Rainwater Filter, Overnight Oven Cleaner, and Other Country Lore

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Illustration by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
Minnesotan Larry Dake came up with this rainwater filter: heavy debris falls into the barrel, while relatively clean water moves on to the cistern.

The following housekeeping tips and assorted bits of country lore were submitted by readers.

Rainwater Filter

Morris, Minnesota resident Larry Dake has devised a way to keep the liquid that collects in his rainwater cistern relatively clear and odor-free. He sets a barrel (complete with spigot and cover) below the downspout of the eaves trough, and connects the closed barrel to the spout with a simple T-joint. When it rains, the first rush of water rinses the dirt and debris from the roof into the barrel. Then, by the time the container is full, the roof is clean, and all the remaining runoff water automatically overflows into the cistern. (The barrel can be emptied and its contents used to water plants.)

Overnight Oven Cleaner

Thomas Patterson places an open pan of household ammonia in his prewarmed (but shut-off) oven overnight when it needs cleaning. The Lombard, Illinois resident says the ammonia seems to react with the grease and grime in the oven to form a “soap,” which washes off easily. Tom does warn that the fumes can be overpowering (and unhealthful), so he advises that folks who try his method step back quickly when opening the oven door for the first time in the morning!

Ring Remover

According to Charlotte Underwood of Ports, Virginia, a good alternative use for white toothpaste is as a “ring remover” on wooden tables. Charlotte rubs a small amount of the tooth polish directly on the mark, and then finishes cleaning the tables as usual.

Tarnish Remover

Here’s a way you can make another dreary household chore easier. Sally Halfaker of St. Charles, Missouri removes tarnish from her silver flatware, pitchers, candy dishes, and jewelry by placing the items in a bucket of lukewarm salt water to which she’s added small pieces of aluminum foil. (Sally cleans and recycles used bits of foil for this purpose.) The Show-Me Stater lets the mixture stand overnight in a ventilated area (it’ll give off a “sulfur” odor) and the next morning washes the silver in sudsy water and dries it carefully. Sally says it all comes out looking new.

Drill Bit Lubricant

When Alan Pryor uses his electric drill for shop projects, he extends the life of the sharpened bits by using lard to lubricate their cutting surfaces. The Palo Alto, Californian always keeps a tin full of the hardened pork fat on his workbench. Then, anytime he has to drill metal, he first dips the end of the bit into the lard. Alan believes it works far better than any expensive cutting oil.

Attention Timer

“When one of my children was sick, I found it difficult to get my household chores done with a fussy ‘patient’ constantly begging for attention,” says Lillian Reynolds of New Orleans, Louisiana. “But I solved the problem with the aid of an alarm clock. I set the alarm for 30 minutes, and used that time to read to (or otherwise entertain) the child. Then, when the alarm went off, I would reset it for another 30 minutes, with the understanding that my child would amuse him- or herself so I could do housework. When the alarm rang again, I’d return for 30 more minutes of play. The technique worked well. It eliminated the pleas for attention, and helped me avoid yelling the typical too-busy mother’s response: ‘In a minute!'”

Minor Burns Remedy

A Ruthdrum, Idaho reader, Russell Carrier, reports that plain white toothpaste, when applied immediately to minor burns and left to dry, will help ease the pain and promote healing!