato sauces and cooked salsas. We eat tomatoes, in one form or another, practically every day. So yes, we love tomatoes. But what we don’t love is getting them all over our clothes.

With two exceptions, turmeric and grease (i.e., oil and butter), tomato stains are the hardest things to get out of clothes. Even fresh tomato is impossible to get out, and, of course, tomato sauces with oil are—forgive us, James and Shala—double danger. We dab them with dishwashing liquid. We wash them and wash them. And still, the stains stare up at us reproachfully. “What happened to those wolves (or was it hogs) who raised you?” we can imagine them saying. “We haven’t seen them around, but we know they must be out there.”

We, of course, think this is grossly unfair. Fresh tomatoes seem unable to refrain from spewing their juice and pulp all over the nearest object, which is inevitably one of us. Pasta and chips have an unstoppable tendency to drip and splatter sauce and salsa all over guess who. Bibs are not considered de rigueur dining attire, unless one is eating lobster, and holding one’s face over and about an inch above one’s plate would only give credence to those rumors about being raised by hogs. What’s a poor diner to do?!!

I suppose we could just give up and wear tomato-red attire at all times, hoping the stains would blend in. (We have read that Spartan warriors wore blood-red cloaks so the enemy couldn’t see if they were wounded. Maybe it would work.) But we’d really prefer to wear our usual clothes, thank you. However, fewer and fewer of them are still wearable, thanks to the tomato stains.

So, Tomato Casual, we are turning to you in hopes of rescue. Do you have any words of wisdom on getting out tomato stains? As the aliens tell the Captain Kirk-like figure in that wonderful movie, “Galaxy Quest,” “You are our last hope!” So please, rescue us from our sea of tomato stains. Michael, Kira, Thomas, Vanessa, Reggie: Surely you all have some secret weapons we can use to win the tomato-stain war! Please please please.

And, gentle readers, if you all have any tips and tricks of your own for fighting tomato stains (or turmeric or grease stains, for that matter, since we’re on the subject), please let us know. We’re pretty much down to our last tee-shirts.

              ‘Til next time,