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DIY Life

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    Give your trees a healthy headstart to spring by pruning large branches now with the simple three-step method.

    pruning trees, three cut methodThe three-cut method. Photo: KTesh, Flickr

    Looking forward to lush green leaves and spring blossoms on your trees? You might have to give them a few good, healthy chops first.

    In order to encourage healthy, hearty growth and maintain the structure of your trees, you should prune often and early. Late winter/early spring -- before the first sprouts emerge -- is the perfect time to lop of weak or dead branches.

    There are many ways to prune a tree, but there's only one foolproof method that prevents surviving branches from developing fungus and makes sure the bark stays intact and the tree's structural tissue isn't damaged: it's called the three-cut method.

    Many arborists swear by the three-cut method of pruning trees. Brian Sayers, president of New York State Arborists and owner of The Tree Doctor in Clarence, N.Y., won't let his employees trim trees any other way. Sayers believes that the three-cut method is safer, because it lets you gently eliminate the majority of the limb before making the final cut at the limb's base. "All the weight [of the limb] is gone and you can concentrate on the [final] cut," explains Sayer.

    Here's how the three-cut method works:

    pruning trees, three cut method
    1. Begin by cutting a notch into the weakened limb about five or six inches inches before the spot where you intend the final cut to be. Make the cut half an inch deep.

    2. For the second cut, move out an inch or two away from the trunk and cut intil the joint snaps and the majority of the limb falls off. Tree limbs are heavy, so the first cut acts to prevent the limb from tearing stem tissue as it comes off.

    3. The third cut is the most important. Here are you are attacking the raised, rough stub, which is called a bark tear. The goal is to remove it completely so that the "wound" is clean and there is hardly any raised surface area. To do this, locate the "collar" where the limb meets the trunk. Cut about a quarter inch away from this area, because the tissue in this region is crucial to help the tree heal from the cut you've just made. "If you don't find the branch collar, the tree will start to rot," cautions Sayers. "Follow the angle of the branch collar so it will produce new wood. Otherwise, [the tree will] get fungi."

    In this video, you'll see exactly how to prune small and large limbs on a tree. Want to see the three-cut method? Skip to 1:35.

    Sayers offers three additional safety tips to ensure you won't damage yourself in the process:

    tree pruning tools(Top) A long-handled pole saw. Photo: Fanno. (Bottom) A chainsaw that's perfect for pruning trees. Photo: Stihl

    1. Use the right tools. Sayers recommends a Fanno hand saw or pole saw, or a chainsaw by either Stihl or Husqvarna.

    2. Do not use a ladder, no matter how short you are or how high up the affected branch is. "The branch can come down on the ladder and [cause you to] fall off the ladder," says Sayers.

    3. Do not cut while holding the saw above you. This applies to both handheld and chain saws. "You can't control the cut as well," says Sayers.

    Got any tree-pruning tips? Share them in the comments below!

    Pruning Apple Trees
    Early Spring Flowers: What's Blooming (ShelterPop)


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    Hammering nails without giving yourself a black thumb is a feat unto itself. One resourceful reader shows us how it's done.

    hammering nails, black thumbNeedle-nose pliers are the key to keeping your nail in place as you hammer. Photo: slambo_42, Flickr

    One way to effectively hammer nails without accidentally hammering your thumb (ouch!) or dropping the nail on the floor (ugh!) is to use a pair of needle nose pliers to hold the nail in place as you hammer.

    Use the pointed tip of the pliers to grip the nail and hold it securely to the wall. While hollding the pliers, press your hand against the wall for leverage and a more stable grip. And if your hammer slips, it'll hit the metal pliers -- and not your fingers.

    We want to hear your best DIY household tip related to cleaning, fixing, building or organizing. Head over to to contribute your tip, and we may just buy it and publish it here!

    Want to see another trick for hammering nails, especially in awkward spaces? Skip to :40 in the video below to see the cardboard method:


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    Our favorite online destination to buy, sell and donate home improvement supplies is now accessible to DIYers anywhere in the country.

    DiggersListGetty Images

    Ever wish there was an accessible place where you could score great deals on building supplies and unload the ones you have no use for? Without having to actually leave your home? A place like CraigsList, but dedicated just to your home improvement projects? Well, today is your lucky day.

    Our favorite home improvement classifieds site, DiggersList, just went global. So no matter where you are in the U.S., this DIY marketplace is now available to you -- no loading up of the van required.

    DiggersList lets you buy or sell anything home improvement-related, from spare lumber and drywall to whole light fixtures and furniture. You can even find spare parts for your power tools or your plumbing. Just input your zip code and the site will locate items close to where you live (but you can also search nationally if you choose).

    And if you decide to list your own supplies for sale on the site, and they don't end up selling, DiggersList will donate your items to a Habitat for Humanity ReStore, where they're sold at rock bottom prices -- and the proceeds are used to fund Habitat's mission to provide safe, affordable homes to those in need.

    DiggersList first hit our radar about a year ago when it was a fledgling resource available to only select U.S. cities. But what a difference a year can make! "We've received a flood of requests, all over the country, to open up new cities," said Matt Knox, CEO and Co-founder of DiggersList. "So we have decided to fast forward our plans and bring DiggersList to the entire country ahead of schedule."

    So if your spring cleaning plans involve cleaning out your garage, basement or any other heavy-duty clutter zone, you may want to bookmark DiggersList today -- and avoid a headache later.

