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Helpful Hints

by Heloise | April 8, 2021 at 1:36 a.m.

DEAR READERS: Spring has sprung; you may be thinking of sprucing up your wardrobe, getting out of sweatpants and getting back to some semblance of normal, including your fashions.

If you're looking for a great deal, you might think, "Let's head to the outlet store." I'll bet you see the outlet store as a repository for department store over-runs, department store off-season items, and a place to get a great bargain.

But hold on. Big-name designers have begun creating lines of fashion items specifically for their own branded outlet stores.

The name is there, and the price is low. What a deal. But, the quality is low as well. The Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) is advising consumers to be aware.

Thin, lesser-quality fabrics are often used, along with poor stitching; the sewing skill is not there. Cheaper buttons and zippers are used; patterns may not line up. All signs of lower-quality merchandise.

These items are not left over from the department store; they are manufactured especially for the outlet store. It's certainly a choice we have as consumers; just caveat emptor -- be aware of what you're buying.

P.S. There are discount department stores (you know their names) that carry designer, name-branded items. Their items may very well be left over from the department store.

DEAR HELOISE: Will you help settle an argument? What is the order of operations for dental hygiene? Brush, floss, rinse? Floss, brush, rinse, or rinse, floss brush?

-- So Confused, via email in N.Y.

DEAR READER: Let's take a look. First thing in the morning, you may be tempted to grab a glug of mouthwash and then brush and floss. Resist.

Especially if your mouthwash contains fluoride, you'll want the wash to sit on your teeth as you go about your day. Use mouthwash last.

Experts are divided on whether brushing first or flossing first is ideal. You need to floss every day, but only once a day before bed, so many dentists advise to brush, floss, then rinse.

However, flossing first ensures that food particles are swept out, which can make for a more thorough brushing.

As long as you're doing all three tasks, your oral hygiene should stay on track. Check with your dentist for what he or she recommends.

P.S. Never flush dental floss. Dispose of it in the trash.

DEAR HELOISE: Remember wicker from the 1980s? It appears to be making a comeback. But what is wicker? A fiber?

-- Shauna S. in Tennessee

DEAR READER: Yes, I've been seeing more wicker about. The term "wicker," however, refers not to the material, but to the actual act of constructing the piece. Wicker, some say, is derived from the word "woven."

What's woven? Reed, willow, rattan ... strong, durable fibers that are lightweight. Indoor, outdoor -- look for wicker everywhere.

DEAR HELOISE: I've heard the hack about drying hair with a T-shirt. Don't like it. I blot (never rub) my medium-length hair with a microfiber towel, let it air dry while I do my makeup, and then gently comb through and blow dry on low.

When the hair is wet, it swells and becomes prone to breakage. Heat is terrible for hair as well.

-- Lisa D. in Maryland

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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