Welcome to Bob Vila

Big Box Furniture Has Nothing on This One-of-a-Kind Company

North Carolina-based Old Wood Co. builds quality furniture pieces from primarily reclaimed wood, proving that—once and for all—local, sustainable goods are no mere fad.

Photo: Travis Bell Photography

When Darren Green founded Old Wood Co., in 2007, he had social and environmental consciousness top of mind. After working in the furniture industry for years, he’d seen firsthand the effects that the Asian import industry had had on American furniture makers. In starting a new company, Darren wanted to create high-quality furniture that didn’t have to compete with low-cost imports.

Instead, his pieces—built primarily from reclaimed lumber—stand on their own and attract interest from homeowners who care about aesthetics and origin. The unique wood grain, knots, nail holes, and worm holes of each board mean that every table, chair, and desk is truly one-of-a-kind. Not only that, the Asheville, North Carolina-based team of woodworkers, wood finishers, blacksmiths, and metalworkers craft every aspect of the furniture for a finished product that is 100 percent American made. We checked in with Darren to talk shop and walked away with an understanding of the inspirational beginnings of his company and a whole lot of insight into the process of creating high-quality furniture.


The reason I started doing what I do is…
At age 22, I started working with my father in the furniture industry. After about two years, I was offered a sales position at Lee Industries, an upholstery manufacturer in Newton, North Carolina. It was there that I really gained a better appreciation of building and selling well-made custom furniture. After seven years, I decided I wanted to build my own company using the lessons I had learned from my father as well as my close friend and mentor Norman Coley, who was the president of Lee Industries at the time. It is that challenge of building things from scratch, whether a business or a piece of furniture, that keeps me engaged every day.

Old Wood Co - Remade in the USA

Photo: Old Wood Co.

What makes Old Wood Co. environmentally and socially conscious is…
First and foremost, we provide all our employees with a living wage, shared health insurance plan, paid vacations, yoga on Tuesdays, and a host of other great benefits.

Environmentally, we use locally sourced reclaimed hardwoods as well as sustainably harvested Appalachian hardwoods. We use only oils, waxes, and water-based stains and polyurethane top coats. We use these environmentally friendly finishes to protect our environment and all our employees in the shop.

Old Wood Co. - Distillers Table

Photo: Old Wood Co.

We source wood for our projects by…
We work with several local sawmills and reclamation experts to source the best material in our area. One of our main reclaimed wood suppliers is a full-time firefighter whose station is a mere two miles away.

The thing I love most about reclaimed wood is…
The uniqueness of the grain and reclaimed characteristics. Every board tells a different story. Some boards were milled into quarter-sawn, flat-sawn, or rift-sawn—all depending on how much yield the sawyer could get out of that log. When we bring those individual pieces together in a top, we’re telling our own one-of-a-kind story by placing them in a sequence that looks the best.

Old Wood Co - Tree Chairs

Photo: Old Wood Co.

My main sources of inspiration are…
Authenticity. Nature. Grain variation and patterns.

The most challenging thing about my work is…
Continuing to provide the same level of care as our company grows. As we increase production, it is vital to our success that we maintain our highest level of work.

I tell everyone in the shop that we need to be our biggest critics. If we don’t love the piece, then it is not ready to ship.

Old Wood Co - Harvest Dining Table

Photo: Old Wood Co.

My favorite part of the process is…
Seeing a piece prior to finishing that already looks great. If a piece looks good in sanding, it is going to look awesome after finishing.

Old Wood Co - Kids Play Furniture

Photo: Old Wood Co.

My all-time favorite tools are…
Our newest addition: a CNC router with a rotary axis. The tool will allow us to render a turning or a carving in a design program and quickly produce the part. It is the closest thing we will ever get to having a robot in our wood shop.

Old Wood Co - Writing Table

Photo: Old Wood Co.

Old Wood Co. is based out of Darren’s 10,000-square-foot space in the River Arts District of Asheville, North Carolina. Visit the website to request more information or schedule an appointment.

