All Purpose What?!


I saw a sign in a store a while back advertising “all purpose shrimp.” Other than eating them (not for us, of course), how many purposes do shrimp have? Do shrimp make good doorstoppers? Can you string them together to make a necklace? Use them to wash windows? Remove stains? Fix squeaking hinges? Somehow I suspect these uses would cause unwanted odors. It would be a dead animal, after all, and I’ve yet to come across “shrimp scented” fabric softeners or air fresheners.

I’ve never seen “all purpose gefilte fish” advertised and can’t imagine what another use would be. Perhaps the canned type could be employed as bookends. And if a bookend fell off the shelf onto your foot, you could take a frozen gefilte fish roll out of the freezer and use it to relieve the swelling. But generally, we seem to use gefilte fish only for eating.

Lemony Cricket (and other Assorted Insects)

There are, however, products for which dozens of uses exist. Take lemons, for instance, where an article titled “20 Unusual Uses for Lemon Juice” begins with this quote, “When life gives you lemons, use them to clean your house.” They give a few cool ideas on how clean or freshen up either yourself or your possessions with lemon juice. They suggest using it as a fingernail brightener, in place of deodorant, and as a stain remover, to name just a few. Another article about lemons is called “45 Uses for Lemons that Will Blow your Socks Off.” I read all 45 uses and my socks did not blow off. They didn’t even loosen. To be fair, there are a few good uses, such as making lemonade – oh wait, that is not on the list. Freshening the fridge and keeping cauliflower from turning brown are among the many useful purposes. But there are some suggestions where you wonder if the author was imbibing his lemonade with a little something else mixed into it.

One idea states, “Lemons are also effective against roaches and fleas: Simply mix the juice of four lemons (along with the rinds) with a half-gallon water and wash your floors with it; then watch the fleas and roaches flee.” If your floor is so covered with fleas and roaches that you can actually see them flee, I think you have more of a problem than lemons will take care of.

You have to seriously doubt some of the other properties attributed to the lemon by the time you get to the one concerning diphtheria. It suggests that you skip the vaccine! Maybe online lists are not the most reliable places to get your information. As the quote famously attributed online to Abraham Lincoln says, “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”

Tea for Two – or Eighty!

I have a friend who swears by tea tree oil, and I admit I like it too. According to the article, “The Miracle of Tea Tree Oil: 80 Amazing Uses for Survival,” this essential oil can be used for, well, no surprise, 80 different things. I’m not convinced you need it for survival since I’ve lived years forgetting that I have a bottle, but the alphabetical list includes a lot uses: cleaning abrasions and minor cuts, air freshener, arthritis, insect repellant, mildew and mold remover, sciatica and warts, with many in between.  It’s also good for flea bites, which I guess might be useful after you’ve used the lemon cure in your kitchen. Those fleas have to go somewhere, don’t they?

However, this page, too, offers advice that should raise a few eyebrows. It’s suggested, for example that, for shock, you should “massage tea tree oil onto the soles of the feet as needed.” As needed until what? Death? It does not mention calling 911, as advises, before giving out the first aid steps, including CPR, if necessary, until the hospital is reached.

For People Who Can’t Count

I’ve often thought that there are a few essential items that can do almost anything you need in an emergency situation. The four I usually think of are baking soda, petroleum jelly, vinegar, and salt. These products have so many uses, either alone or combined, that I don’t know if you’d ever need anything else – other than food, perhaps, if you also plan on eating.

The Arm & Hammer site advertises, “One Box. Countless Uses.” That sounds a lot better than those self-limiting values of 45 or 80. Another article lists a mere 51 uses for baking soda. You can use it as toothpaste, deodorant, antacid, insect bites (again, after the kitchen incident), cleaning hair utensils, polishing silver, cleaning almost anything, extinguishing fires, and  freshening sponges to name just a few. I’ve heard you can also use baking soda for baking.

One side note about freshening sponges: You can also disinfect them in the microwave that you have cleansed with the baking soda. However, many sponges today come with a warning, “Do Not Microwave” and advise you to boil them for disinfection. A word to the wise: Do not put your sponge in a pot to boil and forget about it, as I once did. This will not improve its flavor. By the time I noticed the weird smell coming from the kitchen, my sponge was definitely disinfected – and also extremely black and crumbly. Even baking soda could not have freshened it up. I was left with no choice but to throw out the korban.

