Dear Heloise:

I'm excited about the new software available for transferring music from old LPs to CDs. I brought up my boxes of records from the basement, only to find mildew. Is this a job for vinegar or bleach?

I thought this might be coming up for many others as we try to clear clutter and learn new skills.

E.W., via e-mail

NO, DON'T USE BLEACH! I'm glad you asked this question, because anyone who stored records in a basement or other damp area is probably going to find mildew on them. This doesn't mean that they should be thrown away.

Just wash them using only mild dishwashing liquid and water -- NO bleach or vinegar.

Rinse both sides of a record, holding it by the edge. Leave wet and apply a small amount of a mild dishwashing liquid (do not use a bar soap) to your fingertips and rub the record going in circles. Next, rinse well and carefully shake off any excess water, then place in a plastic dish drain to air-dry. If you need to wipe the records dry, use a lint-free cloth especially made for this -- a towel or the like will just leave lint.

FYI: Wearing white cotton gloves while handling the clean records will help protect them from finger smudges and dirt.

I'm glad to hear that you are backing up all those old tunes onto CDs for future enjoyment.

Dear Readers:

Ready to use the microwave but the inside is a mess? Here's how to steam away the gunk. In a 4-cup microwave-safe bowl, put 2 tablespoons of either baking soda or lemon juice and add 1 cup of water. Let the mixture cook on high power for about 5 minutes. CAUTION: You must let it cool for 15 minutes before opening the door. Now, just wipe off the inner walls, the door and the bottom surface. It should be sparkling clean again!

Dear Heloise:

Many times I find very attractive church, hospital or old school commemorative plates at flea markets or garage sales for $1 or less.

These make splendid cake plates. When I take a cake to a new neighbor or a sick friend, I let the person know that the plate is now his or hers, too.

Esther Morrison

Jacksonville, Ill.

Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Heloise@Heloise.com. Please include your city and state when faxing or using e-mail. I can't answer your letter personally but will use the best hints received in my column.

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