Category: How To’s & Quick Tips

How To: Get Rid of Voles

Say “Vamoose!” to these underground varmints before they wreak havoc on your landscape.

How To Get Rid of Voles


If you’ve never actually seen a vole, it’s not surprising. The 7-inch-long rodent also known as a meadow mouse is rather shy. Yet evidence of the pests’ presence is unmistakable: Their maze of 2-inch-wide tunnels leads to dying plants and displaced grasses. So don’t wait to roll up the welcome mat! Follow these do-it-yourself control methods before you’re faced with a full-scale vole invasion.

How To Get Rid of Voles - Backyard Rodent


Be a Bad Host
Active year round, voles multiply rapidly, producing up to 100 offspring annually. With adequate shelter and a plentiful food supply, a colony will thrive. So your first move is to eliminate environments that make voles feel at home: excess brush and mulch, leaf piles, wood stacks, and tall grasses. If there are fruit trees on your property, clean up fallen fruit immediately, and rake up pine needles around evergreen trees as well. By cleaning up prospective nesting areas and removing food sources, voles ought to decide that the grass looks greener on the other side and decamp.

Fence Them Out
Vole “runways” tend to be less obvious in landscapes with loose topsoil. But if you notice plants suddenly drooping for no apparent reason, it’s safe to suspect you’re the victim of voles. Your best defense is a good mesh fence. To protect roots and bulbs, install rolls of ¼-inch wire mesh secured with stakes throughout your garden. Because these pests are diggers, be sure to bury the fencing at least a foot down. The good news is they don’t like to climb, so fencing need only be a foot tall.

Trap and Release
Although it’s illegal to kill voles in some parts of the country, relocating them is fair game—and entirely humane. The steel trap made by Havahart, available at home improvement stores, and the Sherman Trap (SNG model), available online, are both effective choices that hold up to 15 voles. Bait traps with peanut butter or apple and set them at a 90-degree angle to the vole “runway.” Once you’ve captured the critters, release them far from residential areas—and at least half a mile from your home.

Go Natural
Non-toxic ways to ward off voles include castor oil, derived from the seeds of the castor plant, and capsaicin, an oil found in hot peppers. Spraying either substance on your greenery provide a smell and taste voles are sure to find unpleasant. Try this approach in a small garden; for greater expanses, pick up coyote or fox urine, available at home improvement stores and trapper supply houses (typically priced at $15 for an 8-ounce bottle). The scent of predators can send voles scrambling.

Give a Hoot!
Owls also prey on voles, and unlike coyotes and foxes ought to be welcome in your yard. To encourage their nesting, mount owl nest boxes in your trees (purchase premade boxes or plans to build your own from sources like The Hungry Owl Project). Although these beautiful birds won’t eliminate a vole population entirely, they will reduce their numbers. Don’t rely on outdoor cats to be of much help, though—they can’t be bothered going after pests who spend most of their time underground.

If possible, avoid extermination. Poison can be viable against voles, but toxins may pose a risk to children, pets, and other wildlife. If you have exhausted all other methods of control and extermination is your only option, the safest, most effective poison baits are those that contain Warfarin, a slow-acting anticoagulant that prevents the animals blood from clotting, eventually leading to death. Laying the traps during the fall and winter season when food is scarce increases the likelihood that the voles will take the bait. Before administering this type of treatment yourself, consult a pest control specialist for the safest, most effective outcome.

Once you’ve rid your outdoor space of uninvited guests, replace the plants they’ve ravaged and otherwise spruce up the area. Then why not ask people over to enjoy your gorgeous garden!

How To: Get Rid of Mothball Smell

Try some of these strategies for removing the smell of mothballs from your clothes and closets, and learn how to avoid using mothballs altogether!

How to Get Rid of Mothball Smell - In Your Clothes


The pungent odor of mothballs is the very smell of storage. Made from either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, these little lumps of pesticide give off a toxic vapor that not only kills moths and their larva but also kills or repels a number of other insects. While these fumes’ efficacy made mothballs a go-to choice for protecting treasured blouses and sweaters stashed between seasons, their offensive scent lingers on clothes, carpets, closet interiors—wherever they were placed—long after you’d like. While airing the musty items out helps dissipate the smell, a little DIY know-how and some dedicated effort can help eradicate the mothball scent more quickly. Read on for a few strategies for removing the odor of mothballs from your clothes and throughout the home.

- Vinegar
- Water
- Non-chlorine bleach
- Detergent
- Activated charcoal

How to Get Rid of Mothball Smell - Mothballs with Napthalene


Once you’ve assembled your arsenal of odor-fighting ingredients, you’re ready to combat mothball odors wherever you find them.

To Treat Washable Clothing…
One of the most successful methods for ridding the mothball smell from clothing is to soak the affected garments in a solution of equal parts water and vinegar. Alternatively, put the clothes in the washing machine and run a cycle using only vinegar; follow up with another wash cycle using detergent and softener. Vary the treatment depending on the clothing; for example, for more delicate fabrics you might try combining the vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spritzing the fabric.

No vinegar on hand? Durable clothing can be presoaked in hot water and non-chlorine bleach, followed by a normal wash cycle using detergent and softener.

Whatever method you choose, be sure not to put the clothes in the dryer until the smell is gone, as heat could permanently set any mothball smell that remains.

To Treat Closets and Rooms…
The odor can be particularly stubborn in rooms or closets where mothballed clothes have been stored. To remove these odors, leave out bowls of vinegar or plates of activated charcoal in the affected areas. (Activated charcoal is sold in various pellet sizes and is usually available at pet stores.) You can also try placing containers of coffee grounds or odor-absorbing candles for similar results. Whichever material you choose, place it in the areas with the heaviest smells, and change it often until the smell is gone.

A Less Offensive Alternative

While they’re great for protecting fabrics from the ravages of insects, mothballs have bigger drawbacks than simply their smell. If ingested, can also be toxic to children, pets, and other animals, so it’s important not to use them in outdoor locations or in attics or crawlspaces. It’s worth keeping in mind that the fumes can cause dizziness or nausea in some people, so exercise caution if you’re considering using them around the house.

Given the effort and time required to get rid of that mothball smell, there’s some benefit in seeking out alternatives that won’t make you want to plug your nose and hold your breath. Some popular “natural” moth repellents involve ingredients like flowers, herbs, or essential oils. To make one such repellent, combine lavender blossoms, whole cloves, and a couple of handfuls of cedar chips, then place the mixture in cheesecloth or another breathable material, and tie it at the ends. Use these sachets in areas of concern; replace them as the scent wears off to ensure prevention. Many of these mixtures include lavender oil or other fragrant oils that not only deter moths but also give off pleasing scents to delight homeowners and their guests.

Other tips to keep in mind when storing clothes without mothballs:

• Before putting clothes away for the season, wash and dry them to remove any scents that attract moths.
• Store clothes in well-sealed containers or vacuum storage bags to restrict moth access.
• Wipe out all containers or drawers prior to use to remove any existing moth eggs.
• Stash a mix of natural repellents away with the clothes. Candidates include bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, eucalyptus leaves, peppercorns, rosemary, wormwood, and many other botanicals.

Quick Tip: The Trick to Drilling Through Slippery Ceramic Tile

This quick trick makes easy work of drilling holes through slick tiles.

How to Drill Hole in Tile


How to Drill Hole in Tile - Hole


Cutting a hole through the glazed surface of ceramic tile can be tricky, as the glaze is slippery and ceramic is breakable. But if you need to mount a towel rack or toilet paper holder on an existing tiled wall, it’s an unavoidable task, as the anchor screws for the fixtures have to get through the tile and into the stud or backer board behind it. Luckily, a little help from a DIY staple can make the process much easier.

The key to keeping your drill from slipping and sliding is as simple as a strip of painter’s tape. This non-damaging adhesive gives your bit traction and prevents it from meandering all over the tile, which can mark up your surfaces with unsightly scratches. And, unlike masking tape, it won’t leave gummy residue in its wake.

To start, make a cross with two pieces of painter’s tape at the drill site. Use a permanent marker to draw a dot on the tape where the hole must go. Next, create a starter hole by gently tapping a center punch on the dot to penetrate just below the surface of the glaze. Assemble a carbide-tipped masonry bit of the appropriate size in your drill, and set your power tool to the lowest speed. Apply moderate pressure as you proceed, working slowly to avoid splitting the tile.

If the bit starts to overheat, lubricate it with water or cutting oil every 15 to 30 seconds. You can spray the tip of the bit with water as you drill, or dip the tip in cutting oil, remembering to wipe off any residue before resuming. Once you’ve made it through the tile, remove the tape to reveal a clean hole that’s ready to take on its new fixture.

