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Do It Yourself: Helping countertops regain their shine

Q. Our solid-surface countertop has lost some of its luster. An employee at a home center recommended a furniture polish to restore the shine, but it left a slimy residue. What is the correct way to shine up the counter?

A. Several polishes and cleaners are recommended for solid-surface materials like countertops and vanities.

DuPont, makers of the popular Corian solid-surface material, recommends Hope’s Counter Polish or Countertop Magic. You should be able to find these products at solid-surface dealers or at some supermarkets. They are also available on the Web.

Your experience with furniture polish underscores the importance of testing an unfamiliar product on a small area before using it over a large surface.

Many manufacturers of solid-surface materials recommend using a damp, clean cloth for routine cleaning. If more thorough cleaning is needed, use a solution of mild soap and water, such as a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid in a quart of warm water.

For deep cleaning, use an ammoniated cleaner such as Top Job With Ammonia. A special cleaner, Clean EnCounter, is also available.

After cleaning, wipe completely dry. Most window cleaners contain ammonia, but are not recommended for solid-surface materials.

Q. We hear a running-water sound near our bathroom sink, even when we are not using it. What could be causing this?

A. It is possible you have a hidden leak, and it should be checked immediately because it could cause a great deal of damage.

First, check obvious sources of leaks near the sink – under the sink, of course, and the nearby toilet.

A toilet-tank leak can often be spotted by a slight movement of the water in the bowl when the toilet has not been flushed. Or you can verify if the toilet is leaking by the old method of putting food coloring into the tank and checking in an hour or so to see whether the color shows up in the bowl.

Also check all visible water pipes in the basement, if you have one. Finally, make sure all water-using fixtures and appliances are shut off and check the reading on your water meter. Check the meter again in an hour or so, and if it shows that water has been used, you have a leak somewhere in your system.

If that’s the case, have a plumber check your system immediately. Even if a leak isn’t visible, it could be causing damage and pushing up your water bill.

Q. When we moved into our condo a year or so ago, there was an inactive bird’s nest under the retractable awning over the patio. We removed the nest but it was rebuilt this year. We’ll let the birds hatch and move on, but how can we keep the nest out permanently? The birds make a mess on the siding and patio.

A. After the birds abandon the nest, remove it and clean the nesting area thoroughly. Staple or otherwise fasten screening over the nest area and adjacent area that might be used for nesting. Use a fine-mesh screen, such as vinyl window screening, that will keep the birds out but not trap them.

Some bird netting, such as the stuff sold at garden-supply outlets to keep birds out of fruit trees, is so coarse it can fatally trap small birds.

Correction: In a recent column, the name of a fastener that can be used to install grab bars on drywall was misspelled. It’s Wingits, not Wrights.

Questions and comments should be e-mailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.