Category: How To’s & Quick Tips

How To: Strip Furniture

Don't kick a good piece of wood furniture to the curb just because its finish no longer suits the latest craze. Learn how to strip off that outdated look and reveal a blank canvas that's ready to be remade.

How to Strip Furniture


You’ll be surprised at the gems you uncover once you strip the paint and lacquer off your attic, yard sale, or thrift store scores. Good quality furniture, no matter what era it’s from, is worthy of a second chance. You can give a deserving piece a modern makeover with no more than a weekend’s time and a little elbow grease. Everything old becomes new again, eventually—don’t be afraid to help the process along with these instructions for stripping down your furniture finds.

How to Strip Furniture - Scraper


- Safety glasses
- Rubber gloves
- Protective clothing, such as a respirator mask
- Furniture stripper
- Nylon brush or roller
- Scraper
- Stiff-bristle brush or steel wool
- Abrasive pad
- Lacquer thinner
- Clean rags or towels
- Metal coffee can
- Wood shavings or kitty litter for disposal

Chemical strippers are harsh, so make sure you wear protective clothing, such as safety glasses, rubber gloves, and a respirator mask, when performing this project. Work outside in a well-ventilated area, and cover your workspace with a tarp or some newspaper to avoid getting any stripper in unwanted places.

Apply a liberal, thick coat of stripper to the piece with a nylon brush or roller, and work in sections to ensure the most consistent results. Let the stripper sit for at least 10 minutes or longer, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions. You’ll start to notice the finish bubbling and wrinkling as the stripper softens and dissolves it, which is a surefire sign that the chemicals are hard at work. After the stripper has had time to take action, test to see if it’s ready for the next step by skimming over a small section of the surface with a scraper. If the finish comes up, it’s ready to be removed. If not, allow the stripper to sit a few minutes longer.

Once it’s ready, begin scraping off the unwanted finish, always working with the grain. For flat surfaces, plastic or metal scrapers will do the trick. If you choose metal, however, remember to round the corners in order to avoid gouging or damaging the wood. For crevices and detailed areas, use stiff-bristle brushes or fine steel wool to get the finish off. Soaking the steel wool in the stripper may help with removing overall stubborn spots as well. As you work, deposit what you remove into a metal coffee can to make cleanup safe and easy.

Check the instructions on the stripper’s packaging to determine how best to remove any lingering product from the wood. One common method involves going over the surface with lacquer thinner and an abrasive pad, and finishing by wiping the piece down with a bit more thinner and a clean rag. But always check your specific product, as some may require mineral spirits or simply soap and water for proper removal. When the wood looks dull and dry, the piece is completely stripped. If you notice any particularly shiny spots, repeat the stripping process to get rid of them for good.

Mix wood shavings or kitty litter into the coffee can containing the waste, and leave it open in a safe space to allow the solvents to evaporate. Double-check with your municipality to see if there are special disposal laws in your area that you should be aware of. Wait 48 hours for the piece to completely dry out, and then apply your next DIY decorative touch.

5 Things to Do with… Air-Dry Clay

Stop puttering around the pottery wheel with traditional clays, and instead start sculpting these no-bake, no-fuss DIY creations using air-dry clay.

Unlike its pricier, high-maintenance counterpart, polymer clay, air-dry clay requires neither baking nor extensive handling. Time is all you need to dry your designs to polished perfection! From decorative dishes in the dining room to desktop organizers for the home office, the options for air-dry clay are endless. It’s almost trickier to decide upon a design than it is to shape up this super-simple material. Get inspired with five of our favorite ways to mold and make with this flexible medium.



Air Dry Clay Projects - DIY Pencil Holder


Occupying that vague zone between schoolwork and crafts, colored pencils often get lost in a labyrinth of desks, drawers, and cabinets. Build a home for these industrious instruments with your own version of this handmade pencil stand by Lines Across. Here, air-dry clay shaped into a dome can take the impression of every pencil you have in stock. Form holes by twisting each writing implement into the clay. When you’re done, remove the pencils and leave your creation to dry overnight. The next day, you can use a clay knife, box cutter, or kitchen knife to sculpt the edges to form a more riveting, geometric receptacle.



