Category: How To’s & Quick Tips


5 Things to Do with… Olive Oil

Never underestimate the power of olive oil: The Mediterranean cooking staple could be the secret ingredient to solving a number of everyday problems.

The versatility of olive oil is virtually limitless. Called “liquid gold” thousands of years ago in ancient Greece, it thought to be a gift from the gods and widely celebrated as a source of healing, magic, wealth, and power. Today, its status hasn’t changed that much: It’s still used for everything from preventing heart disease to enhancing beauty products—and, let’s not forget, providing a tasty flavoring to pasta al dente. But more than being nutritious and flavorful, this rich golden oil can benefit your home, too. Read on for five ways in which your favorite cooking oil can quell the common household complaint.

 

1. LET IT SHINE

Uses of Olive Oil - Shining Stainless Steel

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No need to be embarrassed in front of guests by a dull stainless steel sink. Restoring the original shine is as simple as pouring out a few drops of olive oil. Wash and rinse your sink completely: the interior of the tub, the fixtures, and the surrounding rim. After a thorough dry, apply a few drops of olive oil to a clean cloth and buff the stainless steel. Work in the direction of the grain, and you’ll soon see that your sink regains a like-new luster.

 

2. CLEAR UP CLOUDY PLASTIC

Uses of Olive Oil - Cleaning Headlights

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When the plastic covering on your car’s interior instrument panel clouds over or a thin white film compromises the headlights, the distortion can dangerously mess with your visibility. Many car owners commonly—and mistakenly—clean these plastic coverings with alcohol-based cleaners. A better remedy for the haze, though, is a dab of olive oil. Pour a few drops on a lint-free cloth and rub the oil into the affected area. Continuing buffing the surface for a few minutes, and the cloudiness will disappear leaving the plastic looking good as new.

 

3. SPIFF UP YOUR GARDEN TOOL SET

Uses of Olive Oil - Cleaning Garden Tools

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Soil buildup on shovels, spades, and other metal tools can be difficult to remove, but left uncleaned this residue can lead to rust and ultimately shorten the life of your gardening equipment. Make cleanup easier by misting a little olive oil onto the metal portion of your hand tools (with either spray bottle or a can of olive oil spray) before you beginning digging. The protective film of  oil prevents dirt and other debris from sticking to the surface. Less buildup equals less cleanup!

 

4. SQUASH A SQUEAK

Uses of Olive Oil - Fixing a Squeaky Door

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Does the sound of a squeaky door grate on your nerves? While it may not be as cringe-worthy as the sound of nails on a chalkboard, a creaky hinge can still certainly annoy. The good news: You don’t need to trek out to the store for the tools to silence it. Instead of purchasing a silicone spray, just reach into the pantry for olive oil. Clean the hinge, and apply the oil to it sparingly using a small brush or a lint-free cloth. The next time you  pass through the door, you’ll come and go quietly.

 

5. GET OUT OF A STICKY SITUATION

Uses of Olive Oil - Removing Gum from Shoes

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Whether you’re struggling to remove gum from the sole of your shoe or sticker residue from glass, open your pantry for the answer. A cloth dipped in oil and wrapped around the affected area for 10 minutes can soften the sticky situation. The oil helps break the adhesive bond between the gum and the surface, making it easier to scrape away the unwanted mess. The same process applies to stickers: To remove an old decal from your car windshield or a stubborn label from a recent purchase, apply a drop of olive oil directly to the surface of the sticker and rub it in around the edges. If the sticker isn’t ready to budge, prick it with a pin a few times to help the oil penetrate. Before long, the bond will break and the sticker will lose its grip.


3 Fixes for Red Wine Stains

Don’t let a red wine spill spoil your party. Quickly remedy the accident with one of these three easy solutions, and follow with a toast to stain-free carpeting and upholstery!

How to Remove Red Wine Stains

Photo: fotosearch.com

Inevitably, there’s at least one unwelcome guest at every holiday party: the red wine stain. Sure enough, just as everyone is sipping, swirling, and savoring their favorite vintage vino, trading stories and seats over the course of the evening, it happens—someone spills. Lucky for you, the sooner you clean up the drink, the less chance it will stain.

