Col. Ichabod Conk Shaving Soap

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After receiving some nasty shaving lotion in a foil package at a hotel, I went on a quest for a travel shave soap I wouldn’t have to declare as liquid or gel at airport security. This soap comes inside a hinged, clear plastic container. Pack it wet or dry the soap off first with a towel or piece of toilet paper/Kleenex — either way, you shouldn’t have any water/dampness issues in your luggage, as it seals well. The soap foams up a little when you get it nice and wet, seemingly a bit more than regular soap. Based on my usage, I’d say it’s good for at least 25 shaves (at the rate I seem to travel that should do it for life). Though ease of carry-on was my initial criterion, the quality of the shave, price, expected lifespan of the product, and the functionality of the packaging make this a great option. Bonus: it smells really good (I use the lime version).

– Joseph Stirt

The soap lasts *hundreds* of shaves from my experience. I’ve tried all the flavours, but prefer the Amber and Bay Rum. I use these at home, a couple or three times a week. The tubs are all over a year old; the Amber is in its second year and is only now down to the bottom of the container. Of course, if one’s making enough lather to shave a ship of sailors, it’s not going to last as long.

– David Priest

 

[Please note the Amazonian shipping price; best deal is to stock up on several at once or go in with some friends. -- SL ]

Col. Ichabod Conk Shaving Soap
$5 (shipping excluded*
(bay run)

Manufactured by Col. Ichabod Conk Products, Inc.

Available from Amazon



Litter Lifter

I’ve been using this cleverly-designed scoop for more than four months and found it really cuts down on the amount of effort and time I have to put into one of my least favorite parts of the day. The tines are long (7 inches) and the slots are wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, so the clean litter passes through quickly and any lumps stay in the scoop. I don’t have to make as many passes through the box (three quick passes does the job), and I don’t have to shake the scoop to strain out the clean litter. Their web site looks awful, but the scoop is terrific. I will never switch back to those smaller, nasty old scoops I used to use. (more…)

-- Vince Houmes  

Litter Lifter
$7
Available from Arcata Pet

Manufactured by Preferred Merchandising, Inc.



NeverScrub Self-Cleaning Toilet System

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NeverScrub, formerly the Puricle 110, automatically dispenses a bleach-type cleaning agent into the overflow tube of a toilet at the conclusion of a flush. It is far more efficient and effective than the old “hockey puck” style of toilet bowl cleaner. It prevents all sorts of stains, mineral deposits, etc., and leaves the toilet bowl crystal clear (refills last about four months, depending on usage rate). It installs without tools in about 90 seconds (or 30 seconds if you’ve done it before). You just clip the unit to the inside of the tank and swap out the hose that feeds into the overflow tube for the hose attached to the unit.

The typical “hockey puck” cleaner dispenses a variable amount of cleaner (depending on how long it’s been steeping) mostly into the bottom of the bowl, during the emptying phase of the flush cycle, which is wasteful and ineffective. This system releases the right amount of cleaning agent at the right place and time — i.e. it dispenses a consistent, “measured dose” under the rim, during the refill phase (mostly), so it remains in and on the bowl, including above the waterline. It’s amazing no inventor took advantage of this approach decades ago.

(The percentages that follow are guesstimates). When a toilet is flushed, water enters the bowl from two sources: the tank (about 80%) and water fed into the overflow tube through a small hose (about 20%). Once the tank has emptied, the tank’s outlet valve closes and water flows into the bowl only from the refill tube (via the overflow pipe), slowly refilling it.

Consequently, less than 20% of the water that was in the tank remains in the bowl after a flush, so 80% of any hockey-puck cleaning agent absorbed by the tank-water is wasted. But over 80% of the water that enters the bowl through the refill tube remains in the bowl, so only a little of the cleaning agent dispensed in this manner “goes down the drain.” Also, with the NeverScrub, the cleaning agent remains on the bowl’s surface above the water line, because the last water to enter the bowl is treated water. With a hockey-puck cleaner, the last water to enter the bowl is untreated water from the refill tube, which rinses away the cleaning agent that entered under the rim during the initial phase of the flush.

