Dear Readers: Today's Sound Off is about garbage cans left in plain view. We've had several letters on this subject, and here is one of them:

"Dear Heloise: Why do people leave their ugly garbage cans out in front of their house not just on pickup days, but all the time? Not only is it tacky-looking, but it affects the entire neighborhood's appearance. Many of us keep our homes painted and our yards maintained, but when someone parks a garbage can on the front porch or in front of the garage door, it makes the whole street look bad." -- Walter D., Newport, Rhode Island

Walter, judging by the letters we get every week, this is an annoying subject for many, all across America. If you belong to a homeowners association, perhaps it can ask everyone in the neighborhood to store garbage cans out of sight. -- Heloise

Fast facts

Dear Readers: If you have an old toothbrush, don't toss it out -- clean and disinfect it, and use it for some of the following tasks:

  • As a dry brush for cleaning dust from knickknacks.
  • Clean bathroom faucets.
  • Clean jewelry (nonabrasive toothpaste works well here).
  • Clean small, narrow-necked vases. -- Heloise

Retiree rules

Dear Readers: I received several letters from readers who agreed with "The Rules of the Lake House" that guests need to limit their visits and come only when invited. Here are a few responses. -- Heloise

"Frankly, it exhausts us to have overnight guests. We hear the same comments from our retired friends. Our children live out of state, and one of their visits means cleaning, shopping for groceries, baking and entertaining, and it wears us out!" -- J., via email

"We love to have our family and friends over, but we also love to see them go. At our ages (74 and 76), we just can't take more than two nights with company!" -- Maryann H. in Denver

"I'm a widower and love to have my daughter and grandkids come for a visit. I just wish they'd leave after three days. Last year, my daughter wanted me to take the grandkids for a month in the summer, and I said, 'Sorry, darlin', I'm too old and too tired for that kind of stress.'" -- Jake L., Florence, Alabama


Dear Heloise: When you're going to be out of town, I would like to advise turning off the clothes washer's water valves. The hose can rupture and flood the house. -- Todd S., Roswell, New Mexico

Packing pieces

Dear Heloise: I donate foam packing pieces to packing stores, and they'll gladly accept them. In some cases, they'll even welcome used cardboard boxes. -- Patty D., via email

Spray can can-do

Dear Heloise: To keep my spray can of starch from falling off my ironing board, I put a rubber band around the middle and lay the can down on its side. That way, it won't roll off the ironing board. -- Cathy R., Holly Lake Ranch, Texas

Throw rugs

Dear Heloise: For years, I'd make myself nuts trying to read the little "wash/dry" instruction tags before laundering my small throw rugs.

Now I use a permanent laundry marker and jot down the wash/dry instructions on the backside of each rug. Just a quick glance, and I'm ready to set the proper wash cycle/water temperature and drying time and temperature. Works like a charm! -- Shirley E., Lynwood, Illinois

Bleach warning

Dear Heloise: This is just a warning for your readers who consider mixing chlorine bleach with other products: Please don't. Chlorine bleach mixed with ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, pool chemicals or vinegar, just to name a few, can produce a gas that can cause serious problems for the eyes, nose or lungs if inhaled. Even some detergents for laundry do not recommend using bleach with their products. Read all labels carefully. Sadder but wiser! -- Frances B., Morgantown, West Virginia

Safe containers

Dear Heloise: Children often assume anything in a drink or food container is safe to drink or eat. Ask a nurse in the emergency room: We never reuse these containers for anything unsafe to consume. -- A Texas Reader, via email

Plane footwear

Dear Heloise: Please tell your readers to forget about wearing flip-flops or extremely high heels on an airplane. If you had to run away from a burning plane or a minor crash site, they are more likely to trip you than help you get away. -- Joanna D., via email

Marker in dryer

Dear Heloise: My husband did a load of laundry and somehow left a permanent marker in his pocket. It soiled the drum in the dryer, and I'm worried that this will discolor other articles I place inside. How do I remove the marker streaks from inside my dryer? -- LeeAnne P., Cross Plains, Tennessee

LeeAnne, here are a couple of suggestions that might help:

1. Mix 1 part bleach with 2 parts water (use gloves for this). Soak some old towels in the bleach/water solution. Wring out the towels until they are not dripping anymore, then put them in the dryer. Run a complete drying cycle. Repeat until the stain is gone. Wipe down the inside with soap and water after you're done to remove any bleach residue.

2. Try nail polish remover. Soak a small part of a rag or sponge in acetone and, working in small circles, rub the marks with the acetone. Do not get any on plastic parts, and work in a well-ventilated area and never near a flame!

