Uncommon Uses for Common Things: Summer Edition

Summer is here! Kids are out of school (us college kids, too, thank God) and the season of family, friends and fun can officially begin! To help make the summer more enjoyable for you no matter what you plan to do, I have gathered a few helpful tips to save you time, make things simpler, a little more fun, and you a little less worrisome. Whether you are traveling, throwing parties, sprucing up the house or just living your life as normal, you’ll be sure find something here that you can use.

1.) Instead of buying expensive dog shampoo at the pet store, just wash your pup in Dawn dish soap. Dawn kills fleas just as well as dog shampoo brand out there.

2.) If you’ve traveled with jewelry, you know the biggest hassle is keeping it untangled. If you find yourself with this problem, add a few drops of baby oil to the jewelry and it should come unknotted very quickly.

3.) Kazoos are timelessly cool and they just got cooler, because you can use it as a bubble maker. Just add some bubbles and your kids will be blowing bubbles and making a melody all at once. Not bad for a toy less than $1.

4.) If you have a hammock riddled with holes, don’t throw it out. Instead, use it as a ball net in the garage. Simple hang it up in the corner and now your kids have no excuse to not put them away.

5.) If you are about to throw your hose out, make sure to cut off a piece or two for your buckets. Slip the hose rubber onto the handle of metal buckets to help save your hands from carrying heavy weight with a thin metal bar.

6.) Summer is the time of the greasiest (and the arguably best) food. This scrumptious as the food may be, the possibility of grease stains also accompanies the deliciousness. Don’t fret if your kids spill something greasy on the carpet. Just pour cornmeal over the offending spot and vacuum it up 30 min later. Voila! Your carpet is saved, the kid doesn’t feel bad and the party goes on.

7.) You know that aloe is good for sunburns. How can you make it even better? Freeze it in ice trays. These little ice cubes are heaven-sent cooling you down and soothing you at the same time. You appreciate it when you come home red from day at the beach.

8.) When vacationing for long periods of time (especially outside the US), you’ll eventually need to do laundry. This may be hard a difficult task depending on where you are. Your delicates are usually the first concern, though. In lieu of detergent, just put a pinch of baby wash on the delicates, hand wash and air dry.

9.) Baking is activity too hot for the summer. So, if you have spare cupcake liners lying around, put them to good use on the cold treats. Use them as a safeguard from stickiness of popsicles and as simple ice cream cups. They will ensure that your kids don’t eat too much and that you have one less dish to clean.

10.) Going along with portion control, you can keep a small figure for your bathing suit by using an ice cream scoop to measure your portions. An ice cream scoop is usually 1/4 cup. Using this simple handy tool rather than a measuring cup each time can help you measure your portions more often (because it is just that easy)!

11.) I did not know it was possible to make a fire girly, and then I found this. Add some dried citrus peel to your pile of sticks when trying to light a fire to help it start more quickly. It will not only light more quickly, it will also smell ctirusy? Who can’t love that?

12.) Use an onion to deodorize the basement. I know how weird this sounds. Who uses an onion to get rid of a bad smell? It does actually work. After the initial odor wears off, the onion absorbs bad smells. So, leave a sliced onion in the basement overnight for a fresh room in the morning. My question is who thought an onion could get rid of a bad smell in the first place?

13.) If you want to add some charm to your decor in a casual way, try using an old map as a book cover. It gives your bookshelf a fun yet classy feel and is cheap and unique.

14.) This might be the redneck in me, but a good idea is a good idea. If you are getting rid of your washer, keep the inside portion of it. It can be used for two things. Either you can use it as a portable fire pit, which is great for the beach or the woods, or you can use it as a cooler. It is even handier as a cooler, because when the ice melts, the water can simply drain onto the ground rather than build up into a pool, eventually needing to be tossed out. So, no more sticking your hands in a pool of cold water to get a drink.

