Steve A. 10/16/2016 6:01 PM
Helpful Household Tips
Rather than clog up the Useful Tools thread started by Enzo I decided to start this thread on Helpful Household Tips... suggestions to improve various operations around the house.


Steve Ahola
Steve A. 10/16/2016 6:04 PM
Alliance Supersize Rubber Bands (24 pack)
Here is my first reply to the "Helpful Household Tips" topic...

Alliance Supersize Rubber Bands (24 pack)

I found these at the now-closed local Office Depot store in May 2015 for ~$16 which works out to 67 cents per rubber band. Ouch! I then* searched the internet and found Amazon selling them for under $9 so I ordered some there:


I checked just now and found that OfficeSupply•com sells them for $4.71 (Product # ALL08997)*** and Sam's Club sells them on-line for $6.64 (Item # 2292)***

Alliance SuperSize Rubber Bands - Sam's Club

*** Shipping is free for most orders over $45, otherwise it is $7.95.

***** Sam's Club offers free shipping for members on this item to your local store in the 48 contiguous states. (Perhaps someone can fill me in on shipments to one's home.) Membership is $45/year but you get a $45 credit if you apply for a Sam's Club Credit Card and place a $100+ on-line order on the day you apply.

The rubber bands are 1/4" wide and come in 12", 14" and 17" lengths. The most common use is to secure garbage bags to trash cans up to 13 gallon (or a little bigger than that) but they are also handy for holding the flaps down on cardboard boxes with a perimeter up to maybe 44 inches.
Steve A. 10/17/2016 12:48 PM
Kitchen Trash Bags
I hate to spend a lot of money on kitchen trash bags which are only going to be thrown away anyway. I found one very inexpensive solution at Safeway: their Pantry Essentials Tall Kitchen Bags with Flap Ties, 200 bags for $8 or $10 bringing the price down to 4 or 5 cents each (see picture below.) There is one big caveat: they aren't that strong and can rip if you pack the kitchen trash can too tightly. I can't believe that only Safeway (and possibly Vons) are the only stores that sell economical 200 packs of flap tie bags like this so you might want to look at the generic and house brand bags in your local stores.

I stopped using those bags after I had a few of them rip on me and I settled on the Glad drawstring bags reinforced at the top (0.9 mil top, 0.7 mil body.)


I had been paying about 20 cents each for these (ouch!) for the 38 pack at Big Lots but a Google search revealed that Walmart sells a 120 pack for $15.49 which brings it down to 13 cent each.

Steve Ahola

P.S. A few weeks ago I decided that I might as well use the cheaper Safeway bags for lighter loads, making sure not to pack them too tightly since they can rip so easily. I also started using them for my recyclable trash can for light loads (no phone books!)
Steve A. 11/19/2016 6:55 AM
Tip for using 3M Command hooks!
I've been using the 3M Command hooks for several years but there has been a very annoying problem with the hook eventually lifting up from the backing plate when removing whatever item is hanging on the hook.


I had considered gluing the hook to the backing plate but that would defeat the removable aspect of the 3M Command line. I finally got around to trying out an idea that had been floating around in my head for awhile: fill the inside of the Command hook with plumber's putty (which never hardens completely.)

It worked like a charm... perfect!


Oatey 14 oz. Plumber's Putty-311662 - The Home Depot

Steve Ahola
Steve A. 11/19/2016 7:09 AM
Soak your feet in epsom salts for $4.98 x 2!

Epsom Salt Foot Soak
by Lori [HealthExtremist 01/24/2015]
• Every night right before I go to bed you can find me doing an Epsom salt foot soak. I’ve seen such great benefits from doing it, I hardly ever skip a night! It’s super easy to make and quick to do.
• Epsom salt baths are super fantastic for relaxing your whole body and getting the benefits of magnesium, but if you don’t have time to take a bath you can pretty much get the same benefits by doing an Epsom salt foot soak. You don’t need a tub, so it’s very convenient to do anytime and anywhere...
Epsom Salt Foot Soak


7.6 in. x 15 in. Warm Copper Plastic Torino Window Box-WB333F-WC - The Home Depot


Steve Ahola

P.S. My magnesium levels had dropped very low the past few months because of lingering side effects from chemo drugs: the mucosa in my GI tract were damaged so I've had problems absorbing water (now better) along with fats and fat-soluble vitamins and minerals like magnesium, potassium and zinc.
• I had been getting increasingly weaker and more fatigued the past few weeks so I had blood tests on Tuesday and was rehydrated at the Kaiser infusion clinic on Wednesday with magnesium and potassium along with the saline IV.
• The improvement since then has been like day and night. (I had been taking long epsom salt baths since 2009 and always emerged feeling very refreshed.)

P.P.S. I had used a pair of the 24" plastic window boxes from Home Depot back in 2006 to alternate beween ice water and hot water soaks when I was on disability for tennis elbow in my left arm. (I used a third larger square plastic pot to lift up the two window boxes high enough in the bath tub to use them comfortably while sitting comfortably in a chair.)

BTW the clinic treating me for tennis elbow was soaking SDI for as much money as they could get, recommending and performing all sorts of expensive treatments using fancy equipment that did not help any more than the alternating hot and cold soaks which I was doing at home after spending about $25 on the three plastic planters from Home Depot.
Mick Bailey 11/22/2016 1:30 AM
Interesting dual language on the packs - (US) English and Spanish. In defiance of Canada there's no French. Build a wall between the US and Canada and open the border to South America and not have to change packaging!
dmartn149 11/22/2016 6:52 PM
If you have stainless steel appliances, you can wipe them down with Liquid Gold to keep finger prints and smudges off.
g1 11/22/2016 7:47 PM
Sounds expensive.
What is it?
Steve A. 11/23/2016 2:13 AM
Quote Originally Posted by dmartn149 View Post
If you have stainless steel appliances, you can wipe them down with Liquid Gold to keep finger prints and smudges off.
Thanks for the tip! Here's a link...

While that was good for covering scratches to light colored cabinets during dishwasher installs (Oops!) Old English worked great for covering up damage to cabinets with darker finishes:

While working as HVAC service manager at the local sheet metal shop they would recommend Sheila Shine for the custom stainless steel range hoods that they fabricated...

Steve Ahola

P.S. I live in a town with a hispanic population of 31% so much of the packaging in the local stores is bilingual.

EDIT: I just ran across a bilingual jar of Skippy peanut butter at the local Grocery Outlet... the second language was Korean! I love the diversity in our community...
dmartn149 11/23/2016 5:17 PM
Quote Originally Posted by g1 View Post
Sounds expensive.
What is it?
Haha. It's just a light oil. It is really for wood, but if you coat your stainless with it and buff it off so it doesn't feel oily it hides your oily finger prints and gives it a nice shine.
Steve A. 11/27/2016 6:41 AM
My latest system of plastic bags for organization
I like to keep things well organized. Starting with my kitchen I've been very obsessive with those inexpensive resealable sandwich bags that come 300 in a box for around six dollars. 2 cents a bag I can live with...

Whenever I open a bag of chips or cookies they go right into those bags. More important when I open frozen food like fish or chicken (or bring fried or roasted chicken home from the grocery) I put everything in those inexpensive bags.

To organize all of those 2 cent bags in the freezer or refrigerator I've been putting them in 1 quart or 1 gallon resealable bags. I had been getting just the bags without the plastic zipper (5 cents each for 1 qt) but finally decided to splurge and use the 10 cent bags whenever I'll be opening them up at least once a day (always washing and/or reusing them since they do cost a dime!)

One thing great about using the 2 cent bags to store food... when I'm done eating I can put the chicken bones or dirty napkins in them from the dinner table to keep my kitchen trash can smelling fresh as a daisy. Plus it discourages those darned fruit flies...***

As for trash cans I have several 10qt/2-1/2gallon cans in white and brown which are my basic "collector" cans in the kitchen, bath and bedroom. The white cans are for garbage so that I can see any crap that has gotten on them, the brown cans are for recycling paper, cardboard and bottles which are usually pretty clean.

With the local bans on plastic "tee shirt" grocery bags I ordered a case of 2000 4 gallon plastic bags for about $25 from a distributor in Nevada in 2014. These fit my 10qt trash cans perfectly and I use the red (small) Alliance rubber bands to hold the liners in place. At current prices with $5 flat rate shipping these bags cost about 1.6 cents apiece.

4 Gallon Clear Small Trash Bags, High Density Clear Bags |

I have larger trash cans (in white and brown, of course) which take the 13 gallon trash bags. To avoid possible tears I use the more expensive Glad tie string bags for heavy items but most of the time I use the generic flap tie bags, 200 for about $8 when on sale (4 cents a bag.)

I have no use for 30+ gallon bags for garbage because our condo HOA downsized our individual garbage cans to about 20 gallons, forcing us to use the larger 45 gallon recycle bin shared by all units in each 4-plex.

So much for food storage and trash and moving on to storage options.

For years I was hooked on those letter/legal cardboard storage bins. If company was coming over I might box up all of the clutter to spruce the place up a bit. After a decade or two of doing that I ended up with dozens of those boxes, all completely disorganized. And when I tried to organize them things just got worse as I couldn't remember where I put things...

Enter a new storage system which I am in the process of implementing.

I have an assortment of plastic bags from 2" x 3" to snack size to sandwich size to 1qt and up to 1 and 2 gallons. I will put all of my, say, microUSB cables in an appropriate sized baggie which I then label with a 3M full adhesive Post-It and cover the label with clear packaging tape. (The Post-it labels will not adhere to plastic bins or bags very well hence the packaging tape.)

While you can buy full adhesive Post-It labels in precut sizes it is much more economical to buy it by the 400 inch or 700 inch rolls.

The properly labeled bags are then put in larger bags, plastic bins or cardboard boxes to keep everything organized. BTW the plastic bags should allow for more efficient storage than my older system which was often cardboard boxes inside letter/legal boxes with a lot of wasted space and very poor visibility of contents. Hopefully the new system will work much better.

Steve Ahola

*** When I was finally able to eat solid food again in August most foods were still making me nauseous and there were only certain foods I could get down, like Popeye's Chicken. I had noticed the UV light from a commercial bug zapper near the front door- they said that they had a problem with flies.

It turns out that correct verb was "still had" and the specific object was fruit flies. After two weeks my kitchen and dining room were taken over by particularly aggressive fruit flies, totally unlike the mellow lackadaisical vegetarian ones.

I already had one commercial bug zapper but had to order a second one to deal with the damned fruit flies in both rooms...

Putting the chicken bones and greasy napkins in the 2 cent sandwich bags helped immensely in eliminating the possibly africanized fruit flies which would be buzzing angrily inside the sandwich bags or 4 gallon trash bags.

Fortunately I was soon able to move past Popeye's Chicken and on to healthier food...
g1 11/27/2016 11:18 AM
I was having trouble getting rid of fruit flies til I found a 3 way technique which clears them out quick every summer.
1. cover your kitchen garbage with something if it does not have a lid.
2. keep your sink stoppers in or cover the drains with something when sinks are not in use
3. make a simple trap: a 1/2 inch or so of apple cider vinegar and a drop of dish soap in a bowl. Cover with stretch wrap and poke some small holes in it with a fork. (probably doesn't have to be apple cider type vinegar but the smellier the better)

Until I did all 3 of these things together I was unable to completely get rid of them.
Steve A. 11/27/2016 5:45 PM
Quote Originally Posted by g1 View Post
I was having trouble getting rid of fruit flies til I found a 3 way technique which clears them out quick every summer...
Thanks for the tips! I've been keeping all wet kitchen garbage sealed tightly in plastic bags. The last of the Africanized fruit flies (or whatever they were!) would be buzzing angrily inside those bags. "Let me OUT, Mofo!"

They were not docile like that vegetarian ones... "Hum de dum de dum. I wonder what I'm going to have for lunch today..."

