13 Ingenious Uses for Tension Rods

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Tension rods are inexpensive tools for hanging curtains. But if you’re only using them to set up window treatments, then you’re missing out on a ton of other uses for these versatile DIY miracle workers. They come in a range of lengths and load-bearing limits, and can be installed in a minute or two. Snag a few different sizes of tension rods—which are cheap and removable for when your tastes change—and start experimenting with these creative projects.

1. INSTALL A HANGING HERB GARDEN.

You'll need a sturdy tension rod to fit your chosen window's width and a group of small hanging plant pots for this project. Place the rod within the window frame at the desired height, hang (or string) the planted pots along it, and ta-da—an instant, space-saving herb garden. This also works with your favorite sun-loving flowers or ferns. “You will never have to worry about the rod coming down, and the window placement will lend a lot of sun for flower and herb planters," Justin Krzyston, president and CEO of Stonehurst Construction and Design in Los Angeles, tells Mental Floss. "You can hang almost any kind of plant from the rod for a practical and fun way to garden indoors.”

Once your herbs are grown and picked, tie them into bunches with twine. Dry the herbs by hanging them upside-down from—you guessed it—a tension rod placed in a door frame. Dried herbs will last much longer than fresh.

2. ARRANGE YOUR ACCESSORIES.

Hang tension rods within your existing closet to corral scarves, necklaces, and small bags. “You can even hang S-hooks from the tension rod to separate your bracelets and smaller items,” Krzyston says. Hooks also make it easier to remove and put back items because you won't need to remove the rod from the closet wall to retrieve them.

3. STORE CLEANING PRODUCTS.

Annie Draddy, organizer and co-founder of New York-based personal organizing service Henry & Higby, likes to use tension rods for cleaning storage. “Use a tension rod under a sink to hang spray bottles and other cleaning implements,” she tells Mental Floss. Hanging the spray cleaners at the top of the cabinet leaves more room for other items, like sponges, towels, and buckets.

4. ORGANIZE KITCHEN CABINETS.

It’s difficult to keep all your trays and pans organized in your kitchen cabinets, especially if they’re all different sizes—but that’s where tension rods can help, Draddy says. She recommends installing a few tension rods vertically inside the cabinet and standing up flat items, like baking sheets and pans, cutting boards, pot lids, and trays, between the rods. The arrangement saves space and makes it easier to grab the pan or cookie sheet without dislodging everything else in the cabinet.

5. CREATE A BUNK BED SCREEN.

Kids who share bunk beds will love the extra privacy that tension rods and curtain panels can offer, Krzyston says. This project works best on the bottom bunk because the rods are installed between the bed posts. If the top bunk's posts extend to the ceiling, you can double this project for the top and bottom beds.

To make the world's easiest no-sew bunk bed curtains, you will need three tension rods that fit the head, foot, and side of the bunk bed; a measuring tape, scissors, four or five lightweight curtain panels depending on the size of the bed, straight pins, iron-on fusing web, and an iron. Then follow these steps.

First, install the rods between the bed posts and measure the height from the rod down to the platform of the bed (past the mattress)—this will be the curtain's length. Next, lay each curtain flat with the backside facing up. Measure the same distance down from the rod pocket, and add two inches—the extra fabric will be your hem. Draw a line with a pencil across the curtain at that length, or mark with pins, and then cut each curtain along the line. Lay a piece of the iron-on fusing web across the curtain, 3 inches from and parallel to the end. Fold up the two-inch hem over the web and pin in place. (Now, measure the sides of the curtain to make sure they're of equal length, and adjust if necessary.)

Iron the hem to fuse it in place, removing the pins as you go. Once the fabric is cool, install the curtains on the rods. “The sturdy construction of the bed will lend an easy place for the curtains to hang without worry of them coming down,” Krzyston says. Boom: super-cool bed fort!

6. KEEP TUB TOYS TIDY.

This trick works on tubs with walls on three sides. Find a tension rod roughly equal to the longer side of your tub. String an even number of shower rings on it and install along the wall side of the tub. Then, hang small plastic bins from the rings (two per bin, which keeps them level) for storing small toys, and you’ll never have to step on a Paw Patrol toy again.

7. CONCEAL CLUTTER.

Are your bookcases and shelving units packed with odds and ends? Disguise the clutter behind an easy-to-assemble screen. Pop a tension rod between the sides of the cabinet at the height of the stuff you want to hide. Then, hang a curtain or drape a piece of patterned fabric over the rod, and you’ll have a custom-made junk-concealer. You can even string clip-style curtain rings on the rod and clip on a fabric panel—the rings will make it easier to push the panel to the side when you need to retrieve items from the shelves. Try it anywhere you need to mask garbage bins, Costco-sized pantry items, or other unsightly necessities.

8. CATEGORIZE BOOKS.

Short tension rods can take the place of cumbersome bookends and leave you more space for storing and displaying actual books. Install the rods vertically within the bookshelf to corral paperbacks, hardcover titles, magazines, or notebooks. You can also organize and divide your collection by theme or subject matter by installing rods vertically between the sections.

9. SET UP A CLOTHESLINE.

Make your space-saving indoor clothesline by putting a tension rod in the doorway of your laundry room or in any unused corner. You can pin garments to the rod with clothespins or air-dry shirts on hangers. The rod can also serve as a finishing area for freshly ironed clothes. The best part: Pop out the rod when you're done, and it will look like laundry never happened.

