In refrigerators and pantries, on garage shelves and in bathroom cabinets, everyday household products have the potential for millions of unusual uses.
Sure, Miracle Whip tastes great on a sandwich. But it also can be a top-notch hair conditioner, facial mask and furniture polish. Smirnoff Vodka can clean chrome and glass bathroom fixtures. Thousand Island salad dressing takes the sting out of insect bites.
Author Joey Green has dedicated his life to finding wacky uses for everyday items. In his experimentation, Green has discovered that you can shave with Jif Peanut Butter and polish furniture with a slab of Spam.
The author and mad scientist extraordinaire has come up with hundreds of alternatives uses for some of the most common household products.
Who: Joey Green
When: Noon and 4 p.m. Tuesday through Jan. 31
Where: Indianapolis Home Show, Indiana State Fairgrounds, 1202 E. 38th St.
Cost: Free with admission to the show, which is $13 for adults, $3 for children ages 6 to 12 and free for children 5 and younger.
A sampling of Joey Green’s “wacky uses” for everyday products
Remove burned-on grease from a pot or pan. Fill the pot or pan with water, drop in six Alka-Seltzer tablets, let soak for one hour, then scrub as usual.
Baby Magic Baby Powder
Repel ants by sprinkling in cracks, along a window sill or under doors where ants enter. Ants will not walk through baby powder.
Bounce Dryer Sheets
Repel mosquitoes. Tie a sheet of Bounce through a belt loop when outdoors during mosquito season.
Prevent tools from rusting. Place a few pieces of chalk in your toolbox to absorb moisture.
Maxwell House instant coffee
Repair scratched woodwork. Mix a teaspoon instant coffee with two teaspoons water. Apply to the scratch with a cotton ball.
Wesson Corn Oil
Prevent car doors from freezing in winter. Rub the gaskets with corn oil to seal out water without harming the gaskets.
He’ll share several of his wackiest and most useful ideas at this year’s Indianapolis Home Show, which opens this weekend.
Green has transitioned from a career as an advertising executive to a purveyor of the preposterous. He has written 50 books, travels the country giving demonstrations and become a hit on television shows such as “The View” and “The Tonight Show.”
“People love this stuff because it saves time, it saves money. And it’s American ingenuity. You have all of these things around the house — you don’t have to run out to the store,” he said.
As an author on subjects such as backyard science experiments and history’s hidden facts, Green has an active imagination and curiosity. His entrance into wacky uses came when he wanted to learn more after a business meeting.
He was working in marketing for J. Walter Thompson, a New York-based ad firm. One day, his bosses called him and eight other workers into a conference room. The goal was to compile alternative uses for the iced tea drink Nestea, one of their clients.
“I thought it was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard in my life, a waste of my time,” he said.
One account manager said that Nestea worked to soothe sunburn. He had badly burned himself while sailing, and he poured an entire bottle of Nestea into the bathtub to soak in it. The tannic acid in the drink soothed the burn.
“We all looked at him like he was crazy. But he said that if you’re ever really sunburned, do it, and you’ll thank me,” Green said. “Right then and there, I decided this information needed to be in a book.”
Since then, he has compiled thousands of ideas into his books. Green has written 10 books on the subject and has gathered ideas from readers, manufacturers and urban legend.
Many of the ideas had been discovered before; Green simply collected them. The ability to shave with Jif was discovered by former Sen. Barry Goldwater, who one time had run out of shaving cream yet still wanted to shave. Desperate, he grabbed the peanut butter and tested it. To his surprise, it worked.
“When I pass that on, I always tell people to use the creamy peanut butter, as opposed to chunky. It’s a safety precaution,” Green joked.
During his presentation at the Indianapolis Home Show, Green will showcase some of his finest ideas. The joy of this work is seeing the look on people’s faces when something as simple as a Coke leaves a toilet spotless or Listerine helps relieve their acne.
“I try to be entertaining and informative at the same time,” he said. People describe it as household hints meets a comedy show.”
How did you come up with all of these other uses?
I went food shopping and picked up the name-brand products that we all love — Jell-O, Coca Cola, Miracle Whip. Then I wrote letters to all of the companies, to ask them for their secret files on things that people have written in with unusual products. People write in all the time but rarely advertise that. I collected them all, did a lot of research in the library, and that’s how it came to be.
What were some of the crazier, more unique ones you came across?
Polishing furniture with Spam. It’s the oils in the Spam that polish wood furniture. You can mousse your hair with Jell-O. By just taking a dab from the refrigerator and smoothing it into your hair, it works just like mousse. You can clean a toilet with Coca-Cola.
How do people react when they hear about some of these alternative uses?
My first book was called “Polish Your Furniture with Panty Hose.” I thought it was just a one-time thing, all funny material. But people really liked it. It makes great demonstrations for TV and radio, as well as live. And it’s very useful information. I’m now on my 10th book, “Joey Green’s Cleaning Magic.” It has 2,336 different uses for brand-name products. People love it.
Now that you’ve established a reputation, do you still need to search these out, or do companies come to you with ideas?
It’s a combination. I’ve just finished writing a book where I did all the research myself. But when I go to home-and-garden shows, I encourage people to share their tips with me. All of this is kind of accumulated stuff that they learned over the years.
Has science been something that always interested you?
I’ve been into it since I was a kid. I won the science fair when I was in sixth grade. When I was in fourth grade, my dad helped me build a volcano. It plays into this overall theme, because a lot of the science experiments are things that you find around the house. It’s just me writing books about things I love to do.