Five things you should repair instead of replace.

by Katy on April 15, 2016 · 36 comments

5 things you should repair instead of replace

The following post also appears over at today.

Consumer goods are so cheap these days, you may assume that it’s better to buy new instead of repair. But that’s not necessarily the case. Sure, your community may no longer include the mom and pop economy that once supported cobblers, TV repairmen and tailors, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to throw away your easily repaired belongings. Whether you’re taking advantage of a warranty or attempting a DIY repair at home, you can save yourself a ton of cash.

Cell phone screens

Judging by how many of us have shattered our cell phone screens, you’d think they came coated in melted butter. Luckily a broken cell screen is no death sentence. Before you take it as an opportunity to upgrade your phone or hire out the task, you’d be smart to investigate this repair as a DIY job. The website sells iPhone repair kits ranging from the first generation to the latest 6s Plus. For a relatively low price you receive tools, supplies and access to a detailed YouTube video that simplifies the repair enough for us laypeople. Have a Android, not an iPhone? You can order repair kits for those as well!

Anything fabric

Grandma might’ve had the skills to turn a collar and could likely outfit a wagonload of kids in homemade clothing without batting an eye, but even you can accomplish at least a few simple mending tasks. As long as you have YouTube and a needle and thread, you can replace a missing button, resew a opened seam or stitch a hem back up. Your rudimentary sewing skills can also serve beyond the wardrobe, as towels and sheets can often be brought back to life with nothing more than a few simple stitches. (I cannot be the only one whose binding comes undone on her otherwise perfectly good towels!) A few discreet stitches can often keep a small tear or loose seam from becoming an unfixable disaster. Have a sewing job that’s beyond your abilities? Ask your local dry cleaner, who can usually tackle the job.

Luggage and purses

Whether it’s a busted zipper or a loose liner, purses and luggage are definitely worth repairing. Most dry cleaners can easily fix zippers or liners, but you might want to first look up the warranty on your product, as many manufacturers guarantee their products and will repair or even replace their damaged items for free.


Whether you’re a diehard sneakerhead or just a smart consumer who gets irritated when their shoes fall apart, Shoe Goo is the product for you. Described as “ideal for fixing worn soles or damaged heels,” this $5.99 tube of adhesive can lengthen the life of your shoes and help you keep your hard earned money in your pocket. There’s enough in each tube for multiple repairs, so it’ll pay for itself in no time flat.

Wood furniture

It’s not uncommon for old wood furniture to look like it needs to be replaced, when really all it requires is a bit of TLC. You don’t need your own PBS show to complete the task, as a coat of Old English Scratch Cover can hide unsightly nicks and scratches to restore great aunt Ethel’s armoire. Prefer a funky modern look? Locate some bargain Habitat ReStore paint to channel your inner artist and bring new life to an old piece of furniture. (Check out this scrappy curbside table that I transformed a few years ago!) Chances are that your worn looking wooden furniture is higher quality than anything you’ll find at a mass retailer, so it’s worth it to put a few hours into refurbishing.


Don’t view a torn or broken item as an opportunity to buy new, instead look at it as an opportunity to show off your impressive DIY skills. Modern day consumer goods are so cheap that it’s tempting to replace instead of repair, but you’ll actually save money (and help the environment) by choosing to extend the life of your belongings. Keep your money for the things that really matter.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

marie April 15, 2016 at 9:04 am

Very timely post.
My digital camera won’t open the lens after dropping it in the sand.
Everyone says just buy a new one. But I like this camera, and need to find someplace that can open it up, and clean it out. I know it’s just a particle or so of sand, because sometimes it works.


AFS April 15, 2016 at 3:26 pm

I took a broken point & shoot camera to be repaired and the quote was more than a new camera would cost. In your case I’d attempt to pry it open myself. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, the worst that could happen is you’d break it, but it doesn’t work now so go for it.


Ruby April 15, 2016 at 9:22 am

Seconding the timeliness of your post/article. Last weekend, we took my old but still working nicely smart phone to a cell repair shop to get the failing battery replaced, which cost $35 and some change for the part, labor and tax. It took the tech less than 20 minutes to do it. That’s way less than “upgrading” to a new phone at $300.