    Need help figuring out what to get rid of? This video can help you figure out what to unload -- and other places that will accept your goods:


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    If your garage door opener isn't in operating properly, you could be setting yourself up for an expensive repair down the road. We consulted a pro about one very common garage door troubleshooting issue.

    garage door troubleshootingExamine your spring for a break in the coiled metal. Another sign of a broken spring is if the steel cables that run along the wall near the door jambs are loose. Photo: Joe Provey, Home & Garden Editorial Services

    Is your garage door operating at full capacity, or is it poised to malfunction? Veteran garage door tech Ken Uliano recommends that you regularly check the real muscle of your automatic garage door system: the spring.

    "Few homeowners realize that it's the spring (or springs) that do 90 percent of the lifting when an automatic opener lifts a garage door," says Ken Uliano, a professional garage door technician. "The garage door opener's motor is only designed to handle 10 percent of the lifting." Over time, the metal coil that makes up the spring becomes weak and loses some tension, causing the motor to work harder than it should. If the motor becomes overtaxed, the plastic gears inside may break and you'll be facing an expensive repair.

    How to Test a Garage Door Spring
    To check to see if your spring is no longer doing its fair share, conduct the test that Uliano uses.

    garage door troubleshootingPull the release cord to disengage the J-arm from the carriage. Then conduct the test described above. Photo: Joe Provey, Home & Garden Editorial Services

    First, disengage the J-arm (the J-shaped lever) from the carriage (see photo) by pulling on the release cord. Then manually raise the door 1 foot and let it go. The door should stay at the release height. Repeat this test at shoulder height and with the door almost fully raised. If the door slams to the floor when you let go, the spring is probably weak.

    garage door troubleshooting
    Caption: It's okay to make a slight adjustment of force by turning the lift force higher by one or two settings. More than that, however, and you risk damaging the opener's motor and the door itself.

    If the door slowly drifts to the floor, a slight adjustment of the motor's lift force may solve the problem. Be careful, though: The garage door can be quite heavy, especially if the springs are weak. When raising one manually, lift with you knees to avoid hurting your back. Call a friend to help with the lifting if necessary.

    If you suspect that the spring is weak, get a quote from a qualified technician to replace it. Don't wait until it breaks, otherwise you'll probably end up paying even more for the repair. In some cases, the spring can be tightened in order to increase tension. In others, it will need to be replaced.

    A new spring is not an expensive part and only takes a pro 20 minutes or so to install. Fees, however, can range from under $200 to more than $400. Uliano says to ask for oil-tempered springs that are rated for at least 30,000 cycles. In addition, he says homeowners should opt for at least a 5-year warranty and to choose a lifetime warranty if they're not planning on moving anytime soon.

    Safety tip: Do not attempt to adjust or replace springs your self. This is one repair that can cause serious injury or worse if you bungle it.

    Once you're certain your garage door is stable, learn how to insulate it with these handy tips:


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    Hack your way to sophisticated home style with these innovative, budget-friendly projects from around the web.

    home styleMarcus Design

    Dorothy Draper Hollywood Regency furniture pieces can easily set you back thousands of dollars. But a trip to IKEA can garner you the materials to create a fabulous knockoff -- one that costs just a little more than $30. Nancy from Marcus Design has step-by-step instructions to transform an affordable, bland dresser into a gorgeous DIY showpiece.[Marcus Design via Ikea Hacker]

    home styleApartment Therapy

    MacGyver may have met his match in Ohdeedoh's Katie Steuernagle. With a few pieces of wood, vinyl strips and a concrete form, she whipped up an amazing DIY nightstand. The nailhead trim gives this DIY creation a high-end look -- for only $30! [Apartment Therapy]

    home styleDIY Network

    Want a beautiful kitchen remodel without spending major cash? The key is to get the most out of inexpensive materials. Take for example this sleek kitchen island, which is crafted out of two-sandwiched IKEA cabinets topped off with butcher-block. The soda-fountain stools were online finds that were anchored into the floor. [DIY Network]

    home styleBetter Homes & Gardens

    Bookcases and storage cubes are simple pieces that can be converted into custom furniture creations. Turn stackable storage cubes into an entertainment center by screwing the cubes together and adding metal legs (pictured left). For a floating store-and-serve buffet, use wall anchors and mount bookcases horizontally (center). Also, you can transform a bookshelf into a bench by adding a cozy cushion and wooden furniture feet (right). [Better Homes & Gardens]

    home styleNesting Place

    Accent pieces don't have to be expensive to be beautiful. Add instant style to a room with this dramatic DIY sunburst mirror. Folded poster board, mirror and glue are the main materials used to create the pretty display. [Nesting Place]

    home styleCharles & Hudson

    Think you can't paint bathroom tile? Think again. Using Glidden's Gripper Primer, the folks at Charles & Hudson easily upgraded dated dandelion tiles with a modern, high-gloss finish. [Charles & Hudson]


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    Get the look of a solid granite countertop in your kitchen with one of these three fabulous faux granite treatments -- and serve up high style on a humble budget.

    granite countertop, faux granite countertopsSolid granite is one of the most popular countertop options out there -- also one of the priciest. Photo: granite-charlotte, Flickr

    If you're like most Americans, the idea of a glossy, modern granite countertop in your kitchen sounds pretty sweet. But unless you've got a generous budget and/or abundant DIY skills, granite countertops may not be in your forseeable future.

    Or are they? We found three easy DIY applications that let you mimic the look of solid granite countertop (trust us, they look just like the real thing!) at a fraction of the price.

    1. Countertop Paint Kit
    You may have wondered, is it possible to paint your laminate countertops? The answer is yes, and to fabulous effect. If you want to paint your laminate countertops with a faux finish that looks eerily identical to granite, check out this video. It demonstrates the results of the Giani Granite paint kit, which includes several types of paints, tools for applying the finish (including a textured sponge), and a high-gloss finishing coat that mimic granite countertop.

