Q) I have a nine-year-old problem. My living room ceiling is about 20 feet high. Cobwebs have been accumulating for the past nine years. Other than scaffolding, how can I reach such a height to clean or is there a company or service that could handle this? -- D.M.
A)Some housewares stores sell feather dusters with telescoping handles that will reach a considerable distance.
However, since your ceiling has an accumulation of cobwebs, I suggest a professional cleaning firm. They will have special equipment and ladders to handle the chore.
Q)have a set of chairs with cane inserts in the backs. Some of the cane backs are sagging. Is there any way I can repair this without having the chairs redone by a professional? -- V.M.
A) To tighten cane chair seats and backs that are sagging, place a wet towel over the cane (make sure the towel does not touch the wood surfaces). Leave for an hour or so, and then place the chair in the hot sun for a few hours. This will tighten the cane. To help preserve apply one coat of varnish to the cane.
Q)I installed tile and colored grout in our bathroom about two years ago. I sealed it with two coats of silicone. What is the best cleaner for the accumulation of soap, shampoo and other residue? I have had some success with products sold by a local tile store for cleaning and sealing. It is expensive, though. Is there any way to do it cheaper, or a product that is stronger? -- H.B.
A) The Tile Council of America recommends the following procedure for removing stubborn stains on bath and shower tile. Apply a paste of a scouring powder with a bleaching agent. Leave on for five to six hours, scrub and rinse thoroughly.
It is a good idea to try the scouring powder paste in a small test area before using it all over to make sure it won't scratch or dull the tile glaze. If you have a mildew problem, scrub with a commercial tile cleaner or fungicide such as Lysol or ammonia. Special mildew stain removers are also available.
For regular maintenance, it's best not to allow soap scum, body oils and hard-water film to build up. The shower walls should be wiped down after each use. On other tile surfaces use a damp sponge.
If you have soft water, routinely clean walls and floors with an all-purpose cleaner. Let the cleaner stay on for at least five minutes before scrubbing lightly with a sponge (walls) or a brush (floors). Rinse well.
If you have hard water, use a commercial tile cleaner, available at supermarkets, or a solution of equal amounts of vinegar and water. If you decide to use vinegar and water, try this solution in a small, out-of-the-way area first to be sure the vinegar won't harm the tile or erode the grout.
If you have a continuing problem with hard-water film, you might want to consider a water softener. Using a silicone sealer after cleaning will help keep the grout from staining.
Q)I recently purchased a home with ivory tile and grout in the kitchen. The grout is filthy and discolored. I've scrubbed with Mr. Clean with minimal results. I am trying to get the grout the lightest shade possible. Any suggestions? -- C.M.
A)Ceramic tile countertops are subjected to the worst household stains, and the grout joints are particularly susceptible to these stains. The Tile Council of America recommends using a thick paste of scouring powder, letting this paste stand for five to 10 minutes, scrubbing with a stiff brush and then rinsing with clear water. If stains remain apply undiluted bleach for at least five minutes, rinse well and dry.
If this fails to lighten and brighten your grout, you might consider regrouting the surface layer. Remove the top layer of grout, one-eighth to one-fourth of an inch, with a sharp instrument such as a screw driver, or a grout saw available at your tile dealer. Then refill with new grout. Small units of grout are available in most tile and hardware stores.
To maintain the cleaned grout, seal the grout joints with an acrylic sealer, repeating the treatment every three to four months. You can also seal the grout joints with Genuine Old English Lemon Oil Furniture Polish. Apply three consecutive coats, letting each coat dry for an hour before applying the next one. Remove excess polish from glazed tile and ceramic mosaics with a damp sponge.
Q) I am purchasing a home that has a strong odor of dogs on the rugs. I plan to replace the rugs and padding. Are there any preparations or solutions I can use to treat the wood under the padding to eliminate any remaining odor? -- S.A.M.
A)After removing carpet and padding, let the room and bared floor air thoroughly, with doors and windows open during a good-weather day.
Wash the floor with a solution of white vinegar and warm water. Use a sponge to remove excess water. You do not want the wood floor to swell and warp as a result of the dampness. As an additional step you might want to use a room deodorizer. If this process does not rid the room of odors, I suggest you contact a professional (a firm that specializes in deodorizing and disinfecting).
When the floor is clean and odor free, you can treat the surface with a coat of water sealer prior to recarpeting.
Send inquiries to Here's How, Copley News Service, P.O. Box 190, San Diego, CA 92112-0190. Only questions of general interest can be answered in the column.