14 household items that make great tools

June 30, 2015

Many common problems can be fixed in minutes without any conventional tools. The solution might already be waiting in your storage closet, bathroom cabinet or even your fruit bowl. These tools are magic because they are invisible until you know what to look for, and because they work in astonishing and unbelievable ways.  

14 household items that make great tools

1. Microfibre cloth

  • Conventional cleaning cloths are made from cotton fibres that — at microscopic scale — are large and smooth.
  • Synthetic microfibres are more than 100 times thinner than a human hair.
  • When woven into a cloth, these fibres have immense cleaning power.
  • They pick up dirt very effectively without the need for detergent or other cleaning agents.

2. Aluminum foil

  • Foil is just about the most versatile tool in your kitchen.
  • Its surface is covered with a layer of oxide, which is an abrasive, so crumpled sheets of foil are perfect for scrubbing off corrosion and dirt.

3. Pencil and eraser

  • The eraser on the end of the pencil is perfect for cleaning hard-to-reach surfaces.
  • And the graphite in the "lead" of the pencil is an effective oil-free lubricant.

4. Baking soda

  • The cleaning power of baking soda is still one of the best environmentally friendly cleaners you can use.
  • Chemists call it a "buffer," which means that it neutralizes both acids and bases, so it will also absorb and get rid of nasty odours.

5. Hair spray

  • The holding agents and solvents in hair spray give it some remarkable properties.
  • It is a liquid when it is propelled from the can but quickly sets into a film that gives a water-resistant toughness.

6. White vinegar

  • Distilled vinegar is a great cleaning agent and disinfectant that kills most molds and bacteria, due to its high acidity.
  • It dissolves lime and other mineral deposits on glass and chrome, making it ideal for shining up bathroom fittings and cleaning sinks, though it should be diluted with water before use.

7. Candles

  • When you need to silence a squeaking door or free a reluctant drawer, there's no need to buy a special lubricant.
  • Rubbing candle wax on the stuck part will do the trick.

8. Hair dryer

  • When you need a source of heat that you can aim and control, reach for your hair dryer.
  • A blast of warm air will help lift spilled candle wax or sticky labels off furniture.

9. Plastic bags

  • Plastic bags have so many uses around the home and garden.
  • They make handy disposable gloves when working on an oily bike chain or spreading wax over furniture, and they double as waterproof socks if your rain boots leak.

10. Fruit

  • The citric acid in a lemon makes it a natural cleaner.
  • The same acid means that lemons are great at dissolving the lime that builds up on faucets and bathroom fixtures.

11. Duct tape

  • Duct tape was famously used to save the lives of the astronauts on board the ill-fated Apollo 13 lunar module, and no home — or spacecraft — should be without it.
  • This tough, cloth-backed tape has hundreds of uses.

12. Steel wool

  • This handy abrasive comes in grades ranging from superfine to coarse.
  • It can be shaped into almost any form, so it is great for getting into tight crevices.

13. Toothbrush

  • Don't chuck that old toothbrush — it's a valuable addition to your tool kit.
  • Use it to remove dust and grime from those hard-to-reach places, such as the cooling fans inside your computer or the corners of your oven or grill.

14. Plasticine

  • Plasticine is waterproof and workable, so you can use it to temporarily stem leaks.
  • And it stays flexible over time, meaning that you can use it as a shock absorber.
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