Category: How To’s & Quick Tips

Pro Tips: 5 Ways to Bring Songbirds to Your Backyard

With a steady stream of feathered friends visiting your backyard, every breakfast can become a bird-watching bonanza—from the comfort of your own home! Here, an avian conservationist offers 5 smart ideas for encouraging birds to hang out at your place this season.

How To Attract Birds - Bird Feeder


Birds eat bugs, propagate seeds, and bring your garden to life with color, movement, and song. Yet, “the greatest joy of having birds close by is they allow us to connect with the wild,” says Michele Raffin, author of The Birds of Pandemonium. “They’re way more amusing and interesting than anything on TV!” The avian conservationist rescued an ailing dove back in 1997 and now cares for more than 360 birds (some 70 of them endangered species!) at Pandemonium Aviaries in Northern California—but she says even city dwellers can invite wildlife to their own windows with the right rooftop garden or balcony plants. To enjoy a nature-filled spring and summer, read on for five ideas for encouraging winged wonders to feed, nest, and preen in your presence.

How To Attract Birds - Mockingbird


Watch and Learn
Simply typing “plants birds love” into a search engine is a good starting place when you’re researching what to add to your landscape. You’ll find, for instance, that cardinals like mulberry and hummingbirds are drawn to fuchsia. “I did that in the beginning, but now I rely more on my observational skills,” Raffin says. “Birds tell you what pleases them by their behavior. If I see birds eating from a particular plant, I’ll continue to nurture that plant—even if it’s messy or not the most beautiful.”

No Need to Feed
“Americans spend millions on wild birdseed every year, but it’s much better to have plants that produce enough berries and seeds to support avian life,” says Raffin. “Feeders can attract predators and spread infection.” She recommends thinking of store-bought seed as a supplement rather than a steady diet.

“The one exception is a hummingbird feeder—keep it filled and clean it every other day,” Raffin says. To make their sweet solution, boil four parts water with one part sugar until diluted (do not add food coloring), and cool before pouring into feeder.

Form a Nested Interest
“Nesting birds require safety and shade, so some prefer thick shrubs while others like the tops of trees,” Raffin says. “Be careful when pruning so you don’t inadvertently lose a nest.”

When translating these needs to a homemade birdhouse, know that the hole is key. “Make sure it’s large enough to let in the species you want and small enough to keep predators out,” Raffin says. And those ornamental touches you thought looked cute could inadvertently be a danger to birds; a copper roof, for instance, will get dangerously hot in the sun. If you do choose to hang a birdhouse, consider building or buying a model with a trapdoor that allows you to easily clean and disinfect (with a water and vinegar solution) after each nesting season.

Bathing Beauty
A birdbath is an appealing feature for our feathery visitors, who need a reliable source of water for bathing and drinking. “First and foremost, a birdbath needs a flat bottom—birds have poor footing in a bowl,” Raffin says. If you already have a bowl, a layer of stones or marbles will help create a flat surface. Then fill the vessel with water, but keep it shallow—less is more. “Birds wash by bending down and splashing themselves with their wings or beak, so fill the bath with only half an inch to an inch of water,” Raffin says. “More than that will scare birds away.”

Color Your Kitty
Finally, encourage your feathered friends to stick around by giving them advance warning of nearby predators, like your house cat. “Birds see colors better than humans do, so adding a brightly colored breakaway attachment to your cat’s collar will alert birds,” Raffin says. In fact, a St. Lawrence University study found that these vivid feline accessories could reduce the number of birds caught by cats by 87 percent. You can find collar attachments for your pets at, but never put a regular scrunchie on a cat—it could snag and strangle the animal.

How To: Remove Paint from Metal

A job like stripping paint from metal is a marathon, not a sprint—and we have the training guide to get you to the finish line. Follow our instructions to bring your tired old painted metal pieces back to life again.

How to Remove Paint from Metal - Furniture


“Just paint it!” That’s the motto for many DIYers when they’re unhappy with the lamp, dresser, doors, hardware…you name it. But if you’ve changed your mind more than a few times—or someone before you slapped on a sloppy paint job—several layers of paint can make any surface start to look all gummed up and unattractive. This holds true particularly for metal hardware and accessories. Fortunately, while it’s not necessarily a fun job, removing paint from metal is completely doable if you have time, patience, and the right tools. And the shiny results are well worth the effort.


- Cardboard, newspaper, or heavy drop cloths
- Chemical stripper
- Glass or metal can
- Disposable paintbrushes
- Paint scraper
- Nylon brush and/or scrubbing pads
- Rags
- Mineral spirits
- Water
- Rubber gloves
- Eye protection
- Respirator

How to Remove Paint from Metal - Painted Hardware


Prepare the work area by covering the ground with drop cloths. If you want to save money on supplies, recycled newspapers or unfolded cardboard boxes can substitute as surface protection against the chemical stripper you’ll be using—just make sure not to leave any gaps between pieces.

It’s just as important to protect yourself, so don your rubber gloves, safety glasses, long-sleeved shirt, and pants to cover your skin completely. Then, avoid inhalation of fumes from the chemicals by opening all windows and wearing a respirator.

Pour a small amount of the stripper into a glass or metal can. Using a disposable paintbrush, apply the chemical paint stripper to the metal, and let it set according to the instructions on your commercial stripper. As it sets, you should start to see the paint bubble up from the surface of the metal.

Take a paint scraper, and chip off the bubbled paint from all the flat surfaces of the metal. For crevices and harder-to-reach areas, switch to a scrubbing pad or nylon brush (you can use the one from Step 2, but first give it a good wash and trim the bristles short!) and continue to chip away. Reapply stripper and scrape or brush away again as needed until the whole piece is paint-free.

Next, dampen a rag with mineral spirits and wipe the surface down. This will remove any leftover flakes of lifted paint and the bulk of the remaining chemical residue.

Thoroughly rinse off the metal with water to completely remove all traces of the stripper, then wipe it down using a fresh, dry rag. And with that, your newly cleaned metal is ready for use! Go ahead and screw hardware back into place, or set out those shiny, fresh-looking metal tables. If you’re looking to place a metal piece outdoors, now’s the best time to apply a weatherproofing sealant.

Weekend Projects: 5 Fun DIY Swing Sets

Instead of spending thousands on a fancy backyard play area, spend this weekend building your own swing set! Your kids will definitely thank you later, if you can get them to take a break from swinging.

The earliest swing sets, which date all the way back to the fifth century B.C., were nothing more than slabs of wood tied to a tree—the most basic of designs. Today, however, the outdoor staple has evolved to include not only the simple swing but also multi-seat options and elaborate structures complete with slides, rock-climbing walls, and even miniature patios. Although the market overflows with models, you can choose to build your own. Taking on the project yourself saves money and ensures that the result will meet all your family’s wants and needs. Whether you’re interested in just a few swings or a full backyard playground for the kiddos, get inspired to get active this weekend with one of our five favorite DIY designs.



DIY Swing Set - Tree Swing


You have a tree? And access to scrap wood and long rope? That’s all you need for this insanely easy DIY from A Beautiful Mess. It uses the same design concept as the very earliest swings—just a seat strung up from a tree limb. If you don’t have a yard or a sturdy tree, you can just as easily use the same tutorial to make a swing to enjoy indoors.



DIY Swing Set - A-Frame


Take your standard A-frame to new heights with a custom-made airplane seat and a fresh coat of red paint. While this setup may initially seem a bit intimidating to craft, it’s much easier than it looks! And it keeps to an under-$50 budget. The key to successfully tackling this project is visualizing how all the pieces fit together prior to construction—and these plans at Ana White can help you out.



DIY Swing Set - Post Lintel


Now here’s a beauty of a simple swing set. While the basic structure of this classic design uses three pieces of lumber (two for the sides and one across the top), Mandi of Tidbits from the Tremaynes upgraded her set with a few extra pieces in order to mimic a pergola. Her other brilliant idea: making the swing seats from Trex, an extremely durable composite deck material that’s completely splinter-proof!



DIY Swing Set - Playhouse with Swing


If you’re looking for the perfect outdoor kiddie kingdom, look no further than this play palace and built-in swing set. The family behind Our Fifth House constructed their dream backyard structure from scratch, complete with finishing touches like outdoor seating, cushions, and an ottoman for unwinding after an exhausting afternoon of play. But this idea can work on an existing playhouse, too, if you rely on a post that holds up the fort to also support your swing set’s bar.



DIY Swing Set - Pergola


A fixed outdoor swing set is not for everybody, especially if you plan to move later on down the line. Only From Scratch blogger Lauren constructed a pergola to allow the freedom to change up the outdoor living area on a whim. If you use a pergola as the basic structure, you can switch between individual swings and a porch swing—or even lose the swings altogether, replacing them with a table for some great alfresco dining.

Pro Tips: The 7 Secrets of Craigslist Success

Master the ins and outs of the community-based online marketplace to purchase—or purge—great household goods.

How To Sell On Craigslist - Secondhand Scores


Whether you’re seeking unique decor that won’t break the bank or hoping to unload a few pieces for profit, look no further than Craigslist. For 20 years, it’s been hooking people up with a huge range of items (as well as jobs, housing, and forums), and while the service has gone global it still maintains its cool, local focus. Just ask Dallas-based design maven Brynne Delerson—who titled her idea-packed blog The Gathered Home in honor of her scores on the site. Such as? “I acquired a gorgeous dining set for $100 that the seller thought was ruined due to white water marks on the tabletop,” she says. “I removed the marks pretty easily and resold the set for $750 within just a few days.” Here, Delerson reveals her secrets for finding great deals on the site as well as getting top dollar for your castoffs.

Bargain-Hunting Guidance

No matter what home goods you’re hunting, the odds are that they’ll turn up on the online marketplace sooner or later. And as the actual transaction often happens offline, buyers get plenty of opportunity to see, touch, and even try out items they’re considering before committing. To get to that homestretch, keep in mind these three tips for sorting through listings:

How To Sell On Craigslist - Chandelier Purchase


1. Be smart with searches. Craigslist is simple to use—just type your search terms into the search bar and scroll through the results. But the keywords you choose are crucial, Delerson explains. If you search “couch,” for instance, the results won’t include listings for “sofa.” To cover your bases, she suggests this game plan: “Think of all the possible ways a particular item could be described, and conduct searches for each keyword.” Then, decide how you wish to view the listings: as a list of links, as thumbnail images, as results on a map, or—her personal preference—as a gallery with large photos.

2. Follow all leads. “For truly amazing prices, check listings with super basic titles like ‘Old Dresser,’ as opposed to ‘Midcentury Modern Lowboy,’” Delerson suggests. “It may take extra time, but that’s how you find hidden treasures.”

Budget-conscious shoppers may want to stick to the “by owner” category; “by dealer” listings are often more expensive. What about dickering for a better deal? “If a price is listed as OBO [or best offer] or mentions an ‘asking price,’ that’s an indication that the seller is open to bargaining,” Delerson says. “If not, it never hurts to ask. Just be polite, inquiring if there is any leeway in the price.”

3. Ask away. Caveat emptor, indeed! “Never make assumptions about Craigslist postings,” Delerson says. “Things that look great in photos might not be so pristine in person, and sellers aren’t always completely forthcoming.” All the more reason to get your detailed, informed questions in order.

  • With wood furniture, for example, have the seller clarify if the item is solid wood or wood veneer, if the drawers are dovetailed (an indication of high-quality construction), or if there are any deep scratches.
  • With upholstered pieces, ask about tears, stains, and even odors—if that feels insulting, inquire if the piece comes from a pet-free or nonsmoking home.

“You might also ask about age or manufacturer, although sellers might not have that information, especially with vintage pieces,” Delerson says.


