From time to time I find these little helps referred to as “lifehacks” by many, a term my husband detests. I’ve put a couple of them together to share with you, and over time as I come across more I will keep doing so. I want to make you all a promise right out of the gate – I will never share something with you that I haven’t personally tried. I won’t tell you it works if I can’t prove it. Where possible I will share photos or a video. If something is an epic fail, well I’ll tell you that too as I think that is just as valuable. So with that, I bring you the inaugural edition of “Things Mom Never Told You”.
Have you ever wondered…
…What to do with old toothbrushes?
Bet you always wondered what to do with a) your old nasty squished toothbrush or b) the free toothbrush you get from the dentist that you don’t like/use because you have an electric one. Well stash em all over your house, because they’re amazing cleaning tools. They’ll get the dust out of little crevices on your appliances, in grout and corners, in windows, in your car. Firm bristles scrub well too, and aren’t just for getting light cleaning done. We have them everywhere! I’ll even wrap a sanitizing wipe around one for some of the cleaning, like when I’m cleaning the caulk around the sink to get into the tiny crevices.
…New use for old flannel sheets
I cut mine up into small pieces, and I’ve used some as dusting rags or glasses cleaners as they don’t give off lint, others for wrapping up delicate items before packing away like china or other breakables. If you cut off the edges that have the elastic on the bottom sheets you can use those too. They also work well for staining and painting rags.
…Breathe new life into old plastic flower pots (or other plastic stuff)
Get a large bucket that you don’t mind ruining. I use a Homer bucket – you know the ones I’m talking about, from Home Depot, the big orange project buckets. You’ll also want plastic or latex gloves you can wreck, just get a cheap pair of the dishwashing kind. Next select 2 (or more) colors of spray paint that you like and want to have together on an object. Finally, choose the item you want to work with for this project. For this project I picked a plastic flower pot.
I’m doing this one with the color it is, which is the mock terra cotta, but I’ve also done it by first spray painting it with white primer so that my base was white.
You can also see this pot wasn’t new to start with, and was pretty sun bleached and dirty. I did scrub it up with some simple green but you don’t need a new one, just a well cleaned object.
Step 1. Fill up your bucket with cold water, deep enough to fully submerge the item. Take the bucket outside and put it on the ground, either in the grass, or on something that protects the area underneath it.
Step 2: Set up some method for drying the item you’re going to cover. You may want to hang it to drip dry, if possible. I have several large “S” shaped hangers that were originally used to suspend birdhouses or birdfeeders from trees, and I now use them as hangers from trees to spraypaint items or as my dryers. If you don’t have a way to suspend outside, you can hang the item from a garage track with something underneath, or even inside as long as you have something underneath to catch drips.
Step 3: Take your spray paint and spray on the surface of the water, alternating colors. You can spray in concentric circles, or vary it up. Do a bunch of concentric circles, then start a new set next to that. You’ll need quite a bit on the water’s surface though. (I know, in your mind you’re thinking “that much?” Sorry I can’t be more specific. It’s a learning process.) After you spray on what you think you need (add more for good measure), take a popsicle stick or tooth pick and with the tip lightly pull a bit through the paint, so you’re creating a bit of a pattern on the surface. You don’t need to do much, and if you try to do too much you’ll get paint sticking to the stick and start pulling it out of the water.
Step 4: Put on your gloves, then pick up your item and SLOWLY immerse it into the water. I recommend starting with the top of your item, so if you run out of paint, and have to respray and resubmerge it will be toward the bottom of it, not the top. For the first time, however, dunk the item all the way under water and hold it there for about 30 seconds, which helps the paint to start setting up and harden.
Step 5: Remove it from the water, hang it up and let it drip dry. Voila! You have a crazy new painted pot!
Here are a couple of other things that I’ve done as well. The table was originally black, we then spray painted it a light blue. I decided to try the two colors but it was too big for the bucket.
In a flash of inspiration (and sheer stubbornness because my husband didn’t think I would be able to find anything large enough to dunk it in), I lined our wheelbarrow with plastic and then filled that with water, and took the table apart into two pieces, dipping those separately.
The shell was a plain white/cream. I did that in a magenta/pale pink to accent in our bathroom. In hindsight the pale pink barely shows through, it almost looks like it’s the white, so I could have selected a different color for more of an accent. Don’t get me wrong, I like it, and can tell the difference between the pink and the white, it’s just subtle.
…Remove Old Stain
OK I admit this one isn’t something most of us run across too often, but the need we had and product we found for the job was such a revelation that I have to show it to you. We had an old aluminum canoe that was under a deck when the deck was restained, so the canoe had oil-based stain that dripped onto it. We didn’t notice it right away…or even later…we saw it probably a year later. Ugh. Fast forward to about 18 months later when some friends asked if they could borrow the canoe. Now it’s not a new canoe, it’s probably 30-40 years old, and has gotten banged around on rocks a fair bit, so it’s scratched, dinged etc. But stain? So I did a little research and found on something called Motsenbacher’s Lift-Off #4, Spray Paint and Graffitti Remover. It doesn’t dissolve the paint, it breaks the chemical bonds between the paint and the surface it’s on. Here are some initial before and after shots:
In the top photo I had already started to remove stain when I realized I’d better get a posterity photo so I quick shot one, hence the little gap on that middle spike. On the bottom photo you can see the left spike of stain is gone. I literally sprayed on the Lift-Off, waited 2 minutes, then used a plastic scraper (like the ones you get from Pampered Chef) and just a tiny bit of elbow grease to get it started. Once it started to come off, it truly peeled off. Once my husband saw how well it worked he said he’d finish it up, then decided he would also give the canoe a good overall scrubbing. Here is how it looks now:
Crazy, aint it? I linked to a YouTube video on the product name above so you can learn more about it if you would like.