Just about every minute of every day, you’re using something an engineer spent months in a lab painstakingly designing: a computer, a remote control, a pillow, a spoon. So many of these items seem to have a single, fixed purpose.
Dive into the details, and you’ll see that the bright minds of the world were more creative than that. Whether they were built intentionally or only discovered later by a resourceful person, the alternative uses for these common household items have redefined the product itself.
1. Bread tags: You know those little plastic things that keep your bread bags tied up and your loaves fresh? Well, they have a second function: the color of the tag indicates what day the bread was baked. For instance, a blue tag means the bread was baked on a Monday.
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2. Lines on solo cups: The bottom line is one shot of liquor, the next line up is a glass of wine, and the top is 12 ounces (one full beer).
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3. Loose leaf margins: Back when rats used to infest homes, they’d gnaw away at paper. People would face the paper margins out when they stored stacks, and these margins allowed rats to gnaw paper without interrupting important work.
4. Pot handle holes: No, those holes you see in the handles of your pots and pans aren’t just for hanging them on hooks when you’re done cooking a meal. You can also rest a stirring spoon in them!
5. Gas gauge arrow: You’ve probably looked at it a thousand times in your car and never really even noticed that little arrow next to the gas tank symbol. Whatever direction the arrow points is the side the gas tank is on.
6. Soda can tabs: Obviously these little metal tabs are used to pop open the can, but have you ever thought about flipping it around to place a straw through the hole? Probably not, but you’ll quickly realize it’s a genius idea.
7. Chinese food takeout boxes: The next time you order takeout Chinese and you get a ton of those white cardboard boxes, don’t waste your own dishes. By carefully unfolding the boxes at each corner, they actually become their own plates!
8. Removable head rests: As a kid, you probably remember yanking the two front headrests out of their holders while sitting in the backseat. They come loose so in the event of an emergency you can use the metal ends to break through windows.
9. Airplane window holes: These tiny openings in airplane windows help balance the pressure in the cabin while the plane ascends to high elevations. Even if the outer pane of the window breaks, the hole still allows for equalized pressure.
10. Coin ridges: The reason behind these ridges dates back to a time when coins were stamped in different weights. People could shave the edges, melt them, and mold them into new coins. Minters caught on, and they ridged edges to prevent forgery.
11. Microwave door grating: When you look closely into a microwave, you see thousands of tiny black holes covering the door. This grating is called a Faraday shield, and it ensures that hazardous electromagnetic waves don’t escape and harm people waiting to open the door.
12. Extra fabric in clothes: Although many people believe those extra bits of fabric in clothing are for sewing patches in the event of a hole, they’re actually so you can test wash the material to know if it will shrink or bleed.
13. Tiny hole next to iPhone camera: What the heck is that thing? They’re on every phone next to the camera, but do they even serve a purpose? Of course! They’re actually tiny microphones to capture sound when you’re recording.
14. Long-neck bottles: The design feature is used to collect particles of sediment in unfiltered beer. It also helps distribute heat, keeping your drink cold when you clutch the bottle with your hand.
15. Red squares on toothpaste tubes: Internet lore has many people believing the colored squares indicate the ingredient in the toothpaste, but that’s completely false. These “eye marks” simply tell the assembly line machines where to pinch and cut off each tube.
16. Shirt loops: Okay, so it seems pretty obvious these are used for hanging, but where did they originate? Well, Navy sailors used the loops to hang their shirts because there wasn’t enough room for hangers in submarines closets.
17. Blue end of the eraser: Why on Earth did these types of erasers have blue sections on one end? The blue is actually used to erase marks on paper firmer than loose leaf. Artists mainly utilized this end to remove thicker and heavier marks.
18. Backpack square patches: Also known as “lashing squares” or “pig snouts,” these are used to thread rope or lace through to carry extra items. Don’t have any extra items to make use of these? Go camping, they’re sure to come in handy.
19. Blue discs under twist-off caps: Underneath every twist off bottle cap is a thin blue disc that can be removed. These actually trap carbon dioxide, so the drinks stay fully carbonated until they’re opened.
20. Golf ball dimples: By adding these little holes to the ball, manufacturers made it possible to minimize air blockage that would otherwise slow down the ball. Here’s to maximum speed!
21. Holes in pen caps: Those open ends you see on most capped pens aren’t a production error; they’re actually a safety feature. How? In the event someone chokes on one, the open end allows air flow to prevent asphyxiation.
22. Applesauce lids: Ever pack applesauce for lunch and forget utensils? Like a goon, you probably poured it into your mouth. Next time, do a little twisting and shaping with the foil lid—it can easily become a spoon!
dascannibal / Imgur
23. The little pocket in jeans: When jeans first became fashionable, that tiny pocket had a simple function: to hold a man’s pocket watch. Chances are, unless you also carry a monocle, you aren’t carrying a pocket watch. Use it as a phone or coin pocket instead!
24. The drawer under the oven: In some ovens, there’s a little drawer that’s the perfect size for trays, pots, and pans. So of course, that would be storage space, right? Not exactly. You’re supposed to use it to keep food warm while waiting to eat!
25. The grooves on your keyboard: What’s the deal with the little grooves or bumps on the F and J keys? If you’re a classically trained typist who doesn’t look at the keyboard, those marks indicate “home keys,” or where your index fingers rest.
26. The number on a glass ketchup bottle: You might as well call the raised number 57 on a ketchup bottle the sweet spot. That’s where you should tap if you want to get the condiment flowing—don’t smack the bottom of the bottle!
27. Ketchup cups: At a fast food joint or diner, little paper cups serve as containers for your condiments. Dipping a fat nugget into them can get a little tight on space, though. Good thing cups are built to unravel a bit to become more saucer like.
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28. The hole in the elevator door: When an elevator gets stuck, repairmen need some way to operate the thing manually. This is a keyhole that allows them the opportunity. Hopefully, you never have to see this thing serve its purpose!
29. Soft drink lids: Afraid of leaving a soda ring on your freshly cleaned coffee table? Pop the lid off your soda cup and use it as a coaster! The bottom of the cup should fit perfectly into the grooved ring on the lid.
30. Tic Tac lids: In the rare event you want to offer someone one single Tic Tac, the container itself has you covered. The little ringlet that keeps the lid sealed tight also holds a single tasty mint.
Food Beast / YouTube
31. Plunger: While plungers have been removing any number of vile things stuck deep inside your sewage pipes since the dawn of time, their purpose doesn’t have to be so singular. Cup plungers especially work well on clogged sinks.
32. Pasta spoons: You know those weird spoons meant for scooping pasta? Well, the hole in their basin may be useful for letting water drain out, but coincidentally, it’s a measuring tool. It happens to fits about a single serving of pasta!
33. Measuring tape hole: At the end of measuring tape—usually within the metal, flat tab at the end—there’s a hole meant to hook screws or nails. That way, you can keep the tape in place without having to stretch your arms to their limits.
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34. Converse shoes: Near the arch of your foot in a pair of Converse sneakers, you’ll find a hole for laces that might seem totally unnecessary. But if you slide your laces through those in addition to the others, you’ll find they provide a lot more ankle stability than the usual lacing method!
35. The flaps on each side of a juice box may seem useless, but they come in very handy for parents with small children. Have kids hold the box by the flaps. This way they won’t accidentally squeeze the juice all over the new rug.
36. Even though most gas caps are attached to your car, it’s not the best policy to just let it dangle while you pump. Luckily, your fuel door includes a holder for your cap. Pump and drive like a professional.
37. Whether your cart is full and you’d like to keep delicate groceries separated, or you already have a few groceries that you’ve purchased from another store, these hooks can provide an overlooked helping hand.
38. Aluminum foil is tricky to section cleanly. However, if you pop in the sides of the box with the roll inside it will stay in place no matter how many sheets you need to tear.
39. Stop throwing away nail files when they lose their ruggedness! If you look closely, you’ll notice you can actually peel off the layer you’ve already used to reveal a fresh one.
40. Because the end on the jagged side sticks out upwards a bit, people assume it faces out but the bumps on that side will actually keep your hair in place much easier if it’s facing down! Let every day be a good hair day from now on.