60 $1 Solutions You’ll Wish You Had Before
Save a fortune, the old-fashioned five-and-dime way.
Replace the oil in baking
Fat makes baked goods moist and tender. It’s also incredibly calorie-dense, and if you’re cutting calories, it’s an easy place to start. But say you don’t like your cakes and muffins dry and tough? Then applesauce is the answer. Replace up to 2/3 of the oil called for in a cake or muffin recipe with applesauce, and you’ll add moisture and flavor while ditching the fat.
Sweeten the house
People who are allergic to air fresheners and sprays can still enjoy the benefits of a sweetsmelling house. Wet a cotton ball with vanilla and dab it very lightly on the outside of a regular light bulb (not a halogen bulb) in your lamps. When you turn on the lamp, the bulb heats up and a faint but alluring scent of vanilla drifts out.
Afraid those dry beans have been on the shelf too long? Help soften them by adding a pinch of baking soda to the soaking water. Add a fresh pinch to the cooking water, too, and you can significantly reduce the aftereffects of bean consumption. You’ll also want to learn about these extraordinary uses for household staples you already own.
Neutralize canker sores
Place an antacid tablet directly on the canker sore, giving it time to dissolve, or simply chew one. The medicine will stop the acids and enzymes in your mouth from attacking the tissue in the sore, and more importantly, it will stop the pain. (Be sure to check the product’s label for correct dosage instructions.)
Rip it off the right way
Pulling an adhesive bandage off your child’s skin can be tough on both of you. Make it easier by rubbing the bandage with a cotton ball soaked in baby oil. Rub until you can easily pull the bandage off. This trick works well for adults with sensitive skin, too.
Clean your carpet overnight
Whether your carpet smells dank and musty because of a pet, a smoker, or a season of rain, take the odor out with baby powder. Using a flour sifter, spread the powder generously over the carpet. Let it sit overnight—a few hours will suffice, but overnight is better—and vacuum up the powder and the smells in the morning.
Hold a nail
Stop hitting your fingers every time you hammer a nail in place. Use the teeth of an ordinary comb to hold the nail while you hammer
Get rid of fishy odors
Been chopping something pungent? The smell of garlic or fish can linger on your fingers long after the food is gone. Avoid that by scrubbing your wet hands with baking soda, just as if it were soap, then rinse in warm water. Your hands will smell sweet—and feel softer, too.
Button, button, who’s got the button?
Sometimes it feels like buttons disappear as often as socks disappear from a dryer! Stop buttons from fleeing by sewing them on with ultradurable dental floss, rather than ordinary thread. Use dental floss on coat and jacket buttons for a particularly strong bond.
Make a paste of Epsom salt and water and apply it to the area harboring a splinter. The paste will pull the splinter to the surface of the skin in about 10 minutes. It will pull insect stingers out of your skin, too. A luxurious bath in Epsom salt will also help draw out the splinter or stinger.
Skip the shaving cream
Use hair conditioner for a smooth, clean shave—on your legs, under your arms, and (for men) even on your face. The conditioner will pamper your skin as well as your hair! You can also use hair conditioner as a soothing agent for legs irritated by shaving.
Preserve your bouquet
Spray the undersides of your cut flowers—leaves and petals—with hair spray to prolong their life. Be sure to stand about a foot away when you spray them for best results.
Repel rain from a windshield
You know you need new wiper blades, but now there’s rain in the forecast and you haven’t replaced them yet. Dissolve a couple of tablespoons baking soda in 2 cups of water, dip in a clean cloth, and rub it over the windshield. Rain will slip off more easily until you buy those new blades.
A bright idea
Prevent lightbulbs in outdoor fixtures—floodlights, porch lights, and motion detector lights—from rusting and resisting removal by coating the threads with lip balm. Apply the lip balm before you screw in the lightbulb and you’ll have less trouble removing it when you need to replace it.
Train a dog
Most dogs hate the sound of dried beans rattling in a can. Use that to your advantage when training a dog by putting a handful of beans in the bottom of an empty aluminum soda can. Seal the top with a strip of tape. When your dog misbehaves, shake the can a couple of times.
Refresh tired feet
Take this tip from marathon runners, who know that a ten-minute soak in a sugarless mouthwash will take your tootsies from tired to terrific. Alcohol invigorates and mint will make them smell sweet again.
Stop hanging out with hangnails
Get rid of annoying hangnails by rubbing hand or body lotion into your cuticles daily. The lotion will keep those troublesome areas soft and help prevent future hangnails.