Jennifer April 15, 2016 at 9:42 am

Love these ideas! IFixit offers free repair kits from time to time. I have one stowed away for an emergency. I’m going to pick up some of the shoe stuff next time I have a blowout. FYI download your FFD from Kroger, it’s yummy Tostito’s cheese dip. Also, it’s National Park week so admission to any National Park is free from April16-24. Won’t help me any because we have a camping trip planned but maybe it will help some of you!


dusty April 16, 2016 at 3:24 am

Thanks for the info on the national parks. Tomorrow sounds like a great day to go to the Canaveral National Seashore (Florida) for a swim and hike.


Jennifer April 16, 2016 at 4:11 am

Yw! Sounds like fun!


nancy from mass April 15, 2016 at 10:34 am

I have a 30 or so year old receiver that I absolutely love. for some reason, the right speaker connection wasn’t working. I googled everything I could and after a lot of searching, found a posting from someone else having an issue with their receiver. I bought a can of air, took my unit apart and emptied the can into the unit and speaker connection area. Put the receiver back together, crossed my fingers and IT WORKED! there is no way i could replace my wonderful technics receiver and it would have cost a fortune if i could find someone to fix it for me. I have a weird issue with my cd player now so i have been googling and you-tubing videos to see if i can figure out what is wrong with that.
I always try and repair things myself before going to a pro. The time spent on google is usually well spent when you can find a $5 (or free) fix for an item.


Chris April 15, 2016 at 10:51 am

Shoo goo – yay! Best stuff ever, kept my kids’ shoes together many times while they were growing up! (And they were very hard on shoes!)


Felicity April 15, 2016 at 11:47 am

Nice list!

I didn’t realize dry cleaners would fix luggage or purse zippers! For leather purses, bags, or belts, shoe repair places can often help out with any issues as well. (in addition to, you know, shoe repairs beyond patching with shoe goo) 🙂

This weekend I’ll be patching up some perfectly good pants!


Vickie April 15, 2016 at 1:38 pm

We had a the screen replaced on a laptop for my daughter. I think the glass was around $50 and the labor was free. Cheaper than a new one.
Last year I had the handle on my purse resewn at a shoe repair shop. It’s getting frayed again. I may just find some washie tape and see if it will hold.
I need to mend some of my socks. I’m going to look on YouTube and see if there’s a darning video. I’ve never repaired a sock before.
A few years ago I repaired some loose hems and buttons on some of my favorite blouses, before we went on vacation. It pays to repair, instead of replace. I’ve had some of those blouses for several years now. They go nicely with black and khaki slacks or shorts.


WilliamB April 15, 2016 at 1:42 pm

Don’t forget cloth covered or stuffed furniture. I wanted to reupholster some chairs on which the fabric was tattered. People said I was crazy, that reupholstering is just as expensive as new. To me, that’s an argument for reupholstering! I get the chairs I like so much, with a lot less work than searching for and buying new, and I keep something out of the trash. A win all around.

And you know what? Reupholstering was only about half the cost of new.


Rosanne April 15, 2016 at 3:13 pm

I am so glad you chose to reupholster! Having worked for years in a drapery/upholstery shop, I can say there are many times it is more advantageous to reupholster rather than buy new. If you have an old down filled Baker sofa that got handed down, please reupholster it! Older furniture tends to be of better quality- think hand tied construction and hardwoods. I have seen what some of the newer Pottery Barn furniture looks like opened up, and believe me, it is %&#@. When I have told customers their broken Crate and Barrel chair is not worth re-doing, they say “But I paid so much! And it is only a couple years old!” A chair should not break in only a couple years. Well made furniture will last a couple lifetimes. Even if buying new is a bit cheaper, I would still consider upholstering older pieces if the style suits you.


Rosanne April 15, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Oh, and don’t get me started on my IKEA rant. It gets ugly.


WilliamB April 22, 2016 at 1:54 pm

I’ll join you there. My kitchen was created from IKEA stuff and the ordering was a disaster. It took 8 tries to get everything ordered. Just two examples: the first order sat on someone’s desk for over 3 weeks, till the contractor called to find out what happened; the stovetop was left on the loading dock. Twice.