    You're watching Faux Granite Countertops. See the Web's top videos on AOL Video

    2. Granite Tile
    Tile installation is a pretty doable project for DIYers of all levels. So if the idea of installing solid granite countertop seems a bit daunting, consider installing granite tile over your existing surface -- as long as you're okay with the grout lines, that is. Granite tiles are usually about 12" square and because they're thinner than a stone slab, they're also lighter and easier to handle. Watch this video to learn more about granite tiles.

    3. Plastic Laminate with Granite Look
    We know what you're probably thinking: There's no way plastic laminate can look or feel like real granite. But quality plastic laminate post form tops are actually produced with both matte and glossy finishes plus subtle grooves that mimic the texture of real granite countertop, to both the eye and the touch -- at about 50% less than natural stone slabs. Watch as DIYer Danny Lipford explains the ins and outs of stone-look plastic laminate countertops.


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    Keep your home clean and allergen free with this room-by-room guide to how to dust.

    You know you've been there: Just when you think your house is clean, a beam of sunlight comes across the living room, highlighting all those dust particles dancing in the air, just waiting to settle on every available surface.

    Even the tidiest homes collect dust: tiny but solid particles from the surrounding environment, like hair, dirt, dead skin, decomposing insect carcasses, and other nasties. One of the big contributors to household dust is the dust mite, which feeds on organic debris such as dead skin cells and decomposing insects. Dust mites and their excrement are highly allergenic. Read more about dust mites (if you dare!) the Ohio State University Net Wellness site.

    Some homes have more of a tendency toward dust build-up than others. Here are some of the contributing factors, plus tips on how to dust properly:

    Synthetic feather dusters just disturb the dust, making the surface appear clean, but it quickly settles again as if you'd never dusted. If you love traditional dusters, get a good quality ostrich feather duster and maintain it properly so it stays in top shape. Otherwise, use a microfiber cloth, which leaves no traces of dust behind.

    This is an obvious one -- and it's hard to avoid in the summer, especially if you're averse to air conditioning -- but If you leave your home open, it is more likely to collect dust. Pet dander, insects, pollen and dirt all come in from the outdoors. If you're a sucker for fresh summer air, you might have to learn to live with dust.

    Construction is very dusty business. Some builders have the ducts cleaned before the home is sold, but others don't, meaning that drywall dust, fiberglass and other construction debris might be trapped in the air ducts. Even older homes that are surrounded by new construction are likely to experience this to some degree as debris makes its way inside the house. Duct cleaning is arguably unnecessary unless the home has recently been under construction, because the actual ducts should be a dust-free environment. Still, many believe that regularly cleaning them will improve air quality as dust particles may have become trapped inside. Change or clean furnace and air conditioner filters regularly because if they are dirty, they will blow dust into the home. Many people opt for hypoallergenic air filters to further maintain the air quality in their homes.

    how to dustGetty Images

    Pet dander is a big dust contributor. Pets are also more likely to track in dirt and pollen, contributing further to the dust accumulation. Brush and bathe your pets regularly to limit the amount of shedding.

    how to dust, curtainsGetty Images

    Broken down fabric fibers and dust mites feeding on organic debris in couches and chairs cause these old furnishings to attract dust. Wash all household fabrics (curtains, bedding, couch covers, cushions etc..), regularly, depending on their use, with bedding being washed once each week. Heavy curtains attract and trap dust; replacing them with lighter, airier ones will significantly reduce dust buildup.

    Wall to wall carpeting is a dust magnet. Make sure to vacuum at least once a week, and empty your vacuum bag each time. Even a partially full vacuum bag can blow dust back into the room. If you're thinking of remodeling, consider replacing carpeting with tile, wood or laminate flooring, and use an area rug instead. Area rugs can be easily cleaned by beating them regularly outdoors. Also, wipe down baseboards, which quickly accumulate dust. This will keep the floor dust-free almost twice as long.

    How to Make Swiffer Sweeper Pads

    How to Make Eco-Friendly Furniture Polish

    Did you know that you're living with millions of uninvited guests? Here's help for outsmarting those dirty dust mites.


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    Take the toxic chemicals and fumes out of your spring cleaning routine with this guide to green cleaning your house from top to bottom.

    green cleaningGetty Images

    Green cleaning is an eco-friendly way of scrubbing down the house using natural products that don't damage the environment, like soap, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and borax. Floor steamers are also green cleaners, since the only thing they clean with is water.

    Don't just rely on labels that trumpet terms like "green" and "eco-friendly. The trick is being able to sift through a label and tell what's what.

    Here are just a few ingredients that are considered toxic:

    -Chlorine bleach
    -Methylene chloride
    -Sulfuric acid
    -Sodium hydroxide

    And here's an obvious one: any product with a word like "danger" "warning" or "caution" on the bottle is clearly toxic.

    When shopping for ecologically-sound household cleaners, look for products that are labeled as non-toxic and environmentally friendly. But also be wary of these claims, as there are very few regulations for manufacturers' environmental labeling. And always opt for companies that disclose their ingredient list.

    green cleaningGreen Seal and EPA

    You can also look for the Design for the Environment (DfE) seal, which guarantees the the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved each ingredient for potential human health and environmental effects. Another reliable certification is the Green Seal, which is a science-based environmental certification from a non-profit organization.

    Good old-fashioned baking soda, white vinegar, soap and lemon juice are always green choices, but there are also many pre-made cleansers that are safe for the earth.

    Here are some green cleaning brands we've tried and like:

    Chlorox's Green Works line
    Mrs. Meyers
    S. C. Johnson's Nature's Source line
    Seventh Generation

    The good news for the style-conscious among us: Green products have morphed over the past decade from a hippie-inspired gesture to the mark of a cutting edge consumer. Here are some of our favorite fashion-forward green cleaning brands.

