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These 45 Life Hacks From 100 Years Ago Are Useful Even Today

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Did you ever need help with something and ask one of your elders? Did their solution surprise you?

I know I’ve been blown away by some of the life hacks from 100 years ago that my grandma shared with me—some are genius!

Pulling an old nail out of wood

Throughout history, people have always looked at the younger generation as being different from them, and, of course, the same thing is happening today.

We forget that without the “old folks,” we wouldn’t have all the technological wonders of today.

Human creativity helped our ancestors survive and thrive throughout harsh times. They used their wits and resourcefulness to improve their everyday lives and bring comfort to those around them.

There are a number of life hacks from 100 years ago that are clear proof of human ingenuity. These outdated life hacks have stood the test of time and are still in use by some people today. They’re the type of tips your grandfather may have passed down to you.

These tips may be useful today, especially when it comes to survival situations. It’s important to keep in mind that safety wasn’t a concern 100 years ago, so you should use your own caution when utilizing these tips today.

Let’s take a look at 45 life hacks from 100 years ago that are still useful to this day. This will help you decide which ones can benefit you.

Useful 45 Life Hacks From 100 Years Ago

1. Use Your Watch as a Compass

You can use a wristwatch to determine the points of a compass. It’s important to note that the method changes depending on if you are in the northern or southern hemisphere, if it’s before or after 12 pm and if it’s Daylight Savings Time.

Northern Hemisphere

With the watch level to the ground, point the hour hand towards the sun. The midway point between the hour hand and 12 o’clock is due south. In other words, if the hour hand is at 2, south is 1 o’clock.

Southern Hemisphere

Again, with the watch level to the ground, this time point the 12 towards the sun. The bisection of 12 and the hour hand will be due south.

Time of Day

If you are measuring before 12 pm, the bisection between the hour hand and 12 should be made clockwise. Conversely, if it’s after 12 pm, measure counterclockwise.

Finally, remember to adjust an hour if it’s currently Daylight Savings Time on your watch.

2. Make Your Own Fire Extinguisher

Dissolve one lb. of salt and a half lb. of sal-ammoniac in a half-gallon of water. Bottle the concoction in thin glass bottles. If there’s a fire, use the solution to put out the flames.

3. Make a Homemade Water Filter

Drill a hole in the bottom of a clean zinc water pail. Fit a small pipe in the hole.

Fill the pail with fine and coarse sand, as well as clean gravel and stones, through which the water will filter through before reaching the bottom in a clean, filtered state.

4. Boil Cracked Eggs

Cracked boiled eggs

Add vinegar to the water before boiling cracked eggs. This will prevent the contents of the eggs from boiling out.

5. Preserve Eggs for a Long Time

Eggs in a basket

To preserve eggs for a long time, place newly laid eggs in a box or tin of dry salt. Cover the eggs with the salt to protect the shells from the air.

Place the box or tin in a cool, dry location.

6. Remove a Tight Ring from Your Finger

Remove a ring from the finger without pain by lathering the finger with soap. The ring should come off easily.

However, if the finger and joints are so swollen the ring won’t come off, you might need to pay a visit to the jeweler.

This is one of the 100-year-old life hacks I’m very thankful for. It came in handy quite a few times for us!

7. Save Someone Else from Drowning

Hand sticking out of occean water

If the drowning person doesn’t struggle, turn her on her back and place your hand on either side of her face. Turn on your back, hold her in front of you, and swim with the backstroke.

The most important thing is to keep her face above water until you make it back to shore and can seek help.

8. Judge the Weather


In the early morning, study a very small, faraway cloud.

If the cloud grows larger, then rainy weather is probably heading your way. If the cloud shrinks in size, however, the day should be a good one.

9. Light a Fire Without Wood

Light a fire without wood by using a piece of paper that you’ve screwed into twists.

Two to three sheets of newspapers are a good option for building a coal fire.

10. How to Cut Down a Tree

Determine what side you want the tree to fall on and cut a downward, inward cut into the bark on the opposite side.

