Don't throw those broken gadgets away – fix them

Woman holding phone with cracked screen

If you're anything like us, you'll have plenty of gadgets lying around the house. And let's be honest, some of these are probably broken, right? Next time you do a good housecleaning, how many of these broken electronics will be tossed into the bin? Not happy with your answer? We totally get it. So why not try fixing them instead?

Our grandparents and great grandparents lived at a time when manufactured goods were not dirt cheap. They lived at a time when people were more likely to fix things than throw them away. Over the last 50 years or so, access to cheap goods has transformed society from one that used to take good care of, and fix things, into one that tosses them into the rubbish bin instead, without a second thought.

A big part of the Sugru philosophy is reducing waste as much as possible. Fixing broken gadgets is just one of many ways to do that. If you can apply a fix that keeps a gadget functional, why toss it and buy something new? Fixing it reduces waste and saves money at the same time. Not only that, it heals our relationship with our stuff. The more you repair, the more you care.

4 ideas for fixing what's broken

You can fix gadgets around your home without spending a load of money. Below are some creative ideas to get you started. Some of these are projects you can do with Sugru Mouldable Glue. Use your imagination! You can do incredible things if you just put your mind to it.

1. Put those headphones back into service

Girl sitting on bed wearing headphones repaired with Sugru

Those plastic headphones you love so much produce a fantastic sound. Unfortunately, you accidentally sat on them and broke the plastic frame. Now what? Don't throw them away. Get yourself some Sugru and fix them.

We have put together a guide complete with instructions and pictures here. An easy gadget fix to get stuck into, all you need is some Sugru and a knife – preferably a craft or utility knife that allows you some measure of precision. Here's what you do:

  1. Use the knife to trim both edges of the plastic frame. You don't want any sharp pieces of plastic sticking out.
  2. Roll a small piece of Sugru into a ball and apply it to one end of the broken frame.
  3. Form the Sugru into the shape of a cone with your finger.
  4. Join the two ends of the broken frame with the Sugru in between. Press as tightly as you can.
  5. Using your finger, spread any of the excess Sugru around the joint.
  6. Apply a thin sausage of additional Sugru all the way around to completely cover the joint.
  7. Let it sit for 12-24 hours in a position that offers the joint plenty of support.

That's it. You now have a usable pair of headphones again. You saved them from the bin – and the landfill too! Doesn't that feel good?

2. Keep that USB charger in service

Woman smiling and holding cable repaired with Sugru

USB chargers are everywhere. They are almost as common as broken gadgets. So if you want to learn to fix gadgets, you should probably learn how to keep a USB charger in service even though the plastic wire cover may be heavily worn or even broken. Sugru is electrically insulating, so it's perfect for a project like this. 

TAKE CARE: Be careful with electricity. To ensure there is no risk of electrocution, stick to small consumer electronics repairs, low current and below 24 volts. To avoid heat build-up from short circuits or damaged wires, do not repair cables where the metal is exposed, or the cable is already working intermittently. 

You can read more in this post, where we offer another guide complete with instructions and pictures.

Keeping that worn USB charger in service involves forming some Sugru into a sausage shape before pressing it flat. Next, wrap it around the wire at the point of damage. If the damage is close to the USB plug, work the Sugru all the way up to the plug and then over the edge. Gently rub to smooth out the entire surface.

Leave the Sugru to set for 12-24 hours and you will discover that it transforms into a strong and flexible rubber material. It will hold the USB wire firmly in place, keeping your USB charger in service for longer.

3. Replace a broken laptop fan

Computer fan

The fan in your laptop computer is a critical piece of kit that helps prevent overheating. It's actually a pretty cheap part in comparison to the cost of an entirely new computer. Replacing a bad fan is surprisingly simple, too.

You will need to know the make and model of your computer in order to buy the right part. You can generally find that information somewhere on the computer case; it's usually printed on a sticker. Once you have the info, go online and buy the replacement part.

You will also need to go to the manufacturer's website and download a basic repair manual for your laptop. If your manufacturer doesn't publish one, there are plenty of online fix-it shops that do. Heard of iFixit? They've got thousands of free repair guides on their site! Manuals will tell you exactly how to open your laptop without damaging it. Generally speaking, the process involves removing a bunch of screws and then gently prying the case apart.

Once you have the case open, you should have easy access to the fan. Remove four screws, gently unclip the power cable, and that's it. The fan should come right out. Then just reverse the process to install the new one. Easy as can be.

4. Replace that shattered mobile phone screen

Shattered phone screen

If you already know how to fix gadgets and you're looking for a more challenging project, consider replacing that shattered mobile phone screen or back panel. Replacing is a lot cheaper than buying a new phone, and a whole lot more eco-friendly too of course. 😉

Again, you'll need to know the make and model of your phone. That information should be in the documentation received when you bought it. Use that information to shop online for the replacement parts. If you have never done this sort of thing before, we advise purchasing parts that come with a repair kit. A kit should include all the specialised tools you'll need to make the repair.

Have you seen our Tech Repair page? iFixit's very own Jeff Suovanen gives us a detailed step-by-step guide to replacing a cracked phone screen. Plus you'll find lots more helpful tips and tools on there too.

4 ideas for preventing damage

It is one thing to fix gadgets once they are broken, but another thing entirely to prevent them from being damaged in the first place. Preventing damage is a fantastic way to generate less waste. After all, there's no question about keeping your damaged gadgets in service. You keep using them as long as they work.

Below are a few creative ideas for preventing damage to your electronic gadgets. A couple of them involve Sugru mouldable glue. The rest can be accomplished through other means.

1. Add protective bumpers to your phone

Sugru bumpers on all four corners of a phone

Some people prefer to protect their mobile phones with cases. That's all well and good, but some of the cheaper cases don't do all that much to protect against shock. You can go one step better by adding protective bumpers to your phone. Phone bumpers? Yep, you can Sugru it!

Check out this post for all the pictures and instructions. Making phone bumpers is really pretty simple. Just get your hands on some Sugru, and divide a single-use pack it into four smaller pieces. Knead them with your fingers and then roll each piece into a sausage shape.

Next, place one piece on each corner, pressing it over the top and bottom so that the corner actually fits into it. Use your fingers to form the Sugru into the exact shape you want. Make sure the Sugru isn't actually covering anything important on your phone and screen display. Now all that's left to do, is to let the mouldable glue set for 12-24 hours. You can do that by balancing the phone on something that prevents contact with the Sugru, e.g. a cup.

One of the great things about our mouldable glue is that it will easily come off your mobile phone without worry. All you need to do it cut it off, and then any residue left over can be scraped off with your fingernail. Then simply wipe the phone with a clean cloth and you're done.

2. Make a protective tablet stand

 Tablet stand made from old adjustable lamp and Sugru

Our next project involves making a protective tablet stand by repurposing an old adjustable lamp that no longer works. You can completely remove the electrics from the lamp so that all you're left with is the adjustable stand.

This project is a bit more involved, so check out our official guide here. You will need some basic hand tools to disassemble and remove the electrics. But once that's done, the rest of the project is pretty easy.

You are essentially going to take the adjustable arm that held the electrics and create a tablet stand with some Sugru. When all is said and done, you'll have an adjustable stand that firmly holds your tablet in place while you're eating, cooking, or doing anything that requires you to be hands-free.

3. Waterproof with plastic bags

Sealable sandwich bag

We all take our gadgets when we leave the house, right? What if you're out and about and it begins to rain? A wet mobile phone or digital camera isn't a good thing. But no worries, there is an easy way to waterproof the gadgets using sealable plastic bags.

Those same plastic bags you put sandwiches and biscuits into are excellent for keeping water away from your gadgets. So before you throw your gadgets into a backpack or shoulder bag, put them in plastic bags first. You'll be thankful you did next time you get caught in heavy rain.

The nice thing about plastic bags is that you can use them for months at a time. Even years isn't out of the question. As long as they don't get holes in them, they will keep your gadgets dry for a very long time.

4. Remove batteries when you can

Batteries laying on a surface with a gameboy in the background

Some of our electronic gadgets utilise removable batteries. Take advantage of this scenario whenever possible. If you have a gadget you don't plan to use for a while, consider removing the batteries and storing them in a cool, dry place.

So why not leave them in? Well firstly, all batteries continue to discharge even when an electronic device isn't being used. Leaving batteries in an unused device encourages that discharge.

Secondly, leaving batteries in a gadget you will not use for several months could encourage the batteries to leak. If that happens, you'll have no choice but to toss the batteries out. You may even end up tossing out the entire gadget too if chemicals from the leaking batteries cause damage to the internal electronics.

The simple rule of thumb is to not leave removable batteries in place after you're done using a device. Take the batteries out. You will save yourself some headaches down the road.

Fix and protect to throw away less often

Headphones repaired with Sugru

We hope this post has motivated you to fix things rather than throwing them away. Sometimes, you can fix gadgets with a product as simple and effective as Sugru. Other times, a repair might be a little more complex and require a few more tools. But learning to fix things is always a good idea, because ultimately it leads to less waste. Plus it gives you a sense of accomplishment every time you bring a broken gadget back to life!

Reducing the number of things that you have to fix is all about preventing damage to begin with. We hope the few tips that we've given in this post will get you started on your fixing journey. For more tips though, just look around the internet. There are lots of creative ways to protect your gadgets so that they last longer.

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