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Tar On Brick

Q . Recently, my son did some repair work on my house and used tar to seal the space between the house and the wall outside.  He got a lot of the tar onto my brick front porch, please if anyone can come up with a method or product to help me to remove it, I would be most grateful.

A.  We have gotten "tar balls" on the bottom of our feet at the beach and found that Vaseline petroleum jelly was the best solution to remove the tar residue from the skin – hopefully this will work on other surfaces as well – good luck.   Dale

A.  You can dissolve tar by using a little bit of gasoline or paint thinner (mineral spirits) and a scrub brush.  Then wash the area with plenty of soap and water. Please be careful!   This also works for the tar spots on your car from going through construction zones – and from your clothes from working on construction.   Bob & Lorraine

A.  A friend of mine had driven through tar accidentally and got it on the outside of her tires. She used Avon’s Skin So Soft and it came off. I’m not sure how big of an area you are talking about; her wasn’t really huge, but it did work. Ramona

A.  My son is a foreman for a constriction company, which lays tar all day long. I don’t know if or how good this works, but he has told me that Baby Oil works.

A.  I ‘ve learned that trick from my roofer. Scrape thick pieces off and soak the rest with Paint-thinner . It will come right off. I did it on my bricks and it worked beautiful. Iris , California

A.  To remove tar the first part is the hardest–time. Let the tar harden over time.  Any method of freezing the tar will usually speed this up.   After the tar has hardened physically scrape off the tar trying not to disfigure the bricks. Remember that if you use a cleaner, paint thinner for example, the discolored area will get larger and go deeper into the brick. Tar is usually too thick to penetrate brick unless it is a commercial quick drying solution of tar and thinner. If all else fails remove the stained brick and replace with similar bricks, probably from a place that carries used housing materials.If replacing the bricks do not break up and throw away. Remove mortar carefully and simply turns the brick over and remortar in place.  With time and weathering they will be identical in appearance.     If the original brick was sealed, reseal with same sealant. 

A.  Your son can help you.  After all it has been a mutual experience up until now, don’t turn it into punishment.  Life’s lessons learned.  Michael

A.  Mayonnaise removes tar.  Price

A.  In college I use to do roofing work we would clean it up with either wd 40 or gas just have to be careful it my take a few applications. Then just spray it down with the hose.  BC52

How Can I Get Rid Of The Sour House Smell ?

Q. Our house smells sour (motel room like) no matter what we do!! We are very clean people– got any suggestions on how to permanently get rid of the odor. I’m tired of covering it up with candles, sprays, etc. I’ve even tried baking soda in the carpets! I also have to be careful because my children have horrible asthma/allergies. Thanks, Heather :)

A. Dear Heather, I’ll bet that something (probably pet urine) is in your carpet pad. Cleaning the carpet only treats the surface, not the carpet pad. If you don’t want to replace the pad, try using a steam cleaner and add a scoop of Oxyclean to the cleaning solution. Good Luck, – Katie

A. Buy a large pump of "FEBREZE"…it works on everything. Smelly hampers, sticky rental cars, sleeping bags that reek of camp fire, you name the smell I have used febreze. You can get it at the supermaket. Another idea is to use a citrus odor neutralizing spray, I used this at a Salon I worked at to rid the place of perm smell. BB

A. If you have a forced air heating and cooling system with ducts, get the ducts checked. We have a 45 yr. old house that had mold and LOTS of build up of dirt and other nasty stuff apparently causing an odor. The ducts were rusting out and we needed to have them changed. The newer ones are much more energy efficient. We have saved money on A/C costs this summer. Get a company that cleans ducts to inspect them. Some have a camera that can show you what is in your ducts. But be careful who you get. Use a reputable company and check with the Better Business Bureau. Ask them for references. Some only clean a short way and spray a deodorizer. The estimate we got to clean ours was only $350.00 less than new ones cost us. This was not cheap but we have a grandson with asthma, too. We thought it was vital to his health to do this.

