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FEATURING Vinegar, Baking Soda, Salt, Toothpaste,
String, Plastic Cups, Mayonnaise, Nail Polish, Tape,
and More Than 190 Other Common Household Items
2 ,3 1 7 W A Y S T O S A V E M O N E Y A N D T I M E
The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.
Pleasantville, New York | Montreal
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Project Staff
Copyright ©2005 by The Reader’s Digest Association (Canada) Ltd.
Don Earnest
Michele Laseau
Jeanette Gingold
Copyright ©2005 by The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.
* Nan Badgett
* © Chuck Rekow
* © Bryon Thompson
Copyright ©2005 by The Reader’s Digest Association Far East Ltd.
Philippine Copyright ©2005 by The Reader’s Digest Association Far
East Ltd.
All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction, in any manner,
is prohibited.
Reader’s Digest and the Pegasus logo are registered trademarks of
The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Reader’s Digest Home & Health Publishing
* Neil Wertheimer
* Suzanne G. Beason
* Michele Laseau
Douglas A. Croll
John L. Cassidy
* Dawn Nelson
Keira Krausz
Extraordinary uses for ordinary things / Reader's Digest.-- 1st ed.
p. cm.
Includes index.
ISBN 0-7621-0705-7 (hdcvr)
1. Home economics. I. Reader’s Digest Association.
TX145.E95 2004
Address any comments about Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary
Things to:
The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.
Editor-in-Chief, Home & Health Books
Reader’s Digest Road
Pleasantville, NY 10570-7000
To order copies of Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things, call
Visit our website at
Printed in the United States of America
Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.
11 13 15 17 19 20 18 16 14 12
* Eric W. Schrier
Note to Readers
Text prepared especially for Reader’s Digest by
David Schiff
Marilyn Bader, Serena Harding,
Beth Kalet, Kathryn Kasturas,
Michael Kaufman,
Steven Schwartz, Anita Seline,
Angelique B. Sharps, Delilah
Smittle, and Amy Ziffer
The information in this book has been carefully researched, and all
efforts have been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither Nailhaus
Publications, Inc. nor Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. assumes any
responsibility for any injuries suffered or damages or losses incurred as
a result of following the instructions in this book. Before taking any
action based on information in this book, study the information carefully and make sure that you understand it fully. Observe all warnings
and Take Care notices. Test any new or unusual repair or cleaning
method before applying it broadly, or on a highly visible area or valuable item. The mention of any brand or product in this book does not
imply an endorsement. All prices and product names mentioned are
subject to change and should be considered general examples rather
than specific recommendations.
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{Yes, Extraordinary }
Welcome to Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things! Inside you’ll find
thousands of ingenious, money-saving tips just like these. Jump in,
raid your pantry, and start saving money today!
Don’t buy special powder to get rid of dishwasher iron deposits. Just dump in a packet of
unsweetened Kool-Aid. It’s a much cheaper way to make the inside of your dishwasher sparkle.
Substitute club soda for the liquid called for in your favorite pancake or waffle recipe.
You’ll be amazed at how light and fluffy the breakfast treats will be.
Got lipstick on your shirt? Apply hair spray and let it sit for a few minutes.
When you wipe the spray off, the stain will come off with it.
Make a deep-cleaning mud mask for your face with a couple of handfuls of cat litter.
The clay in the litter detoxifies your skin by absorbing dirt and oil from the pores.
For an effective way to melt ice on steps and walkways, sprinkle them with generous amounts of
baking soda mixed with sand. It won’t stain or damage concrete surfaces.
Pour about a quarter cup of soda pop into the water in that vase of flowers
and the sugar in the drink will make the blossoms last longer.
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Most Useful Items
Top 12 most useful items for the¢
Top 11 most useful items for health and¢
Top 10 most useful items for ¢
Top 11 most useful items for the¢
Top 11 most useful items for ¢
Top 13 most useful items for¢
Top 15 most useful items for¢
Top 14 most useful items for quick¢
Top 10 most useful items for the
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A-Z Guide
Denotes a SUPER ITEM: A household item with an amazingly large number of uses.
Adhesive tape 36
Alka-Seltzer 37
Blow-dryer 89
Clothespins 125
Borax 89
Club soda 127
Bottles 91
Coat hangers 128
Bottle opener 96
Coffee beans 130
Bread 97
Coffee cans 131
Bubble pack 98
Coffee filters 133
Buckets 99
Coffee grounds 134
Apples 53
Butter 101
Coins 135
Ashes 54
Buttons 103
Colanders 137
Aluminum foil 39
Aluminum pie pans 47
Ammonia 49
Aspirin 55
Baby oil 58
Baby powder 59
Baby wipes 60
Baby wipes containers 61
Baking soda 62
Balloons 75
Bananas 77
Basters 78
Bath oil 80
Bathtub appliqués 81
Beans (dried) 82
Beer 83
Berry baskets 84
Binder clips 85
Bleach 86
Cold cream 138
Compact discs 138
Cooking spray 140
Corks 141
Cans 104
Cornstarch 143
Candles 106
Correction fluid 145
Candy tins 107
Cotton balls 146
Cardboard boxes 108
Crayons 147
Cardboard tubes 112
Cream of tartar 148
Car wax 115
Curtain rings 148
Carpet scraps 115
Castor oil 117
Cat litter 118
Chalk 119
Charcoal briquettes 120
Dental floss 150
Cheesecloth 121
Denture tablets 151
Chest rub 122
Disposable diapers 152
Chewing gum 123
Chicken wire 124
Clipboards 125
Duct tape 153
Dustpans 159
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Milk cartons 212
Earrings 160
Ice-cream scoops 184
Mouthwash 214
Eggs 161
Ice cubes 185
Mustard 216
Egg cartons 161
Ice cube trays 187
Emery boards 162
Ice scrapers 189
Mothballs 213
Mouse pads 214
Envelopes 163
Epsom salt 164
Fabric softener 166
Fabric softener sheets 167
Jars 190
Jar lids 191
Flowerpots 172
Foam food trays 173
Ketchup 193
Gloves 177
Kool-Aid 194
Olive oil 229
Onions 230
Oranges 231
Oven cleaner 232
Oven mitts 234
Ladders 195
Lemons 196
Lighter fluid 202
Lip balm 202
Paintbrushes 235
Glycerin 178
Golf gear 179
Oatmeal 228
Funnels 175
Garden hose 176
Nail polish remover 222
Keys 194
Freezer 174
Nail polish 217
Newspaper 224
Film canisters 169
Flour 171
Magazines 204
Magnets 204
Margarine tubs 205
Hair conditioner 180
Marshmallows 206
Hair spray 181
Masking tape 207
Hydrogen peroxide 183
Mayonnaise 208
Meat tenderizer 210
Milk 211
Pantyhose 236
Paper bags 242
Paper clips 247
Paper plates 248
Paper towels 248
Peanut butter 250
Pencils 251
Pencil erasers 252
Pepper 253
Petroleum jelly 254
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Pillowcases 258
Soap 306
Pipe cleaners 260
Socks 307
Plastic bags 261
Soda pop 308
Plastic containers 267
Spices 310
Plastic lids 268
Sponges 312
Plastic tablecloths 269
Spray bottles 313
Plastic wrap 270
Squirt bottles 314
Plungers 271
Steel wool 315
Popsicle sticks 271
Straws 316
Pots and pans 272
String 317
Potatoes 273
Styrofoam 319
Vanilla extract 341
Vegetable oil 341
Vegetable peelers 342
Vinegar 343
Vodka 370
Sugar 320
Return address labels 275
Rubber bands 276
Rubber jar rings 278
Rubbing alcohol 278
Talcum powder 322
Tape 323
Salt 280
Saltshakers 289
Sand 289
Shampoo 298
Shaving cream 301
Sheets 301
WD-40 375
Weather stripping 384
Window cleaner 384
Toothbrushes 333
Yogurt 386
Toothpaste 334
Toothpicks 336
Twist ties 339
Sandwich and freezer bags 292
Screening 297
Tomato juice 332
Tires 332
Sandpaper 290
Wax paper 372
Tea 327
Tennis balls 330
Wallpaper 372
Zippers 387
Zucchini 387
Umbrellas 340
Shoe bags 302
Shoe boxes 303
Shortening 303
Shower curtains 304
Skateboards 306
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Your Cupboard
Once upon a time, in the days before computers, cable television, drive-through coffee
bars, and carpet-sweeping robots, washing
windows was a simple affair. Our parents
poured a little vinegar or ammonia in a pail
of water, grabbed a cloth, and in no time had
a clear view of the outside world through
gleaming glass. Then they would use the
same combination to banish grime and grit
from countertops, walls, shelves, fixtures,
floors, and a good bit else of the house.
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Some things, like window washing,
shouldn’t ever get more complicated. But
somehow, they did. Today, store shelves are
laden with a dazzling array of cleaning products, each with a unique use, a special
formula, and a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign. Window cleaners alone take
up shelves and shelves of space. The bottles
are filled with colorful liquids and have labels
touting their orange power, berry bouquet, or
lemon or apple herbal scent. Ironically, many
boast the added power of vinegar or ammonia
as their “secret” ingredient.
This is the way of the world today. Every
problem, every mess, every hobby, every daily
task seems to require special tools, unique
products, and extensive know-how. Why use
a knife to chop garlic when there are 48 varieties of garlic presses available? Why use a rag
for cleaning when you have specialized
sponges, wipes, Swiffers, magnetically charged
dusters, and HEPA-filter vacuums?
Which brings us to the point of this
book: Why not just use a solution of vinegar
or ammonia like our grandparents did to
clean the windows? It works just as well as
those fancy products—if not better. And it
costs only about a quarter as much, sometimes less.
204 Everyday
Items with
Over 2,300 Uses
Making do with what you’ve already got.
It’s an honorable, smart, money-saving
approach to life. And in fact, it can be downright fun. Sure you can buy a fancy lint brush
to remove cat hairs from pants, but it’s pretty
amazing how a penny’s worth of tape does the
job even better. Yes, you can use strong
kitchen chemicals to clean the inside of a vase
that held its flower water a bit too long. But
isn’t it more entertaining—and easier—to use
a couple of Alka-Seltzer tablets instead to fizz
away the mess?
Welcome to Extraordinary Uses for
Ordinary Things. On the following pages,
we’ll show you more than 2,300 ingenious
ways to use 204 ordinary household products to restore, replace, repair, or revive
practically everything in and around your
home or to pamper yourself or entertain
your kids. You’ll save time and money—and
you’ll save shelf space because you won’t
need all those different kinds of specialized
commercial preparations. You’ll even save on
gasoline, because you won’t need to speed off
to the mall every time you run out of a
staple such as air freshener, shampoo, oven
cleaner, or wrapping paper.
The household items featured in this
book are not costly commercial concoctions. Rather, they are everyday items that
you’re likely to find in your home—in your
kitchen, medicine cabinet, desk, garage, and
even your wastebasket. And you’ll be
amazed by how much you can actually
accomplish using just a few of the most
versatile of these items, such as baking
soda, duct tape, pantyhose, salt,
vinegar, and WD-40. In fact, there’s a
popular maxim among handymen that
whittles the list to a pair of basic necessities: “To get through life,” the saying
goes, “you only need two tools: WD-40 and
duct tape. If it doesn’t move, but should,
reach for the WD-40. If it moves, but
shouldn’t, grab the duct tape.”
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Less Toxic and
More EarthFriendly Items
In addition to saving you time and money,
there are other, less tangible advantages to
using these everyday household products.
For one thing, many of the items are
safer to use and considerably more
environmentally friendly than
their off-the-shelf counterparts.
Consider, for example, using vinegar
and baking soda to clear a clogged bathroom
or kitchen drain (page 64). It’s usually just as
effective as a commercial drain cleaner. The
only difference is that the baking-soda-andvinegar combination is far less caustic on your
plumbing. Plus, you don’t have to worry
about getting it on your skin or in your eyes.
The hints in this book will also help you
reduce household waste by giving you hundreds of delightful and surprising suggestions
for reusing many of the items that you would
otherwise toss in the trash or recycling bin. To
name a few, these include lemon rinds and
banana peels, used tea bags and coffee grinds,
orphaned socks and worn-out pantyhose,
plastic bags, empty bottles and jugs, cans, and
At the end of the day, you’ll experience
the distinct pleasure that can only come from
learning creative, new ways to use those
familiar objects around your house that you
always thought you knew so well. Even if
you’ll never use Alka-Seltzer tablets to lure
fish onto your line, or need to plug a hole in
your car radiator with black pepper, isn’t it
great to know you can?
Folk Wisdom for
the 21st Century
As we noted earlier, much of the advice you’ll
find in Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things
is not really new—it’s just new to us. After
all, “Waste not, want not” isn’t merely a
quaint adage from a bygone era; it actually
defined a way of life for generations. In the
days before mass manufacturing and mass
marketing transformed us into a throwaway
society, most folks knew perfectly well that
salt and baking soda (or bicarbonate of soda,
as it was commonly referred to in those
times) had dozens upon dozens of uses.
Now, as landfills swell, and we realize
that the earth’s resources aren’t really endless,
there are signs of a shift back to thrift, so to
speak. From recycling programs to energyefficient appliances to hybrid cars, we’re
constantly looking for new ways to apply the
old, commonsense values of our forebears.
Even the International Space Station is an
example of thrifty technologies at work today.
When the station is completed, nearly every
waste product and used item onboard the
craft will be recycled for another purpose.
How We Put This
Book Together
Of course, our number one priority was to
provide you with the most reliable information available. To meet that goal, we
conducted countless interviews with experts
on everything from acne cures to yard care
and scrutinized stacks of research materials.
We also performed numerous hands-on tests
in our own kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms, and other areas around our homes.
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The result, we believe, is the most comprehensive and dependable guide to alternative uses for household products you can
find. Like a great stew, we’ve combined some
time-honored, traditional tips (such as using
apple cider vinegar to kill weeds in your
garden) with new tips given to us by various
reliable sources (like recycling used fabric softener sheets to clean PC and TV screens), and
a few tips that we came up with on our own
(such as using bathtub appliqués to steady a
legless PC case).
As in any comprehensive compilation
such as this, the practical wisdom contained in
this book is as much art as it is science. That is
to say, although we employed trial-and-error
methods wherever possible to provide you
with specific amounts and clear directions for
using household products and objects to
obtain the desired results, we can’t guarantee
that these solutions will work in all situations.
In other words, your mileage may vary.
Moreover, while we’re confident that
every one of the 204 products used for all the
tips included here is generally safe and effective when used as directed, please pay close
attention to our “Take Care” warnings about
using, storing, and especially combining certain products, particularly bleach and
ammonia. Under no conditions should you
ever mix these two chemicals, or use them in
poorly ventilated areas.
What’s on the
The main part of this book is
arranged like an encyclopedia,
with the 204 product categories
organized in A-Z fashion (running from
Adhesive Tape to Zucchini), to provide
instant access to information as well as entertaining reading. But before that, in the first
part of this book, you’ll find a guide to the
items that are most useful for certain areas,
such as the garden or for cooking.
Scattered throughout, you’ll also find
hundreds of fascinating asides and anecdotes.
Some highlight specific warnings and safety
precautions, or offer advice about buying or
using certain items. But many are just plain
fun—providing quirky historical information
about the invention or origins of products.
Haven’t you always wondered who invented
the Band-Aid or how Scotch tape got its
name? We’ve also included dozens of engaging
and enlightening activities and simple science
experiments you can do with your children or
grandchildren (and not a single one requires a
visit to the local toy store).
Whether you delight in discovering new
ways to use commonplace household items,
or if you simply hate to throw things away,
we’re sure you’ll find the ideas in this book
entertaining and enlightening. So, pull up a
comfortable chair, settle back, and get ready
to be dazzled by the incredible number of
everyday problems that you’ll soon be able to
solve with ease. We’re confident this is one
book you’ll return to over and over again for
helpful hints, trustworthy advice, and even
some good, old-fashioned inspiration.
—The Editors
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Useful Items*
If you have a special interest, such as
cooking or health and beauty, you’ll
soon discover that certain household
items are especially useful. There are, for
example, close to a dozen uses for plastic
bottles in the garden. On these pages,
you’ll find these helpful items listed for
most everyday areas of interest.
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Most Useful Items for around the
pad a package with a
disposable diaper …
p. 152
Carpet scraps Make an exercise mat, car mat, or knee pad. • Muffle
{ PAGE 115 }
appliance noise . • Protect floor under
plants. • Cushion kitchen shelves. • Give your car
traction. • Protect tools.
Compact discs Use as holiday ornaments, driveway reflectors, or a
{PAGE 138}
circle template. • Catch candle drips. • Make an artistic
bowl, decorative sun
catcher, or
Duct tape Remove lint. • Repair toilet seats, screens, vacuum
{PAGE 153}
hoses, and frames. • Cover a book, pocket folder, or
present. • Make a bandage or bumper
sticker. • Catch flies. • Replace a grommet.
• Reinforce a book binding. • Hem pants. • Hang
Christmas lights. • Make Halloween costumes.
Fabric softener sheets Freshen air and deodorize cars, dogs, gym bags, suit{PAGE 167}
cases, and sneakers. • Pick up pet
hairs. • Repel
mosquitoes. • Stop static cling. • Make sheets smell
good. • End tangled sewing thread.
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Nail polish
{PAGE 217}
Mark hard-to-see items. • Mark thermostat and shower
settings and levels in measuring cups and buckets. • Label
sports gear and poison containers. • Seal envelopes and
labels. • Stop shoe scuffs and keep laces, ribbons, and
fabric from unraveling. • Make needle-threading easier.
• Keep buckles and jewelry
shiny. • Stop a
stocking run. • Temporarily repair glasses. • Fix nicks in
floors and glass. • Repair lacquered items. • Plug a hole in
a cooler. • Fill washtub nicks.
{PAGE 236}
Find and pick up small objects. • Buff shoes. • Keep hairbrush clean. • Remove nail polish. • Keep spray bottles
clog-free. • Organize suitcases. Hang-dry sweaters.
• Secure trash
bags. • Dust under fridge.
• Prevent soil erosion in houseplants.
Paper bags Pack on trips for souvenirs. • Dust off mops. • Carry
{PAGE 242}
laundry. • Cover textbooks. • Create a table decoration.
• Use as gift bags and wrapping paper. • Reshape knits
after washing. • Use as a pressing
cloth. • Bag
newspapers for recycling.
Plastic bags Keep mattresses dry. • Bulk curtains and stuff crafts.
{PAGE 261}
• Drain bath
toys. • Clean pockets in the laundry.
• Make bibs and a high-chair drop cloth. • Line a litter
box. • Dispose of a Christmas tree.
Rubber bands
{PAGE 276}
Reshape your broom. • Childproof cabinets. • Keep
thread from tangling. • Make a holder for car visor. • Use
to grip
paper. • Extend a button. • Use as a
bookmark. • Cushion a remote control. • Secure bed slats
and tighten furniture casters.
Sandwich and freezer bags Protect pictures and padlocks. • Dispense fabric
{PAGE 292}
softener. • Display baby teeth. • Carry baby wipes.
• Mold soap. • Starch craft items. • Feed birds. • Make
a funnel .
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Most Useful Items for the
the secret to perfect
poached eggs is vinegar …
p. 354
Aluminum foil Bake a perfect piecrust. • Soften brown sugar.
{PAGE 39}
• Decorate a cake and create special-shaped pie pans.
• Keep rolls and bread warm. • Make an extra-
large salad bowl. • Make a toasted cheese
sandwich with an iron.
Apples Keep a roast chicken moist and cakes fresh. • Ripen
{PAGE 53}
green tomatoes. • Fluff up hardened
brown sugar. • Absorb excess salt in soups.
Baking soda Clean fruits and vegetables. • Remove fish smells.
{PAGE 62}
• Reduce the acidity of coffee and tomato-based sauces.
• Reduce the gas-producing properties of beans.
• Make fluffy
omelets. • Replace yeast.
Coffee filters Cover food in microwave. • Filter cork crumbs from
{PAGE 133}
wine or food remnants from cooking oil. • Hold
taco, ice cream bar, or ice pop.
Ice cube trays Freeze eggs, pesto, chopped vegetables and herbs,
{PAGE 187}
chicken soup—even leftover
future use.
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Lemons Prevent potatoes from turning brown or rice from stick{PAGE 198}
ing. • Keep guacamole green. • Make soggy
lettuce crisp. • Freshen the fridge and
cutting boards.
Paper towels
{PAGE 248}
Microwave bacon, clean corn, and strain
• Keep vegetables crisp and vegetable bin clean. • Prevent
soggy bread and rusty pots.
Plastic bags Cover a cookbook. • Bag hands to answer phone.
{PAGE 264}
• Crush graham crackers. • Use as mixing bowl or salad
spinner. • Ripen
Rubber bands
{PAGE 276}
Keep spoons from sliding into bowls. • Secure casserole
lids for travel. • Anchor a cutting board. • Get a
better grip on twist-off lids and glasses.
Salt Prevent grease from splattering. • Speed cooking. • Shell
{PAGE 283}
hard-boiled eggs or pecans easier. • Test eggs for freshness
and poach eggs perfectly. • Wash spinach better. • Keep
salad crisp. • Revive
wrinkled apples
and stop cut fruit from browning. • Use to whip cream,
beat eggs, and keep milk fresh. • Prevent mold on cheese.
Sandwich and freezer bags
{PAGE 293}
Store grater with cheese. • Make a pastry bag.
• Dispose of cooking oil. • Color cookie dough. • Keep
ice cream from forming crystals. • Soften marshmallows,
melt chocolate, and save soda. • Grease
Toothpicks Mark steaks for doneness. • Retrieve garlic cloves from
{PAGE 336}
marinade. • Prevent pots from boiling over. • Microwave
potatoes faster. • Limit
salad dressing.
• Fry sausages better.
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Most Useful Items for health and
ease a backache with
meat tenderizer ...
p. 210
Dry up pimples. • Treat calluses. • Control dandruff.
{PAGE 55}
• Cut inflammation from bites and stings. • Restore
hair color after swimming in chlorinated pool.
Baby oil
{PAGE 58}
Remove a bandage painlessly. • Treat cradle cap. • Make
bath oil. • Make hot oil treatment for cuticles
and calluses.
Baking soda Soothe minor burns, sunburn, poison ivy rash, bee
{PAGE 69}
stings, diaper rash, and other skin irritations.
• Combat cradle cap. • Control dandruff. • Use as gargle or mouthwash. • Scrub teeth and clean dentures.
• Alleviate itching in casts and athlete’s foot. • Soothe
tired, stinky
feet. • Remove built-up hair gel,
spray, or conditioner. • Use as an antiperspirant.
Butter Make pills easier to swallow. • Soothe aching feet.
