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HANDYMAN ON CALL

Dirty grout around tub can be scrubbed clean

Q. I am helping my uncle sell his house, but the grout in the bathroom and shower is very dirty and as a result is unsightly. How can I clean it? A man said to regrout. Is that really needed? K.M., Peabody

A. No, it is not really needed. Getting dirt and mold out of the grout is not easy, but you can clean it with this solution: Pour straight bleach on the grout and scrub with a brush, being careful not to scatter the bleach where you do not want it. And wear skin and eye protection when working with bleach. Repeated washing with bleach or a bleach solution should do it. When the grout comes clean, seal it with a tile sealer.

And, here's another way, without using bleach: Scrape off the top layer of grout, revealing clean grout. Then use the tile sealer.

Q. I have a brand-new paneled pine door for my bathroom. I primed it, then painted it with white latex paint. One panel is bleeding pine color through the white paint. Why is that happening and can I fix it? GEORGE NICKANDROS, Avon

A. The same thing happened to me with an exterior fir door, and I figured the panel in question had more resin in it than the others.

Yes, you can fix it. Seal the panel with oil- or latex-based Kilz, then repaint. I think the oil-based Kilz will work better. Clear shellac will do it, too, and so will clear Krylon acrylic spray sealer.

Q. My son is a football player, and the thing to do is hang toilet paper in the trees. They then put Super Glue on the door. We will replace the door, but some Super Glue got on the brick sidewalk. How can we remove it from the bricks? K.D., Suburbia

A. Huh, in my day it was panty raids, although I swear to goodness I never participated in one!

Try this for the Super Glue on the bricks: Duro Super Glue Remover, by Woodhill, sold in hardware stores. Chip the main part off the bricks with a hammer and chisel before using the glue remover. You might even try the remover on the door, although it might take off the finish, too.

Q. Is there any way to change the look of shiny brass hinges to a nickel or pewter look by using some type of patina product? JEANNINE, E-mail

A. The only way you can do it is to replace the hinges with those of a nickel or pewter look. Your hinges are shiny because they were lacquered. Do not polish them, and be thankful you have some pretty good looking hinges. They may be solid brass, which makes them more valuable than any other material.

Q. Our older home has plaster walls. We removed the paper in one room, intending to paint it, but found there are cracks, small holes, and patches under the paper that would be visible through paint. Is there a preparation that could be applied to even out those blemishes before painting? L.N., Melrose

A. The walls are made of horsehair plaster, which tends to blemish easily and is not easy to fix. Some owners like the roughness of horsehair plaster, but you can do this: Fill cracks and holes with joint compound, a ready-mix plaster-like filler sold in hardware stores. Let dry and sand smooth, and sand the patches smooth, too. Then repaint.

Another way: Cover the walls with a Wall-Tex white covering (vinyl-coated canvas) with a slightly bubbly surface, which will cover all those blemishes. You can leave it unpainted or paint it any color.

Q. In my 150-year-old house, I have a nice stairway and bannister system. The only thing wrong is that the newel post is slightly wobbly. It is held in place by a threaded rod that I can see at the top of the newel when I remove a wooden cover. How can I tighten the newel to stop its wiggling? I cannot get to the bottom of the newel from the basement below. RICHARD CRISTIANO, Medford

A. Take a good look at that threaded rod. There should be a big nut near the top, which you can turn to see if you can tighten the newel. If you cannot find a nut, buy one and thread it over the rod. If the rod does not move, the new nut can tighten things up.

If adjusting the nut does nothing, you can buy special brackets to place at the bottom of the newel. Brosco, the Brockway-Smith catalog, carries these brackets, which can be ordered through a local lumber store.

Handyman on Call Peter Hotton is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton also chats on line 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to www.boston.com. Hotton's email is photton@globe.com.

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