18 April 2018


Seventh Generation Free and Clear Fragrance-Free Dish Dish Detergent

0% fragrances, dyes, phosphates, or triclosan

Seventh Generation makes eco-friendly cleaning products. I am on board with that, but I would prefer not to spend more money or lose some effectiveness. But their Free and Clear dishwashing liquid is both cheap and good.

Good (in rough order of importance):

— Cheap. A 25 oz. bottle costs about $3 at Walmart or your grocery store. For some reason, Amazon charges more. [Amazon sell a 6-pack for under $18, making it about the same price as Walmart).

— Effective. Wirecutter calls it a tie between it and Dawn Ultra. I have used both, and I think I might use a tad more of the Seventh Generation for the same jobs, but that might be because it is clear, and hard to see when I squeeze just a drop out (which is all I ever use at a time.)

— Fragrance-free. This is a big one, and why I stopped using Dawn. There is no strong cloying odor of watermelon, patchouli, mango, or whatever to mix, sickeningly, with the odors of stale food and grease on your pots and pans, and to cling to sponges, cutting boards and countertops. That might be a personal foible, but it isn’t unique to me. Dawn does not make a fragrance-free version, though it does make a dye-free version. (Seventh Generation also makes scented versions that use plant-based essential oils and extracts.)

— It does not contain phthalates, triclosan or phosphates. Phosphates are gradually going away. But phthalates are typically found (and not labeled as such) in the fragrance compounds in detergents. They are “estrogen-like,” so even minuscule amounts can have biological effects, both on you and fish, birds, etc. Triclosan is a pointless antibacterial that hurts fish, helps create invincible super-bacteria, etc. It has been banned in hand and body soaps, but not dish soaps. It also contains no dyes, but I am indifferent about that.

— It isn’t tested on animals. I personally can understand the logic or even the necessity sometimes of testing on animals, but I think it should be avoided when necessary. And here, it wasn’t necessary! It is cheap and works great.


— Ummm… The stuff is crystal clear, so you might end up using a bit more on your sponge because it doesn’t stand out.

— I suppose I wish it didn’t come in a plastic bottle. But there might be no alternative.

Summary Seventh Generation Free and Clear dish liquid is cheap, effective, cruelty-free, benign to the environment, and comes in a fragrance-free version. Win/win/win/win.

-- Karl Chwe 04/18/18

17 April 2018


FloTool Shaker Siphon

Shake to start siphoning

I have been using a “shaker siphon” for 10+ years to fill up cars, boats, generators, lawn mowers, etc. The problem with fuel cans is that when they are full they become unwieldy to pour from a spout. The best method I have found is to siphon fuel from the can rather than pour it.

To use a “shaker siphon” put the copper end into the fuel can and the tube into the tank you want to fill. Then lift the copper end up and down (shaking it) in the fuel can. The entire process takes seconds. The system works best if the fuel can is higher than the tank it is filling. Afterwards a siphon is created which transfers about 3 gallon or so per minute from the fuel can into the tank. You will hear a bit of jingling from the copper end which lets you know it is working.

I can typically get almost all of the fuel out a can with a few ounces leftover. Those last few ounces are easy to pour out. Lifting the copper end out of the fuel can stops the transfer immediately. When you are done, it is best to lift the copper end above your head while the other end is still in the tank to let any fuel in the line drain into the tank.

I use the Hopkins FloTool Shaker Siphon. There are several variations of this design on Amazon and from what I can tell one is good as the next.

-- Cameron Cole 04/17/18

17 April 2018


Nite Ize Spokelit LED Bicycle Spoke Light for Bike Wheels

Easy-to-attach spoke lights

In this Cool Tools video I’m going to show you these Spokelit bike lights by Nite Ize. I bought these for around $14 on Amazon and by using the link in the description to pick some up for yourself you help support my videos and the Cool Tools blog.

These are a plastic, self-contained light, powered by replaceable watch batteries. You give them a squeeze to turn them on. A second squeeze gets them blinking, and a third squeeze turns them off. Battery life is between 20-25 hours depending on which mode you use.

The idea is, these just wedge right into your spokes. There are grooves here that grab your spokes, plus the wings just sort of weave in.

In the light of day, they’re super boring honestly, and that’s ok. Because they just look like generic reflectors I never feel like anyone’s going to rip these off.

At night, though, these add a dramatic streak of light to your rims, making your bike more visible people. These come in other colors — there’s even a rainbow effect version, but red seemed like the safe choice.

I’ve been riding with them for a few weeks now and I haven’t found them distracting. It’s just a nice, low key addition that makes biking at night a little safer and it’s a good price for what it is.

