How To’s & Quick Tips - Bob Vila

Category: How To’s & Quick Tips

How To: Remove Carpet Glue

Get stubborn carpet adhesive off your concrete subfloor with these simple methods to achieve the perfect surface for new flooring.

How to Remove Carpet Glue


Ripping up old carpeting is no small task, but removing the glue used to secure it to the subfloor is a major job all on its own. Creating a clean, smooth surface is critical, however, if a new adhesive is to form a tight bond between the new flooring and the subfloor.

Pricey off-the-shelf products promise to make easy work of removing tough carpet glue from concrete, but chemical strippers emit toxic fumes while their eco-friendly counterparts can be so “green” that they’re ineffective. In the end, manual methods for how to remove carpet glue may be your best bets. Depending on the amount of glue you’re dealing with—and how stubborn it is to budge—start with the first method described below and work your way down to the third if you find yourself needing more power.

Before moving forward take note: Carpet adhesives manufactured in the 1980s or earlier may contain asbestos, a known carcinogen. If you suspect the adhesive on your floor could contain asbestos, do not attempt to remove it yourself; contact an asbestos abatement professional.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Scraping tool with comfort grip
Work gloves
Knee pads
 Waterproof work boots
Electric kettle
Portable steam cleaner (optional)
Reciprocating saw
4″ scraper attachment for a reciprocating saw

Start with a Scraping Tool

Your first measure is to manually remove as much glue as you can with a scraping tool. While this may not banish every last bit of carpet glue from the floor, getting rid of as many large pieces as possible is a good starting point before moving on to other techniques for how to remove carpet glue. Use a paint scraper, spackling knife, 5-in-1 tool, or a razor blade—just be sure the tool has a handle with a comfortable grip. Wear flexible work gloves to spare your hands; knee pads are also advisable during what could otherwise be a painful chore.

How to Remove Carpet Glue


Soften Stubborn Carpet Glue with Heat  

If you can’t conquer all the carpet glue with elbow grease alone, move on to heat, which will soften the dried adhesive, making it easier to scrape or scour away. There are two ways to approach this: with either boiling water or steam.

RELATED: 12 Clever Uses for a Hair Dryer that Will Blow You Away

After donning protective gloves (and waterproof work boots, or possibly rain boots, to protect your feet), heat and pour enough boiling water to completely cover the carpet glue and give it about five to 10 minutes to soften. When the glue starts to become pliable, use your scraper tool to work it out of the concrete. Work in small sections so that you can remove the softened carpet glue before the water cools. Sop up as much water as possible with a towel when finished to expedite drying.

Alternatively, you can also use a portable steam cleaner, available at local home centers or online. Direct the flow of steam a few inches away from the carpet glue until it is soft enough to scrape up. Here, too, alternate steaming and scraping small sections at a time so that you can lift up the carpet glue before it cools off and hardens once more.

Remove Large Amounts of Carpet Glue with a Reciprocating Saw Attachment 

If dealing with a large area and/or particularly stubborn carpet glue, use your reciprocating saw fitted with a special scraper attachment to tackle the job. The reciprocating saw will drastically reduce the time spent scraping—the vibration of the blade does the tough work for you. Reciprocating saw scraper blades are available at most home improvement centers, as well as online from manufacturers such as Spyder and Milwaukee, for between $10 and $20, depending on size (a 2″- to 4″-wide blade should be appropriate for removing carpet glue).

To use the scraper attachment, insert the blade into your reciprocating saw and lock it in place. If the scraper attachment has a beveled edge and a flat edge, position the blade so that the beveled edge faces the ceiling and flat edge faces the floor. Hold the saw at a low angle and start running it at half speed before building up to full speed. The carpet glue should lift right up!

How To: Remove a Wall Mirror

Safely get rid of floor-to-ceiling mirror to reveal ready-to-paint drywall following this step-by-step.

How to Remove Wall Mirror in the Bathroom


Covering your wall with floor-to-ceiling mirror (or, rather, mirror tiles) seemed like such a good idea back in the 1960s, but a lot has changed in the past half-century. Today, that expansive feature can really date an interior. Homeowners are even looking to do away with large, unframed mirrors in the bathroom that span from countertop to ceiling for something with more shape and personality.

The good news is that, with patience, homeowners interested in ripping out glued-on wall mirror to replace it with a different wall treatment or a smaller hanging mirror can do so themselves. The bad news is that it often entails repairing a lot of drywall damage wherever the mirror’s strong adhesive pulled off chunks of drywall. That repair work can range from patching divots to even skim coating and sanding the entire wall to get a smooth surface for painting, depending on how carefully you’ve removed the mirror.

How to Remove a Wall Mirror


Typically, there are three go-to methods for how to remove a wall mirror that’s been mounted with glue, and they range from slow and neat to fast but dangerous and messy:

Option 1: Heat and pry.
Here, you’d heat the glass tile in order to soften the adhesive behind it before gently prying the tile off the wall. Though this method takes the longest, it results in less glass breakage and removes more adhesive.

Option 2: Saw and slice.
Starting at an outside corner, you’d slide a wire saw between the wall and the mirror and work the saw back and forth to cut through the adhesive. This method takes a lot more elbow grease and can be very frustrating because the wire clogs easily with adhesive.

Option 3: Smash and grab.
This third method assumes that, if you’re likely to break a mirror tile with one of the other options anyway, why not just get it over with up-front? You’d use a hammer to smash ‘em all, then deal with the leftover adhesive portions using a hairdryer and a 3-inch putty knife. It’s the fastest way, but it’s also the most dangerous and leaves the biggest mess. Even with careful vacuuming and cleanup, you may find glass pieces in the room months later.

