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posted: 7/19/2013 9:47 AM

Keep your wood floors looking beautiful

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Wood floors are beautiful. They come in a variety of types, these days. Some are better than others at resisting stains and moisture. But all of these floor types need to be cleaned often. Here are the basics for keeping each type of floor clean without a lot of hassle.

• For general cleaning -- daily, if possible -- dry mopping with a microfiber-cloth sweeper is the best method to use. This will sweep up the dust that accumulates and will keep the floors basically clean.

• Vacuuming also is an effective way to clean wood floors on a regular basis. Just make sure to use an attachment that won't scratch the surface.

• You can do a more-thorough cleaning with a damp mop. You don't want any dripping water, just a damp sponge mop or damp cloth mop. This will pick up more dirt and dust. If you need to add a cleaner, you can make your own by mixing a little very mild liquid dishwashing soap and warm water. Anything more harsh can dull the finish, and you never should use anything abrasive.

• For deeper cleaning, you really need to know what type of finish you have on the wood. If it is a surface-sealed floor, then you have to remove the finish to take care of spots and stains. This probably is something you want to hire a professional to do. If the finish is wax, then you can remove the wax, clean the floor and reapply the wax. If you have a lot of wood floors, you may want to invest in a cleaning machine so you can do more cleaning and polishing yourself. This kind of maintenance is something you don't need to do more than maybe once a year or so, but it is something you can do yourself with a little practice, and it can save you a bundle and keep your floors looking amazing.

• Add throw rugs in heavy-traffic areas to avoid problems. Just make sure you pick them up when cleaning so dirt doesn't collect under them.

Create more table space for family get-togethers

Summer is a great time for family get-togethers, but if your family is big, you'll probably need more than one table for those family cookouts. It's easy to set up more than one table but, if you push them together, you have to be careful of the gap between the tables, and they eventually will slide apart. One way to keep those tables together is to use cable ties to hold the table legs together. This works really well and is very inexpensive and easy to do. You can just cut the ties off when it's time to fold the tables up and put them away. The more, the merrier!

Garden hoses can speed up your sawing projects

A lot of people will take a short section of garden hose, slit down the side, to cover and protect their hand saw blade when it's not being used. This works quite well. But you can use this hose on the other side of the saw blade, too. When placed on top of the saw blade, you can apply pressure with your hand on top of the blade to help your sawing project go a little faster or just guide the blade. When you are finished working, place it back over the blade and secure it in place until your next sawing project.

Super hints

• Foam shaving cream can be used to clean a bathroom mirror. Not only will it get the mirror really clean, but it will resist fogging for quite some time, too.

• I use WD-40 all the time. I also use other similar products. The small tube that usually comes with these really can come in handy for getting into tight spots but it gets lost quickly if you can't hang on to it. I always put a rubber band around the can and slip the straw under this. It stays with the can this way and won't get lost.

• If you have a wood-burning fireplace, take this time during the off-season to have your chimney cleaned. Call a real chimney sweep to do the work and you'll be ready for next winter. Your fireplace could be dangerously unsafe, and a proper inspection and cleaning can remedy this.

Q. I love my wooden blinds. They look great and they cost quite a bit, so I want to keep them looking good. Several have peeling paint and I would like to repaint them. What type of paint should I use?

A. If you don't want to take them apart, then you have to be very careful not to damage the strings. Sand off any loose or peeling paint. Then use a primer and apply new paint. You want to use a semi-gloss or satin-finish paint made for wood that has some protection against moisture and UV rays.

Q. I just put up some new guttering on a sunroom that we had added last summer. I see that they are leaking at all of the joints and want to find a way to seal them up better. What should I do?

A. You can use rivets if you have the tools. If not, use self-tapping metal screws. You should also caulk the joints. This should be fairly easy to do and shouldn't take too much time to do it. You should also add leaf guards to the downspouts, and they should be reasonably maintenance-free for a good long while.

