Struggling with jar lids or the cork on that third bottle of merlot? Our intrepid AG gang shares some tricksy tips to make life easier in home and garden…

Garry Coward-Williams, editor

As someone who is naturally absentminded and frankly not very lateral I just couldn’t think of any ‘life hacks’ I have done. However, I wanted to impart something helpful so I trawled the internet and found a few that I thought to be genuinely useful for AG readers.

Here they are:

1: For painting: Place a rubber band around an open can of paint so one end of the band sits across the centre of the open tin. Now when you dip your brush into the paint you can wipe the residue on the band. This means all the drips go back in the can and you don’t get paint on the sides of tin, making it easier to close after use.

2: Opening wine bottles: Don’t have a corkscrew? Get a screw from your toolbox, screw it into the top of the cork and then use the claw end of a claw hammer to lever the cork out.

A screw and a hammer gibe Garry easy access to his wine cellar (when he’s mislaid his corkscrew!)

I think this is a risky one, but in the interests of science I have already done the first bit, as you can see from the illustration above. At the time of writing the sun is quite a way from the yardarm, so I have yet to finish the task. I’ll keep you posted!

3: Bin-bag suction blues: Have trouble getting the plastic bin bag out of the bin when it’s full because of suction? Drill several holes in the side of the bin at the bottom so air can escape and it won’t happen again.


Wendy Humphries, letters editor

1: This little trick is a family favourite, in fact, it was my son Tom who told me about it. I would often spill juices or milk from a tetra pack style container.

Snip a hole in the top of the carton to stop juice spilling as you pour

The way to solve it is to make a small cut in the cardboard on the opposite side of the spout. Then, when you pour, the liquid runs smoothly without annoying big ‘glugs’ that always spill on the worktop.

2: I always plan the week’s meals in advance of going to the supermarket. That way, I only buy what we need and there’s less waste. It’s quite reassuring to know what’s coming each night, and if I am feeling organised, will get the slow cooker going in the morning. Then at the end of a long day,  I can spend time in the garden before supper!

3: I usually fill my watering cans and leave them by the greenhouse door each evening. This saves time, as they’re ready to go each day, and the plants prefer water that’s warm rather than receiving a shock from cold tap water.


Kathryn Wilson, features coordinator

1: If you save glass jars from jam etc to re-use for storing dried goods, these look a lot nicer without the original labels on. Getting them off is tricky, however, as although a good soak usually helps with the top layer, you’re often left with a gluey residue. To remove this, rub with a spot of cooking oil on a cloth.

2: One for the bakers: when a recipe calls for golden syrup it can be a right pain as the syrup sticks to the spoon, which is both messy and wasteful.

I use an old trick from school cookery lessons and tip water from a freshly boiled kettle over the (metal) spoon beforehand. This heats up the metal so the syrups slides off cleanly. You’ll need to do it for each spoonful, though.

Travel with toiletries in a knotted dog poo bag to avoid nasty spillages

3: My third tip is dog poo bags – yes, really. Leak-proof and (usually) biodegradable, they’re incredibly useful. If you’re packing to go away, put liquid toiletries like shampoo in these bags and tie tightly.

That way, if the cabin pressure on the plane loosens the lids, any spills are contained. You can also use them for wet swimwear after that last-minute dip before you head home.

And if you’re walking your dog and it’s hot, a poo bag makes an ad hoc water bowl. Fill, hold by the handles and put it close to your dog’s mouth – they’ll soon get the idea.


Janey Goulding, assistant editor

1: When life gives you lemons, as any domestic goddess knows, you’ve bagged yourself a fabulous cleaning agent. In domiciliary crisis, out should pop your lemons.

Mix juice with salt (four parts to one) to lift stains even in vintage fabrics or delicates, and add juice to laundry to give greys a lift. Rub the juicy flat edge across a cutting board to clean grooves. It even removes limescale from stainless steel.

Bonus hacks: Squeeze juice into warm water and soak fingers for 10mins for whiter nails. Lemon skin halves also make great pots for starting peppers and radishes from seed.

2: Want to save on first aid remedies? Try toothpaste: it’s more than just a pretty face! Grab some minty fresh pain relief for bug bites – it stops itching and accelerates healing.

Lichen metabolite Usnic acid is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Toothpaste is also soothing for minor burns, and reduces the swelling in spots; just apply in small quantities, and don’t leave on too long as it dries out the skin.

Bonus hacks: Spot a scratch on a CD or DVD? Buff with toothpaste and a soft cloth. This gritty little marvel also brightens up white keyboards and piano keys.

Tomato ketchup is great for cleaning the family silver. Picture: Alamy

3: You don’t need fancy polish to tart up tarnished silverware: just splash on the tomato ketchup! This wonder sauce contains acids that remove copper oxides (as sterling silver contains copper).

Sounds pongy, but it works: just dip silverware in ketchup for a few minutes before rinsing. Also works on sterling silver jewellery, copper pots and rusty garden furniture.

Bonus hacks: Ketchup is an amazing exfoliator mixed with sugar, and a safe way to soothe skin when shaving. And while it may be a while before we go swimming, ketchup repairs chlorine damage to hair: rub in for 20mins and rinse.


Les Upton, features editor

1: I always use bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) to clean the fridge as it removes odours and doesn’t leave behind a scent that food will absorb. I wash the (empty) fridge with very hot water and dry it with kitchen towel. I then mix one part of bicarbonate of soda with four parts of hot water and dry it using paper towels.

2: My second lifestyle hack is using furniture polish on the bathroom tiles, particularly around the shower. When we had our bathroom tiled, I cleaned the tiles with hot, soapy water and then sprayed all the tiles with furniture polish.

Then a quick buff with a microfibre cloth produced a lovely shine. The furniture polish also provides a protective layer on the tiles, making them easier to clean. Make sure you don’t use any furniture polish on the bath, though, as it will become very slippery!

Pringles tubes are ideal for carrying small amounts of plant food around the allotment – even better, you have to eat the crisps first!

3: My final hack involves using empty Pringle tubes in the garden. I buy my chicken manure pellets, lime, blood, fish & bone in big bags from the allotment trading shed. These are too heavy to carry around the allotment, so I decant some into Pringle tubes. The plastic lid also keeps the contents dry. And the tubes seem to last for ages!


Ruth Hayes, gardening editor

One of the earliest lifestyle hacks I learnt was the trick of keeping your duvet and sheet sets in one of their pillowcases, to avoid an unholy tangle in the laundry cupboard.

Everyone does that these days so here are three other tips that I think are worth sharing:

1: If you have a jar with a lid that won’t budge for love nor money, either tap it a couple of times on the side of the work surface or up-end it in a bowl and pour in some boiling water. Voila! The lid will come off with a satisfying plop.

Cutting the top off a tube of hand cream or moisturiser lets you use up every last drop

2: I suffer from very dry and sensitive skin so the house is littered with tubes of unguents and emollients bought in the hope they will help my skin. Just don’t get me started on the amount of money I’ve spent on supposed ‘miracle’ creams that only make matters worse.

Anyway, I’ve learned that when a tube feels empty with apparently nothing more to give, if you cut it open, about halfway down, you will find weeks of lotion clinging to the sides and ready to be scooped out and applied.

3: After cutting back your trees and shrubs don’t compost all the prunings. Instead, bundle together the longer, more shapely ones and store them to use as pea sticks and plant supports next summer. They are just as good as canes and other bought supports and look more attractive and less obtrusive.

And finally, your onus hack – having trouble remembering which way to turn a screw to loosen it? Just think ‘righty tighty, lefty loosey’ and you’ll be fine.


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