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Soak it up: A solution for paint disposal

3:26 PM EDT, August 9, 2010

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Like many a household, ours houses stashes of old, partially full paint cans. Illegal to throw in the trash, they awaited a solution. CobZorb Paint Solidifier sounded like it. The product claims to turn your leftover paint (water-based — latex or acrylic — only) into a solid, making it landfill-ready.

Made from parts of corn cobs after the kernels are harvested, the product looks like rabbit food pellets. It has no odor.

Directions are simple: Pour into can, stir in until the paint begins to solidify, seal up can and toss. We tried it on two cans of latex paint left over from various house projects. The CobZorb box has a reclosable spout, like a salt container, making it easy to use and easy to close for storage without fearing spills. But directions give no guide on how much to use. So we used trial and error.

Some white ceiling paint, a scant 2 inches deep in the can, was a cinch. Just a couple of cups' worth of the pellets stirred in and the job was done: a sticky, solid mass. But the green left over from a bathroom redo was more difficult because the can was about three-quarters full. We mixed in a good portion of the box, but it wasn't enough. After trying with more, we eventually had to scoop some out into the other can to make room to pour in more pellets in the stubborn green paint. Eventually, in about 10 to 15 minutes, it set up too.

Though the box says it will solidify up to 3 gallons, we had only about one-third box left after just 1 gallon total. Turns out, we did it wrong. We should have used less and waited a bit longer.

"Chances are you probably used too much," says Ted McNamara, president of TJM Innovations LLC, in Milwaukee, which manufactures CobZorb. "If you give it 20 minutes or so, you'll see it swell up."

McNamara says a pound should work for two-thirds of a gallon.

Three-pound boxes can be purchased for $11.99 at cobzorb.com; the product should be coming to Ace Hardware stores, McNamara says. One-pound pouches will be offered in the future at $4.99.

— Joe Gray, Tribune Newspapers

Keep it cool

Some tips for keeping your air conditioning running smoothly during the ultrahot months and what to do if it breaks down from Deborah Evans, owner of Evans Heating & Cooling in Elgin, S.C.:

Change the air filter once a month. Don't use the ultrathick, expensive filters because they will restrict air flow and cause the unit to work harder.

Have the unit maintained twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall.

If the unit ices over from a coolant leak or being clogged with debris, turn off the thermostat and use a water hose to defrost it faster. Once it is defrosted, you can turn it back on for a cool blast while you wait for a repairman.

If the heating and air company has an unacceptably long waiting list, shop around for someone who can fix it faster or ask for a loaner window unit to stay cool while you wait.

Remember, most units will drop the indoor temperature inside only 20 degrees from the outdoor.

— Kristy Eppley Rupon, McClatchy/Tribune News

Don't spill a drop

Designers of the new Ink Series basins and vanities mulled how to "redesign the water's edge" and came up with sinks that mimic the feel of an infinity pool — the sense that water could simply flow out over the edge. Perhaps not as much fun to contemplate in a bathroom, where that water would end up all over the floor, but the idea did result in a basin with a compelling, modern shape. The Ink basin marries with its companion vanities to create a modular system that can be configured to a variety of spaces, but it's the look that has us hooked. Info: hastingstilebath.com

— Cindy Dampier, Tribune Newspapers