Category: How To’s & Quick Tips


Quick Tip: Make Your Candles Last Longer

The amber glow of those flickering flames doesn't come cheap. To get the most bang from the big bucks you're spending on candles, give these quick tips a try.

Photo: shutterstock.com

Burning at Both Ends

There are so many reasons to burn candles at home, from their flame-flickering aesthetic appeal to their room-freshening aroma. Unless you have small children or mischievous pets, we can think of only one reason not to love pillar and taper candles, tea lights and votives—lovely though they may be, they sure ain't cheap! Believe it or not, you can spend less on new candles by using a handful of simple, time-tested tricks to lengthen the lives of the ones you've already bought and paid for.

To coax a candle into burning more slowly so that you can enjoy it for a longer period of time, try out one of the following two methods—or, for the best possible results, do both in tandem.

First things first, put the candle in the freezer. Yes, the freezer. By doing so, you are hardening the wax, which makes it melt more slowly and therefore last longer. The thinner the candle, the less time it needs to spend in the freezer. While a thick pillar candle might take six or eight hours to freeze, a thin taper might be ready within an hour or less. But as there’s no danger of a candle spending too long in the freezer, you might as well store all of your candles in the freezer, assuming there’s room. If there’s no space in there, simply slip your next-up-to-burn candle into the freezer on the morning or night before you’re planning to light it.

Trick number two can be done in addition to, or separate from, the first. After letting the candle burn long enough for a pool of wax to collect around the wick, go ahead and blow out the flame. Then, acting fast, proceed to sprinkle table salt into the liquid wax. If necessary, use a toothpick to ensure that the salt actually mixes into the wax and doesn’t merely sit on the surface. Adding salt serves the same purpose as putting the candle in the freezer—it slows down the rate at which the wax melts, giving you a longer, more economical burn. When you use salt in addition to the freezing method, you’re doing all that can be done to squeeze extra time out of a candle. But it can also be helpful to keep the candle wick trimmed to about a quarter inch in length, because longer wicks tend to hasten burning.

Beyond burn time, there’s another factor to consider. Have you ever had a candle that became more and more lopsided as the wick flamed its way down, leaving you at the end with nubby, waxen walls encircling a burned-out crater? The leftover wax signals that you didn’t get all you could have gotten from the candle. To get the most bang for your buck, you need to ensure that the candle burns both evenly and completely. What matters most here is how long you let the candle burn the first time you light it. It’s critical not to extinguish it until the pool of wax has extended across the diameter of the candle. Blow it out too soon, and you are in effect dooming the candle to leave excess wax; if it doesn’t melt on the first lighting, the dry, hard wax around the outside edge will almost never burn. Finally, remember not to leave the candle near a door or window or in any similarly drafty spot; not only is such a location unsafe, but it can also result in uneven burning.


Weekend Projects: 5 Kid-Friendly DIY Forts

What better way to spend a chilly month than indoors wrapped in the blankets of your DIY fort? And once you've gathered your blankets, clothespins, cushions, or other supplies, the only limit is your imagination—or maybe the ceiling!

Remember your mom’s heavy sigh when you and your brother carried off the couch cushions, plundered all the blankets, and ransacked the laundry room for clothespins? That sigh heralds the building of a blanket fort—and for many kids, it’s a first introduction to the challenge of design. Whether you assemble it yourself, leave the construction up to the kids, or do it all together as a family, don’t be surprised if you want to settle into the DIY fort in your living room!

 

1. A-FRAME ABODE

DIY Forts - A Frame

Photo: mycakies.com

Some of the best forts are spontaneously built, but if you’re going for a particular look, it helps to have a plan. Rubyellen (an adult) constructed this easy DIY fort frame using little beyond whitewood molding, dowels, and an drill chucked with a spade bit. Best of all, it’s collapsible. Visit Cakies for the plans and full tutorial.

 

2. TABLECLOTH TENT

DIY Fort - Tablecloth

Photo: etsy.com

After spotting this tent from CoolSpacesForKids, Centsational Girl set out to make her own for less. The process? Simple. Buy enough fabric to cover the tabletop and legs. Then, for the windows, use shortened curtain panels, tea towels, or fabric scraps. Feeling extra ambitious? Sew or glue on ribbon ties as curtain pulls.

