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36 Everyday Items You’ve Been Using Wrong This Whole Time

These everyday tasks just became quicker, safer, and more effective.

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Fried rice with the tupperware box.with steamed rice.N192/Shutterstock

Food storage containers

Glass vs. plastic aside, not all food containers are ideal for the microwave. The corners of rectangular containers usually attract more energy than other areas, leaving the food in those spots overcooked. A round container will allow food to reheat more uniformly. Here are 12 other things you should never microwave.

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flat-lay of a blender and fresh seasonal berries and fruits over white background, cooking preparing smoothies, detox, healthy clean eating Alina Indi/Shutterstock

Blender

There’s a reason your blender keeps stalling after every few seconds—the order of your ingredients makes a huge difference. Start with your liquid base or yogurt, then layer ingredients from smallest to largest, keeping the toughest pieces, such as ice, at the top. The liquids will let the blades run smoothly without catching on the hard ingredients. Here’s how to clean a blender in 30 seconds.

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High angle picture of toaster with two sliced breadtakepicsforfun/Shutterstock

Toaster

The type of bread you’re toasting affects how hot you should set your toaster. While white and sweet breads heat quickly, heavier ones like rye take more time. Even slices from the same loaf might need a different setting after a few days. Once bread starts to dry out, you might need lower heat for the less fresh slices, which don’t take as long to toast. Watch out for these 11 ways you’ve been storing your food wrong.

Try these cleaning tricks for tough-to-clean appliances.

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iStock/Leonardo Patrizi

Broiler

Leaving the door of your oven closed when broiling can make heat and steam build up. Venting the steam lets your food develop the crustiness you’re going for, and letting the hot air out ensures the heat stays concentrated on the top instead of effectively baking the entire dish.

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Woman's Hands Closing Microwave Oven Door And Preparing Food At HomeAndrey_Popov/Shutterstock

 Microwaved food

Microwave energy is drawn to salt, so a seasoned top will send too much heat to the outer layer of your food, leaving it dry. Add salt after heating or mix it into your dish beforehand to avoid dryness. Find out which other 10 reheated foods don’t belong in the microwave.

You can clean your microwave with these three pantry items.

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crockpotLighttraveler/Shutterstock

Slow cooker

Opening the lid of your slow cooker lets heat out and messes up the cooking time, so resist the temptation to take a quick look or give it a stir until there’s less than an hour left of cook time. As long as your pot is between half and three-quarters of the way full, your dish should cook up just fine. Learn how to fix these 11 ways you’re probably cleaning your kitchen wrong.

Free up space in your kitchen with these tips.

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iStock/InaTs

Food processor

Blenders have dull blades but powerful motors, while food processors have sharper blades and weaker motors. Use a blender for anything that needs to be super smooth with an even consistency, like smoothies, drinks, and creamy soups. But when working with hard foods like nuts and garlic, pull out a food processor, which is ideal for recipes with a chunkier texture, such as pesto.

These 7 kitchen items are crawling with germs.

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dirty dishes in the dishwashercornflower/Shutterstock

Dishwasher

A University of Birmingham study found that the best spot in your dishwasher depends on the type of mess your plate has. The middle of the machine gets the strongest spray of water, which makes it best for carb-based stains like potatoes or tomatoes. On the other hand, the detergent is at its highest concentration at the edges, where it flows back down like a waterfall, making it the most effective spot for protein-based messes like eggs, which need more time to soak. Here are other common mistakes you make when loading a dishwasher.

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Food processor to kneading dough for bread. Manufacturing process of sweet cakeEvgenyZinoviev/Shutterstock

Stand mixer

Stand mixers are built at the right height, but during delivery or after normal use, their beaters might end up out of place. There should be a space the thickness of two sheets of paper between the beater and the bottom of the bowl. If yours is misaligned, lift the head and turn the screw on the neck to the left to raise the beater, or to the right to lower it. Here are six surprising facts you never knew about a KitchenAid mixer.

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Waste disposal plug hole in a kitchen sinkSnap Happy/Shutterstock

Garbage disposal

Garbage disposals aren’t as tough as you might think. The hot water in your sink can get up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Water that warm can cause the food being put down the garbage disposal to melt and turn into a thick paste. This will cause the garbage disposal to clog up. When rinsing the food off of your plates and into the garbage disposal, use cold water. Then, when it’s time to wash your dishes, switch the water to hot. Read on to find the 15 things you should never put down the garbage disposal.

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Set of kitchen knives on a board, top viewFortyforks/Shutterstock

Knives

Big kitchen knives are scary enough without having to focus on how you hold them. Many people just wrap their hand around the handle. However, you’re supposed to hold your thumb and pointer finger on the sides of the blade. This grip will help you get more precise cuts. Here’s the important reason to clean your kitchen knife block.

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Toilet clogged - bathroom - PlungerThomas von Stetten/Shutterstock

Toilet plungers

Or should we say, sink plungers? When you picture a plunger, you’re probably thinking of a red one with a flat bottom. Here’s the twist: Those are good for sinks and bathtubs, which have a flat bottom, but they won’t seal the drain on your toilet because it has a round bottom. Toilets need a flange plunger, which has a smaller opening that bells out so you can seal the drain. Don’t miss these other 10 ways you didn’t know you were using the toilet wrong.

Here’s how to clean a toilet plunger.

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Stretch wrapping filmSwapan Photography/Shutterstock

Plastic wrap

Isn’t it annoying when saran wrap folds on itself and you need to rip out a new sheet? Keeping the tube still will help. Turn that box to the side and you should see a tab that you can press inwards, holding the tube in place. Aluminum foil has the same feature on its box. Here are 20 plastic wrap uses you never knew about.

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Toothbrush and toothpaste on blurred backgroundAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Toothpaste

That image on the toothpaste package of a smear big enough to cover the bristles isn’t what the doctor recommended. Dentists say the ideal amount is about the size of a pea. Here are 50 extraordinary uses for toothpaste you haven’t seen.

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Heinz Ketchupmohd kamarul hafiz/Shutterstock

Ketchup bottles

Instead of furiously shaking the bottle until waaaay too much ketchup pours out, a Heinz spokesperson told Today a better trick: Hit the bottle where the neck starts to narrow. It will come out quicker and smoother. Did you know you can clean with ketchup?

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Shirt details in macro shotPixeljoy/Shutterstock

Button-down shirts

If you’ve never used that little loop in the back of your dress shirts, you might be getting unnecessary wrinkles. The loop was added in the 1960s so men could hang them in gym lockers without getting creases in their shirts while they were working out. Check out the hidden meaning behind these 12 everyday items.

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Male hand in a shirt holding a ripe banana and clean itglebchik/Shutterstock

Bananas

If you watch monkeys in the wild, they peel bananas by the “bottom” instead of by the stem. Before you use that as proof that humans are smarter, try peeling it from the bottom yourself. Easier, right? No more mushy tops. Here’s how you can hang bananas under kitchen cabinets.

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Clsoe up of green toothbrush in dark brown skin hand isolated on white background hand of African American young girl holding toothbrush.Red Confidential/Shutterstock

Toothbrush

While you’re at it, make sure you’ve got your brushing technique down pat. You should be holding your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums, according to the American Dental Association. To get your front teeth nice and clean, hold it vertically and use up-and-down—not side-to-side—strokes.

See why having an old toothbrush around is a good idea.

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Female hands manicure with nail file.Yevhen Prozhyrko/Shutterstock

Nail files

The most natural way to file nails is to rub the emery board back and forth over the nail. But that sawing motion actually weakens nails. Glide it in just one direction instead, going from the outside to the middle on each side before smoothing out the tip. Learn more tricks for filing your nails so they never break.

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toilet paperAndrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Toilet paper

We don’t doubt your ability to wipe correctly, but you might be putting the roll in the wrong way. The end should hang over the top of the roll, not behind it. We even found the patent to prove it.

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Receptacle for coffee filtersmayer kleinostheim/Shutterstock

Coffee filters

Disposable cone-shaped coffee filters have a bad habit of closing in on themselves when you put them in the coffee maker. Well, that’s because you’ve missed an important step: Before unfolding the filter, fold it by the creases on the bottom and side. Now your filter has a flat bottom to sit on and a strengthened side to hold it in place. Don’t miss these other 14 ways you’ve been using your coffee machine wrong.

These are 10 coffee filter hacks you need to know.

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Kitchen drawersVizual Vortex Studio/Shutterstock

Oven drawer

You know that oven drawer where you’ve been stashing baking pans? In some models, it isn’t meant for storage—it’s a warming drawer where that keeps cooked food at a nice temperature until you’re ready to eat. Check your oven manual to see what yours is for. Learn if it’s safe to store pans in your oven drawer.

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Cotton swabs in clear plastic jar in bathroom setting with a double edged razor and towel in the background on dark woodHG Photography/Shutterstock

Q-Tips

Cleaning ears is one of the most popular uses for cotton swabs, but it’s actually not very healthy. Sticking something small—i.e. a Q-Tip—in your ear can just push the wax in farther. Instead, try the only way you should be cleaning your ears.

