There’s a dirty little secret that marketing professionals don’t want you to know: You don’t need a separate product for tackling every little task in your day-to-day life. Sure, you could spend hundreds on Fred’s Extra-Special Leather Ottoman Freshening Powder (a product we just made up), but you could also simply sprinkle a little baby powder on your funky-smelling furniture and call it a day.
We collected some of the most useful hacks for common drugstore products—the type of stuff you’ve already got collecting dust in a cabinet somewhere.
Whether you’re looking to make the most of a limited budget or you’re simply trying to find a way to get rid of that decade-old jar of Vaseline, we’ve got ideas.
1. Baby powder isn’t just for babies.
Even if you’re not a parent, you’ll want to keep some baby powder in your medicine cabinet. The main purpose of the stuff is to prevent diaper rash by sucking up moisture and limiting friction. As such, with a bit of ingenuity, a touch of baby powder can go a long way.
Keep Your Lipstick in Place
Headed out for a long night? Baby powder can keep your lipstick from smearing due to sweat and condensation, and while it’s not absolutely perfect, it’s pretty close. Apply a coat of lipstick, then place a tissue over your lips.
Grab your favorite powder brush and dust around your lips with the baby powder to soak up perspiration, then apply the second coat of lipstick, and you’re ready for whatever the night throws at you.
Stop Sand From Sticking
Let’s say you’re not going out for a night on the town—you’re headed to the beach. To stop sand from sticking to your skin, you can apply baby powder, which will suck up moisture, letting you brush off the sand with ease.
This is a great trick for ridding kids of sand before they climb into the back of your car. Nothing’s worse than sand in upholstery, and you can quote us on that.
Make Your Life Friction-Free
Baby powder is also useful around the home. Apply it to squeaky wooden floors, and it helps to prevent friction between the slats of wood, eliminating the squeak. Be sure to vacuum up any visible powder after you’ve applied it so that it doesn’t color the wood.
Similarly, you can use baby powder to get rid of tangles in necklaces, as the fine dust will push apart knots. It’s also great for freshening shoes, cooling down your sheets in the summer, and even sucking out grease stains from clothes.
When you’re buying baby powder, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Most of the popular brands consist of pure talc, a natural mineral used in hundreds of other products. In recent years, some consumers have raised concerns about talc and its potential carcinogenic effect on human health.
We’re not going to weigh in on whether talc is actually dangerous—although we will note that both the FDA and the American Cancer Society say that commercial talcum powder is mostly safe and that if it increases consumers’ risk of cancer, that increase is likely extremely small. If you’re avoiding talc, you’ve still got options.
Burt’s Bees Baby Dusting Powder, for instance, uses cornstarch in place of talc. It smells great, works well, and feels similar to traditional baby powders.
Note that it’s lightly scented, so use it wisely.
Burt’s Bees Baby Dusting Powder, $8.61 from Amazon
If you don’t mind using a product with talc, we’d go with Johnson’s Baby Powder. Its pure talc formula works better than just about anything else on the market, and it’s free from parabens, dyes, and phthalates.
For around 15 bucks, you get 22 ounces of it; if you’re only using it for non-baby things, it’ll last well into the future.
Johnson’s Baby Powder, $14.97 from Amazon
2. Baby oil also works wonders around the house.
Baby oil, according to our research, is not made from actual babies. It’s basically just mineral oil, sometimes with a few added fragrances and skin-friendly ingredients. Conventionally, it’s used to treat cradle cap, a skin condition that causes crusty patches on baby scalps.
It can also treat other minor rashes and clear up congested ears (note: Check with your pediatrician or physician before using baby oil in this manner, particularly if you notice symptoms of an ear infection). We prefer to use it as a general-purpose household lubricant because it doesn’t have a strong odor, it’s easy to wash off, and it’s relatively cheap.
Stop Squeaky Doors
Add a few drops to a noisy hinge and enjoy the sweet, sweet sounds of silence. Well, not if you’ve actually got a baby—your life won’t be silent for a good, long while. At least your doors will stop creaking.
While you’re at it, if you’ve got any sticking locks, apply a small amount of baby oil to your key. Lock and unlock the door a few times (using the key, obviously), and it’ll loosen up. If you’re still having issues, you may need to apply a product like WD-40 to break up rust on the inside of the lock; apply the baby oil afterward to stop rust from forming in the future.
Remove Your Makeup
Baby oil is gentle on skin—that’s why we use it on babies, after all—and in a pinch, it can remove your makeup. However, it can also block pores, so if you’re prone to breakouts, you’re better off sticking with conventional makeup removers and saving the baby oil for emergencies.
Simply apply a small amount to a clean washcloth, then dab on your makeup. Wash with soap and water or your favorite facial cleanser to stop the aforementioned pore blockage from ruining your day.
Get Rid of Gummy Gunk
If you’re like us, you’ve got weird, gunky stains on your home’s various surfaces. What is that stuff? At one point, maybe it was a bit of adhesive from a piece of tape, but by now, it’s covered with hair, fabric, and various other strange substances that you wouldn’t normally touch with a 10-foot pole.
Baby oil can free up the adhesive, releasing that gunk once and for all. Put a drop or two on a clean rag, then rub the affected surface with a gentle circular motion.
Look for baby oils with a limited number of ingredients.
Since most baby oils are basically just mineral oil, you can skip the middleman and pick up a 16-ounce bottle of Swan Mineral Oil for under $10.
If you’re not a fan of fragrances, this is the way to go—and yes, it’s still safe to use on your baby.
Swan Mineral Oil, $8.28 from Amazon
If you’re primarily buying an oil to use on your skin, Mountain Falls Baby Oil might be a better choice.
It’s hypoallergenic, and added ingredients like aloe vera and vitamin E promote healthy-looking skin by locking in hydration.
Mountain Falls Baby Oil, $12.75 from Amazon
3. Vaseline is another great all-in-one lubricant and moisturizer.
Vaseline—or any other decent petroleum jelly—has a thick texture that makes it ideal for certain everyday tasks. It’s a useful makeup remover, although again, if you’ve got sensitive skin, you’re better off using dedicated products for this purpose (petroleum jelly is FDA-approved as a skin protectant, but it can clog pores).
Here are a few other ways to use that big tub of Vaseline sitting at the back of your cabinet.
Tame Your Brows
Sure, you could spend your money on brow gels, but what’s the point? Petroleum jelly works just as well. Use a very small amount to press down your brows, and the oil will keep them in place all day while acting as an effective moisturizer.
Speaking of which, Vaseline works well for moisturizing dry, cracked lips. As you probably don’t want to carry a tub of petroleum jelly around with you all day, the best way to use it is to apply generously before going to sleep at night. When you wake up, those chapped lips will feel incredibly soft.
Replace Your Mascara
Petroleum jelly can add a nice gloss to your eyelashes, and it acts as a conditioner, potentially allowing for bigger, fuller lashes over time. This is a particularly useful hack if you’re trying to go without traditional makeup.
We just apply petrolatum directly to our lashes, using our fingers to spread it evenly. You can use a brush if you’d prefer; just be careful, since petroleum jelly doesn’t play well with most makeups (that’s why it’s such an effective makeup remover).
Refresh Your Razors
If you find yourself regularly running through your razor supply, dab a bit of Vaseline on the blades when you’re finished shaving. The jelly creates a barrier that prevents rust from forming (and in the process, it keeps your blades sharp and fresh). Be sure to wipe it clean before shaving.
While we’re at it, you can also use Vaseline to soothe your skin after your daily shave. As petroleum jelly can clog pores, this tip works best for legs and underarms—try not to leave it on your face.
Shine Shoes (And Other Leather Products)
It’s not going to replace your shine kit anytime soon, but petroleum jelly can moisturize and protect leather. If your shoes are looking a bit worse for wear, rub a moderate amount of Vaseline into the material with gentle pressure.
This also works for basically anything made with leather, although you should spot test to make sure that the Vaseline doesn’t discolor the fabric. Try it on upholstery or bags—but steer clear (pun intended) of anything made with rawhide leather.
Petroleum jelly doesn’t need a bunch of extra ingredients to work effectively.
As such, shop by price—as long as you’re getting pure white petrolatum, the other details don’t really matter. While you can find plenty of products made “for babies” or “for men,” it’s all essentially the same stuff, and those labels usually add a few bucks to the price tag.
Vaseline is, of course, the best-known petroleum jelly brand, but Mountain Falls offers a slightly less expensive alternative.
It’s hypoallergenic and free from phthalates and parabens, but then again, so are all other petroleum jelly products.
Mountain Falls Petroleum Jelly, 3.75-Ounce Tubs, Pack of Four, $7.98 from Amazon
Still only trust Vaseline? These 3.25-ounce tubes of it are a nice alternative to bigger jars.
Stash them in your car, purse, or anywhere else you might need a quick moisturizer, makeup remover, or leather shine (or any of that other good stuff we mentioned).
Vaseline 3.25-Ounce Tubes, 3-Pack, $7.11 from Amazon
4. Epsom salt isn’t great on your popcorn, but it’s good for just about everything else.
You might know it by its more scientific designation, magnesium sulfate. But, like us, you probably just call it Epsom salt. It’s a naturally occurring mineral compound that folks have been using as a home remedy for centuries, and for good reason: It works.
