Dear Sara:

I have lots of used clothing I want to give to a close friend, but she is chemically sensitive and unable to wear them, even though I've washed them several times in fragrance-free detergents and used fragrance-free softeners. Do you know any way to rid clothes of the smell of perfumes and detergents? -- K.D.M., email

Dear K.D.M.:

I enjoy using Charlie's Soap. Please read the FAQ section of their site in regard to sensitive skin ( This soap gets rid of build-up and residue from other detergents, so it should work well for you. Here's some feedback from my community members on the product: I'd recommend using vinegar as your fabric softener, too.

Dear Sara:

Do you have a foolproof recipe and tips for cleaning windows so that there are no streaks? -- Marian, email

Dear Marian:

Straight vinegar will work fine to clean your interior windows or eyeglasses, but for excellent results, mix 1 cup vinegar and 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap such as Dawn in a spray bottle and fill the rest of the bottle with water. Add essential oil if you'd like it scented. Newspaper works well to avoid streaks.
Here are two recipes for exterior window washing:
Mix 2 cups rubbing alcohol (70 percent isopropyl), 1/2 cup ammonia and 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid (such as Dawn). Top off with water until you have 1 gallon of window cleaner. Mix and pour into your bottles.
If your windows are thermal pane or have any type of insulated film, too much ammonia might discolor the windows and weather stripping. You might notice a lavender haze or cloudiness on the windows. I'm sure this isn't the case for all thermal windows, but I would call the manufacturer for their suggestion. It happens with the thermal window inserts and tinted films, too (basically anything with an anti-reflective coating or rubber type sealing/stripping). If you have thermal windows, avoid the ammonia. Mix 1/4 cup vinegar and 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid, then top off with 1 gallon water. Mix and pour into your bottles. Use a scrubber and squeegee if your windows are really dirty.
Here's a tip from a fellow reader, Karen from Kansas: "I learned this from a professional window washer. I mix 1 or 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in a 2-gallon bucket of warm water. Apply to windows with the sponge side of a squeegee and remove with the squeegee end. This is the best homemade window-washing solution I've ever used. It leaves a slight coating/sheeting that repels dust and/or rain (for a while anyway). A good squeegee is one of the best tools for washing windows, as is a good microfiber towel."

Dear Sara:

What are your main pantry staples? I am looking to restock and I just want to get some more ideas! -- F.B., Texas

Dear F.B.:

I have created a basic pantry staples list that you can consider as you restock your pantry. Add to or subtract from this list based on what you and your family consume:


photo by charliessoap