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girl holds in her hand a pink rosa sponge for make-up, on the background there is a bright bathroom and a wash basinDaaaria/Shutterstock

Beauty blenders

Props for applying foundation with a beauty blender instead of your fingers, but you still might not be getting the most out of your makeup tools. They’re spongy for a reason—you should wet your sponge first to keep the makeup from soaking in and to help it blend smoothly. Use tiny dabs to apply rather than stroking it across your face. Here are 12 more makeup mistakes that make you look sloppy.

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Ceiling fanSompop Stitvarakom/Shutterstock

Ceiling fans

Fans are self-explanatory enough in the summer, when pushing cool air down can help you save on AC costs. But ceiling fans can also keep your home cozy in the winter. Just use the pulley or a switch on the side of your unit to reverse the fan’s direction to clockwise. Now your fan will push the air up and spread the warm air around the room, making the space feel warmer.

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Man using smartphonephotka/Shutterstock

Email notifications

Having a notification pop up every time you get a new message seems like a good way to keep on top of any surprises. But most emails don’t require an immediate response, and a University of British Columbia study found that people who could only check their email three times a day were less stressed than those who could read their messages anytime. Turn notifications off or limit them to important contacts like your boss to enjoy uninterrupted concentration. Here are 15 more computer mistakes you really need to stop making.

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Woman opening drawer of refrigerator with vegetablesAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Crisper drawer

You probably had a vague idea that produce should go in your fridge’s bottom drawers, but a few tiny tweaks can help them do their job of keeping your fruits and veggies fresh. Most fridges let you adjust the humidity for a reason. In general, the fruits and vegetables that rot quickest will fare better with low humidity, which lets out the gases they give off as they ripen. Use high humidity for foods that are more likely to wilt, like herbs and leafy greens. Find out more about the right way to use a fridge’s crisper drawer.

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Teen woman brushing her hair.B-D-S Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock

Brushes and combs

It seems natural to start brushing at the top of your head, but that just drags your top tangles into the other knots farther down the shaft, making tangles even worse. Start brushing or combing at the bottom of your hair, then slowly work your way up as you get rid of the knots. Make sure you know the other 12 worst things you can do to your hair.

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Runner tying shoelaces on sneakersfantom_rd/Shutterstock

Shoelaces

That last hole on your sneakers isn’t just for show. Depending on how you’re lacing your shoes, you can slip the laces through them to keep your shoes snug and comfy. Here are the best ways to clean white sneakers.

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Topical-creamRACOBOVT/Shutterstock

Tube caps

Ever notice there are spikes on the inside of the caps of some aluminum tubes, like ointments and prescription creams? When you use a product for the first time, you can turn the cap around and use the spike to poke a hole in the foil.

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Toilet paper put on Open Toilet seat. Cover The Toilet Seat With Tissue Paper.aSuruwataRi/Shutterstock

Toilet seat covers

Those paper toilet seat covers seem so self-explanatory that you probably never glance at the instructions. But if you do, you’ll notice that the middle tab should actually go in the front of the bowl, not the back.

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thermostatSteve Cukrov/Shutterstock

Air conditioner

When you get home in the summer and turn on the AC, you probably crank it up to a lower temperature than usual so you can cool down quicker. The thing is, your AC can only work so fast. Setting it at 60°F instead of your usual 75°F won’t cool your home down any faster, but it will waste energy while your air conditioner keeps cranking chilly air long after it’s reached your ideal setting. Discover more energy vampires in your home.

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Hand to grab the tissuemakieni/Shutterstock

Tissue

There actually is a “right” way to blow your nose—and you’re probably not doing it. Blow too hard and snot could end up congesting your passages and even give yourself a sinus infection. Yikes. Instead, clear up one nostril at a time, blowing gently.

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Pickled ginger with wooden chopsticks on plate top viewmama_mia/Shutterstock

Sushi ginger

Most people use ginger as a topping, but—surprise!—that’s not its real purpose. It’s meant to be eaten alone as a palate cleanser between sushi pieces.

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MonopolyCaseyMartin/Shutterstock

Monopoly

Everyone thinks they know how to play this game, but there’s a very good chance you’ve been bending the rules without realizing it. For one thing, the Free Parking space doesn’t give you any right to collect the money players have given up as taxes and penalties. It’s just a free spot with no rewards or penalties. No wonder the game has always lasted ridiculously long! Check out these other ways you’ve been playing Monopoly wrong.

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Hand holding sticky post note paper sheet on white backgroundBonNontawat/Shutterstock

Sticky notes

Post-It notes are great for setting little reminders around your computer screen, but have you ever been frustrated by the way they always seem to curl upwards? That’s because you’re peeling them from the bottom to the top, which bends the paper when you reach the sticky part. Peeling it off from the side will make it lie flat. Find out how to fix these other 50 mistakes you probably make every day.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest