Extending the ~5 Year Consumer Product Lifecycle

It was just about five years ago that Mr PoP and I combined into one household, and it’s now been more than four years since we moved into our awesome little house. And you know what I’ve been noticing over the past six months or so? Stuff’s starting to wear out.

20130917-184725.jpgAnd it’s really annoying.

Built To Break

By now, I think we’ve all realized that consumer products like electronics are built for planned obsolescence as a part of the consumer product lifecycle. Here in the PoP household we fight that to the best of our abilities, especially for expensive toys like laptops. We replace hard drives, memory, and batteries in our laptops and we’ve managed to get about 7 years of solid use out of each of our laptops before relegating them to a non-primary use.

But what of all the other stuff that has started to break or show significant wear recently?

  • Laundry hampers (acquired 4 & 5 years ago)
  • Wooden cutting board (came with our fancy new kitchen sink 4 years ago)
  • T-Shirts and running shirts (about 4-5 years old)

I don’t usually think of myself as a conspiracy theorist, but when a LOT of household items start to feel like they’re showing wear at around the same time it starts to seem a *little* like a grand scheme to make me want to buy a bunch of new stuff. Heck, aren’t most consumers ready to redecorate their homes every 4-5 years anyhow? Just toss out the old and buy some new!

Heck, No. I’m Too Lazy.

Shopping is a chore. Decorating was tough enough the first time; why would I want to do it again?

Instead, we’re just breathing new life into these objects as best as we can.

Laundry Hampers

These wire/fabric laundry hampers (pic above) came from Target and are awesome. They’re not so hideous that I feel the need to hide them in a closet, and are amazingly functional and lightweight, perfect when I have to carry them across the house to the garage for laundry time. Plus, they are brown so I don’t worry if the cat gets them dirty or if they pick up a little dirt in the garage.

But about 4 years after buying them, the metal frames started to come apart at the joints. After a while, a metal bar ended up poking out of the corner of each of these hampers. Not pretty, and probably not super safe. (I *think* we’re current on our tetanus shots in case of a puncture wound!) So Mr PoP bought a couple tiny tubes of epoxy at the local hardware store, and 24 hours later the laundry hampers had set and were as good as (if not better than) new.

Wooden Cutting Board

Our wooden cutting board is pretty awesome. Since it came with the sink, it fits perfectly over the sink to allow for nice easy chopping and easy clean-up. But after 4 years of use the wood had dried out and I was noticing that it was harder to clean after each use. The last thing I wanted was a cutting board that let bacteria breed in all the little nicks from the knives over the years.

So I took some sandpaper and sanded down the surface of the cutting board to remove the nicks. (If you want to try it yourself, I started with 60 grit sandpaper and ended with 150 – it gets finer as the numbers increase!) Then I got some food-grade mineral oil and re-oiled the cutting board. Altogether it took a couple of hours, mostly that long since I chose to sand it by hand rather than taking a power sander to it. (In hindsight, 4 years was probably too long to wait to do this. I’ll aim for every couple years from now on.)

But the cutting board looks brand new.


Top: Before, sanded, 1 coat of oil.
Bottom: 2 coats of oil, finished.


T-Shirts and Running Shirts

20130916-211725.jpgMy gram used to say, “Ladies don’t sweat; they perspire.” But she’s wrong. Ladies sweat. So do guys. Heck, we live in Florida, of course we sweat! But that’s why we wear antiperspirant deodorant, so we won’t be gross.

After a while, though, the antiperspirant deodorant starts to leave marks on the underarms of your tops. It happens gradually. Over time the residue that’s left behind that doesn’t *quite* come out in the wash starts to leave marks underneath the arms of your shirts. Normal laundry detergent didn’t work. Neither did Shout, Oxy, or any other specialized stain removers from the laundry aisle (at least not without ruining the shirt).

Other than those marks, though, the shirts are great. So do you still wear them and just make sure you keep your arms down the entire time or only wear them when you know you’ll have a sweater on all day?

I got sick of these shirts being relegated to undershirt status, and wanted my running shirts to be super fresh again since colleagues occasionally see me in them when I’m changing to bike home from work and nobody wants to be gross at work. So I tried one last cleaning attempt to see if I could breath some new life into them.

It was:

  • 1 part liquid dish soap (we had palmolive on hand)
  • 2 parts hydrogen peroxide
  • a sprinkling of baking soda

I applied that to each stain, scrubbed with a plastic scrub brush and let it sit for an hour. Then I washed them in a normal load of laundry. They are like new again. I was freaking amazed.



That Wasn’t Lazy, That Was Work!

Each of these repairs took a little bit of effort, true. And a little bit of money to buy the epoxy and the mineral oil.  But replacing them would have been so much MORE work! Think of the time and effort to find replacement products we like just as much as the old ones, not to mention the money that we avoided spending and the trash we kept out of the landfill with these simple little repairs.

