11 Brilliant Hacks Using Common Household Products

Girl drawing on wall with crayon
Photo by AleksWolff / Shutterstock.com

It was the mayonnaise trick that sold me. I have a grade-school daughter, and let’s just say she’s not always super careful about using coasters on our wooden coffee table. Let’s also say that we don’t have the money to run out and buy another coffee table just because her glasses of ice water left behind those ugly white circles.

So I did the 2017 equivalent of calling your mother for advice — and did an internet search for a solution. Numerous home remedies came up, but for some reason I was drawn to the one promising great results using mayonnaise. Spoiler: It worked! And it’s inspired me to share my top 11 cleaning and repair hacks, or what I like to call, “You used WHAT to fix WHAT?”

1. Remove water stains with mayonnaise

Glasses on wood surface.
Fahkamram / Shutterstock.com

What happened? Someone ignored your fancy coasters and put a sweaty, icy glass of mineral water right smack on your best wooden table, leaving a nasty white ring.

What to do? Glop a good-sized scoop of mayonnaise right on the ring. I’ve seen warnings that you shouldn’t leave it too long, but when I tried wiping it up in less than 10 minutes, it didn’t work and I had to reapply. I forgot about it for more than a half-hour, and when I went to wipe it off, no unsightly ring!

2. Open a stuck jar using rubber bands

Jars with pickled veggies inside.
Creative Family / Shutterstock.com

What happened? That new jar of pickles, or olives, or whatever you’re straining to open, just won’t let you unscrew the top and get at the goodies inside.

What to do? Admittedly I usually get impatient and slam the jar upside-down on the counter, but one day I’m going to break the jar and/or damage my tile. Here’s the trick: Get a fat rubber band and run it around the lid’s edge, right where you’re twisting it. It gives you a solid, non-slippy grip, and the jar usually opens. (If not, try soaking it in hot water. I don’t recommend the counter-slam trick.)

3. Unstick a zipper with a crayon or pencil

Purse zipper detail.
topimages / Shutterstock.com

What happened? Your brand-new boots, or favorite purse, or really anything with a zipper that is stuck and refusing to track correctly.

What to do? Get a crayon (in a color closest to the item) or a regular graphite pencil, and rub it up and down both sides of the zipper. Depending on the color and material, you should definitely test it first to see if any goofs will show up — it’s not a big deal on a pair of big black rain boots, but on a white satin dress, the fix could be worse than the original problem. I’ve seen soap, candle wax and even Windex also recommended, but so far, crayons have worked best for me.

4. Make a candle last longer by freezing or salting it

Three burning candles
Ramona Edwards / Shutterstock.com

What happened? Those fancy, fragrant candles in Southern Cotton or Angel Food Cake scents seem to melt to a puddle of wax in the time it takes to relight a match.

What to do? Credit Bob Vila for these two odd tips that actually work. Store your candle in the freezer overnight, then take it out right before you burn it. And once you light it, let it melt a small puddle of wax around the wick, then blow it out and sprinkle table salt into the liquid wax. Both techniques slow down the rate at which the wax melts.

5. Remove rust from cast-iron pans with melted Crisco

Rusty cast iron skillet.
Take Photo / Shutterstock.com

What happened? Even though you love your jack-of-all-recipes cast-iron skillet, you left it wet for too long — and it rusted.

What to do? Believe it or not, Lodge Cast Iron says just to treat the pan the way you normally would to season it. Wash with soap and a stiff brush (soap, usually not used on cast iron, is OK this time because you’re about to re-season it). Rinse and dry. Now melt some Crisco (or any brand vegetable shortening) and apply a thin, even coating. Put foil on the bottom rack of your oven (not the oven floor), set to 350-500 degrees F, and turn the pan upside-down on the top rack and bake for an hour. Turn off the oven and let it cool before taking the pan out. R.I.P., rust!<

6. Extend the life of razor blades with jeans

Man looking in mirror, shaving.
Ekaterina Simonova / Shutterstock.com

What happened? You’re sick of constantly buying new packages of razor cartridges.

What to do? This one sounds weird, but multiple sources, including Gizmodo, swear by it. Get an old pair of jeans (not your favorite designer pair). Don’t put them on! Instead, set them flat, and run a clean, dry used razor several times up the pants leg, then repeat running it several times down the pants leg. Don’t shave the jeans — be sure to hold it for the stroke in the opposite direction you would to shave — and use short, fast strokes. The threads on the jeans sharpen the blades, sort of like the old-fashioned “stropping,” and done right, it can keep your blades sharp for months. (Many readers pointed out to Gizmodo that you can also use your arm, but with jeans, even if you somehow slip, there’s less risk of injury.)

7. Remove gum with peanut butter

Tennis shoe with gum on the heel.
Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com

What happened? Ugh, you stepped in someone’s chewed and discarded gum.

What to do? Pretend the sole of your shoe is a good old English muffin and spread a decent amount of peanut butter around and on the gum. Let it sit for 10 minutes. The PB will break down the gum. Then get a good scrub brush and scrub it off, with the aid of some cold water. Only Sherlock Holmes should be called a gumshoe.

8. Remove crayon from walls with toothpaste

Girl drawing on wall with crayon
AleksWolff / Shutterstock.com

What happened? Your preschool Picasso drew you a beautiful picture — on the wall.

What to do? Get a glop of white toothpaste — and be sure it is paste, not gel. Rub it on and keep rubbing. It may not work on all wall surfaces, but it’s the best household remedy we’ve found. Probably prevents your wall from getting cavities, too.

9. Soothe your sunburn with yogurt

Bowl of white yogurt.
DONOT6_STUDIO / Shutterstock.com

What happened? You soaked up the sun, and now you suffer from your excess. Ow ow ow ow!

What to do? Take a tip from the cosmetics brands that are now selling Greek yogurt after-sunburn gel. The real stuff is a lot cheaper. Get a nice cold carton of the plainest yogurt you can find, and spread it thinly on your burn. After 10 minutes, gently wipe it off with a cold cloth. Ahh ahh ahh ahh!

10. Clean your grill with an onion

Skewers of veggies on grill.
Kamil Macniak / Shutterstock.com

What happened? You forgot to clean your home grill after making those melty cheeseburgers last week. Or you’re at a public beach and are wary of using a grill someone else cooked who-knows-what on.

What to do? Spear half a peeled white onion with a barbecue fork, and once the grill is hot, rub it all over the grates. It cleans off residue (and even a little rust), seasons the grill, and smells delicious. (See it in action here.)

11. Make your own buttermilk with milk and vinegar

Buttermilk bisquits
Jewjewbeed / Shutterstock.com

What happened? That delicious biscuit recipe calls for buttermilk, but it’s not a staple in your fridge, and you don’t have time to buy any.

What to do? Pour a scant (not quite full) cup of milk for every cup of buttermilk in the recipe. Sour the milk yourself by adding a tablespoon of white vinegar (lemon juice also works) per cup of milk. Wait 10 minutes, then use it in place of the buttermilk in your recipe. Also, pro tip: You can now buy powdered buttermilk, which can sit in your pantry for a long time awaiting use.

What are your favorite household hacks and tricks? Share them with other readers in our comments section below or on our Facebook page.

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