Category: How To’s & Quick Tips


Bob Vila Radio: Solving a Ladybug Infestation

In your summer garden, ladybugs are an asset, feeding on plants' natural enemies. In the winter, however, ladybugs can become an unwelcome nuisance indoors. Dealing with an infestation? Read on.

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This winter, you may find yourself with uninvited guests—orange-red Asian ladybugs. Imported to combat garden pests, Asian ladybugs like to spend the cold season indoors, where they favor light-color walls that receive plenty of sunshine.

How to Get Rid of Ladybugs

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Listen to BOB VILA ON KEEPING LADYBUGS OUT or read the text below:

Since they leave pheromone trails, Asian ladybugs typically return to the same site to hibernate year after year. They pose no danger to you or your property, but when upon invading your home, their sheer numbers can be overwhelming. To end the problem, simply vacuum and then release the bugs outdoors. Careful—don’t sweep up the ladybugs, because when stressed, they secrete a smelly yellow liquid capable of staining walls and floors.

To keep the bugs from finding their way back into the home, use weatherstripping and foam insulation to seal any cracks around doors, windows, and eaves. Also, note that it can be effective to spray insecticide, not in the garden, but against the home exterior, including the siding, trim, attic vents, and roof overhang.

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!


How To: Get Rid of Bagworms

If you don't keep a weather eye out for these voracious little critters, you may wind up with brown, damaged, or even dead trees or shrubs. Learn how to recognize bagworms and eradicate them from your yard, before it's too late!

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How to Get Rid of Bagworms - In a Tree

Photo: flickr.com via NY State IPM Program at Cornell University

Notice an inexplicable mass destruction, yellowing, or defoliation in your evergreens? A close and careful look through the branches might reveal the culprit in clever camouflage: bagworms. These destructive insects attack many species of tree or bush, but are most often found on conifers like juniper, pine, arborvitae, cyprus, cedar, and spruce. They’re called “bagworms” because after the larvae feed on plants and trees, they encase themselves in cocoon-like “bags” constructed from twigs, leaves, and self-spun silk. Once in its bag, a female bagworm can lay 500 to 1,000 eggs—escalating your bagworm problem to an serious infestation fast. Each egg will hatch into another bagworm primed to defoliate whatever it’s near. The worst part? Your problem may go unnoticed until too late because these bags assume the appearance of conifer cones. Should you find yourself with a bad case of bagworms, follow this thorough guide to get rid of them.

How to Get Rid of Bagworms - Bagworm Cocoon

Photo: fotosearch.com

HANDPICKING
If you find just a few bagworms, you may have caught the infestation early that you can effectively control the situation by handpicking the bags off the plants and submerging them in a bucket of soapy water to suffocate the larvae. This will work, however, only if the larvae haven’t yet left the bags to go out to feed. Hatching generally happens in late May to early June, so do your handpicking of bagworms from late fall to early spring.

BIOLOGICAL CONTROL
Sometimes it’s not feasible to handpick bagworms, particularly when you’re dealing with tall trees. But if you can harness the power of creatures that feed on bagworms, you may still be able to control your bagworm population.

Bacteria: Bt, the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis, is effective at controlling bagworms if it’s applied as soon as the eggs hatch in the spring. Don’t wait too long—this bacteria won’t be as effective when the larvae have grown large. Follow the application instructions on the product you buy, and apply it with a garden sprayer. Follow up and reapply every 7 to 10 days until the bagworms are gone.

Birds: Sparrows are predators of bagworms, so you may be able to keep the bagworm population down by attracting sparrows to your yard. To make your property more appealing for the birds, provide water at ground level (a low birdbath) as well as materials and places for nesting (thickets and trees). Sparrows also appreciate shelter to flit between, so brush piles and shrubbery can be assets, as can dusty areas for dust-bathing.

CHEMICAL CONTROL
An insecticide with malathion, diazinon, or carbaryl can rid you of a bagworm problem if applied to bushes and trees when the worms are still young larvae. So, aim to spray in late spring, just after the bagworms have hatched and begun to feed, and always follow the insecticide manufacturer’s instructions.

No matter where or what time of year you find bagworms, don’t wait to start formulating a plan to eradicate them. Left unchecked, they can completely defoliate and kill your yard’s trees, bushes, or hedges.

How to Get Rid of Bagworms - Bagworm in Its Shell

Photo: flickr.com via Dick Culbert


How To: Get Rid of Gnats

There’s a reason these little buggers are referred to as pests. Try a few of our easy solutions to banish them from every room of your house—and fast.

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How to Get Rid of Gnats in the House

Photo: flickr.com via Martin Cooper

Although they can’t really harm you, gnats are certainly annoying. The mere presence in your house of these pesky insects can leave you feeling twitchy and wondering what brought them inside in the first place. Rotting fruit is a common culprit, but it isn’t the only one. Dirty dishes, trash bags with spoiled food, and even damp potting soil can cause gnats to congregate and drive you crazy. The good news: There are a handful of clever tactics for removing them from your house that require nothing more than ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen cabinets, pantry, and fridge. Here is a room-by-room breakdown of gnat-removal strategies that will help you fix the problem before it gets worse.

How to Get Rid of Gnats in the House - On the Wall

Photo: fotosearch.com

KITCHEN
Have a few gnats hanging around your fruit basket? Here’s a tried-and-true way to get rid of them. To pull it off, you’ll need apple cider vinegar, sugar, dish soap, water, and a container. Simply mix approximately two tablespoons of vinegar with one liter of water. Add a tablespoon of sugar and a few drops of dish soap, stir it all together, and set the container near the fruit. The insects will be attracted to the scent, then when they make contact with the solution they’ll get stuck in the soap and drown.

DINING ROOM
The next time you’re sipping a glass of red wine at the dinner table and notice the occasional gnat hovering around, get ready to set out an extra glass. Gnats are attracted to the sugary, fermented beverage, so use it to lure them to their death. Simply pour a small amount of wine into a glass, and add a dash of liquid soap—just be sure you don’t get confused and drink out of the wrong glass! The gnats will fly right in, get stuck, and collect in the alcohol.

BATHROOM
Gnats that swarm around the sink or above tub drains are particularly aggravating. Unfortunately, in these instances, apple cider vinegar or wine isn’t always enough to handle the problem. If the gnats are hovering near the surface of the drain, try this trick: Dilute some bleach with water, and then pour it down the drain. One-half cup of bleach to one gallon of water should be enough. (Be sure to wear protective gloves and a mask so you don’t inhale the fumes.) Repeat as needed until you don’t see any gnats.

PANTRY
Sure, rotten fruit attracts gnats, but it’s also something you can use to beat them at their own game. The next time you have a rotten or overripe banana, mash it into a container, such as a small mason jar. Next, put plastic wrap over the top of the jar before puncturing the plastic with a scattering of holes. Gnats will wiggle through the openings to get to the fruit, but the transparent cover will prevent them from flying back out.

LIVING ROOM
If you notice just a gnat or two circling the room, this method is for you: Fill a spray bottle with a mixture of one cup of water, one tablespoon of vinegar, and a few drops of dish soap. The next time you see a gnat flying around, zap it in the air with a spritz. And don’t worry—this solution won’t harm your indoor plants.


How To: Cut Plexiglass

Learn how to work with this practical and versatile material so you'll get accurate cuts and smooth, attractive edges every time.

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How to Cut Plexiglass 2

Photo: fotosearch.com

From picture frames to tabletops, plexiglass (also known as acrylic) serves as a cost-effective, shatterproof substitute for glass in a range of applications. In fact, due to its light weight and durability, many do-it-yourselfers prefer plexiglass, not least because it can be cut and shaped with common workshop tools. Versatile and tough though it may be, however, plexiglass isn’t perfect. For one thing, it scratches easily. That’s why sheets of the material come covered in a thin layer of protective film. When cutting plexiglass, leave the film in place as long as possible to avoid marring the surface. Second, bear in mind that even if you’re careful, it can be difficult to cut plexiglass without leaving a rough, irregular edge. If your project requires a clean edge, expect to devote at least some energy into smoothing the finish. In comparison, cutting the plexiglass to size is fairly easy. Continue reading for details on the two most common ways of getting the job done.