A wet spill is always easier to clean than a dry one, so think fast and act faster. Always blot up all you can before it soaks in (no rubbing allowed!), then follow with one of these three handy solutions and you’ll be raising your glass to toast to the fact that your carpet and upholstery are spot-free.

 

SOLVE WITH SALT

How to Remove Red Wine Stains - With Salt

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Sometimes, the solution is hiding in plain sight—this time out on the dining room table. After carefully removing the excess liquid, first pour an ample amount of cool, clean water over the affected area to dilute the concentration of the red wine. Next, grab the salt shaker. You’ll need more than a sprinkle, so twist off the top altogether and pour out a small heap over the entire stain while it’s still wet. These crystals should absorb the wine and turn pink over the next several hours.

To get the maximum benefit of this tried and true technique, leave the salt pile in place to dry overnight. In the morning, scoop up the salt and discard the pink crystals into the trash. Then, vacuum away any remnants that may still embedded in the carpet or upholstery fibers. Once you’re finished, the stain should be much less noticeable, if not entirely gone.

 

POUR ANOTHER ROUND

How to Remove Red Wine Stains - With White Wine

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As backwards as it sounds, a splash of white wine over your existing red wine stain can dilute the concentration much like adding cool water would—reason enough to uncork that next bottle! Once you pour the white, dab at the area with a clean cloth to soak up the mixture. This should remove most of the stain.

If not, follow up with a homemade remedy straight from the pantry: an absorbent baking soda paste. Mix up three parts water and one part baking soda, coat the stain, and leave it overnight to soak. To ensure effectiveness, also cover the area with a clean cloth and a heavy book. The weight of the book will help press the powdery mixture into the fibers to pull up any wine that remains, and by morning you can scrape off that caked-on crust to reveal a stain-free surface.

 

FIND THE FIRST-AID KIT

How to Remove Red Wine Stains - With Hydrogen Peroxide

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Good for more than just sterilizing skin cuts and scrapes, hydrogen peroxide also makes an effective cleaner for red wine stains. Just remember: It is a mild bleaching agent, and therefore not for use on dark carpets or upholstery, only lighter materials like white carpet.

Mix one small squirt of dishwashing soap with half of a cup of hydrogen peroxide in a shallow dish. Start by testing a small amount of the solution in an inconspicuous spot on the carpet or furniture before inadvertently creating an unwanted bleach stain. If the area bleaches, or you notice a dye transfer, then dilute the area with water, dab away the moisture, and discontinue this method. If there is no discoloration, soak a clean cloth in the soapy peroxide solution and dab at the stain. Blot gently, allowing the mixture to seep into the fibers. Repeat this process until you’ve applied the solution to the entire stain, and allow the mixture to stand for a few minutes for the best results.

Once the hydrogen peroxide has done its job, wash and rinse it away. Fill a clean spray bottle with cold, soapy water and lightly wet the stained area. Blot with another clean towel, this one soaked in fresh, lukewarm water (no soap). Finally, when you dab the spot with a dry towel to absorb any excess moisture, the stain should have wholly disappeared.


How To: Remove Paint from Glass

Whether it’s accidental splatter on the window or a mason jar crafting misstep, here’s how to quickly remove paint and make any glass crystal clear again.

How to Remove Paint from Glass - Cleanup After a Paint Job

Photo: fotosearch.com

You set out a drop cloth and meticulously lined the wall trim with painter’s tape, but you still ended up with a little bit of paint splatter on the windows in your kitchen. Even with careful preparation, you’ll have the occasional drip-drop during a project, but removing paint from glass is a lot easier than you think. In fact, it requires minimal tools (most of which you can find beneath your sink) and minimal time. Still, there’s an art to getting the job done, whether you want to remove the paint from your windows or from a mason jar paint project gone awry. Master the fix with this straightforward step-by-step.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Glass measuring cup or microwavable dish
- White vinegar
- Rubber gloves
- 3 clean cloths
- A bucket (optional, depending on the size of the job)
- Water
- Dish soap
- A new razor blade
- Glass cleaner

How to Remove Paint from Glass - Cleaning a Window

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1
Fill a glass measuring cup or other dish with 1 cup of white vinegar, and bring it to a boil in the microwave. Then, wearing a pair of thick rubber gloves to protect your hands from the heat, dip an old rag into the liquid. Use the soaked rag and a little elbow grease to rub the paint spots you want to remove. The hot vinegar will help loosen the paint and often causes it to come right off in this first step. Don’t get discouraged if the paint remains, though; just proceed to Step 2.

