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Our Readers’ 45 Favorite Handy Hints

Over the past 50 years, readers of The Family Handyman magazine have shared thousands of clever tricks with their fellow homeowners. Here are some new and best classic hints.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links.

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Coffee bag twist tiesFamily Handyman

Coffee Bag Ties

Small bags of fancy coffee have heavy-duty ties to keep them airtight. The ties are handy for securing small coils of electrical cable and rope. They’re usually fastened to the bag with just a dab of glue, making them pretty easy to pull off. — reader Joe Gemmill Plus: Quick and clever kitchen storage ideas.

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FH17SEP_581_08_300Family Handyman

Wine Cork Caulk Saver

Synthetic wine corks are great for sealing partially used tubes of caulk. Drill a 5/16-in. hole into the cork about 1 in. deep. The cork fits perfectly and makes an airtight seal. — reader Susan Claussen Plus: Expert tips for caulking.

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Check Out These Brilliant Handy Hints:

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six pack beer shop garage organizerFamily Handyman

Six-Pack Shop Organizer

Six-pack cartons are useful for storing and transporting items like spray paint, lubricants and caulk. — reader Gerald Fitzgibbon

Plus: 51 Brilliant ways to organize your garage.

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plastic saucers weather stripping draft dodgerFamily Handyman

Draft Dodger

My house has round ceiling registers for the air-conditioning system. In the winter, we’d get cold air falling from the registers. Rather than put up with the drafts, I sealed the registers with those clear plastic saucers that you put under flower pots. I temporarily glued them in place with White Lightning SEASONSeal Clear Removable Weather Stripping. It’s a rubbery sealant that you apply with a caulk gun and peel off in the spring. — reader James Herrrenknecht

Plus: Stop window and door drafts to save energy.

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Picture frame bumpers square rulerFamily Handyman

A Sticky Solution

To keep my square from sliding on slick material when I’m trying to mark with it, I stick vinyl picture-frame bumpers on the back. This holds the square in place while I draw a pencil line. — reader Kelly Hicks

Plus: Learn how to hang artwork and wall-hangings straight and level.

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Blister BusterFamily Handyman

Blister Buster

I rake leaves like I'm sweeping the floor with a broom. I always used to get a blister between the index finger and thumb of my lower hand. Now I just keep my thumb and fingers on the same side of the pole. You get just as much gripping power — without the blisters! - reader Kipp Beck Plus:  Make Yard Work Easier with these 12 Tools.

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Topsy-Turvy Door Painting

Topsy-Turvy Door Painting

Here's how to paint a door without waiting for one side to dry before flipping it over: Drive one lag screw into the center of the top edge and two near the bottom corners. Set the screws on sawhorses, paint, flip and paint the other side. Plus: How to Install a Door.

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Luminous Light Switch

Luminous Light Switch

A dab of glow-in-the-dark paint means no more groping for the light switch in the dark. You can buy glow-in-the-dark paint at hardware stores and home centers. Plus: Wiring Outlets and Switches the Safe and Easy Way.

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Long Reach ShearsFamily Handyman

Long Reach Shears

Slip PVC pipes over the handles of your pruning shears and tape them in place to extend your reach and clip high branches without a ladder. Plus: How to Trim a Tree.

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Phone ShieldFamily Handyman

Phone Shield

When you're painting or gardening, keep your phone clean and dry by sealing it inside a zip-top bag. You can still work the buttons right through the bag. Plus: How to Boost Your Cell Phone Signal- 3 Ways.

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Monetary MeasurementsFamily Handyman

Monetary Measurements

A dollar bill is 6.14 in. long. But you don't have to memorize that; just remember that a buck is about 6 in. long and you'll always have an approximate measuring tool in your wallet. Plus: Tips for Saving Money at Home.

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Tennis Ball Parking GuideFamily Handyman

Tennis Ball Parking Guide

If you have ever wondered why a tennis ball was hanging from your friend's garage ceiling, here's why. To park your car in perfect position every time, hang a tennis ball from the garage ceiling so it just touches the windshield. It will show you precisely where to stop. No guesswork! Here are 16 Easy Garage Space-Saving Ideas.

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No-Slip Seat CushionsFamily Handyman

No-Slip Seat Cushions

The rubbery mesh designed to keep rugs from sliding works on chairs, too. For outdoor patio cushions try this hack: IKEA Tip-Add Ties to Outdoor Furniture Cushions.

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Dust CatcherFamily Handyman

Dust Catcher

Before drilling or cutting into a wall, tape a bag below the work zone and it will catch the falling dust. Having trouble with dust in your home? Here are Cleaning Tips to Reduce Household Dust.

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Flash FinderFamily Handyman

Flash Finder

When your drop something small and can't find it, turn out the lights and shine a flashlight across the floor. Transparent items like a contact lens will glimmer. Other objects will cast a shadow marking their location. Plus: Create a DIY flashlight holder.

