This $1 Tool Can Get Your Pantry Organized, Make Your Dishwasher Better, Cut Back on Dirty Dishes, and More

updated Apr 15, 2021
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Mix of glasses on the kitchen counter with names written on them in grease pencil

Meet the grease pencil, your new best friend for marking up and organizing your entire home (seriously). Made of opaque wax — kind of like a crayon, but stronger — grease pencils mark and stay put on just about any surface, including metal, glass, wood, paper, and even cellophane, even if they get wet. And yet, as weird as it sounds, grease pencil marks are also super easy to remove with just a wet paper towel or cloth. Plus, unlike a true pencil, you’ll never need a sharpener: Just unravel the string to reveal more peel-off grease pencil goodness.

Have I convinced you that you need one? If so, you can find packs of grease pencils (also called wax pencils or china markers, since they mark porcelain so well) relatively easily in home improvement stores, big box stores, and on Amazon for less than $1 a piece. (You can also buy a single grease pencil for less than $1.50 at Blick.)

Here are 7 of our favorite ways to use this $1-tool to stay organized. 

1. Labeling food in the freezer or fridge

One of the best ways to use grease pencils is to label your food, no special stickers or tape required. Whether you label extra meals you intend to freeze or write a “use by” date on leftovers in the fridge, you’ll end up wasting less food. The good news is, the marking is water and freeze-resistant, but comes off with a scrub.

2. Leaving reminders wherever you’ll see them

When paper reminders don’t do the trick, try leaving your reminder at eye-level — like on your backsplash, kitchen cabinets, fridge, or wherever you’ll see it. We like to write kitchen-specific reminders, like a “you have leftovers” note scribbled on the outside of the fridge so you don’t impulsively order DoorDash. 

3. Label the pots in your windowsill herb garden 

A window-sill herb garden is a fun and easy way to always have fresh herbs for your cooking. But what if you can’t eye the difference between parsley and cilantro just yet? (We’ve all been there.) That’s where your grease pencil comes in: Instead of spending money buying herb labels, just write directly on the pots.

4. Mark glasses for members of the household 

Little wine glass ornaments are fun for marking whose is whose, but what if your cups don’t have stems? Prevent germ-sharing by writing your name on your glass with a grease pencil — it’ll come right off with a bit of soap and water in the sink.

5. Label pantry containers 

Decanting, or storing food in jars or other containers, is an easy — and aesthetically pleasing — way to save space in your pantry. To make the most of decanting (read: to make those jars easy to grab and use), it’s always a good idea to label. Use a grease pencil to write directly on the jar or its lid, and avoid the need to buy and print separate labels.

6. Make a shopping list on the fridge

You could keep a grocery list in your phone or a notebook. Or, you could skip a step and write with a grease pencil inside the fridge or pantry when you notice something’s running low. Before you head to the grocery store, snap a picture of it! (Hot tip: If your fridge is black, you might need a white pencil.)

7. Writing on the outside of the dishwasher

How many times have you opened a dirty dishwasher wondering if the contents were clean? They definitely make magnets to help with that, but why not use a grease pencil on the outside of the appliance instead? Just mark “clean” when you turn the dishwasher on, and erase the marking (or write “dirty”) when you empty it.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: This $1-Apiece Tool Can Help Your Kitchen Stay Organized in 7 Different Ways