STEP 2
If vinegar doesn’t do the trick, it’s time to kick things up a notch. Fill the dish or bucket with warm water and dish soap (enough to make it sudsy), and dip your second cloth into this solution. Use it to thoroughly wet the paint spots on the glass. The soap you apply to the affected areas will act as a lubricant so you don’t accidentally scratch the glass.

STEP 3
Now position a single razor blade (the sharper and newer the blade, the better) at a 45-degree angle from the windowpane. The angle here is very important: Any more or less, and you’re likely to scratch or break the glass.

Push the blade in one slow, smooth motion to scrape the paint away. Always work in the same direction—never back and forth—as you carefully lift the paint off the glass. Basically, you want the paint to lift off all at once in one sheet rather than flake off the glass. Keep your damp and sudsy cloth nearby to moisten the paint anytime it appears to be drying out.

STEP 4
Once you’ve removed all the paint, grab a glass cleaner and spray down the windowpane wherever the paint used to be. Use your third clean, dry cloth to buff out any streaks left behind so your paint-free pane will have zero obstructions on the next sunny day.


Quick Tip: The Best Way to Prevent Freezer Burn

This airtight solution to freezer burn will ensure a Thanksgiving feast that’s forever frozen in your memory.

How to Prevent Freezer Burn - Leftover Storage

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For many Thanksgiving hosts, the holiday’s fun, family, and food mark the culmination of a month-long process: diligent decorating, guest planning, and, most notably, large-scale meal preparation. Menus are strategized with oven scheduling in mind, vegetables diced days in advance, dry rubs measured and mixed, and buttery pie crusts baked to perfection. But at the end of the big day, what remains of that hard work often gets haphazardly strewn into the fridge or freezer, where it can fall victim to freezer burn. Don’t let storage mistakes turn your Thanksgiving feast into a short-lived success. Switch out your go-to food containers, and you can preserve your feast—not to mention freezer space—after the holiday.

How to Prevent Freezer Burn - Using Freezer Bags

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To reap the fruits (and vegetables) of your Thanksgiving labor all winter, round up the cooled leftovers and transfer a small amount of any dish into a Ziploc freezer bag, squeezing out excess air from each before sealing. Think ahead: Make reheating easier on yourself by only packaging the portion that you’d reheat for your next meal, roughly one to two servings per bag. Then slide the filled bag into a second one to create a dual-layered seal that will protect the foods from air and moisture. Repeat this process with all of your sweet and savory comestibles, labeling as you go.

Worried about running out? It’s better to stock an extra box of freezer bags at the holidays than count on ill-fitting plastic wrap or bulky storage containers with loose lids. Not only does oversized organization eat up space that could be used for the more leftovers and future grocery purchases, but these particular methods also invite air and encourage freezer burn. (Besides, it never hurts to have these disposable bags on hand so that you can send some leftovers home with guests without sacrificing a dish!)

When you’re ready to stow your holiday feast, stack or group similar foods together using baskets for a space-smart solution to your limited freezer space. Then move the most recently cooked foods behind any other lingering leftovers so that you don’t forget to thaw and gobble up all of your home-cooked goods this season.


Genius! The Trash Can Turkey Smoker

Sometimes holiday dinners can get a little bit boring, especially when Grandma breaks out that dry oven-roasted turkey again. Smoke the Thanksgiving competition in style with this clever DIY—and infuse your bird with flavor!

Homemade Smoker - Trash Can Conversion

Photo: instructables.com

Just like us, our ancestors loved a good cookout. As early as 500,000 years ago, the earliest humans whipped up dinner over an open fire. Over time, however, they discovered that smoking meats preserved them, and cooking methods improved to keep food fresh for longer. Today, the technique is more of a treat than a necessity, but this clever DIY smoker from Instructables member DrEel aims to change all that. For tender turkey with a smoky kick of flavor, forget the oven and bring that bird to the backyard!

With little more than an adventurous spirit, a circular grill grate, and a trash can—yes, you read that correctly—this maker went to work. As it turns out, a brand new garbage can works just like a large store-bought smoker, using convective heat from the smoking wood chips to cook and flavor your family-sized bird.

