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Life Hacks

13 Brilliant Uses for All Those Packing Peanuts

Who knew these tiny throwaways could be so helpful?

If you’ve ever opened a package that was filled to the brim with packing peanuts and wondered what the heck to do with them, we’ve got 13 genius answers! These tiny pieces of Styrofoam are best known for their ability to keep protect fragile items safe in the mail, but they can also solve a multitude of everyday problems. From helping a plant thrive to making at-home pedicures a breeze, here are 13 brilliant uses for packing peanuts.

1. Keep party drinks cold

Oops! You didn’t get enough ice for your party and don’t have time to run to the store. To the rescue: packing peanuts! Just fill a few 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. Uses for packing peanuts: Ward off winter drafts

Warding off winter drafts is one of many uses for packing peanuts

Feel an extra chill in your home? It could be a draft slipping in under doors and windows. To block it and keep your home toasty, fill a clean tube sock with packing peanuts, then tie or sew the sock closed and place in spots where you feel a breeze.

3. Give a beanbag new life

 “Another clever way to use packing peanuts is to revive your limp pillow or a beanbag chair,” says home designer Davin Eberhardt, founder of Nature of Home. “When you have enough of them, stuff them in to make it fluffy again.” Just unzip the cover, add 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 chair for a fraction of the cost.  

4. Uses for packing peanuts: Sidestep wrist pain

Spending hours online working, shopping or playing solitaire can leave your wrists throbbing. Instead of shelling out cash for a wrist rest, make your own! To do: Fill an orphan sock with packing peanuts, secure it with a rubber band and use it as a wrist wrest. The cushiony sock will keep your wrist elevated as you type to ward off aches. (Click through for more uses for orphan socks)

Related: Wrist Pain? Ease It Naturally Using 4 Science-Backed Remedies

5. Keep a bathroom smelling fresh

Keeping a bathroom smelling fresh is one of many uses for packing peanuts

Instead of buying a chemical-laden air freshener to ensure your bathroom smells fresh, 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. (Click through for more ways to make homemade air fresheners.)

6. Uses for packing peanuts: Hold a loose screw in place

It can be frustrating when the knob to an appliance or kitchen cabinet keeps coming loose because of a stripped screw hole.  “While loose screws might be annoying, packing peanuts can be useful,” says Matt Kerr, co-founder of Appliance Geeked. The save: 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. “The foam will swell to fill the empty area and provide a more snug fit,” explains Kerr.

7. Add festive decor to a Christmas tree

No need to splurge on 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.

8. Uses for packing peanuts: Protect a wall from scuffs

You can’t wait to display the new artwork you nabbed for a steal, but you worry about the back of the frame scratching your wall. Packing peanuts to the rescue: 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.

9. Guarantee 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. Gorgeous! 

10. Uses for packing peanuts: Extend the life of a plant

Helping a plant last is one of many uses for packing peanuts

To ensure the poinsettia you picked up for the holidays lasts (they can survive for several months if you follow these tips to keep a poinsettia alive), 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. (Note: This tip only works with packing peanuts that don’t dissolve in water.)

11. Make craft time mess-free

The crafts you’re making 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!

12. Uses for packing peanuts: Create an easy DIY bath pillow

Nothing beats a soothing bath after a busy, stressful day, but lying back against the hard tub can leave you with a sore neck. Rather than spending money on a 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. So much better!

Related: 14 Brilliant Uses for Bubble Wrap

13. Safeguard hands when hammering

Safeguarding fingers while hammering is one of many uses for packing peanuts

The next time you need to hang a new shelf, avoid a hammer ouch by 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.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

For more clever life hacks, keep reading!

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17 Brilliant Ideas for Reusing Plastic Bottles for Cooking, Cleaning, Pets and So Much More!

15 Brilliant Uses for Toothpaste That Have Nothing To Do with Cleaning Your Teeth

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