None of the neighbors has this problem. There is no mulch around the house, which might be the problem. There are plenty of squirrels crawling the walls (which are stucco) and the roof, which is a combination of tin and asphalt shingles.
There is a large magnolia tree about 35 feet from the house whose branches are spreading to within about 10 or 15 feet of the house on the same side where the mold first settled in.
There are two holly trees quite close to the house on two sides. Other trees are oak and pine, but they are a good distance away.
What is the best way to clean the moldy-looking stuff off? (It must be done by hand.) Is there anything that could be applied to prevent its return?
Answer: As long as your sister chooses to live in this climate, mildew will continue to form and reform on exterior wood surfaces.
Moisture is the primary environmental component necessary for mildew growth, with temperature a distant second. If the area is shaded to any degree and doesn't dry completely and quickly after rain or is subject to long periods with high humidity and temperatures - the Mid-Atlantic summer - you'll have mildew that will both discolor the surface and make it easier for dirt to build up.
You'll have to periodically clean it, rinse it and repaint it, although my experience with the painted cedar surfaces on my own house and garage is that if you clean the surface with warm water and bleach or spray Fantastic on the surface and then rinse it, the paint job is renewed somewhat.
Q: My sister and I both have a difficult time cleaning the glass walls of the shower. We are, of course, too lazy to squeegee and dry the shower every time we use it.
There is a chalky film, or etching on the surface of the glass that is impossible to clean.
We have tried every cleaner we can think of, but there must be some way to get the glass clear again.
A: I keep a container of shower spray and apply it after every use. It seems to do a good job of reducing the soap scum and film on the glass.
Q: About 30 years ago, all the windows in my home were replaced with white vinyl ones. Recently, they seem to be more difficult to raise and lower.
I do not want to replace them as they still look like the day they were installed, I love the ease of cleaning them, and they still keep out the drafts.
The last time I cleaned them, I sprayed WD40 on two of them but it actually seemed to make the problem worse. I decided not to continue to experiment, hoping that you might have some suggestions.
A: As we age, simple tasks seem more troublesome, but a little candle wax applied to the channels will likely make operations a lot easier for you.
Indeed, spraying WD-40 can actually make the problem worse by causing the seal to expand ever so slightly.
From reader Jay Crawford:
I just read your column on sewer smells in the bathroom. We've had the same problem for the last five years. No plumber could give me an answer, but your Massachusetts reader Bill Saunders did.
I went right upstairs and took a clothes hanger, put a little hook in it with my needle-nose pliers and out came something that looked like a smashed sparrow, real flat, about four inches long.
Saunders said the source was the lever mechanism in the drain just below the sink, where hair in the drain water gets caught and accumulates into a thick, sticky wad.
Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at email@example.com or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies.