June 17, 2006 | Episode 24

Inside a freezer
Move over, ice cream —  make room for candlesticks, yarn, and more.
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New Uses for Your Freezer

How to use the coldest place in your house for more than just food

Clean Candlesticks

Trying to wrestle congealed wax out of a candlestick can really burn you up. Make the chore easier by putting the candlesticks into the freezer first. “It really works with anything that wax has dripped on,” says Lydia Wilen, coauthor of Bottom Line’s Book of Household Magic. “Make sure the moisture is not going to do any damage, though. If you think it will, put the item in a plastic bag, then chip or break off the wax.”

Strengthen Pantyhose

Instead of toting around nail polish to deal with runs after the fact, try Wilen’s tip for strengthening your nylons before you head out. “Before you wear new pantyhose, dip them in water, wring them out, enclose them in a plastic bag, and freeze them solid,” she says. “When you remove them, let them thaw and dry completely. Then you’re ready to wear them.” A night in the deep freeze seems to make the fabric sturdier and increase its longevity.

Debug and Detangle Yarn

“The freezer is really the only place in your house that’s 100 percent protected from pest incursion — no carpet beetles, no moths, no mice,” says Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, author of Knitting Rules!: The Yarn Harlot’s Bag of Knitting Tricks. She also enlists her freezer when a bug infestation has already occurred. “You put the yarn in the freezer for a week or two, and the moths think it’s wintertime and go into hibernation,” she explains. “When you take it out, they all hatch because they think it’s spring — and then you put it back into the freezer and kill them all.” Sounds gross. “Gross but necessary,” says Pearl-McPhee, laughing. “Do you want to win or not?”

In addition to bug prevention, the Yarn Harlot (as Pearl-McPhee is known on her blog) has another use for her freezer: untangling mohair when you’ve made a mistake. “Mohair tangles really badly. The long fibers all lock together into knots when you try to rip it out,” she explains. So to facilitate the process, she suggests first freezing the mohair yarn until the tiny hairs stiffen. Then, when you go back and rip out your mistakes, the yarn will be less likely to tangle.

Stop Crying When You Cut Onions

It’s true: Stowing an onion in the freezer for 10 to 20 minutes before you cut it will reduce, or even prevent, unnecessary tears. “There’s a real scientific basis for it,” says Al Bushway, professor of food science at the University of Maine and a spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technologists. “When you cut, you release enzymes that break down the sulfur compounds that are part of the onion,” he says. As a result, sulfuric-based volatile compounds drift into the air and, inevitably, into your eyes, which tear up to neutralize the acids. But you can put a freeze on the whole cycle if you chill (but don’t entirely freeze) the onion first. “Enzymes don’t work very well in the cold,” Bushway explains, “so you’ve slowed down the process of breaking down the sulfur compounds, and not as many are released.” The few that do escape are much less concentrated and therefore less likely to bring tears to your eyes.

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