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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 25, 2009

More tips, from soapy squirts to Snickers

By Robbie Dingeman

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Top to bottom: A gardenia plant shows black sooty mold. The same gardenia leaves treated with a solution made with Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap. And those leaves after the treatment and a water rinse.

Photos by ELIZABETH HOUSE | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Readers have sent in more tips for those of us looking for cheap, easy or "green" ways to take care of household chores.

Let's start with a couple of tips for unexpected uses of dishwashing detergent.

Reader Amy Takemoto mixes one tablespoon of liquid detergent with 16 oz. (2 cups) of water in a spray bottle to kill unwanted insects, including ants and roaches.

She says: "Even the B-52s are stunned by the soapy water and will usually drop to the floor where you can keep saturating until lifeless."

The best part of this killer spray for her is that's it not just effective, the leftover residue is non-toxic and clean.

Her other detergent tip is for cleaning a burned frying pan or pot. Even while the cookware is still hot, she squeezes about a tablespoon of detergent on, then adds water until it covers the bottom of the pan. Leave it to soak for maybe an hour, when the caked-on mess will have softened and cleans up easier.

Teramoto is convinced the detergent works much better than if you only use hot water.

Several readers called to ask about the sources of the peppermint soap we mentioned in an earlier column. It can be mixed in a spray bottle to squirt on plants — including gardenias — to rid them of that black sooty mold and white fly.

The soap we used was Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap but others have tried other scents, such as lavender or eucalyptus. We have seen the soap sold at health food stores, including Down to Earth, and at some GNC stores, at Longs Drugs and at Foodland stores.

We diluted it, one part soap to five parts water, and sprayed it on top of and on the undersides of leaves of the affected plants.

Here are some other ideas from readers.

  • Once you open a package of cheese, store it in aluminum foil instead of a plastic bag, to help it stay fresh and not mold. Others recommend loosely wrapped plastic wrap instead of a bag — which encourages condensation, which turns to mold faster.

  • Newspaper as mulch/weed control: You can put newspapers around plants and cover with mulch. The newspaper will keep the weeds from poking through but eventually decompose.

  • Heat up leftover pizza in a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, with heat set to medium-low. This keeps the crust crispy rather than letting it get soggy in a microwave.

  • You can stretch a store-bought container of cake frosting by whipping it with a mixer at home. It doubles in size by adding more air without adding more calories per serving.

  • To warm biscuits, breads, pancakes, or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in a microwave with a cup of water. The water helps keep the food moist instead of rubbery.

  •  To make richer scrambled eggs or omelets, add a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream, cream cheese or heavy cream.

  •  Add garlic when you first start cooking something if you want a light taste of garlic, or at the end of the recipe if you want a stronger taste of garlic.

  • If you have leftover Snickers bars from Easter, Halloween or any other candy-related occasion, you can turn them into an easy dessert. First chop them up. Then peel, core and slice a few apples. Place them in a baking dish and sprinkle the chopped candy bars over the apples. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream.

  • Bananas? Take your bananas apart — rather than leaving them in a bunch — when you get home from the store if you want them to ripen more slowly. Peel a banana from the bottom so you won't have to pick off the little strings.

  • Vacuum extender: To get something out from under the fridge or a narrow space, stick empty gift wrap roll on the hose or attachment. It can be bent to get into little openings.

  • Hot water and sticky ingredients: Before you pour sticky substances like peanut butter into a measuring cup, fill it with hot water. Then dump the hot water, but don't dry the cup. That helps prevent sticking.