Gaye Levy, Contributing Writer
Let’s face it. Life is filled with little fix-it and clean-it tasks. Some things are broken and in need of repair while other things are a stinking mess. Stuff happens and we have to fix it or clean it. Now most of us have a traditional tool box and a conventional cleaning bucket. You know the kind: hammer, saw, screwdrivers, drill, clamps all kinds of stuff. Add some fancy-schmancy household cleaners, various types of cleaning wipes and the next thing you know, you will have as much fix-it and clean-it gear as you have items to fix and to clean.
One advantage to living is a small cottage home is that there is no room for all of this extra stuff. Of course there is the garage but that is full of prepping supplies such as food and water, plus all of that spare survival gear. What’s a gal or guy to do?
Today I would like to share with you an unconventional, but handy and nifty little fix-it and clean-it kit. These are twelve useful doo-dads and other supplies that will hold it together and solve many if not most of those annoying little fix it and cleaning tasks in any household, large or small.
So hang on, grab your tool box and let’s get started.
1. Duct Tape: No surprise here. It is strong, flexible and waterproof. Cut it to size and shape it any way you want. Hold stuff together, fix rips, mend broken glass, and even use it as a splint. You can repair vacuum cleaner hoses and catch flies. You can even make yourself up as the Tin Man for Halloween. The possibilities are so endless that there are websites devoted to the stuff. And the bonus? Duct tape comes in all colors including the prepper favorite: camouflage.
2. Elmer’s Glue: It is amazing how useful this classic kiddie glue can be. Use it to glue wood moldings back on to the wall, fix the loose heel or flapping sole of you shoes or to repair tears in the upholstery. Glue together ripped seams or hems in your clothing. Put a coating of Elmer’s on a splinter, let it dry then peel it off. Out comes the splinter.
My favorite? Patch nail holes in the wall by squirting in a bit of glue, waiting for it to dry, then painting over of patched hole. No messy, sticky Spackle to deal with, and clean-up is with simple soap and water. Elmer’s can be used for so many things that I include a small bottle in my suitcase when I travel.
3. Swiss Army Knife/Pocket Tool: When all else fails, use a compact Swiss army knife. Many come with two types of screwdrivers, a Phillips and a flat head, plus a scissors that is really sharp, a nail file, can opener and yes, even a corkscrew. Lest I forget, a knife blade or two a typically included as well. Use your Swiss army knife to open the mail, open a package, or cut your toenails. Very handy indeed.
4. Zip Ties:(also called tie wraps or cable ties): I carry these everywhere, including my handbag, my backpack and my luggage when I travel. What are they? Strong nylon bands with a slotted head at one end. When you wrap the plain end around something, you come full circle and slip it through the slotted head where it locks in to place. Once locked in to place, the item is solidly bound together – only to become unbound when you cut the tie. (This is where your Swiss army knife will come in handy.)
Use the zip ties to hold cables or cords together, bundle kindling or firewood, secure car parts that have come loose, and more. One unconventional use here at my cottage is to wrap a zip tie around the hose bid preventing neighbors (!) from stealing our water (which is about $1 a flush). They come in all lengths and you can piece 4 or 5 together to make a super zip tie. As with the duct tape, they come in a rainbow of colors. Frugalista’s such as myself get whatever is cheapest, of course.
5. Dental Floss: Remove dental floss from the bathroom and it becomes super-string. You can use it to sew on buttons, substitute for a broken shoelace, make a temporary clothesline, or hang your stuff from a tree while out in the woods. Use it to mend a hole in your backpack by making a floss patch by darning over the hole back and forth until it is covered – just be sure to also carry a large needle with you as well. Dental floss even has a place in the kitchen or on picnics where it can be used to neatly slice a cake or a hunk of cheese. Of course, you can and should use floss to clean your teeth and gums, too.
6. WD-40 or other spray lubricant: Have a stuck zipper? Get out the WD-40. Rusty garden tools? Get out the WD-40. Greasy marks on the floor? Yes, get out the WD-40. This stuff is also so popular (like the ubiquitous duct tape) that there are fan clubs and web sites devoted to the stuff. Other uses include fixing sticky drawers, squeaky hinges and surprise! scuffed-up leather that needs a quick conditioning. Heck, forget about the scuffs. If your shoes are too tight, spray them with a bit of WD-40 and they will stretch ever so slightly to fit the shape of your foot.
Another good use of WD-40 is to loosen rings that can not be removed from swollen fingers. Same thing with glassware that is stuck together. Spray it on those stuck-together glasses and they will become unstuck. Great stuff.