10. MAKE A FORT.

You don’t need to buy anything fancy to provide kids with a few hours of fun. Insert a tension rod under a desk or table, in the hallway, or in a low-traffic doorway. Have the kids drape a sheet or blanket over the rod, spread it out, and weigh down its edges with pillows—instant hideway! Or build a "condo" with multiple rods at varying levels down an entire hallway. The special space will boost the kids' imaginations and spark creative games.

11. HIDE THE LITTER BOX.

Litter boxes are a fact of life if you have a cat, but that doesn’t mean her business has to be visible. If the litter box is sitting in a corner of a closet, you can conceal it and create storage space at the same time. Install a shelf on the wall above the box at your desired height. The shelf's width should be about the same as the closet, and its depth roughly equal to the litter box (you might want to turn the box so the longer side is against the wall, but make sure the cat can still get in). Install a tension rod just under the lip of the shelf and hang short curtains (use the curtain-customizing method in #5) or drape a piece of fabric over the rod. Now Princess will have some privacy, and you can store her food, litter, and other feline accoutrements on the shelf.

12. CAMOUFLAGE UNDER-BED CLUTTER.

Choose a longish tension rod and install it between the legs of the bed on its visible side. Cut an oblong piece of fabric that, when doubled lengthwise over the rod, will hide the clutter underneath the bed. Repeat the steps for other sides of the bed. You’ll never have to see the mess again, and you can change the fabric's pattern or color whenever your design aesthetic evolves.

13. CONSTRUCT A BLACKOUT COCOON.

City dwellers have to deal with bright streetlights seeping in their windows at night. Even with the curtains closed, the light pollution can disrupt sleep. Ensure restful slumber with this fast blackout hack: Slide a tension rod that is roughly the width of your bedroom window into the rod pocket of a blackout curtain panel of similar width. Then, install the rod and curtain inside window frame, allowing the curtain to closely cover as much window area as possible. Close the existing curtains for a virtually pitch-black boudoir.

Sesame Workshop Shares New Resources and Activities to Help Parents and Kids Cope With Self-Isolation

Elmo and Abby search for the color green at the beach.
Elmo and Abby search for the color green at the beach.
Sesame Street, YouTube

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, is enlisting Elmo, Oscar the Grouch, and the rest of your favorite puppets to help parents and children cope with life at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to existing content from the show about health and wellness, the “Caring for Each Other” initiative will feature new material that covers topics like hand-washing, proper protocol for coughing or sneezing, and the relationship between taking good care of yourself and taking good care of others.

“Around the world, young children’s lives are being turned upside down, and parents and caregivers are looking for ways to give their children—and themselves—a sense of stability in this new normal,” Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, Sesame Workshop’s senior vice president for curriculum and content, said in a press release. “But there are things parents and caregivers can do to face each day with optimism. Sesame Street is here to provide the caring adults in children’s lives with the resources they need to help children, and foster their healthy development at home.”

On the “Caring for Each Other” landing site, there are documents to help parents navigate talking to their children about COVID-19, creating routines for “The For-Now Normal,” and more. There are also printable coloring pages with spot-the-difference images, step-by-step drawing instructions, and mazes.

The beloved Sesame Street characters appear often throughout the content, including in videos like “Elmo’s Virtual Hug” and the “Big Feelings” song. Plus, there’s a curated YouTube playlist of “Fun at Home Activities” with directions for DIY sock puppets and drums, “Monster Yoga” poses, and other Sesame Street clips.

You can explore the offerings here, and subscribe to the Sesame Street newsletter for updates.

20 Boredom-Busting Science Experiments You Can Do at Home, Courtesy of YouTube’s Physics Girl

YouTube's Physics Girl snuffs out a candle with carbon dioxide.
YouTube's Physics Girl snuffs out a candle with carbon dioxide.
Physics Girl, YouTube

YouTube sensation Physics Girl is keeping boredom at bay in the best way possible: with DIY science experiments that you can recreate on your own.

In the video below, she challenges herself to complete all 20 experiments in five minutes—not including the time it takes to set everything up—which amounts to 15 seconds for each one. Parents who are homeschooling their kids (or adults who just have a little more free time than usual while in self-isolation) can, of course, slow them down to a more leisurely pace or even spread them out over a few weeks.

You probably already have a lot of the materials you’ll need, like eggs, candles, soda cans, oil, water, pans, and other basic household items. Some experiments are simple and kid-safe—like spinning a hard-boiled egg on its side until it stands on its end—while others require adult supervision, like blowing out a candle and relighting it without actually touching the lighter to the wick.

A few of them might end up entertaining kids (or you) for much longer than the duration of the experiment itself. A mixture of cornstarch and tonic water, for example, creates a slime-like substance called a non-Newtonian fluid, meaning it can act like a solid or a liquid, depending on how you handle it. (If you don’t have tonic water, here’s how to make it with regular water.)

And after you’ve mastered all the challenges and spent hours letting cornstarch slime run through your fingers at various viscosities, there are many more wonders to behold on Physics Girl’s YouTube channel, which is run by PBS Digital Studios. There, the MIT graduate (also known as Dianna Cowern) explores why Tic Tacs sometimes bounce higher on the second bounce, investigates whether it’s possible to power a house with a ShakeWeight, and plenty more.

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