Clever Uses

Uncommon Uses for Common Pantry Items

Eric Ravenscraft , Gawker Media

Uncommon Uses for Common Pantry Items

One might be forgiven for thinking that pantries are for food. However, a well-stocked pantry can include a number of items that have a wide variety of uses outside the kitchen.

Olive Oil

Uncommon Uses for Common Pantry Items

Olive oil makes a decent salad dressing, as well as being useful for sautes or cooking meat. However, it's lubricating properties make it pretty great for a ton of non-food-related tasks.

  • Remove paint from skin: It's nearly impossible to paint without getting paint all over yourself. When that happens, add a bit of olive oil to a rag and rub it on the affected area. Follow that up by adding a bit of salt for abrasion and scrub it down to easily remove the paint.
  • Use it in place of shaving oils: In addition to being cheaper than certain types of other shaving oils (depending on where and what you buy), olive oil can also help improve the quality of your skin.
  • Repair damaged or unhealthy hair: If you live in a particularly dry area, or winter has sapped all the vitality from your environment like a lich, olive oil can help. Care2 explains how to combine olive oil with a dash of essential oils to create a hair treatment that repairs dry, damaged hair.
  • Remove makeup: Not only can olive oil help remove layers of makeup quickly, it's also less abrasive than other makeup removes. Add in that it makes a great skin moisturizer and you've got a triple whammy of effectiveness.
  • Clear up heat stains from wooden tables: You left a hot dish on a wooden table and now there's a gross mark on it. Not to worry! Lay down a towel on top of the stain and use an iron set to steam and it will come out after a minute or so. Finish it up by rubbing a bit of olive oil to polish up the spot and get it looking new again.

Baking Soda

Uncommon Uses for Common Pantry Items

Baking soda is typically used while baking as a leavening agent. From pancakes to bread, baking soda is what helps make your baked goods light and fluffy. However, it has plenty of other uses, from cleaning to removing odors.

  • Soothe a sunburn: A solution of baking soda and water can help soothe sunburned skin and prevent further damage. Add about four tablespoons of baking soda to a small bowl of water. Soak cotton balls or cloth in the solution and apply to burned areas of skin.
  • Clean grime off of cookware: Baking soda, when combined with peroxide, forms a duo that tears through grimey cooking tools, scrubbing free. Coat your dish in a layer of baking soda, follow that up with a layer of hydrogen peroxide, and finish it off with a second layer of baking soda. After letting it sit for a while, the muck will slide right off.
  • Whiten your teeth: By mixing half a teaspoon of baking soda and half a teaspoon of water together, you can create a paste that can help whiten your teeth. Brush with it like normal to brighten your teeth. However, be sure to use it sparingly, as constant use can erode the enamel on your teeth.
  • Calm an upset stomach: If your stomach is causing you problems, it can sometimes be due to an excess of acid. Because baking soda is a natural alkaline, you can add a bit to a glass of water to help calm your stomach down.
  • De-stink a cat litter box: Many cat litters do a pretty good job of masking pet odors. However, if you're using a cheaper brand that doesn't do much to disguise the scent, line the bottom of the box with a bit of baking soda. If you can get proper smell-hiding litter, that's better, but in a pinch this works. Baking soda also does a great job of removing smells from old sponges, your car, and a variety of other smelly things.
  • Boost absorbency in old towels: Old towels can frequently lose their fluid-absorbing powers over time as soap residue builds up. To loosen them up, run them through a wash cycle once with hot water and a cup of vinegar, followed by another load with hot water and a half cup of baking soda.

Cooking Spray

Uncommon Uses for Common Pantry Items

Most of us don't expect to use cooking spray for more than preventing food from sticking to pans. It's utility doesn't end there, though.

  • Grease lawnmower blades: Before you start mowing the lawn, do future you a favor and spray the blades with some cooking spray. This will prevent grass from sticking to the blades and clumping up and making cleanup more difficult (or jamming your lawn mower).
  • Prevent sauce stains in plastic containers: If you store sauces in plastic containers long enough, they'll start to gain a reddish tint. To stop this from happening, spray the inside with cooking spray before you store your food.
  • Easily scoop sticky ingredients: Cooking spray isn't just for pots and pans. When you're doling out ingredients, spray your measuring cups with cooking spray to make it easier to scoop out the stickier ingredients.
  • Loosen gum stuck in hair: If you've ever gotten gum stuck in your hair, you know it can be a pain to remove. However, if the mess isn't too bad, you can loosen the gum with some cooking spray. It might not be a perfect solution, but it can reduce the amount of cutting that may be necessary.
  • Prevent car doors from freezing shut: When a polar vortex sweeps through your town, you don't want to be find your car door frozen shut. By using cooking spray on the rubber seals in your car doors the night before, you can reduce the likelihood that you won't be able to enter your vehicle in the morning.

Flour

Uncommon Uses for Common Pantry Items

Flour is a basic ingredient in a wide variety of baked goods. That doesn't mean it's only useful for eating. Flour has a surprising number of use cases besides food.

  • Keep out ants: While flour isn't poisonous to ants, they also won't cross a line of the powder. Sprinkle a bit along the outside of an entry that you want to keep ants out of.
  • Keep jar lids loose: If you have a particularly stubborn jar, you can sprinkle a bit of flour around the rim before closing it. The next time you go to open it, the lid should slide off a bit more easily.
  • Polish stainless steel: Simply cleaning stainless steel won't guarantee that it gets a nice, polished look. After you've cleaned the metal, spread a bit of flour and buff it until you get a nice shine.
  • Ripen avocados overnight: Avocados are tasty, but if you buy them before they're ripe, it can take a while before they're fit for eating. Bury an avocado in a bag of flour and it will speed the process along.
  • Remove oily stains: Oil stains in clothing can be nasty, but a bit of flour can help. Tap a bit into the stain and let the flour absorb the oil. Top it off by dabbing some dishwashing soap on the fabric and wash it in warm water.

Cornstarch

Uncommon Uses for Common Pantry Items

If you need to make your soup a bit thicker, cornstarch is handy. When you don't, it's still helpful to have some around, as there's no shortage of alternative applications.

  • Clean your windows: Forget window cleaning solutions. Take a tablespoon of cornstarch and add it to a solution of equal parts vinegar and water and spray it on your windows. Optionally, you can add a bit of lemon juice.
  • Loosen stubborn knots: When a particularly troublesome rope knot is causing you problems, sprinkle a little on the knot to help loosen up the strands.
  • Clean unwashable stuffed animals: Your favorite childhood stuffed dog might not be able to handle another run through the washing machine. To clean and deodorize Mr. Flufflepants, put him in a ziplock bag with a cup or two of cornstarch. Shake it vigorously and let it sit for a while. When it's done absorbing the odors, pull out the animal and dust it off.
  • Remove stains from furniture: Continuing the theme of cleaning things that can't be easily thrown in the wash, cornstarch can be used to soak up fluid and greasy spills. After soaking up the excess, spread a bit of cornstarch on the leftovers and let it soak up the spill.

Photos by Wikimedia Commons.

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