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Other Uses for Ordinary Dryer Sheets

Perhaps you’ve seen the list of uses for dryer sheets that’s floating around the Internet. Who knows where that list came from. What we do know is not all of the alternative uses can be verified as true. For example, we have no confidence that Bounce or any other brand of dryer sheet will repel mosquitoes. But spiders and flies? Read on.

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PESTS. Readers have confirmed that dryer sheets will repel both spiders and flies. Keep a few extra sheets in clothes hampers and around the laundry area and you can kiss all those spiders goodbye.

BURNT PAN. Fill that icky casserole pan with warm water and lay a dryer sheet flat on top to soak overnight. In the morning, the baked-on gunk will have either floated off or be loose enough to scrape off easily with a spatula.

TISSUE ROLL. Roll up a dryer sheet and stuff it inside the paper roll. Each time you spin, it releases a little freshness into your bathroom.

BLINDS. Wipe down your blinds with a dryer sheet to prevent static electricity and to keep dust from collecting.

No More Sleeping Through the Alarm and Other Favorite Tips

Surprise! Today, instead of sharing tips you’ve sent to me, I’ve decided to hog the entire column to share some of my own. Several of these are oldies but goodies, while some I have discovered recently. I do love great tips.

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CELLPHONE ALARM VOLUME BOOSTER. If you’re a heavy sleeper and have trouble hearing your mobile phone’s alarm, you can boost the volume by setting it in a glass drinking glass. This works because the sound reverberates and intensifies inside the glass. It may not be the world’s most pleasant amplification technique, but it works great for an alarm. As an added benefit, to turn the alarm off you have to actually pull the phone out of the glass. This makes it a bit more likely that you’ll actually get up and not roll over to fall back asleep.

NEVER LOSE THE REMOTE AGAIN. The reason most of us misplace the remote controls to our TVs and other electronic devices is they don’t have a specific place to go. They might end up on a coffee table, an end table, slide behind the couch or, as I have experienced, right into a trash can to never be seen again. One person whose handiwork I find to be so clever, stuck his remote controls to a coffee table with Velcro. Any fabric or craft store sells this stuff by the inch or in packages with both the hook and loop sides of the Velcro outfitted with self-stick tape. His choice is black sticky-back Velcro. He cuts off the amount of product he needs for the task at hand, removes the protective paper covering the sticky sides and affixes one side to the remote and the other to the table. It’s true: When a remote control device has a home, it’s more likely to go there regularly.

How to Child-Proof a Forbidden Door Plus More Great Reader Tips

If you’ve ever had the need to prevent children from closing a door and unwittingly closing themselves in a pantry or bathroom, you may know the old hand- towel trick: Throw the towel over the top of the door. That’s it. No matter how hard a child might try to close it, “no can do!” I’ve always loved that handy dandy tip. But I have to admit, I’d never thought about how to use a similar trick to keep a child from opening a door. Well, I hadn’t until I heard from today’s first great reader ….

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CREATE A TIGHT JAM. My 2 year-old grandson opened an outside entry door with a  lever-type handle and went outside while I was in the bathroom! I live in an apartment and am not allowed to install a chain or other hardware on the door. I searched for a portable lock and found several kinds—all about $15 to $25. I finally found a suggestion of closing a folded washcloth in the opening between the door and door jam. That effectively jams the door without harming it. Opening the door requires the strength of an adult to pull the cloth out. I’m so thankful to find this tip because it didn’t cost me a thing and it really works to keep a child from opening a forbidden door. Barbara

USE ‘EM UP TO THE LAST PEEL. Rather than throw out overly ripe vegetables, I simmer them in water to make vegetable stock*. I also keep a bag in my freezer where I add vegetable peelings and other vegetables odds and ends—even potato cooking water—  and potato cooking water until it’s full, then I make the stock. Cate

*Chop scrubbed vegetables into 1-inch chunks. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons oil in a soup pot.  Add vegetables scraps and pieces (onion, celery, carrots, scallions, garlic and herbs and so forth). Cook over high heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add salt and water (more or less depending on volume of vegetables) and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Strain. Discard vegetables. Store covered in refrigerator or freezer. -mh

