Know Your Cleaning Products

Two women, different locations, same accident. Both women using an ordinary commercial toilet bowl cleaner, were not satisfied with the way it was removing stains. Each added household chlorine bleach and stirred with a brush.

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One died quickly, the other spent a long time in the hospital.

Here’s the problem: Whenever chlorine bleach comes into contact with acid or an acid-producing substance like toilet bowl cleaner or vinegar, there is a sudden release of chlorine gas. This is not a good thing. A similar result occurs when chlorine bleach is mixed with ammonia, lye or other alkaline substances. Chlorine gas is lethal.

Now that I have your attention let me assure you: If you stay clear of chlorine bleach, you have nothing to fear by making your own cleaning products. Why should you even consider doing that? The cost, for starters. You know that blue window cleaner sitting on your counter? You paid about 30 cents an ounce for it and it’s 95 percent water. Your own products will cost only pennies to make and will not contain toxic chemicals that could be harmful to your family and the environment.

Trick Yourself into Saving Money

Buying things when they’re on sale is a great way to avoid overspending. But unless you are diligent to take the difference between the regular price and the sale price and actually deposit that into a savings account, are you really saving money? Nope. You’re just spending less. And you can “spend less” right through your entire paycheck. 

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While being careful to keep spending under control is admirable, it’s easy to fool yourself into believing that you’re a money-saving genius, when in truth you’re just spending all that you earn, wishing you made enough money to save some of it.

Getting started with actual savings—and by that I mean money that is put away into a safe place—can be difficult if you have a spending habit, a small budget or some of each. The way to remove the pain is to trick yourself into thinking you’re not really saving that much. Check out these tricks and get started today.

Call it a bill. This may sound silly, but just go with me here. Create a new monthly bill that you are obligated to pay and call it “Paying Myself First.” Make it look like an invoice of $5, billed to you. I don’t care how little money you earn or how poor you believe that you are. Anyone who really wants to start saving has $5 they can devote to the effort. Put this tiny bill at the top—ahead of the rent, food or phone bill. Your smallest bill will soon become your favorite.

Reader Mail Both Unpredictable and Enjoyable

For anyone wishing to study human nature, my mailbag would make an interesting research center. I get tons of mail. But rather than arriving in a steady flow it comes in waves. I’ve given up trying to predict which subjects will prompt responses from my readers.

photo credit: Matt McGee

photo credit: matt mcgee

Take the recent column on the inherent dangers associated with debit cards because of a relatively weak law that regulates them, as opposed to the much stronger law that protects users of credit cards. It was, in my humble opinion, empowering information worthy of some measure of positive response. Or at least a few angry challenges from loyal debit-card users. Surprisingly, responses to that column were nearly non-existent.

DIY Nontoxic Ant Spray and More

I don’t know about you, but when I learn some new and amazing household tip that promises to save me time and or money, well, it just makes my day. I love it! Not all of the tips I get from you, my faithful readers, are brand new. But since I am not good at keeping 20,000 or more of these delicious little tidbits cataloged in my mind, (yes, you’ve sent in at least that many over the years), even the ones I know already can become a new delight when you remind me of them.

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I hope you enjoy today’s offering of great tips as much as I am.

Those pesky ants. If you have ants or other bugs taking up residence in or around the house, put 50/50 mixture of Blue Dawn dish soap and water into empty spray bottle and keep it handy. When you see the insects, spray them with the mixture. Provided you really saturate those little critters, the soap actually breaks down their exoskeletons and they die almost immediately. Cheap and easy clean-up, too. Lynda F.

Slippery clean-up. I enjoy baking, but don’t like measuring sticky ingredients like shortening or peanut butter. To avoid the mess that makes, I spray the measuring cup with a non-stick cooking spray and the sticky ingredient slides right out. I no longer have to spend time scraping the measuring cup or spoon. Joyce R.

Six Ways to Get Out of a Supermarket Without Overspending

This is not the first time in this column that we’ve visited the subject of how to get out of the supermarket with at least some money left in your bank account. Still, who doesn’t need an occasional reminder—a mental tune-up—to remain vigilant and razor-sharp when it comes to making our food dollars stretch until they scream.

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Don’t go in hungry. You believe that you can simply dash in to pick up the infamous few things. But if you’re starving, you’re a dead aim for a couple of steaks and a load of snacks. You know what I’m talking about. This is because of Rule #1: Anything can happen when you are hungry.

Don’t try to remember. Sure, playing Brain Age on your kid’s Game Boy has revitalized your dead brain cells, rendering you the mental acuity of a youngster—but don’t push it. Without a list of the exact items you’ve come to purchase who knows what could happen? It’s normal for our brains to slip into neutral in the face of fabulous food. A written list is the crutch you need desperately to make sure you do not slip and fall, so to speak.

A “Unitasker” by Any Other Name is Still a Waste of Time and Money

Celebrity chef Alton Brown contends that a kitchen tool that does only one job is mostly useless. He calls anything like a garlic press, strawberry stem remover or hot dog steamer a “unitasker.”  His advice? Don’t waste your time and money on any kitchen tool if it is only good for one thing.

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It sounds a bit like Alton spent time with my grandma who was big on buying a sack of flour to bake bread, then sewing the sack into a dress, and when the dress wore out she would cut it into rags for a rug, or scraps for a quilt.

Tips to Save Time and Money at Home

Sometimes Home, Sweet Home can seem more like a money pit. But your house doesn’t have to cost you tons for upkeep when you ingenuity, creativity, shopping sense and savings sense to bring out the best without breaking the bank

French Doors

Enjoy these sensible tips for making your house a wonderful home, with time and money to spare.

DRY ERASE BOARD. Clean it with a dab of toothpaste on a clean, damp cloth. The board will be beautifully clean and minty fresh as well. And no more ghosting.

MAKE YOUR OWN. Extra pillowcases can be pricey, so consider making your own: When you buy your net set of sheets, buy an additional flat queen-sized sheet match (individual sheets are readily available online), regardless of the matching set. Out of the queen flat sheet you can make three pairs of matching pillowcases for a fraction of the cost of buying them ready made. By measuring a commercially made pillowcase, it is easy to create a usable pattern. 

A Surprise Cleaning Agent for Fireplace Doors

I had a striking déjà vu moment when I read today’s first reader tip. I don’t think I’d ever thought about it, but Roseanne’s tip brought back a memory of my grandfather doing this very thing on the big, black cast iron wood range that sat in my grandparents’ tiny kitchen in Potlatch, Idaho. The stove had a small door with a glass window to observe the fire burning inside. He would clean that door so my grandmother could see when she needed to add more wood to the stove. Sounds like something out of the the dark ages, doesn’t it? For the record, I was a very, very young at the time.

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FIREPLACE GLASS. This is a trick I learned from my mother for cleaning the glass on the glass fireplace or stove doors that get fouled with smoke and soot, becoming opaque so you cannot see and enjoy the flame. Spread newspaper down, open the door. Take another wadded up page of newspaper, wet it, dip it in the ashes and use it to clean the glass. This will remove everything from the glass without scratching or harming it in anyway. Last step: Wad up one last piece of newspaper and use it to wipe away all of the crud and nastiness. The result is quite amazing and the price is right. Rosanne