Get Instant Alerts Whenever Leaks Threaten Your Home

Even a relatively small leak can result in extensive, expensive repairs. The key to damage control has always been to catch moisture problems early, but only now is there an affordable and effective, truly homeowner-friendly means of doing so.

WallyHome Leak Detection System

Photo: wallyhome.com

With the exception of fire, water poses the greatest threat to our homes, whether it’s a slow-and-steady leak or a sudden flood. In fact, it’s estimated that every year, moisture plays a role in property loss claims to the tune of $11 billion. To help homeowners fend off expensive damage, dozens of manufacturers have brought water leak alarms to the market. But until now, those products were often too cheap to be effective or too expensive for many to adopt. Thankfully, that’s no longer true.

The WallyHome Water Sensing System has made leak detection not only more affordable, but potentially more effective. Whereas some competing leak detectors simply make noise, albeit a piercingly loud alarm, when triggered, Wally recognizes that you might not always be at home when a problem arises. So, when one of its sensors registers a red flag—moisture, or a worrying change in humidity or temperature—you immediately get a text message or email notification about the issue.

Operating on 10-year batteries, Wally sensors are small enough to fit beneath or adjacent to all the most common sources of leaks, including kitchen appliances, toilets, sump pumps, and water heaters. Those sensors communicate readings back to the system hub, which in turn updates your Internet monitoring account. No matter where you are, you can log on to the Wally site or its companion smartphone apps to check on things. Here, you can also configure your own custom alerts.

WallyHome Leak Detection System - Product Image

Photo: wallyhome.com

Once bitten, twice shy: For those who have shelled out thousands for extensive water damage repair in the past, it’s probably easy to justify the purchase price for Wally, because the system promises to catch problems while they’re still small and manageable. The kit comes with six sensors; if necessary, you can always buy more, either individually or in packages of six. There are no monthly charges, and because it’s easy enough to set up yourself, there’s no hefty pro installation fee to cough up.

Of course, for all its virtues, Wally can sense only those leaks that occur within the radius of its sensors, and some of the most devastating water damage stems not from known problem areas, but from areas within walls or under flooring. These are spots where you either are unable to place, or wouldn’t anticipate the need for, a leak detector. That said, the company behind Wally plans to develop additional sensors that should allow homeowners to better handle problems, expected and not.


Purchase WallyHome Leak Detection System, $299.

Bob Vila Radio: Does Pressure Washing Ruin Your Landscape?

Though it's a useful and versatile tool, the pressure washer do more harm than good if you don't take the proper steps to protect your plantings.

Want to remove years of dirt and grime from the exterior of your home? A power washer might be the right tool for the job. However, it can be bad news for your landscaping. Proceed with caution.

Does Pressure Washing Ruin Landscaping?

Photo: shutterstock.com

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON PRESSURE WASHERS AND LANDSCAPING or read the text below:

If you’re going to use bleach as part of the cleaning solution, opt for oxygen bleach over chlorine bleach. The former goes easier on foliage. Move as many potted plants as possible out of the immediate area. The plants you can’t move should be hosed down thoroughly with clear water before you start. That’ll naturally dilute any overspray that happens to land on the plants.

Another alternative is to cover your plants with plastic. But it’s important not to cover all the plants at once, especially if you have a large home and it’s a warm day. Prolonged periods shrouded in plastic can smother even the hardiest species. Covering plants becomes essential if you have natural wood siding and plan to use a sealant after power washing. That’s because most sealants can’t be washed off and are lethal to flora.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.

Genius! Unpack the Ultimate Picnic with This Suitcase Hack

If you love eating outdoors and are a sucker for spontaneity, have we got a DIY for you! With your own custom picnic case, you can grab and go whenever the spirit moves you. We promise—you'll never go back to baskets and blankets again.

Suitcase Picnic Table

Photo: instructables.com

A blanket works just fine for picnics—you know, in the way that candles worked just fine before electricity. But if you want to dine outdoors in style and comfort, Instructables author Carleyy can show you how. In her alfresco dining hack, what looks like any ordinary hard-shell suitcase actually opens into the tiniest, most fully featured picnic table your neighborhood park has ever seen. Oh, and did we mention this talented table serenades you whilst you snack on wine and cheese?

To create your own party-in-a-suitcase, start by making the retractable legs, cutting them to size from a 1″ x 1″ board. Keep in mind that in order for the legs to fold in, they can be only as long as your suitcase is tall. Spray-paint or stain them to coordinate with your suitcase, then screw them to locking braces that you’ve secured within the case interior.

It’s equally easy to prepare the speakers. Start by slowly chipping away at the bulky plastic enclosure around a pair of inexpensive USB speakers. Continue until you’ve exposed the wiring. From there, measure and cut two round holes into the top of the suitcase (near where it latches). Fit the speakers through the holes, gluing them into place with epoxy. Hidden inside the case, the speaker wiring can be covered up with either sewn-in fabric or a small, fastened-on plastic box.

Finally, add straps, ribbon, and elastic to the suitcase lining to hold your picnic essentials (read: wine bottle and glasses). Three cheers for this brilliant DIY!

 FOR MORE: Instructables

Suitcase Picnic Table - Interior

Photo: instructables.com

Act NOW for Greater Comfort NEXT Winter

Today, you can play games, watch movies, send email, and surf the Internet—all on a device that's small enough to fit in your pocket. So why can't you be totally comfortable at home during the winter months? Take the home heating off-season to reassess your options.

Photo: fotosearch.com

After a long, hard winter that saw record-breaking snowfalls and temperature lows, it’s only natural to look forward to the fairer weather ahead. But don’t let the arrival of spring distract you from the reality that, if you were uncomfortable at home during the cold months, you are likely to be uncomfortable again. And it’s only a matter of time before winter returns. So rather than wait around for the weather to turn foul once more, capitalize on the off-season to reassess your home heating. There may be no such thing as a perfect system, but, hey, it’s 2015: You deserve heating that operates efficiently to create consistent comfort. Has it been a while since you last looked into your options? Read on for an examination of three main issues that factor into home heat decision-making today.



Photo: fotosearch.com

Warmth is warmth, right? Wrong. If you have radiator, baseboard, or forced-air heating, you know the thermostat only approximates the temperature in your home. It cannot provide an accurate reading, because the indoor temperature fluctuates, not only from room to room, but from one corner of a room to another. Typically, it’s warmest near the heating unit and considerably cooler farther away. So depending on where you’re standing or sitting, you can feel either too warm or not nearly warm enough. With forced-air heating, the most ubiquitous type in America, temperatures are particularly variable, thanks to the roller-coaster effect of the system turning on and off. When the heat kicks on, blasts of hot air rush into the space until the target temperature has been reached. Then the heat suddenly turns off, and it stays off until the room gets cold enough to snap the system back into action. Is any of this comfortable? Not really.

If you want steady, even heat in your home, one option is to forego traditional systems in favor of radiant heat. The technology has been around for years—centuries, in fact—but only more recently has it become a viable whole-home solution. In this type of system, heat arrives, not via vents or standalone units, but from panels under the floor. Panels, each inset with hot-water tubing, lie under the floor material of your choice, delivering heat to the space above quietly, invisibly, and in a constant, enveloping way. Certainly, there are aesthetic advantages to a heating system that does not force you to decorate around bulky radiators or wall-hugging baseboards. Air quality benefits too, since there are no dust-spreading, allergy-exacerbating ducts at play here. But for homeowners who want warmth more than anything else, the reason to choose a radiant system is that its design and technology always ensure maximum comfort.



Photo: fotosearch.com

In an era when energy costs were not so prohibitively high, it might have been fine to install an all-or-nothing system, one that offered no compromise between the “off” setting and full-throttle operation. Times have changed. Today, innovative systems allow homeowners to target different temperatures for different parts of the home. So if you’re sleeping in a second-floor bedroom, you no longer need to cover the cost necessary to keep the unoccupied first-floor at 70 degrees. Though it’s not always impossible to achieve zoned heating with traditional systems, newer technologies accommodate zoning from the get-go. Warmboard, a leading radiant manufacturer, designates a separate thermostat for separate zones, enabling customers to minimize household energy usage. What’s more: In a family with members who prefer different temperatures, zoning makes it so that everyone can get through the winter comfortably.



Photo: warmboard.com

Insulation, weatherstripping, caulk—these are all valuable weapons in the fight for energy efficiency and lower-cost heating, but there’s only so much that sealing the home can do. In other words, you can insulate every wall and plug every air leak, but if your heating system consumes a relatively large amount of energy in the effort to reach and maintain a comfortable indoor temperature, you’re inevitably going to be stuck with sizable month-to-month utility bills.

That’s one of the reasons that more and more homeowners are switching to radiant. Compared to forced-air heating, radiant systems operate at least 25% more efficiently, according to a study conducted by Kansas State University in conjunction with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. In part, radiant excels in efficiency because, unlike forced-air systems with imperfect ductwork, the former isn’t vulnerable to heat loss. So whereas a forced-air furnace has to work overtime, consuming extra energy to make up for its losses, radiant panels waste virtually no energy when running.

Not every radiant heating system maximizes homeowner savings. Certainly, the basic technology offers efficiency advantages, but individual system components make a big difference too. For instance, in some radiant setups, hydronic tubes (or electric coils) are embedded within a slab of sluggish concrete that takes hours to heat up and cool down. Seeing the limitations of concrete, manufacturers like Warmboard moved on to sheathing under-floor panels in highly conductive aluminum. Here, the heat responds to thermostat adjustments, not gradually, but more or less instantly. In addition, because aluminum transfers heat so effectively, the home boiler can heat the water for the system to a lower temperature than other systems would require. In the end, you can save serious money on home heating by choosing any radiant system, but among all manufacturers offering radiant products, Warmboard can save you the most.


This post has been brought to you by Warmboard. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.

DIY Lite: Make an Herb Garden from Kitchen Recyclables

Bring a little life into your kitchen—and spice up your meals—by building your own vertical herb garden! Check out these easy-to-follow steps to create a stylish and sturdy structure that even a novice can achieve.

DIY Herb Garden

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

As you welcome spring, bring a pop of the season into the house with a newly handmade vertical garden. This space-conscious upcycling project takes up minimal counter space considering the amount of herbs you’ll be able to squeeze into it. You don’t need to have a lot of room or even serious exposure to power tools for this easy DIY—just a few plastic bottles, some wood, and a can-do attitude will suffice. What could be more convenient than to have a selection of fresh herbs out on the counter ready to season your home-cooked dishes and sprinkle into summer salads?

DIY Herb Garden - Materials

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

- 6 plastic bottles (choose a medium size, around 50 oz. or 1.5L)
- utility knife
- 8 feet of 1″ x 4″ lumber
- handsaw (optional)
- pencil
- ruler
- 1-1/4″ hole saw
- sandpaper
- 12 metal brackets
- 24 screws
- drill
- screwdriver
- brush
- wood stain
- white spray paint
- 6 ready-to-plant herbs



DIY Herb Garden - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Use a utility knife to cut the tops off each of the six plastic bottles to form six goblet-shaped “planters.” (Tip: Draw a line 5 inches or so from the cap on both sides of your clear plastic bottle to give you a little bit of guidance.) Do your best to cut as straight as possible.



DIY Herb Garden - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Cut your lumber into five pieces: three 15-inch-long pieces (for the shelves and the top of the frame) and two 25-inch-long pieces (for the sides of the frame). Make it easier on yourself and ask for the cuts at your local hardware store. Once your pieces have been cut, grab a 15-inch length of wood and trace one of the bottle caps at the exact center of the piece.



DIY Herb Garden - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Trace two additional cap shapes on either side of the first, roughly 5 inches apart. Before you do any cutting, stand the bottle tops next to one another to make sure you’re leaving enough room for all three to fit comfortably.



DIY Herb Garden - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Secure the wood with clamps. Then, following the marks, drill three holes in the wood piece with a 1-1/4 inch hole saw.



DIY Herb Garden - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Repeat Steps 2 through 4 on one more 15-inch piece of wood. At this point, you’ll have two 15-inch lengths of wood with three holes in each and one that is still solid; the solid piece will serve as the top of the frame. Erase the pencil marks and lightly sand away any rough edges.



DIY Herb Garden - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now, set aside the 15-inch pieces while you use the longer pieces to assemble the frame.

First, position six brackets on one of the 25-inch lengths. Two brackets at the bottom will support the bottom shelf (leave about an inch below the shelf to give your planter feet); two in the center will support a shelf; and two at the top will support the top of the frame (position these brackets an inch from the top to account for the thickness of the wood). To be sure of the screws’ positions and help prevent the wood from cracking, drill small holes before screwing the brackets to the wood.

Repeat on the second 25-inch piece of wood.



DIY Herb Garden - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now you’re ready to fit the shelves into place. First, put the solid shelf on top, and mark the screw positions through the bracket holes.



DIY Herb Garden - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Following the pencil marks you’ve made, drill small holes and then use a screwdriver to secure the top of the frame to the brackets.



DIY Herb Garden - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Repeat Steps 7 and 8 for the middle and bottom shelves, the pieces with the drilled holes.



DIY Herb Garden - Step 10

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Once the frame is assembled and the shelves are mounted, you can stain and varnish it.



DIY Herb Garden - Step 11

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

While the shelf dries, turn your attention once more to the plastic bottles. Poke a few holes in each cap to provide drainage. Then, spray-paint the plastic bottles in your favorite color. (We kept it simple with white!) Check the can before you get started to make sure the paint will adhere to plastic, then head outside to spray in a well-ventilated area.



DIY Herb Garden - Step 12

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Give the painted pieces time to air-dry. When everything looks good, unpot the herbs and transfer them to the bottle top “planters.” Then, simply slip the caps into the holes in the shelves of your ready-to-grow vertical garden! Whether you choose to leave your garden on the kitchen counter or move it next to a window, having fresh herbs close at hand will make it easy to spice things up.

DIY Herb Garden - In Kitchen

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila


Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.

Bob Vila Radio: Raising Sunken Pavers

Over time, some pavers in your installation might sink to a level beneath that of the surrounding patio or driveway. When that happens, it can be an eyesore as well as a safety hazard.

If a few of the pavers in your patio or driveway have begun to sag, don’t fret—there’s an easy, DIY-friendly fix. Here’s how to handle the project.

How to Fix Sunken Pavers

Photo: shutterstock.com

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON SUNKEN PAVERS or read the text below:

First, remove the pavers using the tip of a small, flat-bladed screwdriver. Little by little, pry up the end of each paver. Sometimes employing a pair of screwdrivers—one at each end of the paver—helps with the wiggling process. If the pavers are wedged in tight, pound them with a rubber mallet to loosen things up.

Next, prepare a screed board of the kind used to level freshly poured concrete. You are going to use the board to scrape and level out the now-exposed ground beneath the sagging pavers. For that reason, make sure the board’s long enough to reach across the exposed area, all the way to the level pavers surrounding the problem area. Butt the board against the in-place pavers and notch its edges about an eighth of an inch below where the pavers hit.

Finally, add all-purpose sand to the low area and, with the notched ends of the screed aligned with the level pavers, pull the screed over the sand to level it out. Reset the pavers. Then use the rubber mallet to pound them down until they’re level with the other pavers. Sweep dry sand into the joints and you’re done!

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.

Small-Duct, “Invisible” AC Cools Any Home, New or Old

Thanks to high-velocity mini-duct systems, vintage and custom home owners no longer need to sacrifice space or architectural features in order to enjoy central air conditioning. Innovators like Unico have made HVAC unobtrusive and all but invisible.

High Velocity Mini Duct AC from Unico

Photo: unicosystem.com

Whether you own an old house or would like to build a new one, you’ve likely asked yourself a hard-to-answer question: Is it more important to preserve architectural integrity or to stay cool through the summer months? For decades, traditional central air-conditioning systems forced homeowners to choose either comfort or aesthetics. That’s because the ductwork that would deliver the cool air had to be coaxed into the structure somehow, upsetting the design. Now, thanks to innovators like Unico System, you no longer have to make that hard choice. Finally, you can enjoy invisible cooling while preserving the look of your historical or new custom home. So if you ever discounted air conditioning, it’s time to reassess things: A high-velocity mini-duct system may be the ideal solution for your home.

High-Velocity Mini-Duct AC from Unico - Custom Home

Photo: unicosystem.com

Small Ducts
Whereas full-size ductwork demands such accommodations as added soffits, drop ceilings, and chases run through closets, Unico HVAC relies on flexible round ducts that are only a few inches in diameter. These mini ducts easily slide in behind walls and snake between joists, which means they stay permanently out of sight and do not require that you alter the design of your home in any significant way. Meanwhile, Unico air handlers are much more compact than average models and can be tucked into tight existing spaces, without stealing square footage from your living areas.

Quiet Operation
Traditional central AC systems work to cool down home interiors, but in solving the one problem, they typically create a new issue—noise. Unico systems are different; they are designed to operate as quietly as possible. On the one hand, their small ducts feature an exterior layer of sound-attenuating insulation, which virtually eliminates the noise created by the high-velocity rush of air within. On the other hand, Unico air handlers are comprised of components that likewise include decibel-dampening insulation. You can’t see the Unico system at work—and you can’t hear it, either.

Energy Efficiency
It’s important to note that the insulation ensuring quiet operation plays an additional, equally important role—it keeps air leaks to an absolute minimum. Particularly when traveling through uninsulated space, traditional ductwork loses enough energy to hinder overall efficiency by around 25 percent. With Unico, in contrast, you can achieve zero percent leakage due to its insulated ducts. That means you’re not wasting energy dollars, and you get the cooling you pay for.

Besides duct leakage, another factor influencing air conditioner efficiency is how well (or poorly) a given system deals with humidity. Thanks to high-tech cooling coils, Unico HVAC systems are 30 percent better than others at removing moisture from the air. Lower humidity doesn’t only translate to a higher level of comfort. It also means that you can set the thermostat a few degrees higher than you normally would. With each thermostat degree representing three percent energy savings, the ability of Unico to lower humidity means that from month to month, it’s less expensive to operate.

Even Cooling
When a conventional air conditioner blasts cool air into a room, uneven temperatures tend to result. In one part of the room, you may feel completely comfortable, while in another part of the room, you may feel beads of sweat on your skin. Unico sidesteps the common problem of striation by leveraging the principle of aspiration. Here, cool air enters the conditioned space in such a way that it draws the ambient air into its stream. What results is a draft-free environment with a wholly consistent temperature. In a house cooled by Unico, the temperature remains steady from room to room and from one level of the house to another.

Unobtrusive Vents
Unico places heavy emphasis on its outlets being hardly noticeable. Smaller than traditional vents, and with no unsightly grillwork, Unico outlets can be installed anywhere—on walls, ceilings, or floors—wherever would be least noticeable in the room. Further, Unico outlets can be painted or stained to match your decor perfectly. Indeed, from its broad concept down to its finishing details, Unico has been engineered to deliver comfortable cooling as invisibly as possible.

This post has been brought to you by Unico System. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.

How To: Remove Permanent Marker

Wait! No need to discard a coffee table stained by permanent marker or despair over a wall covered in doodles just yet. These accidents can be reversed—and here's how.

How to Remove Permanent Marker

Photo: shutterstock.com

You may think that permanent marker is, well, permanent. But we’ll let you in on a special secret: With a little elbow grease and some creative cleaners, you can actually remove these tough black marks from a number of surfaces. So, take a deep breath and count to 10—you may be able to save that coffee table that Johnny drew his latest pirate treasure map on after all.

How to Remove Permanent Marker - Sharpie Stain

Photo: shutterstock.com

The Problem Area: Finished Wood
The Fix: Bon Ami

The all-natural, nonabrasive Bon Ami is a veritable miracle on many levels. Well known for cleaning out burned pots, this cleanser can just as handily remove permanent marker from your sealed wood surfaces, including your dining table, without harming the finish. Just sprinkle it on the offending marks, and lightly scrub with a damp cloth. Rinse thoroughly, as it can otherwise leave a residue, and then dry. Bon Ami’s been doing its thing for more than 100 years, and at around $1 a can, it’s well worth keeping on hand.

The Problem Area: Upholstery
The Fix: Baking Soda

Really? Just baking soda? Yes. Baking soda and a stiff scrub brush can remove permanent marker from many upholstery fabrics. Sprinkle dry baking soda onto the spot as soon as possible after it was “markered,” then scrub. The process will probably require several applications, but using this pantry staple will significantly lighten the marker, if not completely remove it. You do need to use some force, so this approach is better suited for sturdier fabrics than it is for delicate textiles. Before you go to town on your sofa or sweater, however, test this method on an inconspicuous spot to see if your fabric is prone to pull or fray.

The Problem Area: Countertops and Other Nonporous Surfaces
The Fix: Nail Polish Remover

Think of permanent marker as, essentially, a very stubborn type of paint. Then consider that the base of most nail polish removers is acetone—a paint remover—and you’ve found the perfect match. A basic nail polish remover (minus any fragrance or moisturizing additives) can wipe up any spots of permanent marker on sealed granite, formica, tile, and other nonporous surfaces. Rinse thoroughly afterward.

The Problem Area: Walls
The Fix: Scrubby Sponge

On the Internet you may have seen people clean permanent marker from walls using toothpaste or nail polish remover, but you probably don’t need any cleansers at all—a scrubby sponge is just abrasive enough to do the trick on its own. Make sure it’s good and wet, and use just enough elbow grease to remove the mark without scuffing off too much paint. When you’ve finished, you’ll never have been happier to stare at a blank wall.

Quick Tip: Cleaning Up a Battery Leak

The next time you face a sticky situation caused by a battery leak, follow these steps to clean up the mess safely and effectively.

How to Clean Battery Corrosion

Photo: fotosearch.com

All batteries—particularly the alkaline variety—leak over time, whether drawing a current or not. So even if you heed the expiration date listed on the package, you can end up with leaks, if not within the battery compartments of home electronics, then in the junk drawer where you like store extras. With alkaline batteries, leaks usually manifest near the contacts as a white and flaky substance  To clean battery corrosion like this, follow these guidelines.

How to Clean Battery Corrosion - Tops

Photo: fotosearch.com

First, set up a safe place to do the job. Spread newspaper over the surface where you plan to work, and since there are chemicals involved, it’s recommended that you wear protective gear.

Alkaline batteries leak, not acid, but a chemical that registers as a base on the pH scale. For that reason, it’s wise to clean a battery leak with a mild household acid like vinegar or lemon juice. Both liquids work to neutralize the alkaline discharge. Place a drop of vinegar or lemon juice onto the corroded area, then wait a minute or two for the neutralizing effect to take place.

Having dipped a Q-tip or toothbrush dipped into your chosen acidic liquid, gently wipe away the crystalline white residue. Again, be careful not to get the chemical on your skin or in your eyes.

Address lingering residue with a toothpick or, even better, a pencil eraser. If you’re cleaning the contacts within the battery compartment, sandpaper or a file may prove handy for the purpose.

Now what do you do with the leaky batteries? Some municipalities allow you to throw in alkaline batteries with your regular trash. Other counties and states enforce more stringent regulations. Check with your local sanitation department for the appropriate disposal method.

Going forward, there are few simple things you can do to help prevent alkaline battery leaks. First, don’t use expired batteries. Second, don’t mix old and new batteries; when replacing one battery in a bay, go ahead and replace them all. Even mixing battery brands commonly causes problems and should be avoided if at all possible. Finally, know that batteries are highly sensitive to heat and must be stored at or below room temperature.