Use Ordinary Household Items To Scrape Paint From Intricate Designs

Posted: March 16, 1990

I'm stripping an old dresser and am finished except for some of the intricate designs and indented areas. What are some good ways to get at this paint?

Any scraping in those spots must be done with care, since most of those areas are where the best designs are found. If you've been using a chemical stripper, keep in mind that the wood may have been softened, so take extra care. Here are a few suggestions:

Specialized areas call for specialized do-it-yourself tools. Things like an ice pick, a toothpick or even a sharp nail are good for getting into really tiny nooks and crannies. Use care to make sure the wood isn't damaged. Another handy tool might be a swab covered with steel wool. You can wrap a few strands of fine steel wool around the end of a toothpick.

For creases around legs, try same of the specialized sanding wires on the market. These come in rolls, with a wide variety of sizes and grits. To make your own, try wrapping a little steel wool around a string.

Sometimes an extra-stiff toothbrush can be a big help. Another possibility might be a suede-shoe brush.

For sanding in odd-shaped spots, try stretching a piece of sandpaper over the side of a deck of playing cards. The cards can be pushed sideways into the pattern to give the sandpaper the appropriate shape.

My fiberglass shingles grow a fungus that I treat with bleach every year or so. Is this safe for the shingles, and is there any way to prevent this after cleaning?

Bleach shouldn't harm the shingles. Scrubbing with a brush can remove particles on the surface. Usually, an area where you have this problem has a moisture problem because of a lack of good air circulation or exposure to the sun. If you have foliage that grows up over the roof, you should try to prune it to allow for better air movement.

I've never really taken care of my lawn mower, but I feel I should. What can I do before I get it out this season?

Check your owner's manual before doing anything because models vary.

Pull the wire off the spark plug and make sure it can't make contact while you are working with the mower. Replace or regap the spark plug to specifications and reinstall it. Don't reinstall the plug wire until you are finished servicing the mower.

Your air filter will need to be cleaned or replaced. Many of the foam types can be cleaned, oiled and reused.

The carburetor could probably benefit from a shot of carburetor cleaner, which will clean away some of the grease and debris and lubricate the moving parts. Check other moving pasts to see whether they need a shot of oil.

Blades should be kept sharp. You can remove the blade and sharpen it yourself. It's really simple to sharpen; a file will do the job.

Is there a safe way to remove rust stains from a porcelain sink?

Here are two safe ways to remove rust. Oxalic acid, which is the base for many wood-bleaching products, can be made into a paste, applied to the spots and left to dry. Or, make a paste of cream of tartar and peroxide and do the same thing. Peroxide for hair is a little stronger than hydrogen peroxide.

After washing my car, I noticed that some corrosion from the battery leaked onto and stained my one-year-old concrete driveway. How can I get this off and prevent more later?

Treat it as you would a rust spot. Oxalic acid can do a good job. On concrete, make a paste and scour it with a brush. Also, the rust-remover compounds made for metal, in either liquid or jelly form, will work on concrete.

Gene Austin is on vacation, and his column will resume when he returns. In the meantime, readers' questions and comments are welcome and should be sent to Gene Austin, The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Questions cannot be answered personally.

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