{PAGE 101}
• Remove sap from skin. • Remove makeup. • Smooth
legs after shaving. • Use as shaving
• Moisturize dry hair.
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Chest rub Make calluses disappear. • Sooth aching feet. • Stop
{PAGE 122}
insect-bite itch. • Treat toenail fungus.
• Repel biting insects.
Lemons Disinfect cuts and scrapes. • Soothe poison ivy rash.
{PAGE 200}
• Relieve rough hands and sore feet. • Remove warts.
• Lighten age
spots. • Create blond highlights.
• Clean and whiten nails. • Cleanse and exfoliate your
face. • Treat dandruff. • Soften dry elbows.
Mayonnaise Relieve sunburn pain. • Remove dead
{PAGE 204}
• Condition hair. • Make a facial. • Strengthen fingernails.
Mustard Soothe aching back pain. • Relax stiff muscles. • Relieve
{PAGE 216}
Petroleum jelly
{PAGE 254}
congestion. • Make a facial mask.
Heal windburn. • Help diaper rash. • Protect
baby’s eyes from shampoo. • Moisturize lips. • Remove
makeup. • Moisturize your face. • Create makeup.
• Strengthen perfume. • Soften hands. • Do a professional
manicure. • Smooth eyebrows.
Tea Relieve tired eyes. • Soothe bleeding gums. • Cool
{PAGE 327}
sunburn. • Relieve baby’s pain from injection.
• Reduce razor burn. • Condition dry hair and get the
gray out. • Tan your skin. • Drain a boil. • Soothe nipples
sore from nursing. • Soothe mouth pain.
Vinegar Control dandruff and condition hair. • Protect blond
{PAGE 355}
hair from chlorine. • Apply as antiperspirant. • Soak
aching muscles. • Freshen breath. • Ease sunburn and
itching. • Banish bruises. • Soothe sore throat. • Clear
congestion. • Heal cold sores and athlete’s foot. • Pamper
skin. • Erase age or sun spots. • Soften cuticles. • Treat
jellyfish or bee stings.
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Most Useful Items for
clean fireplace doors
with ashes ...
p. 54
Ammonia Clean carpets, upholstery, ovens, fireplace doors, win{PAGE 49}
dows, porcelain fixtures, crystal, jewelry, and
white shoes. • Remove tarnish and stains.
• Fight mildew. • Strip floor wax.
Baking soda Clean baby bottles, thermoses, cutting boards, appli{PAGE 62}
ances, sponges and towels, coffeemakers, teapots, cookware, and fixtures. • Clear clogged drains. • Deodorize
garbage pails. • Boost dishwashing liquid or make your
own. • Remove stains. • Shine jewelry, stainless steel,
chrome, and marble. • Wash wallpaper and
remove crayon. •Remove must.
{PAGE 89}
Clear a clogged drain. • Remove stains. • Clean windows and mirrors. • Remove mildew from fabrics.
• Sanitize your garbage
• Eliminate urine odor.
Fabric softener sheets Lift burned-on food. • Freshen drawers. • Remove
{PAGE 167}
soap scum. • Repel dust from TV screen. • Freshen
hampers and wastebaskets. • Buff chrome. • Keep
dust off blinds. • Renew stuffed toys.
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Lemons Get rid of tough stains on marble. • Polish metals.
{PAGE 196}
• Clean the microwave. • Deodorize cutting
boards, fridge, and garbage disposal.
Rubbing alcohol Clean fixtures, venetian blinds, windows, and phones.
{PAGE 278}
• Remove hair spray from mirrors. • Prevent ring around
the collar. • Remove ink
Salt Clean vases, discolored glass, flowerpots, artificial flowers,
{PAGE 280}
percolators, refrigerators, woks, and wicker. • Give
brooms long life. • Ease fireplace or flour cleanup. Make
metal polish. • Remove wine and grease from carpet,
water marks from wood, and lipstick from glasses.
• Restore a sponge. • Freshen the garbage
posal. • Remove baked-on food. • Soak up oven
spills. • Remove stains from pans and clean cast iron.
Toothpaste Clean piano
{PAGE 334}
keys and sinks. • Polish metal and
jewelry. • Deodorize baby bottles. • Remove ink or lipstick from fabric, crayon from walls, and water marks
from furniture.
Vinegar Clean blinds, bricks, tile, paneling, carpets, piano keys,
{PAGE 343}
computers, appliances, and cutting boards. • Clean
china, crystal, glassware, coffeemakers, and cookware.
• Banish kitchen grease. • Deodorize drains and closets.
• Polish metal. • Erase ballpoint pen marks. • Remove
water rings and wax from furniture. • Revitalize
leather. •
Clean fixtures and purge bugs.
WD-40 Remove carpet stains and floor scuffs. • Remove tea and
{PAGE 377}
tomato stains. • Clean toilet
• Condition leather furniture. • Clean a chalkboard.
• Remove marker and crayon from walls.
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Most Useful Items for the
keep aphids off rosebushes
with banana peels ...
p. 85
Aluminum foil Create a sun box for window plants or an incubator for
{PAGE 43}
seedlings. • Mix with mulch to deter insects. • Hang
strips to scare
crows and other birds. • Wrap
tree trunks to prevent sunscald or to keep nibbling mice
and rabbits away. • Keep cuttings from getting tangled.
Make a bird feeder, a gutter scoop, a watering can, or
{PAGE 93}
an individual drip irrigator for a plant. • Secure netting over flowerbeds. • Isolate weeds when spraying.
• Cover seed-packet markers or make plant tags from
cut strips. • Use as trash can on mower. • Use to space
seeds. • Trap
Coffee cans Make a sprinkler to spread
{PAGE 131}
seeds and fertil-
izer. • Measure rain to ensure your garden is getting
enough water • Make a bird feeder.
Milk cartons
{PAGE 212}
Make a bird feeder. • Use as a seed starter. • Make a
collar to protect
vegetables. • Collect
kitchen scraps for compost.
9:59 AM
Page 25
Newspaper Protect and ripen end-of-season tomatoes. • Use as
{PAGE 224}
mulch or add to compost to remove odor. •
weeds in flower and vegetable beds. • Get rid
of earwigs.
{PAGE 240}
Tie up tomatoes and beans. • Fill with hair clippings to
repel deer. • Make a hammock for growing melons.
Store onions and off-season bulbs. • Prevent
soil lost in houseplants. • Fill with soap scraps for cleaning hands at garden spigot.
Plastic bags Protect plants from frost and shoes from mud. • Speed
{PAGE 265}
budding of poinsettias and Christmas cactus. • Keep
bugs off fruit on trees. • Store outdoor equipment manuals. • Bring a favorite cracked vase back into
use. • Make disposable work aprons.
Plastic containers Make traps for slugs and wasps. • Stop
{PAGE 267}
ants from
crawling up picnic table legs. • Use to start seedlings.
Salt Kill snails and slugs. • Inhibit the growth of weeds in
{PAGE 287}
walkway cracks. • Extend the life of cut flowers.
• Clean
flowerpots .
Tea Spur growth of rosebushes. • Water acid-loving plants.
{PAGE 330}
• Nourish houseplants. • Prepare a planter for potting.
• Speed the decomposition of compost .
WD-40 Keep animals out of flowerbeds and squirrels off bird
{PAGE 379}
feeders. • Keep tool handles from splintering. • Stop
snow from sticking on shovel or snow thrower. Prevent
wasps from building nests and repel
pigeons .
• Kill thistle plants.
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Most Useful Items for
lubricate skate wheels with
hair conditioner ...
p. 181
Aluminum foil Improve outdoor lighting. • Keep bees away from bev{PAGE 44}
erages. • Make an impromptu picnic platter or improvise a frying
pan. • Make a drip pan for your
barbecue and clean the grill. • Warm your toes when
camping and keep your sleeping bag and matches dry.
• Make a fishing lure.
Baking soda Keep weeds out of concrete cracks. • Clean plastic
{PAGE 74}
resin lawn furniture. • Feed your flowering plants.
• Maintain proper
pool alkalinity.
• Scour the barbecue grill.
{PAGE 93}
Use a plastic jug to make a scoop
or bailer
for your boat. • Make a plastic jug into an anchor for
your boat and for landlubber jobs. • Make a bird feeder. • Fill a plastic jug with sand or cat litter for winter
traction. • Keep your cooler cold.
Bubble pack
{PAGE 98}
Keep soft drinks cold. • Sleep on air while camping.
• Cushion
bleachers and benches.
EUT014033.qxd 11/3/04 11:36 AM Page 27
Buckets Boil lobster over the campfire. • Use as a
{PAGE 99}
footlocker. • Build a camp washing machine or
make a camp shower.
Cat litter
{PAGE 118}
Give your car traction on ice. • Prevent barbecue grease
fires. • Keep tents and sleeping
bags must-
free. • Remove grease spots from driveway.
Cooking spray Prevent grass from sticking to your mower. • Spray on
{PAGE 140}
fishing line for quicker casting. • Prevent snow
from sticking to your shovel or your snow-thrower chute.
Duct tape Seal out ticks. • Create a clothesline. • Stash a
{PAGE 157}
secret car key. • Patch a canoe or a pool. • Repair outdoor
cushions and replace lawn furniture webbing. • Make bike
streamers. • Tighten hockey shin guards and revive your
hockey stick. • Preserve skateboarders’ shoes. • Repair your
ski gloves or a tent. • Waterproof your footwear.
Sandwich and freezer bags
{PAGE 296}
Inflate to make
valuables float
when boating. • Make a hand cleaner for the beach.
• Apply bug spray with ease.
Vinegar Keep water fresh. • Clean outdoor furniture and decks.
{PAGE 363}
• Repel insects. • Trap flying insects. • Get rid of ants.
• Clean off bird
WD-40 Repel pigeons and wasps. • Waterproof shoes. • Remove
{PAGE 381}
wax from skis and snowboards. • Remove barnacles from
boat and protect it from corrosion. • Untangle your fishing line and lure
fish. • Clean and protect golf
clubs. • Remove burrs from a horse’s mane and protect
hooves in winter. • Keep flies off cows.
10:55 AM
Page 28
Most Useful Items for
stash your valuables at the
gym in a tennis ball ...
p. 331
Baby wipe containers Organize sewing supplies, recipe cards, coupons,
{PAGE 61}
craft supplies, old floppy disks, small tools,
photos, receipts, bills, and more. • Store plastic shopping bags. • Store towels and rags.
{PAGE 91}
Store sugar. • Store small workshop items. • Use as a
boot tree. • Make a bag or string dispenser.
Cans Compartmentalize your tool pouch with juice cans.
{PAGE 104}
• Make a desk organizer. • Create pigeonholes to
store silverware, nails, office supplies,
and other odds and ends.
Candy tins Make an emergency sewing kit. • Store broken jewelry.
{PAGE 107}
• Make a birthday keepsake. • Prevent jewelry chain
tangles. • Organize a sewing
box. • Store car
fuses. • Keep earrings together. • Store workshop items.
Cardboard boxes Make magazine holders from detergent boxes. • Make
{PAGE 109}
a home-office in-box. • Store hoes, rakes, and other
long-handled garden
• Protect glass-
ware or lightbulbs. • Store posters and artwork. • Store
EUT014033.qxd 11/3/04 11:36 AM Page 29
Christmas ornaments. • Organize dowels, moldings, furring strips, 2x2s, and metal rods.
Cardboard tubes Store knitting needles and fabric scraps. • Keep Christmas
{PAGE 112}
lights tidy. • Preserve kids’ artwork, important documents,
and posters. • Keep linens
pants wrinkle-free, and electrical cords tangle-free.
• Protect fluorescent lights. • Store string.
Clothespins Keep snacks fresh. • Organize workshop, kitchen, bath{PAGE 125}
room, and closets. • Keep gloves
in shape.
Coffee cans Make a kids’ bank. • Hold kitchen scraps. • Carry toilet
{PAGE 131}
paper when camping. • Store screws, nuts, and nails.
• Organize and store
belts. • Collect pocket stuff
in the laundry.
Egg cartons Store and sort coins. • Organize buttons, safety pins,
{PAGE 161}
threads, bobbins, and fasteners. • Store golf
or Christmas ornaments.
Film canisters
{PAGE 169}
Make a stamp dispenser or a sewing kit. • Organize pills.
• Store fishing
flies. • Carry change for tolls.
• Stash jewelry at the gym. • Carry dressings, cooking
spices, and condiments. • Carry nail polish remover.
{PAGE 236}
Store wrapping paper. • Bundle
• Store onions or flower bulbs.
Plastic bags Store wipes. • Collect used clothes. • Protect
{PAGE 261}
clothes. • Store skirts. • Keep purses in shape.
Sandwich and freezer bags
{PAGE 292}
Store breakables. • Save
sweaters .
• Create a sachet. • Add cedar to a closet. • Make a
pencil bag. • De-clutter the bath.
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Most Useful Items for
make finger paints
from yogurt ...
p. 386
Aluminum pie pans Use as mold
{PAGE 47}
for ice ornaments. • Minimize
glitter mess and make trays for craft supplies.
Baking soda Make watercolor paints or invisible
{PAGE 66}
• Produce gas to blow up a balloon. • Clean crayon
marks from walls and baby spit-up from clothing.
• Combat cradle cap and diaper rash. • Wash chemicals out of new baby clothes.
Bathtub appliqués Stick to bottom of kiddie pool. • Affix to sippy cups
{PAGE 81}
and high-chair
Cardboard boxes Make a medieval castle, a puppet theater, or a sundial.
{PAGE 110}
• Make a garage for toy vehicles. • Store tennis rackets, baseball bats, fishing poles, and other sporting
goods. • Use as an impromptu
• Play beverage-box ski-ball.
Cardboard tubes Make a kazoo or a megaphone. • Preserve your kids’
{PAGE 112}
artwork. • Build a toy log cabin. • Make no-gunpowder
“English” firecrackers.
EUT014033.qxd 11/3/04 11:36 AM Page 31
Compact discs Make a fun picture frame. • Make wall art for a teen’s
{PAGE 138}
room. • Create spinning
Corks Use burnt cork as Halloween face paint. • Create a
{PAGE 141}
craft stamp. • Make a cool bead curtain for a
kid’s room.
Duct tape Make Halloween
{PAGE 155}
{PAGE 190}
costumes, a toy
sword, or hand puppets. • Create bicycle streamers.
Make a savings bank. • Dry kids’ mittens. • Bring along
baby treats and store baby-food portions. • Collect
insects. • Create a miniature
Margarine tubs Make a baby footprint paperweight. • Divvy up ice
{PAGE 205}
cream so kids can help themselves. • Bring fast food for
baby. • Make a coin
bank . • Give kids some
lunch-box variety.
Paper bags Cover textbooks. • Make
{PAGE 242}
a kite . • Create a
life-size body poster.
Paper plates Make index cards and Frisbee flash cards. • Make crafts,
{PAGE 248}
{PAGE 258}
mobiles, and seasonal
Prepare travel pillows for kids. • Make wall
hangings for kids’ rooms. • Clean
stuffed animals.
Sandwich and freezer bags
{PAGE 292}
Display baby teeth. • Make baby wipes. • Dye
pasta for crafts. • Make kids’ kitchen gloves. • Make a
pencil bag. • Keep spare kids’ clothes in car for mishaps.
• Cure car sickness. • Play football while making pudding.
Tape Secure a baby’s bib. • Create childproofing in a pinch.
{PAGE 326}
• Make a multicolor
pen. • Make an
unpoppable balloon.
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Most Useful Items for quick
repair your garden hose
with a toothpick ...
p. 338
Adhesive tape Remove broken window glass safely. • Hang caulk
{PAGE 36}
tubes for storage. • Get a better
Aluminum foil Make flexible
{PAGE 45}
grip on tools.
funnel for hard-to-reach
places. • Reflect light for photography. • Reattach vinyl
floor. • Make an artist’s palette. • Prevent paint from
skinning over. • Line roller pans and keep paint
off doorknobs.
Baking soda Clean car-battery terminals and remove tar from car.
{PAGE 73}
• Use as a walkway de-icer. • Tighten cane chair seats.
• Give deck a weathered
look. • Clean air
conditioner filters • Keep humidifier odor-free.
Basters Cure musty air conditioner. • Transfer
{PAGE 78}
paints and solvents. • Fix leaky refrigerator.
Make a neater paint bucket. • Store paints. • Make a
{PAGE 78}
workshop organizer. • Use as a level . • Make an
anchor for weighting tarps and patio umbrellas.
Bubble pack
{PAGE 78}
Prevent toilet-tank condensation. • Insulate windows.
• Cushion work surface and protect
EUT014033.qxd 11/3/04 11:36 AM Page 33
Buckets Hold paint and supplies when painting on a ladder and
{PAGE 99}
use lids to contain paint drips. • Make stilts for painting
ceiling. • Organize extension cords. • Soak your saw to
clean. • Use as a Christmas
Cardboard boxes Make a temporary roof
{PAGE 111}
tree stand.
repair. • Protect fingers
while hammering small nails. • Make an oil drip pan.
• Identify fluid leaking from your car. • Make a bed
tray. • Make an in-box. • Organize workshop. • Keep
upholstery tacks straight.
Clothespins Clamp thin objects. • Make a clipboard. • Grip a nail
{PAGE 125}
to protect fingers. •
Float paintbrushes
in solvent.
Duct tape Temporarily fix a car taillight or water hose. • Repair
{PAGE 155}
siding. • Make a short-term roof shingle. • Create a
clothesline. • Stash a secret
car key. • Patch
a canoe. • Repair a garbage can.
Garden hose Protect handsaw. • Make a rounded
{PAGE 176}
{PAGE 241}
ing block. • Make a paint-can grip.
Test a sanding job. • Apply stain in tight corners. • Patch
holes in screens. • Strain
Plastic bags Protect ceiling fan when painting ceiling. • Store
{PAGE 267}
paintbrushes. • Contain paint overspray.
Vinegar Wash concrete off skin. • Remove paint fumes.
{PAGE 369}
• Degrease grates, fans, and air-conditioner grilles.
• Disinfect filters. • Help paint adhere to concrete.
• Remove rust from tools. • Peel
wallpaper. • Slow plaster hardening. • Revive
hardened paintbrushes.
4:13 PM
Page 34
4:01 PM
Page 35
A-Z Guide*
On the following pages you’ll find 204 common household items that altogether have
more than 2,300 unexpected uses—uses that
are not just surprising and clever but can save
you time, money, and effort. Some of the
items, such as aluminum foil and vinegar, are
labeled Super Items because they have so
many extraordinary uses.
4:18 PM
Page 36
Adhesive Tape
Remove a splinter Is a splinter too tiny or too deep to remove with tweezers? Avoid the
agony of digging it out with a needle. Instead, cover the splinter with adhesive
tape. After about three days, pull the tape off and the splinter should come out
with it.
Stop ants in their tracks Is an army of ants marching toward the cookie jar on your
countertop or some sweet prize in your pantry? Create a “moat” around the
object by surrounding it with adhesive tape placed sticky side up.
Make a lint-lifter To lift lint and pet hair off clothing and upholstery, you don’t need a
special lint remover. Just wrap your hand with adhesive tape, sticky side out.
Reduce your hat size Got a hat that’s a bit too big for your head? Wrap adhesive tape
around the sweatband—it might take two or three layers depending on the size
discrepancy. As a bonus, the adhesive tape will absorb brow sweat on hot days.
Clean a comb To remove the gunk that builds up between the teeth of your comb, press
a strip of adhesive tape along the comb’s length, and lift it off. Then dip the
comb in a solution of alcohol and water, or ammonia and water, to sanitize it.
Let dry.
Cover casters Prevent your furniture from leaving marks on your wood or vinyl floor by
wrapping the furniture’s caster wheels with adhesive tape.
Hang glue and caulk tubes Got an ungainly heap of glue
and caulk tubes on your workbench? Cut a strip
of adhesive or duct tape several inches long and
fold it over the bottom of each tube, leaving a
flap at the end. Punch a hole in the flap with a
paper hole punch and hang the tube on a nail
or hook. You’ll free up counter space, and you’ll
be able to find the right tube fast.
Safely remove broken window glass Removing a window sash to fix a broken pane of
glass can be dangerous; there’s always the possibility that a sharp shard will fall
4:18 PM
Page 37
out and cut you. To prevent this, crisscross both sides of the broken pane with
adhesive tape before removing the sash. And don’t forget to wear heavy leather
gloves when you pull the glass shards out of the frame.
Get a grip on tools Adhesive tape has just the right texture for wrapping tool handles. It
gives you a positive, comfortable grip, and it’s highly absorbent so that tools
won’t become slippery if your hand sweats. When you wrap tool handles,
overlap each wrap by about half a tape width and use as many layers as needed
to get the best grip. Here are some useful applications:
● Screwdriver handles are sometimes too narrow and slippery to grip well
when you drive or remove stubborn screws. Wrap layers of adhesive tape
around the handle until the tool feels comfortable in your hand—this is
especially useful if you have arthritis in your fingers.
● Take a tip from carpenters who wrap wooden hammer handles that can get
slippery with sweat. Wrap the whole gripping area of the tool. A few wraps
just under the head will also protect the handle from damage caused by misdirected blows.
● Plumbers also keep adhesive tape in their
tool kits: When they want to cut a pipe in a
spot that’s too tight for their hacksaw frame,
they make a mini-hacksaw by removing the
blade and wrapping one end of the blade to
form a handle.
onto adhesive tape, covering
it with a layer of crinoline,
then rolling it back up so that
Josephine could cut off and
apply the ready-made bandages herself.
Earle’s employer, Johnson
& Johnson, soon began producing the first Band-Aids. By
the time Earle died in 1961—
by then a member of
the company’s
board of directors—
Band-Aid sales
exceeded $30 million a year.
Clean your coffeemaker Fill your percolator or the water chamber of your drip cof-
feemaker with water and plop in four Alka-Seltzer tablets. When the
Alka-Seltzer has dissolved, put the coffeemaker through a brew cycle to clean
In the 1920s, Josephine
Dickson, an accident-prone
New Jersey housewife,
inspired the invention of the
Band-Aid bandage. Her husband, Earle, who tended her
various burns and wounds,
hit upon the idea of sticking
small squares of sterile gauze
4:18 PM
Page 38
the tubes. Rinse the chamber out two or three times, then run a brew cycle
with plain water before making coffee.
Clean a vase That stuck-on residue at the bottom of narrow-neck vases may seem impos-
sible to scrub out, but you can easily bubble it away. Fill the vase halfway with
water and drop in two Alka-Seltzer tablets. Wait until the fizzing stops, then
rinse the vase clean. The same trick works for cleaning glass thermoses.
Clean glass cookware Say so long to scouring those stubborn stains off your ovenproof
glass cookware. Just fill the container with water, add up to six Alka-Seltzer
tablets, and let it soak for an hour. The stains should easily scrub away.