Once you are about halfway through, cut a few inches higher on the opposite side of the tree.

Use ropes to pull the tree down.

11. How to Kill a Dead Stump

Dead stump

To prevent a tree stump from sprouting, place holes in the top of the stump. You should also cut a patch of bark from the side of the stump and place more holes in the side.

Fill the holes with a mixture of salt and solignum to kill it.

12. Remove Long Nails

To remove long nails from wood, place a small block of wood under the pincer.

This will make the nail easier to draw out, rather than trying to remove the nail at a short distance.

13. Remove a Splinter

To remove a splinter from your hand, fill a large bottle with hot water. Press the area with the splinter against the bottle.

The heat from the steam will draw out the splinter.

14. Light a Match in the Wind

Overcome the challenge of lighting a match in the wind by cutting thin shavings on the match towards its striking end.

When the match is lit, the shavings will catch fire and give the flame a better chance of forming.

15. Survive a Thunderstorm While Outdoors

If you get stuck outside during a thunderstorm, the safest option is to find or make a ditch on low ground.

Avoid finding shelter under a tree, which is the most dangerous scenario. The tree could attract lightning or fall on you.

16. Detect a Gas Leak

Paint a soap solution down the length of the gas you suspect may have a leak.

If there is a leak, bubbles will form in the area of the leak.

17. Save Gas on a Gas Stove

Cover the top of the stove with an iron sheet. Enough heat will transfer to the sheet to cook an entire dinner.

The pan that needs to be cooked most should be placed over the burner, which is where the sheet will be the hottest.

18. Clean Broken Glass

broken glass

To clean up broken glass, use a soft, damp cloth, which will pick up all of the small splinters. It’s best to choose an old rag that can be tossed out with the glass.

19. Prevent Eye Glasses from Steaming

To prevent eyeglasses from developing moisture, rub the lenses daily with soap and polish them after.

This causes a thin film of soap to remain on the lenses. You won’t be able to see the film, but it will prevent the lenses from steaming.

20. Make Your Own Polish

Mix equal parts of vinegar and paraffin in a bottle. Add lavender oil for scent, if desired. The polish can be used for pictures, floors, mirrors, and more.

21. Use Boiling Water To Kill Weeds

Weeds growing in driveway cracks

Don’t you hate those weeds growing in the cracks of your driveway? You can safely use boiling water to kill them.

You might even add some salt to make this method more effective, as long as it’s not close to any plants you want to keep.

22. Boil Potatoes Just Right

Boiled potatoes

Add a small amount of sugar and salt to boiling water to make potatoes dry and floury. Once the potatoes have cooked, pour the water out and place the pan back over the heat for a short period of time.

Shake the pan to make sure the potatoes are evenly dried.

23. Remove Foreign Particles from the Eye

Reduce the risks of removing a foreign particle from the eye by placing a drop of castor oil in the corner of the eye.

24. Prevent a Dog Attack

If a vicious dog threatens to bite, hold a walking stick, scout’s staff, or even a hat in front of you in defense.

If this doesn’t deter the dog from biting, you’ll be in a good position to kick him.

25. Prevent Colors from Running Together

To prevent colors from running and staining other linens when they’re washed together, place colored items in a solution of one gallon of water and two handfuls of salt.

Allow the colored linens to soak for 24 hours.

26. Judge the Height of Something

If you need to know how tall a tree, tower, or other tall object is, you can judge it with this old-fashioned tip.

Pace yourself about two yards from the object, point A, and place a staff at point B. Then move out until the staff is in line with the object at point C.

Then you can do the math because the distance A to C is to A, E (the height of the object), and B to C is to B, D (the height of staff).

27. Remove the Sting of a Bee Sting

Bee on finger

A bee stung you? If you have some fresh onion, just slice it up and place it on the sting. It will take the pain and poison out of it.

28. Pillow Splint a Broken Leg

If someone has a fractured leg, you can create a split from a pillow and wood sticks or poles—good life hack in a pinch!