A. You may have a mold of some sort growing in your carpet or behind your wallpaper.  Create a bleach solution (1 to 10 to start, then up to 1 to 4 if it does not work) and gently wash down all of your walls and mop boards.  Rent a hot water carpet cleaner (I actually purchased one and I use it four times a year) and put a bleach solution into the reservoir rather than the soap they try to sell you  (add a drop or two of dish soap, but no more:  it is the water that cleans, not the soap.  Adding too much soap will actually make your carpet dirty because it does not rinse out of the carpet and soap bonds with dirt.).  I have never had this bleach solution discolor even a very dark carpet.  It kills “everything” that might be causing an odor and the hot water cleaning really helps allergies as well.  Keep babies off the rugs as breathing chemicals of any sort is especially bad for them. If after cleaning like this the smell comes back more quickly than you think it should, get a dehumidifier.  Dry out the living quarters first, and then clean out your basement so it is empty of anything that could hold moisture and run it down there as well. Make especially certain to remove cardboard boxes.  Never run a dehumidifier where you have an open window or you are trying to dry out the atmosphere!  An air conditioner actually works even better because of the filtering system in it, but it is too cold where I live to still be using one. Finally, one of those devices that produces ozone or air-born hydrogen peroxide can also work, but they tend to be expensive and may not get to the root of the problem.  Covering or filtering odors is always more costly than eliminating their source. – Judy

A. At our last house we had the same problem ! I too burned many candles and complained about the smell. It was the old shingles ! We replaced them and instant relief ! The 25 or 40 year olds shingles had been covered up for many years & had years to mold and smelled terrible!! Good luck….. Lisa

A. This is for Heather with the sour house smells. We also had house smells and allergies. I burned many a candle trying to get rid of it. We decided to pull up our wall-to-wall carpet and that is where is smells were. We completely got rid of it and the stinky tack board it was attached to. We cleaned and painted our cement floors and the smells are gone. We use area rugs in the rooms now and it has really helped us. – Robin.

A. To get rid of any unwanted odor in the home place a bowl of white vinegar in an out of the way place in the room where the odor is strongest. Within 24 hours the odor will be almost undetectable. Within 48 hours it will be gone completely. It does not mask the odor but gets rid of it.

A. Perhaps it’s because there is a moisture problem. You may have molds/mildew in hidden areas. You may have to have a professional evaluate this status. Check your crawl space or basement for molds. A dehumidifier (standing unit or an addition to your heating and air conditioning units) may eliminate the problem. However, existing molds or mildew would have to be cleaned. Molds and mildew can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms for anyone in the house. Another “quick fix” to odors is charcoal briquettes hidden in inconspicuous places or small bowls of white vinegar here and there.

A. We have lived in several homes with disturbing smells. One was a trailer where cats had urinated in carpeted rooms and the carpet reeked especially on damp days. Cats also apparently loved to pee into your registers. We also once had a strange pile of goo in our vents that just reeked. We did end up moving, and replaced the carpet for the new tenants; we hope it solved the problem. Another problem could be mice in your vents. Finding the source of the foul smell is going to be tough. If you have pets, smell around your baseboards as you enter the house because pets have obnoxious habits. One house we had the previous owner had covered up a damp basement smell with a special type of cedar chip hidden behind light switches in the basement. We discovered in the spring there was a huge crack that leaked water into the laundry right into the drain. Cost us bucks to have it excavated and sealedIT was dry after that and the basement did not smell. Another home we found carpet hidden in a tiny basement room that reeked of cat urine. We dealt with that. Other problems we’ve encountered are unvented basement bathroom toilets, or wet vented plumbing. Or damp pantries. Or bathrooms with no windows or exhaust fan. Use your sniffer nose and go around each room to see it certain areas have a higher concentration of odor. Check your weeping tile drainage in the basement (a hole with a cover in your basement floor) to make sure it is flowing. Make sure your vent stack from your bathrooms is not plugged on the roof.

Sometimes carpets are steam cleaned unprofessionally and a lot of water remains. This causes mildewing and a related odor. Remove your carpets and put in hardwood or similar type flooring, with area rugs that can be cleaned outside of the home and dried before returning to the area. If your carpets are ten years old, it doesn’t hurt to remove them. Check for urine staining on the wood underneath. You can try disinfecting the wood, and then staining it to seal in the smell if you can’t bear tearing out the sub floor. Make sure your furnace is in good repair and is not leaking noxious gases, and check your natural gas lines for loose connections. Rule out all the smells one by one. Some cooking habits (ie curry, certain sausages, cabbage, etc.) leave smells behind that can be rather odious when you come back from being somewhere else. Good luck. RS

Removing Stains in Clothing with Coke

Q.    Somewhere I heard about coca cola being great for washing stains out of clothes, but I wasn’t able to get any more info on that.  Has anyone heard of using coke?

To remove grease from clothes: Empty a can of Coke into a load of greasy clothes, add detergent, and run through a regular cycle. The Coca-Cola will help loosen grease stains.

NO! Don’t use Coca Cola to remove stains; you’ll only create more. What does work like magic is club soda. Sponge club soda on a stain over and over and watch the stain disappear, even beet or red raspberry stains, but you need to do it right away when the stain occurs.

When we lived in Texas and Oklahoma I went to the laundry mat and found that the people washing the oil rig clothes used Coke small Bottles or cans primarily to cut the oil in the clothes. It apparently it works because there were Coke machines only in the laundry mats.

My friend uses a two liter bottle of coke in addition to her detergent for her husbands work uniforms, he works in crude oil. She says this removes all the stains and odors. I imagine you could adjust the amount for the size and amount of dirt. She won’t use anything else! (obviously she has grease and oil stains)

Coca-cola is a great grease cutter, but not a cleaner. If you have one of those stubborn grease stains, that hasn’t washed out, a little coke in the stain can really help, but it’s not a cleaner — you’ll need detergent with it.

Rust Removal

Q. I have a problem with rust spots on my clothes from the dryer. I have tried CLR and various other things with no luck at all. If you know what will take it out I would sure appreciate the help! Thanks

Try a product called "Wink" (brown plastic bottle) it is expensive, but will last a long time! – Ray

I have found a product that will remove rust spots. It is called The Works, I think it is mainly used for toilets, but I have removed rust from clothes,furniture and a lot of things. Thought you might want to try it.

I purchased a second-hand shirt for my son, several years ago. He needed a white shirt for a class play. The shirt had metal snaps and they had left rust spots on the shirt. I tried everything you suggested but they didn’t work. Then I tried "cream of tartar". I filled a large pot with water and 1/2 a box of cream of tartar, added the shirt and brought the whole thing to a boil. Boiled it on the stove for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Worked like a charm. Whitened the shirt as well. The kids still tease me about my "Shirt soup".

Iron rust stains can be removed from washable delicate cottons and linens by moistening the stain with water, squeeze lemon juice directly onto the stain and hold it in the steam from a boiling teakettle for a few minutes. Rinse with water and repeat as many times as necessary. Another method is to boil the article in a solution of 4 tsp. of cream of tartar to a pint of water. Boil until the stain is removed, then rinse in plenty of water. – Harriet

If you will put the item you are treating with salt and lemon juice out in the Sun while you are letting it sit, it works better. Sue

This is usually used to remove rust stains from sinks etc.. and is sold in hardware/home stores. I don’t know if it works on cloth or not, but you can read the label for information. It works great on the sink.

Try "Iron Out" sold in hardware stores like true value. Walmart also carries it follow the directions carefully. Great for nurse’s uniforms or white clothes that have yellowed. Hope this helps! Jean

I’m wondering if she has checked her dryer’s barrel for nicks that have then gone on to rust. There is a product you can buy at most any hardware store that can paint the rust spots, sealing them. Comes in one or two different colors, that I remember, and can be used on different appliances to cover scratches. It’s a good idea to paint any and all knicks so this won’t happen in the future. Hope this helps! Take care. – Cheryl

To the person with rust stains on her clothing, I have always had good luck with a product called Whink Rust Stain Remover. Just follow instructions on the bottle. B. Parrish

Try a product called "Whink" (brown plastic bottle) it is expensive, but will last a long time! – Ray

I’m just now getting around to reading the past two weeks of’s e-zine. Happened to see the request for something that works on rust. There’s a product I bought in Houston, Texas that I will never be without. Everyone who comes to visit us is first requested to pick up a bottle of this magic potion. We have not been able to locate it in Colorado. The product is called The Original Quaker House Rust & Stain Remover ( for fabrics, toilet bowls, metals, urine stains, sinks, and carpets. I keep it by my sink because it will eliminate coffee stains or any other food stains on my white ceramic sink, immediately. For a true rust stain, I have the same result. Within seconds, the stain is gone. I’ve also taken a whole bottle to a toilet bowl that someone was trying to clean from years of hard water. Amazing…cleaned it within seconds, whereas the owner had scrubbed for hours with a variety of cleaners. All that is written on the bottle is that it’s by Quaker Cleaners in Houston, Texas. No Website is listed or address. Hope that helps. Marcia Horn Noyes

I have been gone for a few weeks but read the problem with the spots on clothing. I also had the same problem about 4 years ago. I was told that after years of use of the dryer sheets it eats away on the drum in the dryer. I had to replace the dryer and have not used a dryer sheet since. I have heard this same problem 3 times since it happened to me. I think now I just pay attention to it a little more.

I paint a rusty spot in my washing machine tub with Wite-Out every few weeks. Exa

Nicotine Build-Up On Mirrors

Q. What will remove smoke film from mirror glass?  I have tried everything, nothing will cut the nicotine build up.  [Quit smoking, praise God] Thank you,  –Betty/NC

A. We had this problem after my mother died. But I was amazed by what Windex cleaned up. I’m surprised this hasn’t worked for her. Congratulation on giving up this expensive and unhealthy habit!

A . I use Fantastic cleaning spray to get rid of the nicotine/ yellow build up. I have used this idea for use in cars also. Maureen & Skylar

A. Try half and half white vinegar and water. You may have to go over it more than once if the buildup is extremely heavy. Warning:  It will stink when you take it off!

A. Try pure rubbing alcohol to remove the smoke.  I clean my mirrors with it all the time and it does not leave streaks.

A. When we inherited my folks place the nicotine was heavy everywhere.  They had both been chain smokers for years.  I discovered many of Mom’s tan knickknacks were actually white when I used window cleaner that was strong with ammonia on them.  If you’ve already tried this.  Try using straight sudsy ammonia in a well ventilated area on the mirror and lots of elbow grease.  I actually had to soak some of her pieces to get them clean, but I wouldn’t recommend immersing the whole mirror as it may take the silver backing off the mirror. Instead cover the glass with newspapers and dampen (not soaking) them with the ammonia, let it set.  That should do it.  –Jan

A . Clean mirror with rubbing alcohol . If that don’t work, then try ammonia full strength. One other thing to try is vinegar diluted with a small amount of water.

Removing Ink From Furniture

Q. I found my dog had slept on the sofa with a pen, cap off, and it bled all over the seat. Is there any way, after sitting for a week, to remove it? Thanks, Sara

If this is a fabric sofa, non-aerosol hair spray and a toothbrush will take the stain out. Just remember after removing the stain to go over the spot with water to prevent a hair spray stain. Melissa

Hairspray gets ink out of fabrics, I would try praying it on and blotting gently, follow with an upholstery cleaner. Atela

We had this happen on our beige rug. I was able to remove most of it with hair spray. Soak (really soak!!!) the stain with hair spray and BLOT like crazy, repeat and repeat and repeat. It really does work. Gonzo sells a stain remover (I get it at Joann’s Fabrics) that will take out ANYTHING. It’s great stuff. I know it will work on ink because I used it on a white blouse. Good luck  Linda

I had an ink pen leak on my sofa once and I took hair spray a saturated it than did some dabbing with a rag.  It got most of it out after a couple times of doing this than I washed the cushion cover in the wash.  It is gone now.  If the cushion cover don’t come off, that is something and this trick might work but using a carpet shampooer with an attachment. Good luck Kellie

In your question on ink stains, hairspray is one of my favorites to use. It will take ink off hard surfaces like wood and metal as well as fabric. If your cushion has a zipper, hold a wad of paper towels inside underneath the ink stain. Spray the hairspray on the outside and also blot on the outside with more paper towels. You will need to repeat until the stain is gone. If you can take the cover off the cushion, you can use de-natured alcohol in the same manner as the hairspray and when the stain is neutralized, you can dip the cover in a solution of borax and Fells Naptha soap in warm water to remove the alcohol.  Crystal

Removing Pink From A Sweater

Q. Help! Due to a laundering "accident", one of my favorite black and white sweaters is now black and "pink", having been put in the wash with a burgundy dress. OOPS! Even though I only paid $1 for it at a garage sale, I can’t bear to throw it out until I am absolutely certain nothing can be done. I have tried rewashing it a few times with no results…does anyone have any ideas how I can get the pink out (I am willing to try something a little risky, since nothing else has worked so far). Thanks! Karen M.

I did the same thing to a blue and white sweater. I soaked it in the sink in water with dishwasher soap in it. It took a few times because I didn’t know how much soap to use but the pink eventually came out. I never dried it in the dryer until it all came out. the only catch may be that if all of the strands are not colorfast it may lighten them.  Jo. K.

Rit makes a product specifically to use in the washer to remove dye "bleeds".  It is usually with the cleaning products at my Wal-Mart; there’s a whole section devoted to "special" stains.  Rit makes one and also, there’s another company that makes a dye remover that’s specifically for this problem.  Good luck! Lauryi K.

I heard recently that using a tablet that cleans dentures will whiten and take stains out. I’ve never tried it myself (yet). Put the item in water and add the tablet, when the fizzing stops – it’s done!! I don’t think this would hurt the black color, so it may be worth a try. Hope it works!!  Shirley W.

I have used the sun to remove stains from white clothes – the sun has natural bleaching properties. As a final straw, I would suggest setting the sweater in the sun for a few days!  Tyler & Stacy 

This helped with a son’s favorite concert shirt that turned pink in the wash. Take a 5 gallon bucket or large pot that won’t leak ( tub leaks don’t use it need long time) add water with some dishwasher liquid (electrosol etc) and let the object soak for about 12 to 24 hours. I forgot his for a day so that may have helped . Rinse in tub and check to see if needs to soak more. repeat with fresh water and soap if necessary. then wash and dry ( not in dryer will set the dye that has run if not all out ) .  Hope this helps it work with the concert shirt came out like new.  Siobhanb

Have you tried the Dye Magnet that they sell at various stores? I have seen them at WalMart and I have bought one at JoAnn Fabrics. I have used it successfully to remove colors. Costs around $7.00 but can be used for up to about 50 wash loads. I know a lot of quitters who use it for bleeding fabrics.  G. Looker

The most important tip for removing any stain is DON’T APPLY HEAT.  You mentioned that you tried washing your stained dress several times.  If you dried it in the drier between washings, your dress probably can’t be saved. Otherwise, get a RIT stain removal package, which you will find where they sell RIT dyes. It is perfect for removing colors that have bled from another clothing item in your wash.  -Holly

Wallmart carries a product that removes bleeding from fabric. One load worth costs about a dollar. I was amazed-I discovered pink bleeding on a black and white shirt after the item had been in the dryer on "microwave". I really didn’t expect it to work. Somehow, the stuff removed the red dye but didn’t affect the black at all. When you first add the powder to the wash, however, the water turns bright purple-I really thought I’d ruined the garment but it worked great.

There is a product called Goo Gone that is wonderful. It removed my son’s crayon artwork off my kitchen wall and claims to remove candle wax from all kinds of surfaces. It is great for all kinds of messes.  Stephanie M.

I too had a daughter who got nail polish on a dress. Although it was not beige it still was necessary to get it out as it was a good dress.  This is what I did….. Take paper toweling and place behind the fabric where the stain is.  Next take a cotton ball or paper toweling with nail polish remover and BLOT the polish out. This works really well. Launder the item as usual.  Hope this helps.  Monica R.

Cleaning Rayon Fabric

Q.     I have a problem with my rayon fabric turning colors when I take it to the dry cleaners.  I have tried Dryel at home and still my fabrics get a red or pink tinge to it that I cannot get to come out.  I would stop buying rayon clothing, but I love the way it feels.  Does anyone know how to get this reddish cast out of my dresses, or are they just ruined?  If there isn’t anything I can do to get it out, is there anything I can do to avoid this from happening in the future?  Thanks a lot, Dianne H

I just hand wash my Rayon garments in cold water.  I use just a drop of mild detergent, and rinse.  I dry them on the line and needs virtually no ironing.   I realize the tag says ‘Dry Clean Only’ but I have not had any problems with Rayon.  Bob & Lorrain

I have never taken rayon to the dry cleaners. Always washed it in a natural liquid detergent, called Sunshine Concentrat e.  I love this product.  Use it for so many things around the house.  My clothing look new so much longer by not using chemical detergents which I think are designed to wear your clothes out and discolor them.  Maybe the clothing industry is in with the detergent industry?  LOL  Teresa

Melted Balloon Stain

Q. Any idea how to get the stain of a melted balloon out of a fine linen handkerchief? Thank you, Heather

A. I don’t know if it will work, but have you tried freezing the handkerchief?   Trish

Getting Rid of Mold in Shower

Q. I have mold on my bathroom walls and ceiling over the shower. The mold and mildew removers say "Not for painted surfaces." So, what can I use?

• If all else fails to remove mold, try tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil. Put about a tablespoon of oil in hot soapy water and wash down. After that, keep a spray bottle of the mixture in the bathroom and spray before a shower. Before you use it make sure you are not allergic to the oil, both these oils are very powerful. Tea tree oil is possibly more effective but smells pretty awful – eucalyptus smells lovely. – Iva     Editor’s Note: Use quality Essential Oils for potency and properties wanted.

• We had the same problem – I put some bleach in a cheap spray bottle and sprayed the mildewed areas – worked like a charm! Be SURE the area is well-ventiated, and wear goggles i case of splashback. If your bathroom has an outer wall, you can prevent mildew problems down the road by purchasing and installing an inexpensive ventilating fan unit, available at major home centers. You can also install fans in interior bathrooms, but you would need to have ducts installed. Be sure to leave the bathroom door cracked open while you are showering to allow steam to escape – AND – even MORE frugally, take shorter showers and use less hot water! Less hot water usage = less steam = less mildew. A. I found mold on the painted walls above my shower compartment. I sprayed the walls with a solution of 1/2 water and bleach and it came right off when I wiped it down. I also keep the same ratio of water and vinegar in a spray bottle. Great for hard water on fixtures etc. – LeBrun

• Use bleach to remove the mold and mildew then repaint with a good quality paint and have the paint store add stuff to the paint to halt mildew growth. also vent if at all possible. even a small portable fan would help A. On the mold on painted surfaces question: A 10-1 ratio of water and bleach in a spray bottle works. Lightly spray the surface. Let it dry overnight. It may require multiple sprays or you might have to change the concentration. – Alisa

• I use warm water with a little bleach, (not to much, you don’t want to strip the paint off the walls) about a cup in a bucket of water. The bleach not only kills the icky mold and bacteria, it leaves a barrier so it won’t grow back so quickly. I sometimes add a little mild detergent (like dish soap) into the water, for extra cleaning power. Make sure the room is well ventilated and REMEMBER, don’t mix household cleaners with bleach, it’s hazardous to your health. Happy cleaning – Brooke

•I used bleach to kill the mold and then I painted the surface again with a paint that says on the label that it prevents mold. No more problems. – Olson