35 Ways to Use Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways

When used imaginatively, ordinary items can have practical magic. Here’s some inspiration for employing everyday household goods in unusual—and helpful—ways.

The Mother of Invention

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How to reuse everyday objects

Do you need to clean? Organize? Throw a dinner party? Instead of buying new products to aid in your endeavor, dig deep into your cupboards. Ordinary items have dozens of extraordinary uses, so you may already have what you need right at your fingertips. To get your creative juices flowing, we’ve compiled 35 repurposing ideas that unlock the magic hidden in common household goods.

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Pillowcase Laundry Bags

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Pillowcase Laundry Bags

Use an old pillowcase to keep your delicate laundry separate in your hamper. Then, when it's time to do the laundry, just toss the filled pillowcase into the machine, where it will function as a wash bag to protect your underwear, slips, stockings, and other garments. To prevent the contents from spilling out into the wash, first turn the pillowcase into a drawstring bag: Hem the opening of the case, leaving a small space for a cord to be inserted, then feed the cord through the hem. Pull the drawstring tight before you drop the pillowcase in the wash, and take comfort in knowing that this special treatment will help your delicates last longer. 

Related: 9 Home Organization Secret Weapons

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Coke for Composting

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Use Coca-Cola in composting pile

Has the two-liter of soda left over from last week's potluck gone flat? Rather than dumping that flat Coke down the drain, add it to your compost heap. The sugar in the cola feeds good microorganisms and increases the acidity of the pile, helping organic material decay faster.

Related: 10 Compost Bins for Backyard Gardeners

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Reusable Wipes in the Shower

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Reusable wipes in shower

Those reusable blue Handi Wipes are great for the shower too. After every shower, wipe down the stall and tub area with a kitchen wipe, then wring it out. This simple step will help prevent mold, mildew, and hard water stains from building up.

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Shoebox Storage

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Shoebox as storage

If you’re in the middle of a closet purge and organizational overhaul, resist the temptation to head to the nearest home goods store to stock up on storage containers. Ordinary shoeboxes will do just as well. Fill each box with similar items, then put it on a closet shelf or in a dresser drawer, where they are just the right size for keeping your socks and underwear in order. You can even place the lids in desks or shallow drawers to carve out storage space for office supplies, gloves, jewelry, and more.

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Do Litter

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Cat litter cleans up garage stains

Even if you don't have a cat living at home, there's a good reason to keep kitty litter in your garage. The reason, of course, is that the properties that help cat litter to absorb liquid pet waste are the same qualities that help it to soak up grease, oil, and other spills around the garage. In fact, a 10-pound sack can absorb up to a gallon of liquid! Cover fresh spills with an ample amount of litter, was for the material to work its stain-lifting magic, then sweep up the mess. Kitty litter can also be used to provide tire traction on snowy driveways or curbsides, so you may wish to keep a box of it in the trunk of your car if you live in a region that is prone to foul winter weather. 

Related: 10 Astonishing Feats You Can Accomplish with Kitty Litter

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Lemon Bug Repellent

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Make exterior painting bug repellent

It may be true that you'll catch more flies with honey, but paint seems to work too—which can be a huge annoyance when you're working on an outdoor paint job. Small winged insects seem to be drawn to paint cans and freshly painted surfaces. There are plenty of theories as to why this is so—odor, color, reflection, moisture—but theories won't keep the critters away from your painting project. Lemon juice, on the other hand, will. Ward off insects by squeezing a few drops of lemon juice directly into your can of paint. Bugs hate the zesty scent of lemon, so they'll they'll steer clear, leaving you with fewer pesky pests buzzing around your ears—and a smooth, professional finish.

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Foil Scissors Sharpener

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Scissors sharpening with foil

Are dull scissors slowing down your craft sessions? Foil your frustrations by reaching for a roll of aluminum foil. Fold a sheet of foil into quarters, then cut through the stack with the dull scissor blades to sharpen them up.

Related: 11 Surprising Uses for Aluminum Foil

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Clothes Iron VInyl Repair

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Clothes iron to repair flooring

Although vinyl flooring tiles are relatively durable, they take a beating from the normal wear and tear of an active household. If your vinyl flooring tiles have begun to curl and warp, you may not need to replace the floor—you may just need a clothes iron. Cover the damaged portion of flooring with aluminum foil, plug in the iron, and set it on high. Run the hot iron over the foil to soften the adhesive enough so you can pull up the tile. Then lay down new adhesive, and replace the tile. After the tile is firmly in position, weigh the spot down with heavy books to promote proper adhesion.

