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Homely Hacks

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Everyday household problems should have simple household solutions! Purva Indulkar & Khevna Pandit tell you how to maintain your home with ordinary items

That leaky tap that you’re ignoring, the plastic wrappers that have clogged your drain and all the leftovers in your fridge — is your house just a little less organised than it should be? While guests won’t notice a stray stain on the dining table, dust and dirt can build up in the most unassuming corners. To help you get stains out of your furniture, keep your walls clean and your fruits fresh, we’ve got some tips and tricks that will help you out. Take a look!

Keeping your apples from browning
It only takes a few minutes to chop up apples for a salad, but by the time you’ve got the other ingredients and the dressing ready, they’re already squishy, tasteless and brown. The process of this browning (also known as enzymatic browning) takes place when the inner parts of the fruit are exposed to oxygen. Chemical compounds such as phenols and enzymes are released when apples are hit, punctured, bruised or shuffled — these react with the oxygen and start the process of oxidation. This changes the appearance of the apple and also alters its texture and taste. To delay this, place the apple slices in a cool environment or soak them in ice-cold water for 15 to 30 minutes immediately after cutting them. You can also mix sliced apples with other fruits — acidic fruits such as oranges, pineapples or kiwi can keep your apples from browning.

Remove permanent marker ink
Whether your children are aspiring Picassos or the previous residents of your new home have left an unpleasant gift behind in the form of these pen marks, don’t worry because permanent marker ink can be removed. If there are marks on a fabric, dab a cotton ball with some alcohol, hand sanitiser, aerosol hairspray or nail-polish remover and rub them off. While doing this, put a paper towel between the stain and the other side of the fabric to keep the stain from transferring. If the stain is on your walls, avoid scrubbing it — you might peel off the paint. Use the same products and rub them on the wall — lightly, until the stain disappears.

Remove stains from wood
Even if you’re extremely careful, your dining table or kitchen counter is bound to have stains that include drops of coffee, water or other liquids that have sloshed up over the rim of your glass. However, don’t worry, you can rub the area with furniture polish, mayonnaise or petroleum jelly. You can also put a little toothpaste (they contain a mild abrasive) on a wet cloth and rub the stain off gently. If the stain doesn’t budge and you need a stronger concoction, use equal amounts of baking soda and toothpaste as a more effective remedy. After you’ve gotten rid of the water mark, wax your furniture for a nice, long-lasting finish.

Remove odour from your home
Whether you keep your kitchen dirty, you have a messy pet or you live near a dump, a bad odour permeating through your house can be frustrating and embarrassing. If people smoke indoors, add some baking soda on your carpets and vacuum it off the next morning for a fresh feel. You can also fill a nylon stocking full of cat litter and place it in a discreet corner of your room to absorb odours. If your pet (or infant) has an ‘accident’, clean up the space immediately.

Unclog your drains
Is your sink taking a little longer to drain? Is water beginning to pool around your feet? And, do you smell something unpleasant every time you pass by it? These are warning signs that your sink is clogged and unless you figure out why that is, it will soon be completely blocked! Ensue hysterical calls to plumbers and emergency restaurant outings. To avoid all of it, straighten out a wire hanger as best as you can, then bend one side to create a small hook. Push the curved part past the drain hole and start pulling whatever is clogging it. But, fair warning, if you push the items in any further, your drain will be completely blocked.

Sorting out storage issues
We know that it’s a pain to constantly organise the items in your home, but put a little thought into it to save time (and money, in some cases). Use magnetic strips on your cabinets and mason jars to keep them fixed to the wall — magnets are also useful when you want to keep tiny things like pins in place (that we otherwise lose so quickly). Another method is to use an old shoe holder to keep your pesky spatulas and beaters in place. No more drawers to open! If you’re fed up of losing your remote controls, Velcro them on to a wall in order to keep them visible.

Cook your eggs perfectly
How is this a household problem, you ask? Imagine how much of a mess eggs can make when they’re not handled correctly! Tired of broken yolks and misshapen sunny side ups? Do you often have trouble separating an egg white and the yolk? Try sucking the yolk of the egg into a bottle to separate them faster. If you’re afraid that your sunny side up will separate or break, crack the egg into an onion ring on the pan for a better result. See if your egg is fresh enough by sinking it into a glass of water. If it sinks, it’s a good egg, an old one is likely to float on the surface. If you have a batch of eggs that you won’t be using for a while, break them into an ice tray and freeze them to achieve a longer shelf life. Oh, and we’ve got another trick too — you can freeze them in a muffin tray to keep them in place.

