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Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things


Author: Editors of Reader's Digest

Publisher: Reader's Digest


Publish Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN-10: 1621454363

Pages: 384

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

Once upon a time, in the days before computers, cable television, drive-through coffee bars, and carpet-sweeping robots, washing windows was a simple affair. Our parents poured a little vinegar or ammonia in a pail of water, grabbed a cloth, and in no time had a clear view of the outside world through gleaming glass. Then they would use the same combination to banish grime and grit from countertops, walls, shelves, fixtures, floors, and a good bit else of the house.

Some things, like window washing, shouldn’t ever get more complicated. But somehow, they did. Today, store shelves are laden with a dazzling array of cleaning products, each with a unique use, a special formula, and a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign. Window cleaners alone take up shelves and shelves of space. The bottles are filled with colorful liquids and have labels touting their orange power, berry bouquet, or lemon or apple herbal scent. Ironically, many boast the added power of vinegar or ammonia as their “secret” ingredient.

This is the way of the world today. Every problem, every mess, every hobby, every daily task seems to require special tools, unique products, and extensive know-how. Why use a knife to chop garlic when there are 48 varieties of garlic presses available? Why use a rag for cleaning when you have specialized sponges, wipes, Swiffers, magnetically charged dusters, and HEPA-filter vacuums?

Which brings us to the point of this book: Why not just use a solution of vinegar or ammonia like our grandparents did to clean the windows? It works just as well as those fancy products—if not better. And it costs only about a quarter as much, sometimes less.

204 Everyday Items with Over 2,300 Uses

Making do with what you’ve already got. It’s an honorable, smart, money-saving approach to life. And in fact, it can be downright fun. Sure you can buy a fancy lint brush to remove cat hairs from pants, but it’s pretty amazing how a penny’s worth of tape does the job even better. Yes, you can use strong kitchen chemicals to clean the inside of a vase that held its flower water a bit too long. But isn’t it more entertaining—and easier—to use a couple of Alka-Seltzer tablets instead to fizz away the mess?

Welcome to Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things. On the following pages, we’ll show you more than 2,300 ingenious ways to use 204 ordinary household products to restore, replace, repair, or revive practically everything in and around your home or to pamper yourself or entertain your kids. You’ll save time and money—and you’ll save shelf space because you won’t need all those different kinds of specialized commercial preparations. You’ll even save on gasoline, because you won’t need to speed off to the mall every time you run out of a staple such as air freshener, shampoo, oven cleaner, or wrapping paper.

The household items featured in this book are not costly commercial concoctions. Rather, they are everyday items that you’re likely to find in your home—in your kitchen, medicine cabinet, desk, garage, and even your wastebasket. And you’ll be amazed by how much you can actually accomplish using just a few of the most versatile of these items, such as baking soda, duct tape, pantyhose, salt, vinegar, and WD-40. In fact, there’s a popular maxim among handymen that whittles the list to a pair of basic necessities: “To get through life,” the saying goes, “you only need two tools: WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn’t move, but should, reach for the WD-40. If it moves, but shouldn’t, grab the duct tape.”

Less Toxic and More Earth-Friendly Items

In addition to saving you time and money, there are other, less tangible advantages to using these everyday household products. For one thing, many of the items are safer to use and considerably more environmentally friendly than their off-the-shelf counterparts. Consider, for example, using vinegar and baking soda to clear a clogged bathroom or kitchen drain. It’s usually just as effective as a commercial drain cleaner. The only difference is that the baking-soda-and-vinegar combination is far less caustic on your plumbing. Plus, you don’t have to worry about getting it on your skin or in your eyes.

The hints in this book will also help you reduce household waste by giving you hundreds of delightful and surprising suggestions for reusing many of the items that you would otherwise toss in the trash or recycling bin. To name a few, these include lemon rinds and banana peels, used tea bags and coffee grinds, orphaned socks and worn-out pantyhose, plastic bags, empty bottles and jugs, cans, and newspapers.

At the end of the day, you’ll experience the distinct pleasure that can only come from learning creative, new ways to use those familiar objects around your house that you always thought you knew so well. Even if you’ll never use Alka-Seltzer tablets to lure fish onto your line, or need to plug a hole in your car radiator with black pepper, isn’t it great to know you can?

Folk Wisdom for the 21st Century

As we noted earlier, much of the advice you’ll find in Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things is not really new—it’s just new to us. After all, “Waste not, want not” isn’t merely a quaint adage from a bygone era; it actually defined a way of life for generations. In the days before mass manufacturing and mass marketing transformed us into a throwaway society, most folks knew perfectly well that salt and baking soda (or bicarbonate of soda, as it was commonly referred to in those times) had dozens upon dozens of uses.

Now, as landfills swell, and we realize that the earth’s resources aren’t really endless, there are signs of a shift back to thrift, so to speak. From recycling programs to energy-efficient appliances to hybrid cars, we’re constantly looking for new ways to apply the old, commonsense values of our forebears. Even the International Space Station is an example of thrifty technologies at work today. When the station is completed, nearly every waste product and used item onboard the craft will be recycled for another purpose.

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