Finally, with the NeverScrub, there is also a beneficial social side effect that is even more important than cleanliness: it can greatly reduce water consumption. I’ve found that toilets needn’t be flushed after doing “number 1″ because the product’s cleaning agent bleaches and deodorizes it. (When this stops happening, add a refill cartridge.)

The agent is a deodorized form of bleach that employs bromine as well as chlorine: 1, 3-Dichoro-5,5-dimethylhydantoin. According to the company, the refills have an unlimited shelf life and the cleaning agent “breaks down and is harmless to septic systems and environment.” Additionally, they claim that “Bowl water [is] not harmful to children or pets.” They thoughtfully add, “However, it is not recommended that pets regularly drink water from the toilet.”

A few things you should know: It’s best to get the surface clean and smooth before installing the unit. I suggest scrubbing the bowl clean with a Pumie stick. You should also be aware that there was a badly mixed batch of refills shipped out a year ago. I bought them, and when I put in the first one, the product stopped working. I contacted the manufacturer and was told that the cartridges had been reformulated to correct this flaw. I exchanged the ineffective batch and the new ones are working perfectly. Third, “Never” Scrub isn’t 100% accurate; “Very Rarely” is more like it. Lastly, if you order from the manufacturer the shipping cost for the gadget (it comes with a cartridge included) is $7.61 (to Seattle). That’s 69% of the cost of the item itself, which seems excessive. I recommend diluting the shipping cost by placing a larger order. For instance, if ordering six refill cartridges at the same time as the basic unit, the postal charge sinks to only 25% ($9.42) of the cost of the goods.

-- Roger Knights  

NeverScrub Toilet System
$17

Available from Amazon

Also advertised as the "Kaboom" NeverScrub



Waterfall Soap Saver

This is the most satisfactory soap dish I’ve ever tried. If positioned away from the corner of the basin, all of the soap residue drains into the sink basin – not onto the sides of the sink. Some residue does accumulate on the Soap Saver itself, so every month or so it has to be rinsed and wiped clean, but that’s the lesser of two evils. Overall, it reduces the amount of cleanup effort by 2/3 or more.

It’s superior to the spike-holder type of dish, which is hard to clean, sometimes sticking to the soap, and tends to skitter across the sink top when knocked. In contrast, this plastic soap dish stays put because it’s relatively heavy and because its descending downspout rests against the basin’s edge. (This stability is a plus the vendor oddly fails to tout.) To make sure the soap itself doesn’t slide around within the dish, I position one of its corners pointing down between the posts (not level, as shown in the vendor’s photo). This also improves drainage a bit.

I’d previously used liquid soap until someone gave me twenty bars of handmade hemp-oil soap. When I’ve washed my way through that, I think I’ll go back to liquid soap; but if you have a preference for solid soap (or if you too get such a gift), this Soap Saver is really handy.

-- Roger Knights  

Waterfall Soap Saver
$2
Available from Colonial Medical

Manufactured by Jobar International, Inc.



Pumie Toilet Bowl Ring Remover

I have a 1927-type porcelain bathtub, and it once looked that old. I tried fruitlessly over the years to remove the dinginess at the bottom with scouring pads and liquid tile cleaners. Then someone gave me a pumice scouring stick and I was able to restore the tub to good-as-new condition (without marring the finish). It took ten or 15 minutes, and required several rinsings and re-scrubbing of spots I’d missed, or hadn’t worked on hard enough. But in the end, it really worked; and annual touch-ups require three to five minutes. I wouldn’t use these sticks on plastic, though. They’re so abrasive they’d scour into anything softer than glass. As such, the sticks are also good for removing paint from concrete and tile, baked-on build-ups from ovens and grills, and rust from garden tools.

I got one recently for $8.50 at True Value. Pumie also makes a less fancy stick without the plastic handle that costs half as much at True Value ($4.50). I recommend spending the extra bucks: the handle makes it less yucky when scouring a toilet bowl ring, and it doesn’t require you to wear gloves to protect your hands when scouring a tub. These sticks last long enough that it’s worth spending more for convenience. Mine wore down about 30% while doing my tub the first time, and about another 7% getting out some nasty persistent stains in my toilet bowl.

