We’re big fans of double-duty tricks and surprising uses for household items around here. But it turns out that being extra clever with household staples isn’t a new trend at all. In 1910, Gallaher’s Cigarettes began slipping life hacks into their boxes (the extra cardboard sturdied the pack), and today, the New York Library has preserved the handy ideas in its digital archive.
The cards are certainly an example of how the more things change, the more they stay the same — but we’d give a few of these hacks (dozens more of which can be found here) a modern-day update. Take a look:
Boil a cracked egg.
VINTAGE ADVICE: “To boil cracked eggs as satisfactorily as though they were undamaged, a little vinegar should be added to the water. If this is done, it will be found that none of the contents will boil out.”
MODERN TAKE: Vinegar does help the egg white coagulate, so this trick is worth a try – today, it’s often a recommended step in poaching eggs (which might be a better way to use that cracked egg, anyway).
Clean a white straw hat.
VINTAGE ADVICE: “The hat should be well-brushed to remove any loose dust, and then rubbed with half a lemon. This will clean the straw in a surprising fashion. Finish off with a glaze of clean gum carefully brushed all over, and your hat will look like a new one.”
MODERN TAKE: Stiff white hats aren’t exactly en vogue these days, but everyone still wants to know how to make their whites stay that way. Lemons or vinegar can coax some stains out, but you’ll likely have more luck with today’s stain-fighting detergents and bleach.
Carry a heavy jug.
VINTAGE ADVICE: “The picture gives a useful hint on carrying a heavy jug. The correct way to hold the jug is shown in the right-handed sketch. This prevents the weight from pulling the jug down and spilling what it contains, as is likely to happen if carried the other way.”
MODERN TAKE: We’re always a fan of practical advice, and this tweak is a good one — even if we’re probably more concerned with our pitcher of sangria than clothes-washing water these days.
Make a large candle fit in the holder.
VINTAGE ADVICE: “If a candle is too thick to fit the candlestick, don’t pare the end, but get a bowl of hot water and hold the end of the candle in the wax until it softens. If the candle is now pressed into the candlestick, it will fit firmly.”
MODERN TAKE: Today’s production standards have made this less of a problem, but candles still melt like they always have, so you can apply a little heat if you need to mold them to fit vintage holders (or remove stuck-on wax later ). A vegetable peeler can help fit too-large candles, too.
Revive cut flowers.
VINTAGE ADVICE: “To revive choice blooms that have faded during transit, plunge the stems into hot water, and allow them to remain until the water has cooled. By that time, the flowers will have revived. The ends of the stems should then be cut off and the blossoms placed in cold water in the usual way.”
MODERN TAKE: Warm water can help open buds, but adding a bit of sugar (or the preservative packet that often comes with bouquets) helps them perk up and last longer, too.
Preserve valuable vases.
VINTAGE ADVICE: “If the following precaution is taken, the danger of knocking over a valuable vase will not be so great. Partly fill the vase with sand, which, acting as a weight, keeps it upright and firm on its base. This idea is particularly useful in the case of vases which are inclined to be top heavy, owing to their having small bases.”
MODERN TAKE: Sounds like this tip would still work well, though we wonder if a small weight or even marbles could be a less-messy substitute.
Prevent colors from running.
VINTAGE ADVICE: “To prevent colours in household linen from running and staining other linen when washed together, coloured things should first be steeped in a solution of salt water. A double handful of salt to a gallon of water is a good proportion, and coloured things should be left to soak in this for about twenty-four hours.”
MODERN TAKE: Sorry, this trick doesn’t work with today’s dyes — colors are typically set when clothes are manufactured. Wash new items separately to avoid dye from transferring, and if you do have a red-sock-in-the-white-load disaster, try Carbona Color Run Remover to take care of it.
Remove ink stains on a handkerchief.
VINTAGE ADVICE: “A fine linen handkerchief which has had the misfortune to become stained with ink can be restored to its original spotlessness. When the accident occurs, the handkerchief should at once be plunged into milk. After soaking for some time, it will be found that the ink stains have disappeared.”
MODERN TAKE: Today, we’re partial to usingrubbing alcohol to help lift ink stains.
Slice bread thinly.
VINTAGE ADVICE: “The difficulty of cutting new bread into thin slices can be readily overcome by the following expedient. Plunge the bread knife into hot water and when thoroughly hot, wipe quickly. It will be found that the heated knife will cut soft, yielding new bread into the thinnest slices.”
MODERN TAKE: We now understand why “the greatest thing since sliced bread” is such a popular saying. Today, a serrated bread knife can help you get the job done — or ask the clerk at the bakery counter to put a fresh loaf through the bread-slicing machine before you buy it.