Butter - Image Credit
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serve as the cover. Remember to wear rubber gloves and use a stick to lever
out the sharp blades.
Garden in a bucket Use a 5-gallon (19-liter) plastic bucket as a minigarden or planter.
Use another as a composter for scraps and cuttings. Bucket gardens are just the
right size for apartment balconies.
Tip Where to Find Five-Gallon Buckets
Five-gallon (19-liter) plastic buckets are versatile, virtually indestructible,
and offer a myriad of handy uses. And you can usually get them for free.
Ask nicely and your local fast-food restaurant or supermarket deli section may be happy to give you the buckets shortening or
coleslaw came in. Or check with neighborhood plasterers,
who use 5-gallon buckets of drywall compound. Also keep
an eye open for neighbors doing home improvements. Don’t
forget to get the lids, too. Wash a bucket with water and household bleach, then let it dry in the sun for a day or two. Put some
scented kitty litter, charcoal, or a couple of drops of vanilla inside to
remove any lingering odors.
Make a Christmas tree stand Fill a bucket partway with sand or gravel and insert the
base of the tree in it. Then fill it the rest of the way and pour water on the sand
or gravel to help keep the tree from drying out.
Keep mold off cheese Why waste good cheese by letting the cut edges get hard or
moldy? Give semi-hard cheeses a light coat of butter to keep them fresh and
free of mold. Each time you use the cheese, coat the cut edge with butter
before you rewrap it and put it back in the fridge.
Make cat feel at home Is the family feline freaked out by your move to a new home?
Moving is often traumatic for pets as well as family members. Here’s a good
way to help an adult cat adjust to the new house or apartment: Spread a little
butter on the top of one of its front paws. Cats love the taste of butter so much
they’ll keep coming back for more.
fish. What to do? Just rub some butter on your hands, wash with warm water
and soap, and your hands will smell clean and fresh again.
Swallow pills with ease If you have difficulty getting pills to go down, try rolling them
in a small amount of butter or margarine first. The pills will slide down your
throat more easily.
Get rid of fishy smell Your fishing trip was a big success, but now your hands reek of
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Soothe aching feet To soothe tired feet, massage them with butter, wrap in a damp, hot
towel, and sit for 10 minutes. Your feet will feel revitalized … and they’ll smell
like popcorn too.
Remove sap from skin You’ve just gotten home from a pleasant walk in the woods, but
your hand is still covered with sticky tree sap that feels like it will never come
off. Don’t worry. Just rub butter on your hand and the gunky black sap will
wash right off with soap and water.
Keep leftover onion fresh The recipe calls for half an onion and you want to keep the
remaining half fresh as long as possible. Rub butter on the cut surface and
wrap the leftover onion in aluminum foil before putting it in the fridge. The
butter will keep it fresh longer.
Zap ink stain on doll’s face Uh-oh, one of the kids used a pen to draw a new smile on
that favorite doll’s face. Try eliminating the kiddy graffiti by rubbing butter
on it and leaving the doll face-up in the sun for a few days. Wash it off with
soap and water.
Cut sticky foods with ease Rub butter on your knife or scissor blades before cutting
sticky foods like dates, figs, or marshmallows. The butter will act as a lubricant
and keep the food from sticking to the blades.
Emergency shave cream If you run out of shaving cream, try slathering some butter
onto your wet skin for a smooth, close shave.
Prevent pots from boiling over You take your eye off the pasta for two seconds, and the
next thing you know, the pot is boiling over onto the stovetop. Keep the
boiling water in the pot next time by adding a tablespoon or two of butter.
Butter is the semi-solid material that results from churning
cream—a process that is
depicted on a Sumerian tablet
from 2500 B.C. A butter-filled
churn was found in a 2,000year-old Egyptian grave, and
butter was plentiful in King
Tut’s day, when it was made
from the milk of water buffaloes and camels. The Bible
also contains many references
to butter—as the product of
cow’s milk. Later, the Vikings
are believed to have introduced butter to Normandy, a
region world-renowned for
its butter.
In the U.S.A., butter was
the only food ever defined by
an Act of Congress prior to
the enactment of the Food,
Drug, and Cosmetic Act of
1938. Butter made in North
America must contain at least
80 percent milk fat. The
remaining 20 percent is composed of water and milk
solids. It may be salted or
unsalted (sweet). The salt
adds flavor and also acts as a
preservative. It takes
21 pounds of fresh cow’s milk
to make a pound of butter
(10 kilograms to make
500 grams).
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Kids’ Stuff Making butter is fun and easy, especially when there are
several kids around to take turns churning. All you need is a jar, a marble,
and 1 to 2 cups of heavy whipping cream or double cream (preferably
without carrageenan or other stabilizers added). Use the freshest cream
possible and leave it out of the refrigerator until it reaches a temperature
of about 60°F (15°C). Pour the cream into the jar, add the marble, close
the lid, and let the kids take turns shaking (churning), about one shake
per second. It may take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, but the kids will
see the cream go through various stages from sloshy to coarse whipped
cream. When the whipped cream suddenly seizes and collapses, finegrained bits of butter will be visible in the liquid buttermilk. Before long a
glob of yellowish butter will appear. Drain off the buttermilk and enjoy the
delightful taste of fresh-made butter.
Treat dry hair Is your hair dry and brittle? Try buttering it up for a luxuriant shine.
Massage a small chunk of butter into your dry hair, cover it with a shower cap
for 30 minutes, then shampoo and rinse thoroughly.
Decorate a dollhouse Use buttons as sconces, plates, and wall hangings in a child’s
dollhouse. The more variety, the better.
Beanbag filler Use small buttons the next time you make beanbags and save the dried
beans for the soup.
Make a necklace String attractive buttons on two strands of heavy-duty thread or
dental floss. Make an attractive design by alternating large and small buttons
of various colors.
Decorate a Christmas tree Give your Christmas tree an old-fashioned look. Make a gar-
land by knotting large buttons on a sturdy length of string or dental floss.
Use as game pieces or poker chips Don’t let lost pieces stop you from playing games
like backgammon, bingo, or Parcheesi. Substitute buttons for the lost pieces
and keep playing to your heart’s content. For an impromptu game of poker,
use buttons as chips, with each color representing a different value.
roll. Instead of scratching in frustration trying to find that elusive end every
time you use the tape, stick a button on the end of the tape. As you use the
tape, keep moving the button.
Keep tape unstuck You’re trying to wrap a present and you can’t find the end of the tape
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Keep tables together When you’re having a large dinner party, lock card tables together
by setting adjacent pairs of legs into empty cans. You won’t have to clean up
any spills caused by the tables moving this way and that.
Make light reflectors It’s simple to make reflectors for your campsite or backyard lights.
Just remove the bottom of a large empty can with a can opener and take off
any label. Then use tin snips to cut the can in half lengthwise. You’ve just made
two reflectors.
Quick floor patch Nail can lids to a wooden floor to plug knotholes and keep rodents
out. If you can get access to the hole from the basement, nail the lid in place
from underneath so the patch won’t be obvious.
Tuna can egg poacher An empty 6-ounce (170-gram) tuna can is the perfect size to use
as an egg poacher. Remove the bottom of the can as well as the top and remove
any paper label. Then place the metal ring in a skillet of simmering water, and
crack an egg into it.
Make a miniature golf course Arrange cans with both ends removed so the ball must go
through them, go up a ramp into them, or ricochet off a board through them.
Tin cans are often described
as “hermetically sealed,” but
do you know the origin of the
term? The word hermetic
comes from Hermes
Trismegistus, a legendary
alchemist who is reputed to
have lived sometime in the
first three centuries A.D. and
to have invented a magic seal
that keeps a vessel airtight.
The hermetically sealed
can was invented in 1810 by
British merchant Peter
Durand. His cans were so
thick they had to be ham-
mered open! Two years later,
Englishman Thomas
Kensett set up America’s
first cannery on the
New York waterfront
to can oysters, meats, fruits,
and vegetables.
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Feed the birds A bird doesn’t care if the feeder is plain or fancy as long as it is filled with
suet. For a feeder that’s about as basic as you can get, wedge a small can filled
with suet between tree branches or posts.
Create decorative snowman Wrap an old soda can with
white paper and tape with transparent tape. For
a head use a styrene foam ball and tape it to the
top of the can. Cover the body with cotton batting or cotton bandaging material and tape or
glue it in place. Make a cone-shaped paper hat.
Make eyes and a nose with buttons. To add
arms, punch holes in the sides of the can and
insert twigs. Use dots from a black marker pen to make buttons down the
snowman’s front. Make a scarf from a scrap of wooly fabric.
Make planters more portable Don’t strain your back moving a planter loaded with heavy
soil. Reduce the amount of soil and lighten the load by first filling one-third to
one-half of the bottom of the planter with empty, upside-down aluminum cans.
Finish filling with soil and add your plants. In addition to making the planter
lighter, the rustproof aluminum cans also help it to drain well.
Protect young plants Remove both ends of an aluminum can and any paper label. Then
push it into the earth to serve as a collar to protect young garden plants from
cutworms. Use a soup can or a coffee can, depending on the size you need.
Make a tool tote Tired of fumbling around in your tool pouch to find the tool you need?
Use empty frozen juice cans to transform the deep, wide pockets of a nail
pouch into a convenient tote for wrenches, pliers, and screwdrivers. Make sure
to remove the bottom of the can as well as the top. Glue or tape the cylinders
together to keep them from shifting around, and slip them into the pouches to
create dividers.
Make a pedestal Fill several wide identical-sized cans with
rocks or sand and glue them together, one atop
another. Screw a piece of wood into the bottom
of the topmost can before attaching it, upside
down, to the others. Paint your pedestal and
place a potted plant, lamp, or statue on top. See
the Tip on the following page for suggestions on
the type of glue to use for this project.
Organize your desk If your office desk is a mess, a few empty cans can be the start of a
nifty solution. Just attach several tin cans of assorted sizes together in a group to
make an office-supplies holder for your desk. Start by cleaning and drying the
cans and removing any labels. Then spray paint them (or wrap them in felt).
When the paint is dry, glue them together using a hot glue gun. Your desk
organizer is now ready to hold pens, pencils, paper clips, scissors, and such.
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Tip Glue for Cans
When gluing cans and other metal pieces together, use a glue that
adheres well to metal, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), liquid solder, or
epoxy. If the joint won’t be subject to stress, you can use a hot glue gun.
Make sure to wash and dry the cans and to remove any labels first. Also
let any paint dry thoroughly before gluing.
Make pigeonholes Assemble half a dozen or more empty cans and paint them with
bright enamel. After they dry, glue the cans together and place them on their
sides on a shelf. Then store silverware, nails, office supplies, or other odds and
ends in them.
Unstick a drawer If you have a desk or chest drawer that sticks, remove it and rub a
candle on the runners. The drawer will open more smoothly when you slip it
back in place.
Make a pincushion A wide candle makes an ideal pincushion. The wax will help pins
and needles glide more easily through fabric too.
Weatherproof your labels After you address a package with a felt-tip pen, weatherproof
the label by rubbing a white candle over the writing. Neither rain, nor sleet,
nor snow will smear the label now.
Quiet a squeaky door If a squeaky door is driving you batty, take it off its hinges and rub
a candle over the hinge surfaces that touch each other. The offending door will
squeak no more.
Beeswax—the substance
secreted by honeybees to
make honeycombs—didn’t
make its debut in candles
until the Middle Ages. Until
then, candles were made of
the rendered animal fat called
tallow that produced a smoky
flame and gave off acrid
odors. Beeswax candles, by
contrast, burned pure and
clean. But they were not
widely used at the time,
being far too
expensive for
ordinary serfs
and peasants.
The growth
of whaling in the
late 1700s brought
a major change to
candlemaking as
spermaceti—a waxlike substance derived from
sperm-whale oil—became
available in bulk. The 19th
century witnessed the
advent of mass-produced
candles and low-cost
paraffin wax. Made
from oil and coal shale,
paraffin burned cleanly
with no unpleasant odor.
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Mend shoelace ends When the plastic or metal tips come off the ends of shoelaces,
don’t wait for the laces to fray. Do something to prevent the annoyance that
comes from having to force a scraggly shoelace end through a teeny eyelet:
Just dip the end into melted candle wax and the lace will hold until you can
buy a new one.
Make a secret drawing Have a child make an “invisible”
drawing with a white candle. Then let him or
her cover it with a wash of watercolor paint to
reveal the picture. The image will show up
because the wax laid down by the candle will
keep the paper in the areas it covers from
absorbing the paint. If you have a few kids
around, they can all make secret drawings and
messages to swap and reveal.
Use puff-proof candle to ignite fires Don’t let a draft blow out the flame when you’re
trying to light your fireplace or spark up the barbecue grill. Start your fire with
one of those trick puff-proof birthday candles, designed to be a practical joke
aid that prevents birthday celebrants from blowing out the candles on their
cakes. Once your fire is up and roaring, smother the candle flame and save the
trick candle for future use.
Candy Tins
Emergency sewing kit A small candy tin is just the right size to hold a handy selection of
needles, thread, and buttons in your purse or briefcase for on-the-spot repairs.
Store broken jewelry Don’t lose all the little pieces of that broken jewelry you plan to
have repaired someday. Keep the pieces together and safe in a small candy tin.
Prevent jewelry-chain tangles Keep necklaces and chain bracelets separate and tangle-
free in their own individual tins.
Keep earrings together You are late for the party but you can only find one earring from
the pair that matched your dress so nicely. To prevent pairs of small earrings
from going their separate ways, store them together in a little candy tin and
you’ll be right on time for the next party.
silk, and insert a penny or, if you can find one, a silver dollar from the birth
year of your friend or loved one.
Organize your sewing gear Use a small candy tin to store snaps, sequins, buttons, and
beads in your sewing box. Label the lids or glue on a sample for easy identification of the contents.
Make a birthday keepsake Decorate the outside of a small candy tin, line it with felt or
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Store workshop accessories Candy tins are great for storing brads, glazing points,
setscrews, lock washers, and other small items that might otherwise clutter up
your workshop.
Store car fuses You’ll always know where to find your spare car fuses if you store them in
a little candy tin in the glove compartment of your car.
u s! Cardboard Boxes
Make a bed tray Have breakfast in bed on a tray made from a cardboard box. Just
remove the top flaps and cut arches from the two long sides to fit over your
lap. Decorate the bottom of the box—which is now the top of your tray—with
adhesive shelf paper and you’re ready for those bacon and eggs.
Shield doors and furniture Use cardboard shields to pro-
tect doors and furniture from stains when you
polish doorknobs and furniture pulls. Cut out
the appropriate-sized shield and slide it over the
items you are going to polish. This works best
when you make shields that slip over the neck
of knobs or knoblike pulls. But you can also
make shields for hinges and U-shaped pulls.
Create gift-wrap suspense Take a cue from the Russians and their nesting matryoshka
dolls. Next time you are giving a small but sure-to-be appreciated gift to a
friend, place the gift-wrapped little box inside a series of increasingly bigger
gaily wrapped boxes.
The Chinese invented cardboard in the early 1500s, thus
anticipating the demand for
containers for Chinese takeout food by several hundred
In 1871 New Yorker Albert
Jones patented the idea of
gluing a piece of corrugated
paper between two pieces of
flat cardboard to create a
material rigid enough to use
for shipping. But it wasn’t
until 1890 that another
American, Robert Gair,
invented the corrugated card-
board box. His boxes were
pre-cut flat pieces manufactured in bulk that folded
into boxes, just like the
cardboard boxes
that surround us
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Make dustcovers Keep dust and dirt out of a small appliance, power tool, or keyboard.
Cut the flaps off a cardboard box that fits over the item, decorate it or cover it
with self-adhesive decorative paper, and use it as a dustcover.
Tip A Good Box Source
Even if you don’t drink alcohol, the proprietors of your local liquor store
will often be happy to provide you with empty wine and liquor cartons.
Don’t forget to ask for the handy sections to be left intact.
Make an office in-box Making an in-box (or out-box) for your office desk is easy. Simply
cut the top and one large panel off a cereal box; then slice the narrow sides at
an angle. Wrap with self-adhesive decorative paper.
Make place mats Cut several 12 x 18-inch (30 x 45-centimeter) pieces of cardboard and
cover them with colorful adhesive shelf paper or other decoration.
Play liquor box “ski ball” Transform your rec room or
backyard into a carnival midway. Just leave the
dividers in place in an empty wine or liquor
carton. Place the carton at an angle and erect a
small ramp in front (a rubber mat over a pile of
books will do). Assign numbered values to each
section of the carton, grab a few tennis or golf
balls and you’re ready to roll.
Protect glassware or lightbulbs A good way to safely store fine crystal glassware is to
put it in an empty wine or liquor carton with partitions. You can also use it for
storing lightbulbs, but be sure to sort the bulbs by wattage so that it’s easy to
find the right one when you need a replacement.
Make a magazine holder Store your magazines in holders made from empty detergent
Poster and artwork holder A clean liquor carton with its dividers intact is a great place
to store rolled-up posters, drawings on paper, and canvases. Just insert the
items upright between the partitions.
Store Christmas ornaments When you take down your Christmas tree, wrap each
ornament in newspaper or tissue paper and store it in an empty liquor box
with partitions. Each of the carton’s segments can hold several of the
wrapped holiday tree ornaments.
boxes. Remove the top, then cut the box at an angle, from the top of one
side to the bottom third of the other. Cover the holders with self-adhesive
decorative paper.
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Create an impromptu sled Use a large cardboard box to pull a small child (or a load of
firewood) over the snow.
Garage for toy vehicles Turn an empty large appliance box on its side and let the kids
use it as a “garage” for their wheeled vehicles. They can also use a smaller box
as a garage for miniature cars, trucks, and buses.
Make a puppet theater Stand a large cardboard box on end. Cut a big hole in the back
for puppeteers to crouch in and a smaller one high up in the front for the
stage. Decorate with markers or glue on pieces of fabric for curtains.
Organize kids’ sporting goods Keep a decorated empty wine or liquor carton with par-
titions, and with the top cut off, in your child’s room and use it for easy storage
of tennis rackets, baseball bats, fishing poles, and such.
Make a play castle Turn a large appliance cardboard box
into a medieval castle. Cut off the top flaps and
make battlements by cutting notches along the
top. To make a notch, use a utility knife to
make a cut on either side of the section you
want to remove, then fold the cut section forward and cut along the fold. To make a
drawbridge, cut a large fold-down opening on
one side that is attached at the bottom. Connect the top of the drawbridge to
the sidewalls with ropes on either side, punching holes for the rope and knotting the rope on the other side. Use duct tape to reinforce the holes. Also cut
Making a simple cardboard sundial is
a great way for kids to observe how
the sun’s path
changes every day.
Just take a 10 x 10inch (25 x 25centimeter) piece of cardboard
and poke a stick through the
middle. If necessary, screw or nail
a small board to the bottom of the
stick to hold it upright. Place the
sundial in a sunny spot. At each
hour, have the kids mark where the stick’s
shadow falls on the cardboard. Check again the
next day, and sure enough, the
sundial seems pretty accurate.
Check a week later, though, and
the shadows won’t align to the
marks at the right times. When the
curious kids start searching the
Internet for a reason, give them a
hint: The earth is tilted on its axis.
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out narrow window slits in the walls. Let the kids draw stones and bricks on
the walls.
Repair a roof For temporary repair on your roof, put a piece of cardboard into a plastic
bag and slide it under the shingles.
Organize your workshop A sectioned wine or liquor carton is a great place to store
dowels, moldings, furring strips, weather stripping, and metal rods.
Store tall garden tools Turn three empty liquor cartons into a sectioned storage bin for
your long-handled garden tools. Put a topless box on the floor with the
dividers left in. Then cut the tops and bottoms off two similar boxes and stack
them so the dividers match up. Use duct tape to attach the boxes to each other.
Use the bin to store hoes, rakes, and other long-handled garden tools.
Protect work surfaces Keep work surfaces from being damaged. Flatten a large box or
cut a large flat piece from a box and use it to protect your countertop, workbench, table, or desk from ink, paint, glue, or nicks from knives and scissors.
Just replace it when it becomes messed up.
Protect your fingers Ouch! You just hammered your finger instead of the tiny nail you
were trying to drive. To keep this from happening again, stick the little nail
through a small piece of thin cardboard before you do your hammering. Hold
the cardboard by an edge, position the nail, and pound it home. When you’re
done, use your bruise-free fingers to tear away the cardboard.
Keep upholstery tacks straight Reupholstering a chair
Make a drip pan Prevent an oil leak from soiling your garage floor or driveway. Make a
drip pan by placing a few sheets of corrugated cardboard in a cookie sheet and
placing the pan under your car’s drip. For better absorption, sprinkle some cat
litter, sawdust, or oatmeal into the pan on top of the cardboard. Replace with
fresh cardboard as needed.
Help your mechanic Something is dripping from your car’s engine, but you don’t know
what. Instead of blubbering helplessly to your mechanic about it, place a large
piece of cardboard under the engine overnight and bring it with you when you
take the car in for service. The color and location of the leaked fluid will help
the mechanic identify the problem.
or sofa? Here’s a neat way to get a row of upholstery tacks perfectly straight and evenly spaced.
Mark the spacing along the edge of a lightweight cardboard strip and press the tacks into
it. After driving all of the tacks most of the way
in, tug on the strip to pull the edge free before
driving in the rest of the way.
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Cardboard Tubes
Extend vacuum cleaner reach Can’t reach that cobweb on the ceiling with your regular
vacuum cleaner attachment? Try using a long, empty wrapping paper tube to
extend the reach. You can even crush the end of the paper tube to create a
crevice tool. Use duct tape to make the connection airtight.
Make a sheath Flatten a paper towel tube, duct tape one end shut, and you have a perfect
sheath for a picnic/camp knife. Use toilet paper rolls for smaller cutlery.
Keep electrical cords tangle-free Keep computer and
appliance cords tangle-free. Fanfold the cord
and pass it through a toilet paper tube before
plugging in. You can also use the tubes to store
extension cords when they’re not in use. Paper
towel tubes will also work. Just cut them in half
before using them to hold the cords.
Make a fly and pest strip Get rid of pesky flies and mos-
quitoes with a homemade pest strip. Just cover an empty paper towel or toilet
paper roll with transparent tape, sticky side out, and hang where needed.
Use as kindling and logs Turn toilet paper and paper towel tubes into kindling and logs
for your fireplace. For fire starter, use scissors to cut the cardboard into
1/8-inch (3-millimeter) strips. Keep the strips in a bin near the fireplace so
they’ll be handy to use next time you make a fire. To make logs, tape over one
end of the tube and pack shredded newspaper inside. Then tape the other end.
The tighter you pack the newspaper, the longer your log will burn.
Make boot trees To keep the tops of long, flexible boots from flopping over and devel-
oping ugly creases in the closet, insert cardboard mailing tubes into them to
help them hold their shape.
It took nearly 500 years for
toilet paper to make the transition from sheets to rolls.
Toilet paper was first produced in China in 1391 for the
exclusive use of the
emperor—in sheets that measured a whopping 2 x 3 feet
(60 x 90 centimeters) each.
Toilet paper in rolls was first
made in the U.S.A. in 1890 by
Scott Paper Company. Scott
began making paper towels in
1907, thanks to a failed
attempt to develop a new
crepe toilet tissue. This paper
was so thick it couldn’t be cut
and rolled into toilet paper, so
Scott made larger rolls, perforated into 13 x 18-inch
(33 x 45-centimeter),
13 x 18-inch (33 x 45-centimeter) sheets and sold them
as Sani-Towels.
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Make a plant guard It’s easy to accidentally scar the trunk of a young tree when you are
whacking weeds around it. To avoid doing this, cut a cardboard mailing tube
in half lengthwise and tie the two halves around the trunk while you work
around the tree. Then slip it off and use it on another tree.
Protect important documents Before storing diplomas, marriage certificates, and other
important documents in your cedar chest, roll them tightly and insert them in
paper towel tubes. This prevents creases and keeps the documents clean and dry.
Start seedlings Don’t go to the garden supply store to buy biodegradable starting pots
for seedlings. Just use the cardboard tubes from paper towels and toilet paper.
Use scissors to cut each toilet paper tube into two pots, or each paper
towel tube into four. Fill a tray with the cut cylinders packed
against each other so they won’t tip when you water the seedlings.
This will also prevent them from drying out too quickly. Now
fill each pot with seed-starting mix, gently pack it down, and
sow your seeds. When you plant the seedlings, make sure to
break down the side of the roll and make sure all the cardboard is
completely buried.
Store knitting needles To keep your knitting needles from bending and breaking, try
this: Use a long cardboard tube from kitchen foil or plastic wrap. Cover one
end with cellophane tape. Pinch the other end closed and secure it tightly with
tape. Slide the needles in through the tape on the taped end. The tape will hold
them in place for secure, organized storage.
Store fabric scraps Roll up leftover fabric scraps tightly and insert them inside a card-
board tube from your bathroom or kitchen. For easy identification, tape or
staple a sample of the fabric to the outside of the tube.
Store string Nothing is more useless and frustrating than tangled string. To keep your
string ready to use, cut a notch into each end of a toilet paper tube. Secure one
end of the string in one notch, wrap the string tightly around the tube, and
then secure the other end in the other notch.
Keep linens crease-free Wrap tablecloths and napkins around
Keep pants crease-free You go to your closet for that good pair of
pants you haven’t worn in a while, only to find an ugly crease at the fold
site from the hanger rack. It won’t happen again if you cut a paper towel tube
lengthwise, fold it in half horizontally, and place it over the rack before you
hang up your pants. Before hanging pants, tape the sides of the cardboard
together at the bottom to keep it from slipping.
cardboard tubes after laundering to avoid the creases
they would get if they were folded. Use long tubes for
tablecloths and paper towel or toilet paper tubes for
napkins. To guard against stains, cover the tubes with
plastic wrap first.
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Keep Christmas lights tidy Spending more time untangling your Christmas lights than
it takes to put them up? Make yuletide prep easier by wrapping your lights
around a cardboard tube. Secure them with masking tape. Put small strands of
lights or garlands inside cardboard tubes, and seal the ends of the tubes with
masking tape.
Tip Carpet Tubes
Carpet stores discard long, thick cardboard tubes that store workers will
probably be happy to provide to you free for the asking. Because the
tubes can be up to 12 feet (3.6 meters) long, you might want to ask for
them to cut one to the size you want before you cart it away.
Protect fluorescent lights Keep fluorescent light tubes from breaking before you use
them. They will fit neatly into long cardboard tubes sealed with tape at one end.
Make a kazoo Got a bunch of bored kids driving you crazy on a rainy day? Cut three
small holes in the middle of a paper towel tube. Then cover one end of the
tube with wax paper secured with a strong rubber band. Now hum into the
other end, while using your fingers to plug one, two, or all three holes to vary
the pitch. Make one for each kid. They may still drive you crazy, but they’ll
have a ball doing it!
Instant megaphone Don’t shout yourself hoarse when you’re calling outside for a child
or pet to come home right now. Give your vocal cords a rest by using a wide
cardboard tube as a megaphone to amplify your voice.
Make a hamster toy Place a couple of paper towel or toilet paper tubes in the hamster
(or gerbil) cage. The little critters will love running and walking through them,
and they like chewing on the cardboard too. When the tubes start looking
ragged, just replace them with fresh ones.
Preserve kids’ artwork You want to save some of your kids’ precious artwork for posterity
(or you don’t want it to clutter up the house). Simply roll up the artwork and
place it inside a paper towel tube. Label the outside with the child’s name and
date. The tubes are easy to store, and you can safely preserve the
work of your budding young artists. Use this method to hold
and store your documents, such as certificates and licenses, too.
Build a toy log cabin Notch the ends of several long tubes with a craft
knife and then help the kids build log cabins, fences, or huts
with them. Use different-sized tubes for added versatility.
For added realism, have the kids paint or color the tubes
before construction begins.
Make English crackers Keep the spirit of holiday firecrackers but cut out the dangers
associated with burning explosives. Use toilet paper tubes to make English
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crackers, which “explode” into tiny gifts. For each cracker, tie a string about
8 inches (20 centimeters) long around a small gift such as candy, a balloon, or
a figurine. After tying, the string should have about 6 inches (15 centimeters)
to spare. Place the gift into the tube so the string dangles out one end. Cover
the tube with bright-colored crepe paper or tissue and twist the ends. When
you pull the string, out pops the gift.
Car Wax
Fix skips on CDs Don’t throw out that scratched compact disc. Try fixing it first with a
small dab of car wax. Spread a cloth on a flat surface and place the CD on it
damaged side up. Then, holding the disc with one hand, use the other to wipe
the polish into the affected area with a soft cloth. Wait for it to dry and buff
using short, brisk strokes along the scratch, not across it. A cloth sold to wipe
eyeglasses or camera lenses will work well. When you can no longer see the
scratch, wash the disc with water and let it dry before playing.
Keep bathroom mirrors fog-free Prevent your bathroom mirror from steaming up after
your next hot shower. Apply a small amount of car paste wax to the mirror, let
it dry, and buff with a soft cloth. Next time you step out of the shower, you’ll
be able to see your face in the mirror immediately. Rub the wax on bathroom
fixtures to prevent water spots too.
Eliminate bathroom mildew To chase grime and mildew from your shower, follow
these two simple steps: First clean the soap and water residue off the tiles or
shower wall. Then rub on a layer of car paste wax and buff with a clean, dry
cloth. You’ll only need to reapply the wax about once a year. Don’t wax the
bathtub—it will become dangerously slippery.
Eradicate furniture stains Someone forgot to use a coaster and now there’s an ugly
white ring on the dining room table. When your regular furniture polish
doesn’t work, try using a dab of car wax. Trace the ring with your finger to
apply the wax. Let it dry and buff with a soft cloth.
Keep snow from sticking When it’s time to clear the driveway after a big snowstorm,
Carpet Scraps
Muffle clunky appliance noise Does your washer or dryer shake, rattle, and roll when
you’re doing a load? Put a piece of scrap carpet underneath it, and that may be
all you need to calm things down.
you don’t want snow sticking to your shovel. Apply two thick coats of car paste
wax to the work surface of the shovel before you begin shoveling. The snow
won’t stick and there will be less wear and tear on your cardiovascular system.
If you use a snow thrower, wax the inside of the chute.
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Catch a falling sock You may never be able to stop socks and other articles of clothing
from falling to the floor en route from washer to dryer. But you can make
retrieval a lot easier by placing a narrow piece of carpet on the floor between
the two appliances. When something falls, just pull out the strip and the article
comes with it.
Keep Fido’s home dry Don’t let the raindrops keep falling on your dog’s head.
Weatherproof the doghouse: Make a rain flap by nailing a carpet remnant over
the entrance to your doggy’s domicile. In colder areas, you can also use small
pieces of carpet to line interior walls and the floor to add insulation.
Make a scratching post If your cat is clawing up the living room sofa, this might do the
trick. Make a scratching post by stapling carpet scraps to a post or board and
place it near kitty’s favorite target. If you want it to be freestanding, nail a
board to the bottom of the post to serve as a base.
Keep garden paths weed-free Place a series of carpet scraps upside down and cover
them with bark mulch or straw for a weed-free garden path. Use smaller scraps
as mulch around your vegetable garden.
Exercise in comfort Make an instant exercise mat. Cut a length of old carpet around
3 feet (1 meter) wide and as long as your height. When you’re not using it for
yoga or sit-ups, roll it up and store it under your bed.
Make your own car mats Why buy expensive floor mats for your car when you can
make your own? Cut carpet remnants to fit the floorboards of your car and
drive off in comfort.
Protect your knees To protect your knees when you’re washing
the floor, weeding, or doing other work on all fours,
make your own kneepads. Cut two pieces of carpeting 10 inches (25 centimeters) square and then
cut two parallel slits or holes in each. Run old
neckties or scarves through the slits and use them
to tie the pads to your knees.
Keep floors dry Don’t let the floor get soaked when you water your
indoor plants. Place 12-inch (30-centimeter) round carpet scraps under houseplants to absorb any overwatering excess.
Prevent scratched floors Stop screeching chairs from scratching or making black marks
on wood or vinyl floors. Glue small circles of carpet remnants to the bottom of
chair and table legs.
Make a buffer Use epoxy resin to glue an old piece of carpet to a block of wood to make
a buffer. Make several and use one to buff shoes, another to wipe blackboards,
and one to clean window screens.
Cushion kitchen shelves Reduce the noisy clattering when putting away pots and pans:
Cushion kitchen shelves and cabinets with pieces of carpet.
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Add traction Keep good-sized carpet scraps in the trunk of your car to add traction when
you’re stuck in snow or ice. Keep one piece with your spare tire: When you
have a flat, you won’t have to kneel or lie on the dirty ground when you have
to look under the carriage.
Protect workshop tools Does your workshop have a floor made of concrete
or another hard material? If so, put down a few carpet remnants
in the area closest to your workbench. Now when tools or containers accidentally fall to the floor, they will be far less likely
to break.
Castor Oil
Soften cuticles If you were ever forced to swallow castor oil as a child, this may be a
pleasant surprise: The high vitamin-E content of that awful-tasting thick oil
can work wonders on brittle nails and ragged cuticles. And you don’t have to
swallow the stuff. Just massage a small amount on your cuticles and nails each
day and within three months you will have supple cuticles and healthy nails
Soothe tired eyes Before going to bed, rub odorless castor oil all around your eyes. Rub
some on your eyelashes, too, to keep them shiny. Be careful not to get the oil
in your eyes.
Lubricate kitchen scissors Use castor oil instead of toxic petroleum oil to lubricate
kitchen scissors and other utensils that touch food.
Repel moles If moles are destroying your garden and yard, try using castor oil to get rid of
them. Mix 1/2 cup castor oil and 2 gallons (7.5 liters) water and drench the
molehill with it. It won’t kill them, but it will get them out looking for another
neighborhood to dig up.
Enjoy a massage Castor oil is just the right consistency to use as a soothing massage oil.
For a real treat, warm the oil on the stovetop or on half-power in the
microwave. Ahhh!
also converted into plastics,
soap, waxes, hydraulic fluids,
and ink. And it is made into
lubricants for jet engines and
racing cars because it does
not become stiff with cold or
unduly thin with heat. North
American manufacturers now
use about 40 percent
of the entire
world’s crop of
castor oil.
Castor oil is more than an oldfashioned medicine cabinet
staple. It has hundreds of
industrial uses. Large
amounts are used in paints,
varnishes, lipstick, hair tonic,
and shampoo. Castor oil is
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Perk up ailing ferns Give your sickly ferns a tonic made by mixing 1 tablespoon castor
oil and 1 tablespoon baby shampoo with 4 cups lukewarm water. Give the fern
about 3 tablespoons of the tonic, then follow with plain water. Your plants
should be perky by the time you use up your supply of tonic.
Condition your hair For healthy, shiny hair, mix 2 teaspoons castor oil with 1 teaspoon
glycerin and one egg white. Massage it into your wet hair, wait several minutes,
and wash out.
Cat Litter
Make a mud mask Make a deep-cleansing mud mask. Mix two handfuls of fresh cat
litter with enough warm water to make a thick paste. Smear the paste over
your face, let it set for 20 minutes, and rinse clean with water. The clay from
cat litter detoxifies your skin by absorbing dirt and oil from the pores. When
your friends compliment you on your complexion and ask how you did it, just
tell them it’s your little secret.
Sneaker deodorizer If your athletic shoes reek, fill a couple of old socks with scented
cat litter, tie them shut, and place them in the sneakers overnight. Repeat if
necessary until the sneakers are stink-free.
Add traction on ice Keep a bag of cat litter in the trunk of your car. Use it to add trac-
tion when you’re stuck in ice or snow.
Prevent grease fires Don’t let a grease fire spoil your next barbecue. Pour a layer of cat
litter into the bottom of your grill for worry-free outdoor cooking.
Stop musty odors Get rid of that musty smell when you open the closet door. Just place
a shallow box filled with cat litter in each musty closet or room. Cat litter
works great as a deodorant.
Ed Lowe might not have
gotten the idea for cat litter if
a neighbor hadn’t asked him
for some sand for her cat box
one day in 1947. Ed, who
worked for his father’s company selling industrial
absorbents, suggested clay
instead because it was more
absorbent and would not
leave tracks around the
house. When she returned for
more, he knew he had a
winner. Soon he was crisscrossing the country, selling
bags of his new Kitty Litter
from the back of his Chevy
Coupe. By 1990 Edward Lowe
Industries, Inc., was the
nation’s largest producer of
cat box filler with
retail sales of more
than $210 million annually.
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Preserve flowers The fragrance and beauty of freshly cut flowers is such a fleeting
thing. You can’t save the smell, but you can preserve their beauty by drying
your flowers on a bed of cat litter in an airtight container for
7-10 days.
Remove foul stench Just because your garbage cans hold
garbage doesn’t mean they have to smell disgusting.
Sprinkle some cat litter into the bottom of garbage
cans to keep them smelling fresh. Change the litter
after a week or so or when it becomes damp. If you
have a baby in the house, use cat litter the same way
to freshen diaper pails.
Keep tents must-free Keep tents and sleeping bags fresh smelling and
free of must when not in use. Pour cat litter into an old sock, tie the end, and
store inside the bag or tent.
Repel moles Moles may hate the smell of soiled cat litter even more than you do. Pour
some down their tunnels to send them scurrying to find new homes.
Make grease spots disappear Get rid of ugly grease and oil spots in your driveway or
on your garage floor. Simply cover them with cat litter. If the spots are fresh,
the litter will soak up most of the oil right away. To remove old stains, pour
some paint thinner on the stain before tossing on the cat litter. Wait 12 hours
and then sweep clean.
Freshen old books You can rejuvenate old books that smell musty by sealing them
overnight in a can with clean cat litter.
Repel ants Keep ants at bay by drawing a line around home entry points. The ants will be
repelled by the calcium carbonate in the chalk, which is actually made up of
ground-up and compressed shells of marine animals. Scatter powdered chalk
around garden plants to repel ants and slugs.
Polish metal and marble To make metal shine like new, put some chalk
Keep silver from tarnishing You love serving company with your fine silver, but pol-
ishing it before each use is another story. Put one or two pieces of chalk in the
drawer with your good silver. It will absorb moisture and slow tarnishing. Put
some in your jewelry box to delay tarnishing there too.
dust on a damp cloth and wipe. (You can make chalk dust by
using a mortar to pulverize pieces of chalk.) Buff with a soft
cloth for an even shinier finish. Wipe clean marble with a
damp soft cloth dipped in powdered chalk. Rinse with clear water
and dry thoroughly.
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Remove grease spots Rub chalk on a grease spot on clothing or table linens and let it
absorb the oil before you brush it off. If the stain lingers, rub chalk into it
again before laundering. Get rid of ring-around-the-collar stains too. Mark the
stains heavily with chalk before laundering. The chalk will absorb the oils that
hold dirt in.
Stop screwdriver slips Does your screwdriver slip when you try to tighten a screw? It
won’t slip nearly as much if you rub some chalk on the tip of the blade.
Reduce closet dampness Tie a dozen pieces of chalk together and hang them up in your
damp closet. The chalk will absorb moisture and help prevent mildew. Replace
with a fresh bunch every few months.
Hide ceiling marks Temporarily cover up water or scuff marks on the ceiling until you
have time to paint or make a permanent repair. Rub a stick of white chalk over
the mark until it lightens or disappears.
Keep tools rust-free You can eliminate moisture and prevent rust from invading your
toolbox by simply putting a few pieces of chalk in the box. Your tools will be
rust-free and so will the toolbox.
The first “street painting”
took place in 16th-century
Italy, when artists began
using chalk to make drawings on pavement. The
artists often made paintings
of the Virgin Mary (Madonna
in Italian) and thus they
became known as
madonnari. The madonnari of
old were itinerant artists
known for a life of freedom
and travel. But they always
managed to attend the many
regional holidays and festivals that took place in each
Italian province. Today
madonnari and their quaint
street paintings continue to
be a colorful part of the celebrations that take place
every day in
modern Italy.
Charcoal Briquettes
Make a dehumidifier A humid closet, attic, or basement can wreak havoc on your
health as well as your clothes. Get rid of all that humidity with several homemade dehumidifiers. To make one, just put some charcoal briquettes in a
coffee can, punch a few holes in the lid, and place in the humid areas. Replace
the charcoal every few months.
Keep root water fresh Put a piece of charcoal in the water when you’re rooting plant
cuttings. The charcoal will keep the water fresh.
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Banish bathroom moisture and odors Hide a few pieces of charcoal in the nooks and
crannies of your bathroom to soak up moisture and cut down on unpleasant
odors. Replace them every couple of months.
Keep books mold-free Professional librarians use charcoal to get rid of musty odors on
old books. You can do the same. If your bookcase has glass doors, it may provide a damp environment that can cause must and mold. A piece of charcoal or
two placed inside will help keep the books dry and mold-free.
Henry Ford: father of … charcoal briquettes? Yes, the first
mass-produced charcoal briquettes were manufactured
by the Ford Motor Company.
They were made from waste
wood from a Ford-owned
sawmill in Kingsford,
Michigan, built to provide
wood for the bodies of Ford’s
popular “Woody” station
wagons. The charcoal was
manufactured into briquettes
and sold as Ford Charcoal
Briquettes. Henry Ford II
closed the sawmill in 1951
and sold the plant to a group
of local businessmen, who
formed the Kingsford
Chemical Company. The com-
pany continues to make the
charcoal briquettes
that are now a
household name,
despite relocating
to Louisville,
Kentucky, in
Remove turkey stuffing with ease To keep turkey dressing from sticking to the bird’s
insides, pack the dressing in cheesecloth before you stuff it into the turkey’s
cavity. When the turkey is ready to serve, pull out the cheesecloth and the
stuffing will slide out with it.
Make a homemade butterfly net Just sew cheesecloth into a bag
Convert a colander into a strainer If you can’t find a strainer when you need one, a
colander lined with cheesecloth will serve in a pinch.
and glue or staple it to a hoop formed from a wire
coat hanger—and send the kids a-hunting. Or
make a smaller cheesecloth net for when you
take the kids fishing and let them use it as a baitnet to catch minnows. For an inexpensive
Halloween costume, wrap a child in cheesecloth
from head to toe and send your mini-mummy out to
collect candy.
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Cut vacuuming time Here is a neat, time-saving way to vacuum the contents of a drawer
filled with small objects without having to remove the contents. Simply cover
the nozzle of your vacuum cleaner with cheesecloth, secured with a strong
rubber band, and the vacuum will pick up only the dust.
Reduce waste drying herbs When drying fresh herbs, wrap them in cheesecloth to pre-
vent seeds and smaller crumbled pieces from falling through.
Picnic food tent Keep bugs and dirt away from your
picnic food serving plates. Wrap a piece of
cheesecloth around an old wire umbrella form
and place it over the plates. Use a hacksaw to
remove the umbrella handle and tack the
cheesecloth to the umbrella ribs with a needle
and thread.
Make instant festive curtains Brighten any room with
inexpensive, colorful, and festive cheesecloth curtains. Dye inexpensive cheesecloth (available in bulk from fabric vendors) in bright colors and cut it to the
lengths and widths you need. Attach clip-on café-curtain hooks and your new
curtains are ready to hang.
Chest Rub
Repel ticks and other bugs Going for a walk in the woods? Smear some chest rub on
your legs and pants before you leave the house. It will keep ticks from biting
and may spare you from getting Lyme disease. Pesky biting insects like gnats
and mosquitoes will look elsewhere for victims if you apply chest rub to your
skin before venturing outdoors. They hate the smell.
Lunsford Richardson, the
pharmacist who created
Vick’s VapoRub in 1905, also
originated America’s first
“junk mail.” Richardson
was working in his
brother-in-law’s drugstore when he blended
menthol and other ingredients
into an ointment to clear
sinuses and ease congestion.
He called it Richardson’s
Croup and
Cure Salve,
but soon
realized he
catchier to sell
He changed
the name to Vick’s after his
brother-in-law, Joshua Vick,
and convinced the U.S. Post
Office to institute a new
policy allowing him to send
advertisements addressed
only to “Boxholder.” Sales of
Vick’s first surpassed a million dollars during the
Spanish flu epidemic of 1918.
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Make calluses disappear Coat calluses with chest rub and then cover them with an
adhesive bandage overnight. Repeat the procedure as needed. Most calluses will
disappear after several days.
Soothe aching feet Are your feet aching after that long walk in the woods? Try applying
a thick coat of chest rub and cover with a pair of socks before going to bed at
night. When you wake up, your feet will be moisturized and rejuvenated.
Stop insect-bite itch fast Apply a generous coat of chest rub for immediate relief from
itchy insect bites. The eucalyptus and menthol in the ointment are what do
the trick.
Treat toenail fungus If you have a toenail fungus (onychomycosis), try applying a thick
coat of chest rub to the affected nail several times a day. Many users and even
some medical pros swear that it works (just check the Internet). But if you
don’t see results after a few weeks, consult a dermatologist or podiatrist.
Chewing Gum
Retrieve valuables Oops, you just lost an earring or other small valuable down the drain.
Try retrieving it with a just-chewed piece of gum stuck to the bottom of a
fishing weight. Dangle it from a string tied to the weight, let it take hold, and
reel it in.
Humans have been chewing
gum a long time. Ancient
Greeks chewed mastiche, a
chewing gum made from the
resin of the mastic tree.
Ancient Mayans chewed
chicle, the sap from the
sapodilla tree. North
American Indians chewed the
sap from spruce trees, and
passed the habit on to the
Pilgrims. And other early
American settlers made
chewing gum from spruce sap
and beeswax. John B. Curtis
produced the first commercial
chewing gum in 1848
and called it State of
Maine Pure Spruce
Gum. North
Americans now spend
more than $2 billion per
year on chewing gum.
of gum so that it is soft but still hasn’t lost its flavor, then attach it to a crab
line. Lower the line and wait for the crabs to go for the gum.
Fill cracks Fill a crack in a clay flowerpot or a dog bowl with piece of well-chewed gum.
Use as makeshift window putty Worried that a loose pane of glass may tumble and
break before you get around to fixing it? Hold it in place temporarily with a
wad or two of fresh-chewed gum.
Lure a crab You’ll be eating plenty of crab cakes if you try this trick: Briefly chew a stick
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Repair glasses When your glasses suddenly have a lens loose, put a small piece of chewed
gum in the corner of the lens to hold it in place until you can get the glasses
properly repaired.
Treat flatulence and heartburn Settle stomach gases and relieve heartburn by chewing
a stick of spearmint gum. The oils in the spearmint act as an antiflatulent.
Chewing stimulates the production of saliva, which neutralizes stomach acid
and corrects the flow of digestive juices. Spearmint also acts as a digestive aid.
Chicken Wire
Repel deer Are the deer tearing up your garden again? Here’s a
simple method to keep them away: Stake chicken
wire flat around the perimeter of your garden.
Deer don’t like to walk on it, and it is not an
eyesore like a chicken-wire fence.
Crown catnip plants If you are growing catnip for your
cat, put a crown of chicken wire over the plant,
close to the ground. As the catnip grows through the
wire and gets eaten, the roots will remain intact, growing
new catnip. Make sure the edges of the wire are tucked in securely. Catnip is a
hardy plant, even in frigid temperatures, so if the roots remain, you will see it
year after year.
Protect bulbs from rodents Keep pesky burrowing rodents from damaging your flower
bulbs. Line the bottom of a prepared bed with chicken wire, plant the bulbs,
and cover with soil.
Flower holder Keep cut flowers aligned in a vase. Squish some chicken wire together and
place it in the bottom of the vase before inserting the flowers.
Make a childproof corral Your garage or shed is full of
dangerous tools and toxic substances. Keep kids
away from these hazardous items by enclosing
them in a childproof corral. Make it by first
attaching standard-width chicken wire to the
walls in a corner. Then staple 1 x 2s to the cut
ends of the wire and install screw eyes in the
wood to accommodate two padlocks.
Firmer fence posts Before setting a fence post in concrete, wrap the base with chicken
wire. This will make the anchoring firmer and the post more secure.
Secure insulation After you place fiberglass batting between roof rafters or floor joists,
staple chicken wire across the joists to secure it and, in the case of the rafters, to
keep it from sagging.
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Makeshift pants hanger Can’t find a hanger for a pair of pants? Use a clipboard instead.
Just suspend the clipboard from a hook inside the closet or on the bedroom
door. Hang the trousers overnight by clipping the cuffs to the board.
Keep recipes at eye level When you are following a recipe clipped from a magazine or
newspaper, it’s hard to read and keep clean when the clipping is lying on the
counter. Solve the problem by attaching a clipboard to a wall cabinet at eye
level. Just snap the recipe of the day onto the clipboard and you are ready to
create your kitchen magic.
Hold place mats Hang a clipboard inside a kitchen cabinet or pantry door
and use the clamp as a convenient, space-saving way to store your
place mats.
Keep sheet music in place Flimsy pages of sheet music are susceptible to drafts
and sometimes seem to spend more time on the floor than on the music stand.
To eliminate this problem, attach the music sheets to a clipboard before
placing it in the stand. The pages will remain upright and in place.
Aid road-trip navigation Before starting out on a long motor trip, fold the map to the
area you will be traveling in. Attach it to a clipboard and keep it nearby to
check your progress at rest stops.
Organize your sandpaper Most of the time, sandpaper is still good after the first or
second time you use it. The trick is to find that used sandpaper again. Hang a
clipboard on a hook on your workshop pegboard. Just clip still-usable sandpaper to the board when you are done and the sandpaper will be handy next
time you need it.
Fasten Christmas lights Keep your outdoor Christmas lights in place and ready to
withstand the elements. As you affix your lights to gutters, trees, bushes (or
even your spouse!) fasten them securely with clip-on clothespins.
kitchen, or bathroom with a homemade rack
made with straight clothespins. Space several
clothespins evenly apart on a piece of wood,
and screw them on with screws coming
through from the back of the board (pre-drill
the holes so you don’t split the clothespin).
Now your rack is ready to hang.
Make a clothespin clipboard Organize your workshop,
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Keep snacks fresh Tired of biting into stale potato chips from a previously opened bag?
Use clip-on clothespins to reseal bags of chips and other snacks, cereal,
crackers, and seeds. The foods will stay fresh longer and you won’t have as
many spills in the pantry, either. Use a clothespin for added freshness insurance
when you store food in a freezer bag too.
Organize your closet Okay, you found one shoe. Now, where the heck is the other one?
From now on use clip-on clothespins to hold together pairs of shoes, boots, or
sneakers, and put an end to those unscheduled hunting expeditions in your
closets. It’s a good idea for gloves, too.
Keep gloves in shape After washing wool gloves, insert a straight wooden clothespin
into each finger. The clothespins will keep the gloves in their proper shape.
Prevent vacuum cord “snapback” Whoops! You’re vacuuming the living room floor
when suddenly the machine stops. You’ve accidentally pulled out the plug and
the cord is automatically retracting and snapping back into the machine. To
avoid similar annoyance in the future, simply clip a clothespin to the cord at
the length you want.
Make an instant bib Make bibs for your child by using a clip-on clothespin to hold a
dish towel around the child’s neck. Use bigger towels to make lobster bibs for
adults. It’s much faster than tying on a bib.
Make clothespin puppets Traditional straight clothespins without the metal springs are
ideal for making little puppets. Using the knob as a head, have kids paste on
bits of yarn for hair, and scraps of cloth or colored paper for clothes to give
each one its own personality.
Hold leaf bag open Ever try filling a large leaf bag all by your lonesome, only to see half
the leaves fall to the ground because the bag won’t stay open? Next time enlist a
couple of clip-on clothespins as helpers. After you shake open the bag and
Between 1852 and 1857 the
U.S. Patent Office granted
patents for 146 different
clothespins. Today wood
clothespin makers have practically disappeared. “The
small family-owned, secondary wood processing
companies are dying off,”
says Richard Penley, who
closed his family’s clothespin
plant in Maine in 2002. The
company founded by Penley’s
grandfather and two brothers
in 1923 survives, importing
and distributing clothespins
made overseas. Only two
wood clothespin manufacturers are left in the United
States: Diamond-Forster in
Maine and National
Clothespin Company in
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spread it wide, use the clothespins to clip one side of the bag to a chain-link
fence or other convenient site. The bag will stay open for easy filling.
Mark a bulb spot What to do when a flower that blooms in the spring … doesn’t? Just
push a straight clothespin into the soil at the spot where it didn’t grow. In the
fall you will know exactly where to plant new bulbs to avoid gaps.
Grip a nail Hammer the nail and not your fingers. Just remember to use a clip-on
clothespin to hold nails when hammering in hard-to-reach places.
Clamp thin objects Use clip-on clothespins as clamps when you’re gluing two thin
objects together. Let the clothespin hold them in place until the glue sets.
Keep paintbrush afloat Keep your paintbrush from sinking into the solvent residue
when you soak it. Clamp the brush to the container with a clothespin.
Club Soda
Make pancakes and waffles fluffier If you like your pancakes and waffles on the fluffy
side, substitute club soda for the liquid called for in the recipes. You’ll be
amazed at how light and fluffy your breakfast treats turn out.
Bubbling water has been
associated with good health
since the time of the ancient
Romans, who enjoyed
drinking mineral water almost
as much as they liked bathing
in it. The first club soda was
sold in North America at the
end of the 1700s. That’s when
pharmacists figured out how
to infuse plain water with
carbon dioxide, which they
believed was responsible for
giving natural bubbling water
health-inducing qualities.
Club soda and seltzer are
essentially the same.
However, seltzer is a natural
effervescent water
(named for a region
in Germany where
it is plentiful)
whereas club soda
is manufactured.
water your indoor and outdoor plants. The minerals in the soda water help
green plants grow. For maximum benefit, try to water your plants with club
soda about once a week.
Remove fabric stains Clean grease stains from double-knit fabrics. Pour club soda on
the stain and scrub gently. Scrub more vigorously to remove stains on carpets
or less delicate articles of clothing.
Give your plants a mineral bath Don’t throw out that leftover club soda. Use it to
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Help shuck oysters If you love oysters but find shucking them to be a near-impossible
chore, try soaking them in club soda before you shuck. The oysters won’t
exactly jump out of their shells, but they will be much easier to open.
Clean precious gems Soak your diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds in club soda
to give them a bright sheen. Simply place them in a glass full of club soda and
let them soak overnight.
Clean your car windshield Keep a spray bottle filled with club soda in the trunk of
your car. Use it to help remove bird droppings and greasy stains from the
windshield. The fizzy water speeds the cleaning process.
Restore hair color If your blond hair turns green when you swim in a pool with too
much chlorine, don’t panic. Rinse your hair with club soda and it will change
back to its original color.
Tame your tummy Cold club soda with a dash of bitters will
work wonders on an upset stomach caused by
indigestion or a hangover.
Clean countertops and fixtures Pour club soda directly
on stainless steel countertops, ranges, and sinks.
Wipe with a soft cloth, rinse with warm water,
and wipe dry. To clean porcelain fixtures, simply
pour club soda over them and wipe with a soft cloth.
There’s no need for soap or rinsing, and the soda will not
mar the finish. Give the inside of your refrigerator a good cleaning with a weak
solution of club soda and a little bit of salt.
Remove rust To loosen rusty nuts and bolts, pour some club soda over them. The car-
bonation helps to bubble the rust away.
Eliminate urine stains Did someone have an accident? After blotting up as much urine
as possible, pour club soda over the stained area and immediately blot again.
The club soda will get rid of the stain and help reduce the foul smell.
Ease cast-iron cleanup Food tastes delicious when it’s cooked in cast iron, but cleaning
those heavy pots and pans with the sticky mess inside is no fun at all. You can
make the cleanup a lot easier by pouring some club soda in the pan while it’s
still warm. The bubbly soda will keep the mess from sticking.
Coat Hangers
Stop caulk-tube ooze To prevent caulk from oozing from the tube once the job is done,
cut a 3-inch (7.5-centimeter) piece of coat hanger wire; shape one end into a
hook and insert the other, straight end into the tube. Now you can easily pull
out the stopper as needed.
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Secure a soldering iron Keeping a hot soldering iron
from rolling away and burning something on
your workbench is a real problem. To solve this,
just twist a wire coat hanger into a holder for
the iron to rest in. To make the holder, simply
bend an ordinary coat hanger in half to form a
large V. Then bend each half in half so that the
entire piece is shaped like a W.
Extend your reach Can’t reach that utensil that has fallen behind the refrigerator or
stove? Try straightening a wire coat hanger (except for the hook at the end),
and use it to fish for the object.
Make a giant bubble wand Kids will love to make giant bubbles with a homemade
bubble wand fashioned from a wire coat hanger. Shape the hanger into a
hoop with a handle and dip it into a bucket filled with 1 part liquid dishwashing detergent in 2 parts water. Add a few drops of food coloring to make
the bubbles more visible.
Create arts and crafts Make mobiles for the kids’ room using wire coat hangers; paint
them in bright colors. Or use hangers to make wings and other accessories
for costumes.
Unclog toilets and vacuum cleaners If your toilet is clogged by a foreign object, fish
out the culprit with a straightened wire coat hanger. Use a straightened hanger
to unclog a jammed vacuum cleaner hose.
Make a mini-greenhouse To convert a window box into a mini-greenhouse, bend three
or four lengths of coat hanger wire into U’s and place the ends into the soil.
Punch small holes in a dry-cleaning bag and wrap it around the box before
putting it back in the window.
point of the M on top of your
head. If you turn your head to
the left or right, the inertia of the
balls will be enough to keep
them in place, demonstrating
Newton’s law that “objects at
rest tend to stay at rest.” With
practice, you can actually turn all
the way around and the balls will
remain still.
Here’s a fun way to
Newton’s first law
of motion. Bend a
wire coat hanger
into a large loopy M,
as shown. Holding the wire in the
middle, attach a same-sized modeling-clay ball to each of the
hooks. Then place the low center
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Hang a plant Wrap a straightened wire coat hanger around a 6- to 8-inch (15- to
20-centimeter) flowerpot, just below the lip; twist it back on itself to secure
it, then hang.
Make plant markers Need some waterproof markers for your outdoor plants? Cut up
little signs from a milk jug or similar rigid but easy-to-cut plastic. Write the
name of the plant with an indelible marker. Cut short stakes from wire
hangers. Make two small slits in each marker and pass the wire stakes through
the slits. Neither rain nor sprinkler will obscure your signs.
Make a paint can holder When you are up on a ladder painting your house, one hand is
holding on while the other is painting. How do you hold the paint can? Grab
a pair of wire snips and cut the hook plus 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) of wire from
a wire hanger. Use a pair of pliers to twist the 1-inch section firmly around the
handle of your paint can. Now you have a handy hanger.
Light a hard-to-reach pilot light The pilot light has gone out way inside your stove or
furnace. You’d rather not risk a burn by lighting a match and sticking your
hand all the way in there. Instead, open up a wire hanger and tape the match
to one end. Strike the match and use the hanger to reach the pilot.
All Albert J. Parkhouse
wanted to do when he arrived
at work was to hang up his
coat and get busy doing his
job. It was 1903, and Albert
worked at Timberlake Wire
and Novelty Company in
Jackson, Michigan. But when
he went to hang his clothes
on the hooks the company
provided for workers, all were
in use. Frustrated, Albert
picked up a piece of wire,
bent it into two large oblong
hoops opposite each other,
and twisted both ends at the
center into a hook. He hung
his coat on it and went to
work. The company
thought so much of the
idea they patented
it and made a fortune. Alas, Albert
never got a penny for
inventing the wire coat
Coffee Beans
Freshen your breath What to do when you’re all out of breath mints? Just suck on a
coffee bean for a while and your mouth will smell clean and fresh again.
Remove foul odor from hands If your hands smell of garlic, fish or other strong foods
you’ve been handling, a few coffee beans may be all you need to get rid of the
odor. Put the beans in your hands and rub them together. The oil released
from the coffee beans will absorb the foul smell. When the odor is gone, wash
your hands in warm, soapy water.
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Fill a beanbag They don’t call them beanbags for nothing. Coffee beans are ideal as
beanbag filler, but with the price of coffee nowadays it’s a good idea to wait for
a sale and then buy the cheapest beans available.
Coffee Cans
Bake perfectly round bread Use small coffee cans to bake perfectly cylindrical loaves of
bread. Use your favorite recipe but put the dough in a well-greased coffee can
instead of a loaf pan. For yeast breads use two cans and fill each only half full.
Grease the inside of the lids and place them on the cans. For yeast breads, you
will know when it is time to bake when the rising dough pushes the lids off.
Place the cans—without the lids—upright in the oven to bake.
Separate hamburgers Before you put those hamburger patties in the freezer, stack them
with a coffee-can lid between each and put them in a plastic bag. Now, when
the patties are frozen you’ll be able to easily peel off as many as you need.
Hold kitchen scraps Line a coffee can with a small plastic bag and keep it near the sink
to hold kitchen scraps and peelings. Instead of walking back and forth to the
garbage can, you’ll make one trip to dump all the scraps at the same time.
Make a bank To make a bank for the kids or a collection can for a favorite charity, use a
utility knife to cut a 1/8-inch (3-millimeter) slit in the center of the plastic
lid of a coffee can. Tape decorative paper or adhesive plastic to the sides of
the kids’ bank; for a collection can, use the sides of the can to highlight the
charity you are helping.
Create a toy holder Make a decorative container for kids’ miniature books and small
toys. Wash and dry a coffee can and file off any sharp edges. Sponge on two
coats of white acrylic paint, letting it dry between coats. Cut out a design from
an old sheet or pillowcase to wrap around the can. Mix 4 tablespoons white
glue with enough water to the consistency of paint. Paint on the glue mixture
and gently press the fabric onto the can. Trim the bottom and tuck top edges
tainer in North America.
Vacuum-sealed cans keep
coffee fresh for up to three
years. The U.S. is the world’s
largest consumer of coffee,
importing up to 2.5 million
pounds (1.1 million kilograms)
each year. More than half the
U.S. population consumes
coffee. The typical
coffee drinker has
3.4 cups of coffee
per day. That translates into 350 million
cups of coffee guzzled
Ground coffee loses its flavor
immediately unless it is specially packaged or brewed.
Freshly roasted and ground
coffee is often sealed in combination plastic-and-paper
bags, but the coffee can is by
far the most common con-
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inside the can. Apply two coats of glue mixture over the fabric overlay, letting
it dry between coats.
Store belts If you have more belts than places to hang them up, just roll them up and
store them in a cleaned-out coffee can with a clear lid. Coffee cans are just
the right size to keep belts from creasing, and clear lids will let you find each
belt easily.
Keep the laundry room neat Have an empty coffee can nearby as you’re going through
the kids’ pockets before putting up a load of wash. Use it to deposit gum and
candy wrappers, paper scraps, and other assorted items that kids like to stuff
into their pockets. Keep another can handy for coins and bills.
Make a dehumidifier If your basement is too damp, try this easy-to-make dehumidifier.
Fill an empty coffee can with salt and leave it in a corner where it will be
undisturbed. Replace the salt at monthly intervals or as needed.
Keep carpets dry Place plastic coffee-can lids under houseplants as saucers. They will
protect carpets or wood floors and catch any excess water.
Keep toilet paper dry when camping Bring a few empty coffee cans with you on your
next camping trip. Use them to keep toilet paper dry in rainy weather or when
you’re carrying supplies in a canoe or boat.
Gauge rainfall or sprinkler coverage Find out if your garden is getting enough water
from the rain. Next time it starts to rain, place empty coffee cans in several
places around the garden. When the rain stops, measure the depth of the water
in the cans. If they measure at least an inch, there’s no need for additional
watering. This is also a good way to test if your sprinkler is getting sufficient
water to the areas it is supposed to cover.
Make a coffee-can bird feeder To fashion a coffee can
into a sturdy bird feeder, begin with a full can
and open the top only halfway. (Pour the coffee
into an airtight container.) Then open the
bottom of the can halfway the same way.
Carefully bend the cut ends down inside the
can so the edges are not exposed to cut you.
Punch a hole in the side of the can at both ends,
where it will be the “top” of the feeder, and put some wire through each end to
make a hanger.
Make a spot lawn seeder When it’s time to reseed bare spots on your lawn, don’t use a
regular spreader. It wastes seed by throwing it everywhere. For precision
seeding, fashion a spot seeder from an empty coffee can and a pair of plastic
lids. Drill small holes in the bottom of the can, just big enough to let grass
seeds pass through. Put one lid over the bottom of the can, fill the can with
seeds, and cap it with the other lid. When you’re ready to spread the seeds, take
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off the bottom lid. When you’re finished, replace it to seal in any unused seed
for safe storage.
Eliminate workshop clutter You want small items like screws, nuts, and nails to be
handy, but you don’t want them to take up workbench space. Here’s a way to
get the small stuff up out of the way. Drill a hole near the top of empty coffee
cans so you can hang them on nails in your workshop wall. Label the cans with
masking tape so you will know what’s inside.
Soak a paintbrush An empty coffee can is perfect for
briefly soaking a paintbrush in thinner before
continuing a job the next day. Cut an X into the
lid and insert the brush handles so the bristles
clear the bottom of the can by about 1/2 inch
(12 millimeters). If the can has no lid, attach a
stick to the brush handle with a rubber band to
keep the bristles off the bottom of the can.
Catch paint drips Turn the plastic lids from old coffee cans into drip catchers under
paint cans and under furniture legs when you’re painting. Protect cupboard
shelves by putting them under jars of cooking oil and syrup too.
Coffee Filters
Cover food in the microwave Coffee filters are microwave-safe. Use them to cover
bowls or dishes to prevent splatter when cooking or baking in your
microwave oven.
Filter cork crumbs from wine Don’t let cork droppings ruin your enjoyment of a good
glass of wine. If your attempt at opening the bottle results in floating cork
crumbs, just decant the wine through a coffee filter.
The coffee filter was invented
in 1908 by a housewife from
Dresden, Germany. Melitta
Bentz was looking for a way
to brew a perfect cup of coffee
without the bitterness often
caused by overbrewing. She
decided to try making a fil-
tered coffee, pouring boiling
water over ground coffee, and
filtering out the grinds.
Melitta experimented with
different materials, until she
found that the blotter paper
that her son used for school
worked best. She cut a round
piece of blotting paper, put it
in a metal cup, and the first
Melitta coffee filter was born.
Shortly thereafter, Melitta and
her husband, Hugo, launched
the company that still bears
her name.
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Line a sieve If you save your cooking oil for reuse after deep-fat frying, line your sieve with
a basket-style coffee filter to remove smaller food remnants and impurities.
Hold a taco Serve tacos, hot dogs, popcorn, and other messy foods in cone or basket-style
coffee filters. The filter is a perfect sleeve and will help keep fingers clean and
cleanup a snap.
Catch ice-cream drips Next time the kids scream for ice-cream bars or ice pops, serve it
to them with a drip catcher made from basket-style coffee filters. Just poke the
stick through the center of two filters and the drips will fall into the paper, not
on the child or your carpet.
Make an instant funnel Cut the end off a cone-style coffee filter to make an instant
funnel. Keep a few in your car and use them to avoid spillage when you add a
quart of oil or two.
Clean your specs Next time you clean your glasses, try using a coffee filter instead of a
tissue. Good-quality coffee filters are made from 100 percent virgin paper, so
you can use them to clean your glasses without leaving lint. You can also use
them safely to polish mirrors and TV and computer-monitor screens.
Keep skillets rust-free Prolong the life of your good cast-iron cookware. Put a coffee
filter in the skillet when it’s not in use. The filter will absorb moisture and
prevent rusting.
Prevent soil leakage When you’re repotting a plant, line the pot with a coffee filter to
keep the soil from leaking out through the drain hole.
Make an air freshener Fill a coffee filter with baking soda, twist-tie it shut, and you have
just made an air freshener. Make several and tuck them into shoes, closets, the
fridge, or wherever else they may be needed.
Coffee Grounds
Don’t raise any dust Before you clean the ashes out of your fireplace, sprinkle them with
wet coffee grounds. They’ll be easier to remove, and the ash and dust won’t
pollute the atmosphere of the room.
Deodorize a freezer Get rid of the smell of spoiled food after a freezer failure. Fill a
couple of bowls with used or fresh coffee grounds and place them in the
freezer overnight. For a flavored-coffee scent, add a couple of drops of vanilla
to the grounds.
Fertilize plants Don’t throw out those old coffee grounds. They’re chock-full o’
nutrients that your acidic-loving plants crave. Save them to fertilize
rosebushes, azaleas, rhododendrons, evergreens, and camellias. It’s
better to use grounds from a drip coffeemaker than the boiled
grounds from a percolator. The drip grounds are richer in nitrogen.
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Keep worms alive A cup of used coffee grounds will keep your bait worms alive and wig-
gling all day long. Just mix the grounds into the soil in your bait box before
you dump in the worms. They like coffee almost as much as we do, and the
nutrients in the grounds will help them live longer.
Keep cats out of the garden Kitty won’t think of your garden as a latrine anymore if
you spread a pungent mixture of orange peels and used coffee grounds around
your plants. The mix acts as great fertilizer too.
Boost carrot harvest To increase your carrot harvest, mix the seeds with fresh-ground
coffee before sowing. Not only does the extra bulk make the tiny seeds easier to
sow, but the coffee aroma may repel root maggots and other pests. As an added
bonus, the grounds will help add nutrients to the soil as they decompose
around the plants. You might also like to add a few radish seeds to the mix
before sowing. The radishes will be up in a few days to mark the rows, and
when you cultivate the radishes, you will be thinning the carrot seedlings and
cultivating the soil at the same time.
Coffee grows on trees that
reach a height of up to 20 feet
(6 meters), but growers keep
them pruned to about 6 feet
(2 meters) to simplify picking
and encourage heavy berry
production. The first visible
sign of a coffee tree’s maturity
is the appearance of small
white blossoms, which fill the
air with a heady aroma reminiscent of jasmine and
orange. The mature tree bears
cherry-size oval berries, each
containing two coffee beans
with their flat sides together.
A mature coffee tree will produce one pound (450 grams)
of coffee per growing
season. It takes 2,000
hand-picked Arabica
coffee berries (4,000
beans) to make a
pound of roasted
Test tire tread Let old Abe Lincoln’s head tell you if it’s
Give carpet a lift When you move a chair, sofa, table, or
time to replace the tires on your car. Insert an
American penny into the tread. If you can’t
cover the top of Honest Abe’s head inside the
tread, it’s time to head for the tire store. Check
tires regularly and you will avoid the danger
and inconvenience of a flat tire on a busy road.
bed, you will notice the deep indentations in your carpet made by the legs. To
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fluff it up again, simply hold a coin on its edge and scrape it against the flattened pile. If it still doesn’t pop back up, hold a steam iron a couple of inches
(5 centimeters) above the affected spot. When the area is damp, try fluffing
again with the coin.
Keep cut flowers fresh Your posies and other cut flowers will stay fresh longer if you add
a copper penny and a cube of sugar to the vase water.
Instant measure If you need to measure something but you don’t
have a ruler, just reach into your pocket and pull out a
quarter. It measures exactly 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) in
diameter. Just line up quarters to measure the length of a
small object.
Make a noisemaker Drop a few coins into an empty aluminum soda can, seal the top
with duct tape, and head for the stadium to root for your favorite team. Take
your noisemaker with you when you walk the dog and use it as a training aid.
When the pooch is naughty, just shake the noisemaker.
Decorate a barrette Use shiny pennies to decorate a barrette for a little girl. Gather
enough pennies to complete the project (5 pennies for each large barrette;
fewer for smaller barrettes). Arrange pennies as you like on the barrette and use
hot-melt glue to attach them. Allow 24 hours to dry.
Hang doors perfectly Next time you hang an entry door, nickel-and-dime it to ensure
proper clearance between the outside of the door and the inside of the frame.
When the door is closed, the gap at the top should be the thickness of a nickel,
and the gap at the sides should be that of a dime. If you do it right, you will
keep the door from binding and it won’t let in drafts.
Scientists use optical illusions to
show how the brain
can be tricked. This
simple experiment
uses two coins,
but you’ll think you
are seeing three. Hold two coins
on top of each other between your
thumb and index finger. Quickly
slide the coins back and forth and
you will see a third coin!
How it works: Scientists say that everything
we see is actually light reflected
from objects. Our eyes use the
light to create images on our
retinas, the light-sensitive linings
in our eyeballs. Because images
don’t disappear instantly, when
something moves quickly you may
see both an object and an afterimage of it at the same time.
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Make a paperweight If you have ever traveled abroad, you have probably come home
with a few odd-looking coins from foreign lands. Instead of leaving them lying
around in a desk drawer, use them to make an interesting paperweight. Just
put the coins into a small glass jar with a closable lid and cover the lid with
decorative cloth or paper.
Coins were first produced
around 700 B.C. by Lydians, a
people who lived in what is
now Turkey. From there, they
spread to ancient Greece and
Rome. However, worldwide
use of coins (and paper
money) took centuries to
occur. Even in early America,
bartering remained the popular way to exchange goods
and services. On April 2,
1792, after the ratification of
the U.S. Constitution,
Congress passed the Mint
Act. This established the
coinage system in the United
States and the dollar as the
official U.S. currency. The
first U.S. coins were
produced by the
Philadelphia Mint in 1793.
Prevent grease splatters Sick of cleaning grease splatters on the stovetop after cooking
your famous burgers? Prevent them by inverting a large metal colander over the
frying pan. The holes will let heat escape but the colander will trap the splatters. Be careful! The metal colander will be hot—use an oven mitt to remove it.
Heat a pasta bowl Does your pasta get too cold too fast? To keep it warm longer, heat
the bowl first. Place a colander in the bowl, pour the pasta and water into the
colander, and let the hot water stand in the bowl for a few seconds to heat it.
Pour out the water, add the pasta and sauce, and you’re ready to serve.
Keep berries and grapes fresh Do your berries and grapes get moldy before you’ve had
a chance to enjoy their sweet taste? To keep them fresher longer, store them in
a colander, not a closed plastic container, in the refrigerator. The cold air will
circulate through the holes in the colander, keeping them fresh for days.
bath, corral your child’s small playthings in a large colander and store it in the
tub. The water will drain from the toys, keeping them ready for next time, and
the bathtub will stay tidy.
Use as sand toy Forget spending money on expensive sand toys for your budding arche-
ologist. A simple inexpensive plastic colander is perfect for digging at the
beach or in the sandbox.
Corral bathtub toys Don’t let the bathtub look like another messy toy box. After each
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Cold Cream
Erase temporary tattoos Kids love temporary tattoos, but getting them off can be a
painful, scrubbing chore. To make removal easier, loosen the tattoo by rubbing
cold cream on it and then gently rub it off with a facecloth. Voilà!
Remove bumper stickers Does your bumper sticker still say “Honk for Gore”? Erase the
past by rubbing cold cream on the sticker and letting it soak in. Once it does,
you should be able to peel it right off.
Make face paint Need a safe, easy recipe for Halloween face paint? Mix 1 teaspoon corn-
starch, 1/2 teaspoon water, 1/2 teaspoon cold cream, and 2 drops food coloring
(depending on the costume) together. Use a small paintbrush to paint designs
on your face or your child’s. Remove it with soap and water.
Yes, cold cream really is cold.
That’s because it’s made with
a lot of water that evaporates
and cools your warm face.
Cold cream is the granddaddy
of all facial ointments. It was
invented by the Greek physician Galen in A.D. 157. It’s not
known exactly why Galen cre-
ated his mixture, but
according to Michael Boylan,
a professor at Marymount
College in Arlington, Virginia,
and an expert on Galen,
ancient medicine was based
on treating with opposites.
And Galen might have been
seeking a cure for a hot and
dry skin condition like eczema
or psoriasis. But the women
of ancient Greece soon discovered the soothing white
cream was great for taking off
makeup, which
remains the primary
use for cold cream to
this day.
Compact Discs
Use as holiday ornaments Decorate your Christmas tree in style! Hang CDs shiny side
out to create a flickering array of lights—or paint and decorate the label side
to create inexpensive personalized ornaments. For variety, cut the CDs into
stars and other shapes with sharp scissors. Drill a 1/4-inch (6-millimeter) hole
through the CD and thread ribbon through to hang.
Make wall art in teen’s room Old CDs make inexpensive and quirky wall art for your
teenager’s room. Attach the CDs with thumbtacks and use them to create a
border at the ceiling or halfway up the wall. Or let your teen use them to
frame his or her favorite posters.
Catch candle drips You should always use a candleholder specifically designed to catch
melting wax. However, if one is not available, a CD is great in a pinch. Make
sure it’s a short candle that can stand on its own with a flat bottom. It should
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also be slightly larger than the CD hole. Place the candleholder on a stable,
heat-resistant surface and keep a watchful eye on it.
Make artistic bowls Looking for a funky, decorative
bowl? Place a CD in the oven on low heat over
a metal bowl until the CD is soft. Wearing protective gloves, gently bend the CD into the
shape desired. Seal the hole by gluing the
bottom edge to another surface such as a flat
dish using expoxy or PVC glue. Don’t use the
bowl for food.
Use as sidewalk/driveway reflectors Forget those ugly orange reflectors. Instead, drill
small holes in a CD and screw it onto your mailbox post or onto a wood stake
and push it into the ground. Install several of them to light a nighttime path to
your front door.
Kids’ Stuff Use an old CD to make a picture frame for someone you
love. You need a CD, a picture of you that is larger than the CD hole, a
large bead, ribbon, and glue. Glue the picture in the middle of the CD on
the shiny side. If you wish, decorate the CD with markers or stickers. Use
hot-melt glue to attach the bead at the top of the CD, let dry, and thread
ribbon through the bead.
Use as template for perfect circle Need to draw a perfect circle? Forget tracing around
cups or using cumbersome compasses. Every CD provides two circle sizes—
trace around the inner hole or the outer circumference.
Tip CD Repair
Before throwing away or recycling a scratched-up CD, try to repair it.
First, clean it thoroughly with a lint-free cloth or mild soap and a little bit
of water. Hold the CD by the edge to keep from getting fingerprints on it.
Polish it from the middle to the edge, not in a circular motion. If your CD
paste on the end of your finger and rub it lightly onto the entire CD. Use a
damp paper towel to remove the toothpaste and dry it with a fresh paper
towel. The fine abrasive in the toothpaste might smooth out the scratch.
You might also want to use car wax on a scratch (see page 115).
Make a decorative sun catcher Sun catchers are attractive to watch, and all you need to
make one is a couple of CDs. Glue two CDs together, shiny side out, wrap
still skips, try fixing it with a little non-gel toothpaste. Dab some tooth-
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yarn or colored string through the hole, and hang them in a window. The
prism will make a beautiful light show.
Create a spinning top Turn an old CD into a fun toy for the kids (and adults too!).
With a knife, make two slits across from each other in the CD hole. Force a
penny halfway through the hole, and then spin the CD on its edge.
Make a CD clock Old CDs can be functional! Turn a disc into a funky clock face for
clockwork sold by arts-and-crafts stores. Paint and design one side of the CD
and let it dry. Write or use stickers to create the numbers around its edge.
Assemble the clockwork onto the CD.
Cover with felt and use as coasters CDs can help to prevent those unsightly stains
from cups left on the table. Simply cut a round piece of felt to fit over the CD
and glue it onto the label side of the CD so that the shiny side will face up
when you use the coaster.
Cooking Spray
Prevent rice and pasta from sticking Most cooks know that a little cooking oil in the
boiling water will keep rice or pasta from sticking together when you drain it.
If you run out of cooking oil, however, a spritz of cooking oil spray will do the
job just as well.
Grating cheese Put less elbow grease into grating cheese by using a nonstick cooking
spray on your cheese grater for smoother grating. The spray also makes for
easier and faster cleanup.
Prevent tomato sauce stains Sick of those hard-to-clean tomato sauce stains on your
plastic containers? To prevent them, apply a light coating of nonstick cooking
spray on the inside of the container before you pour in the tomato sauce.
Keep car wheels clean. You know that fine black stuff that collects on the wheels of your
car and is so hard to clean off? That’s brake dust—it’s produced every time you
apply your brakes and the pads wear against the brake disks or cylinders. The
Ever wondered where PAM,
the name of the popular
cooking spray, comes from? It
stands for “Product of Arthur
Meyerhoff.” The first patent
for a nonstick cooking spray
was issued in 1957 to Arthur
and his partner, Leon Rubin,
who began marketing PAM
All Natural Cooking Spray in
1959. After appearing on local
Chicago TV cooking shows in
the early ’60s, the product
developed a loyal following,
and it quickly became a
household world. By
the way, PAM is
pretty durable stuff—it
has a shelf life of two
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next time you invest the elbow grease to get your wheels shiny, give them a
light coating of cooking spray. The brake dust will wipe right off.
De-bug your car When those bugs smash into your car at 55 miles (88 kilometers), per
hour, they really stick. Give your grille a spritz of nonstick cooking spray so
you can just wipe away the insect debris.
Lubricate your bicycle chain Is your bike chain a bit creaky and you don’t have any lubri-
cating oil handy? Give it a shot of nonstick cooking spray instead. Don’t use too
much—the chain shouldn’t look wet. Wipe off the excess with a
clean rag.
Cure door squeak Heard that door squeak just one time too
many? Hit the hinge with some nonstick cooking
spray. Have paper towels handy to wipe up the drips.
Remove paint and grease Forget smelly solvents to remove
paint and grease from your hands. Instead, use
cooking spray to do the job. Work it in well and rinse.
Wash again with soap and water.
Dry nail polish Need your nail polish to dry in a hurry? Spray it with a
coat of cooking spray and let dry. The spray is also a great moisturizer
for your hands.
Quick casting Pack a can of cooking spray when you go fishing. Spray it on your fishing
line and the line will cast easier and farther.
Prevent grass from sticking Mowing the lawn should be easy, but cleaning stuck grass
from the mower is tedious. Prevent grass from sticking on mower blades and
the underside of the housing by spraying them with cooking oil before you
begin mowing.
Prevent snow sticks Shoveling snow is hard enough, but it can be more aggravating
when the snow sticks to the shovel. Spray the shovel with nonstick cooking
spray before shoveling—the snow slides right off! If you use a snow thrower,
spray inside the discharge chute to prevent it from clogging.
Create a fishing bobber It’s an idea that’s as old as Tom Sawyer, but worth remem-
Make an impromptu pincushion Need a painless place to store pins while you sew?
Save corks from wine bottles—they make great pincushions!
bering: A cork makes a great substitute fishing bobber. Drive a staple into the
top of the cork, then pull the staple out just a bit so you can slide your fishing
line through it.
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Prevent pottery scratches Your beautiful pottery can make ugly scratches on furniture.
To save your tabletops, cut thin slices of cork and glue them to the bottom of
your ceramic objects.
Replace soda bottle caps Lost the cap to your soda bottle and need a replacement?
Cork it! Most wine corks fit most soda bottles perfectly.
Make a pour spout Don’t have one of those fancy metal
pour spouts to control the flow from your oil or
vinegar bottle? You don’t need one. Make your
own spout by cutting out a wedge of the cork
along its length. Use a utility or craft knife.
Stick the cork in the bottle and pour away.
When you’re through, cover the hole with a tab
of masking tape.
Use as Halloween face paint Kids love to dress up as a hobo for Halloween. To create
that scruffy look, char the end of a piece of cork by holding it over a candle.
Let it cool a little, then rub it on the kid’s face.
Block sun glare In the olden days of football and baseball, players would burn cork and
rub it under their eyes to reduce glare from the sun and stadium lights. These
days, ballplayers use commercial products to do the same, but you can still use
cork to get the job done.
Prevent chair scratches The sound of a chair scraping across your beautiful floor can
make your skin crawl. Solve the problem by cutting cork into thin slices and
attaching them to the bottom of the chair legs with a spot of wood glue.
Create craft stamps You can use cork to create a personalized stamp. Carve the end
of a cork into any shape or design you want. Use it with ink from a stamp
pad to decorate note cards. Or let the kids dip carved corks in paint to
create artwork.
Cork, the bark of the cork oak,
has been used to seal wine
bottles and other vessels for
more than 400 years. The bark
has a unique honeycomb cell
structure—each cell is sealed,
filled with air, and not connected to any other cell. This
makes it waterproof and a
poor conductor of heat and
vibration. Plus cork contains
suberin, a natural waxy substance that makes it
impermeable to liquids and
gases and prevents the cork
from rotting. No wonder it’s
still the material of
choice for sealing
up your favorite
cabernet or
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Create a cool bead curtain. Want a creative, stylish beaded curtain for a child’s or teen’s
room? Drill a hole through corks and string them onto a cord along with beads
and other decorations. Make as many strings as you need and tie them onto a
curtain rod.
Fasten earrings Earring backs always get lost, and you can’t always find a perfect-sized
stand-in when you need it. Instead, use a snippet of cork as a temporary substitute. Slice a small piece about the size of the backing and push it on. An eraser
cut off the end of a pencil will also work.
TAKE CARE Should you use a corkscrew to open a bottle of wine? Yes,
but don’t use it on a bottle of champagne! Pushing a corkscrew down
into a bottle of champagne against the pressure of the carbonation can
actually make the bottle explode! If possible, wait a day before opening
and let the carbonation settle a bit. Wrap the cork in a towel and twist
the bottle, not the cork, slowly.
To open wine, use a traditional corkscrew that twists into the
stopper. Peel the top of the plastic to expose the cork. Insert the
corkscrew in the center. Twist it straight down and pull the cork straight
out with even pressure.
Picture-perfect frames If you’re always straightening picture frames on the wall, cut
some small flat pieces of cork—all the same thickness—and glue them to the
back of the frame. The cork will grip the wall and stop the sliding. It will also
prevent the frame from marring the wall.
Mass-produce sowing holes Here’s a neat trick for
quickly getting your seeds sown in straight rows
of evenly spaced holes. Mark out the spacing
you need on a board. Drill drywall screws
through the holes, using screws that will protrude about 3/4 inch (2 centimeters) through
the board. Now twist wine corks onto the
screws. Just press the board, corks down, into
your garden bed, and voilà—instant seed holes.
Dry shampoo Fido needs a bath, but you just don’t have time. Rub cornstarch into his
coat and brush it out. The dry bath will fluff up his coat until it’s tub time.
Untangle knots Knots in string or shoelaces can be stubborn to undo, but the solution is
easy. Sprinkle the knot with a little cornstarch. It will then be easy to work the
segments apart.
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Soak up furniture polish residue You’ve finished polishing your furniture, but there’s
still a bit left on the surface. Sprinkle cornstarch lightly on furniture after polishing. Wipe up the oil and cornstarch, then buff the surface.
Remove ink stains from carpet Oh no, ink on the carpet! In
this case a little spilt milk might save you from
crying. Mix the milk with cornstarch to make a
paste. Apply the paste to the ink stain. Allow the
concoction to dry on the carpet for a few hours,
then brush off the dried residue and vacuum it up.
Give carpets a fresh scent Before vacuuming a room, sprinkle
a little cornstarch on your carpeting. Wait about half an
hour and then vacuum normally.
Make your own paste The next time the kids want to go wild with construction paper
and paste, save money by making the paste yourself. Mix 3 teaspoons cornstarch for every 4 teaspoons cold water. Stir until you reach a paste
consistency. This is especially great for applying with fingers or a wooden
tongue depressor or Popsicle stick. If you add food coloring, the paste can be
used for painting objects.
Make finger paints This simple recipe will keep the kids happy for hours. Mix together
1/4 cup cornstarch and 2 cups cold water. Bring to a boil and continue boiling
until the mixture becomes thick. Pour your product into several small containers and add food coloring to each container. You’ve created a collection of
homemade finger paints.
Clean stuffed animals To clean a stuffed animal toy, rub a little cornstarch onto the toy,
wait about 5 minutes, and then brush it clean. Or place the stuffed animal (or
a few small ones) into a bag. Sprinkle cornstarch into the bag, close it tightly,
and shake. Now brush the pretend pets clean.
Separate marshmallows Ever buy a bag of marshmallows only to find them stuck
together? Here’s how to get them apart: Add at least 1 teaspoon cornstarch to
Cornstarch has been made
into biodegradable packing
“peanuts” sold in bulk. If you
receive an item shipped in
this material, you can toss the
peanuts on the lawn. They’ll
dissolve with water, leaving
no toxic waste. To test if the
peanuts are made from cornstarch, wet one in the sink to
see if it dissolves.
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the bag and shake. The cornstarch will absorb the extra moisture and force
most of the marshmallows apart. Repackage the remaining marshmallows in a
container and freeze them to avoid sticking in future.
Lift a scorch mark from clothing You moved the iron a little too
slowly and now you have a scorch mark on your favorite
shirt. Wet the scorched area and cover it with cornstarch.
Let the cornstarch dry, then brush it away along with the
scorch mark.
Remove grease spatters from walls Even the most careful cook cannot avoid an occa-
sional spatter. A busy kitchen takes some wear and tear but here’s a handy
remedy for that unsightly grease spot. Sprinkle cornstarch onto a soft cloth.
Rub the grease spot gently until it disappears.
Get rid of bloodstains The quicker you act, the better. Whether it’s on clothing or table
linens, you can remove or reduce a bloodstain with this method. Make a paste
of cornstarch mixed with cold water. Cover the spot with the cornstarch paste
and rub it gently into the fabric. Now put the cloth in a sunny location to dry.
Once dry, brush off the remaining residue. If the stain is not completely gone,
repeat the process.
Polish silver Is the sparkle gone from your good silverware? Make a simple paste by
mixing cornstarch with water. Use a damp cloth to apply this to your silverware. Let it dry, then rub it off with cheesecloth or another soft cloth to reveal
that old shine.
Make windows sparkle Create your own streak-free window cleaning solution by
mixing 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 1/2 cup ammonia and 1/2 cup white
vinegar in a bucket containing 3-4 quarts (3-4 liters) warm water. Don’t be put
off by the milky concoction you create. Mix well and put the solution in a
trigger spray bottle. Spray on the windows, then wipe with a warm-water rinse.
Now rub with a dry paper towel or lint-free cloth. Voilà!
Say good riddance to roaches There’s no delicate way to manage this problem. Make a
Correction Fluid
Cover scratches on appliances Daub small nicks on household appliances with correc-
tion fluid. Once it dries, cover your repair with clear nail polish for staying
power. This works well on white china, too, but only for display. Now that correction fluid comes in a rainbow of colors, its uses go beyond white. You may
easily find a match for your beige or yellow household stove or refrigerator.
mixture that is 50 percent plaster of Paris and 50 percent cornstarch. Spread
this in the crevices where roaches appear. It’s a killer recipe.
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Touch up a ceiling Hide marks on white or beige ceilings with judiciously applied brush
strokes of correction fluid. You can tone down the brightness, if you need to,
by buffing the repaired area with a paper towel once it has dried.
Erase scuffs Need a quick fix for scuffed white shoes? Correction fluid will camouflage
the offensive marks. On leather, buff gently once the fluid dries. No need to
buff on patent leather.
Paint the town Decorate your windows for any occasion. Paint snowflakes, flowers, or
Welcome Home signs using correction fluid. Later you can remove your art
with nail polish remover, an ammonia solution, vinegar and water, or a commercial window cleaner. Or you can scrape it off with a single-edged razor
blade in a holder made for removing paint from glass.
Correction fluid was invented
in 1951 by Bette Nesmith
Graham, mother of Michael
Nesmith of the Monkees
musical group. Graham was
working as an executive secretary in Texas. She used
water-based paint and began
supplying little bottles of it to
other secretaries, calling it
Mistake Out. Five years later,
she improved the formula and
changed the name to Liquid
Paper. Despite its proven use,
Graham was turned down
when she tried to sell it to
IBM, so she marketed it on
her own. In the 1960s her
invention began to generate a
tidy profit; by 1979, when she
sold the product to the
Gillette Corp, she received
$47.5 million plus a royalty on
every bottle sold until 2000.
Today, with the ease of correcting documents on a
computer, correction
fluid is no longer the
office essential it
once was.
Cotton Balls
Scent the room Saturate a cotton ball with your favorite cologne and drop it into your
vacuum cleaner bag. Now, as you vacuum, the scent will be expressed and
gently permeate the room.
Deodorize the refrigerator Sometimes the refrigerator just doesn’t smell fresh. Dampen
a cotton ball with vanilla extract and place it on a shelf. You’ll find it acts as a
deodorizer, offering its own pleasant scent.
Fight mildew There are always hard-to-reach spots in the bathroom, usually around the
fixtures, where mildew may breed in the grout between tiles. Forget about
becoming a contortionist to return the sparkle to those areas. Soak a few
cotton balls in bleach and place them in those difficult spots. Leave them to
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work their magic for a few hours. When you remove them, you’ll find your job
has been done. Finish by rinsing with a warm-water wash.
Protect little fingers Pad the ends of drawer runners with a cotton ball. This will prevent
the drawer from closing completely and keep children from catching their fingers as the drawer slides shut.
Rescue your rubber gloves If your long, manicured nails sometimes puncture the fin-
gertips of your rubber dishwashing gloves, here’s a solution you’ll appreciate.
Push a cotton ball into the fingers of your gloves. The soft barrier should prolong the gloves’ life.
Use as a floor filler Crayons make great fill material for small gouges or holes in resilient
flooring. Get out your crayon box and select a color that most closely matches
the floor. Melt the crayon in the microwave over wax paper on medium power,
a minute at a time until you have a pliant glob of color. Now, with a plastic
knife or putty knife, fill the hole. Smooth it over with a rolling pin, a book, or
some other flat object. You’ll find the crayon cools down quickly. Now wax the
floor, to provide a clear protective coating over your new fill.
Fill furniture scratches Do your pets sometimes treat your furniture like … well, a
scratching post? Don’t despair. Use a crayon to cover scratches on wooden furniture. Choose the color most like the wood finish. Soften the crayon with a
hair dryer or in the microwave on the defrost setting. Color over the scratches,
then buff your repair job with a clean rag to restore the luster.
Carpet cover-up Even the most careful among us manage to stain the carpet. If you’ve
tried to remove a stain and nothing works, here’s a remedy you might be able
box of eight sold for a nickel
and included colors with more
pedestrian names: black,
brown, blue, red, violet,
orange, yellow, and green.
Since then, the manufacturer,
Binney and Smith, has introduced more than 400 colors,
retiring many along the way.
Currently there are 120 colors
available. Inch Worm and
Wild Blue Yonder are other
recent introductions.
Jazberry Jam and Mango
Tango. Those aren’t ice-cream
flavors, they are recently
introduced Crayola crayon
colors. When Edwin Binney
and C. Harold Smith introduced the first crayons safe
for children to use in 1903, a
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to live with. Find a crayon that matches or will blend with your carpet. Soften
the crayon a bit with a hair dryer or in the microwave on the defrost setting.
Now color over the spot. Cover your repair with wax paper and gently iron the
color in. Keep the iron on a low setting. Repeat as often as necessary.
Colorful decoration Here’s a fun project to do with the kids. Make a multicolored sun
catcher by shaving crayons onto a 4- or 5-inch (10- or 12-centimeter) sheet of
wax paper. Use a potato peeler or grater for this task. Place another sheet of
wax paper over the top and press with a hot iron until the shavings melt
together. Poke a hole near the top through the layers of wax and crayon while
still warm. Once your ornament cools, peel away the papers and thread a
ribbon through it to hang in a window.
Cream of Tartar
Tub scrubber Let this simple solution of cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide do the
hard work of removing a bathtub stain for you. Fill a small, shallow cup or dish
with cream of tartar and add hydrogen peroxide drop by drop until you have a
thick paste. Apply to the stain and let it dry. When you remove the dried paste,
you’ll find that the stain is gone too.
Brighten cookware Discolored aluminum pots will sparkle again if you clean them with
a mixture of 2 tablespoons cream of tartar dissolved into 1 quart (1 liter) water.
Bring the mixture to a boil inside the pot and boil for 10 minutes.
Make play clay for kids Here’s a recipe for fun dough that’s like the
famous commercial stuff: Add together 2 tablespoons
cream of tartar, 1 cup salt, 4 cups plain flour
(without rising agents), and 1-2 tablespoons
cooking oil. Stir well with a wooden spoon to
mix together, then slowly stir while adding
4 cups water. Cook the mixture in a saucepan
over a medium flame, stirring occasionally until it
thickens. It’s ready when it forms a ball that is not
sticky. Work in food coloring, if you want. Let it cool,
then let the kids get creative. It dries out quicker than the commercial variety,
so store it in an airtight container in the fridge.
Curtain Rings
Get hooked On a camping trip or a hike, when you don’t want to carry a backpack, it’s
easy to lash a few items to your belt loop with the help of a curtain ring.
Mountain climbers rely on expensive carabiners, which they use to hold
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items and to control ropes. But you don’t need to carry along anything so
heavy. Attach your sneakers to your sleeping bag with a metal curtain ring;
your gloves and canteen can dangle from a metal shower curtain ring or a
brass key ring.
Keep curiosity at bay It’s a natural stage of development, but not always one you want
to encourage. Curious toddlers can’t help poking around in your kitchen cupboards. If you’ve got a toddler visiting, lock up your accessible cupboards by
clicking shower curtain rings over the latches. Then when baby leaves, it’s easy
to remove the rings.
Hold your hammer Sometimes you need three hands when you’re doing
household repair jobs. Attach a sturdy metal shower curtain ring
to your belt and slip your hammer through it. Now you can climb
a ladder or otherwise work with both hands and just grab the
hammer when needed.
Store nuts and washers Keep nuts and washers on metal shower curtain rings hung
from a hook in your workshop. The ring’s pear shape and latching action
ensure secure storage. Put nuts and washers of similar size on their own rings so
that you can find the right size quickly.
Keep track of kids’ mittens “Where are my mittens, Ma?” “Where did you leave them?”
“I dunno.” Something as simple as a curtain ring can help you do away with
this dialogue: Drive a nail in the mudroom wall. Hand Junior a curtain ring and
tell him to use it to clip his mittens together and hang them on the nail.
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Dental Floss
Remove a stuck ring Here’s a simple way to slip off a ring that’s stuck on your finger.
Wrap the length of your finger from the ring to the nail tightly with dental
floss. Now you can slide the ring off over the floss “carpet.”
Lift cookies off baking tray Ever fought with a freshly baked cookie that wouldn’t come
off the pan? Crumbled cookies may taste just as good as those in one piece, but
they sure don’t look as nice on the serving plate. Use dental floss to easily
remove cookies from the baking tray. Hold a length of dental floss taut and
slide it neatly between the cookie bottom and the pan.
Slice cake and cheese Use dental floss to cut cakes, espe-
cially delicate and sticky ones that tend to
adhere to a knife. Just hold a length of the floss
taut over the cake and then slice away, moving
it slightly side to side as you cut through the
cake. You can also use dental floss to cut small
blocks of cheese cleanly.
Repair outdoor gear Because dental floss is strong and resilient but slender, it’s the ideal
replacement for thread when you are repairing an umbrella, tent, or backpack.
These items take a beating and sometimes get pinhole nicks. Sew up the small
holes with floss. To fix larger gouges, sew back and forth over the holes until
you have covered the space with a floss patch.
Extra-strong string for hanging things Considering how thin it is, dental floss is
strong stuff. Use it instead of string or wire to securely hang pictures, sun
catchers, or wind chimes. Use it with a needle to thread together papers you
want to attach or those you want to display, in clothesline fashion.
Secure a button permanently Did that button fall off again? This time, sew it back on
with dental floss—it’s much stronger than thread, which makes it perfect for
reinstalling buttons on coats, jackets, and heavy shirts.
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Separate photos Sometimes photos get stuck to each other and it seems the only way to
separate them is to ruin them. Try working a length of dental floss between the
pictures to gently pry them apart.
Denture Tablets
Re-ignite your diamond’s sparkle Has your diamond ring lost its sparkle? Drop a den-
ture tablet into a glass containing a cup of water. Follow that with your ring or
diamond earrings. Let it sit for a few minutes. Remove your jewelry and rinse
to reveal the old sparkle and shine.
Vanish mineral deposits on glass Fresh flowers often leave a ring on your glass vases
that seems impossible to remove no matter how hard you scrub. Here’s the
answer. Fill the vase with water and drop in a denture tablet. When the fizzing
has stopped, all of the mineral deposits will be gone. Use the same method to
clean thermos bottles, cruets, glasses, and coffee decanters.
Clean a coffeemaker Hard water leaves mineral deposits in the tank of your electric drip
coffeemaker that not only slows the perking but also affects the taste of your
brew. Denture tablets will fizz away these deposits and give the tank a bacterial
clean-out too. The tablets were designed to clean and disinfect dentures, and
they’ll do the same job on your coffeemaker. Drop two denture tablets in the
tank and fill it with water. Run the coffeemaker. Discard that potful of water
and follow up with one or two rinse cycles with clean water.
Clean your toilet Looking for a way to make the toilet sparkle again? Porcelain fixtures
respond to the cleaning agent in denture tablets. Here’s a solution that does the
job in the twinkling of an eye. Drop a denture tablet in the bowl. Wait about
20 minutes and flush. That’s it!
Clean enamel cookware Stains on enamel cookware are a natural for the denture tablet
cleaning solution. Fill the pot or pan with warm water and drop in a tablet or
two, depending on its size. Wait a bit—once the fizzing has stopped, your
cookware will be clean.
Bleaching agents are a
common component of denture cleaner tablets, providing
the chemical action that helps
the tablets to remove plaque
and to whiten and bleach
away stains. This is what
makes them surprisingly
useful for cleaning toilets, coffeemakers, jewelry, and
enamel cookware, among
other things.
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Unclog a drain Slow drain got you down? Reach for the denture tablets. Drop a couple of
tablets into the drain and run water until the problem clears. For a more stubborn clog, drop 3 tablets down the sink, follow that with 1 cup white vinegar,
and wait a few minutes. Now run hot water in the drain until the clog is gone.
Disposable Diapers
Make a heating pad Soothe your aching neck. Or, for that matter, your aching back or
shoulder. Use a disposable diaper’s high level of absorbency to your advantage
by creating a soft, pliant heating pad. Moisten a disposable diaper and place it
in the microwave on medium-high setting for about 2 minutes. Check that it’s
not too hot for comfort and then apply to your achy part.
Keep a plant watered longer Before potting a plant, place a
clean disposable diaper in the bottom of the
flowerpot—absorbent side up. It will absorb
water that would otherwise drain out the
bottom and will keep the plant from drying
out too fast. You’ll also cut back on how
often you have to water the plant.
Pad a package You want to mail your friend that lovely piece
of china you know she’ll love. But you don’t have any
protective wrapping on hand. If you have disposable diapers, wrap the item in
the diapers or insert them as padding before sealing the box. Diapers cost more
than regular protective packaging wrap, but at least you will have gotten the
package out today, and you can be assured your gift will arrive in one piece.
It took a mother to invent disposable diapers. Looking for
an alternative to messy cloth
diapers, Marion Donovan first
created a plastic covering for
diapers. She made her prototype from a shower curtain
and later parachute fabric.
Manufacturers weren’t interested, but when she created
her own company and
debuted the product in 1949
at Saks Fifth Avenue in New
York City, it was an instant
success. Donovan soon added
disposable absorbent material
to create the first disposable
diaper and, in
1951, sold her
company for
$1 million.
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u s! Duct Tape
Temporarily hem your pants You’ve found a terrific pair of jeans, but the length isn’t
right. You expect a little shrinkage anyway, so why spend time hemming?
Besides, thick denim jeans are difficult to sew through. Fake the hem with duct
tape. The new hem will last through a few washes too.
Remove lint on clothing You’re all set to go out for the night and suddenly you notice
pet hairs on your outfit. Quick, grab the duct tape and in no time, you’ll be
ready to go. Wrap your hand with a length of duct tape, sticky side out.
Then roll the sticky tape against your clothing in a rocking motion until
every last hair has been picked up. Don’t wipe, since that may affect the nap.
Make a bandage in a pinch You’ve gotten a bad scrape. Here’s how to protect it until
you get a proper bandage. Fold tissue paper or paper towel to cover the wound
and cover this with duct tape. It may not be attractive, but it works in a jam.
Reseal bags of chips Tired of stale potato chips? To keep a half-finished bag fresh, fold
up the top and seal it tight with a piece of duct tape.
Pocket folder protector Old pocket folders may lose their resiliency but are otherwise
useful. Cover your old folder with duct tape; reinforce between sections and it’s
as good as new.
Bumper sticker Got something you want to say? Make your own bumper sticker. Cut a
length of duct tape, affix it to your bumper and with a sharp marker, pen
your message.
Keep a secret car key You’ll never get locked out of your car again if you affix an extra
key to the undercarriage with duct tape.
Catch pesky flies You’ve just checked into a rustic cabin on the lake and you’re ready to
start your vacation. Everything would be perfect if only the flying insects were
not part of the deal. Grab your roll of duct tape and roll off a few foot-long
strips. Hang them from the rafters as flypaper. Soon you’ll be rid of the bugs
and you can roll up the tape to toss it in the trash.
Replace a shower curtain grommet How many times have you yanked the shower cur-
Repair a vacuum hose Has your vacuum hose cracked and developed a leak? It doesn’t
spell the end of your vacuum. Repair the broken hose with duct tape. Your
vacuum will last until the motor gives out.
tain aside only to rip through one of the delicate eyelets? Grab the duct tape to
make a simple repair. Once the curtain is dry, cut a rectangular piece and fold
it from front to back over the torn hole. Slit the tape with a mat knife, razor
blade, or scissors, and push the shower curtain ring back in place.
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Reinforce book binding Duct tape is perfect for repairing a broken book binding. Using
a nice-colored tape, run the tape down the length of the spine and cut shorter
pieces to run perpendicular to that if you need extra reinforcement.
Cover a book Use duct tape in an interesting color to create a durable book cover for a
school textbook or a paperback that you carry to the beach. Make a pattern for
the cover on a sheet of newspaper; fit the pattern to your book, then cover the
pattern, one row at a time, with duct tape, overlapping the rows. The resulting
removable cover will be waterproof and sturdy.
Repair a photo frame Many people enjoy displaying family photos in easel-type frames
on mantels and side tables throughout the house. But sometimes the foldout
leg that holds a frame upright pulls away from the back of the frame and your
photo won’t stand up properly. Don’t despair! Just use duct tape to reattach the
broken leg to the frame back.
Hang Christmas lights Festive holiday lights are fun in season, but a real chore when it’s
time for them to come down. Use duct tape to hang your lights and the
removal job will be much easier. Tear duct tape into thin strips. At intervals,
wrap strips around the wire and then tape the strand to the gutter or wherever
you hang your lights.
Wrap holiday presents Here’s a novel way to wrap a special gift. Don’t
bother with the paper. Go straight for the tape. Press duct tape
directly on the gift box. Make designs or cover in stripes and
then add decorative touches by cutting shapes, letters, and
motifs from tape to attach to the “wrapped” surface.
Duct tape really did start as
duck tape. During World War
II, the U.S. military needed a
flexible, durable, waterproof
tape. They called on
Permacell, a division of
Johnson & Johnson, which
used its own medical tape as
a base and added a strong
polycoat adhesive and a polyethylene coating laminated
to a cloth backing. The
resulting strong flexible
tape—colored army green
and easy to rip into useful
strips—was used for everything from sealing
ammunition cases to
repairing jeep windshields.
GI’s nicknamed it duck tape
because it was waterproof,
like a duck’s back.
After the war, the tape—
in a new silvery color—found
use joining heating and air
conditioning ductwork and
became known as duct tape.
It’s rarely used to join ducts
anymore, but it lives on—
now in a rainbow of
colors—as the handyman’s
best friend.
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Make Halloween costumes Want to be the Tin Man for
Halloween? How about a robot? These are just
two ideas that work naturally with the classic
silver duct tape. Make a basic costume from
brown paper grocery bags, with openings in the
back so the child can easily put on and take off
the costume. Cover this pattern with rows of
duct tape. For the legs, cover over an old pair of
pants, again giving your little robot or Tin Man an easy way to remove the
outfit for bathroom breaks. Duct tape comes in an array of colors, so let your
imagination lead your creativity.
Make a toy sword Got a couple of would-be swashbucklers around the house? Make toy
swords for the junior Errol Flynns by sketching a kid-size sword on a piece of
cardboard. Use two pieces if you haven’t got one thick enough. Be sure to make
a handle the child’s hand can fit around comfortably once it’s been increased in
thickness by several layers of duct tape. Wrap the entire blade shape in silver
duct tape. Wrap the handle in black tape.
Make play rings and bracelets Make rings by tearing duct tape into strips about
1/2-inch (1.2-centimeter) wide, then folding the strips in half lengthwise—
sticky sides together. Continue to put more strips over the first one until the
ring is thick enough to stand on its own. You can adjust the size with a scissors
and tape the ends closed. To make a stone for the ring, cover a small item such
as a pebble and attach it to the ring. Make a bracelet by winding duct tape
around a stiff paper pattern.
Make hand puppets Duct tape is great for puppet making. Use a small paper lunch bag
as the base for the body of your puppet. Cover the bag with overlapping rows
of duct tape. Make armholes through which your fingers will poke out. Create
a head from a tape-covered ball of wadded paper and affix buttons or beads for
eyes and mouth.
Make bicycle streamers Add snazzy streamers to your kids’ handlebars. Make them
Repair a taillight Someone just backed into your car and smashed the taillight! Here’s a
using duct tape in various colors. Cut the tape into strips about 1/2-inch
(1.2-centimeter) wide by 10 inches (25 centimeters) long. Fold each strip in
half, sticky sides together. Once you have about half a dozen for each side, stick
them into the end of the handlebar and secure them with wraps of duct tape.
Be sure your child will still have a good grip on the handlebar.
quick repair that will last until you have time to get to the repair shop.
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Depending on where the cracks lie, use yellow or red duct tape to hold the
remaining parts together. In some states this repair will even pass inspection.
Short-term auto hose fix Until you can get to your mechanic, duct tape makes a strong
and dependable temporary fix for broken water hoses on your automobile. But
don’t wait too long. Duct tape can only withstand temperatures up to 200°F
(93°C). Also, don’t use it to repair a leak in your car’s gas line—the gasoline
dissolves the adhesive.
Make a temporary roof shingle If you’ve lost a wooden
roof shingle, make a temporary replacement by
wrapping duct tape in strips across a piece of
1/4-inch (6-millimeter) plywood you’ve cut to
size. Wedge the makeshift shingle in place to fill
the space. It will close the gap and repel water
until you can repair the roof.
Fix a hole in your siding Stormy weather damaged your
vinyl siding? A broken tree limb tossed by the storm, hailstones, or even an
errant baseball can rip your siding. Patch tears in vinyl siding with duct tape.
Choose tape in a color that matches your siding and apply it when the surface
is dry. Smooth your repair by hand or with a rolling pin. The patch should last
at least a season or two.
Replace lawn chair webbing Summertime is here, and you go to the shed to fetch your
lawn furniture, only to discover the webbing on your favorite backyard chair
has worn through. Don’t throw it out. Colorful duct tape makes a great, sturdy
replacement webbing. Cut strips twice as long as you need. Double the tape,
putting sticky sides together, so that you have backing facing out on both sides.
Then screw it in place with the screws on the chair.
Tape a broken window Before removing broken window glass, crisscross the broken
pane with duct tape to hold it all together. This will ensure a shard doesn’t fall
out and cut you.
As most Canadians know, the
star of The Red Green Show
on the Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation—and the Public
Broadcasting System in the
United States—has been
known to use duct tape for
everything from fixing a spare
tire to re-webbing a lawn
chair. Red’s real-life persona,
Steve Smith, admits he
doesn’t use “the handyman’s
secret weapon” as much as
his screen character. “I live in
a pretty nice neighborhood,
where duct tape is discouraged as a renovation tool,” he
says. Nevertheless, when he
had to prevent his front door
from locking, he put a small
strip of duct tape across
the bolt. He points out
that this was the first
time he’d used duct
tape “to stop something from working.”
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Repair outdoor cushions Don’t let a little rip in the cushions for your outdoor furniture
bother you. Repair the tear with a closely matched duct tape and it will hold
up for several seasons.
Repair a trash can Plastic trash cans often split or crack along
the sides. But don’t toss out the can with the trash.
Repair the tear with duct tape. It’s strong enough
to withstand the abuses a trash can takes, and easy
to manipulate on the curved or ridged surface of
your can. Put tape over the crack both outside and
inside the can.
Quick fix for a toilet seat You’re giving a party and someone taps
you on the shoulder to tell you the toilet seat has broken. You don’t have to
make a mad dash to the home center. Grab the duct tape and carefully wrap
the break for a neat repair. Your guests will thank you.
Mend a screen Have the bugs found the tear in your window or door screen? Thwart their
entrance until you make a permanent fix by covering the hole with duct tape.
Tighten shin guards Hockey players need a little extra protection. Use duct tape to
attach shin guards firmly in place. Put on all your equipment, including socks.
Now split the duct tape to the width appropriate for your size—children might
need narrower strips than adults—and start wrapping around your shin guard
to keep it tight to your leg.
Add life to a hockey stick Street hockey sticks take a beating. If yours is showing its age,
breathe a little more life into it by wrapping the bottom of the stick with duct
tape. Replace the tape as often as needed.
Extend the life of skateboard shoes Kids who perform fantastic feats on their skate-
boards find their shoes wear out very quickly because a lot of the jumps involve
sliding the toe or side of the foot along the board. They wear holes in new
shoes fast. Protect their feet and prolong the life of their shoes by putting a
layer or two of duct tape on the area that scrapes along the board.
Repair your ski gloves Ski glove seams tearing open? Duct tape is the perfect solution to
Repair a tent You open your tent at the campsite and oops—a little tear. No problem as
long as you’ve brought your duct tape along. Cover the hole with a patch; for
double protection mirror the patch inside the tent. You’ll keep insects and
weather where they belong.
ripped ski gloves because it’s waterproof, incredibly adhesive, strong, and can
easily be torn into strips of any width. Make your repair lengthwise or around
the fingers and set out on the slopes again.
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Extra insulation Make your winter boots a little bit warmer by taping the insoles with
duct tape, silver side up. The shiny tape will reflect the warmth of your feet
back into your boots.
Stay afloat You’re out for a paddle, when you discover a small hole in your canoe. Thank
goodness you thought to pack duct tape in your supply kit. Pull the canoe out
of the water, dry the area around the hole, and apply a duct tape patch to the
outside of the canoe. You’re ready to finish your trip.
Waterproof footwear Need a waterproof pair of shoes for fishing, gardening, or pushing
off the canoe into the lake? Cover an old pair of sneakers with duct tape, overlapping the edges of each row. As you round corners, cut little V’s in the edges
of the tape so that you can lap the tape smoothly around the corner.
Pool patch Duct tape will repair a hole in your swimming pool liner well enough to stand
up to water for at least a season. Be sure to cover the area thoroughly.
Protect yourself from ticks When you’re out on a hike, on your way to your favorite
fishing hole, or just weeding in the yard, protect your ankles from those pesky
ticks. Wrap duct tape around your pant cuffs to seal out the bugs. This is a
handy way to keep your pant leg out of your bicycle chain too!
Create a clothesline Whether you’re out in the wilderness on a camping trip or in your
own backyard, when you need a clothesline and you’re without rope, think:
duct tape. Twist a long piece of duct tape into a rope and bind it between
trees for a clothesline. It makes a dandy jump rope as well or a basic rope
sturdy enough to lash two items together. You can even use your creation
to drag a child’s wagon.
The folks at 3M’s product
information lines handle a lot
of calls about duct tape. Three
of the most commonly asked
questions are:
1. Can duct tape be used for
removing warts?
2. Can it be used to secure the
duct from the household
dryer to the outdoors?
3. Is it waterproof?
The official answers:
1. Duct tape is not recommended for removing
warts, because it hasn’t
been scientifically tested.
2. The company does not recommend using duct tape
for the dryer duct, because
the temperatures may
exceed 200°F (93°C), the
maximum temperature duct
tape can withstand.
3. The backing of the duct
tape is waterproof, but the
adhesive is not. Duct tape
will hold up to water
for a while, but eventually the adhesive
will give out.
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Protect your gas grill hose For some reason, mice and squirrels love to chew on rubber,
and one of their favorite snacks is often the rubber hose that connects the
propane tank to your gas grill. Protect the hose by wrapping it in duct tape.
Make an emergency sneaker lace You’re enjoying a game of driveway hoops when you
bust a sneaker lace. Ask for a brief time-out while you grab the duct tape from
the garage. Cut off a piece of tape that’s as long as you need and rip off twice
the width you need. Fold the tape in half along its length, sticky side in.
Thread your new lace onto your sneaker, tie it up, and you are ready for your
next jump shot.
Repair your ski pants Oh no, you ripped your ski pants and the wind is whipping into
the nylon outer layer. No need to pay inflated lodge shop prices for a new pair
if you have a roll of duct tape in the car. Just slip a piece of tape inside the rip,
sticky side out, and carefully press both sides of the rip together. The repair will
be barely detectable.
Decorate your door for fall Gather dried fall foliage, such as Indian corn, bittersweet
branches with orange berries, and other decorative greens. Tie them together as
a bouquet with a rubber band or tape. Spread them out in a fan shape and
cover the binding with a ribbon. Now set this against a copper dustpan. Use
super glue or a glue gun to attach your bouquet to the pan. Hang this homage
to fall on your front door.
Enlist the littlest shoveler Youngsters enjoy mimicking their elders. While you shovel
snow, let the little one help by your side using a dustpan as a shovel.
Use as a sand toy Pack a clean dustpan with your beach toys. It’s a great sand
scoop and will really help the castle builders in their task.
Speed toy cleanup Picking up all those little toys gets tire-
some. Scoop them up with a dustpan and
deposit them in the toy bin. It’s a real
time-saver, not to mention a back-saver.
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Use as a bulletin board tack Lend a little personal style to your bulletin board. Use
mateless pierced earrings to tack up pictures, notes, souvenirs, and clippings.
Create a brooch Got a batch of mateless pierced earrings collecting dust in a box? Use
wire cutters to snip off the stems and get creative: Arrange the earrings on a
swatch of cardboard or foam core, and secure them with hot-melt glue. Add a
pin backing and, voilà! a new brooch. Or use the same method to jazz up a
plain picture frame.
Make a magnet Give your fridge some glitz. Use wire cutters to cut the stem off an orphan
earring and glue it to a magnet. What a great way to emphasize how pleased you
are with that perfect report card when you stick it on the refrigerator.
Clip your scarf Did you lose one of your very favorite earrings? Oh well, at least you can
still work the survivor into an ensemble by using it to secure a scarf. Just tie the
scarf as desired, then clip or pierce it with the earring.
Make an instant button. Oh, darn! You’re dressed to go out and you discover a button
missing. No need to re-invent your whole outfit. Just dip into your collection
of clip-on earrings. Clip the earring on the button side of the clothing to create
People have been wearing—
and probably losing—earrings
for nearly 5,000 years.
According to historians who
have studied jewelry, the tiny
baubles were likely introduced in western Asia in
about 3000 B.C. The oldest
earrings that have been discovered date to 2500 B.C. and
were found in Iraq. The popularity of earrings over time
has grown or receded,
depending on hairstyles and
clothing trends. The clip-on
earring was introduced in the
1930s, and by the 1950s,
fashionable women simply
did not pierce their ears.
But twenty years
later, pierced ears
were back.
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a new “button,” then button as usual with the buttonhole. If you have time,
move the top button on that favorite blouse to replace the lost one and then
use the earring at the top of the blouse.
Decorate your Christmas tree Scatter clip-on earrings around the boughs of your
Christmas tree as an eye-catching accent to your larger tree decorations. Or use
them as the main adornment on a small tree or wreath.
Make a facial Who has time or money to spend at the local day spa, paying someone to
tell you how awful your skin looks? For a little pampering, head to the refrigerator and grab an egg. If you have dry skin that needs moisturizing, separate the
egg and beat the yolk. Oily skin takes the egg white, to which a bit of lemon or
honey can be added. For normal skin, use the entire egg. Apply the beaten egg,
relax and wait 30 minutes, then rinse. You’ll love your new fresh face.
Use as glue Out of regular white glue? Egg whites can act as a glue substitute when gluing
paper or light cardboard together.
Add to compost Eggshells are a great addition to your compost because they are rich in
calcium—a nutrient that helps plants. Crushing them before you put them in
your compost heap will help them break down faster.
Water your plants After boiling eggs, don’t pour the water down the drain. Instead, let it
cool; then water plants with the nutrient-filled water.
Start seeds Plant seeds in eggshells. Place the eggshell
halves in the carton, fill each with soil, and press
seeds inside. The seeds will draw extra nutrients
from the eggshells. Once the seedlings are about
3 inches (7.5 centimeters) tall, they are ready to
be transplanted into your garden. Remove them
from the shell before you put them in the
ground. Then crush the eggshells and put them
in your compost or plant them in your garden.
Use for storing and organizing With a dozen handy compartments, egg cartons are a
natural for storing and organizing small items. Here are some ideas to get you
going. You’re sure to come up with more of your own.
● Instead of emptying the coins in your pocket into a jar for later sorting, cut
off a four-section piece of an egg carton and leave it on your dresser. Sort
your quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies as you pull them out of your
Egg Cartons
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pockets. (Dump pennies in a larger container, such as a jar, or put them in a
piggy bank.)
● Organize buttons, safety pins, threads, bobbins, and fasteners on your
sewing table.
● Organize washers, tacks, small nuts and bolts, and screws on your work-
bench. Or use to keep disassembled parts in sequence.
● Keep small Christmas ornaments from being crushed in handy, stackable
egg cartons.
Start a fire Fill a cardboard egg carton with briquettes (and a bit of leftover candle wax if
it’s handy), place in your barbecue grill, and light. Egg cartons can also be filled
with tinder, such as small bits of wood and paper, and used as a fire starter in a
fireplace or a woodstove.
Start seedlings An egg carton can become the perfect nursery for your seeds. Use a card-
board egg carton, not a polystyrene one. Fill each cell in the carton with soil
and plant a few seeds in each one. Once the seeds have sprouted, divide the
carton into individual cells and plant, cardboard cells and all.
Make ice Making a bunch of ice for a picnic or party? Use the bottom halves of clean
polystyrene egg cartons as auxiliary ice trays.
Reinforce a trash bag Yuck! You pull the plastic trash bag out of the kitchen trash con-
tainer and gunk drips out. Next time, put an opened empty egg carton at the
bottom of the trash bag to prevent tears and punctures.
Create shippable homemade goodies Here’s a great way to brighten the day of a soldier,
student, or any faraway friend or loved one. Cover an egg carton with bright
wrapping paper. Line the individual cells with candy wrappers or shredded
coconut. Nestle homemade treats inside each. Include the carton in your next
care package or birthday gift, and rest assured the treats will arrive intact.
Golf ball caddy An egg carton in your golf bag is a great way to keep golf balls clean and
ready for teeing off.
Emery Boards
Sand deep crevices If you are refinishing an elaborate
piece of wood such as turned table legs or chair
spindles, you can use emery boards to gently
smooth those hard-to-reach crevices before
applying stain or finish. These filelike nail
sanders are easy to handle and provide a choice
of two sanding grits.
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Ever wonder about emery
boards, those little sticks that
we tuck into our drawers and
can never seem to find when
we need to file down a torn
nail? Emery is a natural mixture of corundum and
magnetite. Diamond is the
only mineral harder than
corundum. Sapphires and
rubies are also varieties of
corundum. Makes it easy to
understand why a manicurist’s magazine would urge
women to “treat their nails
like jewels, not tools.” Emery
boards have changed a lot
since 1910, when they were
introduced. They now come
with bright designs, give off
scents, or are shaped as
hearts and stars.
Remove dirt from an eraser Do you have a fussy student who doesn’t like dirt on the
end of the pencil? Take an emery board and rub lightly over the eraser until the
dirt is filed off.
Prep seeds for planting Use an emery board to remove the hard coating on seeds before
you plant them. This will speed sprouting and help them absorb moisture.
Save your suede Did somebody step on your blue suede shoes? Or worse, spill some
wine on them? Don’t check into Heartbreak Hotel. Rub the stain lightly with
an emery board, and then hold the shoe over steam from a teakettle or pan to
remove the stain. This works for suede clothing too.
Shred old receipts faster The best way to get rid of receipts that may have your credit
card number or other personal information is to shred them. But feeding tiny
receipts into a shredder is tedious. Instead, place all the old receipts into a few
old envelopes and shred the envelopes.
Make a small funnel You save money by buying your spices in bulk and you want to
Sort and store sandpaper You know how sheets of sandpaper love to curl themselves up
into useless tubes? Prevent that problem and keep your sandpaper sheets organized by storing them in standard letter-size cardboard mailing envelopes. Use
one envelope for each grit and write the grit on the envelopes.
transfer them to smaller, handier bottles for use in the kitchen, but you don’t
have a small funnel to do the job. Make a couple of disposable funnels from
an envelope. Seal the envelope, cut it in half diagonally, and snip off one
corner on each half. Now you have two funnels for pouring spices into your
smaller jars.
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Make bookmarks Recycle envelopes by making them into
handy bookmarks of different sizes. Cut off the
gummed flap and one end of the envelope.
Then slip the remainder over the corner of the
page where you stopped reading for a quick
placeholder that doesn’t damage your book.
Give a batch to the kids to decorate for their
own set or to give as a homemade gift.
Make file folders Don’t let papers get disorganized just because you ran out of file
folders. Cut the short ends off a light cardboard mailing envelope. Turn it
inside out so you have a blank cardboard on the outside. Cut a 3/4-inch
(2-centimeter) wide strip lengthwise off the top of one side. The other edge
becomes the place where you label your file.
Epsom Salt
Get rid of raccoons Are the masked night marauders poking around your trash can, cre-
ating a mess and raising a din? A few tablespoons of Epsom salt spread around
your garbage cans will deter the raccoons, who don’t like the taste of the stuff.
Don’t forget to reapply after it rains.
Deter slugs Are you tired of visiting your yard at night only to find the place crawling
with slimy slugs? Sprinkle Epsom salt where they glide and say good-bye to
the slugs.
Fertilize tomatoes and other plants Want those Big Boys to be big? Add Epsom salt
as a foolproof fertilizer. Every week, for every foot of height of your tomato
plant, add one tablespoon. Your tomatoes will be the envy of the neighborhood. Epsom salt is also a good fertilizer for houseplants, roses and other
flowers, and trees.
Make your grass greener How green is your valley? Not green
enough, you say? Epsom salt, which adds needed
magnesium and iron to your soil, may be the answer.
Add 2 tablespoons to 1 gallon (3.7 liters) of water.
Spread on your lawn and then water it with plain
water to make sure it soaks into the grass.
Clean bathroom tiles Is the tile in your bathroom getting that
grungy look? Time to bring in the Epsom salt. Mix it in
equal parts with liquid dish detergent, then dab it onto the offending area
and start scrubbing. The Epsom salt works with the detergent to scrub and
dissolve the grime.
Regenerate a car battery Is your car battery starting to sound as if it won’t turn over?
Worried that you’ll be stuck the next time you try to start your car? Give your
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battery a little more life with this potion. Dissolve about an ounce of Epsom
salt in warm water and add it to each battery cell.
Get rid of blackheads Here’s a surefire way to dislodge blackheads: Mix 1 teaspoon
Epsom salt and 3 drops iodine in 1/2 cup boiling water. When the mixture
cools enough to stick your finger in it, apply it to the blackhead with a cotton
ball. Repeat this three or four times, reheating the solution if necessary. Gently
remove the blackhead and then dab the area with an alcohol-based astringent.
Frost your windows for Christmas If you are dreaming of a white Christmas, but the
weather won’t cooperate, at least you can make your windows look frosty. Mix
Epsom salt with stale beer until the salt stops dissolving. Apply the mixture to
your windows with a sponge—for a realistic look, sweep the sponge in an arc
at the bottom corners. When the mixture dries, the windows will look frosted.
Kids’ Stuff Here are two fun winter-inspired projects using Epsom
salt for the holiday season:
Make snowflakes by folding a piece of blue paper several times and
snipping shapes into the resulting square of paper. Unfold your snowflake.
Brush one side with a thick mixture of water and Epsom salt. After it
dries, turn it over and brush the other side. When it’s finished, you’ll have
a frosty-looking snowflake you can hang in your window.
To make a snowy scene, use crayons to draw a picture on construction
paper. Mix equal parts of Epsom salt and boiling water. Let it cool; then
use a wide artist’s paintbrush to paint the picture. When it dries, “snow”
crystals will appear.
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Fabric Softener
End clinging dust on your TV Are you frustrated to see dust fly back onto your televi-
sion screen, or other plastic surfaces, right after cleaning them? To eliminate
the static cling that attracts dust, simply dampen your dust cloth with fabric
softener straight from the bottle and dust as usual.
Remove old wallpaper Removing old wallpaper is a snap with fabric softener. Just stir
1 capful liquid softener into 1 quart (1 liter) water and sponge the solution
onto the wallpaper. Let it soak in for 20 minutes, then scrape the paper from
the wall. If the wallpaper has a water-resistant coating, score it with a wirebristle brush before treating with the fabric softener solution.
Abolish carpet shock To eliminate static shock when you walk across your carpet, spray
the carpet with a fabric softener solution. Dilute 1 cup softener with
2 1/2 quarts (2.5 liters) water; fill a spray bottle and lightly spritz the carpet.
Take care not to saturate it and damage the carpet backing. Spray in the evening
and let the carpet dry overnight before walking on it. The effect should last for
several weeks.
Remove hair-spray residue Dried-on overspray from hair spray can be tough to remove
from walls and vanities, but even a buildup of residue is no match for a solu-
How does fabric softener
reduce cling as well as soften
clothes? The secret is in the
electrical charges. Positively
charged chemical lubricants
in the fabric softener are
attracted to your load of negatively charged clothes,
softening the fabric. The softened fabrics create less
friction, and less static, as
they rub against each other in
the dryer, and because fabric
softener attracts moisture, the
slightly damp surface of the
fabrics makes them electrical
conductors. As a result, the
electrical charges travel
through them instead
of staying on the surface to cause static
cling and sparks as
you pull the clothing
from the dryer.
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tion of 1 part liquid fabric softener to 2 parts water. Stir to blend, pour into a
spray bottle, spritz the surface, and polish it with a dry cloth.
Clean now, not later Clean glass tables, shower doors, and other hard surfaces, and
repel dust with liquid fabric softener. Mix 1 part softener into 4 parts water
and store in a squirt bottle, such as an empty dishwashing liquid bottle.
Apply a little solution to a clean cloth, wipe the surface, and then polish with
a dry cloth.
Float away baked-on grime Forget scrubbing. Instead, soak burned-on foods from
casseroles with liquid fabric softener. Fill the casserole with water, add a squirt of
liquid fabric softener, and soak for an hour, or until residue wipes easily away.
Keep paintbrushes pliable After using a paintbrush, clean the bris-
tles thoroughly and rinse them in a coffee can full of
water with a drop of liquid fabric softener mixed in.
After rinsing, wipe the bristles dry and store the
brush as usual.
Untangle and condition hair Liquid fabric softener diluted
in water and applied after shampooing can untangle
and condition fine, flyaway hair, as well as curly,
coarse hair. Experiment with the amount of conditioner to
match it to the texture of your hair, using a weaker solution for fine hair and
a stronger solution for coarse, curly hair. Comb through your hair and rinse.
Remove hard-water stains Hard-water stains on windows can be difficult to remove.
To speed up the process, dab full-strength liquid fabric softener onto the stains
and let it soak for 10 minutes. Then wipe the softener and stain off the glass
with a damp cloth and rinse.
Make your own fabric softener sheets Fabric softener sheets are convenient to use,
Fabric Softener Sheets
Pick up pet hair Pet hair can get a pretty tenacious grip on furniture and clothing. But a
used fabric softener sheet will suck that fur right off the fabric with a couple of
swipes. Just toss the fuzzy wipe into the trash.
End car odors Has that new-car smell gradually turned into that old-car stench? Tuck a
new dryer fabric softener sheet under each car seat to counteract musty odors
and cigarette smells.
but they’re no bargain when compared to the price of liquid softeners. You
can make your own dryer sheets and save money. Just moisten an old washcloth with 1 teaspoon liquid softener and toss it into the dryer with your
next load.
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Lift burned-on casserole residue Those sheets will soften more than fabric. The next
time food gets burned onto your casserole dish, save the elbow grease. Instead
fill the dish with hot water and toss in three or four used softener sheets. Soak
overnight, remove the sheets, and you’ll have no trouble washing away the
residue. Be sure to rinse well.
Freshen drawers There’s no need to buy scented drawer-liner paper; give your dresser
drawers a fresh-air fragrance by tucking a new dryer fabric softener sheet under
existing drawer liners, or tape one to the back of each drawer.
Wipe soap scum from shower door Tired of scrubbing scummy shower doors? It’s easy
to wipe the soap scum away with a used dryer fabric softener sheet.
TAKE CARE People with allergies or chemical sensitivities may develop
rashes or skin irritations when they come into contact with laundry
treated with some commercial fabric softeners or fabric softener
sheets. If you are sensitive to softeners, you can still soften your
laundry by substituting 1/4 cup white vinegar or the same amount of
your favorite hair conditioner to your washer’s last rinse cycle for softer,
fresher-smelling washables.
Repel dust from electrical appliances Because television and PC screens are electri-
cally charged, they actually attract dust, making dusting them a never-ending
chore, but not if you dust them with used dryer softener sheets. These sheets
are designed to reduce static cling, so they remove the dust, and keep it from
resettling for several days or more.
Do away with doggy odor If your best friend comes in from the rain and smells like a
… well … wet dog, wipe him down with a used dryer softener sheet, and he’ll
smell as fresh as a daisy.
Freshen laundry hampers and wastebaskets There’s still plenty of life left in used
dryer fabric softener sheets. Toss one into the bottom of a laundry hamper or
wastebasket to counteract odors.
Tame locker-room and sneaker smells Deodorizing sneakers and gym bags calls for
strong stuff. Tuck a new dryer fabric softener sheet into each sneaker and leave
overnight to neutralize odors (just remember to pull them out before wearing
the sneaks). Drop a dryer sheet into the bottom of a gym bag and leave it there
until your nose lets you know it’s time to renew it.
Prevent musty odors in suitcases Place a single, unused dryer fabric softener sheet into
an empty suitcase or other piece of luggage before storing. The bag will smell
great the next time you use it.
Buff chrome to a brilliant shine After chrome is cleaned, it can still look
streaky and dull, but whether it’s your toaster or your hubcaps,
you can easily buff up the shine with a used dryer softener sheet.
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Use as a safe mosquito repellent For a safe mosquito repel-
lent, look no farther than your laundry room.
Save used dryer fabric softener sheets and pin or
tie one to your clothing when you go outdoors
to help repel mosquitoes.
Use an inconspicuous air freshener Don’t spend hard-
earned money on those plug-in air fresheners. Just
tuck a few sheets of dryer fabric softener into closets,
behind curtains, and under chairs.
Do away with static cling You’ll never be embarrassed by static cling again if you keep a
used fabric softener sheet in your purse or dresser drawer. When faced with
static, dampen the sheet and rub it over your pantyhose to put an end to
clinging skirts.
Keep dust off blinds Cleaning venetian blinds is a tedious chore, so make the results last
by wiping them down with a used dryer fabric softener sheet to repel dust.
Wipe them with another sheet whenever the effect wears off.
Renew grubby stuffed toys Wash fake-fur stuffed animals in the washing machine set
on gentle cycle, then put the stuffed animals into the clothes dryer along with a
pair of old tennis shoes and a fabric softener sheet, and they will come out
fluffy and with silky-soft fur.
Substitute a dryer sheet for a tack cloth Sticky tack cloths are designed to pick up all
traces of sawdust on a woodworking project before you paint or varnish it,
but they are expensive and not always easy to find at the hardware store. If
you find yourself in the middle of a project without a tack cloth, substitute
an unused dryer fabric softener sheet; it will attract sawdust and hold it like
a magnet.
Consolidate sheets and make them smell pretty To improve sheet storage, store the
sheet set in one of the matching pillowcases, and tuck a new dryer fabric softener sheet into the packet for a fresh fragrance.
Abolish tangled sewing thread To put an end to tangled thread, keep an unused dryer
Film Canisters
Rattle toy for the cat Cats are amused by small objects that rattle and shake, and they
really don’t care what they look like. To provide endless entertainment for your
cat, drop a few dried beans, a spoonful of dry rice, or other small objects that
can’t harm a cat, into an empty film canister, snap on the lid, and watch the
fun begin.
fabric softener sheet in your sewing kit. After threading the needle, insert it
into the sheet and pull all of the thread through to give it a nonstick coating.
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Handy stamp dispenser To keep a roll of stamps from
being damaged, make a stamp dispenser from
an empty film canister. Hold the canister steady
by taping it to a counter with duct tape, and use
a utility knife to carefully cut a slit into the side
of the canister. Drop the roll of stamps in, feed
it out through the slit, snap the cap on, and it’s
ready to use.
Use as hair rollers You can collect all the hair rollers you’ll ever need if you save your
empty plastic film canisters. To use, pop the top off, roll damp hair around the
canister, and hold it in place by fastening a hair clip over the open end of the
canister and your hair.
Emergency sewing kit You’ll never be at a loss if you pop a button or your hem
unravels if you fill an empty film canister with buttons, pins, and a prethreaded needle. Make several; tuck one into each travel bag, purse, or gym
bag, and hit the road.
On-the-road pill dispensers Use empty film canisters as travel-size pill bottles for your
purse or overnight bag. If you take more than one medication, use a separate
canister for each. Write the medication and dosage on a peel-and-stick label
and attach to each canister. For at-a-glance identification, color the labels with
different-colored highlighter pens.
Tip The Vanishing Film Canister
Plastic film canisters have myriad uses, from emergency ashtrays to spice
bottles. But with the rise of digital cameras, these small wonders are rapidly going the way of the rotary dial phone or the phonograph needle. A
good source for free film canisters has always been the neighborhood
one-hour photo shop. But these days you may find that even they have a
canister shortage. If so, check the yellow pages for a professional film
developer, because most high-quality, professional photographers still use
film—and film canisters.
Store fishing flies You can save a lot of money and grief by storing fishing flies and
hooks in film canisters. They don’t take up much room in a fishing vest, and if
you do drop one in a stream, the airtight lid will keep it floating long enough
for you to … well … fish it out.
Carry spices for camp cooking Just because you are roughing it, doesn’t mean that you
have to eat bland food. You can store a multitude of seasonings in individual
film canisters to take along when you go camping, and you’ll still have plenty
of room for the food itself in your backpack or car trunk. It’s a good idea for
your RV or vacation cabin too.
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Carry small change for laundry and tolls Film canisters are just the right size to hold
quarters and smaller change. Tuck a canister of change into your laundry bag
or your car’s glove compartment, and you’ll never have to hunt for change
when you’re at a self-service laundry or a tollbooth.
Bring your own diet aids If you are on a special diet, you can easily and discreetly
transport your favorite salad dressings, artificial sweetener, or other condiments to restaurants in plastic film canisters. Clean, empty canisters hold
single-sized servings, have snap-on, leakproof lids, and are small enough to
tuck into a purse.
Keep jewelry close at hand An empty film canister doesn’t take up much room in your
gym bag, and it’ll come in handy for keeping your rings and earrings from
being misplaced while you work out.
Emergency nail polish remover Create a small, spillproof carry case for nail polish
remover by tucking a small piece of sponge into a plastic film canister. Saturate
the sponge with polish remover and snap on the lid. For an emergency repair,
simply insert a finger and rub the nail against the fluid-soaked sponge to
remove the polish.
Repel ants with flour Sprinkle a line of flour along the backs of pantry shelves and
wherever you see ants entering the house. Repelled by the flour, ants won’t
cross over the line.
Freshen playing cards After a few games, cards can accumulate a patina of snack residue
and hand oil, but you can restore them with some all-purpose flour in a paper
bag. Drop the cards into the bag with enough flour to cover, shake vigorously,
and remove the cards. The flour will absorb the oils, and it can be easily
knocked off the cards by giving them a vigorous shuffle.
word to describe the most
desirable, or floury (flowery)
and protein-rich, part of a
grain after processing
removes the hull. And,
because much of our food terminology comes from the
French, we still bake and
make sauces with the flower
of grains, such as wheat,
which we call flour.
Ever wondered why the word
flour is pronounced exactly
like the word flower? Well,
you may be surprised to
learn that flour is actually
derived from the French
word for flower, which is
fleur. The French use the
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Safe paste for children’s crafts Look no farther than your
kitchen canister for an inexpensive, nontoxic paste
that is ideal for children’s paper craft projects,
such as papier-mâché and scrap-booking. To
make the paste, add 3 cups cold water to a
saucepan and blend in 1 cup all-purpose flour.
Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer, stirring until smooth and
thick. Cool and pour into a plastic squeeze bottle to use.
This simple paste will keep for weeks in the refrigerator, and cleans up easily
with soap and water.
Make modeling clay Keep the kids busy on a rainy day with modeling clay—they can
even help you make the stuff. Knead together 3 cups all-purpose flour,
1/4 cup salt, 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and 1 or 2 drops food
coloring. If the mixture is sticky, add more flour; if it’s too stiff, add more
water. When the “clay” is a workable consistency, store it until needed in a
self-sealing plastic bag.
Polish brass and copper No need to go out and buy cleaner for your brass and silver.
You can whip up your own at much less cost. Just combine equal parts of flour,
salt, and vinegar, and mix into a paste. Spread the paste onto the metal, let it
dry, and buff it off with a clean, dry cloth.
Bring back luster to a dull sink To buff your stainless steel sink back to a warm glow,
sprinkle flour over it and rub lightly with a soft, dry cloth. Then rinse the sink
to restore its shine.
Container for baking bread Want to give the staff of life an interesting shape? Take a
new, clean medium-sized clay flowerpot, soak it in water for about 20 minutes, and then lightly grease the inside with butter. Place your bread dough,
For thousands of years people
have been plopping plants
into pots to transport a native
plant to a new land or to bring
an exotic plant home. In 1495
B.C., Egyptian queen
Hatshepsut sent workers to
Somalia to bring back incense
trees in pots. And in 1787
Captain Bligh reportedly had
more than 1,000 breadfruit
plants in clay pots aboard the
H.M.S. Bounty. The
plants were destined
for the West Indies,
where they were to be
grown as food for the
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prepared as usual, in the pot and bake. The clay pot will give your bread a
crusty outside and keep the inside moist.
Create a firewood container Who needs an expensive metal or brass rack to hold fire-
wood by the fireplace? Spare yourself the expense and put an extra-large
empty ceramic or clay flowerpot beside the hearth. It’s a perfect—and
cheap—place to keep kindling and small logs ready for when the weather outside gets frightful.
Unfurl yarn knot-free That sweater you’re knitting will take forever if you’re constantly
stopping to pull out tangles in the yarn. To prevent this, place your ball of yarn
under an upturned flowerpot and thread the end through the drain hole. Set it
next to where you are sitting for more pleasurable purling.
Create an aquarium fish cave Some fish love to lurk in shadowy corners of their
home aquariums, keeping themselves safe from imagined predators. Place a
mini flowerpot on its side on the aquarium floor to create a cave for
spelunking fish.
Kill fire ants If fire ants plague your yard or patio and you’re tired of getting stung by the
tiny attackers, a flowerpot can help you quench the problem. Place the flowerpot upside down over the anthill. Pour boiling water through the drain hole
and you’ll be burning down their house.
Help container plant roots The plants that you want to
put in that beautiful new deep container you
ordered for your patio have a shallow root
system, and you don’t want to go to the
bother—and expense—of filling that huge container completely with potting soil. What do
you do? When planting shallow-rooted plants in
a deep container, one easy solution is to find
another smaller flowerpot that will fit upside down in the base of the deeper
pot and occupy a lot of that space. After you insert it, fill around it with soil
before putting in your plants.
broken clay flowerpot shards in the bottom of the pot before re-planting. When
watering your plants, you’ll find that the water drains out, but not the soil.
Foam Food Trays
Make knee pads for gardening If you find gardening is a pain in the knees when you
tend your little patch of green, tape foam food trays to your knees. Or attach
them to your legs using the top halves of old tube socks. The trays give you
extra padding while you pull out weeds and fertilize your plants.
Keep soil in your flowerpot Soil from your houseplant won’t slip-slide away if you place
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Release your innersoles If your tired old dogs need a little padding, grab a couple of
clean meat trays and cut them to fit inside the sole of your shoes or boots.
You’ll have happy feet and some extra cushioning for free.
Produce a disposable serving dish If you need a quick disposable serving platter
while you’re on a cookout or camping trip, you can make one from a foam
food tray. Wash it with soap and water, cover it entirely with foil, and load it
up with food. Use these serving dishes to bring goodies to the church
potluck, local bake sale, or sick neighbor. No worries about losing your
own platters.
Provide an art palette Create a paint palette for your budding Picasso. A thoroughly
cleaned and dried food tray is the perfect place for kids to squirt their tempera
or oil paints. Are they experimenting with watercolors? Use two trays: Put
watercolor paint in one and water in the other. At the end of the art session,
you can just throw them away.
Protect pictures in the mail Why buy expensive padded envelopes to send photographs
to loved ones? Cut foam trays slightly smaller than your mailing envelope.
Insert your photographs between the trays, place in the envelope, and mail.
The photos will arrive without creases or bends.
Eliminate unpopped popcorn Don’t you just hate the kernels of popcorn that are left at
the bottom of the bowl? Eliminate the popcorn duds by keeping your
unpopped supply in the freezer.
Remove wax from candlesticks Grandma’s heirloom silver candlesticks will get a new
life if you place them in the freezer and then pick off the accumulated wax
drippings. But don’t do this if your candlesticks are made from more than one
type of metal. The metals can expand and contract at different rates and
damage the candlesticks.
Extend candle life Place candles in the freezer for at least two hours before burning.
They will last longer.
Unstick photos Picture this: Water spills on a batch of
photographs, causing them to stick
together. If you pull them apart, your
pictures will be ruined. Don’t be so
hasty. Stick them in the freezer for about
20 minutes. Then use a butter knife to
gingerly separate the photos. If they don’t
come free, place them back in the freezer. This
works for envelopes and stamps too.
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Clean a pot Your favorite pot has been left on the stove too long, and now you’ve got a
burned-on mess to clean up. Place the pot in the freezer for a couple of hours.
When the burned food becomes frozen, it will be easier to remove.
Tip Freezer Tactics
Here are some ways to get the most out of your freezer or your refrigerator’s freezer compartment:
● To prevent spoilage, keep your freezer at 0°F (-18°C). To check the
temperature, stick a freezer thermometer (sold at hardware stores)
between two frozen food containers.
