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Why You Should Critter-Proof Your Trash Cans With Ammonia (and Other Quick Cleaning Tips)

Our readers dished on their secret hacks.


No matter where you live, wildlife loves the garbage can. Keeping out squirrels, raccoons, and even bears is not easy, and adding bungee cords and other locks makes it inconvenient for you when it’s time to toss the trash. Fortunately, our readers wrote in and told us their secret hacks for critter-proofing trash cans. And while we’re at it, we’ve got five more cleaning tricks for you: easy ways to store plastic wrap, freshen up your carpet, hang your towels when there’s no space, nix bug residue, and keep messy foods off your phone screen — just to name a few. Keep reading to learn these helpful tidying tips.

How do you critter-proof trash cans?

If neighborhood wildlife has been digging through your garbage cans, these reader tips can help deter them.

  1. Wet a rag with ammonia and place near the cans, says Toni Waters. The nitrogen makes them think another animal “marked” it, so they’ll avoid. (55% this idea!)
  2. Sprinkle 5 tablespoons of Epsom salts in and around the trash, says Doris Nelson. Animals hate the taste. (45% this idea!)

What’s an easy way to store plastic wrap?

saran wrap on a fridge with magnets
DeAnn Berger

“I used to place my box of plastic wrap in a kitchen drawer, but it was tough to get it out,” says FIRST reader Christy Tucker, Boulder, CO. “I got tired of the hassle, so I got crafty and attached two self-adhesive industrial-strength magnets to the inside of the box, then stuck it to the fridge for easy use! And when the roll is finished, I just leave the box and replace the roll! It works great for parchment paper too.”

How do I freshen up my carpets for less?

woman cleaning a carpet rug outside with baking soda

The low-cost, chemical-free way to remove allergens from your carpet while leaving it clean and odor-free? Fill a jar with 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of borax. Shake to combine, sprinkle all over; vacuum after 5 minutes. Baking soda deodorizes and multi-purpose cleanser borax kills allergy-inducing dust mites.

MONEY SAVED: $7 for carpet cleaning powder

Where can I hang extra towels if I have no space?

S hooks

Your sister and her family are coming to stay for a long weekend, but you don’t have enough towel rods in your bathroom to accommodate all the added linens. The save: Add a few S-hooks to your shower curtain rod (facing outside the shower) and hang the towels there. You’ll free up space and ensure towels dry fast.

What’s a quick hack to lift bug residue from windshields?

bugs on windshield of white car
sumroeng chinnapan/Shutterstock

Eek! The road trip you took was a blast, but your windshield ended up covered in insect splatters that the wipers aren’t removing. Try this: Dampen a dryer sheet and rub at any spots (the sheet’s fibers grab at and pull up any stuck-on bug resi-due). Then activate the wiper fluid and wipers to wash the area, and voilà — a squeaky clean reveal!

How can I ensure a food-free phone?

When you’re trying a new recipe, you like to follow along on your phone before you commit to printing it out. The problem? Any cooking messes often make it onto your device. To prevent this, simply slip your phone into a small plastic baggie and seal closed. Not only will it protect your phone from spills but you’ll still be able to use the touch-screen through the bag.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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