Hints from Heloise: Fighting bacteria

01/25/2014 12:00 AM

01/24/2014 7:47 PM

DEAR HELOISE: It seems that there is always a report or article discussing how a kitchen sponge is loaded with bacteria. What is the best way to clean these sponges?

– Stephanie L. in Ohio

DEAR STEPHANIE: Ah, yes – the sponge discussion and how to keep them clean and bacteria-free. Most households use foam sponges. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends two methods to rid the sponge of nearly 100 percent of the bacteria: Microwave a wet sponge for 60 seconds, or run it through a normal dishwasher cycle.

Try to remember to clean sponges daily, let them dry out as much as possible between uses and replace frequently (especially if they start to smell). – Heloise

P.S.: Vinegar also works. Put the sponge in a bowl. Pour vinegar over the sponge and let it sit for five to 10 minutes. This kills more than 99 percent of germs.

DEAR HELOISE: When I got married, it was an all-day event for me (as most brides know). It started early in the morning, with hair and makeup, etc. And then I had to be hidden at the venue when guests started arriving. I hadn’t planned to bring any snacks.

My soon-to-be sister-in-law brought finger sandwiches to me and the bridal party. It was so great because we were all starving. They were easy to eat and did not mess up our dresses and makeup.

– A Reader, via email

DEAR HELOISE: I’ve been blessed with a beautiful 8-foot dining-room table. Tablecloths to fit it are very expensive. I found that you can use a twin-size sheet, and it fits perfectly. They are available in fashionable colors for any season.

The sheets can slide around, so I use 1-inch glue strips, found in the scrapbook section of a crafts store, on each corner of the table. I press the cloth onto the strip, and it doesn’t move. The strips are removable and do not damage the wood.

– Marlene in Ohio

DEAR HELOISE: When I am having a picnic or barbecue outside and will be eating on picnic tables, I have devised a better plan than fighting with a tablecloth. I take self-sticking shelf liner and cut place mats out of it. I then stick them on the table. They are easy to peel off, and we don’t have to worry about eating at a dirty table.

– A Reader, via email

DEAR HELOISE: I wash my empty dishwasher twice a month to help with hard-water minerals. I use sugar-free, mostly colorless powdered lemonade drink mix. It is very cheap, and the citric acid in the mix helps in keeping my glasses clean. Many states have stopped allowing phosphates in dishwasher detergent.

– Jeanne in Kentucky

DEAR HELOISE: My cat hates the smell of cayenne pepper. I sprinkle it in my houseplants to keep the cats away. Works great.

– Darlene T. in Georgia

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