Dear Heloise: What does octane rating mean? Would my car benefit from a higher-octane gasoline? -- Dana B. in Michigan

First, follow the owners manual to find out the best gasoline for your car. According to the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov), there is no advantage to using a higher-octane gasoline than what's recommended for your vehicle, unless you hear "engine knock," which happens rarely.

Higher-octane gas does not clean your engine, and it won't make your car run better. Most vehicles use fuel with an octane rating of 87; that's typically the lowest rating. Octane ratings can vary by state.

Luxury and sports cars usually require a higher-octane gas -- this will be stated in the paperwork for the vehicle. Higher-octane fuels typically cost more per gallon. -- Heloise

Good gossip

Dear Heloise: I work in a beauty salon. It is one of the best places to find referrals for workmen, house cleaners, doctors and anything you need. I pass on what I hear, good and bad, knowing we all have opinions. -- June W., Hot Springs Village, Arkansas

The brushoff

Dear Heloise: To be sure I don't use a toothbrush on my teeth that is designated for household cleaning, I wrap a rubber band around the handle. -- Cindy M., Post Falls, Idaho

Easier to grip, too! -- Heloise

It's clean

Dear Heloise: I'm ashamed to admit that I failed to take my phone out of my trousers before putting them in the laundry. I lost my pictures, stored data, etc.

What I've done to solve the problem is to tape a red-lettered note to the washing machine start dial that says "cellphone." -- Ron N., Alexandria, Virginia

Storyteller

Dear Heloise: I can't keep up a diary, but I love the idea of sharing experiences with our children and grandkids. Each January, I pull out the previous year's calendar, checkbook and bank statements.

I jot down important events that these things remind me of (a rental-car charge might remind me of a trip).

I work month to month, and then I write up a narration of the events of the past year. Thanks to computers, I can keep these remembrances and share them. -- Mary F., Erie, Pennsylvania

This time of year is a good time to get your pieces organized. -- Heloise

Say goodbye

Dear Heloise: My doctor said I'd have to get rid of my houseplants due to my allergies. Why? I love my plants. -- Linda Y. in Chicago

Linda, if you are sensitive to mold -- and many people are -- you'll find that mold grows in the soil and on the pots. Some plants also produce pollen, which may aggravate your allergies. Replace the real plants with silk plants, but remember to keep them dusted. -- Heloise 

Food to go

Dear Heloise: I have empty, hard-plastic gum containers, about 5 or 6 inches tall, but I didn't know what to do with them. Since they have attached lids that snap shut, I thought it was a shame to toss them out, so now I use them to pack trail mix or some type of dried fruit for my kid's lunch. I've used them for "munchies" on a plane. These containers fit in a lunchbox or purse, and they can be washed and reused. -- Claire M., Hanover Park, Illinois

Stained blouse

Dear Heloise: Help! I have a beautiful white silk blouse that has perspiration stains. Can I use chlorine bleach to get the stains out? -- Lola W., Melrose, Massachusetts

Lola, no, don't use chlorine bleach on silk, as it ruins the fabric over time. First, pretreat the stained area or soak with a product containing enzymes. Next, hand-wash with a mild soap and an oxygen bleach, if directions on the box say it's safe for silk.

Removing stains from clothing can be tricky, and if done incorrectly the garment can be ruined. If you'd like information on how to remove stains from your clothing, you can send for my pamphlet Handy Stain Guide for Clothing, which tells you how to get stubborn stains out. To get a copy, send $5 to: Heloise/Stains, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio TX 78279-5001. Or you can order it online at www.heloise.com. You'll find easy-to-use ideas to remove stains and save money at the same time. Why throw out clothing that can be as good as new with just a little care? -- Heloise

In a pickle

Dear Heloise: I have a window garden and a compost bin. Is it OK to use pickle juice to irrigate my plants, or should I pour it onto the compost pile? -- Cliff S., via email

Cliff, pour it on the compost pile. Pickle juice easily could burn the roots of delicate plants. -- Heloise

A healthy budget

Dear Heloise: I'm always looking for ways to save money, and a big expense for me is my medical bills.

