Category: How To’s & Quick Tips


DIY Lite: Make a Wood-Slat Doormat for Almost No Money

Greet guests with a chipper "Hello!" right at the door when you adorn your entrance with this simple and sunny DIY welcome mat.

DIY Doormat - Hello! Personalized Wooden Welcome Mat

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

The entrance to your home is the first impression that strikes visitors, so why don’t you make it a friendly one with a cheery greeting? This season, as friends and family drop in for summer barbecues, welcome them at the door with a custom doormat. A little wood, stain, and paint go a long way in this DIY!

DIY Doormat - Tools and Materials

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

TOOLS & MATERIALS
- 16 feet of 1″ x 2″ lumber
- Handsaw (optional)
- Sandpaper
- Drill with 1/4″ bit
- Wood stain
- Printer
- Scissors
- Painter’s tape
- Acrylic paint
- Brushes
- Wood varnish
- Synthetic rope
- A lighter or silicone glue

 

STEP 1

DIY Doormat - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

First, cut your wood into a total of eight equal pieces, each two feet long. You can make it easier on yourself by asking for the cuts at your local hardware store when picking up the wood.

Along the thinner side of every slat, measure three inches from each end, mark it, and drill a hole through the center. This will be where you slip a rope through to hold the mat together, so the drill bit you use should be the same thickness as the rope; we used a 1⁄4-inch bit on ours.

 

STEP 2

DIY Doormat - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Sand down the eight pieces in order to remove any splinters around the holes.

 

STEP 3

DIY Doormat - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now, stain the wooden slats in a tone that best complements your outdoor features; we went with a medium brown color. Follow package instructions for dry time before continuing.

 

STEP 4

DIY Doormat - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Print out this handy PDF pattern to help you create the speech bubble. Simply assemble the four sheets to line up the outline of the bubble, tape them together, then cut out the shape.

 

STEP 5

DIY Doormat - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Align the wood pieces together horizontally, leaving no space between slats, and center the bubble on your wooden rectangle. Trace the shape onto the wood using a pencil.

 

STEP 6

DIY Doormat - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Time for paint! We chose a white acrylic, but you can pick any color you like. Using a thin brush, paint a line that follows the pencil marks you made in Step 5. This will delineate the area to be painted and help you to center the letters in the space.

 

STEP 7

DIY Doormat - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now for the message: Spell out “HELLO” with strips of painter’s tape. Try to make your letters all the same size; if you need guidance, you can use the PDF to cut out and trace each letter.

 

STEP 8

DIY Doormat - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Start filling in the bubble with paint, working in light coats to avoid any drips. If you’ve chosen a light color on a dark background, you will be likely to need at least three coats to achieve its brightest hue.

 

STEP 9

DIY Doormat - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

When the paint is dry, carefully remove the painter’s tape.

 

STEP 10

DIY Doormat - Step 10

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Apply two coats of varnish on each slat so your outdoor mat will be well protected against the weather.

 

STEP 11

DIY Doormat - Step 11

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

When the varnish is dry, you’re ready to start assembling the doormat! Cut two pieces of synthetic rope, each roughly 2 feet or so long. Make a knot at the end of one, and thread the string through the bottom left hole on the mat’s bottom piece of wood. Repeat with the second rope and the other hole.

A tip to secure the knot: Use a lighter to carefully burn the end of it. The synthetic rope will melt a bit, and the knot won’t come undone.

 

STEP 12

DIY Doormat - Step 12

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Tie knots in each rope, then pass them through the holes of the next slat up. You’ll continue the pattern of knot, slat, knot, slat until you get to the last wooden piece.

 

STEP 13

DIY Doormat - Step 13

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Make the two last knots, and cut the extra rope length. If you don’t feel comfortable burning the rope ends, instead dab some silicone glue around them to secure the knots. All that’s left is to move your DIY welcome mat outside—and to put a summer get-together on the calendar so your cheerful accessory can greet your next visitors!

DIY Doormat - Outdoor Mat to Welcome Guests

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

 

 

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.


How To: Get Rid of Flies in the House

Don’t be pestered by houseflies all summer long. With some thoughtful prevention and diligent eradication, you can make your house virtually fly-free this year. Here, 5 simple tactics to try.

How to Get Rid of Flies in the House - Flyswatter

Photo: fotosearch.com

As warm weather sweeps in, so does an annual nuisance—houseflies. The small, black, buzzy critters that land on your food, pester the dog, and create incessant irritation may seem harmless, but they’re capable of carrying pathogens and disease. You certainly want to avoid an infestation! While there is no one way to get rid of flies in the house, a multipronged approach can keep them at bay. Prevent a few lingering pests from growing into a bigger problem by following these five strategies.

How to Get Rid of Flies in the House - Insects

Photo: fotosearch.com

1. Seal the Entrance
It may seem obvious, but if you don’t want flies in the house, don’t let them in. With a busy household of visitors, kids, and pets coming and going, that’s sometimes more easily said than done. But do what you can: Make sure you have screens on your windows and doors, and repair any mesh that has been damaged enough to make a fly-sized entrance. It doesn’t take much!

2. Remove the Bait
If you want to get rid of flies indoors, as with all other pests, you should do your best to remove or minimize the stuff that attracts them. Food is at the top of that list. Don’t leave any out, especially if it’s uncovered. More than that, remember to keep countertops clean of crumbs, wash dishes soon after meals rather than leaving them in the sink, and keep the door to the dishwasher closed when it’s waiting to be run.

Beyond your food, however, you’ll also want to be mindful of compost, garbage, and pet food. These are also attractive to flies and can quickly become breeding grounds. To prevent a few flies from turning into a colony, take any compost materials outside immediately. Keep the garbage covered, and carry it out regularly. Finally, cover or clean Fluffy’s bowls completely between meals—particularly if you stock up on wet food varieties.

3. Lure Them Out
If you’re suffering a large swarm of flies in the house, save yourself the cardio of whipping your flyswatter about and first see if you can get the majority of them to leave willingly. Insects are attracted to light, so start by darkening the room they’re in. Shut the blinds and drapes, and leave a small opening at the door. A number of your pesky houseguests will probably buzz toward the light and find their way out, leaving you with a smaller crowd.

4. Call In the Swat Team
Once you’ve worked through your prevention tactics, take down the flies that remain with the usual suspects: a good old-fashioned flyswatter or a rolled-up newspaper. Because a fly has almost 360-degree vision, it’s best to approach from behind and hover just above before making a final decisive and deadly flick. Pink flyswatters are certainly pretty for hanging up when the job’s done, but neutral colors are less obvious and better for stealth. To aid your efforts, you can hang flypaper—store-bought or homemade—to trap flies, and then discard and replace it when full. If you’re lucky, the bug might land on it while trying to escape your swipes.

If you have good eyesight and reflexes, you can vacuum them right out of the air mid-flight, but it’s easier to hover a few inches in front of them for 10 to 20 seconds (just as you would with a swatter) and then swoop in to nab them. Attempt this method only if your vacuum has a bag, and dispose of it immediately so they don’t find their way back out and into your home.

5. Prevent Return Visits
Flies don’t care for smoke, so burning a few citronella candles while you’re outdoors can discourage them. Indoors, use plants and essentials oils with odors that repel. Mint, lavender, and basil are all worthy houseplants to place in your windowsill. And a few drops of lavender or eucalyptus oil in a spray bottle full of water can be a first defense if sprayed around the frames of doors and windows, though you’ll need to reapply often.


The Right Way to Wash Your Car

How to Wash a Car

Photo: JNoonan

Good things come to those who wait: That may be sound advice for life in general, but if you’re a car owner, it’s best to ignore that old adage. Rather than wait around for crud to accumulate, I’ve learned that, if you want to protect the finish on your vehicle, it’s far better to clean early and often. Be aware, however, that when cleaning a car, it’s possible to do more harm than good. Poor technique or improper materials leave the clear-coat finish riddled with micro-scratches that not only compromise the longevity of the paint job, but also lessen resale value. Fortunately, cleaning your car the right way doesn’t have to call for a full afternoon of hard labor. It requires only that you work with the right equipment. In fact, I was pleased to discover that you really need only one tool for the task, so long as you’ve got the HYDE PivotPro Boat/Auto Cleaning Water Wand. With PivotPro, I did a much better job than my local car wash, and for much less money.

