Around France

5 Eco-Tips I Learned in France

Eco-Tips in France

One of the main reasons I moved to France was to experience the way of life. The eco-tips in France I’ve learned so far have given me eco-friendly, economical, and sure-fire ways to solve some vexing problems … like how to:

1. Treat cold sores

Medicine man

Medicine man


Remember hearing about the “medicine man” that roamed through cities and towns hawking a “miracle cure”? He sometimes called the unknown potion “snake oil” or some other mysterious name. I think I know what that miracle potion might have been… lavender oil.!

A cold sore appeared on my lip right after I arrived in France. I wasn’t surprised since I often get them when I’m tired and/or stressed or getting the least bit sick. When I complained about the sore to a new friend, she suggested I put a drop or two of lavender oil on the sore spot. She told me to repeat this routine several times that day.

It works!

I’m not kidding. The next day the cold sore was gone! A miracle!

2. Soothe/heal grease burns

Close to the time that I learned about the healing powers of lavender oil, I stuck my finger into a pan with hot oil. No, I’m not a masochist. I just wanted to see if the olive oil I’d put into a frying pan was warming up. I haven’t used a gas-top stove in years … and … I wasn’t thinking! As soon as it registered in my pea-brain that I had scalded the tip of my finger,

I screamed.

Then I ran to the medicine cabinet to get the tiny bottle of lavender oil. Within seconds of putting lavender oil on the burn, the stinging stopped. What’s more, a blister never formed on the burned spot. I didn’t have to suffer more than a few minutes for the apparent stupidity of sticking a finger in a pan of hot oil. Another miracle! lavender oil

3. Clean and protect wood furniture

Moving into an unfurnished apartment, I set out to decorate the rooms as comfortably … and inexpensively … as possible. I headed around town to the brocante stores (antique/used furniture) to find what I needed.

brocante furnitureHappily, I picked up some really good buys. The only problem was that the brocante dealers weren’t too sure whether all the furniture had been treated for tiny bugs that bore into wood. Since I seem to act first and think later, I charged ahead and bought the items … bugs and all.

I would deal with the wood munchers later.

When I researched how to rid furniture of insects,  I learned about the disinfectant qualities of lavender oil.  french lavender

I was told to mix up the potion containing lavender oil in a spray bottle and apply it liberally all over each piece of furniture. It didn’t matter if the surface was wood or leather. That meant everything I brought into the apartment had to get a heavy dose of the miracle mixture — inside, outside, all around the tiniest corners.

Deep cleaning furniture isn’t my favorite way to spend a day. Nevertheless, I recognized the necessity of the chore. So on the appointed day, I pulled out a big bucket, filled it with warm water, grabbed a few sponges, and covered my hands with rubber gloves.

First, I washed down each piece of furniture with a wet sponge — to get rid of the spiders, dust, and other crud that came in with the table. Most of the pieces had been sitting in a warehouse-type store for months — maybe years.

Then I sprayed on the disinfectant solution. Here’s the formula for the potion that fills a spray bottle the size of a regular Windex bottle:

1/3 bottle olive oil

40 drops of lavender oil

Fill the rest of the spray bottle with lemon juice

I used the concentrated version from a plastic squeeze bottle for the lemon juice, diluted with water to a “real lemon” strength.


Not a sign of wood-boring insects in over 3 months. (No sawdust) I’ll repeat the treatment in another few months, just in case.

4. Prolong shelf-life of cheese

The answer to my long-time question about “How long does cheese last” was answered simply by visiting my friend, Claude, the cheese man.

2013-11-02 10.27.35

It only took a few trips to pick up my weekly selection of cheeses from Claude at his usual place at the Saturday market in Uzès to answer my concern about cheese.

You shave off the top that might look bad or moldy for hard cheeses, and it’s good as new. These cheeses are aged, anyway.

It’s no big deal to shave them down a bit. 

The same for soft cheese. Cut off the parts that look dried out or off-colored. But you must also smell the cheese to see if it’s still fit to eat.

Like goat milk cheese,  the shelf-life is very short for fresh cheese. Eat it as soon as you get it… no more than 3 days later. Smell it first.

Keep your cheese in a closed container in the refrigerator. I use a rectangular Pyrex baking dish that has a tight-fitting lid. You can separate the “smelly” cheese from the other. I keep them all together but individually wrapped in the same shiny paper Claude wrapped at his shop.

