I Watched 5-Minute Crafts Videos for an Entire Weekend & Almost Lost My Mind
Though for a brief time it gave other social media platforms a fair run for their money, Pinterest seems to be slowly fading into the internet ether. Perhaps it’s collapsing under the weight of anxiety over proper meal prep techniques, or finding the right font for a ROSE ALL DAY t-shirt, but more likely it’s because its users have moved on to watching crafting videos. Doing away with such frivolities as directions, they encourage users to turn trash into treasures, that produce can be used in place of cosmetics, and that you can never have too many bowls. The most popular of these are the amusing, prolific, and utterly baffling 5-Minute Crafts videos.
If you’re unsure if you’ve ever seen a 5-Minute Crafts video, rest assured, you have. They’re everywhere, boasting more than 50 million subscribers and thousands of videos on YouTube, and with an equally strong presence on Facebook and Instagram. Allegedly operated by an American company based in Cyprus, more often than not their videos are shared simply because they’re so puzzling. Filmed at hyperspeed and with an instrumental rock and/or techno soundtrack, the videos have no voiceovers, and barely offer any instructions. Despite the channel being called “5-Minute Crafts,” often what the videos illustrate aren’t crafts (or “hacks,” though no one really seems to know what that word means in a DIY context), many of them take longer than five minutes, and more than a few absolutely would not work. Without so much as a safety disclaimer (or anyone wearing gloves or other protective gear), occasionally the “crafts” require the user to melt plastic with a kitchen torch or heat gun, or slice into a bottle cap using a box cutter.
To watch 5-Minute Crafts videos is to feel a certain sense of very modern paranoia. The videos seem innocuous enough, but there’s something inexplicably not right about them. It feels like a weird sort of trolling, mixing useful but not particularly innovative tips like clearing a clogged drain with vinegar and baking soda with self-sabotaging “why the fuck would anyone think this is a good idea?” suggestions, like making a phone case by covering the back of your phone in hot glue and nail polish. It goes without saying that you should absolutely not do that, so it leaves one wondering what the purpose of suggesting it is. Is it a test to make sure the audience is paying attention? Is it a prank, making some sort of statement about gullible YouTube viewers who will swallow tablespoons of cinnamon because someone in a video told them to? Are they perfectly innocent, and simply made by people who are very dumb?
Clearly, more research was required. I’d have to go down a glue gun and rubber band filled rabbit hole.
The sheer number of videos 5-Minute Crafts produces further deepens the mystery. I mentioned that they produced thousands of videos already, but left out that that was just through their main channel. There are also more than a thousand videos under “5-Minute Crafts Girly” and “5-Minute Crafts Kids,” almost a thousand under “5-Minute Crafts Men,” almost 400 under “5-Minute Crafts Teens,” and 300 under “5-Minute Recipes.” Mind you, 5-Minute Crafts itself was only established in 2016, meaning that, at minimum, these videos are churned out at a rate of three a day, and that’s on YouTube alone. In comparison, the channel for craft supply chain store Michael’s, despite starting in 2010, only has 700. It lends credence to the theory that these videos are somehow bot created (as do many of the thumbnails for the videos, which show such Dali-esque images as a fried egg on top of a phone, or someone melting a watermelon with an iron), but the videos feature actual actors in them, and reasonable production values.
One can assume that their fortune is made on clicks and ad revenue, but that still doesn’t explain the innate weirdness of them. Perhaps if I watched more of them, I’d crack the code, or finally get the subliminal message they surely must be sending.
I started with “25 Life Hacks That Will Give You Goosebumps,” one of the most recent additions to the channel. We’re off to a great start with instructions on how to steal someone’s fingerprint with lipstick and a piece of tape in order to unlock their phone (so many of the “crafts” and “hacks” involve phones that one wonders if they’re getting a kickback from Apple). This isn’t so much a “hack,” as an “egregious invasion of privacy,” and it probably wouldn’t work anyway. Other tips for stalkers include using a credit card to open a door without leaving fingerprints, and turning a cracker box and a hand mirror into a spyglass. Those might definitely give you goosebumps, not so much the tips to turn rubber gloves into everything from pastry bags to olive oil dispensers to Barbie doll nightgowns, or using a cigarette lighter to protect your hand while carrying heavy grocery bags because why the fuck wouldn’t you?
Next up was “27 Amazing Life Hacks You Had No Idea About.” If you’re looking around your house and wondering “What do I do with all these rubber snakes laying around my house?” you’re in luck, because it opens with the vaguest of instructions on turning a rubber snake into a bowl. You can turn almost anything into a bowl, or a flower pot, in the world of 5-Minute Crafts, including perler beads, ribbon smeared with white school glue, and Starburst wrappers, if that’s something you think you ought to do instead of throwing them away like a person. It then goes into several minutes of crafts made with popsicle sticks, including a chandelier, a flower pot (again), a placeholder for a book, and flip flops. The steps involved in making flip flops out of popsicle sticks are thus: glue a bunch of popsicle sticks together side by side, then step on them so that they somehow break perfectly in the shape of your foot. Drill holes in them, loop some paracord through the holes, and vee-o-la, flip flops. Try it, I’ll bet they’ll look great. You’ll be the Wesley Willis of crafting.
