Dear Readers: To keep your hardwood floors looking beautiful for years to come, there are basic care hints that you will need to follow.

For cleaning:

• Never use anything but the correct hardwood-floor care products on your floor. Other flooring products can cause the floors to become dull and slippery.

• Since water can dull the finish, damage the wood and leave a discoloring residue, most manufacturers recommend that you not overly wet-mop your hardwood floor. Damp-mopping might be OK.

• Wipe up food and other spills quickly. Use a lightly dampened towel. Then wipe over the area immediately with a dry towel.

For general care:

• Use throw rugs inside and outside of doors that enter onto the wood floor.

• Use floor protectors under the legs of furniture to prevent scratching the floor.

• Never slide furniture. Always pick it up to move it.

• Be careful of wearing high heels or sport shoes with cleats. You won't like the dents they leave behind!

• During the winter months, use a humidifier in your home to help minimize wood shrinkage and movement. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: Recently, my husband and I took a wonderful trip to Peru. I purchased a new set of luggage. Not satisfied that we could easily identify our luggage in crowded airports when we returned, I decided to stencil something personal on all of our suitcases on both sides. I used fabric paint and decided on a cat theme, but with the large selection of stencils, one could really create something suitable for men and women.

We were delighted when throngs of people squeezed in tight to collect their luggage and we saw them tug at and then replace one bag after another. No one ever mistook ours for theirs, and we were able to nab the right ones off right away. — Lynn Lamb, Spokane, Wash.; — K.C. Frye, San Juan, Texas

Dear Heloise: To differentiate between the sizes of sheets for different beds, buy a different color for each size. I have beige for king, green for double and blue for queen. Also, I always buy a striped pattern that runs from headboard to foot so I won't waste time trying to figure out which way the sheets run. — Marilynne Gates, via e-mail


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