Iron or steam can reduce wrinkles in tablecloth

DEAR HELOISE: I love to cover my tables with vinyl tablecloths, but I would like to know how to get them to lie flat. After they are folded for storage, they will not lie flat. Is there any way to remove those deep folds? — Linda in Oshkosh, Wis.

DEAR LINDA: If they are cloth-backed, you can try ironing them on a low setting. Or drape them over the shower rod, turn on the hot water and let them steam for a little while. Instead of folding them, why not hang them somewhere or keep them on the table under each other so they don’t get the deep folds? — Heloise

DEAR HELOISE: I am a retired schoolteacher, so I know this is a good hint. Some teachers use wire hangers for classroom art projects. Just phone your neighborhood elementary school and ask if there is a need. — J.N., via email

DEAR HELOISE: After putting it off for too many years, we finally replaced our 15-year-old mattress and box spring set. We didn’t have to break the bank.

What a difference! If people think the aches and pains they have are just signs of old age and something to just live with, not true. It may just be your mattress.

Considering that sleep is important to general health and that we spend a large portion of our lives in a sleep posture, a new mattress is worth every penny. After just one week, the results are nothing short of therapeutic. We wake up refreshed. — John P., Pine Brook, N.J.

DEAR JOHN: You’re right; a new mattress can make all the difference in the world. According to the Better Sleep Council, there are four main factors to remember when it comes to mattresses: “Support, comfort, space and matching sets.” Everyone is different, but the best mattress for you will help keep your spine in alignment, be comfortable and give you (and another person) enough space. The council also recommends buying a complete set because they are designed to work together.

There is no “set” time frame that a mattress will last, due to several factors. If you wake up on a regular basis feeling sore or stiff, if you notice that you are no longer getting enough sleep, or that there are signs of wear and tear, get a new bed. To get more helpful hints on mattresses and better sleep, you can visit the Better Sleep Council at — Heloise

P.S.: The popular myth that a mattress doubles in weight in eight years and should be replaced is not true. Show me the facts and science behind this urban myth.

DEAR HELOISE: Several years ago, I bought my wife a new cast-iron frying pan that is now starting to develop small rust spots on the cooking surface. I later learned that cast-iron pans are supposed to be “seasoned” to prevent this from happening. Can this pan be fixed, or should we just buy a new one? And what is the proper care of cast-iron cookware? — Jim T., via email

DEAR JIM: Don’t throw out the pan. Rust can develop when the pan is air-dried or even scrubbed with steel wool. The pan should be washed and dried immediately. Many cooks (me included) put the pan back on the still-hot stove burner to dry.

To season or reseason, use hot water, only a drop of soap and a nylon scrubbie or plastic brush to clean (never place the pan in the dishwasher). Rinse and dry well. Then, to season, use melted vegetable shortening. Wipe it all around the pan until the entire surface is covered. Place in a 375 F oven, upside down on a cookie sheet. “Bake” for an hour. Turn the oven off and let the pan cool completely before taking it out. — Heloise

P.S.: Wipe the pan with a little vegetable oil on a paper towel every time you clean it to prevent rust.

DEAR HELOISE: Is there anything that can remedy the water in a snow globe when it becomes very clouded and discolored? I’m a Staten Island (N.Y.) Advance reader, and I look forward to your answer. — Louise O., Staten Island, N.Y.

DEAR LOUISE: Don’t you just love snow globes? Such a simple thing that makes us smile. First, does it have a plug? If so, you can carefully empty the water and refill with distilled water using a turkey baster. Older globes were made using water, but today almost all are manufactured with a synthetic liquid: glycol (i.e., antifreeze). If yours is a new one, leave it to a professional to take care of the globe.

If your snow globe does not have a plug but is sealed, you may need to send it to a skilled restorer to clean.

To store your snow globes, keep them in a temperature-controlled area, away from sunlight. Too much heat and the water will evaporate. Direct sunlight also can cause the colors to fade. — Heloise

DEAR HELOISE: I think it is unsanitary to have one hand towel in the guest bathroom for everyone to use. Therefore, in my guest bathroom, in addition to the usual hand towel, there is a roll of paper towels (handily situated) for people to use if they choose. — P.L., Prescott Valley, Ariz.

DEAR P.L.: A good hint, especially when having a party with a lot of people using the restroom. I have some attractive paper “guest towels” (hand towels) that are in a little holder out on the counter. Also, I hang three to four hand towels on the wall holder or bar so I can just remove one that’s too soiled or damp and replace with a fresh one. — Heloise

DEAR READERS: Other uses for clean laundry-detergent caps:

n Put cotton swabs in one.

n Keep on the dryer to collect spare change.

n Collect dryer lint in one.

n Use as a scoop for birdseed.

n Use as a scoop for cat litter or pet food.

— Heloise

DEAR HELOISE: I have some folding chairs that need to be stored in the living room. I made some fabric covers that fit snugly over them. They are the same color as the walls, so you hardly even notice that they are there. — Christine in Salem, Ore.

Here’s another hint from Christine:

I have some yellow bath towels that stain easily. Even after using eye-makeup remover, my makeup does not all come off. When I am showering, I wipe my eyes near the tag. When it is time to wash the towels, I know that there is only one place to check for stains.

DEAR HELOISE: If you are using too much dish soap with a hand-washing instrument (the type that has liquid soap in the handle), then try this: When purchasing a new device with a detachable sponge, place a piece of tape over the hole of the sponge. Using a toothpick, puncture a small-size hole through the tape, over the fill hole. Assemble the sponge with the handle and fill. If the liquid is too restricted, then make the same hole a little larger with the toothpick. This eliminates excess soap. — Joe L., via email

DEAR HELOISE: My dog recently went blind, and our family had some adjusting to do. I wanted to share a few hints with you and your readers that might help someone else who’s going through this.

We talk to our dog a lot more now. We want him to know that we are in the room and that he isn’t alone. Always make sure you talk to pets before touching them so you don’t scare them when they aren’t expecting it.

Leave the furniture where it is. He has learned where the furniture is and can move around it. If you change the location of a piece of furniture, pets could lose their way and bump into it.

When he first went blind and was learning his way, we padded the sharp corners on coffee tables, etc. They sell furniture pads for childproofing that work very well for pets, too.

We also placed a mat under his food and water bowls. If he feels the mat, he knows he is close to the bowl and isn’t searching for it and spilling food and water.

Hope this helps. — Linda in Vermont

DEAR LINDA: When our previous mini schnauzer, Savvi, went blind due to diabetes, I put some of my perfume on a cotton ball and dabbed it around her doggie door to help her find it. She managed very well after only a few days. However, when the carpet was cleaned, her “scent trail” was gone. So we walked several times through the house, and she was right at home finding her way. — Heloise

DEAR HELOISE: I read about the new mother who learned to keep her bought-in-bulk baby towelettes moist by storing them upside down. I thought I’d share my innovation of moistening by pouring a tiny bit of distilled water on them, then turning them upside down. — K.O., via email

Hints from Heloise is syndicated by King Features Syndicate. Send great hints to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000; by fax, 210-HELOISE (435-6473); or by e-mail,