How To Clean And Shine a Dull, Grimy Kitchen Table

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Dear Home Ec 101,
I love receiving your info! So much fun to read! Anyway, I really need help with the following: I
bought a beautiful dining room table and chairs from a friend with children. Unfortunately, she has never instilled the clean-hands rule with them and the table is sticky and dulled with finger marks every single place hands can reach! I am confident that I could remove them, but no luck and I am at my wit’s end. I have tried Murphy’s Oil Soap, liquid dish washing detergent, vinegar, vinegar and oil. Please help.
I have a formal home and this looks so dirty and tacky that I am embarrassed.
Greasy Grimy Finger Prints

How to remove ground in dirt and grime from wooden furniture
Heather says

The clean hands rule is such an uphill battle, I can sympathize with your friend and because my kids leave the frustrating grime, I can sympathize with you, too.

That doesn’t accomplish much, does it?

I am going to make an assumption from the information provided, the hand prints and grime are noticeable because the table is a lighter, blonde wood without a high gloss finish. Do not use the following suggestion for a glossy piece of furniture.

Removing built up dirt and grease from a table has a fairly simple, if tedious solution. Grab a box of baking soda and some cheap vegetable oil, leave the fancy EVOO for another time. You’re also going to need a sponge or rag, a bowl, and a whole lot of patience.

Mix the baking soda and oil in the bowl in a 2:1 ratio. ( For every 1/2 cup of baking soda, you’ll use 1/4 cup of oil, make sense?) Stir to form a paste and apply with a rag or sponge following the grain of the wood.

The baking soda acts as a very mild abrasive and brings the grease into the solution. Remember the adage about like dissolving like? That’s what is happening here, the baking soda can get down into the tiny crevices and bring the bits of greasy dirt into the oil. Tasty!

Once you’ve removed the grimy hand prints from the table, wipe the entire table down with a damp rag with just a tiny bit of soap or cleaning agent like Murphy’s. (I, as most of you are tired of hearing, am a fan of Method’s line, especially the wood cleaner) and then wipe again with a rag that’s just dampened with water.

Now to restore a nice shine to the table, you’ll want to wax or oil it. Paste wax is the easier of the two options. And if you’ve ever waxed a car, you’ve got the basic idea. Wax on, wax off.*

Supplies needed:

Apply the paste in a circular motion, this works the wax into all of the tiny nicks, pores, and cracks in the finish of the table. Allow the wax to dry for a few minutes and then buff the table with the grain rather than in circles.

I know that was a lot of work, but on the bright side, if there aren’t kids in your home, you probably won’t have to repeat the oil and baking soda trick.

Waxing your table every six months or so will help maintain the finish of your table.

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*Award yourself One Internet if you said that like Pat Morita, please take care of it, all of my friends live in it.



Keeping The Kitchen Clean: A Home-Ec 101 Guide

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keeping the kitchen clean

It’s said to be the heart of the home. The kitchen is certainly the most used area with a lot of traffic. It’s also the source of a lot of work, but there is a certain satisfaction in making it clean and shiny. Here are some articles that might help you; click the title of the ones that you want to read more of.

How To Hand Wash Dishes

Here’s a question for those of us in Nashville who are conserving water due to the flood, what’s the best way to conserve water while washing dishes? I know the dishwasher is out. Should we wash dishes individually, or do the whole fill-up-the-sink-with-water thing? Does that really get dishes clean?

How to Repair Stained Grout

I’ve swept and mopped for three years on my tile floors, and I’ve been knowing I need to do something to make the grout white again. I did the test to see if my grout had been sealed. It hasn’t! Will I be able to restore them to white again?

Cutting Board Basics

This past weekend I attempted to fix a wood (plank, not end-grain) cutting board with some pretty deep cuts in it, and wound up totally botching the project. Do you have any tips or tricks for cutting board maintenance?

How to Clean a Dirty Broiler Pan

Even though I sprayed my roasting rack and pan with Pam, it still took a large SOS pad, an overnight soaking, and a lot of elbow grease to get it clean. Every time I use that pan I think there must be an easier way. How do you do it?

How to Clean a Smooth Top Range / Stove

I have a glass smooth top stove. Recently I managed to burn it pretty badly – I think there were some food particles either on the burner or the bottom of my pot, because when I put the pot on the burner it sizzled and then a very bad burning smell filled the air. I was able to scrub the pot bottom clean, but am not sure what to do about the burner.

How to Clean Dirty Drip Pans

How in the WORLD do you clean off the reflectors on the stove top after you’ve successfully made them the most horribly dirty items in your house? I am down to one burner that I can use without setting my fire alarms off!

How to Clean Stained Enameled Cast Iron

I have one of those pricey enameled cast iron Dutch, err…French ovens. One particularly rushed morning I let a chunky ragu scorch onto said pricey French oven. After several days of soaking I gave in and scrubbed. Now my cookware is stained and lacks the original luster I paid for. Can the enamel luster be restored and saved?!

How to Clean a Smelly Garbage Disposal

How do you de-stink a garbage disposal?

How to Reduce Cooking Odors

I love having my home grown bacon or sausage on the weekend, but how do I get rid of the horrible grease smell after I have enjoyed breakfast?

How to Remove Burnt Food from Aluminum Pots and Pans

Last night, I left an aluminum pot on a burner I thought I had turned off. I served dinner and by the time I came back to it, all I found was a pan full of burnt food. Is my aluminum pot ruined? How do I remove the mess?

How to Remove Burnt Food from Glassware

Any suggestions for cleaning a burned pan? It is glass, and I am hesitant to use steel wool on it. The glass cleaners don’t seem to be helping.

How to Remove Hard Water Spots from Glassware

I tried using “Kaboom” on the shower tiles and glass doors, but it seemed to have no effect. The scum on the doors is truly gross. We have relatively hard water, so it’s just caked on. Any suggestions for getting off years of mineral deposits and soap scum?

How to Remove Melted Plastic from Cookware

I burned carrots… how do you burn carrots? Anyway, while dumping the carrots in the trash the plastic bag that the carrots came in, that was in the trash can, jumped up and touched the bottom of the hot pot. Now I not only have no carrots for my daughters lunch… but I have a plastic bag stuck to the bottom of my pot. How do I get it off?

How to Remove Soap Residue from Plastic

Help!  My plastic dishes are starting to taste (and smell) like soap.  I hand wash, and switched to a “moisturizing” dish soap this spring.  Since then, the taste is very very pronounced, even after I switched back to plain blue Dawn which several friends recommended as a remedy.

How to Get Started on the Giant Pile of Dishes

We’ve all had an evening where we’ve looked at the pile of dishes and thought, “I’ll get that in the morning.” Sometimes in periods of high stress, sickness, or just plain laziness we neglect the dishes longer than just overnight and the next thing you know, there’s no clean dishes in the house and you’re wondering if it would just be easier to trash all those dishes and just eat off paper plates from now on.

How to Clean and Shine Stainless Steel

I just got some new stainless steel appliances–and they streak–and have blotchy places on them. Any ideas?

How to Clean Out the Fridge

I’m gearing myself up to finally tackling the scary fridge. I don’t want to use any harsh chemicals, as I’m concerned about the smell/taste of it transferring over to the food once I’m done. Is there some sort of magic baking soda/vinegar/lemon juice/elbow grease combination that might get the ew nasty out of my fridge?

How to Clean Corian

I have Corian counter tops and sink. The sink is stained because my family never cleans it. I try to clean it, but even with a special Corian cleaner or bleach, I cannot get the stains out after several cleanings.

How to Clean Granite Counters

Can someone tell me why one of the hardest substances on earth is so picky about what it’s cleaned with? Seriously, new house, new coutertops, new to granite. How do you clean AND disinfect safely on granite?

How to Remove Acrylic Paint from Laminate Countertops

One of my darling monsters spilled acrylic paint on my laminate counters. Then, being the smart little cookie he is, he placed one of my cookbooks over the stain to hide the mess. I don’t know when this happened, but it was long enough to let the paint dry. I don’t care about the book, but how do I save my counter?

How to Remove Ink from Laminate Countertops

The other day, I set a wet a receipt on the bathroom counter to dry. (The cat has gotten a bunch of things wet.) It was one of those older fashioned ones with purple ink. The next morning, I discovered I’d put it ink side down and now had a nice copy of the receipt on the countertop.

How to Remove Kool-Aid from Laminate Countertops

Red Kool-Aid strikes again. This time on my new granite. How can I get it off?

