Readers Reinvent Uses for Products

For anyone who has had to deal with a child in pain, it can be a painful experience for everyone—regardless of the age of the child. That’s why as a parent—and now as a grandparent—I appreciate hints and tips that will help me be even more resourceful.


BABY ORAJEL NOT JUST FOR BABIES. Our teenage daughter badly stubbed her toe and we needed to clip the nail. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t let us near it because of the pain. My wife found a tube of Baby Orajel and covered the area using a cotton swab. It was like magic. It numbed the area well enough that I was able to take care of things. I would never have thought to use Baby Orajel this way. When Mary asked for tips of non-standard product uses in her Everyday Cheapskate column, I couldn’t help but share! Randall, Texas

DAWN FOR SPONTANEOUS CLEANING. I keep a bottle of Dawn, an automotive detailing brush and an old toothbrush in my shower. Dawn cuts the soap scum and does not leave a gritty residue. Just don’t overdo it since it can get pretty slippery! Laurel, email

SHOUT OUT THOSE STAINS. I found the best cleaner for my dirty golf shoes: Shout laundry stain remover. It works like a charm, getting down in the creases and crevices to get out the ground-in dirt. My golf shoes are leather, and it has not hurt them or the color. Brenda, Michigan

ERASE THE RED POLISH. Red fingernail polish accidentally spilled on my carpet, making a long red streak. A friend told me to use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. The polish had already dried, but with a little elbow grease and several erasers, it all came out of my carpet. This is a wonderful product! Carolyn, Tennessee

LOOK OFFICIAL TO GET ATTENTION. Take a clipboard with you when you’re shopping. You’ll get waited on quickly, since sales associates will think you’re either a mystery shopper or you’re snooping for the competition. LaVonne, California

PEROXIDE CLEANS UP. I use a 50/50 mixture of peroxide and water in a spray bottle to clean just about everything in my house. It works great on windows using newspaper, and it freshens my wooden cutting boards. On the lip of my sink, it foamed and cleaned up what I thought was rust. And the best part is it’s cheap. Carol, Illinois

FOAMING BUBBLES AROUND THE HOUSE. I took my foaming bath cleaner out of the bathroom and started using it on my walls, floors, patio furniture, kitchen—basically, anything and everything. It cleans it all. When we removed the carpet in the hall, the old vinyl flooring underneath had seen better days. After using the foam on the floor, the dust and carpet fibers came up, and I didn’t have to replace the flooring right away. For most things, just spray, wait a few minutes and whip away the dirt. And it disinfects, too! Jennie, email

Share your own tips in the comments section below, or reach out to me using the contact from here. Include your first and last name and state.

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16 replies
  1. pplanet
    pplanet says:

    I sometimes buy the Dryel-brand product designed to “dry-clean” garments in the home dryer. But I almost never used the liquid stain remover that came with it. I discovered, however, that the stain remover works great for cleaning my dry-erase whiteboard.

  2. Martie Best
    Martie Best says:

    I love great hints and use them all the time, but the absolute, hands-down BEST one I have ever learned is when we bought our latest house a couple of years ago. The fiberglass tub/shower units were just filthy looking, with years of built up scum and stains. The guest bath was not NEARLY as bad as the master, and I spent 4- 5 hours with a hand steamer holding the steam an inch away from the shower wall trying to remove the grime. This was after I’d tried every conceivable cleaner–including straight blue Dawn, Clorox Cleanup, Barkeepers Friend, Scrubbing Bubbles, Ammonia, and anything else you can imagine. When I was finished (and exhausted), it looked fairly well, but the master bath was beyond even the steamer’s capabilities. In desperation I began to search online, and came across a site where people were recommending Fume Free Easy Off Oven Cleaner in the BLUE can. NOT the red can….(remember red=stop) as they said the red would ruin the tub, because it has lye in it. Since the thing was so gross and stained that we were probably going to have to replace it if I couldn’t clean it, I went to Walmart and got a can of Fume Free Easy Off in the blue can. I did what they recommended: I spray it on thickly, opened the window in the bathroom and left it for at least 4 hrs. You can even spray it the night before and let it sit until morning. I went back with a good scrub brush and the hand held shower to rinse with. To say that I was amazed with the results is the probably the understatement of the year! I didn’t even have to scrub hard at all, I just sprayed the water on it, scrubbed it briskly with the brush, and easily removed literally years of scum and dirt in minutes When I was done it almost looked like we placed a new tub unit in! And the glass doors looked amazing! I felt as though I should take out a full page ad in the paper to let people know about this, I was so excited, LOL!!!! If I had known about this before I bought that little steamer I’d have saved a lot MORE $$$$! I have since cleaned both tub/showers with the FF Easy Off every 2-3 mo. or so. The cleaning lasts! All I can say is prepare to be amazed! (Just remember to get the BLUE can and it will take away your bathtub blues, LOL!)

    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Thanks for the great tip, Martie, and a great story. And for your easy-to-remember code words: fume-free blue.

  3. Lace Angel
    Lace Angel says:

    I was painting the kitchen in a new duo-paint color, but wanted to preserve the border that was already on the wall……………..Press and Seal to the rescue! Just covered the border with it, and when I was done. Took it off, border was just fine. I might add, I’m the world’s worst painter………..paint everywhere. LOL

  4. countrygirl312
    countrygirl312 says:

    Wow. I love the “SHOUT OUT THOSE STAINS.
    I found the best cleaner for my dirty golf shoes: Shout laundry stain
    remover. It works like a charm, getting down in the creases and
    crevices to get out the ground-in dirt. My golf shoes are leather, and
    it has not hurt them or the color. Brenda, Michigan” I have got to try that .I have leather walking shoes that need cleaning. Now is it the pre treatment spray or Wipes for instant removal?

  5. Susan
    Susan says:

    Dawn will also clean up non-water based paint from your brushes if you run out of turpentine, and it smells better. Just use it full-strength and it will get most if not all the paint out.

  6. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Great use for Baby Orajel, but you shouldn’t actually use it on teething babies. The benzocaine in it was recently proven to numb the gag reflex in babies, which is what prevents them from choking. Babies on Orajel are therefore more likely to choke than babies not using it. For teething, an ice cube in a clean sock does the trick, and if the babe has lots of pain, a little bit of baby tylenol or ibu will help.

  7. selma
    selma says:

    what great ideas. i use DAWN all the time. being diabetic i often bleed when i take a shot or test my sugar. also being an ol’lady i sometimes can’t get to the bath on time when these things happen i just put a little DAWN on the spots even if they have dried and toss a 1/2 scoop of OXY in the washer and wella everything comes out like new.

  8. Lorrie Ney
    Lorrie Ney says:

    I was wondering if the store brand equvalents of Dawn were really the same ingredients of the real Dawn dishwashing liquid? Does anyone know?

    • Max H.
      Max H. says:

      Lorrie – I did a ton of research and can’t find exact ingredients, but my experience (and the consensus online) has been that nothing really compares to Dawn.

  9. Pat
    Pat says:

    It is amazing what you can save and reuse in other places. I pulled up my carpet and couldn’t decide what to do so I had some leftover garage floor paint and painted the plywood subfloor and it looks great. I can wait until I figure out what to put down.
    I mailed expired coupons to the military overseas so that they can use what I didn’t (they are good for 6 months after expiration). They love all the diaper and hair color coupons that I don’t use among other ones that I didn’t get around to using.
    We make our own laundry soap, dishwasher detergent, and other cleaning supplies so we know what is in it and to save money.
    We have used candles to fix sticky doors, we scored on old insulation (post office was only 6 years old but they were remodeling) from the Post Office and put it in the garage to make it warm and toasty on cold days.
    I have always washed the dogs in dawn and it helps keep fleas off of them (along with the garlic pills of course). Dawn works great in teh garage to get off grease when we work on the car, keep one at the sink all the time.

  10. Nita
    Nita says:

    I have used the bathroom cleaner for the same things.
    But a nice white pair of tennis shoes/ leather or pleather comes out looking brand new soles and all, with the bathroom cleaner.

  11. Fran
    Fran says:

    Just remember that peroxide loses its disinfectant properties when left in the light too long. That’s why Hydrogen Peroxide comes in a dark bottle. Just mix as much as you need at one time.


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