You’ll Wonder How You Lived Without Them

Sure you can buy cleaners and special tools and chemicals and repair kits. But often you don’t need to! Here are clever ways to clean and fix things using items that you probably have at home…


Polish faucets and more with newspaper. Newspaper ink is a terrific polishing agent that requires no water or liquid, so just crumple a piece of newspaper and rub.

Shine shoes and plants with ­bananas. Banana peels contain oil and potassium, key ingredients in store-bought shoe polish. Wipe shoes with the inside of the peel (discard the stringy parts of the peel first). Then buff with a clean cloth. You also can use the peels to clean the dust and debris from leafy houseplants.

Clean car tires with mayonnaise. To rid your tires of tree sap and road tar, dab a bit of mayonnaise onto the marks. Leave on for 10 minutes. Wipe away residue with a clean cloth. The vinegar in the mayo acts as a natural cleaner, and the oil and eggs add shine.

Remove mold in a refrigerator drip pan with white vinegar. Vinegar is a natural sanitizer and bacteria killer. Put some in a spray bottle, and apply ­directly to the area. Let it sit for 20 minutes before wiping with a clean cloth.

Get rid of dishwasher gunk and odors with Kool-Aid. Fill the dishwasher dispenser with a packet of lemonade Kool-Aid or any powdery drink mix that contains citric acid. Run the empty dishwasher for a full normal cycle to remove gunk, lime and rust stains as well as odors.

Remove scuff marks on floors and shower curtain scum with tennis balls. Scuff marks: Cut an X in a yellow tennis ball (pink could leave color on your floor). Place the ball on the top part of a broomstick. Rub the ball back and forth on the floor to erase scuffs. Shower curtain scum: Throw one or two tennis balls into your washing machine with your shower curtain along with one cup of white vinegar and your usual amount of laundry detergent. Run on the regular cycle. The ball acts as a scrub to remove scum and mildew…vinegar kills mold.

Clean latex paint from your skin with baby oil. Gently rub baby oil anywhere on your skin that has paint. Then wash with soap and hot water.

Remove deodorant marks on clothing with the foam from dry-cleaner hangers. Remove the foam from a hanger, and rub it back and forth forcefully on deodorant marks. A towel works, too, but foam is gentler on fabric.


Replace lost earring backs with pencil erasers. Snip the tip of a pencil eraser, and use it to temporarily replace a lost back so that you can wear the earring until you replace the back.

Quiet squeaky doors with cucumber. Take a slice of cucumber, and rub it up and down several times all around the hinge. Have a clean cloth handy to wipe away any excess. I am not sure why it works—it just does!

Fix holes in screens with dental floss. Use dental floss to mend small holes in a window or door screen. Weave in and out by hand or with a sewing needle. Then tie the ends.

Mend minor cracks in fine china with milk. Milk contains casein, a protein that, when heated, turns into a natural ­plasticlike glue. Place your cracked dish in a pan or pot large enough to cover it completely in milk. Bring the milk to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Let it simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, then let the milk cool. Rinse the plate. The crack should be sealed!

Keeping Bugs Away

Deter mealybugs with matchbooks. You can have mealybugs in your pantry and not know it. To keep the bugs from flourishing, take flour, rice and cereal out of their original packaging right after you bring them home and place them in Tupperware-like containers. As an extra precaution, put a matchbook on top of the food before sealing. The sulfur repels mealybugs.

Kill fruit flies with red wine. Fruit flies love the fermented grape! Fill a glass with one-half inch of leftover red wine. Tightly cover the top of the glass with plastic wrap. Poke small holes in the wrap so that the flies find their one-way ticket in.

Repel ants, roaches and fleas with citrus rinds. Bugs hate D-limonene, which is naturally found in the oil in lemon and orange rinds. Place pieces of rind where these pests are likely to enter, such as door and window openings and ledges…cracks between kitchen cabinets…and holes in floors. Replace every few days, as needed.

Ward off booklice with silica packets. Those little packets of silica you find in packaging of electronics, shoes, nutritional supplements, etc., absorb moisture. Booklice live in the damp fungus and mold that thrives in books. Put silica packets behind the books and anywhere you suspect moisture. Packets also are available at

Oldies But Goodies

You may have heard some of these tips already, but they work so well that they are worth hearing again…

Test egg freshness. Even though eggs have a “use by” date, they often are perfectly fine beyond that date. You can test their freshness simply by seeing if they sink or swim. Fill a bowl with enough water to cover the eggs, and then gently place them in. If they sink, they’re fresh.

Dry out a wet cell phone. If your cell phone winds up in the wash or toilet, immediately remove the battery and memory chip. Place both the battery and phone in a bowl filled with enough uncooked rice to completely cover the items. Leave for two to three days. Remove and use an old toothbrush or pastry brush to gently brush away any remaining rice dust so that it doesn’t get trapped in any portals or openings. You might have saved your phone!

Fix a wood scratch with walnuts. For small scratches on your dark wood furniture, gently rub a walnut in a circular motion several times over the scratch. Let the natural oils seep into the scratch for five to 10 minutes. Buff with a clean cloth.

Clean a toilet bowl with Alka-Seltzer. Drop two Alka-Seltzer or Polident effervescent tablets into the bowl. Let them fizz and remain for 15 to 20 minutes. Clean with a toilet brush scrubber and flush.

Remove bubble gum from hair with creamy peanut butter. Before you snip those locks, reach for peanut butter—the oilier, the better! Put a dab on a toothbrush, and brush the gummy area. Use a little at a time. Repeat if necessary, and then shampoo. Plain oil works, too, but kids tend to get a kick out of peanut butter.