How to Recycle or Reuse It!

POPCORNPOPPER3 300x224 How to Recycle or Reuse It!

A motor from a small appliance can be reused in many ways, including taking it apart to learn how motors work.

The Fix-It Club can help you repair hundreds of household things that break: appliances, bicycles, cell phones, computers, electric fans, hair dryers, iPhones, microwaves, plumbing, slow cookers, tvs, toasters, yard trimmers, and more. But there will be some things that you just can’t fix—or don’t want to pay to have fixed, or that will cost too much to fix. So what are you going to do with those things? Consider the many creative ways of recycling before you send anything to the landfill.

Recycle It

Because recycling is subject to local interpretation and budgets, you may find that recycling things and parts may be quite easy or relatively difficult depending on where you live. The best place to learn about recycling is to call whatever company picks up your trash. If you’re rural and must take trash and recycling to a landfill, transfer station, or recycle center, contact the company to find out what it can use and what it can’t, and whether there is a charge.

For example, many communities have curbside pickup for trash and recycling. The recycled things may be collected in a single bin or need to be sorted by type: metals, plastics, papers, and yard waste. Some communities have curbside recycling for small and major appliances while others don’t. And in some towns, there are private recyclers that will pick up just about any recyclable materials you put at the curb on a specified day.

Most major appliances are about 75 percent steel—and about a third of that is recycled steel. Other metals in appliances include copper, aluminum, and zinc, all recyclable. Refrigerators, freezers, ranges, ovens, cook tops, clothes washers, dryers, dishwashers, dehumidifiers, room air conditioners, trash compactors are all potentially recyclable.

Refrigeration appliances may require specialized recyclers to remove the Freon gas before recycling. That’s why some recyclers and landfills charge a fee for accepting these appliances. Others charge a fee for any large objects that they accept.

You also can find local recyclers in your local telephone book under headings like Recycle Centers and Scrap Metals. Many will pay you for aluminum cans, clear glass, PET plastics, and nonferrous (non-iron) metals. PET stands for poly ethylene terephthalate, a plastic resin used in many products–and easily recycled into new products.

Reuse It

There are many things around your home that you can reuse instead of recycling or tossing. Think creatively before you banish something from your household. For example:

  • Unrepairable clothing can become fix-it shop rags or quilting squares.
  • Broken or discarded kitchen cabinets can be used as work cabinets in your fix-it shop.
  • Extra drawers from a broken dresser can become under-bed storage containers.
  • Ugly but usable hairdryers can be put to work thawing frozen pipes or making small patches of paint dry faster.
  • Old tires can be nailed to walls in tight garages to reduce car scrapes or used in the yard as landscaping material or as play equipment.
  • Polystyrene packing (peanuts) and other packing materials can be used to pack around breakable gifts or any package you need to mail or ship.
lionsclubglasses 200x134 How to Recycle or Reuse It!

Donate out-of-prescription eye glasses to your local Lions Club for reuse.

Give it to Someone Who Can Use It

  • Donate old eyeglasses to your local Lions Club.
  • Some charities will accept operating computers and appliances.
  • Old cell phones can be donated to groups that help homeless and/or low-income people to be used for emergency-only calls.
  • Local charities may also accept diskettes, video tapes, polystyrene packing, compact discs, and holiday greeting cards.
  • A senior center or homeless shelter may appreciate your old books and magazines.
  • Packing peanuts and other packing materials are appreciated by your local mailbox/shipping store.
  • Animal shelters gladly take donations of clean blankets and towels.