● A full freezer runs the compressor less often and stays colder longer.
Good to remember the next time there’s a blackout.
● The shelves on a freezer door are a little warmer than the freezer interior, making them ideal for storing items such as bread and coffee.
● When defrosting your freezer, place a large towel or sheet on the
bottom. Water drips onto it, making cleanup much easier.
● The next time you defrost your freezer, apply a thin coat of petroleum
jelly to the walls to keep frost from sticking.
Remove odors Got a musty-smelling book or a plastic container with a fish odor? Place
them in the freezer overnight. By morning they’ll be fresh again. This works
with almost any other small item that has a bad smell you want to get rid of.
Make a string dispenser Don’t get yourself tied up in knots over tangled
string. Nail a large funnel to the wall, with the stem pointing down.
Place a ball of string in the funnel and thread the end through the
funnel’s stem. You have an instant knot-free string dispenser.
Separate eggs Want an egg-ceptional egg separator? Try a funnel. Simply crack the egg
into the funnel. The white will slide out the spout into another container,
while the yolk stays put. Of course, you have to be careful not to break the
yolk when you’re cracking the egg.
Make a kids’ telephone Just because you choke every time you open your phone bill
doesn’t mean the kids have to, too. Use two small plastic funnels to make them
a durable string telephone. For each funnel, tie a button to one end of a length
of kite string and thread it through the large end of the funnel. Tie another
button at the bottom of the spout to keep the string in place and let the kids
start yakking.
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Garden Hose
Snake decoy to scare birds If flocks of annoying, messy birds are invading your yard, try
replicating their natural predator to keep them away. Cut a short length of hose,
lay it in your grass—poised like a snake—and the birds will steer clear.
Stabilize a tree A short length of old garden hose is a
good way to tie a young tree to its stake. You’ll
find that the hose is flexible enough to bend
when the tree does, but at the same time, it’s
strong enough to keep the tree tied to its stake
until it can stand on its own. Also, the hose
will not damage the bark of the young tree as
it grows.
Capture earwigs Pesky garden earwigs will find their final resting place in that leaky old
hose. Cut the hose into 12-inch (30-centimeter) lengths, making sure the
inside is completely dry. Place the hose segments where you have seen earwigs
crawling around and leave them overnight. By the morning the hoses should
be filled with the earwigs and ready for disposal. One method is to dunk the
hoses in a bucket of kerosene.
Tip Buying a Hose
It’s just a garden-variety hose, right? Actually, there are a few important
points to keep in mind when you buy this important outdoor tool:
● To determine how long a hose you need, measure the distance from
the faucet to the farthest point in your yard. Add several feet to allow for
watering around corners; this will help you avoid annoying kinks that cut
water pressure.
● Vinyl and rubber hoses are generally more sturdy and weather
resistant than ones made of cheaper forms of plastic. If a hose flattens
when you step on it, it is not up to gardening duties.
● Buy a hose with a lifetime warranty; only good-quality hoses have one.
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Unclog a downspout When leaves and debris clog up your rainspout and gutters, turn to
your garden hose to get things flowing again. Push the hose up the spout and
poke through the blockage. You don’t even have to turn the hose on, because
the water in the gutters will flush out the dam.
Cover swing set chains No parent wants to see his or her child hurt on the backyard
swing set. Put a length of old hose over each chain to protect little hands from
getting pinched or twisted. If you have access to one end of the chains, just slip
the chain through the hose. Otherwise, slit the hose down the middle, and slip
it over the swing set chains. Close the slit hose with a few wraps of duct tape.
Make a play phone Transform your old garden hose into a fun new telephone for the
kids. Cut any length of hose you desire. Stick a funnel at each end and attach
it with glue or tape. Now the kids can talk for as long as they want, with no
roaming charges.
Protect your handsaw and ice skate blades Keep your handsaw blade sharp and safe
by protecting it with a length of garden hose. Just cut a piece of hose to the
length you need, slit it along its length, and slip it over the teeth. This is a good
way to protect the blades of your ice skates on the way to the rink and your
cooking knives when you pack them for a camping trip.
Make a paint can grip You don’t want that heavy paint can to slip and spill. Plus those
thin wire handles can really cut into your hand. Get a better grip by cutting a
short length of hose. Slit it down the middle and encase the paint can handle.
Make a sander for curves If you’ve got a tight concave
surface to sand—a piece of cove molding, for
example—grab a 10-inch (25-centimeter)
length of garden hose. Split open the hose
lengthwise and insert one edge of the sandpaper. Wrap it around the hose, cut it to fit, and
insert the other end in the slit. Firmly close the
slit with a bit of duct tape. Get stroking!
Grip a stubborn jar lid It’s a jarring experience when you can’t open a jar of peanut
butter or olives. If the lid just won’t come loose, don some rubber gloves. You’ll
get a better grip to unscrew the top.
Close the wrist with a rubber band to contain water from the melting ice.
When you’re done, turn the glove inside out to dry.
Paper-sorting finger Don’t fancy licking your finger when you riffle through a stack of
Make an ice pack If you need an ice pack in a hurry, fill a kitchen rubber glove with ice.
papers or dollar bills? Cut off the index finger piece from an old rubber glove
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and you have an ideal sheath for your finger the next time you have to quickly
sort through some papers.
Make strong rubber bands If you need some extra-strong rubber bands, cut up old
rubber gloves. Make horizontal cuts in the finger sections for small rubber
bands and in the body of the glove for large ones.
Latex surgical gloves for extra insulation You’ve got a good pair of gloves or mittens,
but your hands still get cold while shoveling the snow or doing other outdoor
activities. Try slipping on a pair of latex surgical gloves underneath your usual
mittens or gloves. The rubber is a super insulator, so your hands will stay
toasty, and dry too.
Clean your knickknacks Need to dust that collection of glass animals or other delicate
items? Put on some fabric gloves—the softer the better—to clean your bric-abrac thoroughly.
Dust a chandelier If your chandelier has become a haven for spiderwebs and dust, try
this surefire dusting tip. Soak some old fabric gloves in window cleaner. Slip
them on and wipe off the lighting fixture. You’ll beam at the gleaming results.
Remove cat hair Here’s a quick and easy way to remove cat hair from upholstery: Put on
a rubber glove and wet it. When you rub it against fabric, the cat hair will stick
to the glove. If you are worried about getting the upholstery slightly damp, test
it in an inconspicuous area first.
Make your own soap Homemade soap is a great gift and snap to make if you have glycerin
and a microwave. Here’s how: Cut the glycerin material, usually sold in blocks,
into 2-inch (5-centimeter) cubes. Using a microwave set at half-power, zap several cubes in a glass container for 30 seconds at a time—checking and stirring as
needed—until the glycerin melts. Add drops of color dye or scents at this point,
Glycerin is a clear, colorless
thick paste that is a byproduct of the soap-making
process, in which lye is combined with animal or
vegetable fat. Commercial
soap makers remove the glycerin when they make soap so
that they can use it in more
profitable lotions and creams.
Glycerin works well in lotions
because it is essentially a
moisturizing material that dissolves in alcohol or water.
Glycerin is also used to make
nitroglycerin and candy and
to preserve fruit and laboratory specimens. Look for
glycerin in the hand lotion
aisle of your local drugstore
or at a craft store that carries soap-making products.
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if you wish. Pour the melted glycerin into soap or candy molds. If you don’t have
any molds, fill the bottom 3/4 inch (2 centimeters) of a polystyrene
cup. Let harden for 30 minutes.
Clean a freezer spill Spilled sticky foods that are frozen to the
bottom of your freezer don’t have a chance against
glycerin. Unstick the spill and wipe it clean with a rag
dabbed with glycerin, a natural solvent.
Remove tar stains Do you think it’s impossible to remove a tar
or mustard stain? It’s not, if you use glycerin. Rub glycerin into the spot and leave it for about an hour. Then, with
paper towels, gently remove the spot using a blot-and-lift motion. You may
need to do this several times.
Make new liquid soap Wondering what to do with those little leftover slivers of soap?
Add a bit of glycerin and crush them together with some warm water. Pour the
mixture into a pump bottle. You’ll have liquid soap on the cheap.
Golf Gear
Make a golf-tee tie rack If your ties are scattered about
the closet or your room, try using golf tees to
get them organized. Sand and paint a length of
pine board. Drill 1/8-inch (3-millimeter) holes
every 2 inches (5 centimeters). Dip the tip of
each tee in yellow carpenter’s glue and tap it
into a hole. Hang the tie rack on the closet wall
or inside the door. A perfect gift for the golfer
in your life.
Aerate your lawn Kill two birds with one stone by wearing your golf shoes to aerate your
lawn the next time you mow. The grip that a golf shoe gives you is also a good
idea if you have to push the mower up a hill.
Fill stripped screw holes You’re replacing a rusty door hinge when you discover that a
screw won’t grip because its hole has gotten too big. The fix is easy. Dip the tip
of a golf tee in yellow carpenter’s glue and tap the tee into the hole. Cut the tee
flush with the door frame surface with a utility knife. When the glue dries, you
can drill a new pilot hole for the screw in the same spot.
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Hair Conditioner
Take off makeup Put your face first. Why buy expensive makeup removers when a per-
fectly good substitute sits in your shower stall? Hair conditioner quickly and
easily removes makeup for much less money than name-brand makeup removers.
Unstick a ring Grandma’s antique ring just got stuck on your middle finger. Now what?
Grab a bottle of hair conditioner and slick down the finger. The ring should
slide right off.
Protect your shoes in foul weather Here’s a way to keep salt and chemicals off your
shoes during the winter: Lather your shoes or boots with hair conditioner to
protect them from winter’s harsh elements. It’s a good leather conditioner too.
Lubricate a zipper You’re racing out the door, throwing on your jacket, and dang! Your
zipper’s stuck, so you yank and pull until it finally zips up. A dab of hair conditioner rubbed along the zipper teeth can help you avoid this bother next time.
Smooth shave-irritated legs After you shave your legs, they may feel rough and irritated.
Rub on hair conditioner; it acts like a lotion and can soothe the hurt away.
Hair conditioner has been
around for about 50 years.
While researching ways to
help World War II burn victims, Swiss chemists
developed a compound that
improved the health of hair. In
the 1950s other scientists
developing fabric softeners
found that the same material
could soften hair.
Despite our efforts to keep
hair healthy with hair conditioner, we still lose on
average between 50 and
100 strands a day. For most of
us, thankfully, there are still
many more strands left:
People with blond hair have
an average of 140,000 strands
of hair, brown-haired people,
100,000, and redheads,
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Smooth-sliding shower curtain Tired of yanking on the shower curtain? Instead of
closing smoothly, does it stutter along the curtain rod, letting the shower spray
water onto the floor? Rub the rod with hair conditioner, and the curtain will
glide across it.
Prevent rust on tools Every good do-it-yourselfer knows how important it is to take care
of the tools in your toolbox. One way to condition them and keep rust from
invading is to rub them down with hair conditioner.
Clean and shine your houseplants Do your houseplants need a good dusting? Feel
like your peace lily could use a makeover? Put a bit of hair conditioner on
a soft cloth and rub the plant leaves to remove dust and shine the leaves.
Oil skate wheels Do your child’s skateboard wheels whine? Or are the kids com-
plaining about their in-line and roller skates sticking? Try this trick: Rub hair
conditioner on the axles of the wheels, and they’ll be down the block with their
rehabilitated equipment in no time.
Shine stainless steel Forget expensive stainless steel polishers. Apply hair conditioner to
your faucets, golf clubs, chrome fixtures, or anything else that needs a shine.
Rub it off with a soft cloth, and you’ll be impressed with the gleam.
Clean silk garments Do you dare to ignore that “dry clean only” label in your silk shirt?
Here’s a low-cost alternative to sending it out. Fill the sink with water (warm
water for whites and cold water for colors). Add a tablespoon of hair conditioner.
Immerse the shirt in the water and let it sit for a few minutes. Then pull it out,
rinse, and hang it up to dry. The conditioner keeps the shirt feeling silky smooth.
Hair Spray
Exterminate houseflies An annoying, buzzing housefly has been bobbing and weaving
around your house for two days. Make it bite the dust with a squirt of hair
spray. Take aim and fire. Watch the fly drop. But make sure the hair spray is
water-soluble so that, if any spray hits the walls, you’ll be able to wipe it clean.
Works on wasps and bees too.
Reduce runs in pantyhose Often those bothersome runs in your pantyhose or stockings
Remove lipstick from fabric Has someone been kissing your shirts? Apply hair spray to
the lipstick stain and let it sit for a few minutes. Wipe off the hair spray and
the stain should come off with it. Then wash your shirts as usual.
Preserve a Christmas wreath When you buy a wreath at your local Christmas tree lot,
it’s fresh, green, and lush. By the time a week has gone by, it’s starting to shed
start at the toes. Head off a running disaster by spraying hair spray on the toes
of a new pair of pantyhose. The spray strengthens the threads and makes them
last longer.
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needles and look a little dry. To make the wreath last longer, grab your can of
hair spray and spritz it all over as soon as you get the fresh wreath home. The
hair spray traps the moisture in the needles.
Protect children’s artwork Picture this: Your preschooler has
just returned home with a priceless work of art
demanding that it find a place on the refrigerator
door. Before you stick it up, preserve the creation
with hair spray, to help it last longer. This works
especially well on chalk pictures, keeping them
from being smudged so easily.
Preserve your shoes’ shine After you’ve lovingly polished your shoes to
give them the just-from-the-store look, lightly spray them with hair spray. The
shoe polish won’t rub off so easily with this coat of protection.
Keep recipe cards splatter-free Don’t let the spaghetti sauce on the stove splatter on your
favorite recipe card. A good coating of hair spray will prevent the card from being
ruined by kitchen eruptions. With the protection, they wipe off easily.
Here are some great moments
in hair-spray history:
• A Norwegian inventor developed the technology that
became the aerosol can in the
early 1900s. What would hair
spray be without aerosol cans?
• L’Oréal introduced its hair
spray, called Elnett, in 1960.
The next year Alberto VO5
introduced its version.
• In 1964 hair spray surpassed lipstick as women’s
most popular cosmetic aid.
Must have been all those beehive hairdos.
• Hair spray makes possible
the bumper sticker that reads
“The Higher the Hair, the
Closer to God.”
• In 1984 the hair
spray on Michael
Jackson’s hair ignited
while he was rehearsing
a commercial for Pepsi.
Keep drapes dirt-free Did you just buy new drapes or have your old ones cleaned? Want
to keep that like-new look for a while? The trick is to apply several coats of
hair spray, letting each coat dry thoroughly before the next one.
Remove ink marks on garments Your toddler just went wild with a ballpoint pen on
your white upholstery and your new shirt. Squirt the stain with hair spray and
the pen marks should come right off.
Extend the life of cut flowers A bouquet of cut flowers is such a beautiful thing, you
want to do whatever you can to postpone wilting. Just as it preserves your
hairstyle, a spritz of hair spray can preserve your cut flowers. Stand a foot away
from the bouquet and give them a quick spray, just on the undersides of the
leaves and petals.
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Hydrogen Peroxide
Remove stains of unknown origin Can’t tell what that stain is? Still want to remove it?
Try this sure-fire remover: Mix a teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide with a
little cream of tartar or a dab of non-gel toothpaste. Rub the paste on the stain
with a soft cloth. Rinse. The stain, whatever it was, should be gone.
TAKE CARE Hydrogen peroxide is considered corrosive—even in the relatively weak 3% solution sold as a household antiseptic. Don’t put it in your
eyes or around your nose. Don’t swallow it or try to set it on fire either.
Remove wine stains Hydrogen peroxide works well to remove wine stains so don’t worry
if you spill while you quaff.
Remove grass stains If grass stains are ruining your kids’ clothes, hydrogen peroxide may
bring relief. Mix a few drops of ammonia with just 1 teaspoon 3% hydrogen
peroxide. Rub on the stain. As soon as it disappears, rinse and launder.
Remove mildew The sight and smell of mildew is a bathroom’s enemy. Bring out the
tough ammunition: a bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide. Don’t water it down,
just attack directly by pouring the peroxide on the offending area. Wipe it
clean. Mildew surrender.
Remove bloodstains This works only on fresh bloodstains: Apply 3% hydrogen per-
oxide directly to the stain, rinse with fresh water, and launder as usual.
Sanitize your cutting board Hydrogen peroxide is a surefire bacteria-killer—just the
ally you need to fight the proliferation of bacteria on your cutting board, especially after you cut chicken or other meat. To kill the germs on your cutting
board, use a paper towel to wipe the board down with vinegar, then use
another paper towel to wipe it with hydrogen peroxide. Ordinary 3% peroxide
is fine.
Hydrogen peroxide, (H2O2)
was discovered in 1818. The
most common household use
for it is as an antiseptic and
bleaching agent. (It’s the key
ingredient in most teeth-
whitening kits and all-fabric
oxygen bleaches, for
example). Textile manufacturers use higher
concentrations of hydrogen
peroxide to bleach fabric.
During World War II,
hydrogen peroxide
solutions fueled
torpedoes and rockets.
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Ice-Cream Scoops
Scoop meatballs and cookie dough If you want uniform-size meatballs every time, use
an ice-cream scoop to measure out the perfect orbs. This method works well
for cookies too. Dip the scoop in the dough, and plop the ball on the cookie
sheet. You’ll end up with cookies all the same size—no tiffs over which one is
the largest.
Make butter balls At your next large family gathering, scoop out large globes of butter or
margarine to serve to your guests. A smaller scoop, or melon baller, can create
individual-size balls of butter.
Create sand castles On your next trip to the beach, throw an ice-cream scoop into your
bag. Your kids will have a fun tool for making their sand castles down by the
shore. The scoop allows them to make interesting rounded shapes with the sand.
Spade, dipper, spatula, or
spoon—the styles of icecream scoop you can buy are
almost as varied as the flavors
of ice cream you’ll put in
them. One Web site lists
168 choices of the device!
Here’s some more dish on icecream scoops that you might
not know:
• A scoop introduced during
the Depression, called the
slicer, helped the ice-cream
parlor owner scoop out the
same amount every time and
not give away any extra.
• Many ways have been
developed to help the ice
cream plop out of a scoop.
Some scoops split apart;
others have a wire scraper to
nudge the stuff out. Still
others have antifreeze in the
handle or a button on the
back to make it pop out.
• Some ice-cream scoops, also
called molds, can imprint
symbols on the ice cream, for
fraternal organizations and
• Most scoops come in two
standard sizes—#10 and #20,
indicating the number of level
scoops you’ll get from a quart
of ice cream. But since
most people make
rounded scoops, it’s
more practical to
think of a #10 as
giving you about
seven rounded scoops
and a #20, about 12.
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Plant seeds If you’re out in the garden faced with a plot of earth that needs seeding, turn
to your kitchen drawer for help. An ice-cream scoop will make equal-sized
planting holes for the seeds for your future harvest.
Repot a houseplant Does dirt scatter everywhere when you are repotting your house-
plants? An ice-cream scoop is the perfect way to add soil to the new pot
without making a mess.
Pre-scoop ice cream If you’re tiring of constantly being bugged by your kids for a scoop
of ice cream, try this tip. Scoop several scoops of ice cream onto a wax-paperlined cookie sheet, spaced apart. Place the sheet with the scoops back in your
freezer to re-harden. Remove the scoops from the wax paper and pile them up
in a self-sealing plastic bag. The next time the kids want a scoop of strawberry
ice cream, they can help themselves.
Ice Cubes
Water hanging plants and Christmas trees If you’re constantly reaching for the step
stool to water hard-to-reach hanging plants, ice cubes can help. Just toss several
cubes into the pots. The ice melts and waters the plants and does it without
causing a sudden downpour from the drain hole. This is also a good way to water
your Christmas tree, whose base may be hard to reach with a watering can.
Remove dents in carpeting If you’ve recently rearranged the furniture in your living
room, you know that heavy pieces can leave ugly indents in your carpet. Use
ice cubes to remove them. Put an ice cube, for example, on the spot where the
chair leg stood. Let it melt, then brush up the dent. Rug rehab completed.
Smooth caulk seams You’re caulking around the bathtub,
but the sticky caulk compound keeps adhering
to your finger as you try to smooth it. If you
don’t do something about it, the finished job
will look pretty awful. Solve the problem by
running an ice cube along the caulk line. This
forms the caulk into a nice even bead and the
caulk will never stick to the ice cube.
Help iron out wrinkles So your ready-to-wear shirt is full of wrinkles and
Mask the taste of medicine No matter what flavor your local pharmacist offers in chil-
dren’s medicine, kids can still turn up their noses at the taste. Have them suck
on an ice cube before taking the medicine. This numbs the taste buds and
allows the medicine to go down, without the spoonful of sugar.
there’s no time to wash it again. Turn on the iron and wrap an ice cube in a
soft cloth. Rub over the wrinkle just before you iron and the shirt will
smooth out.
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Pluck a splinter Parental challenge #573: removing a splinter from the hand of a
screaming, squirming toddler. Before you start jabbing with that needle, grab
an ice cube and numb the area. This should make splinter removal more painless and quicker.
Prevent a blister from a burn Have you burned yourself? An ice cube applied to the
burn will stop it from blistering.
Cool water for your pets Imagine what it’s like to wear a fur
coat in the middle of summer. Your rabbits, hamsters, and gerbils will love your thoughtfulness if
you place a few cubes in their water dish to cool
down. This is also a good tip for your cat, who’s
spent the hot morning lounging on your bed, or
your dog, who’s just had a long romp in the park.
Unstick a sluggish disposal If your garbage disposal is not working at its optimum
because of grease buildup (not something stuck inside), ice cubes may help.
Throw some down the disposal and grind them up. The grease will cling to the
ice, making the disposal residue-free.
Make creamy salad dressing Do you want to make your homemade salad dressing as
smooth and even as the bottled variety? Try this: Put all the dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid, then add a single ice cube. Close the lid and shake
vigorously. Spoon out the ice cube and serve. Your guests will be impressed by
how creamy your salad dressing is.
Stop sauces from curdling Imagine this: Your snooty neighbors are over for a Sunday
brunch featuring eggs Benedict. But when you mixed butter and egg yolks
with lemon juice to make hollandaise sauce for the dish, it curdled. What do
you do? Place an ice cube in the saucepan, stir, and watch the sauce turn back
into a silky masterpiece.
Here are some cold, hard
facts about ice cubes:
• To make clear ice cubes,
use distilled water and boil it
first. It’s the air in
the water that
causes ice
cubes to turn
• A British Columbian company sells fake ice cubes that
glow and blink in your drink.
• Those aren’t ice cubes in
that inviting drink in the
print advertisement, because
they’d never last under hot
studio lights. They’re
plastic or glass.
• The word ice cube has
been commercially co-opted
over the years. To name two
examples: a vintage candy
(the chocolate pat wrapped
in silver paper) and a wellknown rapper/actor.
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De-fat soup and stews Want to get as much fat as possible out of your homemade soup
or stew as quickly as possible? Fill a metal ladle with ice cubes and skim the
bottom of the ladle over the top of the liquid in the soup pot. Fat will collect
on the ladle.
Reheat rice Does your leftover rice dry out when you reheat it in the microwave? Try this:
Put an ice cube on top of the rice when you put it in the microwave. The ice
cube will melt as the rice reheats, giving the rice much-needed moisture.
Remove gum from clothing You’re just about to walk out the door when Junior points
to the gum stuck to his pants. Keep your cool and grab an ice cube. Rub the
ice on the gum to harden it, then scrape it off with a spoon.
Ice Cube Trays
Divide a drawer If your junk drawer is an unsightly mess, insert a plastic ice cube tray for
easy, low-cost organization. One “cube” can hold paper clips, the next, rubber
bands, another, stamps. It’s another small way to bring order to your life.
Organize your workbench If you’re looking through your toolbox for that perfect-sized
fastener that you know you have somewhere, here’s the answer to your
problem. An ice cube tray can help you organize and store small parts you
may need at one time or another, such as screws, nails, bolts, and other
diminutive hardware.
Keep parts in sequence You’re disassembling your latest
swap-meet acquisition that has lots of small
parts and worry that you’ll never be able to get
them back together again in the correct
sequence. Use an old plastic ice cube tray to
help keep the small parts in the right order until
you get around to reassembling it. If you really
want to be organized, mark the sequence by
putting a number on a piece of masking tape in each compartment. The
bottom half of an egg carton will also work.
mix colors. A plastic ice cube tray provides the perfect sturdy container for
holding and mixing small amounts of paints and watercolors.
