/ Home & Energy

Unusual ways to use the usual home appliances

Home appliances usually have just one core function, leaving other appliances to do their own specific jobs. But sometimes, just sometimes, you find an appliance that can do so much more…

When you buy a waffle maker for your home, you’re probably expecting one thing: waffles! So when Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman used his wife’s waffle iron in 1971 to experiment with rubber soles for footwear, he probably wasn’t expecting to start one of the biggest sporting brands on the planet. But that’s exactly what happened.

While most of our humble household appliances are not going to help us earn millions of pounds, I’m sure we’ve all had our moments of glory when our appliances have become legends in their own right. So, we’d love to hear how you’ve found creative (and safe) uses for your home appliances.

Unusual uses

A quick email sent around the Which? office asking ‘which appliances do you use unusually?’ led to quite an astounding response. There were some brilliant ideas, some strange ideas, and some ideas that come with a warning: don’t try this at home!

So, for some ideas that you may not have considered (and probably don’t want to), here’s how we’ve broken the mold by using:

  • a steamer to make a Victoria sponge cake
  • a George Foreman grill for toasting raised focaccias
  • an ice cream maker to make a frozen cocktail
  • a hand blender for scrambling eggs
  • a slow cooker for making rice pudding
  • a freezer as a cocktail cabinet
  • a breadmaker to make jam, pasta and pizza dough
  • a kettle to cook frankfurters (in water)

Dust off your appliances

Now, if you’re used to packing an appliance away in the cupboard for months at a time, I hope I’ve inspired you to bring it out a little sooner to solve some wider domestic issues.

And now it’s time to share your own ‘out of the box’ moments. Have you found any unusual uses for your common household appliances? And if you’ve found an unusual use be sure to only share safe and practical examples here.

Alimac says:
8 June 2012

I was just out the shower,my hair dripping wet, interview for job in half an hour, when the hair drier broke. Mild panic set in, but I really needed that job. I took a chair over to the gas cooker, stood on it, making sure that my hair was far enough away not to catch fire and turned a ring on at low. Although my hair was quite long, with careful management, it was dry in minutes and I was in time for the interview.
PS. I got the job.

Simon says:
9 June 2012

I tried the same thing once. Apart from the bit about “making sure that my hair was far enough away not to catch fire”.
It did.

John says:
8 June 2012

Inserting bearings in old motor cycle components.
Heat housing in oven or in front of electric heater; put bearing in freezer. When housing is hot, insert frozen bearing easily. When temperatures are normal, bearing is fixed in housing.

John says:
8 June 2012

Join metal components with an epoxy resin glue, then play an electric paint stripper gun at the join. This heats the epoxy so that it flows into the joint, and also cures quicker.

Alimac’s posting sent me off on a slight tangent… What about alternative uses for hairdryers?
I have dried underwear when time is short, they’re perfect for drying socks and try gently heating the top of a nail polish bottle when it’s stuck.

Alimac says:
8 June 2012

MsSupertec your posting is great,I’ve done what you say often, and also the crotch of nearly dry jeans but have you tried sticking wet silk things, eg. shirts, tops skirts anything silk but quite small to a mirror or kitchen window and let it dry over night. No ironing .Whooppee.

IrvSwerve says:
9 June 2012

On cold nights if you have no electric blanket
(or sleep alone) half a minute of blasting with a
hair dryer under the covers provides bliss.

My old laptop used to overheat – until I stood it on a wire cake cooling rack. Not recommended on your lap but great if you usually use it on a desk or table as long as the rack is large enough not to wobble.

Buzzy Garden says:
8 June 2012

My partner used to sterilise garden soil/ compost in the microwave to ensure weeds were gone – only small amounts at a time unfortunately. “If in doubt, stick it in the microwave” is one of my mottos – eg start bread to get an even rise before finishing in oven, make old runny honey less sugary.

I needed to remove some cheap vinyl kitchen tiles before laying new onto a concrete subfloor, and found that the corners just broke away when attacked with a stripping knife. The solution was to warm the tiles with a domestic iron, which softened the glue holding them in place and made the tiles less brittle. They then peeled away easily.

Warnings: Use an old iron. Test a bit of the tile to make sure it doesn’t melt. You can protect your iron soleplate and stop a build-up of residue with pieces of silicone baking parchment.

Some old tiles (pre-1980’s) can contain asbestos. If you suspect this, you must inform the local authority and have them removed professionally.

Seal says:
9 June 2012

Mini Naan bread is perfect in the toaster medium setting… So are Pitta breads.
Rice cooks beautifully in the micrqwave without needing to be drained. One part rice with 2 parts water, cover and cook, 1cup around 15 mins in 800W( will vary on Microwave power), Can add flavourings e.g. bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon, little oil/butter ghee at the start to make a pilao rice.

IrvSwerve says:
9 June 2012

There are lots of inexpensive Orchids in the shops
nowadays. To get them to flower profusely they like steamy
conditions as in the jungle so keep them in the kitchen
and every time you boil the kettle leave it open
by the plants to steam up over them.

If you own a “George Foreman” type grill, you can make delicious toasted sandwiches in them – they do taste much nicer compared to the toasted sandwiches made in a traditional sandwich toaster. Be sure to add the sandwiches when the grill has heated up.

