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Ask Us with Cat Pragoff: Pots left circles stained on marble tabletop

June 19. 2012 7:28PM

I have a small marble table where I put my cactus plants. There are now some visible circles where the pots were placed. I went online but didn't find much help. How can I clean the marble top? (from J.C., by email)

Dear J.C.: First, you have to determine what caused the staining. The most likely culprit would be rust, a metallic stain from the iron in hard water; but it could also be an organic stain from some soil that spilled from the planters; or perhaps there was some mildew or algae on the pot that transferred to the marble.

Once you have determined the cause of the stain, you can get to work. For an organic stain, pour hydrogen peroxide (35 percent solution) directly onto the stain. Add a few drops of ammonia and allow to bubble. Wipe with a clean dry cloth once the bubbling stops.

For a biological stain like algae, mildew or lichen, clean with hydrogen peroxide (35 percent solution) or bleach applied directly to the discoloration. Allow to sit for a few minutes before wiping with a clean dry cloth.

The most time-consuming solution is for metal stains like iron. For those, you need to make a paste the consistency of peanut butter out of sodium citrate and glycerin, both available from your local hardware store or pharmacy, then follow these steps:

-- Wet the stained area with distilled water. This is important because it fills the pores of the stone and isolates the stain.

-- Apply the paste to the stain in a layer about 1/4 inch thick.

-- Cover the paste with plastic wrap; tape down the plastic to seal the edges.

-- Let the paste dry completely, anywhere from 24 to 48 hours.

-- Remove the paste using distilled water; buff with a soft cloth. If the stain is still visible, repeat the procedure. You might need to do this up to 5 times before the stain is gone completely.

-- Remove the source of the stain. Consider using coasters, doilies or a tray to protect your marble top from the plant pots.

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Like a dope, I put my daughter's wool sweater in the dryer by mistake. Now we have what looks like a doll's sweater and a furious daughter. Can you suggest any way to un-shrink this woolen disaster? (from Haley's Mom, Allenstown)

Dear Haley's Mom: This happens more than you know and there is a way to make this better (but not perfect). As you have discovered, when wool gets warm and wet, the fibers lock together so tightly that a machine-dried sweater will come out up to three sizes smaller. Warmth by itself is okay. So is dampening. But put the two together and you've got an unwearable mess.

The process to un-shrink a sweater is tedious and time-consuming but it does work sometimes. First, soak the sweater in lukewarm water to which you've added 1/3 cup hair conditioner (or mild dish soap like Dawn). Work the solution through the sweater, gently pulling to separate the fibers, until you have worked through the entire sweater. Drain the water from the basin. Gently squeeze the water from the garment (do not wring out or twist the sweater) and lay it on a stack of absorbent bath towels. Carefully ease the sweater into its original shape and allow to air dry. Repeat this process if needed. After it's dry, rinse out the condition completely and lay the sweater flat to dry.

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You have probably had this question in the past but I don't remember seeing it, so will you please answer it again: how do I make my eyes look larger and slim down my nose at the same time, without surgery? There must be a quick and easy way to do this without spending a lot of money, right? (from Jessie, Manchester)

Dear Jessie: Yes, you're right. There's an easy, cost-effective way to manage both of these issues with one simple makeup purchase. Go to your favorite cosmetics counter and get a shimmer stick, also called a glisten stick. Apply the stick to the inner corner of each eye; the resulting light will open up the eye. Running the shimmer stick down the center of your nose will bring attention to the top of the nose, not the sides. For added oomph, dab a bit in the center of each lip to provide a quick pout.

Send questions of general interest to Ask Us, attention Cat Pragoff, New Hampshire Union Leader, P.O. Box 9555, Manchester 03108-9555, or by email at Due to the volume of mail received, Ask Us is not able send personal replies.

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