    Photo: Courtesy of TWIST

    Twist Sponges
    Originally designed as an alternative to the conventional, yellow-green scrubbing sponges, Twist combines all natural, plant-based products like non-dyed cellulose, agave fiber and hemp. Twist's Matt Bauman says their classier looking packaging is almost coincidental -- the byproduct of its natural earth tone ingredients in a world of "gross, industrial looking" spongeware. Here's a list of places to find Twist sponges near you.

    Photo: Bon Ami

    Bon Ami Clean
    Bon Ami, founded in 1886, was a pioneer in green cleaning. Carolyn West, Director of Sustainability, whose family has owned the company since the 1970s, says that even after the post-WWII influx of chemically saturated products, Bon Ami recently updated their packaging to make it more modern but kept their formula grounded in all natural ingredients.

    Join Bon Ami's Good Friends Group to be included in regular product giveaways; you can order directly off the site.

    Photo: Method

    Method Clean
    The Method product line is the brainchild of Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan who united their diverse backgrounds in chemistry and design to create shelf-popping products with enviro-friendly ingredients; they refused to sacrifice scent and smell like many products of the 1990s, while still adhering to strict standards of quality, earth-safe ingredients.

    Method also follows the Cradle to Cradle design philosophy, considering the past, present and future impact of every product and assessing every ingredient with these standards. Fueled by their early vision to combine form and function, "we wanted products that were beautiful to look at," says Method's Katie Molinari, "but also functional in use."

    Photo: Courtesy of Nellie's

    Nellie's All-Natural Dryer Balls
    These throw back, plastic-spiked creations are in line with Nellie's All-Natural Product's greater vision to use "non-toxic, hypo-allergenic and environmentally friendly cleaning products that reduce consumption and allow you to use only what you need." The PVC free dryer balls come in nostalgic packaging and feature a new natural fragrance option and promise to reduce drying time by 25% -- cutting energy, time and costs. Use the site to find a retailer near you.


    green cleaningSustainable cleaning tools for greener cleaning. Photos (clockwise from top left): Scotch Brite, GreenSweep, The Containter Store, Skoy

    Now that you've got your arsenal of green cleaning products, check out our recommendations for green cleaning tools.

    Made from recycled soda bottles, this perky-green bucket is part of the the eclipse series by Casabella ($13). Not only will it hold suds, this bucket would also effectively store your Method, Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyer's products.

    Worn-out tires and plastic were transformed into the broom head of this broom by GreenSweep. Bamboo, considered a renewable material because of its rapid regrowth, is in the broom's handle. Rounding out this very green cleaning tool are bristles on the broom head made from a mix of natural and recycled plastics. It's designed to be used indoors and outdoors.

    Scotch Brite
    Adding more waste to the trash when cleaning up a floor or countertop -- such as a dirty rag or cloth after it's been used -- does not make ecological sense. That's where Greener Clean natural bamboo cleaning cloth from ScotchBrite comes in. It's biodegradable and made from 100% natural fibers. Because it's derived from 60% bamboo rayon (a very renewable material) and 40% cotton, you know that it was made with the environment in mind. Plus it can be reused.

    Two California moms, who were fed up with cloths that are made from toxic materials, teamed up to design these biodegradable cleaning cloths ($6 for four, in an array of colors). Made in Europe, in a factory known to adopt sustainable business practices, SKOY multi-use cloths are chlorine-free and made from a natural cotton and wood-based cellulose pulp. Using one cloth, according to the founders, will last as long as 15 rolls of paper towels would.

    green cleaning, mirror  cleaningGetty Images

    If your mirrors seems like magnets for every droplet, particle and print possible, reflect on these green mirror cleaning tips.

    Daily Mirror Cleaning
    Regular day-to-day mirror cleaning is a cinch -- and totally green -- if you use a little rubbing alcohol on a soft, lint-free cloth (I like microfiber); it'll wash away all sorts of spots and smudges. Plus, alcohol disinfects while it cleans and it evaporates as it dries so it leaves nothing behind but a streak-free shine!

    Fresh out of rubbing alcohol? Try an antiseptic mouthwash, which has the same effect as the rubbing alcohol when applied to a lint-free cloth and used to buff the mirror.

    If you don't like the smell of the alcohol or mouthwash, brew yourself a cup of tea and leave half of it to cool in the fridge for a while. Then dip a lint-free cloth into the tea and scrub the mirror. It's tea for two -- you and your mirror!

    If these mirror cleaning solutions are all a little too drippy for you, try gel hand sanitizer to clean and shine all of your mirrors in seconds flat.

    Removing Water Spots from the Mirror
    Grab the baking soda from your pantry -- or keep an extra box in your medicine cabinet. A little of the this go-to green cleaning powder on a dry cloth will buff unsightly water spots away without leaving streaks behind.







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    Cleaning with vinegar is a tried and true way to get a naturally sparkling home without using toxic chemicals.

    cleaning with vinegarCleaning with vinegar is the natural way to squeaky clean abode. Photo: Getty Images

    Tired of noxious cleaning chemicals? Vinegar is a fantastic all-natural cleaning agent for household surfaces. Surprisingly, cleaning with vinegar doesn't leave the bold, salty stench you might imagine. Once you wipe a surface clean, the vinegar odor disintegrates into a sweet, fresh smell.

    Here's a list of common problem areas in the home that you can address with vinegar.

    Remove soap buildup and odors from the dishwasher, pour a cup of white distilled vinegar inside the empty machine and run it through one 'rinse' cycle. Repeat this monthly.

