Author Archives: Sarah Littleton

Weekend Projects: 5 Ways to Make a Snow Sled

Whether you're planning on tackling bunny hills or serious slopes this season, there's a DIY sled built for the ride. Check out these five favorites, and get ready for your next snow day.

Mere days away from the official start of winter, we’re eagerly anticipating some of the activities that only snowy weather affords. At the top of the list? Sledding. We’ve always loved the simple thrill of coasting down a hillside, and introducing children to the experience is magical. While sleds of all sorts are readily available for purchase, creating your own can be a test of ingenuity that’s fun for all ages. Scroll down to see five favorite DIY sled designs now!



DIY Sled - Ikea Hack


Can you believe this DIY sled used to be an IKEA stool? We’ve seen IKEA hacks before, but this one might take the cake. Perhaps most impressive is how it uses every piece of the IKEA stool—plus a few 3D-printer-generated plastic parts! Though it may not be a family-friendly project, it’s certainly an inspiration to turn a creative eye to furniture you already have on hand.



DIY Sled - PVC


No fancy-pants parts needed here. PVC plumbing pipes, low-cost and readily available, combine (via nuts and bolts) with half-inch plywood to make a DIY sled that, at least according to its creator over on Instructables, steers better than the molded plastic variety you’ve likely seen on the slopes in the past. Give it a try!



Build Your Own Pallet Sled


Wood shipping pallets have so many great qualities. They’re free of charge, ubiquitous, and endlessly versatile—and they also happen to come preassembled as sled-like platforms. Armed with basic tools, a competent DIYer needs to make only a few strategic modifications to complete the job. For best results, sand the contact points and add paint to reduce friction.



DIY Sled - Cardboard


Ah, cardboard—a classic makeshift sled material, right up there with cafeteria lunch trays. With a sleek profile made possible and fortified by packing tape, this enclosed toboggan features extra layers of cardboard at its base, strategically positioned there to keep the sled from getting soggy too quickly. Smart.




Among the countless creative projects over on Built by Kids, we found this rather ingenious approach to a DIY sled. Incorporating scrap wood, hardware, a wheelbarrow bucket, and kid-length skis, the design seems destined to pick up speed, while the rope handle makes it easy to pull the sled behind you.

The Right Way to Dispose of Batteries

The next time replacing the batteries in an appliances leaves you with a couple spent ones in your palm, you might wonder, "what do I do with these now?" The answer isn't always straightforward. Read on to learn how to properly dispose of all the different types of batteries you might have in your home.

How to Dispose of Batteries


Just think about how many different types of batteries exist. From non-mercury alkalines to lithium-ion rechargeables, there are more than enough options to complicate any seemingly simple trip to the convenience store or home center. Making things even more difficult is that for each type of battery, there’s a different recommended disposal method. Why? Because batteries contain metals and other chemicals that, improperly treated, can be hazardous to the environment. While some batteries can be tossed out with your regular trash, others require special care. For help determining how best to dispose of the batteries you’ve got, continue reading!



General-Purpose Batteries
In California, it’s illegal to toss any type of battery into the trash. In all other states, however, general-purpose batteries—that is, non-mercury alkaline batteries—can be included with your regular garbage. Most single-use (nonrechargeable), general-purpose alkaline batteries produced after 1996 contain no mercury; Duracell phased out mercury back in 1993. Note that for safety reasons, it’s best not to trash more than one battery at a time; if multiple batteries, each with a little juice left, come into contact with one another in a trash can, they might create a spark that ends up starting a fire.

Recycling options for non-mercury alkaline batteries remain limited, though many local governments offer collection points. Check with yours to find out whether there are any such services in your area. If not, you can always rely on something like the iRecycle Kit from The smallest kit, which enables you to mail in five pounds’ worth of batteries, costs $29.95.

Mercury-Containing Batteries
Some batteries contain heavy metals—mercury, lead, cadmium or nickel—that can be hazardous if improperly disposed of. Today, only certain types of batteries contain heavy metals:

Alkaline mercury batteries: Prior to 1996, alkaline batteries were manufactured with mercury. Though production has ceased, such batteries can still be found stashed in junk drawers.

Mercuric- and silver-oxide batteries: Often found inside things like watches and hearing aids, these “button cell” batteries contain high concentrations of heavy metals and acid-based components.

Heavy metals are no trivial matter; leave their disposal to the pros. In many neighborhoods, regular collection is available at a specially designated facility. Contact your city or town hall for the details.