 

SCORING

How to Cut Plexiglass - Utility Knife

Photo: fotosearch.com

For a thin sheet of plexiglass—that is, material up to about 3/16-inch thick—use a scoring method not dissimilar from the technique used to cut actual glass. First, lay the sheet on a flat surface and, using a yardstick and a permanent marker (or a grease marker), measure and draw the line you wish to cut. Next, hold the yardstick to the marked line, and run the dull side of a utility knife along the yardstick to score the sheet. Score again and again, as many as 10 or 12 times, until you have made a deep groove in the plexiglass. Flip over the plexiglass, and score the opposite side in the same manner. To finish, hold the scribed line to the edge of your work surface, and secure the plexiglass in place with a clamp. Then, with sharp downward pressure, snap off the portion of the plexiglass that extends beyond the work surface.

 

SAWING

How to Cut Plexiglass - Circular Saw

Photo: fotosearch.com

For thicker sheets of plexiglass, cut with a power saw—be it a circular saw, saber saw, or table saw. (To cut anything but a straight line, opt for a jigsaw.) No matter which type of saw you choose for the task, it’s critically important to use the right blade. There are special blades designed expressly for acrylic, but any metal-cutting blade with carbide tips can do the trick. Before committing to one blade or another, double-check that its teeth are evenly spaced, with no rake, and of uniform height and shape. After readying your tool, measure and mark the plexiglass, then cut as you would any other material, clamping if appropriate. One note of caution: If the blade overheats, the material may chip or crack. Proceed accordingly, water-cooling the blade or pausing your work for a few minutes as needed.

 

Polishing Cut Edges 
Whichever cutting method you choose, you may find that the cut edge doesn’t look terribly attractive. If the cut edge would be visible in your application, take the extra time to sand and buff out the imperfections. Note: You can use a handheld power sander, but as wet-sanding typically achieves the best results, we recommend manual sanding. Start the process with 120- or 180-grit waterproof paper, in combination with a wood or rubber sanding block. As the plexiglass becomes smoother, transition to successively finer grits. Finish by sanding with 600-grit paper. Once you are satisfied with the appearance of the edge, move on to buffing. Outfit your electric drill with a buffing pad and, after applying a polishing compound (formulated for plastic), bring the plexiglass edge to a perfect polish.

Every building material comes with a set of quirks and nuances that you can master with practice. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long for do-it-yourselfers with woodworking experience to feel quite at home with plexiglass. Although for the time being, you may only need to cut a piece of acrylic down to size, learning to work with this versatile, transparent material opens up a new universe of DIY possibilities that you can explore in myriad projects for years to come.


3 Ways to Open a Wine Bottle Without a Corkscrew

Is the lack of a corkscrew making you whine over that tempting unopened bottle instead of wining and dining? Pop the cork using these three no-fail approaches.

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Open Wine Without Corkscrew

Photo: fotosearch.com

It’s an all-too-common occurrence: You pick up a fine bottle of wine to enjoy for dinner or to hand off as a hostess gift, when you suddenly realize there’s no corkscrew to be found. You may think your only options are to journey back outside for an opener or go without that glass of perfect pinot, but fear not—there are plenty of household hacks you can use to loosen the corkscrew. With a few everyday items and a bit of old-fashioned elbow grease, you’ll be relaxing with a glass of Bordeaux’s best in no time.

 

CORK ON THE COB

Open Wine Without Corkscrew - Corn Holders

Photo: fotosearch.com

Comprising a nob and two prongs, corncob skewers are best known as those little yellow tools that make noshing on your favorite summertime vegetable a breeze. But their sharp ends can also be put to good use as an in-a-pinch solution for opening your favorite bottle of red or white. Simply insert the prongs into the cork, and then gently lift, twisting left and right as you go until you successfully dislodge the top.

Another way you can use this barbecue essential to liberate your libation is by adding some hardware into the mix. Start by twisting a screw about 60 percent of the way into the cork. Next, place the corncob prongs beneath the screw head to form a T shape. Grab hold of the screw and pull, then reward yourself with a generous pour.

 

HAMMER TIME

Open Wine Without Corkscrew - Hammer

Photo: fotosearch.com

For a corkscrew-free solution that literally nails it, find a hammer and a handful of clean, short finishing nails that are about the same length as the cork. Hammer three to five nails in a straight line across the middle of the cork, using only mild force to avoid breaking the cork into pieces. Then, use the claw of the hammer to pull out the nails one at a time, removing a little bit more of the stubborn stopper with each nail. Once the cork wiggles free, you’re free to pour yourself a glass.

 

SHOE SOMMELIER

Open Wine Without a Corkscrew - Open Wine with Shoe

Photo: fotosearch.com

Remove the capsule (the foil covering) from the top of the bottle, and then slip your chardonnay into something a little more comfortable—your shoe! Choose one that’s not overly cushioned, as this can weaken the effect of this approach, then rest the sole flat against the wall. Place the bottom of the bottle inside the shoe, and then, holding the neck of the bottle with one hand and the shoe with the other, strike the two perpendicularly against the wall at least 10 times, or until the cork is dislodged. (Check the status of the cork every few strokes to ensure that it doesn’t fall out unexpectedly.) The liquid in the bottle transfers the force from the wall to the cork, so you can remove it with ease and be back on your way to a relaxing evening. Bottoms up!


How To: Caulk a Shower

Keep your shower watertight and mildew-free by using the following steps to refresh the caulk in your enclosure.

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How to Caulk a Shower - Tub

Photo: fotosearch.com

There’s nothing quite like a steamy shower to rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit after a good night’s sleep or a long, hard day. But when the caulk around your enclosure begins to crack and crumble, it’s not you that needs reviving—it’s your shower. Replacing the caulk around your tub, tiles, shower door, and drain is a relatively simple do-it-yourself fix that takes only a few hours from start to finish. If you find your shower in need of a facelift, follow these steps to create a good, solid seal.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Kitchen and bath caulk
- Utility knife or oscillating tool
- Commercial caulk remover (optional)
- Commercial mold cleaner (optional)
- Caulk gun
- Painter’s tape

How to Caulk a Shower

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1
A quality caulking job begins with a quality product. There are two primary types of caulk you can choose from: silicone and latex. While silicone forms the stronger seal, latex is easier to work with, especially if you’re a beginner. Whichever you choose, always check that the tube is designated for use in kitchens and baths. These formulas contain special inhibitors that protect against mold and mildew—a quality that’s certainly necessary in the shower.

STEP 2
Before you can apply the new caulk, remove any leftovers from the last job, otherwise your fresh bead won’t bond well. Using a utility knife or oscillating tool, cut through the strips of old caulk. Scrape off as much as possible, and then apply a specialized remover to any stubborn spots. If you discover any mold in your path, eradicate it with a commercial cleaner or a homemade solution of one part bleach to two parts water. Once the old caulk has been removed, wipe down the area and allow it to dry thoroughly before moving on; caulk won’t adhere to a wet surface.

STEP 3
While you can apply caulk by simply squeezing it out from the tube, it’s best to invest in a quality caulk gun. This will let you better manage the flow and will, as a result, produce more accurate results. The sturdy plunging mechanism allows for precise and even distribution of caulk, while the pressure release lets you stop quickly. Whichever method you choose, the trick is to not cut off too much of the tip from the caulk tube. A wide opening will yield a thick bead, which may lead to sloppy results. Cut the tip just above the indentation point that is usually marked on the tube.

STEP 4
Painter’s tape makes a great guide to ensure a clean bead. Use long strips of tape to mask off the surface on either side of the line where you’ll be applying your bead of caulk, whether that’s along the wall, shower door, or tub. To start the bead, apply pressure to the caulk gun or tube and either pull the gun away from your starting point or, holding the gun at a 90-degree angle, push the caulk in a forward motion. There is no true right or wrong technique, so choose the approach that works best for you and proceed accordingly.

STEP 5
Once the gap is full, wet your finger and wipe along the line to remove the excess caulk and create a smooth, rounded bead. Peel off the painter’s tape while the caulk is still wet, and then continue on to the next section to be caulked.

STEP 6
When you’re done, allow the caulk to cure for at least 24 hours before hopping back into the shower to recharge your battery. A thorough caulking job should last at least a year—which means you have around 365 more chances to belt out your favorite show tune before you’ll have to repeat the process yet again.


How To: Remove Candle Wax from Any Surface

Still burning the candle at both ends trying to remove unwanted wax accumulations? Use these simple solutions to remove candle wax from any surface in the home!

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How to Remove Candle Wax

Photo: fotosearch.com

No matter their placement—on the mantel, beside the bathtub, or on the dining table—lit candles instantly create an atmosphere of relaxation. The mood can swiftly change to one of frustration, however, if your candles leave behind drips or pools of stubborn, tough-to-budge wax. While there’s no universal solution, it’s pretty easy to remove candle wax using nothing more than common household items, so long as you know which method to use. Usually, the right approach depends on the material on which the wax has dripped. Read on for the details on removing wax from the surfaces where it most often lands.

 

WOOD

How to Remove Candle Wax from Wood

Photo: fotosearch.com

The Fix: Vinegar. Your first instinct may be to scrape off the wax with the edge of a kitchen knife, but unless you have a remarkably steady hand, you run the risk of scratching the finish or even the wood itself. A safer, quicker way is to hold a hair dryer (set on medium) a few inches away from the wax. When the wax becomes soft, dab it away with a soft cloth. To prevent stains on light-colored wood, be sure to moisten the cloth beforehand with a mixture of one part vinegar and two parts water. Note: Follow the same process to remove candle wax from hardwood floors. 

 

COTTON

How to Remove Candle Wax from Tablecloth

Photo: fotosearch.com

The Fix: Clothes Iron. After you’ve cleared the table, done the dishes, and straightened up, spotting dried-up wax on the tablecloth may be enough to make you swear off entertaining. Take a deep breath and—yes, seriously—toss the tablecloth into the freezer. Once the wax has completely cooled, you can easily lift it away with a knife. Don’t worry if the wax appears to have left a stain. Simply lay a brown paper bag over the stain, then press an iron (set on high heat) over the bag. Watch as the stain transfers from the cloth to the paper. Note: You can also use the ironing trick to remove candle wax from painted walls.

 

METAL

How to Remove Candle Wax from Metal

Photo: fotosearch.com

The Fix: Boiling Water. It’s easy to see why wax would drip onto the metal candlestick that holds the taper in place. Fortunately, it’s also easy to restore the metal to its pristine state. Here’s what to do: Boil of pot of water—enough water to completely submerge the candlestick—then after turning off the burner, place the candlestick into the pot. As the water gradually cools, the wax slides off the metal. Once the water has returned to room temperature, remove the candlestick, and wipe away any residual wax with a soft cloth. Note: Follow the same process to remove candle wax from thick glass objects.

 

CARPET FIBERS

How to Remove Candle Wax from Carpet

Photo: fotosearch.com

The Fix: Ice. But don’t rub it in! Instead, fill a plastic bag with ice cubes, then lay the bag over the wax. After waiting several minutes for the wax to cool, use a butter knife to lift the wax away from the carpet. The important thing is to separate the hardened wax from the carpet fibers. Once the wax has been separated, don’t worry if any small, hard bits are left in the pile, because the next step is to vacuum the area thoroughly using the upholstery attachment. Finally, moisten a soft cloth with rubbing alcohol and dab away any discoloration. Note: The ice cube trick also works to remove candle wax from brick. 

 

VINYL

How to Remove Candle Wax from Vinyl

Photo: fotosearch.com

The Fix: Mineral Spirits. It may be highly durable, but vinyl flooring isn’t invincible, at least not when it comes to candle wax. What not to do: Because vinyl is prone to discoloration, it’s best not to subject it to any treatment that involves high heat. A better bet is to place an ice cube-packed plastic bag over the affected area. Let the bag sit for several minutes, long enough to harden the wax. Then, dislodge the hardened wax with a blunt-edged kitchen spoon; sharp objects and vinyl don’t mix. If the wax leaves any discoloration, saturate a cotton ball with mineral spirits, then use it to wipe away the stain.

 

LEATHER

How to Remove Candle Wax from Leather

Photo: fotosearch.com

The Fix: Blow Dryer. Soft, supple, and luxurious, leather furniture deserves better than to be pocked by drips and drabs of candle wax. The key to restoring its plush comfort? Your hair dryer. Hold the appliance a few inches away from the leather and move it back and forth across the area to warm the wax without damaging the material. As the wax softens and loosens its hold, wipe it away using a soft cloth dampened with warm water and mild detergent. Note: Follow the same process to remove candle wax from tubs, sinks, and other bathroom fixtures and surfaces.


How To: Get Rid of Centipedes

Centipedes may not be the most harmful household pest, but they can certainly be an unappealing nuisance. Here's how to quickly and easily evict these leggy lodgers from your home.

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How to Get Rid of Centipedes - House Centipede

Photo: flickr.com via prkos

Centipedes, with no shortage of legs and alarming speed, seem to have been designed to make squeamish homeowners shriek. But despite their somewhat frightening appearance, centipedes are—for the most part—harmless, even somewhat helpful. They won’t damage your foundation, siding, or furniture; they’re not interested in the food in your pantry; and they come out at night and eat the terrible bugs that you don’t want hanging around, like termites, moths, roaches, and even bed bugs. If you’re not squeamish, you might consider just leaving centipedes alone to do what they do best—killing destructive pests with poisonous venom and then considerately gobbling them up so you have nothing left to clean. But if you find creepy-crawlies just too disturbing to live with, there are several things you can do to rid your spaces of centipedes.

How to Get Rid of Centipedes - Centipede Outdoors

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1: REMOVAL

If centipedes have already made themselves comfortable in your humble abode, here are a few ways to eliminate them:

Capture: Centipedes are fast, but they don’t generally invade in large numbers. If you can trap the ones you see and either squish them or relocate them outside, you’ll be well on your way to controlling the problem. To transfer a centipede to the yard, trap one under a jar or cup, slide a piece of paper underneath the opening to keep the bug in the jar, then take it outside. Do not touch a centipede with your bare hands—they do bite. Although they are not prone to attacking humans, one might bite in self-defense; the bite would feel similar to a bee sting.

Trap: Sticky traps, such as those used for other insects and rodents, are effective at catching centipedes. Place traps next to the baseboards in the corners of your rooms to capture not only the multilegged creatures but also the bugs they’ve been feasting on—which, incidentally, could help uncover your underlying pest problem.

Spray: If the idea of using insecticides inside your home makes you less squeamish than the presence of centipedes, consider eradicating them with any number of sprays or dusts. (There are also a few nontoxic varieties available.) Before buying, check the label to ensure that the formulation targets centipedes and is safe to be used indoors. Then, apply it according to the manufacturer’s instructions around baseboards, doors, windows, and any cracks and crevices where centipedes might gain entry.

 

STEP 2: PREVENTION

The best way to reduce your home’s centipede population is to prevent the pests from entering in the first place. Here’s how to create an inhospitable home:

Outdoors: Centipedes like to hide and breed within leaf litter, grass clippings, and other damp yard materials. Clear away this outdoor debris and keep it a fair distance from your house. If you store compost or firewood, move it at least 30 feet away from your home’s perimeter.

Inside: Use an expanding foam spray to seal up any gaps, cracks, and crevices around your windows, doors, siding, pipes, and wiring. Doing this will keep out not only centipedes, but rodents as well. Centipedes love damp areas like bathrooms, basements, closets, and even attics; in fact, they’ll dry out and die without moisture. Invest in a dehumidifier, and install exhaust fans in your bathrooms or attic if you haven’t already done so.

Finally, if you can figure out which bugs the centipedes are feeding on and eradicate them, your centipedes will move on to locations where the food supply is more dependable—like, perhaps, your neighbor’s house. And then you can clue him into the combination of prevention and control that saved you from those frightening confrontations with the “hundred-legged worm.”


Quick Tip: The Simplest Way to Clean a Dusty TV Screen

If dust is as glued to the tube as you are, check out the small-screen talents of these everyday cleaning companions that can keep your binge-watching crystal clear.

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Cleaning a Flat Screen TV

Photo: ikea.com

Cleaning a Flat Screen TV - Dusting

Photo: fotosearch.com

One of life’s simplest pleasures is plopping down in front of the TV to watch your favorite show. But sometimes when you tune in to your beloved comedies, mysteries, and old westerns, you may notice that your flat-screen TV is mired in a dust bowl drama of its own, with accumulated dirt, debris, and fingerprints fading its shine and clouding your view. While the glass screens of old-school TVs  can handle Windex and other store-bought products, the LCD screens of today’s models have delicate pixels that can be damaged by many common cleansers. Before you reach for a chemical-laden specialty cleaner, try using humble materials already under your roof to bust the dust on your flat-screen.

To start, turn off your TV and let it cool to reduce the risk of static shock and also to make the imperfections easier to see. Because paper towels and hand tissues have wood-based fibers that can wear away the screen’s antiglare coat, choose a clean, lint-free microfiber cloth or a cotton T-shirt to do your dirty work. Dab or spray a well-mixed solution of equal parts vinegar and water onto your cloth—never spray liquid directly onto the TV—and, using moderate pressure, gently wipe the cloth over the screen from left to right and then top to bottom before tackling the frame. Vinegar, however, isn’t the only kitchen staple that can destroy dirt on contact: Using the same motion, you can slide an unused coffee filter over the screen to capture dust and cut screen static faster than you can make a cup of joe!

