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Ask Reena


Can you please tell me how to reopen an envelope that was sealed too soon? I really enjoy your columns and hope to get your books very soon. Thanks. – M. P.

M. P.,

Use a kettle or a small pot and boil water till it starts steaming to its maximum. Take the envelope and flap/adhesive side down, place it over the steam for a couple of seconds. Be very gentle, as the paper will be moist and delicate. Check if the adhesive is melting; if it has melted, then you must be quick to pry it open gently with your fingers or a hot knife, steamed in the same way (try not to use a cold knife, as it would cool the adhesive back again). Another option is to lay the envelope down and hold it while blowing a hot hair dryer on one of the corners of the sealed area.


A friend of mine just phoned to say she spilled a jug of tomato juice on the sun-room carpet. The room is not heated. Do you have any solutions to this matter? I told her to wipe up as much as she can with some old towels just to get the liquid out of the carpet to start with. Would carpet spot remover work? Hoping you can help. – Betty


This stain should soon be a distant memory but tell your friend to test all solutions on an inconspicuous area before using them on an obvious carpeted area. Some indoor/outdoor carpets such as sisal carpets cannot tolerate hydrogen peroxide or ammonia. If this is the case, dishwashing liquid and water are your best bet. Just remember to blot, blot, blot, because rubbing the mess will cause the stain to set further into the carpet. Use cold water; warm water speeds up the setting process and makes the stains more difficult to remove. If the carpet has passed the trial test apply dish soap and water to the area, follow that with three per cent hydrogen peroxide or lemon juice to the fresh stain. This will help the carpet return to its normal colour.

Here are a few products NOT to use: laundry detergent or automatic dishwasher detergents as they may damage the fibres of the carpet. Do not use bleach or ammonia on wool carpets as it will damage the fibres. Do not use carpet spot cleaners on oriental rugs as it will damage the fibres. Oriental rugs should be cleaned with caution. If your rug is an antique, silk or part silk, contact a professional to remove the stain.


Here is a different problem; I stored old quilted houses that contain storybook figures with embroidered features. For example, I have Goldilocks and the three bears in a little house. The fabric is cotton and polyester, but I don’t know if they are washable. I am worried that some colours may run. The houses are not flat, rather 3-D houses; I bought them for teaching kindergarten and had them in a large plastic bag in a cupboard where there was not enough ventilation. There is no mildew growing on them, but I don’t like the smell. Do you have any recommendations? – Joyce


I washed the little houses using the handwash cycle on my washing machine and they came out fine. I didn’t wash the little figures because at least one of them has a felt moustache, but the figures don’t smell too bad. So I think all is fine. Thanks.

– Joyce


Original letter: I would like to know how to get rid of special wax crayon writing on the hard black plastic of a Ski-Doo. I’ve tried rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover and paint thinner to no avail. – Christine


You can either place a single layer of brown paper (from a bag) onto the wax and press a warm iron onto the stain. Move the paper around to lift the stain. Or you may require WD-40 for this conundrum.

Update: Thank you so much for your hint to use WD-40 to wipe off the crayon markings on a Ski-Doo. It took a lot of scrubbing and rubbing. My arm got quite sore hours later, but it worked beautifully.


I spilled quite a bit of red wine on my much loved white T-shirt last winter. Devastated, I rushed to the cupboards and slathered it with salt, then liquid soap in water, and a few other recommended “remedies.” Washed it twice, but alas, the stain persisted. Was tempted to buy a commercial stain remover, but was so deflated and in a “bah, humbug” mood, that I never got around to buying it. Anyway, not sure what else to try, I hung the shirt up in the cupboard, unable to even consider the idea of tossing it away.

Well, this winter, I pulled out the shirt, thinking it was time to rid myself of the sentimental attachment, but when I looked at it, I realized to my great surprise that the stain had disappeared. Gone. Nothing. As if it never happened. Have you ever heard of time as a remedy for red wine spills? Or maybe it was the combination of the remedies eventually doing their thing? A lovely Christmas surprise, in any case. Thanks for all your tips and tidbits during the year. – Jenny


Yes, what a wonderful surprise for you and you also made my day! Although I have never heard of this exact scenario Jenny, I am convinced that oftentimes when people try a well-proven hint to remove a stain they give up easily because the remedy isn’t instant. If they had given the product time to work, whether it is ketchup, vinegar, borax etc. they would have been pleasantly surprised. Thanks for sharing!


Our son wrote on our PVC window frame (I think it is PVC) with a Sharpie marker. What is the solution to getting it off? When I tried a little spot with Windex, it didn’t work. I also tried Orange TKO on a little spot. It lightened it up and took a bit off but some remains as though it is stained in. Help. – Phil


This is a stain that I am confident can be zapped with a little elbow grease. You can either scrub the area with baking powder and three per cent hydrogen peroxide, let soak for 15 minutes and scrub with a green scrubby pad. Repeat until marker is gone. Or soak the area with paint thinner and leave for 20 minutes. Scrub. I like the first choice best because it uses no toxic chemicals and is effective although it does take some effort.

Reena Nerbas is the author of the national bestsellers, Household Solutions

1 with Substitutions, Household Solutions 2 with Kitchen Secrets and the

soon-to-be-released book Household Solutions 3 with Green Alternatives

available online and in stores across Canada. She graduated as a home

economist from the University of Manitoba and speaks professionally on

the subject of fixing life’s messes by using products behind everyone’s cupboard

doors. As well as being a columnist, Reena can be heard on radio and TV

programs across Canada and the U. S.



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