Tools for Possibilities: issue no. 80

Once a week we’ll send out a page from Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The tools might be outdated or obsolete, and the links to them may or may not work. We present these vintage recommendations as is because the possibilities they inspire are new. Sign up here to get Tools for Possibilities a week early in your inbox.

Superior mop

Mary Moppins

I previously used a basic cotton deck mop, which is the best of the conventional choices, as far as I’m concerned. Most of the grocery store alternatives to the cotton deck mop are flimsy and don’t work very well. This mop is superior to others in several respects. First is that it is solid and sturdy. It is a real tool rather than a flimsy piece of junk. Second is that it works so much better. It takes less water and cleaner and less effort but picks up dirt better and faster. I use mine with vinegar and water or other environmentally preferable cleaning solutions. Third is that you don’t have the problem of storing a wet, dirty mop.

This mop is basically a cylinder at its base, with Velcro-like hook fasteners that hold onto a typical terry cloth towel. The towel or rag you use comes off the mop head when you are done and goes into the wash. Nothing hangs around wet in your cleaning closet getting funky. It’s similar in design to the Cuban Mop previously reviewed on Cool Tools, but with a better means of keeping the towel on the mop head. — Katie Bretsch

Affordable, everyday cleaning cloths

Microfiber Cleaning Towels in Bulk

Microfiber towels are listed in Cool Tools as great for drying and travel and camping, but have you used them for everyday cleaning, dusting and wiping? I buy my 16×16-inch towels in bulk. I’ve used the previously-reviewed MysticMaid cleaning towels and, personally, have seen no difference in cleaning power. Of course, mine may not last as long in the end, but they are are a heck of lot cheaper, so I’m more inclined to use them for everything and anything. And they really are holding their own so far. I’ve washed my current kitchen cleaner over 50 times with no loss in cleaning power (the packaging says good for over 100 washes). Dampen with water and you can clean the kitchen top to bottom without leaving a streak. It removes grease, grime, and the odd stuff on the stove top. Around the house it cleans glass without leaving a streak, removes the haze from inside of your auto windshield, cleans the car interior and removes all the muck the kids have built up on the plastic, doors and even car seats. Around the desk it cleans up coffee spills and rings. I’ve also used mine for cleaning monitor screens, brass, cameras (I collect Minolta 16 mm and Minox cameras), jewels, coins, glass objet d’art, lexan screens, fine wood carvings, some photos, and find no scratches or wearing away of labels, paint, or important stuff — and I’ve looked hard with my loupes. Cleaning wood work is easy and quick, as well. And in the wood shop it does wonders in getting dust off surfaces before staining or painting. A bonus for ribs lovers — it’s better than any napkin or moist towelette. — Patrick J. Meyer

Best stain remover


This powder is a non-toxic, non-chlorine bleach. Chemically it works like hydrogen peroxide, which is a water molecule with an added unstable oxygen. OxiClean is chiefly sodium percarbonate, which is washing soda with additional unstable oxygen. As in hydrogen peroxide, the excitable oxygen bubbles off when it reacts, chemically oxidizing smells, films, germs and stains of all kinds. But because OxiClean is a dry powder it is far more durable and stable than hydrogen peroxide, easier to concentrate, and cheaper in bulk. (Drugstore hydrogen peroxide is 2% solution; OxiClean is equivalent to 27% peroxide.) Best of all, percarbonate degrades to simple oxygen and washing soda (sodium carbonate). Greenies love it, and it is sold in many environmental friendly stores. I feel comfortable using it in the kitchen, and will freely work it in my hands; it has an alkaline soapy feel and fizzes satisfyingly.

Dissolved in water, it works wonders on carpet stains, soiled clothing, weird gunk on counters, mildew, trash cans, refrigerator smell and so forth. American Test Kitchens tested all available cleaners and found that sodium percarbonate was the all-around champ on getting severe grease, food, coffee and wine stains from clothes. Generally, oxygen bleaches won’t fade or affect colors like chlorine bleaches will.

Sodium percarbonate is an old chemical, but manufacturers only recently learned how to make this stuff in the vast quantities needed to be tossed by the cupfull into laundry machines. For around-thehouse chores, I’ve found that a very little of this stuff will go a long way. You can mix it to your own preferred concentration. There are a number of powdered cleaners based on sodium percarbonate and they all have “oxy” in their names. (Liquid cleaners with “oxy” in the name are usually hydrogen peroxide.) But of these, OxiClean, versatile stain remover is a best buy for laundry use. Most general stores, like Walmart and Target, carry it. — KK

Tenacious pool brush

Wall Whale

I used a normal pool brush before, and always had the problem with the brush not sticking to the wall. I would normally have to use a lot of force to successfully brush a vertical section of pool wall. Then the brush finally broke. So I went to a local pool supply to get another brush and came across the Wall Whale brush. It’s unique because in addition to the brush, it has a fin, which creates a powerful force, that basically sticks the brush to the pool wall. It’s pretty effortless to use, and successfully cleans the area that I brush.

I have had it for a few months and love it. —Mike Hedge

Old school stain remover


Fels-Naptha is old school soap that works great when it comes to stains. I had a pair of khakis that I got old chain grease on, washed them regularly about 3-4 times. Regular wash didn’t get the stain out, so I called it a bust. Then 3-months later I used a little elbow grease and Fels-Naptha, just rubbing the fabric against itself for 5 minutes, and sure enough, the grease came right out. The soap is good for plenty more as well. — Tanner


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