Someone told me a few years ago that they use their George Foreman grill to cook oven chips from frozen. If your George Foreman grill is sitting in the back of the cupboard, you may find new uses for it now. 🙂

Steve says:
9 June 2012

If your oven’s too small you can cook a turkey by using a dustbin and a slow fire.

Steve says:
9 June 2012

A kettle type barbecue is good for blacksmithing. There needs to be plenty of charcoal and it needs to be very hot to heat the steel to the necessary cherry red. Take the steel out of the fire and whack it into the desired shape.

I found the windscreen blower in the car is ideal to dry slightly damp underwear in a rush!

You could cause an accident, waving your knickers about like that! What’s the matter with using a hair dryer, like normal people do?

I did think about tying to the aerial at the time, but thought better of it!

No, you’re thinking of aerial plants, like Orchids – see above.

I’m not sure using a microwave to cook food is particularly unusual, but here’s how I make croque-monsieur quickly, without using a frying pan or toasted sandwich maker.

Use toaster to make two slices of toast. Butter, apply layers of ham, cheese, mustard, etc., then sandwich together and microwave on high until cheese melts.

I have a Panasonic combi-microwave oven with a “Panacrunch” pizza pan, which I can recommend for heating croissants too. I don’t know if you’ll get soggy results using a standard microwave with a china plate.

I once tried making meringues in a vacuum pump – but that’s not something you are likely to have at home. I’m also advised you can make inside-out Baked Alaska with a microwave – anyone tried this? I’ve never had the time (or the will) to mess with that.

I have the Panasonic combi-microwave and I have used the grill with the round metal pizza tray to heat croissants many times. They don’t come out soggy if you only use the grill. I once made the mistake of using the microwave mode instead of grill mode and the croissants were microwaved and tasted horrible!

Yes it does work a treat, but be careful to select grill only and no longer than 4 minutes – keep an eye on the croissants because they can burn quickly.

If anyone has a “combi” microwave i.e. microwave with grill and maybe oven mode too, it may be quicker to use than an ordinary cooker in some cases.

Macatoosh says:
9 June 2012

On the naan bread theme, reheating cold pizza in a toaster (propped up on its side at 45 degrees so the topping stays in place) tastes like it’s freshly baked.

Having driven a 7.5 ton truck for several years, I found a pasty wrapped in foil placed in a sandwich box & covered with rag would be too hot to eat after a few hours on the screen heater. Never tried it in a car though.

Mungo Travers says:
11 June 2012

After washing salad leaves, wrap in clean cloth and pop into spin-dryer. Around 20 seconds enough, dry but undamaged.

I use a microwave to dry small cloths & even clothes. This just raises the water content temperature that still needs driving off by quick removal for a minute for a wave before repeating. Timing to not let the objects get too dry needs care; this usually results in much too pessimistic a timing.
Sterilising of kitchen sponges is a critical practicable use – fairly soppy and to scalding heat, repeated, with a spot of washing up liquid.

I have cooked (30sec) a sausage by wiring up to the mains. (Not recommended: the mess, and electric risk, but a good party trick)

I always boil my egg in a throwaway soup can. It uses the absolute minimum of water. However, my wife won’t stand this nonsense and wastes all my saving by boiling hers separately in a big pan, albeit using minimum of water. I once calculated, back of envelope, that the number of eggs boiled per year using excess water amounts to a waste of .. 20megawatts! or one whole year’s output from a generator. I would recommend Which? to do some tests ..

A hairdryer has so many other uses – local drying of many objects, shrinking heat-shrink tubing, glue setting, releasing jammed mechanics, hand warmer, drying off damp car parts, spark plug leads, ..

I have cooked (30sec) a sausage by wiring up to the mains. (Not recommended: the mess, and electric risk, but a good party trick)

Hmmm. I thought that this is watt you do to cook current buns. 🙂

I’m surprised that Simon is not asking everyone to include a risk assessment with their contribution to this topic.

Obviously, we wouldn’t recommend you try this sort of thing at home. We certainly don’t endorse the more ‘risky’ suggestions coming through in these comments, but we’re really enjoying your stories!

Ron Braidwood says:
11 June 2012

Use your hair-dryer (on cool) to dry washed lettuce in a hurry, or swing it round your head in a net bag; (the lettuce, not the hair-dryer.).

Eeuwww, gross!

I can’t see much point in washing lettuce if you are going to blow dandruff all over it. Have you seen how much debris accumulates inside a used hair dryer?

Well I use my wall-mounted fan heater in the bathroom to dry my hair. I have a hair dryer somewhere, but I have not used it since I bought a self-defrosting ‘fridge.

I shouldn’t say so on a thread like this but forty years ago I got a salad-spinner. It’s Swiss so still going strong- use a hair-dryer?- yeeuch!

No, a salad spinner used for its purpose does not belong here. There is a Conversation about long lasting appliances. Haven’t you considered using it to dry your socks, exercise a hamster, or something really daft and dangerous? 🙂

Chris B says:
11 June 2012

My Mum is fanatical about having hot plates for hot meals. I’ve found the toaster to be most cost-effective and quick – provided the plate stays balanced on top!