Make a close-fitting hot pad
Soothe aching muscles with a custom-made hot pad. Fill a long sock, such as a tube or athletic sock, with dried beans, and tie the top tightly closed with ribbon or string. Heat in a microwave on high for 30 seconds. Place it right on your painful spot. You can drape it around a stiff neck or wrap it around a sore wrist, and it will mold to you, providing faster relief.
Cover your camera
If you’re planning to take pictures in the rain— even a slight drizzle—wrap your camera in a shower cap. Let the lens peek out through the opening in the cap. If the shower cap isn’t clear, cut a small hole in it so you can look through the viewfinder or see the LCD monitor.
Keep cookies fresh
Homemade chocolate chip cookies can go from tasting deliciously soft and cakey to feeling hard and crunchy in a matter of days. To keep your freshly baked cookies tasting freshly baked, put a couple of slices of bread into the tin or jar where you store the cookies, laying the bread right on top of the cookies. The bread will keep that just-out-of-the-oven flavor and texture intact for up to a week.
Wax your windows
Do your double-hung windows have a bumpy ride every time you open or close them? If your windows don’t slide up and down with ease, let a candle help them. Clean the insides of the window frame where the sashes travel, then rub the same area with a candle. The windows will have a much smoother journey.
Make your garage floor sparkle
Let kitty litter help you clean your garage. If you find a puddle of oil on your concrete garage floor, pour paint thinner over it, and then cover the area with kitty litter. (Make sure that the garage is well ventilated by keeping the garage door open, and don’t let anyone smoke or strike matches anywhere near the affected area—and keep the cats away.) The kitty litter will absorb the oil. Just sweep up the mess and you’re done.
Kill off ants
If you find an entire colony of ants in or near your garden, you’ll want to get rid of it. How? Cover the anthill with an upside-down flowerpot. Pour boiling water through the hole in the bottom of the pot. You’ll get rid of all the ants at once.
Give yourself a hand massage
Place a golf ball in one palm, then place your other palm over it and interlock your fingers loosely. Now roll the golf ball around your hands, pressing your palms together at the same time. The tension in your hands will ease. Roll your bare feet over a golf ball for a few minutes for a soothing foot massage, too.
Remove ice inside
An ice scraper can work as well on a freezer as it can on a car window. If you don’t feel like defrosting your freezer but want to get rid of some of the ice and frost, gently chip away at it with an ice scraper until you’re happy with the space you’ve created.
Clean smudges off suede
Suede jackets, shoes, and handbags look great but they’re prone to picking up dirty marks. Clean fresh smudges off quickly and easily before they set into stains by rubbing the suede gently with a piece of fresh white bread. Use a small, circular motion. You may need a second piece of bread to get the spot clean. You’ll want to steal these hacks from professional house cleaners.
Pull nails out gently
If you’re planning to pull a nail out of wood but worry that the hammerhead will hurt the grain, protect the wood before using the hammer. How? Slip a plastic spatula under the head of the hammer before you start the job.
Keep down items from clumping
Throw one or two tennis balls into the dryer the next time you dry down-filled items like pillows, comforters, and jackets. They’ll ditch the flat look they get from the washing machine and puff up again with pride.
You may love the mild apple-like flavor of chamomile tea but mosquitoes absolutely hate it. Brew a very strong batch of chamomile tea and keep it in a spray bottle in the fridge. Before you relax in the back yard or run through the tall grass, spray exposed skin liberally. It’s fragrant, potent, and totally safe for children.
Fill a stripped screw-hole
If the screw keeps turning and turning in a piece of wood, push a bit of foil loosely in the hole and try again. It will grab tight.
Freshen a fridge
If something soured in your fridge or the freezer failed, clean it out, then fill a wide, shallow bowl with fresh coffee grounds and leave it in the fridge or freezer overnight. The strong scent of coffee will permeate the space, eradicating any hint of what went wrong.
Kill that moss
Moss and algae can make patios and walkways slippery and can create dangerous conditions for you and your guests. Make your home safe again by getting rid of the moss and algae on brick, stone, and concrete with bleach. Mix 3/4 cup bleach with 1 gallon of water and scrub hard (keeping the solution away from grass and flowers). Rinse well.
Degrease your hair
If your locks aren’t looking so lovely, try mixing a dollop of dishwashing liquid into your shampoo. It fights grease in hair, as well as on dishes!
Banish burned-on food
Liquid fabric softener is your best friend when it comes time to scrub pots and pans soiled by your worst enemy, baked-on grime. Soak the offending vessel in water and a squirt of fabric softener. Let it sit for an hour. Wash and rinse it all away.
