Q: I have an old bed with a high headboard that I usually lean my head against when I read in bed. The spot I lean my head against has taken on a cloudy, milky-grey appearance, and there are several other cloudy spots -- all of them small and all in places I do not habitually touch. The wood is stained a dark color, something like mahogany. How can I restore the original dark color without sanding and refinishing the whole headboard?
A: Cloudy or milky stains are usually due to moisture getting under or into the finish, especially in places where the wax or polish has worn off. If the discoloration has not penetrated too deeply or gotten into the wood itself, it can be removed without too much difficulty. First, try rubbing hard with a cloth dipped in camphorated oil. If this doesn't take the discoloration away, try rubbing again with a pad of No. 0000 steel wool dipped into the oil. Rub carefully and lightly, only over the stained area, and stop as soon as you seem to have removed most of the stain (otherwise you will go through the finish. When you have most of the stain removed, restore the luster to the surface with a good grade of furniture polish or wax.
Q: The cellar walls in my home are a problem in hot, humid weather, they sweat so much that water drips down onto the floor. I have applied waterproofing material to the walls but the problem persists. Do you have any suggestions?
A: If your problem is sweating, not leakage through the walls from outside, the cure lies in either providing more ventilation or, better yet, installing a dehumidifier. For more ventilation you probably need an exhaust fan, and you should arrange for cross ventilation or an intake of air from upstairs. If you use a dehumidifier, keep all windows closed, and close doors to upstairs or outside. Also, make sure your dryer, if you have one in the basement, is vented directly to the outside.
Q: Our daughter fastened many posters and pictures to her walls by using Scotch tape. When we took them down prior to painting we assumed that the two coats of paint we planned to apply would cover all the tape marks. But they didn't and the tape marks show clearly through. What can I do to cover them before I repaint?
A: After the tape is peeled off a residue of adhesive usually remains, and this is where your problem lies. I advise sanding these areas with medium-grit paper until you cut through the top layer of paint, then spot-prime these stains with pigmented shellac-base stain killer (sold in paint stores). After this dries (about one hour) you can paint as usual.
Questions about home repair problems should be addressed to Bernard Gladstone in care of The New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 200 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10017. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column. Unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.