Your Reading List

More questions from readers

Hi Reena,

Year after year, mildew develops along the caulking/sealant around my windows. In past years, my husband has regularly used bleach and much elbow grease to clean it. We don’t mind the normal amount of work a house takes but this is ridiculous, not to mention probably harmful to our health — both the “guck” and the bleach solution!

The last two years have shown much growth of the mildew. We were almost prepared to replace all of our windows (at a cost of $25,000 to $48,000) until the inspector who did our Energy Audit said that the windows were quite fine and only a few were leaking to a minor extent.

Have you any suggestions of how to clean off the “guck” in a safe and non-toxic way, effectively and for more than just a few months? I hate the thought of removing all my windows and having them in a landfill site when they’re still fairly energy efficient. I greatly look forward to hearing from you.

– Eve

Hi Eve,

Based on your description the problem does not sound like a window problem but rather high humidity levels in your home coming from day-to-day activities such as: boiling water, bathing, dishwasher, etc. In order to reduce condensation buildup in your home, make sure that you use fans in the kitchen and bathroom as well as a dehumidifier when necessary. It may be worth your while to call a professional to access moisture levels in your home and to verify that you have proper ventilation and insulation in your roof, crawl space and basement. Making the proper changes in your home such as upgrading your furnace may be advised. If you do decide to make changes, check to see if the government is offering any homeowner energy grants in your area.

In terms of cleaning the windows; you can combine vinegar with 10 to 15 drops of tea tree oil. This will give you a great clean but is not a long-term solution. Tea tree oil can be found in pharmacies and health food stores.

Hi Reena,

I had a real battle with cutworms in my garden last summer and want to know if you have any suggestions on how to get rid of them before gardening season begins.


Hi Val,

Cutworms can be a challenge even to experienced gardeners because they cut off plants above, at, or below soil surface. In order to reduce cutworms in your garden, hand pick them from plants and squash them or drop them in a bucket of soapy water. This is best done at night when cutworms are most active. Also, prevent cutworms from becoming a problem in the first place by making collars for your plants using stiff plastic, cardboard or metal. Leave a gap of approximately one cm around stem and make sure the collar extends 2.5 cm below to five cm above the soil surface. You can also use plastic drink straws or toilet paper rolls or sprinkle broken eggshells around plants. Also, sprinkle cornmeal around plants because cutworms are incapable of digesting this tasty little treat. Lastly, bacillus thuringiensis, or BT, is a well-known biological control for all types of caterpillars.

Hi Reena,

Just read your article about tackling ants in the yard. I have been using a recipe of one cup icing sugar, two tbsp. borax that was given to me by a senior farmer several years ago. It works!!! I noticed your recipe is reversed. Not sure why the big difference!

– Bev

Hi Bev,

In my book I refer to a few different solutions for ants and one of the recipes uses a combination of borax and icing sugar. The quantity is not that important; the idea is that ants love the taste of icing sugar but their system cannot handle borax. Some people mix 50/50 of each together. You can also add a few drops of honey onto the solution for even faster results. Keep borax away from pets and children as it is poisonous.

Outstanding feedback:

Dear Reena,

I read in your column about the lady who got “Easy Off Oven Cleaner” on the floor in spite of having newspapers down. I just want to let you know the exact same thing happened to me and I tried all my cleaning products and nothing helped. Then my daughter came to visit and said, “Oh, just use an S.O.S pad, and she proceeded to clean my floor and the spots came off perfectly. I enjoy your column very much.

– Helen

Cool tip of the week:

Freeze leftover pickle juice into Popsicle moulds. Or squeeze pickles and freeze the juice. More and more people are becoming hooked on this cool, low-calorie sensation!

I enjoy your questions and tips, keep them coming! Missed a column? Can’t remember a solution? Need a speaker for an upcoming event? Interested in grocery coupons? Check out my brand new blog/website:

About the author

Reena Nerbas's recent articles



Stories from our other publications