Unclog your sinks without undoing any pipes

I found this wonderful dude on Pinterest http://www.hometalk.com/2251857/how-to-unclog-a-sink-like-a-pro?tk=d4g1rl&se=wkly and followed his easy to follow advice, with a few modification of course.

Rule #1: Don’t undo any plumbing pipes as he suggests if you are renting the house.

Rule #2: Don’t undo any plumbing pipes unless you are attempting this between 9-5 on a weekday and are willing and financially able to call a plumber.

Rule #3: Don’t attempt any plumbing unless you know how to shut off the water lines.

Law #1: Most, if not all, plumbing joints are reinforced with silicone plumbing putty stuff. Unless you know what this is and how to reapply it- DON’T UNDO ANY PLUMBING PIPES.

Rule #4: Have plenty of towels handy and/or little helpers who can run for towels in an emergency.

Rule #5: Atheists need not apply. Plumbing is a religious experience and I guarantee that somewhere along the way you will find God. As in “Oh God, HELP!” and only a God Guaranteed Miracle will fix your problem.

What I did

what happened when the auger went down the sink

what happened when the auger went down the sink

This is the sink in the laundry room so it didn’t have a pop-up plunger to remove.

I put the garbage can in the sink so I could pull up crud left by previous tenants and dump it right away without carrying goopy mess to the can.

when the zip it went down the laundry sink

when the zip it went down the laundry sink

Repeat this zip/auger fishing expedition until nothing more comes up, or you think the job has been done well enough.

In this house I have 3 bathroom sinks and one laundry sink so I was at it all night. Each sink will take about 45 minutes, some more, some less.

Tools you will need

very high tech and very dangerous plumbing tools

very high tech and very dangerous plumbing tools

This is a cut length of a wire coat hanger with the end squeezed into a fish hook.

You start with this tool, just going straight down and pulling up whatever is there.

Rule #6Don’t drop this metal piece in the sink! If “to thine ownself be true” and you suspect strongly that you’re clumsy and will drop it, don’t use it in the first place.

It’s also very useful for poking loose the paint the previous tenants washed down the sink and you use the straight pointy end for poking through the drain holes right at the top of the pipe as soon as you pull the pop-up plunger out. These holes are connected to the drain holes in the porcelain sink that prevent the sink from overflowing and they can get gooped up too.

remove sink pop-up plunger and clear out drain holes

remove sink pop-up plunger and clear out drain holes

The little red circles indicated by the red arrow are where the overflow hole in the porcelain sink exit to drain the excess water into the sink’s pipe.

Zip it and Auger the pipes once the pop-up plunger is out.

Law #3: Pay attention to how the pop-up plunger came out because you’ll have to put it back the same way. I found that the X pattern on the plunger lined up with each branch pointing up, down, right, left, with the loop for the metal rod under the sink put at the back.

The pliers
You will need pliers, not just to cut the metal coat hanger, but to scrape off the metal buildup on the post for the pop-up plunger. Grip metal buildup with pliers and turn back and forth to loosen it. Have a towel underneath the piping when you do this because the metal bits will fall and some (not much, don’t panic) water may drip out.

Rule #7: Lots of water will drip out if you choose this moment to turn on the sink and let the water run.

unhook pop-up plunger under the sink

unhook pop-up plunger under the sink

You turn the grey plastic nut thing by hand then pull back on the metal rod.

Law #2: If you can’t turn it by hand, leave it be.

This is where you will find more crud and a metal build up. It’s not too bad in this picture but it was 1 cm thick in my other 2 sinks.

You will need a Zip It tool, a $3, long plastic piece with ridges on the side to catch hair.

the zip it tool

the zip it tool

You can reuse it a bunch of times but eventually it will have to be replaced.

And an auger. This is more for clot busting but it will pull up crud too. It’s very long and has a turning motion so it can go through and around the plumbing bends to catch stuff. Mine cost $20 and you need one for life. It’ll seem like brain surgery as you figure out how it works, but once that’s done (it’s not hard), you’ll be amazed at the genius of the little device.

a plumbing auger

a plumbing auger

A box lined with grocery bagsThis is for storing all the plumbing tools when you’re done.

Do one sink at a time because you’ll need a functioning sink somewhere to rinse off your tools and wash your hands.


