DESTAIN SURFACES. Erase those spots with a paste made of 1/2 cup of powdered Borax and the juice of 1/2 lemon (or enough to make a thick paste). Dab a clean sponge in the mixture, and rub over the stain. Once you see the stain fade, rinse with running water. This works like magic on sinks made of porcelain enamel, stainless steel or any other material. An old, stubborn stain may require multiple treatments and allowing the mixture to sit on the stain for a few minutes before rinsing.
LIME DEPOSITS. The stubborn white spots on and around the faucets are lime deposits from mineral-rich hard water. They're easy to remove with good old white vinegar. Soak a paper towel in vinegar, and then wrap the towel around the spotted area. Wait 10 minutes or so, and then remove the paper towel and buff with a dry paper towel or soft clean cloth. CAUTION: This works well on all types of fixtures except brass or colored fixtures, which may become discolored.
PITTED CHROME. Chrome fixtures are beautiful because they are so shiny. But chrome is also quite susceptible to an ugly condition known as pitting, the result of that beautiful chrome being introduced to bleach, harsh chemicals or even hard-water minerals over a period of time. Small white bumps on the chrome or areas where the texture has become uneven and rusty are all signs of pitting. There's a good chance you can stop that deteriorating process and even reverse the damage.
Step 1: Using an old rag and blue Dawn dishwashing soap, scrub the fixture vigorously to remove any bits of rust and debris.
Step 2: Take a piece of aluminum foil and crumple it up a bit, making sure the dull side is out. Dip this into white vinegar, and use it to scrub the pitted fixture. The reaction between the foil and the acidic vinegar will help to remove the pitting.
Step 3: Sand the area with superfine-grit wet/dry sandpaper, using a circular motion. Wipe dry with a soft cloth.
Step 4: Apply a generous layer of a good chrome polish (Simichrome All Metal Polish is the best, and I use it to clean and polish all kinds of metals including fine silver), and allow it to sit for a few hours. Gently buff away the polish with a clean soft rag, using the same circular motion you used in step three.
Step 5: Carefully examine to see if there are any areas on which you may need to repeat this process.
CLOG-FREE DRAINS. Mix 1 cup baking soda with 1 cup table salt and 1/4 cup cream of tartar. Keep it in an airtight, childproof container. For routine maintenance on all household drains, every few weeks, pour 1/2 cup of this mixture into each drain, followed by a quart of boiling water. This process should keep you clog-free. As a regular practice, do your best to keep hair, grease, food and other debris out of your sink drains in the first place.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at email@example.com, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually.