There are countless ways you’ve likely never even considered reducing your household waste and making the most of the items you already have at home. With the help of experts, we’ve rounded up the best new uses for household items that you’d otherwise toss, from foil to floss.
Scrub those mineral deposits away with fresh lemon juice.
Cola isn’t the only household staple that has an unexpected cleaning-related use. James says that lemon juice is perfect for those hard water stains on faucets and other plumbing fixtures. “The acid in the lemon juice melts away the extra minerals, leaving a fresh lemon scent,” James says.
Try using cola to unclog a finicky drain.
Drain cleaner not cutting it? Your favorite soft drink might just do the trick.
According to Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, “Cola-style soft drinks contain phosphoric acid…Surprisingly, phosphoric acid is also an effective drain cleaner.” James notes that, in order for this trick to work, just make sure the soda you’re using has phosphoric acid in the first four ingredients and pour a room-temperature bottle of it down the drain, letting it sit for an hour and following with a boiling water flush.
Make your shower sparkling clean with white vinegar.
It can pickle a mean carrot and scour a mean bathtub—what can’t vinegar do?
“If you always seem to have spots on your shower door, you can easily soak a few paper towels in distilled white vinegar, then lay them over the splotches in a single layer,” says Brad Roberson, president of Glass Doctor. Roberson recommends letting the paper towels sit for 15 minutes, rinsing with water, and drying thoroughly.
Use aspirin to remove stains.
Those tough stains on your clothes are no match for the aspirin in your medicine cabinet.
“If you crush a few aspirin pills and mix them with hot water, you can use it to scrub the stains out,” says Harold Hardesty, a DIY expert with The House Wire.
Use Alka-Seltzer to clean your blender.
Have an appliance with impossible-to-get-to nooks and crannies?
“If you drop an Alka-Seltzer tablet in with some water and let it sit for 15 minutes, it loosens up all the grime, so you can just rinse it out,” says Hardesty, who notes that this trick works for Thermoses, too.
Use a newspaper to deodorize small spaces.
It may not be the first item you’d think of to possess deodorizing properties, but Hardesty says newspaper is surprisingly helpful when it comes to keeping your home smelling fresh. “Newspaper soaks up nasty smells. If you have some gross scents in your fridge or cabinets, put a newspaper in there and watch how the smell just dissipates,” he says.
Use dental floss as a knife.
Want to perfectly slice that birthday cake? Instead of grabbing a knife, grab some dental floss. “Dental floss is great for cutting soft foods,” says Hardesty. Just make sure you’re using the unflavored variety to keep from giving your foods a minty taste.
Try a little olive oil when polishing your appliances.
You may have heard of using olive oil as furniture polish, but it can also give your appliances a healthy sheen.
“Put a dab of olive oil on a paper towel and use that to buff your appliances,” says Hardesty. “It works just as good as any appliance polish you’d buy at the hardware store.”
Use baking soda to de-grime your grout.
If your grout has seen better days, a little baking soda might just be the thing to spruce it up.
“Just mix it with some hot water and wipe that between the tiles. The baking soda breaks down the grime, so you don’t need much elbow grease to get your tiles looking spiffy,” explains Hardesty.
Substitute aluminum foil for dryer sheets.
Whether you’re out of dryer sheets or are just looking for a replacement for them, aluminum foil is a surprisingly great alternative.
“Just grab a bunch of foil, scrunch it into a ball about the size of a tennis ball, and toss it in your dryer with your clothes,” says Beth McCallum, a cleaning expert at Oh So Spotless. “It will keep them soft, fluffy, and static-free.”
Use sticky notes to dust your electronics.
While lint rollers might work best to remove fluff from your sweaters, your electronics deserve something a little more gentle.
“Rip off a Post-it note and use the sticky strip to pick up dust from your electronics,” says McCallum. “It’s great for keyboards, since the thin paper can sneak into the spaces between the keys, providing a deep clean.”
Save those old sponges to clean your window tracks.
While that worn-out sponge should probably be retired from dish duty, it has a surprising alternate purpose.
“Window tracks accumulate a lot of dirt, and cutting sponges into small strips can help them easily fit into window tracks and clean them with a quick swipe,” says Benjamin Nguyen of Full Color Cleaners.
Use clothespins to keep plastic bags sealed.
No chip clip? No problem!
“Just use a clothespin,” says McCallum. “Roll up the bag, clamp it shut, and enjoy fresh food for a lot longer.”
Give a trash can a second life as a planter.
Before you chuck that old trash can, consider giving it new life by adding some greenery.”Instead of throwing the trash bin into the dump, take the bin home, clean it…and repurpose it as a planter,” says Alex Tran, co-owner of Rain City Cleaners. “I used a trash bin as a planter for my majesty palm for years.”
Use unwanted books to make floating shelves.
Not sure what to do with those unused books? “You can attach a few metal brackets to the wall and create floating shelves out of old books,” says home improvement expert Jen Stark, founder of Happy DIY Home. “You can get colorful if the books have dust jackets on them, or you can go classic and chic with black.”