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CleaningMatters logo sm May/June 2011

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Nancy Bock   2010 [320x200]Remember when you were in school and Show'n Tell was a favorite classroom activity? Well, that's just what we'd like to do with this section of Cleaning Matters®. We'd love to hear more from our readers! Write something on our Facebook wall, direct message us on Twitter, text us or send us an email with your cleaning crisis or dirty dilemma.

Q: I know that hard water can leave mineral deposits that cause spotting on glassware. Does very hard water also inhibit a detergent's ability to dissolve completely? Is the fine powder-like film residue on dishware actually the remains of undissolved detergent?

A: That white deposit is not undissolved detergent. It is a film residue caused by the hard-water minerals that remain after the water has evaporated – the same culprit that causes spotting! To prevent either from happening, you need to adjust two things – the amount of detergent and the water temperature – and use a rinsing agent. In addition to helping with the mineral-deposit problem, the following should also result in clean, shiny dishes.

Detergent amount: Water hardness plays a role in the amount of detergent that is needed. Too little or too much detergent will affect your dishwasher's ability to clean. Generally, soft water requires less detergent while hard water requires more. Follow the usage recommendations on the detergent package and in the dishwasher's Owner's Manual. Check with your local water utility to find out the hardness rating for your water.

Water temperature: The optimum temperature is 140°F, but it should be no lower than 120°F. For older machines, you may need to run the water in your sink until it is hot before starting your dishwasher.

Rinsing aid: Adding a rinsing aid improves the sheeting action of the dishwasher, which will help wash the minerals away from the dishes.

Q: I unpacked my tent to get ready for the camping season, and found there was mold growing in the folds. How can I clean it without ruining the water-resistant properties??

A: If possible, start by contacting the tent manufacturer for specific directions. If this isn't possible, wait for a warm, sunny day and then set up your tent in a shady location. Shake or brush off dirt and any other debris that can be easily removed. Fill a bucket with warm water, add a few squirts of dishwashing liquid, and mix well. Using a sponge or a soft-bristled brush, hand wash both the inside and outside of the tent. Rinse thoroughly with a hose. Be sure to rinse off all the soap. If you fail to do that, a sticky residue will remain that attracts dirt, which in turn will abrade the fabric. Never use laundry detergent to clean the tent; no matter how much you try to rinse it off, a residue will remain that attracts water and reduces the water-repellency of the fabric.

Allow the tent to dry completely out of direct sunlight. This may take several days. Be sure to check thick- sewn seams to make sure they are no longer damp. If the weather suddenly decides not to cooperate, bring your tent inside and place it over a drying rack. If possible, put a dehumidifier in the room.

– Nancy Bock is Vice President of Consumer Education at the American Cleaning Institute®

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Cleaning Matters® is compiled by the American Cleaning Institute and is not copyrighted. Such information is offered solely to aid the reader. The American Cleaning Institute and its member companies do not make any guarantees or warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to the information contained in Cleaning Matters and assume no responsibility for the use of this information.