Low-Cost Green Household Tips from the Cupboard


Cleaning up with Banksy's graffiti. Photo via Flickr: by Give Peace a Chance

Don't need any more tips about greening your house, apartment, loft, garage, or tent?
How about easy, cheap ways to fix everything from floors to frying pans and dealing with furballs? Haley's Hints Green Edition suggests 1,000 unlikely solutions for stuff like removing mud stains with potatoes. With summer coming there are ingenious ideas for the garden, pest control, and camping. Nontoxic and clever, this guide shows lots of ways that items in your cupboard do unexpected tricks.
Chockfull of useful info, Haley's manual is sometimes corny, recommending cornmeal and cornstarch, as well as ways to recycle pantyhose. Beyond cleaning, it advises how to make things last (stick celery in a bread bag), how to eliminate odors, rescue burned rice, get rid of dust mites, and use leftovers from coffee to cereal box liners. Here's a sampling:

To crisp wilted vegetables, soak in lemon or cider vinegar in ice-cold water for an hour
Add sugar cubes to cheese to prevent mold
Store tools in sand to prevent rust
A pail of water or plate of sliced apples helps remove paint smells
Cure dandruff with a crushed aspirin in shampoo

kitchen cupboard photo

Find remedies beyond baking soda and vinegar solutions. Photo via Flickr: by Average Jane

Every clean-up kit must have vinegar and baking soda. They clean almost everything (but don't mix them together unless you're making a paper mache volcano). Other helpful items from the cupboard: toothpaste, lemon, cream of tartar, and salt.

Eliminate pesticides with these natural ways to deal with bugs:
Sage and white pepper repels ants
Basil fends off mosquitoes
Garlic keeps bugs away from compost
A wad of mint gum on the edge of plates discourages flies

The book has preventative care ideas, thoughts on recycling things including hot water bottles and baby gates, and ways to make "disposable" shavers less disposable. Here's a favorite: use leftover pasta or potato (cooled, of course) to water plants—apparently they love carbs, too.

Part of simplifying solutions to life's little problems, I discovered how to soak up ink stains with milk and concoct beauty treatments ranging from a facial mask recipe with a mixture of oatmeal, yogurt and water. It covers everything from how to remove burn marks from wood surfaces and insulate pipes with a simple wrap in aluminum foil.

Rosemary and Graham Haley offer practical household remedies without the need for expensive products. The index directs you to find pointers, from the afterlife of an onion to how to remove labels with baby oil. Their green version is as commonsensical as the original "Hints" books and healthier--without lighter fluid type recommendations.

Perhaps these dozen handy tips entice you to wonder about waterproofing matches and opening wine without a corkscrew.

More DIY Spring Cleaning Solutions:
100 Green Uses for Common, Everyday Objects
Spring Cleaning: "100 Reasons to Get Rid of It"
Help, It's Broken: Fix Your Life
Do You Use "Green" Cleaning Products?

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