Air Dry Clay Projects - DIY Clay Dish


You don’t have to revisit ancient Mesopotamia to bring ornate earthenware pottery into your home. These decorative clay dishes made by Urban Comfort put a modern twist on Neolithic pottery. Roll out some fresh air-dry clay on a clay mat, and lay an evergreen branch on top. Place an acrylic sheet over the branch, and roll over it with an acrylic roller to create the imprint of the needles. Using a foam brush, glaze the dish with putty, weathered paint, and a glazing medium to leave an evergreen impression on your guests.



Air Dry Clay Projects - DIY Clay Supply Dish


These alphabet containers get an A for effortlessness. To create custom lettered storage like this one from Willowday, press alphabet cookie cutters into rolled-out clay, and cut out side strips from the excess. Fit these strips around the edge of the letter while pinching the sides to the base. (A knife or other tool comes in handy here.) Dipping your fingers and the knife into water can help you smooth any seams. After drying and sanding the container, paint it in complementary colors, and you’ll receive endless compliments.



Air Dry Clay Projects - DIY Plant Markers


Whether you have a green thumb or you can’t tell parsley from parsnips, these DIY plant labels will help you do away with mistaken identities in your indoor or outdoor nursery with little more than leftover air-dry clay. Following instructions from the DIY site Burkatron, roll the clay flat and then use a craft knife to cut out long, rectangular stakes that you can sink into the soil of a planter. Using alphabet stamps, imprint the appropriate plant names onto each stake, and then dry and seal the deal with waterproof spray sealant.



Air Dry Clay Projects - DIY Drawer Knobs


You might never guess by looking at them that these polished metallic drawer knobs from Delineate Your Dwelling are actually cover-ups made from humble air-dry clay. Start by rolling the clay into balls and fitting each one over a freestanding knob until it’s covered by the clay. After partially drying the clay knobs, carve them with a butter knife to create eye-catching, geometric edges. Follow up with two coats of gold spray paint—or any metallic you favor, for that matter—and install the knobs on nightstands, dressers, or wardrobes to really make them shine.

3 Fixes for a Streaky Mirror

Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose is the streakiest of them all? Not yours, once you read our secrets for getting a streak-free shine every time.

How to Clean a Mirror


Streaky mirrors are common problems for even the most conscientious housekeeper. Sometimes, no matter how carefully you clean, you’re still left with the impressions from where you last wiped. But don’t give up yet; a streak-free shine is well within reach when you follow these easy fixes for a flawless reflection.



How to Clean a Mirror - Rubbing Alcohol


Mirrors suffer a lot of unwanted attention from globs of toothpaste, coats of hairspray, and regularly smeared-on fingerprints. While you might think that a simple spray removes all, not properly treating these spots is the leading cause of streaks—when you go to wipe down the rest of the mirror with a clean or solution-sprayed cloth, the greasy or oily residue just spreads across the surface of the glass with each sweeping motion. Fortunately, an easy solution hides inside your medicine cabinet: rubbing alcohol. Wet a cotton pad with it, and dab away these problem areas before you get cleaning. Pretreating the mirror before you wipe prevents spots from turning into streaks, leaving you with a sparkling surface.



How to Clean a Mirror - Vinegar Solution


Believe it or not, the best solution to mirror streaks is a solution—a vinegar and water one, that is. Sure, store-bought cleaners may offer an all-in-one answer, but good marketing is no match for the cleaning power and cost efficiency of this simple mixture. Plus, these cleansers tend to include more soap than is necessary, and more soap equals more streaks.

To avoid a cloudy surface, simply mix 1 cup of vinegar with 1 cup of distilled water in a spray bottle, give it a good shake, and you’ll have the perfect potion for tackling smears, streaks, and smudges. Apply your mirror-cleaning mixture directly to your microfiber cloth instead of the reflective surface—to prevent the liquid from accumulating in the corners, making its way underneath the mirror, and causing more damage—and zig-zag back and forth down the entire length of the glass.



