how to repair everything

The recent Right to Repair Act alas excluded phones and laptops, so the big tech companies can still sell you expensive repair kits, unless you buy a more sustainable smartphone (that doesn’t glue things in, so you can’t repair them). For everything else, it helps to learn how to make simple repairs, so that you’re not at the mercy of the Argos salesperson who (it’s their job, don’t blame them) asks you if you’d like to spend a few pounds more on a warranty, assuming you won’t be able to fix a kettle:

I was given a kettle, which now leaks. I could mend it. If only I could tighten the base. But one of the screws has a star-shaped slot with a spike in the middle, which is designed to prevent repairs, as no available tool will fit it. So I will throw it away, and help to build an earthly paradise, by buying a new one. George Monbiot

How to Repair Everything is a wonderful green guide to fixing stuff. Just look up what you need to repair and find simple tips to get you out of a jam. The contents is all at the front, so it’s easy to find out how to repair anything including:

  1. Sticky doors
  2. Broken handbag straps
  3. Leaky washing machines
  4. Broken heels

what is the Right to Repair Act?

The Right to Repair Act was signed into UK law in 2021, to make it a legal obigation for companies making items like washing machines, fridge/freezers, dishwashers and televisions to make repair information and spare parts available (including to professional repairers for more complicated jobs) for up to 10 years after purchase? The law was created to help stop the 300,000 tons of electrical waste being thrown out by UK households and businesses each year. Sounds good? Not so quick.

As with anything, there are gaping big caveats. The law excludes the repair of laptops and mobile phones, nor some other goods like cookers, hobs, microwaves or tumble dryers. Which as we known contribute massively to the e-waste mountain. In Norway, a one-man repair shop lost an epic 3-year battle with Apple (despite local people funding his court bills) after he used to repair their goods ‘without permission’ and using the official parts. The new law in the UK still lets manufacturers charge for spare parts (and has not removed VAT for professional repairs).

So in many cases, it still costs more to repair goods than to buy them new. And most people these days can’t afford to do this, even if they would like to. The new law also unbelievably prohibits some volunteer-run repair cafes from access to professional repair manuals. And all this in a country that produces more e-waste per person in the world, bar Norway.

Recently Apple signed up the new California Right to Repair Act, signed in by Californian governor Gavin Newsome. But techy reviewers note that the new iPhone only has four components that can be replaced without impacting the way it functions. iFixit found iPhone 15 ‘riddled with software locks’ if parts were not replaced with Apple-purchased parts.

The iPhone is the market leader, but Apple is trailing the pack on repairability. This gap is completely self-inflicted, with a perfectly servicable hardware design sabotaged by an incredibly complex regime of parts pairing, and cloud calibrations. It’s time for Apple to start thinking differently. iFixit

how to start your own repair cafe

It’s likely best to throw out dodgy goods like broken Christmas lights. But for textiles and non-electrical goods, you don’t have to wait to appear as a guest on BBC’s Repair Shop, as you likely have community volunteers who are waiting for you to turn up, to repair what’s broken.

If you don’t have one, you can set one up using the one-off low-cost digital starter kit at Repair Cafe International. This covers everything from how to set one up to legal obligations and marketing kits. First started in the Netherlands, today there are repair cafes worldwide. You also get a unique code to order the Repair Café toolkit, only paying shipping costs. Find tips and tricks to repair goods, if safe to do so from clocks to furniture (you can even learn how to safely sharpen knives and scissors).

Kibosh is a quick way to repair leaky pipes, invented by a qualified plumber. Whether the pipe bursts due to frost, accidental perforation or being old, just fit the clamp around a leaking or burst pipe, and clamp it shut. Once fitted, the Kibosh can be kept in use until a permanent repair can be arranged. It’s also reusable, with no tools needed.

heat-activated mending sticks

Fixits are innovative heat-activated sticks that are made from nontoxic bio-plastic, and mould to mend anything from a tire puncture to a broken spoke on a wheel. Designed to stop the mountain of waste, they can fix almost anything from broken bag straps to cables and drawers. Just melt them in hot water and remould.

Keep FixIt sticks away from children and pets. Do not use FixIts on electrical cables above 24 volts, nor where temperature will cause FixIts to soften again (exposing live wiring). Do not repair consumer electronics when connected to a live electricity supply.

With no expiry date, these are the ideal solution to our throwaway culture. Don’t bin it, when you can FixIt! The product uses reusable bioplastics to bond (not to glass but yes to fabric). It wraps around small fibres when soft, then hardens when cool to mechanically bond. It forms a ‘really strong grip’.

The same company makes reusable glue dots, also from compostable bio-plastic. These are super-strong to stick to non-porous surfaces like wood, metal, plastic, concrete, tiles and glass. Use them to reseal food packages and fix down rugs or tablecloths. One pack contains 30 glue dots (just peel and push in place). To reuse, just remove, wash with warm soapy water, then leave to dry to use again. They are very strong, so avoid on painted or wallpapered surfaces.

The company also makes reusable tape that are compatible with FixIts sticks. Use it to stick cables under your desk, keep rugs and tablescloths in place or mount objects to walls. It sticks to smooth surfaces, and peels off without a trace. Effective even in small amounts, it’s washable and comes in a bamboo pouch for easy storage.

where to find zero waste vegan glue

Glue is likely used by everyone at some point or another. It’s one of those items that likely hangs around the house, whether you use a Pritt Stick to glue paper or industrial glue to bond something in the garage. You’ve likely that glue is made from horses (this used to be the case years ago when most glue was made from animal-collagen). Today horses are not used, but you can still find glues from cattle and pig collagen (and some glues are sold in tins with pig-hair bristles).

Keep all glues (even natural ones) away from children and animals (supervise older childrenKeep flour-water glue (dough) away from pets, as it can expand in the stomach. 

You can make glue from plants, and the materials used can include tree sap and natural rubber, or you can even make a simple glue just by mixing flour and wheat with water, to stick paper together. But of course industry use chemicals, which is why addicts even sniff glue for the vapours, which causes brain damage and eventual death. Many liquid glues then go onto to contaminate soil and groundwater, when disposed of. Recently eco protestors were criticised, when they stuck themselves to the road with superglue (contains toxic chemicals).

Coccoina Stick is an almond-scented glue stick from Italy. It’s toxic-free but unfortunately most stores online sell the tin version, which includes a brush with pig bristles (likely killed to make the brush). This is a good stick alternative that only costs £2 or so.

OkoNorm Eco Paper Glue is likely the best you can get for now, made from starch-based plant-based ingredients. It’s water-soluble and washable and good for paper, cardboard and fibrous materials. Odourless and transparent. It can also be made for self-made stickers.

Auro is made from latex milk and natural resins to bond lino, cork, textiles, carpet and ceramic tiles, using an easy toothed spatula application, just apply to the service, smooth over and roll, then rework after 20 to 30 minutes. You can also use it to glue natural carpet packing. Wash tools after use and dispose of according to instructions. Not for floors in wet areas (kitchens, bathrooms).

The main solution here is to recycle all the toxic glue that’s still around, because if you live a simple life, you likely don’t really use much new glue. TerraCycle runs a program where for around £100 (everyone can pitch in with £1 say in an office or two), people can drop off all their empty and unused craft glues and empty packaging, use the pre-paid UPS shipping label already on the box, and everything is sent off to be made into other items. Some of their programs are free (sponsored by industry). This one isn’t, but you can kind of think of it as a one-off amnesty to rid your area of toxic glue sticks and litter. They have to charge for items not sponsored, because the company has to cover the cost of ‘recycling items that can’t be recycled’.

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