How to … A-Z Top Tips & Life Hacks

Updated July 2021

I love to share tips. Most tips and life hacks are so simple, but unless someone tells you about them you just haven’t a clue. Here is my complete A-Z of “How to …” and Top Tips covering home, garden, health and lifestyle.

I will regularly update this so please bookmark it and keep checking back.

HOW TO GET RID OF ANTS

Nippon Liquid is the quickest and most effective way to get rid of ants. Put a little on some tin foil and leave overnight near the problem area. The ants will soon be heading for it and taking it back to their nest.  This then kills the whole colony. Nippon say it can take up to a week but I’ve normally found they’ve gone in 48 hours.

AIR & FABRIC FRESHENER (CHEMICAL) – 

If you use chemical air and fabric fresheners, try making your own by adding a cap of Zoflora into a trigger bottle of water (lots of scents available). I have previously used this in place of Febreze to spray carpets, bedding and pillows. It’s just as effective but far less costly.

You can also put some Zoflora on a piece of cotton wool and put it in your hoover dust cylinder to make it smell nice, or even lodge in your radiator grill.

AIR FRESHENER (NATURAL) –  

If like me you suffer from asthma or are intolerant to chemical smells, use flavoured teabags as air fresheners. I know it sounds crazy, but I currently have a Pukka Fennel tea bag in my car and porch area – it gives off a lovely aroma and doesn’t make me cough unlike chemical air fresheners.

Or use a diffuser with a quality essential oil. Do read the ingredients carefully as some do contain added chemicals.

HOW TO CLEAR BLOCKED NOSE OR SINUSES

Steam inhalation is great for blocked sinuses but even better with menthol crystals (less than £2 a tub from a pharmacy). Ideally, put a towel over your head and lean over a bowl of hot water with or without some menthol crystals and breathe in the steam.

Alternatively, put a sprinkling of crystals into a small bowl then add an inch of boiling water and inhale the fumes. It really helps reduce the pressure and congestion. I find I can reheat this in the microwave for 2 more uses before it evaporates.

HOW TO COVER UP BORROWED LIGHTS

If you have light shining through the windows above doors (borrowed lights) particularly at night then simply cover with Fablon. ( click here to read full instructions)

doors with windows above covered with fablon

HOW TO PREPARE BLACKBERRIES

Soak foraged blackberries overnight in a bowl of salted water to kill off any creepy crawlies.

Drain the excess water, lay them out on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and place in the freezer. This stops them sticking together in a clump. Once frozen empty into a bag or ice cream tub.

They can be cooked from frozen so you can just take out the amount you need. More blackberry preparation info and recipes can be found here.

HOW TO USE CASHBACK APPS

Use cashback apps when doing any online and some in-store purchases. These can be used for a whole range of services from getting your insurance quotes, your normal grocery shopping, booking hotels, selling your car and much more. You can also earn referral fees when your friends and family start using the sites.  See my complete moneysaving blog for full details

 

ECO-FRIENDLY DECORATING TIPS

After doing the first coat of gloss work, wrap the brush in a plastic bag while you are waiting for the paint to dry. It will be fine for a few days and won’t dry out so you can use for the second coat rather than having to wash it in white spirit.

Instead of buying dust sheets, save old shower curtains, sheets and towels to protect your flooring when decorating.

To get rid of new paint smells place some chopped up onion on a plate by the paintwork as it absorbs some of the odour.

tin of gloss paint and paintbrush

HOW TO CLEAN YOUR DISHWASHER

Put a cup of white vinegar on the bottom rack of your dishwasher on a hot wash to clean and freshen once a month.

Once a year or even bi-annually, clean out the pipes at the back of the machine with hot water and bleach.

FIRST OF THE MONTH

Use this day as a reminder to do all those checks and regular cleans such as:

* Cleaning your dishwasher, washing machine and microwave,
* Checking oil,  water and tyres on your car (obviously more often for high milage)
* Testing Smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarms.

HOW TO REPEL FLIES NATURALLY

Flies are so problematic in the summer it can be hard to try to keep flies out of your home or workplace, especially if you don’t want to resort to chemical fly sprays or traps. Here are a few ways to repel flies naturally to be as eco friendly as possible.

* Place strong smelling herbs and plants such as rosemary, mint, basil, lavender, and lemongrass near your windows and doors.

* If you don’t have a garden try using scented candles or a diffuser with essential oils on window sills or surfaces. Citrus, lavender, cinnamon, tea tree, peppermint, and eucalyptus all work well.

* Make your own eco friendly household cleaners with white vinegar, lemon, bicarbonate of soda and/or essential oils, and wipe spills up immediately.

* Keep fruit and leftover food covered, preferably in your fridge. If defrosting food, defrost overnight in your fridge rather than on kitchen worktops.

