7 Surprising Ways You Should Use Steel Wool Pads Around the House

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

I’ve always loved steel wool pads — the texture, the kinda-weird smell, the amazing scrubbing power behind them. These super-strong scrubbers are made up of thousands of steel threads jumbled together. And, fun fact, did you know that regular steel wool comes in different grades, from #0000 super-fine to #3 extra-coarse, depending on the size of the threads?

The other surprising thing about steel wool is that it’s good for way more than just scrubbing pots and pans. You can use the fluffy abrasives (with or without soap) for all sorts of projects. Don’t believe me? Here are seven surprising ways you should use steel wool pads around the house.

1. Keep out critters.

This is a classic use for steel wool: Stuff steel wool into cracks in the wall or along woodwork and cabinetry to act as a barrier to keep out rodents. Many people say that, because it’s made of steel, mice and rats can’t chew through it the way they can with other fillers. Note: Some experts suggest combining the steel wool with a caulking compound for an added layer of defense.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

2. Refinish furniture.

If you’re planning on repainting or refinishing a piece of furniture, consider removing the old paint or stain with fine, soap-less steel wool. The rounded, flexible pads let you get into spots that are hard to access with flat sheets of sandpaper for more thorough removal.

3. Tackle waxy marks.

For stains of substance — like heel marks on a vinyl floor or crayon marks on a wall — reach for a fine steel wool pad the way you would a Magic Eraser. Gentle scrubbing will loosen the color and clean it right up.

4. Prevent clogged drains.

Got a guest with a headful of thick hair, or maybe a dog that needs a bath, a soap-less steel wool pad can work as a temporary drain catch to prevent all those strands from going into the drain and clogging the plumbing. This isn’t a long-term fix (it will rust eventually) but it’s good in a pinch!

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

5. Sharpen scissors.

You may have heard of cutting through aluminum foil to sharpen scissors, but this does the trick too! Just cut a pad into a few pieces to get dull scissors back into shape.

6. Shine up rusty tools.

Steel wool is great at removing rust! If you have a tool kit that needs some TLC, grab some fine steel wool and buff the rust right off to make them look brand-new.

7. Start a fire.

I’ll admit I haven’t tried this (shout out in the comments if you have!), but word is that if you connect a strand of steel wool to the positive and negative ends of a 9-volt battery at the same time, it’ll conduct enough electricity for the steel wool to get hot and light paper, leaves, or kindling on fire.

What are other ways you steel wool around the house? Add your tips in the comments below!