Q: Zinc sunscreen works well on my son's sensitive skin, but it transfers easily. How do I remove the lotion's white residue from our leather sofa?
A: In order to be effective in the hot sun and in water, sunscreens contain moisture-repelling substances and waxy compounds. It's generally these ingredients, rather than zinc, that make removing such stains a challenge.
To eliminate the smudges from leather upholstery, blot with a clean, dry cloth. Then blot using a cloth barely dampened with hot water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid. Continue to blot until the mark is gone, and then follow up with a cloth dampened with water to remove any traces of detergent.
You can also try a leather cleaner intended for the removal of oily stains, such as Amodex Ink & Stain Remover (available at amodexink.com). Test any product in an inconspicuous spot, and follow the directions carefully.
To prevent smudges in the future, be sure to let sunscreen dry after you apply it: Wait five to 10 minutes before dressing or resuming your regular activities.
Displaying the flag
Q: I'd like to hang the American flag in front of my house. What is the correct way to handle it?
A: There is a lot of lore surrounding the American flag, from its creation during the Revolutionary War to its proper display.
Uniform rules about the U.S. flag date to the National Flag Conference in Washington, D.C., in 1923. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt codified the rules in 1942, and they were re-enacted with some minor amendments during the 1976 bicentennial celebrations. These voluntary guidelines are known as the Federal Flag Code.
This code dictates when and how the flag should be flown. There are many customs, but the general principle is simple: Always treat the flag with respect. Here are some rules that apply to home display:
• The flag should be flown from sunrise to sunset; you may fly it at night, as long as it's well illuminated.
• It should always be in the highest position when it's flown with other flags. The canton (the upper-left quarter of the flag, also called the Union) should be placed at the top of the staff or flagpole.
For more on flag etiquette and customs, visit senate.gov.
Growing Japanese blood grass
Q: I live in Nashville, Tenn., and I've had Japanese blood grass in my garden for years — but I just heard that it might be an invasive plant. Should I get rid of it?
A: In your area, it would be a good idea to dig up and dispose of your plant. Japanese blood grass is the common name for Imperata cylindrica “Red Baron.” This perennial ornamental grass has been a popular garden plant for many years because of the intense red color of its foliage.
But the plant from which “Red Baron” was bred is a serious invasive weed in mild climates. Commonly known as cogongrass, it has taken over millions of acres worldwide and has become well established across the southern United States.
It spreads aggressively by both seeds and rhizomes and forms dense stands that are impenetrable to native plants. It is difficult to control, requiring a management program that can involve burning as well as applications of herbicide.
For this reason, planting any form of this grass is generally discouraged (visit www.cogongrass.org for information). Several states in the U.S. have passed laws banning the sale of all forms of cogongrass, including the “Red Baron” blood grass. If you decide to keep it, watch it carefully. If it produces flowers, cut them off immediately. Likewise, if it starts producing all-green foliage, it may be reverting to its natural form and should be dug up and discarded — not composted — right away.