What You Can Recycle

Recycling rules are localized. Your curbside recycling collector will probably accept many recyclables. Check with your local trash collector and/or recycler and any local recycling center for more information. However, many recyclers and communities use these guidelines:

  • Glass: Unbroken glass containers (not tableware, ceramics, Pyrex, windows, light bulbs, mirrors, or broken glass). Clear glass is valuable, mixed color glass is nearly worthless, and broken glass is hard to sort. Don’t bother removing labels.
  • Paper: Newspapers and inserts (not dirty, not rubber bands, plastic bags, product samples, dirt, or mold). Some locations don’t recycle cardboard, others do. Not waxed milk or juice cartons. Some recyclers require that magazines be recycled separately from newspapers.
  • Metal: Empty metal cans, caps, lids, bands, foil, (not full cans, spray cans, or cans with paint or hazardous waste). Many recyclers don’t even require that you remove labels.
  • Aluminum: Lawn chairs, window frames, pots (not metal parts attracted to magnets, nonmetal parts); sometimes tin is recycled with aluminum.
  • Motor oil: Call your garbage company or auto lube center. (Each year do-it-yourselfers improperly dump more oil than the Exxon Valdez spilled!)
  • Batteries: Automotive (take to a parts retailer); alkaline and rechargeable, such as those used in cordless phones, camcorders, shavers, portable appliances, and computers (throw in the trash unless prohibited); nickel-cadmium (recycle).
  • Ink cartridges: Send to a recycler or refiller. Your local office supply store may accept them.
  • Household toxins (paints, oils, solvents, pesticides, cleaners): Call your garbage collector for advice. Do not dump them down storm drains.
  • Plastic: Virtually everything made of plastic should be marked with a recycle code, but not all types can actually be recycled. You may be able to recycle plastic grocery bags at the grocery store; other plastic bags may have to be trashed. Any product made of a single plastic type should be marked and might be recyclable; those with mixed plastic types can’t be recycled.
  • Things requiring specialized recyclers: Major appliances with Freon (chlorinated fluorocarbon CFC)require trained technicians to remove; other items that require special recycling include antifreeze, asphalt shingles, car batteries, computers, ink and toner cartridges, rugs, smoke detectors, and single-use cameras.

Other Recycling Options

FEDWG05 How to Recycle or Reuse It!

Recycling symbols for common plastics.

What if the recycler won’t take it? Who will? In years past, organizations like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and St. Vincent de Paul took nonworking items as donations for rehabilitation. The items were rehabilitated along with the people who fixed them. Broken things created jobs. However, the labor market has absorbed these workers into the mainstream, providing jobs in restaurants, retail stores, and factories. So, today, most of these organizations don’t accept nonworking items (except computers). In fact, such “donations” actually cost the group money because they have to dispose of the item. Goodwill Industries, for example, asks that donations be of “things you would give to a friend.”

Another option is to recycle broken things to repair shops. For example, small appliance repair shops may accept nonworking items and reuse the parts. Or they may refurbish and resell items. Most won’t pay you anything for the broken things–there’s just not enough profit in it–but they may bring it back to working condition and save someone some money. And you won’t have to pay to put it in the landfill.

If you learn to enjoy fixing things, donate something that breaks to your education. That is, put it on the workbench for a rainy day and disassemble it to figure out how it works. You may even be able to salvage and reuse an otherwise good motor, heat element, or switches. You’ll be a member in good standing of the Fix-It Club!

Really Easy Electrical Tests

electrical test1 Really Easy Electrical Tests

The electrical testers shown here are a continuity tester (left), a multimeter (middle), and two circuit testers (right) available at hardware and parts stores. Continuity testers and multimeters require internal batteries.

The Fix-It Club goal is to make electrical repairs and other home repairs easier. With simple instructions and an inexpensive electrical tester, you can test a wide variety of electrical and electronic devices in your home. For example, you can perform electrical tests during blender repair, washer repair, dryer repair, refrigerator repair, electrical cord repair, coffee maker repair, electric heater repair, holiday light repair, radio repair, vacuum cleaner repair, fuse replacement, when testing batteries and much more. With just a few uses, you can pay for your electrical tester in repair savings.

The three types of electrical testers for consumers are a continuity tester, a circuit tester, and a multimeter (VOM). All are easy to find and operate, typically coming with printed instructions. You’ll find a variety of electrical test tools at hardware stores, auto parts stores and large discount stores. Shop around and ask for help. You’ll probably keep and use your first electrical test equipment for many years. Here’s how to perform easy electrical tests:

Continuity Tester

Electricity needs a continuous path or circuit to flow. It’s like a two-lane road from point A to point B and back. If one or both lanes are blocked, traffic — in this case, electricity — stops. A continuity tester is useful for checking electrical cords and wires to make sure they can conduct electricity.