* Double wrap food and pet waste in newspaper before putting it in the bin.

* Do not leave uneaten pet food unattended, cover it or throw away, again double wrapping.

* If your child is in nappies, empty faecal waste into the toilet where possible, then double wrap nappies and wipes in newspaper before putting in the dustbin. (It goes without saying, never put wipes and nappies in the toilet.)

* Once emptied, sprinkle the bottom of your kitchen bin with bicarbonate of soda to help eliminate smells.

* If your budget allows, install fly screens on your windows and doors, or try ethically sourced beaded curtains.

* Try this homemade natural fly repellent made by sticking cloves into a cut lemon which are then placed around the home. I’ve not tried this myself as we resorted to fly screens but people have said it works.

* Other popular natural remedies to remove flies are to put a bottle with some apple cider vinegar or red wine in a bottle to attract the flies. They will climb in, but won’t be able to get out again. I prefer to keep them out altogether.

* Also a few years back, lots of people recommended putting copper coloured coins into a plastic bag filled with water which was then hung from the doorway. This didn’t work for us, but I’ve heard other people find it useful.

* Another unsuccessful tip I heard was to hang CDs from the door frame. When that didn’t work for me, I went further and made a beaded curtain from CDs. That didn’t work either so the old CDs were repurposed as drinks coasters again.

cloves stuck into a lemon as fly repellent deterent
Tip and photo thanks to Nathalie van Alst.

HOW TO PREVENT FLIES & MAGGOTS IN WHEELIE BINS

Many of us suffer with flies and maggots in and around our wheelie bins, especially this year where many bin collections have moved to fortnightly, and the UK is experiencing another hot summer. Hopefully, you will try out some of my eco-friendly tips to repel flies but if you find you have a severe problem, chemicals may be needed.

Once you have got rid of your initial fly and maggot infestation, there are several precautions that you can take to reduce contamination.

* Firstly, clean both your your wheelie bin and kitchen bin with bleach or disinfectant.

* Allow to dry and line both bins with bags.

* When your kitchen bin is full, tie your bag of kitchen waste tightly and spray it with fly spray before putting into the wheelie bin.

* Spray around the edge of your wheelie bin lid and ensure it is kept closed.

We have found this has gone a long way to reduce contamination, but it’s not very environmentally friendly. Reduce fly spray, bleach and plastic bags as soon as the weather changes when flies and maggots are no longer a problem, and maintain my tips to repel flies naturally.

HOW TO EASILY CLEAN FOOD MIXERS & BLENDERS

Rinse out your mixers and blenders after use, then add a little washing up liquid and fill with water. Turn on to blend for a minute or two then rinse. This will loosen up any food trapped in the bottom that is normally hard to reach, making it easier to clean properly.

HOLIDAY PACKING TIPS

* Make a list and save file on pc or tablet so you can use it each year.

* Split everyone’s packing evenly between two/four cases in case one suitcase gets lost then you will still have complete sets of clothes and toiletries for everyone.

* Pack a change of clothes in your hand luggage for ease as you arrive.

* Pack each persons’ clothes in packing cubes so that everyone can do their own unpacking at the other end (time saver for mum).

* Roll clothes as they take up less space and will crease less.

* Keep E-copies of important documents such as passport, bank cards (with contact no), travel insurance, hotel address, emergency contacts, etc., on your phone, along with hard copies in your handbag/wallet (laminate if possible).

* When buying luggage consider a large and medium size. If you think you are likely to buy a lot at your destination you can go out with one case packed inside the other and bring back two.

* Most people will have black luggage with stripy luggage strap, make yours stand out by tying a distinctively patterned/coloured ribbon around the handles or buy a case that is loud and unique.

* You may want to take your own teabags and snack items if going abroad.

* Remember chargers AND adapter plugs for all devices.

HOW TO REMOVE JAR LABELS

Labels from glass jars will usually come off in the dishwasher but if not, try soaking the jars for a while in soapy water then use a scourer. Failing that nail varnish remover or WD40 will do the job quickly.

HOW TO KEEP COOL IN SUMMER

* Spray your face and feet with a water mist spray.

* Place a cool, wet flannel on your chest or back of your neck.

* Use a hand held paper or battery operated fan.

* Freeze bottled water to put in your lunchboxes and cool bags. It will have melted by lunchtime, but will still be cold.

* Partly fill a bottle of water and freeze overnight, then top up with cold water or squash in the morning for a cool drink on your commute.

* Place a frozen bottle of water, or bowl of ice cubes, in front of an electric fan for extra coolness.

* Open your loft hatch.

* Sleep under a damp sheet rather than a duvet.

* Keep blinds pulled in sunny rooms.

* Use chilled water in a hot water bottle or even freeze it.

* Have a tepid shower.

* Minimise use of electronic devices such as tablets, phones and computers, as these all give off a lot of heat.

washing hanging on the line to dry

LAUNDRY/UTILITY ROOM TIPS

* Save time (and ironing) by giving clothes a good shake as you take them out of the machine and hang straight onto coathangers, then hang on the line. When they’re dry simply hang straight in the wardrobe.

* Try using half the amount of detergent recommended in your wash and see if you notice any difference. Unless you have really dirty clothes, I bet you don’t!

* Wash on the lowest temperature possible, with the highest spin to cut down on drying times.

* Leave the washing machine door open when not in use to stop any mould forming on the seal and prevent nasty smells.

* Do a hot wash on first on month with half bag soda crystals to prevent limescale and powder/liquid build up.  Squirt some white vinegar into the soap drawer at the same time.

* Once a year or even bi-annually, clean out the pipes at the back of the machine with hot water and bleach to remove the build up of detergent build up.

* Use tumble dryer balls to cut down on drying time.

* Empty the lint from your tumble dryer after each load.
(Many people stuff the lint into toilet rolls to use as fire lighters – rather than throw it away, offer your lint to friends and neighbours who do this.)

* If you are lucky enough to have a separate laundry or utility room, add a shower pole above your wash area for extra hanging space/coat hanger storage. If not, you could always add an extra shower pole over your bath if you have enough ceiling height.

shower curtain rail with white and black tshirts on hangers drying top tips for home

HOW TO CLEAN A MICROWAVE EASILY WITHOUT CHEMICALS

Add some cut lemons or lemon juice to a bowl of water, place in your microwave and heat on full for 2-3 minutes. This will not only loosen up any food stains for easy wiping, but will also leave your kitchen smelling fresh.

HOW TO CARE FOR NEW BOOTS & SHOES

To save knee length boots losing their shape and going all floppy, store with an empty drinks bottle in the body as it will hold them upright.

Spray the insides of new leather boots and shoes with a cheap perfume or cologne and put them on whilst still wet. Repeat each time you put them on for the first few wears and you will not have pain from breaking in new shoes as the alcohol in the perfume softens the leather and makes the whole process pain free. Your feet will smell nice too. (Test this in an inconspicuous place first to make sure you don’t ruin the material.)

perfume being sprayed in new shoes and boots

HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON PRESCRIPTION COSTS

If you know you are going to need a lot of prescriptions in any short or long period, it may be worth buying a 3 or 12 month pre-paid prescription certificate. I buy a three month certificate for around £30, and can save myself up to £100 in that period on my regular prescription medication. Certificates can be bought online, by phone, post or in most big chemists by filling in a simple form. Check the NHS website for up to date prices and more details.

PHOTO GALLERY SEARCH

Did you know that you can search your photo gallery on your mobile phone? Open your gallery and there is a search bar at the top. I was searching for a sunset picture for #SundaySunsets and it shows every sunset picture I’ve ever taken. Clever stuff.

HOW TO CREATE WINDOW PRIVACY AT HOME OR WORK

If you don’t like net curtains or voiles, fix some frosted window film or spray frosting to the bottom half of your windows. You will still have lots of light and will be able to see out over the top, but it will give you more privacy from passers by.

GUIDE TO MONEY SAVING SHOPPING

* Stock up on expensive items such as loo rolls, soap powders, deodorants, canned drinks, cereals, pet food, etc when they are on half price or BOGOF offers.

* Get free and reduced price items using cashback apps.

* Use printable coupons and combine purchases with shop special offers to get items free or very cheap.

* Buy things out of season – garden items, luggage and suncreams at end of summer, Christmas Items in January, etc. More info on my  complete money saving post.

HOW TO STAY SAFER WHEN SHOPPING

Unfortunately, there are those in life who feel they can take advantage of people when they are shopping, especially in busy supermarkets or shopping centres at Christmas. It is important to be aware of what’s going on around you and keep yourself and your belongings as safe as possible. Here are a few tips:

Where possible wear a handbag with a long strap crossed over your body, preferable under a coat or hoody.

Add bells to your purses to deter thieves.

Add a pin lock to your phone. It won’t deter thieves, but will stop them accessing your data.

Add your surname, your email address, and a different contact phone no to your handbag, purse or phone case. If you are robbed, chances are a thief will just take valuables and will throw the bag and contents. You might then get back things that are not financially valuable, but irreplaceable to you.

ECO FRIENDLY WAY TO CLEAN SILVER

Silver can be given a new lease of life by cleaning it in a bowl of white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, and boiling water.

VISITING SMOKERS

Need a makeshift ashtray for your smoker guests at a bbq or get together? Then use a clean jam jar and you can put the lid on and throw it away afterwards.

You may also like to read more of my Tips, Money Saving & How To … or look at  my Illustrated Top Tips in my Facebook photo albums.

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