A close up of a device

I Know a Magic Trick and I’m Telling All

Is it just me, or do you too love to discover something inexpensive that does the exact same thing as its pricey name-brand cousin? It’s not just the money-saving difference that pushes my buttons, it’s the “knowing” part. I’m not saying it makes me feel smarter, or even smug. On second thought, maybe that’s exactly what I’m saying. Ha.

A close up of a device


Magic Erasers

Have you ever wondered what’s the “magic” in Mr. Clean Magic Erasers? They are quite amazing, but expensive. Generally, the Mr. Clean brand erasers each depending on where you find them and if you go for the original or magic erasers with fragrance. Generic versions of magic erasers are made of the identical same material for a fraction of the price. I have seen them as low as .

Here’s the secret behind that “magic.” These erasers are small cuts of melamine foam, which comes in big sheets and is used for insulating and soundproofing. Seriously true.

Mr. Clean must have a big saw in his basement where he cuts it up into sponge-size pieces. So does that generic company that sells the identical same product for just pennies. Interested readers who want a 4- x 8-foot sheet of melamine insulating foam should Google “melamine foam.” 

Me? I’m thrilled with the erasers that cost a dime each. A box of 100 lasts a long time, although I have to admit to using them quite freely and for just about every household cleaning opportunity I can think of. Magic makes cleaning fun.

Washing soda

It’s a wonderful product, made popular by the Arm & Hammer Company that markets it as “Super Washing Soda.” Not the same as baking soda (sodium bicarbonate is edible and used in balking), washing soda (sodium carbonate absolutely not edible) has many uses. Arm & Hammer has made sodium carbonate a popular laundry and household cleaning product because its properties change the chemical properties of water making is “softer.”  Sodium carbonate is white, odorless and strongly alkaline. Super Washing Soda, an ingredient in my favorite homemade laundry detergent, is available in retail supermarkets and also online. Prices vary, however expect to pay $.20 per ounce for Super Washing soda.

Or you can skip the fancy name and go for a bag of sodium carbonate at a pool supply store. Or in the pool supply aisle at Walmart or Target. Look for its other common name, “Soda ash.” Or you can find it also sold as “dye fixer.” 

Provided you see that the ingredient is sodium carbonate, (identical to what’s inside a box of Super Washing Soda), you’ve got the right product. The only difference? The price. I have never paid more than $.08 an ounce for soda ash from a local pool supply store—less than half the price of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda.

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