3. make a simple trap: a 1/2 inch or so of apple cider vinegar and a drop of dish soap in a bowl. Cover with stretch wrap and poke some small holes in it with a fork. (probably doesn't have to be apple cider type vinegar but the smellier the better)
I was reading how they love beer so I bet that malt vinegar would work great! I've been trying out several different brands from the UK and the the US to go with my frozen fish...

Until I did all 3 of these things together I was unable to completely get rid of them.
Well, the commercial bug zappers work great for all sorts of lil critters but they are effective mainly at night when the daylight isn't overpowering the UV light that attracts them. I guess the zapping noise might bother some people but I found it rather refreshing "oh boy, one less bug!"

BTW although probably not warranted by fruit fly infestations the Raid Fumigating Foggers work great for nastier bugs. (Unlike the aerosol foggers they create a poisonous gas which evaporates and doesn't leave an oily poisonous residue on all horizontal surfaces.)


Raid Fumigating Foggers (3-Pack)-61528 - The Home Depot

Steve Ahola

P.S. I do get regular fruit flies from time to time and the bug zapper is a bit overkill...

Steve A. 11/28/2016 5:54 AM
Wondering how to cook that bag of frozen fish sticks in your freezer?
To save space in my freezer I usually remove frozen foods from their packaging and try to save the cooking instructions but they often get mixed up. Rather than driving down to the store to find the instructions I found a website with instructions, etc., for all sorts of products. Here is the listing for "Fish Prepared/Processed (Frozen)"...

And here is a listing of all of the categories starting with "Absorbents (DIY)"- no listings- and "Acne/Rosacea Treatments"...

Of course there is no guarantee that you will find the particular item you are looking for but are there any guarantees in life?

Steve Ahola

P.S. I thought I better mention that there are absolutely NO frozen fish sticks in my freezer... although there might be a few premium brands they are usually made from minced fish rather than cut from filets. Ugh!
dmartn149 1/1/2018 7:18 PM
I got a new ceramic kitchen knife a few weeks ago. OMG this sucker is shap!
Chuck H 1/1/2018 10:43 PM
You'll need a relatively expensive diamond hone to sharpen that ceramic blade when it DOES start to dull. And the ceramic blade will be hard on that expensive hone. Oh, and treat that knife nice nice. It's prone to micro chipping and breakage at the edge. Use ONLY wooden cutting boards. No phenolic, glass or marble, ever.

If you use steel knives...

My old knife steel/ hone was dull. I happened into a ceramics shop with my wife (not a place to BUY plates and cups, a place to buy things that MAKE plates and cups), They had a box full of kiln thermocouple covers. Alumina ceramic, unglazed. About ten inches long and one inch around. I epoxied one over my old, dull hone. That was fifteen years ago and I'm just now thinking about replacing it.

I bought that thermocouple cover for about six bucks. Now they cost about thirty. Hell, you can BUY a new hone for less. But my point is that any unglazed alumina ceramic plate, rod or tube can be used for not only knife honing, but fine sharpening. Sometimes this stuff can even be salvaged. Beats the hell out of a standard steel hone. I actually MAKE knives sometimes so my DIY sharpener/hone has been well abused and it's FIFTEEN YEARS OLD! The only maintenance it ever needs is a good cleaning with dish soap and running water. so consider the value when looking at prices. Keep your eyes open for the stuff.
Steve A. 1/2/2018 4:13 PM
Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
You'll need a relatively expensive diamond hone to sharpen that ceramic blade when it DOES start to dull.
Not a hone or steel but the diamond sharpening stones can also be used for leveling guitar frets. One luthier recommends the 3"8"(or 10") stones but for spot leveling the 2"6" stones are a lot cheaper. He recommends the DMT type but the Ultra Sharp brand is less expensive.

I know that sharpening stones work great for pocket knives but are they okay for the longer blades on kitchen knives?

This one looks tempting for ~$53...

... or this one for ~$68...

Steve A.