How to Wash a Car - Wheels

Photo: JNoonan

STEP 1
Park the car in a shady part of the driveway and begin your cleaning only after the car has cooled to the touch. Once it’s ready, grab your PivotPro. That’s right—you won’t need all those sponges and buckets today. Simply connect your PivotPro to the garden hose, then start blasting away loose dirt and debris from the roof on down to the tires. Unlike other wands in its category, the PivotPro features a patented pivoting nozzle that rotates along a radius of 135 degrees. This means that merely by pulling or pushing the slide grip on the barrel, you can adjust the spray angle. Rather than stretching or stooping to clean a hard-to-reach area, you can simply pivot the nozzle to direct the water where you want it to go. All the while, you can remain standing comfortably upright on your own two feet.

STEP 2
After rinsing the entire vehicle, proceed to cleaning what’s so often the dirtiest component: the wheels. Here, water alone may not be sufficient; the nooks and crannies of your wheels, like mine, might benefit from a scrubbing. But with PivotPro, there’s no need to go digging in the garage for a suitable brush. The tool comes with a spindle brush that’s specially designed to fit into wheel wells and other tight spots. Just lock that brush into position and, capitalizing on the tool’s 46-inch length, get into all those crevices where even hands wouldn’t fit. To give the front of the wheels an extra scrub, trade the spindle brush for the rectangular, nylon-bristled brush with a rubber bumper. For maximum cleaning power, scrub even while spraying the area with a steady stream of water.

STEP 3
Without knowing any better, some people use normal dishwashing soap or another cleaning agent borrowed from the kitchen. That’s a bad idea, it turns out, as such products strip away the protective wax coating on your car, leaving its finish vulnerable to nicks, scratches, and stains. Having learned from the error of my ways, I purchased a dedicated car-washing solution and was ready to proceed.

Whereas in the past I would have added my detergent to a bucket full of water, thanks to PivotPro’s clever soap-dispensing functionality, this time the process was remarkably hassle- (and bucket-) free. After filling the built-in mixing reservoir and setting the desired soap-to-water ratio, I sprayed down the entire car, from top to bottom, with soapy water. It must have taken me—oh, I don’t know—two minutes?

STEP 4
Next, I switched out the spindle brush in favor of another attachment included with the HYDE PivotPro Boat/Auto Cleaning Water Wand—a microfiber pad. Car aficionados recommend microfiber above all other materials, and now that I’ve used it, I understand why. As I ran it over the soaped-up car, the pad seemed to be floating away the dirt and debris, not driving them into the finish. Be careful, though: Pause your work every now and again to inspect the microfiber for anything that might leave a scratch. Another tip: Wipe vertical surfaces (e.g., doors) with a stiff-armed up-and-down motion; with horizontal surfaces (e.g., hood), use a left-to-right motion. Work in sections, and as you finish each one, toggle the switch on the PivotPro to rinse the soap off the section before it has the chance to dry.

How to Wash a Car - Microfiber

Photo: JNoonan

STEP 5
You can always let the car air-dry after a final rinse-off, but doing so runs the risk of a spotty result. To avoid streaks, dry the car with a microfiber towel by either blotting or dragging the material slowly across the surface. Even better, treat the microfiber with spray wax or instant detailer first. The lubrication from either treatment helps prevent the microfiber from marring the perfect finish you’ve managed to restore by carefully following the earlier steps.

It’s gratifying to tackle even a simple job like washing the car. But there are tangible incentives as well. For instance, sidestepping car wash fees can end up saving you some real money, especially if you’re cleaning your vehicle as often as you should. In the end, however, I was most impressed by the fact that, armed with PivotPro, doing all this myself wasn’t a chore—it was actually sort of fun!

How to Wash a Car - Hyde PivotPro

Photo: thehydeway.com

This post has been brought to you by Hyde Tools. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


5 Things to Do with… Sawdust

Don't toss your woodworking scraps yet! Give your sawdust and shavings purpose with one of these five tasks.

As an avid DIYer, chances are you have remnants from many projects lingering around the house—tools waiting to be stashed away, leftover materials, and probably a bit of mess, much to your dismay. While you might think your project scraps aren’t good for more than the trash, there is one byproduct that’s quite a valuable material in its own right: sawdust. These wood shavings have plenty of potential for household use! Read on for five reasons to save the extras from your next woodworking session.

