A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

26 Ways to Use Cotton Balls That Have Nothing to Do with Nail Polish

Updated: Dec. 02, 2022

You can use them for way more than taking off nail polish.

1 / 27

Use up the cotton balls

When you think of cotton balls your mind immediately goes to using them to remove nail polish, but there are actually many more ways you can use them around the house. Break out that bag of cotton balls from the back of your bathroom cabinet and try using them in these genius ways. Make sure to also try these extraordinary uses for household objects.

2 / 27
Getty Images (2)

Keep ants away

If you have unwelcome visitors crawling around your BBQ, make a homemade ant trap. Mix together a tablespoon each of hot water and sugar, then add half a teaspoon of borax. Soak a cotton ball with the solution, and place it where ants are gathering. The sugar will attract the bugs, and the borax will poison them. These are other common items that can help get rid of ants.

3 / 27
Cosmetic Products
Getty Images (2)

Pack makeup

You won’t want to lug around full-size makeup bottles for just an overnight trip. For a solution that keeps your bag light, wipe a bit of blush, powder, and bronzer onto cotton balls and stash in a plastic baggie. During longer trips when you’ll want the full product, stick a cotton ball between the makeup and mirror in a compact to act as a cushion and prevent a mess of crushed powder. Don’t miss these other tips for packing makeup to avoid breaks and cracks during travel.

4 / 27
Rubber Gloves
Getty Images (2)

Make your rubber gloves last longer

If you use rubber gloves a lot to do dishes or while you’re gardening you know how easy it is to accidentally make a hole in one of the fingers. Instead of buying a new pair, but a cotton ball in the fingertip of the glove to extend their life a little longer and keep your fingers and nails protected.

5 / 27
Prevent blisters
Getty Images (2)

Prevent blisters

When you’re breaking in a new pair of shoes, stick a cotton ball inside wherever it’s rubbing against your skin to add some cushioning and keep your feet pain-free. If a blister has already cropped up, just use a cotton ball as a barrier between the wound and your footwear. If you’re curious, this is why there are cotton balls in pill bottles.

6 / 27
Getty Images (2)

Clean bathroom corners

Cleaning the corners of tubs and showers in the bathroom can be tricky, especially if there’s built of mildew or grime. Soak a cotton ball in bleach and place them in the corners and other difficult to clean areas. Let them sit for an hour or two and then rinse the area with warm water.

7 / 27
Getty Images (2)

Remove permanent marker from your skin

If your kids get into your permanent marker stash during craft time, remove it from their skin using a cotton ball dipped in milk. They may need a bath after, but it’s better than being covered in marker. Also, try out these genius uses for hand sanitizer.

8 / 27
Water Spots
Getty Images (2)

Remove water spots

Over time, faucets can get caked with mineral deposits from the unfiltered tap water. To dissolve those white marks, soak a few cotton balls in a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water, and place them on the area for several minutes. Rinse the faucet and dry with a soft cloth.

9 / 27
Getty Images (2)

Deodorize your fridge

If your refrigerator has lingering odors from the rotting cheese you found a little too late, dampen a cotton ball with vanilla extract and place it in the back of your fridge. It will act as a natural deodorizer leaving your fridge smelling fresh.

10 / 27
Getty Images (2)

Disinfect tricky household objects

Dip a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and use it to clean smaller objects around the house that can be difficult to get with a cloth or wipe. Try it on light switches, remote controls, or knobs on cabinets. The cotton ball will remove the grime and disinfect.

11 / 27
Poison Ivy
Getty Images (2)

Treat poison ivy

For a bad run-in with poison ivy, drying out the rash can help. Brew a strong cup of tea, then soak a cotton ball with it. Rub it over the affected area and let the spot air-dry. Feel free to repeat as needed if you didn’t get the relief you wanted.

12 / 27
Getty Images (2)

Help a sunburn

Depending on how big your sunburn is, you may need a handful of cotton balls, but dipping cotton balls in vinegar or a baking soda and water solution will help provide some relief from the sting.

13 / 27
Getty Images (2)

Save your daffodils

It’s always a sad day when your daffodils die for the season. Keep them around a little longer with cotton balls. Fill their hollow stems with water and plug the top with a cotton ball and your blooms will last longer.

