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. 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.
2. 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.
Food Hacks – Wonder How To
3. 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.
4. 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).
Sueno Dos / Flickr
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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!
8. 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.
9. 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!
10. 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.
11. 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.
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. 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.
14. 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.
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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!
18. 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.
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. 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.
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.
Crazy Russian Hacker / YouTube
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.
seejanedrill / YouTube
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.
41. Good fences make good neighbors, but this is a great fence. Rather than buy fresh wood, this carpenter used old doors, creating a neat funhouse effect around the yard.
Reddit / wrankin1101
42. Any veterans out there will appreciate this tip. If you’re unsure about what to do with all your old uniforms, take a page out of this book and make them into a cat bed cover! Your new superior officers (the kitties) will appreciate your service.
Reddit / hellostarbucks
43. Some dads are handier around the house than others, but this former airline pilot came up with a nifty idea. Rather than throwing away his stacks of maps, he put them to good use as wrapping paper. That’s first-class service!
Reddit / skonen_blades
44. Most people wouldn’t view a $4 t-shirt as anything special, except for standard laundry day attire. However, this DIY-designer turned the bland shirt into a highly stylish collared dress! By the looks of this photo, she’s about to step out on the catwalk.
Reddit / GrinningCatBus
45. Even the best photographers have bits of film that don’t develop properly. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve lost their artistic potential. For example, they can serve as perfectly framed canvases for miniature paintings.
46. In an effort to convert to a zero-plastic household, these innovators repurposed some empty whiskey bottles. They say that it not only offers a more sustainable option but also that “it helps our house look more rock n’ roll.”
Reddit / upsidedownmoonbeam
47. If you want a pair of shoes that are inexpensive and eco-friendly, look no further. This African entrepreneur makes comfy sandals out of old tires. Most impressively, he can size customers up to the nearest millimeter without needing any measuring tools!
Reddit / OneHundredKilometers
48. Most of us likely haven’t sat in a shopping cart for decades. However, that can all change once you realize that with a bit of DIY magic, any cart can transform into durable patio furniture! One note: it wouldn’t hurt to toss some cushions on those steel chairs.
Reddit / Rezaime
49. Don’t feel ashamed if you’re one of those people who keeps out their Christmas decorations way too long. By carefully stringing up these lights — and skipping the disposable tree altogether — you’ll have a gift that just keeps on giving.
Reddit / noslowsongs
50. We wouldn’t recommend that you stop bathing to help save the Earth. However, there are little things you can do. For instance, you can make your own shampoo bars, which will cut out the plastic bottles and only cost you $20 per year.
Reddit / eloquinee
51. Each year, we get a torrent of holiday cards in our mailboxes, often from people we barely know. Nevertheless, they could be more useful than you’d think. With a little bit of cutting, you can salvage a bunch of gift tags to use the following year.
Reddit / OfficerUnreasonable
52. Libraries often resort to dumping out old or duplicate books, but this branch came up with a novel alternative. They formed stacks of vintage hardcovers into stools. Even if they’re no longer being read, these tomes are giving people a place to read.
53. At just about any store, you can blow a few bucks on a drawer organizer that may or may not fit inside your furniture. Or, you can make a fully customizable version out of old cardboard. Put those boxes in your basement or attic to good use!
Reddit / wahlb3rg
54. In some hidden corner of our homes, many of us have stashed away a giant bundle of plastic grocery bags, which we someday hope to recycle. Finally, here’s a way to make that wish come true — just weave them into a reusable shopping bag like this one.
Reddit / pegamoose
55. There’s no sight more hilarious than a little kid putting on adult-sized clothes. However, there is a sensible idea buried somewhere in all those folds of fabric. Some crafty folks have taken old dress shirts and cut baby clothes right out of the middle!
Reddit / tammyrich
56. Reusable bags tend to be pretty cheap, but do you know what’s even cheaper? Making your own! This Redditor simply took an old pet food bag and added a handle to make a trendier accessory than you’d find in any store.
Reddit / GrinningCatBus
57. More so than any other article of clothing, t-shirts really pile up. But instead of just tossing your oldies in the trash, consider sewing them into a quilt! You can experiment with colors and patterns to make it a future family heirloom.
Reddit / AlchemistDoctor
58. For most people, there’s no trash more commonplace than dead leaves on the ground. But did you know that they can make some all-natural confetti? This project is perfect for any mountain man throwing a surprise party.
59. We may not always realize it, but even the smallest components of everyday objects can be mighty when properly utilized. Just look at this mom, who knitted an entire scarf out of nothing but tea bag string! If she’s lucky, that scarf will smell like chamomile.
Reddit / fluraichean
60. After a huge dinner party, this Redditor’s friends were about to toss a huge turkey carcass in the trash. Luckily, she grabbed it and made over a dozen jars of savory stock from it! We bet you never thought the word ‘carcass’ could be so appetizing!
Reddit / HamishCat
61. You might think that one lip balm tube in the trash doesn’t mean much, but they add up to a lot of waste over time. As a matter of fact, you can eliminate this issue altogether by saving the tubes and re-filling them with a homemade, organic concoction.
Reddit / logibearr
62. Remember that not every item’s second life has to involve a ton of work. Any glass jar can instantly become a cup, though we recommend you clean it out first. And you’ll get bonus points for using a metal straw instead of a plastic one.
Reddit / battraman
63. Some objects, like pom poms hats, actually serve a purpose most people don’t know! The pom poms were put on hats to keep sailors from bumping their heads below deck, and that’s not the only everyday object with a little-known primary use…
64. Everyone knows Chupa Chups as a brand of delicious lollipops that feature a unique, square-shaped hole at the top of each stick. The square hole actually helps the lollipop stay firmly attached to the stick during the candy-making process!
65. Having a crease running down the front of suit pants might be considered fashionable now, but that wasn’t always the case. In the 19th century, suits were sent to the United States in the cargo holds of massive ships. They were pressed flat to save space, and the resulting crease was so hard to iron out that the crease just became the style.
66. Have you ever wondered about that funny “pocket” in the crotch of some ladies’ underwear? It’s there so that the seams of the underwear will appear on the outside of the garment, making the underwear much more comfortable to wear!
67. Do you know those little patches on the top of your backpack were originally placed on backpacks so that the people carrying them would have a place to loop their ropes while campin? In most cases now, those patches are just another stylish detail meant more for looking good than for function.
68. If you can’t figure out why there’s a tiny hole between your iPhone’s flash and camera lens, it’s actually a secondary microphone, which helps your phone filter out background noise. It also helps your phone’s personal assistant, Siri, understand different accents.
69. When the Heinz company was at the top of their game, they had 57 different varieties of food. Now, the number 57 is strategically placed on their glass ketchup bottles to denote the best spot to hit the bottle whenever you’re struggling to pour out your ketchup.
70. Most lotions, shampoos, and makeup products you buy have a series of mysterious symbols on them. The top-most symbol actually lets you know the shelf-life of the product! So if you see “12M” (as pictured below), that means that you have 12 months from the time you opened the bottle to use it before it expires.
71. The notched blades on retractable box cutters can seem a little confusing. What’s their point if the blade is going to eventually get dull? This long strip is actually made up of several blades, with each notch marking where the next blade one begins. When your old blade gets dull, safely break off the end at the next notch, and you will have a brand new blade ready to go!
72. You know that funny little “button” on the bottom of your rearview mirror? It actually has a purpose. When you are driving at night, pushing the button back can help you from being blinded by bright oncoming headlights without losing any visibility.