Previous Cool Tool Review.

-- Donald Bell 04/17/18

15 April 2018


Pocket magic trick/Minimalism notebooks/How to apologize

Recomendo: issue no. 90

Imp bottle magic trick
I bought this $5 pocket trick in 2015. It’s a tiny plastic bottle with a spherical base. It has a weighted bottom to keep it from tipping over. I can make it lie on its side, but no one else can (unless they know the secret, and surprisingly few do). Drive your friends crazy with frustration. — MF

Minimalism notebooks
I’ve long been a fan of blank (no-lines) Moleskine notebooks, large and small. I recently switched to Minimalism Art notebooks which are very similar, maybe better, quality and half the price. They also come in bright cover colors. — KK

Apologize effectively
I often refer back to this Reddit LifeProTip that describes the three parts of an effective apology. (1) Acknowledge how your action affected the person; (2) Say you’re sorry; (3) Describe what you’re going to do to make it right or make sure it doesn’t happen again. Don’t excuse or explain. It’s amazing how easy this is to forget so I have it saved and pinned in my iCloud notes. — CD

Binge watch TV: Colony
I’m eagerly looking forward to season 3 of Colony, a science fiction thriller about a world under lockdown after aliens arrive and take over. We never see the aliens — the oppressors are the humans who have cut a deal with the aliens to administrate repressive and cruel martial law in exchange for better living conditions. The story centers on a family trying to survive in a militarized, walled-off Los Angeles, where the smallest infraction is punishable by death. — MF

Teleport around the world
Globe Genie is a relaxing respite from my daily routine. I randomly bounce around to remote places, imagine myself there and appreciate the hugeness of the world. — CD

Pinterest scrapbooks
A lot of folks, especially guys, kind of sneer at Pinterest, but I use it all the time. I have the Pinterest plugin activated on my web browsers, so anytime I come across an image or visual idea on a webpage I want to save, I simply click on the little red Pinterest bug that appears in the left corner of that image, and it is saved to a “pin board” of my choosing. The advantage of this method over say Evernote is that each image saved can unearth many more similar images from all the Pinterest boards. So say I am researching how to make a lumber rack, I can collect a few examples from Google Images, or from some online forum, and then Pinterest will generate many more similar that others have collected. I can then curate my own collection from those, which is better than just looking at pages of Google results. You can keep your collections private or make them public, as I do with some of mine. — KK


13 April 2018


Michael Borys, Interactive Design Director

Cool Tools Show 118: Michael Borys

Our guest this week is Michael Borys. He is a designer who creates experiences for the entertainment industry. He is currently the Vice President of Interaction and Game Design at 42 Entertainment, a Magician Member of The Magic Castle and his immersive magic show is called The 49 Boxes — which is not to be missed.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

The Book of Codes
“It is a treasure trove of every single type of language that is used for encryption from the dawn of man to now. Of course, you’ve got braille and Morse and things like that. There’s even Klingon. It sort of teaches your brain to look at the world differently and see language in everything. For example, the way that binary works, as you know, it’s all ones and zeroes, and binary isn’t just on-off like that. It can be birds sitting on a fence, and if a bird has his wings up that could be a one, and if he’s got his wings down it can be a zero … Even a hem of a dress, if it has stitching that changes from time to time, you can embed information even with stitching that way. … I’m looking at Page 19, for example. It gives you versions of how information was decoded in the hems in garments during times of war, for example. And so across enemy lines … This is called steganography, by the way, the hiding of information. Soldiers were given information that were kept in their jackets. And so when they would go across enemy lines, if they were captured their capturers wouldn’t know that they actually had this information, but if they did get to where they needed to go the information could then be parsed, and that could win a war or lose a war. … hundreds and hundreds of these different ways of thinking that just become part of your rote memory, and so it makes you, as you travel, as you work, as you meet people and see things in a curio shop, you’ll realize that information is being hidden everywhere without anybody knowing it. It’s exciting, actually.”

The Puzzle Keyring ($30)
“I wish I had this at every room escape that I tried to solve, because it’d be a tool to both to make puzzles, think about things differently, and to solve things really quickly. It’s great. … It is a plastic-coated booklet, so you can dump it in water, and it’d still be fine. Unrippable, and it’s on a metal keyring so that you can have it on your keys if you wanted to during the event. It’s too bulky to have it with you every day of your life, but, boy, is it convenient. It’s durable, and it’s very, very useful.”

BLACK+DECKER Impact Screwdriver ($60)
“Because my show travels, all my tools have to travel, and a lot of times I don’t have time to be delicate with the stuff that I have. This particular Black & Decker drill, I’ve charged it one time in two years, and darn it, it is great. Whenever I need it, it is ready. It had a light at the head of it. It seems unbreakable. I have a few different ones because I have a couple different sets of screws on many boxes that I have to undo and do during the show. This thing has been a lifesaver. You’re probably expecting, well, specialized tools, but this is the best drill I’ve ever had in my life. It was like 70 bucks, but again, it has fallen 20 feet to the ground and it’s never shattered, and it’s just always been there for me.”

Mag Hand Workstation
“That is the greatest for me because what this is is a platform that has magnetic trays — and it’s heavy, which is good — that I can keep the tiniest screws in and the tiniest washers, and because I’m always working with these tiny boxes and building things and making things tighter than what they probably were designed for, things fly all of the place, and how many times have you lost eyeglass screws? This thing, I can tip it upside down and all my screws and washers stay in one spot. I’ve knocked it on the ground and things have been fine. And there are also these posable arms with clips on the end of them, so if I’m ever painting something or I’m staining something that’s delicate, I don’t have the stain or the paint on my hands, because this thing will hold very objects in place for me so I won’t have to worry about that. It’s great. It’s a multipurpose thing that keeps me sane.”

Also mentioned:

Hidden Codes & Grand Designs

Locked by Jim Kleefeld


We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $346 a month. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have great rewards for people who contribute! – MF


12 April 2018


Magnetic Screen Door

Keep bugs out

These “screen doors” are really just net barriers for doorways that you can just walk through and the magnetic strips draw them closed again. Duh. But you get to show visitors how they work because they’re alien… I’d never heard of nor seen these things until I was in Alaska at a B&B (no hotels in the area). Not just regular external doors had these things but a lot of internal ones too – there are so many mosquitoes there in the summer that extreme measures are appropriate. Just push your way through, either direction. It closes behind you. Gives you a chance to kill the bugs in your room without more taking the place of their fallen comrades. Nothing will perfectly keep mosquitoes out of anywhere there because there are *so many*.

Anyway, at our Colorado house there are just enough flies (not mosquitoes) zipping around to get trapped in the house even when the slider’s wide open. Having lots of dogs in the neighborhood doesn’t help, either. They’re easy to mount to your door frame, though most of them come with sticky-backed Velcro which – you know it before you try it – won’t last nearly as long as you want it to. So we used some tacks. And the one at the overhead center I changed from a tack to a little screw as the in-and-out worked the initial tack there loose. The “screen door” needs a mount/tack at each corner, the top-center (a saggy top won’t let the thing close easily) and a couple on the sides, so I’d advise evaluating your door frame molding to ID the net size and best mounting materials before getting angry at whatever you try.

In our home, the open slider door also blocks the dog door, and this simple screen door lets the dogs in & out without issue. Old-style slappy screen doors aren’t so dog friendly. So: There are a lot of sizes available, so measure. And these aren’t disposable exactly but they aren’t long-term investments either. They’re good at keeping bugs out and freely letting everyone else through.

-- Wayne Ruffner 04/12/18


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Jaws adjust automatically

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The mushroom bible

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E-book version on Kindle

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Nikon Monarch Binoculars

Bargain superior binoculars

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Realtime budget overview

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Adventure Medical Kits

Full medical station in a pouch

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 118: Michael Borys

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 117: Matt Blum

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 116: Koichi

Picks and shownotes

23 February 2017


Cool Tools is a web site which recommends the best/cheapest tools available. Tools are defined broadly as anything that can be useful. This includes hand tools, machines, books, software, gadgets, websites, maps, and even ideas. All reviews are positive raves written by real users. We don’t bother with negative reviews because our intent is to only offer the best.

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13632766_602152159944472_101382480_oKevin Kelly started Cool Tools in 2000 as an email list, then as a blog since 2003. He edited all reviews through 2006. He writes the occasional review, oversees the design and editorial direction of this site, and made a book version of Cool Tools. If you have a question about the website in general his email is kk {at} kk.org.

13918651_603790483113973_1799207977_oMark Frauenfelder edits Cool Tools and develops editorial projects for Cool Tools Lab, LLC. If you’d like to submit a review, email him at editor {at} cool-tools.org (or use the Submit a Tool form).

13898183_602421513250870_1391167760_oClaudia Dawson runs the Cool Tool website, posting items daily, maintaining software, measuring analytics, managing ads, and in general keeping the site alive. If you have a concern about the operation or status of this site contact her email is cl {at} kk.org.