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HELOISE: It may just be your mattress

Dear Heloise: After putting it off for too many years, we finally replaced our 15-year-old mattress and box spring set. We didn't have to break the bank.

What a difference! If people think the aches and pains they have are just signs of old age and something to just live with, not true! It may just be your mattress.

Considering that sleep is important to general health and that we spend a large portion of our lives in a sleep posture, a new mattress is worth every penny. After just one week, the results are nothing short of therapeutic. We wake up refreshed. -- John P., Pine Brook, N.J.

John, you're right -- a new mattress can make all the difference in the world! According to the Better Sleep Council, there are four main factors to remember when it comes to mattresses: "Support, comfort, space and matching sets." Everyone is different, but the best mattress for you will help keep your spine in alignment, be comfortable and give you (and another person) enough space. The BSC also recommends buying a complete set because they are designed to work together.

There is no "set" time frame that a mattress will last, due to several factors. If you wake up on a regular basis feeling sore or stiff, if you notice that you are no longer getting enough sleep, or that there are signs of wear and tear, get a new bed! To get more helpful hints on mattresses and better sleep, you can visit the Better Sleep Council at -- Heloise

P.S.: The popular "myth" that a mattress doubles in weight in eight years and should be replaced is not true! Show me the facts and science behind this urban myth!

No tears

Dear Heloise: I cook for myself, everything from scratch, so I have lunches for work and food prepared when I get home. As I get older, the fumes from the onions affect me more and more. I have tried every trick. If it weren't for pre-chopped onions, I would have to stop cooking. It's the only thing I buy already prepared, so I think my budget can handle it.

I read the Houston Chronicle every day, and I'm glad you are in it! -- Carol M., Friendswood, Texas

Clean curling irons

Dear Heloise: Most beauticians use a little heat, moisture and steel wool to clean their curling irons. It's quick and will clean the worst of them in a hurry and leave them sparkling. -- A Former Beautician, via email

Great cleaning hint. Just be careful, and use steel wool only on metal curling irons. If it has a nonstick coating on the barrel, you might damage it. -- Heloise

Wire hanger use

Dear Heloise: I am a retired schoolteacher, so I know this is a good hint. Some teachers use wire hangers for classroom art projects. Just phone your neighborhood elementary school and ask if there is a need. -- J.N., via email