What do you do when a loved one is reduced to an unsavory housekeeping problem? Even the world's best-known authority on cleaning is scratching her head over that one. "[Homicide and suicide cleanup] is a real-life issue," volunteers Heloise, the syndicated "high-priestess of household hints" whose column appears in 500 newspapers in 21 countries. "It may not be pleasant, but if you don't have anyplace else to go and Heloise can give you those hints, we'll do it."

But don't grab the nylon netting just yet. Perhaps pointing up the nature of the problem, Heloise reports that she's not received a single letter about death-scene cleanup since she took over writing the column in 1977. "I really don't have any expertise in this particular area," she confesses during a recent telephone interview from her San Antonio hints bunker.

But after rifling through her encyclopedic memory bank, the "nation's dragon slayer of household tasks" quickly offers solutions to several small-scale domestic dilemmas that roughly approximate the technology used in death-scene cleanups. Odor removal is odor removal, whether the stench is emanating from body fluids or from pet urine that has permeated a carpet. Heloise suggests pulling up the carpet, removing the backing and, if necessary, treating the floor underneath with a sealer.

Blood-splattered walls and carpet? Comparing that problem to the inevitable mess after a dog or cat has given birth in a closet or under a bed, she recommends one of the new enzyme-based cleaners that "for lack of a better term, like Pac-Man, eat up the protein." And for household-tip traditionalists, there's always the tried-and-true. Says the berhintster, "Hydrogen peroxide is wonderful to remove bloodstains.

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Dewey Webb