Handyman on call

Ventilation is only way to remove sealant odor

Q. I just finished a new bathroom that I haven’t been able to start using because the sealant used on the Travertine tiles, granite vanity top, and marble thresholds smells terrible!

 I was surprised the contractor used this on the granite and marble as well; we thought he was going to use it only on the stone tile.

 I have washed everything with soapy water and left the window open, with a fan blowing outward, but the smell is still very strong. I was told this is because the main ingredient in the sealer is linseed oil. Can you suggest any way to get rid of the smell?


— Sandra Kimball, Norfolk


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A. Ventilation is the only way to get rid of the smell of the sealer. I am not sure linseed oil is a part of the sealer, and if it is, it is not as bad as you say the odor is. One thing you can do is to call the installer and have him cover the smell or take the sealer off, although granite and marble definitely need a sealer. Travertine really does not need a sealer, despite being a marble.

Q. I cleaned a stainless steel backsplash of my stove with the scrub side of the sponge and scratched the entire surface. Is there a method to remove the scratches?

— Marty, New Bedford

MARTY, New Bedford

A. The backsplash is probably a smooth, shiny stainless, unlike brushed stainless, as in sinks, so no abrasives should be used on it. Buy a stainless steel lotion at a supermarket or hardware store. If you can’t find one, use a lotion designed for glass stove tops.


Q. I am getting banging pipes when the heat comes on in my hot water system. A plumber checked it out and could find nothing wrong. What can I do?

— Panicking


A. Find another plumber, because banging pipes are not right. It might be expansion of the pipes by the heat rising, but the banging sounds louder than the tick-ticking pipes expanding when they heat up (and cool off).

 Or try this yourself. Bleed the radiators while the system is running, to let air out of the pipes.

Q. My son is in a first-floor condo with two floors above his. A flood ended up in his condo, resulting in a large wet area on his carpeting, and a water stain on the ceiling, which is insulated with 6 inches of fiberglass. What can he do?


— Tom Bonito, Manchester, N.H.

TOM BONITO, Manchester, N.H.

A. He should file a claim with his insurance agent to clean the rug, and take down the ceiling and remove the wet insulation before putting up new insulation and a new ceiling. Wet insulation will take months to dry out in a restricted, unventilated area. Taking that long, mold will grow.

Q. My upstairs shower and bath tends to gurgle when I flush the toilet. The drain is not slow, but I put Drano in the drain anyway. Six days later, the gurgling returned. Anything wrong?

— Marcia Joyce, Duxbury


A. I don’t think anything is wrong. What is happening: The tub and shower drain(s) are piped into the toilet drain (or vice versa), so when water rushes into the drain or goes by it, it gurgles. If the drains go into the main soil pipe, the gurgling also can occur. I can’t tell you why it may stop on occasion, but there is nothing wrong. My bathtub gurgles whenever sink water runs or the toilet is flushed. This has been going on for 40 years and there’s still no problem. We got used to it.

Q. The slate on my table is multicolored and has an uneven surface. I left a purple rubber stress ball on it overnight, and it looks like the rubber stained the table, like dark grease stains. I can’t tell if dye from the ball seeped into the slate or if it’s just an oil residue.

 How can I remove the stain without discoloring the slate? I know this is an odd question, but I would appreciate any advice.

— Diane H., by e-mail

DIANE H., by e-mail

A. Try cleaning with one of the citrus-based cleaners, such as Citrus Green or Citrus Clean. Or, with paint thinner. Or, try running alcohol or denatured alcohol. A final try is to rub it with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton is also in the g section on Thursdays. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton ( chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. To participate, go to