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DIY Life
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    leather chairGetty Images

    Leather: It's arguably the best, most durable upholstery material around. That's why it's generally so expensive. Simple care and maintenance tasks will help protect your investment -- and keep it looking its best for decades.

    Most upholstery leather is finished leather, which means it's been given a protective coating. Many of the ingredients found in commercial leather cleaners are common items you may have lying around the house, so it's really not necessary to buy store-bought cleaners. Here are some simple, natural ways to keep your leather furniture looking as good as new for years to come.

    Tip: Before you begin: Always check the manufacturer's label for recommended care, and test cleaning methods on an inconspicuous area first.

    Stain Removal: (*Note that these tips apply to ordinary finished leather; they do not apply to suede. Read a little further down for tips on cleaning suede.)

    Ink: Ink is one of the most difficult stains to remove. A ballpoint-pen mark is much easier to eradicate than a huge saturated blob (which may never come out). For superficial scribbles, try one of two home remedies: Either dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and rub until the marks disappear (this may take several tries), and then dry with a hair dryer on its lowest setting. Otherwise try rubbing out the stain with a non-acetone nail polish-remover pad. For more serious staining -- or if you're worried about ruining the leather -- consult a pro.

    Mildew & mold: Mix one part rubbing alcohol with one part water and spray onto a dampened cloth. Wipe surface with a lint-free cloth, and use clean portions of fabric as you go along.

    Newsprint: Spritz the marks with aerosol hairspray. Wipe clean with a soft cloth.

    Protein-based stains (blood, food, mud): Typically dark, these stains are especially noticeable on light-colored pieces. Make a paste of one part lemon juice and one part cream of tartar; apply and let sit for about 10 minutes. Then, put another layer of paste on top, and remove it with a wet, wrung-out rag dampened with Castile soap. Buff dry with a soft cloth.

    Water: If your leather is marred by water stains and rings, try applying mayonnaise. Let sit for a few hours, and then wipe it off with a dry rag.

    Removing Stains from Suede

    Suede should treated differently than typical leather, as it can ruined much more easily. Avoid using chemical stain removers on suede. Since most suede has been chemically pretreated, spot-cleaning is really your only option. Remove dried-on stains with a clean pencil eraser; rub it over the spot until the offending substance is gone. Restore the nap by rubbing it gently with an emery board. Blot up wet messes with a paper towel. For oil-based stains, use a commercial suede cleaner that's designed specifically to degrease.

    Cleaning & Conditioning Leather:

    Finished leather: A gentle plant-based detergent like Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soap can effectively clean and condition leather upholstery in one shot. Swirl two drops soap in one quart warm water. Work it into the leather in sections using a well-wrung sponge; don't soak the leather. To restore shine, buff leather surfaces with a soft cloth.

    Suede: As discussed, suede is delicate, so cleaning and maintenance should be gentle. Prevention is key: protect suede from stains and water damage by applying upholstery protector every six months or so. Dust suede regularly with a dry, microfiber to ward off discoloration, and use a suede brush to keep the nap looking fresh.

    Patent leather: Although you won't find many pieces of furniture made of this, you may come across the odd patent seat cushion that needs a little freshening up. Douse a lint-free cloth with distilled white vinegar and wipe down. Likewise, a thin application of petroleum jelly (just buff it out before sitting) brings back shine -- and repels water, too.

    Tips & Tricks:

    - Leather furniture is usually a big investment, so if you aren't sure how best to tackle cleaning and stain removal, always call a pro first.

    - Avoid placing leather furniture in direct sunlight, as it causes fading, drying, and cracking. Also, keep it at least two feet away from any heat and air conditioning sources, as fluctuations in temperature cause the same problems.

    - Dust and vacuum leather regularly to extend its life.

    For more interesting tips and tricks for leather stains, check out this video:


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    cleaningGetty Images

    Even with thorough housekeeping, it seems that some homes accumulate dust faster than others. Here are some of the main culprits -- and how to combat them.

    Summer is here, and that means windows and doors will be open wide -- and dust will be making its way inside. 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 accumulate dust, which is a collection of tiny but solid particles from the surrounding environment -- 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.

    Some homes have more of a tendency toward dust build-up than others. Here are some of the contributing factors:

    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.

    dog on couchGetty 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.

    curtains, babyGetty 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.


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  • 06/28/10--01:30: Energy Savings: Windows
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    windows, father, daughterJohn Giustina, Getty Images

    One week into summer -- are you feeling it yet? Last week we kicked off our Energy Savings series by showing you how to conserve power while using kitchen appliances. Now we're tackling the potential energy-zappers in every room in the house: windows.

    As much as 20 percent of summer heat enters your home as sunlight through windows. Check out these clever tips on how to save a bundle and keep your home more energy-friendly.

    seal window, caulkingGetty Images

    Tip #1: Upgrade the Sealing Around Your Windows
    With new windows, there's often a gap between the jamb and framing where air sneaks in. A blower door (a powerful type of fan) and infared camera can help identify exactly where the leak is and you can then caulk the area near the casing, stool and apron. No luck with that? Remove the casing and use spray foam around the window jamb.

    Tip #2: Check That Your Windows Are Low-E

    Thinking about window film as a way to buff up your windows' efficiency? If your windows are already Low emissivity (low-e), then don't waste your time, window film won't make much of a difference. Not sure if you've got low-e windows in the first place? Place a white sheet of paper outside and look at its reflection in the window. Seeing a white reflection? Not low-e. But if it's showing up yellow or pink than it's probably low-e. And remember this: films are hard to remove, and because they can heat up the glass they may damage your dual-pane windows.

    Tip #3: Install Energy-Efficient Replacement Windows

    In the market for new windows? Your best bet are Energy Star-rated windows. Make sure they're properly installed (shoddy work can be a major source of energy loss) and double-glazed. Yes, they're affordable, and they'll end up saving you money on cooling and heating by helping to keeping your home at a comfortable temperature.

    window, shadeTwilight Field Journal

    Tip #4: Invest in a Black-Out Shade
    While window films can fall short, the best external energy saver for your windows is a simple blackout roller shade. Make sure it's PVC-free fabric, so it's safe for kids' rooms. Other options to try: Solar screens, roman shades or solar blinds (though it's tricky to find these without PVC).

    This information is courtesy of the U.S. Green Building Council. For more tips on saving energy and greening your home, visit USGBC's Green Home Guide.


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    veneer bubble, blisterA close-up of a blistered veneer surface. adamrice, Flickr

    Got trouble with wood veneer bubbles? Smooth them out in a few simple steps.

    Veneer is a thin layer of wood, usually less than 3 mm thick, that is glued to a piece of solid wood, medium-density fiberboard or particle board. It is used primarily on furniture, but can also be used to cover kitchen cabinets, countertops, floors, and even home decor.

    Over time, especially with older furniture, the glue can no longer hold the veneer, This resulting in blistering or bubbling of the surface.

    Tired of looking at those unsightly bumps? If the veneer is still in decent shape, this is an easy fix. You may be able to flatten a small blister by applying some heat, which can reactivate the glue. Here are the steps:

    1. Place a sheet of wax paper and smooth cardboard atop the blistered surface, then lay a clean cloth over the cardboard.

    2. Using an iron on medium heat, iron the surface firmly -- but be careful not to iron the veneer directly or it could burn. The paper, cloth and cardboard will act as a buffer.

    3. After a few minutes, check the veneer and if the blisters are no longer visible, place a heavy item on the surface, such as a book and leave it on for 24 hours.

    If this doesn't work or if you have larger-sized blisters, take the following steps to repair:

    1. First, slit the blister open with a razor or utility knife.

    2. Left the veneer up gently with a knife and using a toothpick, apply a small amount carpenter's glue into the blister.

    3. Press the veneer firmly back into place and wipe off any excess glue with a damp cloth. Cover it with wax paper and a heavy book for at least 24 hours.

