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Handyman on Call

An old trick may clean stain off porcelain sink

By Peter Hotton
Globe Correspondent / March 6, 2011

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Q. When I soaked dishes in my white porcelain sink overnight, I discovered a dirty ring around the sink in the morning. I tried using Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, without success. Steel wool made it worse. I filled the sink with water and bleach, which made it a little better. Anything else?

ELAINE WAINWRIGHT, Malden

A. If mild bleach helped, make a stronger solution, and leave it overnight. Maybe two cups of bleach in a full sink. If that doesn’t work, then try this: wet the sink with hydrogen peroxide, sprinkle cream of tartar on the wet surface. Leave overnight and rinse. For the sides of the sink, make a paste of the cream of tartar and peroxide.

Q. My aluminum storm door binds when I open and close it. I know I cannot plane the edges of the aluminum door, but is there another way of loosening the door?

MARGARET DEE, Lynn

A. There sure is. The door is in an aluminum frame, screwed to the jamb. This extra frame allows the door to fit into the opening snugly. The wood frame under that extra bit of aluminum frame has swollen as it took on moisture.

So, take off the small frame with the door in it, and set it aside. Now, plane down the wood frame, enough to loosen the door. Plane down all three sides of the wood jamb. Repaint the frame and reinstall that little aluminum frame with the door in it. If the jamb is wet, it will be difficult to plane. If so, leave door and frame off and wait until the wood dries out. If the door bottom stuck a bit, you can raise the sweep on the outside bottom of the door.

Q. My sump pump has a vertical float, and I activated the pump to see if it would work. It worked well enough, and the pipe leading to the outdoors leaked a little, but not that much. But I never saw the level of water go down in the sump. What is wrong? The outside drainage hose is deep under the snow and ice outside.

WHERE’S THE WATER?

A. I think the discharge pipe or hose under the snow and ice is frozen, blocking any water. Wait for a strong — and prolonged — spring thaw.

Q. My sump pump is very noisy when it runs. The cellar ceiling is finished. Can I add insulation, and where?

EAST BOSTON

A. You could have cellulose blown between ceiling and floor above. In fact, if you do the whole basement ceiling with cellulose, you will save on heating costs, too. If there is a floor over the sump (with a hole for the pump), you could build a wood box to cover the floor and the pump.

Q. Last summer we spent big bucks having the bluestone steps and porch fixed. They dug out all the grout and reset the stones. However, the mortar is crumbling. I’m having them return to remedy the situation, but would like to know what the best product to use would be.

MARY ANNE LANNI, by e-mail

A. I think the mortar failed even if there was no salt used because the mortar was not packed compactly enough. Masons are good tile setters and builders of masonry steps, but sometimes they are terrible grouters, and now you must make sure they put in the mortar very compactly.

A way to put in mortar compactly is to use a pointing tool, a steel bar shaped like an elongated “S.’’ This allows you and the masons to compact the mortar by pressing it in place. Compacted enough, it will stand up for 20 years, as long as no salt is used.

Q. I have had a slider in my living room opening to the outdoors, with a moving panel and a fixed one, since 1976. It is huge, each panel is 4 feet wide. Now it binds when it is opened half way. I tried spraying the slides with WD-40 and a silicone spray, without success. How can I fix it? There are no wheels at the bottom.

ELLEN SCOLETTI, Haverhill

A. Thirty-five years is pretty old, but I think it can be fixed. If there are no wheels at the bottom of the panel, they must be at the top, pulley-like wheels hanging from a top track. The wheels may have become loose or are flattened on one side. The unit is very heavy, so don’t try lifting it off the track. With no bottom wheels, the bottom fits into a groove that may be getting too tight for the slider to move. Call a slider dealer to see if he can make a house call.

Q. I have a 1750 Cape style. The roof has cedar shingles. I have heard of long bags of salt that can be put on ice dams to try to melt them. Would the salt hurt the shingles?

CONCERNED

A. The salt will not hurt cedar shingles and will also not hurt asphalt shingles, slate shingles, composite shingles or anything except maybe concrete or cement shingles. Prolonged use of salt on the roof might result in some damage to the lawn and/or shrubs and other greenery on the ground. If you have gutters, you could put a barrel under a downspout to catch the saltwater.

Peter Hotton is also in the g section on Thursdays. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions . Call 617-929-2930. Hotton (photton@globe.com) also chats online 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. To participate, go to www.Boston.com.