    Banish lime deposits in a tea kettle by adding 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar to the water and letting it sit overnight. If the deposits are still intact, boil another 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar in the kettle for a few minutes, let cool and rinse with plain water.

    Remove a label or price tag, cover the adhesive with a cloth soaked in white distilled vinegar. Leave the cloth on overnight and the label will slide off by morning!

    Get rid of mildew and soap scum from the tub or shower by wiping the surface with undiluted white distilled vinegar. Rinse with water.

    Deodorize the toilet, pour three cups of white distilled vinegar into the bowl and let sit for about a half hour before flushing.

    Remove paint from windows, doors or glass, try using hot undiluted, white distilled vinegar. Give the solution time to soften the paint before removing with a razor edge tool.

    Clean and disinfect baby or pet toys add a generous splash of white distilled vinegar to soapy water.

    Clean sticky scissors with a white distilled vinegar-soaked cloth.

    Clean the grill by spraying white distilled vinegar over crumpled aluminum foil and scrubbing the grill vigorously with the foil.

    Clean and deodorize counter tops with a cloth soaked in undiluted white distilled vinegar.

    Many brand name cleaners are beginning to offer environmentally friendly versions of their glass cleaners, but perhaps one of the greenest of all is cleaning with vinegar. Use a simple solution of 2 tbsp white vinegar in a gallon of water, with the newspapers used to clean instead of paper towels. If vinegar isn't your thing (if you have a lot of windows to clean the smell might be a bit much) lemon juice or club soda are good alternatives.

    For another method of window cleaning, check out this video:

    Vinegar is excellent for removing odors from your clothing, as well as perspiration stains. Placing a bowl of vinegar on your counter overnight will rid the room of odor.

    Cleaning clothes with vinegar is an easy, inexpensive way to deodorize your laundry.

    Many people already know that white vinegar in a small bowl will remove smoky or musty odors, and that you can put the bowl on a closet floor or shelf if those odors happen to be stuck in your coats and jackets. What many people do not know is that, if you put white vinegar in your wash water at the beginning of a laundry load, it will both freshen and soften the clothes being washed. The scent of vinegar will have miraculously disappeared by the end of the wash cycle, but everything will smell very clean. You don't need much vinegar: a half cup is sufficient, a full cup is plenty, and exact measurements probably aren't necessary. Don't forget to add your usual detergent, too!

    cleaing with vinegarGet your fixtures gleaming by cleaning them with vinegar. Photo: Getty Images

    The rust stain removing toilet bowl cleaners produced for the market today can be very toxic. Why not try using full strength vinegar instead and let it sit in your toilet bowl for about 15 minutes, then scrub the bowl as usual. That spray mixture you made for your windows will also shine all the porcelain and fixtures in your bathroom and works just great for killing bacteria.

    Cleaning your no wax floors with a solution of 1 cup vinegar per gallon of water will give your floors a shinier surface.

    You can clean your wood paneling with a mixture of 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup vinegar and 2 cups warm water. This will be awesome for us, because if we can buy the place, we don't want to tear down the solid wood paneling that my dad worked so hard to install in his house.


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    Office organization is your ticket to a home office that works for you!

    office organizationOffice organization clears your desk and your mind. Photo: Getty Images

    Messy desks plague most home office - for those of you who are able to confine office type mess to the office. People with no time to tidy up, who end up spending more time looking for things then actually being productive.

    When you consider that all this mess is affecting productivity it is time to make a change.

    Taking back your workspace isn't easy. The home office often becomes a place to dump boxes of outgrown baby clothes, ancient computer parts and even random junk that's lying around when company is on their way over. Here are a few tips to help you feel good in your workspace.

    Once you've decided how the room will be used, only keep relevant things there.
    Find another place for old baby clothes. If your house is really short on space and you need to use the office, find a way to separate storage area from work area. This could be as simple as a hanging curtain, or confining Rubbermaid bins to the closet. This will keep your workspace as a dedicated area even if the room is serving two purposes.

    File papers right away.
    File papers as soon as they come into the house; it's far less work than filing a huge pile at once (and even less work than looking for something come tax time!). If you find that files get too messy, you might like to use binders instead. Keep a three hole punch handy and put important papers in a binder as they come in. These are easy to flip through when you need to find something later. Organize them neatly on a shelf with labels facing outward.

    Don't be afraid to throw things out.
    Most of us keep papers way too long. Not necessarily because we think we need them, but because they once got filed and forgotten. Go through your papers and get rid of old things giving yourself a fresh start.

    Add some style
    Add a little personality to your work space. Maybe this could be the room where you allow posters or prints that you like but wouldn't dare display in the living room (dogs playing poker anyone?).

    Does your home office have a desk that's covered with files and piles of paper? What you need are some office organization tips that work. In the following video, a professional organizer provides smart tips for keeping the clutter under control. On her to-do list:

    -- Assign everything a "home" so it's easier to make sure each item stays where it belongs.
    -- Never let books sit on your desk because their home should be in your bookcase.
    -- Keep a shredder or recycle bin handy at all times so you don't accumulate papers on your desk.
    -- Use a napkin holder or vintage toast rack to separate your incoming mail so it doesn't end up tossed about.

    Watch the video for lots more tips from a pro on office organization.

    In the following video, a professional organizer recommends clever office organization tactics we'd never even thought of, like transforming a closet in or near the office into a bookcase or file cabinet. You can close the doors to keep clutter out of sight and out of mind. Here's how it's done.

    Build a Closet Office (Popular Mechanics)
    40 Stylish Gifts for the Home Office (Houzz)


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    Looking for fresh ideas for the garden? Use your imagination. DIY pro Skaie Knox of the home improvement e-marketplace DiggersList shows how us how transform everyday items into unique, decorative planters.

