20+ Thrifty Tricks to Make Everything You Own Last Longer
Making your stuff last longer is a great way to get more bang for your buck. From running shoes to spectacles, here's how to get the most out of everything under (and including!) your roof.
How to make paint last longer
When a paint can is stored upside down, the paint creates an absolutely airtight seal, which will make your paint last longer. The obvious caveat to this tip is to make sure the lids are sealed tightly.
How to repair scratched glasses
Scratched eyeglasses are a real nuisance and make it hard to see. If your glasses don’t have antiglare or scratch coating on them, here’s how to get minor scratches out. Put a drop of Brasso on a 100 percent cotton cloth (the softer the better). Apply the product to the lenses, let it dry completely, and then polish out the scratches.
Learn how to stop glasses from fogging up while wearing a mask.
How to make an outdoor faucet last longer
When you turn off a frost-proof faucet, water continues to trickle out of the long pipe even after the valve is closed. When people see that water, they often assume the valve didn’t close, so they crank down harder, which over-compresses the washer, greatly reducing its life. Patience is the key. Wait a second or two after closing the valve. The water should eventually stop (unless you’ve already destroyed the washer).
Myth: Frost-proof faucets cannot freeze.
Fact: Leaving a hose attached throughout the winter could leave water in the line to freeze and cause the faucet to burst. Also, if the faucet slopes slightly toward the house, the long pipe will also hold water that can freeze.
Whether you have a green thumb or not, it’s best to avoid these common lawn mistakes.
How to re-use a vacuum cleaner bag
“In a pinch, a vacuum cleaner bag is actually reusable. The bottom end of the bag is usually folded over a few times and glued shut. To reuse a bag, unroll its end, being careful not to tear it, and then empty the contents into the trash. Refold the end and staple it back together. This hint definitely deserves a cheapskate award, but it works when you need it to.” —Travis Larson
Find out the ways you’re shortening the life of your vacuum cleaner.
How to make band saw blades last longer
Band saw blades that are always under pressure can break prematurely from metal fatigue. Extend the life of your blades by releasing the blade tension whenever your saw will sit idle for three days or longer. Some saws have a quick-release mechanism, which makes this a cinch. Otherwise, make your saw blades last longer by rotating the tensioning knob two or three complete turns.
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How to make a paint roller last longer
“Washing a paint roller cover between coats of paint is a waste of time—and paint. So one of my painting necessities is a can of chips; preferably the plastic cans. Before I start painting, I eat the chips and then clean out the can. I don’t want any unintended texture on my walls! Between coats, I slip the wet roller cover in the empty chip can and pop on the lid to keep it from drying out.” —Thomas Nolan
Arm yourself with the painting tips the pros don’t want you to know.
How to make a garden hose last longer
UV light from the sun slowly destroys plastics, so if you can’t keep your garden hose out of the sun, wipe it down with some Armor All or similar protectant in the spring and again midsummer. Set the hose on plastic or cardboard, spray the whole thing down and then wipe it with a rag.
If it’s already too late to salvage it, try one of these great new uses for an old garden hose.
How to make a pair of spectacles last longer
Got screws that won’t stay put in your favourite spectacles? Paint a thin coat of nail polish on screws to keep them from coming loose. Remove the screw, paint it with the nail polish and screw it back in. The nail polish keeps it in place as it gets in all the cracks and spaces.
Check out more clever household uses for nail polish.
How to make your roof last longer
Leaves and moss can trap water and cause your roof to deteriorate prematurely. You can blow the leaves off a low-pitched roof with a leaf blower. On steeper roofs, you can pull them off with a broom on an extension pole. And it’s wise to trim back all branches that are close to or touching the shingles.
Chemically treat mould, then sweep it off with a soft broom. A diluted bleach solution will kill mould but could also kill the plants on the ground below, so be careful to spray just enough to soak the mould itself. Specific roof cleaners containing fungicide are also available. Installing zinc strips at the peak of the roof can help keep mould at bay.
Don’t miss these expert tips from Canadian home inspectors.
How to breathe new life into old sneakers
All you need is an old toothbrush and a little toothpaste to get your old sneakers looking like new! Non-gel white toothpaste works great for cleaning white-soled sneakers (coloured toothpaste may stain rather than clean sneakers). Apply toothpaste to an old toothbrush and then work the paste into the dirty spots. Leave the toothpaste on the shoes for about ten minutes, and then wipe it off with a damp towel. Repeat the process if necessary.
Try these smart tricks to keep your shoes stink-free.
How to make your work boots last longer
Extend the life of your work boots or shoes by coating the toes with a rubbery protective shell. The product shown here is called Tuff Toe and can be found at shoe stores or online.
You’ll be amazed at what these repurposed items can do.
How to make windshield wipers last longer
“When you’re behind the wheel, nothing is more crucial than good visibility. But like most other drivers, I usually procrastinate cleaning my windshield wipers or even replacing wiper blades if necessary. Windshield wipers are notorious for drying out and cracking in a short time. To help prolong their life and clean them, soak a clean white rag with your favourite glass cleaner. Wipe the rag up and down the length of your wiper blades. You’ll see the results on the rag, and you’ll see out your windshield much better in the rain.” —Jim Nobilione
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How to make your pipes last longer
Frequent use of some chemical drain cleaners can soften plastic drain pipes and corrode metal ones. Go easy on your pipes by using a drain cleaner made of natural enzymes that eat away at grease, oil and soap blockages. This type of drain cleaner isn’t nearly as aggressive as traditional cleaners and is best used as a preventive measure. Use it when you first notice the slow draining. Home Solv is one brand you can find online.
MYTH: It’s okay to pour grease down the drain while running hot water.
FACT: Sure, the hot water will keep the grease from hardening, but only until it cools off farther down your drain lines. That just makes the clog harder to clear. Never pour grease down your drain!
Running out of toilet paper? These are the toilet paper alternatives that will clog your pipes.
How to make permanent markers last longer
To bring your permanent marker back to life, begin by removing the back from the maker. (This will be different for each brand of permanent marker—for Sharpies simply remove the back nib.) Next, deposit a few drops of isopropyl “rubbing” alcohol onto the felt material inside. Shake the marker a bit to ensure the rubbing alcohol is absorbed. It’s the solvent that the ink is mixed with that dries out first, making the pigment unable to flow. Once the felt absorbs the rubbing alcohol for a couple of minutes the marker will be practically good as new!
Consider trying these thrifty uses for rubbing alcohol around the house.
How to make a spreader last longer
Chemicals from fertilizers speed up corrosion of the metal parts of your spreader, so rinse it out every time you use it. After it dries, coat all the moving parts with a light lubricant spray like WD-40.
Don’t miss these brilliant new uses for baking soda!
How to make your winter boots last longer
Your shoes can take a beating during the winter months. The salt used to melt ice and snow on driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, etc., can help to keep you safe from falling, but it can also leave a nasty white residue on your footwear that doesn’t look great. You can clean off the residue quickly with a simple solution that you can make at home. Fill a spray bottle with water and add a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar. Shake it up a bit and spritz the mixture onto a clean paper towel. Gently wipe your shoes, and watch the salt residue disappear. Keep the spray bottle near your shoe collection, so you can clean off your shoes as the season goes.
That said, here are the things you shouldn’t clean with vinegar.
How to make drill bits last longer
Use Boelube to make your drill bits last longer. Whenever you drill multiple holes in metal, stick the bit into the lube before starting each one. It also works on metal-cutting reciprocating and band saw blades. It reduces friction, which makes the cutting edge last longer. The product number is 70200-13, and it is available from multiple online retailers.
Save a fortune by trying these genius $1 solutions!
How to make a sawhorse last longer
The rough, saw-chewed top rails of most sawhorses can scratch finished wood or the painted surfaces on your projects. To provide a non-marring surface, cover the tops of your sawhorses with scraps of old carpet or rugs.
Measure the size of carpet pieces that you need to wrap around the top rails of your sawhorses. Use a straightedge and marker to draw your cut lines on the back of the carpet. Then use a sharp utility knife to cut the carpet along the lines. It may take a few passes with the knife to get through the tough woven backing. Finally, use a staple gun to secure the carpet pieces to the sides of the top rails. Now you have a padded, non-marring work surface for all of your projects!
Avoid these home renovations you’re likely to regret later.
How to make carpets last longer
On carpet, dirt acts like thousands of little blades. Walking across a dirty carpet grinds sharp dirt particles against the yarn, making tiny nicks in the fibres. That dulls the sheen, which is why high-traffic areas appear duller than the rest of the carpet. Over time, grinding dirt will actually wear away the fibres themselves.
Bottom line: The less dirt in your carpet, the longer it will last. A good rule of thumb is to vacuum your carpet once a week. High-traffic areas will require more frequent vacuuming.
You’ll want to steal these cleaning hacks from professional cleaners!
How to make wood putty last longer
“Wood putty is often a one-time use product for me. Before I even think about using it a second time, it’s dried out. The trick I found was to fill an empty paint can with water and store all my putty jars submerged so no air can get in. Now I can finally say that I have seen the bottom of a putty container.” —Kim Boley
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How to make a battery last longer
Batteries can deteriorate and die if they go a long time without being charged. Charge the batteries for your boat, motorcycle or riding lawn mower at least once a month in the off-season. Another option is to hook them up to a battery maintainer. A battery maintainer won’t damage your battery like a trickle charger would. A maintainer has smart monitoring circuitry that charges the battery only when it needs it. Remove the battery and store it indoors if you live in an area with severely cold winters.
Myth: Don’t store batteries on a concrete surface.
Fact: According to the folks at Interstate Battery, ‘Tremendous technological improvements have been made in the seals around the battery posts and vent systems, which have virtually eliminated electrolyte seepage and migration. So, it’s OK to set or store your battery on concrete.’
Learn how to recharge a dead car battery quickly and safely.
How to make clothes last longer
Wash clothes inside out. The exterior of the fabric takes much less abuse and everything looks newer longer.
Next, find out how often you need to replace everything in your home.