Dear Heloise: I have a question about tipping at a hotel. Does the maid who cleaned the room yesterday get the tip I leave, or the maid coming in today? -- Loma J. in South Dakota

Loma, I checked with a couple of major hotels, and here were their suggestions for how to handle tipping:

  • Tip every day, but do not tip if the service was poor.
  • The going rate is about $1 to $2 per day; $3  to $4 for better hotels.
  • Place the cash in an envelope (no change) and label it for maid service or housekeeping.
  • You also can just wrap it in a sheet of paper, but be sure to label it.
  • Leave it in an obvious place. -- Heloise

Messy appliances

Dear Heloise: I recently purchased a home that came with stainless-steel appliances. They are a mess! I've tried multiple cleaners, and nothing seems to help. Do you have any home remedy that might bring these poor things back to life? -- Carol B., via email

Carol, there are different grades of stainless steel, so I recommend doing a patch test first. Don't let a cleaning product dry on an appliance, and remember that less product is better than too much; too much often causes streaking. Wipe in the direction of the steel's grain. It's best to use a microfiber cloth on stainless steel. If your appliances have a matte finish, they will never have that shiny appearance.

Try olive oil or baby oil. Pour a small amount of oil on a soft cloth, and wipe in the direction of the grain. Buff with a soft.

It also has been recommended that you use 50/50 water and vinegar to clean the appliance first, then try an oil polish.

Some people use rubbing alcohol on their stainless-steel kitchen sinks. -- Heloise

Luggage tags

Dear Heloise: I'm a million-mile traveler for business, and I have a suggestion for your readers: If you work out of an office, put your business address or your business card in the luggage tag, not your home address. With my wife home alone with three young kids, I felt it was safer for my family if lost luggage was delivered to my office rather than my home. -- Robert T. in Los Angeles

Soap story

Dear Heloise: The marketplace seems to be flooded with products labeled "shower gel" and "body wash." Are these actually soap, or is this a clever advertising gimmick? Do you use bar soap with them? How do you choose? -- L.T., Omaha, Nebraska

L.T., great question, and there is a difference! Both shower gel and body wash are liquid soaps, and bar soap is a solid, but all are used to clean your skin.

Women, especially, tend to prefer liquid soap over bar soap, primarily because liquids lather more, there is a wide choice of fragrances available, and liquid body cleansers typically have more moisturizers than bar soap, so they are less drying to the skin.

The liquids also might have a shimmery ingredient added to make your skin "sparkle."

Here are two differences between the liquids: Shower gel typically is thicker in consistency than body wash, and it is more densely fragranced, so the scent of shower gel may last longer on your skin.

Manufacturers of shower gels and body washes recommend using a sponge or lather-builder to maximize suds. Rinse and dry the sponge thoroughly between uses. Have two to rotate.

Bar soap can be a breeding ground for bacteria, although this is not a major concern -- the bacteria washes away when you rinse. Ultimately, the decision is yours -- there are lots of choices out there. -- Heloise

School supply plan

Dear Heloise: I'm helping to buy supplies for my grandchildren for the upcoming school year. Here are some hints I use to stay organized and save money:

  1. Taking inventory of what they already have and can still use was my first step. What can be recycled? What can be repurposed?
  2. Next, establishing a budget is important. Kids like and need boundaries.
  3. The school provides a list of required items. I stick to the list -- nothing fancy.
  4. I buy necessities in bulk (paper, pencils, folders, glue).
  5. Some schools have programs to help disadvantaged kids. We try to help.

These hints have helped us get ready for a successful and productive school year! -- Mary J., Hammond, Indiana

Mary, fabulous! Great way to help your grandkids and others who need a hand. Here's a Heloise hug! -- Heloise

Saving soap

Dear Heloise: When my bars of soap get very thin, I break them up and put them into a pump container and add water. When they dissolve, I have a convenient container of soap. -- A Reader, Waco, Texas

Whether this will work depends on the makeup of the soap. Some will dissolve easier than others. -- Heloise

Space saver

Dear Heloise: Living alone, I use very few dishes, so I handwash them. My dishwasher wasn't being used, so I turned it into a pantry!

I use the top rack for canned goods, the lower rack for packaged food and dry goods and the silverware rack for large cooking utensils.

The drawer that held the utensils now gives me space to store my spices. I lay the spices in the drawer label side up.

No more standing on a step stool to find what I need in the tall cupboards. This is convenient, and it lessens the chance of falling.

Once a month or so, I remove everything from the racks and run the dishwasher for cleaning. -- Debbie C., Warren, Ohio

Great way to make the most of every inch of space! -- Heloise 

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Bath mash

Dear Heloise: I love to take a relaxing bath while giving myself a healthy, natural facial. I finely mash an avocado and mix in a few drops of witch hazel.

I swirl it on my face and relax in the bath for 30 minutes, then rinse. My skin feels smooth. -- Janice D. in Ohio

Head to the mall?

Dear Heloise: I'm wondering how your readers feel about shopping malls? When I was a kid, I loved spending time at the mall with my friends; some malls had carousels, ice-skating rinks and movie theaters, and they all had wonderful food courts with delicious choices of eats. But now so many malls are going out of business.

In San Antonio, we still have malls that are doing well, but off-price stores and shopping online are gaining in popularity.

Will your readers always go to the mall? Do you like the energy there? The service? The people? It was convenient to have all the big stores under one roof, and years ago, I used to walk in the mall for exercise. That was fun.

The salespeople in the kiosks outside of the stores can be pretty pushy, but I've learned to just say, "No, thank you."

Is the shopping mall becoming a thing of the past? Hopefully not! -- Jana B., Helotes, Texas

Readers, what do you say about the shopping mall? I've done many book signings in many malls over the years -- a great place to come together! -- Heloise

Save it for later

Dear Heloise: I read your column (regularly). I want to keep some of your hints to reference later.

To hold your column until I'm ready to "laminate" (with tape) the front side, I lay the back side of the newspaper column against the sticky side of leakproof sealing wrap. Then I cover the front side of the article with the clear packaging tape.

Now I can cut it out and tape it to the fridge, microwave, a mirror, a notebook or wherever I want, and it is protected from splashes. -- Jackie in Santa Ana

Hint from him

Dear Heloise: There's no need to slice yourself instead of your bagel. Lay the bagel flat, cut first downward so that you have two semicircles. Then stand each half-bagel on its flat cut and slice downward again.

Four perfect quarter-bagels that still fit in the toaster just fine. If you then insist on having circles again, just spackle the pieces together with a little extra cream cheese! -- Neil S., Falls Church, Virginia

Send a great hint to: Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio TX 78279-5000; fax: 1-210-HELOISE; email: