The good sense in keeping up with those household hints

By Bikram Vohra

Not so long ago any self-respecting magazine or newspaper would have a column called ‘household hints’. This was mandatory reading and since much of the time was spent in the house, getting a hold on things made sense.

There were actual collectors of these hints and many a time I would marvel at the genius behind the ideas. Did you know, for example, that placing plastic empty bottles filled with sand or pebbles in the toilet tank could save you 25 per cent of water usage every time you flushed.

I was always in awe of these hints and took them very seriously. At times, they had a mystique and a depth that was mind-boggling. Like putting eggshells on pelmets near the curtains and shelves to keep the gecko lizards away. Somebody worked out that they did not like the smell of eggs and would seek the shelter of another house and leave you alone.

Little odd perhaps from the point of view of visitors to your place who see these pale white or brown shells perched precariously in strategic positions. Combine that with the cucumber slices left outside ant colonies (ants hate cucumbers, bet you didn’t know that pearl of wisdom) and you couldn’t blame the guests for being perplexed after they had left you and were discussing their observations.

“Nice people, the Vohras, but a bit unusual with all that eggshell and cucumber stuff.”

“Must be some sort for neo décor or could be some Feng Shui thing.”

“No, not eggshells and cucumber slices, more like some sort of ritual, I imagine. Did you notice the eggs were higher than the cucumbers, does that have any significance?”

“Warding off evil spirits, perhaps. Well, each to their own.”

That is the hazard of household hints, but then no geckos and no ants. Beat that. And eggs go well beyond fried and poached or scrambled. Next time you drop coffee on your white couch, just take some egg yolk and wipe the stain… presto! pristine again. Even Stephen Hawkins didn’t know this.

If the ants are still winning though here is a way to outfox them. Draw a line with chalk. Ants hate crossing chalk literally and they won’t come over, it is uncanny, but maybe that is how we got the phrase ‘line in the sand’. Try it, you will be amazed.

Occasionally, you can look a bit unusual. Like if you place a stainless steel spoon in a bottle of a cold fizzy drink, the fizz will stay for a long time. It is science at its best. Give it a shot and see the bubbles, they keep coming.

Think of all the salt saved because you put a potato wedge to absorb the humidity and the salt flows freely instead of caking up. Life is made of such happy moments. You may not know what bay leaves are but if you have them place them in all the kitchen drawers and that will keep the roaches away. Bring in a handful (not roaches, leaves) and you can just imagine the panic station in roachland as their president orders a mass evacuation and the march out of your home begins, away with the pest control, we are armed with bay leaves.

My friend once had a mouse problem and since mice are not all Mickey and Minnie and Jerry friendly he started placing peppermint oil on cotton and leaving them near possible entry points. The whole house smelled like chewing gum, even the dinner dishes, but mice cannot stand peppermint, so they packed their bags and scurried to greener pastures. And speaking of chewing gum, my sister once got it snarled in her hair and it was a mess until my mom put ice on it, turned it brittle and removed all of it in a jiffy.

I once went to a home where the guy was cleaning old CDs with toothpaste. And they came out brand new, scratches gone, unbelievable. I mean, think of it, who did it first, got up one morning and said, you know what, I am going to take these messed up DVDs and clean them with toothpaste, and watch wonders happen.

One of those mornings when you have run out of shoe polish and it’s an important meeting day, relax, peel a banana and use the inside of the peel to shine up. The effect is staggering. Is also the best for whitening teeth and rubbing on skin for that special glow.

In the old days, before everything came in a can or a jar and we sold our souls to chemicals, and necessity was the mother of invention, people tried new ideas and options and mother got things done. Now, we do not use our minds and our imaginations. More is the pity.

Here is my list of ‘are you crazy this won’t work top ten household tips:

Grind up an aspirin tablet or two, then make a paste out of it using water, lemon or vinegar. Spread the paste on the stained area and let sit for an hour before washing.

Apple Juice: Removes Dandruff. Really, it is incredible. Don’t ask how it works, but it does. Instead of buying a special shampoo, just wash your hair in apple juice to rid your scalp of pesky dandruff.

How do you clean a dirty shower head with soap scum and build up? Use vinegar (it works on the fixtures, too!)

When you have a clogged drain in your sink, just pour some baking soda and vinegar down the drain and wait for the magic to take place.

Remove the dust from your window blinds using an old tube sock dipped in a mixture of one part vinegar and one part water.

Soak limp lettuce leaves, celery and carrots in ice water for an hour. They will become crisper.

Put candles in the freezer before using them. They will last much longer.

Keep brown sugar soft by storing with a couple of marshmallows

Add half a teaspoon of baking soda to the water when hard-boiling eggs to make the shells incredibly easy to peel off.

And if you don’t want to keep this list handy just tear the page and use it to clean windows. Newsprint is the best. How do I know?

I am a journalist.

Bikram is former editor of KT. Everyday humour is his forte

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