Worx Hand Cleaner

Over the past 10 years I have worked in a garage, machine shop and most recently an automotive research lab. I have never found a better hand cleaner than Worx.

It is a dry powder type of soap, not a sandy paste. Worx is incredible. It gets the hard-to-clean dirt and great from under and around fingernails. It even cleans in fingerprint ridges with little or no scrubbing. It cleans oily grease and dry dirt/grit equally well. It removes the smell of gasoline, cutting oil and ethylene glycol from skin. It is not harsh on skin. Unlike Gojo you never need to wash your hands twice. Usually the towel I use to dry up even has enough leftover residue to tackle the dirt that gets on my forearms up to my elbows.

I keep a small pouch in my glove box and bicycle bag for dry/semi-dry clean-up after chain or tire repairs.

The manufacturer says the product is organic, biodegradable and all natural. It smells fine, better than many hand cleaners at local part stores. It is not widely distributed in the U.S. but Grainger has it in many locations, and even some Wal-Mart stores. I brought some back to my lab from Canada and my co-workers line up to use it.

-- Kevin Cedrone  

Worx All Natural Hand Cleaner

Available from Amazon

Kresto Hand Cleaner

This is the best hand soap for getting the grease and grime off your skin.

Nitrile gloves work great, but they are expensive, not very environmentally friendly, and you lose dexterity with them. Plus, with heavy use they tend to rip, causing you to have to clean your hands where the gloves didn’t protect.

Kresto uses walnut shells for abrasive. It looks a bit like light-colored mud when you squirt a bit of it into your hand. Along with some water, and maybe a small scrubbing cloth, Kresto will clean even the deepest ground-in dirt in no time. You’ll be surprised at how much faster and better it works than the orange pumice hand cleaner you buy at the auto parts store. It’s more expensive than the cheap stuff, but you’ll use less, because it works better.

The only downside is that you have to rinse the walnut shells off the sink when you are finished with it. The manufacturer claims it is biodegradable and won’t clog pipes.

Kresto is sold mostly for industrial use, but is available on Amazon and other retailers. It comes in wall mount dispensers that use 2 liter softpacks, or in 1/2 gallon pump jugs or in tubes for occasional use.

-- E. Redifer  

Kresto Hand Cleaner 1/2 Gallon Pump Top

Available from Amazon

Ecosmart Wasp & Hornet Spray

I recently bought an old barn that was full of paper wasp and mud wasp nests. Because I am going to be bringing animals into the barn for food production I wanted to limit the amount of poison I spray around (particularly in aerosol form). I saw this at Walmart for about $4 and thought I would try it, worst case scenario I could go back for something more toxic.

This is not a typical aerosol spray, more of a stream, and a reasonably powerful one. This allows you to be farther away (I tried about 12 feet) from the nests as the wasps leave. The spray works quickly but not instantaneously — the wasps move around for 1-2 minutes before they completely stop. They do not fly very well, or very far, if they were on the nest when sprayed. I did follow one and it flew several feet away, landed on a wall and then succumbed to the pesticide.

On top of the effectiveness is its alleged safety for children and pets. One of the ingredients is peppermint oil, which gives the barn that post-toothbrushing scent that is pleasant without being overpowering.

The company also makes a wide range of sprays for other specific pests. I have also used the flying insect aerosol, it was similarly effective.

-- Nathan Bruce  

EcoSMART Organic Wasp and Hornet Killer
$9 for a 14-oz bottle

Available from Amazon

Waterpik Water Flosser

The best way to appreciate the Waterpik Water Flosser is to understand the material that this tool is designed to work on. That’s not exactly your teeth – it’s the bacterial biofilm that perpetually forms on the surface of teeth and that never quite gets cleaned away by toothbrushes, dental floss, and various gum-recess cleaning gizmos.

A Waterpik is not really any kind of “flosser” – that’s just market-speak to hook people who don’t like to use floss. It-s really a needle-jet pressure-washer that does a brilliant job of demolishing the dental biofilm that harbors you mouth’s complete bacterial ecosystem, including the bad guys that produce tooth decay and bad breath. This micro-bacterial-mat adheres with micro-tenaciousness to the surfaces of teeth, especially to the otherwise-hard-to-clean surfaces between teeth and under gum lines.