Clean your toilet The citric acid in Alka-Seltzer combined with its fizzing action is an
effective toilet bowl cleaner. Simply drop a couple of tablets into the bowl and
find something else to do for 20 minutes or so. When you return, a few swipes
with a toilet brush will leave your bowl gleaming.
Clean jewelry Drop your dull-looking jewelry in a glass of fizzing Alka-Seltzer for a
couple of minutes. It will sparkle and shine when you pull it out.
Unclog a drain Drain clogged again? Get almost instant relief: Drop a couple of Alka-
Seltzer tablets down the opening, then pour in a cup of vinegar. Wait a few
minutes and then run the hot water at full force to clear the clog. This is also a
good way to eliminate kitchen drain odors.
Soothe insect bites Mosquito or other insect bite driving you nuts? To ease the itch,
drop two Alka-Seltzer tablets in half a glass of water. Dip a cotton ball in the
Turn plop, plop, fizz, fizz into
whoosh, whoosh, gee whiz with this
Alka-Seltzer rocket. The rocket
gets its thrust from the gas created
when you drop a couple of AlkaSeltzer tablets into
some water inside a film canister.
The type of film canister is key:
Use a Fuji 35mm plastic canister
that has a lid that fits inside the
canister. Canisters with lids that
fit around an outside lip won’t
work. You’ll also need a couple of
pieces of construction paper,
transparent tape, and scissors.
To form the body of the
rocket, wrap a piece of construction paper
around the canister with the canister’s open end
facing out the bottom end of the tube. Then tape
the paper in place. Form a quarter-sheet of construction paper into a nose cone. Then trim it
even on the bottom and tape it onto the top of
the rocket body.
To launch the rocket, fill the
canister about halfway with
refrigerated water—cold water is
vital to a successful liftoff. Plop in
two Alka-Seltzer tablets. Quickly
pop on the lid, set the rocket on
the ground, and stand back. The
gas will quickly build up pressure
in the canister, causing the canister lid to pop off and the rocket
to launch several feet into the air.
4:18 PM
Page 39
glass and apply it to the bite. Caution: Don’t do this if you are allergic to
aspirin, which is a key ingredient in Alka-Seltzer.
Attract fish All avid anglers know fish are attracted to bubbles. If you are using a hollow
plastic tube jig on your line, just break off a piece of Alka-Seltzer and slip it
into the tube. The jig will produce an enticing stream of bubbles as it sinks.
sup us s! Aluminum Foil
Bake a perfect piecrust Keep the edges of your homemade pies from burning by cov-
ering them with strips of aluminum foil. The foil prevents the edges from
getting overdone while the rest of your pie gets perfectly browned.
Create special-shaped cake pans Make a teddy bear
birthday cake, a Valentine’s Day heart cake, a
Christmas tree cake, or whatever shaped cake
the occasion may call for. Just form a double
thickness of heavy-duty aluminum foil into the
desired shape inside a large cake pan.
Soften up brown sugar To restore your hardened brown
sugar to its former powdery glory, chip off a
piece, wrap it in aluminum foil, and bake it in the oven at 300°F (150° C) for
five minutes.
Decorate a cake No pastry bag handy? No problem. Form a piece of heavy-duty alu-
minum foil into a tube and fill it with free-flowing frosting. Bonus: There’s no
pastry bag to clean—simply toss out the foil when you’re done.
Make an extra-large salad bowl You’ve invited half the neighborhood over for dinner,
but don’t have a bowl big enough to toss that much salad. Don’t panic. Just
line the kitchen sink with aluminum foil and toss away!
Keep rolls and breads warm Want to lock in the oven-fresh warmth of your homemade
Catch ice-cream cone drips Keep youngsters from making a mess of their clothes or
your house by wrapping the bottom of an ice-cream cone (or a wedge of watermelon) with a piece of aluminum foil before handing it to them.
rolls or breads for a dinner party or picnic? Before you load up your basket,
wrap your freshly baked goods in a napkin and place a layer of aluminum foil
underneath. The foil will reflect the heat and keep your bread warm for quite
some time.
4:18 PM
Page 40
Toast your own cheese sandwich Next time you pack for a trip,
include a couple of cheese sandwiches wrapped in aluminum foil. That way if you check into a hotel after
the kitchen has closed, you won’t have to resort to the
cold, overpriced snacks in the mini-bar. Instead, use
the hotel-room iron to press both sides of the wrapped
sandwich and you’ll have a tasty hot snack.
Polish your silver Is your silverware looking a bit dull these days? Try an
ion exchange, a molecular reaction in which aluminum acts as a catalyst. All
you have to do is line a pan with a sheet of aluminum foil, fill it with cold
water, and add two teaspoons of salt. Drop your tarnished silverware into the
solution, let it sit for two to three minutes, then rinse off and dry.
Keep silverware untarnished Store freshly cleaned silverware on top of a sheet of alu-
minum foil to deter tarnishing. For long-term storage of silverware, first tightly
cover each piece in cellophane wrap—be sure to squeeze out as much air as
possible—then wrap in foil and seal the ends.
Preserve steel-wool pads It’s maddening. You use a steel-wool pad once, put it in a
dish by the sink, and the next day you find a rusty mess fit only for the trash.
To prevent rust and get your money’s worth from a pad, wrap it in foil and
toss it into the freezer. You can also lengthen the life of your steel-wool soap
pads by crumpling up a sheet of foil and placing it under the steel wool in its
dish or container. (Don’t forget to periodically drain off the water that collects
at the bottom.)
Scrub your pots Don’t have a scrub pad? Crumple up a handful of aluminum foil and
use it to scrub your pots.
Tip Foil-Eating Acidic Foods
Think twice before ripping off a sheet of aluminum foil to wrap up your
leftover meat loaf—particularly one that’s dripping with tomato sauce.
Highly acidic or salty foods such as lemons, grapefruits, ketchup, and
pickles accelerate the oxidation of aluminum and can actually “eat”
through foil with prolonged exposure. This can also leach aluminum into
the food, which can affect its flavor and may pose a health risk. If you
want to use foil for that meat loaf, however, cover it first with a layer or
two of plastic wrap or wax paper to prevent the sauce from coming into
contact with the foil.
Keep the oven clean Are you baking a bubbly lasagna or casserole? Keep messy drips off
the bottom of the oven by laying a sheet or two of aluminum foil over the rack
below. Do not line the bottom of the oven with foil; it could cause a fire.
EUT036057.qxd 11/3/04 10:50 AM Page 41
Improve radiator efficiency Here’s a simple way to get more heat out of your old cast-
iron radiators without spending one cent more on your gas or oil bill: Make a
heat reflector to put behind them. Tape heavy-duty aluminum foil to cardboard with the shiny side of the foil facing out. The radiant heat waves will
bounce off the foil into the room instead of being absorbed by the wall behind
the radiator. If your radiators have covers, it also helps to attach a piece of foil
under the cover’s top.
Keep pets off furniture Can’t keep Snoopy off your brand-new sofa? Place a piece of alu-
minum foil on the seat cushions, and after one try at settling down on the
noisy surface, your pet will no longer consider it a comfy place to snooze.
Protect a child’s mattress As any parent of a potty-trained youngster knows, accidents
happen. When they happen in bed, however, you can spare the mattress—even
if you don’t have a plastic protector available. First, lay several sheets of aluminum foil across the width of the mattress. Then, cover them with a
good-sized beach towel. Finally, attach the mattress pad and bottom sheet.
Hide worn spots in mirrors Sometimes a worn spot adds to the charm of an old mirror;
sometimes it’s a distraction. You can easily disguise small flaws on a mirror’s
reflective surface by putting a piece of aluminum foil, shiny side facing out, on
the back of the glass. To hold the foil in place, attach it to the backing behind
the mirror or to the frame with masking tape. Don’t tape it to the mirror itself.
Kids’ Stuff
Mixing finger paints is a great way for kids to learn first-
hand how colors combine while also expressing their creativity.
Unfortunately, their learning experience can be your “Excedrin moment.”
To contain the mess, cut down the sides of a wide cardboard
box so that they are about three inches high. Line the
inside of the box with aluminum foil and let the kids pour in
the paint. With any luck, the paint should stay within the
confines of the box, keeping splatters off walls and the floor.
hanging around? Use them to sharpen up your dull scissors! Smooth them out
if necessary, and then fold the strips into several layers and start cutting. Seven
or eight passes should do the trick. Pretty simple, huh? (See page 43 to find out
how you can use the resulting scraps of foil for mulching or keeping birds off
your fruit trees.)
Clean jewelry To clean your jewelry, simply line a small bowl with aluminum foil. Fill
Sharpen your scissors What can you do with those clean pieces of leftover foil you have
the bowl with hot water and mix in one tablespoon of bleach-free powdered
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laundry detergent (not liquid), such as Tide. Put the jewelry in the solution
and let it soak for one minute. Rinse well and air-dry. This procedure makes
use of the chemical process known as ion exchange, which can also be used to
clean silverware (see page 40).
Move furniture with ease To slide big pieces of furniture over a smooth floor, place
small pieces of aluminum foil under the legs. Put the dull side of the foil
down—the dull side is actually more slippery than the shiny side.
Fix loose batteries Is your flashlight, Walkman, or your kid’s toy working intermittently?
Check the battery compartment. Those springs that hold the batteries in place
can lose their tension after a while, letting the batteries loosen. Fold a small
piece of aluminum foil until you have a pad that’s thick enough to take up the
slack. Place the pad between the battery and the spring.
Don’t dye your glasses You want to catch up on your reading during the time it takes
to color your hair. But you can’t read without your specs, and if you put them
on, hair dye can stain them. Solution: Wrap the temples of your glasses with
aluminum foil.
Clean out your fireplace Looking for an easy way to clean the ashes out of your fire-
place? Place a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil across the bottom of
the fireplace or under the wood grate. The next day—or once you’re sure all
the ashes have cooled—simply fold it up and throw it away or, even better, use
the ashes as described on pages 54-55.
Speed your ironing When you iron clothing, a lot of the iron’s heat is sucked up by the
board itself—requiring you to make several passes to remove wrinkles. To
speed things up, put a piece of aluminum foil under your ironing board
cover. The foil will reflect the heat back through the clothing, smoothing
wrinkles quicker.
Have you ever wondered why
aluminum foil has one side
that’s shinier than the other?
The answer has to do with
how it’s manufactured.
According to Alcoa, the maker
of Reynolds Wrap, the different shades of silver result
during the final rolling
process, when two layers of
foil pass through the rolling
mill simultaneously. The sides
that contact the mill’s heavy,
polished rollers come out
shiny, while the inside layers
retain a dull, or matte, finish.
Of course, the shiny side is
better for reflecting
light and heat, but
when it comes to
wrapping foods or
lining grills, both
sides are equally
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Attach a patch An iron-on patch is an easy way to fix small holes in clothing—but only
if it doesn’t get stuck onto your ironing board. To avoid this, put a piece of aluminum foil under the hole. It won’t stick to the patch, and you can just slip it
out when you’re finished.
Clean your iron Is starch building up on your clothes iron and causing it to stick? To get
rid of it, run your hot iron over a piece of aluminum foil.
Put some bite in your mulch To keep hungry insects and slugs away from your cucum-
bers and other vegetables, mix strips of aluminum foil in with your garden
mulch. As a bonus benefit, the foil will reflect light back up onto your plants.
Protect tree trunks Mice, rabbits, and other animals often feed on the bark of young
trees during winter. A cheap and effective deterrent is to wrap the tree trunks
with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil in late fall. Be sure to remove
the foil in spring.
Tip Prevent Sunscald on Trees
Wrapping young tree trunks with a couple of layers of aluminum foil
during the winter can help prevent sunscald, a condition widely known
as southwest disease, since it damages the southwest side of some
young thin-barked trees—especially fruit trees, ashes, lindens, maples,
oaks, and willows. The problem occurs on warm winter days when the
sun’s rays reactivate some dormant cells underneath the tree’s bark. The
subsequent drop in nighttime temperatures kills the cells and can injure
the tree. In most regions, you can remove the aluminum wrapping in
early spring.
Scare crows and other birds Are the birds eating the fruit on your trees? To foil them,
dangle strips of aluminum foil from the branches using monofilament fishing
line. Even better, hang some foil-wrapped seashells, which will add a bit of
noise to further startle your fine-feathered thieves.
place for keeping plants that love a lot of light.
However, since the light always comes from the
same direction, plants tend to bend toward it. To
bathe your plants in light from all sides, make a
sun box: Remove the top and one side from a
cardboard box and line the other three sides and
bottom with aluminum foil, shiny side out,
taping or gluing it in place. Place plants in the box and set it near a window.
Create a sun box for plants A sunny window is a great
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Build a seed incubator To give plants grown from seeds a healthy head start, line a shoe
box with aluminum foil, shiny side up, allowing about two inches of foil to
extend out over the sides. Poke several drainage holes in the bottom—penetrating the foil—then fill the box slightly more than halfway with potting soil,
and plant the seeds. The foil inside the box will absorb heat to keep the seeds
warm as they germinate, while the foil outside the box will reflect light onto
the young sprouts. Place the box near a sunny window, keep the soil moist, and
watch ’em grow!
Grow untangled cuttings Help plant cuttings grow strong and uncluttered by starting
them in a container covered with a sheet of aluminum foil. Simply poke a few
holes in the foil and insert the cuttings through the holes. There’s even an
added bonus: The foil slows water evaporation, so you’ll need to add water
less frequently.
Keep bees away from beverages You’re about to relax in your backyard with a well-
deserved glass of lemonade or soda pop. Suddenly bees start buzzing around
your drink—which they view as sweet nectar. Keep them away by tightly covering the top of your glass with aluminum foil. Poke a straw through it, and
then enjoy your drink in peace.
Make a barbecue drip pan To keep meat drippings off your barbecue coals, fashion a
disposable drip pan out of a couple of layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Shape it freehand, or use an inverted baking pan as a mold (remember to
remove the pan once your creation is finished). Also, don’t forget to make your
drip pan slightly larger than the meat on the grill.
Clean your barbecue grill After the last steak is brought in, and while the coals are still
red-hot, lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the grill to burn off any remaining
foodstuffs. The next time you use your barbecue, crumple up the foil and use it
to easily scrub off the burned food before you start cooking.
Improve outdoor lighting Brighten up the electrical lighting in your backyard or camp-
site by making a foil reflector to put behind the light. Attach the reflector to
the fixture with a few strips of electrical tape or duct tape—do not apply tape
directly to the bulb.
“Hand me the tinfoil, will
ya?” To this day, it’s not
uncommon for folks to ask for
tinfoil when they want to
wrap leftovers. Household foil
was made only of tin until
1947, when aluminum foil
was introduced into the
home, eventually
replacing tinfoil in
the kitchen drawer.
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Make an impromptu picnic platter When you need a convenient disposable platter
for picnics or church suppers, just cover a piece of cardboard with heavy-duty
aluminum foil.
Improvise a frying pan Don’t feel like lugging a frying
pan along on a camping trip? Form your own
by centering a forked stick over two layers of
heavy-duty aluminum foil. Wrap the edges of
the foil tightly around the forked branches but
leave some slack in the foil between the forks.
Invert the stick and depress the center to hold
food for frying.
Warm your toes when camping Keep your tootsies toasty at night while cold-weather
camping. Wrap some stones in aluminum foil and heat them by the campfire
while you are toasting marshmallows. At bedtime, wrap the stones in towels
and put them in the bottom of your sleeping bag.
Keep your sleeping bag dry Place a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil under your
sleeping bag to insulate against moisture.
Keep matches dry It’s a tried-and-true soldier’s trick worth remembering: Wrap your
kitchen matches in aluminum foil to keep them from getting damp or wet on
camping trips.
Lure a fish None of your fancy fishing lures working? You can make one in a jiffy that just
might do the trick: Wrap some aluminum foil around a fishhook. Fringe the
foil so that it covers the hook and wiggles invitingly when you reel in the line.
Make a funnel Can’t find a funnel? Double up a length of heavy-duty aluminum foil and
roll it into the shape of a cone. This impromptu funnel has an advantage over a
permanent funnel—you can bend the aluminum foil to reach awkward holes,
like the oil filler hole tucked against the engine of your lawn tractor.
Re-attach a vinyl floor tile Don’t become unglued just because a vinyl floor tile does.
Make an artist’s palette Tear off a length of heavy-duty aluminum foil, crimp up the
edges, and you’ve got a ready-to-use palette for mixing paints. If you want to
get a little fancier, cut a piece of cardboard into the shape of a palette, complete
with thumb hole, and cover it with foil. Or if you already have a wooden
Simply reposition the tile on the floor, lay a piece of aluminum foil over it, and
run a hot clothes iron over it a few times until you can feel the glue melting
underneath. Put a pile of books or bricks on top of the tile to weight it down
while the glue resets. This technique also works well to smooth out bulges and
straighten curled seams in sheet vinyl flooring.
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palette, cover it with foil before each use and then just strip off the foil instead
of cleaning the palette.
Prevent paint from skinning over When you open a half-used can of paint, you’ll typi-
cally find a skin of dried paint on the surface. Not only is this annoying to
remove, but dried bits can wind up in the paint. You can prevent this by using
a two-pronged attack when you close a used paint can: First, put a piece of aluminum foil under the can and trace around it. Cut out the circle and drop the
aluminum foil disk onto the paint surface. Then take a deep breath, blow into
the can, and quickly put the top in place. The carbon dioxide in your breath
replaces some of the oxygen in the can, and helps keep the paint from drying.
Line roller pans Cleaning out paint roller pans is a pain, which is why a lot of folks buy
disposable plastic pans or liners. But lining a metal roller pan with aluminum
foil works just as well—and can be a lot cheaper.
Keep paint off doorknobs When you’re painting a door, aluminum foil is great for
wrapping doorknobs to keep paint off them. Overlap the foil onto the door
when you wrap the knob, then run a sharp utility knife around the base of the
knob to trim the foil. That way you can paint right up to the edge of the
knob. In addition to wrapping knobs on the doors that you’ll paint, wrap all
the doorknobs that are along the route to where you will clean your hands
and brushes.
Keep a paintbrush wet Going to continue painting tomorrow morning? Don’t bother to
clean the brush—just squeeze out the excess paint and wrap the brush tightly
in aluminum foil (or plastic wrap). Use a rubber band to hold the foil tightly at
the base of the handle. For extended wet-brush storage, think paintbrush
Popsicle, and toss the wrapped brush in the freezer. But don’t forget to defrost
the brush for an hour or so before you paint.
Reflect light for photography Professional photogra-
phers use reflectors to throw extra light on dark
areas of their subject and to even out the overall
lighting. To make a reflector, lightly coat a piece
of mat board or heavy cardboard with rubber
cement and cover it with aluminum foil, shiny
side out. You can make one single reflector, as
large as you want, but it’s better to make three
panels and join them together with duct tape so that they stand up by themselves and fold up for handy storage and carrying.
Shine your chrome For sparkling chrome on your appliances, strollers, golf club shafts,
and older car bumpers, crumple up a handful of aluminum foil with the shiny
side out and apply some elbow grease. If you rub real hard, the foil will even
remove rust spots. Note: Most “chrome” on new cars is actually plastic—don’t
rub it with aluminum foil.
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Aluminum Pie Pans
Make an instant colander Your pot of linguine is almost done when you realize you
forgot to replace your broken colander. No need to panic. Just grab a clean aluminum pie pan and a small nail, and start poking holes. When you’re done,
bend the pan to fit comfortably over a deep bowl. Rinse your new colander
clean, place it over the bowl, and carefully pour out your pasta.
Rein in splatters when frying Why risk burning yourself or anyone else with oil splat-
ters from a hot frying pan? A safer way to fry is to poke a few holes in the
bottom of an aluminum pie pan and place it upside down over the food in
your frying pan. Use a pair of tongs or a fork to lift the pie pan and
don’t forget to wear a cooking glove.
Create a centerpiece Here’s how to make a quick centerpiece for your
table: Secure a pillar candle or a few votive candles to an
aluminum pie pan by melting some wax from the bottom of
the candles onto the pan. Add a thin layer of water or sand,
and put in several rose petals or seashells.
Contain the mess from kids’ projects Glitter is notorious for turning up in
the corners and crevices of your home long after your youngster’s masterpiece
has been mailed off to Grandma. But you can minimize some messes by using
an aluminum pie pan to encase projects involving glitter, beads, spray paint,
feathers ...well, you get the picture.
Kids’ Stuff
Looking for a way to keep the kids busy indoors on a
cold, wintry day? How about making an ice ornament that you can hang
on a tree outside your house as a homemade winter decoration? All
you’ll need is an aluminum pie pan, some water, a piece of heavy string
or a shoelace, and a mix of decorative—preferably biodegradable—
materials, such as dried flowers, dried leaves, pinecones, seeds, shells,
Let the children arrange the materials in the pie pan to their liking.
Then fold the string or shoelace in half and place it in the pan. The fold
should hang over the edges of the pan, while the two ends meet in the
center. Slowly fill the pan with water, stopping just shy of the rim. You may
have to place an object on the string to keep it from floating to the top.
If the temperatures outside your home are indeed below freezing, you
can simply put the pan on your doorstep to freeze. Otherwise just pop it
into your freezer. Once the water has frozen solid, slide off the pan and
let your children choose the optimal outdoor location to display their
and twigs.
artwork in ice.
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Make trays for craft supplies Bring some order to your children’s—or your own—
inventory of crayons, beads, buttons, sequins, pipe cleaners, and such by
sorting them in aluminum pie pans. To secure materials when storing the pans,
cover each pan with a layer of plastic wrap.
Keep bugs out of pet dishes Use an aluminum pie pan filled with about a half-inch of
water to create a metal moat around your pet’s food dish. It should keep those
marauding ants and roaches at bay.
Train your dog If Rover has a tendency to leap up on the sofa or kitchen counter, leave a
few aluminum pie pans along the counter edges or the sofa back when you’re
not home. The resulting noise will give him a good scare when he jumps and
hits them.
Keep squirrels and birds off your fruit trees Are furry and feathered fiends stealing
the fruit off your trees? There’s nothing better to scare off those pesky intruders
than a few dangling aluminum pie pans. String them up in pairs (to make
some noise), and you won’t have to worry about finding any half-eaten apples
or peaches come harvest time.
Make a mini-dustpan If you need a spare dustpan for your workplace or bathroom, an
aluminum pie pan can fit the bill quite nicely. Simply cut one in half, and
you’re ready to go.
Use as a drip catcher under paint can Next time you have something that needs
painting, place an aluminum pie pan under the paint can as a ready-made
drip catcher. You’ll save a lot of time cleaning up, and you can just toss the
pan in the trash when you’re done. Even better, rinse it off and recycle it for
future paint jobs.
