Latest articles from Reena Nerbis

Solutions and substitutions

Reena Nerbis

Dear Reena,

What does one use to clean the inside walls of a propane fireplace? The manufacturer is no longer in business. Thank-you. Pat

Dear Pat,

I contacted a propane specialist in the United States, here is what he recommends. When cleaning your fireplace, never use soap, water or any chemical cleaner to maintain the fireplace. Doing this will leave deposits on the burner or vents. The best way to clean the interior is by vacuuming it with the dust attachment on your vacuum. The main purpose of this is to get rid of dander, dust or pet hair; if this is not done the fireplace may smell with the first burn of the season.

Also, make sure that the fireplace is burning properly, the fire should have a blue flame, if this is not the case ask your local propane provider to have a look at the unit.

Dear Reena,

I peeled too many potatoes and want to bake them. I am worried that since they are a few days old, they will taste dry if I bake them. Should I just throw them out? Dawne

Dear Dawne,

Even though the potatoes have lost their peel, they haven’t lost their appeal. Spray them with Pam or simply massage with olive oil, wrap in foil and bake as usual. This leaves them moist and tasty and prevents waste.

Dear Reena,

What is the purpose of adding food coloring to food? Do you have any suggestions for making natural food colors for cake icing? Esther

Dear Esther,

Do you remember a few years back when Pepsi created a clear cola called, Pepsi Clear? It didn’t last because people associate certain colors with flavor. Manufacturers add color to food to make food look more delicious which is why oranges are sometimes spray painted to appear more orange.

Since there is evidence that certain food colors elicit allergic reactions in people, the Canadian government has been working towards listing individual food color ingredients on food labels so that the public can become more aware of what they are consuming.

To make natural green food coloring, combine avocadoes with a little lemon juice. For yellow, add a small amount of turmeric to your white icing. Pomegranate juice is great for making red, as are beets. And blueberries work well for blue icing unless pomegranate juice is added in which case icing becomes purple. Note: Be cautious not to add too much food coloring as you do not want runny icing.

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

Solutions and substitutions

Reena Nerbis

Dear Reena: I used a product on our laminate floors, the one that the manufacturer recommended, but it turned out very streaky, and I feel I should not have used the product. I am trying to remove the product from the floor; do you have any suggestions? Bert

Dear Bert: The trick to avoiding streaks on laminate floors is to dry them well after washing. Use a vacuum for regular maintenance to remove dust and debris. For more intensive cleaning, and to remove the product that was already used, consider using the following solution. Into a 4-gallon bucket mix: 1-tsp. dish soap, 1-cup white vinegar and enough hot water to fill the bucket. Dampen the floor and wash. You may also wish to contact the manufacturer and inform them that the product they recommended left your floor streaky.

Dear Reena: Can you please provide me with a recipe to make my own Hot Sauce? I have several allergies, and don’t trust commercial products. Best, Stanley

Dear Stanley: In a stainless-steel pot combine: 18 sliced and seeded chili peppers, 6 sliced and seeded jalapeño peppers, 6 crushed garlic cloves, half cup minced onion and 1 tsp, salt. Cook for 5 minutes. Add 2-cups water. Cook until ingredients are soft about 15-20 mins. Cool to room temperature. Transfer to blender and blend. Add one-quarter cup white vinegar and 2-tbsp. sugar. Blend until smooth. Store in fridge. Tip: If you prefer a spicier sauce: do not remove the seeds.

Dirty Secrets about Germs and Bacteria! Part 3 of 3


• All bacteria are harmful.

Answer: False. Bacteria are one-celled organisms visible only with a microscope. They’re so small that if you lined up a thousand of them end to end, they could fit across the end of a pencil eraser. Not all bacteria are harmful. In fact, less than 1 percent cause disease, and some bacteria that live in your body are good for you. For instance, Lactobacillus acidophilus — a harmless bacterium that resides in your intestines — helps you digest food, destroys some disease-causing organisms and provides nutrients to your body.

• Life would be better if everyone used antibacterial soap all the time.

Answer: False. Numerous studies show that antibacterial soap is no more effective than ordinary soap in cleaning your hands.  Either kind lifts off germ-laden dirt. But antibacterial soap kills helpful bacteria on the skin, freeing up valuable real estate so that harmful bacteria can move in later. 

• Triclosan is the answer to a cleaner life.

Answer: You be the judge. Over the last two decades, antibacterial products have swarmed the marketplace, showing up in hundreds of different products, in everything from soaps and toothpastes, to clothes, kitchenware, and toys. In fact, a study done in 2000 found that over 75% of liquid soaps and nearly 30% of bar soaps—45% of all the soaps on the market—contain some type of antibacterial agent.

The most common active ingredient was Triclosan. A study of over 200 healthy households found that households using antibacterial products did not have any reduced risk for runny noses, coughs, and other symptoms of infectious diseases. According to the American Medical Association, “Despite their recent proliferation in consumer products, the use of antimicrobial agents such as Triclosan in consumer products has not been studied extensively. No data exists to support their efficacious when used in such products or any need for them.”

• Every cleaner on the market is thoroughly tested and appropriately labelled for safety.

