Ask Andy

Looking for a solution to problems in or around your house?
Email questions to:


To loosen a rusted bolt that is frozen in place, cover it with a cloth soaked in any carbonated beverage. As an option, apply a couple of drops of ammonia. Before screwing the bolt on again, coat the threads with petroleum jelly to prevent more rusting.

Mind the Plasma

Dear Andy, we just bought a huge, flat-screen plasma TV and we want to take good care of it. Any tips for cleaning the expensive monster?

Todd and Sudaa

Assuming you purchased the television set new, it should have come with an owner’s manual. Your best bet would be to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on care for your particular TV. As a general guideline for cleaning plasma TVs, first turn off the power and, if you use a liquid cleaning spray, allow the set to cool. That prevents the cleaning solution from evaporating immediately. Do not use paper materials to wipe the screen; tissues and paper towels can scratch the surface. Instead, use a soft, lint-free cloth to wipe away fingerprints and smudges. For stubborn stains, you may need a liquid cleaning solution, but use sparingly and only when necessary. Spray the solution onto a soft clothСdo not spray directly onto the screenСand wipe gently. Ensure that the cloth is only dampСnot dripping wet. Wipe from side to side, not top to bottom. Then dry with a soft, dry cloth. Some manufacturers warn that you should not use liquid on their screens because it may seep into the plasma display. If you opt to use liquid, never use a solution that contains alcohol or ammonia, either of which will slowly create hazing and dimming of the TV image. Shop for cleaning solutions made specifically for plasma screens, some of which also have the benefit of being anti-static so that they prevent dust from adhering to the surface after cleaning. As an alternative, you can mix two or three drops of liquid dish-washing detergent in a spray bottle of luke-warm water.

Toilet Tubes

I’ve got all kinds of unsightly cords dangling and twisting behind my computer, Andy. I’ve tried tying them with rubber bands and even those twisty wire things, but that just turns them into unsightly clumps of wires. What can I do?


The glut of electronic gadgets has certainly given rise to an even more pronounced number of cords, cables and wires supporting computers, appliances, entertainment systems, etc.  Even if you can hide the unsightly connections, it still is a good idea to consolidate each group to keep them from being disconnected and to make it more convenient for you to deal with them when necessary. To that end, Willy, save empty toilet paper rolls. Run your cables and cords through the tubes. That keeps the wire maze neat, and you can even label each tube to identify what the cords are connected to. Once you’ve organized your computer wires and cables, you can do the same for those cords behind your TV, DVD player, etc.

Faux Flower Freshness

I’ve got several displays of lovely silk flowers, Andy, and I need your suggestions for cleaning them. Seems with my patio door constantly open, the dust in my home accumulates quickly and makes a bee-line to the artificial blossoms. Trying to keep them dust free is difficult and time consuming. Thanks.


While silk flowers don’t require the care that living plants need, such as watering and fertilizing, it is nevertheless time-consuming just to provide the regular cleaning that is required to keep them looking good, Thelma. Dusting delicate silk petals and stems can be intimidating, but you can learn how to clean artificial flowers effectively by following a few steps. The most common method used is dusting lightly with a feather duster. It’s fast and easy, but I find it ineffective. A feather duster does not remove any built-up grime or heavy dust. On the other hand, a daily feather dusting will remove superficial dust and keep your artificial flowers cleaner between deep cleanings. The easiest effective technique in my experience is to put the flowers in a large plastic bag, pour some salt into the bag and shake. The salt will absorb the dust, leaving the flowers looking like new. A third option is to use compressed air. Compressed air, available in cans at office supply stores, can be used to spray your silk flowers, loosening stubborn dust pretty effectively, but you run the risk of dislodging delicately glued parts. If you think your flowers can withstand a heavy gust of air without damage, this is a quick and easy option.

The Bellow of Bamboo

Dear Mr. Andy, 5 years ago the floor of my condo has been layed with a parquet from bamboo. Since long it creaks and crackles when walking, especially when raining season like we now finish I think. I wish I have used tile on my floor but now I have to life with it. Do you know a smart solution to get the damn thing silent? Your help I would be appreciate.


Noises are common problems with parquet floors, Ludwig. They usually stem from installing the bamboo on a subfloor which is not level or from cracks in the bamboo flooring. You might consider refinishing the floor (i.e., light sanding followed by a couple coats of a urethane). This would push the urethane into the existing cracks and act to tighten things up and quiet things down. Then start saving for a new tile floor.

Wall Nuts

The external walls of my house are covered in cracks that I think result from substandard workmanship, but it may be the materials the contractor used. I repainted the entire surface, but the cracks returned pretty quickly. Then I tried filling in the cracks using a powder/water filler mix, but the cracks just reappear. These walls are driving me nuts! Please help, Andy, with whatever thoughts you have.


Paint cracking usually is caused when a house is finished with poor-quality paint which has inadequate adhesion and flexibility. Other causes might be over-thinning of the paint or improper surface preparation. You can try to correct the cracking by removing all loose and flaking paint with a scraper or wire brush. Once you’ve gotten the loose paint off, sand to feather the edges. Then prime any bare spots and repaint the entire wall. If the cracking goes down to the substrate, it would be best to remove all of the paint by scraping, sanding and/or using a heat gun; then prime and repaint with a high-quality latex exterior paint. If water also is a problem, you might try a clear sealer or silicone caulk.

Closing Line:

This sign was posted at the entrance to an optometrist’s office:

“If you don’t see what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.”

–Handy Andy

Pin It on Pinterest