Q: I bought a large brass vase overseas, and polished it with a well known brand of metal polish. It looks beautiful except for some detailed areas which tend to turn green. I've tried using cotton and a soft toothbrush to remove the greenish tint, but it doesn't work. Do you have any suggestions?
A: I think you are on the right track using a toothbrush - you need something small to apply and remove polish in the crevices. Try a toothbrush again, only this time use a fairly stiff one, then use some kind of coarse, fibrous material such as cotton or pieces of burlap to rub out the polish. The idea is to be able to rub inside the grooves, not just apply the polish. Polishing brass usually takes "elbow grease." On flat surfaces this is comparatively easy, but on carvings it is more difficult.
Q: About a year ago I painted my basement floor with floor enamel. It dried quickly and looked great, but it is now chipping. Should I have painted the floor with some kind of product first?
A: Not unless it was recommended on the label. As a rule, most deck enamel and floor paints need no special primer; you simply apply two coats of the same product. The chipping could be due to poor adhesion because wax, dirt, dust or other foreign matter was not removed, or because you applied one thick coat instead of two thin ones.
Q: I am planning to close my house for several months and have arranged for a plumber to drain the water lines and heating systems. However, he cannot tell me what will happen to the house itself or what effect the lack of heat will have no furnitures and accessories. Do you have any imformation?
A: Many people ask this question each year at this time, but unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer. In most cases there is no problem, but occasionally mildew and musty odors develop. The best advice I can offer is to make certain all drains are filled with antifreeze, and leave all closet and cabinet doors open to allow air to circulate. Remove damp articles in the basement, closets, and laundry room, etc. Air the house well before you close it, but pick a dry day for it.
Q: Some months ago there was a fire in the apartment above us. Water from the fire hoses ran down behind the walls of one of our closets and now we have a dank odor. Even though we have painted the closet and leave it empty, with the door open to air it, the dank odor persists, Do you know what we can do to get rid of it?
A: This is always a tough problem to solve. The wood framing, and probably the back side of the plaster and lath, got wet and are probably still wet because no air really circulates inside the wall. Sometimes airing as you are now doing eventually works, but not always. Sometimes placing pans of baking soda inside the closet helps absorb the odor. However, in extreme cases the only solution is actually chopping the wall open and removing the plaster or gypsum board so the inside can dry out. Then you will have to refinish the inside by putting up new plasterboard - but if you go this route make sure the wood is dry inside the wall and no odor is left before you close it up again.