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HELOISE: Touchy subject

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Dear Readers: Here is this week's Sound Off, about paper-towel dispensers in public restrooms:

"I've noticed an unfortunate trend in public restrooms (even ones in establishments that serve food): They are replacing paper-towel dispensers with electric air blowers instead.

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"Whether they are doing this to 'go green' or simply to save money, the problem is that some of us like to use paper towels to avoid touching either the faucet handles or the doorknob on the way out, for obvious reasons.

"Short of bringing my own supply of napkins or paper towels with me to these restrooms, any hints? -- George P., Norristown, Pa."

Hmmm -- the "air blower" does cut down on paper costs and cleanup for the establishment. If you don't want to touch anything, take some toilet paper and use it to "touch" the surfaces you don't want to touch. -- Heloise

FAST FACTS

Dear Readers: Here are some other uses for envelopes that you get in the mail:

• Write a grocery list on one and put coupons inside.

• Keep by the phone to take messages.

• Use to file receipts according to category (medical, gas, etc.).

• Keep a file of decorating ideas, paint swatches, etc., by room. -- Heloise

CLEANING PEARLS

Dear Heloise: Can you tell me the best way to clean my pearls? I have noticed that they have changed color a little -- is this normal? Can I do anything about it? -- A Reader, via email

To clean pearls, use a soft cloth dipped in a soapy water mixture (a drop of hair shampoo to a cup of water). Gently clean each pearl. Rinse with water and, using another clean, soft cloth, dry the pearls. Pearls can naturally change color over time. Once this happens, you cannot correct it, unfortunately.

To keep pearls looking good longer, experts suggest wiping them down after each wearing to remove any sweat, makeup and dirt. It also is a good idea to store them flat so they do not stretch out.

If your strand of pearls is older or you want to have them restrung to be safe, ask to have the strand be knotted in between each pearl. If the strand breaks, you will lose only one pearl instead of the whole strand. -- Heloise

FLAG FOLLOW-UP

Dear Heloise: I just read your column that included a letter from the gentleman in San Antonio asking how to extend the life of a flag. Another great way to extend the life of a flag is to take a new flag to a dry cleaner's or someplace that does clothing alterations and request that the outer seams be doubled up. If these are sewn well, it greatly increases the resistance of the flag to tearing in the wind. -- Chris in Missouri

Great hint! Just be cautious -- manufacturers warn that doubling the seam can weigh the flag down and cause it to not fly correctly. -- Heloise

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