Reuse children’s clothes – long sleeve to short sleeve

The cuffs on one of my son’s favourite shirts were coming apart so I cut them off. Be sure to cut in line with the design of the sleeve.

cut off cuff of long sleeved shirt

cut off cuff of long sleeved shirt

Then I remembered that boys don’t wear 3/4 length sleeves so I cut again, at that red line, to make a tee shirt.
iron to form an edge

iron to form an edge

Turn shirt inside out.

Fold over about an inch of fabric and iron the edge in place. Then fold the cut end into to ironed edge right along the middle (red line). Then you’ll sew this shut.

new tee shirt

new tee shirt

The brown fabric is supposed to peek out but even though I had the right colour thread, I don’t have the same stitch that they used on my machine. So I stuck the brown all the way in and sewed it in place with a straight stitch over the stitching that was already in place.

Easy DIY free HVAC cleaning

Since we’re renting this house, naturally none of the appliances suffered any annual maintenance or cleaning. The AC cuts in and out during the day for God knows what reason, Hubby says the coil keeps freezing at which point you have to turn the thing off for half an hour, then turn it back on.

I’m a lab tech, so PM (preventative maintenance) is just part of my life. I did google “how to clean it yourself” but that involves taking the outdoor heat pump apart and I don’t want to do that because A.) the thing is kinda big, and B.) I don’t know what shape it’s in and don’t want to break it.

So I just did some cleaning and think I may have found our inefficiency problem.

NOTE:SAFETY Before I did anything to the unit, I turned it off at the control panel, then went to the basement and turned the fuse off in the fuse box. I also waited 10-30 mins (I have kids, time is relative) for any charge that may have built up in the capacitor to dissipate before I went to work on the unit.

this is the good side of the appliance

this is the good side of the appliance

It’s plastered with dust, grass and whatever else Nature blows by. Here are the tools I used: an old windshield brush to brush the larger chunks, a vacuum cleaner with the soft bristle attachment because you do not want to damage the fins, and a teeny crochet hook to straighten bent fins and hook out crap.

using world's smallest crochet hook to straighten the fins

using world’s smallest crochet hook to straighten the fins

There is a tool you can buy to straighten fins and when we buy our own home I’ll buy one of those. Until then, I’ll use what I have.

On the left side, most of the fins have been smushed in so that means 0 air flow, which would be a crucial element to the heat pump “hot air flows out” function.

I looked inside the unit and didn’t see any debris so that’s good. Now I don’t think I need to call a professional, this might keep us in business until we move out.

using crochet hook to hook out crap from the bottom rim of the unit

using crochet hook to hook out crap from the bottom rim of the unit

I had to throw out the full vacuum bag after this.

Now it could just be me, but I put my foot on top of one of the kitchen air vents and it seems to me that the cold AC air is blowing up stronger than before.

oh so much more efficient looking

oh so much more efficient looking

PS- A day after I cleaned the thing, the AC was so powerful that Hubby turned it off at the end of the day!

Increase air vent efficiency

This house has a forced air heating/cooling system. I’ve already blogged about removing the vent covers, vacuuming out the crap, washing the cover and replacing. I’ve also blogged about making vent deflectors to get the air going where you need it thus making the system more efficient.

A forced air system has two air flow ports, enter and exit. The vents along the floor are the exit where the cold or hot air comes out but in order for air to come out there it has to go in somewhere. Those are the intake vents and they’re usually bigger and shaped differently than the exit vents.

So there I was, minding my own business wiping dirty fingerprints off the wall when I noticed a dusty grill on one of the intake vents.

dust on the air intake vent

dust on the air intake vent

Not too big a deal, it must have accumulated from my constant sweeping, so I thought I’d unscrew it, clean it and put it back.

Then I saw this.

dusty air intake entrance

dusty air intake entrance

Ok. So there’s more dust. I’ll get the vacuum because this certainly can’t help the efficiency of the system. Upon closer scrutiny:
a thick blanket of dust in the vent

a thick blanket of dust in the vent

There was so much dust it clogged the vacuum. I also found a small piece of a Rapunzel doll’s dress in the mess too which means some of the dust traveled from the upstairs bedrooms down to this main floor intake vent.

Today I’ll be opening the remaining intake vents to see what we can see. The outdoor unit is dusty too and it’s fairly easy to clean it yourself http://homerepair.about.com/od/heatingcoolingrepair/ss/ctrl_ac_maint.htm but I called a professional because I don’t know what previous renters might have done to the thing. I’m on the waiting list. Meanwhile, I’ll be vacuuming the indoor sections as far as the hose can reach.

I’m on a quest for efficiency, reduced fire hazards and money savings!

DIY easy indoor tent for kids

This is a re-post with add-on because I have improved upon the original. I need to share it with you since it significantly reduces (possibly eliminates) screaming, whining and bitching from your kids regarding tent malfunctions.

Here is the original, with the instructions and supply list:http://pillowsalamode.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/diy-play-tent/

Here’s what I made:

diy indoor play tent

diy indoor play tent

I bought enough wood ($30 at Home Depot) to make 2 since my kids would rather die than share. The ugly tablecloth wasn’t long enough to make a tent so I extended it at the bottom with some leftover sheet from the curtains I had made for my daughter’s room (there’s a blog post on that project too).

*Note. I highly recommend drilling a pilot hole before using the spade drill bit.

*Basically, a sheet is the right size to make a tent cover and you’ll only need to hem one side! Either use a sheet from the collection of bedding people gave you for your wedding or go to the thrift store and buy one for $1.50.

Here’s how I improved it:

a bolt through every dowel end

a bolt through every dowel end

I had the idea in my mind for many a moons that I needed to put some kind of pin through the end of all the dowels so they couldn’t slip out of the wooden A frame and cause consternation and catastrophe for my children and myself. After organizing the tools a few blogs ago, I remembered the ziploc bag of bolts and thought Eureka!

My husband was pretty impressed with the super labeled and organized tool boxes. Not only do I manage the money, but I can manage the tools and use a drill. I believe that makes me sexy.

Anywhoo, I selected the correct drill bits (I have different sized bolts), drilled holes and ratcheted the bolts into place. No more tent coming apart, no more moaning, nor more screaming for Mommy. That’s what, 2-3 days after decluttering the tools that the things got used? See, if you’re organized then you know what you have so solutions come quickly and you use up what you have.

Natural pesticide

My rose bushes are currently suffering from some kind of destructive insect infestation. I don’t care too too much since I don’t really care for rose bushes, but still I’d like to save some of them. This tip comes from my mom and I saw it in action when I was a kid and there were little worms all over her tomatoes.

also a pesticide

also a pesticide

Technically, it’s not “natural” since soap is a chemical, but you get what I’m saying. Fill a floor washing bucket with water and plop a bar of Sunlight soap in it to dissolve overnight. This is the critical part, it has to be SOAP, not beauty bar (Dove) but PURE SOAP. Tallow and lye. The next morning fill a spray bottle with your soap mixture and soak the plant. Boy do those little worms wriggle, fall off and die! You’ll have to spray at least once a day.

The soap does not harm the plant, only the bugs. Maybe it gets in their eyes and irritates them to death. Don’t spray while the sun is shining on the plant because sunlight through water burns the leaves which will harm the plant.

I just made a batch of liquid soap from some shards I had and I’ve put the excess on the roses.

How to make air vents more efficient

While the kids were at kindercamp this morning, I pulled out the vent covers and put them in the dishwasher to clean them all.

this one is metal, ours our mostly plastic, doesn't matter, both go in dishwasher

this one is metal, ours our mostly plastic, doesn’t matter, both go in dishwasher

I vacuumed out as much crap as I could reach from the ducts.

I washed away the grime that had settled and discoloured the floor area under the lip of the vent covers with a lysol disinfecting wipe. I vacuumed if the vent sat on carpet.

I replaced the vent covers once the dishwasher cycle was complete.

If you have any damaged vents, now is the time to consider replacing them. They’re really inexpensive and if you currently have an ugly one that came with the house, you could get a nice one that matches your decor.

To save money (and/or furniture) consider buying an air vent deflector. We have a forced air system so in the winter it blows heat and in the summer it’s for air conditioning. It helps if the heat/cold is directed towards the people in the room.

redirect hot/cold air towards the people in the room

redirect hot/cold air towards the people in the room

this one is so you can put your furniture wherever you want but get the heat/cold from the vent to blow into the room and not up the sofa's ass.

this one is so you can put your furniture wherever you want but get the heat/cold from the vent to blow into the room and not up the sofa’s ass.

There is also a magnetic vent cover, for blocking a little used or needed metal vent. I’m sure you can buy a plastic sticky one for a plastic vent. In the cold basement, there is no need to blow more cold A/C air there, best to redirect that precious cold into the upstairs bedrooms so block those vents and save money (and sanity if the heat makes you literally boil).

For a free alternative to the magnetic vent cover: take vent out, put it in a plastic bag, put back in place.

You can make your own free air vent deflector from a cardboard box, check out my post: https://erythrocyte.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/how-to-make-a-free-air-vent-deflector/

How to keep the duvet from moving around inside the duvet cover

So far the only thing I’ve used duvet covers for was to buy an amply sized cotton one at the thrift store for $5 and use the material to make things, usually curtains. This time, I found a nice one and I’m going to use it as a duvet cover!

We’re renting this house so t’aint much I can do about the colour of the walls, which in the bedroom are something we’ll call green. While at Value Village looking for a raincoat for my daughter and big bags of balls of yarn for $3, we stumbled through the duvet aisle. There was a lovely 300 thread count cotton one, green, with tasteful leaf motif. I bought it.

Now I’m not putting my huge winter feather duvet in it, it’s summer! But the AC does work so our bedroom is a nice, cool, comfortable place to snooze. I’ve got my summer quilt (not exactly pretty, but sentimental) but it’s missing just a bit of weight to warm me up for sleep. So I put it inside the duvet cover, where, as my prodigious brain tells me, it will wibble and wobble all over the place, winding up in a ball on one side and annoying the piss out of me.

Enter the safety pins from the cloth diapering days.

duvet holders too

duvet holders too

They’re super sturdy, super stay shut and super won’t poke you. Don’t worry, I washed them extensively after their diapering days. I took two and pinned through the duvet cover and quilt in the two top corners, thus holding the quilt in place. If it ever wiggles to one side, I just lift the cover by the pinned corners and give a shake to realign it all.

You could sew a few darts through the quilt to hold it all in place too. I didn’t do that because come winter I want to be able to switch the inner quilt to the thick one.

Last night my sleep was very cozy. And the bedspread now matches the walls which soothes the whole tone of the room. I’ll have to go back to the thrift store to get another green sheet to make matching pillow cases. Or even turn a green table cloth into a few small table runners for the dressers.

Natural bug management (slugs, ants, ticks, fleas, fruit flies & ladybugs) & keeping biting ones off you

Boiling water
There are very few annoying problems that can’t be solved by boiling water.
1- Mold. I found mould growing in the top of the garbage can lid. No problem. I poured a kettle’s worth of boiling water over it and that pretty much took care of it.
2- Anthills – boiling water and borax.
3- Weeds growing up through your walkway, boil ‘em; they die.
4- Kiddie pool just a little too cold, one or two kettle’s worth.
NOTE: My aunt is a very specialized nurse and has a washing machine that will boil your clothes. To quote my Microbiology teacher “everything burns”.

for bug control

for bug control

1- Throw the ones you find into the fire, a temporary, stop-gap solution.
2- Kid-friendly, effective poison: used coffee grinds or diatomaceous earth (a powder made up of pulverized sea shells. The slugs slide over it and it slices them to death, the coffee grinds work about the same way)
3- Apparently the caffeinated killer is a pot of brewed coffee, but methinks my husband would have a problem with that since he drinks the whole pot.
4- Put the grinds in the watering can, add water and water everything slug prone.
5- Geese or ducks. There are certain breeds of fowl that LOVE slugs. You can borrow them from a farmer or rent them for a day and they will pick your yard clean.
6- Drown them. Bury a glass jar with a wide mouth so the opening is level with the ground and fill it with beer. They’ll drown themselves so fast they’ll solidify into a mass in the container. Replace often.

Attracting Ladybugs
In case you didn’t know, ladybugs are very good for a garden. They eat aphids and entertain children. You can “build” a ladybug habitat by tying a bunch of sticks into a bundle and securing it somewhere safe. The ladybeetles will build their nests in the hollow spaces, spend the winter there and reproduce prodigiously.

Some garden centers sell jars of ladybugs and jars of spiders. Try not to kill spiders in your yard, just relocated them to the corner of the rose bushes.