We prefer the first slow and more deliberate method because it leaves your wall in the best shape, saving you time during the patching phase, so you’ll find it incorporated here. Plan to set aside a full day for your work, and don’t speed through these steps for how to remove a wall mirror. Slow and steady wins this race—and saves you time repairing the uncovered wall when all is said and done.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Long sleeve shirt
Leather work boots
Leather gloves
Eye protection
Heavy canvas dropcloth
Metal garbage can with handles
Selfadhesive vinyl shelf or drawer liner
3inch drywall knife
6inch drywall knife
Small prybar
Lightweight, fastsetting joint compound
 Topping compound

STEP 1: Dress appropriately to prevent any injuries.

Dress in long sleeves, long pants, and work boots to protect skin and feet from any flying/falling glass. Wear heavy leather work gloves and eye protection at all times, from start to final cleanup.

STEP 2: Prepare your work area for easier cleanup later.

Spread a heavy canvas drop cloth below the tiles, extending it far as possible into the room to catch any shards of glass. Relocate a metal garbage can to your work area and plan to empty it often throughout this process—glass is heavy, so you won’t want to wait to haul it all out at the end!

STEP 3: Cover the wall mirror tiles with self-adhesive contact paper.

Peel off the back of a self-adhesive shelf or drawer liner and apply the sticky vinyl film across the mirror, pressing it firmly against the glass. This should hold broken pieces together and greatly reduce the risk of flying glass. Plus, it provides a safer working environment and faster cleanup.

Then, if you are in fact dealing with tiles and not a single stretch of unframed mirror, slice around each tile with a utility knife to separate the tiles.

How to Remove Wall Mirror with Help from a Hairdryer


STEP 4: Heat and pry the tiles off.

Start in an area (either a side or corner) where you will have the most room to wedge a large drywall knife between the wall and the mirror. In other words, it’s easiest to pick a side of the mirror that doesn’t butt up against a wall or countertop. Then, heat one entire glass tile or, on a large bathroom mirror, the area closest to the prying edge with your hairdryer set on high heat for a few minutes so that it warms the adhesive behind the mirror.

Slide a 3-inch drywall knife behind the tile and move it around to help you locate the adhesive. Every installation is different, but glue typically goes on in five blobs per tile—one near each corner, and one in the middle of the glass—and not immediately around the edges because that would have risked adhesive bleeding out the seams. Once you’ve hit the patch of adhesive, then partially slip a 6-inch drywall knife slightly under the glass tile to start separating it from the wall enough to insert a small pry bar.

Carefully wedge the pry bar in near one adhesive area, and gently pry to force the tile out slightly. If you pry against the drywall knife rather than the wall, you’re less likely to scrape, scuff, or otherwise damage the wall behind the mirror with your tools. Add more heat to soften the glue as necessary.

Repeat at each adhesive location until you feel the entire tile has loosened. Once you pry it up enough to get your fingers under, you can grab its edges (carefully) with your hands and pop it off. From that point on, after you’ve established what pattern the glue went on in during the installation, heat the mirror only in the area directly above the adhesive. That’ll speed up the project.

STEP 5: Address whatever adhesive didn’t come off the wall with the mirror.

Inspect the wall that was once covered in mirror; chances are that some adhesive was not removed with the tiles you just peeled away. Use the hairdryer and your 3-inch knife to carefully scrape away all remaining adhesive, even if it tears off the drywall paper (you can patch that in the next step).

STEP 6: Repair the wall.

Partially fill the divots with lightweight, fast-setting joint compound like Easy Sand 45. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for application and drying to the letter.

Forty-five to 90 minutes later, after the setting compound has hardened, apply a layer of topping compound. Why switch? In short, a topping compound is easier to spread or “feather out” with a knife and sand than fast-setting compounds. Again, apply and let it dry fully for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer. Then, sand the wall in full.

If the wall surface looks terribly uneven, skim-coat the entire wall with a thin coating of lightweight joint compound and sand when dry.

With all mirror and adhesive removed and imperfections filled, your repaired wall is ready to prime the entire wall with a high-quality drywall primer and paint.

How To: Dispose of Light Bulbs

Learn the proper way to trash those burnouts—some of which contain toxic components—to keep your family and the environment safe.

How to Dispose of Light Bulbs


If you recently set out to upgrade your home with more energy-efficient light bulbs, you’ve likely seen there’s a bigger selection of light bulb varieties available today than ever before, with some designed to last as long as 50,000 hours. Even the most enduring bulb will burn out eventually, however, and need to be tossed—along with those you seek to replace. Before you throw any into the trash, you should know that some popular light bulbs contain toxic components that are hazardous to human health and can negatively impact the environment. Keep reading to learn the how to dispose of light bulbs correctly, be they incandescents, halogens, or just about any other type of light bulb in your home. Now that’s seeing the light!

HOW TO GET RID OF… Incandescent Bulbs

Incandescent light bulbs, the old standby we relied on for our reading lamps and overhead fixtures since the early 1900s, are slowly being edged out by higher efficiency versions. They typically only burn for 700 to 2,000 hours, and you can still find some lower-wattage incandescent bulbs on store shelves. They contain a wire filament in a thin, sealed glass bulb, but no toxic chemicals, so these bulbs can be safely thrown away in your regular household waste (not recycling, because the tiny wire filaments are too difficult to remove during the glass recycling process). They are fragile, however, and if they break, the sharp glass could puncture a plastic garbage bag, posing a risk of injury to you or to a sanitation worker. Whether yours has burnt out or is phasing out for a more energy-efficient model, be sure to slip a burned-out incandescent bulb into another type of disposable packaging, such as a used cereal box, before putting it in the trash.

