Petroleum jelly is a product found in most every medicine cabinet, but it has a lot of uses outside of the usuals providing minor burn relief, or serving as emergency lip balm, or serving as emergency “personal lubricant.”
But beyond meeting your various bodily (ahem) or medical needs, petroleum jelly can do a lot around the house — it can remove water stains, lubricate light bulbs (but not like that), and brighten up old leather. Here are 13 ways to use petroleum jelly that might find you lathering up your whole home with the stuff.
Keep ants away
Ants have a hard time walking over any sticky surface. A humane way to keep ants out of your home, then, is to wipe petroleum jelly on any areas of your home where you see ants congregating. Place it on window sills, along baseboards, or near any cracks and crevices where ants might roam — it can form an effective “moat” around the pet. The jelly will deter them from even entering in the first place.
Keep screw-on items from sticking
Petroleum jelly’s… lubricating properties are well known, if you know what I mean. But there are other things you can smear it on around the house to make things go a little more smoothly.
Lightbulbs installed in locations subject to extreme heat or cold, or exposed to the elements have a tendency to fall apart when unscrewed. (The base on my oven light bulb always detaches and gets stuck in the socket when I attempt to change it.) To prevent this from happening, rub a small amount of petroleum jelly on the stem of the lightbulb before screwing it in. The lubrication will make for easy removal when it’s time to change the bulb.
Jars and bottle lids
Petroleum jelly can lubricate those hard-to-open jars and small bottles as well. Just put a small amount around the opening of the jar or bottle before closing it. This technique works great for jars with sticky contents like jam or honey, or anything prone to drying and sticking, like nail polish bottles.
Experience dictates it is pointless to save a small tube of crazy or super glue after opening it; they are basically a one-use product, as once glue gets on the applicator and you place the cap on, it is never coming off again — unless you apply petroleum jelly to the top before putting the cap back on. The lubrication will keep the glue from fusing the cap to the tube.
After removing a splinter
Removing a splinter is a tedious and painful process. (We’ve previously shared tips on the right way to do it.) But at least petroleum jelly can help with aftercare — once the splinter is removed, put a layer of petroleum jelly over the tiny wound to create a barrier against bacteria entering it and potentially causing an infection.
Polish shoes and other leather items
If your leather is beginning to look a bit worn and you don’t have time to get it polished, a dab of petroleum jelly will serve as a short-term fix, softening the leather and helping prevent it from cracking. Before applying, make sure to clean the item and dry it (a microfiber cloth works well) before applying your petroleum jelly — you don’t want to create more scuffs or nicks by rubbing in the dirt already on the surface. A word of caution: Don’t try this technique on rawhide leather, as it may stain the surface, which definitely isn’t what you are going for.
Mute noisy squeaks and creaks around the house
Every home has its own particular odd noises — squeaky floorboards, creaky doors, rattling knobs, and scraping drawers. You might not have the resources to redo your floors or upgrade your nightstands, so instead, apply petroleum jelly to noisy hinges, floorboard nails, knobs, and any other items needing a good lube. You’ll save your ears and make your nighttime snack runs that much stealthier.
Somehow chewed gum seems to end up everywhere, whether stuck under tables, flattened onto hardwood floors, or glued to the bottom of your shoe. To remove it from any place that isn’t the garbage, apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to the affected area. This will loosen the gum; once it’s lubricated, you should be able to scrape it off and clean the area more easily.
Hair and scalp care
Some people claim petroleum jelly can solve hair loss problems with regular application to the scalp. Unfortunately, that’s a myth. But the lubricating qualities of petroleum jelly may prevent hair dryness and breakage, which is something. And if you have issues with a dry, flaking scalp, you can also use petroleum jelly in a pinch — though probably not if you plan on leaving the house without a hat.
Lift lipstick stains
Trying to get your shirt on or off without touching your lipstick is a difficult feat, but that doesn’t stop any of us from trying. The good news is that after one of your frequent, unsuccessful attempts, you can apply a dab of petroleum jelly to a lipstick smear before washing to help prevent the lip colour from staining. No other special treatment process is necessary — just perform a quick spot treatment with petroleum jelly and wash as usual.
Clean watermarks from wood
Getting a water stain on your favourite table can be disastrous, and removing them could require sanding and refinishing the wood. Before you take that drastic step, try treating the spot with petroleum jelly. Apply a dab to the water-stained area and let it sit overnight (or for at least eight hours). Wipe away the jelly with a soft cloth and check for evidence the stain is getting better; if the mar to your table’s surface is persistent, you can the process as many times as needed until it eventually disappears.
Mask doorknobs while painting
Painting around door knobs requires a level of precision that most people (including myself) do not have the patience for. But removing the knob is a headache, and carefully placing painter’s tape in a perfect circle is almost impossible (I honestly give up and hope no one notices the splashes of colour on the handle.) If you want to paint like a professional without getting out a screwdriver, put petroleum jelly around the doorknob (or any area you don’t want painted). Any paint that accidentally touches it will wipe off easily.
Stop battery terminal corrosion
Car battery terminals can corrode over time, making the connections weaker and potentially leaving you unable to start your car. To prevent battery corrosion, after properly cleaning the terminals to remove any oil, dab on some petroleum jelly. You’ll slow any corrosion, and the connection between the leads will be even stronger. (Old mechanic’s wisdom is to use oil to do the same thing; do not do this — you need to use a “white” grease or you’ll make the problem worse.)