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Life Hacks

What Can Onions Be Used for Besides Cooking? Experts Reveal 13 Surprising Uses!

Discover how the vegetable can save you time and money!

Onions are one vegetable that are certainly a staple in most houses thanks to their versatility in cooking. But they can do more than just add a punch of flavor to a dish! The ingredient’s many layers are good for solving a host of everyday problems, as well. Below you’ll find 13 surprising uses for onions — from treating common ailments to making cleaning a breeze — that will make you want to keep them well-stocked in your pantry.

1. Surprising uses for onions: Soothe an earache fast

The next time you or a family member are suffering from an earache, enlist the help of an onion to ease discomfort in no time! Start with an onion that’s been cut in half to expose the interior layers. “All you’re going to do now with that sliced onion is put it on the sore ear,” explains Dr. Janine Browning (TikTok user @j9naturally) in the video below. “So you just hold it there for about 10 minutes. It is fantastic, instant relief.”

The reason it works so well? “Onions contain quercetin, which is a natural anti-inflammatory,” she explains.

Need to know how to cut an onion without crying? Click through to discover the best tricks!

@j9naturally

Instant earache relief natural home remedy using an onion 🧅… #wellness #healthtips #earache #onion

♬ original sound – doctorjanine Bowring, ND

2. Cut down on paint fumes

You’re so excited about the new color of your home office, but the fumes from the freshly painted walls are giving you a bit of a headache even with the windows open. To nix the smell fast, slice an onion into quarters and place one in each corner of the room. As the onion begins to shrivel up and dry, its layers absorb the VOCs in the drying paint to prevent the fumes from invading the rest of your home. Note: Onions are great for absorbing musty odors in a basement too! (Click through for more ways to get rid of paint smell.)

3. Surprising uses for onions: Prolong the life of avocados

avocados on a table sitting next to onions as one of the surprising uses for onions
FSTOPLIGHT/Getty

The next time you whip up guacamole or have avocado toast and have half of the fruit left, no need to toss it out. You can save it, while ensuring it doesn’t go brown before you can use it, with the help of onion. Just place the avocado half in an airtight container along with half an onion. The onion releases sulfur dioxide, which prevents the oxidation that turns the avocado brown. (When you’re done with the avocado, check out these helpful ways to use the pit).

4. Keep scorch marks from setting

Eek! You accidentally set your iron too high and it damaged the shirt you were pressing.  Save the garment by rubbing the cut side of a raw onion on the discolored areas. The onion will release sulfenic acid, which breaks down loose carbon particles in the burn mark to prevent the stain from becoming permanent. Then soak the garment in sudsy cold water for an hour to further dilute the stain, then launder as usual.

5. Surprising uses for onions: Insect-proof your garden

Onion in a watering as one of the surprising uses for onions
Westend61/Getty

Aphids and beetles can quickly become a pain when they start munching on the blooms in your garden. To help keep them away, make an onion “tea.” To do: Slice an onion and place the slices inside a watering can, then fill with water. Then place the can in the sun for a few hours to allow the onion to steep. When you use the “tea” to water any pest-affected plants, they’ll quickly stay clear because they dislike the smell of onion. Note: Repeat a day or so after a rainfall.

You can also create an onion-infused spray, as seen in the video below:

@plantedinthegarden

This old school onion spray is natural, safe and easy to make at home. It’s been used for years in the garden as well as indoors as a natural pesticide against plant pests. It works on both edible and ornamental plants. You can also add garlic which has similar effect. Onions and garlic contain sulphur and both have antimicrobial properties. The odour will keep bugs away from your plants and also keep them healthy and prevent plant disease. NATURAL PESTICIDE RECIPE: Large Onion diced or use a blender. 4 fresh cloves of garlic into this 2-3 cups of water Let it sit for 1-2 days Strain the chunks and save for another batch Dilute with water (1:5 ratio) 1 part onion/garlic water mix to 5 parts water Add 10 drops of Castile liquid soap OR KEEP IT SIMPLE Large Onion diced or use a blender 2-3 cups of water Let it sit for 1-2 days Strain the chunks and save for another batch Dilute with water (1:5 ratio) 1 part onion/garlic water mix to 5 parts water #gardentok #gardening #gardenhack #learnontiktok #fyp

♬ original sound – Planted in the Garden

Related: How to Get Rid of Aphids: Pro Tips — Plus, How to Keep Them From Coming Back

6. Salvage burnt rice without a hassle

Oops! Your sister called while you were cooking rice as a side dish for your dinner and now the grains are stuck to the bottom of the pot. Instead of starting from scratch, simply scoop out as much of the rice as possible and transfer to an ovenproof dish. Next, cover the grains with the peels of two onions and top with a damp paper towel. Then cover and bake for 10 minutes at 250°F; remove and serve. The skins absorb the burnt odor while the paper towel restores moisture, resulting in delicious fluffy rice.

7. Surprising uses for onions: Remove a splinter effortlessly

a hand holding sliced pieces of an onion  as one of the surprising uses for onions
annick vanderschelden photography/Getty

The next time you have a splinter lodged in your hand, grab an onion to help extract it. To do: Place a piece of raw onion on the punctured area, then cover and let sit for 10 minutes. The onion’s anti-inflammatory compounds will draw the splinter close to the skin’s surface, so you can easily pull it out with tweezers. (Click through for ways to remove a splinter without tweezers.)

8. Sleep soundly with a cold

If coughing and congestion have been keeping you up at night, try this to feel better fast: Chop a fresh onion and place in a clean thin cotton sock. Secure with a twist tie or rubber band and leave on your nightstand overnight. Repeat nightly until your symptoms subside. Inhaling onions’ strong antibacterial vapors helps break up mucus. You’ll be breathing easy in no time!

9. Surprising uses for onions: Restore shine to garden tools

Onions with rust-free garden tools  as one of the surprising uses for onions
hsvrs/Getty

After a humid spring, your trusty trowels have gotten a bit rusty. To make them look like new again, simply stick the corroded metal in a raw onion half and carefully wiggle it around to release the juices. Let sit in the onion for 1 hour, then rinse away any residue and wipe dry with a lint-free cloth. The bulb’s enzymes split the rust-forming bonds between iron and oxygen, leaving the tool gleaming. (Click through for more ways to clean rusty garden tools).

10. Nix itching from bug bites

Your friend’s sunset barbecue was a blast, but you ended up with a few itchy mosquito bites after the occasion. What can help: Rub an onion slice on the spot. The detoxifying sulfur compounds in the bulb neutralize the insect’s venom, quickly reducing inflammation — and the urge to scratch.

Related: 5 Plants That Repel Mosquitoes From Your Yard, According to Garden Pros

11. Surprising uses for onions: Lift stubborn grime from a grill

An onion being used to clean a grill grate
eldadcarin/Getty

Love cooking delicious meals on your grill in the warmer months, but hate the clean-up mess? Skip chemical-laden cleaners to clean the grates, and opt for an onion. “Simply cut it in half and rub the cut side directly,” says Rhonda Wilson, quality lead cleaner at FreshSpace Cleaning. “The onion’s natural oils can break down sticky residues and greasy buildup. Just be sure to rinse and dry the grill grates!”

Related: How to Grill Hot Dogs — Chef’s Secret Makes ‘Em Crispy + Juicy

12. Polish brass for pennies

You snagged a beautiful pair of brass candlesticks for a great deal at a yard sale. The only problem? They’re a bit tarnished. No need to buy pricey polishes to get them gleaming again. Instead, fill a pot with 1 cup of water and half a sliced onion; let simmer on low heat for 2 hours. Let cool, then dip a washcloth in the solution and use it to buff the candlesticks. The hot water will releases the onion’s natural acids, which will break down the tarnish.

13. Surprising uses for onions: Get soft, beautiful feet

An onion being used to soften feet
Oleksandr Todorov/Getty

The secret to getting callused feet ready for sandal season: Place half an onion in a bowl and add enough white vinegar to cover it; let sit for 4 hours. Before bed, peel off the top layer of the onion and cover the callus with it. Secure with plastic wrap, then slip on a sock. The combination of the onion’s anti­microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, along with vinegar’s acetic acid will helps soften the callus while you sleep so your feet are smooth! (Click through for other ways to pamper your feet at home).


For more brilliant life hacks, keep reading!

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13 Brilliant Uses for Honey to Save You Time and Money Around the House

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