12 Outside-the-Box Solutions for Common Household Problems

The problems popping up in your home don't always require one specific fix. Sometimes all you need is a little creativity.

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Correcting Sagging Shelves

Quick Fix for Sagging Shelves

Here’s a clever way to stop shelves from sagging in the middle. Cut plywood panels sized to fit inside some unwanted books. The panels need to be the height of the space between your shelves. Cut out enough pages to fit the panels’ thickness. Then build up the sides and front edge of each panel to match the size and shape of the book. Round the edges and corners of the panels to match the books, then paint the panels to match the books or any inconspicuous color and glue them into the books. Stagger the supports a bit so they aren’t lined up right in the center.

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Picture Frame Bumpers 2

Instant (and Inexpensive) Picture Frame Bumpers

Stop wall frames from slipping out of place and scratching the wall paint by putting small dots of hot glue on the back corners of the frame. The glue not only prevents movement, it also holds the picture away from the wall to prevent scratches and nicks.

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HH walnuts wood scratch

Remove Wood Scratches With Walnuts

Furniture gets beat up over time, but you don’t have to live with the unsightly scratches. You can remove years of damage with a common snack food: walnuts.

Simply rub a walnut over a scratch in wood several times. Then, with your fingers, rub the scratched area. This will help the wood absorb the oil from the nut. Lastly, use a soft cloth to buff the area. Now the scratch is sealed and gone!

Note: This works best on light scratches. Removing deep gouges in wood requires different techniques.

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HH Handy Hints Pop cans save soil gardening
Family Handyman

The Easiest Way to Save on Potting Soil

For deep planters, fill the bottom with old cans and plant pots. The cans and pots improve drainage and create air pockets for better aeration and healthier soil.

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foam pipe insulation next to washing machine laundry room
Family Handyman

Stop Losing Socks

It’s a tale as old as time: Socks enter into a laundry room, ready to be cleaned, only to vanish and never be seen again. To make it harder for socks to get lost in your laundry room, stuff a strip of foam pipe insulation into the space between your washer and dryer or along the wall. That way socks can’t slip away into the abyss.

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coins to shim a toilet shims
Family Handyman

Use Coins for Toilet Shims

Did you know that coins can be used to shim a toilet? Slip coins under a toilet to level it, then add caulk along the floor to hide the coin shims.

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remove hard water buildup with a lemon

Remove Hard Water Buildup With a Lemon

Remove hard-water buildup on your faucet with this natural solution. Place half of a fresh lemon on the end of the faucet, wrap a small plastic bag around the lemon and secure it to the faucet with a rubber band. After a few hours, remove the lemon and wipe the faucet clean.

If you don’t have a lemon on hand, you can sub in a bag of vinegar for the same effect.

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pouring baking soda onto upholstery
Family Handyman

Clean Upholstery with Baking Soda

Did you know regular old baking soda can help to remove odors from a couch or upholstered chair? Just sprinkle a generous amount onto the fabric, wait about 20 minutes and then vacuum it up. The baking soda helps to soak up odors and even breaks up some stains in the fabric.

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Pull tab picture frame hook
Family Handyman

Pull-Tab Picture Frame Hook

“If you’re hanging pictures and run out of those sawtooth hangers, just grab the nearest pop can. Bend the pull tab back and forth until it breaks off. Then screw it to your picture frame. Bend the free end out slightly and hang the picture.”

– Carrie Tegeler, Family Handyman reader

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HH secure garbage bag with command hook
Family Handyman

Super-Secure Garbage Bags

Trash bags and waste bins should work perfectly together, but that’s rarely the case. As trash bags start to fill up, the bag slithers into the bin and you have to dig it out. To keep handled or drawstring trash bags in place, all you need are two medium or large self-adhesive command hooks. Position the hooks at a location that allows full use of the bin.

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HH Spline earring backs
Family Handyman

Screen Spline Earring Backs

“Earring backs are always getting lost. Instead of buying a supply of them to have on hand, I bought foot of small diameter screen spline for 12 cents at the hardware store. Whenever I need a new back, I cut off a short piece of spline with a utility knife.”

– Joyce McCabe, Family Handyman reader

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broken phone charger fix

Liquid Electrical Tape Can Rescue Your Broken Phone Charger

Charger cables for cell phones usually last only a few years before the insulation starts fraying on the ends. Replacement cables cost $8 to $30, but there’s a cheaper solution. If the insulation is cracked but the copper wire inside is still intact, try covering the crack with a couple of layers of liquid electrical tape ($5 to $10 per bottle). Just be sure not to let the cable touch anything until the liquid tape dries completely.