Life hacks are quick, relatively easy, and usually fun things that save a bit of time or make your life a little easier. Try some simple hacks when you’re cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids, or even just relaxing on the beach. You can find endless lists of life hacks online, but always use your best judgment as to whether a hack is both useful and safe.
[Edit]Cooking and Food Prep Hacks
Lay a wooden spoon over the top of a pot to prevent a boil-over. The foaming bubbles created by boiling water are filled with steam. If they touch something at a temperature below , the steam will condense (change back into a liquid) and break the surface tension of the bubbles.
A wooden spoon is the best choice because a plastic spoon might melt and a metal spoon will get very hot to the touch.
Make Ramen Noodles in a coffee maker for a quick meal. Put the noodles in the carafe and add the recommended amount of water to the reservoir. Turn on the brewing cycle and leave the noodles in the dispensed hot water for the recommended time. Transfer them to a bowl and stir in the seasonings.
You can add the seasonings to the carafe as well, but this makes it hard to get the flavor of Ramen Noodle seasoning out of your coffee pot!
Make there isn’t a used coffee filter in the machine before proceeding. You don’t need to add a clean filter.
Reheat leftover pizza in a skillet to get a crispy crust. Place the skillet over medium heat and add a quick spritz of cooking spray or a few drops of cooking oil. Heat a slice of pizza in the pan for 2 minutes, then put the lid on and turn the heat to low for about 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
Add a few drops of water to the pan before putting on the lid to cook the top of the pizza a bit faster. Be careful, though, as any oil in the pan may splatter.
Use a skirt hanger with clips as a space-saving cookbook holder. Use the 2 clips on the hanger to hold the cookbook open. Put the hanger’s hook over a nearby cupboard handle to create an instant and very useful cookbook holder!
The open book will be at just the right height for easy reference, and it won’t take up valuable counter space.
Remove stems from strawberries quickly with a thick straw. Insert the straw into the side opposite to the stem and press it up through the center of the strawberry. When you get all the way through to the top, the stem will pop right up and out!
A sturdy plastic straw works well, but a reusable metal straw is even better. In either case, use a wider milkshake or smoothie straw if available.
Use tongs to more easily squeeze all the juice from a lemon. Cut a lemon in half, then wedge one half between the tongs, cut side facing out. Squeeze the ends of the tongs that you usually use for picking up things to press out as much lemon juice as possible. Repeat with the other half.
Consider laying a fine mesh strainer over the bowl or pitcher you’re squeezing the juice into in order to catch the seeds.
Use your cereal spoon to keep milk from splashing when you pour it. Add your cereal to the bowl, then lay your spoon upside down on top of it. Pour the milk slowly onto the underside of the spoon’s head. You’ll notice far less splashing than when you pour the milk directly onto the cereal.
Alternatively, add the milk to the bowl first, then the cereal!
Remove the yolk from a cracked egg easily with a water bottle. Crack the egg into a bowl or dish, then grab a clean, empty plastic water bottle. Squeeze the bottle about halfway (not enough to crush it), place it right on top of the yolk, and release your squeeze. The yolk will be sucked up into the bottle!
Pit cherries quickly with a straw and a bottle. Choose an empty glass or plastic bottle with a mouth that’s smaller than your cherries, so that you can place a cherry stem-side up on the bottle opening. Press straight down through the stem with a sturdy straw (metal is best), a skewer, or a chopstick. The pit will drop right into the bottle.
Dip your finger in water to remove egg shells from a cracked egg. Wash your hands and dry them off with a towel, then dip one finger into a bowl of warm water. Use your wet finger to press down on each egg shell piece and pick them out of your cracked egg one at a time. The water will make the shells gravitate toward your finger, making it super easy to get rid of all the shells.
Don’t forget to wash your hands when you’re done!
[Edit]Food Service and Storage Hacks
Chill a beverage quickly in the freezer with wet paper towels. Wet down 1-2 paper towel sheets, then squeeze out the excess water. Wrap the paper towels around a can or bottled drink and put it in the freezer for 15 minutes. The damp paper towels help chill the drink much more quickly.