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Take Two for Sweat Stains

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Aspirin for sweat stains laundry

An ordinary aspirin tablet can do more than just treat a headache. When sweat stains discolor your white T-shirts, crush a few uncoated aspirin tablets, mix them with warm water to form a paste, and apply it to the affected area. Allow the mixture to sit for a few hours, then throw your clothing in the washing machine and wash as normal to ditch the unsightly yellow marks. For especially dark stains, let the garment air-dry. (Don't toss it in the dryer, which could set the stains.) When it's dry, check to see if the stains are still there. If so, re-treat the area, run the garment through the washer again, then air-dry and check the stain.

Related: 10 Household Headaches You Can Solve with Aspirin

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Vinegar to Boost Your Blooms

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Vinegar and sugar to keep cut flowers alive

The next time you buy cut flowers, add two tablespoons of white vinegar and two tablespoons of sugar to the water. The vinegar cuts down on bacteria, while the sugar feeds the blooms. During the day, keep the flowers away from heat sources and bright sun; at night, place the vase full of flowers in the fridge to preserve them even longer.

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Vinegar Itch Soother

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Apple cider vinegar itch remover

Apple cider vinegar is a kitchen staple that should also be in your first aid kit. For mosquito bites, soak a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and apply to the affected area to help tame the itch.

Related: 10 Handy Household Uses for Vinegar

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Toothpaste Cleanser

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Toothpaste as a cleanser

A baking-soda-based toothpaste not only freshens your breath but also cleans things around the house. For starters, you can eradicate stale odors from reusable food containers by scrubbing them with a non-gel toothpaste. You can even scrub your kitchen sink with toothpaste for a bright shine.

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Bobby Pin Tricks

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Bobby pin toothpaste tube trick

If you share the bathroom with someone who insists on squeezing the toothpaste from the middle of the tube, a bobby pin can help restore order—and household harmony. Place a bobby pin at the end of the tube to encourage users to slowly slide it up to squeeze out every drop. This smart solution will keep annoyance at bay and might even keep toothpaste off your shopping list for a few extra days.

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Scarf Art

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Use a scarf as wall art

Living rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms get the most attention when it comes to decorating, but dorm rooms, garages, and other less formal spaces need pretty flourishes too. Hanging a beautiful textile on a wall is a lovely way to add some color and cheer, and you can do this on the cheap by choosing an attractive scarf, tablecloth, or rug and mounting it with adhesive Command clips or strips.

Related: 10 Doable Designs for a DIY Rug

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Marbles to Soothe Worries

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Use marbles as stress relief

Do you often find yourself fidgeting, biting your nails, or engaging in other nervous tics? Keep a bowl of marbles, river stones, or glass gem vase fillers by your desk, then reach for these smooth, tactile objects and work them through your fingers to help relieve daily stress.

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Pashmina Throw

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Use a pashmina as a throw blanket

That beautiful cashmere wrap in your closet can easily double as a living room throw. The color will add a nice pop to a chair or couch, and the material is light yet warm enough to keep the cold off your knees or shoulders.

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Teacup Votive Holders

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Use a teacup as a voice holder

What to do with antique teacups? Today's coffee lovers tend to prefer ample mugs, leaving Grandma's heirlooms to collect dust on the shelf. Don't get rid of these beloved pieces. Instead, use them to hold votive candles. A tea light flickering in the base of a teacup can be an instant mood enhancer in the living room or can create a spa-like atmosphere in the bath. Just be sure to put the teacup in a safe location so it doesn't clatter to the bathroom floor, where you could end up dodging stray pieces of broken china when you step out of the tub.

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Saucer Soap Dishes

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Saucer as a soap dish

Cut back on liquid soap—and the disposable plastic containers it comes in—by switching back to bar soap. When you make the switch, repurpose old china saucers into pretty, functional soap dishes to add a little antique charm to your bathroom design.

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Rubber Band Paint Tool

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Rubber band paint tool

Use a rubber band to stop drips during your next painting project. Stretch a large rubber band around the paint can, top to bottom, so the band runs across the opening of the can. After you dip your brush into the paint, scrape it against the rubber band to remove excess paint and keep from making a dribbling mess.

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Flashlight Story Time

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Flashlight as a campfire

The humble flashlight is wonderfully versatile and kid-friendly. For a special treat, switch off electric lights and smartphones, and spend the evening reading stories by flashlight. 

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Coffee Maker Pancakes

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Coffee maker cooktop

If your stove's pilot light goes out, or if your hangout spot or work space lacks a full kitchen, or you're just looking for a way to entertain the kids on a Sunday morning, use your coffee maker’s warming plate for cooking pancakes. Just line the plate with aluminum foil, add a dollop of batter, and watch for bubbles to know when to flip. Plate up the pancakes, toss the foil, and voilà— breakfast without the mess.

