Q: Our white kitchen countertop, made of plastic laminate, is stained from spills of things like red wine, curry and fruit juice. How can I clean it?
A: Try and remove the stains with a household cleaner such as Fantastik All Purpose Cleaner or Pine Sol. After applying some of the cleaner to a stain, scrub with a nylon-bristle brush or vegetable brush, and then rinse with clear water. Use water very sparingly near seams, which can absorb water and cause the counter-top’s substrate to swell.
If one of the cleaners mentioned doesn’t work, you can try chlorine bleach, which is normally not recommended for use on plastic laminates such as Formica. This is a possible solution in your case because the counter is white — bleach should not be used on colored laminates. Add about a tablespoon of bleach to half a cup of warm water and test a little of the solution in an inconspicuous place to see if there is any fading or other unwanted effects. If not, sponge some of the solution on one of the stains. Give the solution a few minutes to work, and if the stain does not begin fading, wipe off the bleach with a rag soaked in water. Rinse the area thoroughly to remove all traces of bleach.
The best solution for stains, of course, is to prevent them by using protective covers on much-used areas of the counter. The covers can be inexpensive place mats, cutting boards, trivets and similar materials. Additional stain protection can be had by applying a cleaner-polish such as Gel-Gloss, sold at some home centers and online. Gel-Gloss spreads a thin coat of wax on the surface.
Q: My home has a concrete floor. Several years ago maple flooring was glued directly to the concrete. The floor has buckled in several places. If it is re-glued, will I continue to have problems?
A: Gluing a solid hardwood floor directly to concrete is often asking for trouble of the type you are experiencing. Moisture causes wood to expand, and so many things must be done just right to get a good installation on concrete that there isn’t space here to list them all. Just a few requirements are that the concrete slab must be perfectly dry, flat and level; the wood should meet strict standards for dryness, and humidity conditions in the house must be favorable. Most solid hardwood floors also require that a vapor barrier and a subfloor of plywood or properly spaced wood supports should be installed over the concrete.
Engineered wood floors, which have a plywood core, are less sensitive to moisture than solid wood and are less likely to cause problems when installed directly over concrete, but considerable expertise is needed even for these.
For more information on the requirements for a successful installation, visit www.hardwoodinfo.com and type Hardwood Floor Installation Over Concrete in the search space. Scroll down the list of articles until you reach one with the title you entered.
A reader recently said he battled squirrels in the attic of his home for three years, trying mothballs and an expensive flashing strobe light without success. He said a handyman finally hung rubber snakes and a large plastic owl near the squirrels’ entry point, and also put rubber snakes in trees near the entry and on the lawn. “Squirrels gone,” he said. “It has now been three years since we have had squirrels in the attic.”
I have also heard of rubber snakes being placed on roofs to keep pigeons away. The snakes are sold at some dollar stores and online at such sites as www.fakerubbersnakes.com (a very realistic, 36-inch snake is available for $1.99). Plastic owls are sold at some garden-supply stores, although I have tried one of these myself and found most birds and animals simply ignored it. Several readers contend that transporting squirrels to new locations, after trapping them in box traps, is almost always fatal to the squirrels. I haven’t seen any documented evidence that transporting squirrels usually leads to their deaths, but I agree that releasing them in a strange environment should be avoided when more humane methods, like rubber snakes, are available.