Category: How To’s & Quick Tips

Solved! How Long a Water Heater Actually Lasts

Avoid an unpleasant, unexpected dose of cold water by keeping tabs on your hot water heater's age and condition so you'll know when to replace it. Among the benefits of the timely installation of a new water heater, you'll probably enjoy lower energy bills—as well as uninterrupted access to hot showers.

How Long Does a Water Heater Last


Q. We just bought a house, and the previous owners told us that the water heater is about six years old. Does that mean we’ll have to replace it soon? How long does a water heater last?

A. As long as it’s still heating water sufficiently, without leaks or strange noises, you might still get a few more years of service from it. A water heater’s useful life varies, depending on the type of water heater, the quality of the unit, and how well it’s been maintained.

A traditional tank-type water heater lasts an average of eight to 12 years. Inside the tank, an anode rod protects the interior lining by attracting all corrosive particles to itself through a process called electrolysis. When the rod has corroded to such an extent that it can no longer do its job, those particles settle at the bottom of the water tank, where they eventually destroy the lining. Once corrosion starts inside the tank, the water heater has entered into its final stage of life.

How Long Does a Water Heater Last If It's Tankless


A tankless water heater can last up to 20 years, sometimes even longer. Also called “on-demand” water heaters, these appliances do not work continuously to maintain a supply of hot water—and, as a result, they last longer than their tank-style counterparts. Eventually, though, tankless water heaters (which do not use anode rods) will also suffer from corrosion and require replacement.

Your existing water heater’s serial number holds the clue to its age. Even if you can’t track down the documentation for your current appliance, you can examine the serial number, which consists of a letter followed by a series of numerals, located on the upper portion of the water heater to determine when it was manufactured. Typically, the letter stands for the month—“A” for January, “B” for February, and so on, through “L” for December—and the next two numbers indicate the year it was made. A serial number that leads with “A10,” for example, was manufactured in January 2010. This rule of thumb applies to most hot water heater manufacturers, but you can confirm this on the company’s website if you have any doubts.

As you enter the second half of your water heater’s life, watch for the signs of an aging appliance. Should you notice any of the following, start shopping for a replacement before you get caught by surprise.

• A banging or rumbling noise often occurs near the end of a heater’s lifespan. While manufacturers recommend annual flushing of a tank-style water heater—and it’s a requirement for keeping a warranty in effect—few people actually follow that suggestion, so calcium buildup from hard water collects in the bottom of the tank. The sediment builds, hardens, and eventually forms a thick crust that can cause the water heater to creak and bang when in use.

• Tinted hot water, either red or dirty yellow, coming from any faucet could mean rust. It’s important to determine whether the discoloration also appears when the cold water is running; if not, your problem probably originates inside the water heater rather than within rusting galvanized piping.

• A drop in water temperature: If water doesn’t heat up as much as it used to or for as long, the water heater may be nearing the end of its service life.

• Water pooling around the base of a water heater tank also suggests bad news. First, check to make sure the leak isn’t coming from a fitting or valve that just needs to be tightened or replaced; call in a professional to check out the problem and perform any necessary maintenance. If you find the leak comes from the tank itself, it may be cracked or corroded internally.

Water quality and location can affect a water heater’s life. Hard water wreaks havoc on a water heater and can reduce its service life by two or more years. Likewise, water heaters located in garages or crawl spaces, where the temperature drops significantly, have to work harder to heat the water, and they tend to wear out more quickly than units installed in a temperature-controlled house. If either of those elements factor into your setup, start looking for end-of-life warning signs earlier than the manufacturer recommends.

Call the manufacturer if the water heater is still under warranty. While the above issues can signal the end of an aging water heater’s life, if your unit is only a few years old, the problem could be repairable. It may be worth calling the manufacturer or a plumber to check the appliance out before you invest in a new model.

Start thinking about replacing your water heater two years before the end of its predicted lifespan. When a tank-style water heater approaches eight to 10 years of age, or a tankless water heater approaches 15 to 18 years of age, it’s time to start thinking about replacing it—not only to avoid the annoyance of breakage and the inconvenience of having no hot water, but also to minimize energy consumption. After several years of use, either type of water heater is subject to mineral deposits and sediment buildup that can cause it to require more power to heat water, reducing the appliance’s overall efficiency. Install a replacement, though, and the combination of a decade’s worth of technological advances and the new model’s clean interior mean that your utility bill is sure to drop in the months to follow.

How To: Test for Asbestos

Discovering if this highly toxic, widely used material is present in any area you may want to demo is absolutely necessary. Learn why—and how—right here.

How to Test for Asbestos Before Demolition


For a century, the naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral asbestos was a mainstay of the building industry, used to create products of all kinds. Due to its strength and heat-resistance, it was widely used in flooring (including vinyl tiles), popcorn ceilings, insulation, concrete, ductwork, and much more. Like a sleeping monster, asbestos lurking in building materials poses no risks unless and until it’s disturbed, when its dust becomes extremely dangerous—so it’s crucial to test for asbestos prior to any demolition. Otherwise, the microscopic fibrils in asbestos are so abrasive once broken down that, if inhaled, they can cause lung-scarring illnesses and even lung cancer.

Because asbestos can’t be seen with the naked eye, materials must be submitted to an EPA-certified laboratory for testing prior to a remodel. Even removing a sample to send to the EPA requires stringent precautions, and in many states it’s illegal to do sample removal yourself. In nearly all states, if you live in an attached house, testing and sample removal generally requires EPA-certified contractors. If your state does allow self-gathering of samples in detached housing, you can purchase a kit for between $30 to $60 or pick up the supplies to do so yourself, making sure to follow these instructions for how to test for asbestos to the letter.