How to Dispose of Light Bulbs


HOW TO GET RID OF… Halogen Bulbs

Similar to incandescent bulbs, halogen bulbs contain wire filaments, which are sealed under pressure in thick, high-silica glass bulbs. They are an advanced type of incandescent bulb and can be used in standard lighting fixtures, designed for both indoor and outdoor use. Halogen bulbs, which last 2,000 to 4,000 hours, can be disposed of in your regular household waste (their fine wires prevent them from being recyclable). While halogen bulbs are less likely to break than incandescent bulbs due to the thicker glass, it’s still wise to place them in another type of disposable packaging before tossing them out.


Quickly becoming the energy-efficient bulb of choice in American homes, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) create light by sending electrons through a semiconductor material, triggering a process known as “electroluminescence,” which is similar to the way a laser works. They not only provide long-lasting illumination of 35,000 to 50,000 hours and use a fraction of the energy their incandescent predecessors do, LED bulbs are also safe to dispose of in your household waste. To date, no national LED recycling regulations or initiatives exist, but if you’d prefer to recycle, contact your local recycling center to see if they take LEDs. You can also search online for an LED recycler, such as HolidayLEDs, which accepts used LED Christmas lights at no charge (except shipping).

Recycling is becoming more popular, and because LEDs do not contain the fine wires that prevent the recycling of incandescent and halogen varieties, you’re likely to see more LED recycling options in the future. Until then, if you can’t find a convenient drop-off spot, rest assured that LEDs will not release harmful toxins into the environment if chucked in your regular trash.

HOW TO GET RID OF… Fluorescent Tubes

These long tubes are energy efficient and long-lasting (a typical fluorescent bulb lasts 24,000 to 36,000 hours), making them favorites for workshops and other areas where bright, inexpensive lighting is desired. However, fluorescent tubes contain mercury—an environmental toxin—and should not be thrown out with ordinary household waste. In fact, as of 2018, recycling fluorescent tubes is the law in California, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, and more states are bound to follow with these regulations. Fortunately, many home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s, along with other major retailers, offer fluorescent recycling collection stations where consumers can drop off their old tubes free of charge. Visit Earth 911 and enter “fluorescent tubes” and your zip code to find a list of collection sites near you.

Disposing of a broken fluorescent tube requires extra care, since a small amount of mercury vapor escapes when the tube breaks. If you must dispose of a broken fluorescent tube, follow the steps below for the safe clean-up and disposal of CFLs.


Easily identifiable by their narrow glass tubes, twisted into curlicue shapes, compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) fit into standard light fixtures and last 8,000 to 20,000 hours. Like fluorescent tubes, CFLs contain trace bits of mercury and should be recycled, never dumped in the regular trash. Visit Earth 911 and enter “CFLs” and your zip code for locations of local collection centers. You can also find mail-in programs online; they send out disposal kits with a pre-addressed container in which you can safely mail your old CFLs (they run anywhere between $30 and $70, depending on how many CFLs they hold).

Clean-up and Disposal of Broken CFLs

If you drop a CFL bulb and break it, the United States Environmental Protection Agency recommends the following safe disposal method:

• Send everyone (including pets) out of the room and air the room out for 10 minutes.

• Turn off your HVAC system to keep from circulating potentially toxic mercury vapor.

Do not vacuum, which could distribute mercury vapor in the room.

• Use stiff paper, such as an index card to scoop up the broken bits of glass and powder residue, and dispose of it in a plastic bag or a glass jar.

• Use the sticky side of duct tape to lift any residual tiny bits of glass or powder from the surface.

• Use disposable wet wipes or damp paper towels to wipe the area clean and place wipes in the plastic bag or glass jar along with the broken glass and used duct tape.

• Contact your local waste authority or check the Earth 911 to locate a collection station near you.

If your state or community does not regulate the disposal of CFLs, and no recycling center is handy, the EPA suggests putting a used (or broken) CFL in a plastic bag and then putting it in your outside trash can for pickup.

How to: Clean a Fish Tank

Complete this easy routine once or twice a month to keep your fish happy and healthy—and the glass clear so that you can fully enjoy their company.

How to Clean a Fish Tank in 6 Easy Steps


Generally speaking, aquarium fish make great low-maintenance pets with minimal needs for attention and cleaning—perfect for busy households that are easing into pet ownership. But in order to keep your fish healthy and prevent the spread of harmful algae that can be caused by overfeeding and light exposure, aquariums require a basic cleaning and 25 percent water change every two to four weeks.

Fish are very sensitive to chemicals, including household soaps, so it is important to know how to clean a fish tank correctly. The proper method and supplies keep out toxins while maintaining the beneficial bacteria that your fish need to survive. You can partially clean a fish tank using some of the supplies readily available in your home, but you’ll also want to invest in a few specialty products from your local pet store to do the best job, including algae scraper pads and a siphon vacuum.

After your shopping trip, check out our guide for how to clean a fish tank in six easy steps while maintaining the delicate ecosystem inside your freshwater aquarium.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Hand soap
Algae scraper pad
Razor blade
Plastic scraper blade
Bleach (optional)
Aquarium siphon kit
Large buckets
Aquariumsafe cleaners
Vinegar (optional)
Paper towels (optional)
Liquid dechlorinator treatment
Aquarium testing and treatment kit

STEP 1: Clean the interior of the tank using an algae scraper pad.

First wash your hands, making sure to thoroughly rinse all of the soap off because you will be reaching into the tank.

Leave the fish alone; your pets won’t need to be removed to tackle a routine cleaning. In fact, taking the fish out of the aquarium may actually cause more harm than good: The transfer itself can stress out your pets, and too much time out of the aquarium in their temporary homes (with water that is neither filtered nor aerated) could danger their health.