15.) For your upcoming BBQ or party, help the adults have a little bit of kiddish fun by replacing the cocktail stirrers with lollipops. It’s a sweet treat for the summer and will hopefully bring back some childhood memories, minus the alcohol of course 😉

16.) For your bird bath that is sure to be brimming with birds about now, throw in a penny. If you toss in a penny made before 1982, it will keep your bird bath clean. Pennies made prior to 1982 contain mostly copper and copper prevents the growth of algae.

17.) With all the BBQing you are sure to be doing this summer, your cutting board can get worn out and very stained. To remove these colorful stains, just squirt some lemon juice on top, rub it into the board and let it stand for 10-20 minutes. The stains should rinse right out after that. If not, try to scrub it a bit.

18.) Don’t spend unnecessary amounts of time making place cards your summer soiree. Instead, pick up some paint sample cards at your hardware store and simply fold them in half. The best thing is that you can use literally any color you wish and these small details can really make your party theme pop. It’s very casual and uncommon, which your guests will love. And who knows, maybe you might fin the next color to paint their living room.

19.) When painting, everyone dreads dealing with metal objects such as door handles and door stoppers. Painter’s tape just doesn’t cover well on odd-shaped thing such as these. Instead of fumbling with tape, cover them with tin foil. Tin foil molds exactly to whatever shape you want, so it will stay in place perfectly and out of the way of your painting.

20.) Missing matches for those tiki torches? Just light an uncooked string of pasta on the stove. It burns longer than a match, too.

21.) If you are like most people, you probably have 3 or 4 mouse pads in your house that will never be used. Put them to use in the kitchen as potholders. As long as it doesn’t have a plastic coating on top, it can withstand heat as well as any potholder and will actually stay in place better.

22.) Rather than throwing your coffee grounds out each morning, throw them onto the bushes. Coffee grounds are a great natural fertilizer for flowers and the caffeine can work wonders in ways that other fertilizers can’t.

23.) With all of the summer dresses you have hanging up in your closet, you know how hard it is to keep the straps on the hangers. Just tie rubber bands on the ends of each to prevent that slipping.

24.) Have you ever tried sweeping up spilled glitter? Don’t bother trying. Glitter is one of the most difficult things known to man. Rather than getting a headache and finding bits of glitter sporadically for weeks to come, just use a sticky lint roller.

25.) If you aren’t a neat freak kind (like me) and don’t want to spend time making labels for/writing your name on all of the important things you and your kids own, then just slap on an address sticker. Most of us have sheets of those lying around and only use them to mail out Christmas cards. These labels can also come in handy with luggage when traveling.

26.) Do you have build up or residue in your dishwasher? Lemons can cure much of what ails the house, but do you know what’s cheaper than lemon juice? That’s right, fake lemon juice! Pour a packet of Kool-Aid lemonade in your dishwasher and run an empty wash. It will rid the dishwasher of all that has been left behind in it and leave it smelling sweet and citrusy.

27.) Also for traveling this summer, keep those shoes safe by packing them in a shower cap. This will keep them from getting scuffed up when rubbing up against rough things in your bag and also keep them dry in case of shampoo spills.

28.) Make your house smell sweet, fruity and fresh by boiling a pot of water with cinnamon, orange and any other fruits you’d like to add.

29.) A cute way to hold the candles on the birthday cake is to use Life Savers. It not only adds some extra sweetness and color to the cake, but it also catches the wax that falls from the candle, preventing it from falling on the cake.

30.) For your summer reads, don’t hassle with finding a bookmark when you need it, or worry about losing your spot when the book falls on the floor, just pick a pin out of your hair and use it as a bookmark. It’s easy and it sticks onto the book in a way that bookmarks can’t.

31.) For all of those cassette tape holders that now seem useless, use them to store headphones, MP3 adapters and other other useful cords on the go. They’re perfect for traveling and are the cheapest storage device possible.

32.) Wanna be a little blonde this summer? If the sun isn’t lightening your hair enough, boil lemon slices in water until the texture is consistent. Then, strain out all the non-liquid material. Once cool, you can spray the liquid into your hair.

