Sunbeam Trashrac

We had something similar to the Trashrac in my kitchen growing up, and I noticed its absence while living in rentals. Now that I’m in my own home, I installed one of these in my kitchen and my bathroom. It’s great to have a trash under the sink cabinet, because it’s often the location that I am wanting to discard something.

The downside to small free-standing trashcans is that they can get hard to reach under a cabinet. Also, you either have to buy small trashbags that get filled up quickly or use grocery bags that don’t fit well.

This product is great because the trash swings open with the door so that it is easy to reach. It is a perfect fit for the plastic grocery bags that I reuse for free. The handles of the bags loop down to hold it snugly, but the bag can be placed and removed with one hand if needed.

The model comes with a lid, which I took off in the kitchen for more efficient use, but I left it on in the bathroom for more discreet disposal.

It took me about 15 minutes to install both of mine, with a drill and screwdriver.

-- Amy  

Sunbean Trashrac

Available from Amazon


Caframo MiniMax Deluxe Battery-Operated Fan

Bought our first MiniMax at a boating supply store a few years back. Runs forever on 4 “D” size batteries, but I found it had a 6vdc input and bought a wall-wart for $1 at the flea market to fit.

Portable and powerful, softish fan blades will not cut off your fingers. Folds flat and will adjust 45°+ tilt.

Nice to de-fog the bathroom mirror after a bath.

Variable speed control on high and Low settings.

Small enough to pack on a trip.

Pretty quiet.

Using one right now (really!) in the kitchen, to cool off some potatoes.

-- Kent K Barnes  

Caframo MiniMax Deluxe Portable 737 4.5″ Battery Operated Fan

Available from Amazon

Kaboom Scrub Free Toilet Cleaning System

I have been using the Kaboom Scrub Free Toilet Cleaning System for over 6 years now, since first reading about its predecessor, the NeverScrub Self-Cleaning Toilet System here on Cool Tools. I originally ordered the previous version through a special offer from the manufacturer and, a few months later they sent me a free sample of the newer current version. This is an update of the original article.

Everything in the original article applies. The main difference is a complete redesign of the little plastic tank which allows easier replacement of the disinfectant tablets. With the original design, the screw-top stuck mercilessly, eventually resulting in breakage of the screw threads from repeated forcing of the screw-top to open it.

The unit consists of a little tank which is clipped to the top of the water closet, just inside the lip of the tank cover, with water lines going from the flush valve into the plastic reservoir holding the disinfectant tablets, and out to the overflow tube of the toilet. The plastic reservoir is filled with bleach-like tablets, which slowly dissolve, releasing disinfectant into the toilet bowl whenever the toilet is flushed. Simple and effective. Unlike some other products, which release rubber-corroding chemicals right into the tank itself, and destroy the rubber gaskets, this product only releases the chemical agent into the toilet bowl. I have never had to replace any gaskets due to corrosion as a result of using this product.

As long as you replenish the disinfectant tablets, the product “just works.” It releases a dilute bleach-like solution into the bowl every time you flush. It has a reassuring chlorine-like smell (actually it’s bromine) and it keeps the bowl sparkling clean. Though you still have to do the occasional bowl scrub, it reduces the frequency of this task significantly. Once every 4-6 weeks keeps things nice and clean.

The interval between tablet replenishments, of course, depends on the traffic the particular toilet experiences. I add tablets about once a month. You can tell they need replenishment when the intensity of the bromine smell diminishes noticeably.

A side note on the refill tablets is in order. I made mention of this in a comment in the original article. Though the price of the Kaboom unit itself is modest, a pack of just 2 refills costs as much as the product. So if you replaced the refills once a month, you would end up spending about 6 times the price of the product every year for refills. The old razor blade/camera film profit scheme.

A much cheaper solution is to use Spa Brominating Tablets. One bottle lasts me about 2 years. Interestingly enough, the Amazon listing for the Kaboom product also refers to a listing for Spa Brominating Tablets. Someone must have read my recommendation in my comment in the original article.

-- Larry Albertelli  

Kaboom with OxiClean Scrub Free! System

Available from Amazon

Butterfly Spring Door Closer

This is a simple very powerful spring that closes the door perfectly every time. I have it installed on the door between my house and garage, which is difficult to close completely and easily blown open by wind.

It’s not too fast, nor too slow. If I push the door closed, it gives it enough extra oomph to make sure it closes completely. If I let it close the door, most of the time it closes and latches, worst case, it’s pushed against the door jamb and doesn’t move in the wind.

Most pleasant (and unexpected) of all is that the magnetic “hold-open” catch that I have on the door for those few occasions when I want it held open, still works fine with the spring. It seems to be the absolute perfect tension.

My only caveat would be around small children and a heavy door swinging shut.

Installation is a bit tricky. You need to pull up one of the hinge pins about 3″, then pry the spring open, which takes a bit of strength, then slip the spring over the extended hinge pin and rest the rubber covered arms over the door and the wall. This is tricky because your fingers are on the sides of the arm that go against the door and wall, so you need to open it even further than the 90 degree angle it sits at with the door closed. Once you have it over the hinge pin, you push the hinge pin back most of the way, but the pin will forever stick out about an inch – the length of the spring.


-- Chris Hartmann  

Butterfly Spring Door Closer

Available from Amazon

Metal Radiator Humidifier

Those of you who heat your house via a steam or hot water radiator system know the advantages: no noise, even heat, lots of warmth even once the system turns off, and more. We’ve lived in a radiator boiler driven home for 30 years and radiators are a wonderful source of heat.