 

FILL ANY HOLES

Uses for Sawdust - Wood Filler

Photo: fotosearch.com

When you’re in need of good wood filler, don’t look any further than some glue and sawdust. Mix the two together, and you can patch any hole or gash in your wood furniture. The sawdust helps to keep the glue from running and, if you’re lucky, will help closely match the color of the wood. Once it has dried, lightly sand the surface smooth. It will really help you out in a pinch!

 

LIGHT YOUR FIRE (FASTER)

Uses for Sawdust - Fire Starter

Photo: fotosearch.com

Getting a campfire going in less-than-perfect conditions can be challenging. When you’ve got no time to wait, enlist the help of a handy homemade fire starter. Make your own by mixing melted candle wax with a handful sawdust in an old or disposable muffin tin, then let the composition cool. You’ll end up with convenient little rounds that are ready to toss into the makings of your next summer campfire!

 

LINE A CAT BOX

Uses for Saw Dust - Litterbox Liner

Photo: instructables.com

Have you ever noticed how much money Miss Kitty’s litter is costing every month? It adds up. Fresh wood chips and sawdust can stand in as a smart alternative—cheaper and more environmentally friendly, too. The only downside is that it won’t clump like many store-bought varieties do, meaning you’ll have to change the litter more often. No cat at home? This same method will work for hamsters, guinea pigs, ferrets, and bunnies—pretty much any critter with a cage that needs to be lined.

 

CLEAN UP SPILLS

Uses for Sawdust - Paint Spill

Photo: flickr.com

Accident-prone crafters, rejoice—you can use the mess from a woodworking project to clean up the mess of future DIYs! When you spill an excess oil or paint, just sprinkle some sawdust onto the sticky spot. The highly absorbent wood shavings will soak up most of it, making for an easier cleanup. (Better start keeping a bucket of sawdust on a shelf in the garage, just in case.)

 

KILL PESKY WEEDS

Uses for Sawdust - Kill Weeds

Photo: flickr.com

While most wood chips make an effective mulch for landscaping, walnut sawdust can work wonders outside the garden bed as a weed killer. It contains juglone, a chemical toxic to most plants, so sprinkling this wood’s shavings judiciously along the perimeter of the yard and over pathways will keep unwanted greenery from growing. Just make sure you don’t get too close to the flowers or plants you do want to stick around all season.


Genius! Turn Your Watermelon into a Drink Dispenser

Watermelon may be a summer staple, but we've clearly been missing out on some of what it has to offer. What if you could both enjoy the juicy flesh and make a practical party centerpiece all at once? Read on to find out how a watermelon can get a second life as a keg!

DIY Watermelon Keg - WK 1

Photo: prettyprudent.com

There’s more than one way to slice a watermelon, and more than one thing to do with it once you do! Sure, you can snack on juicy cuts any sticky summer day, but why leave it at that when you can also use the fruit to pour yourself a cool, refreshing drink? Jaime of Pretty Prudent teaches us a thing or two about using every part of the summertime staple by turning her rind into a festive drink dispenser. To re-create this fun, party-ready DIY, you’ll need nothing more than the summer essentials: a ripe watermelon, kitchen knife, ice cream scoop, spigot, and apple corer.

Start by slicing a small portion off the bottom to make a flat base so the watermelon stands up tall. Now, cut another, larger chunk off the top—remember, a large opening will make it easier to hollow out the inside. Once you’ve scooped out as much of the pink melon innards as you can, use an apple corer to create a hole for your spigot. Then, screw the spigot into place.

Just fill the fruit turned beverage dispenser with the drink of your choice, and you’re done! No matter what you pour in your watermelon keg, it’s sure to be enjoyed by all, says Jaime: “Every kid will love it, and almost every parent will love to spike it.”

FOR MORE: Pretty Prudent

DIY Watermelon Keg - WK 2

Photo: prettyprudent.com


How To: Make a Concrete Planter

To make your own mobile planter with industrial flair, you don't need any obscure tools or extraordinary skills—only some time and a bit of determination.

How to Make a Concrete Planter

Photo: quikrete.com

Everyone knows that for major construction, concrete offers unparalleled durability at low cost. What you may not have realized is that concrete also boasts remarkable versatility. It’s capable of much more than paving roads and creating public plazas. That’s partly why creative do-it-yourselfers have fallen in love with the material and have channeled its many virtues into practical and decorative projects for the home and garden. Far from requiring mixing trucks and hard hats, these small-scale DIYs need only a bag or two of QUIKRETE® concrete, some basic tools and materials, and the willingness to get your hands a little dirty.

