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Household Hints and Tips

With Tips on Furniture - Clothes - Household Cleaning - Pests - removal of Stains and Sticky Residues - Chewing Gum - Odors - Candlewax Removal - Limescale and more

Eight tips from Stephanie G:

Repair scratches on surface of wood furniture: Simply fill in with appropriate shade of colored pencil.

Remove stubborn dirt/scuff marks on walls: furniture, tables, shoes, etc : Diaper wipes! Funny, but true! They work!

Boils/blisters/other sores: Soak for hour in tub with a cup of oatmeal. Will draw out the infection and leave skin soft and soothed. (May have to repeat soakings for a few nights.)

Grime on glass baking dishes: Soak in soapy water, then use the edge of a metal spoon to scrape away.

Silk flowers dull/dusty : Spray with hairspray. They will stay shiny and when they get dusty again, simply blow off with hair dryer.

Dog chewing on couch cushions: Pour a bit of lemon juice on corners. Dogs do not like citrus.

Ants or other bugs around kitchen sink/bathroom: Put mixture of dish soap and water into empty spray bottle and keep handy. When you see the insects, spray with the mixture. The soap actually breaks down their exo-skeletons and they die almost immediately. Cheap and easy clean-up.

Get rid of ring around the tub: Magic erasers! They are cheap and even generic brands work well! Cuts right through the dirt and saves hours of back pain from scrubbing with the standard brush and soap.

Have more to come!

Vacuum Sealed. The easiest way to open a vacuum sealed jar is to gently tap the top on its edge  on any hard surface ( work top. ) Hey presto jar will open easy peasy, this works every time. -- lucy brown

Awkward Bottles. A tip for all those girls out there who occasionally lack the oomph to open screw-top water/juice bottles but are too proud to ask nearby guys for help... If you are at home, a rubber glove or bottle gripper will give you the power you need to get into the stickier ones. However, these are usually in short supply at work in the office, so carefully wind a rubber band snugly around the lid and try again... Magic! Clare -- Cheeky Pixie

'I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every minute of it!'

Getting a Glass Lid (top) from a Glass Jar. We had trouble getting the glass lid (top) from a glass jar. Temperature differential did not help nor did rubber bands and rubber gloves. With eye protection and gloves, one of us held the jar whilst the other levered the lid using vice-grip pliers. The knob was protected with thick rubber bands and a rubber rest was on the edge of the jar lever point. It took a little time and patience but we were successful with not one but two jars. -- Dr John BROWNBILL.

Stuck Glass Lid #2: Following on from Dr Brownsbill’s post, this evening I had an inspiration when faced with no rice for supper after the glass lid became jammed in the jar. In the UK you can buy something called a ‘wheaty’ neck warmer which is a fleece bag about 17” long x 4.5” wide filled with wheat berries. Microwave according to instructions to maximum heat. Wrap round the neck of the jar and hold for 30 seconds or so. Hey presto, the lid will come out with no effort whatsoever and no danger to yourself. I’ve now reclaimed some lentils that were inaccessible for months as well! -- ALISON PRUDENCE

Stuck Glass Lid #3: Hi there. Following on from my recent tip I’ve used a similar principle to remove a metal lid from a jam jar which had resisted all efforts for over three months. The key is that the metal needs to be hot and expand and the glass needs to stay cool. I put an inch of boiling water in a bowl and held the lid in it for 60 seconds and hey presto, the lid came off easily. NB: the water did not come up beyond the edge of the lid and therefore did not directly touch the glass which might have caused a problem. Happy opening! -- Alison Prudence

Markings on Food Bags: For markings on foodstuff and on freezer bags you could use an old lipstick to write the name of the foodstuff in the box or plastic bag.Lipstick is edible stuff so safe. -- Pushpa Kishore Mehta

Zip Top Freezer Bags... I Have difficulty getting them open? Take scissors and snip a fair sized "V" in one side of the top strip (don't cut into the 'sealer') and you will find it easy to gain access without the frustration. Also if you find it difficult to fill small freezer bags you might try putting them inside a measuring cup, folding a small flap down over the edges of the cup. Then it's easy to fill with foodstuffs and prevent the bag collapsing and the resultant spills. Same holds true for larger bags if you find a suitable sized bowl or can to place the bags in. -- "Shelly"

