Back to Basics

Good old-fashioned, basic tips that will be well-known and common sense to the experienced and useful and informative for the beginner.


General Tips

To unblock drains the natural way put 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup bi-carb down the drain, followed by 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup hot water.

To refresh your home boil sweet smelling herbs and spices, citrus fruits or essential oils instead of using commercial air fresheners.

Building - use recycled timber and building products from a recycled building material company.

Carpet deodorising - sprinkle liberally with carb soda, leave overnight and vacuum.

Potting Mix - When potting plants in a large pot you can reduce the amount of potting mix you have to use by filling the pot 1/4 to 1/2 with the little styrofoam balls that you use in bean bags then putting the potting mix on top.

Leather Care - Do's

Leather Care - Dont's

Save Water

In summer collect the water expelled by reverse cycle airconditioners and use it on the garden and for pot plants. This will help your water bills as well as the environment. On hot days I collect a bucket a day easily.

Painting skirtings over carpet

When painting skirtings over carpet, scrounge up an old venetian blind, strip the louvre blades out and push under skirtings, paint and leave to dry, run a blade around to break seal - no cutting in and clean carpet, but, don't overload your brush.


If you are getting uncomfortable painting the bottom of walls, sit on a skateboard. It makes it much easier to work your way along the skirting boards.
P. Graney


To remove fluff from clothes, use a damp scourer pad and brush the fabric - the fluff just disappears.
S. Trindall

Conserve Water

Save your washing machine water and use it to water pots and plants. The slight presence of detergent kills pests and enhances root growth.
M. Morrison

Soft Butter

Like to use soft butter but find that it gets too hard in the fridge? Remove the butter from the packaging and store it in a bowl of water. Cover the bowl and keep it in the pantry. To use the butter, just tip out the water and re-fresh when finished.
M. Lyell

Stop Rust

Place a piece of chalk in your toolbox to absorb any moisture and avoid rust on your essential tools.
V. Graney


If you don't have a dual flush system, place a brick in your cistern to reduce the amount of water you use with every flush.
V. Graney

Insect and Pest Repellents

Ant Invasion - the natural method to get rid of them

Most households suffer from ant invasion at some time, especially in dry weather. If they really bother you, hunt down their nest and destroy it, but only as a last resort. Try to discourage them from staying in or entering your house instead.

Organic Pest Killer

Try a 50/50 mixture of cooking oil and water for a mild organic pest killer. It works for most bugs.
P. Graney

Fly repellent

To repel flies rub your doors and windows with either oil of lavender or water in which onions have been boiled. If flies are already in your house, place a saucer of 1 teaspoon cream, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper to catch the flies.
V. Graney

All Natural Pesticide Spray
   * 1 cup of white vinegar
   * 1 tablespoon of black pepper
   * ½ dozen small hot chillies
Combine and leave in a jar for 2 weeks, then transfer to a pump spray!

Night Time Pests - Personal Repellents

How do you keep pests away from eating you alive and destroying your summer night time fun?
You can either use a personal repellent, insect repellent light or repellent candles.

There are many natural personal repellents which you can use to make your outdoor activities pest free. Flies, mosquitos, midges and sandflies are all repelled by Lavender oil. It can be applied straight to the skin as long as you avoid contact with your eyes and mouth (not recommended for children). Just dab on a few drops and massage into your skin and repeat every couple of hours. Other oils which can be effective are eucalyptus, paperbark, Huon pine, grey myrtle and citronella. Dilute any of these oils with an odourless vegetable oil, provided it remains highly fragrant, to make it spread further. Or you can blend your own, some combinations you could use:

Lavender Repellent
6 drops of lavender oil
5ml Vodka
2/3 cup (150ml) warm water

Dissolve the lavender oil in the vodka and then mix with the warm water.

All Purpose Repellent
3ml oil of cloves
5ml lavender oil
5ml eucalyptus oil
2/3 cup (150ml) vodka
3/4 cup (200ml) distilled water

Dissolve the essential oils with vodka, then mix well with distilled water. Store in an airtight bottle.

For outdoor entertainment areas you could install red lights where you eat and cook as they will help repel insect pests, a white light some way off will attract the pests and therefore keep them away from your area. Avoid zappers as they will also kill beneficial insects.

Burning eucalyptus leaves in the barbecue will repel mosquitos, flies and midges. A far simpler solution is to burn insect repellent candles such as citronella.

Natural Cleaning Aids

All-Purpose Cleaner

Vinegar and Salt. Mix together for a good surface cleaner.

Baking Soda. Dissolve 4 tablespoons baking soda in 1 quart warm water for a general cleaner. Or use baking soda on a damp sponge. Baking soda will clean and deodorise all kitchen and bathroom surfaces.

