15 eco-friendly maintenance jobs to tackle while you’re at home

These are uniquely challenging times, to say the least. If, like the Greenredeem team, you’re not one of the brilliant and brave key workers called upon to keep the country going through this crisis, it’s hard not to feel like a helpless bystander at home.

While we might not be able to do much to change the course of current events (besides following the latest NHS guidance and supporting our families and friends), we’ve realised there’s still plenty we can be doing to improve our planet’s health. 

With this in mind, the Greenredeem team will be spending this whole month working on the theme of Earth Day 2020 – “climate action”. Each week during April, we’ll share a list of the green tasks we’re tackling. Will you join us? Everything will be doable without leaving the house, naturally! 

Last week we looked at 10 ways to make Easter special despite the at home circumstances. This week, we’re rolling up our sleeves and getting some of those niggly little chores done around the place.

“A stitch in time saves nine”

“A stitch in time saves nine”, as they say, so here are 15 jobs to get done while you’re at home:  

1. Lubricate a sticky lock with a pencil

Run the tip of a standard pencil lead over the key until the teeth are dark and well-coated. Put the key into the lock and turn it to transfer the lubricating graphite onto the internal mechanism. You may have to repeat the process a few times before the lock will run smoothly. 

2. Remove sticker residue

Cleaning up kids’ old stuff or giving your bike a fresh look? Remove glue residue from old stickers using your cheapest cooking oil. Saturate a patch of rag or a clean towel in the oil and lay it onto the residue. Wait a few minutes for the glue to dissolve, then you should be able to wipe the residue away with a section of clean rag or another paper towel. Please note, this trick should only be used on non-absorbent materials. Test a dab of oil on a hidden area first if you’re not sure. 

3. Unblock the drain at the back of the fridge

Does your fridge tend to have a puddle at the bottom, beneath the salad drawers? Could be the mini-drainhole at the back of the fridge, designed to divert away drips, is blocked with gunk and stray food bits. Along with the annoyance of drips on the floor each time you grab some lettuce, a damp fridge isn’t a healthy place for fresh fruit and veg.  Grab a cotton bud, a drinking straw or a pipe cleaner and get your fridge working again in a jiffy. 

4. Test your smoke detectors

Be honest, when was the last time you checked your smoke detectors at home? We should be testing them each month, so follow the instructions on the case to make sure the battery is still tickety-boo. Maybe set a monthly reminder in your phone’s calendar, too? Don’t forget to look over other fire equipment and carbon monoxide detectors, to check these are still within date and undamaged. 

5. Clean showerheads and tap aerator screens

When showers and taps seem to lose pressure, or start to squirt off to one side, this is usually due to rust, grit or limescale clogs. Luckily, we can clean out showerheads and tap aerators with a soak and scrub in plain white vinegar, so long as we take care not to damage parts or lose bits down the plughole. 

6. Prop a wobbly piece of furniture with a piece of wine cork

To make a rickety chair or table stand solidly, first work out which of the feet needs propping. Measure the gap and, carefully, using a sharp craft knife or small saw, cut a round of that depth from a wine cork. Glue it to the offending leg to end that annoying wobble for good. These at home DIY wine cork props can also be used to protect wooden floors from furniture scrapes. 

7. Hoover the back of the fridge

Dust on the refrigerator condenser coils can prevent it releasing heat efficiently and shorten its working lifespan. Pull it out and give it a once over with a brush-ended vacuum attachment. 

8. Replace old silicone caulking

Are the silicone seals at home in your bathroom blackened or coming away? It happens inevitably as they age, but isn’t something you should ignore. Gradual water seepage will eventually lead to rotten floorboards and joists beneath the bath and stained ceilings below. Fortunately, silicone caulk replacement is a doable-yourself job. 

Silicone caulk replacement is a doable-yourself job

Tips for us amateurs: 

1) Half fill the bath before applying the sealant and leave this water in place while it dries. This is so the seal ends up in the right position, so it won’t come away with the weight of someone using the bath. 

2) Place strips of masking tape above and below the gap you’re caulking, to be sure of clean edges.

9. Freshen up fabrics with bicarb

Plain old bicarbonate of soda is excellent at neutralising odours embedded in carpets, rugs and other soft furnishings that might be hard to clean otherwise. Sprinkle a generous amount onto the offending item, leave for 20 minutes, then hoover the bicarb away. With it, generally, goes the smell. 

10. Clean the door seals on your fridge, freezer and oven

One set keeps the heat out, one set keeps the heat in. Either way, dirty or gritty rubber seals on your fridge, freezer and oven can cause them not to close correctly, wasting energy as the appliance struggles to stay at the right temperature. Clean any debris out of nooks and crannies using an old toothbrush and some soapy water.

11.  Disinfect your dishwasher and washing machine

Remove limescale and disinfect the workings by running white vinegar through your dishwasher and washing machine. 

>> Pop a cup of white vinegar on the top rack of an empty dishwasher and run it on the hottest setting. 

>> Pour a cup of white vinegar into the main compartment of your washing machine and run it empty on its hottest setting. 

If you’re thinking “hottest setting doesn’t sound very eco”, in this case, keeping the appliance working well for longer outweighs the energy and water cost!

Keeping the appliance working well for longer outweighs the energy and water cost!

12. Brush out spilled food and debris from gas burners

We may clean around the gas burners on our stove tops, but do you even clean within them? It’s one we often forget! Bits of food, spilled liquids, ashy deposits and other debris can get stuck inside and build up, eventually stopping the gas flame from igniting and burning efficiently. 

Take off the grates, remove the burner caps and brush out the accumulations from the burner head with an old toothbrush. It’s very important, for safety’s sake, to make sure the burner caps are seated properly on the burners when you put everything back together. 

13. Sew loose buttons back on securely

Don’t let an outfit be ruined for the loss of a button. Grab a needle and thread, then watch this video to find out how to tighten up loose buttons before you lose them: 

14. Use a walnut to disguise scratches in wood

Yes, you read that correctly! The oil in the walnut can help to protect and polish away a scratch in medium brown wooden finishes. 

Gently rub the walnut over the whole length of the scratch, using a small circular motion to get as much of the nut oil into the scrape as possible. Leave the oil to sit on the wood for five minutes, then buff the surface with a soft, clean cloth. The appearance of the scratch should be much improved.  

15. Steam clean your microwave

Degrease a smelly microwave by heating up a small bowl of water with a few lemon slices. Set this on high for a minute or until the microwave fills with steam. 

Carefully open the door, taking care not to burn yourself on the steam or on the hot water in the bowl. Remove the bowl, the glass stand and the rotating mechanism, then immediately wipe down the inside of the microwave with a clean cloth or rag. You’ll be amazed how much gunk comes off! 

Do you have repairs and other maintenance jobs planned for this time spent at home? Share your household tips and tricks with us on Facebook or Twitter.

>> Is this the future? Clothing made to be remade

>> How to extend the life of household items 

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