How To: Make closet doors fit; scour clean a stained laundry sink

October 23, 2013

Q: We recently remodeled our basement and builta lovely walk-in closet. Unfortunately, we installed our sliding closet doors before having the wood floor installed. The floor installers removed the closet doors to lay the floor and were unable to reinstall the doors once they were finished. The doors are now too long for the closet. What can we do? Should we have the tops of the doors cut down or have the contractors come back and remodel the closet entryway? I am really hoping not to have to buy new doors.

— Silver Spring

A: If you hired a contractor to oversee the entire job and the contractor placed the order for the doors, you might be able to get the entryway remodeled. Planning ahead for the finished height of the floor is one of the zillions of details that good contractors keep track of. Making the closet entry taller is not a simple job, though. It involves taking off the trim and then cutting back the drywall, redoing the framing for the closet, and then redoing it all. If you arranged each aspect of the remodeling yourself and want to minimize mess and cost, trim the tops of the doors. Many doors are built with a bottom rail that’s wider than the one at the top, so trimming at the top will look most natural.

Q: I would like to clean my utility tub. It started out white but now has a slight buildup on the bottom and sides. I have tried Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, which helped a little, plus a bleach product for whitewall tires, and Rust Off, even though it isn’t a rust stain. Any tips you can offer?


This homeowner unfortunately installed sliding closet doors before having the wood floor installed. (Reader photo)

— Lansing, Mich.

A: Laundry sinks are made of many different materials, from inexpensive composites and plastics to top-of-the-line stainless steel, porcelain enamel and vitreous china. So there is no way to recommend a cleaning regimen that has muscle and yet poses no risk of damaging any of these surfaces.

The buildup is probably mineral deposits or soap scum, though it could also consist of residue from paint on brushes or a multitude of other things you rinsed off in the sink. A fine abrasive (the Magic Eraser) is one way to dislodge buildup of many kinds. Another approach is a cleaner that combines chemically with mineral deposits and either removes them or makes them easier to scrub off.

Although you already tried one product of that sort (the Rust Out), you might also try Lime-A-Way (800-228-4722; www.limeaway.com). Steve Tucker, a customer service representative for the Swan Corp. in St. Louis (800-325-7008; www.theswancorp.com), which makes Swanstone brand utility sinks, suggests leaving the cleaner on the surface for a while, even though directions on the label say to leave it for just one to two minutes. “On our products, it will not hurt to let it soak for a good 30 minutes,” Tucker said. “Somebody else’s sink, we do not know.”

Swanstone’s utility sinks are made of Veritek, a composite that stands up to solvent cleaners, or a thermoplastic, which isn’t solvent-resistant but is cheaper. Sinks made by other companies often are listed as polypropylene. Polypropylenes are thermoplastics, so the materials used in these sinks are similar. But recipes probably differ among manufacturers, so what’s safe for Swanstone sinks might not be safe for your tub.

If you find it impossible to remove the stains, you have two options. Utility sinks are fairly inexpensive — $50 to $100, unless you opt for stainless, china or enamel. So if the sink gets too discolored, you could just replace it. Or you could accept the utility sink, with all its stains, as a place to rinse out things you want to keep out of your kitchen sink. Utility sinks, after all, are meant to be about business, not looks.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

The Checklist Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks you should tackle in October, such as cleaning and storing the lawn mower, at washingtonpost.com/home.

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