    4. Apply 1-2 coats of wax, varnish or oil to keep your veneer looking fresh.

    To keep your veneer from further damage, avoid placing hot or moist items on the surface, as this can soften and deactivate the glue.


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    Stretch your organization skills. Make a memo board from utility bungee cords. Photo: Gina Provenzano

    Sick of that boring corkboard or ultra-feminine French photo board? Dive in to unconventional organization with a wall-mounted memo board made from bungee cords!

    Photos, cards, memos, party invites -- it's good to have place to stash these odds and ends in plain sight. That's why memo boards are so popular in kitchens and home offices. But what if you want to add a little flair to your wall without being frilly, ribbon-y, or just plain boring?

    It was while I was producing a story about dorm-room decorating that I came up with the idea for a fun and guy-approved memo board -- one made with bungee cords instead of ribbon! Bungee cords are colorful, elastic, and give off an air of adventure. Paired with a few curtain clips (okay, not so masculine) the result is a organizational tool with a ton of personality.

    Bungee cords are easy to come by -- they're available online or at home centers, hardware stores and sporting goods stores. Note that bungee cords should not be stretched more than 1.5 times their size.

    Tools & Supplies
    Wood frame, approximately 20" x 30" (NOTE: Most home centers will cut the wood to size for you.)
    MDF 2' x 4' x 1/4" board, cut to fit inside the frame
    12 to 14 bungee cords, approximately 10" to 18" in length
    Rubber cement
    1 to 2 sheets of art paper, approximately 20" x 30" to fit MDF board
    Tape measure
    #6 flat head screws, 1/2" long
    Curtain clips, approximately 12 to 14


    1. Cover the board with paper. Place art paper on the MDF board, aligning the edges. If the paper does not cover the board fully, cut a piece an additional sheet of paper to cover the exposed area. You should take measurements beforehand, so you can position the paper's seams in way that looks intentional. Use rubber cement to adhere the paper to board.

    2. Frame board. Place the covered MDF board into the frame. Use your hammer to secure it in place with brads.

    3. Install the first screws for the horizontal bungees. As you can see in the photo above, the bungee cords should be installed horizontally and vertically to keep your memos secure. Install the screws for the horizontally placed bungee cords before moving on to the vertical ones. First measure and mark a spot approximately 1" down and 1" over from bottom right corner. This will be the starting spot (point A) for your screws. Insert a screw at this marking leaving approximately 1/8" of the screw's threads still above the surface. Measure and mark a spot horizontally across the frame (point B), making certain it is parallel to the first marking. Make sure the distance between points A and B is at least 1.2 times but no greater than 1.5 times the length of the bungee cord in order for the cord to be taut but not snap when hooked on the screws.

    4. Install the remaining screws for the horizontal bungees. Continue measuring and marking for the horizontal bungee cord placement randomly over the board. Vary the lengths between the markings as well as the distance between them. Place the screws at each of the markings.

    5. Place the bungees. Now hook the bungee cords horizontally onto the screws.

    6. Install screws for vertical bungees. Now it's time to set up your vertical bungee cords. Remember, the actual placement of the cords is up to you, but the photo above should provide inspiration. Measure and mark for the vertical bungee cord placement using the existing horizontal cords as your guide. You will want to overlap some of the cords. Again, vary the lengths between the markings as well as the distance between them. Place screws and hook bungee cords weaving the cords under and over the horizontal ones. Remember the rule mentioned before -- the distance between two points of a bungee cord should be at least 1.2 times but no more than 1.5 times the length of the bungee cord.

    7. Add curtain clips. Slip curtain clips onto horizontal bungees and squeeze rings to secure.

    Then enjoy your new memo board! Where will you be hanging yours?


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    messy cables and wiresDoes it look like this underneath your desk? Photo: Jaime Derringer

    Oh, what a tangled web we weave! Luckily, these inventions can keep your mess of cords under wraps.

    TV wires, cable wires, USB cords -- these days we've got more electronics than we know what to do with. From chargers to laptops to printers to DVD players, you can't seem to escape being wrapped up in wires. But that doesn't mean you can't keep the chaos organized.

    An entire business has been built on creating gadgets and contraptions to tame your unruly cables. Let's take a look at five really great ideas -- most you can buy ready-made, and one you can McGyver using something you probably already have around the house.

    cable organizer gadgetsThese cables look like they just came out of the box. Photo: Bluelounge

    1. Bluelounge CableClip
    My least favorite part about unpacking a new gadget is taking the protective plastic sleeve or twist tie off of the beautifully organized cable, unleashing its true, unruly nature. Bluelounge has developed a CableClip designed to hold your cables in a perfectly-wrapped, contained state.

    Another great solution is this water hose-inspired Wall Cleat by designer Karl Zahn, which doesn't appear to be in production yet.

    cable organizer gadgetsFor organizing up to three cables, try a turtle. Photo: Cable Organizer

    2. The Cable Turtle
    Resembling an oversized yo-yo, the Cable Turtle organizer keeps wires under wraps with its circular design. Cables are wrapped around a central spindle and covered with two discs. You can pull the cables out from either side to elongate. This is a great product for smaller wire messes as it comes in three sizes, the largest of which can hold about three large cables.

    cable organizer gadgetsPhoto: Bluelounge

    3. Bluelounge CableBox
    I saw this product on a recent trip to The Container Store and almost bought it. The CableBox is another clever idea from the geniuses at Bluelounge. The simple, clever box holds your entire power strip (even a double one!) and its unsightly messy cables.

    I love the before and after photos on their site submitted by real users:

    cable organizer gadgetsReal before and afters with the Bluelounge CableBox. Photos: Bluelounge

    cable organizer gadgetsThe Cable Zipper zips up the mess. Photo:

    4. Cable Zipper
    Is it pandemonium behind your entertainment center? The Cable Zipper is a great solution for TV, DVD and cable box wires. You place the wires inside the snake-like casing and -- using the patented zip clip -- you essentially zip it closed like a real zipper. It keeps the cables contained until they reach their final destination.

    5. Binder Clips

    Yes, those binder clips. You probably don't need to even go to the store for this one. This idea is so smart. The clever hackers over on Lifehacker have come up with a few ways that you can use the small black fasteners to help organize more than just your papers.

    use binder clips to organize cablesSimple magnets might just help keep your wires in check. Photo: gkrieshok/Lifehacker

    First, user gkrieshok uses binder clips with the addition of magnets to keep his cables affixed to his desk rather than curled all over the floor. Simple attach the clips to the side of your desk and affix a few magnets to the outside. Then, you can attach and detach your cables easily.

    binder clips as cable organizersYou might not even need to go to the store for this one! Photo: David Rudolf Bakker

    Even easier is this hack by David Rudolf Bakker, in which he affixed the binder clips to the side of his desk and placed his component wires into the curvy niche of the clip handles. So simple!


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    Sunlight is notorious for fading carpet and rug fibers. Here's a natural way to dial up the color.

    "Keep your curtains drawn."
    That's the advice one friend gave me when I was soliciting ideas for how to brighten my carpets and prevent further fading. But sunshine is essential in my home, and I'll live with faded carpets if I have to. The good news? I don't have to.

    I discovered a natural way to brighten carpet fibers, so I tested this method on a small area rug that was lacking in luster. Now that I know how well it works, I plan to make my way through the rest of the house, bringing life to our tired and faded area rugs and carpets.

    All you need is hot water and salt. The salt brightens faded fiber and guards against further discoloration. Some suggest that ammonia is a necessary ingredient. It's possible that that would yield an even more impressive result, but this solution worked well too, and without being harmful to pets and children (and to all of us really!).

