Life hacks give us cheap, elegant ways to stay organized and productive.
But some life hacks are more trouble than they’re worth and won’t actually save you time or energy.
Here are the hacks you should probably avoid.
1. Toasters don’t make good grilled cheese.
- Grilled Cheese Social
The life hack: Making a grilled cheese sandwich by turning a toaster on its side and putting two slices of bread inside with a slice of cheese atop each.
Why it’s bogus: Aside from the fire hazard you’re creating, the method is just ineffective. Buttered bread will grease the inside of your toaster, and the final product won’t have the same texture. Plus, the bread might pop out and get melty cheese all over the place.
2. Toilet-paper rolls don’t work as phone speakers.
- AV Speaker/YouTube
The life hack: Fitting your phone inside a set of connected toilet-paper tubes serves as a kind of makeshift amp.
Why it’s bogus: The sound isn’t made any louder by the tubes; if anything, it gets muffled by all that excess cardboard. Go with a bowl instead – it shoots the sound waves up and out instead of trapping them inside an overly complicated rig.
3. Wooden spoons don’t stop pots of water from boiling over.
The life hack: Placing a wooden spoon across a boiling pot of water to prevent the water from spilling over.
Why it’s bogus: You may have some success with a simmering pot, but the real enemy here is the rapid, rolling boil. Expect the water to engulf your feeble spoon.
4. Nails won’t help you get the cork out of a wine bottle.
- Mental Floss/YouTube
The life hack: To pull a tightly plugged cork out of a bottle, jam a nail into it and pull it out, taking the cork with it.
Why it’s bogus: The hack works only if you have multiple nails in the cork. If you’re celebrating the grand opening of your hardware store, you could probably gather enough. Otherwise, go find a regular bottle opener.
5. Storing batteries in the fridge won’t make them last longer.
- Thomson Reuters
The life hack: Store batteries in a cold space, like the fridge or freezer, to extend their shelf life.
Why it’s bogus: Cold temperatures can actually shorten the life span of your batteries. Condensation can cause corrosion or seal damage, Energizer says.
6. Ketchup bottles are not good dispensers for pancake batter.
The life hack: Empty ketchup bottles make excellent batter holders and dispensers.
Why it’s bogus: First, you have to get the batter in the bottle somehow, which creates a mess. Then the tiny stream makes silver-dollar pancakes your only option. Also, they may taste vaguely of ketchup.
7. Holding cherry tomatoes between two Tupperware lids won’t make them easier to cut.
The life hack: Instead of cutting cherry tomatoes one by one, fit a bunch between two lids and slice horizontally through them all at once.
Why it’s bogus: On paper the idea seems plausible, but as John Green demonstrated for Mental Floss, the task is easier said than done. Tomato juice goes everywhere, and you won’t end up with clean, even cuts.
8. Shaking a popcorn bag won’t get the kernels out.
The life hack: Get rid of unpopped kernels by opening a popcorn bag just wide enough to shake them out without releasing the popcorn.
Why it’s bogus: If you’re in no rush to eat your popcorn, the hack works. But you’ll need to shake for a while to allow all the kernels to filter through the fluffier popcorn. It’s probably just better to leave them at the bottom of the bag.
9. Two halves of a plastic cup won’t amplify your laptop speakers.
The life hack: Cutting a plastic cup in half and placing both halves over your laptop will create glorious, volume-boosting speakers.
Why it’s bogus: Unlike the smartphone-in-the-bowl hack, the plastic cups don’t bounce the sound waves up and out; they merely funnel them down into your keyboard.
10. Tennis balls can’t open locked car doors.
The life hack: If you’ve locked your keys in your car, squeeze a tennis ball against the lock to send a column of air into it, moving the pins and unlocking the door.
11. Peeing on a jellyfish sting won’t reduce the pain.
The life hack: “Friends” told us that peeing on a friend’s (or your own) jellyfish sting can relieve the pain caused by the venom.
Why it’s bogus: Urine can cause more damage to a sting than doing nothing, since it can aggravate the wound site and lead to the release of more venom. Use an oral analgesic instead.
12. Leftover pizza doesn’t get crispier if you microwave it with a glass of water.
The life hack: Putting yesterday’s pizza in the microwave alongside a glass of water will produce a crispy, fresh-tasting crust, because the water will let “drier” heat warm the pizza.
Why it’s bogus: Microwaves use radiation to heat the water in your food from the inside out. Crisping requires convection, or hot air, to heat food from the outside in. The water glass does nothing.
13. Gargling mouthwash to relieve cold symptoms can actually make things worse.
- Heidi De Vries/Flickr
The life hack: To relieve a sore throat, gargle some mouthwash. It’ll kill bacteria lingering in your sinuses and lessen the irritation and pain.
Why it’s bogus: Gargling mouthwash can actually accelerate the healing for sore throats caused by bacteria. But the common cold is caused by a virus, and post-nasal drip is just mucous. Gargling mouthwash could actually irritate the already raw tonsils and throat.