How to Remove Cloudy Film from Headlight Covers Plus More Great Reader Tips

Well, you’ve done it again! You clever readers have come up with another batch of fabulous ways that all of us can save time and money doing stuff like cleaning the annoying, cloudy film from your car’s headlight covers—and lots more. 

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AUTO CLEANER. Use plain old baking soda on a damp rag to remove bugs, tar and anything else from your vehicle. Works great, even on the grill and chrome work. Leaves no residue or odor and won’t harm the paint. I just make a paste with baking soda and water, clean away and just rinse off. Works better than any commercial product I’ve tried. This method even cleans away the cloudy film on headlight covers. Bud

CUSTOM FLOOR MATS. I wanted floor mats for our mini-van so I stopped by our local car dealership. Boy, was I floored (pardon the pun). I checked a discount department store and while their mats were priced more reasonably, they didn’t fit well. I found a perfect solution by buying clear plastic runner material that is available by the yard at the home improvement center. With a utility knife I customized the fit around the seat hardware. This saved a lot of money and works beautifully. Judith

FRIDGE DEODORIZER. Used coffee grinds can eliminate even the worst refrigerator odors. I store kimchee (Korean pickled cabbage with a distinct odor) in my refrigerator regularly and I don’t smell it anymore! Simply take out the used coffee filter with the coffee grinds in it and place it in your refrigerator in an open container. It works better than baking soda or any other commercial remedy. I’ve tried them all. Just replace the coffee grinds when they dry up. Jay

Keep the House Cool This Summer Without Blowing the Budget

Even if winter is still hanging on, without a doubt things are going to heat up soon. And won’t that be wonderful—provided you’ve figured out ways to keep things cool indoors this summer without sending your utility bills through the stratosphere?

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If you could use some help in that regard, here are some tips, tricks, and great ideas that will help you stay cool without blowing a hole in the budget.

WHOLE HOUSE FAN

A whole house fan (not to be confused with an attic fan) is installed in the attic and designed to ventilate the house whenever the outdoor air is cooler, which is typically after the sun sets—making it possible to turn the air conditioner off at night.

For a seasoned and experienced homeowner, installing a whole house fan is typically a do-it-yourself project. However, for a professional, it’s a quick and easy job. Learn more at the U.S. Department of Energy website.

Related: Best Inexpensive™ Window Air Conditioner

Readers Teach the Teacher with Invaluable Household Tips

Becoming a school teacher was never on my radar. Sure, I taught private piano lessons for a lot of years but in my mind, that was different. I was a musician, not a teacher.

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During the early years of becoming a writer, author, and columnist I read a quote that changed all of that for me: Teaching teaches the teacher.

I guess I’d always assumed that to be considered a teacher you would have to know it all first, before being qualified to teach. But those four words changed my mind. That’s me! I am a teacher even though I am learning something new every single day. You, my loyal, faithful readers have taught me so much.

SPARE THE STOP VALVE. I really enjoy your column, I read it every day. In past post, you instructed folks to turn off the stop valve under the toilet as a way to remove all of the water in the bowl before tackling stains. As a plumber, I think that may be asking for trouble for some people. The valve may not move or the packing nut could leak. What my wife and I have done for years is simply fill a 2 or 2 1/2 gallon pail with water and them dump into the bowl as fast as it will take it. The do-not-overflow siphon action will leave little or no water in bowl This also can clear many nuisance toilet clogs. Just my two cents worth. Again, great column. Jim

This: These Bugs Detect Water Leaks You Cannot See

Heal the Heartbreak of Scratches on Stainless Steel

Get those brushed metal surfaces back in shape with the right tools and these tips

As sleek and sturdy as it is, stainless steel is not immune to picking up unsightly scratches in the course of everyday household activities. They show up on sinks, appliances, cabinet hardware and stainless counters, too.

There’s a good chance you can restore your scratched metal surfaces, provided you use the right tools and closely follow these tips.

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COATED OR NOT?

Some stainless steel appliances and products these days are finished in the factory with a protective synthetic clear coat to reduce the occurrence of fingerprints showing up on the surface. While subtle, I can tell the difference between coated and uncoated stainless steel simply by looking at it. If you are not sure if your stainless is coated or not, check with the manufacturer or look in the owner manual.

Caution: DO NOT use any of the following techniques on coated stainless. You will end up with a much worse problem than you have already. Sadly, if your stainless is coated and scratched, you may have to learn to live with it. The following techniques are for uncoated stainless steel only.