How to Clean a Mirror - Microfiber Cloth


Contrary to popular belief, paper towels and newspapers do not make effective glass cleaners. In fact, they could complicate your cleaning quandary by leaving behind lint, dust, or even newsprint residue (as many papers today have switched from petroleum-based ink to one starring soy). So save the paper products for spills, and stock your cleaning closet with a few microfiber cloths—perhaps the perhaps the best weapons for eliminating stubborn streaks. But stick to the thin ones: A flat-weave microfiber cloth works more efficiently than its thicker terry cloth cousin because it won’t hold any lint or other particles that could transfer to the mirror and contribute to streaks.

Remember, your time is valuable. Don’t waste it wiping away every last piece of lint from your bathroom mirror. Instead, choose the best materials—and methods—to get the job done right the first time.

Genius! Boost Your WiFi with a Soda Can

Has your WiFi slowed to a crawl? Get back up to speed—and back to streaming videos—with this free hack!

How to Boost Wifi - Improve Your Router with Aluminum


If you rely on Google to answer day-to-day questions or count on cat videos to pull you out of the post-lunch slump, slow Internet speeds can feel like the end of the world. Luckily, there’s a simple fix—and it isn’t buying up a $200 WiFi range extender. It mirrors a technique used before cable television became the norm, when people wrapped tin foil around their antennas for better reception. Here, however, a little aluminum cut from a can help your Wifi router’s signals go a long way.

To boost your bars immediately with this trick from Hack College, start by washing out any old beer or soda can with some soapy water. Dry it thoroughly, then flip the can upside down, and cut off the bottom with your utility knife. Also make a cut along the end with the tab, but don’t lop the top off completely—leave about an inch of metal still connected in front of the drinking hole to make a flap, as shown below.

How to Boost Wifi - with a Soda Can


The final cut will go down the can on the side opposite the metal flap. Slice the can top to bottom, and uncurl it carefully. Stretch out the aluminum on your work surface to flatten, and press down until it holds the shape. Then, when you’re ready, slip the drinking hole over your router’s antenna with the aluminum sheet up standing up tall. With your amplifier in place, sit back, relax, and enjoy the stronger connection.

FOR MORE: Hack College

7 Smart Ways to Cycle Through Laundry Faster

No one likes waiting around for their laundry to dry. So take a load off your mind the next time you tackle a heap of clothes with a few tips to dry your clothes faster.

How to Dry Clothes Fast - Tips for Your Clothes Dryer


Not all that long ago, clotheslines were the household norm. Today, however, while plenty of people like to air their ‘dirty laundry,’ only 21 percent of the population still hangs their clothes out to dry. In this fast-paced world, speed is everything. So what if we told you that your hard-working clothes dryer could work even harder? It’s so simple, it can take as little as a minute. Try any of the following tips to increase your appliance’s efficiency and shrink the time it takes to dry the load—not your clothes.

How to Dry Clothes Fast - Efficient Laundry Room


1. Clean the dryer vent and exhaust duct. Periodic cleaning prevents lint buildup, which would otherwise impede the airflow and increase dry time. Perhaps most importantly, though, regular maintenance prevents an appliance fire. You should clean your dryer hose with a brush once a year, and inspect the vent for any blockages at least every 6 months.

2. Shorten the dryer hose. When you disconnect your dryer’s vent hose (that metallic, accordion-like tube) for cleaning, consider truncating it at the same time. The hose only needs to be long enough to reach your dryer, situated just a few feet away from the wall. A shorter hose requires less energy to pump moisture-laden air out of the machine than a full-length one, so your dryer can do its job up to 20 percent faster.

3. Remove lint from the filter screen. Emptying the lint screen after each load is another task that’s absolutely necessary because of lint’s flammability. If the screen gets too clogged, the dryer may overheat and automatically shut off as a safety precaution. In some cases, the tumbler still rotates and blows, so you won’t realize the heating elements are off until you open the door to find a pile of wet clothes. Forgo a fire and any wasted time by keeping it clean.

4. Shake water from your wardrobe. Immediately after the laundry comes out of the washer, wring and shake out each item over the sink to remove excess water. If some pieces are overly wet, place them back in the washer and run only the “spin” cycle to pull out some of the moisture. This may take an extra 15 minutes, but the extra cycle in the washer will save you later in overall dry time.

5. Don’t overload the dryer. It’s a mistake to think stuffing the dryer will save you time—it actually has the opposite effect. Clothes need room to tumble so heated air can pass over and through each item, so keep your load to a minimum for maximum effectiveness.