Rechargeable Batteries
Used in everything from cordless power tools to digital cameras, rechargeable batteries have become fairly easy to recycle, thanks to a nonprofit organization. Call2Recycle has helped to bring more than 30,000 drop-off sites to North America. To find the site nearest you, simply call 1-877-2-RECYCLE or use the online locator. The following types of rechargeable batteries are accepted: nickel-cadmium (NiCd), lithium-ion (Li-ion, or LIB), small sealed lead acid (SSLA/Pb), nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), and nickel zinc (NiZn). Recycling not only safely controls heavy metals, but also puts many components back to work in the manufacture of new batteries.

Handle with Care
When disposing of any battery, no matter its type, observe these safety measures:

• Leave the battery packaging intact; do not break the battery open. Doing so constitutes a fire, health, and environmental risk.

• Never burn batteries. When their chemical contents come into contact with fire, the batteries can explode, sending shrapnel flying.

• Wrap dead, expired, or unused batteries in a nonconductive material (for example, packing tape) and keep them away from moisture.

The Right Way to Clean a Toilet

Remember the gleaming porcelain bowl installed in your bathroom all those years ago? You can get it back! Here's how.

How to Clean a Toilet


A dreaded household chore, cleaning the toilet is the definition of dirty work. Mostly it’s a matter of hygiene, but cleaning the toilet properly can also make the fixture last longer, particularly if you live in an area with hard water. While the self-cleaning toilets of tomorrow hold out the promise that one day, we’ll be free of this least-favorite duty, it is—at least for the time being—unavoidable. The silver lining? It’s actually not at all hard to clean a toilet. Here’s how to do a thorough job.

- Rubber gloves
- Disinfectant
- Scrubbing brush
- Pumice stone
- Antibacterial spray
- Paper towels (or clean rags)

Before getting started, suit up in protective gear. Rubber gloves are must, but an apron and protective eyewear might be a good idea, too, since the process involves some harsh chemicals. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes. The next preparatory step is to drain the toilet. To do so, you can turn off the water supply and then flush, or you can wedge the float valve (also known as the ballcock) so that after flushing, the toilet does not automatically refill.

Toilet Cleaners


Lift up the toilet seat and squirt disinfectant around the rim and sides of the bowl, allowing it to run slowly down to the bottom. (If you live in an area with hard water, opt for a disinfectant that contains a chemical like borax, one that removes lime scale. Alternatively, you can purchase and use lime scale remover separately.) With a stiff, plastic-bristled brush, scrub the cleaner over the entire bowl, then allow it to set.

To remove tough stains, use a wet pumice stone to scrub the affected area of the ceramic bowl. Pumice stone can also dislodge lime scale deposits. It’s a handy tool, no matter the specific cause of discoloration.

With the disinfectant working its magic, close the seat and lid and focus on the exterior. Here, use an antibacterial spray, following with a clean rag or paper towels to wipe it all down. Pay extra attention to the seat hinge, notorious for its grime buildup. Finally, spray and wipe both sides of the lid and seat.

Now grab your scrubbing brush once more and have another go at the toilet bowl. This time, spend most of your energy on the area underneath the rim and down into the toilet U-bend. Once finished, restore the water supply or unplug the float valve. Flush the toilet, allowing fresh water to clean off any remaining disinfectant. Last but not least, rinse off the bristle brush so that it be used again—next week!

How To: Get Rid of Raccoons

Behind that adorable masked face lies a determined forager and a potentially destructive intruder. If raccoons have colonized your property, follow these suggestions for making your yard and your house less welcoming.

How to Get Rid of Raccoons


Sure, raccoons are sort of cute, but know this: If it feels threatened, a raccoon can be dangerous, particularly if it’s carrying a disease (e.g., rabies). Tread carefully, and remember that there are professionals trained to deal with raccoons and other creatures. Your local government most likely includes an animal control department with field operations aimed at helping residents cope with wildlife. Of course, if you’ve been frustrated by repeated incidents or feel the need to get on the case immediately, try the following strategies to get rid of raccoons safely and effectively, whether they’re causing trouble under your roof or strictly outdoors.

Raccoons are scavengers; if they’re hungry, even mere morsels of food left out in the open can lure them to your property. Keep discarded food waste out of sight and to the greatest extent possible, contain or mask the odor of those scraps. Purchase and use receptacles with lids that close tightly and lock into place. Additionally, consider double-bagging any trash that’s going to spend at least one night outdoors before your next scheduled garbage collection date.

Any food—even pet food—left outside can attract raccoons. If you must feed your pets outdoors, feed them only at certain times of day, and remove anything uneaten. If you and your family like to cook and/or dine al fresco, always take the time to clean up afterward. Here, it’s well worth being thorough; as a precaution, hose and wipe down your picnic or patio table at the end of a meal. For best results, use a cleaner that contains bleach, a chemical that goes a long way toward vanquishing odors. Note that bleach works so well at eliminating food odors, you might even pour some over any trash bags left outdoors in a unsecured receptacle.

How to Get Rid of Raccoons - Indoors


While raccoons can make a real mess of your yard, strewing trash in all directions over a surprisingly broad radius, they can wreak even greater havoc indoors, endangering your family’s health and safety.

It may be tempting to use poison. Ethics aside, this may not be the wisest course to take, because if the poison works and the animal dies, you’ll be left with a noxious odor and a mess you surely won’t enjoy cleaning up—assuming you can even find the dead raccoon, and that it’s in an accessible location.

To get rid of raccoons in a way that does not create additional problems, you must determine the animals’ entry point. Typically, raccoons get in through the eaves of the roof or in openings at the foundation level.

Once you’ve located the access point, the next step is to make your home inhospitable. Raccoons enjoy the dark, so a strategically placed flashlight can be a deterrent. Because they’re also put off by strange noises, playing a small radio may help keep them at bay. Finally, raccoons hate the smell of ammonia, so leave a saucer full of the stuff (or an ammonia-dipped rag) near the creatures’ entry point. Within 48 hours, thanks to one or all of the above tricks, the raccoons are likely to vacate the premises.

Once you’re certain your visitors have left the building, the final step is to seal up the access points so as to prevent return. In future weeks and months, periodically walk your home’s perimeter to check for signs of a pest presence. Likewise, remain vigilant about securing trash bags and cleaning up after outdoor meals.

How To: Get Rid of Pantry Moths

There's nothing quite like an unwelcome guest who eats you out of house and home. But when that vexing visitor is a pantry moth, it's as much a stomach-turner as anything else. Here, learn how to rid your home of these pests and prevent them from returning.

How To Get Rid Of Pantry Moths


Like their closet-lurking cousins, pantry moths are destructive pests. Act fast before they eat through (and lay eggs on) the stored food in your cabinets or pantry. Even if it’s a minor problem that hasn’t yet escalated to a full-blown infestation, take these steps to get rid of pantry moths and prevent them from ever returning.

Empty out the affected area—completely. Remove every can, box, bag or bottle. Along the way, look for larval sacs (or webs of any sort). Also, keep an eye out for small holes in packaging. Remember that you’re pursuing the pantry moths themselves, but also their larvae. So check under the lids of jars; moths are known to lay eggs here. If you’re intent on keeping any jars that’ve been kept in an affected area, wash the jars under hot, soapy water in combination with a scrub brush.

How to Get Rid of Pantry Moths - Moth Detail


Next, dispose of any dry goods with open packaging. And definitely throw away any boxes or bags found to have any holes that you didn’t make. Be thorough as you look over these items: If you’ve seen even one pantry moth near a certain cupboard or inside your pantry, then—troubling as it may be—all non-airtight packaging within the area may have been compromised by pests. To repeat: be thorough!

If possible, remove the shelves in the affected area. Either way, vacuum every square inch you can reach. Once finished, empty the vacuum bag, tie it off in a garbage bag, and take the garbage outside. Proceed to wash the affected area with a 50-50 solution of vinegar and warm water. If you have any or can get some, add peppermint oil into the mixture (pantry moths hate peppermint). Finish by mopping the floor with the same 50-50 mixture. And just to be on the safe side, why not bleach your mop head?

Wait a few weeks before restocking the area you’ve now cleaned. It pays to patient. If the problem hasn’t gone away, you can repeat the steps above, this time widening the scope to adjacent areas, without going through the hassle and expense of tossing the food you purchased to replace what you had already lost.

Once you’ve successfully gotten rid of pantry moths, take the following measures to keep them away:

• Store dry goods in plastic or glass containers with air-tight seals.

• Leave peppermint, bay leaves, mint or cedar chips exposed within the area, perhaps in a sachet.

