Shhhhh — Secret Tips for Household Tricks

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Have you noticed that your glasses are coming out of the dishwasher more cloudy than sparkling? My mother-in-law posed this question when I had just been noticing that my glasses were looking a bit unappetizing. She had noticed it, did a bit of research, and found out that phosphates (the magic “sparkle” ingredient) have been removed from all dishwasher detergents. The result? If you have hard water, you’ll see a white film , which is calcium carbonate. She had also found out what to do, and it was as easy as using vinegar (see steps below). The whole thing got me thinking–what other “secret tricks” are out there which make running the household a bit easier? I went on a quest to find out, and turned up the following. . .

Cloudy Dishes

The problem: As I mention above, phosphates have been removed from detergents. Why? Phosphates are bad for the environment because they cause algae growth. States were starting to ban the ingredient, so as a result, the manufactures of dishwasher soap decided to reformulate their product. The only problem is that without phosphate, you get the cloudy residue.

The solution: Pour two cups of distilled white vinegar in a bowl, and then place the bowl in the bottom of your (empty) dishwasher. Run the dishwasher. This will clean your unit, causing dishes to sparkle once again. You should probably do this about once a month.

To prevent further build-up, Kelly Lopez recommends using Tang (yes, the drink mix). Add just a little and run a normal dish cycle. Works like a charm because of the high ascorbic acid in the Tang powder.

Your Garbage Disposal Seems to be Dying a Slow Death

The problem: Your garbage disposal isn’t chopping up as efficiently as it was before, and it just plain smells.

The solution: Steve Ash, Service Director for says to clear your garbage disposal of blockage and buildup with the combination of ice and salt or vinegar, topped off with citrus peels for a fresh scent.

Toilet Rings

The problem: The ring around your toilet’s water edge is fast growing and yucky.

The solution: Mary Findley, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Cleaning and owner of Mary Moppins, recommends eliminating those rings by doing the following:

Pour a cup of distilled white vinegar in the toilet once a month to prevent rings around the toilet. After you pour it in, do a thorough cleaning.

After you clean the bowl, back the water out (put on a rubber glove and push your fist into the hole) and dry the bowl. Apply a car wax that is free from petroleum distillates and made with polymers (not carnauba wax). Spray it around the toilet bowl and wipe to spread evenly. Wait 10 minutes and bring the water back in. Polymers make the surface slick so nothing sticks and cleaning the toilet is so much easier.

Removing a Broken Light Bulb

The problem: You tried screwing the light bulb out, but it broke and is now stuck in the socket.

The solution: Cut a baking potato to make it the same size (in circumference) of the light fixture. Make sure the power is turned off, then stick the potato, raw side in, to the fixture. Turn, and out comes the broken piece.

Cleaning the Inside of the Microwave

The problem: Your microwave needs cleaning and the thought of scrubbing month old marinara makes you want to cry.

The solution: Steve Ash, Service Director for recommends warming a mug of  half hot water and half  distilled white vinegar in the microwave. The steam will help loosen caked-on stains before you even start.

Finding a New Use for an Old Thing, PLUS, No One Loses Their Glass

The problem: At the soirees you host, no one can remember where they put down their glass, so they fill a new one. This results in half full glasses of wasted drinks, plus a boat load of dishes that you need to wash.

The Solution: Entertaining expert, eHow Food Rachael Ray Buddy Evette Rios gives this tip: Reuse those thick rubber bands from broccoli bunches and turn them inside out for a colorful ‘ID necklace’ for your guests’ drinks, no matter what size or shape the glass is.

Guests can write their names on with a Sharpie or ballpoint pen. It’s simple, cheap, effective, and cute!

Ink Stains

The problem: Your tiny tot just wrote on your favorite shirt with ballpoint pen.

The solution: Kelly Lopez says that rubbing alcohol works wonders on getting ink stains out of laundry–just blot with a clean, dry, white cloth until color is gone. Then launder as usual.

Your Refrigerator Seems to be Running Warm

The problem: It seems as if your refrigerator isn’t as cold as it used to be.

The solution: Maintaining your refrigerator’s gaskets, the plastic strip that forms a seal between the fridge and doors, will keep the appliance running efficiently and help extends its life. Coat the gaskets with a thin film of Vaseline to help them stay elastic and form a better seal, says Steve Ash, Service Director for

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  1. Just a quick tip about cloudy glasses. Instead of buying JetDry, simply fill reservoir with plain white vinegar. Works great and much cheaper. I haven’t used JetDry in over 7 years.

  2. What car wax do you use. I can’t find a car wax that is free from petroleum distillates and made with polymers and isn’t carnauba wax.

  3. This is Mary Findley who gave the tip. I carry a distillate free wax called Advantage on my website You might also try 303. Most of their products are distillate free and I believe they have come out with one that is made with polymers rather than carnauba. There are not many of us making distillate free car waxes even though the paint manufactures recommend avoiding it. You are welcome to email me from my contact page on my website if you need further help.

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