Case in point: By following the simple steps detailed below, you can make a concrete planter like the one pictured above. Equally suited to interior and outdoor spaces, the long-and-low planter features a no-frills industrial aesthetic that celebrates the material it’s made of. Though a similar piece might sell for hundreds at a trendy retail store, DIYing your own version costs next to nothing. Scroll down now to see how easy it can be to build something truly lasting.

 

MATERIALS AND TOOLS

How to Make a Concrete Planter - Materials

Photo: quikrete.com

- 2 bags of QUIKRETE® 5000
- Rigid foam insulation
- 4 casters
- 3/4″ plywood
- Silicone caulk
- Construction adhesive
- Salvaged cabinet
- 1/2″ threaded brass pipe
- 1/2″ spigot

 

STEP 1

How to Make a Concrete Planter - Step 1

Photo: quikrete.com

For wet concrete to take on the right shape, the material must be placed into, and allowed to dry within, a form whose hollow spaces correspond to the desired design. You can build your own form out of scrap melamine or laminate, but it’s faster and easier to repurpose something you’ve already got on hand; here, an old kitchen cabinet did the trick. Of course, if you were to fill the entire cabinet interior with concrete, the material would cure into a massive block. So, in order to make way for the sides and the trough-like middle of the planter, you’re going to set rigid foam insulation into the cabinet. With a utility knife or even a circular saw, cut three equal pieces of two-inch-thick insulation in such a way that, when placed into the cabinet, they leave two inches of free space on all sides. Now, using construction adhesive, secure the initial layer of foam to the inside back wall of the cabinet (which will be the top of the planter), then proceed to adhere the additional two pieces to the first and to each other.

 

STEP 2

How to Make a Concrete Planter- Step 2

Photo: quikrete.com

To simplify the project a bit, you can skip this step. If you want the planter to serve its purpose well, however, you should add drainage—which, in this project, is provided by a spigot. Although the spigot itself is added in a later step, its accompanying half-inch brass pipe must be introduced now. Choose one of the shorter cabinet sides and measure down from the top cabinet edge to the top edge of the foam. Then mark that same distance on the outside of the cabinet and drill a half-inch hole there. Finally, fit the brass pipe through the hole you’ve drilled, cutting back the insulation to make room. Finally, duct-tape the pipe to the foam.

 

STEP 3

How to Make a Concrete Planter - Step 3

Photo: quikrete.com

Before bringing concrete into the equation, it’s important to seal any holes or cracks that you notice in the form. If your form has no imperfections, it’s at least necessary to use silicone caulk to seal the hole you drilled to accommodate the brass pipe. Also, bear in mind that once you begin shoveling concrete into the form, its sides are going to be stressed by the material’s heavy weight. For that reason, it’s wise to brace the form with L-brackets, a ratchet strap, or simply a few lengths of rope. Last, mark a line about two inches below the top edge of your form. You’ll be filling the form with concrete up to, but not beyond, that line.

 

STEP 4

How to Make a Concrete Planter - Mixing 2

Photo: quikrete.com

Now it’s time to mix the concrete—nearly two full bags of QUIKRETE® 5000 . As you’re preparing the material, resist the temptation to put more water in the mix in hopes of making it more pliable. Too much water results in weak, crack-prone concrete. Hew closely to the instructions printed on the package, mixing until the concrete has the consistency of cookie dough. Once ready, transfer concrete to the form, little by little. Be sure to pack it down into all the corners and crevices, using a stick or piece of scrap wood, if necessary. Pay special attention to the area around the pipe; for satisfying final results, maneuver concrete under and around the brass. Once the concrete has filled the form up to the line you drew in the previous step, finish this particular stage of work by briskly and repeatedly hammering all sides of the form. Doing so creates vibrations that force air bubbles to the surface, helping to ensure that the finished planter will be smoother and more stable.