While it still seems like products are mostly designed to keep consumers happy for about five years, we expect to spend a lifetime performing little repairs like these and extending the usable lives of our belongings well past the engineered expectations. And hopefully be happier and wealthier because of it. =)


What have you breathed new life into in your home lately?

69 comments to Extending the ~5 Year Consumer Product Lifecycle

  • Apple stuff costs more, but it seems to last forever. Every Apple product I’ve ever purchased going back to 2002 (iPod) still works. I love the fact that my 2008 Macbook purrs like the day I bought it without ever giving me grief.

    Generally speaking, I keep my stuff going for as long as I can. I patch my jeans with these patches we buy at the fabric store. You put them on the inside and it doesn’t look bad. Well, maybe a little, but I don’t care. One of my sisters, who is infinitely poorer than me will say, “Why don’t you just throw those jeans out?” No thanks little sis’, I’ll get another year out of these!

    • Agree on Apple products, but eventually we have still replaced them. My 2005 Powerbook got replaced last year (7 years), and Mr PoP’s 2007 Macbook is starting to sound like a jet engine taking off sometimes the chip gets so hot sometimes… he’s angling for a replacement when it hits its 7 year anniversary in 6 months or so.

      Holey jeans are the best! Free air conditioning!
      Mrs PoP recently posted..Extending the ~5 Year Consumer Product LifecycleMy Profile

  • Hydrogen peroxide is a miracle-worker on laundry. There are so many instances where the easy/lazy way out is to just replace something, when a simple fix will do. I’ve had my macbook since early 2008 and I just updated the OS for about $20. MUCH cheaper than buying a newer laptop. I’ll have to replace the battery relatively soon too, but again much cheaper than buying a new one.
    Matt Becker recently posted..5 Simple Questions to Ask Before Investing in AnythingMy Profile

    • I guess the way I look at it, buying something new isn’t easy or lazy most of the time even though marketers want it to seem that way. I’m pretty sure it would have taken more time and effort to find new things to replace these all than it did to breathe some new life into them. And that’s even before the money spent acquiring new stuff!

  • WHAT?!?!? I need to go try that armpit stain remover ASAP! I love wearing white t-shirts to workout but oh my gosh those stain so quick. You are a lifesaver- thanks for the tip!!!
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  • The way to keep your cutting board from drying out is to rub some cooking oil into at least once a month after you have washed it. Let it sit for a few hours and you will find that the wood has absorbed most of the oil..simply wipe it off and you are good to go. I do it almost weekly and my wooden cutting boards are still going strong after 10 years.
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    • Debbie M

      I agree, only I do it more like once every six months. (And of course keep it out of the dishwasher.) Same with wood-handled utensils.

      I’ve never sanded a cutting board–yours looks awesome now.

    • Does cooking oil spoil? I thought the reason for the mineral oil was because it doesn’t spoil. But a little goes a long way – even doing it every month I’ve got enough to last years now!

  • Hey Mrs PoP, I love this post. I revamp things all the time. I’ve never tried the cutting board idea…I love it! Thanks!
    Josh @ CNA Finance recently posted..All About Commercial Real EstateMy Profile

  • Good job fixing up your stuff!
    I think I have bought a new coffee maker every two years or so. But, I buy cheap ones so I shouldn’t be too surprised. It doesn’t seem like anything is made to last these days!
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..More House Hunting AdventuresMy Profile

    • Debbie M

      I’ve heard that running it with just a vinegar-water mixture (and then with plain water to clean it out) can get rid of hard-water build-up and let it last longer. That wouldn’t help with electrical problems or breakage, though.

    • Mr PoP’s fancy coffee maker needs cleaning and servicing every once in a while, but it’s well worth it.

  • Yay!

    Will have to try your laundry solution. The other suggestion I’d seen was boiling with lemons and I just couldn’t get into that one.
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  • CincyCat

    Great tip to get rid of underarm stains! I have a few colorful shirts that I have missed wearing since the underarms are now gross. I’ll definitely have to try this solution!

    Along these lines, I was able to repurpose/breathe new life into old, worn out, out-dated décor pillows by simply tossing them in the washing machine, and sewing new covers. I made the new covers so that they slipped right over the old covers. If you fold the fabric, then you only have to sew two straight seams with a machine, and the final seam by hand (unless you are have a good machine that can do a blind stitch for the final side). It only took me about an hour. I didn’t think it was that hard to do, and I got the upholstery fabric that I wanted on $1 clearance bolts from a local fabric store.

  • Debbie M

    This is my favorite frugality strategy of all time–turning garbage back into a thing I love. Sadly, I wish I knew a lot more such strategies than I do.

    Here are some that I have done:
    * Sew buttons back on (or new buttons)
    * Re-sew hems or seams that have come apart
    * Sew together a hole as if it is a seam–this has worked okay on knit things like socks, t-shirts, and skirts, but it can’t be in a prominent place
    * Take things apart (like clocks), look at them, and put them back together (sometimes works)
    * Sand and re-finish a table
    * Scrub rust off chair legs
    * Soak the label off a pretty jar to re-use; sometimes I’ll need to scrape it with a metal spatula and then a copper or steel wool pad; sometimes it just peels off
    * Take price tags off things–you can usually get any remaining sticky stuff off by rubbing with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball (or piece of toilet paper). Really stubborn things might need lighter fluid.
    * Wash (and thoroughly dry) shower curtain liners weekly so the mildew doesn’t build up to the point where it can’t be cleaned. Mine are nylon, but I’ve heard this works for the plastic ones, too.

    I’ve also heard that:
    * Many broken fans just need oiling.
    * Many problems with books can be fixed with white glue. You may need to use some waxed paper to keep one page from sticking to the next while you let the glue dry.
    * You can steam open envelopes that have stuck shut in the humidity; then use tape or glue stick to seal them again
    * You can freeze gum to get it out of hair. (Use an ice cube, even if you’re more in the mood to put someone’s head in the freezer.)

    And I’ve just watched a friend breathe new life into things by spray painting them. I’ve always been afraid of spray paint, but she just did it in her regular clothes, no problem (outside, on her spray painting table, without much wind, masking off some parts with masking tape).

    I also don’t mind just letting some things look worn if they still work perfectly:
    * My pans are dented; so is my car
    * My countertops are stained

    I love that googling can sometimes help you find answers when you’ve run out of ideas yourself.

    • Spray paint works wonders… we scrubbed and spray-painted rusty ceiling vents and all kinds of fixtures in our duplex. Such a cheap way to make them look new again. But I always do it outside and wear clothes that can be messed up since I always manage to get paint on myself no matter what. =)

      There’s a little $3 ($5?) plastic top you can get for most spray paint cans (the same one fits a lot of them) and it has a bigger trigger that makes it easier to spray.

    • Cheryl

      Many glues are ammonia soluble. Put some ammonia in the water to soak off the label. Especially true for wine bottle labels as this prevents them from coming off in the ice bucket.

  • The chopping board looks like new. I’m definitely trying that trick! Thanks!!
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  • God bless you for fixing rather than replacing when you can. It’s such a cool thing to repair a more or less functioning item, and I think it’s a skill that’s going to get more popular as time goes on & the costs of replacement start to increase.

    I love the epoxy fix for the hamper — do you remember the brand or type?
    Done by Forty recently posted..How We Negotiate, Part IIMy Profile

  • Great tip for the stain remover, I will definitely try that out! I used to have a chopping board like yours and sadly binned it when I thought it’d seen its last days. Recently though, I’ve started sprucing up and reusing what I have already got. I’ve been decorating old tired looking lampshades; melting down old candle wax to make new candles; sewing new buttons onto old coats and saving old washing tablet plastic containers for arts and craft storage boxes. I’d like to reupholster my sofa but I don’t have a clue how to do so at the moment!
    debtfreeoneday recently posted..Save Money and Swap! 17 Swap Websites ReviewedMy Profile

    • shame about tossing your cutting board – Hopefully the next one you can keep a long time!

    • ShirleyPie

      I am sure you can find directions on the internet- years ago i saw someone-Christopher Lowell? do it but placing fabric upside down on couch/chair and pinning where the seams would go- haven’t done it myself yet but looked easy enough- good luck!

  • Whoa, that cutting boards looks brand new!
    Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans recently posted..Weekend Recap: UsMy Profile

  • I know, doesn’t it? It turned out even better than I imagined it would =)

  • This is awesome. Nice work on that cutting board it looks like new! We also like to fix/repair our own stuff. We’ve even started to make our own things like a dining room table and some shelves for the living room.
    GamingYourFinances recently posted..Net Worth UpdateMy Profile

  • I used to throw away things with a hole in them, but I get out my sewing kit now and do my best. I am a horrible seamstress, but if I sew it inside out, you can barely tell, and it makes me very proud of my efforts. If you could only come up with a recipe to fix blenders. I seem to wear one out every year or so.
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    • CincyCat

      You may not be as “horrible” a seamstress as you think! Turning the garment inside-out is the correct way to mend a hole. If you can “barely tell” then you are doing it right! I keep a small sewing kit in my desk at work, in the laundry room and in my bedroom w/ some black & white thread, some buttons and safety pins of various sizes. It really comes in handy!

    • Hmmm, blenders… Get one with replaceable parts? Ours has replaceable gaskets and the blade can be torqued apart for deep cleaning every so often. So far it’s 4 years old and blending like a champ. I use it every day.

