Don’t rely on vinegar to disinfect

Dear Mary: What is a safe disinfectant for colored clothes, like underwear and bath towels? I can’t use bleach, and since I usually wash my colored clothes in cold water, I don’t feel like I sanitize them enough. Thanks.

Dear Sherri: Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill tested conventional household disinfectants, hospital disinfectants, and natural alternatives to measure each product’s ability to kill specific dangerous microbes. Their results show that white vinegar kills 90% of germs regardless of water temperature.

That sounds pretty good until you realize it leaves a 10% chance of Salmonella, Streptococcus and Staphylococcus viruses, influenza A2 virus, and herpes simplex type 1 surviving. A product like Lysol disinfectant, on the other hand, kills 99.9% of these germs.

For fabrics that cannot be washed with bleach, add a liquid disinfectant according to product instructions, such as Lysol, SNiPER, or Mr. Clean Antibacterial, to the wash.

Just a reminder that 120 F (hot) water plus laundry detergent is enough to kill common household germs without the need for additional sanitizer.

Dear Mary: I was recently given tissue that was stored in mothballs. Any tips for getting rid of the smell? I tried washing and ended up with a whole load of laundry that smelled of mothballs. Thanks.


Dear Lucille: This is a difficult problem. So tough, I called the pros for advice on how to save your fabric and that load of laundry. Here is what I learned:

Mothballs are small balls of chemical pesticides used to protect your clothes from hungry moths and other insects while in storage. The active ingredient, depending on the age of the mothballs used, is either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, which are petroleum-based and give off vapors that can be toxic to people and pets.

Typically, one puts the clothing, or in your case the fabric, in an airtight container so that the vapors are trapped and build up to a level that kills the pests. There’s no doubt that mothballs work to kill parasites, but the unintended consequence of that smell becomes counterproductive, as you’ve learned.

The only way to get rid of that horrible smell is to oxidize it – turning the odor-causing chemicals into something harmless that doesn’t have an odor.

Nok-Out ( is the only thing I know of that effectively eradicates the smell of mothballs. Here’s how:

Spray enough Nok-Out (or SNiPER) on the fabric and clothes to make them thoroughly wet. Then, massage it in so that the item becomes evenly moist but not dripping. Turn the item inside out, then repeat. Allow to dry completely. Repeat until the smell disappears. For really difficult situations, it may take three to four cycles to achieve success.

Another option is to deal with Nok-Out in the washing machine, following these instructions ( You may want to increase the amount of Nok-Out used in your washer when dealing with mothball odors.

Dear Mary: I have a delicate situation. My parents are in their 50s and I think they spend way too much money. They’ve had big financial problems in the past and got through it, but I’m starting to see the same type of spending that got them into trouble before.

They both work and earn a lot of money. However, I know they don’t save much. They pay student loans (theirs, not mine) and home improvement loans. I also see them spending a lot of money on other things. It’s not extravagant stuff like cars or trips, but like you said before, it seems to me they’re killing themselves at five and ten dollars.

I worry about their future. My mother comments on how her children will hopefully help them if they need it when they are old. At this rate, I know they will need help if they don’t start cutting spending and saving. Retirement age is fast approaching.

I have my own family plus college to pay for. Of course I love them and would do anything I can to help them in the future, but at the same time I feel like they should start worrying about their future and not rely on their children.

What can I say or do that can help them? I don’t want to offend them, but I also want them to be able to have a happy retirement.

— Marie-Alice

Dear Mary Alice: While it’s impossible to force change on someone who doesn’t want to change, never underestimate the influence you could have on them. Your enthusiasm for what you are learning and doing to prepare for your future can be contagious.

Without criticizing their lifestyle or their perceived spending habits, tell your parents what you just told me, that you are worried about their future. Statistics say they will live many years in retirement. Most importantly, talk about your own successes in saving and planning for your children’s education.

Your genuine concern for them may well be the catalyst that causes them to think differently.

About Cheapskate Everyday

Marie invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments to, “Ask Mary.” Tips may be subject to This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.coma frugal living blog and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living”.

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