How to Clean a Burnt Coffee Pot: Say Goodbye to Stubborn Stains!

Have you ever woken up to a blackened, burnt mess in your coffee pot? The gunky build-up on your favorite carafe or thermos can be frustrating to deal with. But fear not! There’s an old trick used by wait staff in cafes and restaurants that can help you get your coffee pot sparkling clean again.

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The Problem: Stubborn Coffee Stains

friendly smiling waitress offers a choice between regular or

Dear Mary:
I have a big stainless coffee thermos that’s really hard to clean because of its narrow opening. I’ve tried using baking soda and vinegar, but nothing seems to work. How can I effectively clean the inside of my thermos?
-Karen

Dear Karen:
I have the perfect solution for you: crushed ice and salt! Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Fill your thermos about 1/4 full with crushed ice cubes. If the cubes are too large, give them a whack or two to break them down.
  2. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of ordinary table salt, depending on the size of your thermos.
  3. Secure the lid tightly and shake it vigorously.

As you shake the thermos, the salt will begin to melt the ice, creating a slushy mixture that can reach even the most hidden parts of the thermos. Keep swirling it round and round, first clockwise, then counterclockwise, and even upside down. This will ensure that the salt and ice reach all the nooks and crannies. It might take a few minutes if you have a stubborn build-up, but just keep shaking and swirling until the stains are gone. Finally, rinse the thermos well with cool water.

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This simple trick works not only for stainless thermoses but also for glass coffee carafes and glass-lined thermoses. Just make sure the carafe has cooled to room temperature before using ice cubes. Trust me, it’s so much fun, you might find yourself looking forward to a burned-on mess in your coffee pot just to amuse and amaze yourself.

coffee carafe before after cleaning with salt and ice

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Pay Off Debt or Contribute to a 401(k)?

Dear Mary:
My husband contributes 8% to his employer’s 401(k) plan. Given that we have about $50,000 of unsecured debt, would it be wise to temporarily stop his contributions?
-Debbie

Dear Debbie:
Yes, but only to the extent of his employer’s match, if any, and only until your unsecured debts are paid off. Let me explain:

Let’s say that out of the 8% he contributes, 3% is matched by his employer. That 3% is essentially free money that your husband would be foolish to leave on the table. In this case, he should reduce his contribution to 3% only.

When you’re carrying high-interest consumer debt, it’s not wise to put your hard-earned money at risk by investing in a 401(k). No matter how you look at it, money in a 401(k) is at risk, while investing in your debt carries no risk and offers a guaranteed rate of return. Here’s an example:

Imagine you have a $10,000 revolving credit card balance with an 18% interest rate. Each month, you’re paying $150 in interest alone. Now, let’s say a generous relative gives you $10,000. You have two options: pay off the debt or invest the money.

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If you choose to invest the $10,000 in traditional stocks and bonds, there’s a chance that you might lose some or even all of it due to market fluctuations. Meanwhile, the credit card debt remains, and you’re still paying $150 in interest each month.

On the other hand, if you decide to use the money to repay the $10,000 debt in full, you can keep the $150 you were sending to the credit card company every month. That’s your guaranteed 18% return on the $10,000 “investment” you made in your debt—a sure thing regardless of the economy’s ups and downs. Now, that’s a good deal!

However, be cautious. While you stop making contributions for a while, avoid cashing in your 401(k). The penalties and tax consequences can be severe. Once your debt is paid off, don’t forget to resume the 401(k) contributions right where you left off.

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Mortgage Payment Timings: Debt vs. Credit Card

Dear Mary:
It takes about two weeks for my mortgage payment check to clear my bank after I mail it. My sister says my lender is making me pay more interest by delaying the deposit. Is that true?
-Mary S.

Dear Mary S:
No, your sister is mistaken. Your mortgage payment operates under a “closed-end contract,” which differs from an open-end contract like a credit card account. Let me explain:

A closed-end contract, like a mortgage, has a fixed payment schedule. The interest portion of your monthly mortgage payment is the same whether you pay it early or just before the due date. On the other hand, a credit card or revolving open-end contract works differently. Making your payment early allows more of it to go towards the principal because interest is calculated based on the average daily balance.

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Federal law requires open-end lenders to credit all payments on the day they are received, unless failing to do so incurs extra charges. But with your mortgage payment, it doesn’t matter which day of the month it gets processed, as long as it arrives by the due date.

Hope that clears things up!

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