Surprising Uses for Everyday Foods

From cleaning your kitchen to soothing your sunburn, surprising uses for kitchen staples.

A lemon half can be a pretty great cleaning tool. Rubbing it on a cutting board scrubs away stubborn stains and odors (though it doesn’t disinfect, so be sure to wash stuff when necessary as well). Dip one in salt and you can use it to polish copper or brass. Best of all, it smells a lot better than most acrid metal cleaners or bleach!

What other tricks do foods have up their sleeves (or…um…rinds)? It turns out, a bunch! Here are a few of our favorites.

—Matt Thompson, Associate Food Editor for EatingWell


How to Soothe Your Sunburn

How to Soothe Your Sunburn

Soothe your sunburn by halving a cucumber lengthwise and rubbing it on scorched skin as you would aloe, suggests Alan Logan, N.D., co-author of Your Skin, Younger (Sourcebooks, 2010): “Vitamin C can turn down the dial on inflammation damage in the skin.”

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How to Clean Glass

How to Clean Glass

Clean glass with vinegar. Just dilute it with water and avoid all those harsh chemicals in conventional cleaners.


How to Scrub Pots

How to Scrub Pots

Scrub pots by making a paste from baking soda and water. This is a great way to use all those half-boxes of too-old-to-bake-with baking soda that are cluttering your cupboard.

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How to Rid Your Garden of Slugs

How to Rid Your Garden of Slugs

Rid your garden of slugs with beer. EatingWell’s gardening expert Barbara Ganley tells me, “Put beer into a bottle and then bury it on its side until the bottom rim of the mouth is on the dirt.” The slugs, attracted by the starchy smell of beer, will ooze their way down the neck and then not be able to crawl out.


How to Polish Leather Shoes

How to Polish Leather Shoes

Polish leather shoes with banana peels. Really! This one sounded so crazy I had to go to Dole for confirmation. They say, “Some old-timers swear by banana skins as a beautifier for leather shoes. After rubbing the soft inside on the shoe surface remember to buff and polish with a cloth.”


How to Ripen Fruit Faster

How to Ripen Fruit Faster

Ripen fruit faster using…ripe fruit. This really works! If you’ve got a rock-hard avocado you were hoping to use or a few overly green bananas, you can throw them in a paper bag with a few ripe apples and they’ll ripen more quickly. I had Dr. Eugene Kupferman of the Washington State University Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center explain it to me. It turns out that ripe fruit gives off a gas called ethylene that helps unripe fruit ripen more quickly.


How to Start Fires

How to Start Fires

Start fires with old orange peels. In the fireplace, I mean! Orange peels are chock-full of citrus oil, which gives them their distinctive smell, and are also quite flammable. This means that, if you let them dry out a bit, they make a top-notch kindling that smells good too!