 

3. NETFLIX NEST

DIY Fort - TV Nest

Photo: Anna, reddit.com

Pulled up to a TV and stocked with puzzles, you could spend days in Anna’s DIY fort, losing hours like house keys. By night, fuzzy blankets are your mattress, and the string lights are just bright enough to read by. To make yours, use your sofa and coffee table as a foundation, then layer on blankets and pin up some bulbs.

 

4. MAGIC MANOR

DIY Fort - Magic

Photo: fortmagic.com

Fort Magic, best known for its appearance on NBC’s Shark Tank, sells a 382-piece kit enabling you to make more than 20 different forts out of PVC pipe-like parts. The company claims the kits boost creativity and confidence, while teaching kids “the value of planning [and] believing in their ability to complete a project.”

 

5. CLASSIC CUSHIONS

DIY Fort - Cushions

Photo: pacificcoast.com

Your fort might not have four stories, but Pacific Coast’s basic principles still apply. First, pick your spot—an area with enough furniture to support your structure. Next, arrange cushions and furniture in a circle, building up where you can. Finally, add comforters to form a roof that blocks out light and makes the space cozy!


Bob Vila Thumbs Up: The Penny Competition Starts Today

Vote now—and vote daily—to choose your favorite among the penny projects competing to win this month's Bob Vila Thumbs Up competition!

They’re at the bottom of your pockets, purses, or change jars—but did you ever stop to consider their DIY potential? That’s right, we’re talking about pennies! They can dress up anything from a kitchen countertop to a custom made sign. And their copper tone makes them a coveted material for anyone who wants to showcase the new copper trend in their home for, well, mere pennies. For their resourcefulness, this month’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up competitors, all get a big round of applause.

SEE ALL PROJECTS HERE

Pennies are pretty easy to use in your DIY project. But each penny project can pose specific challenges, too. These bloggers have invented different methods for shining, cutting, bending, or adhering pennies to their surfaces—and they all get points for creativity. But only one can win this month’s prize—a $250 gift card.

SEE ALL PROJECTS HERE

So cast your vote today and every day in February to help your favorite blogger win the prize and be the this mont’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up winner. After all, it’s your vote that determines the outcome of this competition.

Congrats to last month’s winning blogger, Two Thirty-Five Designs. Read more about the winning Bob Vila Thumbs Up project right here.

Would you like to recommend a blogger for the next Bob Vila Thumbs Up? Tell us about it on Facebook or Twitter!


Clean Your Floors with What’s in the Pantry

Cleaning floors doesn't have to be a tedious chore. Once we hook you up with the right DIY solution for your flooring type, the rest will be easy.

Homemade Floor Cleaner

Photo: shutterstock.com

Sweeping dirt under the rug: Tempting, sure, but it’s no long-term solution. Different rooms in different houses require different levels of care, so only you can determine how often to clean. But we can tell you that homemade floor cleaner simplifies the task, somehow making it seem like much less of a production. In other words, when you clean with a homemade floor cleaner, it doesn’t feel like the sort of cleaning you know and dread. We think that’s largely because homemade floor cleaner contains no harsh chemicals; it’s completely non-toxic. It smells good, too—not in that artificial way, but genuinely good. Best of all, it’s cheap and easy to make and only requires ingredients that you likely have on hand. Here’s how to make special formulations  for some of the most common floor materials out there.

Wood Floor Cleaner
A popular recipe for cleaning and freshening hardwood floors includes the following: ¼ cup white vinegar, 1 gallon warm water, and a few drops of essential oil. When it comes to the oil, use any you like, or whatever you have, be it lemon or lavender or something else. While the vinegar disinfects, the oil adds a pleasing scent. Though it’s a forgiving formula overall, be careful to use the correct ratio of vinegar to water. If you fail to strike the right balance, the acid in the vinegar may damage the floor finish. When applying the homemade floor cleaner, do so with a dampened cloth or a mop with excess liquid wrung out of it.

Homemade Floor Cleaner - Mop

Photo: shutterstock.com

Ceramic Tile Floor Cleaner
Before applying homemade floor cleaner to ceramic tile, remember to sweep or vacuum first. There’s a chance that, in the process of wiping or mopping, loose debris could scratch the floor surface. Once it’s free of bits and pieces, scraps and shards, proceed to mix the DIY cleaner. Combine ¼ cup white vinegar, ¼ cup baking soda, 1 tablespoon dish detergent, and 2 gallons hot water. Apply it either with a damp cloth or a wrung-out mop. After, go over it with fresh water, then allow to dry.

Vinyl Floor Cleaner
The trick here is to avoid using any ingredients that might damage the vinyl. One safe bet is to mix together ½ cup rubbing alcohol, ½ cup vinegar, a few drops of dish detergent, and 2 gallons of water. The alcohol cuts through the really tough stains, while the detergent helps remove grease and residue. Mop the entire floor, then rinse with fresh water, if it seems necessary. If desired, you can also add a few drops of essential oil to infuse your home with a fresh-smelling aroma.

Carpet Cleaner
Carpet cleaning can be a complex job involving a big machine or expensive outside help. But for a more casual approach, try this: In a spray bottle, combine a few drops of dish detergent, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 1 cup warm water, and 1 teaspoon baking soda. After vacuuming, generously spritz the carpeting in one section. Then, using a clean towel, rub the solution into the stain. Now, use a different towel to absorb all the moisture. In this way, clean the entire carpet, section by section.


DIY Penny Vase

Copper is one of this year's most coveted materials for home decor. Here's one of the cheapest and easiest ways to get the look.

DIY Penny Vase - Before and After

When Canada phased out the penny, Vone from Vone Inspired got to work on a DIY project—an ode to the penny. Because they were being phased out, she ran out of pennies toward the end of her project, but you can hardly notice, right? Here’s a look at how she created this quick but fantastic project!

MATERIALS

- Vase
- Black spray paint
- Pennies
- Glue gun

STEP 1

DIY Penny Vase - paint

First I spray painted the vase with black and let dry.

STEP 2

DIY Penny Vase - gluing

Then I found all the pennies we had in the house and started gluing them on. I used a glue gun and started at the top of the vase. I didn’t worry about the direction of the penny or what side I used (or if they were Canadian or US) just keep gluing, row after row.

I ran out of pennies at the bottom, I hunted everywhere for more but when stores aren’t giving out pennies any more it was harder to find more. And now when it’s up on the bookshelf you can’t see the bottom anyway.

DIY Penny Vase - finished

Thanks for sharing, Vone! For more DIY projects, visit her at Vone Inspired

 


DIY Desk with a Penny Top

A plain old board of wood is the starting point for many projects—including this sparkling black and copper study station.

DIY penny desk - finished

When Homeroad blogger Susan’s daughter came to her with a project idea, she jumped at the chance to help. She provided the wood cut and her daughter, Kasey, did the rest—creating a one-of-a-kind desk with a plain wood board, a short filing cabinet—and a whole lot of pennies. Read on for the full tutorial.

MATERIALS & TOOLS

- Wood board
- Crown molding
- Circular saw
- Black paint
- Lots of pennies
- Super glue
- Pliers
- Wire cutter
- Epoxy
- (2) legs and hardware
- Filing cabinet

STEP 1

Cut a wood board to size and attach a piece of crown molding to the edge for a clean finish.

STEP 2

Then paint the wood board black.

STEP 3

DIY Penny Table - glue

Next cover the board with pennies. On the front edge of the desk, bend pennies at a right angle with pliers so they fit around the corner.

STEP 4

DIY Penny Table - cut

Use a wire cutter to cut pennies in half so they will fit perfectly along the edge.

STEP 5

When the glue dries, cover it with 3 coats of epoxy. The finish is smooth as glass and amazingly awesome!

STEP 6

Attach two legs to the bottom of one side of the board and support it on the other side with a black filing cabinet.

Voila!

DIY Penny Desk

Thanks, Susan! For more DIY furniture ideas, check out Homeroad!


DIY Penny Top Tray

What can you make with a cheap thrift store tray and an extra five bucks? This ingenious new home accent!

