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Handyman on call

Don’t cry over spilled paint

By Peter Hotton
Globe Staff / September 15, 2011

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Q. While trying to get the lid off a can of the most awful pea soup color latex paint, it popped off, spreading that paint all over the kitchen, on walls, stove, plastic countertop, and linoleum. I washed and washed as much as I could, but the paint began to harden and made things much tougher. How can I handle the hardened paint? What’s worse, I’m in a rental.

LYNN, in despair

A. It’s good that the paint was not oil. My father spilled a quart of oil-based paint off a stepladder, and it was years before the last bit of paint yielded to paint thinner.

So, for you, it is wash and wash and wash again, which will handle the paint if it is not too long cured. For hardened paint, you can use Oops! or any kind of oil - boiled linseed oil, mineral oil, or vegetable oil. The latter can get rancid, so be careful. These oils will soften the paint after 15 or so minutes, soft enough to dig out with a utility knife or a knife with a long, narrow blade. Eventually, you will prevail. I think Avon’s Oh So Soft oil will work even better.

Q. Three questions: 1. How can I get old oil stains off a concrete garage floor? 2. Irene’s winds did a job on my house, pulling a lot of sap from pine trees and depositing it on decks and siding. How can I remove it? 3. A small chip of porcelain popped off one of my toilet bowls, well above the water line. I saved the piece. Can I glue it back, with what kind of glue?


A. 1. For the oil stains, wet them with paint thinner to dissolve the oil, then sprinkle lots of absorbent material on top to absorb the oil. If the work is extensive, use Speedi-Dri, a clay used to remove oil from your auto mechanic’s floor. For smaller jobs, cat litter or baking soda will do nicely. 2. If the pine sap bits are stiff and solid, scrape them up with a steel scraper. If they are sticky, wash them off with denatured or rubbing alcohol. 3. Use Duco cement, a clear glue that we used long ago on flying models made of balsa wood and paper, and they flew wonderfully.

Q. We are replacing our deck after 27 years. Is it safe to burn the old pressure-treated wood this winter outside when we burn yard debris?

JAN, by e-mail

A. No, no, no it is not safe to burn pressure-treated wood outside. And definitely not in the fireplace or stove. You might be able to sell it as salvage. Or have your deck contractor take it away. I don’t know any regulations concerning this, but the old wood contained arsenic, the deadliest ingredient, and it is bad to release such materials to the atmosphere. A near tragedy occurred many years ago when a family burned scraps of pressure-treated wood in their fireplace or stove, and were almost killed by the fumes.

Q. I asked a contractor for an estimate on installing soffit vents. He told me the continuous screened strip type is only for new construction, so he would install big round vents every 16 inches along the soffit. I know you said the round vents are useless, but is he correct about putting the strip vents just on new construction?

BILL WELCH, by e-mail

A. I repeat, and I will repeat it till I’m blue in the face: Those round vents spaced any distance are still useless and ugly. I also repeat that the strips can be cut in an existing soffit with a saber saw or a small-blade rotary saw. I have installed the strips myself, although most recently I rebuilt my eaves in order to install the strips. The man just didn’t want to build the strips because they are hard to do.

Q. I own a condo and my slider window has lost its seal. There’s a lot of cold air coming in through that window. Shall I replace the really old windows that have metal frames, or should I get lined drapes to keep out the cold?


A. The drapes will help, but they must be tight against the frame to be effective, and do not address the original problem. Instead, call a replacement window dealer and ask if they can provide one or more windows like your slider, but in vinyl. Those steel frames have got to go.

Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton also appears in the Sunday Real Estate section. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton ( also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to