Behind Closed Doors: Easy Dishwasher Tab Dispenser

I absolutely hate some of the packaging that’s out there for dishwasher tablets; it’s hard to get those pucks out when they’re in a ‘clamshell’ and trying to dig them out from under the sink can be a challenge in itself – even when they come in a resealable bag!

I was browsing Hometalk when I came across a fellow blogger’s solution for storing dishwasher tabs. I thought this was a great solution, but I wanted mine to be easily accessible without having to dive under the cupboard to pull them out every time I needed one. I have a bad back, so I don’t do dishes. It has actually been hubs’ job to do the scavenging hunt when we run the dishwasher. The solution I came up with is easy for me to access without bending down and with a few simple office supplies, I didn’t even have to drill a hole into the back of my kitchen sink cabinet to mount it!!

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One note of caution though before proceeding: if you have young kids and want to implement this, make sure you have a child proof safety latch on the door; these pucks look temptingly like candy and you wouldn’t want the wee ones to ingest this stuff!

The plastic dispenser I used was originally made for storing sweetener.

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This has to be the simplest storage solution I’ve ever executed! I emptied the sweetener, loaded it up with the tabs, then added a binder clip onto the part of the container that’s cut away. Make sure the back prong of the binder clip is sticking straight up… this is what you’ll use to hang it with!

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Add an elastic on one side just to keep the tabs from falling out when the cabinet door is opened and closed; it keeps everything in place and it’s easy to reach in a grab one as the elastic is flexible.

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Here is my sink cabinet. Notice the knobs? I used the same screw that holds the knob in place to hang the dispenser onto the back of the door!

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Depending on the whether the clip will slide over the head of the screw, you may only have to unscrew it a little to slip it on. In my case, I had to take it off completely, sandwich the knob and dispenser onto the door and then screw it all back into place.

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Now tighten the screw so it’s snug. If for some reason the knob on the front of the door is too loose, you may have to replace the screw with a longer one. Mine was still perfect!

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To refill it, you can fill it in place, or remove the container by squeezing the clip to release it so you can restock it on your counter top .

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You may want to be on the lookout for a slightly longer container so you can store a week-full of tabs at once; however I wouldn’t buy anything wider as there’s a perfect amount of clearance to be able to close the door.

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I think hubs is happy with the convenience of having it hanging on the back of the door where it’s easy to reach; now I can do the dishes every once in a while if I choose to (oh, but wait: I don’t do dishes)! With two people in our household we only run the dishwasher once a week, so this solution could conceivably save my back for up to a month and a half before we have to replenish the supply.

In the near future (once I have my craft room up and running), I’m going to work on making it prettier. I’ll replace the elastic with a door of sorts made out of something like a clear plastic report cover so it looks better, but for now it functions great!

Although not nearly as easy, you can see my other kitchen storage solutions by clicking on the pictures below….

Hidden Kitchen Storage: Turn a Filler Panel into a Pull-Out Cabinet!

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Ikea Stenstorp Kitchen Cart Hack:

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Ikea Stenstorp Kitchen Cart Hack

We ran into a problem with our kitchen design when we couldn’t fit two pantries along the fridge wall due to traffic flow issues. Our renovator changed the plan on us and left us with an awkward blank spot to fill at the entry to our kitchen. Not only was it ugly to look at, but the lack of a pantry left us terribly short of storage space!

Ikea’s Stenstorp kitchen cart seemed like a great solution, but I wasn’t a fan of the open storage.  I wanted extra drawer space to hold things like my kitchen knives and towels, however, I didn’t want to permanently alter the cart in case I ever wanted to convert it back one day.  Friend to the rescue: the solution was to build a removable two drawer unit that simply slips in and sits on the top shelf. I liken this project to the ‘Turducken’ of Ikea hacks: the removable drawer unit is two boxes within a box that sits between the two rails within the top portion of the cart!

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You may notice in the picture above that the colour of the Stenstorp before was a more yellowed shade of white.  I wanted the cart to look like it was made to match the rest of the kitchen (seen below), so we ended up repainting the cart a white that was colour-matched to our kitchen cabinets. We also bought the same oil bronzed cup pulls to tie in the hardware.

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As you can see by the before and after pictures below, we were left with a big empty space, but now the cart fills it in nicely.  The best part is that we can move it completely out of the way if we ever need to bring anything wide in or out of the kitchen!