Q. We've lived in this house for almost 30 years and never have had any flooding in our basement. The only moisture problems we've had are just a musty smell and occasional excess humidity. I've always tried to find where the moisture is coming from, but never could. What do you suggest I check? How is it best controlled?

A. To find out if the moisture is coming from the inside of the room or the outside, you can tape a small piece of plastic directly onto a concrete surface like an exposed wall, sealing all of the edges. Then check it the next morning. If you have moisture under the plastic, the problem is coming from the outside. If the plastic has condensation on the top of it, then the moisture is from the inside of the basement. Are your pipes insulated? Cold-water pipes running through a warm basement can create condensation, and this might be an interior moisture source. Add insulation to stop this from happening. You can install a vent fan to draw moisture from the room and exhaust it outdoors. You can control it with a dehumidifier. I hope this helps. Good luck!

Reader tips

• I put our old refrigerator into the game room. It's a small one so it doesn't take up much room. But it sure was ugly, so I painted it. I used a primer and then painted it crimson, our team color. Then I bought several decals from the team store and used them to decorate the front door of the refrigerator. Now it fits right in and looks great. I keep it full of our favorite drinks and eats.

• My car antenna rises up out of the trunk when the radio is turned on -- or at least it's supposed to. When it was starting to stick, I priced a replacement. That was outrageous. I tried some lubricating oil but that didn't work for very long. This last time I just used some leftover white (silicon) grease that I had previously used on my garage door track. Now it goes all the way up and all the way down. I just saved myself more than $300!

• I found some plastic tubing at my home center. It was available in clear, black and white. I bought a small roll of it and then cut it to fit behind our entertainment center to hold all of the wires and cables together in one place. I slit it down the side all the way and stuffed the wires into it. The hose binds all of the wires together and they don't look so cluttered. The light color also disguises the dark cords so they don't show up as much. I plan to do this behind my home office desk, too.

• I sure am glad that I put my keys onto a floating key chain. I went to the beach with the family and we stayed in the same beach house we've rented in summers past. I was just fooling around with the cork from a bottle of wine and I put it on my key chain. Then we took the boat out. I accidentally dropped my keys into the water at the dock but, thanks to that cork, they floated! It was divine intervention for sure! God knew I would make a mistake. Anyway, the day, and my keys, were saved.

• Our home has beautiful window coverings, mostly drapes. My husband is now working the night shift though, so I wanted to try to darken the windows. I found light-blocking drape liners at the department store and hung them behind the drapes. On the ones that I didn't have a way to hang them, I just cut them to fit and secured them to the curtains with safety pins. They really do a great job. I think they are keeping out some of the heat, too.


• Petroleum jelly is an incredibly useful concoction. It's perfect in the shop and super in the home. We bet you would love a list that we have put together of some of the many uses that we have found for this stuff in and around the house. Some you may have tried, but hopefully, others will be new to you. Heck, you may have some clever uses that we didn't list. If so, let us know and we will add them to our list. We also will have it posted on our website at

• Gel Grip Handle Wrap Tape is a cool tool add-on that we recently ran across. The tape is injected with gel that gives it some cushion. You buy it by the roll (1 1/4 inch by 6 feet) and then use it to wrap around some of your tool handles like your lawn mower, shovel, hammer and other tools. It's easy to install and this gel cushion really helps absorb vibration and shock, especially when working for long periods of time. One roll would cover most of your tools. You'll love it, and it even improves your grip. Look for it at your local hardware store or home center. We have seen it at Walmart and Ace Hardware. It's made by Tommyco and is widely available.

• NeverWet from Rust-Oleum can be applied to just about any surface and repels liquid of all kinds and works better than anything else on the market. It's a two-step, spray-on system that is super easy to use and requires little wait time. Go to to learn more, and then get some and try it yourself. It's super amazing!

• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit the Carrells' website at

2013, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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