Freeze extra eggs Are you overstocked on bargain-priced eggs? Freeze them for future
baking projects. Medium eggs are just the right size to freeze in plastic ice cube
trays with one egg in each cell, with no spillover. After they freeze, pop them out
into a self-sealing plastic bag. Defrost as many as you need when the time comes.
Freeze foods in handy cubes An ice cube tray is a great way to freeze small amounts of
A painter’s palette Your child, a budding Mary Cassatt or Picasso, requires a palette to
many different kinds of food for later use. The idea is to freeze the food in the
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tray’s cells, pop out the frozen cubes, and put them in a labeled self-sealing
plastic bag for future use. Some ideas:
● Your garden is brimming with basil, but your family can’t eat pesto as
quickly as you’re making it. Make a big batch of pesto (without the cheese)
and freeze it in ice cube trays. Later, when you’re ready to enjoy summer’s
bounty in the middle of winter, defrost as many cubes as you need, add
cheese, and mix with pasta.
● There’s only so much sweet potato your growing baby will eat at one sitting.
Freeze the rest of it in trays for a future high-chair meal.
● The recipe calls for 1/2 cup chopped celery, but you have an entire head of
celery and no plans to use it soon. Chop it all, place in an ice cube tray, add
a little water, and freeze. The next time you need chopped celery, it’s at your
fingertips. This works well for onions, carrots, or any other vegetable you’d
use for stew and such.
● Are you always throwing out leftover parsley? Just chop it up, put it in an
ice cube tray with a little water, and freeze for future use. Works with other
fresh herbs.
● There’s a bit of chicken soup left in the bottom of the pot. It’s too little for
another meal, but you hate to throw it out. Freeze the leftovers, and the
next time you make soup or another dish that needs some seasoning, grab a
cube or two.
● If you are cooking a homemade broth, make an extra-large batch and freeze
the excess in ice cube trays. You’ll have broth cubes to add instant flavor to
future no-time-to-cook dishes. You can do the same with a leftover half-can
of broth.
● Here’s what to do with that half-drunk bottle of red or white wine: Freeze
the wine into cubes that can be used later in pasta sauce, casseroles, or stews.
Kids’ Stuff This is a great summertime project. Collect a bunch of
small objects around your house: buttons, beads, tiny toys. Then get an
ice cube tray and place one or more of the items in each tray cube. Fill
the tray with water. Then cut a length of yarn (long enough to make a
comfortable necklace, bracelet, or anklet). Lay the yarn in the ice cube
tray, making sure it hits every cube and is submerged.
Freeze. When frozen, pop out and tie on the jewelry. The
kids will cool off while they see how long their creation
takes to melt.
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Ice Scrapers
Remove splattered paint If you just painted your bath-
room and have gotten paint splatters all over
your acrylic bathtub, use an ice scraper to
remove them without scratching the tub surface.
Use ice scrapers to remove paint specks from any
other nonmetallic surfaces.
Smooth wood filler Do you have small gouges in your wood floors? Want to use wood
filler to make them smooth again? An ice scraper can help you do the job right.
Once you’ve packed wood filler into a hole, the ice scraper is the perfect tool to
smooth and level it.
Remove wax from skis Every experienced skier knows that old wax buildup on skis can
slow you down. An ice scraper can swiftly and neatly take off that old wax and
prepare your plows for the next coat.
Scrape out your freezer Your windshield isn’t the only place ice and frost build up. If the
frost is building up in your freezer and you want to delay the defrosting chore
for a while, head out to the car and borrow the scraper.
Clean up bread dough No matter how much flour you put on your work surface, some
of that sticky bread dough always seems to stick to it. A clean ice scraper is just
the tool for skimming the sticky stuff off the work surface. In a pinch, a plastic
scraper can also substitute for a spatula for nonstick pans.
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Waterproof camping storage When you’re boating or camping, keeping things like
matches and paper money dry can be a challenge. Store items that you don’t
want to get wet in clear jars with screw tops that can’t pop off. Even if you’re
backpacking, plastic peanut butter jars are light enough not to weigh you
down, plus they provide more protection for crushable items than a resealable
plastic bag.
Create workshop storage Don’t let workshop hardware
get mixed up. Keep all your nails, screws, nuts,
and bolts organized by screwing jar lids to the
underside of a wooden or melamine shelf.
(Make sure the screw won’t poke through the
top of the shelf.) Then put each type of hardware in its own jar, and screw each jar onto its
lid. You’ll keep everything off the counters, and
by using clear jars, you can find what you need at a glance. Works great for
storing seeds in the potting shed too!
Stamp out cookies Just about any clean, empty wide-mouthed jar is just the right size
for cutting cookies out of any rolled dough.
Use to dry gloves or mittens You took a break from shoveling snow to come in for soup
and a sandwich, and want to get back to work. To help your gloves or mittens
dry out during lunch, pull each one over the bottom of an empty jar, then
stand the jar upside down on a radiator or hot-air vent. Warm air will fill the
jar and radiate out to dry damp clothing in a jiffy.
Make a piggy bank You can encourage thriftiness in your child by making a piggy bank
out of any jar with a metal lid. Take the lid off the jar, place it on a flat work surface like a cutting board, and tap a screwdriver with a hammer to carefully punch
a slot hole in the center. Then use the hammer or a rasp to smooth the rough
edges on the underside of the slot to protect fingers from scratches. Personalizing
the mini-bank with paints or collage makes a fun rainy-day project.
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Collect insects Help the kids observe nature by gently collecting fireflies and other inter-
esting bugs in clear jars. Punch a few small airholes in the lids for ventilation.
Don’t make the holes too large, or your bugs will escape! Don’t forget to let the
critters go after you’ve admired them.
Make baby-food portions Take advantage of the fact that baby-food jars are already the
perfect size for baby’s portions. Clean them thoroughly before reuse, and fill
them with anything from pureed carrots to vanilla pudding. Attach a spoon
with a rubber band, and you’ve got a perfect take-along meal when you travel
with your little one.
Bring along baby’s treats Dry cereal can be a nutritious snack for your baby. No need
to bring the whole box when you leave the house; pack individual servings in
clean, dry baby-food jars. If they get spilled, the mess is minimal.
Turn a large wide-mouthed jar into
a miniature biosphere. Clean the jar
and lid, then place a
handful of pebbles
and charcoal chips
in the bottom. Add
several trowelfuls of slightly damp,
sterilized potting soil. Select a few
plants that like similar conditions
(such as ferns and mosses, which
both like moderate light and moisture). Add a few colorful stones,
seashells, or a piece of driftwood. Add water to
make the terrarium humid. Tighten the lid and
place the jar in dim light for two days. Then display in bright light but not direct
sunlight. You shouldn’t need to
add water—it cycles from the
plants to the soil and back again.
It’s important to use sterilized
soil to avoid introducing unwanted
organisms. The charcoal chips
filter the water as it recycles.
Jar Lids
Make safety reflectors Is your driveway difficult to maneuver after dark? With some
Save half-eaten fruit Got half a peach, apple, or orange you’d like to save for later? Wrap
a jar lid in plastic wrap or wax paper and then set the fruit cut side down on it
in the refrigerator. A bit of lemon juice on the cut surface of the fruit will help
scrap wood and jar lids you can make inexpensive reflectors to guide drivers.
Spray the lids with reflective paint, screw them to the sides of stakes cut from
the scrap wood, and drive the stakes into the ground. Voilà! No more dinged
fenders or flattened flowers!
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prevent discoloration. And why throw out the contents of a partially consumed
glass of milk or juice? Just cover it with a lid and refrigerate to keep it fresh.
Cut biscuits Yum, homemade biscuits! Lids with deep rims or canning jar bands (the part
with the cut-out center) make impromptu biscuit cutters. Use different-sized
lids for Papa, Mama, and Baby biscuits. Dip the bottom edge of the lid in flour
to keep it from sticking when you press it into the dough. Avoid lids whose
rims are rolled inward; the dough can get stuck inside and be hard to extract.
Create a spoon rest Place a jar lid on the stove or the countertop next to the stove while
cooking. After stirring a pot, rest the spoon on the lid, and there’ll be less to
clean up later.
Drip catcher under honey jar Honey is delicious, but it can be a sticky mess. At the
table, place the honey jar on a plastic lid to stop drips from getting on the
tabletop. Store it that way, too, and your cabinet shelf will stay cleaner.
Make coasters to protect furniture Wet drinking glasses and hot coffee mugs can really
do a number on furniture finishes. The simple solution is to keep plenty of
coasters on hand. Glue rounds of felt or cork to both sides of a jar lid (especially flat canning jar lids, which shouldn’t be reused for canning, anyhow), and
keep a stack wherever cups and glasses accumulate in your house. Your furniture will thank you!
Kids’ Stuff What’s on your fridge door? Probably a bunch of magnets
and children’s artwork. Combine the two and you’ve got something both
useful and beautiful. For a stimulating craft project, set out a bunch of
fun materials—paints, glue, fabrics, family photos, googly eyes, glitter,
pompoms, or even just paper and markers—and let your child decorate
several jar lids. Glue some strong magnets from the hardware store on
the backs (hot-melt glue works well), and when they’re done, have an
unveiling—with refreshments, of course!
Saucers for potted plants Lids with a rim are perfect for catching excess water under
small potted plants, and unlike your ceramic saucers, if they get encrusted with
minerals, you won’t mind throwing them out.
Organize your desk Corral those paper clips and other small office items that clutter up
your desk, by putting them in jar lids with deep rims. Works great to hold loose
change or earrings on your dresser or bureau too. A quick coat of matte spray
paint and an acrylic sealant will make them more attractive and water-resistant.
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Get rid of chlorine green If chlorine from swimming pools is turning your blond tresses
green or just giving your hair an unwanted scent, eliminate the problem with a
ketchup shampoo. To avoid a mess, do it in the shower. Massage ketchup generously into your hair and leave it for fifteen minutes, then wash it out, using
baby shampoo. The odor and color should be gone.
Make copper pots gleam When copper pots and pans—or decorative molds—get dull
and tarnished, brighten them with ketchup. It’s cheaper than commercial tarnish removers and safe to apply without gloves. Coat the copper surface with
a thin layer of the condiment. Let it sit for five to thirty minutes. Acids in the
ketchup will react with the tarnish and remove it. Rinse the pan and dry
Keep silver jewelry sparkling Let ketchup do the work of shining tarnished silver. If
your ring, bracelet, or earring has a smooth surface, dunk it in a small bowl of
ketchup for a few minutes. If it has a tooled or detailed surface, use an old
toothbrush to work ketchup into the crevices. To avoid damaging the silver,
don’t leave the ketchup on any longer than necessary. Rinse your jewelry clean,
dry it, and it’s ready to wear.
sauces with vegetable and
animal main ingredients. To
this day, you can still find
banana ketchup, mushroom
ketchup, and other variants.
Tomato ketchup is a relative
newcomer, first sold in 1837,
but it is now found in more
than 90 percent of North
American homes.
Ketchup originated in the Far
East as a salty fish sauce.
The word ketchup (also
spelled catsup) probably
comes from Chinese or
Malay. Brought to the West,
it was transformed by the
1700s into a huge variety of
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Weigh down drapery Need to keep your draperies hanging properly? Just slip a few old
keys in the hems. If you are worried about them falling out, tack them in place
with a few stitches going through the holes in the keys. You can also keep blind
cords from tangling by using keys as weights on their bottoms.
Make fishing sinkers Old unused keys make great weights for your
fishing line. Since they already have a hole in them,
attaching them to the line is a cinch. Whenever you
come across an unidentified key, toss it into your
tackle box.
Create an instant plumb bob You are getting ready to hang
wallpaper and you need to draw a perfectly vertical line
on the wall to get you started. Take a length of cord or
string and tie a key or two to one end. You’ve got a plumb
bob that will give you a true vertical. You can do the same with a
pair of scissors too.
Clean your dishwasher Is the inside of your dishwasher rusty brown? The cause is
a high iron content in your water. Dump a packet of unsweetened
lemonade Kool-Aid into the soap drawer and run the washer
through a hot-water cycle. When you open the door, the inside
will be as white as the day you bought the machine.
Clean rust from concrete Nasty rust stains on your concrete? Mix unsweet-
ened lemonade Kool-Aid with hot water. Scrub and the rust stain
should come right out.
Color wall paints Mix any flavor of unsweetened Kool-Aid into water-based
latex paint to alter its color. Or mix unsweetened Kool-Aid with water to create
your own watercolors, but don’t give them to the kids—Kool-Aid stains can be
tough to remove.
Make play makeup lip gloss Make some tasty lip gloss for little girls playing dress-up.
Let the girls pick their favorite presweetened Kool-Aid flavor. Blend a package
of the drink mix with 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, then microwave for
one minute. Transfer to a 35mm film canister and refrigerate overnight.
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Make display shelving Convert a short wooden
stepladder to shelving for displaying plants and
collectibles. It’s as easy as one, two, three:
1. Remove the folding metal spreader that holds
the front and rear legs of the ladder together.
Then position the ladder’s rear legs upright
against the wall and attach two 1 x 2 cleats to
fix the distance between the front and rear legs.
Position the cleats so that their tops are level with the top of a rung.
2. Each shelf will be supported at front by an existing rung. To support the
back of each shelf, attach a cleat between the rear legs, positioning it at the
same level as a rung.
3. Cut plywood or boards to fit as shelves and screw them to the rungs and
cleats. Now screw the centermost rear cleat to the wall and you’re done.
Construct a rustic indoor trellis Give your vines and trailing plants something to climb
on. Using wall anchors, attach vinyl-covered hooks to your wall and hang an
attractive straight ladder (or a segment of one) from the hooks, positioning the
ladder’s legs on the floor a couple of inches from the wall. It’s easy to train
potted plants to grow up and around this rustic support. It looks nice on a
porch too.
Display quilts and more Don’t let your fancy stitching languish in the closet! For that
Create a garden focal point Got some old wooden straight ladders around that you no
longer trust? Show your whimsical side by using them to create a decorative
garden archway. Cut two sections of old ladder to the desired height and position them opposite one another along a path. Screw the legs of each one to two
homespun feel, a ladder is a great way to display lacework, crochet, quilts,
and throws. To prevent rough surfaces from damaging delicate fabrics,
smooth wooden ladder rungs with sandpaper or metal rungs with steel wool
if necessary.
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strong posts sunk deeply into the soil. Cut a
third ladder section to fit across the top of the
two others and tie it to them using supple
grapevine, young willow twigs, or heavy jute
twine. Festoon your archway with fun and fanciful stuff, such as old tools, or let climbing
plants clamber up and over it. It also works well
as the entryway to an enclosed area.
Plop it down and plant it When a ladder is truly on its last legs, it can still be of service
lying down. On the ground, a straight ladder or the front part of a stepladder
makes a shallow planter with ready-made sections that look sweet filled with
annuals, herbs, or salad greens. After a couple of years of contact with soil, a
wooden ladder will decompose, so don’t expect to use it again.
Make a temporary table The big family picnic is a summertime staple, but where to put
all the food? You can cook up a makeshift table in no time by placing a straight
ladder across two sawhorses. Top it with plywood and cover it with a tablecloth. The ladder will provide strength to support your buffet, as well as any
guests who might lean on it.
Make a pot rack Accessorize your country kitchen with a
pot rack made from a sawed-off section of a
wooden straight ladder with thin, round rungs.
Sand the cut ends smooth; then tie two pieces
of sturdy rope to the rungs at either end. To suspend your pot rack, screw four large metal eye
hooks into the ceiling, going into the joists;
then tie the other ends of the ropes to them.
Hang some S-hooks from the rungs to hold your kitchenware. Leave the rack
unfinished if you want a rustic look. Or paint or stain it if you want a more
finished look.
u s! Lemons
Eliminate fireplace odor There’s nothing cozier on a cold winter night than a warm fire
burning in the fireplace—unless the fire happens to smell horrible. Next time
you have a fire that sends a stench into the room, try throwing a few lemon
peels into the flames. Or simply burn some lemon peels along with your firewood as a preventive measure.
Get rid of tough stains on marble You probably think of marble as stone, but it is
really petrified calcium (also known as old seashells). That explains why it is so
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porous and easily stained and damaged. Those stains can be hard to remove.
If washing won’t remove a stubborn stain, try this: Cut a lemon in half, dip
the exposed flesh into some table salt, and rub it vigorously on the stain.
But do this only as a last resort; acid can damage marble. Rinse well.
Make a room scent/humidifier Freshen and moisturize the air in your home on dry
winter days. Make your own room scent that also doubles as a humidifier. If
you have a wood-burning stove, place an enameled cast-iron pot or bowl on
top, fill with water, and add lemon (and/or orange) peels, cinnamon sticks,
cloves, and apple skins. No wood-burning stove? Use your stovetop instead and
just simmer the water periodically.
Neutralize cat-box odor You don’t have to use an aerosol spray to neutralize foul-
smelling cat-box odors or freshen the air in your bathroom. Just cut a couple of
lemons in half. Then place them, cut side up, in a dish in the room, and the air
will soon smell lemon-fresh.
With all due respect to Trini
Lopez and his rendition of
“Lemon Tree,” a lemon tree
actually isn’t very pretty—and
its flower isn’t sweet either.
The tree’s straggly branches
bear little resemblance to an
orange tree’s dense foliage,
and its purplish flowers lack
the pleasant fragrance of
orange blossoms. Yes, the
fruit of the “poor lemon” is
sour—thanks to its high citric
acid content—but it is hardly
“impossible to eat.” Sailors
have been sucking on
vitamin-C-rich lemons for
hundreds of years to prevent
scurvy. To this day, the
British navy requires ships
to carry enough lemons so
that every sailor can have one
ounce of juice daily.
Deodorize a humidifier When your humidifier starts to smell funky, deodorize it with
ease: Just pour 3 or 4 teaspoons lemon juice into the water. It will not only
remove the off odor but will replace it with a lemon-fresh fragrance. Repeat
every couple of weeks to keep the odor from returning.
Clean tarnished brass Say good-bye to tarnish on brass, copper, or stainless steel. Make
Polish chrome Get rid of mineral deposits and polish chrome faucets and other tarnished
chrome. Simply rub lemon rind over the chrome and watch it shine! Rinse
well and dry with a soft cloth.
a paste of lemon juice and salt (or substitute baking soda or cream of tartar for
the salt) and coat the affected area. Let it stay on for 5 minutes. Then wash in
warm water, rinse, and polish dry. Use the same mixture to clean metal
kitchen sinks too. Apply the paste, scrub gently, and rinse.
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Prevent potatoes from turning brown Potatoes and cauliflower tend to turn brown
when boiling, especially when you’re having company for dinner. You can
make sure the white vegetables stay white by squeezing a teaspoon of fresh
lemon juice into the cooking water.
Freshen the fridge Remove refrigerator odors with ease. Dab lemon juice on a cotton
ball or sponge and leave it in the fridge for several hours. Make sure to toss out
any malodorous items that might be causing the bad smell.
Brighten dull aluminum Make those dull pots and pans sparkle, inside and out. Just rub
the cut side of half a lemon all over them and buff with a soft cloth.
Kids’ Stuff Kids love to send and receive secret messages, and what
better way to do it than by writing them in invisible ink? All they need is
lemon juice (fresh-squeezed or bottled) to use as ink, a cotton swab to
write with, and a sheet of white paper to write on. When the ink is dry
and they are ready to read the invisible message, have them hold the
paper up to bright sunlight or a lightbulb. The heat will cause the writing
to darken to a pale brown and the message can be read! Make sure they
don’t overdo the heating and ignite the paper.
Keep rice from sticking To keep your rice from sticking together in a gloppy mass, add
a spoonful of lemon juice to the boiling water when cooking. When the rice is
done, let it cool for a few minutes, then fluff with a fork before serving.
Refresh cutting boards No wonder your kitchen cutting board smells! After all, you use
it to chop onions, crush garlic, cut raw and cooked meat and chicken, and prepare fish. To get rid of the smell and help sanitize the cutting board, rub it all
over with the cut side of half a lemon or wash it in undiluted juice straight
from the bottle.
Keep guacamole green You’ve been making guacamole all day long for
the big party, and you don’t want it to turn brown on top
before the guests arrive. The solution: Sprinkle a liberal
amount of fresh lemon juice over it and it will stay fresh
and green. The flavor of the lemon juice is a natural
complement to the avocados in the guacamole. Make the
fruit salad hours in advance too. Just squeeze some lemon
juice onto the apple slices, and they’ll stay snowy white.
Make soggy lettuce crisp Don’t toss that soggy lettuce into the garbage. With the help
of a little lemon juice you can toss it in a salad instead. Add the juice of half a
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lemon to a bowl of cold water. Then put the soggy lettuce in it and refrigerate
for 1 hour. Make sure to dry the leaves completely before putting them into
salads or sandwiches.
Keep insects out of the kitchen You don’t need insecticides or ant traps to ant-proof
your kitchen. Just give it the lemon treatment. First squirt some lemon juice on
door thresholds and windowsills. Then squeeze lemon juice into any holes or
cracks where the ants are getting in. Finally, scatter small slices of lemon peel
around the outdoor entrance. The ants will get the message that they aren’t welcome. Lemons are also effective against roaches and fleas: Simply mix the juice
of 4 lemons (along with the rinds) with 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water and wash
your floors with it; then watch the fleas and roaches flee. They hate the smell.
Clean your microwave Is the inside of your microwave caked with bits of hardened
food? You can give it a good cleaning without scratching the surface with harsh
cleansers or using a lot of elbow grease. Just mix 3 tablespoons lemon juice into
1 1/2 cups water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on High for 5-10 minutes, allowing the steam to condense on the inside walls and ceiling of the
oven. Then just wipe away the softened food with a dishrag.
Deodorize your garbage disposal If your garbage disposal is beginning to make your
sink smell yucky, here’s an easy way to deodorize it: Save leftover lemon and
orange peels and toss them down the drain. To keep it smelling fresh, repeat
once every month.
Bleach delicate fabrics Ordinary household chlorine bleach can cause the iron in water
to precipitate out into fabrics, leaving additional stains. For a mild, stain-free
bleach, soak your delicates in a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda for at
least half an hour before washing.
Remove unsightly underarm stains Avoid expensive dry-cleaning bills. You can
remove unsightly underarm stains from shirts and blouses simply by scrubbing
them with a mixture of equal parts lemon juice (or white vinegar) and water.
Tip Before You Squeeze
To get the most juice out of fresh lemons, bring them to room temperature and roll them under your palm against the kitchen counter before
squeezing. This will break down the connective tissue and juice-cell walls,
Boost laundry detergent To remove rust and mineral discolorations from cotton
T-shirts and briefs, pour 1 cup lemon juice into the washer during the wash
allowing the lemon to release more liquid when you squeeze it.
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cycle. The natural bleaching action of the juice will zap the stains and leave the
clothes smelling fresh.
Rid clothes of mildew You unpack the clothes you’ve stored for the season and discover
that some of the garments are stained with mildew. To get rid of mildew on
clothes, make a paste of lemon juice and salt and rub it on the affected area,
then dry the clothes in sunlight. Repeat the process until the stain is gone. This
works well for rust stains on clothes too.
Whiten clothes Diluted or straight, lemon juice is a safe and effective fabric whitener
when added to your wash water. Your clothes will also come out smelling
Lighten age spots Before buying expensive medicated creams to lighten unsightly liver
spots and freckles, try this: Apply lemon juice directly to the area, let sit for
15 minutes, and then rinse your skin clean. Lemon juice is a safe and effective
skin-lightening agent.
Create blond highlights For blond highlights worthy of the finest beauty salon, add
1/4 cup lemon juice to 3/4 cup water and rinse your hair with the mixture.
Then sit in the sun until your hair dries. Lemon juice is a natural bleach. Don’t
forget to put on plenty of sunscreen before you sit out in the sun. To maximize
the effect, repeat once daily for up to a week.
Clean and whiten nails Pamper your fingernails without the help of a manicurist. Add
the juice of 1/2 lemon to 1 cup warm water and soak your fingertips in the
mixture for 5 minutes. After pushing back the cuticles, rub some lemon peel
back and forth against the nail.
Turn a lemon into a battery! It
won’t start your car, but you will be
able to feel the current with your
tongue. Roll the
lemon on a flat surface to “activate” the juices. Then
cut two small slices in the lemon
about 1/2 inch (1.25 centimeters)
apart. Place a penny into one slot
and a dime into the other. Now
touch your tongue to the penny
and the dime at the same time. You’ll feel a
slight electric tingle. Here’s how it works: The
acid in the lemon reacts differently with each of the two metals.
One coin contains positive electric charges, while the other
contains negative charges. The
charges create current. Your
tongue conducts the charges,
causing a small amount of electricity to flow.
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