37 Clever Handy Hints Under $5
These genius ideas will save you time and trouble during home improvement projects. And each costs less than $5 to do.
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What to Do When Your Glue Caps Keep Getting Stuck
Caps on certain adhesives/glues, like rubber cement and super glue, have a habit of getting stuck or glued on no matter how hard you try and keep them clean.
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Coat Your Snow Shovel with Car Wax
Make shoveling snow easier by first coating your metal shovel with car wax. Follow the application instructions on the car wax package. Then the snow and ice will slide right off of the shovel after each scoop.
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Taller Table Hack
If you’re like The Family Handyman reader Gary Inlow and use a standard banquet table for your workbench, you’ll love this hint! Gary created stilts for his table using 1-1/4-in. PVC pipe, raising the surface of his workbench to a more comfortable height!
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DIY Car Mats
Here's an easy automotive hack: buy carpet squares from Home Depot (they're always under $2) and use them as car mats in your back seats. Another option is to use carpet scraps to make these DIY car mats. Check out this simple way to keep your car clean.
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How to Make an Emergency Candle
Every home usually has a stick of butter and extra toilet paper lying around. And coincidentally you can make an emergency candle using just those two materials. Here's how!
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DIY Ice Pack Hack
Make your own DIY ice pack! All you need to do is take a standard kitchen sponge, soak it in water, put it inside a ziploc bag, and freeze it. Freeze the sponge overnight and the next morning, you will have an ice pack. The handy thing is that when the ice starts to melt, the sponge soaks up the water so it doesn't leak everywhere.
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Extend the Life of Your Phone Charger
To make your otherwise fragile phone charger last for more than a couple of weeks, try out this simple hack! Start by removing the spring from a pen. Next, stretch one end of the spring out a bit so it can fit around the charger cable. You might need to use a pliers for this. Now, wind the spring around the cable until it is completely on the charger cable. Next, take appropriately sized heat shrink tubing and slip it over the phone charger and spring. Use a lighter to warm the heat shrink tubing until it conforms around the charger and spring. This simple hack will will keep the cord from breaking any further or from even breaking in the first place!
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Rain-X in Snowthrower Chute
Keep your snowthrower at peak performance by spraying Rain-X inside the chute as part of your tune-up routine. That’s what reader John Gossard does! The Rain-X helps to prevent snow and ice from clogging up the chute, so you can move more snow faster.
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The Miracle of a Walnut
Furniture gets beat up over time, but you don't have to live with the unsightly scratches. In fact, you can remove years of damage with a simple snack food: walnuts.
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Pipe Insulation Car Hack
Reader James Goldstein came up with a genius solution for preventing items such as keys or cell phones from falling between the seats and the console in a vehicle, which can be hard to retrieve and even dangerous if it happens while driving. He wedged pieces of foam pipe insulation in the gaps!
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Scrap Wood Computer Shelf
Use some scrap wood from your workshop to create a simple computer shelf for your desk. We built this one using a 1 ft. x 2 ft. piece of plywood and two 12-in. pieces of 1x3 board. We used a brad nailer to assemble the shelf and left it unfinished for a modern look.
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Ladder Hack: Magnet Extra Hand
Attach a round base magnet to the top of your ladder for an extra hand that can hold nuts, bolts, screws, etc., for you while you work. Round base magnets have a premade hole in the center, so all you need to do is drill a hole in the top of your ladder and secure the magnet with a bolt and nut.
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Use Coins for Toilet Shims
Did you know that coins can be used to shim a toilet? Just slip coins under a toilet to level it; then add caulk along the floor to hide the coin shims.
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How to Revive Dead Sharpies
When it comes to workshop problems, dried-out Sharpies aren’t major. But they are annoying when you can't find another one to mark your measurements or project notes. Learn how to bring your permanent marker back to life, because there's still some ink in there!
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Cutting PVC With String
If I need to cut a piece of PVC that's impossible to reach with a saw, I cut a small notch into the pipe with a utility knife and cut the pipe by pulling a string back and forth in the notch. It's not as fast or accurate as a saw – this 2-in. dia. pipe took about 5 minutes to cut through – but it's a good trick in a tight spot.
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Make Your Reusable Grocery Bags Sturdier
Have you ever had a heavy bag a groceries that your reusable grocery bag just can't handle without ripping? We've got the cheap and perfect solution for you!
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Pipe Insulation for Baby-Proofing
Use foam pipe insulation to baby-proof your home. Cut the tube to length and slip it onto edges and corners that could be dangerous to a small child. The pressure of the curved foam will keep it in place for an easy-to-remove baby-proofing solution. Or, use the adhesive strip to hold the insulation in place for a more permanent safety fix.
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PVC Razor Organizer
Make this simple razor organizer by cutting 1-in. PVC pipe into lengths that are just larger than your razors. Stick the lengths together with hot glue. You could also color code or write names on each piece of pipe so your family members know which is their razor.
