Dear Heloise: I live in Alaska, where we have very little daylight about eight months of the year. As a result, I use candles a great deal. My problem is that the "scratchy" section on the side of the box of wooden matches wears off long before all the matches are used. How do I ignite them? I've tried emery boards, but that didn't work. Any suggestions? -- Maggie B., Soldotna, Alaska

Maggie, a lot of people think you can use any scratchy surface to light a match, but it's not true for strike-on-box matches. That strip on the side of the box contains a chemical that interacts with the match to ignite a flame. You need strike-anywhere matches. -- Heloise

Handwashing 101

Dear Readers: There really is a science to something as simple as washing your hands. The American Academy of Dermatology ( lists the steps:

1. Use tepid (warm) running water and lather soap. Turn the water off to conserve it.

2. Scrub between your fingers and under your nails for 20 to 30 seconds.

3. Rinse thoroughly under running water.

4. Pat dry with a soft towel.

Wash your hands after using the restroom, before you eat, when you blow your nose and after touching anything questionable. Washing frequently can keep you healthier. -- Heloise

Souvenir storage

Dear Heloise: It seems that when I travel, I never have enough room to bring back the souvenirs I collect. So, I pack only the oldest underwear that I no longer want. When I've worn them for a day, I then trash them instead of packing them to bring home. This frees up enough space for souvenirs and decreases my laundry load! -- Mary, Mountain Top, Pennsylvania

Mary, not only does this lighten your laundry load, it frees up space in dresser drawers at home and helps keep those drawers from becoming messy. -- Heloise

Smelly clothes

Dear Heloise: My sister did my laundry when I was visiting her, but she used a fabric softener with a scent I cannot stand. It actually makes me sick. I have washed and rewashed the clothes in question, and the scent is still strong. Help! -- Lizzie, via email

Lizzie, the next time you launder these items, first presoak them in water and 1 cup of baking soda for about two hours. Next, launder these same items in 1 cup of vinegar and your regular detergent, and, if weather permits, dry outside on the line. -- Heloise

Clever use

Dear Heloise: I love to use hair conditioner when shaving my legs. The razor glides smoothly, and there is no razor irritation. -- Lisa R., Colorado Springs, Colorado

Pins in tins

Dear Heloise: Every time I get a safety pin from the dry cleaners, I store it in a little tin that once held breath mints. You never know when you'll need a safety pin, and it recycles both the pin and the tin. -- Nell F., Ellsworth, Maine 

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

Do's and don'ts

Dear Heloise: I've adopted a vegan lifestyle, and here are some things to know: Vegans believe that animals are not here to serve people; therefore, we don't eat, wear or use animals or products derived from animals.

I understand that not everyone agrees with me. Here's what I wear: faux leather, microfiber and cotton are fine, as are all synthetic fibers. Absolutely no leather, suede, snakeskin, fur or wool. Silk is out, as is cashmere.

There are good resources online to find manufacturers that don't exploit animals. Again, I know, people may find this extreme, but it has made me more at peace. Thank you! -- Heather P. in Philadelphia

Two kitchen hints

Hi, Heloise: Just popping into your column to give your readers two kitchen hints:

1. To help peel a hard-boiled egg, when it's cool, roll it on the counter for a bit to loosen the shell, then crack and peel.

2. Plain, unflavored dental floss can cut a cake! The floss will make a clean, beautiful cut. -- Poppy M. in Minneapolis

Wallet woes

Dear Readers: If you carry your wallet in your back pants pocket, you can be in line for back pain, especially when sitting for long periods of time and when driving.

A bulky wallet can push against the nerves of the spine and compress them; this means back pain! Do clean out your wallet and carry as little as necessary in it. When sitting a long time, or driving a long time, take it out of the back pocket! -- Heloise

Closet hooks

Dear Heloise: I use shower-curtain hooks over my closet rod to hold jeans, handbags, scarves and other items I want to store hanging up.

The hooks are strong, sturdy and cheap, and I can make more room in my dresser drawers for T-shirts and necessaries. -- Jeannette E., Bowling Green, Kentucky

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Light reading

Dear Heloise: I have a collection of small magazines and books that I keep just for traveling. (I don't have an e-reader, and I'd be afraid that I would lose it on the road anyway.)

This reading material is light and fun; there are puzzles and games included, and the best part is that I can leave the books behind for someone else to enjoy, and at the same time, I am emptying my drawer at home! -- Kathryn A. in New York

Fast facts

Dear Readers: Here are some additional uses for "sticky notes":

  • Stick one on a bathroom mirror to remind you of your hair/dental/doctor appointment date and time.
  • If you're going somewhere, put one on the back of the door by which you leave to tell yourself what you need to take with you.
  • Label clothing by color if colorblind.
  • If you have a list of errands you need to get done, write them out on a sticky note and attach it to the car's steering wheel. -- Heloise

All bottled up

Dear Heloise: When traveling by air, there's one thing you really need in your carry-on bag: an empty water bottle. After going through security, you can fill it up at a water fountain. Many times I've been on a rough flight where refreshments were not served, and it came in handy. -- Kathy P., Port Charlotte, Florida

Keeping in touch

Dear Heloise: Most of us have friends who, for many reasons, have drifted away. A couple of years ago, some of my friends and I started to reconnect, and we decided to get together once a month. We choose a restaurant using the alphabet: first month the letter A, the second month the letter B and so on. Sometimes we travel out of our community, and sometimes we meet close by, but we always have fun and stay in touch with each other. -- S.D.J.B., via email

Paraffin wax

Dear Heloise: Is household paraffin wax edible? Nowhere on the box does it say "edible." -- Janice P., via email

Janice, paraffin is used as an ingredient in making chocolate, especially chocolates that are given shapes, such as Easter bunnies or Santas. A little wax is mixed in to make the chocolate hold its shape and to add shine. Paraffin wax is actually nondigestible, which means it passes through the body without being absorbed. However, eating a large amount of paraffin is dangerous and can lead to intestinal blockage, which can be very serious! -- Heloise

Spaghetti squash

Dear Readers: The humble spaghetti squash can be used in place of pasta, but unlike pasta, spaghetti squash has only 42 calories per serving (1 cup); pasta can have nearly 200 calories per serving (1 cup). Pasta also is lacking in vitamins C and A, while spaghetti squash has both vitamins. Spaghetti squash is high in beta carotene, which helps prevent heart disease. The level of potassium in spaghetti squash helps lower high blood pressure over time. The omega-6 fatty acid is excellent for the brain, and the folate contained in spaghetti squash is essential for pregnant women to help prevent birth defects. Also, spaghetti squash contains 0 grams of cholesterol.

When a recipe calls for pasta, you might want to replace it with spaghetti squash for a more interesting and nutritious dish. -- Heloise

Stronger, healthier

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: