Renovation & Design

SOLUTIONS: Rubber-band your apples for freshness

QUESTION: I pack lunch bags every day for my three school-aged children and I always include one fruit. Ideally, I would like to include an apple but, if I don't cut it up, most of the apple gets a few bites chewed off and then thrown into the garbage. If I cut up the apple, it turns brown and gets thrown into the garbage. If there a way to prevent apples from turning brown after they are cut? Jasmine (Stonewall)

ANSWER: It's common to pour lemon juice onto cut apples to prevent browning. However, here is a neat little trick that won't leave apple pieces tasting lemony. Slice the entire apple by making four cuts, one on each side of the core. Put the apple back together and secure it with a rubber band. The apple should now look like a complete apple with slits.

Teach your children to remove the rubber band and throw away the core. The apple won't brown and all will be eaten. Warning: Do not use this method if there may be a risk of the child putting the rubber band in his/her mouth.

QUESTION: We recently renovated our bathroom and bought an acrylic tub, but we are having trouble cleaning it. I can't get the "ring around the tub" off when I clean and scrub it with a sponge. With my old tub I would have used a scratch pad, but apparently you can't use that on acrylic or it will damage the finish.

I have a toddler, so I try not to use any strong store-bought cleaners if I can avoid them (I usually use things like vinegar, baking soda, etc.) Any tips that you have for us would be greatly appreciated. Lisa, Winnipeg

ANSWER: In my opinion, you're making cleaning life an extra challenge by limiting yourself to using a sponge to cut through built-up grime. While I agree you should never use something as abrasive as steel wool, there are many alternative scrub pads that do not scratch surfaces. Nylon pads are available at most dollar stores, and so are plastic scrub pads. These should be perfectly safe to use.

Make yourself an inexpensive cleaner by combining 50/50 borax and baking soda. Wet your plastic or nylon pad and scrub. If you don't want to use anything abrasive and want an extra-fresh bathroom cleaner, combine three cups of white vinegar with 10 drops of tea tree oil (sold at most grocery stores in the pharmacy department). Spray and wipe.

Both vinegar and tea tree oil are loaded with cleaning power that will leave your bathroom fresh. Avoid using soap to clean your bathroom, because you will be left with soap scum that builds up over time. Happy cleaning!

QUESTION: My granite mortar and pestle was used recently to bash a variety of spices -- good idea for releasing fragrance. Then, essential oil was added to the spice mixture for added fragrance (not a good idea!). Now the smell of lavender and myrrh has permeated the granite and, for the life of me, I cannot get it out.

I have tried washing it with Sunlight soap, then with baking soda and then vinegar. I then tried crushing fresh lemon peel and Zest in the bowl. I even left it outside in the sun. I am running out of ideas. Any suggestions would be helpful! Deborah, Winnipeg

ANSWER: The key is not in the washing, it's in the penetration. Therefore, place the mortar and pestle inside a garbage bag on a table and then place a bowl of household ammonia in the bag. You can even put some of the ammonia directly into the bowl, but test it for colourfastness first. Seal the bag with a rubber band and leave for one week. Remove the bowl and wash it in dish soap and water.

The smell should now be gone but, if not, wrap the bowl in newspaper and leave for another week. The ink from the newspaper is effective at zapping odours.

QUESTION: I was very interested in your comment that freezing won't kill bedbugs. I buy lots of things second-hand and, if possible, I either throw them in the dryer for 50 minutes or leave them in the garage to freeze for at least two weeks. I had read in many places that was the thing to do. I am concerned that I have been fooling myself with the freezing.

Where did you get your information from? Thanks. Pam, Winnipeg

ANSWER: I used several sources as well as interviewing exterminators regarding this topic. The reason freezing doesn't work is because the bedbugs just hibernate; as soon as the temperature warms, they wake up and become a nuisance all over again. I did some research a few years ago after an outbreak of lice in our area and learned that freezing works for lice but not for bedbugs.

People with bedbugs in their homes should contact a professional to treat them during the outbreak and again a year later since they can hide for a year in wall crevices, etc. If you're dealing with dryer-approved items, the heat of the dryer kills bedbugs.

Save your bread!

-- Store bread in the freezer by placing it inside a brown paper bag and then a plastic bag and secure the end with a twist tie or knot. The brown paper bag absorbs moisture and the bread will no longer be caked with ice crystals. Submitted by: Kay, Winnipeg

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