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At first we weren’t sure how we would build the drawer, so we started our transformation of the cart by taking full measurements as shown below. We have a friend who’s extremely knowledgeable about furniture building so we asked for his advice. He came up with the brilliant idea of making something that wasn’t permanently attached. That was when we decided on a self-enclosed removable unit with drawers for only the top half with open storage on the bottom for some baskets.

Our friend not not only came up with the idea, but he also offered to cut and assemble the pieces for us. He then handed it back over to us to paint, clear coat (the top and drawers), add hardware and, of course, add finishing touches like baskets and artwork to decorate the space. Who could refuse an offer like that?

In the end, we really only needed the inside dimensions of the first section and also the inner dimensions of the sides, so we could add a panel to hide the fact that that the drawer isn’t ‘built in’ (A,C,I & J).

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We only used measurements for A, C, I and J

We made the final size of the box 1/8″ less in both height and width so there’s enough room to slip it onto the shelf. That way we wouldn’t have noticeable gaps that would give away that the drawers are not built-in.

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Here’s how the box looks resting on the shelf from the side and back view; we didn’t build the box to the full depth of the shelf, as you can see in this picture:

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Below you’ll see the inside and outside dimensions of the box;  the finished dimensions were 25-3/16″ wide x 11 -1/8″ high x 16-7/16″ deep.  Since it sits so snugly on the shelf, we taped off about 1/2″ around the face and painted only that part white (it’s the only part you actually see – the rest was clear coated).

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We used 5/8″ maple to build the box; again, our friend mitred the pieces of wood 45 degrees on each edge with a table saw and then glued and clamped it all together with a biscuit joint.

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Close-up of mitre joint

Watch the first minute of this YouTube video to see the process of biscuit joining a 45 degree mitre:

We used Blum drawer glides that were 13-5/8″ in length. For the bottom drawer, the hardware sat directly on the bottom of the box and the distance between that and next glide we installed was 4-3/4″.

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The finished size of your drawers will depend on the thickness of the wood you use to build the box and also the clearance you need for your particular hardware; we used 1/2″ maple for the drawers.  The drawer itself was built 23″ wide x 3-7/8″ high x 13-7/8 deep” wide to accommodate the drawer glide hardware inside the box; both drawers were built to the same dimensions.

You could join the wood of the drawer using a pocket hole jig, countersink screws or even brad nails and glue, but our friend used a dovetail jig then glued and clamped it together.  He also routed out a slot to accept 1/4 plywood for the bottom of the drawer (which was also screwed on along the back edge only as you can see below).

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From left: drawer dimensions, front face and pull installed, blum hardware on underside

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Dovetail joints in drawer

While it’s great that we had access to a friend who could help us fabricate a professional looking drawer, not many of you will have the tools or a friend to do this. Jenn over at Build-Basic has a great tutorial for building a simple drawer that anyone with some basic tools could do. Once the drawers were complete, my husband sprayed them with a clear finish to seal the wood.

Our drawer face measured 4-11/16″ high x 23-11/16″ wide. As you can see in the picture of the drawer below, we positioned the face 1/2″ from the top edge of the drawer and centred it from side to side. We drilled pilot holes through the box and then drove 1″ screws through the holes into the backside of the drawer front (which we also painted to match the rest of the cart).

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We installed the drawer glides into the box, then slid the box onto the first shelf of the cart. Maybe one day I’ll take off the blue protective plastic coating on the stainless steel shelves – lol!

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Then drawers went in:

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Once the drawers were in, we attached the drawer pulls, then we could fill our drawers up!

We tried our knives in the second drawer, but then moved them up to the top for better access. We’re currently using a bamboo knife tray to hold them, but it’s not a perfect fit so one day I’ll build custom dividers for the drawer (and post the tutorial)!

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Drawers hold knives and dish towels/pot holders

The final touch was to put a panel on the side you see as you walk into the room (I have one for the other side too, but haven’t gotten around to putting it on!). We used 1/8″ MDF (14-1/8″ wide x 28-1/2″long) and painted it white inside and out. The cart is the first thing you see as you enter the kitchen so it’s nice to have the panel there to hide the side of the drawer and also the baskets I placed on the bottom shelf that hold our onions and potatoes.

I used 3-M Command Strips, which are typically used to hang pictures. They can be removed in the future, if I ever want to restore the cart back to original, without leaving a mark! Since the panel is pretty light, three strips worked perfectly. I applied one to each rail of the side and then removed the paper to expose the adhesive backing. I carefully positioned the panel and firmly pressed it into place where it meets the rails to make contact with the adhesive. If you don’t position the panel just right the first time, avoid the temptation to lift it off.  Give the adhesive backing a chance to set up for at least 24 hours and then you can finesse the panel. Once the glue sets up, it’s just like removing something that has been velcroed; you can easily re-position the panel and snap it back in where you want it.

