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ASK THE HANDYMAN / JOHN MORELL

Spool Holiday Lights for Tangle-Free Storage

January 01, 1994|JOHN MORELL

Question: Each year around Christmas, I have the same problem with my strings of lights. I put them neatly in a box after the season and when I pull them out the following December, they get tangled and it takes hours to unknot them. How can they be stored so they'll unravel easily?

E.C., Santa Ana

Answer: "The first thing to do is throw away the old boxes," says electrician Dave Greene of Anaheim. "You're probably wrapping and twisting them tightly so they'll fit, which contributes to the tangles. You could also be bending the wire, which can cause shorts. You're better off getting some type of spool and then evenly wrap the lights around it. This will keep the lights safe and keep them from tangling when you want to unravel them."

Q: Our Christmas tree has dropped tons of needles, and I'm sure there will be lots more when we take the tree down. Are these safe to use as mulch for my outdoor plants? How do I prepare them?

S.B., Huntington Beach

A: "Pine needles can add some acidity to the soil, which is good in most areas," says Jim Kitano of Kitano's Garden Center in La Palma. "It's important to grind them up before using them. Some people throw the needles around their garden, then have a problem with small seedlings (because) the needles can block out any new plants. If you do spread them out without cutting them up, try not to pile them in one area and use a shovel to break them into pieces."

Q: We recently installed wood blinds in one of our bedrooms, and I'm a little concerned. The room gets a great deal of light all day to the point where most of the time the blinds are kept almost closed. They're stained a peach tone, and I'm wondering if over time the tone will be bleached by the sun. Is that possible?

R.G., Corona del Mar

A: "You probably will notice a difference over time," says blind repairman Rob Delacorte of Anaheim. "The sun will bleach out some of the tone, but if you take care of them, you'll get a longer life out of the blinds. Make sure they're periodically cleaned and dusted, and remove them before cleaning your windows to make sure you don't get any moisture on the wood. If you're bothered by the bright sunlight, you may want to consider putting some type of protective film over the glass to provide some ultra-violet protection."

Q: While cooking a large dinner in our kitchen recently, a mixture of melted butter and sugar spilled onto some of the ceramic tiles on the counter and wasn't noticed until the next day. The butter has hardened and can't be removed with cleanser, steel pads or anything else we've tried. Any ideas?

E.E., Costa Mesa

A: "You may have to try to turn the butter back into a liquid," says tile repairman Chuck Graham of San Juan Capistrano. "That butter and sugar has probably hardened like a resin, which makes it a problem when you're trying to pull or chip it off. I would try using a blow-dryer on the hottest setting (aimed) at the spot. Keep it there for a while, and it should soften up enough to be pulled off with a scouring sponge."

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