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  4. The Original ‘Life Hack’: Family Wisdom Passed Down From Generation To Generation
Extended family gathers outside at a dinner table eating a large meal together.

Before the internet was born and opened up a wealth of human knowledge to the masses, people relied on the elders in their families to give them all the tips and tricks they needed to improve their daily lives. What we now refer to as “life hacks” were once much-cherished nuggets of wisdom, carefully passed down from one generation to the next.

And, although most of us don’t have to rely on our parents or grandparents to provide us with recipes for the best chocolate chip cookies or chicken noodle soup that will ward off a cold, these traditions persist in many families today. Here are some of the best ones we’ve heard.

Clean Your White Shoes With Toothpaste

Dave Bowden, founder of IrreverentGent.com, a style website for men, shared a trick he learned from his grandfather that he still uses today.

“My grandpa used to have a pair of white leather bucks that he wore all the time,” he says. “Leather shoes, of course, are notoriously hard to keep clean, so he was always buffing and shining them.”

One day, Bowden noticed something unusual about his grandfather’s method: he was scrubbing toothpaste into his leather shoes using a toothbrush.

“He would exclusively use white toothpaste, not the blue or green varieties, because he said it not only helped clean off stains, but also acted as a sort of shoe polish,” Bowden says. “Years later when white leather sneakers like Nike Killshots came into fashion for guys my age, I found myself remembering my grandpa’s technique for keeping leather shoes clean. I tried it out, and it worked like a charm. I still use it to this day, and it reminds me of my grandpa every time.”

If you want to try this tip out for yourself, be sure to use regular white toothpaste, not gel.

Refresh An Old Mattress With Baking Soda

A good mattress should last you around seven years. Provided you’re getting enough sleep, that’s around 20,000 hours you’re spending sleeping, sweating and sloughing off dead skin cells (gross, I know) in it before you get to start over with a new one. That means it’s likely a good idea to freshen it up from time to time.

Obviously, you can’t just throw your mattress in a washing machine or hang it up on a line outside to air out for a bit. What you can do is sprinkle a little baking soda over it and leave it to soak up all those odors and oils for a few hours.

Baking soda is a well-known natural household deodorant that works by neutralizing both acidic and basic particles, reducing their smelliness.

Once you’ve let the baking soda sit for a while, clean it up with a vacuum extension.

You can also use this tactic to freshen up stinky carpets. Sprinkle baking soda liberally on your carpet and let it sit for several hours (you can even let it sit overnight if you wish). When you’re ready, vacuum it all up. Fresh carpets and a fresh mattress on the cheap!

Lemony Fresh Garbage Disposal

If you keep getting whiffs of something truly foul in your kitchen, stick your nose over your sink drain. Garbage disposal units cut through a lot of crud, and it’s not uncommon for them to get pretty nasty. Luckily, there’s an easy and fresh-smelling trick to take care of it.

Get yourself a lemon and cut it up into smallish chunks. With the water running, turn the disposal on and drop the chunks down the drain (watch your fingers!) one by one until they’ve completely run through. For extra cleaning power, add ice and coarse salt and send that through, as well.

Ward Off A Cold With … Cold?

Holly Wolf, director of customer engagement for SOLO Laboratories and a Pennsylvania native, says this hack has been passed down on her mother’s side of the family for generations.

“In the winter when people have colds, my grandmother, mother and now I air out the house,” she says. “If someone comes in the house with a cold or we’ve been around people with colds, we open the windows and doors to let fresh air in.”

According to Wolf, this has decreased the severity and length of colds she’s experienced, and has even prevented members of her family from catching a cold.

While it may seem to go against what many of us have been taught about cold air and illness, there might actually be some science behind Wolf’s family wisdom. After all, it’s been debunked that cold air is the reason for the spike in illness during the winter. In fact, opening a window or going outside may be good for you, since you’re breathing in fresh air instead of the recirculated indoor air that’s more likely to carry airborne viruses. Just don’t let it get too cold in your house, and avoid doing this if someone in your household has asthma that can be triggered by cold air.

Sleep On Silk For A Frizz-Free Morning

Hair care and skin care gurus alike often tout the benefits of sleeping on a silk pillowcase. If you’re prone to waking up with frizzy hair, switching to silk might be the solution.

Because it’s such a smooth fabric, your hair strands won’t get as roughed up when you toss and turn in your sleep, leaving them shinier and smoother when you wake. Silk’s natural smoothness may also be a benefit for those looking to avoid wrinkles, as it won’t tug on the skin on your face when you move around at night.

If silk pillowcases are out of your price range, a polyester fabric with a satin weave will give you the same benefits at a more affordable cost.

Rain-X Prevents Water Stains In Your Shower

Tired of always wiping down the water stains that plague your glass shower doors? Try a little Rain-X.

Originally intended for car windshields, Rain-X (or any other similar water repellent) can be safely used on glass shower doors to prevent water stains. The hydrophobic surface of the repellent causes water to bead and roll off, meaning that water won’t stick around long enough to form stains and streaks.

How To Make Hot Peppers Not-So-Hot

If you like the taste of hot peppers but aren’t as big a fan of the bite that comes with it, this trick is for you. You may have heard that the seeds are the part of the pepper that gives it most of its heat, but if you really want to lessen the burn, that’s only a small part of what you need to remove.

While removing the seeds may help a bit, what you really want to watch for is the pith of the pepper, as that’s where most of the heat is concentrated. When preparing your peppers, cut away the pith, which you’ll recognize as the white-colored tissue inside the plant.

The Perfect Sunburn Soother

This one comes from my own mother. As someone with fair skin and a deep love of swimming in the summertime, I’ve received my fair share of sunburns. Fortunately, my mom always had the perfect treatment.

During the summer, she keeps aloe vera gel stocked in the fridge. When someone gets a burn, not only does the burn-soothing aloe help heal your damaged skin, but the chill from the refrigerator feels great and relieves the pain from the burn. Plus, if the gel is in a spray bottle, application is easy and painless.

What Are Your Family’s Best Tips?

Does your family have any life hacks that have made your life easier? Share your knowledge by leaving your family’s best passed-down wisdom in the comments below!

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