P.S. I have several diamond grit luthier tools and when looking on-line awhile back I ran across suggestions to use diluted dish soap as a lubricant which I have been doing. However this luthier suggested using a window cleaning spray like Windex which seems to work better and doesn't make your fingers as slippery.

I don't know if this applies to knives as well but when first used on guitar frets the diamond grit surface can leave nasty scratches until it has been broken in a bit. Using a lubricant and very light strokes can help avoid disasters but I was thinking of putting fret slots in a 24 and hammering in sacrificial fretwire to break in new diamond grit files and crowning tools.

For under $9 I have found this set of files to be extremely useful - the 400 and 600 grit files are good for leveling and crowning frets and are even better when worn down to ~800 or 1000 grit (I have files that are worn down and files that aren't.) I use the coarser grits for stuff like nut slots and also to remove the grit from the edges of the 400 and 600 grit files.
dmartn149 1/2/2018 6:15 PM
I wasn't actually planning to sharpen it. I only use it on a wood cutting board. I figured that using it on glass, or ceramic would dull it, and I assumed that it wouldn't be possible to sharpen it.
Steve. I've tried diamond sharpening stones to level frets, and found that the finest one of the set left deeper scratches than a file
Chuck H 1/2/2018 7:01 PM
Diamond hones/stones, etc. are GREAT when you want to get some tooth into the work. But yes, even the fine ones are going to leave scratches like sandpaper rather than the cuts that a file makes. But diamonds are harder and can be faster for some things. By the time you crown and polish the frets it's a moot issue, for me anyway.

I wore out a diamond hone like the ones in the link in only a year. I didn't care for it. Great at first, but once the grit started to round over or wear off there was nothing underneath of any use. Just one thin layer of diamond dust. Basically made just like the diamond knife/fish hook sharpener at the hardware store but bigger and the plate is made of steel instead of plastic. Since I have no use for a steel plate of that size for that price I won't be buying another.

For fine sharpening you can get the alumina ceramic thermocouple cover or some other rod/tube/plate and it'll last for a decade on steel blades. Too fine for anything but polishing on frets. And it's not hard enough to sharpen a knife made out of the same alumina ceramic stuff.
dmartn149 1/2/2018 7:45 PM
I have a ceramic rod for sharpening my pocket knife. It was given to me by the plant maintenance guy where I work. He's a bit of a knife geek, collecting, making his own etc. It seems a little too fine. The knife gets really sharp, but it's really smooth, no "tooth"
Chuck H 1/2/2018 10:59 PM
Ah! That's where a course diamond file comes in. There are many edge profiles for pocket knives and there are many preferences. I'm happy working with a polished edge, but many like a toothier edge. A medium or coarse diamond hone and then the alumina ceramic polish will get you there. And it's generally about the fastest edge you can put on a knife. A few strokes on either side of a blade across the diamond hone and then about twice as many on the alumina ceramic at the same angle will give you a toothy edge that slices tomatoes like nobody's business Like micro serrations. If you "stroke" your knife across cuts it's a VERY effective edge even on tough materials.
Enzo 1/2/2018 11:04 PM
You must watch Forged in Fire then.
Chuck H 1/2/2018 11:11 PM
I don't take it that far. But I make some knives from flat stock and foraged materials that are flat-ish. I haven't put together an oven and a forge yet (though I've considered it). It's actually some pretty great and satisfying fun in case anyone was considering it!
Steve A. 7/27/2018 3:33 PM
Rubber band too long?
Doubling it over too short?
Tie a knot or use a tiny cable tie. Makes it easier to remove, too.

Steve A.
rjb 7/27/2018 4:56 PM
Dental Floss Busting Your Budget?
Instead of wrapping the floss around a finger of each hand, tie a 4-6" length of floss into a loop, then hook your index fingers through the loop. Get a better grip and use less floss!
Enzo 7/27/2018 5:03 PM
Oh I love floss picks. No more stuffing my fingers in my mouth, drooling all over.

rjb 7/27/2018 5:11 PM
Damn, I was trying to be flippant.