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Trunk BumpersFamily Handyman

Trunk Bumpers

Keep a couple sections of pipe insulation or pool noodles in your trunk to protect both the car's paint and your oversized cargo. Here are 25 Pool Noodle Hacks.

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Pre-Paint LotionFamily Handyman

Pre-Paint Lotion

Coat your face and arms with lotion before painting and the splatters will wash off effortlessly. Here are more of our best painting tips and tricks.

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touch up paint with a wash clothFamily Handyman

Touch-Up Without Cleanup

No need to mess up a brush to fix a wall wound. Just dip an old washcloth in the paint and throw it away when you’re done. A washcloth leaves the same texture as a paint roller, so your repair will blend nicely. Here are tricks for storing paint brushes overnight.

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Tarp TrailerFamily Handyman

Tarp Trailer

With a big, cheap plastic tarp you can drag leaves, branches or mulch around your yard. Plus: 11 Exceptional Wheelbarrows that Do Everything.

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No-Mess Epoxy MixerFamily Handyman

No-Mess Epoxy Mixer

For quick, thorough mixing of two-part epoxy, put the components in a bag and knead them together. Punch a small hole in the bag to make a neat dispenser. Here's how to use epoxy resin like a pro.

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Keep Pictures LevelFamily Handyman

Keep Pictures Level

A pinch of mounting putty (that sticky stuff used to hang posters) prevents picture tilt without harming walls. Plus: How to Use a Laser Level.

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Suck Out Drain ClogsFamily Handyman

Suck Out Drain Clogs

A wet-dry vacuum slurps clogs out of plugged drains. Even plumbers use this trick sometimes. If you need to increase suction, seal around the nozzle with a wet rag. Plus: Using a Shop Vacuum for Dust Collection.

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Find a FlashlightFamily Handyman

Find a Flashlight

When the power goes out, you'll be groping in the dark for a flashlight — unless you wrap one with glow-in-the-dark tape. The tape glows for about eight hours after exposure to light. Plus: Here's our guide for when severe weather strikes.

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Solid Cord ConnectionFamily Handyman

Solid Cord Connection

A knot keeps cord ends from pulling apart as you drag them around. Here's how to repair extension cords.

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Hidden RemotesFamily Handyman

Hidden Remotes

Adhesive-backed hook-and-loop strips let you stick remote controls under an end table. They'll always be handy when you're ready to watch TV but won't clutter up tabletops. Learn more about hiding home electronics and cables here.

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Clog ClawFamily Handyman

Clog Claw

Every homeowner should have a flexible-shaft pick-up tool for grabbing stuff out of hard-to reach spots. They're also great for yanking clogs out of drains! Plus: Here are more tricks for how to unclog a drain.

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Extra Towel BarFamily Handyman

Extra Towel Bar

Not enough space to hang towels in your bathroom? Add a second shower curtain rod and you'll have plenty of room. Plus your towel will be within easy reach. Check out seven stunning bathroom makeovers that got done in a weekend.

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Stop Losing SocksFamily Handyman

Stop Losing Socks

Stuff a strip of foam pipe insulation into the space between your washer and dryer or along the wall. That way, socks can't slip into the abyss. Here's how to Organize a Laundry Room.

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Self-Selecting Key

Self-Selecting Key

Drill a second key ring hole near the edge of your house key and it will stand out from the others. No more fumbling with your keys in the dark. Or try updating with one of these keyless door systems.

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Secret Lock CodeFamily Handyman

Secret Lock Code

If you have trouble remembering your combination, try this: Pick a secret number and add it to each of the combination numbers. Mark the resulting higher numbers on the lock. When you need to unlock, just subtract your secret number from the listed numbers to determine the combination. Plus: Inexpensive Ways to Theif-Proof Your Home.

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Perfect Keyhole TemplateFamily Handyman

Perfect Keyhole Template

When you're mounting something on the wall with keyhole slots, lay paper over the slots and make a template by rubbing with a pencil. Then level your template on the wall and you'll know precisely where to position the screws. Plus: How to Hang Shelves.

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Gutter InspectorFamily Handyman

Gutter Inspector

Time to clean the gutters? You don't need a ladder to find out. Attach a hand mirror to the end of a PVC pipe. Cut the pipe at a 60-degree angle so the mirror reflects an inside view of the gutter. Here's how to Install Gutters.

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Heat up sticky stuffFamily Handyman

Heat up sticky stuff

A hair dryer softens the adhesive under tape or bumper stickers and makes them easy to pull off. A dedicated heat gun also does the trick, if you have one.

