Renovation & Design


Renovation & Design

Lemon water a quick way to freshen up old microwave

Question: I have a microwave that I purchased 15 years ago. I have never cleaned it and it smells pretty bad. Can you give me advice on how to properly clean the unit? I’m planning to boil four tablespoons of lemon juice with one cup of water in a four-cup bowl, allowing the steam to condense on the inside walls of the oven. I will then wipe the unit with a sponge.

Thank you,


Answer: USE CAUTION! While it is true the combination of water and lemon juice creates a cleaner that will leave your microwave smelling fresh — it is also true that when water becomes overheated in a microwave there is a risk it will explode. If you decide to boil liquid in a microwave, always use a vessel or cup that is microwave safe. Read the instructions that came with the microwave. After heating the water, leave it for a minute before touching it. Put a small wooden mixing stick in the cup before heating.


Question: I boiled a green banana in a saucepan today, because I saw a segment on television where a nutritionist recommended eating boiled green bananas. It is a resistant carb, which is very good for you. Anyway, the point of my story is that after I took the softened banana out and poured the water down the drain, I noticed that the scorching on the bottom of the pan (from a previous mishap) was half gone.

I washed the saucepan, and when drying it I noticed the part that had been covered with banana water looked much shinier than the rest! What a surprise.

I do not want you to recommend this to others yet, as this was just one instance. Unless you have heard of this happening before. Anyway, I am intrigued enough I will try this again, to see if it gets rid of the rest of the scorch marks on the pan. Perhaps you would like to experiment with this yourself, unless, as I said, you already know more about this phenomenon than I do.


Answer: I tried this experiment by combining water and banana peel instead of including the banana (I ate the banana).

The pot resulted just as you said, shiny and clean. I boiled the peel for five minutes and then emptied the pot and rinsed it with water and dish soap to remove any banana residue.

Great tip, thanks for sharing your findings!

Note: Every user assumes all risks of injury or damage resulting from the implementation of any suggestions in this column. Test all products on an inconspicuous area first.

Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website: Ask a question or share a tip at


Reena Nerbas 
March 30

Renovation & Design

Heating cables OK for eavestroughs, rarely ideal

Question: I’ve read your previous article on why you shouldn’t use heating cable on roofs. Wouldn’t it be better installing the heat cable only in the eavestrough, and then running it via the downspout, not putting any of the cable on the shingles?

We had rain, then freezing rain and then temperatures dropped well below freezing, all in a day and a half. That crazy weather didn’t allow much melted snow to drain out of the eavestroughs. After that, these big icicles formed, hanging down from the troughs.

We do have lots of insulation in the attic, so I don’t think that is a cause.

I would appreciate your viewpoint on this matter, as I agree with you about putting the heat cable on the shingles being a bad idea.

Ralph Nafziger


Answer: Heat-trace cables are among those items I consider a Band-Aid or a last-ditch solution for more complex house issues. While they may work for your suggestion in the eavestroughs, other maintenance efforts may negate the need for these questionable electrical devices.

Home centres and other retailers are frequently full of items that appear to be simple solutions for often difficult to understand home issues. Many of these are inexpensive to use and install, but others are mainly unnecessary, or downright harmful.

Heat-trace cables are electrical devices that provide a moderate amount of heat to help melt ice and snow during cold weather. Most have an integrated thermostat, which only triggers the device when temperatures are below freezing.

I have little idea what the monthly cost in electricity is to run these gizmos, but it is not negligible.

In some older homes with very poorly designed roof systems, electric heating cables may be the only way to prevent the formation of huge, dangerous icicles from hanging down from the eaves, particularly below steep valleys. In those situations, periodic use on the roofing in the bottom of the valleys, in the transition seasons, may be acceptable.

In other buildings, mainly 1½- and 2½-storey homes, they are often used questionably, where improvements to air sealing, insulation and ventilation are the proper methods of prevention.

Also, periodic removal of heavy snow accumulations on the roof will minimize the need for electrical snow melting.

The reason heat cables should not be used on typical asphalt shingles is that the heat will damage the roofing. Heating shingles from the top in the winter will create a large temperature differential between the top and bottom of the roofing. This will cause the shingles to curl and dislodge the protective coloured granules embedded in the top layer. This will reduce the life expectancy by up to half, greatly increasing the chances of leakage. Roofs that leak will allow damage to the eaves, roof sheathing, framing and, potentially, the interior of the home, if they are large enough.

For this reason, anything that allows the top of the roofing, or the underside, to be warm during our bitterly cold winters can cause major moisture intrusion and damage.

Your specific question appears to address a common issue that may occur in the shoulder seasons, late fall and early spring. A freeze/thaw cycle is normally only seen in our area during these times, or once or twice during a warming trend in the middle of winter. So, those may be the only periods when it would be advantageous to use a heating cable in the metal eavestroughs and downspouts.

There are few drawbacks to the targeted use of this system, as long as it is limited. The main problem, other than the costs associated with installation and operation, is possible blockage of the roof drainage system. It can be tough enough to prevent blockage of eavestroughs and downspouts by leaves, twigs and other debris without further jamming an electric cable inside the small spaces. Tree litter can more easily get hung up on the plastic-coated wiring than the relatively smooth metal surfaces of the gutters and pipes.

For this reason, I would suggest removal and storage of any heat-trace wiring components after the spring thaw to prevent blockage during summer rain.

While I agree limited use of heating cables may prevent excessive ice formation during unusual shoulder-season weather, they may still not be worth the effort. As long as the freeze/thaw events are not compounded, these issues may solve themselves as soon as there are a few sunny days. Even in below-freezing temperatures, the warmth from the sun will often be enough to melt ice and allow some drainage before the dead of winter arrives. Conversely, when the spring melt begins, it corresponds with longer days and stronger sunlight, which will eventually melt the troublesome ice naturally.

Because eavestroughs are mostly made from metal, they are good conductors of heat and will help accelerate the melting when in direct sunlight. This is less of a benefit in shady areas, so avoiding installation of downspouts on the north side of the home or behind trees and bushes is also a good idea.

Using a device that requires costly electrical current to melt ice inside eavestroughs and downspouts is a temporary solution, and one that should be used sparingly.

Clearing snow from roofs before spring, and other maintenance items noted, may be better choices to prevent troublesome ice from forming at your eaves.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and the past president of the Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors — Manitoba ( Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at


Ari Marantz 
March 30

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