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Clockwise from top left (side views of cart): the drawer, applied 3M-strips, completed panel and close up of 3M strip

It was great to be able to move the microwave from the counter top on the other side of the kitchen to the cart; it freed up some much needed prep space! While my husband was repainting the cart the same white as our kitchen, he also clear-coated the wooden top so we wouldn’t have to worry about spills.

Here are some comparisons of the space before and after the cart:

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And here is the final shot of the cart with the drawer unit in place:

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To finish off what was once a blank corner, we added some framed pictures of vegetables that a friend of a friend took at a market; I love the pop of colour! I also added a plaque that says ‘indulge’ – appropriate for a kitchen, don’t you think?

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What’s a kitchen without a little indulgence?

To eek out even more space in our galley kitchen, my husband and I also built this pull-out cabinet.

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After the cart and pull-out cabinet were done, my husband turned his attention to finishing our basement. He’s building a craft room for me and a mancave for him (so he can finally relax after all the sweat equity he put in to building the basement)! I’ll have more how-to’s coming up in future posts stemming from the basement reno (i.e. tiling a backsplash in the laundry room, installing engineered hardwood flooring and how to install baseboard and trim).

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Hidden Kitchen Storage: Turn a Filler Panel into a Pull-Out Cabinet!

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Utilizing Wasted Space to Add Storage

Although our kitchen is a beautiful space, it isn’t overly functional; I knew we could do more to maximize the limited storage. The light bulb went off one day when I was surfing the net and found this base filler cabinet roll out:

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If you have filler strips in your kitchen, you can reclaim that wasted space and build a custom base cabinet into the space the filler occupies – with a gap as little as 3” as illustrated below. The inspiration shot below shows a pre-made unit used to store spices. With a little DIY magic, the sky is the limit with what you can do!

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In our case, here’s how the gap beside our sink looked before – you can see the 6 1/2” space on the left side of the sink cabinet:

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For whatever reason, the contractor who installed the sink cabinet did not centre it in the space. Instead of two filler strips balanced equally on both sides, we ended up with one 6 ½” dead space on the left side of the sink that was filled in with a wooden filler piece provided by the kitchen manufacturer.

I was hopeful that, with a little careful measuring, we would be able to gain some valuable real estate in this small area to store a few things.

Many of the ready made units I saw online had adjustable shelves, but we decided it would be simpler and faster to determine what we wanted to store and just build fixed shelves to the height we needed – the beauty of DIY’ing is customizing the size to your needs! We decided to store plastic containers on the top shelf (so we could stack them) and cooking oils on the bottom so went with only two shelves.

I’ve illustrated our dimensions below as a guide to help you find your own. Everyone’s situation will be different so I’ll walk you through some of the considerations we had keep in mind when my husband built this. You will essentially be building a box with shelves mounted in between at whatever height you determine is best for the things you want to store.

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Prep Work and Steps

1. Decide on what slider hardware you will be using. We decided to purchase hardware that could be mounted on the top and bottom of our pull-out so we wouldn’t lose any space on the sides. Since the height of the pullout box needs to fit the height of the space, and you’ll need something to attach the drawer glides to on the top and bottom. My husband built a frame of sorts with a top and bottom to mount the drawer glides to. He then added in a filler strip under the counter top so we wouldn’t have an ugly gap – our filler was was 3 ½ inches long and wide enough to fit between the side between the sink cabinet and wall  (there is wood along the underside of the filler strip to mount the top glide to).

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3-1/2″ filler strip under counter

You’ll need to determine the type of gliding hardware you want before you start to build the box because you’ll need to know what clearance you’re dealing with – which will determine the finished size of your box. I also didn’t want to put any hardware onto the front to draw attention to the cabinet, so we purchased the type of hardware that you can simply push on to click it open and closed.

2. Remove the filler strip you currently have in place. Once filler strip was removed, my husband was able  determined the width and height of the gap and calculate the measurements for the size of the box we would need for the pullout.

