DIY Firestarters

Last week a listener told us you could use Twisties as firestarters.

Being a scientist I had to check it out of course. And while I was at it I thought I’d check out some other snacks.

So here’s the list:

  • Twisties
  • Chezels
  • Smiths chips
  • Burger rings
  • Woolworths rippled wholegrain chips
  • Chezels bacon boy rashers
  • Peanuts

The test was that I simply lit them and see how well they burnt.

Did the Twistie work? Yes it did, and as it burnt you could see the fat melting and running back down it.

In fact, they all pretty well worked OK, but there was one standout performer – the Chezel. It’s cylindrical shape meant that there was enough air flow to ensure highly efficient combustion, and in fact it was the only one that burnt completely.

So there you go – next time you go camping, pack the Chezels, just in case you forget the firestarters.

No one can say that I don’ttackle the big issues on this blog.



My Favourire Products #2: Morning Fresh

How much detergent is there in a dishwashing detergent?

Well, not as much as you might think.  When we squirt them out, the thick liquid gives the impression of being quite concentrated.  But, sadly, it’s a trick.  In other words, an “impression” is all it is.

The reason that they are thick is simply because thickeners are added.  These remarkable products (often clays) are what turns hair gel into gel, and are present in almost every “thickened” cosmetic product.  Present as only a couple of percent, they can convert a water like substance into a honey like substance or even a gel.

And in the case of dishwashing detergents, water is mostly what it is.  Most brands contain only between 10 and 20% detergent. and the el cheapo generic brands are down below 5%.

The standout performer however is Morning Fresh by Cussins.  This product contains about 40% detergent (last time I looked) and is the only brand that can justly attract the  label “super concentrate.”

So if you are buying any other brand of dishwashing detergent than Morning Fresh, you’re being sold short.

Do You Have Bore Stain Problems?

Without a doubt the most common question I get asked is “how do I remove bore stains?”

Consequently, I’m considering setting up a business whereby I remove bore stains, as I have a pretty good idea how to do it.

Before I get myself set up with all the necessary equipment, however, I need to try out some of my formulas.

So I’m looking for someone with bore stains that they want removed, free of charge. All I need is somewhere where I’m within range of a power point (with a long extension cord) to use my Karcher.

If interested, pls drop me a line at

My Favourite Products #1: Mr Sheen

There are some products that sell themselves.  They may have been advertised heavily in the past, but now they have reached market maturity and are a well enough known product that no further advertising is required.

Almost without exception, products that fall into this category really are good products, as opposed to products that aren’t any good and rely upon a marketing campaign to support them.

One of these is Mr Sheen.  Initially conceived as a furniture polish, it had a very successful marketing campaign and extremely catchy jingle.

Interestingly, it is now marketed a little differently, being sold as an “multi purpose cleaner”

So what’s in it, and why does it work so well?

The first component is a silicone emulsion. This is the same stuff that’s in Armor All and is the reason why it’s such a good automotive product. So anything Armor All can do, Mr Sheen can do.

Next is white spirit, a light paraffinic solvent that is good for oils and greases. Finally, there is a blend of heavier polishing waxes that enable it to nourish and shine upholstery, and provide lustre to timber surfaces.

So what can Mr Sheen do? Well, what can’t it do?

It’s a great furniture polish, it’s good on glass (although must be rubbed well to avoid wax smears), it’s a good coating on surfaces to cause water to bead off (car windscreens and motorcycle helmets, it nourishes leather and makes it supple, and it’s great on the car – either as a polish on the paint, or for making the interior – seats and dashboard – look new.

It’s also great in the engine bay – it makes black plastic components look shiny and new, and adds a gleam to metal surfaces, all the while having grease cutting surfaces due to the white spirit.

The white spirit also makes it pretty good for getting ink stains off leather, finger marks off light switches, and so on.

It is, by far and away, the best all round leaning product on the market, and this is the key to its spectacular marketing success.

It’s a


The Great Whitening Toothpaste Con

Last month CHOICE lifted the lid on whitening toothpastes.

They pointed out, quite rightly, that the ingredients in so-called “whitening toothpastes were no different from the ingredients in ordinary toothpastes.

This took me a little by surprise, for the simple reason that the “whitening” toothpastes did indeed used to contain whitening agents – notably hydrogen peroxide.  And this was prominently advertised on the sides of these packets – “contains baking soda and peroxide.”

These came on the market perhaps a decade ago or so, and seemed a terrific idea.  Peroxide is an excellent bleaching agent which decomposes to oxygen and water, so it leaves no residues behind.

But now, they have all disappeared.  And that’s all brands.  There used to be half a dozen different options as a choice for whitening toothpaste, all of which contained baking soda and peroxide.

So what happened?

Well, in the world of consumer marketing, the appearance of performance is more important than performance itself.  And no doubt some bright spark in marketing for one of the companies decided that since they now had the market, they could cheapen the products by cutting out the baking soda and peroxide but still leaving all the bright and pretty colours on the outer packaging.

They figure that most people don’t comb through the ingredients and therefore the peroxide would not be missed by anyone.

This happens a lot – once a company gets a market, they reduce the quality to make it easier for them to make money, as the formulation is now cheaper.  They just hope that no one notices.

I didn’t.  I was surprised by the CHOICE article as toothpastes with these products most certainly did exist in the recent past. Did one brand change formula and the others follow? Don’t know.

So there you go – get an el cheapo toothpaste – don’t waste your money on the more pricey brands with the pretty packaging..