Then, clean the inside glass with an algae scraper pad, not regular household cleaning sponges—even if they are brand new, they may have traces of chemical residue that could be lethal to your fish. Use the pads to loosen algae from all four interior walls of the tank; once dislodged, the fish tank’s filter should take care of removal. For any stubborn residue on your tank’s windows or hard-to-scrub corners, gently scrape the glass with a razor blade. If your tank is acrylic, use a plastic scraper blade instead.

RELATED: 10 House Hacks Every Pet Owner Needs to Know

STEP 2: Clean large decorations using plain water.

Pull out large rocks, artificial plants, and other decorations from the tank and carry them to your sink. Clean these tank decorations by running water over them while using the algae pad to gently scrub. Do not use any soap when cleaning a fish tank, as even traces of soap can be deadly for fish.

If the algae won’t come off by scrubbing, bring a pot of water to a boil, turn off the heat, and then place the items in the hot water for 20 minutes. The boiling water will both kill the algae and loosen the residue so that it’s easier to scrub off. Non-porous decorations can also be soaked in cold water with bleach diluted to a five to 10 percent solution before scrubbing them clean under a running faucet.

How to Clean a Fish Tank in 6 Easy Steps


STEP 3: Siphon the gravel and remove up to a quarter of the tank’s dirty water.

With the large decorations still removed from the tank, clean the gravel with a siphon. Pet stores sell inexpensive siphon kits consisting of a length of flexible tubing capped by a plastic vacuum head specifically for the purpose of easily cleaning the gravel and removing water.

Submerge the vacuum end of the siphon kit into the tank and slowly lower the rest of the tubing into the water as well until all the air inside the tube is replaced with water. Holding the vacuum end underwater in one hand, seal the discharge end with your other hand (your thumb should be enough to cover the opening) so that the tubing fills with tank water. Then lift the tubing out of the tank, point the discharge end down into a large empty bucket located on the ground near the fish tank, and release your thumb. The dirty water will flow from the vacuum end through the length of the tube and into this container.

You can now clean the gravel by plunging the vacuum head down into the rocks, letting the siphon suck up surrounding gunk, and using your thumb to modulate the water flow on the discharge end. This process will start to suck up aquarium gravel and debris, but ultimately those stones fall back into place while the dirty water continues on its way out. Repeat until you have removed 25 percent of the water in the aquarium. Dispose of the dirty water in the bucket by pouring it down the drain and rinsing the bucket clean.

STEP 4: Address the exterior of the tank with aquarium-safe supplies.

Clean the top, light, hood, and outside glass as needed using aquarium-safe spray cleaners that can be purchased from your local pet store or by wiping surfaces with a vinegar-soaked paper towel and rinsing with water.

STEP 5: Top with fresh water and bring the tank back to equilibrium.

Put all of the decorations back in the tank. Next, in the empty bucket, prepare tap water to replace the amount you removed in Step 3. Add liquid dechlorinator treatment to the new water based on its volume and the instructions on the product label and place a thermometer inside to check that this new water settles to the same temperature as the remaining tank water before pouring it into the aquarium. Use an aquarium testing and treatment kit to ensure you have the correct balance of ammonia, pH, and nitrates in the water, so your fish can adjust to life inside their newly-cleaned home.


How to Clean a Fish Tank in 6 Easy Steps


STEP 6: Wait several days, then clean or replace the filter.

Do not clean your filter at the same time you clean the rest of the tank, as the filter contains beneficial bacteria that may have been lost during the water change. Instead, wait a week before cleaning or replacing your filter medium, and then follow the manufacturer instructions for your particular model.

How To: Clean Silver Plate

Restore the spotless shine to dirty or tarnished silver plate pieces with a few common household cleaners.

How to Clean Silver Plate


Silver plate platters, tea sets, and flatware—typically made of copper, brass, or nickel and topped with a thin layer of pure silver or a silver alloy through the process of electrolysis—add a touch of class to any table (at a far more reasonable price than solid silver). Yet silver plate can lose its luster through regular use, accumulating dirt and tarnish, a dingy film formed when traces of sulfur in the air chemically react with the silver surface to produce silver sulfide.

Because the silver plate coating is delicate, it requires uniquely gentle cleaning (unlike its solid sibling, which can actually stand up to mild abrasives like toothpaste). Read on to learn how to clean silver plate safely and easily after everyday use and periods of tarnish, and you can enjoy it on a daily basis—not just when company comes.

RELATED: 8 Things You Never See on the Dining Table Anymore


How to Clean Silver Plate



Use this procedure for how to clean silver plate to get rid of dirt and grime that accumulates from regular use.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Plain water
Acidfree liquid dish soap
Soft cloth or sponge

Determine whether your silver-plated item is lacquered (sealed with a clear protective coating) or non-lacquered by pressing the tip of a fingernail into an inconspicuous location. If this leaves a small mark, it’s lacquered; if there’s no mark, it’s non-lacquered.

Insert a sink stopper into the drain of an empty sink. If cleaning a lacquered silver-plated item, run warm water from the tap until the sink is three-quarters of the way full. (Hot water can strip the lacquer.) If cleaning a non-lacquered item, run hot water from the tap.

Add to the water half teaspoon of acid-free liquid dish soap (check the ingredient list, avoiding soaps with “citric extracts” or citric acid, a common ingredient in citrus-scented dish soaps that can have a mild corrosive effect on silver plate). Using a gloved hand, stir the contents until the soap has completely dissolved.

Submerge the silver-plated item in the soap bath completely. Give the piece three to five minutes of dwell time to loosen dirt or grime, then remove it and place it on a clean surface.

