The unusual suspects

Your lineup of everyday household items can be used in some surprising ways
Wednesday, November 5, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:33 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Picture this: You’re getting ready for a dinner party, and your guests are scheduled to arrive in 15 minutes. You’re making sure everything looks perfect when you notice one of your glass bowls has a little crack in it.

You rush into the kitchen, and in your haste to get another bowl, you spill your glass of red wine on that freshly laid beige dining room carpet. As you bend down to examine the damage, you snag your panyhose and a tiny run starts up the back of your left leg. You say a few choice words and head down the hall to change your clothes.

Along the way to your bedroom, you notice that your 4-year-old son has left his crayon artwork on your freshly painted yellow walls. You yell his name — first, middle AND last — and he emerges from his room to see what the commotion is all about.

As he asks what is wrong, you notice that he has a wad of pink bubblegum stuck in his hair. Now you’re on the verge of tears, and your dinner guests should be showing up in about 10 minutes. Instead of having a breakdown, take a deep breath and then get to work. Everything you need to fix that pile of problems is already right there in your house.

To get the gum out of your child’s hair, either use peanut butter or petroleum jelly to slide it out.

To get his crayon masterpiece off the wall, sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge and rub of that not-quite-Picasso.

To stop the run in your hose from getting any larger, paint over it with clear nail polish.

To get the red wine out of your carpet, rub club soda into the stain, wait a few minutes, then sponge it off.

To remove the pesky scratch from the glass bowl that started your whole ordeal, polish the bowl with a dollop of toothpaste.

Then take another deep breath and answer the door. Your dinner company has arrived.

Although you might not be aware of it, there are many uses for everyday items. Most food and household products have other uses besides the one for which they are primarily intended.

“After I clean my bathroom faucets, I pour a little rubbing alcohol over them and let them air dry. This not only sanitizes but makes them sparkle like new. I do the same with my kitchen sink, and they look so good afterwards,” said Tammy Carmichael, administrative assistant for the Food Science Program at MU.

Janelle Elmore, adjunct assistant professor in the Food Science Program at MU, also had an idea for using a household item to combat pesky animals outdoors.

“A friend of mine sprayed the metal pole to her bird feeder with pan-spray. The pan-spray made the pole slippery, impossible for squirrels to climb, keeping the squirrels from eating the bird food,” Elmore said.

Straight from the pantry and refrigerator

Coca-Cola can be used for many things other than satisfying your need for caffeine. Another use is in cooking. The Coca-Cola Consumer Information Center offers a free packet of recipes including a Mustard Herb Dressing, a Twin Cheese Dip and Sweet-Sour Cabbage. Coke can also be used to remove grease from clothes by helping to loosen the stains. Simply empty a can of Coke into a load of greasy work clothes, add detergent and run through a regular wash cycle. A third use for Coke is to clean a toilet bowl. Pour a can of Coke into the toilet bowl, let it sit for one hour, then brush and flush clean. The citric acid in Coke removes stains from vitreous china, according to Heloise, the syndicated household-hints columnist who only uses her first name.

Olive oil can also be used as more than just a cooking ingredient. To slow a dog from shedding, pour one tablespoon of olive oil on its food. In addition, olive oil can also soothe an earache. Warm the oil and insert a few drops of it into the affected ear. Plug with cotton, and then apply a hot water bottle.

Mayonnaise is a multitasking food as well. For one, it makes a great conditioner for your hair. Once a week, apply one-half cup of mayonnaise to dry hair. Leave it on for 30 minutes, then rinse a few times before shampooing thoroughly. Besides leaving hair silky and smooth, mayonnaise also removes tar. Spread a teaspoon of mayonnaise on the tar, rub in a circular motion and then wipe it off. This method should not be used on fabrics as it can leave grease spots.

Yogurt is another food that can be used for more than eating. Yogurt tightens pores and cleanses the skin. It also soothes sunburn pain. To utilize these added bonuses of yogurt, just spread the yogurt over your face or the sunburn, wait 20 minutes, then wash it off with lukewarm water.

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