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posted: 3/21/2014 12:01 AM

A tuned-up fridge will help you keep your cool

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The modern refrigerator has come a long way since the original ice box! But if you take yours for granted, it might not work any better than they did back then.

Here are some tips and tricks you can use to keep your appliance super cool.

The most important thing you can do for any refrigerator is clean the coils of dust and cobwebs. The coils may be located under the unit, behind it or on top in the front. The dust can be removed with a vacuum. You can use a brush or rag on a long handle to loosen it, too. Another way to get to the dust is to tape a cardboard paper towel core, flattened, to the end of your vacuum hose and get into those hard-to-reach places.

The seal around the doors of today's refrigerators is flexible and adjusts to fit tightly. Clean it with warm, soapy water and a rag. After the surface of the gasket and door are clean, rub them with a light coating of petroleum jelly. This will give you the best seal. If the gasket becomes damaged or warped, you can buy a replacement gasket and install it.

If the seal looks good but the door seems askew, you can adjust the hinges. Most are disguised with a decorative cover. Loosen them, get a friend to realign the door with you and then re-tighten them.

Use baking soda and warm water to clean all of the interior surfaces. Regular cleaning is very important. It will give you time to inspect the appliance and notice gradual changes that might tip you off to a problem before it becomes critical.

Use your owner's manual to reset the factory settings for humidity and temperature. Give it a few days to evaluate these conditions, then change them a little bit at a time until they are right for you.

If your refrigerator dispenses water, clean this area with vinegar and water to get rid of mineral deposits. Dump the ice holder out so it will refill with fresh cubes. If you have a built-in filter for the water/ice, replace it when needed.

Now you can chill … and so can your refrigerator!

Ladder-al movement

Ladders can be a little awkward to handle, and if you are not careful, you might even do some damage while moving it from one place to another. If you can attach a handle to the side of the ladder, at the center, it will be much easier to pick up and move. If you keep your ladder secured with a bungee cord in your garage, then you even can use that bungee cord as your handle. Just wrap it around the side of the ladder a couple of times, and use it as a handle to carry it with. This could even free one hand to carry other supplies, if you can manage to do both without running into something (we are speaking from experience)!

Pegboard in the shop

Pegboard wall storage systems are super for the busy workshop or garage. You can double or even triple the space by adding one section on top of another. You can hang the pegboard on hinges, or slide them back and forth in front of each other on a track. You will do well to put a strong wooden frame around the edges to give the pegboard some stability, but you'll love the results and the extra shop space.

Super hints

• Toilet plungers still are the best way to clear a toilet clog. To get a good suction seal, spread a thin layer of petroleum jelly around the edge where it sits in the toilet bowl. It's quick and easy, and will last a good while.

• If the wood putty you are trying to use isn't the right color to match your project, then just sand the wood a little and mix the sawdust into it. It will make for a better color match.

• Razor blades are good for lots of projects, but can cut you if you don't store them safely. Store them in a small matchbox. This is the perfect size, and it will hold several. You even can sharpen a dull edge on the striker if you need to. Keep a box in your toolbox.

Q. I have some spots on my sidewalk that I think are from a tree that has dark berries on it. They drop on the walkway and stay there and leave black stains. Even when swept off and cleaned with a hose, they still persist. What else can I use to clean the stains off the concrete?

A. Saturate the stains with mineral spirits paint thinner, scrubbing a little bit to loosen up the surface stains. Then cover it with clay cat litter, sawdust or some other absorbing material. Allow it to soak up the mess overnight and then sweep or vacuum it away. If that doesn't work, you may have to use TSP (trisodium phosphate). Once clean, apply a water seal to prevent future stains.

Q. I have a problem that I need your help with. I was going to replace my old welcome mat, and when I pulled up the old one, I found possible mildew stains on the concrete porch. What can I use to scrape this off?

A. You should be able to get most of it off with a 50/50 mix of bleach and water. If that doesn't do it, try TSP. Make sure you protect plants from the runoff. Let it dry completely. It's also a good idea to apply a water seal to the concrete. This will help protect it from future stains.

Q. My driveway used to have wooden slats at the expansion joints. Over time, these have rotted, and there is nothing there any longer. Should I put new strips in?

A. You can find rubber strips at your home-improvement center to use as a replacement. There also is a pour-in strip that can be used. These will last longer than the wooden ones.

Reader tips

• I finally got my wife to help me clean out our home office. We don't use it much anymore, so we got in there and shredded a bunch of old files and got rid of things we didn't need. We turned it back into a guest room. We kept two of the file cabinets, but I moved another tall one to my garage. It's lockable, so I keep my tools in the drawers. They are safer locked up, from both thieves and the grandkids.

• I wouldn't say wallpapering is fun, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. We used a roller to apply the wallpaper paste, as the paper we used wasn't pre-pasted. I liked using the roller. It was fast. Last weekend, my son needed my help with a stage prop that needed to be glued. I brought the roller to use to spread the glue. They were amazed. I found out later that they had been using a paintbrush. After using the roller, I doubt they will ever use a paintbrush again!

• It's spring-cleaning time, according to my neighbors. They offered to help me clean our home if I would help them clean theirs. They are older than we are, so I try to help them when I can. I learned a lot from them in the process, as usual. Newspaper is the best way to wipe off glass cleaner. It won't leave streaks behind. Also, if you wipe horizontally on one side of the glass and vertically on the other side, you will be able to make doubly sure to get rid of any that do show up. I wonder what our next chore will be?

• I shook a can of stain before using it. I wanted to mix it up, but I should have used a stir stick instead of shaking it. The bubbles eventually settled down, but it took quite a while and I had to finish up the next day. My project came out OK, but it could have been a disaster.

Even canned paint doesn't respond well to shaking, unless you let the paint store do it. Stirring takes time, but it's very important.

• We are so glad the weather is getting better. We have a boat that we store up at the lake, but haven't seen it in months. We went up last weekend to clean it and get it ready for the season. I had put a bag of charcoal into the cabin before closing it up. It really absorbed a lot of the musty odor and, after airing it out a little, it was fine.


• If you are trying to be "green" (and who isn't, these days?), you might be considering starting a compost pile. This is so easy to do and, once you know the basics, you can have a steady supply of free plant food and mulch for your yard year round. It doesn't cost much and is a great way to get rid of vegetable waste from your home, as well as many other items destined for the garbage can. Learn how to build and manage your own compost pile with our instructions: "A Heap About Compost." Visit and see what other tips and tricks we have for you. Have a super spring!

• We've all seen small screwdrivers with onboard bits, but the WORX SD Semiautomatic Driver is the ultimate. The design makes it so easy and comfortable to use, much more so than the stick-style drivers. It has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which lasts a superlong time, even in storage. It contains a full set of Phillips slotted and square bits, which easily are loaded into position in seconds. These can be replaced if damaged, or just to customize your WORX driver for your specific needs. It even has an LED light pointed right at the work site. Check it out at, Lowe's and other tool outlets. You might want a couple of these, one for inside the house and another for your toolbox.

• Germs are everywhere, so keeping things you use often clean is very important. Cyber Clean is a special putty that is made to clean and disinfect a lot of surfaces without a lot of liquid. The putty is perfect for delicate electronics, like phones and remote controls. It's made of natural ingredients and kills 99 perfect of germs commonly found on these surfaces. To find out more and get the name of a dealer, visit They have cleaners made for the home, car, shoes and even ones especially made for allergy sufferers.

• 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

© 2014, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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