Don’t forget about a glass bottle you put in the freezer—if the liquid freezes, the bottle may explode!
Store mixed pancake batter conveniently in a plastic ketchup bottle. This is a great way to store extra batter in the fridge for up to 3 days, and it makes dispensing the batter easy! Just squeeze out the amount you need right onto the griddle when making pancakes.
Use a kitchen funnel to make it easier to pour the batter into the bottle. Or, find a plastic bottle with a slightly smaller mouth than the ketchup bottle. Cut off the bottom of this second bottle, place it upside down into the mouth of the ketchup bottle, and use it as a DIY funnel.
Use a muffin tin to serve a range of condiments at a party. Add ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, salsa, mayonnaise, or whatever other condiments you need to the individual indentations in the muffin tin. This makes serving the condiments and cleaning up afterward a cinch!
Cut clean slices of cheesecake and soft desserts with dental floss. Cut a length of unflavored dental floss and wrap the ends around your index fingers. Pull it taut and press it straight down through cheesecake, cinnamon rolls, fondant, jelly rolls, and so on.
Use the same process to cut through clay with a length of wire.
Keep your packaged bread fresher longer with a plastic bottle top. Starting at the point where the cylinder starts to narrow toward the spout, cut the top section off of a clean, dry plastic drink bottle. Feed the open end of the bread bag up through the cut opening and out of the mouth of the bottle, then fold it down over the sides of the mouth. Screw on the bottle’s lid to make an airtight seal.
Use plastic lids as simple but effective coasters. Don't have a coaster on hand? A plastic lid from a mayonnaise jar or similar container can do the job! Just place your drink on top and you've got a neat coaster.
Make canvas shoes water-resistant by applying beeswax. Use a clean rag to spread the beeswax over the entire outer surface of the shoes, making sure not to miss any areas. Then, wave a hairdryer over the shoes until the wax melts and becomes invisible. Apply another coat of beeswax whenever you notice the water-resistant coating begin to falter.
Iron a dress shirt collar fast with a hair straightener iron. This is a quick fix that saves time versus getting out your iron and board. Just plug in the hair straightener, let it heat up, and clamp it over each side of your shirt collar for about 15 seconds. To play it safe, don’t do this while you’re wearing the shirt!
This is a great hack if you’re going to wear a sweater over your dress shirt anyway—why bother ironing the whole thing?
Use white wine to reduce the appearance of a red wine stain. If you splash some red wine on your white shirt, grab some white wine! Dampen a clean cloth in white wine and gently blot the red wine stain until it becomes less noticeable. It won’t remove the stain completely, but it does a surprisingly good job.
If you have a stain remover stick or wipes with you, use them—they work even better. If you left them at home, use them on the stain before washing the garment.
Prevent lost socks by pinning pairs before washing and drying. Stop feeding single socks to the “dryer monster” by outwitting it! Simply secure each pair of socks together with a safety pin before putting them into the wash. Keep them pinned together when you transfer them to the dryer.
Replace any pins that start to show signs of rusting.
Screw a magazine holder onto the back of a cabinet door to hold a hairdryer. Choose a magazine/file holder made of plastic, wood, metal wire, or sturdy cardboard and secure it in place with 2-4 screws. Most standard hairdryers fit perfectly into this spot.
Alternatively, use several removable adhesive strips instead of screws.
Use coat hooks instead of rods to hang towels in a small bathroom. These take up much less space, since each hook can hold 2 large towels. The towels may also dry faster than if you use towel rods that are stacked one in front of the next.
Apply magnetic strips behind cabinet doors to store personal care items. Buy peel-and-stick magnetic strips, or use removable adhesive strips to secure the magnets in place. Use the magnetic strips to hold tweezers, bobby pins, cosmetic brushes, and other magnetic objects.
Check to see how many of your personal care items are magnetic before trying this.
Buy a scrub brush attachment for your drill to clean tile and ceramic. Instead of relying on elbow grease alone to scrub a tub or toilet, let your drill do the hard work! Look for different types of scrub brush attachments where cleaning supplies are sold.