How to Remove Milk Splatter from Wood Furniture

How does one remove dried milk from wood? No matter how I try to clean them, I get the same result: it looks clean while it’s still wet and I think I’ve won, but as soon as it dries, the spots are still all there!

How to Dispose of Cooking Grease

I have never had a good answer to the question: how should I dispose of cooking grease (that is, grease from hamburger, bacon, etc.)?

How to Clean Kitchen Light Fixtures

I had to change a lightbulb in my kitchen the other day and the globe is nasty with dust and grease. Is there an easy way to fix this?

Someone Put Dish Soap in the Dishwasher (How to get rid of the bubbles)

Some how dish liquid had gotten in the dish washer, there were 6 inches high of soap bubbles at the bottom of the dishwasher, not really knowing what to do I drained it, added some vinegar to try to kill the bubbles, it seemed to work, but I did notice bubbles in the next load as well, so much for rinsing the soap off. Any ideas of what to do in case this happens again?

Why Isn’t My Dishwasher Performing as It Should

My dishwasher just isn’t doing as great a job anymore. I haven’t changed anything: same soap, I scrape the plates, I still use a rinsing agent. What could be going on?

Why is There a Ban on Phosphorus in Dishwasher Detergent

I can’t buy phosphorus detergent anymore.  My cousin found a website that offers Cascade with phosphorus but hasn’t tried it out yet.  My only concern is that it says “for commercial use only”.  Is there any reason it couldn’t be used in home dishwasher?

Send your domestic questions to

how to clean appliances

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furniture care guide

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Fixing Scratches in an Enameled Cast Iron Sink

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Dear Home Ec 101,

I have a fairly new (less than 1 year old) cast iron Kohler sink, it is the shiny black one, the manual recommended using the Kohler cast iron sink cleaner and I have used it regularly and I have used a plastic mat on the bottom of the sink, to try to prevent scratches. Yet I have some minor scratches. Is there any way to safely remove the scratches from my sink without harming the enamel?

Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Again I LOVE your site and by the way I am hooked on Method products!! Love them!!

Scratched in Scanlon
Heather says:

Take a deep breath, I have good news for you, dollars to donuts those are not actually scratches in your sink. I highly doubt you were sitting there with a chisel and hammer purpose trying to gouge your sink. That’s pretty much what it takes to mar the finish of a quality enamel finish. What you are actually seeing is called a “pot mark” and it’s just a scuff from the sink taking a tiny bit of metal off of your cookware.

It’s a lot like when somebody just barely grazes your car in a crowded parking lot and leaves a bit of their paint on your car. A bit of buffing is all it takes to get rid of their carelessness and it’s pretty much all that is needed here, too.

Go ahead and use the recommended cleaner, but find a cork, perhaps from last night’s wine-braised pot roast? Apply the cleaner full strength to the scratch on the cast iron sink and then use the cork to gently scrub the marks away and your sink will look good as new!

Pot marks will likely become a source of irritation over the years, but at least you now know that you have not inadvertently scratched your shiny, new sink. It’s going to look good as new for a long, long time.

Good luck and please let me know how it turns out.

Oh and thanks for letting me know about Method, I’ll be sure to pass that along.

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A Home-Ec 101 Guide: How To Clean Home Appliances

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how to clean appliances

They are our modern day servants and we are at a loss when our home appliances stop working. By taking care of them and keeping them clean you can extend the life of your appliances so they can help you through your daily life.

To read more about the article just click on the title.

How to Clean a Drip Coffee Maker

Multiple ways to keep your coffee maker clean and running smoothly.

How to Clean a Smooth Top Range / Stove

I immediately removed the pot from the burner but there were scorch marks on the pot, and ‘melted stuff’ on the burner.  I was able to scrub the pot bottom clean, but am not sure what to do about the burner, and it’s my ‘favorite’.

How to Remove Melted Plastic from a Smooth Top Range

My husband nearly burnt our house down recently because he turned the stove on and forgot to take our plastic strainer out of it. The plastic is everywhere, now hard and stuck.

How To Clean Mildew Out Of a Coffeemaker’s Reservoir

I have a coffeemaker with a removable water reservoir. I turns out that it never totally empties and now it smells musty. I have tried cleaning it with vinegar and denture tablets as suggested.

How to Clean Out the Refrigerator

I’m gearing myself up to finally tackling the scary fridge. It hasn’t been cleaned since the dawn of refrigeration, so there’s a ton of ultra-scary-ew-nasty-what-is-that-gunk in the fridge. But, I don’t want to use any harsh chemicals, as I’m concerned about the smell/taste of it transferring over to the food once I’m done.

