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Chow items you use for something else?

Just wondering how many folks have found alternative uses for items that are normally asociated with cooking, prep or to be eaten?

I use:
Olive oil on the cutting blades of my electric razor
Turkey baster to remove automotive fluids captured in reservoirs
Candy thermometer to measure radiator thermostat opening temp

Of course, on the reverse side, I'm sure there are many non-food items that make it into the kitchen:
Digital multi-meter with K-type temp probe to accurately measure my drip coffee & espresso brewing temps
Toothbrush to clean my espresso maker's grouphead

What do you use? Keep it clean, it's a family show!

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  1. I am forever reaching for chopsticks for gardening purposes. Likewise the odd spoon or the crappy 'never-needs-sharpening' knife from college days - great garden tools. They *feel* right in my hands, so I use them with greater effectiveness, I think, than some of the tools that are actually *for* gardening. Now that I think of it, a number of utensils that retire from the kitchen end up in one of my garden tool tubs.

    Olive oil gets used as a mold release agent fairly regularly around here - for concrete or plaster. A wok makes a wonderful mold for clay.

    I like to use herbs and spices in papermaking. The aroma and the colors can be quite nice.

    And then there's always all the vinegar and baking soda that gets deployed for cleaning.

    5 Replies
    1. re: cayjohan

      i've found that "'crappy 'never-needs-sharpening' knife from college days" to be extremely handy for tightening loose eyeglass screws.

      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        Brilliant! I can always find the crappy knife, but there must be a couple dozen eyeglass-sized screwdrivers lost in this household's grand and glorious junk void, never to resurface. My eyeglasses thank you!

        1. re: cayjohan

          i've lost more of those miniature screwdrivers than i can count, so i just default to the knife now...i'm so glad i mentioned it for the sake of you & your eyeglasses! :)

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            Now that I have an alternative, all those elusive little screwdrivers can reappear and I'll use them as hors d'oeuvre picks. <g>

            1. re: cayjohan

              ooh i like that idea! because *of course* they'll all reappear now that you don't need them.

    2. Egg cup upside down--great for holding ink when I'm doing calligraphy, with a solid base

      chopstick holders--for holding pens, nibs, etc.

      1. olive oil....Mmmmmm, o l i v e o i l......oopps, family show...use a few drops in the car wash bucket to keep water stains from forming on dark colors. Corn starch when seating a tube in the bike tires

        2 Replies
        1. re: BiscuitBoy

          Ahh, cornstarch!

          Back in 2001 after the anthrax scare the public health lab where I worked tested a huge variety of white powders ... one of the things we hadn't known before was that cornstarch made a fantastic dry lubricant in industry. It was especially widely used to keep individual pieces of mass mailings (magazines, advertizing fliers and the like) from sticking together.

          I still use it to keep stacked, little used glassware from sticking.

        2. Craftsman "Baby Boa Constrictor" rubber wrench-like thing to open really stuck lids--works like a charm!

          1. From the medicine cabinet: package of unwaxed, unflavored dental floss...last used to cut a block of solidified polenta into sheets for layering.

            1. a paintbrush is a pastry brush
              tweezers for getting olives out of the narrow jars
              a piece of celery freshens the waste disposal
              an old spoon makes a great gardening tool (planting bulbs)

              1. My boyfriend has a habit of cleaning rearranging things so that I can't find them when I've been sick the last couple of years. He likes to garden, and in his basket I've found my second pair of Henckles Kitchen Scissors, my slotted spoon and a soup spoon, to name the things I can think of off the top of my head.

                A set of those cheap wooden chopsticks joined at the top, cut to fit, holds the cat door open because his cat can't figure out how to open it on her own.

                I finally found the one funnel I moved here with hanging in the garage. I have no idea what he used it for, but I'd already bought another set since I couldn't find it.

                1. A few more repurposing memories from my young-child-having days: mini-muffin pans for melting feral crayon bits together into something cool and colorful and aesthetically acceptable to the No Broken Crayons set, and the cheapskate "Fuzzy Pumper" wonder of a garlic press or potato ricer if you've got Play-Doh aficionados. Then there was the gigantic roasting pan that was adopted as a very fun snow-sport device at one point.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cayjohan

                    metal garbage can lids were great for sleds when we were kids. Of course they never fit the pail again after that!

                  2. I used a pastry bag filled with mortar to fill teeny tiny cracks in a stone wall. My contractor laughed his head off when he watched me....then he asked where he might buy one :)

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: sedimental

                      I love this idea, especially the disposable ones (or, I guess they are inexpensive enough that they could be, in the course of remodeling). I wonder if I could pipe grout that way. It would go fast and there wouldn't be as much to clean up.

                      1. re: chowser

                        Yes, I grouted slate tile outside this way. Even sealed slate is hard to get the grout off of and it worked really well.

