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How to rub out those stubborn stains

Tipster Thompson offers secrets to clean carpets, cookware, siding — even grills

POSTED: March 30, 2012 12:30 a.m.

When it comes to stubborn stains, even some veteran cleaning pro can meet their match.

From ink on khaki pants to spilled red wine, some stains just leave you clueless. Enter Tim “Tip Man” Thompson.

“I’ve always been a collector of tips — any kind of useful tip,” said Thompson, a Hall County resident. “Everybody has their quirks. That’s always been mine. The key for me is that it has to be helpful in some way.”

So what about that red wine stain?

“If you do spill some red wine on your carpet, immediately grab the club soda and pour some onto the stain. Use a damp sponge to finish cleaning the spot,” Thompson said.

“In a pinch, white wine can be used as well.”

Thompson honed his “Tip Man” talents as a columnist with The Times from 2005 to 2010. He later transferred those skills to radio and TV and now has a website.

Before he goes around offering advice, Thompson says he tests each tip first.

Clueless about the best way to clean your cast iron cookware? If your instincts say dunk them in a sink of hot, soapy water like the rest of your dishes, you probably want to think again.

“Don’t wash it with soap. Instead rinse it with water and wipe it down with a clean towel. You can put it back on the stove to burn off any remaining water — the water will cause it to rust,” Thompson said.

“If you have a burned-on stain that you can’t get off, use salt mixed with (cooking) oil to ‘sand’ off the residue.”

Once your cast iron is clean, rub it down with a light coating of oil. Thompson suggests using canola or sunflower oil, but warns against using the lighter, virgin olive oil.

Should your best still not produce rust-free cast iron, Thompson says use a metal scraper to remove the rust and then recondition the surface with oil.

For everyday, household stains, Thompson says Fantastik with bleach is one of the best cleaners he’s tested.

“This is some strong stuff,” Thompson said. “Keep it around for the really tough jobs like bad food stains and mildew.”

When it comes to mixing stubborn stains with cleaning chemicals, Thompson recommends testing an inconspicuous spot first, especially if you’re trying to clean carpet.

“A lot depends on the type of carpet you have. Each one reacts differently. Some carpets have dye that goes all the way through each fiber and some just have dye on the outside,” Thompson said.

“If you’re using a bleach-based cleaner on a carpet with dye that goes all the way through, you’re probably going to be OK. But if the dye is just on the outside of the fibers, you’re hosed if you clean it with bleach.

“(When) you’re installing carpet in your house, make sure that you put it in your closets. If you ever have to replace a piece of your carpet that’s been burned or stained, you can get a patch from the closet.”

While you’re busy ridding the inside of your home of stubborn stains, don’t forget to show the outside a little love, too.

When it’s time to clean your vinyl siding, Thompson has a few suggestions. First, work in a small area and wet it with your hose.

“The hose should always be aimed down like rain,” Thompson said. “Use a garden sprayer attachment with dish washing soap to remove the dirt.”

If stains persist after you’ve rinsed away the soap, chances are you have a mold or mildew situation.

“You can verify if its mold or mildew by pouring a small amount of bleach on the spot. If the spot changes color, it’s mold or mildew. If it doesn’t, it’s dirt,” Thompson said.

“Mold and mildew can be tough to get off. Try using vinegar first. This is better for the environment.

“If the vinegar doesn’t work, use a harsher cleaner. Just make sure you cover your plants near the vinyl siding with plastic sheeting. The harsh chemicals will kill (them).”

Baked on food threatening to ruin your cookout? Thompson has a solution for that, too.

“Clean your barbecue grate by putting it in your oven and then using the self-cleaning mode,” he suggests.

“You can also use your dishwasher, but it doesn’t work as well as the self-cleaning oven. Some people — usually men — will just crank up the gas grill and burn off any residue left on the grate.

“The problem with this method is that if your grill is too close to your vinyl siding, it will melt it. I’ve seen it happen.”


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