Around-the-House Hacks – IV

Did you realize that 99% of the meat packages you buy at your local grocery store come on Styrofoam trays with shrink-wrapped plastic? The Styrofoam tray is used to cushion the meat so that packages can be set upon each other without compromise to the appearance to the meat in each package. And, of course, we appreciate that and don’t give it much thought. And think about all of the take-out/to-go containers you get that are also made from Styrofoam!

Did you also know that Styrofoam is non-biodegradable? So that means that when you open the package to use the meat product and toss the tray in your trash, it is going to end up in a landfill where scientists believe it will remain in solid form for at least 500 years!! The very building block of expanded polystyrene foam (the name Styrofoam was trademarked by the Dow Company) plastic is petroleum, which is neither renewable nor sustainable.

So, why not find some creative ways to recycle/reuse this product? Sure, it’s most likely still going to end up in a landfill (people have burned it in campfires and the like, but it releases several toxic emissions when burned and shouldn’t be handled that way), but if we can get several uses from it before tossing it, we’re at least not creating additional landfill matter from using something else where Styrofoam can be reused.

The trays are easy to wash, usually fairly clean except for raw meat having touched it – nothing that hot, soapy water can’t erase. And there are so many ways in which the trays can be reused!

Having an outdoor picnic? We all know how flimsy paper plates can be, so why not offer your guests an appropriately-sized foam tray to use instead? They’ll surely appreciate the extra sturdiness while filling their plates. The larger trays also make good food platters for what you’re serving. Afterwards, if you don’t want to wash and reuse (and that’s the purpose of paper plates anyhow), you’ve gotten at least one extra use from them before they hit the landfill.

Have budding artists at home who like to paint? Foam trays make an excellent palette for dabs of the various paint colors they want to use, again, being much more sturdy.

Foam trays are also useful when you’re working on a project that requires separate colors of small beads. Using a hot glue gun on a metal stand? Put a piece of foam tray under the nozzle when the gun is in resting position and it will catch any small drops of melted glue from the nozzle between uses. Teaching a child to sew? Punch holes in a foam tray and fill a large-eyed blunt needle with yarn or multiple strands of embroidery floss and have them learn in an easier, more visual way! Draw and cut out patterns from your cookie cutters and let the kids decorate them for tree ornaments! And I’m sure many crafters could think of ways to use these items for their projects.

For the gardener, foam trays are great as disposable knee pads! Sure, they aren’t as cushiony as the pillowy-type knee pads you buy, but they do provide an extra layer of comfort and save your knees/pants from any mud or dirt. Use the trays to line the inside of your wooden garden walls, providing an extra layer of insulation for the garden.

Going on vacation and need an easy way to pack the jewelry you want to take with you? Use a piece of foam with holes for your pierced earrings and place the entire thing in a zippered plastic bag. They will stay secure in single pieces without becoming a tangled mess and you’ll be able to see right away each pair you have to choose from.

Foam trays are great for putting under planters that have drainage holes in the bottom. They will hold any excess water from watering the plant, as well as allowing that water to be pulled back in when the roots get dry.

If your feet get tired easily, grab clean foam trays and cut insoles for inside your shoes or boots. You’ll get an extra layer of cushioning for free!

Props for Halloween or party games can easily be cut from foam and then painted or decorated as needed.

And, when you’ve run out of ideas…. check out: to see if there is a recycling center near you.

Happy reuse/recycling!

Around-the-House Hacks – I

Because I’m a big fan of “reuse, reimagine, recycle”, I’ve developed not only hacks for my happy place (aka kitchen) but hacks to reuse many items that people consider easily disposable. I tell myself I’m ‘thrifty’, not cheap, but heck, why not get more than one use from something?

For this post, I thought I might talk about how many uses and reuses there are for fabric softener sheets. No disrespect to those who still use liquid fabric softener. I mean, if you want to lug around a heavy plastic bottle that is at least 35% water, hover near your washer so you can make sure to add it at just the right time, and fill your recycling bin with the bulky bottle when it’s empty, that’s your prerogative! But for most of us, the sheets provide more convenience, cost less per use, don’t fill our recycle bins and, there’s so much more!

Do you know how fabric softener works? Whether in liquid or sheet form, fabric softener contains chemical components that are positively charged, which attracts them to the negatively charged electricity in your clothes. By softening your clothes with this chemical lubricant, less friction and less static are caused as they rub against each other. Because fabric softener is attracted to moisture, the slightly damp surface of the clothes makes them electrical conductors; the electricity then travels through the clothes instead of staying on the surface, which is what causes static and sparks. The lubricant also fills the teeny-tiny pores in the fabric, making the fabric feel softer

Most of you probably already know about putting a fabric softener sheet in luggage to keep it from smelling musty, or that they will absorb some of the stink from inside a pair of sweaty sneakers or shoes. Some people tuck one away inside their vehicles, put them in dresser drawers or in clothes hampers and wastebaskets, gym bags, anywhere their is an opportunity to erase/absorb unpleasant odors, even under furniture cushions!

But fabric softener sheets can do more than just help with odors or help soften your clothes and prevent static cling in the dryer!

Fabric softener sheets make good dusters! Whether it’s cleaning up sawdust in the workshop, or using them as a duster instead of a cloth, the sheet’s positive charges will grab and cling onto particles rather than just pushing them around or into the air! (This is really great when dusting the paddles of a ceiling fan!)

And believe it or not, when tasked with a sewing project, running a threaded needle through a fabric softener sheet will coat the thread enough to keep it from tangling while you sew!

Did you know that there are lots of ways to reuse a fabric softener once it’s been used in the dryer? A used fabric softener sheet will pull pet hair right off of the fabric of your clothes or furniture. It will help remove soap scum from a shower door. Dusting electronics with a used sheet will pull away the dust plus leave an invisible shield that will help repel future dust. Wipe down your wet pet with a used sheet, which will help wick away the moisture and keep its fur from getting a musty smell. It will also buff chrome when it’s clean but still looks dull and/or streaky. Use them on your non-material blinds to dust and add the same invisible shield that will help repel future dust. Carry a used fabric softener sheet in your purse or pocket. If you develop static cling while out in public, simply dampen it and run it lightly over your staticky clothing and the static will disappear. (Note: you can use it on your hair for the same purpose!)

Sooner or later, the fabric softener sheet will end up in the trash bin, but getting more use from it with all of the ways you can use a used sheet makes it an even greater value for the money! So get out there and try these great tips!