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Renovation & Design

Countertop repair proving to be a problem

QUESTION: I would like to change my bathroom countertop and paint the cabinets. What can I do, or should I "bite the bullet" and buy a new counter? Thank you, Sharon, Winnipeg

ANSWER: Before purchasing a new countertop there are a number of products available for restoring drab-looking counters. You can try a commercial laminate or fibreglass cleaner, such as 3M Marine Fiberglas Cleaner and Wax, 3M Marine Fiberglas Restorer and Wax, Gel-Gloss or carnauba wax (car wax). Remember to test everything on an inconspicuous area first. You may want to look into purchasing spray-on counter restorer.

If your counter is damaged by dents and scratches, filler can be used. One of the fillers that currently exist on the market is "Seamfil" by Kampel Enterprises.

If all else fails, it's possible to resurface your counter inexpensively with a piece of wood and a thin sheet of laminate counter available at large hardware stores for about $35 per sheet. For an even less-expensive solution, paint both the cabinets as well as the counter -- just make sure to check with your local paint store about the best paints to use for these projects.

QUESTION: I have two questions: Is it safe to dump coffee grounds down the kitchen sink? Secondly, do you have a solution that can be applied to a window to make it look frosted? Diane, Inglis

ANSWER: Some professionals say it is okay to dump coffee grounds down the drain if you run enough water to flush them completely out of the plumbing system. However, it takes a lot of water in most houses to rinse them that far. Chances are you will eventually need to call in a professional plumber to unclog your pipes.

A better idea is to add coffee grounds to your potting soil or garden -- plants love coffee grounds. For now, dump grounds into a container outside. When spring arrives, add the thawed coffee grounds to soil around trees or in the garden.

To frost your windows, begin by giving them a thorough cleaning. Next, dissolve four heaping tablespoons of Epsom salts into one cup of beer. Leave for 25 minutes. Using a paintbrush, apply the solution in a circular motion.

To remove frosting, wash the windows with vinegar and water and a good-quality microfibre cloth. There are also frosting sprays available in stores.

For a longer-term frosted look, purchase clear self-adhesive shelf paper or frosted window film.

QUESTION: I fried a sausage in my frying pan with grape seed oil. Now I have residue in my pan and cannot get it out -- the bottom and sides have a yellowish film. Can you please help me? Thanks, Iona, Winnipeg

ANSWER: Unfortunately I have no idea whether you are tackling cast-iron, non-stick, aluminum, porcelain or some other frying-pan makeup, but here are a few options for cleaning stainless-steel frying pans.

Begin with the easiest solution, which is to sprinkle the pan with baking soda and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Boil the solution for five minutes. Turn the element off, leave to cool and scrub. Borax or dishwasher detergent and water can be used in the same way.

If you are desperate, try either water and ammonia or oven cleaner. Be careful not to combine one cleaner with another and ventilate well by cleaning the pan outdoors.

QUESTION: I have a laundry problem. A lip repair (like Lypsol) went through the washer and dryer and has left greasy stains on the front of my good sweatshirt in several places. Any ideas how this can be handled, or is this now a permanent stain? Also, when grease stains appear on pillow cases (after guests) how can I get them out? Marilyn, Winnipeg

ANSWER: You are not alone -- I've received many letters from people in the same predicaments. Here are two options for both challenges: Soak fabrics in hot water and Oxy Clean, or soak the fabric separately in a half-cup of Arm and Hammer washing soda and enough hot water to cover the clothes for 30 minutes. Wash as usual. Air dry. Repeat until stains are gone.

If all else fails, you can zap stains using RIT dye remover according to the directions on the box. Note: Fabric color will be significantly lightened.

Feedback from Manitoban who cares

It just 'floors' me that your article about considering new flooring (porcelain or ceramic) didn't mention how these materials conduct sound. We are presently in litigation because the noise conducted in a wood-frame older condo has ruined our quiet enjoyment. It amazes me how often people choose these lovely materials and don't give a thought to what may happen downstairs.

Perhaps you could add a sentence or two about what may happen to the unlucky ones below (maybe in granny's bedroom if you live in a house) if these floors are not properly installed with sound conduction in mind.

Thanks, love your articles. Judi

Fabulous tips of the week

-- Ever been frustrated by the puddle of water that collects on the floor after a shower? Sew a piece of Velcro to the shower curtain, adhere the other section of Velcro to the wall. During showers, attach the curtain to the wall to close all gaps.

-- If your key gets frozen in the lock of your car and you don't have lock de-icer, use hand sanitizer in its place. The alcohol in hand sanitizer is the main ingredient in lock de-icer, so they will both work.

-- Want your sled to go faster downhill? Just spray the bottom with non-stick cooking spray. This method will also lubricate an inner tube, shovel or lawnmower blade.

I enjoy your questions and tips, keep them coming. Missed a column? Can't remember a solution? Need a speaker for an upcoming event? Check out my brand new blog/website: reena.ca

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