 

STEP 5

How to Make a Concrete Planter - Step 5

Photo: quikrete.com

Place a piece of 3/4-inch-thick plywood, cut to the same dimensions as the rigid foam insulation, directly onto the face of the wet concrete. Push the wood down so that concrete rises up around its sides, leaving a flush surface across the two materials. If the wood keeps floating back up and out of position, weight it down with a heavy object. After that, it’s a waiting game. Let the concrete cure for at least four days. Once enough time has elapsed, begin deconstructing the form, gently breaking its pieces away from the set concrete. Consider using a circular saw for the purpose, but resort to power tools only if manual attempts fail. It’s important not to crack or otherwise damage the concrete, especially now that you’re so close to completion. With the sides of the form removed, go ahead and flip the planter over. Now it’s time to remove the insulation. Use a knife or a pry bar or a combination of the two, and expect the job to require some perseverance.

 

STEP 6

How to Make a Concrete Planter - Step 6

Photo: quikrete.com

Now that you’ve removed both the outer form and the inner insulation, you may be pleasantly surprised to see that, yes, you have something that very closely resembles a planter! The final steps are easy. First, install the casters by screwing them into the plywood backing. (Note that casters are available with metal, rubber, or plastic wheels. While metal may be the most durable, rubber and plastic are kinder to floors.) Second, screw on the spigot and seal around its flange with silicone caulk.

 

Watch the project come together in a step-by-step video, courtesy of QUIKRETE®!

For more even more details on the concrete planter project, visit QUIKRETE®!

How to Make a Concrete Planter - Complete

Photo: quikrete.com

This post has been brought to you by QUIKRETE® alt=”" />. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Sharpen Scissors

Never let your trusty scissors go dull again! Follow these 5 easy steps to keep both blades sharp for everyday snipping.

How To Sharpen Scissors

Photo: fotosearch.com

Used for cutting paper, cardboard, fabric, string, price tags, plastic packaging—that list goes on—those scissors in your office or kitchen drawer might be the most reliable everyday tool in your house. With such regular use, that trusty tool dulls over time. Most scissors are not prohibitively expensive, so when one pair dulls you may consider just going out and buying another—but it’s not necessary. Scissors are essentially two knives connected at a pivot point. So, not surprisingly, you can sharpen your scissors just as you would your kitchen knives, with a couple of simple tools and some practice.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Scissors
- Screwdriver
- Sharpening stone
- Water or honing oil
- Towel

How To Sharpen Scissors - Orange Scissors

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1
To do the job right, you need a sharpening stone (sometimes called a bench stone). You can get one at the hardware store for less than $20, and it will serve to sharpen most any blade you have, from your kitchen knives to your pruning shears. It’s worth the small investment to have one around! These stones come with a coarse side and a fine side. If your scissors are very dull, you’ll need to start with the coarse side and then move to the finer side to finish. If your scissors just need a light tune-up, you’ll use only the finer side.

Lay your sharpening stone on a towel and lubricate it with oil or water. Stores sell honing oil alongside sharpening stones, but you can use any oil, or even water, for lubrication.

STEP 2
Remove the screw that holds your scissors’ blades together in order to treat each one separately. It will be much easier to work on them.

STEP 3
As mentioned, if your scissors are particularly dull, you’ll want to turn over your stone to work first on the coarse side; if not, start working with the finer side. Place the blade onto the stone with the beveled edge facing you. Then, gripping the handle, tilt the blade toward you until the beveled edge lies flat on the stone. Now, slowly pull the blade across the stone to you, keeping that beveled edge flat against the stone. Repeat this action—carefully!—until the blade has sharpened. If you started on the coarse side of the stone, finish with a few swipes on the finer side of the stone.

Until you’re practiced, you may find it hard to judge when the edge has been completely sharpened. Here’s a tip: Before starting, run a permanent marker across the blade edge. When the marker has disappeared, you’ve sharpened the entire blade.

STEP 4
Repeat Step 3 with the second blade of the scissors.

STEP 5
Once you’ve finished with the sharpening stone, you will see a fine edge of burrs along the blade; these need to be removed. Reassemble the scissors by screwing the blades back together, and open then shut them a few times. Knock the burrs off by making a few trial cuts through a piece of material those scissors are meant for—be it fabric or paper. If you’re happy with how sharp the scissors are, you’re finished. If not, repeat the process.

 

You should practice on some old scissors until you get the hang of it—Grandma will be mad if you ruin her antique sewing scissors! But it won’t take you long to get comfortable, and then you’ll never have dull scissors in the home again. You can keep them sharp with some quick, regular maintenance every couple of months. Happy cutting!


