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Use coffee filter for mess-free microwave

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Dear Heloise: Here is a really clever trick I learned at work:

When cooking soup in the microwave, we frequently place a paper towel on top of the bowl to reduce splattering. One day, the paper towel dispenser was empty. In a hurry, I grabbed the closest item — a coffee filter. The shape of the filter fit the bowl to a "T." I inverted it onto the bowl and microwaved my lunch.

After 2 1/2 minutes, my soup was hot, and the microwave was virtually splatter-free. Please share this with your readers, as no one likes a messy microwave. — Mary Sokolowski, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Don't you love "no mess" hints that prevent extra work? Preventive is better than curative. But if a boil-over does happen, here is an easy way to clean the microwave: Put 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons baking soda in a large (at least 4 cups) microwave-safe bowl and let it "cook" on high for a few minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes before opening the door, and then wipe out with a damp sponge. Baking soda has a multitude of uses around the home that will save you time and money. I have compiled some of my favorites together in a pamphlet that is available by sending $3 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (57 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Baking Soda, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. If you have baking soda in your pantry, you never have to buy scouring powder again. It's a great nonabrasive cleaner for lots of surfaces. Just dampen a sponge with water, sprinkle on some baking soda and wipe stains and odors away!

Dear Heloise: Like many of us who have pierced ears, I occasionally lose an earring back or need to replace one that has gotten too loose. I came upon a nifty solution.

I took a 1/4-inch rubber band, cut off a 1/2-inch section, folded it in half to make a 1/4-inch square, then forced it onto the post and slid it up snugly to the back of my ear. It held perfectly all day long, and I've even reused the same piece of rubber band multiple times. — Jeanie Woodruff, Houston