Miracle Whipper

updated 08/25/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/25/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

THERE'S A RETIREMENT COMMUNITY in Florida—its exact location is perhaps best kept secret—where people walk around with Bounce fabric softener hanging from their belts. Ralph Lauren might not approve, but it does keep the mosquitoes away. The seniors got the idea from Bob and Barbara Green, who live there—and they got it from their son, Joey, aka the Heloise From Hell.

Putting Bounce in retirees' pants is just one of the puckish but practical uses for common products that Green, 39, a former ad copywriter, has devised. He also thinks Spam makes swell furniture polish; Jif peanut butter ("Creamy rather than chunky") can be used in lieu of shaving cream; and Tabasco sauce keeps cats from scratching woodwork. "You can always find something else that works," says Green, whose latest epiphanies are collected in his third book, Wash Your Hair with Whipped Cream.

The unorthodox potential of ordinary things became apparent to Green in 1984 when, during an advertising brainstorming session in New York City, his group was charged with finding offbeat uses for Nestea iced tea. Someone mentioned that, dumped into a warm bath, it can ease sunburn pain—and both a slogan ("Take the Nestea plunge") and an obsession were born. By the 1990s, Green had quit advertising and moved to Los Angeles, where—when not performing weird experiments with Pam cooking spray and Silly Putty—he also writes show business reference books.

At first, Green's wife Debbie, 42, a former producer of commercials who stays at home with kids Ashley, 7, and Julia, 2, wasn't too thrilled when he started Spamming the bathroom fixtures. But now she sees the bright side. "If he wants to clean the toilet and defog the mirror," she observes, "I say, 'Go for it, honey!' "

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