20 July 2018



Bathtub hair stopper

I’ve used the TubShroom ($13) for almost two years now. It is, by far, the best tool I’ve used to prevent hair from clogging the bath tub drain. I’ve always had long, thick, dark hair and clogging shower stalls/bathtubs has been a perpetual problem I’ve dealt with…until now!

The design is very clever. The TubShroom sits inside your drain with the top half inch or so rising above tub-level. Water goes through the holes on the inner column of the TubShroom while leaving space to catch hair and gunk. And yes, like any other hair-catching tool, it must be manually emptied into the trash can periodically. But the process is the easiest and cleanest one I’ve had to do in my years of using various hair-collecting drain tools. I’ve tried all the others. The large plastic/metal covers with holes in them (or even worse, convex hills) get kicked around the tub and hair simply slides underneath them into the drain (especially if you have a tiled shower floor). And gathering up the hair that collects around the floor of your shower/tub is gross. The simple mesh strainers seem like a good idea, but they quickly get impregnated with soap scum that requires solid scrubbing to clean and get water through.

I don’t think the Amazon reviews are as high as they should be; it seems the top complaints are 1) the Tub Shroom not working in non-standard drains; and 2) that it needs to be emptied. To remedy this, make sure you have the metal “X” inside your drain that the tool sits on before purchasing. And as for emptying, I used to have to clean out other drain tools every time I showered to prevent myself from ending up in a puddle. With the Tub Shroom, I can now empty it every 4-5 showers, which is a vast improvement.

-- Deb 07/20/18

19 July 2018


Waterfall Soap Saver

Keep soap clean and dry

This is the most satisfactory soap dish I’ve ever tried ($5). If positioned away from the corner of the basin, all of the soap residue drains into the sink basin – not onto the sides of the sink. Some residue does accumulate on the Soap Saver itself, so every month or so it has to be rinsed and wiped clean, but that’s the lesser of two evils. Overall, it reduces the amount of cleanup effort by 2/3 or more.

It’s superior to the spike-holder type of dish, which is hard to clean, sometimes sticking to the soap, and tends to skitter across the sink top when knocked. In contrast, this plastic soap dish stays put because it’s relatively heavy and because its descending downspout rests against the basin’s edge. (This stability is a plus the vendor oddly fails to tout.) To make sure the soap itself doesn’t slide around within the dish, I position one of its corners pointing down between the posts (not level, as shown in the vendor’s photo). This also improves drainage a bit.

I’d previously used liquid soap until someone gave me twenty bars of handmade hemp-oil soap. When I’ve washed my way through that, I think I’ll go back to liquid soap; but if you have a preference for solid soap (or if you too get such a gift), this Soap Saver is really handy.

-- Roger Knights 07/19/18

19 July 2018


Hose Shut-Off

Easily control water flow

This tool was recommended to me by a neighbor last summer who is Type 1 Diabetic and has mobility issues. This is a simple in-line shutoff valve ($6) that I have found very useful for both gardening and watering, as well as other situations where you need to remotely shut off the water rather than running back and forth to the tap. I have a large yard, but between flower beds and grass areas, a sprinkler system is not practical. I have only one outside tap, so by running a Y ($3) I can run hose in two directions. With the couplers you don’t have to drag hose all over the yard. By coupling with short 6′ hose lengths, I can water and move the hose without doing a lot of running. There are various other similar shutoff valves made of brass, so that is also worth looking at. Just a simple and cheap labor saving device, but at my age, everything helps.

-- Stephen Young 07/19/18

18 July 2018


Topside Oil Changer

Easier way to change oil

I have had my oil changed by the dealer, a local mechanic and even those Jiffy people. They’ve all done a good job, but I like changing my own oil. It’s a bit of a meditative exercise and gives me a chance to see what’s going on with my car. While I enjoy doing the oil change, my least favorite part of changing my oil is getting underneath the car, removing the drain plug and draining the oil. Dealing with the jack, stripping the drain plug every now and again, and spilling the used oil were nearly enough to stop me from changing my oil.

A friend of mine recently had his car serviced at a local dealership and he told me about a new machine that they used to drain the oil without jacking the car or removing the drain plug. The oil change technician inserted a probe into the dipstick tube and used a vacuum to drain the oil. This sounded very interesting and encouraged me to research more about this system and see if it was small enough to be used at home.

My research revealed that there were a number of these systems available for the do-it-yourselfer. After I compared features of the different brands, I settled on the Topsider. Originally designed for the boating market, the Topsider is all-metal. This feature was the one that seemed most important to me. The majority of other vacuum oil changers were made of plastic and I was concerned that the plastic would become brittle over time.

Changing the oil is really simple:

1. Make sure the engine is warm to make the oil flow easily
2. Place tube in dipstick tube
3. Close pinch valve on hose
4. Pump the canister 50 times to build vacuum
5. Release the pinch valve

It takes about 8 minutes for the oil to leave your engine. I usually use this time to remove the oil filter, open oil bottles, etc. Most dipsticks reach all the way to the bottom of the oil pan. I push the hose til I feel the bottom of the pan. When I first got it, I would open my drain plug after vacuuming and very little came out (a few drops) so I suspect the vacuum gets most of the oil out. It will pull sludge out as well up through the tube. The can holds 2 gallons of oil. Once the oil is out of your car you can remove the vacuum pump and suction tube and seal the container for transport to your recycling center.

I think the clincher for me was discovering that this was the technique that Mercedes was using in its dealerships (albeit using a commercial machine).

-- Kurt Wendelken 07/18/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2006 — editors)

17 July 2018


TV Floor Stand

Outdoor TV watching setup

Some time ago we ended up with a 26″ flat screen TV from some giveaway deal. It’s no great thing but it doesn’t suck either, and we had no idea what to do with it. It was an off & on puzzle for a while… All the flat screens these days have hardware in their backs for mounting. I found this simple stand on Amazon ($57), added a Roku stick and a flat HD antenna to the TV and put the whole mess out on the patio. Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube & Broadcast outside. Party, friends or just us, it’s a good addition. The mount is heavy enough that it’d be hard to blow it over (but not impossible, I guess). A thick contractor’s trash bag slips right over the whole thing to keep the weather off. We keep the remotes in a Ziploc on the table out there. Recently added is a Bluetooth transmitter so the TV’s speakers don’t irritate my noise-sensitive neighbors and a Bluetooth speaker sits near us. (This TV has two USB power sockets and the Roku, BT & antenna each want a little bit of juice. A USB power splitter happily keeps all three going – YMMV. Just one AC power cord in use here.) A few weeks ago I made a pass through a bunch of local pawn shops and saw more than a few smaller TVs looking for a home. Found another Roku at one too. You can add a similar setup to your patio/deck for a relatively small investment too. And it’s easy to put away at the end of the season.

-- Wayne Ruffner 07/17/18

17 July 2018


Yellow Jacket 5-Outlet Adapter

Wall wart solution

This indoor/outdoor 5-outlet adapter ($13) is the best I’ve found for dealing with multiple wall-warts. The outlets are spaced just far enough apart to allow virtually any size wall wart to fit, and you can chain together the adapters (each outlet has five outlets, so every additional one in the chain gives you four more outlets). It’s cheaper than specialty adapters like the PowerSquid, and it’s inherently more organized. If you chain a couple PowerSquids together, you’ve got a mess of extra cords on account of that model’s ‘tentacle’ design. If you daisy chain two Yellow-Jackets together, you’ve got a tidier package.


-- Stephen Malinowski 07/17/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2007 — editors)


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