Take Care With Your Cooker
Before you start taking these unexpected Crockpot uses for a spin, here's a word of caution: Many of these “off-label” uses will require a slow cooker that is dedicated solely to nonculinary purposes. Yes, there are slow cooker liners you can buy to protect the inside of the pot and make it easier to clean, but we do not think they are sufficient to protect your comestibles after you’ve used your slow cooker to, say, make soap with lye. A spare, secondhand slow cooker might be just the ticket for non-cooking uses while you save your “good” one for stews and soups.
1. Make Homemade Soap
Did you know that you can whip up a batch of homemade scented soap with the help of your slow cooker? You will need 16 ounces of coconut oil, 16 ounces of olive oil, a helping of lye, and the essential oils of your choice. Measure your ingredients into the slow cooker, and turn on the heat. Stir the mixture carefully, and wait for it to set. For a complete tutorial, check out Wellness Mama's soap recipe. Be forewarned: The recipe calls for lye, which is a caustic ingredient that should be handled carefully and kept out of the reach of children.
RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Slow Cookers
2. Craft Homemade Candles
Using your slow cooker to make candles is a fun, practical project, and a great way to repurpose wax chips from old candles that have burned down. Simply grate or shred the wax into the slow cooker, and heat it on low. While it is melting, prep old coffee cans or glass jars by oiling them with a bit of nonstick cooking spray. Tie a fresh candle wick onto a pencil, suspend the pencil across the top of the can or jar, and tape the bottom of the wick in the center of the jar or can. Once the wax has melted, pour it into the mold, and let it cool. Trim the wick when the wax is hard. And just like that, you have some emergency candles or homemade gifts!
RELATED: 14 New Uses for Old Candles
3. Banish Dry Air
An old slow cooker filled with water makes a great humidifier, which is a must-have during the dry winter months. To steam up your space, fill the Crockpot about three-quarters full with hot water, cover it with the lid, and turn the appliance to its highest setting. After 15 minutes, remove the lid and let the steam saturate your indoor air.
4. Create New Crayons
With the help of inexpensive silicone crayon molds, you can use a slow cooker to turn broken crayons into fresh art implements. Begin by sorting old crayons by color family, and removing the paper wrappings. Place the broken bits of a single color into the slow cooker, and heat on low until the pieces have melted. Pour or ladle the melted crayons into silicone molds, and stow them in a cool, dry place until they've cooled completely. Then, break out the coloring sheets and set the little ones to work.
RELATED: How to Remove Crayon Stains
5. Fragrance the Air
Rather than keeping a simmer pot on the stove all day, keep your liquid potpourri bubbling in a slow cooker. To infuse your home with an intoxicating, natural scent, place a variety of fruits, herbs, and spices into the Crockpot, and add just enough water to cover them. Turn the switch to a low setting, leaving the lid off. You might try simmering sliced apples along with cinnamon sticks, oranges with cloves, or some combination of lemons, bay leaves, evergreen sprigs, and ginger to find a custom scent that’s perfect for your home.
6. Strip Paint
It may sound nuts, but a Crockpot can take a lot of the effort out of removing paint from small metal objects like hinges, drawer knobs, and cabinet hardware. Simply place the items into a slow cooker set to high heat, cover them with water, and let them soak all day. For really tough, dried-on paint, add a few drops of liquid detergent to the water. Let the items cool to the touch, then give them a scrub with an old toothbrush. The paint should slip right off, leaving you with like-new hardware for your next home DIY.
7. Dye Fabric and Yarn
Good “hues”: Knitters, sewers, and other crafty types can use a slow cooker to dye fabric or yarn. Place the materials (natural fibers work best) in the slow cooker, and cover them with a mixture of 4 parts water to 1 part white vinegar. Heat on high until the mixture is steaming, then add food coloring—one drop at a time—until you achieve the desired shade. Let the soupy mix simmer on low for 2 to 4 hours, then rinse your threads in warm water and allow them to dry thoroughly before using.
RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Yarn Winders
8. Roast a Healthy Treat
On the hunt for a healthy, homemade snack? Try roasting your own nuts and seeds in your slow cooker. Grease the bottom of the cooker, and place a cup of raw seeds or nuts into the pot. Sprinkle in seasonings and toss to coat, then cook for 3 to 4 hours on high, or until the seeds “snap” when tested. Store the treats in small plastic bags or glass jars for easy snacking.
RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Nut Choppers
9. Cook Up Cocktails
Turn your slow cooker into a heated punchbowl by using it to whip up a hot cocktail this holiday season. Mix together and warm up the nonalcoholic components of your cocktail in the slow cooker, keeping it covered. When you're ready to serve, pour your spirits into a glass, then ladle in some of the warm punch. Don't put the alcohol into the pot—it will cook off before you are ready to drink it.
10. Make Your Own Playtime Fun
Here's a fun project that the kids can help make and then enjoy for weeks to come: making their own play dough. Mix 2 cups of flour, ½ cup of salt, and 4 tablespoons of cream of tartar in the slow cooker. Then, pour in 2 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of oil, and a bit of food coloring. Place a damp towel under the lid, and cook the colorful mess on high for 45 to 60 minutes, stirring often. When the dough can be formed into a ball, it’s done. Remove it from the slow cooker, knead it several times, and allow it to cool. Stored properly, your homemade molding dough should last 3 to 4 months.
11. DIY an Air Freshener
Baking soda and water can be a powerful tool against bad odors, stale smells, and musty basements, and the mixture's stench-fighting abilities become even more potent when it's heated in a slow cooker. Fill the appliance halfway with water, and mix in a cup of baking soda. Heat on high, uncovered, for several hours or overnight to get rid of offensive odors. To banish especially strong smells, add a few tablespoons of lemon juice to the water.
12. Germinate Seeds
The seeds of some plants—tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers, for example—need warmth in order to germinate. To warm 'em up, you could use complicated heat lamps and germination mats—or you could just put an inch or so of water into your slow cooker, turn the appliance on low, and drop the seeds in.
Another way to use your slow cooker to germinate seeds is to warm them on top of the Crockpot. Here’s how: Remove the insert from your slow cooker and set the dial to “keep warm.” Wrap a cookie sheet in a large piece of cloth or towel, and place it on top of the slow cooker’s metal housing. Wrap the seeds in damp paper towels and slide the towels into resealable plastic bags. Lay the plastic bags on top of the cloth-covered cookie sheet. Check your seeds after 8 to 10 hours to see what progress they’ve made.
13. Make Lip Balm
Crafty types can use their slow cookers to melt the candelilla wax or beeswax that is typically a primary ingredient of lip balm. When the wax has melted, you can add the other ingredients, which may include Vitamin E, jojoba extract, almond oil, peppermint oil, or shea butter. This recipe suggests mixing 2.25 ounces of unrefined coconut oil with 2 ounces of cocoa or shea butter and 2 ounces of beeswax in a small slow cooker. Alternatively, you can put the ingredients into a tempered glass container and set that in a larger slow cooker that you’ve partially filled with water. When the ingredients are melted and well mixed, you can add a drop or two of an essential oil. This recipe will make 40 1.5-ounce lip balms.
14. Culture Yogurt
While we usually think of slow-cooked foods as those we eat warm, yogurt is an exception. To make yogurt in a slow cooker, add a half-gallon of milk to your Crockpot and set the temperature to low. Your goal is to get the milk to 180 degrees Fahrenheit after 1½ hours to 2½ hours. If your slow cooker is too hot at the “low” setting, try the “keep warm” setting. When the milk has reached temperature, turn the slow cooker off and cover it with it with towels. When the milk has cooled to 110° Fahrenheit to 120° Fahrenheit—2-3 hours—stir in ½ cup of room-temperature, store-bought yogurt with active cultures. Cover with dark towels to block light and let your mixture sit for 8-12 hours. You can move it to the fridge after 6 hours. The Lazy Slow Cooker blog has a detailed tutorial for making homemade yogurt in the slow cooker.
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