Carpet And Rug Cleaner

If you plan to shampoo your carpet, first try a pre-cleaning treatment. Sweep the carpet, which will make the nap stand up and loosen the imbedded din. Next vacuum. With this work alone, the rug should show a noticeable improvement, so much in fact that you may decide to delay the shampooing.

To neutralise odours: Borax* and cornmeal. Sprinkle the carpet with a mixture of 1 cup Borax and 2 cups cornmeal. Let this mixture stand for an hour before vacuuming.

Another alternative is Baking Soda. Making certain that the carpet is dry, sprinkle baking soda liberally over the entire carpet. Wait at least 15 minutes, or overnight if the odour is particularly bad, before vacuuming.

Decal Remover

Vinegar. To remove no-slip decals from the bathtub, saturate a cloth or sponge and squeeze hot vinegar over decals.

Vinegar also removes stick-on hooks from painted walls. Saturate a cloth or sponge with vinegar and squeeze the liquid behind the hook so that the vinegar comes in contact with the adhesive.

In addition, vinegar can be used to remove price tags and other decals from glass, wood, and china. Paint the label or decal with several coats of white vinegar. Give the vinegar time to soak in and after several minutes the decal can be rubbed off.

Disinfectant Soap

Regular cleaning with plain soap and hot water will kill some bacteria. Keep things dry. Mould, mildew, and bacteria cannot live without moisture. Borax has long been recognised for its disinfectant and deodorising properties.

Mix 1/2 cup Borax into 1 gallon hot water and clean with this solution.

Drain Cleaners and Drain Openers Prevention

To avoid clogging drains, use a drain strainer to trap food particles and hair; collect grease in cans rather than pouring it down the drain; pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain weekly to melt fat that may be building up in the drain; or weekly put some vinegar and baking soda down your drain to break down fat and keep your drain smelling fresh. Plunger. A time-honored drain opener is the plunger. This inexpensive tool will usually break up the clog and allow it to float away. It may take more than a few plunges to unclog the drain.

Do not use this method after any commercial drain opener has been used or is still present in the standing water. Baking Soda and Vinegar. Pour 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar and cover the drain if possible. Let set for a few minutes, then pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain to flush it. The combination of baking soda and vinegar can break down fatty acids into soap and glycerine, allowing the clog to wash down the drain.

Do not use this method after any commercial drain opener has been used or is still present in the standing water. Salt and Baking Soda. Pour 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain. Follow with 6 cups boiling water. Let sit overnight and then flush with water. The hot water should help dissolve the clog and the baking soda and salt serve as an abrasive to break through the clog. Mechanical Snake (and Garden Hose). A flexible metal snake can be purchased or rented. It is threaded down the clogged drain and manually pushes the clog away. If used in conjunction with a running garden hose, it can even clear a blockage in the main drain to the street. First crank the snake and feed it into the pipe. Next withdraw the snake and flush the pipe by inserting a garden hose with the water turned on full. With some luck, it may save you the expense of a plumber.

Floor Cleaners and Floor Polishes

Vinegar. A few drops in the cleaning water will help remove grease panicles. Dull, greasy film on no-wax linoleum can be washed away with 1/2 cup white vinegar mixed into 1/2 gallon water. Your floor will look sparkling clean.

For Linoleum
Mild Detergent. Damp mop using a mild detergent and water for day to day cleaning. Keep water away from seams and edges to prevent loosening of the tiles. To preserve the linoleum floor you may wish to add a capful of baby oil to the mop water.

For Wood Floors
Vegetable Oil and Vinegar. Mix a 1 to 1 ratio of oil and vinegar into a solution and apply a thin coat. Rub in well.

For Painted Wooden Floors
Washing Soda*. Mix 1 teaspoon washing soda into 1 gallon hot water and wash the floor with a mop, sponge, or soft bristled brush. This solution can also be used to remove mildew.

For Rubber Tiles
Mild Detergent. Avoid oils, solvents, and strong alkalis as they will harm the surface. Wash with clear water, a mild detergent, and a clean mop.

For Brick and Stone Floors
Vinegar. Mix 1 cup white vinegar into 1 gallon water. Scrub the floor with a brush and the vinegar solution. Rinse with clean water.

For Ceramic Tile
Vinegar. Mix 1/4 cup white vinegar (more if very dirty) into 1 gallon water. This solution removes most dirt without scrubbing and doesn't leave a film. Washing ceramic tiles with soap does not work very well in hard water areas as it leaves an insoluble film. Club Soda. Polishing your floor with Club Soda will make it sparkle. Oil Soap. Use according to package directions.

Wax Remover For Vinyl and Asbestos Tiles

Club Soda. Remove wax buildup by pouring a small amount of club soda on a section. Scrub this in well. Let it soak in a few minutes and wipe clean.

To remove old wax by mopping
mix a solution of 3 pans water to 1 pan rubbing alcohol. Scrub this in well and rinse thoroughly. Be sure the area is well-ventilated and wear gloves.

