Q. When we make waffles, residue from the vegetable oil bakes on the outside of the waffle iron and forms a hard varnish. We've tried lacquer thinner, mineral spirits, and ammonia. None of these have any effect. - E.S., Meredith, N.H.
A. "It's an ongoing battle in this business," says James Lemon, who works for Heartland Food Products, which sells Belgian waffle irons. He says the buildup is caused by the oil; nonstick sprays can have the same problem. Considering the cleaners tried (which he does not recommend, as they are corrosive to the finish), it will be impossible to remove the residue. "When it builds a rock-hard, smooth surface, [the appliance] is history," says Mr. Lemon. To prevent this, he says waffle irons with stainless steel housing should be wiped clean with warm water and dishwashing soap after each use, which will increase their longevity.
Q. Although my regular liriope grows carefree, the variegated variety has done poorly for several years. In desperation, I cut them down to the ground this spring and now they are growing luxuriantly, well over a foot tall. What is the proper care for both kinds? - H.L.N., Annapolis, Md.
A. Liriope (pronounced luh-RYE-o-pee) is a perennial groundcover that forms clumps of arching evergreen leaves. In Annapolis, it's probably green most of the winter, says expert gardener Judy Lowe. But, she says, it may begin to look ratty about February and should be cut back to an inch high around the first of March. Rake up and remove the foliage from the garden. If this trimming isn't done, the new leaves have to push up through the dying old foliage, giving the plant a messy look.
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