Don't use muriatic acid near stainless steel

Dear Heloise: Would you help alert consumers to a problem associated with using muriatic acid in a kitchen with stainless-steel appliances?
As the director of the Stainless Steel Information Center, a program funded by the North American producers of stainless steel, I regularly answer questions from desperate consumers wanting to know why dark stains have appeared on their stainless-steel appliances. Inevitably, the use of muriatic acid to clean the grout in slate or tile flooring and/or countertops turns out to be the culprit.
Muriatic acid is a highly reactive liquid acid and is extremely dangerous if applied or handled improperly. Once muriatic acid comes into contact with stainless steel, there is little that can be done to repair the damage. My advice is to research other, less-harmful products; or, if you must use muriatic acid, cover the stainless steel completely and snugly, and follow the directions to ensure your own safety and the continued beauty of the stainless steel. Brian R. Leslie, Washington, D.C.
Brian, thanks for the invaluable information. Brian also said that readers can access the Specialty Steel Industry of North America Web site,, for more information on stainless steel, or mail a question or comment to: Specialty Steel Industry of North America, 3050 K. Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20007. Heloise
Dear Heloise: Here is a tip for those who don't always cover food in the microwave -- my family never does.
To remove dried, caked-on food, I put a sopping-wet, soapy dishcloth on the bottom of the microwave and nuke it for a minute. When it gets cool enough to handle, I wipe the microwave all out. Bad spots might need a second shot. Terri Smith, Peoria, Ill.
Dear Heloise: Since we can no longer lock our suitcases when we check them at the airport, I came up with an idea that worked for us. We have soft-side luggage, the kind with two zippers that meet. Well, I took a twist-tie and inserted it where the lock would have gone. And what do you know, the zippers on our suitcases didn't part at all. Upon our arrival, I saw some suitcases on the carousel with clothes starting to come out, and I just had to tell you about my hint. Carolyn, Prescott Valley, Ariz.
Carolyn, I like your idea. The Transportation Security Administration suggests using plastic cable ties to keep luggage closed. If it must be opened for inspection, they will attach a new cable tie. Heloise
Dear Heloise: This is in reference to the letter from a reader who had a mothball smell in her cedar chest. She can put a bag of charcoal briquettes in her cedar chest. Cut the bag wide open and place on a large, plastic trash bag inside the chest. Leave for several days, and the smell should disappear. Steven Ende, Springfield, Mo.
XSend a money-saving or timesaving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000, or you can fax it to (210) HELOISE or e-mail it to
King Features Syndicate

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