Dear Readers: Fires can spread really fast in your home. And be aware that heat and smoke can be more dangerous than flames. Gases can make you sleepy. Every family member should know what to do in this kind of emergency. Here are the steps you should take if a fire breaks out in your home.

If the fire is small, you can use a fire extinguisher (you should keep several fire extinguishers in your house) to put out the fire. But if you cannot contain the flames, alert family members and scream "Fire!" and get everyone out of the house as quickly as you can. When you are outside, call 911. If your clothes have caught on fire, drop to the ground and roll back and forth until the flames are out.

If closed doors or handles are warm or smoke is blocking an escape route, use a second way out. Do not open doors that are warm to the touch. And if you have to escape through smoke, go low and try to go under the smoke on your way to an exit. Close doors behind you.

However, if heat, smoke or flames block your exit route, fire experts say to remain in the room with the doors closed. If possible, put a wet towel under the door, and if you have your cellphone, try to let the fire department know where you are in the house. — Heloise

Recycling dry cleaning bags

Dear Heloise: I like to reuse the short, clear bags that cover my husband's shirts when they come home from the dry cleaners to line my bathroom trash cans. I simply tie a knot in the small opening at the top of the bag, place that end in the can and tighten the other open end around the top of the can. Since they are see-through, you can still appreciate the basket. When emptying, simply pull out and tie a knot in the open end and dispose of it. Thanks for your column. — Nancy Lithgow, via email

Cleaning a chandelier

Dear Readers: Chandeliers are so beautiful, but they do get dusty and dirty and need to be cleaned. Here's how to do this task. First, turn off the chandelier and allow it to cool completely. Then place a tablecloth or sheet on the floor or over the table directly underneath the chandelier to prevent or contain possible drips from your cleaning. It's best to use a ladder rather than stand on a chair. And it's a good idea to have a family member with you when you do this cleaning.

Put on clean cotton gloves and spray glass cleaner on one glove and keep the other dry. Wipe dirty crystals with the dampened glove and wipe dry with the other. Repeat this process on cooled bulbs as well. The chandelier should be sparkling again.

Warning: Do not spray cleaner directly on the chandelier, because it could eat away at the metal parts. Never rotate or turn the chandelier while cleaning, because the electrical wiring could be damaged and you might get a shock. — Heloise

Appliance need repairing?

Dear Readers: Appliances break down and have to be repaired, which can be pricey, particularly when the appliance's warranty has expired. Make certain that you keep the booklets that come with new appliances. Then you can check the troubleshooting section to find out what steps to take before you call a repair service.

And before you make that call, make certain that the appliance is properly plugged in. Examine fuses to be sure that one is not blown. Also, look to see if the lid or door is ajar or not closed all the way. — Heloise

Send a money-saving or timesaving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5001, or you can fax it to 1-210-HELOISE or email it to

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