Every year product experts at Bob Vila do thousands of hours of hands-on testing and online research. We carry out in-depth investigations of hundreds of home and garden products so visitors to our website have accurate and honest information to help them make the right choices when they shop.
Once again, in 2022, Bob Vila visitors placed their trust in our advice on everything from key necessities to things that just make life a little easier. DIY and home improvements remain tremendously popular. Safety and hygiene features strongly. There are also one or two surprises.
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Composting is a great way to turn household waste into valuable nutrition for the garden. Any unused corner can work as a compost heap, though they do tend to be untidy, and the process is slow.
A compost tumbler like this tremendously popular model from FCM Outdoor is the ideal solution. It is made from galvanized steel and recycled polypropylene, giving it terrific durability in all types of weather. The 37-gallon capacity is a great size for the average garden, and it has two chambers with aeration holes to speed up the composting process.
Get the FCMP Outdoor IM4000 Dual Chamber Tumbling Composter at Amazon for $99.95.
A good pair of safety glasses is absolutely essential for all kinds of DIY, hobby, and occupational tasks. This tough and versatile pair from 3M is so impressive we dedicated a full-length review to them.
They meet the most recent ANSI Z87 standard for impact protection, with a wraparound design for better eye coverage. Lenses are anti-fogging, block harmful UV rays, and have a foam seal to keep out dust. Small reading diopters help when studying detail. Finally, contoured arms provide a secure, comfortable fit.
Get the 3M Virtua CSS Safety Glasses at Amazon for $13.90.
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There are few things worse than feeble flow from a shower head, yet a federally mandated maximum pressure of 2.5 gallons per minute means some fall well below expectations.
High pressure shower heads use clever internal design to overcome the problem. While some can be quite expensive, this HO2ME model combines a budget-friendly price with competitive performance. There are three functions, including a powerful pulse massage that’s great for aching muscles. Rubber nozzles prevent the buildup of mineral deposits, and a 79-inch stainless steel hose ensures full freedom of movement.
Get the HO2ME High Pressure Handheld Shower Head at Amazon for $24.43.
Since its invention in 1942, cyanoacrylate, better known as super glue, has become one of the world’s most popular adhesives. It is used in homes, workplaces, and even hospitals — we all know how good it is at gluing skin!
Just a drop or two of Gorilla super glue will join ceramics, glass, paper, wood, metal, and most plastics. It comes with both a fine nozzle and a brush so it’s easy to apply, and sets without clamping in 10 to 45 seconds.
Get the Gorilla Super Glue at Amazon for $8.28.
Putting the finishing touches to kitchens, bathrooms, and other remodeling projects often means adding a bead of caulk to prevent leaks or drafts. A good caulking gun is essential for a smooth result.
The Newborn 250 caulking gun is a feature-packed, professional-quality tool. The 18:1 thrust ratio makes it easy to apply thin latex caulk, silicon, acrylics, and even thick butyl and cement. The revolving barrel will work at any angle. Heavy-duty construction provides excellent durability.
Get the Newborn 250 Super Smooth Caulking Gun at Amazon for $26.32.
Getting rid of household pests used to mean using toxic chemicals in powders, pellets, or sprays. An ultrasonic pest repeller offers an effective alternative that is safer for the family and deters without killing.
Neatmaster’s ultrasonic plug-in fits a standard household outlet and can provide coverage of up to 1,300 square feet in open areas (ultrasonics do not penetrate walls). Green, blue, and red modes are set for various levels of pest problems, though it is recommended the latter is only used when a house is unoccupied.
Get the Neatmaster Ultrasonic Pest Repeller at Amazon for $32.99.
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When precise height and length are important, nothing beats a laser measure. They are easy to use, consistently accurate, and can project over distances of a hundred feet or more.
Bosch has an unrivaled reputation for high-quality electronics. Their GLM50C laser distance measure is small enough to slip into a pocket, yet offers a big, clear display. It has 11 functions, can read to 1/16” for 165 feet, and has an inclinometer for angles. Bluetooth connectivity allows it to work with smartphones, and the free Bosch MeasureOn app.
Get the Bosch Blaze GLM50C Laser Distance Measure at Amazon for $126.59.
A dirty toilet bowl is a haven for germs, and damaging lime scale can build up, too. The best toilet cleaners make this unpleasant chore easier, and some reduce effort to an absolute minimum.
Lysol’s self-sticking gel is attached using a hygienic, touch-free applicator. With each flush, it cleans, freshens, and fights staining. There’s no cage to fill, and no visible hook. Each gel lasts up to two weeks, and there are six gels in each low-cost pack.
Get the Lysol Click Gel Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner at Amazon for $4.58.
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This was one of the surprises on our list, but a greater emphasis on water conservation and a recognition of the benefits of accurate watering for healthy plants have led to an increase in the popularity of soil moisture meters.
The Xlux soil moisture meter is simple and inexpensive, yet does everything it needs to do. It is ready to go straight out of the box, and doesn’t need batteries, charging, or calibration. It provides results both as a 10-point scale and on a color-coded dial. Readings in everything from potting compost to garden soil take just moments.
Get the XLUX soil moisture meter at Amazon for $24.99.
The best under cabinet lighting delivers directional illumination for kitchens and other work spaces while being discreet and offering flexible control.
The Litever Under Cabinet LED Lighting Kit offers all this and more. Up to six of the slender 12-inch units can be daisy-chained together, and are held in place by either adhesive pads or screws. A 0 to 100 percent rotary dimmer provides optimum brightness for every situation, and 2,000 lumens of warm white light is enough for even the darkest corner. For added versatility they can plug into a standard outlet or be hard wired.
Get the Litever Under Cabinet LED Lighting Kit at Amazon for $56.99.
Who hasn’t had the sole separate from an otherwise perfectly good shoe? This even happens to shoes that seem worn. Professional repair, when it can be found, is expensive. Fortunately a variety of very good shoe glues offer a quick and affordable fix.
Shoe-Fix Shoe Glue is a cyanoacrylate (super glue) specifically formulated for footwear, and soles in particular. The fine nozzle makes it easy to apply, and it dries in less than a minute. The bond is clear, waterproof, temperature resistant, and slightly flexible so the repair shouldn’t pull apart when moving.
Get the Shoe-Fix Shoe Glue at Amazon for $14.45.
Gutters can get filled with all kinds of debris. Blockages cause overflows that can lead to water getting into cellars or eating away at foundations. A good set of gutter guards is the year-round solution.
The stainless steel Raptor gutter guards are as functional as they are durable. The material won’t rust, and the exclusive V-Bend micro mesh design keeps out the smallest of seeds, while remaining rigid under heavier loads like wet leaves. Self-tapping screws and a magnetic hex head driver are included for fitting.
Get the Raptor Stainless Steel Gutter Guards at Amazon for $124.99.
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When heat is only required in one or two rooms, it can be much more economical to use a good space heater than to turn on central heating. Modern infrared models can be surprisingly powerful, and offer advanced controls for comfort and efficiency.
The Dr Infrared Portable Space Heater is a fine example. It can warm an area of up to 850 square feet, and four operating modes, a digital thermostat, and an adjustable timer allow owners to adjust output to suit varying environments. The fan is whisper-quiet, too, at just 39 decibels.
Get the Dr Infrared Portable Space Heater at Amazon for $129.99.
Houseplants don’t just look good, they can also improve air quality and have a positive impact on well being. However, without the natural nutrients they would get outdoors, they can soon become sickly. We need to add indoor fertilizer to maintain healthy growth.
The top pick among Bob Vila readers is Espoma Organic Concentrated Indoor Plant Food. The natural ingredients provide a balanced combination of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium without the common problem of overfeeding. A little goes a long way, with just 2 teaspoons of plant food per quart of water needed every 2 to 4 weeks.
Get the Espoma Organic Concentrated Indoor Plant Food at Amazon for $9.49.
Even a small hole or tear in leather clothing, furniture, or accessories can ruin the appearance or the protection the leather offers. A good leather repair kit allows owners to restore these items to their former appearance, and usefulness.
