Ordering holiday presents online is a great way to avoid hectic crowds, but those boxes of goodies can come with an extra burden inside: packing peanuts. Sure, they’re useful when you need fragile items protected during transportation, but you probably just toss them out after you’re done unpacking whatever they were cushioning.
It turns out, those simple pieces of styrofoam can actually help make life easier for you in all kinds of ways!
Take a look below to see how you can get more use out of ordinary packing peanuts instead of just throwing them away.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.
Ice Bucket Drinks
Guarantee drinks stay cold
You discover you’re low on ice for your holiday party, and you don’t have time to run to the store for more.
The save: Fill a few plastic zip-top bags with packing peanuts and place in the bottom of a cooler or ice bucket. Top with drinks and any ice you do have. The peanuts will act as insulation and stop the ice from melting too quickly, so your drinks stay chilled all night.
Protect fingers when hammering
To avoid an ouch while hanging your family photo on the wall, slide a nail into the middle of a packing peanut, hold the foam in place with one hand and carefully hammer with your other hand.
The peanut steadies the nail and keeps your fingers safe. Once the nail is stable, tear the foam away.
Fix Bean Bag Chair
Fluff up a beanbag chair
After years of near-constant use, the beanbag chair in your basement is starting to lose its cushiony appeal.
The fix: Unzip the cover and stuff a few handfuls of packing peanuts inside and zip it back up. Packing peanuts have a similar size, shape and feel to store-bought refills, so they’ll plump up the chair to make it comfortable again — for pennies!
Make craft time mess-free
The holiday decorations you’re creating with your niece require a foam brush for gluing, but you don’t have one.
The in-a-pinch swap: packing peanuts! Simply squirt the glue on a paper plate, then dip a packing peanut into the sticky stuff and apply as needed. The styrofoam works just like a foam brush, and you can toss it when you’re done. No cleanup necessary!
Paint toenails like a pro
The next time you’re giving yourself a pedicure and don’t have a toe separator, try placing individual packing peanuts between each toe before you paint.
They’re the perfect size to keep your toes slightly apart, ensuring your nail polish won’t smudge as you pamper your feet.
Diy Bath Tub Pillow
Create a bath pillow for pennies
Rather than buying a pricey bath pillow to make tub time more relaxing, make one!
To do: Fill a plastic freezer bag with packing peanuts, squeeze out excess air and seal, then prop behind your head as you soak. The soft “pillow” will cushion your head. Ahh!
Ward off drafts all winter
If your house is starting to feel a bit, um, breezy, cold air may be seeping in under the doors and windows.
To block the airflow, make your own draft stopper. Simply fill a clean tube sock with packing peanuts, tie or sew the sock closed and place it in front of the door or window where you feel cold air. The peanut-filled sock will help keep out the chill.
Help Plants Grow
Help a houseplant stay healthy
Your neighbor surprised you with a pretty poinsettia, and you want to transfer it to a larger pot.
To ensure the plant lasts throughout the season, fill the bottom third of the pot with packing peanuts (making sure not to block the drainage hole), then place the plant on top and fill with soil. The peanuts help the soil drain and maintain a proper amount of moisture, warding off root rot.
Protect Wall From Scuffs
Protect a wall from scuff marks
The new mirror you snagged on sale will look fabulous in your bedroom, but you worry about the back of the frame scratching your wall.
The solution: Cut packing peanuts in half lengthwise and glue them to the back corners of the mirror. The soft material will keep the frame from scraping the wall when it’s bumped or straightened. Problem solved!
Keep a bathroom smelling fresh
With so many guests visiting over the holidays, you want to ensure your bathroom has a pleasant aroma.
Instead of buying a chemical-laden air freshener, try this: Place several packing peanuts in a bowl and add 5 to 10 drops of your favorite essential oil. Tuck the bowl away in the medicine cabinet or behind the toilet. The porous peanuts will absorb the oil and slowly release the aroma. When the scent starts to fade, simply add more essential oil.