How To: Get Rid of Fire Ants

Want these painful pests off your property? Choose the extermination method that best suits your infestation.

How to Get Rid of Fire Ants - Outdoor Infestation

Photo: via Marufish

Millions of people and animals are swarmed and stung every year by fire ants. Their burning (hence the name) bites are especially a bane in the southern states, where about 30 percent of the population falls prey to the reddish-orange little buggers. The FDA estimates that this invasive insect leads to billions of dollars spent annually in medical treatment, damage repair, and extermination. Concerned about the potential damage that can come from a population on your property? This guide will set you up to get the caustic creepy crawlers under control.

How to Get Rid of Fire Ants

Photo: via Elroy Serrao

While there are indigenous species that aren’t particularly invasive or aggressive, the red imported fire ant (also known as RIFA) is a notoriously nasty opponent. RIFA’s main food source is plant sugars, making them a serious problem for farmers, but the ants also consume insects, rodents, birds, and reptiles. They lock onto victims with a powerful four-toothed mandible and then emit an alkaloid-based venom, leaving a red and white pustule in its wake. The venom also contains proteins and peptides that can produce an allergic reaction. While only five percent of fire ant attacks are lethal to humans, hypersensitive individuals should get immediate medical attention upon being stung (the rest of us can just cuss and treat the area as we would a bee sting). Small pets and young livestock that disrupt a nest can also be killed.

The Best Defense
Fire ants can invade virtually anywhere—your home, your lawn, your driveway, you name it—and their nests aren’t always visible. In an open field, however, they appear as a sandy mound that can reach 16 inches in height. Alas, like an iceberg, most of RIFA’s business lies beneath the surface, where tunnels can be as deep as seven feet. Each nest will have at least one queen that can lay 2,000 eggs a day—and a typical nest will also have up to 500,000 worker ants as well—so it’s easy to see why RIFA’s are so challenging to get rid of for good.

Choose Your Weapon
There are various ways to manage a fire ant situation—including everything from sprinkling them with talcum powder to bringing in an anteater—and each has plusses and minuses. Bear in mind that any approach that involves standing close to the nest risks instigating a swarm and getting stung, so be sure to gear up with protective clothing before you begin. Whatever you choose, never fight fire ants with fire; it’s extremely dangerous and ineffective to ignite gasoline on a nest.

Below, some of the most popular battle tactics:

Dousing the mound with boiling water is an old-school approach. Though free, organic, and immediate, it’s not very effective. Chances are slim that the water will reach the queen, who resides deep in the nest. Drenching the mound with liquid insecticide works somewhat better.

Pressure injecting insecticide directly into the mound is more effective because the poison will go deeper. But in addition to the perils of proximity is the risk of the agent leaking onto your body or spraying your face due to faulty equipment. Be sure to proceed with caution.

Bait, which is placed around a mound or in areas where nests may be hidden, are a safe, fairly effective means of RIFA management, though not a quick fix. The ants take the bait and carry it deep inside, ideally killing the queen.

Broadcast treatment with granular insecticide is often best for a large area. Granules are tossed as if you were feeding chickens, and the ants bring them home. This is the safest method because you don’t directly engage with the nest, but granules may be light sensitive and lose their lethal potency before the ants feed on them.

A canvas of professional exterminators found a resounding reliance on the broadcast method, using a product called Top Choice. Most states require you to have a pest control license to purchase this highly effective insecticide, so chances are you’ll need to call a pro. A once-a-year treatment usually costs about $500 per acre—pricey but worth it if you’re truly overrun.

If you choose to go it alone against fire ants, you’ll find insecticides of varying potency at hardware stores; online retailers tend to sell stronger formulas (look into licensing requirements). Know that you are not defenseless and will ultimately prevail!

How To: Get Rid of Waterbugs

Whether you call them waterbugs, palmetto bugs, or cockroaches, you want them far, far away from your home. Get them out, and keep them that way, with these straightforward guidelines.