3 Ways to Shrink Your Shopping Bag Mess

Corral the mass of crumpled plastic bags left over from countless shopping trips with three tried-and-tested tricks.

How to Store Plastic Bags - Mess

Photo: KCorlett

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of plastic shopping bags you’re harboring underneath your kitchen sink? Perhaps they’re devouring the pantry, instead. No matter the location or the number of bags, you’ll be happy to know there are ways to minimize clutter while they wait to be reused. Here, we took puffy piles of 15 bags each and condensed them for easy storage using our three favorite tricks. Try one of these methods to reduce your bags’ footprint in your own home, and your storage space won’t be overrun by plastic again.

 

STUFF ’EM

How To Store Plastic Bags - Stuff Em

Photo: KCorlett

Short on time? This storage solution is a clear winner for the quickest way to stash your plastic bags. The method is simple: There is none! Just save the last tissue box you’ve emptied, then cram as many bags as you can into it through the plastic slit in its top. (We fit 15 in a box that once held 210 tissues.) The cardboard structure will keep your mess contained when you stick it back in your pantry.

 

KNOT ’EM

How To Store Plastic Bags - Knotted

Photo: KCorlett

This next method also prevents the bags from overflowing, but this time by keeping each bag individually balled up. Hold the very bottom of a bag in your right hand, and pull the other end taut using your left. Then, bring the ends together so the bag is folded in half. Knot the six- to eight-inch length of folded bag, and toss it into a crate or bucket for use later.

 

FOLD ’EM

How To Store Plastic Bags - Fold into Triangles

Photo: KCorlett

And finally, here’s a use for the skills you honed while passing notes in junior high—this organizational trick hinges on the football fold.

First, flatten your plastic bag into a rectangular shape. Fold it in half lengthwise so that the sides meet, then fold in half again. Smooth your bag once more from the bottom to the handles in order to press out any air. Starting at the bottom, pull the left corner up and across so that the end is triangular, then fold the pointed corner (the right) up so that the bottom is squared off again. Now alternate: Pull the right corner up and across, and the left directly upward. Continue this triangular fold as far as you can, until you’re left with the handles. These you’ll tuck snugly under the top flap of the triangle you’ve just folded, and the thin folded triangle you’re left with can be stacked neatly in a basket until it’s ready for use. Check out pictures of the step-by-step at Instructables.


How To: Clean a Coffeemaker

You'll serve up a fresher pot of coffee tomorrow morning if you take some time today and follow these easy instructions to give your coffeemaker a good cleaning. Trust us—you'll thank yourself later.

Cleaning a Coffee Maker with Vinegar

Photo: shutterstock.com

Bleary-eyed fumbling for that first cup of joe can lead to spills, yet despite this repeated abuse during the morning rush, your coffeemaker may be one of your most neglected kitchen tools. Sometimes it’s those appliances that we use every single day that accumulate the most dirt and germs—and the least TLC. Think back now: When was the last time you gave your coffeepot a thorough cleaning? The worst part is, this isn’t just about aesthetics: The mineral and coffee oil buildup in your appliance can actually be making your java taste terribly bitter—and that’s no way to start your day. To brew a fresh cuppa that you and your family can enjoy, follow these simple steps that will get your coffeemaker back into pristine condition.

TOOLS & MATERIALS
- Water
- White vinegar
- A dish sponge
- Hot water
- Dishwashing liquid
- A clean, dry towel

Cleaning a Coffee Maker with Vinegar - Fresh Coffee

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 1
First, fill your coffeemaker’s water chamber with equal parts water and white vinegar, then start the brew cycle.

STEP 2
Halfway through the brew cycle, turn off the coffeemaker and let it sit for 30 minutes. This wait time will give the vinegar a chance to do its job, which is cleaning and disinfecting the insides of the appliance. When the time is up, turn the coffeemaker back on and let it complete its cycle. Let it cool.

STEP 3
Pour cool water into the water chamber and run the machine again without stopping. Let it cool. Repeat two or three cycles of clean water to make sure all the vinegar is removed—that can taste more bitter than the burnt-on coffee oils.

STEP 4
Once the carafe and machine have cooled, wash the inside and outside of the carafe with warm water and dishwashing liquid using a dish sponge. Next, turn back to the countertop appliance and thoroughly wipe down the entire outside, paying extra attention to crevices and buttons. Now’s the time to clean off any last sticky spot that might be left over from a morning spill.

