Tools & Workshop - 3/42 - Bob Vila

Category: Tools & Workshop

3 Tips for Smarter Security in the Digital Age

As more and more of our lives are lived online—both on the Web and through smarter technology throughout the home—our personal information has become more vulnerable to thieves. Help protect your identity by following these three safety measures.

Smarter Home Security for Connected Households


Once upon a time, the only type of theft a person had to worry about was the old-fashioned kind, in which someone might physically break into a house and steal material possessions that aren’t theirs to take. But as life has become increasingly dependent on the digital realm, and every company, service, and product pushes you to connect via a new app, threats of identity theft and online fraud have risen exponentially, changing the ways in which we keep our lives and resources safer. You might have a state of the art home security system, but your identity needs protection, too. Luckily, although thieves today may be more tech-savvy than ever before, so are the tools we can use to help protect our assets. Read on to learn three key tips for being smart about security in a digitally insecure age.

1. Keep your machines clean.
A 2015 survey conducted by the National Cyber Security Alliance and ESET, an antivirus software developer, reports that one in five Americans already uses a mobile device to access at least one device in the home—say, a thermostat, cable box, or lighting system—remotely. Moreover, nearly every household these days is connected to the Internet, probably through its own Wi-Fi network. We’ve entered the age of the Internet of Things, when a growing network of physical objects—from phones and watches to home security systems and cars—is embedded with technology that enables these objects to connect and exchange data with one another and with us. So, it’s important to take control of that data and the things that collect it.

Stronger Home Security for Smart Homes


If you’re using devices and apps to control your home’s temperature, security, lighting, or television recordings, start by programming those apps with strong passwords, then keep your login information (both usernames and passwords) close to the vest and your router secure at all times.

It’s also crucial to keep your software up to date. “Updating the software, apps, and operating systems you use in a timely manner will help ensure that the latest security issues will have been addressed,” says Paige Hanson, chief of identity education at LifeLock, a leading identity theft protection company. In other words, the fact that you bought or downloaded something and gave it a password isn’t enough on its own; indeed, the more technology you use, the more vulnerable you are. By making sure you’re not falling behind the times, you can see that you aren’t leaving yourself open to security breaches. Hackers work around the clock to steal your information, so diligence is key.

2. Pay attention to what you’re sharing (and who you’re sharing it with).
In this era of social media, online banking, and constant connectivity, it’s still easy to forget the full reach of the Internet. When you post a photo to Facebook, you may think you’re simply sharing it with a few dozen or hundred acquaintances, but you may in fact be sharing it with anyone and everyone who happens to click on your profile—identity thieves included. The same goes for listing your phone number, home address, and other sensitive information on networking sites that feel personal but are often very public. Privacy settings on social media channels are a constantly moving target, so it’s essential to check all your profiles on a regular basis to ensure that your audience is as limited as you’d like it to be, and that if something changes, you’re sharing only information you’re comfortable having out there. Set a monthly (or even more frequent) calendar appointment with yourself to run such a quick security check.

Pay particular attention to your smart devices, many of which collect more data than you may realize. Take time to read up on each device and understand how your information is being stored and used. Can it be sold to third parties? What happens if you decide to discontinue its use? Knowledge is power when you’re deciding how and where to allow your data to be shared, so do your homework by reading the fine print and diving into user reviews before committing to a new technology that might not have your best interests in mind.

3. Invest in an identity theft prevention system.
If you really want to ensure that your assets—from your name and social security number to the very last penny on your credit card balance—have protection, it may be wise to explore subscribing to an identity theft protection service like LifeLock. While no one can prevent identity theft or monitor all transactions at all businesses, LifeLock provides a wide range of services, from proactive identity alerts and threat detection to remediation services. The company leverages an intricate theft prevention system based on unique data, science, and patented technology to offer protection that goes beyond the scope of simpler services like basic credit monitoring.

“At the core, our products help monitor identity-related incidents, alert members to suspicious activity that is detected within our network, and address ID theft-related issues on behalf of victims,” Hanson says. “In the event that identity theft occurs, LifeLock provides an award-winning member service team,” she continues, including any necessary lawyers, investigators, and accountants, all funded up to $1 million as part of the company’s $1 Million Service Guarantee. And, depending on your level of membership, you can replace anywhere from $25,000 to $1 million in stolen funds unable to be recovered.