Bleach Smell: To remove bleach smell from hands (and that slimy feeling) pour a little vinegar or lemon juice over your hands then rinse. (bleach is alkaline, vinegar and lemon are acid, so they cancel each other out and balance the pH of your skin.) -- Candace Downing

Butter Dish. To keep butter from sliding around on the butter dish, heat the dish with hot tap water, dry off and then put the butter stick on the dish and then into the refrigerator. It will melt just a little of the butter which will freeze when put in the fridge. Doesn't slide around when you are getting butter. -- Ron S  

Keep your socks together in the wash and dry process. Get some safety pins and keep them by the washing machine for your socks .Pin the toes of the socks together so you save time matching them up after the laundry process. -- Tammy Dixon  Kingston Springs, Tn

Recycle Grocery Bags I have recently fixed a pair of 3M Commander hooks - the kind that come off any surface just by pulling the tab - onto the sides of my kitchen garbage bin - the kind that fixes onto the inside of a cupboard door. I put the Commander hooks, one on each side a few inches below the rim and upside down. Instead of buying expensive garbage bags I can now hang a pair of plastic grocery bags from the hooks and tuck the edges neatly round the top of the bin. You know how these bags have an annoying habit of gradually sinking into the bin as they fill up - well, with the hooks they can't do that and when the bin needs emptying, I can just unhook the bag and tie the handles ready to toss down the garbage chute. It's also a great way to use up grocery bags instead of throwing them away. (Ingenious hint - Ed) Hope you think this is worth passing on via your interesting web site. From: "Meg Gagie"

Save on Cleaning Materials. The best thing for cleaning anything around the house is very hot water with a squirt of good quality washing up liquid, and a window cloth (the best one is a reasonably priced Vileda window cloth found in Wilkinsons ). I like the water as hot as possible therefore I use rubber gloves, and ring out the cloth as much as possible. I use this for cleaning windows (in and out), mirrors, tiles, marble furniture, even the bedroom furniture, dusting around the house, car windows, anything that you might use cleaning products or polishes. Guaranteed not to leave smears. I haven't bought any cleaning products or polishes for about 8 years. -- "A M"


Carpet Spot Cleaner. To clean spots on rugs and carpets, use window cleaner. It works as well as the spray-on carpet cleaners and if you buy the store brand (I use Wal Mart), you can get it for as little as $0.97 for a full quart bottle. -- Jean Calderon, 

Candles and Drains.  Try putting your cheaper candles in water just deep enough to cover them, add 2 teaspoons of salt and soak. This is suppose to cut down on the amount of dripping. I haven't tried it yet, but will when I bring the Christmas decorations out. This will eliminate tossing out all of the cheapies you already have on hand. If anyone has a leaky faucet that drips rusty water, purchase a cheap screen-type strainer for tea (the one I bought had a handle on it, but that's OK) and place it directly under the faucet and over the drain. The water will be directed into the strainer and down the drain instead of splashing the sink or bathtub sides. Discard the strainer when you have time to repair the faucet and you'll have a cleaner sink or tub, as well.  E. Knack --

Carpet Stains  Don't remember where on the web I got this solution but it has worked everytime. I was originally searching for something to remove old red wine stains from carpet but have used it on other stains and it has worked just as good. dishwashing liquid (i use Palmolive) and peroxide. The stains actually just disappear. It's great. I've never used a precise measurement of either. I would be careful on dark carpets. From what I understand the peroxide can have a bleaching effect. My carpets are beige so it hasn't been an issue.  --  Belinda Enamorado

Stainless Steel Appliances Hello, Thought people out there would like to know a tip about cleaning stainless steel appliance doors etc.  The folks at the Sears store use "baby oil" to get the finger prints and marks off the doors. I was nervous to try it but it works like a charm. I used a small amount on a napkin and wiped the fingerprints away. It also took off the glue from the tape that was used in shipping.  K. MacPherson ~~ 9 Jul 2002

Carpet dents:  Scraps of carpet can be used to stop chairs from making dents. -- Veronica Smith

Talc Talc removes sticky labels. Use talc to make playing cards easier to use. Remember to put a little quantity of talc in your rubber gloves -- Rickie Cantley

