Question: A couple of years ago, strange little "critters" began to appear in our house. They are about nine-sixteenths of an inch long, are very flat and move slowly like a worm. We find them singly on the floor or wall of both the bathroom and kitchen. No one we've spoken to seems to know what kind of insect it is. It's been speculated that it's a case-carrying moth, although we've never seen moths. Do you have any ideas?
Answer: "It sounds as though it may be the larval stage of some type of pantry pest, a beetle or moth," says Pete Currier of Cal-Western Termite & Pest Control in Orange. "It goes from that stage to a pupae stage or a cocoon before becoming an adult. These live off any type of dry goods in the house: flour, dry cereal, pet food, even tea, coffee or dried plants.
"Take a look around some of your food boxes to see if you can spot any kind of webbing or holes they've chewed into. It's amazing what they can get into. Many times people will buy products like Jell-O in bulk and store them in their cupboards for months, making it ideal for these pests. Most pest control companies offer a free inspection to identify the insects you have and how to get rid of them. That's probably your best bet."
Q: Is there any product that will clean a white Formica kitchen top? Even leaving the newspaper on it makes a stain.
A: "You might try denatured or rubbing alcohol," says Rob Mars of D & H Showcase in Anaheim. "You have to be careful with Formica because the surface you see is only one-sixteenth of an inch thick. If you were to use harsh abrasives like cleanser you'd go right through to the fenolic coat, and it wouldn't look good.
"Try alcohol, then go over it with soap and water. If that doesn't work on the stain, you're probably stuck with it."
Q: Our home has cracks in both bathroom sinks and moisture is seeping through. A handyman friend told us that we would probably crack the surrounding ceramic tile if we attempted to remove the sinks. Is there a way to do this without breaking the tile?
A: "It depends on whether it's been installed underneath the counter with quarter-round tile on top, or if it was flush-mounted with the tile," says Tony DeSpain of Craig's Plumbing Store in Garden Grove. "If it's been flush-mounted, what has to be done is the grout has to be scraped out and the tile pried off. You can find grout-removing tools at tile stores. It's not an easy job, but if you want to save the tile and the sink is flush-mounted, that's what you have to do.
"If it's been mounted underneath--and probably 75% of sinks are--it's a little easier. They're usually put up with adhesive and clamped on, so you either have to break away the sink, if it's vitreous China, or pry it off if it's cast iron."
Q: What is the best way to seal and insulate the door in the ceiling that I use to get to the attic? With the latest cold weather, I've been getting a lot of drafts through there.
A: "You don't need anything fancy, just simple R-11 or R-19 batting that you can get from a hardware store," says Gil Barber, an insulation specialist from Huntington Beach. "It doesn't need to be glued or anything, just tap it into the spaces where the door will be seated and it should be fine."
Q: I've tried detergent, green soap, bleach, TSP--everything I can think of to clean a plastic patio table that's only two years old. The instructions that came with it say to use only detergent and water, no abrasives. Do you have any suggestions?
A: "Try a mild abrasive, like Soft Scrub," says Mac McGuffin of Anaheim Patio and Fireside. "Be careful with it and don't rub too hard. You might try it first on an inconspicuous spot to see if it leaves scratches."