Note: Despite evidence of toxicity first arising in 1899, asbestos remained widely in use in a vast number of construction materials until the 1980s and continues to have construction applications to this day (see a complete list here). Keep in mind that asbestos use was so pervasive and insidious, it could be in nearly anything but the wood in your home—from countertops to insulation, wiring, carpet underlay, and more. If you have widespread asbestos concerns, the wisest move is to have a contractor perform a thorough testing before any demo begins.


- Disposable facemask
- Disposable rubber gloves
- Disposable coveralls and shoe covers (optional)
- Vacuum
- Plastic sheet
- Spray bottle
- Utility knife or chisel
- Wet wipes
- Pliers
- Heavy-duty or freezer-grade zip-locking plastic bags
- Permanent marker
- Disposable rags
- Duct or packing tape
- Vacuum bag
- Paint
- Old or disposable paint brush
- Garbage bags

Step 1
Do not attempt to clean any item or area you intend to collect a sample from, in case asbestos also exists in the surface dust. Ensure dead, still air in your work area so that any potential fibers, which can be microscopic, won’t become airborne. Shut all the windows and doors and turn off all fans, heaters, and air conditioning systems that can circulate air.

Step 2
Don all of your protective gear: face mask, gloves, coveralls (or long sleeves and long pants), and shoe covers. You’ll need to discard whatever you’re wearing during asbestos removal, so spending $5 to $10 on disposables is well worth it. Do not allow anyone in the area who is not wearing protective gear.

Step 3
Lay plastic sheeting around the work area to catch any potential asbestos dust that may settle. Spray the entire area thoroughly with water, so that all the surfaces are misted and the air is humid. This will help ensure that any dust created will quickly subside.

Step 4
Working as passively as possible to minimize dust, use a chisel or utility knife to loosen a sample of the material you want tested. The sample must weigh between 5 grams and 100 grams (just under ¼ lb). Without touching or disturbing the loosened sample, spray it down with water, and mist the air around you.

Step 5
Place a wet wipe in the mouth of the pliers, which will prevent microscopic fibers from sticking to the pliers. Carefully pick up the sample with the pliers and place it inside a zip-locking plastic bag. Drop the wet wipe in as well.

How to Test for Asbestos and Remove Health Hazards Before Demo Day


Step 6
Seal the plastic bag. At the top of the bag, neatly print the following information in reasonably small letters: where the sample was taken, the date of collection, and what the sample contains. Now place this sealed bag into a second zip-locking plastic bag to be sure it stays secure. Mist the air one more time to ensure dust settles.

Step 7
Carefully fold up the plastic sheeting and dispose of it in a plastic trash bag. Fold down the top of the plastic bag and securely tape it shut to contain any fibers.

Step 8
Thoroughly vacuum the area. Once done, carefully replace the vacuum bag and dispose of the old one in a plastic trash bag, taping the bag shut as you did with the plastic sheet, to contain particles. If you use a bagless vacuum, put the canister inside a trash bag and carefully tap out all dirt and dust. Use a wet rag to thoroughly wipe the canister down. Dispose of this rag in a plastic trash bag. Repeat the wipe-down with a wet wipe or two, just to be thorough. Dispose of these along with the rag.

Step 9
Clean the entire work area and anything nearby where dust may have landed with another wet rag. Dispose of the rag with the others, and tape that bag closed.

Step 10
Seal the area from which you took the sample by applying a thick, thorough coat of any kind of paint. When the paint dries it will prevent any more dust from kicking up. Discard the paintbrush in a plastic bag.

Step 11
Carefully remove your coveralls or clothes, facemask, and gloves, and dispose of them in the trash bag with the paint brush and tape it up. Dispose of all trash correctly.

Step 12
Check the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program’s website for an EPA-certified asbestos-testing lab that will take your sample. You may require a printer to print out a submission declaration form. Follow their instructions for submitting your samples. It can take three weeks or more for a response to a sample collected by a homeowner, so plan ahead, and be patient. Samples collected by EPA-certified professionals can be tested in as little as 48 hours, which may make the premium of paying a pro worth it for you.

If your sample tests positive for asbestos: Find an EPA-certified contractor to begin asbestos removal. It is illegal in many states to do asbestos removal yourself, and you can be heavily fined for doing so. Removal of, or simply sealing up and disposing of asbestos (since you can’t take just it to a landfill), requires a special contractor’s license in most states. The many uses of asbestos in homes, its insidiousness, and the complicated process of delicately removing it mandate that it is not a project even the most ambitious of DIYers should ever undertake.

How To: Wash a Comforter

Goodbye, dust mites—hello, good night's sleep! With a few simple steps, you can wash your bulkiest piece of bedding in your own laundry room and ultimately improve sleep quality.

How to Wash a ComforterPhoto:

Nothing beats crawling under a cozy comforter after a long day, but did you know the bulky piece of bedding likely harbors an abundance of dust mites? Since comforters don’t get washed as often as sheets and pillowcases, they’re hotbeds for allergens that can affect your health and sleep quality. Regular washing–every six months for most comforters and annually for wool or down comforters–keeps your bedding clean and reduces the amount of dust on the surface.

