Household Cleaning and Odor Problem Q&A

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Dear NH,

You wrote an article about cleaning stainless steel, but you didn't mention my favorite product, Barkeepers Friend. It is a scouring powder like Comet or Ajax. It can be used on a variety of surfaces, really makes stainless steel sinks shine.



Great suggestion, especially since Barkeepers Friend does not contain chlorine bleach which can permanently damage stainless steel, especially thinly-coated "economy" sinks. The active ingredient is oxalic acid. Another product with a similar chemical composition called ZUD that I have also used successfully. Both of these products are available at most hardware stores… sometimes side-by-side!

Just remember that stainless steel sinks can scratch, even with "mild" abrasives such as these products.  So don't overdo the scrubbing!

Dear NH,

Back when I worked in restaurants, we used a light coat of mineral oil to keep stainless steel looking good. Now that I'm a cleaning lady I first clean the sinks with Barkeeper's Friend, thoroughly dry the sink and put a light coat of Sheila Shine on it. Sheila Shine can be bought at most janitorial places. A few times of this (I do it weekly) and a VERY worn out sink can be brought back to its former beauty.

By the way Bar Keepers Friend, mixed as a paste can make those ugly corroded faucets shine like new again. Hope this helps.



Thanks for the suggestion. I don't know how I could have forgotten about Barkeeper's friend, a mildly abrasive but chlorine-free bleach I have often used. One great thing about Barkeeper's friend and its cousin, ZUD, is that it actually dissolves iron rust and rust stains, making it great for removing discoloration on porcelain sinks and tubs!

Dear NH,

I recently purchased a home that had several cats using one particular room as a litter box. I first had the carpets steam cleaned to no avail. I then took out the carpet and padding revealing a heavily stained and smelly particleboard sub-floor. Going one level deeper I removed the sub-floor and found lightly stained wood planks below. I really do not want to install a new plywood sub-floor without taking every precaution to make sure I end up with a pleasant smelling room.
Any recommendations?



Obviously removing all urine-soaked wood is the most thorough solution although probably not necessary. Removing the saturated particleboard was a definite must, as particleboard absorbs moisture like a sponge but does not seal well. There was nothing you could do to permanently ameliorate or eliminate the odor.

Clean the wood plank underlayment with a cat urine-odor removal/neutralizing product. When completely dry, coat the planks with a few coats of a waterproofing sealer or polyurethane. This will lock in any residual odor. Then reinstall particleboard or plywood to restore the level of the floor.

I have done this a few times in some rather malodorous situations and the results were excellent. But again I must emphasize that I don't suggest this quick solution for other than lightly stained materials.