Your Place: Reader says Tang will remove dishwasher stain

Posted: August 04, 2012

Let's start this column with advice from reader Sharon Garcia of St. Davids:

"I just read the question posed by the person with the brown stain buildup everywhere in the dishwasher.

"I had this problem for many years, and discovered that the only thing that would make the brown go away was Tang drink mix in the soap dispenser. It will have to probably run a few times if it has a lot of buildup.

"I always ran it on hot without dishes when the buildup got bad. I also would open it during the rinse cycle and add some more.

"A cheaper solution, I later discovered, was any inexpensive instant lemonade powder. Just check the label and make sure the ingredients are the same, or similar to Tang. It must have something to do with the acidic component of citrus that breaks down the deposits on the walls.

"I no longer have this problem. When the dishwasher finally died, I replaced it with one that has a stainless steel interior. Got tired of dealing with it."

Question: "We have a bid to renovate a bathroom from a contractor we like and who comes recommended.

"He has said he can reduce the bid by $400 if we pay in cash. I was wondering if you have any thoughts on dos and don'ts when paying in cash. It is in the neighborhood of $10,000, so it is a lot of cash to carry around.

"I really just want to be aware of any pitfalls or 'gotchas,' and make sure I am protected in case of any dispute."

Answer: There are a couple of things working in your favor. The first is that you like the contractor; the second is that he comes recommended.

You need a contract in any case, whether you pay him in cash or not, and you should not give him all of it up front.

The best way is to agree contractually to release an agreed-upon amount periodically for work completed to your satisfaction, with the largest payment to come at the successful completion of all the work.

Make sure you get a receipt signed by him for the amount you provide. If he uses subcontractors and he wasn't on the up and up, he might tell them you didn't pay him and they could put a mechanic's lien on your house for the amount he owes them, or not finish the work.

I am wondering why he wants the money in cash, as I imagine you are. The cynical in the audience will suggest that he is trying to put something over on the government - federal, state or local - either in taxes or permits.

I doubt that you would be considered a party to this deception, especially if you have a contract stating that the payments were to be made in cash in return for $400 off, but I'm not a lawyer so I'm not providing legal advice - just my thoughts.

Again, contract, contract and, one more time, contract. If you are still feeling a bit on edge about this, have a lawyer look over the agreement you are negotiating with your contractor.

Yes, it's hot. Although most houses built in recent years have central air-conditioning and many older houses have been retrofitted, there are a lot of people out there sweltering in the summer heat.

From the folks at Emerson, here are some energy-efficient approaches to cooling.

Check the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) of the unit. The higher the number, the more efficient the system - resulting in lower monthly energy bills. A SEER rating over 16 is great.

Check your refrigerant. If the label on your outside air conditioner says R-22, you're going to need to upgrade. R-22 is ozone depleting and has been phased out in favor of environmentally friendlier R-410A.

Is your outside compressor unit free of debris? Many times leaves and grass clippings can get stuck on the coils and restrict airflow. This causes the unit to work harder and ends up costing you more money.

Invest in a programmable thermostat. Why pay to cool the house when you aren't home? Programming the thermostat around your schedule can save hundreds of dollars a year.

Know the right questions to ask a contractor. Many apps are designed to help you choose the best system for your home so you don't over- or under-purchase.

Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies.

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