19 Fixes for the Most Annoying Home Problems
Is there any way to make my whole house smell fresh without cleaning it from top to bottom?
Solution: Sprinkle a few drops of vanilla extract onto your furnace filter. A drop of your favorite essential oil works, too.
I love my old wood floors but hate the squeaks.
Solution: For a quick fix, sweep talcum powder into the joints of the floorboards that are rubbing against each other. If that doesn't work, you'll need to secure the floorboards to the subfloor. It's easier than you think.
Please fix my running toilet.
Solution: With a little toilet troubleshooting you can probably fix it yourself. An old rubber flapper -- the part that seals out water -- is the most common cause. To make sure, put a couple of drops of food coloring in the tank and wait 5 minutes. If the water in the bowl changes color, it's your flapper. First rule out the flapper chain. Make sure it's not too short (the flapper can't close) or too long (the chain gets caught). If the chain is fine, you need a new flapper. Turn off the water supply, drain the tank, disconnect the chain, and remove. Take the old flapper with you to the store to make sure you get the right replacement.
My double-pane windows always get foggy. What can I do?
Solution: Sorry, there’s no quick fix for this one. It happens because the original windows weren’t vacuum-sealed properly, and moisture isn’t able to wick to the outside. Your best bet is to replace the glass -- not the entire window. Many local glass companies will remove and replace the glass for a reasonable cost.
My drippy faucet drives me crazy!
Solution: Good news! It sounds like you have a worn washer, and it's an easy, inexpensive fix. Locating the worn washer, however, is another story. Its location depends on the type of faucet (two-valve, pullout, single-arm). Go to the manufacturer's site to determine the type. Once you identify your faucet, check out our step-by-step video for repair information.
I need help hanging pictures and artwork, but first I need to patch the holes from my previous attempts.
Solution: To patch tiny holes, you'll need a putty knife and patching plaster. If you plan to repaint, look for a plaster and primer in one, like 3M Patch Plus Primer. The first rule when hanging pictures: Don't eyeball it. If you're going to hang multiple pictures, use newspaper to create true-to-size templates of your frames that you can arrange on the wall using painter's tape. Finally, don't align pictures with the ceiling or floor -- they might not be level. Instead, use a level to draw a faint line a few inches down from the ceiling and use that as your starting point.
My ex-boyfriend tried to fix my door, and now the screws are stripped!
Solution: Stripped screws happen! An easy cure is to place a rubber band between the screw and the screwdriver. The rubber helps grip the stripped screw.
There's rotted wood at the base of my window. Do I need a whole new window?
Solution: If it's a small area, epoxy is a great solution. Epoxy will only stick to clean, dry wood, so you need to remove all the rotted wood first. Once you mix epoxy, you have 30 minutes to work with it before it starts to harden.
I love my stainless-steel appliances but hate all the fingerprints.
Solution: We all have a love/hate relationship with stainless steel. To prevent fingerprints, apply a thin layer of olive oil to the surface using a soft cloth. Watch this video for more stainless-steel cleaning tips.
Is it possible to remove rust stains in a porcelain sink?
Solution: Believe it or not, toothpaste might do the trick. Cover the stain with toothpaste and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with baking soda and rub it out with a clean, soft cloth.
There's a tiny tear in my window screen. Do I have to replace the whole screen?
Solution: If it's a small tear (not a hole), clear fingernail polish will keep it closed.
Now I know why people say, "I don't do windows." How do you avoid streaks?
Solution: Try washing windows on a cloudy day. Otherwise the sun dries the cleaner before you can wipe it away. Use newspapers instead of paper towels. They do a better job, and they're less expensive.
What's the secret to a professional-looking caulk job?
Solution: Like most housework, the secret to caulking is patience -- and dishwashing soap. Remove every trace of old caulk using a putty or utility knife. Clean thoroughly with denatured alcohol. Once the surface is clean and bone-dry, use painter's tape and tape off the gap, leaving 1⁄4 inch on either side. Squeeze an even bead of caulk along the gap, then use your finger to smooth out the caulk. Remove the tape. Wait for the caulk to skin over (a couple of minutes), then dip your finger in a solution of 1 part dishwashing soap and 1 part water for any final smoothing or shaping, just like the pros.
The moldy grout in my shower is impossible to clean.
Solution: Mold and mildew are tough to remove from grout, but not impossible. Cleaners with bleach are your best bet. Once clean, sealer will help keep the grout mold-free. If the problem continues, you might want to remove and regrout. Watch our video to learn about care and maintenance.
Is it possible to remove water marks from wood furniture?
Solution: Cover the water mark with a dry cotton cloth and go over it with a medium-hot iron for several seconds. If that doesn't work, lightly wipe the mark with a cloth dampened with denatured alcohol.
My wobbly ceiling fan sounds like it's going to take flight.
Solution: No need to fasten your seat belt just yet. First, dust and clean it. Tighten any loose screws and see if each blade is secure and aligned with the other blades. If it’s still wobbly, you’ll want to buy a balancing kit to properly balance your blades.
I hate my popcorn ceiling. Is there an easy way to remove it?
Solution: You're not alone. "How do I get rid of my popcorn ceiling?" is one of the most often-heard questions at home improvement stores. The short answer: It's easy to remove a textured ceiling -- but super messy and tiresome. If your home was built before 1979, test it for asbestos. If asbestos is present, a professional can offer advice on whether to cover or remove it.
If asbestos is not an issue, the basics are: Cover everything in plastic, soak small sections of the ceiling with a spray bottle of water, then scrape, scrape, scrape until it's gone.
My drain is clogged.
Before you call the plumber, try one of these easy, chemical-free fixes.
Solution 1: Baking soda and vinegar. Pour 1⁄2 cup baking soda down the drain, followed by 1⁄2 cup white vinegar. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Repeat if necessary.
Solution 2: If you suspect grease is the culprit, pour 1 cup baking soda and 1⁄2 cup salt down the drain, followed by 2 cups boiling water.
Solution 3: Use a plunger to unclog the pipe. If it's in a sink, cover the overflow hole with a towel. Coat the lip of the plunger with petroleum jelly (for a better seal) and cover the entire drain opening with the plunger. If there isn't enough standing water to cover the rubber part of the plunger, add more. Plunge away. The back-and-forth movement of the water should loosen the clog.
Solution 4: Use a wire coat hanger. Unbend the hanger and form a small hook at the end. Snake it down the drain to break or push through the clog.
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