  • Cutting board looks brand new and the T-shirt tip, I’m going to try this weekend. I have a bunch of shirts that I only wear around the house because they are too “gross” to wear in public.
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  • Thank you for the tip on the t-shirt stains! So many of my boyfriend’s shirts are stained and worn. Whenever he needs to replace shirts, he just buys really cheap ones from second-hand shops. My laundry hamper has actually been around for as long as I can remember, though my parents took it with them when they moved. I have no clue where they got it, but I think it’s just a plastic woven material. Also interesting tip on the wooden cutting boards. Ours are still new, but sanding them is a great idea. I have probably extended the life of my computer at least ten times with hand-me-downs. When my dad got bored and wanted to upgrade I gladly took his “old” hardware.
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  • You can also use lemon for the T-shirt stains. Vinegar is a good help too in making the school uniforms good as brand new, the acidic element of the vinegar brings back the dull color of the uniforms.
    Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way recently posted..Make Money in Eye CareMy Profile

  • In terms of avoiding stains under arms, I suggest and personally go for deodorants that don’t contain aluminum chlorohydrate – which seems to be the main ingredient in 9 out of 10 products. But there are good alternative. One example is Bionsen. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bionsen-aluminium-free-roll-deodorant/dp/B0057VLBLE
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  • LOVE the tip about the shirts, Mrs. PoP! I’ll definitely be trying that one. What you are describing here was quite the norm back in the days of the Great Depression. They were so resourceful, and you guys are right along with them. :-)
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  • trudy

    My laundry hamper is manufactured by Rubbermade. It will probably be in good shape when the sun’s a white dwarf.

  • Great tip on the shirts! I usually wear dark work out clothes because of those underarm stains, but perhaps this will give me a change of heart!
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  • Prob8

    Thanks for the tips! My wife will be thrilled (sarcasm alert) that I have a new way to preserve my shirts longer. I usually wear them until they disintegrate or until she “accidentally” rips them – which typically happens when the number of holes gets unusually high or the pits get unusually yellow. Now at least I can fix the pit part.

    Since I found nowhere else to ask this, I’ll just do it here . . . is there an “all posts” link where I can easily start at the beginning of your blog?

    Also, do you mind sharing where you live in Florida? If that’s too much info, that’s totally cool. My wife and I are planning to make a big move within the next 3 years. Western Florida is on the list but we’d like some insider info.

  • Does the t-shirt cleaning trick get rid of the crusty stuff that tends to come along with the deodorant stains? I don’t min stained shirts – all mine are colorful enough that it’s hard to notice anyway – but once they get crusty, I throw them out because it’s uncomfortable to me! (All mine are cotton BTW)
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  • […] Planting our Pennies: Sometimes the things we think we need to replace can be made almost good as new with just a little effort and a lot less cost. […]

  • We have one of those laundry baskets too, but we got it at Walmart. I think we had it for less than a year before the wire broke along the top rim, and poked through the fabric. WE still have it but it doesn’t really stand up. I love the t-shirt idea!
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  • I’m totally going to try that hydrogen peroxide trick! That’s a great idea.
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  • […] Editor’s Pick: The PoPs noticed that after 5 years, some of their products are getting worn out. Check out Mrs. PoP’s piece on bringing new life back into the old! […]

  • […] Planting our Pennies: Extending the 5 year Consumer Product Lifecycle […]

  • […] Extending the Five Year Consumer Product Lifecycle A lot of the products we buy are designed to have specific lifecycles, and many of them seem to have five year cycles. Here are some tactics for breaking out of that cycle and extending the life of the things you have. (@ plant your pennies) […]

  • Angie unduplicated

    Macs aren’t the only long-lived laptops: my Gateway was purchased at a broken box sale in ’08 and is still going strong, with HDD and memory upgrades. Hairdressers’ clear 20 vol peroxide and denture cleaning tablets are my stain removers of choice and work on many stubborn stains. The ancient sewing machine cabinet will have a new topcoat of eBay veneer and the landfill bed, over a century old, gets paint soon. Any jar that will fit a Mason lid and ring is cleaned and recycled. Chipped picture frames get spackle and paint touchups. Purses are washed inside and out and shoes are repaired with contact cement. T shirts and socks become shop rags. Countertops are bleached, especially after canning berries. Dishwashers, required by another household member, don’t even last five years despite light use and recommended maintenance. WT??

  • Awesome advice. I’d never realized you could just sand down and oil a cutting board to get it like new. I didn’t know they made food grade oils. I agree stuff definitely doesn’t seem to be the way my grandparents said it used to be. I mean, my grandma’s had the same sewing machine for 60 years. I don’t think anything I own will last more than 10 – at best. I’m already impressed my laptop has made it to 4 years. You trick for the armpit stains is awesome too!
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