the complete DIY cleaning bible at zero cost 2U by perry estelle


Next time you need to give the kitchen a quick once-over, reach to the pantry for the cleaning supplies. Natural products, such as baking soda, lemons, and vinegar, are safe for the environment and work well for everyday cleanups.

* Scour sinks, countertops, and appliances with baking soda and a damp sponge.

* Deodorize and unclog drains by pouring in baking soda followed by a dousing of vinegar. Let it fizz a few minutes. Rinse with boiling water.

* Vinegar and liquid soap clean no-wax vinyl and polyurethane-finished wood floors. Dissolve the soap in warm water and then add a little vinegar. Mixing the two directly will minimize their effectiveness.

* Use a vinegar-and-water rinse to cut through the film on windows, glass appliance doors, and tile.

* For mineral deposits on glassware or porcelain, soak clean rags in vinegar and place them over the deposit for several hours. Rinse.

* Sprinkle salt on the cut side of half a lemon, and rub it on tarnished copper to polish it.

* Reduce stains on countertops by allowing lemon juice to stand on the stain for 30 minutes. Then sprinkle on baking soda and scrub gently.

* Remove stains from white kit


Essentially, I think that the philosophy of frugal living is living within one’s means. Quite an art form has been made of inducing us to think we need things we cannot or should not afford. It is still possible to live most satisfying and happy lives without all the trappings and pitfalls of borrowed wealth.

In order to achieve a perceived state of ‘happiness’, many people borrow, and borrow heavily. When they do, not so amazingly, ‘happiness’ often disappears, leading to feelings of frustration, despair, being trapped paying debt, etc.

Hey! I know this now but I wish I had known it years ago when I was still earning, and happily spending, reasonable money. There were many things I could have, and should have, done better. As they say, we all have 20/20 vision in hindsight.

There is nothing like falling on hard times, or recognising the potential for doing so, to jolt one into realising that something needs to be done to curb personal spending, or at least to re-direct it, and to get better value for effort, but what to do, and how to do it?

My credentials: I am not in any way formally educated in financial management beyond Grade 12 accounting and economics, which were so long ago, I don’t remember a whole lot about the subjects. I am, however, a reformed spend-thrift, who was easily parted with my money. I had credit cards, (yes, multiple), bursting at their respective limits. I’d even use credit from one card to pay the absoulte monthly minimum off another – just enough to keep me out of trouble. The banks loved me! My sole criterion for buying was, ‘Do I want it?’. I shudder at some of the predicaments I achieved but I was blessed with a moderately well paying, secure job and a desire to spend money on ‘useful’ things, so at the end of the day, I actually managed to achieve relative financial security, probably more by good luck than by good management. Now I am a dependant spouse and mother, trying to extract the best value from every last cent.

What is frugality? One dictionary says that to be frugal is to be thrifty. Okay, so what’s ‘thrifty’? ‘Exercising wisdom and caution with money’. That feels like a nice little definition.

But does frugality only pertain to money? Strictly speaking, yes, but to me, ‘frugality’ has evolved to mean something beyond being careful with just money. Perhaps the term can include the careful investment of effort and/or time as well, with a cautious eye cast towards the overall environmental effect of whatever it is that I am doing.

Where to start? For me one of the easiest ways to start any project is to sit in front of a blank page and jot ideas, any ideas, on to it. As I progress, I start to develop a frame work, fill in the gaps, fine tuning as I go until something is produced that suits my needs, and that I am happy with. The same principle can be applied here.

Some ideas that might be considered reasonable starting points could include:

  • Differentiating between needs and wants and knowing the difference.
  • Listing all expenses, and income. Remember interest on debt, particularly credit card debt, and financial institution fees and charges are all expenses.
  • Keeping a running list of all expenditure for at least a couple of months is a really good way to see where money is being spent. Often the mere process of recording will help reduce spending. This exercise can also end up becoming a habit.
  • For consumables, consider marking the price, start and finish dates on the item. It then becomes a simple exercise to work out the exact rate of consumption and cost.
  • Once that has been done, identify where savings can be made and work towards that goal. Praise yourself for your achievements, no matter how small. Acknowledge your mistakes – we all make them – and then move on.
  • Consider alternatives. Just because something has always been done one way, doesn’t necessarily mean something else may not work out as well or better.
  • Consider all (lawful) options. Do your homework and make informed choices. Just discovering what your options really are can often be quite enlightening in itself.
  • Reconsider priorities. This one takes a bit of effort and soul searching, (and telling the truth), but it could be that those things which once were your priorities may no longer be.

You may think that the services of a financial adviser may be appropriate. That’s up to you. If you make this choice, it is best to have information as to income and expenditure, needs and wants, already at hand. It shows you are serious, and that you are prepared to do something towards helping yourself. It will probably save you at least one extra visit when you probably would have been sent away to collect just this type of information anyhow.

Conclusion: If you work hard making something, then trade it for something else, wouldn’t you do your best to ensure you got something of equivalent value to yourself in return?

You would think so and yet, so often, when money enters the equation by becoming the medium of the trade, all caution seems to be thrown to the wind and we allow ourselves to be influenced and manipulated in all sorts of ways.

So why is money any different? Yet so many of us let copious quantities of the stuff fall through our fingers and have considerable difficulty in showing that we achieved value for money or that we even have anything to show for our spending.

Just because money is so easily disposed of, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that is was generally a trade that gave us the money in the first place, most often wages for work. So why wouldn’t we want the best value for the money we earn?

What now? Once you know what you are spending and how, how much and where, you have worked towards eliminating waste, both of money itself and the things that money buys, what now?

Well, I guess it is probably time to take stock of some other important things and ask yourself at least the following:

  • Do I feel any happier?
  • Do I feel comfortable with what I am doing?
  • Can I see the light at the end of the tunnel? Is it there? Am I in the right tunnel?
  • Do I feel I am achieving anything?
  • Has the exercise been worth it?

chen linens by dabbing the stain with lemon juice. Then hang the fabric in the sun.


Quite some years ago now, when I still bought cleaners off the shelf, I bought an advertised shower cleaning product. When I used it, it smelled just like chlorine bleach, so I read the label and compared the listed ingredients with those of the bottle of chlorine bleach I already had, and they were identical. I had just paid four times the price for plain old chlorine bleach done up in a fancy bottle that said shower cleaner! That was the catalyst for my subsequent rejection of most commercial cleaning products, although as time has passed, I feel much more vindicated for the stance I have taken, as more compelling reasons have come to light for not using them. See my toxic house section for further reasoning.

What I have attempted to do here is list some of the alternatives and snippets of information I’ve come across one way or another.

The one thing that I consider is perhaps the most important with regard to the use of any product is use only enough to efficiently do the task at hand and no more! Any more is wasteful, impacts upon the environment and our purse.

It may come to pass that one does use some commercially available cleaners. I do from time to time. Admittedly there are very few but just now and again a product may be found that satisfies most criteria for environmental friendliness, has no excess perfumes, is a reasonable price, and it actually does the job efficiently and effectively.

Although not specifically related to cleaners, I have found that if I use a product directly from its original large packaging, I tend to use more of it, particularly if the that container is fairly full. Someone eloquently referred to this as the ‘Glug, Glug Factor’. If I decant a little off into another container, I use less. This is especially true of liquids. I tend to use an old product container of the same type. The size of the container doesn’t matter as much as how much I put into it. Warning:If you are going to use other containers, religiously mark exactly what is in them, and take all necessary precautions to keep them out of reach of children. I would hope you would do this as a matter of course. All too often, poisonings occur because something wasn’t labelled, was incorrectly labelled, and/or was put into a container that looked like it should have been something else, like mineral turpentine in the soft drink bottle, for instance…

The following information has been copied for the most part from a brochure supplied by the Brisbane City Council.

General purpose cleaners Borax is low-toxic. Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 1 teaspoon soap and 1 litre water. Use in spray bottle.
Heavy duty cleaners 4 litres hot water, 1/4 cup cloudy ammonia and 1 teaspoon bi-carb soda. Double ingredients except water for a stronger mixture.
Drain cleaners 1/2 cup white vinegar followed by 1 handful baking soda. Cover drain. Also try plunger or metal snake.
Oven cleaners For a fresh spill, wet and sprinkle with baking soda and scrub with soft nylon scrubber. For normal cleaning, make a paste of bi-carb soda and water and apply to the inside of a warmed oven. Leave to dry. Clean off with a brush or scourer and hot water.
Pot and pan cleaners Borax with hot water.
Wall and floor cleaners Borax with hot water.
Glass cleaner Mix vinegar and water. (Also try methylated spirits and water applied with newspaper.)
Toilet bowl cleaners Use vinegar and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Lime scale can then be scrubbed off.
Bath and tile cleaners Mix borax and vegetable soap with hot water.
Chlorine bleach Use dry bleach, borax or soda to whiten.
Furniture polish 1 teaspoon olive oil with juice from one lemon and 1 teaspoon water. Or use mayonnaise.
Silver polish Soak 5-10 minutes in 1 litre warm water, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt and a small piece of aluminium foil. Wipe with a soft cloth.
Spot removers Immerse in cold water and liquid soap.
Moth balls Cedar chips, dried lavender, pepper corns. Store woollens in zipped plastic bags.
Rug cleaners Rub lots of salt immediately on red wine spills, make a solution of borax and water, or use soap based non aerosol rug shampoos. (Use home made laundry detergent.)
Air fresheners Ventilate. Open boxes of baking soda. Simmer cloves and cinnamon in boiling water.
  • ANTS: Sprinkle cream of tartar, red chilli powder or dried peppermint where they enter.
  • COCKROACHES & SILVERFISH: equal parts baking soda and powdered sugar.
  • FLEAS: Use flea combs or herbal flea powders. Vacuum house thoroughly. Refer to the rec.pets.* FAQ on the subject.
  • FLIES: Stick cloves in an orange.
  • SUMMER BITING INSECTS: Rub vinegar on skin.
    Or you could try a drop or two of citronella oil diluted in a tablespoon or two of rubbing alcohol, then dabbed on the skin.


Baking soda, also known as bi-carb soda, is one of those little gems that no household should be without. It is a most effective cleaning agent as well. It has many uses, some of which I will recount here:

As a cleaner:

  • Mix to a paste with water and rub on the inside of stained teacups/coffee mugs.
  • Put a good tablespoon or two (a small handful will do) inside the dishwasher during an ordinary cycle. Will reduce any lingering odours and will make metal areas sparkle.
  • Apply bi-carb with a damp cloth to bathroom surfaces. Effective cleanser and deodorant. Don’t use it on mirrors, however, as it will leave lovely white streaks.
  • Pour liberal amount directly onto spills on carpet and upholstery. Vacuum or brush off when dry.
  • Mix with vinegar, it may unblock drains (will fizz incredibly…)
  • Used as a paste with vinegar, I had considerable success in cleaning an oven door. I wasn’t expecting much, so was pleasantly surprised when it cleaned up very well.
  • Later on, under the heading of vinegar, there is an item on boiling a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water to remove burned stuff from saucepans. A lady e-mailed me to advise that the same result can be achieved by boiling up a tablespoon or so of bi-carb in the water for a few minutes. I suspect that the ‘secret’ to both methods is that the pH is either decreased (by adding vinegar) or increased (by adding bi-carb) which helps in the release of the baked on bits.