-- Roger Knights  

Pumie Toilet Bowl Ring Remover
$8

Available from Amazon

Pumie Scouring Stick (no handle) $7 Available from Amazon



BB-50 Natural Water Bio-Bidet

I’ve never felt completely clean after taking care of the paperwork end of visiting the restroom. This bidet attachment is cool because it fits on most toilets, is really cheap compared to a standard bidet, is easy to install and doesn’t require you to modify the plumbing.

Just remove the toilet seat, place the bidet on the bowl, put the toilet seat back on top of the brackets that hold the bidet, and use the longer bolts (supplied) to tighten the seat and bidet to the bowl. As far as the water connection, simply introduce a valve into the tubing in between the pipe coming out of the wall and where it enters the bottom of the toilet tank. There is a pressure dial off to the right of the seat (it allows you to go to the full pressure of the water coming out of the wall, so be careful!). The higher priced models have heaters, but that requires either patching into a hot water line or snaking an electrical cord around your bathroom for the models that come with mini hot water heaters. For me the basic, inexpensive one works just great, and the ease of installation was important (I am not the slickest with tools). The only maintenance I do is spray the bidet nozzle with a bleach/water mixture whenever we clean the toilet. I have used mine in three different houses in the last two years, and it’s truly enhanced my life. Why take two showers a day unless you really have to?

-- Ryan Combs  

BB-50 Natural Water Bio-Bidet
$34

Available from Amazon

Or $79 from PlumbingSupply.com
Manufactured by UCI, The Bidet Company



Enurad

Our son is a very sound sleeper and had problems with bedwetting. We tried everything we could think of. Finally I stumbled across a mention of Enurad in a parents’ forum. It’s a wireless wetness sensor that you place in the child’s underwear. A standard alarm clock has been modified to ring at the slightest wetness. Enurad combined with limiting nighttime fluids solved the problem in a couple of months. He wore the device for sometime after that as an insurance policy. He just slept better knowing it was there. At $210 it’s not inexpensive, but worth every penny. Enurad doesn’t have a US distrubuter that I know of. I ordered ours from Austrailia. Highly Recommended.

-- Johnboy  

[According to the most recent science (see this article) moisture alarms are the most lasting medical cures for nocturnal bedwetting, better than commonly prescribed drugs. -- KK]

Enurad 400 Remote Sensor Alarm
$309
Available from Pedihealth
Manufactured by Enurad



Jet Swet

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This has to be the most useful tool for anyone who needs to solder a pipe while the water is still persistently dripping (thus cooling the pipe so it won’t solder properly). Just insert the tool and tighten the end nut to expand the rubber plug and presto, dry and ready to solder! I would imagine it could be used to stop a leak in a broken pipe too but I haven’t tried that one yet (and hope to not have to), my nextdoor neighbor could have used it when he broke off the toilet shut-off valve while trying to “fix” it. I am not a plumber but I do my fair share of plumbing and wonder how I ever did without it.

-- Maarten van Hell  

Jet Swet
$252 (full kit with 1/2-in. to 2-in. tools)

Available from Amazon

Or $40+ per tool, depending on diameter Available from Brenelle Enterprises



PureBrush

If you share your house with several children (as I do) it’s quite common for one kid to grab another kid’s toothbrush, creating a pathway for infection. I decided that this problem was real when my oldest boy got a cold sore on his lip, and my youngest daughter mysteriously acquired one of her own a week later.

The human mouth is well known to be crawling with viruses and bacteria, and a toothbrush naturally picks up its share, along with some saliva to form an excellent culture medium. A toothbrush sitting innocently in the bathroom may be one of the least hygienic items in your home.

Several sterilizers are available, but this one seems the best to me, using ultraviolet light instead of steam. It’s also useful if you have a guest who didn’t plan to stay overnight and came without his own toothbrush. He won’t catch anything from you, and you won’t catch anything from him (at least, not by him brushing his teeth).

-- Abigail Fromm  

PureBrush
$70
Manufactured by Purebrush

Available from Amazon