Q. My year-old dishwasher has started to leave a white residue on glasses and cups. I've tried various rinsing agents as well as washing the dishes before putting them in the washer, but nothing has worked. Any ideas?
J.M., San Clemente
A. When you see a problem like that, the first thing to suspect is that the water temperature is too low, says Tom Houlihan of Orange County Appliance Parts in Garden Grove. Most dishwashers operate best with water that's 140 degrees. Some types of dishwashers have an element that makes water from the hot water line reach this temperature. If this part fails, you may see the white deposits. For dishwashers that use the hot water directly from the water heater, check to see if the water heater is working properly. Sometimes people will turn down the thermostat on the water heater to save energy, but the water becomes too cool to wash dishes well.
Q. I replaced the rubber cone valve assembly in my toilet with an inexpensive "flap" valve. Now I'm having lots of problems with the tank water leaking into the bowl. Is the cone valve superior to the flap valve?
A.S., Santa Ana
A. Cone or ball valves are designed to seat on the inside of the flange at the bottom of the tank, says Joel Gwartz of B.J. Discount Plumbing Supply in Garden Grove. The flap-style valves sit on top of the flange. If the top of the flange is scored or otherwise rough, the flap won't seat properly. You may want to go back to the original design and use a ball-type valve. The other option would be to replace the flange, but that's not easy.
Q. We have a concrete walkway in the garden in our back yard, and some of the wood strips that separate the slabs have raised up or have popped out. We were told we could fill the spaces with asphalt patch, but I don't like that look. Is there a better solution?
A. You need to have a flexible joint between those slabs, which is why asphalt or concrete is not a good solution, says Pete Gorman of Rancho Lumber in Westminster. Otherwise, the concrete can crack as it naturally expands and contracts. Usually the slabs are separated by wood or felt. The best thing to use is heart redwood, which comes from the center of the tree and is resistant to dry-rot. You can either use a concrete adhesive to secure it or have it tapered so that you just have to take a rubber mallet and tap it in.
Q. I recently painted my bathroom using a roller, and despite masking, I got tiny dots of paint on the mirror and on some of the brass fixtures. I know I could probably scrape them off with a razor blade, but is there anything I can use with a rag that will wipe them off?
K.H., Westminster A. If you used a latex paint, try a sponge and some soap and hot water, says Eric Zelle of Hal's Paint & Decorating in Fullerton. With a little elbow grease, they should come off. If you used an oil- or alkyd-based paint, try paint thinner or one of the products made especially for the removal of oil paints. First, test the product on an inconspicuous part of the brass to see if it mars the finish. If you fear it might, go with a razor blade.
Q. I have an old jalousie-style window in my bathroom, and the handle for the crank has broken off. Are parts for these windows still available?
B.B., La Mirada
A. You can probably find a handle at most glass and window shops, says Dee Watt of College Glass & Mirror in Fullerton. But these windows haven't been made in a long time because they're so drafty. Some parts for them are not easy to find, such as the metal frame around each slat. For that reason, it's a good idea to keep the window in good working order.