6. Resist opening the door. Whenever you open the dryer door mid-cycle, warm air escapes, and a little more time is needed to completely dry the load. Plus, if you’re adding a forgotten item, the single sopping wet piece in a partially dry load throws off your clothes dryer’s moisture detector. That means some clothes might be over-dried and others still damp. To avoid this, resolve to sticking stragglers on a drying rack, instead.

7. Throw in the towel—literally. If you have a few items you need to dry fast, toss them into the dryer with a large, dry towel to absorb some of the moisture. After 15 minutes, remove the towel and hang it up to dry; otherwise it will continue to contribute to the moisture level in the dryer and extend the drying time, thus defeating the purpose. Then, when you check on the rest of the items in another five to 10 minutes, you should find the load ready to go.

How To: Waterproof Fabric

You can waterproof everything from your favorite outdoor pillows to your kitschy canvas tote using a water repellant that’s been around for more than a century.

How To Waterproof Fabric - DIY Waterproofing With Wax


Looking to reupholster your dining room chairs in a beautiful print without having to worry about future damage from spills? Concerned about wearing a new pair of canvas sneakers because of the threat of rain? You’re not alone: Despite the advent and increased use of synthetic fibers, not every fabric is water-repellent—but it can be. Sure, you could commit to spraying on a store-bought silicone solution once a year between rainy seasons. But, if you’re a die-hard do-it-yourselfer and you’d like to waterproof your fabrics the old-fashioned way, you can seal the deal with one tried-and-true ingredient: wax. Just follow the steps below and, before you know it, those water droplets will be rolling off your favorite fabrics in no time flat.

The Wax On, Water Off Method
One hundred years ago, wax was the go-to substance for waterproofing fabric. Not only did it repel water, but it also smelled better than the tars, tannins, and oils commonly used at the time. Today, high-end apparel companies like Filson and Barbour still sell waxed outerwear—but it comes with a hefty price tag. If you’re willing to waterproof your wearables the old-school way with wax, here’s a DIY method that comes at a much lower cost yet with equally good results.

- 1 large saucepan
- 1 metal bowl
- Stovetop
- 4 oz. paraffin wax
- 4 oz. beeswax pellets
- Stirring spoon
- Clothes dryer
- 1-inch disposable paintbrush
- Heat gun or hair dryer
- Pillowcase (optional)
- Freezer (optional)

How To Waterproof Fabric - Dining Room Chair Seats

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Moorestown, NJ

Create a double boiler to melt the waxes by filling a saucepan with water, bringing it to a boil on the stovetop, then resting a metal bowl on top of the pan. The metal bowl should be small enough to fit inside the pan, but large enough that its bottom doesn’t touch the water. The space between the pan and the bowl will trap the heat needed to melt the wax in the bowl above.

Place four ounces of beeswax pellets (available in the candle-making section of an arts and crafts store) in the metal bowl. Then, cut the four-ounce bar of paraffin wax into small chunks and add them to the pellets, stirring the two together until the chunks melt. While the waxes liquefy, throw the item you wish to waterproof into the dryer (if possible) to warm the material. This will make the application process easier.

Stir until all chunks of wax have melted, then apply the molten wax to the fabric in a thick layer using a one-inch paintbrush. (An inexpensive brush with stiff bristles provides the best results here.) Work in one small section at a time until you have evenly covered the entire area.

Turn a heat gun on at a low setting or a hair dryer on high, and point it toward the layer you just applied so that it melts the wax into the fabric. Allow it to cool.

For any smaller item, such as a pair of canvas shoes or a square of upholstery fabric for a chair seat, also slip the wax-coated piece into an old pillowcase and run it through the dryer for 15 minutes. This, too, will help melt the wax.

When the item is cool, check for uneven spots. Apply a second coat, if necessary, then reheat the fabric once again.

Allow the item to cure for at least 24 hours before you use it. Should you notice a strong smell from the wax, you can let the waterproofed item air out over the next few days or, for faster results, make space to stick it in the freezer overnight. When you retrieve it, your waxed material should be odorless, watertight, and ready for use.