Comforters made with delicate fabrics, like wool, should always be handled by professional dry cleaners to prevent shrinkage and damage. But, fortunately for your bank account and busy schedule, you can wash a majority of comforters in your own home—so long as you have a large capacity washing machine. Extra-bulky down comforters, however, should be washed at a local laundromat instead, where double- and triple-load machines handle the plump bedding better than smaller at-home washers. You don’t want to over-stuff your appliances, after all: Filling dryers past their capacities can prevent proper drying, lead to mold and mildew growth, and even cause fires. Whether you end up in a laundry room or laundromat, follow these straightforward instructions for how to wash a comforter thoroughly so that you can rest easy in your clean bedding.

- Needle and thread (optional)
- Rag
- Baking soda (optional)
- Mild laundry cleaning product

Check your comforter’s care label for manufacturer instructions. Some labels list recommended temperature settings or hand-wash instructions. At this same time, examine the comforter for tears or pulled threads. Dry cleaners will often repair these imperfections for a price, but you can DIY the repair with a needle and strong thread. Loose fabric should always be fixed before washing, since your machines can exaggerate the damage.

STEP 2 (optional)
If any stains on your comforter need treating, shift the underlying filling to the side as much as possible so you’re working with just fabric. Dampen a small corner of a clean, soft rag with water, and lightly scrub to lift the stain. Next, apply a small sprinkle of baking soda (if you’re working with a light-colored comforter) or mild laundry cleaning product like Woolite (if you’re working with a dark-colored comforter) to the stain and continue to gently scrub with the rag. Once the spot has disappeared, remove the baking soda or cleaner by dabbing it with a clean section of the wet rag. Blot to dry.

How to Wash a Comforter


Determine if the comforter will fit into your washer. The comforter should be loosely stuffed into the washer and still feel fluffy—not firmly packed—to the touch. Also, make sure you have a surplus of space at the top of the basin (about 20 percent from the top) so the entire comforter gets covered by water during the wash cycle. If you have to cram the fabric into the machine, it’s too bulky for at-home laundry treatment; take it to a laundromat instead. The following instructions for how to wash a comforter apply to any machine, residential or commercial.

Select the “gentle” or “delicate” setting on the washer to start. Then, set the water level for maximum, and adjust the temperature per the instructions on the comforter label. Keep in mind: Cold water will protect colors, preserve fabrics, and prevent shrinkage, but it won’t kill dust mites (you need 130 degrees Fahrenheit to eliminate those). Still, trust your label for the max temperature your bedding can handle in washing and drying.

Add a mild laundry cleaning product to your machine, per the instructions on the bottle, and then start the machine. One trick sometimes used in the hospitality industry is to pour a bucket of temperature-appropriate water into a top-loading washer as the basin begins to fill with water from the cycle (or, in the case of front-loading machines, before you press “start”). Some high-efficiency machines don’t use enough water to thoroughly clean bulky materials like a comforter, so the extra liquid will ensure the dirt gets properly diluted.

Once the cycle ends, transfer the comforter to a dryer. Again, don’t force the comforter to fit into a too-small machine; if you need to transport the wet comforter to a laundromat for drying, do so in a large trash bag. Follow the label’s recommendations for dryer settings, likely a low temperature.

Remove the comforter after 20 minutes, fluff its fabric, place it back into the dryer to continue the cycle, and repeat. Depending on the efficiency of the dryer, your comforter may take a couple of hours to dry. This stop-and-go process ensures an even, thorough dry.

STEP 7 (optional)
After drying your comforter in the machine, hang it on a clothesline for a few hours, if possible. The sun will evaporate any remaining dampness and impart a fresh smell to the fabric.

If you typically use a duvet cover, consider skipping it for a couple of nights so that the washed comforter’s fabric can breathe, thus eliminating any lingering, deep-set moisture. Instead, head off to make your bed with a newly clean, dust-free comforter!

How To: Sweat Copper Pipe

Ready to take on more complex plumbing jobs? Learn this technique of creating leak-proof joints.

How to Sweat Copper Pipes


For DIYers eager to take on plumbing tasks, one of the most important skills to master is how to sweat copper pipe—a process commonly referred to as soldering—in order to achieve leak-proof joints. The job consists of two main tasks: first prep work to clean the pipes, and then the heating process for flowing solder to seal pieces (two pipes or, more commonly, a pipe and a joint) together. Be sure to dress for the job in a heavy, long-sleeved shirt and wear insulated gloves to protect against potential drips of molten metal. Also keep in mind that if your pipes aren’t already cut to length, you’ll need to do that prior to sweating. While sweating copper pipe can seem intimidating at first, with patience and attention to detail you should soon be a pro.

- Copper pipes
- 120-grit emery cloth
- Wire fitting brush, sized to the pipe you’re working with (optional)
- Lead-free tinning flux (sometimes called soldering paste or plumbing flux)
- Acid brush
- Insulated gloves
- Clean rags
- Safety goggles
- Lead-free solder
- Flame protector cloth (optional, but recommended)
- Propane soldering torch

We recommend that you learn on practice pipes, a worthwhile investment until you build enough confidence to tackle plumbing in your home.

How to Sweat Copper Pipes and Fittings


Examine inside all cut copper pipes to ensure that the burr (a ridge of copper shards caused by the saw where the cut was made) has been removed, to allow unimpeded water flow once the joints are sweated. If burr remains, follow the steps to remove it here.

Clean both the outside and inside of the first inch or so of pipes (the cut lengths and/or the joint) with emery cloth, which you can find in home centers and hardware stores sold alongside flux and solder. If a wire fitting brush is handy, it will make short work of cleaning inside the copper pipe. Otherwise, wrap the emery cloth around your index finger, stick it in the mouth of the pipe, and twist to clean.

