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Cleaning with Olive Oil

Excerpted from

The Passionate Olive; 101 Things to Do with Olive Oil


Clean and Polish Slate, Tile, and Hardwood Floors

It seems as if I am always cleaning something around the house with the help of olive oil. And if your home is like mine, there is no end to the things that need constant cleaning attention. For example, let's start with what is right under our feet every day-the floors. Whether they are tile, slate, or hardwood floors, they need to be cleaned on a regular basis to keep them shining. My cousin, Graziella. who lives near Genoa, Italy, has beautiful charcoal-colored slate floors throughout her very modern home. She told me that she keeps them shining and clean with the regular use of olive oil. I have dark hardwood floors in my hallway and tile floors in my kitchen. After sweeping the floors to remove all of the large particles of dirt and dust, I apply several drops of olive oil and several drops of lemon juice on a dry mop or cloth broom and oil mop the floors. Any remaining small particles of dust will cling to the mop or broom. If you have just washed the floors, you can always use the oil as a follow-up treatment. Your floor will be positively gleaming and will be much cleaner with this process. Remember, only a few drops each of olive oil and lemon juice will do the trick!

Clean Pewter

Entertaining family and friends is a well-known tradition among Italians. Greeks, and other Mediterranean/olive cultures. Any excuse for a get-together is seized upon with great enthusiasm. Along with the all-important food preparation is the preparation of one's home to receive guests. Both of these preparty preparation steps include the use of a great deal of olive oil. Whenever I give a party, I get out my nonna Jenny's beautiful pewter serving plates and candleholders. To make sure they are seen at their very best. I use her ancient recipe for cleaning them. Olive oil can clean anything in the house that is made of pewter, including chargers (those decorative plates, used under china dinner plates, which can often become stained). Nonna's recipe for cleaning pewter will work for other types of metals, too, but more about that later.

Clean Wax Off Candle HOlders

Once the family pewter candleholders are clean and shining, my nonna also taught me a secret about how to prevent wax from forming on the interior of a candleholder with . . . what else . . . olive oil. Placing a few drops of olive oil into the interior of the candleholder will prevent the buildup of wax. We have all had the experience of removing candle wax from a candleholder the day after a party, and this trick makes this often time-consuming task a breeze! But let's get back to the party-I'll even share one of the recipes.

Remove Correction Fluid from One's Hands or The Furniture

Have you ever spilled paper correction fluid on your fingers when correcting a document and then tried to wash it off? Soap and water will simply not work. As much as you try, the stubborn white smudge just won't disappear. To the rescue . . . olive oil. This correction fluid mishap plagued me recently when some of the fluid accidentally got on my six-month-old granddaughter, Christiana, while I was holding her and at the same time correcting a handwritten letter. I quickly massaged her arm with a soft cloth and extra virgin olive oil. Not only did the spots of correction fluid simply disappear, but my granddaughter thought this was all great fun-to be massaged with olive oil by me, her nonna. She is a true Italian! This whole process took just a few minutes and. of course, did not harm the baby.

Clean the Air and Illuminate a Room

Amazingly, cleaning the air of smoke and pollution is another way to use olive oil. For thousands of years, people have used olive oil with cotton or linen wicks to cleanse the air around them and to keep flames burning for light. In fact, "Olio come fonte di luce" (oil as the source of light) is a predominant theme at the Lungarotti Olive Oil Museum in Torgiano, Italy. A beautiful collection of oil lamps, from the pre-classical era to those from the early twentieth century, is displayed. Some of the lamps are decoratively adorned while others are simple and more utilitarian. Crafted from bronze, pewter, marble, iron, terra-cotta. glass, and silver, these olive oil lamps not only cleansed the air but were used as a major source of light for centuries. Even nomads used olive oil lamps for orientation in the desert, and these lamps were considered by some to be inhabited by a benevolent genie.

If you sniff the air above an olive oil lamp, you will smell the pleasing fragrance of the warm oil. Olive oil is 99 percent pure fuel; it does not produce smoke or soot, nor does it have an unpleasant odor. People with asthma or chemical sensitivities can burn olive oil lamps without discomfort. Additionally, it is safe-, it does not burn if it spills. On the other hand, if burning kerosene is spilled, the fire spreads rapidly. Burning olive oil will smolder and put itself out or give you time to smother it with something. Of course, all flames are potentially dangerous, so keep flames away from children and pets.

Olive oil lamps are commercially available today. I have two. One is called an olive oil chamber lamp and is from Lehman's in Ohio. It is a very practical jarlike lamp with a handle, which makes it easy to move from room to room. The other is a handmade, decorative lamp, which was a gift from my friend Marilee. This lamp is an Elazar olive oil lamp, made of copper and bronze. The woman who makes these unique lamps uses only fire, welding, and water for the patina coloration. Each lamp is unique and quite beautiful. I have referenced these lamps in the Annotated Selected Websites section of the book.

One more bit of advice regarding olive oil lamps. For those of you who think olive oil is an expensive "fuel," it is really quite a reasonable value. The same amount of olive oil that you would use in a salad dressing burns in your lamp for about eight hours. You can also burn the least-expensive olive oil or even one that turned rancid hidden in the back of your cupboard.

Only use an olive oil lamp when burning olive oil. You should not burn olive oil in a kerosene lamp, nor should you burn other types of oil, like petroleum-based fuels or lamp oils, in your olive oil lamp. It is interesting to note that until the 1950s, olive oil lamps were used in Mediterranean towns not yet wired for electricity. Thus illuminating a room as well as cleaning the air are on my list of highly recommended uses for this precious oil.

Remove Tar Spots

Tar spots can really ruin the appearance of a patio or garage. Rubbing an olive oil and baking soda mixture onto the tar spots will take a bit of time, but the results are worth it. Remember my nonna Jenny's recipe for cleaning pewter? That same recipe can be used to remove tar spots on concrete or cement.

Hydrate Pearls and Polish Diamonds

According to Isabelle Yao. a pearl specialist in Hawaii, the word hydrate should really be used in explaining the effect of olive oil on pearls. Put a small amount of olive oil on a soft cloth. Rub the olive oil on the pearls and then lightly buff them with the dry portion of the cloth to remove any dirt and residue and make them shine. Indeed, olive oil will do wonders for all of your precious and semiprecious jewelry. Because I have seen such fabulous results with olive oil on my pearls, I now rub a drop of olive oil onto my diamond jewelry. When my diamond ring catches the sun. its brilliant shine often casts rainbows throughout the room. Your pearls and diamond jewelry can do the same thing.

Tags: Health