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24 Clever Uses for Plastic Bags You Have Lying Around the House

Not just for toting lunch, these handy items are helpful to have around the kitchen and home.

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plastic bag uses life hacks reusable recycle

Create a Cedar Closet

Cedar closets smell great, and more importantly they repel moths. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a cedar closet, you can easily create the next best thing.

Fill a sealable bag with cedar chips, the kind you buy at a pet store for the hamster cage. Zip it closed, then punch several small holes in it. Hang the bag in your closet (a pants hanger is handy for this) and let the cedar smell do its work.

You can also create a sachet to freshen up musty drawers. Fill the bag with potpourri — flower petals, a few crushed fragrant leaves, and a couple of drops of aromatic oil. Punch a bunch of small holes in the bag, then place it in the drawer. You’ll also love these other 21 cheap closet updates you can DIY.

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car garbage Getty Images, Alaina DiGiacomo/

Road Trip Trash Bin

Plastic bags can fold up and store in your glove box, barely taking up any space at all. When you’re out on the road, keeping a designated trash bag on hand is incredibly useful. It means you don’t have to stop to find a trash bin, and you won’t have crumbs, refuse or any other trash bits scattered around your car.

Get your vehicle looking like new with these 36 simple interior and exterior car detailing tips that you can do yourself.

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donations plastic bag uses reusable Getty Images, Alaina DiGiacomo/

Easy Donation

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure! While those annoying plastic grocery bags may just be trash to you, thrift stores and flea markets would be thrilled to have your old bags to use rather than buying their own. It may seem like an odd thing to donate, but many small businesses would be thrilled to have them. However, think twice about donating these common items.

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shoe form plastic bag usesGetty Images, Alaina DiGiacomo/

Make a DIY Shoe Form

Even if you don’t own shoe forms, you’ll never worry about your shoes losing their shape when you aren’t wearing them. Crumple up some plastic bags to stuff the toes of your off-season shoes, and they’ll be just like you left them when you pick them back up.

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suitcase plastic bag hacksGetty Images, Alaina DiGiacomo/

Travel Laundry Bag

Next time you pack your suitcase, slip a few plastic bags inside. They’re useful for storing still-wet-from-the-beach swimsuits, shoes or any dirty clothes you might have, keeping them away from your clean items. You’ll also want to make use of these other brilliant home hacks using our three favorite items.

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plastic bag uses life hacks

Cool Off (and Clean Up) Outside

Going for a long trip on a hot and sticky day? Use a sealable bag to take along a wet washcloth soaked in water and lemon juice — it makes a great refreshing wipe-off. This is a good trick for fast on-the-road face and hand cleanups. Another great option is to freeze a few washcloths in a sealable bag; they provide fast relief for anything from bumps and scrapes to burns and tooth pain.

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plastic bag uses

Create Single-Use Detergent Packs

If you’re planning a trip and think you’ll be doing a few loads of laundry, pre-measure some detergent into a bag. It beats lugging a big box of detergent down to the shore or on an airplane, or buying expensive travel-size bottles.

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funnel plastic bag uses life hacks reusable Getty Images, Alaina DiGiacomo/

Make a Funnel

That handiest of kitchen and garage tools, the funnel, can be replicated easily with a small sandwich bag. Fill the bag with the contents you need to be funneled. Snip off the end and transfer into the needed container. Then just toss the bag when the funneling is done. Here are some more kitchen gadgets you’ll wish you had years ago.

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reusable plastic bag frozen padlock

Protect Your Padlocks from Freezing

When the weather is cold enough to freeze your padlocks on the outdoor shed or garage, remember that a sandwich bag can help. Slip one over the lock and you’ll avoid frozen tumblers.

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food coloring cookie dough plastic bag uses reusable life hacksGetty Images, Alaina DiGiacomo/

Color Cookie Dough Without Stained Hands

Experienced bakers know what a mess your hands can be after coloring cookie dough. Here’s a clean idea: Place your prepared dough in a bag, add the drops of food coloring, and squish around until the color is uniform. You can use the dough now or stick it in the freezer ready to roll out when you need it.

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Safely Soften Marshmallows

You’re about to pull out that bag of marshmallows from your kitchen cabinet when you notice that the once-fluffy puffs have turned hard as rocks. Warm some water in a pan. Put the marshmallows in a sealable plastic bag, close it up and place in the pan. The warmth will soften them up in no time.

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decorate cake plastic bag usesGetty Images, Alaina DiGiacomo/

Decorate a Cake

Pastry bags can be cumbersome, expensive and hard to clean. Place your frosting (or deviled egg mix) into a sealable bag. Squish out the air and close the top. Snip off a corner of the bag to the size you want — start conservatively — and you’re ready to begin squeezing.