Store sanding disks and more Since they’re highly
resistant to corrosion, aluminum pie pans are
especially well suited for storing sanding disks,
hacksaw blades, and other hardware accessories
in your workshop. Cut a pan in half and attach
it (with staples or duct tape around the edges)
open side up to a pegboard. Now get organized!
Use as an impromptu ashtray No ashtray on hand when
you host a smoker in your home? No sweat. An aluminum pie pan—or even a
piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil folded into a square with the sides turned
up—should suffice.
Protect fingers during cookouts There’s nothing like a cookout in the great outdoors.
Whether you’re planning a day trip or a longer excursion, be sure to pack a few
aluminum pie pans. Put a small hole in the middle of each pan, then push
them up the sticks used for roasting hot dogs or marshmallows. The pans
deflect the heat of the fire, protecting your hands and your children’s hands.
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u s! Ammonia
Clean your oven Here’s a practically effortless way to clean an electric oven: First, turn
the oven on, let it warm to 150°F (65°C), and then turn it off. Place a small
bowl containing 1/2 cup ammonia on the top shelf and a large pan of boiling
water on the bottom shelf. Close the oven door, and let it sit overnight. The
next morning, remove the dish and pan, and let the oven air out awhile. Then
wipe it clean using the ammonia and a few drops of dishwashing liquid diluted
in a quart of warm water—even old burned-on grease should wipe right off.
Warning: Do not use this cleaning method with a gas oven unless the pilot lights
are out and the main gas lines are shut off.
TAKE CARE Never mix ammonia with bleach or any product containing
chlorine. The combination produces toxic fumes that can be deadly. Work
in a well-ventilated space and avoid inhaling the vapors. Wear rubber
gloves and avoid getting ammonia on your skin or in your eyes. Always
store ammonia out of the reach of children.
Clean oven racks Get the cooked-on grime off your oven racks by laying them out on an
old towel in a large washtub. You can also use your bathtub, though you might
need to clean it afterward. Fill the tub with warm water and add 1/2 cup
ammonia. Let the racks soak for at least 15 minutes, then remove, rinse off,
and wipe clean.
Make crystal sparkle Has the twinkle gone out of your good crystal? Bring back its
lost luster by mixing several drops of ammonia in 2 cups water and applying
Today most ammonia is
made synthetically using the
Haber process, in which
hydrogen and nitrogen gases
are combined under extreme
pressures and medium temperatures. The technique
was developed by Fritz
Haber and Carl Bosch in
1909, and was first used on a
large-scale basis by the
Germans during World War I,
primarily for the
production of
During the Middle Ages,
ammonia was made in
northern Europe by heating
the scrapings of deer antlers,
and was known as spirits of
hartshorn. Before the start of
World War I, it was chiefly
produced by the dry distillation of nitrogenous vegetable
and animal products.
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with a soft cloth or brush. Rinse it off with clean water, then dry with a soft,
dry cloth.
Repel moths Pesky kitchen moths seem to come out of nowhere! Send them back to
wherever they came from by washing your drawers, pantry shelves, or cupboards with 1/2 cup ammonia diluted in 1 quart (1 liter) water. Leave drawers
and cabinets open to thoroughly air-dry.
Eliminate paint odors Your freshly painted home interior sure
looks great, but that paint smell is driving you up
the wall! There’s no need to prolong your suffering, though. Absorb the odor by placing small
dishes of ammonia in each room that’s been
painted. If the smell persists after several days,
replenish the dishes. Vinegar or onion slices will
also work.
Clean fireplace doors Think you’ll need a blowtorch to remove that black-
ened-on soot from your glass fireplace doors? Before you get out the goggles,
try mixing 1 tablespoon ammonia, 2 tablespoons vinegar, and 1 quart (1 liter)
warm water in a spray bottle. Spray on some of the solution; let it sit for several
seconds, then wipe off with an absorbent cloth. Repeat if necessary—it’s worth
the extra effort.
Clean gold and silver jewelry Brighten up your gold and silver trinkets by soaking
them for 10 minutes in a solution of 1/2 cup clear ammonia mixed in 1 cup
warm water. Gently wipe clean with a soft cloth and let dry. Note: Do not do
this with jewelry containing pearls, because it could dull or damage their delicate surface.
Remove tarnish from brass or silver How can you put that sunny shine back in your
tarnished silver or lacquered brass? Gently scrub it with a soft brush dipped
Ammonia is a colorless, pungent gas. It is easily soluble in
water, however, and the
liquid ammonia products sold
today contain the gas dissolved in water. Ammonia is
one of the oldest cleaning
compounds currently in use.
It actually dates back to
ancient Egypt. In fact, the
word ammonia is derived
from the Egyptian deity
Ammon, whose temple in
what is now Libya is credited
with producing the earliest
form of ammonia, sal ammoniac, by burning camel dung.
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in a bit of ammonia. Wipe off any remaining liquid with a soft cloth—or
preferably chamois.
Remove grease and soap scum To get rid of those ugly grease and soap-scum buildups
in your porcelain enamel sink or tub, scrub it with a solution of 1 tablespoon
ammonia in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) hot water. Rinse thoroughly when done.
Restore white shoes Brighten up your dingy white shoes or tennis sneakers by rubbing
them with a cloth dipped in half-strength ammonia—that is, a solution made
of half ammonia and half water.
Tip Testing Ammonia
Not sure if it’s safe to put ammonia solution, or any other stain remover,
on a particular fabric or material? Always test a drop or two on an inconspicuous part of the garment or object first. After applying, rub the area
with a white terry-cloth towel to test colorfastness. If any color rubs off on
the towel or if there is any noticeable change in the material’s appearance, try another approach.
Remove stains from clothing Ammonia is great for cleaning clothes. Here are some
ways you can use it to remove a variety of stains. Be sure to dilute ammonia
with at least 50 percent water before applying it to silk, wool, or spandex.
● Rub out perspiration, blood, and urine stains on clothing by dabbing the
area with a half-strength solution of ammonia and water before laundering.
● Remove most non-oily stains by making a mixture of equal parts ammonia,
water, and dishwashing liquid. Put it in an empty spray bottle, shake well,
and apply directly to the stain. Let it set for two or three minutes, and then
rinse out.
● To erase pencil marks from clothing, use a few drops of undiluted ammonia
and then rinse. If that doesn’t work, put a little laundry detergent on the
stain and rinse again.
● You can even remove washed-in paint stains from clothes by saturating
them several times with a half-ammonia, half-turpentine solution, and then
tossing them into the wash.
sponging them with 1 cup clear ammonia in 1/2 gallon (2 liters) warm water.
Let dry thoroughly, and repeat if needed.
Brighten up windows Dirty, grimy windows can make any house look dingy. But it’s
easy to wipe away the dirt, fingerprints, soot, and dust covering your windows.
Just wipe them down with a soft cloth dampened with a solution of 1 cup clear
Clean carpets and upholstery Lift out stains from carpeting and upholstery by
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ammonia in 3 cups water. Your windows will not only be crystal-clear, but
streak-free to boot.
Strip wax from resilient flooring Wax buildup on resilient flooring causes it to yellow
in time. Remove old wax layers and freshen up your floor by washing it with a
mixture of 1 cup ammonia in 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Let the solution sit for
three to five minutes, then scrub with a nylon or plastic scouring pad to
remove the old wax. Wipe away leftover residue with a clean cloth or sponge,
then give the floor a thorough rinsing.
Clean bathroom tiles Make bathroom tiles sparkle again—and kill mildew on them—by
sponging them with 1/4 cup ammonia in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water.
Use as plant food Give the alkaline-loving flowering plants and vegetables in your
garden—such as clematis, lilac, hydrangea, and cucumbers—an occasional special treat with a shower of 1/4 cup ammonia diluted in 1 gallon (3.7 liters)
water. They’ll especially appreciate the boost in nitrogen.
Stop mosquito bites from itching If you forget to put on your insect repellent and
mosquitoes make a meal of you, stop the itching instantly by applying a drop
or two of ammonia directly to the bites. Don’t use ammonia on a bite you’ve
already scratched open, though; the itch will be replaced by a nasty sting.
Keep stray animals out of your trash Few things can be quite as startling as a raccoon
leaping out of your garbage pail just as you’re about to make your nightly trash
deposit. Keep away those masked scavengers and other strays by spraying the
outside and lids of your garbage bins with half-strength ammonia or by
spraying the bags inside.
Remove stains from concrete Tired of those annoying discolorations on your concrete
work? To get rid of them, scrub with 1 cup ammonia diluted in 1 gallon
(3.7 liters) water. Hose it down well when you’re done.
Fight mildew Ammonia and bleach are equally effective weapons in the battle against
mold and mildew. However, each has its own distinct applications, and under
no conditions should the two ever be combined.
Reach for the ammonia for the following chores, but be sure you use it in a
well-ventilated area, and don’t forget to wear rubber gloves:
● Clean the mildew off unfinished wooden patio furniture and picnic tables
with a mixture of 1 cup ammonia, 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup baking soda,
and 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water. Rinse off thoroughly and use an old terrycloth towel to absorb excess moisture.
● To remove mildew from painted outdoor surfaces, use the same combina-
tion of ingredients.
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● To remove mildew from wicker furniture, wash it down with a solution of
2 tablespoons ammonia in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water. Use an old toothbrush
to get into hard-to-reach twists and turns. Rinse well and let air-dry.
Roast a juicy chicken If your roasted chicken tends to emerge from the oven as dry as a
snow boot on a summer’s day, don’t fret. The next time you roast a chicken,
stuff an apple inside the bird before placing it in the roasting pan. When it’s
done cooking, toss the fruit in the trash, and get ready to sit down to a delicious—and juicy—main course.
Keep cakes fresh Want a simple and effective way to extend the shelf life of your home-
made or store-bought cakes? Store them with a half an apple. It helps the cake
maintain its moisture considerably longer than merely popping it in the fridge.
Ripen green tomatoes How’s that? You just became the proud owner of a bunch of
green tomatoes? No sweat. You can quickly ripen them up by placing them—
along with an already-ripe apple—in a paper bag for a couple of days. For best
results, maintain a ratio of about five or six tomatoes per apple.
Fluff up hardened brown sugar Brown sugar has the irritating habit of hardening up
when exposed to humidity. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to make this a
temporary condition. Simply place an apple wedge in a self-sealing plastic bag
with the chunk of hardened brown sugar. Tightly seal the bag and put it in a
dry place for a day or two. Your sugar will once again be soft enough to use.
Absorb salt in soups and stews Salting to taste is one thing, but it is possible to overdo
it. When you find yourself getting heavy-handed with the saltshaker, simply
single rotten apple in a bag
can significantly accelerate
the aging process of the other
apples around it.
Ethylene-producing fruits
can help speed the ripening of
something (like a green
tomato, see hint on this page).
But they can also have
unwanted effects. Placing a
bowl of ripe apples or
bananas too close to freshly
cut flowers, for instance, can
cause them to wilt. And if
your refrigerated
potatoes seem to be
sprouting buds
too soon, they
may be too
close to the apples.
Keep them at least
one shelf apart.
That old saying “One bad
apple spoils the bunch” just
might be true. Apples are
among a diverse group of
fruits—others include apricots, avocados, bananas,
blueberries, cantaloupe, and
peaches—that produce ethylene gas, a natural ripening
agent. So the increased level
of ethylene produced by a
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drop a few apple (or potato) wedges in your pot. After cooking for another
10 minutes or so, remove the wedges—along with the excess salt.
Use as decorative candleholders Add a cozy, country
feel to your table setting by creating a natural
candleholder. Use an apple corer to carve a hole
three-quarters of the way down into a pair of
large apples, insert a tall decorative candle into
each hole, surround the apples with a few
leaves, branches, or flowers, and voilà! You have
a lovely centerpiece.
Clean fireplace doors You normally wouldn’t think of using dirty wood ashes to clean
glass fireplace doors, but it works. Mix some ashes with a bit of water, and
apply them with a damp cloth, sponge, or paper towel, or simply dip a wet
sponge into the ashes. Rub the mixture over the doors’ surfaces. Rinse with a
wet paper towel or sponge, then dry with a clean cloth. The results will amaze
you, but remember—wood ash was a key ingredient in old-fashioned lye soap.
Tip Selecting Firewood
For a hot-burning and long-lasting fire, you can't do much better than
well-seasoned sugar maple. Green or wet wood burns poorly and builds
up heaps of creosote (the leading cause of chimney fires) in your
chimney; pine is another major producer of creosote. Never burn scraps
of pressure-treated wood; it contains chemicals that can be extremely
harmful when burned.
Don’t be a fanatic about cleaning ashes from your fireplace. Leave a
1- to 2-inch (2.5 to 5 centimeters) layer of ash under the andiron to reflect
heat back up to the burning wood and protect your fireplace floor against
hot embers. Just be sure not to let the ashes clog up the space under the
grate and block the airflow a good fire needs.
Reduce sun glare Pro ball players often wear that black stuff under their eyes to cut
down glare from the sun or bright stadium lights. If you’re troubled by sun
glare while driving or hiking, you may want to try it too. Just put a drop or
two of baby oil on your finger, dip it in some wood ashes, and apply under
your eyes.
Use as plant food Wood ashes have a high alkaline content and trace amounts of calcium
and potassium, which encourage blooms. If your soil tends to be acidic,
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sprinkle the ashes in spring around alkaline-loving plants such as clematis,
hydrangea, lilac, and roses (but avoid acid-lovers like rhododendrons,
blueberries, and azaleas). Avoid using ashes from easy-to-ignite, preformed logs, which may contain chemicals harmful to plants. And be
sparing when adding ashes to your compost pile; they can counteract the
benefits of manure and other high-nitrogen materials.
Repel insects Scatter a border of ashes around your garden to deter cutworms, slugs, and
snails—it sticks to their bodies and draws moisture out of them. Also sprinkle
small amounts of ashes over garden plants to manage infestations of softbodied insects. Wear eye protection and gloves; getting ashes in your eyes can
be quite painful.
Clean pewter Restore the shine to your pewter by cleaning it with cigarette ashes. Dip a
dampened piece of cheesecloth into the ashes and rub it well over the item. It
will turn darker at first, but the shine will come out after a good rinsing.
Remove water spots and heat marks from wood furniture Use cigar and or ciga-
rette ashes to remove those white rings left on your wooden furniture by wet
glasses or hot cups. Mix the ashes with a few drops of water to make a paste,
and rub lightly over the mark to remove it. Then shine it with your favorite
furniture polish.
Revive dead car batteries If you get behind the wheel only to discover that your car’s
battery has given up the ghost—and there’s no one around to give you a
jump—you may be able to get your vehicle started by dropping two aspirin
tablets into the battery itself. The aspirin’s acetylsalicylic acid will combine with
the battery’s sulfuric acid to produce one last charge. Just be sure to drive to
your nearest service station.
including Native Americans,
used salicin-containing herbs
to treat cold and flu symptoms. But it wasn’t until 1899
that Felix Hoffmann, a
chemist at the German company Bayer, developed a
modified derivative,
acetylsalicylic acid,
better known as
The bark of the willow tree is
rich in salicin, a natural
painkiller and fever reducer.
In the third century B.C.
Hippocrates used it to relieve
headaches and pain, and
many traditional healers,
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Remove perspiration stains Before you give up all hope of ever getting that perspira-
tion stain out of your good white dress shirt, try this: Crush two aspirins and
mix the powder in 1/2 cup warm water. Soak the stained part of the garment
in the solution for two to three hours.
TAKE CARE About 10 percent of people with severe asthma are also
allergic to aspirin—and, in fact, to all products containing salicylic acid,
aspirin’s key ingredient, including some cold medications, fruits, and food
seasonings and additives. That percentage skyrockets to 30 to 40 percent
for older asthmatics who also suffer from sinusitis or nasal polyps. Acute
sensitivity to aspirin is also seen in a small percentage of the general
population without asthma—particularly people with ulcers and other
bleeding conditions.
Always consult your doctor before using any medication, and do not
apply aspirin externally if you are allergic to taking it in internally.
Restore hair color Swimming in a chlorinated pool can have a noticeable, and often
unpleasing, effect on your hair coloring if you have light-colored hair. But you
can usually return your hair to its former shade by dissolving six to eight
aspirins in a glass of warm water. Rub the solution thoroughly into your hair,
and let it set for 10-15 minutes.
Dry up pimples Even those of us who are well past adolescence can get the occasional
pimple. Put the kibosh on those annoying blemishes by crushing one aspirin
and moistening it with a bit of water. Apply the paste to the pimple, and let it
sit for a couple of minutes before washing off with soap and water. It will
reduce the redness and soothe the sting. If the pimple persists, repeat the procedure as needed until it’s gone.
Treat hard calluses Soften hard calluses on your feet by grinding five or six aspirins into
a powder. Make a paste by adding 1/2 teaspoon each of lemon juice and water.
Apply the mixture to the affected areas, then wrap your foot in a warm towel
and cover it with a plastic bag. After staying off your feet for at least ten minutes, remove the bag and towel, and file down the softened callus with a
pumice stone.
Control dandruff Is your dandruff problem getting you down?
Keep it in check by crushing two aspirins to a fine
powder and adding it to the normal amount of
shampoo you use each time you wash your hair.
Leave the mixture on your hair for 1-2 minutes,
then rinse well and wash again with plain
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Apply to insect bites and stings Control the inflammation caused by mosquito bites
or bee stings by wetting your skin and rubbing an aspirin over the spot. Of
course, if you are allergic to bee stings—and have difficulty breathing, develop
abdominal pains, or feel nauseated following a bee sting—get medical attention at once.
Help cut flowers last longer It’s a tried-and-true way to keep roses and other cut flowers
fresh longer: Put a crushed aspirin in the water before adding your flowers.
Other household items that you can put in the water to extend the life of your
flower arrangements include: a multivitamin, a teaspoon of sugar, a pinch of
salt and baking soda, and even a copper penny. Also, don’t forget to change the
vase water every few days.
Use as garden aid Aspirin is not only a first-aid essential for you, but for your garden as
well. Some gardeners grind it up for use as a rooting agent, or mix it with water
to treat fungus conditions in the soil. But be careful when using aspirin around
plants; too much of it can cause burns or other damage to your greenery.
When treating soil, the typical dosage should be a half or a full aspirin tablet in
1 quart (1 liter) water.
Remove egg stains from clothes Did you drop some raw egg on your
clothing while cooking or eating? First, scrape off as much of
the egg as you can, and then try to sponge out the rest with
lukewarm water. Don’t use hot water—it will set the egg. If that
doesn’t completely remove the stain, mix water and cream of tartar
into a paste and add a crushed aspirin. Spread the paste on the stain and leave
it for 30 minutes. Rinse well in warm water and the egg will be gone.
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Baby Oil
Remove a bandage You can eliminate—or at least, significantly lessen—the “ouch” factor,
and subsequent tears, when removing a youngster’s bandage by first rubbing
some baby oil into the adhesive parts on top and around the edges. If you see the
bandage working loose, let the child finish the job to help him overcome his fear.
Adults who have sensitive or fragile skin may also want to try this.
Make your own bath oil Do you have a favorite perfume or cologne? You can literally
bathe in it by making your own scented bath oil. Simply add a few drops of
your scent of choice to 1/4 cup baby oil in a small plastic bottle. Shake well,
and add it to your bath.
Buff up your golf clubs Don’t waste your money on fancy cleaning kits for your chrome-
plated carbon steel golf club heads. Just keep a small bottle filled with baby oil
in your golf bag along with a chamois cloth or towel. Dab a few drops of oil on
the cloth and polish the head of your club after each round of golf.
Slip off a stuck ring Is that ring jammed on your finger again? First lubricate the ring
area with a generous amount of baby oil. Then swivel the ring around to
spread the oil under it. You should be able to slide the ring off with ease.
Clean your bathtub or shower Remove dirt and built-up soap scum around your
bathtub or shower stall by wiping surfaces with 1 teaspoon baby oil on a moist
cloth. Use another cloth to wipe away any leftover oil. Finally, spray the area
with a disinfectant cleaner to kill any remaining germs. This technique is also
great for cleaning soap film and watermarks off glass shower doors.
Shine stainless steel sinks and chrome trim Pamper your dull-looking stainless steel
sinks by rubbing them down with a few drops of baby oil on a soft, clean cloth.
Rub dry with a towel, and repeat if necessary. This is also a terrific way to remove
stains on the chrome trim of your kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures.
Polish leather bags and shoes Just a few drops of baby oil applied with a soft cloth can
add new life to an old leather bag or pair of patent-leather shoes. Don’t forget
to wipe away any oil remaining on the leather when you’re done.
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Get scratches off dashboard plastic You can disguise scratches on the plastic lens cov-
ering the odometer and other indicators on your car’s dashboard by rubbing
over them with a bit of baby oil.
Remove latex paint from skin Did you get almost as much paint on your face and
hands as you did on the bathroom you just painted? You can quickly get latex
paint off your skin by first rubbing it with some baby oil, followed by a good
washing with soap and hot water.
Treat cradle cap Cradle cap may be unsightly, but it is a common, usually harmless,
phase in many babies’ development. To combat it, gently rub in a little baby
oil, and lightly comb it through your baby’s hair. If your child gets upset, comb
it a bit at a time, but do not leave the oil on for more than 24 hours. Then,
thoroughly wash the hair to remove all of the oil. Repeat the process in persistent cases. Note: If you notice a lot of yellow crusting, or if the cradle cap has
spread behind the ears or on the neck, contact your pediatrician instead.
Baby Powder
Give sand the brush-off How many times have you had a family member return from a
day at the beach only to discover that a good portion of the beach has been
brought back into your living room? Minimize the mess by sprinkling some
baby powder over sweaty, sand-covered kids (and adults) before they enter the
house. In addition to soaking up excess moisture, the powder makes sand
incredibly easy to brush off.
Cool sheets in summer Are those sticky, hot bed sheets giving you the summertime
blues when you should be deep in dreamland? Cool things down by sprinkling
a bit of baby powder between your sheets before hopping into the sack on
warm summer nights.
aged, since studies suggest
that it could cause ovarian
cancer later in life.
Pediatricians often recommend using a cornstarchbased powder—if one is
needed at all—when
changing diapers. Cornstarch
powder is coarser than talcum
powder but does not have the
health risks. But it can promote fungal infection and
should not be applied in skin
folds or to broken skin.
Medicated baby powder
has zinc oxide added to
either talcum powder or cornstarch. It is generally used to
soothe diaper rash and to
prevent chafing.
