Alternative Uses for Household Products

Almost anything designed for one purpose can be put to another, as this list of alternative uses for household products should demonstrate.
By Joey Green
August/September 1998
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You might not need to stitch Frankenstein back together, but dental floss is one household product with plenty of alternative uses.
ILLUSTRATION: TIM HAGGARTY
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Would you consider washing your hair with whipped cream? Or spreading vegetable shortening on a baby’s bottom to prevent diaper rash? Apparently somebody did. Although nothing presented here is truly hazardous, we haven’t tested all of these suggested alternative uses for household products. Proceed at your own risk.

Tennis Balls

Store valuables. Make a two-inch slit along one seam of a tennis ball, then place valuables inside. If you hide the doctored tennis ball among your other sports equipment, remember not to use it.

Fluff your down jacket in the dryer and reduce static cling. Throw in a handful of balls to fluff the down while the jacket is tumbling in the dryer.

Childproof the sharp corners of furniture. Cut old balls into halves or quarters and use packing tape to affix the sections over sharp comers of coffee tables, end tables, cabinets, dining room tables, and other pieces of furniture that might be dangerous to a small child.

Make parking cars in your garage easier. Hang a tennis ball on a string from the garage ceiling so it will hit the windshield at the spot where you should stop your car.

Prevent a chrome trailer hitch from getting scratched. Slit a ball and put it over the trailer hitch as a protective cover.

Make a walker glide more easily. Cut a hole in two balls and fit them on the back feet of the walker.

Give yourself a foot massage. Roll your foot over a tennis ball.

Remove cobwebs from unreachable places. Wrap a tennis ball inside a dust cloth secured with a few rubber bands and toss at the distant cobweb.

Play "basket tennis." Remove the bottom of an empty coffee can and nail the can above the garage door.

Strengthen your grip. Squeeze a tennis ball in each hand.

Prevent snoring. Sew a ball inside a pocket on the back of your pajama top to prevent you from sleeping on your back.

Prevent a deck chair from slipping through the cracks of a deck. Slit four tennis balls and fit them on the feet of the deck chair.

Make a back massager. Put several tennis balls inside a sock and tie the sock at the end. This type of massager is frequently used by a labor coach to massage the back of a woman in labor.

Keep your car door open without wasting the battery. Wedge a tennis ball into the doorjamb to depress the interior light switch.

Vegetable Shortening

Prevent snow from sticking to a shovel. Lubricate the shovel with shortening before you start shoveling.

Clean grease and dirt from hands. Rub into hands before using soap.

Make white clown makeup. Mix two tablespoons of com starch with one tablespoon shortening. For colored make-up, add a few drops of food coloring.

Remove lipstick from clothes. Rub in a dab, then rinse the stained area with club soda.

Season new cast-iron cookware. Apply a thin coat of solid unsalted shortening, and bake at 200°F for two hours. Repeat procedure after the first few uses.

Prevent diaper rash. Use shortening as a balm on a baby's behind.

Revitalize wooden salad bowls. Rub with shortening inside and out, let sit overnight, then remove excess with paper towels.

Clean ink from hands and vinyl surfaces. Apply and wipe clean.

Preserve a wooden cutting board. Rub with shortening, let sit overnight, then remove excess with paper towels.

Remove homemade candles from molds easily. Apply a thin coat to the inside of the candle mold before pouring in the hot wax.

Remove tar from clothing. Scrape off as much tar as possible, place a lump of shortening over the spot, wait three hours, then wash.

Whipped Cream

Lighten coffee. Use a tablespoon of whipped cream as a substitute for milk or cream in a cup of coffee.

Shave. Apply whipped cream to wet skin as a substitute for shaving cream.

Condition your hair. Apply one-half cup whipped cream to dry hair once a week as a conditioner. Leave on for thirty minutes, then rinse a few times before shampooing thoroughly.

Soothe a burn on the roof of your mouth from hot pizza. To coat the lesion, fill your mouth with whipped cream and press it gently against the roof of your mouth with your tongue. Repeat procedure if necessary.

Make a sour cream substitute. Mix three or four drops of lemon juice with one cup whipped cream and let sit for thirty minutes.

Give yourself a moisturizing facial. Whipped cream helps moisten dry skin when applied as a face mask. Wait twenty minutes, then wash it off with warm water followed by cold water.

Remove makeup. Wet face with lukewarm water, spread a handful of whipped cream on face, rinse clean with lukewarm water, and blot dry.

Furniture Polish

Revitalize dull candles. Spray on a cloth and wipe the candles thoroughly.

 

Keep ski goggles from fogging up. Spray the inside of the lens, then wipe clean.

Polish leather shoes. Spray on shoes and shine with a cloth.

Oil a squeaky door. Lubricate the hinges with furniture polish.

Prevent stains on kitchen drain boards. Coat rubber drain board trays with a light application.

Sweep up dust and dirt with ease. Spray the bristles of your broom or mop before sweeping.

Prevent water spots and soap scum on shower walls and doors. Coat the tile walls with furniture polish and wipe clean.

