Don’t Toss It–Fix It

Ever drop your iPhone in the toilet? Break the zipper on your brand-new boots? Or burn the food you’re cooking on the stove?

If you haven’t yet, chances are you will. Zippers often break. Burnt pots are common enough that a Google search for tips on how to clean them yielded more than 4.5 million results. And one in five people drop their smartphones in the toilet, according to one study

No Need to Go Pro

No Need to Go Pro

Ever drop your iPhone in the toilet? Break the zipper on your brand-new boots? Or burn the food you’re cooking on the stove?

If you haven’t yet, chances are you will. Zippers often break. Burnt pots are common enough that a Google search for tips on how to clean them yielded more than 4.5 million results. And one in five people drop their smartphones in the toilet, according to one study

When it happens, you may be tempted to throw out the offensive item or reach immediately for your wallet. But the good news is: in many cases, you don’t have to.

Water-logged smartphones, broken zippers, scorched pots–and many other common damaged goods–can be fixed up at home, and at a fraction of the cost of replacing them or paying for a professional repair. 

Keep reading for more on how. 

The Problem: A Wet iPhone

The Problem: A Wet iPhone

Cost of Professional Repair: Upwards of $150

The DIY Fix:
So your phone’s been caught in a rainstorm or fallen into a sink or toilet? Tech experts like Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, a blogger of The PC Doctor, suggest submerging the waterlogged phone immediately in a sealed Ziploc bag of dry, uncooked rice and leaving it there for at least 24 hours to draw out the moisture. Kingsley-Hughes recommends removing the battery and SIM card too. Often the battery will lose its ability to hold a charge for long after a plunge, but that’s cheaper to replace than an entire iPhone.

The Problem: Gum on a Carpet

The Problem: Gum on a Carpet

Cost of Professional Repair: Starting at $65 a room

The DIY Fix:
Grab a bottle of white vinegar, recommends Nicole Burkholder, blogger for 365(ish) Days of Pinterest. After saturating the sticky area with good old-fashioned acetic acid, press a paper towel sheet down on it for about 10 minutes. Next, wipe at the area. The goop should come off, says Burkholder, with just a little elbow grease (e.g. pulling and scraping).

The Problem: A Scratched Coffee Table

The Problem: A Scratched Coffee Table

Cost of Professional Repair: Can be as much as the price of the original table, or more.

The DIY Fix:
Who better than the pros from a wood furniture company devoted to sustainable materials for advice on how to hide scratches? Kalei Munsell, blogger for Epoch By Design of Redmond, Wash., suggests a trip to the supermarket, not the hardware store. Have a darkly stained table? Try using a thick paste of instant coffee mixed with boiled water to do the job. Once the mixture cools, rub the paste right into the scratches to mask their appearance. For a lighter stain, go nuts with walnuts. Rubbing in the meat of a walnut can apparently work wonders on some scratches, both staining and filling the groove.

The Problem: A Torn Upholstered Seat Cover

The Problem: A Torn Upholstered Seat Cover

Cost of Professional Repair: $65 and up

The DIY Fix:
You want to see a grown woman cry? How about the time I found a rip in the seat fabric of my living room accent chair, caused by one of my son’s toy metal trucks. Replacing it was not an option at the time. So that left reupholstering it. Would I need to go pro? Not necessarily, says Brittany Bailey of PrettyHandyGirl.

First, find the replacement fabric, like the cloth of a sturdy table linen. Next, flip the chair upside down and unscrew the seat cushion with a Phillips head screwdriver. Remove the torn cloth, then lay the cushion upside down on the underside of the new fabric. Use a fabric scissor to cut out the new cloth, leaving room for about 3 inches of extra cloth on each side. Fold the fabric over on each side, pulling the cloth taut, and staple the sides with a staple gun loaded with 5/16” staples. Be sure to leave the corners free until the end, suggests Brittany. You want to finish the job by drawing the fabric tightly over the corners and then staple them down. Done.

The Problem: A Stuck Zipper

The Problem: A Stuck Zipper

Cost of Professional Repair: $25 and up at a dry-cleaner

The DIY Fix:
It happens all too often: a perfectly fine pair of boots, or a dress or coat, appears ruined because its zipper is stuck. No way, say Joanie Derner and Heather Wheeler of The Krazy Coupon Lady, authors of “Pick Another Checkout Lane, Honey.” They suggest rubbing a waxy substance–like candle wax, a crayon, a bar of clear soap or beeswax lip balm (as long as it won’t stain fabric)–onto the teeth near the slider that won’t budge. The lubricant should help the zipper get its glide back without you needing to replace the whole device.

The Problem: A Burnt Pot

The Problem: A Burnt Pot

Cost of Professional Repair: Not really an option

The DIY Fix:
This is so ridiculously easy, it’s probably why there isn’t really a market for pros to do this for you. Bloggers like Jeannette at Sweet Jeanette swear that scorched pots come clean with just the help of laundry dryer sheets. Here’s how: Lay a few sheets on top of the burned surface. Add about a quarter-cup of water and leave the mixture overnight. In the morning, you’ll find that the burnt food particles will be gone from the pot, without a bit of scrubbing. (Apparently the anti-static properties of drying sheets also release the bonds between food and the pan. Now, as you were: chemistry lesson over.)

The Problem: Foul-smelling Leather Shoes

The Problem: Foul-smelling Leather Shoes

Cost of Professional Repair: Upwards of $12 at a cobbler

The DIY Fix:
No need to look any further than the simple advice of podiatrists on all things related to sweaty feet. According to the Healthy Foot blog of the Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in New York City, the simplest way to thwart the stench of smelly kicks is by sprinkling baking soda liberally into the shoes and letting it sit overnight.

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