These days, there’s a pricey product available to clean just about anything. But why spend the money when you can make your own homemade products that perform just as well from ingredients you may have already in your cupboards and pantry? I’m talking cheaper, faster and, quite possibly, better!

Dear Mary: What is the best and most effective way to clean a steam iron? — Vanessa

Dear Vanessa: Excellent question. You need to clean both the inside and the sole plate of a steam iron regularly to keep it in tip-top condition. Before you proceed with my cleaning suggestions, make sure you read the owners manual that came with your iron to make sure there are no instructions or cautions that might preclude the following.


To remove buildup from the inside of the iron, pour equal amounts of white vinegar and water into the iron’s water chamber up to the maximum fill line. Turn the iron on to “steam” setting, and iron a soft, clean cloth to clean out the steam ports.

It might take several attempts for the steam to bust through. It’s the vinegar that will break down all of that hard-water scale and buildup inside the iron.

Refill the iron with the vinegar and water mixture if needed, and then leave the iron on and in an upright position for 10 minutes or so. Do not leave it unattended.

Next, unplug the iron and take it to the sink. Shake it to loosen the mineral buildup inside, and then turn it upside down over the sink so the vinegar and water can pour out. You are likely to see flakes and chunks of gunk come out with the liquid. Repeat this process until only clear liquid comes out of the iron into the sink.

Rinse with plain water several times to remove all traces of vinegar.


My favorite way to clean the sole plate, the bottom of the iron, is with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (or the generic melamine version which is cheaper in bulk). Wet the eraser, and rub the cold sole plate until it comes clean — no mess, no residue and no clogged steam holes. It really is like magic.

Dear Mary: What is the best way to clean hard water stains from my granite countertops and then keep the granite clean and shiny? — Loretta

Dear Loretta: Granite is tricky, that’s for sure. But once you understand a few things, you’ll have no trouble keeping your countertops beautifully shiny and free of streaks and water stains.

The enemy of granite is anything acidic. That eliminates vinegar and/or lemon juice. Acid can damage the stone’s sealant and even permanently etch the granite over time.

Granite countertops, because they must be sealed (and resealed annually with a good sealant, available at any home improvement store or online), should not be cleaned with cleaners that contain ammonia, like Windex. Ammonia strips away the sealant.

You already know that water is not great for granite because it can leave water marks and a buildup of minerals around the sink.

So, what’s left? Alcohol. You can buy commercial granite cleaners that contain some type of alcohol and a lot of water, or you can make your own granite cleaner for just pennies.


Pour 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol (vodka or gin are good substitutes) into a 16-ounce spray bottle. Add 2 teaspoons of blue Dawn dishwashing liquid and five to 10 drops of essential oil (optional, but makes it smell great). Add enough water to fill the bottle. Label and keep out of reach of children. Shake to mix. From now on, use this cleaner to remove water marks and to keep your countertops beautifully clean and shiny without wrecking the sealant or causing any harm to the granite.

Would you like more information? Go to for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at Everyday, “Ask Mary.” This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”


(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.