13 Creative Uses For Household Items

Photo: Flickr via jbrisch

Few people take the concept of “waste not, want not” farther than Sara Noel, founder of the Frugal Village. Day after day, Noel and her avid readers dish on the best ways to get the most use out of everyday items lying around the house. 

We reached out to Noel for some of her most ingenious tips.

Leftover tea can take care of unwanted smells

Used teabags take on a new life if you know how to use them.

Feet deodorizer. Try soaking your smelly soles for about 30 minutes in enough black tea to keep them covered (about three bags boiled in a quart should do the trick----add cold water to cool).

Fire starter. 'Tuck dried tea bags into a cardboard tube from toilet paper or paper towels and light them to start a fire,' Noel says. 'You can add dryer lint or crumpled newspaper to help fill the tube, too.'

Odor remover. 'Put some used tea bags in a jar and place in your refrigerator to absorb odours,' she adds.

Kool-Aid can double as dish wash

Before you sprinkle a couple packets of Kool-aid into a pitcher and serve it up with boat loads of sugar, check out these healthier, more creative ways to put it to use:

Noels' recipe for Homemade Dishwasher Detergent:

1 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda)
1 cup Borax
1/2 cup Kosher or coarse salt
4 packages unsweetened Kool-Aid drink mix, lemonade flavour (DO NOT use any other flavour, as lemon has the most dirt-busting citric acid)

Combine all ingredients in a jar or plastic container with a lid. Place lid on container and shake several times to mix ingredients thoroughly. Use 1 tablespoon per load. If load is heavily soiled, use 2 tablespoons. Yields up to 40 loads.

You can use other flavours for homemade lip gloss, baked goods and edible arts and crafts for kids. See how here.

Used yoga mats can keep messes at bay

Frugal Village reader Tanya has some pretty savvy ideas for salvaging old yoga mats:

'We have found a lot of uses for our old mats, including putting one under the cat box. The cat jumps out and the litter in her paws sticks better to the mat than any surface I've used. Just vacuum up when litter begins to cluster (or roll up and shake into bin),' she writes.

'We've also used an old mat under heavy items (like weights in the home gym) on hardwood floors, to avoid denting the wood. Use one as a doormat from the garage into the house. Old mats can be cut into any size you find useful.'

Metal spoons can help puffy eyes

Before you trade in your tired old flatware for something shinier, give those spoons a second chance.

'Metal spoons have multiple uses,' says Noel. 'You can use several to make a wind chime or garden markers, or use one as a little shovel for houseplants or small digging jobs in your garden.'

Toss a pair in the freezer and apply to puffy eyes in the morning, too, or try this craftier approach, per Noel:

'The handles can be bent and made into spoon rings or bracelets. You can make resin spoon pendants or ornaments, too. For a tutorial, visit www.tamedraven.com/2012/03/tutorial-how-to-make-spoon-pendants.html.'

Kitty litter can save your cell phone

Cell phone saver. If your phone gets wet, 'try saving it by drying it in a container of cat litter,' Noel says. 'Remove the battery and SIM card, then dry the phone off and slide it into a sock. Tie the sock closed and put it in a container filled with cat litter.

After three days, check to see if there's any moisture left on the screen. If so, put it back for another couple of days. The litter is more absorbent than uncooked rice, which is often recommended to help save wet mobile phones.'

Other cool uses for cat litter:

----Fill a five-gallon bucket with litter to use as a portable toilet when out camping.
----Shoe deodorizer (pack in hosiery or a similarly breathable fabric, then pop into your shoes)
----Suck out the stench from smokers at your next get together with this trick: 'If you don't have ashtrays, you can fill a coffee can with cat litter and let your guest(s) use that to dispose of cigarette butts,' Noel says.

Baby wipes will keep gadgets clean

Baby wipes are probably the most versatile product on this list, as you can use in them in everything from household cleaning to keeping sticky fingers at bay.

Before you go out and purchase pricey electronics cleaners, keep in mind baby wipes work just as well.

'Use a baby wipes to clean your keyboard, the top of your mouse, your desk, television remotes or game controllers,' Noel says.

You can even make your own.

Used butter wrappers are better than pricey sprays

Avid bakers, take note: You can save old butter wrappers to use instead of pricey non-stick cooking sprays.

Just stash them in your freezer and use them piece-meal to grease baking sheets and pans whenever needed.

Breath mint containers double as a flashlight and wallet

These tiny breath mint containers take on a whole new life once they're empty.

The gadget-minded out there will love this DIY flashlight made out of an old tic tac container and a few batteries. Ladies looking for a quick way to stash their credit cards for a night out can use an Altoid tin, too (see photo, right).

Here are other storage ideas:

----Safety pins, bobby pins, or all the trimmings of a home-made sewing kit (Noel suggests stuffing a small piece of styrofoam inside to hold the needles).
----Safe storage for earbuds while travelling

Hydrogen peroxide is a stain wizard

It's a shame the bleach blonde craze of the 90s left hydrogen peroxide with such a bad rap. Commonly used as an anti-septic, use it to disinfect countertops or as a makeshift stain remover.

Alternatively, turn it onto a cheap pet shampoo with Noel's DIY recipe:

'Combine one quart hydrogen peroxide, 1/2 cup baking soda and two teaspoons Dawn dishwashing liquid. Wet your pet's fur and lather the mixture like shampoo. Leave the mixture in for 10 to 15 minutes and rinse.'

Coconut oil is a natural beauty aid

Coconut oil has long been beloved by families on a budget, but its uses extend far beyond the kitchen.

Give yourself peace of mind about harsh chemicals found in bath and beauty aids by using coconut oil as the base for home-made deodorant and toothpaste, submitted by a Frugal Living reader:


Mix equal parts organic virgin coconut oil (melted), baking soda and corn starch and store in jar. Apply with your fingers or a cotton ball. The best time to apply deodorant is right after a shower and/or before bedtime.


2 tablespoons virgin organic coconut oil (Helps prevent periodontal disease and tooth decay)
3 tablespoons baking soda
20 drops peppermint essential oil
A few drops liquid stevia

Cereal bags are a cheaper alternative to Ziplocs

Ziplock bags cost a fortune and the store-brand stuff is rarely worth its weight in flimsy plastic.

Try recycling your used cereal bags instead.

'You can use them to store baked goods or a sandwich, apply breadcrumb coatings to meat, fish and poultry, roll up cookie dough logs, contain ingredients to be crushed with a rolling pin, or as a trash container in your car,' Noel says.

Shampoo dregs make shaving cream obsolete

Fewer things are more annoying than the inch or so of shampoo that gets lodged at the bottom of the bottle and won't budge.

Before you throw money away, try Noel's frugal alternatives:

Cuticle softener: A squirt of shampoo in a bowl of warm water is great for at-home manicures, Noel says.
Shaving cream: Swap out your Barbasol for leftover conditioner or shampoo.
Fog-proof goggles: 'To prevent swim masks and goggles from fogging up, fill a squirt bottle with a mixture of one part baby shampoo and two parts water. Apply it to the goggles, and lightly rinse.'

aluminium foil doubles as dryer sheets

If you never knew it was safe to put aluminium foil in dryers, join the club.

Turns out they make excellent alternatives to dryer sheets, according to Noel.

'Wad foil into balls that are approximately 3 inches in diameter and use them to reduce static in your dryer,' she says. 'You can wrap a tennis ball in foil, too.'

Other ideas:

-A makeshift pot scrubber
-Sharpening tool for household or school scissors (don't try it on sewing shears)

If you thought these ideas were cool ...

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