Ten unusual uses for common household items to save you money

Something happened recently that made me think about unusual uses for common household items.

Regular readers will know that I love my cats. Lately, however, they have been driving me crazy by pooping in the plant pots on the patio. I searched the Internet for a way to deter them and came up with sprinkling of black pepper on the soil. To my surprise it worked!

This saved me money on a commercial cat deterrent, is non toxic and ecofriendly. Very appealing to a greenie money saver such as myself!

unusual uses for common household itemsThis discovery led me to research other unusual uses for common household items. I haven’t tried all of these, so can’t say they definitely work. However, most are worth a try since you are likely to have many of these items in the cupboard anyway.

Unusual uses for common household items

Black pepper

As above, black pepper keeps cats off the garden without harming them. I have heard that this isn’t the case with cayenne pepper so I won’t be trying that.

According to Organicfacts.net, black pepper can also help you lose weight by helping to break down fat cells. I have no idea how much you have to eat to shed the pounds though!

Banana peel

You can wipe the inside of a banana skin onto leather shoes and then buff them up instead of using shoe polish.

I have tried this one on a pair of taupe boots when I couldn’t find a polish the correct colour. It worked ok but didn’t give a glossy shine.

Banana skins can also be used to feed your roses. You can make a liquid feed by soaking the peels in water or simply bury them by your plants. You can find more detailed instructions here.

Tea bags

There are lots of uses for old teabags apparently! I remember being told that you could fake a tan by lying in a bath of strong tea. It didn’t work…. I have had more success using them to revive tired eyes, making sure they are as cold as possible first.

According to Chasing Green, I have been missing out on lots of other potential uses, however. For example, ‘If you have a bruise, sunburn, a bee sting, mosquito bite or cold sore put a cool, damp teabag on the affected area and use like a compress. The tea will bring comforting relief, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.’

Orange peel

We have ants trying to break into our back room at the moment. I dislike brutally murdering them with ant powder, so I like this idea for using orange peel from Home Tips World. You can soak orange peel in water to make an insect repellent. This, drained and placed in a spray bottle, will apparently keep both flies and ants at bay. If orange peel works, I can’t see why any citrus fruit skin wouldn’t do the job, particularly lemons.


Talking of which, you can use lemons, either whole or the piths once you have used the juice, to clean your microwave. This one is from One Good Thing by Jillee. ‘Add lemon rinds to a microwave-safe bowl filled halfway with water. Cook on high for 5 minutes, allowing the water to boil and the steam to condense inside. Carefully remove the hot bowl and wipe away the mess with a damp towel.’


If you are researching unusual uses for common household items, you can’t ignore vinegar. Whole books have been written on this super useful store cupboard staple.   I find it good as a fabric softener, to clean glass and as a general household cleaning spray – here is my recipe. However, these are well known. The website Vinegar Tips says it is also a brilliant stain remover, and I will be trying this: ‘Quickly combine a solution of mild liquid detergent (1/2 tablespoon) with white distilled vinegar (1 tablespoon) and one quart of cool water, and let the stained cloth sit for 15 minutes. Wash with cool water.’

Natural Living Ideas has a whole article on how great cider vinegar is for your hair. It softens and clarifies, adds body, detangles and defrizzes your locks.

Onion skins

As well as chucking them on the compost heap, which is generally what I do, I have read that you can also use onion skins as a hair dye! The blog Trash Backwards claims that they will turn your locks golden brown and also promote hair growth.

Coffee grounds

Another one from Trash Backwards (love this blog!). Coffee grounds can turn your hydrangeas blue by making the soil more acidic. Well, who knew. We always admire the blue hydrangeas when we go to Wales. It’s a shame we aren’t real coffee drinkers!  A bowl of coffee grounds will also apparently absorb odours in your fridge.

Rose petals

When those beautiful roses have faded, you can give them a new lease of life by drying them. You can then make a face cleanser, a bath soak or pot pourri. These tips come from Natural Living Ideas.

Bicarbonate soda

I rarely use bicarbonate of soda in my baking. It is more likely that I will be using it as a deodoriser in the bin or cat litter tray, as a scouring powder or in my smelly trainers! I have a whole post on the amazing power of bicarbonate of soda.

I am sure there are literally hundreds of other unusual uses for common household items. Which do you use?

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3 thoughts on “Ten unusual uses for common household items to save you money

  1. Thanks for the rip re black pepper being a cat repellent!
    I don’t own any cats, but the neighbourhood ones seem to like using both my back and front gardens as their personal litter tray.
    I dread to think how much will be needed for my front lawn (the worst affected area) even though it’s only a small patch of grass!

  2. I sometimes add a slice of lemon, or used lemon, to the dishwasher to help deodorize it, and I’ve tried pepper to repel cats, but so far this hasn’t worked as the little blighters find another patch of ground to poop in (we used to have cats, I love them really, but there are so many in our neighbourhood our garden is the M5 Catway!)
    PS right now I can’t access my blog or my emails, a computer glitch which is proving difficult to solve even with the help of my computer man, a pity we can’t think of some easy solution such as sprinkling the machine with pepper to make it work, ha ha. I have no problems accessing other’s websites, just I can’t use my own, nor my emails.
    Margaret P

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