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DEAR HELOISE: At the start of cold and flu season, I got in the habit of washing my hands when I came home after doing errands. But I also added the extra step of wiping down the steering wheel, gear shift, car door handle and anything else I touched with a sanitary wipe. It would seem especially more important to take this extra precaution during the present health crisis.

I enjoy reading your tips in The Villages Daily Sun and passing them on to family.

-- Virginia B.,

Fruitland Park, Fla.

DEAR HELOISE: My dog is a sloppy eater and drinker, so there was always a mess to clean up. I put a rubber bathmat under his bowls to catch all the spills. I scrub it clean with a brush in the sink using some dishwashing soap and water.

-- Gloria in Maine

DEAR READER: Great idea! A designated cloth, dish-drying mat would work as well. Just throw it in the washing machine to clean.

DEAR HELOISE: I love watching birds visit my birdbath, but I was having a problem with algae growth due to the birdbath being in the direct sun. So I moved the birdbath under a tree. The birds loved the new location! The tree branches not only blocked the sun's rays, but also provided a safe landing spot out of predators' view.

-- Robyn in Texas

DEAR HELOISE: I would like to suggest that people use old tires for planters if they're growing flowers, but not for growing edibles. Plants can pick up chemicals from the tire in the soil, and vegetables, such as potatoes, can end up tasting like old tires. -- Kathy in Bozeman, Mont.

DEAR HELOISE: Help! I left my plastic grocery bag too near a hot burner on my stove. The bag melted and stuck to the burner. How can I safely remove the melted plastic?

-- Phyllis in Texas

DEAR READER: I've certainly heard this one before. It's a very common problem. Don't worry. It's easy to fix. Fill the sink with enough hot water to completely cover the burner, and let it soak until the water cools. After draining the water, sprinkle salt on the melted plastic. Scrub with the rough side of a kitchen sponge. The salt should serve as a mild abrasive. Then rinse away the plastic.

Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000; fax to (210) 435-6473; or email

[email protected]

Weekend on 05/21/2020

Print Headline: Helpful Hints

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