An a-z of incredible uses for everyday things

A is for … aluminium cans

To create a simple Chinese lantern, mark two lines around a clean empty can, about 2.5cm from the top and bottom. With a sharp craft knife, make vertical cuts about 1.5cm apart between the lines. Make a cut across the bottom of two adjacent strips to make an opening for a candle. Gently press down on the can to make the strips bend in the middle. Insert a tea-light through the opening, then tuck the cut ends of the opening strips inside the can. Finally attach a hanging loop. You can spray-paint the can before cutting it if you like.

and for … apples

If you've been heavy-handed with the salt shaker when cooking a soup or stew, simply drop a few apple (or potato) wedges into the pan. After cooking for another 10 minutes or so, remove the wedges, which will have absorbed the excess salt.

and for … aspirin

Before giving up hope of removing a stubborn perspiration stain from a shirt, try this. Crush two aspirins and mix the powder in 100ml warm water. Soak the stained part of the garment in the solution for two to three hours.

B is for … bread

You can remove most dirty or greasy fingerprints from painted walls by rubbing the area with a slice of white bread. Bread does a good job of cleaning nonwashable wallpaper as well. First cut off the crusts to minimise the chance of scratching the paper.

and for … baby oil

Buff up a dull-looking stainless steel sink by rubbing it down with a few drops of baby oil on a soft clean cloth. Rub dry with a towel and repeat if necessary. This is also a terrific way to remove stains on the chrome trim of kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures.

and for … bicarbonate of soda

Even the smelliest shoe or trainer is no match for the power of bicarbonate of soda. Liberally sprinkle powder in the offending loafer or laceup and let it sit overnight. Discard the powder in the morning. (Be careful with leather shoes as repeated applications can dry them out.)

C is for … crayons

Crayons make an excellent filler for small gouges or holes in resilient flooring. Select a colour that closely matches the floor. Melt the crayon in the microwave on medium power over a piece of greaseproof paper, until you have a pliant glob of colour. With a plastic or putty knife, fill the hole. You can use a softened crayon to cover even quite deep scratches on wooden furniture.

and for … carpet remnants

Place a series of carpet offcuts upside down and cover them with bark mulch or straw for a weed-free garden path. Use smaller scraps as mulch around your vegetable garden.

and for … coffee grounds

They're full of nutrients that acid-loving plants crave. Save them to fertilise rose bushes, azaleas, rhododendrons, evergreens and camellias. It's better to use grounds from a drip coffeemaker than the boiled grounds from a percolator as the drip grounds are richer in nitrogen.

and for … compact discs

Use them as garden/driveway reflectors. Drill small holes into a CD and screw it ito a gatepost or stake. Install several of them to mark out a night-time path to your front door.

and for … correction fluid

Dab small nicks on household appliances with correction fluid. Once it dries, cover your repair with clear nail polish for protection.

D is for … dental floss

Secure a button permanently with dental floss — it's much stronger than thread. Make hardwearing repairs to outdoor items. Because dental floss is resilient but fine, it is an ideal replacement for thread when you are repairing an umbrella, tent or rucksack.