Here are some hints I use to help my budget:

  • I stay on top of my health with a yearly physical. The doctor can see potential problems and cut them off at the pass.
  • If the doctor finds anything, I always talk to another doctor -- a second opinion is important.
  • Prescription medications can be expensive. I ask the doctor for samples, and I always get generic medications when available, and a three-month supply by mail is a great way to save.

I hope these hints will help your readers like they've helped me! -- Hilda H. in Texas

Screaming 'fire'

Dear Heloise: People get used to hearing the squealing of children in the neighborhood; they may not respond to kids hollering if they feel threatened by a stranger.

But if the kids scream "fire," that would get the attention of nearby adults. Kids are smart -- they understand. -- Carola D., via email

Not delighted

Dear Heloise: I don't like when a company says, "If you're not happy, we'll give you your money back, no questions asked."

I want them to ask questions, like: "What can we do to satisfy you?" "Why aren't you happy?" "What can we do to secure your business?"

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This would show that they care about developing and keeping relationships with their customers. -- Alice B. in Pittsburgh

Paint it clear

Dear Heloise: I paint base-metal rings and the back of base-metal pendants and bracelets with clear nail polish to avoid, or to reduce the chance of, the ring turning green or black. -- Barbara G. in Indiana

Remote problem

Dear Heloise: After being awakened to strange noises in the bedroom, I learned this lesson: If you have pets, don't leave your TV remote or cellphone lying face up on the nightstand, dresser or bed.

Turn your remote away from the TV or put it in a drawer. Stand your phone up or lay it face down. That way, if little paws step on them, they won't turn on the TV or dial the phone. -- Marty in San Antonio

Toeing the line

Dear Heloise: I had trouble keeping track of how many times I used my razor in the shower. I took an old toe separator used for pedicures, and now I put the razor in the hole on one side, and move it to the next hole after each use to keep track of five uses! -- Clover in Houston

Just in case

Dear Heloise: My husband and I travel about three months out of the year. We both wear medical ID bracelets when we travel because we know that either one (or both) of us could have a medical emergency, and since my husband is a heart patient and I have epilepsy, we just never know what to expect on a trip. We also carry a card in each of our wallets that lists our medications, our doctors with their phone numbers and a family member to contact should we be unable to make the phone call ourselves. I would urge your readers to do the same thing, just in case they ever have an emergency. -- Patty S., Elmhurst, Illinois

Fun day

Dear Heloise: As grandparents, my wife and I enjoy taking our two granddaughters (ages 4 and 7) to the mall. It's a cool place to have an adventure. It's their favorite lunch spot, plus they get to go to a gift shop, visit a pet store, ride on a carousel, and we all have fun without spending a fortune. -- Tim and Sharon W., Spring, Texas

Recycling check

Dear Heloise: In response to the reader who tries to be green and wanted to know where he can recycle plastic foam: I recommend that the reader check with his city's or county's solid waste agency. Our agency's site lets us enter a product online and tells where that item can be recycled in the jurisdiction. -- Liz B., via email

Houseplant helper

Dear Heloise: Crushed eggshells are a great fertilizer for houseplants. I save them up until I have about two dozen. I don't rinse them, for fear of washing away wonderful nutrients, but I let them dry completely, and crush them into fine pieces in a zippered bag.

I dig a shallow ditch under the plant, sprinkle in the shells, then re-cover and water as usual. Oh my! The plants nearly double in size, and they are covered in blooms! -- B.J., via email

Hair conditioner

Dear Heloise: Rub an inexpensive hair conditioner into bare nails, cuticles, toes and heels at night, but be sure to wear socks to keep the sheets clean. Your nails will feel and appear stronger and healthier. -- Sharon L. in San Antonio

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

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