Set the drill to its lowest speed first, then increase it as needed. Follow the brush attachment’s instructions carefully.
Don’t use the attachment to clean fiberglass, laminate, wood, stone, or other surfaces unless the brush is specifically marketed for that purpose.
Use a clean dustpan to fill a bucket that won’t fit under the sink. Place the bucket on the floor directly in front of the sink. Place the larger end of the dustpan under the faucet so that the pan’s handle is resting over the front edge of the sink. When you turn on the water it will flow through the channel in the handle, go over the edge, and fall like a waterfall into the bucket.
Have some towels handy the first few times you try this. It may take a bit of practice to get the placement and water flow just right.
Paint your keys with nail polish to color-code them. This is a great hack if you have a bunch of similar-looking keys on your key ring. Gel nail polish adheres best to metal keys, but any type of polish will do.
Store your household cleaners conveniently in a shoe hanger. Hang or attach the shoe hanger to the back of a closet or pantry door, then fill the pockets with your cleaning bottles. Choose a shoe hanger with mesh or clear plastic pockets so you can easily differentiate the cleaning bottles.
If you have a hanging rod in the closet, get a shoe hanger with hooks.
For safety, add a lock to the door if there are kids around.
Try different home remedies to remove permanent marker. Different DIY removers may work better for different materials. Give the following a try:
For fabric, try hand sanitizer.
For your skin or for wood surfaces, try rubbing alcohol.
For painted walls, try hairspray or toothpaste.
For ceramic or glass, mix 1 part white toothpaste and 1 part baking soda.
Soak a crusty paintbrush in vinegar for 30 minutes to ease cleaning. After 30 minutes, use a wire brush or paintbrush cleaner to remove the loosened paint. Then, wash the brush with soap and water, rinse it, and let it air dry.
If you heat the vinegar to nearly boiling in a pot on the stove, you can reduce the soaking time to 10 minutes.
Reduce the odor of water-based paint with vanilla extract. When painting a room, stir in of vanilla extract per of paint. The vanilla will mask the unpleasant odor of the paint. Essential oils like peppermint work as well.
This hack doesn’t work on oil-based paint, since the vanilla extract or other essential oil creates a solution with the oils in the paint—which may negate the pleasant scent you’re aiming for or make the paint smell even worse. The oils aren’t soluble with water-based paint, though, so they remain separate and help mask the paint odor.
Use a rubber band to keep kids from locking a door. Loop the rubber band over one door knob, make a figure eight over the latch, then loop the free end of the rubber band over the other door knob. Choose a thick, sturdy rubber band that is stretched taut when positioned this way.
Make a smaller “laundry basket play tub” within your bathtub. Place a standard rectangular laundry basket into the tub as you fill it with water. Put your toddler or small child into the basket, along with their toys. When bathtime is done, just drain the tub and lift out the basket with all the toys inside!
This is not a substitute for an infant bath basin. Use it only for kids who are big enough to bathe in a standard tub.
Supervise children at all times while bathing.
Create a child safety bead-bracelet with your phone number on it. Buy a container of colorful bracelet beads and let your child help you thread them onto the bracelet string. Pick out numbered beads and string them on so that they correspond to your phone number.
You might also want to spell out the child’s first name.
A bracelet is no substitute for proper supervision of a child.
Use pool noodles to help keep a kid from rolling out of bed. Lay a foam pool noodle along each long edge of the bed, right on top of the mattress. Tuck the fitted sheet over the mattress so that the noodles are held securely in place. The small humps created by the noodles will make it less likely that your child will roll off the edge of the bed.
Use this as a short-term measure for an occasional problem. Invest in proper bed rails if your child rolls out of bed frequently.
Trace a kid’s feet on paper when you’re shoe shopping without them. Instead of having to guess whether a pair of shoes will fit, bring their tracing with you. Trace around both their feet, either barefoot or with socks on. If the shoes you’re looking at are larger (but not too much) than the traced outlines, the shoes will fit—at least for a few months!