Strangely, my inexpensive IKEA dressers have lasted over 15 years and 3-4 moves. I expected to replace them long before now but as long as they’re holding up, they’re in my room.


Is it a need or a want April 15, 2016 at 3:37 pm

I had a doorbell that played 30+’tunes. Happy Birthday, a round of Christmas Carols, Hava Nagila, auld Lang syne , etc. When it died I had an electrician friend look at it then send me back in time to a hole in the wall shop run by a little old man in a white lab coat surrounded by numerous electronics , mainly from the 60’s and 70’s. Best $$ spent for the entertainment value this doorbell,gives to all who visit. I looked at retail and ebay there was nothing close to what this doorbell does:)

I have blessed others by offering a “mending” day when my relatives can bring over articles that generally just need seam mending with a sewing machine.

One of my kids asked for shoe polish items, mink oil, brush polish, etc (that I purchased from a neighbourhood independent shoe cobbler) for Christmas.

Many items sold at Ten Thousand Villages are recycled items shaped into new purposes like jewelry. The sales are Fairtrade and support so many artisans in other parts of the world.


Stacy April 16, 2016 at 9:08 am

I love that shop Ten Thousand Villages!


TJ April 15, 2016 at 4:26 pm

At my place of work, I put the word out that I did sewing on the side. I have a repair job almost weekly, and since I charge a LOT less than the dry cleaner, I get return business. I have been sewing since I was 13, at my mother’s machine. I am so grateful she taught me. It is nice to be able to do for my co-workers at reasonable prices, and I save the money earned for my pin money at the thrift shops! (I charge $2 to hem a pair of pants for example).


LisaC April 16, 2016 at 10:47 am

I wish I worked with you! Where I live its 10 dollars.


Bellen April 15, 2016 at 4:34 pm

I can repair any clothing, I think, with just a little effort. I can darn but I don’t wear socks often enough to make holes. I can shorten long sleeved shirts by removing the cuff & placket and then replacing after trimming the sleeve to the proper length. Zippers, no problem. I invested about $10 in heavy duty needles, upholstery thread and a thing-a-majig to use when sewing over seams on jeans. Since I’m only 5′ tall even petite sizes need to be shortened and my husband has short legs so his pants need it too. A little bit of work, a little money invested and lots of money saved.

And, I bought, at thrift store, a Hallmark mug for $1 with the phrase “Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or Do without”. And that $1, is twice what I would normally pay but it’s worth it 🙂


Marcia April 15, 2016 at 5:34 pm

I make a specialty, practically, of mending towels! They always unravel on the edges and seams and the threads break. Normally I run a row of stitches down and back up the seam , covering every spot twice. I find I can get a minimum of two more years use out of them after mending. Works for wash cloths too. And then, of course, after they do wear out, you use the good places on the towels to put inside your pot holders that you make yourself. Denim makes a good outer fabric with the towel fabric inside. Old ironing board covers in the middle of the potholder sandwich can keep your hands from getting burned too. Strangely, the same is not true of sheets–by the time sheets need mending, they are normally so thin that it’s hardly worth the trouble.
I have sewed many items for relatives and co-workers. If you don’t have a sewing machine, I don’t know how you get along without spending a lot of money. My friend’s husband ripped the whole outside seam of a hunting coverall the first weekend he wore it. Took five minutes or less to fix it but she had no idea what she would have done if I hadn’t sewed it for her.


Bellen April 17, 2016 at 4:46 pm

I have cut out the middle of queen fitted sheets (from top to bottom) resewn and made a fitted twin sheet for the kids. Have also made pillow cases from worn sheets, crib sheets reusing not just the sheet but the elastic, summer pjs adding some other fabric for trim.


Juhli April 16, 2016 at 3:15 am

How timely. We like to repair and have found the internet great for sourcing parts. I am sitting in a comfy office chair but one of the armrests has a split and being vinyl was catching on our clothes. The replacement armrests arrived yesterday and will be installed today. We also were able to find replacement kitchen cabinet hinges online as ours keep breaking one at a time. I have also found the odd shaped plastic slide in thingy for the bottom of the shower door online. Good measurements and sometimes a photo enlarged to make sure you order the right thing help.