Investing in any level of the services offered by LifeLock sooner rather than later is a smart move, especially if you plan to use more technological devices in your home—and, thus, share more of your personal information—in the future. As smart homes become the norm rather than the exception, it’s wise to set a system in place that captures and monitors everything you add, the moment you add it, from here on out.

The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” certainly applies here. Rather than disease agents you’re trying to keep at bay, however, we’re talking about equipping yourself against high-tech thieves who are determined to take what you’ve earned. By entrusting an expert to stay two steps ahead of them on your behalf, you’re free to devote your time and energy to the people and activities you enjoy—all the while confident that your home’s technology, your assets, and your identity are being diligently protected.


This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of LifeLock. The opinions and text are all mine.

How To: Use a Screw Extractor

Have you ever just been zipping through a project only to run up against a broken screw or stripped screw head? No problem! Pick up a screw extractor, and you'll be picking up right where you left off in no time.

How to Use a Screw Extractor


At some point in the never-ending list of do-it-yourself projects, nearly every handy homeowner encounters a stripped screw—and this small obstacle can turn even the most straightforward home improvement project into a drawn-out affair. Stripped screws commonly occur when you’re dealing with worn or weathered fasteners, such as those found on door hinges, cabinet hinges, and door strike plates. And, once you’ve managed to damage or warp a screw head, it’s almost impossible to get that screw out with a common Phillips-head or flat-blade (slotted) screwdriver. Even worse, the odds of removing the screw decrease each time the screwdriver slips in the slots. Enter a seasoned DIYer’s go-to tool: a screw extractor.

While the specific design of this inexpensive implement varies, it most commonly takes the form of a tapered drill bit with a reversed thread. When you put it to use, the extractor penetrates a hole punched or drilled in the top of the screw and its reversed threads grab hold so that the screw can be twisted out. A selection of screw extractors can be found in most hardware stores—whether brick and mortar or online—available in many different sizes to accommodate a wide assortment of screw sizes. Once you’ve snagged one as an immediate fix (and future repair tool), read on for the guidelines on how to use a screw extractor and save the day.

– Screw extractor
– Safety glasses
– Center punch
– Hammer
– Drill bits
– Variable-speed reversible drill
– Thread cutting oil
– Penetrating oil (optional)
– Wrench

Using a screw extractor entails drilling, striking, and cutting screws, all of which can potentially send small shards of metal flying. To prevent eye injury, wear safety glasses.

How to Use a Screw Extractor


Align the center punch with the center of the stripped or broken screw, and lightly strike it with a hammer. You want to create a small indentation in the center of the screw to help guide the drill bit.

Select a drill bit that is smaller in diameter than the screw or fastener, and secure it to the power drill. Apply a small drop of thread cutting oil to the head of the broken screw for easier drilling. If the stripped screw is rusted or affixed to metal, place a small drop of penetrating oil on the threads to help loosen its grip.

Align the drill bit with the punched spot on the screw head. Drill slowly and carefully, making sure to keep the drill and bit aligned straight with the screw. Drill about 1/8 to 1/4 inch into the screw head; the depth will depend on the size of the screw extractor you’re using.

Finally, insert the tip of your handy screw extractor into the bored hole. How to use a screw extractor will depend on the particular model you’ve chosen, but you’ll likely employ either a wrench or drill to turn the tool counterclockwise. As you turn the screw extractor, its threads will draw it in until it bites into the hole. Once you feel the extractor take hold, continue turning counterclockwise and pull to completely remove the stripped or broken screw.

Bob Vila Radio: Where to Get Shipping Pallets

You can always score scrap wood at the local lumber yard. But if you're pinching pennies or looking for a new challenge, why not salvage boards from the shipping pallets you can often get for free—if you know where to look, that is.

Shipping pallets have all sorts of uses for do-it-yourselfers, but versatility isn’t their only virtue. Additionally, pallets boast tough-to-beat affordability. In fact, if you know where to get pallets, it’s often possible to stock up for free.

Where to Get Pallets


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Listen to BOB VILA ON WHERE TO GET PALLETS or read below:

Small businesses like nurseries, hardware stores, and furniture retailers—they all commonly stack pallets out back. That’s especially true in the case of a newly opened location. Also, check the local construction sites. But of course, before removing pallets from a business address, it’s only prudent to check with an employee first.