As a water softener:

  • If you have hard water, add a teaspoon or two to your wash, or washing up water.

Medical: I am not medically trained and I am therefore quite reticent about providing any medical advice, save for the most commonly known first aid treatments. My general advice on matters medical is to seek the appropriate help from your health care professional, do your own research and attend a First Aid course. Also, know your own limitations and get help when necessary.

  • Vonnez Kincheloe e-mailed me with her experiences with an outbreak of chicken-pox in her family. She found that baths containing Epsom salts really helped, and after the Epsom salts ran out, she used bi-carb soda instead, which she said worked just as well. She didn’t give quantities but I would suggest using about 1/2 cup of either per bath. She found that after applying calamine lotion after the bath, the sores were not as itchy when the calamine dried. She didn’t have to clean the bath tub either. A simple rinse was all that was required. But she advised that the best of all was that there were no scars!

We too suffered a recent outbreak of chickenpox. I used the bi-carbonate of soda routine mentioned above but I also found out about using rolled oats and between the two, we achieved pretty good control of the itch for our daughter. Firstly, we were quite generous with the amount of bi-carb, using a good handful to a baby bath which is considerably stronger than the mix used above. We then put another good handful of raw rolled oats into a hosiery bag (an old sock or stocking would also work quite well) and made a kind of tea bag which we steeped in the bath with Felicity, squeezing water through this over the lesions. So far, so good. The only lesions which have got to blister and sores were the ones that appeared before I realised it was chickenpox I was looking at. We applied calamine lotion after the bath and on those lesions which had scabbed, a wound dressing gel that prevented the lesion from drying out.

  • For first aid for minor burns where the skin is not broken, sunburn and prickly heat: Mix to a paste with water (3:1 baking soda: water) and apply to burned area.
  • 1 teaspoon to a cup of water makes an effective antacid.
  • For nappy rash, apply a fairly strong solution of bi-carb and water with a soft cloth. Pat dry and apply a moisture repelling cream. For really bad and/or persistent nappy rash, seek medical assistance.

Odour eater:

  • A small open plate or opened packet left in the refrigerator will reduce odours.
  • Some pots acquire cooking smells readily, particularly aluminium ones. A paste of bi-carb soda and water will remove the smell.
  • A handful of baking soda in the wash (either washing or rinse cycle) removes odours from washing.
  • Sprinkle on to carpet as for any carpet deodoriser. Leave for 15 minutes and vacuum.
  • Sprinkle liberally into smelly shoes as soon as they are taken off and leave until just before they are put back on. (By the way, I don’t offer any hope for deodorising the footwear of adolescent males. I don’t know that there is any substance on earth that will assist there! 🙂
  • When setting up a clean cat tray, sprinkle liberally with bi-carb. I find that it doesn’t take care of all of the odour, but it helps.


  • At least half a cup dissolved into a bath makes for a good soak. Softens skin, softens water.
  • Several teaspoons to a litre of water removes acid build up from battery terminals.
  • Bleach booster: When using liquid chlorine bleach in washing machine, boost with half a cup of baking soda and halve the amount of bleach.


  • A teaspoon of bi-carb in a fruit cake mix makes for a very dark cake and softens the fruit in the mix.
  • For fluffy rice, add one teaspoon of bi-carb soda.
  • Use one teaspoon of bi-carb and two teaspoons of vinegar to replace two eggs in fruit or ginger cakes.
  • A pinch of bi-carb and whipped cream stays fresh longer.
  • The recipe for self-raising flour is: Per 3 kg of plain flour, add 30g of bi-carb, 60g cream of tartar and two teaspoons of salt. (I would probably omit the salt as I rarely use it.)
  • When a recipe calls for sour milk, add half a teaspoon of bi-carb to 150 ml of fresh milk. This is also a good buttermilk substitute.
  • 1/2 a teaspoon or a pinch per pot of brewed tea takes away any bitterness in the tea and keeps it from going sour. (Sheri Litchfield)


Vinegar has various medicinal uses which I will not go into here. There are plenty of other references on that subject, the authors of which I would hope are better informed that I am on medical matters.

White vinegar is one of the cheapest, and most effective household cleansers available. I buy it in 4 litre bottles and would buy larger quantities if I could.

  • If you have burned a pot, fill the pot or pan to just above the burned area, say a couple of centimetres deep with a mixture of 1/2 and 1/2 vinegar and water. Set the pot to boil at just below the high setting. Keep checking every 5 minutes or so. After about 30 minutes the residue starts to lift and a scourer pad will clean up what is left. (Tina Koening)
    My mother-in-law added that a similar result can be had by boiling up citrus rinds. She says it makes the kitchen smell nice too, which is probably a good idea after burning the pot. Hers was an accidental discovery from making marmalade when she noticed how very clean the pots were after making a batch.
    I found that the vinegar method also works quite well if you just leave the 50/50 mix of vinegar and water soaking overnight. It cleans up quite well.
  • Use straight for cleaning shower recesses. It will remove soap scum and mildew quite effectively. I use it weekly, just by wiping over all surfaces with a vinegar soaked cloth and mildew has not returned. Unfortunately it does not by itself, in my experience, remove copper stains and other stains caused by water. Vinegar fumes are quite strong so ventilate the room well when using it for this purpose.
  • Vinegar mixed with salt is useful in cleaning baths and sinks. As children we used to clean copper coins, when we still had them, with a paste of salt and vinegar. It kept us entertained for hours. WARNING: Do not use this method to clean old coins as it removes the patina and renders them almost valueless.
  • Wiping down kitchen benches and cupboards with vinegar is said to repel cockroaches and does a good job at keeping the benches clean. It is a most effective disinfectant.
  • Putting a cup or so (I usually just pour in some until it feels about right) in the rinse cycle of the washing works as aneffective rinse aid and mild disinfectant/anti-bacterial for clothes. It is said to remove detergent build up and it is also credited with removing fluff. It certainly acts as a fabric softener, softening to a point about half way between using none and using a commercial softener.
  • Sandy e-mailed the following: ‘I have vinegar in a spray bottle and use it to kill weeds organically, spray it on sunburned skin, and spray it on mosquito bites. I also use it with baking soda to clean my stainless steel sink’.
  • Nappy (diaper) soak: Half a cup of vinegar to half a nappy bucket of water works brilliantly. No smell, and aids in the removal of stains. (As baby gets bigger, it will be necessary to increase the amount of vinegar a little.) I don’t even use a commercial nappy soak product any more for soaking nappies. I don’t need to. I do use the hottest tap water available to wash and rinse them, my favourite ‘wonder’ soap for the stubborn marks, and add vinegar to rinse. See my baby stuff section for other baby related bits and pieces.
  • Manufacturer’s recommendation for cleaning our ceramic tiled floor is 1/2 cup of vinegar to a bucket of water. Hot water is even better.
  • A splash of vinegar in pot plant saucers is said to kill off mosquito larvae (wrigglers). Be careful though, as this will change the acid levels of the soil in time. A more usual way to stop the mosquito problem in its tracks is to fill the saucers with gravel or course sand so the wrigglers have nowhere to swim.


Ah! To have a lemon tree… How I dream. Well, some dreams do come true. We now have a lemon tree, but I anticipate it will be some years before we are inundated with fruit. Still, if you have access to a plentiful supply of lemons, one way or another, the humble lemon is bound to become a staple ingredient in your life, whether you actually like eating them or not.

It is no coincidence that detergent manufacturers use lemon, lemon smell and colour to enhance the appeal of their product. Lemon has wonderful grease cutting powers, smells clean and fresh, and is an all round good guy. It comes in its own neat compact packaging that can be used for a number of other purposes as well as cleaning and will completely break down eventually after disposal. As good as vinegar might be as a cleaner, it just doesn’t measure up to lemon in the smell department.

It was pointed out to me that I hadn’t addressed this wondrous substance very much in my pages, so let me rectify that situation with some ideas anyway:

  • Half a cut lemon used either by itself or dipped in salt, is an efficient brass and copper cleaner. It even comes with its own handle and in built cleaning pad. 🙂 Rinse item with clear water.
  • After cutting lemons, rub one of the halves over the cutting board to whiten and assist in stain removal. I’ve left boards out in the sun a while too with the lemon juice still on them. Rinse with clear water after a couple of hours to get the lumps off and then clean thoroughly as you would normally.
  • Lemon juice and salt together are credited with removing, or at least having a good go at removing, mildew on fabric. Process might need to be repeated several times though as mildew is almost impossible to remove.
  • Kathy Tarbell e-mailed me with the following: She took an empty spray bottle and poured in about 2cm of lemon juice and then half filled the bottle with water. She sprayed the solution on kitchen and appliance surfaces*, and used a nylon covered sponge to wipe. If she encountered a particularly stubborn stain, she just poured a little of the lemon juice straight onto the stain and let it sit for a few minutes. She was most pleased with the result and stated that she wasn’t left gasping for breath after using it, either from over-exertion or from fumes.

*Never spray electrical appliances. Always spray cleaner onto a cleaning cloth or similar and wipe that over appliance surfaces to clean. Many fires start after cleaners have dripped down onto the electrics.

  • If needing to freshen in sink garbage disposal units, roughly cut up a few used lemon halves and put them through.
  • I frequently let lemon juice and sometimes lemon rind find their respective ways into my cooking as well. It gives that ‘bight’ I am rather fond of. I don’t mind limes either.
  • Roughly cut up a few used lemon halves, cover with water and let boil, uncovered, for a while. It is a pleasant way of helping the kitchen smell nice, at the same time cleaning a burned or particularly grubby pot. Toss in some sinnamon and that should smell even better.
  • Lemon juice, lemon rind and leaves are often used in making fragrant recipes for air fresheners, perfumes and the like. I don’t specifically have any recipes for these though, nor do I really intend to reproduce any here.
  • Lemon juice is reputed as being good for the skin, a softening agent I believe. It will smart if applied to open cuts, etc.



  • Helps dissolve dirt, grease and resinous substances and clean most delicate fabrics, silver, glass and china.
  • Mix a little in with icing sugar and leave as baits for cockroaches. Exercise caution around children and pets.
  • Try cooked potato, dry mashed, add borax or Epsom salts, roll into small balls and use as cockroach baits. Use usual caution around pets and small children.
  • A mixture of borax and hot water poured on troublesome ant hills should eliminate the problem. If you are a little reticent about using the borax, boiling water alone should have the desired effect provided you can get it down deep enough. Try inserting a broom handle as far down as you can so as to create a nice deep hole, and then add boiling water.

Until very recently Australia didn’t have fireants, thanks to stringent quarantine practice. Regrettably some got imported, absolutely adored our climate, and we now have a problem. WARNING: If you suspect that the anthill you are about to shove a broom handle down might be a fireant anthill – DON’T! If you are in Queensland, immediately notify the Qld Department of Primary Industries as they are a notifiable pest. If elsewhere in Australia (let’s hope they haven’t got that far yet), please notify your local equivalent of the DPI. See the Qld DPI fireant website and its links for further information.

In response to my recent plea about how to get rid of green head ants I received a response suggesting the use of powdered NutraSweet (aspartame) sprinkled fairly liberally about the nest. To date it hasn’t shifted the green ants for they don’t seem to be attracted to sweet stuff, but the idea may have merit for other types of ants, perhaps including fireants.

Another suggestion I received was to tip out coffee grounds onto ants nests. Not being a brewed coffee drinker, I can’t test this, but the idea may be of some assistance to someone else.

  • The following uses for borax have been copied off the container:
    • Laundry: Use 1 tablespoon of borax for each 4 to 5 litres of water for blankets, woollens, coloured fabrics, napkins and coloured washing.
    • Enamel ware: To maintain the sparkle on all enamelled surfaces, refrigerators, stoves, sinks, baths, tiles etc., use 4 tablespoons of borax to each 4 to 5 litres of hot water.
    • Cleaning concrete paths: Wash with solution of 5 tablespoons of borax to each 4 to 5 litres of hot water.
    • Tea, coffee and fruit stains: Whilst stain is fresh, apply a liberal amount of borax powder, then rinse in hot water. Borax is more soluble in hot water than cold.

Epsom salts:

  • Corrects magnesium and sulphur deficiencies in soil. When sprinkled on the soil is said to make an effective snail deterrent. Watch that it doesn’t over correct soil deficiencies though.
  • Pure Epsom salts or mixed with icing sugar also makes an effective cockroach bait.
  • See item above re Epsom salts bath for chicken pox, but not just chicken pox. I’m told it is great just to relax in.
  • 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts placed in the washing machine prior to the wash cycle is said to work as a fabric softener.

Cloudy ammonia: Helps to clean dirty wool, remove stains, brighten yellow fabrics, cleans silver, glass, sinks and drainpipes. Do not inhale fumes and NEVER EVER mix with bleach. One drawback is that animals will often pick up the scent of ammonia as a ‘pee here’ cue. They cannot distinguish between ammonia and urine smells.

Washing soda: A good general cleaning and dish washing agent and water softener. Use washing soda with boiling water as a first step to cleaning out blocked drains.

Methylated spirits: A good general purpose cleaner of windows and mirrors, mixed with vinegar it will clean moss and mould from paths.

To remove permanent marker from white-boards (and possibly other non-porous surfaces), write over the permanent marker with white-board marker and immediately rub off. White board markers are often alcohol based so it stands to reason that wiping over with alcohol, eg methylated spirits, will also work but logically, if using a white board, the most readily available tool would probably be a white board marker.

To remove permanent marker from anything else, I don’t hold out a lot of hope. Generally there is a really good reason it is called a ‘permanent’ marker: It’s there permanently!

Methylated spirits rubbed onto stain. Rinse with clean water. Sometimes hair spray will work too because of the alcohol content, and probably some of the other stuff that ends up in it.

Feedback has suggested that where permanent marker has found its way onto vinyl for instance, the only viable solution was to recolour the vinyl with a product designed for the purpose.

Kaila L. Schollaert advised that a good way of removing permanent marker stains from non-porous surfaces (not clothing) was to use a 70% or 95% ethanol solution. She advised that for mark that has been sitting on the surface a long time, putting the solution on twice usually does the job.

‘JC’s you beaut! window cleaner’. To make 500 ml of cleaner, mix together the following ingredients:

50 ml cloudy ammonia
150 ml white vinegar
300 ml warm water

JC isn’t sure whether the warm water initially helped to meld the ingredients, but says it works, warm or cold.

Carpet cleaner recipe: A green recipe for carpet shampoo (courtesy of Barbara Lord’s ‘The Green Cleaner’) is:

Half cup pure soap or 1 small cup of soap flakes
3 tablespoons* washing soda
3 tablespoons* cloudy ammonia
5 cups boiling water.

* 1 tablespoon equals 4 teaspoons or 20 ml.

Method: Place soap or soap flakes into saucepan. Add boiling water. Boil till soap has dissolved. Add washing soda and cloudy ammonia. (Make sure area is well ventilated.) Store in wide necked jars so you can spoon or scoop it out later.

To use, place small amount of soap mix onto mark, etc. Lather with cloth and hot water. Use as little water as possible. Brush in if you wish. Use dry cloth to remove as much moisture as possible. The author advises that the above quantity will probably last you a year so you may consider making proportionally less.

Soda water. I saw this one work when my niece (who works at a hotel) managed to get blood on her blouse. She immediately dabbed the stain with soda water. It worked beautifully. She says the bar staff use this one all the time. See mylaundry section for other hints on removing blood stains.

Salt. Salt is a good cleaning agent too. Mum showed me this one when I was a child. To prevent a tablecloth staining when tea was spilled on it, immediately sprinkle salt on to it. (I used to get the job of doing the sprinkling.) Then wash with next normal wash. I believe it also works with wine spills but I haven’t tried it. Another way is to first sprinkle salt as above, then put in to soak as soon as practicable in plain water.

Whilst on the subject of salt: Soaking blood stains in slightly salty water is credited with making the stains easier to remove. I seem to remember using about 1 teaspoon salt to 600 ml water. Make the water too salty and the stains will stick fast. Remember, always rinse blood off anything with cold water, never hot. After rinsing, then soak.

Cream of tartar. ‘The Green Cleaner’ suggested soaking grubby tea towels in a mix of 2 (Aus) tablespoons of cream of tartar to 1 litre of water before washing. I’d suggest that this would also work on table cloths.

Jewellery cleaner:

  • Gold: Soak in a little cloudy ammonia for 5 to 10 minutes, then scrub very gently with a toothbrush. Rinse in clean water. NB. Use in a well ventilated area.
  • I have cleaned my rings by using a tiny bit of toothpaste & the brush. This is slightly abrasive so if this is going to be a problem, don’t use it.
  • Diamonds: Mix together a small quantity of soap, hot water and add a few drops of cloudy ammonia, and scrub jewellery lightly. Remove and dip into alcohol for a final shine.

Concrete footpath cleaner: 50/50 mix of Coca Cola (regular, full sugar variety) and milk (full fat), applied to dirty concrete then scrubbed with a scrubbing brush should clean it up reasonably well. Rinse with a jet of plain water.


  • Soap: Use pure soap. It is much cheaper, just as effective and does not fuel allergies unless you are allergic to soap itself of course. Soap on tap (generic) is great for where people frequently wash their hands but does have a much more marked effect on the environment than cake soap. Just observe how much people actually use of the stuff. I measured that one squirt from a domestic 200ml bottle is about 2.5ml or 1/2 teaspoon. I have found that by using it at quarter strength (diluted with water), and still just one squirt, still cleans my hands effectively.

If you felt so inclined, you could make your own soap. Elaine White e-mailed me with the address of her site which contains some really good information on soap making.

  • soap alternative can be to do what I do with my daughter, and should do more often on myself: Use vegetable oil. Rub it in well before the bath/shower. (This can also be a really good excuse for a massage.) Use plain water only. The water beads off the body so only light drying is required.
  • When you look at what you get when buying cosmetics, the largest portion of the purchase price will be profit margin, probably interchangeable with packaging. If you don’t believe me, work out the retail price per kilogram of, say, eye cream. Now, if you were to establish what the base ingredients were of the particular product and price them per kilo it should make for an interesting comparison. The advantages of using base ingredients, and/orhome-made concoctions, other than price, are that you know exactly what it is that you are getting, and what you are not.

For the record, I rarely use cosmetics, other than a decent sunscreen, so I am not well qualified to comment on cheaper alternatives other than to highly recommend doing searches and reading books on the topic.

  • Towels: Buy the best quality that you can afford. They will last longer and actually be cheaper in the long run. I buy high quality towelling (about AUD$18 a metre). A regular bath towel measures about 60 cm X width of towelling, usually 120 cm. Hem, bind or overlock. My personal preference is for binding. A bath towel will cost me about $12 plus cost of binding. To buy a towel of the same quality costs considerably more. Buy another 30 cm and you can make 2 hand towels to match and or 1 hand towel and 2 face washers.

I made up 8 towels in this manner about 7 years ago, when it only cost me $9 a towel, and both of us have used them continuously ever since. So far there are no signs of wear.

I am looking at making up some hand towels and machine embroidering them to use as Christmas gifts.

  • Toothpaste: There are some cheap and effective alternatives to toothpaste. Both salt and bi-carbonate of soda are excellent, although I find the bi-carb to be better tasting. Simply dip a wet brush into the salt or bi-carb and use. Rinse well.

Contrary to the advertisements on TV, 4 cm of toothpaste draped across the top of a toothbrush is WAY TOO MUCH for one brushing. That much should efficiently clean your teeth EIGHT times! Just a tiny bit scraped onto the brush still does a good job and a tube lasts many times longer.

When a sensitive tooth drove me to distraction, the dentist gave me the following advice: Firstly to use toothpaste especially formulated for sensitive teeth for the basic clean, then to apply a tiny bit of that same paste directly to the sensitive area, such as where a root has been exposed. This advice doesn’t replace the need to go to the dentist of course to have the problem checked out.

  • Shampoo substitute: There are several but I have only tried one thus far: Good old bi-carb of soda rubbed into wet hair does a good job. The hair will be squeaky clean in no time but it does not lather at all. Simply rinse with clean water. I followed it with a vinegar rinse (1/2 cup to 2 litres water), then rinsed again with clean water.

Thanks to the contributors to a thread on misc.consumers.frugal-living newsgroup, I tried watering down both shampoo and conditioner with mixed results. The shampoo didn’t retain its viscosity when watered down to half water making it quite runny and easy to lose under the shower, but it still did a good job. Next time, I’ll try using a little less water and see what happens. The conditioner, however, allowed some water to be introduced and it still kept its creaminess, although tended to separate when left to stand. I tried the same with liquid stain remover in the laundry and was delighted with the result. I think that this is one of those things that trial and error will produce what you are happy with. If it doesn’t suit, simply don’t do it.

  • Deodorants:
    • If you do use roll-on deodorants and hate wasting the very last little bit in the bottle, try standing it upside down before use. But it has a round top you say? A toilet roll core can be a perfect size to hold it, and is even more stable if there is still toilet paper on the roll. (Mike Van Emmerik) Addendum: Wouldn’t you know? Mike’s favourite brand has changed its packaging to be more squat with a larger ball so he’ll use more no doubt… Anyway, the toilet paper roll no longer fits so he had to find something else. A section of egg carton now adorns the bathroom bench and it works well enough for the purpose.
    • For a deodorant powder, mix equal parts (start off with a teaspoon – that way you won’t waste much if it isn’t for you) of each talcum powder, bi-carb soda and cornflour. Push it through a fine sieve and apply it lightly to underarms with a big wad of cotton wool. For those who do not like fragrances or wish to add their own, use unscented talc and add a drop of your favourite perfume or essential oil to the cotton wool if you like. In times of heavy perspiring it may be necessary to reapply.
    • Some recommend rubbing alcohol as a great deodorant. I have found it quite effective. Just mind though, as it will sting if underarms have recently been shaved, etc.
    • ‘Hibiclens’, an antibacterial solution often used in hospitals for hand washing, is also highly recommended by some. I haven’t tried it personally but the idea is to put a drop under each arm, thoroughly cleansing the whole armpit, leave for a minute, then rinse off. The theory is that it knocks out all the bacteria that cause the odour.
    • Some people have told me how wonderfully effective those deodorant crystals are. No doubt they are. In many instances the effective ingredient is alum. Some products refer to the contents as ‘mineral salts’ but are not any more specific. Be mindful that what they are not being very specific about may well be alum, or at least the mineral from which it is extracted. It seems some manufacturers are now stating that the ‘natural mineral’ used is bauxite. Guess what natural mineral it is that aluminium and alum are extracted from? That’s right – bauxite. So, the word is, if you’re planning on using aluminium free deodorants, this may not be the way to go. Be particularly careful of the content of the product which should be clearly marked. ‘Mineral salts’ in my opinion, does not cut it!
  • For clogged shower heads soak overnight in vinegar. The built up scale should then be easier to remove. What I have found is that other stuff will be removed as well. Our shower roses now have permanent copper coloured patches!
  • A friend of mine is into aroma therapy. She found out that if a handful of powdered milk is added to the bath water, along with the various essential oils, a ring doesn’t form around the bath from the oils.
  • Nits and head lice are an ever increasing problem, particularly in our schools. This situation is probably due in part to our hot and humid climate, together with increasing resistance to the many commercial preparations (a lot of which are quite toxic) used to deal with the problem. BTW head lice are not exclusively a lower socio-economic problem, and don’t just confine themselves to public schools.

Anyway, with the return to school each year in the height of our hot & humid season, controlling head lice is usually somewhat topical on local media. One gentleman found that a lavish application of ordinary hair conditioner to the infected head and hair, and combing through with a fine metal tooth comb was a very cheap, non-toxic and effective way of getting rid of both beasties and eggs. Careful disposal of the eggs and insects was required of course. In fact, the footage I saw showed school children applying the hair conditioner and doing the necessary combing out to each other. It was good to see that a whole-of-school approach was taken to the problem too, rather than excluding individual children, and potentially out-casting them further. Another article along similar lines indicated that one treatment alone was not enough and that several treatments would be necessary.

Used neat, tea tree oil is said to kill head lice. It will be necessary to also comb it through the hair with a fine metal tooth comb. One part tea tree oil mixed with ten parts water is said to be a good repellant once they have been removed. Spray through hair, taking care to get under the hair and right down to the scalp. The oil and water won’t mix so it will be necessary to regularly shake the container. Be aware that tea tree oil is quite potent stuff so, as with any pure product, a very little goes a long way. BTW tea tree oil is one of those substances which has been around for ever and is credited with all sorts of medicinal properties. (Belinda)

© Margaret Van Emmerik 1998-2001.

To e-mail me, remove obvious spamtrap.



  • Fireplaces: My father was a builder and as a kid, I loved pottering around with him in amongst all his tools and bits and pieces. Regrettably Dad died when I was almost 9, so I didn’t get much of a chance to record his little bits of wisdom directly. This one lives with me though: When building a fireplace, always ensure that the volume of the chimney is at least two and a half times the volume of the firebox and that fireplace will always draw and never smoke into the room. I figure it must be true, as none of the fireplaces he built ever smoked!
  • Most folk I know hate having to put eye drops in. Here’s an easier way than watching the inevitable: To instil eye drops, lay head back, close eyes and place the required number of drops on the inner corner of the eye near the nose. Rest a moment. Drops will drain into the eye without creating the fear of God in the recipient. Wiggle eye around to get the drops evenly dispersed.
  • Memberships of specific organisations can often be quite useful, informative, brilliant value for money, and sometimes offering incredible discounts on products. Such examples in my case would be Diabetes Australia and the Australian Breastfeeding Association (previously Nursing Mothers Association of Australia). Another would be membership of an automobile club & breakdown service.
  • Often writing information or instructions at the point where they are to be used can save a lot of energy and time on the part of many users, at the same time reducing the potential for error. Such an example was where I engraved certain information on a metal peg board where I used to work. I returned there a decade later to see my handiwork was still being referred to on a daily basis by all who used it.
  • Replacing vacuum cleaner bags: I found that purchasing replacement vacuum cleaner bags to be a most expensive exercise, both for cloth and paper, mainly because each bag had the necessary fitting already attached. What if there was a way to recycle the fitting and attach a new bag that I could make up to match the existing? In the case of cloth bags, I cut around the existing fitting leaving 6 or 7 cm of the original bag in place and sewed the new bag to the existing fitting. Obviously the fabric around that fitting needs to be in good condition for this to be successful.

My current project is to replace the disposable paper bag in our upright cleaner with a cloth bag. As the attachment is cardboard on the existing bag, I am envisioning doing some clever things with glue…

  • To slow down pen/pencil chewers, dip ends in methylated spirits. The residue tastes awful. There is a special product available but metho can be a stop-gap measure.
  • To keep a hung picture straight, get a small ball of blu-tac, plasticine, or even chewing gum (yuk!) and push onto the back of the picture at the centre bottom. Straighten the picture and push the bottom onto the wall. A more expensive method is to use a small square or dot of adhesive velcro tape.
  • To remove the residue of sticky labels on hard surfaces, try rubbing with a soft cloth and a little eucalyptus oil. As all sticky labels were not created equal, the oil may not work on some of them. Just very occasionally, saliva might also work if put on and allowed to sit for a while, long enough to let the body’s enzymes to have a go at it (probably 5 or 10 minutes), and then rubbed off and the area washed. Kerosene also works. Apply sparingly and rub in. Rinse off.

I received the following suggestions for removing labels, in this instance off metal: Try applying any one of the following to the offending label: petroleum jelly; automotive degreaser for engines; WD40. The contributor had limited success with WD40 for this purpose. She noticed that what all these substances had in common was OIL. She wondered if vegetable oil used for cooking would do as well so she tried it and found that with the friction created in rubbing, it cut through and dissolved the adhesive residue. She then used hot water and dish soap to get rid of the oil. She thinks little a citrus juice may also have helped make that part of the process easier. (Pamela A. Mahony)

  • To clean artists’ brushes used for oils: The most usual method is to soak them in mineral turpentine as you are painting, then clean thoroughly in the turps, followed by warm soapy water. This method failed when I pulled out my brushes from 9 years holiday only to find they hadn’t been cleaned properly all those years ago. Mild panic set in. After soaking them for 2 days in turps with negligible impact, I tried using acetone – just 30 ml or so in a small jar. It is quite expensive so only use a little. Soaking is not required. It worked beautifully in seconds! Wish I had thought of that first! Just a couple of notes of caution with using acetone: Be very careful to use in a well ventilated area, and acetone is also very good at helping the glues that hold the bristles in place to let go. So try not to let any get up past the metal bit.
  • To sharpen scissors, run the blades along the top of a bottle as if you were trying to cut the top off. Do this a few times. The scissors should have sharpened up. Another way is to cut into fine sand-paper or glass-paper a few times until you have created something that looks a bit like a fringe. I don’t recommend either way for trying to sharpen serrated edged scissors.
  • Alternative uses for containers: I am a firm believer in re-using containers where and when ever possible and practical. For instance, my nappy bucket is an 20 litre paint bucket with a lid that fits much better than any commercial nappy bucket on the market. Next time you plan on tossing that container into the rubbish, or recycling bin, see if you can re-use it first, to a point. I have set strict limits on how many of any item I collect for this purpose, because such collections can so easily turn to clutter.
  • Handbag liner. I don’t know about anybody else, but one thing that drives me to distraction is this idea that handbag manufacturers have that the inside of a handbag MUST be a dark colour, preferably black! Perhaps they have never experienced the ‘joy’ of trying to find something in the depths of the bag in a hurry and/or in poor light conditions! (Or more sceptically, perhaps they have never used a hand bag!?) Short of having manufacturers change their ways, (I can only hope!), I came up with the following as a stop-gap measure to solve the problem. Make up an envelope, just slightly larger than the area you wish to line, in a light coloured, light weight fabric (a bit of old sheet or other fine cotton will do), and hand sew neatly into place just below any zippers. Replace when it gets worn or too grotty, whichever happens first. It also protects the real lining.
  • Wax. I have entered a comment in the appliance/tools section concerning the use of wax on the teeth of a hand-saw to make it run more smoothly through the wood, but I remember Mum always had a blob of beeswax in the sewing machine drawer, which would be periodically removed to run over a sticking drawer or window. More often, though, she would draw a piece of thread across it to make it easier to thread a needle. If she wanted use thread in a heavy-duty application, like mending stitching which had come adrift in leather items, she would draw the entire length of thread through the wax a couple of times. She would use thread of sufficient strength to suit the application, of course, but drawing it through the wax would make it both easier to work and waterproof it. Candle wax works just as well.
  • In your address book, if you still use a paper one, use ink to record the name and pencil to record addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. (Fran Weatherly)
  • Mark often used settings on the appliance. Use a bit of common sense here. If you are likely to dispose of it, consider using non-permanent markers or stickers…
  • To assist in guaging how much of any particular product you actually use, and its cost, write the price on it after purchase, follow that with the date of opening and the date of finishing. Do this several times and you will probably have enough information to estimate average annual usage and cost. Don’t be surprised if this becomes a habit. It has for me.


The following apply mainly to travelling where it is assumed that the roof over your head will be provided such as in hotel rooms etc., not camping where you provide your own… I have some hints on camping too but the two are worlds apart in my view. See mycamping page.

Breakfasts: I found that by purchasing a box of breakfast cereal, milk and fruit saves quite a considerable amount on breakfasts when travelling. Better yet, it saves on time too. What sort of milk I buy (powdered or liquid) depends a lot on how much I plan on using, whether I will be staying long, and whether there is refrigeration in the room. When we travel, we always pack a couple of plastic coupe plates, cutlery and cups.

Packing. What you pack, particularly in the way of clothing, depends entirely on the purpose of your trip. I have been guilty of packing far too much in the past and have even freighted stuff home! One of the best finds I ever made was the Travelite FAQ. I also found plenty of sensible travel tips and info courtesy of the Compleat Traveler.

In the earlier part of 1998 I spent two and a half weeks in the US in the middle of their spring and I found that

  • I lived in my jeans. 2 pairs in light weight denim were adequate. They were also loose and comfortable and allowed for the inevitable girth expansion.
  • I also lived in my joggers. Comfortable feet are an essential ingredient of a happy holiday. I wore my good shoes only twice during the whole trip.
  • 2 T shirts and several long sleeved blouses where the sleeves can be rolled up were adequate.

I had spent a fair bit of time and effort assembling a mix’n’match wardrobe around a basic black skirt, pants, and jacket, together with several blouses, all of light weight, low maintenance fabrics. I used the blouses regularly over jeans but only wore the skirt twice during the whole trip! Even so, I don’t consider that this was a waste and they took up hardly any space. Had I been going to more formal places, or the purpose of my trip been other than leisure, I may have been making very good use of the other component bits. For casual trips I would recommend culling this to one complete good outfit which can be spruced up with different blouses if you really need to look different every time.

Other things I took and was glad I packed!

  • Long johns. Another reason that loose fitting jeans are essential. Denim itself isn’t very warm but put a pair of long underwear underneath and jeans become particularly cosy.
  • A collapsible bag. This was an impulse buy (shock! horror!) just before I left. It packed away so neatly but opened up into a pretty big carry bag, complete with shoulder strap, into which we stuffed our dirty washing mainly, and was generally a God send. We even booked it through as an additional piece of luggage on our return trip, and it withstood the rigours of airport luggage handling very well. I also stuffed a calico bag into the packing and it came in handy.
  • A toiletries organiser. It was so good to have all the toiletries and some medicines etc. in one place, all neatly stowed. This too was an impulse buy but I am sure that something similar could be made fairly cheaply. It is essentially a piece of backing fabric with a series of about 4 roomy zippered pockets extending down its length. Remember to put a loop on the top so it can be hung off door knobs etc. The commercial one was made from plastic and some of the pockets were clear. There was also a velcro strip arrangement to hold the lot together when folded although some ties would have achieved the same purpose.
  • Zip-lock bags. Where ever I could, I packed small items into zip-lock bags of various sizes, and stuffed another handful into a pocket in the luggage somewhere. The first aid kit I made up contained heaps of them which kept items separate, easily identifiable and dry should any other item spring a leak.

Problems we encountered:

  • Swollen feet. I don’t take my shoes off on long haul travel, no matter how inviting it might be to do so, mainly because if I do, I will never get them back on again! The following are some of the things I try to do when travelling. I have had varying degrees of success.
    • Wear comfortable shoes and socks, preferably woollen or cotton.
    • Drink plenty of water.
    • Exercise feet regularly, at least every hour by stretching, moving them around in circles, pumping them up and down… (This is borrowed from a physiotherapy routine I used when I was recovering from a broken foot years ago. I went for a train trip to Sydney during my convalescence and my feet didn’t swell at all!)
    • Walk around if possible.
    • Put feet up if possible.
    • For long haul travel wear restrictive stockings/bandages on your legs. This is to stop blood pooling, which is what causes swelling, and possible subsequent clotting which can be fatal. There has been mention of late in local media of ‘Economy Class Syndrome’, which is clotting caused by inactivity during long haul travel. Australians are statistically quite susceptible for two reasons: We like to travel, and secondly, to get to anywhere from Australia, it involves long haul travel. Even NZ is 3 hours away from the east coast.
  • Ironing. The hotel iron/travel iron doesn’t make much difference? Try wetting a face washer, wringing it right out and placing onto the area to be ironed. Push down firmly. Remove immediately and iron that patch. Repeat… Enough moisture transfers to the cloth to imitate the effect of a steam iron. It is a little time consuming. I certainly don’t plan on making a habit of it but is okay as a stop-gap measure.
  • To those of you who are used to using clothes driers, this is probably second nature to you, but for those of us who only use driers as a last resort or whilst travelling, carefully fold up all the washing whilst it is still quite warm. This reduces the need to iron at all to almost nil. And who wants to spend their holiday ironing anyhow?

Problems we averted.

  • Colour running in new clothes. It is so tempting to get/make new clothes for a big trip. I have fallen victim to this temptation… Do yourself a big favour and wash the clothes separately before you go. Jeans are a big offender here. If the colour runs, wash it again, and again until everything is colour fast, even if this means purchasing a colour fixative and/or soaking in very salty water. If you live near the sea, take the clothes for a dip…

Very approximate conversions for the harried traveller:

  • 1/4 of a mile is about 400 metres, therefore 1 mile is about 1600m or 1.6km.
  • 35 miles an hour is about 60km/hr; 45 mph – about 80 km/hr and 60mph – about 100 km/hr.
  • A US pint is about 500ml; an imperial pint is about 600ml.
  • A US quart is about a litre; imperial, about 1.2 litres.
  • A US gallon is a little short of 4 litres, and imperial gallon, about 4 litres.
  • A pound (weight) is about 500gr.
  • A yard or 36 inches is about 92cm; back the other way, a metre is about 40 inches.
  • A very rough guide for converting Fahrenheit to Celcius is take 30 from Fahrenheit degrees and divide by 2. Similarly, going the other way, multiply Celsius degrees by 2 and add 30.
  • To work out 15 percent quickly in your head (useful for tipping): Divide total by 10. Divide that figure by 2 and add to the first.
  • An imperial ton is fairly close to 1 tonne. A US ton or 2000lb is around about 900kg.


I established an adequate selection of power tools which in turn saved me much money and time over manual methods or hiring someone to do the job for me. I bought the BEST that I could afford at the time and have maintained these and all tools in good order. Tools quickly pay for themselves time and time again. If you are going to follow this route, it should go without saying that you should also learn to use them properly, and acquire the necessary safety equipment to go with them, otherwise they are a poor investment.

Another thing, call me selfish, but I won’t lend my tools. As sure as I do, any of the following things are bound to happen:

  • The tool doesn’t come back, and I have to chase it. Worst case scenario is that I forget who I lent it to, in which case it never comes back.
  • It comes back, but not in the same state that I lent it.
  • I need the tool and it isn’t there.

I usually get around the issue by suggesting that the person come to my place to use it (where I can supervise), or if it is convenient, I’ll volunteer to use it for them. If either option is not satisfactory, well they can always ask someone else or better yet, get their own!

As a side issue: Power tools are expensive and are easily off-loaded by thieves. I strongly suggest marking ALL power tools (and other valuable items) with a property identification code. See item on property identification/insurance photographs. Resist the temptation to use your phone number. By using phone numbers you are giving a thief a walk up invitation to ring back to establish when you aren’t home and to hit your place again.

My basic kit includes a basic electric drill and bits; a jig-saw and blades for both wood and metal; and a cordless screwdriver which died and was reincarnated as a reversible cordless drill with a low speed setting ideal for screwing and unscrewing. Over time my kit has swollen to include other tools as needs have dictated.

A hand saw, claw hammer, selection of blade and cross screwdrivers, an adjustable spanner and pliers are also essential components of the basic tool kit. Don’t forget the metal retractable tape measure of the standard for your country. For most small jobs a 3 metre tape is sufficient. A square and level are good investments too.

I received some feedback from Alex Cranford, who has a page on self sufficiency, about this section that suggested that an angle grinder and a cheap set of vernier calipers could also be a most valuable addition to the basic tool kit. I guess angle grinders fall into the category of tools that once you have used them, you’ll wonder how you ever did without them. I’m not all that fond of them personally, probably because I’ve never taken the time to learn to use them properly, and whilst ever my husband enjoys using them, I’ll let him. I certainly agree that the calipers are a good idea, and remove the guesswork out of taking tiny measurements.

Just a word here about one of my pet subjects: Metric versus non-metric. When you acquire your measuring tools get what ever is the standard for your country. If metric is the standard, don’t waste your time and money buying stuff that measures feet and inches only, and vice versa. You are going to cause yourself a lot of unnecessary calculating, creating a huge potential for error, by mixing up the two standards. It truly is best to stick with one *or* the other.

Sticking saw: I remembered this hint from a trick Mum showed me as a child. If a drawer stuck, the offending part got rubbed with wax, either beeswax or candle, and the drawer would run more smoothly. I was hand-sawing a piece of board and wondered if Mum’s trick would work on the saw which was sticking annoyingly. I ran a candle along the saw teeth and for good measure a few centimetres up on each side and it worked like a charm! I’m told that soap also works.

Chafing strap on knee-pads? Wrap old tea towels (or any other bit of soft rag for that matter) around each knee first, then strap the pads on. Of course, long pants also solve the problem admirably but aren’t always practical.


I recommend engraving all your tools, appliances and bicycles etc. with your property identification code.

I will explain how it works in Queensland. The code itself consists of your first and last initial, your date of birth* so that it occupies 6 spaces and the letter ‘Q’ to denote ‘Queensland’. For example, my code is ‘MV180758Q’. This code is then registered with the Police Service. In the event that some of my property is lost or stolen, is recovered and handed in to police, a check can then be made on that code and the item can then be returned to its rightful owner. In some states, driver’s license numbers are recommended over dates of birth. Whilst it is true that driver’s license address records are more likely to be kept up to date, my personal reservation is simply that not everyone has a driver’s license. Driver’s license numbers do vary over time and are also difficult to remember. Everybody has a date of birth.

Do not mark antiques or jewellery. Photograph them instead. Include a ruler or tape measure in the photo so you can see the exact scale of the pictured item at a glance.

It is a good idea to photograph all your major possessions. Mark the photograph with date the photo was taken, make, serial number and purchase date and price. In the case of family heirlooms, include a brief history of the article’s origins on the back of the photo. This will be of great assistance to future generations. Open cupboards, including wardrobes and linen closets and photograph the contents so that the photo will describe roughly what is there. Don’t forget the bookshelf, software shelf and computer gear.

Now put all the photographs and supporting material in a safe place. Do not put them in photograph albums. If you have a safety deposit box, or fire proof safe or something similar, even a tin box, put them there.

Insurance companies recommend that you update these photographs at least every three years.

I have practised what I have preached here. Many of my possessions were destroyed by fire. In amongst the ashes I found the clump of my insurance photographs which, although singed around the edges, justified much of my claim. Had they been put in albums they would never have survived.


There are so many variables when talking about disaster planning it is not possible to provide a definitive list which will be a ‘one size fits all’ answer to every situation. My object is not to attempt to do this but to encourage the reader to think about the topic at the very least. Remember the adage ‘Proper prior planning and preparation prevents poor performance’?

When I speak of disasters, I mean something that is well outside the scope of a normal response, either from natural or man-made causes. I’m not speaking of something like someone’s house fire, for example. Although ‘disastrous’ for those immediately involved, the house fire simply doesn’t qualify, but if a few blocks of houses and the local hospital, school and pub went up, then that situation may qualify as a disaster.

I don’t intend to dwell on the disasters which are caused by man, save to say that aside from basic, sensible protective behaviours, and risk minimisation at a personal level, there is generally very little that any individual can do to prevent such occurrences or prepare for the results.

With regard to natural disasters however, people can do various things to help themselves or at least make living through it and the aftermath a little more tolerable. In essence, this is ‘disaster planning’ on a personal level. For instance, much of the coastal regions of the north of Australia are often affected by cyclones and the resultant flooding. When my brother and his family lived in Townsville, one of the kitchen cupboards contained enough basic food items, water, first aid kit, radio, torches, fresh batteries etc. to see them through for a week or two if necessary. There was storage under the house that had an emergency supply of camping gear in it. Everyone in the family knew not to touch these areas until needed. The contents were packed up in containers which could be picked up easily if the family needed to leave the house.

I would consider the following as part of the preparation and planning stage of developing a kit:

  • Assess the most likely type of disaster to hit your area. For some that might be flood, bushfire, earthquake, or cyclone, etc. Don’t get paranoid about it, but think about it rationally.
  • Preparation will vary according to what that assessment might be. It is all very subjective. It might be that in one area, a storm shelter may be the way to go; in another area where it may flood, an inground storm shelter probably wouldn’t be a real clever idea. Something else might be much more relevant and form part of the preparation, such as hosing down the house and roof & filling the gutters with water in a bushfire prone area, for example.
  • See what information is already available on the subject. Check out your local relevant authority. Local councils and the State Emergency Service here play a huge role in disaster response, so inquiries with the local equivalent may assist. They may already have information readily available for the public and that takes a lot of the hard slog out of working out what to do, and how best to prepare.
  • In all cases, sufficient necessities of life for the short term should form part of your survival kit. If you have covered food, water, shelter, warmth and first aid in your survival kit, you’ve probably got a real good start. I like to include communications equipment here (mobile phones are generally good, but batteries do go flat relatively quickly) but realistically that isn’t always possible, so at least a small battery operated radio will keep you informed of what is happening in the outside world and such information may influence how you utilise your resources, attempt to find assistance etc. Make sure all equipment is kept serviceable.
  • Because I am a check-list type person (translated that really means, ‘I don’t remember a thing if it’s not written down’), I’d probably take the time at this stage to develop check-lists of both necessary items and of tasks which might need to be done. Keep these check lists both in the kits they refer to and in another safe and accessible place.

I didn’t specifically mention Y2K as I had no feelings about it one way or the other. When regarding issues such as these, my husband and I tend to live by the adage, ‘Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it’ so we did have a bit of extra food and water stockpiled in the new year, and made sure all the gas bottles were filled, but aside from that, we hadn’t wasted any money or effort over and above what we were going to do anyway. If the Y2K issue has done nothing else, it has made a lot of people think on a personal level about what they would do should there be any sort of problem. Overall, I think that is a good thing.

© Margaret Van Emmerik 1998-2001.

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Home > Household hints > Miscellaneous
I receive many requests regarding stain removal. I am not an expert in this area and what follows is the sum total of my knowledge on the subject. If it isn’t here, you will have to look elsewhere.

  • Laundry liquid recipe:

I found the following basic recipe in an issue of ‘Soft Technology’ (now ReNew) magazine, a publication of the Alternative Technology Association of Australia. I’ve added some detail as to mixing, my experiences with it and variations on the theme. The concoction saved me the price of the magazine with the first batch.

Basic recipe:

1 cake of soap, grated. Any plain soap will do, laundry or personal; or 1 cup of grated up soap ends.
1 cup washing soda, also known as sal-soda or soda ash. (Na2CO3.10H2O.)


  1. Place grated soap into 2/3 of a small pot of cold water.
    1. Either let soak for a couple of hours first (it will melt more quickly) or bring to the boil stirring continuously until all the bits are melted. Mix will boil over easily.
    2. Add melted soap to a bucket of tap-hot water.
    3. Finally, add washing soda and stir till dissolved. (Don’t do the process out of order as the mix will become lumpy.) All preparation takes about 15 minutes.
    4. Use whilst hot or let it cool. The mix cools to a slimy blob. Some liken it to mucus. You will need to mix it up again for ease of use.

Amount to use:
I use about 500ml/2 cups for large dirty loads, 1 cup for smaller, less dirty loads. Experiment with the amounts and dilutions and use what works.


  1. I like this variation and now use it exclusively: Add 1/2 cup borax to above basic mix. Reduce amount of mix used a little.
    1. Add a couple of tablespoons of eucalyptus oil if you wish. You may also add a cup or two of vinegar to this initial mix.
    2. Another variation involves using 3 buckets of hot water to 1 cake of soap and 1 cup of washing soda. The resultant brew doesn’t set as much. Good luck to you if you’ve got room for *three* buckets of mixture…
    3. Use much less hot water (say half a bucket) for a much more concentrated mix. Obviously use less per wash, and it will probably set harder.
    4. I have used twice as much washing soda (by accident, not design) with excellent results. I used considerably less mix per wash.
    5. I have found an alternative recipe. I still haven’t tried it without the washing soda so I really don’t know how it will turn out. Replace the washing soda with an equal quantity of borax. If you wish, add eucalyptus oil (2 tablespoons) and 1/2 cups or so of vinegar.
    6. If you cannot get washing soda, it is possible to leave it out altogether. Just the soap mix alone will do a reasonable job. The main reason washing soda is added is that it is credited with dissolving grease & other grime a bit more easily, softens water and is generally a worthwhile washing aid.
    7. Another option is to use only bicarbonate of soda in the wash cycle, not to use any soap, washing soda etc., and to rinse with clear water only. This is an option for those who are extremely allergic to any washing substance. I would suggest starting at about 1/2 cup per medium sized load and work up or down from there as required.

Other notes:

Don’t store in narrow necked bottles. When the mixture cools and sets, you aren’t going to be able to get it out. Always use wide necked containers or buckets. The size of the bucket used really depends on what you have available. Whatever size it is, it is better that it has a lid. For interest’s sake, the original recipe called for a regular 9 or10 litre bucket or thereabouts.

The brew does not suds up very much. Where the water is extremely soft, it may froth up a little.

The mixture is, or should be – depending on the soap that is used – phosphate free, reducing our impact on the environment.

I sometimes add a handful of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda, NaHCO3) to the washing cycle and about half a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle, but this is not essential. The baking soda is to assist in the removal of odours from the wash and the vinegar acts as a mild disinfectant, fabric softener and rinse aid. Some people have been concerned about using vinegar in the washing machine. If I remember correctly, it wasn’t recommended for enamel bowled machines. It didn’t cause me any difficulties but YMMV.

I used to have these issues on the page but I edited them out for one reason or another, but sure enough, I got asked them again so here they are back again:

    • Bicarbonate of soda, also known as Sodium Bi-carbonate is not the same as washing soda. Bi-carb is edible and can be used in cooking. Washing soda or Sodium Carbonate is not edible.
    • Washing soda can usually be found in the laundry aisle of the supermarket, possibly in some hardware or craft stores.

I was asked about this idea that by using soap the wash will go grey over a time, and wouldn’t it be a good idea to use a bluing agent to prevent this from happening? My experiences with using the soap mix for a number of years now don’t generally reflect this. What I have found is that for delicates there has been no greying. For general washes, any greying I have experienced has been no more than what I experienced in the past using commercial products and is more a result of poor washing practice than from using pure soap. I back that up by saying that my baby’s fitted nappies have always been washed this way and are as white as ever they were and I’ve been using them for a little over a year now. They have never been soaked in any bleaching product other than vinegar and water, and they have never greyed. I have used a stain removing soap on the stains. I’ve never used washing blue either. I don’t know what is in washing blue, seeing as how the ingredients don’t appear on the bottle that I have, and have no idea as to any environmental effects.

Miscellaneous: The residue of commercial detergents can stay in clothes for as many as four washes in plain water before being completely removed. Chances are that if you forget to add detergent for one load, there will be enough residue to do the job.

  • Alternative fabric softeners include:
    • Vinegar as mentioned above.
    • 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts added to the rinse cycle.
  • Some alternative methods of getting rid of cuff and collar grease:

I tend to use a commercial preparation more often than anything else. I use my own pump pack and buy refills and water down by about a third. So far, I’ve not seen any discernible difference in stain removing ability.

I also use a type of special soap with excellent results, which is reputedly a little more caustic than ordinary soap. This is dirt cheap and lasts for ever. It is great on nappies. There are other ‘wonder soaps’ on the market, some more expensive and/or better lasting than others but all are better value when compared with the cost (both monetary and environmental) of pressure packs. The general idea is to wet the offending part, rub the soap on liberally and either rub it vigorously against itself or use a small brush (old toothbrush or nail brush is fine). If washing by hand, rinse thoroughly. Otherwise, drop it into a normal wash cycle.

My various references suggest that the laundry liquid mentioned above should work. It can be applied directly to problem area and rubbed in, or allowed to soak in a fairly concentrated solution such as 1/2 cup to 1/2 bucket of water or a little stronger. Commercial laundry liquid applied sparingly and rubbed or brushed in should also work.

I’ve read about other possibilities too, courtesy of Jackie French in ‘Household Self-Sufficiency’, Keith & Irene Smith in ‘Hard Times Handbook’ and Barbara Lord in ‘The Green Cleaner’, all excellent volumes. I haven’t tried any of these yet.

    • White chalk rubbed along greasy line.
    • Eucalyptus oil (neat) sparingly dabbed along offending area. (It is potent so ‘sparingly’ means a couple of drops only.) Leave a couple of minutes. Rinse.
    • Cloudy ammonia and water used at the approximate ratio of 1 part cloudy ammonia to 40 parts water, or 1 cup c. ammonia per bucket of water, or about 5 ml to a cup (250 ml). Use on natural fibres. Be careful with synthetics – it may discolour them. This brew was also listed as a bleach alternative so be careful around coloureds.
    • Glycerine – see method for eucalyptus oil above.
    • Rub with shampoo and leave a while before washing.
    • Make paste of vinegar and bi-carb. Rub on collar and soak (presumably in water) a while before washing.
  • Spray starch: Nowadays, I buy a litre of liquid starch for a fraction of the cost of the ready made up equivalent, and water down according to directions or more.

Diana Booher mailed me with the following two recipes (my additions for metric and local vocabulary) for an alternative laundry starch. I assume that the quantities in this recipe are for use in the traditional manner, ie soaking the garment, or parts thereof, in the starch, drying or part-drying and then ironing. I am sure that smaller quantities in the same ratios would be okay for use as a spray.

    • Heavy starch – Mix together until smooth, 1/3 cup corn starch/corn flour and 1/2 cup cold water. Gradually add 2 US quarts/2 litres (close enough) boiling water, stirring constantly. Use warm.
      Medium starch – Dilute heavy starch with 2 quarts/2 litres of water. Mix and use warm.
      Light starch – Dilute heavy starch with 4 quarts/4 litres of water. Mix and use warm.
    • This one is from a book called Cheaper and Better by Nancy Brines:

Spray Starch:
4 teaspoons/1 Aus. tablespoon cornstarch/corn flour
1/2 teaspoon cologne (optional)
2 cups/half a litre water

Mix ingredients, pour into a spray bottle and shake well. Yields 16 ounces/half a litre.

I made up 1 cup of this second recipe as a trial and was pleasantly pleased with the outcome. I used boiling water. I couldn’t tell the difference between the commercial and home-made stuff although it has tended to go off very quickly. Maybe a pinch of borax or salt added to the mix might improve its lasting capabilities, as might refrigeration.

Variations on using corn flour include using rice or potato water. None of these recipes lasts long.

  • Getting wax out: For those who like using candles, inevitably wax will end up on some fabric it shouldn’t… Let the wax set and scrape off as much as possible without damaging the fibres. The traditional way that my mother used was to put brown paper either side of the area and iron, move the paper to a clean area and keep on ironing the stain until most was gone. Nowadays, I’d suggest using absorbant paper, such as paper towel or blotting paper if you can get it. Be careful not to use an iron that it too hot for the fabric or a wax stain will be the very least of your problems. Also, be careful when moving the paper to a new patch, not to iron the wax back into the fabric. When you have removed as much as you can this way, treat any remaining oily mark with a suitable stain remover. In respect of pure cotton or linen, you may be able to boil the fabric and this also should lift the stain right out.
  • Keep a little pair of scissors/clippers on or near the ironing board to cut off all those little stray threads you find on bought clothing.
  • When ironing embroidery, place it right side down on top of a towel, and iron from the back.
  • To spin dry a woollen jumper*, lie the garment out flat on a bath towel or bigger. The thirstier the towel, the better. Roll the towel containing the jumper quite firmly until you have a firm roll with all parts of the jumper hidden from view. Put in the washing machine and run the spin cycle, making sure you have the load properly balanced. Unroll when done and dry however you normally dry your woollens.

When spin drying has not been possible or convenient, I have been known to put the rolled up towel, containing said item, on the floor and walk up and down a few times over it. Turn it half a turn and do it again, and it will be as dry as any spin dry.

* I understand that this word has a different meaning, depending on which country you’re in. In Australia, a ‘jumper’ is a long sleeved knitted garment, often wool, which is pulled over the head and keeps the upper part of the body warm. It is also known as a ‘pullover’ and sometimes a ‘sweater’.

  • What to do when a woollen jumper has shrunk: Firstly, prevention is definitely better than cure! Always read and obey labels. For hand made garments, read the washing instructions on the skein labels if available, otherwise always use the least destructive method of washing for your garment. Briefly, that will usually be hand washing in warm water, with mild soap, wool mix or the above mentioned laundry mix recipes, rinsing until water runs clear, squeezing excess water out and laying it flat to dry, out of direct sunlight. Okay, so all that has failed for one reason or another, most often because someone else has thrown the garment into a normal machine cycle, or drier, and the thing now looks like it might fit the cat, maybe… If it hadn’t started to matt already, you might be lucky enough to save it. Try either (or both) of the following:
    1. Wet the garment thoroughly. Gently squeeze most of the water out and pin it out, gently stretching it to its former size and shape, onto a firm surface, such as a carpeted floor. I suggested that the pins be no further apart than 5cm, closer if you have the patience. When dry, remove and press lightly with a view to moving the pin marks. I don’t know how this will work as I’ve never tried it on a shrunken garment before although I have used the same method to stretch out a circular knitted lace baby’s blanket I made a couple of decades back.
    2. I *do* like it when I find instructions which complement my best guess, and I found the following, courtesy of Jackie French in ‘Household Self Sufficiency’: Try soaking it in 1 cup of Epsom salts to 1 bucket of warm water for 10 minutes. Don’t rinse. Lay (garment) out on a towel in light shade and gently pull into shape. Don’t stretch too much. If necessary, repeat this several times.

I figure if the garment has already shrunk, you don’t have much to lose by trying the above. If it is already matted or felted, find an alternative use for it, like lining pot holders or something, as nothing is going to bring it back.

  • Natural bleach: Boiling, soaking in salt and lemon and sun drying all whiten cottons.
  • Fading: To reduce fading, always peg out clothes inside out. (Obviously not applicable for those who use dryers, or dry indoors/under the house etc.)
  • Suds return washing machines. I bought a suds return washing machine a couple of years ago and then I wondered if I had done the right thing… I might be saving all this water, but only from the wash cycle; the rinse water was being discarded. But surely my wash would turn this unsightly grey/brown colour from using the recycled dirtiest water. I’ve found out since that some people have simply declined to use the water saver option of their machine because of this very concern. What if there were some way to reuse the water from the rinse cycle instead of the wash cycle? My solution, having only the occasional mishap when I forget to replace the hoses properly, is to change over the location of the 2 hoses so that the ‘drain’ hose now goes into the tub and the ‘pump’ hose goes into the drain outlet. (It helps to mark them too.) Don’t change how the hoses are attached to the machine, just where their destinations are going to be. This way the dirty soapy water from the wash cycle is discarded and the cleaner rinse water is saved. The only extra energy required is to put the pump hose into the tub when you want to pump the water back into the machine, and remembering to replace it into the drain outlet before you inadvertently capture all that dirty water on the next load.

Comment: If the main reason you are reusing the wash water is to conserve on washing detergents and soaps and reusing the wash cycle water is not a concern, then disregard the above method, and continue as normal.

Ideally of course, all the water would be captured again for use as grey water on gardens, etc. I’m still working on that one.

  • Folding fitted sheets. My method may not necessarily be the best one around but it works well enough for me. I line dry my wash so the following explanation is not going to be applicable for those who use dryers exclusively.
  • I start by hanging out the fitted sheet over the line, carefully straightening it so that both sides are perfectly even, and that where it hangs over the line, marks the sheet exactly in half. Peg. Let dry. I have learned to use the clothes line as a 3rd hand, so I fold all my sheets off the line. This is difficult to explain but I’ll try: As I remove one end peg, I grab the sheet on this fold where the peg used to be. I grab it again, on the fold in the middle, still on the fold line, with my free hand, then, carefully lift these two points off the line and over, so that the sheet is still folded in half, and is now pivoting on the last peg. I grab the first point and the pivoting point together, not letting the middle go yet, removing the last peg as I go, so I now have it folded in quarters as I remove it from the line. Then, I’ll fold it in half again, lengthwise then again, then in half the other way, and half again, stuffing the spare bits in as I go. I don’t know if it is exactly perfect but that’s how I do mine. For single bed sheets, the theory is the same but it doesn’t require as many folds.
    • I received the following advice as to how to fold a fitted sheet from Lisa Shaffer who worked at a nursing home, where driers would be most likely used exclusively:

‘I take the corners at either end of the long side of the sheet, and put my finger tips in the corner of the seam so that it has the seams inside out. I then bring those 2 corners together and overlap them. Do the same to the remaining 2 corners. It should now look like the sheet is laying flat and the folded sides in an upside down U on top. Bring those 2 corners together the same way that you did in the first part. It will now look like an upside down L on the sheet. Fold the long side in twice to make a long strip. Grab one end and roll up tight. This is how I store my fitted sheets. I fold my flat sheets just like you would a blanket. This way, I can tell them apart quickly and easily.’

    • Les Becker e-mailed me the following explanation as to how s/he folds them:

‘I fold my fitted sheets by slipping my hand into the pocket of one corner and my other hand into an opposite pocket. (I have the full length of the sheet going from one hand to the other). Bring the two corners together and tuck one of these corners into the other, keeping that hand still inside. The free hand can now pick up the new fold and even it. Transfer your “tucked corner” to the other hand and pick up BOTH untucked corners from the opposite side of the sheet and tuck those together (takes some practice but you really DON’T need three hands!) Now bring both pairs of tucked corners together and tuck THOSE into one corner. Keep one hand inside this tuck and use the other to even the opposite edge. You can now fold the sheet as if it weren’t fitted at all. Those neatly tucked “corners” no longer work against you.’

  • How to reduce the stiffness of new clothes: A commonly recommended method for removing fabric fillers/sizing, hence stiffness, is by soaking in white vinegar and water. Use 1 cup to 1/2 a bucket of water (approx. 250ml:5l or 1:20) and soak overnight. Then wash as normal.

Another recipe for softening towels, which are generally cotton, is to soak overnight in 1 part Epsom salts to 10 parts warm water. (This sounds rather strong. I’d probably start off at 1:20 and see if that worked first.) Wash well.

  • Hydrogen peroxide is said to work very well in removing blood stains. Just pour a bit on the stained area (if it is very bloody then rinse with cold water first) and let it sit for a minute or two, then wash as usual. The Woods state it is fun to watch the stuff bubble and fizz. They warn NOT to let it dry – it’s then very difficult to remove. (John and Mary Wood) My advice is to be a bit careful using this around coloureds. Test on an inconspicuous bit first for colour fastness.

© Margaret Van Emmerik 1998-2001.

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Home > Household hints > Laundry
Eye Care Recipes
Eye Makeup Remover BY PUPPILUV

A great way to get off eye makeup is to mix water and baby bath. Removes it in seconds, even waterproof.

Cold Cream on eyelashes and brows keeps soap out of eyes while shampooing.
Tired Eyes: Squeeze cotton pads out of ice water, place on eyelids and lie down, elevate feet.
Eye Soother : Place cucumber slices on eye lids while relaxing in a hot bath for ten minutes.
Dark Circles or Bags Under Eyes: Place slightly warm tea bags over your eyes, leave on for 10-15 minutes.
More tips from our readers
Dark Circle Eliminator: BY GODDES

Slice one small piece off of a potato, and cut the slice in half. Put each slice under your eyes and leave them under your eyes for 20 minutes.

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Caring For Your Teeth


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Here are some tried and true mouth care recipes to not only brighten your teeth, they also save on your pocket book. Experiment, come up with your own variations.

Mint Tooth Paste

  • 6 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons glycerin
  • 15 drops peppermint


Mix thoroughly. Should be a tooth paste consistency. For flavor you can add a few drops of peppermint or wintergreen. Store in a container. You’ll be surprised with how fresh your mouth feels.

Lemon Mouth Wash

  • 3/4 cup vodka
  • 20 drops lemon essential oil
  • 1 1/4 cup distilled water
  • 30 drops bergamot essential oil


Combine the vodka with the essential oils in a bottle, shake well then allow to sit for 1 week. Shake once a day. When ready to use it , dilute the mix with 3 parts water/ 1 part mixture. Use it as a gargle or mouth rinse. Do Not Drink.

Super Cleanser

  • Hydrogen peroxide (a few drops)
  • Baking soda


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  • Eye Care
  • Mouth Care
  • Hair Care
  • Body Care
  • Hands and Feet Care
  • Skin Care
  • Facials
  • Facial Scrubs/Masks
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  • Avocado Beauty
  • Massage Oils
  • Bath Recipes
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  • Beauty Tips
  • Soap Making
  • Beauty Articles
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Make a paste by combining the two ingredients. Use this paste on your teeth and also gently rub along your gums two times a week.
Mouth Wash
Rinse your mouth with cooled tea (mint is a perfect choice.)
Toothache Relief
Dab 1-5 drops of clove oil (a powerful antiseptic) onto a cotton ball and place over painful tooth or gums. It will numb the area, giving temporary relief. (Clove oil is rich in eugenol, dentists use eugenol as a local anesthetic. *Avoid during pregnancy. Do not use on children and babies.
Chamomile Fields Shampoo Recipe


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This shampoo smells similar to apples. Chamomile is well known for its healing properties, is also very effective as a shampoo. It has antifungal and antibacterial properties. Either annual (Matricaria recutica) or perennial Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) species can be used.


  • 4 bags of Chamomile tea (or 1 handful of fresh Chamomile flowers)
  • 4 tablespoons pure soap flakes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons glycerin*


Let the tea bags steep in 1 1/2 cups of boiled water for 10 minutes. Remove the tea bags and with the remaining liquid add the soap flakes. Let stand until the soap softens. Stir in glycerin until mixture is well blended. Pour into a bottle. Keep in a dark, cool place.

click for more uses for chamoSuitable for all hair types

Soapwart: Saponaria officinalis contains saponins which

is similar to soap. It lathers when agitated.

Lemon Verbena: for a citrus fragrance

Catnip: promotes healthy hair growth


  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried soapwart root (chopped) (most health food stores would carry this)
  • 2 teaspoons Lemon Verbena or 2 teaspoons Catnip


Bring water to a boil add soapwart and simmer, cover for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, add herb then allow mixture to cool. Strain the mixture keeping the liquid. Pour into a bottle. Makes enough for 6-7 shampoos. Must be used within 8-10 days. Store in a cool dark place.


Tips On How To Make Different

Natural Beauty Masks


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Even though we weren’t out baking in the sun all summer long (and you weren’t, right?), our skin and hair often wind up dehydrated and dull at the end of these hot months. Make your hair shine and your skin glow with these all-natural recipes you can whip up with just a few simple, easy-to-find ingredients.

Egg yolks are widely acknowledged as one of nature’s best moisturizers. Here are a couple ultra-rich masks to “deep condition” hair and skin.

Egg Yolk & Honey Facial Mask (best for dryer skin types)
Mix together 1 tablespoon honey, 1 egg yolk, 1/2 teaspoon almond oil and 1 tablespoon yogurt. Honey stimulates and smoothes, egg and almond oil penetrate and moisturize, and yogurt refines and tightens pores.
Egg Yolk, Avocado & Mud Facial Mask (best for oilier skin types)
Clay or fuller’s earth mud is available in powder form at any health food store. Mix 1 tablespoon dry clay with 1 egg yolk, 1/4 of a mashed avocado and enough witch hazel to create a smooth mixture. Mud dries excess sebum while the egg yolk and avocado replenish lost moisture. Witch hazel tones.
Egg & Olive Oil Hair Mask
Mix two whole eggs with four tablespoons of olive oil. Smooth through hair. Wrap head with Saran Wrap and allow to penetrate for 10 minutes. Rinse well.
Fruit Smoothie Hair Mask
This mask sounds good enough to eat! In a blender mix 1/2 a banana, 1/4 avocado, 1/4 cantaloupe, 1 tablespoon wheat germ oil and 1 tablespoon yogurt. For extra conditioning, squeeze in the contents of a vitamin E capsule. Leave in hair for 15 minutes.
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  • Skin Care
  • Facials
  • Facial Scrubs/Masks
  • Honey Beauty
  • Avocado Beauty
  • Massage Oils
  • Bath Recipes
  • Perfume Recipes
  • Beauty Tips
  • Soap Making
  • Beauty Articles
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To polish up those patchy remnants of a tan, bring your loofah into the bath with you, and add one of these ingredients to speed up the exfoliating process:

3/4 cup of lemon juice added to your bath water helps to bleach a fading tan and smooth away flaky skin. Or, you can mix a paste with lemon juice plus salt or sugar. Leave on the skin for 30 minutes and rinse dry, dead skin off with it!

Oatmeal is great for soothing a sunburn as well as for exfoliating. Fill an old sock with oatmeal and swish it in your bath water; once it’s softened up, you can then scrub your body with it.

Vinegar restores the acid balance of skin and also acts as a gentle exfoliant. Try adding 1 cup of raw apple cider vinegar to a lukewarm bath to ease the separation of peeling skin.

If you’re still in a blotchy, in-between stage, you might also want to experiment with gentle self-tanners or bronzers to ease the transition.

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Throughout the centuries, legendary beauties have used honey as part of their skin and hair care treatments. Cleopatra was famous for her milk and honey baths, and Poppea, wife of Roman Emperor Nero, used a honey and milk lotion on her face to keep her looking youthful. By the time cosmetics were beginning to be mass produced in the late 1800s, honey was a popular ingredient. Today, manufacturers are increasingly using honey in skin moisturizers, facial masks, hair conditioners and shower gels in response to consumer demand for more natural formulations.

Did you know!

All-natural honey is an effective treatment for minor abrasions and burns. A recent review of medical research documents its effectiveness as an antimicrobial agent.

A Natural Moisturizer

The skin’s ability to stay hydrated is an important factor in its ability to maintain softness, suppleness and elasticity. As skin ages, or as it is exposed to environmental stresses and chemical agents, it loses this ability to retain water, becomes dry and appears wrinkled. Honey is a humectant, which means it attracts and retains water. So honey is a natural fit for a variety of moisturizing products including cleansers, creams, shampoos and conditioners. Because honey is also an anti-irritant, it is suitable for sensitive skin and baby care products.

Skin Softening Bath

Add ¼ cup honey to bath water for a fragrant, silky bath.

Hair Shine

Stir 1 teaspoon honey into 4 cups (1 quart) warm water. Blondes may wish to add a squeeze of lemon. After shampooing, pour mixture through hair. Do not rinse out. Dry as normal.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Research is currently underway to develop a process using honey to create alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). AHAs are an important ingredient in many skin creams and moisturizers because they help exfoliate the skin. Increased exfoliation, or renewal of the skin cells, gives skin a younger, more vibrant look. Exfoliation can also cause skin irritation so honey’s natural moisturizing ability makes it a perfect fit for AHA products.

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Soapmaking for the first timer
Linda Orton
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Moisture Mask
Mix 2 tablespoons honey with 2 teaspoons milk. Smooth over face and throat. Leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse off with warm water.
Smoothing Skin Lotion
Mix 1 teaspoon honey with 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and ¼ teaspoon lemon. Rub into hands, elbows, heels and anywhere that feels dry. Leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse off with water.


Preliminary studies have also revealed that honey has significant natural antioxidant properties. Antioxidants play a role in protecting the skin from the damage of UV rays and in aiding in skin rejuvenation. Prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV radiation can cause skin damage, premature aging and even skin cancer. Because chemical and physical barrier sunscreens can cause skin irritation, companies are researching the use of antioxidants, anti-irritants and moisturizers in their sun care products. The natural properties of honey make it ideal for these products. Look for honey to appear in the ingredient statements of more and more cosmetics, sunscreens and skin care products.

Honey Cleansing Scrub
Mix 1 tablespoon honey with 2 tablespoons finely ground almonds and ½ teaspoon lemon juice. Rub gently onto face. Rinse off with warm water.
Firming Face Mask
Whisk together 1 tablespoon honey, 1 egg white, 1 teaspoon glycerin and enough flour to form a paste. (Approximately ¼ cup). Smooth over face and throat. Leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse off with warm water.
Sunday-Over-The-Sink Shampoo BY APRIL A
Hello! I love your site and wanted to contribute a great piece of hair care advice to the readers! My Mom taught it to me as a child and she called it the “Sunday-Over-The-Sink Shampoo.”

Ingredients: one beaten whole egg in one bowl, and two tablespoons of mayonnaise in another bowl.

(Don’t do this in the shower-it’ll make you smell like a salad unless you want to wash after. That’s why you do it in a sink!)

Hanging your head in the sink, wet your hair and gently massage the whole beaten egg through your hair, taking extra care with your scalp. This treatment is meant to get the oils, built up conditioners, and dirt from the past week- off your scalp and purify it. Let the egg sit for about a minute, then rise throughly with warm water. Massage in the mayonnaise in the same way, but paying attention to the tips of the hair, and let sit for about 2-3 minutes. (For a deep conditioning-wrap your head in a towel and sit in the sun for 30 minutes) Rinse with warm water and then shampoo with your normal shampoo. Don’t condition after. Voila! Shiny, conditioned hair, with a sqeaky clean scalp.

PS. This treatment works very well with people with oily scalp/hair or people that are trying to grow their hair out from a very SHORT do(gives the growing hair a clean environment to grow faster and healthier!)

Straight & Beautiful Hair BY MARIA
You put some milk in a sprits bottle and spray your hair while it’s damp. Then let it set for 20 minutes, then rinse and shampoo. It will make your hair straight and beautiful.
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Beauty Q & A’s

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  • Eye Care
  • Mouth Care
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  • Hands and Feet Care
  • Skin Care
  • Facials
  • Facial Scrubs/Masks
  • Honey Beauty
  • Avocado Beauty
  • Massage Oils
  • Bath Recipes
  • Perfume Recipes
  • Beauty Tips
  • Soap Making
  • Beauty Articles
  • Readers Beauty Tips
  • Readers Hair Tips
Natural Body Basics
Doris Byers
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Pour one bottle of beer in your hair. Makes your hair shine so beautiful (you won’t smell like an alchoholic)
Put a dab of lotion in the palm of your hand and then rub it through your hair but not at the roots, just at the ends of your hair. It makes it so your hair doesn’t get all staticky.


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  4. Thanks for all these great tips! They’re really useful. I was looking for a specific solution to a cleaning problem, and this has really helped.

    Decanting bigger bottles into smaller ones is a really great tip. One way of avoiding mislabelling mishaps could be to buy a small bottle of the product and keep the bottle when it runs out, then buy jumbo size bottles thereafter and decant into the smaller bottle.

  5. These are truly wonderful
    John Smith

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