A Stain Treatment Worth Its Salt and More Great Reader Tips!

It was a lovely meal. The conversation was engaging, the entrée delightful—a good time was had by all. The guests are long gone and now you’re stuck with an ugly red wine stain on your prized tablecloth. Is this linen destined for the rag bag? Not if you know this super simple solution:

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RED WINE STAINS. If you get red wine on a washable tablecloth or napkin, spread the stained portion over a bowl or your kitchen sink. Now liberally sprinkle ordinary table salt on top of the stain. Next, pour boiling water over the salt and through the cloth to take out the stain. Provided you can do this while that stain is still fresh, this works really well. Josie

SIMPLIFY STORAGE. Here’s my “simplify tactic” for those darn plastic storage containers we use for leftovers. I have three sizes, all the same—the cheap brand I find at the grocery store. Each size is stackable. I don’t save plastic butter, cottage cheese, and cream cheese containers for leftovers. I only use the three sizes. I add to the collection if needed, only the three sizes, only the same brand. That way I am not hopelessly looking for lids to fit whatever stray bottom I want to use, and they are easy to store in the fridge. Amazing. Val

Great Ways to Use This for That!

One of the best ways to recycle responsibly, and save a few bucks at the same time, is to find a second life for something you might otherwise toss in the trash.

Some ideas are pretty well-known, like using plastic grocery bags for trashcan liners and the lid from a liquid detergent container for measuring cup or a biscuit cutter. So, when a reader sends in a tip for how to use “this for that,” that I’ve not heard of before—or an idea for how to use something I have already to avoid buying something I don’t—that reader gets my attention!

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BREAD TABS. Save those little plastic bread tabs to use as labels to mark various power cords, especially the ones in remote places such as behind the entertainment center. Use a permanent marker to write “Printer” or “DVD,” etc. on the tab that ready to slip onto the cord. Tom

CARPET THE GARDEN. We have a mole problem in our neighborhood and the critters get into everything, leaving lovely mole-hills all over our lawn! My neighbor placed old pieces of carpet, fuzzy side down, on the bottom of his garden boxes with the dirt on top. It works great because moles dig but they don’t chew. In 15 years, he has never had moles munching on his veggies. We are planning to replace the carpet in our sons’ room with laminate and now we have a use for the old carpet. Katrina

Burnt Cookie Rescue and More Great Reader Tips

Opening my mail to find a clever tip from one of my loyal readers about how to rescue burnt cookies took me back to my childhood.

My mother used to scrape burned toast with the back of a butter knife until it wasn’t burned anymore! Funny how visuals like that can get tucked away in our memories, isn’t it?

TOOTHPICK HOLDER. I needed something to hold toothpicks, so I cleaned out a short votive candle holder. It is just the right size and looks good, too. Tara

CLIP-ON BOOKMARKS. Metal snap hair clips make great, inexpensive bookmarks. You can snap the point of the clip so it points directly to the place on the page where you stopped reading. The clips hold onto the pages without ripping them. Available at the dollar store. Raquel

BURNT COOKIE RESCUE. Don’t throw away those burnt cookies. Wait a day or two until they set up and are hard and then take them to the cheese grater. Grate off the burnt surface on the fine side of your grater. That thin, burnt, bottom surface is only a fraction of the thickness of the whole cookie. You will be left with a delicious cookie that some people would never know had been burnt. It sure beats whipping up a whole new batch. John

CURLY NOT FRIZZY. I have curly hair. Instead of buying gel for curly hair, I leave use regular conditioner and just leave it in; don’t rinse and just towel dry. I blow dry my hair, scrunching it without a brush. Some frizz may appear again. I simply place small amounts of conditioner in my hand and work it through the frizzy areas. My hair stays soft and not sticky. Marianne

TWO FOR ONE. To achieve two of my New Year’s resolutions— to get more exercise and do more volunteer work—I’ve signed up to walk dogs at my local animal shelter. Dana

FREEZER SAFE. I keep my important papers in a heavy freezer bag, in the deep freeze. I hear that in a fire the inside of the freezer won’t burn. Besides, the bank said there is a waiting list for safe deposit boxes as long as my arm. Jill

ODOR NO MORE. Vanilla is a great scent to mask odors in the fridge. Pour vanilla extract on a cotton ball and place in a small bowl inside the fridge. Caprice