STEP 5
Dry both the machine and carafe thoroughly with a soft towel, then fill the water reservoir again—because all that work deserves a fresh brew!


Pro Tips: 6 Ways to Live with Less Waste

On Earth Day—and every day—follow these simple strategies from the author of Zero Waste Home to limit your household's trash production.

How to Reduce Waste - Trash Day

Photo: fotosearch.com

Americans generate a whopping 251 million tons of waste each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and only about 35 percent of this astounding pile of rubbish is recycled or composted. Shrinking that staggering stat on a national level starts right where you have the most control—in the home. For a little guidance on where exactly to begin, we turned to Green Awards grand prize winner Bea Johnson, author of the blog and best-selling book Zero Waste Home. Johnson challenges us to rethink the “three R’s” we learned growing up. According to Johnson, there are actually five principles to uphold: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot (i.e., compost). Even just committing to one of these will help improve the planet. Read on to see how easy she makes it to get started!

1. Buy Less, Live More
“Purchase only what you truly need,” Johnson says in regard to her number one rule, refuse. “By limiting consumption, you not only cut down on trash, you simplify your life and save money.” And when you do need to go out and buy the essentials, source stuff secondhand. For example, used electronics are available on Craigslist and eBay, and some manufacturers even sell reconditioned and refurbished items. When shopping online, check for a “pre-owned only” search option and then, when ordering, request that the seller ship with recycled paper and cardboard rather than plastic materials.

How to Reduce Waste - Farmers Market

Photo: fotosearch.com

2. Pick Less Packaging
“Shop at a farmers’ market—they’ll take the egg cartons and berry baskets back for reuse,” Johnson says. “At the grocery store, buy in bulk and shop the deli, fish, meat, and cheese counter using your own containers.” Johnson easily shops for her family of four this way, using separate glass receptacles for different food categories. “A quart-sized jar holds two pounds of ground meat or four filets of fish,” she says. If a counterperson balks, Johnson’s tip: “Tell him you don’t own a trash can.”

3. Get Canny About Trash Cans
“If the trash can is at your fingertips, you’ll be more inclined to use it,” Johnson says. “But if it’s in another room, you’ll be more mindful of what you toss,” she adds—food for thought for places like a bedroom or office.

Because that psychology won’t work in the kitchen, though, turn a standard-size garbage can into the designated spot for compost and use that small so-called compost bin for trash. “Just swap them, and put the larger receptacle in the under-sink cabinet, where it’s convenient for food preparation—out of sight but not out of mind.” And while you’re tossing table scraps in the compost bin, don’t stop there: Unpainted and unfinished wood, hair, nail clippings, dryer lint, and even dust bunnies can skip the trash.

4. Clean More Consciously
“You can make an all-purpose spray cleaner with white vinegar and water, apply straight vinegar on mildew, and use baking soda for most other scrubbing jobs, like scouring the tub or getting scuff marks off a hardwood floor,” Johnson says. Beyond these green cleaning formulas, she scrubs and wipes with minimal waste too. Tool-wise, she relies on a compostable cleaning brush for many tasks and eschews paper towels completely. “Worn-out clothing like soft cotton T-shirts makes great cleaning rags,” she says. “Just dampen lightly for dusting.”

5. Reboot Your Bathroom
When it comes to the room in the home with the most disposables (plastic bottles, cardboard packaging, and any number of toiletries), Johnson offers a trove of ideas to help trim its trash load. “For face and body, use baking soda to exfoliate and package-free solid soap to wash,” she says. She’s big on buying shampoo and conditioner in bulk, using an alum stone as deodorant, shaving with a reusable safety razor, and trading toss-away toothbrushes for compostable wooden ones to use with a homemade powder that brightens your smile. As for TP? Feel a little better about the number of squares you use by switching to a 100 percent recycled and unbleached brand, like Seventh Generation.

6. DIY Without Waste
Johnson advises sourcing supplies for home improvement projects on Craigslist and reuse marketplaces like Away Station and Build It Green; she also points out that paint stores often sell remnants. Bent nails and stripped screws should be recycled, and even sawdust can be repurposed to absorb spills or to spread as garden mulch. And if you find yourself with leftover materials from a project, consider donating them. “When you donate, you help perpetuate the zero waste concept and contribute to making it a reality.”