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In my pre-wedding attempts to spiff up the house, I have been cleaning some items that are long overdue for some elbow grease. Gone are the cobwebs and dust (except for a few stray Mrs. Beeton feathers that float around from time to time.) I try, as much as possible, to use natural products to do housecleaning tasks.

Of course, if you asked any of my three offspring, they’d say I was lying through my teeth with that claim. Being latent hippies, they make a bad face whenever I bring out my bottles of store-bought chemical cleaners. I really, compared to most people, use very few. But I have learned (I didn’t get this old for no reason) over the years that sometimes these cleaners do the most effective job.

I don’t, however, consider myself rigid or unwilling to try new approaches. I began scouring my antique copper pot, the one that holds a lovely fern in the living room, with a cleaner bought specifically for copper. It wasn’t doing the job…and it left horrible green oxidation marks. Gill would be proud of my next move — I consulted the Internet for solutions.

Lo and behold, up popped Martha Stewart’s name! No surprise there since she is the ‘housekeeper’s housekeeper’ — certainly not mine, but I’m not one to hold a grudge. Her handy hint was that rubbing course salt on half a lemon and then scraping it across the copper pot would clean it up to sparkling!

I had a lemon (was there another moon in the sky?) and proceeded to cut it in half. Then salt…everyone has salt. But COARSE salt? Oops. I don’t normally keep it and I wasn’t about to jump in the car to go get some. What to do? And then I had a lightbulb moment. When Crazy D and L’il Sis were living with me, they were food fanatics and had every kind and grade of olive oil, kale and SALT. Crazy D’s favorite was pink Himalayan salt. I assume it cost him an arm and a leg, but since he left it behind when he moved out, perhaps he can live without an arm and a leg. No matter. I found the salt, and although it wasn’t as coarse as I had hoped, sprinkled it on the lemon  and went to work.

It worked — kind of. But the lemon turned that same funny color of green, the oxidation from the copper. The lemon didn’t look good. Nor, it appeared, did the pot. It wasn’t bad, but neither was it the ‘sparkling, gleaming’ masterpiece Martha claimed it would be. Back to the stinky, chemically commercial solution I went. I don’t know how I’m going to explain to Crazy D that I used his precious Himalayan salt on such a frivolous and  ultimately useless project.

Other Internet solutions work better. For instance, the ‘de-skunking formula’ that involves dishwasher liquid, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide works beautifully. Much better than the oft-touted tomato juice. I recall attempting to de-skunk our German Shepherd years ago with tomato juice. I think she took the stink to her grave. And, since Crazy D had been walking her when the incident happened, he became so paranoid he never went camping in the wilds without a stack of cans of tomato juice…just in case. When Poochie and I were skunked one winter evening at dusk just outside our garage door, I used the special formula. That was a particularly challenging project since she, a Samoyed-Collie cross, had fur that was several inches thick. That was a night out of my life I’m never getting back…

More recently, I learned of a handy way to kill ants and anthills — a major problem in my ‘garden’. It involves mixing sugar and powdered Borax. The theory is that the sugar attracts the ants and they take the poison Borax to the queen, thus killing the whole lot of them. I didn’t quite realize, the first time I used it, that it was the equivalent of napalming my yard. I really should have researched Borax more carefully, but I assumed– since I recall watching (as a child) a television ad for “20-mule team Borax’, a product to make your laundry clean– that being old-fashioned, it was natural and harmless. Why, those nice wagon drivers wouldn’t sell something really nasty, would they? They seemed so harmless. Yeah, and deadly. Of course, if I’d thought about it for a minute, I’d have realized that dead is dead and something toxic enough to kill ants had the potential to kill everything else around them. So much for my naive ideas of the benign natural world.

I do often use baking soda to clean counters, dishes, and cups stained from tea. Even I can’t do much harm with baking soda. I also know to pour soda water on a wine stain to remove it. But, since I only drink white wine and not red, that’s a piece of information I store in the back, cluttered reaches of my brain.

One of my worst memories of a ‘homemade’ portion was a poultice that my mother put on my chest as a child when I had a severe case of bronchitis. That thing was filled mustard and was meant to ‘draw the fever’ out of your body. I still remember, some decades later, the burning sensation of that wretched thing.It got rid of the fever and the bronchitis, but I still hate mustard — even on hot dogs!

So Gill will have to excuse my skepticism when I give her the stinkeye  if she suggests using ‘something natural’ around the house.