Cleaned copper will shine like a brand new penny. After cleaning, it’s critical to avoid touching the copper pipe with your bare hands, lest natural oils and dirt on your skin interfere with the sweating process.

How to Sweat Copper Pipes using Plumbing Flux


Don insulated work gloves for protection against the acid in the flux. Apply a thin, even layer of tinning or plumbing flux to the newly cleaned sections of the exterior and interior of the copper pipes with an acid or flux brush. Wipe off excess flux with a clean rag.

Hang flame protector cloth over any wood, metal, or other surface capable of scorching within 8 inches of the work area where you’ll be using the propane torch and put on a pair of goggles for eye protection. Fire up the torch and hold it about 2 inches from the fitting. Pass it slowly over the flux-covered sections for 10 to 20 seconds until the flux begins to melt, becoming shiny. The copper will soon darken and the flux will sizzle and/or bubble, even smoke. This means the acid has begun to work. The surface will become dull and etched, creating a bondable surface.

Wearing your insulated gloves, push the connecting pieces together until fully sealed (or as far as they’ll go). Twist the copper pipes slightly to distribute flux evenly inside the joint. Wipe off excess flux with a clean rag.

Set your torch to a lower-power “rosebud” flame. A full-power torch flame resembles a cone with a narrow point—the point heats the area it touches more than it heats the rest of the copper pipe. A rosebud flame, however, wraps around the pipe, bringing the whole pipe up to sweating temperature at once. This allows for cleaner, more even sweating. Using the rosebud flame, begin heating the connecting pipes at the joint seam.

How to Sweat Copper Pipes


Hold the lead-free solder opposite to the rosebud flame at a 90-degree angle to the joint seam. (Since leaded solder is still sold in stores, be sure to check that you supply is actually lead-free—a critical choice for pipes that route water supply.)

Now, touch the heated pipe with the solder. If the pipe is hot enough, the solder will melt—this is called “flowing the solder.” If the pipe isn’t hot enough, the solder won’t melt or flow, so keep it up with the torch until the solder melts upon touching the joint. Once the melting point is achieved, solder will trickle down, flowing around the seam, sealing the two pipes together, successfully sweating the joint.

Turn off the propane torch and set it down. (Note: Never leave the torch on when it’s not in use, as it could easily fall over and become an extreme fire hazard.) Wipe off any excess solder with a clean rag.

Allow the pipe to cool for at least a full minute before applying any pressure. You’ve successfully sweated your first copper pipe—well done!

How To: Clean Aluminum

Using only a handful of household products, you can make your dull aluminum utensils, sinks, and outdoor furniture shine like new once more.

How to Clean Aluminum


The world’s most abundant metal, aluminum, contributes to many products homeowners use every day: pots, pans, utensils, furniture, and even car parts. In any of these examples, its naturally soft exterior is often anodized—or combined with other metals, like copper or magnesium—to create an alloy that stands up to regular wear and tear. As with many other metals, aluminum products can acquire an unattractive (yet harmless) dull appearance over time resulting from the metal’s natural reaction to oxygen. Removing this tarnish requires careful handling and cleaning, since scrubbing and abrasive cleaners can scratch or discolor the surface. Whether you’re looking to restore shine to your cookware, sink, or furnishings, follow the outlined steps below for how to clean aluminum properly.

How to Clean Aluminum



- Mild dish soap
- Aluminum pot
- White vinegar
- Whole lemons
- Cream of tartar
- Scrub sponge or pad
- Clean rags
- Non-abrasive metal polish

For regular maintenance, hand wash aluminum utensils and pots with mild dish soap and warm water. If your kitchenware has stuck-on stains, try the following method—which cleans pots and utensils at the same time!

Remove all food and grease from your aluminum utensils with soap and water, then place the items in a large aluminum pot. Don’t use pots made with cast iron or other metals for this method, since the acid involved can damage their finishes.

Fill the pot with water, leaving about 1 to 2 inches from the top for boiling. For every quart of water, add 2 tablespoons of a cleaning agent of your choice: white vinegar, lemon juice, or cream of tartar.

Bring the pot of water to a boil, and simmer for about 15 minutes. The aluminum interior of the pot should appear brighter. Allow the contents to cool before pouring out the water.

Rinse and dry the utensils, then use a non-scratch scrub sponge or pad to gently rub the inside of the pot. Rinse with water and dry thoroughly with clean rags.

To tackle stubborn discoloration on the outside of aluminum pans, it’s best to use a non-abrasive metal polish by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Mild discoloration on the outside of pans can be eliminated with the same method for cleaning an aluminum sink, listed below.


How to Clean Aluminum



- Dish soap
- Sponge
- Whole lemon
- Table salt
- Clean cloths

To prevent a build-up of grime and food particles in your aluminum sink, regularly clean the surface with dish soap, a sponge, and warm water. Avoid scrubbing the sink with abrasive brushes or pads, so you don’t damage the soft metal. Use the following deep-cleaning method when you notice a tarnished or dull appearance to the aluminum.

Clean the sink with dish soap and water to remove all traces of grease. Rinse well.

Cut a lemon in half, and dip it in table salt. Scrub the surface of the sink with the lemon until you notice the aluminum brightening.

Rinse well with water and a cloth. Dry thoroughly with a clean, dry rag.


