Around France

5 Eco Tips I Learned in France

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

1. Treat cold sores

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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.


Right after I arrived in France, a cold sore appeared on my lip. I wasn’t surprised since I get them often when I’m tired and/or stressed, or if I’m 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.

I’m not kidding. The next day the cold sore was gone! A miracle! Actually, it’s the French way of life.

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. You see, 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 obvious stupidity of sticking a finger in a pan of hot oil. Another miracle! The French way of life.

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 to the brocante stores (antique/used furniture) around town to find what I needed.

french way of lifeHappily, 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 from insects,  I learned about the disinfectant qualities of lavender oil.  french way of life

I was told to mix up the special potion that contained lavender oil in a spray bottle and to 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 furniture. 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 lavender oil

Fill rest of spray bottle with lemon juice

For the lemon juice, I used the concentrated version from a plastic squeeze bottle, diluted down 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.

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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 Uzes to answer my concern about cheese.

For hard cheeses, you shave off the top that might look bad or moldy, 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.

For fresh cheese, like goat milk cheese,  the shelf-life is very short. 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, if you like. I just keep them all together, but individually wrapped in the same shiny paper that Claude’ wrapped it in at his shop.

french way of life

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 out of 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 that 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 the calcium-rich water. All I could think about was walking around spelling like vinegar.

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

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Now, I’ve never told you about my clothes washer. It’s brand new and it will wash the clothes and it will dry them. 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 bunch of clothes were washed 5 times before I totally 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 seem to help. It was frustrating. Even worse, I have an aversion to softeners and drying sheets. I think they have too many chemicals and may be harmful to 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 I wash dishes, and when cleaning the shower.

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

For more tips from France, stay tuned …

3 replies »

  1. I have been making my own general purpose cleaner for some time: equal parts vinegar and water, several drops of peppermint essential oil and a few drops of dish washing liquid. It’s a great cleaner for countertops and anywhere you work with food since it’s chemical free. I’ve also been putting vinegar in my laundry forever. I guess we’re all discovering natural alternatives to our chemical environment.

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