A New Flavor of Jelly?

Petroleum jelly, which we usually refer to as Vaseline, was accidentally discovered to be useful by a chemist, Robert Chesebrough, in 1859. With his business in whale oil taking a hit from the discovery of petroleum, he was looking to see how he might be able to make money in that industry. He discovered that the sludgy stuff which clogged up the oil-rigging machines seemed to be good for helping skin to heal. After 10 years of development, perfecting the extraction and purification process, Vaseline was born. 

One of the uses listed in an article I looked at was a little puzzling to me. It says Vaseline is good for keeping lipstick off lips. Why would you need Vaseline for this? Just don’t put on lipstick! Or is this for people who put lipstick on other parts of their face and just want to make sure not to get it on their lips? Vaseline’s uses range from cosmetic purposes to preventing car battery corrosion. It can be used as an alternative for painters tape around window panes; applying to jars with screw lids (such as nail polish) to make them easier to open; shining leather shoes or handbags; as an alternative to WD-40 for squeaky hinges; removing chewing gum from hair; removing candle wax, minor scratches, and water marks on wood surfaces; preventing car doors from sticking by smoothing around the rubber seals; and unsticking zippers.

And remember the inventor, Chesebrough? He believed Vaseline was a healing product. It is said he swallowed a spoonful of it every day until he died at age 96. As a matter of fact, in the early days of its popularity, it was promoted as “Vaseline confection” and consumed. That must have been some marketing campaign if it got people to actually eat Vaseline! There is no evidence to suggest that Vaseline contributed to Chesebrough’s longevity, so don’t try this at home. (Nor do we have any idea how many calories it would amount to.) However, I am suddenly getting a hankering to have a peanut butter and petroleum jelly sandwich, but I see my Vaseline jar does not have a reliable hechsher.

Spoiled Wine Makes Good

Apparently, vinegar has been very popular for quite some time: “produced commercially for over 2,500 years,” according to one source. (I’m wondering what brand Queen Esther and Mordechai preferred.) “Legend has it that Hannibal was able to cross the Alps by heating boulders and dousing them with vinegar, causing the rocks to crumble and clear the path.” This method, used in mining, is also known as “fire-setting.” The Reader’s Digest site lists over 95 uses for vinegar (none of which involves crumbling rocks). Vinegar can remove ballpoint pen marks on walls, clean grimy scissors, remove candle wax, clean chrome and stainless steel fixtures, get rid of water rings on furniture, clean rugs and carpet stains, prevent mildew, brighten brick fireplaces, steam cleaning your microwave, remove mineral deposits from coffee makers and tea kettles, and much more.

I could have used the following tip after my overcooked sponge incident. The sponge was not exactly a steak, but I guess the principle is the same: “If you’ve recently burned a steak – or if your chain-smoking aunt recently paid you a surprise visit – remove the lingering smoky odor by placing a shallow bowl about three-quarters full of white or cider vinegar in the room where the scent is strongest. Use several bowls if the smell permeates your entire home. The odor should be gone in less than a day. You can also quickly dispense of the smell of fresh cigarette smoke inside a room by moistening a cloth with vinegar and waving it around a bit.”

I wonder how long it takes for the vinegar smell to go away. “Hey, do I smell salad?”

You can polish brass, bronze, or copper using a solution of equal parts vinegar and baking soda. Straight vinegar also cleans windshield wiper blades. So many uses for vinegar! No wonder it’s been around so long. And apparently, you can also use it to make salad dressing.

I’m sure there are other basic products that have multiple uses. After all, our great-grandparents didn’t have access to aisles and aisles of different cleaning and healing products. Why even this magazine that you are holding must have other uses besides reading the great articles within. I can, off the top of my head, think of a few: You could use it to stabilize a wobbly table by placing it under one of the legs. You could shred it to make confetti – unless you are one of those people who are strictly pro-fetti. It makes a nice fan on a hot day. And you could always use it to swat at the insects you see fleeing from your lemony floor.



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