Reviews Tools & Materials

7 Easy Ways to Make Your Next DIY Project Less Messy

Let’s face it: Some projects can be downright messy. In fact, you've probably scrubbed up after a few particularly dirty ones yourself! But if you’re spending as much time cleaning up—or even just covering up sloppy mistakes—as you are actually working on a project, why not try something new? You may not realize it, but all this mess can often be minimized—or eliminated—just by starting with the right tools and techniques. Read on for several innovative tips and tools that will help you achieve professional results while keeping you and your surroundings clean. This content has been brought to you by Hyde Tools. Its facts and opinions are those of
Glenda Taylor Avatar

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More ›

Give Your Furniture a Little Lift

Painting is naturally messy, with plenty of opportunities for drips, splatters, and smudges. And in the world of painting, few objects are more difficult to refresh than wooden tables and chairs, given the challenge of applying even coats all the way around the legs. Typically, this involves lifting the legs one at a time so you can reach down to the very bottom. By the time you’re done, it’s not unusual to have paint runs here and there, the bases of the legs stuck to the newspaper or drop cloth, and paint all over your fingertips.

The trick to a clean paint job, both in terms of the piece’s finish and the condition of the work area, is to elevate the furniture on Painter’s Pyramids (available at; $9.26), which let you paint all of the surfaces without drips pooling around the legs. After unscrewing any protective foot caps to prevent them from getting painted, just center one of these durable plastic pyramids under each leg. With the piece balanced on the pointy tips of these plastic lifts, you can spray or brush fresh color onto your furniture without worrying that the legs will stick to the work surface. For best results, apply two to three very light coats of paint to avoid surface runs.

Keep Your Ceiling Mess-Free When Painting Walls

Whether you’re refreshing an entire room or painting just a single accent wall, cutting in paint along the ceiling challenges even the steadiest hand. One slip of the brush and you’ll end up with a ceiling smear that will make the whole job look amateurish. Ideally, you want the seam between the painted wall and the ceiling to be clean and perfectly straight, and you don’t want to have to whip out the ceiling paint for some touch-ups. 

The next time you have to cut in paint along the ceiling (or along trim or cabinetry), use Super Guide™ Paint Shield & Smoothing Tool (available at; $6.33) to prevent errant swipes. Position the flat edge of the paint shield along the ceiling, pressing its 24½-inch stainless steel blade firmly in the crease along the top of the wall. With your other hand, lightly brush on the paint, keeping the strokes parallel to the ceiling and avoiding forcing any color into the crease. This next part is key to preventing more mess: Before moving the paint shield to the next spot, wipe off both sides with a painter’s towel, then continue cutting in along the top of the wall. Apply a thin second coat before rolling paint onto the rest of the wall.

Keep Dust Under Control

Good paint jobs start off with sanding to ensure that the new coat sticks. Sanding down wooden furniture or cabinetry, though, can leave you choking in clouds of dust. While it’s not possible to sand without creating dust, you can use tools to collect it all before it goes airborne and coats everything.

The Dust-Free Sander (available at; $14.99) is just that. Attach the flexible three-inch-long clog-free hose of this ingenious tool to your shop-type vacuum, then insert a sanding sponge into its business end. Switch on the vacuum and sand to your heart’s content without filling the room with billows of dust. The Dust-Free Sander comes with two sanding sponges and an adapter that allows it to fit any standard-size wet-dry vacuum hose.

Roll Paint in High Spots with Ease

We’ve already established that painting is messy work, but painting overhead in tight areas is even more so. You end up with unwanted drips, and it can be difficult to get professional results at that height. Making things even tougher, the large-size rollers that do a good job of painting open areas don’t perform well in restricted spots or where precision is required, such as along the edges of a ceiling or on walls between close-set windows. Such rollers only leave behind sloppy, uneven paint lines.

Instead, roll these tight areas with a mini roller that you can control with a sturdy extension pole. To reach all the areas you’ll need to paint, though, a standard mini roller won’t always do. You’ll have better luck with an adjustable roller, like the Richard four-inch Adjustable Mini Roller (available at; $5.25), which ingeniously pivots 180 degrees in order to roll horizontally as well as vertically, even in tight overhead spots. When you’re done painting the upper reaches and no longer need the extension pole, the soft grip of the Mini Roller frame’s heavy-duty handle will sit comfortably in your hand as you finish up down below.  

Avoid Textured Ceiling Messes

Texturing a ceiling to give a room subtle visual interest can create an even bigger mess than just painting. You may have covered up with old clothes, a hat, goggles, and a respirator mask, but when you’re applying gloppy, clumping compound overhead, it drips everywhere. It’s a rare ceiling-texturing project that doesn’t require that you scrape hardened dribbles and globs of compound from your walls.

An easy way to reduce the chaos and cut down on the time spent cleaning up is to drape the walls from floor to ceiling in thin plastic sheeting or drop cloths. To do this, first apply six-inch-wide painter’s tape to the top of the wall, all the way around the room. Then, unfold your sheeting and tape the top edge of it to the painter’s tape that’s already on the wall. The plastic will completely protect the wall from splatters—you won’t even need to remove artwork from the walls—and save you from any wall touch-ups after the fact. When you’re done, simply peel off the plastic sheeting and the first layer of painter’s tape from the wall, and throw it out with the trash.

Create a Clean Caulk Line

Caulking is more than just a sealant—it’s a visual line that can either enhance or detract from the look of a room, depending on how well it’s applied. Dozens of places around the house require caulking, from the shower to the kitchen sink to the windows, and sloppy results in any of these spots will leave the impression that the job was done by an amateur.

The difficulty with caulking (or recaulking) is in creating a smooth, straight line when you’re attempting to fill a crease with a semi-sticky substance. Apply too little caulking, and you’ll find places where it didn’t seal; apply too much, and the caulk line ends up lumpy or leaves the excess smeared along the sides of the seam. Luckily, a precise bead of sealant doesn’t have to take intense focus and a whole afternoon. The multipurpose Caulk Aid caulking tool (available at; $4.69) takes the guesswork and mess out of recaulking. Use one end to shave old caulking out of seams, and cut the tip off a new tube of caulking with a blade recessed in the middle. On the other end—perhaps the best feature of this handy DIY tool—a flexible silicone padded tip guides a clean caulk line. Squeeze a continuous bead along the seam, just enough to fill it from side to side, then glide the Caulk Aid’s silicone tip along the bead of caulk from start to finish, and watch as it smooths and flattens the bead with the perfect amount of pressure.

Repair Drywall—Without the Mess

Pros make it look easy, taping drywall seams and creating flawlessly flat walls with minimal mess. But if you’ve ever loaded up a knife with thick, pasty drywall compound, you know the truth of what’s involved. Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to pick the hardened bits out of your hair, scrape the fallen globs from the floor, and scrub tools clean when the compound has dried completely. But with new applicators, tedious cleanups for tiny repairs have become things of the past. The next time you need to make a small drywall repair, you don’t even need to get out the bucket and drill to mix a batch of compound.

The MudGun™ Small Repair kit (available at; $87.25) offers a creatively clean method for taping drywall seams. By using prepackaged tubes of drywall compound that slip right into the gun and are dispensed in caulking-gun fashion, you have nothing to mix and hardly any drips. Plus, your work on the wall is cleaner, too, thanks to the control offered by the MudGun and its rotating nozzle applicators.