13 Surprising Household Uses for Sandpaper

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Every dust-covered toolbox has it — root around among the Allen wrenches, rusty nails, and extra IKEA doodads, and you're bound to find a scrap or more. Sandpaper. Its abrasive texture is good for a lot more than softening wood -- in fact, you've barely scratched the surface of what this hardware store hero is capable of. Here are 13 of our favorite unexpected household uses for sandpaper.

1. Remove scuff marks and ink stains from suede. Gently buff away scuffs and stains with fine-grain sandpaper, and then use a clean toothbrush to rub the spot in a circular motion to soften.

2. Sharpen scissors, sewing needles, and pencils. Here's how to sharpen all three with one piece of sandpaper: Cut it in half with the scissors, poke a bunch of holes in one piece with the needle, and wrap the second piece around the tip of the pencil and twist until it's sharp.

3. Add traction to slippery soles. It may seem counterintuitive to "damage" a new pair of shoes, but would you rather a broken neck? Rough up those slick, smooth soles with a bit of sandpaper and your shoes will grip the ground instead of sliding out from under you.

4. Say sayonara to sweater pills. Gently rub a piece of fine-grit sandpaper in a circular motion to defuzz knit clothing and upholstered furniture.

5. Get rid of grout grime. Mildew, soap scum, and hair dye can cling to porous, unsealed caulking and be difficult to remove even with harsh chemical cleaners. Instead, fold a piece of fine-grain sandpaper in half and use the creased edge to scour the gross stuff from every nook and cranny. Once your grout is gleaming white, apply a sealant so it stays that way!

6. Deter slugs. Protect your plants from being invaded and devoured by centering the pot on a piece of sandpaper that's an inch or two wider than the base. Slimy slugs won't dare slither anywhere near.

7. Handle hangnails and hardened heels. If you've got a piece of sandpaper, you don't need an emery board or pumice stone, silly.

8. Open tight jars. Get a better grip before you twist with a piece of sandpaper in your palm.

9. Iron perfect pleats and creases. Use small strips of stiff sandpaper to hold folds in place while you iron the crease. This is an especially handy trick for ironing clothing with multiple pleats that are close together.

10. Refresh wooden cutting boards and utensils. Once a year, gently sand wooden kitchen items to smooth out scratches and any lingering germs. Polish with a little mineral oil, and they'll be good as new!

11. Make stairs safer. Use a strong adhesive to stick long strips of sandpaper near the edge of each step, and going up and down the stairs will be a lot less precarious.

12. Train your cat. If your kitty is always scratching the arm of the couch or walking across your computer keyboard, skip the stern talking-to and give this sandpaper trick a try. Apparently, cats hate the way the gritty surface feels on their delicate paws; put a piece of sandpaper wherever they're forbidden, and they'll quit those bad habits on their own.

13. Clean foggy headlights. If your car's headlights don't seem quite as bright, the bulbs probably aren't to blame. The lenses that protect the bulbs are known to develop a dingy, foggy sheen thanks to frequent sunlight exposure and the constant barrage of dirt, exhaust, and other air contaminants. Use a piece of fine-grit sandpaper to scrub away the filthy buildup and your headlights will shine like new.


I'm a freelance writer and reporter for outlets like Rolling Stone, the Village Voice, BUST, Nylon, Woolly, and the Appeal, a podcast host for Undisclosed, and once upon a time, I was the founding editor of The Frisky.

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