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10 Simple Tricks for Quick Fixes

Hardened paintbrushes await our trick for renewal.
Hardened paintbrushes await our trick for renewal.
©iStockphoto.com/villiers

There's always something to fix around the house -- probably so many things that you tend to lose track of them. If you constantly open a door, hear the hinge squeak, and think, "I've been meaning to fix that!" stop right there, because we've got a quick and easy solution for you.

You think you don't have time to do it now -- that you'll come back one lazy Saturday afternoon and wipe out all the fix-it jobs in one fell swoop -- but how long have you been telling yourself that? Many of those tedious, troubling little problems, which are never quite annoying enough for you fix, can actually be knocked out in two minutes each, whether the task is saving those hardened paintbrushes or simply getting ink off your hands, which, if you're in the habit of always managing to grab that one leaky pen out of the jar, you know is much trickier than one might think.

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Let's take a look at some simple solutions to the tasks you've been putting off, starting with keeping those flowers looking fresher longer.

Someone finally surprised you and sent flowers -- the moment you've been dreaming about forever. But after a few days, that nice gesture seems forgotten, as the vase water turns green and the flowers begin to droop. Don't worry -- it isn't your fault; it's a fact of life. But we can help you defy the laws of nature for a few extra days to show that special someone how much you really do appreciate the gesture.

Add a dash or two of vodka to the water in a vase of fresh-cut flowers. This will help prevent algae growth in the water and keep your flowers perky longer.

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Leather will never be as shiny and clean as the day you bought it, right? All the wear and tear over the years only makes it look aged and worn. Whoa, not so fast there with the assumptions -- leather can look brand new again with one simple trick.

There's no monkey business here -- just a quick, convenient, low-cost way to give dark-colored leather shoes and boots a shine that monkeys would definitely approve. Eat a banana. When you're finished, rub the inside of the banana peel on the leather to polish it. Finish off by buffing the footwear with a soft, dry cloth.

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Candles can set the mood for all occasions, whether it's the excitement of a birthday, the spookiness of a ghost story or the romance of an intimate dinner. The wax drippings from a candle only set one mood, though: frustration. Whether they're dripping onto the birthday cake or gluing themselves to your grandmother's candlesticks, the wax that drips off candles can hamper whatever mood you're going for.

Limit wax drippings by popping candles into the refrigerator for a few hours prior to lighting them. If you have the space, consider storing some in the icebox in a sealed container (to minimize the spread of any fragrance from the wax to your foods, or vice versa) so they're ready whenever you need them.

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After a long day of painting, who wants to slave over the sink trying to clean the brushes out? The problem is that the bristles will harden and your handy brush will be useless if you don't wash it immediately.

But don't be so quick to chuck the brush out. You can try to soften hardened paintbrush bristles by soaking them in hot vinegar and then using a wire brush to separate them and to remove remnants of varnish or paint. You can even use this trick as an excuse to put off washing them right away, so you can spend more time admiring your beautiful paint job.

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Ladies, men never believe you that it's the difficult grip of the screwdriver keeping you from tightening the screw, not your lack of strength. You can let him feel like a man and take over, but as soon as he grabs the handle he'll see it really is hard to hold.

Here's a quick fix to make your life easier and save his ego. A thick rubber band wrapped around the plastic handle of a screwdriver will help improve your ability to grip it and make tightening and loosening screws easier. On the other hand, if the excuse of weakness gets you out of helping with chores…

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Whether you're coloring a picture or writing a letter, you are sometimes so absorbed in your work that you don't even notice your hands are becoming covered in ink. Even after you wash them, you will often still have dark stains -- or colored Sharpie stains, which can be even more embarrassing.

To remove ink or marker from your hands (or any other spot of skin, for that matter), you can pour a little bit of plain tomato juice on a cloth and use it to rub the mark away. Did you ever think it could be that easy?

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While the squeaky floorboards in an old house are a nice, built-in security system to alert you when someone is walking around, they're typically more annoying than helpful. If you get up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water, and you're trying not to make a peep so that you don't set your dog off barking, those floor boards will do you in. Playing hide and seek? You'd better remember which plank of wood is the one to avoid! And if you're a teenager trying to sneak out of the house, that floorboard may be the thing that gets you caught and grounded.

There's good news. These creaky floors don't have to be as noisy as they are. You may be able to quiet annoying squeaks in your wood floors simply by dusting talcum powder into the cracks between the floorboards. It's a little magic fairy dust to quiet your floorboards!

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The problems with a squeaky door hinge are similar to the previously-stated problems of a squeaky floorboard. If you need to make sneaking from room to room easier -- for surprising someone with breakfast in bed, perhaps -- we can help.

There's no need to resort to pricey commercial lubricants to quiet a noisy door hinge. A bit of generic vegetable oil, squirted or dripped onto the moving parts, will do the job just as well. Generic vegetable oil cooking spray is handy for this problem, too. You'll be able to open and close the door without a peep -- just don't let your rebellious teenager find out the hinge is fixed.

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It's pretty easy to get mildew off that pile of towels you forgot to hang up to dry -- you can just toss them in the washer, and they'll come out as if you never neglected them. What most people don't know is that rubbing alcohol is great for removing mildew on shoes, luggage and similar non-washer-friendly items.

Dampen a clean rag with the alcohol and wipe the mildewed area with it. If the mildew is more deeply set, place the item in a bathtub or basin and carefully pour rubbing alcohol onto the affected area. It's always safest to spot-test this treatment on a small, inconspicuous area of the item first, though, to be sure it doesn't cause fading or staining. That mildew will be gone in no time.

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When you buy a set of tools, consider the conditions in which you're going to be storing them. If your tools are going to spend most of their time sitting in the garage, you can prevent them from rusting by slipping a piece of children's sidewalk chalk or a charcoal briquette (but not the kind pretreated with lighter fluid) into the toolbox or tackle box. This will help absorb moisture, which is what causes tools to rust.

If your tools, or any metal items for that matter, have already seen better days, you can clean off the rust by mixing up a paste of salt and lemon juice, using 6 parts salt to 2 parts lemon juice. Rub the paste onto the rusted areas with a dry cloth, then rinse and dry thoroughly.

Adapted from "101 Old-Time Country Household Hints," © 2008 Publications International, Ltd.

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