Ask Me Anything: Vacuum Cleaner and Home Chef Packaging Material

In elementary school I was one of those kids who would get so excited raising my hand and jumping up and down when the teacher asked a question I knew the answer. Me, me, me! Pick me!!

That may or may not have been what I did when both of today’s questions landed in my inbox on the same day one right after the other.

Your Best Inexpensive recommendations are awesome! Love my Eufy robot and Rowenta steam iron. Both items are practically life-changing. I also adored Home Chef but the accumulation of ice packs and insulation pads overwhelmed me. The company could not provide answers as to what to do with this stuff. The ice pack gel cannot go down my drains because of our septic system. This was the recommendation of the ice pack manufacturer. My freezer can’t hold anymore packs. I’ve listed both the ice packs and insulation padding on free cycle and Craigslist numerous times with no results. Any ideas?  I miss my Home Chef. Ellen

Dear Ellen: I contacted Creative Packaging, the company that manufactures the PacTemp Creative Ice Gel Packs as well as our friends at Home Chef to make sure I’m giving you the most accurate answers to your questions.

Ryan Usher of Creative Packaging tells us that the best way to dispose of the gel ice packs is to allow them to fully thaw. Next, cut open the side and empty the gel into your waste receptacle—your regular household trash can—along with other non-recyclable household trash. Then you can recycle the empty plastic pouch with other plastics. That may sound like a lot of work, but it’s not at all. It takes me only a few minutes to dispose of the gel packs, box and packing materials once I remove the meal kits and recipe cards.

PacTemp no longer recommends putting the thawed gel down the sink because while it is non-toxic and not environmentally hazardous in any way, there’s a chance that it could further clog the pipes if there happens to be a pre-existing clog. And if you have a septic tank, PacTemp would also not recommend that you put the gel down your sink. The best method for disposal of the gel contents for all situations is into your household trash receptacle.

As for the delivery box itself and the insulation liner, the folks at Home Chef tell me it’s all compostable—the cardboard box as well as the insulation. That means both can go into your recycle bin or your own compost if you have that. The insulation blanket is made of recycled cotton-enhanced biodegradable textile fibers.

I think you’re good to go with rescheduling your Home Chef!

I’m wondering if you have an opinion on the Dyson “big ball” canister vacuum cleaners?  We need a new vacuum and have a large area of wood and carpet to vacuum. I like the idea of having no bag to replace. Thanks! Julie

Dear Julie: I do have an opinion and here it is: I am not a Dyson fan. I’ve owned and used Dyson products with great disappointment. I think they are too heavy, too cumbersome, too noisy, too prone to premature breakdown and way too expensive.

Quite a few years ago in my frustration I set out to find the best vacuum—forget inexpensive, I just wanted the best so I could stop buying vacuum cleaners! I kept looking at the Shark, but assumed it couldn’t be any good because it truly was inexpensive. I decided to buy my first Shark vacuum anyway with the promise to myself that if it wasn’t a great vacuum I would return it post haste. And let me tell you, I was shocked—speechless! by what happened.

Since then I have owned and gifted so many Shark Navigators (I use the excuse that I need to be always testing the latest model so here you can have this one) I have lost count. My kids, my friends—we’re all Shark freaks. And I’m the biggest one of all. I cannot recommend more highly the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Pro vacuum cleaner. You’ll be happy to know that it is bagless and easy to clean, too. Shark Navigator Lift-Away Pro is designed for hard surfaces, carpeting and stairs, too. It is so lightweight, so well-designed and so effective it makes vacuuming [almost] fun!

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  • Sandra

    Perhaps a food pantry could use the ice packs…?

  • raimerword

    Mary, do you have a central vacuum system that you could recommend? I am disabled and cannot carry too move too much weight or I lose my balance. I was thinking perhaps a plug in the walls where I could connect a long, lightweight hose would be ideal. Can you make any recommendations about that idea?

  • Jeannie

    I bought the Shark vacuum that Mary recommended several years ago and LOVE it! I bought one for my cabin, too. It’s everything she says it is!!

  • Cally

    great, i’ve already dumped the ice packs down the drain and into our septic system….

    • Kimberley Hunter

      If your drain clogs, try equal parts baking soda and vinegar, wait for a bit, then chase it with a kettle full of water that’s been boiled. I don’t know if it will work on Home Chef ice pack gel, but I’ve tried this on hair, and it does work on that.

      • Cally

        Thanks for the tip Kimberley! my concern is more about what happens in my septic tank, since it’s been a month or two and no clogs…knock-on-wood!

  • Jule barta

    I gave my ice packs to a friend who has several kids involved in sports. She loves them. She even started passing them out to her friends. They last longer and are less messy than ice. I would recommend also contacting your local coaches and team mom’s to see if they can use them. I also use the packaging as a cheap cooler for when I travel. At the end of the trip I break everything down and throw it away so there is less to clean or worry about after a trip.

  • Lisa Coleman

    Many times schools and daycares could also use the ice packs for boo-boo ice. Check with your local clinics also.

  • Kelly Osborn

    Vet clinics or animal hospitals would be able to use the ice packs and likely the insulation for kennel liners.

    • Cally

      great idea! my husband receives his insulin in the mail, along with more ice packs, so we have ice packs out the wazoo! A person only needs so many for aches and pains and picnics! 🙂

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