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Ask Martha

Removing salt stains, keeping pets’ teeth healthy

Rock salt helps keep the winter roads clear but also stains clothing and rugs.

Richard Perry/The New York Times

Rock salt helps keep the winter roads clear but also stains clothing and rugs.

Q. How do I remove rock salt spots from my clothing, shoes, and carpets?

A. Rock salt, used to de-ice sidewalks and pavement in the winter, often leaves rings behind. Salt is water-soluble, so a thorough rinsing is often most effective. Read on for at-home removal techniques based on material. (If spots remain, contact a professional.)

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CLOTHING: Make sure clothes are dry. Remove any salt crystals with a clothing brush, says Lorraine Muir, director of textile testing at the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute. If the item is machine washable, launder. Dry-clean any fabric that is not machine-washable.

SHOES: Wipe dry leather with a cloth dampened with a 1-to-1 mixture of water and vinegar. Rub suede with a clean, dry cloth, then apply undiluted vinegar, says Steve Klinke, owner of Klinke Cleaners, in Milwaukee. Blot with a dry cloth.

CARPETS AND RUGS: Vacuum up dried salt, says Lewis Migliore, president of LGM and Associates Technical Flooring Services, in Dalton, Ga. Then spray the spot with water to flush it out. Blot the area with
a clean, dry towel.

Q. How can I ensure that my dog and cat have good dental hygiene?

A. Your best bet is to brush your pet’s teeth daily, says veterinarian Josephine Banyard, author of “Healthy Mouth, Healthy Pet: Why Dental Care Matters.” You’ll need a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically designed for pets. Never use human toothpaste — fluoride can upset your pet’s stomach. If your pet balks, try presenting a toothbrush topped with peanut butter to introduce it to the routine. Gradually, as your pet builds positive associations with the brush, switch to the toothpaste and brush away the plaque.

Q. Can you recommend any houseplants that will thrive through winter?

A. These popular plants are easy to care for and hardy enough to stand up to changes in temperature and humidity, common in winter months, says Ken Frieling, owner of Glasshouse Works in Stewart, Ohio. Water them thoroughly when the soil feels dry about a half inch below the surface (except for the peace lily, which prefers constantly moist soil).

1. SNAKE PLANT: Has beautiful architectural leaves. Can tolerate infrequent care and grows best in bright indirect light.

2. PEACE LILY: Produces pretty white flowers — and according to NASA, tops the list of plants that reduce indoor volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Prefers bright indirect light.

3. POTHOS: Loves to climb or cascade. Place in bright indirect light.

4. JADE PLANT: Resembles a miniature tree. Keep near a window with bright light.

Q. What’s the best way to clean a bird feeder?

A. First empty out the grain, and wash out any leftover seed with a garden hose. Scrub the feeder inside and out with a stiff brush and dish detergent. Mix one part bleach with nine parts water in a bucket, and soak the feeder in it to disinfect the surface and prevent the spread of diseases. Rinse with the hose and let dry. To reduce disease, the National Audubon Society suggests cleaning feeders once or twice a month.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living.
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