You toss your used cans in the recycling bin, you shop secondhand, and you even compost your food scraps as part of your quest for a greener life. However, there are countless ways you've likely never even considered to reduce your household waste and make the most of the items you already have at home. With the help of experts, we've rounded up the best new uses for household items that you'd otherwise toss, from foil to floss. And for more great projects to tackle around the house, check out these 50 Easy DIY Home Hacks.
Try using cola to unclog a finicky drain.
Drain cleaner not cutting it? Your favorite soft drink might just do the trick.
According to Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, "Cola-style soft drinks contain phosphoric acid…Surprisingly, phosphoric acid is also an effective drain cleaner." James notes that, in order for this trick to work, just make sure the soda you're using has phosphoric acid in the first four ingredients and pour a room-temperature bottle of it down the drain, letting it sit for an hour and following with a boiling water flush. And if you want to avoid a costly error, nix these 23 Cleaning Habits That Are Actually Ruining Your House.
Scrub those mineral deposits away with fresh lemon juice.
Cola isn't the only household staple that has an unexpected cleaning-related use. James says that lemon juice is perfect for those hard water stains on faucets and other plumbing fixtures. "The acid in the lemon juice melts away the extra minerals, leaving a fresh lemon scent," James says.
Make your shower sparkling clean with white vinegar.
It can pickle a mean carrot and scour a mean bathtub—what can't vinegar do?
"If you always seem to have spots on your shower door, you can easily soak a few paper towels in distilled white vinegar, then lay them over the splotches in a single layer," says Brad Roberson, president of Glass Doctor. Roberson recommends letting the paper towels sit for 15 minutes, rinsing with water, and drying thoroughly. And for more great cleaning tips delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Use aspirin to remove stains.
Those tough stains on your clothes are no match for the aspirin in your medicine cabinet.
"If you crush a few aspirin pills and mix them with hot water, you can use it to scrub the stains out," says Harold Hardesty, a DIY expert with The House Wire. And for more ways to get your space spotless, check out these 20 Amazing Tricks for Cleaning Your Bathroom.
Use Alka-Seltzer to clean your blender.
Have an appliance with impossible-to-get-to nooks and crannies?
"If you drop an Alka-Seltzer tablet in with some water and let it sit for 15 minutes, it loosens up all the grime, so you can just rinse it out," says Hardesty, who notes that this trick works for Thermoses, too.
Use a newspaper to deodorize small spaces.
It may not be the first item you'd think of to possess deodorizing properties, but Hardesty says newspaper is surprisingly helpful when it comes to keeping your home smelling fresh. "Newspaper soaks up nasty smells. If you have some gross scents in your fridge or cabinets, put a newspaper in there and watch how the smell just dissipates," he says.
Use dental floss as a knife.
Want to perfectly slice that birthday cake? Instead of grabbing a knife, grab some dental floss. "Dental floss is great for cutting soft foods," says Hardesty. Just make sure you're using the unflavored variety to keep from giving your foods a minty taste.
Try a little olive oil when polishing your appliances.
You may have heard of using olive oil as furniture polish, but it can also give your appliances a healthy sheen.
"Put a dab of olive oil on a paper towel and use that to buff your appliances," says Hardesty. "It works just as good as any appliance polish you'd buy at the hardware store."
Use baking soda to de-grime your grout.
If your grout has seen better days, a little baking soda might just be the thing to spruce it up.
"Just mix it with some hot water and wipe that between the tiles. The baking soda breaks down the grime, so you don't need much elbow grease to get your tiles looking spiffy," explains Hardesty.
Substitute aluminum foil for dryer sheets.
Whether you're out of dryer sheets or are just looking for a replacement for them, aluminum foil is a surprisingly great alternative.
"Just grab a bunch of foil, scrunch it into a ball about the size of a tennis ball, and toss it in your dryer with your clothes," says Beth McCallum, a cleaning expert at Oh So Spotless. "It will keep them soft, fluffy, and static-free."
Use white vinegar to clean out your washing machine.
According to Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance, distilled white vinegar has even more to offer in the housecleaning arena outside of the bathroom.