To test for continuity, follow these steps:

  1. Disconnect the cord from the power source (electrical receptacle or outlet).
  2. Turn ON any switches on the device.
  3. Attach the alligator clip to one prong of the cord.
  4. Touch the tip of the continuity tester to the other prong. If there is continuity, the tester will light up. If not, it won’t.
electrical test2 Really Easy Electrical Tests

A continuity tester can tell you whether electricity can flow through a cord. Wiggling the cord during the test can show if there is an intermittent break in the circuit.

Here’s how it works: The continuity tester sends electricity from an internal battery through one cord prong and down the wires. If the light gets electrical current from the other prong it lights up, meaning that the path is good. Otherwise, something, like a broken wire or component, is stopping it. You can remove the cord from the appliance and test each of the two wires separately to see which one doesn’t work. If both work, the short is in the appliance itself. You can buy a continuity tester under $10.

A circuit tester is simply a continuity tester without an internal battery. It uses the device’s electricity to power it. Be careful using a circuit tester and follow manufacturer’s instructions for safety.


A multimeter (also called a volt-ohmmeter or VOM) is another way of testing continuity. It also can measure the amount of alternating current (AC or household current) or direct current (DC or battery current) in a plugged-in or live circuit. It can check voltage, too.

electrical test3 Really Easy Electrical Tests

Analog multimeters measuring conductivity/resistance must first be adjusted for a zero reading. Check instructions that come with a new multimeter.

For example, a multimeter can verify that there are about 120 volts in an AC circuit or that a 9-volt battery is fully charged. In addition, a multimeter can check resistance. A continuity tester checks resistance, but answers yes or no. A multimeter checks resistance and reports how many ohms (the measurement of resistance) a circuit carries.

Fix-It Tip

Troubleshooting some devices may not even require that you use a multimeter. Many major appliances have fault codes that you can read and decipher using the owner’s manual. You press a button or two, read the resulting code, and look it up for repair instructions. And, if you don’t have the original owner’s manual nearby, search for it online. Multimeters are relatively inexpensive. The analog unit shown was $10 and the digital multimeter was $20, though you can pay $50 or more for more accurate models. The ones shown here are sufficient for most electrical tests called for in the Fix-It Guides.

You can use a multimeter to test motors, switches, controllers, home appliances and many other electrical gadgets. Specific instructions will come with the multimeter you purchase.

electrical test4 Really Easy Electrical Tests

Connect the multimeter’s probes to the device. (Shown is a digital multimeter.)

Here’s how to use a multimeter to test an electric appliance:

  1. Disconnect the cord from the power source, except when testing a live circuit.
  2. Plug the test leads in to the multimeter.
  3. Select the function (ACV, DVC, resistance) and the range (maximum reading expected).
  4. Connect the probes to the cord or appliance component.
  5. Interpret the reading. The Fix-It Guides and the device’s owner’s manual will tell you what to expect — and what to do about it.
electrical test5 Really Easy Electrical Tests

The reading with the device on will show some, but not infinite (1), resistance. If it shows infinite, the switch or other internal component is bad (heating element, etc.) and disassembly is required to fix the problem.

Quick Test

Here’s a quick test you can perform on any electrical device without disassembling it. Use a multimeter or continuity tester to check the appliance’s continuity — ability to pass electricity from one plug prong to the other — when the switch is on. If it passes, the appliance is okay. If not, you’ll need to disassemble it further to find the problem.

Now you know how to perform easy electrical tests! Welcome to the Fix-It Club!

Household Lubricants

The Fix-It Club can help you reduce repairs by explaining the how and why of household lubricants. Many things around your home are mechanical and are supposed to move. That’s what they do. For example, a windup alarm clock is a mechanical thing. Other mechanical thing repairs you may undertake include toy repair, garden tool repair, exercise equipment repair, and others. What do they all have in common? They technically are machines. That is, they convert one form of energy into another. A hand tool, for example, converts your energy into strength to turn a bolt or cut a board.

