Best stain remover

Tipped off by the comprehensive research at America’s Test Kitchen, I’ve found that the best — really the only — stain remover for laundry that really works is sodium percarbonate, which is a powder you need to mix in water before each use. (No liquid spray works nearly as well.) You then soak garments for 6 hours and wash. It completely removes just about any food stain, even stale ones. There are generic versions available but a proven brand of percarbonate is OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover. — KK

HouseholdClaudia Dawson
Bathroom phone shelf

You are sitting on the toilet but there is no place to park your phone safely. This is an everywhere in the world problem, with a first world solution: this hefty, heavy solid metal, toilet roll shelf. The shelf is flat, dry, stable. The roll holder underneath is easy to use. Can also store book, wet wipes, etc. As a courtesy I replaced our guest bathroom roll holder with this, and I like it so much I may do the rest of the bathrooms. — KK

HouseholdClaudia Dawson
Alexa houseguest guide

You can program your Alexa with new skills. I just trained our Alexa to serve as a home guide for houseguests, babysitters, and petsitters. I used an Alexa Blueprint to create an audible guide for finding things, or giving instructions like “where are the bath towels?,“ "where does the trash go?” or “how to turn off the porch light?” Visitors just ask Alexa, after saying, “Alexa open the home guide.” — KK

HouseholdClaudia Dawson
Keep puppy distracted

I work from home most of the time and when I do I have a 4-month old puppy keeping me company. When he’s not sleeping he’s getting into trouble, so I’ve already spent a healthy amount of money trying to find things that’ll distract him. This burrowing toy by ZippyPaws works best so far. He doesn’t rest until all the squeaking giraffes are out from inside. ZippyPaws makes a lot of adorable dog toys, it’s hard not to buy them all. I just ordered this bucket of fried chicken. — CD

HouseholdClaudia Dawson
Potty training app for puppies

I was immediately overwhelmed when we brought our new puppy home two weeks ago. Puddle & Pile was a mind saver. I log when my pup eats, drinks, pees and poops and the app will predict when he’ll need to potty next and alert me. The more I log the more it learns about his habits and becomes more accurate. It’s not perfect, but it’s prevented a lot of accidents and I can’t find a better app for the job. Suggestions welcome! — CD 

Hand Vacuum with batteries that hold a charge

I’ve owned ten or more portable hand vacs in my life. The batteries in all of them did not stand the test of time. After six months or so, they couldn’t hold a charge. But I bought the Black and Decker Cordless Lithium Hand Vacuum in 2015 and the battery seems to be as powerful now as the day I bought it. It’s also the priciest, at $55. In the long run, it’s also the cheapest, since I have not had to replace it. — MF

HouseholdClaudia Dawson
Fabulous electric car

I really love my all-electric Chevy Bolt which gets 240 miles from an overnight charge in our garage. Its immense power and acceleration is intoxicating. Unexpected bonus: silence inside. Also the car is basically an iPhone accessory. There a few downsides: it has a boring generic style and the 4-door, 5-passenger hatchback has only a tiny trunk. Otherwise, functionally I get 95% of a Tesla at about half the price. — KK

Motorized corner desk

I am very happy with my IKEA standing desk. I bought it because I needed an affordable corner desk for my small home office and the BEKANT sit/stand desk ($549) was half the price of other adjustable height corner desks on the market. There are different sizes and color combos you can choose from and the desk comes with a 10-year limited warranty. — CD 

HouseholdClaudia Dawson
Effective no-kill rat trap

I bought this small rodent trap ($17) a couple of years ago and have caught several mice and rats with it. It doesn’t kill the animal, it just traps them in the cage when they touch the lever with the bait. (I use a bit of peanut butter for the bait, and put a little bowl of water in the cage so they don’t get thirsty before I check the trap.) With this kind of trap you still have to deal with the problem of what to do with a live rodent, of course. — MF

HouseholdClaudia Dawson
Moth catcher

We have pantry moths in our kitchen cupboards, and can’t get rid of them. But we can greatly reduce how many there are with these moth traps. They look like little scout tents but the inner walls are coated with a sticky substance. Once every 9 months we replace the trap, which by then is covered with the creatures. — MF

HouseholdClaudia Dawson
Motion sensing light bulbs

Motion sensing lights are a rapidly evolving product. Nowadays the motion sensors are built right into the LED light bulb itself; no clunky hardware or switches. The same sensors in the bulb detect night, so the bulbs only turn on in the dark with motion of a body. They can be used in any socket, and can be placed outside with a little protection. I’ve been trying out the various Chinese-made versions. This one by Luxon costs about $9 and works well enough in our garage, hallway and porch. — KK

HouseholdClaudia Dawson
Cat owner starter kit

Claudia is getting a kitten, and knowing that I have three cats, she asked me for recommendations on things to buy. Here they are: Boxiecat Premium Clumping Clay Cat Litter is nearly dustless and not perfumed. I’ve tried many different kinds of cat litter and this is the best. PetLovers Extra Sticky Lint Rollers are a necessity. Our cats use the Ultimate Scratching Post about 50 times a day. They no longer scratch upholstery, as they find the scratching post more satisfying. Cosmic Catnip Cat Toys come in a variety of shapes. They play with them, bliss out, and roll around on the floor for about ten minutes. They will lose interest if you leave the toys out, so it’s better to hide them and give them to your cats as an infrequent treat. Cats never seem to get frustrated about not being able to catch a laser pointer dot. My cats get really excited when they hear me open the drawer where we store our laser pointer and they will run into the room and start meowing and looking around wildly for the red dot. The DuraScoop Jumbo Cat Litter Scoop is made from cast aluminum and looks like an Art Deco collectible. It’s very sturdy and makes cleaning the cat litter much less unpleasant. — MF

HouseholdClaudia Dawson
Home safety

I just purchased our fourth Nest smoke and carbon monoxide alarm for our home. As our old Home Depot smoke alarms go kaput one by one, I have replaced them with the more expensive, but superior, Nest. They seem to last longer, are smarter, less annoying, and are networked via wifi. In theory (no actual disasters yet), each Nest will broadcast a concern it detects to all the others, so a fire in my downstairs home office would be announced in a message by the Nest in our living room. It also sends alerts to my phone if I am away. — KK

HouseholdClaudia Dawson