One caution: Pallets are sometimes treated with toxic wood preservatives to deter the spread of plant diseases and insects. To ensure your pallet project doesn’t make you sick, look for the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) logo, which certifies that the pallet has been treated in a safe, non-toxic manner.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

The Dos and Don’ts of Sharpening a Chainsaw

The crucial tool of woodcutters just won’t cut it when it gets dull. Learn the know-how you need to hone it here.

Sharpening a Chainsaw - Do's and Don'ts


Whether you’re a timber worker or you’re just interested in cutting your own firewood, it’s vital to maintain a professional attitude towards the use and maintenance of your chainsaw. As dozens of cutter teeth chew through dense wood, they’re bound to become dull, reducing the tool’s effectiveness and making it more physically demanding for you to control. Regular sharpening, accomplished by filing, will keep your chainsaw purring like a very rugged kitten. Before you attempt the task, read on for the ways and means of proper chainsaw sharpening.

Sharpening a Chainsaw - Do's and Don'ts

DO Study the Sawchain

Familiarize yourself with the parts of the sawchain by studying the detailed diagrams in your owner’s manual. In addition to links and straps you’ll see numerous cutters, the focus of the sharpening process. Each cutter has two sharp areas, one on the edge of the top plate and the other on an outside plate where it intersects the top plate. In the middle of the cutter is a notch, known as a “gullet,” and on the other end is a hook-like protrusion. The hook, sometimes called a “raker,” is a depth gauge that determines how much of a bite the cutters take out of the wood when the saw is operating. Sharpening a chainsaw’s cutters and filing the depth gauges allows for optimal cutting. Keep in mind that the shape and size of chainsaw cutters vary slightly from model to model but all are honed in the same manner.


DON’T Wait for Dust

The old rule was to sharpen a chainsaw when it produced more wood dust than wood chips while in operation. The smarter move is to sharpen the cutters before that point. If you adopt a routine of sharpening every second or third time you fill the chainsaw with fuel, the sharpening process will be minimal and you’ll never have a dull sawchain.


DO Stabilize Your Chainsaw

Hold the chainsaw steady on a mounted vice while honing the cutters. If you’re going to be in the woods all day, consider a tailgate-mounted vice that will allow you to stabilize the saw to sharpen on-site with ease.


Sharpening a Chainsaw - Do's and Don'ts


DON’T Forget Protective Wear

The sawchain, with its dozens of sharp cutters, can scratch or cut bare skin, so put on heavy-duty work gloves, preferably leather, before you start. You’ll also need a good pair of safety goggles to protect your eyes from shavings.


DO Use the Correct File Diameter

A round file is most commonly used to sharpen sawchain cutters, and the standard diameter of most files used for this purpose range from 4mm to 6mm. But not all sawchains are the same size. Check your owner’s manual for the optimal file diameter to sharpen your sawchain.


DON’T Leave Your File Behind

A lot of timber cutting is done away from home, so remember to bring your sharpening tools with you. Otherwise, you’ll be heading back before you’ve filled your pickup bed with firewood.


DO File in One Direction

To get the sharpest cutting edge, file from the inside edge of the cutter, toward the outside edge. Sawchains feature both right and left cutters, alternating from one side of the sawchain to the other. To file the individual cutters, position yourself on one side of the saw bar and file the cutters on the opposite side of the sawchain. For instance, if you’re standing on the left side of the saw bar, you’ll file the cutters on the right side of the sawchain. When you finish with one side, move to other side of the saw bar and file the remaining cutters.


DON’T Pull the File–Push It

A round file sharpens in one direction only—on the stroke away from you. To sharpen the cutting corner (the spot on a cutter where the sharp top and side plates intersect), hold the file horizontally and follow the factory angle of the cutting corner as you lightly but firmly push the file. Then lift the file up to return to the starting position and push it again. Use the same number of filing strokes, and the same degree of pressure, to file every cutter. It may take as few as two strokes per cutter to hone the cutting corner, but it could take more if the cutters are very dull.


DO Use a Chainsaw Sharpening Guide

If you’re not confident filing the factory cutter angles, use a sharpening guide. These inexpensive tools resemble rulers and feature a bracket on the bottom that holds a round file. Handheld models go for under $10, but if you’d like more help, opt for a guide that clamps securely on the chain bar. The guides come with pre-marked lines that allow you to align the file at the correct sharpening angle, usually around 30- or 35-degrees. Check your owner’s manual for the correct filing angle for your sawchain.


