Not all of us can be that super-cool, bearded hipster carpenter dude who can fix anything around the house, from rehanging a busted door or removing a cammed-out screw to tightening a wobbly coffee table leg or swap out a leaky disposal in five minutes. But as long as you have a bit of manual dexterity and a semi-coherent brain, most repairs and maintenance challenges around the house aren’t that tough to tackle.
It helps if you already have a few decent tools sitting around to facilitate your handyman fumbling—screwdrivers, drill, drill bits, vice grips, hammer, saw—but, if not, most local hardware stores sell an all-in-one set that can get you started on most simple tasks. Other essentials for quick and easy upkeep and fixes around your home or apartment include WD-40, silicone lubricant, cream of tartar, baking soda, and expanding foam. Follow these tips and tricks the next time your home needs repair or maintenance and then bask in the subsequent feeling of accomplishment. And while you’re at it, you might want to clean out the 30 Home Decorations No One Over 30 Should Own.
1 Stabilize a wobbly showerhead
If the pipe coming out of your shower wall ends up getting a little loose, an easy fix is to pull back the flange and apply some expanding foam into the gap around the shower arm. As the stuff dries, it will fill the cavity and keep the pipe in place, eliminating any wobble. And for some tools that definitely won’t help you out, here are the 30 Most Useless Home Appliances Ever Created.
2 Keep floors quiet
Squeaky floors can be a super-annoying problem in your house, whether under carpet or a hardwood floor. To get rid of noises under carpet, use a stud finder to find a floor joist near the squeak and then use a drill to drive in a low-profile trim screw (without threads near the head) through the carpet and pad and into solid wood. Drive in more if it still makes noise.
For wood floors, it’s even simpler. Just sprinkle a good amount of talcum powder (you may know this by its common name: baby powder), on to the cracks near the squeak. Use a broom to spread the powder around and to get in down into the gaps, and the noises should cease. Then you can work from home more peacefully. After all, here’s Why Working from Home Is the Holy Grail of Productivity Hacks.
3 Shut up loud door hinges
When door hinges start to squeal, you can spray some lubricant like WD-40 into the middle of the hinge to quiet them. If that doesn’t work, try knocking the hinge pin up about halfway with a screwdriver and hammer, and then rubbing some lubricant like 3-in-one oil on it. Tap it back down and then move the door back and forth, and your squeak should be gone.
4 Buff out scuffs
Hardwood floors will eventually collect a bunch of scuffs from hard-soled shoe traffic, but there’s a novel way to get rid of them: Use a tennis ball. The felt-like surface of the ball will quickly remove any scuffs, as long as you rub it vigorously over the mark. If you don’t fee like getting on your hands and knees, cut a small X into one side and then poke a broom handle into it for back-saving buffing.
5 Make your tub sparkle
After a few years of daily use, the minerals in water—not to mention dirt and sloughed off skin cells—can make any tub look stained and dingy. Instead of reaching for some harsh chemicals, mix up equal amounts of baking soda and cream of tartar (found in your grocery’s spice section) with lemon juice until it forms a paste. Apply to stains and rub in, then wait about an hour and rinse. And for some more self-improvement tips, here are the 50 Genius Weight-Loss Motivation Tricks.
6 Smooth out sticky windows
Windows that stutter and skip and stick when you try to open for a bit of fresh air are extremely annoying. Trying to force windows open when sticky can also stress the window and cause damage over time, so next you feel resistance, spray a bit of silicone lubricant on a rag and then lightly coat the guides. This works for plastic, metal, or wood.
7 Clear up water stains
Leaks in roofs or ceilings will cause brown water rings on drywall, but before you assemble everything you need to paint over them, try spraying a mix of 10% bleach to water on them. Wait 24 hours and more often than not, those unsightly brown spots will have disappeared. This will clear up most stains on flat or popcorn ceilings, just be sure to protect your eyes and anything close by that could get bleach on it.
8 Patch small holes in drywall
Inevitably the walls in your home will get a few holes in them from hanging pictures or mirrors. This is annoying; when you want to change things up, there are ugly holes peppering the drywall. Thankfully, this is an easy fix: just pick up some spackle from the hardware store and scrap into the hole. Let dry, then lightly sand and paint to make any holes vanish. And for more skills you should know, here are the 15 Essential Skills to Master in Your 40s.