While the item is still wet, gently rub its entire surface with a soft, dry cloth or dish sponge to slough off loosened dirt and grime. Steer clear of steel wool, polishing cloths, or other abrasive utensils, which can scratch silver plate.

Rinse the item under warm tap water to wash off lingering debris, then wipe it down with a soft, dry cloth. Now, don’t forget to polish to completely restore the metal’s luster! Jump to the last section to read how to shine your silver plate.


How to Clean Silver Plate



Use this technique for how to clean silver plate at least once a year or whenever you notice the dark, shadowy film of tarnish form.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– Glass bowl
– Aluminum foil
Plain water
– Two-quart saucepan
– Baking soda
– Tongs
– Soft cloth

Line the base and sides of a large glass bowl with a sheet of aluminum foil (either the shiny or dull side can be facing up), then set the silver-plated item inside the bowl directly on top of the foil.

Boil four cups of plain water in a saucepan, then move the saucepan of water from the heat to an empty sink. Add a quarter cup of baking soda to the saucepan while the water inside is still hot. The water will bubble as the baking soda dissolves.

If cleaning non-lacquered silver plate, immediately pour all of the hot water and baking soda solution over the silver-plated item in the foil-lined glass bowl. If the item is lacquered, wait until the water is warm to the touch before pouring it over the silver-plated item (hot water can strip the lacquer). The baking soda will immediately begin to chemically react with the silver sulfide. You should start to see the dark film diminish within one minute and, depending on the degree of tarnish, disappear entirely within five to 10 minutes.

Remove the silver-plated item from the bowl using tongs, then rinse it under warm tap water to wash away any lingering film. Wipe the item down with a soft, dry cloth, and polish according to the next section before storing.


How to Clean Silver Plate




Following either the regular or deep cleaning routines, use this procedure to restore sheen to silver plate.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– Silver polish (either paste- or cream-based)
Plain water
– Soft cloth
– Anti-tarnish silver storage bag
– Anti-tarnish fabric lining

After donning gloves, squeeze a dot of silver polish onto a soft, clean, dry cloth. Gently rub the paste- or cream-based polish (e.g., Wright’s Silver Polish Cleaner, available for $5 on Amazon) over the entire surface of the clean silver-plated item using circular motions.

Rinse the item under warm tap water to wash away excess polish, then dry the item immediately with a clean soft cloth; air-drying can lead to unsightly water marks.

Store your cleaned and polished silver-plated items in an anti-tarnish silver storage bag (e.g., the Hagerty Holloware Bag, available for $15 on Amazon) or a kitchen drawer covered with anti-tarnish fabric lining (e.g., Kenized Anti-Tarnish Silver Cloth, available for $12 on Amazon). These fabrics absorb sulfur present in the air, preventing the chemical reaction that causes tarnish.

How To: Defrost a Windshield

Get your windshield crystal clear and primed for your next wintertime drive with these proven defrosting techniques.

How To Defrost a Windshield


If you’ve ever parked your car outside during an onslaught of sleet or a frigid winter’s night, you’re familiar with the frustration of waking up to a windshield riddled with frost or under a thin sheet of ice. Your solution might be to let the engine run with the defroster on and wait for the problem to melt away—a prospect that wastes precious time and gas. Or you might opt to manually scrape the windshield, an effort-intensive chore outside in the cold. Fortunately, there are a few better, faster ways to attack the problem and get you safely back on the road. Below, we outline three foolproof techniques for how to defrost a windshield—as well as how to prevent further freezing episodes.

How To Defrost a Windshield


DEFROST A WINDSHIELD… with Lukewarm Water


MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Onegallon bucket
Plain water
Gloves (optional)

Fill a gallon-size bucket three-quarters of the way with lukewarm water. (Never use hot water; the temperature difference between it and the frozen windshield will cause the glass to expand, and in some cases, crack.) Tote the bucket to your car and gradually pour the water over the frozen windshield, starting from the top left or right corner and working horizontally across the glass. As the warm water trickles down, it will immediately thaw the ice in its path, turning it into an opaque slush. Remove this by either running your windshield wipers or wiping down the windshield with a gloved hand. Use any remaining warm water to thaw iced-over car windows—just be sure the windows are fully closed first!


How to Defrost a Windshield


DEFROST A WINDSHIELD… with Rubbing Alcohol


MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– 12-ounce plastic spray bottle
– Rubbing alcohol
Plain water
– Gloves or a credit card

That alcohol you rely on to clean minor scrapes makes an effective deicer because it has a much lower freezing point than water (minus 128 degrees Fahrenheit). When applied to an icy windshield, the alcohol itself doesn’t freeze; instead, its heat is transferred to the ice, increasing its temperature and melting it.

To de-ice, fill a dry, 12-ounce spray bottle with four ounces of room-temperature water and eight ounces of rubbing alcohol, then replace the spray head and invert the bottle a few times to mix. Spray over your windshield to completely coat the glass, then let the solution dwell for one minute, allowing the alcohol to seep into and soften the ice. Wipe frost away with a gloved hand, or scrape with a plastic credit card. When your windshield is clean and clear, store the spray bottle in the glove box or trunk so you can tackle future freeze-ups away from home. Rubbing alcohol’s ultra-low freezing point means there’s virtually no risk of your deicer freezing on you.


How to Defrost a Windshield


DEFROST A WINDSHIELD…with Homemade Heat Packs


MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– Old socks or mittens (2)
– Uncooked rice

Prefer to de-ice your windshield from the warm and toasty confines of your car? Fill two old socks or mittens with uncooked rice, then zap the rice-filled socks in the microwave for 30 seconds. While sitting in your car, grab one sock in each hand and gently glide them over the entire interior surface of the windshield glass, taking care not to position the heated sock over any one spot for more than 10 seconds (this can increase the risk of the glass cracking). The heat from the rice will transfer to the glass and start to melt the windshield ice. When the frost has melted or sufficiently softened, run your windshield wipers to clear off the slush.