To remove black heel marks
Baking Soda. Rub the heel mark with a paste of baking soda and water. Don't use too much water or the baking soda will lose its abrasive quality.

To remove tar
Scrape up excess tar with the side of a dull knife. Rub again with your fingernail, a popsicle stick, or anything that won't scratch the floor. Finally, wipe up the tar with a dry cloth.

To remove crayon marks
Toothpaste. Crayon marks on the floor may be removed by rubbing them with a damp cloth containing toothpaste. Toothpaste will not work well on wallpaper or porous surfaces.

To remove grease from wood floors
Ice Cube or Cold Water. If you spill grease on a wood floor, immediately place an icecube or very cold water on the spot. The grease will harden and can then be scraped off with a knife. Then iron a piece of cloth over the grease spot.

Furniture Polish

The idea behind furniture polish for wood products is to absorb oil into the wood. Many oils commonly found in our kitchens work very well. Vegetable Oil or Olive Oil and Lemon Juice.

Mix 2 parts oil and 1 part lemon juice. Apply and polish with a soft cloth. This leaves furniture looking and smelling good.

For Unfinished Wood
For lemon oil polish, dissolve 1 teaspoon lemon oil into 1 pint mineral oil.

For Mahogany
Vinegar. Mix equal pans white vinegar and warm water. Wipe onto wood and then polish with a chamois cloth.

For Grease Spots
Salt. Immediately pour salt on the grease spot to absorb grease and prevent staining.

For Scratches
Lemon Juice and Vegetable Oil. Mix equal pans of lemon juice and salad oil. Rub into scratches with a soft cloth until scratches disappear.

For Water Spots
Toothpaste. To remove water marks, rub gently with toothpaste on a damp cloth.

For Washing Wood
Mild Soap. Dampen cloth with a solution of water and mild soap, such as Ivory or Murphy's Oil Soap. Wring the cloth almost dry and wipe the furniture section by section, drying with a clean dry cloth as you go so that no section stays wet.

For Refinishing Old Furniture

Commercial Oil Soap. Before you set to work on an old piece of furniture with chemical finish removers, try Vegetable Oil Soap. This simple, nontoxic solvent may be all the help an antique needs. Follow label directions.

Source: Michigan State University

Cleaning Bricks and Pavers - If your bricks or pavers are looking a bit dirty and have moss growing all over them there is a quick and easy way to do this and without using chemicals so is easy on the environment. By using a high pressure water cleaner and adding a bit of salt to the water, spray them until you are happy with the outcome. The high pressure water cleaners can be hired or you can buy one from approx $200. You can get a professional to do this also but you may need to check on what products they use to do this and whether they have a natural formula or use chemicals.

Wallpaper Cleaning Information

Source: Michigan State University

Window cleaning can be achieved cheaply by using bi-carb on a wet sponge; plus it's environmentally friendly!

To remove rust stains from enamel sinks and bath tubs, try rubbing with a cloth dipped in white vinegar.

Gardening Tips

New Plants

When planting in an area surrounded by palm trees, dig through the roots, which are usually matted together, to a depth of 15cm. Insert a plastic container with the bottom cut out and plant. The plastic keeps the palm roots away and allows the new plant to establish itself.
H. Walford

Grown Seedlings

Use an egg carton to grown seedlings, from seed. You can place them in a safe environment and when ready to plant, simply cut the egg carton and plant the seedlings, carton and all. The carton eventually breaks down and actually creates mulch for your new plant!


Wherever bricks are laid in sand and weeds appear, or anywhere else weeds come up trough concrete paths and driveways, sprinkle table salt on them, preferably onto the neck of the weed. The salt kills the weed without creating any danger for children or pets, like pesticides might do. The salt is also obvious enough to show you which weeds you've done, especially with broadleaf weeds in your lawn.

That Old Wheelbarrow

Don't through away that old wheelbarrow. Make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom, fill with potting mix and plant with colourful flowers. I have even planted lettuce etc with it being on wheels you can move it from season to season ore depending on what your growing for best sun and protection.

Grow Your Own Mulch

There are many benefits of mulching:

So why not grow your own mulch? This way you also reduce the danger of introducing new weed seeds into your garden. Shrubby, nitrogen-fixing plants such as lucerne, crotalaria and pigeon pea can be trimmed regularly for mulch. Lush, fast-growing plants such as arrowroot, lemongrass and comfrey provide an abundant supply of mulch and are also great weed barriers.

Getting Cuttings to Take Root

Use Clay Based Cat Litter as a propagation medium for getting cuttings to take root at home. The cat litter provides good aeration for the cuttings, it also provides good moisture retention. It is also hygienic, provided you keep the cats away from it.

Thirsty Plants

When planting thirsty sorts of plants I always chop a sponge up and mix it up, either in the potting mix or in the garden bed. Haven't lost a plant through dehydration since!

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