Category: How To’s & Quick Tips


How To: Get Rid of Crows

If these big black hungry birds are making a noisy nuisance of themselves, here a guide to encouraging them to please take a powder.

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How to Get Rid of Crows

Photo: istockphoto.com

The bald eagle may be our national symbol, but virtually every American has encountered the crow. These highly intelligent, adaptable birds congregate in our rural and urban areas alike in flocks (also ominously known as murders) of sometimes hundreds, even thousands. Though a bane to gardeners for the way they feast on seeds and fruits, crows could be called the goats of the sky because they’ll eat virtually anything, making a mess on your property and a lot of noise in the process. So while they aren’t all bad—a crow family can devour tens of thousands of grubs, caterpillars, and other garden pests in a single season—they can be discouraged from roosting ‘round your place with these helpful tips.

How to Get Rid of Crows in the Yard

Photo: istockphoto.com

Employ Scare Tactics
A lone scarecrow might not be too effective, but the strategies below—which work best when used consistently and in conjunction with one another—can frighten off your feathered foes. Just be sure to vary the position and location of items you utilize so clever crows won’t become desensitized to them. To send crows packing, use:

Decoys. Hang creepy crow Halloween decorations upside with the wings spread out. Crows will think these are their dead brethren and beat it, pronto!

Shiny stuff. Put out Mylar balloons and bright, reflective ribbons that will blow in the breeze and catch the sun’s light. String together multiple pie tins, cheap silverware, and/or old CDs as a funky set of wind chimes and hang in a tree or trellis. The idea here is to not only look scary but rattle too.

Distress signals. Play recorded distress calls of other crows to keep them at bay. Noisemakers and the sounds of fireworks are also repellent. Just be considerate: Let close neighbors in on your noisy battle plan and find out the best time to enact it that won’t disturb others.

Keep Them Away
To prevent crows from returning, make your property less attractive by:

Covering your trash. Use garbage cans with tight-fitting lids and put them in a secure area. If they’re open, crows will belly up to the buffet. And if dogs or raccoons turn your receptacles over at night, crows will have a smorgasbord come morning.

Composting wisely. If you put kitchen scraps in your compost, cover it to keep crows out. Or only compost yard waste, which doesn’t interest crows.

Feeding conscientiously. The seed you offer songbirds will attract crows as well, so secure and clean around feeders. Only use feeders that exclude large birds, position them so that they can’t be overturned, and tidy up any spilled feed regularly. Also avoid feeding Fido and Fluffy outdoors, or remove any leftovers as soon as mealtime is over.

Thinning trees near gardens. Crows love to roost in tall trees, so you may wish to remove mighty specimens growing near a food source like your veggie patch. Plant new trees in areas less hospitable to crows.

Protecting your plants. If crows return despite your best efforts, keep them from ravaging your garden. Drape bird netting over  plants or suspend it from a framework built around plants. Protect seedlings with fabric row covers and, since corn is a crow’s favorite dish, thwart the hungry devils by placing a paper cup or bag over each ear after the silk has turned brown.

Now that you’ve banished these wily, unwelcome guests, your garden can flourish—and that’s really something to crow about!


How To: Strip Wire

Kick off any easy, do-it-yourself electrical project with one of these three simple ways to strip wire. Think you need new tools? Think again: We guarantee you already have all you need on hand for at least one of these methods!

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How to Strip Wire

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether you’re rewiring an old lamp, installing a new doorbell, or adding another outlet to a wall, the first step to this sort of do-it-yourself maintenance project often involves stripping the sheathing from the wire. While this introduction to electrical work may seem scary, it’s a skill that’s not hard to master. Specialty tools can help you with the task, but aren’t a necessity—you can still get by just fine without them with a little bit of practice. Learn how to strip any type of wire with whatever tools you have on hand, and you’ll soon be tackling future home wiring tasks with confidence.

MATERIALS & TOOLS
- Wire stripping tool
- Utility knife
- Scissors

Using Wire Strippers

How to Strip Wire - Using a Wire Stripper

Photo: istockphoto.com

A wire stripper can make DIY electrical work especially easy for a beginner, outfitted with several notches that correspond to various wire gauges. To strip wire using this specialty tool, first identify the gauge of the wire you plan to strip by comparing it to the guide along the side of the stripper. Then place the tip of the wire (about 1-½ inches) into the jaws of the wire stripper, notched in the appropriate space for its gauge. Close the wire strippers around the wire so that it cuts through the wire’s exterior sheathing. Then, with the jaws of the wire strippers still closed, pull the sheathing off the end of the wire.

 

Without Wire Strippers

If you don’t have a specialty tool for the job, don’t dismay. A resourceful DIYer can still strip just about any wire as long as he or she has an implement sharp enough to cut the sheathing, like a utility knife, a pair of scissors, or even a sharp pocket knife. The process is similar, but takes a little more practice to get just the right touch—enough pressure to cut off the sheathing without damaging the actual metal wires.

How to Strip Wire - Using a Utility Knife

Photo: istockphoto.com

When working with a utility knife…
Lay the wire across a workbench or piece of wood. In one hand, hold the utility knife so that its blade gently rests on the wire’s sheathing at the exact point you intend to cut to strip it off. Use the other hand to roll the wire across the work surface so that the blade scores the sheathing all the way around the wire. Pull the sheathing off with your fingers, and inspect the wire beneath to make sure no damage has been done.

 

How to Strip Wire - Using Scissors

Photo: istockphoto.com

When working with a scissors…
Open the scissors halfway and fit your wire as close as possible to where the blades meet. With just the slightest pressure, begin to close the scissors—you want to bite into the sheathing but not cut through the wire. Use your fingers to twist the wire around within the open scissors so that the sheathing gets completely scored by the pair of blades. Once the end sheathing has been separated, go ahead and pull it off.

It really is that simple. As mentioned, take care to not be so overzealous with the task that you accidentally nick or the insulation or wiring beneath the sheathing. Worst case scenario, you can lop off the end of the wire and start over. With a little bit of practice, some concentration, and a steady hand, you’ll be able to strip the sheathing off of any wire quickly and cleanly.


How To: Polish Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a popular choice for sinks, appliances, mixing bowls, and more. Its strength, durability, and luster are universally appreciated, but even this go-to material requires a bit of work from time to time to keep it looking new.

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How to Polish Stainless Steel - Kitchen Sink

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Thanks to its ability to resist corrosion, withstand heat, and handle all sorts of chemicals, stainless steel is a common constituent of appliances, sinks, and cooking implements. Increasingly, with the proliferation of sleek, professional-look kitchens, stainless steel is also often incorporated in larger fixtures such as countertops and backsplashes. While stainless steel is a rugged and reliable material, it’s not impervious to the effects of use or age, and it does have an unfortunate tendency to dull over time. But it’s fairly simple and straightforward to resurrect the original gleam of your stainless steel surfaces. Follow the handful of steps below to defeat the dullness and make your stainless steel shine again.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Dish detergent
- Dish sponge or brush
- Microfiber cloths
- Olive oil
- Flour
- Stainless steel polish (optional)
- Handheld power buffer with pads (optional)

Note: In most cases you can polish your stainless surfaces using only ingredients pulled from the pantry. Tougher jobs may require an extra trip to the store for a specialty solution and, possibly, a handheld power buffer to restore that sparkly magic, but even then the process is still fairly quick and easy.

How to Polish Stainless Steel - Polishing a Stainless Steel Stovetop

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1
Before you polish stainless steel, it’s important to make sure that the surface is clean and free of stuck-on gunk. Give the stainless steel a gentle but thorough washing with dish detergent, warm water, and a dish sponge or brush. Once you’ve cleaned the surface, rinse it off with fresh water and pat to dry. (For large, freestanding appliances, be sure to lay down a few towels first to protect the floor around the appliance from water damage, and be diligent about mopping up spills.)

Don’t worry if you see any streaks or smudges after you’ve dried the stainless steel surface; they’ll be taken care of later in the process.

STEP 2
Olive oil, which is readily available in most kitchens, can be a surprisingly effective polishing agent for stainless steel. Pour just a dot or two onto a microfiber cloth—or a bit more if you’re working with a large surface, such as a refrigerator or farmhouse sink—and use the cloth to spread a very thin layer of oil over the entire stainless steel surface of the fixture or appliance you’re polishing.

STEP 3
Once the whole surface has been lightly covered with oil, use moderate pressure to buff it, making small circles with the oiled part of the cloth. Work your way across the entire surface until it feels smoother than when you began. This should take just a couple of minutes.

STEP 4
After you’ve finished buffing, go over the entire surface once more, this time with a clean, dry cloth, using the same circular motion and pressure. It’s important to get rid of excess oil, which can leave a sticky residue and, over time, dull the shine again. If you’re happy with the shine you’ve uncovered, then congratulations—you’re done! Otherwise, if you think that the stainless surface could use a bit more work, never fear: Read on for two more solutions you can try.

STEP 5
If olive oil didn’t produce the results you wanted, try another common pantry dweller: flour! Start by covering the entire stainless steel surface with a thin layer of flour—just a fine coating, without any clumps. For reference, it takes about one-quarter cup of flour to completely cover a standard kitchen sink. Using this as a gauge, adjust your measurement accordingly. Once you’ve thinly covered the whole surface, repeat the buffing process, but this time with a dry cloth.

When you’re finished buffing, wipe away any excess flour. Your stainless steel should now be in good shape, but if it’s still dull, or if you notice scratches that need to be smoothed out, you may need to resort to one final option, a tool-assisted fix that’s described in the next step.

STEP 6
For a difficult polishing job plagued by pesky scratches and an elusive shine, you can always turn to a handheld power buffer and commercial stainless steel polish. The point here is to get tough with the material, so you’ll need to use a pad that’s slightly abrasive. Affix the pad to the buffer and apply polish to the pad according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Then, plug in the buffer, turn it on, and begin buffing. Start at the edge of the surface, work in small circles, and let the buffer apply the pressure for you as you proceed.

STEP 7
If you’re trying to buff away scratches, be sure to buff the entire area—not just the scratched sections—to ensure a uniform finish. Once you’ve finished with the buffer, grab a clean, dry cloth to go over the entire surface lightly one last time, making sure you’ve completely removed the polish.

STEP 8
When you’ve finally achieved the sparkling surface of your dreams, look deeply into your handiwork and give your reflection a thumbs-up. You’ve finished!


How To: Get Rid of Voles

Say “Vamoose!” to these underground varmints before they wreak havoc on your landscape.

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How To Get Rid of Voles

Photo: fotosearch.com

If you’ve never actually seen a vole, it’s not surprising. The 7-inch-long rodent also known as a meadow mouse is rather shy. Yet evidence of the pests’ presence is unmistakable: Their maze of 2-inch-wide tunnels leads to dying plants and displaced grasses. So don’t wait to roll up the welcome mat! Follow these do-it-yourself control methods before you’re faced with a full-scale vole invasion.

How To Get Rid of Voles - Backyard Rodent

Photo: fotosearch.com

Be a Bad Host
Active year round, voles multiply rapidly, producing up to 100 offspring annually. With adequate shelter and a plentiful food supply, a colony will thrive. So your first move is to eliminate environments that make voles feel at home: excess brush and mulch, leaf piles, wood stacks, and tall grasses. If there are fruit trees on your property, clean up fallen fruit immediately, and rake up pine needles around evergreen trees as well. By cleaning up prospective nesting areas and removing food sources, voles ought to decide that the grass looks greener on the other side and decamp.

Fence Them Out
Vole “runways” tend to be less obvious in landscapes with loose topsoil. But if you notice plants suddenly drooping for no apparent reason, it’s safe to suspect you’re the victim of voles. Your best defense is a good mesh fence. To protect roots and bulbs, install rolls of ¼-inch wire mesh secured with stakes throughout your garden. Because these pests are diggers, be sure to bury the fencing at least a foot down. The good news is they don’t like to climb, so fencing need only be a foot tall.

Trap and Release
Although it’s illegal to kill voles in some parts of the country, relocating them is fair game—and entirely humane. The steel trap made by Havahart, available at home improvement stores, and the Sherman Trap (SNG model), available online, are both effective choices that hold up to 15 voles. Bait traps with peanut butter or apple and set them at a 90-degree angle to the vole “runway.” Once you’ve captured the critters, release them far from residential areas—and at least half a mile from your home.

