Surprising Uses For 5 Items You Already Have

Baking soda and apple cider vinegar

It’s a safe bet that a dig through your bathroom cabinets, refrigerator or under the sink will yield five everyday household items: baking soda, vinegar, soda water, lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide.

Read on to find out how tonic water can be used as a glowing nightlight. Photo: Flickr/AZAdam

While it’s easy to rattle off the general uses for these products, there are some DIY secrets that may surprise even the most savvy at-home chemist.

Baking soda

Deodorizer, cleaner, gardening side-kick
There are actually more than 10 creative uses for baking soda, but for this article, we’ll pull the best.

Baking soda is a great deodorizer for those puzzling smells in the fridge, and it’s usually a top ingredient in your common hygiene products (check the labels on your toothpaste and deodorant, for example).

But, did you know that it can be used in the garden as well? Sprinkle some baking soda on the soil around your plants to sweeten your tomatoes.

This white powder can also be used as an insect repellent. Spread some in the cracks and crevasses of your home to ward off cockroaches and ants.


Heavy-duty varnish remover, soap-scum and rust hero, sunburn soother
We could write one vinegar tip a day for the whole year and still have leftover uses! According to Heinz, a whopping 90 percent of American household buy vinegar, so we’ll assume you can find a bottle tucked away somewhere in your kitchen.

Vinegar’s natural acidic content makes it an ideal solvent and stubborn stain cleaner. With a little elbow grease and a sponge, you can wipe away hard-water and mildew stains in your shower – that’s a major breath of fresh air compared to bleach-based multipurpose cleaners.

As proof of its power, vinegar can tackle even the toughest of substances: varnish. One blogger used a 50-50 mix of warm water and white vinegar to strip the varnish from his hardwood floors. With a set time of just half an hour, the old glue easily peeled away with a basic floor scraper.

While it’s tough on stains, vinegar is gentle on the skin. The Vinegar Institute recommends using white distilled or cider vinegar to relieve a nasty sunburn. You can also add two tablespoons to bathwater to soothe dry, itchy skin.

Tonic water

Stain-lifter, flower power booster, nightlight
Believe it or not, tonic water’s best usage isn’t in a vodka cocktail. Keep in mind that tonic water is different from seltzer water and club soda because it contains sugar and quinine. So, when trying these different experiments, substitutions may not work in some cases.

Due to its bubbly, effervescent content, tonic water is great at lifting stains (just like its sibling, club soda). Just a dab will do, but it may not be the best fighter against set-in stains, like that red wine someone secretly spilled at last week’s dinner party.

You can use tonic water to preserve plants and flowers. Simply mix one part tonic water with two parts water to keep your blooms fresh longer.

We saved the best (and most surprising) use for last. A Savvy Housekeeping blogger recommends using a bottle of tonic water as a nightlight or party decoration as it glows beautifully under blacklight.

While it’s a great cleaning agent, lemon juice can also be used for an at-home day of beauty. Photo: Hans Hillewaert/Wikimedia Commons

Lemon juice

Dandruff combatant, manicurist, invisible ink
Think back to fifth grade science class when we learned that just three tablespoons of lemon juice easily removes grime from a penny to reveal a shiny Abraham Lincoln.

We already knew lemon juice’s acidic nature makes it great for removing rust, but we couldn’t believe what else it can do.

Say goodbye to expensive shampoos – lemon juice is the ultimate dandruff fighter. Apply one tablespoon of lemon juice to your hair, then shampoo and rinse, apply a mixture of two more tablespoons of lemon juice with two cups water and rinse again. This three-minute routine repeated every other day will have you flake-free in a week.

Forget spending that 20 bucks on a manicure this week. Soak fingernails in lemon juice for 10 minutes, brush with water and white vinegar to reveal dazzling nails. You can also scrub rough heels with lemon juice and follow up with olive oil for baby-smooth skin.

Now, for the amateur spies out there: Lemon juice can be used as invisible ink. Using a Q-tip for your “pen,” dip in lemon juice and write on white paper, let dry and hold up to a hot light bulb. The writing will turn brown, revealing your secret message.

Hydrogen peroxide

Laundry booster, tooth whitener, seed sprouter
Yes, it’s great to throw on that nasty cut and boil out the bacteria, but hydrogen peroxide is also one of the cheapest multipurpose heroes out there.

Like tonic water, hydrogen peroxide’s fizzy nature makes it ideal for pulling out stains. But even if you’re spot-free, you can throw a cup of hydrogen peroxide into a washer load of white laundry as a bleach substitute. But don’t pour it directly on your clothes; just like bleach, it can fade your colors, too.

Hydrogen peroxide’s whitening power goes beyond the washing machine. Use 3-percent strength hydrogen peroxide as mouthwash. Swish around for a couple of minutes daily. We promise the awful taste will be worth the pearly results.

In the garden, prep your seeds before planting with hydrogen peroxide to promote faster germination. Soak seeds in one cup water combined with 1.5 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide.

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  1. I love to learn about multiple purposes for a product I already have! These ideas are such money-savers because 1) I don’t have to buy another product specific for the purpose I’m needing and 2) these “substitutes” are usually much cheaper than the product-specific brand. Thanks for sharing.

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