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August 1, 2014

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Life hacks, Part 2: 50 more 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 second half of that list.

52. Prevent nasty freezer burn on ice cream by covering it with wax paper.

53. Keep lettuce and undressed salad fresh in the refrigerator by placing a paper towel in the bowl, bag or container to absorb moisture.

54. Have a pants zipper that won’t stay up? Put a safety pin or key ring through the zipper pull and clip or slide it over the button.

55. Soothe a bee sting. Rub a cut onion on a bee sting to soothe pain and reduce inflammation. Or use tobacco. Wet the end of a cigarette and squeeze some of the juice out to rub on the sting. The nicotine works as an anesthetic. Just be sure to avoid using menthol cigarettes, which will burn.

56. Avoid popsicle drips. Slip a cupcake liner around the base of a popsicle to catch drips and keep kids’ hands clean.

57. Keep pitchers and punch bowls cold and undiluted by placing a plastic cup or small container filled with ice inside.

58. Steady a wobbly chair with a wine cork. Slice the cork to fit the gap under the off-kilter leg and secure it with glue.

59. Quickly ripen hard avocados by storing them in a brown paper bag with bananas. They should ripen in 24 hours. Ripen hard peaches or green bananas by storing them in a paper bag. It will trap the fruit’s ethylene gas and speed up ripening.

60. Avoid tupperware stains. Spray plastic containers with cooking oil before storing leftovers to keep them from staining. The grease creates a barrier between the porous plastic and the food.

61. Fix a jammed zipper by rubbing a graphite pencil on its teeth. If that doesn’t work, use a heavier lubricant such as bar soap, lip balm, petroleum jelly or Windex.

62. Dry nail polish faster by spraying it with cooking spray. Let it air dry for a few minutes first. Dunking your fingers into a bowl of ice water also can help.

63. Avoid oil splatters. Sprinkle salt in a pan while cooking to keep oil from splattering. The salt helps absorb the moisture that causes the splatter.

64. Remove the soapy taste from over-washed plastic bottles and containers by soaking them in a solution of water and vinegar or baking soda.

65. Hack test: If you have no corkscrew, can you open a bottle of wine by placing it in a shoe, then giving the shoe a few swift strikes against a wall? While this method does work, it’s far from foolproof and can be more trouble — and mess — than it is worth. To work, the bottle must be perfectly perpendicular with the wall when it hits, meaning that running shoes with cushioning or shoes with any kind of a heel won’t do the trick. And it’s the pressure from the wine itself that pushes the cork out. So you really don’t need a shoe at all. Instead, buffer the bottle with cloth, and you’re good to go.

One more note: This trick won’t work with plastic corks.

66. Run out of room in your car’s center console? Use a shoe as a cup holder.

67. Extend free trials of computer programs and software by setting back the date of your computer’s clock.

68. A headache-free way to separate eggs. Crack an egg into a bowl and gently squeeze an empty water bottle over the yolk. As the bottle re-inflates, the suction will scoop up the yolk and leave the white in place. Or crack the egg over a slotted spoon and catch the white in a bowl below.

69. Remove pomegranate seeds without stains. Score a pomegranate from top to bottom into quarters. Submerge it in a bowl of water and gently pull apart the quarters, loosening the seeds with your hands. The seeds will sink to the bottom, while the rind and pith will float to the top.

70. Pit cherries with a pop. Place a cherry on the mouth of an empty beer or wine bottle and use a thick straw, chopstick or small funnel to push the pit out into the bottle.

71. Stop crying over onions. Freeze onions before chopping them to keep them from releasing fumes. They may get a little soggy when they thaw, so make sure you are planning to cook the onion. If not, hold a piece of bread in your mouth or keep a lit candle nearby while you chop. Both will help absorb the fumes before they reach your eyes.

72. Unstick goopy ingredients. Syrups, molasses and honey can be a pain to pour, measure and clean. Avoid the mess by spritzing your measuring cup or spoon with hot water or cooking oil, which will help the ingredients slide out.

73. Freeze your herbs. Leftover bunches of herbs don’t have to end up in the trash can. Instead, chop extras and freeze them in an ice cube tray with water, stock or olive oil for quick, ready-to-go seasonings for the future.

74. Reheat the right way. Avoid drying out pizza, bread and other baked goods in the microwave. Place a cup of water in the microwave or drape the food with a wet paper towel. The added moisture helps keep baked goods’ spongy texture from drying out while reheating. Also, make sure to use a low setting.

75. Microwave evenly. Shape pastas, grains and casseroles into an “O” before microwaving them to ensure they reheat evenly. The hole in the middle will help them warm uniformly. Also, use short one-minute bursts, and stir or flip the food between each interval.

76. Clean cast iron correctly. Avoid caked-on food by rinsing the pan with hot water immediately after cooking, then filling it again to soak. Scrape remaining food bits gently with a spatula, wipe the pan with wet paper towels, then coat it lightly with oil to keep it clean and sealed between uses. If you forgot to soak it, remove dry stuck-on food with a salt scrub mixture made from coarse kosher salt and water. Do not use soap or steel wool or the pan will rust.

77. Out of Febreze? Make your own fabric deodorizer by mixing 2 tablespoons of baking soda, 1/2 cup of fabric softener and water in a spray bottle.

78. Easily remove corn cob husks by microwaving them for one minute. The husks will slide right off.

79. Stop kids and restless adults from rolling off the bed with pool noodles. Place the foam pieces along the open edge of a mattress and secure them with a fitted sheet.

80. Make sponges last longer and stay cleaner by keeping them upright in a binder clip. They’ll dry faster and won’t accumulate as much bacteria as when laid flat.

81. Smudge-free mascara. Hold a business card behind your eyelashes when applying mascara to avoid smudges on your skin.

82. Keep flowers fresher longer by adding a teaspoon of sugar and few drops of vodka to their water. Replace the water and mixture daily. Florists also recommend cutting the stems every few days to increase water intake. Use a knife to cut stems at a 45-degree angle. Scissors can crush their capillaries.

83. Cooking in a small kitchen? Place a cutting board over an open drawer to maximize counter space.

84. Prevent brown sugar from clumping and going stale by placing a slice of bread or a few marshmallows inside the bag.

85. Save your fingernails. Use a staple remover to separate a key ring to make adding keys to it easier.

86. Cheese grater clumping? Coat a cheese grater with non-stick spray before using it to help keep cheese from clumping on the grater.

87. Coat your fingertips and cuticles with petroleum jelly before painting your nails. The jelly will keep stray polish from sticking to your skin.

88. Dispose of hot cooking oil. Use a metal bowl lined with tin foil to safely dispose of hot cooking oil. Let the liquid cool and solidify in the bowl, then gather the corners of the foil, seal it and throw it out.

89. Keep cookies soft. Store cookies with a slice of bread to help keep them soft and fresh.

90. Snake a clogged drain with a wire coat hanger. Unfurl and straighten the hanger by hand, then use pliers to make a small loop at one end. Run the wire down the drain, rotating clockwise as you push, then pull it back to retrieve clogged material. Repeat as necessary.

91. Keep clothes smelling fresh by spritzing them with vodka, then hanging them to dry. The booze kills odor-causing bacteria but leaves no scent when it dries.

92. Organize grocery bags. Keep extra plastic grocery bags in an empty wipes canister for easy storage and access.

93. Out of matches? If you’re out of long matches, light a dried spaghetti noodle to safely light candle wicks.

94. Find small valuables that got lost in the carpet or fell down the drain using a wet/dry vacuum covered by panty hose. The vacuum will suck up the item, while the panty hose will create a filter to prevent the item from getting sucked inside the vacuum.

95. No time to iron? Smooth a wrinkled shirt by putting it in the dryer with a few ice cubes for five minutes.

96. Gather stray needles and pins. Keep a magnet in your sewing box to collect stray needles and pins.

97. Use a plunger to remove small dents in your car. When pulled back, the suction of the plunger can pull back into place dented parts of the panel.

98. Buff hazy car headlights by rubbing them with toothpaste, then rinsing them with water.

99. Cut cakes evenly. Use unflavored dental floss to cut cakes and other soft pastries.

100. Rub stick deodorant on your feet to prevent blisters when wearing uncomfortable shoes. It also helps keep sweaty feet from getting stinky.

101. Keep a clean paintbrush. Wipe paint brushes on a rubber band wrapped around the middle of an open paint can for hassle-free painting. Excess paint will fall back into the can and won’t glom up the sides or top.

Want more life hacks from The Sunday? See Part 1.

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