How everyday household items can save you money

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How often do we replace items or spend more than we should on repairs because we don’t know how to do the job ourselves? If your answer is often, we might be able to help. A little ingenuity and know-how can go a long way.

How to save that cast iron pan
I have a beautiful cast iron frying pan passed on by my mother-in-law when it became too heavy for her to use. There are, however, signs of rust because it was left to air-dry on too many occasions. Is it retrievable? 

Cast iron manufacturers say to season all over again.

Wash the pan using steel wool, rinse and dry.

Melt some Copha or any vegetable shortening and apply a thin, even coating to the item. Spread aluminium foil on the bottom rack of the oven and heat it to 180C. Place the pan upside-down on the top rack and bake for an hour. Turn off the oven and let it cool before removing the pan.

It should be as good as new.

Remove water stains with mayonnaise
You have a lovely timber dining table or coffee table but water stains from glasses of cold liquids have spoilt it. Is the only solution to sand and polish? Hopefully not.

Place a good-sized spoonful of mayonnaise onto the ring, leave for about 30 minutes and wipe off. The stain should be gone. (We’re not sure what that mayonnaise does to your stomach!).

Fix a stuck zipper
Replacing a zipper can be so costly it’s often cheaper to replace the item. But there may be a way to get it unstuck and/or tracking correctly again.

Get a crayon in a similar colour to the item – or an ordinary lead pencil – and rub it up and down both sides of the zipper. The zipper should come unstuck and slide freely once again.

I’ve used soap and candle wax with some success – and I’ve even seen Windex suggested – but the experts are adamant that a crayon or lead pencil is best.

Extend the life of razor blades
Razor blades are ridiculously expensive. They’re now behind the counter at most supermarkets, because of their allure to shoplifters. So is there a way to make them last long?

A number of sources swear by this method.

Get an old pair of jeans, not your favourites. Lay them out flat and run a clean, dry used razor several times up the pants leg – holding the razor in the opposite direction to shaving. Then run it several times down the pants leg.

The theory, according to, is that the threads on the jeans sharpen the blades and can keep your blades satisfactorily operational for months.

Remove gum with peanut butter
Don’t give up on those shoes with gum on the sole. You may have tried placing the item in the freezer and then chiselling off the gum, but this may work better.

Spread a decent amount of peanut butter around and on the gum. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then scrub it off with some cold water.

Remove crayon from walls with toothpaste
I’ve been told a certain brand of men’s deodorant is used by cleaners employed to remove graffiti from painted surfaces. This method to remove crayon from walls, so you don’t have to buy sandpaper and paint, requires nothing more than a tube of white toothpaste – and that is paste not gel. Rub it on the marks and keep rubbing. It may not work on all wall surfaces, but it’s recommended by many.

Clean your grill with an onion
You forgot – or hoped someone else would do it – to clean your grill. Try this technique. Spear half a peeled white onion with a fork, and once the grill is hot, rub it all over the surface. The onion should clean off residue and season the grill. Hope you don’t mind the smell.

Make your own buttermilk
The recipe says buttermilk, but you don’t want to go to the shops again. Is there a substitute?

Pour a cup of milk for every cup of buttermilk in the recipe. Sour the milk by adding one tablespoon of white vinegar per cup of milk. Wait 10 minutes, and there you have it.

Do you have any favourite tips to solve problems and save money around the house?


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Written by Janelle Ward


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