15 Quick Fixes for Common Home Problems

Have stinky sinks, scratched hardwood floors or temperamental toilets got you at your wits’ end? Get ready to tackle 15 deceptively simple common home improvement problems.

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1. Say Goodbye to Garbage Disposal Stink

If you’ve cleaned your sink and it still smells like something died in there, your garbage disposal is the most likely culprit. While your disposal is off, dump a cup or two of ice into it. Then turn on the water and run the disposal. This should dislodge gunk that has stuck to the blades. After the ice has disintegrated, turn the disposal back off and turn off the water. Then dump half a cup of baking soda into the disposal and follow with a cup of vinegar. You should absolutely get the “science project effect,” but that pop and fizz will help clear out any remaining particulates in the disposal. Finally, after the science project has been washed down the drain by some nice hot water, grind a cut-up citrus fruit down the disposal (if you want to eat the fruit, even just the rind will do). The citrus acidity will chew away anything that dared remain, but the real upside is how nice a smell-turnaround your disposal will have made!


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2. Give Your Toilet Flush More Gush

When your toilet and gravity don’t seem to get along, it can be stressful for everyone in the household. Before you despair — or call a plumber — see if you can give your flush more gush. Look behind your toilet (probably on the wall or the floor) for your water valve. Once you’ve located it, turn the valve counterclockwise as far as you can — just keep going until it won’t let you turn it anymore. Once you can’t turn it anymore, it’s fully open, and that should help your toilet tank get its optimum water fill, which should power up your flush. 


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7. Hide Hardwood Floor Scrapes and Gouges

While that gouge in your flooring looks horrible, odds are that it can be fixed without a complete overhaul of your hardwood floors. Basic scratches can be concealed with stain markers that match the color of the wood floors. This is more of a camouflage than a true fix, but it makes them much less visible. For deeper scratches and gouges, try paste wax. Rub some of a matching color into the scratch, then polish off the excess after it has dried. Acrylic wood filler can be used for gouges greater than 1/4 deep, but you have to wait four hours between applications. Just remember these are for spot-fixes — if your hardwood floors have all-over scratches and damage, your best bet is probably a full refinishing. 


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8. Remove a Stripped Screw

So you’re moving along on your home improvement project, removing screws with your drill, and then you hear that tell-tale whirrrrrzzzzz! sound that means you’ve hit that DIYers’ eternal pain: a stripped screw. If the screw isn’t flush with whatever you’re removing it from, there’s always the option of pliers, which is probably the most direct. But if it’s screwed in tight, find some heavy-duty rubber bands. And not just one — you’ll probably need a few rubber bands to get out a really well-stripped screw. But laying a rubber band over the stripped screw’s head should give your drill or screwdriver enough traction to eventually remove that stubborn screw and move on with your project.


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9. Fix a Leaky Faucet

Leaky faucet? Do a quick Internet search of your faucet's make and model to determine whether it's a chronic problem or a possible one-time fix. Amazon.com reviews and online forums can reveal clues about whether O-ring or cartridge replacements are worth the time. Spare parts (if not antique or specialty) will almost always be significantly less expensive than a brand new faucet. 


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10. Repair a Vinyl Tile

It requires a good number of tools, but repairing a vinyl tile is really not complicated. First, loosen the adhesive on the damaged tile with a heat gun or warm iron, then take a putty knife and gently work the tile up off the floor. It usually works best when you start at the corners and work your way to the center; the tile is less likely to tear that way. Make sure your room is well-ventilated, then use mineral spirits to soften the adhesive on the floor from the old tile so you can more easily scrape it away with the putty knife. After the surface is fairly evened out, apply the new adhesive. Lay the new tile on the adhesive and secure it by rolling over it with a rolling pin. After the tile is in place, wipe away any excess adhesive with a mineral spirit rag. Let the tile dry and get really well and fully stuck for a few hours (or as per adhesive instructions), and you're done!



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11. Fight Fingerprints on Stainless Steel

Stainless steel refrigerators are sleek-looking and stylish, but they’re also a magnet for fingerprints. To remove fingerprints, start with a soft cloth — microfiber cloths work very well for this — and wipe down the appliance to remove any food or other particulates that might have snuck onto the surface. Next, spray a window cleaner on the surface. These work well removing fingerprints and streaks from stainless steel appliances. If you’re really committed to fingerprint-free fridges, however, you can take it one step further: wax on, my friend. That’s right: a gentle car wax over a perfect stainless finish can keep your refrigerator fingerprint-free and shiny for longer than just a regular cleaning.



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13. Unstick Your Fireplace Damper

If your fireplace seems to be too much smoke and not enough fire, check your damper before you fret. The damper is the steel or cast-iron door at the top of the firebox, and it is critical to keeping your fireplace working effectively. Clean your damper with a firm wire brush. Be sure to wear safety goggles and some type of face mask to keep all the old particulates out of your eyes and lungs. Also, this will be a dirty job, so don’t head into it wearing your Sunday best. Remove the soot and rust buildup with a lot of scrubbing, then finish off with a bit of WD-40 or similar lubricant on the hinges. 



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14. Remove Lime Deposits from Sinks

Forget putting the lime in the coconut — to get these intractable white stains out of your sinks, go with the vinegar to beat lime. Soak paper towels in vinegar and apply them to the areas with the lime-deposit hard-water stains. One caveat: this may discolor brass or colored fixtures, so proceed with caution when you are cleaning around those styles of drains.


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Jeremy Cossette
Jeremy Cossette
2350 2nd Avenue Regina SK S4R 1A6