So, what does it work for, exactly? People know Epsom salt as a bath additive for soothing sore muscles or pulling out splinters. It’s great for those purposes, but it can also do a range of amazing things—or at least health, beauty, and household-cleanliness hacks like these.
Get Your Feet in Top-Notch Condition
Epsom salt is a cure-all for the feet. According to podiatrists commenting for the Epsom Salt Council, not only does the magnesium content in this miracle substance soothe sore feet, it blasts away persistent food odor, too.
It can help with fungal infections. It can even make your feet smoother and softer to the touch. So if you aren’t totally in love with your feet already, start soaking them in magnesium sulfate and water. You might want to rethink your relationship with those tootsies.
Stop Itching All Summer Long
Summertime may be time to sit back and unwind, but it’s also time for itching like crazy. Mild sunburns, mosquitos, and poison ivy all conspire to make your outdoor adventures into punishing regrets. So reach for the Epsom salt and relieve those wicked itches quickly.
The Epsom Salt Council recommends Epsom salt baths—two cups of magnesium sulfate per bathtub-full of water—and soaking for 12 minutes or more. Or, you can make an Epsom salt paste and spread it on the itchy bits.
Sleep Well Tonight
Sad to say, but lots of us apparently have aren’t getting enough magnesium. We blame our diet of fast food and candy bars. Here’s the thing: low magnesium can disrupt sleep by interfering with muscle relaxation and digestive processes.
A nice, relaxing Epsom salt bath could be just what the doctor ordered. Your skin will absorb magnesium from the bath. It’s the original bath bomb, and it could help you relax and drift off to a night of terrific sleep.
It’s up to you, but we’d recommend avoiding Epsom salts with added scents.
This is based on personal experience, mind you, but there’s nothing worse than trying to draw a desperately needed soothing bath only to be confronted with the hideous odor of false lavender.
Nope, we’ll be sticking with the unscented version. Just be sure to look for products that contain nothing but pure magnesium sulfate, and look for the USP designation. Also, see if there’s a “drug facts” box on the label.
These latter two elements tell you that the product has been tested to meet standards from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and United States Pharmacopeia and that it’s safe for human use.
If you want to hop right into the Epsom game, try this two-bag set of Epsom salt from Epsoak.
For around $1.42 per pound, you can get seemingly unlimited (and definitely unscented) relief for years to come.
Epsoak Epsom Salt, 39.5 lbs total, $55.99 from Amazon
If you’re not ready to commit to the nearly 20-pound bags, you can ease into Epsom salt with this version, which is also USP-approved and made in the United States.
Reviewers certainly love it. Praising its pain-relieving qualities, its long-lastingness, its unscented-ness, and more, 88 percent of them rated this product 4 stars or above.
Dr. Teal’s Pure Epsom Salt, 6 lbs, $12.49 from Amazon
5. Vinegar may taste sour, but it’s got some pretty sweet uses.
Is there anything vinegar can’t do? Well, it’s not so great at quenching thirst, but other than that, vinegar is a miracle product. You can cook with it, of course, but it’s also a great natural cleaning product. And a critical component of arguably the greatest salad dressing.
Don’t believe us? Well, just reach for your bottle of regular old white vinegar next time you want to clean up around the house without expending much elbow grease.
Clean What Cleans
Fill a plastic baggie with the stuff, affix it to your shower head with a twist tie, and leave the thing to soak overnight. The next morning, pull the vinegar bag, give the shower head a wipe, and enjoy virtually effort-free cleaning.
Try adding half a cup of white vinegar to your stinky dishwasher, too. Run the rinse cycle. That’s all it takes to clean and deodorize the appliance.
Give the Whole Kitchen a Refresh
Dinner smells great while it’s cooking, but you don’t always want the odor of fry oil sticking around the next day.
When it’s time to hit the refresh button on your kitchen’s olfactory environment, just boil a cup of water mixed with half a cup of white vinegar. Let it go on the stove until most of the fluid evaporates.
The best thing about buying vinegar is that you don’t have to go with an expensive name brand.
Just look for a distilled white vinegar with 5 percent acidity. If you’re using it to clean, one white vinegar is pretty much as good as the next. Pressed on the issue, we prefer Member’s Mark.
It’s the Sam’s Club brand, so you know it comes with quality and quantity. Plus, with a label that non-descript, it’s got to be good.
Member’s Mark Distilled White Vinegar, $12.47 from Amazon
Oh, shoot. We can’t leave apple cider vinegar out of a discussion of vinegar hacks. Check out these lifestyle hacks for more ways to get that ACV in your life.
Here, we’ll go with Bragg. As a company, they’ve been around since 1912, and as you can see on their site, they’re amazingly transparent about what’s in their apple cider vinegar…and about all the accolades it’s received.