Q: I have a heating pipe in my bathroom that runs from floor to ceiling. If I'm not careful, I can burn myself on this pipe. Can you tell me what I can use to cover it? The local hardware store really doesn't know what to use.
A: Almost any type of pipe insulation will do the job, but some are more attractive than others in exposed situations like yours. I'd suggest either of a couple of brands. Both are tubular plastic forms, slit along one side so they can simply slip onto the pipe.
Frelen Corp., 74 Salem Road, North Billerica, Massachusetts 01862, is one maker. The other is Sekisui Products, Inc., 1800 West Blanke Street, Linden, New Jersey 07036. The Frelen has a zipper-like closure that locks it onto the pipe, while the insulation by Sekisui can be secured with plastic tape.
Q: We are building a new home and would like to have white woodwork and baseboards, but we do not want to paint. Is there a white stain in the market you could recommend?
A: Are you sure you would rather stain than paint? Stain will give your woodwork a flat texture that will be far harder to keep clean than a good enamel. This can be especially important on woodwork and baseboards, since they're exposed to so much traffic. Making the stain white will only compound the problem.
If your mind is made up, however, you can easily make your own stain. Buy a can of semi-gloss alkyd varnish, plus a can of white alkyd enamel from the same manufacturer. Mix them together about half and half and you will have a white stain. You can also use a white tinting pigment -- sold in tubes -- mixed with the varnish.
In any case, experiment with your mix on some scrap wood, varying the ratios until you get what you want. You can also experiment with the idea of wiping the stain off the wood after it has had a chance to set for a few minutes. This will leave some white in the pores of the wood, but still let some of the grain show through.
Q: I have two Danish glass vases that were used as flower pots. I have removed the plants and want to use the vases as shelf ornaments. Unhappily, they are cloudy. I have tried soaking them in mild soap baths, water and ammonia, and just plain hot water, but I cannot restore the crystal sheen. Can you advise?
A: Your subtle approach doesn't seem to be working. A mildly abrasive cleaner such as Glass Wax might do the job. The glass has either been covered with a tough film of some kind, or been etched to a certain degree by chemicals in the planting medium. In either case, the abrasives in the cleaner should be just the ticket.