Category: How To’s & Quick Tips

5 Things to Do with… Drop Cloths

Drop cloths deserve more than to be spilled and walked upon. Contrary to their self-effacing reputation, these affordable, neutral, and sturdy canvas sheets lend themselves to a number of eye-catching DIYs.

With any number of do-it-yourself projects, be it wall painting or window replacement, a prudent first step is to spread drop cloths over the flooring and furniture. What you may not have considered: These sturdy sheets of canvas can do so much more than protect against damage. With creativity and some elbow grease, you can take drop cloths out of their supporting role and recast them as a star of your decor. Scroll down for five favorite ways to repurpose drop cloths!



Uses for Drop Cloths - Place Mat


Though you may never have heard of shibori, a Japanese dyeing technique, you’re going to love its results. For anyone wanting to experiment with the process, drop cloths are ideal, since the canvas material doesn’t cost much. Visit Lovely Indeed for a step-by-step guide to making the indigo-inflected placemats above.



Uses for Drop Cloths - Area Rug


At the midpoint of a home renovation, paint-covered drop cloths are a common sight. This time, however, the look was deliberate. To create a small area rug, Hannah at We Lived Happily Ever After folded a drop cloth in half and stitched up the edges before decorating the floorcovering with a chevron pattern.



Uses for Drop Cloths - Curtains


From DIY Show Off, here’s a wonderful way to make your own inexpensive yet sophisticated window treatments. All you need to complete the project are a few drop cloths and a Sharpie. Simply adorn cut-to-size fabric with quotes from a favorite work of literature, then use clips to hang the sheets from your curtain rod.



Uses for Drop Cloths - Headboard


Using your staple gun and a rubber mallet, add together a basic set of materials, including fiberboard and drop cloth, and then finish things off with sold-by-the-yard nailhead trim. Yup, that’s how astoundingly easy it can be to build your own elegant headboard. For step-by-step instructions, head over to Nashville Pug.



Uses for Drop Cloths - Hammock


The epitome of summer relaxation, hammocks are a must for any outdoor space. While elaborate store-bought options can be a tad expensive, making your own minimalist version with clothesline, dowels, and drop cloth won’t cost you any more than $20. Interested? Check out My Magic Mom for more information now!

Weekend Projects: 5 Quick DIY Fire Starters

Create a cozy blaze in your fireplace, quickly, with a DIY fire starter made with nothing more than items you already have in the house.

If you love your fireplace and spending time in front of a cheery, crackling flame, you’re no doubt familiar with products like fatwood. These treated wood pieces facilitate burning, helping to get the show on the road more quickly. Fatwood isn’t cheap, though, and you may not always have the stuff readily at hand. So the next time you’re in a pinch, or if you want to cut costs, you can make a DIY fire starter using only common household items. Here are five ways to go about it.



DIY Fire Starter - Lint and Cardboard


The easiest DIY fire starter involves two things that are ubiquitous in homes across America: dryer lint and a cardboard toilet paper (or paper towel) roll. Every time you clear the lint trap in your dryer, set the fuzzy fibers aside until you have enough to stuff a cardboard roll end to end. For best results, use two or three lint-stuffed rolls to start your next fire. Note: For the lint to burn correctly, it must not be packed too tightly. Be sure to leave enough room for air to circulate through.



DIY Fire Starter - Pine Cones


Here’s a way to use some of those pine cones that have been littering your yard. After gathering a basket full of cones, tie a six- or eight-inch length of yarn to each one. Use the yarn to dip each cone individually into a quantity of melted wax (which you can create with the simple method described further on). Dip enough times for the cones to develop multiple waxen layers. Finally, move the cones to a sheet of newspaper and allow sufficient time for the wax to cool and harden.



DIY Fire Starter - Cotton Balls


Handy for a slew of household needs, cotton balls are a staple in many medicine cabinets and linen closets. Cotton balls are also highly flammable, especially when soaked in petroleum jelly. To make this DIY fire starter, simply roll a bunch of cotton balls in Vaseline until they are saturated. Once done, store the balls in a zip-lock plastic bag until you need them. Three or four should do the trick. If you don’t have any cotton balls, you can even try using Vaseline-covered cotton swabs.



DIY Fire Starter - Egg Carton


This method enables you to create, all at once, a series of compact DIY fire starters that are easy to store at home or take with you on a camping trip. Start with an empty egg carton. Next, collect enough candle nubs and broken crayons to fill a tin can. Place the can in a pot of water on the stove, providing enough heat for the wax to simmer and melt. Meanwhile, fill each compartment in the egg carton with a combustible material, be it dryer lint, sawdust, or shredded paper. Then finish by carefully pouring melted wax over each compartment. When the wax cools and dries, break apart the compartments, and you’ll have a dozen fire starters.



DIY Fire Starter - Duct Tape


Believe it or not, duct tape is flammable and particularly potent when crumpled into a loose ball. To really get things going, wrap duct tape around a crumple sheet of newspaper. With a generous dollop of hand sanitizer (with alcohol), these makeshift DIY fire starters are an easy, cheap, and effective means of starting a blaze.

How To: Clean a Hot Tub

Nothing says relaxation quite like a bubbly soak in a hot tub. While the prospect of cleaning a hot tub may seem stressful, you can get the job done well, with minimum hassle, by following these simple steps.

How to Clean a Hot Tub


Owning your own hot tub is an affordable luxury. But while the bubbles may be relaxing, maintaining the unit takes work. For yours to operate correctly, last a long time, and remain sanitary for the duration, it’s critical that you clean the hot tub as needed. Follow the steps outlined below in order to do a thorough job.