9 Seal up a wallpaper seam
If you have a seam that’s coming apart, reactivate the paste around the gap with a rag soaked in warm water. Hold the rag over the area for a minute or two, and then carefully open the gap a little larger so you’ll have more room for the sealer. Squeeze seam sealer (white glue works in a pinch) into the gap, and press the paper to the wall with a roller. Clean off the excess sealer with a sponge.
10 Repair a leaky hose
Hoses only seem to last a few seasons before they spring a leak, and they aren’t cheap, so fixing dripping hoses is a smart move. Hardware stores stock hose repair kits and pieces, so whether water is coming out of the connector or somewhere in the middle of the hose, all you have to do is cut off (or out) the leaky bit and reconnect with the new hardware.
11 Make perfect caulk lines
If you’ve ever spent anytime painting, you’ll know that taking the time to lay some painter’s tape before applying color will make your final product look professional and clean. But you can also use this trick for anytime you need to lay down some fresh caulk. But remember that, with caulk, you’ll need to pull the tape up before it dries, unlike with paint.
12 Restore faucet flow
Eventually faucet heads will start to show a reduced flow and may even begin to release water in an uneven spray. This is caused by buildup of tiny grains of sand or other mineral deposits that gum up the aerator—or mesh screen—at the tip of the faucet. Wrap some tape around the aerator to protect it and then twist off (lefty loosey, righty tighty!). Wash out debris and then let it soak in vinegar for about an hour. Scrub it clean and then reassemble.
13 Silence a slamming screen door
Warm weather and blue skies means a lot of traipsing in and out of your house. And if you have a screen door to allow fresh breezes to flow through, that also means a lot of banging and noise as it slams closed. Just dab a couple of short beads of silicone caulk along the inner door jamb where it hits and let dry with the door open. The silicone pads will help quiet the racket.
14 Fix dents in wood
Living around a bunch of wood furniture or in a house with a hardwood floor means that dents and deep marks will eventually happen. But there’s a novel way to remove those dents without resorting to power tools: a household iron. Put a little water in the dent, then lay a moist towel over the it. Heat up your iron and then move it over the towel in circles, pressing down on it for a few minutes. The heat and water should rehydrate the wood, allowing it to puff back up.
15 Unclog a toilet
Before adding harsh chemicals to your toilet to free up stubborn clogs that a plunger struggles with, dump in about half a cup of liquid dishwashing soap into the bowl. Let it mix and lubricate the walls of the toilet for around an hour. Try flushing it again and the slick soap should’ve coated everything enough to allow it to all smoothly slide through.
16 Remove pet hair
Pet hair can quickly build up and become a nuisance around the home, whether just from making every surface look fuzzy or upping the allergens floating through the air. A simple way to remove it from carpet or upholstered furniture is to drag a window squeegee across the surfaces. The hair will stick to the rubber edge, making clean up quick and easy.
17 Use chalk for marking
When putting up pictures or doing anything that requires marking on walls or other surfaces around the home, save yourself from extra clean up by using white chalk. The chalk will make easy to see marks that will quickly disappear when wiped with a damp paper towel. Don’t use color chalk though; it may stain and leave a long-lasting mark.
18 Clean up burnt pans
Heavy use cooking with stainless-steel pans will eventually result in black and brown burnt marks all over cookware. To easily remove without using toxic chemicals like oven spray, mix up equal parts baking soda with cream of tartar with a drop or two of liquid dishwashing soap. Put in on the burned spots and then add some hot water. Let sit for a few minutes then scrub the black marks out.
19 Free up a sticky lock
After years of use, locks get loaded with dirt and small particles of metal that wear off of keys as they slide in and out. That can make the lock mechanisms stick and not work as smoothly as they once did. You buy some dry lubricant to squirt in, or if you have some pencils laying around, simply shave off some graphite from the “lead” and then add to the keyhole.
20 Keep rugs from slipping
Instead of buying rubber anti-slip mats to put under your rugs in high-traffic areas that inevitably deteriorate and stick to floors, you can apply a few lines of caulk under the rugs. Pick up some acrylic-latex caulk, then flip your rug over and lay down some thick lines horizontally every 6 inches or so. Let dry and flip back over. After basking in the glory of your newly pristine house, keep it that way, and learn How “Swedish Death Cleaning” Banishes Clutter Forever.