Cheese selection from Claude at the Saturday Market, Uzes

Cheese selection from Claude at the Saturday Market, Uzes


5. Soften clothes/dryer

The water in Uzes is filled with calcium. Deposits form all over the glass shower stall, and calcium stops up the tiny holes in the faucets. I didn’t realize the problem was so bad until hot water stopped coming from my kitchen sink tap.

When I complained to the rental office about “no hot water in the kitchen,” the reply was “soak the spray head in vinegar” or “buy a new one.”

I chose to buy a new one. Soaking the spray head in vinegar sounded like a process my patience couldn’t bear.

It did, however spark my interest in the cleansing power of vinegar. 

Not long after this episode, I overheard someone talking about using vinegar when you shampoo your hair. It supposedly works like a cream rinse to soften the hair after soaking it too often in calcium-rich water. All I could think about was walking around smelling like vinegar.

Later, I was told that vinegar is good for softening clothes. Just put 1/4 cup vinegar in the water while washing the clothes.

washer dryer

Now, I’ve never told you about my clothes washer. It’s brand new, and it will wash and dry the clothes. Unfortunately, the instructions didn’t come in English, so it took me a few uses to discover how to change the settings from “wash” to “dry.” In fact, I believe many clothes were washed 5 times before I figured it out.

To make a long story short, when the clothes would come out of the dryer, they were stiff as a board. Even adding a softener and/or drying sheet didn’t help. It was frustrating. Even worse, I have an aversion to softeners and drying sheets. I think they have too many chemicals that may harm our health.

The next time I went to Carrefour, I picked up two giant bottles of vinegar.

Now I use it in the washing machine when washing dishes and cleaning calcium from shower heads and the shower. vinegar in france

The clothes come out of the dryer softer than ever, drinking glasses and silverware wash up spotlessly, and a water-vinegar solution shines up the glass shower door and faucets, almost like new.

For more tips from France, stay tuned …

Categories: Around France, Blog

16 replies »

  1. Vinegar! Yes! But, in France, there is Vinaigre de Menage (vinegar for cleaning, not ingesting). It is a much higher acidity (14%) than USA vinegar (5% or so). I have searched for high acidity vinegar in the USA to no avail. The last I bought in France is actually in gel form (brand is Jacques Briochin). And finally, my mother always rinsed my hair with vinegar when I was growing up….think I will try it today!

    • Ahhh… something new to discover. I was buying vinegar from the regular grocery aisle. I’ll definitely look for the stronger variety. Thanks! Yes, I remember using vinegar on my hair at some age of adolescence. I’ve forgotten the reason. Probably to rinse out the mayonnaise someone else told me to use! Thanks for your comment, Mary Jane 🙂

      • White House Apple Cider Vinegar was put to its best use today… rinse my hair. My hair seems to have more body. Will do this on a regular basis…thanks for the reminder. But now I also remember a time when we used Sea Breeze to rinse…..felt great!

        • Oh, maybe I’ll have to try vinegar again. I use it for everything! There’s so much calcium in our water here. I use it for washing dishes, especially for glasses. Never use washing machine softener anymore, either. Yes! I remember Sea Breeze!thanks for your note, Mary.

  2. I’m a huge fan of lavender oil. Have a bottle by bed. A couple of drops on the pillow work wonders when I can’t sleep. Worked for my sons when they were small, too.

  3. So glad I came across this! I am working towards going to Pharmacy school. In my Dream world (career wise…lol), I want to travel around learning all about old wives tales/home remedies for sicknesses and wound care. Then I want to test them to see how they actually work. Because I for one, do not really believe in taking man-made/Western medicine unless absolutely necessary. You know?

    • So glad you wrote a note. Sounds like you should look into studying Eastern medicine. They use so many herbs and natural remedies. I agree, I feel safe using tried and true, simple solutions whenever I can. Discovering the many uses of vinegar and lavender has been very useful in France. Go for your dream, for sure!

  4. Hi Deborah – have you tried putting a teaspoon of vinegar into a glass of (fizzy) water? It is very good for you healthwise and very refreshing – but then I am known just to swig vinegar out of the bottle !!! But seriously though it is good for you 🙂


    • Yes, I’ve heard it is good for you to drink vinegar and I tried it. Something I’d have to get used to. Maybe a little fizzy would help. Thanks, Sue!

  5. Deborah you are becoming quite the renaissance lady and when we get to France will will call on all your new knowledge to help us with our new apartment–Happy Holiday Season and all your upcoming travels!!!

  6. I’d put some of the lavender oil in with the vinegar. It would help get rid of the vinegar smell, replacing it with the much nicer smell.

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