• Inspect your cabinets and pantry on a regular basis. Whenever you spot pantry moths—and we hope, after this, you never spot them again—always act quickly in order to limit their spread as much as possible. After all, it’s easier to clean a single cabinet than it is clean every cabinet with food inside.

Finally, it’s well worth mentioning that pantry moths often piggy-back home with you from the grocery store. Disgusting but true. Before purchasing flour, cereal, bread or pet food, scrutinize the packaging. Leave any suspect packaging right there on the shelf, then run the other way!

How To: Clean a Mattress

The sweat, dust, and allergens lurking in your mattress are enough to give anyone nightmares—but don't lose sleep over it yet! Follow these five steps for a seasonal cleaning that will help you get a good night's rest.

How to Clean a Mattress


Wash and dry your sheets and pillowcases once a week—that’s all it takes to sleep in clean comfort, right? Wrong. You’re forgetting the mattress! Plenty of hair, sweat, dead skin, dandruff, dust, dirt and even food particles can accumulate in the mattress’s crevices. For allergy sufferers in particular, a mattress in grubby condition can make for unpleasant nights. Rest easy again by giving your mattress a proper cleaning at least once per season. Here’s how to go about it.

Remove all bedding so that the mattress sits alone on the box spring or bed frame, then vacuum the mattress all over, using the appliance attachments to help you do a thorough job. Pay close attention to the crevice around the seam that runs along the mattress’s perimeter. Here, you’re likely to find the greatest amount of gross buildup. For the record, any vacuum can probably do the trick, but experts do recommend HEPA-rated cleaners, as they can draw out even the tiniest particles.

Now’s the moment to spot-clean any stains you encounter.

How to Clean a Mattress - Sheets


• For stains left behind by vegetable oils, grease, food spills, and chocolate, use a paste made from baking soda, salt, and water. Cover the stain with the mixture, then let it set for half an hour. Next, brush away the dried paste and wipe down the area with cool water. Finally, dry the moist spot with either a hair dryer or a fan.

• Hydrogen peroxide works well to remove stains created by crayons, beverages, blood, or urine. Dilute the chemical by mixing it with an equal quantity of water, then dab the stained area with the solution. Next, brush the area gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Let it dry for five minutes, then dab again with the solution.

Sprinkle baking soda on the mattress to deodorize any lingering smells. Let it sit for an hour or so, then vacuum up the powder.

Does your mattress need to be flipped? Many today (e.g., pillow-top models) are designed to to be one-sided. If yours is two-sided and you haven’t recently flipped it, do so now. Besides helping your mattress wear more evenly, flipping prevents too much dirt from building up on any one side. Once you’ve flipped the mattress, repeat Step 3, sprinkling baking soda on the side that’s now on top.

STEP 5 (optional)
If the weather is warm and sunny, give the mattress a sunbath: Take it outside in order to capitalize on the sun’s natural germicidal effects. But don’t just set the mattress on the porch; prop it up on a pair of clothing racks or by any more expedient means,  being sure that your chosen supports are clean. Before replacing the mattress pad, sheets, and bedcovers, wait for the mattress to cool down a bit. Never air-out the mattress on a humid day, as the moisture could later lead to the growth of mold.

How To: Install a Dishwasher

Unlike the plug-in appliances used in rooms beyond the kitchen, a dishwasher must be hardwired and hooked up to the home's plumbing. If you're up to challenge of installing it yourself, you can save real money.

How to Install a Dishwasher


Installing a dishwasher may seem daunting, but with the right instructions and a little care, it can be a rewarding DIY. And with the money you’ll save by not hiring a professional, you can afford to splurge on a high-quality appliance that will serve your household well for years. A word of wisdom, though: To keep things simple, aim to replace your current dishwasher with a model of the same or similar size. If your kitchen has never included a dishwasher before—or if the one you’ve purchased is significantly larger than your existing model—sophisticated cabinetwork may be necessary to accommodate the new machine. That’s beyond the scope of this article. But if your new appliance fits snugly into the space left by your old dishwasher, these instructions can help you install the replacement within hours.

