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SOLUTIONS: Heat, rubbing alcohol will end silicone woes

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QUESTION: A tree fell on top of my trailer recently in a storm and punched a hole through the roof. When the owner of my trailer park saw this, he went to temporarily seal the hole and used white silicone (I believe the type used to caulk bathrooms and such). The silicone dripped through the hole and, naturally, ended up all over the couch just below, inside the trailer. There is also some debris, but that can just be swept off.

Is there any way to remove the silicone without permanently damaging or staining the fabric? Howard, Winnipeg

ANSWER: While holding a hair dryer over the area, dab the silicone mess with rubbing alcohol. As the silicone heats up, it will soften and the rubbing alcohol will cause the silicone to pull away from the fabric.

Test on a small inconspicuous area first to make sure that no discolouration occurs. Worst-case scenario: check out commercial products in hardware stores formulated to remove silicone from surfaces.

QUESTION: We recently moved into our new home and have a beautiful big walk-in closet in the master bedroom. It has wood shelves that are spray-stained a number of times with a dark lacquer. They look beautiful, but the problem is that my clothes all have the smell of that lacquer on them.

I've tried activated charcoal in bags (the kind you use for fish tanks); all kinds of air fresheners; and nothing seems to be able to get that smell out. Do you have any ideas? Thanks. Debby, Winnipeg

ANSWER: Since the shelves are fastened inside a confined area, the process of curing will take more time because ventilation is limited. One possible solution is to move the shelves into a ventilated area, apply shellac over the lacquer and let it cure. However the easiest solution is to place them in a ventilated area, such as a garage, until the lacquer smell is gone.

QUESTION: I have a non-stick toaster-oven broiler pan. Well, after a while I can't get it clean anymore. Soaking it with soda and vinegar overnight doesn't do the trick. Betty, Blumenort

ANSWER: Bar Keepers Friend is a great product for cleaning tired-looking baking pans. Sprinkle and scrub with a damp scratch free abrasive scrub pad.

QUESTION: I've tried many different techniques for baking the perfect chocolate-chip cookie. I read that the butter and sugar need to be at room temperature and well-creamed before the eggs are added. But every time I cream the two together, the appearance is grainy and not smooth. What can I do to make smooth dough? Wilma, Clear Lake

ANSWER: You will notice a big difference in the texture of the dough if you use cold butter instead of butter at room temperature. The butter does not need to head directly from the fridge into the mixture, but it should be cold. Mixing requires extra elbow grease (or a strong mixer) but the results are worth it.

Don't add the eggs until the butter and sugar mixture is nice and smooth. The cold-butter technique is also good when baking perfectly flakey pie crusts and sugar cookie dough.

Fabulous tips of the week:

-- Instead of using dish cloths to wash my dishes, I use rubber gloves. Since gloves are not absorbent, they don't smell and harbor bacteria and the grip from the rubber does a great job at removing food from surfaces. I tie the opening with an elastic band so that no water gets inside the glove. Christie, Morris

-- Here is a tip that worked for a friend of mine who had a challenge keeping deer away from her yard. She placed a clock radio by her garden and every morning at 5 a.m. the radio turned on. The deer never bothered her garden again. Georgina, Winnipeg

-- I put vinegar in my washing-machine rinse water so all the soap scum washes out. Then I air-fluff my laundry before I dry it. Whether I dry it on the clothesline or in the dryer, I never need fabric-softener sheets or liquid fabric softener. After the sheets dry, I fluff them again in my machine. Betty, Blumenort

I enjoy your questions and tips, keep them coming! Missed a column? Can't remember a solution? Need a speaker for an upcoming event? Check out my brand new blog/website:

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 3, 2012 F7

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