The reader’s plates. (Reader photo)

Q: I have a number of calendar plates dating from the 1920s to recent years that belonged to my mother. Everything I have read says not to put plates in the wire/spring-type plate hangers because it will damage them. Is this correct? I would like to hang them on the wall for display.


A: You’re right: Wire-and-spring plate hangers can scratch or rub down the rims of collectible plates, especially if they aren’t the right size or are installed carelessly. Many hardware stores carry plate hangers with vinyl-coated tips. At True Value, the price is less than $4. Or you can buy hangers at

If you already have hangers, you can probably retrofit them by slipping a short piece of clear plastic tubing over each tip. To be sure you buy tubing in the correct diameter, take a hanger with you when you shop. Hardware stores and home centers typically stock rolls of tubing and cut it to length, so you should be able to buy just a short piece.

To determine the plate hanger size you need, measure the diameter across the back of the plate, going from rim to rim. Taking the measurement on the back ensures that the measurement includes the distance that the rim’s flare adds to the plate’s diameter.

I hate the way dirt seems to build up on my carpet along the walls. I clean, but then it soon looks dirty again. What can I do?


There are probably small air gaps at the base of the walls and something that is releasing fine soot, perhaps a fireplace or candles. When air pressure on one side of wall is higher than on the other, air moves through the gaps. The carpet acts like a filter, trapping the soot particles alongside the baseboards. Home Energy magazine wrote about this problem, which it dubbed “ghosting,” in 1998, and it’s still at

If you can figure out where the soot is coming from, you might find a simple solution. Otherwise, it might make sense to arrange for a company to do what’s called a “blower door test” to pinpoint the source of the air leaks and come up with a strategy for plugging them. A crew will set up a big fan in a doorway and use smoke sticks to trace drafts. Because finding and plugging air gaps is also one of the best ways to make a house more energy-efficient, the D.C. Sustainable Energy Utility ( offers financial incentives of up to $1,800 to residents who schedule a blower door test as part of a whole-house energy audit and follow through with measures that make the house more energy-efficient. The work must be done by Sept. 30, 2014, to qualify for the incentive payments.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.