Removing stains can be a daunting task, but it can be made easier with my pamphlet Handy Stain Guide for Clothing. Go to my website, www. to order, or send $5, along with a long, stamped (70 cents), self-addressed envelope, to: Heloise/Stain, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio TX 78279-5001. You'll find all sorts of helpful suggestions and tips to make doing laundry easier and help you maintain your clothing in better shape. -- Heloise

Houseguest pest

Dear Heloise: I have an issue with my husband's sister. She always drops by unannounced, usually at dinnertime. I've asked her to call first, as we both have cellphones, but she ignores me. If she drops by and my hubby is outside, I let him deal with her. She lives five blocks away and has never invited us to her house. How should I handle this? -- Mary T., via email

Mary, you didn't mention why she's not welcome, but here are a couple of ideas:

  • Have your husband sit down with her and explain the rules of your home. Perhaps he can persuade her to respect your wishes.
  • She must enjoy your company, which actually is a compliment. However, if she continues to disrespect your rules and privacy, give her times and dates when she is allowed to stop over, such as 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays or noon to 2 p.m. on Sundays.
  • If all else fails, you could start acting as she does and just drop in on her whenever you feel like it. -- Heloise

Working from home

Dear Heloise: What do I say to people who ask when I'm going to get a real job instead of working from home? I have a 4-year-old child and a 6-month-old infant, and I feel fortunate to be able to work as an illustrator for children's books from my home. -- Linda T., Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania

Linda, tell them that you feel very fortunate to be able to spend time with your children while working at a job you love. -- Heloise

Towel trouble

Dear Heloise: I hate the "new" washing machines. I like water to fill the tub. My towels have an odor like mildew.

I hope you can help me. I'm glad you picked up where your mom left off. -- Dana W., Memphis, Tennessee

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Hi, Dana. Yes, I can help you. Here are some hints:

  • Don't overload the washer.
  • Layer towels evenly in the washer.
  • Fabric softener is not good for towels -- it can impede absorption.
  • Using the hottest washer setting, add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of baking soda with a small amount of detergent in the washer. Launder as usual, and dry. This should help eliminate the sour smell.

Did you know that baking soda is a workhorse around the house? It's great for cooking, cleaning and beauty -- a multitude of uses for only pennies per use!

I've compiled my favorite baking soda hints and recipes in a handy pamphlet -- would you like to receive one? It's easy! Visit and click on the upper right corner of the home page to order, or send a long, stamped, self-addressed envelope, along with $5, to: Heloise/Baking Soda, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio TX 78279-5001. Make a paste of baking soda, warm water and soap to scrub hands with. -- Heloise

Exchange club

Dear Heloise: I think you might like this and pass it on. I live in a retirement community. Every other year, our card club has a home decor exchange and luncheon.

The ladies bring their items to my house, and I stage them, then we shop. The items left over, we donate. The following year we do fashion items, which includes clothing, shoes, jewelry and more.

What a great way to reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle! -- Georgia C., via fax

Auto incorrect?

Dear Heloise: I'm so accustomed to my cellphone offering "autocorrect" that I wish my PC would do the same! True, I have spellcheck, but that autocorrect is faster! -- Jimmy Y. in St. Louis

Belt bags

Dear Heloise: I keep an old leather belt in the trunk to loop through handles of shopping bags to carry more of them more easily! -- Jenna B. in Arizona

Removing fingerprints

Dear Heloise: I use the last slice of white bread on my walls. I mash it into a ball, then sort of mush it into a smudge or fingerprint to remove it. -- Dannie T., Dayton, Ohio

Head to the mall?

Dear Heloise: I'm wondering how your readers feel about shopping malls? When I was a kid, I loved spending time at the mall with my friends; some malls had carousels, ice-skating rinks and movie theaters, and they all had wonderful food courts with delicious choices of eats. But now so many malls are going out of business.

In San Antonio, we still have malls that are doing well, but off-price stores and shopping online are gaining in popularity.

Will your readers always go to the mall? Do you like the energy there? The service? The people? It was convenient to have all the big stores under one roof, and years ago, I used to walk in the mall for exercise. That was fun.

The salespeople in the kiosks outside of the stores can be pretty pushy, but I've learned to just say, "No, thank you."

Is the shopping mall becoming a thing of the past? Hopefully not! -- Jana B., Helotes, Texas

Readers, what do you say about the shopping mall? I've done many book signings in many malls over the years -- a great place to come together! -- Heloise

Send a great hint to: Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio TX 78279-5000; fax: 1-210-HELOISE; email: