I’m going to start of with a sweeping generalization and state that most people already know what life hacks are. Tips and tricks on how to manage your time and find innovative approaches to the most mundane and ordinary of life problems have proliferated in the blogosphere over past years. I would even go as far as to say life hacks are trending. All in the name of efficiency and making our lives a little less chaotic. Both of these goals are of course extremely valuable and thanks to some ingenious hacks now more attainable for everyone. However, as a self-proclaimed expert life hacker I view my personal arsenal of hacks with a different lens.
In addition to saving time and making a tiny aspect of life a bit simpler I also see my life hacks as a way to lessen my participation in the truly mind boggling levels of consumerism. I know this sounds a bit dramatic but stay with me. Every time I ‘solve’ a small, usually household or hygiene issue, not by buying an often over-priced product specifically designed for that purpose, but using a life hack instead, I feel like I am, in my own little way, sticking it to the man! And of course saving money makes me feel good too. With that in mind I am sharing a selection of hacks that I can vouch for with you.
Baking Soda: A Multipurpose Hero
Some of my favourite hacks are based on a foundation of two products that I cannot live without. Yes, they are things you have to buy. However, both are available as affordable and generic brands that eventually replace a lot of other products in your house.
The first is Baking Soda. Also known as bicarbonate of soda, bread soda, cooking soda, or sodium bicarbonate. I was so amazed when I was unable to find this product easily in Germany and Austria and frustrated when the staff in grocery stores kept trying to sell me baking powder (Backpulver). These are not the same things! (Although backing powder has some good uses as well, including taking care of ant infestations.)
Now I go to any foreign foods store that has products from former British colonies to buy baking soda. I cannot imagine life without baking soda. This is not an exaggeration. I use it on a regular basis to clean everything! Here’s my top 5 of baking soda cleaning miracles.
1. Mixed with water and turned into a paste baking soda will get your stainless steel sink looking like it just came from the factory. No water stains. Same with your stove top. Let it sit for 20 minutes and no need for any chemical cleaners.
2. Baking soda sprinkled on top of your toothpaste and used at regular intervals will keep your teeth as white as all those expensive whitening kits. For smokers, coffee, or red-wine drinkers this will lessen some of the visible signs. Don’t over-do it though. Like orange juice, too much can damage your enamel. Or at least that’s what dentists pushing their own toothpastes say.
3. Baking soda mixed with water into a paste also makes for a very easy facial mask that clears a lot of build up from make-up or city living. Some people add honey or essential oils for a more spa-like feel.
4. Baking soda can be used to deodorize just about anything! I use a cup in my fridge and a dusting at the bottom of garbage cans to soak up odours. Also, if you have carpets, sprinkle it liberally and let it sit for as long as overnight. Then vacuum normally. It’s like magic.
5. Baking soda can also be used in addition to your regular laundry detergent. Some life hackers say it keeps laundry smelling fresher for longer. I only get a noticeable result when I add it to a load of whites. Everything comes out extra bright!
Vinegar: A Spectacular Partner
Baking soda is a superhero. And what would a superhero be without a good sidekick? In this case it’s Vinegar. These two make not only a fun science experiment but also work together for some awesome results. Some people say Apple Cider Vinegar is the best. I find that for more health-related hacks this is definitely true. However, since most of the below tips are household related I use a 2 litre bottle of Einlege Essig from Billa or Merkur. This is already meant to be diluted with water therefore it is extremely affordable and lasts a long time.
1. Pour a cup of baking soda in the toilet and use it to clean. As you flush add some vinegar. This will clean, deodorise, and unclog. Same can be used for sinks and showers so you can skip the chemical heavy and expensive drain cleaners.
2. Vinegar is also a very easy way to clean all the build-up in your electric kettle. Use equal parts vinegar and water and boil it. Then boil one more time with just water and it’s like new. The more build up you have the more vinegar you should use. Yes the smell is strong but it is much better than any product available in stores for both the environment and also your wallet. (If you clean your kettle first you can then use the boiled vinegar for the above toilet/shower/sink tip.) I used to live in a place where the water was very hard and limescale was everywhere so I tried everything. Vinegar was hands-down the most effective.
3. Baking soda and vinegar are also excellent replacements for shampoo and conditioner. A baking soda and water paste can be used as shampoo and watered down vinegar as conditioner. The ‘no shampoo’ trend sort of took off over the last year and I didn’t really trust it, but in the name of science, and because I ran out of shampoo one day, I tried it and it really does work. It’s just something you have to get used to. A somewhat easier version is to add baking soda to your shampoo or conditioner as it helps strip the build-up from hair care products and fights dandruff and itchy scalp.
4. And finally, another nearly magical hack that always makes me feel so self-important. A small bowl of vinegar heated up in the microwave will loosen even the most hardened spaghetti explosions so all you have to do is wipe them away.
A simple Google search will reveal that there are so many more life hacks involving this dynamic duo. But my ode to baking soda and vinegar only includes those that I use successfully in my daily life and in the spirit of the sharing economy I pass on this knowledge to you. Hopefully it will give you some new ideas and ideally save you some money.
By: Ines Dolic