Your Place: Readers' advice from showering to stink bugs

Posted: May 27, 2011

We take your questions, but we also welcome readers' input.

Reader John E. Dinsmore offered his own experiences in restoring kitchen cabinets in response to a request for advice on sprucing up 23-year-old oak ones.

"I had fabulous results with Howard Restor-A-Finish on my oak cabinets," he said. "I cleaned with mineral spirits, then applied Howard's with 000 [grade] steel wool and wiped it off after a while."

"The cabinets look new," he said. "Howard makes a beeswax for keeping the finish looking new. New hinges and handles, if you want, and you're done."

The Western Wood Doctor at www.westernwooddoctor.com recommends using 0000 grade steel wool, known as "four aught" to apply Howard's rather than 000, or triple aught - isn't this terminology a hoot? - since four aught is finer. But you cannot argue with John's success.

Howard Restor-A-Finish, which is available at home centers and hardware stores, will not work on wood that's been painted or treated with polyurethane, by the way. The maker says it does get rid of white heat rings, water marks, scratches, color fade, oxidation, and smoke damage.

I've never used it, but I've got a couple of scratches and nicks in some cherry cabinets. I'll try it soon and report back.

For those fighting the never-ending battle against stink bugs, a reader named Mabel says her daughter made the mistake of using her vacuum cleaner with rotating brush to pick them up.

"The smell was all through the house and it was quite a job to clean the vacuum," she said. "Only canister type vacuums should be used."

Richmond, Va., reader Maggie Hawkins responds to my suggestions on how to remove an unwanted wall of mirrors from a room.

"My suggestion is to put the thinnest Sheetrock over the wall and leave the mirrors intact," she said. "Another possible fix would be to paint the mirrors. I would never want to deal with such a horror show."

A mother of five sons recently wrote to ask whether she should look into an on-demand hot water system because when the dishwasher was running, it would leave at least three boys with cold showers.

Roger Carey of Brandenton, Fla., says the solution is not to add more heaters, but use less hot water.

First, install a simple water-saving showerhead with a shutoff button. Then, take the "Navy Shower":

Adjust the water temperature, wet the body and wash cloth and push the "off" button.

Lather and wash.

Push the "on" button for just enough flow to rinse the soap and shampoo off.

"It is an easy way to get the job done saving money and resources," he said.

Reader Millie from Baltimore responds to a question about the best way to clean soap scum from walk-in shower tiles: Comet bathroom cleaner.

"It dissolves soap scum and hard-water film," she said. "Not only that, but it also leaves a beautiful shine and doesn't scratch the surface."

The old remedies, well, older remedies, still work, I guess.

Finally, Bill Haaf just had a home energy audit.

"The real item of value to me was the blower door test and 'smoke' tubes-leak check," he said. "I found most of my windows leaked around the casements and my cathedral ceiling leaked all around the edges.

"I suggest that this blower door test become part of the typical home inspection done before the seller will buy," Haaf said. "Energy use is just as important as the items on the home audit."

Free advice: For consumers looking to save money by assembling a new grill themselves or fixing an older one, check out these Consumer Reports sites: http://news.consumerreports.org/appliances/2011/04/replacement-parts-and-repairs-to-gas-grills.html and http://news.consumerreports.org/home/2011/03/lowes-and-home-depot-offer-free-shipping-on-grills-and-lawn-mowers.html.


Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at aheavens@phillynews.com or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies. He is the author of "Remodeling on the Money" (Kaplan Publishing).

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