DIY Penny Tray - finished

Meg from Happy Looks Good on You is no stranger to Bob Vila Thumbs Up—here’s her great idea for a concrete lamp. But when we saw her idea for a DIY penny tray, we couldn’t resist nominating her again for another round of the blogger competition. Here’s how you can recreate her simple and fun project!

MATERIALS

- Tray
- Book pages
- Mod Podge
- E-600
- Pennies
- Epoxy
- Hardener
- Sponge brush

STEP 1

DIY Penny Tray - Mod Podge

I started with a boring ol’ tray I picked up from the thrift store for a couple bucks. I used Mod Podge to cover the tray with book pages.

STEP 2

DIY Penny Tray - glued

Using E-600 I glued down the pennies. Yes, I glued each one individually. It really didn’t take that long. I alternated rows of heads up and tails up. And here is what 481 pennies looks like; can’t put two gallons of gas in the car, but it can make a fabulous tray!

STEP 3

DIY Penny Tray - epoxy
Now for the fun part! To cover the pennies with epoxy. It’s super easy to mix up, two parts epoxy to one part hardener.

STEP 4

DIY Penny Tray - pour epoxy

Once it was mixed really well, I poured it over the pennies. Using a sponge brush, I spread the epoxy to cover the entire top of the penny tray. Then just set it somewhere out of the way to dry and harden for a few days.

DIY Penny Tray - close

Thanks for sharing, Meg! For more incredible DIYs you can make this weekend, visit Happy Looks Good on You.


How to Make Your Own Letters—with Pennies!

For copper accents in the kitchen that won't cost an arm and a leg, turn to your change jar. That's what brought this typography project to life!

DIY Penny Letters

When Rebecca at The Crafted Sparrow had a friend move into a new home, copper accents were on the ultimate kitchen wish list. So, being the good friend that she is, she crafted an amazingly simple and stylish housewarming gift—DIY penny letters. So, empty out your change jar and ready your glue; she’s shown us how to recreate the project right here.

MATERIALS

- Paper maché letters
- Pennies
- Weldbond glue or E6000
- Copper acrylic paint
- Foam brush
- Clear spray sealer

STEP 1

Start by painting your paper mache letters copper. I did two layers and that was enough to cover the paper mache. After I painted it copper I used a gunmetal silver color with a dry brush technique to give it a bit of a patina.

STEP 2

DIY Penny Letters - kitchen

Then get your glue ready.  I think this glue worked pretty well. We’ll see how it holds up over time. You’ll also want to start picking out your “good” pennies. I picked mostly shiny, but threw a few duller ones into the mix. That creates character.

STEP 3

I then laid out the pennies on each letter ahead of time. That way I new exactly what pattern, and placement they were going to be in. Then you just glue until your hearts content.

STEP 4

DIY Penny Letter - glue

When you’ve got them all glued on and they are all dry (let it sit for at least 24 hours) you can spray them with a clear satin or glossy spray paint. I did it to protect the pennies and the copper paint on the paper maché.

Thanks for sharing, Rebecca! If you enjoyed this, check out even more DIY tutorials at The Crafted Sparrow.


DIY Penny Countertops

Through trial and error, this blogger discovered that DIY counters can be harder than they look. She shared her secrets to a successful project.

DIY Penny Countertop - Before and After

Ashley from Domestic Imperfection had her work work cut out for her when she decided to create a DIY penny countertop in her kitchen. What seemed like a straightforward project took a few unlikely turns, but she recovered and has an amazing DIY countertop to show for herself. Find out how she did it by reading her tutorial.

MATERIALS

- Black paint
- Tarnish remover
- Pennies
- Cedar edging
- Epoxy

STEP 1

DIY penny countertops - remove laminate

First we de-laminated the countertop to make it easy to get to the nails to remove it… except that there was NO WAY that sucker was coming off. Turns out that installing this counter was one of the few things the builders of our house took the time to do right. New plan – make penny countertop while installed.

STEP 2

DIY penny countertop - paint

Then we painted the countertop black, since you were going to be able to see bits of it between the pennies.

STEP 3

DIY penny countertop - glue

We made sure our pennies were shined the way we wanted them. Then the gluing began. so.much.gluing. I know there is a bottle of wood glue next to me, but don’t be fooled, it doesn’t work. We used Gorilla Glue.