Repeat this ritual at least once a week to maintain the crystal-clear finish of your flat-screen. Don’t forget to extend the same consideration to your TV’s hardworking partner—the remote control. Using a cotton swab saturated in rubbing alcohol, sweep dust from the crevices of the clicker. And when you’re all done, press the power button and get settled in for an ultra-vivid TV marathon!


How To: Remove Soap Scum—Once and For All

Use one of these methods to get rid of that gross, filmy layer coating your tub, shower, and tile, then try out our tips for eliminating it forever!

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How to Remove Soap Scum - Clean Bathtubs and Showers

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Franklin Park, NJ

If you bathe your body at all, you’ll inevitably encounter soap scum. It’s a sad irony of housekeeping that a substance that gets you clean every day can make your shower or tub so grungy. While that stubborn, scaly buildup forms when the fatty acids, talc, and other ingredients in bar soap react with the minerals in hard water, soap scum also contains body oil, dirt, bits of dead skin, and bacteria. Gross. Making the situation even less appealing, if soap scum is left to harden, it’s incredibly difficult to remove from your tub or shower. But fear not! There are many successful methods for removing soap scum. Read on to find the approach that’s right for you.

How to Remove Soap Scum - Caused by Bar Soap

Photo: fotosearch.com

CLEAR UP THE CLOUDINESS

Store-Bought Cleaners
Some popular commercial cleaning products, such as Dow Scrubbing Bubbles, have cracked the code on soap scum. If these appeal to you, the process is straightforward: Spray your tub and shower walls with the product, and give it a few minutes to cut through the greasy grime of the soap scum. Then, rinse and wipe down the surfaces with a sponge, scrub brush, or cloth. Follow up with a clean towel to get everything dry—remember, moisture attracts yucky buildup.

Homemade Cleaners
If DIY cleaners are more to your liking, here are a couple of recipes you can try.

Baking soda and vinegar. Pour a cup of baking soda into a small bowl and add enough white vinegar to make a paste. Once the mixture stops fizzing, use a sponge to apply it to your shower and tub, then let it set for about 15 minutes. Wipe the surfaces down with a non-scratch sponge, rinse thoroughly with water, and then dry.

Vinegar and dish detergent. Combine equal amounts of vinegar and water into a spray bottle, then add one tablespoon of dish detergent. Spray the solution on the soap scum, and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes. When you return, scrub it with a soft-bristle scrub brush, and rinse with hot water. Dry thoroughly.

Elbow Grease
If you have a porcelain tub, you can use a wet pumice stone to remove soap scum—so long as you work carefully. Improper technique or a dry stone can scratch glass doors or tile. To give it a try, wet both the pumice stone and the surface you’re working on. Then, very gently rub the wet stone over the soap scum. As the soap scum transfers to the pumice stone, use a stiff-bristle brush to clean it off, then go at it again. Alternatively, on a surface with very bad soap scum, you can try scraping it off with a razor. But avoid using any abrasive technique on a fiberglass or acrylic tub or shower.

 

How to Remove Soap Scum - Wipe Down the Tub

Photo: fotosearch.com

PREVENT A REPEAT OCCURRENCE

As in most activities, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. These top tips can help you manage buildup by preventing soap scum from forming in the first place.

1. Use liquid soap instead of bar soap. It’s the talc and fatty acids in bar soap that cause soap scum, so if you switch to liquid soap or shower gel, you should see a significant decrease in filmy residue.

2. Keep your shower and tub dry. Squeegee and/or towel dry your shower and tub after every use. You’ll be wiping away a good portion of the soap scum-creating particles left behind after you bathe, so you won’t experience the same level of buildup.

3. Soften your water. Soap scum thrives on hard water, so one way of thwarting it is to install a water softener, which will remove those minerals in your water that react with soap to make soap scum. If you’re not up for purchasing a water softener, consider adding Epsom salts to your bathwater to help soften it and keep soap scum under control. As a bonus, the Epsom salts will also soothe your sore muscles.

4. Use a daily shower cleaning product, or invest in an automatic cleaner. We live in a beautiful world where automatic shower cleaners exist. If you use one, you’ll notice a big reduction in soap scum, and you’ll be relieved of the arduous chore of removing it.