Dear 30-somethings: It’s time to bone up on some common DIY home hacks.
Whether you rent or own, these supersimple solutions to common at-home fixes will become your go-to cheat sheet to help you save time — and money.
(One more thing: Once your projects are done? Clean up the mess!)
1. Fill old picture holes
From dents and cracks to nail holes, most cosmetic wall imperfections (2 inches or smaller) can be tackled with spackle.
Use a fine-grit sandpaper or a sanding block to smooth out the edges of the imperfection. Brush away any dust or debris and then use a putty knife to spread the spackle paste into and over the imperfection in one clean swipe. Remove excess spackle from around the blemish using a damp cloth, then allow the spackle to dry completely. Afterward, go back in with your fine-grit sandpaper to lightly sand the area so that it’s level with its surroundings, then repaint as needed.
The (really) quick-fix route? If your walls are white, a squirt of toothpaste or a smear of Ivory bar soap can work for the short term.
2. Hang photos (and hooks) without damaging walls
Skip hammers and nails in favor of wall-mount strips that won’t leave your walls looking like Swiss cheese.
3M’s line of Command adhesives, for example, maintains the integrity of walls with sticky-backed strips that support posters and framed artwork, while the line’s handy hooks hold handbags, keys, kitchen utensils and towels, jewelry, holiday decorations — the sky’s the limit. Proper prep work pays off here; mind the instructions and weight limits on the packaging before you start sticking.
3. Fix a swinging door
An out-of-square frame is to blame for your freewheelin’ door, but it takes only about 10 minutes — and a newly bent hinge pin — to make it stay put.
Close the door and get to work on the side where the hinges are visible. Using a shim to keep the door steady, position a large nail under the top (or middle) hinge pin and hammer upward to coax the pin from its hinge.
Once the pin’s removed, put a slight bend to the hinge by hammering it gently at its middle; this bend should create enough friction to prevent the door from swinging. To finish the job, simply drop the pin back into its hinge.
4. Clear a clogged drain without chemicals
Dislodge a clog from just below a drain’s surface by first pouring boiling water into the drain, chasing it with half a cup of baking soda. Follow the baking soda with 1 cup of white distilled vinegar and then cover the drain with a paper towel or rag; this will encourage the fizzy chemical reaction to concentrate its magic on the clog. After 5 to 10 minutes, flush the drain with more boiling water. (Pro tip: Regularly employ the above method to keep a garbage disposal clean and stink-free, running the disposal as you flush.)
Repeat the process until the drain starts moving again, or reach for a plunger. Fill the basin of your sink or tub with 3 to 4 inches of water, stuff any overflow holes with a wet rag, then start plunging in quick, controlled movements. Smearing petroleum jelly all around the rim of a plunger can increase its suction power, and, in a pinch, a straightened wire hanger can sub in for a store-bought auger.
5. Fix a squeaky door
Follow the steps above to remove the hinge pins from your noisy door and then coat the pins in white lithium grease or petroleum jelly. Reinstall the pins, then open and close the door a few times to let the grease work its way into the hinges’ nooks and crannies.
6. Seal drafty doors and windows
When brand-new windows and doors aren’t in the budget, you can still save on winter heating bills using shrink-film kits, rope caulk, self-adhesive weatherstripping, or good old-fashioned draft snakes. All of the above are inexpensive, commonly found at home improvement stores, and easily removed come spring.
7. Remove a stuck light bulb using duct tape
Safety first: Unplug the light fixture (turn off the power at the circuit breaker if it’s a wall fixture), let the bulb cool, then slip on some goggles and leather gloves.
Snip a 2-foot-long strip of duct tape and form a loop (sticky side in). Hold the loop horizontally and then center it over the light bulb. Bring both sides of the tape together, allowing it to adhere to the light bulb; the excess tape on each side of the bulb will serve as handholds for unscrewing the bulb. Use the handles to gently turn the bulb counterclockwise and dislodge it. If the bulb shatters, stick a halved potato or bar of soap onto the socket, then twist left.
8. Remove scuffs from walls without removing paint
Start by dampening a soft cloth and using it to gently rub the scuff in a circular motion. (Concentrate your energy on the scuff itself to avoid lifting any paint from the wall.)
If that doesn’t work, progress to sprinkling the dampened cloth with a pinch of baking soda; its superfine grit will act as an extra-gentle abrasive. Still no luck? Reach for a melamine foam sponge.
9. Revive a wooden cutting board
Deep grooves in a well-worn cutting board can harbor bacteria, so you’ll need to break out some coarse sandpaper or, for deeper cuts, a hand sander.
Sand in the direction of the grain to smooth out nicks and cuts in the wood, then wipe down the board with a damp cloth. The next step is to disinfect the board by pouring a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution over the top. Allow the hydrogen peroxide to sit for 10 minutes, then wipe with a clean, damp cloth.
To give the board a nice sheen, rub it down with olive oil or coconut oil, then wipe off the excess. In between uses, keep your cutting board clean and odor-free by spritzing it with white distilled vinegar, then rinsing it clean with water. A warm bath in bleach water (1 teaspoon bleach per quart of water) also does the trick.
10. Get rid of ants (indoors)
Your first step here is to pinpoint the ants’ point of entry.
If you can, seal the entry point with caulk, then spray a 1:3 solution of white vinegar and water all around the areas where you’ve spotted the creepy-crawlies; this will erase the pheromone trail that invites new ants to come on in.
Sprinkle borax along baseboards, windows, and doorways to create a no-bugs-allowed barrier, or go one step further by making your own ant baits. Simply coat cotton balls in borax and powdered sugar and place them at known entry points. Ants find the sugar irresistible, and they’re quick to share the poison with the whole colony.