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10 Smart New Uses for Q-tips

Making your life a little easier is a job for a swab!

You bought ’em in bulk, but now it seems like your bathroom cabinet has been overrun by Q-tips. Fear not! Cotton swabs are useful throughout the house—and even in the great outdoors. Read on for 10 swab-centered solutions to life’s little (and not so little) problems.

1. Zip It!

Stuck zippers often just need a little persuasion and a little lubrication. (Accent on the little—a glob of grease could stain your garments.) Dip a cotton swab in a bit of olive oil, and then rub the swab along the zipper jam to get things moving along. Lip balm and even shampoo can often do the trick, too.

2. Set Tinder Ablaze …

Headed for a weekend in the woods? Take along some swabs soaked in WD-40 (pack them in a zipper-lock plastic bag) for easy campfire-starting.

3. … Or Tinder

Same technique, different fires fanned: Spritz your favorite perfume or eau de toilette on a swab and stow in—(what else?)—a zipper-lock bag inside your purse for a discreet, low-dose scent touch-up.

4. A Hint of Tint

Their disposability makes Q-tips a natural choice for applying wood stain to scratches on furniture or floors. No cleanup needed! (No wood stain handy? This Old House suggests dipping a swab in steeped coffee grounds, then dabbing at the gouges. Test in an inconspicuous spot first.)

5. A Dollop Will Do

You’ve probably noticed that the cosmetic-counter pros don’t dip their fingers into the jars of moisturizer or pots of lip gloss (or they shouldn’t, anyway). Instead, they keep things sanitary by using a cotton swab to scoop out a single-size sample. Keep your cosmetics as pristine as possible by doing the same thing—especially if you’re traveling.

6. Polish Your Pumps

Fix a scuffed patent leather shoe by soaking a cotton swab in nail polish remover and then rubbing the mark in a circular motion.

7. Get Into the Groove(s)

Not to give you a complex, but your computer keyboard is probably pretty filthy right now. Think of all the times you’ve eaten lunch al desko. And did you wash your hands before you started typing today? (No judgment—we didn’t, either.) Dampen one end of a Q-tip and drag it along the edges of and ridges between computer keys, then follow with the dry end to remove any vestiges of liquid.

8. Go for the Silver Mettle

Sure, we all want to live like Lady Mary on Downton Abbey, but when it comes to household chores, we’re sadly relegated to playing the part of Mr. Barrow. When it’s time to remove tarnish from sterling silver, a Q-tip helps direct polish into the tiniest crevices of patterns, without the spatter of an old toothbrush.

9. Collar I.D.

In a pinch, snap a Q-tip at the proper length and it can serve as a collar stay, keeping the area between the point and the “roll line” looking nicely crisp.

10. Put Yourself on Blast

A clean screen on your hair dryer means more airflow with less effort. Wiping a damp Q-tip along the grid helps remove the gathered lint. (Common sense caution: Unplug your dryer first!)