I was worried about how we were going to create the door front and match the paint colour (the badly painted filler piece was trashed by the time my husband pried it off). As luck would have it, I was able to buy a flat panel drawer front to match our kitchen cabinets from the manufacturer and use that as our front door panel by using it on its side – no painting, no muss, no fuss! It was almost the exact size we needed (6 ¼” x 29 1/2”)! We simply had to cut about 1/4” off the bottom to match the height of the door beside it (which we never got around to doing and is hardly noticeable unless you stare at it!).

3. Cut your pieces of wood and dowel for the rails and assemble box. We chose to use maple for the box to match the rest of our cabinets, but you could probably use MDF and paint it or even veneered plywood if you finish the edges with veneer tape.

Construction was pretty simply. Cut your outside pieces and shelves to size, construct the box by fitting the shelves in between and screwing it all together. My husband squared up the box, added a little glue to the edges and screwed it all together by countersinking the screw holes (unfortunately, we didn’t get a picture of the box before it was installed but you’ll get the idea with the picture below). We also had to come up with a solution to keep our stuff from falling off the shelves; the inspiration shot had nice metal railings. My husband’s solution? Fibreglass rods he had left over from his kite building days!

Once our pieces were cut and assembled, my husband sprayed a water-based lacquer onto the wood to seal it and protect it from spills and water (especially since it’s near the sink).

We actually placed some of our items on the shelves before drilling out the holes for the rods and to determine both the best height and width for our items. Our rails were 2 5/8” above the bottom of the top shelf to restrain our plastic containers and 4” above the bottom of the lower shelf to keep our glass bottles from tipping out when the cabinet is opened. The holes for the rods should be a snug fit so drill a few sample holes for the rods in some scrap wood to test it out before drilling the cabinet itself; you don’t want o drill them too loosely and have them flopping around. My husband simply drilled a hole through the back of the cabinet (which you don’t see once the cabinet is in) and then drilled another hole to line up at the front that was slightly countersunk into the wood (not all the way through) to hold the rod in place. The rods got threaded through the back before the box got mounted into the cabinet. I think an easier way to do it might be to drill the hole in the front (which gets covered by the door) and then countersink the holes in the back of the cabinet – but either way you choose to do it will work. You could probably find small wooden rods at your local big box store that would work just as well as the fiberglass rods we upcycled.

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An important factor is the spacing between the rods. Since we knew we wanted to store plastic containers, we dry fitted them in place so we could see what the best width for the rods would be. Our rods are spaced 5” on centre – any smaller and we wouldn’t have been able to fit our containers between the rods on the shelf!

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4. Attach sliding mechanism. Once the box is complete, add your sliding drawer hardware. We weren’t exactly sure how to line up and mount the hardware, but we did it with not too much trial and error. Test it out to make sure it glides in and out properly before mounting the door front.

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5. Mount door front. Once the box is mounted into the cabinet, the last step is to screw on the door front. The door gets screwed on from the back of the cabinet into the back side of the door.  Double check to make sure that your screws are short enough, it will be a ‘doh’ moment if your screw is too long and comes right through the front of the door!

We made a template of the door cut to size out of cardboard and lined it up on the box to make sure we were happy with the way everything lined up. We then tape it securely and pre-drilled through both the cardboard and the box in two places (top and bottom) all the way through to prepare for mounting the door.  We also traced the shape of the box onto the back of the cardboard with pencil and added an up arrow. By transferring all the marks and location of the screwholes to the back of the door, we could be sure that we wouldn’t accidentally place it upside down onto the box.  You can drill a tiny divot where you marked the screw holes (or use an awl) – or you can just transfer the pencil marks onto the back of the door; we did both. Holding the door tightly against the front of the box, insert the screws through the hole in the box to meet up with the door and screw it on tightly (if you pre-drilled a divot, it can help you set the point of the screw and find the screw placement).

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All stocked up and ready to use!

I’d love to hear about YOUR kitchen storage projects – let me know what you’ve done to eek out more storage space!

Be sure to check out our next post on this Ikea Stenstorp Kitchen Cart Hack. It shows how we managed to squeeze even more storage space into our small kitchen! We customized an Ikea rolling cart with a removable drawer unit to use beside our pantry. Here’s a sneak peek at that project:

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For more home improvement and DIY ideas, check out the home page for a listing of projects.

You might be interested in my new craft blog where I just posted a tutorial and video for this remote control holder I made hubs for his mancave. You can find it here.

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At Birdz of a Feather craft, I’ve also created this duct tape portrait of Elvis. If you’re interested in the how-to, watch the video on my Youtube channel and subscribe. I’ll post instructions to Birdz of a Feather Craft as soon as I have 50 subscribers.

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