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24 Clever Uses for Plastic Bags You Have Lying Around the House

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

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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 it in the drawer. You also love these other household storage hacks you have to try.

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Road trip trash bin

Plastic bags can fold up and store in your glove box, barely taking up any space at all. When you’re out on the road and make any trash or come across litter, having a designated trash bag on hand is incredibly useful and means you don’t have to stop to find a trash bin, and you won’t have crumbs, refuse, or any other trash bits floating around in your car.

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Easy donation

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure! While those annoying plastic grocery bags may just be trash to you, thrift stores and flea markets would be thrilled to have your old bags to use rather than having to buy their own. It may seem like an odd thing to donate but many small businesses would be thrilled to have them. You’ll want to think twice about donating these common items, however.

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Make a DIY shoe form

Even if you don’t have your own shoe forms, you don’t have to worry about your shoes losing their shape when you aren’t wearing them. Crumple up some plastic bags to stuff the toes of your off-season shoes with and they’ll be just like you left them when you pick them back up.

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Travel laundry bag

Next time you pack your suitcase, slip a few plastic bags inside. They’re useful for storing still-wet-from-the-beach swimsuits, or any dirty clothes you might have, in order to keep them separate from any clean things in your luggage. You’ll also want to make use of these other household items that will help you pack for a trip.

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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. Don’t want to use plastic? This is how other countries are eliminating the product.

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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 to be funneled. Snip off the end and transfer into the needed container. Then just toss the bag when the funneling is done. Here are some more kitchen gadgets you’ll wish you had years ago.

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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.

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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. Here are some clever uses for bananas (besides eating them).

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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.

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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. Add this to the list of our favorite kitchen shortcuts!

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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. You’ll love these kitchen hacks just as much.

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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.

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Grease your pans mess-free

 

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.

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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.

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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. Here are 30 more great uses for essential oils in your everyday life.

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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.

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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. Here are 6 more homemade cleaners that really work.

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Use as a portable water dish

 

Your furry best friend has happily hiked alongside you during your trek in the great outdoors. Even if you don’t have your own portable water bowl, you can make your own with a plastic bag. Bring along a sealable plastic bag full of water from your pack and hold it open while Buddy laps his fill.

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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. Add this to the list of packing tips we wish we knew before.

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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.

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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. If you find these useful, you’ll love these genius uses for cotton balls that have nothing to do with nail polish.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest