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SOLUTIONS: Wicker basket smell nothing to snicker at

QUESTION -- We recently purchased some wicker baskets for our home. The problem is that they smell like cow manure! We are not able to keep them in the house. I have left them outside for a few weeks and they still smell. I tried Febreeze also with no luck. What do you suggest to get the smell out?

-- Wayne, Winnipeg

ANSWER -- Here are three options for removing the unappealing smell expelled by your wicker baskets. Make a solution of one quarter cup chlorine laundry bleach in two gallons of warm water. Get a medium bristle brush, like a vegetable brush. Dampen the brush and gently scrub the baskets. Rinse with clean water. Another option is to clean the baskets with Murphy's Oil. Make sure that you wash the entire basket (bottom as well). If the smell remains, the basket most likely has a coated finish that smells, in which case brushing it with a different finish such as shellac is your best bet.

QUESTION -- I love your column and books. I am helping my son get his place ready for a baby. Do you have a safe method to rid a room of smoke odours without putting harmful chemicals into the air? I am asking for walls, carpet, etc. Thank you so much for your wonderful and helpful tips.

-- Shirley, Winnipeg

ANSWER -- You will need to steam-clean carpets and wash the walls with bubble bath and water. Wash all furniture, bedding and window coverings. If the smell remains your next step is to paint the walls using an odourless paint. Also, leave an open bag of charcoal in the room or a big open bottle of vinegar. You might also check out purchasing a diffuser that you can plug into the wall and add some really nice-smelling essential oils.

QUESTION -- Perhaps you can help? I burned a pot of rice; we can't get the black carbonized rice off of the bottom of the pot. We have tried baking soda, Barkeepers' Helper, elbow grease, vinegar, even tin foil. Any solutions would be appreciated.

P. S. My stepfather loved your solution to remove the yellow stains from vinyl.

-- Elsbeth, New Bothwell, Man.

ANSWER -- When you say that you tried the baking soda and vinegar did you boil them or just let the pot soak? Adding the element of heat is a powerful tool that lifts stains, odours and kitchen messes. In other words, pour enough vinegar into the pot to cover the bottom, add 1 tbsp. baking soda. Bring to a boil for five minutes. Turn element off, cover and leave overnight. Wash in the morning. Or sprinkle the bottom of the pot with a layer of dishwasher detergent powder. Fill the pot one-quarter full with water. Boil for five minutes and remove from element. Leave overnight and wash as normal. Some people have also reported good results with leaving Coke in the pot overnight. Clean with as S.O.S. pad in the morning!

QUESTION -- I read your column each week and have all of your books. My colleagues and I are all wondering the best (and easiest) way to thoroughly clean (wash) metal window blinds. Some of us have many, many blinds in our homes. Thanks for the help.

-- Jan, Vita, Man.

ANSWER -- For everyday dusting wipe metal blinds with a good-quality micro-fibre cloth and water or the dust attachment and your vacuum. Once a month, wipe slats with an unused fabric-softener sheet; doing this repels dust. Every six months, grab an old clean sock and a bucket of soapy water. Dip the sock into water and wash blinds. Follow up with a clear water rinse. Once a year, remove blinds and fill your bathtub with hot water, 1 tsp. dish soap and one cup white vinegar. Allow the blinds to soak for a half hour or so. Drain the tub and rinse with the shower head or a bucket of clean water. Or take the blinds outside, hose them down and let them air-dry.

QUESTION -- In a recent issue of the Winnipeg Free Press you printed an insect/animal repellent recipe that called for soap flakes which I didn't keep on hand and cannot seem to find in any of the stores I frequent. Could you possibly let me know where one might find these flakes, or can I substitute them with laundry detergent, and if so, the quantity one would use? I do enjoy your column; please continue with your economical, and very helpful, solutions. Awaiting your reply.

-- Judy, Winnipeg

ANSWER -- As a substitute for soap flakes you can make your own by shredding one bar of Ivory soap into flakes.

Fabulous Tips of the Week

A couple of old-time cooking hints:

My Granddad used to add a pinch of baking soda when pre-soaking beans. He said they softened more quickly. People on a low-sodium diet might have to take the soda into account.

My father-in-law added a teaspoon of white vinegar to simmering soup bones to draw out the calcium.

Enjoy your continuing encouragement in the use of vinegar and baking soda around the house.

-- Submitted by L. Strange, Winnipeg

Reena Nerbas is the author of the national best sellers, Household Solutions 1 with Substitutions, Household Solutions 2 with Kitchen Secrets and the brand new Household Solutions 3 with Green Alternatives, available online and in stores across Canada.

I enjoy your questions and tips, keep them coming! Check out my web site! www.householdsolutions.org