Make cleaning grease splatters on the wall behind the stove easier. First, clean the painted wall behind your stove. Then spray the entire area with a generous coat of furniture polish and buff well with paper towels. You will then be able to wipe future grease spatters away easily with a dry sheet of Bounty.

Dental Floss

Truss poultry for cooking. Fill the cavity with stuffing, cross the two legs and tie together with dental floss. If necessary, sew the cavity closed.

Repair the mesh screening on playpens. Sew up the rip with dental floss.

Cut a birthday cake. Dental floss cuts cake into neat slices.

Lift cookies from a cookie sheet. Slide a strand of dental floss between fresh baked cookies and the cookie sheet.

Repair a tent or backpack. When hiking or camping, dental floss can be used as a strong thread for tough repairs.

Sew buttons on heavy coats. Use floss as a long-lasting thread. Use floss as a long-lasting thread.

Hang pictures, sun catchers, or wind chimes. Oral-B Mint Waxed Floss is stronger and more durable than ordinary string.

String beaded necklaces.

Rubber Erasers

Clean piano keys. Use an eraser to re-move marks from the ivory keys.

Clean gold. The eraser gently scours gold-plated items' such as pens and jewelry without damaging the material.

Fix a wobbly table. Cut an eraser to fit the bottoms of the table legs and affix with nails or glue.

Remove scuff marks from floors. Simply use an eraser.

Prevent framed pictures from tilting or scratching the wall. Glue at least two Pink Pearl erasers to the bottom edge of the back of the frame.

Erase fingerprints from woodwork. Gently rub with an eraser.

Clean cotton upholstery. Rub lightly with an eraser.

Store small drill bits. Twist the bits point-first into a large eraser.

Clean golf balls. Pack an eraser in your golf bag.

Black Pepper

Stop small leaks in a car radiator. Add a teaspoon of black pepper to your radiator. The pepper sinks to the bottom, finds its way into small holes, and expands, filling them.

Stop colors from running. Add a teaspoon of black pepper to the first suds when you are washing cottons.

Keep dogs, raccoons, cats, and other animals away from your garden. Sprinkle black pepper around your hedges and flower beds.

Repel  ants. Sprinkle black pepper in cracks and crevices.

Enhance the flavor of ice cream. McCormick/Schilling's New Spice Cookbook recommends softening one quart vanilla or chocolate ice cream just enough to stir (without allowing it to melt), spooning it into a large bowl, and adding one tablespoon crushed green peppercorns, one teaspoon coarse ground black pepper,and one-quarter teaspoon coconut extract.

Repel moths. Use black pepper as an alternative to moth balls. Fill a cheesecloth bag or the foot of a nylon stocking with pepper and use it as a sachet.

Packaging Tape

Cork a wine or champagne bottle. Wipe the lip of the bottle dry and seal tightly with a small piece of packing tape.

Remove a splinter. Place tape over the splinter and gently peel off.

Hold wires in place while soldering.

Clean a metal file. Put a piece of tape over the length of the file, press firmly, then peel off.

Provide first aid in an emergency. Bandage wounds with torn sheets and packing tape, or make emergency splints with two-by-fours and tape.

Kill ants. Use a strip of tape to pick up an advancing line of ants.

Tag the pull cord that opens the drapes. Wrap a half-inch piece at eye level around the right cord.

Remove fuzz, lint, and pet hair from clothing and furniture. Wrap a strip of packing tape around your hand, adhesive side out, and pat.

Remove a broken windowpane. Wearing gloves, criss-cross tape on both sides of the glass and tap the inside edges with a hammer until the pane breaks free.

Organize cables and extension cords.

Attach loose speakers to a boom box.

Hang any item on a pegboard.  Fold a piece of packing tape over the edge of any small object, punch a hole in the tape, and hang on a peg.

Krazy Glue

Remove ticks from inside the ear of a horse, cow, dog, or cat Put a drop on a broom straw, apply it to the tick, and pull it right out.

Repair a broken fingernail.Use a small drop to secure the nail in place, then coat with nail polish.

Fix leaks in inflatable innertubes, air mattresses, or air pillows. Apply Krazy Glue to seal the hole or leaky valve stem.

Prevent bra pads from slipping. Use Krazy Glue to attach Velcro to the inside cups of the bra and the outside of the pads.

Alka-Seltzer

Clean a toilet. Drop in two Alka-Seltzer tablets, wait twenty minutes, brush, and flush. The citric acid and effervescent action clean vitreous china.

Clean a vase. To remove a stain from the bottom of a glass vase or cruet, fill with water and drop in two tablets.

Polish jewelry. Drop two tablets into a glass of water and immerse the jewelry for two minutes.

Clean a thermos bottle. Fill the bottle with water, drop in four tablets, and let soak for an hour (or longer, if necessary).

Remove burned-on grease from a pot or pan. Fill the pot or pan with water, drop in six tables, let soak for one hour, and scrub as usual.

Unclog a drain. Clear the sink drain by dropping three tables down the drain followed by a cup of Heinz white vinegar. What a few minutes, and run the hot water.

Get short term relief from nicotine withdrawal symptoms. As long as you’re not on a low-sodium diet and you don’t have peptic ulcers, drink two tablets dissolved in a glass of water at every meal.