    With spring around the corner, it's time to dream up some great ideas for the garden! I'm thinking outside the (planter) box this season. After all, garden planters -- standalone containers for plants and flowers -- come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. It's easy to repurpose an un unexpected object into a surprisingly chic planter.

    I scoured my website, the DIY e-marketplace DiggersList, for fantastic, creative, and totally quirky containers to fill with colorful flowers and plants. With a little ingenuity, the following discarded objects can be transformed into works of garden art.

    ideas for the gardenDiggersList, The T-Cozy

    Sink Planter
    Your garden can have everything and the kitchen sink! Modern pedestal basins are among the more ingenious ideas for the garden. They were practically designed to hold flowers and plants. They also make for an unexpected first impression.

    - DiggersList Find: Pedestal Sink

    ideas for the gardenDiggersList, Debra Prinzing

    Shutter Planter
    Try a trellis with twist! This fun and simple DIY project can be completed in a weekend with a pair of louvre closet doors. With a bit of sanding, painting and planting, these doors become a unique pair of trellises for showcasing your sensational succulents.

    - DiggersList Find: Shutters

    ideas for the gardenDiggersList, UnwrappedDesign

    Tub Planter
    Rub-a-dub-dub, tulips in the tub! A vintage clawfoot tub converted into a planter adds whimsy to any garden or urban outdoor space.

    - DiggersList Find: Clawfoot Bath Tub

    ideas for the gardenDiggersList/Wisdom Woman

    Wheel Barrel Planter
    Give a utilitarian garden tool a brand new job by transforming it into charming, rustic planter for spring flowers.

    - DiggersList Find: Wheel Barrel

    ideas for the gardenDiggersList, Nautical Gardens

    Boat Planter
    Show off a boat load of colorful blossoms by repurposing a canoe and parking it in your garden. Depending on what kind of look you desire, you can stick with sea-worn shabby canoe or sand and paint it for a more polished look -- you can even include details like brass or roping.

    - DiggersList Find: Decorative Canoe

    Natural Weed Killers
    Pruning Trees Using Three Cut Method


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    Even seasoned DIYers end up with a black thumb or a gouge in the wall from time to time. Here are 20 common DIY mistakes and the safety tips you can learn from them.

    Check out this great article from our friends over at Popular Mechanics!

    safety tips, diy help

    The editors at Popular Mechanics would like you to know that we're not perfect. Whether tackling home improvements or making automotive repairs, we've all made our fair share of mistakes. Here are some of the worst.

    safety tips, diy helpKlaus Tiedge, Corbis

    1. Deep-Water Drilling
    I used a 3-inch drywall screw to hang a heavy, framed painting in my bedroom, because the extra length provides more load-bearing strength, right? It held the frame fine, but two months later, the living-room ceiling collapsed. Turns out the screw had punctured a water pipe, creating a slow, insidious leak.

    Lesson Learned: Use a hollow-wall anchor, not a drywall screw, which can plunge deep enough to do real damage.

    2. What a Tool
    I rolled the drum floor sander into the room, plugged it in-and it took off like a crazed robot. I gave chase as it bashed a hole in the wall and raced into the next room.

    Lessons Learned: (1) Make sure the machine is switched off before you plug it in. (2) If you forget the first lesson, never chase a runaway floor ­sander: Instead, pull the plug.

    Check out the other 18 DIY mistakes that our friends at Popular Mechanics made so you don't have to -- plus the safety tips they learned the hard way.

    For table saw safety tips, check out this video from the Woodworkers Guild of America:


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    Remove crayon from your wall using a secret weapon: toothpaste.

    As any parent knows, crayon art has a tendency to jump from the paper to the walls of your home. Take for example my two-year-old son, who decided to draw me a picture on Mother's Day. I was so excited that he was interested in art that I barely noticed where he was making his creation ... on my precious dining room wall.

    Fortunately, my grandmother year's ago had let me in on a cleaning secret: one of the quickest ways to remove crayon from a painted wall is to apply toothpaste.

    To remove marks, first scrub toothpaste over the wall with a dry sponge. Allow the toothpaste to sit for five minutes, then use a damp washcloth to wipe away the paste. The result is a clean wall free of stubborn crayon marks.

    We want to hear your best DIY household tip related to cleaning, fixing, building or organizing. Head over to to contribute your tip, and we may just buy it and publish it here!

    Ever wonder how to make all-natural toothpaste? We did, so were glad to discover this video by our partners at Threadbanger, who explain the steps involved. All you need are baking soda, peroxide, essential oil (spearmint, perhaps?) and Stevia extract to whip up your own homemade toothpaste -- whether for stain removal or simply brushing your teeth! Check out the demonstration:

    Got a bunch of worn down or broken pieces of crayon in the house? Crayola's come out with a great product that lets you make your own crayons! It's a great way to get the kids DIYing. The gadget melts down the wax and uses molds to produce all new crayons in about 10 minutes. The machine is safe for kids to use. Watch a demonstration in this video:


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    Thinking of installing new kitchen flooring in time for spring? In this five-part kitchen flooring series, we'll lay the groundwork -- and you make the decision. In this second installment we take a closer look the DIYer's kitchen flooring material of choice: Linoleum.

    kitchen flooring, linoleumLinoleum flooring. Photo: tuchodi, Flickr

    How It's Made: Linoleum is a mixture of cork dust, ground limestone, linseed oil, mineral pigments, recycled wood flour and tree resins -- all pressed together and mounted onto jute backing. Interestingly, its name is a combination of the Latin words for flax (linum) and oil (oleum).

