You can save hundreds and potentially thousands of dollars a year with these money-saving household tips and tricks…
Clean silver jewelry with toothpaste. Squirt a small amount of regular nongel toothpaste onto your jewelry (gel toothpaste is too slippery to scrub away dirt and tarnish). Brush with a toothbrush, then rinse with warm water and blot dry with a soft towel. This works great and is easier and cheaper than silver polish.
Wash inside vases and Thermoses with eggshells. For hard-to-clean objects such as vases and Thermoses, rinse with warm water, then add two crushed eggshells. Fill with warm water and a squirt of dishwashing soap. Shake thoroughly, and rinse with hot water. Prior to cleaning vases and Thermoses, wash the eggshells with hot water to remove any remaining egg or residual membrane. You can store cleaned, air-dried shells in a cool, dry place.
Remove dust and debris from artificial plants and silk flowers with salt. Dust can adhere and be hard to remove. Pour one cup of salt into a paper shopping bag. Place the plant in the bag, and shake vigorously for 30 seconds to remove dust and dirt. Use a pastry brush to remove remaining debris.
Clean tarnished copper pots and silver with ketchup. Apply a thin coat of ketchup to the item. (First test on a small inconspicuous area to be sure that it doesn’t cause any discoloration.) Leave for 15 minutes. For nooks and crannies, work the ketchup in with a toothbrush. Rinse off with warm water, and dry. Due to its high acidic composition (vinegar and tomato paste), ketchup is a nontoxic alternative to store-bought cleaners and less expensive.
Prevent mold and bacteria in sponges with binder clips. Sponges are havens for mold and bacteria growth if they don’t dry out thoroughly. Use an office binder clip or a butterfly hair clip to make a sponge stand. Clip the sponge with the clip, then let it stand to dry on your kitchen counter.
Clean with lemon and baking soda. If you don’t like to use chemical cleaners, sprinkle baking soda on a nonporous surface, such as stainless steel, quartz or laminate, and buff with half a lemon. Then wipe with a damp cloth. For tougher messes or burnt-on gunk, coat the halved lemon in salt—this makes it a more abrasive scrubber. Make sure not to use lemon on porous surfaces such as marble and limestone because the citric acid can cause damage. And to be ultra-safe, test on an inconspicuous area before using to ensure that this won’t harm the surface you’re cleaning.
Hide wood furniture scratches with coffee grinds. Rub a cotton swab in steeped grounds, and dab on scratches to make them less noticeable. Test this first in a hard-to-see area to make sure the coffee works with the color of your wood furniture.
Avoid overwatering potted plants by using packing peanuts. Place a one-inch layer of Styrofoam peanuts at the bottom of gardening pots before adding soil. Styrofoam peanuts won’t decompose or absorb the water, and they prevent water buildup, bacteria, fungus and root rot.
Unstick zippers with pencils. Place the item on a newspaper or paper towel to catch the lead debris. Rub a pencil on both sides of the teeth of the zipper where it is stuck. Repeat until you can move it up and down. The graphite in the pencil acts as a dry lubricant. Wipe away any excess graphite with a slightly damp cloth or paper towel.
Prevent dogs from destroying furniture with cayenne pepper. Use a 1:10 ratio of cayenne pepper to water in a spray bottle. Shake well. Apply to wood legs or the wood base of furniture. (Test on an inconspicuous area to make sure that it doesn’t damage your furniture.) Dogs will be put off by the burning taste. You also can spray your pet’s favorite potty spots in the house to deter the pet from peeing and marking the area as its territory.
Cut cheese and cakes with dental floss. Softer cheeses and delicate desserts can get squished or fall apart when you use knives. Plain (not minty!) dental floss is gentle enough to cut cheeses such as mozzarella and Brie and soft rectangular loglike cakes without having a special cheese or cake knife. Be sure to use a piece of floss that is long enough to extend an inch and a half to two inches beyond each end you are cutting to make it easier to cut and minimize mess.
Save water-stained suede with stale bread. Gently rub the dried stain with a piece of stale bread or unseasoned bread crumbs. When using bread crumbs, use a toothbrush to work the crumbs into the stain and lift the fibers. An emery board will also do the trick.
Making Things Last Longer
Get more servings from near-empty condiments with vinegar. Vinegar is a common ingredient in many of our most common condiments, including ketchup, mustard and barbecue sauce. Add two teaspoons of white vinegar to your near-empty bottles, and shake.
Squeeze more out of tube products. When you feel you can’t squeeze any more out of the tube, snip the other end and you’ll have a few more applications. Seal with a binder clip.
Remove sweater pills with a pumice stone. Gently rub the stone in one direction until the pills are removed.
Prevent mold on cheese with oil. Apply a light film of vegetable oil or soft butter with a pastry brush or paper towel (or use cooking spray) to the outside of the cheese, and store in an airtight container in the fridge. This prevents airflow to the cheese. If mold begins to grow on the film, simply wipe off with a paper towel.
Keep flowers fresh with vodka and sugar. Add a few drops of vodka and a teaspoon of sugar to the vase water. Both agents help reduce bacteria growth, keeping flowers fresher longer.
Fix DVD scratches with bananas. Gently rub a freshly cut banana in a circular motion to coat and fill in scratches. Use the inside of the peel to clean and polish. Wipe with a clean, soft cloth.
If you don’t have stain stick or stain spray handy, try these remedies…
Use aspirin to remove sweat stains. Crush and dissolve four to six aspirins in warm water. Submerge the stained areas into the solution. Let soak for two to three hours, then launder.
Remove ink and lipstick stains with rubbing alcohol. Place a clean cloth or a paper towel under the stained area to prevent bleeding. Gently dab the stain with a cotton ball that has been dampened with rubbing alcohol. Repeat until the stain is gone. Let dry, and launder as usual.
Get out grass stains with vodka. Gently rub the stain with a clean cloth saturated with vodka. Rinse with cool water and launder.
5 Homemade De-Buggers
Are you bugged by bugs? Here, natural repellents that really work…
Create flea repellent with apple cider vinegar. After bathing your dog, spray the animal lightly with a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water. Reapply after every bath.
Build a roach trap with apples. Fill the bottom of an empty, 12-ounce jar with apple peels to lure roaches in with the scent. Then coat the inner rim of the jar with double-sided tape or petroleum jelly, which will prevent the roaches from climbing back out. Place in areas of the kitchen where roaches consistently are present, such as near refrigerators and small appliances such as microwaves, blenders and toasters.
Catch garden slugs with old beer cans. Leave out a beer can with enough beer to drown the slug (about one inch). You also can pour beer in a saucer. Slugs are attracted to beer’s yeasty smell.
Deter ants with lemons. Put lemon juice in a spray bottle, and take aim at entryways, windowsills, between kitchen cabinets and other spots where bugs enter. Lemon juice destroys the scent trails that ants follow. This also deters fleas and roaches.
Repel spiders with vinegar. Fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water. Spray evenly on windowsills, doorjambs and other areas where spiders make their entrance. Do this weekly. Spiders are repelled by the taste of vinegar, and since they taste with their legs, the spray solution will deter them.