When shopping for baby
powder, you’re invariably
faced with three choices: ordinary, cornstarch, or
Ordinary baby powder is
primarily talcum powder,
which is not good for infants
to breathe. Using talc on baby
girls is particularly discour-
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Dry-shampoo your pet Is the pooch’s coat in need of a pick-me-up? Vigorously rub a
handful or two of baby powder into your pet’s fur. Let it settle in for a couple
of minutes, and follow up with a thorough brushing. Your dog will both look
and smell great! You can even occasionally “dry shampoo” your own, or
someone else’s, hair by following the same technique.
Absorb grease stains on clothing Frying foods can be dangerous business—especially
for your clothes. If you get a grease splatter on your clothing, try dabbing the
stain with some baby powder on a powder puff. Make sure you rub it in well,
and then brush off any excess powder. Repeat until the mark is gone.
Clean your playing cards Here’s a simple way to keep your playing cards from sticking
together and getting grimy: Loosely place the cards in a plastic bag along with
a bit of baby powder. Seal the bag and give it a few good shakes. When you
remove your cards, they should feel fresh and smooth to the touch.
Slip on your rubber gloves Don’t try jamming and squeezing your
fingers into your rubber gloves when the powder layer
inside the gloves wears out. Instead, give your fingers
a light dusting with baby powder. Your rubber gloves
should slide on good as new.
Remove mold from books If some of your books have been
stored in a less than ideal environment and have gotten a
bit moldy or mildewed, try this: First, let them thoroughly air-dry. Then,
sprinkle some baby powder between the pages and stand the books upright for
several hours. Afterward, gently brush out the remaining powder from each
book. They may not be as good as new, but they should be in a lot better shape
than they were.
Dust off your flower bulbs Many savvy gardeners use medicated baby powder to dust
flower bulbs before planting them. Simply place 5-6 bulbs and about 3 tablespoons baby powder in a sealed plastic bag and give it a few gentle shakes. The
medicated-powder coating helps both reduce the chance of rot and keep away
moles, voles, grubs, and other bulb-munching pests.
Baby Wipes
Use for quick, on-the-move cleanups Baby wipes can be used for more than just
cleaning babies’ bottoms. They’re great for wiping your hands after pumping
gas, mopping up small spills in the car, and cooling your sweaty brow after a
run. In fact, they make ideal travel companions. So, next time you set off on the
road, pack a small stack of wipes in a tightly closed self-sealing sandwich bag
and put it in the glove compartment of your car or in your purse or knapsack.
Shine your shoes Most moms know that a baby wipe does a pretty good job of bright-
ening Junior’s white leather shoes. But did you ever think of using one to put
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the shine back in your leather pumps—especially with that 10 a.m. meeting
fast approaching?
Recycle as dust cloths Believe it or not, some brands of baby wipes—Huggies, for
instance—can be laundered and reused as dust cloths and cleaning rags for when
you straighten up. It probably goes without saying, but only “mildly” soiled
wipes should be considered candidates for laundering.
Buff up your bathroom Do you have company coming over and not much time to tidy
up the house? Don’t break out in a sweat. Try this double-handed trick: Take a
baby wipe in one hand and start polishing your bathroom surfaces. Keep a dry
washcloth in your other hand to shine things up as you make your rounds.
Remove stains from carpet, clothing, and upholstery Use a baby wipe to blot up
coffee spills from your rug or carpet; it absorbs both the liquid and the stain.
Wipes can also be effectively deployed when attacking various spills and drips
on your clothing and upholstered furniture.
Clean your PC keyboard Periodically shaking out your PC’s keyboard is a good way to
get rid of the dust and debris that gathers underneath and in between the keys.
But that’s just half the job. Use a baby wipe to remove the dirt, dried spills, and
unspecified gunk that builds up on the keys themselves. Make sure to turn off
the computer or unplug the keyboard before you wipe the keys.
Soothe your skin Did you get a bit too much sun at the beach? You can temporarily cool
a sunburn by gently patting the area with a baby wipe. Baby wipes can also be
used to treat cuts and scrapes. Although most wipes don’t have any antiseptic
properties, there’s nothing wrong with using one for an initial cleansing before
applying the proper topical treatment.
Remove makeup It’s one of the fashion industry’s worst-kept secrets: Many models
Baby Wipes Containers
Organize your stuff Don’t toss those empty wipes containers. These sturdy plastic
boxes are incredibly useful for storing all sorts of items. And the rectangular
ones are stackable to boot! Give the containers a good washing and let them
dry thoroughly, then fill them with everything from sewing supplies, recipe
cards, coupons, and craft and office supplies to old floppy disks, small tools,
photos, receipts, and bills. Label the contents with a marker on masking
tape, and you’re set!
Make a first-aid kit Every home needs a first-aid kit. But you don’t have to buy a ready-
consider a baby wipe to be their best friend when it comes time to remove
that stubborn makeup from their faces, particularly black eyeliner. Try it and
see for yourself.
made one. Gather up your own choice of essentials (such as bandages, sterile
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gauze rolls and pads, adhesive tape, scissors, and triple-antibiotic ointment)
and use a rectangular baby wipes container to hold it all. Before you add your
supplies, give the container a good washing—and rub the inside with alcohol
on a cotton ball after it dries.
Use as a decorative yarn or twine dispenser A clean cylindrical wipes container makes
a perfect dispenser for a roll of yarn or twine. Simply remove the container’s
cover, insert the roll, and thread it through the slot in the lid, then reattach the
cover. Paint or paper over the container to give it a more decorative look.
Tip Removing Labels
Use a blow-dryer on a high setting to heat up the labels on baby wipes
containers to make them easier to pull off. You can get rid of any leftover
sticky stuff by applying a little WD-40 oil or orange citrus cleaner.
Store your plastic shopping bags Do you save plastic shopping bags for lining the
small wastebaskets (or perhaps for pooper-scooper duty)? If so, bring order to
the puffed-up chaos they create by storing the bags in cleaned, rectangular
wipes containers. Each container can hold 40 to 50 bags—once you squeeze
the air out of them. You can also use an empty 250-count tissue box—the kind
with a perforated cutout dispenser—in a similar manner.
Make a piggy bank Well, maybe not a “piggy” bank, per se, but a bank nonetheless, and
one that gives you a convenient place to dump your pocket change. Take a
clean rectangular container and use a knife to cut a slot—be sure to make it
wide enough to easily accommodate a quarter—on the lid. If you’re making
the bank for a child, you can either decorate it or let her put her own personal
“stamp” on it.
Hold workshop towels or rags A used baby wipes container can be a welcome addition
in the workshop for storing rags and paper towels—and to keep a steady
supply on hand as needed. You can easily keep a full roll of detached paper
towels or six or seven good-sized rags in each container.
sup us s! Baking Soda
Clean your produce You can’t be too careful when it comes to food handling and
preparation. Wash fruits and vegetables in a pot of cold water with 2-3 tablespoons baking soda; the baking soda will remove some of the impurities tap
water leaves behind. Or put a small amount of baking soda on a wet sponge
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or vegetable brush and scrub your produce. Give everything a thorough
rinsing before serving.
Tenderize meat Got a tough cut of meat on your hands? Soften it up by giving it rub-
down in baking soda. Let it sit (in the refrigerator, of course) for three to five
hours, then rinse it off well before cooking.
Soak out fish smells Get rid of that fishy smell from your store-bought flounder filets
and fish steaks by soaking the raw fish for about an hour (inside your refrigerator) in 1 quart (1 liter) water with 2 tablespoons baking soda. Rinse the fish
well and pat dry before cooking.
Reduce acids in recipes If you or someone in your family is sensitive to the high-acid
content of tomato-based sauces or coffee, you can lower the overall acidity by
sprinkling in a pinch of baking soda while cooking (or, in the case of coffee,
before brewing). A bit of baking soda can also counteract the taste of vinegar if
you happen to pour in a bit too much. Be careful not to overdo it with the
soda, though—if you add too much, the vinegar-baking soda combination will
start foaming.
Bake better beans Do you love baked beans but not their aftereffects? Adding a pinch of
baking soda to baked beans as they’re cooking will significantly reduce their
gas-producing properties.
Fluff up your omelets Want to know the secret to making fluffier omelets? For every
three eggs used, add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Shhhh! Don’t let it get around.
Tip Out of Baking Powder?
If you are out of baking powder, you can usually substitute 2 parts baking
soda mixed with 1 part each cream of tartar and cornstarch. To make the
equivalent of 1 teaspoon baking powder, for instance, mix 1/2 teaspoon
baking soda with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch. The cornstarch slows the reaction between the acidic cream of
tartar and the alkaline baking soda so that, like commercial baking
powder, it maintains its leavening power longer.
some powdered vitamin C (or citric acid) and baking soda on hand, you can
use a mixture of the two instead. Just mix in equal parts to equal the quantity
of yeast required. What’s more, the dough you add it to won’t have to rise
before baking.
Rid hands of food odors Chopping garlic or cleaning a fish can leave their “essence” on
your fingers long after the chore is done. Get those nasty food smells off your
hands by simply wetting them and vigorously rubbing with about 2 teaspoons
baking soda instead of soap. The smell should wash off with the soda.
Use as yeast substitute Need a stand-in for yeast when making dough? If you have
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Clean baby bottles and accessories Here’s some great advice for new parents: Keep all
your baby bottles, nipples, caps, and brushes “baby fresh” by soaking them
overnight in a container filled with hot water and half a box of baking soda. Be
sure to give everything a good rinsing afterward, and to dry thoroughly before
using. Baby bottles can also be boiled in a full pot of water and 3 tablespoons
baking soda for three minutes.
Clean a cutting board Keep your wooden or plastic cutting board clean by occasionally
scrubbing it with a paste made from 1 tablespoon each baking soda, salt, and
water. Rinse thoroughly with hot water.
Clear a clogged drain Most kitchen drains can be unclogged by pouring in 1 cup baking
soda followed by 1 cup hot vinegar (simply heat it up in the microwave for
1 minute). Give it several minutes to work, then add 1 quart (1 liter) boiling
water. Repeat if necessary. If you know your drain is clogged with grease, use
1/2 cup each of baking soda and salt followed by 1 cup boiling water. Let the
mixture work overnight; then rinse with hot tap water in the morning.
Boost potency of dishwashing liquid Looking for a more powerful dishwashing
liquid? Try adding 2 tablespoons baking soda to the usual amount of liquid
you use, and watch it cut through grease like a hot knife!
Make your own dishwashing detergent The dishwasher is fully loaded when you dis-
cover that you’re out of your usual powdered dishwashing detergent. What do
you do? Make your own: Combine 2 tablespoons baking soda with 2 tablespoons borax. You may be so pleased with the results you’ll switch for good.
Deodorize your dishwasher Eliminate odors inside your automatic dishwasher by
sprinkling 1/2 cup baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher between
loads. Or pour in half a box of baking soda and run the empty machine
through its rinse cycle.
Baking soda is the main
ingredient in many commercial fire extinguishers. And
you can use it straight out of
the box to extinguish small
fires throughout your home.
For quick access, keep baking
soda in buckets placed strategically around the house.
Keep baking soda near
your stove and barbecue so
you can toss on a few handfuls to quell a flare-up. In the
case of a grease fire, first turn
off the heat, if possible, and
try to cover the fire with a pan
lid. Be careful not to let the
hot grease splatter you.
Keep a box or two in your
garage and inside your car to
quickly extinguish any
mechanical or car-interior fires.
Baking soda will also snuff out
electrical fires and flames on
clothing, wood,
upholstery, and
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Clean your refrigerator To get rid of smells and dried-up spills inside your
refrigerator, remove the contents, then sprinkle some baking
soda on a damp sponge and scrub the sides, shelves, and compartments. Rinse with a clean, wet sponge. Don’t forget to place
a fresh box of soda inside when you’re done.
Clean your microwave To clean those splatters off the inside of your
microwave, put a solution of 2 tablespoons baking soda in 1 cup water
in a microwave-safe container and cook on High for 2-3 minutes. Remove
the container, then wipe down the microwave’s moist interior with a damp
paper towel.
Remove coffee and tea stains from china Don’t let those annoying coffee and/or tea
stains on your good china spoil another special occasion. Remove them by dipping a moist cloth in baking soda to form a stiff paste and gently rubbing your
cups and saucers. Rinse clean and dry, then set your table with pride.
Clean a thermos To remove residue on the inside of a thermos, mix 1/4 cup baking soda
in 1 quart (1 liter) water. Fill the thermos with the solution—if necessary, give
it a going-over with a bottle brush to loosen things up—and let it soak
overnight. Rinse clean before using.
Freshen a sponge or towel When a kitchen sponge or dish towel gets that distinctly
sour smell, soak it overnight in 2 tablespoons baking soda and a couple of
drops of antibacterial dish soap dissolved in 1 pint (450 milliliters) warm
water. The following morning, squeeze out the remaining solution and rinse
with cold water. It should smell as good as new.
Remove stains and scratches on countertops Is your kitchen countertop covered
with stains or small knife cuts? Use a paste of 2 parts baking soda to 1 part
water to “rub out” most of them. For stubborn stains, add a drop of chlorine
bleach to the paste. Immediately wash the area with hot, soapy water to prevent the bleach from causing fading.
Shine up stainless steel and chrome trim To put the shine back in your stainless steel
Get rid of grease stains on stovetops Say good-bye to cooked-on grease stains on your
stovetop or backsplash. First wet them with a little water and cover them with
a bit of baking soda. Then rub them off with a damp sponge or towel.
Clean an automatic coffeemaker Properly caring for your automatic coffeemaker
means never having to worry about bitter or weak coffee. Every two weeks or
so, brew a pot of 1 quart (1 liter) water mixed with 1/4 cup baking soda,
sink, sprinkle it with baking soda, then give it a rubdown—moving in the
direction of the grain—with a moist cloth. To polish dull chrome trim on your
appliances, pour a little baking soda onto a damp sponge and rub over the
chrome. Let it dry for an hour or so, then wipe down with warm water and dry
with a clean cloth.
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followed by a pot of clean water. Also, sweeten your coffeemaker’s plastic
basket by using an old toothbrush to give it an occasional scrubbing with a
paste of 2 tablespoons baking soda and 1 tablespoon water. Rinse thoroughly
with cold water when done.
Care for your coffeepots and teapots Remove mineral deposits in
metal coffeepots and teapots by filling them with a solution of 1 cup vinegar and 4 tablespoons baking soda.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then let simmer for five
minutes. Or try boiling 5 cups water with 2 tablespoons
soda and the juice of half a lemon. Rinse with cold water
when done. To get off annoying exterior stains, wash your
pots with a plastic scouring pad in a solution of 1/4 cup baking soda
in 1 quart (1 liter) warm water. Follow up with a cold-water rinse.
Remove stains from nonstick cookware It may be called nonstick cookware, but a
few of those stains seem to be stuck on pretty well. Blast them away by boiling
1 cup water mixed with 2 tablespoons baking soda and 1/2 cup vinegar for
10 minutes. Then wash in hot, soapy water. Rinse well and let dry, then season
with a bit of salad oil.
Clean cast-iron cookware Although it’s more prone to stains and rust than the nonstick
variety, many folks swear by their iron cookware. You can remove even the
toughest burned-on food remnants in your iron pots by boiling 1 quart
(1 liter) water with 2 tablespoons baking soda for five minutes. Pour off most
of the liquid, then lightly scrub it with a plastic scrub pad. Rinse well, dry, and
season with a few drops of peanut oil.
Clean burned or scorched pots and pans It usually takes heavy-duty scrubbing to get
scorched-on food off the bottom of a pot or pan. But you can make life much
easier for yourself by simply boiling a few cups of water (enough to get the pan
about 1/4 full) and adding 5 tablespoons baking soda. Turn off the heat, and
let the soda settle in for a few hours or overnight. When you’re ready, that
burned-on gunk will practically slip right off.
Deodorize your garbage pail Does something smell “off ” in your kitchen? Most likely,
it’s emanating from your trash can. But some smells linger even after you dispose of the offending garbage bag. So, be sure to give your kitchen garbage pail
an occasional cleaning with a wet paper towel dipped in baking soda (you may
want to wear rubber gloves for this). Rinse it out with a damp sponge, and let it
dry before inserting a new bag. You can also ward off stinky surprises by sprinkling a little baking soda into the bottom of your pail before inserting the bag.
Remove crayon marks from walls Has Junior redecorated your walls or wallpaper with
some original artworks in crayon? Don’t lose your cool. Just grab a damp rag,
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dip it in some baking soda, and lightly scrub the marks. They should come off
with a minimal amount of effort.
Wash wallpaper Is your wallpaper looking a bit dingy? Brighten it up by wiping it with a
rag or sponge moistened in a solution of 2 tablespoons baking soda in 1 quart
(1 liter) water. To remove grease stains from wallpaper, make a paste of 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon water. Rub it on the stain, let it set for
5-10 minutes, then rub off with a damp sponge.
Clean baby spit-ups Infants do tend to spit up—and usually not at opportune
moments. Never leave home without a small bottle of baking soda in your
diaper bag. If your tyke spits up on his or her (or your) shirt after feeding,
simply brush off any solid matter, moisten a washcloth, dip it in a bit of baking
soda, and dab the spot. The odor (and the potential stain) will soon be gone.
Deodorize rugs and carpets How’s this for a simple way to freshen up your carpets or
rugs? Lightly sprinkle them with baking soda, let it settle in for 15 minutes
or so, then vacuum up. Nothing to it!
Remove wine and grease stains from carpet What’s that? Someone just dropped a
slab of butter or a glass of cabernet on your beautiful white carpeting! Before
you scream, get a paper towel, and blot up as much of the stain as possible.
Then sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda over the spot. Give the soda at
least an hour to absorb the stain, then vacuum up the remaining powder.
Now ... exhale!
Kids’ Stuff Make watercolor paints for your kids using ingredients in
your kitchen. In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons each of baking
soda, cornstarch, and vinegar with 1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup. Wait
for the fizzing to subside, then separate the mixture into several small
containers or jar lids. Add eight drops of food coloring to each batch and
mix well. Put a different color in each batch or combine colors to make
new shades. Kids can either use the paint right away, or wait for them to
harden, in which case, they’ll need to use a wet brush before painting.
Freshen up musty drawers and closets Put baking soda sachets to work on persistent
Remove musty odor from books If those books you just took out of storage emerge
musty odors in dresser drawers, cabinet hutches, or closets. Just fill the toe of
a clean sock or stocking with 3-4 tablespoons soda, put a knot about an inch
above the bulge, and either hang it up or place it away in an unobtrusive
corner. Use a few sachets in large spaces like closets and attic storage areas.
Replace them every other month if needed. This treatment can also be used
to rid closets of mothball smells.
with a musty smell, place each one in a brown paper bag with 2 tablespoons
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baking soda. No need to shake the bag, just tie it up and let it sit in a dry environment for about one week. When you open the bag, shake any remaining
powder off the books, and the smell should be gone.
Polish silver and gold jewelry To remove built-up tarnish from your silver, make a
thick paste with 1/4 cup baking soda and 2 tablespoons water. Apply with a
damp sponge and gently rub, rinse, and buff dry. To polish gold jewelry, cover
with a light coating of baking soda, pour a bit of vinegar over it, and rinse
clean. Note: Do not use this technique with jewelry containing pearls or gemstones, as it could damage their finish and loosen the glue.
Get yellow stains off piano keys That old upright may still play great, but those yel-
lowed keys definitely hit a sour note. Remove age stains on your ivories by
mixing a solution of 1/4 cup baking soda in 1 quart (1 liter) warm water.
Apply to each key with a dampened cloth (you can place a thin piece of cardboard between the keys to avoid seepage). Wipe again with a cloth dampened
with plain water, and then buff dry with a clean cloth. (You can also clean
piano keys with lemon juice and salt.)
Remove stains from fireplace bricks You may need to use a bit of elbow grease, but
you can clean the smoke stains off your fireplace bricks by washing them with
a solution of 1/2 cup baking soda in 1 quart (1 liter) warm water.
Remove white marks on wood surfaces Get those white marks—caused by hot cups
or sweating glasses—off your coffee table or other wooden furniture by making
a paste of 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon water. Gently rub the spot
in a circular motion until it disappears. Remember not to use too much water.
Remove cigarette odors from furniture To eliminate that lingering smell of cigarette or
cigar smoke on your upholstered furniture, simply lightly sprinkle your chairs or
sofas with some baking soda. Let it sit for a few hours, then vacuum it off.
Shine up marble-topped furniture Revitalize the marble top on your coffee table or
counter by washing it with a soft cloth dipped in a solution of 3 tablespoons
baking soda and 1 quart (1 liter) warm water. Let it stand for 15 minutes to a
half hour, then rinse with plain water and wipe dry.
Clean bathtubs and sinks Get the gunk off old enameled bathtubs and sinks by
applying a paste of 2 parts baking soda and 1 part hydrogen peroxide. Let the
paste set for about half an hour. Then give it a good scrubbing and rinse well;
the paste will also sweeten your drain as it washes down.
Remove mineral deposits from showerheads Say so long to
hard-water deposits on your showerhead. Cover
the head with a thick sandwich-size bag filled
with 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar.
Loosely fasten the bag—you need to let some of
the gas escape—with adhesive tape or a large bag
tie. Let the solution work its magic for about an hour.
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Then remove the bag and turn on your shower to wash off any remaining
debris. Not only will the deposits disappear, but your showerhead will be back
to its old shining self!
Absorb bathroom odors Keep your bathroom smelling fresh and clean by placing a dec-
orative dish filled with 1/2 cup baking soda either on top of the toilet tank or
on the floor behind the bowl. You can also make your own bathroom deodorizers by setting out dishes containing equal parts baking soda and your favorite
scented bath salts.
Tidy up your toilet bowl You don’t need all those chemicals to get your toilet bowl
clean. Just pour half a box of baking soda into your toilet tank once a month.
Let it stand overnight, then give it a few flushes in the morning. This actually
cleans both the tank and the bowl. You can also pour several tablespoons of
baking soda directly into your toilet bowl and scrub it on any stains. Wait a
few minutes, then flush away the stains.
Treat minor burns The next time you grab the wrong end of a frying pan or forget to use
a pot holder, quickly pour some baking soda into a container of ice water, soak
a cloth or gauze pad in it, and apply it to the burn. Keep applying the solution
until the burn no longer feels hot. This treatment will also prevent many burns
from blistering.
Cool off sunburn and other skin irritations For quick relief of sunburn pain, soak
gauze pads or large cotton balls in a solution of 4 tablespoons baking soda
mixed in 1 cup water and apply it to the affected areas. For a bad sunburn on
your legs or torso—or to relieve the itching of chicken pox—take a lukewarm
bath with a half to a full box of baking soda added to the running water. To
ease the sting of razor burns, dab your skin with a cotton ball soaked in a solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda in 1 cup water.