Use paper cupcake or muffin wrappers to catch drips from frozen treats. Poke the bottom of the wooden stick of your kid’s favorite frozen treat—like a Popsicle or ice cream bar—through the bottom of the paper wrapper. Slide the wrapper up to the base of the treat and let it catch all the inevitable drips!
Paper wrappers with foil on the outside work best, but any paper wrapper will do.
[Edit]Tech and Home Office Hacks
Seal your tablet in a zip-close bag if you like to read in the tub. Use a clear, bag with a secure zip closure. Test the bag first by sealing a piece of paper inside and submerging it for 1 minute. If the paper is dry, your tablet should stay dry too!
Play it safe and do your best to keep your tablet dry regardless. Don’t try to read underwater!
Use springs from used pens to strengthen the ends of charger cables. Charger cables tend to kink, bend, and break right near the ends (where they plug into the wall or your device). To protect these sensitive areas, pull apart several old, dried up pens and pick out the springs inside. Wrap the springs around the ends of the cables to give them more protection while still letting them flex somewhat.
Organize cords at the edge of your desk with binder clips. This is a great hack if your desk is cluttered with several charger cables, printer cables, ethernet cables, and so on. Choose binder clips that are large enough to clip to the edge of the desk, but also small enough (if possible) to keep the head of each cable from falling through the binder clip opening.
If you can’t fit the head of a cord through the binder clip wires, squeeze the sides of each wire to remove them from the clip. Then, squeeze them again to put them back in place after you’ve pulled the head of the cord through.
Organize cords using empty toilet paper tubes in a shoebox. For a smaller cord, stand a toilet paper tube up in the box and feed the cord down into the tube. For a larger cord, use the toilet paper tube as a sleeve and slide it over the cord once you’ve looped it around itself several times.
Stand your phone upright in a cup, glass, or mug to amplify the volume. If you tend to sleep through your alarm even when it’s set to high volume, give this hack a try. Put the phone’s speaker (which is usually at the bottom) into the bottom of the cup and get ready for a much louder sound!
You can use this trick to amplify music, but it may take some trial and error to find a cup, glass, or mug that doesn’t distort the sound of your favorite tunes.
Use a cassette tape case as a cheap but sturdy phone stand. Try this hack if you find some old cassette tapes (with their cases) in the attic. Open the case’s lid as far as it will go, then lay the case front-side down on your table or desk. The slot in the lid will hold your phone at a great viewing angle.
Some larger smartphones may not fit into the slot.
Carry multiple plastic bags at once with a large carabiner clip. The problem with carrying several plastic shopping bags at once isn’t that they’re too heavy, but that the handles dig into your hands. Instead, buy a large carabiner clip at a hardware, outdoor, or sporting goods store. Clip both handles of each bag into the carabiner, then carry everything more comfortably by holding onto the carabiner.
Use snack chips as kindling to help start a fire. Light a loose pile of snack chips on fire, then slowly add wood to build up your campfire. Snack chips are made almost entirely of 2 components—hydrocarbons and fats—that burn readily, so you’ll be surprised how quickly and easily they go up in flames.
Cheesy tortilla chips (like Doritos) work great here, but any type of fried snack chip will do the job.
Make sure not to eat all your kindling beforehand!
Hide your valuables on the beach in an empty sunscreen bottle. Your best option is a bottle with a rounded rectangular shape and a large flip-top lid that also twists off. Clean and dry the bottle thoroughly, making sure to get rid of the oily residue on the inside. Then, stick things like your ID and cash inside it.
Unless there is a sunscreen thief around, your stuff will stay safe!
Alternatively, you can buy storage containers online that are made to look like real sunscreen bottles.
Use your phone and a Gatorade (or similar) bottle to make a lantern. Turn on your phone’s flashlight tool and lay it down so the light is shining straight up. Place the Gatorade bottle right on top of the light—it’s shape will diffuse the light and create a cool lantern.
Full bottles work better than empty bottles, and liquids with light coloring (like yellow or pale blue) work better than clear liquids.
These life hacks are by no means the only life hacks out there. Do not be limited by the ones listed here. Make up your own!
Do not try things that are unsafe. Always use critical thinking and common sense.