Dear Heloise:

My 11-year-old daughter was playing with a gallon-size self-sealing plastic bag. She filled it with air and sealed it. She then held it up and said: "Hey, Mom, look! I made a pillow." The quality bag held the air, even with me pushing down on it. That made me think of camping and backpacking, where a gallon-size plastic bag could be an emergency or easily packed pillow!

If covered with a T-shirt or some other fabric, the plastic is more comfortable to the touch. It takes up no room at all in a backpack and can be used for storage during the day as well. We let out a little air to make it softer -- you can adjust it to your own comfort level.

I hope this is a new one -- my daughter would be thrilled!

Mary Beth and Shaun Stearns, via e-mail

Tested, tried and loved! Tell your daughter she is one smart girl.

Dear Heloise:

How should I clean oven racks?

I remember something about hot water and ammonia in a large garbage bag. Can you help me?

Hope, via e-mail

Cleaning those dirty oven racks is quite easy, but please check your oven manual first for the cleaning directions the manufacturer suggests.

Or you can use the following easy-cleaning method:

1. Place the racks in a large, heavy-duty plastic garbage bag.

2. Pour about 1/4 cup of household sudsy ammonia into the bag and seal it with a twist-tie.

3. Put the bag out of the way of children and pets -- somewhere it can be left to sit overnight safely.

4. Open the bag in a well-ventilated area, because the ammonia fumes will be strong. (CAUTION: Open the bag away from your face!) Put on rubber gloves, remove the racks, lay them on some newspaper and scrub them clean with a stiff brush.

5. Rinse very well and let air-dry.

Those oven racks should be sparkling-clean once again! And remember, clean up spills in the oven as soon as possible to keep the oven and racks in tiptop shape.

Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Please include your city and state when faxing or using e-mail. I can't answer your letter personally but will use the best hints received in my column.

(c)2004, King Features Syndicate