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October 24, 2014

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Life hacks, Part 1: 51 tips to make your life easier

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Dead batteries. Clogged drains. Paper cuts.

Sometimes it’s life’s most mundane inconveniences that can drive us crazy.

Fortunately, that’s where life hacks come in.

The Sunday has compiled a list of 101 creative solutions for tackling life’s little challenges to help save you time, space and sanity. After all, sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference. Here's the first half of that list:

1. Out of AA batteries? Use AAAs to get the job done. Ball up some tin foil and stuff it in the device you are trying to work to fill the gap between the battery and the spot where the negative terminal connects.

2. Peel garlic in a flash. Don’t waste time peeling cloves one by one. Instead, throw a crushed head of garlic or individual cloves into a bowl, place another bowl on top and shake. After five to 10 seconds, the cloves should be free from their husks and ready to use.

3. Fix scratched furniture. A cure for scuffed and scratched wooden furniture is right in your kitchen. For pieces with medium-to-dark stains, dip a cotton swab in used coffee grounds and run it over the damaged areas. Let the liquid sit for 10 minutes, then gently wipe it away. For lighter stains, rub a walnut on worn spots to buff out dings before your eyes.

4. Quickly break in new shoes. Spray a mix of 50 percent rubbing alcohol and 50 percent water on the inside of each shoe and wear, while wet, for 20 minutes. Repeat as necessary to stretch out the shoes.

5. Save soaked electronics with uncooked rice. If your phone or mp3 player takes a dip in your sink or drink, remove its battery and any other detachable parts and put all pieces in a bag of uncooked rice as soon as possible. Leave them there for up to two days — the longer the better. If you have the silica gel packets that come with new purses or shoes, throw those in, as well. Rotate the phone and pieces every hour or so, and don’t try turning the phone on for at least 24 hours.

6. Peel off stubborn stickers with a hair dryer. Whether it’s a regrettable bumper sticker or something your kid stuck on the wall, easily remove it by blasting a corner with a hair dryer for 45 seconds. Repeat until the sticker begins to peel away on its own.

7. Heal a paper cut with Chapstick. Paper cuts hurt so much because they are constantly exposed to air. Rub a little lip balm on the cut to seal the wound, reduce your pain and help the cut heal faster.

8. Ice packs in a jiffy. Freeze wet sponges inside plastic baggies for quick and easy ice packs that won’t drip as they defrost.

9. Keep ants out of the kitchen or wherever else they like to visit by placing cucumber slices or peels by the cracks and corners from where the ants enter. Many ants have a natural aversion to cucumber. Bitter cucumbers work best. But remember: The slices will spoil, so replace them daily.

10. Use hairspray to spritz the tip of a piece of thread before running it through a needle. The spray will help stiffen it and keep it from fraying, making it easier to thread.

11. Quickly clean your microwave. We’ve all encountered crusty sauce splatters and ill-fated TV dinners congealed on the walls of a microwave. Get rid of the grime by placing a sponge or rag soaked in water inside the microwave, heating it for three to five minutes, then letting it stand for another minute or two. The steam and moisture help loosen up the gunk, making it easy to wipe down with your newly sterilized sponge or rag. To clear up nasty odors, use the same method with a bowl of water and vinegar, baking soda or lemon.

12. No speakers? No problem. Amplify music from your phone or iPod by placing it inside a plastic cup. For larger devices such as tablets, cut a small slot near the bottom side of a cup and slide it over the device’s speaker.

13. Use crayons for emergency lighting. If you’re stuck in the dark without a candle, light the end of a crayon on fire. The paper wrapping acts as a wick. The crayon should burn for 15 to 30 minutes.

14. Eliminate annoying ads that pop up while playing games on your phone or tablet by switching the device to airplane mode.

15. Keep bathroom mirrors fog-free by wiping them down with dishwashing soap or disinfectant spray.

16. Enhance the quality of cheap vodka with a pitcher and a water filter. Run the vodka through the filter five times for a smoother, better flavor.

17. Maximize closet space by looping tabs from soda cans over coat hangers. Each tab has two holes, so the second can be used to hang another hanger. This is also a great way to keep suits and other sets together.

18. Make a quick, cheap air conditioner by placing several frozen water bottles with two to three tablespoons of salt in each in front of a room fan. Refreeze the bottles daily.

19. Untie difficult knots using cornstarch. Just rub some on and around the tangle and it will begin to loosen.

20. Use cornstarch to clean grease stains. Pat a heap on the affected area. The cornstarch’s highly absorbent texture will lift the grease.

21. Hack test: Does filling up on gas in the morning save you money? Some people say you get more bang for your buck by buying gas in the morning when the temperature is lower, as gasoline expands when heated. While that may be true scientifically, it doesn’t hold up at the pump. Most gas stations store their fuel in underground tanks, where temperature fluctuation is minimal. That means the volume of the gas going into your car varies only slightly, if at all, regardless of time of day.

22. Get rid of deodorant streaks on clothing by rubbing them with a dryer sheet or pair of panty hose. Use brisk, short strokes.

23. Improve the range of your car’s keyless entry remote by holding it up to your chin, keeping your mouth slightly open. The fluid in your skull serves as a conductor, helping to extend the fob’s range by several car lengths.

24. Hammer help. Use a clothespin or the teeth of a comb to steady a nail while hammering.

25. Store batteries in the refrigerator or freezer to help extend their life. This is especially useful for rechargeable batteries, which lose their charge quickly in warm climates. Put a dead laptop battery in the freezer to squeeze a little extra life out of it.

26. Hack test: Can old razor cartridges be brought back to life by running the blades over a pair of old jeans? The Internet suggests that by using razor cartridges as a strop, their blades can be restored to like-new condition. Not true. After stropping a blade daily for more than a week, it appeared to be marginally sharper, but the improvement was barely noticeable.

27. Open stubborn plastic packaging, such as clamshell or blister packs used for electronics, with a can opener.

28. Clean keyboards by placing a condiment cap ­— such as a ketchup nozzle — over the end of a vacuum tube to clean keyboards, electronics and other delicate or hard-to-reach items.

29. Extend the life of a cut avocado by storing it in an airtight container with a piece of onion. The sulfur in the onion will help preserve the avocado’s freshness.

30. Bought too much bacon? Roll up uncooked individual strips and freeze them for quick and easy future single servings.

31. Make your own single-serving coffee bags. Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons of coffee into the round bottom of a coffee filter, then fold the filter in half like a taco. Fold the bottom right corner up and toward the left, the bottom left corner up and toward the right, then fold the top flap down like an envelope. Staple the pouch, adding a string if you’d like, and the coffee bag is ready for the cup.

32. Pour water over guacamole to help it stay green. Pour off the water when you are ready to eat.

33. Prevent your clothes from fading by adding a tablespoon of salt to each laundry load. It will help keep colors vibrant.

34. Fix minor scratches on an LCD monitor by lightly rubbing a soft, clean pencil eraser in the direction of the scratch until it disappears.

35. Remove unwanted pet hair. Use a squeegee to remove pet hair from furniture and carpets.

36. Prevent static cling in your trash can. Drill holes in the bottom of a plastic garbage bin to reduce air suction and make bags easier to put in and take out.

37. Deter pickpockets. Store cash and credit cards in a maxi pad wrapper to deter pickpockets while traveling.

38. Use ice cubes to remove extra fat from sauces, stocks, soups and stews. Wrap a few cubes in a paper towel or thin cloth, then skim it along the top of the liquid. The chill will help the fat congeal, making it easy to spoon out as needed.

39. To secure rugs, use heavy duty Velcro to secure rugs to the floor to keep them from moving.

40. Moving? Pack and unpack clothes quickly and easily by putting them in a garbage bag while they’re still hanging. Don’t remove the hangers. At your new place, simply lift the garbage bag up, loop the hangers over the rod in your new closet and remove the bag.

41. Stop bug bite itching. Brush a drop of clear nail polish over bug bites to stop them from itching. A dab of BenGay also will work.

42. Hide valuables at the beach. Use an empty, clean sunscreen bottle to hide valuables at the beach. Larger, rectangular ones work best.

43. Grocery carrying. Use a laundry basket to carry all of your groceries from the car in one trip.

44. Out of zit cream? Dab toothpaste or the liquid from an Advil Liqui-Gels capsule on a pimple to help shrink it and reduce redness.

45. Wrangle your wrapping paper. Cut a toilet paper or paper towel roll vertically and wrap it around wrapping paper to keep it from unrolling.

46. Don’t have a ruler? No worries. Use a dollar. It is exactly 6 1/2 inches long.

47. The invisible tape end. Never lose the end of the tape again. Stick a bread bag tie or paperclip to it before resealing it on the roll.

48. Quick-dry clothing. Whirl hand-washed clothes in a salad spinner to speed up their drying time.

49. Store important phone numbers on a sheet of paper inside your smartphone case for easy access in case your phone dies.

50. Hack test: Can a dustpan with a hollow handle be used to funnel water from a sink into a bucket? While the idea seems great on paper, the execution can be more trouble than it’s worth. The dustpan can be difficult to set in place, causing it to splatter and overfill. Finding the right angle can end up being a soggy process of trial and error. If your bucket doesn’t fit in your sink, you’re better off just filling it with a smaller bowl.

51. Maximize phone battery life. To help maximize the life of your iPod or cellphone, avoid stashing it in your pocket. Body heat decreases the life of lithium-ion batteries. Instead, keep your device in a coat, purse or bag, or on a belt clip where it can ventilate.

Want more life hacks from The Sunday? See Part 2

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