How to Clean a Stinky Garbage Disposal

If you Google the problem you’ll find 101 different remedies for your stinky situation. The problem is then deciding which ones are effective and which are a waste of time or potentially dangerous to your appliance.

How to Clean a Toaster

I clean out the crumb tray, wipe everything down, and shake it like a martini over the trash can, but when I set it back down, its still got crumbs falling out. Repeat process many times, plus when I look down in the toaster it looks like a pepper shaker exploded on the inside.

How to Clean an Electric Kettle

Since it can’t go in the dishwasher or even really be hand washed other than just rinsing it out, I am always careful to empty any leftover water out before I store it. My parents came to visit in July and apparently when the kettle was put away there was some water left in it which I just discovered last night…. I used it to boil water for instant gravy last night and the gravy tasted funny, not sure if it was the water or the gravy mix.

How to Clean and Shine Stainless Steel

You aren’t the first homeowner to fall for the gleaming lure of stainless. It’s so pretty there in the show room. What you don’t see are the legions of employees wiping down the appliances night and day.

How to Clean Ceiling Fans

How do you clean ceiling fans? I’m especially wanting to know how you manage to clean them without dust bunnies falling down onto the furniture.

How to Clean Greasy Oven Glass

We like to roast meats in the oven after searing them on the stove, using a frying pan. Consequently, we have serious grease stains on the inside of the over door and the glass. The stains are very difficult to remove.

How to Clean Sugary Spillovers in the Oven

When I looked in the oven, I noticed that some of the syrupy filling had spilled over onto the bottom of the oven, but the pie was done, so I took it out and didn’t think to even wipe up the sticky mess.  It has since encrusted itself to the bottom of my oven and whenever I try to preheat the oven, it fills our home with smoke.

How to Clean a Humidifier

Humidifiers can quickly become bacteria factories if they are not cleaned thoroughly. The problem is, minerals can quickly build up on your humidifier which becomes breeding grounds for bacteria. Ewww!

Regular Dishwasher Maintenance Improves Performance

My dishwasher just isn’t doing as great a job anymore. I haven’t changed anything: same soap, I scrape the plates, I still use a rinsing agent. What could be going on?

Need help cleaning a home appliance that isn’t covered here? Send your questions to

guide to chemical cleaners

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house cleaning help

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Cutting Board Care

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Dear Home-Ec 101,

I’m interested in learning proper care of a wooden cutting board. I use one for veggies, and meats (I use bleach on it after it has been used for meats) and a separate board for fruits. The reason is that if I cut fruits on the cleaned veggie board, the flavors of onion, garlic, and other stinky stuff gets picked up by the fruit, and well, it tastes yucky. I’ve tried scrubbing with lots of hot soap & water & scrub brush, to no avail. How do I get it clean, and should I treat the wood with anything?

Vampire-Free Since ’08

Heather says:

I could have written this the other night.

At home I have multiple, large cutting boards, but I was at someone else’s house preparing dinner –mango salsa and grilled halibut with watermelon for dessert. I had been procrastinating cutting up the watermelon as they are a giant pain in the rear and I hate the chore. Without thinking I used the same cutting board that I had used for the mango salsa.


Fast forward to the next day when I received a phone call about the leftover watermelon smelling of garlic. /shrug It happens. It can be prevented, I was just lazy and or forgetful, you can choose which.

Garlic odor can be neutralized with white vinegar. Keep some vinegar in a spray bottle, rinse the cutting board, spray it with white vinegar, give the acid a moment to work and then wash the board as you normally would. Yes, you will have to smell white vinegar for a few minutes, but you won’t experience the joy of unintentional flavor transfer.

As a general rule, stick with the multiple cutting boards for marathon cooking and to avoid cross-contamination.

Wooden cutting boards do require special care, check out this post on cutting board basics for the full rundown.

For the TL:DR crowd -never soak, wash quickly with hot soap and water, rinse, sanitize with dilute bleach and dry fully. Treat once a month with food grade mineral oil and remove gouges with a scraper not sandpaper.

While we’re at it, you may want to sharpen your knife skills and learn about how to use bleach safely. Nothing ruins date night -or the entertainment budget- quite like a trip to the ER.

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