Q: What is the best way to remove a coffee stain from my kitchen sink?
A: The good news is that coffee isn't the toughest stain you and your kitchen sink could face. As long as you use the proper cleaners and don't get too aggressive — steel wool is never a good idea when it comes to sinks — you shouldn't worry about permanent damage. Try the gentlest method first: dishwashing liquid, water and a soft sponge. If the stain had time to set in or if the sink is made of a porous material that becomes discolored easily, such as soapstone, it might take more effort.
One of the easiest sink surfaces to clean is enameled cast iron. The enamel is nonporous, so it's highly stain-resistant. If you get to the stain quickly, water and a nonabrasive sponge should do the trick. Otherwise, use enamel cleaner. You'll apply the same cleaning methods if your sink is vitreous china or fireclay, both nonporous materials with enameled surfaces. For severely stubborn stains, these materials can tolerate a mildly abrasive detergent such as Bar Keepers Friend All-Purpose Cleaner (homedepot.com).
Although its name suggests otherwise, stainless steel's brushed texture, composed of tiny crevices, is susceptible to stains. If your sink is stainless steel, attack the coffee with a gentle cleaner, such as Martha Stewart Clean All-Purpose Cleaner (marthastewart clean.com); if that fails, try a stainless steel cleaner. If the stain is still there, use a Scotch-Brite Non-Scratch Large Scrub Sponge (home depot.com) with a mild but slightly abrasive cleaner, such as Maas Stainless Steel & Chrome Cleaner (maasinc.com). Just be sure to scrub with the grain of the sink. While removing a stain, an abrasive cleaner will actually etch the surface — so you want the etching to blend in.
The surfaces most susceptible to staining, because they're the most porous, are acrylic (such as Corian) and granite. They're also the most likely to get scratched, so use a soft sponge and a nonabrasive all-purpose cleaner.
No matter what your sink is made of, be sure to rinse it well after lifting the stain. Then set a basin rack at the bottom of the sink to keep dishes, which can trap staining agents, off the surface.
Helping a pet lose weight
Q: What can I do to help my overweight cat lose weight safely?
A: For both pets and humans, slimming down is most often a matter of reducing the total calories consumed. Take an inventory of what your cat normally eats, including table scraps, treats and medications. Non-pet food should make up no more than 10 percent of a cat's diet.
Felines are carnivores. Dry kibble, which is often high in carbohydrates, can be difficult for them to digest and may cause weight gain, says Louise Murray, vice president of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. A protein-rich, low-carb wet food will keep your cat full longer and can help with shedding the pounds.
Sudden diet changes can be stressful for your cat. Introduce new food slowly to avoid a dangerous hunger strike during which your pet stops eating altogether. Try offering the new option side by side with your cat's old food, or mix the two together. Don't forget exercise; put aside half an hour each day for interactive play, such as chasing a light or a feather, to encourage your cat to be active.
Of course, before beginning any weight-loss regimen, ask your veterinarian for advice tailored to your animal's needs.