DON’T Forget the Depth Gauges

Depth gauges also require filing, though not as frequently as the cutters. Over time, both sawing and filing take a toll on the cutters, wearing them down until the depth gauges (which stick up in front on each cutter) are too high. This can make sawing ineffective, because the depth guides actually block the cutters. You can file freehand, straight across, with a flat file, or purchase a depth gauge guide that fits between the cutters and features an opening that lets you file the top of the depth gauges. The top of the depth gauges should be just a hair—0.025-inches—below the top of the cutter’s cutting corner.


Sharpening a Chainsaw - Do's and Don'ts


Cool Tools: The Gentler Alternative to a Pry Bar

Neatly remove door casing, baseboard, chair-rail molding, and more—without damaging walls in the process.

Trim Puller - The Better Pry Bar Alternative


Removing trim is one of the peskiest aspects of a deconstruction job. Rotating through and manipulating various clunky, generic implements—crowbar, pry bar, chisel—is a total time suck that inevitably leaves you with damaged walls and trashed trim. You end up having to repair surfaces, and you can forget about reinstalling or repurposing that old molding that you just ruined. To the rescue: Zenith Industries’ new Trim Puller, which is engineered to easily and efficiently take off baseboard, chair rail, door casing, decorative trim—you name it—in a way that protects walls and preserves molding. And while you’ll love how it tackles trim, you’ll also discover plenty of other uses for this tough, sturdy beauty. So stop wasting time and money—read on to learn why the Trim Puller is your new go-to demo and restoration hand tool.

Zenith Industries' Trim Puller


Smart, Specific Design
With the Trim Puller, there’s no more sweating over multipurpose tools that perform poorly. Its business end is four inches of heat-treated carbon steel that’s not just wider but also larger and flatter than any crowbar or pry bar, providing three points of contact instead of just one. Its ground bevel edge drives cleanly between the trim and the wall, while an integrated center wedge cleanly separates the trim from the wall, leaving both in good shape.

Quick and Comfortable
The Trim Puller makes short work of an otherwise tiresome, potentially painful and costly chore. Simply line it up along the seam where the trim meets the wall and hit the top with a hammer or mallet, creating a gap as the wedge drives in between the two, automatically beginning to separate the trim from the wall. Working at intervals (leveraging from side to side if necessary), gently separate the molding from the surface. Not only do you waste zero time switching between tools as you go, but thanks to the tool’s wide contact area and greater leveraging ability, it takes just a few swings of the hammer for the trim to pop off intact. Trim Puller also has excellent “feel”—solid but not too heavy—and its comfort-grip, impact-absorbing EPDM handle means you’ll barely feel the vibration of your hammer blows. The task goes so smoothly, your hands and knees won’t know you’re doing demo!

Trim Is Just the Beginning!
The more remodeling you do, the more indispensable you’ll find the Trim Puller. For instance, its leveraging abilities make it highly effective for taking off siding and flooring, knocking off ceramic tiles, and lifting carpet tack strip and edging. You can rely on it to detach decorative panels from doors or trim around windows without risk of damage, and remove countertops whether they’ve been nailed or glued in place. Plus, thanks to its center wedge, the Trim Puller can even be used as a temporary shim when leveling base cabinets for installation.

A tool tailored to make one of your least-favorite demo duties easier, that has multiple uses besides? Now that’s a remodeling must-have.

Purchase a Trim Puller from Zenith Industries; $29.95, shipping included.

This post has been brought to you by Zenith Industries. Its facts and opinions are those of

Cool Tools: Get a Mess-Free Bead of Caulk Every Time

Has worn-out caulk around the tile, tub, or sink left you—and your home—feeling exposed? Remove and reapply caulk with ease using this dynamic duo from Hyde Tools!

How to Remove and Apply Caulk Around a Sink


Whether you’re filling cracks along the kitchen sink or closing up gaps around a drafty window frame, you can count on caulk to seal the deal. But despite its prowess in shutting out air- and waterborne intruders, such as dust, mold, and mildew, the filler is also notoriously difficult to remove without leaving behind unsightly residue, and apply without creating messy lines. The next time you find yourself in this sticky situation, don’t waste time with those traditional caulk scrapers and finishing tools that can damage the underlying surface or leave you with less-than-perfect results. There is an easier way to achieve a clean finish, and it’ll set you back just 5 bucks. We’re talking about the Caulk-Away™ and Caulk-Rite™ tools from HYDE, sold together in one convenient package.

