50+ Handy Hints to Help You Survive the Dog Days of Summer
The sooner you can get your chores done, the sooner you can relax and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. These brilliant summer hacks will help you do just that!
Twig pickup on the go
“Before I mow, I usually go around and pick up fallen twigs and other debris. Inevitably, I miss some and have to stop and pick it up. To solve the problem, I attached a wastebasket to my mower. Now when wrappers, cans and sticks suddenly appear, I can stuff them into my basket and keep moving.” —Jared Reiners
Now, this is one home cooling tip most homeowners can get behind. When temperatures soar, step outside and grill your meals as opposed to using the oven, which can raise the temperature of your home considerably. From pizza to roast beef, there are numerous ways to cook a meal on the grill—so get outside and experiment with the very best meal options summer has to offer!
Hosting a backyard bash? Check out these summer grilling recipes!
Install screen doors
If you use them, now is the time to take down the storm doors and put up screen doors to let the summer breezes pour in. Be sure to inspect screens carefully, patching holes as needed—even a tiny hole can be enough to let in a mosquito.
Set up a spot to dry beach towels and bathing suits
Soggy, sandy beach towels getting dragged through the house is a mess waiting to happen—but you can easily prevent this with a bit of planning. Choose a dedicated spot, either just outside the door (a covered porch works well) or in the mudroom, as shown here, and hang a row of sturdy hooks for wet towels and bathing suits. Once dry, sand can be easily shaken off outdoors, so it doesn’t end up in your washing machine!
Saw dust filter fan
“My workshop doesn’t have air conditioning, and it gets pretty hot while I’m working. I used to blow a fan directly at myself, but it sucked in dust from around the shop and blew it at me. I had a few extra furnace filters lying around, so I tried attaching one to the back of the fan using hook-and-loop fasteners. This made a huge difference! Don’t use a super-high-performance filter, as it could cause the fan to have to work too hard to pull air through, resulting in an overheated motor.” —Larry Brannock
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Make your own cornhole game
This classic backyard game is easy and inexpensive to make yourself. And with legs that fold up, it’s easy to tote along this cornhole set for tailgating, camping and more. Get the step-by-step instructions!
Baby and toddler beach tent
Make sure your baby or toddler has a good time at the lake this season with this beach tent. There’s no assembly required, and it easily pops up and folds back down. It includes a canopy which offers protection from the sun and a shallow wadding pool so they can splash around.
Having accessible water sources around your home will draw in mosquitoes. Why? Because mosquitoes actually lay their eggs in standing or slow moving water. By cutting these water sources, you are cutting the number of mosquitoes laying eggs around your home—and in return, having fewer mosquitoes around the house in general.
Now water can accumulate around your home easier than you think. Some of the biggest culprits of water sources include unused tires, cans, pools and pool covers. Any plastic containers or ceramic pots for planting that are empty and collect water should be removed. Make sure to clean out your gutters as much as possible, and always keep an eye out for water build up around the house. Bird baths are also an easy target for mosquitoes!
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Maintain your A/C unit
Even if you’ve got a built-in air conditioner, it may not be working at capacity if it hasn’t been maintained every season. Make sure your unit is doing its best to keep your family cool and comfortable.
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A seat like this is usually called a “porch swing,” and a porch certainly is a good location for it. But a hanging seat can go just about anywhere; unlike a chair, it doesn’t require a firm, flat surface beneath it. This swing design is especially forgiving. If your cuts are slightly inaccurate or not quite straight, the swing will still turn out just fine. Here’s how to build it!
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Heavy-duty string lights
If you want to host the ultimate backyard barbecue, then you’ll surely plan for guests to stay past sunset. In that case, hang up some heavy-duty string lights for a festive look that will keep the party going.
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The best DIY gnat trap to try
“Tired of the annoying gnats around your home? Gather a few small jars and pour in four tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and whirl in a few drops of liquid dish soap. With the lids off, place the jars wherever you see the most gnats. The gnats will be drawn to the smell of the apple cider, but once they land in the mixture, the soap makes it difficult for them to escape. These non-toxic traps work like a dream. I set them out one night and the next morning, all the gnats were in the jars!” —Gina Kinnan
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Keep all your beverages cool and nearby with this inflatable floating cooler. No more trips back up to the beach to get another beverage! The inflatable even has six cup holders and heavy-duty handles for easy carrying.