Stuck Glasses etc. When you can't use lots of physical force to separate two "stuck" things, heat is often the best way to do it. The principle here is that when you heat something, it expands a little. When you cool something, it shrinks. You need a temperature difference (what scientists call a "delta-t") between the outside (neck) of the decanter and the stopper. This causes increases the space between the two parts, hopefully enough to separate them. For example, you could tie a piece of cloth on the outside, soaked in hot water. You could even try ice on the stopper at the same time. Another application of this idea is to apply a torch to a nut that won't come loose from a dirty or rusty bolt. The nut heats up faster. This helps to break the "glue" binding them together. -- Tony

Slow Draining Sinks -- If your sink drains are chronically slow and you live in an older house, the problem may be an accumulation of sludge in the lines. No amount of plunging and chemicals is going to fix this. What's needed is to climb up onto the roof of your house with a metal snake (preferably one with a business end looking a bit like a ballpeen hammer) and ram that snake down each of the drain lines, entering through the vent stacks, with a fair amount of force. It may require 50 or 100 motions for each stack. A licensed plumber will charge you about US$250 or, you can venture it yourself. You should also snake out any drain clean-outs you can find at ground level. -- Mark Gilman


Make use of Leftover Soap: Utilising these little pieces of soap that are always left over. Add a little glycerine and mash them up with a little warm water and you will have a liquid soap that is gentle and economical -- Essie

Leftover soap: These little slivers of soap can be pushed into slits cut in one side of a face sponge and gives a nice lather. Debbie Chilvers

Apply mineral oil over your shower doors and tile surface. That delays the mineral build-up in future use. -- Cameo

Spruce up your wardrobe and Linen Cupboardby using brightly colored dyes.  Faded shirts, underwear and towels can be made to look as good as new.Off-white whites and stained clothing can be rejuvenated. You can buy dyes that can be used in your washing machine – Essie

Marks inside cups and mugs are caused by the metal cutlery abrading the glazing coating the service. Try an old fashioned remedy from an old fashioned man - toothpaste! (Betcha it works!) -- Alan -

The whitening toothpaste usually contains alumina which is an abrasive.  I suppose that if it safe on the teeth it has to be O.K. on cups etc -- Ed

I run vinegar through my dishwasher once a month and this prevents hard deposits from getting a head start.  -- Good Luck, Patti    Seizetheday

Broken Glass: Use bread to pick up fragments of broken glass - - Veronica Echols

Stuck Finger Rings? Use washing up liquid as a lubricant to remove stuck rings, I have seen it used to release a dog stuck in a rocky crevasse, alternatively use cooking or olive oil etc. -- Axel Klystron

Squeaky Floorboards can be eased by using French chalk or talcum powder – Jean Smith - see also this article on the subject

When Sewing Tough Material, rub the material first with an old candle or cooking paraffin. Used this technique to sew carpeting.-- John Eitak

Faded Carpets can be restored by hand painting using fabric dyes -- Tony Doran. (A useful range of fabric dye pens is available from Dylon)

Daffodils: Don’t mix cut daffodils in with other cut flowers as the daffodils produce a toxin that kills off the other flowers. – Anon.

House Plants If you have an aquarium, save the water each time you change it and water your house plants with it. You'll be amazed at the results. Andy P Smith -- Nuneaton -- England " --

Socks can be useful in protecting the ends of unused fluorescent tubes – Davie

After working on your car you can clean your hands with a mixture of dishwashing liquid and sugar -- Simon Spicer

Use olive oil or other cooking oil to clean hands dirtied by engine oil -- Jean Edmunds.

A teaspoon in the glass will prevent it cracking when boiling water is poured -- Wendy Quinn, Hong Kong

Clothes. (and shoes)

Imitation Suede. I bought an imitation suede jacket. There aren't any care instructions. Is this something that is disposable or can it be washed? It's like a lined flight jacket. -- Marti Han,

Smelly Clothes after being left in the Washing Machine.   If you leave the clothes in the washer for a day or more, especially in warm weather, they will smell bad. Rewashing with 1/2 cup of ammonia gets the smell out better than laundry detergent does. --  Judy Vega

Fight to abolish slavery

Tumble Drying Down Clothing.  Instead of sneakers, use a can of new tennis balls. -- Susan Carter

