Question: I'd like to put a new towel bar in a bathroom with old porcelain tile on the walls. Is there a special drill bit I should use for porcelain or can I get by with a standard bit?
A.K., San Juan Capistrano
Answer: "There is a special bit for porcelain, but unless you're going to be working with it a lot I wouldn't get it because it's a little pricey," says Pam Idoine of Martenet Hardware in Anaheim. "It might be better to try the old handyman's trick of using a variable speed drill, a high-speed bit or a carbide bit and condensed milk, which you pour onto the site as a lubricant.
"Start out at a slow speed and gently accelerate the drill. Don't push it into the porcelain, just give it a little pressure, and keep it moist with the milk. I don't know what it is about the condensed milk, but I've tried it in those situations and I haven't had any chipping."
Q: We have both navel and Valencia orange trees that have recently been plagued by white flies that nest on the underside of the leaves. I've been advised to spray a mixture of insecticide and dormant and summer oil on the leaves, but that doesn't seem to help. What can I do?
W.B., Los Alamitos
A: "To get rid of white flies requires a lot of work and vigilance," says Dee Solomon, a fruit tree trouble-shooter from Santa Ana. "Try filling a spray bottle with water and a 10% solution of everyday dish soap. Spray all over the tree, getting both top and bottom of the leaves. The important thing is you have to keep doing it, every day if necessary, until they're not around.
"Other things you can do are keeping the tree properly fed and pruned. When it's weak, it's more susceptible to parasites. Also, make sure the plants around the trees aren't afflicted with the flies. Use the solution wherever you see them."
Q: I foolishly used some Lime-Away to clean the marble floor in our entry hall. It left heavy dark smudges in numerous spots. Is there any way to get these off?
A: "What may have happened is the marble wasn't completely sealed after it was installed," says Ken Kettering of Del Piso Brick and Tile in Anaheim. "Most people think marble is a very hard, resilient rock, but in its natural state it's really very porous and can be easily stained. There is a pumice mixture on the market that you can use to bring the stain up to the surface, but it's not easy to work with. If you're really concerned about it, it may be best to call in a professional marble cleaner."
Q: I've got a hanging fixture on a polished brass chain that I'd like to move to another room. However, I want to know how to remove a couple of the links without damaging their finish.
A: "There is no perfect way to do it. Even the pros will scratch the finish on a chain," says David Galluccio of Harbor Lites in Costa Mesa. "Your best bet is to use a good set of chain pliers, which are usually available in hardware or lighting stores and run about $10. They make it easier than trying to do it with a standard pair of pliers, but they're not perfect. Just be patient and be careful."
Q: I've heard a lot of pros and cons about glue guns. Some people tell me not to use them if I'm working with wood, others say they work great with wood. Who's right, and are there different types of glue sticks for different jobs?
C.D., Fountain Valley
A: "I know of just two types of glue, one that dries clear and another that dries white," says Robert Valdez of Clarke Dye Hardware in Santa Ana. "As for what works better with wood, it depends on the job. The glue from glue sticks will be more rubbery and you can disconnect two pieces of wood if you needed to. When you use wood glue, however, it sticks and stays. You'd better like your job as it is after it dries."