Uncommon Uses For Common Pantry Items

Uncommon Uses For Common Pantry Items

Your kitchen cupboards are more than just a food source. A well-stocked pantry includes a number of items that have a wide variety of uses elsewhere.

Photos from Wikimedia Commons

Olive Oil

Olive oil makes a decent salad dressing, as well as being useful for frying. However, its lubricating properties make it handy for lots of non-food-related tasks.

  • Remove paint from skin: It’s tricky to redecorate 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 some salt for abrasion and scrub to easily remove the paint.
  • Use instead of shaving oils: In addition to being cheaper than most shaving oils, olive oil can also help improve the quality of your skin.
  • Repair damaged or unhealthy hair: If you live in a particularly dry area. 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 removers. Add in that it makes a great skin moisturiser and you have a triple whammy of effectiveness.
  • Remove heat stains from wooden tables: You left a hot dish on a wooden table and now there’s a clear 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 make it look new again.

Bicarb Soda

Bicarb soda is typically used while baking as a leavening agent, and helps make your baked goods light and fluffy. However, it has plenty of other uses, from cleaning to removing odours.

  • Soothe sunburn: A solution of bicarb soda and water can help soothe sunburnt skin and prevent further damage. Add about four tablespoons of bicarb 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 cookware: Bicarb soda, when combined with peroxide, forms a duo that easily cleans dirty cooking tools. Coat your dish in a layer of bicarb soda, follow that up with a layer of hydrogen peroxide, and finish it off with a second layer of bicarb soda. After letting it sit for a while, the muck will slide right off.
  • Whiten your teeth: By mixing half a teaspoon of bicarb soda and half a teaspoon of water together, you can create a paste that can help whiten your teeth. Brush with it 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 bicarb 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 good job of masking pet odours. 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 bicarb soda. If you can get proper smell-hiding litter, that’s better, but in an emergency this works. Bicarb 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 half a cup of bicarb soda.

Cooking Spray

Most of us don’t expect to use cooking spray for anything other than preventing food from sticking to pans. Its utility doesn’t end there, though.

  • Grease lawnmower blades: Before you start mowing the lawn, do future you a favour and spray the blades with some cooking spray. This will prevent grass from sticking to the blades, 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 for 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: 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 had 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.


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, but they won’t cross a line of the powder. Sprinkle a bit along the outside of an entry that you want to keep ants away from.
  • Keep jar lids loose: If you have a particularly stubborn jar, you can sprinkle a little flour around the rim before closing it. The next time you go to open it, the lid should slide off 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 good 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.


If you need to make your soup a bit thicker, cornflour 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 cornflour and add it to a solution of equal parts vinegar and water and spray it on your windows. Optionally, you can add a little lemon juice.
  • Loosen stubborn knots: When a particularly troublesome rope knot is causing you problems, sprinkle a little cornflour on the knot to help loosen up the strands.
  • Clean unwashable stuffed animals: Your favourite childhood stuffed dog might not be able to handle another run through the washing machine. To clean and deodorise Mr. Flufflepants, put him in a ziplock bag with a cup or two of cornflour. Shake it vigorously and let it sit for a while. When it’s done absorbing the odours, 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, cornflour can be used to soak up fluid and greasy spills. After soaking up the excess, spread a bit of cornflour on the leftovers and let it soak up the spill.


  • Shaving with olive oil – great, particularly if you use the infused oils you can buy. I’ve been using basil infused olive oil to shave and I’ve been told it smells wonderful.
    Bicarbonate of soda – wash your hair with it to alter the pH of your scalp (it’s slightly alkali) and it helps make it a less desirable environment for the fungus that’s a common cause of dandruff.

  • Grease lawn mower blades? Are we talking about feeble electric mowers here or old school push mowers, because I’ve never cleaned my blades, and never had any problems with my mower jamming.

  • Sigh!

    Thanks for publishing a tip that makes it even harder for the coeliac s out there. Now we have to worry that everyone is going to contaminate all their jar lids with flour!

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