Related: 30 Coffee Bars to Put Pep in Your Home Design

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Salty Shoe Deodorizer

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Use salt to deodorize shoes

Gym shoes smelling a little funky? Table salt is the answer. The sodium chloride crystals help fight bacteria and the odors bacteria create. Just sprinkle a little salt inside your sneakers, let them sit for an hour (or overnight), and shake them out over the sink. Odor eliminated.

Related: 9 Unexpected Household Uses for Table Salt

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Floss Cutter

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Use floss to cut soft cheese

Cut soft cheeses and banana bread with dental floss (the unflavored variety, of course). The tough threads are better than serrated knives for moving through softer foods and creating even, smooth slices.

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Greeting Card Placemats

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Reuse greeting cards as place settings

What to do with all those old postcards and mismatched greeting cards? Cut them up to create place cards, placemats, or even coasters to dress up the table for holiday meals or dinner parties.

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Fresh Herb Centerpieces

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Use potted herbs for centerpiece

Why spend on cut flowers when you can use your kitchen herbs as centerpieces for your next party. Not only are herbs pretty and aromatic, but they're also practical and delicious. And when the meal is over, have guests snip off a sprig of parsley to chew—it's an instant breath freshener.

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Blow Dryer Wax Removal

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Blow dryer to remove wax

Remove candle drips from furniture the gentle way: with a towel and blow dryer. Place a soft cloth or towel over the wax drip, then run the blow dryer on high heat over the spot. Once the wax has melted into the towel, wipe the surface clean, leaving it undamaged and wax-free.

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De-Germ in the Dishwasher

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Dishwasher as disinfectant

Pet toys, sports equipment, and even your nighttime mouth guard can all be sanitized in the dishwasher. Just be sure to skip the dry cycle to prevent damage to delicate plastics and other materials.

Related: Your Dishwasher Can Do Better: 9 Tips to Boost Performance

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Pillow Pet Beds

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Reuse old pillows as pet beds

Thrift stores steer clear of old pillows and they can't be recycled, so reuse them instead as cushy beds for your cats or dogs. Your pets love how you smell, so your old pillow will be comforting to them, especially when they're home alone waiting for you to return. Put the pillow in a soft decorative case, and situate the new bed in the path of a favorite sunbeam. (If you have old pillows but no pets, contact local shelters that may be in need of discarded blankets and pillows.)

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Makeup Brush Key Cleaner

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Clean keyboard with makeup brush

Clean your computer keyboard with old makeup brushes and Post-it notes. Sweep the dust away first with a makeup brush, then use the sticky portion of the paper to pick up tiny crumbs and dust from the crevices.

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Foil to Banish Tarnish

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Use foil to remove tarnish stains

Bring a quart or so of water to boil in a saucepan, sprinkle in a tablespoon of baking soda, and drop in a three-inch square of aluminum foil. Remove the mixture from the heat, then submerge your tarnished silver completely for 10 seconds. Using a set of kitchen tongs, lift out your shiny, tarnish-free silver, and dry with a soft towel.

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Windshield Warmer Socks

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Use socks to keep windshield wipers free of ice

The best defense against an ice-crusted car windshield is to park in a garage or under a carport before a big winter storm. But even if you can't park in a covered area, you can still take simple steps to protect your car and speed up your de-icing routine in the morning. Before icy weather hits, place socks—yes, socks—over the windshield wipers. When it's time to warm up the car, remove the snowy socks, brush the snow off your windshield, turn on the defrost function, and set those ice-free wipers whirring to do the rest of the work.

Related: 11 Different Ways to Use a Single Sock

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Cold-Weather Friend

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WD-40 to prevent locks from freezing

This trusty workshop workhorse may be most commonly used to stop squeaks, but it really shines in the winter, when you can spray WD-40 onto car handles and locks to prevent them from freezing. And a little WD-40 on your snow shovel stops snow from sticking so it falls easily from the blade, making your job easier.

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Bungee Fitness

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Bungee cord as workout tension bands

Instead of buying expensive exercise bands, try upcycling bungee cords to help you stretch and strengthen your muscles. Create handles by using strips of duct tape to attach wooden dowels to the ends of the bungee cord, then start your reps.

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Ice-Cube Tray Organizer

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Ice cube tray organizer

Got an extra ice-cube tray hanging out in your kitchen cupboard? Put it back to work in the garage, office, or kitchen, where it can corral small screws, nails, paper clips, rubber bands, and the like. Create order from chaos by placing a different type of object into each tiny compartment—which makes this a particularly great solution for keeping your junk drawer shipshape.

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