7 Uncommon Uses for Common Household Items

by Jamie Simmerman · 15 comments

If you’ve ever been to a large hardware or kitchen supply store, you know they make a gadget for just about everything under the sun. You can buy a plastic mold that cuts a stick of butter into even-sized pats, or an attachment for your vacuum cleaner that cleans mini-blinds. Well, since we’re pretty cheap *ahem*, I mean frugal around here, we like to find multi-purposes for common household items and save the money that might have been spent on specialty items. Here are a few of my favorites.

Uncommon Uses for Common Items

1. Butter Knife – The handy kitchen butter knife is quite the versatile tool around the house. It works surprisingly well as a screwdriver in a pinch, and when inserted into the end of a curtain rod, makes your curtains slide on like, well, butter. No more bunching and fighting with fabric over those sharp edges.

2. Hairspray – I like to use hairspray as an alternative to bug spray in the house. Just one squirt sends bees or flies spiraling to the ground. I’m not sure if their wings stick together, if it seals up their skin so they can’t breath, or if the stuff is poison (I’ve heard all three reasons). But using hairspray is still preferable to chemical bug killers. A few squirts of hairspray also helps get ink and lipstick stains out of clothing.

3. WD-40 – Great for squeaky door hinges, but it also takes bubble gum and taffy out of carpets or hair, and it cleans soap scum like nobody’s business (great for glass shower doors). You can also pre-treat your dishes and glassware with a few squirts in the dishwasher to remove soap buildup.

4. Plastic Bread Ties – You know those seemingly useless split plastic squares that hold the bread bag closed? Those little clips are great for reinforcing the thong on your flip-flops. Just secure to the underside (sole) where the thong goes through the shoe and no more broken flip-flops!

5. Dryer Lint – Yes, I said dryer lint – the stuff that collects in the dryer screen is actually quite useful. We use it as fire-starter for the wood burner in the winter, and for campfires in the summer. This is also why you need to clean the dryer screen, vent opening, and vent hose often to keep the stuff from igniting and burning your house down.

6. Dryer Sheets – Dryer sheets have lots of uses (even after they’ve a had a tumble with your clothes), but one of my favorite uses is as a bug repellent. Tuck a sheet in your back pocket and one under your ball cap to help deter biting insects and flies while outdoors. Dryer sheets are also great for dusting furniture and discouraging household pests from taking up residence in used rooms and crawlspaces.

7. Milk Jugs and 2-Liter Soda Bottles – These plastic containers make excellent portable greenhouses for your garden plants. Just cut off the spout and place over plants to protect from frost or harsh storms.

There are literally unlimited uses for common household items. What great tips do you have for using ordinary household items in unconventional ways?

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Jules June 14, 2012 at 5:25 am

Some pretty interesting uses for weird things. Two comments:

1) Dryer lint–I’m guessing it might not work so well if your clothes are polyester, or some kind of plastic? Plastic fumes are poisonous…there’s a reason why it took so long to figure out how to recycle plastics.

2) Dryer sheets–even after being thrown in the dryer, I’m not sure I’d want the chemical residues next to my skin. A quick swipe here and there, or keeping them in the back of your closet might not be so bad, but prolonged exposure to them can’t be good.


Amy June 14, 2012 at 8:06 am

Agreed on hairspray to remove ink stains, and WD-40 to remove soap scum. If you cut off the bottom of a milk jug and leave the cap on, it makes a great scoop for anything bulky (grains, fertilizer, prepared soil, etc.)


Emily June 14, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Great tips – hope you don’t mind if I point out that hairspray works like a chemical because it is made of chemicals. It’s not exactly a common household item, but orange oil diluted in some water will kill bugs dead just as fast and is completely eco-friendly.


AJ June 14, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Thank you for the ideas.

However, the dryer sheet as a bug repellent is not true according to Snopes. http://www.snopes.com/oldwives/skeeters.asp


Venita Peyton July 23, 2012 at 3:44 am

Don’t know about the dryer sheet but a dose of rubbing alcohol worked faster than Raid for me in killing a water bug. Anything is faster than Hot Shot.


Mike June 14, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Thanks for the ideas.

Additionally, you can use the plastic bread ties to label your cable wires.


Shane June 15, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Great tips. I didn’t know about all the uses for WD40. I am looking forward to trying out some of these tips.


Rita June 15, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Use a dryer sheet in the bottom of a flower pot. The sheet will hold the soil but allow the water to drain.


Marbella June 16, 2012 at 4:06 am

A friend of mine dragging home wood pallets that is going to be thrown on his job and saw them up into small pieces and use them for heating in the winter, he saves a ton of money.


harry June 16, 2012 at 4:52 pm

We used to use them all the time in college for bonfires! You can find them outside of grocery stores usually.


Pete July 11, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Just don’t burn pallets on the beach, or anywhere people walk or ride, because the by product (besides ashes) is a lot of sharp nails!


Rob September 16, 2012 at 8:56 am

Yes a buddy of mine also did that until he realized the cost of circular saw blades were negating any savings. I guess you could use a handsaw if you have time.


Mike June 18, 2012 at 12:26 am

Wd40? In your dishwasher?

Do you know wd40 is a petroleum based product? It’s meant to be used as a lubricant for metal. Do not use this it in your dishwasher or any other place where it or its remnants could be injested.


Jean June 18, 2012 at 4:45 am

This has been a most interesting read! Never knew about any of these before, especially point number 2 and 3. I always dislike using bug spray because I’m inhaling the poison too so if hairspray does indeed work, definitely going to use it instead.



Jenna October 13, 2012 at 9:08 pm

The reason hairspray works is the alcohol content in it. Rubbing alcohol works better because it doesn’t have the hairspray part in it, so no yellow-ish spot left behind, like you get with some kinds of hairspray.


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