Dear Heloise:

I wanted to use some raisins in a bread mix, and they were dried out. Is there a way to plump them back up?

Dorian in Colorado

You bet there is, and it's really easy! A major raisin processor told us this: Put the dried-out raisins in a bowl, pour in boiling water and let them sit for 15 minutes. Pour off the water and pat the raisins dry. They should be plump and ready to add to any recipe.

Speaking of raisins, we often get the question about raisins sinking to the bottom of a cake or bread. To prevent this, cut the raisins into small pieces to help keep them suspended in the batter.

Since raisins can be a bit sticky, spray the knife or scissor blades with some nonstick vegetable spray before you start cutting. Raisins can be stored on the pantry shelf, but for maximum freshness, put them in the refrigerator in a container with a tightfitting lid. And did you know you can freeze raisins for an extended period?

You can add raisins to just about anything, so experiment a little.

Dear Heloise:

Could you possibly tell me how to clean the plastic tray that is under the water and ice dispenser on my refrigerator door? Some elements from our water built up on the tray, and neither scraping nor cleaners seem to do anything. A solution would be much appreciated.

Bonnie Olson, El Paso The solution is here -- good ol' vinegar once again! What you're describing sounds like a hard-water buildup that vinegar tackles well. Just remove the drip tray, if you can, and place it in the sink. Soak in warm white or apple-cider vinegar for 15 to 20 minutes, then wash and dry. For really stubborn buildup, use a scrub brush after soaking!

Vinegar just happens to be one of my favorite household cleaners, and it's great at cleaning soooo many things. To tackle hard-water and soap buildup on chrome bathroom fixtures, just wipe with undiluted vinegar and leave for about five minutes, then rinse well.

Vinegar is a nontoxic grass killer and weedkiller, helps kill bacteria in a drain and can brighten dark clothes, plus much more!

Dear Heloise:

While using a mop with the floor-cleaner bottle attached, I discovered that I was out of the wipes that attach to the mop pad. So, I used a terry washcloth, and because of the sticky-sided fabric tape on the mop pad, the washcloth clung to it perfectly. I can remove the washcloth, wash it and reuse it over and over. Much less expensive than purchasing the refill wipes for the mop.

D.B., Harrisburg, Pa.

We love it! The entire office applauded this hint. I tested it, and you're right -- mop the floor, and into the wash the cloth goes. Everyone has a few extra washcloths around, or pop into a discount store and pick up a dozen cheap ones -- they're great!

Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Please include your city and state.

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