There’s Plenty of Uses for Paper Bags

Dust off your mops Dust mops make it a breeze to get up the dust balls and pet hair around

Dust off your mops

Dust mops make it a breeze to get up the dust balls and pet hair around your home, but how do you get the stuff off your mop? Place a large paper bag over the mop head; use a piece of string or a rubber band to keep it from slipping off. Now give it several good shakes (a few gentle bumps wouldn’t hurt either). Lay the mop on its side for a few minutes to let the dust in the bag settle. Then carefully remove the bag for easy disposal of your dusty dirt.

Clean artificial flowers

Authentic silk flowers are actually pretty rare these days; most are now made of nylon or some other man-made material. But regardless of whether they’re silk or something else, you can easily freshen them up by placing them in a paper bag with 1/4 cup salt. Give the bag a few gentle shakes, and your flowers will emerge as clean as the day you purchased them.

Carry your laundry

If your laundry basket is already overflowing, or (gasp!) the plastic handle suddenly gives out, you can always use a sturdy shopping bag to pick up the slack. A bag with handles will probably make the job easier, but any large bag will do in a pinch. Just be sure your laundry is completely dry before using the bag on the return trip. Otherwise, your freshly cleaned clothes could wind up under your feet.

Cover your kids’ textbooks

Helping your children make book covers for their textbooks isn’t only fun, it’s also a subtle way to teach kids to respect public property. And few materials rival a paper bag when it comes to making a rugged book cover. First, cut the bag along its seams to make it a flat, wide rectangle, then place the book in the center. Fold in the top and bottom edges so the bag is only slightly wider than the book’s height. Next, fold over the sides to form sleeves over the book covers. Cut off the excess, leaving a couple of inches on either side to slide over the front and back covers. Put a piece of masking tape on the top and bottom of each sleeve (over the paper, not the book) to keep it on tight, and you’re done. Lastly, let your child put his or her personal design on each cover.

Make your own wrapping paper

Need to wrap a present in a hurry? You don’t have to rush out to buy wrapping paper. Just cut a large paper bag along the seams until it’s a flat rectangle. Position it so that any printing is facing up at you, put your gift on top and fold, cut, and tape the paper around your gift. If you wish, personalize your homemade wrapping paper by decorating it with markers, paint, or stickers.

Store linen sets

Have you ever emptied the contents of your linen closet looking for the flat sheet to match the fitted one you just pulled out? You can easily spare yourself some grief by using medium-sized paper bags to store your complete linen sets. Not only will your shelves be better organized, but you can also keep your linens smelling fresh by placing a used fabric softener sheet in each bag.

Use as a pressing cloth

If your ironing board’s cover appears to have seen its last steam iron, don’t sweat it. You can easily make a temporary pressing cloth by splitting open one or two paper bags. Dampen the bags and lay them over your ironing board to get those last few shirts or skirts pressed for the workweek.

Pack your bags

Getting ready to leave on a family vacation? Don’t forget to pack a few large shopping bags — the kind with handles — in your luggage. They’re guaranteed to come in handy to bring home the souvenirs you pick up, or perhaps your soiled laundry or beach towels.

Bag your recycled newspapers

Double up on your recycling efforts by using large paper bags to hold your newspapers for collection. It not only spares you the time and effort needed to tie up your bundles with string, but it also makes it easier to sort out your magazines, newsprint, and glossy pages.

Make cleanups easier

Cut open one or two paper bags and spread them out over your countertop when peeling vegetables, husking corn, shelling peas, or any other messy task. When you’re done, simply fold up the paper, and toss it into the trash for a fast and easy cleanup.

Keep bread fresh

If you live in a high-humidity area, your bread will stay fresher when stored inside a paper bag rather than a plastic one. The paper’s ability to “breathe” will keep the bread’s crust crisp while allowing the center of the loaf to stay soft and moist.

Use to ripen fruit

Many fruits — including avocados, bananas, pears, peaches, and tomatoes — will ripen better when placed in a paper bag. To hasten the ripening process of any fruit, place an already ripe apple or banana peel in the same bag and store it at room temperature. To ripen green bananas, wrap them in a damp dishtowel before placing them in the bag. Once your fruits have adequately ripened, you can halt the process by putting them in the refrigerator.

Store mushrooms

Remove your store-bought mushrooms from their mesh packaging and place them in a paper bag inside your refrigerator to keep them fresh for up to five days.

Store geraniums in winter

Although they’re considered to be annuals, geraniums are easy to overwinter. First, remove the plants from their pots or care-fully dig them up from your garden bed, shake off as much soil as possible, and place each plant in its own paper bag. Cover each bag with a second paper bag turned upside down and store them in a cool, dry place. When spring arrives, cut off all but 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) of stem and repot. Place them in a sunny spot, water regularly, and watch your plants “spring” back to life.

Feed your plants

Bonemeal is an excellent source of nutrients for all the plants in your garden. You can easily make your own by first drying your leftover chicken bones in a microwave oven (depending on the quantity, cook them for 1-4 minutes on High). Then place the dried bones in a sturdy paper bag and grind them up using a mallet, hammer, or rolling pin. When done, distribute the powder around your plants and watch them thrive.

Add to compost

Brown paper bags are a great addition to any garden compost heap. Not only do they contain less ink and pigment than newsprint, but they will also attract more earthworms to your pile (in fact, the only thing the worms like better than paper bags is cardboard). It’s best to shred and wet the bags before adding to your pile. Also, be sure to mix them in well to prevent them from blowing away after they dry.

Dry your herbs

To dry fresh herbs, first wash each plant under cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Make sure the plants are completely dry before you proceed to reduce the risk of mold. Take five or six plants, remove the lower leaves, and place them upside down inside a large paper bag. Gather the end of the bag around the stems and tie it up. Punch a few holes in the bag for ventilation, then store it in a warm, dry area for at least two weeks. Once the plants have dried, inspect them carefully for any signs of mold. If you find any, toss out the whole bunch. You can grind them up, once you’ve removed the stems, with a rolling pin or a full soda bottle, or keep them whole to retain the flavor longer. Store your dried herbs in airtight containers and away from sunlight.

Move snow off your windshield

If you’re tired of having to constantly scrape ice and snow off your car’s windshield during the winter months, keep some paper bags on hand. When there’s snow in the forecast, go out to your car and turn on the wipers. Then, shut off the engine with the wipers positioned near the middle of your windshield. Now, split open a couple of paper bags and use your car’s wipers to hold them in place. After the last snowflake falls, pull off the paper to instantly clear your windshield. Note: To prevent damaging your car’s wipers, do not turn on the ignition until you’ve removed the snow and paper from the windshield.

Make a fire starter

Looking for an easy way to get a fire going in your fireplace? Simply fill a paper bag with some balled-up newspaper and perhaps some bits of candle wax. Stick the bag under your logs, light it, then sit back and enjoy your roaring fire.

Spray-paint small items

You don’t have to make a mess every time you need to spray-paint a small item. Just place the object to be painted inside a large shopping bag and spray away; the bag will contain the excess spray. Once the item has dried, simply remove it and toss away the bag.

Build a bag kite

Make a simple bag kite for your children to play with by folding over the top of a paper bag to keep it open. Glue on pieces of party streamers under the fold. Reinforce the kite by gluing in some strips of balsa wood or a few thin twigs along the length of the bag. Poke a couple of holes above the opened end, and attach two pieces of string or yarn (put a piece of masking or transparent tape over the holes to prevent them from tearing) and tie the ends onto a roll of kite string. It should take off when the kids start running.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest