Q: My concrete patio has stains from potted plants that have been moved. I've tried using vinegar to remove them, but that hasn't worked. Any other ideas?
A: You'll probably want to try something stronger, such as a concrete driveway cleaner, says Pete Gorman of Rancho Lumber in Westminster.
Follow the directions and use a scrub brush. If that doesn't do the trick, you'll probably need to use muriatic acid and water. Take care when using the acid, and when you're done, sprinkle the area with baking soda to neutralize it so that it won't affect the surrounding lawn or plants.
Also, be aware that the area you clean is going to look whiter than the rest of the patio. You may need to clean the entire patio to get a uniform look.
Q: My 7-year-old refrigerator has a horrible odor, and I've cleaned it out several times to no avail. Is there anything else I can do about it?
A: It may be time to empty the refrigerator and turn it off for a while, says Tom Houlihan of Orange County Appliance Parts in Garden Grove. In older refrigerators, the insulation between the refrigerator and freezer compartments gets damp, which creates an odor.
Turn it off, clean the interior compartment with bleach and water, then let it sit for a few days. That's not a sure-fire remedy, though. Sometimes a refrigerator develops an odor, and there's no way to remove it.
Q: I have a Waterford crystal decanter with a long, narrow neck. A film has formed on the inside that I haven't been able to remove. It was suggested to me to use a denture cleaner in the decanter, but that didn't work. Is there anything else that can do the job without harming the piece?
A: You should probably keep trying with the denture cleaner, says of Paula Neff of RSVP in Tustin. Use it several times, and also try scrubbing the sides with a soft, long bottlebrush. However, make sure that the brush doesn't have a sharp metal end that will scratch the crystal.
Q: On three of our exterior stucco walls, ivy has grown up and covers them completely. We like the look, but we've been told by people that ivy can destroy a wall. Is that true, and is there a way to protect the wall without taking the ivy down?
A: If you like the ivy look, just keep it trimmed. It's not going to destroy the stucco wall, says Bill Sink of Angelus Quarries in Santa Ana.
The problem with ivy comes when people want it gone. The roots that are left on the wall are very difficult to remove. They may need to be sandblasted or, in extreme cases, the stucco may need to be replaced.
Keep the ivy away from the eaves, because the shoots can get into the crevices between the house and roof, where they'll grow and cause damage.
Q: We're going to paint in our bedrooms, and I'm trying to find a solution to a nagging, recurring problem. When I paint over a surface that's been chipped, there's a depression that doesn't look filled in. I've tried painting over the spot several times and filling it in with patching compound, but it never looks like the rest of the surface. Any ideas?
A: It's all in the preparation, says house painter Gary Schell of Fountain Valley. In an area where you have a big chip, sand around the area so that the paint around it is flush with the wall or wood. Use a good quality patch and apply it very thinly; let it dry completely, then sand it with very fine sandpaper to make it flush with the rest of the surface.
If you have a question about your home or garden, A Helping Hand will help you find the answer. Send questions to: John Morell, Home Design, The Times Orange County, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.