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The 14 most useful household products in our homes

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Internet research turns up amazing uncommon uses for common household items

Most of us could use more storage – or less stuff. What if you could keep fewer products in your house by choosing items with multiple uses? The web is full of articles like “23 Extraordinary Uses for Pantyhose”. But I wanted to do better, to know which household products have the most – and most useful – alternative uses.

First, I searched for articles and blogs about amazing alternative uses for common household items. Then I searched to see which of those items was the subject of the most articles or longest lists.

I also instituted a “get real” rule: The alternative uses had to be tasteful and not too taxing.

I then curated tips to share only the best for each product. Here are the 14 most useful household products in our homes, according to the internet and me:

Baking soda

* We know to stick a box in the fridge, but sprinkling it in a stinky hamper also helps with odours.

* Use it to scrub your braai grid.

* A baking soda and water solution is most effective to wash pesticides from produce.

Clear nail polish

* Women use it to stop runs in stockings, but it also keeps buttons from unravelling. Dab a tiny drop onto the loose thread at the centre of the button.

* Paint over inexpensive jewellery so it won’t turn your skin green.

Picture: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post

Coconut oil

* Remove price tag residue by rubbing a 50-50 mixture of coconut oil, pictured right, and baking soda on the problem spot.Emery board

* Use them to sharpen utility knife blades, tweezers and sewing machine needles.

* Remove stains on suede shoes, clothing and more by gently buffing them with an emery board.

* Use an emery board to remove little bumps on jerseys.

Picture: Supplied


* Running a lemon rind through your garbage disposal will freshen the smell. To deodorise your microwave, zap a bowl of water and half a lemon for five minutes.

* The acid in lemon juice cuts through soap scum on shower doors and other bathroom spots.

* Remove stains from mugs by filling them with lemon peel and warm water and letting them soak.

Picture: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post


* If you have water rings on wood furniture, dab on a little mayonnaise, let it sit for an hour, then wipe with a soft cloth. Repeat if necessary.


* Shine dark shoes by balling up newspaper and briskly rubbing them with it.

* Make newspaper balls, spray them with water and stuff them in your fridge to soak up bad smells.

Rubber bands

* If a screw strips while you remove it, stick a section of rubber band into the stripped area for just enough grip to get the job done.

* Stretch a rubber band from the bottom of a can of paint over the open top and use it to wipe your brush to remove excess paint and prevent drips.

Picture: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post

Rubber gloves

* Don the gloves, dampen them, and run your hands over upholstered furniture to remove pet hair.


* Use an old toothbrush to clean around taps or scrub grout, also to clean mud out of treads in shoes.

Picture: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post


* The acetic acid in vinegar can kill weeds, although gardeners suggest using it just on cracks in driveways because it can also kill plants.

The Washington Post

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