Household tips for just about everything

Written by    Last updated: August 28, 2007

Find out useful hints on everything; from how to get rid of mildew stains on shower curtains to stopping floorboards from creaking…

household tips


Grease: to remove fat or oil from clothing rub talcum powder into the stain and wash as normal.
Scuff marks: polish off scuff marks from lino or skirting boards with a pencil rubber or a quick spray of WD40 rubbed in with a cloth.
Vases: soak slimy flower vases with a denture tablet in the water. Then rinse and wash.
Stains: clean off orange, curry or carrot stains on food processor bowls and juice extractors by wiping them with kitchen paper moistened with vegetable oil. Wash the equipment in hot soapy water to remove any greasy residue.
Disinfect: always disinfect doorknobs, light switches and telephones as they’re breeding grounds for germs.
Kettles: regularly wipe the inside of your kettle with a damp cloth to prevent fur from forming.
Tea stains: clean badly stained mugs, cups etc by rubbing with a damp cloth dipped in salt.
Burn marks: if a saucepan is badly burnt, sprinkle thickly with salt and leave overnight, then fill with water and bring to the boil. Finally, clean as normal.
Descale: fill the kettle with water plus 15ml/1tbsp of vinegar. Boil and leave overnight. Empty and rinse.
Crumb tray: turn the toaster upside‐down over a piece of newspaper. Remove the crumb tray, empty and wipe it clean, then replace the tray.
Cutting bread: fresh bread can be cut more easily if you warm the knife first in hot water
Teapots: remove stains by leaving to soak overnight in warm water to which a denture tablet has been added. The same solution will clean stained teaspoons.


Mildew marks: on shower curtains can be removed by sponging them with a bleach solution made with 20ml bleach for every 5 litres of water. Rinse thoroughly, then wipe dry (use gloves). Alternatively, rub the shower curtains with lemon juice and then soak the curtains overnight in salty water.
Shower: to clean a blocked showerhead, remove the head, poke through the holes with a needle and then soak the head in neat vinegar overnight.
Taps: when decorating, put small plastic bags over hands and tops to prevent paint from splashing on them.
Stains: remove stubborn brown stains under taps by rubbing them with a mixture of salt and vinegar on a soft cloth. Leave for five minutes then rinse off with washing‐up liquid and polish with a soft, dry cloth.
Sinks: flush sinks regularly with washing soda and boiling water to remove grease.
Blockages: wire hangers are useful for probing blocked pipes. A mop with a large plastic bag tied over its head makes a useful emergency plunger.
Freezes: to prevent drains from freezing, sprinkle salt down them at night.
Steel sinks: a dulled steel sink can be cleaned by rubbing it with a few drops of turpentine oil applied with a soft cloth. Rinse and polish with a dry kitchen towel.
Shower screens (glass):  water and soap marks can be removed with a cloth dipped in vinegar.
Grout: whiten stained sealant or grout with an old toothbrush dipped in neat household bleach.
Tiling: if old tiles are in good condition, you can fix new ones on top or paint them with enamel paint. When drilling tiles, always use a slow drill speed.


Screwdriver: remember, when turning a screwdriver: ‘Right is tight, left is loose’. Rubbing screws with Vaseline or soap makes them easier to screw in or out.
Fuse box: keep a torch, fuse wire and spare fuses near the fuse box ready for emergencies. Labels on your fuse box will help to identify which fuse holder belongs to which circuit.  If a fuse keeps blowing, call an electrician. When re‐using plugs, check that the fuse is of the correct rating for the appliance.
Sockets: if a socket has become blackened or feels even a little warm during use, call an electrician.
Brighter light: cleaner bulbs and tubes make for brighter lights, so wipe them occasionally.
Xmas lights: always check that Christmas lights are working before you put them on the tree.


Creaky floorboards: dust some talcum powder down the side of the board that’s squeaking. Also check that the board is firmly anchored and remove any nail that is loose, replacing it with a screw. Try to use the same hole, as you’re more likely to avoid hitting a pipe or cable underneath. However, it’s essential you check first so either take a look, or run a battery powered pipe/cable detector over where you want to screw. Sink a screw and fill with wood filler to disguise the screw head.
Stair carpets: it needs to be dense pile – to test samples, bend backwards to see if the backing shows through.
Dingy carpets: clean dull and dingy carpets by sprinkling salt over them. Leave it for a few hours, then vacuum it up.
Stale cigarette smells: open windows and burn a candle in the room for a short while.
Mirrors: if the back of a mirror is deteriorating, try fixing a sheet of silver foil to it.
Sanding wood: always sand along the grain of the wood, not across it.
Matches: spent matches can be used as a substitute for wall plugs when screwing lightweight fixings into wood, e.g. on a door handle.
Bluetac: removing Bluetac from walls: lift it by pressing with another small ball of Bluetac. Tracks: press sellotape into tracks of windows and doors to remove dirt, dead flies, etc.


Air freshener: to freshen up your car, fill the ashtrays with pot‐pourri.
Windscreens: stubborn marks on windscreens can be removed using bicarbonate of soda on a damp cloth.
Spilt milk: if milk is spilt in the car, apply white vinegar to the stain, allow it to soak in, then wash it out and repeat if smell persists.
Driveways: remove oil stains by dissolving with cola drink.


Buttons: dab the centre of buttons with clear nail varnish to seal the thread.
Coat hangers: wind elastic bands round the ends of coat hangers to stop clothes slipping off.
Wardrobe smells:  an open container of bicarbonate of soda will absorb unpleasant musty smells. Also freshen smelly wellies and trainers by sprinkling a little soda bicarbonate inside.
Zips: run the lead of a pencil up and down a closed zip to make it run more smoothly.
Tumble drying: if you need to dry articles quickly in a tumble dryer, put a dry towel in with them.
Tights: to stop a ladder running, spray it with hairspray; remember to reapply it after washing. Alternatively, prevent a ladder by painting it with clear nail varnish.
Velvet: a velvet pile can be raised by holding it over a steaming kettle. Never iron velvet, only ever steam it. If the article is large, try hanging it over a very hot bath.
Fluff: broad sellotape is useful for removing fluff from clothes.
Shoes: pack wet shoes tightly with screwed up newspaper and allow the shoes to dry naturally.


Removing shine from clothes: use a damp cotton cloth, such as a clean tea towel or a pillowcase; place it over the area and iron lightly with a fairly hot iron. Lift the iron on and off rather than forwards and backwards.
Board cover: the leg of an old pair of pyjamas makes an excellent ironing board cover. Slide the leg on to the ironing board and secure the ends with lines of running stitches.
Sole plate: when your iron is cold, rub the sole plate with methylated spirits to remove any stains.
Make ironing easier: make the least favourite household work less of a chore with these tips:

  • Select lower spin speeds, as the clothes will need less ironing.
  • Always use fabric conditioner in the final rinse.
  • Immediately after washing, reshape garments and hang them up on hangers to dry.
  • Sort out the ironing pile into categories: synthetic materials such as nylon need a cool iron; increase the temperature to a warm iron for mixed fabrics including wool and silk and increase it to hot for cottons and linens.
  • Ironing clothes while they are still a little damp helps to avoid having to deal with stubborn creases.

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