Sharp Selling Strategies

For Delerson and many other thrifters, there’s also plenty to love about selling goods on Craigslist. Unlike eBay and other e-tail sites, it’s free to use—there’s no listing fee, the organization doesn’t take a percentage of the sale price, and transactions are typically conducted with cash. The crux of her advice to sellers? In order to get your money’s worth while weeding out the spam, you must be thorough.

How To Sell On Craiglist - Room Divider Purchase


4. Write it right. “Targeted keywords, effective titles, and well-written descriptions are key to successful Craigslist postings,” Delerson says. “Put your most important keyword in your title, since some buyers search by title only. Then in your description, be clear and focus on getting the facts out there: measurements, materials, and condition of the piece.” Before you list, do a little research; browse listings for similar items to see what wording is most attractive.

5. Photograph everything. “Clear the area of distractions, and take many clear, well-lit photos,” Delerson says. Capture the item from a few different angles, and shoot close-ups to show important details. If it’s a dresser, for instance, shoot the insides of drawers and zoom in on the handles. Also, never try to disguise damages—in fact, make a point of putting them in your posting. You don’t want to deal with a slew of disappointed would-be buyers.

6. Strategize your posts. “A lot of people schedule Craigslist visits and pickups during the evening after work and on weekends, so posting towards the middle of the week gives potential buyers a chance to spot your item and make plans,” Delerson says. “You can renew your posting every 48 hours, which bumps it back up to the top of search results. But avoid multiple postings or frequently deleting and reposting your listing—that will annoy buyers and possibly get your post flagged.” And don’t worry about aiming too high with your listing price: “If you don’t receive interest right away, you can incrementally lower the price over time.”

7. Skip spammers. “Ask interested responders to include a phone number or inform buyers that you will ignore generic replies like, ‘Is your item still available?’” Delerson says. These parameters will help weed out the spammers. “Also, while you should be wary of any replies that ask for your ‘real’ email address, Craigslist now has an option to make your email address completely anonymous, so you needn’t be as concerned about accidentally replying to spam.”

How To: Clean a Deck

Now that your summer months are filling up with plans for hosting picnics and barbecues, start the season right by giving your deck a thorough cleaning. A little effort now will let you enjoy your outdoor space all season long—and extend its life for years to come.

How To Clean A Deck


Come summertime, the deck practically becomes an extension of your house. In fact, when decorated according to typical interior design principles and tricked out with bright accessories, decks are often referred to as “outdoor rooms.” During the warmer months, the deck is where you drink your morning coffee, host barbecues, and may even set up camp to sleep under the stars. But before you launch into full outdoor-entertainment mode, take the time to clean your deck so that it will be at its best when the serious celebrating begins. Cleaning your deck every spring will not only make it look nicer, but will also help it to last longer. It’s worth the effort. Your reward will be a fresh and welcoming place to kick back and hang with family and friends.


- Broom or leaf blower
- Deck cleaning solution
- Garden sprayer
- Long-handled scrub brush
- Garden hose with spray nozzle or pressure washer

How To Clean A Deck - White-Washed Home Exterior


Start by removing everything—all furniture, planters, and other accessories—from the deck. Then give the deck a good sweep with a broom, or use a leaf blower to blow off any loose dirt and debris that have settled over the winter.

Cover nearby plantings with plastic sheeting to protect them from exposure to the deck cleaner as you go about the rest of the job.

Pull out the deck cleaner, either commercial or homemade. If you’re making your own, be sure that the ingredients are effective on the soil and stains that you need to remove from your deck. A standard cleaning might require only soapy water, but best practices for halting mildew growth call for a cleaner that contains some kind of bleach or oxygen bleach.

Whatever you choose, put your cleaning solution in a garden sprayer, apply it to the deck, and let it sit about 10 minutes. Be sure to coat all surfaces, including the railings and stairs. It’s best to do this in the absence of direct sun, so choose an overcast day or a time of day when your deck is shaded.

Depending on the level of dirtiness and the type of cleaner you choose, you may need to use some elbow grease when washing down your deck. Grab a long-handled scrub brush with synthetic bristles for this task. Synthetic bristles will hold up better than natural, and the cleaning solution won’t cause them to deteriorate over time.