To transform the trash can into a full-fledged smoker, DrEel first drilled a series of holes to establish a few levels. Three equidistant holes about 8 inches below the rim (a little more than the height of the turkey) fit 3-inch-long bolts to support the grill grate and the bird. Several inches below that, four more holes and a pair of threaded rods suspend a foil dripping pan—a smart addition that prevents grease fires and minimizes any mess. At the bottom, one final hole is drilled to thread the electrical cord of a $10 electric hotplate to an outlet outside of the can.

Come Turkey Day, this Instructables user stationed the smokey contraption a safe distance from the house and neighbors using a high voltage extension cord. Inside the bottom of the can, the hotplate (set to the highest temperature) warms a small pan of water-soaked applewood chips. The smoke and heat circulates within the lidded smoker, cooking the brined turkey resting on the grate. A small BBQ thermometer punched through the lid reads the temperature inside over the course of the afternoon. Ultimately, the weight of your bird will determine cooking time. A rule of thumb: Give yourself at least 30 minutes for every pound of turkey to cook all the way through. (A 16-pound bird, then, will be table-ready in about 8 hours.) And remember, the best things in life are worth the wait—and a great meal is no exception.

Ready to get cooking with this holiday DIY? Just remember to take proper precautions. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby, and always opt for a stainless steel trash can over one made of galvanized steel—studies have shown that the fumes produced by galvanized steel at high temperatures can be harmful. Safety concerns aside, there’s nothing like making your own Thanksgiving tradition, especially one this cool. At the very least, we guarantee it will be the tastiest thing you’ve ever pulled out of a trash can!

FOR MORE: Instructables

Homemade Smoker - Trash Can Turkey Smoker

Photo: instructables.com


DIY Kids: Convert a Cast-Off into a Cool New Lego Table

Create a dedicated space where your kids can let their imaginations run wild and Lego bricks can tidily reside, safe from vacuum cleaners and the delicate soles of bare feet, by converting a cast-off table into a Lego building station.

DIY Lego Table

Photo: bobvila.com

My kids love Lego so much that it borders on obsession. We have a lot of these plastic bricks and, until recently, no way to keep them easily accessible and ready for play. So, we decided to make a Lego table. Sure, you could buy one—but they’re both expensive and not necessarily the most attractive piece of furniture to place in your living room. You can, however, make a functional, good-looking Lego table by upcycling a piece of furniture you already have, or tracking one down at a thrift store or garage sale. In fact, if you can let your imagination see the potential in something that’s been cast off, creating a Lego table can be surprisingly easy.

SKILL LEVEL: EASY
If you know how to spray-paint and glue, you can DIY a Lego table! We also added casters to ours so we could roll it from room to room, but even that process was not difficult and required only a drill and hammer. Kids can help with most parts of this project, but when it’s time to paint, I recommend letting them hold the top of your hand while you apply the spray paint, rather than allowing them to spray-paint by themselves. Small fingers may not have the strength and control necessary for a quality job. Likewise, be cautious with the superglue, as it can cause irritation if it makes contact with your skin.

DIY Lego Table - Supplies

Photo: bobvila.com

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Thrifted table
- Sandpaper
- Clean rags
- Spray paint
- Spray urethane (optional)
- Casters and hardware (optional)
- Drill and bit (if you’re attaching casters)
- Pencil
- Tape measure
- Superglue
- Lego baseplates

 

STEP 1

DIY Lego Table - Step 1

Photo: bobvila.com

For this project, we started with an old thrifted table so we wouldn’t have to build the base from scratch. Coffee tables, end tables, side tables, and play tables make great candidates for upcycling into a Lego table—especially when they’re already equipped with room for storing all those tiny pieces. Our table came with bins in it, as if it were born to be a Lego table. If your table doesn’t have drawers, consider how you might solve this storage dilemma, whether by fitting a bin on an open shelf under the table or attaching hooks and buckets to one side.

Another key factor to keep in mind: surface area. Ideally, you’re repurposing a table with a square or rectangular top that will be mostly covered by Lego baseplates. Baseplates come in 10-inch and 15-inch squares, so as you’re selecting your table, consider how the baseplates will lay out on the surface.