I’m not sure why it took 60 years before I found a dentist or dental hygienist who could clearly articulate what’s really going on on the surface of teeth, but the use of this tool for less than 6 months has vastly lowered plaque and tartar build-up on my teeth and cured a chronic case of bad breath that was annoying, perplexing and persistent.

I’ve always been a decent tooth-brusher and my teeth and gums are in reasonably good shape for a 65-year-old, but they’re in so much better shape after a few months of daily cleaning with a Waterpik that I wish I had started to use one ten years earlier. There are other brands of this type of tool that I haven’t tried yet, that may be as good. The key is adequate water pressure delivered through the small, needle-like plastic tip that you direct around the inside of your mouth, like a miniature fire-hose, aiming at every gum line and inter-tooth space.

After 90-seconds of this your mouth feels like its been to a very clean water park where they’ve added a bit of hydrogen peroxide, sodium bicarbonate or some mint-oil (your choice) to the water. Those additives are not essential but add (according to my hygienist) a bit more anti-bacterial punch to the high-pressure stream the does the real work.

If you’re in a hurry to get your teeth brushing out of the way then this may not be for you – it does add about 2 minutes to the ritual. But if you’re more interested in taking care of yourself I believe that thing will pay for itself many times.

-- Craig Umanoff  

Waterpik Ultra Water Flosser

Available from Amazon

Excelta Tweezers

Today I used an old reliable tweezer and realized that most people probably had little idea of what a good tweezer can be. Nor where to find such a thing.

Of the several I’ve acquired, my favorite is the Excelta 00-SA-ET. It’s stainless, it’s got a special, formed-on foam padding (makes it not only comfortable, but very easy to maneuver), and it’s sturdy enough to get things done at a small scale.

Most good fine tweezers can be easily distorted and, once out of whack, almost impossible to align properly again. Once you start checking into good tweezers, you’ll see there are lots & lots of them, most specific to their task. Many are very delicate.

If you’d like a superb set that’s robust enough for almost anything normal people would use them for, try the Excelta 00-SA-ET. Or check Excelta’s whole line at their website.

-- Wayne Ruffner  

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Exelta


It is complicated to explain the benefits of Wellnessfx, so this is long.

All kinds of things show up in our blood long before they are visible elsewhere. From our blood we can detect early stages of illness, maximize athletic performance, determine when and where we acquire environmental toxins, and see what’s truly normal for us. Someday we’ll monitor our body’s full biochemistry 24/7 and that will change medicine forever. But today only a few of us have a our biochemistry tested once a year, if that, for only a few factors. And all we get is some numbers.

Wellnessfx is a tool for monitoring 60-100 biochemical factors in your body, as often as possible, and in a super understandable dashboard. They make your biochemistry actionable — illuminating trends in your body and offering ways to nudge the trend in the right direction. Frequent measurements add data points allowing you to manage your health in a much more scientific way.

In the past year I’ve been using Wellnessfx to track my body’s chemistry. After signing up for an account I made an appointment through them with a local blood testing labs with a request generated by Wellnessfx. The local lab extracted my needed blood and sent the results to Wellnessfx. A few days later I logged into my account and saw my results of 60-120 different markers graphed, annotated and intelligently dissected. I chose a doctor from Wellenssfx’s staff and together on the phone we’ll went over the data, item-by-item, for 40 minutes. Repeat 6 months to a year later.

The quality and personalization of this consult is unlike any doctor visit I’ve ever had. For patients like me who want to understand my body as much as possible, each consult is a short course in human biochemistry — my biochemistry. On my account’s website I can dig deeper into my numbers and the linked technical literature as far as I care to go. All the doctor’s notes and recommendations are archived for me to review any time. In fact the consults are recorded so you can review them any time.

The more often I am tested the more valuable my data becomes, because as Wellnessfx emphasizes, the actual numbers are often less important than the trends. Imagine you weighed yourself once a year; that is not as actionable as weighing yourself more frequently, say every day. The same goes for your biochemistry.

