Dear Readers: Still getting those annoying robo calls from fake charities, fake IRS calls and other nuisance calls? It's important to report them to federal agencies so they can gather evidence and put a stop to these people. Be sure to:

• Report all scam calls to the Federal Trade Commission online or call 877-382-4357.

• Report all robo calls or unwanted telemarketing calls to the National Do Not Call Registry at 888-382-1222. You also can go to online and check to see if your phone number is registered. If it isn't, you can place it on the list to avoid those unwanted calls. - Heloise

Musty towels

Dear Heloise: Help! A few of our towels have a musty smell (including my favorite). Despite repeated washings, it won't go away. What can I do? -- Tim, Omaha, Nebraska
Tim, sometimes odors linger even after washing, but here's something you can try: Be sure to wash only a few towels at a time (don't overstuff). Towels need to move around. Wash as usual, then add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle. This should help eliminate the musty odor. Avoid using fabric softener sheets. They will coat the towels and make them less absorbent.

Baking soda is a workhorse in the home. Nontoxic, safe, cheap and readily available, I keep boxes on hand. I've compiled a collection of my favorite baking soda hints, recipes and helps into a handy pamphlet. Would you like to receive one? It's easy. Visit www or send a long, self-addressed, stamped (70 cents) envelope along with $5 to: Heloise/Baking Soda, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001.
FYI: To keep most white, bleachable clothes a little whiter and brighter, add 1/2 cup of baking soda along with the regular amount of chlorine bleach. - Heloise


Do you have suggestions for how to dispose of or where to recycle used books? These are a mix of textbooks and general fiction/nonfiction. I want to avoid sending them to a landfill. - Jennifer, via email
Jennifer, you can donate to a women's shelter, daycare centers, doctor's and dentist's offices, theater groups, schools, scouting organizations, senior care centers and libraries, or you can recycle paperback books. Readers, any other suggestions? - Heloise


Dear Heloise: A friend of mine gave me this hint, which she has used for years. To keep celery fresh for weeks, do not wash, but carefully wrap it in foil. I place it back in the original plastic bag to protect the foil from tearing in the veggie drawer.
My other hint is to wrap parsley (again, do not wash) in a paper towel and place in a plastic zip-top bag. It has lasted for at least two weeks. It works for other herbs like thyme as well.
Hope these hints are helpful. - Edie in Connecticut


Dear Heloise: In a recent column, a reader wrote that she just tossed from her pantry many expired foods. I solved that issue by using a bold marker and writing the expiration date (i.e., 11/22) where visible before putting into the pantry.
When I hit another good sale on foods we like or staples for recipes, I rotate the just purchased ones to the back and the older ones forward. The date marker also helps me use those foods before expiration. Love your column for such practical, money- and timesaving ideas! - Nancy C. in California
Nancy, I call this "first in, first out," and it's a good way rotate products to make sure everything stays fresh in your kitchen. - Heloise


Dear Heloise: My friends and I love to read, and we enjoy having a lunch together every month. We put all the books we've read into a sack and take them to the place we're lunching at and do a book exchange. If there is a certain book that no one seems to want, we donate it to a local nursing home or hospital, which are always grateful to get them. - Beth, via email


Dear Heloise: To avoid ironing linen napkins after washing, spread very wet napkins on a smooth, clean surface, pushing out bubbles. Let them dry completely, then peel them off, and you will be amazed at how crisp and smooth they will be. Try it and enjoy your good linen napkins! - Betty C., via email


Dear Heloise: Just a warning to consumers: If they get a phone call from someone offering something for free, be very alert for fraud. It might sound good to be offered a free hearing aid or a $100 gift card, but it's usually a scam to get as much information from you as possible. Under NO circumstances should you answer any questions from the scammer who calls you. I learned the hard way. -- Thomas in Indiana


Dear Heloise: In a recent column, I read about airing out a sleeping bag to get rid of the smell. I wash my sleeping bags in my washing machine with mild soap. I have no dryer, so I hang it on my clothesline. The sleeping bags are the same as quilts to wash. When it gets used for a few days, then it gets washed. - Opal A., Garden Grove, CA


Dear Heloise: Sometimes mascara starts to form clumps. If you find a clump of mascara on your mascara wand, simply take a textured paper towel and wipe the end of the wand on the paper until all clumps are gone. Do not use facial tissue or cotton pads, as the fibers will stick to the mascara. - Barb in New Mexico

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