Clean your carpet without a hassle
If cleaning your carpet isn’t the trickiest thing, we don’t know what is! But, you don’t need to invest in expensive carpet cleaners or vacuums till your carpet finally loses its fluff. Fed up of those pesky stains? Vacuum your carpet clean and dampen any spots or stains with a towel that is dipped in a solution made of vinegar and water. Put the moist towel over the stain and use a hot iron to heat the towel. As you move the iron over the towel, the stain should begin lifting itself on to the towel. Stop ironing when the stain has faded. You could make your own deodoriser by mixing 10-20 drops of essential oil with baking soda. Mix it well (till the oils are absorbed) and store it in a glass container for further use — simply shake it on to your carpet to get it smelling like flowers in no time! If your carpet is hard and it looks like a marching band just stepped all over it, fluff it up by spraying carpet stain remover, mixed with equal parts of vinegar and water. Allow the agent time to work and then blot up the stain. At this point, run a spoon along the carpet (hold the spoon on its side) to fluff it up and get the fibers to stand straight again. Finally, use an ice cube or a damp cloth over your carpet to clean any remaining furniture indentions on it.

Removing stains
We know how infuriating it can be to get rid of stains. Whether they’re dirt stains that you picked up while playing football or a splotch of acrylic paint that you accidently smeared on the wall while creating your masterpiece on canvas, the struggle is real! If it’s a paint stain on fabric, wait for it to dry, then use a razor over it to peel it off. For an oil-based paint stain that is still wet, remove as much of the paint as possible with a knife or spoon before blotting and rinsing it well. Place the fabric stain-side down over an absorbent cloth before sponging the back of the garment with a touch of turpentine. If it’s an ink stain, use a hair spray and sanitiser to pre-treat it, then wash it off gently. For a much peskier grease stain, sprinkle baby powder over it and then wait for it to get absorbed before you scrape it off. And if it is a much older stain, you could rub chalk over it. If you have chewing gum stuck on your fabric, freeze it and peel it off.

Keep your jewellery clean
Is your favourite silver going black again? Use ketchup for your silver jewellery (or even tarnished coins) and polish it up to look as good as new! Remember not to keep it on for too long, as the acidic content of the ketchup can end up damaging the metal. And, while we know that you don’t need to find a better use for alcohol, did you know that beer can bring back the shine on your gold-plated jewellery? However, ensure that it is gold-plated and does not have any gemstones on it. You could also spray a window cleaning solution on a piece of any metal jewellery or items with hard gemstones such as diamonds or rubies. Then scrub off the grit and grime with an old toothbrush. Finally, wipe off the jewellery with a clean cloth and it’ll be as good as new. To bring the dazzle back to your diamonds, pour some vodka on a clean cloth and wipe them to get the sheen back. With gemstones (especially expensive ones) be very careful.

We asked a few people to share their personal tips with us, and here’s what they had to say:

Lemon juice to the rescue
“With increasing dirt in the air and a rise in pollution levels, dirty clothes emanate a very strong smell. If you don’t have the time to wash an item you are about to wear and it smells really bad, an easy trick is to use lemon juice to remove the odour. Many people don’t know that lemon juice can do this! Here is how it works: mix 1 cup of water with 1 tbsp of lemon juice. Put this into a spray bottle and spritz it all over the shirt or garment. If this is not possible, then hang it to air-dry. Once dry, your clothes will have a fresh smell. This will release the odour and also save time. However, test the lemon juice on an inconspicuous part of clothing as it can discolour certain fabrics. Not only can lemon juice be used in several household hacks, it also has beauty benefits!”
— Aliya Mohammad Ismail, Kurla

Baking soda is the best
“As a housewife, I have a list of endless hacks because I’m very involved in maintaining the house. Having children means dealing with dirty clothes, so when they come home greasy, oily and sweaty, I rub some baking soda on the clothing stains to lighten them before they are sent for a wash. While my maid cooks, she sometimes drops oil on the floor or kitchen counter, so I ask her to throw on some wheat flour to pull the oil off the surface completely.”
— Madhavi Bhase, Vashi

Mirror mirror on the wall
“Mirrors get dirty and smudge very quickly. Whether it is because of the humid weather, makeup marks or soap stains, they’re hard to clean. To make my bathroom or dressing room mirrors shinier, I use black tea packets. Pour one into water, then let the tea dissolve in the water and pour it into a spray bottle. You will feel the difference when you spray it on the mirror and wipe it clean with tissues or newspaper. Do this weekly if you don’t want your mirror to collect a lot of dirt.”
— Shaikh Shagufta Haider, Kurla

Talcum talk
“I am a messy eater, so I often spill food or oil on my clothes. I apply talcum powder on the greasy spots and rub it to remove the stains. If you don’t have powder, you can also use cornstarch or salt. Leave it on (till the greasy spot is dry) and then remove the powder from your clothing with a paper towel or spoon. Wash it off with detergent powder and you should be able to see it dissolve. This works well since talcum powder and baby powder have special agents that fight grease.” 
— Sana Salim Khan, Thane

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