    I was thrilled to find out that the process not only brightened my carpets and will guard against further fading but it also took care of some minor stains. I'm going to add this one to my Spring Cleaning list for next year:,feedConfig,localizationConfig,entry&id=915838&pid=915837&uts=1280256998

    Brighten Faded Carpets and Rugs

    Use equal parts salt and hot water.

    Brighten Faded Carpets and Rugs

    Stir in the salt until it dissolves, and wait until the water is cool enough to handle.

    Brighten Faded Carpets and Rugs

    Grab your handheld or floorstanding vacuum and give the carpet a once-over.

    Brighten Faded Carpets and Rugs

    Dip a clean rag in the water and wring it out so it is just damp. Resist the temptation to think that more is better. It really is just meant to be a damp wash, any more and you'll be struggling to get salt deposits off the carpet. I made this mistake, so take my word for it. You only need a damp cloth.

    Brighten Faded Carpets and Rugs

    Wash the faded area with your dampened cloth (microfiber cloths are best).

    Brighten Faded Carpets and Rugs

    Let the rug dry, then vacuum it again. You should notice a subtle brightening!

    Brighten Faded Carpets and Rugs


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  • 08/27/10--07:00: Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite!
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    bedbugs, get rid of bedbugsAn immature bedbug (left) and an adult bedbug. Photo: Tim McCoy, AP

    Just the thought of it makes you cringe. Like it or not, bedbugs are making a comeback, and they don't discriminate. Here's what you need to know about avoiding a bedbug infestation -- and how to recognize and treat the problem if it happens to you.

    Chances are, you've been hearing a lot about bedbugs lately, and with good reason. In August 2010, reports of bedbug infestation climbed drastically, signaling an epidemic that, according to CBS News, is the worst our country has seen in decades.

    (SEE: The 15 most most bedbug-infested cities in the U.S.)

    Sure we all know the old saying, "don't let the bedbugs bite," but what are bedbugs anyway? In short, they're bloodsucking parasites that feed primarily on humans (but may also bite pets).

    In their quest for food, bedbugs may find their way into homes, where they commonly infest sleeping areas (hence their name), but also lurk inside other furniture and even in walls. They feed at night, and often go unnoticed by the host (that's you). Bedbugs can live six to eight months without a meal -- and the suckers can be nearly impossible to kill.

    (SEE: A bedbug survivor's horrifying real-life experience.)

    Understanding Bedbugs
    A bedbug problem can be difficult to identify. And once you have discovered an infestation, it can be even more difficult to navigate the next steps. We turned to Ron Harrison, Ph.D., Orkin Director of Technical Services, and Jeffery White, Research Entomologist with Bed Bug Central, for their expert advice on avoiding, identifying, and dealing with a bedbug infestation.

    bedbug bitesBedbugs become engorged and dark in color after they bite. Photo: AP

    The first step, says Harrison, is understanding where bedbugs come from, and why they seem to be everywhere right now. "The resurgence in bedbug activity is likely linked to increased travel, both internationally and domestically," says Harrison. Of course, widespread information about the elusive bedbug in recent years may also play a part. "People's awareness of bedbugs has increased, leading to more reported cases as people now know what they're dealing with."

    "Bed bugs were virtually eradicated from the U.S. shortly after the end of World War II due to the commercial use of DDT," adds White. He explains that about ten years ago bedbugs began appearing again, and since 2005 their numbers have been increasing exponentially.

    Avoiding Bedbugs
    Harrison calls bedbugs "expert hitchhikers" that will cling to clothing and other personal belongings and usually go unnoticed. You can come in contact with them just about anywhere, indoors or outdoors.

    It's also been widely reported that secondhand furniture can introduce bedbugs into your home -- bedbugs especially like to live inside of wood furniture, upholstery and, of course, mattresses.

    (SEE: Use a Mattress Encasement for Bedbug Prevention)

    So what about the thrift store and flea market junkies among us? Harrison recommends treating secondhand items with extreme heat before bringing them into your home. "Clothing [should be washed and dried] in a hot cycle prior to being brought into the house. This will kill all stages of the insect."

    used furniture, bedbugsYou can unknowingly carry bedbugs into the home via infested secondhand furniture. Photo: Mustafa Ozer, AFP/Getty Images

    You can also consider purchasing the Packtite portable heating unit for items, like household furnishings, that cannot go in a dryer. Check out this video about treating personal belongings before they come into the house, and this video about using the heat of the sun for items that cannot be laundered.

    Do Dirty Conditions Breed Bedbugs?
    It's a common misconception that bedbugs plague only dirty places, as evidenced by recent infestations in some high-end locations, like The Hamptons in New York. As blood-feeders, bedbugs are primarily interested in people -- regardless of their surroundings. So where does the myth come from? "Bedbugs tend to infest cluttered areas where they can hide, feed and reproduce," says Harrison. "But these places are not necessarily the dirtiest. The clutter simply provides more hiding spaces and makes detection even more difficult."

    Recognizing Bedbugs
    Unless you're looking, you'll likely miss the chance for early detection.

    -- Bedbug bites: For most people, the earliest (and sometimes only) signs of bedbugs are their bites. Bedbug bites often appear clustered together in a horizontal line. They generally manifest as small, red, itchy bites. But people react differently to bedbug bites and it can be difficult to confirm an infestation by the bites alone. While bedbugs do carry diseases, they do not transmit them.

    -- Bedbug appearance: If you suspect a bedbug infestation, look for evidence of the bugs and their eggs. Bedbug eggs are a pearly white color and just 1mm long. Immature bugs are the same size as their eggs and somewhat translucent in color with a dark center. As the bugs advance through their developmental stages they become larger and darker. A fully grown bed bug is just under 3/16 of an inch long (roughly the size of an apple seed), flat and oval-shaped. They are a light tan or brown color until after they bite, when they will appear a brownish-red. Jeffrey White of Bed Bug Central shares this video about how to inspect for bed bugs.

    bedbugsAn adult bedbug is about 3/16 of an inch long. Photo: Ken Lambert, MCT

    -- Bedbug waste: Bedbugs leave brownish-red spots and shed skins in their wake. " You need to be familiar with...what the [bedbug's] spotting (fecal material and blood spots) looks like," says White. "It's important to inspect likely areas of first infestation, such as the bed and the headboard." White warns to pay close attention to the bottom of the box spring, where the insects like to congregate. Even with your best sleuthing efforts, though, bedbugs can outsmart you. They hide very well and move very fast as soon as they're exposed to light. White says that if you're not trained to perform inspections, you can easily overlook bedbugs. Contacting a knowledgeable professional may be your best bet.

    How to Get Rid of Bedbugs
    Even the keenest of DIYers may not be be able to take on the virtually indestructible bedbug. This is one of those jobs that, in most cases, is best left to professionals. A qualified pest management expert will recommend the best treatment approach depending on the severity of the infestation. Most solutions require chemicals, with structural fumigation being the most extreme (and costly) option. It will likely require at least two or three visits -- but usually more -- to ensure that the entire bedbug population has been eradicated. Sadly, you may also have to discard your mattress, bed, and some other belongings to make a fresh start.

    "The biggest thing a homeowner or property manager can do to help slow the spread of bed bugs is to remove clutter and dispose of any infested items, like cardboard boxes, furniture, papers, and toys. These can provide hiding spots for bedbugs," says Harrison. The Orkin specialist also suggests aggressively vacuuming around the home, especially near baseboards and the bed.

    Also, turn up the heat on those suckers. "Bedbugs cannot survive severely high temperatures for long durations of time, so regularly washing and drying clothes and linens in hot water can help remove them," says Harrison. Some pest management companies also also offer heat treatment (in some locations), which raises the room's temperature beyond that in which bedbugs can survive. While this may not be a suitable option for all infestations, it is certainly worth inquiring about.

    Interested in learning more? Bed Bug TV is a great resource, where Jeffrey White educates viewers about bedbugs and bed bug solutions. He is the Bed Bug Guru, and somehow manages to make the topic approachable.

