Cheap tricks

Handy household hacks that use more imagination than money

Posted on Dec 20 2018 in Features

Fixing a recurring, irritating problem or adding just that right light touch to a drab room can be done without that hard-to-find “right” tool or “right” bauble. An effective solution could be right under your nose at the local general store or already in that junk drawer in the kitchen. It just takes the right “hack” to
give new life and purpose to old stuff or cleverly upcycle affordable finds into something that looks much more luxe.

Fortunately, Pinterest, YouTube and other internet sites provide hundreds of household hacks right at your fingertips. And here are 22 hacks we’ve found or come up with that can get you started.

Need wall hooks for a kid’s room?

A stylish design these days uses safari animals as the hooks. You can make these from inexpensive solid plastic animals. Simply place the animal in a vice and carefully cut them in half with, appropriately enough, a hack saw. You can paint them to match the decor. To mount them to the wall, we recommend first screwing them onto a flat piece of wood or craft wood plaques by running a screw or two through the back of the wood into the animal. Or, if you want to mount them directly to a wall, experiment with using picture mounting hardware on the back of the critter to figure what might work best for your particular animal. You can even paint and mount the back half of the critter, if you want no piece of the animal to go unused.

Feather duster flew the coop?

Use dryer sheets. You can dust your baseboards or even clean soap scum from the shower glass with them. And they leave the room smelling nice, too.

Have hard water stains inside your fancy glasses that you can’t reach into?

Fill the glass full of white rice, add water, cover and shake. The rice acts like a gentle abrasive to scour the nooks and crannies clean.

Wooden utensils as kitchen displays?

If you ever watch Chip and Joanna Gaines on HGTV, you know Wooden utensils are a popular kitchen display motif. You can make these yourself with wooden utensils dipped in the paint of your choice to create “Magnolia Home”-style kitchenware. Use non-toxic paints and a clear coat just on the handles if you want to use the utensils for food preparation.

Patching or painting walls?

To remove the dust or cobwebs, etc., use a floor Swiffer or other mopping system with cleaning sheets. It allows you to reach all the way to the ceiling and works a lot better than going up and down on a ladder with a towel and all that arm movement.

Need space to hang laundry to dry?

A spring-loaded shower curtain rod over the bathtub makes a great laundry drying area for things you don’t want to put in the dryer. Put the item on plastic hangers to avoid rust stains, and the rod will hold a lot in a small space. As an added bonus: if you don’t use the tub much for bathing, it works as a second closet until you get time to finally put the clothes away!

Get creative with hand soap

Make your own foaming hand soap at great savings by refilling an empty foaming soap container a quarter of the way with regular liquid hand soap and the rest with water.

Running out of storage space in your house?

Simply look up. In an unfinished basement for instance, you have lots of space between the floor joists. Run a wire shelf rack or scrap strips of wood across the joists, and you’ve just created a storage area that takes no additional space. Find boxes or get plastic containers that fit into the approximate 14-inch wide by 9-inch tall space to store Christmas decorations out of season or whatnots throughout the year.

Zip ties: the modern duct tape

Zip ties are the modern home’s “duct tape.” They can be used for almost anything that needs attached or extra securing. Unlike duct tape, they don’t leave a sticky residue behind. Think of using zip ties to temporarily secure items to other things without damaging either item. For example, zip tie a baby gate to a stair banister for extra sturdiness without damaging the wood.

A handy, homemade basked

Need a basket to keep your back copies of Electric Consumer, sewing items, electronic chargers or snuggly blanket handy beside your easy chair? Here’s an easy solution that won’t cost fancy store prices.

A simple plastic basket, some burly “nautical” rope and glue will make an attractive “rope basket” in no time.

Start at the very top of the basket and apply glue and press the end of the rope onto the glue. (To ensure the rope is extra secure, you may want to make two slits with an X-acto knife just above and below the rope where it starts. Loop a zip tie through the slits, rotate its lock so it will not be as visible, and pull it tight to anchor the rope. Snip off the excess zip ti

Apply thin lines of glue a couple of inches long every several inches horizontally around the basket. Wrap the rope around the basket on the glue keeping it taut as you go. Then apply glue right under the first line of rope, and continue wrapping the rope on the basket right against the first line of rope. Continue alternating the glue and rope till you spiral to the bottom and your basket is covered in rope. If you’d like, line the basket with an attractive piece of cloth to finish it off.

Need help with a clogged drain?

Make a drain snake. Cleaning out a drain is quite possibly one of the most disgusting parts of cleaning the bathroom, but it’s a necessary task when the water won’t drain properly from a sink or bathtub. If you find yourself dealing with a clogged drain and you don’t have a drain snake handy, don’t worry. Create a drain snake by cutting slits in a zip tie. And since zip ties won’t slip off once you’ve zipped them through the lock, you can string your zip ties together to add to the length of your snake to go deeper than ones you’d usually buy at the store.


Bird feeders are a delight this time of year, but the bags of seed are sometimes a pain. They rip open, and in your rush to get out of the cold weather, you end up spilling more seed on the ground than you get into the feeder. Or the bags fall over and you spill seed.

Cut the bottom from a plastic jar. Then, carefully slice open the a top corner of the feed bag and thread it through the bottom of the jar’s opening. Pull the plastic down around the outside of the jar and you have a pourable bag of seed. Screw the cap on the jar when done. The threads usually work over the plastic bag and make a tight seal.

Or, cut the bottom off a plastic milk jug and you have scoop and a funnel to refill the bird feeder.

Mobile paper towel dispenser

Cut the bottom side of a triangular plastic or metal coat hanger several inches from the corners and use it as a mobile paper towel dispenser. Hang it on a cabinet handle or anywhere you need to clean up a spill or dab up the puppy’s “accident” so that the roll can stay cleanly above the fray.

Make a bigger, brighter lantern

Use zip ties or bungee cords to attach a battery-powered torch or flashlight tightly against the side of an empty plastic water or milk jug to get a bigger, brighter lantern.

Serve condiments easily

Use a muffin tin to serve condiments at a barbecue. It also cuts down on dishes to wash later!

New use for plastic clothes hanger clips

Whenever you buy new garments, often, plastic clothes hangers with clips comes with them. Snip off the clips and use them to seal opened bags of chips.

Drywall dust catcher

When drilling a hole into dry wall, bend a Post-It note into a V-shape and attach it to the wall directly below where you need to drill to catch the dust.

Do away with static electricity

Eliminate static electricity in your pants legs with a safety pin pinned in the cuff.

Contain your paint spray

Spray Painting a small craft object like your son’s Pinewood Derby car or your animal wall hangers? Use a large corrugated box to keep the paint confined. Simply turn the box on its side. Prop up the object with scrap wood inside the box or dangle it from string tied through what’s now the top of the box. Use the flaps on the box as doors to control the size of the opening. You’ll still want to spray in an open area to avoid a build up of fumes, but the box will confine the overspray.

Pool noodles to the rescue

• To protect your car door and/or drywall in your garage, use a pool noodle or extra pipe insulators cut in half and mounted to the side of your garage.

• Use a pool noodle under the fitted sheet on the edge of a bed to help keep restless sleeping toddlers from falling out of bed. 

No more flopping over. Cut pool noodles to fit into tall leather boots when you store them to help keep their shape.