Q. I have white ceramic tile on my kitchen counters; recently I noticed the white grout has become gray and discolored. I applied a white colorant to the grout, and the result was great. However, a week later long strips of colorant began to come off. I washed the tile and grout before applying the colorant; is there anything else I should have done?
N.R., Rancho Santa Margarita
A. You should really scrub the grout lines, then wait a few days before applying the colorant to let the moisture dry out, says Gloria Richey of Tile Importers in Anaheim.
Use a stiff brush and some soap and hot water and wipe it dry. If you apply the colorant before the grout dries fully, it won't penetrate very well. Also be aware that a kitchen counter especially may be in contact with acids such as spilled orange or tomato juice and that if these are not cleaned up completely, they'll affect the way the colorant works.
Q. I'm thinking of doing some painting inside, and I'm at a loss as to how I'm going to paint my high stairwell. It's easy enough to attach a roller to a pole, but how do I cut in with a brush where the ceiling meets the walls?
F.E., Anaheim Hills
A. There is an attachment for a painting pole that you can put a brush on and use to reach those hard-to-get places, says Gene Teramura of California Decorating Center in Santa Ana.
Be careful and go slowly, especially if your walls are a different color than your ceiling.
Another option is to rent scaffolding, but that isn't practical for most people because the high areas inaccessible by ladders in most homes are not very big.
Q. In the backyard of my 43-year-old house I have a hose bib that's rusty and leaking. I've tried to remove it, but it seems to be locked on the pipe. I've tried some spray lubricants but they haven't done much. Is there something else I can use to get rid of the rust?
R.Y., Buena Park
A. Some lubricants also work as rust removers; you may want to try some of those name-brand lubricants again. Let them work overnight after liberally spraying them all over the hose bib, says Frank Eckert of Arrow True Value Hardware in Orange.
Use a large wrench with a long handle to get some leverage and turn the bib. One thing that's important is to secure the pipe behind the bib with a pipe wrench and hold it while you're turning the bib.
If you don't do this, you could end up damaging the pipe. Before putting a new bib on, wrap the threads with Teflon tape to ensure a good seal and to make it easier to remove the bib later.