The kit from Fortivo is more comprehensive than most. It works on both real and faux leather, and all types of vinyl. It can repair burns, scratches, tears, and cracks. Seven intermixable colors allow for perfect hiding, and detailed instructions make it easy for beginners to achieve excellent results.
Get the Fortivo Leather and Vinyl Repair Kit at Amazon for $19.95.
Sooner or later, pretty much every homeowner will end up having to deal with a blocked toilet. Calling out the pros is one solution, but for a fraction of the price a good plunger is often all that’s needed.
That old rubber tool your grandpa had can be effective, but modern versions like the Korky Beehive MAX are more efficient and make life easier. The design provides an effective seal in all toilet bowl shapes, thus eliminating splash back. The telescopic T handle maximizes the plunging force, clearing blockages with minimum effort.
Get the Korky BeehiveMAX Toilet Plunger at Amazon for $19.98.
Proper nutrition is key to the growth of healthy flowers and vegetables. A soil test kit can give gardening enthusiasts important information about what’s going in their dirt with pH, moisture levels, and mineral content.
For those who want really precise details, the MySoil Soil Test Kit is the answer. Samples are gathered, then mailed to the company’s laboratory. Data about exact levels of pH and 13 plant nutrients are returned by email in about a week, complete with suggestions on how to fix any imbalances.
Get the MySoil Soil Test Kit at Amazon for $34.95.
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Vernier calipers have long been popular with engineers, machinists, and hobbyists who want to check dimensions with a high degree of accuracy. However, traditional scales could be difficult to read. Modern digital calipers solve the problem with clear LCD displays.
Our top pick from Clockwise Tools is made from durable stainless steel, and is pre-calibrated for use on arrival. It can measure to one thousandth of an inch, with results displayed in inches, millimeters, or fractions. The screen is resistant to dust and water to the IP54 standard. It even includes a spare battery.
Get the Clockwise Tools Electronic Digital Caliper at Amazon for $25.31.
Removing stains from clothes and upholstery can be difficult, and expensive. Fabric protectors are a proactive option, providing a water-resistant layer that makes spills easy to wipe away.
Among the better-known brands for fabric protection is Scotchgard. Their Fabric Water Shield comes in a convenient spray can, and provides an effective barrier that is invisible, unscented, and doesn’t impact the feel of the material. It is safe on silk and wool, and each treatment lasts for up to 60 days.
Get the Scotchgard Fabric Water Shield at Amazon for $13.28.
The inclusion of hose nozzles on our list is another indicator of how important proper watering and water conservation have become. The best hose nozzles allow accurate control so plants get what they need without waste.
The Green Mount hose nozzle was the top pick among Bob Vila visitors. The non-slip pistol grip and large trigger make it easy to handle. There are six spray choices, from pressure jet to delicate mist. The body is made of impact-resistant ABS plastic, with a durable metal head and hose fitting.
Get the Green Mount New Patent Garden Hose Nozzle at Amazon for $18.95.
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Microfiber mops were something of a revolution in household cleaning when introduced, and their effectiveness has made them hugely popular. The variety of mops available means there are models for all kinds of cleaning challenges.
The Mr.Siga Professional Microfiber Mop works both wet and dry. The 360-degree head holds reusable double-sided pads with different textures for washing or scrubbing, and a fringe that generates static to pick up dust. There’s also a special tool to remove hair and dirt from the pad, which reduces the number of times the pads need to be changed and cleaned.
Get the MR.SIGA Professional Microfiber Mop at Amazon for $28.98.
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According to the CDC, radon gas is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking cigarettes. It is invisible and odorless, so the only way to know whether home or work environments are safe is with a radon test kit or monitor.
The top choice among our readers was the Airthings Corentium Home Radon Detector, the first battery-powered portable device of its kind. It provides continuous monitoring anywhere it is needed. Initial results for radon levels appear in 24 hours. It can then report short-term averages weekly, and long-term averages every two months.
Get the Airthings Corentium Home Radon Detector at Amazon for $179.99.
The prices listed here are accurate as of publication on Dec. 23, 2022.