Dear Heloise:

I work in a school counselor's office and have made life unbearable for my co-workers. I microwaved popcorn and became distracted, only to discover that I had BURNED IT. The smell is awful, and I can't get rid of the odor. Help!

Jan W., Cypress, Tex.

Well, Jan, let me school you on Burnt Popcorn 101, and rest assured that you are not alone -- this is one of the top 10 questions that come in!

Pungent odors from cooking or overcooking foods like cabbage, fish or even a recipe that contains curry can cause unpleasant smells, especially for people who share common areas like an office break room or even a dormitory. Here are a couple of cleaning ideas to try, but first, thoroughly clean the microwave of crumbs and spills!

Here's a Heloise Update: Citrus works wonderfully at eliminating odors and is recommended by many manufacturers for its deodorizing effects. So, combine 1/2 cup of lemon juice and 1/2 cup of water in a 4-cup or larger microwave-safe container. Place in the microwave and heat on high until the water boils and creates steam. This steam will help eliminate the lingering odor.

CAUTION: The water and steam will be very hot, so be careful. You must leave the mixture to cool completely before opening the microwave, about 15 to 20 minutes. Leave the door open for a while so that air can circulate.

Baking soda is also a wonderful and inexpensive nonabrasive cleaner, and it also deodorizes. Sprinkle some baking soda on a damp sponge, and use this to scrub the interior surfaces of the microwave.

Hint: With picnic season upon us, pull out the cooler. After washing and drying it well, sprinkle some baking soda inside and close. When you need it, just rinse, and it's ready to use without that closed-up smell!

Dear Heloise:

I wear high-heeled shoes daily and often slip on the tile floors in my building. I have been looking for treads to put on the bottoms of my shoes and was shocked at the price. I decided to buy tread for bathtub floors and cut it to fit the bottoms of my shoes. You can buy this at most discount stores for a couple of dollars, and one package has enough in it to fit quite a few pairs of shoes.

All the ladies at my work are doing this now for a lot less cost!

Meredith Keyser

Ashburn, Va.

Send a money- or time-saving hint to P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, or e-mail it to Heloise@Heloise.com or fax it to 210-HELOISE.

(c)2005, King Features Syndicate