How to Keep a Windshield from Frosting Up

There are a few ways outsmart ice and frost so they won’t build up on your windshield before your next drive:

• Whenever possible during the cold season, park in a garage with all of your car windows closed.

• If you don’t have indoor parking, cover your car with a tarp or place a beach towel or a few rubber mats over the windshield, using your wipers as clips to secure the cover in place. The will act as a shield, accumulating frost and ice while the glass below remains clean and clear.

• Place an old stocking or knee-high sock over each of your windshield wiper blades to keep dew and snow from reaching them; this will keep the blades from freezing in place on the glass.

How To: Remove Rust from Chrome

Though a chrome finish goes a long way to protect metal against corrosion, cracks can enable rusting. Bust rust fast with any of these four methods.

How to Remove Rust from Chrome


Manufacturers add chrome plating to their products to give them a mirror-like finish that says, “I’m high-class.” Aside from its good looks, chrome also protects the underlying metal from corrosion. That’s why you find chrome on faucets, appliances, tools, outdoor power equipment, and your car. But chrome can fail if it’s poorly applied, too thin, or scratched from repeated cleaning with abrasive cleansers. Once chrome cracks, peels, or develops pinholes, it loses those protective abilities, and you wind up with rust and corrosion “blooms” that rise to the surface, resulting in orange or green/blue stains. Here are four different ways to clean rust from chrome and slow down future occurrences.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Commercial soap scum cleaner
Degreasing dish soap
Paper towels
Rubber gloves
Protective eyewear
Chrome polish/cleaner
 Rust penetrant
Brass wool
#0000 steel wool
Lemon or lime juice
Aluminum foil
Degreasing spray cleaner
Car wax

But first, a caution: All that glistens isn’t chrome.

High-quality chrome plating is expensive. To cut costs, some manufacturers use cheaper chrome paint that mimics the look of the real deal. The methods described below involving the use of brass wool, #0000 steel wool, and aluminum foil will all scratch paint, expose more of the metal to air, and make the corrosion even worse. If you’re not sure whether you’ve got real chrome of chrome paint, try the foil, brass or steel wool in an inconspicuous spot first to see if it scratches the finish. If it does, choose either the mild-acid or rust penetrant rust remover method and use a rag.

How to Remove Rust from Chrome


STEP 1: Clean the chrome.

For bath and kitchen fixtures, start by removing all traces of soap scum using a soap scum cleaner. For other chromed surfaces that may not have remnants of soap, a degreasing cleaner like dish soap will work just fine to remove all surface dirt. Wipe with a clean rag or paper towel.

STEP 2: Select your rust-busting weapon.

A number of products can get the job done, so choose yours based on the amount of money and energy you’d prefer to invest in this do-it-yourself job.

Chrome or metal polish: While this commercial product tends to cost more ($10 to $15 per container), it provides an all-in-one approach that takes hardly any time at all. Apply this cream, and you’re treating chrome with a cleaning solvent, a corrosion inhibitor, and a sealing agent to fill pinholes and pores and slow down future corrosion in one go.

• Rust penetrant and either brass wool or #0000 steel wool: For about $5 to $8 per can, rust-penetrating products like WD-40 Specialist Rust Release Penetrant Spray or PB B’laster Catalyst penetrate deep into cracks and crevices and dissolve rust. Plus, the lubricant reduces the scrubbing effort of your metal wool. (If you choose steel, be careful not to go with a coarser grade than #0000; others may scratch chrome.)

Homemade mild acid cleaners: Mild household acids can get the job done and save you money and a trip to the store, but not energy—be prepared to put more elbow grease into the project. Choose lemon or lime juice, cola (which contains carbonic acid, citric acid, and phosphoric acid), or vinegar; household acids stronger than these might etch the metal. When the rust is gone, you still have to neutralize the acid, dry, and seal with a wax.

Aluminum foil and water: This soft metal removes rust through a chemical reaction, scrubs without scratching, and leaves a protective aluminum ion layer that slows rust.

STEP 3: Remove the rust.

Pull on your rubber gloves and protective eyewear. Then, proceed with a method for how to remove rust from chrome that corresponds with the rust-removing helper you could get your hands on.

• If using a commercial chrome/metal polish, apply it with a rag or sponge, and rub until the rust is gone. Then wipe with a clean rag and you’re done.

• If using rust penetrant, apply the product to the affected area of your chrome according to manufacturer’s instructions. Often, this involves letting it saturate the rust for several minutes, scouring it away using bronze wool or #0000 steel wool, and repeating. Follow the next step to seal.

• If using a homemade rust remover, apply a mild acid of your choice—lemon or lime juice, cola, or vinegar—and let it soak for about five minutes before scrubbing with a sponge. Wipe dry. Repeat until all the rust is gone. Neutralize mild acid solutions with a stream of water and wipe dry. Then seal according to instructions in Step 4.

• If using aluminum foil, tear the pantry supply into small strips and wad into scrubbing pads. Dip the balled up aluminum in water and scrub the chrome, discarding each pad as it loses effectiveness. Flush with water and wipe dry with a clean cloth before sealing.

STEP 4: Seal the chrome to prevent future rust spots.

Unless you’re using a commercial chrome polish with sealer built-in, apply a high-quality car wax to the chrome. (A synthetic polymer car wax lasts longer than ordinary carnauba wax.) The wax fills in remaining cracks and pores to keep moisture out and slow down future rust outbreaks.

How To: Caulk Baseboards

It’s easy to seal up small cracks between your walls and baseboards with the right materials and a little prep work.

