Surprising Uses For Household Items

When you're faced with small problems around the house, common household items can come to your aid in ways you might not expect.

On The Early Show Tuesday, Kris Connell of Real Simple magazine (www.realsimple.com) explained how to put clothespins, rubbing alcohol, soda bottles, baby powder, hairspray, toothpicks and spray starch to surprising, atypical uses.

Clothespins

Let's be honest. Some of us are less skilled with a hammer and nails than others. Steadying a nail before pounding it into the wall can be difficult, particularly if the nail is small or the spot on the wall is hard to reach. Real Simple suggests that you clamp the nail in a clothespin and then position it on the wall; use the pin to steady the nail as you hammer away. The traditional wooden pins come cheap -- a pack of 50 costs about $4, and they normally work the best. You can buy clothespins at any hardware or superstore, or even most convenience stores.

Rubbing Alcohol

Anyone with small kids will be happy to know that rubbing alcohol can remove permanent marker from countertops and walls. According to Real Simple, this trick works on basically any surface except wallpaper (ink tends to quickly soak into fabric like wallpaper). Dampen a cotton ball or soft cloth with rubbing alcohol and scour the offending spot until it disappears. Connell cautions that you should test this on a hidden area first.

Soda Bottles

Instead of putting that empty bottle in the recycle bin, try putting it in your toilet tank! If you have an old toilet, not a newer, high-efficiency one, this is a great trick for conserving water. Old toilets use about five gallons of water per flush. When you consider that a normal person flushes a toilet seven or so times a day, you can see that a family of four may consume more than 140 gallons per day by flushing alone, representing 30 percent to 50 percent of the water consumed by a household each day. Real Simple's concept is simple: Because the soda bottle takes up space, the tank fills with less water when you flush. Over the course of weeks or years, you'll wind up saving a surprising amount of water. This couldn't be easier: Fill the plastic soda bottle with tap water and settle it in the tank. Done.

Baby Powder

That powder sitting in your medicine cabinet finally has a use -- to help prevent unsightly sweat stains on white shirts. Sprinkle a little powder on the underarms and collar of a shirt before wearing, then iron on regular heat, no-steam setting. The powder forms a barrier that prevents oil and grime from seeping into the threads. Connell also does that to refresh already-soiled white shirts.

Spray Starch

Speaking of ironing: Here's a smart use for spray starch: Spray a light coat on canvas or nylon sneakers to help repel dirt and grime and keep those shoes looking new longer. You could buy a separate product that does the same thing, but why bother? No need to take up more space under the sink or in your linen closet, and every family likes to save a few dollars here and there.

Toothpicks

How much do you hate trying to find the beginning of a role of transparent packing tape? That stuff is super sticky; it usually takes longer to peel it apart than it does to accomplish your taping task! Real Simple suggests that, after you use the tape, you place a toothpick under the loose end. That marks your spot, and makes it easy to lift and separate the tape, so the next time you have something to seal up, you can easily pick up where you left off.

Hairspray

You may not spend much time sewing, but at some point you'll have to re-attach a loose button or tackle another chore. Threading a needle is much easier if you spray the end of your thread with hairspray first. That stiffens the thread, enabling you to easily slide it through the eye of the needle.