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DEAR READERS: As we go into fall and winter, we'll be spending more time indoors, and less time outdoors breathing in the fresh air. Do you know that houseplants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into your home through the process of photosynthesis?

One of my favorite houseplants is the spider plant. They are easy to grow and care for and they have long, pretty green and white leaves. A cute feature of the spider plant is its plantlets. Some call them "babies," but regardless, these offshoots dangle from the main plant and produce flowers.

And this is wild: NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) did a study trying to figure out how to clean the air in space stations. They came up with a list of almost 20 houseplants, and the spider plant was included, along with English ivy -- a lovely, delicate-looking but hardy plant. Fill your home with houseplants; they can help keep your air clean.

DEAR HELOISE: In response to a recent column about dried toothpaste blotches in bathroom sinks ... I cover them with a damp sponge. In no time, the dried blotches wipe away with no scrubbing.

-- Mary Anne Graham

in Round Hill, Va.

DEAR HELOISE: Would you please teach your readers that when referring to distance, whether a town or anything, use the word "farther" -- as a town is farther north from here. "Further" refers to an extension of time or degree, such as a further study of something.

-- J.M.C., via email

DEAR READER: Yes, you are correct. English can be a complicated language. "Farther" refers to physical distances, while "further" typically refers to a more figurative distance. A teacher might say: We are getting further along in our study of the English language.

DEAR HELOISE: I never use ammonia on any gems, soft or hard. Most have color added, and that will significantly fade, as I found out the hard way. I use a glass cleaner without ammonia and a soft brush. No need to soak. I rinse with water and dry with a soft cloth.

-- Reader, via email

DEAR HELOISE: I never flush cat waste down the toilet. Cat litter with the waste often contains clay, which is terrible for the plumbing; it can gum up the pipes. I would advise your readers to dispose of cat litter and waste in the trash only.

-- Barbara

in New Mexico

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

[email protected]

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