STACKED GRILLED CHEESE. My wife and I enjoyed your recent article on grilled cheese sandwiches. We may just try some of the suggested variations! We like to include pickle slices in ours. We typically use the pre-sliced Vlasic Stackers dill pickles. Timing is important with these. You really don’t want to heat the pickle itself, so you need to pull the sandwich apart right after it comes off the griddle, before the cheese-glue “sets,” to insert the pickle slice. An alternative is to incorporate a slice or two of deli ham next to one of the bread slices, so that this quick action isn’t needed. John

Your humble columnist, being a huge fan of pickles, found this idea to be a bit off putting, if not downright odd. Hot melted cheese and cold dill pickles?! I must apologize for jumping to conclusions. I tried it. Oh my! Absolutely delicious. Next, I’m going to try Vlasic Bread and Butter Stackers. Your instructions are spot on, John. -mh

RETIRED BUT NOT FINISHED YET. I have been reading your blog for years and have used so many of your fabulous tips and I would like to add one that I’ve never seen mentioned. As a dusting/cleaning rag, I have found nothing beats a good, old fashioned cotton diaper. I buy two dozen very clean (they’ll never be that white again!) “retired” diapers from Dy-Dee Diaper Service in Pasadena, Calif. for $22.90. They last an incredibly long time and I feel good about giving the diapers a second life and keeping them out of the landfill. Stacie

What a great idea. As I looked into this I find that mechanics, contractors and all kinds of service people buy up retired diapers just about as fast as they become available for purchase. Every diaper service I contacted across the country, including your Dy-Dee company, sells its retired stock as diapers are removed from service. Some sell by the dozen (as low as 50 cents per diaper), others by the pound ($3 to $5 per pound seems  standard). Some companies require local pickup but others will ship.

Rather than try to list all of the companies here, I suggest you search “diaper service” in your local area and then give that company a call. -mh

Got Red Carpet Stain? This EC Reader Has the Solution!

If you’ve ever had a big ol’ ugly red stain on your otherwise beautiful carpet, you know the meaning of heartbreak. You’ve tried everything to get it out, but still it’s there. Big. Bad. Ugly.

What you wouldn’t give to find some kind of magic potion that would erase it once and for all. Right? Well, today is your lucky day because you’re about to discover just what that potion is.

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RED CARPET STAIN SOLUTION. Need to remove a horrible carpet stain left by a red drink? Or coffee? Try Folex, which is a clear spray in a non-aerosol bottle. Available online for about $10,  and also at some Walmart and Home Depot stores. Simply spray the stain and work the product into the stained fibers with your fingertips. Blot with clean cloth. No rinsing necessary. I’ve used Folex on dark red wine stains, on ivory colored carpet and also on the shadows of old stains like coffee in a couple of places. Folex removed every trace. I highly recommend! Rebecca

ABANDONED PHONE CHARGERS. Once on a trip, I forgot to pack a phone charger. I was so desperate, I asked at the hotel’s front desk if they had one that would fit that I might use. A security guard took me to the storage room where there were at least 12 large plastic bins full! I dug through the spaghetti-like mess and found one. When I offered to return it, he said, “Keep it, we probably have three hundred more just like it!” Somehow, someone needs to figure out how to get local hospitals that could really use phone chargers for their patients and nearby hotels (that have way too many) together on this phone charger issue! (see Donate Phone Chargers) I always enjoy your posts. Thanks! Deborah

How to Trap Wasps and Other Great Reader Tips

Are you aware that your health insurance provider may be willing to cover the cost of your gym membership? Or that all you need to take care of those annoying wasps flying around your home this summer may be as close your food pantry? How about where and how to purchase beautiful high-quality, name-brand men’s belts cheap? Your fellow-readers know and today they’re willing to share.

