Is this the worst cleaning job in your house?

sink-hair-source Reddit
Source Reddit

As a regular viewer of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! (the perfect ‘lock-down’ viewing), I realise there are worse jobs than cleaning drains blocked with hair.  In my house anyway, there aren’t usually any snakes or naked rats involved. But as disgusting tasks go, I think it runs the ‘trials’ pretty close. Especially if the hair in question has had time to congeal and putrefy in the drain U-bend.

So, of course you are asking, is there a gadget which can solve this repulsive task? And the answer is a resounding YES!

Let me first take you on a brief tour of my previous so called solutions to this household challenge. Something I have had to deal with most of my adult life, due to wives and children who seem to shed hair at an alarming rate.

According to Sienna Fantozzi I shouldn’t be surprised, as it normal to lose up to 100 strands of hair a day. That sounds a lot until you consider the average human head has over 100,000 strands. So, plenty more where that came from. (How Much Hair Loss Is Normal When You Shower?)

For many years I relied on a range of powerful chemicals such as these below, with mixed success. But always the blockage came back with a vengeance.

liquid drain unblockers

caustic sodaThen I graduated to the ‘hard stuff’, Caustic Soda.  Which I had used with great effect to clean out the gummed up insides of my motorbike exhaust pipes. I loved hearing the fizzing sound coming out of the blocked pipes as the soda got to work. I wasn’t so keen on the noxious chemical smell. And wearing rubber gloves to avoid burns was de rigour. I wasn’t too happy about what the chemical was doing to the water in the drains either. And of course it was still only a temporary solution to the problem.

Next I switched to a non-chemical approach by buying a drum auger. As you can see in this video, it is not an easy process. Many times I had to wind out the full length of the wire before the blockage was cleared. And in my experience, you pull most of the decomposing hair ball back up into the sink, and spend the next 15 minutes trying to remove it from the device. Whilst trying to hold your breath to avoid the stench of rotting hair.

So finally we come to the solution to the problem of hairs blocking my drains. Catch them before they go down the plug hole with a TubShroom or a SinkShroom.


hairy sinkIt looks deceptively simple, and like all great inventions, it is. The only snag for me was that I have old sinks with built in drain holes. However, half-an hours work with my trusty drill and file, had that impediment removed. And the the SinkShroom could be inserted. Since then I have to clean it out every few weeks as the water flow starts to slow down. But taking out a few relatively fresh strands of hair every few weeks is absolute bliss compared to any of the previous so-called solutions. If you don’t believe me, there are plenty of reviews to be found on YouTube like this one.

Switching to doorstep delivered milk led to another gadget for our house

Real milk bottleThe Coronavirus pandemic has been very damaging to many business. But some have benefited from the lockdown.

For 40 years the early morning clink of glass milk bottles  has been declining. Disappearing pinta: Are the milkman’s days finally numbered?

There was a slight boost in the past couple of years due to the ‘Attenborough Effect‘, but nothing had really changed.

However since 16 March and our national lockdown, milk delivery companies have been inundated with inquiries, Coronavirus: The rise of the milkmen and women.

And this includes our local provider Hook and Son. We had already switched to them a few months before the virus, so didn’t have to join the long queue of new customers wanting to sign up. It has been a fantastic opportunity for this farm who had been struggling for many years to make ends meet.

Hook and Son

Now that my wife and I are both working from home, we find we are getting through more milk than ever before. So we have switched to their larger one-litre bottles.

And so we come to the need for a new gadget. The metal tops on these new bottles are really stiff. And we all seem to struggle to get them off.

So it was time to research a better way to remove these resistant lids. This is one of my favourite activities – I am a librarian / information professional after all. But this topic proved challenging, as there are many rival products on the market with very different approaches, and results.

A Google search for ‘jar opener reviews’ results in over 2 million results, with Top 10 Best Jar Openers On The Market 2020 Reviews first. Despite their in depth analysis of 10 different openers, including pros and cons lists, I was not ready to buy.

Jar opener (8)


















At first I was tempted by the Kichwit, with the big white handle on top. But after extensive reading of reviews I was put-off. It seems the two metal prongs squeeze and damage the lids instead of gripping them effectively. Some customers have improved them by adding a rubber layer.

Anything battery powered was out for both environmental and complexity reasons. So that led to to the Oxo Good Grips (black with metal V above). The original version got rave reviews, so I was all set to buy. But then discovered the current version had lost the plot. Not only was it no longer effective at removing lids, it also frequently damaged them with its sharp metal teeth.

I finally settled on the Easi-Twist, which looks like a giant nut-cracker. The version I found on Amazon had 4.2 out of 5 stars from 809 customer ratings. The fact it only cost £3.99 including free delivery may also have had some influence on my decision.

Otstar opener in action

I have now tested it on a variety of lids including of course the new milk bottles, and my favourite Bon Maman Apricot Conserve. I have had no failures to date, so I’m very happy, and so are my wrists.

Bon Maman Apricot Conserve

Velvetised hot chocolate – the perfect comfort food for the Corona pandemic

Hot chocolateSome of us have been using the Coranavirus lockdown to increase our exercise and eat healthily. But there are many who have been resorting to comfort food to help get through through these strange and troubling times.

I have been doing a bit of both, with regular walks with my dog on the local South Downs, some fresh vegetables from the the garden, and frequent cups of hot chocolate drinks.

Perhaps the ultimate comfort food, hot chocolate is also claimed to be good for you, 10 Surprising Health Benefits of Hot Chocolate. And there is an ongoing debate if it actually helps you sleep at night, although I am convinced it does.

For the first time in my life I have been having real trouble sleeping at night, along with many others across the country. For several weeks I was regularly waking at 4am, and not properly getting back to sleep afterwards.

If you have read this blog in the past you will know I am fan of gadgets. And the latest one in our household is a Velvetiser from Hotel Chocolat. In this case it was my wife who discovered and lobbied for its purchase.

The Velvetiser is the opposite of a Swiss Army knife gadget, in the sense that it has just one purpose, to create beautifully creamy hot chocolate. To add to my interest it has an ingenious design separating the motor from the mixer. And it is based on a patented invention from Dualit, the company who actually builds the machine.


Is it any good?

So you are asking, is it any good? And the answer is resounding yes. Using either the supplied Hotel Chocolate range of pouches including Caramel, Chilli, Dark, Fruity, Ginger, Milk, Mint, Supermilk, and White. Or alternative suppliers of flavours. After two minutes of whirling and heating, a ‘velvety’ smooth delicious drink appears.

You can be adventurous and use your own chocolate bars, grating them into flakes to make your own favourite drinks. So far I have experimented with Terry’s Chocolate Orange, Green & Blacks Mint bar and several others. All have proved delicious, with one notable exception. The 100% Dark Honduras was just too strong and bitter for my taste.

Velvetiser kit

The Velvetiser has even triggered it’s own version of the legendary Will it Blend YouTube series. The Will it Velvetise videos from Charlie Fleming are a little less polished, but no less fun to watch.

And although the Velvetiser was designed for just one purpose, I have discovered it also makes perfect frothy milk to go with my daily cappuccino. So now it is a two in one!