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Life Hacks

10 Unexpected (and Genius!) Uses for Sugar

Satisfying your sweet tooth isn't the only thing sugar is good for.


You probably use sugar every day, from stirring a spoonful into your coffee to baking up a batch of cookies for dessert. But did you know there are plenty of uses for sugar besides sweetening your food and drinks? Here are 10 ways you never dreamed of using sugar before — from giving your lipstick staying power to cleaning your kitty’s litter box.

Pest-proof your picnic.

Nothing kills the fun at a backyard picnic more than flies. The fix: Mix 3⁄4 cup of sugar, 2 cups of milk, and 2 oz. of ground pepper in a small saucepan. Let simmer for 10 minutes, then pour into several shallow bowls. Place around the yard, away from food. The aroma of the milk and pepper will attract flies to the glue-like mixture created by the sugar and trap them.

Lift dried-on paint from hands.

Your deck looks great with its new coat of paint, but now your palms are covered in the same shade! The chemical-free way to remove it: Pour some sugar into each palm, then wash your hands as usual with soap and warm water. The abrasive sugar granules will help scrape off any stubborn pigment on the skin so it can easily be rinsed away with soap and water.

Cure the hiccups — fast.

Yikes! When you’re suffering from a bout of the hiccups and nothing seems to make them go away, try sprinkling a bit of sugar on the very back of your tongue. The sweet sugar stimulates the nerve in your throat that’s causing the hiccups, helping to end the annoying spasms in a flash.

Easily clean a litter box.

Mittens always scratches holes in the plastic liner in her litter box, which causes hard-to-clean, sticky clumps to form on the bottom of the pan. To avoid this, sprinkle sugar in the pan before you add a new liner. The absorbent sugar will soak up any dampness that seeps through the liner, keeping the mess contained. (And since the litter will mask the sugar’s scent, you won’t have to worry about any ants.)

Guarantee all-day lip color.

The secret to long-lasting lip color? Sugar! To get results, put on lipstick, then use your finger to dab a bit of sugar on top. Let sit for two minutes before brushing or licking off. The sugar will soak up excess moisture, so the dry color pigments left behind will stick to lips better and longer!

Enhance the natural sweetness of corn.

Juicy corn on the cob is always a summertime favorite. The easy way to enhance the veggie’s natural sweetness? Add a little sugar to the water (4 tsp. per gallon of water) when boiling. The sucrose won’t make the corn too sweet, but it will prevent the kernels’ natural sugars from escaping during the boiling process. Your corn is guaranteed to be extra delicious!

Pretreat stubborn grass stains.

One of our favorite uses for sugar? Nixing unsightly grass spots on clothing! Simply place 1⁄2 cup of sugar in a bowl and stir in just enough water to make a paste. Apply to the stains and let sit for 30 minutes before laundering as usual. Enzymes in the sugar will break down the chlorophyll pigment in the grass.

Fire up the grill in a flash.

You’re ready to start barbecuing burgers, hotdogs and kebabs, but you’re having some trouble getting the coals to burn. What can help speed up the process: Toss a few spoonfuls of sugar onto the briquettes, then carefully light as usual. When exposed to high temperatures, sugar quickly decomposes and forms a chemical that easily ignites. You’ll be enjoying your grilled fare in no time!

Fade age spots effortlessly.

If you notice brownish sun spots on the backs of your hands and want to lighten them, skip pricey remedies. Instead, add 1⁄2 tsp. of sugar to a bowl filled with the juice of half a lemon. Use a cotton ball to apply to the backs of your hands, leave on for two or three minutes, and rinse. The combo of slightly abrasive sugar and lemon’s natural bleaching agents will gently fade dark spots.

Double the life of fresh flowers.

Few things put a smile on your face quite like a vase filled with garden blooms. The only problem? They fade so quickly! To help them last, add 1 Tbs. of sugar and 1 Tbs. of vinegar to the vase before adding flowers. In this, one of the more beautiful uses for sugar, the sucrose provides nourishment while the vinegar kills bacteria that could cause the blooms to wilt.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine.

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