Feed your plants
Used coffee grounds are full of nitrogen, so it’s a shame to throw them away each day. Coffee is especially good for acid-loving plants, like camellias, evergreens, rhododendrons, azaleas, and rosebushes, so be sure they don’t miss out on the occasional cup of coffee—grounds, that is.
Oil squeaky hinges
Spray a little oil-based furniture polish on a squeaky door hinge, then open and shut the door several times to work the lubricant into the hinge. The furniture polish is a lot cleaner than the oil you’d usually use for a noisy hinge, and it works just as well to silence the squeak.
Untangle a shoelace
Junior got a knot in his sneaker and pulled and pulled until it became an impenetrable mass. Sprinkle the knot generously with cornstarch, and then work the knot again. The laces will start to slip and slide, and you’ll be able to get the kinks out.
Clean bricks like an oven
If the bricks on your fireplace, your front walk, or anywhere else sport dingy spots, you need to think outside the box—and into your oven. Spray a coating of oven cleaner on the bricks, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Attack the spots with a scrub brush. Repeat the process, then clean the area with water. Some cleaning products can be very toxic, these are the ones you should avoid.
Breathe better with a paper bag
Hiccups? Stop them before you start to hurt. Breathe in and out of a paper bag for a few minutes. You’ll create a build-up of carbon dioxide in your lungs, which helps relax your diaphragm—whose involuntary tightening causes the hiccups in the first place. This trick works if you’re hyperventilating, too.
Line your crisper drawer
If you want the vegetables in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer to truly be crispy, line it with paper towels. They will absorb the moisture in the fridge that can turn carrots, broccoli, and beans soggy. Replace the towels when they’re damp.
Give the jar a hand
No more banging a jar on the floor to loosen a tight lid. No more running it under hot water. And no more fancy tools designed to do the trick—that somehow don’t work. Just put on a pair of rubber gloves, and open the jar with ease.
Remove a scorch mark
Left a scorch mark on a dress shirt with the iron? It can happen in the blink of an eye. The cleanup won’t be quite that fast but it will be effective. Douse the scorch with water (presumably not on your ironing board!) then rub a generous amount of cornstarch into the stain. When the cornstarch dries, the stain will rinse out with the powder. This same technique works on bloodstains, though a second treatment may be needed before washing.
Save money greasing your pans
Stay away from expensive nonstick cooking sprays and use olive oil in a clean spray bottle instead. You’ll probably save calories as well as dollars! While you’re stocking up on these cheap solutions, also add these Amazon products that you’ll definitely use every day to your cart.
Prevent a pet hair clog
Stuff some steel wool in your bathtub drain the next time you wash Fido. It will prevent your dog’s hair from clogging the drain. Just make sure that you don’t press the steel wool too far down; you’ll want to remove it when you’re done.
Clean a crusty microwave
Been a while since you washed down the inside of the microwave? Don’t spend ages scrubbing. Mix 2 cups of water with 1/4 cup lemon juice in a microwave-safe glass dish and cook on high for 8 minutes. The steam will loosen food particles on the walls and glass, making it easy to wipe clean with a few swipes.
Tighten your pores
Oatmeal makes an extremely soothing face mask that tightens your pores and leaves your skin feeling soft and smooth. Grind 1/4 cup oatmeal to a fine powder in a blender. Add 1 egg white and 2 tablespoons honey. Pulse to combine, then smooth this mixture over your clean face, avoiding the eye area. Wear for 15 minutes, then rinse with warm water, pat dry, and apply a light moisturizer.
Help heal pinkeye
Children are more susceptible to pinkeye than adults, and they’re also more apt to rub at their sore and tender eye while it’s infected, making it likely they will spread the bacteria. Help heal pinkeye faster and give your child relief with a soothing tea bag compress. Wet a tea bag, squeeze out the excess, and have the child lie still for 10 minutes with the tea bag on the eyelid. The tannin helps the swelling go right down. Green tea has one of the highest concentrates of tannins.
Clean a showerhead
When you’re looking forward to a nice, warm shower, nothing is more frustrating than facing a weak trickle of water. If a buildup of lime and mineral scale have reduced your shower to a fading stream and you to tears, fix the problem with vinegar, a plastic sandwich bag, and duct tape. Fill the bag with white vinegar and cover the showerhead with it, making sure that the head is covered by the vinegar. Tape the bag to the showerhead arm with the duct tape, and let it soak overnight. When you take it off in the morning, you’ll finally get the shower you’ve wanted. (Test the vinegar on your fixture first; it can discolor some brass and other finishes.) The same strategy applies to clogged faucets, too. To tackle even more of your cleaning list, try these household uses for vinegar you never knew about.