How to Remove and Apply Caulk with HYDE Caulk Away and Caulk Rite


Easy, Damage-Free Caulk Removal
One of the most important tenets of applying caulk is that new caulk does not adhere well to old caulk. This means it’s an absolute must to completely strip surfaces of old sealant before applying fresh caulk. In the past, you may have risked harming your tile, window frame, or countertop by chipping away at the old bead with traditional metal caulk scrapers, or filled your home with fumes from chemical caulk removers. The gentle, all-plastic Caulk-Away™ tool lets handy homeowners breathe easy. They can forgo chemical removers, instead accomplishing the job with a razor-sharp tool that will leave sensitive surfaces—even tile, marble, or glass—unscathed while still removing silicone, latex, or acrylic caulk with ease.

Simply position the scraping hook of the Caulk-Away™ tool against the old caulk, and loosen it using a push-pull motion. Then, flip the tool around so that the central blade slips underneath the bead of caulk and cleanly lift off the sealant—no solvent required. The flexible wings flanking the blade let the tool act as a putty knife, allowing you to get at even hard-to-reach corners or grooves around tiles, fixtures, plumbing, and pipes as well as the caulking around showers, tubs, sinks, windows, doors, and other fixtures—both indoors and out.

Fast, Professional-Quality Application
With your tub—and your hands—free of caulk and no worse for wear, you can recaulk surfaces in a jiffy too. First, apply silicone, latex, or acrylic caulk to the surface via a caulking gun or squeeze tube, just as you usually do, but then swap your old ways of smoothing with a spoon (or, even messier, your finger!) for a more precise method. The second component of this caulking kit, the Caulk-Rite™ application tool, rapidly creates an air- and watertight seal for you, without marring or contaminating the uncured caulk.

Like its counterpart and unlike its metal-tipped competitors, the plastic Caulk-Rite™’ applicator won’t scrape the enamel from surrounding surfaces. By gently gliding the tip over the fresh bead, you’ll achieve a perfectly distributed bead of caulk without residue, edge marks, or splitting, and you won’t end up wasting time redoing your work. When you’ve wrapped up your professional-looking job, go ahead and clean up, free from worries that your freshly applied caulk will split or come loose—just be sure not to wash up in a sink you’ve just caulked until the sealant has cured!

Purchase the Caulk-Away™ and Caulk-Rite™ Combo Pack from HYDE at Home Depot, $4.97

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

The Secret to Sanding Almost Anything—Without All the Dust

One game-changing innovation from Hyde Tools and a few sanding techniques are all you need to give your walls and wood surfaces a smooth finish—without the worry of a dusty aftermath.

Dust Free Sanding


If you’ve ever finished drywall, you know that the sanding process releases lots of dust. Only moments after starting, your entire work space fills with a cloud so thick that you can barely see the wall on the other side of the room. Sanding wood cabinets or furniture before applying a fresh coat of paint or varnish may not create the same visibility issues, but the mess is similar. Moreover, any of these surfaces can release particulates that would be harmful if ingested—respiratory irritants in drywall joint compound, toxic chemicals found in wood finishes, and even contaminants like sap, mold, and fungus spores, depending on the condition of the wood. (The things we endure for a professionally smooth finish!) Whether you’re working on drywall or wood furniture, the good news is that with the following techniques and a secret weapon from Hyde Tools in your arsenal, you can reduce airborne sanding dust by up to 95 percent, making the job easier on you and your health.

– Goggles
– Dust mask
– Plastic sheeting
– Drop cloth
– Wide painter’s tape
HYDE Dust-Free Sponge Sander
– Sanding sponges in various grits
– Wet/dry vacuum
– Ladder
– Portable work light
– Drywall compound (optional)
– Putty knife (optional)
– Tack cloth


Although these next steps minimize dust while sanding, it’s smart to employ commonsense safeguards against those dust particles that do escape. By taking some simple precautions—donning a dust mask and goggles, draping plastic sheeting in open doorways, and spreading a drop cloth over carpeted or hardwood floors—you can virtually eliminate any risk to yourself, the flooring, and any nearby items.

Dust-Free Sanding - Sponge


For the best results, enlist the HYDE Dust-Free Sponge Sander. The $15 hose attachment converts nearly any wet/dry vacuum into a sanding assistant that cleans as it goes. Use the tool’s adapter to securely connect it to the wet/dry suction outlet. (The adapter works with vacuum hoses that have 1¼-inch, 1½-inch, or 2½-inch openings.) Once the tool is attached, press a standard 3″ x 5″ sanding sponge into the rectangular casing at the other end of the hose.

