You probably don’t think much about the items you use every day.
After all, you’re using them every day—they get pretty boring after a while, and they become part of your routine.
But many common objects have hidden features that make them much safer, more useful, and more interesting. Here are a few of our favorite examples.
1. You can adjust your oven knob to more accurately reflect the temperature.
If all of your pizzas are burnt or all of your soufflés are underdone, you might need to perform a quick fix. Fortunately, many oven knobs are adjustable.
Here’s what you need to do: Set your oven to 300 degrees, then test it with an accurate oven thermometer. Pull off your oven’s knob and look at the back. It should have a set of screws that you can loosen to adjust the face of the knob. Make the appropriate adjustment, and you’re good to go.
2. Those little buttons on your jeans aren’t totally useless.
They’re called “rivets” and they actually serve a pretty important purpose.
3. Many cars have an arrow on the gas gauge.
The arrow points to the side of the car where the gas tank’s accessible.
You never have to guess again (yes, even though you’ve had your car for five years, you still have to guess every time you fill up).
4. Speaking of gas stations…
Gas pumps also have a hidden feature. Seriously, some people have thought of everything.
Most now come equipped with magnet breakaways, so that when forgetful drivers drive off without detaching the pump, the damage is limited.
5. There are little marks between your tire treads.
That’s the minimum height of the treads. Past that point, and the wheel isn’t safe to drive on.
We always checked tread depth with a penny, but this is a much more reliable method. Note that replacing your tires isn’t optional; in many states, you can get a ticket for driving on bald tires.
6. Every wonder why there’s that little metal bit at the end of your measuring tape?
First of all, it’s probably serrated. That might not seem important, but if you’re putting up drywall, it’s pretty huge; the serrated edge lets you easily score softer surfaces, just in case you need to mark a measurement without a pencil.
The metal bit also moves back and forth just slightly, which you might have noticed at some point. That’s not shoddy craftsmanship, but rather a compensation for the width of the metal hook.
It pushes in if you’re measuring the inner run of a surface, but pulls out if you’re measuring the outside, since you wouldn’t want the slight width of the metal bit to throw off the measurement. It moves the exact width of the metal hook, usually 1/16th of an inch. This is why it’s important to pull the tape taut when making an exterior measurement.
The hook also has a little hole in it, which can be useful if you need to affix it to a screw or nail.
7. The hole you use to hang your pots and pans can also hold the handle of a spoon.
Use this hidden feature to keep your utensils from getting dirty while you’re cooking.
Slotted spoons also have a neat hidden feature; many have round holes in the center, which is perfectly sized for inserting spaghetti into a pot without splashing boiling water everywhere.
8. Some new clothes come with a few spare patches of fabric.
That’s so you can fix rips and tears, right? Wrong. Clothes manufacturers know that you’re terrible at stitching. The little squares of material are actually included so that you can test the colorfastness of the fabric.
Keep them around for when you’re changing laundry detergents or trying a new stain remover. Instead of potentially ruining your clothes, you can simply test the fabric. We’d recommend keeping all of the samples together, right next to the place where you do your laundry.
9. Tic-Tac dispensers have a little groove to dispense one Tic-Tac at a time.
Really, though, who eats those things one at a time?
In any case, it’s kind of a neat hidden feature (or a waste of plastic, depending on your outlook).
10. Some prescription medication bottles can be un-childproofed.
Simply flip the top of the lid around. If the bottle has male threading on the inside, you may be able to screw the cap in upside down, eliminating that annoying child lock.
We should note that you should only do this if your prescription pill bottle is designed for this exact purpose (and if you’re 100 percent sure there will be no children around). You should always store your medicine properly, away from air and sunlight, in order to maintain the strength of the active ingredients for as long as possible.
11. Some screwdrivers are designed to work with wrenches.
Slide the end of the wrench over the screwdriver, and you can get more torque.
It’s also useful for working with your screwdriver at awkward angles.
12. Ever wonder about the holes in the side of this type of shoe?
They’re not just there to let your feet air out (although that’s a nice additional feature).
This style used to be common for basketball shoes, so the holes likely allowed for some alternate lacing techniques that stopped basketball players’ feet from slipping on the court. There’s not really a reason for them to be there these days, but they’re an iconic part of the look.
13. Okay, but what about those extra holes at the top of your running shoes?
They’re not for show (and that’d be pretty weird if they were).
They’re for tying your shoelaces in alternate ways. You can change your lacing to compensate for slipping heels, damaged toenails, or a bad stride.
While your lacing technique won’t fix your running form on your own, they can have a pretty remarkable effect. This site provides a decent overview of the six most popular methods.
14. What’s the deal with the little black grate on a microwave?
That’s a Faraday shield, intended to stop the microwaves from escaping the inside of the oven and converting the box into a Faraday cage. This allows your food to cook more efficiently by preventing the rays from simply shooting out the front of the door.
Incidentally, it should also block most cell phone signals, so if you really don’t want to hear from anyone, you can put your phone in the microwave (or just turn the phone off for a while).
While all microwaves have Faraday shields, they vary in quality, and some actually let quite a bit of energy escape. Don’t worry; even a poor shield will serve its intended purpose, and there’s no safety issue.
Because microwaves emit non-ionizing radiation, they don’t pose any cancer threat whatsoever, and contrary to popular belief, microwave rays aren’t capable of damaging your DNA.
15. The hole in the cap of a ballpoint pen doesn’t help the pen in any way.
It’s not to stop the pen from drying out; in fact, that doesn’t even make sense, if you think about it.
It’s actually a safety feature. Many people chew on their pen caps, and accidental inhalation is actually a pretty big problem. The little hole allows the unfortunate person to keep breathing while they seek medical attention.
16. How about the little bumps on the “F” and the “J” keys?
If you took a typing class in school you might know that the “F” and the “J” are the home keys, where your index fingers rest. Those little bumps are to help your fingers find the home position without looking at the keyboard.
17. The little holes in airplane windows are there for a reason. Actually two.
One reason is to compensate for the huge air pressure difference as the plane is climbing to cruising altitude. The second reason is to prevent the windows from fogging.