When it comes to putting together, taking apart, or cleaning up after a DIY project, I’ve found that the right solvents, adhesives and other chemicals can be as useful as any of my tools.

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WARNING: Always follow the chemical manufacturer’s safety instructions, and use proper ventilation and eye and skin protection.


In my shop, I keep acetone to remove tough residues and to prep surfaces before applying a finish, denatured alcohol for general cleaning, and mineral spirits to remove paint from brushes and my spray gun (as well to thin some kinds of paint).

Copper Anti-Seize

The best way to keep threads that are exposed to moisture from corroding is to coat them with anti-seize paste. The material is a must for wheel studs, bolts going through a water jacket (the part of an engine block through which coolant flows), and other threaded fasteners.

Muriatic Acid

Muriatic acid (diluted hydrochloric acid) is commonly used for cleaning pools and other concrete surfaces, but I use it to remove the rust or galvanization from steel, as part of an etching solution for printed circuit boards, and sometimes just to clean up my shop floor.


Advanced epoxies made by 3M and Loctite are stronger than cheap hardware-store varieties. Check the data sheet to see the characteristics of each type: curing time, strength and flexibility after setup, and even the amount and composition of gases that are released as it sets.

Metal Putty

This stuff is technically an epoxy, but it’s really for filling in holes and when you need to build up material. Usually packaged as a roll, it tears off in sections that bond when kneaded together. It then begins to set, eventually becoming hard enough to drill and tap threads into.