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Do It Yourself: Porcelain patches can fill in chips

Q. Our porcelain bathtub has a couple of deep chips in the bottom where a wrench was dropped during plumbing repairs. Is there any way to fix this?

A. There are products available to patch porcelain surfaces likes tubs, sinks and toilets, but it might be difficult to get an exact color match.

Even white has so many shades that it can be hard to match. One company that provides a lot of help in color matching is KIT Industries, which makes a line of products that will help you patch and glaze the chipped areas.

Repair products by other manufacturers are also available, some of them in kit form; if you want to check some of these, use a search engine and the words Bathtub Chip Repair Products.

If you choose KIT Industries products and the chips are deep, you’ll need Porc-a-Filler (about $8) to level them with the surrounding surface. To match the color, you’ll need Porc-a-fix Prochain Touch-Up Glaze (about $9).

There are several ways to help get the color correct, but the best is to know the manufacturer of the tub. For information, visit; the website also has a color chart to help you zero in on the correct color.

Patching products come with directions, which you should read and follow carefully.

Incidentally, it is always a good idea to protect sensitive surfaces like porcelain when working around them with heavy tools. Pad the surface with old towels, blankets or whatever other soft materials you can gather to absorb the impact of a dropped tool.

If the patch is too conspicuous, you can refinish the entire tub with an epoxy tub-and-tile paint.

Q. We live in a hard-water area and have trouble keeping our toilets clean of mineral deposits. Can you help?

A. If you are getting toilet “rings,” stains or poor flushing because of hard water, try a product like Lime-a-Way, which will help dissolve accumulated minerals. Keep in mind that many toilet-cleaning products are very strong chemicals, and you should read and observe all the cautions and directions.

If you want to try something safer, pour a quart or so of white vinegar into the toilet and let it stand overnight; vinegar is a very mild acid that will often dissolve or loosen calcium compounds, a common hard-water mineral.

In the case of toilet rings – a crust of minerals that form around the water line in the toilet bowl – you might need to use a strong cleaner and a lot of scrubbing to remove them. Readers have told me that once a ring is removed, it can be kept from forming again by sloshing a toilet brush around the inside of the bowl after every use of the toilet.

If poor flushing because of mineral accumulation is a problem, you might have to clean out the minerals in the small openings of the toilet bowl where the flush water enters and exits the bowl. The smallest openings are usually under the rim; ream out the minerals with a piece of stiff coat-hanger wire or a small screwdriver.

The ultimate cure for hard water, of course, is a water softener in your water-supply pipe. If your problems are persistent enough, a softener is a good investment.

Q. We have a concrete floor that was colored with dye when it was poured seven years ago. Recently a white powder has been appearing on the surface. The powder can be brushed off. How can we stop the powdering and restore the floor?

A. The powder is called efflorescence and it consists of soluble salts that are leaching out of the concrete, carried by moisture that is coming to the surface.

Brushing or vacuuming off the powder, as you have been doing, is probably your best option. Powerful acids are sometimes used to treat efflorescence, but they are hazardous to use and could stain or mar your colored concrete.

In time, when all the soluble salts in the concrete have been brought to the surface, the powdering might stop on its own.

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

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