Readers' Tips

How to Control Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants live in trees, so look around your yard for their home. They only come into the house for food, so one must keep all the food off the kitchen counter or floors. I had a professional take care of mine because I didn't know what to do. He said that I may have to repeat spraying the insect killer in their home a couple of times to take care of all of the babies, etc. You can buy insect spray for carpenter ants at your hardware store.

editor's note: For more on controlling carpenter ants, please click here.

Avoiding Marital Financial Disagreements

My husband and I put a set 10% of our net income into our individual savings accounts. It probably won't surprise you that having individual savings accounts reduces money matter disputes, which is often said to be the number one dispute in marriages.

When either of us wants something the other considers frivolous, it doesn't matter. He saves up for computers and games, etc. and I just save. I feel more secure, and he is happy.
Debbie in Silverado, CA

Laundry Odors

I typically use white vinegar as a fabric softener. It normally eliminates odors. However, I do occasionally have loads that have a strong odor. I've found the only way to totally eliminate these smells is to add a small amount of rubbing alcohol in the wash. I usually put it in the bleach dispenser. It always works, and I use a normal dryer sheet to remove the alcohol smell. I use a couple of tablespoons. I find cheap rubbing alcohol at a dollar store.
Mary A. in Marana, AZ

Cleaning Grout

When we bought our four-year-old home from a couple that must have hated cleaning floors, the grout on my otherwise beautifully tiled floor was the primary reason I started looking into different grout cleaning methods. The best way I found to clean grout was to go the local home improvement store and rent a steam grout cleaner. It made for a full day's work, but when I was finished, my grout looked like new, even in the guest bathroom where it was the worst. With some new grout touch-up and a good sealer, my wife and I now love our tile floors.

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions on cleaning grout

Encouraging Creativity in Children

As we unpacked an electronic product a few years ago, we handed the two pieces of protective white styrofoam to our two grandchildren who were visiting that day. They dug out watercolor markers and started decorating them. We were amazed at how entertaining this was for them, and began watching for similar styrofoam pieces as time went by.

We now have a container in which we save all kinds of odds and ends rather than throw them away. We save bottle tops, lids of all kinds, small broken toys, etc. On a rainy day or when they need a fun, creative project, we get out the styrofoam, broken toy pieces, and hot glue gun.

Now, being cautious, protective grandparents, we are in control of the glue gun, but they show us where to put the top half of a broken GI Joe, the piece of string, the shiny stone, or the bottle cap that resembles an escape hatch. We have also graduated to a set of permanent markers in a variety of colors as they work much better and do not smear like the watercolor markers. We always use necessary precaution with those.

Our four- through ten-year-old grandchildren have loved this creativity for a number of years now, and we are all thrilled at the delightful ship, plane, aircraft carrier, castle, or spaceships that are the result.

I help occasionally with after-school care at our Christian school, and have used this project to keep kids entertained for hours. In the end, they have created a fun, usable toy. I would advise no cutting of the styrofoam though. While it's fun to shave away at it with a small scissors, you'll need a vacuum when you are finished.

Designer Water

I try to drink a lot of water to stay healthy, but I find it boring in taste. To "jazz" things up a bit, I pour fruit juice or Gatorade in an ice cube tray and freeze it. I then add the cubes to my water, which gives it a burst of flavor with very little calories. To use the fruit cubes for water bottles, I use the mini ice cube trays that I find in dollar stores. Now, I drink a lot more fluids with very little calories.
Linda R.

It's Under Review

When I find myself tempted by an unplanned-for (and usually pricey!) item online or on TV, I go to the reviews and sort them with the lowest rating first! I wish I'd kept track of how much money I didn't spend because of bad reviews. It's interesting how consistent the complaints usually are. This has been so helpful that I now routinely read bad reviews even for things I intend to buy.

