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Alternate Uses for Common Household Items

Updated on September 11, 2012

In today's struggling economy many people are looking for ways to save money. Discount sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial are very popular offering daily discounted specials. There are several blogs such as DealSeekingMom and that send daily coupons and thrifty ideas to Facebook subscribers. Take your savings a step further by using common household products in non-traditional ways.


Toothbrush and Toothpaste

The other day I purchased a twin pack of toothbrushes and was shocked they were $7. If you don't change yours regularly that probably isn't a big deal. I change mine every 2 or 3 months so the cost does begin to add up. Instead of throwing away a brush that isn't completely destroyed, I save them. No this isn't some weird collection fetish I have, I reuse them around the house. Toothbrushes are perfect for cleaning small spaces around the house. The smallest nooks and cracks are always the dirtiest and a toothbrush fits perfectly. I use them to clean the grout in the bathroom. When the inside of the window frames need cleaning from condensation and mold growth, toothbrushes are perfect.

Have you ever pulled out a piece of jewelry to wear and discovered it is tarnished? Don't worry if you're out of jewelry cleaner. A toothbrush and a little dab of toothpaste will remove the tarnish and have it looking like new in minutes.

Baby Powder

As a busy mom on the go I don't dedicate much time to a beauty routine. A pair of yoga pants, a t-shirt and a ponytail do the trick on most days. When I have to leave the house I'll quickly cover the dark circles with concealer and add a few strokes of mascara to the upper lashes. Some days I'll notice the front of my hair looks a little oily. In those instances where throwing on a hat is inappropriate I use baby powder to soak up the oil. Yes, they make dry shampoo, but I think this works just as well. My hair is a dark shade of brown so I feared creating a white spot on top of my head. However, it didn't. I sprinkle a little powder in my hand, rub my hands together, and then run my fingers through my hair. Powder can make your hair a little staticky, but it does take care of the oily hair look.


Hair Conditioner

They say the best hair conditioner are the oils produced by the scalp. With long hair I don't shampoo everyday and only condition once a week. Since I don't condition my hair every time I wash it, I tend to accumulate bottles of conditioner. Luckily it can also be used to shave. Squirt a dab of conditioner on your palm and rub it all over your leg. It has a much better glide than ordinary soap and it saves on buying shaving gel.


Pumice Stone

While we're still in the bathroom let's talk about the pumice stone. I'm sure this stone could be used until it were the size of a dime, but I think it's best to replace the stone once or twice a year. The pores of the stone become filled with dead skin, it gets wet, I really rather not think about what grows in there. Instead of tossing the stone way there is another place it can be used. If you've ever had a hard water ring in your toilet that a simple toilet brush doesn't take care of, the pumice stone will remove the ring. Wearing a rubber glove, simply use the stone to scrub the stained area in the toilet.

Dawn Dish Soap

Dawn dish soap has a variety of uses. I remember a few practical jokes when I lived in Ohio. Many of us have seen fountains full of bubbles because someone added soap. High school kids would pour a bottle on someone's driveway. During the next downpour the driveway would be covered in bubbles. Besides cleaning dirty dishes with ease it can also be used to clean wildlife exposed to an oil spill. Another special attribute this powerful soap carries is sheeting action. Dishes that are hand washed will dry without spots. A few drops of Dawn dish soap, a squeegee, and a few hours later the windows on your house will be clean and spotless.

Cooking Water

Typically when people boil potatoes or make pasta a generous amount of salt is added to the cooking liquid. A stockpot with a strainer insert is ideal for removing the food and leaving the cooking water behind. Instead of dumping this valuable water down the drain take it outside while it's still hot and pour it over some weeds. Just be sure you don't pour it too close to plants you actually like.

Butter Knife

Any single girl who has ever lived on her own has experienced the creativity required to fix something without the proper tools. Instead of running to the hardware store I decided to improvise. Did you know a butter knife will also work as a screwdriver? Naturally it depends on the screw and the knife. Often times a flat head screw works better, but they will also work on larger phillips head screws.

Clothes Pins

Our current neighborhood doesn't allow clothes lines because they're not "pretty". Instead I use them to keep bags closed in the kitchen. Cutting a self adhesive business card magnet to fit one side of the clip they can be used to hold notes on the refrigerator. When you run out of hangers with clips, clothes pins will hold a pair of pants on a metal hanger.


