Q What is the proper way to take care of stainless steel appliances?
A There are a number of ways to remove residue and oily buildup and restore the gleam to appliances.
A microfiber cloth made specifically for stainless steel, such as Casabella's Microfiber Stainless Steel Cloth ($10 for two, www.casabella.com), can clean and polish your appliances using only water. For tougher residue, Method Pro Chef Stainless Steel Cleaner ($8, www.gracioushome.com) leaves no streaks and is nontoxic. Alternatively, apply a paste of baking soda and water, and leave overnight to dissolve stubborn burned-on oil stains.
Whatever method you choose, note the direction of the grain of the stainless steel. If you get aggressive with regular scouring pads and go against the grain, you will leave marks on your appliance.Revive musty cookbooks
Q Some of my cookbooks have been damaged by water and are musty. How can I get rid of the smell?
A Mold can cause a musty smell to linger. The first step, if you think the mold is active (if it appears raised or moist), is to put the books in the freezer to stop the growth. This is important because mold can migrate from page to page. If the mold seems inactive, dry out the cookbooks somewhere with humidity below 50 percent and cooler than 70 degrees. Finding a safe place outside in the sunshine with the book open and fanned out is ideal.
Because exposure to airborne mold particles can cause serious respiratory problems, remove the mold outdoors. Wear gloves and a paper face mask or a respirator for an extra level of protection. To clean the damaged pages, cover with a mesh screen and vacuum clean with a HEPA filter. Adjust the suction to prevent wrinkling the page.
Once the cookbooks are cleaned, you can combat any remaining odors. Walter Newman of the Northeast Document Conservation Center recommends inserting a zeolite paper (Micro-Chamber Interleaving Paper, $21.95 for 100 sheets, www.conservationresources.com) every few pages. Leave the book undisturbed, and the odor will be absorbed in a few weeks. If your book is very precious or fragile, you should leave it in the hands of a professional conservator.Cleaning kids' bath toys
Q What's the best way to keep my 15-month-old twins' bath toys clean? And how often should I wash them?
A Although they're probably immersed in suds daily, children's tub toys do need weekly cleansing to keep them from becoming grimy and coated with soap scum (a stubborn film of soap and the minerals in water).
Soak toys for 10 minutes in one part hot water, one part distilled white vinegar and a few drops of dishwashing liquid: Vinegar dissolves soap scum, and detergent removes dirt; use a utility brush or an old toothbrush to scrub crevices. Let moldy toys sit in a solution of cup chlorine bleach per gallon of water, following the directions on the bottle's label. (Chlorine bleach should never be mixed with any other household cleaner, including vinegar, because harmful fumes can result.)
If you discover that squeeze toys are harboring black sludge -- a common occurrence if they aren't diligently emptied after each use -- discard them rather than trying to clean them. Although the sludge isn't likely to cause any harm, it is nearly impossible to eradicate.
After washing, rinse toys well in warm water, place them on a clean towel and let them dry before putting them away.
To prevent mold, keep toys dry between uses. After each bath, shake excess water off toys, and empty squeeze toys completely (your twins will most likely want to help with this step). Stow toys in a mesh bag or a perforated plastic bin -- these choices allow for proper drainage. Keep them in a well ventilated area.