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bird seed plastic bag usesGetty Images, Alaina DiGiacomo/

Feed the Birds

Be kind to the birds in your yard during the lean winter months! First, put some birdseed with peanut butter in a sealable plastic bag. Close, then knead the outside of the bag until well mixed. Then place the glob in a small net bag, or spread on a pinecone. Attach to a tree and await the grateful flock.

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melted chocolate plastic bag uses life hacksGetty Images, Alaina DiGiacomo/

Melt Chocolate Without a Mess

Melting chocolate in a microwave or double boiler leaves you with a messy bowl or pot to wash. Here’s a better method:

Warm some water in a pan (do not boil). Place the chocolate you want to melt in a sealable freezer bag. Seal and place the bag in the pan. In a few moments, you have melted chocolate, ready to bake or decorate with. You can even leave the bag sealed and snip off a bottom corner of the bag to pipe the chocolate onto a cake. When you’re done, just toss the bag.

You’ll love these kitchen hacks just as much.

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cookies hands kids plastic bag uses life hacks reusable Getty Images, Alaina DiGiacomo/

Kid’s Kitchen Gloves

There’s nothing more welcome than helping hands in the kitchen. But when they’re little hands that tend to get dirty and leave prints all over the place, then something must be done. Before they start “helping” you make those chocolate chip cookies, place small sandwich bags over their hands. These instant gloves are disposable for easy cleanup.

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grease pan plastic bag uses life hacksGetty Images, Alaina DiGiacomo/

Grease Your Pans Mess-Free

If you’re never quite sure how to handle shortening and butter when greasing a cake pan or cookie sheet, here’s a tip: Place a sandwich bag over your hand, scoop up a small amount of shortening or butter from the tub, and start greasing.

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sandy hand plastic bag uses life hacks reusableGetty Images, Alaina DiGiacomo/

Create a Beach Hand Cleaner

You’re sitting on the beach and it’s time for lunch. But before you reach into your cooler, you need to get the grit off your hands. Baby powder in a sealable plastic bag is the key. Place your hands in the bag, then remove them and rub them together. The sand is gone.

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car sick plastic bag uses life hacks reusableGetty Images, Alaina DiGiacomo/

Cure Car Sickness

The last thing you need in your car is a child (or adult) throwing up. Place a few cotton balls in a sealable plastic bag, then squirt in two drops of lavender oil. If motion sickness strikes, open the bag and take a few whiffs to feel better. Here are more great uses for essential oils in your everyday life.

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Keep Valuables Dry (and Afloat)

Going out on the water? Put your valuables, like car keys and cell phone, in a sealable bag. The big trick: Blow air into it before you seal the bag so it will float. A sealable bag is perfect for keeping valuables dry at the water park or beach too.

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baby wipes plastic bags uses reusable

Make Low-Cost Baby Wipes

Borrow the thrifty parents’ method for homemade baby wipes: Place soft paper towels in a sealable bag with a mixture of one tablespoon gentle antibacterial soap, one teaspoon baby oil, and 1/3-cup water. Use enough of the mixture to get the wipes damp, not drenched. Here are five more homemade cleaners that really work.

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waterbowl dog plastic bag uses reusable life hacksGetty Images, Alaina DiGiacomo/

Use as a Portable Water Dish

Your furry best friend has happily hiked alongside you during your trek in the great outdoors. Even if you don’t have a portable water bowl, you can make one with a plastic bag. Bring along a sealable plastic bag full of water from your pack and hold it open while Buddy laps his fill.

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plastic bag uses heirloom reusable life hacksGetty Images, Alaina DiGiacomo/

Protect Your Breakables

There’s a precious small family heirloom or trinket that needs some extra padding when storing. Place it gently in a self-closing bag, close the bag most of the way, blow it up with air, then seal it. The air forms a protective cushion around the memento. Add this to the list of packing tips we wish we knew before.

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grated cheese plastic bag uses life hacksGetty Images, Alaina DiGiacomo/

Store Grated Cheese

Pasta or pizza is always better with a dash of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. But who wants to bother digging the grater out every time you want that taste? Instead, take a wedge of Parmesan cheese, grate the whole thing at once, and then double-bag it in two self-closing bags to protect the freshness.

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cooking oil plastic bag uses life hacks reusableGetty Images, Alaina DiGiacomo/

Dispose of Cooking Oil

Unless you want the plumber for a best friend, don’t clog your kitchen drain with used cooking oil. Instead, wait for it to cool, then dump it in a sealable plastic bag. Toss the bag into the trash.

If you find these useful, you’ll love these 100 uncommon uses for common household items.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest