In 1942, a little but influential magazine known as Consumers Union changed its name to Consumer Reports and a trusted powerhouse was borne. Now, some sixty-eight years later, a new offspring from the same organization has appeared. It’s called ShopSmart;), a magazine that’s billed as ‘A new women’s shopping magazine with the BEST brands to buy.’ Honestly, though, I think that’s selling the magazine short because there really is something for everyone in its pages. In the December issue, for example, there was the usual, indispensable information we’ve come to expect from Consumer Reports, like the 411 on the most reliable cars and food label truths and tricks, but there were also articles that highlighted new ways to display flat screen TV’s, candlescaping ideas, new techie toys, dinner-party short cuts and how to fly fee-free, PLUS tons of others. One in particular caught my eye—or rather raised my eyebrow. Its title ‘Sex and the supermarket’. Hel-lo. It gave readers the scoop on personal lubricants, new kinds of condoms and warming agents. I repeat, hel-lo.
All in all, ShopSmart;) is certainly worth its purchase price ($4.99) and even though it’s not as thick as some other ‘women’s’ magazines out there, it has more information packed inside it as it, because, like its big brother, it DOESN’T CONTAIN ANY ADVERTISEMENTS!
Now, enough of the sales pitch and on to the 11 Cheap & Easy Fix-Its, which, by the way, will be featured in the January 2010 issue of ShopSmart;).
- Assorted pins (about $2 to $10 for upholstery pins) are best for temporarily fixing all sorts of things, so keep a few types on hand. Upholstery T-pins are great for shoring up the hem of a chair or sofa until you can get to a needle and thread. Use corkscrew pins to anchor shifty slipcovers and droopy bed skirts. And safety and stick pins are good for cleaning out the stopped-up holes in salt and pepper shakers and the clogged ports on a gas range’s burners.
- Nail polish (about $3 a bottle for drugstore brands) is best for restoring a shiny finish to all sorts of stuff, including painted walls, furniture, and anything made of patent leather. Clear polish is great for sealing cracks on fragile objects like Christmas ornaments. Need to fix a small gouge on the leg of a lacquered chest or chair? Bypass the wood filler and reach for nail polish. It creates a dollop, so it plugs a hole as well as colors it. And because nail polish mimics the gloss of paint and patent leather, it’s ideal for patching up glossy surfaces and trim work and for coating worn spots on belts, shoes, and bags. In a pinch, you can even use it as touch-up paint on scratched appliances.
- White vinegar (about $2 for a 32-ounce bottle) is best for cleaning coffeemakers, blenders, chrome, cookware, and countertops. This kitchen-cupboard staple is especially good at removing the cruddy stains from hard-water deposits on teakettles, coffeemakers, and showerheads. For coffeemakers, add a cup of vinegar and run it through a regular hot-water cycle. You can unscrew a grungy showerhead and soak it in vinegar to loosen mineral scum. For yucky blender containers, pour vinegar in and let it whir. Vinegar is also great for neutralizing and lifting old pet urine odors and stains on carpets, floors, and upholstery. Before applying, test it in an inconspicuous place to avoid possible discoloration.
- Duct tape (about $7 a roll) is vest for sealing cracks and gaps on just about anything around the house. It comes in a range of colors to match the job, not just industrial looking silver. Use duct tape to conceal a chip in a room vent, tuck in the fraying edges of needlepoint rugs, keep a loose shower handle from popping off and hold car parts together until you can get to the repair shop. But keep in mind that it’s not air- or watertight, so for certain jobs, such as a loose drain pipe, it’s only temporary.
- Touch-up paint (about $10 and up) is best for touching up walls and woodwork in high-traffic rooms. You can buy small containers at hardware stores. For things that require more durability and permanence, such as appliances and furniture, enamel auto paint is a good choice for covering and smoothing scratches. It comes in as many colors as there are cars, so there’s a fix for almost every nick.
- Hair dryer ($10 and up) is best for quick dusting of intricate, tough-to clean things like lamp shades, silk flowers, decorative pottery, and even window treatments. Use the cold setting of the dryer or you could risk burning the fabric.
- Glues and glue guns (from $2 to $6 for glues; $20 to $50 for a glue gun) are best for putting broken things back together. But no single adhesive works for everything; you need to match the glue to the job. Most multipurpose adhesives can bond wood and plastic as well as fill gaps. Just be sure to clamp and let it harden for 24 hours. For quicker fixes, there are superglues, which take a few minutes to cement but don’t fill gaps. And for the quickest, thickest fix, you can use a glue gun, which hardens quickly and plugs cracks.
- Sponge erasers and gum erasers (about 75 cents for gum erasers; about $8 for four Magic Erasers) are best for removing smudges, fingerprints, and other marks from walls and other surfaces. Gum erasers get rid of pencil and other smudge marks without leaving messy markings like an ordinary eraser. When we tested Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, it was best for attacking grease, crayon, and fingerprints on flat latex paint and scuff marks on vinyl tile, and it even cleaned the rubber trim on sneakers. But it left scrub marks or changed the surface luster on some painted surfaces. So test the surface you’re about to clean before swiping a sponge eraser across it.
- Tube of spackle (about $5 to $7 for a few ounces) is best for plugging up pesky nail holes and other wall gouges. Look for tubes with a handy, built-in scraper or you’ll also need a separate putty knife to smooth your patch job seamlessly into the wall.
- Lubricant (about $5 a can) is best for fixing squeaky door hinges and loosening old, rusty nuts, bolts, and screws. Petroleum lubricants such as WD-40 also have lesser-known uses, such as de-gumming shoe soles and removing crayon from walls, carpet, and flooring; stickers from windows and refrigerators; and Silly Putty from hard surfaces. Though candles are best for rubbing over and smoothing out creaky wooden drawers, WD-40 makes ball-bearing gliders glide again.
- Felt-tip markers (about $4 for a basic pack) are best for masking and minimizing scratches on wood furniture, fixtures, and trim, from thresholds to shutters. But they’re also great for tile, including ceramic and linoleum, and fabric.