Go Natural
Non-toxic ways to ward off voles include castor oil, derived from the seeds of the castor plant, and capsaicin, an oil found in hot peppers. Spraying either substance on your greenery provide a smell and taste voles are sure to find unpleasant. Try this approach in a small garden; for greater expanses, pick up coyote or fox urine, available at home improvement stores and trapper supply houses (typically priced at $15 for an 8-ounce bottle). The scent of predators can send voles scrambling.

Give a Hoot!
Owls also prey on voles, and unlike coyotes and foxes ought to be welcome in your yard. To encourage their nesting, mount owl nest boxes in your trees (purchase premade boxes or plans to build your own from sources like The Hungry Owl Project). Although these beautiful birds won’t eliminate a vole population entirely, they will reduce their numbers. Don’t rely on outdoor cats to be of much help, though—they can’t be bothered going after pests who spend most of their time underground.

If possible, avoid extermination. Poison can be viable against voles, but toxins may pose a risk to children, pets, and other wildlife. If you have exhausted all other methods of control and extermination is your only option, the safest, most effective poison baits are those that contain Warfarin, a slow-acting anticoagulant that prevents the animals blood from clotting, eventually leading to death. Laying the traps during the fall and winter season when food is scarce increases the likelihood that the voles will take the bait. Before administering this type of treatment yourself, consult a pest control specialist for the safest, most effective outcome.

Once you’ve rid your outdoor space of uninvited guests, replace the plants they’ve ravaged and otherwise spruce up the area. Then why not ask people over to enjoy your gorgeous garden!


How To: Get Rid of Mothball Smell

Try some of these strategies for removing the smell of mothballs from your clothes and closets, and learn how to avoid using mothballs altogether!

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How to Get Rid of Mothball Smell - In Your Clothes

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The pungent odor of mothballs is the very smell of storage. Made from either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, these little lumps of pesticide give off a toxic vapor that not only kills moths and their larva but also kills or repels a number of other insects. While these fumes’ efficacy made mothballs a go-to choice for protecting treasured blouses and sweaters stashed between seasons, their offensive scent lingers on clothes, carpets, closet interiors—wherever they were placed—long after you’d like. While airing the musty items out helps dissipate the smell, a little DIY know-how and some dedicated effort can help eradicate the mothball scent more quickly. Read on for a few strategies for removing the odor of mothballs from your clothes and throughout the home.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Vinegar
- Water
- Non-chlorine bleach
- Detergent
- Activated charcoal

How to Get Rid of Mothball Smell - Mothballs with Napthalene

Photo: fotosearch.com

Once you’ve assembled your arsenal of odor-fighting ingredients, you’re ready to combat mothball odors wherever you find them.

To Treat Washable Clothing…
One of the most successful methods for ridding the mothball smell from clothing is to soak the affected garments in a solution of equal parts water and vinegar. Alternatively, put the clothes in the washing machine and run a cycle using only vinegar; follow up with another wash cycle using detergent and softener. Vary the treatment depending on the clothing; for example, for more delicate fabrics you might try combining the vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spritzing the fabric.

No vinegar on hand? Durable clothing can be presoaked in hot water and non-chlorine bleach, followed by a normal wash cycle using detergent and softener.

Whatever method you choose, be sure not to put the clothes in the dryer until the smell is gone, as heat could permanently set any mothball smell that remains.

To Treat Closets and Rooms…
The odor can be particularly stubborn in rooms or closets where mothballed clothes have been stored. To remove these odors, leave out bowls of vinegar or plates of activated charcoal in the affected areas. (Activated charcoal is sold in various pellet sizes and is usually available at pet stores.) You can also try placing containers of coffee grounds or odor-absorbing candles for similar results. Whichever material you choose, place it in the areas with the heaviest smells, and change it often until the smell is gone.

A Less Offensive Alternative

While they’re great for protecting fabrics from the ravages of insects, mothballs have bigger drawbacks than simply their smell. If ingested, can also be toxic to children, pets, and other animals, so it’s important not to use them in outdoor locations or in attics or crawlspaces. It’s worth keeping in mind that the fumes can cause dizziness or nausea in some people, so exercise caution if you’re considering using them around the house.

Given the effort and time required to get rid of that mothball smell, there’s some benefit in seeking out alternatives that won’t make you want to plug your nose and hold your breath. Some popular “natural” moth repellents involve ingredients like flowers, herbs, or essential oils. To make one such repellent, combine lavender blossoms, whole cloves, and a couple of handfuls of cedar chips, then place the mixture in cheesecloth or another breathable material, and tie it at the ends. Use these sachets in areas of concern; replace them as the scent wears off to ensure prevention. Many of these mixtures include lavender oil or other fragrant oils that not only deter moths but also give off pleasing scents to delight homeowners and their guests.

Other tips to keep in mind when storing clothes without mothballs:

• Before putting clothes away for the season, wash and dry them to remove any scents that attract moths.
• Store clothes in well-sealed containers or vacuum storage bags to restrict moth access.
• Wipe out all containers or drawers prior to use to remove any existing moth eggs.
• Stash a mix of natural repellents away with the clothes. Candidates include bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, eucalyptus leaves, peppercorns, rosemary, wormwood, and many other botanicals.


Quick Tip: The Trick to Drilling Through Slippery Ceramic Tile

This quick trick makes easy work of drilling holes through slick tiles.

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How to Drill Hole in Tile

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How to Drill Hole in Tile - Hole

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Cutting a hole through the glazed surface of ceramic tile can be tricky, as the glaze is slippery and ceramic is breakable. But if you need to mount a towel rack or toilet paper holder on an existing tiled wall, it’s an unavoidable task, as the anchor screws for the fixtures have to get through the tile and into the stud or backer board behind it. Luckily, a little help from a DIY staple can make the process much easier.

The key to keeping your drill from slipping and sliding is as simple as a strip of painter’s tape. This non-damaging adhesive gives your bit traction and prevents it from meandering all over the tile, which can mark up your surfaces with unsightly scratches. And, unlike masking tape, it won’t leave gummy residue in its wake.

To start, make a cross with two pieces of painter’s tape at the drill site. Use a permanent marker to draw a dot on the tape where the hole must go. Next, create a starter hole by gently tapping a center punch on the dot to penetrate just below the surface of the glaze. Assemble a carbide-tipped masonry bit of the appropriate size in your drill, and set your power tool to the lowest speed. Apply moderate pressure as you proceed, working slowly to avoid splitting the tile.

If the bit starts to overheat, lubricate it with water or cutting oil every 15 to 30 seconds. You can spray the tip of the bit with water as you drill, or dip the tip in cutting oil, remembering to wipe off any residue before resuming. Once you’ve made it through the tile, remove the tape to reveal a clean hole that’s ready to take on its new fixture.


How To: Get Rid of Fire Ants

Want these painful pests off your property? Choose the extermination method that best suits your infestation.

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How to Get Rid of Fire Ants - Outdoor Infestation

Photo: flickr.com via Marufish

Millions of people and animals are swarmed and stung every year by fire ants. Their burning (hence the name) bites are especially a bane in the southern states, where about 30 percent of the population falls prey to the reddish-orange little buggers. The FDA estimates that this invasive insect leads to billions of dollars spent annually in medical treatment, damage repair, and extermination. Concerned about the potential damage that can come from a population on your property? This guide will set you up to get the caustic creepy crawlers under control.

How to Get Rid of Fire Ants

Photo: flickr.com via Elroy Serrao

While there are indigenous species that aren’t particularly invasive or aggressive, the red imported fire ant (also known as RIFA) is a notoriously nasty opponent. RIFA’s main food source is plant sugars, making them a serious problem for farmers, but the ants also consume insects, rodents, birds, and reptiles. They lock onto victims with a powerful four-toothed mandible and then emit an alkaloid-based venom, leaving a red and white pustule in its wake. The venom also contains proteins and peptides that can produce an allergic reaction. While only five percent of fire ant attacks are lethal to humans, hypersensitive individuals should get immediate medical attention upon being stung (the rest of us can just cuss and treat the area as we would a bee sting). Small pets and young livestock that disrupt a nest can also be killed.

The Best Defense
Fire ants can invade virtually anywhere—your home, your lawn, your driveway, you name it—and their nests aren’t always visible. In an open field, however, they appear as a sandy mound that can reach 16 inches in height. Alas, like an iceberg, most of RIFA’s business lies beneath the surface, where tunnels can be as deep as seven feet. Each nest will have at least one queen that can lay 2,000 eggs a day—and a typical nest will also have up to 500,000 worker ants as well—so it’s easy to see why RIFA’s are so challenging to get rid of for good.

Choose Your Weapon
There are various ways to manage a fire ant situation—including everything from sprinkling them with talcum powder to bringing in an anteater—and each has plusses and minuses. Bear in mind that any approach that involves standing close to the nest risks instigating a swarm and getting stung, so be sure to gear up with protective clothing before you begin. Whatever you choose, never fight fire ants with fire; it’s extremely dangerous and ineffective to ignite gasoline on a nest.

Below, some of the most popular battle tactics:

Dousing the mound with boiling water is an old-school approach. Though free, organic, and immediate, it’s not very effective. Chances are slim that the water will reach the queen, who resides deep in the nest. Drenching the mound with liquid insecticide works somewhat better.

Pressure injecting insecticide directly into the mound is more effective because the poison will go deeper. But in addition to the perils of proximity is the risk of the agent leaking onto your body or spraying your face due to faulty equipment. Be sure to proceed with caution.

Bait, which is placed around a mound or in areas where nests may be hidden, are a safe, fairly effective means of RIFA management, though not a quick fix. The ants take the bait and carry it deep inside, ideally killing the queen.

Broadcast treatment with granular insecticide is often best for a large area. Granules are tossed as if you were feeding chickens, and the ants bring them home. This is the safest method because you don’t directly engage with the nest, but granules may be light sensitive and lose their lethal potency before the ants feed on them.

A canvas of professional exterminators found a resounding reliance on the broadcast method, using a product called Top Choice. Most states require you to have a pest control license to purchase this highly effective insecticide, so chances are you’ll need to call a pro. A once-a-year treatment usually costs about $500 per acre—pricey but worth it if you’re truly overrun.

If you choose to go it alone against fire ants, you’ll find insecticides of varying potency at hardware stores; online retailers tend to sell stronger formulas (look into licensing requirements). Know that you are not defenseless and will ultimately prevail!


How To: Get Rid of Waterbugs

Whether you call them waterbugs, palmetto bugs, or cockroaches, you want them far, far away from your home. Get them out, and keep them that way, with these straightforward guidelines.

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How to Get Rid of Waterbugs

Photo: flickr.com via Insects Unlocked

When most homeowners refer to a “waterbug,” they’re actually employing a delicate colloquialism for an insect whose mere name induces squirms: the cockroach. (To be sure, there are actual water bugs—bugs that live in or on water. These true water bugs include insects of the infraorder Nepomorpha, some of which can grow to almost 5 inches in length. Be grateful you don’t see a few of those scurrying under the fridge when you turn on the kitchen light!) Our standard-issue household cockroaches earned the nickname “waterbug” for their tendency to cluster near water sources. This predilection is entirely understandable: A cockroach can live for a month without food, but it can’t last more than a week without water. While roaches (often also known as palmetto bugs) generally prefer to live outside, they are—much to the annoyance of homeowners everywhere—attracted to damp indoor environments, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Fortunately, a few key extermination practices and a few lifestyle tweaks might help rid you of this pest population for good.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Natural or synthetic pesticides
- Tight-fitting food storage
- Covered recycling containers and garbage cans
- Vacuum
- Rug cleaner
- Caulk
- Concrete sealant

How to Get Rid of Waterbugs - in the Bathroom

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1
Before you begin launching weapons of mass insect destruction, be sure your adversary is actually a member of the roach family. Conduct a quick search online and in your state university’s insect database for “cockroach” and “palmetto bug” to be certain you’re not dealing with a case of mistaken identity.

STEP 2
As your waterbugs probably came in from the outdoors, search for nests and likely entry points into the house. This means you’ll have to poke around in those dark corners of the house that you rarely clean (and perhaps use only for long-term storage). Look for gaps around windows, doors, and pipes that penetrate the home’s exterior. Check for cracks in concrete floors and walls.

If you’re having trouble finding a nest, search at night in rooms that have been dark for a few hours, giving the bugs time to become active. Enter every room where you suspect they’re living, and turn on the light. If cockroaches are there, you’ll probably see them scatter. Watch where they go, and concentrate your eradication efforts there.

STEP 3
Once you’ve determined where your waterbugs are, it’s time to pull out the pesticides. One way that these chemicals work is by exploiting roaches’ natural habits. Interestingly, although we associate cockroaches with filth and disease, these insects groom themselves constantly—and that behavior is the ticket to their extermination. If a waterbug makes contact with a pesticide, whether natural or synthetic, the insect will consume it while cleaning itself. In other words, whatever is on the roach will soon be in the roach.

Effective roach pesticidal treatments run the gamut from otherwise innocuous natural products to hard-core chemicals. Proper application and placement are critical to success, which is why some people choose to hire pros for the job.

Natural pest killers include concentrated distilled white vinegar; a mix of equal parts sugar and baking soda; borax and boric acid, which destroy the insects’ digestive tract; and essential oils like citronella. Apply liquid products to the nests and to all drains—tub, toilet, laundry room, and dishwasher—using a spray bottle. To apply powders, sprinkle them on and near the nests and access sites. (Hint: Use only a thin dusting, because these wily insects avoid large clumps.)

Synthetic chemical treatments each feature an active ingredient that targets the insect’s nervous system to kill them. Read and carefully follow the directions provided with any such product, because the ingredients may be toxic to people and indoor pets as well as roaches. You can find chemical treatment marketed in the following forms:

Gels, which attract and kill the bugs. Baits in this form simplify application in hard-to-reach places, such as under the fridge or stove, or above or below cabinets.
Traps, like the boxed “roach motels” that lure and kill roaches out-of-sight.
Sprays, commonly used for DIY extermination. SC Johnson, the maker of Raid products, suggests sending pets and kids outside or otherwise away from the application area and sealing the space for at least 15 minutes before thoroughly airing it out.

Outside intervention by a professional exterminator may be necessary if you have a serious infestation or can’t find the nest or entry points.

STEP 4
After you’ve completed your chosen method of extermination, take steps to prevent future infestations. Obviously, you’ll want to caulk or otherwise seal all gaps and cracks that invite roach infiltration—but that’s just the beginning. Make sure that roaches have no reason to enter your home, and nowhere to hide should they get in. You can reduce the risk of attracting waterbugs by incorporating these practices into your daily routine:

• Carefully seal and store your food; don’t leave any out overnight.
• Put tight-fitting lids on recycling bins, and empty them at least once a week.
• Remove garbage daily, if neighborhood covenants permit.
• Confine meals to one part of the house.
Vacuum regularly to eliminate crumbs and other debris, and thoroughly clean the kitchen, including all appliances, with a disinfectant.
• Clean rugs and carpets annually with a steam cleaner.
• Fix leaky interior and exterior faucets, and repair basement walls where water is seeping in.

It takes commitment and vigilance to keep waterbugs from staging a counterattack, but it’s worth the effort to purge your home of this creepiest of all crawlies.


Genius! The Indoor Clothesline You Didn’t Know You Needed

Chores will always be a drag, but they don't have to be expensive. Save space with this fresh DIY twist on a laundry staple—and stay green without wringing out your wallet.

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DIY Clothesline

Photo: notrashproject.com

Homeowners know that even energy-efficient washers and dryers drive up electric bills, and renters are even worse off, stuck with hauling heavy bags to the nearest laundromat and emptying a pocketful of quarters for every load. Colleen, a resourceful renter on a budgetand the brains behind the lifestyle blog, No Trash Project—shared the same pricey problem. Her solution? Turning to and modernizing a generations-old technique of line-drying.

For most of the year, the clothesline outside her building was a convenient way to dry her laundry on a dime. But winter, along with its snowstorms and freezing rain, posed a whole new problem: It exposed her wardrobe to water damage and mold. For the first few weeks of the season, Colleen hung her wet clothes on every doorknob and drawer pull in her apartment. Still, the fix was far from perfect, as her damp laundry hung too close to the floor and didn’t get the proper air circulation. Coupled with longer drying time and limited space, it was impossible to do all of her laundry at once.

So with a length of rope in her junk drawer and a simple fix in mind, Colleen made her own indoor clothesline that stretched across her living room. She twisted a heavy-duty screw hook into each of the space’s two door frames (located at opposite sides of the room) and strung rope taut between the pair. Hovering about 75″ above the floor, the new clothesline exposed wet clothes to moving air from the radiator and windows, cutting down on drying time and preserving the fabric.

Beyond simply cutting out the need for extra quarters, the DIY clothesline is easy to take down, wrap up, and store for the next wash—a serious space-saver in a tiny apartment. Reusable and environmentally friendly, this fresh spin on a classic makes laundry day a cinch.

FOR MORE: No Trash Project

DIY Clothesline - Indoors

Photo: notrashproject.com


How To: Get Rid of Carpet Beetles

Stop the insect invasion that’s intent on destroying the textiles in your home.

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How to Get Rid of Carpet Beetles

Photo: flickr.com via Jean-Raphaël Guillaumin

They enter your home in a myriad of ways—hitching rides on cut flowers, clothing, or pets, or simply flying though open windows. Once inside, carpet beetles (Dermestids) can settle in and lay eggs, and their larvae can really wreak havoc on rugs, curtains, upholstery—even your clothing. Banish the little buggers with this multipronged strategy.

Meet the Enemy
In the adult stage, these creepy culprits are less than ¼ inch long and either black or a combination of tan, white, and black. They tend to congregate around windows and doorways—so check these areas if you suspect an infestation. While irksome, the adult carpet beetles are harmless; only in the larva stage are they a threat to natural fibers. The tiny worm-like larvae favor dark areas like closets and behind baseboards, and they’re difficult to spot with the naked eye. Sometimes the only way to know you’ve got ‘em is by the damage they cause, such as bare spots in rugs, holes in packed-away clothing, or wormholes in books. The good news is that once you’ve identified their presence, you can usually get rid of them without the expense of an exterminator.

Make a Clean Sweep
Need an excuse to do spring cleaning? This is the time of year carpet beetles beeline for your home. Since dust bunnies, cobwebs, dead insects and tufts of shed pet fur are an open invitation to larvae, get busy with the duster, vacuum and broom. Next, go through stored clothing to check for damaged or infested items. Laundering kills active larvae but any wool, leather, fur or delicate items that you can’t throw in the washer require professional dry cleaning.

How to Get Rid of Carpet Beetles - Carpet Beetle Larvae

Photo: flickr.com via pasukaru76

Do DIY Extermination
Vanquish carpet beetles without calling in a pro! Here are three ways to attack destructive larvae, plus a treatment to get rid of adult bugs for good.

• Insecticide: Stop an active larvae infestation by treating carpet or upholstery with an insecticide that contains at least one of the following ingredients: deltamethrin, bifenthrin, or cyfluthrin. Test a small inconspicuous area before treating the entire carpet to ensure the product won’t stain. Many insecticides warn against use around people and pets so follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions carefully.

• Boric acid: Boric acid, which acts as a poison on insect metabolism, is only hazardous to humans if ingested or inhaled in large quantities. Find it at pharmacies and sprinkle it in powder form lightly and evenly on carpet, then use a broom or brush to distribute it into the fibers. Wait several hours and vacuum thoroughly. You may also prepare a larvae-killing spray by adding one tablespoon of boric acid to two cups of hot water and stirring until the powder dissolves. Fill a plastic spray bottle with the solution and mist curtains, upholstery, baseboards, and dark nooks and crannies where carpet beetle larvae hang out.

• Diatomaceous earth: Another natural product, diatomaceous earth (available at agricultural-feed stores) is a desiccant that quickly kills larvae by dehydrating them. Treat rugs in the method described for boric acid above, and also sprinkle some in the back of cabinets and closets and in pet beds. Choose “food grade” diatomaceous earth, which is safe for pets and humans, but wear a respirator or mask to keep from inhaling the fine dust particles when applying.

• Fog (for adults only): Although they’re no longer chewing your possessions, adult female carpet beetles lay eggs and can start the whole nasty process again. Use a flying insect fogger to effectively eradicate adult beetles, and keep flying insect spray on hand to attack any strays or newcomers.

Fend Off Future Infestations
The best cure is always an ounce of prevention. Stop adult carpet beetles from entering your home by hanging sticky flypaper strips near windows to catch them. If you find yourself dealing with repeated infestations, place sticky pheromone-type traps on windowsills and in closets to stop carpet beetles before they have a chance to lay eggs.