Every day I open my inbox to find dozens, if not hundreds, of questions from the audience. Want to know the most-asked-about subject? Stains. Nasty, ugly, stubborn stains on everything you can imagine, from concrete to laundry to teeth.

Q: Five years ago, we replaced our entryway steps, and now the concrete has developed greenish-brown stains from dead leaves, wet leaves, etc. How can we remove these stains?

A: The leaf stains are caused by tannins, the same type of compounds that are found in grapes and make wine taste dry. Tannin stains on outdoor concrete may not be permanent, but they can be difficult to remove. Fresh stains often go away on their own provided they are exposed to the powerful bleaching action of the sun. They are easier to remove than older stains. Powdered detergents with bleaching agents that remove organic stains like food, blood and plant material can effectively clean old, stubborn stains from concrete surfaces, according to The Concrete Network. Below are the steps to follow. Make sure you have placed a tarp over nearby plants to protect them from cleaning products. Always test a small, inconspicuous area of the concrete before you apply the cleaner to the stain.

Wash leaf debris from the concrete with a power washer. Apply Cascade powdered dishwasher detergent to the stain while the concrete is still damp. Let the detergent set for a few minutes.

Scrub the stain with a stiff nonmetal brush. Rinse all the soap off the concrete with the power washer. Add more detergent, and repeat the cleaning and rinsing process if the stain is still there.

For extremely tough stains that cannot be completely removed following the steps above, continue to the next level: Mix 1 cup liquid chlorine bleach with 2 gallons of water in a bucket. Apply the mixture to the concrete, and let it sit without drying for five minutes. Scrub the stain vigorously with the brush, and rinse off the bleach mixture with a power washer. To avoid conspicuous bleached areas, clean the entire concrete surface instead of spot-cleaning the stain. Caution: Never mix chlorine bleach with any other product other than water.

Still visible? Clean older, super-stubborn stains with a stain remover formulated to treat organic stains. Apply the cleaner to the damp stain, and let it sit for 24 to 48 hours, according to label directions. Rinse off the stain remover with a power washer.

Q: What can I do to make my white sheets, duvet cover, towels, socks, T-shirts and delicate items that have yellowed or become a dingy gray white again?

A: Here is my favorite recipe to remove stains, yellow and dingy gray from whites: Pour 1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda and 1 cup Cascade automatic dishwashing powder into a large pail, bucket or other container (an ice chest works well). Add the hottest tap water you can get. (I usually boil water in a tea kettle, pour that in and then finish filling with extremely hot tap water.) Stir until Super Washing Soda and Cascade seem to be fairly well-dissolved. Add the stained and or discolored item(s) immediately while the water is still hot, making sure everything is saturated. Cover if possible, and allow them to soak for anywhere from a couple of hours to overnight. Wring out and launder as usual.

Q: Have you evaluated battery or electric toothbrushes? If so, what are your findings?

A: I have. My dentist believes so strongly in the effectiveness of a good electric toothbrush that he gives his patients a new brush head for their particular model every visit. My pick for the Best Inexpensive electric toothbrush is the Oral-B Pro 1000.

Here's why: It's a great tool; it works like a champ; and it gets awesome reviews both from professional oral health care providers as well as users like myself. Oral-B Pro 1000 has a built-in timer, so I know I have to keep going at it until it gives me an alert that I'm done. But it also emits a pulse every 30 seconds so I know when to switch areas. The replacement toothbrush heads for this brush are inexpensive, which is a big deal. This brush holds a charge for many days, making it ideal for travel. The manufacturer claims Pro 100 removes 300 percent more plaque than a regular manual toothbrush, and I'm a believer. And here's the best part: It costs about $40.

You can find a link and links to the other items mentioned in this column at www.everydaycheapskate.com/ama1217. 

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