Hennepin County’s Guide to Fix-It Repair: Clothes, Home, Electronics
In a world of fast fashion and rapid technological change, it’s easy to dismiss the idea of fixing items that need repair. We feel like we don’t have the skills to fix broken items. Or we don’t know where to take them for repair. Worse yet, it might not even occur to us that our items can even BE repaired!
But the truth is, we can perform a lot of fixes ourselves. And if you need help, Hennepin County has lots of resources to assist you, or perform the repair for you.
When a possession of yours breaks or for whatever reason stops working, it’s always a good idea to pause before you haul it out to the trash bin and ask yourself: Can this be repaired? The benefit for you is you’ll probably save money vs. what you’d spend to replace the item with a new one. The benefit to the planet is that you’ll keep a usable good out of the trash, while reducing demand for new items.
That’s the power of reuse: We send less waste to landfills and incinerators, and we conserve the resources that go into manufacturing, packaging, transporting and disposing of new goods that we don’t actually need.
This guide covers three broad categories of goods that are too often disposed of when they could be repaired – easily, economically and quickly.
Hennepin County Fix-It Clinics
Get help with your broken stuff and learn valuable repair skills at free Fix-It Clinics.
Fix-It Clinics offer free, guided assistance from volunteers with repair skills to disassemble, troubleshoot, and (hopefully) fix small household appliances, clothing, electronics, mobile devices and more. Fix-It Clinics teach valuable troubleshooting and basic repair skills, build community connections and reduce the number of repairable items that are thrown in the trash.
Beginning June 10, 2022, we are resuming in-person Fix-It Clinics. Volunteers and staff are required to be vaccinated. Participants and volunteers are not required to wear masks, but they are allowed to wear a mask if they choose, based on their own personal circumstances.
Hennepin County requests that attendees who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms not attend. Hennepin County does not require attendees to have received a COVID-19 vaccination in order to attend. Attendees who have received a COVID-19 vaccination must still comply with all safety precautions.
For more information about Hennepin County Fix-It Clinics, visit our website, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 612-348-9195.
Fix-it strategies for clothing
By repairing damaged clothing instead of throwing it out, you’re helping to tackle a massive waste problem. After all, the U.S. produces over 17 million tons of textile waste every year, according to the EPA. This amount has doubled over the last 20 years. Worse yet, a lot of clothes take decades to degrade in landfills, and in the process, they emit greenhouse gases and release plastics and other chemicals into the soil and water. Then consider the resources that go into making new clothes. It takes thousands of gallons of water, for example, to produce just one t-shirt and pair of jeans.*
A powerful action you can take to reduce waste is to extend your clothes’ useful life. Wear them out before you throw them out. If you have an article that gets torn, ask yourself if it can be mended. If you lose a button or break a zipper, can it be fixed? Lots of times the answer is yes!
DIY clothing repair
Here are some common issues that you almost certainly have the ability to tackle yourself – with maybe a little help from the Internet.
Sew on a button
It’s a good idea to examine your buttons periodically because most of the time they become loose before they fall off, and it’s easier to resecure a button than to replace one. If you DO find that a button is missing, check if there’s a replacement somewhere on the garment. Lots of shirts and pants have spare buttons stashed inside the waistband, cuffs or button placket. If you need to purchase a new button, go to a craft or fabric store with the garment to find a matching button. Get your needle and thread. And follow these simple directions (YouTube) to attach the new button.
Fix torn seams
Splits happen. That doesn’t mean your garment is done for; it means it’s time for some minor surgery. So gather some thread that matches the article of clothing, along with a needle, scissors and thimble (to protect your finger if you need to push a needle through a thick fabric like denim). The actual mending of the seam can challenge an unskilled sewer, but this video (YouTube) does a great job of illustrating the required steps and stitches.
Replace a drawstring
It’s super irritating when a drawstring pulls out of your hoodie or sweatpants, but it’s super easy to address the problem. All you need is a safety pin and this video (YouTube).
Sew a hem
This is something you can do by hand or with a sewing machine, and is an effective way to shorten too-long garments, finish unraveled edges, and put a professional-looking finish on tablecloths, curtains and other items. Here’s a detailed tutorial (YouTube).
Patch a hole
Along with the fabric you’re going to use for patching, this requires fabric shears, thread that matches your patch, a needle, ruler, pins and iron. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but you should be able to master it with the help of this video (YouTube).