Quick Tip: How to Snag Shipping Pallets for Your Next Project

Shipping pallets are a highly coveted material among DIYers, but finding them can be a tricky business. Learn where to score cheap, quality pallets for your next project with these easy tips.

Where to Find Pallets - DIY Project Materials


The foundation of many furniture projects—like crafty wine racks, whimsical swing chairs, and elegant daybeds—relies on old-fashioned elbow grease and a pile of shipping pallets. Durable, versatile, and affordable, pallets are a must-have in your workshop, should you need to know where to find them. While you can order shipping pallets online, plucky DIYers seeking a bargain may be more tempted to upcycle shipping pallets found in dumpsters or lumberyards. These innocent-looking pallets may seem like a DIY treasure trove, but they could be unsafe to bring into your home. To find the cleanest and cheapest pallets, consider these tips.

Where to Find Pallets - Stack of Cheap Wood Pallets


• Skip large commercial companies that may house contaminated pallets or have disposal practices already in place. Instead, frequent small businesses like nurseries or gardens, hardware and power equipment stores, furniture stores, and neighborhood construction zones. These sites regularly receive a steady supply of clean and safe pallets that they’re often willing to unload for free if you ask.

• If a new storefront has opened up in your town, consider swinging by and inquiring with them as well. Oftentimes their influx of product has arrived via shipping pallets, and they would be happy to donate some to your DIY cause.

• But remember, never take what seems to be a freebie without asking! Some companies are charged for unreturned pallets, so always check first.

• If the places around town fail you, you can always scour Craigslist for users who are looking to get rid of their stash.

Before you commit to a pickup, keep in mind that not all pallets are equal: Some may contain splinters or nails, be tainted by food or fungus, or have been treated with harmful chemicals. Always check for the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) logo, which certifies that a pallet has been heat-treated or fumigated to prevent the spread of insects or plant diseases. Unstamped pallets may or may not be safe to use; don’t risk it. Heat-treated pallets (marked “HT”) are safe to use, as are debarked pallets (marked “DB”). Ones marked “MB” have been treated with methyl bromide, a highly toxic pesticide—not something you want to use as your building supplies. Select the stamped pallets that appear sturdy enough to support your future DIY endeavors and, ideally, were made in the United States (an abbreviation indicating the country of origin should be on the IPPC stamp). Once you’ve confirmed that a pallet meets your standards, take it home and get to work!

How To: Install Carpeting on Stairs

If you can’t choose between carpet and wood to cover your stairs, choose both! A runner gives you the beauty of wood as well as the decorative and practical benefits of carpeting. Install one on your stairs with this DIY step-by-step.

How to Install Carpet on Stairs - Adding a Carpet Runner to Steps


Showcase the beauty of wood stairs without sacrificing the comfort of carpet with this clever compromise: a carpet runner. This narrow rug runs down the center of the staircase, leaving some wood exposed on each side of the tread while still providing all the benefits of carpet, such as additional grip, shock absorption, and noise reduction. It’s the best of both worlds! Plus, it’s possible to complete this installation project in only a few hours. Just take it one step at a time.

- Tape measure
- Tack strips
- Hammer
- Nails
- Carpet padding
- Utility knife
- Hammer tacker
- Staples
- Carpet runner
- Carpet awl
- Knee kicker
- Carpet sheers or carpet knife

How to Install Carpet on Stairs - Entryway Stair Runner


Before you get started installing your carpet, you first need to determine the look you want in your home. There are two ways of installing carpet on stairs: the Hollywood method and the waterfall method.

• The Hollywood method tightly wraps the carpet over the edge the tread and around the nosing (or the front edge) of each step, then fastens it down on the riser for a clean and contoured appearance. Its tailored look makes this a popular choice for the most visible stairways in the home, such as those leading up from the living room or foyer.

• The waterfall method, on the other hand, offers a simpler installation, in which the carpet is adhered to the edge of the tread, then dropped straight down to meet the back of the next tread—all without securing it to the riser. This more casual, cascading style is often reserved for basement stairs or projects involving thick, nubby carpet that is harder to manipulate.