    Tell us about your experiences with bedbugs, and how you banished those bloodsucking pests from your home for good!

    Are Bedbugs a Health Threat? (AOL Health)
    A Very Personal Tale of a Truly Horrifying Bedbug Infestation (ShelterPop)
    Bedbugs on Clothing -- How to Spot 'Em, How to Get Rid of 'Em (Stylelist)


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    You're ready to bring order to your closets, basement, or garage, but don't have a bundle to spend? The shelving systems that probably represent the best value available today are epoxy-coated wire components. Here's how to buy and install these customizable organization systems.

    wire shelving, RubbermaidRubbermaid

    Walk down the organization aisle of your local home improvement store and it may seem like all the wire shelving systems look alike, but the opposite is true. Big improvements have been made to wire shelving systems during the last decade -- notably in their durability, but also in the way you can configure them to fit and maximize just about any space.

    What's Wire Shelving Made Of?
    Wire organizing systems are made of steel shelves coated in epoxy, a corrosion-proof resin. The material is relatively lightweight and easy to keep clean. The systems are designed to use space efficiently, promote good visibility of stored items, maintain good air circulation, and stand up to moisture. You can use them to transform just about any place in the house, but the most popular locations are master bedroom closets (as shown above), kitchen pantries, linen closets, basements, laundry rooms and garages.

    (And while you're in the home improvement spirit, come check out another top notch home: Martha Stewart's protogé Kevin Sharkey. And scroll to the bottom for an amazing opportunity to win a personal color consultation with Kevin!)

    Types of Wire Shelving Systems:
    There are two basic types of wire shelving systems: rail mount and direct mount.

    Rail mount:
    Rail mount systems are far superior to their direct mount predecessors. These modern systems are anchored by a horizontal steel hanger rail is fastened through the drywall to the wall studs with screws. Then, standards (vertical slotted steel bars) are hung from the hanger rail at 2-foot intervals. Shelf brackets can then be inserted in slots on the standards at the desired heights. Hook-shaped supports can even be attached to the shelf brackets for hanging closet rods.

    Rubbermaid, shelving systemRubbermaid's expandable rail-mounted shelving systems require no cutting. Photo: Rubbermaid

    An interesting innovation in rail-mount wire systems are those from Rubbermaid, which have shelves and rods that can be adjusted without having to use a saw. The shelves nest together so you can increase or decrease the widths by simply sliding in one direction or the other. The rods are telescoping and offer the same versatility.

    Direct mount: These systems have been upstaged by the more recent rail mount systems. Direct mount systems use diagonal shelf braces, which install directly into the wall instead of into a track, along with rear shelf clips and drywall anchors to hold the screws in place. By their very design, direct-mount systems offer less stability -- which is why they're responsible for giving wire shelving systems a bad reputation.

    wire shelving, RubbermaidDirect mount systems rely on drywall anchors, such as those shown here, to install diagonal braces and shelf clips. Photo: Joe Provey, Home & Garden Editorial Services

    So why are some manufacturers still selling direct mount systems? As one closet company vice president (who asked to remain nameless) told us, "We still sell the old style because that's what some contractors want when they need to install shelves quickly at at very low cost." In a relatively short time, the shelves and racks may tear apart from the walls and give out. DIYers, consider yourselves forewarned.

    (Tip: If you're ever installing a direct-mount system and happen to hit a stud, count yourself lucky and use a screw in place of the supplied drywall anchor; it will give you at least one secure point.)

    How to Install a Rail Mount System
    Begin an installation of a rail mount system by finding a stud in the wall. You may use an electronic stud finder, or you can repeatedly drive a finishing nail into the drywall until you strike a stud. Then mark 16-inch intervals to locate the other studs (that's the approximate distance between studs). Or, even easier, you can rely on the hole spacing of the hanger rail. It will automatically give you a hole every 16 inches. Then follow the steps below.

    drill, power toolJoe Provey, Home & Garden Editorial Services

    1. Level the rail, and fasten it to wall studs every 16 inches.

    wire shelving, RubbermaidJoe Provey, Home & Garden Editorial Services

    2. Hang standards (vertical members) on the rail at 2-foot intervals. They have precut notches that slip over the rail lip.

    wire shelvingJoe Provey, Home & Garden Editorial Services

    3. Insert shelf brackets into the standard slots at the desired heights.

    4. Then install shelving (shown) or other accessories on the brackets.

    wire shelvingRubbermaid

    5. Adjust the shelves. With some systems, shelf lengths can be adjusted (within a range). This photo above left shows how the bottom shelf layer nests inside the top one. This innovation reduces or eliminates the amount of cutting required. With some products you may need to use a hacksaw to cut shelving to the desired length.

    6. Attach rod hooks to shelf brackets where you desire a hanger rod. Expand the rod to the desired length and snap it in place.

    Shelving Accessories

    Manufacturers of wire closet organizing systems offer a host of accessories. There's a variety of shelving types, including deep 18-inch shelves for bedding and towels, fine mesh shelves that allow you to store small items without having them topple or slip through the wire struts, and slanted shelves that make it easier to see footwear.

    Pullout bins, in canvas, plastic, wire mesh or natural fibers (baskets), may also be attached to the brackets. Pullouts make it easier to see and reach stored items. In addition to bins, there are other kinds of pullouts. They include tie and belt racks, shoe racks, hampers, and valet rods (which give you a place to hang clothes while assembling the day's outfit).

    Some wire closet companies offer fiberboard accessories that can enhance your wire system. Popular components include laminate drawer modules and cubby modules.

    Many closet manufacturers offer planning and design help on their web sites. Use it to draw up a plan for your closet or storage area and then buy exactly what you need.

    In addition to your local home improvement center, some retailers that specialize in wire shelving systems include:
    The Container Store


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  • 10/19/10--10:00: How to Clean Electronics
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    Like so many things in our home, electronics are sitting magnets for dust and grime. Here's how to clean your electronics without wrecking them.

    how to clean electonicsKathy Price-Robinson

    No matter how much cash you spend on the latest and greatest tech gadget, it will be wasted money if you don't take a few minutes to clean it properly. Dust, given the opportunity to settle and accumulate, can block vital components within electronics. A busted fan, for instance, could cause an electronic device to overheat and ultimately die.

    Likewise, using the wrong cleaning solutions and methods can render your favorite gadget useless.

    Fight dirt and grime with these easy, safe cleaning tricks for your electronic products.

    - Electrostatic cloths (Swiffer, Pledge Dry Cloths, etc.): These dusters are typically made of finely woven synthetic fibers with tiny "hairs" that create a magnetic charge and pull dust particles.

    - Microfiber cloths: Unlike paper towels or rags, microfiber cloths easily trap dust between their fibers instead of spreading more dust and lint. Bonus: Unlike wood-source products like napkins and paper towels, these cloths won't scratch sensitive surfaces and can be washed up to 500 times.

    - Compressed air: Sold in a can, compressed air is perfect for blasting dust and dirt between keyboard keys and other tight crevices.

    - iKlear wipes and sprays: Smudge-busting (and anti-bacterial!) products made for Mac products, but work well on all electronic devices, including LCD screens and touchscreens.

    - Other supplies to keep handy: Foam cotton swabs (these won't leave lint behind), water ,and isopropyl alcohol

    iphone, cell phone, clean an iphoneAP

    Cell phones are 18 times dirtier than toilet handles, according to a study by Standford University students. That's some pretty disgusting stuff. Follow these tips to clean grime build-up on your phone or mp3 player.

    - Wipe it down and kill the bacteria. Dampen a soft cloth with a 60/40 mixture of water and alcohol on keyboards, buttons and solid parts of the device. Do not use this solution or household cleaners on touchscreens. Instead, use a damp water cloth or pre-moistened electronics cleaning wipes to clean these types of sensitive screens. Use a Q-tip to reach tiny crevices and hard-to-reach areas.

    - Blast keypad dust. Shoot a few bursts of compressed air or use a small paint brush to whisk away dust and dirt that cause keypad numbers and trackballs to stick.

    - Battle earwax buildup. Dirt and earwax settling in earphones can lead to a reduce in sound quality. If the covers are removable, pop them off and soak them for about 30 minutes in a bowl of hot water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid. Rinse and dry before putting them back in place. Use an alcohol-dipped swab to go over one-piece headphones.

    Don't feel like scrubbing the grime away? Go high-tech and use the UV Cell Phone Sanitizer (VIOlight, $50), which wipes your device clean.

    LCD, plasma, how to clean a tv, flat screenGetty Images

    Spending cash on a glitzy TV -- only to watch it through a cake of dust and fingerprints -- isn't our idea of money well spent. While a flat screen TV looks like any other pane of glass, plasma and LCD TVs (and computer monitors) have special coatings that can be damaged by household cleaners. Follow these steps to clean your TV safely:

    - Wipe down the screen. Gently dust the screen in long, horizontal strokes with a dry electrostatic dust-mop or microfiber cloth. Take care not to apply too much pressure when wiping down.

    - Clean the set casing. With a damp lint-free cloth or an electrostatic dust-mop, wipe the case, buttons, as well as the back of the TV where dust can settle in the vents.

    For stubborn smudges, you can purchase special screen wipes and cleaning solutions, available at most office-supply stores. These products are specially formulated to clean flat screens and computer monitors.

    how to clean a laptop computerGetty Images

    Computers are prime static magnets for dust. Add food crumbs that always seem to find their way into tiny crevices and your computer can become a sticky mess.

    - Shut it down.
    Turn off the computer and unplug the mouse and all other electrical cords.

    - Dust the screen. Wipe the screen with a slightly damp microfiber or other soft, lint-free cloth. Since household cleaning solutions are too harsh for computer screens, you can also use special computer-cleaning cloths and solutions such as iKlear.

    - Clean crevices. Dip a foam swap in rubbing alcohol and rub it over speaker holes, vents and any other openings on the monitor. Wipe down the rest of the monitor exterior with the cloth.

    - Dust the keyboard. Over a trashcan, turn the keyboard upside down and shake it gently. Hold a can of compressed air upright and shoot a few bursts in and around the gaps between the keys. This will sweep away dust particles hiding under the keys. Alternatively, a paint brush can be used as well.

    - Clean the keys. Outline the edges with a clean alcohol-dipped swap. Then swipe the tops of the keys with a fresh cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol.

    - Tackle the mouse. Take the damp cloth wipe down the mouse, including the bottom. Shoot a burst of compressed air underneath the casing; if it has a trackball, spin the ball a few times with your cloth or swab.

    To speed up the cleaning process you can use a USB vacuum cleaner like the Dirt Devil KWIK ($30). It's cordless and plugs right into your computer's USB port.

    clean a DVD playerGetty Images

    In order to keep your DVD player running efficiently, make sure to dust it regularly and follow these steps:

    - Dust the exterior.
    Wipe the casing, buttons and knobs with a damp soft, lint-free cloth or electrostatic dust mop. Avoid household cleaners and solvents like rubbing alcohol, as these can damage the finish.

    - Clean the insides.
    Insert a DVD disc cleaner, which looks like a regular disc with tiny brushes on it's surface.

    - Spray the vents and openings.
    Hold a can of compressed air at a 45-degree angle from the machine and shoot a few bursts. Open the disc tray, and spray compressed air in here as well.

    speakersGetty Images


    Removable grilles:
    Take off the plastic or metal grilles and clean with a soft, damp cloth. If the grille is fabric you can vacuum on both sides to get rid of the dust. If the grilles are severely dirty, rinse them in warm water and let air-dry before putting them back on.

    Non-removable grilles:
    Clean gently with a damp cloth, but make sure not to let any water drip inside, as this can ruin electrical components.

    Other speaker areas:
    Use a dry cloth or paint brush to whisk away the dust.

    Unusual Ways to Use Vodka
    Your Cellphones Are Really Dirty (CasaSugar)
    How to Clean Video Cameras and Printers (Popular Mechanics)


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    Our writer was curious about energy audits, so she invited a professional energy consultant to perform one on her home. Now she has the skills it takes to save energy and money with some simple DIY fixes and routine household upkeep. And so can you!

    energy auditA professional energy consultant uses an infrared camera to conduct an energy audit. Photo: Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien

    I'm no stranger to energy efficiency. I'm well-versed in ENERGY STAR appliances and compact fluorescent light bulbs. But I have to be honest: I'd never had an energy audit before. I've read plenty of articles that stated how beneficial it can be to get one performed in your home. But until recently, I was clueless about what an energy audit actually entails or why it's important.

    So I hired Sherard Murphy of Pro Energy Consultants and tagged along as he completed an energy audit on my mom's 1940s New Jersey home. I learned that an energy audit is one of the smartest investments you can make in your home. In a nutshell, the energy consultant uses special technologies to uncover building shell problems that typically go undiscovered and unresolved by builders, architects, and insulators. My mom walked away with a boatload of information about how to make her home more energy efficient, which equates to considerable savings in her energy bill and a home that's comfortable in the chilly days of winter and the hot days of summer.

    Before sharing the details about the audit, I want to bring up a key point that I learned through this process. Not all energy audits are going to be the same. One consultant may suggest changes that total about $4,000, while another may suggest a few hundred dollars' worth in fixes for the same space. Some energy consultants will push certain brands and fixes to your home that you may not necessarily need. It's important ro choose an independent energy consultant who's not affiliated with a company. An independent consultant, like Pro Energy Consultants, will likely cost a little more (about $360 for an energy audit), but it's worth it because you're getting a thorough, unbiased assessment of your house. Imagine you hire an energy consultant who's associated with a window company, for instance. You're likely to hear that you need new windows.

    The energy auditor's tool box. Photo: Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien

    Also, be wary of any energy consultant who walks in with just a clipboard and a pen. An energy audit is a scientific process that requires many specialty tools (see the tool box above) and a clear understanding of the science of a home. With Sherard of Pro Energy Consultants, we didn't feel pressured to buy anything; he just made suggestions that made sense.

    Of course, once you hire someone to do an energy audit once, you can perform your own energy audits in the future. A professional's toolkit contains a lot more sophisticated equipment than you might care to (or be able to afford to) buy. For instance, many professionals use infrared cameras to locate air leaks (the cameras are able to detect changes in air temperature). But you can improvise with more basic tools (for instance, use an incense stick instead of a high-tech smoke stick). The U.S. Department of Energy offers this guide to DIY energy audits.

    Now, back to our professional energy audit. Here's what I learned:

    1. Newer is Not Always Better
    Case in point: My mom's house has its original single-pane wood-frame windows with storm windows on the outside. Sherard noted that her windows work really well; there's no immediate need to switch them out for newer energy-efficient models. Also, the existing radiators were designed to sit right under the windows, and Sherard pointed out that this was a smart design. This way, the radiator breaks up the convection current from the window and eliminates a draft.

    sump pumpCovering the sump pump is a cheap, effective way to curb basement moisture. Photo: Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien

    2. Cover the Pump
    My mom's sump pump needed a cover (which costs about $12. Easy!). The open sump pump was increasing the humidity in her basement storage room. It let the moisture seep into the rest of the basement. And the last thing a basement needs is more moisture!

    Holes in the ceiling insulation are best filled with spray foam. Photo: Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien

    3. Spray Foam to the Rescue
    By far, the most common fix that Sherard suggested through the audit was to seal up energy leaks. In the basement, holes in the ceiling insulation and an used leaky window were in dire need of sealing. Sherard suggested using spray foam. He also found drafts behind most of the electrical outlets, and suggested caulking around the outlets.

