Household Tips

Here are 8 Old-Time Solutions to modern domestic problems.

When it comes to keeping house, our grandmothers had it figured out—and they did so on a dime! We don’t have to look farther than the vintage copies of the Farmer’s Almanac, Reader’s Digest, and a household cleaning book circa 1950 for all the useful solutions to the common domestic problems that still plague our homes. Here are eight fast and thrifty solutions your grandma probably figured out long ago.

1. Stained Tupperware
Tupperware often stains after we put something with a lot of color—usually a tomato-based sauce—in the container. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, a great way to get rid of the stain is to take a wet cloth and scrub it away with baking soda. (Like white vinegar, baking soda plays prominently in many homemade cleaning solutions.) Another way to rid the color is to fill the Tupperware with water and drop in denture cleaning tablets, wait twenty or so minutes, and rinse out.

2. A Smelly Coffee Maker
Normally, an old coffee maker that starts to get a funky, burnt coffee smell would be reason to put it in the “give away” box and get a new one. But just because a drip coffee maker starts to emit something other than coffee aromas doesn’t mean it needs a replacement. Coffee-acid buildup is normal and can lead to a burnt bean smell that isn’t very pleasant. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, an easy to way to get rid of it is to pour white vinegar where the water normally goes and run the machine through its normal brewing process with a filter in. Repeat, but this time let the vinegar sit in the chamber for about a half an hour. Run the cycle and then run it twice through with fresh water. It should smell fresh and clean.

3. The Ants Are Attacking!
Ants usually invade the home when it’s rainy outside, though they can strike at any time they’re attracted to something sweet. Although there are numerous chemical solutions to get rid of them, many are toxic and shouldn’t be used around small children or pets. The Reader’s Digest book suggests an easy solution: grits. They expand in the ants’ stomachs and kill them. You can also try dried spearmint or peppermint near the spot where they’re coming in your house.

4. White Rings on the Table
I don’t own any wood furniture that hasn’t seen its share of wear and tear, but I know there are some people out there who strive for the shiny wood upon which no cold or hot container shall rest. But sometimes we forget the coasters (especially during parties) and that can ruin a clean grain. If this happens, make a paste of salad oil and salt and rub it into the ring that remains on the table. Let it sit for about an hour then wipe off with a cloth. Petroleum jelly, left on for a day, can also work. Another home remedy is a hot, dry iron and a cotton cloth. Fold the cloth over the stains, put the hot iron over the spot, move it around, and after about thirty seconds, the stains should be gone.

5. Dirty Drain or Small Clog
Without a garbage disposal, drains can get funky pretty fast. Even with a disposal, drains need a cleaning from the gunk that builds up. Try this: pour about 1/4 cup of baking soda down the drain followed by 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Cover with an upside down cup while it fizzes. Leave for about twenty minutes and flush out with four or so cups of boiling hot water. Your drain will be clean and gunk-free. If the drain is still moving slowly and has a serious clog, instead of a harsh chemical try using your bathroom plunger to loosen up the clog—works every time!

6. Mildewed Houseplants
During humid weather or due to overwatering, houseplants—like outdoor roses, vegetables, and other plants—can develop powdery mildew, which presents as white dust on leaves. For a simple solution, make a paste of one teaspoon baking soda mixed with several drops of vegetable oil dissolved in about two cups of water. Spray or paint it on the leaves.

7. Out of Baking Powder
There’s nothing more frustrating than being in the throws of a recipe and realizing you’re out of a certain ingredient. Some things you can substitute, but others, like baking powder, you can’t. The chemistry in baked goods just doesn’t work out right. But, if you happen to have baking soda, cornstarch, and cream of tartar, you can make your own baking powder. Mix one tablespoon baking soda, one teaspoon cornstarch, and one and a half tablespoons cream of tartar together. Voila!

8. A Damaged Window Screen
A ripped window screen is annoying because chances are, the tear will slowly get bigger and lets bugs in. An easy fix is painting over the spot with clear fingernail polish. Make sure to do both sides (if you can) and use several layers to coat it. Small tears are best because they aren’t as noticeable, so try to catch them early!

