Smart Uses for Paper Towel Tubes, Coffee Filters, and 10 Other Common Household Items

published Sep 19, 2022
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Adding baking soda to a coffee filter
Credit: Joe Lingeman

I recently spent some time thinking about some clever new ways to use the things I already have. Out of boredom, yes, but also out of necessity. If I can tackle a task or complete a chore without having to run out to buy something, I am gonna. And if I can clean something, I’m gonna do that, too!

Here are 12 of the best ideas I found, a dozen smart ways to use common household supplies beyond the ways they’re typically used.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

1. Use vanilla extract to minimize fridge odors.

Why yes, actually, you can make your fridge smell delicious! All you need is a few drops of vanilla and a cotton ball and voila! A slight hit of yum every time you open the door. Here’s what you need to know.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. Use wax paper or newspaper to protect the top of your fridge from grease and grime.

Use some wax paper or newspaper to line the top of your fridge (or even your upper cabinets, if they don’t go all the way up to the ceiling), and the paper will collect grease and grime over time. Then, instead of having to chisel away at the gunk, you can just swap out the papers for fresh pieces.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Use coffee filters (and baking soda) to deodorize a room.

That stack of coffee filters can do so much more for you than just, you know, make coffee! Grab some baking soda and a filter and you’ve got a deodorizing sachet to tuck into any corners of your home that need some freshening up. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

4. Use vinegar to clean hard water build-up from your faucet.

If you’re opening up a new bottle of vinegar, it’s probably time to tend to an overlooked chore — cleaning the hard water deposits from your faucet! A quick soak (using a clever baggie hack) is all you need to deal with that built-up gunk. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

5. Use olive oil to shine up stainless steel.

Who needs fancy stainless steel polish? If you’ve got a bottle of basic (meaning cooking, not drizzle-over-top-finishing) olive oil, you’re set. Next time you open a bottle, give a quick polish to your smudged stainless steel. And just make that a habit to keep all your shiny things shiny!

Credit: Joe Lingeman

6. Use dish soap to keep drains clear.

You can avoid expensive repairs by keeping your sink drain clear of grease and oil. Want a quick and easy way to do that? Start squirting a bit of dish soap in your drain after you do dishes!

Credit: Joe Lingeman

7. Use a paper towel tube as a vacuum attachment.

Don’t toss that paper towel tube in the recycling just yet! Make it work for you as a rigid-yet-flexible vacuum attachment perfect for those super tight spaces where actual attachments won’t fit. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

8. Turn an empty ketchup bottle into a pancake batter dispenser.

The only thing that separates weekends from weekdays these days is homemade brunch. if yours is a pancake family, make things easier on yourself and repurpose an empty ketchup bottle as a pancake batter dispenser.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

9. Use empty spice jars as homes for new plant babies.

If you’re a plant parent who longs for more plant babies, you can use empty spice jars as homes for propagating new plants. Here’s how.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

10. Use Crisco to unstick your locks and silent squeaky hinges.

Got some squeaky door hinges that annoy you every time you go to the bathroom? Or a lock that sticks? Crisco to the rescue!

Credit: Sarah Crowley

11. Use mouthwash to freshen up your drain.

Drains smell for the same reason your breath smells: food particles that promote bacterial growth. So, it tracks that mouthwash, which kills bacteria in your mouth, would kill bacteria in your kitchen drain. Pour a capful down the sink and say buh-bye to your smelly drain. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

12. Use rubber bands to stop wasting dish soap.

Chances are, you’re using way too much dish soap. Help a new bottle last longer and wrap a rubber band around the neck of the pump. This will prevent you from pushing the pump ALL the way down and will only spit out a little bit of soap, which is all that you need!