How to Soften New Denim, Make Homemade Eyeglass Cleaner and More

Dear Mary: I used to buy a packet of “blue jeans softener” in a store that has since gone out of business. Added to the first washing, it would make a pair of new jeans feel like they had been stone-washed. I can no longer find anything like this. Do you have a suggestion for softening new denim? I’ve tried extra fabric softener in the last rinse, but that didn’t work. Thanks! — Gail C., Florida

Dear Gail: I don’t know which product you used, but I’d like to get my hands on some of that, too! Blue jeans manufacturers use a fiber-digesting enzyme called “cellulase” to break down and remove the cellulose from the fibers. It leaves denim soft as though it was stone-washed. You can purchase cellulase capsules over the counter, sold as enzymes that break down indigestive dietary fiber. Readers have reported great results by dissolving one or two capsules in a bucket of warm water, then soaking the denim item it’s in. You will need to experiment, but just be aware that the cellulase eats fiber, so overtreating denim in this way may shorten its useful life by weakening the fibers. Cellulase capsules can be a little pricey, available online and also in a well-stocked drugstore. In the meantime, you can fill your washer with warm water. Add the jeans and a half cup of table salt (no detergent), allowing the entire wash and rinse cycles. That should start the softening process.

Dear Mary: Could you please recommend a homemade cleaner for plastic eyeglass lenses that won’t scratch or harm non-glare coating? — Jerry T., New Jersey

Dear Jerry: Bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil and allow to cool. Pour it into a small refillable spray bottle. Add 1 teaspoon white vinegar and a single drop of liquid dish soap. Shake gently to mix. I use this on eyeglass lenses, my computer screen, mirrors and other glass items with great results. Boiling the water first reduces the calcium and minerals from the water — it’s the stuff that builds up in the bottom of your tea kettle. As for this cleaner not harming non-glare coatings, I cannot guarantee that because there are so many types of coatings and lens materials out there. My best advice is to always test something like this on the edge or in an inconspicuous place first, just to make sure.

Dear Mary: I’m a klutz! I spilled dish soap on my carpet and I can’t get it up. I’ve tried carpet cleaner but after scrubbing and scrubbing the soap still will not come out of the carpet. I’m really stuck in a soapy situation! Any suggestions? — Tammy

Dear Tammy: I’m afraid scrubbing will be a losing battle. You have to extract that soap — every last smidgen or you will have a permanent dirt magnet! It’s time to call in a professional, a carpet company with a powerful truck-mounted extracting steam cleaning equipment. Make sure they know exactly what spilled and what you’ve done so far to try to rectify the situation. I would stand right there as they work on that spot and not let them stop until I see absolutely no soap bubbles being sucked into the cleaning machine. It’s worth the cost to save your carpet investment. Good luck!

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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