Troubleshooting Mechanical Things

mechanical things1 Household Lubricants

A careful spray of lubricant can extend the life of a small motor. Lubricate moving parts only – never electrical parts.

Troubleshooting mechanical things is a little more difficult than troubleshooting stationary things because you may have to take something apart. However, if you know what your broken item is supposed to do, you probably can figure out what needs fixing. For example, a windup alarm clock may run very slowly, not keeping the correct time–and making you late for work. Rather than toss it and get another one, carefully open it up and see if there’s anything (a loose screw, dust) keeping a mechanism from turning as designed. Or the item just may need a small amount of lubricant to reduce resistance between moving parts.


mechanical things2 Household Lubricants

Popular lubricants for common household repair jobs.

Lubricants decrease friction between moving parts, and are a vital part of fixing things. Many lubricants are petroleum based. Thin lubricants are called oils and thicker lubricants are greases. Here are the most popular household lubricants and what they work best on:

  • Machine or penetrating oil (such as WD-40) is a general lubricant for small moving parts.
  • Silicon spray is a multipurpose product that lubricates, waterproofs, and reduces corrosion.
  • Graphite powder and spray is a fine powder lubricant (sometimes in a base of light oil) for lubricating locks, bearings, and other very small parts.
  • Penetrating oil lubricates as well as reduces and cleans corrosion from metal parts.
  • Lithium grease is a petroleum-based grease with lithium powder in it to enhance lubrication of larger moving parts such as automotive gears.
  • Silicone is an organic compound that is highly resistant to wear, heat, and water; it makes a great lubricant.

Easy Ways to Take Things Apart

disassembling things Easy Ways to Take Things Apart

Some appliances specifically state “No Serviceable Parts Inside.” That typically means that even if you get it open there won’t be anything in there to replace, so reconsider fixing it.

The Fix-It Club helps thousands of people each day for more than a decade with free repair help. One challenge that keeps many people from repairing things is figuring out how to take things apart — and get them back together when done.

Disassembling things is an important part of repair whether you are performing toaster repair, motor repair, riding lawn mower repair, washer repair, iPhone repair, computer repair, car repair, and many other consumer repairs. You’ll want to be able to reassemble an item properly whether it’s done today, tomorrow, or once you’ve found some parts a month from now. Here’s how to take things apart:

  • Find a place where you can take things apart and leave everything out for an hour or a day, if you need to stop and get additional parts.
  • Make notes on disassembly and needed parts numbers.
  • For tougher repairs or when you know it will be awhile before you can get replacement parts, use a film or digital camera to take photos of the disassembly process.
  • If you know you will be reassembling everything within the next couple of hours, lay the parts in a line as they come off, left to right, and reassemble right to left.
  • Use old muffin pans, empty frozen dinner dishes, clean coffee cans, clean plastic containers, or other containers to collect parts as they are removed.
disassembling things2 Easy Ways to Take Things Apart

When disassembling, put parts in a small tray or container in the order of their removal. It makes reassembly much easier. (The mini-muffin pan pictured here costs less than $1 at a garage sale.)

Steps to Take Things Apart

Intimidated by what you see when you open up something to fix it? Don’t be. Most things are made of components, more than one part. And each of these components is replaceable. It’s just a matter if figuring how the thing works, which parts or components don’t work, and replacing the problem part(s). Many Fix-It Guides include photos or drawings that let you see what’s inside the device or object — you’ll know what you’re getting in to.

Most parts either twist on or plug in. For example, disassembling an appliance requires twisting (unscrewing) fasteners that hold the outside body together. Once inside, you may need to unscrew or unplug other parts. Many components are plugged together, especially electrical parts. For example, a couple of wires enter one side of a plastic plug and other wires run out the other side. To disconnect the part, find a tab on the connector and lift it or apply pressure to it and carefully pull the connector apart. Install the replacement component by plugging the two halves of the connector together. Most connectors go together only one way, so it’s relatively easy.

disassembling things3 Easy Ways to Take Things Apart

Some fasteners are hidden behind trim.

