A Quick Fix to Keep the Plumber Away

If you’ve ever called a plumber to unclog a drain, you know it’s not cheap. Certainly there are times when the clogged drain is beyond a quick do-it-yourself solution, requiring the skills of a professional. But many times, according to my inbox, a simple gadget and a modicum of know-how can avoid an expensive house call.

DRAIN CLEANING TOOL. I read the tip from the reader who used a bamboo skewer to remove hair from the drain. Sounds OK, but there is actually a tool made just for this task. It’s very cheap—about $3. It has a little handle at the top, is about 18-inches long and has a fish-hook type of end. You simply push it into the drain, snag the tangled hair and fish it right back out. My granddaughter was constantly calling her apartment manager to get her bathroom drains unplugged, plus using lots of drain cleaner. I sent her one of these little gadgets and she has been drain-clear ever since. Diana

Note: The tool Diana refers to is a Zip-it Drain Snake Cleaner. Check the plumbing aisle of your local hardware store. Or get a pack of three for about $7 online. I did, used it to check every drain in the house and wow, this thing is amazing.  -mh  

GINGER PRESS. Instead of using a knife to mince fresh ginger, I put it in my garlic press. It works really well! Kate

NO-ODOR FREEZER BAGS. Make sure when freezing chopped onions to use freezer bags, not just zip-type bags. That way the freezer and everything in it won’t smell like onions! Paula

HAIR SPRAY STAIN REMOVER. Inexpensive hairspray like Aqua Net, will remove ballpoint ink and felt tip marker ink from clothing (and just about anything else as well). It’s also a great grease and oil remover from clothing because the cheap stuff is mostly acetone. BGW

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 hook and loop fasteners. Any fabric or craft store sells this stuff by the inch or in packages with the hook and loop fasteners outfitted with self-stick tape. His choice is black sticky-back VELCRO® Brand. 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. Ron

SPECIAL SALES FOR TWINS. For those looking for less expensive options for outfitting little ones—especially twins—Mothers of Multiples groups hold sales where people can shop for twins, triplets, etc. Moms-to-Moms groups also have sales annually. My niece has twin boys and I’ve heard her talk about the clothing sales sponsored by these groups. Priscilla

DOLLAR STORE SHOPPING SPREE. One of my best birthday party ideas was an accident. I had not purchased anything for goody bags for my daughter’s friends so I took them to the dollar store and gave them each $2 to spend as they wished. The girls loved doing this and it was less expensive than buying the little party favors at the toy store. It became a tradition that everyone looked forward to each year. Penny

Question: Do you have a household tool that makes your life easier? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Molly Brown

    These things work to pull out hair and gunk nicely, but if you have a stopper that can’t be removed you can have a big problem. The device slips in past the stopper no problem, but once it gets loaded up with stuff you cannot get it out. I had research on you tube how to dismantle the entire stopper thing from underneath to get it out. Be careful!!!

    • Mac

      I have a stopper that won’t come out, and I have had trouble getting it out also. It’s not a problem when there is not much on it, so I guess the trick is to do it more often. That first time, though, can be hairy! lol (pun intended)

    • Kimberley Hunter

      After reading your post, I think I’ll stay with my baking soda and vinegar with a chaser of a kettleful of boiled water treatments. If the drain is really clogged, I might have to treat it two or three times, but it does work, if given enough time. Even if the clog is hair.

  • Betty Thomas

    The tip on the drain cleaning tool is an excellent one. My husband is a plumber and most of the plugged bathroom drains are, in fact, just hair plugs that take a minute to clean out. A service call for a plumber is charged whether they are there 5 minutes or an hour so this tool is a great money saver. One thing though, and this goes for any plug in any drain line, drain cleaners are not recommended especially once the line is plugged. They have a tendency to form around a clog and solidify, especcially if water is completely blocked from going through the drain line. Drain cleaners are caustic and hard on drain lines, especially in houses with older lines.

  • Shay Staves

    I love the idea of using a garlic press for fresh ginger! Here’s my money-saving ginger tip: I usually buy large pieces of fresh ginger at Aldi or 99 Cents Only when they have it in stock for a dollar. I peel it and freeze the pieces, and when I have a recipe that calls for fresh ginger, I just grate whatever I need off the frozen piece with my grater.

  • Lisa Phillips

    Hair spray is great for when bees or yellow jackets get in your house. Just spray them with it. It makes their wings stiff and they can’t fly. Then you can use a fly swatter easily with no fear of getting stung. You don’t want to be spraying toxic chemicals around, so hair spray is a safer choice.

  • Victoria Statz

    Your note today hit me on several things. I have used the garlic press for ginger for several years. It will press the juice and keep out the fiber.
    I also have one of those drain cleaner sticks from your suggestion several years ago, and yes it works really well. We have granddaughters who have long hair so this comes in really handy.
    The hair spray for ink stains; I just came across a piece of fabric I want to use and saw a couple ink marks on it. I will definitely try the hair spray on it.
    Mary, I read your column every day and love how you keep us informed on so many ideas from finance to cooking to home decor etc.

  • joespr

    I love Zip-it!

    For stuck jars, the best thing is the “OXO Good Grips Jar Opener with Base Pad”. It’s simple and low tech and not expensive.
    (The OXO tool is much better than those battery operated things sold on TV. I even bought the expensive battery-operated thing, and it broke the first time I tried to use it.)

    But the OXO tool is a godsend. I would never be without it now that I have it. I got mine from Amazon.

  • Mike Schwietzer

    One way to speed up a nearly clogged drain is with boiling water. Our kitchen drains often seem to get slow, probably due to grease. This clears them quickly.