    4. Big Leaks Overhead
    We found out that my mom's attic is the site of one of the home's biggest energy leaks. The attic hatch has been allowing hot air from the attic to seep into the second floor of the house during the summer; likewise cold air during the winter. Sherard suggested placing an airtight attic tent above the pull-down attic stairs to provide a thermal and air seal between the attic and the second floor. Whenever she wants to go in the attic, she'll simply unzip the tent.

    5. Blower Doors and Smoke Sticks
    One of the biggest parts of the energy audit was creating a blower door. Sherard installed a parachute-style door in one of my mom's doorways, with a big blower fan in the bottom of the door to simulate actual wind. Then we closed every window and door in the house and turned the fan on. The blower door helped show Sherard the dynamics of the entire building envelope, and highlight where there were drafts and energy leaks. Sherard also used a smoke stick, which emits a visible, non-toxic smoke to help you detect drafts coming through doorways, windows, outlets, recessed lights, and so on. It's pretty cool to actually see your energy leaks! (Use a powerful floor fan and an incense stick to perform your own blower door test).

    The energy efficiency pro used a smoke stick to detect leaks around the basement window. Photo: Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien

    All in all, my mom's house fared pretty well in the energy audit. And we learned so much about the way a house works through Sherard's assessment. And it was so easy to follow Sherard's suggestions. Fixing the house's energy leaks required one stop to The Home Depot to pick up an attic tent, sump pump cover, chimney balloon, and loads of spray foam.

    And we're already feeling the difference. Typically, I need to wear a fleece jacket inside my mom's house once the temperature drops. No longer. Post-energy audit, my mom's home feels so much more comfortable. And when she receives her next heat and electrical bills, I'm sure she'll feel even better.


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    Increase indoor air moisture and lower your heating bills with a humidifier.

    humidifiersDry winter air can batter your home and health. Boost moisture with a humidifier. Mek22, Flickr

    Suffering from cracked skin and dryness in your nose and throat? Blame your environment.

    Winter air holds less moisture than the warm air of spring and summer. Increasing the temperature on your thermostat may feel like the wise move to stay toasty, but it's actually making already dry air worse by sucking out any existing moisture.

    humidifiers, sore throatDry, scratchy throats in the winter can be caused low humidity in the air. Photo: Corbis

    Dry air causes a lot of things we associate with winter: static electricity, chapped lips, sore throats, dry skin, increased susceptibility to colds and irritation to those who suffer from asthma. Also, wood floors, indoor paint and electronics can sustain damage from low humidity levels. So if you find yourself doubling up on lotion and lip balm, using an inordinate amount of Static Guard and popping throat lozenges like candy, it's time to replace the lost humidity in your home by adding a humidifier.

    Humidifiers are devices that use water vapor to increase moisture levels in the air and remove airborne allergens and dust. And because humidity holds heat, using humidifiers in your home can increase the temperature inside by as much as 15 degrees.

    There are two major types of humidifiers on the market: warm mist and cool mist. Read on to know which kind is right for you.

    Warm Mist Humidifiers
    Warm mist humidifiers use electricity to boil water and produce steam. These humidifiers are very effective, but if you use them for too long the air can become stale and feel a bit muggy. Also, these devices can get hot to the touch, so take precautions when using them around small children.

    warm mist humidifiers(Left) Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier. Photo: Amazon; (Right) Vicks Warm Steam Vaporizer. Photo: Walgreens

    There are two main types of warm mist humidifiers: warm mist and steam vaporizers.

    - Warm mist: These units use a heating element that heats the water before evaporating it into the air. Before it's released, the humidifier cools the steam slightly so that it doesn't come out extremely hot.

    - Steam vaporizers: These devices boil the water, which is sent out into the air as hot steam. The boiling process helps kill any mold or bacteria. You can add medicine or aromatherapy to these humidifiers, and create a warm, humid environment to keep noses and chests clear at night. Steam vaporizers do not cool the air at all before it is released, so they can become extremely hot.

    Cool Mist Humidifiers
    Vapor from the machine is not heated, so there is no risk for burning, making them ideal for use children's rooms. There are three different types of cool mist humidifiers: evaporation wick/evaporative, impeller and ultrasonic.

    cool mist humidifiers(Clockwise from left) Multi-room Cool Mist Evaporative Humidifier. Photo:; Sunbeam Health Impeller Humidifier. Photo: Sears; Crane Cool Mist Ultrasonic Humidifier. Photo: Bed Bath & Beyond

    - Evaporative wick/evaporative: These humidifiers use a fan to blow out cool evaporated water that gets absorbed through a wick or filter. These humidifiers self-regulate -- when the moisture in the air increases, the rate at which the humidifier releases more mist is slowed. A drawback to cool-mist humidifiers is that the fan can become noisy and make it difficult to sleep when running it through the night. Evaporative humidifiers are fairly affordable.

    - Impeller: Impellers use a rotating disk in the water to create mist, which is slightly less noisy than the evaporative fan.

    - Ultrasonic: These humidifiers use sound waves or vibrations to create water droplets, so they are the quietest of the three cool mist options. These tend to be the most expensive of the three.

    Concerns about Humidifiers
    There is such a thing as too much humidity, which can be a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. Keep indoor humidity levels in the range of 35 to 55 percent or so; anything above 60 percent is to high and anything under 30 percent is too dry. Opt for a humidifier that has a built-in humidistat, which is basically a thermostat for humidity. Alternatively, you can buy one for your home. Also, don't keep your humidifiers running all day and night. Turn them down or off, and use a dehumidifier if levels get too high, especially during the summer.

    And finally, it is very important to clean humidifier frequently to prevent dormant water from turning into a pool of bacteria, mold and mildew. Therefore, while a tad inconvenient, to follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning which usually entails washing on a daily basis with soap and water.

    Lower Your Home Eating Bills
    Controlling Humidity Levels at Home [Re-nest]
    The Best Humidifiers [Switch]


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    Painting the walls? Don't let a cumbersome radiator get you hot under the collar. Here are some foolproof tips and techniques for painting behind a radiator.

    So you're painting your living room. You're excited, too. This is going to turn out great.

    You've bought everything you'll need. A bountiful heap of plastic shopping bags full of drop cloths, roller frames, paint pans, a 5-in-1 tool, and, of course, paint brushes -- and not just any old brushes; you need good paint brushes: watch this video to learn how to choose!

    You've also got just the right color picked out. And because it's an older place, you've tested for lead paint.

    As you paint your way around the room, you first realize the radiator in your charming old place is at first in the way. Then, as you get right up to it with the brush you realize, "Wait a minute. I can't really get the brush back there. What the heck?"

    And all your good karma turns sour because you now dread an ugly, slathered paint outline around the radiator.

    That's usually how the scenario plays out. So whether you've found yourself there already or you had the foresight to research the problem before it actually became a problem, here's the best approach to painting behind a radiator.

    Should You Remove the Radiator?
    Let's get this out of the way early. Our advice: Don't even think about it. This is a professional plumber's job (the Washington Post agrees). Still want to attempt it yourself? We suggest at least consulting a professional plumber first.

    Get Yourself Some Radiator Rollers and Radiator Brushes

    painting techniques, radiator brush, radiator cover, painting behing a radiator(Left to right) Amazon; Ace Hardware

    The easiest way to paint behind a radiator is to head back to the store (turn the heat off before you go; you'll see why later) to get what's called a "mini-long-handled roller." You can find this long, slender type of paint roller at practically any paint store or big box home center. Some manufacturers call them "radiator rollers."

    You'll probably find two types at point of sale: one with a sponge roller cover (the part you put the paint on) and one with a microfiber roller cover. For what it's worth, I've had the best luck with the microfiber covers, but both work for this application.

