11 surprising uses for flour around your home

Wheat flour in fabric sack

Keeping a bag or canister of flour in the pantry is always useful — and not just for baking. All-purpose flour is a pretty apt name, it turns out, since this vital baking ingredient comes in handy all over the house.

So, if you’ve got flour on hand and its shelf life is coming to an end, don’t throw it away! Here are 11 clever ways to put flour to use, and not toss money in the garbage.

MORE: What’s the best way to store flour?

1. Restore The Shine To Stainless Steel Appliances & Sinks

Bright kitchen with stainless steel refrigerator

Despite the tough-sounding name, stainless steel can be surprisingly sensitive. But it’s easy to buff stainless steel to a beautiful shine with — you guessed it — flour. All you need are a couple of clean, dry rags. Clean the item with soapy water, as usual, then dry it thoroughly. (As in, get all the moisture off that you can, so you don’t end up with flour-glue everywhere.)

Buff the stainless steel with flour, remove the flour and stand back a foot or two to admire the shine.

2. Use Flour To Make Play Dough

Child’s hands holding homemade play dough

Inspiration strikes! The kids are raiding the Play-Doh — but they quickly discover that half of it wasn’t stored properly, and it’s now dry and crumbly. Time to whip up a batch, stat, with flour as the star ingredient.

This no-cook recipe starts with a hefty blend of flour and salt. That gets combined by the cup with a few other easy ingredients so you can make four different colors. No hot water or cooking required!

3. Make Homemade Glue For Collages & Paiper-mâché

Little girl gluing shapes on paper

Cheaper and arguably easier to work with than rubber cement, making your own glue for craft projects is a great alternative to running out to the store at 10 p.m. All you need is flour, sugar and water, plus a few minutes over the stove.

No preservative is required if you’re using the glue immediately, but a little alum powder will help keep it fresh for a few weeks if you make a big batch.

4. Clean Your Deck Of Cards With Flour

Scattered playing cards

After a long road trip or an epic game night, you might discover your playing cards acquired a greasy sheen. Flour to the rescue! Simply put the cards into a bag, add about ¼ cup of flour and shake the closed bag vigorously. Remove the cards, wipe down with a paper towel and shuffle away.

Flour works like fanning powder, a product used by card magicians and other snazzy card handlers, to neaten up a deck and make it easier to use.

5. Use Flour As A Natural Insect Repellent In Your Garden

Cabbage damaged by insects

Nothing is more frustrating than spending a lot of time (and money) to create a beautiful garden — only to discover the telltale signs of hungry insects chewing up your plants.

Instead of picking up a harsh chemical pesticide, give flour a try first. Using a sifter, dust flour over the leaves of vulnerable plants. A day later, spray off the flour and reapply as needed. Make sure the leaves are dry before dusting the flour each time.

Supposedly, the flour gums up the body parts of bugs who try to consume the leaves, and they die before they do much damage.

6. Freshen Fabrics With Homemade Laundry Starch

Dress shirts with starched collars

Got a special occasion coming up? Make your own laundry starch to give clothes the crisp lines you crave. (No special occasion? Use homemade starch on your sheets for a luxuriously fresh feel.)

Blend a tablespoon of flour with ½ cup cold water, taking care to smooth out any lumps. Add the mixture to ½ cup boiling water and stir constantly. After it thickens a bit, let it cool before pouring it into a spray bottle. Spray away!

7. Use Flour As A Natural Ant Repellent In Your Home

Black ants inside a home

If you have ants creeping into your home, sprinkle a line of flour wherever you see them entering. You can also create a defensive line of flour in your pantry if you know the pests like to invade that space as well. Ants will not walk across the flour, possibly because it disrupts the scent trails they use to follow each other. The flour itself may kill the ants, too, by expanding in their stomachs … but the science is a little sketchy there.

MORE: How to get rid of ants in your house

8. Use Flour As A Dry Shampoo

All-natural ingredients for dry shampoo with makeup brush

The perfect ingredient if you’re in a pinch, all-purpose flour can be used to soak up extra oil in your hair just like regular dry shampoo.

This version uses rye flour for its pH-balanced properties, but all-purpose flour comes in at about a 6 on the pH scale —  just a tad on the alkaline side of neutral. Use a brush to apply to the underside of your hair, make sure you’re not dripping flour-dust everywhere, and you’re good to go.

A quick tip: If you have darker hair, try adding a little cocoa powder to darken the mixture.

9. Polish Your Copper With Flour

Copper pans hung on wooden plank

Over time, copper loses its luster. But you can’t just clean it any old way without risking damage.

Mix equal parts flour and salt together, then add enough vinegar to make a paste. Scrub it onto your copper pots and pans, buffing to a shiny finish. Give them a rinse in warm water, then make sure they dry thoroughly — go ahead and gently dry with a soft cloth to speed things along.

10. Use Flour To Ripen An Avocado

ripe avocado cut in half

Got avocados? If they’re hard as rocks, but you really wanted to make some guacamole this week, toss your avocados in a bag with enough flour to cover, then sit tight.

The idea is that ethylene gas — which fruits naturally emit and causes ripening — will be trapped against the avocados by the flour, speeding up the ripening. It still might take a day or two to get to maximum ripeness, especially if you’re starting with very hard avocados, but it’s worth a shot.

11. Make A Rejuvenating Face Mask Using Flour

Mortar and pestle filled with grapes

The benefits of antioxidants in skin care products are well documented — even tone, reduced redness, anti-aging effects — and this quick mask is an easy way to apply these helpful nutrients directly to the skin. (And maybe use up some grapes before they go bad.)

Smash a handful of grapes in a bowl with about 4 tablespoons of flour. Keep smushing until the grape juice turns the flour into a purple paste. Spread the paste on your face, sit tight for 10-15 minutes and wash off.

Cleaning & Organization, DIY & Improvement, Gardening, Home, Life Hacks
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About the Author
Kathleen St. John
Kathleen St. John is a freelance journalist. She lives in Denver with her husband, two kids and a fiercely protective Chihuahua. Visit Scripps News to see more of Kathleen's work.

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