Get more out of every day items

Talk about multitasking! Here are 10 common household products that can be used to take care of problems they weren't made for.


To beer lovers, doing anything with a brewski other than drinking it is sacrilege. But beer has many other creative household uses, including to clean jewelry and copper (let it soak, then polish with a soft brush), and as a skin-soothing foot bath. You can even use the foamy thirst quencher as lawn fertilizer, because the sugar stimulates plant growth and the acids kill harmful bugs and fungi.


There are many health and beauty secrets hiding inside that little tea bag. Apply a cool water-soaked tea bag to insect bites and rashes to ease itching, or soothe inflamed skin from sun or razor burns. The tannins in tea constrict blood vessels, which can help heal bruises and stop bleeding (particularly bleeding gums), and reduce puffiness and dark circles around the eyes.

Olive Oil

Years ago, I was tarring a roof when our cat decided to run across the hot tar. I really thought the poor thing had outlived his nine lives, but then a friend showed me how easy and painless it was to remove the tar from the cat's fur with olive oil. Use this Mediterranean staple to remove not just tar but sap, paint, chewing gum, grease, stickers/labels and even eye makeup.

Tin Foil

A ball of aluminum foil works well as a pot scrubber, and put another ball in the clothes dryer to reduce static cling. Slice though a couple of folded sheets of foil a few times with scissors or garden shears to keep them sharp. And if you have a cat you’re trying to train to stay off the kitchen counter or furniture, temporarily cover the surface with aluminum foil to help him learn.


Your teeth aren't the only thing you can clean with toothpaste. Use it to polish jewelry and chrome, remove scuffs from leather shoes and shine ivory piano keys. A thin layer of non-gel toothpaste will also keep your bathroom mirror from fogging up, as it will your swim/ski/safety goggles if you rub a little inside, on the lenses

Cat Litter

You may already know to carry some in the car with you in the wintertime to provide added traction when stuck in an icy spot. But you can also use a tub of cat litter to keep damp places — like boats, RVs and basements — dry. And it works better than rice for drying out a wet cellphone. Bonus tip: Use cat litter to clean up oil and grease spills in the garage.

Dryer Sheets

Fabric softener dryer sheets have many other uses, and can sometimes even be used after they've done their primary duty. I put once-used dryer sheets between every couple of books on my bookshelf to keep mold and mildew away, or tuck them into drawers and closets to keep clothes smelling fresh. They also make excellent wipes to clean the tub and shower.


Did you know that misting the leaves and petals of cut flowers with hairspray will make them last longer? A blast of hairspray will also add extra shine to your shoes after you've polished them, as well as help remove ink marks from fabric and furniture. And spraying tights and stockings helps prevent holes and runs.

Dish Soap

If you're cheap — and green — like me, try using dish soap as part of an inexpensive, environmentally friendly weed killer. Just mix one tablespoon of dish soap with one cup of salt and one gallon of white vinegar. Use a watering can to apply the mixture directly to the foliage of the unwanted flora, and you'll be weed-free in no time.

Baking Soda

Probably no other household product has more uses than good old-fashioned baking soda, which was originally developed by the ancient Egyptians to use in painting hieroglyphics. In modern times it can be a remedy for sunburns, bee stings and upset stomachs. It can also be used as an underarm deodorant, a mouthwash and to put out a fire in a pinch. Of course, baking soda eliminates odors in the refrigerator and elsewhere.

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