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Pinecone ScooperFamily Handyman

Pinecone Scooper

My pine trees drop cones all summer long, and my old back doesn't like me bending over a lot to pick them all up. I don't have a dog, but a pooper scooper has turned out to be this man's best friend! Gently squeezing the handle opens its jaws, allowing me to pick up pinecones with no back pain. — reader Don Greer Plus: Easy Lawn Care Tips

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Dustless Drilling and Drum Sanding

Dustless Drilling and Drum Sanding

Whenever I have curves to sand, I chuck a sanding drum into my drill press. The only problem is that the sawdust flies everywhere. I wanted to catch the dust with my shop vacuum, so I made a bracket to hold the nozzle. I glued together two 3/4-in.-thick pieces of medium density fiberboard (MDF) and cut out the curved shape with my jigsaw. When I want to use it, I just clamp it to my drill press table. I made the hole just big enough so that the tip of the nozzle fits snugly. — reader Doug Kaczmarek   Here are other woodworking projects.

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Mirror and Message BoardFamily Handyman

Mirror and Message Board

My family is always on the go, so staying in touch with one another can be tough. We thought about putting a whiteboard near the door so we could write messages, but we wanted something better looking. So we bought a full-length mirror, turned it on its side, and mounted it on the wall. Now we can write on it with dry-erase markers and give ourselves one last look before heading out for the day. — reader Matthew Kelly

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Robin Hood CurvesFamily Handyman

Robin Hood Curves

When I build woodworking projects with curves, I often turn to my trusty homemade curve tracer. It's made from a long, 1/4-in.-thick strip of straight-grained, knot-free wood with a 1/4-in. hole drilled in one end and a narrow V-notch cut into the other end. I tie mason's string to the drilled end and bend the strip to whatever size curve I need, tying a knot in the string that I slide into the V-notch. Then I just hold the bowed wood on top of my workpiece and trace the curve. Leave it unstrung between projects or it'll become permanently bowed. — reader Bruce Philbrook Plus: Woodworking Projects

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Cardboard SawhorsesFamily Handyman

Cardboard Sawhorses

I use cardboard appliance boxes as collapsible sawhorses. They're lightweight and plenty strong for many tasks. They hold heavy workpieces like doors without wobbling and fold up flat in seconds. You can cut them to a comfortable working height with a utility knife. — reader Guy Lautard Plus: Savvy Sawhorse Tips.

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Poop PipeFamily Handyman

Poop Pipe

My dogs and I have an arrangement. They poop; I pick it up. But rather than make daily trips to the trash can, I built this poop pipe. It's just a large piece of 4-in. PVC drainpipe sunk into the ground a foot or so, with a trash bag lining it and a cap sitting loosely on top. A rubber band holds the bag in place, and the cap helps keep odors at bay. When the bag gets full, I just take it to the trash bin and put a new one in the drainpipe. — reader Kelley Griswold Plus: 19 Cleaning Tips Every Dog or Cat Owner Should Know.

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Spray-Bottle Pipe Pump

Spray-Bottle Pipe Pump

When soldering a fitting onto a copper pipe, you have to get the water out of the pipe or the solder won't melt. But removing the water from vertical pipes is tricky. That's when I grab the spray nozzle from a plastic bottle. I just stick the plastic tube down into the pipe and pull the trigger a few times. It helps to have a small cup to shoot the water into. — reader Dean Debeltz

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Stir-Stick Paint OrganizerFamily Handyman

Stir-Stick Paint Organizer

When you buy custom-mixed paint, the paint clerk slaps the mix label on top of the can. I always ask for an extra label to wrap around a stir stick. When I'm done with the project, I let the stir stick dry and drill a hole near the top of it. Then I label both the stick and the can with the name of the room where I used the paint. I hang the stir sticks near the cans of leftover paint. With both the color formula and a dried paint sample in view, I don't have to pull down every can to find the right one for touch-ups. — reader Perry Parson Here are 8 Great Painting Tips.

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Wet-Saw Marking TipFamily Handyman

Wet-Saw Marking Tip

Use a crayon to draw the cutting line on tile before using a wet saw. Unlike a pen or pencil line, a crayon mark won't wash off and is easier to see in the muddy water. — reader Mike Winter Plus: Two Essential Saw Cutting Guides.

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Pull-Tab Picture Frame HookFamily Handyman

Pull-Tab Picture Frame Hook

If you're hanging pictures and run out of those sawtooth hangers, just grab the nearest pop can. Bend the pull tab back and forth until it breaks off. Then screw it to your picture frame. Bend the free end out slightly and hang the picture. - reader Carrie Tegeler

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Tape-Tearing Tip

Tape-Tearing Tip

Here's an easy way to tear tape and get a starting edge at the same time. Simply fold the tape under at a 90-degree angle to the roll. Then, with a snapping motion, pull the tape against the edge of the roll. The tape tears, leaving a triangular starting tab. This won't work with plastic tapes; those must be cut. — reader Chris Henrichs. Plus: How to Tape Drywall