Mowing in comfort
“My mower is now a pleasure to use thanks to the pipe insulation taped to the handle. I used to get numb hands and blisters (we have a big yard!) from the bare metal handle. Make sure the insulation doesn’t interfere with your auto-shutoff bar, if you have one.” —Joe Eisenbraun
Clean gutters and downspouts
If you did not get your gutters cleaned in spring, be sure to get this essential task checked off your list as soon as possible. Leaf- and debris-clogged gutters can lead to leaks and siding damage with summer storms.
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Use oil from lemon eucalyptus
This may seem like a myth, but oil from lemon eucalyptus is actually recommended by multiple government sources as an insect repellent. It doesn’t just have to be DEET! If you’re looking for a more natural remedy for how to keep mosquitoes away, this oil will do the trick.
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Install a mini split
Popular in Europe, a mini-split air conditioner is a mix between a built-in unit and a wall unit, providing whisper quiet operation, and a small footprint so it won’t detract from your decor. A mini-split system can be mounted anywhere and is an economical alternative for ductless homes.
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“The next time you have to do some trimming this clever handy hint! With a big plastic tarp, you can easily drag leaves, branches or mulch around your yard to wherever you need it. A 9 x 12-ft. tarp costs about $9 at home centres and hardware stores.” —Daniel Rodman
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Close the blinds
If you have windows that receive direct sunlight at any part of the day, you’ll benefit from keeping the blinds closed or curtains drawn for at least the sunniest part of the day. For rooms on lower floors, try turning your blinds upwards to prevent rays (and heat) from sneaking through.
No air pump? No problem! Use a shop vacuum
If you don’t have an air compressor to inflate your air mattresses or pool toys, you can use your shop vacuum instead. Just pop the top off a plastic squeeze bottle and fit the top to your vacuum’s hose. You may have to use duct tape. Once the top is secured to the hose, attach the hose to your vacuum’s exhaust port. It’ll blow up your inflatables in no time. To deflate, attach the hose to the vacuum port and suck the air out.
Though the payback on this may take a few seasons, planting shade trees and foliage around your home can help stop heat from seeping in through the windows and roof—and the result is pretty too!
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Wine cork fire starters
Fill a mason jar with wine corks and rubbing alcohol, and let the corks soak. The corks will burn ok in a couple days, but for best results, soak them for a week. Be sure the corks are natural, not synthetic.
Folding picnic table
If you want something convenient and compact that you can store away as easily as you can take it out, check out this folding picnic table. Along with offering a stylish wood-grain look, each bench supports up to 800 pounds, while the table top can handle 100 pounds.
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Easy mulch spreading
“Getting mulch up close to flowers and bushes is easier if the mulch is in a small container. So I place buckets and pails in my wheelbarrow and fill them up with mulch. It doesn’t matter much if the mulch misses the bucket and lands in the wheelbarrow. Once you’re done dumping the buckets, dump what’s left in the wheelbarrow in an open area and spread it out.” —Eric Swartz
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This moveable umbrella is one of our favourite reader-submitted DIY deck ideas. “I needed a stand for the large shade umbrella I bought for our patio,” says reader Brenda Barnes, “but all the ones I could find were designed for use under a patio table. Then I had a brilliant idea. I bought a large resin flowerpot and filled it about a third full with concrete. While the concrete was wet, I inserted a short length of PVC pipe that was just slightly larger in diameter than the umbrella pole. I covered the bottom of the pipe with duct tape so it wouldn’t fill with concrete. Then I drilled a few drainage holes above the concrete, filled the pot with potting soil and planted some shade-loving plants. Now I have a windproof umbrella stand and a beautiful pot of flowers in one!”
Everyone can get in on the fun with this inflatable island. It fits up to eight people or 650 pounds. Lay back and relax or use the openings to swim through. “Teens had so much fun playing with this on the lake,” said one buyer. “They floated in it, wrestled on it, played whack-a-mole, even paddled it across the lake and back.”
The rice pack
If you’ve never heard of a rice pack, you’re in for a treat. There are several reasons why I prefer rice packs to regular ice packs or heating pads. First, a rice pack can be used as both a heating and a cooling pack. Second, rice is readily available and cheap. Who doesn’t have a bag of rice in the kitchen? Third, rice is flexible—so you can shape the pack around whatever body part is hurting.
Making a rice pack couldn’t be simpler; just fill a sock with uncooked rice. Tie the sock shut with a piece of string, or just knot the sock itself. For cold therapy, freeze the cooling pack for at least two hours. Then, place it between bed sheets to stay cool while you sleep or use it to sooth a headache.
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Take your love of dominoes to the great outdoors by whipping up a super-sized set that will get you on your feet in the sweet sunshine.
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Outdoor cooler table
This small but mighty product is a cooler and cocktail table all in one. You’ll have a place to set your drink down and gather with an intimate group, all while ensuring drinks remain ice-cold for hours, and within arm’s reach!
Keep interior doors open
Keeping your interior doors open, particularly if you don’t have an open-concept living space. This simple step is critical to helping your home stay cool. By keeping doors open, you are allowing air to circulate freely, which eliminates hot spots and regulates the temperature within your home.
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Flexible ice pack
Maybe you’ve had an injury or a sprain, perhaps a hurt child needs to soothe a wound. Or, maybe you just need to keep your lunch cold. These ice packs are great because they are flexible, which makes them perfect for conforming to an injured ankle or other body part. Water alone would freeze solid and be rigid and uncomfortable. This ice pack is made of a mixture of Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and water, so they only partially freeze and remain flexible. The science behind it is that the rubbing alcohol keeps the water from freezing completely. And this ice pack stays cold for a good 20 to 30 minutes.
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Use muffin tins for condiments
The next time you host a barbecue or a patio party, pull out a muffin tin. Rather than using it to bake muffins (although you can do this later too), fill the cups with various condiments and barbecue toppings. This way your condiments are easy to access and your buffet lines will move along quickly. You will also dramatically increase your table space, and cut down on the separate serving bowls to clean up afterward.
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Great for young divers and explorers, this Seascooter can handle depths of 30 feet with a speed up to four kilometres per hour and a run time of an hour. It’s easy to handle and even has a mount for an underwater camera. “I tried to talk my husband out of ordering this sea scooter. Glad he didn’t listen to me! We took this to the lake and had so much fun, my 12-year-old used it for over an hour. The adults also used it and all enjoyed it. We are looking forward to taking this to the ocean,” said one buyer.
Install a ceiling fan
It’s no secret that moving air makes you feel cooler. By installing ceiling fans, you can create air movement that will help you cool down while avoiding the cost of dropping the thermostat temperature any further. In summer months, run your ceiling fan counterclockwise to draw the cooler air upwards. Additionally, you can run your bathroom exhaust fans during the summer months which will help expel the rising warm air to the exterior of your home.
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Use cooking spray to clean your car
When you drive a long enough distance you’re going to end up with bug splatters on the front of your car. This is especially true after long road trips or during spring or fall when there are lots of bugs in the air.
The bugs are impossible to avoid and if you leave them on your car for too long, they will harden and will become difficult to remove. And unfortunately, cleaning the bugs off of your car requires a little more than just a quick car wash. So instead of scrubbing and potentially damaging your car’s paint job, go grab your can of cooking spray. Spray a bit onto the stubborn bug, wait a few seconds, then use a microfiber cloth to wipe the area clean. Be sure to wash the area clean with soap and water like you would when giving your vehicle a car wash.
Install a programmable thermostat
If you’re looking to save some money with your home updates, installing a programmable thermostat is the way to go. Programmable thermostats let you set and control the temperature in your home based on your schedule, which prevents energy use when you aren’t home. This can result in as much as a five to 20 per cent decrease in your home energy bills.
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Kids will be able to play and float with this inflatable water wheel. Lay back and try to balance it, swim through it or just float on the side—this wheel makes a great addition to your lake toys.
Get rid of bugs with repellents
Bugs will come, and you need to be prepared for them. Tiki torches can ward away a few insects and may help deter the wasps. For mosquitos, the only natural solution that has been proven to work is extract of eucalyptus, which you can sometimes find in candle or spray form (you definitely don’t want chemicals like deet around your food). It’s also helpful to keep the backyard barbecue away from any standing water.
Greenhouse from the salad bar
When you’re finished with your lunch, wash the container thoroughly. Use an awl and hammer to punch a few small holes in the top part of the container for airflow. Then fill the bottom half with potting mix or your own special seed-starting soil. Plant your seeds, spreading them out in the container as suggested on the seed packet. Give the seeds a small drink of water and close the lid. Place the container in a sunny spot, and patiently wait for your seeds to sprout!
The clear plastic container acts like a greenhouse, allowing the sun and warmth to reach the plants while holding in moisture.
Open windows at night
Take advantage of those breezy summer evenings and open your windows at night to promote a cross-breeze that will help you and your family sleep better. The cooler air will circulate all night, allowing you to start fresh with a cool home in the morning.
Reusable icy drinks in an instant
The next time you do yard work on a sweltering hot day, make the chores a little more bearable by having icy water bottles at the ready. Fill your water bottles a quarter of the way, so that when they are on their sides the water settles just below the bottle’s neck, and stick them in the freezer. An ice block on the side of the bottle puts more liquid in contact with the ice, cooling it faster.
Give your ducts a boost
With its easy plug-in-and-power-on design, installing a duct booster fan can draw more cool air into a room that’s too hot. Simply choose the design that’s right for you, place it in the register vent and plug it in for a quick and easy way to cool your space.
DIY lint fire-starter log
To properly build a fire, you need to have tinder (easy-lighting material), kindling (finger-size sticks) and fuel (logs). We all have a readily available supply of tinder: dryer lint! To make fire starters, I stuff empty toilet paper tubes with dryer lint. My dryer lint “logs” light quickly and easily burn long enough to light up the kindling. And I don’t have to resort to lighter fluid for this lint fire starter!
Logs and log boppers
With these inflatables, just add kids and let the fun begin. The set comes with two inflatable logs, along with two inflatable log boppers. Who knows—adults may have just as much fun playing with the set. “My 12-year-old convinced me to play against him. To my surprise, we had a blast. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time,” said one buyer.
Get a portable A/C
A portable air conditioning unit is an excellent solution for cooling the most used areas of your home—and because they can easily be moved from room to room, you can be sure to have cool air wherever you need it most. Another alternative to keeping your home cool is a seasonal window unit which can be installed in a main room to get the most bang for your cooling buck.
BBQ grill tool set with apron storage
Put down your old spatula and liven up your grill with top-notch tools. This kit comes with a spatula, fork, tongs, knife, basting brush, glove and salt and pepper shaker. But surely the best addition is the apron that will make you look oh so professional. It contains utensil pockets are super handy when you’re cooking. This set also makes a perfect host/hostess gift!
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You don’t have to let the blazing sun or drippy weather drive you indoors. One of our favourite DIY deck ideas, this simple covered pergola, will keep you comfortable long after your neighbours with unsheltered decks have given up and gone inside.
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This summer, take a couple of these inflatable spaceship squirters to the lake and have a fun squirt gun fight. This inflatable is equipped with a constant-supply squirt gun so you’ll never run out of water!
Apply heat reducing film
With roughly 30 per cent of ambient heat coming into your home through the windows, one quick and easy fix to keep your home cool is to apply a reflective, heat-reducing window film to regulate the temperature. As a bonus, it even works in reverse, keeping more warm air inside during the winter months—and it’s quick and easy to install!
You might not have a real yacht to anchor by the beach this summer, but why not make the most of an inflatable version?! It can be a daybed on the sand, a floatie in the ocean, two dual drink holders and a cooler, too.
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