13 Things You Shouldn’t Try to Do Yourself During Quarantine
Yes, you've probably become increasingly self-sufficient in many ways during this weird time. But be careful you don't get so confident that you attempt these inadvisable, or even dangerous, things that you should leave to the professionals.
Leave these to the pros
The coronavirus quarantine has many of us becoming at least somewhat more self-sufficient. As many of us are confined to our homes, unable to go out for basic services that we used to rely on, we’ve started to wonder…how hard could that be? But here are some things, according to experts and professionals in those fields, you’ll want to stay away from trying yourself. A lot of these people are professionals for a reason, and there are quite a few things, from hair care to home maintenance tasks, that you shouldn’t attempt on your own. They’re certainly some of the everyday experiences we’ll never take for granted again.
Certain remodeling projects
In all honesty, by “certain,” we mean “most.” Sure, with all this extra time it may be tempting to tackle a home improvement project. Or maybe you’re just getting sick of staring at the same kitchen configuration day after day after day. But still, while there are plenty of home projects it is safe to DIY, anything more ambitious than that—something that you might ordinarily call in a professional for—should wait.
Steve Booz, vice president of marketing at Royal Building Products, suggests a couple of specific examples. “Siding, for sure, is not a DIY project,” he told RD.com. “As the siding is key to the water management system of the home, this is a ‘must do properly’ task—not to mention the safety aspects of working from heights. Leave siding to the pros.” He also advises against attempting a decking project on your own, unless you’re a very experienced DIYer. “We have seen too many injuries result from deck collapses, [so] we always recommend a qualified decking contractor,” Booz says. Basically, err on the side of caution and wait until it’s safe to have a professional come to your home again.
There’s quite a bit of buzz (pun intended) about people from all walks of life attempting to cut their own hair, with varying success. And, honestly, this one is kind of a matter of personal preference. If you’re prepared to face all manner of potential consequences, you can go ahead and attempt to cut your hair yourself. (You’re probably better off asking a trusted person who’s quarantined with you to do it instead, if possible.) But Joe Flanagan, founder of fashion blog 90s Fashion World, advises you to think long and hard before you try tending to your own hair. “Chances are you will end up depressed with an irregular bang and shorter hair than you wanted,” he says. As for cutting someone else’s hair? Here’s how that went when one of our writers tried cutting her dad’s hair.
Does just the thought of trying to self-wax make you cringe? But on the other hand, does your longing for your normal beauty routine threaten to overpower your cringe? Alas, Flanagan strongly advises against trying to self-wax at home. “It takes a lot of practice to wax your own legs and it is always nice to have the chance of getting pro help if something goes wrong,” he says. If you really feel the need to remove some of that hair, your legs are the safest bet to try, he advises. Just don’t try waxing any sensitive areas!
From toilet paper woes to the fear that COVID-19 can be transported by toilets and what goes into them, the day-to-day goings-on of toilets and bathrooms are experiencing an upheaval. Yet the norms aren’t so wacky that you should be undertaking DIY plumbing tasks. “Plumbing systems are [an] area in which maintenance work should, most times, be handled by licensed professionals, no matter how easy certain fix-it tasks might appear in a DIY plumbing advice manual,” says Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing. “They require perfection, and even the slightest error could set everything off balance.” Here are some more things your plumber won’t tell you.
For example, if you’re trying to fix a sink, “it’s difficult to find out exactly where the problem is unless you take the pipes apart, and this can be a very risky undertaking.” The last thing you want is a huge plumbing headache amid everything else going on right now. Plumbers are essential, but use good judgment about whether to call a plumber during this crazy time or wait until things are safer, depending on the severity of the issue. To be on the safe side: Avoid plumbing issues in the first place, make sure you know the toilet paper alternatives you can—and can’t—safely flush.
Botox and filler
If do-it-yourself Botox sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, that’s because it is. And yet, Pablo Prichard, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon based in Scottsdale, Arizona, has seen it happen. “People are bored; they can’t go to their plastic surgeon or dermatologist, [so] they’re scouring the Internet,” Dr. Prichard says. It’s certainly a dark side of the wide availability of information online. “You can buy black-market Botox and black-market filler,” he warns. People touting these DIY procedures can certainly seem convincing, not to mention that it costs far less money than a visit to a professional.
The products are “black-market” for a reason. “The problem with these is that they’re completely unregulated by the FDA,” Dr. Prichard warns. “Anything that you’re buying [is] not going through a health care professional.” And that means that no matter how convincing the instructions may seem, you have no idea what’s in those kits. The dose could be far too potent or otherwise incorrect. “Patients have had these foreign fillers injected into their face, only to cause facial necrosis,” he says. The nasty consequences of this can include blackened, dead skin; holes in the face; infections; and otherwise irreversible damage. “Even if it is a legitimate product, somebody who’s not skilled in injecting it can inject it into the wrong spot,” Dr. Prichard says. Bottom line? Don’t try it.
If the process of dermaplaning is unfamiliar to you, it basically means having “an extra close shave, taking the superficial dead skin off [your face] as well as the peach fuzz,” Dr. Prichard explains. It’s something that people go to an aesthetician to have done. So, no, not something that you should attempt on your own. “It takes a certain level of skill,” Dr. Prichard says. He warns that there’s a significant risk of cutting yourself the first few times you try it, not to mention that doing it incorrectly “could cause paralysis, droopy eyelids, and more,” he adds.