Save the Milk

If you're going out of town for awhile, and haven't finished drinking the milk in your fridge, just put it in the freezer. It will keep for a month, and then you won't waste money by throwing it out! It will take one to two days to thaw out, depending on its size.
Rhonda C. in Spring Hill, KS

Step-by-Step Guide to Fireplace Logs

You'll need a bundle of old newspapers and a few empty vegetable cans or string. Remove both ends and the labels from the cans and discard any glossy inserts in the newspaper. (No need for the cans if using string.)

Take a one-inch stack of newspaper and, section by section, alternate the direction of the folds. Tightly roll up the stack, slip a can on one end, and slide it to the middle of the rolled newspaper to hold it together or tightly tie the newspaper together.

Completely soak the rolled newspaper in water and then (this is very important) let it dry completely to compress the papers and hold them together while they burn.

Use the newspaper log, can and all, like a regular fireplace log. After it burns and the ashes have cooled, carefully remove the metal can with a pair of tongs (it might still be hot).

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions on homemade fireplace logs

Yellowed Headlight Lenses

The headlights on my 2000 Dodge truck were very yellowed, making it hard to see at night. I had seen restoration kits advertised, but they were expensive and some seemed complicated. My husband was at the auto parts store and asked for the price of replacements. Of course, that was very expensive! The auto parts guy told my husband to buy Soft Scrub® to clean the headlights. Of course, I went to a local dollar store and bought the off brand for a buck! It was amazing! After very little scrubbing with a soft rag, my headlights look great, and they work much better!

Halloween Teeth

My granddaughter and I were eating blueberries one evening when suddenly she said, "Grandma, how come your teeth are all blue?" I looked at her teeth, and they were blue also. We decided this would make a very scary no-cost addition to a Halloween outfit (monster or zombie). Try it yourself. You might make somebody shiver!
Sally S. in Fairfax, VA

Coffee Specialty

My husband and I are occasional coffee drinkers. When the weather turns cold, we crave an occasional cup. Instead of buying a container of coffee to make for those few times, I sign up for free coffee samples a few months before it gets cold. There are many free samples of coffee out there, and as a bonus, we get to try more exotic flavors. It's a nice way to indulge without wasting money.
Julie S.

Removing Stains

As a motel housekeeper and laundress, I encounter many challenges trying to keep sheets white. Recently, a set had bloodstains so bad that my usual 20% peroxide treatment did not complete the job. The sheets came out of an overnight bleach soak and cold wash still stained. In total desperation, I reached for some denture cleaning tablets, which had been left behind in a room, and dissolved two in a little water. I scrubbed the mix into the stains and left them overnight.

The next day's wash had the sheets back to their usual pristine whiteness. I intend to try this cure on BBQ and Buffalo wing stains next.
Margaret T.

Alternatives to Facial Cloths

To really clean and exfoliate your face, add a couple teaspoons of baking soda to a squirt of your favorite liquid facial cleanser and rub this into your face. Start gently until you get a sense of what pressure works best. Rinse with lots of warm water. I do this in the shower. You don't need to use an expensive cleanser either. You will be amazed at how clean and glowing your skin will look. Also, your pores will appear smaller.

Additional TDS Resource: More on alternatives to expensive facial cleansing cloths

Handy Shelf Liners

Update all your inside shelves with 12x12 vinyl square tiles from Home Depot or Lowe's. First remove the old shelf paper with a blow dryer. Heat it and peel it off. Next, find the vinyl peel and stick tiles at the store. A box of 45 tiles cost me $18. You will also need a ruler, pencil, and scissors. Always place the tile in front first and then go back. Measure twice and cut once. They look great and are so easy to wipe and clean.
Judy L. in Portland, OR

Shopping for Friends

I often shop for a senior neighbor who wants to remain independent and stay in her own home. We have found a gift card is the best solution. She buys a gift card from the local store, and if I am out, I just call and ask if she needs anything. I use her gift card to pay for her items, and she has a receipt to keep track of her spending.
Mary P.

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