Roger's Handy Household Hints








Better Bonfires  Bird Scarer  Broken Glasses  Checking the Car  Christmas Economy  Door Catch 

Furniture Wedge  Grappling Hook  Happy Hoeing  Kitchen Tidy  Parking Aid  Perfect Poached Egg  

Picture Hooks  Precision Painting  Protect That Tailgate  Soap Saving  Sock Strings  Stubborn Bottle Tops



Better Bonfires


To make a better garden bonfire, first excavate a shallow conical pit of a size appropriate to the amount of debris you need to burn, and build your bonfire over it.  My bonfire pit is about five feet in diameter and a couple of feet deep at its maximum.


Wood burns best on its own embers.  With a pit, burnt material tends to fall back towards the middle and sustains the fire.  With the more usual heap on a flat surface, embers tend to fall away from the centre and the fire loses its momentum.



Bird Scarer


Use unwanted CDs tied to a pole to keep the birds away from your prize peas.










Broken Glasses, How to Avoid


The golden rule is, in the sink, only wash one at a time.




Checking the Car




When you lift the bonnet of your car to check fluid levels, do you have to unscrew the tops and try and peer in?  Dip your finger in to see if it comes out wet?


The fluid containers in modern cars are generally made of polythene, so take a powerful torch with you and shine it through the container:  you’ll see the level at a glance without having to get too close or get your hands dirty.  You’ll still need to use the dip-stick for the engine oil though.



Christmas Economy


Take care when removing large sheets of wrapping paper from large presents.  With a little trimming, you may be able to preserve the paper for use on slightly smaller presents next year.













PS  The same applies to birthdays too, though the savings will be more modest.


Door Catch


Make a simple door catch from a short length of wire cut from a metal coat hanger.  Just put a screw in the jamb a couple of inches from the door, leaving about a quarter of an inch sticking out, and bend one end of the wire round it – tight enough to stop it sliding off past the screw head.  Put a small screw-in eye or hook on the door, and bend the wire at the right length to engage with it.   Ready-made devices like this sell for 50p or so in the shops, so think of the saving.



Furniture Wedge


Does that chest of drawers wobble?  Does the bookcase tilt when you load it with books?




Separate the two halves of a wooden clothes peg, and there you have a couple of handy wedges to stabilise furniture on uneven floors.



Grappling Hook


Something rolled under the wardrobe?  Dropped in the narrow gap between the wall and the radiator?






Get it out with a grappling hook made from a metal coat hanger.  Simply snip the hanger just to one side of the hanging part, and unbend the wire.  There you have a long probe with a built-in grappling hook to locate and retrieve the lost object.  Eureka!



Happy Hoeing


When hoeing the vegetable patch, the most difficult part is where the cultivated soil meets the grassy (or other) surrounding area.  This is where grass and weeds will invade.  If you have dug properly, there will be a furrow at the edges, exposing deeper, firmer earth and making hoeing more difficult.


I have started filling these furrows round the edges with ash from the bonfire.  Not only does this discourage weed growth, but the ash itself does not compact, and stops the soil below getting baked and hard.


Result:  the hoe always glides easily around the edges, cutting off those weeds before they have a chance.



Kitchen Tidy


Keep an old polythene ice-cream container on your kitchen work-top to put odd scraps of rubbish in – used tea-bags, milk bottle tops, corners snipped off packets and cartons etc.  It’ll save a lot of time-wasting trips to the rubbish bin. 






And if you use an old supermarket bag in the container, you can lift the whole lot out in one go when it’s full.






Parking Aid


Don’t waste space in your garage or risk overshooting into the storage shelves at the back.


Position the car exactly where you want it – normally just far enough in to clear the doors when they close – then suspend an empty polythene container at bumper height from a length of cord fixed to a convenient point on the joists or rafters in the roof of the garage (these are generally left exposed).  Then, when you next drive in, you will know exactly when to stop.  You will see the cord move and have an audible warning as the container hits the bumper, but the light polythene will not damage the car.  Perfect!



The Perfect Poached Egg




Click here for my recipe for the perfect poached egg


Picture Hooks


If you live in an older house with picture rails, (or indeed in a new one – they’re coming back into fashion) don’t waste your money buying loads of picture hooks.


Take an old metal coat hanger and cut it into four inch lengths to make S-shaped hooks instead.  Bend about an inch at one end into a hook to fit over the rail and bend about half an inch at the other end (but the opposite way) from which to hang your picture. 


No need to leave those old pictures in the loft gathering dust – show them off!




Precision Painting


When you’re decorating, do you find it difficult to reach those awkward corners?  Is even a half-inch brush too big to cope with detailed mouldings?










Buy some artist’s oil painting brushes:  the long handles will enable you to reach where an ordinary paint brush won’t, and you’ll soon find out which size head is best for the work in hand.  They clean out very easily too.  You may even start to enjoy painting window frames!



Protect That Tailgate


In many a garage, the combination of an up-and-over door and the tailgate of an estate or hatch-back car can lead to damage.


Positioning your car accurately in the garage (see above), note where the tailgate makes contact with the raised door.  Find a piece of suitably cushioning material (I find carpet underlay ideal), and fix it securely to the door.


Now you can open the rear without causing damage.  (But don’t stop the car in the wrong place!)




Soap Saving


(courtesy of Tim)





Wonder what to do with the last, thin sliver of soap when the bar's almost, but not quite used up?







When you come to the smallest usable sized sliver of soap, let it soften in water for about a minute until just the surface is soft, and stick it to the new bar of soap that will replace it. You'll never waste any soap, and never have slivers of left-over soap lying around in soap dishes.



Sock Strings


Do you suffer from odd socks?  Do they go missing in the washing machine?  Can you never find a pair in a hurry?







Use Roger’s sock strings – a seven or eight inch length of tape tied round the welt of the two socks together before they are thrown into the washing basket.  The socks will go in together, come out together and will still be together when you need them.  Voila!



Stubborn Bottle Tops


How do you deal with that stubborn bottle top that won’t unscrew?  Trap it between the door and its frame and risk splintering the wood?  Use a pair of pliers and risk breaking the bottle?  Or reach for the nearest napkin or tea-towel, only to find that it offers no grip at all?



To provide a firm grip with a gentle touch, find an old deflated plastic ball (the kind sold for young kids) and cut out a hand-sized piece.  You will find the inside most incredibly grippy.  Put it round the bottle top, hold firmly and twist.  Hey presto!  You’ll wonder why you have ever struggled to unscrew a bottle top.



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Last amended 31 August 2008