Dear Heloise: Would you suggest a method to clean old paintbrushes? I have a number of brushes but have not been successful in restoring them to their former utility. —Joe Graf, via e-mail

A quick and inexpensive fix would be to fill a jar or coffee can with vinegar and water and soak the brushes for a few hours. They should feel softer and more supple.

Vinegar also can be used to help remove rust and corrosion from nuts and bolts, and will often loosen up the mechanism in a padlock if it is slightly corroded. Just soak the rusty objects in full-strength vinegar overnight or longer.

For a bunch of other money-saving green hints for using vinegar, send $5 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (59 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Vinegar, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001, or visit for ordering information. FYI: To paint a galvanized can or bucket, wipe down with full-strength vinegar, leave it on for a few hours, then wipe off. The paint should adhere much better. —Heloise

Dear Readers: Here are some ways to use empty thread spools:

• Wrap leftover lengths of trim or bias tape on them to prevent tangles.

• Wrap wet hair ribbons around them to dry without wrinkles.

• They make good birthday-cake candleholders, especially the gold ones.

• Nail them to bureau drawers that have lost drawer pulls. —Heloise

Dear Heloise: Clean out your dryer's lint filter with a used fabric-softener sheet. It saves your fingertips and nails from getting scratched. —Pam Bayless, via e-mail

Dear Heloise: When we leave town for more than 10 days, we press wet paper towels, wadded to have some thickness, over our houseplants' soil, covering as much of the soil as possible without touching the plants. Then, we water the plants heavily. This has kept our plants from drying out during our absences. —Les and Pam Docks, San Antonio

Dear Heloise: When purchasing makeup, be sure to keep the box and sales receipt. If the product does not match or meet your expectations, it can be returned for another product or shade.

—Mary from Texas

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