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ASK THE HANDYMAN / JOHN MORELL

Smoke Out Source of Brown Stains, Then Clean, Seal

July 24, 1993|JOHN MORELL

Question: We recently moved into a house with a freshly painted interior. In both bathrooms, we've noticed brownish drips of residue coming from the ceiling and walls. We cleaned it off with detergent and water, but it keeps reappearing. Is this a flaw in the paint?

E.R.

Anaheim Hills

Answer: "It sounds like it could be nicotine residue," says James Mastrianna of Fuller O'Brien Paint Supply in Anaheim. "Cigarette smoke gets into the walls and ceilings, and the steam from the bath and shower makes the residue seep out. They may have painted over it with a latex paint, but it passes right through latex.

"What needs to be done is the walls have to be fully cleaned, then you'll need to apply some type of sealer, like Kilz, which is high in shellac. When that dries, paint over it using an alkyd-base enamel, rather than latex. This will lock the residue into the wall and keep it from coming through."

Q: We bought a used refrigerator recently that is working fine, except that periodically there's a puddle of water that appears near the grate at the bottom. There are no strange noises or smells, and it stays very cold. Is the water something to worry about?

B.L.

Fountain Valley

A: "It could just be that there's a problem with the refrigerator's evaporation tray," says Tom Houlihan of Orange County Appliance Parts in Garden Grove. "All modern refrigerators have a defrost system, and most have a tray at the bottom near the grate where the water collects and evaporates.

"When a refrigerator is moved, it's easy for the tray to be cracked, or even misplaced. If the refrigerator is too old, you may not be able to find a replacement. You can try making one that will fit the space needed with a foil pan, or if the tray is cracked, you can try patching it."

Q: I have a Sago palm tree that's about 10 years old. In the past two years, the new growth seems to brown and die within three weeks. It's watered once a week from the sprinklers, and it gets 20-20-20 plant food. Any ideas on what's causing the problem?

M.S.

Garden Grove

A: "The palms I've seen like that lately have needed more water," says landscaper Frank Edmund of Santa Ana. "When the climate's temperate in the spring, the roots grow out and then in summer, when the soil heats up, they dry out.

"I'd try watering it a little more, or, if it's in a container, move it to a part-sun location. You want the roots to grow down deep into the earth to protect them from weather changes and, if the plant has been moved out of a container, to keep them from interfering with other plants."

Q: My outdoor faucet for the garden hose is shot and needs to be replaced. However, when I tried to wrench it off, I found I was almost stripping it. It's still in place, because I don't want to do any more damage to it. Any suggestions on getting it off?

W.T.

Irvine

A: "You might want to spray some rust-killing lubricant at the connection," says plumber Bob Williamson of Orange. "Every little bit helps.

"You should also use a good pipe wrench, rather than a box or crescent wrench. A large pipe wrench is designed to give you lots of leverage when you need it. Clamp down on the faucet tightly at the connection and turn. If it starts to strip, remove it, dry off the wrench and the faucet, then re-tighten and try again."

Q: We just bought a house with a urethane-finished wood plank floor in the den. I was told by someone that I could just use soap and water to clean it; the urethane protects the wood. Another person says I shouldn't use water on any wood. Who's right?

T.T.

La Palma

A: "I'd agree with the second person. Don't use water," says wood refinisher Steve Brokaw of Santa Ana. "Even if there's a sealer on the wood, you should use some of the products put out by floor manufacturers for urethane-treated wood floors for cleaning and polishing. The danger with soap and water is that the wood is still porous, and if water is allowed to sit for a period of time, it can hurt the finish. You need to wipe up any spills off of a wood floor as soon as possible."

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