Updated on 04.05.07

The Frugal Geek’s Toolbox

Trent Hamm

toolLast night, I did a survey of my toolbox, the one I lug around to handle most repair tasks around the house, with the car, and so forth. The box had many of the usual suspects in there (a crescent wrench, a claw hammer, a flashlight, a few screwdrivers, and so on) and also some more utilitarian items (like duct tape and WD-40), but those are the items you’ll find in most toolboxes – if you want a boring list like that one, just read the toolbox list at eHow for that stuff.

Instead, I dug into the interesting stuff – the geeky stuff. Homebrewed solutions to common problems and the like. Here’s the best of what I found.

Homemade Goo Gone

What you need Gasoline and natural citrus oil.

How to get the gasoline Take a small jar with you when you pump gas. Pump a bit of gas into that jar. Close it up.

How to make your own citrus oil Put the rinds of three oranges into a closed gallon of water (i.e., a gallon milk jug full of water) for ten days, then strain out the rinds. The water left will be nice and oily, full of citrus oil.

How to make the homemade Goo Gone Mix one part of the gasoline to four parts of the citrus oil / water mixture. Put it in a spray bottle. You’re good to go.

What does it do? It’s basically a great replacement for Goo Gone, as I’m fairly sure that commercial Goo Gone is something close to a distilled version of this mixture. It’s not quite as potent, but a few sprays on anything will replicate the effects of commercial Goo Gone. It’s great for getting rid of anything that leaves behind a gooey or sticky residue – just spray a few squirts of this stuff on it, let it sit for a few seconds, then rub it off vigorously.

Homemade grips

What you need Leftover balloons from a kid’s birthday party.

What does it do? Need to get a grip on something that has just been sprayed down with WD-40? Can’t pop the top off of a jar? Just stretch some balloons over the area to make your grip a lot easier. I like the biggest balloons I can find, as they have the most utility for these uses.

Homemade general cleaner

What you need A teaspoon of washing soda (not baking soda), a big squirt of liquid detergent (like Dawn), and three cups of hot water, mixed in a spray bottle

What does it do? If you’re doing some spring cleaning or some car detailing, or you made something into a greasy mess while working on it, this stuff will help you get it clean very quickly. Between it and the Goo Gone, you can clean pretty much anything with just a few squirts and a bit of rubbing with a cloth.

Old toothbrush

What you need An old, used toothbrush. Seriously.

What does it do? This is my ultimate secret weapon. Hand in hand with most cleaners, it can clean up any area, even stuff you can’t directly reach. Even better, use this along with WD-40 on a tight bolt. Spray it down, brush the area with the old toothbrush, and things loosen up amazingly quickly.

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  1. Erick says:

    The old toothbrush is a great tool. I’ve got a bunch of them in my bathroom drawer. Use them for everything from cleaning out my electric razor to scrubbing the hard to reach areas near the bathroom and kitchen sink.

  2. Bones says:

    I am always admired of the way you have to always give good advice and solution. Weren’t for your blog i would have never knowm many things, and I wouldn’t have started an emergency fund!
    Thank you, happy easter!

  3. Him says:

    Holy gasoline hazard! For something a little less corrosive, volatile, and flammable, try mixing in kerosene instead of gasoline for the goo gone solution. I detailed cars for a while and that’s what we used.

    Actually kerosene alone removes a lot of stains with little smell and a lot less flammability.

  4. William says:

    I second the kerosene comment. A small, closed jar of gasoline is a small bomb with a glass shell.

  5. Zachary says:

    Years ago when I was a teenager, my older cousin gave me a toolbox and told me, “You may not appreciate this now, but someday you will.” In hindsight, it was one of the best gifts I have ever received. I need to organize mine, though. It’s nearly overflowing with tools and hardware stuff.

  6. Ben says:

    From goo-gone’s website

    “Goo Gone has minimal impact on our environment and is safe to use on virtually any surface, including: carpets · upholstery · clothing · tile · glass · grills · appliances · vinyl · wood · draperies · autos · boats · fiberglass”

    Gasoline or kerosene certainly don’t meet this criteria. If you have never spilled gasoline on yourself, it burns the skin. I’m certainly not putting a petroleum product on my carpet, couch, or anywere I’m likely to be touching.

  7. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Ben: minimal research shows that the primary active ingredient in Goo Gone is petroleum. Read the material safety data sheet on Goo Gone – the two major active ingredients are petroleum naphtha and citrus oil.

  8. corey says:

    Great ideas the look on my wife’s face when I told her about filling up a cup with gasoline at the next fill up was classic. I suppose some feeds are better kept to myself.