Next up: Time to choose a carpet. Of all of the options available to you, a machine-hemmed, prefabricated stair runner is the most convenient choice for easy installation. Carpet runner can, however, be cut and hemmed from any wall-to-wall carpet roll; just know that each side must be stitched with a border to prevent fraying before you start. This hemming process requires a special sewing machine used by carpet professionals, so you’ll need to hire a pro and provide full measurements (see Step 3) for a custom cut.

Whether you plan to pick up a runner that is ready to go, or craft something totally custom, you’ll first need to collect all your necessary measurements. Start with the ideal width of your runner. Pre-hemmed runners are usually sold in one of a few widths, most commonly 27 and 32 inches, so choose the one that fits your tread size with as much (or as little) wood showing as desired. If you plan to have a runner custom cut (or if you need help visualizing how your stairs would appear partially covered with a carpet runner), try draping brown kraft paper or a flat sheet folded lengthwise to determine the right runner width.

Next, to calculate the length of your stair runner, add your measurements for the depth of the stair tread and the height of the riser, then multiply this sum by the number of stairs. If you want the Hollywood style of carpeting, you’ll need a little extra length in order to have enough give to fasten the runner completely; add one inch for each nosing and at least 18 extra inches for spare.

Prepare your stairs for carpet installation by installing tack strips, thin pieces of wood resembling yardsticks with tacks pointing upward. These will grip the carpet backing and hold it in place.

Cut your tack strips into lengths that are four inches shorter than the width of your chosen runner, then count out two strips for each stair. Nail one on each riser, centered, ¼ inch from the bottom, and one on each tread, ¼ inch from the rear, also centered. Make certain that the strips angle in toward each other, so that the points of the tacks will come close to touching.

To provide each of your wooden steps with a little more cushion, lay down a base of carpet padding. You can find this material in many shapes and sizes, but remember that high-quality stair padding is thicker than wall-to-wall padding. Good padding is worth the investment, because it can extend the life of the carpet on this highly trafficked corridor.

To begin, use a utility knife to cut the padding into rectangles that are the same width as the length of each tack strip (to ensure that the padding won’t stick out under the carpet), and three inches longer than the depth of the tread. These pads should not cover any of the tack strips, however. Secure one end of the pad just in front of the tack strip on the tread, using a hammer tacker and stapling every three inches across. Then, pull the padding tight around the stair nosing and staple it underneath (onto the riser), again spaced every three inches. Trim the pad where the nosing and the top of the riser meet and, if using the waterfall method, clip the corners so you won’t see the pad. Repeat this process for the entire length of the staircase.

With all the padding in place, it’s time to install the runner, working from the bottom of the stairs to the top. Center the runner so that there are equal amounts of wood on each side, then press it into the very first tack strip (at the bottom of the riser), using a carpet awl to get a clean look between the bottom of the stair riser and the flooring. The carpeting should be even with the floor, but if not, just trim the edge with a carpet knife. Then, secure the runner to the riser just beneath the next tread with staples, spaced roughly three inches apart.

For the tailored Hollywood look, also secure the runner to the underside of the nosing, spacing each staple three inches apart.

Recenter the runner, then push the carpet back over the nosing and toward the next tack strip. Place the front part of a knee kicker (a professional carpet tool available for rent from your local big-box hardware store) about two to three inches from the second riser, then give it a jolt with your knee to tighten the carpeting along the edges. Start at the middle, and work your way to each edge to minimize any bubbles in the middle. Remember: If the runner begins to buckle, pull it up from the tack strip and begin again. No bumps allowed!

Once you are satisfied with the runner’s position, use a carpet awl to push it tightly into the seam between the tread and the riser, and into your tack strips. Then, staple the runner into the crease where the riser and tread meet on either end of the strip as well as each outer edge, two inches from the bottom of the riser.

Repeat Steps 7 and 8 for each stair until you reach a landing or the top riser.

When you finally reach the top riser, fold the carpet’s upper edge back on itself and staple it just underneath the overhanging lip of the flooring. Kick back and relax now that the work is done. Your classy, comfy stairway is ready to make its grand entrance at your next celebration. Is this a good reason to schedule a house re-warming? We think so.

Genius! Clean Your Gutters without a Ladder

Stop cleaning rooftop gutters step-by-step and rung-by-rung, and start using this fast, easy, and safe DIY gutter vacuum.