Darn a sock
Most socks develop holes long before the fabric actually wears away, so darning your socks can extend their life significantly. You’ll need a darning needle, embroider floss and something called a “darning mushroom” (actually, a tennis ball will do just fine – or any rounded object that you can stretch the sock over while performing the procedure). Once you’ve got your tools, this video (YouTube) will show you what to do with them.
Fixing zipper issues
A number of problems can affect zipper performance. One of the most common issues occurs when the slider jumps to one side of the zipper. If you have a zipper that has jumped the rail, check out this video (YouTube). Or maybe you have a zipper that’s in place, but isn’t actually sealing the two sides. In that case, this video (YouTube) illustrates a simple fix.
More video resources
A simple Google search will help you zero in on solutions to a wide variety of problems. A great example of a useful site for clothing repair is Ifixit.com. Here you’ll find a wide variety of videos addressing a vast range of topics.
Hennepin County repair resources for clothing
We are fortunate to have many resources for clothing repair in Hennepin County. Here are a few that you can find through our own Choose to Reuse site.
Sew Biz Tailoring Inc.
706 2nd Avenue South #145
Minneapolis, MN 55402
Specializing in: Clothing alterations, hemming, sewing service, reweaving, tailoring service, clothing restyling, clothing repairs, leather repair, dress alterations
Bloomington Dry Cleaners
9818 Nicollet Avenue
Bloomington, MN 55420
Specializing in: Repairs and alterations
Patagonia Worn Wear
Specializing in: Repair of Patagonia brand goods
Specializing in: Outdoor clothing and camping equipment
Fix-it strategies for electronics
Think electronics repair is beyond you? A lot of manufacturers would like you to believe that because they sell more goods when people replace broken electronics instead of getting them fixed.
The truth is, a lot of items can be repaired. Some you can repair yourself, others can be fixed fairly easily by qualified technicians.
You might ask, why go to the trouble when lots of electronics items don’t cost that much to replace? One big reason to repair vs. replace is that manufacturing new electronics uses up precious natural resources, and disposing of unwanted electronics generates huge amounts of “e-waste.” A lot of the metals and chemicals that go into electronics gear contaminate our soil and leach into the water supply.
Adding to the problem: It’s expensive to recycle e-waste properly. Even in places with strong environmental laws, those procedures are often not followed. The best way for us to make real progress in addressing e-waste is to create less of it in the first place. So if you’re able to repair an electronics item, our planet will thank you for your efforts!
DIY electronics repair
There are countless kinds of electronics, and countless issues that can cause them to stop performing as intended. Most manufacturers’ websites will have troubleshooting sections that include some easy fixes, as well as customer service telephone numbers that connect you to a product specialist or technician.
In many cases, you can simply google the product name and model number and the word “repair,” and you’ll be connected to a fix-it resource.
IFixit.com devotes an entire section to electronics repair, with categories that include:
- Bluetooth speakers
- Computer hardware
- Game consoles
- Home theater & audio equipment
- Mobile devices
Hennepin County repair resources for electronics
If you have an electronics item that needs repairs beyond those you can perform on your own, your first course of action should be to contact the seller. Even if the product is no longer under warranty, repair services may be offered. If that is not the case, there are a number of resources in Hennepin County that may be able to fix your device. Here are a few that you can find through our own Choose to Reuse site.
13732 83rd Way North
Maple Grove, MN 55369
Specializes in: Cellphones, laptops, tablets
The Box Shop – Dirt Cheap Computers
9040 Lyndale Avenue South
Bloomington, MN 55420
Specializes in: Computers, cell phones, printers, tablets and portable electronics
Fixology (2 Hennepin County locations)
Specializes in: Jewelry, watch and battery, clock, cell phone, tablet/iPad, Apple watch and eyeglass frames
Mall of America
3rd level next to Nordstrom
390 North Garden
Bloomington, MN 55425
Six Quebec Building (Skyway level)
601 S. Marquette Avenue, Ste. 218
Minneapolis, MN 55402
825 Boone Avenue N
Golden Valley, MN 55427
Specializes in: Laptops, PCs, tablet repair
Vintage Music Company
1820 E. 38th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Specializes in: Turntables, hand-wound phonographs, home tube audio equipment, including console or tabletop radio/phonograph combinations, portable record players, antique radios (no transistorized equipment)
Fix-it strategies for home
Home repair is an industry in itself, and for every problem you have, skilled technicians are available to address them. But before you set up an appointment with a pro, consider the possibility that you can handle the fix on your own. The internet abounds with DIY resources, from downloadable manuals to step-by-step videos.
DIY home repair
Here are some common issues you almost certainly have the ability to tackle yourself – with maybe a little help from the Internet.
Unclog a dishwasher that is not draining
If your dishwasher isn’t draining, there are a number of methods you can try to unclog it. First, you’ll want to test the drain. If it’s blocked, then the dishwasher itself is probably fine. You’ll also want to remove any standing water in the dishwasher, then check the dishwasher filter. If it’s removable, remove it and clean it, because matter and food particles may be obstructing the flow of water. Beyond just clearing the water filter, you may want to give it a significant refresh with a vinegar and baking soda treatment. If the problem persists, you should also check the drain hose. In many cases, this will be enough to solve the problem. Here’s a resource with more detail.
Repairing a faucet washer
Leaky faucets are one of the most common household repairs, and the culprit is often a deteriorated washer. You may be surprised to learn that according to the EPA, the average home wastes about 11,000 gallons of water every year due to leaks and drips. That’s bad news for the environment and your wallet. But the good news is that washers are relatively easy to replace. Here’s a resource with information about washer replacement.
Repairing a running toilet
Most toilets today aren’t very different from the first flushing toilets – which means that fixing a running toilet should be well within most people’s capabilities. Typically, the problem is a defective flapper, or rubber stopper that lifts to release water into the bowl. It’s possible, however, the problem owes to your fill tube, toilet float or fill valve. Here’s how to handle these issues.
Before you tell yourself you need a new dryer, there are a few steps you can take that might return your dryer to peak performance. First, you can clean out the dryer ventilation system with a dryer vent cleaning brush. They cost about $20. But what if the dryer isn’t spinning or heating at all? In that case, you may need a new thermal fuse. They’re inexpensive, and the process of changing it out isn’t that complicated, as you can see in this video (YouTube).
Clear a jammed garbage disposal
They’re loud. They have blades. Garbage disposals are kind of scary. Most of the time, however, you can clear up a clog with little more than a flashlight, quarter-inch Allen wrench and some pliers. Sometimes simply hitting the reset button will fix the problem. This video illustrates three easy methods to clear out a disposal (YouTube).
Additional video resources
IFixit.com devotes an entire section to video tutorials about household repair, with categories that include:
- Household items
- Lawn and garden
- Musical instruments
- Sporting goods
Hennepin County resources for home repair
When you have a home repair that’s too complex to handle on your own, odds are there’s a qualified repair person who can solve the problem for you. Here are some resources that you can find through Hennepin County’s own Choose to Reuse site.
Sewing machine repair
Hardware / tools repair & rental
Jewelry & watches
Sporting goods / outdoor equipment / bikes
Shoe / leather repair
Vacuum cleaner repair
Additional repair resources
Hennepin County residents are also provided free access to two large databases with a wealth of repair information:
Automotive diagnostic and repair information, Technical Service Bulletins, and printable wiring diagrams. Goes back to 1982. Best viewed using Internet Explorer or Firefox. Note: This resource is available only to users inside a Hennepin County Library location.
Subscription purchased by the Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA), with funding from state and federal tax revenues.
SAMS Photofact Online
Schematics and repair information on electronic products for models going back to 1946. Accessible using your Hennepin County library card and 4-digit PIN.
Need a library card? Go here: www.hclib.org/about/library-cards
Subscription purchased with funding from Hennepin County property taxes.
Home repair loans
Hennepin County offers loans of up to $30,000 for home repairs and maintenance. These are zero percent interest loans, with no monthly payments. Loans may be forgiven if you continue to live in and own the home, and don’t transfer the title.
For more information and to see if you qualify visit www.hennepin.us/residents/property/home-repairs
A final word
It’s easy to be intimidated by the idea of undertaking a repair on your own. But with a little planning, you can repair all manner of things. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you embark on this empowering journey:
- Often, one of the first steps in repairing an item is overcoming the fear of taking it apart. Remember, the item is already broken, so there’s no harm in trying to fix it. Be methodical in your disassembly and take pictures to help you put it back together. If you run into a dead end with your repair, search for help online or bring it to someone with more expertise for assistance.
- Common ways to fix broken items include cleaning, rewiring, mending and replacing broken parts.
- Many items stop working due to one broken part that is relatively inexpensive to replace, and you may be surprised by the variety of replacement parts you can find online or at a local hardware store.
One last thing: You’re not alone. Hennepin County is here to help in any way we can!
*Clothing stats come from www.ecofriendlyhabits.com/textile-and-fashion-waste-statistics
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