Removing "Pills" from Clothing. When "pills" develop on clothing (small wads of lint) use a rough piece of steel wool, run it over the material and the "pills" disappear. Very easy to do. Will not harm material. -- Gertrude M Seifert,

Cleaning Leather. Small spots of dirt on glossy leather can be removed with a damp sponge. Scuff marks can be removed with a shoe polish of the correct color. - Jane King

Remove cats hairs from clothes and furniture by rubbing with wetted rubber gloves -- Wendy Quinn Kuala Lumpur

washing red clothes. My Grandmother told me this- to keep brand new red clothes from bleeding all over your other laundry, soak it in vinegar before the first washing. Works like a charm!! -- Mindy Ralston    

Wonderweb. If you’ve used Wonderweb to turn up kids trousers and you now want to let the hem out again. The bond will obviously break easily enough with minimal force, but what about all scratchy residue that’s left? To stop your kids legs getting scratched up on old bits of wonder web place some kitchen tissue or brown paper over the old wonder web and press with the iron. The wonder web will transfer to the kitchen paper and be removed from the trousers.-- vicky wood.

Household Cleaning.

Vinegar as disinfectant. I have a tip for everyone and also a bit of information that not everyone knows about, is that Vinegar (either white or cider is the best disinfectant around it beats anything man made and is certainly healthier and cheaper, use vinegar all around house to disinfect and clean many surfaces, although don't use this on furniture made with fabric. You can use vinegar straight or equal parts vinegar and water. -- Darrel

Household: Cleaning. Use a Crest SpinBrush battery toothbrush ($5 ) and spray cleaner or powdered cleanser for easy cleaning of those hard to get to places: baseboard corners, around sink faucets, tile grout, corners of wood mouldings around windows, around shower doors, etc. -- Peggy Velthoen


Low Cost Descaler. - Here is handy hint that I’ve discovered if you want to rid your Kettle of Limescale without buying the expensive products. Use Lemon Juice & Water (about 50% of each). Put them into you kettle and boil it. If there is a heavy build up of Limescale you might need to boil it more than once. It works like a charm. You can buy Lemon Juice from most Supermarkets, I get mine for less than £1 from Tesco and it lasts a while depending on how much you need to use. -- Martin Lewis O'Neill

Toilet bowls come up shiny when cleaned with old, flat Coke or Pepsi.  Leave overnight to dissolve limescale -- Sylvia Burge, London UK

Ring in Toilet.  pumice didn't work - CLR didn't work - ZUD worked.  -- LCD (Elsie Dawkins)

Glass Cleaning.  This was passed on to me from my mother of course. Add about one tablespoon of cornstarch to about a third of a gallon of lukewarm water. Wet and a rag or squeegee, remove excessive water and wipe down glass as if using regular glass cleaner. Dry with either a soft cloth or paper towel and be amazed. This is great for both inside and outside glass cleaning. Vehicle windows too! Cleans the dirtiest windows in half the time. No steaks, never clean and then clean again to get the spots that didn't come off the first time. The glass seems to stay cleaner longer too. I have been told that the cornstarch method doesn't build up a static charge on the glass so it doesn't attract dust and debris as quickly as regular cleaner.?? Thanks mom!! ~~ Famous Redhead

Stainless Steel Sinks. A great way to get your stainless steel sink to look brand new. After cleaning and drying the sink. Put some lemon oil or pledge on a paper towel and coat the entire surface of the sink. It will look brand new! Of course, once it is used again, the lemon oil will vanish and your sink will look the way it did before. But it is great if you are having company, and want a shiny sink.  -- Linda Sparrow  

Dirty dish solver.  Want to solve the grungy caked on baking dish problem? Instead of scrubbing away, ...fill pan with water,pour a bit of Downey fabric softener in and let soak. Everything will slide off ! :) Debbie --- Louis Makrdichian

Kitchen & window cleaner.  Mix about a 1/8th or a 1/4 bottle of rubbing alcohol, 4 drops of dish soap & water in an old Windex bottle this works great for cleaning in the kitchen & cleaning windows  and you'll never have to buy Windex, 409, Fantastic or whatever again and to get tape off windows use straight rubbing alcohol ~~ Jimisme  

To get perfectly spotless windows and mirrors, without chemicals, use a solution of water and regular vinegar. (About 1/2 cup vinegar to 2 cups water), spray and wipe. This solution will not streak at all. It is the best and cheapest way to clean glass. You can increase the amount of vinegar for very dirty glass. -- Kelly Jimenez

Shower Curtains: To remove mildew soak shower curtains in water containing 20% chlorine bleach. To remove soap and water marks wipe with vinegar. – Essy Edmunds.