Pro Tip: Most drywall sanding jobs can be successfully completed using medium- or fine-grit sanding sponges. Skip the large-grit sanding sponges, as they tend to leave grit streaks in the drywall compound.

Hold the yellow sanding end so that the sponge is flat against the wall, then turn on the wet/dry vacuum and begin working in a circular motion. As you sand, the vacuum sucks most of the dust into the tank through a narrow gap around the perimeter of the sanding sponge.

For the smoothest—and cleanest—results, use very light pressure and work at a medium speed. As you approach the centers of seams and joints, lighten up even more so that you’re using only enough pressure to remove ridges and bumps. If you find that dust is escaping around the edges of the sanding adapter, you’re sanding too quickly. Take your time. You’ll be glad you did!

Continue to sand the entire area, using a stepladder to reach the highest corners. Even though you’re entrusting your vacuum with the job of tidying up as you go, it’s also important to clean your vacuum’s filter frequently to prevent clogs caused by large amounts of drywall compound dust.

When you think you’ve finished, inspect your sanded surfaces. Since it’s difficult to spot rough areas of compound with overhead lighting alone, shine a bright handheld light, such as a portable work light, parallel to the joints to check for any irregularities. You may find that some areas need more sanding, or you may need to fill in indentations with spot applications of drywall compound and then sand those areas again.

Once you’ve determined that the surface is free of rough patches and gouges, you’re ready to prime the walls and then cover them with either paint or wallpaper. (With most of the mess already in your wet/dry vacuum, cleanup will be so minimal you won’t even consider it a step!)


Pull on a respirator mask and goggles to reduce the slight risk from any airborne wood dust that might escape the HYDE Dust-Free Sponge Sander. Your sanding experience should be virtually dust-free, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution.

Fasten the dust-free sander to your wet/dry vacuum at its suction outlet, and insert a sanding sponge into the opposite end. The sandpaper grit you choose will be essential to the success of your sanding job. It’s best to work in the following order:
• Large-grit sanding sponges smooth rough wood surfaces and remove surface coatings, such as old varnish.
• Medium-grit sanding sponges work well for smoothing stripped wood surfaces and unfinished wood cabinets and boards.
• Fine-grit sponges should be reserved for the final sanding step to achieve an extra-smooth surface.

Sand your wood surface in the same direction as the wood grain rather than against it, which can leave cross-sanding marks on the wood. As you work, the HYDE Dust-Free Sponge Sander directs the vast majority of wood dust around the edges of the sponge where your wet/dry vacuum can safely suck it away.

If the wood you’re sanding involves contoured trim and corner creases, remove the sanding sponge from its casing and sand those areas with just the sponge. The HYDE Dust-Free Sponge Sander works best on flat expanses of wood, such as cabinet doors and bookcase sides and shelves.

Finally, wipe a tack cloth over the sanded wood. This pass serves two purposes: First, any catching or snagging will alert you to a rough area that you need to sand a bit more. Also, the tack cloth can remove traces of dust not visible to the naked eye that might mar a smooth paint finish. But these swipes with the tack cloth will be just about all the cleanup you’ll need after your practically dust-free sanding job.


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

Buyer’s Guide: Pressure Washers

Want to rid your outdoor items of built-up dirt and grime? Take a gleaming glimpse of the best clean machines on the market today.

Best Pressure Washer - What to Look for in a New Pressure Washer


Nothing says “clean” like a great pressure washing! Everything from decks and driveways to patio furniture and window shutters collect dust, dirt, and the occasional dollop of bird poop, growing grimier by the day. But a good pressure washing can spray away weeks, months, even years of buildup. Read on for a breakdown of the types of pressure washers and the features they offer to determine which is best for you. Then peruse a few highly rated models to help you get the most blast for your buck.

Gauge gas versus electric. If you’ve got large areas to cover—think pool decks, patios, and tall exterior walls—and want as much mobility and power as possible, a gas-powered pressure washer is your best bet. These models don’t tether you to an outlet, so you can really move around, plus higher pressure that stretches farther to get the job done fast. For smaller, simpler chores like cleaning outdoor furniture, the family car, or just a few feet of exterior space, electric pressure washers are just the ticket. Generally quieter and lighter than their gas-powered counterparts, these plug-ins don’t offer quite as much mobility, but if you buy one that’s extension-cord compatible (not all models are), you can stretch the perimeter of the job without having to switch to a new outlet every few meters. Just be sure to keep the socket and plug—not to mention your hands—completely dry when connecting and disconnecting the cord.

