Q. The water in my washing machine smells bad. The washer works fine, but the gray water stinks. Any suggestions?
PETER NOONAN, Albany, N.Y.
A. It beats the heck out of the Handyman, but try this: Put the washer on the smallest capacity with two or three small white towels. Add a cup of bleach and put the washer through its paces. There might be mold or other organic matter stuck in there, and the bleach will take care of it. If it does, you may be home free. If not, call your appliance dealer.
Q. I have a switch plate in the bathroom with little black letters on it that say vent, heat, light, night light. The letters rubbed off eventually. I bought a new switch plate and I want to know how to ‘protect’ the letters from this happening again.
DENISE, by e-mail
A. The plate is painted steel or plastic. If it’s a new one, unfasten it and apply a clear coat of Krylon aerosol spray.
Q. My 1989 house has popcorn ceilings, and parts of the ceiling are peeling off, especially around recessed light fixtures. How can I restore those peeling areas?
A. I think you can buy popcorn ceiling restoration kits in big-box and hardware stores, or paint stores. The popcorn can be washed off relatively easily if you want to change the ceiling, but some may contain asbestos, so it would be wise to have a sample checked at a testing lab.
Q. My sliding patio door is very hard to move, and is bumpy when I do move it. What’s wrong and how can I fix it? I can’t see any pulleys at the top, or wheels at the bottom.
JOE, from Peabody
A. I think most doors have wheels at the bottom, and they often get gunked up with dirt and other nasty stuff, doing a job on the wheels and axles. You can lift the door, but get some help; the doors are very heavy. With wheels exposed, check them for roundness. Sometimes they develop a flat side, and must be replaced. Call a sliding door dealer for new wheels. But first, clean them out with WD-40, and clean out the grooves. If they are still round, they should respond to cleaning and oiling.
Q. My central air-conditioning system has three compressors, two outdoors and one under a porch, creating a 3-foot-high enclosure sided by open latticework. Is that crawl space area enough to handle the compressor?
PAUL, in Acton
A. I don’t know, but there are standards of ventilation required for a compressor, so you can find out from an air conditioner retailer. If the porch floor has open boards, that might just do it.