Dear Readers: Here is this week’s SOUND OFF, about expiration and use-by dates on products:

“I’m cleaning out my fridge and noticing how challenging it can be to find product expiration dates. I found two products with the ‘use-by’ dates embossed on the lids and visible only with a magnifying glass. Others are stamped somewhere on the container in small print. I do wish that these important dates were easier to find and read. It’s a safety factor. In the meantime, I use a permanent marker to write the date somewhere on the container where I can see it — if I can find it! -- Carole H., via e-mail”

I agree with you! If only there were a universal system. Here is a hint: A use-by date means you should consume the product by that date for best QUALITY, not safety, so you don’t necessarily have to throw it out! -- Heloise



P.O. Box 795000

San Antonio, TX 78279-5000

Fax: 1-210-HELOISE



Dear Readers: Other uses for aquarium gravel:

* Use as decoration in a floral vase.

* Put in the bottom of plants to keep soil from rinsing out.

* Place in a large jar as a doorstop.

* Place in a small jar as a paperweight.

* Make a “habitat” for plastic animals and small toys.

-- Heloise


Dear Heloise: My mother took my toddler son to lunch the other day and let him have free rein of the ketchup. Needless to say, it is everywhere. His shirt is covered in it. Do you have any hints on how to clean it? -- Lee in Texas

I do! Wipe or scrape off as much as you can, then soak the shirt in cold water for 30 minutes. Next, use liquid laundry detergent or white bar soap and rub the stain while still wet.

Wash with warm water and detergent. Make sure the stain is gone before putting in the dryer. Are there other stains you need help removing? I have compiled a pamphlet filled with hints about how to remove anything from ink to wine! To order, send $5 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (66 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Stain Guide, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. To prevent your swimsuit from fading, soak it in a solution of one drop of anti-chlorine formula (found at aquarium stores) and a gallon of water after each swim. Do not rinse. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: I have a very special necklace my husband gave me that I wear every day. I used to take it off before getting in the shower and often forgot where I placed it, or it was lost under other stuff. I took a small suction cup with a hook and placed it on my mirror. Now when I remove it before my shower, I place it on the hook. When I am ready to put it back on, I always know where it is. -- Kennedy in Illinois

Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Please include your city and state.

, King Features Syndicate