How to Caulk Baseboards


Prepping to paint your walls a new shade? While you may understand how essential priming is when it comes to hiding the imperfections in the wall, an oft-forgotten step of equal importance is caulking the baseboard. Caulk is basically a do-it-yourselfer’s best friend, the way it closes little cracks in wood and drywall alike created by uneven walls and misjudged cuts. In addition to filling gaps and making the joinery look flawless, this sealant serves as an important barrier to keep both critters and drafts out of spaces where they shouldn’t be. Plus, caulk fills in the dust-collecting crevices that make baseboards easier to clean.

Once you get the hang of using the tool, the process for how to caulk baseboards couldn’t be any simpler. We’ve broken it down into six easy steps, from choosing the proper caulk at the home center to getting a perfectly smooth finish.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Latex caulk
Putty knife
5in1 tool (optional)
Wire brush (optional)
Vacuum with attachments
Liquid caulk remover (optional)
Bleach (optional)
Microfiber cloth
Painter’s tape
Caulking gun
Utility knife
Plastic glove
Ice (optional)

STEP 1: Choose the right caulk.

There’s a number of types of caulk available, each tailored to the type of job you’re doing. While bathrooms or kitchens—the “splash zones” of the home—may require a waterproof caulk like silicone around the baseboards, most molding in the house benefits from latex caulks (sometimes referred to as “acrylic latex” or “painter’s caulk”). Latex caulk dries quickly, expands slightly to fill cracks better, exists in a variety of colors, and even comes in a paintable formula. It’s safe to say that, as long as you finish it smoothly according to these next steps, you won’t know where your woodwork stops and the caulk begins.

STEP 2: Prep the baseboards with painter’s tape.

If there’s any existing caulk, remove as much of it as possible; a putty knife, 5-in-1 tool, or wire brush can help dislodge the old stuff. Run a vacuum attachment over the area to get the last of the dust, then finish by wiping it down with vinegar, liquid caulk remover, or bleach and let the area completely dry. Any crumbs of caulk or dust could compromise the seal.

For best results, take the time to apply painters tape to the area above and below the line you want to caulk to help guide a perfectly straight, clean bead.

How to Caulk Baseboards


STEP 3: Load the caulk gun.

Most types of caulk either come in a squeezable tube or, more commonly, a cartridge that requires a caulk gun. If you purchase the latter, cut the nozzle of the tube at a 45-degree angle to the desired bead size (usually 1/8- to 1/4-inch from the tip is best for baseboards, depending on how small or large the gap you’re filling is) using a utility knife, then pierce the inner seal. Insert the cartridge into the caulk gun following the manufacturer’s instructions.

STEP 4: Apply the caulk.

Hold the caulk gun at a 45-degree angle and do a few practice runs on a piece of paper first to get a feel for how much pressure to apply. You’ll find you have to gently and repeatedly squeeze the trigger in order to dispense the caulk. Move at a steady pace, so you don’t end up with beads of caulk that are too thin or too thick. When you’ve got the hang of it, move on to the baseboards and fill the space between the lines of tape.

STEP 5: Smooth the bead before it dries.

When you’ve finished the area you’re working on, flatten the bumps in the caulk for a more professional appearance. You can use a gloved finger dipped in a bit of water or an ice cube to create an even, smooth line.

STEP 6: Peel back the painter’s tape.

Peel off the tape right away before the caulk dries (so that it doesn’t get stuck behind the caulk or rip the new bead off with it). Then let the caulking completely dry according to the manufacturer’s recommendations before painting it to match the baseboards, if necessary.

This DIY Christmas Tree Stand Makes Your Fake Fir Look Real (and Taller!)

An exposed tree base is a dead giveaway that your fir is fake. Upgrade yours with a wooden stand that hides its metal legs and even makes your tree appear taller!

How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

You’ve adorned every limb with baubles, tinsel, and ribbon, but what’s a fully decorated tree if its base remains bare? This year, instead of leaving it exposed or simply draping a blanket around it on the floor, build the perfect finishing touch for your fake tree: a DIY Christmas tree stand. This boxy wooden base will elevate your tree both figuratively and literally by raising it 7-½ inches off the floor—perfect for showcasing your decorations and providing plenty of room for Christmas presents.


How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
1×3 lumber (40 feet)
2×3 lumber (6 feet)
Carpenter’s square
Wood glue
1inch nails
Palm sander
60 and 120grit sandpaper
¾inch corner molding (or larger)
2inch metal brackets (4)
Cordless drill
1½inch screws
 6mm plywood
Jigsaw (optional)


How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Measure the diameter of your metal tree stand before diving right in. These instructions build a wooden box with a high bottom to fit stands that are 17 inches across, but it can be adjusted to accommodate the wider ones meant for extremely large trees.

Start with the box sides. Cut your 1x3s (which will actually measure to be ¾ inches by 2-½ inches) into 20 slats that are each 19 inches long; you should be able to get four from each length. Then, cut your 2×3 lumber (which measure to be 1-½ inches by 2-½ inches) into four 12-½”-long pieces to reinforce the corners of the box.

To assemble the first side of the box, place two 2x3s next to one another, positioned so that their 2-½-inch side faces up and they have about 14 inches between them. Lay five 1x3s across the top of both and attach them with wood glue and 1-inch nails (two in each end). Use a square as needed to help keep your DIY Christmas tree stand’s lines perfectly straight. Repeat this process to create a second identical box side.


How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Once the glue is dry, stand both sides vertically (with the 2×3 ends in the air) so that they face each other 14-½ inches apart. Check again that your sides are square to one another, and fasten five lumber pieces across the two sides using wood glue and nails.

