Smart Uses for Hydrogen Peroxide, Mesh Garlic Bags, and 10 Other Things You Already Have Around the House

published Dec 7, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Someone tracing cardboard with lid of mason jar.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

One of our most favorite pastimes around here? (Aside from cooking, that is.) Answer: Coming up with surprising and helpful ways to use things that we already have around the house. Because it sure is nice when you can get extra life out of something that would otherwise be headed for the trash or tackle a task without having to buy something special. We actually spend a lot of time thinking about surprising ways to use ordinary items and supplies. And with the end of the year rapidly approaching, we thought we’d take a look back.

Here are 12 of our best ideas from 2021; a dozen smart ways to use common household items beyond the ways they’re typically used. Who knows what we’ll come up with next year!

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

1. Use hydrogen peroxide to clean baking sheets.

Last year, we learned that you shouldn’t use hydrogen peroxide as part of your first aid kit. (Turns out, when you use the stuff to clean out a cut, it damages the cell walls of bacteria and the healthy cells, so it actually slows down the healing process.) Instead, we suggest using that brown bottle to clean your baking sheets. Yes, even your baking sheets that seem like a lost cause. Simply sprinkle the sheets with baking soda, spritz on the hydrogen peroxide, and let everything sit overnight. In the morning, you’ll be able to rinse away the hardened paste — and the formerly burnt-on gunk.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

2. Use an empty butter box to organize small items in the fridge.

All those tubes of yogurt and string cheeses that clutter up your refrigerator? Use an empty butter box to corral small snack items. Just rip the tabs off of one side, place it on a door shelf, and load it up like you would a pencil holder. There you go — an instant organizer that cost you zero dollars!

Credit: Sarah Crowley

3. Turn a cardboard salt container into a dispensing Mason jar lid.

Just finished a canister of salt? Before you toss the cardboard container, take a minute to cut out the top portion with the sliding metal dispenser. When paired with a Mason jar, it makes for a great way to pour out sugar (for coffee service) or baking soda (for cleaning purposes). Here’s everything you need to know.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

4. Use a berry container to organize art supplies.

Why rush to recycle a perfectly good container? Consider upcycling it instead! Strawberry containers are the ideal size for holding magic markers, blueberry containers can hold stickers, and raspberry containers can hold pom-poms and miscellaneous whatnots.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

5. Use a mesh garlic bag to collect bits of bar soap.

If you use bar soap at the bathroom sink or in the shower, then you likely have a collection of little slivers that prove hard to use. What to do: Save the mesh bag that your trio of garlic heads come in and slip the slivers in there. The bag will contain the soap and, eventually, the pieces will even meld together as one. Plus, the bag adds a nice little exfoliant — like a loofah!

Credit: Sarah Crowley

6. Use coconut oil to remove sticky labels.

That sticky residue that lingers behind on plates and platters when you peel off price tags is no joke. It doesn’t come off with dish soap, but it will come off with a dab of coconut oil. You can also use coconut oil to remove sticky labels from jars that you want to reuse.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

7. Use rinse aid to clean your windows.

Add rinse aid to your dishwasher and it will break the surface tension of the water on your dishes, causing the water to dissipate. It eliminates water spots, too. Our point? Rinse aid makes for a fantastic secret ingredient in a DIY window cleaning solution! Here’s what you need to know.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

8. Use an empty tissue box to hold plastic shopping bags.

Almost every home we’ve ever been to has a plastic bag filled with other bags. But that gets unwieldy very quickly. Our suggestion: Use an empty tissue box to hold and dispense the bags. Have a lot of bags? Use a bigger tissue box.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

9. Turn empty toilet paper tubes into cord wrappers.

Last year, we were big on using empty paper towel tubes to vacuum along tight crevices. This year, we’re using TP tubes to organize random cords and chargers.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

10. Use a banana peel to shine up leather boots.

Bananas, as you know, are loaded with potassium. And potassium happens to be a key ingredient in commercial shoe polish to clean and shine leather! The next time you eat a banana, use part of the peel to shine up your favorite pair of leather shoes. Here’s a little more about why this works.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

11. Use pieces of wine corks to silence cabinet doors.

Tired of hearing your cabinet doors slam every time someone in your house helps themselves to a glass of water? Save the cork from tonight’s glass of wine, and you can saw off slices to act as makeshift silencers.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

12. Use coffee grounds to deodorize your fridge.

The next time you make a pot of coffee, take a second to spread those spent grounds on a baking sheet. Once they’re dry, place them in a small bowl (or a Mason jar with holes punched into the lid) in your fridge. Why? Because coffee contains nitrogen, which neutralizes odors. Just replace the grounds every few weeks or whenever you notice new smells. Read more here.

Find even more ideas here, and then leave your additions in the comments below!