You’ll find that many consumer items are assembled using screws, clips, or other fasteners. In fact, if you don’t find a screw or clip, the manufacturer is probably telling you there’s nothing inside that the consumer can fix. You may be able to replace the entire component, however.

Some parts may be hard to remove because they are friction-fit (fit snugly) to a shaft. Don’t force friction-fit parts; they may break. Instead, use a wide-bladed screwdriver under the coupling to carefully twist and lift the coupling upward. If that doesn’t work, try heating the coupling slightly (try a hair dryer) to expand the part enough to pull it from the shaft. Or slip a pair of thin wood wedges under the coupling. Then push the wedges toward each other and lift. If none of these succeeds in separating the friction-fit part from the shaft, you may have to take the appliance to a professional.

Fix-It Tip:

If you want to teach yourself more about how to take things apart, find something that is obviously unrepairable and disassemble it for practice. You can sometimes find unrepairable items cheap at garage sales. Invest in your education and have some fun!

disassembling things4 Easy Ways to Take Things Apart

Some friction-fit fasteners are not intended to be removed without damaging them. Fortunately, once removed you can find a replacement at larger hardware stores.

Some manufacturers use a pressure clip to hold a product’s case together. This is the preferred assembly method for many consumer electronics such as iPhones, tablet computers and laptop computers. If you plan to do many electronic repairs, consider an electronics toolkit available at Radio Shack and various electronic supply stores.

To disassemble, look for a notch along the seam and insert the tip of a straight screwdriver to push and turn the clip, opening the case. Make sure you unclip all of the notches and remove all screws before disassembling the body or you could break one of the small clips.

disassembling things5 Easy Ways to Take Things Apart

Many smaller consumer components can be disassembled by carefully prying the case apart. Special electronic tools may be required.

You can take things apart and reassemble them after repair if you plan out the job and take it a step at a time, as outlined in the Fix-It Club’s free Fix-It Guides.

10 Really Good Reasons to Repair

BLENDER3 200x150 10 Really Good Reasons to Repair

You can repair household things that break with free, illustrated instructions from the Fix-It Club.

Things break. Everything we own, from air conditioners to zippers, eventually wear out or stop working. We can toss them and get new stuff — or we can try to repair them. Here are ten very good reasons to repair or recycle household things that break:

  1. You can be a smarter consumer by knowing how things work and what to do if they don’t: appliances, heaters, air conditioners, mowers, plumbing, electronics, clocks, paint, flooring and more.
  2. You can save money by not having to replace things that you easily can repair. It might just need a fuse, a new electrical cord, or a screw tightened. You can do that!
  3. You can buy better things that will last longer than disposables because you know you can probably repair them if they ever do conk out.
  4. You can reduce the environmental impact of having a replacement manufactured from raw materials and transported from a far-off land.
  5. You can learn how to recycle or reuse the things you just can’t repair.
  6. You can learn new skills and discover the satisfaction of repairing something that’s broken.
  7. You can spend some quality time with kids repairing things together — and teaching them the importance of recycling.
  8. You can keep that family clock or other heirloom running longer.
  9. You can justify the cost of expanding your collection of tools.
  10. You can impress your spouse, partner, and others with your new-found repair skills.

How can you repair broken stuff? The Fix-It Club offers easy-to-follow instructions. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a door chime, a barbecue grill, a child’s toy, or a computer printer. Figuring out what’s wrong with it is the most important task. Once you know what’s wrong with it, you’re well on the way to repairing it — or making an informed decision not to. Figuring out what’s wrong with something may sound obvious, but it’s often the step that keeps folks from repairing things easily.

  • What does this thing do?
  • How is it supposed to work?
  • What isn’t this thing doing that it should do?
  • What’s the possible cause(s) of the problem?
  • What parts and tools will I need to repair it?
  • What are the steps to repairing it?
  • Once repaired, does it now work?

For example, a coffee maker, obviously, is an apparatus for brewing coffee. There are two types of coffee makers: drip and percolator. A drip coffee maker is designed to heat water then pump it to drip through the coffee basket and into a carafe. Most drip coffee makers also keep the carafe of coffee warm. That’s a drip coffee maker’s as-designed state; that’s what it’s supposed to do.