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WASP CONTROL. It’s that time of year when I’m filling containers with homemade potion to trap the wasps that love to visit my property. I place containers around the yard, pool and patio. Wasps and other various other flying insects are attracted, dive in for a drink and never come out. Here’s the recipe: Mix together 6 oz. (3/4 cup) vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. If you need more, double the recipe. This wasp potion is non-toxic and harmless for kids and pets. Marilyn

INSIDER HOTEL INFO. Always check the hotel website before making a reservation. That’s where you will find our best rates. At the hotel where I work, when you reserve through Travelocity and Expedia, you’ll pay the full rate plus the commission—really pricey! Carey

Wash Clothes Inside Out and Other Laundry Tips and Tricks

I love to do laundry. I’m crazy that way. And I enjoy discovering ways to do it more efficiently—and by efficient I do mean cheaper, better and faster.

In fact, I was about ready to give myself a proper title, The Laundress, until I discovered a couple of very bright young women in New York City beat me to it. It’s OK. They can keep the title and charge an arm and a leg for their chi-chi laundry products in little bottles. Me? I’d rather use every tip I can find to create equally beautiful results and keep my money, too. Are you with me? Great! Here are some of my favorite laundry tips to get going.

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WHEN WRONG IS RIGHT. Wash your clothes inside out to keep them looking newer longer. In this way the wrong side of the garment takes all of the abuse and fading caused by the agitation not the right side. Clothes get just as clean when washed inside-out.

SOFT DRY JEANS. You’ll never experience the heartbreak shrunken jeans if you do this: Put them in the dryer for only 10 minutes. That’s enough to soften them. Take them out still wet and hang on a hanger from ankles. The weight of the semi-wet jeans will pull out the wrinkles and keep them at their the proper length when fully dry.

Readers Share Secrets for How to Clean Leather Boots, Save on Hand Soap and More

Every day I learn something new from my clever readers. Take fine leather for example. I think it’s safe to say we’re all aware that Italy is where one would find the best. I’d just never thought about the Italians have superior knowledge for how to care for said leather. While I love today’s first great reader tip, I have to admit that Lysa made me laugh out loud!

REJUVENATING BOOTS. Olive oil removes salt and stains from leather boots and shoes. Shines the leather, too. It’s an Italian thing. Lysa

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GOOD TO THE LAST SQUEEZE. I hate wasting any little bit of a product I’ve paid for. After the toothpaste has squeezed out its last glob, I cut off the tube about an inch from the cap. I can get another 5 or 6 brushings from what remains. Debbie

SAVINGS ON LIQUID SOAP. Those foam pump dispensers are so nice. But they seem expensive for the amount of soap you get compared to the amount of water in the bottle. I save the dispensers and refill about 1/4 of the bottle with liquid hand soap and fill the rest of the bottle with water. Put the top back on and roll the bottle around until the soap dissolves into the water (may take a little time to fully blend the two). Voila! I have a refill bottle of liquid soap that takes me years to use up because I use so little of it to refill a foam dispenser bottle. Kay

Smart, Savvy Readers Respond Kindly

My favorite thing about being your humble blogger is getting feedback from my readers. Most of the time your letters are so kind and encouraging—containing tips, questions or other relative information. Only now and then do I get a negative “Shame on you!” or “Choose your words more carefully!” which I take under advisement while hitting delete. Many times though, your messages offer additional information regarding something I’ve written about, from which all of us can benefit.

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RABBITS IN THE GARDEN. Blood meal (garden center) works really well to send bunnies away from any kind of garden—flowers or vegetables. Blood meal is also a natural rabbit and deer repellant that  works incredibly well. Just sprinkle it on the soil around each plant. Keeps squirrels out too! (As always, read the product label for instructions and cautions, especially if you have pets. -mhKath

BEST SHOE REPAIR. You asked, so here’s my contribution for the best shoe repair in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul), Minn. area: Gene’s Hartland Shoe Repair. Gene’s been repairing shoes for many decades. His website (hartlandshoes.us) has tons of helpful information about caring for shoes, too. He’s just the best! Sue