Small Plastic Bags: 20 Super-Handy Uses

Not just for toting lunch, these handy items are helpful to have around the kitchen and home.

Create a cedar closet.


Cedar closets smell great, and, more important, they repel moths. If you aren't lucky enough to have a cedar closet, you can easily create the next best thing. Fill a sealable bag with cedar chips—the kind you buy at a pet store for the hamster cage. Zip it closed, then punch several small holes in it. Hang the bag in your closet (a pants hanger is handy for this) and let the cedar smell do its work. You can also create a sachet to freshen up musty drawers. Fill the bag with potpourri—flower petals, a few crushed fragrant leaves, and a couple of drops of aromatic oil. Punch a bunch of small holes in the bag, then place in the drawer. 

Cool off (and clean up) outside.

Going for a long trip on a hot and sticky day? Use a sealable bag to take along a wet washcloth that has been soaked in water and lemon juice—it makes a great refreshing wipe-off. This is a good trick for fast on-the-road face and hand cleanups. Another great option is to freeze a few washcloths in a sealable bag; they provide fast relief for anything from bumps and scrapes to burns and tooth pain. 

Create single-use detergent packs.


If you're planning a trip and think you'll be doing a few loads of laundry while you're there, pre-measure some detergent into a bag. It beats lugging a big box of detergent down to the shore or on an airplane, or buying expensive travel-size bottles.

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Make a funnel.

That handiest of kitchen and garage tools, the funnel, can be replicated easily with a small sandwich bag. Fill the bag with the contents you need funneled. Snip off the end and transfer into the needed container. Then just toss the bag when the funneling is done.

Protect your padlocks from freezing.


When the weather is cold enough to freeze your padlocks on the outdoor shed or garage, remember that a sandwich bag can help. Slip one over the lock and you’ll avoid frozen tumblers.

Color cookie dough without stained hands.


Experienced bakers know what a mess your hands can be after coloring cookie dough. Here’s a clean idea: Place your prepared dough in a bag, add the drops of food coloring, and squish around until the color is uniform. You can use the dough now or stick it in the freezer ready to roll out when you need it.

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Soften hard marshmallows.


You’re about to pull out that bag of marshmallows from your kitchen cabinet when you notice that the once-fluffy puffs have turned hard as rocks. Warm some water in a pan. Place the marshmallows in a sealable plastic bag, seal, and place in the pan. The warmth will soften them up in no time.

Decorate a cake.

Pastry bags can be cumbersome, expensive, and hard to clean. Place your frosting (or deviled egg mix) into a sealable bag. Squish out the air and close the top. Snip off a corner of the bag to the size you want—start conservatively—and you are ready to begin squeezing.

Feed the birds.

Be kind to the birds in your yard during the lean winter months! First, put some birdseed with peanut butter in a sealable plastic bag. Close, then knead the outside of the bag until well mixed. Then place the glob in a small net bag, or spread on a pinecone. Attach to a tree and await the grateful flock.

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Melt chocolate without a mess.

Melting chocolate in a microwave or double boiler leaves you with a messy bowl or pot to wash. Here’s a better method: Warm some water in a pan (do not boil). Place the chocolate you want to melt in a sealable freezer bag. Seal and place the bag in the pan. In a few moments, you have melted chocolate, ready to bake or decorate with. You can even leave the bag sealed and snip off a bottom corner of the bag to pipe the chocolate onto a cake. When you are done, just toss the bag.

Use as kid's kitchen gloves.

There’s nothing more welcome than helping hands in the kitchen. But when they’re little hands that tend to get dirty and leave prints all over the place, then something must be done. Before they start “helping” you make those chocolate chip cookies, place small sandwich bags over their hands. These instant gloves are disposable for easy cleanup.

Grease your pans.

If you’re never quite sure how to handle shortening and butter when greasing a cake pan or cookie sheet, here’s a tip: Place a sandwich bag over your hand, scoop up a small amount of shortening or butter from the tub, and start greasing. You can leave the bag in the canister of shortening for next time.

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Create a beach hand cleaner.


You’re sitting on the beach and it’s time for lunch. But before you reach into your cooler, you want to get the grit off your hands. Baby powder in a sealable plastic bag is the key. Place your hands in the bag, then remove them and rub them together. The sand is gone.

Cure car sickness.


The last thing you need in your car is a child (or adult) throwing up. Place a few cotton balls in a sealable plastic bag, then squirt in two drops of lavender oil. If motion sickness strikes, open the bag and take a few whiffs to feel better.

Make low-cost baby wipes.


Borrow the thrifty parents' method to make your own baby wipes: Place soft paper towels in a sealable bag with a mixture of 1 tablespoon gentle antibacterial soap, 1 teaspoon baby oil, and 1/3 cup water. Use enough of the mixture just to get the wipes damp, not drenched.

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Keep valuables dry (and afloat).

Going out on the water? Put your valuables, like car keys and cell phone, in a sealable bag. The big trick: Blow air into it before you seal the bag so it will float. A sealable bag is perfect for keeping valuables dry at the water park or beach too.

Use as a portable water dish.

Your furry best friend has happily hiked alongside you during your trek in the great outdoors. Bring along a sealable plastic bag full of water from your pack and hold it open while Buddy laps his fill.

Protect your breakables.

There’s a precious small family heirloom or trinket that needs some extra padding when storing. Place it gently in a self-closing bag, close the bag most of the way, blow it up with air, then seal it. The air forms a protective cushion around the memento.

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Store grated cheese.


Pasta or pizza is always better with a dash of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. But who wants to bother with getting the grater out every time you want that taste? Instead, take a wedge of Parmesan cheese, grate the whole thing at once, and then double bag it in two self-closing bags to protect the freshness. Or stick the grater in the bag with the cheese wedge and pull it out for a short grate when the pesto gets to the table. That way you won’t have to clean the grater after each use.

Dispose of cooking oil.

Unless you want the plumber for a best friend, don’t clog your kitchen drain with used cooking oil. Instead, wait for it to cool, then dump it in a sealable plastic bag. Toss the bag into the trash.

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