14 / 27
Getty Images (2)

Battle mildew

Mold tends to pop up in areas or on items that get too much moisture, like in the bathroom or basement. To fight the mildew, leave a few bleach-soaked cotton balls where the mold likes to grow. Give them a couple of hours to work their magic, then clean the area with warm water after you remove them.

15 / 27
Getty Images (2)

Trap mice

If traditional mouse traps haven’t been working for you, try luring mice in with a cotton ball soaked in vanilla extract. Rodents, be gone!

16 / 27
Getty Images (2)

Create a simple fragrance diffuser

Dribble a few drops of vanilla extract or essential oil on a small bunch of cotton balls. Leave the cotton balls in a pretty bowl and place them on a shelf in your bathroom, fridge, or garbage can. The scent is mild but will keep things smelling fresh.

17 / 27
Getty Images (2)

Save kid’s fingers

Save your kid’s fingers from slamming in drawers. Place a cotton ball on the inside of the drawer to prevent it from closing all of the way and slamming your little one’s fingers when they close it.

18 / 27
Getty Images (2)

Ward off rabbits

If hungry bunnies keep nibbling your garden, keep them away with some cotton balls soaked with distilled white vinegar. You can either leave the cotton balls out in the open around your plants or place them in a small container, like a film canister or plastic takeout box, with holes poked in the top.

19 / 27
Germinate Seeds
Getty Images (2)

Germinate seeds

Gather a glass jar, a few cotton balls, and your seeds. Fill the jar with cotton balls and place your seeds on either side of the jar, add water to the jar (just enough to dampen the cotton balls), and watch your seeds become sprouts over the next few days. After about five days your seeds will be ready to be transferred to soil.

20 / 27
Getty Images (2)

Impromptu earplugs

Cotton balls are a great way to block out sound. They’re soft and can easily mold to your ear shape too.

21 / 27
Main Pedi
Getty Images (2)

Perfect your pedicure

Sure you use cotton balls to remove your old nail polish, but they come in handy as you start your next pedicure too. Stick them between your toes to separate your piggies for a smudge-free paint job.

22 / 27
Makeup Palette
Getty Images (2)

Apply and fix makeup

Because they can bend into whatever shape you need, cotton balls make a handy applicator when you want to sweep highlighter on a specific area along your cheekbones. You can also use a clean one to blend in any harsh lines while contouring or buff away blush when you accidentally add too much pigment. Using cotton balls could help you avoid these makeup mistakes that make you look sloppy.

23 / 27
Ink stain
Getty Images (2)

Remove ink stains

If you ruined your favorite sweatshirt with an ink stain right on the front, grab a cotton ball, soak it in rubbing alcohol, and dab it onto the fabric to remove the stain. First, test the rubbing alcohol in an inconspicuous spot on the shirt to make sure it doesn’t ruin the fabric or create another stain. Try these amazing ways to use WD-40 that you never thought of before.

24 / 27
Jewelry box
Getty Images (2)

Save your jewelry

Use cotton balls to protect fragile jewelry when you’re storing it. Use them as a cushion or even roll them out to support smaller items such as earrings. They also work great to clean your jewelry, just dampen one with some rubbing alcohol and start cleaning.

25 / 27
Craft time
Getty Images (2)

Craft time

Cotton balls make the perfect animal fur, snow, or hair on people during craft time. They’re pretty cheap too, so you won’t feel bad letting your kids use them all.

26 / 27
Getty Images (2)

Freshen up your drawers

Spray your favorite perfume or put a few drops of essential oils on a cotton ball and place it in your sock drawer (or any drawer that needs to scent boost). The cotton ball will retain and dispense the scent making your clothes smells great. Try these other simple deodorizers to make your home smell fresh.

27 / 27
Getty Images (2)

Start a fire

When you can’t quite reach the wick in a jarred candle, twist a couple cotton balls until they form a sturdy stick-like shape. Light the end and use it to reach into your wick. During a camping trip, cotton balls also make for handy fire starters. Cover some with petroleum jelly, then light them on fire as you’re getting your bonfire going. The cotton balls will burn for about five minutes, giving you a chance to build a larger flame. Now, try these genius uses for vinegar.