Fix It: Succa safety

In the days between Yom Kippur and the holiday of Succot, many are busy building succot; it is also the busiest season of the year for Israel's emergency rooms.

It is a well-known fact that after Yom Kippur, a large portion of this country's population turns into carpenters. In the days between Yom Kippur and the holiday of Succot, many are busy building succot (temporary huts required for the holiday); it is also the busiest season of the year for Israel's emergency rooms. It is important to review a few basic guidelines to save you and your loved ones from a visit to an emergency room, or worse: 1. Check before use that all rungs of your ladder are secure, that it's not wobbly, and that there are no cracks or bends in it. Standing on stools or chairs is not recommended. 2. The ladder must be extended fully, and not unbalanced on uneven territory. 3. Never lean a ladder on glass, plastic shutters (trissim), or movable items. 4. When handling the boards, metal, or roofing of the succa, always wear fabric gloves. 5. Never jury-rig electric lights or extensions. Be sure all electric wires are whole and not frayed. 6. Always use Israel Standards Institute-approved light fixtures and extension cords. 7. Make sure all electric cords are suspended up high and out of reach of children. 8. Never have an open flame inside a succa. 9. Don't attempt building your succa while under the influence of alcohol or medication, or directly after a fast. 10. Keep a fire extinguisher in or near your succa. You never know when you or a neighbor may need one. 11. Never rush in building a succa. Take your time and have a friend help you when necessary. The halachot do not command you to injure yourself. In a recent article (Do It Yourself, August 25, 2005), I offered advice on how to make sliding windows slide better. Lea Stern of Beit Shemesh offers the following tip: "I have tried soap sometimes on sliding doors that don't slide; the other thing I use is a wax candle - just rub it along the offending door or even drawer tracks. It is not as sticky as soap is and doesn't clog up tracks." Terry Bensimon asks, "We have just moved to this apartment, not new construction, and are dealing with a problem of heavy perfume odor in the wood-lined master bedroom closet. I have tried wiping it down with vinegar, leaving a bowl of baking soda, cleaning it with Pledge (which may have sealed in more than it removed), and so far only the baking soda has made a dent. I read about a product called Deodoroc, which comes in blocks or granules, that might help but would have to wait until someone visits from the USA to bring some. Would there be some kind of wood sealer to lock in the smell and prevent it being absorbed by the clothing?" According to the Zinsser Company, the people who produce PermaWhite, BullsEye 123, and Three Pound White, the best material to seal in smells would be natural shellac. This is sold in all better DIY stores and is produced by Zinsser as well. Apply it over the entire wall, ceiling, shelving and the like. Natural shellac is a biological product and can even be used where one is sensitive to paint. Only dilute shellac with denatured alcohol. Joe B. asks, "With so many new paints to choose from, what do you consider the best water-based top coat paint readily available in Israel?" The Neerlat Company produces one of the finest paints I have seen in the world, called Aquaveneer. It is available in thousands of shades using the custom mix system. This paint can be used to paint on metal exterior bars, woodwork, and of course walls. Tambour produces a similar paint called Meshi Meshi. It can also be used on most surfaces, but tends to drip and sag much more than the Neerlat paint. Cynthia Naifeld writes, "I received a present of a silver plate cutlery set. Even though it was kept covered, it badly needs cleaning. Is there an easier way of polishing cutlery than the usual methods?" I have used Fast and Clean, produced by Samuel and Sons in Kiryat Gat - (08) 688-4889 - and it actually works. It seems to just melt away the grime and tarnish and no heavy scrubbing is necessary. I have also found that my silver stays shiny much longer afterwards than with other products. Fast and Clean is available in most better markets and DIY stores. Moshe Silberschein asks, "We recently had our toilet replaced. I was unpleasantly surprised to see the toilet had unsightly lettering of the company inside the bowl. Is there any water-resistant paint available to cover it up?" The problem is not what will cover up the marks but what will adhere to the smooth porcelain surface. With the toilet being dry, the best method would be to sand the manufacturing logo with coarse graphite (black) sandpaper until the area feels a bit rough. This will give the surface a "tooth" to hold the paint. Superlac can be used for a high gloss finish, or Poliur can be used for a satin finish over this area. Just apply a thin coat over the area, allow it to dry and then reapply. It may take as many as four coats of paint to cover some marks. Both of the above paints, by Tambour, are available in all hardware stores. The writers can be reached for consultations at