Solutions & Substitutions by Reena: Peppermint for Spiders and Cornmeal for Weeds

By Reena Nerbas

Sour Cream Substitute

Dear Reena,

Do you have any ideas of a good substitute for sour cream? Helene

Dear Helene,

Combine 4 drops of lemon juice with one cup whipped cream. Let sit for 30 mins. Or use plain or vanilla yogurt, depending on what you are making.

Salty Gravy Mix

Hi Reena,

I bought a package of gravy mix but found it salty; is there anything I can do so it’s not so salty? Sandy

Dear Sandy,

Here are a few suggestions to try: Next time you purchase store bought gravy, look for sodium reduced packages. If the gravy is already cooking in the pot, add a potato to the gravy to absorb some of the saltiness. Another option is to add milk, sodium reduced broth or water to dilute the flavor. If this is the case combine flour or cornstarch with the liquid while it is still cold before adding it to the gravy, so that the gravy thickens.

White Film Leftover from Dishwasher

Dear Reena,

I have a ten-year-old dishwasher which has worked well, but over the last couple months it has left a chalky white film over areas of some (not all) dishes, especially the periphery of larger dinner plates and bowls. This rinses off easily, although on some less expensive dinnerware it needs to be rubbed off. I’ve cleaned the dishwasher, put vinegar through it, and altered the volume of rinse solution and amount of detergent, but with no effect. The operations manual suggests that using phosphate free detergent may do this, but it seems that’s the only kind available now. Any explanations or recommendations? Thank you, Sharon

Dear Sharon,

I can tell you that when this happened in my household, I switched from liquid to powder detergent and the problem immediately corrected itself. If your challenge continues, run a small amount of “Iron Out” through the dishwasher for an intense cleaning. If the problem remains, call for professional repair service.

Astute Feedback from Contributors

Re: Bathtub Ring

Regarding the question about how to remove a bathtub ring, I recommend a product called Gel-Gloss. It comes in a pink rectangular can at hardware/home stores such as Canadian Tire. It requires a bit of elbow grease (wipe on, let dry to a haze, then buff off with a cloth) but the results are FABULOUS! The tub, sink etc. will be super clean, smooth and shiny. And, bonus, it makes cleaning easier for months afterward. Catherine

Re: Bathtub Ring

Use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser! June

Re: Cleaning Cast Iron Frying Pans

My very old cast iron frying pan had years of encrusted food, oil, etc. on both the inside and outside surfaces. When we purchased a new self-cleaning range, a friend suggested I put the pan in the oven when it was in the self-cleaning mode. It worked like a charm!

Of course, I had to “cure” the pan again before using it. Really like your columns! Jan

Fabulous Cleaning Tips

  • For extremely greasy vent covers: Boil them in a stainless-steel pot filled with half cup baking soda and enough water to cover the metal. Boil 10 mins. Rinse and repeat. For mildly greasy vent covers wash in the dishwasher.
  • I often found spiders sitting in the same area of my screen room. I decided to soak a few cotton balls with peppermint essential oil, which is different than peppermint extract. I have noticed fewer spiders ever since. Submitted by: Tyler
  • I sprinkle cornmeal onto weeds to discourage them. Cornmeal is inexpensive and biodegradable. Submitted by: Sparky

Note: Every user assumes all risks of injury or damage resulting from the implementation of any suggestions in this column. Test all products on an inconspicuous area first.

Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website: Ask a question or share a tip at


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