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A HELPING HAND

Fungus Can Cause Stains on Vinyl

November 11, 1995|JOHN MORELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Q: The straps on my garden furniture have developed yellow stain marks over time. What can be used to remove them?

M.N.

Corona del Mar

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A: It's not uncommon for vinyl straps to develop stains no matter how often you clean them, says George Moelter of Anaheim Patio & Fireside in Brea. They're typically caused by sunscreen and oils, but they could also be caused by a fungus in the strap.

Many people try the usual household cleaners on the straps and find they don't work. Most patio stores carry strap cleaners that are formulated to remove stains. If you find that the stains are brown and sticky, use a cleaner on the vinyl surface first, then use a rag that's been dampened with lacquer thinner to rub it out.

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Q: How do I maintain an economical, aesthetically pleasing back yard until I can afford a watering system and landscaping? I'm looking for ground cover and different kinds of plants.

E.H.

La Mirada

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A: There are almost too many choices to list, says landscape architect David Oscar of Huntington Beach. Obviously, if you want to keep the cost down, you'll want plants that don't need lots of maintenance. Look for drought-tolerant landscaping that can help keep your water bills down.

If: you'll have children or pets in the yard, that will be a factor in your choice of plants, as will how long you want to maintain the back yard.

It wouldn't be wise to plant trees or flowers you'll want to get rid of a few years down the road when you're ready to have professional landscaping work done. It's probably best to consult with some nurseries. Let them know what you're trying to do and have them show you samples of plants and landscaping.

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Q: I have a small cassette recorder that came with a three-volt transformer that allows me to play it without batteries. I also have a small radio that says it will take a three-volt transformer, but I'm worried that they may not be compatible and I might ruin the radio if I try it. How can I tell if it will work?

R.P.

Tustin

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A: It should work, as long as you're sure it's three volts and the plug fits in the radio's socket, says Mike McCoy of Current Supply in Westminster. When using any transformer, you have to make sure the primary voltage, which is generally the household current, and the secondary voltage, which is the current you're trying to get out, is what's needed by both appliances.

If that's the case, it shouldn't matter that you're using a different brand. Some of the plugs are shaped differently, but most electronics stores carry adapters that allow you to connect odd-sized plugs and sockets.

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Q: In getting my house ready for cooler weather, I'm perplexed about what to do about the fireplace. Cold air comes in through the flue, even when it's closed. Any ideas on how to insulate it?

S.H.

Fountain Valley

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A: You can't make it airtight, but you can help keep it somewhat sealed with glass doors, says fireplace installer Greg Yerman of Laguna Niguel. They're relatively inexpensive, they add a new look to your fireplace, and they're easy to install.

You also may want to clean the flue area or have it checked to make sure it's operating correctly and it isn't stuck in an open position.

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Q: We're considering putting tile along our bathroom walls and were wondering if we could just set the tile directly onto the drywall. How would the wall have to be prepared?

L.E.

La Habra

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A: You'll have to remove the drywall where you want the tile to go and replace it with a solid surface like Wonder Board or Green Board, says Ken Bendle of California Wholesale Tile in Anaheim. The drywall surface is too flexible to use behind tile and will crack over time.

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If you have a question about your home or garden, A Helping Hand will help you find the answer. Send questions to: John Morell, Home Design, The Times Orange County, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.

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