Pick your power setting. Pressure washers come in a variety of settings. Those rated below 2000 pounds per square inch (PSI) are considered light-duty and work best on the small stuff like patio furniture and cars. Medium-duty pressure washers (between 2000 and 2800 PSI) have a little more oomph, and from 2900 to 3300 PSI, you’ll find heavy-duty models perfect for large driveways and high walls, as well as exterior paint job prep. At the top of the spectrum, extra heavy-duty pressure washers top out over 3300 PSl; they’re considered professional grade and have a steeper sticker price. If you’ll be doing a variety of cleaning jobs, consider a multi-duty model, which lets you adjust the pressure, tailoring it to the task at hand.

Feel the force. Another feature to consider is how many gallons per minute (GPM) a pressure washer expels. In consumer-grade washers, the flow rating tends to run between 1.0 and 4.0 GPM. Generally speaking, higher numbers result in faster, easier cleanups. So if you’re dealing with truly stubborn mud, crud, or gunk, let the force be with your and opt for a higher GPM.


Keeping these key considerations in mind, you’re ready to clean up with a winner! Here are three top-rated models.

Best Power Washer - Ryobi RY80940 Power Washer


Ryobi RY80940 ($399)
Powered by a Honda gasoline engine, this moderately priced model packs a punch—3100 PSI and a GPM of 2.5, to be exact—and its 25-foot flexible spray hose can direct that super soaking anywhere in need of a quick clean. Thanks to its Idle Down Technology, the machine operates up to 40 percent quieter than its competition, not to mention on less fuel. It even received high praise from Popular Mechanics, which called this gas-powered pressure washer a close second—”nearly identical”—to the now discontinued model that the publication ranked best overall pressure washer. Available from Home Depot.

Best Power Washer - NorthStar 1573021 Pressure Washer


NorthStar 1573021 ($870)
Consumer Reports rated this electric model a 73 out of 100, giving it the distinction of being the highest pressure washer recommendation on the site. Made with an industrial-class pump, easy connections at the wand and pump, and hardy construction, the heavy-duty 112-pound washer has an ergonomically designed spray shaft that makes it a pleasure to use. While it requires a 240V receptacle, which might require some special installation if you don’t already have one in your yard, its hard to beat the high pressure, solid flow, easy operation, and general effectiveness. Available on Amazon.

Best Power Washer - AR Blue Clean AR383 Pressure Washer


AR Blue Clean AR383 ($141)
This 1900 PSI, 1.5 GPM washer is a great choice for smaller cleaning projects, and is super affordable too. One of the most popular models on Amazon, this electric option has earned a four-star rating through more than 2,700 user reviews. It’s environmentally conscious, too, delivering an 80 percent water savings over an average garden hose. With a 20-foot hose and a 30-foot power cord, it offers decent mobility, and weighing in at just 27 pounds, it’s no big deal to tote it if you have to. Available on Amazon.

Now that you’ve got a handle on features and functions, you’ll be able to clean like a demon in no time. Power up!

Cool Tools: A Trusty Go-To Gets a Brand-New Twist

That trusted product you've relied on for decades is now armed with an innovative extended applicator that helps you lubricate tricky spots quickly and easily.



It’s nothing new. The problem is familiar to anyone whose projects often involve WD-40® Multi-Use Product. In the course of its decades-long history, the penetrating oil and lubricant has earned its place as a toolbox staple, but in tight spots—beneath the sink, for example, or within a lawn-mower engine—it’s not always easy getting the formula precisely where you want it to go. Most of the time, the stiff, stubby red straw applicator does the job just fine. Now and again, though, its rigidity slows you down.


But not anymore. In a clever, innovative solution to a longtime source of frustration, the new WD-40 EZ-REACH delivers the same product you’ve always depended on, but substitutes the traditional straw for an eight-inch-long, flexible metal hose. Bend it however you like, and the hose holds its shape until you bend it into a new one. Now, you can easily and accurately reach the nooks and crannies that used to be virtually unreachable, and you can speed through steps that used to take you far too much effort and time.

