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Handy household tips
Here are some tips you might find useful.
Removing tea and coffee stains from cups and mugs
Those annoying brown stains that build up at the bottom of cups and mugs can be very difficult to remove, but here is a good tip:-
Put a couple of teaspoons of washing powder, such as Fairy Non Bio, into your stained mug, pour on hot water to cover the stains, stir, and leave for a few hours.
You will find the stains will usually dissolve into a soft scum which can then be washed off.
At the same time you may also be able to remove a build up of tea and coffee stains from stainless teaspoons by standing them in the solution.
Note: cleaning silver plated teaspoons this way is not recommended as the surface can be discoloured if left in the solution for too long.
Cleaning stainless steel teapots
Empty and wash out teapots straight away after use to avoid the build up of tannin stains. These can form a hard scale which is very difficult to remove. Repeated scraping and treatment with detergent solution, as above, will eventually remove built up scale but it is very hard work and may take several days.
Cleaning tarnished cutlery
Commercial cleaners can leave a rather unpleasant odour. Instead try a paste of lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda.
Removing grease from kitchen tiles
Grease from cooking collects on the tiles behind our gas hob, and if left it can be extremely difficult to remove.
To remove a build up, add water to Bicarbonate of Soda to make a thick paste. Spread this over the tiles and leave for 24 hours. This should soften the hardened grease. Then you can use an old credit card to scrape off most of the orange coloured grease, and finally go over with a non scratch scouring pad dipped in a hot solution of equal parts white vinegar and water.
Remember to wear rubber gloves.
If you have a long haired pet, it is important to inspect the roller brush occasionally to check that it has not become clogged with hairs. If necessary cut the hair to remove.
If your vacuum cleaner loses suction, check the bag and read the manual to see if there is a filter that needs to be cleaned occasionally.
Blocked sinks and basins
Bathroom basins can get blocked by a combination of greasy sludge and hair. It is much easier to deal with the problem before the the outlet is completely blocked. Regular use of an L shaped piece of wire to hook out hair and dislodge sludge, followed by flush with hot water will help prevent blockages. Sometimes follow up with use of a plunger if the outlet is running slowly.
Occasionally it may be necessary to undo the trap and empty built-up sludge into a bucket below. Poke with wire to dislodge matted hair and other debris.
Our kitchen drainer sink blocked and we found it necessary manually to unscrew and clear the U bend. Fat and fine soil had combined to form a hard paste completely blocking the U bend. Flushing regulary with hot water and washing up liquid will help to keep the outlet clear.
Pouring Bicarbonate of Soda powder down the sink and leaving to soak in the U bend overnight, followed by hot 50% white vinegar solution can help reduce fatty deposits but we have found pouring washing soda crystals down the sink has had little effect; ditto the use of HG (biological) kitchen drain unblocker.
Avoid pouring fat down the sink as it will solidify and form hard white fat deposits which will build up and may in time block the external drain. If that occurs lift the drain covers, get out your drain rods and use the corkscrew tip to cut through.
We have been reluctant to use strong hazardous chemicals, but you may find proprietary products do the job. Let us know if there are any that you think are particularly effective.
Stopcocks and valves
Consider turning stopcocks and gate valves on and off every six months or so to check they still work and reduce the chance of them seizing.
In spite of this, our gate valves eventually became unserviceable and we had them changed to full bore Pegler lever ball valves. These are quite easy to operate and provide a more positive shut off, but we will have to wait and see how reliable they will be in the long term.
Note: closing and opening the mains stopcocks can sometimes cause the spindle to drip. Gently tightening the gland of the stopcock does not always fix that, so you might prefer not to touch it except in an emergency. If the spindle is stiff try a drop or two of WD40; do not apply too much force because of the risk of shearing the brass spindle.
The splines of plastic tap tops don't seem to last long and replacements that fit can be difficult to obtain, so we have gradually fitted Bristan Tap Revivers with metal tops to our taps. These come with adaptors that fit most taps and can be obtained from County Plumbing supplies (located behind M&S).
Another brand, Swirl Tap Revivers, can be obtained from B&Q and from Screwfix.
Gas in the central heating pipework can cause an irritating gurgle and in extreme cases cause the pump to whine or wear out prematurely.
Gas can be produced by corrosion so using a good corrosion inhibitor such as Fernox can be a good idea.
The overflow starts dripping and you realise a cistern washer may need changing. Sometimes the valve cannot be undone, to change the washer, due to a build up of scale, in which case you may find the best thing is to replace the whole valve assembly.
Preventing invasion by flying ants
Once a year on a sunny hot day in July the house would be invaded by a swarm of flying ants which entered through a gap chewed at a corner of a door. Blocking the gap did not appear to deter them.
Our solution was 'home made ant killer' placed outside in plastic milk bottle tops in May and June near their run. The ants presumably took the bait back to their nest where it detroyed the queen, as we saw no further trace of them.
Possibly this might also destroy ant nests which make large humps in your lawn, which can cause problems when you mow the grass.
Protect the bait from rain, pets, birds, inquisitive children (and your lawn mower).
Recipe for ant killer
1 heaped teaspoon of granulated sugar
1 level teaspoon of boric acid powder
3 teaspoons or so of hot water to make a sticky liquid or paste.
General hand protection around the home.
To protect your hands while painting and handling household chemicals or working on the car, we can recommend Kimberly-Clarke, KleenGuard G10 powder free, blue nitrile gloves.
These provide better protection from oil and petrol than cheap plastic gloves, are not lubricated with powder that might irritate the skin and allow a good measure of manual dexterity. The cost is about £20 for a box of 200 and the gloves can be obtained by mail order from Choice Stationery and other suppliers.
Note these particular gloves cover the hand but not the wrist.
Those yellow Marigold washing up gloves commonly found in the supermarket are usually powder coated and can be a tight fit. Waitrose Sensitive silky smooth unlined gloves were more generously sized and we preferred them but in Summer 2018 these disappeared from the shelf. However Morrisons now sell a new line 'Spontex Silky' unlined gloves which look similar - we have yet to open the packet, but will keep you posted. Typically medium size is stocked but not large - men are obviously not expected to do washing up!
Descaling kettles, steamers, shower heads and tap parts
As an alternative to using a commercial descaler from the supermarket, you can try a 50% solution of white wine vinegar and warm water. Soak until the limescale has disappeared, then empty and flush out kettle with cold water.
Another alternative is to use a solution of citric acid powder. Put about three tablespoons of powder into a 2 litre plastic jug and add 500 ml of hot water. Stir and pour into the kettle. Wait untill fizzing stops, empty and flush out with cold water.
Citric acid powder can be obtained by mail order eg from Interlabs, through the Amazon website.
Removing traces of fish odour from pans
After cleaning the pan pour in some malt vinegar add warm water, cover with the lid and leave for an hour.
Coping with young children
A niece recently passed on these rhymes to encourage young children to try new experiences and put toys away after play.
'Don't say no, say have a go'
'After play, put away'
If you have useful tips or rhymes to pass on, we would like to hear from you.
Only attempt jobs if you are competent. No liability is accepted for inaccurate information. Always read product directions and safety information, and if in doubt consult a competent person.
Last updated 13th July 2019