INSIDE & OUT : Stripping Is a Bare Necessity to Lighten Dark Walnut Table


Q. We’ve been given a beautiful old table with a dark walnut finish from a relative. We love it, but it doesn’t go very well with our other, whitewashed furniture. Is there a way to lighten the finish?

R. C., Anaheim

A. The table will have to be hand-stripped first, to remove the old finish and any wax buildup, says Chris Maciel of the Old Way Furniture Refinishing & Repair in La Habra.

Using a stripping paste, chemically remove the old finish. After it’s been cleaned and dried, lightly sand the wood with the grain with very fine 220-grit sandpaper.

If the table still isn’t light enough for you, take household bleach and apply it to the wood with a rag, then sand it again after it has dried. You can then apply the stain you’d like see on the table, a natural oil or a whitewashed finish.


Q. I love the feel of wool carpeting, but I’ve been told that it’s harder to maintain than synthetics. Is that true?


D. E., Fullerton

A. Wool does need to be cared for differently, which is one reason most people choose synthetic fiber carpeting, says Mark Silverberg of New York Carpets in Anaheim.

Because it can shrink, it must be cleaned with a powder-extraction method, as opposed to a steam or water method. Wool is also a problem if you happen to have someone in the house who is allergic to the fiber.

On the plus side, it’s very soft and it’s also used in large commercial applications because of its fire-retardant qualities.

Many of the newer synthetics available have the same look and feel of wool at a fraction of the cost. You might also consider getting a wool throw rug. This will give you the wool feel, with the ease of being able to put it in the car and take it to the dry cleaners.


Q. We have the massage-style shower heads in our bathrooms, and over time, the water flow has slowed, and they’re not as effective as they used to be. I’d rather not completely remove the heads and replace them. Can they be fixed while they’re still attached to the shower?

C. H., Irvine

A. The best you can do without removing them is to take a pin and poke through the holes in the head, says plumber Steve Williams of Costa Mesa.

These are often obstructed by water deposits, and you may be able to clear enough of them to notice a difference in the water flow. If you can manage to remove the heads yourself, you can let them sit in a bowl of vinegar, which will help remove the scale deposits, then clean them out with fresh water and a pipe brush.


Q. Our furnace is equipped with an electrostatic filter, which removes dust particles from the air. I’ve seen the filter--it looks like a simple metal grate. Should it be replaced periodically, or can I clean it?

T. C., Villa Park

A. At least once a year, you should probably clean the filter, says Joel Gwartz of B.J. Discount Plumbing & Heating Supply in Garden Grove.

Simply remove it, take it into the backyard, spray it with a hose until it’s clean and let it dry. These type of filters use static electricity to help clean the air, and if they’re not maintained, they can clog and lose their efficiency.


Q. I’d like to raise the level of the doorknob on our front door about 3 inches. Can this be done?

E. I., Santa Ana


A. It can, but because of the work involved, you may just want to live with the shorter knob, says carpenter Jim Blum of Orange. You’ll need to drill a new hole in the door and a coordinating hole in the jamb for the striker.

You’ll have to patch the old holes in the door, and if your door is stained and not painted, patching is real problem because it will be nearly impossible to hide the old holes. If that’s the case, you’ll probably want to just paint the door after fixing the holes.

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.