    How It's Sold: Linoleum kitchen flooring is available as tile, sheeting and even cutout pieces that look similar to area rugs. It sticks to the floor with adhesive. Tile is sold in all sizes and sheeting is typically sold in 6-foot x 7-inch widths and multiple thicknesses.

    Pros: Linoleum is considered a green material because no hazardous chemicals are associated with its creation or disposal. It's also naturally antibacterial and biodegradable, easy to clean, comfortable to stand on and scratch- and gouge-resistant -- excellent for high-traffic areas just like the kitchen. Linoleum can last 40 years or more.

    Cons: Although it's rugged and easy to work with, linoleum just doesn't have the same appeal to some consumers as higher end materials.

    DIY Degree of Difficulty: Very Easy (Tiles) to Tough (Sheeting)
    While any eager 8-year-old assistant could help you lay a linoleum tile kitchen floor (just spread out latex adhesive, place tiles on it, then set with a roller), laying sheet linoleum is another story. The adhesive makes linoleum sheeting shrink in length and expand in width, which adds up to a potential nightmare situation. So it's wise to leave the sheeting installation to the pros, and take on tile installation yourself.

    Care & Maintenance: Dust mop and/or sweep regularly with a soft-bristled broom. Vacuum with the soft floor attachment (careful: the ends of certain attachments can scratch delicate finishes). Remove stubborn scuff marks with a clean rag dipped in undiluted linoleum cleaner. Wash by hand with a natural vinegar-based solution or use a damp mop as needed. Recoat floors once per year with acrylic sealer to maintain performance and luster.

    Cost (per square foot)
    Linoleum tile is typically priced from $2 to $7. Sheet linoleum costs $3 to $4 installed.


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    You don't have to live with those reddish brown stains on your furniture and patio. Removing rust from metal and concrete is easier than you think.

    With temperatures rising, the last of winter's snow is (finally) melting away. If you have metal furniture or a concrete patio, his thawing may reveal an unwelcome surprise: rust.

    It's hard to avoid rust. It naturally forms on metal when oxygen and moisture combine with metal over a long period of time -- such as a wet winter. It turns into an oxide, which we call rust. Over time, rust can corrode metal, so it's important to scrub off this surface substance asap.

    We scouted out solutions for removing rust now to prep your outdoor space for summer living.

    Removing rust from metal: With a little power from your drill and 3M's Paint & Rust Stripper, you can remove rust from metals (without damaging the surface.) The 3M disc is made of synthetic webbing that cleans rusty surfaces with ease.

    Removing rust from metal furniture with enamel finish: Super Iron Out made it onto Martha Stewart's list of fave spring cleaning tools. This chemical solution touts its removal strength on many surfaces, including porcelain and enamel metal.

    Removing rust from concrete: You'll find a number of chemical rust removers on the market, but there's actually a homemade pantry solution you may want to try first. Simply pour vinegar on the rust, let it sit and do its work, and then scrub with a stiff brush.

    Tip: Chlorine bleach is not a solution for rust stains. In fact, bleach will only make the problem worse.

    For more tips, check out our guide for how to prep your outdoor furniture for spring.

    If you have heavy rust damage to your metal furniture, it may require repair in addition to cleaning. In the video below, Ask the Builder expert Tim Carter guides you through removing rust and using rust-inhibitive primer to cover up the remnants and prevent future rust buildup. Sure, rust can cause a lot of damage if left unchecked, but we're always surprised at just how simple it is to remedy rust.


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    The best way to pair form and function in your yard? An edible landscape. Learn how to grow basil for pesto, apples for breakfast and more.

    Yes, you can bring your gardening inside and right onto your dinner table. So why not do your landscaping and food shopping at the same time? With these helpful videos, you'll get started growing herbs in 30 minutes (seriously) and learn how to make the most out of your outdoor space. Get ready for fresh grown produce and seasonings...

    This video has a time-saving (and mess-saving) tip: Create an landscape using garden socks. A few easy steps, and your garden is growing. Watch how:

    Another great idea -- replace your lawn with a colorful, tasty landscape. It's lower maintenance, less energy and might even encourage your neighbors to take on the same project! Our favorite way to go: Start a orchid for delicious apples.

    You can also get the kids involved by using this easy, fun idea. Create mini-gardens in plastic containers that they can keep indoors. They'll love watching the herbs grow over time. Bonus: The containers can be decorated, so it's a two-for-one project! Next you'll just have to teach them recipes to use those herbs to spice up dinner!

    For more ideas on what to grow, check out these 10 edible garden options. And learn how to decorate with food!


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    Want to impress your friends by balancing an egg on the Vernal Equinox? It's possible, but you have more than one day to get it done. Here's how...

    Urban legends are a dime a dozen when it comes to Mother Nature and her seasonal quirks. Case in point: The old egg-balancing theory, which states that you can balance a raw egg on its end only on the spring (vernal) and autumn equinoxes. Also, according to Chinese folklore, standing an egg on its end during either equinox promotes good luck.

    balance an eggThe not-so-illusive balanced egg! Photo: spike55151, Flickr.

    This year, the Spring Equinox occurs on March 20 -- that's when the Earth's axis tilts neither near nor away from the Sun: Instead, the Sun is directly above the equator.

    According to Kristi Concannon, associate professor of physics at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and an astronomer by training, this egg-balancing theory is far from the truth. The reason it's false? You can actually balance an egg any day of the year. One of the first things a graduate professor had her and fellow classmates do at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was to test this theory. It was the day after the Spring Equinox, she recalls, and the students were told to line up their eggs. Amazingly, they all balanced with ease, therefore refuting the legend.

