Over the past three decades, I’ve logged more than 1.5 million air miles traveling for book tours, speaking events, and television and radio shows. It’s been and continues to be great fun, and I have mostly loved every moment.
As you might imagine, many funny things have happened to me on my travels. But none can top what happened in San Francisco.
The year was 1998. I was in San Francisco to appear on a local television show. The show had arranged for me to stay in the oldest, most historic downtown hotel. The producer had asked me to bring a few props that would create some visual interest, as I would be demonstrating some of the great tips I’d been publishing in my monthly newsletter.
I arrived the evening before and checked into the hotel before taking a cab to a local grocery store to pick up the props I would need for the show. I wanted the biggest sizes I could find of the items I would need — baking soda, white vinegar, salt and isopropyl alcohol. I figured that would be easier than trying to carry those items on the plane.
Knowing I would need only the visual representations, I decided to empty all of the containers in order to lighten my load and make the trip to the studio the following day more manageable. I only needed the containers, not the contents.
Despite the fact that I would be wasting a lot of perfectly good stuff, in the interest of convenience and ease, I dumped the large box of baking soda into the toilet and flushed. A few minutes later, I poured a gallon of white vinegar down the toilet and flushed again.
I emptied the salt into a plastic bag, tied it up and placed it in the waste basket. I poured the quart of rubbing alcohol down the sink. Done. Simple, easy and quite smart, I told myself. I commenced to pack the props for the next day and left the room to get some dinner.
Several hours later, I was back in my room watching TV, and the most unusual thing happened. It was like Yellowstone’s Old Faithful visited my room!
I heard this terrifying, loud sound of rushing water and ran to the bathroom just in time to see an eruption of water shoot right out of the commode straight into the air — stopping just shy of the ceiling. It scared me to death. All I could do was stare.
Once it calmed down and gurgled to a stop, this horrible odor began to fill the room as all of the sewer gases from under the city of San Francisco poured into my room. I ran out into the hallway and was greeted by all of the other hotel guests on that floor. Apparently, that odor was filling their rooms as well.
By now, it was getting late. What a sight to see dozens of people in the hall in every kind of robe and nightwear imaginable — gasping for air while covering their faces with anything available.
The hotel engineer was summoned to assess the problem, and all he could do was laugh as he concluded that, finally, whatever it was that had been clogging the hotel drains had let loose.
Thankfully, there was no lingering damage. In fact, I like to think I did the Drake a huge (I cannot tell you how huge) favor.
Oh, what a night it was when I single-handedly did what so many professionals before me had not been able to accomplish — all with just 10 pounds of baking soda and a gallon of white vinegar.
Never underestimate the power of a really great household tip.
To clear a sluggish drain and keep it running well, you’ll need:
— Baking soda.
— Boiling water.
Step 1: Pour 1 cup baking soda into the drain, and push it down into the drain as best you can.
Step 2: Follow by pouring 1 cup white vinegar into the drain. It will bubble, fizz and gurgle, but it is not harmful.
Step 3: Allow to sit for a couple of hours, or overnight, which is better.
Step 4: In the morning, pour a quart of boiling water directly into the drain.
Caution: Pouring boiling water into an older porcelain sink can harm the porcelain, so make sure you are pouring the water into the drain, not onto the porcelain. If dealing with very old pipes and plumbing, cut the quantities of baking soda and vinegar in half just to be on the safe side.
Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living.