 

STEP 2

DIY Lego Table - Step 2

Photo: bobvila.com

Carefully inspect your table for any areas that might need repair. Glue any loose or broken pieces, and sand down any rough spots. Vacuum and wipe the table thoroughly, then allow it to dry before you start your paint job.

 

STEP 3

DIY Lego Table - Step 3

Photo: bobvila.com

Set up shop in a well-ventilated area, and lay out a drop cloth where you plan to work. If you’re using more than one color, prep your piece by properly masking the areas that you don’t intend to paint in the first round. For ours, we removed the legs and bins, and masked all but the top of the table so we could paint those elements a hammered brown. After those pieces dried, we coated the bottom of the table in red. (I purposely chose a color scheme that I wouldn’t hate seeing, whether in the playroom or the living room.)

Hold the can of spray paint about 12 inches from the surface, and apply using a back-and-forth sweeping motion. Distribute the spray just a little wider than your piece: Start depressing the nozzle a couple of inches off the left edge of the piece, sweep across, and let go a couple of inches outside the right edge. For best results and fewer drips, apply several light coats (leaving an hour to dry between each) rather than a single thick one.

To protect the newly painted finish and help it resist chipping during the playtime that’s sure to ensue, apply at least two coats of spray urethane, employing the same technique you used for the spray paint. Allow the urethane to dry for at least 48 hours to completely cure.

 

STEP 4

DIY Lego Table - Step 4

Photo: bobvila.com

Once all the painting is done, reassemble any pieces you took apart. In this project, that meant screwing the legs back into place to prep them for casters.

 

STEP 5

DIY Lego Table - Step 5

Photo: bobvila.com

If you are using casters, flip your table onto its top and attach them to the legs. For wheels with a threaded stem, drill a hole into each leg, hammer a T-nut into each one, and screw the casters into place. If you’ve picked up a set of plate casters, simply use four screws to attach each metal plate to a leg.

 

STEP 6

DIY Lego Table - Step 6

Photo: bobvila.com

Finally, it’s time to attach the baseplates using superglue, which will bind them to almost any tabletop. Measure out and mark where the baseplates should go. Lightly dampen the surface of the table according to the manufacturer’s directions. Apply glue to the bottom of each baseplate, one at a time, and place it on the table. When all the baseplates are in position, either clamp them down or weight them with something heavy to help them bond while the glue cures.

Some superglues (for example, Gorilla Glue) expand by three to four times as they cure, so do not apply glue too close to the edges of the baseplates, or you’ll end up with a mess. If some glue does seep out during the curing process, lightly chip it off with a sharp screwdriver. Then sand down any chipped paint, mask the Lego baseplates, and touch up the top with spray paint.

When everything has cured and dried, roll your new Lego table into the designated play zone and call in the troops! My kids can’t wait to build on it, and I can’t wait to see where their imaginations take them.

DIY Lego Table - Finished Project

Photo: bobvila.com


How To: Clean a Humidifier

Just switching on a humidifier isn't enough to cure the season of dry air and respiratory illness—you have to clean it too. Fortunately, this is one weekly routine that's easy enough to keep.

How to Clean a Humidifier - On a Weekly Basis

Photo: fotosearch.com

A hardworking humidifier is a lifesaver during the dry, cold months of winter. Its dedicated function—adding moisture back into the air in your home—can soothe dry skin, improve the symptoms of colds and other respiratory conditions, and maintain a level of indoor comfort despite the changing of the seasons. If not regularly cleaned, however, a humidifier can spew more than just moisture. The standing water provides a prime breeding ground for mildew and bacteria, which can then in turn be dispensed into the air with each puff from the machine, potentially making your allergies worse. Fortunately, caring for this useful appliance is not complicated: Spare yourself a headache by emptying out, cleaning, and sanitizing your humidifier once a week. While the cleaning routine differs slightly from model to model, you can follow this guide for a solid starting point. Before you get going in earnest, however, be sure to consult the owner’s manual for your unit’s specific cleaning needs and warnings.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Water
- White vinegar
- Small, soft-bristle brush (often provided by the manufacturer)
- Towel for draining and drying
- Bleach (optional)

How to Clean a Humidifier

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1
Unplug your humidifier and remove the tank. Pull out the filter first, and rinse it with cool, clean water—and only water. Cleaning solutions can potentially damage a humidifier’s filter.