But one huge problem is how to add humidity to the air. One traditional way was to set pots on top of shelves that fit on the top of the radiator but many radiators did not have such fitted shelves. Another was just to have pots or containers of water (or lots of plants) around the house. All OK, but not ideal in terms of efficiency. And, there are all kinds of radiator humidifiers, most of which hang off the front of the radiator, just itching to be bumped into and have the water spill.

Killian Hardware sells what they call an “old fashioned” radiator humidifier that fits in the opening of the radiator formed by the various fins of the radiator. It is a 16” long and about 4” high galvanized sheet metal container that has an opening on the end that you just keep filled with water. During the cold winter months ours (and we have two per radiator throughout the house) need to be filled about once every two days. Since they are galvanized, they won’t rust, but don’t try and clean it with CRB or some other mineral dissolving liquid because once you do that, it will rust (I have the data for that one!). The edges of these can be sharp so should be taped if there are little kids around. And, you need to order them during the summer months when they are not in demand, because the hardware store is almost always out of stock during the winter months.


-- Neil J. Salkind  

Stainless Steel Radiator Humidifier

Manufactured by William A Kilian Hardware.

Caframo Ecofan Airmax Heat Powered Stove Fan

This woodstove fan has greatly increased the comfort level of my home. Our primary heat source is a wood stove insert. Prior to the use of this fan the stove would only heat the immediate area around the fireplace and the upstairs. Now the entire lower floor is much warmer. The coolest thing about this tool is that it uses “thermoelectric technology to convert a temperature difference into electricity.” It’s the same technology as the recently reviewed Biolite Camp Stove.

-- Peter Ratner  

Caframo Ecofan Airmax Heat Powered Stove Fan

Available from Amazon

Torin Aluminum Work Platform

I have used this tool for years, most recently in a whole-house renovation. It allows you to reach high places around the house without a ladder and with more flexibility than a simple stool or step ladder. This tool is specifically great for painting high trim like crown molding and ceiling lines. The platform is textured and provides stability, even when reaching into high corners. It also folds flat for compact storage. I couldn’t imagine painting any room without this miniature scaffold.

-- Sarah Akers  

Torin T55044 Aluminum Work Platform

Available from Amazon

Texas Fireframe Fireplace Grate

The Texas Fireframe is the best way to burn ordinary logs in your ordinary fireplace (that is, no pellets, no gas, no installation, no electric fans) and not have most of the heat go up the chimney. Going by the catchphrase/slogan, “The Physicist’s Fire,” this improvement on the fireplace grate permits an arrangement of the logs that forces the heat into the room. In fact, I can put my hand into the fireplace over the fire and hold it there for thirty seconds or more, but I have to lean in from the side, because the heat coming into the room is so intense that I can’t stand directly in front of the fireplace.

Unfortunately for the manufacturer, this thing — made of cold steel — lasts practically forever. In fact, I’ve used the first and only Texas Fireframe I ever bought for over thirty years. Still works as well as it did the first winter I had it.

Check out the diagram of how it works at the website, and you’ll probably have an “Of course!” reaction. It’s definitely a cool tool.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 3.12.16 PM

-- Bob Leedom  

Texas Fireframe
$95 to $215

Hugo’s Amazing Tape

I was introduced to Hugo’s Amazing tape several years ago by a colleague. He uses the tape to keep board game boxes closed for storage, and it has quite a following in the board game and collectible card game community. The tape is flexible, reusable, and has the fantastic quality of only sticking to itself. These qualities make it ideal for securing something that you need to wrap and unwrap repeatedly. Hugo’s Amazing Tape is available in rolls of various lengths & widths, allowing the user to cut a length to fit their needs.

I have found many household uses for Hugo’s Amazing Tape. I have used the tape as a sort of clamp, to secure oddly shaped objects together while glue dries. I have used it to secure small parts within an assembly to prevent them from falling out of place during storage. It is also perfect for securing rolls of gift wrapping paper, and for securing spools of thread, twine, or rope. I’ve also used it on all of my board game and puzzle boxes. Hugo’s Amazing Tape won’t leave sticky residue, and it doesn’t bind, crush, or decay like a rubber band. It is an indispensable addition to my household tool box.

-- Ryan Gwaltney  

Hugo’s 2-Inch by 50-feet Amazing Tape

Available from Amazon

Swivel Straight Christmas Tree Stand

One Christmas tradition I was happy to discard what was the annual fight with the tree stand. My brother and I would wrestle the tree into the kind of old stand that uses bolts to screw into the trunk to ostensibly stabilize it. Being the younger of the two, I had the task of holding the tree while lying on the floor after it had been impaled on the stand’s spike and then turning the three bolts into the soft pine in rotation, all in an effort to try to have the tree stand straight. Between the griping and groaning and being covered with pitch, this was a major operation that often had temporary results, leading to guy wires from the tree to the wall to keep it upright.

And then my mother bought a Swivel Straight Stand.

20 years later, having inherited the stand, putting the Christmas tree up is a breeze.The mechanism attaches to the tree separately from the stand, so you can do it outdoors before you bring the tree in. You then plop it into the stand and — voila! — the tree is standing solidly. Need to have it tilt to the right? Push the foot-lever in the stand down, move the tree to perpendicular, release the lever. Done. I can think of no gadget in my household of gimcracks that has been as simple and dependable.

-- John Bulger  

Swivel Straight Tree Stand

Available from Amazon