Toothpaste isn’t just for your chompers anymore. As it turns out, this medicine cabinet staple is good for much more than preventing cavities, freshening breath, and shining up those pearly whites.
When you consider its usual ingredients — fluoride, which makes your enamel harder and more resistant to acid erosion; calcium carbonate (an abrasive); and sodium lauryl sulfate, a detergent that causes the foamy bubbles — is it any surprise this pillar of oral health has multiple other uses outside of cleaning and protecting your teeth?
Let’s brush up on some of the lesser-known household — but exceedingly helpful — uses of this minty white paste.
Deodorise bottles, thermoses, and your hands
When baby bottles, kid’s sippy cups and thermoses for all ages start to take on a dingy film and unpleasant odor, it’s time to call in the substance you use to make your teeth and breath sparkle. Apply a small amount of toothpaste to your bottle brush, scrub and rinse as usual, and watch the sour milk smell, tomato soup stains, and cloudy film wash away.
If, after cooking, your hands are left with a stubborn garlic or onion smell that washing with hand soap alone won’t get rid of, a gentle scrub with toothpaste will lift the scent.
Remove crayon and permanent marker
The next time your little one takes “the world is your canvas” a bit too literally, remember: white toothpaste. My first reaction upon learning this was, You’re telling me in a battle between Tom’s of Maine “all natural” teeth cleaner for kids and a Sharpie, the paste will win? I can now reliably attest that yes, even Silly Strawberry-flavored paste will completely eradicate fresh Sharpie on a water bottle. (Though, it did not work on marker on my wall — but that’s been there for two years. So, maybe act faster.)
Banish sneaker scuffs
A little white toothpaste can go a long way towards spiffing up the soles of Converse or other white-soled sneakers that have seen better days. Using an old toothbrush, scrub (non-gel) white toothpaste into the dings and scuffs of the soles, let sit for 10 minutes, then wipe away with a damp cloth. Repeat as necessary.
According to Apartment Therapy, non-gel toothpaste is a great antidote to silver tarnish. Apply to your silver, moisten, and scrub with, what else? An old toothbrush. (Other cleaning sources recommended letting the paste sit for 5-10 minutes before buffing with a microfiber cloth and rinsing, while paying special attention to small ornamentations and engravings, where tarnish forms most.) Either way, those forks will be gleaming at your next formal dinner.
Hang pictures with ease
Toothpaste is the picture-hanging hack you didn’t know you needed. When you can’t be bothered to make dozens of tiny pencil marks to indicate where to hang your artwork and family photos, simply place a small dab of toothpaste on the frame hanger itself and press it against the wall. When you pull the frame away, the spot of toothpaste will remain, showing you exactly where to hammer in the nail.
Remove soap scum
If you want a break from the scent of harsh, bleach-based cleaners, say buh-bye to soap scum on shower doors, faucets, and your sink basins with a generous helping of non-gel toothpaste. Apply with a damp rag (or toothbrush) then buff the surfaces with a microfiber towel.
Fix small scratches in your phone case
Now, if your phone took a violent drop, face down, on a wide expanse of concrete, we regret to inform you this hack will not work. But for nicks and scratches of the milder variety that take up residence on your smartphone case, toothpaste can be an effective fix. Being an abrasive, toothpaste has the properties of a fine grade sandpaper. When applied gently with your finger or a cotton swab, it can minimise or eliminate small blemishes in plastic cases.
Lift coffee and water stains
It makes sense that the same stuff you use to lift brown stains from your teeth would work to lift them from other surfaces — like wood and ceramic. The next time someone fails to use a coaster for their coffee or tea (though they’re right there!) wipe it away with a dab of toothpaste on a slightly damp cloth. It can also be used inside mugs when the brown liquids they regularly hold start to leave traces behind.
The same method works on water stains. Apply toothpaste only to the water stain (not the surrounding area, let sit for five minutes, and gently scrub away. (You’ll want to avoid toothpastes with heavy-duty bleaching compounds in the ingredients for this.)
Clean a dirty iron
Toothpaste can work wonders when your clothing iron starts to develop mineral buildup and dirty streaks on the soleplate. After making sure it is unplugged and cold, rub white, non-gel toothpaste on the dirty areas. Wipe away with a clean cloth. Then fill the water tank, place it on top of an old towel, and set it to steam. After about five minutes of steaming, unplug, wait for the iron plate to cool, and wipe clean.
Get some cooling relief from minor skin irritations like bug bites with your favourite new home remedy: Colgate. According to HGTV, the reason it works is because, “a dab of toothpaste on the bite will act as an astringent, drawing itchy venom from the wound as it dries. Menthol in the toothpaste will also provide a ‘cooling’ sensation that will occupy the nerves in the same way ice does, relieving discomfort.”
Polish foggy headlights (and goggles)
If your car headlights are starting to develop a dull film (which diminishes their light), save yourself the money you might spend on a defogging kit or a professional cleaning, and bust out the Crest. Toothpaste squeezed onto a sponge can adequately scrub away most dirt, grime, and minor scratches. Wipe clean with a damp cloth for a brighter light in minutes. (This technique also works on foggy goggles, mirrors, and scuba masks. Just scrub lightly so as not to scratch the surface.)
Whiten outdoor patio furniture
When your summer patio chairs start looking worse for wear, toothpaste and water can get them back to some semblance of their new-ish glory. Apply toothpaste with a wet cloth to remove dark grey stains of mould, mildew, dirt, and other reminders of their rugged outdoor life.
Buff out car paint scratches
For shallow, minor scratches on your car — ones that haven’t penetrated the clear coat — try toothpaste. Its abrasive nature, according to Taylor Auto Glass, “gently works to even out the clear coat on your car to erase the appearance of the scratch.” Take a soft, dry cloth, a dab of paste, and use gently circular motions to polish and smooth out the nick. (Note: If you can catch the scratch with your fingernail, it’s too deep for toothpaste to be effective.)
Remove scuff marks and sticky residue from your floor
When your kitchen or office floor starts to look like the inside of a Home Depot from the all stools, chair legs, and wheels being casually dragged across them day in and day out: toothpaste. Damp cloth, dollop of non-gel paste, scrub, wipe. You know the drill. (It also works for all those random sticky goop marks of indeterminate origin.)
Fill small holes in drywall
On white walls showing small holes and dents, toothpaste can be used in the absence of spackle. Use the corner of a piece of cardboard to push in the paste and fill the hole; then use the straight edge to smooth away any excess.