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10 Brilliant and Unexpected Uses for Packing Peanuts

Turns out packing peanuts are more useful than you might think.

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Now that the holidays are here, you’ve likely been giving and receiving far more packages than usual. While it’s always exciting to get a package in the mail, the packing peanuts that often protect the goods within can be a bother. Packing peanuts are typically made from Styrofoam, which is known to be harmful to the environment. Because this material can be difficult to recycle properly, it’s worth finding alternative ways to use it. Fortunately, there are many clever uses for packing peanuts you may not know about. Read on to learn about ten of our favorite ways to give those pesky bits of Styrofoam a second life.

1. Keeping Party Drinks Cold

Oops! You didn’t get enough ice for your holiday party and don’t have time to run to the store. To the rescue: packing peanuts. Fill plastic bags with the peanuts and place them on the bottom of your cooler or ice chest. Then arrange the ice and drinks on top. The peanuts act like insulation, helping drinks stay chilled and keeping ice from melting as quickly.

2. Warding off Winter Drafts

Feel an extra chill in your home? It could be a draft slipping in under doors and windows. This can help block it: Fill a clean tube sock with packing peanuts, then tie or sew the sock closed and place in spots where you feel a breeze. The Styrofoam-filled sock will help block the cool air.

3. Holding a Loose Screw in Place

Your kitchen cabinet knob keeps coming loose thanks to a stripped screw hole. An easy way to repair it? Take the screw out, hold a packing peanut against the opening and press the tip of the screw into the peanut. Next, tighten the screw so it pushes through the peanut. As you drive it in, the foam will get shredded and fill in the hole for a more snug fit.

4. Giving a Bean Bag New Life

The beanbag chair your sweet pup loves to use for his naps is starting to lose its puffy cushion. To revive it for pennies, unzip the cover and stuff a few handfuls of packing peanuts inside, then zip it back up. Since packing peanuts have a similar size, shape, and feel to store-bought refills, they’ll add volume to your pup’s bed for a fraction of the cost.

5. Protecting a Wall From Scuff Marks

You can’t wait to display the new artwork you nabbed for a steal, but worry about the back of the frame scratching your wall. Try packing peanuts. Cut a couple in half lengthwise and glue them to the back corners of the frame. The soft material will create a buffer between the frame and your wall.

6. Extending the Life of a Plant

You got a gorgeous poinsettia, and want it to last. Try this: Pull the plant out of its pot, fill the pot a third full with packing peanuts (avoiding the drainage hole); replace plant and soil. The peanuts help soil drain to ward off root rot.

7. Safeguarding Hands When Hammering

The next time you need to hang a new shelf, avoid an injury using a packing peanut. To do: Slide a nail into the middle of a peanut, then hold the foam in place with one hand while you carefully hammer with your other hand. The peanut will help you grip the nail while creating a protective buffer so your finger is safe. Once the nail is stable, tear the foam away and toss.

8. Guaranteeing a Perfect Pedicure

Treating yourself to an at-home pedicure but don’t have a toe separator? Look to packing peanuts to prevent smudging. Simply place individual peanuts between each toe before you start polishing your nails. The pieces will keep toes apart just enough so that they won’t rub up against each other as the polish dries.

9. Creating an Easy DIY Bath Pillow

Nothing beats a soothing bath after a busy, stressful day. It’s just too bad that lying back against the hard tub can leave you with a sore neck. Rather than spending money on a pricey bath pillow for comfort, just fill a plastic freezer bag with packing peanuts, squeeze out the air, then seal. Next, prop it behind your head when you’re ready to enjoy your soak.

10. Adding Festive Decor to a Christmas Tree

No need to splurge on an expensive garland to decorate your Christmas tree. Make your own using packing peanuts! Simply use a needle and thread to string peanuts together, then tie a knot at the end of the thread. (Tip: You can even paint or add glue and glitter to the peanuts and let dry for a festive flair.) Then, simply hang them on your tree, and you’ll add a dash of snow-like texture for pennies.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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