Attach a spray nozzle to your hose and thoroughly rinse the solution off the deck with a strong stream of water. Hose down starting at the edge of your deck closest to the house and work your way out so the cleaning solution fully rinses away.

Alternatively, you can use a pressure washer on a low setting—no more than 1,500 pounds per square inch. Be warned: Pressure washers can very easily damage a deck if used improperly. Be sure to use an appropriate pressure and tip angle to prevent gouging or fraying your deck boards.

Let the deck air-dry completely. If you plan to seal the deck, now is the time to do it! If not, get ready to move all the pieces—your outdoor dining set and so on—back into place, and get ready to party.

Bob Vila Radio: A Primer on Patching Concrete

Though it's one of the most durable building materials on the planet, even concrete needs maintenance on occasion. And while the installation may last decades, patching a small area takes under an hour.

Does your concrete walkway or driveway need patching? That’s an easy fix! Here’s how to do it.

Patching Concrete


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Listen to BOB VILA ON PATCHING CONCRETE or read the text below:

First, use a wire brush to dislodge any loose concrete from the area. Then, with an old paint brush, clear way what the wire brush dislodged. Once it’s clear, spray the area with your garden hose to jettison any remaining fine grit. Remove standing water with a sponge, and you’re ready to apply the patch.

Depending on the job, latex cement may be a better choice than patching compound. That’s because the former dries faster and remains somewhat pliable. Mix the latex cement to create a heavy paste, then apply it in quarter-inch layers, allowing each layer time to partially dry before you continue.

When you reach the level of the surrounding concrete, finish the job by smoothing out the patch with a trowel or float, just as you would for regular concrete. Allow at least six hours of drying time before allowing foot or vehicle traffic on the repaired area.

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.

DIY Lite: Make a Wood-Slat Doormat for Almost No Money

Greet guests with a chipper "Hello!" right at the door when you adorn your entrance with this simple and sunny DIY welcome mat.

DIY Doormat - Hello! Personalized Wooden Welcome Mat

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

The entrance to your home is the first impression that strikes visitors, so why don’t you make it a friendly one with a cheery greeting? This season, as friends and family drop in for summer barbecues, welcome them at the door with a custom doormat. A little wood, stain, and paint go a long way in this DIY!

DIY Doormat - Tools and Materials

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

- 16 feet of 1″ x 2″ lumber
- Handsaw (optional)
- Sandpaper
- Drill with 1/4″ bit
- Wood stain
- Printer
- Scissors
- Painter’s tape
- Acrylic paint
- Brushes
- Wood varnish
- Synthetic rope
- A lighter or silicone glue



DIY Doormat - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

First, cut your wood into a total of eight equal pieces, each two feet long. You can make it easier on yourself by asking for the cuts at your local hardware store when picking up the wood.

Along the thinner side of every slat, measure three inches from each end, mark it, and drill a hole through the center. This will be where you slip a rope through to hold the mat together, so the drill bit you use should be the same thickness as the rope; we used a 1⁄4-inch bit on ours.



DIY Doormat - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Sand down the eight pieces in order to remove any splinters around the holes.



DIY Doormat - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now, stain the wooden slats in a tone that best complements your outdoor features; we went with a medium brown color. Follow package instructions for dry time before continuing.



DIY Doormat - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Print out this handy PDF pattern to help you create the speech bubble. Simply assemble the four sheets to line up the outline of the bubble, tape them together, then cut out the shape.



DIY Doormat - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Align the wood pieces together horizontally, leaving no space between slats, and center the bubble on your wooden rectangle. Trace the shape onto the wood using a pencil.



DIY Doormat - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Time for paint! We chose a white acrylic, but you can pick any color you like. Using a thin brush, paint a line that follows the pencil marks you made in Step 5. This will delineate the area to be painted and help you to center the letters in the space.



DIY Doormat - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now for the message: Spell out “HELLO” with strips of painter’s tape. Try to make your letters all the same size; if you need guidance, you can use the PDF to cut out and trace each letter.



DIY Doormat - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Start filling in the bubble with paint, working in light coats to avoid any drips. If you’ve chosen a light color on a dark background, you will be likely to need at least three coats to achieve its brightest hue.



DIY Doormat - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

When the paint is dry, carefully remove the painter’s tape.



DIY Doormat - Step 10

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Apply two coats of varnish on each slat so your outdoor mat will be well protected against the weather.



DIY Doormat - Step 11

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

When the varnish is dry, you’re ready to start assembling the doormat! Cut two pieces of synthetic rope, each roughly 2 feet or so long. Make a knot at the end of one, and thread the string through the bottom left hole on the mat’s bottom piece of wood. Repeat with the second rope and the other hole.

A tip to secure the knot: Use a lighter to carefully burn the end of it. The synthetic rope will melt a bit, and the knot won’t come undone.



DIY Doormat - Step 12

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Tie knots in each rope, then pass them through the holes of the next slat up. You’ll continue the pattern of knot, slat, knot, slat until you get to the last wooden piece.



DIY Doormat - Step 13

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Make the two last knots, and cut the extra rope length. If you don’t feel comfortable burning the rope ends, instead dab some silicone glue around them to secure the knots. All that’s left is to move your DIY welcome mat outside—and to put a summer get-together on the calendar so your cheerful accessory can greet your next visitors!

DIY Doormat - Outdoor Mat to Welcome Guests

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.

How To: Get Rid of Flies in the House

Don’t be pestered by houseflies all summer long. With some thoughtful prevention and diligent eradication, you can make your house virtually fly-free this year. Here, 5 simple tactics to try.

How to Get Rid of Flies in the House - Flyswatter


As warm weather sweeps in, so does an annual nuisance—houseflies. The small, black, buzzy critters that land on your food, pester the dog, and create incessant irritation may seem harmless, but they’re capable of carrying pathogens and disease. You certainly want to avoid an infestation! While there is no one way to get rid of flies in the house, a multipronged approach can keep them at bay. Prevent a few lingering pests from growing into a bigger problem by following these five strategies.

How to Get Rid of Flies in the House - Insects


1. Seal the Entrance
It may seem obvious, but if you don’t want flies in the house, don’t let them in. With a busy household of visitors, kids, and pets coming and going, that’s sometimes more easily said than done. But do what you can: Make sure you have screens on your windows and doors, and repair any mesh that has been damaged enough to make a fly-sized entrance. It doesn’t take much!

2. Remove the Bait
If you want to get rid of flies indoors, as with all other pests, you should do your best to remove or minimize the stuff that attracts them. Food is at the top of that list. Don’t leave any out, especially if it’s uncovered. More than that, remember to keep countertops clean of crumbs, wash dishes soon after meals rather than leaving them in the sink, and keep the door to the dishwasher closed when it’s waiting to be run.

Beyond your food, however, you’ll also want to be mindful of compost, garbage, and pet food. These are also attractive to flies and can quickly become breeding grounds. To prevent a few flies from turning into a colony, take any compost materials outside immediately. Keep the garbage covered, and carry it out regularly. Finally, cover or clean Fluffy’s bowls completely between meals—particularly if you stock up on wet food varieties.

3. Lure Them Out
If you’re suffering a large swarm of flies in the house, save yourself the cardio of whipping your flyswatter about and first see if you can get the majority of them to leave willingly. Insects are attracted to light, so start by darkening the room they’re in. Shut the blinds and drapes, and leave a small opening at the door. A number of your pesky houseguests will probably buzz toward the light and find their way out, leaving you with a smaller crowd.

4. Call In the Swat Team
Once you’ve worked through your prevention tactics, take down the flies that remain with the usual suspects: a good old-fashioned flyswatter or a rolled-up newspaper. Because a fly has almost 360-degree vision, it’s best to approach from behind and hover just above before making a final decisive and deadly flick. Pink flyswatters are certainly pretty for hanging up when the job’s done, but neutral colors are less obvious and better for stealth. To aid your efforts, you can hang flypaper—store-bought or homemade—to trap flies, and then discard and replace it when full. If you’re lucky, the bug might land on it while trying to escape your swipes.

If you have good eyesight and reflexes, you can vacuum them right out of the air mid-flight, but it’s easier to hover a few inches in front of them for 10 to 20 seconds (just as you would with a swatter) and then swoop in to nab them. Attempt this method only if your vacuum has a bag, and dispose of it immediately so they don’t find their way back out and into your home.

5. Prevent Return Visits
Flies don’t care for smoke, so burning a few citronella candles while you’re outdoors can discourage them. Indoors, use plants and essentials oils with odors that repel. Mint, lavender, and basil are all worthy houseplants to place in your windowsill. And a few drops of lavender or eucalyptus oil in a spray bottle full of water can be a first defense if sprayed around the frames of doors and windows, though you’ll need to reapply often.

The Right Way to Wash Your Car

How to Wash a Car

Photo: JNoonan

Good things come to those who wait: That may be sound advice for life in general, but if you’re a car owner, it’s best to ignore that old adage. Rather than wait around for crud to accumulate, I’ve learned that, if you want to protect the finish on your vehicle, it’s far better to clean early and often. Be aware, however, that when cleaning a car, it’s possible to do more harm than good. Poor technique or improper materials leave the clear-coat finish riddled with micro-scratches that not only compromise the longevity of the paint job, but also lessen resale value. Fortunately, cleaning your car the right way doesn’t have to call for a full afternoon of hard labor. It requires only that you work with the right equipment. In fact, I was pleased to discover that you really need only one tool for the task, so long as you’ve got the HYDE PivotPro Boat/Auto Cleaning Water Wand. With PivotPro, I did a much better job than my local car wash, and for much less money.

How to Wash a Car - Wheels

Photo: JNoonan

Park the car in a shady part of the driveway and begin your cleaning only after the car has cooled to the touch. Once it’s ready, grab your PivotPro. That’s right—you won’t need all those sponges and buckets today. Simply connect your PivotPro to the garden hose, then start blasting away loose dirt and debris from the roof on down to the tires. Unlike other wands in its category, the PivotPro features a patented pivoting nozzle that rotates along a radius of 135 degrees. This means that merely by pulling or pushing the slide grip on the barrel, you can adjust the spray angle. Rather than stretching or stooping to clean a hard-to-reach area, you can simply pivot the nozzle to direct the water where you want it to go. All the while, you can remain standing comfortably upright on your own two feet.

After rinsing the entire vehicle, proceed to cleaning what’s so often the dirtiest component: the wheels. Here, water alone may not be sufficient; the nooks and crannies of your wheels, like mine, might benefit from a scrubbing. But with PivotPro, there’s no need to go digging in the garage for a suitable brush. The tool comes with a spindle brush that’s specially designed to fit into wheel wells and other tight spots. Just lock that brush into position and, capitalizing on the tool’s 46-inch length, get into all those crevices where even hands wouldn’t fit. To give the front of the wheels an extra scrub, trade the spindle brush for the rectangular, nylon-bristled brush with a rubber bumper. For maximum cleaning power, scrub even while spraying the area with a steady stream of water.

Without knowing any better, some people use normal dishwashing soap or another cleaning agent borrowed from the kitchen. That’s a bad idea, it turns out, as such products strip away the protective wax coating on your car, leaving its finish vulnerable to nicks, scratches, and stains. Having learned from the error of my ways, I purchased a dedicated car-washing solution and was ready to proceed.

Whereas in the past I would have added my detergent to a bucket full of water, thanks to PivotPro’s clever soap-dispensing functionality, this time the process was remarkably hassle- (and bucket-) free. After filling the built-in mixing reservoir and setting the desired soap-to-water ratio, I sprayed down the entire car, from top to bottom, with soapy water. It must have taken me—oh, I don’t know—two minutes?

Next, I switched out the spindle brush in favor of another attachment included with the HYDE PivotPro Boat/Auto Cleaning Water Wand—a microfiber pad. Car aficionados recommend microfiber above all other materials, and now that I’ve used it, I understand why. As I ran it over the soaped-up car, the pad seemed to be floating away the dirt and debris, not driving them into the finish. Be careful, though: Pause your work every now and again to inspect the microfiber for anything that might leave a scratch. Another tip: Wipe vertical surfaces (e.g., doors) with a stiff-armed up-and-down motion; with horizontal surfaces (e.g., hood), use a left-to-right motion. Work in sections, and as you finish each one, toggle the switch on the PivotPro to rinse the soap off the section before it has the chance to dry.

How to Wash a Car - Microfiber

Photo: JNoonan

You can always let the car air-dry after a final rinse-off, but doing so runs the risk of a spotty result. To avoid streaks, dry the car with a microfiber towel by either blotting or dragging the material slowly across the surface. Even better, treat the microfiber with spray wax or instant detailer first. The lubrication from either treatment helps prevent the microfiber from marring the perfect finish you’ve managed to restore by carefully following the earlier steps.

It’s gratifying to tackle even a simple job like washing the car. But there are tangible incentives as well. For instance, sidestepping car wash fees can end up saving you some real money, especially if you’re cleaning your vehicle as often as you should. In the end, however, I was most impressed by the fact that, armed with PivotPro, doing all this myself wasn’t a chore—it was actually sort of fun!

How to Wash a Car - Hyde PivotPro


This post has been brought to you by Hyde Tools. Its facts and opinions are those of

5 Things to Do with… Sawdust

Don't toss your woodworking scraps yet! Give your sawdust and shavings purpose with one of these five tasks.

As an avid DIYer, chances are you have remnants from many projects lingering around the house—tools waiting to be stashed away, leftover materials, and probably a bit of mess, much to your dismay. While you might think your project scraps aren’t good for more than the trash, there is one byproduct that’s quite a valuable material in its own right: sawdust. These wood shavings have plenty of potential for household use! Read on for five reasons to save the extras from your next woodworking session.



Uses for Sawdust - Wood Filler


When you’re in need of good wood filler, don’t look any further than some glue and sawdust. Mix the two together, and you can patch any hole or gash in your wood furniture. The sawdust helps to keep the glue from running and, if you’re lucky, will help closely match the color of the wood. Once it has dried, lightly sand the surface smooth. It will really help you out in a pinch!



Uses for Sawdust - Fire Starter


Getting a campfire going in less-than-perfect conditions can be challenging. When you’ve got no time to wait, enlist the help of a handy homemade fire starter. Make your own by mixing melted candle wax with a handful sawdust in an old or disposable muffin tin, then let the composition cool. You’ll end up with convenient little rounds that are ready to toss into the makings of your next summer campfire!



Uses for Saw Dust - Litterbox Liner


Have you ever noticed how much money Miss Kitty’s litter is costing every month? It adds up. Fresh wood chips and sawdust can stand in as a smart alternative—cheaper and more environmentally friendly, too. The only downside is that it won’t clump like many store-bought varieties do, meaning you’ll have to change the litter more often. No cat at home? This same method will work for hamsters, guinea pigs, ferrets, and bunnies—pretty much any critter with a cage that needs to be lined.



Uses for Sawdust - Paint Spill


Accident-prone crafters, rejoice—you can use the mess from a woodworking project to clean up the mess of future DIYs! When you spill an excess oil or paint, just sprinkle some sawdust onto the sticky spot. The highly absorbent wood shavings will soak up most of it, making for an easier cleanup. (Better start keeping a bucket of sawdust on a shelf in the garage, just in case.)



Uses for Sawdust - Kill Weeds


While most wood chips make an effective mulch for landscaping, walnut sawdust can work wonders outside the garden bed as a weed killer. It contains juglone, a chemical toxic to most plants, so sprinkling this wood’s shavings judiciously along the perimeter of the yard and over pathways will keep unwanted greenery from growing. Just make sure you don’t get too close to the flowers or plants you do want to stick around all season.