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20 Extraordinary Uses for Everyday Foods

Besides the best and most common use for food—eating it—it can be used in a number of ways around the house. Here are some of the strangest.

Healthy eating ingredients: fresh vegetables, fruits and superfood. Nutrition, diet, vegan food conceptMaksim Shmeljov/Shutterstock

The foods we eat can provide a multitude of health and nutritional benefits. But did you know that some items in your refrigerator and pantry can have a dual use? Scroll on to discover foods commonly found on your grocery list that can be used for other things. But first, check out these clever uses for household products that are already in your home.

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Apples can ripen green tomatoes

Have you ever checked tomatoes off of your grocery list only to realize the tomatoes in question weren’t ripe yet? This hack using apples will speed up the ripening process so you can use those tomatoes in no time. Fruits produce a gas called ethylene which helps speed up ripening. Left to their own devices, tomatoes would ripen on their own but it could take a while. According to Farmer’s Almanac, to help make the process go faster, store washed and dried tomatoes with other fruits like apples in a closed paper bag. Make sure you check in on the tomatoes from time to time, to see how the process is going, so that you can be sure to enjoy them when they are ripe! Here are additional creative ways to use apples for eating and for other purposes.

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Orange peels can help deodorize refrigerators

The fruit best known as much for its Vitamin C as its fresh citrus scent can help neutralize smells in the refrigerator. After eating an orange, pour some salt on the rind, then place the rind way back in the refrigerator. Here are other ways orange peels are way more useful than you think.

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Use bananas to shine leather shoes

Slipping on banana peels was once comedy gold, but now there’s a better use for the fruit. Aside from the great nutritional benefits like potassium, bananas have a skin that can be used to polish leather shoes. Simply peel the banana and use the skin to buff up your shoes. Afterward, buff with a clean cloth to finish up the shine. Presto! If you have a bunch of bananas going bad and you and aren’t sure what to do with them, here are additional clever uses for bananas—besides eating them.

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Peanut butter helps remove gum from your hair

Almost everyone has had a wad of chewing gum stuck in their hair at one point or another. The last resort is to cut it out, but you can avoid a haircut if you have a jar of peanut butter in the pantry. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), peanut butter can be used to remove gum from hair. Simply coat the gum with creamy peanut butter (not crunchy), and let the oil in the peanut butter do its thing for a few minutes. Then, using your fingers, try to gently maneuver the peanut butter-coated gum out of your hair. When you’re done, wash your hair with shampoo and conditioner to remove the peanut-butter residue. If your shampoo happens to be baby shampoo, here are 24 things you didn’t know you could do with that.

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Use mayonnaise to remove water rings on wooden surfaces

Who would’ve thought mayonnaise could work miracles removing marks and water rings from wooden surfaces? “Dab a quarter-size amount of mayo on a towel and scrub the surface. Within seconds, the stains will disappear,” says Erin McDermott, Communications Manager for Molly Maid, a Neighborly Company. “Wipe the excess off with a damp rag or wet wipe.” That’s just one of the 22 uses for mayonnaise.

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Use old slices of bread to pick up broken glass

When glass shatters, the shards go everywhere and it’s a long, painstaking process to pick up each piece off the floor. In order to safely pick up pieces of glass, first make sure you’re wearing gloves to protect your hands and that no exposed skin is showing. After vacuuming the area, take a slice of bread and press it down wherever there may still be shards on the floor. Be extra cautious when throwing away the bread with embedded bits of glass in it. On a related note, this is the best thing to do with leftover bread crust.

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Bread and milk can splinters from your skin

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, you can use a slice of bread soaked in milk to remove splinters. Immerse a slice of stale bread in a bowl of milk until it’s completely saturated. Gently squeeze excess milk from the bread, then cover the affected area. Let this soggy bread poultice sit for a few hours or overnight. As the dry bread sucks back moisture from the skin, it will extract the splinter.

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Potatoes can also remove splinters

After cutting a potato into slices, not wedges, place the side without the skin on the splinter. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, various sources recommend leaving the potato slice for 10 to 20 minutes and up to all night. Tie the potato slice in place using bandages.  “When you remove the potato, it should pull out the splinter.” This is the simple trick to help keep potatoes from turning brown.

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Potatoes can remove certain food stains from your hands

Ever found yourself eating or picking berries only to find your hands have been stained with the juice? According to the old Farmer’s Almanac, simply rubbing your hands with slices of raw potato will help remove berry stains from skin. These are the best potato recipes from every state.

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Use Coca-Cola to remove blood stains from clothes

From the Buried Alive episode of the hit show Mythbusters: Coca-Cola can actually be used to remove blood stains. Pour a whole can into the wash, along with the blood-stained clothing and your usual detergent, then run a normal cycle as you usually would. The laundry will come out stain free.

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Plant garlic to safeguard fruit trees

Garlic does more than supposedly ward off vampires. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the strong-smelling plant we use to enhance the flavor of recipes can also be used to help raspberries grow. Planting garlic around the tree trunk deters beetles from eating away at the crop.

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Fresh pineapple as digestive aid

After eating a particularly large meal, fresh pineapple can help aid digestion. According to the Farmer’s Almanac: “Pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain, which helps aid digestion and the feelings of overeating.” Be sure to use fresh pineapple rather than canned, however, as bromelain is destroyed during the canning process. Now, learn how to cut a fresh pineapple like a Hawaiian.

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Cucumber slices to fight bad breath

If you forget to brush your teeth the recommended two minutes one morning before your mad dash out the door, cucumber to the rescue! This kitchen staple can help fight bad breath. According to the Farmer’s Almanac simply place a slice of cucumber in your mouth and hold it against the roof of your mouth for 30 seconds. Then, eat the cucumber, or toss it. And if you’re curious, this is what bad breath is trying to tell you.

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Tomato ketchup to polish silver

Ketchup is more than a condiment for French fries—it can actually be used to restore luster to silver. To try it, squeeze some ketchup onto a soft cloth and rub the tarnished area, then rinse with warm water. For silver that’s extremely tarnished, let the ketchup sit 15 minutes.

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Lemons to clean the microwave

Ever opened up a microwave to find what looks like a food bomb just went off? “Clean a microwave naturally by placing half a lemon in a bowl of water and microwaving for three minutes,” says McDermott. “Once time is up, wipe down the microwave.” Hurray for lemons! This is why you should always keep a lemon on your nightstand.

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Citrus peels for all-natural, anti-bacterial cleaner

Citrus peels can be used to make an all-natural anti-bacterial cleaner, McDermott says, “Fill a jar with citrus peels and herbs (dried or fresh), add vinegar, and seal it tight. Leave the mix to infuse for 1-2 weeks.” Once the time is up, “combine one part vinegar-fruit mix and two parts water in a spray bottle and shake well.” Your cleaner is ready to use. Bonus: Citrus peels can also be used to make an all-natural air freshener.

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Celery as a cleanse tonic

This low-calorie vegetable is most often eaten as a light snack or used to garnish a drink, but according to the Farmer’s Almanac before the 19th century it was used as a cleansing tonic “to counter the ‘salt sickness’ of a winter diet fraught with preserved fish and meats.” Here’s a trick to keep celery and other veggies fresher longer.

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Cranberries to help prevent bladder infections

If you’re prone to bladder infections, according to AARP, NIH urologic disease experts say “drinking cranberry juice daily won’t cure them, but it can help prevent them.” That’s just one reason cranberries are one of the superfoods that nutritionists eat in fall.

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Lemonade removes rust from metal appliances

Whenever you have leftover lemon or orange drink mix, don’t toss it. It can be used to “clean off rust from metal appliances,” says McDermott. The citric acid from the drink powder will eat away the rust.”

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Cherry pie filling is used to see how well dishwashers clean

The National Sanitation Foundation, now known as NSF International, tests thousands of products for food safety. To test how well household dishwashers clean the NSF reports going through more than 100 pounds of cherry pie filling ever year. That’s a lot of cherry pie! There are 12 ways you are shortening the life of your appliances, but cleaning off cherry pie filling isn’t one of them.

Madeline Wahl
Madeline Wahl is a Digital Associate Editor/Writer at Previously, she worked for HuffPost and Golf Channel. Her writing has appeared on HuffPost, Red Magazine, McSweeney's, Pink Pangea, The Mighty, and Yahoo Lifestyle, among others. More of her work can be found on her website:

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