I have a year-old white leather couch. It has embedded dirt in it as well as magazine and newspaper print. I've tried using a brush with mild soap and water, saddle soap and just about anything that says it's for cleaning leather, but nothing works. How can I clean it, and what should be used to keep it soft? -- J.B.
Your problem may not be just dirt. The finish on the leather could be marred and scratched. This can be refurbished by a professional leather restorer. But first, try cleaning the surface with an undiluted solution of Simple Green (a nontoxic cleaner available at local hardware stores and some markets).
If this fails to clean the couch, you can have a professional refinish the surface. The process usually involves a deglazing with acetone and readying of the leather. If your leather is in fairly good condition, the results can be just like new. Lexol is a good product for maintaining a leather couch. It's a two-part leather cleaner and conditioner available through leather supply stores.
Several years ago, I had my brass candlesticks treated, and now they look dull and dark. How can I remove whatever it has been treated with (something like clear nail polish)? I would prefer to polish it with Brasso again. -- K.C.
Often a clear lacquer is used to protect the finish of newly polished brass. A lacquer thinner applied with a soft cloth should remove this thin protective coat. Use a second application to assure that all residue is removed. You can then proceed to polish your brass candlesticks with any commercial brass cleaner and polish such as Brasso.
After cleaning, you can apply another coat of a lacquer if you wish to preserve the finish longer than it will normally last. I have a few windows and sliding closet doors that are hard to push open. Years ago I used paste floor wax on the sides. I asked a home repair store what they recommended and was told to use beeswax. But it does not seem to work. Is there something on the market made for this problem besides soap or wax? -- B.R.
An application of WD 40 often is very helpful for this type of problem. Another remedy that is particularly useful on wood surfaces, such as the wood runners for drawers, is a coating of paraffin.
Do you have any suggestions for soundproofing the windows in my home that are adjacent to the freeway? Are there other alternatives besides laminated glass, dual-glazed windows or installing another window inside the frame with space between it and the original window? Which of these would be most effective? -- J.H.
Unfortunately, the sound problem you have is very difficult to correct. A new window treatment for those windows may help. Install wood-framed casement windows that are double-glazed and compression-sealed, or use a double-glass window with storm sashes installed tightly with felt strips at the edges. Added sound control will be gained by using heavy-lined draperies, thick padded carpeting, upholstered furniture and acoustical ceiling tile. These will help absorb noise, but they won't entirely correct the problem.
The most effective method of reducing the sound level is to construct a barrier between the street and the building. A concrete block wall that is at least 6 feet high work best. Such a wall can deflect nearly 60 percent of the noise caused by traffic. A wooden fence can reduce noise only about 5 percent. Trees and shrubs also help.
Send inquiries to Here's How, Copley News Service, P.O. Box 190, San Diego, Calif. 92112-0190. Only questions of general interest can be answered in the column.