How to Get Rid of Waterbugs

Photo: via Insects Unlocked

When most homeowners refer to a “waterbug,” they’re actually employing a delicate colloquialism for an insect whose mere name induces squirms: the cockroach. (To be sure, there are actual water bugs—bugs that live in or on water. These true water bugs include insects of the infraorder Nepomorpha, some of which can grow to almost 5 inches in length. Be grateful you don’t see a few of those scurrying under the fridge when you turn on the kitchen light!) Our standard-issue household cockroaches earned the nickname “waterbug” for their tendency to cluster near water sources. This predilection is entirely understandable: A cockroach can live for a month without food, but it can’t last more than a week without water. While roaches (often also known as palmetto bugs) generally prefer to live outside, they are—much to the annoyance of homeowners everywhere—attracted to damp indoor environments, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Fortunately, a few key extermination practices and a few lifestyle tweaks might help rid you of this pest population for good.

- Natural or synthetic pesticides
- Tight-fitting food storage
- Covered recycling containers and garbage cans
- Vacuum
- Rug cleaner
- Caulk
- Concrete sealant

How to Get Rid of Waterbugs - in the Bathroom


Before you begin launching weapons of mass insect destruction, be sure your adversary is actually a member of the roach family. Conduct a quick search online and in your state university’s insect database for “cockroach” and “palmetto bug” to be certain you’re not dealing with a case of mistaken identity.

As your waterbugs probably came in from the outdoors, search for nests and likely entry points into the house. This means you’ll have to poke around in those dark corners of the house that you rarely clean (and perhaps use only for long-term storage). Look for gaps around windows, doors, and pipes that penetrate the home’s exterior. Check for cracks in concrete floors and walls.

If you’re having trouble finding a nest, search at night in rooms that have been dark for a few hours, giving the bugs time to become active. Enter every room where you suspect they’re living, and turn on the light. If cockroaches are there, you’ll probably see them scatter. Watch where they go, and concentrate your eradication efforts there.

Once you’ve determined where your waterbugs are, it’s time to pull out the pesticides. One way that these chemicals work is by exploiting roaches’ natural habits. Interestingly, although we associate cockroaches with filth and disease, these insects groom themselves constantly—and that behavior is the ticket to their extermination. If a waterbug makes contact with a pesticide, whether natural or synthetic, the insect will consume it while cleaning itself. In other words, whatever is on the roach will soon be in the roach.

Effective roach pesticidal treatments run the gamut from otherwise innocuous natural products to hard-core chemicals. Proper application and placement are critical to success, which is why some people choose to hire pros for the job.

Natural pest killers include concentrated distilled white vinegar; a mix of equal parts sugar and baking soda; borax and boric acid, which destroy the insects’ digestive tract; and essential oils like citronella. Apply liquid products to the nests and to all drains—tub, toilet, laundry room, and dishwasher—using a spray bottle. To apply powders, sprinkle them on and near the nests and access sites. (Hint: Use only a thin dusting, because these wily insects avoid large clumps.)

Synthetic chemical treatments each feature an active ingredient that targets the insect’s nervous system to kill them. Read and carefully follow the directions provided with any such product, because the ingredients may be toxic to people and indoor pets as well as roaches. You can find chemical treatment marketed in the following forms:

Gels, which attract and kill the bugs. Baits in this form simplify application in hard-to-reach places, such as under the fridge or stove, or above or below cabinets.
Traps, like the boxed “roach motels” that lure and kill roaches out-of-sight.
Sprays, commonly used for DIY extermination. SC Johnson, the maker of Raid products, suggests sending pets and kids outside or otherwise away from the application area and sealing the space for at least 15 minutes before thoroughly airing it out.

Outside intervention by a professional exterminator may be necessary if you have a serious infestation or can’t find the nest or entry points.

After you’ve completed your chosen method of extermination, take steps to prevent future infestations. Obviously, you’ll want to caulk or otherwise seal all gaps and cracks that invite roach infiltration—but that’s just the beginning. Make sure that roaches have no reason to enter your home, and nowhere to hide should they get in. You can reduce the risk of attracting waterbugs by incorporating these practices into your daily routine:

• Carefully seal and store your food; don’t leave any out overnight.
• Put tight-fitting lids on recycling bins, and empty them at least once a week.
• Remove garbage daily, if neighborhood covenants permit.
• Confine meals to one part of the house.
Vacuum regularly to eliminate crumbs and other debris, and thoroughly clean the kitchen, including all appliances, with a disinfectant.
• Clean rugs and carpets annually with a steam cleaner.
• Fix leaky interior and exterior faucets, and repair basement walls where water is seeping in.

It takes commitment and vigilance to keep waterbugs from staging a counterattack, but it’s worth the effort to purge your home of this creepiest of all crawlies.

Genius! The Indoor Clothesline You Didn’t Know You Needed

Chores will always be a drag, but they don't have to be expensive. Save space with this fresh DIY twist on a laundry staple—and stay green without wringing out your wallet.

DIY Clothesline


Homeowners know that even energy-efficient washers and dryers drive up electric bills, and renters are even worse off, stuck with hauling heavy bags to the nearest laundromat and emptying a pocketful of quarters for every load. Colleen, a resourceful renter on a budgetand the brains behind the lifestyle blog, No Trash Project—shared the same pricey problem. Her solution? Turning to and modernizing a generations-old technique of line-drying.

For most of the year, the clothesline outside her building was a convenient way to dry her laundry on a dime. But winter, along with its snowstorms and freezing rain, posed a whole new problem: It exposed her wardrobe to water damage and mold. For the first few weeks of the season, Colleen hung her wet clothes on every doorknob and drawer pull in her apartment. Still, the fix was far from perfect, as her damp laundry hung too close to the floor and didn’t get the proper air circulation. Coupled with longer drying time and limited space, it was impossible to do all of her laundry at once.

So with a length of rope in her junk drawer and a simple fix in mind, Colleen made her own indoor clothesline that stretched across her living room. She twisted a heavy-duty screw hook into each of the space’s two door frames (located at opposite sides of the room) and strung rope taut between the pair. Hovering about 75″ above the floor, the new clothesline exposed wet clothes to moving air from the radiator and windows, cutting down on drying time and preserving the fabric.

Beyond simply cutting out the need for extra quarters, the DIY clothesline is easy to take down, wrap up, and store for the next wash—a serious space-saver in a tiny apartment. Reusable and environmentally friendly, this fresh spin on a classic makes laundry day a cinch.

FOR MORE: No Trash Project

DIY Clothesline - Indoors


How To: Get Rid of Carpet Beetles

Stop the insect invasion that’s intent on destroying the textiles in your home.

How to Get Rid of Carpet Beetles

Photo: via Jean-Raphaël Guillaumin

They enter your home in a myriad of ways—hitching rides on cut flowers, clothing, or pets, or simply flying though open windows. Once inside, carpet beetles (Dermestids) can settle in and lay eggs, and their larvae can really wreak havoc on rugs, curtains, upholstery—even your clothing. Banish the little buggers with this multipronged strategy.

Meet the Enemy
In the adult stage, these creepy culprits are less than ¼ inch long and either black or a combination of tan, white, and black. They tend to congregate around windows and doorways—so check these areas if you suspect an infestation. While irksome, the adult carpet beetles are harmless; only in the larva stage are they a threat to natural fibers. The tiny worm-like larvae favor dark areas like closets and behind baseboards, and they’re difficult to spot with the naked eye. Sometimes the only way to know you’ve got ‘em is by the damage they cause, such as bare spots in rugs, holes in packed-away clothing, or wormholes in books. The good news is that once you’ve identified their presence, you can usually get rid of them without the expense of an exterminator.

Make a Clean Sweep
Need an excuse to do spring cleaning? This is the time of year carpet beetles beeline for your home. Since dust bunnies, cobwebs, dead insects and tufts of shed pet fur are an open invitation to larvae, get busy with the duster, vacuum and broom. Next, go through stored clothing to check for damaged or infested items. Laundering kills active larvae but any wool, leather, fur or delicate items that you can’t throw in the washer require professional dry cleaning.

How to Get Rid of Carpet Beetles - Carpet Beetle Larvae

Photo: via pasukaru76

Do DIY Extermination
Vanquish carpet beetles without calling in a pro! Here are three ways to attack destructive larvae, plus a treatment to get rid of adult bugs for good.

• Insecticide: Stop an active larvae infestation by treating carpet or upholstery with an insecticide that contains at least one of the following ingredients: deltamethrin, bifenthrin, or cyfluthrin. Test a small inconspicuous area before treating the entire carpet to ensure the product won’t stain. Many insecticides warn against use around people and pets so follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions carefully.

• Boric acid: Boric acid, which acts as a poison on insect metabolism, is only hazardous to humans if ingested or inhaled in large quantities. Find it at pharmacies and sprinkle it in powder form lightly and evenly on carpet, then use a broom or brush to distribute it into the fibers. Wait several hours and vacuum thoroughly. You may also prepare a larvae-killing spray by adding one tablespoon of boric acid to two cups of hot water and stirring until the powder dissolves. Fill a plastic spray bottle with the solution and mist curtains, upholstery, baseboards, and dark nooks and crannies where carpet beetle larvae hang out.

• Diatomaceous earth: Another natural product, diatomaceous earth (available at agricultural-feed stores) is a desiccant that quickly kills larvae by dehydrating them. Treat rugs in the method described for boric acid above, and also sprinkle some in the back of cabinets and closets and in pet beds. Choose “food grade” diatomaceous earth, which is safe for pets and humans, but wear a respirator or mask to keep from inhaling the fine dust particles when applying.

• Fog (for adults only): Although they’re no longer chewing your possessions, adult female carpet beetles lay eggs and can start the whole nasty process again. Use a flying insect fogger to effectively eradicate adult beetles, and keep flying insect spray on hand to attack any strays or newcomers.

Fend Off Future Infestations
The best cure is always an ounce of prevention. Stop adult carpet beetles from entering your home by hanging sticky flypaper strips near windows to catch them. If you find yourself dealing with repeated infestations, place sticky pheromone-type traps on windowsills and in closets to stop carpet beetles before they have a chance to lay eggs.

DIY Kids: Craft Your Own Tabletop Easel

With a tabletop easel, you can take your art to go! Look tempting? Let this photo tutorial walk you and your family through the steps of making your own DIY art station.

DIY Easel - How to Build a Table-Top Easel


Nothing makes a young, aspiring artist feel accomplished quite as much as having an easel to work on. But a traditional easel can be bulky, and as a result it can end up largely confined to a basement or craft room. To give my two arts-and-crafts-loving girls the freedom to always be able to take advantage of the best natural light, we DIYed an on-the-go tabletop easel that’s easy to transport anywhere—to the kitchen, the back porch, or even outside.

Thanks to our careful planning, this easel is suitable for all sorts of projects: We coated one side in chalkboard paint and outfitted the other with clips that can hold paper as large as 18 inches by 24 inches. The little tray at the bottom of this MDF beauty can even switch from holding a paintbrush or chalk to steadying a canvas! This portable easel is exceptionally customizable, so feel free to adapt it to your family’s needs.

With only three cuts (which, by the way, big-box hardware stores are generally happy to make for you), this project involves just painting, drilling a few holes, and driving a few screws.


DIY Easel - Supplies


- 2′ x 4′ project board of 1/2-inch MDF
- Tape measure
- Pencil
- Circular saw
- Screw gun
- 5/8-inch spade bit
- Sandpaper
- Rags
- Primer
- Paintbrushes
- Spray paint
- Chalkboard spray paint
- Tarp or old sheet
- 2 low-profile clipboard clips
- 3/8-inch screws (4)
- Phillips-head screwdriver
- Drywall screws (8)
- Hinges with screws (2)
- 1/2-inch braided poly rope (5 to 6 feet)
- Scissors
- Lighter



Cut 3 inches from the width of the MDF project board so you’re left with two pieces: a larger board of 21 inches by 4 feet and a skinnier length that’s 3 inches by 4 feet. On each board, measure and mark the midpoint of the longer, 4-foot, side; the midpoint will be 2 feet (24 inches) in from either end. Saw the boards exactly in half at this point. You’ll be left with four pieces—the pair of 21-inch by 24-inch boards will become the panels of your tabletop easel, and the two 3-inch by 24-inch boards will be the trays for resting art supplies.

As always, if you don’t have a circular saw at home, check with your home improvement store where you pick up the MDF to see if they can make the cuts for you.



DIY Easel - Mark Holes for Drilling


This portable easel is carried by a rope handle, and lengths of rope also supply tension between the two panels so they won’t slide all the way open while your kids (or you!) are working on the easel. So, your first step is to drill holes in the panels to feed the rope through.

Start by stacking the panels exactly on top of each other. Remember, your easel will be a little wider than it is tall, so the holes for the handle will will go through one of the longer, 24-inch, sides, and the holes for the ropes that hold the easel open will go through the shorter, 21-inch, sides. Orient the boards accordingly, and on the top board measure and mark for one hole on each 21-inch side, halfway down and about 1 inch in from each edge. These will be the holes that hold the tension rope. Next, mark the holes for the handle at the top of the panel by measuring to find the center (which should be 12 inches from either side), then marking two holes 1-1/2 inches to either side of the center and 1-1/2 inches down from the top edge.



