10 DIY Materials You Should Get Rid of Right Now

published Mar 16, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

So you love to DIY? Whether you’re fond of hacking your own built-ins, creating a cool accent wall, or even redoing a kitchen, you likely have some pretty awesome things to show for this passion. You’ve also probably also accumulated a lot of stuff, from glue to bolts, to power tools, and beyond. But here’s the thing: You don’t need to hold onto it all. In fact, there’s plenty of stuff you shouldn’t be holding onto. 

Yes, clutter is one issue. But the larger issue at hand is that when DIY supplies are past their prime, they fail to function the way you want them to. This can interfere with the end result of your project or, worse, present a safety issue. 

Think you might be holding onto a few too many things? Here’s what the pros say you should get rid of right away. 

1. Old Paint

If your paint has separated—especially an oil-based paint—that’s a pretty good sign that it’s time to toss it. “It’s really hard to mix that yourself without a tool, like a paddle attached to a drill,” says Tamara Day, host of HGTV’s hit show “Bargain Mansions.” And it’s not worth using improperly mixed paint, because it will give you inconsistent color and finish, says Day. 

To prevent this from happening in the first place, put a layer of plastic wrap in the paint can, touching it to the surface of the paint, says Day. This helps prevent air from getting in and creating that skimmed-over layer. Rather than keep the whole can, you can also keep a sealed plastic baggie of the color in a safe place in each room for quick touch-ups. 

2. Separated Stain

Like pain, stain will separate and become unusable over time — especially if exposed to air or fluctuating temperatures. “It’s important to push down on the center of the lid when closing it,” says Eamon Lynch, director of warranty service at Power Home Remodeling. “By pushing down in the center and tamping around the perimeter of the lid, you force out any excess air which produces a stronger seal.” A telltale sign you’ve closed the stain correctly? The lid should appear to be slightly concave.

3. Misshapen Paint Brushes

“When the paint brush has stopped holding its shape, it’s time to let it go,” says Day. If your paint brush isn’t structured the way it’s supposed to be, you’ll get streaks or inconsistent colors. For minimal defects, you can try soaking the brush in turpentine and trying to manipulate it back into shape, says Day. Also, if the brush is shedding — or losing its bristles— toss it. “That’s the kiss of death for a paint job,” Day says.

4. Dried-out Glue

If the glue is hard as a rock, it’s useless. How fast glue dries out is all about how much air is getting in there, says Day. For glues like super glue or wood glue, put a pin or tack in the nozzle before you put the cap on. And, of course, make sure the cap is on nice and tight. 

5. Crusty Caulk

The same concept applies to caulk, says Day. The key is filling the whole in the nozzle before you put the lid on. “There’s no salvaging it once it’s dry,” she says.

6. Solidified Spackle

Spackle is notorious for drying out quickly, says Lynch. “Think about a drywall bucket with tabs or fastening points along the lid that guarantee a tight seal,” he says. “If any of the tabs aren’t fully engaged with the bucket itself, it allows air to enter and hardens your spackle, ruining it for future home projects.” If you pick up a bucket of spackle and notice one of the tabs is loose, throw it away. The lid should be difficult to remove; if it’s easy to take off, the spackle was most likely exposed to air and should be discarded, he explains. 

7. Goopy or Dried-out Painter’s Tape

Again, it all comes down to storage. If you store tape, be it painter’s tape or masking tape, in your garage where it’s constantly going from hot to cold and back again, it’s sure to have a shorter lifespan, says Day. And if your tape goes bad, you won’t get that seal you’re looking for when you paint over it, making it harder to get those nice, crisp lines. To help extend the useable lifetime of tape, stick it in a plastic bag and try to keep it in temperate conditions, says Day. 

8. Wallpaper Paste

Mix just enough wallpaper paste to last for one day’s labor, says Rosie Axford, co-founder of design resource Wicklewood. Wallpaper paste has a very limited shelf life of just one to two weeks — and only if it is kept in an airtight container. “If the paste becomes too runny, chuck it—this means it’s not usable anymore,” she says. 

9. Old Wood

Though it may be tempting to hang onto old wood with the hope that it’ll save you on that next project, wood is a food source for mold-like growth and if it becomes damp, it can easily bend, warp or rot, and be an invitation for pests, says Lynch. “If your wood isn’t properly stored off the ground in a drier environment, it’s safer to throw it out and opt for new lumber, which will last longer over time.”

It’s worth noting that wood also becomes heavier with time from things like added moisture, says Lynch. “When you’re ready to dispose of it, you may be charged by the weight of the waste product, so the longer you wait and the more moisture that your wood collects, the heavier it becomes and the more expensive throwing it out becomes.”

10. Damaged or Broken Tools

Old and broken tools not only take up space but in worst cases, can pose a safety issue. Make sure any tools with blades are kept dry so they don’t rust, says Day. You might be able to remove rust off tools using rust remover or even vinegar — plus lots of persistence — but if you’re unable to get it to budge, the tools aren’t usable. Also make sure any mechanical, gas-powered tools, such as lawnmowers, are oiled. And aim to have these types of tools checked and serviced at least once per year, depending on usage.