Repeat on the other open side.


How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Sand the outside of the box, especially on the edges. You can start with a 60-grit sandpaper and finish with a 120-grit for a nice smooth finish.


How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Cut corner molding (any size larger than ¾-inch by ¾-inch works well here) into four pieces that are all 12-½ inches long. Glue those L-shaped onto the outside of each corner on the DIY Christmas tree stand to hide the nails and the boards’ exposed edges.


How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Measure five inches down from the top of the box and mark on each corner 2×3. Then, secure 2-inch metal brackets at each mark by boring 1-½-inch screws directly into the corners of the DIY Christmas tree stand. Those four brackets will hold the plywood board (see Step 6), which supports the weight of the tree.


How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Cut a 19-inch by 17-½-inch rectangle from the 6mm plywood board. (It’s easier to do with a jigsaw, but it totally works with a handsaw, too.)

Then, you’ll need to make notches in the corners so that it can lower into the box, between the 1×3 edges and around the 2x3s. The easiest way to do this is to lift the entire box and place it on top of the plywood board, positioned just so that only the plywood’s corners are covered. Trace around the 2x3s at the corners, then lift the box away so that you can cut them out.

Sand the board’s edges and any raised grain.


How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Slide the board with notched edges into the top of the DIY Christmas tree stand. Since we’ve sized it for a snug fit, you can pretty much count on it not moving around too much. Just apply a little construction adhesive to the tops of the brackets to hold the plywood in place.


How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Stain or paint your DIY Christmas tree stand. We chose a very light coat for ours, which is versatile enough to work with a Scandinavian white-and-wood wintry theme one year and buffalo check and country Christmas decorations the next.

After the finish has dried following the manufacturer’s recommendations, apply a coat of varnish on top to help it last for many holidays to come.


How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Place the feet of your artificial tree inside the top of this DIY Christmas tree stand, cover with batting to look like snow or burlap, and you’re all set to decorate. Merry Christmas!


How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Looking for fresh ideas for how to trim the tree? Check out these 25 super-simple DIY ornaments that you can knock out before the big day.


How to Make a DIY Christmas Tree Stand

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: Clean Mattress Stains

Be good to your bed by banishing smelly, unsightly messes with a few household staples and these smart techniques.

How to Get Rid of Mattress Stains


A good mattress is a big-ticket purchase, but stains—from bodily fluids to breakfast-in-bed accidents—are often inevitable. What’s more, in most cases a visible stain will void the warranty on your mattress. So, protect your investment by making regular cleaning and stain removal part of your housecleaning routine. It’s easy to do, involving everyday ingredients that you no doubt already have hiding in your cleaning caddy. Here, we’ve laid out the essential formulas for how to clean mattress stains so that you can quickly banish any of the most common mattress mishaps (and rest easy once more).

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Vacuum with upholstery attachment
Spray bottle
Dishwashing liquid
Hydrogen peroxide (3%)
Baking soda
Laundry detergent
Soft scrub brush or old toothbrush
Hand towel and/or sponge
Absorbent towel

Prep the mattress for stain removal by stripping all bedding and sheets. Give it a thorough vacuuming with the upholstery attachment and, as a “while you’re at it” measure, employ the crevice tool around all the piping, where dust and hair collect. Dust and hair may not be related to the stain you intend to treat, but removing them keeps down the dust mite population, which is especially important to restful sleep if you’re an allergy sufferer.

How to clean mattress stains will depend on the type of stains themselves. Target each stain with the appropriate cleaning technique.

How to Get Rid of Mattress Stains


• Urine, sweat, and vomit: These bodily fluids are the most likely culprits for mattress messes. Unfortunately, you can’t soak a mattress as you would a piece of clothing; rather, you must use liquid sparingly, with a spray bottle, in order to avoid turning its slow-drying cushiness into the ideal damp conditions for mold and mildew growth (yuck!). First, gently mist the stained area with plain water until just slightly damp. Then mix one cup of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide with three tablespoons of baking soda and a few drops of dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle. Mist that solution over the stain, and gently brush with a soft scrub brush or old toothbrush until the stain is gone. Finally, mist the cleaned area with fresh water and blot with an absorbent towel.

• Blood: Banish blood with the technique above, making sure that the water and cleaning solution are both cold (hot will set the stain in for good!). Put the hydrogen peroxide-baking soda solution in the fridge for an hour or so after mixing to bring the temperature down. You’ll likely need to use extra brushing action on blood stains and may need to repeat the procedure more than once. Blot up all the excess liquid with a clean, absorbent towel.

• Food and drink stains: For coffee, red wine, or other food and beverage bloopers, mix one part laundry detergent, one part vinegar, and 10 parts water in a spray bottle. Mist the stain and agitate with a soft scrub brush or toothbrush. Give the solution 10 to 15 minutes of dwell time. Then blot with a wet hand towel or sponge to remove the stain and the cleaning solution. Rinse the towel/sponge and continue blotting as necessary. Then blot with a dry absorbent towel to remove any excess liquid.

To deodorize the mattress, sprinkle the cleaned area generously with baking soda. This will help to draw out unpleasant odors while absorbing any remaining moisture.

Allow the mattress to sit for up to 24 hours, if possible, so it can dry completely (plan to sack out on the sofa or another bedroom that night). Or if time is of the essence, you can use a fan or a hairdryer on the cool setting to speed things up.

Once the mattress is completely dry, vacuum up the baking soda and make the bed. You’ll rest well knowing that your mattress is stain-free and daisy fresh!


Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from
There’s no way around it: Keeping the house clean demands your time, your energy, and even some of your money. Fortunately, this arsenal of cleaning tips can help you finish the housekeeping more quickly—and with fewer commercially sold products.