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Life Hacks

16 Brilliant Uses for Toothpicks

Discover how these small wooden sticks can help with cleaning, cooking and more!

We’ve all got a box of toothpicks tucked away in a junk drawer or pantry. Sure, they come in handy for removing food from our teeth, but these tiny wooden sticks are capable of much more! From jazzing up a manicure to getting an old dishwasher working like new, they can save you time and money thanks to their versatility. Below you’ll find 16 brilliant uses for toothpicks.

1. Uses for toothpicks: Ensure a plant isn’t thirsty

Checking if a plant needs watered is one of many uses for toothpicks
Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty

It can be tough to know if a houseplant or seedling is properly hydrated. To ensure you don’t overwater, poke a toothpick into the soil and pull it back out. If it comes out clean, your plant needs more water; if it’s damp and covered in soil, hold off on giving your plant a drink. 

Related: Drooping Is a Sign Your Houseplants Need More Attention — Here’s How To Fix It

2. Light a hard-to-reach candle

You love burning your jar candle to add a nice aroma to the house. The problem? It only has about an inch of wax left and you aren’t sure how to get it lit without burning your fingers. What can help: Hold the jar on its side, light the end of a toothpick and use it as you would a match. The wood burns more slowly than a match and is slightly longer, so you have enough time to safely light the wick. 

Related: Expert Tips to Make Candles Burn Longer — And the Common Hack That Can Backfire

3. Uses for toothpicks: Stop a pot from boiling over

When you’re making a rather involved recipe, it can be tough to keep a watchful eye on a pot to ensure it doesn’t boil over. To sidestep the mess, slide a toothpick (laid flat) between the pot and the lid. This will create a small space that allows steam to escape, avoiding a messy spill for you to clean. 

4. Add flair to a manicure for pennies

Adding flair to a manicure is one of many uses for toothpicks

No need to head to the salon for wow-worthy nail art! Instead, enlist the help of toothpicks. Paint nails a solid color and allow them to dry completely, then dip a toothpick in another shade and use it to draw lines, dots, flowers and other patterns on your nails. Just be sure to let each layer dry before adding more details and use a new pick for each color.

Related: Magnetic Manicures Look Like a Million Bucks But Are Easy To Do At Home

5. Uses for toothpicks: Safely transport a tall cake

 Eek! The layer cake you whipped up for your volunteer group’s fundraising event is too big for your cake carrier.  Thankfully, you can still keep it fresh and safe while you take it to the event! Just insert toothpicks into the frosting and place plastic wrap over the cake. The wrap keeps air out and the toothpicks keep the plastic wrap up and away from the cake so the frosting doesn’t smudge.

Related: Pro Bakers Say Mayonnaise Is the Secret to the Best Chocolate Cake — Here’s Why

6. Make crafting a breeze

“When it comes to crafts, toothpicks are endlessly useful for tasks like holding pieces of modeling clay or polymer clay together until dry, allowing us to sculpt various animal and superhero figurines,” says Sam Thomason, who posts about arts and crafts on Simple Everyday Mom. “They also work great as supports for assembled paper constructions where we’ve made umbrellas, fans and mobiles.”

7. Uses for toothpicks: Locate the end of a roll of tape

The package you’ll be sending to your sister is ready to be sealed up, but when you grab your packing tape, you can’t find where the tape begins! The simple way to avoid this in the future: Wrap the end of the tape around the length of a toothpick when you’re done with your task. This will prevent the tape from sticking to itself, making it a cinch to find the end of the strip next time you need it. See how well this works below:

8. Sidestep salad dressing overflow

It can be frustrating when you open a new bottle of dressing to add some to your salad and the liquid comes pouring out in a big glob. To prevent this, when you open a new bottle, leave the foil or paper seal on and poke a few holes in it with a toothpick. This allows for more controlled pouring so you can get the right amount on your greens. 

9. Uses for toothpicks: Store a phone charger neatly 

Keeping a phone charger tidy is one of many brilliant uses for toothpicks

Whenever you tuck your phone’s charging cord away into a drawer when you aren’t using it, it ends up in a tangled mess. To avoid this, wind the cord into a bunch and slip it between the prongs of the charger’s plug. Then insert a toothpick through the holes of the plug. This will hold the cord in place so the plug and the cord stay tidy and together.

10. Clean a pet brush with ease

Lately your dog has been shedding like crazy, which means his hairbrush is quickly becoming covered in fur. To remove it in a jiffy, just press a toothpick to the base of the bristles and lift up to pull the hair off the brush. Then you can continue your grooming session with less mess.

11. Uses for toothpicks: Lift away keyboard dirt

You try not to eat around your computer, but even the occasional snacking has led to crumbs, dust and other debris getting stuck between the keys of your laptop. The solution: Dip a toothpick in rubbing alcohol and run it in the cracks. The narrow tip will scrape out the grime while the rubbing alcohol will help kill germs.

12. Help a potato cook faster

A hot baked potato is one of your favorite sides to have with steak, but you don’t have time to cook it in the oven for an hour, and popping it in the microwave causes it to cook unevenly. The fix: Poke four toothpicks in one side of the potato to create “legs” for it to stand on. Then microwave for 5 to 8 minutes. The toothpicks lift the potato, allowing the heat to reach all four sides so it cooks evenly.  (Once you’re done cooking your potato, try one of these fun baked potato topping ideas. )

13. Uses for toothpicks: Mend glasses in a pinch

Oops! You pop on your reading glasses so you can dive into the novel you’ve been reading, only to find they’re missing a screw. The quick fix until you can replace it: Align the screw holes of the loose arm with the frame, then insert the thin tip of a toothpick into the hole and break off the excess. 

14. Mark the doneness of burgers

Marking the doneness of burgers is one of many uses for toothpicks

Whenever you cook up burgers for a crowd, you like to ask everyone how they like it cooked. But when the patties are done, you forget which ones are rare and which are well-done. The simple solution: After the meat is cooked, place a colored toothpick (like red) in the rare burgers and another (like blue) in the well-done ones. No more mix-ups!

15. Uses for toothpicks: Patch holes in wood

A clever way to fill nail holes in wooden furniture or door frames: Push a toothpick into each hole and break off the end of the pick so it’s flush with the wooden surface, hiding the imperfections. If the wood is a darker color, simply use a dab of like-colored varnish to finish.

16. Power up a dishwasher

If your dishwasher isn’t getting dishes as clean as it used to, it may just need to be cleaned!  “Use a toothpick to remove gunk in the water nozzles on the spray arms,” says Jeff Campbell, founder of Kitchen Appliance HQ. To do: Remove the bottom spray arm by pulling it up, and the top spray arm by turning a single screw. Insert a toothpick into the nozzle holes, then put the arms back. Clear nozzles ensure a strong stream of water that knocks food particles off for sparkling dishes again.

For more clever life hacks, keep reading!

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