Soothe poison ivy rashes Did you have an unplanned encounter with poison ivy when
Make a salve for bee stings Take the pain out of that bee sting—fast. Make a paste of
1 teaspoon baking soda mixed with several drops of cool water, and let it dry
on the afflicted area. Warning: Many people have severe allergic reactions to
bee stings. If you have difficulty breathing or notice a dramatic swelling, get
medical attention at once. (You can also treat bee stings with meat tenderizer.
See page 210.)
gardening or camping recently? To take away the itch, make a thick paste from
3 teaspoons baking soda and 1 teaspoon water and apply it to the affected
areas. You can also use baking soda to treat oozing blisters caused by the rash.
Mix 2 teaspoons baking soda in 1 quart (1 liter) water and use it to saturate a
few sterile gauze pads. Cover the blisters with the wet pads for 10 minutes,
four times a day. Note: Do not apply on or near your eyes.
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Fight diaper rash Soothe your baby’s painful diaper rash by adding a couple of table-
spoons of baking soda to a lukewarm—not hot—bath. If the rash persists or
worsens after several treatments, however, consult your pediatrician.
Combat cradle cap Cradle cap is a commonplace, and typically harmless, condition in
many infants. An old but often effective way to treat it is to make a paste of
about 3 teaspoons baking soda and 1 teaspoon water. Apply it to your baby’s
scalp about an hour before bedtime and rinse it off the following morning. Do
not use with shampoo. You may need to apply it several consecutive nights
before the cradle cap recedes. (You can also treat cradle cap with baby oil. See
page 59.)
Tip Baking Soda Shelf Life
How can you tell if the baking soda you’ve had stashed away in the back
of your pantry is still good? Just pour out a small amount—a little less
than a teaspoon—and add a few drops of vinegar or fresh lemon juice. If
it doesn’t fizz, it’s time to replace it. By the way, a sealed box of baking
soda has an average shelf life of 18 months, while an opened box lasts
6 months.
Control your dandruff Got a bit of a “flaky” problem? To get dandruff under control,
wet your hair and then rub a handful of baking soda vigorously into your
scalp. Rinse thoroughly and dry. Do this every time you normally wash your
hair, but only use baking soda, no shampoo. Your hair may get dried out at
first. But after a few weeks your scalp will start producing natural oils, leaving
your hair softer and free of flakes.
Clean combs and brushes Freshen up your combs and hairbrushes by soaking them in a
solution of 3 cups warm water and 2 teaspoons baking soda. Swirl them
around in the water to loosen up all the debris caught between the teeth, then
let them soak for about half an hour. Rinse well and dry before using.
Use as gargle or mouthwash Did the main course you ordered include a few too many
onions or a bit too much garlic? Try gargling with 1 teaspoon baking soda in a
half glass of water. The baking soda will neutralize the odors on contact. When
used as a mouthwash, baking soda will also relieve canker-sore pain.
Scrub teeth and clean dentures If you run out of your regular toothpaste, or if you’re
looking for an all-natural alternative to commercial toothpaste, just dip your
wet toothbrush in some baking soda and brush and rinse as usual. You can also
use baking soda to clean retainers, mouthpieces, and dentures. Use a solution
of 1 tablespoon baking soda dissolved in 1 cup warm water. Let the object soak
for a half hour and rinse well before using.
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Clean and sweeten toothbrushes Keep your family’s toothbrushes squeaky clean by
immersing them in a solution of 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup water. Let
the brushes soak overnight about once every week or two. Be sure to give them
a good rinsing before using.
Remove built-up gel, hair spray, or conditioner from hair When it comes to per-
sonal grooming, too much of a good thing can spell bad news for your hair.
But a thorough cleansing with baking soda at least once a week will wash all of
the gunk out of your hair. Simply add 1 tablespoon soda to your hair while
shampooing. In addition to removing all the chemicals you put in your hair, it
will wash away water impurities, and may actually lighten your hair.
Use as antiperspirant Looking for an effective, all-natural deodorant? Try applying a
small amount—about a teaspoon’s worth—of baking soda with a powder puff
under each arm. You won’t smell like a flower or some exotic spice. But then,
you won’t smell like anything from the opposite extreme, either.
Relieve itching inside a cast Wearing a plaster cast on your arm or leg is a misery any
time of year, but wearing one in the summertime can be torture. The sweating
and itchiness you feel underneath your “shell” can drive you nearly insane.
Find temporary relief by using a hair dryer—on the coolest setting—to blow a
bit of baking soda down the edges of the cast. Note: Have someone help you,
to avoid getting the powder in your eyes.
Alleviate athlete’s foot You can deploy wet or dry baking soda to combat a case of ath-
lete’s foot. First, try dusting your feet (along with your socks and shoes) with
dry baking soda to dry out the infection. If that doesn’t work, try making a
paste of 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon water and rubbing it
opening of the bottle, then gently lift it up so
that the baking soda empties into the vinegar at
the bottom of the bottle. The
fizzing and foaming you see is
actually a chemical reaction
between the two ingredients.
This reaction results in the
release of carbon dioxide gas—
which will soon inflate the
Use the gas produced by mixing
baking soda and vinegar to blow up
a balloon. First, pour
1/2 cup vinegar into
the bottom of a
narrow-neck bottle
(such as an empty water bottle) or
jar. Then insert a funnel into the
mouth of an average-sized balloon, and fill it with 5 tablespoons
baking soda. Carefully stretch the
mouth of the balloon over the
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between your toes. Let it dry, and wash off after 15 minutes. Dry your feet
thoroughly before putting on your shoes.
Soothe tired, stinky feet When your dogs start barking, treat them to a soothing bath of
4 tablespoons baking soda in 1 quart (1 liter) warm water. Besides relaxing
your aching tootsies, the baking soda will remove the sweat and lint that
gathers between your toes. Regular footbaths can also be an effective treatment
for persistent foot odor.
Deodorize shoes and sneakers A smelly shoe or sneaker is no
match for the power of baking soda. Liberally
sprinkle soda in the offending loafer or lace-up and
let it sit overnight. Dump out the powder in the
morning. (Be careful when using baking soda with
leather shoes, however; repeated applications can dry
them out.) You can also make your own reusable
“odor eaters” by filling the toes of old socks with 2 tablespoons baking soda and tying them up in a knot. Stuff the
socks into each shoe at night before retiring. Remove the socks in the morning
and breathe easier.
Boost strength of liquid detergent and bleach It may sound like a cliché, but adding
1/2 cup baking soda to your usual amount of liquid laundry detergent really
will give you “whiter whites” and brighter colors. The baking soda also softens
the water, so you can actually use less detergent. Adding 1/2 cup baking soda
in top-loading machines (1/4 cup for front-loaders) also increases the potency
of bleach, so you need only half the usual amount of bleach.
Remove mothball smell from clothes If your clothes come out of storage reeking of
mothballs, take heed: Adding 1/2 cup baking soda during your washer’s rinse
cycle will get rid of the smell.
Wash new baby clothes Get all of the chemicals out of your newborn’s clothing—
without using any harsh detergents. Wash your baby’s new clothes with some
mild soap and 1/2 cup baking soda.
Rub out perspiration and other stains Pretreating clothes with a paste made from
4 tablespoons baking soda and 1/4 cup warm water can help vanquish a variety
of stains. For example, rub it into shirts to remove perspiration stains; for really
bad stains, let the paste dry for about two hours before washing. Rub out tar
stains by applying the paste and washing in plain baking soda. For collar stains,
rub in the paste and add a bit of vinegar as you’re putting the shirt in the wash.
Wash mildewed shower curtains Just because your plastic shower curtain or liner gets
dirty or mildewed doesn’t mean you have to throw it away. Try cleaning it in
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your washing machine with two bath towels on the gentle setting. Add 1/2 cup
baking soda to your detergent during the wash cycle and 1/2 cup vinegar
during the rinse cycle. Let it drip-dry; don’t put it in the dryer.
Clean battery terminals Eliminate the corrosive buildup
on your car’s battery terminals. Scrub them
clean using an old toothbrush and a mixture of
3 tablespoons baking soda and 1 tablespoon
warm water. Wipe them off with a wet towel
and dry with another towel. Once the terminals have completely dried, apply a bit of
petroleum jelly around each terminal to deter
future corrosive buildup.
Use as deicer in winter Salt and commercial ice-melt formulations can stain—or actu-
ally eat away—the concrete around your house. For an equally effective, but
completely innocuous, way to melt the ice on your steps and walkways during
those cold winter months, try sprinkling them with generous amounts of
baking soda. Add some sand for improved traction.
Tighten cane chair seats The bottoms of cane chairs can start to sag with age, but you
can tighten them up again easily enough. Just soak two cloths in a solution
of 1/2 cup baking soda in 1 quart (1 liter) hot water. Saturate the top surface of
the caning with one cloth, while pushing the second up against the bottom
of the caning to saturate the underside. Use a clean, dry cloth to soak up the
excess moisture, then put the chair in the sun to dry.
Kids’ Stuff Spies use it and so can you. Send a message or draw a
picture with invisible ink. Here’s how you do it: Mix 1 tablespoon each of
baking soda and water. Dip a toothpick or paintbrush in the mixture and
write your message or draw a picture or design on a piece of plain white
paper. Let the paper and the “ink” dry completely. To reveal
your message or see your picture, mix 6 drops food coloring
with 1 tablespoon water. Dip a clean paintbrush in the solufood-coloring combinations for a cool effect.
Remove tar from your car It may look pretty bad, but it’s not that hard to get road tar
off your car without damaging the paint. Make a soft paste of 3 parts baking
soda to 1 part water and apply to the tar spots with a damp cloth. Let it dry for
five minutes, then rinse clean.
tion, and lightly paint over the paper. Use different
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Give your deck the weathered look You can instantly give your wooden deck a weath-
ered look by washing it in a solution of 2 cups baking soda in 1 gallon
(3.7 liters) water. Use a stiff straw brush to work the solution into the wood,
then rinse with cool water.
Clean air-conditioner filters Clean washable air-conditioner filters each month they’re
in use. First vacuum off as much dust and dirt as possible, then wash in a solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda in 1 quart (1 liter) water. Let the filters dry
thoroughly before replacing.
Keep your humidifier odor-free Eliminate musty smells from a humidifier by adding
2 tablespoons baking soda to the water each time you change it. Note: Check
your owner’s manual or consult the unit’s manufacturer before trying this.
Keep weeds out of cement cracks Looking for a safe way to
keep weeds and grasses from growing in the
cracks of your paved patios, driveways, and
walkways? Sprinkle handfuls of baking soda
onto the concrete and simply sweep it into the
cracks. The added sodium will make it much
less hospitable to dandelions and their friends.
Clean resin lawn furniture Most commercial cleaners are
too abrasive to be used on resin lawn furniture. But you
won’t have to worry about scratching or dulling the surface if you clean your
resin furniture with a wet sponge dipped in baking soda. Wipe using circular
motions, then rinse well.
Use as plant food Give your flowering, alkaline-loving plants, such as clematis, del-
phiniums, and dianthus, an occasional shower in a mild solution of
1 tablespoon baking soda in 2 quarts (2 liters) water. They’ll show their appreciation with fuller, healthier blooms.
Maintain proper pool alkalinity Add 1 1/2 pounds (680 grams) baking soda for every
10,000 gallons (38,000 liters) of water in your swimming pool to raise the
total alkalinity by 10 ppm (parts per million). Most pools require alkalinity in
the 80-150 ppm range. Maintaining the proper pool alkalinity level is vital for
minimizing changes in pH if acidic or basic pool chemicals or contaminants
are introduced to the water.
Scour barbecue grills Keep your barbecue grill in top condition by making a soft paste
of 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup water. Apply the paste with a wire brush
and let dry for 15 minutes. Then wipe it down with a dry cloth and place the
grill over the hot coals for at least 15 minutes to burn off any residue before
placing any food on top.
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Make deodorizing dog shampoo The next time Rover rolls around in your compost
heap, pull out the baking soda to freshen him up. Just rub a few handfuls of
the powder into his coat and give it a thorough brushing. In addition to
removing the smell, it will leave his coat shiny and clean.
Wash insides of pets’ ears If your pet is constantly scratching at his ears, it could indi-
cate the presence of an irritation or ear mites. Ease the itch (and wipe out any
mites) by using a cotton ball dipped in a solution of 1 teaspoon baking soda in
1 cup warm water to gently wash the inside of his ears.
Keep bugs away from pets’ dishes Placing a border of baking soda around your pet’s
food bowls will keep away six-legged intruders. And it won’t harm your pet if
he happens to lap up a little (though most pets aren’t likely to savor soda’s
bitter taste).
Deodorize the litter box Don’t waste money on expensive deodorized cat litter. Just put
a thin layer of baking soda under the bargain-brand litter to absorb the odor.
Or mix baking soda with the litter as you’re changing it.
Protect a bandaged finger Bandaging an injury on your finger is easy; keeping the
bandage dry as you go about your day can be a different story. But here’s the
secret to skipping those wet-bandage changes: Just slip a small balloon over
your finger when doing dishes, bathing, or even simply washing your hands.
Keep track of your child Those inexpensive floating helium-filled balloons sold in
most shopping malls can be more than just a treat for a youngster; they could
be invaluable in locating a child who wanders off into a crowd. Even if you
keep close tabs on your kids, you can buy a little peace of mind by simply
tying (though not too tightly) a balloon to your child’s wrist on those
weekend shopping trips.
Make a party invitation How’s this for an imaginative invitation? Inflate a balloon (for
Transport cut flowers Don’t bother with awkward, water-filled plastic bags and such
when traveling with freshly cut flowers. Simply fill up a balloon with about
1/2 cup water and slip it over the cut ends of your flowers. Wrap a rubber band
several times around the mouth of the balloon to keep it from slipping off.
sanitary purposes, use an electric pump, if possible). Pinch off the end, but
don’t tie a knot in it. Write your invitation details on the balloon with a bright
permanent marker; make sure the ink is dry before you deflate it. Place the balloon in an envelope, and mail one out to each guest. When your guests receive
it, they’ll have to blow it up to see what it says.
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Use as a hat mold To keep the shape in your freshly washed knit cap or cloth hat, fit it
over an inflated balloon while it dries. Use a piece of masking tape to keep the
balloon from tilting over or falling onto the ground.
Mark your campsite Bring along several helium-filled balloons on your next camping
trip to attach to your tent or a post. They’ll make it easier for the members of
your party to locate your campsite when hiking or foraging in the woods.
Make an ice pack Looking for a flexible ice pack you can use for everything from icing a
sore back to keeping food cold in your cooler? Fill a large, durable balloon with
as much water as you need and put it in your freezer. You can even mold it to a
certain extent into specific shapes—for example, put it under something flat
like a box of pizza if you want a flat ice pack for your back. Use smaller latex
balloons for making smaller ice packs for lunch boxes, etc.
Freeze for cooler punch To keep your party punch bowl cold and well filled, pour juice
in several balloons (use a funnel) and place them in your freezer. When it’s
party time, peel the latex off the ice, and periodically drop a couple into the
punch bowl.
Repel unwanted garden visitors Put those old deflated shiny metallic balloons—the
ones lying around your house from past birthday parties—to work in your
garden. Cut them into vertical strips and hang them from poles around your
vegetables and on fruit trees to scare off invading birds, rabbits, and squirrels.
Protect your rifle A dirty rifle can jam up and just be downright dangerous to use. But
you can keep dust and debris from accumulating in your rifle barrel by putting
a sturdy latex balloon over the barrel’s front end.
You experience a discharge of static
electricity when you
touch a doorknob
after shuffling
across a carpet.
But you rarely see
this phenomenon, with the exception of lightning, which is static
electricity on a grand scale.
Here’s an experiment that offers a
dazzling display of static electricity in action:
Empty the contents of a package of nonflavored gelatin powder onto a
piece of paper. Blow up a balloon,
rub it on a woolen sweater, and
then hold it about an inch over
the powder. The gelatin particles
will arch up toward the balloon.
The slightly negatively charged
electrons—the built-up static electricity on the balloon—are
attracting the positively charged
protons in the gelatin powder.
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Make a face mask Who needs Botox when you have bananas?
That’s right: You can use a banana as an all-natural
face mask that moisturizes your skin and leaves it
looking and feeling softer. Mash up a mediumsized ripe banana into a smooth paste, then
gently apply it to your face and neck. Let it set for
10-20 minutes, then rinse it off with cold water.
Another popular mask recipe calls for 1/4 cup plain
yogurt, 2 tablespoons honey, and 1 medium banana.
Eat a frozen “banana-sicle” As a summer treat for friends and family, peel and cut four
ripe bananas in half (across the middle). Stick a wooden ice-cream stick into
the flat end of each piece. Place them all on a piece of wax paper, and then put
it in the freezer. A few hours later, serve them up as simply yummy frozen
banana-sicles. If you want to go all-out, quickly dip your frozen bananas in
6 ounces (170 grams) melted butterscotch or chocolate morsels (chopped nuts
or shredded coconut are optional), then refreeze.
Tenderize a roast Banana leaves are commonly used in many Asian countries to wrap
meat as it’s cooking to make it more tender. Some folks in these areas say the
banana itself also has this ability. So the next time you fear the roast you’re
cooking will turn tough on you, try softening it up by adding a ripe, peeled
banana to the pan.
Polish silverware and leather shoes It may sound a bit like a lark, but using a banana
peel is actually a great way to put the shine back into your silverware and
leather shoes. First, remove any of the leftover stringy material from the inside
of the peel, then just start rubbing the inside of the peel on your shoes or silver.
When you’re done, buff up the object with a paper towel or soft cloth. You
might even want to use this technique to restore your leather furniture. Test it
on a small section first before you take on the whole chair.
Brighten up houseplants Are the leaves on your houseplants looking
dingy or dusty? Don’t bother misting them with water—
that just spreads the dirt around. Rather, wipe down each
leaf with the inside of a banana peel. It’ll remove all the gunk
on the surface and replace it with a lustrous shine.
dried or cut-up banana peels an inch or two deep around the base of the aphidprone plants, and soon the little suckers will pack up and leave. Don’t use
whole peels or the bananas themselves, though; they tend to be viewed as tasty
treats by raccoons, squirrels, gophers, rabbits, and other animals, who will just
dig them up.
Deter aphids Are aphids attacking your rosebushes or other plants? Bury
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Use as fertilizer or mulch Banana peels, like the fruit itself, are rich in potassium—an
important nutrient for both you and your garden. Dry out banana peels on
screens during the winter months. In early spring, grind them up in a food
processor or blender and use it as a mulch to give new plants and seedlings a
healthy start. Many cultivars of roses and other plants, like staghorn ferns, also
benefit from the nutrients found in banana peels; simply cut up some peels
and use them as plant food around your established plants.
Add to compost pile With their high content of potassium and phosphorus, whole
bananas and peels are welcome additions to any compost pile—particularly in
so-called compost tea recipes. The fruit breaks down especially fast in hot temperatures. But don’t forget to remove any glued-on tags from the peels, and be
sure to bury bananas deep within your pile—otherwise they may simply turn
out to be a meal for a four-legged visitor.
Attract butterflies and birds Bring more butterflies and various bird species to your
backyard by putting out overripe bananas (as well as other fruits such as
mangos, oranges, and papayas) on a raised platform. Punch a few holes in the
bananas to make the fruit more accessible to the butterflies. Some enthusiasts
swear by adding a drop of Gatorade to further mush things up. The fruit is
also likely to attract more bees and wasps as well, so make sure that the platform is well above head level and not centrally located. Moreover, you’ll
probably want to clear it off before sunset, to discourage visits from raccoons
and other nocturnal creatures.
Pour perfect batter To make picture-perfect pancakes, cookies, and muffins, simply fill
your baster with batter so that you can pour just the right amount onto a
griddle or cookie sheet or into a muffin pan.
Remove excess water from coffeemaker The perfect cup of coffee is determined by
using the proper balance of water and ground coffee in your automatic coffeemaker. If you pour in too much water, however, you typically have to add
more coffee or suffer through a weak pot. But there’s another, often overlooked
option: Simply use your kitchen baster to remove the excess water to bring it in
at just the right level.
Water hard-to-reach plants Do you get drips all over yourself, the floor, or furniture
when trying to water hanging plants or other difficult-to-reach houseplants?
Instead, fill a baster with water and squeeze it directly into the pot. You can
also use a baster to water a Christmas tree and to add small, precise amounts of
water to cups containing seedlings or germinating seeds.
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Refresh water in flower arrangements It’s a fact: Cut flowers last longer with periodic
water changes. But pouring out the old water and adding the new is not a particularly easy or pleasant task. Unless, that is, you use a baster to suck out the
old water and then to squirt in fresh water.
TAKE CARE Never use your kitchen baster for tasks such as cleaning out
a fish tank or spreading or transferring chemicals.
Basters are staples at discount stores, and it’s worth a visit to pick up
a few to keep around the house specifically for noncooking chores. Label
them with a piece of masking tape to make sure you always use the same
baster for the same task.
Place water in pet’s bowl Are you getting tired of chasing the bunny, hamster, or other
caged pet around the house whenever you change its water? Use a baster to fill
the water dish. You can usually fit the baster between the slats without having
to open the cage.
Clean your aquarium A baster makes it incredibly easy to change the water in your fish
tank or to freshen it up a bit. Simply use the utensil to suck up the gunk that
collects in the corners and in the gravel at the bottom of your tank.
Blow away roaches and ants If you’ve had it with sharing your living quarters with
roaches or ants, give them the heave-ho by sprinkling boric acid along any
cracks or crevices where you’ve spotted the intruders. Use a baster to blow
small amounts of the powder into hard-to-reach corners and any deep voids
you come across. Note: Keep in mind that boric acid can be toxic if ingested
by young children or pets.
Transfer paints and solvents The toughest part of any touchup paint job is invariably
pouring the paint from a large can into a small cup or container. To avoid the
inevitable spills, and just to make life easier in general, use a baster to take the
paint out of the can. In fact, it’s a good idea to make a baster a permanent
addition to your workshop for transferring any solvents, varnishes, and other
liquid chemicals.
Cure a musty-smelling air conditioner If you detect a
musty odor blowing out of the vents of your
room air-conditioner, chances are it’s caused by
a clogged drain hole. First, unscrew the front of
the unit and locate the drain hole. It’s usually
located under the barrier between the evaporator and compressor, or underneath the
evaporator. Use a bent wire hanger to clear away
any obstacles in the hole or use a baster to flush it clean. You may also need to
use the baster to remove any water that may be pooling up at the bottom of
the unit to gain access to the drain.
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Fix a leaky refrigerator Is water leaking inside your refrigerator? The most likely cause is
a blocked drain tube. This plastic tube runs from a drain hole in the back of
the freezer compartment along the back of your fridge and drains into an evaporation pan underneath. Try forcing hot water through the drain hole in the
freezer with a baster. If you can’t access the drain hole, try disconnecting the
tube on the back to blow water through it. After clearing the tube, pour a teaspoon of ammonia or bleach into the drain hole to prevent a recurrence of
algae spores, the probable culprit.