It’s a welcome upgrade, largely because tight spots, close quarters, and lack of access characterize so many of the scenarios where you’d typically use the product. Take, for example, household plumbing: Systems are designed to stay out of the way, hidden behind walls and inside cabinets. To make repairs, you need to get on your knees, on your back, or on tiptoe. It’s never easy, but with WD-40 EZ-REACH and its bendable applicator, those tricky jobs don’t have to be so utterly taxing.

Imagine that you need to lubricate the upper hinge of a tall entry door. In the past, you would have had to travel all the way to the truck or garage, haul out the ladder, and spend at least a few moments setting it up safely. Armed with WD-40 EZ-REACH, the same fixes that used to take several minutes can be done in seconds flat. To get to that top hinge, you’d simply bend the metal hose into a downward-pointing U shape, extend your arm overhead, and press the trigger on the can. That’s it! You’re ready to move on.

Cleanup, too, becomes a breeze. It used to be that pros and do-it-yourselfers would apply WD-40 liberally, spraying the formula all over the general area, hoping that at least some would land on the problem spot. Does that sound familiar? And afterward, you probably went back to wipe up the overspray. This is certainly not the most efficient process. Thanks to WD-40 EZ-REACH and the accuracy it provides, you can skip the cleanup altogether and put your valuable time to much better use.

An added bonus: Because the new design enables you to apply the right amount of WD-40 exactly where you need it, you’ll no longer be tempted to use more of the formula than is strictly necessary for the task at hand. In other words, WD-40 EZ-REACH eliminates waste, which means that a single can will probably last longer than ever before, so you may be able to go longer between replacements. Over time, those costs really add up, making WD-40 EZ-REACH a first choice not only for ease of use, but for savings as well.

In the end, WD-40 EZ-REACH delivers on a simple promise to all those who have made the product a household name by relying on it, whether on the job or around the house, for more than six decades. You get the same formula you know and love—the one that has proven itself indispensable time and time again—only now, it’s better than ever, allowing you to reach the formerly unreachable. The stiff, red straw could take you only so far, but with the new flexible hose, there’s no limit on where you can go.

Purchase WD-40 EZ-REACH today.


This post has been brought to you by WD-40®. Its facts and opinions are those of

Check Out What’s In the Works for Bob Vila Products

Streamline and simplify your DIY to-do list with a new line of problem-solving tools, each hand-picked by the most trusted name in home improvement.

Bob Vila Products


With April’s showers behind us, we’re looking forward to two things: the promise of May flowers soon budding and blooming in the garden and this season’s must-see event, the National Hardware Show. Over the course of three days—Wednesday, May 4, through Friday, May 6—throngs of industry professionals will fill the trade show floor in Las Vegas to get the scoop on the latest and greatest home improvement innovations from beloved brands like Bob Vila. That’s right: This year, Bob Vila will be in attendance representing an exciting new product line bearing his name. Designed in partnership with Viatek, an industry-leading consumer products company, these smart tools combine Vila’s years of hands-on experience with Viatek’s ingenuity to simplify life for both handy homeowners and renters just like you. “My partnership with Viatek will assure that what I am offering is of the highest quality and something people can rely on,” Vila says.

Bob Vila Products - Signature Workman's Multitool


For more than four decades, Bob Vila has been a trusted household name, a home improvement icon, and, above all, a DIY coach dedicated to inspiring and instructing homeowners on how to build their dream houses. His upcoming line of tools was conceived with that same can-do, do-it-yourself approach to home improvement in mind. Whatever the scope or scale of your next project, this new and creative collaboration between Bob Vila and Viatek will assist you in completing tasks more easily, efficiently, and economically.

The Bob Vila Products currently in development are designed to tackle the wide range of home remodeling, renovation, and redesign projects—from landscaping to room refreshes—that may be in your near future. Sculpt a smart-looking topiary in the yard using the 20″ Pruning Tool, or take down a limb using the Portable Chainsaw. Can’t take the summer heat? Cool off indoors while you spruce up bland walls with a Painter’s Palette that saves you from spills. When you’re finished creating your masterpiece, get surrounding surfaces spotless with the Microfiber Towels. Then, call it a day by storing all of your new tools and accessories—these and more—in a Signature Series’ Workman Tool Bag.

The development of uniquely handy products is the next logical step for Vila, who still provides the know-how necessary to safely and smartly use tools of the trade daily at With his tried, true, and trustworthy advice already available at your fingertips and soon these quality tools in your shed, you’ll have all the resources to go to town on your to-do list. Pick up any of the Bob Vila Products on Amazon or today!