7. Compressed Air: The first time I purchased compressed air was to clear out the dust bunnies inside my computer chassis, Now I use it for a lot of other things: fan blades, the vents on electronic equipment, dirty keyboards, the head of Survival Husband’s electric shaver, all kinds of stuff. Use it to clean the dust off of lamp shades and to get grime out of the nooks and crannies of collectables or even fancy woodwork. By the way, compressed air is not air at all; it is actually a compressed gas.
8. Baking Soda: Non-toxic baking soda can be used to clean, scour, polish, deodorize and remove odors. It will smother grease fires and remove musty smells from your carpets. It can be used to remove food stains from your cookware and coffee stains from just about everything. You can use baking soda to treat minor burns and to sooth poison ivy rashes. Use it in the laundry to boost the power of your detergent and bleach so that you can save money by using less. Use a paste of baking soda and water to remove corrosion from battery terminals. Baking soda can even be used to clean your teeth.
I could list 101 uses for baking soda but if I did, I would be leaving another 999 uses off the list. Dirt cheap and easily accessible with a forever shelf life, baking soda needs to be in your clean-it kit.
9. White Vinegar: White vinegar is another inexpensive and versatile item to have in your tool box. Mix a quarter cup with water and you have a great spray cleaner. Nothing beats this combo on hardwood floors. Vinegar kills germs and mold (although it is not FDA approved as a pesticide – see Killing the Cooties-Good Hygiene is a Survival Skill We All Should Practice) It removes grease and stains and the buildup of mineral deposits on faucets and shower heads as well as in coffeemakers. It will remove mildew from shower curtains and “unglue” stickers and labels from your purchases. Mix vinegar and baking soda to unclog drains in a hurry. White vinegar even sweetens and softens your laundry.
You can buy white vinegar by the gallon for about $3. What’s not to like?
10. Rubbing Alcohol: As a disinfectant, rubbing alcohol cannot be beat. It has a number of medical uses including sanitizing cuts and abrasions before applying bandages and surprise surprise, as a rubdown to cool down feverish skin. It does a great job cleaning windows and kitchen counters (along with or as an alternative to white vinegar). Rubbing alcohol can remove ink and lipstick stains from fabrics and remove buildup from combs, brushes and gunky bathroom mirrors. Use it to “defrost” icy windshields and get rid of fruit flies.
11. Pine Cleaner: Ummm, I love the smell of pine cleaner. Great for cleaning bathrooms and especially toilets. Add a small amount – say 3 tablespoons – to a spray bottle and your stainless appliances will gleam. And did you know that pine cleaner – the real stuff made in pine oil, not the fancy scented stuff – is safe on stone surfaces such as granite and travertine? This will save you a bundle over those pricey specialty cleaners and it works just as well.
12. Microfiber Cleaning Towels: I call these magic rags. They are cheap, durable and lint free. They mop up spills like crazy and the tiny microfiber fingers work with plain old water to clean spots, grime and smudges. I became hooked on these over ten years ago and the old rags are still going strong, albeit a bit stained. Use them on floors, counter tops, sinks, wood furniture, cars, glass tabletops and more, Throw them in the wash – no bleach or fabric softener – and they are good as new again. You can purchase a pack of a dozen for less than a buck a piece as Amazon or Costco.
About the only thing I use paper towels for these days is to wipe down my cast iron skillet and Dutch oven. And recently, I have even replaced the stinky kitchen and bathroom sponges with microfiber rags Sure, the sponges are cheap enough, but by cutting them out of my cleaning routine I have one less item to deal with under my sink and an extra $20 or $30 in my pocket at the end of the year.
So there you have it. I suppose if I spent a bit more time and looked around the house, I could come up with a few more must have items for my combination fix-it and clean-it kit, but to tell the truth I get by just fine with this collection of unconventional tools.
How about you? Do you have something simple and cheap that you simply can not do without? I am all ears.
Gaye Levy, the SurvivalWoman, grew up and attended school in the Greater Seattle area. After spending many years as an executive in the software industry, she started a specialized accounting practice offering contract CFO work to emerging high tech and service industries. She has now abandoned city life and moved to a serenely beautiful rural area on an island in NW Washington State. She lives and teaches the principles of a sustainable, self-reliant and stylish lifestyle through emergency preparation and disaster planning through her website at BackdoorSurvival.com. SurvivalWoman speaks her mind and delivers her message with optimism and grace, regardless of mayhem swirling around us. Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!