Steel wool infiltrated the average American household in the early modern beginnings of the 20th century. Before its existence, “wire dishcloths” were all the rage—small, handheld utensils loaded with a collection of interlaced steel used to scrub difficult pots and pans clean.
These steel cloths predated steel wool only in the necessity to dip them in soap and water to clean kitchenware. Innovation struck when steel wool was invented, a neat little wool pad that came already imbued with soap and only needed to be added to water.
Now a household staple, steel wool isn’t just used to clean difficult cookware. Instead, the average household is taking innovation into their own hands and using steel wool (with and without soap) in their everyday life—and you can, too. Here are 11 ways you can use the versatile product to take care of your grimy problems outside of the kitchen.
1. Distress your wood
Sometimes age does matter; if you’re someone who prefers the look of older, aged wood then start digging through your cabinets. By disintegrating steel wool in some vinegar, you can create a stain that’ll give your garden deck or newest DIY project the perfect weathered look. It’s a fast way to give your home the rustic vibe you’re looking for without the time or the money.
2. Refresh your garden tools
Rusty garden tools are more than just a pain to look at. Neglecting to clean and take care of your tools can result in them breaking down and dulling easier and faster, reducing their effectiveness. Take a steel wool pad to scrub the mud and rust off the surface and finish up with lubricating oil to prevent rust from gathering while your tools are stored away for the winter.
3. Clean up your grills
Before you put your grills away for the long winter, give it a nice long scrub. Not only will a little TLC go a long way to keep your grill as new as possible, but it’ll also prevent your grills from being a fire hazard due to the buildup of grease and grime. So, break out your steel wool to get in all the cracks and crevices for an easier clean than that fraying bristle brush you haven’t replaced in a few years.
4. Save your floors from stray shoe marks
Whether it’s Dad forgetting to take off his shoes at the door, contractors here to fix one thing or another, or your unruly kids—someone is making marks all over the floor. Forget the tennis ball hack: use what you’ve already got in your kitchen. Steel wool will get those stubborn marks out in a flash.
5. Keep the critters out of the house and the garden
If you’ve got a rodent problem, and nothing’s working, you’ve got to root out the source. Stuff any gaps or holes in your home with steel wool, and it’ll keep the critters out. Not only is it great at blocking the rodents’ entry points, but it’s also the one thing rats and mice won’t try to chew through, which is why it’s also great for keeping pests out of your garden. Wrap your bulbs and corms in steel wool to keep them from digging up your roots and gnawing at your plants.
6. Drain catcher
Put it in your shower or your kitchen sink, it doesn’t matter. Because of the way steel wool is made, water will strain right through it and the steel wool will catch everything else. If you’ve got a problem with hair gathering and clogging your drain, or food stopping up your sink as you’re washing dishes, pop a steel wool pad in your drain and you’ll never have to dig around in your drains again.
7. Stubborn stains
Steel wool being great at cleaning is a no-brainer, but it’s as good as cleaning outside the kitchen as it is in. From adhesive residue left behind by retail stickers or labels to hard water spots fogging up your windows and windshields, the steel wool is efficient at removing any stain or hard-to-clean residue.
8. Tighten your screws
Sometimes screws can get a little screwy. Too much messing around can cause a screw to widen the hole you’ve already made, or sometimes you’re stuck with screws too small for an existing hole. To remedy this, unravel your steel wool and wrap it around the screw before replacing it. The steel provides enough friction to tighten and lodge the screw into place. Even carpenters use this trick, so you can trust us when we say it’ll work!
9. Gummy problems
Kids love gum, and they love sticking it anywhere they can. The sticky, resilient candy can get stuck anywhere, most commonly under your tables (easy reach for the little buggers too lazy to get up for the trash), and on the bottom of your shoes. Luckily, a quick scrub with a steel wool pad can easily peel the sweet from any surface you need to tackle.
10. Start a fire
A little unconventional, but either a lifesaver in a pinch or a really neat party trick. Steel wool is easy to ignite if you’ve got a flint rod to make a spark. Or, if you’ve got a battery, all you need to do is carefully touch the wool to the battery and it’ll almost instantly catch. Knowing how to light a fire without matches or a lighter is a must-know survival tip, no matter how much of an indoors person you are.
11. Sharpen your scissors
This one’s pretty cool. Have your scissors started to feel like safety scissors they’re so dull? Instead of going out to buy new ones, use them to cut through some steel wool. As counterproductive as it seems, the wool will sharpen them the more you cut through it. It’s easier and cheaper than a sharpening stone, and you’ve most likely already got it at home!
Steel wool is an absolute household must, but hey, don’t just take our word for it. Dig out your old steel wool pads and get to scrubbing. You’ll find the versatility of it astonishing. A healthy supply of the stuff saves you time and money, and it’ll keep your home so spick and span, your neighbors will be wondering how you do it.