Newspaper is excellent because it is easy to find even if you don't have a subscription. Stuffing it into your shoes helps draw out odors. Books and gifts can be wrapped with newspaper. I recently saw a show where they made a holiday wreath with wadded up sections attached to a metal frame and then spray painted. In the garden newspaper is a double duty friend. Surround your plants with 2 or 3 layers of newspaper to act as a weed barrier. Cover the newsprint with mulch and as the paper decomposes it also fertilizes the soil.

Glass Jars

Pasta sauces, pickles, jams, and olives are just a few of the grocery items that come in glass jars. My local market has a bulk food section where you can scoop out only what you need into a plastic produce bag. I use the extra jars to store these bulk food items. Large jars can be used as drinking glasses. Smaller jars can be used to organize the junk drawer in the kitchen or small items in the bathroom. A drawer I recently organized with 3 glass jars separates ponytail elastics, medium sized hair clips, and bobby pins. When everything was mixed together I was always digging around for bobby pins with great frustration. Now, I am able to go directly to them.

My husband loves candles and some of them come in pretty nice jars with lids such as the Yankee Candles. When the candle has been used place it in a pan of water over medium heat to melt the remaining wax and dump it in the trash. After cleaning the jar use it to store other items. I suppose you could collect the wax and re-melt it to make your own candles if you wanted to. Another option is to restock your candle jar with a pillar candle. Since they don't come with a container they are usually cheaper.

Some candles come with nice lids made of wood or metal but they may not seal as well as you'd like them to. In those instances we use them for coasters. The baby can throw them and give them to the dog and we can put our nice coasters away for awhile.

Candle Lids as Coasters


Drain or Cook Greasy Foods on a Cooling Rack

Place a cooling rack over a baking sheet to cook bacon in the oven. Bake at 350 F until the desired crispness is reached.
Place a cooling rack over a baking sheet to cook bacon in the oven. Bake at 350 F until the desired crispness is reached. | Source

Using Fewer Paper Towels

Between the toddler and 2 Labrador retrievers I use more paper towels than I wish. I've always thought I needed these towels for draining grease from foods. Place a cooling rack over a baking sheet and allow the foods to drain onto the sheet. There are more dishes to wash but if you cook your bacon on the rack and sheet in the oven you won't have a cook top to clean.

Shopping Bags

Whether you accumulate paper or plastic bags there are uses for each. When I have to clean up dog vomit with a paper towel I put one of the plastic bags over my hand to hold the paper towel. Then I simply invert the bag, tie it up, and place it in the trash. I never buy small trash can bags because these fit those cans perfectly. If you spend a lot of time in your car commuting and need a place to put the trash, drape the handles of a plastic grocery bag over your gear shift. It gives you a place to put your car trash without cluttering your car. Brown paper bags can be used for crafts, wrapping paper, book covers, and compost. Whenever I receive a nice bag from a store with handles I'll save it for future occasions. These sturdy bags work especially well for items you're giving away.

Socks, T-Shirts, and Old Clothes

A few weeks ago I StumbledUpon the Julie Ann Art blog with several ideas for old t-shirts but the rug in the photo below is the one I'm looking forward to making. The original post with step by step instructions and photographs is found on If you don't have time to make a rug the simplest solution is to cut old t-shirts into rags for dusting and other cleaning jobs.

One of our dogs is prone to seizures and there can be quite a mess left behind on the hardwood floor. After cleaning the floor a few times with the Swiffer I'll grab a strip of old t-shirt to clean it again. I think the shirts clean better than the pads do. They can be washed and re-used but I generally toss it if it's a nasty mess.

If you're one of those people who always has an odd number of socks you can still put them to good use. Who knows where they go but there comes a time when you have to give up hope the match will re-appear. Slip these old socks on your hand and use them for dusting or cleaning the bathtub.

A rug made out of t-shirts.
A rug made out of t-shirts. | Source

Old Sheets

When your next painting or craft project comes around use an old sheet to protect the floor. Depending on the the quality of your old sheets they may be destined for better things than paint splotches. Cut them and use them for quilting projects or turn them into tea towels. If they're the right color use them to line your existing curtains to help insulate your windows. Instead of spending money on sheets exclusively sold for massage tables use a twin sized set if you own a table. Old twin sheets are perfect if you can find a friend or spouse to give you a body scrub or mud wrap at home.


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