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Chap Stick for the Toolbox
If you enjoy working with hardwoods, you know how important it is to lubricate screws. It’ll make driving the fasteners easier and reduces the amount of heat produced. But what if you don’t have a bar of soap or a pile of beeswax nearby? Reach for your tube of Chap Stick!
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Tarp Cement Mixer
No need to rent a cement mixer, you can whip up a large batch of concrete with a heavy-duty tarp and a helper. Just pour the concrete mix in the center of the tarp, make a well and add the recommended amount of water. Then you and a friend each lift two corners of the tarp, churning the ingredients until the concrete is the perfect consistency. Pour it directly from the tarp into the form.
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Bobby Pin Nail Holder
There's no need to risk hammering a finger when working with tiny nails or in tight quarters. A common bobby pin makes a great nail holder—and keeps your fingers at a safe distance! Once the nail is started, remove the bobby pin and continue hammering away.
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Seal Outdoor Furniture Feet
Keep wood outdoor furniture kicking for as long as possible by protecting the surfaces that come in contact with the ground—especially end-grain pieces. Mix up a batch of epoxy and spread it evenly along the feet of, in this case, a wood bench. Allow the epoxy to dry completely, forming a weather-resistant seal, before placing the bench outdoors.
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Remove Hard-Water Buildup with a Lemon
Remove hard-water buildup on your faucet with this simple, natural solution: Place half of a fresh lemon on the end of the faucet, wrap a small plastic bag around the lemon and secure it to the faucet with a rubber band. After a few hours, remove the lemon and wipe the faucet clean.
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Brown Paper Bag Finishing Trick
You can always make the finish smooth by rubbing with fine sandpaper and rubbing compounds, but this is a lot of work. And there’s almost always a little dust that settles onto the last coat of finish before it dries, even when you spray fast-drying lacquer. Unless you're aiming for the ultimate in smoothness, rubbing the surface with a folded brown paper bag is usually sufficient.
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Hot Glue Gun Uses: Fix Wobbly Furniture with a Penny
You can fix a wobbly bench or table with your pocket change. Add a drop of hot glue to a coin and attach it to the problem area. The coin will act like a shim, leveling out the furniture piece.
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Write Notes on the Washer
When you put a load of clothes into your washing machine, use a dry-erase marker to note on the lid which items should not go into the dryer. That way, whoever switches the load from the washing machine to the dryer will know which items to leave out for line drying. The enamel finish on most washing machine lids is similar to a whiteboard, and dry-erase markers can be removed easily with a dry paper towel. Better safe than sorry! Learn which items should not be dried in the dryer. This way, whoever switches the load from the washer to the dryer won't ruin any clothes!
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Coffee Filters for Dusting
The next time you clean your computer monitor or TV screen, use a coffee filter. The thin, cloth-like paper catches a lot of dust and can cover a large area. You can use a coffee filter for dusting other household accessories, too.
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Make a Smartphone Stand
When referencing projects plans or a photo for inspiration while working on a DIY project, most of us use our phones to display images or instructional videos. The only problem with this method is that our phones don't prop themselves up, making it difficult to see at the images while working.
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A Clever Way to Get Rid of Glue Squeeze-Out
When glue squeezes out on an inside corner like in a drawer or the inside any woodworking project, using a chisel has the potential to cause more harm than good. This is because the sharp blade can easily mark-up and scratch the adjacent surface. The solution is a simple drinking straw.
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Clean Upholstery with Baking Soda
Did you know that regular ol' baking soda can help to remove odors from a couch or upholstered chair? Just sprinkle a generous amount onto the fabric, wait about 20 minutes, and then vacuum it up. The baking soda helps to soak up odors and even break up some stains in the fabric.
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Use a Rubber Band to Grip Stripped Screws
We've all stripped a couple of screws in our day. And it normally isn't a big setback until you need to unscrew it, that is. So the next time you're in this situation, try a rubber band for a screw grip.
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Easy-Find Dado Blades
Dado blades have a very specific way that they need to be installed on a table saw. A lot of them will have a letter that indicates how they should be installed printed on them, but it can wear off after use. Write the letters large on the blades to keep this from happening and make your dado blades much easier to use.
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How to Use Toothpicks as Dowels
Round toothpicks work great for joining together boards. When each board is cut and ready to put together, drill pilot holes (the same diameter as the toothpick) in two spots on each board. It is crucial that the pilot holes are in the exact same spot on each board so it is smart to use a square when measuring. Next apply glue to the toothpick and tap it into the hole. When the glue sets, cut the excess toothpick so it will fit into the other board with glue. Now glue the boards together and clamp to dry.
Save yourself a trip to the store by taking a look at what you have at home. Check out these 100 uncommon uses for common household items.
Originally Published: December 31, 2019