Living Columns & Blogs

Hints from Heloise: Drop a CFL? Don’t panic – just evacuate the house

DEAR HELOISE: Please tell people to read the information on the box of the compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) that we must use now. You can’t buy the “regular” light bulbs anymore. (Heloise here: On Jan. 1, the final government phasing out of incandescent bulbs went into effect. You will no longer be able to buy them, unless there is some stock in stores. Americans will be able to purchase only the more energy-efficient CFLs or LEDs.)

The new light bulbs have mercury. I have no idea what you are to do if you drop one in the house and it breaks. Sounds dangerous to me.

– A Reader In Ohio

DEAR OHIO: Very good advice indeed! CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury (LEDs do not), so there are cautionary steps you should take if one breaks in your house. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you:

•  Get all people and pets out of the house.

•  Open all windows and doors to air out the room.

• Turn off central forced air conditioning/heating.

•  Wear protective, disposable gloves.

• Pick up glass using cardboard or similar-weight paper. Pick up powder and smaller glass fragments using the sticky side of duct tape. Use damp paper towels for cleanup on hard surfaces.

•  Place all pieces of bulb residue and cleanup items in a sealable plastic bag or a glass jar with a lid.

• Do not vacuum until as much residue has been collected as possible. Then promptly dispose of the vacuum bag.

P.S.: This does seem to be a big to-do about something small. Yes, you need to use care when cleaning up a broken CFL bulb, but don’t let it panic you! Just use good common sense and take the safety precautions listed above.

DEAR HELOISE: I have a wonderful use for ruined pantyhose. Lay them out flat, cut off the foot and then continue cutting at 2-inch intervals all the way up the leg. This makes several stretchy bands in various sizes. They are very strong and can be used for anything. I have used them as ponytail holders, and to secure boxes and rolls of gift wrap.

– Lynne D., via email

DEAR READERS: Save mouthwash bottle caps and brown prescription bottles.

They make darling little vases. Leave them as they are, or give them a quick coat of spray paint. Add some water and smaller flowers for a beautiful table arrangement. Or scatter these little arrangements throughout the house on bookshelves, tables and counters. Adds a pop of color to any room!

DEAR HELOISE: I use the plastic bag from the newspaper to discard the used tissues when I have a cold. It keeps the cold germs enclosed.

– Margaret In Pennsylvania

DEAR HELOISE: When cooking, I pre-measure as many ingredients as I can. I have only a couple of measuring cups and one set of measuring spoons, so once something is measured, I place the ingredients in cupcake liners (if it is a small quantity) until ready to use.

– A Reader In San Antonio