Drasa April 16, 2016 at 6:47 am

Our favorite repair to date is when the hydraulic lift thingies went out on our Chevy’s back door. We bought them online and with a provided youtube video replaced them for under $40! It was super easy too!
My fail repair is when we tried to recharge our own car freon…that was a sad day. 🙁


LisaC April 16, 2016 at 11:24 am

You tube videos are awesome for learning how to do pretty much anything.


Allison April 16, 2016 at 9:05 am

My husband busted a wheel on a suitcase a few years ago, and he wanted to toss the bag! I found a local luggage repair place that replaced the wheel for $30 (which actually seemed expensive, but, the bag would have been over $100 to replace). It’s been 3 or 4 years and the bag has been fine ever since. But now I know we can use youtube/google to replace the wheel ourselves next time for much cheaper!


Is it a need or a want April 16, 2016 at 7:43 pm

I bought Briggs and Riley off Ebay. They have a lifetime warranty. You do not have to be the original owner. I had a wheel replaced that had been ripped out.


LisaC April 16, 2016 at 10:48 am

Our best repair story is when hubs dropped something on the fin of our car, which was also the brake light. We searched online, found the part, and he installed it himself. He is NOT a mechanical guy, so he was pretty proud of himself!


Chessie April 16, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Great tips! The screen on my cell phone stopped working although it had no visible damage. It was under warranty, but the seller chalked it up to “accident/damage” even though I was not aware of having done anything. I despaired until I found my exact model of cell phone, refurbished, for $20 on eBay. Boom, done, and it has been working great for months.


Diane April 17, 2016 at 4:21 am

Today as storms approach I am repairing sheets, towels and sox with mending. I had thought of replacing both, but decided since I am inside due to bad weather to get out my sewing machine and do some repairs. The towels are frayed along the edges so I will add some fabric binding, The sheets need edges sewn back together and I will darn the heels of the sox.

Money saved to go into paying down debt!


LisaC April 17, 2016 at 4:24 am

Sometimes its worth bartering or paying someone local to repair things, too. I can’t sew worth a darn (get it Katie, haha). I tried to repair a nice dress and make it a little more modest as well, and it ended up fitting really funky. I’m leaving alterations to the pros.


Laurie May 17, 2016 at 7:42 am

My husband and I are big believers in trying to repair things before purchasing new. We have fixed our television, clothes dryer, vacuum cleaner, vehicles, various pieces of furniture on our own – but wouldn’t hesitate calling a professional if there was something that we don’t have experience with. Great information, thanks for sharing!


Marie Watson July 12, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Katy, thanks for pointing out some things that are better to repair rather than replace. I didn’t realize that it could be so easy to repair sneakers and other shoes. I would think that it can be much more affordable to fix a pair of shoes than it would be to buy a brand new pair. My husband has a pair of running shoes and dress shoes that are in pretty bad shape. I will have to see if there is any place in our area for me to have them repaired.


Sarah Smith August 11, 2016 at 12:21 pm

I had no idea that you could get your shoes repaired. Another thing you could do is to take your shoes to a professional to get them fixed so that you know they will last a long time. Thanks for the advice about what to get repaired instead of replaced.


Kendall Ryder September 22, 2016 at 6:18 am

If your sneaker, or other style of shoe, is damaged, you can also think about going to get them professionally fixed. That way, you can prolong the life of the shoe. If it was an expensive shoe, or just one you really love, it would be wonderful to be able to keep it. So, instead of throwing it out, think about getting it repaired!


Braden Bills May 8, 2017 at 8:51 am

My phone screen is cracked, and I don’t know what to do about it. It makes sense that I would want to get it fixed! It might be best for me to have a professional handle that for me. I don’t want to risk making things worse.


Cameron Bennett December 4, 2017 at 10:36 am

I like that you mention using shoe glue for your sneakers. It’s a simple fix that can make a big difference. When it comes to other problems that glue can’t fix on a shoe, I think it’s worth taking your shoes to a shoe repair shop and get them fixed. It’s always worth it because you extend the lifespan of your shoe, which saves you money that you would have used on a new pair.


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