33.) Port your eatery items for a picnic by using empty six-pack beer or pop cardboard holders to carry around condiments, napkins and utensils.

34.) Keep mosquitoes away simply by keeping a dryer sheet around. Hang it on your patio or put it in a basket as a decoration. This will ensure that the bugs stay away as you eat your meals on patio table outside.

35.) Save time on your table set up and clean up by using dish towels as place mats. This will come in handy when ribs are on the menu.

36.) Summer break as a mom means having kids with you at all times. This usually means much more frequent company on trips to the store. And if your kids are anything like my nephews, it also means a lot of stickers. The windows in my sister’s car are covered in Trader Joe’s stickers and I’m sure the collection will only grow this summer. When they become a line of sight hazard and you must remove them, soak the stickers in vinegar for 5 minutes and then wipe off.

37.) This is one of the coolest ideas I’ve ever heard of for reusing an item. If your blender cup breaks, take the bottom screwable part and screw it to the top of a jar. Besides being thrifty and unique, it also eliminates all possible splashing.

38.) One thing that every kid seems to deal with at least once in their life is getting gum stuck in their hair. If your child is so unlucky during the summer that is sure to be filled with sweets of all kinds, don’t rush to the peanut butter or the barber. Just put some ice in a plastic bag and hold it on the gum until it hardens. Then simply break it apart with something hard. Plus, the ice will probably feel good on a hot day and it won’t attract flies.

There you have it! Your list of simple secrets to make your summer better using common things around your house. Do you have any quick tips that we forgot? Let us know below! Be sure to check out our Uncommon Uses for Common Things Autumn and How to Not Lose Stuff editions as well!



Photos and some inspiration courtesy of Real Simple & My Home Ideas

  • Haleigh - July 4, 2011 - 8:15 pm

    I love this =)and all the country kind of ideas going on. Thanks for sharing I love number 37, so many uses for those thingsReplyCancel

    • claire - July 5, 2011 - 9:29 am

      #37 is actually my favorite too. it’s probably not right, but i’m just waiting for my blender to break so i can use it!ReplyCancel

  • Hyder - July 5, 2011 - 9:37 am

    This is excellent stuff. One of the most impressively helpful lists of advice I’ve read on the internet in a while. Bravo and God Bless you!ReplyCancel

    • claire - July 9, 2011 - 5:15 pm

      Thank you! I am glad I could help!ReplyCancel

  • SJ - July 5, 2011 - 3:53 pm

    I should have read your post before I dismantled my door knobs and repainted my bathroom doors! That would have saved me a lot of time.

    Found you on stumble and I’m so glad I did 🙂 Btw, I see that you have an etsy shop. Please come and join my party called Market Your Biz and Giveaways to get your business promoted at 5 pm, PST.ReplyCancel

    • claire - July 9, 2011 - 5:17 pm

      Yes, We made the same mistake on our desk, which we also wrote an article about. Sorry we missed your promotion party, do you have them regularly?ReplyCancel

  • Jackie - July 6, 2011 - 4:12 pm

    Really cool post. I’ll definitely try the aloe in the ice cube tray first! Thanks for posting!ReplyCancel

  • Aroua - July 6, 2011 - 8:39 pm

    The trick about aloe is really impressive!

    I wish you a great summer 🙂ReplyCancel

    • claire - July 9, 2011 - 5:18 pm

      yes, that actually comes in very handy. I just discovered that this 4th of July!ReplyCancel

  • Bethany - July 12, 2011 - 11:24 am

    Dawn dish soap does not kill fleas. This is an old wive’s tale.ReplyCancel

  • Jenna - January 25, 2012 - 3:09 pm

    You should never use anything but pet shampoo on your pets. The ingredients affect them differently than they do us, and even human shampoo can make them extremely uncomfortable. Dish soap dries out human skin, please don’t use it on your poor pets sensitive skin!ReplyCancel