  9. Ponz says:

    Trent! You spend countless hours and much effort planning for financial success, building an emergency fund, and plotting how to teach your children to be smart. Yada yada yada.

    Take a few bucks and buy a proper can of Goo Gone if you need it. Sure, chances are you won’t ever have that jar of gasoline blow up on you, but is it really worth the risk? And while you’re at it, get a couple of good fire extinguishers for the kitchen, garage, laundry room, and basement.

    Here’s a thought. Whenever you find yourself contemplating a hazardous behavior, picture yourself justifying it to your son, who you can count on to mimick your every move.

    Happy Easter,


  10. consumer_q says:

    “How to get the gasoline Take a small jar with you when you pump gas. Pump a bit of gas into that jar. Close it up.”

    Trent, next time you are at a fueling station please note the safety signs. A pickle jar is not considered an “approved container” for pumping gasoline into.

    If you are going to continue making this concoction, spend the $5 and get a small gas can, pump fuel into *it* first, then transfer the fuel from it to the jar. Much safer, plus you get to have a gas can you can throw in your car for when you need to rescue your frugal friend who ran out of gas on the freeway. ;)

  11. While I’m not going to berate you like these other gasoline-fearing-to-a-ridiculous-degree comment-leavers*, I will say that I really don’t see the point of making your own Goo Gone. I bought an 8-oz bottle (more than a year’s worth, at the rate that I use it) for $4. Yes, I guess it can be fun to make your own chemistry experiments, but this is taking frugality a bit too far (unless you regularly need gallons of Goo Gone).

    *see here: http://www.intuitor.com/moviephysics/mpmain.html#carcrashes
    Despite what you see in movies, gasoline is actually NOT particularly explosive, nor is it even prone to catching fire from sparks!

  12. labyrus says:

    Naptha is not the same thing as Gasoline. You can buy Naptha at a hardware store. It’s excellent for removing oil finishes from wood.

  13. Amy says:

    Hmmm… for sticky messes (adhesive residue etc.), I just spray the spot with a little vegetable oil and wait. If it’s too “vertical” and the oil runs off, I’ll use cheap peanut butter, thinly. Sometimes it takes a while (up to overnight), but it’s not something you have to keep attentive to usually. The oils dissolve the adhesive and clean up easily with soap and water.

  14. PiFreak says:

    actually, dollar tree has goo-gone now… I was there with my mom and made her get 2 bottles. She had no idea why til we got home and I took the sticker residue and hair off of a candle holder that had been sticky for years. A dollar for eight ounces… pretty good.

  15. Jaime says:

    Goo-Gone is pretty cheap nowadays… Why on earth would you try to make it yourself by breaking the law AND risking your safety??

  16. Bill Kearney says:

    What ‘law’ are you claiming would apply here?

    Gasoline as a liquid is one thing, let it sit for a while and the fumes are most certainly PHENOMENALLY explosive. Doesn’t take long. Pour a pint of gas into a closed space and light it and you’ll have a small fire that goes out. Pour that same pint and then wait a half hour and if it ignites the whole structure will cease to exist. Suffice to say do not attempt this at home.

  17. Andrew says:

    FYI, Goo Gone 8oz can be found at your local dollar stores for… yep.. $1. Definitely not worth buying Benzine and grinding citrus peels.. but if you have a toxic dump in your back yard you might already be wondering what to do with the stuff I guess.. Liquid Wrench is filled with Benzine.. Gas works great on weeds. Smells like high hell though. All depends on the price of gas if its worth using it for anything..

  18. 3Handed says:

    I was just looking for a goo gone solution without going to the store because a lot of time the stuff in the store is the refinement of an age old type of solution. I’m not going to go to the gas station with an empty glass jar for reasons cited above. So that was good feedback. None the less, I appreciate even more than that, the idea of how to make a home made goo gone more than the idea of why I shouldn’t do it in one particular fashion or another.

    Anyway, goo gone may be none toxic and gentle, but nothing sticky or gooey survives gasoline.

  19. ppp says:

    Gasoline? I’m a bit shocked at the recklessness of this tip, I certainly hope your umbrella liability policy is paid up. Never mind the flammability, gasoline contains toxic and carcinogenic solvents (for example, benzene in our part of the country).

    I hope you are aware that there are similar products with names that sound like GooGone (Goo-B-Gone, Goof-Off, etc). Among them, there is a non-toxic formulation that is safe for household use, the solvent is orange oil. Be sure to read the label if you are concerned.

    There is also a industrial formulation. It contains more solvents than gasoline and should be handled while wearing a NIOSH-rated respirator (not dust mask).

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