How to Clean Gutters without a Ladder - Leaves in Rain Gutter


We all start autumn bright-eyed and optimistic, eager to pick apples, gaze at the stars, or watch the leaves change color before they flutter into the wind. But fall’s beauty fades when you find yourself teetering on a ladder to clear rooftop gutters of debris before it clogs, freezes, or even bursts the gutter. In the face of these unforgiving elements, the resourceful DIYer behind Spilling Coffee remained determined not to buy a pricier telescopic gutter-cleaning wand or other leaf pickup tools to reach his 12-foot-high roofline. Instead, inspiration hit while using a leaf vacuum to rid a floral bed of leaves, and the blogger devised a creative solution to gutter clutter—one that can keep your rooftop gutters clean, your wallet full, and your feet firmly planted on the good, green earth. He converted his existing chipper and leaf vacuum into a gutter cleaner.

How to Clean Gutters without a Ladder - DIY Gutter Vacuum


This homemade gutter vacuum harnesses the power of everyday tools in the shed: a vacuum that can handle wet and dry debris (if not a chipper vacuum, a shop vacuum or leaf blower with a reverse function will do), a hose with extension tubing, and aluminum duct elbows. Bonded together with aluminum tape, the two duct elbows form an ingenious “hook” at the end of the vacuum hose, curved to aim your machine’s suction right at the gutters. Start up the vacuum, glide the hook across the gutter, and watch from the comfort and safety of the ground floor as your humble vacuum captures lingering leaves, twigs, and unwanted debris with ease—Spilling Coffee’s video demo lets us check out his success.

Now that leaves already starting to turn, there’s no time to lose with crafting your own before the season hits full-swing. With a handmade helper like this one, you, too, can conquer gutter clogs before they happen and go back to enjoying the fall foliage once again.

FOR MORE: Spilling Coffee

3 Natural Fixes to Remove Rust from Metal

What do ketchup, limes, and vinegar have in common? They’re all excellent—and natural—solutions for removing rust. Read on to learn how these pantry staples can restore your metal pieces to their original shine.

How to Get Rid of Rust - Rusty Metal Pan


Few things are more unsightly than a sudden smattering of rust spots plaguing your smooth metal surfaces. Whether on a garden tool or the kitchen sink, that dreaded orange color tends to age your favorite belongings, making them appear old and dirty even when they aren’t. While you can’t always prevent this common, moisture-caused chemical reaction from occurring, you can naturally remove it. Try one of these rust-busting recipes to get your metal items looking shiny and new again.



How to Get Rid of Rust - Salt and Lime


Believe it or not, a little green lime and its larger yellow cousin—the lemon—can help eliminate rust in its early stages before it reaches the interior metal. Combined with the abrasive benefits of salt, the acidic properties of the citrus fruit make for an effective scrub (and a great margarita!). Start by coating the affected area with a sprinkling of salt. Then, squeeze the juice over the salty surface. After letting the mixture sit for two to three hours, use the rind to rub off the residue and reveal a rust-free result. Finish up by rinsing and drying the piece completely.



How to Get Rid of Rust - ketchup


For this DIY remover, you’ll need to reach into the fridge and grab a popular hot dog topper: ketchup. Mixed with washing soda, this condiment can work wonders, returning your metal items back to their former gleaming glory. To create the concoction, put water and washing soda in a spray bottle, and shake the bottle vigorously. Saturate the rust spots with the mixture, then apply some ketchup to the affected areas. Allow the items to sit for two hours, then rinse with water and wipe dry.



How to Get Rid of Rust - Baking Soda


Individually, vinegar, baking soda, and salt all make wonderful cleaning agents, but together, they form an extremely effective rust remover. While this process may take a little longer than the others, it’s ideal for cleaning a collection of items at once, such as a set of kitchen utensils. Start by adding ½ cup salt to ½ gallon vinegar in a plastic container. Drop your rusty extras into the solution, and let them soak for about 12 hours. Next, pour out the salt-and-vinegar solution, rinse the metal objects in water, and then immediately return them to the container. Now fill with ½ gallon fresh water and ½ cup baking soda to neutralize any remaining vinegar trapped inside the crevices. After about 10 minutes, rinse the items in warm water, and finish by drying them thoroughly.