Q Occasionally, very small pieces of black particles come out of our bathroom faucet. They seem to come from the hot water faucet more often than the cold. What could this be? I have taken the faucet apart and cleaned it, but after a while the black stuff comes out again.

A If the problem is just at that one faucet, it's likely coming from a washer that is disintegrating and needs to be replaced. But it could indicate a water heater problem. Look at the owner's manual for maintaining your water heater, or call a plumber.

Black specks are different from the white material that can collect behind faucet screens. In that case, it's usually a buildup of sediment and mineral deposits that travel through the water lines. A water softener can reduce mineral deposits, but some debris may collect over time and need to be cleaned out.

Ink onboard

Q What will get rid of an ink stain on the car's dashboard?

A You may have to live with it, but here are a few suggestions. (Remember to test a solution in an inconspicuous area before widespread application.)

Ballpoint pen marks tend to be permanent. Try rubbing with alcohol. If that doesn't work, cover the area with a clean white cloth soaked in a 3 or 6 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide and let it sit for 30 minutes or overnight.

Felt-tip markers usually will leave permanent stains. They may respond to a sponge treatment with synthetic turpentine or mineral spirits.

For general cleaning, wipe vinyl with a clean, damp cloth. For heavier soil, sponge with a mild detergent and water. Allow the suds to maintain contact for a few minutes, then wipe with a damp cloth and polish with a dry one.

Do not use an abrasive pad or let the washing solution seep into the upholstery padding. Rinse well and pay special attention to areas such as headrests that are in frequent contact with hair oils. Clean those areas frequently, because hair oils and tonics may make vinyl brittle. Household cleaners may be effective for very soiled vinyl, but they could damage the finish if they contain ingredients such as ammonia or chlorine. Abrasive cleansers may scratch the surface. Check product labels to find ones that are safe for all vinyl.

Source: Minnesota Extension Service of Hennepin County

Send your questions to Fixit in care of the Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488, or call 612-673-7032, or e-mail fixit@startribune.com. Past columns are available at www.startribune.com/fixit. Sorry, Fixit cannot supply individual replies.