How to Clean Aluminum



- Hose
- Mild dish soap
- Rags
- Large bowl
- White vinegar
- Cream of tartar
- Lemon
- Soft scrubbing pad (optional)
- Salt (optional)
- Car wax (for outdoor furniture)

If your aluminum furniture is coated or painted, cleaning it depends more on its exterior finish than its aluminum base. For example, vinyl-coated aluminum furniture should be treated as a vinyl item rather than an aluminum one. The following method works well for uncoated, unpainted aluminum furniture, like patio chairs and  dining tables—just save your cleaning for a cloudy or cool day, since aluminum tends to get too hot to handle in direct sun.

Soak your furniture with water from a hose, then clean with soapy water and a rag.

Mix a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water in a large bowl. You can choose to use another acid like cream of tartar or lemon juice, but vinegar is the cheapest option. The exact measurements will depend on the size of your aluminum furniture, but at least 2 cups of water and 2 cups of vinegar should be a good starting point.

Soak a clean rag in the solution, then apply it to the surface of your furniture. You can also rub the solution in with a soft scrubbing pad. For difficult spots with greater discoloration, resort to the lemon-and-salt method used for cleaning aluminum sinks (listed above).

Once the aluminum surface brightens up, rinse the furniture thoroughly with your hose. Dry with clean cloths.

STEP 5 (optional)
If you’re working with outdoor furniture, finish with a coat of your favorite brand of car wax applied per the manufacturer’s instructions. This layer will protect the surface from weather damage throughout the season.

How To: Make Scented Candles

Create a home that's all cozy and aglow this season with these easy DIY spiced candles.

How to Make Candles

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Sure you can stock up on a basket’s worth when they go on sale at a home goods store, but scented candles actually make some of the best do-it-yourself gifts—easy to craft, extremely affordable, and speedy, too. Learn how to make candles in an afternoon, and you can customize the perfect fragrance from essentials oils and spices and mold the mixture in a creative container of your choice. Any upcycled glass jar (one that is heat-resistant), enamel cup, coffee tin, or ceramic planter can appear simply charming when filled to the brim with wax and a wick!


How to Make Candles - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

- Wax flakes
- Metal or wooden spoon
- Old pan
- Glass, metal, or ceramic containers
- Pre-waxed candle wicks
- Scissors
- Metal collars
- Pliers
- Popsicle sticks
- Cinnamon
- Nutmeg powder
- Ground cloves
- Kraft paper or newspaper
- Toothpick
- Decorative tags
- Cord


How to Make Candles - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Drop the wax flakes into a pot. The amount you’ll need will be double the volume of the container. so use it as a scoop to be precise, so if you use a mug as candle container, you need to melt two mugs’ worth of wax flakes.

Place it on a stovetop burner set to medium-low heat, and stir the melting wax with a metal or wooden spoon—preferably not a utensil that you will use later to cook food.


How to Make Candles - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Thread a long, pre-waxed wick through the metal collar, and use pliers to squeeze the metal shut to hold the wick in place. This metal base prevents the flame’s heat from damaging—even breaking—the bottom of the container once the candle has burned completely.

Wash and dry your container of choice, then add a few drops of wax to its bottom and place the wick-threaded metal on top of it. Let it set a few seconds to cool. Extend the wick taut (but not so tight that you rip the metal from the bottom) and wrap it around a Popsicle stick that rests across the top of the container in order to prevent the wick from falling into the jar when you pour the melted wax in.


How to Make Candles - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Once all the flakes are melted, turn off the stove and stir in the spices. For every 2 cups of wax flakes, we’ve added 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, 1 tablespoon of nutmeg, and 1 one tablespoon of ground cloves to create a very wintry scent.

Alternatively, as you gain practice making candles, you can experiment to find what scents you like—some using only cinnamon and others playing with essential oils, like peppermint. Just beware that some essential oils are very flammable and should not come into contact with an open flame; read the packaging closely and heed any warnings before you try out any oil combinations.


How to Make Candles - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Protect your work surface with some paper (brown kraft paper or yesterday’s newspaper pages work just fine), then proceed to pour the melted wax slowly into your first container.

After you’ve filled the container three-quarters of the way, check that the wick is still centered and adjust if necessary. Let it partly cool and solidify, then poke a few holes a toothpick in order to remove eventual air pockets. Pour the last quarter of mix in, and let set for several hours.

Repeat this step to make candles out of whatever wax remains.


How to Make Candles - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Once the wax is set, trim the wicks to be a half-inch long each.


How to Make Candles - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Finally, use a cord or some twine to wrap a decorative tag around each of your candle holders. These will dress up the plain canisters (like our white ceramic planters) and even double as a gift tag should you need a place to write “to” and “from.” Display them on your mantle all season long and, when you’re ready, light the homemade candles to enjoy their sweet spiced fragrance.


How to Make Candles - Finished Project

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

How to Make Candles - Scented Candles

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.


DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.

How To: Make Your Own Dishwasher Detergent

Why waste money—or put your family’s health at risk—with store bought brands when you can DIY a safe, efficient cleanser for everything from plates and glassware to pots and pans.

How to Make Homemade Dishwasher Detergent


Enter any supermarket and it’s obvious that detergent is big business. Yet while the choices seem endless, today’s consumer is increasingly turning to homemade detergents. This is especially true for parents of young children, due to reports that detergent poisonings have risen more than 20 percent since the advent of the colorful cleaning “pods” that have flooded the market in recent years. (In 2016, poison centers received reports of 10,673 exposures to highly concentrated packets of laundry detergent by children 5 and younger. Symptoms include vomiting, wheezing, and gasping, as well as corneal abrasions from detergent getting into the eyes; this year, one child died after consuming a detergent pod.) While pods are certainly convenient, they’re costly—potentially raising your price-per-load by 50 percent. Depending on your brand of powdered detergents, pods, or combination thereof, you probably spend between $0.13 and $0.40 per load. The non-toxic, hardworking homemade dishwasher detergent described here runs about two pennies—that’s right, $0.02—per load. So whether you want to save money, protect your family and the environment, or simply know exactly what you’re cleaning with, you’ll want to give it a try today!

