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Out, out damned spot!

Solution wizard Reena Nerbas makes home life easier – and greener



Has something like Tilex sent you coughing and choking to open a window while you were cleaning your shower? How about those detergents that make the skin on your hands feel like it shrunk three sizes after you’ve washed dishes?

If you’ve ever suffered the above or had your own unique reaction while cleaning something basic around your house, you’ll be super glad that Reena Nerbas didn’t turn into a fashion buyer or a children’s book author like she set out to be.

Instead, Reena has become a cool, contemporary Canadian guru of household solutions — a post post-modern version of those bastions of handy home tips, like Heloise and Penny Wise, with a zingy, down-to-earth flair.

Reena has parlayed common sense and curiosity with her degree in human ecology (that’s the study of how people interact with their environment and nature; it used to be called home economics) to become the author of best sellers Household Solutions 1 with Substitutions and Household Solutions 2 with Kitchen Secrets ; a regular guest on CBC Radio One (catch her locally on Mark Forsythe’s B.C. Almanac) and CTV’s Canada AM; and a national newspaper columnist.

All of her work is based on a common thread: “I’m trying to get people to reduce chemicals in their homes more and more and to use less toxic products in other ways. I call them ‘household superstars’,” she says from her home in a small town outside of Winnipeg, where she lives with her husband and four children — excellent generators of challenges to test tips on.

“For example, you have peanut butter. Peanut butter is not just for putting on sandwiches — you can fix your music CDs with peanut butter. You can take gum out of hair with peanut butter. You can remove labels from jars with peanut butter. There are multiple uses for multiple products in the home. You don’t always have to run out to the store and buy these hugely expensive commercial products that have not been tested for safety.”

Note the last phrase. Canada is way behind Europe and even the U.S. when it comes to standards for household chemicals. There are more than 75,000 untested chemicals in products on store shelves in Canada, and they don’t have any standards for usage. Even scarier, manufacturers then take these untested chemicals and combine them with each other or with other chemicals, so we really don’t know what the effects are.

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