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Handyman on call

How to clean her brick patio?

By Peter Hotton
Globe Correspondent / April 5, 2012
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Q. What can I put on my red bricks to make them brighter? Some of the flagstones on my patio are cracked and others have cracks in-between.

Can I put my outdoor rug down or do I have to repair the cracks first?

Elynor Kelly, by e-mail

A. Red bricks arrive from the stone store very bright but not shiny, which is the way they are supposed to be. Bricks on patios and sidewalks in sunny areas will stay bright for decades. If the patio and walks are shady half to three-fourths of the day, they will get moldy (black) and generally dirty and as a result, dull as dirt.

For the dirty, dull brick, pressure-washing will do it. Also, a solution of 1 part bleach and 10 parts water will clean up everything, but the bricks will need scrubbing with a stiff scrub brush. Don’t put the bleach solution anywhere but the bricks. Hosing off after treatment will dilute the bleach enough so it is harmless.

Putting an outdoor rug over a surface with cracks will not work very well if the cracks are wide, because they will ghost right through the rug. I have never found an outdoor rug to work well under any circumstances, so I suggest you stick with the flagstone.

Q. My screened porch was renovated in late summer 2009. The floor was replaced and, at that time, I applied Cabot’s Australian Timber Oil (Natural) to the new mahogany decking. It does get exposed to some degree to the elements and had lost some of the original luster that came out after applying the oil originally, so I decided to take advantage of our warm, dry weather and applied another coat when it was in the 70s. According to the product’s label, it should dry in 24-48 hours. Nearly 96 hours later, it’s still a little tacky to the touch, so I’m hesitant to get out on the porch yet. Did I over-apply the oil? What can I do, or should I just be patient and assume it will feel natural in another few days?

Norman Shacast,

Medford

A. I think too much was applied — and too soon after the first coat. The material is oil and is designed to penetrate the wood. A second coat applied too soon (within a year to three years), did not penetrate the wood enough to prevent stickiness.

You could wait a few more days, even weeks, to see if it will dry out. If it does not, wet it with paint thinner to try to dissolve some of the oil on top, wait a few minutes, then dry with dry cloth. If that doesn’t work, you might have to sand the boards and forget about the oil. Use instead a semi-transparent stain, one coat!

Q. I have a new Whirlpool dishwasher, which drains to apipe under the sink. In recent days the machine has a very foul smell, which seems to linger long enough to be a real pain. I had a plumber, a Whirlpool repair man, and Roto-Rooter check it out, without success; they all said they could find nothing wrong. Now what? Pouring bleach down the drain helped some.

Anita Robinson,

Mattapoiset

A. Bleach probably cleaned out grease and oil and other smelly things, so continued use will help further. But if the odor remains, it’s time to go to the top. The Handyman always thinks it’s the sump water that gets stale in the bottom of the washer, but apparently that has been ruled out. Try changing the detergent or reducing the amount of detergent in each wash. Also, call George Washington Toma, head of the Toma Television and Appliance Store in Weymouth. He’s my guru — see if he has any ideas. If you call him, tell him that the Handyman suggested you call.

Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton also appears in the Sunday Real Estate Section. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton also chats on line about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. To participate, go to Boston.com. Hotton’s e-mail is photton@globe.com

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