Frugal Fixes that Work

After a number of years of ‘making do or doing without’ a person discovers ways of doing things that work – using minimal resources.

Here are a few things I’ve come up with or utilized over my 67 years on the planet.

Shower stalls.

If the sealer around the bottom of your shower (the one between the tiles and the shower base) starts gathering mildew, don’t rip out and redo the sealer until you try bleach. I’ve found over the years that a quick spray with diluted bleach or a cleanser with bleach after each cleaning keeps that mildew at bay.

Cleaning shower walls is always a challenge (if you are trying to keep dry while doing it). If you wipe down the walls after each shower with a dry cloth, you can clean less often.

Soap bar holders.

If you use those plastic soap bar holders (the ones with the little prongs to hold the bar up so it can dry out and make your soap last longer), just spray them with a bathroom cleaner then brush with a scrub brush to clean them.

Floor tile grout.

Tile grout should be sealed after it is first installed, to help keep the dirt off. But, over the years, the grout will darken with accumulated dirt anyway. What worked for me on the white grout in the bathroom and the pinkish grout in the kitchen was this. Step one, sprinkle a powdered cleanser with bleach (like Comet) onto the grout lines. Step two, sprinkle a little water over the cleanser. Step three, using one of those green kitchen scouring pads cut into small squares, scrub the cleanser and water onto the grout. Step four, let the soupy cleanser mix soak in for a few minutes (like 5). Step five, wipe up the cleanser and towel dry. Step six, using a magic eraser type scrubber, cut to small slices, erase remaining dirt. This whitened and brightened my grout like nothing else I had ever tried.

Window glass.

Vinegar and water sprayed on the window and wiped dry with old newspapers (if you can still find those) will clean and polish your glass as good as any window cleaner.

Stretching your coffee grounds.

If you love coffee and like it a bit on the weak side, you can try just adding water to the coffee maker (with old filter and grounds still in it) when your pot of coffee is getting low.

Spackle substitute.

If you lack spackle when painting, try dabbing on a bit of tooth paste. This works best for small holes.

Christmas tree skirt.

If you don’t have one of those circular tree skirts for your Christmas tree, but do have a rectangular tablecloth or a twin sheet you can use those to wrap the bottom of your tree.

Bath redo.

If your bathtub or vanity top is the wrong color, try spraying it with a refinishing product. Use appropriate face masks though as these products are not good for your lungs! I redid vanities in our Jack and Jill bath this way.

Antique furniture.

During my antique dealer phase of life, I discovered a product that works like magic on old wood. It is called Howard Restore-a-finish. It works best if there isn’t a lot of ‘protective’ coating on the wood but will work even used over lacquer finishes. I restored Mom’s WWII era Lane Cedar chest years ago and the scratches it covered still have not reappeared. It saves time and money over a tedious refinish job.

Dining chairs.

If the upholstery on the chair seat of your dining table chairs has become soiled or out of date over the years, stop by a local fabric or hobby store and pick up some upholstery material on sale. It is a pretty easy job to take out screws holding the chair bottom to the frame, remove the staples holding the fabric to the chair bottom and cut and staple new pieces of material in. I’ve redone two sets of chairs like this already.

Keeping carpets and fabric on furniture clean.

Instead of waiting until everything is so soiled that you require professional help to get it clean, each time you spy a spot, wipe it with a wet rag. If that doesn’t get it up, use a very small amount of carpet cleaning solution and scrub it again.

Sunshine and baking soda.

Our ancestors knew the benefit of using the great outdoors to clean and sanitize their household furnishings. Why else would they have done a lot of cleaning in the spring?

Direct sun will bleach out soiled clothing and sanitize it at the same time.

It will remove deeply embedded smells in things as well.

Recently, I purchased a daybed with trundle at a sale. It came with two mattresses, both stank. I aired both of them for a month on our porch – letting the sun and air work it’s magic and also letting them sit out during freezing weather to help kill any bugs that might be lurking.

After the month, I smothered them in baking soda and vacuumed it off and then vacuumed again. As a final step, I enclosed each of them in a plastic zippered mattress cover.

Fixing a frozen garbage disposal.

If your disposal just sits and hums when you turn it on, the flywheel may be stuck. You can fix it from the bottom or the top. To fix it from the bottom, you need a small wrench that fits into a hole in the side or bottom of the unit. Just put it in and try to turn. If you don’t have the wrench or that approach didn’t work, you can try using a wooden handled broom or mop (handle side into the disposal) to jar it loose from the top. This worked on ours, but now it leaks so I will be replacing it anyway – at least we got a few more months service from it.

Vertical blind repair.

Vertical blinds have a lot of moving parts. If you are thinking of using them in a high traffic area, you might want to consider using drapes instead!

We have had two problems with ours that were fixable without major expense.

1) the slats get turned making the blinds hard to pull.

Gently grab the slats near the top where they are hooked into the track that pulls them and gently turn the blind individually until it aligns with the others. Ours made a quiet snap sound when we did this.

2) the blinds refuse to slide along the track – because the lead blind disconnected from the puller.

To fix this was a bit more complicated. I ended up taking the blinds apart and putting them back together as I described in this post How to Fix Bali Dura Lite Vertical Blinds

Keep your pipes from freezing.

If you have pipes that run through your attic or along outside walls, and live in an area that freezes, you will have problems. Frozen pipes swell up and burst and then when the water thaws, leak lots of water.

So, if you are shopping for a new home, look for pipes in the ground and on interior walls!

  • If you are stuck with at risk pipes, consider these preventative measures:
  • Turn the water off to the pipes that may freeze and drain them prior to winter.
  • Wrap the pipes in heat tape and remember to turn on the tapes prior to freezes.
  • Provide immediate access to warm air if possible. Our kitchen sink is along an outside wall. In really cold weather we open up the under sink cabinet doors to let more warm air in. On really, really cold nights, we put an electric fan in front of the open under sink cabinets to circulate warm air into it.

And then there is duct tape.

OK, it is a standing joke, but you really can fix a lot of things with duct tape. I patched up the rubber sole on my houseshoes last year and wore them another whole year. Our plastic mailbox was hit with a flying piece of gravel, popping a 2 inch hole in the side – hubby plastered duct tape over the hole to keep the mail dry until we can get the new box installed.

Please share some of your frugal fixes in the comments!

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