A ball of string or twine is always a handy thing to have around the house, whether you're using it to truss a chicken, tie up packages or just entertain an energetic kitten. It also figures into a surprising number of home and garden hacks, above and beyond its normal uses. Here are a few favorites.
1. Make Your Plants Self-Watering
Nothing softens a home's interior like a lush display of house plants, but like any living thing, they need care. That's where things get tricky if you're away from home a lot or don't exactly have a green thumb. Most plants thrive best in soil that's always moist but never quite wet, which is a real balancing act for a busy would-be grower. Oddly, string can help you solve that problem. Moisten a length of string and bury one end in your pot's soil, then leave the other in a bottle or bowl of water nearby. Water will travel up the string, like wax through a candle wick, to moisten the soil continuously for as long as the water lasts.
2. Remove a Stuck-on Ring From your Finger
Your rings will always stay the same size, but unfortunately, your fingers will not. You can have rings resized, of course, but not until you've found a way to get them off. Surprisingly, string is a really effective tool for coaxing a too-tight ring from your finger. Start by finding some thin, strong string. Push one end between the ring and your finger, and out the other side. Now wrap your finger tightly with the other end of the string, going 1/4 to 1/2 inch up your finger. Take the first end (the one that went under your ring) and begin unwinding it from around your finger. The ring will travel up the string, and slide right off.
3. Zip up Your Back Without Help
For esthetic and practical reasons, it makes perfect sense that dresses zip up the back. That way they don't mess up the dress' clean lines, and you don't have the zipper buckling into your belly every time you bend over. Unfortunately, it also means you need a pair of helping hands to get zipped, or at the very least, have to be limber enough to reach awkwardly down your own back. To make things easier on yourself, loop string through the hole on the zipper's pull tab and leave several inches hanging down. The string is easier to reach, and you can use that to pull the zipper up. Once it's up, the string is at the nape of your neck and easy to remove.
4. Repair Frayed Cords
Despite the rise of wireless devices, most electronics still require cords of some kind. Charge cords, in particular, are heavily used and won't be going away any time soon. Many of those cords and cables are relatively delicate and damage-prone, which is inconvenient at best and a serious problem at worst. If one of your cords is beginning to fray at the end, you can prolong its life with string. Wrap the affected area tightly with string, taking care to tuck one end underneath the wrapped section. Then apply a drop of glue to hold down the second end. This quick and easy hack can buy you months of extra life from each charge cable.
5. Organize Your Garden and Landscaping
String is surprisingly useful in the yard and garden. With a ball of string and a handful of stakes, you can lay out perfectly even square or rectangular beds without guesswork. For ornamental beds with kidney or teardrop shapes, lay out highly-visible white string to help you visualize the correct size, shape and placement before you bring out your spade. For pleasingly perfect hedges, use taller stakes and string to create level, square reference lines before you start trimming. For climbing garden plants like peas and beans, you can even use a combination of poles and string to create a quick, low-cost trellis for them to grow on.
6. Cut PVC Pipe
The PVC pipe that handles most of your household plumbing isn't especially hard to cut, as long as you've got room to reach it with your saw. That gets a bit complicated when the plumbing is in a tight space inside your wall, which is why plumbers have a specialized cutter with a powerful motorized jaw. Most people don't have those, so if you need to cut a pipe in a tight space — or just don't have a saw — string can get the job done. Use a sharp blade to cut a notch in the pipe where it needs to be cut, and then wrap a piece of tough string around the pipe. Pull it tight and then pull the string back and forth, with a steady pressure. It's a bit slower than a saw, but a practical solution to a difficult situation.
7. Give a Lampshade a Makeover
A plain-jane lampshade in a neutral color can fit into any room's decor, but let's face it...they can be a bit dull. You can customize any old lampshade to fit the room it's in by simply wrapping it with string. You can vary how much light passes through the shade by wrapping it closely for "spot" lighting that illuminates a small area, or loosely to retain more ambient lighting.
8. Make a DIY Globe Lampshade
If you're looking for a lamp that makes an even bolder statement, consider making a globe lampshade entirely from string. Start by inflating a balloon to the size and shape you want, to act as a mold for the string. Next, mix craft glue with a bit of flour and just enough water to give it a runny, batter-like consistency. Pull the string through the glue mixture, then wrap it around the balloon in big swirls until you've got a pattern you like. Let it dry completely, then carefully deflate and remove the balloon. Paint the globe in the color of your choice and carefully snip out an opening for your lamp base or light fixture, and secure it in place with hooks or clips.
9. Decorate a Cake
If you watch competition baking shows, you'll know that professional bakers and pastry chefs can decorate cakes in amazing ways. Unfortunately, if you're on social media, you also know that trying a lot of those techniques without professional-level skills can result in meme-worthy "cake fails." Surprisingly, string is a tool you can use to easily create elegant, professional looking cakes. Simply arrange the string on the cake in an appealing design such as elegant swoops and curves or a name written in cursive. Then dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar or cocoa. Carefully lift off the string, and serve with pride.
10. Make a Drying Line
If you don't have a mudroom, finding a place for soggy hats, gloves, socks or mittens to dry can be a bit of a challenge during snowy or rainy weather. One inexpensive option requires nothing more than a couple of eye hooks and a length of string. Place the small hooks at opposite sides of the back of a closet door, or the back door of your house, and run the string between them. Use clothes pins to hang the damp outerwear until it's dry. If you need more capacity, just add a second line below the first. When spring comes, you can remove the string and leave the relatively unobtrusive hooks in place for next year.