In addition to testing blood biochemistry, Wellnessfx also extracts genetic markers. That is, they sequence some genes that relate to biochemical factors. So in my case their test noticed I that my ApoE genetoype indicates I would benefit if I drank alcohol, such as a glass of red wine per day.

My trends are managed via lifestyle choices (diet and fitness), supplements, and medicines — the usual medical interventions. What’s new is two-fold: 1) the resolution of this cycle; because you keep monitoring, you can finely tune the leverage, making modifications in small steps; and 2) its application to healthy states. Constant monitoring with fine tuned remedies is standard procedure for illness. The unique approach of Wellnessfx is to apply this intense monitoring/response to all your measurables, including those that seem healthy.

Your normal is not my normal and my normal can only be established by constant monitoring. Intense monitoring also alerts me to drifts away from that norm, long before other symptoms may show up, at a point where it may be a lot easier to modify and control it. A negative trend is much easier to treat in this pre-disease still “healthy” stage. It’s like paying attention to your check-engine light instead of waiting for smoke to shoot out of the hood.

The number of chemicals, hormones and genes that Wellnessfx tracks is variable because they don’t do any of the actual testing. Rather they piggyback on existing blood and gene tests. As these drop in price, or increase in possible markers, so does Wellnessfx’s report. Right now scientists are developing much better tests, by less invasive captures, for much cheaper, eventually for use at home. As these are released they’ll be incorporated into Wellnessfx’s interface.

But today you need to have vials of blood extracted at a lab. And that is not cheap. Each round of testing and doctor’s consult costs $150 for a basic set, or $530 for a full “performance” level set. In theory, your own doctor could order these tests and go over the results in the same depth as Wellnessfx. And maybe your doctor does. But in my experience this quality and detail rarely happen.

Wellnessfx is private medicine. It is part of the quantified self movement, encouraged by enthusiasts who want to use the best tools available to track themselves, including their genes and blood, to maximize health, among other good things. Wellnessfx is professional state-of-the-art biochemical/ genetic marker testing, available to anyone.

I’ve learned so much from tracking my blood over a year, to a degree my doctors have no interest in doing, that the high price has been worth it. For long-term good health, it’s cheap.

At the moment, Wellnessfx has an e-check up, which will test 25 biomarkers for $29. including having your blood drawn at a local LabCorp (not available in all states). Of course, they hope you’ll continue for the next round to see if you’ve made progress.



-- KK  

Invisible Glove

I am horrifically allergic to poison oak. I am also an avid mountain biker in northern California. This not a good combination. I have tried all the soaps and wipes, but none of them really help, especially if you are out all day and can’t get to a shower soon after exposure.

I have found only one reasonable way to stop the oils from getting into my skin: Invisible Glove, a skin protectant used by mechanics so they can wash their hands clean after working on cars. There are similar products sold specifically for poison oak, but they cost vastly more, and work the same.

I find that if I rub my legs and arms down with Invisible Glove and shower with a soap like Dawn or Tecnu right after riding, I either don’t get any rash, or it’s much more limited and tolerable. It is still worth being as careful as possible, and making sure that clothes get right into the washer (to prevent poison oak oils from getting all over the house), but Invisible Glove seems to be the best preventative for weeks of awful rash that I have found.

-- Alexander Rose  

Invisible Glove Protective Hand Coating

Available from Amazon

Emu Oil

As a pharmacist, when my manager informed me 10 years ago that we would be stocking emu oil, I was a bit skeptical — would snake oil be far behind? But emu oil really is one of the best multi-purpose non-prescription anti-inflammatories I’ve ever come across. It’s the best treatment I’ve ever used for sunburn — much better than fresh aloe—rapidly tames the pain and helps heal sun damage. When I over-strain my muscles, if I give them a good rub with emu oil before bedtime, that dreaded “second-day soreness” never arrives. It’s good for bug bites (reduces itching), scars (helps heal and minimize them), arthritis, tendonitis, and miscellaneous aches and pains; it helps calm and heal any kind of skin inflammation or irritation, and is reputed to reduce the incidence of wrinkles if used on a regular basis.

Emu oil can also be used in conjunction with other anti-inflammatories (hydrocortisone, or salicylate creams such as BenGay), anti-histamines (Benadryl), or other healing agents or emollients (such as aloe) if necessary. It’s a skin penetration enhancer, so it helps the other meds work more effectively.