29. Broken Collar-Bone

Place a pad made from rolled-up material, cloth or grass in the armpit and apply a sling.

30. Treating Sprains

Elevate and ice, then wrap with cloths or cloth strips. Keep elevated until the swelling goes down.

31. Salt for a Sore Throat

Salt shaker with some salt on the table

It’s simpler and cheaper than anything you can buy on the cold store shelves—just gargle some salt water to help ease a sore throat. This one never goes out of style and it works for everyone.

32. Prunes for Constipation


When you get backed up and you just can’t go, it’s as simple as eating some prunes or drinking prune juice. There is no need for fancy medications. Mother nature has made something that does the trick.

33. Oatmeal Bath for Skin Issues

If you have severely dry skin, eczema, or psoriasis, you can try an oatmeal bath.

These conditions are very uncomfortable in normal circumstances, but in a survival situation, they can lead to sores, which lead to bacteria and that could even kill you if you don’t have access to proper treatment.

34. Honey for Cough

Honey jars

There’s nothing quite like honey for a cough or sore throat. It’s why many over-the-counter products today for cough contain honey. You can just go straight to the source.

35. Aloe for Burns

Sliced aloe, ready to soothe a burn

If you have a fresh aloe plant, you can just break off a small part of the leaf and access the gel inside. This can be used for cuts, scrapes, and burns, and it will help you heal faster, while also easing the pain.

36. Duct Tape for Wart Removal

Duct tape

Duct tape really is magical! You probably already know it’s good for so many things, but did you know you can use it for removing warts?

The American Academy of Dermatology even endorses it. A study by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine showed that applying duct tape to a wound was 25% more effective than freezing them as treatment.

37. Petroleum Jelly for Your Wounds

Petroleum jelly is not too good for the skin if you use it too much, but it can be great for helping to treat wounds. It has been used in post-surgery healing, and can also be used in a survival situation to help with wound healing.

38. Test Butter


Do you want to test your butter and be sure it’s real butter? Rub a little of it on a piece of paper and set it on fire. If it’s real butter, it will smell nice and dainty. If it’s margarine, it will have a bad smell.

Related: Learn how to rehydrate butter, it’s not as hard as you might think!

39. To Preserve Eggs

This is great for homesteading or for a survival situation where you have fresh eggs that you need to keep good until you can use them. Just put them in a box of dry salt. Life hacks like this one can keep your family fed during hard times!

40. Remove Gum From Hair With Peanut Butter

Peanut butter can be used to remove gum from kids hair. Great life hack!

Who knew? You can get gum out of your kids’ hair with peanut butter (other nut butter might work as well). Just “massage” the peanut butter into your child’s hair and eventually the gum will slide out.

41. Clean Your Teeth with Apples

Young girl biting into a green apple

If you can’t get to a toothbrush, an apple can truly help. It will keep the doctor away—and the dentist, too!

42. Water Your Plants While Away

If you need to self-water your plants, you can set up a system with a pail higher above the level of the plants and then use strands of wool to make a straw of sorts and put one end in the water (weighted down) and one end in the soil of the plants you need to water.

Great life hack for gardeners!

43. Neti Pot for Congestion

The age-old Neti pot will help with cold and flu symptoms. You can still buy them today and that’s because they work so well.

44. Get Rid of Flies

Nothing is worse than having a bunch of disease-carrying flies on everything, especially in a survival situation.

You can use some borax sprinkled into the dustbin or around other places they gather to keep them away. They won’t be able to breed and multiply.

45. Clean Bottles

You will use glass bottles for a lot of things, especially in a survival situation.  You can clean them with a little bit of sand and water, then wash and dry as needed.

Final Word

Have you ever tried any of these life hacks? How did they work out for you? What would you add to our list?

I’m sure there are a lot more life hacks out there, passed down the generations. We’d love to hear yours!

45 Life Hacks From 100 Years Ago