    Though I've never tried them, some people use radiator paint brushes too, which are designed to be long and slim enough to fit in tight quarters (same idea as a radiator roller).

    Also, grab a box of contractor grade trash bags while you're there (you'll want them later for all the paint cans and debris that'll stretch your kitchen bags past the breaking point.)

    When you return home, slide a contractor bag over the radiator -- which should be cool by now -- and snug tight with tape or string (or just have someone hold it taught). This is to protect the roller from all the dust bunnies and debris back there.

    Then, load your radiator roller with paint and sneak it down between the bag and the wall. Paint what you can but if it won't go all the way down, let it be. You won't be able to see that far behind the radiator anyway -- nor can you see through most radiators, for that matter.

    Unlike standard size roller covers, I clean out mini roller covers in my utility sink. Why not just throw them out? First, they're not all that cheap, so I tend to reuse them. Second, unlike full-size roller covers, they clean up fairly easily so it isn't a hassle at all.

    Or You Could Just Build a Radiator Cover
    If for some reason you can see through the radiator to the unpainted wall behind but can't paint there's another other option: building a radiator cover. These are a really fun projects. However, we bring it up here only as an option. How to build them is another kettle of fish entirely.

    In this video, DIY Network's Marc Bartolomeo demonstrates how to make a radiator cover out of wood and leftover soapstone countertop:


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    Is there a better way to heat your home? Radiant floor heating is a very viable option: it's clean, evenly distributed and energy-efficient.

    It's the heart of winter and by now we're all familiar with it: the flaky, cracked skin that comes from being cooped up all day surrounded by dry air. The kinds of heating systems that most of us have -- forced-air systems (think furnaces and radiators) -- breed this kind of environment.

    But radiant floor heating offers a very attractive alternative to the dusty vents and radiators we're used to. By installing plastic tubes underneath your actual flooring, your house gets warm from the ground up, and the heat is distributed throughout the house evenly and without the dryness and dust of forced air systems. Plus, they actually save energy by allowing you to turn down your thermostat a few degrees and still feel the same amount of coziness.

    Would you make the switch?

    Cheap Ways to Heat Your Home
    How to Heat Your Home Eco-Consciously


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    DIY projects don't need to be elaborate, back-breaking endeavors. Check out simple projects from around the web that repurpose everyday items into something fabulous.

    everyday itemsCurbly

    A beautiful headboard can make a big impact to any room. While there are plenty of store-bought options at your disposal, you can easily make your own headboard out of everyday materials. Wood, paint, upholstered panels, and doors are some of the many items you can use to craft grand headboards. [Curbly]

    everyday itemsApartment Therapy

    Wooden pallets -- those flat, portable platforms used to transport goods -- are one of the most readily available, inexpensive DIY materials. Simply visit a local pallet company, and you can pick up hundreds of these platforms free. They can then be used to craft a unique, rustic wall. The process is simple, consisting of separating the wood planks from the pallets and using nails or glue to attach each plank onto the wall. [Mom and Her Drill via Apartment Therapy]

    everyday itemsApartment Therapy

    For some it's hard to wrap their head around this concept: you don't need to spend a lot of money for statement furniture pieces. These plain, affordable IKEA cabinets are given a new look with an easy wallpaper application. [Apartment Therapy]

    everyday itemsShelterPop

    For most homes, a desk is an essential piece of furniture. Before you buy one, check out creative ways you can craft a custom-make desk. ShelterPop features three DIY desks created from floating shelves, bookcases and cinderblocks (yes, the same cinderblocks you used in college). [ShelterPop]

    everyday itemsMartha Stewart

    Brighten up a room with mirrored furniture that won't break the bank. Upgrade a coffee table or end table by topping them with custom-cut mirror glass. [Martha Stewart]

    everyday items, diy pendant lampsBetter Homes & Gardens

    Take your bowls out of the kitchen and into the bedroom with these charming pendant lamps. Drill a hole in the bottom of the bowls and insert a halogen accent light. Use grosgrain ribbon and bows to dress up the cord. [Better Homes & Gardens]

    everyday itemsYoung House Love

    Save money on artwork by painting large canvases with interior latex paint. This is an inexpensive way to add a splash of color to bland to walls. [Real Simple]

    Young House Love may take top prize for best 15-minute DIY project. The adorable couple, Sherry and John, crafted a chic side table from a luggage rack and faux leather tray. Using a stroke of genius they attached the tray to the luggage rack with simple Command removable adhesive strips. [Young House Love]


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  • 03/22/11--05:00: Hollow-Core Door Makeover
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    See this drab hollow-core door transform into a black and white showstopper, complete with fancy knocker!

    Check out this creative DIY project from our friends at Houzz!

    hollow core door

    My photographer friend Christina had me over to her house recently. Naturally, she inquired as to any ideas I could offer to make her home a bit nicer. Upon entry, I wanted to say, "Well, you can start by tossing those nasty hollow-core doors out the window, then setting them on fire." But instead, the nice part of me decided to offer up a do-it-yourself upgrade - the same nice part that got tricked into staying and actually doing it. One protein bar, two pitchers of ice water and about 6 hours of conversation later, here's how we took Christina's 40-year-old, contractor-grade, hollow-core door from eyesore to showstopper:

    hollow core door

    While I recommend this project for hollow-core doors, it works just as well on those made from solid wood. High contrast offers up the most impact. Black and white is classic and goes with everything, but playing up two drastically different shades of your room's wall color works just as well.

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


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    Don't limit your art options to what can fit inside a standard frame -- you can go beyond the 8"x10" without going broke.

    Sometimes when you stumble upon art that comes in a big package, you shrink from the purchase, for fear that the framing will cost more than the art. But no fear -- there are other, more affordable options.

    How to Frame a Large Picture: Supersize and Put Behind Plexiglass Blogger Mercie Ghimire of A Lovely Evening turned a 2"x4" inch mini Instax photo print into a giant 3'x5' print in her living room. She worked with a local framer and had them create a high-res scan of the photograph and then asked them to glue the enlarged photo on 1/4" thick gator board and glue 1/8" plexiglass on top of that. So the photo is free-floating -- there is no actual frame. The framer add a piece of beveled block on the back to make it easy to hang this 40 pound piece of art on the wall.

    how to framePhoto: ReFrame

    How to Frame a Large Picture: ReFrame It
    Check out ReFrame's alternative framing solutions for hanging up poster-size prints. The frames are glassless but they're an affordable way to hang up a poster or large print for that cool gallery look. And the frames come in multiple sizes and three finishes -- natural, white, or black -- to suit your style.

    How to Frame a Large Picture: Use a Ledge: Foam-core backing is another affordable solution for prints of non-standard sizes. Use spray adhesive to mount your print on foam core, which will make them sturdy enough to stand up on their own (and not bend.) Then you can place your print on a picture ledge, which gives you the flexibility of swapping out prints easily when you want a new look.

    How to Frame a Large Picture: Attach It to Wood: Plywerk makes blank panels from sustainably harvested wood, with a special pH neutral adhesive, for hanging prints of all sizes. You can also use their digital reproduction service to reproduce a one-of-a-kind print and have the copy attached to a Plywerk panel.

    How to Frame a Large Picture: DIY It!
    We spotted this great DIY project on Design Sponge. Blogger Kimba of A Soft Place to Land created a DIY frame for an oversized map using door frame molding, corner blocks, and paint. How clever!

    Depending on the print, another alternative is cutting up a large print to display in multiple smaller frames. That's something I'm considering for a gigantic blueprint I've been trying to tackle -- creating a grid of frames each displaying a piece of the blueprint.

    Tip: Found a vintage frame that's the perfect size, but it's empty? Here's how to makeover an empty frame.