Bath Oil
Remove glue from labels or bandages Get rid of those sticky leftover adhesive marks
from bandages, price tags, and labels. Rub them away with a bit of bath oil
applied to a cotton ball. It works great on glass, metal, and most plastics.
Use as a hot-oil treatment Heat 1/2 cup bath oil mixed with 1/2 cup water on High in
your microwave for 30 seconds. Place the solution in a deep bowl and soak
your fingers or toes in it for 10-15 minutes to soften cuticles or calluses. After
drying, use a pumice stone to smooth over calluses or a file to push down cuticles. Follow up by rubbing in hand cream until fully absorbed.
Pry apart stuck drinking glasses When moisture seeps in between stacked glasses, sep-
arating them can get mighty tough—not to mention dangerous. But you can
break the “ties that bond” by applying a few drops of bath oil along the sides of
the glasses. Give the oil a few minutes to work its way down, then simply slide
your glasses apart.
Loosen chewing gum from hair and carpeting If your child comes home with
chewing gum in his or her hair—or tracks a wad onto your rug or carpet—
It appears we Homo sapiens
have had a penchant for perfumed body oils since the
beginning of history. The first
use of such oils is believed to
have occurred in the Neolithic
period (7000-4000 B.C.), when
Stone Age people began combining olive and sesame seed
oils with fragrant plants. The
ancient Egyptians also used
scented oils, primarily
in religious rituals.
And the use of
body oils, such as
myrrh and frankincense, for both
religious and secular uses is
documented in the
Bible. Indeed, fragrant oils
have been an integral
part of most cultures—
including those of
Native Americans and
many Asian peoples.
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hold off on reaching for the scissors. Instead, rub a liberal amount of bath oil
into the gum. It should loosen it up enough to comb out. On a carpet, test the
oil on an inconspicuous area before applying to the spot.
Remove scuff marks You can get those annoying scuff marks off your patent-leather
shoes or handbags. Apply a bit of bath oil to a clean, soft cloth or towel.
Gently rub in the oil, then polish with another dry towel.
Soften a new baseball glove Apply several drops of bath oil in the
midsection of the glove and a few more drops under
each finger. Lightly spread the oil around with a
soft cloth. Place a baseball in the pocket of the
glove and fold the glove over the ball, keeping
it in place with one or two belts or an Ace
bandage. Let it sit for a couple of days, then
release the constraints and remove any excess oil
with a clean cloth. The glove should be noticeably
more pliable.
Clean grease or oil from skin It doesn’t take much tinkering around the inside of a car
or mower engine to get your hands coated in grease or oil. But before you
reach for any heavy-duty grease removers, try this: Rub a few squirts of bath oil
onto your hands, then wash them in warm, soapy water. It works, and it’s a lot
easier on the dermis than harsh chemicals.
Revitalize vinyl upholstery Give your car’s dreary-looking vinyl upholstery a makeover
by using a small amount of bath oil on a soft cloth to wipe down the seats,
dashboard, armrests, and other surfaces. Polish with a clean cloth to remove
any excess oil. As an added bonus, a scented bath oil will make the interior
smell better, too.
Slide together pipe joints Can’t find the all-purpose lubricating oil or the WD-40 when
you’re trying to join pipes together? No problem. A few drops of bath oil
should provide sufficient lubrication to fit pipe joints together with ease.
Place on the bottom of PC case Has your desktop computer case lost its “legs” (those
four small rubber feet that invariably fall off over time from moving your PC
around)? To steady your case, and to minimize vibrations, cut small squares
from a bathtub appliqué, and apply them to the corners of your case where the
feet used to be.
Apply to dance slippers, shoes, and pajamas Avoid nasty falls caused by slippery
plastic dance slippers—and even new shoes. Cut small pieces of bathtub
appliqués and apply them to the sole of each slipper or shoe. You can also sew cut
Bathtub Appliqués
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pieces of an appliqué on the soles of your children’s “feet” pajamas to prevent
slips (and tears).
Stick to bottom of kids’ wading pool A few bathtub appliqués applied to the floor of a
kiddie pool will make it a lot less slippery for little feet and help prevent falls—
especially when the water play turns rowdy. Also put a couple of appliqués
along the edges of the pool to give kids easy places to grip onto.
Affix to sippy cups and high-chair seats Cut pieces of a bathtub appliqué and put
them on toddlers’ sippy cups to minimize spills. Also attach appliqués to highchair seats to keep Junior from sliding down—or out.
Beans (Dried)
Use for playing pieces We know you had your heart set on being the racing car in the
next game of Monopoly, but if the car has taken a trip to parts unknown,
would you settle for a bean? Beans work fine as replacement pieces for everything from checkers to Chutes and Ladders to bingo.
Treat sore muscles Is your bad back or tennis elbow acting up again? A hot beanbag
may be just the cure you need. Place a couple of handfuls of dried beans in a
cloth shoe bag, an old sock, or a folded towel (tie the ends tightly) and
microwave it on High for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Let it cool for a minute or
two, then apply it to your aching muscles.
Make a beanbag Pour 3/4 to 1 1/2 cups dried beans in an old sock, shaking them down
to the toe section. Tie a loose knot and tighten it up as you work it down
against the beans. Then cut off the remaining material about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) above the knot. You now have a beanbag for tossing around or
juggling. Or use it as a squeeze bag for exercising your hand muscles.
Practice your percussion Make a homemade percussion shaker
or maraca for yourself or your youngster. Add
1/2 cup dried beans to a small plastic jar, or a soda
or juice can—even an empty coconut shell. Cover
any openings with adhesive or duct tape. You can
use this noisemaker at sporting events or as a dogtraining tool (give it a couple of shakes when the
pooch misbehaves).
Decorate a jack-o’-lantern Embellish the fright potential of your Halloween jack-o’-
lantern by gluing on various dried beans for the eyes and teeth.
Recycle a stuffed animal Make your own beanie creation by removing the stuffing from
one of your child’s old, unused stuffed animals. Replace the fluff with dried
beans, and sew it closed. It’s bound to rekindle your youngster’s interest.
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Use as setting lotion Put some life back into flat hair with some flat beer. Before you get
into the shower, mix 3 tablespoons beer in 1/2 cup warm water. After you
shampoo your hair, rub in the solution, let it set for a couple of minutes, then
rinse it off. You may be so pleased by what you see, you’ll want to keep a sixpack in the bathroom.
Soften up tough meat Who needs powdered meat tenderizer when you have some in a
can? You guessed it: Beer makes a great tenderizer for tough, inexpensive cuts
of meat. Pour a can over the meat, and let it soak in for about an hour before
cooking. Even better, marinate it overnight in the fridge or put the beer in your
slow cooker with the meat.
Polish gold jewelry Get the shine back in your solid gold (i.e., minus any gemstones)
rings and other jewelry by pouring a bit of beer (not dark ale!) onto a soft cloth
and rubbing it gently over the piece. Use a clean second cloth or towel to dry.
Clean wood furniture Have you got some beer that’s old or went flat? Use it to clean
wooden furniture. Just wipe it on with a soft cloth, and then off with another
dry cloth.
Make a trap for slugs and snails Like some people, some garden pests find beer irre-
sistible—especially slugs and snails. If you’re having problems with these slimy
invaders, bury a container, such as a clean, empty juice container cut lengthwise in half, in the area where you’ve seen the pests, pour in about half a can of
warm, leftover beer, and leave it overnight. You’re likely to find a horde of
them, drunk and drowned, the next morning.
Remove coffee or tea stains from rugs Getting that coffee or tea stain out your rug
may seem impossible, but you can literally lift it out by pouring a bit of beer
right on top. Rub the beer lightly into the material, and the stain should disappear. You may have to repeat the process a couple of times to remove all traces
of the stain.
home to more breweries
throughout its history than
any other state. One of its earliest breweries was opened in
1680 by none other than
William Penn, the state’s
founder. And the Keystone
State is still the home of the
U.S.’s oldest active brewery, D.
G. Yuengling & Son of
Pottsville, Pennsylvania,
founded in 1829.
Some popular brands of beer
proclaim their New England
or Rocky Mountain pedigrees, or boast being
“Milwaukee’s finest.” But, in
fact, Pennsylvania has been
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Berry Baskets
Keep peels out of drain Don’t clog up your kitchen drain with peelings from potatoes or
carrots. Use a berry basket as a sink strainer to catch those vegetable shavings as
they fall.
Store soap pads and sponges Are you tired of throwing away
prematurely rusted steel wool soap pads or smelly
sponges? Place a berry basket near the corner of
your kitchen sink and line the bottom with a
layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Fashion a
spout on a corner of the foil closest to the sink
that can act as a drain to keep water from pooling
up at the bottom of the basket. Now sit back and
enjoy the added longevity of your soap pads
and sponges.
Use as a colander Need a small colander to wash individual servings of fruits and vegeta-
bles or to drain off that child’s portion of hot macaroni shells? Get your hands
on an empty berry basket. It makes a dandy colander for these chores.
Kids’ Stuff Berry baskets can be particularly useful for all sorts of
children’s crafts. For example, you can cut apart the panels, and carve out
geometric shapes for kids to use as stencils. You can also turn one into
an Easter basket by adding some cellophane grass and a (preferably
pink) pipe cleaner for a handle. Or use one as a multiple bubble maker;
simply dip it in some water mixed with dishwashing liquid and wave it
through the air to create swarms of bubbles. Lastly, let kids decorate the
baskets with ribbons or construction paper and use them to store their
own little trinkets and toys.
Hold recycled paper towels Don’t toss out those lightly used paper towels in your
kitchen. You can reuse them to wipe down countertops or to soak up serious
spills. Keep a berry basket in a convenient location in your kitchen to have
your recycled towels at the ready when needed.
Use as dishwasher basket If the smaller items you place in your dishwasher (such as
baby bottle caps, jar lids, and food-processor accessories) won’t stay put, try
putting them in a berry basket. Place the items inside one basket, then cover
over with a second basket. Fasten them together with a thick rubber band and
place on your dishwasher’s upper rack.
Organize your meds A clean berry basket could be just what the doctor ordered for
organizing your vitamins and medicine bottles. If you’re taking several
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medications, a berry basket offers a convenient way to place them all—or
prepackaged individual doses—in one, easy-to-remember location. You can
also use baskets to organize medications in your cupboard or medicine cabinet according to their expiration dates or uses.
Arrange flowers Droopy or lopsided flower arrangements just don’t cut it. That’s why
the pros use something known as a frog to keep cut flowers in place. To make
your own, insert an inverted berry basket into a vase (cut the basket to fit, if
necessary). It will keep your stalks standing tall.
Protect seedlings Help young plants thrive in your garden by placing inverted berry bas-
kets over them. The baskets will let water, sunlight, and air in, but keep
raccoons and squirrels out. Make sure the basket is buried below ground level
and tightly secured (placing a few good-sized stones around it may suffice).
Make a bulb cage Squirrels and other rodents view freshly planted flower bulbs as
nothing more than tasty morsels and easy pickings. But you can put a damper
on their meal by planting bulbs in berry baskets. Be sure to place the basket at
the correct depth, then insert the bulb and cover with soil.
Build a hanging orchid planter Orchids are said to be addictive: Once you start col-
lecting them, you can’t stop. If you’ve got the bug, you can at least save yourself
a bit of money by making your own hanging baskets for your orchids. Fill up a
berry basket with sphagnum moss mixed with a bit of potting soil and suspend
it with a length of monofilament fishing line.
Fashion a string dispenser or screwdriver holder If
you don’t want to bother untangling knots every
time you need a piece of string, twine, or yarn,
build your own string dispenser with two berry
baskets. Place the ball inside one berry basket.
Feed the cord through the top of a second,
inverted basket, then tie the two baskets
together with twist ties. You can also mount an
inverted berry basket on your workshop’s pegboard and use it to hold and
organize your screwdrivers; they’ll fit neatly between the slats.
Strengthen your grip Does a weak grip or arthritis make it hard for you to open jars and
do other tasks with your hands? Use a large binder clip to add some zip to your
grip. Squeeze the folded-back wings of the clip, hold for a count of five, and
relax. Do this a dozen or so times with each hand a few times a day. It will
strengthen your grip and release tension too.
Binder Clips
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Mount a picture Here’s a neat way to mount and hang a
picture so that it has a clean frameless look.
Sandwich the picture between a sheet of glass or
clear plastic and piece of hardboard or stiff cardboard. Then use tiny binder clips along the
edges to clamp the pieces together. Use two or
three clips on each side. After the clips are in
place, remove the clip handles at front. Tie picture wire to the rear handles for hanging the picture.
Keep your place A medium-sized binder clip makes an ideal bookmark. If you don’t want
to leave impression marks on the pages, tape a soft material like felt, or even
just some adhesive tape, to the inside jaws of the clip before using.
Make a money clip To keep paper money in a neat bundle in your pocket or purse, stack
the bills, fold them in half, and put a small binder clip over the fold.
Keep ID handy You’re at the airport and you know you’ll be asked to show your ID a few
times. Instead of fishing in your wallet or trying to figure out which pocket
you stuck your driver’s license in, use a binder clip to firmly and conveniently
attach your ID and other documents to your belt. You can also use a small
binder clip to secure your office ID to your belt or a breast pocket.
Clean off mold and mildew Bleach and ammonia are both useful for removing mold
and mildew both inside and outside your home. However, the two should
never be used together. Bleach is especially suited for the following chores:
● Wash mildew out of washable fabrics. Wet the mildewed area and rub in
some powdered detergent. Then wash the garment in the hottest water setting permitted by the clothing manufacturer using 1/2 cup chlorine bleach.
If the garment can’t be washed in hot water and bleach, soak it in a solution
of 1/4 cup oxygen bleach (labeled “all fabric” or “perborate”) in 1 gallon
(3.7 liters) warm water for 30 minutes before washing.
● Remove mold and mildew from the grout between your bathroom tiles.
Mix equal parts of chlorine bleach and water in a spray bottle, and spray it
over grout. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then scrub with a stiff brush and rinse
off. You can also do this just to make your grout look whiter.
● Get mold and mildew off your shower curtains. Wash them—along with a
couple of bath towels (to prevent the plastic curtains from crinkling)—in
warm water with 1/2 cup chlorine bleach and 1/4 cup laundry detergent.
Let the washer run for a couple of minutes before loading. Put the shower
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curtain and towels in the dryer on the lowest temperature setting for
10 minutes, then immediately hang-dry.
● Rid your rubber shower mat of mildew. Soak in a solution of 1/8 cup
chlorine bleach in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water for 3-4 hours. Rinse well.
● Get mildew and other stains off unpainted cement, patio stones, or stucco.
Mix a solution of 1 cup chlorine bleach in 2 gallons (7.5 liters) water. Scrub
vigorously with a stiff or wire brush and rinse. If any stains remain, scrub
again using 1/2 cup washing soda (this is sodium carbonate, not baking
soda) dissolved in 2 gallons (7.5 liters) warm water.
● Remove mildew from painted surfaces and siding. Make a solution of
1/4 cup chlorine bleach in 2 cups water and apply with a brush to mildewed
areas. Let the solution set for 15 minutes, then rinse. Repeat as necessary.
Sterilize secondhand items Remember Mom saying, “Put that down. You don’t know
where it’s been”? She had a point—especially when it comes to toys or kitchen
utensils picked up at thrift shops and yard sales. Just to be on the safe side, take
your used, waterproof items and soak them for 5-10 minutes in a solution containing 3/4 cup bleach, a few drops of antibacterial dishwashing liquid, and
1 gallon warm water. Rinse well, then air-dry, preferably in sunlight.
Clean butcher block cutting boards and countertops Don’t even think about using
furniture polish or any other household cleaner to clean a butcher block cutting board or countertop. Rather, scrub the surface with a brush dipped in a
solution of 1 teaspoon bleach diluted in 2 quarts (2 liters) water. Scrub in small
circles, and be careful not to saturate the wood. Wipe with a slightly damp
paper towel, then immediately buff dry with a clean cloth.
TAKE CARE Never mix bleach with ammonia, lye, rust removers, oven or
toilet-bowl cleaners, or vinegar. Any combination can produce toxic
chlorine gas fumes, which can be deadly. Some people are even
sensitive to the fumes of undiluted bleach itself. Always make sure
you have adequate ventilation in your work area before you
start pouring.
Brighten up glass dishware Put the sparkle back in your glasses and dishes by
adding a teaspoon of bleach to your soapy dishwater as you’re washing your
glassware. Be sure to rinse well, and dry with a soft towel.
looking as good as new? In a well-ventilated area on a work surface protected
by heavy plastic, place several paper towels over the item (or across the bottom
of the sink) and carefully saturate them with undiluted bleach. Let soak for
15 minutes to a half hour, then rinse and wipe dry with a clean towel. Note:
Shine white porcelain Want to get your white porcelain sink, candleholder, or pottery
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Do not try this with antiques; you can diminish their value or cause damage.
And never use bleach on colored porcelain, because the color will fade.
Make a household disinfectant spray Looking for a good, all-purpose disinfectant to
use around the house? Mix 1 tablespoon bleach in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) hot
water. Then fill a clean, empty spray bottle and use it on a paper towel to clean
countertops, tablecloths, lawn furniture—basically, wherever it’s needed. Just
be sure not to use it in the presence of ammonia or other household cleaners.
TAKE CARE Some folks skip the bleach when cleaning their toilets,
fearing that lingering ammonia from urine—especially in households with
young children—could result in toxic fumes. Unless you are sure there is
no such problem, you may want to stick with ammonia for this job.
Disinfect trash cans Even the best housekeepers must confront a gunked-up kitchen
garbage pail every now and then. On such occasions, take the pail outside,
and flush out any loose debris with a garden hose. Then add 1/2 to 1 cup
bleach and several drops of dishwashing liquid to 1 gallon (3.7 liters) warm
water. Use a toilet brush or long-handled scrub brush to splash and scour the
solution on the bottom and sides of the container. Empty, then rinse with
the hose, empty it again, and let air-dry.
Increase cut flowers’ longevity Freshly cut flowers will stay fresh longer if you add
1/4 teaspoon bleach per quart (1 liter) of vase water. Another popular recipe
calls for 3 drops bleach and 1 teaspoon sugar in 1 quart (1 liter) water. This
will also keep the water from getting cloudy and inhibit the growth of bacteria.
Clean plastic lawn furniture Is your plastic-mesh lawn furniture looking dingy? Before
you place it curbside, try washing it with some mild detergent mixed with
1/2 cup bleach in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water. Rinse it clean, then air-dry.
Kill weeds in walkways Do weeds seem to thrive in the cracks and crevices of your
walkways? Try pouring a bit of undiluted bleach over them. After a day or
two, you can simply pull them out, and the bleach will keep them from
coming back. Just be careful not to get bleach on the grass or plantings bordering the walkway.
Get rid of moss and algae To remove slippery and unsightly moss and algae on your
brick, concrete, or stone walkways, scrub them with a solution of 3/4 cup
bleach in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water. Be careful not to get bleach on your grass
or ornamental plants.
Sanitize garden tools You cut that diseased stalk off your rosebush with your branch
clipper. Unless you want to spread the disease the next time you use the tool,
sterilize it by washing it with 1/2 cup bleach in 1 quart (1 liter) water. Let the
tool air-dry in the sun, then rub on a few drops of oil to prevent rust.
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Get wax off wood furniture It may have been a romantic evening,
but that hardened candle wax on your wooden table
or bureau is not the sort of lingering memory you
had in mind. Melt it with a blow-dryer on its
slowest, hottest setting. Remove the softened wax
with a paper towel, then wipe the area with a
cloth dipped in equal parts vinegar and water.
Repeat if necessary. You can also remove wax from
silver candlestick holders with a blow-dryer: Use the
blow-dryer to soften the wax, then just peel it off.
Clean off radiators Are those dusty cast-iron radiators around your house becoming
something of an eyesore? To clean them, hang a large, damp cloth behind each
radiator. Then use your blow-dryer on its highest, coolest setting to blow dust
and hidden dirt onto the cloth.
Remove bumper stickers Want to remove those cutesy stickers your kids used to decorate
your car bumper to “surprise” you? Use a blow-dryer on its hottest setting to
soften the adhesive. Move the dryer slowly back and forth for several minutes,
then use your fingernail or credit card to lift up a corner and slowly peel off.
Dust off silk flowers and artificial houseplants They may require less care than their
living counterparts, but silk flowers and artificial houseplants are apt to collect dust and dirt. Use your blow-dryer on its highest, coolest setting for a
quick, efficient way to clean them off. Since this will blow the dust onto the
furniture surfaces and floor around the plant, do this just before you vacuum
those areas.
Clear a clogged drain Before you reach for a caustic drain cleaner to unclog that kitchen
or bathroom drain, try this much gentler approach: Use a funnel to insert
1/2 cup borax into the drain, then slowly pour in 2 cups boiling water. Let the
mixture set for 15 minutes, then flush with hot water. Repeat for stubborn clogs.
Rub out heavy sink stains Get rid of those stubborn stains—even rust—in your stain-
Clean windows and mirrors Want to get windows and mirrors spotless and streakless?
Wash them with a clean sponge dipped in 2 tablespoons borax dissolved in
3 cups water.
less steel or porcelain sink. Make a paste of 1 cup borax and 1/4 cup lemon
juice. Put some of the paste on a cloth or sponge and rub it into the stain, then
rinse with running warm water. The stain should wash away with the paste.
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Remove mildew from fabric To remove mildew from upholstery and other fabrics, soak
a sponge in a solution of 1/2 cup borax dissolved in 2 cups hot water, and rub
it into the affected areas. Let it soak in for several hours until the stain disappears, then rinse well. To remove mildew from clothing, soak it in a solution of
2 cups borax in 2 quarts (2 liters) water.
Kids’ Stuff Help your children brew up some slime—that gooey,
stretchy stuff kids love to play with. First, mix 1 cup water, 1 cup white
glue, and 10 drops food coloring in a medium bowl. Then, in a second,
larger bowl, stir 4 teaspoons borax into 1 1/3 cups water until the
powder is fully dissolved. Slowly pour the contents of the first bowl into
the second. Use a wooden mixing spoon to roll (don’t mix) the gluebased solution around in the borax solution four or five times. Lift out
the globs of glue mixture, then knead it for 2-3 minutes. Store your
homemade slime in an airtight container or a self-sealing plastic
storage bag.
Get out rug stains Remove stubborn stains from rugs and carpets. Thoroughly dampen
the area, then rub in some borax. Let the area dry, then vacuum or blot it with
a solution of equal parts vinegar and soapy water and let dry. Repeat if necessary. Don’t forget to first test the procedure on an inconspicuous corner of the
rug or on a carpet scrap before applying it to the stain.