  • Myrna - February 5, 2012 - 6:36 pm

    Just to be able to get rid of hassles during travel this summer time then better sort things out and only bring those things which you need most during this time. On this matter you get to save time and effort packing things and on your laundry. Let’s be practical and avoid unnecessary things during travel time. A hassle free vacation will make your trip comfortable.ReplyCancel

  • Ingrid Martin - February 19, 2012 - 9:19 pm

    Wonderful ideas, but one suggetion. Please do not use Dawn dishsoap on your pets. Dawn strips the oil off of your pet’s skin (just like it does on your dishes)and will make their skin itchy. If you use any topical flea or heartworm preventative on your pet, Dawn will strip it off & also will not allow the product to work properly. Topical flea & heartworm preventatives need the pet’s skin oil in order to work & spread properly. Please speak to your veterinarian about pet shampoos.ReplyCancel

  • Robert Coogan - February 23, 2012 - 1:58 pm

    Using dish soap to wash your dog is a VERY bad idea. Remember that many dish soaps use perfumes and dyes (even the so-called) “fragrance free” ones) in their formulas. Dogs will lick their fur (it’s not just cats especially, dogs do it too). This can get these same chemicals into your dog’s bodies – and the soaps never really completely wash out. Your pet becomes sick, and at the least you will be cleaning up runny poo more often than you would care to.

    I called our veternarian to ask about this and they said that is a “horribly, bad, stupid” idea to wash your pet with dish soap. Very bad advice here!ReplyCancel

  • adam - February 23, 2012 - 2:33 pm

    Dryer sheets don’t keep mosquitos away: http://www.snopes.com/oldwives/skeeters.aspReplyCancel

  • Claire - February 23, 2012 - 2:44 pm

    Adam – I’ve seen snopes wrong many times. It’s not the unanimous authority on fact and fiction. I’ve also tried it dryer sheets as mosquito repellant and it’s worked for me.

    As for the dish wash for dogs, i have used it several times and have had several others recommend it as well. i’ve never had any problems (especially from those people have listed above), and therefore will continue to.ReplyCancel

  • barcag - March 8, 2012 - 11:23 pm

    I have to point this out. Shame on having the idea to go and get paint samples to use as place cards. It’s stealing; just like taking packets of ketchup or napkins from a fast food restaurant for other purposes. They are set out to use for the meals that are purchased in the restaurant, just as paint samples are set out in order for those who are trying to select a color to paint a room. It’s not major theft, but it cranks the price up for the honest people; in addition, if many people start taking them for other purposes then they won’t be available for those who really want to paint. You are taking from companies without their permission for the purpose stated, which is theft. I hate to be a kill joy but it is what it is.ReplyCancel

  • Trina - March 10, 2012 - 4:24 pm

    I just used the foil trick when I painted my front door this afternoon. Thanks!

    Also, Barcag, I can tell you are a fine, upstanding, honest citizen, and probably a wonderful friend and neighbor, but your comment makes you seem ENORMOUSLY judgmental. Think of it as extra, free marketing for the paint companies. 😉 Like passing around a business card. A lot of people who don’t go to the hardware store might be inspired by the color and go buy some paint.

    I probably have over a hundred paper paint chips filed away because they’re too pretty to throw away. I think it’s a great idea.ReplyCancel

  • Claire - March 12, 2012 - 12:25 pm

    @Trina glad the tin foil helped you! And thanks for your defense of the paint samples 🙂 Obviously most people don’t find a problem with it. If it’s free and meant for people to take home with them, then it’s free and meant for people to take home with them. It can be used for things other than its intended purpose.ReplyCancel

  • Lynn - May 12, 2014 - 6:48 pm

    If you are going to go to the trouble of painting a door do it the right way.
    Get a screwdriver and take the knob off. Then take the door off its hinges. It’s easy and your work will be rewarded with a nicer finished job.ReplyCancel

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