A dinner guest rubbed his shoes on my beige wool carpet. Now it is streaked with four stripes of oxblood shoe polish.

How can I remove the dark smudges? I have tried Fantastik, lighter fluid, KR2 and Woolite. Thanks for any ideas you might have. -- M.J. For removal of shoe polish paste on carpets, scrape off as much as possible and clean the residue with dry-cleaning fluid, using an eye dropper and beginning at the outer edges of the stained area, working toward the center. Use a clean white cloth as a blotter to lift the stain. Repeat as long as the stain transfers to the white cloth.

Finish cleaning with one teaspoonful of synthetic (soapless) detergent in a half pint of lukewarm water. Stir thoroughly until you have a clear, watery solution without residue. The amount of suds has no bearing on the effectiveness. Apply on the stained area with an eyedropper, and using a rotary motion, sponge stains with a clean, white, unstarched cloth, beginning at the outer edge and working in. Then with another cloth dampened with clean, lukewarm water, sponge the area several times.

It is possible that by removing the stain you may also remove some of the color of the carpet. Bleached spots can often be restained but this generally calls for an expert.

A key to the effective removal of stains is to treat the area quickly before the stains have set. Knowing the right formula for various stains is very important. The use of the wrong stain remover can set the stain rather than release it.

I recently purchased a row house that is more than 100 years old. It was renovated before I bought it. There is just one problem. The basement walls are brick and mortar and they flake off. There is a constant collection of red and white dust on the floor. I have been advised that the mortar contained too much sand 100 years ago and I should not worry about the problem. But I do. I would like to protect the walls, somehow. What can you suggest? -- F.B. I have two suggestions that may help, but will not entirely correct the problem. First, using a stiff bristle brush, clean the brick and mortar joints so that they are free of all the existing loose material. You can consider replacing the top layer of the original mortar with a new layer of mortar. This would require removing approximately one-fourth of an inch of the mortar from between the bricks (a slow and tedious job), then replacing it with a thin layer of fresh mortar. Use a sharp instrument such as a screwdriver for the task, or check with your masonry supply dealer for a professional instrument to do this job.

After you complete the task, apply a good quality masonry sealer over the entire surface (brick and mortar) to help prevent further flaking. If you are hesitant to tackle the job of removing mortar and reapplying a new layer of mortar, you might consider using just the masonry sealer. The sealer will change the color of the brick slightly, making it appear somewhat darker, or similar to the appearance it would have if wet.

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.