Fix-It-Fred: Tips and Tricks

For this installment of Fix-It-Fred, I decided to let you view the mess of random facts that is my brain.  For this post, I will limit it to easy home repair ideas.  Most are simple, and many are probably things you have seen before.  All of the ideas below I have tried in the past.  Many were at home, some at work, and a few at various other locations.  As with any tips and tricks, results will vary.  Hopefully you will find at least some of them useful.

Remove scuff marks from wood or linoleum floors

Cut an X in a tennis ball and stick it on the end of broom handle.  The ball works like an eraser.  Rub the scuffs and they disappear.  What if there is no tennis ball available?  Simply use the sole of a shoe.  Most rubber soled shoes with work the same as the tennis ball.

Unclog a slow drain

Pour about two tablespoons of baking soda into the drain.  Dump in a cup of vinegar and let the foaming action and acid eat away the clog.  This does not work very well for fully clogged drains or for clogs that are a long way from a drain.  Another option is to use three Alka-Seltzer tabs instead of the baking soda.
*Do not attempt this method immediately after using a commercial drain cleaner.*

Clean a stained porcelain fixture

To remove those pesky hard water stains, or most other stains, make a paste of cream of tartar, baking soda, and lemon juice.  Combine equal amounts of cream of tartar and baking soda with enough lemon juice to make it paste-like.  Rub the mixture into the stain with your fingers or a soft cloth.  Let it sit for a half hour or so, then rinse well with water.  If the stain does not go away, reapply the mixture.

Clean a belt sander belt

Use a piece of rubber to clean a clogged belt.  An old (or not) shoe sole will work.  I use an old piece of inner tube.  Turn the sander upside down, so the belt is accessible.  Secure the sander to prevent it from moving during cleaning.  Start the sander on a low speed and apply the rubber to the belt with slight pressure.  The mess should come right off.  If not, increase the speed of the belt slightly.

Make a cheap stud finder

There are a couple different methods for this.  Depending on your house, you may have the supplies for both.  The first option is to use a good magnet.  Slide it around the wall.  When you get near a sheetrock screw or nail, the magnet will pull towards it.  This method may be a little slow, depending on the size and strength of the magnet.

The second option is to use an electric razor.  Turn the razor on and press the handle against the wall.  The vibration will change frequency/sound as you approach a stud.

Hang pictures level

Push pins/tacks into the back of the frame on the bottom corners.  Cut off the heads of the pins leaving at least ¼” protruding from the frame.  Hang the picture and ensure it is level.  Then gently push the pins into the wall.

Option two is to use a small piece of adhesive backed hook and loop fastener (Velcro®) on the back of the frame, centered on the back of the bottom frame rail.  Stick the matching piece to it.  Hang the picture and level it.  Once it is level, remove the protective film and press onto the wall while still attached to the frame.

Inexpensive tile spacers

Those small white x’s that are used for tile spacers are nice.  What happens when you run out with only a few tiles left to place?  Use a stack of pennies instead.  Determine how many pennies are the same thickness as the spacers you are using, and use those instead.  Everyone has pennies, and now you have a new way to pinch them (between tiles).

Fix sticking door latch plungers

Wax rubbed on the sides of the plunger will keep it from sticking.  An easy source of wax?  An old crayon.  The advantage of wax is that it does not drip and streak like spray lubricants.  This trick will also work on other sticky/squeaky items like springs or hinges.

Keep snow from sticking to the shovel

Before shoveling wet, heavy snow spray the blade of the shovel with lubricating oil.  With the blade covered in the spray, the snow will slide right off.  Just like it does with those cold, dry snows.

Stop screen/storm doors from banging shut

Small pieces of weather stripping or felt chair feet work great to soften a closing door.  A few small chunks placed in strategic locations along the edge of the door frame will do wonders.  Best of all, they can be trimmed to the desired size and shape.

If aesthetics are important on your slamming door, use silicone instead.  A small bead of clear silicone caulk in place of the felt/weather stripping will have the same effect.  Just be sure to prop the door open slightly as the silicone cures.

How about you, do you have any tricks you use for household fixes?  Let me know about them!