- Line flush product
- Hot tub cleaner
- Towels

To clean a hot tub with any modicum of success, it needs to be empty. However, there’s one step which requires there to be water in the tub. Since over time the unit’s plumbing conduits can accumulate buildup, it’s necessary to administer a product that flushes the lines. Not so creatively known as line flushes, these products are readily available for purchase online or at your local pool supply store. Different products work somewhat differently, but generally speaking, line flushes are added, in a specified amount, to a hot tub in operation. Then, after the recommended period of time has elapsed, drain the hot tub according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Be prepared for a surprising amount of gunk to come out! In the future, add line flush consistently to minimize accumulation.

How to Clean a Hot Tub - Bubbly Water


With the hot tub empty, proceed to spray down its interior surfaces with a hot tub cleaning product (these, too, are sold online and at pool supply stores). Note that many household cleaners, including Windex and Soft Scrub, often may be used as an alternative. But to be on the safe side, double-check with your hot tub manufacturer that it’s OK to use an all-purpose cleaner. After spraying, wipe down the tub with a towel, thereby eliminating the cleaner residue that, left in place, would later cause the water to foam. Clean the hot tub cover the same way, wiping it down with a towel once finished.

Next, remove the hot tub filters. Being designed to remove grime and grit from the water, these filters quickly accrue debris. If yours are relatively new, simply spray them down with a garden hose, go over them with hot tub cleaner, and rinse. If you haven’t changed the filters in a year, replace them.

It’s time to refill the hot tub. Your manufacturer’s instructions may say otherwise, but with most models, it’s a matter of placing a garden hose into the filter well. Once filled, turn on the hot tub and add the chemicals (e.g., shock) that comprise your regular water treatment program. Finally, cover your clean hot tub and allow time for the water to balance over the course of the next 12 hours or so.

Having allowed a sufficient amount of time to elapse, return to the hot tub and test its chlorine level. Ideally, there would be between 1ppm and 3ppm of free chlorine (or bromine, depending on your choice). Meanwhile, the pH should be in the range of 7.2 to 7.8. Add chemicals as needed to adjust.

How To: Get Rid of Spiders

We love the benefits of spiders in our gardens—less so in the rest of our home. Clean up a spider infestation and keep them out in the future with these six steps.

How to Get Rid of Spiders


You can try to focus on the fact that spiders are theoretically beneficial to the home and garden, being that they snack on the other insects that might otherwise go unchecked. But for many, the truth about spiders doesn’t make it any easier to sleep at night, when you know there are spiders under the same roof as your bed. Fortunately, there are many ways to get rid of spiders, with methods ranging from the all-natural to the chemical-laden. Though spiders are persevering pests that do not go down without a fight, it’s well worth trying the technique outlined below. With luck, you can get rid of the spiders and save the cost of an exterminator.

If you’ve spotted any spiders already, their egg sacs are likely lurking in the darkest crevices of your home. First things first, vacuum the entire house, from under the living room sofa to the corners of closets. As you go, eliminate any spider webs—or actual spiders—you come across, before promptly disposing of the vacuum bag.

How to Get Rid of Spiders - Isolated View


Your next goal is to discourage spiders from entering your home in the first place. You already know that light attracts bugs, and it’s no different with spiders. So it can only help matters to switch off some of your outdoor lights, or to swap out the regular bulbs for yellow sodium vapor lights. While you’re at it, remove non-essentials from the immediate perimeter of your home. As spiders are attracted to warmth and shelter, things like leaf piles and firewood stacks are best kept at a remove.

Head back inside and then go about placing dozens of sticky traps throughout your residence. While these squares alone are not likely to eradicate the problem—partly because they do not contain any pesticides—they are laced with a spider-luring aroma. That means, based on which traps end up with the most activity, you can identify which rooms are most vulnerable and proceed accordingly.

The next step is to address the problem area with the pesticide of your choice. Nontoxic options are preferable, particularly in homes with pets and children, and many such products are available at your nearest home center. No matter which product you select, expect to apply the solution more than once, as these pesticides work only upon direct contact. Follow the printed instructions closely.

Having administered a pesticide, follow up with a spider repellent. It’s easy to make your own, since many essential oils—including rosemary, lavender, citrus and peppermint—are thought to be effective. In a spray bottle, mix five to seven drops of the oil with two cups of water, plus a drop of dish soap. The spritz any area where a spider might potentially enter your home—window frames, for instance, or the gaps around exterior doors. It may take a bit of experimenting to find out what works best.

The final step is to seal all openings in your home, whether it’s a crack in the foundation or a drafty window. And because spiders can sneak through small holes, it’s by no means overkill to place mesh screens within vents. So long as there’s a way for spiders to gain entry to the home, you can never truly consider the problem solved. The silver lining here is that, besides warding off spiders, there are many good reasons to seal your home, so it’s well worth the trouble and expense.

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.


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!



DIY Forts - A Frame


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.



DIY Fort - Tablecloth


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.



DIY Fort - TV Nest

Photo: Anna,

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.



DIY Fort - Magic


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.”



DIY Fort - Cushions


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.


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.


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


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


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!


- Vase
- Black spray paint
- Pennies
- Glue gun


DIY Penny Vase - paint

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


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.


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


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


Then paint the wood board black.


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.


DIY Penny Table - cut

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


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


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


DIY Penny Desk

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