Answer: False. Companies are protected by an old law known as “Trade Secrets”. The law does not require companies to list all the ingredients of a product on a Material Safety Data Sheets. MSDS’s are only required to list ingredients with acute and chronic health hazards. Chemicals are tested for their individual health effects. Few chemicals have ever been tested for their combined health effects and few chemicals have ever been tested for their health effects on women and children.

• Household cleaners are safe it’s not like they can penetrate through skin.

Answer: False. Human skin is remarkably porous and will absorb many substances it touches into the bloodstream. We also ingest cleaner chemicals when we use these products or touch residues left on surfaces and then eat or put our hands to our mouths. Food itself is easily contaminated by cleaners or air fresheners used in the kitchen. Cleaner vapors and tiny droplets suspended by sprays are invariably inhaled.

• According to the EPA, indoor pollution is no more polluted then outdoor.

Answer: False. According to the EPA, indoor air is 2 to 5 times more contaminated than outdoor air. Not only do toxic chemicals pollute the air that we breathe inside, they leach onto our counter tops, floors, carpets, bathtubs, sinks, and walls. Note: Like cleaners, air fresheners are not regulated by the federal government, and once again, companies are not required to list ingredients on their labels. Consumers should be wary of all air fresheners, even those that claim to be “all-natural.” NRDC and other groups are petitioning the EPA and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to do more comprehensive testing and to take action to protect the public from dangerous chemicals in air fresheners.

Solutions and substitutions Dec. 26

Reena Nerbis

Dear Reena,

I picked up a few old books at an auction; the books carry a musty odor that I am unable to destroy. What can I do to take away the stink? Arthur

Dear Arthur,

Place the books inside of a sealable plastic bag. Pour one eighth cup baking soda inside the bag and shake. Seal the bag and place it in the freezer for one week. Shake out baking soda, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy your fresh smelling books.

Dear Reena,

I make homemade egg rolls and as they fry, they fall apart and the filling escapes into the cooking oil. How can I prevent egg rolls from opening during cooking? How does one reheat egg rolls so that they remain crispy and not soggy? Vince

Dear Vince,

Begin by brushing the egg roll wrapper with a bit of egg white (I call this kitchen glue). Close the wrapper and press. When oil is hot, use tongs to carefully hold the seam of the egg roll into the oil to seal it. After a few seconds drop the egg roll in the oil, the seam should remain closed. To reheat egg rolls, bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 mins. Broil for one minute or until wrappers are crispy.

Dear Reena,

My indoor walker is leaving black marks on my carpet. Is there something I can coat the wheels with to prevent this? Luther

Dear Luther,

Tires are black due to the chemical “carbon black,” which is a combination of various forms of tar and vegetable oil. There is nothing official that removes the residual chemical. Some people have great success by wiping the wheels with either rubbing alcohol or household ammonia. Other people enlist a friend to run the walker over snow on the driveway which wears off some of the black residue (dry well). The good news is that overtime; the marks should become considerably less. Remove any marks on vinyl flooring with a rubber eraser. Clean marks on carpet with dish soap and water. If the walkers had straight legs instead of wheels, you would have the option to slit rubber or tennis balls and fit them over the feet of the walker.

Dear Reena,

One of the phone buttons on our cordless phone is stuck. Is there any way to unstick it other than buying a new phone? Thanks. KM

Dear KM,

Your best hope is to give the phone keypad a good cleaning by using rubbing alcohol on a soft cloth. Clean the entire keypad. Next dip a cotton swab into rubbing alcohol and clean around each number. If the button remains stuck check out the warranty or contact the manufacturer.

The Cold Brings Colds

• Whenever I have a cold, I rub the bottom of my nose with lip balm so that my nose doesn’t become sore. I label that one lip balm with my name and the word ‘SICK’ on it. Ted

• My children used to waste an entire box of tissues in one day when they had a cold. Now I purchase the softest roll of toilet paper that I can find, and they use one or two sheets at a time. Their nose does not become sore from rubbing, and we aren’t wasting as much. Manfred

• I cut up an old, soft bedsheet and made it into hankies for my husband and I to use whenever we have a cold. Wash in hot water. Alex

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

Solutions and substitutions December 19

Reena Nerbis

Dear Reena:

How can I get rid of coffee pot stains? I would like to sell it, but I would like to clean it first. Thanks, Mitchell

Dear Mitchell:

Sprinkle baking soda and a small amount of water into the pot and heat the pot until the burnt coffee disappears (being careful not to re-burn the pot). Rinse with hot water.

Dear Reena:

Horizontal kitchen blinds take forever to clean, because of the effort involved, I am thinking of selling them and buying cloth curtains. Any advice? Sheila

Dear Sheila:

I agree, stop wasting the day cleaning horizontal blinds. Drop them into the bathtub and use the shower hose to spray them. Sprinkle with shampoo or dish soap and rinse. Shake hang to dry and move on with your day.

Dear Reena:

Do you have a recipe for homemade mouthwash? I am looking for something that contains no alcohol and is inexpensive. Anonymous

Dear You:

Let’s face it, at one time or another we’ve all faced this challenge. Here is a simple solution that you can make at home. Instead of throwing out the green end pieces of your strawberries, save enough stems to measure half cup. The stems of strawberries are packed with antioxidants which are good for human bodies.

Add the stems to one cup boiling water and steep strawberry leaves until cool. Next add the juice of one lemon. Strain and pour into a bottle. Can be stored for up to one week. No money, no waste!

Fabulous Feedback from Readers

Hi Reena,

I read the problem about the package of ground beef being left in the fridge for several months and the problem getting the smell out. Perhaps leaving a bowl full of tomato juice in the fridge for a while may help. I had a problem like this and after, using this method, the smell disappeared. Barb

Dear Reena,

Just read to use alcohol to clean an eyeglass frame finish. In my opinion no alcohol is needed. Use dish soap and water only, fill a small spray bottle (10 oz.) three quarter water and one quarter dish soap.

Rinse with cool water making sure to remove all soap most anti reflective lens coatings have a hydrophobic coating as well, holding frames upside down and running the cleaned lenses horizontally under the slow running water will remove almost all the water. Dab off remaining droplets with thin cotton cloth or tissue. I have been doing this in my optical practice for 16 years and my customers get 3-4 years almost scratch free…and love me for it. Ernie

Fabulous Pie Tips of the Week!

• Before you bake your next hot apple pie…prevent apples from shrinking. Cook the apples slowly first over low heat for 15 minutes. Add sugar to the apple slices; doing this will extract some of the juices and make the crust less soggy. Choose more than one variety of apples so that some are sweet, and some are tart.

• Homemade pie crust that is too soft should be wrapped in plastic and stored in the fridge for about 15 minutes. Add flour as needed.

• If your pie looks cooked, but the filling is underdone, loosely wrap it in foil and return it to the oven to cook through.

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

Solutions and substitutions December 12

Reena Nerbis

Dear Reena:

Please provide me with a homemade wood cleaner for my beautiful wood furniture. Thank you, Elba

Dear Elba:

Into a spray bottle combine: 1 cup water, 1 cup white vinegar and 1 tbsp. olive oil. Shake, spray onto furniture and wipe with a soft rag.

Dear Reena:

How do I keep my Christmas tree from drying out? Jozette

Hi Jozette:

Begin by cutting at least a half inch off the bottom of the tree right before placing it in the tree stand; this step opens the vascular system to hold water. The sooner you add water to the tree-stand the better. During the first few days you will need to water the tree at least once a day. Avoid placing the tree: in direct sunlight, and near heating or cooling vents. Some people suggest adding a tablespoon of sugar or corn syrup to the water; however, most people agree that if the tree-stand always holds water, this is not necessary.

Dear Reena:

My children love to eat chicken wings. I make them by battering them with flour and spices, but when I deep fry the wings the coating falls off, making a big mess of skinless chicken wings. What am I doing wrong? Thanks, Jennifer

Dear Jennifer:

Here is the trick; after rolling chicken wings in batter, cover the bowl of wings with plastic wrap and place the bowl in the fridge for one and a half hours. As the flour adheres to the meat, the wings become sticky and the batter holds to the meat during frying. Also, make sure that the oil is very hot before dropping meat into the pot. To test proper deep-frying temperature, drop a bite size piece of bread into the oil. If the oil bubbles around the bread and turns light brown within 60 seconds, the oil is ready to use. Or put the handle end of a wooden spoon into the oil, when bubbles form along the handle a little, the oil is ready. Or drop a popcorn kernel into the oil, the kernel pops when oil reaches approximately 350 degrees, which is perfect for deep frying.

Reader’s Feedback:

Re: Etching on glasses in dishwasher

Hi Reena:

If the etching is permanent, it will likely continue even with new glassware. In my experience, the problem is caused by the dishwasher detergent being too strong. After I installed a water softener, the problem was resolved when I reduced the amount of dishwasher detergent per load by half. Scott

Re: Food Borne Illness

Hi Reena:

I enjoy your column very much. I am an Infection Control Practitioner (retired) but having managed outbreaks in the past – here is a tip. Washing melons with hot soapy water before cutting into them decreases chances of driving bacteria into the fruit. How many times do you see people slapping/squeezing on fruits in the store? If they have poor hand hygiene – viruses can live on surfaces for long periods of time. Deborah

Re: Opening Jars

The number one tip for opening jars: Purchase a roll of NON-Slip fabric for shelves. Cut into strips and share with family and friends. Susan

Re: Cleaning Silver Jewelry

Dear Ms. Nerbas,

A long time ago when visiting Mexico, I bought lots of silver jewelry and was so happy with my purchase. However, I quickly found that I could not wear it as my skin would turn colors, and even stain my blouses. Afterwards I simply decided to stick with gold, although now I often wear silver which does not really tarnish.

That said, I would not recommend adding clear nail polish as it will ruin the value of the item, unless you plan to never pass it on or sell it. The patina which is so cherished is gone and diminishes the value of the piece. I suggest coating silver jewelry with Vaseline if the items are earrings. When wearing a brooch, or pendant, have something else as a barrier to contact the silver. Just thought I would add my opinion, Vivien

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