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Michelle Fern Michelle Fern
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Unusual ways to use regular household products

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The next time you're in need of a pest repellent, stain remover or something to remedy an ailment, check your pantry before heading to the store. You might just find what you need and, surprisingly, it may simply be a common kitchen ingredient.

For years people have had their own uses for different products, some of which seem very unusual but work. So I thought I would take some time to surf the web and talk to a few friends to compile a list of great, thrifty and eco-friendly uses for everyday household items that you may not have thought of.


Reduce cellulite Pricey cellulite creams almost always have one major ingredient in common: caffeine. The alkaloid supposedly enhances fat metabolism, reducing the appearance of these fatty pockets under the skin. To make your own coffee cellulite treatment at home, mix warm, used coffee grounds with coconut oil and rub it onto your skin in circular motions for a few minutes before rinsing.

Reduce fireplace mess  Want to clean your fireplace without causing a dust storm? Wait until the embers are cool, sprinkle damp coffee grounds all over the ashes, let them sit for about 15 minutes and then scoop out the whole mess into a metal ash can. The coffee grounds cling to the ashes, so the mixture doesn't spew dust nearly as much as ashes would otherwise.

Repel fleas  Rub used, damp coffee grounds through your pet's fur after bathing to repel fleas without questionable, likely-toxic chemical treatments. If nothing else, it will at least improve that post-bath wet-dog smell that gets all over your furniture.


Splinter removal There's no way to say it more eloquently splinters suck. They're painful to remove, and sometimes they slice too far into the skin to pull out.

Instead of waiting for it to come out on its own, try this odd trick: Place a thin slice over the splinter and hold it on with a bandage. The garlic should help the splinter work its way out of the skin within hours.

Fish bait Garlic's strong smell may repel insects, but it has the opposite effect on fish. That's right, garlic cloves are recommended by some fisherman as an unusual bait that can attract catfish, carp, trout, bass and other species. Marshmallows or dough balls made from a mixture of crackers and cat food are coated with crushed or powdered garlic and placed on a hook to lure the fish with its scent.

Athlete's foot  Garlic is a potent natural antifungal, making it ideal for treating fungal infections like irritating, itchy athlete's foot. Add a few cloves of crushed garlic to warm water in a foot bath and soak the affected foot for 30 minutes.

Lemon Juice

Glass cleaner  Lemon juice will make hard-water stains, debris and other marks on glass disappear. Use straight lemon juice on a sponge for tough jobs, or dilute a few tablespoons in a cup of water and spray it on. Wipe it off with newspaper for totally transparent windows that might just kill a bird or two.

Stain remover and laundry brightener  Sweat, mildew, berries, wine, and oil pretty much any substance that leaves a stain on fabric can be removed with good old lemon juice. Durable fabrics can be rubbed with a paste of lemon juice and salt while more delicate fabrics might require a gentler touch, saturating the stain with lemon juice and then washing it out.

Just as it removes stains, lemon juice can act as a natural, non-toxic alternative to bleach. Add a quarter cup of juice to the washing machine to brighten whites. Lemon juice's stain-removing power is further heightened by hanging the treated laundry up to dry in the sun.

Hangover help The next time you're groaning in pain the morning after enjoying just a tad too much alcohol, try drinking a little lemon juice squeezed into warm water or tea. Not only does it help you rehydrate, but the lemon juice can reportedly help balance the pH levels in your body and replace the vitamin C lost in the binge.

Olive Oil

Hairball prevention Nobody likes the sound of a cat loudly hacking up a hairball, especially since it always seems to happen when you're trying to eat or sleep. Help it pass through your cat's system more easily by adding 1/4 teaspoon of olive oil to his or her food each day.

Hinge lubricant WD-40 shouldn't hold a monopoly on squeaky door hinges when simple, natural olive oil works just as well. Wipe it on with a cotton ball or use a spray bottle to lubricate the hinge and eliminate that annoying creak.

Personal lubricant  Squeaky hinges aren't the only parts that work better when lubricated. If you're in the mood for some slippery fun, don't rush to grab a tube of KY Jelly. In fact, there are lots of safe, natural alternatives to potentially toxic personal lubricants, but plain old olive oil will do the trick nicely just avoid using it with latex condoms.


Fruit fly trap  Few things are more tempting to pesky fruit flies than an aromatic glass of red wine. Use this attraction to your advantage and soon these unwanted guests will disappear from your kitchen.

