This week we have something for everyone.

Tam and Soph's Mum, from Taupo, has this recipe for fabric softener. "I have had more than one washing machine repairman tell me that commercial fabric softener is their 'dream product' as it stuffs your machine and pipes! I now mix half water with half white vinegar in a 1 litre bottle, add 1 teaspoon of eucalyptus oil and few drops of your favourite essential oil. Shake up, and use in the fabric softener compartment. So cheap and clothes smell lovely.

"The bonus is the white vinegar solution also cleans your machine and pipes!"

Last week, Paul from Northland asked about keeping pesky rats and mice out of the house without having to use expensive poisons. Jackie from Auckland has this rather unusual suggestion. "My son-in-law plays loud music to get rid of rats, the kind with a heavy, thumping base. The rats take off and run away." Can't say we have heard that one before!

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Margaret from Invercargill has this pet tip. "This is a good and cheap flea remedy for cats and dogs that works. Mix 225ml cider vinegar with 112ml of warm water. Add 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Shake well, put into a spray bottle and apply."

Margaret also has laundry and cleaning tips. "Here's a tip to prevent the wires from coming out of your bras in the washing machine: wash them in a pillow case! Tie the top and wash on a gentle setting. I wash all our underwear on a gentle wash setting."

Here's Margaret's recipe for a cheap laundry powder: "Use 1 kilo of washing soda, 1 bar of sard wonder soap and 1/2 a cup of borax. Chop up the soap and put into a kitchen whiz. Add the rest of the ingredients and whiz to a powder. Use about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup per wash.

"For a toilet cleaner, I use baking soda and white vinegar."

Some may have noticed recent publicity about a supermarket price war over nappies. The bottom line is that they are discounting the price of disposables to lure mums down their aisles so that while they are buying up large on the discounted product, they are also filling their shopping carts with the everyday priced goodies (the same ruse they use with discounted milk).

A quick search of prices does indeed show there is some hot competition in the nappy department. The best price we could find for a standard line product (a basic nappy for an infant) was from one of the major supermarkets. It was on special at a unit price of 33c compared to 45c from other outlets for the same item.

There is a remarkable range of products and pack sizes so young mums and dads could be forgiven for finding the task of a meaningful price comparison a little difficult.

As a general rule, we found buying in bulk was significantly cheaper. In one case, buying the 160-pack instead of 108-pack reduced the unit price by about 25 per cent. Bulk buying does not always result in savings so do have your calculator handy, but in this case the bulk buying made sense -- and you never know when you will have a run on nappies(!) so having some spares may come in handy.

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We also found a remarkable range in styles and prices. The designer nappies with high street brands (like Versace -- just kidding) were typically around a dollar per unit.

As a general guide, we found the best value when buying nappies was bulk packets of house branded products -- at around 30c.

Thank you for your questions and tips -- please keep them coming! You can send in your ideas and join the Oily Rag mailing list, by visiting oilyrag.co.nz -- or you can write to us at Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

* Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Read our wealth of tips at oilyrag.co.nz