Posted: February 6, 2014 at 3:05 a.m.

DEAR HELOISE: It seems that there is always a report or article discussing how a kitchen sponge is loaded with bacteria. What is the best way to clean them?

  • Stephanie L. in Ohio

DEAR READER: Ah, yes - the sponge discussion, and how to keep them clean and bacteria-free. Most households use foam sponges. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends two methods to rid the sponge of nearly 100 percent of the bacteria: Microwave a wet sponge for 60 seconds, or run it through the dishwasher during a normal cycle.

Try to remember to clean sponges daily, let them dry out as much as possible between uses and replace frequently (especially if they start to smell).

P.S.: Vinegar also works. Put the sponge in a bowl. Pour vinegar over the sponge and let it sit for five to 10 minutes.

DEAR HELOISE: When I got married, it was an all-day event for me (as most brides know). It started early with hair and makeup, etc. And then I had to be hidden at the venue when guests started arriving. I hadn’t planned to bring any snacks. My soon-to be sister-in-law brought finger sandwiches to me and the bridal party. It was so great, because we were all starving! They were easy to eat and did not mess up our dresses and makeup.

  • A Reader, via email

DEAR HELOISE: When I am having a picnic or barbecue outside and will be eating on picnic tables, I have devised a better plan than fighting with a tablecloth. I take self-sticking shelf liner and cut place mats out of it. I then stick them on the table. They are easy to peel off, and we don’t have to worry about eating at a dirty table.

  • A Reader, via email

DEAR HELOISE: I wash my empty dishwasher twice a month to help with hard-water minerals. I use sugar-free, mostly colorless powdered lemonade drink mix. It is very cheap, and the citric acid helps in keeping my glasses clean. Many states have stopped allowing phosphates in dishwasher detergent.

  • Jeanne in Kentucky

DEAR HELOISE: My cat hates the smell of cayenne pepper. I sprinkle it in my houseplants to keep the cats away. Works great.

  • Darlene T. in Georgia

Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5000; fax to (210) 435-6473; or email

Weekend, Pages 36 on 02/06/2014