                        1. re: sedimental

                          Are you able to clean and reuse the bag again? (for another mortar of grout job, of course)

                          1. re: BiscuitBoy

                            No. I didn't. They are cheap so I just threw it out. I tried it with a zip lock bag once, but they are flimsy.

                    2. You can sharpen a carpenter's pencil on a cheese grater.

                      1. Cheese cloth has a zillion uses
                        Lemon to make everything sparkle
                        Salt as a pot scraper, odor equalizer
                        Olive oil as moisturizer
                        Vinegar as garden slug remover
                        Chopsticks as hair holder
                        Coffee grinds for garden
                        Egg shells for art projects
                        Pizza cutter for clay work
                        on and on!

                        Love all the ideas!

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: HillJ

                          Crush eggshells to feed the birds!

                          1. re: kattyeyes

                            kattyeyes, I thought they use eggshells to build their nests?

                            1. re: HillJ

                              I thought they ate them to build strong birdie bones?! I'm pretty sure bluejays eat them, fine feathered little cannibals that they are.

                              1. re: kattyeyes

                                OT. My chickens kept running for cover at the constant hawk scream in their uncovered summer pen. Only there were no hawks in sight. Curious. It was the JAYS! I never knew that Jaybirds can mimic hawk cries. They would scream like a hawk- clear the pen from chickens-then go eat the chicken scraps. Smart little buggars.

                                1. re: sedimental

                                  Jays are very smart indeed, but I didn't know that! Whenever I put out peanuts for them, they call out to their friends and next thing you know, it's a jay party on my deck. They're fun to watch. While we've gone to the birds, let's not forget sugar water for the hummingbirds. :)

                                2. re: kattyeyes

                                  They also help with calcium to harden eggs. Chickens usually get crushed oyster shells for this, but I read online that some people supplement with crushed egg shells.

                                  1. re: tracylee

                                    That might be, but it's not a good idea to get the Chickens to like the taste of their own egg shells, they will start breaking them :(

                                    1. re: sedimental

                                      Hadn't thought of that, since I don't currently raise chickens. I checked on my parent's chickens over the weekend and one of the hens had laid an egg from the tall roost, so there was a broken shell on the ground. No one had gone after it. They just get oyster shells anyway, and roam the yard during the day.

                                      1. re: sedimental

                                        I read a tweet yesty from a chicken-owner who wasn't fast enough to pick up a dropped. cracked egg. One of the cannibal hens swooped down to slurp it up.

                              2. re: HillJ

                                Olive oil as moisturizer
                                coconut oil too.

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  I buy one jar of coconut oil for the kitchen, and one for the bathroom. My skin always looks so much more evenly toned after I've used it, as well as hydrated. And, not to be indelicate, but using it as a foot moisturizer completely gets rid of the whole "It's spring/summer/fall and I really want to wear cute flats, even if they are leather, and my feet will sweat, and soon there will be consequences" thing. Okay, that was a little indelicate. But useful.

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    I give my hair a complete coconut oil mask when I body surf. It repels the water, smells nice and keeps my hair hydrated. So, I'm with you on that one!

                                2. Paintbrushes as pastry brushes, and one to clean the burr grinder.
                                  I use a cooling rack to dry my actual paint brushes on, which means I never make cookies if I'm working on a painting.
                                  I have a spoon and and two butter knives (one flat, one angled) that live in the studio for various prying and painting applications.
                                  The flat pieces of styrofoam from meat packages get washed and air-dried before they become disposable palettes for mixing paints.
                                  SOS pads clean wax-caked votives in seconds, without irritating my hands like steel wool from the hardware store does.
                                  And my kitchen torch wasn't made to be used in the kitchen, but for welding. The boyfriend has agreed he is unlikely to weld anything in the near future, so it lives in the kitchen.
                                  I keep finely ground sea salt in the bath. I mix it with lavender oil, and exfoliate with it.
                                  We have coffee mugs and old coffee cans in almost every room of the house: they hold pens, and paperclips, and whatnot.
                                  My SIL makes candles, and saves jars, and buys old tea cups at flea markets, to use as votives.

                                  1. I keep a clean set of needlenose pliers in my kitchen drawer for pulling things like bones from fish, pinfeathers from chicken, etc.

                                    1. I got a really nice double decker bamboo steamer that was so pretty I didn't want to cook with it and "ruin" it. So I keep it on my bathroom counter and store makeup in it. Eyeshadows, mascaras on top, lipsticks and glosses in the roomier bottom area. It looks nice sitting there and my chaotic makeup drawer is no more!

                                      Also, a little anise extract rubbed on corners of baseboards kept my puppy from chewing them, even though most dogs are attacted to mild anise flavors. Because the array of brightly colored toys all over the place could never be more amusing than eating the walls.