- Baking soda
- Baking dish
- Borax
- Kosher salt
- Unsweetened lemonade mix, powdered lemon, or citric acid
- Essential oil of choice (optional, for scent)

This recipe makes approximately 40 loads.

Make washing soda (sodium carbonate) from baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour about half an inch of baking soda on the bottom of the baking dish, and bake for one hour, stirring once or twice, until it changes from silky and powdery to more grainy in texture. Let cool and store in an airtight jar, labeled “washing soda.”

How to Make Homemade Dishwasher Detergent


Combine one cup of washing soda with the remaining ingredients (1 cup Borax, ½ cup kosher salt, ½ cup unsweetened lemonade mix, and up to 10 drops of essential oil) in an airtight container, such as a large mason jar. Label it “dishwasher detergent.”

Use one tablespoon of homemade dishwasher detergent per load of dishes, proceeding with your usual washing method. If you wash at cooler temperatures or have “hard water” in your region, you may need a bit more per load. Experiment with quantities, increasing by a tablespoon or two. Do not add liquid dish detergent to this mix, which could damage your appliance.

Helpful Tips When Using Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

• Homemade dishwasher detergents work better when you rinse stubborn food off first.

• If you haven’t the time or inclination to make your own washing soda, purchase it ready-made online or at grocery or hardware stores. However, don’t use plain baking soda in your dishwasher detergent recipe—it won’t do the trick!

• Don’t let the chemical-sounding name bother you! Borax—scientifically called “sodium tetraborate” or “sodium borate”—is a naturally occurring mineral, a salt product derived from boric acid. While not ideally ingestible, it has the same safety rating (“1”) as salt and baking soda. So if your child managed to consume some homemade dishwasher detergent, mild nausea might ensue. Borax may also irritate the eyes.

• If you have “hard water,” increase the kosher salt from half to a full cup. This will reduce build-up that might otherwise cause pesky spots on glassware.

How To: Use Chalk Paint

Turn forgettable furniture and ho-hum surfaces into showstopping home accents with this versatile and low-maintenance paint finish.

How to Use Chalk Paint


Putting a new face on tired-looking home accents can be as simple as brushing on a few coats of paint. But if you want to achieve a unique antique-style finish, think outside the conventional can of latex paint and opt for chalk paint instead. A water-based decorative paint developed and made popular by Annie Sloan, chalk paint is a nondamaging blend of calcium carbonate, talc, and pigments that delivers a whimsical matte white finish with chalk-white undertones. It has become the veneer of choice for DIYers looking to revive their outdated wooden furnishings, although it’s also suitable for use on masonry, drywall, metal, glass, and fabric. Here’s how to use chalk paint—along with a list of basic painting tools and some useful information about techniques—to produce an appealing distressed finish on nearly any surface.

- Old newspaper or brown builder’s paper
- Sandpaper (fine and medium grits) (optional)
- Clear shellac (optional)
- Cloth pad (optional)
- Soft cloth
- Bowl of soapy water
- Painter’s tape
- Chalk paint
- Natural-bristle paintbrush, foam roller, or spray gun
- Paint pan (optional)
- Clear or tinted chalk paint wax
- Soft wax brush

If possible, work on your paint project indoors—chalk paint adheres best at room temperature. Protect the floor of your work space from paint splatter by laying out newspaper or brown paper underneath the item you’re painting. Detach any removable elements from the piece, including chair cushions, shelves, drawers, hinges, knobs, and other hardware.

You can generally skip sanding and priming before applying chalk paint, even when working with varnished wood pieces, because the paint can adhere to most surfaces. Even so, some furniture finishes warrant special treatment before painting:

Paint-covered, rust-covered, or high-gloss surfaces like laminates could use a light sanding with 150-grit or finer sandpaper in order to remove obstacles to adhesion.

• Untreated wood should have a coat of clear shellac applied with a cloth pad before painting; cure it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This coat prevents tannins in the wood from bleeding into the paint and altering the color.

Using a soft cloth saturated in soapy water, wipe down the entire surface of the piece to lift dirt, debris, oil, and sanding dust. Give the surface a once-over with a clean, damp cloth, then let it dry fully. Cover any areas you don’t want to paint with painter’s tape.

How to Use Chalk Paint


Purchase enough chalk paint in your favorite shade to cover the piece you’re working on. (Typically, a liter of chalk paint can cover 140 square feet—roughly the surface area of a small dresser.) Before opening the paint can, turn it upside down to loosen the contents, then shake it vigorously to ensure that the chalk paint is well mixed.

Depending on the size of the object you’re painting, you can opt to use a brush, roller, or spray gun to apply chalk paint. How you apply the paint will depend on your applicator of choice:

To use chalk paint with a brush: For a smooth, uniform finish, choose a natural-bristle brush with long, flexible bristles. Dip the brush into the can, and tap the handle against the lid of the can to remove excess paint. Then, apply the paint in unidirectional strokes to one section of the piece at a time until the entire surface is covered.

