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Oily rag Q & A

Oily rag Q & A

By Frank and Muriel Newman

Frugal people tend to ask a lot of questions, sometimes quite unusual questions. Here are a couple you may be able to help with.

Melsy from Auckland asks, "Have just joined your site and spent a good part of the day reading all the money saving tips - so many of us out there are trying to live off the smell of an oily rag. I have a question: years ago I was given a banana tree that has grown big but when I cut it back my clothes got covered in banana sap stains – any suggestions for removing them?”

Graeme from Christchurch has an absorbing question. “I have bought some new towels that only smear the water, not absorb it. I did hear a long time ago you could put something in the wash water to get rid of the manufacturing dressing on the towels, but I can’t remember what it was. I was wondering if anyone could help me make my towels absorbent.”

Busy Mum from Auckland asks, “Now that the new recommendations suggest children should have ten servings of fruit and veggies a day, does anyone have tips on how to achieve this on a low cost budget?”

Drop us a note at if you can help Melsy, Graeme, or Busy Mum with their questions - or if you have frugal questions of your own you would like help with.

Now to some questions that other readers have answered – all recently posted on the living off the smell of an oily rag website.

Q: Viv from Masteron asks, “I have an excess of Nashi pears. Has anyone got some good tips? I thought about jam but not sure what to put with them.”

A: Jinny from Palmerston North replies, “I use our excess in baking instead of apples, or preserve them as I would pears etc. Chopped up small and used in 'Apple, cinnamon & sultana muffins' is one of our kids’ favourites.”

Q: Lee from Rotorua asks, "How do other folk keep cups and mugs clean? I truly hate seeing the insides of cups dirty but need a quick and easy solution.”

A: There were lots of replies to this one. Maria say, “For years, I have been putting a 'tiny' amount of bleach into glasses, coffee mugs, vases - then fill with water to remove stains. You do not need a 'dollop' and doesn’t take very long - then wash as usual. I have no dishwasher and I always put a drop or two in the sink when doing dishes. Keeps the dish cloth white plus the white drain pipe nice. Great for grease too.” Canny Scot from Christchurch suggests, “To clean stains off cups sprinkle salt in them and rub with a damp cloth.” Others have recommended using baking soda instead of salt.

Q: Rodders from Rotorua asks, "I am a bachelor and find that my clothes always smell musty. What do I use to keep them smelling nice?"

A: Bernie from Christchurch replies. “To keep your clothes smelling sweet, store cakes of soap in your drawers. Not only do they make your clothes smell nice but the soap matures and hardens on storage and has a longer life when finally used.”

Q: Chris from Tirau asks, “What can I do to make my washing smell nice without spending a fortune on conditioner.”

A: Ann from Matamata suggests using left-over perfume or aftershave as a fabric freshener. Kla from Stratford adds few drops of essential oils to her washing load - or apply a couple of drops to a clean rag or face cloth and add to the dryer with your load. LAJ from Sydney says, “A few drops of tea tree oil in your wash will make it smell fresh and lovely and have the added benefit of being antibacterial.” And Motel Owner from Whakatane has this tip of the trade: “Buy baking soda from Bin Inn and add to wash with laundry powder. You can also reduce the amount of laundry powder by about 1/5 as baking soda is also a cleaner. I use equal amount of baking soda and laundry powder.”

*Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips on-line at The book is available from bookstores and online at


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