STEP 4

Here is where it gets messy. I wanted the pennies to wrap around the countertop and look all modern and awesome.  To do this we had to cut A LOT of pennies… it’s not easy to cut pennies by the way. Now for whatever reason, the pennies kept not lining up. We came to the conclusion that we couldn’t have the pennies wrap around the edge. It was a very sad moment. Not quite as sad, though, as the moment I realized that I had to pry all my carefully glued pennies off one by one.

STEP 5

DIY penny countertop - second try

So after about a week of working on it, we were back to an empty black countertop. We brainstormed about what kind of edge to use and ended up using cheap rustic cedar. After adding the edge (with about a 1/8 inch lip) we filled it with pennies. We didn’t use glue or anything, it was super easy. WHY OH WHY did we not just do this in the beginning?

STEP 6

DIY penny countertop - epoxy

Then it was time to epoxy. We just mixed according to instructions, poured, and spread with a putty knife. The epoxy was self-leveling, so we didn’t have to be too exact. We did get a ton of bubbles, so we went over it with the blow dryer to bring them to the surface. Whichever ones we didn’t get with the blow dryer I popped with a toothpick.

DIY Penny Countertop

Thanks for sharing, Ashley! For more helpful hints on troubleshooting your DIY penny project, check out her blog post. And don’t forget to visit Domestic Imperfection.


How To: Clean a Down Comforter

Forget dry cleaning—you can clean a down comforter at home, for free, without losing any fluff. Here's how.

How to Clean a Down Comforter

Photo: wayfair.com

Just about every down comforter has a tag with care instructions that read, “Dry Clean Only.” But if you’re on a budget, or reluctant to expose your bedding to the harsh chemicals used in dry cleaning, or simply intent on avoiding yet another errand, there’s good news: You can clean a down comforter at home. It’s only possible, however, if you have a large-capacity front-loading washer. In a small machine, the considerable weight of a comforter can damage the appliance, while in a top-loader, the agitator can rip the fabric, causing feathers to spill out everywhere. But assuming that your washer is both large in size and front-loading in design, you can clean a down comforter by following these steps!

STEP 1
First things first, load the comforter into the washing machine. Next, add in a mild soap or, better yet, a soap specially formulated for down—yes, such things exists! Avoid using standard laundry detergent. What you’d normally use to clean your clothing would, if used on a down comforter, strip away the natural oils that are responsible for making the feathers so exceptionally light and delightfully fluffy.

How to Clean a Down Comforter - Bedding Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Set the washer to run with warm water on a delicate cycle. If there’s an extra rinse option, enable it. If there isn’t, that’s OK; you’ll simply need to run the comforter through a separate rinse cycle manually. No matter how you achieve it, the extra rinse is needed to remove soap residue from the down.

STEP 3
Immediately transfer the comforter to a high-capacity dryer. Set the dryer to operate on low heat, and toss in either dryer balls or clean white socks stuffed with tennis balls. Yet another option is to periodically remove the comforter from the dryer and give it a vigorous shake. All three methods perform the same important function, which is to prevent the down from clumping.

STEP 4
As the comforter dries, be sure to check on it every now and again, particularly at the beginning of the cycle. There is a danger of the comforter overheating, in which case the fabric could either melt or get burned. If you notice the comforter sticking to the interior walls of the dryer, stop the machine, remove the bedding, and hand-fluff it before continuing.

STEP 5
Keep the comforter in the dryer until it is bone-dry and the down has returned to being soft and fluffy. This may take several hours. Resist the temptation to take the comforter out of the dryer before it’s completely dry. Doing so would, at best, compromise the bedding’s insulating power and, at worst, encourage the growth of mold and mildew.

Want an easier cleaning routine? 
Keep the bedding covered, at virtually all times, with a duvet cover. Like a pillowcase for your down comforter, a comparatively easy-to-clean duvet protects the underlying bedding from stains. Every three or four months, remove the comforter from its duvet and hang it outside by means of clothespins. Save this chore for a dry, sunny, and preferably windy day. Once it’s hung, leave the duvet out until the sun sets. Cared for in this way, a down comforter may only need to be cleaned once every five or ten years!