• To use chalk paint with a roller: Pour the chalk paint into a paint pan, then load it onto a high-density foam roller (depending on the size of the furniture, a four-inch mini roller may be the best option). Scrape off the excess paint on the grid of the pan. Roll a thin layer of paint in a long, unidirectional stroke, then pull it back and make one more stroke in the original direction. Repeat this process until the entire surface is coated.

• To use chalk paint with a spray gun: Chalk paint is a naturally thick medium that may not flow readily from all spray guns. You can get around this by watering down the chalk paint (adding approximately two tablespoons of water for every cup of paint) before loading it into the gun. Or, you can opt to load the paint as is and operate the gun at maximum pressure, preferably with a spray tip measuring at least 1.8 millimeters to enable the fluid to flow. To avoid risking damage to your spray gun, test this method on a small, inconspicuous part of the piece before tackling larger areas.

Allow the first coat to dry completely according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

A single coat of chalk paint is sufficient for many applications. If, however, you need to cover any visual imperfections, or if you want to create a two-tone decorative finish in which the bottom layer of paint shows through around the distressed edges, you can opt to apply a second coat in the same color or a lighter shade.

Now, examine the finish. If you want a more polished matte look, keep it as is; otherwise, to achieve a subtly worn patina—a finish that chalk paint is famous for—distress the painted surface with medium-grit sandpaper, focusing on the edges or details you want to accentuate.

When you’re happy with the finish, seal the paint with one or more coats of clear or tinted wax, gently massaging the wax into the painted surface with a soft wax brush. As a rule of thumb, use a 500-milliliter tin of wax for every three to four liters of paint. Although wax can dry in less than a half hour, it’s best to let it sit overnight. Total curing of the wax can take up to three weeks, although the furniture is ready to use as soon as the wax is dry.

Finally, reinstall any hardware you removed from the piece, and let your chalk-painted accent shine!


All the Expert Painting Advice from
Of all the options available to remodelers, paint provides the quickest, easiest, and most affordable way to achieve a transformation, inside or out. Ready to look at your home in a new way? Click now for the color ideas to make your project beautiful.

3 Ways to Waterproof Wood

That natural beauty demands protection! Choose the products and techniques that work best with your wood.

How to Waterproof Wood


Some of most delightful furniture, cabinetry, and trim work are crafted from wood, the world’s oldest and best-loved building material. Without protection, however, most wood will suffer from exposure to moisture and high humidity, resulting in swelling, warping, or even rotting. Fortunately, you can easily avail yourself of products that protect wood while enhancing its natural beauty. When choosing the best method for how to waterproof wood, keep in mind that not all waterproofing products are the same—some are better suited for interior or exterior items, while others are geared towards dark- or light-grained wood. Here, we’ve outlined the three surefire ways to preserve your wood for years to come.

How to Waterproof Wood


Linseed oil, derived from the seeds of the flax plant, and Tung oil, extracted from the Chinese Tung tree, are the basis for nearly all hand-rubbed (a.k.a. wiping) oil finishes. Employed for centuries, these oils beautify and protect such dark-grained woods as walnut and mahogany, and they’re still in use today—with a few improvements. Blending the oils with other ingredients hastens drying times and eliminates stickiness. You can purchase pre-blended Tung and linseed products, or mix your own for a custom finish.

A standard hand-rubbed oil blend consists of one-part oil (either Tung or boiled linseed), one-part mineral spirits, and one-part polyurethane varnish. Stir thoroughly before applying with a natural bristle paintbrush to dark-grained wood that’s been sanded and cleaned. (If looking for how to waterproof wood that is lighter in color, such as pine or ash, skip this method in favor of one of the next two; hand-rubbed oils have a tendency to yellow over time.) Let the oil soak into the surface, and reapply to any spots that look dry. Then wipe off the residual oil, rubbing well with clean dry rags to remove all excess. Allow the wood to dry completely; this can take anywhere from a few hours to overnight, depending on the degree of oil in the mixture. Finally, sand lightly with fine-grit sandpaper. Repeat the process with as many additional coats as required to obtain your desired finish.

As you become familiar with oil-rubbed blends, feel free to experiment with the formula. For a thicker product, reduce the amount of mineral spirits. If you’d like more working time before the finish dries, reduce the amount of varnish. Add more varnish for a glossier finish and quicker drying time. You can create a multitude of custom blends!

Note: Oily rags used to rub away excess oil can spontaneously combust—yup, even without being near flame, because as the oil dries it generates heat. Take precautions by keeping a bucket of water handy while working; as a rag becomes oil-saturated, drop it in the bucket while and continue with a clean rag. Later, hang rags out to dry separately. When completely dry, you can throw them away without risk, but rags should not be reused.


How to Waterproof Wood


Polyurethane, varnish, and lacquer are tried-and-true sealants with excellent waterproofing properties. They’re either brushed or sprayed onto clean, sanded wood and allowed to dry completely, then the piece is lightly re-sanded and recoated. For best results, apply in a “room temperature” environment and never shake or briskly stir sealants before application—that can cause air bubbles that would remain on the surface, even after the sealant dries. Though relatively quick drying (some in as little as 15 minutes), these sealants often contain chemical solvents so ventilation is necessary during application. Read on for the pros and cons of these popular sealants.

• Polyurethane sealants, which contain various amounts of solvents in addition to acrylic and polyurethane resins, let you choose your favorite finish effect, from a high gloss shine to a gentle soft sheen. Plus, today’s polyurethane won’t yellow, so it’s a good choice for light-toned woods. Oil-based polyurethane offers the greatest durability, but brush cleanup requires mineral spirits or turpentine. With water-based polyurethane, cleanup is a snap with soap and water.

