Dear Readers: Spring has sprung; you may be thinking of sprucing up your wardrobe, getting out of sweatpants and getting back to some semblance of normal, including your fashions.

If you’re looking for a great deal, you might think, “Let’s head to the outlet store.” I’ll bet you see the outlet store as a repository for department store over-runs, department store off-season items, and a place to get a great bargain.

But hold on. Big-name designers have begun creating lines of fashion items specifically for their own branded outlet stores.

The name is there, and the price is low? What a deal! But, the quality is low as well. The Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) is advising consumers to be aware.

Thin, lesser-quality fabrics are often used, along with poor stitching; the sewing skill is not there.

Cheaper buttons and zippers are used; patterns may not line up. All signs of lower-quality merch.

These items ARE NOT left over from the department store; they are manufactured especially for the outlet store. It’s certainly a choice we have as consumers; just caveat emptor — be aware of what you’re purchasing. — Heloise

P.S. There are discount department stores (you know their names) that carry designer, name-branded items. Their items may very well be left over from the department store. — Heloise


Dear Heloise: Will you help settle an argument? What is the order of operations for dental hygiene? Brush, floss, rinse? Floss, brush, rinse, or rinse, floss brush? — So Confused, via email in N.Y.

So Confused, let’s take a look. First thing in the morning, you may be tempted to grab a glug of mouthwash and then brush and floss. Resist.

Especially if your mouthwash contains fluoride, you’ll want the wash to sit on your teeth as you go about your day. Use mouthwash last.

Experts are divided on whether brushing first or flossing first is ideal. You need to floss every day, but only once a day, so many dentists advise to brush, floss, then rinse.

However, flossing first ensures that food particles are swept out, which can make for a more thorough brushing.

As long as you’re doing all three tasks, your oral hygiene should stay on track. Check with your dentist for what she recommends. — Heloise

P.S. Never flush dental floss. Dispose of it in the trash.


Dear Heloise: Remember wicker from the 1980s? It appears to be making a comeback! But what is wicker? A fiber? — Shauna S. in Tennessee

Shauna, yes, I’ve been seeing more wicker about. The term “wicker,” however, refers not to the material, but to the actual act of constructing the piece. Wicker, some say, is derived from the word “woven.”

What’s woven? Reed, willow, rattan ... strong, durable fibers that are lightweight. Indoor, outdoor — look for wicker everywhere! — Heloise


Dear Heloise: I’ve heard the hack about drying hair with a T-shirt. Don’t like it. I blot (never rub) my medium-length hair with a microfiber towel, let it air dry while I do my makeup, and then gently comb through and blow dry on low.

When the hair is wet, it swells and becomes prone to breakage. Heat is terrible for hair as well. — Lisa D. in Maryland


Dear Heloise: How long does cornstarch last? There is no date on my box of cornstarch. My mother claims it will last for years. but I have my doubts. — Callie Y., Provo, Utah

Callie, looks like your mother is right (mothers often are!). As long as your cornstarch is kept dry it will last a long time. The best way to store it is in a plastic or glass container to make certain moisture is kept away from the cornstarch. — Heloise

Send a money-saving or timesaving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001, or you can fax it to 1-210-HELOISE or email it to Heloise@Heloise.com. I can’t answer your letter personally but will use the best hints received in my column.

©2021 by King Features Syndicate Inc.

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