Dear Heloise: I read your column every day in The Decatur (Ala.) Daily. If you have CAST-IRON COOKWARE that has a “buildup” on the outside, you can clean it in your self-cleaning oven. Afterward, be sure it is completely cool, then wash in warm, soapy water and wipe down inside and out with a thin coat of shortening. I even have put mine in a 300-degree oven for an hour or so at times for minor cleaning. -- Dot B. in Alabama

Dot, don’t you love this tried-and-true Heloise hint on how to “easy clean” a cast-iron skillet? Since you need to put it on an oven rack, just leave one rack in the oven when doing this. Many readers leave both racks in when self-cleaning the oven. They may get dull, but they won’t be damaged. -- Heloise

SEND A GREAT HINT TO:

Heloise

P.O. Box 795000

San Antonio, TX 78279-5000

Fax: 210-HELOISE

Email: Heloise(at)Heloise.com

MICROWAVE MISTAKES

Dear Readers: Microwaves are pretty much a standard appliance to have today. They sure make cooking or heating up some leftovers a snap! However, there are some very important DON’TS for a microwave. Make sure you keep the following items out of the microwave, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture says they aren’t safe, and that’s good enough for me:

* Containers with metal handles.

* Any foam-insulated items, such as carry-out containers.

* Food wrapped in aluminum foil.

* Cold containers that are used to contain yogurt, cottage cheese, margarine, etc. These should be used only for storage and NOT for microwave cooking.

* Brown paper bags.

-- Heloise

STUBBORN JARS

Dear Heloise: I have a problem opening glass jars. Do you have a hint for how to do this? -- Olga V. in New Jersey

Hola, Olga! Readers, Olga wrote to me in Spanish. I read and speak just a little (solo un poco), so I can answer her question. My trick is to wrap the lid in a thick kitchen towel, then “whack” the side of it in several spots with a heavy utensil, or tap it (just the lid, not the whole glass jar!) on the floor. You can use a bowl of hot water and turn the jar upside down just until the water covers the lid. Since heat expands, the metal lid should loosen a little. -- Heloise

EASY TRASH TAKEOUT

Dear Heloise: I traded out my large garbage can for several small ones, placed in the corners of my kitchen. The one by the sink is for “messy” trash and is handy for meat trimmings and leftovers. It’s easy to lift the small can to wherever the mess is, tie it up and toss. -- D.M.L. in Mississippi

QUICK DRY

Dear Heloise: I reuse 1-gallon plastic bags, but they are hard to dry. Recently, I put a bag over a roll of paper towels. I rolled it around several times and dried the inside of the bag. -- Addie W. in North Carolina

Heloise’s column appears six days a week at www.washingtonpost.com/advice. Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, or e-mail it to Heloise@Heloise.com.

2014, King Features Syndicate