DIY Easel - Drill Holes for Rope


Using the 5/8-inch spade bit, drill the holes while the boards are stacked so the holes will match up perfectly. Clean up any rough edges around the drill holes with sandpaper.



DIY Easel - Prime the Boards


Now, wipe the panels down with a barely damp rag to remove the dust. Because it’s porous, MDF needs to be sealed, so be sure to prime both sides before painting it. Lay out an old sheet or a tarp so you don’t leave behind any unwanted splatter, and get to work! One helpful hint: Chalkboard paint will cover better over a darker colored primer.



DIY Easel - Spray Paint the Boards


After the primer has dried, spray-paint all pieces (both sides) the color of your choice. Again, allow them to dry thoroughly before doing more work. When they’re dry, spray one side of one panel with chalkboard paint.


STEP 6 (optional)

DIY Easel - Take Apart Clipboard


You can either purchase clipboard clips online or get a couple of cheap clipboards and drill the rivets out of the clips to remove them. The rivets are aluminum and softer than any drill bit. Just find a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the rivet, and drill at it from either side. It should come loose fairly easily.



DIY Easel - Drill for Clips


Place the clips (store-bought or “stolen”) onto one side of the panel without any chalkboard paint—this side of the easel will be used for takeaway artwork, the kind you can frame or stick on the fridge! Position the clips at the top of the panel (the end that has the pair of holes for the handle), placing each one 3 inches from the top and 4-1/2 inches from the sides. This should leave enough room for the clips to hold a large piece of newsprint.

Use a pencil to mark the clips’ holes, then predrill the holes for the 3/8-inch screws, and screw each clip in place.



DIY Easel - Attach the Trays


Attach a 3-inch tray piece to the bottom of one panel using four drywall screws. Repeat on the second panel.



DIY Easel - Add Hinges


Now, turn both panels face down—the chalkboard and clips will be resting on the floor or work surface—with their top edges touching, and connect them using two hinges. Position each hinge approximately halfway between one of the rope handle holes and the outside edge, then screw one plate of each hinge to the top of the chalkboard side, and the other to the clip side.



DIY Easel - Thread Rope


Knot one end of the rope and thread it through the front of one easel panel, then measure 2 feet out on the rope and cut it. Thread the cut end through the other panel (this time through the back and out the front), and make a knot, leaving about 14 to 18 inches of rope between the two knots. Repeat the process on the other side.

DIY Easel - Burn Poly Rope to Melt Ends


Trim the rope at each knot, then either wrap a piece of tape around the ends or melt them with a lighter to keep them from fraying. Note: You can melt poly rope but not ropes made of natural fibers. Go with tape if you’re using the latter.



DIY Easel - Knotted Handle


Finally, thread a length of rope through the holes in the top of the easel panels and tie the ends together to create a handle.

DIY Easel - Completed Project


With the handle in place, you’re ready to carry your DIY easel wherever you want to paint or draw. After your art session, your easel can be folded up flat so that it can stand unassumingly in a corner, at the back of a closet, behind a door, or anywhere you choose to stash it until the creative impulse strikes again.

DIY Easel - Finished Artwork


How To: Clean Plexiglass

Learn how to keep plexiglass—a safe, glare-free glass substitute—clean and scratch-free with these crystal-clear instructions.

How to Clean Plexiglass


Commonly used to construct everyday items from shower enclosures to tabletops, plexiglass (also known as acrylic) offers many advantages over actual glass. Though the two share a similar appearance, plexiglass is lighter, tougher to crack, and easy to cut to size for use in a variety of applications around the home. The transparent acrylic material also boasts a crystal-clear benefit of even better transparency than its competition with less glare. What’s more, it’s incredibly easy to clean and maintain that prized transparency—if you know how to treat it, of course.

- Blow dryer (optional)
- Lint-free microfiber cloth
- Gentle acrylic cleaner (such as Brillianize or Novus No. 1) or mild dish soap
- Clean water

How to Clean Plexiglass - Shower Door


Begin by removing excess dust or dirt from the surface of the plexiglass, but not with your usual duster. Making direct, dry contact with surface particles using your hand or a cloth can actually grind them into the material itself.

Instead, use air to clear the surface, either by blowing across the pane (close your eyes first!) or briefly using a blow dryer set to its coolest, lowest setting—never, ever heat plexiglass. If you choose to go with the latter method, hold the blow dryer at a 45-degree angle several inches away from the plexiglass and run side-to-side down the surface.

