Thursday, January 27, 2011

Second Life for an Indispensable Tool

Dentists recommend replacing toothbrushes at least every three months, sooner if the bristles begin showing signs of wear. (Those with braces likely see fraying and fractured bristles much sooner.) The bristles, once worn, lose their effectiveness – new toothbrushes apparently remove plaque up to 30% better. Worse, tatty toothbrushes are likely to cause damage to delicate gum tissues. Dentists also caution early toothbrush replacement after experiencing viral illnesses such as cold or flu. The warm, wet environment in most bathrooms make them excellent breeding grounds for germs, bacteria, and fungi, and particularly on an instrument which rarely, if ever, gets its own cleaning. 

I don't argue the points made – good health is beyond price. What bothers me is throwing away all that plastic, especially while the brushes "must still be good for something" – my thrift-mantra. So, rather than toss viable brushes, each gets second-life (once thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.) Slightly frayed toothbrushes are softer than most utility brushes and, because of their small size, are perfect for scrubbing household crevices without scratching surfaces. Their varying sizes, shapes, and bristle densities, make each toothbrush suitable for particular tasks.

Here's a Baker's dozen of toothbrush re-uses hubby and I have discovered:
  1. Household crevice-cleaning (medium- to hard-bristled, regular or denture-head, one per relevant cleaner to prevent unsafe chemical mixing.)
  2. Small appliance care and cleaning (sewing machine, mixer, food processor)
  3. Silver- and flatware cleaning (soft-bristled)
  4. Jewellery cleaning (soft-bristled)
  5. Personal care (small, children's toothbrushes work well as eyebrow & eyelash brushes, though regular sanitation is crucial.)
  6. Finger- or toe-nail care
  7. Hair-dye brush applicator
  8. Pet care: cleaning and combing sensitive areas such as face & ears
  9. Shoe care: polish or sealant applicator
  10. Shop implement (automotive, carpentry and metal-work)
  11. Gun (breach) cleaning – hubby says the shape of certain denture brushes make them ideal
  12. Fossil-hunting & rock-hounding: cleaning tool
  13. Cleaning fishing lures & tackle
Ideally, toothbrushes would be made of recyclable plastics so they needn't end up in the landfill. Sadly – at least where I live – that's not yet the case. Until that day comes, our toothbrushes only end up in the landfill when thoroughly depleted. In fact, a few still survive twenty-five years of second-life, doing gentle service and being frequently cleaned.

What are your favourite re-uses of this indispensable tool? Please leave a comment sharing your own handy hint(s)!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Roses Like Coffee, Too!

Record snowfall landed in the village of Cache Creek, yet as I stare out our front window all I see is that pathetic old rosebush. It's looking especially sad at this time of year. Something in my perverse nature refuses to acknowledge the snow rolls ploughed along the roadside beyond it. Stubbornly, I focus on that rosebush, inherited upon our recent move, and wonder how to restore its health.

I did some research. Apparently, roses like a good dose of coffee almost as much as I do. It's good to know roses and I have something else, other than chocolate, we both go well with. To my surprise, there are many acid-loving plants in the garden (like rhubarb) which benefit from varying quantities of coffee grounds mixed with their top soil. Not only do the grounds feed the plant a steady, low-dose acid, they also deter slugs. Coffee grounds in the garden have become such a popular trend, Starbucks (see: Composting) is now doling out bags of the stuff.

I'm too…thrifty to spend so much on my caffeine addiction…or its compost. There are plenty of coffee grounds at home. Until now, I've avoided putting most of it in the regular compost – I read that too many coffee grounds creates acidic imbalance in the compost pile. For use in the garden, coffee grounds require some easy, though separate preparation. They must be completely dried before storing in an air-tight container:

  • Line a sheet-pan with parchment.
  • Spread the wet coffee grounds (from a full pot of coffee) on the parchment paper.

  • Set the sheet-pan in a warm, dry place. Stir occasionally.
  • It will take several days to a week, depending on humidity levels, to thoroughly dry the grounds.

Given the total area I wish to supplement with coffee grounds, it will require months of steady preparation to store enough dried coffee grounds. This is my first batch of twenty or more and I estimate it will take as many weeks to gather enough coffee grounds for all the acid-loving areas in our new, yet dilapidated, garden.

Along with gathering toilet paper rolls and newspapers , this is one more easy preparation for gardening I enjoy. Any project, however humble, that temporarily takes my mind off the snow rolls and icy sidewalks, and onto thinking about warmer, sunnier days to come, well, that's my kind of hobby!