    By Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien


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  • 05/09/11--03:00: Magnetic Paint Gallery Wall
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    Bye-bye tacks and nails...a new magnetic paint allows you to stick up art without damaging your walls. Our friends at ReadyMade show us how it's done.

    Magnetic paint has been around for a little while, but I'm only now seeing it being used in really sophisticated ways. Like this installation at the gallery r20thCentury, which features posters and pamphlets displayed on the wall using rare-earth magnets. (Why rare earth? Because it's world away stronger than any alphabet magnet you can find.)

    For the strongest effect, use three coats of the magnetic paint. While you can paint over it and still get the magnetic benefit, I've heard that two coats are the max for the second color coat. (And even then, it gets a little weak.)

    Magnetic paint is ideal for a childs' room. (Just think, no unsightly holes made by tacks!) Here, it's used to repurpose a mirror into a message board. What's even more remarkable is that the designer finished the project with a topcoat of pink chalkboard paint. Love this idea.

    Want more ideas for how to use magnetic elements in your decor? Check out...
    10 Creative Uses for Magnets - DIY Life
    Making magnets from flat glass marbles - DIY Life
    New Gorillapod uses rare earth magnets, sticks to your car


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  • 06/03/11--06:00: Curbspotting: Vintage Chair
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    A vintage chair with "good bones" (but not much else going for it) becomes a knockout with a fresh coat of paint and a little reupholstering know-how.
    This vintage chair by Drexel was facing a future in the dump when it was rescued just before the garbage truck came along. And though it had potential, you can see why someone might chuck it in the first place. The torn upholstery, scratched-up wood and general filthiness definitely overshadows its elegant frame.

    Then Justin and Elise Snow came along. They cleaned it up, gave the wood a fresh coat of lime green paint and replaced the upholstery. Though it looks impressive and sounds intimidating, reupholstering a side chair is one of the easiest projects you can do. Really. All you really have to do is re-wrap the cushion with foam and then smooth over with the fabric of your choice, stapling both in place as you work. It's projects like this, or the hope of undertaking a project like this, that made me buy a staple gun in the first place.

    Want a few more ideas for refreshing a vintage chair? Check out...
    Minute Makeover: A DIY Accent Chair
    Flea market chair gets a makeover
    Thrifted task chair gets a new look


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  • 09/12/11--01:00: Hardware Store Decor
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    Looking for chic, industrial housewares? Look no further than your local hardware store. The new book "Home From the Hardware Store: Transform Everyday Materials Into Fabulous Home Furnishings" shows you how to transform utilitarian items into furniture and accessories that really work.

    Machine-Age Candlesticks, as seen on page 106 of Stephen Antonson and Kathleen Hackett's book, require no tools to assemble. Photo: Lesley Unruh

    For co-authors (and real-life couple) Stephen Antonson and Kathleen Hackett, it all goes back to a chandelier in Paris. Shortly after they began dating, Kathleen moved to the City of Light for six months. On his first visit, Stephen noticed the peaked ceiling in her rented apartment, thinking it could really benefit from a chandelier.

    That day, while Kathleen was running errands, Stephen took a quick trip to the hardware store and picked up four supplies -- a pair of pliers, a single jack chain, a baling wire, and four candles -- which he used to make a chandelier by the time she got home that afternoon.

    "I make a lot of things...whenever we need something I make it," says Antonson, who met Hackett when we was a home editor and she was an executive book editor at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Soon after that chandelier was hung, he and Hackett realized they had a book idea on their hands. To come up with enough projects to fill an entire book, Antonson would wander the aisles of local hardware stores (they live in New York City) each morning with a cup of coffee, in search of inspiration.

    The end result, "Home From the Hardware Store: Transform Everyday Materials Into Fabulous Home Furnishings" (Rodale Books, $23), was published in early November. It contains dozens of affordable DIY decorating projects, which use common hardware store items in brilliant yet simple ways to create modern, industrial decor. "If you can wrap a birthday present, you can do half this stuff," says Antonson.

    Not familiar with hardware store items? Not to worry; you don't need to know an item's intended use. Instead, look to the lines, materials and beauty in each individual piece.

    (Left) The Space-Age Coffee Table uses galvanized elbows (a type of pipe fitting) as an unexpected table base. (Right) The Periscope Lamp turns a crimp elbow (also a pipe fitting) into functional art. Photo: Lesley Unruh

    Some of our favorite projects from the book include the Machine-Age Candlesticks (pictured, top), which require no tools except your own two hands. We also love the Periscope Lamp (pictured, above right), which transforms a crimped elbow into display-worthy light source.

    The authors were kind enough to let us share with you our favorite project of all, the Space-Age Coffee Table (above left) -- an ideal DIY project for a weekend warrior.

    To fasten the tiers together, you need to assemble the base without screwing anything together, and then disassemble it in vertical sections, which is not exactly an intuitive process, given the way the base it stacked.


    Eight 90-degree galvanized elbows, 7" each
    Four 90-degree galvanized elbows, 4" each
    Eight zine bolts and nuts, 8=1" x 32
    Twelve #6 sheet metal screws. 1/2" each
    36" x 1" round solid pine panel
    One quart primer
    1/2 quart paint in desired color (we used Benjamin Moore Soot/#2129-20)
    Industrial strength adhesive-backed Velcro, 35" x 2" strip


    Black permanent marker
    Drill with 3/16" and 1/8" bits
    Phillips-head screwdriver
    120-grit sandpaper
    2" all-paints paintbrush


    1. Join four 7" elbows to form a circle. Repeat with the remaining 7" elbows, and then join the 4" elbows to make a smaller circle.

    2. Stack the circles on top of one another to form tiers, aligning the ribs and placing the smaller tier in the middle. Find the seams where two elbows meet. On the ribs adjacent to the seams, mark the tiers deep in the middle, where they meet, with a horizontal line.

    3. Pull the stack apart in half vertically, making note of the top and bottom of the base. Using the marks as guides, mark an X 1" beyond them, toward the center. Use a drill with a 3/16" bit to drill a hole at each X.

    4. Break the tiers into quarters so you can fasten one quarter of the base together at a time. Rest the elbows on a work surface so that the openings of the elbows are facing you. Align the holes, slide the bolt through, and fasten the nut with your hands. Don't fasten it too tightly -- once you put the entire base together, you'll need a little room to play. Repeat with the remaining three sections of the base.

    5. Put two sections together to make half the base. Use an 1/8" bit to drill a hole 1/2" from the seam on each tier, through two layers of elbow. Screw in the sheet metal screws. Repeat on the other half of the base. Put the two halves together. Screw them together in the same manner, drilling a hole 1/2" from the seam on each tier, through two layers of elbow, and fasten with the sheet metal screws. Set the base aside.

    6. Sand the top, bottom, and edge of the pine round. Wipe it down with a soft cloth, brush with a thin coat of primer on the top and edge, and let it dry. Sand the round all over and wipe it down with a soft cloth again. Apply a coat of paint on the top and edge and let it dry. Apply a coat of paint on the bottom and let it dry.

    7. Cut the Velcro into twelve 3" pieces. Separate the hooks from the loops. Wipe down the top of the table base with a soft cloth to remove any traces of grease or residue. Remove the adhesive backing from one of the loop pieces and fasten it 3 1/2" from the outer edge of the base, along a rib. (This is the high point, where the tabletop makes contact with the base.) Repeat with the remaining loop pieces and ribs.

    8. To determine where to put the hook sides of Velcro on the underside of the table, set it on top of the base. Use a pencil to mark the underside of the tabletop where the Velcro is attached to the base. This is where the outside long edge of the hook sides of the Velcro should be attached. Place the tabletop wrong side up on a work surface. Remove the adhesive from the hook pieces of the Velcro and fasten them to the table, using your pencil marks as guides. Flip the tabletop over and set it onto the base, aligning the Velcro pieces.



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