- 1/2-inch flexible copper tubing
- Tubing cutter
- Tube-bending spring
- Two ½-inch compression fittings
- Adjustable wrench
- Teflon tape
- 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch brass plumbing elbow
- Hose clamp
- Plumber’s strapping
- Cable clamp
- Wire strippers
- Electrical wire nut
- Level
- Drill/driver

If your current dishwasher is still in place, the obvious first step is to remove it. Before going any further, shut off the water supply to the dishwasher and cut power to the unit. To do this, you’ll need to shut off the power at the electrical panel by toggling the switch associated with the circuit on which the dishwasher runs. Double-check that the power is truly off by trying to turn on the machine. If the dishwasher doesn’t respond, it’s safe to move on by breaking the three connections that allow the dishwasher to do its dirty work: the drain line, the water supply, and the electrical supply.

With the old dishwasher out of the way, you can now prep the connections for the new unit. While the existing electrical wiring may be reused, it’s a good idea to replace the water supply line (unless the existing supply line is copper, in which case you can skip ahead to Step 3). Remove the old, most likely braided plumbing line, and begin snaking 1/2-inch flexible copper tubing from the front of the dishwasher cabinet to the hot-water valve under the sink. Once you’re finished, use a tubing cutter to cut the line away from the remainder of the tubing coil.

How to Install a Dishwasher - Isolated Appliance


Under the sink, maneuver the tubing as close as you can to the hot-water valve. To make the connection, it may be necessary to use a tube-bending spring, a small plumber’s tool that enables you to shape the tubing as needed. Secure the connection with a compression nut, which you’ll tighten with your hands before finishing off with the wrench.

Look on the bottom of the dishwasher to locate the channels along which the water supply and electrical cable are meant to run. Measure their locations with respect to the sides of the dishwasher, then transfer those measurements to the floor of the cabinet. Now use the tube-bending spring to shape the copper tubing so that it travels along the side of the cabinet and then runs along the supply line you’ve marked on the floor of the cabinet. Do the same for the electrical cable.

Your new dishwasher will have come with its own drain hose. Assuming you’ve removed the drain hose for the old dishwasher, go ahead and run the new one from the dishwasher cabinet through the existing hole and to the area under the sink. As you do so, be careful not to let any kinks interrupt the hose. In a later step, you will connect the hose to the dishwasher and the sink drain.

Enlist another person to help you ease the dishwasher onto its back. From there, you can more easily remove the panel cover at the base of the unit and access the water inlet, through which clean water will feed into the unit. Wrap Teflon tape around the threads of the inlet and use an adjustable wrench to attach either a 3/8-inch or 1/2-inch brass elbow, depending on your appliance. Now, using the tube-bending spring, turn the flexible copper supply line so that it meets the brass elbow you’ve added. Where the two meet, the copper must run for at least two inches without any bends. Secure the connection between the tubing and the elbow by placing a compression fitting over the straight run of copper. Tighten the compression nut with your hands before giving it an extra turn with an adjustable wrench.

Turn your attention to the electrical cable (which may be left over from the old dishwasher hookup). Slide a cable clamp over the exposed wires, right where the wires disappear into the plastic or metal sheathing around the wire bundle. Then locate the junction box and remove its cover plate. Loosen the nut on the cable clamp and push the wires (along with the threaded end of the clamp) through the junction box’s hole. Once you have finished, use a screwdriver to tighten the nut again on the part of the clamp that remains outside the box.

Inside the junction box, use wire nuts to join the identically colored wires, white to white and black to black. If the wires coming from your home are sheathed in plastic (such as Romex), then be sure to connect—by means of another wire nut—the green wire (the ground) to the dishwasher’s green (or bare copper) wire. Otherwise, wrap the the dishwasher’s ground wire around a mounting screw on the junction box, then fasten the screw so that the ground doesn’t budge. Finally, fold all the wires into the junction box before screwing the cover plate back onto the receptacle.

How to Install a Dishwasher - Diagram


Back in Step 5, you ran the drain hose from the dishwasher cabinet to the sink drain. Now it’s time to make the necessary connections. First, slip a hose clamp over the “sink side” of the hose, then fit the hose over the inlet on the sink drain. With plumber’s strapping, secure the hose against the top of the sink cabinet (or high on its rear side), so the hose arcs before it reaches the inlet. That U-shape is very important, because it prevents sink backflow from entering the dishwasher. Meanwhile, in the dishwasher cabinet, connect the other side of the hose to the dishwasher’s drain. This latter connection should be very quick and easy to make.

With the dishwasher in place, adjust its feet until the mounting brackets meet the underside of the counter. Check with a level to make sure that the appliance isn’t tilting to either side; adjust as necessary. Now use the drill/driver to drive screws through the mounting brackets, firmly securing the dishwasher in position. Replace the access panel cover at the base of the unit, which you removed in Step 6.

Turn on the water supply and return power to the circuit to which the dishwasher is connected. Don’t turn on the dishwasher yet; over the next few hours, keep a close eye out for leaks. If there aren’t any, take your new dishwasher out for its first test run!

How To: Paint Plastic

Perk up dingy plastic by spraying on a fresh, smooth coat of paint in the color of your choice.

How to Paint Plastic


Whether your goal is to renew a faded surface or bring a new color into the mix, there are two main things to know about painting plastic: It’s possible, and it’s easy. Although there are traditional paints formulated for use on plastic, we recommend spray paint, as it generally results in a more natural-looking, less obviously altered appearance. If you’ve never spray-painted before, practice a bit beforehand—on, say, a cardboard box—in order to perfect your technique. Spray painting isn’t difficult to do; it’s simply somewhat harder than it looks. Most important, be sure to purchase spray paint suitable for use on plastic. Note that the same product may also be appropriate for wrought iron, ceramic, glass, and vinyl, so you’re likely to find another use for any paint that happens to be left over.

- Spray paint for plastic
- Mild soap and water
- Rubbing alcohol
- Painter’s tape
- Clear acrylic spray sealant (optional)

How to Paint Plastic - Can Detail


Proper preparation is the key to a smooth and lasting finish. Begin by thoroughly cleaning the plastic surface you plan to paint, using mild soap and water. Having allowed the plastic to dry, wipe it down with rubbing alcohol. Next, to prevent accidents and minimize cleanup, set up a protected work area, lining it with newspapers, sheets of cardboard, or a tarp. If there are any parts of the plastic you don’t wish to paint, cover them up with painter’s tape.

Hold the nozzle of the spray paint can about 12 to 18 inches away from the plastic. Start spraying in a spot slightly to the side of the surface, then move the can across in a smooth motion, stopping only once you’ve gone a few inches past the edge. Continue in this way, overlapping your strokes, until you’ve coated the entire area. Avoid over-spraying; paint formulated for plastic tends to adhere quite well.

For the best results, apply a few coats, each one thin and even (avoid leaving patches of buildup). You can expect the paint to be dry to the touch within only 15 minutes, but you should wait about 30 minutes before applying each subsequent coat. Allow even longer if you are painting in a humid environment.

This is optional, but if the plastic you’re painting will spend time outdoors, we recommend protecting the job with a clear acrylic sealer. Once you’ve given the final layer of paint plenty of time to cure, spray on the sealer using the same smooth, overlapping strokes with which you applied the actual paint. A single coat of sealer may do the trick, but there’s no harm in putting on two or three. Between each, allow 30 minutes of drying time. After the final sealer coat, let the plastic sit for two hours, then you’re done!

Make Your Own Shower Cleaner

With a little TLC and a handful of pantry items, you can keep your shower clean—and relax a little more during your next morning routine at the sight of mold-free tile.

Homemade Shower Cleaner


There’s no such thing as a truly refreshing bathing experience in a shower that looks—or even feels—dirty. To keep the tub, tile, grout, liner or door impeccably clean, laborious scrubbing is rarely necessary. You can normally get by just fine with light cleaning, so long as you stay consistent: Apply homemade shower cleaner after each use. Homemade shower cleaner costs almost nothing to make and involves only a few simple ingredients you probably have on hand in your pantry. That said, no matter how dutifully you clean the shower, there are occasions that call for deeper cleaning. We have recipes to help you handle that, too.

How to Clean a Shower


Everyday Cleaning
Diluted vinegar: It’s cheap, readily available, non-toxic and a wonderfully effective as an everyday cleaner. Fill a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water, and you should have enough to last at least a couple of weeks. Spray down the shower after each time you use it, and the homemade shower cleaner will combat odors and prevent the growth of bacteria and the buildup of grime. If you’re not fond of vinegar’s smell, add in a few drops of lemon oil to impart a citrus scent.

Occasional Cleaning
Even if you consistently use the homemade shower cleaner explained above, chances are that perhaps twice a month, you’ll want to go a step further to make your shower sparkle. On those occasions, mix one or two cups of baking soda with a few drops of liquid dish soap. Here, the baking soda acts as an abrasive agent to dislodge stubborn residue, while the soap breaks down grease and oils. Use a brush or sponge to apply this cleanser, and run the shower to wash it away.

