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Make the Best Use of Inexpensive Household Products

  • Mary Hunt Debt-Proof Living
  • 2007 23 Jul
Make the Best Use of Inexpensive Household Products
Somewhere you remember hearing that you can do more than make salad dressing with vinegar. But the details escape you just when you could use that information the most.

And have you heard that blue Dawn dishwashing liquid is not just for dishes? How about dryer sheets, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide? Uh huh. Those items, too. Lots of uses.

Here, for your reading pleasure and to boost your consumer intelligence, is just a sampling of all the things you can do with these very cheap products.

Blue Dawn dishwashing liquid

There are some things we must believe by faith and just not question. One is that original blue Dawn dishwashing liquid has some kind of magical powers. But it has to be the original blue that is made in the USA. Don’t ask. We don’t know why, only that it’s true. Provided it’s blue, of course.

Scum. Dawn dishwashing liquid has some mysterious quality about it that makes it “melt” through stubborn soap scum and hideous build-up on showers and tubs, no matter whether porcelain, acrylic or fiberglass. Use it straight up and you’ll bless the day you read this tip.

Stains. Original blue Dawn gets just about any kind of spot out of washables. Keep a small squeeze bottle in the laundry room so it’s always handy.

Fleas. To rid your dogs and cats of fleas, shampoo them with blue Dawn. Apply, lather, leave in for five minutes and then rinse well. It acts as a safe pesticide and is very gentle on the animal’s skin. You’ll see this is true as you wash all those dead fleas down the drain.

Manicures. To soften cuticles better than any other health and beauty product known to womankind, soak fingers in full-strength original blue Dawn dishwashing liquid. Bonus: Your polish will adhere better than ever, too.

Bubbles. Combine ten parts distilled water and one part original blue Dawn to make your own bubble solution. Want really sturdy bubbles? Add 1/4 part white corn syrup like Karo OR 1 tablespoon glycerin (drug store). Cut both ends from an empty soup can to use as a big bubble wand or use any other round object you can dip into the liquid. Or pour the mixture into a child’s wading pool and dip your Hula-Hoop(R) to make gigantic bubbles. Caution: Make up only what you will use. This should not be stored. Use only under adult supervision.

Yuck. Dawn has been used to clean up greasy highway messes, including spills of congealing animal fat and baking dough—certainly a handy tip should you come across a congealing animal fat problem.

Spots. A mixture of 1 teaspoon of blue Dawn and 1 teaspoon of white distilled vinegar in a pint of lukewarm water will remove non-oily stains from carpets. Apply it to the stain with a soft brush or towel and rub gently. Rinse with a towel moistened with clean water and blot dry. Repeat this procedure until the stain is gone. Then dry quickly, using a fan or hair dryer. This should be done as soon as the stain is discovered.

White vinegar

Glassware. Remove spots from glassware and crystal with a soft cloth soaked in white vinegar.

Germs. Wipe your wooden cutting boards with full strength white vinegar to disinfect them.

Plant food. In hard water areas, add a cup of vinegar to a gallon of tap water for watering acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, gardenias or azaleas. The vinegar will release iron in the soil for the plants to use.

Minerals. To remove the white salt deposits on old clay flower pots, soak the pots in full strength vinegar.

Clogs. Pour boiling vinegar down sink drains to remove clogs.

Shine. Make patent leather shine by wiping it down with a soft cloth soaked in vinegar.

Sparkle. Wash windows with a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and warm water. Dry with a soft cloth. This solution will make your windows gleam and will not leave the usual film or streaks on the glass.

Cubes. Garbage disposals may be kept clean and odor free with vinegar cubes. Make vinegar cubes by filling an ice tray with a mixture of 1 cup of vinegar and enough water to fill the ice tray, then freeze. Run the cubes through the disposal, and then flush it with cold water for a minute or so.

Metals. Brass, copper and pewter will shine if cleaned with the following mixture: Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of white distilled vinegar and stir in flour until it becomes a paste. Apply paste to the metals and let it stand for about 15 minutes. Rinse with clean warm water and polish until dry.

Stainless. Apply vinegar with a soft cloth to remove streaks from stainless steel appliances. Try in an inconspicuous place first.

Weeds. Spray white distilled vinegar full strength on tops of weeds. Reapply on any new growth until all unwanted plant material has died.

Stretch. When you can’t get the last bit of mayonnaise, ketchup or salad dressing out of the jar, try dribbling a little of your favorite vinegar into it, put the cap on tightly and shake well. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ve been wasting.

Rescue. If you ever have the unfortunate experience of mixing up liquid dishwashing soap with automatic dishwasher detergent, you will be overcome with soap bubbles. In fact they could spill out of the machine all over the kitchen. Here’s the solution: White vinegar. Open the door and pour in a full cup, then allow the cycle to finish. It will dissipate all those bubbles.

Fresh. Keep flowers fresh longer. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons white vinegar and one quart of water to a flower vase. Trim stems and change water every five days.

Soft. Make sure you put 1/2 cup of white vinegar in the rinse cycle with your favorite jeans and they’ll come out soft with that “well-worn” feel.

Equine. Add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse bucket when grooming your horse. It makes the horse’s coat gleam.

Spot free. Most dishwashers have a special reservoir for liquid rinse aid. You can stop buying that expensive product and instead fill the compartment with white vinegar. A small amount will dispense with every wash, keeping dishes sparkling along with the inside of the dishwasher.

Dryer sheets

Perhaps you’ve seen the list of uses for dryer sheets that’s floating around the Internet. Who knows where that list came from. What we do know is not all of the uses can be verified as true. For example, we have no confidence that Bounce or any other brand of dryer sheet will repel mosquitoes. But spiders and flies? Read on.

Pests. Readers have confirmed that dryer sheets will repel both spiders and flies. Keep a few extra sheets in clothes hampers and around the laundry area and you can kiss all those spiders goodbye.

Blinds. Wipe down your blinds with a dryer sheet to prevent static electricity and to keep dust from collecting.

Luggage. Slip a dryer sheet into your suitcases while they are in storage and they won’t smell musty when you take them out to use.

Rodents. Place them in drawers and near entrances and exits in your camper when it is not being used—dryer sheets will keep rodents from coming inside.

Feet. To soften and moisturize the soles of your feet, run a dryer sheet under warm water and then rub your feet with the sheet.

Vacuum. Place a used dryer sheet in the bag of your vacuum. Sweep your house and once you’re done, the air will smell as fresh as your clothes.

Scissors. If those scissors or kitchen shears are not cutting as smoothly as you would like, no problem. Cut through several layers of a dryer sheet a few times and they’ll cut easily again.

Road tar. Get the car wet, then use a dryer sheet to wipe away all the bugs and road tar. It’s easier and faster than most expensive bug and tar removers.

Shoes. Pop a sheet into each of your less-than-fresh-smelling sneakers, sandals or boots, then place them in a plastic bag. Tie it closed. In the morning your shoes will smell so much better.

Shiny. Used dryer sheets make great little cloths for quick shine-ups in the bathroom and kitchen. Just use one on each of your chrome faucets and enjoy the shine.

Fans. There’s nothing like static electricity to turn a fan blade into a dust magnet. But that’s no match for a dryer sheet. Just take one of those gems and wipe down that blade to release dust, pet hair and cobwebs, too.

Baking soda

Once you know what to do with it, you can justify buying baking soda in a 10-pound box. Cheap!

Soil. Test your soil for acidity by mixing one cup of soil with two cups of water in a container and then adding 1/4 cup of baking soda. If the soil turns into a mini-volcano, you know your soil is very acidic. If the mixture merely fizzes, your soil acid levels are low.

Acid. In case of battery acid spills in the garage or driveway, neutralize the acid with baking soda so you can wash it away.
Phew! Sprinkle baking soda in garbage cans to reduce odors.

Rust. Store your steel wool pads with a bit of baking soda to reduce rust.

Patch. In a pinch make a substitute for Spackle by mixing a small amount of white glue and baking soda to form a paste. Apply to wall and allow to dry.

Stale. To get rid of stale smells in thermos bottles and plastic coolers, wash them with baking soda and water.

Stains. To clean stained Tupperware or other plastic containers, use dry baking soda with a damp sponge as you would use your household cleanser. Rinse well. The plastic will look brand-new again.

Shake. Fill a Parmesan cheese shaker with baking soda. It’s attractive enough to leave out on the counter and handy enough to use for scrubbing anything. Baking soda is a non-abrasive cleanser.

Ovens. A great non-smelly way to clean your oven is with baking soda. Just mix it with water to make a paste. First don a pair of rubber gloves, smear it all over the inside of the oven and leave overnight. In the morning it will be dry. Now use a wet sponge to remove the dried mixture. All that icky oven stuff will come right off.

Cleanser. Sure you can buy the expensive stuff—or you can sprinkle a bit of baking soda on that dirty sink, faucet or stove top and clean it with a sponge dipped in white vinegar. You just might be surprised to discover you really can make your own scrubbing bubbles.

Stovetop. Checked the price of cleaners made especially for smooth stovetops? Better brace yourself. Or just make a paste of baking soda and water. Apply with a clean cloth. Picks up all the burned-on residue in a flash. Rinse, then buff with a clean cloth.

Silver. To clean silver, make a thick paste of baking soda and water and massage gently into the silver with an old, very soft toothbrush. Rinse under warm water, or if the piece is too big, wipe off with a wet washcloth and buff to a shine with a clean, all-cotton towel.

Hydrogen peroxide

Mouthwash. Take one capful of hydrogen peroxide and hold it in your mouth for 10 seconds daily, then spit it out. No more canker sores, and teeth will be whiter without expensive pastes. Use it instead of mouthwash.

Toothbrushes. Let your toothbrushes soak in it to keep them free of germs.

Disinfect. Clean your counters and tabletops with it to kill germs—spray it on and wipe it off.

Germs. Pour it on your cutting board to kill salmonella and other harmful bacteria.

Whiten. Add a cup instead of bleach to a laundry load of whites to whiten them. If there is blood on clothing, pour directly on the soiled spot.
Let it sit for a minute, then rub it and rinse with cold water. Repeat if necessary. 

Mirrors. Use hydrogen peroxide to clean bathroom mirrors. No smearing. 

© 2007 Debt-Proof Living. All rights reserved. Used with permission.


 "Debt-Proof Living" was founded in 1992 by Mary Hunt.  What began as a newsletter to encourage and empower people to break free from the bondage of consumer debt has grown into a huge community of ordinary people who have achieved remarkable success in their quest to effectively manage their money and stay out of debt.  Today, "The Cheapskate Monthly" is read by close to 100,000 Cheapskates.  Click here to subscribe.