    "You could balance an egg right now and it's certainly not the equinox," says Concannon. "Maybe somebody once balanced an egg on the equinox and then the myth got started?"

    Say you do want to try and balance an egg during the equinox -- or any other time of year. Concannon suggests hard-boiling that egg first. It's more difficult to keep a liquid yoke still. Another tip: "It's easier to balance the egg on the round end than the pointy end," she says. "If you were to look really close at an egg, there are little bumps. These little bumps act like little legs." Who knew?

    Still, it intrigues a lot of people, particularly during the month of March when this urban legend hits the airwaves and social-media networks like clockwork. Would you try this trick this month?

    See how it's done in this video! (Hint: Instead of boiling the egg, this video suggests a raw egg and plenty of persistence.)


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    A chalkboard table is perfect for kids and adults, art projects and to-do lists. Get your paint brush ready...

    Check out this creative DIY by our friends at Houzz!


    No matter how high-end my clients go with their choice of dining table, if they have kids it's pretty much guaranteed it will end up doubling as a scribbling, let's-pull-the-crust-off-the-bread, juicebox-sipping coloring station. What's the point in spending thousands of dollars on a fancy table if it's gonna be covered in crayons, Matchbox cars and kiddie yumyums 80 percent of the time? Well, if that's the case, just embrace it.

    chalkboard-tableNot yet a chalkboard table...Photo: Houzz

    If you find yourself in the same situation, this project may be right up your alley. Whether you've got an existing table that earns its keep yet lacks the kid-friendly factor, or if you wanna run out to a flea market and grab the best $30 table you see, here's how to turn one table into both a grownup's place to dine and a kid's place to play. And the best part? There are zero power tools involved.

    chalkboard-tableTada! Photo: Houzz

    Check out Houzz's step-by-step to make this DIY happen in your home!


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    Our writer faces her sink mess head-on with a fun bathroom DIY: Cubby holes to contain the clutter.

    If you're like me and your home's single bathroom is no bigger than a phone booth, it's easy for the space to quickly get out of hand. Take the photo below, for example. Hand towels, candles, lotions, shaving cream -- where can you possibly stash it all? Alas, it all gets lined up along the sink?

    bathroom diyMy bathroom, pre "contain the clutter" makeover. Photo: Sara Brown

    Enter the bathroom cubby holes. Cute, cheap and easy-to-assemble, they're the perfect minimalist catch-alls that look great in any type of space. Genius, right?

    Here is a photo of what used to be on my bathroom wall, at left, and the sleek white cubbies that I made in their place, at right:

    bathroom diyPhoto: Sara Brown

    So, here's how you make them:

    For each cubby you'll need four pieces of 3/4-inch-thick plywood, which you can purchase at Lowe's, Home Depot or any neighborhood hardware store. I made mine in two different sizes to house different items. The top, bottom and sides are mitered along the ends, glued together, and secured with 1 1/2-inch finishing nails.

    If carpentry isn't exactly your forte, you can skip the mitering part -- instead, purchase top and bottom pieces that are 10 1/2 inches by 9 inches, and sides that are 12 inches by 9 inches. Then, glue the ends of the bottom and top boards to the inside edges of the side boards, and secure with finishing nails. Sand, prime and paint the wood. Mount a tiny hanging bracket on the back of each cubby and hang on a nail in the wall. Feel free to situate the cubbies in any way on your wall. Randomly placed or lined up in a row, they'll look great!

    Sound easy? It is.

    For more DIY inspiraton, check out ShelterPop writer Laura Fenton's table and bench makeover.

    And check out this a video about a $100 bathroom makeover:


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    One DIY-er gets a little too into her craft project and learns a valuable lesson about spray adhesive... and ponytails.

    Mrs. Jenny Ryan, Flickr

    I was attempting a decoupage project on a table, and really needed something to hold down my decoupage elements while I got the top coat ready. I already had them all positioned perfectly, I just needed to keep them from shifting while I brushed it on and left it to dry. Enter the spray adhesive.

    Dogfaceboy, Flickr

    Spray adhesive is really wonderful -- it isn't too wet or gloppy yet it's capable of holding things for a fair period of time. Bonus: Some of them actually allow you to reposition things. It works on fabric, beads, glitter, paper, or lightweight plastic. And yes, I love it.

    Do you know what else is wonderful? Having long hair. I've had it since I was a little girl, and have gotten used to having to wrangle it and keep it out of my various art projects. True, one of my walls still has spots from the time the end of my ponytail wound up, unbeknownst to me, dipped in a pot of red paint...).

    Less wonderful -- bending over your nicely spray-adhesive-d table, and having your lovely, long hair fall onto it. I went to stand up, felt a sharp tug, and heard the sound of hair breaking. I wanted to pull my hair free but since the table was covered in spray adhesive, I couldn't very well try to touch it. I wound up having to inch my way over to my phone, pushing the table along with me, to call a friend to cut me loose (and bring some solvent to take the decoupaged hair off of my table).

    Luckily, the table wasn't ruined. I didn't even need to call a professional for help, or (even worse) scrap the whole project. After a couple hours of cleaning and drying it was as good as new. I did, however, have to get my hair some professional help in the form of a very drastic trim and lengthy session with some oil to get the sticky adhesive residue off of me.

    What I've learned -- well, when decoupaging, sometimes spraying the adhesive on the individual pieces, rather than the full surface, is a safer bet. And if you're a crafter with long hair, ponytails just won't cut it: High buns are the way to go.
    On a more upbeat note, I also learned a more personal tidbit: I actually look pretty fantastic in a bob!

    Got a DIY Disaster story you'd like to share? Visit to find out how you can contribute.


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