10 DIY Fixes That Do More Harm Than Good

Common knowledge, neighborly advice, old wives’ tales, and “the way my parents did it” all share one important characteristic: Sometimes they're just plain wrong. You may have picked up a few home repair and improvement hints along the way from well-intentioned peers, but these ideas can often produce ineffective, ugly, or even damaging and dangerous results. Here are just a few examples of things you may be doing wrong—and some suggestions for alternative methods.
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Lubricating Hinges with WD-40

Flickr via lynnszwalkiewicz

WD-40 is a fantastic product that can be used to displace moisture and lubricate moving pieces throughout your home, garage, or workshop. But one place where you should not use WD-40 is a squeaky door hinge, as the lubricant can attract dirt and dust, and may eventually cause the hinge pin to turn black. Better choices to silence the shrieks are common bar soap or petroleum jelly.

Related: 9 Unusual Ways to Use WD-40

Vacuuming Up Broken Glass

Oops! You just knocked a wineglass off the counter, causing it to break into dozens of pieces. Your first instinct might be to get out the vacuum cleaner, but resist—glass can damage the mechanism of your vacuum. A better method is to put on an old oven mitt and wrap several lengths of duct tape around it, with the sticky side out. Then, gently press the sticky tape wherever sharp, nasty glass bits may be lurking. Slide the duct tape off into the garbage when you’re finished.

Related: 21 Timesaving Tricks That May Change the Way You Clean

Substituting a Copper Penny for a Fuse

Instructables via GuiltyPixel

Even though Grandpa’s quick fix for a blown fuse entailed replacing it with a copper penny, this is one old-school technique that you should avoid. The fuses in your circuit box are designed to prevent large amounts of current from flowing through your home’s electrical system, and this in turn prevents the wires from overheating. A copper penny in the fuse box will not stop the system from overloading and could result in melted wiring or a house fire. Either replace the blown fuse yourself, or call in a qualified electrician.

Related: Don’t Try This at Home: The 7 Most Dangerous DIYs

DIYing Your Dishwasher Detergent

While there are plenty of DIY dishwashing detergent recipes out there, you should be cautious when whipping up a version of your own. Using the mixture every so often will probably do no harm, but this homemade formulation often just doesn’t work as well and—worse yet—could possibly cause damage to your dishwasher and void the warranty. 

Related: Over a Dozen Things You Didn’t Know You Could Clean in the Dishwasher

Removing a Stripped Screw with a Drill

You’ve tried repeatedly to remove a screw, and now you’ve managed to strip the head. Don’t automatically reach for the drill! You could cause a lot of damage to your walls and end up with a gaping hole that you’ll need to patch and repaint. Instead, place a large rubber band over the head, and insert a screwdriver over the rubber band and into the groove. Slowly and carefully turn the screwdriver until the screw is loose enough for you to remove it easily by hand.

Related: 21 Brilliant Hacks for Everyday Home Repairs

Pouring Paint Down the Drain

When you’re through with a painting project, you may be tempted to pour that little bit of leftover paint down the drain—but stop right there! Paint contains chemicals that can damage the environment, clog your pipes, and wreak havoc with septic systems. Instead, head to your local home improvement store, where you can buy a drying additive that can turn leftover paint into a solid lump that can then be thrown away. Another option is to mix the paint with kitty litter and let the can sit with the lid open until the paint solidifies.

Related: 10 Astonishing Feats You Can Accomplish with Kitty Litter

Coating the Deck with Clear Sealer

A lot of people who want to retain a “like-new” finish on their outdoor deck spring for the obvious choice: a clear sealer. But many of these so-called protectants do more harm than good. First of all, because they don’t block the sun’s UV rays, the wood can actually deteriorate under the sealer. These formulas also have a tendency to peel, which leaves your deck looking like it has a bad case of sunburn. Use a linseed oil-based stain instead, which soaks into the wood and acts as a preservative.

Related: 18 Design Ideas to Make Your Deck a Destination

Soaking Up Wine with Water

There are plenty of supposedly fail-safe prescriptions for getting wine stains out of your tablecloth or other fabric, but not all of them will reap the pinot-free results you’re hoping for. First, don’t soak the stain in water; this will only make it spread out. And don’t scrub the spot with salt or baking soda, as doing so can damage the fibers in the fabric. Instead, pour a little white wine on the red wine stain, and blot with a clean paper towel. Repeat as many times as necessary to get out most of the red wine, and then wash in the hottest water recommended for the fabric.

Related: The Morning After: 13 Lifesaving Party Cleanup Tips

Over-Sanding Spots

If a painting project is in your future, you’ll want to patch any holes or cracks in the drywall with joint compound and sand it smooth before applying a new color. Although we’ve been conditioned to believe that “more is better,” when it comes to sanding, that’s not the case. Avoid sanding in a straight line or going over the same area in the same direction, as this can leave grooves or depressions. Move the sander around in a curved motion, and be careful not to apply too much pressure.

Related: 9 Clever Alternative Uses for Sandpaper

DIYing Without the Proper Paperwork or Prep

Some cost-conscious homeowners may prefer to tackle repairs themselves, rather than pay for a pro. While that mindset can save a pretty penny, you should never dive into a task that’s more extensive than a cosmetic change without first researching the proper paperwork. Many updates require building permits, specific materials, or skills that you simply can’t acquire without the proper training. While your first instinct may be to rush ahead for a quick fix, always assess the skill level required before embarking on a project that could get you in over your head. 

Related: 13 Home Improvements That Are Illegal to DIY