Q: I have a sink top that is covered with a plastic laminate and has a stainless steel edging around the border. This type sink top is no longer made, and I would like to keep the one I have. The trouble is that the plastic is worn off in a few spots near the sink. Is there a paint I can apply over the plastic to cover it up?
A: You can paint it with almost any good-quality enamel, but the type that will probably last the longest is a two-part epoxy paint (sold for use on boats, as well as for painting sinks and tubs). This comes in a variety of colors, and it will take abuse better than most regular alkyd enamels. Be sure the surface is perfectly clean, and sand it thoroughly first (with fine grit paper).
Follow directions on the label regarding the type of primer required, if any, and remember that once you paint the top, you can't cut or slice things on it -- the knife will cut through the paint. You will have to renew the paint periodically, depending on how much scrubbing and general wear it gets.
Q: I recently applied a lot of caulking compound to the tile around my bathroom shower stall in the mistaken notion that I was correcting a problem I had been having with a water leak. Later I found that the leak was caused by a bad plumbing connection that has since been fixed. I now would like to remove all the caulking. Can you tell me how to do this without damaging the tile?
A: Since you do not say what kind of caulking you used, it is hard to be specific. If you used a silicone-rubber type, you will find that if you carefully dig one corner out by using a plastic scraper or a tapered piece of wood, you will be able to peel or strip most of the caulking out of a long string. If you used a latex-type caulking, you should be able to scrape the bulk of it out with a plastic scraper (similar to the kind used on auto windshields or freezer compartments).
If you are reasonably careful, even a metal scraper will do little or no harm to the ceramic tile, as long as you hold it almost flat against the surface while scraping. And residue can be softened with paint thinner or lacquer thinner, then rubbed off with a cloth.
Just remember that these solvents are flammable: Be sure the room is well ventilated and there are no open flames nearby.