After that was “26 Secret Hacks to Look Cool Even If You Are Not,” because God knows I need help there. One of the first tips offered is “Wearing two bras will give the illusion of larger breasts.” Well, yes, I suppose that’s true. If you want to do that, sure. Just wear two fuckin’ bras, why not. While you’re at it, stuff some maxi-pads in the waistband of your pants to make it look like you have fuller hips, as the video also suggests, turn rubber bands and earring backs into fake dental braces, and tape your shoes to your feet. I’m doing all four right now, and I’ve never looked cooler in my life.
Not wanting to appear as if I’m a misandrist, I also watched a “5-Minute Crafts Men” video, “32 Decor Life Hacks,” mostly because, going by the thumbnail, it appeared to suggest making bathroom sink accessories out of cement (which would, indeed, be very manly). It does that, plus covering a boot in cement and turning it into a planter, dipping towels in cement and turning them into vague flower shapes, dipping towels in cement and turning them into flower pots (again), and dipping a stuffed toy in plaster and turning it into a stuffed toy covered in plaster. Nearly all the tips in this video involved either cement and/or plaster (because, you know, for men), without any instruction on how to handle it beyond “let dry.” It just posits that everyone has a bucket of already prepared cement just sitting around their house, waiting to be made into a cake plate, or covered with bubble wrap and turned into some sort of nightmare wasp’s nest bowl thing.
If you’re reading this and thinking you’d like to try some of what 5-Minute Crafts has to offer, I suggest that before anything else you go to your local Home Depot, buy a hot glue gun and their entire supply of glue sticks, then go to another Home Depot and buy all their glue sticks as well, plus a second glue gun as backup. So much glue is expended on these projects that it’s possible the whole thing is a collaboration with the Presidential Council on Glue Awareness. There are videos dedicated entirely to making things not just with glue, but out of glue, including jewelry, a bath mat, a pincushion, a lumpy, misshapen model of the Eiffel Tower, a lamp, a phone stand, a spoon, and a pair of shoes. Your home will look like Shelob’s lair, with great sticky gobs of glue hanging off of everything. When’s the last time you’ve been able to use a doorknob without your hand sticking to it? Where are your children? It doesn’t matter, fill this balloon with glue.
The mask of sanity began to slip a little when I watched “Most Viral Life Hacks That Will Shock You,” which opens with an alternate method for dyeing Easter eggs. Rather than spend $1.99 on a Paas dyeing kit and a half hour to do it, why not turn it into a three day long project that involves soaking (raw) eggs in vinegar, followed by maple syrup, and then finally dye? The video doesn’t specify what kind of dye to use, which is a fairly important distinction when you’re working with food, but, eh, details. It doesn’t matter anyway, because as it turns out this is actually a science experiment of sorts, and the end result, according to the on-screen text is that the egg will be “BIGGER THAN BEFORE.” After staring at the paused screen for over a minute, I finally concluded that it was BIGGER THAN BEFORE, by about a nanofraction of an inch. But it was definitely, undeniably bluer than before, which is a cool thing to see as you’re throwing away the now inedible, unusable egg.
Speaking of inedible, perhaps you’d like to try dipping a strawberry in bleach to turn it white? That’s suggested in “22 Awesome Food Ideas That Are Actually Delicious,” along with making soda “transparent” by adding milk to it. A cold, greasy sweat formed on my forehead when I realized that I had already seen those “ideas” before, on other videos. Oh, I wasn’t bothered by the fact that a strawberry soaked in bleach was categorized as a “delicious idea,” I had come to expect that from 5-Minute Crafts at this point. It was just that I had watched so many of them at this point. Not since writing about all six hours of Hollywood Wives last year had I devoted so much time to a blog post, and that one had been written in three parts. I lost my job. My loved ones abandoned me. All I had left in the world was a family of eggshells with googly eyes glued to them, which I learned how to make in the ominously titled “28 Egg Hacks You’d Better Learn By Heart,” one of nearly thirty egg-related videos available.
Defeated, exhausted, and covered in panty liners, thanks to watching two “period hack” videos, I bid farewell to this project with one last video, the latest addition to the channel, “32 Simple Hacks to Upgrade You Boring Gadgets.” By this point, I was unsure if it was a misspelling, or if the makers of the video were addressing the viewer, myself, as a boring gadget. I mean, they wouldn’t be wrong. Anyway, after a few moments, there it was, the “hack” that inspired me to start this project, covering the back of your phone in hot glue and nail polish to create some sort of puffy, squiggly faux mandala design. I had come full circle. Like Sam Neill at the end of In the Mouth of Madness, I sat there, glue gun clutched in my hand, cackling in giddy disbelief. There was no understanding of 5-Minute Crafts, only acceptance.
There was much grumbling in the comments about repeated content, except for one fellow who had achieved total enlightenment, who commented “Have a sweet and great life. I genuinely wish that may God bless you and your family members.” Upon reading that, I was filled with such gratitude for my new eggshell family, and my cement cake plate, and my bowl made out of melted plastic army men. I was at peace. God is good. Glue is good. Glue is God, world without end, amen.