Alternate Uses For Coffee Filters

Ever buy the wrong size coffee filters? Instead of bringing them back to the store, here’s some other uses I found for them. Even if they aren’t the wrong size for your coffee maker, they can still be a perfect solution to many small problems around the house.

  1. Use them to clean your cable connectors. If you’re internet is lagging or your TV picture is fuzzy, it might be because the connectors on your cables are dirty and they need to be cleaned.
  2. They’re the perfect fix to stop bleeding from razor nicks when shaving.
  3. Use them to absorb the grease from fried foods. Put them on the plate and put your french fries, bacon and other fried food on top.
  4. Use a coffee filter to cover dishes when they’re cooking in the microwave to prevent messes.
  5. Use them to clean windows, mirrors, television screens and glasses. They’re lint free, so they won’t leave any residue behind when you’re done.
  6. Stop that Popsicle from dripping all over the place. Poke one or two holes in the filter and put the stick(s) through it.
  7. Line your plant pots with a filter to keep the soil from leaking out of the drainage holes when you water them.
  8. Put a filter inside cast-iron skillets to absorb excess moisture when it’s not in use to prevent rust and other wear.
  9. Separate your China and other good dishes by putting a coffee filter between each dish.
  10. Did the cork break into your wine? Use one to filter the cork out.
  11. Use a coffee filter to apply shoe polish.
  12. Put baking soda into a coffee filter and put it into shoes or a closet to absorb and prevent nasty odors. You can even put potpourri into the filter, tie it up and put into your drawers, etc.
  13. Use them to safely store your Christmas decorations and other small, fragile items.
  14. Use them store nails, screws and other small hardware so that they don’t go rolling all over the place, get lost or mixed together.
  15. You can use the cone-style coffee filters to safely pour in oil and other liquids into your car’s engine.
  16. Use them as bowls for popcorn, chips and other snacks.
  17. Liquids or something else spill onto your floor, sofa or other upholstery? Use a coffee filter to clean it up because unlike a paper towel, they won’t leave behind lint.
  18. Wrap them around tacos shells or hot dogs to prevent the grease and other things from spilling out.
  19. Did you run out of dryer sheets? You can put a few drops of fabric softener on a filter, rub sides together, and put in the dryer to help prevent static cling and make your clothes smell fresh.
  20.  Bring them along when you are working out. They’re great to wipe sweat and other oils off your face.


Winter’s just around the corner. While closed windows and doors are a no-brainer when it comes to keeping in the heat, they can also trap unpleasant household smells. So, here’s a quick lesson in odor removal (MSN):

 • Let’s start with a little instant dry cleaning for old clothes: Put a small amount of vodka in a spray bottle and lightly mist the garment. The alcohol kills bacteria without leaving a scent. Costumers use this trick to get the smell of mothballs, sweat, and mildew out of the vintage clothing in their wardrobes. 

 • Whenever you eat an orange, lemon, lime or grapefruit, run the peels through the garbage disposal. You’ll take care of sink stink without the risk harmful fumes.

 • Odor buster #3: Vanilla extract. If you wipe your freezer with a cloth dampened with vanilla, you’ll get rid of all the smells that linger on ice. To disinfect the freezer, use a solution of white vinegar and water. It gets the icebox clean without leaving a “chemical” smell.

 • To deodorize food storage containers, soak plastic ones in warm water and baking soda. For glass jars and dishes, use a mixture of one teaspoon powdered mustard to one quart of warm water. 

 • You can get rid of the musty odor in your basement by using an onion. Just slice it in half, put it on a plate and leave it overnight. The next morning there might be a slight onion smell, but that soon goes away – and takes the musty basement smell with it.

(From Justin) : I would love to hear about your “Easy Odor Removal” method. Comment on this blog and you might hear your method on the air. Just register as a user of this website, it’s free!