"Vinegar is recommended as a more natural and inexpensive way to clean your appliances," including your washing machine, says Shimek. "Add two cups of white vinegar and let the cycle run." When this is done, spritz the machine with vinegar and wipe it down to eliminate any residue. And for more great ways to get your home spotless, check out these 23 Cleaning Tips From the CDC You Need to Follow.
Use sticky notes to dust your electronics.
While lint rollers might work best to remove fluff from your sweaters, your electronics deserve something a little more gentle.
"Rip off a Post-it note and use the sticky strip to pick up dust from your electronics," says McCallum. "It's great for keyboards, since the thin paper can sneak into the spaces between the keys, providing a deep clean."
Save those old sponges to clean your window tracks.
While that worn-out sponge should probably be retired from dish duty, it has a surprising alternate purpose.
"Window tracks accumulate a lot of dirt, and cutting sponges into small strips can help them easily fit into window tracks and clean them with a quick swipe," says Benjamin Nguyen of Full Color Cleaners. And for more ways to reinvigorate your space, check out these 23 Genius Home Improvement Projects You Can Do in an Hour (or Less!).
Use clothespins to keep plastic bags sealed.
No chip clip? No problem!
"Just use a clothespin," says McCallum. "Roll up the bag, clamp it shut, and enjoy fresh food for a lot longer."
Give a trash can a second life as a planter.
Before you chuck that old trash can, consider giving it new life by adding some greenery."Instead of throwing the trash bin into the dump, take the bin home, clean it…and repurpose it as a planter," says Alex Tran, co-owner of Rain City Cleaners. "I used a trash bin as a planter for my majesty palm for years."
Use unwanted books to make floating shelves.
Not sure what to do with those unused books? "You can attach a few metal brackets to the wall and create floating shelves out of old books," says home improvement expert Jen Stark, founder of Happy DIY Home. "You can get colorful if the books have dust jackets on them, or you can go classic and chic with black."
Use an old wooden ladder as a bookshelf.
When it comes to shelves, the only limit is your imagination (and whatever hardware you have on hand for hanging your new invention). "If you have an old ladder, you can hang it on the walls with a few bicycle hooks and use it as a rustic bookshelf," says Stark.
Make a hip kitchen light fixture out of an old ladder.
An old wooden ladder can be converted into more than just a bookcase. According to Eric Goranson, host of Around The House, "You can take one and hang it over your kitchen island or dining room table flat and lengthwise, weave pendant lights through the rungs, and hang the lights over your island or table."
Make multipurpose storage by hanging folding chairs.
Creating some extra storage space in your house is easier than you might expect. "Take four wooden or metal chairs, paint them to match, and hang them up on the wall. The chairs fold open for a small storage platform, and you can hang clothing or items from the legs to create a makeshift closet," says Stark.
Never underestimate the humble jar.
While Mason jars have long been a favorite among DIYers (and not just when brewing some afternoon tea), the usefulness of your average jar is only limited by our collective imaginations. As interior designer Erica Reiner of Eco Method Interiors can attest, "Jars are amazing for food storage, desk storage, tool storage, and as drinking classes or cocktail glasses."
Repurpose those old picture frames.
Instead of tossing that picture frame when the glass breaks, repurpose it into something useful. "Decorative picture frames can be wonderful for turning into serving trays or someplace to put coasters and magazines on your living room furniture," says Reiner. "Just take that frame and wrap the back panel that used to support the picture with fabric, wallpaper, or cork."
Make accent lights out of old bottles and jars.
You don't have to spend a fortune to get a gorgeous bespoke light fixture. Saul Cerni, an expert home decorator and founder of HomeISD.com, suggests looking at your household's underused glass receptacles in a new light. "Typically there's an endless supply of bottles in many shapes and colors in most households," says Saul. "And every one of them can become an accent lamp for any room or area. All you need to do is add LED string lights inside."
Try your hand at a bicycle chandelier.
Instead of taking that old bicycle to the dump, turn it into a statement light fixture. "All you will need is an antique bike, two 5-foot chains, two screw hooks, and four hanging lights," says Nathanael Toms, CEO of Mr. Electric of Southwest Missouri, who recommends removing the tires first to ensure the attached lights lay flat. And if you're cleaning up around the house, make sure you know these 17 Things You Should Never Store in Your Basement.