• Varnish, a combination of resin, solvent, and drying oil, gives a hard-shell finish that resists scratches without yellowing. To waterproof wood that will be placed outdoors, choose marine varnish, which contains UV absorbers to resist sun damage. For interior use on end tables and coffee tables, spar varnish is a good choice to resist pesky cup rings. Clean brushes with turpentine or mineral spirits.

• Lacquer, a mixture of dissolved tree resin or synthetic resin in alcohol, is the sealant of choice for indoor hardwood furniture. While it can develop a yellowish tinge over time that’s considered unattractive on lighter woods, on deep-toned wood lacquer brings out a rich, warm finish that’s uniquely scratch resistant. It’s available in a variety of sheen choices, and can be thinned with lacquer thinner. For optimum results, apply lacquer in multiple light coats. Note: Lacquer emits off strong fumes, so ventilation is absolutely essential; work outdoors or open windows and use fans.


How to Waterproof Wood


When time is of the essence or you’re protecting a large project, such as a wood deck, go for a stain-sealant combo. These multitasking products add color while providing water resistance in a single step. Stain-sealant products contain color pigments with the addition of binders, which can be oil-, water- or alkyd-based. Depending on the concentration of pigment in the product, the final result can be transparent, opaque, or in-between. If applying a stain-sealer to exterior wood, you’ll want to reapply every year or two to keep the wood protected.

With the exception of alkyd-based products, stain-sealants don’t build up on the wood surface; instead, they soak in and any excess evaporates. Alkyd-based stain-sealants leave a light surface coating on the wood, making them better suited for interior wood items, such as indoor exposed beams or rustic furniture, that won’t require future applications. Outdoors, alkyd-based stain-sealers have a tendency to peel if the wood isn’t perfectly clean and dry when applied.

How To: Paint PVC Pipe

Why settle for off-the-shelf shades? Now you can spray a coat of longwearing color on this easy-to-use material for all sorts of DIY projects.

How to Paint PVC Pipe


Tough and durable yet easy to cut, polyvinyl chloride piping (PVC)—originally developed for plumbing—is ideal for use in a variety of do-it-yourself projects, from wall-mounted organizers and funky herb planters to wine racks and even lighting fixtures. While the piping comes in a spectrum of brights these days, you’ll still want to learn how to paint PVC if you’ve got a more sophisticated palette in mind. Except there’s one hitch: Due to a molecular makeup that prevents most liquids from bonding to its surface, paint on PVC has always been likely to flake, bubble, or rub right off. Fortunately, recently developed spray paints that chemically bond with all kinds of plastics make it possible for determined DIYers to paint PVC pipe. Just keep in mind that while some plastic-rated paints purport to be no preparation required, we advise that you follow the prep steps here for the best possible results.

- PVC pipe
- 220-grit sandpaper (several sheets)
- Acetone (not nail polish remover)
- Rubber gloves (not latex, as acetone degrades latex)
- Clean rags
- Drop cloths, old newspaper, or plastic sheeting for painting
- Plastic-rated spray paint, such as consumer favorite Krylon Fusion

Plan to paint PVC on a low-humidity day, ideally between 50 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Choose a well-ventilated yet wind-free area to work in, such as a garage with doors and windows open for airflow. Note that acetone is extremely flammable, so it should be used and stored away from heat sources. Do not smoke while working with acetone, and wash up well after use.

Lightly scour the PVC pipe’s exterior by hand with 220-grit sandpaper. Skip the electric sander, which can wear down the pipe too much, too fast. Sand in all directions to avoid straight-line striations that can create an undesirable grooved surface. Be gentle, so you won’t weaken the pipe, yet thorough to avoid an uneven surface. Have plenty of sandpaper on hand, because the waxes in PVC pipe will come off on the paper, causing it to lose roughness.

How to Paint PVC Pipe


Don rubber gloves, dampen a clean rag with acetone, and then wipe the surface of the PVC pipe. Allow to dry for 20 to 30 minutes. The acetone will remove all sanding dust while swelling the surface of the PVC to make it more porous for painting.

Lay drop cloths, plastic sheeting, or old newspapers over the floors or walls that could be subject to splatter or overspray, then arrange pipe for spraying. If painting long pieces, protect a wall, ladder, or chair from spray and prop the pipes against it. Or consider standing long pieces on a sturdy dowel for support so you can access all sides at once. Short pieces of PVC may be able to stand without additional support, making it simpler to get an all-over coat of paint.

Shake your plastic-rated spray paint thoroughly for 15 to 20 seconds. In a side-to-side sweeping motion, spray-paint the pipe, starting from the top and working your way down to the bottom. Paint PVC in thin, consistent layers, overlapping the paint as you move down the pipe, to avoid any drips.

Allow paint to dry per manufacturer’s instructions 20 to 30 minutes, before applying a second coat. If you had to lay the piping down to paint, wait until the first side is dry and then turn it over to access the other side. Avoid overlapping spray on areas you’ve already painted to achieve a nice, even coat. As in all spray-painting jobs, you’ll need to apply several coats in thin layers until the “true color” is reached.

Allow paint to air-dry and cure for at least 24 hours before using it in your project. For projects that could scrape or nick the pipe’s new coat of paint in the process, consider waiting a full week. If you’re uncertain, check the paint can for specific manufacturer-recommended drying times. Once your project is complete, keep painted pipes clean by wiping gently with a water-dampened rag.