But he says that there are safer alternatives to try; Dr. Prichard recommends dimmer rollers or microneedling. They’re pretty safe to DIY, as long as you “don’t press too hard or get overaggressive,” he told RD.com. He also adds that it’s always good to be safe rather than sorry. “Set up an appointment with an aesthetician for any questions about skincare during this time,” he suggests. One thing that you can try during quarantine is coloring your own hair—but here’s why one woman has decided not to.
Making a hand sanitizer
Yes, DIY hand sanitizers can be made. Yes, now seems like the optimal time to be attempting to make it, with manufactured hand sanitizers all but gone from store shelves. But…does it really help? Well, most health experts agree that it might be more trouble than it’s worth. Certainly, they can’t hold a candle to the cleaning power of regular old hand-washing. So if you have access to soap and water, there’s no need for you to make a hand sanitizer. Not to mention, if your hands are visibly dirty, DIY hand sanitizer won’t be effective.
And, of course, trying to make a hand sanitizer could even be dangerous, worst-case scenario. “What I am looking at now is people mixing various chemicals to make sanitizers and household disinfectants,” says Jagdish Khubchandani, PhD, associate chair and professor of health science at Ball State University. “We must admit that people in the general population are not experienced or qualified to make a lot of these things.” If you really feel like you need to make one, make sure you use a WHO-approved recipe.
Repairing electrical fittings
Safety alert! Attempting to do electrical repair work is always risky, but you certainly shouldn’t attempt it during a quarantine, when help could be hard to come by if something were to go wrong. “As a master electrician, I would advise you to not try and repair any of the electrical fittings at home unless you are trained at that sort of a thing,” says David Walter of ElectricianMentor.com. He says that the adverse effects of trying to do electrical repairs could range from violating an electrical code to even causing a fire. “A minor electric problem here and there can certainly be attended to later after things return to normal,” Walter says. One thing that you can do yourself? Grow food—these are the easiest foods to grow at home during quarantine.
On the off chance that you were considering starting a temporary at-home piercing parlor…don’t. “It may seem like a fun and harmless way to pass the time, and maybe even induce a much-needed adrenaline rush, but almost a third of all piercings in young adults result in complications, many of which require medical attention,” says health and wellness expert Caleb Backe. The last thing you want to do right now is add to the burden on the health care system. “Despite the fact that sticking a needle into your body looks simple enough, piercing any body part requires a high level of expertise,” Backe adds. “Far beyond the risk of an uneven hole is the risk of infection and nerve damage that you leave yourself susceptible to.” So stay away from any unsafe and inadvisable practices like this, no matter how much you feel like you need stimulation. Even normally good habits can backfire during coronavirus.
Thorough carpet cleaning
Obviously you should continue to do basic cleaning, like dusting and vacuuming, during this time. But James Neal, owner of Rainbow International Restoration, says that any carpet cleaning you do can’t match the work of the professionals. “Carpets tend to collect many pollutants that regular carpet cleaners don’t pick up on, including dander, mold, and pollen,” he told RD.com. He warns that attempting a DIY carpet cleaning could actually worsen things: “There [have] been scenarios where homeowners have used store-bought products to clean their carpets without taking into consideration the fibers and chemistry of the carpet. As a result, we’ve seen stains get bigger, brighter (because of the strong chemicals used), and decolorized.” The good news is that your carpet probably only needs this kind of deep clean every 12 to 18 months, so this isn’t the kind of routine maintenance that quarantine is completely upending.
Self-diagnosing medical conditions
There’s a reason health care workers are essential! Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, M.D., primary care physician and health expert, warns that trying to diagnose, and, especially, treat, a health condition yourself can always be dangerous. Yes, right now you may—rightly—be reluctant to actually go to the doctor or urgent care and add to any burden on the health system. But that doesn’t mean you should self-diagnose. If you have a genuine pressing concern about your health, you can still call your doctor. “Keep in mind that most doctors are offering virtual telemedicine services and many health insurance carriers are even waiving co-pays for these telehealth visits during the coronavirus pandemic,” Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe says. “So if you have a health concern, you should touch base with your doctor.”
Pest problems don’t stop just because a virus is infecting humans. There are some basic pest control measures you can take yourself, but you shouldn’t attempt professional-level pest control right now. “Many pests are vectors for diseases, so it is best to allow the professionals to take care of these problems,” says Erin Kelly, who represents Ehrlich Pest Control. In fact, exterminators have actually been considered essential services by the Department of Homeland Security. So attempting big pest-control solutions on your own right now is not only inadvisable but also unnecessary. Just be courteous and respectful during this dangerous time. Try to avoid calling in a professional to deal with a minor problem, like a single bug or two or even a mouse, that you can attempt to curtail yourself. If you do call in a pest control expert, make sure you’re absolutely taking the maximum precautions to keep them, yourself, and your family safe.
You guessed it: Trying to repair glass on your own (like a broken windowpane) can be dangerous. “Chips or divots more than a 1/2 inch in diameter, or chips with tiny holes, require replacement,” says Mike Shanahan of GlassDoctor. And that means by a professional, not by you. He says that professionals know the correct—and safe—amount of resin to apply to a broken windowpane. “Resin expands and contracts with changes in temperature and humidity. If too much resin is applied and hardens, it will create a much larger divot and develop into a safety hazard,” he says. “Call a licensed professional to help address the matter in a safe way to ensure you or your family don’t get hurt.” He adds that repair kits you can buy aren’t always reliable, either. “You never know what you’re going to get,” he says. Luckily, though, there are lots of everyday things that you’re welcome—in fact, encouraged—to do for yourself during quarantine.
Next, take a look at our Coronavirus Guide to discover more ways to stay sane, keep your family safe, and make the most of together time.