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If you are expecting guests for the holidays, then you should be preparing your home. A lot of people take this time to replace worn or stained carpet. But if you are on a budget, try some or all of these trips and tricks for getting out the spots and making your carpets look presentable again.

As with so many projects, start by making a list noting all of the spots and issues that you need to deal with. Then you can find a solution for each type and treat similar stains all at once.

If the stain still is wet, dab it up with clean paper towels. Never rub a stain, just blot it.

Before ever using any cleaner, test your carpet to make sure you won’t also remove the color. You can do this behind the couch or in a closet. Most carpets won’t fade, but you never know, so test it first.

A mild cleaner that can be used for lots of common spills is ¼ cup of mild liquid detergent and 1 gallon of warm water. Another mild cleaner that works on many stains is plain old club soda. You also can use a half-and-half mixture of white vinegar and water as an alternative. For mold or mildew, try lemon juice with a little salt. You’ll be surprised at what these very simple and inexpensive cleaners can do. Try them first.

If you need to resort to stronger cleaners, don’t forget to test them in an out-of-the-way place first, and just follow the package directions.

Carpet cleaners are another option and may be a good choice for you if you have larger areas to clean. A steam cleaner will work better and use fewer chemicals than one without steam. A home version might not work as well as the rental units but, if you clean often, it might be more practical for you.

Don’t forget the value of throw rugs, runners or area rugs to protect high-traffic areas, and use door mats to cut down on stuff tracked in from outdoors.

Practice before the guests arrive, because you’ll probably have more clean-up to do after they leave!

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Q: Our house backs up to a busy street that seems to become busier by the day. Can you suggest some ways to cut down on some of the noise without having to move? – J.N.

A: Upgrading windows can make a big difference, but it can be costly. You might try installing less-expensive storm windows. Even heavy drapes could help some. Add shrubs and/or a fence to block some of the sound. Make sure all wall switches and electrical outlets on outside walls are insulated. Check dampers for vents to make sure they are closing when not in use.

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Q: I like my glass cooktop but have found it hard to keep clean. You can see everything that gets spilled on it. What’s the best way to keep it clean? – A.W.

A: Most glass cooktops do need to be cleaned often, but they sure look nice when they are clean. Never use harsh cleaners or scrubbers that can scratch the surface. Soften baked-on food by covering it with a paper towel that has been soaked in water. Let it sit on the food for a while to soften it up. Then you can carefully scrape it off with a plastic putty knife. Check with your hardware store for cleaners made just for this purpose. They work quickly and very well.

Shoptalk

Minwax probably is the most highly regarded manufacturer of wood stains and finishes around, and now it has come out with something that we think is a game-changer.

Minwax Wood Finishing Cloths are pre-moistened with a water-based wood stain and protective clear finish, and are available in a variety of colors. No brushes are required! They are so easy to use, and the results are amazing. The stain dries in just one hour, and cleanup is super fast with just soap and water. You get eight cloths in each package, which is enough to do about 50 square feet. Look for them at your hardware store or home center now. To find out more, you can go to their website at www.minwax.com.