Fighting Mold
With all its moisture, cracks, and crevices, the shower is a natural and notorious breeding ground for mold and mildew. If you get behind on your cleaning regimen and things start looking a bit scuzzy, restoring cleanliness may require some more firepower. In a spray bottle, combine 1/3 cup ammonia, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup baking soda, and 7 cups of water. Spray down the shower, then watch as the vinegar and baking soda together create a cleansing, bubbling foam. Let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe down the tiles and tub with a damp cloth. Again, run the shower to wash away the cleaner.

Focus on Shower Doors
Take a two-stage approach to clean shower doors. First, mix baking soda and water into a thick paste, then use a sponge to apply that paste to the glass. After rinsing that away, spray on a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar. Finishing by wiping down the glass with a soft cloth that won’t leave streaks.

How To: Wire an Outlet

A do-it-yourselfer can replace an electrical outlet on his own, so long as he takes the proper precautions. Read on to learn how to get the job done safely.

How to Wire an Outlet


Simply put, electrical work is dangerous. With projects of any complexity or sophistication, we wholeheartedly recommend hiring a licensed electrician. There are, however, simple repairs and updates that are appropriate for budget-minded do-it-yourselfers ready to proceed with careful attention to detail. By following these tips, you can replace an old or damaged outlet. It’s a simple job, and so long as you take the proper precautions, it’s safe.

Adding a New Outlet
Adding a new outlet requires running a cable between the outlet location and the home’s electrical panel. That’s much easier said than done. For this job, we recommend that you hire a licensed master electrician, not least because building codes often stipulate that a permit is necessary for new electrical work, and in many parts of the country, only a pro can obtain the required permissions. In other areas, a homeowner can pull his own permits after passing a government-administered test.

Converting to a Three-Prong Plug
Old-fashioned two-prong outlets aren’t grounded, which makes them dangerous in the event of an electrical fault. Without an electrician, it’s safe to convert a two-prong to a three-prong outlet only if the electrical box housing the outlet is metal and the cable feeding the box is armored. If these conditions are met, the box provides ground-fault protection (even though the outlet does not). How can you tell, without opening the wall, if the electrical box meets the criteria? Simple: Use a voltage tester. Insert one prong into the outlet’s shorter slot (the “hot slot”), then touch the other prong to the screw securing the faceplate. If the tester lights up, the electrical box is grounded; you can go ahead and convert the two-prong to a three-prong. If your electrical box isn’t grounded, you can still convert to a three-prong, but the replacement must be a ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI (the type of outlet with a red button on its front).

- 4-in-1 screwdriver
- Voltage tester
- Needle-nose pliers
- Wire strippers

Before you go any further, it’s imperative that you cut power to the outlet you are replacing. Go to your home’s electrical panel and toggle off the switch associated with the circuit that sends electricity to the outlet in question. After you shut off the power to the outlet, use a voltage tester to double-check that it’s really off. Insert the tester’s probes into the top two slots on the outlet. If the tester lights up, you toggled the wrong switch on the electrical panel and you’ll have to try again. Continue your trial-and-error until you are certain the outlet is no longer receiving electricity. Don’t have a voltage tester? You can use a lamp instead, so long as you know the lamp works. Plug the lamp into the outlet, and if it doesn’t turn on, it’s safe to proceed.

How to Wire an Outlet - Screwdriver


Unscrew the outlet’s faceplate. In most faceplates, there’s a single screw in the middle. Remove that screw, and the plate should come off easily. Next, unscrew the mounting screws that secure the outlet to the electrical box. Finally, gently pull the outlet away from the receptacle.

You can now see three wires extending from the wall to the outlet. If the wires are attached to screws on the outlet, simply loosen those screws in order to free the wires. If the wires are snaked into holes in the back of the outlet, press the release slot and pull the wires, assuming they don’t come out on their own. Put aside the old outlet.

You’re now ready to wire in the replacement. First, connect the neutral wire (white) to the silver screw on the side of the outlet. Make sure to orient the hooked end of the wire so that its curve goes clockwise, the same direction in which the screw turns as you tighten it.

Connect the ground wire to the green screw, using the same technique as described above.

Connect the live wire (black) to the gold screw, which is the last remaining on the outlet casing.

Carefully maneuver the wires back into the electrical box, then screw the outlet to the box via the mounting screws at top and bottom. Finally, position the faceplate over the outlet and screw it back in.

Go back to the electrical panel and restore power to the outlet you’ve now finished replacing.