VINYL CLEAN. To clean the vinyl straps on some outdoor furniture, spray on shaving cream. Let it stand for a bit and then wash off. It cleans the mold left on over the winter. My furniture looked like new. Bobbie

POLISH EXTENDER. One way to make those expensive little bottles of nail polish last longer is to store them in the refrigerator between uses. The polish won’t thicken as quickly if it is kept cold while sealed tightly. Patricia

TEAR-FREE HAIRCUTS. Before cutting your child’s (or spouse’s) hair, rub down their neck with cornstarch. This will keep the cut pieces of hair from sticking to their skin and itching. My son used to cry like he was dying whenever I cut his hair. Now haircuts are tear-free. Jan

FLUFFY ICING. When you buy a container of cake frosting, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size and frost more cakes or cupcakes with the same amount. A nutritional benefit to this is that you’ll also eat less sugar and fewer calories per serving. Sue

NEW HARDWARE. Wish you had the funds to update your kitchen? Instead of installing brand new cabinets, save some money by switching out the hardware: old handles and knobs for brand new ones. They’ll give the room a new look. Robert

CARPET CLEANER. Instead of using expensive solutions for carpet shampoo, use a mixture of peroxide, hot water, and a tiny amount of liquid laundry soap. We used Era, and our carpets are spotless! Plus, the Era made it smell wonderful. Julie

SCUFFY SHOES. Remove scuffs from vinyl shoes by rubbing with a little non-acetone nail polish remover on a cotton ball. Jean

TISSUE HOLDER. The empty container for Altoids mints is the perfect size for storing my tissues in my handbag. Ethel

CAT HAIR MAGNET. The hair from my cats gets all over the furniture. I discovered that by rubbing a dryer sheet over the surface the hair just comes right up. And I can just toss the sheet when I’m done. Lucy

A Nappy Solution for a Common Problem

I love to discover a second use for something most of us have around the house or can easily find. Today’s first tip may give you a big surprise, but for sure a big laugh. By the way, this really works!

POTTY LINER. Line the bottom of baskets and pots with a disposable diaper (yes, clean and unused!) before you put in the potting soil and plants. This keeps the soil from rushing out of the drainage hole and helps retain soil moisture while still allowing the plant to drain. Stacy L.

photo credit: ladybirdln.com

BETTER RUG GRIPPER. Recently I purchase a product, Rug Gripper, for my 5-ft x 3-ft kitchen rug, which was unsatisfactory because it didn’t work to keep the rug in place. I got the bright idea to use a roll of rubberized shelf liner, which I happened to have already. It worked great to keep the rug in place. I am very happy with the results. Florence

SECURITY COMPLIANT. My mom came to visit me recently, she lives in Texas and I live in Kansas City. When I took her to the airport to go home, I had this brilliant idea! I gave her an empty water bottle and told her to fill it up after she got through security so she wouldn’t have to spend $5 to buy water on the other side.  My mom said, “No thanks, I have two empty bottles already in my purse.” HA! Why didn’t she tell ME that a long time ago? Amanda 

THE LAST DAB. To get the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube I use a pair of pliers to squeeze the end near the cap. I can get at least a week more out of the tube. Beverly P., Pennsylvania

HANDY TWINE. To have garden twine handy when you need it, stick a ball of twine in a small clay pot, pull the end of the twine through the drainage hole, and set the pot upside down in the garden. Tuck a small pair of scissors in there as well and you’ll be set and ready to next time you need to tie up a vine or stake. Greg. N., Kansas

DIY DEODORANT. Due to the heavy toxins in commercial deodorant, I’ve wanted to stop using it for years, but didn’t know what the alternatives were. Recently, I stumbled on a recipe for homemade deodorant: 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup cornstarch, and 5 tablespoons organic coconut oil. Combine baking soda and cornstarch in a small bowl and mix with a fork. Add the coconut oil, and continue stirring as you work it into a paste. Heat in microwave for about 20 seconds then stir again to fully incorporate all of the ingredients. Store in a small, air-tight container. Sheri R., email

HANDY MEASURE. Turn a long-handled garden or another tool into a measuring stick. Just lay it on the ground placing a measuring tape next to it. Using a permanent marker, write inch and foot marks on the handle. When you need to space plants a certain distance apart (from just an inch to several feet) you’ll have a handy measuring device right there in your hand. Jasmine

Question: Will you be planting a garden this year? 

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