Your really useful (space-filling) household hints

'Has anyone noticed that if cotton buds are cut in half, each half makes a great facsimile Olympic torch?'
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Many of my readers often send me useful household hints for publication, which is rather odd when you think that I have always begged them not to. Still, I have recently tested some of these hints, and much to my surprise they are not totally pointless. One of their great uses, for example, is for filling empty gaps in a newspaper column. So today, to fill the awkward space between here and the end of this column, I bring you the best of these household hints...

Many of my readers often send me useful household hints for publication, which is rather odd when you think that I have always begged them not to. Still, I have recently tested some of these hints, and much to my surprise they are not totally pointless. One of their great uses, for example, is for filling empty gaps in a newspaper column. So today, to fill the awkward space between here and the end of this column, I bring you the best of these household hints...

Double window cleaning ( SK of Cornwood)

The worst thing about cleaning windows is that when you leave a blur on the glass, you always assume it is on the other side, and you only find out when you get to the other side that it was on the first side all along! One easy way of getting round this is by having two people clean a window at the same time, one on each side, comparing notes constantly. It makes such a difference! If possible, have a third person standing by to act as referee...

Insects on log fires ( from AC of Cricklewood)

A lot of unnecessary suffering is caused when people make log fires by not making sure that all insects have been removed from the logs first. There is nothing more distressing than seeing spiders and woodlice running helplessly hither and yon on faggots in a freshly lit fire, looking in vain for an exit. The solution is simple. Before placing logs on a fire, simply bang them together two by two in order to knock off all their living denizens, however humble.

Old staples ( WH of Bradford)

Don't throw away old staples when removing them from envelopes or paperwork! Keep them in a box for Christmas when they can be strung together in a long and magically shimmering silver chain, or even made into imitation jewellery for short-sighted aunts.

Cotton buds ( SM, Chelsea Harbour)

Has anyone noticed that if cotton-bud sticks are cut in half, each half makes a wonderful facsimile Olympic torch if you happen to be making models of the Olympic Games?

Recycled menus ( TJ of Bath)

When leaving a posh restaurant, I always ask for a copy of the menu. These glossy, well illustrated objects can easily be turned into Christmas cards of a slightly surrealist, gently ironic pseudo-consumerist nature - if you cut across a menu you can always get two and sometimes three cards out of one - and of course they are pre-folded!

Recycling of icicles ( from Lady O of Winsley)

In the depths of winter, we get many magnificent icicles hanging from our eaves; instead of letting them melt away when the weather changes, why not keep the best in your freezer? When you bring them out in summer, they make great dessert features, interesting cocktail ice cubes, and, of course, untraceable murder weapons.

Logs and insects again ( JL, Malton)

I agree with your reader who asked us to get insects off logs before making a fire, but banging the logs together is not the way to do it, as this gives insects deep shock and semi-permanent deafness. Much better is to brush each log gently with an old unneeded shoe brush, giving the insect the chance to leave the log with dignity and start a new life elsewhere.

Menus and cards again ( from JK of Overton)

Never throw old Christmas cards away. They make truly wonderful shopping lists.

More about cards ( NB of Devon)

Never throw old shopping lists away: they make wonderful pet bedding.

Logs and insects again ( from SF of Brighton)

It's all very well trying to get insects off logs with a small brush, but what about the poor insects who are burrowing deep within the wood? Will they not be incinerated with the log? Far better to put each log gently through a shredder, easing out the insects as you find them, ending with a pile of premium sawdust. Admittedly, this is not good for burning, but it will make excellent pet bedding.

Pet bedding ( ST of Potters Bar)

Don't discard old pet bedding. It makes excellent compost.

Old compost ( SP of Notting Hill)

Don't discard old compost...

Miles Kington writes: Thanks, everyone! I think we have enough hints to seal that gap now. Remember, if you've got any other good household hints, for heaven's sake keep them to yourself.

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