Q. I have several fine wool sweaters and some have suffered moth holes. I have placed cedar plaques and strakes in the drawer. They have only the faintest cedar smell. Is there any way to liven them up, or purchase cedar that has a strong scent?
A. Those cedar plaques and strakes are indeed cedar, which is actually juniper (the berries smell good, but not cedary). They are a dull brown color and have a faint cedar aroma. The faintness might be natural, or the cedar is old and clogged with dust and other pore-blocking material. You could try sanding them to restore the aroma, but any improvement will be minor. What you need are blocks of incense cedar, which is a very vivid red color that smells just great and is very pungent.
Incense cedar is a repellent, not a killer, but it can work very well. If you can’t find the blocks, buy incense cedar boards called Closet Liner. You don’t have to line your closet with the boards, just add one or two to your sweater drawer and see what happens. If you see any worms, you might have to resort to chemicals.
Q. My kitchen counter surface is a plastic laminate similar to Formica. It shows faint but annoying rings where cups and glasses were left sitting. The surface is otherwise undamaged. We’ve unsuccessfully tried spray cleaners. What can you recommend?
A. Try rubbing with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. It is essentially a dry sponge that you wet with water, then squeeze dry. Slight abrasion is what makes it work.
Later, Mark replied: We’ve tried the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser with great success. Light rubbing took the marks away without damaging the appearance of the laminate. Many thanks!
Q. What is the best way to test for mold inside the house? We are having our first child soon and want to make sure the inside air is safe.
A. The nose knows. Often just sniffing will reveal the existence of mold. If your home feels a bit damp, chances are good there is mold somewhere. If your home is nice and dry, you’re probably safe. These techniques are not recommended because they are not foolproof. So, find a mold remedial person who can check with his equipment and certify that your unit is safe or not. One of the top remedial companies is May Indoor Air Investigations in Tyngsboro (www.mayindoorair.com).
Q. Last year I bought an old house with a concrete basement floor. I painted the floor with cement floor paint. I have noticed since that there is white powdery seepage coming up through the paint. What is it and how can I keep it from happening? If I tile the floor will the tiles loosen at some point because of this white stuff?
A. I am not sure what you mean by a cement floor paint. If it is Drylock, it is a cement-based paint, and usually will not work well on a concrete floor. But if the paint is not peeling, you will be OK. The white stuff is efflorescence, the leaching of lime out of the paint or out of any concrete by water. It is harmless and can be swept up and thrown away. It cannot be stopped except by eliminating all water, including water vapor that condenses into water on cold surfaces.
All things considered, I think you can put down ceramic tiles with a thin-set mortar after sweeping the floor thoroughly. To be sure, try this experiment: Put down a dozen or so tiles with thin-set. If the tiles stick to the floor and would take a considerable effort to loosen, then go ahead with the rest of the floor.
on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton (firstname.lastname@example.org) also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. To participate, go to www.boston.com.