Once excess grime has been removed, spray a nonabrasive acrylic cleaner, such as Brillianize or Novus No. 1, onto a one- or two-foot-square section of plexiglass. (For an on-hand alternative, a solution of mild dish soap and water works well too.)

Once the cleaner has been applied, use a soft, lint-free microfiber cloth—or, in a pinch, a disposable diaper—to gently wipe the surface down, again being careful to make contact only with the portion of the surface that already has cleaner on it. Continue applying the cleaner and wiping it off in small sections until you’ve finished the entire surface.

If you’re in the mood to be ultra-thorough, you can rinse out the cloth, soak it in plain water, and go back over the plexiglass once more. This step isn’t critical, but it might help you clean anything you missed. If it’s possible to simply run water over the surface without causing a slip hazard—for example, by spraying a shower nozzle on a low setting on the inside of a shower enclosure—you’ll ensure a brighter shine. Always remember: The less pressure, the better.


Above all, as you care for your plexiglass, be sure to avoid the three A’s: ammonia, abrasives, and aromatics. For all its conveniences, plexiglass is a sensitive material. It’s prone to scratching and tends to hang on to scented solutions used on its surface. Skip all-purpose cleaners when you clean, which can do more harm than good, for something even more mild or specialized. And, as already mentioned, never wipe down plexiglass with a dry cloth, or brush over it with a bare, dry hand. So long as you keep these restrictions in mind and maintain a simple, straightforward cleaning regimen, you should be able to keep your plexiglass windows and shower enclosures scratch-free and spotless for years to come.

3 Fixes for Dust Mites

These tiny pests thrive in the warmth and comfort of your favorite resting places, including your bed and your upholstered furniture. Keep the little critters under control with one of these easy solutions.

How to Get Rid of Dust Mites


Though far from pleasant to think about, there’s a good chance your home is ridden with dust mites—microscopic organisms that feed off the steady supply of dead skin cells coating our carpets, couches, and most unsettling of all, our beds. While you can’t ever completely eliminate these extremely common household pests, you can control them, which can go a long way toward alleviating the congestion, sneezing, and coughing that plague those who suffer from dust mite allergies. To help keep your spaces—and your family—healthy, try one of these easy solutions that can minimize your mites.



How to Get Rid of Dust Mites - Wash and Dry


The most effective tactic for getting rid of dust mites is also the easiest: Wash your sheets, comforters, and pillowcases at least once a week in hot water (at a temperature of at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit), then machine dry them. Beyond your weekly load of linens, you’ll also want to toss your pillows in the dryer for about 15 to 20 minutes once a month to prevent dust mites from getting too cozy.

If getting into your clean routine doesn’t provide any relief from buggy nightmares or allergens, consider also changing out down pillows or comforters, as they attract the most dust mites. For especially sensitive sinuses, allergy-proof bedding may be a worthy investment; these sets can prevent the dust mites from burrowing into your slumber station and minimize the number of times you need to wash your bed linens.



How to Get Rid of Dust Mites - Vacuum


Unfortunately, dust mites don’t just like to kick back in your bed. These creepy critters will make themselves comfortable in carpets and furniture upholstery as well. Bid them goodbye by simply sticking to a regular vacuuming schedule. Make sure to hit every textile-covered element in a room, including couch cushions, rugs, throw pillows, and curtains. If you con’t already own one, consider upgrading to a vacuum with a HEPA filter. This attachment makes a huge difference by trapping both dust mite waste and eggs—something that most non-HEPA models cannot accomplish. If you already have a HEPA-equipped vacuum but can’t remember when you last replaced the filter, swap in a fresh one to ensure that you’re sucking up as much dusty debris as possible.



How to Get Rid of Dust Mites - Freeze


For delicate materials or precious items like the kids’ stuffed animals (yep, dust mites hang out on them, too) that you’d rather not risk damaging in the washing machine, give dust mites the cold shoulder with this next easy, effective method. Drop the item in question in a large zip-lock bag, and pop it into the freezer for about 48 hours—it’s that simple. Dust mites love warm, humid conditions, so the freezer is just about the last place they’re likely to survive. You can also try setting up a dehumidifier or two at home to render your spaces inhospitably dry. Maintaining a humidity level below 50 percent should make dust mites’ lives intolerable, and yours much more comfortable.