Just pour a half-inch of red wine into a glass and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Then, poke a few small holes in the wrap, which will let the flies in but won't allow them to exit.Turn it into jelly  Your choice of wine, some sugar and a pouch of liquid pectin are all it takes to make a customized flavor of wine jelly. Who wouldn't like a little homemade champagne jelly with strawberries on their morning toast?

Heal bruises  An old remedy recommends soaking a piece of bread in wine and then applying it to a bruise to help it heal faster. Does it really work? It's hard to say, but there may be some science to support this theory.

Wine is rich in flavonoids, which are antioxidants that have a number of beneficial effects on the body, including soothing inflamed tissue.


Egg glue Egg white is naturally sticky. If you touch it, it will cause your fingers to stick the moment it dries. Try using the egg's sticky base when mending light items like paper and cardboard. You'll notice it works just like all-purpose glue, with the nearly the same amount of holding power. You can even use egg white to create paper mch paste by mixing it with flour, water, sugar and alum.

Egg white-based facial cleanser The egg white cleanser is a good supplementary material for its yolk-based counterpart. If the yolk facial cleanser prevents skin aging, the egg white cleanser smoothes the skin. It removes the puffiness beneath the eyelids, blurs the pores and makes the skin tighter.

You can alternate both facial cleansers nightly for maximum results. Plus use the egg whites to help diminish the look of wrinkles. Just dab a little egg white on your crow's feet, let dry and your skin will tighten up.

Pest repellent Scattering crushed eggshells on the leaves of plants can keep soft-bodied pests away from your plants. Snails and slugs, known as notorious leaf eaters, will hurt their bellies if they run over the jagged corners of crushed eggshells. Once they get hurt, they will move away from your garden as soon as possible.


Put it on your lips  Did you know that making your own lip balm is as easy as tracking down some almond oil, beeswax and honey? It is, and probably makes you feel a little guilty about that $10 version you picked up at the health food store yesterday.

Clean your cuts and scrapes  Honey can actually be used as an antiseptic, like a natural Neosporin. Because of its many antimicrobial properties, it can be used to treat wounds and even burns.

Beautify your hair After you wash your hair in the shower, coat the ends with a bit of honey. Let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing out and you'll find that your hair is less frizzy and more conditioned. Or make your hair shiny and bright by adding one teaspoon honey to one quart of water and, after washing your hair, pouring the mixture over your head. Let dry and enjoy your new-found shiny do.

Green Tea

Sunburn treatment While green tea does not block UV light, it protects exposed skin cells from damage. Studies have shown that when green tea is directly applied to the skin, it helps to protect the skin from sunburn and skin cancer. You could apply a green tea extract to the skin or a cooled cloth that was soaked in brewed green tea.

Drinking green tea regularly a few weeks prior to sun exposure can also reduce the possibility of skin damage, due to the tea's powerful antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate.

Anxiety remedy An amino acid called theanine is found in green tea leaves and it is thought to give a relaxing and tranquilizing effect on the body.

Bleeding reduction The tannins found in green tea help stop bleeding by coagulating the blood. Steep a tea bag in hot water, remove it after one minute, and then let it cool. Place the tea bag on top of the bleeding area or dip gauze into the tea water and apply the gauze to the gash. You could also use a green tea extract for application.


Remedy sore throats  Many people recommend sipping or gargling with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a cup of warm water to soothe a sore throat. Add a few tablespoons of honey (also a seriously versatile product) to this mixture in order to make it even more effective and far more palatable.

Clean crusty paintbrushes  So you forgot to clean your paintbrushes last time you used them, and now they're so stiff and crusty, it seems that you'll have to throw them away. Not so fast fill a saucepan with undiluted white vinegar and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Dip the paintbrushes into the boiling vinegar, one at a time, dragging the bristles along the bottom of the pan. Continue this process until the paint is dissolved.

Kill weeds  A few rogue weeds can wreak havoc in an otherwise flawless lawn, vegetable garden, or flowerbed and are especially annoying when popping up in the cracks of a sidewalk or driveway. Forget pricey weed killers full of toxic ingredients household vinegar really does kill unwanted plants; stronger vinegar made for horticultural use, which is 25 percent acetic acid, works even better.

Other tidbits from readers

Lisa likes to use ketchup to clean her copper-bottomed pans. Karen puts cayenne pepper along her baseboards and entry points to deter ants. Jan puts a cup of beer in the garden to catch and drown slugs. Missy uses duct tape to create a fast and easy (until you have to remove it) strapless pushup bra.


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