It’s a particularly handy item in my travel kit: since it has so many different uses, it reduces the number of items I need to pack. It gets used on every trip, one way or another.

Buy a smaller bottle than you think you might need; a little goes a long way, and it can eventually go rancid (it still works at that point, but it will smell a bit funky). One or two ounces is plenty for most people. Health food stores often stock it, and Amazon, of course.

-- Barbara Dace  

Emu Oil
$22 / 4-ounces

Available from Amazon

How to Win a Fight

This book could be titled “How and Why You Should Do Everything Possible to Avoid Getting Into a Fight.” The authors (both martial artists who’ve been around the block a few times and have the scars to show it) spend a good number of pages explaining why fighting is always terrible idea — even if you manage to win, you end up losing (your attacker’s relatives could sue you or seek revenge, you could go to prison, and for the rest of your life you could carry the knowledge of having crippled or maimed another person).

The authors also go into detail explaining how to recognize the first signs of a situation that could escalate into a fight and what to do. Only after they’ve convinced you to avoid a fight do they get to the section about effective ways of defending yourself.

The final third of the book deals with the often unconsidered aftermath of a fight: administering first aid and what to do to stay out of jail.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

How to Win a Fight
Lawrence Kane and Kris Wilder
2011, 208 pages

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

Escape and survival are admirable goals. Self-defense really isn’t about fighting like most people think. Self-defense is about not being there when the other guy wants to fight. Fighting is a participatory event, which means you were part of the problem. Even if you think you are only “defending” yourself, if your actions contributed to the creation, escalation, and execution of violence the you were fighting. And fighting is illegal and a really bad idea.


It is illuminating to watch a crowd at a mall, nightclub, or other public area with a predator mindset. Read people’s body language as they pass by you. Who looks like a victim and who does not? Oblivious people stand out from the crowd once you know how to look for them.


Four techniques you can use in a fight

1. Don’t let him get close enough to touch you. The farther away the other guy is, the tougher it is for him to hit you. Further, you have a much better chance to escape to safety or dash toward some source of cover that can protect you.

2. Throw debris to distract or injure him. Throwing debris is really an extension of distance. It is not a standalone technique, but rather a facilitator that can keep the other guy back and help you escape. You can kick dust, throw rocks, hurl trash, swing garbage cans, or otherwise chuck stuff at the other guy to distract or potentially injure him.

3. Attack his eyes. When you have an opportunity to attack the eyes during a fight, the chance will be only there for an instant. If you are going to go for the shot, you’ve got to take advantage of that moment of opportunity.

4. Strike with impetus. No matter how skilled you are (or are not), strikes work best when you catch your opponent by surprise, control distance and direction of your blow, relax until the moment of contact, and strike ferociously and repeatedly until the conflict is over.


All things being equal, the guy who attacks with the most ferocity wins. Even if the other guy is a bit stronger or more skilled than you are, he’s likely to disengage if he realizes he’s bitten off more than he can chew. If you have no other choice but to fight, do so wholeheartedly. Your adversary should feel like he’s run across a rabid wolverine wielding an industrial buzz saw. Strike fast, hard, and repeatedly until it’s over and you can escape to safety. Throwing a single blow or short combination and dancing aside to see if it had any effect may work well in the tournament ring, but it’s woefully inadequate on the street. Give it everything you’re worth and don’t stop until it’s over.

O’Keeffe’s Working Hands Cream

For years, I’ve been plagued with skin cracks or fissures on my fingertips, especially in winter. After a weekend of cooking, chores, or gardening, my hands were a painful mess. No lotions, oils, or creams helped much, and it’s impractical to keep fingertips bandaged all the time. I picked up a jar of O’Keeffe’s Working Hands at my grocery store and have been using it for two weeks. It has completely changed and improved the texture of my skin. No more ragged cuticles either, and even my fingernails are stronger. It is completely odorless and not greasy. Their advertising says it’s the high concentration of glycerin that does it. Whatever it is, it feels like a miracle to me.

-- JM Findley  

O’Keeffe’s Working Hands Cream

Available from Amazon