For more tips on cleaning mildew see the stains page

To remove toilet stains, use a pumice stone and rub hard, It will not scratch and works well- did on my toilet bowl after 20 years of build-up -- James A Boyle    

For crayon on walls, use WD-40. It removes it immediately, but if you use it on a flat paint it will leave a greasy line that can easily be washed off with soap and water. -- Kelly Jimenez  

A good replacement for those expensive cleaners for shower stalls/doors that I have found is, believe it or not: WD-40. I never believed it until I tried it, and it certainly makes a shower door sparkle, so give it a try! --"Susan Kelly"

Use vinegar when cleaning windows (glass) -- Vanessa Echols.

Old newspapers give windows a shine, every bit as good as a chamois leather -- Wendy Quinn, Hong Kong

Crayon marks on wall: use a blowdrier to heat the crayon so it can easily be wiped off. -- Heather Dickerson

Crayon On Walls   I have tried both of the other methods you have shown, and neither worked successfully. The only method I found that worked quickly and easily was to use white spirit (mineral Spirits) and an only rag. It works a treat, but be careful on emulsion walls (it works best on vinyl and gloss). -- 
Ian Matthews  3 Dec 2004

Marks on Walls: Try using bread to remove marks on walls and surfaces - - Mike Weller

Silk plants Why pay expensive prices for silk plant cleaners? Just spray them with Dow bathroom cleaner and let them dry. This works just as well as the more expensive alternative -- Toni  

Brass: Clean brass with lemon juice. – Comi Edmunds.

Dry windows with old newspaper -- Nigel Hartley.

Tips on Stuff. To remove hairspray on eyeglasses or any non porous surface, use rubbing alcohol. It does the job. -- I've learned a lot of neat things while on this planet for 68 years. Try them, what do you have to lose? Irene M. Ward

Using an astringent or other harsh/acidic/abrasive cleaner on glass lenses coated with protective film (ie to help prevent scratches) - may scratch, blur or altogether remove the protective coating. This will also void any insurance claims or "warranty" regarding the "protection" on your lenses  --   Irene M. Ward

Chewing Gum

REMOVING GUM Great way to get GUM out , rub it with PEANUT butter! I think it is the OIL in in, and though I have not tried it, I am sure oil would probably due the same thing, except the peanut butter is GOOEY, and the oil runs! -- Kathy Ulmer

gum in hair Use lighter fluid to get gum out of hair works like a charm, wash hair a couple of times after to get rid of smell. Lighter fluid can also be used on other sticky thing such as: paint, glue, price tags, stickers, I even washed silicone caulking out of my hair once. -- Kelly Lowery  

 chewing gum. If you have gum on a shirt try putting it in the freezer and scrape it off. -- Hannah Minich,   

Baking Soda. Baking soda is a all around cleaning solution. It is non abrasive. Cleans the outside of a refrigerator very well and takes the yellow away if you have white. I use it in the wash instead of softeners. It sweets the clothes and softens them also. It is also good to take the bugs off the car. Remember it is non abrasive. Always keep baking soda in the car as it will put out a fire, yours or someone else's. Cheap also. We used baking soda in our pool along with bleach for 14 years and never bought another chemical. We had the best looking pool in the neighborhood. Crystal clear. I also use it in my pond for the PH. --  KD Bug 27 Nov 2002

REMOVING GUM Great way to get GUM out , rub it with PEANUT butter! I think it is the OIL in in, and though I have not tried it, I am sure oil would probably do the same thing, except the peanut butter is GOOEY, and the oil runs! -- "Kathy Ulmer"

Scratches on Furniture: Rubbing a Brazil nut on a scratch can disguise some surface damage in wooden furniture -- Vanessa Echols

Chewing gum: To remove chewing gum from clothes freeze, or cover the gum with ice, then crack and scrape off. – Marjory Simpson.

Poison Spiders Read more.... 

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