What does it not do? In our example, the drip coffee maker doesn’t keep the coffee hot, though everything else works. Knowing how a coffee maker is supposed to work, you will identify the problem to be within the warming element or controls. To check it you need a multimeter for testing these components. Then, following the specific steps in the Coffee Maker Repair Fix-It Guide, you disassemble, test, and, if needed, replace the part. Finally, you can brew yourself some coffee and know that it will stay warm.

So, that’s the fix-it process . You can apply it to every thing that’s broken. That’s because the fix-it process works for every thing. It’s a simplified version of a time-tested problem-solving system. If it’s repairable, you probably can fix it!

Nails, Bolts, Screws, Fasteners

stationary things1 Nails, Bolts, Screws, Fasteners

Mechanical fasteners come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and purposes.

The Fix-It Club offers basic information on a variety of household repairs. Most repairs require mechanical fasteners. In the photo are (left to right) nails, screws, bolt with washer and nut, and wall anchors.

Your home has hundreds of fasteners in it, holding walls together, binding appliance components, keeping the floor from moving underfoot, and even fastening sleeves on to clothing.

All fasteners have a single function: to hold two or more things together. When they don’t, something’s broken. That’s when you need free help from the Fix-It Club.

stationary things2 Nails, Bolts, Screws, Fasteners

Types and sizes of nail fasteners.


Nails are thin, pointed metal fasteners driven with a hammer to join two pieces of wood. There are dozens of varieties of nails, depending on the specific purpose. There are special nails for masonry, roofing, finishing, and other common applications. Nails are classified by the size of the shank and the shape of the head. Fix-It Guides refer to specific types of nails needed. The most common type is called common nails, with large, flat heads for secure fastening. Next is finish nails with smaller heads that aren’t so obvious if flush to or below the wood’s surface. Nails are sized by length, indicated by a d or “penny.” A 4d nail is 1-1/2 inches long; an 8d nail is 2-1/2 inches long.

stationary things3 Nails, Bolts, Screws, Fasteners

Types and sizes of screw fasteners.


Screws are pointed-tip, threaded fasteners installed with a screwdriver. The type of screwdriver used depends on the type of screw head: Round- and pan (flat)-head screws require a straight-tip screwdriver; Phillips-head screws require a Phillips screwdriver; and square-head screws require a square-drive screwdriver. Wood screws fasten wood, and sheet-metal screws fasten metal. Screws are sized by length. Screws are stronger than nails and easier to remove.

Bolts and Nuts

Bolts are flat-tipped, threaded fasteners that use a threaded nut to attach wood or metal together. A washer may be placed under the bolt head or the nut for a firmer fasten. Bolts are classified by the type of head. Stove bolts and machine screws (actually bolts) are turned with a screwdriver. Hexagon- and square-head bolts are held in place with a wrench while the nut is turned to tighten. A carriage bolt‘s head imbeds itself into the wood when the nut is turned. Bolts are sized by length and thread. Bolts are stronger than screws.

Nuts, usually square or hexagonal blocks of metal with threaded holes, screw onto bolts to hold something together.

Anchors are additions to bolts or screws that help anchor a fastener in a hollow wall or door. Other handy fasteners include lag bolts, which are bolt heads with screw bodies.

Thread is a fastener for clothing and upholstered furniture. Thread is a long strand of fabric installed with a needle, either by hand or by a sewing machine. Thread is sold by fabric (cotton, nylon, polyester, etc.) and thickness (Tex or T). Cotton-wrap polyester is used for jeans and poly-wrap polyester for a wide variety of clothing. T-18 thread is light weight and T-50 is medium weight. Thread needles are rated by the eye size, shaft length, and purpose.

Fix-It Tip

Velcro can be used for many quick fixes. You can use it to fasten toys, fabric, shoes, wall decorations, and many other things. Velcro is a trademark name for nylon fabric that can be fastened to itself. The back sides of the Velcro are fastened permanently to the object to be fastened, and the front sides of the Velcro adhere to each other when they touch.