Soothe insect bites. Dissolve two tablets in a glass of water, dip a cloth into the solution, and place the cloth on the bite for twenty minutes.

Lip Balm

Stop bleeding while shaving. Dab on some lip balm if you nick yourself.

Prevent car battery corrosion. Smear lip balm on clean car battery terminals.

Lubricate a zipper. Rub along the teeth of the zipper.

Moisturize skin. Rubbing lip balm on your face protects the skin from windburn while working or playing outdoors.

Lubricate nails and screws. Both will go into wood more easily when rubbed with lip balm.

Shine leather shoes. In a pinch, rub balm over the leather and buff with a clean dry cloth.

Lubricate drawers and windows. Rub on the casters of both to make them slide easily.

Prevent hair coloring from dyeing your skin. Run lip balm along the hairline before coloring your hair.

Baby Wipes

Blot spilled coffee from a rug or carpet. Wipes will absorb coffee without leaving a stain.

Soothe hemorrhoids. Use wipes instead of your usual toilet tissue to avoid aggravating sensitive skin.

Clean hands after pumping gas or changing engine oil. A box left in the trunk of the car will prove a handy grease-cutter.

Shaving Cream

Remove spots from rugs or carpets. Squirt shaving cream on stain, scrub, and wash with water.

Clean upholstery. Apply shaving cream sparingly to stain and rub gently with a damp cloth.

Prevent ski goggles from fogging up. Spray the goggles, then wipe clean.

Clean grease from hands. Rubbing shaving cream between your hands will dissolve grime without water. Keep a can of it at the workbench.

Remove latex paint from hands. The moisturizers ease paint from skin.

Keep your bathroom mirror from fogging up. Spread shaving cream on and wipe off. Effective for two to three weeks.

Lubricate squeaky hinges. Spray the joint with shaving cream.

Break in a baseball glove. Rub the center of the glove with shaving cream, place a baseball in the glove, fold the mitt around it. Tuck the glove under a mattress overnight. You should have a supple "pocket" by the next day.

Would You Believe?

Ammonia as fertilizer. Watering soil with a mixture of two tablespoons ammonia to each quart of water will not only enrich the nitrogen content of the soil but keep black flies away.

Revive ailing houseplants with Geritol. Give the plant two tablespoons of Geritol twice a week for three months. New leaves should begin to grow within the first month.


The Doctor Is In

Sooth Insect Bites With…

Bottled steak sauce. Applying sauce over the affected area alleviates itching.

Alka-Seltzer. Dissolve two tablets in a glass of water, dip a cloth into the solution and place it on the bite for twenty minutes.

Baking soda. Make a paste of baking soda and water and apply to the affected area.

Aspirin. Wet the skin and rub an aspirin tablet over the bite to help control inflammation.

Instant potatoes. Mix with enough water to make a thick paste, and apply to the bite.

Nonfat dry milk. Mix ten ounces of milk and twenty-five ounces of water in a quart container. Fill the container by adding ice cubes and two tablespoons of salt. Apply to infected area with a cloth for twenty minutes, three or four times daily.

Sun tan lotion. Applying lotion to the affected areas alleviates itching.

Epsom salt. Dissolve one tablespoon Epsom salt in one quart hot water. Chill, then dip a clean, soft cloth into the solution and place on the bite for twenty minutes.

Vinegar. Use a cotton ball to dab mosquito and other bug bites with vinegar straight from the bottle.

Pure bar soap. Apply wet soap to the bite. When the soap dries, the skin will feel anesthetized.

Meat tenderizer. Make a paste of meat tenderizer and water, and apply to the sting. The enzymes in meat tenderizer break down the proteins in insect venom.

Skin So Soft. Applying this skin moisturizer alleviates itching.

Thousand Island dressing. This also (believe it or not) alleviates itching.

Sooth Sunburn Pain With…

Baking soda. Dissolve one-half cup in a tepid Ibath. Soak for fifteen minutes.               

Nonfat dry milk. Mix ten ounces of milk and I twenty-five ounces water in a quart container. Fill the container by adding ice cubes andtwo tablespoons of salt. Apply to affectedarea with a cloth for twenty minutes, three or four times daily.

Yogurt. Spread yogurt on the sunburn, let sit for twenty minutes, then rinse clean with lukewarm water.

Vinegar. Apply undiluted vinegar to the burn.

Corn starch. Add enough water to starch to make a paste, and apply directly to the bum.

Tea bags. Pat your sunburn with wet tea bags.

Whipped cream. Use whipped cream as a skin cream.

Instant tea. Empty a jar of instant tea into a warm bath. Soak.

Treating Wounds

Lessen the pain of minor cuts with Krazy Glue. Apply Krazy Glue to the thin cracks in the skin to relieve the pain. The glue deprives the nerve endings of air.

Disinfect wounds with Listerine. Listerine works as an astringent when poured on a laceration or abrasion.

Clean scrapes and bruises with baby wipes. They both clean and soothe the skin.

Dress wounds with honey. Honey is hygroscopic and absorbs water, creating an environment in which disease-producing microorganisms, deprived of their moisture, cannot live.


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