Humans have been plucking the fruit off olive trees for over 10,000 years, so it’s no surprise we’ve found creative ways to use olives and their oils. They’re native to the Mediterranean-basin, and probably first domesticated in Crete, but who first hatched the recipe for extracting olives’ oils remains an mystery.
We know the stuff is tasty, and its nutritional benefits go far beyond keeping cholesterol levels in check. But if you’re aiming to simplify your lifestyle, tapping in the versatility of this kitchen staple is a reasonable way to begin. From hand cleaners to skin moisturizers (without parabens, additives or perfumes) to gum remover… check out ten tasks for this Levantine wonder that you won’t see on the Food Network.
- Hand Cleaner – make a paste of olive oil and sugar (or salt) and scrub your paint-splattered hands (strips almost any sticky goo). The mess slides right off, and your skin will glow.
- Hair Conditioner – warm a bit of oil (set it in a cup inside a bowlful of boiled water) and apply a few tablespoons onto dampened hair. Massage into the ends (avoid scalp), pop on a shower cap and let it sit for 20 minutes. Wash hair as usual, thoroughly removing the residue. You’ll be sleek as a seal.
- Skin Moisturizer – pour a few drops in the palm of your hand, dip in a few fingers and pat the oil on your skin. Gently massage in. Used in small amounts, it’s quickly absorbed. Best to scent with a few drops of your favorite essential oil, or risk smelling like a Caesar salad.
- Leather Conditioner - same technique as above (minus the nice-smelling additives). Live in arid Jordan for a few years and you learn there’s not much difference between moisturizing your leather and your skin.
- Stainless Steel Polish – give the item a general wash, then drop a bit of oil onto a soft, clean cloth. Using a circular motion, buff stainless, copper and brass surfaces to a brilliant shine.
- Label Remover – saturate the sticker with oil, and let it sit awhile. Using a flat edged knife or spatula, peel the label right off.
- Chewing Gum Remover – I’ve cleaned gum out of my kids’ hair and our dog’s tail with this technique: soak the affected hair in a generous amount of oil. Leave it on for as long as the patient’s patience will allow (20 minutes is ideal) , then gently pull hair loose from the sticky wad.
- Lamp Fuel – replace the noxious stuff in your Tiki lamp with pure olive oil. We did this in a pinch during a summer barbecue and were stunned to see it really works. Many Jews use olive oil for their weekly candle lighting ceremony.
- Furniture Polish – mix well 2 ounces of lemon juice with a teaspoon of olive oil for a combo wood cleaner – and – polisher. Apply the same technique as for shining metals: soft cloth and circular buffing.
- Shoe Polish – following on the heels of the first nine tips, this one’s sort of intuitive. If olive oil can clean skin, shine appliances, and moisturize skin, of course it can keep your shoes tidy. (Not recommended for cleaning Uggs.)
Image of olive oil in water by Shutterstock