With warmer weather come ticks in our neck of the woods. So far only wood ticks, not the dreaded Lyme disease carrying tiny deer tick. To find a tick: pat anything that itches to make sure it is not an attached tick for if you scratch you risk tearing the head off and leaving it imbedded in your skin. To kill a tick:

1- flush down the toilet

2- wrap in a paper towel and light on fire. They explode. REVENGE!!!

3- put a squirt of dish detergent in a bottle and fill with water. The soap removes the air bubbles from the tick’s legs so it can’t float/swim and crawl out of the container. Yes, they are thin enough to slither out of a closed bottle. This is the best option if you are unsure as to what type of tick you’ve just captured. You can take the dead specimen to your local wildlife office and have them identify it for you.

To remove an imbedded tick: I’ve heard of so many things but honestly the only thing that’s worked for me is to pinch the skin with my nails below where the tick is attached and squeeze it out. Other options:

1- put a dab of Vaseline on the tick, apparently this cuts off the oxygen to the tick and they let go in order to breathe.

2- light and blow out a match. Touch hot end onto tick and the pain makes them skedaddle.

3- soak a cotton ball in dish detergent and rub the tick. The soap irritates and makes them let go, then they get trapped in the fibres of the cotton ball.

The very dry summer here has been wonderful for flea breeding. We’ve found a few in our house and they seem way bigger than they did when I was a kid. They’re like a small fruit fly. Anyway, if you manage to catch one in your fingers, open your pinch at the bottom of a large jar of soapy water. Same killing premise as the ticks.

At night, set a flea trap. Fill a white plate with soapy water and lay it on the floor under a lamp. The fleas leap for the light and land in the water to DIE. Vacuum frequently and I’m sorry to say, especially if your vacuum bags cost $5 each, burn the bag or the fleas just crawl out to repopulate.

Fruit flies
Drosophilae have begun materializing all over our house, mostly centered around the compost container. We made a seredipitous discovery of what will attract them to their deaths. A yeast bread starter.

Put some water, tbsp of sugar and tsp of yeast in a bowl. Cover with saran wrap and poke a few holes in it. When the fruit flies fumble into the openings, either flick them down into the barm to drown, or, my favourite, squish them to the side of the bowl. Empty bowl, repeat.

Hubby came up with this when he made pizza dough and the flies were all over the cloth on the rising dough like flies on poo.

Other home remedies work too although not as quickly as this yeast option. Apple cider vinegar, beer or wine in a bowl with holey saran wrap.

Mosquitoes, black flies and no-see-ums
Conquered by the barbarian bug hordes I had a coup de foudre (French expression for “My God why didn’t have this obviously brilliant thought before?!”) about keeping the bugs out of my ears, hair and neck.

I first tried a bug jacket, which keeps the bugs off your arms, but I couldn’t see enough through the face screen and if I unzipped it, the bugs could get in. The solution is a headscarf, somewhat like a hijaab. It’s tight and protects the hair, neck and most of the face from both the sun and the bugs.

I fold a red beach sarong in half, pin it together à la headscarf with clothespins and put my gardening hat on top to hold the whole thing steady. If I’m burning dead wood I tuck the extra ends inside my shirt. You can use a curtain, tablecloth, or sheet too. I learned how to tie it all together on youtube from makeupaddikt:


She’s gorgeous and also shows you how to do the most incredible eye makeup.

It’s not a religious headscarf, it’s a swamp headscarf. I wear a long sleeved shirt and pants to keep the bugs off the rest of me because the bibittes (French for bugs) around here drink bug spray for breakfast then go look for blood.

Natural weed removal: it’s a screwdriver. You can eat the dandelions.

Weed Removal

weed removal tool

weed removal tool

It’s labour intensive, but take a screwdriver (the pointier, the better), stab it down in the ground right beside the weed, wiggle it around to loosen the roots so you can pull out the weed, root and all. I’ve got thistles all over this lawn so I do this once a week.

You can eat dandelions; the leaves in salad, rich in iron and fiber; the heads in wine (google it), or steeped in tea to clear your complexion (or so I read in my herb book, I haven’t tried it), you can roast the roots and they’ll taste nutty (google it); just make sure you don’t use the dandelions that grew near a road (exhaust, dog pee or worse) or any that may have pesticide on them.