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Here are the home repair tricks you need to know

Today’s homeowners are living in a golden age of information. Every possible home project and repair has an online video tutorial and step-by-step guide. Now, more than ever before, you’re empowered to take on your home’s maintenance and repairs. In this article, we’ll review several of the best home repair tricks and tips out there, along with a few things you should know about DIY work in your home.

Refresh your garbage disposal

We tend to take our garbage disposals for granted, running them constantly until they dull, break, or begin to smell. If you’re noticing any of these issues, you might not need to replace your disposal—you might just need to maintain it. Here are two DIY-friendly ways to restore your disposal to like-new condition.

Sharpen the blades

After years of slicing and dicing through leftovers and vegetables, your disposal’s blades are likely pretty dull. You can’t access them as easily to sharpen them like you would your kitchen knives. Yet, there is a relatively easy way to freshen them up. Turn the disposal and water on, and then pour in a cup of cubed ice and a tablespoon of kosher or sea salt. As the blades churn against the ice and salt, they’ll become much sharper. You can repeat this process as often as needed to sharpen the blades and help them cut through food waste.

Freshen up your disposal

If your disposal is starting to smell like yesterday’s leftovers—or, more accurately, last week’s leftovers—it’s time to take action. Cut up a lemon into several small pieces, and then feed them into the disposal one-by-one. As the blades cut through the lemon’s flesh, the acidity of the lemon juice will kill off odor-causing bacteria living in the disposal, reducing odors. The lemon peel contains the oils that give lemons their signature citrus scent. Your sink, and your kitchen, should start to smell a lot better.

Clear your clogs with a few basic essentials

When most people have a clog, their first instinct is to run to the grocery store and buy some drain cleaner. After all, it’s the easiest solution—right? Actually, drain cleaner is often a far more expensive approach than what’s needed to clear the clog. Plus, using drain cleaner on your pipes again and again can weaken or damage them. There’s a better way.

Kitchen Sink Clogs

Even if your garbage disposal is working right, avoid using your kitchen sink as a trash can. While your disposal helps break down what’s left on your dishes after dinner, your sink isn’t the best way to get rid of all food waste. In fact, certain types of waste—such as coffee grounds, grease, uncooked rice, and flour—can easily clog your sink drain or your sewer line.

If your kitchen sink has clogged, start with a DIY approach. Prepare equal parts baking soda and vinegar. In quick succession, put each down the drain. The chemical reaction of this base and acid will help loosen up or dissolve the clog. From that point, try using a plunger to clear out the now-weakened sink clog.

In the event the clog is still there and your plunger isn’t working, you probably need to call in a plumber. Professional plumbers have access to other tools—snakes, water jets, augers, and more—they can use to clear even the toughest of clogs. Still, this DIY method using baking soda and vinegar should be able to clear most clogs without further problems.

Shower Drain Clogs

Unsurprisingly, many shower drain clogs are caused by trapped hair. This requires a different approach, but it’s still something you can do at home. Take a metal hanger and use pliers to reshape it into a long rod with a hook at the bottom. This will serve as your homemade, DIY snake tool. Carefully remove the drain cover and feed your hanger into the drain, twisting it as you go. You should be able to use the hook to pull out trapped hair. Just be sure to wear some dishwashing gloves while doing this—it can get pretty gross!

One final note: if you’re noticing all of your home’s drains are clogging at once, you need to immediately turn off the water and call a plumber. This simultaneous clogging is an indicator that the clog is not in an individual drain, but in your home’s sewer line. With nowhere to go, trapped wastewater will head back up the drains, potentially causing a sewer backup. It’s as bad as it sounds. Call a plumber right away.

Know your limits—and when to bring in an expert

There are all sorts of DIY “lifehacks” and home repair tricks you’ll find online for maintaining your home. Here’s one that just requires common sense: know when you’re in over your head. Even the handiest and most experienced homeowners run into repairs and projects that they don’t know how to do or don’t have the tools to complete. When this happens in your home, take a step back and call in a professional.

After all, there are many home repairs that have relatively high stakes or need to be dealt with immediately. When you have a leaking pipe or a broken sump pump, you don’t have the time to sit down and watch several instructional videos on how to fix it. If you have a slab leak, you don’t have the tools to locate the source of the leak, access it, or fix it. 

There’s a reason why plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians, and other service professionals exist. When the situation calls for a professional, get a professional: there’s just no substitute. 

Our recommendation? Vet out contractors and companies in advance. You don’t want to be scrambling to research and get quotes from plumbers when your water heater stops working on a cold winter morning. Have several local service professionals of each type lined up so that you know exactly who to call when you’re faced with an urgent problem.

Use these home repair tricks to start working smarter, not harder, in your home

Outside of urgent, high-risk projects, there’s still a lot you can do to maintain your own home. From using correction fluid to remove scratches in your baseboards to sealing your own deck in the spring, a homeowner can accomplish a lot with nothing more than some basic tools and a willingness to learn.

For even more DIY home repair tricks and tips, check out our latest infographic. It takes you through several repair projects, with step-by-step instructions.