HOUSEHOLD HACKS THAT ACTUALLY WORK
- Rig up a watering system
Keep pot plants alive while you’re on holiday with this ingenious set-up. Take a discarded plastic bottle, pierce the cap with the tip of a sharp knife and stick a cotton bud through the hole. Fill the bottle with water, replace the lid, tape a skewer or small bamboo cane to the side of the bottle so it extends about 20cm beyond the lid, and turn the whole thing upside down (a hole in the base of the bottle will help the water flow). Poke the skewer into the soil at the base of a potted plant and the water will slowly drip down the cotton bud, keeping your plant babies going until you get back.
- Clean your computer screen
Use a damp teabag to clean a smudged or dusty computer screen. Dip the bag in a cup of cold water (or redip a used one from your morning brew), rub it all over the screen and then polish with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel. This trick also works well on mirrors.
1. Freshen up the microwave
Lemon is the best way to deal with a grimy, greasy or sticky microwave. Squeeze a lemon into a microwave-safe bowl and add the shell (the outer skin of the lemon), or, if you’ve used the lemon juice for cooking, just put the empty shell in the microwave with some water. Zap for five minutes, leave to stand, door closed, for 10 minutes, and then open and wipe down. The lemon water can go down the loo, where it can help reduce limescale.
Tackle bad smells
Bicarbonate of soda is an excellent neutraliser: it can remove the smell of urine (a side-effect of both pets and toddlers) from a fabric armchair that would otherwise be very hard to wash. (Also known as baking soda, bicarb or sodium bicarbonate, it should not be confused with baking powder, which although also a leavening agent for baked goods, won’t do the same job on smells.) It also works on stinky shoes, rugs and carpets, says YouTuber Melissa Maker on her 2-million-subscriber Clean My Space channel; she uses a sieve to sift it evenly over her uncovered mattress to keep it smelling fresh. Dust generously all over whatever needs refreshing, leave for four hours or overnight, and then vacuum off larger items, wipe off or shake out.
- Clean almost anything with vinegar
If your fridge really, really pongs, bicarb won’t do the trick, but a good clean with vinegar will (I use it everywhere). Dilute distilled white vinegar 50:50 with water. Add a few drops of essential oil or vanilla extract if the smell of vinegar offends you (it fades quickly), and spritz then wipe everywhere inside the fridge. Use the same spray on glass and most kitchen surfaces (be careful with wood, marble or stone) and the inside of food-waste bins. Soaking mop heads, mouldy-smelling towels or damp clothes that you’ve accidentally left in the washing machine for two days in dilute vinegar will make them fresh again. Or, says cleaning guru and podcaster Caroline Solomon (Neat Caroline), add a cupful to the washing machine before running it with detergent to soften laundry and brighten whites.
You can also remove limescale from shower heads and taps with neat vinegar in a zip-lock bag secured with rubber bands and left to soak (you need to do this regularly – it is not going to work on two years of buildup).
- Rescue burnt pans
Remove stuck or burnt food from metal pots and trays by placing on the hob over a medium heat and adding boiling water – Add vinegar and sliced lemons, but water works just as well if that combo is too punchy on the nose. Bring to a simmer, soften the burnt bits, then scrape them off with a spatula. Cool, then wash as normal; Or use a paste made from lemon juice, vinegar and bicarb to scrub oven racks.