While you’re at it, take out any additional parts that can be disassembled (refer to your manual) so you can wash them separately.

STEP 2
Next, reach into the cleaning closet and pull out a gallon of vinegar—this all-natural all-star has many powers, including softening mineral deposits, killing mold, and preventing future growth. Fill the base with white vinegar, and swish it around so that it runs over all sides. Also fill a small tub or bucket with undiluted vinegar, and drop in any parts you’ve removed from the base to let them soak. Allow the vinegar to work for about half an hour.

Then, gently and thoroughly scrub the base with a soft-bristle brush, getting into all the corners and removing any scale and/or mineral deposits that have formed. (You might find that your humidifier came with a special brush for cleaning; if not, you can use a bottle brush or old toothbrush.) Don’t forget to do the same with the pieces that you soaked in your tub of vinegar. Rinse everything thoroughly with cool, clean water, and set aside on a towel to dry.

STEP 3
Next up: Your humidifier’s tank. Pour any excess water out of the tank and refill it with clean water. Add a teaspoon of bleach (or vinegar, if you prefer) for every gallon of water, and allow the solution to sit in the tank for half an hour. Drain the tank and rinse very, very thoroughly with cool, clean water.

STEP 4
Put your humidifier back together, fill the tank with fresh, clean water, and plug it back in. If you use distilled water in your humidifier, you’ll probably see less buildup of mineral deposits at your weekly cleanings. Be sure to empty out and refill your humidifier with clean water daily.

As a general rule, household humidity should remain between 30 and 50 percent. Anything higher will cause stuffiness and condensation, inviting the growth of mold and mildew; anything less, and you might start to experience the dry nosebleeds and cracking skin so many suffer from in winter. Set at the right levels and regularly maintained, a clean humidifier makes for a happy—and healthy—home all winter long.


Quick Tip: Remove Wrinkles Easily—Without an Iron

Use this unexpectedly cool appliance hack on your wardrobe for wrinkle-free garments, all without having to haul out an ironing board.

How to Get Wrinkles Out Without an Iron - Wrinkle-Free Clothes

Photo: fotosearch.com

This crisp fall forecast calls for bundling up—that means some rummaging through your closet to unearth options for layering under sweaters, like button-up shirts or polos. However, removing the wrinkles from long hibernating heaps of clothing is anything but easy and breezy. You could heat up the iron, but the hands-on process can run long and risk scalding both yourself and your favorite garments. Instead, try an easier method this season. Let off a little steam from your usual domestic duties and undo stubborn wrinkles in your fall wardrobe using only your dryer and some ice cubes from the freezer.

How to Get Wrinkles Out Without an Iron - Clothes Dryer Hack

Photo: fotosearch.com

It takes just minutes to pull off this clever appliance hack. Start off by loading your dryer with the wrinkled wears. Next, gather a handful of ice cubes (2 to 3 cubes per garment) and toss them into the dryer atop the clothes. Lastly, run the dryer on its highest setting for approximately five minutes. Just as traditional irons combat wrinkles through the application of heat, steam, and weight to clothing, so too do the ice cubes join forces with the hot temperature inside of the dryer to create steam as they melt. This heated environment weakens the molecular bonds of the fabric and helps smooth out any creases. When the timer goes off, empty the dryer to reveal that freshly pressed apparel right on time for that interview or night out.


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

Photo: fotosearch.com

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

Photo: fotosearch.com

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- 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

STEP 1
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.

STEP 2
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.

STEP 3 
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.

STEP 4
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.

STEP 5 
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.

 

1. PENCIL IT IN

Air Dry Clay Projects - DIY Pencil Holder

Photo: linesacross.com

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.

 

2. CREATE A LASTING IMPRESSION

Air Dry Clay Projects - DIY Clay Dish

Photo: urbancomfort.typepad.com

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.

 

3. GET IT TOGETHER

Air Dry Clay Projects - DIY Clay Supply Dish

Photo: willowday.com

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.

 

4. MAKE YOUR MARK

Air Dry Clay Projects - DIY Plant Markers

Photo: burkatron.com

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.

 

5. ADD AN ACCENT

Air Dry Clay Projects - DIY Drawer Knobs

Photo: delineateyourdwelling.com

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.