Sanitize your garbage disposal A garbage disposal is a great convenience but can also
be a great breeding ground for mold and bacteria. To maintain a more sanitary disposal, every couple of weeks pour 3 tablespoons borax down the drain
and let it sit for 1 hour. Then turn on the disposal and flush it with hot water
from the tap.
Clean your toilet Want a way to disinfect your toilet bowl and leave it glistening without
having to worry about dangerous or unpleasant fumes? Use a stiff brush to
scrub it using a solution of 1/2 cup borax in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water.
Eliminate urine odor on mattresses Toilet training can be a rough experience for all
the parties involved. If your child has an “accident” in bed, here’s how to get
rid of any lingering smell: Dampen the area, then rub in some borax. Let it
dry, then vacuum up the powder.
Make your own dried flowers Give your homemade dried flowers the look of a profes-
sional job. Mix 1 cup borax with 2 cups cornmeal. Place a 3/4-inch
(2-centimeter) coating of the mixture in the bottom of an airtight container,
like a large flat plastic food storage container. Cut the stems off the flowers
you want to dry, then lay them on top of the powder, and lightly sprinkle
more of the mixture on top of the flowers (be careful not to bend or crush
the petals or other flower parts). Cover the container, and leave it alone for
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7-10 days. Then remove the flowers and brush off any excess powder with a
soft brush.
Keep away weeds and ants Get
the jump on those weeds that grow in the cracks of
the concrete outside your house by sprinkling borax into all the crevices
where you’ve seen weeds grow in the past. It will kill them off before they
have a chance to take root. When applied around the foundation of your
home, it will also keep ants and other six-legged intruders from entering
your house. But be very careful when applying borax—it is toxic to plants
(see Take Care warning).
TAKE CARE Borax, like its close relative, boric acid, has relatively low
toxicity levels, and is considered safe for general household use, but the
powder can be harmful if ingested in sufficient quantities by young children or pets. Store it safely out of their reach.
Borax is toxic to plants, however. In the yard, be very careful when
applying borax onto or near soil. It doesn’t take much to leach into the
ground to kill off nearby plants and prevent future growth.
Control creeping Charlie Is your garden being overrun by that invasive perennial weed
known as creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea, also known as ground ivy,
creeping Jenny and gill-over-the-ground)? You may be able to conquer Charlie
with borax. First, dissolve 8-10 ounces (230-280 grams) borax in 4 ounces
(120 milliliters) warm water. Then pour the solution into 2 1/2 gallons
(9.5 liters) warm water—this is enough to cover 1,000 square feet (93 square
meters). Apply this treatment only one time in each of two years. If you still
have creeping Charlie problems, consider switching to a standard herbicide.
(See Take Care warning about using borax in the garden.)
u s! Bottles
Make a foot warmer Walking around on harsh winter days can leave you with cold and
Use as a boot tree Want to keep your boot tops from getting wrinkled or folded over
when you put them in storage? Insert a clean empty 1-liter soda bottle into
each boot. For added tautness, put a couple of old socks on the bottles or wrap
them in towels.
tired tootsies. But you don’t need to shell out your hard-earned money on a
heating pad or a hot-water bottle to ease your discomfort. Just fill up a 1- or
2-liter soda bottle with hot water, then sit down and roll it back and forth
under your feet.
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Recycle as a chew toy If Lassie has been chewing on your slippers instead of fetching
them, maybe she’s in need of some chew toys. A no-cost way to amuse your
dog is to let her chew on an empty plastic 1-liter soda bottle. Maybe it’s the
crunchy sound they make, but dogs love them! Just be sure to remove the label
and bottle cap (as well as the loose plastic ring under it). And replace it before
it gets too chewed up—broken pieces of plastic are choke hazards.
Make a bag or string dispenser An empty 2-liter soda
bottle makes the perfect container for storing
and dispensing plastic grocery bags. Just cut off
the bottom and top ends of the bottle, and
mount it with screws upside down inside a
kitchen cabinet or closet. Put washers under the
screw heads to keep them from pulling through
the plastic. Fill it with your recycled bags
(squeeze the air out of them first) and pull them out as needed. You can make a
twine dispenser the same way, using a 1-liter bottle and letting the cord come
out the bottom.
Place in toilet tank Unless your house was built relatively recently, chances are you have
an older toilet that uses a lot of water each flush. To save a bit of money on
your water bills, fill an empty 1-liter soda bottle with water (remove any labels
first) and put it in the toilet tank to cut the amount of water in each flush.
Cut out a toy carryall If you’re fed up with Lego or erector-set pieces underfoot, make a
simple carryall to store them in by cutting a large hole in the side of a clean
gallon jug with a handle. Cut the hole opposite the handle so you or your
youngster can easily carry the container back to the playroom after putting the
pieces away. For an easy way to store craft materials, crayons, or small toys, just
cut the containers in half and use the bottom part to stash your stuff.
Store your sugar The next time you bring home a 5-pound (2.2-kilogram) bag of sugar
from the supermarket, try pouring it into a clean, dry 1-gallon (3.7-liter) jug
with a handle. The sugar is less likely to harden, and the handle makes it much
easier to pour it out.
Tip Safe Rotary Cutter
Cutting plastic containers can be a tricky, dangerous business—especially
when you reach for your sharpest kitchen knife. But you can greatly mini-
mize the risk by visiting your local fabric or crafts store and picking up a
rolling cutter knife (this is not the same device used to slice pizza, by the
way). The device shown in the picture in the hint “Make a scoop or boat
bailer,” facing page, usually sells for between $6 and $10. Be careful,
though. These knives use blades that are razor sharp, but they make life
much easier when it’s time to cut into a hard plastic container.
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Fashion a funnel To make a handy, durable funnel, cut a cleaned milk jug, bleach, or
liquid detergent container with a handle in half across its midsection. Use the
top portion (with the spout and handle) as a funnel for easy pouring of paints,
rice, coins, and so on.
Make a scoop or boat bailer Cut a clean plastic half-
gallon (2-liter) jug with a handle diagonally from
the bottom so that you have the top three-quarters of the jug intact. You now have a handy
scoop that can be used for everything from
removing leaves and other debris from your gutters, to cleaning out the litter box and poopscooping up after your dog. Use it to scoop dog
food from the bag, spread sand or ice-melt on walkways in winter, or bail water
out of your boat (you might want to keep the cap on for this last application).
Keep the cooler cold Don’t let your cooler lose its cool while you’re on the road. Fill a
few clean plastic jugs with water or juice and keep them in the freezer for use
when transporting food in your cooler. This is not only good for keeping food
cold; you can actually drink the water or juice as it melts. It’s also not a bad
idea to keep a few frozen jugs in your freezer if you have extra space; a full
freezer actually uses less energy and can save money on your electric bill. When
filling a jug, leave a little room at the top for the water to expand as it freezes.
Use for emergency road kit in winter Don’t get stuck in your car the next time a sur-
prise winter storm hits. Keep a couple of clean gallon (3.7-liter) jugs with
handles filled with sand or kitty litter in the trunk of your car. Then you’ll be
prepared to sprinkle the material on the road surface to add traction under
your wheels when you need to get moving on a slippery road. The handle
makes it easier to pour them.
Feed the birds Why spend money on a plastic bird feeder
when you probably have one in your recycling
bin? Take a clean 1/2-gallon (2-liter) juice or
milk jug and carve a large hole on its side to
remove the handle. (You might even drill a
small hole under the large one to insert a sturdy
twig or dowel for a perch.) Then poke a hole in
the middle of the cap and suspend it from a
tree with a piece of strong string or monofilament fishing line. Fill it up to the
opening with birdseed, and enjoy the show.
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Make a watering can No watering can? It’s easy to make
one from a clean 1-gallon (3.7-liter) juice, milk,
or bleach jug with a handle. Drill about a dozen
tiny (1/16-inch or 1.5-millimeter is good) holes
just below the spout of the jug on the side
opposite the handle. Or carefully punch the
holes with an ice pick. Fill it with water, screw
the cap on, and start sprinkling.
Create a drip irrigator for plants During dry spells, a good way to get water to the
roots of your plants is to place several drip irrigators around your garden. You
can make them from clean 1-gallon (3.7-liter) juice or detergent jugs. Cut a
large hole in the bottom of a jug, then drill 2-5 tiny (about 1/16-inch or
1.5-millimeter) holes in or around the cap. Bury the capped jugs upside down
about three-quarters submerged beneath the soil near the plants you need to
water, and fill with water through the hole on top. Refill as often as needed.
Mark your plants Want an easy way to make ID badges for all the vegetables, herbs, and
flowers in your garden? Cut vertical strips from a couple of clear 1-gallon
(3.7-liter) water jugs. Make the strips the same width as your seed packets but
double their length. Fold each strip over an empty packet to protect it from the
elements, and staple it to a strong stick or chopstick.
Secure garden netting If you find yourself having to constantly re-stake the loose net-
ting or plastic lining over your garden bed, place water-filled large plastic jugs
around the corners to keep the material in place.
Use as an attachable trash can or harvest basket Here’s a great
tip for weekend gardeners and pros alike: Cut a large
hole opposite the handle of a 1/2- or 1-gallon (2-or
3.7-liter) container, and loop the handle through a
belt or rope on your waist. Use it to collect the
debris—rocks, weeds, broken stems—you
encounter as you mow the lawn or stroll through
your garden. Use the same design to make an
attachable basket for harvesting berries, cherries, and
other small fruits or vegetables.
Space seeds in garden Want an easy way to perfectly space seeds in your garden? Use an
empty soda bottle as your guide. Find the distance that the seed company recommends between seeds and then cut off the tapered top of the bottle so its
diameter equals that distance. When you start planting, firmly press your
bottle, cut edge down, into the soil and place a seed in the center of the circle
it makes. Then line up the bottle so that its edge touches the curve of the first
impression, and press down again. Plant a seed in the center, and repeat until
you’ve filled your rows.
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Build a bug trap Do yellow jackets, wasps, or moths swarm around you every time you
set foot in the yard? Use an empty 2-liter soda bottle to make an environmentfriendly trap for them. First, dissolve 1/2 cup sugar in 1/2 cup water in the
bottle. Then add 1 cup apple cider vinegar and a banana peel (squish it up to
fit it through). Screw on the cap and give the mixture a good shake before
filling the bottle halfway with cold water. Cut or drill a 3/4-inch (2-centimeter)
hole near the top of the bottle, and hang it from a tree branch where the bugs
seem especially active. When the trap is full, toss it into the garbage and replace
it with a new one.
Isolate weeds when spraying herbicides When using herbicides to kill weeds in your
garden, you have to be careful not to also spray and kill surrounding plants. To
isolate the weed you want to kill, cut a 2-liter soda bottle in half and place the
top half over the weed you want to spray. Then direct your pump’s spraying
wand through the regular opening in the top of the bottle and blast away. After
the spray settles down, pick up the bottle and move on to your next target.
Always wear goggles and gloves when spraying chemicals in the garden.
Set up a backyard sprayer When temperatures soar out-
doors, keep your kids cool with a homemade
backyard sprayer. Just cut three 1-inch (2.5-centimeter) vertical slits in one side of a clean
2-liter soda bottle. Or make the slits at different
angles so the water will squirt in different directions. Attach the nozzle of the hose to the bottle
top with duct tape (make sure it’s fastened on
tight). Turn on the tap, and let the fun begin!
Build a paint bucket Tired of splattering paint all over as you work? Make a neater paint
dispenser by cutting a large hole opposite the handle of a clean 1-gallon
(3.7 liter) jug. Pour in the paint so that it’s about an inch below the edge of the
hole, and use the edge to remove any excess paint from your brush before you
lift your brush. You can also cut jugs in half and use the bottom halves as disposable paint buckets when several people work on the same job.
Store your paints Why keep leftover house paints in rusted or dented cans when you
Use as workshop organizers Are you always searching for the right nail to use for a par-
can keep them clean and fresh in plastic jugs? Use a funnel to pour the paint
into a clean, dry milk or water jug, and add a few marbles (they help mix the
paint when you shake the container before your next paint job). Label each
container with a piece of masking tape, noting the paint manufacturer, color
name, and the date.
ticular chore, or for a clothespin, picture hook, or small fastener? Bring some
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organization to your workshop with a few 1- or 1/2-gallon (3.7- or 2-liter)
jugs. Cut out a section near the top of each jug on the side opposite the
handle. Then use the containers to store and sort all the small items that seem
to “slip through the cracks” of your workbench. The handle makes it easy to
carry a jug to your worksite.
Use as a level substitute How can you make sure that shelf you’re about to put up is
straight if you don’t have a level on hand? Easy. Just fill a 1-liter soda bottle
about three-quarters full with water. Replace the cap, then lay the bottle on its
side. When the water is level, so is the shelf.
Make a weight for anchoring or lifting Fill a clean, dry gallon (3.7-liter) jug with a
handle with sand and cap it. You now have an anchor that is great for holding
down a paint tarp, securing a shaky patio umbrella, or steadying a table for
repair. The handle makes it easy to move or attach a rope. Or use a pair of
sand-filled bottles as exercise weights, varying the amount of sand to meet your
lifting capacity.
Bottle Openers
Remove chestnut shells An easy way to remove the shells from chestnuts is to use the
pointed end of a bottle opener to pierce the tops and bottoms of the shells and
then boil the chestnuts for 10 minutes.
Cut packing tape on cartons Can’t wait to open that long-awaited package on your
doorstep? If you don’t have a penknife handy, just run the sharp end of a bottle
opener along the tape. It should do the job quite nicely.
Deploy as a shrimp de-veiner If you don’t have a small paring knife on hand when
you’re getting ready to de-vein a batch of shrimp, don’t worry. Just use the
sharp end of a bottle opener. It just happens to be the perfect shape to make
this messy chore a breeze.
The old-fashioned bottle
opener with one flat end and
one pointed end is often
referred to as a “church key.”
Although no one is exactly
sure how or when this association came into being, it
originated years ago in the
brewery industry and was
used to describe a flat opener
with a hooked cutout used to
lever off bottle
caps—it is
that the
from the early openers’
resemblance to the heavy,
ornate keys used to unlock
big, old doors, such as those
found on churches. Ironically,
the term is now applied only
to openers with both flat and
pointed ends.
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Scrape barbecue grill Looking for an easy way to clean off the burned remnants of last
weekend’s meal from your barbecue grill? If you have a bottle opener and a
metal file, you’re in luck. Simply file a notch about 1/8-inch (3 millimeters)
wide into the flat end of the opener and you’re ready to go.
Loosen plaster or remove grout It may not be the car-
penter’s best friend, but the sharp end of a
bottle opener can be handy for removing loose
plaster from a wall before patching it. It’s great
for running along cracks, and you can use to
undercut a hole—that is, make it wider at the
bottom than at the surface—so that the new
plaster will “key” into the old. The sharp end of
the opener is equally useful for removing old grout between your bathroom
tiles before regrouting.
Remove scorched taste from rice Did you leave the rice cooking too long and let it get
burned? To get rid of the scorched taste, place a slice of white bread on top of
the rice while it’s still hot. Replace the pot lid and wait several
minutes. When you remove the bread, the burned taste
should be gone.
Soften up hard marshmallows You reach for your bag of
marshmallows only to discover that they’ve gone
stale. Put a couple of slices of fresh bread in the bag
and seal it shut (you may want to transfer the marshmallows to a self-sealing plastic bag). Leave it alone
for a couple of days. When you reopen the bag, your
marshmallows should taste as good as new.
Absorb vegetable odors Love cabbage or broccoli, but hate the smell while it’s
cooking? Try putting a piece of white bread on top of the pot when cooking
up a batch of “smelly” vegetables. It will absorb most of the odor.
Soak up grease and stop flare-ups To paraphrase a famous bear: Only you can prevent
grease fires. One of the best ways to prevent a grease flare-up when broiling
meat is to place a couple of slices of white bread in your drip pan to absorb the
grease. It will also cut down on the amount of smoke produced.
dirt on their hands can be transferred to walls. But you can remove most dirty
or greasy fingerprints from painted walls by rubbing the area with a slice of
white bread. Bread does a good job cleaning nonwashable wallpaper as well.
Just cut off the crusts first to minimize the chance of scratching the paper.
Clean walls and wallpaper Most kids have a hard time understanding how easily the
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Pick up glass fragments Picking up the large pieces of a broken glass or dish is usually
easy enough, but getting up those tiny slivers can be a real pain (figuratively if
not literally). The easiest way to make sure you don’t miss any is to press a slice
of bread over the area. Just be careful not to prick yourself when you toss the
bread into the garbage.
Dust oil paintings You wouldn’t want to try this with an original Renoir, or with any
museum-quality painting for that matter, but you can clean off everyday dust
and grime that collects on an oil painting by gently rubbing the surface with a
piece of white bread.
Bubble Pack
Prevent toilet-tank condensation If your toilet tank sweats in warm, humid weather,
bubble pack could be just the right antiperspirant. Lining the inside of the
tank with bubble pack will keep the outside of the tank from getting cold
and causing condensation when it comes in contact with warm, moist air. To
line the tank, shut off the supply valve under the tank and flush to drain the
tank. Then wipe the inside walls clean and dry. Use silicone sealant to glue
appropriate-sized pieces of bubble pack to the major flat surfaces.
Protect patio plants Keep your outdoor container plants warm
and protected from winter frost damage. Wrap
each container with bubble pack and use duct
tape or string to hold the wrap in place. Make
sure the wrap extends a couple of inches above
the lip of the container. The added insulation
will keep the soil warm all winter long.
Bubble Wrap wallpaper? Yep,
that’s what inventors Alfred
Fielding and Marc Chavannes
had in mind when they began
developing the product in
Saddle Brook, New Jersey, in
the late 1950s. Perhaps they
had the padded-cell market in
mind. In any case, they soon
realized their invention had
far greater potential as packaging material. In 1960 they
raised $85,000 and founded
the Sealed Air Corporation.
Today Sealed Air is a Fortune
500 company with $3.5 billion
in annual revenues. The company produces Bubble Wrap
cushioning in a multitude of
sizes, colors, and properties, along with other
protective packaging
materials such as
Jiffy padded
EUT058103.qxd 11/3/04 10:54 AM Page 99
Keep cola cold Wrap soft-drink cans with bubble pack to keep beverages refreshingly cold
on hot summer days. Do the same for packages of frozen or chilled picnic
foods. Wrap ice cream just before you leave for the picnic to help keep it firm
en route.
Protect produce in the fridge Line your refrigerator’s crisper drawer with bubble pack to
prevent bruises to fruit and other produce. Cleanup will be easier, too—when
the lining gets dirty, just throw it out and replace it with fresh bubble pack.
Add insulation Cut window-size pieces of wide bubble pack and duct-tape them to
inside windows for added warmth and savings on fuel bills in winter. Lower
the blinds to make it less noticeable.
Make a bedtime buffer Keep cold air from creeping into your bed on a chilly night by
placing a large sheet of bubble pack between your bedspread or quilt and
your top sheet. You’ll be surprised at how effective it is in keeping warm air
in and cold air out.
Cushion your work surface When repairing delicate glass or china, cover the work sur-
face with bubble pack to help prevent breakage.
Protect tools Reduce wear and tear on your good-quality tools and extend their
lives. Line your toolbox with bubble pack. Use duct tape to hold it
in place.
Sleep on air while camping Get a better night’s sleep on your next camping
trip: Carry a 6-foot (2-meter) roll of wide bubble pack to use as a mat under
your sleeping bag. No sleeping bag? Just fold a 12-foot-long (3.6-meter-long)
piece of wide bubble pack in half, bubble side out, and duct-tape the edges.
Then slip in and enjoy a restful night in your makeshift padded slumber bag.
Cushion bleachers and benches Take some bubble pack out to the ballgame with you
to soften those hard stadium seats or benches. Or stretch a length along a
picnic bench for more comfy dining.
Make a lobster pot If you don’t have a large kettle, boil lobsters in an old metal bucket.
Make sure to use pot holders and tongs when cooking and removing the lobster. Let the bucket cool before handling it again.
atmosphere at your next family campfire. Cut plastic buckets to different
lengths to create a distinct tone for each drum or use a mix of varioussized plastic and galvanized buckets. For more musical accompaniment,
make a broom-handle string bass using a bucket as the sound box.
Kids’ Stuff Add the beat of bucket tom-toms to create an exciting, fun
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Create a food locker A tightly sealed 5-gallon (19-liter) bucket is an ideal waterproof
(and animal-proof ) food locker to bring with you on canoe trips.
Build a camp washing machine Here’s a great way to wash clothes while camping.
Make a hole in the lid of a 5-gallon (19-liter) plastic bucket and insert a new
toilet plunger. Put in clothes and laundry detergent. Snap on the lid and
move the plunger up and down as an agitator. You can safely clean even
delicate garments.
Camp shower A bucket perforated with holes on the bottom makes an excellent campsite
shower. Hang it securely from a sturdy branch, fill it using another bucket or
jug, and then take a quick shower as the water comes out. Want to shower in
warm water? Paint the outside of another bucket matte black. Fill it with water
and leave it out in the sun all day.
Paint high Avoid messy paint spills when painting on a
scaffold or ladder. Put your paint can and brush
in a large bucket and use paint-can hooks to
hang the bucket and the brush. If the bucket is
large enough, you’ll even have room for your
paint scraper, putty knife, rags, or other
painting tools you may need. A 5-gallon
(19-liter) plastic bucket is ideal.
Paint low Use the lids from 5-gallon (19-liter) plastic buckets as trays for 1-gallon
(3.78-liter) cans of paint. The lids act as platforms for the paint cans and are
also large enough to hold a paintbrush.
Make stilts Make working on a ceiling less of a stretch. Use two sturdy buckets (minus
handles) and a pair of old shoes to make your own mini-stilts. Drive screws
through the shoe soles and into wood blocks inside the buckets. Or punch
holes in the bucket bottoms and tie or strap down the shoes.
Keep extension cords tangle-free A 5-gallon (19-liter)
bucket can help you keep a long extension
cord free of tangles. Just cut or drill a hole near
the bottom of the pail, making sure it is large
enough for the cord’s pronged end to pass
through. Then coil the rest of the cord into the
bucket. The cord will come right out when
pulled and is easy to coil back in. Plug the
ends of the cord together when it’s not in use. You can use the center space to
carry tools to a worksite.
Soak your saw The best way to clean saw blades is to soak them in acetone or turpen-
tine in a shallow pan, with a lid on the pan to contain the fumes. You can
make your own shallow pan by cutting the bottom two inches or so off a
plastic 5-gallon (19-liter) bucket with a utility knife. The bucket’s lid can
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